Day 21: “Victory!”

Photo: goalcast.com

Mission Accomplished!

Homerun!

Bull’s-eye!

What does triumph look like when it comes to finishing a fast? That you didn’t cave in and eat sugar or drink alcohol? Are you celebrating the elimination of social media from your life for three weeks?

Victory doesn’t always mean a “win” in the way you might measure it. Winning doesn’t necessarily mean that all your prayers were answered or that you had perfect quiet times full of “aha” moments each day for 21 days. Walking in victory means you’re able to allow vulnerability before God and others. That you can humble yourself and forgive. You can admit when you’re wrong.

A feather in your cap with Jesus looks like hiding under the shadow of his wing when all you really want to do is come out fighting. Open arms and a tender heart that’s ready to receive everything God has for you will put runs on the board. No fear. No shame.

You’re not in competition with anyone else for your Saviour’s approval or love. Your win isn’t at someone else’s expense. The only loser is the enemy who can’t rob you of your joy no matter what your circumstances.

You might put back something into your life that you eliminated for the last three weeks. Show up for spiritual training, nonetheless. Keep pushing forward with God. Stretch and run everyday… alongside your Heavenly Father, not ahead. He won’t let you fall behind. He’s there, next to you, cheering you on into a lifetime of victories!

“You’ve trained me with the weapons of warfare-worship;
now I’ll descend into battle with power
to chase and conquer my foes.
You empower me for victory with your wrap-around presence.
Your power within makes me strong to subdue,
and by stooping down in gentleness
you strengthened me and made me great!
You’ve set me free from captivity
and now I’m standing complete, ready to fight some more!”

Psalm 18:34-36 (TPT)
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Day 18: “More Often Than Not.”

Art by: Hong Leung

The idea that a new habit is formed in 21 days is a bit of a myth. Although, implementing a new routine or eliminating something from your life for 21 straight days will surely set a habit in motion.

One study done in America in 2009 by the Center for Bible Engagement indicates that for the Word of God to have significant impact in your life, you must engage with it at least four times/ week. In other words, more often than not.

You may already be in the habit of spending quality time with God each and everyday. Or, this time of prayer and fasting may have sparked something new within you. Keep going!

If you have a penchant for skipping out on time alone to meditate and pray, think of ways you can incorporate a pattern into your natural rhythm of life that will work for you. Just remember that old habits die hard and new ones aren’t easy to form.

Spend time today looking at your daily inclinations. Ask the Holy Spirit for a reminder of his presence and set your heart and mind on listening to what he has to say. If you do this more often than not, God’s word will have a transformative affect on your life.

“At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice
as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you.
Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar
and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.”

Psalm 5:3 (TPT)

Day 16: “A Worthy Foundation.”

Photo: cbc.ca

Our pop culture can easily package up your faith in handy Instagram images, retweets, or reposts. On the outside, you seem all deep and meaningful, perhaps even well-read. You scroll through articles and images “liking” and looking. “Amen” to that. Another one minute snappy sermon, tick.

You normally spend time skimming the latest news and most popular trends. However, this time of fasting has taken your microwave content and slow cooked it. The YouVersion “verse of the day” has come alive and God is revealing truths to you beyond the Christian-ese some around you are speaking. This will sustain you beyond your snack packet, low cal, fillers into a wholesome, healthy base upon which you will continue to build.

What truths have resonated with you most? Are you easing into that place of peace you find when you tuck into Jesus and his Word?

You are satiated and satisfied when revelation makes it’s way inside your spirit.

You’re strengthening the foundation of your faith. Like insurance that pays out upon unexpected tragedy, you’re putting your policy in place, depositing extra moments of God time into your spiritual account. When winds come and the Earth shakes beneath your feet, you can cash in because Jesus’ words are ready for redeeming. You stocked up on truth. You’re freezing his words, ready to thaw under the heat of life which is sure to manifest one day.

Keep setting aside time. Keep journaling, reading, asking, praying. Fill yourself with more and more of your Heavenly Father’s words in place of that meal or social media. Whatever you gave up is an empty space waiting to hold your deepest, most desperate cries.

Let your vulnerability before God break open something worth spilling out. Your life is more stable than ever because you know your foundation is secure.

“That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 (MSG)

Day 15: “TGI-Everyday.”

Illustration: @real_simple Instagram

The hustle of a busy week slows its pace and you begin to park yourself right up against the curb of your Friday: no homework, the possibility of a sleep in, and the unforced rhythm of the weekend ahead of you.

You’re excited because more than likely, you work to live. You might love your job but it’s still a J-O-B – a means to an end. Although rest and relaxation are necessary and God-ordained, you’re learning to become more present in your everyday moments. This time of fasting and prayer has caused you to tune into your surroundings and slow down to listen to the heavenly nudges coming your way.

Rather than wishing away all the tediousness of your chores, why not embrace each moment as God-given and necessary? The mundane of everyday life is, after all, life itself. The meetings, the groceries; cleaning, cooking and shopping. Homework and mail opening. Carpooling, phone answering, negotiating with kids. Calendars, bills, gardening and exercise. Walking the dog. Running errands.

You go to sleep. You wake up. And, you start again.

A life well lived is full and vibrant, giving excuse to unavailabilities, grateful for its fullness. Your journey doesn’t begrudge the busy-ness. You’re on a God-adventure!

Shift your perspective on the ordinary humdrum, day-to-day. Rather than wishing time away, find the beauty in the mess. You’re tempted to allow life to tumble past you – your days, weeks and months all muddled together and mistaken as ordinary and senseless.

Slow down and give thanks for your everyday, banal habits. Fix your eyes on the beauty you see in the mirror as you clean your teeth. Hum a tune while you cook dinner and laugh at the sheer expense of feeding your family. You’re not a victim of your routine. You’re the Chief Executive Officer of a blessed life: full and crazy and unique!

The grass isn’t greener somewhere else.

You’re not to feel sorry for your perceived lack.

Dreams of a future holiday mustn’t rob your today.

YOLO… so stop it with the FOMO.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Philippians 4:11-13 (MSG)

Day 9: “Peace. In Your Finances.”

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Mortgages and rent. School fees. Rates. Insurance. Groceries. Clothing and food. Debt. Utilities.

Fun money? Travel? Shopping? How? When?

Everyday expenditures and financial responsibilities weigh you down. Figures and dates spinning around in your head, a merry-go-round of digits. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Saving, Spending. Saving, Spending. Saving, Spending. Round and round you go.

According to a 2018 study of 1000 U.S. adults, worry and stress over money is one of the leading causes of divorce (behind infidelity). There’s no question that the way you handle your finances becomes a lens by which you look through life with either enthusiasm and generosity or dread and greed.

No one wakes up planning to be greedy or selfish. However, when you are not financially healthy and living within your means, you begin to hold on tightly to that which you have. You strive to gain more for fear that what you currently possess will run out, disappearing like sand through your fingertips. Nothing of substance to show for your hard work.

When you are balanced in your approach to money, patient and prudent with spending, generous to the local church and towards others, you can loosen your grip and suddenly the heavenly perspective of a God who owns the universe brings a shift. You understand that everything you have comes from the One who gave you your very life and breath; your daily provision and future allotments are subsidised by an endless account.

Ask yourself whether your priorities are in line with God’s. Make a plan for getting out of debt, for saving, for benevolence. Discipline yourself with the practicality of self-restraint. And, let go. Trust your Heavenly Father to provide for your every need. Pray and seek wisdom while pursuing financial peace.

“The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.”

Psalm 37:23-26 (NIV)

Day 7: “Peace. Not People.”

Photo: Caique Silva

God gives us family and friends for community, support, encouragement, wisdom, fun. He wired us all differently and we each come with our own opinions, experiences and expectations. Navigating relationships is tricky on the best of days. What God means for good, the enemy loves to use to bring division, conflict and pain to our lives.

“He made me do it. It’s her fault. If only THEY would cooperate.” Blaming bosses, spouses, friends, or neighbours for your emotions and problems only gives your power away to someone else. Accusations and criticism don’t bring resolutions. You allow other people to rob you of peace and they don’t even know it. While they rest happily in their ignorance, you are tormented, angry, unforgiving. You play scenarios and pretend conversations around in your head like a bad playlist on repeat.

You might be struggling in some of your relationships right now. Your goal: to be understood, heard, loved, appreciated. Communication may seem difficult and you either can’t find the words, or your words are misconstrued, further complicating the situation and your life.

Discord is a thief to your peace.

Unfortunately, many times, resolving issues with others can be out of reach. You just don’t see eye to eye. Or, you’re so different in your approach, finding common ground is impossible. You can become discouraged and even so hurt that you withdraw, allowing yourself to miss out. Your expectations are unmet, you feel ashamed. You even question God when you’ve tried everything in your power and you just can’t find a resolution.

God wants us to live at peace; with others, yes. Ultimately, with him. You must learn to have a Godly perspective regarding people in your life, viewing them through a lens of understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. It means you know where they might be coming from – their pain and past hurts, their dysfunction. Hurting people hurt people.

When you feel your peace is being threatened by a relationship, you must seek God for his wisdom and pursue his ways. Remember, peace is the personhood of Jesus Christ. Keep him close and allow him to mediate the conversations in your head. He will bring clarity if not resolution. He can help you to love those who have hurt you despite their unwillingness to budge.

*Today, write down the names of anyone in your life who is causing you pain. Ask God to show you if there’s something you can do to find common ground. Forgive them. And give them over to God. He will deal with them on your behalf. The battle is not yours to fight.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)

Day 6: “Peace. Not Perfection.”

Artwork by: Bartosz Kosowski

Ten tiny fingers and toes, skin like velvet, total contentment with eyes closed all swaddled up in a cozy blanket: PERFECTION. Unblemished body, shiny leather, sleek and ergonomic with all the bells and whistles: FLAWLESS. Tall, dark and handsome with straight shiny white teeth, adoring eyes, and a sense of humour: IDEAL.

Some of you grew up aspiring to be the paragon of the school, the cream of the crop, the epitome of excellence and achievement. Your hard fought wins taught you that putting in effort gets you results and attention. You thrive on other’s approval, keeping order, juggling all the balls so they remain elevated at just the right height.

Perfectionism: the antagonist in this chapter on peace. Your desire to experience breakthrough during this fast is robbed when your aim is 100%. Every. Single. Day. The house must be clean. The kids must behave. The cooked meals should meet everyone’s standards. A raise at work. A good body. It goes on and on, as exhausting as walking up ten flights of stairs.

The problem with ideals beyond reach is the subtle message they send: “You’re not good enough.” Your life, your bank account, your job, your spouse, your kids, your size… measured against utopia, you have failed. When you feel you’re not enough or your life isn’t enough, you will find yourself striving, controlling, battling on every front. You’ve lost your composure and the lull of relaxation feels like guilt.

Give yourself permission today to let go. Give up your ideal and allow your present reality to suffice. You are not a problem. Comparison is a trap. The hamster wheel of achievement is hard to get off; you may feel the more you achieve the more others expect you to perform. Relax even if you know more could be done on your project, at work, in your home.

Pay attention today to the things that bring you angst and set them aside. Spend ten minutes meditating on gratefulness. Giving thanks for your current circumstances and looking for the good in yourself and others will resolve the tension in your life. God loves you just the way you are and he wants you to spend time with him, leaning into him for wisdom AND a to do list. Prioritise Jesus and HIS ways. After all, only God is immaculate, without blemish or stain. Glean from him and allow a cease-fire between your expectations and your reality today.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)