A Beautiful Awakening

“If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.”

This is the advice I was given by my doctor a few years ago when I showed up in her office with a plethora of problems...

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The Year the Music Was Made

I’ve never been one for New Years Resolutions. Perhaps working at a fitness center when I was 18 jaded me, but I’ve never seen the point in setting new goals for oneself simply because the calendar year has changed over. However, after a year like last year, I’ve gained some new perspective for moving forward into 2017.

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Skin

No matter the type of pain you are feeling during this season, be it emotional or physical, we can take great comfort in knowing that what we are really celebrating this weekend is the birth of The Savior Jesus, the only One who truly understands our pain.

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A Holy Perspective

As Jews and believing Gentiles, we are called to be set apart from the world, and to model holiness...we are reminded at every meal that we have made a commitment to God to demonstrate this holiness to the rest of the world.

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Food Issues // Guest Post: Gina's Story

When you are going through something difficult, it seems as though God allows friends and family members to come out of the woodwork who have encountered something similar so that you have someone to walk alongside in your trial. Gina has been one of those dear friends of mine and, though our stories are different, I wanted to give her an opportunity to share hers here. Gina's story is inspiring to me; it is a story of incredible, self-sacrificial love.

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Fasting: Part 2

If I could fast forever and not die I would. Honestly.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, over the past few years I’ve become a total foodie. I love food. I love cooking it. I love the act of chewing it. And I love the taste of it; but all of that pales in comparison to the closeness I felt with God during my fast, a closeness I desire to have at all times, a closeness that, for whatever reason, is lacking when I’m having three meals a day. Perhaps it all boils down to how fervently we seek God when we are in want. And when you are hungry, you are in want.

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Fasting: Part 1

Everyone should fast.

Everyone.

A few months ago I didn’t hold to that belief, but I hold it as strong as any other aspect of my faith now.

I was somewhat familiar with the concept of fasting growing up. As a kid, I heard my parents and other adults in our congregation talking about meeting together to pray and fast. As an adult, my friends and family have offered to pray and fast for me here and there. And I even fasted a couple of times, especially in times of crisis. But even then, I didn’t really understand the importance of it, nor how commonplace fasting is in the Bible.

This past summer I had been fasting regularly 1-2 days out of the month. Sometimes it was for prayer, other times in solidarity with another believer who was fasting. Prior to that, the longest time I went without food was a 3-day juice cleanse that I barely survived (or so I thought at the time).

Though it’s an expression of worship and act of faith I knew of, it is definitely something I didn’t fully grasp until recently, when the Holy Spirit led me into an extended fast. It was one of those random days out of the month that I opted to fast and pray and I was sitting outside on the patio praying and journaling. As I journaled my prayers, I found that everything I was praying were prayers I felt as though I’d been praying over and over for a long time, but was still awaiting answers to. As I looked at my lists, the overarching prayer became, “God, I just need a breakthrough in all of these areas.” While I was praying I remembered a book a friend had given me a few years back, simply called, Fasting. It was as if God spoke to my spirit and said, “Remember that book? It’s on your bookshelf on the second shelf. Go get that book and start reading.”

So I did, and immediately my eyes were opened to story after story in the Bible where the followers of God not only prayed and saw the Hand of God move…they fasted. These were passages of scripture that I had read and heard countless times but, somehow, I missed a pretty significant detail: fasting. The book also gives countless testimony of members of the author’s church who partake in a 21-day church-wide fast every January and the outcomes of their experiences; like marriages being restored, financial provision, and even complete healing from cancer. As I continued reading and praying, I knew I needed to get serious in my obedience to God and begin an extended fast.

So I set out to fast for 7-10 days.

Only water.

Since my time frame was open, I prayed that God would show me when to break the fast. I was really hoping for 7 days. But that’s not what I heard from God. Three days into the fast I felt the Lord tell me in my spirit to do 14 days. So I did. And, as I’ve said, it was hands down the best thing I have ever done for my spiritual life and relationship with God.

Let me just stop here to say that I do not have super-human discipline.

I am not sharing any of this to be all, “Hey, look at how religious and awesome and holy I am;” on the contrary. Though the fast was one of the best things I’ve ever done, it was also one of the hardest and I lived off of both my prayers and the prayers of others during those 2 weeks.

So why am I writing about all of this?

The reason my blog is titled, “The Art of Obedience,” is not because it sounds cute. It’s because, be it music, art, food, fitness, or any other area of my life, I want to be obedient in everything God calls me to do. I want it all to be an act of worship. So, my reason for sharing so openly about this particular area is to give testimony of part of my faith walk where I had been lacking and now intend to be more obedient in. ‘Cause growing up everything I heard about fasting always seemed so secretive that fasting was kind of an enigma. I knew Jesus did it for 40 days[i], and I knew of the Bible verses[ii] which explain how you’re not really supposed to talk about the fact that you’re fasting when you are, so I guess, because of those scriptures, it’s unfortunately become something we just don’t talk much about at all. But after doing this fast, sharing with friends and family members, and reading countless testimony after testimony in Franklin Jentezen’s Fasting, I now realize how others can be encouraged and edified through practicing the discipline of fasting and sharing how God worked in their lives during and after their fast.

So here’s what I learned:

1.    Food clogs up your brain

It’s amazing how simply not eating clears your head and helps you think straight. Though I felt weak and depended heavily on the prayers of family and friends at certain points throughout the fast (particularly the first few days) I can honestly say I never felt better. Yes, in a general sense of the word I felt weak and the hunger never escaped me, but this caused me to be more intentional. Because I didn’t have extra energy to expend, I was ten times more intentional in my interactions with people. I chose my words more carefully, I thought before I spoke, and I only spoke when I felt it necessary. It was the same, obviously, in my prayers. At first I began with my laundry list of requests, but as the fast continued, they looked more like, “God, what do you want to say to me? Who can I pray for today? How can I honor You with this day?” Which leads me to my second observation:

2.    Fasting opens your ears to both the Holy Spirit’s promptings & convictions

When you ask the Holy Spirit to convict you and show you the areas of your life that don’t honor God, He will show you, and then some. :) In Jentezen’s Fasting, he tells a story of a woman who dropped a teapot in a well as a child and, years later, asked some people to dig it out to find the teapot. As they were digging, they found many, many other things that were dropped and lost in the well also. Franklin explains that fasting is like that well; you enter into it with certain prayers and expectations, and the Holy Spirit shows you why He really led you into a time of fasting. For me it was how I can be more intentional in my prayer life for the people I interact with on a daily basis, the fruits of the Spirit like joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self control that I haven’t been modeling Jesus in, and ultimately how my first response in all areas of my life is always, “what can I do to make this happen,” instead of, “How can I pray and wait expectantly for God to make this happen?” My time of fasting revealed many things and I went into it for many reasons. God already began revealing answers to those prayers the day I broke my fast. Others I’m still waiting on. But those fruits I’m missing, that power struggle for control, the wavering faith; those areas He began chiseling away at during my fast and has continued to since.

3.    Fasting feels like being on vacation with God

This is the best way I can describe those two weeks. As someone in ministry, feeling like I’m constantly under attack from the Enemy and residing in a battlefield of spiritual warfare has become the norm. My time of fasting, however, was a wonderful respite from that.  And because I was literally praying from the moment my eyes opened in the morning until I shut them at night, I felt so near to the presence of God. I talked to Him all day long for 14 days. By the time day 13 rolled around I didn’t want it to end. I had more energy on days 13 and 14 than I have on any day where I got 8 hours of sleep, drank coffee, and ate plenty of energizing foods. I slept better than I ever have during those 14 days. I felt the nearness and presence of God in a more tangible way than ever before, and I was honestly sad that it was coming to an end.

I led worship in church during the last two days of the fast. Normally, after a weekend of leading for 5 services, by Sunday afternoon I have nothing left. I usually just completely crash, wanting to do nothing more than indulge in a movie and some of my favorite foods. You know, do and eat the things that bring you comfort. But there is no such thing as comfort food on a fast, Jesus is your only comfort. And honestly, I wasn’t even tired Sunday afternoon and had no desire to watch a movie. I had also fasted from TV during those two weeks as well, simply because it felt like it would just poison that sweet time I was spending with God, so when a friend asked me how I’d celebrate the last few hours, I told her that I was just going to do what I did every day during those 14 days; I walked for a few miles and talked with God. It was the perfect ending to my little two-week vacation from food.

So why should everyone fast?

There are a million answers I could give here, but this is the simplest:

Fasting is the best way I've learned to get closer to God.

That is why the Lord says,
    “Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
    Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
    but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
    He is eager to relent and not punish.

~Joel 2:12-13~

 

[i] Matthew 4:1-11

[ii] Matthew 6:16-18

Food Issues: Part 3

I need to be honest, I’ve been putting off writing this part of my story.  Maybe because it’s the part where I got knocked down by the Enemy and felt like I lost a few rounds. Maybe because it’s humbling. But, for every reason I can think to put off writing, I can think of a million more for sharing. This part of the story could be more appropriately titled, "Health Issues," instead of "Food Issues," because I have learned how closely related the two are...

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Compromise

Has the pendulum swung too far…again

This is a question I have been asking myself lately. The pendulum, however, is my own internal one, that which holds the plumb line of standards in place.

I beg the question because I have noticed in recent years, the adaptation of a doctrine of compromise

When my generation were all young kids, those in the church were most likely indoctrinated with legalism and, as a result, fundamentalism.

What felt like rules for the sake of rules, like no dancing, complete abstention from alcohol, and even the forbiddance of women from wearing jeans, birthed a generation which asked the question “why,” and when they realized that dancing was fun and they were able to partake without stumbling, it begged the question of “what else are we being told we shouldn’t do that maybe we could.”

So now, here we are, it’s 2016. Pastors have tattoos, we carry our coffee into the sanctuary worship center, not only do women wear jeans, we darn well wear whatever we feel like it…and so do men, Bible study small groups serve alcoholic beverages, and Christian culture has grown into one of acceptance and tolerance.

We have progressed. What was once fire and brimstone, finger pointing and name calling now promotes acceptance, love, and understanding of people where they are.

I think many people would argue that the pendulum in our parents’ era, and, especially our parent’s parents’ era had swung way too far to the right and the pull toward the middle was healthy.

And yet, here I am, questioning if I have become far too left of center.

At what point will I know, will we know, if we’ve gone too far?

The Bible teaches we are to be in the world and not of the world[i]. So what does that look like? Does that mean it’s okay to be at the bar but not partake? Or partake, but not too much? Where is the boundary?

What about over indulgence in food?

Here’s my dilemma: if we cause another person to stumble by our actions, then we are at fault, right?

So, though we have the freedom to wear whatever we want, is it okay for a woman to wear a low-cut shirt and sit front row in church, right in plain sight for the pastor to have to be distracted by the whole service?

Though we have the freedom to eat and drink, is it okay for someone to have way too much of either and behave completely out of line with scripture, but justify it with forgiveness and grace, only to repeat the same behavior the following weekend?

The question is, when is enough, enough? When is too far, too far?

This isn’t a question I can answer for you, it is simply a question I have been asking myself.

Jesus is revealing to me what parts of me are becoming a distraction or stumbling block in which I need to do away with for a time until I can become a better steward of these areas.

As the Lord has been working on my heart, He has directed me to scriptures such as, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.[ii]” And, “I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it[iii],” and further still, “If you right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out, and if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away[iv].”

These words are not Old Testament law. These are the words of Jesus.

And when I read those, I’m cut to the core, straight through the marrow. And it makes me question things.

Things like, what kind of movies and music I expose myself to. The kind of humor or language I share with friends. What things I look to for comfort when I should be going to God first. How I spend my time and money. And, for me at least, what am I spending the majority of my time on a daily basis thinking about.

It’s interesting. In my many years of being a Christian, I feel like I’m finally coming to a place where I am so fully aware of my desperate need for grace.

Consequently enough, I then realize how I’ve cheapened it through justification.

It’s so easy to compromise and make excuses because you know you have forgiveness waiting for you on the other side of that poor decision.

Something else I have seen in my own life, as well as the lives of those close to me is the after effects of trials, pain, and heartache. We become calloused and maybe even rebellious, with an attitude of, “Well God, I tried things Your way and look where that got me.” This tells me that maybe our motives for living a righteous life are a little…off. If we truly examine ourselves, are walking the straight and narrow because of what we believe God will reward us with as a result, or are we walking it because of our unwavering love for Christ, knowing that leading the life that He has called us to will honor Him?

After all, my Bible says it “rains on the righteous and the unrighteous[v].”

So maybe the real question we must ask ourselves is not so much, “what have I adapted to that I shouldn’t,” but rather why?

If it is so easy for us to choose the path that is wide, that tells me that we don’t really believe God. Not really.

Rather we believe the lies, “Did God really say that[vi]?”

It is up to us to answer with, “Yes, yes He did.”

So, again, I’m not pointing fingers or saying one thing is bad and one thing isn’t. After all, I don a tattoo on my right foot as a personal reminder of one of my favorite stories in scripture, and I’m sure many Christians would condemn me for that.

The purpose of this is to inspire you to take your own personal inventory.

What do you feel you have compromised on? Where have you become too lax? Where are you taking God’s grace for granted by repeatedly involving yourself in a behavior you know you shouldn’t?

Who knows how or when the pendulum will swing in our society. I truly believe a lot of the change that happened in the Church since I was young has been for the better. Consequently enough, one of those changes is that which prompts one to ask questions and figure out why they believe what they believe. It is that philosophy that has brought me to this place of self-assessment, realizing there are some things I’ve been too lax on and want to change so that I better exemplify Christ.

The question is: what is it for you?

After you ask this question and are honest with yourself, don’t sit in condemnation. Admit to yourself and to God where you need help, ask for forgiveness, then hold fast to His promise that, because Jesus died on the cross for our past, our present, and our future, we can rest in the knowledge that we can Begin Again.

 

 

 

[i] 1 John 2:15, John 15:9, James 4:4, & Romans 12:2

[ii] Matthew 5:48

[iii] Matthew 5:17

[iv] Matthew 5:29-30

[v] Matthew 5:45

[vi] Genesis 3:1

What A Beautiful Bride

God gave me the melody and the words to a song on my latest album called, What A Beautiful Bride, a song that takes notice of the beauty that is the Church and celebrates her instead of condemns her.

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