6 Uber-Practical Steps to a Spiritually Significant Fast

Fork and Watermelons

Honestly, I don’t ever look forward to starting the year with a 21 day fast. Yet I’ve done it the past eight years.

I don’t look forward to it because what should be a deeply spiritual act nearly always deteriorates into nothing more than a shift in what I eat.

I keep trying year after year to raise the spiritual bar, but haven’t quite nailed it (yet). What I have nailed is a few practical pointers that I hope will help on your next fast.

Here’s hoping year nine (finally) makes me look forward to fasting in year ten! :)

1. Jesus, Only Jesus

There’s no spiritual benefit to just not eating. So don’t get too caught up in the details of what (you’re fasting) and forget the why (deeper intimacy with Christ).

That’s why I recommend a food and reverse fast.

In short, a reverse fast is when you intentionally make time during your day to seek God more than you would typically. Where people tend to spend most of their time focused on the food-aspect of a fast, a reverse fast reverses the priorities and places it on God.

It’s been, by far, one of the more practical things I’ve done to increase spiritual engagement during a fast. Read about it.

2. Focus Your Fast

Fasting in the Bible always accompanied a specific reason.

Write down 1-3 main things you’re praying and believing God for during your fast. Be bold. Dream.

Give the fast a reason to matter personally and spiritually to you. Spend time praying for these things, listening for God’s direction (if applicable), reading related Bible verses, etc.

Know what you’re fighting for. It provides purpose and motivation. When you have a reason for going into battle, you’ll fight harder, longer and with more passion.

 3. 100%, Not 98%

Right now, commit to yourself and God that you’re going to honor your chosen fast 100% of the time. Not 98% or any other number lower than 100%.

Why?

Let’s be honest, when you make an exception due to “extenuating circumstances,” the odds of you completing the fast go down drastically. If you justify doing it “just this once,” there’s nothing keeping you from doing it again.

The next couple tips will help you stay at 100%.

And even if you do drop below 100%, start over again that day. You’re now back at 100%. God extends grace. Take it. ;)

4. Make an Allowed List

Make a list of the foods you’re allowing yourself to eat and only eat foods from that list. And be specific. Specific types of foods (e.g., apples, bananas) within specific food groups (e.g., fruit).

Do this before you start your fast. Alternatively, make a list of fast-approved recipes and only eat those recipes during the fast.

Inevitably, you will ask yourself the question: is this allowed? I guarantee you’ll ask that question multiples times as you’re presented with catered work lunches, dinner out with friends or cooking at home.

The list is designed to make that decision extremely easy; saving your time and energy for much more important things – seeking God (remember #1).

On the list, eat it (yums). Not on the list, nope.

And as you’re making the list, don’t get too caught up in the details of what’s allowed or what’s not in XYZ fast. For example, does whole grains include whole grain pasta or just whole grain rice? It doesn’t matter. Put it on the list or don’t. You choose for yourself.

5. Plan, Plan, Plan

Create a daily calendar. Every day, every meal. Answer the question: what are you going to eat?

Again, it’s all about making decisions at the start which drastically reduce the number of stressful game-time decisions. Game-time decisions are often when you’re the most tired, have the least amount of energy and and zero willpower to stick to your fast. (It’s called decision fatigue.)

Cook as many meals in one marathon cooking session as you can. Store it and have it ready to eat when you need.

Identify potential roadblocks. Where in your schedule will you run into some challenges during the fast? Maybe it’s a work party or out-of-town travel.

What are you going to do in those situations. See #3. Stick to your fast. ;)

You can create a detour now that you know where the roadblocks are. Pack your meal for those occasions. Have something ready to eat when you arrive at a roadblock.

#problemsolved

 6. Jesus, Only Jesus REEEEEEMIX

With all these practical tips, let’s not forget why we’re fasting in the first place. To know Jesus more intimately. To see Him work in our lives on a much greater level.

How can we do that?

Spend more time in prayer, worship and the Word. You created margin for those things with a reverse fast, right?

Those three things should be staples of your spiritual diet. Want those things just as much as you want food. Oh, and don’t forget to give God an opportunity to speak. Be intentional about listening for His voice and the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

If you need some worship music, follow whichever of my 30 Minute Worship Playlists (#1-6 and #7-9) floats your boat.

Use a daily reading plan during your fast. Try 21 Day Fast, 21 Days of Powerful Breakthroughs or any of these 23 plans.

Fasting is hard. You’ll be tempted. You’ll feel like a failure at times. Embrace your weakness because Christ’s power is made perfect in it (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life. (from Why You Should Fast)

Fasting changes us. It breaks down the idols in our lives. Forces a reliance on God. Brings about humility.

But you know what the cool thing is?

Even though it changes us, fasting (in God’s goodness) can also lead to answered prayers.

Ezra 8:23 (NIV)
So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

That’s humbling and also demonstrates the spiritual significance of fasting. Let this verse motivate you to honor your fast, seek Him more and pray for bold things!

What are some other tips that have helped you be more successful in your fast (both practically and spiritually)?

3 More 30 Minute Worship Playlists

Over the course of time, I’ve created a handful of worship playlists. Add some more time to that time and now I have three more worship playlists to share with you! ;)

Any worship songs you’re diggin’ currently? Share them with me in the comments!

Lately, I feel more drawn to the mellow stuff. While I love the high-energy anthem type songs, they just don’t work well for intimate worship at home…

The Unintentional Influence of a Parked Car

Parked Cars

As I was running by these cars, I realized this truth…

Often the small decisions and behaviors we think only affect us, unintentional influence others.

I heard a friend say they only brush their teeth once a day. Being the poster child of efficiency, I jumped on this idea. I’m the guy who only flosses two weeks leading to a teeth cleaning because the dentist has always said my teeth/gums look great. So why floss 365 days a year when you can floss 14 and get the same results? ;)

You know what happened when I did that? I was told my breath stinks.

In high school, I attended a youth group as a non-Christian outsider. I was really just there to hang out with friends and play ping pong. #truestory

As an indirect result, I learned a little bit more about Jesus and Christianity. You know what I learned? Christians are hypocrites. The same people who preached repentance and “what would Jesus do?” in the school hallways were the same people doing drugs, having premarital sex and getting drunk on the weekends.

Not very Christ-like at all.

Unintentionally, their decisions influenced me away from Christ. They had no idea the deep impact and impression their actions left on me. For the next three years I thought Christianity was nothing more than a label.

It held no eternal significance to me.

The line of cars above started with just one decision.

Lone Parked Car

A decision the person thought was no biggie and only affected them. But one decision ultimately led tens of others to follow their lead.

No one is exempt from that truth.

Who are the main people you influence? Think of them by name. Your kids, your co-workers, your spouse, your fellow classmates, your friends? Heck, even all your social media followers.

Are you doing anything that could negatively impact them? Because we are all influential, it’s worth taking the time to answer that question.

How would your kids define the word “family” based on what you do when you’re together? Is there quality time happening or does everyone do their own thing? How do you treat and talk to your co-workers? Are they attracted to you because you’re kind-hearted or repelled by all your gossip? Are people unfriending you on Facebook because of your endless stream of negativity and complaining?

And, don’t forget, as Christians we influence people either toward or away from Christ.

Steward that influence wisely.

How has someone positively or negatively impacted you with their decisions or behavior?

 

The Courage to Rebuild Ruins

Ruins of Sukhothai

Nehemiah 2:12 (NIV)
…I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.

A word from God changes everything.

You have the perspective, perseverance and courage you need to walk that call out.

But so often we don’t bother asking God what his heart is for us and then we have no perspective, no perseverance and no courage.

What situation or problem are you facing now? Have you asked God what his heart is for you?

You will need that spiritual burden to succeed. When we don’t have that spiritual burden, we get easily weighed down by emotional, mental and physical burdens. We hit eject too early. We wander aimlessly. We achieve nothing of value. All while the life and energy gets sucked out of us.

And, ultimately, we miss out on not just what God wants to teach us, but what he wants to do through us.

A spiritual burden allows you to look out on a hopeless situation, just as Nehemiah did…

Nehemiah 1:17 (NIV)
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.

…and know you can succeed.

Nehemiah 1:20 (NIV)
I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding…

Pray. Ask. Succeed.

It’s always easier to persevere when we know we’re on the path God has called us to. How have you seen that ring true in your life? Share with me in the comments, por favor!

Photo courtesy of John Shedrick.

Your Breath Stinks

Bad Breath Isn't Sexy

Ever have one of those moments where you’re blindsided? Left to pick your mouth up off the floor?

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. This dude or dudette (gotta protect the innocent!) had three things they wanted to share with me. One and two were no biggie. But then three comes along.

“Your breath stinks.”

#likewhoa

The thing with bad breath is you can never tell on your own. Try cupping your hands over your mouth and breath like Darth Vader. Yeah, it’s pointless sniffing your own breath. It smells “normal” to me. The thing about us humans is we tend to think everything we do is rainbows and unicorns.

You need friends that will tell you your breath stinks.

We all have blind spots. And without friends willing to speak up and share what those are with us, we will always operate blind. Often to the detriment of ourselves and those around us. (Sorry if I’ve breathed around you recently.)

Proverbs 27:6
Wounds from a friend can be trusted…

The challenge is not waiting for someone to drop a #likewhoa moment on you, but intentionally seeking it out yourself.

I triple dog dare you to ask a close friend if you have any blind spots. Blind spots that may be affecting your relationship with God, your relationship with others (spouse, friends, family, co-workers, etc.) or possibly even things unknowingly hurting yourself.

This requires a willingness to be humble and vulnerable.

If you’ve had these types of conversations before, will you be vulnerable and share in the comments some blind spots you’ve had brought to your attention?

Photo courtesy of theharv58.