3 Things I Learnt From Fasting For 72 Hours

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If you are reading this, it means that I’m dead, or am in the process of dying.

I can’t take it anymore..

Need………food…..

But let’s not kid ourselves. I love food WAY too much to part with it.

So I decided, instead, to participate in a cellphone/social media fast for 72 hours facilitated by the New Life Fellowship on the campus of Andrews University.

Here are three things I learnt from this experience:

The beauty of awareness

I found myself being intentionally aware throughout the day. Moments which may have been lost while being distracted by my phone were instead noticed and cherished.

My mom has a favorite mantra for us: “Be in the situation!” I’m glad that it finally got to my head, even if it was only for 72 hours!

I realized how many moments I had previously dismissed or passed over because of my preoccupation with a text or a tweet.

The fast also sensitized me to a special sense of awareness of the Spirit of God. The lack of ‘noise’ allowed me to tune in to the voice of God concerning my ministries, my relationship with others, and my connection with Him.

The fast was a much needed “comma” in the run-on sentence of my life where I could pause for reflection and assessment.

The bliss of prayer

Prayer had become so routine and mechanical for me. I would talk to God in the morning and send him “prexts” (“prayer texts”) throughout the day in my mind when I needed him to come through.
Since the fast, however, I had more time to talk to God just for the sake of talking to Him. Tough times of temptation instinctively would lead me to talk to Him, often out loud.

The fast led me to realize that prayer doesn’t have to be a calling bell for a cosmic butler, but can indeed be a conversation with a caring father.

The bane of dependence

I chose the phone/social media fast precisely because it would hurt. And hurt it.
I felt it more during the final moments of the fast, when I would want to tweet something, update my Facebook status, or text my fiancé.

When I wasn’t able to do any of this, I did feel vulnerable and, or, lost at times. I soon discerned that this was simply one example of many things I was already dependent upon; the fast helped me assess the accouterments which I had acquired and the tenacity with which I was holding on to them.

I would encourage a fast for any serious Christian who wants to take a closer look at themselves, and go farther in their relationship with their Savior.

Here’s a 5-step process that worked for me:

Step 1: Identify things in your life that you simply cannot live without.

Step 2: Prayerfully choose one of them.

Step 3: Delineate a reasonable period of time for your fast from that thing.

Step 4: Do it.

Step 5: Journal what you have learned about yourself, about others, and about God.

Who’s going to do it? If you want to challenge yourself, leave a comment below with what you are choosing to fast from!

This post was originally posted in the author’s blog www.crossculturechristian.com

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Why You Should Be Angry

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Anger isn’t the “negative” emotion we often make it out to be.

[/blockquote]After I indifferently described an upsetting family situation to a friend, she replied, “You have yet to be angry in a way that the bible blesses.” It’s not that I wasn’t ranting or raving enough; it’s that my apathy, itself, was sinful and impeded the healing work God wanted to do. Somehow, we’ve downgraded the Ephesians 4:26 command to “Be angry, and sin not,” and taken it as mere permission to be angry, with an expectation to get over it quickly. When we study that verse, however, we see both the command to be angry and the context for why we should be angry.

One of the first things we try to do with our emotions is change them. We try to immediately conceal, curb, or change emotions like anger, which we think of as negative or bad. But God gave us the capacity to experience a wide range of emotions, and not only that, He’s commanded us to experience them. But wait. If God is commanding us to experience anger, then we’re in direct opposition of His commands when we “stuff our feelings,” dismiss our anger, or avoid these feelings altogether. When we run from our feelings, we rebel against God.

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Instead of changing your emotions, allow your emotions to change you.

[/blockquote]Anger isn’t the “negative” emotion we often make it out to be. Anger is often a secondary emotion, which masks other painful feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, or rejection, but that doesn’t make anger any less powerful. C.S. Lewis contended that God uses pain as a megaphone to rouse a deaf world because pain [and anger] insists upon being heard. Anger still serves the purpose of propelling us into action.

I’ll borrow from Pastor Choco, who said, “Prayer is good, but it has to move us to do something.” Anger is good, but it has to move us to do something. The context of the command to “be angry and sin not” is one that demands a just response to evil and wrongdoing. We’re commanded to experience our anger so it can do what it should – empower us to confront sin and right wrongs. This isn’t a call to anger that is explosive or destructive, but rather anger that is restorative and seeks to build up. Heart Check: How do you know your anger is Godly? If it angers God, it ought to anger us.

You can’t profess to be a Christian and be unapologetically apathetic about the triumph of evil. God isn’t indifferent about injustice and wrongdoing. He’s angry, and He couples His anger with action. The cross, dripping with mercy, was as much an outpouring of God’s grace as it was His wrath, as much a symbol of His rage as His restoration. Righteous indignation seeks not just to destroy evil, but to restore to good. Heart Check: Are you more excited about exposing sins or about covering sinners? Love covers a multitude of sins.

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Anger is good, but it has to move us to do something.

[/blockquote]Your anger over senseless murders, racism, addiction, sexism, and the unending list of social ills should stir a desire to rage until you see restoration. If your anger never pushes you to action, you’ve missed out on precious opportunities to both be blessed and be a blessing, opportunities to be angry in a way the bible blesses. So the next time you’re angry, I challenge you to sit with it, to see what actions it stirs within you, and if they’re aligned with the will of God. Instead of changing your emotions, allow your emotions to change you, allow them to change your world.

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The resources below can help you with expressing your anger in healthy ways, whether with a trained therapist or like-minded, supportive friends.

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Love Is the Heartbeat of Revival and Reformation

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A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work.” (Ellen White, Review and Herald,March 22, 1887).

This particular quotation is often and appropriately heard these days amid a renewed quest for revival and reformation within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “True godliness” is our goal.

But what exactly is that? Everybody has his or her own opinion or conviction. What does Scripture say?

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Do you catch the Biblical priority order there for anyone interested in experiencing a revival of true godliness? Task number one is to care for hurting people in trouble with selfless service for the Savior, both within our churches and in our communities. And while meeting the needs of a lost world, we must also avoid getting contaminated with its evil—loving the sinner while hating the sin, as is often said.

The primary purpose of true religion is relief of human suffering.

Too often those seeking revival become so obsessed in keeping themselves and their churches separate from the world that they overlook the primary purpose of true religion—relief of human suffering, not by condescending hand-outs but by coming close to people. By visiting them in their trouble we draw them into our fellowship. Keeping this in mind would transform self-centered, self-righteous, isolationist churches into living, loving communities of the Spirit that experience true reformation.

Such a revival would also generate evangelism within our churches, winning friends, neighbors and relatives who previously had been unimpressed by our doctrines.

Jesus said, “By this shall all humanity know that you are my disciples, because of the love you have for one another” (John 13:35).

So then love and compassion are core components to revival and reformation as well as evangelism for God’s Spirit-filled remnant.

Note: This article has been republished with permission from outlookmag.org.

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mw_feb2011Martin Weber, DMin, served as pastor, editor, author, evangelist and police chaplain across North America and taught pastors on five continents with the General Conference Ministerial Association. He is currently the Seventh-day Adventist product manager for Faithlife/Logos Research Systems in Bellingham, Washington. Visit his website in defense of fundamental Adventist beliefs: www.SDA4me.com.

Long Distance Relationships and Jesus

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For the last three years, my fiancé and I have had the opportunity to enjoy the ups and downs of a long distance relationship. Since the moment we agreed to be exclusive with each other in this romantic, emotion-filled relationship, we knew long distance was waiting for us in the future because of our career choices. We had to make a decision at a very premature stage of our relationship. To pursue this adventure or not. We decided to commit to each other and to move on. A few months after, we found ourselves a few thousand miles away from each other with the ocean in between us. Being away from the person you are in a relationship with raises a whole new set of challenges that we just weren’t ready for. Going through this experience, we learned things that helped us stay afloat during this time, but they also taught me a lot about how Jesus relates to us.

Every Christian is in a long distance relationship with Jesus.

In one way or another, every Christian is in a long distance relationship with Jesus. Sometimes we struggle to keep the fire burning and compromise our relationship with Him to follow something or someone else who promises love and comfort for us today. But deep within our hearts, we know that those affairs are only a fantasy and that only God’s love can quench our thirst to be loved. How can we keep our relationship with Jesus alive? There are three important tips I learned from my long distance relationship that can make a difference in your relationship with Jesus. They sure did in mine! Here they are:

1. Start the day with her, end the day with her.
It did not take long for us to realize that in order to keep things going we needed to start the day together and finish it together. When everything else fails, we have something to look forward to. Every morning, we talk about our plans for the day, and every night, we talked about how much we accomplished. This allows Betsy (my fiancé) to give me her input on things before they actually happen and to hold me accountable at the end of the day. We practice this both ways, and it has really made a difference in our relationship.

Imagine what practicing this can do for you relationship with Jesus—making Him the first one with whom you share your plans every day. If you are someone who does it on a regular basis, then you know the value of practicing this. If you don’t, then think for a second how different your day could have been if you would have made Jesus part of it this morning. One of my favorite Bible verses says: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). God has great plans for your life. I don’t know the plans you have for you, but I know this: God’s plans are better. Tap into His plan and purpose for your life every morning and every night! Let Jesus be who wakes you up and lays you down.

2. Make her part of your world
Living in two completely different worlds is very difficult. Different people, different setting, different culture! You name it! Before we realized it, our “worlds” had pulled us apart from each other. We became so consumed by everything around us that we got absorbed by it and separated from one another. It wasn’t long before the only conversations we had were those in the morning and those before going to bed. Even then, those conversations were short and dry. We were falling apart. Until one day we decided to make “us” part of our world. That meant small calls here and there, in between classes, and during lunch breaks. Even though I looked silly to some of my friends because of how many little phone calls I made a day, it saved our relationship.

Jesus doesn’t want to give you a blueprint of how your life needs to be every morning; He wants to be a part of it every day. He wants to come into your world and be close and intimate with you. Regardless of where we are or how far we feel, He pursues us desperately. The question is: Are we getting so absorbed by this world that we forget about our Savior? The Bible says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20, ESV). Think about the fact that the Almighty God, the One who created everything we know and see with the breath of His mouth, clears His schedule for you every day, regardless of whether you meet with Him or not. Let Him in! Remember that Jesus Christ gave His life so that you and I can live. Make Him your world.

3. Never lose sight of her love
Like every other couple in the world, Betsy and I sometimes fight. This is especially difficult over the phone. If your significant other is getting mad over something insignificant, the problem can sometimes be fixed with a hug or a little kiss on the forehead. Well, guess what? You can’t hug people over the phone. So every argument had the potential of becoming a big issue. Sometimes, out of frustration mostly, I run the risk of fostering thoughts in my mind that undermine her love towards me. So I often need to remind myself how much she loves me and how she shows me in many other different ways her love for me every day. This is the solution for every bump we have along the road.

Regardless of what your situation is today, remember one thing: Jesus loves you. Yes, life can get rough sometimes! Yes, things can often be more complicated than we wish they were! But that does not change how much He loves you one bit! I often hear people saying stuff like: “I am mad at God because of _______!” Really? Can you imagine if God actually got mad at you every time you walk away from the cross, where He laid His life for you? Instead, He chooses to love you despite of your shortcomings! When things get rough, don’t lose sight of His love for you! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).

This blog was originally posted on 2worlds1god.blogspot.com

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1462571_10202948363975082_112045582_oAuthor: Manuel Gomez is a theology student at Southern Adventist University and a proud red-headed Cuban who enjoys Starbucks. His passion is to help others experience a real encounter with a real Jesus who loves and walks intimately with each of us. He also runs his own blog at 2worlds1god.blogspot.com

How to Abuse Your Relationship With God

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I have to admit.

Sometimes I think God is in an abusive relationship with me.

I get it. “Abuse” is a word loaded with paper trails, court appeals, and restraining orders. It does have baggage. But when taken at face value, to abuse simply means to misuse, or use improperly.

In that vein of thought, here are three ways in which you and I can ab-use our relationship with God.

Hopefully you don’t resonate.

1) Talk to him only when you need something.

Dr.Allan Walshe, my professor from my youth and young adult class, laid this gem on us:

“Requests are a part of prayer, but they are not the heart of prayer.”

He further explained that the heart of prayer is a relationship – a sincere, singular commitment to a personal God who knows you and longs to be known.

This was paradigm-shifting because prayer, for the most part, had been nothing but a calling bell for my Cosmic Butler. It’s usually my 911 line for a bruise all the way to a breakup. Yes, I do season my communication with the occasional pre-meal grace. Yes, I do thank him for that miraculous A.  But prayer is still optional communication.
I need it when I need God.

Yes. God does want us to come to Him with our requests and desires. As a matter of fact, he’d rather have us come to Him than anywhere else. But we diminish the function of prayer when we relegate it to a mere transaction. Check out what Aunty White had to say about prayer:

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.” (EW, SC, 93).

God doesn’t want to be used. He longs to be loved. I’ll do well in trying to remind myself of that daily. Today, did I talk to him when there was nothing for me to ask him? Did I take some time today to tell him how great He is just because? Did I talk to him as I do to a close friend?

I wonder how our marriages and relationships would fair if we only talked to our partners only when we need something from them.

2) Enjoy the privileges of the commitment while ignoring the responsibilities of it.

When I join a company, I am made privy to two things: My membership privileges and the company contract. I can enjoy these privileges as long as I’m a member of the company, but the moment my choices conflict with the company contract, I may potentially lose my privileges as well as my membership.

Enjoying the privileges of my company while ignoring its responsibilities is a sure way to get fired. Yet when it comes to my company and commitment to God, the same rules remarkably do not seem to apply.

The privileges of Christianity are many. We are called to enjoy gifts like grace, peace, community, purpose, strength, joy and eternal life among others. But while we do that, we are concurrently called to uphold the responsibilities of Christianity such as discipleship, love, sacrifice, service, and join in with the missio dei of seeking and saving the lost.

Unfortunately many of us want to enjoy the crown without bearing the cross. We let Jesus do all the dirty work while we get to enjoy his spoils. The German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referring to this as “cheap grace”, galvanized his sentiments with the following definition found in his epoch-making book, the cost of discipleship:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” 

Have mercy.

Have I enjoyed the privileges of salvation while ignoring the responsibility to my Savior? How have I done that done that today?

Salvation is free but not cheap. The price tag is still high. What then should be our response to the One who paid it all?

3) Ask him to modify your behavior without transforming your life.

The overarching meta-narrative of scripture begins with man created in the image of God and ends with the complete restoration of that image in man where the old order of things has been replaced and transformed into a new one.

The apostle Paul mentions this new order in his letter to the Corinthians:

“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away, behold, new things have come.”

In order to effectuate this, he exhorts the church in Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Scripture is replete with references which convey the necessity of a total soul transformation. God seems to be asking more of his people because he wants to do more. And yet I still find myself asking him to change certain parts of my life not realizing that God is more interested in transforming all of it.

But is it wrong to ask God to give me more patience? Is it wrong to consult him for my weaknesses? I think not.  However, I think I’m missing the point when behavior modification takes precedence over a desire for life transformation.

The ultimate end of a relationship with God is God Himself. He wants us to see him face to face and to enjoy Him in an unadulterated atmosphere of holiness. This requires us to be changed and transformed into His likeness in order for us to withstand His glory in eternity.

Then what about our behaviors? When God transforms the life, behaviors are more than modified – they are repurposed.

These are three of the many ways I think I have abused my relationship with God. What about you? Have you found yourself in a similar or different situation? If you care to share, leave a comment below!

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Commands or Promises?

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All His biddings are enablings.

The words of Jesus are unique, they are unlike the words of any other man. I may tell you, “Swim to shore,” but I can’t give your tired legs the energy to kick; I can’t keep your head above water. I can only describe, exhort, urge, command. I can try to convince, try to encourage, try to clarify, but I can’t keep you from drowning and I can’t empower you to swim.

But Jesus’ word empowers.

So he tells the crippled man, “Take up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8) But the man was paralyzed . . . so he couldn’t walk . . . which is why he was hanging out at the pool of Bethesda hoping for a miracle . . . But the words of Jesus were not empty exhortations or commands: in His bidding was the power to accomplish it. The paralytic man grasped that power by faith and he willed to stand. And just as surely as he willed, the power came, giving strength to his weak ankles and legs.

All His biddings are enablings.

So when Christ says to you, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7:1), He is not only instructing you but offering you power to live out this wisdom and truth, He is making available to you the power to see people without judgmentalism. And when He says, “Repent! (Turn around!)” there is more than command in those words—Jesus Himself is the Way to turn around and He gives you what you need in order to go a new way.

All the words of Christ, all the words of God, that we hear as commands we are prone to interpret as stern fiats, or perhaps as divine measuring sticks that tell us how high to jump. And truly God’s commandments are standards, and they are higher than we could ever conceive. Make no mistake about it: they are serious and they cannot be ignored or trifled with. But God’s commands are also promises. To the one who receives them in faith, the power to perform them will be granted. To she who gives up her own false power and casts herself on the power of the omnipotent Jesus, power will be granted.

All His biddings are enablings.” Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p331.

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