What I've learned from a Week of Prayer & Fasting!

Truly Our Lord's forty day fast without a meal was a divinely empowered event! I can't even imagine going without a meal for that long. In fact, it's a very dangerous venture, healthwise.

But we recently finished a week long gathering of prayer & fasting and that too, needs to be a time that is divinely inspired, empowered & sustained. Here's a few things that the Lord was showing me during this time of abstaining from physical nourishment & drinking only liquids, water, tea, coffee & depending upon the Lord for strength from His fellowship in prayer, the Word & a deep yearning for His Spirit to empower, pour out & manifest Himself in our lives, our city, our church & our personal needs!

First, I learned that the battle between the flesh & the Spirit is indeed alive. (Gal.5:17) 'For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.' The enemy of our souls truly does not want the church to awaken, to move in power, to win souls, to become intimate with Christ & aware of His power. There was a definite battle in the spiritual realm as well as just a daily wrestling with the fleshly, carnal appetites, specifically food!

Second, The Word of God truly is a sustaining source of supernatural strength! (Matt.4:4, 1Pet.2:2) 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he appealed to the Lord's hunger during His fast. But Jesus replied with what He was relying on for His nourishment & strength, the spiritual bread, the manna from heaven, the milk of God's Word, the meat of God's word, the honey of God's Word, the water of God's Word! It truly is all that & more during a time of fasting!

Third, The Spirit of God gives life & strength to our physical bodies. (Rom.8:11) 'But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.' There were daily times & times of desperation when I called upon the Lord to fill me with His Strength that I felt empowered in a new & fresh way! Without His enabling we are nothing!

Fourth, Be thankful for the little things! (Phil.4:11-13) Learn to be content, whether full or hungry! One of the things the Lord brought to my attention was how we take for granted often the times that we do give thanks to God for our meals. Sometimes our prayers are so 'vain repetitious' that we truly don't mean what we say, but only to get the prayer out of the way so we can eat! Be thankful to God in everything & for those things that we are fortunate to enjoy.

Fifth, Think of others! There's a needy world out there! The Poor, homeless & hungry! (Prov.19:17) 'He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.' When the church is purposely going without food to seek the Lord, it brings to mind those in our community that go without food daily without choice, but by circumstance or difficulty. We need to continue to reach out to those that are close on God's heart.

Sixth, God hears the prayers of the righteous! (1 Pet.3:12) 'For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' It's a blessing to know, God hears us & will answer us according to His will.

Seventh, Fasting teaches us to be self-less, to deny ourselves. A quality the Lord desires to see in each of His disciples. (Matt.16:24)

Eighth, Fasting & Prayer teaches us to rely completely on the Lord. (Prov.3:5-6) Teaches us to trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him in all your ways & He shall direct your paths.

Nine & Ten, Fasting teaches us self-discipline & puts Christ in His proper position as Lord. Truly the flesh-led life is good for nothing except to be crucified. What I think of when I think of self-discipline is letting the 'flesh-life' know that it is not in control. The Lord is in charge! The appetites of the flesh are not in charge! God is in charge of this vessel. God want's us to be led of the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit, full of the Spirit, not the appetites of this carnal nature.  (1Cor.9:27; Rom.7:18,23-24, 8:5-8, Gal.5:22-23)

I want to challenge you to include some self-discipline into your spiritual walk every so often as the Lord leads! Challenge yourself to fast & devote yourself to prayer, either for a few days or a week! It'll do you some good spiritually. Remember, Jesus taught 'When you fast...' (Matt.6:16) not 'If you fast' supposing that His disciples would include this discipline as a part of their walk. Be Blessed! Dave

Falsely Accused

The blood stained stones of the judgment hall in Jerusalem are a solemn reminder of the price Christ paid for our sins. The innocent Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world and we have received the blessing of forgiveness, adoption, sonship & eternal salvation.

I'm specifically reminded of what Christ had to endure before He was fastened to the cross. I'm reminded of the trials before Herod, Pilate & the Sanhedrin. (Mark 14:55-59) tells us 'the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.' Eventually they would put Christ to death on His own claim that He is the Christ, the Son of God.

Our innocent Savior was falsely accused & mistreated, yet we are the recipients of the blessing that was secured by our Savior's suffering. A death that was prophesied before the foundation of the world. (Acts 2:23; 1Pet.1:20; Ps.22:15-18; Rev.13:8)

Jesus encourages believers who have to endure false accusations in (Matt.5:11-12), 'Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'

The story of Joseph also comes to mind how he was sold into Egypt by his jealous brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar's wife & unjustly jailed. But we know that God's fingerprints were all over the process to bring about the salvation of all of Israel (Gen.39-48).

In the end, Joseph had the right attitude towards those who meant him harm, he saw God's hand in the matter & was able to tell his brothers (Gen.50:20) "...you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive."

God is able to make the difficult days, the trials we endure for our good & His glory (Rom.8:28).

What difficulty, false accusations, trial, hardship are you having to endure? Remember, James teaches us that the trying of our faith produces patience. Godly character is a great result of the pains we have to endure in this life, if we face them with the proper perspective & learn that God's hand is on the thermostat. Realize that God loves you and everything we go through on earth has to go through the 'Father Filter' first before it get's to us.

Nothing can touch us as God's children, except that which God would allow. He allows us to experience the fiery trial, that we might come forth as gold and become more Christlike in our character. That should be our goal! It's often our prayer! "Make me like You, Lord!" We often don't like the process, it can be painful, but the rewards are far greater! Count it all joy!

(1Peter 2:21-23) 'For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously...'

For further reading consider: (1 Pet.3-4; Prov.6:16-19; Eph.4:29-32; Eph.6:10-13; 2 Cor.10:3-5; 1Cor.13:4-8; Gal.5:16-26; Gal.6:7-10)

 

One on One with Jesus

In Acts 8:26-32 we have the wonderful account of Philip being led by the Spirit of God to leave the revival God had used him to spark in Samaria and now head down a road to the desert.

'Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert. So he arose and went.' Acts 8:26-27a

If you know the rest of the story, through Philip's obedience to take the desert path, he was further instructed to join himself to a chariot where he would overhear an Ethiopian eunuch reading from the prophet Isaiah, specifically the Messianic chapter of Isaiah 53.

Philip then realized the work of the Spirit and took the initiative to engage the man on the chariot and preach Jesus to him. History tells us, that Ethiopian eunuch would return to Ethiopia and take the gospel to his own country.

Philip's one on one ministry reminds me of one of my favorite books 'The Great Physician' by G. Campbell Morgan. In it the author follows the one on one sessions that our Lord Jesus had with different individuals.

Jesus was a Master Physician, and just like a doctor visit is usually one on one, so Jesus looked into the hearts of each individual and administered the proper instruction and encouragement each of them needed.

Imagine if your physician diagnosed you and all his patients with the same illness and administered the same prescription to all he saw, though you all had different symptoms. That would not be good medical practice, that would be malpractice.

Jesus was an expert at one on one investment and investigative research into what was going on in the individual hearts and lives of those He was able to minister to.

So, as we continue to seek the Lord and spend time studying His life and bask in His love and meditate on the counsel of His Word we will become like Him in the ability to give wise counsel and encouragement to others.

I just flew in from a pastor's conference and my seat on the return flight had been chosen for me, I normally would not choose a middle seat, I like the window because I rarely get up during a flight. I had the opportunity to change my seat but I felt the still small voice of the Lord speak to me or maybe my own heart saying, 'Maybe the Lord put me there to minister to the passengers on my left or right.'

"Now the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears." (1 Samuel 3:10)

As I pondered that thought I decided not to change my seat. Later another opportunity opened up to give up my seat and receive a $300.00 voucher for a future flight if I took a later flight. The airline had overbooked our flight and was looking for volunteers to give up their seat. I was encouraged by another pastor to join him on volunteering, so I did.

The Lord overruled our decision and we eventually got on the flight. And wouldn't you know it, before I would exit that aircraft God opened a door for me to pray for the passenger seated next to me. Her father in law had just been diagnosed with cancer and she asked if I could take a prayer request. I agreed and then asked if we can pray immediately which she agreed to.

I'm so grateful that I obeyed that still small voice of the Lord speaking to my heart and didn't switch my seat. God obviously had a plan that was greater than my own.

"and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19:12)

I want to encourage you to be sensitive to the still small voice of the Lord directing your heart and take a step of faith to obey the Lord. Then watch Him work wonderfully as He uses you to reach others for His glory!

The Gift of Tongues

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Caesarea, Israel is one of the first places where the gift of tongues was given to believers after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The Apostle Peter was fetched by three men in Acts 10 to come & preach Jesus to a devout Roman soldier named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea. And while Peter preached the word, the Spirit fell, the Gentiles spoke with tongues and encountered the Lord in a beautiful way!

Unfortunately, the gift of tongues has received a not so welcomed response by many believers today. Yet, Paul clearly tells us not to forbid speaking in tongues. A lot of the bad feelings towards this gift come from a misunderstanding & abuse of this valuable & blessed gift. Allow me to explain a few key reasons why I believe the gift of tongues is important for the believer!

The Bible teaches that all the Spiritual gifts are available today & that none of them have ceased. Someday there will be no need for the gifts of the Spirit, but when will that be?

-I believe the gifts will cease when the Church is finally gathered to Christ, where He personally will teach us & we will have no further need for the gifts of teaching, prophecy, healing, etc.

(1 Cor.13:8-10, 12) 'Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away...For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.'

Some Bible teachers interpret, 'that which is perfect has come' as being the 'canon of Scripture' coming together. I disagree, I believe it's a reference to Christ's coming & our being gathered together to Him. That's the day when we will see Him face to face & our knowledge of things will no longer be dim.

-I personally believe the gift of tongues has it's best function in a believer's prayer time.

(1 Cor.14:13-15) 'Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.'

-I believe 'the gift of tongues' is valuable for the building up of the believer.

(1 Cor.14:4-5) 'He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself...'

-I also believe that people mis-apply the interpretation of tongues with the gift of prophecy.

Since 'tongues' are addressed to God, the interpretation of tongues should also be directed as 'to God' in some form of thanksgiving & praise. (1 Cor.14:16-17) So often, you'll hear an interpretation of a tongue directed to an individual or the church as a whole. This instead should be considered a 'word of knowledge', 'word of wisdom' or the gift of prophecy, but not the interpretation of the tongue. 

(1 Cor.14:2) 'For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.'

-I believe there is a time for the gift of tongues in a corporate church setting, but it should be in order & two or three at the most with the gift of interpretation following that the church may give thanks at the use of the gift. 

That being said, there should not be the interruption of the Bible teacher for an outburst of tongues. That would be out of order. Why would the Spirit interrupt Himself? For this reason we encourage the gifts to flow freely at our prayer gatherings, specific worship & waiting times called (afterglows) and after the Bible Studies when we are ministering to God & one another.

(1 Cor.14:26-33) 'If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret...And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace...'

-We don't believe the Bible teaches the gift of tongues as the sole evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

-I believe the Bible teaches that God's 'agape love' is the fruit/evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence in the life of the believer (Gal.5:22-23).

-The Apostle Paul teaches that not every believer will receive the gift of tongues (1 Cor.12:30-31) We should desire the 'best gifts.' Which is the gift that God has for you & the gifts that edify the entire body of Christ. Whatever gift God has given you, use it for His glory!

I believe the Holy Spirit inspired the NT writers to include those instances where tongues followed the giving of the Spirit, but the same Spirit also inspired them to omit any (gifts/evidences/tongues) knowing that some believers would claim that 'tongues was the sole evidence of the Spirit's baptism.'

The following is a list of passages where the Spirit was given or salvation occurred and there either was a tongue given as evidence or there was not for your reference.

(Acts2:4) Tongues follow the Spirit's filling on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:38-42) No tongues mentioned of the 3,000 souls added to the church. (Acts 4:31) No mention of tongues when the believers were filled again with the Spirit. (Acts 8:14-25) No mention of tongues after Peter & John laid hands on believers to receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:44-48) Tongues follow the Gentiles being filled with the Spirit at the house of Cornelius in Caesarea. (Acts 16:30-34) No Tongues mentioned following the Philippian jailers' conversion. (Acts 19:1-7) Tongues mentioned following the conversion of 12 men in Ephesus. 

(1 Cor.14:18) Paul spoke with tongues! He said, 'I thank God I speak with tongues more than you all.' (1 Cor.14:5) Paul by the Holy Spirit wished we all spoke with tongues but even more that we prophesied.

-I also find it interesting that the gospel writers never mention any gift of tongues following the Spirit descending upon Jesus at His baptism. (Matt.3:16-17, Mk.1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34)

What's the conclusion? Paul said in (1 Cor.14:39) 'Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy and do not forbid to speak with tongues.' And he says this as he wraps up the discussion about tongues, and what he is saying is, 'Don't misunderstand what I'm saying about this gift.'

Don't forbid it! Don't say that it has ceased! Don't put the fire out concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in any person's life! The Holy Spirit gave this gift to the church! Paul the Apostle boasted about his own use of it & wished every believer at Corinth had it! So, if you desire it for your own personal devotional life & believe it will be a blessing to you as it has for me, ask God for it! Because it's the Spirit who gives these gifts as He wills! (1 Cor.12:11). Be Blessed!

 

 

 

Jeroboam's Compromise

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'So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel...which he had devised in his own heart.' 1 Kings 12:25-33

After the days of David & Solomon. Rehoboam Solomon's son laid a heavy burden on God's people that divided the kingdom into the North & South. Rehoboam ruled in the South and Jeroboam ruled in the North. The prescribed place of worship by God remained in the Southern kingdom of Judah in the city of Jerusalem. 

Jeroboam feared for his kingdom in the North, that all would return to Rehoboam & Jerusalem and would kill him so that his reign would be non-existent. As a result Jeroboam built a mock temple with a mock altar and hired 'priests from every class of people who were not of the sons of Levi' (1 Kings 12:30-31) to resemble the one in Jerusalem according to his own heart.

Jeroboam's compromise in failing to worship as God prescribed set up the compromise of all future kings of Israel. Instead of worshipping as God commanded He made worship into a convenience. In the book of Kings the phrase 'walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin' described the succeeding compromising kings. What a horrible example! 60 years later the door was open for Ahab & his wicked wife Jezebel to introduce further idolatrous worship.  

In the New Testament book of Revelation 2, we see how the Perverted church at Pergamos set the stage for the wickedness of the church at Thyatira. Satan knows we're worshippers by nature. If he can get us to worship ourselves, nature, money or anything other than God as He commands and prescribes then he has succeeded. 

May we remember to worship the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul & all our might and place no other gods before Him! The Psalmist in Psalm 96:8-9 wrote, 'Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.'

Not A Hoof Left Behind

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'Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind. For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there." Exodus 10:26

God commanded Moses to represent Him before Pharaoh with a distinct message, "Let my people go, so they can worship Me." Pharaoh through God's powerful display of many mighty miracles was finally softening his heart, but still did not want the people of Israel to depart.

I love what Moses tells Pharaoh here, 'not a hoof shall be left behind,' in other words, we're not leaving one sheep, ox, camel, goat, bull or cow. Egypt and Pharaoh are always seen in Scripture as a type of the world, and the god of this world Satan. 

Satan always wants to have a foothold in our lives. Have you left anything behind in Egypt or have you consecrated everything to God? Jesus has purchased us with His own blood, everything we are belongs to Him, every breath, every talent, every child, every thought. 

We are no longer slaves of Satan, since we have been set free from his grip through faith in the finished work of Christ! It's interesting that after the institution of the first Passover and the death of the firstborn, that Pharaoh had no choice but to let God's people go. So it was at the cross of Christ, when Jesus shed His blood and died for our sins, that Satan has to let go of every person who trusts in Christ as their Savior & sin bearer.

Therefore Paul exhorts us 'And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God' Romans 6:13. Make sure Jesus is your all in all. Don't leave even a hoof to Satan! Jesus gave us His all & He deserves our all. 

Seeking God In Caesarea

Outside of the Holy Spirit's descending upon the church on the Day of Pentecost & the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, one of the most important events in all of Christendom took place right here in Caesarea, the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian Church. Remember that Peter was in Joppa at the home of Simon the Tanner (Acts 10:9-16) when three times God spoke to him in a vision. He saw unclean animals & insects falling to him from heaven & God's voice telling him 'Do not call unclean what God has cleansed.' 

Meanwhile in Caesarea a Roman Centurion & God fearing man who prayed daily named Cornelius was met by an angel who instructed him to fetch Peter to his home. Three Gentiles were sent to fetch Peter that he might share with them the wonderful works of Jesus. 

Peter understood that the vision of God was concerning these Gentiles who were seeking the Lord, that he should not call common or unclean whom God had cleansed & sanctified! As Peter spoke & taught the Gentiles about Jesus Christ of Nazareth the Bible says in Acts 10:44-48 that the Holy Spirit fell upon all them that heard the word with signs following. 

God used two servants of His who were seeking Him to usher in a mighty moment in Christian History! Are you seeking Him?! (1 Chron.16:11) Are you preparing your heart to hear the voice of the Lord!? What might He say to you that might make for another mighty moment in Christian History? We'll have to wait and see! Deut.4:29 says '...seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.' 

Haughty Herod Is Humbled

In Acts 12:18-24 the folks of Tyre & Sidon had a problem with Herod Agrippa and got into a scuffle with his assistant, a man named Blastus. They had come to a peace agreement and the process had turned into quite a procession. Herod arrayed in his royal apparel began to speak and the Bible tells us what the people thought of him, they began to say 'the voice of a god and not a man.' 

That's what the people thought of him, but God thought otherwise and in Acts 12:23 an angel dispatched from the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.' Verse 24 continues 'But the word of God grew and multiplied.' 

The Lord does not share His glory with another. And the Lord knows how to humble the "Big Heads!" Prov.16:18 is a great reminder, 'Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.' Don't let pride bring the chastening hand of God upon you, instead 'Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up in His time.' James 4:6,10; Prov.18:12. 

God Answers Prayer

1 Kings 18:21, 'And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."

Mount Carmel overlooks the Jezreel valley which also connects to a better known valley known as Armageddon. The name 'Jezreel' means 'God sows.' In the language of planting seeds the word 'sow' can also mean to scatter seed, to implant, to sprinkle anything. 

When the prophet Elijah gathered to contest the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel he didn't sprinkle water on the wood & sacrifice and then call down fire from heaven to consume it. He drenched & baptized that wood & sacrifice with about 20 gatorade buckets of water!

Elijah wanted to settle the issue of who was the true God of Heaven. He graciously allowed the prophets of Baal first dibs. The false god known as 'Baal' was called the god of thunderstorms or lord of heaven. But from morning til noon the false prophets of Baal did not get a single response from the heavens to consume the sacrifice, so Elijah stepped up to the plate & after drenching the sacrifice and the wood he called upon Jehovah God.

The LORD God answered with fire that consumed the burnt sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust & the water! When the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!"

James 5 tells us, Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours! Listen, just as God answered Elijah's prayer, He is able to answer your personal prayers! Do you know God personally? If you don't you can know Him today, simply pray a simple prayer believing in your heart that Jesus the Son of God died for your sins & that God raised Him from the grave & you will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10). 

God answers prayer & is able to answer your prayer, whatever your need be small or great.

 

Prayerful Preparation

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Luke 6:12-13, 'Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called his disciples to Himself...'

One of the most memorable sites in Israel for me, was sitting on top of Mount Arbel. This is traditionally the site where Jesus would often go to pray by Himself and is believed to be the backdrop to Luke 6. Behind this mountain is a plain where it's also believed that Luke 6:17 takes place, the sermon on the plain. 

In Hosea 10:14 the term 'Beth-Arbel' is mentioned it means 'House of God's Ambush.' The Dictionary defines 'ambush' as 1. an act or instance of lying concealed so as to attack by surprise. 2. the concealed position itself. It reminds me of the Lord's instruction concerning our prayer lives in Matt.6:6, He said, 'when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.'

The word 'ambush' reminds me of another passage about prayer. Hebrews 4:16, 'Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.' Not that God is surprised by our boldly approaching 'ambushing' His throne. But I praise God for His invitation to us to come boldly before Him. 

We need to find our 'concealed position' in prayer, so we can come boldly before God's throne of grace to find our daily help for our daily needs. Blessings, Dave.