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A New Kind of Fast

Apr 19, 2018

PROGRAM D-8079

Do you find it difficult to stay positive in a world that is often filled with negatives? It’s not easy to do, is it? Did you know that negative thinking has a direct impact on your ability to be productive and effective? Studies show that thinking negatively about your problems not only doesn’t help solve anything, but actually makes it harder for you to think of a helpful solution.

We really didn’t need a study to tell us that, did we? Philippians 4:8 says we are to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and praise-worthy. Therefore, we have to replace those negative thoughts with God’s truth. I’ve been examining different ways to fast, and my suggestion today is this: Fast from pessimism; be filled with God’s hope.

Here are some practical things you can do to get rid of pessimistic, negative thoughts:

  • Scrutinize your negative thoughts and ask yourself if they are really true. More often than not, your negative thoughts are about things you don’t know to be true—fear of the future, for instance. If they’re not absolutely true, replace them with something true from God’s Word.
  • Change your unhealthy self-talk. You may not realize that you talk to yourself in very negative and harmful ways. You think or say things like, “I’m so tired,” or “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not smart enough,” or “I always mess up.” That’s pouring all kinds of junk into your mind—most of which is not true—and it drags you down. Stop saying harmful things to yourself. Instead, recite things you’ve done and accomplished which disprove your insecurity. Remember what God has done for, in, and through you—and rejoice! When you’re in negative mode, you tend to forget all the good things.
  • Beware of all-or-nothing thinking. For example, say you get a question in a job interview or some presentation that you’re not prepared to answer, so you don’t answer it well. All-or-nothing thinking will cause you to see it as a total failure, discounting the rest of the interview or presentation that went well. You think because it wasn’t 100% perfect, it was a total failure. That’s all-or-nothing thinking and it’s nothing but trouble.

 

It truly is possible to take this fast—to truly abandon pessimism and let the joy of Christ fill you with hope and assurance. This fast would be one of the best gifts you could ever give yourself. It takes time to get rid of negativism if you’ve indulged in it for long, but through Christ you can do it! Don’t give up so easily—determine by God’s grace to take a forever-fast from pessimism.

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A New Kind of Fast

Apr 18, 2018

PROGRAM D-8078

Have you ever fasted? I’m suggesting some “fasts” that would benefit all of us—all the time, not just once in a while. I recommended fasting from hurting words and replacing them with kind words. I talked about fasting from worrying and instead, learning to trust God more.

Here’s another fast that would really make a difference: Fast from bitterness; fill your heart with forgiveness and joy instead. Bitterness is one of the most harmful emotions you can ever experience. The thing about bitterness is that it is like a boomerang—it comes back in your face and wreaks untold pain in your heart.

Hebrews 12:15 says “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” I strongly encourage you to take a long fast—yes, a lifetime fast—from bitterness. This verse says that we are to “see to it” that we don’t allow bitterness to take root in our hearts.

When you’ve been harmed by someone else—especially if they show no remorse—that bitterness just sprouts up like a weed. I totally get it. It’s happened to me—no doubt, to everyone. Here’s the thing: if you don’t recognize that bitter root right away such that it starts to truly dig a hole in your heart, it becomes more and more difficult to get rid of it. Also, it affects other people and relationships—it defiles many, the Bible tells us.

Did you know that bitterness can be transmitted to your children, your mate, your coworkers—everyone in your life? When you allow bitterness to take root in your heart, you can’t keep it from spilling over to everyone else. It just does; you can’t stop it.

What can you do to make sure bitterness doesn’t find root in your heart? Confess it to the Lord, ask him to set you free, and memorize scripture that you recite to yourself every time those bitter thoughts start invading your mind. Memorize scriptures like Ephesians 4:31: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Another good one is Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

The Word of God is the one offensive weapon you’ve been given—it’s the only one you need—to attack the enemy of your soul who shoots those arrows of bitterness at you. You will defeat him and put away all bitterness from your heart when you fight back with God’s truth.

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A New Kind of Fast

Apr 17, 2018

PROGRAM D-8077

What is your greatest worry today? Worry is one of the most effective tools our enemy uses to steal our peace, is it not? I’m looking at a new way to fast—not just fasting from food for a time but fasting from other harmful things in our lives. My next suggestion is this: Fast from worries; instead, put your trust in God.

Jesus fully understood our propensity to worry, and he said the following:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For. . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25, 27, 31-34)

Jesus gave us three reasons not to worry.

  1. We should not worry because of who we are: God’s children. We are far more valuable than the birds, and God takes care of the birds. God has promised to supply our needs and take care of us—so don’t doubt his promise. Remember who you are!
  2. We should not worry simply because it does no good whatsoever. Worrying is totally worthless. It never produces any good results, but instead causes us to lose our peace, to lose our joy, and to waste our energy. Do you know how much energy it takes to worry? You are spending lots of emotional and mental energy when you’re in worry mode—and has it ever done you one bit of good? No, of course not!
  3. We should not worry because it harms our testimony as disciples of Jesus Christ. Isn’t it true that most of the people around you are worrying? Just think about the conversations you have with people, particularly people who are not yet believers in Jesus Christ. You’ll observe that they are worrying a lot. If those of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ worry just like everyone else, what kind of testimony is that?

 

This is a fast that will truly make a difference in your life: Determine, by God’s grace, to fast from worrying and learn to trust God more and more.

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A New Kind of Fast

Apr 16, 2018

PROGRAM D-8076

I’d like to look at a new kind of fast. The Bible has lots to say about fasting—giving something up for a period of time as an act of reverence and honor to God. Typically fasting is associated with food—giving up food for a time to focus more on the Lord—and certainly there can be great benefit in that kind of fasting. Jesus warned us, however, not to fast in order to impress people and, if we fast, to make it something between us and God.

I’m going to suggest five fasts we all can do and should do—not just once in a while, but continually. I don’t recommend that you announce your fasts to anyone. Rather, make them a matter of daily prayer and commitment on your part, and see how these fasts make a difference.

Here’s my first suggestion: Determine to fast from any kind of hurting words; say only words that are kind and encouraging.

Imagine how powerful this would be if you prayed every morning that God would make you aware of any unkind words you are ready to speak that day, and to stop them before they come out of your mouth.

Psalm 141:3 is the verse to pray if you want to fast from hurting words: Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips!” It’s so much easier to prevent unkind words from leaving your lips than it is to clean up the mess later. Imagine two tall guards, one standing on either side of your mouth, to prevent those unkind words from coming out of the door of your lips.

Of course, there are times when you have to say words that others may not want to hear. However, when that is necessary, you want those words to be coated in kindness and love. Those are words you say to benefit another person—even if they are hard to hear—not to ventilate your own frustrations. Words have the power of life and death, and followers of Jesus Christ should speak words of life.

My friend was a public school teacher and she told how one of her students was such a problem in her class, causing her many headaches. Knowing his home situation, she realized he rarely, if ever, received any kindness or encouragement. She made it her goal to speak to him in kind ways instead of always reprimanding him. She told me there was an overnight change in his behavior! Her kind words touched a hurting place in him and brought some healing, and they became friends.

Words have power. Let’s fast from hurting words and, instead, determine to use words for life, not death.

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What Is Your Heart Condition?

Apr 13, 2018

PROGRAM D-8075

I’ve been examining our heart condition and the symptoms of a hard heart, a cheerless heart, a greedy heart, and an impure heart. I’d like to look at another common heart condition that you may be experiencing—a broken heart.

Does your heart feel as though it’s broken into pieces right now? Has someone disappointed you terribly? Has a relationship been severed? Have you suffered the loss of one very dear to you? Those things truly break our hearts—the pain is deep and sometimes very dark.

The Psalmist wrote this: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Did you realize that when your heart is broken, the Lord is especially close to you? That’s his promise to you today; furthermore, he says he will save you.

I don’t know how he’s going to work in your situation to save you. It may not be the way you would do it, but you can trust your God. He is trustworthy, and when he says he will save those who are brokenhearted, that’s exactly what he means. It’s not going to last forever; he has something good planned for you.

In Psalm 147:3 we are told that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” If you will go to God with your pain, he will heal it and bind it up so that it won’t be unbearable.

I frequently hear from people with broken hearts. Many of them are due to broken relationships—husbands leaving wives and wives leaving husbands. Many are brokenhearted because some loved one is living in sin and refusing to come to God. Often I hear from those who’ve suffered the death of a mate or a child. Their hearts are so broken, they feel they will never heal and be whole again.

I want to encourage you, to bring you a word that will bind your broken heart and remind you that God has not forgotten you. Indeed, he is very close to those who have broken hearts. Remember, he understands your pain because he’s been there. The heart of Jesus was broken for you, and God’s heart was broken as he gave his only Son to die. We serve a wounded Savior, one who has suffered and understands the broken heart. The great news is, he is also our Great Physician and he is the one who can heal your broken heart.

In Psalm 119:32 we read “I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free.” He will set your heart free today—free from the unbearable pain of a broken heart—if you will run to him, obey him, and trust him. I hope you will allow his Word and his presence to heal the wounds of your broken heart.

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What Is Your Heart Condition?

Apr 11, 2018

PROGRAM D-8073

Did you know that your heart reflects who you are? Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” So, if your spiritual heart condition were known to all of us, what would it reflect?

For example, would we see a greedy heart? In Ezekiel 33:31 we read “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.” Wow, that’s a serious heart condition—greedy for unjust gain.

Jesus warned us about this greedy heart condition. In Luke 12:15 he says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” This greedy heart problem can take over before you know what’s happened if you’re not on your guard against all kinds of greed.

There’s greed for power—the drive to have authority and influence over other people. Also, there’s greed for prestige and fame—many people live for recognition from others. Of course, greed for material possessions is very commonplace. The passage in Ezekiel talked about being greedy for unjust gain: Trying to get something for nothing; wanting to win the lottery and be rich without working for it; becoming deceitful and dishonest in order to gain some money, possessions, or power. These are all examples of a greedy heart.

Do you have any of those symptoms? Even if they’re in the early stages, you need to get very serious about dealing with that greedy heart. Greed is contagious. If you’re around people who have lots of things and who focus their lives on getting more and more things, you’ll discover that it’s very difficult not to be swept right along into that greedy mindset for things.

The Psalmist wrote, “Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain” (Psalm 119:36). That’s a very good prayer if your heart tends to be greedy. Turning it toward the Word of God and away from selfish gain will cure you of a greedy heart.

Jesus said life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions. Even if you get all those things, money, and power that you’ve been greedy for, they won’t bring you what you think they will. You can be very rich in this world’s stuff and be very poor in the things that really matter. Be on your guard today against a greedy heart, especially as you go out into your working world where it’s very easy to be swept away with the desire for things and power.

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