Christianity 201

January 9, 2016

The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

For several years I received a devotional booklet in the mail from James MacDonald and Walk In The Word called Our Journey. After making inquiries with a local Harvest Bible Chapel, I discovered that the devotional is now an online resource, and after checking it out, I read this devotional which you can read at source by clicking the link below.

And When You Fast

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6, ESV)

“And when you fast,” Jesus said, before teaching a few, practical pointers on the subject (Matthew 6:16). His first words raise a basic question, though: When should you fast? Every other Tuesday? When your friends do? When you feel bored? No, fasting isn’t a spiritual whimsy; it’s a spiritual discipline, and the Bible gives some clear outlines to the practice. According to Isaiah 58, you should fast . . .

When you are caught in a sinful pattern. God said, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness” (Isaiah 58:6a)? When you are caught in a sinful pattern, fast. Authentic fasting gives God an open channel to show you how you’re held captive by bad behavior or even by good behavior that’s out of control. Fasting reveals and breaks sinful patterns.

When you have a heavy burden. Back to Isaiah 58:6b: “Is not this the fast that I choose . . . to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Do you have a heavy burden you have been carrying for a long time? Then fast. For example, skip lunch for a week. Give the time you would have spent eating to prayer. And let the gnawing in your stomach heighten your hunger for God.

When you are oppressed by the enemy. Consider again the fast “to let the oppressed go free” (58:6b). Many believers feel burdened for someone who’s not walking with God. Names may immediately flood your mind. Perhaps you’ve prayed consistently for them. Add fasting. You can fast and pray about the oppression, asking God to tear the veil of darkness with His light.

When you want to give to someone else. Is [the fast] not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh” (58:7)? When we share our bread, homes, clothes, and blankets—not the extra items we don’t need or want anymore, but the stuff we consider ours—that’s a form of fasting pleasing to God. Fasting teaches us how to be generous not only with the surplus God provides, but also with the principal God provides.

When you need an answer to prayer. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am’” (58:9). Fasting not only clarifies our prayers, but it also opens our eyes and ears to see and hear God’s answers. When our hunger for God is elevated, the stuff keeping us from sensing His presence will be removed, and we will know that when He says, “Here I am,” He means it.

When you need direction. Here’s another outcome of fasting: “And the Lord will guide you continually” (58:11). Who doesn’t want God’s guidance? Yet how often do we actually demonstrate our desire by fasting and waiting attentively on God?

When you need to be spiritually restored. Through fasting, God restores us. “And the Lord will . . . satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (58:11). What a stark picture of what our lives look like. God offers water for our scorched souls.

When you need to be revived. As long as you’re alive, you are under renovation—you’re not finished, and God isn’t finished with you. However “ruined” you see your life today, God can rebuild and use you. “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in” (58:12). Your best days can still be ahead.

Journal

  • We began by asking, “When should you fast?” Let’s make that question more personal. When should you fast?
  • During a time of prayer and fasting this week, go back over this rich passage from Isaiah 58. What do these verses mean, and what does God promise in regard to fasting?

Pray
Lord God, when should I fast? Help me to hear Your answer to that question. How do You want me to apply what I am reading and learning? Fasting heightens my hunger for You. Through fasting, You refine me, restore me, and awaken me. Thank You for the ways the spiritual disciplines set us free. In Jesus’ name, amen.

July 14, 2015

Prayer: Jesus Sets the Example

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repentance 2Today is our second of two days looking at prayer as part of a continuing Tuesday series at Scott McCown’s blog, The Morning Drive. Click the title below to read this article at source, or click this link to see all the various articles at Scott’s blog on this subject.

Jesus and Prayer

We continue our Tuesday study of prayer but looking to Jesus and His prayer life. John records, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14).  Jesus was NOT just a man! Jesus was NOT another prophet! Jesus was God in the flesh living on earth with man.

Jesus and prayerHe was “God with us”, the “Son of God”, Christ, yet He prayed to the Father – often – VERY often! Jesus did not talk about prayer partners, prayer warriors, and daily devotionals. Christ said nothing similar to “we should pray about it.”  He simply prayed. He did not promote prayer, he warned about vain repetitions. He called for persistence in prayer. At the very least we know He prayed for Peter by name (Luke 22:31-32).

The gospel accounts record over twenty (20) instances of Jesus praying:

Jesus prayed:

  • Mark 1:35 – He rose early to pray.
  • Luke 24:30-31 – He prayed before a meal.
  • Luke 9:28-30 – He prayed at His transfiguration.
  • Luke 22:43-44 – He prayed when He was weak.
  • John 11:41-43 – He prayed at the tomb of Lazarus.
  • Luke 6:12 – He spent the night in prayer.
  • Luke 9:18 – He prayed alone while in a crowd.

Jesus prayed because:

  • He was busy – Luke 5:15-16.
  • He had decisions to make –
    • Luke 3:21-22 – Before His immersion (baptism).
    • Luke 6:12-16 – Before choosing the 12.
    • Matthew 26:36-46 – Before facing the cross.
  • When He faced crisis – John 6:15.
  • When He faced death – Hebrews 5:7.

In John 17 we have a prayer of Jesus’ recorded for us. To me this is the Lord’s Prayer. in this prayer we hear Jesus:

  • Submitting to God – John 17:4, 6-8, 14.
  • Praying for His needs and desires – John 17:1-5.
  • Praying for the needs of the apostles – John 17:9-19.
  • Praying for the Church (you and me) – John 17:20-21.

If Jesus needed to pray, what does this mean for us?


Bonus article:  Here’s a link to one more from the series: Quality Prayer

July 26, 2013

He Will Direct Your Paths

He Will Direct Your Paths

My wife and I met at a Christian summer camp, and now both of our sons work there in the summer. Camp IAWAH takes its name from Proverbs 3:6 “In All Ways Acknowledge Him (and He will direct your paths).”  Here’s what some people have written about this verse…

Billy Graham

In all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths. — Proverbs 3:6 (NIV)

Are you facing a significant decision? Then look again at these words in Proverbs 3:6. Implicit in this verse is the truth that God knows what is best for us, and that He wants to guide us so we will make right, God-honoring decisions.

When you face a decision about your future, seek God’s will above all else. Make your decision a matter of prayer, and ask Him to guide. If we are truly open to His will, He will direct us.

Does this mean we should just wait around until God gives us some kind of miraculous sign or deep inner conviction? No, not necessarily. God wants us to be practical. Do research if you need to; understand yourself and your gifts; seek the advice of others. Make your decision in the light of God’s Word also; God never leads us to do anything that is contrary to the Bible.

Remember, too, that God often guides us only one step at a time—but that is all we need to know. So don’t be anxious. Trust God to guide you, and He will.

Colin D. Smith

…Proverbs 3:5 exhorted us to trust in the Lord wholeheartedly, and not to lean on our own understanding of things. That is, I think, the attitude we should have toward life. The next verse seems to me to be speaking more practically: acknowledge the Lord in all your ways.

The words for “ways” and “paths” are two different words in Hebrew, but very close to each other in meaning. The first, derek, often means simply a road, or a journey, but can be used metaphorically to refer to one’s behavior, or “life-journey.” The second, ‘orach, refers to a stretch of road too, but seems to lean more toward referring to one’s manner or behavior. From this, I think we get the gist of what the proverb is telling us: in all aspect of your life, acknowledge the Lord, and He will keep your life correctly oriented.

I should note that “acknowledge” is the way the Hebrew verb yada’–”to know”–is commonly translated here. This is a perfectly legitimate translation, and the one that makes best sense in the context. To “know” the Lord as you travel life’s byways is to acknowledge Him, and to take every twist and turn leaning upon Him for guidance and direction.

Indeed, I think this is the lesson of the verse. Life throws us curveballs. Not just once in a while, but often. Our best-laid plans are frequently thwarted, and it’s not unusual for us to feel frustrated when things don’t go our way. To quote that classic movie, The Princess Bride, “Life is pain… Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Sure, there’s a lot that good and joyful about our lives, but we know it’s all too frequently not an easy road.

But if we’re trusting in the Lord, leaning upon His wisdom and not our own, and acknowledging His presence in our lives, His goodness, and His wisdom, He will help us keep our eyes lifted up. The burdens of life, while still present, will be easier to bear. As we keep our eyes on the Lord, by His grace we will be less inclined to wander into sin and despair, and more able to maintain a right perspective, and a godly attitude…

Darrell Creswell

What the scripture is saying here is to Know Him, see Him, seek Him, always have Him in your mind, in your heart and let it be His consideration that you always turn to.

As you see things before you always have Him in view in front of you, in your side-view mirrors and in your rear-view mirrors; let it be Him that is in view in all that you see. The Lord is ever-present with you. Let him be the ground beneath you as you step, and do not take one step without Him. Follow His lead, His wisdom, and His divine advice in all that you do.

Ask of Him to have the wisdom to endure and the strength to overcome in all situations. As you seek the Lord let His Word counsel and direct your steps as you walk in His providence. He will be your guide lest you stray. Let it be your mindset to submit to His divine plan for your life and follow Him wherever He leads as you walk not after the flesh in your own understanding, but in the Spirit as He leads you in the path of His righteousness.

So be still and know that He is your God; your Help in the time of need; your Rescue; your Guide and your Shelter. He will always do what is right for you according to His will and plan that He might be glorified in your life. So give Him the glory and the praise for what He has done, is doing and will continue to do in your life.

What we need to understand, that everything in our lives are completely under God’s control. As Jesus died upon the cross sin and death were defeated, and in His seemingly weakest hour, the strength of God was made manifest as redemption was poured out for the first time upon all mankind. In that weakness and pain and suffering that Jesus endured, the power of the living God rested upon the world bringing salvation and restoration to all humanity. We are the recipients of that grace.

It is by His hand you were created and it is by His hand that He will make your paths straight as all that you need in life flows freely from the throne of grace. It is the Almighty God that sits upon that throne acknowledging you, loving you and providing for you. All good things come from Him.

In the same way, Jesus gives us comfort, direction and victory in our lives even when we feel we are overwhelmed by the circumstances around us. We can find wonderful things out of even the darkest moments of our lives. Our Lord is present with us when it is the very darkness. He has planned that even the darkest of situations that we face will result in redemptive good for us. He surrendered His very own Son to death so that we could have life. He does not abandon us, He saves us.

Isaiah 40:21 Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether it be to the right or to the left.

God is always right here, walking beside us, urging us on when we wander left or right saying – “This is the right road. Walk down this road”.

Blog: My Lord, My Friend

“Think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

We are all on a journey through this life on earth and we all have a final destination in eternity either with God or without God.

Yes the God that created us wants us to spend eternity with Him. That is what we were created for but somehow free will allows us to choice of  a journey and an eternity without Him.

How sad it would be an eternity without him. without His Love which is real love from which all love grows and through free will that love can become distraughted. In Him {Our Lord and Our Friend} we have a purpose on our journey, and we have a destiny, and with Him, it is the most exciting and wonderful journey and destiny of all.

The above scripture says THINK about Him {Our Lord and Our Friend} and He will guide you on the right paths. He will always be there to help, but even if we take or have taken the wrong paths, He is always there waiting to help us, to get us back on the right track.

In the Sermon on the Mount {Beatitudes}, Jesus told us to enter the narrow gate, for the gate is wide, and the highway is broad that leads to destruction, and many are traveling that way.

Mathew 7 verse 13 “Enter through the narrow gate”  Verse 14 ” How narrow is the gate and difficult is the road that leads to life, and Few find it.”

Ask Our Lord and Our Friend and He will lead you, and be with you, and help you no matter what difficulty you go through.

He has said if we Ask Him, He will Never leave us or Forsake us. Think about Him in all your ways, and what a wonderful journey through life you will have {He did say it wouldn’t be easy, but He did say He would always be with us all the way.}

God Bless  you on your journey .

In All Ways Acknowledge Him

Image: Darell Creswell (click to link). Got a verse you’d like to see covered here? Send us a suggestion and consider being one of the 4-6 writers we use.

Camp Iawah is an interdenominational faith ministry in Ontario, Canada that is sustained by camp fees and the support of contributors.

January 31, 2013

Coming Forth As Gold

This was sent me for reasons that are entirely personal and not for the blog. So if the sender sees it here, I want to be clear that I wasn’t missing the point. But now I want to share it with everyone here. It’s from The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s daily devotional website, where it appeared as Lost.

Job 23:10-11 – But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside. (NIV)

Fog! Thick, swirling, engulfing fog! And I was hopelessly lost. I had decided to take a shortcut home to save time, but now I had absolutely no idea where I was. My GPS was in a drawer somewhere in my house, and I no longer carried maps because I had a GPS. How ironic!

I crawled along slowly, for fear of running off the road or meeting another car in the middle of the road. As I squinted through the ghostly tendrils curling across my window, I noticed a cross-road ahead, but I couldn’t make out any signs. Feeling a sense of panic beginning to build up, I decided to pull off onto the shoulder, and putting on my flashers, I did the only thing I could under the circumstances: I began to pray.

Suddenly, a verse from the Bible popped into my mind:

Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (NIV)

For a moment, I was stunned. Was that God telling me that I should follow this side road? Which way? Now I was really confused and more than a little scared.

Suddenly, out of the fog, a whirling red light appeared behind me, its rays wavering through my back window, and I heard a muffled voice on a loud hailer: “You there, in the car. Are you all right?”

The next thing I knew, there was a person standing beside my window, shining a light on his police badge. I let out a relieved sigh of gratitude. It was probably the only time in my life when I would be so happy to see a flashing red light shining through my back window!

As I began rapidly pouring out my predicament, the officer kept patiently nodding his head. I didn’t realize how uptight I had been, and I could feel the tears of relief threatening to spill out. The officer evidently saw my reaction, and he quietly asked me where I was headed.

When I told him where I lived, he said that he would drive ahead of me, and when he honked his horn, I was to turn left at the traffic lights. Then I would be on familiar ground and soon be home. It happened exactly as he had promised, and as I pulled into my driveway, I quietly bowed my head in a prayer of thanksgiving to the One who had promised so often to direct our paths.

Sometimes, when we are faced with difficult situations, we may feel that our minds are in a kind of thick fog, a state of utter confusion, possibly even to the point of panic. We know that we must make some important decisions that will affect our lives, but how do we begin? It is then that we need to stop and “pull off the road”, as it were, and be still in God’s presence, in order to calm down and hear His voice. We must turn the entire matter over to the One who has promised to guide us in the way we should go, because He knows the way.

When we follow His leading, it won’t be long until we can see clearly what we are to do, and we can move confidently in the right direction towards the goal.

Prayer: Lord, help us to rely on You every day to guide us in the way that You have planned for us. Teach us not to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways to acknowledge You, knowing that You will direct our paths. Amen.

Sharon Greer

January 13, 2013

July 5, 2011

Something Short and Simple by St. Ignatius

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A Prayer for Sunday, as posted by Marc Cortez.  I think it works for Tuesdays, too.  Click here to read more about Ignatius of Loyola who in part tried to emulate St. Francis of Assisi.

o o o

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

March 24, 2011

Run it by God First

My wife and I met at an interdenominational summer camp in eastern Ontario where she was the food services director, and I was there to teach a one-week staff training session on “relationships.”  (Always good when you can provide a teachable moment by starting a lifelong one at the same time!)

Camp IAWAH is actually an acronym for In All Ways Acknowledge Him, taken from a familiar passage in Proverbs 3: 5-6.  Here’s the larger context:

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Some of you work in an office or on an assembly line where you have to “submit” to a boss on any changes you’re making, decisions you’re facing, or new initiatives you’re considering.  You may have some creative control, but unless it’s “rubber stamped” by someone higher up the chain of command, you don’t really have the authority to just forge ahead by yourself, or issue orders to others to act solely on your command.

But verse 6 in the NLT clarifies this isn’t just talking about asking for God’s approval on a decision you’ve basically already made, but also looking to him for guidance in advance:

Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

However, I don’t think the latter element negates the former.  God has given each of us intelligence, insight and other giftings, and I believe sometimes he does indeed throw the ball back in our court and says, “What do you think would be the best thing to do here?”

“Uh, God, I was hoping that you would make that clear.”

So, if I may, let me suggest that part of our submission to God might involve something like, ‘Work out your decision-making with fear and trembling.’  Seek his advance guidance to be sure, but in the absence of clear direction, or direction to simply wait, make the clear and logical decision that most honors Him or is most productive for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  Then talk to Him about it and ask for continued guidance.

Are you one of the “givers?”  While churches and ministry organizations are often pleading for money, there is a small group of generous Christ-followers who are often looking for projects worthy of their support.  If that’s you, consider interdenominational Christian residential camp ministries.  Their needs are great and many limp along with just a handful of supporters.

Someone once said, “You can accomplish more in the life of a child with one week of camp than you can with 52 weeks of Sunday School.”  I don’t want to minimize the importance of weekly Christian education, but the statement does reflect the potential life change that can take place in the life of a child when removed from the comforts of home.  Contact me for information on how you can track down camp ministries in your area, and remember, we’re talking about rustic summer camps that take in kids for a simple program of sports, crafts, and devotions; not five-star conference centers!

January 7, 2011

Making a Daily Affirmation of Faith

This was the Thursday morning devotional at Daily Encouragement.   It’s a reminder to make a daily renewal of our calling to serve and follow God.  It appeared there under the title, The Daily Decision.

“Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me'” (Luke 9:23).

We want you to think with us. How often in a day’s time do we say aloud or think in our minds, “I need to decide…”?  We suppose it’s a lot. These decisions may be due to factors such as the weather, the day of the week, the time of day or the workload before us.  “What shall I wear, a coat or light jacket?” What should I prepare for dinner?”  “Shall I call or send an email?” And on and on our list goes.

But today we want to focus on a daily decision each of us has in common, regardless of where we live on this planet. Every morning when we awaken to a new day we are confronted with this same choice.

We memorized the daily verse many years ago.  It’s a clear call to discipleship from the words of our Lord.  Jesus was speaking to the disciples very plainly about how He would be rejected by the priests and chief elders. He then spoke of His suffering, His death and resurrection that would follow.  It was a very intense setting as these disciples were trying to understand and also rejecting such disturbing information about their Master.

Then Jesus surely added to the intensity of the moment when he then issued this call to His disciples; “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Both Matthew and Mark record the same statement (Mt. 16:24, Mk. 8:34), but only Luke records a detail that includes a vital element to this call.  Notice the word “daily”.

By providing this detail Luke emphasized a concept that is often seen in Scripture. The day is a unit of time that the Word seems to stress as important in making a steadfast commitment to our Lord. Here are several phrases from the Scriptures in this regard: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). “I call to you, O LORD, every day” (Psalm 88:8). “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

In the New Testament Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to request, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The apostle Paul emphasized this daily walk in urging the Thessalonian believers to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (Thessalonians 4:11,12). And in the Pastoral Epistle to Titus he taught, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. (Titus 3:14).

Our daily encouragement series is prompted by a command found in Hebrews 3:13 which states: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” We are just two ordinary people making a decision this day to follow Christ. And we want to encourage all of you to do the same! Today and every day.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Encouragement

Daily Encouragement ends each devotional blog post with a prayer.  This one is such an integral part of what they wrote, I included it also:

Daily Prayer: Father, there are many choices I will make today based upon the variables that I cannot foresee. But one choice for me that is not optional because I not only believe the truth of the Gospel, but am fully committed to following Christ. To do so I must deny my own selfish desires, take up my cross daily, and follow Him. In denying myself I will be careful never to deny Christ or the work He wants to do in me. On particular days it can be intense and require great sacrifice on my part. I don’t know what the cross will look like today, whether it be in the form of physical pain, ridicule of my faith, rejection from one that I love, a major letdown, or another difficulty that may come my way. The wonderful blessing is that I don’t carry my cross in my own strength but You carry it for me as I lean upon You for strength, guidance, and the assurance that today’s cross will soon be exchanged for tomorrow’s crown.


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