“Soul Fasting” (Part One)

TRUE FASTING–

Is there a difference between REGULAR FASTING and TRUE FASTING for the Believer?  When pastors call for a church to fast during the year, do we understand the differences, or are there differences?  Is the idea of FASTING an Old Testament practice and not for todays Church?

Isaiah 58:3-12 NIV translation:

“Why have we fasted, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”

A Bending Reed
A Bending Reed

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke  of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” 

GOD’S CHOSEN FAST:

I’ve been re-reading a terrific book written by one of my favorite authors, Mr. Don Nori: SECRETS OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE.  He asks a question that really caught my attention (pg. 175),  “Are you content to fast food, or is your desire to become God’s chosen fast?”

He goes on to say “Most of us know what the Scriptures call the true fast,” but few of us know the power and significance of this most unusual form of fasting.”

Now I don’t know “most Christians,” but I know I was unfamiliar with this form of fasting.   So, the Word Detective investigation into God’s Word began.

Over my Christian life, I’ve heard many times by different pastors who call for an annual “CHURCH FAST”; not a mandatory ritual, but a strongly suggested activity for a week or two in January.

Being a DIABETIC for over 56 years, ‘doing without food’ and adjusting my insulin wasn’t an option, so I just passed.  Now my actions might be an excuse or just a misunderstanding of the term FASTING, in either case I simply ignored the pastor’s request (I do pray!).

FASTING FOR WRONG MOTIVES:

In Isaiah 58:1-2, we can see the seriousness of the people’s self-absorbed religious practices.

[1] CRY ALOUD, spare not.  Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins!

{2] Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God.  They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways].  (Amplified Bible)

The people delight in the nearness of God; they thought of themselves as righteous–right with God.

THE PEOPLES PRESSURE (3-5):

In Verse 3, the people now voice their complaint in difficulty, though they were doing what the Law required.

Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not noticed?  Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  (NIV translation)

The people present how they view their RELIGION.  They were observing the activities as laid down by the religious leaders (priests), even engaging in FASTING (Lev. 16:29; Zech. 7:5-6).  They thought their FASTING in and of itself was humbling before their Lord.

Their FASTING though, was thoughtless or done as an attempt to obtain a selfish conclusion.  It was employed only for RELIGIOUS SHOW or to engage God to act on their behalf (See Mt. 6:16-18).

THE ACT OF SELF-DENIAL IN OUR FASTING:

Self-denial is a process to draw us closer to God, allowing us to hear Him better.  The prescribed annual fast, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) was to afflict one’s soul for the purpose of mediation on the seriousness of one’s sins and the greatness of God in making ATONEMENT for them.  (See Footnote [i]).l

They saw FASTING as denying themselves of God so they might gain something worldly from God in return.  Neither FASTING nor REPENTANCE should be to get something from god in return.  REPENTANCE nor FASTING should be to get God to do anything.  They are expressions, the conviction that my ways are wrong and God’s ways are right whether He does anything for me or not.

Their FAST was simply an affliction of body, not an affliction of soul.

REAL MOTIVES BEHIND OUR BEHAVIOR IN FASTING:

VERSE 4 continues to lay open real motives behind the people’s behavior:

Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.  You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.  (NAS)

The reason for their FASTING was to make their iron-fisted, controversial acts more successful.

Fasting was to be the cause for God to effect or enact their covetous desires.  When it became obvious that their FASTING wasn’t having the desired effect in their lives, they FASTED to know why not.

So God told them that the purpose of their RELIGION was to acquire more and not to improve their closeness, their relationship with Him, as it was originally intended.

VERSE 5 relays that their motives, their purpose for fasting focussed on the external rather than on the realization that they need to be changed:

Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul?  [Is TRUE FASTING merely mechanical?]  Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and acceptable day to the Lord?  (Amplified Bible)

Because they had been focusing on their selfish ends (even their fasting) rather than a change of heart, attitude, and action…their prayers went unanswered.

The SACRIFICES of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  If they call their bodily sacrifice alone a FAST, they were badly mistaken.

Bowing one’s head like a reed was a sign of humility; putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes were symbols of FASTING and signs of submission. But unless they go hand-in-hand as an inward submission to God and turning away from sin, they mean nothing!

THE ABSENCE OF THE BLESSING:

During the days of ISAIAH, God’s people were not experiencing the Lord’s Blessing–His favor on their lives.

They went through the MOTIONS OF WORSHIP and couldn’t understand why God wasn’t noticing their religious efforts.  But while they were FASTING, they were also exploiting their workers and fighting among themselves (vv 3-4).

8222922317_2cce0295b3Isaiah condemned their HYPOCRISY and told them they needed to change.  If they would free the oppressed, share with the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked, God would BLESS THEM with…

 

HEALING,

ANSWERED PRAYER,

GUIDANCE,

STRENGTH,

JOY!

RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY is no substitute for an OBEDIENT HEART.

THE PROPER PATTERN, 6-7:

FASTING is to let go of the normal and natural daily nourishment of this world in order to reach out and grab the empowering of God that is needed and to live righteously in this world.

In VERSES 6 & 7, we learn the desired outcome of FASTING:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?

-GO TO PART TWO TO CONTINUE-

Photo Credits by Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enochlophobia: The Fear of Crowds

Rally To Restore Sanity
Overwhelmed!

Albert Einstein once said, “I hate crowds and making speeches“.  There’s a common feeling with Mr. Einsteins called “enochlophobia”–the fear of crowds. Those who suffer with this anxiety go out of their way to avoid places such as malls, theaters, or any event that crowds would regularly attend; no matter who  the center and focus of attention for the throng.   Many times in my experiences, I too had anxiety in a crowd.  Maybe NOT fear, but felt hemmed in; crowded and nervous about being so close.  All the touching became too much.  I didn’t need a REASON.

A few things will happen when FEAR arises in a crowded area:

*  Being trampled to death.

*  Contracting a deadly virus.

*  Getting lost in a massive crowd of people.

*  They themselves feel small and insignificant when surrounded by so many people.

BUT, there is definitely a CHOICE that can made in overcoming standing out in the crowd.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING “HEMMED IN”  AND TOUCHING JESUS:

Immanuel – God with Us (Isaiah 7:14)

The writer of The Letter To The Hebrews in the Bible had this to say about ImmanuelGod with us:

“For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning”  (Hebrews 4:15 AMP).

*  No longer was he a God that was way up in the heavens somewhere.

*  No longer was he a God that was impersonal.

*  No longer was he a God that was distant.

*  No longer was he a God that couldn’t be touched.

Have you witnessed up close how a newborn baby’s hands reach out in eagerness to touch their mom or dad when they come near?

My wife and I just became great grandparents for the first time this past summer.  It was Deja vu— seeing Jaxon for the first time and remembering when our children were babes.  Smiling, reaching out in need for a touch!

Anticipating A Touch
Anticipating A Touch  when becoming great grandparents for the first time.  So it was Deja vu moment from our own children when they were babes.

But on a day in Bethlehem, JESUS burst on the scene in a manger, longing for and crying out for somebody to TOUCH HIM!  I have GOOD NEWS for you today.  In fact, He is here right now!

The devil thought he had killed Him, but the fact is…

I feel Him in my hands…

I feel Him in my feet…

I feel Him in my Soul..

I feel Him all over my life.

GOD IS NOT DEAD, HE IS ALIVE AND WELL!

Right now where you are sitting as you read my thoughts, He wants for someone to reach out and TOUCH HIM in faith.  He is as close as the mention of His name–JESUS.

He is still able to…

*  Heal your body.

*  Mend your broken heart.

*  Fix your messed up life.

*  Put your marriage back together.

*  Save your children.

*  Work on your behalf.

*  Make the impossible situation where you might find yourself…POSSIBLE!

He can do it if you TOUCH HIM where you are today.  Unless, you are intimidated by crowds.  “What will other think if I step out in faith?”  They might even think I’m a religious fanatic.

BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “THRONGING” AND “TOUCHING”

Thronging means:  “A large group of people gathered or crowed closely together, a multitude; to PRESS IN ON.”  ~ Online Dictionary.

The Bible tells us a story about a man who we refer to as, “rich young ruler”:

Mark 10:17-22:

[17]  And when He was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him,  Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?  [18] And Jesus said unto Him,  Why callest thou Me good?  There is none good but one, that is, God.  [19] Thou knowest the commandments,  Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.  [20] And he answered and said unto Him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.  [21] Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him,  One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  [22] And he was sad  at that saying, and went away grieved; for he had great possessions.  (King James Bible)

Let’s ‘zero in’ on this story and see if this young man TOUCHED JESUS, or just crowded or “thronged” around Him:

The FIRST THING I noticed about this man, was he was…DISSATISFIED – vs. 17-20:

*  HE CAME RUNNING.

*  HE KEPT THE LAW…BUT WAS NOT HAPPY.

*  SOMETHING WAS STILL MISSING.

(So many people I run into are unhappy with the way things are turning out or not turning out in their lives.)

The SECOND THING I noticed about this young man is…DISAPPOINTED – VS. 21-22:

*  The TERMS WERE DISAPPOINTING in his HEARING.

*  “GO AND SELL”.

*  COMMITMENT TO FOLLOW.

*  TRAGEDY.

*  SO CLOSE TO JESUS and yet…

*  WENT AWAY SORROWFUL WITHOUT TOUCHING.

The THIRD THING I noticed was DENIAL:

*  In the present – Life of joy and peace.

*  Future – Eternal life; a life in Heaven.

This is a man who never really touched Jesus.  Maybe shook His hand, patted Him on the shoulder, but never really TOUCHED JESUS; never took the time to have a relationship with JESUS.  (Many people know how to play in church but never TOUCH JESUS because of their relationship.)

THE TEXT today is from MARK 5:24-34 ~ NIV…  “A Woman in the Crowd”:

[24] A large crowd followed and pressed around Him.  [25] And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  [26] She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  [27] When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak,  [28] because she thought,  “If I just TOUCH His clothes,” I will be healed.”  [29] Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.”  [30] At once Jesus realized that POWER had gone out from Him.  He turned around in the crowd and asked,  “Who TOUCHED Me?”  [32] But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  [33] Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at His feet and, trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth.  [34] He said to her,  “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” 

This Bible story tells us about a woman with the issue of blood:

Distressed – vs. 25-26

12 years of suffering, sickness, pain, discomfort.  Not all of her problems were according to the religious Laws of her day.

A woman with her sickness:

–  Sexually – she could not touch her husband.

–  Maternally – no longer could bear children.

– Domestically – anything she touched was considered unclean and she couldn’t take care of her family.

– Socially – considered unclean.

– Spiritually – was not allowed in the temple [church].

She was physically exhausted and socially ostracized.  She tried many different doctors without her desired results.  The Talmud gives 11 different cures for her condition and one of them was carrying the ashes of an Ostrich Egg in a linen cloth.

She was broke–spent all she had and she was getting worse!

Determined – vs. 27-28

550px-Overcome-a-Social-Phobia-Step-5
You Must Reach Out and Touch

The news had spread from all around of Jesus’ healing, casting out demons across the Lake of Galilee and here He was…in Person, getting out of a boat, on not any beach, but on this beach–her beach.

Even the local pastor was the first to greet Jesus after He set His feet on the warm sand.  His name was Jairus, whose little daughter was at the point of death.  And as Jesus went to go with the father, “a great crowd kept following…pressing Him from all sides [so as almost to suffocate Him]”  (Amplified Bible).  EVERYONE gathered…WANTED TO SEE JESUS!

A DECISION HAD TO BE MADE:

*  It was therefore obvious, the woman heard about Jesus.

*  If He could do it for them, He could certainly do it for me.

*  She had Heart FAITH.

*  Went to where He was.

*  I’m not going to WAIT for Jesus to come to me, but I’m going to TOUCH HIM, crowd or no crowd!

*  She TOUCHED Him!

Psychiatrists sometimes say, that if a person is diagnosed with Enochlophobia [women are said to outnumber men considerably in being diagnosed], all that is needed when in a throng is,,,a CALMING TOUCH by someone close to relieve the anxiety.

Did this woman, diseased with a ‘blood disorder’, have Enochlophobia?  I don’t know, but she was definitely DETERMINED to TOUCH JESUS, regardless of her condition or what others might think or do to her.

STAND –  She Was Delivered!  In the Midst of a Crowd!

This woman who TOUCHED Jesus’ garment; the fringe on His Tallit or prayer shawl; wherever the TOUCH was instantly and completely healed.  God recognized a simple TOUCH OF FAITH  among many people who were in the crowd that day.  They too probably had personal needs they wanted met just like this lady but didn’t want to chance what their neighbors might think if they did.

What was the difference?  She was delivered because she had TOUCHED Jesus.  Her fears of being in a CROWD (reasons already stated) had disappeared.  Not because of her close proximity to the Master, but because of her up close and personal TOUCH.

The Difference Between Being in a Congregation or Church Assembly…and Simply TOUCHING Jesus.

FAITH ALWAYS TOUCHES JESUS–

He knows the difference between bumping against someone in a crowded room and a TOUCH OF FAITH of a soul in need.  BUT you have to TOUCH Him first.  He is here where you and I are right now, but it is our job to reach out and TOUCH HIM.

JESUS was on His way to an important man’s house.  What are the odds that Jesus is ever going to stop by and touch this lady in fear–not very good. But she…but she touched Him.  Rank had no importance to Jesus when it came to a personal trust of faith in Him.  As you read on further in the chapter, Jesus didn’t forget the need of Jarius and his daughter.  But in the right now…this woman became the example because of a TOUCH.

In the Right Now!

JESUS is here right where you are sitting.  Doesn’t matter what your condition is:  no matter your fears, no matter what people might think when you step out from where you have been in life.

Need healing in your body?

Need healing in your spirit?

What is your NEED?  The sharing of that NEED in a crowd, taking a STAND, stepping out in FAITH… might bring you FEAR!  All you need is a gentle touch of faith where you are and any phobia will melt away.

YOU CAN STRETCH FORTH YOUR HAND AND TOUCH HIM.  A TOUCH OF FAITH!

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