A Call to Fast

Call for a“fast”in a church service and you will find most of us thinking to ourselves how “fast” we can get out of it by fasting everything but food. Some of us would choose television, others would fast a hobby, while many will fast social media. One has to ask, “Why do we want to give up everything BUT food?” I believe it is due to the pain that is felt as one begins to miss a meal, the pain of self-denial. You can always find other distractions to take place of the usual fasted items listed above, but you will be hard pressed to find something to distract you from the pain felt when fasting food. 

On Sunday(5/3), our Pastor issued a call for a fast of food and to pray for seven days starting 5/4. I encourage every single one of you to join together in one accord to pursue God through prayer and fasting. If you haven’t started already, please consider starting now. Join us for prayer on Wednesday, starting at 6pm. Watch God move in your lives as you lay down your wants and desires in your pursuit for more of Him. Remember, fasting is a denial of your flesh. My father use to say this concerning his many 40 day fasts, “All of me, none of God. Less of me more of God. None of me, all of God.” 

-Brandon Johnson

It Is Well

It’s Sunday morning and I’m one of just a handful of people sitting in church. It’s weird. I don’t like it. I miss people. I miss Rachel claiming her carpet square for worship. I miss Syreeta herding kids upstairs. I miss the kids from youth talking in the back corner after service. I miss watching Vanessa dance at the altar and I miss trying to beat Tequila out of the building, so we don’t have to lock up. I miss normal.

I sit, missing normal, listening to Pastor Eb describe in great detail the disturbing times we live in. My mind is racing. My thoughts are on my babies. Our youngest, Melina was born with defects and requires a bit more care. We can’t just pick her up and go. I need to pack a bag. I need formula and water for a least a few days. I need her emergency g-tube replacement. I need her medications and her reflux meds need to be refrigerated so I need an ice pack. Is it sensible to take up room in the truck with the double stroller? Should I just bring the baby carrier? To where are we even running? She throws up a lot so she needs a lot of outfits and burp rags and blankets and bibs and on and on and on.  I’m freaking out. I don’t like uncertainty. I like when things work. I don’t want to know how or why; I just want them to work.

Then, not in a still small voice, but in the voice of a parent, I hear, “Calm down. You know I’m not surprised by this.” Well…duh.

My life is framed by faith. The babies I describe are only here by faith. Yet at the slightest inconvenience, I completely forget where I come from. I wilt like a sad dandelion. How many internal melt downs is it going to take for me to get it? Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know…”, but that’s the problem. I do know. I’ve always known, yet here I am. I’m questioning The One who has never left me, who always pays my bills, who always fills my gas tank. He’s given me a nice, cushy life. I was raised in church and Christian school, so growing up I was surrounded by inspiration and examples of faith. It certainly helped. So why am I letting my ancestors down? Mind you, this is all happening in about ten seconds.

That “calm down” was all I needed. He’s got this. I know a lot of people welcome the end times, but honestly, I don’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to eternity, but it’s the uncertainty. It makes me nervous. If you see me as weak, that’s ok, I’m just human. If you are enjoying this, I’m a little jealous. Again, I just want normal.

The great Jenn Johnson sings, “It Is Well”, which has become my anthem. This is the song The Lord drops in my spirit every time there is a challenge and every time I feel uneasy. And it is well. He knew this was coming and He knew I would freak out. He knew exactly what Melina would need. He knew and He was not surprised.

“So let go, my soul, and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know his name.”

Guest Post Written by Bianca Johnson 

RESPONSE

The word “response” and its variants are words we are very familiar with. When 9/11 happened, we talked frequently about the “first responders” and how they were heroes and how many died tried to save others. Today we talk of the various world leaders and how they and their governments are “responding” to the Coronavirus. In the spiritual world, many spiritual leaders are talking about how we are or should be responding to this crisis. A response is a reaction, an action taken as a result of some other event.

Coronavirus is an event that has occurred to the whole world. I cannot recall another event in my lifetime that had such a large world response, since World War II occurred prior to my birth. Certainly, God was not surprised by this event and He was not pondering what His response would be.  Daniel 2:21 says (NKJV), “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” The times and seasons and governments of this world are not unknown to Him and are still under His jurisdiction whether they recognize His jurisdiction or not. Whether you believe that Coronavirus started in a laboratory or a wet market does not really matter, since God knows where and how it started. Like the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands”.

Many people struggle with the concept of God in a world that has so much trouble and evil. Of course, their understanding is clouded because they lack God’s knowledge: that trouble and evil started with our sin and continues because of our sin and is exacerbated due to the enemy’s involvement. So we can rightfully conclude that Coronavirus is in some way connected to our sin and likely connected in some way with the evil one. We must understand also that some of the effects of sin are effects on the natural world around us. Romans 8:20-22 (TPT) says, 20 For against its will the universe itself has had to endure the empty futility resulting from the consequences of human sin. But now, with eager expectation, 21 all creation longs for freedom from its slavery to decay and to experience with us the wonderful freedom coming to God’s children. 22 To this day we are aware of the universal agony and groaning of creation, as if it were in the contractions of labor for childbirth.” We can rightfully blame ourselves for the trouble and “groaning” of creation, which means that we must soberly consider that even the current crisis is on our own shoulders, even if there is some element of the enemy’s involvement.

God knew of this crisis before it occurred, and God has allowed this consequence of sin to occur. Many consequences of sin are all around us every day (murder, decay, death, sickness, etc.). But this virus is particularly “in our face” because of the direct consequences to our lives and our livelihood, and the lives of our friends and loved ones. We, as Paul described in Romans 8, are looking for a day in which we are not enslaved to decay and death, a day in which creation is no longer “groaning” and affecting our lives.

What we must recognize is that there is “someone” who is “in our face” right now, someone who is more important than Coronavirus. God is “in the midst” of every situation that occurs on earth, and He is especially “in the midst” of every believer’s life. This is what I hear the Spirit of the Lord saying, that He is listening, and He is watching for our “response” to this crisis. There are many ways we can respond and many different arenas that He is watching for a response from.

If you have ever faced a crisis in your life before, then you know there are two ways to respond from a spiritual standpoint: you can turn to God with your whole heart, or you can run to other places of so-called comfort. You come to a fork in the road, and you can choose “better” or “bitter”. When faced with the crisis of a divorce in the year 2000, I immersed myself in God, immersed myself in the Word, and abandoned myself for Him. I felt He was my only hope for me and for my children. That complete surrender to Him paid off in so many ways in my life that I cannot quantify the benefits. I am still benefiting from the surrender from 20 years ago. I ran to God, and like the prodigal son’s father, He ran to me. I have never been the same.

As I sit here and write, this is the song going through my head (“It is Well” by Bethel Music – partial lyrics):

And through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

And it is well

It is well

 

So let go my soul and trust in Him

The waves and wind still know His name

So let go my soul and trust in Him

The waves and wind still know His name.

How are you responding to Him in this crisis? How are you responding to the One “in your face”? If you haven’t noticed Him there, notice Him now. He is the “Master of the Wind”, as another song says. Your eyes should be on Him and none else. Your focus should be on Him and on none else. There is no One else that can lead us out of this storm. There is no One else that can still the wind and waves. Peter cried, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) when he was sinking in the waves, after he had tried to walk on the water but became fearful. And Jesus immediately reached out His hand and saved him.

It is time for us as the people of God to be solely focused on Jesus, to be solely focused on His rescue, to be solely focused on the One who died to save us. As we commemorate our Savior’s death, burial and resurrection this week (today is Good Friday), it is more than appropriate for us to turn to Him. In the news yesterday they announced that the Coronavirus deaths are expected to peak this Sunday in the United States. Sunday is Easter – the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the celebration of deliverance from death to life, the celebration of deliverance from evil, the celebration of our ability to go behind the veil and enter into an intimate relationship with the Father. How interesting is it that God purposed this week in the United States to be the celebration of the most Holy Week and the turning point of the virus’ deaths? What does that say about how God orchestrates the world, our governments, the seasons and times, and a testament to His glory?

Are you turning to Him with your whole heart this season? Are you focused on worshipping Him this Easter season, focusing on the life He came to give us, and the rescue He accomplished? Or are your eyes and ears focused on the wind and waves of this season? Let your anthem be, “through it all my eyes are on You”.

 

Guest Post Written by Sonja Josselyn  

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