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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 12, 2018

PROGRAM D-8074

I encourage you to have a heart check-up. Sure, you need one for your physical heart, but I’m talking about checking up on your spiritual heart—your inner person. If you could X-ray your spiritual heart, would it look dirty? Does it need cleaning? I’ve examined the hard heart, the cheerless heart, and the greedy heart. The Bible also has a lot to say about having a pure heart.

In Psalm 51:10, we have that famous prayer of David’s: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David was desperate to have his heart purified because he had fallen and sinned badly. You know the story of his lust for Bathsheba and how that led him to adultery and murder. His heart was very dirty because David had deliberately and willfully disobeyed God and done what he knew was wrong to do.

In this Psalm, he begs God to give him a pure heart again. Maybe that’s where you are today. You know your heart is dirty and you really want it to be pure again. God is in the business of cleaning us up, and he is waiting to be merciful to you. All you need to do is follow David’s example and confess your sin—openly and honestly. Confess it to God, be willing to make restitution if that is feasible or necessary, and come clean. Stop covering it up, stop rationalizing it away, and stop trying to pretend it’s not a big deal. Just come clean before God and he will gladly and graciously give you a pure heart again.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). When your heart is pure before God, you will be able to see him—both in eternity and here on this earth. You’ll know his presence in your life, you won’t feel alone or abandoned, and you’ll have that incredible peace that comes when the accounts between you and God are clear.

Psalm 24:3-4 asks this question: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” That’s really a paraphrase of what Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). We have communication with God and are able to know him only when we have pure hearts.

And how do we keep our hearts pure? Psalm 119:9-11 answers that question: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Purity of heart comes to us when we live according to the Word of God and hide it in our hearts. There is no other way.

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What Is Your Heart Condition?

Apr 10, 2018

PROGRAM D-8072

I encourage you to examine your heart and see what condition it is in. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Most of us are better at taking care of our physical heart than we are our spiritual heart. Have you been guarding your heart lately?

For example, your heart should be a cheerful heart. Is it? Proverbs 15:15 says “. . .the cheerful heart has a continual feast,” and Proverbs 15:13 says that “A happy heart makes the face cheerful. . .” Finally, Proverbs 15:30 tells us that “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. . .”

Christians shouldn’t be sourpusses, don’t you agree? Our faces should reflect cheer and joy, yet we allow ourselves to be negative all too often, complain a lot, and generally appear as though we’re sad, troubled, and upset all the time. Would your friends call you a cheerful person? Is your heart cheerful?

Maybe you’re thinking, Life is tough for me right now. Things are going very badly. You can’t expect me to have a cheerful heart when bad things are happening. While it’s true that there are times in our lives when happiness seems like a stranger, even then we can know a cheerful heart—a heart that underneath the pain is still at peace because of Jesus.

Ephesians 5:19-20 says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is the secret to a cheerful heart: Singing, praising, making music in your heart, and giving thanks at all times. The Apostle Paul wrote these words, and he knew more hardship than we can imagine. Yet in the midst of much trouble, he said, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”

How much singing do you do? You may not be a soloist, but you can still sing to the Lord—and to his ears it’s beautiful music. Sing in the midst of your problems; sing when you don’t want to; sing when you feel terrible. Sing praises to God, and see how it cheers your heart up. I promise you, it will work. We are also supposed to help each other to have cheerful hearts by speaking to each other in joyful ways and singing to each other.

God loves cheerful hearts. If yours is not cheerful today, I trust you’ll go straight to the One who can change your heart—Jesus Christ—and follow his prescription for a cheerful heart. It works every time.

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