Hello my friends! – Happy New Year to everyone.  Hey have you adjusted well to all that 2019 holds for you and your loved ones?  Quite honestly, this year has already started full of demands, transitions and service related activities for our family.  Let me just say though - how you choose to begin each year is absolutely critical to your success.  This does not mean that if things did not start off the way you expected them to go, you cannot make the necessary adjustments to experience a great year.  Oh Yes, you most certainly can because God surely wants you to be successful not just for you but for the generations to come after you.  I would like to share a big wisdom nugget that has released and continues to release manifestation of breakthroughs in my life and the lives of those I am connected to.   Without further delay – that huge wisdom nugget I was just referring to is called intentional “Fasting”!   While our wonderful church does a 21 day fast at the beginning and end of each year, I am no stranger to the reality of Intentional Fasting.  When I was growing up, I remember we would fast as a time of consecration before God.  As I grew older, I sort of drifted away from Absolute Fasts (for those who may not know – this is like a dry fast where you eat no food or drink any water or liquids for a period of time).  As my relationship with Christ has matured through my adulthood and I started doing biblical research on the power of “Intentional Fasting”, I have realized that great blessings are released where there is a determined level of sacrifice present.  Consider intentional fasting to be your gateway to the Open Heaven with God’s blessings flowing all around you.  Let me be completely honest with you:- Fasting is not easy and when you make up your mind to intentionally step away from all those special foods, programs, social platforms or whatever your vice of choice may be, the enemy will not be happy and will do anything possible to derail you from your journey or create distractions.  Do you remember in Matthew 4:1-11 when Jesus was fasting for 40 days and 40 nights and he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil?  Who said “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” To which Jesus replied “The Scriptures say: People do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Of course the devil did not stop there as he went on to tempt Jesus 2 more times.  Okay listen – I am not even going to say I totally understand how Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights as I am a vegetarian and while I only eat once a day during my fasts – Jesus is the real Rock star here!  The bottom line is there was a determined level of sacrifice present and even Jesus was not exempt from temptation as the true Son of God and neither will we.

You must however be determined in your spirit if you are to experience breakthroughs and blessings from intentional fasting.  Here are a few tips that have helped me along my journey:-  (a) Tip #1: Be intentional about setting aside time daily to connect with God by spending time in his word, prayer and worship.  Use an alarm clock if you must but make it a serious priority!  (b) Tip #2: Ask God to help you to begin to see food as a source of life and not merely for gratification purposes. This might seem small but it’s actually a big one for many.  Several people have shared with me how difficult fasting is for them. Transparent moment: Last year I decided to begin asking God in prayer to please help me to see food differently as I wanted to go deeper with fasting.  When our church started the 21 day fast last year, I initially made up my mind to fast for 3 days on liquids only for a period of 12+ hours each day and eat 1 meal a day.  Now the first day was no joke but each day got easier as I would declare victory through the blood of Jesus over those hunger pains or whenever my stomach made hunger noises.  God surely heard my prayers and saw my spirit of determination because by the end of Day 3, I was ready to keep going and with God’s help, I did this for the entire 21 days.  Now for those who want to lose a few pounds, I can assure you this will happen but it should never ever be the reason for your fast.  While I lost a lot of weight in the process the rewards for my obedience to the process were far greater!  Fast forward to this year God gave me the strength to extend my period on liquids only to 18 hours for our 21 day fast.  God will surely meet you at the level of your sacrifice.  (c) Tip #3: Involve your family in the process to minimize distractions.  I personally discuss the importance of fasting with my daughters and while the fast looks different for them since they are growing children – they are still required to make sacrifices.  For example, since both girls still eat meat, fish and or chicken – during the fast they were limited to 1 serving of meat per day and no sweets.  They have adjusted well over the years and of course like most kids they do celebrate when it’s over for real, so they can return to their regularly scheduled favorite foods.  (d) Tip #4: Consider journaling each day after reading or spending time with God.  (e)  Tip #5: Celebrate each small victory along the way by praising God for his grace and mercy as you get through each day.  Remember as you invite God into every area of your life, you will experience an overwhelming sense of peace even when trials or difficult situations arise while you are fasting.

Intentional Fasting is much like a gateway to an open heaven with God at the helm ready to release great and mighty blessings in the lives of those who believe and seek him persistently.  You may be thinking how so?  Let me share a personal example.  One Saturday during my period of fasting - I remember leaving our small group meeting with the girls + their good friend and driving to the local passport acceptance facility to get applications submitted.  It was raining a lot that day and we only had a small window of time as the girls really needed to be at a birthday party which was about 40 mins away.  Everyone knows Saturdays at any passport acceptance facility is the one day when most people and families alike show up to get their applications completed.  As such, the lines are usually really long not to mention the wait times.  We arrived at the location and upon our entrance, it was pretty evident many people had been there for a long time.  I recall praying for the Lord to seriously part the Red Sea in light of my time restraints.  One of the passport officers approached the desk and asked how he could assist us. I explained how I was there on a Thursday but did not have the girls with me and a gentleman made copies of needed documents and verified I had met all the necessary requirements.  He said okay give me a couple of minutes, I will be right back.  We saw him leave to speak with a female passport officer and returned to let us know she would be attending to us once she was done with the family she was assisting and quite possibly the people who were waiting in her section.  What happened next is a testament to the amazing favor of God.  The female passport officer came out when she was done with the family she was assisting to ask who was there for “No Wait”, she then went to the gentleman who had assisted us and he pointed directly to us.  The passport officer came over and asked us to go with her.  She took us to her office, processed our forms and payment, certified our statements by swearing us in and thanked us for our patience.  Total time spent = all of 35 minutes on a busy Saturday!  As we were walking out, I remember so many people looking at us in shock.  Oh our God is so faithful and “Intentional Fasting” really is like the gateway to an Open Heaven where blessings lie in abundance!  As we left the passport acceptance facility, I reminded the girls how what God did in there was truly nothing short of a miracle.  As you embark upon the journey of intentional fasting this year please Remember - you too are fearfully and wonderfully made for such a time as this.  Since God is no respecter of persons –what he does for one person he can do the same for another.