fasting meditations

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Mark 7:14-15

Have you ever fasted before? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

Fasting from food, drink, or any substance or activity connected to your temporal comfort enables an emotive understanding of your heart’s current climate. You’ll be able to see yourself for how you truly are.

How so?

Well, I’ll use myself as an example. This month, our church is undergoing a 21-day fast to kick off 2019. During prayer and preparation, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to give up both a substance and an activity: coffee and watching Netflix.

I’m about halfway through – and boy, has it been a journey.

While people may not be defiled by what goes into our mouths, withholding those things from our mouths will surely cause our defilement to arise. In my instance, fasting from coffee has caused notably convicting words to escape my lips.

Early on, I sputtered a few concerning sayings at work early in the morning.

“Sorry if I’m grumpy, I’m fasting from coffee.”

While that may not be too far-fetched in a society that celebrates caffeine addiction, it is still cause for concern – that a beverage, or lack thereof, could alter my mood so much that I need to state a disclaimer before I speak an unkind, sarcastic smirk.

That’s not very Christlike.

But, to be fair, after those words ejected from my mouth, I caught them mid-air with a concerned frown.

That shouldn’t be. I didn’t say them again; and I tried harder to be patient with those around me.

But the words and thoughts expressed most often in my coffee-deprived state have been, “Sorry if I’m being a little slow this morning. I’m fasting from coffee.”

In other words, I don’t want you to think that my performance is lacking because I’m dumb. I want to be very clear about this. If I am not exceeding your expectations continuously, it’s because I’m fasting from coffee – not because I’m not capable of blowing your mind. 

Oh, Lord. Give me a break!

Do I really place that much pride in my own abilities?

Yes.

See, it wasn’t always like this. We’ve all been through seasons of struggle. Seasons where nothing seems to click. Seasons where we come to doubt our purpose and our understanding of ourselves and others; until we finally surrender to the Spirit’s work in our lives.

Then, little by little, God empowers us. We see glimpses of being fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. We surround ourselves with people that we aspire to be like; and we begin to change for the better. We grow confident.

However, if we’re not careful and prayerful, confidence can very easily conform to pride.

During this fast, the Lord is revealing just how much of the fissures of my heartstrings are connected to my dependence on myself. I inflate when I’m complimented, I deflate if I do not impress. And in my own limited understanding, I cannot even fathom a freedom from this way of thinking.

But He who began a good work in me will carry it through to completion. 

Though pride may whisper that it’s too late, the Lord will deliver me from myself. Though pride may hyperbolize my abilities, there’s one thing I know that I cannot do on my own  – free myself from my own pride.

For that, I need a savior. I need a savior to remind me that He gave His life for me, so that I could give my life for His glory – and that I cannot desire both greater measures of His glory while desperately clinging to my own.

There is freedom for me.

Freedom to receive a compliment or a criticism with equal measures of peace. Freedom to fail. Freedom to hope in the Lord, not in myself. Because I will always let myself down.

But those who hope in the Lord will never be put to shame.

Advertisements

simply obey.

“Simply obey.”

Easy to read, hard to receive.

For a long time, I thought there was a formula to freedom.

I thought that if I had completed x amount of deliverance sessions, combined with many months of fasting, and sealed with a fiery prophetic word, I would be free.

The Spirit and the gifts are ours.

We know that these gifts must be used to help strengthen our spirits to receive what God has for us.

However, nothing,

no, nothing,

can replace the significance of simple obedience.

Sure, deliverance is crucial. Generational cycles of sin and shame have sold themselves through blood lines since the dawn of desire.

And sure, fasting helps. After a sacrificial gastronomic fast, I guarantee you will feel a shift in the struggle against yourself.

And of course, I would not be where I am today had countless timely prophetic words not fallen on my ears; particularly while passing through life’s continual crossroads.

But at the end of the day,

all efforts are null unless we obey.

The significance of obedience doesn’t go away.

But here’s what does:

Our fight.

We give up.

We give up the game of walking too close to the edge

and instead,

we walk in places with plenty of space,

so that we

don’t fall.

I did not seek deliverance from the depths of my darkness just to stay down there.

I did not fast intensely, only to then reverse the effects by destroying the health of my spirit.

And I know this to be true, too:

Any prophetic word sent from Heaven will be hearsay,

if I do not obey.

Simply obey.

where are you, God?

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

Hosea 2:19-20

I am forever trying to find the formula for an unforgettable moment.

Is it the perfectly rare concocted blend of sensory nostalgia, coupled with an encounter with emotionally evocative relatives, combined with a physical reaction to all of the above? Is that what makes a moment unforgettable?

Hard to say. Some moments are unforgettable, just because.

One of those moments was during the fall semester of my sophomore year of college.

My “college experience” was atypical. At 19, I lived in midtown Manhattan and attended an academically rigorous and politically pretentious private Christian liberal arts school called The King’s College. Our campus held classes in the basement of the Empire State Building, our “dorms” were full-fledged New York apartments adjacent to Koreatown, and our “sororities” were “houses”, bearing a striking resemblance to Hogwarts.

It was weird.

It was also lonely. My freshman year had been full of firsts and friends, friends who were Bible-belt rebels. Most flew south after their first year to finish their higher education at state schools closer to home.

Without them, the city felt lonely, particularly at night.

One perfect New York night in my fall semester of sophomore year, I sat in the Starbucks on 34th between 5th and 6th; and I cried. I cried out to God in a new way – in desperation.

“Lord, I need you,” I remember saying to Him as I opened up my Bible to a random passage and read a few verses. I had never felt such longing, such void. My friends were my world – and then, they left. The city, though wondrous, feels forsaken without friends or family in moments of sadness.

In hindsight, I see that I was at a crossroads.

I had a choice. I could choose to fill this spiritual void with the power and presence of the Lord; or I could allow the desires of the flesh and the world to come creeping in, to occupy that space.

I chose the latter.

As a curious 19-year-old with a fake Jersey ID working as a maitre’d at a popular restaurant staffed by alcoholics in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, I was bombarded with endless opportunities to let the darkness occupy my space. I let it in; and I let it create a taste for death. This taste led to full on feasts of debauchery, disappointment, and delinquency – otherwise known as academic probation.

Now, on the heels of my 27th birthday, I can look back and praise God for His protection, provision, and peace. I know that I know that He knows everything I did in those years;  and that every single thought and deed has been smothered in the blood of Jesus. I stand, not condemned, but celebrated, because I wear the righteous robes of Christ.

But what if I could go back to that moment? What if, in that moment of longing, instead of giving up and letting the world fill my cup, I instead chose to relentlessly sit at the feet of Jesus and beg for a crumb to fall from the table?

Would that have worked?

Would I have been satisfied?

I’m not sure.

Recently, reading through Hosea, the Lord showed me something.

When the Lord told Israel that He was going to fill their void for love and belonging through betrothal, He wasn’t speaking to a singular person. Though we love to read the Bible as God speaking directly to us as individuals, the entire book is directed to an entire nation. When He says, “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord,” He’s talking to an entire people group.

But what’s peculiar about this people group is their location. A few verses up, God lays out His plan for winning back his lover:

 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

If Israel runs from the wilderness, they run from the place where God can mold her valleys into doors of hope.

I was so afraid of that wilderness.

I was so afraid of how long it would take for God to fill that void that I rushed to fill it immediately with whatever was right in front of me.

But if I had stayed in that place, if I had stayed in that wilderness for longer than a weekend, I would have found that though I may feel lonely, I am not alone. I would have encountered the many others who are too aliens in their own land. Through His sovereign spirit, I would have stumbled upon the nation of Israel – the people of God who are today, sons and daughters of faith, all walking in the wilderness together.

And loneliness would no longer define my association with the Father.

Are you afraid of the loneliness that comes from following God?

Newsflash: God wants to be faithful to you. He wants to be all you need. But if you isolate yourself from the nation of God’s beloved, you cannot expect to be wrapped up in the betrothal of His faithfulness. In order to be betrothed to the Lord, we must be in covenant with the people of the Lord.

Don’t be afraid of the wilderness. It is in the darkest moments when His light shines most brightly.

And when you see in His light, it’s unforgettable.

that’s not my job…

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:24-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Which unbeliever have you been praying for lately?

While I don’t doubt that you have been praying for them, what if there’s something missing?

What if your actions towards the people in your path directly influence their chance at repentance?

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“Oh please, Gina. God’s going to save who He’s going to save. And people will have to make up their own mind. I can pray that God softens someone’s heart. That’s all I can do.”

Sorry, you’re not going to like this. But I disagree.

As we study this text, I encourage you to imagine we are referring to an unbelieving coworker, friend, or family member who has been the subject of many of your prayers.

Let’s break down this passage backwards, starting at the end; because at the end, we see the goal: “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

What enables one to come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil? A knowledge of the truth. A divine hand flipping the switch, causing spiritual light to flood unseen eyes.

Suddenly, she knows that she knows that God is real, and that He is good. She knows that something supernatural has shifted her perspective. Now, the same narrative she’s always told ourselves no longer brings comfort, but conviction. She needs to get out, but she doesn’t know how.

In walks repentance – the hope of true change.

Who birthed this hope? God. According to the passage, God grants repentance! God is the one that turns on the light. And once He does, what naturally follows is a divine reordering of her understanding of right and wrong.

What part does the unbeliever play? She must simply make a conscious choice to accept that God knows better than she does, to believe that the blood of Jesus is enough to cleanse her and protect her, and to choose to let His spirit and His word define her reality.

Let’s move on.

Question: How do you learn that you’re wrong about something?

Answer: Someone corrects you.

Who corrects the unbeliever in this passage? God?

Nope.

The Lord’s servant. You. Me. Us.

Do we correct them immediately? Hm, look again. Before we correct, we must patiently endure evil. 

This one hit me straight in the heart. The moment my friend told me she was ready to come to church with me was the moment I foolishly believed my work was done. And like most things in life, once we’ve resolved that we’ve come to the end of something, only to then learn that we haven’t, we have significantly less patience for it than we once did.

We need to patiently endure evil. 

The moment your friend admits that she’s ready to come to church does not mean your work is finished – it means your work has just begun; for it is also the moment that the enemy steps up his game. Forget not, my friends, that we fight not against flesh and blood.

In other words, you are not fighting against your unbelieving friend; even though it may feel like that sometimes. You fight against the evil that is surrounding her from all sides. How do you fight against it? By patiently enduring it. Patiently endure the overflow of the effects of sin in her life. Patiently endure the complaining, the misunderstanding of the way the world works, the refusal to see her sin for what it is – sin.

Once she’s earned your trust, you may begin gently correcting her.

How else do you fight against it? By teaching!

The Holy Spirit gets all the credit for this. Listen, if God is not doing a current work in your life, you can’t teach. Who is our teacher? The Holy Spirit. You must be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s voice in order to teach the person in front of you. Your ability to teach is contingent upon your ability to hear the voice of the Lord.

Teach her the gospel. Teach her the love and commandments of Christ. Teach her what it looks like to give sacrificially, to worship unashamedly, to cast all your burdens on the Lord. She can’t know unless someone teaches her.

But first and foremost, before all else? Be kind.

Have you, somewhere along the way, lost sight of kindness? Has your cynicism with today’s hostile society caused a quarrelsome spirit to dwell within you? Have you forgotten that kindness is the entryway to evangelism?

Conversation cannot begin without kindness, trust cannot be built apart from kindness, patience cannot stand without kindness. The Church cannot exist without kindness.

Now, for the difficult question we’ve all been waiting for:

If we do not walk in kindness, if we do not teach, if we do not patiently endure evil, if we do not correct our opponents with gentleness, will God still grant them repentance?

Maybe. Who knows.

What we do know is that the word of God is always right and true and worthy of following; and that we shouldn’t rush to create caveats around the unchanging nature of an uncreated God. Whether God needs us to do all this other stuff isn’t the question.

The question is simply this: Will we simply obey?

If we walk in kindness, if we teach our unbelievers how to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of our lives, if we patiently endure the effects of evil, and if we correct our opponents with gentleness, can we believe that God may perhaps grant them repentance – a chance to believe that they don’t need to continue to live the lies they’ve always lived? Can we believe that God may give our unbelieving friends a chance to breathe in the air of the gospel?

What do you say? Wanna give it a shot?

Good. Let’s get to work.

the first daughter of faith

Ruth. The 8th book of the Bible…and every Christian grandmother’s favorite love story. If I have to hear my grandmother ask me one more time, “So Gina, did you meet your Boaz yet!?”…I’m going to lose it.

Anyways.

Who was Ruth?

Ruth was a Moabite woman who lived in the country of Moab. Her first husband was a Hebrew man named Mahlon. They met in Moab. Why was a Hebrew man in Moab? Well, Mahlon was in Moab because his parents, though originally from Bethlehem in Judah, left their homeland during a famine and trekked to the country of Moab. They settled there. He grew up and married Ruth.

Eventually, his father died. His brother died. Then, he died.

At this point, Ruth is now a widow and is living with her sister-in-law Orpah, and her mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi hears that the Lord has visited His people, so she decides to go back home to Bethlehem in Judah. She tries telling Orpah and Ruth to go back home to their mothers, and Orpah does – but Ruth decides to take the journey with her mother-in-law.

Once in Judah, Ruth gets a job gleaning wheat in the fields for a man named Boaz. Boaz was a distant relative of Naomi. In chapter 2, Ruth says, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.”

Spoiler alert: she does just that. She works hard and catches Boaz’s eye. He makes it his mission to find out who she is. Her workers let him know that she is the Moabite woman who came back with her mother-in-law. Boaz goes to her and tells her to stay close to his women, and to help herself to water when she’s thirsty. She responds in gratitude and grace; and Boaz pronounces a blessing over her.

In fact, most of their conversations appear far too dramatic for reality. Maybe that’s what love is like.

I digress.

After Ruth had been working for Boaz for some time, Naomi offers a radical suggestion to move things along. She tells Ruth to wash herself, anoint herself, and go to the threshing floor – a place where a bunch of men will be drinking alcohol and winnowing barley. She tells her to observe the place where he lies, and when she finds him, to go uncover his feet, and to lie down, with her head near his feet. He will then tell her what to do.

She did exactly that. And guess what? It worked. She asked him, to “Spread his wings[a] over his servant, for you are a redeemer.”

What does she mean by that? By calling him a “redeemer”, Ruth is referencing an ancient custom in which a brother would marry the wife of his deceased brother if he died without children. The first child born of that union would then be considered the child of the deceased brother, and would inherit all of his properties. However, this was radical because Boaz is not the brother of Ruth‘s dead husband. Plus, there was a relative closer in kin to Ruth.

While he was impressed that she chose him, in his honor, he knew that there was one more person that was closer in kin to her who would be the rightful redeemer. He told her he would check to see if that other dude wanted to redeem her.

He checked; and the dude said, nah, I’m good.

And so, it was settled. Ruth and Boaz, together forever.

What is the purpose of this story?

Is it to give us a formula for winning our husbands?

I don’t think so. I think this story is about faith.

Ruth teaches us that Spirit-led direction will not be comfortable, nor will it comply with social obligations. Ruth had no obligation to Naomi. It was not her duty to restore the family line. But she chose to have the faith to believe that God could use her in bigger ways than she could imagine. And through this little book, Ruth connects the family of Israel to the nation of Israel. She is a first fruits of what Paul talks about centuries later in the book of Romans – The nation of Israel – for the promise that God made to Abraham, is that he will have many sons and daughters of FAITH. Ruth is the first Daughter of Faith!

How do we know that? How do we know that she is not just a foreigner that got to marry a man of God? After Ruth and Boaz’s marriage, the townspeople praised her for her boldness, comparing her to other women in the line of Abraham.

Ruth Chapter 4 verse 11 and 12 tell us, “Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

And Who is the offspring that will eventually be birthed by this woman? Jesus! In face, Ruth is King David’s great grandmother. That’s a pretty cool title, if you ask me.
In following Naomi back to Bethlehem, and making her confession of faith, Ruth chose to identify herself as one of God’s chosen people. She chose to make the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob her God. And because of that, God chose her to be a part of the lineage of Jesus.

Ruth teaches us that faith-filled obedience connects our life story to the never-ending story of God’s kingdom. However the Spirit may lead us to act in our lives, I pray that we too may respond in courage, loyalty, and love.

 

sincerely sanctification

Father,

I love you.

When did I become the strong one?

When did I become the one that others look to?

How do I keep my eyes on you when others start looking at me?

Will you give me more grace now?

Will others’ expectations of me define me?

Do I tell myself, “people are counting on you to stay strong.” to help me stay strong? Is that a good thing to say to myself?

Can I celebrate this turning point? Or should I just pretend it isn’t happening?

Because there’s one thing I know for sure…I felt a breakthrough.

It wasn’t a microwave breakthrough. It was a breakthrough that only You could manufacture. It was a breakthrough bred in Your word, birthed in brokenness, and brought when I least expected it – after I sinned.

So what do I do?

Just keep doing what I’m doing?

Just keep worshipping You?

Okay, cool. Will do.

I love you.

Love,

Your Daughter

look up

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. “

Colossians 3:1-3

Where are you?

Are you searching for yourself? Have you recently, or not-so-recently, committed your life to Christ? Do you find that you don’t quite know where you are, because the places where you used to find yourself are now empty?

This passage gives us a beautifully clear picture of where to find ourselves – and why we cannot continue to find ourselves in places of the past.

You’re no longer there.

You died. And now, your life is hidden with Christ in God.

That’s why Paul says to align the cries of your heart and the dreams of your mind to feel and see things above – not just because that’s where Christ is, but that’s where your life is too. For your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

This is difficult for many of us to grasp. Most days, we still feel like our old selves. Most days, we feel too dirty to be found in Christ. We still listen to the same lies. The same temptations continue to crouch at our doorstep. Only this time, when we succumb, gut-twisting guilt pulls our hearts and spirits down to the pit. We’re stuck in a pattern of old behavior with new consciouses; and nothing really changes. Why is that?

It’s because we haven’t taken the time to find ourselves.

Our very nature has changed. We were once fish; now we’re birds. We used to swim in water. Water was once air to us, but not anymore.

Now, if we want to find ourselves, we must look up.

Above. That’s where Christ is.

And it’s where we are, too.