Playing Scrabble with my daughter Kristin at The Joshua Cup Christian coffee house in Macon, Georgia (1-2-09)
A number of people have been writing to inquire how I am doing on the 40 day fast the Lord called me to go on during this season. I greatly appreciate all the prayers from brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as the words of encouragement. These have truly sustained me and made the way much easier. I am amazed that I am already on day 29 of this fast.
I will tell you some about my experience on this fast, as well as what led up to it. For many years I have struggled with my weight. This struggle was partly the result of a hereditary bone disease that runs in my family called Osteogenesis Imperfecta. The common name for this malady is Brittle Bone Disease. The mildest form of this disease runs in my family, and at the age of seven I broke my first bone. By the age of 13 I had broken 8 bones, and had fractured my elbows three times requiring surgery each time to pin the bone in place while it healed.
Due to these fractures occurring at this early age I was not able to be physically active, nor to participate in sports. Many children with this condition do well academically, and I think this is in large part due to the physical limitations causing them to turn to other pursuits. I was a voracious reader of books as a child, and this trait has stuck with me all of my life.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta is classified as a juvenile disease, for the bones harden up when adulthood is reached, causing the condition to become less severe. As an adult I only broke one more bone, but I also dislocated my shoulder a number of times, as greater laxity in the joints is another aspect of this disease. I was in my mid thirties when I broke the last bone (my right ankle) and at the same time I tore the ACL in my right knee.
Living a fairly sedentary life contributed to weight gain as my metabolism was slow, but the greater part of my problem was simply due to uncontrolled appetites. The Lord has shown me that my weight gain was a parable of the lack of self-control in my inner man. Even as the apostle Paul chided the Corinthians for being carnal when they were called to be spiritual, so too do all men experience the battle between flesh and spirit.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another...
The apostle Paul says that those who are spiritual will crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. One area of my life that I did not crucify was my appetite for pleasurable foods. I did not seek to put in my body those things that were needful or healthy. I fed upon that which was pleasurable, and I did so in excess. As a child my weight see-sawed. I was never morbidly obese as a child, and there were seasons when I was a normal weight.
The last time I maintained a normal weight as an adult was in my late twenties and early thirties when I was working as a shipping/receiving clerk at a hospital. I held this position for six years, and it was a very physical job. I continued to eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods, but I kept the weight off by hard work. My weight around this time was 165, which is normal for a man who is 5' 9" tall (I tell people I used to be 6' tall when I had hair
After leaving this active job I began work in the computer field for the same hospital. Year after year I gained weight, until I reached a peak of over 280 pounds when I was about 36 years old. I was miserable. I lacked energy, and my mobility was limited. I would give out of breath on walks, and serving as a pastor part-time, I knew my physical condition was not a good testimony of a victorious, overcoming life. I began praying that God would help me to lose weight, and in answer to my prayer the Lord caused me to begin experiencing the symptoms of diabetes.
This condition provided the impetus I needed to make serious changes to my diet, and I cut out many of the fats and sugars I had been eating. Within six months I had lost 50 pounds, settling into a comfortable weight of 235, and all the symptoms of diabetes went away.
I remained at this weight for the next ten years. I was often convicted that this area of my life was not yet under control of the Spirit. When I would feel good I would eat the wrong kinds of food, and when I would feel bad I would repent for a season and eat better. Then in January of 2008 (one year ago) I experienced a heart attack. I wrote about this in a writing posted on the Heart4God website:
Those of you who know anything about the significance of numbers from reading the writings of this author will recognize the symbolism of the link above. I do not assign numbers to my writings. They are automatically generated by my software program, being sequential. The number 622 speaks of the flesh man (6) and flesh cutting (22). Yahweh orders our steps, and He determined that it was time for me to experience a major flesh cutting that I had been stubbornly resisting for the 46 years of my life. (I am now 47).
I would like to add that I had received many indications from the Father that He wanted me to rule over this uncontrolled appetite. He did not just suddenly decide that I needed to experience something as severe as a heart attack. He had been prodding me for years, and had given me many indications of His will. Yet I loved this particular pleasure, and I was stubborn and willful. The fleshly appetite for food had a great stronghold constructed in my flesh, and I was willing to allow this particular enemy to dwell in peace in the land of my flesh. God, however, was not willing. He desired that I rule over every enemy in the land.
Just a few months prior to the heart attack the Spirit had spoken to me specifically, giving me a goal of getting down to 165 by my birthday in May of 2008. At the time this meant that I would have to lose 70 pounds in ten months. The first 20 pounds came off quickly, and I began feeling good once again and became complacent. I did not make any more progress for a couple of months and began making compromises in my food choices again. It was only after this further delay on my part to obey the voice of the Spirit that I suffered a heart attack.
The Father spoke to me before I had a heart attack and told me that many of the promises He had given to me would only be realized AFTER I had obeyed Him in this matter. Some of these promises related to the ministry He had been preparing me for. In 2000 the Lord told me He was calling me to a ministry of flesh cutting among His people, but first He would have to cut the flesh in my life. I knew that this work in my life had to be accomplished before I could lead others to victory. Other promises He gave to me related to restoration of family relationships, and other matters, so I knew that reaching this goal of 165 was very important.
I desired to get down to this weight, knowing that I would feel better physically, and feel better about the testimony I was presenting to others. I especially knew that the nagging conviction that there was some obedience not yet performed would finally be gone. I had lived with this weight upon my mind for many years, knowing the Father’s desire, and realizing that I had not obeyed.
After the heart attack I became much more strict in my selection of foods, and I lost down to under 200 pounds for the first time in over a decade. I stalled out, however, around 190 pounds, and once more grew somewhat complacent. I had gone in and taken possession of part of the land, but I had not driven out all of the inhabitants.
About 4 weeks ago the Lord indicated that I was to go on a 40 day fast, and I sensed in the Spirit that when I completed the fast that I would be at the weight goal He had set for me. Two days ago I got on the scales and they reported my weight at 167. I have 11 more days to go, and I am confident that I will be where the Lord desires me to be when January 19th comes to a close.
I already am reaping benefits from this obedience the Lord has called me to. Perhaps the greatest benefit is from a pure conscience. I have a sense that this thing the Lord has required of me will no longer remain undone. I have confidence that the promises of God will not be forfeited due to disobedience. I know the Father is true and faithful, and He will withhold no good thing to those who obey Him.
Would you not be pleased with a son or daughter who obeyed some desire that you had long made known to them? You may have known it was a matter of great difficulty for them, and that it would require discipline and sacrifice on their behalf. They may have delayed in obedience beyond your desire, but as your heart was seeking their welfare would you not be delighted to observe in them that they finally accomplished this thing? I am reminded of the words of Christ:
"But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' The son answered, 'No, I won't go,' but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, 'You go,' and he said, 'Yes, sir, I will.' But he didn't go. Which of the two was obeying his father?" They replied, "The first, of course." Then Yahshua explained his meaning: "I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.”
All of God sons and daughters are corrupt in some way. We are all born of Adam and we find that sin dwells in our flesh. The land of our flesh is filled with enemies. There are giants in the land, and strongholds, and walled cities. Many of us are slow to face these enemies and to subdue them, but God would have the entire land of our flesh to become a land of peace and righteousness where His Spirit rules.
I confess openly that in my flesh dwells no good thing. Had God left me to myself I would be dead, or in jail today, for I know the depravity in me. But God has been merciful. He chose to show Himself strong in this vessel. He chose one who had no reason to boast in self that He might show Himself strong on my behalf. Even when I was slow to perform all His will, He continued to press me forward. Sometimes He had to light a fire behind me to get me to advance, but I am grateful that He has persevered with me.
In coming days God will perform a similar work with a much larger group of people from the body of Christ. He will reveal His will that they rule over every enemy in the land of their flesh. He will press them forward with tenacity, and at times He will set whips and scorpions behind them to drive them forward. He is determined to have a people righteous and holy to be to the praise of His glory in this earth. He is committed to having a purified Bride for His Son’s return.
People of God, we are to consider the discipline of God in our lives, no matter how severe, to be an act of love and mercy. He loves His people enough that He is not content for them to remain in bondage to sin. He will scourge every son whom He receives that we might share His holiness.
We had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
It is this “peaceful fruit of righteousness” of which I am already partaking. There is a peace that comes to the heart of a son who has submitted to the discipline of the Father in order to be trained by it. Scourging is a difficult experience, filled with pain. But the result is a removal of the flesh that reveals a spiritual man inside.
The Roman scourge was an instrument designed to punish the disobedient. It consisted of cords tied to a handle. On each cord would be fastened bits of metal, pottery, or other sharp objects. These would be lashed across the flesh of a man and, having taken hold of his flesh, they would be torn away with great force, ripping the flesh away with them. This would be repeated until a man’s flesh hung in tatters, and it often resulted in the death of the man.
Christ willingly submitted to scourging. It was so severe that the Scriptures declare that He was unrecognizable as a man when the Roman soldiers had finished. They then took what was left of His flesh and nailed it to a cross. All this Christ endured of His free will in order to demonstrate to all who would be obedient sons the submission and obedience required of the overcomer.
It is Christ in you that will enable you to submit to the scourging of the Father. He is not interested in tormenting and afflicting His children. He desires that they share in His holiness. He knows that it is only with great difficulty that the flesh is rendered powerless. There are no easy paths to sharing in His holiness. All must embrace the cross.
I am not an example of a son who has lived only to do the will of the Father. I have sought my own will and pleasure in many ways throughout my life. It has been the grace of God that He has persisted with me, not withholding His discipline. He loves me and wants me to come forth as a vessel of honor in His house. I will not boast in self, but I will ever boast in Yahweh’s patience and mercy.
How much Yahweh longs to have daughters and sons who share His heart, and His character. God has shown me His heart in this matter by allowing me to have children of my own.
My daughter Kristin and me.
I have both a son and a daughter. I know they too will only be brought to share God’s holiness by experiencing the cross appointed to all Christ’s disciples. I do not enjoy seeing them suffer, but I want immensely for them to come forth as overcomers in Christ. I know the cross cannot be avoided. However, the difficulty of the cross can be lessened by submitting willingly to it.
I need not have suffered all the things I did to become obedient to the Father’s desire. I could have been spared a heart attack by responding sooner to the Father’s prodding. God is committed to our being conformed to the image of His firstborn Son. He will accomplish His desire the easy way, or the hard way.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.
We need not have our head jerked around violently as a stubborn mule, but God will do this if necessary. We can learn to respond to the still small voice of the Spirit, then the discipline is less severe. I am blessed to see in my daughter a tender heart before God. I know her way will be easier because of it. I would have her learn from my own experiences. God has had to deal harshly with me at times, but I am grateful that He did not give up on me.
In coming days we will observe many being purged, purified and refined. Some will submit quickly. Others will resist the breaking of their flesh and their way will be exceedingly difficult. God will have a people for His praise. His desire will be accomplished.
What will your own experience be?
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: http://www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063