Prayer and Fasting

What is it about putting the two words, prayer and fasting, together that causes us to go into a cold sweat, get extremely nervous, back off from doing either? Perhaps it is the fact it is a discipline we are not used to. Perhaps it is the fact we do not do it on a regular basis. Perhaps it is not a part of instant gratification, the “I want it now” syndrome.

For some of us any one of these excuses could be used. Just remember, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” We all pray, probably not as much as we should, but we pray. When difficulties come, we pray. When sickness comes we pray. I could go on and on, however, you get the idea.

Fasting is another story. For most of us it is not something we do on a regular basis. There are times when we will be driven to fast because of the urgent need in front of us. When Jesus was asked why His disciples did not fast like the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples, he answered this:

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” – Matthew 9:15 (ESV)

One of the reasons we do not think of fasting is that Jesus is alive, and we do not think of his being gone in the sense of mourning. Rather we think of His being up in heaven and His promise to return. We do not mourn; we yearn for the coming of Jesus. Mourning has to do with death; yearning has to do with expectation of life eternal.

So why do we fast and pray?

  1. Restoration Church has needs that only can be answered by God. When we fast, and pray we are saying God this is really, really important to us.
  2. We all have unsaved loved ones that could use a special time of concentrated prayer. When we fast, we are concentrating on prayer. This is serious business! Their blood could be required of us.

6But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. 7So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” – Ezekiel 33:6-7 (ESV)

  1. Missionaries have needs and Colossians 1:9 tells us how to pray for them.
  2. Your own family has needs that may require this concentrated time.

In these 21 days of Prayer and Fasting you can have an impact on the work of God, in your home and family, in Restoration Church, in Lacey, in Washington, the USA, and the world. Treat it as a time of yearning for God to work!

Your Grace Abounds to Me

I’m kind of a funny person. There are some hang-ups that I have about songs that I sing…

First, I want a song that when I sing it, I can mean the words. I do not want to lie in my singing. If I sing, “I Surrender All,” I want to be able to surrender all. Secondly, they must make sense. Songs in church, whether they are hymns or choruses, need to be more than “Kumbaya, My Lord Kumbaya.” Thirdly, the song must be able to be sung and understood by most of the congregation. If a song is so fast that only the instrumentalist can follow the melody, then it is too fast for a good part of the congregation. On the other side of this, if it is so slow that it makes you think of a funeral, a good part of the crowd will be moaning for some life. Fourth, and most importantly, they need to be scriptural. Perhaps that is why I really like some of the older hymns. Those that survived throughout the years are based in scripture and tell of someone’s journey with God. There are many examples of this, but I do not want to bore you.

One Sunday in church, a song I had heard and had even been trying to figure out the words to, was being sung. I hurried and got my journal out, so I could write the words down. I do not know the title, but it went like this:

Lord You’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek;

for when Your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

It was a very simple chorus. The words were not difficult. The melody was captivating. I really liked it! Then my cynical mind started asking the questions. Can I sing this and mean it? Does it make sense? Is it easy to sing? Is it scriptural? All the next week I was asking myself, do I mean it when I sing “Your face is all I seek?” Then I remembered what the Word says: You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek,’” Psalm 27:8 (ESV) and,11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you,” Jeremiah 29:11-12 (ESV).

That took me up short. Am I in constant communication with my Savior so that I am seeking His face constantly? I must say I am not. There are lots of things I tend to seek. Reading, playing computer games, and just life in general are some of the things that interfere with seeking Him and His face. However, I really do mean it when I am singing the chorus and I want it to be my first thought. Therefore, I come into His presence with my heart open to Him and His word for me. I seek Him with all my heart. This is true all week long, not just on Sundays.

The second part of the chorus is, “for when your eyes are on this child, your grace abounds to me.” When I first heard it and began to think about it, my mind said, “Is it only when I have sought His face that His grace abounds to me? That is works, and I know that my salvation and Christian life depend on grace alone. How could it be that only when His eyes were on me (because I had sought His face) was His grace flowing in abundance to me? That did not make sense to me. It could not be- His grace is available 24/7 whether I was seeking Him or not.

It took me a long time, a week or two, before I could come to grips with this little puzzle. Now I know that you have figured it out all ready; that just goes to show you how human I am.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,’”

-Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV).

God showed me that His commission was to be empowered by His presence. Jesus is with me all the time! His face is available anytime I want to look. His grace is poured out on me all the time.

Then there is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life. The Holy Spirit is my “Paraclete” the One who has been given to us to remind us of Jesus every day.

My life today is lived in grace. I know the major definition of grace is this- God’s unmerited favor towards us. We think of that as regarding sin, as well we should. However, the definition of grace is so much deeper and wider and higher than that. It goes beyond saying His grace is much greater than our sin and need of forgiveness.

When His grace is on this child, it is full of graciousness. Our God is not a harsh, cruel God. Rather He is a God of compassion and love, and His gaze is full of His plans for us (see Jeremiah 29:11). His love for us is great, 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (ESV). God looks on us as a loving father looks on his children.

The next time you hear or sing this chorus, remember it is true and can apply to you. As you read these words, sing them and allow their beauty and graciousness to flow over you.

 

Lord you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek;

For when Your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

 

(Original song by Keith Green, “Oh, Lord You’re Beautiful”)

Do You Know Your DNA?

Two years ago, on my 73rd birthday, I found out who my birth father was. I also found out that I have a sister and brother living in Kentucky.

The story is a long one and the importance of it is simple. There is something different in me than is in all my other siblings. My DNA is different. For most of my life I knew that my stepfather, despite his decision not to tell me, had adopted me. I was a snoopy kid and saw papers I should not have. However, I do believe his decision was based on protecting Mom.

In those days, there was real shame attached to having a child out of wedlock. My Mom had been a Christian as a teen and young adult; but something happened and she fell away and got pregnant. I remember the day she decided to renew her relationship with God. I was five and had two brothers. One Sunday morning as we kids had crawled into Dad and Mom’s bed to play around, she turned to Dad and asked if he minded if she got the boys and herself ready and went to church? His response was so typical of him: that’s fine, get them out of here so I can sleep. So, for the rest of her life Mom rebuilt her relationship with God and served Him with all her heart within her local church. Very few, if any, of the folks at church knew her story. Her life was such that they would not have believed it if someone told them.

Mom had married the man (that to this day, I call “Dad”) when I was two. I never did know my birth father as he died when he was only 60. However, what a joy to meet my brother and sister in Kentucky! They are Christians and are serving the Lord.

Recently I had my DNA analyzed and, as can be expected, it is a real conglomeration. I am 68% British, 11% Irish, 6% Scandinavian, and the other 15% is a mix of all different nationalities.

I have taken a lot of time telling you about me, however, there is a reason behind it. Lately my devotional reading, two verses of scripture jumped out at me: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” John 1:12, 13 (ESV).

As if a light bulb came on my mind realized that when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I became a Child of God! Don’t get me wrong, I am not God in any way shape or form, but I do have His DNA in me. Paul said, 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV). Paul talks about the “new man” and the “old man” in that the old has passed away the new has come.

Continuing in this theme, Jesus said in John 3:3, “You must be born again.”

Peter says, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God,” 1 Peter 1:23 (ESV). We have been born again by imperishable seed Through the Word of God. We have God’s DNA giving us new life and hope and strength.

The next time you are tempted, remind yourself that God does not tempt you (read James 1:13). The next time you are really angry, angry enough to fight or scream, remember, “26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians 4:26 (ESV). God has given you the power to overcome anger that is not honoring to Him. When trials and tests come, there is in you the power to overcome. If sorrow has you in its grip, the joy of the Lord is your strength. Struggling in school, or at work? Remember, you are a child of God!  You have His DNA!

There is a very positive side to this DNA thing. There resides in you the power to pray in the anointing, prophesy according to God’s word residing in you, pray for the sick, (dare I say it) raise the dead, share the gospel with power, see the lost found, the brokenhearted healed, the prisoners freed, and the power of God at work in your life.

After all, IT IS HIS DNA IN YOU!

Mercy and Grace

For the past couple of weeks my devotions have been in 1 and 2 Samuel.  I have always enjoyed the drama of the stories in the two books of Samuel.  I do not know if it has something to do with my first name or what, but I sure do appreciate these accounts of God working through people to glorify His name.

David is one of the best known of the Biblical people.  He is called a man after God’s own heart.  He is known to the Jews as the Sweet Psalmist of Israel and to most of us as the boy who killed a giant with a sling and a stone.

However, in some of David’s actions and reactions we are sometimes forced to ask ourselves, “How could he be a man after God’s own heart?” We know that in 2 Samuel David committed adultery and murder; both of which required the death penalty in the Old Testament.  In Leviticus 20:10 (ESV) it says, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” In Leviticus 24:17 (ESV) it says, “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.”

After telling David a parable, Nathan pronounces that David is the man in the story.  ”Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul,” 2 Samuel 12:7 (ESV).

He then tells him God’s sense of what he did.  “Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?  You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites,” 2 Samuel 12:9 (ESV).

David’s immediate response is to confess.  “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ God knew David’s heart, thus; And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; [you shall not die],’” 2 Samuel 12:13 (ESV).

This is God’s response of mercy to David’s repentant heart.  The exciting thing is despite the law and the immensity of David’s sin God, extended mercy to David.

Remember, MERCY = NOT GIVING US WHAT WE DESERVE.

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy,” Proverbs 28:13 (ESV).      

“Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity and [passing over] the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in [mercy],” Micah 7:18 (NKJV).

Mercy differs from grace in that mercy does not give us what we do deserve, and grace gives us what we do not deserve.  Mercy pardons and forgives our sin; we deserve to be punished for our sin.  Grace saves us and makes us children of God with all the blessings that entails; we do not deserve to receive all the blessings this entails.

Back to my question earlier, “How can David be a man after God’s own heart?”

Psalm 51 is one of the best answers to this question.  In this Psalm, the first thing you want to look at is the heading.  “A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.”  This is David’s prayer!  Look at it and see the crying out after God, the petitions, the humility, and the openness to God.

In verses 1 and 2, you have David’s cry for mercy based of God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy; cries for God to blot out his transgressions, to wash him from his iniquity, and cleanse him from his sin.

Verse 3 shows David’s heart burdened by the knowledge of his sin.  Then in verse 4, you have the acknowledgement that really this sin was not against Uriah or Bathsheba but against God and only God.  Therefore God was justified and blameless in His judgment of David.

Going on in the passage in verse 5, it shows David’s understanding of his original state as a man while verse 6 declares David’s grasp of what God desires from him.  Then again in verse 7-9, David cries out for God to purge and wash his sin, allowing him to hear again the joy and gladness he knew before and restore his broken spirit.  In the final gasp and cry for mercy, he cries out “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”  The summation of verses of 1-9 is David crying out to God to NOT do to him that which he deserves. MERCY!

Is there a sin in our life that you have kept hidden or refused to acknowledge?  Stop reading right now and confess it to God and ask for His mercy to cover you.  Then continue to read.

David is so confident that God has heard his plea for mercy that he continues to pray and ask God for Grace.  Remember, grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

He begins by asking for a clean heart and a right spirit saying, “Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  David does not deserve this.  He has grievously hurt God and sinned against Him, why should God do this for him?

David is asking for grace! The rest of verses 12-17 are a prayer for grace. Verse 17 is the reason David can be called a man after God’s own heart. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (ESV).

You have asked God for mercy, for forgiveness of sin, to overlook all that you have done, and asked for Him to not give you what you deserve (punishment).  Now you are asking for Him to give you what you do not deserve, which are all the blessings of the redeemed.  If you know what the sacrifices of God are, He will give you GRACE and you will rejoice and share all He has done for you.

The hope seen in Psalm 51 is a very basic one.  If we ask God to forgive our sins, He will do it!  Not just forgive, but He will add blessing after blessing after blessing after blessing to us as we learn to walk with Him as David did.

TESTING: 1, 2, 3…

Many years ago, I helped in a sound booth at church I was attending. This was before all of the specialized equipment we have today. In those days we were closed off in a room with windows looking out over the sanctuary but could not hear a word that was said or sung without earphones. We had to depend on meters to let us know what the sound was like. We listened to the sound through big, heavy earphones and worked hard to make it sound good. Mistakes were many and everyone knew it!

Before the service began we did a check on all the equipment. Someone would go up to a mic and start saying “Testing: 1,2,3…” In the booth, we were trying to hear through the earphones and watch the dials. As I am sure you know it was far inferior to what we have today.

If we came late and could not do the sound check adequately, we had a very bad day! The testing was important; we had to get it right so that the service went well.

Have you ever felt like you were being tested and everyone was trying to get you to fail? I know I have! Time and time again I have gone to the Lord and asked Him, “Why am I going through this terrible time?” Most of the time I do not get an answer other than “Stay faithful.”

In times like these, when I am down, the Lord reminds me of James 1:2-3 (ESV) which says, “2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

A while back Kaylee gave a great sermon about Faithfulness. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Is it possible that God allows us to be tested to show others and us how good our faithfulness is? Is it also possible that God is using the crucible of testing to increase our faithfulness? James says, “The testing of our faith produces steadfastness.” Steadfastness is another word for faithful.

Why is it that some Christians go around with a ‘poor me’ attitude? Perhaps they have not found the joy in tribulations Pastor James is talking about. You see, even Jesus said in John 16:33 (ESV), “33I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Pastor James tells us to “Count it all joy” when we are tested or tried or persecuted, or as Peter tells us: 1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV), “6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  It is not easy to be joyful or rejoice when you are going through difficult times. I wonder if we think we are not being tested because our trials don’t resemble the trials of the days of old as described in the New Testament. If we were, then we would rejoice as the disciples did in Acts 4:23-31 and be thankful they could suffer for the Lord’s sake.

For a long time in my life I rarely responded with joy and rejoicing when things went wrong, anger at God was so often my response, until I came to the Word and found some very interesting things. Jesus said He came that we might have abundant life! My friends, that means every day.

SO HOW DO WE HAVE JOY, REJOICING, ABUNDANT LIFE ALL THE TIME?

While it is very easy to do, it takes a large dose of discipline as well as the help of the Holy Spirit. Discipline because until we learn to go to the Word with all our “little challenges,” we will never be victorious.

We need the help of the Holy Spirit because without it, discipline means little. It is the Holy Spirit that teaches us the things of Christ. As the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and makes it personal to us we begin to see what God is saying in the Word. It was only when I asked the Holy Spirit to teach me that I started to have victory in my own life.

Allow me to go back quite a few years, about 51 to be exact. Both Ellen (my first wife who passed away in childbirth) and I were students in our senior year. I was at Seattle Bible College and she was at Seattle Pacific College. I was working part-time as well as going to school. Our daughter was about six months old and seemed to be sick all the time. I was depressed because I did not make enough money to really support us and it was difficult to make ends meet.

God had said to us in our prayer time that He was watching over us and to trust him. I do not remember what night of the week it was but I only had enough gas to get to and from school and work for the rest of the week. We were volunteering at a children’s mission in central Seattle and had not gone because we had no extra gas. By the way, this is when gas was about $0.25 a gal. The manager of the mission called us and said he needed us to make a call on a shut-in who had helped at the mission for years. I am sorry to say that I did not act in faith. I complained that we did not have enough gas to do it.  He said, “Come to the mission first.” I knew what that meant, he was going to help us with gas, but I felt as low as a worm for complaining. No joy in my faith!

Well, he did help and we went to visit the shut-in and had a good time visiting and praying for him. He was happy to see our daughter and really appreciated the visit. As we were leaving he gave us an envelope and asked us not to open it just then, that it was a token of his appreciation for us and our ministry.

By now you know the rest of the story, or you think you do. Yes, there was cash in the envelope, $100.00 to be exact. That was a lot of money back then. In fact it was more than I made in a week. However, the story does not end there. When we got home someone had dropped off six or seven boxes of food for us.

God was saying that He was watching over us and had our backs. That was one of the lessons I had to learn, God has my back. The tests I go through are for my good. I just needed to trust him as he said, “Testing: 1, 2, 3…”