Choosing intimacy

December seems to be the month of relaxation. Christmas time can be hard for many, due to absent loved ones, but overall the season is one where people relax. Work slows down. School is out. Beaches (in the Southern Hemisphere) are full. This year we noticed that it was also a season where many people seem to take a spiritual holiday. I found this an interesting observation, given it is meant to be when we remember Emmanuel, God come down to be with us.

This year, I realised that I was amongst the spiritual vacation-ists. I certainly spent plenty of time reflecting on what Christ did for us, and had fun starting to teach my toddler about Christ’s birth, the Word made flesh. Yet, as church activities wound down for the year and many of our congregation went away to their family homes, I noticed that my form of relaxation also took me away from intimacy with my Father. I reflected on the story, but didn’t engage with our God, the centre of the story! It was easier to enter my usual form of escapism – reading fiction. (Perhaps, for you, it is social events, computer games, beach time, cooking, . . .).

Book worm disengaging

Now, don’t get me wrong, reading wholesome novels in itself is not bad. The fault lay in that I became completely absorbed in them, taking all my free time (not much with a toddler!); there was no time left for conversing with my Father. I put myself before God. I didn’t trust Him to fill up my cup, which was feeling mighty empty at year’s end.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11).

The Spirit started prompting me. He started gently reminding me of my need for time with Him. My soul cried out for more time in His presence.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

It is easy to ignore the Spirit’s nudge and choose not to return to a place of intimacy with God. It takes effort to engage in any relationship; effort I didn’t feel I had the strength for. I hope that if you are feeling similar promptings that you will prick up your ears at this point. Thankfully this time I am choosing to heed the gentle nudge. If you’re in a similar place, thinking it easier to put it aside for “tomorrow”: don’t. We need God daily. We need to interact with Him daily. He is our daily bread. He is our sustenance.

Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11).

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:35-36).

Choosing to submerge yourself again into a deep relationship with God can seem tiring. It is tempting to continue to pursue your escapes – whether wholesome or worldly – but they will not satisfy. God is the One who satisfies the longings of our souls.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:5).

More satisfying than rich food

So, as this new year starts, choose to renew your relationship with God. Choose to make time to sit and dwell in the presence of the Almighty. Seek Him. Meditate on His Word. Sing songs of praise. Intercede for family. Listen to His wisdom for your work, family, finances, free time. Enagage in Bible study. Listen to Bible teachings. Allow Him to mould your character into that of Christ.

when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  (Psalm 63:6-8).

Yes, it will take discipline of mind and body, but this is part of being a child of God. Self-control appears repeatedly in the epistles as a fruit of the Spirit, and a part of a godly life (1 Cor 9:25, Gal 5:23, 1 Tim 2:9, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 3:3, 2 Pet 1:6). Proverbs sums up the alternative, what we’re like if we choose to live an undisciplined life:

Like a city with breached walls is a man without self-control. (Proverbs 25:28; ISV*)

It takes discipline to cut off the areas in our life that hold us back from intimacy with God. Do you have such self-control? Do you think God worth pursuing? Cut off what holds you back and enter into the presence of the King of kings. Make a commitment to escape into daily times of intimacy with God and enjoy the rewards. 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:2-5).

 

*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version® Release 2.0. Copyright © 1996-2010 by the ISV Foundation. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY.

Advertisements

Discipline, what a beautiful word

​​Developing discipline, developing character

I’m not good at routine. Those of you who are familiar with Meyers Briggs will understand why when I say that I’m an NP – big picture, last minute, don’t like to feel trapped by plans, pioneer. This is part of my God-given DNA, but sadly I’ve also used it as an excuse to neglect some of what are known as “the spiritual disciplines”.

I didn’t like fasting; one of the “spiritual disciples”. You got to read how God addressed that in my last post – and how I’m coming to love it because of the fruit it produces.  But this is the whole point of the “spiritual disciplines” – to produce fruit of righteousness within us, developing our character and pushing us towards God. They help us to disciple our mind and body to focus on the things of God, rather than the things of this earth.

Scripture has a lot to say on discipline. We are to discipline/ train ourselves, and God also disciplines us as a loving Father. Some of the disciplines give life to us and refresh our souls from the start, others feel painful as we enter into them, but they all bear fruit of righteousness.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Hebrews 12:8)

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19)

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. (Proverbs 3:11-14)

I want to train myself for righteousness with even more dedication than a professional athlete training for their next event.

I recently enjoyed reading this article on What are the Spiritual Disciplines. It focuses on what can and cannot be a Biblical spiritual discipline, rather than prescribing a list. I also love that it reminds us that we are not under the Law; we live out these spiritual disciplines from a place of sonship, as children who want to spend time with our loving Father.

The Bible also teaches us that we are to train up each other, and those of us with children are to train them up, too. But how are we to train up others, if we first don’t train ourselves? We need to get experience in order to become teachers!

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8).

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, (Titus 2:3-4).

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6).

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

What training would the Lord have you grow your muscles in? What disciplines do you need to get back into? Are you trying to discipline your children, without disciplining yourself in the ways of God? Do you need accountability – such as a Bible study group to study the Word, or a walking partner with whom to pray and intercede? Ask God how you can draw closer to Him through discipline.

The fruit is worth the effort; train those muscles in the things of godliness!

Fasting

Developing discipline, developing character

God sure stretched me last season, but what sweet fruit it produced and is continuing to produce! God disciplines us in many ways because He loves us; read Hebrews 12:5-11 if you don’t believe me! God’s discipline develops our character, producing godliness and righteousness.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Producing sweet fruit

I’ve never been a fan of the spiritual discipline of fasting, but it was one of the avenues God used to shape and direct me this past year. I’m finding the more I faithful heed His call to fast (and do the fast HE chooses), the more I enjoy them and, indeed, look forward to them.

At the moment my fasting isn’t the one we all think of – abstaining from all food – I think because I’m still breastfeeding a little one. God calls us to fast from all sorts of things. Some of the things He has asked me to fast from include: my phone for a month (which I use for business, too!), milk in tea/coffee, caffeine, sugar, eat only soups, eat only vegetable and grains, fast lunch etc. Glenn often gets called to fast from YouTube, or Facebook. Others I know often get asked to fast from T.V. or social media.

The purpose of fasting can very greatly. You might fast to from a hunger to draw close to God. You might fast as an act of repentance and to find healing for your soul. God might ask you to fast so that you can devote more time to interceding for others, or He might ask you to read through certain Scripture and dwell on His Word. We can’t put God in a box! This is why we must walk in step with His Word and His Spirit.

Time in the Word

I’ve also found that there is no one way that God directs or works in my fast. Sometimes the breakthrough happens only at the end. Sometimes breakthrough comes when the fast is still only an intention for the coming week. This last time God gave me prophetic dreams, daily images, and words. Sometimes He calls me to intercede for others, and sometimes for my circumstances.

If you are hungry for God and truly want to live your life solely for Him, then I suggest asking Him what He might want you to fast from and when to do so. Maybe He wants you to intercede for your spouse or children. Perhaps He wants you to put Him first in your life again. Maybe He will speak to you about your next step, or maybe you will be asked to give up something in your life for Him.

Caffeine free zone . . . for a time!

And when the start of the fast is hard, remember the fruit that it is producing in you!

Below I’ve listed some fasting Scriptures, but Isaiah 58 is the one I come back to over and over again when I think of fasting. It shows that our heart motive is what God looks to more than anything else, and it also calls our attention, once again, to caring for the poor and lowly.

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? (Isaiah 58:3-5)

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,  if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:8-11)

Here are some Scriptures (not a complete list) that involve fasting:

  • 2 Samuel 12:23 – David fasted as he interceded for his son, but acknowledged God’s sovereignty in the situation.
  • 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 – Fasting as a nation to seek God’s help and intervention.
  • Ezra 8:21 – Humbling the people before God and seeking His protection for their journey.
  • Esther 4:16 – Seeking God’s favour on behalf of Esther as she went before an unbelieving king on behalf of her nation.
  • Joel 2:12-14 – Calling the people to repent and seek God’s mercy.
  • Matt 6:16-19 – Fasting is done for the Lord, not for man, accolades, or praise. We are to fast with all humility, seeking only God’s attention.
  • Matt 9:14-15 – There were times when Christ called His disciples not to fast, but celebrate His presence with them.
  • Luke 18:12 – Fasting is worthless before God if our heart is not right.
  • Acts 13:3 – The church in Antioch were fasting and worshipping God as a congregation. From the fast, they felt they were to set apart Barnabas and Paul for a specific work, and sent them off.