By Guest Contributor: E. Taylor
Have you ever been lonely? Loneliness is irrational and confuses us about who we really are. Do not let loneliness dominate during this time of self-isolation. Use this time to seek and search and welcome the new creation, new you with a new perspective and new outlook. This is a time to share the Good News and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with yourself within your home and your family and community because building your faith strengthens those around you. This is a time to focus on those virtues and characteristics that we have been wanting and talking about for such a long time. Now is a time to go after them and pursue them with purpose and passion until they are ours. Now is the time to fulfill those promises to ourselves, where we were just waiting to have time to do something or needing more time at home. The time is here, and all we must do is walk into it and do it.
Now is here. If only is here. I want, I wish – is here right now in front of us. All of this is within arm’s reach, and now we must follow through on our part of it by committing to invest in self. Now is a good time to be selfish, to invest in you, your relationship with God, and your relationship with yourself. It always sounded so easy when we prayed, or hoped, or even imagined what could possibly be if only there was time for it.
Now we have been given a time of refuge and solace and shifting away from the busyness and the routine of being caught up in and sometimes swallowed whole by life. Here it is, the golden opportunity we have been waiting on for so long. The question presents itself – what are we going to do with it now? How will we manage this time alone, time to ourselves, time away from others and other things, and time away from distractions? We will not fall prey to loneliness but will wisely manage this opportunity of alone-ness.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance we have been anticipating and expecting but disbelieving that it would arrive. Now is the time to pursue God, to chase Him with all that we have, every fiber of our being. Seek Him while He can be found. Run, run, run!! Go get Him. Grab hold to His Spirit. He is here and within reach, just waiting for us to gear up and get into place. As the deer pants and thirsts after the water, so should our souls be in pursuit of God (Psalm 42:1-2).
Some of us are overdue for some “me” time, so let’s get it in now. We will use this time of self-isolation to improve our lives and our relationships and to position ourselves into the place God will have us to be. We will not focus on what we do not have or what we cannot do. Our focus will now be on God and what He will have us do and become.
On March 18, 2020, President Donald J. Trump declared a National State of Emergency as a result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). This is an unprecedented time. Never have we experienced the massive shutdown of schools, places of worship, and businesses.
Our normal routines have changed. As our Pastor has taught, we are now in the state of a temporary new normal. We adjust, finding effective ways to be productive. The first way to do that is by following the directives of our government leaders.
Even in this temporary new normal, we can be more productive than usual. For those required to stay home, we hope to have more time to pray, read our Bible, and reflect to understand the direction of our lives. We are confident in crisis and will not faint. There is hope now and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, we are mindful of the severe impact this virus has had. Many have lost their lives with the possibility of more being lost. As believers, we thankfully realize death is not the end of life. It is a transition. We are spirit, we have a soul, and live in a body. This is our hope. After transition, our spirit does return home to our Father. For those who remain, we hurt, we grieve, and we trust God for His grace and comfort. Ultimately, we hold fast to our hope on earth.
During this time, a great word to reflect on is to carve. The essence of this word requires us to press on or into a tough surface, move forward, and make a beautiful impact.
For many of us, before COVID-19, we knew God was calling us to be productive in a certain area. For you, that may be finding creative ways to be a blessing to others in this season. For others, it may be starting an online business, writing a book, organizing your home, or connecting with love ones.
It is important that we do not allow this unprecedented time to pass without greatly reflecting and spending time in God’s presence. During the days ahead, here are three basic questions to reflect on:
Once you receive and record your answers, carve — press in, move forward, and make a beautiful impact.
During this pullback season, we pray we do not miss what our Father is sharing. God has a way of doing the incredible in challenging times. He has an excellent resume of doing the impossible and providing unimaginable resources. The story of Moses filled with miracles surrounding His walk with God is a great reminder.
Contributor: A. Dorcent
Christians fast with a purpose, with a goal as their focus, with an end in mind. This fasting usually involves abstaining from something specific such as food, drink, specific foods or drinks, social media outlets, forms of technology, television, specific activities, variations of all of these, and even others. The very nature of spiritual fasting is to give up something that often takes up a lot of our focus, our time, even our energy, and our efforts. This focus, time, energy, and effort is then given to God and poured into our interactions and invested in our relationship with Him seeking to please and satisfy Him. The time that would ordinarily be spent on watching television or on social media outlets is now focused on pleasing God.
Fasting accomplishes what we cannot do on our own with our human efforts. It grounds us, slowing us down where we would ordinarily continue our path of normal, regular, routine, and ordinary. We now have something telling us how, when, where, and how to listen for God’s voice and to His voice so that we may enhance our relationship and intimacy with Him. These efforts lead us, rejuvenate our spirits, and provide clarity in the midst of calamity.
Fasting provides an opportunity for a revelation of God’s Word if we are in a posture conducive to learning, improving, and growing in our knowledge and experience of Him. Our spiritual development then becomes what we invest in our fast. If we invest heavily then we gain heavily and vice versa. Fasting requires discipline which in turns increases our discipline. Fasting requires us to seek God’s support and to admit that we are unable to achieve the same success on our own as we do with the combination of fasting and praying.
The Bible identifies fasting as a part of our Christian and spiritual growth and offers suggestions on increasing our intimacy with God and the whys and how’s of fasting in itself. In the Book of Ezra in Chapter 8, verses 21-23, Ezra declares a fast to find out from God the best route for travel for both the adults and the children. Ezra and his people were fearful of their enemies, but God protected all of Ezra and the people on their journey to Jerusalem.
Fasting works when we identify and exercise some basic principles such as inviting the Holy Spirit to do as He has promised: asking Him to lead and guide us and reveal to us His purpose in our lives and our role in this time of fasting and prayer. This time of consecration can include prayer, fasting, using a journal, reading the Bible, meditation, attending church services, singing, clapping, dancing, and various other ways that we choose to demonstrate our commitment to God. Christian fasting expresses a longing, a thirst, and a hunger for God’s presence for true transformation of our individual spirituality through our thoughts and actions as well as the changes seen in our lives and daily interactions with others.
Contributor: E. Taylor
Help, I’ve fallen off my fast!
Do you find fasting to be a challenging commitment? I most definitely have. Our church facilitates an annual 40-day church-wide fast. I’m usually excited to get started. I’ve learned fasting is an external expression of communicating with God when we need more of Him. It is an opportunity to become spiritually stronger. During these moments, we crave Godly intimacy and willingly refuse natural comforts for more of His spirit.
Fasting has taught me that I’m a good starter and good finisher — it’s the middle I struggle with. It seems somewhere around day ten, I dream about cake. One year, one of my friends was celebrating her birthday at work. Well, how could I be rude and refuse to have a sweet slice of cake? Besides, who’s looking, right? God understands. These were my justifications and a dream come true. I was dreaming about cake. Well, just as I was enjoying that slice, another friend and member of my church entered the office and saw me. She was shocked, and so was I. I got caught, cake in hand!
The truth is, I messed up. There’s no denying that. Failing is no reason to give up. I had to go back to the heart of why I was fasting. I needed more of God. Just like in any situation where I’ve fallen short of His glory, I needed to ask His forgiveness and remember my personal relationship with Him was and is worth it.
Here are some things I’ve found helpful during an extended fast.
1) First things first…I begin my day with prayer and Bible reading. Our pastor leads us in a prayer call at 6:33 am Monday – Saturday. This sets the direction for my day.
2) Having accountability partners. I wonder if my friend had not found me eating cake if I would have continued justifying loopholes. Now my co-workers and lunch partners know when I’m fasting. Even when they are not fasting, they know my limits and are careful to remind me.
3) If you work from home and do not have accountability partners, modern-day technology works as a great reminder. Setting reminder alerts with encouraging Bible verses in my phone or an assistant app are great tools and help me regain my focus.
We must remember fasting is about intimacy — growing closer and stronger in our Father. It’s about turning the volume down on daily distractions. Therefore, food should not be the only item we limit as we seek Him. Just as we build muscle in the natural, by way of physical resistance, the same principle applies in the spiritual. Strive not to lose your focus; however, if you do, remember His grace is sufficient for you.
Now, if you’re like me, you probably don’t know much about fasting except for that you’re supposed to do it, and it will bring you closer to God. And if you’re like me, then you’re probably also wondering how fasting and not eating will bring you closer to God, especially if you’re someone who gets hangry (hungry and angry). There’s more to fasting than not eating. The process as a whole is a spiritual challenge that will allow you to rely on God in your weakest moments.
What exactly is fasting? Fasting is an abstinence from food or a limiting of one’s food, especially when voluntary and as a religious observance, according to Dictionary.com. Why do we fast? We don’t just fast because someone tells us to do so. We fast because of the great benefits associated with it. Although the Bible does not give us a direct command to fast, it states that “…man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). This is not to be taken literally. Metaphorically speaking, it means that we are able to survive based on the Word of God in addition to the other basic necessities of life. Food, water, and shelter alone will not give us what we need to get through life. God’s love and Word are what will sustain us whether we are in abundance of or lacking life’s necessities.
What happens to us when we fast? Other than hunger pains, some advantages come along with fasting. When we fast, we humble ourselves. Psalms 35:13 (NIV) states that “yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting.” We recently learned from Bishop Rosie that we should humble ourselves so that God can exalt us. And we humble ourselves by casting our cares to God (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV). Therefore, do not worry about being hungry, don’t worry about whether you can do it, and do not worry about all of your other troubles. When you fast, you are giving all your cares to God and relying on your faith and God’s Word to care for you.
What should we do when we fast? We should pray. Of course, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which means that we should pray all the time. But you should especially pray when fasting. Fasting is a time when you place all focus on God, and unanswered prayers may finally come to fruition. Ezra 8:23 (NIV) says, “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” God is waiting on you to fast so He can answer your prayers. God will be your confidante during your fast, so talk to Him as much as you can. In the end, you will see that it was all worth it (Matthew 6:16-18 NIV).
Contributor: K. Wyatt
The Bible defines fasting as giving up food and/or drink for a certain amount of time for spiritual purposes. When I think of the word fasting, what comes to mind is giving up food and only drinking water for a few hours. This is what some would say is normal fasting. I participated in a normal fast for school. It was around the final exam week; my grandmother and I would turn down our plates and only drink liquids for twelve hours. We did it for about four days. When we finished fasting, I did well on my exams and passing the classes.
The Daniel fast (Daniel 1:5-21 NIV) lasted for ten days. Daniel and three other people were given nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. When the ten days were up, Daniel and friends looked healthier and better nourished. Verse 17 says that God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning, and Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. This way of fasting is called partial fast. Partial fasting is only eating certain food/drinks or abstaining from certain kinds of foods (e.g., no meat or sweets, fruits, and vegetables, etc.).
Another type of fast and the one you should cautious of is an absolute fast. An absolute fast is not taking in any food or water. You should only participate for about three days and if you have a clear command from the Lord while you are in good health.
Koinonia is participating in a corporate fast where the church has been called by God to fast together during a certain length of time. Packets have been prepared to provide guidelines for the fast and devotionals to guide our spiritual walk with God.
Before the fast:
During the fast:
I will be participating in my first corporate fast with Koinonia. I am uneasy because I do not know what to expect. However, I have made goals of the things I want clarification on and help with my direction after I graduate.
Contributor: T. Dozier-Grady
Scores of lyrics and songs about the hidden power of a real friendship have been written and recorded through the years. At times in our society, the media represents true friendship as nonexistent or even a rare commodity. However, there are many of us who know firsthand that genuine friendship is a treasure to behold, loved, cherished, and admired.
“That’s What Friends Are For” was recorded first by Rod Stewart as a movie theme then again by Dionne Warwick in a relief effort for HIV/AIDS. The lyrics of this popular song reflect the need to stand by those suffering from debilitating diseases as part of a long-lasting friendship. The lyrics continue with “In good times and bad times I’ll be on your side forevermore” telling of deep emotion that a true friend feels when the other friend is suffering.
The lyrics of the song “Friends” by Whodini ask, “how many of us have them…ones you can depend on?” Have you ever asked yourself any of these same questions when friendships have gone astray leaving us hurt with unanswered questions? Some of us have been in a negative situation with someone we thought was a true friend only to have it downward spiral and never pick back up. These negative experiences taught us about ourselves and about others by getting our attention, bringing us in God’s presence, slowing us down, giving us time to reflect on our lives, and teaching us how to respond if we face a similar situation in the future.
True friends bear one another’s burdens, the friendships withstand the test of time, and each person knows that there is always someone in their corner. Some of us may feel or seem friendless because of circumstances we have faced such as tragedy, trauma, and stressful life events. It is during these times that the words of another song bring wistful and melancholy feelings. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” reminds us of a true friend who sticks closer than a brother and is incomparable to anyone else. The love Jesus has for us cannot be explained and neither can it be earned. It is just what it is.
No one seems to really know or understand why we love and have the friends we do or how the bonds are formed and last. Some say it just happens, others describe it as a connection, some say its destiny, and yet others say it is a blessing. Regardless of the origin of friendship, true friends endure hardships with us just as if they are the ones experiencing it themselves. A genuine friendship is a relationship that just like others cannot be broken but is still tested by disappointments, hurts, shifts, time, distance, heartaches, heartbreak, economic hardship, joy, pain, suffering, celebration, hope, recovery, perseverance, and still the list goes on. Real friends are like the family we never had but will always treasure.
Contributor – E. Taylor
Dictionary.com defines church as a building for public Christian worship. Church, to me, is a place where individuals gather to worship and praise God. Church does not necessarily have to be a big, fancy building. Individuals can gather in the name of Jesus in a conference room, in a section of the library, or any other meeting space. As long as the purpose of the gathering is to spread the Word of God, it is church.
My definition of church has changed over the years in that, I used to think that you had to dress up and have money for the collection plate to go to church. I believed that if you did not dress accordingly or had money to give, then you shouldn’t go to Church because you would be looked down upon. Over the years, I have learned that church is especially for individuals who may not have nice clothes to wear or extra money to give. These are the individuals who we as Christians, are trying to minister to and help them to become believers. Therefore, we must make church an inviting place so that others will want to come back and worship God no matter what their situation is.
My earliest memory of church is vague. I remember wearing white stockings and a dress and having my hair done. I also remember sitting for a long time and not being sure of what was going on. But whatever was going on, I was required to sit there and listen and not say a word. Luckily, my earliest memories of church have not stirred me away, and I have grown to realize that that is not what church is all about.
It is believed that the world’s first church was built around 230 AD in northern Jordan. Named Saint Georgeous, evidence suggests that this church sheltered the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ. The disciples escaped from Jerusalem because of religious persecution. They met at Saint Georgeous to practice their religion in secret. This goes to show that it is not about where you praise God. What is important is that you praise Him, period. God sees and hears all and rewards those who are righteous in His name.
Contributor: K. Wyatt