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Showing posts with label Fasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fasting. Show all posts

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Not so Fast: A fine line between Spiritual Renewal and Condemnation.

Well for anyone who actually reads my blog regularly (I guess that would mean anyone having read it more than once lol! ); I apologize for the 2 week hiatus.   My last entry was a memorial to my friend, Jim McEathron and it took a lot out of me emotionally.  

On the heels of my last entry there was another significant loss to the body of Christ.  On January 3rd, Pastor Vaughan Jarrold died unexpectedly.   I only had the pleasure to hear Vaugh preach and teach on a few occasions but was deeply impressed with this mighty man of faith.  I was so impressed with Pastor Vaughn that when he invited people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit a couple of years ago at Rock Solid Church, I eagerly stepped forward to receive it.  I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect but when Vaughn spoke over me I was filled with the Spirit and did speak in tongues.  It freaked me out at the time and I know people don’t understand it but I credit the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues for giving me direct experiences with the Holy Spirit and for being the catalyst for my spiritual growth and my ongoing victory over alcoholism.   Although I only had limited exposure to Vaughn, I am forever indebted to him for the impartation of the Holy Spirit’s baptism and the gifts and victory that have followed it.   I didn’t know Vaughn’s wife and family but my thoughts and prayers were directed towards them in the wake of his passing.

After New Year’s Day, Rock Solid Church observes a period of fasting and prayer to encourage spiritual renewal for the upcoming year.   The fasting and prayer are completely voluntary and you set your own guidelines.  After the stress of my job changes, the holiday season, and possible symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (where is the sun!), I was really looking forward to placing my focus on the Lord and doing a Bible study I had been intending to do.   

The fasting period was from January 4th to the 6th and with my busy schedule of morning exercise, prayer, commute, and work I discovered it was relatively easy to not eat during the day.    At night I stayed out of the kitchen and retired to my basement retreat to get into the Bible Study.   My general attitude and demeanor during this time was that of an Augustinian monk, complete with pullover hoody to keep me warm in the chill of the basement.  I think next year I will read by candlelight and do some Gregorian chants to up the ante. 

The Bible study was about Spiritual Warfare focusing on Ephesians 6:10-20 where the Apostle Paul encourages us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  It is a powerful study about Christians preparing themselves with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, prayer, the word of God, and the assurance of their own salvation to with stand temptations and overcome the challenges the face as Christians.   
 I wish I could say I made great progress with my study but the truth is that I didn’t get too far.  Distractions popped up and I was so tired that I only managed to study for a little over an hour the first two nights of the fast.  However, although my study was incomplete, the insights I had were eye opening.  

According to the study, “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age…” but having fasted I felt the struggle was “against flesh and blood”, mainly my own! I had cravings to eat but then I realized that the cravings were not particularly physical in nature.  I stayed hydrated and my body wasn’t screaming for food.  All the demands for food seemed to be coming from my mind, out of habit, or just a compulsion to act or fill a moment with activity.  After the first day I realized I could live without eating constantly and I didn’t have to be a slave to answering mental cravings and compulsions.  

Going into day two of the fast I felt such relief and reflected that this could be what Jesus was referring to when he said in Matt 11:28 “I will give you rest.”  When we put aside the demands of the world and our own flesh and press into our faith, we can experience a clarity and peace that is only possible when we are directing ourselves to follow the Lord.  I was deeply impressed by how trivial my normal concerns and interests were when put in comparison with the things of the Lord.  I felt that there was nothing nobler than to seek and follow the will of the Lord for my life.  
           
With this perspective I examined my thought life, internal dialogue, personal narrative, or whatever you want to call it and I was deeply convicted of how mundanely selfish and sinful I am.  My introspection revealed what I considered to be a somewhat base reptilian instinct to serve myself and my selfish desires with little or no thought to consequences for myself or others.  Worse yet my reflections on my thought life revealed a historical tendency to indulgences in irrational and potentially damaging fantasy.  Mostly theses fantasies would stem from mental musings of “What would you do if”, “If you could do anything…”, and “If I wasn’t …” I realize these are probably normal mental diversions but I realized that they were a waste of time that encouraged irrational thought and discontentment.  So I would end up hoping for things that can’t happen or if pursued had the potential to destroy life I have come to know.  The major problem with this form of mental diversion is that the truth of who I am and what I have is lost.  I have realized that a lot of the crazy things I have done in my life have been the result of long periods of mental musings where desires over ruled common sense.  The great thing about realizing all this was that I now had the insight to break these trains of thought as they arise by focusing of who I am in Christ.  At the end of day two, I felt like I was really making progress. 

So on day three of the fast, the last day, I figured I had it made in the shade.  I had my busy day of work ahead of me to be followed by Wednesday night worship at the church and then straight to bed. Bam! Next morning = big breakfast of a spiritual champion!  So I was feeling great. I had a major insight into my thought processes and I saw myself overcoming all distractions to serve the Lord but then I told one of the guys at work that I was fasting and immediately I thought of Jesus’ comments regarding the Pharisees and fasting in Matthew 6:16-18, which basically says to keep your fasting to yourself; don’t make a public display of it.   By telling my co-worker I was fasting, I felt like I had been overcome with pride and whatever spiritual progress I had made was lost!  The condemnation came fast and quick after that.  After going home, I figured I blew so I ate.  After I ate I felt that I was a hypocrite and I couldn’t go to church which would be a prayer fest of faithful fasters!  I was a total failure!

The fast has been over for 10 days and I am happy to report that I got over my “failure” and I had a revelation that Jesus isn’t looking for perfection.  The gift of salvation is through faith in Jesus and what He did, not me.  It was a free gift and I can’t pay it back with my “good” behavior.  

I realize now that the spirit of condemnation that overcame me was not a spirit from God.  It is the works of Satan that tempts and that would have Christians condemn themselves.  I was focused on pressing into my faith in Christ.  Who would want to stop that? Ironically, I was doing a study on Spiritual Warfare only to end up a causality of it.  However, I am thankful for the insights I had during the fast and will try to use this experience to take up the whole armor of God in my defense in the future. 

I hope all who read this are well and I would encourage you to embrace your faith in Christ by getting into the word of God and attending a Bible believing Spirit filled church. I invite anyone in the Columbia County area to attend services at Rock Solid Church in Hudson NY, at 8:30 and 11 am Sundays, and 7 pm Wednesdays.      

I would also recommend listening to the Bible for free through the https://dailyaudiobible.com/ website or download the Daily Audio Bible App for your smart phone or tablet.  I started using it on the first of the year and it is a great way to get the Word in your life. 

Until next time…. God Bless You!