The Fast That God Requires

Oct. 10, 2014 Lauren Chandler

Session Transcript

Lauren Chandler: I'm a little overwhelmed. This is not what I'm comfortable doing. My husband can do this all day, multiple times a day; and I love it, I love to hear him do it. But it has been something the Lord has asked for me to do, and I have said "Yes" to Him.

Like that little white handkerchief, I've said "Yes, Lord, I'll do it. But You better show up because I don't have it!" Matt? Yes. Me? I'm struggling. I'm weak. I'd rather just be leading you guys in song. That is what I would love to be doing. But it is not what He has me doing for you and for me this afternoon.

He has stirred my heart towards Isaiah 58, so if you will start there, open your Bible, open up your App--and I'll put a plug in for my friend, Scott Lindsey, that was here: The Faithlife Study Bible App is fantastic. And I also love the ESV Study Bible App on my mobile phone. So, just a little plug.

As you're turning there, I'm going to start reading. If you will bear with me, I'm going to read the whole chapter. There's power in just reading this, and if all you take away from this is that we read this out loud and God moved, praise Him.

Isaiah 58, starting in verse 1.

"Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
3 'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 "Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

13 "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

This is the Word of God.

We see this chord throughout all of Scripture. From the Old Testament to the New Testament; the old covenant to the new covenant; this chord that is a thread, a theme throughout it all, and it says this: God is more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the content of our service. He is more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the content of our service. He is more concerned with the faith in our hearts than faithful service with our hands, or faithful service with our lips.

We see this in different places in the Bible. Here are just a few:

We see in the beginning Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel's offering, but He rejected Cain's. It's because He could see the murder in Cain's heart before he even committed it.

And then we also see Jacob and Esau. "Jacob I loved; Esau I hated." [Mal. 1:2-3] Esau sold his own birthright for a meal. He took what God said was good and right and His, and said, "You know what, God? I would rather have what can satisfy me in the moment than what You have ordained as good for me for the long run." God saw that.

And though Jacob wasn't perfect, he is also listed in the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11--that he had faith, that he believed God. So we see Esau faithless, Jacob faith. We see Esau: he might have had the exterior of being the firstborn, to have that birthright, but what was in his heart was after his own flesh and what could satisfy for the moment, and not in faith that there would be something greater for him if he would trust the Lord.

And then there is Saul and David. Saul's heart was exposed--and this is one of my most terrifying stories in the Bible, if I can be quite honest, where you see Saul. He's king, the Lord's working through him, He's moving. He's been chosen as the king, and you think, "Surely this is going to go great." But his heart is exposed that he is more worried about remaining king and having that power than he is about pleasing the Lord and doing what's right.

I don't know about you, but I can identify with that. It says that at one point God regrets putting him as king. And I thought, "Lord, don't ever let me be someone that You say that about, that You regret putting me in a position and giving me an opportunity, because I don't believe You. I want You to not regret."

But David was a man after God's own heart. He trusted the Lord. He trusted that He was enough.

And that's what is beautiful about each of these, aside from Abel. Jacob and David weren't perfect men. They were sinful. They blew it time after time, but they always came back to trust that God would be good and merciful and gracious to them. So it was more about the content of their heart--David's heart--than the exterior.

There's that beautiful picture where Samuel's going to look for David. "Surely this is the king, the guy that's head and shoulders above everyone. He's got to be the king." And God said, "No. It's the shepherd boy out in the field." Because He has x-ray vision, God says, "I see into the heart."

So there is a theme in the Bible that what we see on the exterior is not it. It is not a measure. It is what is in our hearts that God is concerned about.

So that is the Old Testament. In the New Testament comes Jesus, and He makes things clearer for us. Some things can be confusing at first, but then other things are clearer. In His ministry on earth, He pressed time and time again on the issue of our hearts. He moved from the checklist of religion, from the outside, to the inside.

Again and again, He says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not murder.' I say having anger in your heart toward your brother is the same thing. You have heard it said, 'Do not commit adultery.' I say having lust in your heart is the same thing."

So there is all this moving from the outside to the inside. He is more concerned about the condition of our heart than He is about the content of our service.

So what does this have to do with Isaiah 58 , you might be wondering. So, you have this group of people, and you have two realities going on here. (I am very much a visual person, so I am going to use a picture for you. It helps me to file things away, and it helps me communicate it a little bit better than if I were to just vomit all over you with my words. So be glad that I have these pictures.)

So, in Isaiah 58 we have two fasts, and we see two hearts, two realities. I am going to use the imagery of a tree, which is great. Nancy gave us speakers these bracelets, and one [charm] was a bird-that was for freedom-and one was a tree-for fruitfulness-and for fullness. . .I am blanking. . .and then a cross. But I love the idea of fruitfulness coming from the tree because that's the imagery I want to paint here-the two trees.

So we have the first tree, and we're going to call this the man-made fast. And we're going to start from the top and work down. On the top we're going to look at: What's the fruit of this fast? What is the fruit of a man-made fast? And what is the heart of it? And what are its roots?

And the same thing is what we're going to have with this tree over here. . .so if you're taking notes, and you like to draw pictures, which I do-I draw pictures in my notes. I promise I am paying attention, it helps me pay attention-you can draw two trees. This is God's fast, the fast that God requires.

So we are going to start with the fruit, then come to the heart, which is a picture of the trunk-kind of like when you've got the little sweetheart with the initials carved in the tree forever-and then the roots.

So we are going to look at these two trees, two fasts, two hearts.

So what is a fast? We all mostly know what a fast is. It's when, most of the time, you're giving up food. Sometimes we give up maybe something that we like that we are kind of too addicted to. So we want to latch our desire from that thing (for me, it's Dr. Pepper), and then we want to latch it on to the Lord instead. Every time I crave a Dr. Pepper, I'm thinking, "Oh, I want to crave You like I'm craving that Dr. Pepper." And so that's a fast, that can be a fast. Or maybe you fast from social media. I've done that. Honestly, just to clear my heart and mind because it just gets really cluttered.

And so, right now, those are the kinds of fasts that we, that I, tend to do. In the Old Testament, what's interesting is that in the Pentateuch-the first five books of the Bible-there's no mention of fasting. But then in the rest of the Old Testament there is mention of fasting. And also in that inner Testament period, there are writings that indicate that they were fasting then. And of course, in Jesus' day, they were fasting. And Jesus called out the religious Pharisees a ton on their fastings.

So what is it? It is a spiritual act of worship. It is ritual. And it is usually joined with prayer. What it is doing is you are humbling yourself before God. It's confession, repentance, petition. And it is ultimately about submission.

It's about, "God, this is the true state of my heart. Without You I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am weak, I am laid low." This is what a fast does: It projects physically the reality that's happening spiritually; that without Him, without His breath in us, without Him moving in us, we are hungry, we are thirsty, we are weak, and we are like dead people. And we are angry because, if you are like me when I am hungry, I'm angry. In fact, I like to call it "hangry," when I'm angry because I'm hungry.

And so fasting is this sign, like I said, a projection physically of what is happening spiritually.

So what was going on here? What was happening with these people? Here they were fasting. Isn't that what God requires? He requires a fast to humble ourselves, but this fast is about submission. So what we are going to do is to take our magnifying glasses, and look at this tree, look at the fruit, the heart, and the roots.

This first tree is rooted in a proud and entitled heart. So if you are drawing a picture, which, if I had thought of it before, I would have done a big ol' powerpoint thing, but I'm a mom of three, and I was just glad to be able to get here in one piece. [Laughter] So put in that heart, "Proud + Entitled."

If you remember, fasting is to show submission. It is really hard to submit when you're proud and entitled.

Isaiah 58:2 (here is the fruit): "Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways" (read major sarcasm), "as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God."

So what we have here is an appearance of godliness. They are fasting. They are going to the synagogue. They are giving tithes and offerings. They are singing the songs. They are going. They might even be serving. They might be serving their neighbor. They might be serving in the children's department, or they are serving in leading worship. They could be in any of these places. It is really hard to tell because this fruit is the kind of fruit that looks great on the outside, but on the inside it's rotting.

They have only the appearance of godliness, like an apple rotting from the inside out. To use Jesus' words, "like a white-washed tomb". White on the outside--beautiful, pristine--but on the inside, dead men's bones.

It says, "They ask of me righteous judgments." So they tend to be rule followers. So they say, "God, I need a righteous judgment because look at what I am doing here: I am fasting, I am going to synagogue, I am serving in the nursery, I am serving my neighbors. I am doing all these things. I am fasting. I want a righteous judgment from You. I want what I deserve: righteous."

"They delight to draw near to God, and they say, 'Why have we fasted and You see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You take no knowledge of it?'" There is that sense of entitlement again, that pride of, "Here I am. I'm doing all these things. Where are You? Why aren't You showing up?"

That attitude doesn't stop there, but it even kind of permeates to those around them when they see the people that they're serving or how they're helping. "Why doesn't He give me recognition for what I did? Why doesn't He give me this title? Why doesn't He show me that I'm just as important as these people? Why don't they thank me for what I'm doing, for how I've been serving? Look, I've been here for years. I've never heard 'thank you,'." This is a man-made fast. This is the fruit of a heart that is proud and entitled.

They struggle to celebrate or honor others in their service. In their hearts it seems like celebrating and honoring another will diminish their own service because there is a concern for credit.

"Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high."

A proud and entitled heart is evidenced in anger. They use people. We use people. I'm saying "we" because I've been here. So the fruit that you see on this tree, this man-made fast with the proud and entitled heart, has the appearance of godliness-what you think it's going to be. But the apple that's rotting on the inside has anger, acts of service that demand recognition and thanks, and feelings of being threatened by other people who serve. This is the fruit of that tree.

So what are the roots?

James 4:1-3: "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

So the roots of this man-made fast are rooted in a man-made gospel, a false gospel, a gospel that says, "I have to obey for God to accept me. And I pour out to compel God to act according to my desires." One that says He would become our genie, that He would be our Santa Claus, that He would be, as [John] Piper puts it, "our butler". Where we do what we're supposed to do: "God, we do these, we do these things."

I'm reminded of the story of the prodigal son and the older brother. The prodigal son ran off and spent his inheritance and lived a wild life, but came to the end of himself and returned back to the father, while all the time the older brother was at home, doing all the right things. "I've got the checklist. I'm doing it. All I want for you, father, is for you to die so I can have all I deserve and all that what's coming to me."

I play the piano. In fact, last night, when Nancy was doing that incredible recitation--can you believe that? That was unbelievable. I can't even remember this. I can't even imagine memorizing! And, gosh, what a treasure trove for her for the rest of her life. I was inspired.

But when she was reciting all of the verses about Jesus' death on the cross, he started playing, "Were You There." That is one of my favorite hymns, and it's one of the first songs I can remember, sitting at my grandparents' upright piano, and they had this little old hymnal that was real simple. And I taught myself and I looked at the notes and figured out how that worked, and I taught myself how to play "Were You There", and I would sing it. That was just such a sweet time for me.

But as I got older, it started to be warped and it started to get perverted where I was recognized. "Oh, you have a gift of music. You're very musical. Oh, you have a nice voice. We're going to use this." And so at church I started singing in these little groups, and I was probably twelve. So from the age of 12 to 18 I sang in this little group called First Song because we were First Baptist Church, so we're First Song. And we sang everything of Point of Grace because there were four of us [laughter]. And there was another group-I can't think of it-but anything that had four parts, or three that two of us doubled up on, we couldn't wait. . .[singing] "Gather at the river...we did all those. We were singing them.

But those were kind of the beginning stages of just that perversion where I started seeing the other girls, instead of my friends, instead of my sisters, they were threats. I measured myself up against them. They were threats to, "Oh, no, but I am the one that is musical. I'm the one that can sing. No, I am the one that needs that solo. No, I want that really cool part." I want. . .Because my gift wasn't about giving glory to God. It was about "how can I make it serve me and what I want?"

So, like His response to the people in this first fast, He said, "I am not going to give you what you want." And that was His mercy.

So I went to college. I met my husband right before I went to college, and he taught at a huge intercollegiate Bible study called Grace Bible Study in Abilene, Texas. There are three small, very small universities there, and this [study] was kind of the happening thing. And they had a worship team, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, I will really know I'm good enough if I can make that worship team, if I can sing."

And the Lord, for whatever reason, let me make it, and I joined this worship team. But it was kind of like "second verse same as the first." There were other girls on the worship team that I measured myself against, that I felt threatened by, and I was offended if I wasn't asked to sing on this week and they were. "Well, I haven't sung for the last four weeks, and she's sung twice since I have gotten to sing."

So all that started happening, and then when I did sing, I was frustrated because I didn't feel like I was really doing my best. And, can I be quite honest? I think the Lord ordained a muzzle for my mouth for a little while, because He knew if He let that go, my heart was at stake. So even then my voice literally sounded different back then, and I would get frustrated because I knew it wasn't all that it could be, but I didn't know how to get it to what I heard in my head.

So when I sang I was frustrated. When I didn't sing I was frustrated because then I felt slighted that I wasn't asked to sing. So here I was, "God, I'm doing all of this stuff. I am singing songs about You. I am reading my Bible. I am leading this girl's group at church. I am doing all these things. Why won't You just let me do this? Why won't You let me do this?"

It was because my heart wasn't set on Him, it was set on what He can give me. It was set on my glory and not His. And so it was very dark years for me, and I was surrounded by people who were getting to live out their calling, who were in the middle of either singing and leading worship, or preaching to thousands, or getting to record albums-doing all these amazing things. (In particular just the music part--I don't really want to preach to thousands. The music part was what I wanted.) And I felt everyone was getting to do it, but not me. He wouldn't let me.

And I remember crying out. We were in a hotel room crying out to the Lord, and I said, "I don't understand this. I want You to just take it because I don't want it anymore. If You are not going to use it, I don't want it. I want You to just take it. I am so tired."

And so He gave me just this little oasis in the midst of that desert season...

My husband and I have an interesting background in that I grew up Southern Baptist. Matt grew up pretty Southern Baptist once he got saved at seventeen. And then we joined a church in college that was . . . We called it "Bapticostal." It was Baptist, but then the pastor had a charismatic background.

The pastor brought in this prophet and his wife, and they came to just minister to the elders of the church and some of the staff. So we sat in this meeting, and I would just cry with Matt. I would say, “I don’t get this.” And Matt was even telling me, “I just don’t think this is from Jesus. I really don’t see Him in this.” And so that made me so sad.

So I walk into this room, I’m utterly spent, just done. And this prophet, his name is Phillip, said the way the Lord speaks to him when He wants to give a word to someone is that the Lord will just kind of spotlight someone and say to [Phillip], “Make them stand up.” But He won’t give him a word until he makes them stand up because He tells him, “You’ve got to trust Me, trust My voice.”

So he had a couple stand up, and I mean, he read their mail. He didn’t even know any us, and I could not believe it. So he had Matt and me stand up. So we’re standing there, and he’s just kind of talking because he talks until he hears from the Lord, what the word is. And behind Matt he said, “I see the globe. I see the world. I see that the Lord’s going to use you, that you’ve already seen a lot of the world.”

Then he turns to me, and he looks at me, and he says, “When I look at you, I can see and hear songbirds all around you.” And I immediately broke down crying because I thought, “Lord, if this is like this, I don’t want it anymore. You take it. I’m done. I’d rather not.” But that little oasis in the desert is when He said, “No, I just need to work some things out in you first.”

So I took a break, just a season where I said, "I am not going to sing anymore." I knew it wouldn't be forever. And then right before I started back, I was really tempted to say, "Maybe I should just not do it again. Maybe I should just, you know, let it be." I was just impressed with the idea of not going to the doctor. That you can have a disease in you, and you can say, "I'm fine." But if you go to the doctor, it's going to be diagnosed.

I felt like singing was going to the doctor. That when I had to sing, it was really putting my trust on the line. It was really exposing what was going on inside of me where God was saying, "Is this going to be about you? Or is this going to be about Me?"

And it was painful. It was hard. And I still have the residue of it, but what He did was He uprooted that tree. He uprooted that service, that gifting, that calling, that "fast" that I was offering Him, and what I wanted. "Give me Your righteous judgments. Just let me have what I really want, and that is glory through singing. That's what I really want." And God said, "No. You want Me, but you just don't know it yet."

So He uprooted that. And He's still working on this other tree. So there's this tree. We have the life-sucking tree. We have the man-made fast. And then we have the life-giving tree. And what does that look like?

The heart inscribed on that trunk is, "Humble and grateful heart. Humility and gratitude." That is at the heart of this tree.

What is the fruit like? He tells us, "Is not the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?" They are so aware of the yoke and bonds that have been broken in them because of Christ that they have moved to break other yokes. They are moved to break spiritual and physical yokes.

So the fruit of this tree is someone who so knows what God has broken in them, through Christ--the bondage, the chains--that they can't stand to see it around them. Spiritually and physically they know that those bonds, those chains are not what God has for His people. He has freedom for them if they would cry out to Him.

They forgive. They seek reconciliation. They pray for others. They repent and seek to crush any stronghold that may remain in them that affects those around them. They repent.

So that is the beauty, that this tree is not perfect. It is not all it will be-it is not all it will be. But we have a desire to see, "Okay, this is still in me. There's still residue. There is still a pull for my own glory. There is still a pull for something other than God," and they seek to crush it. They have a true and effecting desire to see literal slaves go free.

This fruit of the fast is about others. It's not about, "God, what can You do for me?" but, "God, I'm so grateful for what You have done in me. I'm so grateful for how You saved me. You freed me. I am no longer oppressed. And where I fail, You cover it. And so, if I fail, and others fail me, I don't hold it against them like I used to. I don't hold it against them."

Just like Joni said to her husband last night-oh, I loved that part! She said, "Oh, I'm there, too. I feel trapped." I feel trapped!

We are sensitive. We are forgiving. We are gracious toward others' sin. We don't put up with it. We don't put up with others' sin. We lovingly draw attention to it after we remove the log from our eye. That's what I love about that Scripture. It says, "Before you remove the speck in your brother's eye, you remove the log out of yours." It's not saying, "Oh, forget about the speck." It's saying, "Get the log out of yours so that you can see better to see their speck." So we still have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in that.

"Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?" They have known the hunger of their own souls and the Lord's all-satisfying presence and grace that they're moved to meet the needs in others. They delight to pour into those around them. Making disciples becomes an overflow of their delight in the Lord and His great love for them."

They have known the hunger of their own souls and the Lord's all-satisfying presence and grace that they're moved to meet that need in others. So I gave this talk a couple of years ago at a conference in Oklahoma, and I was just so undone by Isaiah 58. And I remember being in this place where. . .it's somewhat of a fad to let go and. . .well, let me say this first:

Praise God that there are people like Christine Cain and A-21, who are releasing literal captives-women who have been sold into sex slavery. They are releasing them, and I am so grateful for her ministry and what she's doing. There's so much good happening, this kind of justice ministry going on, and I am so grateful it is happening.

And it is an indictment on me when I sit in just my little corner of the world and I'm, like, "Well, this is where I am, and this is what I have." It is an indictment, but I don't want it to be just outward service. I don't want to be this tree that's just doing it because it seems like, "That's what everybody's doing, that's the cool thing to end human trafficking, and this is the next thing: Go to Africa (which I have been) and help the orphans and let's go do this, and I'm going to Tweet about it and Instagram."

And I am not saying these people are doing that. I am talking about my heart in this. So when I read this, I thought, "Lord, I want You to make me uncomfortable." So I dream. . .I have really vivid dreams, and some are crazy-because of bad pizza [laughter]-and then some, I think, are significant. I have this one dream that the Lord brings it back over and over and over again.

I am in a hotel room, and I knew I was getting ready to speak somewhere, and it was a beautiful room. It was huge, and there was beautiful furniture. There were two stories of windows just looking out on this kind of square. And there were other buildings. I was in a downtown area, and there were these other buildings. And I could look up at the sky, and it was like black lava. It was just this storm that was brewing.

And there were all these people, indigent people of every nation and race on earth, running out of a building that was being destroyed by this storm, and they're running to the hotel where I was staying. And I remember thinking, "Oh, my gosh! I really want to help them but if I let them in, they're going to mess up everything. This whole room is going to be messed up because they were desperate. They're going to charge in. They're going to break things. Where would we sleep? Where would we sit? How could we do this? They are just going to come in, and they are going to ruin everything."

And it was such a revelation of my heart that when I asked the Lord to make Isaiah 58 real in me, that it was going to be messy, and I was really afraid of that. I was really afraid of opening myself up to hurting and needy people because I was afraid they were just going to take over and make a mess.

So it revealed my heart. It revealed that I was scared of the mess. But that's where God works. He works in the mess. And let me say: It will get messy. If you start living this life of a heart that's set on Him, that's grateful, that's humble, and it starts coming out in your life, it's going to start looking messy, but it is a beautiful mess.

"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily." People with this fast, with their roots in the gospel, with their heart set on gratitude and humility experience healing. It might be physical, but the true healing that they need is spiritual. There is a true healing that happens.

"Your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard." They are free from debilitating anxiety. They experience peace and an acute awareness of God's presence. So they're free from debilitating anxiety. Let me be clear: I still get anxious, but it's what I do with that anxiety. What do I do? I throw myself on the Lord. I throw myself on His character, His good, right character, who has proven over and over again that He is enough. No matter what happens, He is enough.

So it says, "He keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you." Does it say, "Your mind is at peace?" No. It says, "It is on Me," is what He's saying. "When you keep your mind on Me, I bring peace." So even when your mind is going crazy, even when my mind is going crazy, to set my mind on Him and experience His presence, that He would be my rear guard.

"You hem me in," Psalm 139, "You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me." He is with them. "Then you shall call and the Lord will answer."

If you remember back on the other fast, it says, "We are doing all this stuff. Where are Your righteous judgments?" And He says, "Nu, uh." And I will say this: That is God's mercy that He says, "I am not going to give you what you want."

There are times He gives us what we want, and it's to our destruction. And He does that so that we would be utterly at our wit's end, utterly bowed down, and we would have to cry out to Him. Either way it's mercy. But I would rather choose Him not giving me what I think I need, deserve and want, to preserve my soul, than to give me what I want in destruction.

"You shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday."

Like I said, a life poured out is messy. So when I prayed, "Lord, make this a reality in my life," it came in different packaging than I thought it would. I thought, "Okay, great, I'm going to get to serve with…" (there is this ministry called 'Jesus Loves Strippers), and so I thought, "Oh, I am going to get to minister to these women in the sex ministry; I am going to love on them." And then that didn't really pan out. Then I thought it was going to be just a few other ministries, and nothing really panned out.

But then my daughter Audrey started taking horseback riding lessons. She started taking them when she was eight. Took them from a friend for about a year, then took a break, and then got back into riding horses. She met this woman, a single woman. She was sweet. They had been coming to our church. She just said nothing but great things about Matt, but Audrey kept coming home from her lesson, and she would talk about my friend Lisa.

And I know she wouldn't mind me sharing this, but I remember one time my ten year old daughter said, "Yes, Lisa said some bad things happened to her with men a long time ago, so she's kind of done with men." And so I went, "Ooooh." So that was code for something. And I thought, "Oh, okay. That's all right."

But my daughter started spending more and more time with this woman, and it became more and more evident that she didn't know Christ. She was coming to church, and the Lord was wooing her and bringing her to us, but she didn't know Christ. And there was evidence in her life that she didn't know Christ yet as her Savior.

So Matt and I were thought, "Okay, what do we do?" because our daughter was spending hours and hours and hours with this woman. Here's the deal: I loved her. I liked her. I loved her so much. And the Lord just put this love in my heart for her. And she was fun to be around. She was very childlike and boisterous and loud and talked a ton too much, but I loved her. And Matt and I were said, "Okay, what do we do here?" because we're not. . .we feel called to love this woman, and we want to love her, and Audrey loves her. So what do we do here? We're not going to pull Audrey out. We're not going to be afraid. She's no different from us.

So we decided we're going to invite her and her daughter into our life. We started having them over for dinner. They came Memorial Day and hung out all day with us. We swam, we did things, and just slowly but surely, she and her daughter became a part of our life, and we got to hear her story. And it's a heartbreaking story. She's got just a lot of baggage in her life. The Lord delivered her from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and rape. And so she had this story.

She knew about Jesus. She had grown up in a Catholic Church. But she didn't really know Him. It was late one night, and there was just something that had come to a head for her where she did something that she just couldn't believe she did, and she felt so much shame over it. She thought, "I can't believe I would do something like that."

And late, about midnight, I sat on my front porch, and I said, "Here's the deal, Lisa. We're all capable of doing that. I'm just as capable as you are. You're not above this. You're not above what you did."

Then I asked, "Who is Jesus? Who is He?" And she said, "Oh, He is a good man, and we are supposed to follow Him and do what He did." And I said, "Yes, He is good. Yes, we are to do what He does. But that's not it. He is our Savior. He did it right for us, because we will never do it right on our own. And He died the death we should have died. And He's real, and He's alive, and you can know Him right now."

And that night I prayed with her. And, I'm telling you, I don't have a bunch of these stories, so don't think that I am like this evangelizing machine. This is huge for me. I'm mainly introverted and tend toward being shy, so this is a stretch for me. But she accepted Christ on my front porch that night, and she's never been the same. She's still rough around the edges, but her life is completely and utterly different.

And you know what? It has been messy. There have been times I have had to confront her on some things, and there have been some times she has had to turn back around and say, "Okay, but you. . ." Lovingly, though, never not owning. She is so humble, and she owns her junk, and she repents. She confesses, and she repents. But it has been messy.

And we have invited them in when it wasn't convenient. And we had to be very measured in how we were going to let Audrey interact with her. We said, "We are going to invite her in. We're going to bring her in to that hotel room. And she might knock over every chair, and she might eat all of our food, but I am going to bring her in because I love her. And it is not about what's comfortable. It is life or death; it really is life or death. It is not about my glory, but it is about His."

So I want to warn you in praying, "Lord, I don't want that man-made fast. I want this God-ordained fast. I want the fast for my life that You choose."

So we talked about the fruit, what the fruit looks like in that life. And we talked about the heart on the tree, that it is humble, and it is grateful. It is aware that it is not anything we have done, it is what Jesus did, and we are grateful for that.

And the roots are that it is in the gospel, that there is nothing we could do. It is not by works but by faith alone, through grace alone. That is where it is rooted.

And so I want to invite you this afternoon to examine your tree. What does your tree look like? And let me warn you: Here's the bad news. . .so I will give you the bad news. I always like the bad news first.

Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?"

I've heard much wiser men say, "We are blind to our own blindness. We will never know our true motive."

To be honest, when I get up and sing now, I always have to come back to that. "Lord, it's so interwoven. I think that I want to be all about Your glory, but there is a little bit of me that says, 'but I don't want to be bad. I don't want people to go, 'Okay, stop.''" I want it to be a blessing to others so that they hear and glorify God. But sometimes it is hard to figure out what's what. So we will never know our true motive.

And we cannot change our own hearts. What we can do is say, "My heart. . .there's something wrong, God. I need You to do surgery on it. I need You to change it because all I'm going to do is make a mess of it."

But here's the good news: Jesus. Jesus.

God puts us in community to have eyes to see our blind spots. I beg you to be in some sort of community. It doesn't have to be just in your church. It can be women that you just know, that you are friends with, that love Jesus and love you, that are willing to say the hard things, and to be a good friend to you. Willing to say, "You can't see your blind spot, but I can see it, and I love you too much to let you go."

It is like the woman who has lipstick on her teeth. You are a bad friend if you don't tell her she has lipstick on her teeth. Be a good friend!

And God gives us a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 - He gives us a new heart and spirit. He takes out the old and puts in the new.

And we have the beautiful gift of repentance and weapons to fight the flesh. And there is grace for every season. That is what is great. Even when I was in this season where I was in turmoil, I saw God's grace all along. I can look back, and I say, "Lord, You were with me even there. Though You were silent and You didn't give me what I thought I needed, You were good, and You were there. And You guided me."

Let us pray.

Oh, Father, we cannot do this without You. We cannot change our own hearts. We cannot be like a heart surgeon that operates on our own heart. You have to do it. Lord, open our eyes to places where we still have that pride and sense of entitlement. Give us good friends who will tell us that there's lipstick on our teeth. Give us good community who loves us enough to say, "This is not consistent with what you say you believe."

And Lord, for those places that not even our friends can see, Lord, what the psalmist calls "the hidden faults," forgive me of the hidden faults, and for the things that we cannot see, the blind spots that we are blind to, and our friends are blind to, grace. Grace to see it eventually. Grace to slough it off so that, like Joni said last night, that we may be better bonded to You.

Lord, I pray that even just this afternoon, that maybe there was a revelation in this time we had together. I pray that whatever is from You is sealed, and whatever is not, that was just me, and what I think, that You would just make it evaporate. I ask this in Your name, Jesus. Amen.