Tag Archives: fasting

Just Do It!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here so I thought I’d share an update and hopefully some inspiration.

Today marks my 30th day doing Whole30.   I made it!   I can’t believe it, to be honest.   For those of you who don’t know what Whole30 is, it’s a diet where you eliminate all sugar, dairy, grains and processed foods for 30 days.   That means no ice cream, no Oreos (my favorite), no cheesecake (my other favorite), no rice, noodles, bread, butter…you get the idea.

In order to convey the enormity of my finishing 30 days on this diet without a single cheat I need to tell you that I’m that guy that up until 30 days ago NEVER said no to a snack.   I’m that guy who stopped a couple times a week at Dollar General for a box of Milk Duds, or who routinely sat down at night to watch TV with a big glass of milk and 5 or 10 Oreo Double Stuffed cookies.   All day at work I snacked on anything from fudge to brownies to candy my co-workers brought in.

All that to say this:  It seemed like an impossibility to give all that up cold turkey for THIRTY DAYS.

But I did it!   And I feel better than I’ve felt in YEARS!   Let me share with you some of the benefits I’ve discovered…

  • I lost 18 lbs!   My clothes fit better and I’m no longer huffing after tying my shoes 🙂
  • I have more energy.  In addition to eating better, I also started training to run a half marathon in July.   I’ve been following an 8 week training plan and over the past four weeks I’ve gone from running 2 miles after my first full week to running 6.5 miles just this past Sunday!
  • I discovered a new hobby – cooking!  Having to prepare fresh food every day meant I had to organize my time in such a way that I had time to cook and prepare meals.  I found that I really enjoy trying new recipes and preparing food not only for myself but for those I love.   It’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to have others eat what I’ve prepared and see they enjoy it (check out some pics below!)

Those are some of the more obvious benefits – things others can see (or taste).   One of the less obvious benefits but no less important was how I discovered this really bolstered my recovery health.    There really is no secret to fighting addiction.  At some point when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired (hit bottom) you have to just do something else.   Replacing old, bad, destructive habits with something new, good, and life-giving is one of the best things you can do for yourself for long term recovery.    It gives your mind, body and spirit something new to pursue, creating joy that you didn’t know you were missing and giving you even more reasons to pursue sobriety.    You really are worth it!

The other advantage this brings to recovery that I have found, and I talk about this on other posts here related to fasting, is how being disciplined in this area flows out and over into other areas.   Discovering that I am able to say no to the urge to have an Oreo (and not die because I’ve deprived my body of something it wants) helps strengthen my spirit to respond positively when tempted with other ungodly desires.    If you can discipline your body to say no to food it wants, you can do the same when lust comes knocking at your door, or any other drug of choice to which you’ve been enslaved.

I think Jesus knew what he was doing when he fasted himself and taught his disciples to do the same.    He knew the spiritual secret behind saying no to the desires of the flesh, (even to something neutral, even good, like food)  – that such a practice can prepare one’s body and soul to say no to Satan’s other means of temptation and attack.

I want to encourage you if you are struggling today (or this month or for the past years).   If you have never considered how food or other areas you keep saying “yes” might be contributing to your unwanted compulsive behaviors elsewhere, maybe do so now.   Consider putting yourself to a 30 day challenge and say no to something other than (in addition to) your drug of choice.   If it’s porn, but you also love donuts, give up donuts for 30 days and just see if that doesn’t make you stronger in your fight against porn.   In my experience, it will.

What are you waiting for? Today is as good a day as any to start.  Just do it!

Grace and peace,
Chad

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Blackened Salmon with Sweet Potato and Green beans..YUM
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Chicken on cauliflower rice topped with dairy free mushroom cream sauce
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Finished up a 6.5 mile run!

How Fasting Saved My Life, and Might Save Yours, too

Lent begins tomorrow.  It is traditionally a time set aside each year where Christians deny themselves something for a period of time as a means to identify with Jesus who fasted for 40 days in the wilderness while being tempted by Satan.    Having grown up in the church fasting was something I knew about but, oddly enough, never practiced.   That all changed, however, when I realized I was dead.

It occurred to me while I was at Pure Life that the words Paul uses to describe dead people in Ephesians 2 applied to me.   Yes, I was a seminary graduate and a pastor and a life-long member of church.   But I was dead nonetheless.    Here’s what Paul says:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph. 2:1-3).

What are dead people, according to this passage?   They are those who follow the course of this world, who are disobedient, who live in the passions of their flesh and they carry out the desires of the body and the mind.    Dead people.

(I will resist the urge to post the “I see dead people” clip from the movie, The Sixth Sense).  

As this passage sunk into my heart I realized that I was dead.  I was a rotting example of those who “have the form of godliness but deny its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).   And the simple reason was because I denied myself nothing my heart desired.  I lived according to the passions of my flesh, and was a slave to any thought that entered my mind.

Now to be sure, this is not just the plight of addicts.   Those of us who justify our behavior  by saying things like, “That’s just my personality” or “This is just the way I was created,” are in many ways just as dead as those of us addicted to lust or self-gratification or any other substance or person.    Every one of us were born into sin and our natural default is to live in the passions of our flesh. Therefore, we need to recognize that any appeals we make to our natural selves (i.e. This is just who I am) is an appeal to that which ought to be dead.  If you are in Christ, you are a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).    Paul writes,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Living by faith in the Son of God means that I must trust Him when He calls me to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him.  I must trust that the life He promises to give me is far greater than the one I would choose on my own left to my desires.

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This is where fasting saved my life.   While at Pure Life I began a habit of fasting for 24 hours once a week.   I would allow myself water and coffee but no solid food.  I have to confess the reason I started was not because I was trying to be spiritual or because I knew its benefits.  I started simply because someone whom I trusted told me I should do it.    So I did.   What happened next astonished me.

When my stomach growled and the desires of my flesh screamed “EAT!,” I said, “NO.”   For the first time in my life I was telling my body NO!   The first 24 hour fast was terribly difficult, but the next week was not quite so bad, and the week after that not as bad as the last.    Soon it became easy for me to hang out in the kitchen with everyone else as they were preparing their dinner and though I was starving I was not tempted to eat.    Soon after that I began a practice of rising early from bed Saturday morning and making pancakes for all the guys in my dorm – all while on an empty stomach and knowing my next meal would not be till dinner that night.

It dawned on me one morning while flipping pancakes that here I stood in the midst of temptation yet I was not a slave to any of it.   Without realizing it at the time I was strengthening my spiritual “muscles.”   Since I knew I could say no to food when my stomach growled I became increasingly confident that I could also say no to lust or any other temptation that came my way.  The fruit of the Spirit which includes “self-control” began to take root in my life from the discipline of fasting.   I began to see how I, too, could identify with Jesus and say, I don’t live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

In this way fasting saved my life.   New life begins when we first have our eyes opened to the fact that we are dead, and slaves to our body and mind.   When God brings us to that point, we are able to accept and trust the good news which declares,

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing;it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:4-10).

If you are tired of being dead, try fasting.   It may save your life, too.

The Sin of Self-Gratification (Part IV): Putting on Christ

This is the fourth and final part to a series dealing with lust and how to find victory.    Part III deals with the things we need to “put off.”  If we don’t put off, we can’t put on.   I hope you’ll find both an aid in your desire for holiness.

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2)

How do we have our minds transformed?   By presenting our entire selves to God in all things.   It is not enough to just throw off the old nature.  We must, as Scripture commands, “put on Christ.”    Below are some of the means I have incorporated in my life which have, by the grace of God, transformed my mind from a lustful, selfish thing to one free to do God’s bidding.    I, and other readers, would love to hear your own ways of “putting on Christ.” Please share in the comments!

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1.  Wonder and Wander in the Word

There is no substitute for God’s word.   Gorge yourself on it.   Read it with the spirit and abandonment of Peter who said, “To whom shall we go?  Only you have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68)  For those of you who are in ministry it is very hard to read Scripture for yourself.   If you are like me, I felt I read Scripture a lot because I was preparing a sermon, a bible study or even worse, trying to prove my point via a blog post or some other media.

This is not edifying for you!    Pray that God would give you ears to hear what the Spirit wants to say to YOU in this moment, to change you, recreate something new in you that is not currently there.    God’s Word is powerful and effective at changing hearts.  It will come alive to those who come hungry and thirsty.

A nightly practice of mine for nearly a year was to read 3 stanzas of Psalm 119 every night (and 4 stanzas on the 7th night – in this way you have read the entire Psalm in a week).    I read it in hopes of one day being able to identify with it.  Over time I found, to my great surprise, that the Scriptures were working on me and I was looking more and more like what I was reading.

2.  Pray, Pray, Pray

We need regular dialog with our Father.   Set a goal at first to spend 15 minutes in prayer each morning before doing anything else.  Find a prayer rhythm.  I know some who love to sit and pray.  Others write out their prayers.   Others, like myself, like to walk and talk aloud to God.   I take my dogs for a walk and pray aloud.  I never knew this was how I would pray best until being forced out of my routine one day and stumbling upon this exercise.   In other words, be open to change!

Knowing what to pray is important, too.   While at Pure Life I learned the Mercy Prayer, developed and taught by Rex Andrews.   This prayer, I believe, was one of the biggest contributing factors to my own transformation.  Praying this prayer is a prayer directly in line with God’s will for not just your life but everyone.    I pray it all the time even now.  When I am stressed, angry, when my will is being crossed, when I don’t know how to pray for someone who comes to mind, when temptation arises, etc.   When you ask me to pray for you, this is what I am most likely praying.   Learn this prayer and pray it. It will change your life!

Mercy Prayer

1) Lord, I thank You for_________.

I thank You for saving him. Thank you for what You have done and are doing in his life.

2) Make__________ to know Jesus (more). Help him to increase in the knowledge of God. Destroy speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and help him to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

3) Make__________ poor in spirit. Bring him down Lord, but please do it gently. Help him to see his neediness. Help him to see himself in light of You. Put him in his rightful place Lord.

4) Fill ___________ with Your Holy Spirit. Immerse him in Your Spirit Lord. Come to him in power and in might. Baptize him in fire Lord.

5) Life___________.

Life him according to Thy lovingkindness. Pour out Your life giving mercies into his soul.

6) Bless__________. Lord, bless him in everything he touches. Bless him spiritually, physically, and financially. Bless his loved ones. Do for him Lord, instead of me.

7) Mercy__________.

Flood him with need-filling mercies. Pour them out in super abundance. Find and meet every need in his life as You see it Lord.

3.  Read and Study Religiously

You need to fill you mind and heart with wisdom and instruction from godly men and women.   Seek out spiritual writers who are focused on repentance and holiness and matters of the heart.

A powerful, daily study guide is Steve Gallagher’s Walk of Repentance.  This will take you day by day through 24 weeks of studying the word which will get to the heart of many things in your life and give you a new hunger for God’s word in the process.   His first book, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry is also must reading for anyone struggling with sexual sin of any kind.

Other books I highly recommend, which helped me see a life of repentance as a daily practice:

Roy Hession’s Calvary Road and We Would See Jesus

Many of the spiritual classics are excellent as well.  Fenelon’s Seeking Heart, for example, is a wonderful devotional that will help aid in spotting pride in your life and putting it to death.

4.  Find a Fast

Victory over lust came for me when I started fasting.    I didn’t realize the benefits of fasting until I actually did it.   I knew all about it (or thought I did), preached about it, talked about it, but never really did it.   And even while doing it I wondered what the use might be.   But God revealed that to me soon enough.

For me a good fast is 24 to 48 hours.   For a number of months I fasted for 24 hours once a week (one of my weekend days).    What I learned during this time was the most valuable lesson anyone struggling with lust needs to learn:

You can say no to your flesh!  (and you won’t die doing it). 

Having lived such a defeated Christian existence for so long, always giving over to my flesh whenever I desired, saying no to food when I was hungry helped build my spiritual muscles.    I was growing in that fruit of the Spirit I lacked most: Self-Control.   When I learned that I could say no to food, I knew I could also say no to lust when the temptations arose.

Through the discipline of fasting I have learned that I am no longer a slave to my old self but can willingly choose to submit my body in righteousness and make good decisions when I’m tempted in other directions.

Speaking of fasting, this will be my last post until Easter.   During Lent I will be fasting from social media and blogging, along with my weekly food fasts.

5.  Journey in a Journal

Whether you type it out on a Word document or like to hand-write in a notepad, it will do you well to write out your trials, struggles, and, as you’ll come to see, victories.   Keep a record of God’s work in your life.  Write down what He is saying to you in your time in prayer and the word.  Talk about what it’s like to walk in victory.   Take note of how your thoughts wander and where.   During your journal time you will notice areas where you might need to tighten off on the “putting off” and other ways you need to “put on.”

Well there you have it.  I pray these bless you as they have blessed me over the past 2 years and continue to do today.

 

Grace and peace,
Chad

Overcoming Addiction; Becoming More Than A Conqueror

This post is part II of my reflections from this past Sunday’s sermon on addiction.    You can read Part I HERE, which addresses the problem of addiction.   Today we will consider the solution.

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Before going further I think it’s important to note that addictions come in all shapes and sizes.   We can become addicted to anything.   Augustine famously wrote, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in Thee.”   How true this is.   When God is not on the throne of our hearts any number of suitors will take his place.

Equally important to note is that addiction is not the problem.   Addiction is merely the symptom of a deeper issue.   Jesus said that it is out of the heart that good or evil flow, so if you find yourself habitually returning to the same sin over and over again then you don’t need a new program or method or counselor to help you get your life straightened out.   You need what Jesus said you – and I – need:  A new heart.

The good news here is that God is still in the business of turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.  He delights in breaking the chains of a sinner whose will is chained at the altar of addiction and idolatry, setting them free “to both will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). 

I know first-hand how difficult it is to come to this realization that our heart’s are desperately wicked and that Jesus wants to make us new, not just better.    If you grew up in the church it is especially hard.   Working against me was a history of being a pastor’s kid, an undergrad degree in bible and theology, a seminary degree, and a number of years serving as a pastor.   With so much religion in my life it was easy to fall prey to spiritual pride, which convinced me I was essentially a good person, that my service to God and others counted for something, and that I just struggled with this “one thing,” but hey, everyone has their “thorn in the flesh,” right?

All of that is a lie which serves to keep us from experiencing the power, freedom and hope that Jesus promises we can have in him.   That power is freely offered to you but will not be fully realized until you accept God’s reality of things.   You are not a good person who occasionally (or often) does bad things but a sinner with a bad heart incapable of ever pleasing, or seeing, God (see Isa. 64:6 and Heb. 12:14).

We need new hearts, and thanks be to God, he is willing and able to give us what we need!

So the first step towards freedom from sin (addiction) is letting go of the pride in us that tries to justify ourselves before a holy God and reckon ourselves as that which God’s word says we are:  A sinner in need of a new heart.

Pastor Tim, in his sermon on Sunday, shared a story from Scripture that has much practical value for us here.   It is Matthew 17:14-21.  The first half of the story is about a man beseeching Jesus to heal his demon-possessed son.  He brought him to Jesus’ disciples first but they were unable to drive it out.   Before healing the boy, Jesus exclaims,

O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?

Jesus diagnoses their generation (and no doubt our own) as “unbelieving” and “perverse.”   Because of these two things, the disciples lacked the power to free this man’s son.  What does it mean to be unbelieving and perverse?

  • Unbelieving is to be not connected to God.

If you are addicted to something then you have something else on the throne of your heart other than God.  God is a jealous God and we are fooling ourselves if we think we can treat his temple (our bodies) casually (1 Cor. 6:19-20).   This is related to the second point…

  • Perverse is to be too connected to the world.

If Jesus’ generation loved the world how much more might that be of us today!   We love the comforts and thrills this world offers us and take little notice of how much of a hold it has on our spiritual lives.  Scripture teaches that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).    God calls us “adulterers” when we put the things of this world before our connection with Him.

And so, Jesus says, it is because we are not connected with God and are too connected with this world that we lack power in our lives to be the victorious, over-coming Christians we are called to be.

The disciples came to Jesus privately in the second half of our story above and ask Jesus why they could not drive out the demon.   Jesus tells them that they lack faith, but also tells us how we can make right the problem of being unbelieving and perverse.  If you are having a hard time driving out your demon of addiction, Jesus says,

This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting

Jesus calls prayer and fasting essential, so lets consider each.

  • Prayer connects us to God

I am ashamed to admit that I was once someone who scoffed at those who advised me I needed to pray more.  They were the sort of people I deleted from my life (mentioned in part I).   Our cynicism towards prayer and it’s efficacy is just one more symptom of our lack of faith and validation of Jesus’ claim that we live in an unbelieving and perverse generation.

However, there is some truth to the critics of “praying more.”    It’s not so much the “more” but the “how” and “why” that matters.   A person can pray 24 hours a day but if they cherish iniquity in their heart (as most addicts still do) or, for you husband’s, if you do not honor your wife and treat her as God commands, then nobody is listening on the other end of the line (see Psalm 66:18 and 1 Peter 3:7.  Also, you may be interested in a post on this blog titled “When God Doesn’t Listen”).

Most of my prayers as a habitual sinner (addict) were about God removing the painful circumstances that my sins have caused rather than submitting to a holy God whom I knew would demand radical heart surgery on me.   When our prayers are motivated by “worldly sorrow” rather than “godly sorrow” we are praying from a place of pride and the result will be further death, not life (2 Cor. 7:10).   The Puritan William Gurnall says of prayer,

Prayer is the main line that leads straight to the throne of God.  By it the Christian approaches God with a humble boldness of faith, takes hold of Him, wrestles with Him, and will not let Him go until he has His blessing.  (The Christian in Complete Armor Vol. I).

We can be assured that the blessing which God desires to bestow upon us is victory over every sin that besets us, including the most pernicious of addictions, for His will for us is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).

  • Secondly, fasting disconnects us from the world.

One of the great benefits of my time at Pure Life was that it forced me to disconnect from the world.   In doing so I realized just how much the love of this world had a hold on me.  I also learned that I would not die without watching TV!   For 7 months I was without radio, TV, internet, magazines, etc.  I fed myself with a steady diet of Scripture, Prayer, Worship and Christian books.

I also took on a weekly habit of fasting for 24 hours from food, something I had never done before that time, nor did I understand it’s benefits.   God used that time where I denied myself food to teach me that I could, in fact, say “NO” to the desires of my flesh.   Without really realizing it at the time I was strengthening my spiritual “muscles.”   Since I knew I could say no to food when my stomach growled I became increasingly confident that I could also say no to lust when it beckoned.   The fruit of the Spirit which includes “self-control” began to take root in my life from the discipline of fasting.

I’ve been home from Pure Life now for over 7 months and have continued my practice of fasting in order to be less connected to the world.   We don’t have a TV in our home save one in the kids room for Ava’s Mickey Mouse episodes.   We listen to Christian music in our home and read Christian books.   My time on the internet is guarded, filtered, and used as needed.   As a family we always went to the beach for summer vacations but this year we opted not to go, as it was a source of temptation.

Jesus said to be radical with sin that threatens to destroy us – to go as far as cutting out the eye or the limb.   If you find yourself being constantly defeated by the same habitual patterns or sins, I can testify that cutting out the many inroads the world has in your life, while adding prayer for the right reasons from a right heart, will destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and you will be more than a conqueror, (Rom. 8:37) just as God said you would be.

*Thanks to my good friend and pastor, Tim Paul, for supplying the bullet points above.   Your sermon really spoke to me, and I pray my reflections upon it serve as a testament to that.