Onwards and Upwards

Day 2 (Monday)

Brekky was an apple and a banana. All was going fine until I just broke the fast in the late morning and had a coffee with sugar at the new workplace I was checking out. Surprised and disheartened at how quickly I’d bailed on the fast, I fell into a pit of no-self-control when I visited a friend at his place and had lunch with him. My Mum suggested that doing this 30-day fast is just setting me up for failure when I mentioned at home what had happened. I thought she might be right.

A long convo with a friend about all that’s been going on lasted til late tonight. He counselled me against doing this fast too.

Day 3 (Tuesday)

Felt convicted and went ahead with the fast. Breakfast went well, and it was an incredible morning of God’s presence being poured out on me! Joy joy joy! And love! It was amazing. But then I felt so loosened up I thought it was OK not to do this fast, so lunch wasn’t Daniel fast food, and then it slid downhill from there.

Day 4 (Wednesday)

Didn’t obey at all today.

Honestly — so far, this is pathetic. This is seriously messed up! It’s been hours since we ate dinner and I feel physically sick and in pain from being bloated — just like I did after lunch. God, please help me to want to get out beyond this moment! Please help me to continue down the road of repentance, not just pass through the gate but then circle back time and again!

I feel like a shell of a Christian — I look squeaky clean and pure on the outside, but inside I’m an absolute mess.

To be sure, I’ve never exactly found it easy to give up a lot of stuff when Jesus asks me to. It hasn’t been easy recently. But if I want Him with everything I’ve got, hunger after Him and the life He has for me, all those empty spaces will be filled with good things.

This is also worth mentioning. It’s from today’s entry in the amazing daily devotional God Calling:

“Remember now abideth these three, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith is your attitude towards Me. Charity your attitude towards your fellow man, but as necessary, is Hope, which is confidence in yourself to succeed.”

I wanna be hungry! I wanna have that hunger that sets me on fire. I want out of this cycle!Image

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Biting the Bullet

Well, I bit the bullet, crossed the “chicken line” this morning. I made the agreement with God that I will do a Daniel fast for 30 days.

So this is: Day 1.

It wasn’t an easy day — I had no idea how much opposition I would run up against. I barely, barely managed to say no to cake, cookies and coffee after church (by God’s grace only!–Sundays after church are usually a stumbling block for me). With such a hard-and-fast diet in this fast, it’s crystal clear just how strong the pull to eat sweets and indulge is, and just how much I’ve been relying on food and crave it for an emotional high when I feel even the slightest bit down.

I gotta keep coming back to hope, though. If there’s no hope in my head, then I’m out of step with the Spirit of hope Who lives within me.

Mess

Checking back in after a few days without a chance to write.

Here’s my summary of the last three days’ obedience:

Thursday breakfast: Went fine.
Thursday lunch: I also managed to obey, barely.
Thursday tea: Messed up. Went overboard, ate too much.

Friday breakfast: Had a coffee though I knew I was called to fast. Afterwards I knew I’d done the wrong thing.
Friday lunch: …and yet I went against His leading again and ate a meal.
Friday tea: Again, I ate. Once home I decided to trust God, though, and said no to temptation.

Today breakfast: Totally overate, and allowed lust to drive.
Today lunch: Managed to avoid the usual weekly temptation (afternoon tea) at the class I teach at on Saturday afternoons.
Today tea: Went OK… but then I got home and bailed on following my conscience, and overate.

I feel so lonely and awful now.

And it stings a little to say it, but I know I need to forgive myself now. It stings because I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I was abusing grace.

Of course, in all of this, it isn’t merely about not committing the act. Something larger is going on here – the need to walk out repentance, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. I can avoid the act of sin and still not have actually repented. What Jesus wants is a new heart, a renewed relationship with me. “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation” (Galatians 6:15 NLT). I can approach this as “to do or not to do” — as if the only thing that matters is perfect behaviour. Or I can approach this as an opportunity to trust God, and then to ‘vote with my feet’ — put legs to that trust. Outward obedience without inward transformation has God yawning in boredom, I think. But He’s heaps keen for fellowship! I know the problem here isn’t merely unhealthy eating — the real problem is that I love something else more than God, and don’t yield to Him as King, or trust Him in this area.

But there’s a key in there. Have I been “transformed into a new creation”? Yes, I have. So this isn’t merely power of positive thinking type stuff: if I believe the truth and get revelation of the truth, I am connected to a heavenly reality. It’s more than just an attitude shift in me. I believe this — and yet I haven’t seen it manifest in my life in the way I want to. I need to see myself according to what is actually true about me, what heaven says about me.

I’ve been considering making a covenant with God about this, but I don’t know if I should, because I honestly don’t know if I’ll actually follow through with it. It’s hard for me to trust myself, given my track record and the attitude of heart I can so easily slip into.

“It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows” (Proverbs 20:25 NIV).

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 NIV)

I stumbled on Proverbs 28:13-14 today. Here it is in the NIV:

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

There’s a progression here — I think these two sayings are connected. As I understand it, Hebrew parallelism contrasts two things, two opposites, with each other. So these proverbs show us that the opposite of hiding sin is owning up to it before others and turning away from it — and the opposite of hardening your heart is maintaining an attitude of the fear of God.

The early church father Ignatius wrote this: “For either let us fear the wrath to come, or let us love the grace which is present—either this or that; only be it ours to be found in Christ Jesus unto life which is life indeed. Apart from Him, let nothing dazzle you.”

I find that interesting — we can choose the motive of fear of judgment, or else we can choose the free pursuit of God and His grace. Both can potentially take us home, but I’d rather not have to live in God’s Plan B, which is using the reality of judgment to motivate me.

In the process of my wilderness journey, God may take many of the things I want away from me, at least in the moment. But He will never, ever, not even for one minute, take away what I need. He will never cut me off from Himself. He is always with me, every minute, until the end of the age.

*****

I was really stirred watching the Paul Young sermon again, the one that inspired the name of this blog. It was wonderful, and God used it to bring about repentance in me. Time for a new path.

Here’s the passage Paul Young talked about. Genesis 32:24-32 (NASB):

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “ I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “ I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.

First he had to tell his real name: not Esau. (Jacob wanted the blessing that belonged to his older brother. He wanted to be the one accepted – his father didn’t love him like he loved Esau. So he had to put on someone else’s identity to get that blessing, that acceptance.) No – he had to relate to God according to who he really was. “My name is Deceiver.” (The name Jacob means “deceiver”, or “supplanter” — as the name James does.)

“I will not let go until you bless me.” What was the blessing? God had already put his hip out. Perhaps this was the blessing, the highest blessing God had to give to Jacob. A spiritual blessing — dependence on God, which is what Jacob’s limp symbolises. Probably not what Jacob expected to be blessed with, probably not what he was looking for!

And this is where God renames him “Israel”. So this is my story, too, in a way — but there’s more revelation of my new identity in Christ to be found if I’m up for a bit of a wrestling match.

And isn’t it interesting that Jacob won in the wrestling??

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A New Name

Tortured by Possibilities

Monday started well – checking my email on my phone after waking up in the morning, I found an email newsletter with an article from Tania Frankie titled “Dependent”. Here’s a few paragraphs of it:

 

Apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5, NASB

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5, ESV, emphasis added

God who works all things in all persons. 1 Corinthians 12:6, NASB

Now may the God of peace… produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. Hebrews 13:20-21, NLT
 
Beloved, I’m telling you in the above verses that I don’t merely meet you half way; I am your way! I don’t supplement your strength; I am your strength (Ex 15:2, Ps 118:14). I don’t call you to use as much of your ability as you can and then to rely upon Me for the rest; I am your ability (Zec 4:6). Beloved, without Me you can do nothing.
 
Walking in this truth calls for deep humility and a radical surrender and letting go. Paradoxically, you are unable to produce your own humility, to radically surrender or to let go. You must rely upon Me for these things, as you must rely upon Me for all things. Truly, you are utterly dependent upon Me whether you realize it or not. And understanding and embracing your dependence is a glorious blessing that will bring you to a place of deep faith, trust, peace, joy, and increased awe and love for Me. Beloved, this is what I want for you. This is what I want you to grow in for the rest of your life.
 
How many times have you tried so hard to surrender, obey, love, trust, do the right things, avoid the wrong things, find the courage, muster up faith or joy or peace or gentleness or forgiveness or…? You fill in the blank. What are your struggles? Where do you long to be free? What do you want changed in yourself and in your life? What are your hopes, dreams and aspirations? Beloved, in all these things turn to Me because I am your ability in all things and in all circumstances; I am your sufficiency; I am everything you need for life and godliness (2 Pe 1:3).
 
Tania Frankie
Copyright, 2012

 

SO HOW DO I DO THIS?????

I definitely haven’t been living as if the above is true. I guess I need to keep coming back to this article.

On Monday my parents arrived home from two months overseas. In the atmosphere of celebrating them coming home with my bro & sis, I lost the plot with eating. And today, too (as in Tuesday). I went ahead with the Daniel fast* breakfast and lunch today, but bailed at dinner in the city (catching up with an old friend). It’s depressing typing this out again and again. “I did the wrong thing again.” “I did what I knew I shouldn’t do.” “I’m stuck in this cycle.” I know I can choose to do the right thing — but honestly, in the moment I don’t want to. So then — once again, I feel I need to make a covenant on this. Daniel fast for x amount of time? I want to hear, though, and be settled in what I’ve heard — not just step out into a binding agreement like a covenant without knowing for sure it’s where I’m being led. Though I feel it must be God’s leading — the idea has been echoing around in my heart, and nothing else has worked!

Am I trapped in a perfectionism/performance attitude towards myself? If I am — then I’m also definitely trapped in sin. Father, I pray for your help.
* a “Daniel fast” is eating only undesirable foods i.e. vegetables, a la Daniel chapter 1. It simply makes eating somewhat boring a lot of the time and removes freedom of choice in what to eat.

Perfected by the Spirit

Hard day yesterday.

I was going great — happy, joyful — up till I sensed after church that I was being religious with all this. That’s one of the key triggers for me. As soon as I feel like I’m hearing that I’m being legalistic with this whole process, or (often) when someone else suggests I am, I ran back to safety (=eating whatever I want). And generally this means lots of sugary food… Which it definitely did in this case.

I fell into a hole after that which I didn’t manage to climb back out of for the rest of the day.

But after messing up at church, I did finish the fast I felt I was supposed to do. So that’s a small victory.

One of the things God gave me yesterday was Galatians 3:3 — He reminded me I need to spend time worshipping. Having begun in the Spirit, I should never try to switch back to being perfected by the flesh… A harsh view of God can lead to both fear of God’s punishment and resentment towards God. And bitterness is a deadly thing. Lord, I want to know how to step away from bitterness every time it arises! Keep my eyes set on you and my mind clear of those wrong mindsets!

First post!

Finally, the first post! I’m excited to be starting this blog.

I’m gonna share the battles I go through with this eating issue in gory detail, if needs be… and also whatever God’s doing in my life. Me-and-God is really bound up with me-and-food. It’s been this way for a long time.

It’s been an interesting couple of days. I’ve always felt the Spirit has said I should fast Fridays. Yesterday I didn’t, though, thinking I’d do the fast today instead, even though I wasn’t sure if He’d given me the go-ahead on that. It’s a cold winter and we stay out late in the city, and if I don’t eat I get cold. Maybe I’m just being a wuss. But it wasn’t real fun the other week when I did it!… Though at least I actually did the fast! Often I don’t carry it through. Like I said, food is a real issue for me. And unfortunately I’ve taught myself not to persevere, and to give in to doubt easily.

But I didn’t do it today either.

Last night I got hit with so much joy after one of the team shared a word from God for me. She saw Jesus overjoyed at a session I’m gonna be teaching in a few weeks’ time on evangelism. It was such a powerful experience of who He is… And for what seems like a while I’ve been far from seeing God in this light — the joyous, excited Father that He is. I’ve been super-aware of my disobedience towards Him (which has been daily), and I haven’t felt He’s been happy with me at all. Anyway, the whole night last night was wonderful after that. I felt so happy and so full of joy, and everything flowed. I want this every day!!! It wasn’t so hard to obey with eating in that state, either, and dinner was a couple of apples I packed in my backpack.

Today was worse in terms of disobedience. I decided to ignore what my heart was telling me and do what I wanted again, all three meals… And yet God was present to me afterwards each time. The Spirit’s been on me today despite the fact that I’ve ignored what He’s told me to do, and He’s brought me back to clear-mindedness each time. Thankyou, God…

I feel like I need to make a covenant with God about this. Cos the way I’ve been running it thus far hasn’t worked.

A question I have in this: where is the balance between learning to discipline myself and bring my will under my control — and becoming weak so His strength is made perfect in me? I want to love Him and His commands, and lean on Him for the grace to carry them out. But even love for Him comes from Him. And yet! — there’s a need to seek Him for more!! It’s kinda hard to nail this process on paper. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to.

*****

As I’m sitting here writing this my brother and his girlfriend are watching ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’. It reminds me that there’s so much pain in the world, so much that must grieve Jesus. There’s so much more going on than me and my issues… And so many ways God’s planning to give to this world through me, with me.