Monday, January 26, 2015

She fasted and posted, did she really fast?

  A young woman was concerned with her weight, so she decided to go on a diet. She concluded that fasting at the same time was a “cool” idea. As she fasted she posted to all of her friends on Face book that she was on a 30 day fast. Her posts received hundreds of comments and likes. At the end, she announced she had lost ten pounds and attributed to fasting. She received even more comments and congratulations from her friends!

   The young woman participated in a weight loss regimen,  but it was not a spiritual fast. Fasting means we do without a prescribed diet for the purpose of helping us intensify our spiritual connection with God. Each time we would normally consume the item of the fast, we pray instead.

   The churning in our stomachs reminds us of the yearnings in our soul and keeps us on task.

   Fasting is secret. It is not posted on Face book, Tweeted or announced. It is part of a believer’s prayer life. It is not a weight loss program.

   No one should know that we are fasting by our appearance or communications; that is, if we are really fasting.

   In Matthew 6:18 Jesus says, "That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."

   The moment we tell someone we are fasting, it loses its power!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I prayed, but I'm still sick

    A young lady stayed absent for church for several months. She refused to worship, read her bible or call on the name of the Lord. She was asked why by friends and she responded that the church lied to her. She said she prayed for her mother’s sickness to be removed and followed all of the rituals and steps in the bible, but her sickness remained. She said, praying, God and faith were a waste of time.

   Believers should understand the nature of our relationship with God. Generally, sickness is related to sin or testing. How do we know which one?

   First, we confess our sins and pray the prayer of faith for forgiveness for those sins. If the sickness persists, then we know that it is not sin based, so we then change our prayer from “forgiveness” to “endurance.” –Lord help me to endure my time of testing.

    James 5:15  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they  shall be forgiven him.

    Each believer will endure testing periods; those times when everything seems to fail: health, strength, finance, relationships-everything. When test time comes we pray for strength to endure and gain from the situation. That prayer, when prayed fervently and intensely, and in faith, will count heavily toward the desired result.
    Those who know they are not practicing sinners, immediately know that they are in a time of testing.

    That’s when they fervently pray for strength to endure.

    The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much. (James 5:16)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Absolutely 'flicted!

We’ve all seen people that we thought were absolutely “off the chain!” They did and said crazy stuff. The old timers around us had a way of describing erratic, changes in mental or physical health as being “flicted.” It was not proper English, but everyone understood what they meant.

Flicted covered a whole range of problems such as mental instability, foolishness, immorality, bi-polar issues, infidelity, abusive behavior and often physical illness.

When we couldn’t understand why a person with money in his pocket shoplifted from a store, it was described as ‘flicted. The man who had a beautiful loving wife, but felt the need to cheat, could only be described as ‘flicted. Bodily aches and pains and sicknesses were also called, "flictions."

We have a few flictions ourselves, if we tell the truth. We have flictons in our body. Flictions in our heads. Some of us have flicted zippers and skirts.

James 5:13 says people who are ‘flicted should pray that God would help them deal with their fliction-issues. It says, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” The person who is flicted should pray for him/herself.

In most cases people are so flicted they won't pray for themselves or won’t, so in the meantime those who are affected by the ‘flicted people have to keep praying for them.

The prayers of the faithful can go a long ways.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What if you Never ask?

 Three children stood outside their father’s room and debated with each other. They wanted an increase in their allowance. They did all of their chores, obeyed all of the family rules and always tried to be respectful. They wanted an $1 increase in their weekly allowance, but two of them said it would be a waste of time because the father would probably say no. The third said, “It’s not like we’re going to get a beating for asking, let’s just ask him.” The first two refused, but the third, who was very bold said, “I’ll do it.”

   As the boys went before their father he greeted them with a big hug, and then the third one popped the question. When the father agreed all of them were surprised. The father said, “I decided weeks ago that you should be rewarded with a $2 increase, but decided to wait until you asked.” Then the father said something that they remembered the rest of their lives, “You have not, because you ask not.”

    In Hebrews 4:16 the word of God says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

     It means that we are God’s children, he knows what we need and will help.  We should not be afraid to ask for mercy and for help in time of need. This knowledge helps us to be like the third child. We should bow humbly before the father and boldly plead our case.

     We’ll find out that, in most cases, the help we need (which may be more than what we ask)  is available, just waiting for us to ask.

     We have not because we ask not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Been there-Done that!

    A man opened a marriage counseling service and hung his many degrees on the wall. He followed all of the protocols for establishing a successful business: he was well financed, advertised, and executed a great business plan. However, after a year in business he only had a few clients. It seemed no one cared. It suddenly dawned upon him that he had the wrong business model. He changed his business to “Divorce Counseling” and his business increased. His business increased because he was now seen as someone’s whose advice could be heeded. He had been married seven times.

    When we are in despair we get our best help from those who understand our dilemma. A cancer victim can find solace in the words of  a cancer survivor. A person who has known the hard life listens to the advice of those who have done the same and rebounded. This is so because they have been in the same position. They can relate.

    In Hebrews 4:15 believers are encouraged to look to Christ for our help because whatever our dilemma, he has faced a similar situation himself. The meat of text says, “but was in all points  tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

    To be tempted is to be tested in matters of morality, social acceptance, health, financial security, family concerns, dealing with enemies, facing death and other issues of life. Jesus faced them all.

    He could easily say, “I’ve been there-done that and I have the marks to prove it.”

    He will listen when we pray and we will receive an answer. The answer we receive will be from someone who has walked a mile in our shoes. He knows what we are going through.

    An old hymn says, “He knows the pain we feel, he can save and he can heal, take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”

   When you pray, be assured that God understands and will respond at the appropriate time according to his will.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Ask a favor for Judas, too?

    Have you ever put it all on the line for someone, pleading in their defense or asking a favor for them? If so then, you know what it is to intercede or act as a middle man to help someone.
   There are many who are hired on jobs, get promotions, get scholarships or other opportunities because someone recommended them, pleaded their case or called in a favor to help them. It helps to know someone on the inside.
   In John 17:9 Jesus intercedes on behalf of his 12 disciples, even Judas. He asked God to show them favor because they have been loyal to him. He specifically notes that in this prayer he is not praying for the whole world, but especially for these twelve. (In verse 12 he notes that since  Judas' role was ordained, he doesn't like what the son of perdition is doing, but he prays for him anyway).
   In verse 13 he asks God to give his followers “my joy.”
   His prayer was personal, specific and in line with God’s eternal plan. It asked God to favor his followers to the extent that they put themselves on the line for the cause of the kingdom.
   Like Jesus, we pray intercessory prayers, too. These are not prayers for the world, but for specific people. These prayers are personal and touch the heart. We ask God to favor a friend in need or a hurting family. We ask that an opportunity be made available for a deserving person.
    There have even been times when we asked a favor for someone who hurt us in the past. We followed Christ's example.
    We ask him to give them “The joy of the Lord” for their situation.
    Jesus pleads for us and God shows us favor, often undeserved.
    We should intercede for others, even the Judases in our lives, and ask God to help them know the “Joy of the Lord.”
    Those who know the “joy of the Lord” can pray for Judas, too!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

My enemy's enemy is my friend

  There is an old proverb that says, “The friends of my friends are my friends also, and the enemies of my friends are also my enemies, but the enemies of my enemies are my friends.”

  It’s a strange twist of relationships, bedfellows and associates, but it usually proves true. We tend to like the people who are friends with our friends. We are uneasy around people who enemies of our friends and we have a tendency to cozy up to anyone who dislikes the same people we dislike.

  That’s the reason why people who often disagree on one issue may find themselves on the same side if they have a common enemy.

  A children’s song has these lyrics, “The more we get together the happier we’ll be, for your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends. The more we get together the happier we’ll be.”

   In John 17:10 Jesus prays to God for the safety and protection of his friends or disciples. He says, “And all of mine are thine and all of thine or mine; I am glorified in them.” He asked God to consider believers as friends of God because any friend of the cross is a friend to God. In essence he said, “My friends are your friends and your friends are my friends.”

   God showers us with favor and blessings because we love, respect and promote his son. That connection explains how knowing Christ puts us into the fellowship circle of the Creator who is in a position to help us as we help further his kingdom.

   Jesus is our friend.
   Jesus says to God, help my friends by showering them with favor and grace.
   God says, any friend of my son is a friend of mine.

   And the blessings come…

You know him, but does he know you?

     We all know the President and follow the details of his life daily, but do you think that he actually thinks about us personally when he wakes in the morning? What about the governor? Does he wonder about our personal safety and security?
    No one likes to be a faceless name in a crowd with no connection, but that is often the case. The world seems to be filled with big powerful wheels and millions of little wheels that are nice to have but do not really matter.
    A who friend moved to a large city had considered joining a mega-church with 30,000 members. She asked me should she join. I told her she was from a small church where folks knew each other by name. To test how she would fit in I told her to request a meeting with the pastor to discuss her interest. She later called to say that meeting the pastor was not possible, but his assistants met with her. She sensed that if she joined she would be connected to the 30,000 membership, but the leader would not know her name, recognize her in the grocery store or come to her funeral.  (She joined anyway).
    That’s a contrast our bible lesson for today, John 17:9 where Jesus prayed for his 11 faithful disciples. Read what it says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”
    Though he was soon to be crucified for the entire world, Jesus in this recorded prayer, prayed for 11 people specifically. He prayed for their protection, understanding, unity and ability to withstand the days ahead.
    He knew them by name. Even though he was concerned about the whole world. He was concerned about them personally because “they are thine.”
     As believers we are connected to God in a personal way. He knows us and thinks about us just as he thought about the eleven during his garden prayer. He meets with us in our moments of solitude, walks with us in our meditation, and is present in our moments of despair. He knows us by  sight, even if we are shopping in the grocery store.
     When we pray, it’s good to know that we have a hookup with a big God, who is not so big that he doesn't know all of us…by name!

Monday, January 05, 2015

I prayed for a new car, but didn't get it! What's up?

     If the bible says all we have to do is ask, seek and knock and we would receive, why is it that we have often asked for things and have not received them?
   Do you remember the job you prayed for or the new car, clothes or that 82” big screen T.V. that was on your prayer list? Why didn’t God keep his promise and deliver our prayer request?
   Our expectation is based on popular notions, but not biblical truth.
   In our lesson for this week Jesus gave his disciples an outline of what to pray for and how to pray. In Matthew 6:9-13 he gives the outline. In Luke 11:1-13 he gives the outline again with a more detailed explanation.
   The idea is to ask for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily, to guide us and protect us from evil and from ourselves.
   It is the Holy Spirit or the presence of God that we should pray for to help us deal with all of life’s issues. He will guide us in the right direction, and help us deal with the issues we face. It is better to pray for God’s presence than a new Xbox or a new refrigerator. We are promised that if we ask or seek the Holy Spirit he will come.
   God can do anything: heal, bless, open doors and provide new refrigerators. We should pray for the Holy Spirit, not for things.
   The idea of asking for things such as cars, new clothes, a fine woman or a super lover is not what is meant by ask, seek and knock.
    Look closely at Luke 11:10 and 13 together and you get clear answer: 10: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 13. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
   Instead of asking God for the Saints to win a football game or for a new fishing pole, the Bible says when we pray we should ask for God’s presence. He heals, opens doors and makes the magic happen in our lives.
   If we ask for him, seek him, or knock on a door looking for him, he will co