Fasting

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mat. 6:18 ESV)

 

Jesus’ words concerning fasting were not commanding, however, they were words of expectation.   He says, “when you fast…” which seems to suggest that as His followers this is something we all will do. Not only is fasting something that we will do, when we do it our focus should strictly be on growing closer to God, thus making our experience exclusively reserved for Him.

 

During the next 18 days, do not just concentrate on not eating during certain times. Instead concentrate on growing closer to our Lord. Put aside all of the distractions, make time for God, READ YOUR BIBLE, PRAY, and FAST because victory is certain when we finish.

 

Below is our Fast calendar to assist you through your journey.

 

Blessings,

2015 Fast Calendar_Gathering

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Who Is The Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 18:1-4)

We live in a world where we are taught to be the best we can be (to be the greatest).  Since we were children, we were taught to study and do homework in order to become the greatest in the class.  If we played sports, we were taught to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more in order for our team to become the greatest.  When we go to work, we have ambition to excel in the company, to receive the employee of the month parking spot, and to get promotions/raises again with the same goal in mind, to become the greatest.  At some point or another, we all whether secretly or openly, desire to have a higher position than those around us.

In today’s text, the disciples have this same ambition, they ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It is here that we, like the disciples, discover that the kingdom of heaven does not operate under the same principles as this earthly kingdom that we live in. Jesus tells his disciples the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear.  The disciples were under the impression that because they were chosen by and walked with Jesus, that it was obvious that next to him, they would surely be the greatest.  Similar to the disciples most of us are guilty of the same thought process.  We think that because we go to church or sit in what we consider to be prominent positions, we too must be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Look at what Jesus’ response is to this line of thinking:

  1. Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven
  2. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 18:4)

Why children?  If you stop and truly think about it, children (prior to them being fully exposed to and influenced by the outside world) possess a level of innocence that we as adults can only dream about regaining.  Secondly, children (little children) rarely have hidden agendas. They desire to be nurtured and cared for by those whom have been introduced as their parents.  They are totally dependent upon their parents to provide food, clothing, and shelter.  Children are not prideful, they have to be bathed, dressed, and even checked in places that make adults very uneasy. This is exactly how our Lord desires us to be.  He wants us, his children, to be totally dependent upon him.  Not having any agendas besides desiring to be closer to him and nothing/no one else.  He wants us to allow him to provide for us, feed us, and check us in those most intimate places that cannot be seen by others.  Jesus is saying, unless we become like children, not only will we not be the greatest; we will not even enter in the kingdom of heaven.  Ladies and gentlemen it is absolutely necessary that we renew our minds (Rm. 12:2) or as Jesus said, “turn and become…” (Mat. 18:3).  The kingdom of heaven is not a competition or some sort of worldly promotion.  If we desire to enter in the kingdom and be amongst those who God considers “great,” then let us become like children and seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you (Mat. 6:33).

God Is ALWAYS In Control

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8)

If you are like me, at one time or another you have asked the question, “Why am I going through this (whatever “this” is)?”

Oftentimes, we label the difficulties and/or troubles that we find ourselves in as being something demonic; but what if we looked beyond the obvious and note that it was God that allowed Job’s trouble. Let me be clear, God is not evil, nor does He participate in evil, however, God is sovereign (period!) therefore nothing happens without His permission.  Which leads us to our first point, No matter what happens, God is ALWAYS in control.

In the case with Job, It was God that chose Job, not Satan.  Look at how God thought of Job:

  1. My servant
  2. There is none like him on the earth
  3. Blameless and upright
  4. Fears God
  5. Turns away from evil

Wow!  Job was a straight A student in the eyes of God, but note this was God’s report of Job, not Job of himself.  We do ourselves a disservice when we judge ourselves as being upright before God, that’s called self-righteousness.  God was pleased so much with (you – oops) Job’s character, that He TRUSTED Job with trouble. What a thought, to think that God finds something in us that is so much like Himself that He trusts us to handle the responsibility of trouble!

Ladies and gentlemen its prime time to change the way we perceive trouble; learn to trust the process. Quit trying to fight your way out of this ordained place for your life! Use the trouble of today as a stepping stone towards the greatness of tomorrow! Refuse to let what God thinks about you be wrong!

Blessings,

How Do You See Yourself?

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But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7)

How do you see yourself is more than just the title of today’s blog, it is a real question that requires a real answer. You do not have to respond to me with the answer, however, you do owe it to yourself.

Today’s text begins with a simple yet conflicting word: but. The conjunction is used to introduce an idea contrasting with something already mentioned. In the previous verses, Paul writes, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (vs. 1-3). His point was clear; we once lived in accordance with a different set of rules, with different expectations, governed by a different system.

Here lies the problem. Many Christians battle with the duality of the world we live in. We are constantly reminded of where we live, who we used to hang out with, what we used to like and still like. Every time we look in the mirror, we see the same image, reminding us that we are earthly beings and it appears as if God is some place far away and maybe one day we will be there with him. But (the conjunction) thanks be to God, that is no longer the case. Ladies and Gentlemen I come to tell you that you are with him right now, right where you are today! Paul was clear, because of God’s love, by His grace:

  1. We have been saved
  2. We have been raised up from death
  3. We are with Him in heavenly places

Notice the use of the words have and are. Have and are, are used in the present perfect progressive tense, which describes an action in the past, that continues in the present, and may continue in the future. Now most of us believe we are saved and some of us believe we have been raised from the dead with the understanding that our sins brought about death. But how many of you believe that you always have been, currently are, and will be in the future (forever) seated with Christ in heavenly places? Wow! Try wrapping your mind around that. I know this might be a lot to swallow within a few short paragraphs. However, it is imperative that you see yourself how and where God sees you: with him. Where…In Heavenly Places!

PERSUE, OVERTAKE, AND WITHOUT FAIL RECOVER ALL

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Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (1 Sam. 30:1-6 ESV).

It is my opinion that we as Christians do a not so good job at making scripture relevant to our everyday lives. Lets take 1 Samuel 30:1-6 for instance. When reading the narrative in its entirety, we normally walk away with two or three of the same ideas:

  1. David encouraged himself….therefore, when we find ourselves in the midst of hard times we should be like David and encourage ourselves. (1 Sam. 30:6 KJV)
  1. David pursued after the Amalekites and recovered all….therefore, we should go after everything that “the enemy” has taken from us, for we will recover everything (v. 8)
  1. David and four hundred men defeated the whole Amalekite army….so all we need is a word from the Lord and a few good men to obtain victory (vs. 9-18)

My question to you today is, has anyone ever stopped and asked the question, why was the families and possessions of David and his men taken? I will give you the answer on the front end, because David and his men were absent!

David’s life was filled with disappointment and rejection. He was looked over by his father (1 Sam. 16:6-10), despised by his brothers (1 Sam. 17:28), and the king was so jealous of him that he wanted him dead (1 Sam 18:11). It is also important to take a look at the lives of the men who followed David. The bible says, “Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul gathered to him and he became captain over them” (1 Sam. 22:2). David and his men were all alike; they were men on the run from the cruelties of life. They were men like you and I.

As the story progresses, David and his men became outlaws and dwelt in the land of Israel’s enemy, the Philistines. How many of you reading this have at some point become so frustrated with life that it has put you in positions that have you caused you to abandon your family, leaving them vulnerable for an enemy to seize them? Now I am aware there are two different groups of people reading this: There are some who have literally done so and there are some who are at home but life has forced you into a place where you attempt to overcompensate for life inadequacies, in turn, it causes you to leave your love ones vulnerable.

For some this means you spend too much time at work, for some the beauty salon, for some, this even translates to church or as you say, “I’m doing ministry.” We become so busy seeking validation that we have no clue that our families and our children are being taken away from us right under our noses. The streets, video games, and social media are capturing our children. Our wives are being captured by reality television, talk shows, and salon gossip. The church is being taken captive by the ways of the Amalekites (the world).

It is amazing how this 1000 B.C. text is so relevant in 2015. I could go on and on with examples of how we allow the world to invade and take captive our homes. It is my prayer that today’s post has captured your attention. It is my prayer that this post would send you home like Achish sent David back. Upon your return, take inventory of what has been seized while you were away. When you are clear on what is wrong, do not loose heart. Be like David and encourage yourself! Be the priest of your home and go before the Lord your God and inquire how to get your house back. When He instructs, be obedient to his word. “Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.” (1 Sam. 30:8 KJV).

Obedience Brings Victory

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Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” (1 Sam 17:28)

In the text, David is found amongst the ranks of Israel’s army by the authority of his father (v.17). David was instructed to do three things:

  1. Take his brothers food
  2. See if they are well
  3. Bring some token from them (vs. 17-18)

Upon his arrival, he hears the Philistine champion Goliath, defying the Israeli army, causing them to flee in fear. Hearing this, David inquired, “What shall be done for the man who kills the Philistine?” David’s inquiry sparked anger from his brother Eliab.

We all know David’s story and how he was chosen and anointed by God through the prophet Samuel to be the next king of Israel. But did anyone notice that David still resided with his father Jesse and that he still was responsible for taking care of his father’s sheep? There is something to be learned from David:

  1. Yes you might be anointed and called by God, however you still are responsible for your current assignment. Stay with your assignment until you are reassigned!
  2. Stay submissive. You have to be a great follower in order to become a great leader!
  3. Obedience will always take you to your place of destiny. David’s obedience brought him before the king. The very one he would replace.

I would like to address David’s brother Eliab quickly, note his part in the story is not what I am after. However, Eliab is David’s oldest brother, the one who “should have been anointed” to be king. Even Samuel thought he would be the one for he thought, “Surely the Lords anointed is before him” (1 Sam 16:6). Knowing this, it is safe to say that Eliab was bitter towards David. My point is, do not allow those who despise you to talk you out of your assignment.

Fast forwarding along, because of David’s submission, he was able to do exactly what he was sent to do. He:

  1. Delivered the items sent by his father to his brothers.
  2. Secured his brothers welfare by slaying the very thing that was to do them harm (Goliath)
  3. He cut off the head of the Philistine champion Goliath to be a token “That all the earth may know there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam 17:46)

Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). Men and women of God, obedience will always bring you victory!

Blessings,

Expectation

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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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

The new year is expeditiously approaching and if your reading this your probably like most of the world right now, your in Christmas mode. Your probably in the process of or at least thinking about all the things that need to happen before the BIG day (whatever that means). Just a side bar, the true meaning or if I could use the worldly term spirit of Christmas is about giving. Not material gifts but the gift of love. For God so LOVED the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).   Jesus in return loved us and gave up his life so that we can live. My point is, if you really want to give someone a gift this year give them something that can change their life. As the Jackson 5 once sang, Give Love on Christmas Daaaay!

Now back to my original thought, the New Year is near and I just wanted to leave you with something that will propel you into 2015. For sometime the body of Christ, like the disciples had to grow into a place called faith. Well congratulations, for it is my personal belief that most of us have finally made it. The problem we face now is, we have lived in doubt for so long, we have to get to a place called EXPECTATION. Most of us believe God can, but there are many of us that do not expect him to. To expect something is to look forward to or to anticipate the occurrence of something. In a few hours little children will find it hard to sleep because they know and are expecting something (a gift) to be there for them when they awake.

Men and women of God, God declares, “I know the plans I have for you,” plans for welfare, a future, and hope not evil. He says that when we pray to him He WILL hear us and that when we seek him, we WILL find him and the only stipulation is we must do with our heart (we must be fully committed to it). Men and women of God, THE WAIT IS OVER! From this day forward, seek after the Lord and EXPECT for him to perform His word!

Blessings,

Finish Strong

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At the beginning of this year, January 10th to be exact, I wrote a blog entitled, Let’s Start And Finish This Year Strong. In it, I quoted the apostle Paul telling the Corinthian church “I discipline my body to keep it under control” (1 Cor 9:27).   Today, I would like to revisit that thought.

We are now five days into our end of the year fast. Side Note – If you are unaware, it is customary of my local assembly to fast 21 days every December beginning on the first. I am honored to say, many around the world have joined us on this journey. We do not fast because we want God to give us a new house, car, or a job. We do not fast and pray for STUFF. We fast and pray for one reason and one reason only, to purify the thoughts of our soul. If I could refer back to Paul, this is part of “disciplining” ourselves. The most commonly thought about fasting is to deny oneself of food. This is 100% correct however; it is so much bigger than food.

Refraining from or denying ourselves of food is easy. But denying ourselves of ourselves, is a completely different monster. Who wants to tell themselves no? Nobody! We want what we want, whenever we want it. The problem with wanting what we want is we have to ask ourselves the question, what does God want? In most cases we do not know. In some cases we may have an idea, we are unable to distinguish what His true will is because we have too many of our own thoughts and emotions in the way. This is why we fast and pray, to discipline ourselves, to move away from our own thoughts so we can become closer to God’s. Take notice that I said “fast” AND “pray.”

It is so necessary to communicate with the Father during this time of consecration. While you are refraining from the things you desire, make time for prayer. And while you are praying do not take control of the conversation see if God has anything to say. Pause and be quiet, for the Lord just may have something to say.

Brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that you find some insight in these few paragraphs. For the next 16 days, I want you to really work at separating yourself from your earthly desires and dedicate yourself to prayer. Let’s Finish This Year Strong!

To obtain a copy of our Fast Calendar, please visit us at http://www.jabbok.org

Riches

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother. ’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

Today I would like to be frank. What is keeping you separated from the Lord? In the text we find a “rich ruler” as the Bible subtitles the story, asking Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life? Jesus replies:

  1. Follow the commandments
  2. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and come follow me.

To the first response, no problem! The ruler replies, “All these I have kept from my youth.” Now to the ladder half of Jesus’ response, well that was not so simple. The ruler not only became disheartened, the Bible says, he went away, suggesting that he decided not to follow Jesus.

This ruler mirrors the mind of many in the body of Christ (the Church) today. When it comes to the religiosity of the modern day Christian most of us have it down to a science. We come to church (most of the time), we give our tithes and offerings, we pray (I hope), and my personal favorite, we love each other “with the love of the Lord.” We are satisfied and have become self-righteous with our pious actions, thus feeling are we qualified to have a place in God’s kingdom.

Jesus knowing this, requests something from the man, that he knows means more to him than anything; his riches. First let me be hermeneutically correct, this story was literal. The man had a lot of money and was not willing to trade his earthly riches for heavenly riches, therefore he changed his mind about following Jesus. Jesus then turns to his disciples and says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23). That does not mean that those who have wealth will not or cannot enter God’s kingdom, just that it will be difficult. For Jesus later says, “all things are possible with God” (v. 27).

Now that I have correctly presented the text, allow me to present to you some application. Some of us may not be financially rich, however, we all have something or someone that holds value to us; therefore making us like the ruler when we struggle to give those things up in order to follow Jesus. Jesus is really after our heart, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Lk 12:34). What do you value so much that you would choose it over the Kingdom of God? You may be rich with pride, you may be rich with love for another, or you may be rich with vanity. None of those things are as valuable as heavenly treasures. Whatever your riches may be, do not allow any of it to separate you from the Kingdom of God.

Blessings,

Unequal Distribution

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And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven. (Mark 2:1-5 ESV)

Almost always when looking at the gospel text the stories are centered around Jesus. Mark 2 is no exception. Jesus is center stage, being Jesus. He is preaching and everyone is listening. For a moment, I would like to focus on four unnamed men and a paralytic. The writer, Mark, fails to give readers their name, where they work, or what titles they hold. All we know is they were determined to get someone in desperate need to Jesus. They were committed to the success of one another.

Have you ever been a part of a group project and someone in the group was not doing their part, forcing the others to make up the slack? Or have you ever been in a relationship, gave everything you have, just to find out you were the only one giving? These are examples of what I like to call unequal distribution! Unequal distribution is the affect of being unequally yoked. To be yoked to someone is to be coupled or attached to someone or something that does not or sometimes cannot carry/participate at the same level as you. Just imagine if one of the four men quit while they were lifting the paralytic on the roof or lowering him down. People not carrying their weight strongly have the potential to cause major damage to your ministry.

Men and women of God it is time for these relationships to end. It is time for everyone to participate equally. The time is now over to continue to allow people to be absent when the work is being done but present when it is time to get paid. It is time for all to mirror the four men and contribute to the success of another.

It is my prayer that this message finds you where you are today. I am fully aware that there are two types of people reading this blog, those who are doing their part and those who are not. To the person doing their part, separate yourself from those who are leaching off of your efforts, they are draining you! To the person that is not doing your part, step up, you are draining others. Life and ministry could be so much easier if we all participate. Note…all four men were willing to participate, a man’s sin was forgiven and he was healed, never depending on someone to carry him again. Let us all put our hand to the plow and not look back so that we would be found fit for the kingdom…. (Lk 9:62).

Blessings