Thursday, June 10, 2010

A kingdom upside down


There it is. That word! Fasting is something we, as the modern Church at large, have neglected and misshapen. (And you can bet your bippy that I wasn't thinking one bit about it when I was a new mom with a baby in my arms all the time.) When you read stories of great men and women of faith from the last centuries, there is almost always a reference to their own personal times of fasting. And they were talking about FOOD fasting - not the easier-to-swallow abstinence from your favorite hobby or something like that. And Jesus - what about Him, huh? He obviously valued fasting for some reason since He subjected Himself to it for forty days before He began His public ministry.

So, okay, we need to fast. But does that even mean ME as a hard-working, always-on-call mother of young, fussy, whiny children who drain the life out of me?!

How did I even end up on this topic? Well, I woke up with a phrase from a verse in Isaiah floating around in my head: "You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail..." I LIKE the sound of that! I need some dry, cracked places in my heart to be watered and to have a spring inside me that never fails, for sure. I liked that so much that I looked it up today to see what the rest of the passage was about... It was about worship and fasting. Isaiah 58 brings to light the messed up "worship" that God's people were offering Him. They had a form of religious ritual, but even in their ritual they were only thinking of themselves. They neglected everything that God's heart was beating for - caring for people, pulling people out of the pit, loving others more than they loved themselves. Then, Isaiah goes into a section on fasting the way God desires for us to fast.

"Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

"THEN your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and 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 extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, THEN your light shall dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden ("well-watered garden" in NIV), and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."

Isaiah 58:6-11 (NKJV)

What does this mean? Here's what I think it means: Fasting - especially from food - puts your mortality in subjection to your spirit, and in turn, subjection to God. It is a total-being posture of submission. We forget that with God's kingdom, everything is upside-down from the way our natural mind thinks. We naturally seek positions of strength and power, when God asks us to seek the position of humility and weakness. We tend to view humility as a flaw and weakness as worthlessness. Can I refresh your memory on a few verses?

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

"Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4

"And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty." I Corinthians 1:27

"And He said to me, ' My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will most gladly boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:9-10

It's all opposite! It makes me think of a scene from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies - where Keira Knightly's character and the pirate crew go in search of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who has "died" and been taken to Davey Jones' Locker. (an afterlife kind of place like Purgatory or possibly even hell...) Anyway, the correlation has nothing to do with where he ended has to do with how the crew found him. They were given several clues to unravel in order to get to the end of the world and into Davey Jones' Locker. One of the clues was "Up is down." They all stood around dumbfounded trying to figure out what it could possibly mean...and then Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) gets a wild idea. Turn the ship over. The pirate crew looks at her for a few seconds like she is an idiot, and then they understand, too. They start tossing cargo, guns and everything loose overboard to lighten the ship and then begin rocking it side to side violently. Eventually, they manage to overturn the ship - while we're all holding on to our theater seats imagining how they are all about to drown. Well, it turned out that she was right. They flipped the ship into the water, and when it was upside down, they found themselves not drowning, but sputtering to the surface in full sun. They had made it to Davey Jones' Locker to rescue Jack Sparrow.

That's where the analogy ends! But what a great picture of the upside-down-ness of how we perceive reality and how God perceives it. His kingdom is the true reality. It is more real than our temporal reality - and it is overlapping and intertwined with our temporal reality. We just have to trust Him when He tells us that "Up is down."

One surefire way we can begin to see things God's way is through fasting. Subjecting yourself - humbling yourself - before God. Denying your most basic need for survival and laying your life bare before Him, inviting Him to speak, change, heal, restore and anything else He wants to do in you. When you submit yourself in that way, your perspective changes! You can't help but see and hear spiritual things. And when God is free to work in your life in a time like that, then things start to really happen... bonds of wickedness are loosed, heavy burdens are undone, the oppressed go free, and every yoke is you and through you.

And THEN, "your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. (He's got your back, girl!) The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; YOU SHALL BE LIKE A WELL-WATERED GARDEN and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."

So, even as a mom of an infant, a toddler or a wild child of any age, you are meant to fast. Don't get all legalistic on me, now. I know that when you're nursing you can't just be skipping meals and all... Good grief! All I'm saying is, the Lord told us that "up is down" and that He can show you how to flip your ship to see what He sees. Go for it!

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