Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Author and teacher Asheritah Ciuciu defines fasting this way:

Asheritah Ciuciu: Fasting is purposefully setting aside a good gift to say, “I want something better.”

Leslie Basham: Today is November 20, 2019, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Nancy, I have been so in awe at how God has turned True Woman into a global movement. As I sat in the audience at the last True Woman event, and we saw all the flags from all over the world . . .

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Yes. It was a beautiful sight.

Dannah: I believe you are a gifted teacher. I believe you are a delightful communicator. But, quite honestly, the movement has grown beyond what any human could have ever ordained or orchestrated.

Nancy: Totally. And God is raising up women all around the world. In fact, not too long ago, you and I were in South Africa seeing women that God has raised up there to teach, to minister. There’s way more going on than we can even track or know what it is.

Dannah: Yes. Exactly.

My point is this: That something supernatural is happening with the True Woman movement.

Nancy: Yes.

Dannah: And when I think about what would have been the catalyst for that, I go back to the very first True Woman event where you were very quiet about it. You were not public about it. I don’t even know if women listening will even know that this happened, but you fasted leading up to that first True Woman event, to the point where several of us who love you were, like, “You’re beginning to lose a lot of weight. Are you sure about this?” And you were steadfast. “The Lord has called me to fast.”

Nancy: Yes. I just felt a sense at that time, as I have a few other times in my life—more, honestly, when I was younger—but a sense that I needed the focus, the clarity of just setting my attention on the Lord, being able to listen to Him without distractions. And that was one of a few extended fasts that I did more in those years. I haven’t done an extended fast in a long time—completely from food.

But I tell you, I had such a sense, even in being somewhat weakened physically, going into that event, that I was walking into it with the Lord. I don’t want to be mystical about this.

Dannah: You had a special strength about you.

Nancy: I did—from the Lord.

Dannah: You were taking liquids.

Nancy: Yes—doing juices. I can’t remember. I’ve done some fasts since a little differently, but it was some of those times. Actually, leading into starting Revive Our Hearts was a really significant one for me as I was praying about the decision whether the Lord was calling me to this was one of the most significant fasting seasons I’ve had.

It was in the middle of that season, one that I had some of the most, just sweet encounters and communion with the Lord that I’ve ever experienced. It was during that fast that I got some really clear direction that this was what we’re supposed to do.

Dannah: Wow.

Maybe you’ve never fasted before, and that all sounds very confusing, you don’t know where to begin. Fasting really is a very overlooked discipline in the Christian walk. Or maybe you’re listening and saying, “It’s been a while since I fasted, and I need to have my heart reminded about how this works.”

Nancy: That’s what I’m thinking as we’re having this conversation. So I’m glad we’re going to talk about it with our guest today.

Dannah: Yes. And our guest today is going to help us because she’s written a book that includes the topic. Her name is Asheritah Ciuciu. The book she’s written is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction.

Asheritah, welcome back to the program today.

Asheritah: Thank you.

Dannah: Over the past few days, we’ve been talking about food and how we sometimes become fixated on it. Then we began to talk about the lies we often believe about food and how we need to embrace and act as if we believe God’s truth.

Nancy: If you’ve missed those last couple of days, you can pick that up at  ReviveOurHearts.com. I think it’s a really helpful conversation. I know it is for me. So I encourage you to go and find that at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Dannah: So now that we’ve spent a couple of days about the problem, let’s talk about some of the proactive solutions. I want to begin with this idea of fasting. When did the Lord first awaken you to the whole concept of fasting?

Asheritah: Well, I grew up in a culture in Romania where fasting was very much a part of the Christian walk. So I remember fasting even as a young child. On Good Friday we would fast for a half day just to identify with the suffering of our Lord. And then throughout middle school and high school I would try to fast.

But there’s no manual on fasting, and I found myself just very confused about, “What is the process?” and “Are there any medical contraindications?” I would get lightheaded and almost faint, and my mom would be, like, “Okay, stop this.” 

But I’m, like, “No, the Bible tells us to fast.”

So I was a bit on the other extreme.

Dannah: So you maybe weren’t going about it quite the right way.

Asheritah: Yes. And there was a lot of confusion about it. So then I just stopped fasting altogether.

In college I had a few friends who started this thing called, “Lent.” I’d never experienced Lent as a child. They were giving something up. So I said, “Oh, I’ll give up sugar,” or “I’ll give up soda,” or “I’ll give up social media.”

Is that fasting, just giving something up? So, there was a lot of confusion for me.

It was in this journey of seeking God’s truth in Scripture what He tells us about food that I found out a lot about what He says about food is in the context of fasting.

Dannah: Oh, wow. Now, interestingly enough, He still doesn’t spell it out. Jesus talks about fasting a lot or models it—obviously models it. He goes into the desert and fasts for forty days and forty nights. But it’s still not spelled out.

Nancy: There’s no verse that says, “Here’s how you’re supposed to fast.”

Dannah: Here’s how to do it: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3.

Asheritah: Right.

Dannah: I think that maybe one reason why that isn’t in Scripture is because it was such an understood discipline for the early Church that they didn’t need to have it spelled out because it was more culturally understandable. They understood the spiritual significance of it. So let’s try to unpack that a little bit today by piecing together the Scripture that we do have.

How do you define fasting?

Asheritah: I would say fasting is an object lesson taught by the Spirit of God that helps us learn that we were created to find satisfaction in God alone. Fasting is not unique to Christian or Jewish culture. Fasting was actually common in ancient cultures. We find it in Buddhism and different religions around the world.

But in the Christian experience, in our walk with Jesus, fasting is a way to open our hearts to Him and say, “Lord, reveal what has taken root in my heart that is threatening the growth of Your Word in my life.”

There’s the parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus says, “Someone went out and scattered seed on soil.” And when I heard that parable growing up, I always assumed I’m the good soil because there’s soil where the bird comes and eats the seed. And then it falls on rocky soil, and it can’t grow. It falls in soil where the weeds grow up and choke out the young tender shoots. And then it falls on good soil, and it produces a plentiful crop. I always assumed, “Well, I’m the good soil because I’m a good Christian girl.”

But it was in this journey actually, with discovering, “Okay, Lord, how do I overcome food fixation?” that I sat down and realized my heart is overflowing with other things.

Nancy: Distractions.

Asheritah: Distractions, the pleasures of the world, worries, appetites that are choking the Word of God. So fasting became the tool that the Lord used to pull those up by the roots.

Nancy: Can I just back up a second? I know as we talk about fasting, for some of us, we’ve used fasting to lose weight.

Dannah: A diet.

Nancy: A diet.

Asheritah: That’s a bad diet.

Nancy: Well, I want you to speak to that because I think sometimes when we get frustrated with the whole being consumed with food, being overweight or food fixated, or whatever, then it’s like, “Okay, I’m not going to eat anything at all.” And that’s different than what you’re talking about with fasting. Can you just comment on that?

Asheritah: : Yes. I’ve definitely experienced where I will give up all food for a while, or certain foods, or whatever, with the purpose of losing weight. That’s called a diet.

Nancy: And when you say that’s not a good diet, what do you mean by that?

Asheritah: Well, I mean, there are women and girls who struggle with Anorexia, with not eating, and that’s a legitimate concern. That’s not fasting.

Dannah: So fasting is not, not eating.

Asheritah: Correct. Fasting is purposefully setting aside a good gift to say, “I want something better.” Food is a good gift.

Dannah: And for a time, for a season.

Asheritah: Yes. Food is a good gift from a good Father meant to turn our hearts to Him in worship. When we fast, we set aside that gift, whether it’s food, whether it’s . . . Scripture talks about abstaining from sex when you’re fasting in certain situations. That’s a good gift as well. It could be I’m not going to read books for a season—I just want to read Scripture. It could be giving up a TV show. It could be giving up social media.

Dannah: Do you think . . . I want to ask a question here because it’s a question I wrestle with a lot. I’m not sure I have the answer. Do we have a biblical model of it being anything other than food—fasting? Like, can we really call it fasting when it’s social media or TV? Is that really biblical?

Asheritah: Yes. I’m glad you brought it up because we don’t have a model in Scripture for abstaining from anything but food in a fast. But I would use the same word because of the principle. In ancient days, they didn’t have TV. They didn’t have these other things.

Dannah: That’s true.

Asheritah: There’s so much competing for our attention and affection in our world today that I think the principle still holds true: Turning from something good to say, “God, I want something better. I want You.”

In my own life, five years ago I went on my first sugar fast. I felt the Lord brought me to Psalm 73 where the psalmist says, “Whom have I in heaven but You and earth has nothing I desire besides You. My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever ” (vv. 25–26 paraphrased).

Nancy: It’s easy to say, but not so easy to live.

Asheritah: “There’s nothing I desire on earth besides You.” So the Lord drew me into a special time of fasting from sugar. And I’ll just say, as a side, if you are pregnant, if you’re nursing, if you have medical conditions, be wise about this.

Dannah: Yes. Right.

Asheritah: So for me in that season, I couldn’t go on a complete fast from food, but I noticed sugar had that stronghold in my life, so I stepped away from sugar for a season. I got all the sugar out of my house, all the desserts. I told my husband, “You don’t have to do this, but I’m not going to be making desserts anymore, just so you know.”

Those first few days, the withdrawal symptoms were real.

Dannah: Headaches.

Asheritah: Headaches.

Dannah: Were you grumpy?

Asheritah: Tiredness, grumpiness—someone brought cookies to work.

Dannah: Oh no!

Asheritah: I was like, “What are you doing to me?!”

Dannah: Did you want to smack them?

Asheritah: Yes. No, I’m a very Christian mean woman. (laughter)

But I went through that withdrawal for a little bit, but what I found I was doing that very first fast was I was giving up sugar, but I would snack on crackers and potato chips. Like, I would get the craving for sweets, and so I went to something else instead.

Nancy: Craving idols.

Dannah: Substitutes.

Asheritah: I didn’t even realize what I was doing until, again, the Lord convicted me, “Why are you going to what doesn’t satisfy? Come to Me.” And that, I believe, is one of the keys to Christian fasting. It’s not just not eating something. It’s replacing that with feasting on God’s Word, with prayer, with worship, with meditation. It’s learning to delight Him.

Dannah: I love that, feasting on God’s Word. Fast from the physical food. Feast on God’s Word.

Asheritah: Yes.

Dannah: Because, other than that, I had a woman mentoring me once through fasting who said, “If you’re not feasting on God’s Word, you are dieting—as much as you might think it’s a fast.” That was really convicting to my heart.

I think that’s one reason why a practical thing you can do is set aside your lunch time—however long that is—your thirty minutes that you would eat for lunch—and spend that time in the Word, or in the morning, spend your breakfast time in the Word. That’s a very easy thing to do during a fast.

Asheritah: Right. And another practical thing I missed as a teenager . . . I thought fasting was about showing God how much I wanted Him, and so I was trying to minimize the cravings. Like, “Oh, no, I don’t really want to eat. No, I’m not really craving that, so it’s okay.” But I think the hunger pangs and the cravings are actually a tool that God can use because, if I pause in that moment and acknowledge, “Yes! I do want a piece of chocolate cake with every fiber in me!”

Nancy: Acknowledge the craving.

Asheritah: Acknowledge it, and then turn it into a prayer and say, “Lord, I want to crave You with this same intensity. I want You more.” That’s just a very practical way to acknowledge, “Yes, this is hard, but it’s showing me the hunger that I want to have for God.”

Dannah: Wow!

Let’s imagine that we’re each sitting with a woman that we know and love, that we’re discipling her through her first fast. We have our nice, warm mugs of boiling water, warm water—we’re starting a fast. And there’s all kinds of fasts. You talked about a sugar fast. Nancy, you talked about a liquid fast.

Nancy: And in Scripture, there are partial fasts. There are fasts of different lengths.

Dannah: Exactly.

Nancy: One of the things that I have found helpful—I haven’t done it all the time, but through much of my life—has been to do a one-day-a-week fast. I would say that I haven’t, in recent years, done as much paying attention to the feasting on the Word and prayer during those fasts as I did in earlier years. So I’m being challenged by this conversation. But there can be different durations, different types of partial or complete fasts.

Dannah: So going back to that table. You’re there to mentor this lovely friend of yours through her first fast. What is one Scripture verse and the piece of advice that you would give her as she embarks on this journey?

Asheritah: I would encourage her to meditate on Jesus’ words when He says, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never hunger again.”

I believe one of the reasons God created us dependent on food, on eating every day, is to give us a metaphor for the same type of spiritual dependence that we should have and do have on Him. And the irony is not lost on me that Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life when bread is so vilified nowadays.

Nancy: Right.

Asheritah: “Get away from all the carbs.” But, no, it’s nourishing.

Dannah: It used to be a much healthier and nourishing before we pulled all the nutrients out of it.

Asheritah: It’s like white cake now.

Dannah: Exactly.

Asheritah: But bread in its original ancient grain form, is nourishing, satisfying. It’s sustaining. It’s necessary. In many parts of the world now, bread is still a staple of every single meal of the day.

Nancy: They call it the “staff of life.” It was a requirement.

Asheritah: Yes. And Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

I would encourage that woman to meditate on that and to ask the Lord to reveal more to her. I mean, it’s great that we’re sitting around here talking about it, but no one can substitute your own personal experience of living through the satisfying presence of Jesus.

Dannah: That’s true. Words can’t express how you will encounter God’s Spirit when you yourself fast.

Nancy: I’m thinking of Psalm 63, and I think, Asheritah, you may have quoted that earlier in our conversation this week, but in any Scripture that you’re going to meditate on that’s going to draw you closer to Him, but Psalm 63, “Oh, God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (v. 1).

And it goes on to talk about being in the sanctuary of God, beholding His power and His glory. “Behold, your steadfast love is better than life”—(or food or anything else—I just added that in there!) “I will bless You. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips when I remember you upon my bed” (vv. 3, 5–6).

And just saying, “Lord, I want to love You and need You and be consumed with You and live mindfully of You in an even greater way than these longings I’m having for food” because I find that when we start having this whole conversation about food or fasting, it’s like, that’s all I can think about. And we’re saying, “No, we want to turn those longings for what is a good God-created, natural, enjoyable gift, but we want even greater longings for God.”

Asheritah: Yes.

Dannah: And His fullness in our lives.

Asheritah: Nancy, that makes me think of the Scripture that says, “He made them hunger in the desert and then satisfied them with manna so that they shall know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

And that’s the very Scripture that Jesus quoted on His 40-day fast. And when the enemy came to tempt Him, Jesus, points, “No. This is a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality.” We fast so that we might feast on God’s Word and know that He is enough.

Nancy: And I’m thinking of a kind of opposite Scripture of that in Psalms where it says—God’s recounting their history back in the wilderness, the similar time that you were just talking about in Deuteronomy there, but he says they demanded, they craved this food in the wilderness. They demanded it. And it says that “God gave them their demands, [He gave them what they demanded] but He sent leanness into their souls” (Ps. 106:15 paraphrased).

So you can get the physical stuff you’re craving, demanding—whether it’s food or anything else—and find that it really doesn’t satisfy, that you end up with leanness in your souls.So all this food stuff, the absence or the presence of it, is supposed to keep bringing us, pointing us, drawing us to Him.

Dannah: The lean stuff, that reminds me of the verse that I think is important to me when I fast—a mentor gave this to me: Isaiah 58. The great prophet talks about, “Is this the fast I have chosen for you?” (v. 5 paraphrased). And he talks critically about putting on sackcloth and ashes. 

Nancy: While you’re still doing your own thing.

Dannah: Yes, and just being so self-focused. It is an easy thing for me, as an introvert, to take the opportunity of a fast to hide away and to be like, “This is all about me.”

Nancy: So it’s a fast from people, too. Right?

Dannah: That’s right. Isaiah 58 says that it is, in part, to break bonds, to break oppression, but it’s also so that we can share our bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless and poor into your home and to see the naked and cover them. We’re not supposed to be so self-focused in our fasting that we don’t go out and serve others.

So I guess that’s a challenge to my heart because it can be an easy thing for me when I’m fasting to get focused on me. And I would just say, “Look around. And as you’re feasting on the Word, ask the Lord: What do You want me to do with what You’re telling my heart right now?”

Asheritah: Yes.

Dannah: We’ve been talking about fasting, but we’ve mingled it with this concept of feasting on God’s Word.

Nancy: And one of the things I love, Dannah, about Asheritah’s book, Full, is that when she talks about feasting on God’s Word, she gives some really practical handles . . . In fact, an acronym: F E A S T (you have to get the book to find out what that is), but how to feast on God’s Word. I think a lot of us at different times in our lives, if truth be told, we really aren’t that hungry for God’s Word.

One of the metaphors that has been helpful to me is the more you eat physically, to the point of overeating, the more stuffed and satiated—I think that’s a word—yucky you’re going to feel. You’re not going to want more food when you’ve overfed your physical appetites. But spiritually, it actually works just the opposite. The more you feed your soul, even though you may not feel that hungry spiritually for God’s Word, the more you start to eat God’s Word, the more hungry you get for it, the more you want more of it.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: So I’m so thankful that in this book, Asheritah has given us some helps on how to get more hungry for God’s Word, how to feast on God’s Word, because I think just to say that to a lot of people, “You just need to feast on God’s Word,” well, what if I don’t really want it?

I found that as I was reading this book, I was getting more of an appetite for God and for His Word.

Dannah: Yes. Exactly. I think that’s what’s beautiful about the book. It kind of resets your appetites.

I had a mentor tell me once that fasting is your spirit telling your flesh who’s in charge. And I think this book will help you do that.

We would love to send you a copy of Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. You can make a donation in any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Nancy: And, Dannah, let me just say to our listeners that when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, that enables this ministry, conversations like this that are edifying, encouraging, strengthening us in grace and faith, it enables us to continue making it available through our podcast, through radio broadcasts in your area, and to women around the world who are so hungry for God and His Word.

Dannah: That’s right. And going back to where we started this program, this ministry has grown so far beyond what you could have ever dreamed. And God is doing a movement across the globe, awakening women to biblical truth.

Nancy: And it wouldn’t be possible without those who pray for this ministry, support it financially. So every one of those donations, we try to be good stewards of that and say, “Lord, how can You take these loaves and fishes and multiply them to feed a multitude?” (since we’re talking about food here).

Dannah: Yes, since we are talking about food. What a wonderful conversation. I feel challenged to ask the Lord when He would have me fast next.

Tomorrow I’m excited. Can you come back one more day, Asheritah?

Asheritah: I’d love to.

Dannah: Because I feel like the one thing we didn’t get to was just some of the practical issues about food and how we approach it. So let’s take a day and talk about that tomorrow.

Asheritah: Sounds great.

Nancy: So be sure and join us again tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to be satisfied in Jesus. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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