Day 8: “Pursue Freedom.”

freeWeek 2 of the fast hopefully finds you more rested, clear-headed and at peace. Pursuing freedom is a lifelong journey, not to be oversimplified here. However, you have hopefully identified some blockages in your life which rob you of your peace and inhibit your ability to receive God’s gift of rest.

The Holy Spirit wants to rid your life of shame, guilt, un-forgiveness, offense, anger and strife… whatever torments you or holds you back.

Today, meditate on this:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5 MSG)!

Allow the Holy Spirit to flood your life with more of his Word, an abundance of  love, additional blessings. Let your heart overflow today with worship and thanksgiving. When you see your troubles developing passionate patience in you, you can even count them as benefits. Divulge your secrets to your God. Declare victory over your past.

As you speak these things out loud in your prayer time, you’re pioneering your path to freedom.

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Day 3: “Sacrifice”

day 3Fasting can look like different things for different people. Ultimately, you give up something (food, social media, sugar, coffee, alcohol) in order to fill yourself intentionally with more of God. You seek him in your hunger pangs, believing he will satisfy. You position yourself to hear from him instead of hearing the noise of your normal habits (like checking Facebook or reading news). You die to something you love, trusting God will breathe new life somewhere else. In that, you test yourself and your strength. You find out what you’re made of. Jesus shows up. You know him better. You hear his voice more clearly. You work out what you can live without and find out how sweet his presence is – better than Tim Tams and caffeine.

Breakthrough comes in your prayer life as you lean into the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Yielding your fleshly desires to seek whatever it is God has for you brings clarity of mind and spirit. Everything feels heightened when you’re physically weak. Your soul is in alignment when you waive your rights to your normal indulgences. You see Christ in everything when you surrender. The end of  YOU is the beginning of HIM.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s words:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

 

 

Day 2: “Pray Continually?”

pray continuallyWho prays continually, really? Monks in a monastery? Nuns in a convent? People without kids? Early risers? Is this the expectation of a Christian during a time of prayer and fasting? Seriously, there’s work to do. Distractions. The mind races and praying for more than five minutes can bring on sleep for some. So, praying without ceasing seems a bit far-fetched…

What if prayer didn’t look like kneeling with your head bowed and lacing your fingers with your eyes closed?

What if you just start your day by asking God to be with you and for the Holy Spirit to remind you of his presence as you move ahead, intentionally mindful that he is listening? Every time you feel stressed or anxious, why not take a deep breath and meditate on the fact that your creator is right beside you, gently leaning in with a whisper of hope for your temporary need?

Talk to Jesus while you hang out your washing.

While driving to work, thank God for loving you.

Ask your Heavenly Father to guide your decisions and be honest with him when you’re not okay. Think about him and ponder his ways while you walk the dog.

Your never-ending need will never be too much for a God who never sleeps. Place him at the forefront of your mind and heart throughout the next 20 days. You’ll be praying, continually.

May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 MSG

Day 9: “The Holy Spirit Speaks.”

god-of-hopeWhen Jesus’ ministry on earth was finished and he rose from the grave to be seated with God in heaven for all eternity, he sent a helper for you in the Holy Spirit. You have hope and can access power because of this gift. The Holy Spirit comes to guide you and provide wisdom. If there’s something specific you’re praying about, trust his presence in your life.

Weigh your options against the word of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to confirm through scripture what you’re seeking. Speak to someone you trust who has a close relationship to God and ask him or her to pray about your situation too. Lastly, be led by peace. If you’re unsure of something and do not have peace, the Holy Spirit isn’t guiding you that direction. At times, you take a step of faith into the unknown and you may not have all the answers; but you should have peace.

Our beautiful helpmate, the Holy Spirit, nudges us when we need to know something about our kids. He might bring someone to mind for whom you need to pray or ring. He is faithful with revelation so you aren’t in the dark. If you trust the Holy Spirit, you never have to fear. Listen closely for him as you continue your time of fasting.

Embracing the Grit

cleaningI hate cleaning; not solely because of the time it takes or just because I’m afraid of cancer-causing chemicals. Cleaning toilets with three boys in my house means finding wee in places it doesn’t belong; however, I hate cleaning mostly because once I start, I find out just how dirty things really are. I’ll be dusting the window ledge and then I see that the frames have little tiny black spots of mould on them. Or, I vacuum the carpet and find so many dust bunnies under the couch that I’m afraid a real rabbit might jump out of one of them! Or, what about the bathroom drawers? I am wiping the outside while finding toothpaste and hair covering the inside.

It’s just so much easier to throw in the towel than to keep cleaning. I mean, I didn’t even think about the inside of the drawers until I started cleaning the outside. Maybe I should just leave it all and live in squalor?

My Christian journey is a lot like this: I start out all gung-ho when I first experienced the presence of God. Like putting on a new pair of cleaning gloves and pulling out all the supplies, there’s excitement for what’s to come. How great will my house smell this afternoon? How shiny will the mirrors be? How exciting to dream about God giving me the desires of my heart and multiplying my blessings!

Then, I look closer at the mirror and I see that there’s actually a layer of dust all around the edges. I reach those “up-high” edges and now I glance at the top of the vanity. Uh-oh… I’ve never even seen up there and it’s covered with dust too. I clean that and then decide to look the cabinet and find a dead roach. EEW!

What was supposed to take 2 minutes has now taken 10 and I’m utterly discouraged.

Everyone at my new church was SO FRIENDLY when I first came. I wondered if these people were for real. They seemed so genuine and so kind. Then, I looked closer and realised there were some cliques. The lady who greeted me those first few weeks doesn’t even remember my name. And, the Pastor didn’t talk to me this week.

Now, that feel-good endorphin that was released when my “floral scents all-purpose cleaner” made its way across the kitchen is suddenly overridden by my disappointment that this journey with God requires some work.

Like the blinds on our windows, I find a collection of grit just under the surface. I liked that part of the Bible that told me how much I was loved and forgiven, but I’m not so sure I want to see it from the angle of “sanctification.” I like spraying the counter top and giving it a quick wipe, but don’t make me move the toaster, kettle, and canisters out of the way.

I have bad habits I need to break but I’m not even sure I want to. I hold onto anger and resentment like it’s a high school boyfriend I can’t afford to lose. I have always done it and I’m not sure who I am anymore if I stop. I’m happy to sweep or vacuum, but please don’t ask me to move the furniture or clean behind the toilet.

I’m afraid of what I might find.

I hate looking closer at myself and picking at old wounds that have scarred and crusted on my heart, covering it like soap scum covers my shower door. I like not being able to see inside myself. What I see causes me to feel vulnerable. It causes me to take responsibility for my own actions and feelings. It forces me to have grace for others and I’ve always been able to judge others and point the finger.

I must embrace the grit to experience the gloss.

Only when I put elbow grease into something can I erase what once stood in my way. No one can do it for me. Just like no one is going to come and inspect my house with a white glove and then offer to clean for me, no one is going to inspect my heart and remove the callouses. I’m the only one who can keep my eyes clear enough to see the beauty of Christ and all that he offers me. I must choose each day to not let the sediment fall on my heart, drying it up and losing all tenderness.

Becoming more like Christ is a never-ending journey. Just when I think I’ve have mastered one area, I find myself seeing three more that need work. Kind of like getting all caught up on the washing only to find some dirty PJ’s shoved under my 5 year old’s bed…

The good news is that I have the Holy Spirit on my side, empowering me and cheering me on in my daily detox. And, unlike house chores, there’s actually an inheritance awaiting me when I allow God to purify my life.

But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” (Luke 3:16-17, MSG)