Crippled In His Feet, Able In His Mind

.Many of us say we are living by FAITH.  But we are not getting Faith results.  

We say to ourselves and to other Christians around us that we are living by FAITH and when we PRAY the reason for our prayers, things remain unchanged.  Could it be, just maybe,  we’ve been taught a Faith is nothing more than simply believing God to take care of things while we sit back and wait?  Could it be that we’ve been taught a Faith that means we take our needs, both physical and mental to God and because He’s in control let Him decide whether or not He will help us?

We’re going to look at Scripture and see whose FAITH really matters.  And I hope you’ll see and understand as I have in the study, that when we PRAY, we are not waiting for God to answer us.  He is waiting for our FAITH.

ACTS 14:8-11

Many of us read and hear the words in the Bible BUT…WE NEVER TRULY LIVE the Bible.

When we don’t LIVE what we read and hear God’s Word daily we can find ourselves in a space of UNBELIEF that separates us from FAITH that receives the “rewards of faith.” But so many of us do!  That’s right, “REWARDS”.

As we HEAR and OBEY the Word of God, we slowly close the space of unbelief that separates us from FAITH that will bring the rewards!

GOD REWARDS FAITH WITH HIS PROMISES

“And without FAITH it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he REWARDS those who earnestly seek him”  (Hebrews 11:6 – NIV).

Okay, so, the WORD says FAITH pleases God and that He rewards those who have A LIFESTYLE OF FAITH.

So I want to closely look at the testimony of a man in ACTS 14

SETTING:  The Region of Lystra.  A region bursting with Greek Mythology/Roman “2 gods” beliefs.

In this region,  “there sat a man who was lame [crippled[ from birth and had never walked”  (Acts 14:8)

And sometimes, do we think about physical ailments way too much?  Think again!

God’s finest creation/MAN–created to be agile and mobile.

So here we have before us the Creation of God who SAT–going nowhere because he was crippled in the feet:

  • The AREA that should have undergirded him.
  • The AREA that should have supported him.
  • The AREA that should have served as his foundation–FAILED HIM.

Not because he didn’t want to or believed he couldn’t move, but rather because he was in this state from birth.

In other words at no fault of his–because of his predicament, he was STUCK IN A RUT, do to no fault of his own.

BEING STUCK IN A RUT–

  • Because touched inappropriately;
  • Spoken disparaging–discouraging words.
  • Experience–never experienced.

Such A Debilitating Beginning –

Never had he walked, but he BELIEVED he could one day, walk by FAITH.  This man, while crippled in his feet, was a man not crippled in his mind.

I might add here that a deficiency in one area does not constitute an excuse in another area.  CRIPPLED IN HIS FEET, ABLE IN HIS MIND! 

VERSE 9:  “He listened to Paul as he was speaking.”

“So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself)” ~ Romans 10:17 (AMP).

If we are going to WALK BY FAITH:  Learn to use what you do have, to receive what you have never had.

I don’t have to have mobilization of my feet, U-TIL-IZATION of my ears.

FAITH HEARING:  We must see what we have–to usher in our HEALING:

  • Our EARS – Be Positive/filter out all the negatives.
  • Our EARS – MOTIVATE NOT DENIGRATE.

ACTION:  RESUME/SKILLS; NAME/TALENT; CAR/DRIVE…

All I need to do is HEAR one word from the Lord and everything will be alright!

THE TEXT:  “He was listening to Paul as he talked and [Paul] gazing intently at him and observing that he had FAITH TO BE HEALED…”

Paul didn’t FOCUS on the man’s crippleness; he immediately FOCUSED on the man’s FAITH.

If we are going to WALK BY FAITH:  Sometimes when you have nothing to stand on, you have to stand on YOUR FAITH.

  • FEET/FAITH 
  • SURROUNDINGS/FAITH
  • I KNOW WHAT I’VE HEARD ABOUT/AROUND ME
  • I KNOW WHAT I BELIEVE INSIDE ME.

Some people around me say,  “I’m never going to walk, I’ve never walked…”

BUT BY FAITH…

THE TEXT:  Paul observing that he had faith…shouted at him (challenged him–the area of his strength…) “STAND ERECT ON YOUR FEET!”  AND HE LEAPED UP AND WALKED.

If you are going to WALK BY FAITH, KNOW AND UNDERSTAND that whatever previously bound you, you can presently GET UP from it!

Sharing A PROPHECY from a church service on Sunday, January 22, 2017.  The title is “Climb Higher and Believe Me” – [See Footnote [i]. ]

“O, I simply want My body to believe Me.  I want those who are Mine to take My Word as if they know nothing else, to place it at the forefront of their thinking and to believe Me.  This is the life in the spirit.  My words are spirit and they are life.”  I desire My Word to be primary in your thinking.  Kingdom thinking includes refusing to receive thoughts and imaginations that do not agree with My Word and My ways.  If something does not agree with My Word and My ways, I do not agree with it,  Be challenged by these things and come up higher in Me.” 

FAITH’S RESPONSIBILITY –

Who is responsible for having the FAITH to receive answered prayer?

When my prayers seem to go unanswered, it isn’t because my Heavenly Father didn’t want to answer them.  I simply didn’t give Him the FAITH He needed to move on my behalf.

So I encourage you to feed your mind with God’s Word.  Let it become that which dominates your thoughts day and night.  As you do that, your FAITH will be like a SEED planted in the ground.  Over time it will grow and grow and grow!

PHOTO PIN

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTE (S) –

Footnote [i] :  Who’s Faith Matters? by Barry O. Johnson, Associate Pastor at Grace Christian Center on May 1, 2017.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search, Advance Settings, and PHOTO PIN.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV).

 

Is There A Specific PLAN God Has For My Life, Or, Is This All There Is?

Scripture Study:  Luke 1:68-79

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LUKE 1:76 (ESV):

[76] “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,”

Have you ever wondered why you are doing what you’re doing in life–in your job, in your retirement, in your ministry?  I often thought to myself, “LORD, is what I’m doing right now, really your plan for my life, or is it my plan?”  How can I know and be assured what my “lot” in life really is?  Great questions, but what are the answers.  Can the Book of Life, God’s Word, the Bible, give the answers?

God had a PLAN or the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, an older couple” in the church.  

Zachariah was a priest of the division of Abijah (one of the 24 sections of priests) and Elizabeth was of the lineage of Aaron.  Both were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”  (Luke 1:6).

All should know that God always has a PLAN by which He works.  That PLAN isn’t on the same timetable as ours.  God puts His PLAN into action when it’s the right time.

During your lifetime, I’m sure you can recall the times you asked God to help you get that promotion or that particular job or position.  How about the time you wanted to buy that certain home and the deal didn’t go through–“Yes, Yes, and Yes!”  Maybe you remember your high school days when you had your eye on a certain young man or young lady, but a relationship never developed and you couldn’t understand why.

God has a SPECIFIC PLAN in life for you and a SPECIFIC PLAN for my life.

NOW HERE IT IS:  We can accept His PLAN or, we can by-pass it and do what we want.  The PROBLEM with doing our ‘own thing’ is we’ll suffer the consequences.

If we are impatient and choose to leave God out of our lives, we’re headed for a disaster.

On the other hand, if we consult God concerning our issues; our doubts, our uneasiness in making the right decisions…asking Him to guide us, listening closely to His response, and then patiently waiting for His PLAN to unfold, we’ll be in for a VICTORY.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were a devoted couple and a good example for us tom exemplify.

zacharias-elisabeth-praying-mann_1163845_inlThey were dedicated to each other and by the same token, dedicated to God.  

They followed all the rules, regulations, and commandments of the Lord.  The words they expressed to other people in normal everyday communication were words they lived by.  They didn’t live one way and then live their personal lives another way.  People could tell just by looking at them, they were “blameless.”  There was nothing in the world that indicated dishonesty or deliberate sin in their lives.  Their names would never appear in tabloid news.

Zachariah was truly devoted to carrying on the priestly duties assigned to him.  Scripture tells us:  “As was the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter [the sanctuary of] the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9 AMP).

I had to look up the meaning of the word “LOT”.  According to “The American Heritage Dictionary”, the word “lot” means “An object used in making a determination or choice by chance.”

We might think of making a CHOICE by rolling dice, pulling the short straw, or even flipping a coin.  In the days of Zechariah, priestly duties were assigned by “lot.”  Each of the priests were required to spend a week in the Temple two times a year.  Keeping the incense burning on the altar of the Most Holy Place was a top honor for the priests for a Temple Priest could offer incense only once in his lifetime.  What a great honor that must have been.  Someone said, a modern comparison of a priest burning incense in the Temple is like the local pastor today filling in for Billy Graham.

As Zachariah was praying and burning incense at the altar, God’s PLAN kicked in.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were going to have a baby.  This was the beginning of God’s PLAN for their parenthood.

The angel Gabriel said to Zechariah,  “Do not be afraid, Zachariah, because your petition was heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you must call his name John [God is favorable]”  (Luke 1:13).

Gabriel went on to say in VERSE 14:

“And you shall have joy and exultant delight, and many will rejoice over his birth”

Look at what Zechariah and Elizabeth will have–not only a son, but they will have JOY, EXULTANT DELIGHT and people will observe their rejoicing hearts.

This is a WIN/WIN situation here.  Don’t you think it’s wonderful how God works through His PLANS, fulfilling them at the right time?

Now this PREGNANCY didn’t exactly happen at the time Zechariah and Elizabeth would have liked it to.  It didn’t occur at their requested timing, because it wasn’t in the PLAN God had in mind.  What Zechariah and Elizabeth seemed to forget is the same thing you and I forget.  

If we really want our PRAYERS answered, we must keep our minds open and remember, that our God is an expert in bringing the impossible to light.

GABRIEL not only told the elderly couple [verse 7: “both were far advanced in years”; John Wycliffe, The Wycliffe Bible] they would bring forth a son and his name would be John, but…“he will be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit even in and from his mother’s womb” (verse 15).

screenshot-2015-01-05-07-10-00

God’s wonderful PLAN was unveiled to Zechariah and Elizabeth; that they were living God’s PLAN for their lives, and John would follow through to announce the coming of the Messiah.

All of this was a bit difficult for Zechariah to take in and believe, so he questioned how this could be.  There is a difference between asking God a question about His plans, and “questioning” His plans.

Because of DISBELIEF, his “questioning,” Zechariah wasn’t permitted to speak until the baby was ready to be named.

I can remember my wife and I having nightly discussions after dinner, discussing names for our first-born.  Since technology hadn’t come into play regarding sonograms–knowing if it was a girl or boy, we devised two lists:  BOYS – GIRLS.

debbie_watson_miguel_landa_karen_1965
TV Series, KAREN

The “how about’s” started with names from our favorite television shows.  Then family names we liked from both families, to suggestions from friends and parents, and the list went on, and on, and on.  We finally decided after choosing AMY for almost 9 months, if our first child is a girl, we liked the 1964 television series, KAREN, played by the actress Debbie Watson.  I don’t know whether everyone we knew agreed with the how we chose the name, but we were sure!

So our first daughter was named KAREN MARIE, with the same middle name as my wife’s.

And that’s my story.  I’m sure you have your own story.

Zechariah and Elizabeth’s gathered friends and family wanted to end the disagreements going on about name choices for the new bay, so they decided to ask Zechariah what the baby’s name should be.  Now that’s “no duh” decision.

Since Zechariah was “mute”, they made signs to him concerning what the child’s name should be and he asked for a tablet to write on.

He wrote without hesitation, “His name shall be John.”  At that very moment his tongue was loosed so he could talk.

God’s PLAN was in action and moving right along as scheduled.

God opened the mouth and lips of Zechariah and he began praising God.

Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, divinely inspired, and began to prophesy.

Have you ever had moments in your life, like this one?

God had forgiven Zechariah’s failure to believe and the little bit of distrust he held in his heart.

When we start LIVING GOD’S PLAN for our lives–believe His Word, placing our trust in Him.   We’ll end up praising God, as Zechariah did.

ZECHARIAH’S WORDS OF PRAISE, Luke 1:68-79, are a SONG.

The FIRST 8 verses deal with SALVATION and will appear in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The SECOND part of the SONG (verses 76-79) refers to the ministry of John, the forerunner of Christ Jesus.

God had a PLAN for John and John lived that PLAN.

God’s PLAN was to use John to PREPARE the people of the day to recognize and accept the Messiah when He appeared on the scene.  John preached God’s message!

You and I are players in God’s PLAN, as well.  We were in God’s PLAN from the time of conception.  

We may not realize it, the situations we face, the struggles we encounter, the detours we come upon, but all are part of God’s PLAN for our lives.  We perhaps haven’t recognized it as of yet, but God’s PLAN is there!

We are LIVING God’s PLAN when we witness for Christ, when we love others, feed the hungry, visit the shut ins.  When we step out in FAITH, God will work in our lives revealing His plans for each one of us who trust in Him.

Paul said, “He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you”  (Philippians 1:6).

John lived the PLAN God had for his life–he PREACHED a message of CONFESSION of SIN; REPENTANCE of SIN, and SALVATION through Christ Jesus, the Messiah.

We too, need to follow God’s PLAN for our lives of confession, repentance, and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

003-john-baptist  

And NO, we don’t have to wear John’s clothing of camel’s-hair, wear a leather girdle about our waist, live on a diet of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4).  That was John living out God’s specific PLAN for John.  

God’s PLAN for us is specifically designed for only us to live out.

Then, and only then, will God’s PLAN for us be complete, because we will be able to spend eternity in His Kingdom!

 


CREDITS:

Photos chosen:  From Google IMAGE Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted in text (ESV – English Standard Version).

 

You Better Turn Your Radio On!

stock-photo-transportation-and-vehicle-concept-man-using-car-audio-stereo-system-200342450

I’m old enough to remember the “Good old days,” when the radio at our house was always on.  From listening to radio serials every night at specific times: Tom Mix, Captain Midnight, Gabriel Heatter and the News (my parents’ choice), just to mention a few.  And of course, there was the music.  I grew up listening to my parents love of music: Guy Lombardo on New Year’s Eve, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, the Big Band sounds.

In my teenage years, the radio continued to influence my taste.  Although the styles had changed, my desire to listen had not: Rock & Roll, Folk music, Surfer music, Motown.  Whatever was popular in the music world, I had turned the radio on to listen where ever I was–in the car, at home, or at the beach.

And remembering how the RADIO effected my life growing up, coincidentally, I was watching a documentary on TV recently, regarding air traffic over our country today.  It pointed out in detail, that if there wasn’t an Emergency FREQUENCY (also known as GUARD) available to pilots and air traffic controllers, it would be a disaster waiting to happen.  By turning on the TRANSPONDER to 7700–locator frequency, the device automatically receives the radio signal.

GUARD is a frequency used on the aircraft band that is reserved for EMERGENCY communications for aircraft in distress or an emergency, and in addition used by air traffic control to warn aircraft flying into restricted or prohibited airspace.  The frequency is 121.5 MHz for civilian aircraft  [*See Footnote [i] ].

As Christians, we have access to the emergency frequency that responds to our concerns in PRAYER.  Being not tuned in may lead you into an unplanned nosedive in your circumstance–a crash landing, so to speak.

Turn Your RADIO on!

The prophet Jeremiah shows us that God gives incredible directions when we call upon Him.

call-unto-me-and-i-will-answer

JEREMIAH 33:1-3 (Amplified Bible):

[1]  MOREOVER, THE word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard, saying,

[2]  Thus says the Lord Who made [the earth], the Lord Who formed it to establish it–the Lord is His name:

[3]  Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know (do not distinguish and recognize, have knowledge of and understand).

Jeremiah wrote these words as a prisoner (v. 1).  So much wickedness in the land existed among the people and God said, destruction was on the horizon!

Neither Jeremiah nor the kingdom of Judah could stop the Babylonian army.  Yet God says to call Him, and He will answer and do incredible things.  It was His PROMISE in the middle of their trouble and despair.

The Bible is full with PROMISES of prayer:

Psalm 50:15 – “And call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor and glorify Me.”

Matthew 21:22 – “And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive.”

John 16:24 – “Up to this time you have not asked a [single] thing in My Name [as representing all that I AM]; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy (gladness, delight) may be full and complete.”

So why have so many given up on asking in PRAYING?

“Oh, I haven’t really given up on prayer. I just don’t pray unless someone ask me to pray for them or somebody else.  You know, like at church.”

Just maybe, we need a better understanding on how we can use the emergency FREQUENCY on our radios before we give up on PRAYER.

If you don’t know how to dial in the FREQUENCY, nothing will happen!

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If you don’t push the POWER button on your car radio, nothing will happen!

Jeremiah 33:3 provides us with a KNEEBOARD (pilot’s accessory) synopsis of PRAYER:

Pilot's KNEEBOARD
Pilot’s KNEEBOARD
  • CALL to Him.
  • He will answer
  • He will tell us of things we do not know.

“CALL” to the Lord sounds easy enough.

The Hebrew root word for “CALL” means to call out after you encounter someone.  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says,  “Calling” in this sense constitutes a PRAYER prompted by recognize need and directed to One who is able and willing to respond (Psalm 145:18; Isaiah 55:6).”

When using 121.5 MHz on the radio,the pilot is expected to state the nature of the problem.  The pilot will also be asked if he wants to declare an emergency.  The declaration ranges from stating you have a “problem”, not to serious, to “mayday-mayday-mayday”, life threatening.

The Lord wants us to CALL, regardless of how serious the need.

  • When lacking something–CALL on Jehovah-Jireh; the LORD provides (Gen. 22:13).
  • When hurting–CALL on Jehovah-Rapha; the LORD our healer (Exodus 15:26).
  • When in the valley of the shadow of death–CALL on Jehovah-Rohi; the LORD is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).
  • When troubled or distressed–CALL on Jehovah-Shalom; the LORD is peace (Judges 6:24).

Did you know, Jesus’ disciples never asked Him to teach them to SING, to PREACH, or how to WITNESS.  Rather, they asked Him:  “Lord, teach us to PRAY” (Luke 11:1).

When we CALL, we must be sincere in our requests–not as hypocrites.  We can’t pray “Hallowed be Thy Name”–then cuss at our neighbor.

Nor can we say piously, “Thy will be done”–then continue to live as we please.

“Give us daily bread”–cannot be followed by hoarding & selfish gain.

“Forgive our sins”–will not work if we then carry grudges to bed at night.

The hypocrite prays “Lead us not into temptation”–but not until the party is over.

Don’t CALL on God’s EMERGENCY frequency on your radio UNLESS…you EXPECT an answer!

Let me give you an ILLUSTRATION:

A tavern owner was being built in a previously dry town (No alcohol here!).  Christians began an all-night prayer vigil, asking God to intervene.  A bolt of lightning suddenly struck the tavern, burning it to the ground.  The owner of the Bar sued the local church for destruction of his establishment.  So, the church lawyered up and claimed they were not responsible.  The judge said, “It appears the tavern owner believes in prayer & Christians do not.”

Praying with EXPECTATION–God does indeed “ANSWER” Prayer.

Could it possibly be, that when we think that God doesn’t answer OUR prayers, we aren’t praying with EXPECTATION?

How often I’ve heard when people pray, “If it be your will. God.”  Do we sometimes need an escape clause when we our praying, especially in group prayer, perhaps covering our EXPECTATION that God probably won’t answer?  At least, with an answer that meets our expectation.

psalm-4-11

Yet, what we ask for is often not as reasonable as we think.

A young school boy was saying his nightly prayer:  “Please make Lynden (where I reside) the capital of Washington State.”

His mother asked,  “Why did you ask for that?”

The boy replied,  “Because that’s what I put down on my test today at school.”

When we ask & then don’t receive, perhaps we’ve asked with the wrong motives.  Proverbs 15:29 (AMP):

“The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the [consistently] righteous (the upright, in right standing with Him).”

There is faulty logic to conclude when the Lord hears our prayers that it means He will answer to OUR EXPECTATIONS!  We don’t make request, petitions, because we are righteous. but because of the Lord’s MERCY!!

daniel-9-18

We can be assured that GOD answers EVERY PRAYER in a merciful manner.

ANSWERS can come in 4-Ways:  No, Slow, Grow, Go.

Say your daughter asks you if she can have some CANDY.  You might say “No” because there’s a reason for not giving her the candy.

I have two daughters that contracted Type I, Diabetes when they were quite young. Many times when other children were receiving candy, they would ask my wife and I for just one piece, not knowing the consequences of their requests.

A “Slow” may be the response if you say, just “one piece.”  A “Grow” answer is allowing a piece of candy AFTER she cleans her bedroom.  The “Go” reply means help yourself, you’re READY to eat the candy!

Greedy girl with pile of sweets laying on the table and with troubled expression on the face
Greedy girl with pile of sweets laying on the table and with troubled expression on the face

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ tells us,  “Ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your JOY (gladness, delight) may be full and complete”  

JOY then, can come when we see God’s hand in the ANSWER; when we realize how breathtaking His ANSWER really is!

And not only will God “ANSWER” us, He will answer us of the things we do not know or can imagine (Jeremiah 33:3).

Philip, a disciple, asked Jesus if 8 months wages (about $40) would feed 5000 folks (Mark 6:37).  The only answer the disciples saw was 3 barley loaves and 2 small fish.  Then Jesus showed them a great and unsearchable thing:  5,000 were fed!

In 1973, a young couple accepted Christ as their Savior a year earlier when they were confronted with a dilemma presented by their pastor’s message one Sunday morning:  “To Tithe or Not to Tithe”.  With three children, a car payment, a mortgage, and barely getting by financially, there was no way they could take 10% out of the budget and give it to the Lord.  “PRAY about it,” they were told.  “How do we do that?” the husband asked.  “Just simply ask the LORD for help in making the decision, then trust Him in His answer.”  Well, the decision was made, or so they thought.  “We just can do this right now.”  But several months later, a “spiritual light bulb” came on.  “We can do this!”  And with their faithfulness and trust, they’ve been BLESSED ever since with “things they did not know or could imagine.”  

That young family was my family, over 43 years ago, and God is still answering our PRAYERS!

The Lord can answer in bigger and better ways than you can pray.  But, you need to turn your radio to the EMERGENCY frequency in times of spiritual failure.

If you need direction and purpose in your life–He will answer you.  After all, Jesus says “I came that they [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows”  (John 10:10 AMP).

If you’re feeling more burdens than you can bear–let Him tell you the answer.  Our awesome, omnipotent, loving God will ANSWER Prayers, if you CALL!

 


Credit & Sources –

Footnote [1]:  Wikipedia – Aircraft emergency frequency.

Commentary:  Sermon Notes on Jeremiah 33:3 by Tom Doubt. Baptist/Minister.

Photo Credits:  Photo Pin/Shutterstock; Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); King James Bible (KJV).

“Soul Fasting” (Part One)

TRUE FASTING–

Is there a difference between REGULAR FASTING and TRUE FASTING for the Believer?  When pastors call for a church to fast during the year, do we understand the differences, or are there differences?  Is the idea of FASTING an Old Testament practice and not for todays Church?

Isaiah 58:3-12 NIV translation:

“Why have we fasted, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”

A Bending Reed
A Bending Reed

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke  of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” 

GOD’S CHOSEN FAST:

I’ve been re-reading a terrific book written by one of my favorite authors, Mr. Don Nori: SECRETS OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE.  He asks a question that really caught my attention (pg. 175),  “Are you content to fast food, or is your desire to become God’s chosen fast?”

He goes on to say “Most of us know what the Scriptures call the true fast,” but few of us know the power and significance of this most unusual form of fasting.”

Now I don’t know “most Christians,” but I know I was unfamiliar with this form of fasting.   So, the Word Detective investigation into God’s Word began.

Over my Christian life, I’ve heard many times by different pastors who call for an annual “CHURCH FAST”; not a mandatory ritual, but a strongly suggested activity for a week or two in January.

Being a DIABETIC for over 56 years, ‘doing without food’ and adjusting my insulin wasn’t an option, so I just passed.  Now my actions might be an excuse or just a misunderstanding of the term FASTING, in either case I simply ignored the pastor’s request (I do pray!).

FASTING FOR WRONG MOTIVES:

In Isaiah 58:1-2, we can see the seriousness of the people’s self-absorbed religious practices.

[1] CRY ALOUD, spare not.  Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins!

{2] Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God.  They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways].  (Amplified Bible)

The people delight in the nearness of God; they thought of themselves as righteous–right with God.

THE PEOPLES PRESSURE (3-5):

In Verse 3, the people now voice their complaint in difficulty, though they were doing what the Law required.

Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not noticed?  Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  (NIV translation)

The people present how they view their RELIGION.  They were observing the activities as laid down by the religious leaders (priests), even engaging in FASTING (Lev. 16:29; Zech. 7:5-6).  They thought their FASTING in and of itself was humbling before their Lord.

Their FASTING though, was thoughtless or done as an attempt to obtain a selfish conclusion.  It was employed only for RELIGIOUS SHOW or to engage God to act on their behalf (See Mt. 6:16-18).

THE ACT OF SELF-DENIAL IN OUR FASTING:

Self-denial is a process to draw us closer to God, allowing us to hear Him better.  The prescribed annual fast, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) was to afflict one’s soul for the purpose of mediation on the seriousness of one’s sins and the greatness of God in making ATONEMENT for them.  (See Footnote [i]).l

They saw FASTING as denying themselves of God so they might gain something worldly from God in return.  Neither FASTING nor REPENTANCE should be to get something from god in return.  REPENTANCE nor FASTING should be to get God to do anything.  They are expressions, the conviction that my ways are wrong and God’s ways are right whether He does anything for me or not.

Their FAST was simply an affliction of body, not an affliction of soul.

REAL MOTIVES BEHIND OUR BEHAVIOR IN FASTING:

VERSE 4 continues to lay open real motives behind the people’s behavior:

Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.  You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.  (NAS)

The reason for their FASTING was to make their iron-fisted, controversial acts more successful.

Fasting was to be the cause for God to effect or enact their covetous desires.  When it became obvious that their FASTING wasn’t having the desired effect in their lives, they FASTED to know why not.

So God told them that the purpose of their RELIGION was to acquire more and not to improve their closeness, their relationship with Him, as it was originally intended.

VERSE 5 relays that their motives, their purpose for fasting focussed on the external rather than on the realization that they need to be changed:

Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul?  [Is TRUE FASTING merely mechanical?]  Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and acceptable day to the Lord?  (Amplified Bible)

Because they had been focusing on their selfish ends (even their fasting) rather than a change of heart, attitude, and action…their prayers went unanswered.

The SACRIFICES of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  If they call their bodily sacrifice alone a FAST, they were badly mistaken.

Bowing one’s head like a reed was a sign of humility; putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes were symbols of FASTING and signs of submission. But unless they go hand-in-hand as an inward submission to God and turning away from sin, they mean nothing!

THE ABSENCE OF THE BLESSING:

During the days of ISAIAH, God’s people were not experiencing the Lord’s Blessing–His favor on their lives.

They went through the MOTIONS OF WORSHIP and couldn’t understand why God wasn’t noticing their religious efforts.  But while they were FASTING, they were also exploiting their workers and fighting among themselves (vv 3-4).

8222922317_2cce0295b3Isaiah condemned their HYPOCRISY and told them they needed to change.  If they would free the oppressed, share with the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked, God would BLESS THEM with…

 

HEALING,

ANSWERED PRAYER,

GUIDANCE,

STRENGTH,

JOY!

RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY is no substitute for an OBEDIENT HEART.

THE PROPER PATTERN, 6-7:

FASTING is to let go of the normal and natural daily nourishment of this world in order to reach out and grab the empowering of God that is needed and to live righteously in this world.

In VERSES 6 & 7, we learn the desired outcome of FASTING:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?

-GO TO PART TWO TO CONTINUE-

Photo Credits by Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Momentary Spark in the Shadows of Darkness

[10]  Who is among you who [reverently] fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His Servant, YET WHO WALKS IN DARKNESS and deep trouble and has no shinning splendor [in his heart]?  Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God.

[11]  Behold, all you [enemies of your own selves] who attempt to kindle your own fires [and work out you own plans of salvation], who surround and gird yourselves (surround yourselves with a belt) with momentary sparks, darts, and firebrands that you set aflame!–walk by the light of your self-made fire and of the sparks that you have kindled [for yourself, if you will]!  But this shall you have from My hand: you shall lie down in grief and in torment.

~ISAIAH 50:10-11 AMPLIFIED BIBLE.

Surrounded by momentary sparks!

Making Scripture PERSONAL!

The Lord obviously wanted me to receive and understand His message in the above verses in The Book of IsaiahWhat do I mean by “personal”?  That’s when a Scripture verse, written to the WORLD, suddenly becomes MINE (or in your case, YOURS).

I recognized that the Holy Spirit had something specifically He wanted communicated.  I roughly understood what the verse meant!  As Mrs. Charles E. Cowman said in one of her books,  “It means we are in darkness” (in relation to some situation we do not understand) “and the temptation is to find a way without trusting in the Lord and relying on Him!”  Instead of waiting on the Lord’s plans, we try to figure it out ourselves.

Serving God in the Midst of Darkness–

There are times in our lives that we find it difficult to see very far ahead.  I remember one time driving home from a retreat with my wife in the local mountains near us.  We had a late supper out and on the way home, the headlights of the car went out.  I couldn’t see a thing!

Doing what men usually do in such circumstances, I pulled the car over to the side of the road.  I then raised the hood of the car, pretending I know what I was doing, then proceeded to tell my wife with all wisdom and understanding: “It’s just an electrical short that had caused the headlights to fail.”  Of course after forty plus years of marriage, Dianne knew I had no idea what the problem was–but kept from making her response, making the situation worse.

Going Ahead in the Pitch of Night!

I decided I couldn’t wait there along side of the road all  night and pulled out into the night.  Dianne’s reaction to my fool-hearty decision was, “You can’t drive home in the darkness without light!”  And of course I had anticipated her question in advance and blurted out, “At least the parking lights are working!” 

As I drove down the dark mountain highway, the Lord whispered in my ear “Mel, try turning the knob on the dashboard back and forth,” or something to that effect.  I did so and guess what?  Yep, the headlight’s ‘dimmer switch’ or whatever you call it had been inadvertently been turned off(who did that?).  We got home finally, but with all the car’s lights working.

Dianne asked me a question after we pulled into the garage:  “Would you have driven all the way home in the darkness without any lights?”  And my definitive answer…”We would have been just fine, regardless.  We were in God’s hands and protection.  My answer sounded convincing.

Our DESIRES Can Sometimes Be Confusing–

Are you experiencing a dark time in your life?  Do you have a wayward child?  Have you experienced financial reversal?  Has someone broken your heart or taken advantage of you?  Are you not able to make sense of what’s happening in your life?

As Christians, we DESIRE to be “overcomers”.  We DESIRE to go to heaven but rather mot die to get there.  In its very substance, LIFE is tragic without JESUS CHRIST in our lives.

Questions We Asked Ourselves In Life–

Life as we know it is filled with “sweetness” and misery; high times and hard times.  As Christians, we desire to be “overcomers” but don’t want much to overcome.

–Do you have a wayward child?

–Have you experienced financial reversal?

–Has someone broken your heart or taken advantage of you?

–Are you not able to make sense of what’s happening in your life?

Thinking We’ve Got It All Figured Out!

We’ve studied our lessons, learned our formulas and memorized the promises of God’s Word.  We think that we’ve got it all figured out and suddenly…we are plunged into a deep, deep darkness.  Why does such darkness come to a Christian?

The question we ask more than any other is “Why?”  WHY did God allow sickness to come to me or a loved one?  WHY did God heal that person and not heal me?  WHY?  WHY?  WHY?

What Do We Do When the Lights Go Out?

When we went to school, we received lesson first, then learned the lessons second.  “Premature Deliverance”…from a situation is when man frustrates God’s work of grace in our lives rather than committing the whole situation to Him; willing to abide in darkness, so long as you have His presence.   REMEMBER, “it is better to walk in the dark with God than walk alone in the light” (Mrs. Cowman).  And that’s what it means.  Often, we have prayed prayers and don’t understand at all what happened.  When in fact, God actually has ANSWERED those PRAYERS. 

PRAYERS like, “Oh God, use me”, or “Increase my faith Lord”, and “Thy will be done”.  And of course, He does have a will for your life, as He has for all of our lives.  But His will is likely to go in directions we never anticipated; areas we never ever thought about or desired.  He will answer those prayers, and all to often we haven’t understood His answers.  This is all consistent with His Word:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

GOD has directions and plans completely outside-you and that’s the point!  It’s not about you and I.  When He answers those prayers of ours, He begins preparing us for the life and work ahead.  Be abundantly clear here, the work is His and not yours!

THE DEEPEST DARKNESS (ISAIAH 50:10):

This passage of Scripture is not talking about someone who has wandered away from God.  This person fears and loves the Lord: Who is among you who fears the Lord…”

This verse is addressing the person or persons who fears and loves the Lord.  “Fear of the Lord”  MEANS, “love on its knees”.  The person who FEARS God the most–loves God the most.  This person OBEYS God’s voice (v. 10).

There is a distortion of the truth today when a person becomes a Christian–everything becomes like honey and no bees; all sunlight and roses with no rain and weeds.  There is no reason to deny it.

Tens of thousands of Christians across the world fear and love the Lord, yet are experiencing darkness.  More than 150,000 Christians were martyred last year all over the world.

Job said, “Even young children despise me; when I get up, they speak against me” (Job 19:18).

Habakkuk shouted,   “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help and You will not hear?  Or cry out to You of violence and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2).

John the Baptist sent messengers from prison and asked JESUS,  “Are you really the Messiah or should we look for another.”

Each one of these men of God came to a “lights out” time on a ‘dark road’ in life and didn’t understand or comprehend why and what was fully happening to them.

FAITH BORN IN THE LIGHT IS OFTEN DEVELOPED IN THE SHADOWS:

Someone once said that FAITH is like film:  “It’s better developed in the darkness.”

QUESTION:  When have you grown the most spiritually in your life?  When Mr  Trouble comes and knocks at your front door–becoming more mature in the spirit becomes better developed than other times.

So, How Does God Develop Our FAITH In The Darkness?

God says in Isaiah’s passage, it takes two steps:  We are to look to the Lord first—“trust in the Lord” (verse 10).  The Amplified translation uses, “rely on,” “trust in,” “be confident in”.  I like what Warren Wiersbe said, “We live by promises, not by explanations.”

Just because it doesn’t make sense to us at the time, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense to our Heavenly Father.  We must continue to stand on God’s Word, regardless of what’s going on in our lives.  GOD’S WORD never changes and remains constant in ALL of the seasons of life.

The Second Step:

Lean upon the Lord–“let him lean and be supported by his God.”

When you find yourself in the dark and along side a lonely isolated road, you don’t need an explanation–you need God!  It is more important to be with God in a valley of darkness than to be on a mountain peak in sunlight without Him.

There are some things that I want in life that I don’t need, and some things I need that I don’t want.  Only GOD can really discern between bad and good–good and best.  God wants to develop our FAITH; never to doubt in the dark what you have learned in the light.  The TEST OF OUR CHARACTER is not what we do in a worship service but what we do in the dark.

FAITH’S DANGER:

It is better to be serving GOD in the darkness than to be standing alone in “man-made” light (Isaiah 50:11).

One of the most dangerous temptations is to be tempted to light our own fire in the darkness.  If God has permitted the darkness, then we must wait upon the Lord.  We must never get the idea that darkness can overcome light; darkness will run from light.

If you don’t believe this is the truth, then turn on the light in a darkened room and open the closet.  You will find darkness is hiding in the closet!  The only way that DARKNESS can enter is that the light be removed.

So, if the LIGHT has been removed from the situations of your life, then God in His wisdom has allowed you to be in the darkness.  If God is the One who has allowed darkness to come your way, don’t be foolish and light your own fire.  Don’t try to undue what God is already doing.

A man-made fire is deceptive.  It’s like a man getting up in the middle of the night, hearing a disturbance in the house and grabbing a flashlight beside his bed.  And with his flashlight, he goes over to the sundial to see what time it is.

God says that if we light our own fire–[work out our own plans AMP] in the midst of God-planed darkness, then we will suffer.  For an example, God told Abraham and Sarah they would have a child of their own–God gave them a promise.  However, God didn’t fulfill that promise immediatelyAbraham, in the middle of his darkness of doubt, created his own fire with Hagar.  Ishmael was born.  Think about the suffering that followed Abraham and the world because he did not wait on God in the midst of darkness.

IF YOUR SUN HAS SET, IT WILL RISE AGAIN:

Faith’s Daybreak–Psalm 30:5

“For His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime or in His favor is life.  Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

“[The Servant of God says]  The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.  He wakens Me morning by morning.  He wakens My ear to hear as a disciple [as one who is taught]”  (Isaiah 50:4 AMP).

“Come And Light My Fire Jesus”–

God will awaken us in the morning, even though you may be in the dark shadows now, there’s a better day coming!  If you are in darkness, then TRUST GOD, and He will turn every tear into a pearl, every hurt into a hallelujah.

There is a better day coming.

For non-Christians, this is as GOOD as it gets.  And as Christians, this is as BAD as it gets!

A PERSONAL CHALLENGE TO TAKE:

Take a walk and enjoy the warmth of a sunny day.  And while you are lifting your face, enjoying the warmth of the rays, the sun-rays of sunlight are already 8.3 minutes old when they reach you.  Even though you can experience the warmth of the sun, you’ve never seen the full power of the sun.  You have felt its warmth but never really seen the sun.

In a like manner, we can feel the warmth of God’s presence, but we’ve never fully seen the glory of God.  But there is a time coming as a child of God, that we will see the face of JESUS.  We will fully see what we slightly experienced in this life.  Just remember when the lights go out, GOD is still there in the midst of your darkness.

There Are Treasures Of Darkness–

Have you ever heard someone say, “The stars are out tonight”?  The fact is, stars are out in the daytime, but we can’t see them because of the sunlight.

The stars are there for us to praise the Lord (Psalm 148:3).  We would never have a star to praise the Lord without darkness.  GOD wants to give you a star so you can praise Him even more.  Our trials become stars in order to praise the Lord in the light that He gives us.

So, when the lights go out…reflect on our faith’s devotion, development, discernment, danger, and daybreak (Light),  in the POWER of the Holy Spirit’s fire.