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God Knows the Right Time to Turn a Bad Situation Around

Every January, several churches across the United States participate in some sort of a fast to begin the new year. Some focus on a Daniel Fast where members of congregations eat fruits and vegetables, drink water and pray to draw near to God. Others observe a strict fast for a week, weeks or entire month, praying for direction, vision and confirming God’s will. In the Old Testament, queen Esther asks members of the Jewish community to fast and pray for her so that she will receive the right words to communicate to the king.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? 15 Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish, Esther 4:13-16.

Esther receives an answer to prayer, called to throw a banquet for the king and Haman. However, just as she is about to ask the king what she wants, Esther loses her train of thought. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit told her that the timing was not right. While stalling, waiting for a word from the Lord, Esther waits to reveal her concern one more day, deciding to throw another banquet tomorrow. While slightly puzzled, the king accepts Esther’s request. While unnamed people continued to fast and pray, the Lord used insomnia to keep the king up late that night. As a servant reads accounts to the king, he learns about an unrewarded act by Mordecai. This story turned a bad situation around at the right time.

On the third day [of the fast] Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the royal or inner court of the king’s palace opposite his [throne room]. The king was sitting on his throne, facing the main entrance of the palace. And when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight, and he held out to [her] the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther drew near and touched the tip of the scepter. Then the king said to her, What will you have, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of the kingdom. And Esther said, If it seems good to the king, let the king and Haman come this day to the dinner that I have prepared for the king, Esther 5:1-4.

For such a time is this is one of the most quoted passages from the Old Testament. Yet, if it wasn’t for this three day fast, where depressed souls poured out their hearts to God in prayer, this story of the Bible probably doesn’t happen. There is a crucial lesson to learn from this biblical account. If you ever find yourself stuck in a bad situation, fasting and prayer can turn your situation around. However, you need to call upon others, to form a concert of prayer with an expectation that God knows the right time to turn your situation around. What are you waiting for? The beginning of 2020 is as good of a time as any to fast and pray for God’s calling.

by Jay Mankus

Discipline, Fasting and Nutrition

Staying active can help your metabolism from slowing down.  According to an article on Livestrong.com, thermogenesis, the food processing part of your metabolism actually remains fairly steady throughout your adult life.  This is where discipline comes into play, resisting the urge to satisfy the earthly desires of hunger.  In the context of Olympic athletes, the apostle Paul refers to the rigid training necessary to compete at this level.  Like a boxer preparing for a title bout, discipline is essential to get yourself in the best possible shape to reach your full potential.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Hunger is often dictated by the overall mood you are in.  Upon hearing bad news, appetite can be lost.  When a secret service agent, a body guard to the king receives news of Israel’s vulnerable state, Nehemiah is brought to tears.  This weeping inspired a fast, crying out to God in prayer for a plan to restore the walls surrounding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s fast lasted for a season, three to four months.  At the conclusion of this fast, detailed in chapter 2, God provides a clear vision, a plan of action to quickly restore this structure.  During any fast, abstaining from food for a period of time, tends to alter your perspective, seeing life or situations through God’s eyes.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its [fortified] gates have been burned (destroyed) by fire.”  Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

When Babylon takes Israel captive in the Old Testament, chief officials brought some young boys to Babylon.  The goal was to retrain these young men into the ways of Babylonian traditions.  When a commander forced these men to alter their Jewish diet, a few refused to adhere to this daily ration.  Rather, Daniel came up with a ten day test.  This combination of fruit, vegetables and water is known as the Daniel fast.  At the end of this ten day challenge, those who participated with Daniel appeared to be healthier than those who ate the king’s finest food.  Learning to balance exercise with nutrition not only makes you feel better, but improves your overall appearance.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8.

In the past decade, churches have challenged members of their congregation to participate in a fast each January.  Depending upon the pastor, fasts vary from a Daniel fast, media fast to a strict fluid only fast.  Over the last four years, I have done a nutrition based fast, giving up soda and other unhealthy foods I tend to eat.  I have had mixed results.  During the first fast, I was focused and dedicated, losing nearly twenty pounds in January.  Unfortunately, my latest fasts have been unproductive.  I guess I entered each of these without my heart truly into it.  Thus, the lack of results speaks for itself.  As a new year approaches, may the Holy Spirit prepare your hearts and mind now so that your next fast will be transformational.

by Jay Mankus

Faking Holiness

If your life was placed on a chart or graph, there would be peaks and valleys with plateaus somewhere in between.  High points mark periods of success and victories within life.  The low areas represent failures where doubt and disappointment often attack your soul.  Unfortunately, human nature causes many to assign blame for their valleys rather than finding fault from within.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8.

Since salaries and wages are normally based upon the services or work provided, its easy to say, “look what I did.”  Yet, the apostle Paul reminds individuals that salvation is not based upon human efforts.  Rather, God’s grace opens the door to eternity, providing access to the undeserving like me.  Sure, I can put on a good face, pretending to be a godly Christian.  Nonetheless, I find myself going through the motions way too often, lukewarm and faking holiness.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

During my recent Daniel Fast, conviction of this fact has consumed me.  Despite my flaws, I am thankful for the passage above.  Jesus died for imperfect people like me, a demonstration of God’s agape love.  May those of you who reach a similar low point embrace biblical promises by accepting God’s free gift by faith.  Don’t pretend to have things all together.  Rather, confess your sins and pray for healing so that reconciliation will begin.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Weigh In

During my sophomore year of college, my parents moved from Delaware to Cleveland, Ohio.  In my first summer, I met some friends working at a local country club, one whom I instantly clicked with.  When he wasn’t serving as my sand volleyball partner, Eddy wrestled for Cleveland State.  Always conscience of his weight, Eddy shared about the discipline and sacrifices necessary to make weight for his matches.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way, Daniel 1:8.

Today, my oldest son James deals with a similar issue on a weekly basis.  Before each Pole Vault competition, you have a weigh in before a judge.  Depending upon the scale, your pole is determined based upon your weight.  Thus, if you weigh just a pound over the legal limit, you are forced to use a heavy pole, not as flexible as the lighter ones.  A few weeks ago James had to lose five pounds in 24 hours just to compete.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food, Daniel 1:15.

Following ten days of eating fruits and vegetables, there was a noticeable difference between Daniel and rest of those in the king’s service.  While there wasn’t a scale to step on, Daniel and his Jewish friends found favor with God.  Under different circumstances, I had one last weigh in upon completing my Daniel Fast.  To my surprise, I lost 16 pounds in 21 days.  Although part of me wants to continue to lose weight, that’s not my main priority.  One day everyone will have their final weigh in on judgement day.  When this day arrives, may the grace of God be merciful on this sinner.  Prepare now for your own final weigh in.

by Jay Mankus

 

Making Yourself Available

In my younger days, I had a hard time saying no to those who asked a favor or needed something done.  Gullible and naive, I thought I had unlimited energy, pressing on to serve others.  When I approached 40, I reached my breaking point, crashing and burning from years of overextending myself.  Subsequently, I have gone into social hibernation, still healing and numb from my last year as a high school teacher.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12.

By removing yourself from a community, you miss out on the blessings of relationships.  Initially, it feels good to be unattached, flexible to do or go where you want.  However, God created individuals to be in fellowship with one another, sharing burdens, concerns and joys.  Thus, I miss the interaction, joint projects and sense of belonging that friends provide.  Therefore, as I am about to end my Daniel Fast, its time to make myself available once again.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality, Romans 12:13.

Unlike professional athletes who retire when they have lost their ability to compete, a Christian is suppose to serve for a life time.  The author of Hebrews compares life on earth to a marathon which require perseverance, pacing yourself one day at a time.  Some where along the way, I removed myself from the game of life, sitting in the bleachers ever since.  While I may not have the passion I once possessed, its time to fan into the flame my spiritual gifts.  I’m not sure where this will take me or what I will do, yet I sense the Holy Spirit’s calling, “make yourself available.”

by Jay Mankus

 

To Fast or Not to Fast?

In recent years, January 1st signifies the beginning of 21 day fasts for a growing number of churches across America.  Depending upon the congregation, this could mean a …

1) Daniel Fast: Eating vegetables and water based upon the events of Daniel 1:11-14.

2) Media Fast: Replacing listening and viewing habits for 3 weeks with Bible Study, prayer and soaking in worship music.

3) Traditional Fast: Limiting your diet to liquids, with stricter fasts allowing only water.

Before you jump into any commitment, you might want to consider the advice of Solomon.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. – Ecclesiastes 5:4

My advice is to take a more realistic approach.  If fasting is new to you or something you haven’t done in years, ease yourself into 21 days of fasting.  I recommend skipping 1 meal per day, the first week.  If your body is up for the challenge, limit your eating to one meal per day the second week.  However, if you find yourself gorging each meal, you might want to focus on skipping one meal per day the entire 21 days.  Make a vow you can keep, then honor it.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. – Nehemiah 1:4

As for what to expect, the lack of food can make individuals grumpy.  Those with medical conditions may need to opt for a Media Fast to avoid health concerns.  Beyond the pain, the insight one receives from fasting can be life altering.  While fasting during my days of teaching, several messages of discernment came to me through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In addition, your perspective of food will change as fasting will heighten your sense of taste.  In the end, the choice is up to you: to fast or not to fast?

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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