Wednesday, December 4, 2013
# 295 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers, yet we can learn much about fasting from their example. We've been looking at Nehemiah's prayer in conjunction with his fast. The prayer is found in Ne 1:5 -10, and we'll pick it up today in v8, “Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 'but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' 10 "Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. Here Nehemiah reminds God of His covenant promise to His church. When the church returns to God in humility and repentance, treasuring God's Words, God promises to restore it. This has always been the case with God's dealings with His people...the church. Then, he makes a plea that God would restore the people so that His redemptive work wouldn't be for nought. Let His church rise, rebuild the walls, restore the gates so that it would no longer be the laughing stock of the world. It’s about God’s name being hallowed! Finally, after (1) acknowledging the greatness of God, and (2) acknowledging God’s faithfulness, and (3) telling God that he is aware of the responsibilities of God’s people, then (4) confessing how far short they had fallen of their responsibilities, and (5) reminding God of His promise toward the contrite people, and asking Him to intervene for His name’s sake, His glory, Nehemiah finally brings His request before God. This request was the focal point of his fast and prayer. “give success to Your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. (King Artaxerxes) Nehemiah was simply asking for some forward movement in the project of rebuilding the walls. He had some ideas as to what he would need for the project, but he was going to first of all need the approval of Artaxerxes. So this fast served a twofold purpose. Nehemiah was fasting for the restoration of the church, and he was fasting to find favor with the government. The latter has been greatly overlooked in the church today. More on that next time. Father, thank You for this model from Nehemiah, let us put it into practice today!
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
# 294 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers, yet we can learn much about fasting from their example. In the next couple of days, I want to spend some more time looking at the fast of Nehemiah. You can read about it in Nehemiah 1 and 2. Nehemiah was greatly bothered by the broken down walls and gates of Jerusalem (the church) He didn’t have to be bothered by that news. His faith was intact, he had a good job in the kings court many miles away. Why not just live his life as is. It’s not his concern! But it is! He rightly saw the church as his concern, and guess what? The Body of Christ is your concern, it is my concern! There is a breach in the wall, the gates are down. The world has broken into the church! What will you do about it? Will you pass on lunch and pray? His first step in fixing the problem was to go before the God of heaven. The God of the dispensary of grace and all things needful, and he prayed and fasted before Him. Listen to his prayer as found in Neh 1:5-11: “And I said, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God (everything in that opening line acknowledges that God is bigger than the problem!) “who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, (next, Nehemiah let’s God know that he is very much aware of God's faithfulness to His Word. He is also aware of the responsibilities of God’s people. They are to love God and keep (treasure) His commandments. Let (allow) Your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night. The mention of the ears and eyes of God link prayer and fasting. God hears the prayer, but He also sees the prayer of fasting. This prayer is with Nehemiah day and night! Remember the sermon on the mount as it regards proper prayer and fasting? “And Your Father who SEES in secret will reward you.” Nehemiah was simply stating the promise expounded on by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He goes on to confess the sins of the church, “confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which WE have sinned against You. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept (treasured) the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded Your servant Moses.. Here Nehemiah acknowledges the sin of the people, but he makes it clear that he and his father’s generation are also guilty. Walls don’t fall down overnight, they deteriorate over time. The reason the walls are broken down and the world has flooded the church, and the gates have been opened is because he, his father’s house, and all the people have gotten sloppy with the Word of God. Father, move us to mourn and fast for Your church when She is in shambles and rejoice when She is doing well.
Monday, December 2, 2013
# 293 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers, yet we can learn much about fasting from their example. In the next couple of days, I want to spend some time looking at the fast of Nehemiah. You can read about this fast in the first two chapters of Nehemiah. As we go through this portion of Scripture, we will look at the reason for his fast, the prayer connected with his fast, and the results of his fast. First, a little background for you.. The Jews had been carried off into captivity by Babylon for 70 years. When Persia defeated Babylon, king Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple in the year 536 B.C. Now they once again had a place to worship. But they didn’t know how to worship, how to live if you will, and so a second wave of exiles returned led by a man named Ezra in 457 B.C. who had “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.” ( Ezra 7:10) Evidently, Ezra’s message was not received whole-heartedly and by the year 444 B.C. the city (the church) was a mess. The believers, their religion, and by inference, their God had become a laughingstock to those around them, and that’s where we pick up the story. In Neh 1:3, we read that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and it's gates destroyed by fire.” What are city walls and gates for? Well, the walls are for protection from any and all enemies, and the gates are a way of controlling who enters the city and who doesn’t. And they were gone, broken down, burned with fire. The people of Jerusalem had no protection from the influences of the world. In many ways, the church of Jesus Christ today has become like this city of Jerusalem. There is no separation between the world and the church, and who needs gates, when “all roads lead to God.” How dare anyone insist that Jesus is the only way to salvation! The church has become the influenced, rather than the influencer. The salt has lost it's saltiness. Look around people! The walls are down people. The gates are burned! Does this bother you? Does it bother you enough to give up dinner? Does it bother you enough to fast to invite the power of God into the situation? It bothered Nehemiah, look at verse 4. “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Father, open our eyes stir our hearts, come and help us rebuild the walls and gates of Your church.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
# 292 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers. Last time we talked about the role of fasting and moving mountains. A man had approached the disciples and asked them to cast the demon out of his boy. But they couldn't do it, and Jesus reminded them that they needed to fast and pray in order to tackle such a big mountain. The disciples were perplexed. Had they not just gone out and healed people of their diseases and cast out demons….why couldn’t they do it for this father and his boy? And the answer is your spiritual victories of yesterday are not going to give you victories over your mountains of today. You can’t dwell on your past laurels. Oh, they should remind you of the power of God and what He can do when it is released in your life. But in the matter of spiritual disciplines, you don’t just give to the poor once and expect that to carry over for the rest of your life. You don’t engage in private prayer once and think you’re finished. You don’t just fast once for victory and then forget about it. These are disciplines. They need to become a regular part of your spiritual life. Far too often, we Christians try these spiritual disciplines for a little while and if we don’t get our desired results, we throw in the towel. Or we may decide that we can manage our mountains in our own strength. We decide to co-exist with them……..or we decide the fights over, friend….that is rebellion. The children of Israel were denied entrance into the promised land because they didn’t believe God would help them conquer the giants of the land, and God called their refusal, “rebellion.” (Numbers 14:9) Got a mountain that needs to be removed? Don’t throw in the towel. Keep at it. If you’ve ever tried to bust down a concrete wall with a sledgehammer, you know full well that it doesn’t come down with the first lick. You gotta hit it repeatedly. Wham! Wham Wham! And pretty soon some chips begin to fly. Wham! Wham! Wham! Pretty soon a hairline crack will show up! Wham Wham! Wham! And eventually that whole wall, that whole mountain will come tumbling down! That’s the way it is with these spiritual disciplines. Don’t give up folks. Get started and keep at it, until you get the breakthrough. Use the tools God has given you! Purpose in your heart to practice the discipline of fasting. Praying with your body, in order to call God into your situation. Father, forgive me for those times I weary, grant me a persistent attitude against the mountains in my life.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
# 291 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers. Today, I want to continue to speak about moving mountains through fasting. Specifically looking at the account of the demon possessed boy in Mt 17:14-21, “ And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 "So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." 17 Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out? " 20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Look at this boy. He’s a mess! He is described here as one who experienced many seizures. He was subject to periods of crazy behavior. As we read on we see that this behavior was under control of the demon that was residing in him. Demons are under the control of the devil, and the devil is a murderer, and he was trying to kill this young boy by causing him to leap into fires and jumping into water. In Mark’s account we find additional information, the boy was unable to speak, and was subject to convulsions, and evidently was unable to eat properly as he was described as wasting away. So this family has been dealing with a suicidal child, with epileptic like symptoms, and an eating disorder. Not only that, but I tell you what. You jump into fires often enough and you are going to bear some scars. This was the life of this father. Pulling his son out of the water and administering CPR, or taking him down to the burn center, or the eating disorder clinic, or another round with the plastic surgeons. This was a huge mountain. A mountain that was removed by Jesus and He then passes along mountain removing advice to us. This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting. It’s not about demanding that He fix the things in your life that are mountains. It’s about allowing Him to release His power through you as you believe His word concerning fasting. Work with Jesus ! Believe His words! Allow Him to remove the mountain or give you the strength to conquer it! Father thank You for the spiritual tool of fasting. Release Your power into lives that need it today.
Monday, November 25, 2013
# 290 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers. Today, I want to continue to speak about moving mountains through fasting. You should know by now that God wants His people to be mountain movers! These mountains are to be taken figuratively not literally, and in that sense they mean obstacles. It's not that God cannot literally move mountains, of course He can, the extreme examples used by Jesus in the Gospels are given to us so that we may see, that literal mountain moving, and any other even lesser obstacles that need to be removed are not too difficult for God. Do you have mountains in your life right now? You know, those hindrances that seemingly won't budge? Those things that ever loom in your life. You can’t help thinking about them, worrying about them, and even though you may forget about them for a time as you get occupied with other things, when you look up, …..there they are again. They are like Mt. Ranier in Seattle, never far from sight. Sometimes it’s not just Mt Ranier, sometimes it’s the who stinking range. It’s not just Mt Ranier….it’s seems like the Himalayas. These obstacles or mountains do nothing but take up space and time in your life that could better be spent on kingdom matters. That’s what the devil does with the mountains in your life. He puts them there to keep you preoccupied with fruitless distractions, but, ENTER GOD! The Great Remover of Mountains. God uses the mountains in your life for His glory, and He is more than able to remove them if that’s His will, or more than able to conquer them in His name for His glory. When Jesus came upon a blind man, His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" You see this blindness was a mountain in this man’s life. 3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (Jn 9:2,3) God was glorified as the mountain of blindness was removed from the man. Still another time, a man brought his demon possessed son to the disciples. His boy often fell into the fire and into the water. Jesus cast out the demon and set the boy and his father free. Afterwards he told his disciples that this kind of demon only comes out by prayer and fasting. Just think of the mountain this demon possessed boy presented to his father through the years. Look what He told His disciples to do to remove that mountain. He told them to pray and fast. It is praying and fasting that invites the power of God into the situation. Invite Him into yours. When the power of God is unleashed there are two possible results for you and your mountain. It will either be removed or conquered. Either way, to the glory of God, it will no longer be an obstacle in your life.
Friday, November 22, 2013
# 289 – We are continuing a series on fasting. As we have seen, this spiritual discipline is not just for Old Testament believers. Today, I want to begin to speak about moving mountains through fasting. You should know by now that God wants His people to be mountain movers! Jesus said in Mr 11:23 "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. In Josh 14:12, we read of the request of 85 year old Caleb, "Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said." 85 years old and still desiring to conquer mountains in the name of the Lord! Mountain conquering is for the old and young alike! In Isa 40:4, we read, “Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; And in Zec 4:6,7 we read, “So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. 7 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'" Mountains cannot be removed without the help of God. It is not by our might or power but by the power of the Holy Spirit, and when we fast God releases His reward (His power) into the situation. The windows of heaven are opened and grace comes down like rain. When we fast, our body shouts to our situation with the words found in Zechariah, “Grace, grace to it! Father, I pray for those facing mountains today. Release Your grace into their situation.