Tag Archives: Isaiah 58

Fasting Works

I can’t tell you why fasting is so powerful.  I just know it works.  Last week marked the end of our 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed Abedini.  Naghmeh  is convinced that doors were opened for her unexpected meeting with President Obama through the fasting and prayer of thousands around the world.

The Bible describes different kinds of fasts.  Fasting can be abstaining from food, as when Jesus’s fasted in the wilderness.  It can also include prayer and action on behalf of the oppressed, the hungry, and the poor as we find described in Isaiah 58.

Fasting helps us break through long standing bondages. But there are also practical benefits.   I shared may own top ten takeways.  Some of you are telling me about yours.  I love hearing stories of what God has revealed to you during these days of fasting.

My friend Jan describes the encouragement she received from her “fast journey.”  A Bible teacher, prayer warrior, and one of the godliest women I know, Jan joined in the 21 Day Fast.  She fasted and prayed faithfully for Pastor Saeed and others.   But she also experienced some unexpected personal benefits. “I was fasting to make better life choices with my eating habits, ” she writes. “I fasted from sweets, junk snacks, sodas and wine.”  She adds,  “The Lord has really taken my desire for sweets away.  I’ve missed my diet cokes (but not enough to go back to the one per day I was drinking).  This morning I had lost six pounds!  I saw a weight on the scale that I haven’t seen in a year or more!! Could not believe it!  It meant so much to know others were in this with me!”  Jan plans to continue her good habits.  I feel sure she’ll see other unexpected breakthroughs and become even more effective in her ministry to those around her.

Maybe that’s how fasting works. It clears our vision.  Lightens our load.  Increases our focus.  Helps us break through the “stuck” places in our lives.  And although I still can’t tell you exactly how or why, I am certain:  Fasting works.  So I plan to keep practicing.  I’ll be on the alert.   I’m eager to watch for signs of God at work, both here and around the world. I hope you’ll join me.

Remember:  Be self controlled and alert for the purpose of prayer  (1 Peter 4:7).

 


The Power of Touch

Help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon (Isaiah 58:10 NLT).

I’m camping out in Chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah for a few more days.  This chapter gives the longest set of instructions I could find on fasting from God, Himself.  As I study Isaiah 58, I’m struck by how much it matters to God that fasting should include interceding for those unjustly oppressed.  Maybe that’s why our fasting and prayer for Saeed’s release from imprisonment felt so right.  Sometimes, we experience God most profoundly when we pour out our lives for the broken of this world.  This truth came alive for my friend Bekah in the most unlikely of places.

GUEST BLOG:  THE POWER OF TOUCH       By Bekah Brinkley

I was recently on a mission trip to Haiti when the Lord graciously showed me how powerful touch can be. Touch can bring hope and healing or it can degrade and destroy.  I was struck by this contrast while ministering to prostitutes in a brothel in the middle of a seaside Haitian village.

As I held the hand of each woman, looked into her eyes and smiled, tenderly massaged lotion into her skin, and carefully painted her fingernails, I felt Him. Emmanuel, God with us.  One by one, each new friend received a tap on the shoulder for her next “appointment” where sadly, she would encounter a very different type of touch.

These women are accustomed to a touch that degrades, uses, and devalues. I was able to touch these women and bring hope, love, tenderness, and joy…but only through Jesus. I cannot bring any of those things in my own strength, for I, too, am broken and in need of healing touch. After all, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross.

We are each His beloved. His touch binds our broken hearts and makes us whole. His touch brings life, hope, and dignity. His touch says, “You are loved. You are beautiful. Not because of what you can give Me or do for Me, but because you are Mine. I know you and I love you. I bought you in love to set you free. Now go and live in the freedom of My love for you.”  In this context, these words come alive: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).

While I painted their fingernails, my new friends shared openly how they long for another way to provide for their families, but they don’t feel they have a choice. There is already a limited job market in Haiti and many of these women are illiterate. It broke my heart to watch them wrestle with the desire to live differently, but not have the opportunity to do so. Their children are hungry, and rice and beans are often payment for sex. What’s a mom to do?

Lord, this can’t be right. Please restore their dignity. Make another way for these women to use their minds, their hands, and their voices. They are beautiful. They are Yours. I know You have greater plans for each one of them. Make a way, I beg You.

My mind began racing with ideas.  But my prideful heart began to explode and He brought me to my knees when these women asked if they could paint my fingernails in return. Oh, what tenderness. Oh, what a gift. I am a woman undone.

God doesn’t need me, but He loves me and chooses to use me in His story of hope and redemption. He works in me. He works through me. He is relentless in His pursuit of my full affection. He used women working as prostitutes to minister to my soul with simple strokes of a beautiful maroon nail polish as I sat in the center of a brothel in a seaside village in Haiti. That’s my God. That’s how far He will go to pursue my undivided affection.

 Click here to check out more of Bekah’s writing.  Follow her on twitter.

 


Day Eighteen: See with New Eyes

Welcome to Day Eighteen of our 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed.  This is the home stretch!  Nahgmeh Abedini believes fasting and prayer opened the door to her unexpected meeting with President Obama this week.  Perhaps you’ve also experienced movement in those areas where you’ve been seeking a breakthrough.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of perspective.  Fasting helps me see my situation with new eyes. My friend Tim, who is new to fasting, said this:  “A huge lesson that I have learned from fasting is that while fasting and praying, God seems to put our problems into perspective.  God allows us the opportunity to get out of the weeds and soar above the trees so that we can see the total picture and his full design.”  He adds,  “Fasting brings a sense of peace and  humility to my life.  It allows me to open my mind to the very simple yet life-sustaining gifts that God grants us daily.”

I really like Tim’s image of “getting out of the weeds and soaring with the trees.”  Can you relate? It’s easy to get stuck in the mire of our own issues, missing God’s perspective, but fasting helps us “soar above the trees.”  We begin to see our situation through God’s eyes.

One way we do this when we fast is by focusing on the hurts and needs of others. God tells us in Isaiah 58:6-11  that this kind of fast pleases Him.  As you read the following verses, reflect your experience these last seventeen days of praying and fasting for the release of Pastor Saeed.

This is the kind of fasting I want:  Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you.  Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help (Isaiah 58:6,7  NLT).

Fasting and praying for the release of Saeed has lightened my own load and drawn me deeper into God’s presence.  Isn’t that just like God’s upside down economy?  When I’m busy with His business, He’s behind the scenes working on mine.  I may give up time, energy, food, or prayers for the needs of another, only to discover my own needs are met in the process. The promised reward for God’s chosen fast rings true:

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,  and your healing will quickly appear (Isaiah 58:8 NIV).

My Prayer:  “Lord, as we pour ourselves out in prayer and fasting for those that are oppressed, we entrust our own hurts and needs into Your hands and wait expectantly for You to move on our behalf.”  Amen.