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Posts Tagged ‘fasting’

While many think that doubt is the opposite of faith, I’m not so sure.  I have come to believe that fear may be a better antithesis of faith.  At the very least fear is a highly effective tool that keeps us from experiencing the peace, joy, and power-filled life that God intends for His people.  Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  Where fear reigns, the people are not living in the spiritual empowerment God has given.  I have just walked through a bit of a fear testing and God has brought me through with a stronger faith and a renewed sense of His abiding presence.

You see, almost two years ago, I had a near brush with death that the Lord miraculously saved me from.  I will repost that after I finish this.  Ultimately I had three stents installed in my heart for significant blockages and a life with a modified diet, meds, and a great sense of thankfulness began.  The past year saw many more changes in my life – leaving regular employment to become an independent consultant, beginning to travel extensively, and admittedly, beginning to slack off on the rigorous heart-healthy diet I had followed for over a year.  For the record I didn’t abandon it entirely.  I just wasn’t nearly as anal about it.  For over a year I pretty much followed my wife’s advice – “if it tastes good, spit it out.”  Well flavor had been reintroduced into my life and, without touching the salt shaker, I had begun to enjoy eating again.

For the past month and a half I have been feeling guilty about enjoying food again.  And I put on about 7 pounds over the past 5 months.  So when I started feeling a little winded after walking up steps and a little ache in my chest, I immediately attributed it to a recurrence of heart issues.  The voice in my head immediately began telling me that “I was a goner”.  “God may have protected you once, but this time you have brought it on yourself with your awful eating habits.”  “You might as well give up, you’ve got heart disease and that’s just the way it is.”  There were plenty of other thoughts going on, but you get the drift.  Oh, there were also three or four conversations I was either in or overhead about someone having a heart attack or heart issues during these few days.  These just added more fuel to the fire of my fearful thoughts.

I mentioned this to Lisa on Tuesday evening and asked her to set up a doctor’s appointment for me and to pray for me.  I mentioned it to a few others the next couple of days asking for prayer, but I tried not to make too big a deal of it.  On Thursday afternoon the doctor’s office called me back to set up the appointment.  I had a choice – go to the ER, come in within a few days and see the nurse practitioner, or see the doctor in a little over a month.  It’s funny, even with all these fear-mongering thoughts clamoring for supremacy in my mind, I chose a faith response.  I said set me up for the doctor and we’ll do my annual check-up.  After I hung up the fear thoughts attacked in a rush, but at the moment she asked the question it was clear I needed to just see the doctor when he was available.

While I would like to tell you I was given a boost of faith that buoyed me, that was not the case this time.  (I have had that happen before, but not this time.)  Instead the thoughts kept coming.  Now I think I may have slipped into a helpful act of faith just by practicing an aspect of my regular devotion to the Lord.  This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent and the start of a focused season of preparation for Easter.  I typically fast on Ash Wednesday, but with the meetings I was involved in and travel, I postponed it.  After the call with the doctor’s office, I decided that if I was not going to rush in for an urgent check-up, then I was not going to put off the Fast for the start of Lent.  So Friday I undertook a simple 24-hour fast.  While many would say that isn’t much of a Fast, it was both an act of surrender and an act of faith for me to trust that the Lord would protect and carry me through.

Lisa and I went over to my parent’s where I wielded the chainsaw and used the bandsaw with my Dad to handle some chores he needed help with.  Now is when the faith boost occurred.  The entire time I was working – lifting big logs, running the saws, and performing several physically demanding tasks, my heart was fine.  In fact I felt surprisingly good for a Fast.  As I got ready for bed I felt a few more twinges in my chest, but I gave them to God and for the first time since this period began, I laid down simply trusting that God was going to take care of me.  The previous several nights I laid down wondering if I had missed the Lord’s guidance or if it was my time to go home.  For the first night in several I slept and did not wake up wondering if I was having symptoms of a heart attack.

The final piece came the next morning.  I rose early as is my routine and had a quiet time with my Dad.  I had not mentioned my struggle of the previous week or so, but I explained it then without too much fanfare.  He smiled as I talked and he held a look of confidence as I finished my story.  You see, I suspected Dad could relate.  He had a heart attack at age 53, the same age I was when they found my three blockages.  And he has lived with heart disease now for 25 years.  He shared some simple truths about heart disease that I hadn’t really considered.  His perspective was simple, straight-forward, and connected to a living faith that gave me a steady place to stand.

Even as I write this, I realize that writing with my laptop on my lap isn’t the best ergonomic way to blog… at least not if you don’t want an achy chest from having to scrunch your shoulders.  And all that plane travel and carrying a very heavy computer bag and a camera bag – well that’s a good way to create body aches too.

So, I’m achy, but I’m not fearful.  I am in need of a bit more regular exercise, but I’m not dying.  I should eat a little bit wiser, but flavor is not forever forbidden to me.  God has shown me once again that He cares for me and that I can trust Him.  I grasp all that in my head.  It is not knowledge that I lack so much as the settling of that knowledge into my heart where it becomes faith.  Because in the end, it is what is in our heart that really matters.

 

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Do you have a specific calling from the Lord?  All followers of Jesus have the great commission which applies to the Church universal and we each have a gift or gifts that God has given us for the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Church.  However, I suspect that many of us are uncertain whether we have a specific calling from the Lord.  You see, this morning it just became very clear to me what my calling is even though I have been a follower of Jesus since 1983.  The fact that I just received this crystal clarity doesn’t mean I have not walked in my calling.  As I think of the times in my life that I have felt the most joyful, the most fulfilled, they have been when I was walking in my calling.  Before I go further I will tell you that my calling is to be an Encourager.

Looking back on one of my formative God stories I realize that God spoke the call to me, but I concentrated on the wrong part of the word He gave.  In May or June of 1989 I awoke in the middle of the night knowing God was present.  I slipped out of bed and onto my knees ready to pray for whatever burden the Lord put on my heart.  But no desperate need arose for me to pray about.  I remember thinking / praying, “What is it Lord?”  Then I heard Him speak to my heart.  “I am going to have you say special things to special people.  And to prove it, I’m going to take care of your house today.”

For years I have paid more attention to the miraculous provision God made in providing a home for us out of the blue the next day.  But I am struck this morning by the truth of the calling captured in that first sentence.  “I am  going to have you say special things to special people.”

A few years later I experienced another profound revelation from the Lord.  I was feeling led to undertake a three day fast for the first time.  As I pondered this, a friend who attended a Pentecostal church approached me at work one day and said, “Dan, during worship in our service last night, the pastor had a word for you.  He said if you will fast for three days on water only, then the Lord will show you what you are to do.”  I was blown away.  Until that time, I had not mentioned to anyone what I was considering.  So during Holy Week that year I undertook a three day fast.  I will never forget it.  Most importantly I did receive a clear message from the Lord.  Funny thing, it was while I was mowing the lawn on Saturday toward the end of the fast.  The Lord said, “I have not called you to be a preacher and I have not called you to be a teacher, I have called you to be a man of prayer.  You will preach and you will teach, but first and foremost I have called you to be a man of prayer.”

You see I had the notion I was waiting for God to call me into the ordained ministry.  I loved Him.  I thrilled at reading and sharing the Word.  And I desperately wanted people to experience the new life in Christ, the abundant life in Christ that I had found.  My vision of calling and ministry was fairly narrow and was confined to becoming a minister in a church.  Even as my understanding grew, I did not grasp the fact that I had a calling and, with some degree of consistency, I was walking it out.

So the point of today is simple.  God has a general calling on your life which is to honor and glorify Him, but He also has a specific call on your life.  The following steps will help you find your specific calling.

1) Begin by asking Him to guide you and use you.  As you lean on and trust in Him, He will lead you to your calling.

2) What are you passionate about?  What brings you the greatest joy?  For myself and for many others, we are most alive and impassioned when we are doing what God has created us to do.

3) What are you good at?  The talents we possess are gifts from God.  They are given to us, first and foremost, to glorify Him.  They generally also help to provide for us, although that is not always true.  An example comes to mind.  Early in my faith walk, I told God I would gladly go into the mission field.  I pictured using my engineering skills during the day to help people in a third world country build wells and construct homes by day followed by bible studies and preaching at night.  But the call for me to actually go into foreign missions has not yet come.  It seems likely to me that one of the reasons is my struggle with languages.  For some, like our youngest children and my cousin Richard, languages come very easy, but not for me.  In lieu of actually going overseas on foreign missions, we have been able to support and encourage others who have that calling.

4) What do other people compliment you on?  Sorry, while this can include your mother, it has to be more than just her.  When we walk in our giftedness, it will bless others and some of those people will let you know.  I am not talking about stroking our vanity, but words of affirmation that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Our calling will in some way support the Great commission – the growth and building up of Christ’s body in the earth.  Don’t limit this to just the preaching and teaching of the Word though.  I know God is the great physician who ultimately heals us, however He most often uses doctors and health professionals to be His agents of that healing.  The difference between a person who is walking in their calling as a medical professional and a person who does not recognize what they do as a ministry is the motivation.  One seeks to minister to people and meet their needs through God’s strength and provision.  The other does not have this foundational truth driving them.  I have heard of doctors who pray with their patients through the healing process.  To me that is a great indicator that they are walking in their calling.

Just because you have a specific calling does not mean that these are the only ways God will use you.  He is the omnipotent Creator of the universe.  If you are available and obedient He is more than able to give you the grace in any and every situation you find yourself.  However, recognizing your calling and seeking to put yourself into positions to grow and use the talents you have is a sure path to fulfillment in God’s amazing economy.

Have a blessed day today and may you flourish in the place where God puts you.

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