Monday, January 12, 2009
As believers we can often get caught in the routine of doing life and just go through the motions of our relationship with the Lord. If we are leaders in our church we challenge people to accept the Lord into their heart and then teach and preach about giving our tithes and offerings. This is all true and good, but do we preach and teach fasting just as much?
Now, in the past, I would take our youth on weekend fasts in which we had nothing but water and broke the fast by sharing communion. Our focus was on prayer, worship, and reading the Word.
Recently I read a book on fasting by Jentezen Franklin titled, "fasting". It is a great book and he brought out a good point regarding Matthew 6. This is part of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus is teaching how we should live as believers. In Mt. 6:1-4 Jesus talks about giving, in Mt. 6:5-15 He teaches us how we should pray, and in Mt. 6:16-18 He advises us on how to fast.
Rev. Franklin says on page 11 that Jesus provided a "pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying, and fasting. Jesus said, "When you give..." and "When you pray..." and "When you fast..." He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is given to giving and praying."
You see Jesus didn't say "if" you give, pray, or fast. He said "when." He was telling us this is our routine. This is the way we should live our lives...doing these three things. I have fasted over the years, but not regularly. I have been challenged in my thinking to make fasting a regular part of my life.
Fasting focuses us on God. If you can get past the 2nd day of a fast the 3rd day is not so bad and you will be amazed at how you can make it to day 7. I know of others who have gone longer, but the purpose is mainly for your walk with God. When I was a youth pastor I challenged my kids to give up sodas for a period of time, or whatever meant a lot to them; to help them grasp hold of the concept and build from there.
As women and as leaders I would like to challenge your thinking in regard to fasting. When was the last time you fasted? Have you ever fasted? Why would Jesus put it in the Bible and do it Himself if He didn't want us to follow His example?
When you begin to fast and avoid those meals spend time in the Word and praying. Go for a prayer walk. Seek God. He will help you through. It is hard when you have to fix meals for your family and you are on a fast, BUT YOU CAN DO IT. God will help you through. I have been there, done that:) He is faithful. You will be amazed at what He will do in your spiritual life, your family, your finances, your job. God honors what you give or give up for Him.
He loves us and wants the best for us. I am glad I can give Him a little of myself in the area of fasting to show Him how much He means to me. He doesn't expect it from us, but He will reward what we give.
This is not an indepth study on fasting. I just wanted to get your thoughts thinking about this aspect of our walk with Christ. If you get the book I am sure you will enjoy every word.
Let me know if you have thoughts or insight on this.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
In the previous post we learned that Israel had not been taught effectively to follow after God. They didn't know anything about what God had done for their ancestors. Judges 3:1 opens up saying, "These are the nations that God left there, using them to test the Israelites who had no experience in the Canaanite wars. He did it to train the descendants of Israel, the ones who had no battle experience, in the art of war..."
Israel didn't listen, they lived among the people whom God wanted them to conquer and ended up serving them for 8 years. They cried out to God and God raised up Caleb's nephew, Othniel, who rallied Israel and God helped them conquer. Because of this the land was quiet for 40 years.
But, again Israel turned their back on God. Again they cried out to God and God raised up Ehud who was their savior. (Judges 3:12) Israel had no problem for 80 years.
Now we come to Shamgar in Judges 3:31. Only one verse was given to him...only one, but look what he did. "Using a cattle prod, he killed 600 Philistines single-handed. He too saved Israel."
Have you ever felt like you were getting nowhere, or insignificant, in what you were doing? Everything you set out doing seems to be for nothing?
Well, I am here to encourage you to keep going, keep doing what you're doing, don't give up. Who knows when it will be your time to shine?
We do not know anything about Shamgar except for that one verse in Judges 3:31, but what we do know is awesome. "He too saved Israel."
For 80 years there was no problem. Israel was quiet. We have no idea how long God had patience with Israel before Shamgar came on the scene, but when he came he made sure he was not going to be forgotten. With his bare hands he killed 600 Philistines. Can you imagine the anger inside of him? He was one angry man filled with righteous indignation...in other words he had the strength of God in him.
We may not know who you are. We are all individuals with God inside of us. Take encouragement from Shamgar. Do life like normal. Go through your routine. Seek God. Do what you know is right. There will come a time in your life when you are in the right place at the right time for God to do exactly what He wants you to do. The key is keep doing what you are doing, and leave the rest up to God.
Your responsibility is to seek God through prayer, reading the Word, giving, even fasting at times, and He will guide your steps. He will cause everything to "fall into place" when they are suppose to.
Shamgar was important enough to put in the Bible. In The Message he is only written about on 1 1/2 lines with a heading. He was not insignificant. He had a purpose and fulfilled it the way God desired.
Each one of us is significantly important to God. Do not ever think differently. When you begin to forget this think about Shamgar and the following scriptures.
"There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." Phil. 1:6 The Message
"We're the best of friends, and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health - that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul!" 3 Jn 2 The Message
May you be blessed today understanding that YOU ARE SIGNIFICANTLY IMPORTANT to God.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Have you thought about killing 600 people with your bare hands? I know there are times when people can make you feel like you want to kill them, but I don't think any of us have ever even thought about killing 600 people. If we actually did we would be locked up away from people for the rest of our lives.
As I was reading in Judges; getting a little background on what took place in Israel, before Deborah came on the scene as judge, I came across Shamgar.
Now here is a little background of what took place with Israel before we hear of Shamgar. Joshua 24:28 & Judges 2:6 tell us that Joshua dismissed the people to his own place of inheritance. Joshua 24:29-30 & Judges 2:6-9 tell us of Joshua's death and that he was 110 years old when he died.
The people of Israel served and "worshiped God throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who survived him, leaders who had been in on all of God's great work that he had done for Israel." (Joshua 24:31 & Judges 2:7 The Message)
In Judges 2:10 we read that the entire generation that had come through with Joshua died. There is something to learn in this next statement, "Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel." The Message
Joshua was a great leader and God used him in an awesome way, but he was not successful in passing on leadership to the next generation. He may have influenced and taught those directly following him, but he did not impress the importance of passing on what God had done for this people.
God told Israel to "Write these commandments that I've given you on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street...When God, your God, usheres you into the land he promised through your ancestors...you're going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn't build, well-furnished houses you didn't buy...when you take it all in and settle down...make sure you don't forget how you got there - God brought you out of slavery in Egypt." Deut. 6:6-9 The Message
Israel did not pass on what God had asked them. They got caught up in living...in doing life...and forgot to talk about what God had done for their grandparents and those before them.
How are we doing life? Have we become so busy we forget to pass on the goodness of God in our lives? Our children are watching us. They are watching how well, or not so well, we do life. It doesn't matter how old they are, they watch.
An example of this happened over Christmas, right before we were to leave for our vacation. The day we were to leave our son, Daniel, had blood in his urine. We weren't sure what we were going to do. Our oldest son, Jon, didn't want to go on the trip if Daniel was back in the hospital. None of us did because we couldn't relax and enjoy ourselves. So, I got everyone in a circle, held hands, and started praying. I was rebuking satan...really taking authority, and telling him he had no right to come against us. I prayed for Daniel to be ok and the bleeding to stop. When my husband, Stan, took Daniel to our doctor there was no blood in Daniel's urine. He was fine.
Now, I didn't think anything of this. I just did it. While we were away, our daughter, Catherine, made comments like, "watch out mom's going to do an exercism," and laugh about it. Any time we would pray we would make a light hearted joke about what happened. After Christmas, when their cell group at church met for their Bible study, Catherine spoke. She used that example of prayer as one of her examples in her study.
While we were on the trip in the Dominican Republic we came across a group of school children from a local church. Our kids, we all, were amazed to learn they knew of my husband's mom and dad, who were Assemblies of God missionaries there years ago. That is a legacy to leave.
My point is this: you never know when, or how you are going to influence your family, so live each day with that thought in mind. Make it second nature to you. I am certainly not one to say I have done everything right, because I haven't. We all have areas in our lives we need to work on, but there are also those areas that are positive and encouraging to our children.
Remember we are leaving a legacy for them. I do not want to be like Israel and forget to mention what God has done for our generation and those before. I do not want to have my kids have to have God intervene because they have not followed after Him, because of my neglegence.
As we read on in Judges chapter two God's anger blazed against Israel. (v20) There is so much to take out of Judges 2:11-15, so take time to read it.
Ok, we haven't heard much of Shamgar...so that means you'll just have to stop back by. I promise I will write about him next. I think you will be blessed by him. There was just too much that happened leading up to him...so stay tuned.
Blessings and come back...for the rest of the story!
Saturday, January 3, 2009
What are you expecting in 2009?
Better health? More exercise? Better diet? More income?
These are all good things, but they deal more with our physical bodies. We have a desire to take care of our physical bodies because everyone sees what we look like. Others can see if we have put on a few pounds...or shed a few. They notice if we have done something different with our hair or bought new clothes.
It makes us feel good when we have taken care of our bodies. When we need a change we either go a different color with our hair or new style. We especially like to go shopping for a new outfit.
What about our spiritual expectations for 2009?
What do we have in store for our spiritual health? What spiritual exercise regime are we going to begin? What spiritual food are we going to partake? What spiritual deposits are we making?
God has blessed Mentoring Women in Ministry this past year. It has gone in a direction I never really thought possible. But, there is a ministry I want to get started on so badly, but it is not the right time. It will come, and I am patiently preparing my spirit for when the right time comes. One thing I have learned is God will cause events to happen in His timing.
So when you are thinking about 2009 and what God has in store remember if He has placed something in your spirit, do not give up on it. It may take time, but it will happen.
Remember Joseph...there were dreams he had, but it wasn't until he was 30 years of age the dreams came true. It took all those years for God to work in Joseph's life in other ways. It was two years before the cupbearer remembered Joseph. (Gen. 41) In every circumstance Joseph was in he kept a good heart toward God. He didn't allow the situation he was in to cause his spirit to harden and close toward God.
He patiently endured each "trial" and God came through.
It is hard to keep trusting God when everything around you is saying the opposite. My son Daniel is 21 years old. When he was 15 months old he contracted spinal meningitis, was in a coma for 15 days, in the hospital for 6 weeks and went home in a semi-comatose state (according to the neurologist.) While in the hospital chapel one evening I knew God was telling me Daniel was going to be restored. I did a word study on restore and wrote down all the things I wanted God to restore in Daniel. I still have that list, a little yellowed with age, but I still have it. Some of the things God has restored, but some He has not.
I believed Daniel was going to go home from the hospital well. Easter Sunday I thought, "Oh great! God is going to healing Daniel today"...but no, not right timing. Over the years there have been dreams about Daniel's healing to keep our faith going when I was ready to give up. There have been times when I tell God I don't want to believe anymore. It is taking too long. I just want to live life. He reminds me that I do need to just live life, but live it with the expectancy that God will restore Daniel. One day He will. My part is to continue believing and let God decide the timing.
What is it that God promised you? Have you been ready to give up? Is it taking too long? God's time is perfect. 2009 could be your year of fulfilment. But, if it isn't don't give up on what God wants to do. It is going to be awesome.
Imagine if Joseph would not have been sensitive to God and didn't listen for the interpretation of the dreams of the cupbearer and baker. He would not have been in the position to be ready for when Pharoah needed him. In fact, even after he interpreted the dreams of the two men they forgot about him. But God was faithful and brought Joseph into a place of prominence.
As you begin 2009 think of where God wants to take you. What does He want to do IN you. Now, a most important part is this...POSITION. You need to position yourself where God can work in you. Position yourself around those people who can help you grow in spirit and knowledge of what God is doing. This is a very important part of your spiritual health.
If you position yourself around people who are always negative, you will get discouraged. If you position yourself around those who are always complaining about how things are done, you will find yourself falling into the same mindset.
When you purposefully position yourself around positive, uplifting people you will become a positive and uplifting person. If you are in ministry and your church is going through difficult times, you need to find a pastor who can encourage you and help you through. Glean wisdom from others. So many times those in ministry pull away when ministry gets tough. Please do not do that. POSITION IS SO IMPORTANT.
Those in ministry who are doing well need to understand this and keep their eyes and spirit attentive to those who may need an encouraging word. Walk with them through this tough time. God will bless you for it.
Remember to purposefully position yourself for greatness in God's kingdom in 2009