Sunday, July 26, 2015

Not So Fast

Not So Fast
July 27, 2015
Matthew 6:16  "When you fast . . . "

There are many practices in our Christian faith that have been lost over the centuries.  Fasting is one of them.  It is a tradition taught in the Bible only as a such, a tradition.  It is never mandated in the Ten Commandments.  It isn't a directive from the Lord or even a requirement for salvation.  You can certainly enter into Heaven having never fasted a moment in your life.  Your relationship with the Lord is not at stake, however I would submit to you that fasting should be an integral part of your day to day Christianity, a practice to be habituated over your lifetime as an invaluable tool for growth.  Let's first be clear on the definition of fasting.  Fasting is the self-denial of something, for no other basis than self-denial, while using that time to also redirect your focus on to the Lord and submit to Him.  It has typically meant the fasting from food while praying, but many have fasted from different habits or indulgences.

Fasting was actually intended for you to forgo many, if not all indulgences, temporarily for the purpose of seeking the Lord's face, not just the self-denial of food for a short time of prayer.  Jesus understood fasting was an important part of a Christian's life, and spoke of it as an abused practice used to get attention.  He said we should fast in secret, between ourselves and our Lord.  He also said the words, "when you fast...."  He never said "if you fast" or "you might consider fasting."  No, Jesus talked about fasting as if it was understood you would submit to this practice in your life.

Fasting holds more value that you would ever imagine, though.  It was originally intended as a way for you to get closer to the Lord simply by shedding off hindrances or distractions.  If you deny yourself of food or earthly indulgences, you are submitting your body and your will over to the Lord.  The act of the fast, though possibly only a day, is a means to teach your mind and body what it should be doing all the rest of the days of the year.  The Bible instructs you to die to yourself daily and take up your cross and follow the Lord.  Fasting is a way to teach yourself how to do that.  If you are able to deny yourself food and other indulgences for a day, you are teaching your body who is the master of it.  If you are able to focus on the Lord during that same time, you are teaching your mind who is the rightful leader of your life.  Sadly, we live in a world where fasting is not taught or practiced because we are used to filling every indulgence when we want it.  Denying ourselves is not something we are accustomed to doing.  Fasting is a way to teach that self-denial for better control over your life, to promote spiritual growth through submission of the flesh.

If this doesn't excite you, consider giving it a try anyway, especially if it has been a long time since you practiced it.  Mastery over the flesh is paramount to being a successful Christian.  There has never been a successful Christian who didn't maintain control over his body and mind.  Fasting is an opportunity to do just that.  If you'd like accountability with this, send me an e-mail and I'll participate along with you in secret.  We all need someone to walk along side of us sometimes.  This is an opportunity for spiritual growth that I think is critical to taking your Christianity to the next level, mastery over the flesh.  Try it for a day, try it for three days, then try if for a week sometime.  It isn't easy, but it is well worth it.  Your spiritual growth is well worth this effort.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 6:16-17, Luke 9:23, Eph 4:22-24, Gal 2:20

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What Do You Call Him

What Do You Call Him
July 20, 2015
Luke 6:46  "'Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?'"

The Lord has many different names yet He is still the same being.  But what you call Him is significant to your Christian walk.  The name by which you call Him suggests what and who He is in your life.  The Lord has a placeholder in each of our hearts; He should be near and dear to all of us.  When He is near and dear to you, what do you call Him?  Do you call Him Heavenly Father?  Do you call Him God?  Do you call Him Lord?  The wording isn't necessarily the same for all us us, because we see Him differently; we submit to Him differently.

When I say we submit to Him differently, I mean that we all have our own areas of total submission to Him and the areas we like to remain independent.  Very few of us are totally submitted to Him if we are honest.  Although we should be completely submitted to Him, we hold back.  What you call Him and how much you submit to Him are very highly correlated.  Some only want Him to be a Savior from Hell, and if they only know Him as such, they might be surprised when it comes time to enter into eternity.  Some only want Him to be God, a powerful being up in Heaven with no earthly presence.  Some want Him to be Healer when they are sick.  His name might change depending on your needs and whims of the moment and how much of your life you want to submit to Him.

Jesus called Him "Our Father" which paints an amazing picture of unity among us as well as provides insight into the Lord's character.  But who is He to you, actually?  The Bible says that Jesus rebuked those who would call Him "Lord" yet did not submit to His instructions.  The term "Lord" in the Bible was synonymous with the term "master."  If you called someone "Lord" then you recognized you were either His servant or His dedicated student.  Either way, you would submit fully to someone whom you called "Lord."  But Jesus was being honest about the irony.

People call Him an All Powerful God but don't act like it.  People call Him Lord but don't actually submit to Him.  People call Him a Father but don't let Him lead and protect their families.  We are all guilty of this to a degree, calling Him one thing yet acting like He is not.

So, I will ask again, who is He to you?  Is He KING?  Is He Father? Is He Lord?  Never mind what you call Him, what do your actions say about who He is?  Your actions define who He is in your life.  I doubt any of you call Him "Master," but you should.  I doubt very few of you call Him "Prince of Peace," but you should.  I doubt many of you call Him "Strong Tower," but you should.  I challenge you to look up the names of the Lord and make a decision as to who He is allowed to be in your life.  If your actions do not demonstrate it, then He certainly isn't "that" in your life.

One of my favorite names for Him comes from the heart of King David.  He called Him, "Lord Almighty, the God of the Armies of Israel."  That was certainly who the Lord was do David; his actions proved it!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Judges 13:16-18, 1 Sam 17:45, Luke 6

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blessing In Another's House

Blessing In Another's House
July 13, 2015
Genesis 39:5  "From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph."

The story of Joseph is one of hope, turned sorrow, turned painful, turned redeemed.  If you recall, Joseph had hopes of a future; he knew he was different from the time he was young.  But his brothers, out of envy turned resentment, sold him as a slave in an effort to remove the future the Lord had for him. Joseph was locked in, not able to escape his situation.  It was painful, saddening, even depressing.  The future looked bleak for a huge or successful turnaround in his life.  Joseph could have sat back and given up, letting his depression paralyze him.  He could have become lazy since any amount of hard work would not net him a better future.  Yet, despite the gloomy circumstances, Joseph worked hard in the position he was given; he work hard as a slave.

It says a great deal about Joseph's character.  Despite the gloomy outlook, he still worked for a slaver but as unto the Lord; he put fortitude straight into the work of his hands even though the work was beneath him.  He valued his relationship with the Lord and his standing among men, as he could affect it, more than he despised his situation.  If I were Joseph, I would have despised those who owned me, those who forced me into labor, not wanting to see them prosper or willing to work hard for them.  I would not want to see their lives blessed.  Many of us would have found a way to work just hard enough to not get a beating.  But not Joseph, he worked so diligently that the household of his master was blessed because of Joseph's efforts.  Joseph wasn't just a good luck charm, but an actual blessing.

You could argue that the blessing came to his master's house simply because the Lord loved Joseph, as Joseph had a heart for the Lord.  But if you read the Scripture it says that the house of Joseph's master was blessed when Joseph was put in charge of the work.  It suggests Joseph's work ethic, attitude, fortitude, and wisdom were affecting the blessing, not just Joseph being present.  The slaver, taking advantage of Joseph, was blessed on account of Joseph's work.

Joseph is the epitome of showing love toward your enemy.  Joseph exemplifies the writing in Scripture teaching us to bless those who curse us.  Joseph's life seemed cursed yet he did not call down those same curses from Heaven toward his enemies.  No, Joseph worked hard for them, blessing their lives with every move he made.  When was the last time someone cheated or wronged you and in turn you worked hard to make sure they were blessed?  I cannot say I've ever gone out of my way to bless someone who stole from me.  It is counter intuitive; that's for sure, but what the Lord requires from us nonetheless.  Think of the last person who wronged you; now think of a way to bless their whole house.  Putting those two thoughts into action could very well be the pinnacle of your Christian walk to date.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 37 & 39, Matt 5:44, Lk 6:28, Gal 6:7-9

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Not A Pointless Miracle

Not A Pointless Miracle
July 6, 2015
2 Kings 6:6  "The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float."

Taking up the conversation again regarding the story of Elisha and the floating ax head, recall it has been considered a throw-away miracle.  The story is included in the Bible so there must be some value to it, yet it has been argued that if you take that story and throw it away, there would be no discontinuity in the Word of God.  The story is of some men who were gathered together and were setting up a gathering place.  One of the men, wielding an ax, lost the head of his ax when it fell apart and was cast into the water.  The man was anxious over it because the ax was borrowed.  Apparently an iron ax head was not easy to come by in those days.  The man probably didn't have a way or the means to replace it.

In the story, the men were called "the company of the prophets."  They were disciples of Elisha and would meet with him on a regular basis.  The men would discuss their faith, their ministry, and the work of the Lord.  They had grown too numerous for their meeting place and were building a larger gathering place to continue on in their discussions, their education.  Call the meeting place whatever you'd like, but it was akin to a ministry school, an important part in the training of Godly men in order that they might carry on the work of the Lord.  They weren't building it for selfish reasons and they had no leading from the Lord not to construct it.  They agreed it was an appropriate endeavor, the construction of the the project, and commenced with their own hands.  They weren't wealthy men, by any stretch of the imagination, hence the need to borrow an ax and build it themselves.  When the ax head was lost at the bottom of the river, Elisha performed a miracle to bring the ax head back up.  But why such a miracle?  Why was it important?  No one got saved, no one believed more deeply in the Lord because of it.  In fact, there was no recorded result of the miracle, describing its purpose.

I believe the reason for the miracle is two-fold.  First and foremost, the men were carrying on a task that was integral in the work of the Lord, building a training facility so they could build up Godly men.  This is high on the Lord's list of worthy causes.  The men were dedicated to Him, working valiantly with their hands, and it was important for the task to be completed.  It is possibly the ax head was the only one the group had.  Maybe they had two or three, but being short one ax would significantly derail the process.  Either way, it was a necessary tool in finishing the work of the Lord.  This miracle is similar to many miracles during Nehemiah's time when the Israelites were re-building the wall, the Lord's wall.  The Lord needs things completed, sometimes in a crucial time-frame.  He is more than willing to help out in order to overcome obstacles for His important work.  This gathering place needed built and this ax head was critical to its completion.  This miracle shows the Lord is intent on finishing His worthy, ordained projects here on earth.

The other thing it proves is the Lord's dedication to those dedicated to Him.  The New Testament says if a son asks for bread what earthly father would give him a stone instead.  This is a parable about the Lord considering Himself to be our own Father.  This ax head, a borrowed ax head, was of importance to this man because he didn't have the means for his own ax.  Now this man would have to come up with the means to replace it, then give the ax head back, essentially paying for the loss.  This man was taking on the work of the Lord and the Lord didn't think it fair that the man pay for the loss.  The Lord is interested in taking care of his own. This is also re-enforced when the Lord reminds us in the New Testament to cast our anxieties onto Him because He cares for us.  And as well, the Lord said to seek first His Kingdom and the rest of the important things will fall into place.

But these examples, the teachings that came through and after Jesus, happened many, many years AFTER these men were building a gathering place to study their faith.  They didn't have the benefit of reading the New Testament and being taught that the Lord cared about the things they cared about.  This example of the floating ax head taught these men what Jesus taught us so many years later about the character of God.  That He does care for His children.  My thought is that these men recorded the story of the ax head to incorporate in their curriculum about the character of God, that He truly does care about things seemingly unimportant to others but oftentimes critical to us.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Kings 6:1-7, Ps 55:22, Matt 6:33, Phil 4:6, 1 Pet 5:7