What Satisfies the Soul?

I come to the end of this season of fasting.  Earlier in the year I was greatly impacted by a testimony that George Wood shared about the founding of the Assemblies of God churches in Springfield, Missouri.  Amanda Benedict was one of the early participants in the Pentecostal movement. Though she was already 60 years old, and had served the Lord with distinction in rescue home for girls in Chicago, when she arrived in Springfield she set her heart upon receiving the Holy Spirit and being a part of a world-wide revival.  She decided to pray and fasting for one year, eating only bread and water.  

I was confronted by the dedication and the faith of her life.   I have been a part of some great revivals in Russia and China.  I have seen years when the Lord moved powerfully to save, heal and deliver.  All of it has come through prayer and fasting.  Yet now we face different challenges.  How do I see revival in our region of the country?  Who will pay the spiritual price to bring that revival.  I sometimes thought that when the Pentecostal movement began that they had extended prayer times because God was always working.  That the Holy Spirit’s work was so strong that “He just did whatever He wanted”. 

 But the truth is, that God works through human vessels.  We have to pray and fast to see revival.  I still believe that the answer for the problems of America is a nation wide revival, a return to God and to His church.  We won’t see that revival unless someone is willing to pray and fast.  That’s the way Pentecost came the first time in Acts 2 and the second time in the early 1900s.  So I am praying and fasting.

There is also the truth that God has opened a door for us to impact Mongolia.  I sense in my spirit that Mongolia is ripe for a move of God’s Holy Spirit.  Twenty plus years ago the church was born in revival.  They saw multiple hearings and God delivered men and women of addictions and many miracles occurred in those early days.  For the past few years the church has been stagnant.  The river of God which flowed with such force twenty years ago has become a pond covered in algae.  They are longing for the river to flow again.  

So I believe that the Lord has led me into this season of fasting to effective both the local and the international church.  I believe that Jesus is coming again so what we do for him we must do now.  Let us not invest in lavish buildings or political systems.   Let’s us invest and dedicate ourselves to the task at hand.  The completion of the harvest.    The disciples were not with Jesus while he talked with the woman at the well in John 4.  Eventually an entire city would be effected any the woman’s testimony.  The Messiah has come to Samaria! Later when the disciples arrive they are worried about Jesus.  They know its been a long time since he ate and so they urge him to eat something.  He responded, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” (John 4:32)  I understand.  Being a part of the moving of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives is more satisfying than eating.   The Holy Spirit satisfies the soul and the spirit, the deepest part of ourselves.



Hitting the Wall

There are times of fasting in which you hit the wall.  The wall comes more frequently if you allow yourself to think about what you are doing.  On day 11 I celebrated and felt great.  I was half way!  Then on the next day I got up and could barely move and thought “Oh no I have 10 more days?!?!?!”  You just have to learn to rely upon the Lord to keep you busy and mentally focused upon the task of getting through the day.

I also see that as I grow closer to the end of the fast that my mind and body are preparing to eat.  I have looked up menus for coming off a fast—none of them are appetizing.  Mostly juices and steamed vegetables.  Absolutely no meat for at least four days, some say a week, others question why you eat meat in the first place.  Needless to say my mind and body is trying to be ready.  This creates tension however in the body.  My body craves food intensely and its cravings are sometimes overwhelming.  It is not pain as such as it is a deep anxiety, a deep longing for something that is missing.  

I wonder what our spiritual lives would be like if we craved God with the same intensity.  Apostle Peter tells us to

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” 

(1 Peter 2:2,3 We often use these verses to point out that new believers are “baby Christians”, not perfect yet, they will grow up and be just fine.  But when I consider my craving for food during this fast I see the emphasis that Peter is making is not on the status of the person as an “newborn baby” but the emphasis in upon the “craving”, the “crying out” for nourishment. The newborn baby needs nourishment and when that nourishment is not there they will cry.  Every few hours they will cry.  It is unrelenting, never ending.  

So too should be our craving for God.  Some only have to talk to God occasionally.  Some its regular but in small doses.   The truth is that we should crave God like a hungry man craves food or in my case the fasting man craves food after about 16 days.  Let me tell you its intense.

I believe if we truly hungered after God like a fasting body hungers after food the church would be a totally different place—the world would be a totally different place.  God would fulfill that craving!  

Again I find the contrast between the woman at the well and the disciples in John 4  to be illustrative.  The woman was full of desire.  She wanted living water so she would not have to draw water again.  She wanted knowledge about worship and eventually she wanted all her community to know the Jesus she had met at the well.  The disciples were concerned with lunch.  They were worried about Jesus’ reputation.  They weren’t craving God.  Samaria was touched by the ministry of Jesus because he found a woman craving for God to work in her life.  When she was touched the whole community was touched.  Be it so with us.



Expansion

Expansion of the Kingdom comes through sacrifice.   The greatest move of the Spirit that I experienced in Russia came after a time of an intense Daniel fast in 1998.  Healings and salvations were common place and the Word of God came alive to me as never before. In 2009 after years of sowing in fields in China revival came.  Over 13 years I had travelled multiple times in China each time after I had spent time fasting with the Lord. Fasting is about Kingdom expansion.

Why is this important for you?  Primarily because there are areas in your life that God has yet to touch.  Notice the women at the well.  Jesus begins by touching her natural thirst and moving towards the need of spiritual water.  That would have been well enough for the woman —just to be forgiven.  But Jesus goes further into her marital status.  Ultimately he ventures into her relationships in the community.  One step at a time Jesus expands the kingdom in her life.  

In Ezekiel 47 there is  a mighty river flowing through the land of Israel.  Every where the river flows it brings life, but in verse 11 the Scripture says, “But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty”.  I know that salt can be seen as a good thing that they needed.  But it also represents something that is unchanged by the flowing of the river of life.  We have those things in our lives.  Good things that we may enjoy that compete with our relationship with God.  We will not allow God to touch it.  We will not give it up.  That’s what prayer and fasting does.  It expands into areas of our that need change.  

At the end of the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well in John 4, the disciples come and expands their understanding of the harvest.  He said, “…wake up and look around.  The fields are already ripe for harvest.  They did not consider Samaria a harvest field—they weren’t true Jews and were thought to be undeserving of the kingdom.  Jesus was saying the harvest will come to Samaria-the kingdom of God will be expanded beyond your thoughts and your limitations.  The book of Acts records how the church reached Samaria in Acts 8, it was the first outreach of the Jerusalem church.  But it was prophesied by Jesus when he met the woman at the well.



The Purpose of Fasting

 Many people ask why I fast and I don’t truly have a good answer except that it seems that fasting works for me.  God works more in my life during and after a fast, than if I don’t fast.  I don’t think everyone is called to the same level of fasting that I am.  But I would contend that you should have some seasons of the year where you demonstrate to God that He is more important than food, or entertainment, or comfort.  This fasting helps us break out of spiritual ruts and malaise.  It wins the victory over the darkness and oppression of the enemy.  Fasting and prayer just works.

I have fasted many times in the past and I prefer a Daniel type fast where you can eat anything except meat and “rich food”.  I interpret “rich food” to include pastries, cakes, pies and anything with excessive sugar.  I don’t know if you  know it or not but everything has sugar in these days so it is very difficult to be sugar free when you fast. This type of fast is just a dietary change in order to demonstrate that God is important to you.  This time because of the urgency of the Spirit I choose to do a total fast.  I am drinking various beverages right now all without sugar trying to find something that I can tolerate.  Right now it is lemonade.  I have never been a heavy drinker of lemonade but for some reason the tart flavor has a calming effect upon my digestive system.  I fill less hungry and less prone to search out food.  

There are many reasons to fast and pray. You may sense a spiritual hinderance that needs to be broken.  You may have a need in your life or in your family.   In Daniel chapter ten,   Daniel fasted as a result of some visions he had received yet failed to fully understand.  He needed answers.  He wanted to know what God was doing or was going to do.  While he was fasting an angel comes and enlightens him on the meaning of the vision. Essentially we fast because we need something from God.  This must not become an attempt to manipulate God.  He freely gives us all things in Christ.  The fast only confirms what is in our hearts—I desire God above all else.

I am expecting God to do something in the future because of this fast.   I know I am tired of the spiritually ordinary,  I want to have more of God and for him to have more of me. One reason I am confident that God is ready to work in my life -I did not simply decide to fast for 21 days.  God led me into this time.  As the Scriptures say, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”  Matthew 4:1 

 


Trusting God

Recently I was confronted with a ministry challenge that reminded me that I desperately needed the Lord’s help in order to accomplish what I had to do.  He gave to me the verse,“I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  I memorized that verse as a child and quoted it many times to myself and to others.  It has a tendency to become a cliche-something we quote but never truly experience.  Yet over the past few weeks I have experienced the strength of Christ daily.  I needed his strength and he supplied.  I needed his comfort and he was there.  I needed his wisdom and he spoke to me.  I can do what God has called me to do, because he has given the strength to do it. 

This truth becomes magnified when fasting.  Physically I am very weak.  I do fine as long as I don’t overexert myself.  Any intense activity drains me.  Muscle cramps set in.  I get dizzy easily.  My body is telling me that it needs nourishment-it needs food.  Now for those who know me, know that I am overweight, so the reality is that my body has a store of fat on which to draw.  I often joke that my belly is my 40 day fast.  (Please nutritionists don’t chide me over what my body is missing when fasting as I know it better than you).  The point is that the body without food is weak just as the spirit without Christ is weak.  We want to be spiritually strong, to have great faith and to “feel” that we have it all together.  God needs us to become dependent upon Him, so that He can work through us what He was to accomplish.  

The devil took Jesus up to a high mountain and offered him the kingdoms of the world if he would only worship him.  Jesus declined.  The offer was for untold wealth and power and Jesus rejected it.  He choose to worship only the Lord and to depend upon Him for everything else.  Thus the principle is lived out by Jesus, don’t trust in human strength alone.  Instead learn to trust in God and the strength that He provides.  (Matthew 4:8-10).

 


Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone

Fasting is often a solitary practice.  I have fasted many times and in sundry ways and the one thing that stands out in my mind is the loss of conversation and connection at the table.  My wife and I stop eating together because it is at home where fasting is the most difficult.  As long as I am active and busy and away from the refrigerator then I am not tempted to check and see what there is to eat.  Our evening usually include some early evening snack like popcorn or chips and dip so fasting interferes with that connection.  We become single adults living together during a fast and the connection is sorely missed.

While on my present fast I have went to a restaurant  with friends and attended a church fellowship meal.  I had some unsweet peach tea at the restaurant, and nothing at the church dinner, all the time talking and listening to those who enjoyed every bite of their meal.  Difficult? Not really.  Enjoyable?  Not at all.  There is something about the connection we make at the table that is satisfying.  Good food and good friends-they just go together.  Can you even imagine cooking a lavish meal, a great big spread of food, and then sitting down to eat by yourself?  No we cannot.  How many times do single people complain that it is difficult to cook for one?  This is part of the problem of fasting.  Meals are truly meant to be shared and this is what is missing when I fast.  The connection over the meal.  The celebration of life which occurs around the table.  The joy of consuming God’s provision is felt when we gather around a table.  

On the other side of this dilemma is the truth that fasting should bring one closer to God.  In this season of fasting I have found that this is the case.  I am praying more.  Searching more. Sensing his presence more.  I am asking God some specific questions of which I don’t yet have the answer, but I believe I will hear his voice. This is one reason that I fast, it is necessary to clear the table and sit in solitude and wait for the Lord to speak.  His voice is more important than our daily bread.  This is why Jesus told the devil, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that come from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

 


I Am Fasting

I am on a complete fast for 21 days which started July 23rd and will continue until August 13th. Once a year I encourage the church to fast to some extent. Some fast a meal a day or week. Some fast specific foods or drinks. I expect for everyone to fast something. During those times I speak about it from the pulpit and individually encourage people to participate and not give up.
 
I challenge people to fast because fasting for me is a form of intense prayer. There are times in which I must fast simply because I cannot find the answers I need any other way. The church doesn’t pray enough. We don’t seek Him intensely enough. So fasting as a church is a way to break the barriers to presence of God. We all need to pursue the Lord with all our heart and soul and strength.
 
This year I have fasted in various ways over 50 days so far. I am in the midst of a 21 day total fast and that will push me close to 70 days. Earlier in the year I participated in a Daniel fast-no meat or sweet foods or drinks. These are fairly easy, except for the loss of sweet tea and soft drinks. The Daniel fasts have been effective for me in my spiritual walk with God. My first long fast was in 1998 when I was teaching among Chinese believers. I felt overwhelmed by the task and needed a fresh anointing from the Spirit. In that fast I allowed two soft drinks a day, until the soft drinks began to make me sick then I substituted some warm chicken broth. The goal was to keep my intake under 300 calories. God did so many great things immediately following that fast. Miracles and healing, salvations and baptisms were all a regular occurrence.
 
As time passed God would lead me into other fasts to maintain what I had received the first time. I believe He is doing that again. When I fast personally I usually don’t talk about it. First I don’t want to boast about being on a 21 day fast then only be able to fast 3 days. Secondly I don’t talk about it because people may think that I am being spiritually proud. I am not expecting a medal for anyone. I fast because God has taught me its effectiveness and because he does call me in these times of intensely seeking his presence.
 
God has urged me to write about my fast this time. I did not want to because there is such a great possibility of failure. I do not want to have to admit that I could not do what God had asked me to do. Yet I believe it is important for others to know what happens during a 21 day total fast. So I will be posting some of my thoughts from time to time over the next two weeks. My thought come from a humble heart, a heart that is yearning for the presence of the Almighty and the work that He wants to do in me and through me.
 
Jesus only fasted one time in his life. His 40 day fast as recorded in the gospels. This was his part of his transition from carpenter to prophet. John baptized him in the Jordan River and then the Spirit led him into the wilderness for a time of fasting and testing. I understand that Jesus needed to separate himself from this world and to begin to minister in the power of the Spirit. The fast was the answer. He only had to do it once. I am not like Jesus as I have to return again and again to the practice in order to restore what this world steals from me. Oh to be like Jesus.


My Israel Vacation

IMG_0365

In July I was blessed to be able to vacation in Israel. I had an airline ticket that I had to use before July 23 and so after attempting to go other places, I decided to go to Israel. This would be my third trip to Israel, but the first trip overseas where I did not have ministry. I simply rested. Prayed. Read. Walked. Sat on the Beach. I did tour Masada (the picture is a view from the top of the mountain) and float in the Dead Sea, but that was the only activity that I planned. I was blessed and renewed.

The ticket that I used was one previously planned for China. Last year I planned a ministry trip to southern China, but was unable to secure a visa to enter the country. Unless God miraculously intervenes I have made my last trip to China. Those words are so difficult to type. I have carried this sadness for the past year. So I believe that God blessed me this year with a trip to Israel. My shepherd leads me beside the still waters-He restores my soul.



Prayer for Greater Things

Jesus was talking to his disciples about the future when he made the statement in Jon 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”  This year we are believing God for “Greater Things”.  IN january we have fasted and prayed for 21 days.  Many people accepted the “Daniel Fast” of eating no meat and no sweets, or some other version.  The testimonies are encouraging.  One person talked of how God has revealed his purpose in her life.  Another spoke of how God was confirming a call in ministry.  One person had a breakthrough in her work conditions.  One husband has  begun to seek God’s presence in his life.  God is moving.
As we go forward let’s not forget what the Lord has revealed to us.  We cannot overcome doubt without filling our mind with the Word of God.  He has written to us, letters and instructions that we must follow if we are to be overcomers. We are no different from the Biblical characters.  We have the same plans and dreams, and weaknesses.  If God could work through them he can work through us.  
Secondly we must persevere in our prayers and in the midst of our circumstances.  Endurance or perseverance shows itself in the number of times we make our requests to God (Luke 18:1ff) as well as how we faithfully live our lives in spite of difficulties and disappointments. Naomi of the Old Testament story of Ruth lived in some very difficult times.  She endured a famine, the loss of her family’s home, the death of her husband and finally the death of her two sons.  I am sure she wanted to give up on life.  But she maintained her faith, and when the Lord began to move in her life and in the life of her daughter in law Ruth she knew exactly what to do.  
Thirdly God meets us where we are, in the brokenness of our lives.  We cannot spend all of our time focused upon the problem we have to move towards God and meet him in our circumstance.  He will answer us. Too often we are hesitant to pray passionately.  We are afraid of what others will think or say.  We should expect that prayer will sometimes be passionate-filled with tears or shouting or brokenness.  There is a reason we talk of “breakthroughs” in prayer.  These are the times in which we overcome the opinions of others in order to be in the presence of God.  
Finally I would remind you of obedience to God.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, faced a dilemma.  She is young and still a virgin, yet the angel Gabriel has said that she would have a son.  She may disregard these words as foolish thinking.  She may rebel against these words because they don’t fit into her life dreams.  Or she could accept the Word of the Lord as truth.  She submitted to the Lord’s prophecy and bore the Messiah.  Though it did not come without struggle and hardship, her obedience is critical to the salvation of the world.  Truly she is highly favored above all women.
I challenge you to make this a year of “Believing For Greater Things” in 2016


Ten Commandments for Men

1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-22 PLUS

1. Find a spiritual leader for your life and learn from him.

12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. 

13 Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work.
It’s difficult to make it spiritually on your own, without help from someone.  Find someone you trust and follow them.

2. Learn to get along.  13 b And live peacefully with each other.     If you are always in conflict with others, or even if others are in conflict with you, then you need to check if you are the problem. (compare /Romans 12: 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Read more…