ANNOUNCEMENT: IT'S LOOOONG THIS TIME...BUT IT'S "BREAKTHROUGH MATERIAL"...TRUST ME!!!
“But the two men staying with Lot opened the door, pulled him back inside the house, and then closed the door. *They struck those outside the door with blindness, so the men, both young and old, could not find the door.*
The two men said to Lot, *'Do you have any other relatives in this city? Do you have any sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or any other relatives? If you do, tell them to leave now, because we are about to destroy this city. The Lord has heard of all the evil that is here, so he has sent us to destroy it.'*
So Lot went out and said to his future sons-in-law who were pledged to marry his daughters, 'Hurry and leave this city! The Lord is about to destroy it!' But they thought Lot was joking.
At dawn the next morning, the angels begged Lot to hurry. They said, 'Go! Take your wife and your two daughters with you so you will not be destroyed when the city is punished.'
*But Lot delayed. So the two men took the hands of Lot, his wife, and his two daughters and led them safely out of the city. So the Lord was merciful to Lot and his family. After they brought them out of the city, one of the men said, 'Run for your lives! Don't look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Run to the mountains, or you will be destroyed.'*
But Lot said to one of them, 'Sir, please don't force me to go so far! You have been merciful and kind to me and have saved my life. *But I can't run to the mountains.* The disaster will catch me, and I will die. Look, that little town over there is not too far away. Let me run there. It's really just a little town, and I'll be safe there.'
The angel said to Lot, 'Very well, I will allow you to do this also. I will not destroy that town. But run there fast, because *I cannot destroy Sodom until you are safely in that town.'* (That town is named Zoar, because it is little.)"---Genesis 19:10-22 (NCV)
“People who want to keep you in your past, leave them there.”---Shellie R. Warren
Past: the history of a person, nation, etc.; what has existed or has happened at some earlier time; the events, phenomena, conditions, etc., that characterized an earlier historical period; an earlier period of a person's life, career, etc., that is thought to be of a shameful or embarrassing nature; no longer current; gone by; over; having served formerly in a given capacity, especially an official one; the time before the present
HEAD'S UP: THIS IS A CALL TO A FAST (ANOTHER ONE? YEP ANOTHER ONE). BUT IT HAS A VERY UNIQUE TWIST TO IT. IT'S A FAST FROM OUR PAST. THE BEGINNING WILL READ LIKE A DEVOTIONAL, BUT IF YOU ARE FINDING YOURSELF (DETRIMENTALLY) BOUND TO SOMETHING, IT'S WORTH YOUR TIME TO STICK THIS OUT...AND FOLLOW-THRU. I COULDN'T HAVE COME UP WITH THIS ONE IN A MILLION YEARS IF I TRIED! SELAH!
Sometimes, when my computer freezes, and I'm too impatient to let it fix itself (whole 'nother message), I will pull the plugs out of the socket. Yes, techies, I know that is not the best thing, by far, to do (patience is still something that the Godhead, through many instances in the universe, is teaching me-I Corinthians 13:4). But, I think God has allowed it to prepare me for something he told me on yesterday (the Sabbath-Exodus 20:8-11).
You see, whenever I do that and I turn my computer back on, my “computer clock” goes back to 2004. The thing is, the first couple of times that I did this, I didn't even notice (bookmark that) until I tried to log on to things like MySpace and Facebook. To my computer, those things did not exist because my clock was set before a time that they were created. The first light bulb moment: WHEN YOU STAY IN THE PAST, YOU DON'T GET THE BENEFITS OF THE PRESENT. It wasn't until I reset my clock that I could gain access into those kinds of websites.
Another set up for this? Through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:12), I am currently conducting (and participating) in a “Wife Curriculum” class on Facebook. Now that has been a ride! Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I woke up with the song (Psalm 33:3), “A Whole New World” by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. I believe that the Holy Spirit provided it as comfort (Acts 9:31) that where we desired to go (marriage) was going to be very different from where we have been (singledom); that, like baptism, a wedding ceremony should be the public symbolism of our desires to never be the same...and the classes were/are preparing us to act accordingly.
And then, the final straw: Something semi-recently happened to me that sent me seething (Ephesians 4:26). As I was talking to a friend of mine (thanks Trenay-Proverbs 27:17), she pulled out of me (cause it really did take that) that I felt disrespected for one reason, but humiliated for an entirely different one. The disrespect, that was warranted, came from the present situation. The humiliation attached to it came from an unresolved past. Lately, my life has been running in “3s” and so...there you go...three instances, and as they say, three time's the charm! As I spent some time in prayer about it, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, told me: “It's time for you to go on a PAST FAST.”
Immediately, I told a few of my friends. All of them are God-seekers (and very powerful ones, at that), but none of them knew what I meant without my provided additional insights. That's one reason why I know that this is a very unique opportunity, but if you take part, it will do what “9” in the Hebrew symbolizes for you: it will make many things “complete” and “final” as far as bringing some real answers and stability into your life so that you can move into a state of “exceedingly above all that you can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Years ago, my mother gave me a lil' book entitled, “When I Loved Myself Enough” (Kim McMillen). In it, there is a quote that says, “When I loved myself enough, I learned to grieve for the hurts in life when they happen instead of making the heart heavy by lugging them around.” Wise words, and an even greater confirmation for what we are about to do.
And so, if you are someone who likes living in reverse or letting the “Ghosts of Life's Past” continue to haunt you, then this isn't for you. Carry on. But, if you are one of those chosen few (Matthew 22:14) who really just want to get on with this thing called life with as little baggage as possible (the lighter you are, the faster you can go), then this is a sho 'nuf GODSEND for ya!
Let me first start by saying this: this is not for the bitter, manipulative or malicious (James 3:14). This fast is not to hurt people's feelings or to contradict the very thing that most of us on this devotional list consider ourselves to be: DISCIPLES (John 8:31). Furthermore, it you actually complete this and are honest---with both God and yourself---you may just be surprised how many people you find yourself reconciled to rather than leaving behind. I am currently reading a book that is “whopping me” (do you hear me?!?) entitled, “Sacred Marriage” (Gary Thomas). Just yesterday, I read:
“Christian love is displayed in loving the most difficult ones to love....that's what's so difficult about Jesus' call to love others. One one level, it's easy to love God, because God doesn't smell. God doesn't have bad breath. God doesn't reward kindness with evil. God doesn't make berating comments. Loving God is easy, in this sense. But Jesus really let us have it when he attached our love for God with our love for other people.”---pg. 42, "Sacred Marriage", Gary Thomas
When Christ came, he said the first commandment was to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. The second? To love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). Therefore you can't call yourself a follower of Christ and not love those around you; including your enemies. As a matter of fact, the Word takes it a bit further by commanding us to love them, bless them and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-46). Truth is (John 8:32), if you want to “get to them” don't “fight them” with their own weapons; they aren't used to love. Love them through their foolishness. (Romans 12:20)
So no, if you are one of those, “Yeah honey, I'm with you...I'm ready to leave some people in the dust” folks, this fast isn't for you. God's Word says that we are to do NOTHING from the place of selfish ambition, “...but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3) That said, you actually may look up and realize that, in the effort to leave the past behind, that you will be called to serve some of the least people that you expect, and some of the least grateful/user- friendly/humble/likable. I mean, why not? Moses did it. (Shoot, you can basically read all of Exodus to see how much of a struggle on the flesh that was!)
However, if you are someone who has read and/or even quoted 2 Corinthians 5:17, I implore you to check out the verses immediately preceding and following it:
“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. “---2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (NCV)
Through Christ, we are given the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION and we are committed to the word of reconciliation. Just so we're all clear:
Reconciliation: the act of reconciling, or the state of being reconciled; restoration to harmony; renewal of friendship
Reconcile: to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired; to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable; to compose or settle (a quarrel, dispute, etc.); to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent; to restore (an excommunicate or penitent) to communion in a church
Yes, yes, yes. Most people want to “conveniently” (although from personal experience, I don't know how convenient it is) overlook these kinds of scriptures, but I believe 2009 is a “separating the wheat from the tare” (Matthew 13:24-30) kind of year. John 10:27 (NKJV) says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” A wise man once said that just because you call a truth a lie one thousand times, that doesn't make it any less truthful. Applying “selective hearing” to God's Word doesn't make it any less applicable to our lives (James 1:22-24). If you claim to follow Christ, then reconciliation is not a request...it's a mandate. As a matter of fact, some of you may need to do the fast on your own next week and hold a personal “reconciliation enlightenment” fast this week on that portion of this message alone!
But for the rest of us, I'm sure you all are wondering how we can fast from the past and still be reconciled; not only be reconciled but love our enemies. How do you move forward while there's a great chance that God will call you to minister to some of the very people you are dying to leave behind?
GOOD QUESTION. Immediately, when God gave me the call to fast, because indeed some mountains are only moved through prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:20-21), he took me to the lead scriptures for this week. I actually encourage you to get a journal (a fresh one) and make some time to read Genesis 18 & 19 in their entirety and write what God shares with you. There were some key things that personally jumped out at me when I read them. Most of us are familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and how, when Lot's wife looked back (Genesis 19:26), she turned to salt (LaShawn and Candice, one definition of “salt” that I found in “Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary” is “reserve and skepticism...often used with the term 'a grain of salt'”...I know, right?!?). And so, yes, when you think about moving away from your past, the point that turning back towards something God has called you to leave can paralyze you (emotionally, mentally, physically or even spiritually) is a great one worth mentioning...because it can, and for many people---most people---it has.
But as I was studying these verses, it was actually what happened before that I believe we are to focus on this week. This is where the instruction for the “Past Fast” comes in. Do you see how some of the lead verses are highlighted? That is where I will be pulling the directives from.
*They struck those outside the door with blindness, so the men, both young and old, could not find the door.* If you read all of Chapter 19, you will see that there were two men (angels) who came to Sodom. The city was so evil that men living there came to Lot's house because they heard that there was “fresh meat” in town (no joke...check the story) and they wanted to have their way with the men...they demanded it, actually. When Lot offered up his daughters instead (geeze), the men tried to break into his house. The angels pulled Lot in and then struck those who were trying to attack the home with blindness so that they could not find the door.
INSTRUCTION #1: In your FRESH journal (that means one you have never written in before), ask God to reveal to you the things that are trying to attack your human trinity (mind/body/spirit) and then to provide you with scripture that speaks against those things. You see, here's the thing: Many of us live in our own “Sodom” and we are afraid to leave. For some of us, it's because, even with as evil as it's been, it's home for us. But for even more, it's because there are spirits that have been threatening to attack us. Some of us want to get married, but we are afraid that we will end up just like our parents. Some of us want to have children, but we're still grieving our past miscarriages and abortions. Some of us want to start a new career, but we keep remembering botching up the last three companies that we started. The spirits are banging at our doors, but instead of going to God about them, asking him to surround us with his angels and to blind the spirits from finding our heart's door, we are actually talking to the spirits, pleading with them as if they have a heaven or hell to put us in. Just as God did for Job (Job 1:9-11), God has a hedge around us as well (please believe it), but I think sometimes we forget that. Ask God to, in some way, reveal his heavenly hedge that is protecting you from the things that threaten to attack you...the things in the “City of the Past” that you have been terrified to leave. ALL OF THE THINGS THAT, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT FOR YOUR FUTURE, ARE HINDERING YOU FROM GETTING TO IT.
*Do you have any other relatives in this city? Do you have any sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or any other relatives? If you do, tell them to leave now, because we are about to destroy this city. The Lord has heard of all the evil that is here, so he has sent us to destroy it.* Do you see the lead quote for today? God gave me that last week. I am telling you that just as there was a sense of urgency with Lot and his family, there is one now. The past mentality that many of us are in is pure evil and counterproductive. Some of us, when wanting to leave our past, assume that we must leave all that is behind it. A while back, Vince Gill wrote a song entitled, “Which Bridge to Cross and Which Bridge to Burn”. Seemingly, that is one of life's greatest challenges: deciding between the two. But because being a disciple also means that we are called to RECONCILIATION and being that believers are seen as brothers and sisters in Christ, before leaving your past behind, make a plea to those in it. Yes, you are moving forward, but you should love others enough to want bring them with you (because God wants to renew more than just you). The catch is that you are about to become a new person. OLD THINGS WILL HAVE PASSED AWAY (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means,you don't want to discuss your past (within reason because some of you need to apologize and repent for what you did as a past person, FIRST-Matthew 5:23-24), you don't want to relive your past, you no longer want to do any or all of the things that the past person did...you are going forward. Now here's the other catch: you don't have time to cry, beg, plead and justify this decision. Either they are going to come...or they're not. But as Christ-followers, we have a DUTY to invite others to a better life.
INSTRUCTION #2: Pray for those that you have known in this “past present” life of yours. Not just the people you like...everyone. And, as God leads, go to them either by phone, email, lunch...some kind of direct contact and tell them of your decision to let God destroy the past that you have been living in and share with them what you desire for your present. This is another reason why you will need a journal because your thoughts/words need to be very clear and concise (Matthew 5:37). If you don't want to get drunk anymore, then tell the people that you used to get drunk with that they can no longer drink around you...period...non-negotia
*But Lot delayed. So the two men took the hands of Lot, his wife, and his two daughters and led them safely out of the city. So the Lord was merciful to Lot and his family. After they brought them out of the city, one of the men said, 'Run for your lives! Don't look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Run to the mountains, or you will be destroyed.'* Don't delay on this call. Delay is keeping you from all that God has for you. Many of us quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NCV), “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But, I am going to be honest with you: the closer I get to God, the more I see and hear about what he has in store for me. (Jeremiah 33:3, James 1:5) Some of you think you are waiting on God, when God is actually waiting on you. He's not going to give you a new husband when you hung up on your old boyfriend. He's not going to give you job when you are still attached to the old city that you live in. He's not going to give you new responsibilities while you continue to cling to your old habits.
The second point? God will lead you out of your past, but you have to be willing to do some of the work as well. You see how Lot and his family were instructed to “Run for their lives! Don't look back or step anywhere in the valley”, right? In the spirit realm, this can be substituted with the following scriptures:
“FLEE sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”---I Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV)
“Therefore, my beloved, FLEE from idolatry.”---I Corinthians 10:14 (NKJV)
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, FLEE these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”---I Timothy 6:10-12 (NKJV)
“FLEE also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”---2 Timothy 2:22 (NKJV)
INSTRUCTION #3: Make these your meditation scriptures for the week. To “flee” something is “to move swiftly”. If you really want to leave your past, you will flee from anything that ties you to it. If you want to be able to discern who desires to leave your past with you, watch the lifestyle that they live. NEW CREATIONS don't desire to be sexually immoral. NEW CREATIONS don't get off on idolatry. NEW CREATIONS are not driven by money at all costs. NEW CREATIONS make it a daily pursuit to live in righteousness, faith, love and peace.
*But I can't run to the mountain.* Now, I'm going to take a little bit of poetic license on this one. I'm sure that the angels wanted Lot to run to the mountains so that he could be as far away from the “fire damage” as possible. I'm not sure if it was due to his age, fear, attachment or all of the above that he declined the first instruction (something I try not to do with the Godhead...anymore), but I'm here to encourage you not to do the same. Some of us, right now, God is going to call us to run to the mountains of our faith (did you see that Zoar was called that because it was little?!?) to get as far away from our past as possible. Climbing a mountain is hard work...the atmosphere is different up there, but if he calls you, go and pray, “Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong.” (Proverbs 30:7) You see, here's the thing: There's no such thing as a weak mountain-climber. As you leave your past, God will be using this time to “work out” some things. It's very difficult to go into something new when you are the same. Leaving is not enough. You have to be open to making some internal adjustments as well.
INSTRUCTION #4: James 5:16 tells us that it is in confessing our faults that we find healing. On a sheet of paper, write down the things inside of you that cause you to fear, get an accountability partner to pray for/with you concerning those things and at the end of the fast, BURN THAT LIST. My personal journey has revealed to me that I can't love God, myself or my neighbor when fear is in the way (I John 4:18). Are you still living in lies and secrecy because you are scared to face the truth? Are you continuing to not give (Luke 6:38) during this recession because you are scared that you won't have enough to meet your own needs? Are you scared to draw some clear lines in your romantic relationship because you are scared that you will lose the person? This is what mountain-moving faith is all about. This is also why we are fasting. If, in leaving your past, God calls you to do some uncomfortable things for the purpose increasing your faith and refining your character (Romans 5:3-5), do them! Nothing with God is for naught. (Matthew 10:39)
*I cannot destroy Sodom until you are safely in that town.* God cannot destroy the hindrances of our past until we purpose in our minds to leave them behind. We have heard that God hates the sin and not the sinner and that still stands to be true...and for the sake of us all, THANK GOD. Some of us are wondering why our divorce still feels like an open wound, why we can recall the abuse from our father's hand like it was yesterday, why what we did in college still spiritually (because not all spirits are good spirits) stalks us. It's because we are still an active participant in our past. We still talk about it. We still give it top priority attention. We still let people keep us in it (“Girl, do you still hang out with so-and-so? I remember when you used to do such-and-such.”). God won't remove the past from us until we make the decision that we want it to be removed because if he destroyed those things now, it would hurt us in the process. HURTING US IS NEVER GOD'S INITIAL DESIRE. In Genesis 18:17-33, Abraham made a compromise with God that if God could find even ten good people in Sodom, he would not destroy it. God was willing to spare an entire city for ten people. God is not in the people-destroying business, just the sin-destroying business. Sometimes that means both have to go, but he's choosing, at this time, to be merciful (Luke 6:36). He wants to remove your past (and the pain that comes with it) from you. But you have to want that first. Get your human trinity out of the past so that he can fix it to where it will not affect you in the same way ever again.
INSTRUCTION #5: Get a purpose plan together of where you desire to go. Any therapist worth his/her credentials will tell you that you can't get rid of something effectively unless you are prepared to replace it with something else. If your job is your “Sodom”, when you quit, what you are going to do? If your fetish is your “Sodom”, when you let it go, what are you going to do with that extra time on your hands? (Proverbs 19:15) If your past friends are your “Sodom”, isolation is not the way to deal with the initial loneliness that comes with leaving them behind. There's no real point in leaving something without having something to go to. The Israelites left Egypt for the Promised Land. Lot left Sodom for the city of Zoar. Ruth left Moab for Bethlehem (Ruth 1). Esther left the comforts (?) of her home for the palace. In all of these instances, people left something behind, but also in all of these instances, they had, through God's unction, a place to go in mind. Some of us have a hard time leaving our past because we don't have a clue what we are leaving it for. We know it's bad, but at least its familiar. This week, ask God to show you are new place...a river in the desert so-to-speak that can give you a comfort, a hope, a new burst of energy so that what you are leaving pales in comparison to what you are headed to.
Yes, this one was long, but I hope you also see how necessary it was to provide all of this information. God wants to bring so much into our lives, but so many of us already have too much cluttering up our heart/mind/soul space. It's spring time, right? Let's spring clean.
Oh, the bonus to the fast instruction: Anything tied to your past that you deem unhealthy (not uncomfortable but unhealthy) for the next SEVEN DAYS have absolutely NO CONTACT with it. For some of us that will be people, but for more it will be the music you listen to, the shows that you watch, the places that you go (because of the spirits that are in there) and the types of conversations that you have; anything that feeds into a "past mentality psyche". If these things are attached to your work, then make the interaction as LIMITED as possible! For instance, if you want to be freed from lust, then NONE OF THE PAST "LUST PEOPLE" THAT YOU WERE INVOLVED WITH DO YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH THIS WEEK (it's hard to see something new when something old is blocking your space). I think you get my drift. Oh, but if you stick it out, a new thing...A NEW THING, INDEED is waiting for you on this side of next Sunday:
“People in the land who ask for blessings will ask for them from the faithful God. And people in the land who make a promise will promise in the name of the faithful God, because the troubles of the past will be forgotten. I will make those troubles go away.”---Isaiah 65:16 (NCV)
A New Time Is Coming
“Look, I will make new heavens and a new earth, and people will not remember the past or think about those things. My people will be happy forever because of the things I will make. I will make a Jerusalem that is full of joy, and I will make her people a delight.”---Isaiah 65:17-18 (NCV)
Amen...amen...and amen again! (2 Corinthians 1:20)
©Shellie R. Warren/2009