What Is True Fasting?

True fasting has to have something behind it. External disciplines are good, but there has to be truth lying behind them. A kiss is a powerful way of saying I love you, but it was with a kiss that Judas betrayed Jesus. So what is the true inner meaning that lies behind our outward fasting?

Isaiah says: “Share your bread with the hungry” (Isa 58:7) – Martin Luther King said: “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made.”

Isaiah says “Bring the homeless poor into your house” (Isa. 58:7) – What about this house – God’s House? We all want to welcome people in here when they are the right sort of people, respectable people. people like us. But what about people who are more difficult to get on with? What about people who barely speak any English who is a real struggle to chat with over coffee after the service? What about children with ADHD or autism who run around in the middle of the church service making a terrible racket? These are the spiritually homeless poor.

Isaiah says: “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,” (Isa 58:9) – It’s true isn’t it – for all of us it’s so easy to criticise, to blame to point the finger” In one of my past churches there was a lady who never said a word against anybody. She always pointed out the good. It is amazing the difference it makes to have someone doing that. It lifted the hearts of all and spoke blessing. What can we do not to point the finger but actively to speak blessing to those around us?

There once was a church where the walls were painted white. Whenever they sang Amazing Grace, the entire congregation turned to face one particular wall. The new minister was curious about this, so she asked people why, but no one knew. Eventually she was taking sick communion to a 96-year-old member of the church so she asked him. “Ah” he said, “When I was a boy we couldn’t afford hymn books for everyone, so we painted the words of Amazing Grace on one of the walls. Every time we sang it we turned to face that wall. Over the years the words faded and the walls were repainted, but we still always turn to face that wall.

Isaiah has God ask question “Is this the fast I seek?” As we observe Lent and give things up or take things up, let us make sure that they are not empty shells like that wall that once had a meaning, or a lie like Judas’s kiss of Jesus. Let them be true fasting where the exterior disciplines reflect the inner realities. (FATHER EDMUND CARGILL THOMPSON)

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How Far Are We Willing To Go To Bring Others To Jesus?

Mark’s Gospel (Mark 2:1-12) tells an incredible story about four men carrying a paralyzed friend to Jesus. We don’t even know their relationship to the paralyzed man or what became of them afterward.
Nor are we told how far they traveled to perform such an act of kindness or what it cost them. Yet it’s apparent that no distance was too far, no cost too great, and no complication too much. Despite the difficulty and inconvenience confronting them, this quartet was determined to get their friend to Jesus.

I can’t help wondering what it must have been like to be the paralyzed man. To rely on others for everything. To never be able to stand on his own and stretch, or enjoy a change of scenery without troubling others. Did he ever feel anything besides helplessness, humiliation, isolation, frustration, or despair? How did he react when his friends grabbed the four corners of his cot and headed out the door with him? Was he excited, frightened, or embarrassed when they started lowering him through the hole? We can’t know the answers to these questions, but one thing is certain. When Jesus beheld the one who’d landed safely at His feet, He saw the truth—that the man’s paralysis was deeper and more pervasive than it appeared. Within that withered body was a crippled soul, paralyzed by sin and shrunken from shame.

However, the crippled man before Him wasn’t the only thing that Jesus observed. He also saw the spirited, sweaty faces of four desperate men peering down at Him through a hole—men whose faith was bold, earnest, insistent, and seemingly indifferent to social consequences. He saw four men who would not be denied, whose bloody knuckles offered proof that they would stop at nothing. Four filthy faces, craving a miracle. Panting with anticipation. Wide-eyed with hope. Apparently, it wasn’t what Jesus heard that arrested His heart. It was what He saw that moved Him. They destroyed someone’s property, interrupted Jesus while He was talking, and aggravated the people who were listening. Their trust in Jesus’ power to heal their paralyzed friend moved the Lord’s tender heart.

One of the greatest privileges, and oftentimes most difficult challenges, is bringing people to Christ. But it is worth every ounce of labor. Hopefully, you won’t have to dig through any roofs to do it, but you may have to break down some walls of ignorance, misunderstanding, pride, prejudice, and past hurts. You may have to get dirty, use your head, adjust your schedule, modify your budget, swallow your pride, and creatively use your gifts. But like the four men in Mark’s Gospel, you won’t be disappointed. (FIL ANDERSON)

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The Definition Of Discipleship

Encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:5:11)

Jesus’ primary call to His disciples is seen in His words, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) and “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19). Mark records: “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons” (Mark 3:14-15). Notice that Jesus’ relationship with His disciples preceded His assignment to them. Discipleship is the intensely personal activity of two or more persons helping each other experience a growing relationship with God. Discipleship is being before doing, maturity before ministry, character before career.

Every Christian, including you, is both a disciple and a discipler in the context of his Christian relationships. You have the awesome privilege and responsibility both to be a teacher and a learner of what it means to be in Christ, walk in the Spirit, and live by faith. You may have a role in your family, church, or Christian community which gives you specific responsibility for discipling others, such as husband / father, pastor, Sunday school teacher, discipleship group leader, etc. But even as an appointed discipler you are never not a disciple who is learning and growing in Christ through your relationships. Conversely, you may not have an “official” responsibility to disciple anyone, but you are never not a discipler. You have the opportunity to help your children, your friends, and other believers grow in Christ through your caring and committed relationship with them.

Similarly, every Christian is both a counselor and counselee in the context of his / her Christian relationships. A good counselor should be a good discipler, and a good discipler should be a good counselor. Biblically, they are the same role. Your level of maturity may dictate that you do a lot of Christian counseling. But there will still be times when you need to seek or receive the counsel of other Christians. There will never be a day when we don’t need each other.
(DAILY IN CHRIST by NEIL T. ANDERSON)

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God’s Children: Gifted For Ministry

Jesus Christ is the full expression of all the spiritual gifts because He alone is the God-man who lived a perfect life. After ascending to the Father, He entrusted the church with the task of carrying out His work on earth. To accomplish this, He gave a variety of spiritual gifts to His followers who are now His body. Christ is the head, and He’s the one who fits us together to form a well-functioning body that grows and builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). When all of us are operating according to our gifting, together we become what we long to be—a New Testament church.

It’s not enough to discover, develop, and exercise our own gifts; we must also value other people’s (1 Corinthians 12:18-21). No one sees the entire picture or has all the answers. We need each other to point out our blind spots, teach us humility, and handle matters we cannot tackle alone. God uses our differences to shape us into Christ’s image so we can display the fruit of the Spirit. We each have a job to do in the church. Therefore, let’s be good stewards of our gifts in the power and love of the Spirit so that one day we will hear our Lord’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
(CHARLES F. STANLEY)

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Gladness In God’s Presence

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Psalm 100:2

Today millions of Christians in many countries will come together to worship. Some who are unable to gather with God’s people will worship in their homes by way of television or radio. Others will gather in small unimpressive buildings, or in cathedrals or parish churches, or in spacious church auditoriums. Others, for fear of persecution, will meet in secret locations.

But regardless of how and where we worship, we are all called to worship the Lord. The psalmist says, “Worship the LORD with gladness,” and in John 4:23 the Lord Jesus says that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” In the words of a song, we are called to “forget about ourselves and … worship Christ the Lord.”

We come to church to celebrate God’s grace and to praise God for His faithfulness. According to the psalmist there is no excuse for sitting through a worship service with a long face.

During this coming week, pray for all who are responsible for the worship services in your church. Before you come to church, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the joy of the Lord so that you’ll be able to come before the Lord with praise and thanks. Ask God to send His Holy Spirit into your church so that together you’ll be able to worship the Lord with gladness.                                                                              (ARTHUR SCHOONVELD)

 

For Your Reflection:

 

  • What is your general attitude about going to church? What motivates you to go to church?

 

  • If you have a complaint about the worship at your church, how do you think God wants you to respond?

 

•  Do you think it’s fun to go to church? If not, is it more about the church or about you?                                                        (RICK WARREN)

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Lifelines

Birthdays are milestones . . . significant points in the passing of time . . . specific yet mute reminders that more sand has passed through the hourglass. But they pass so quietly, so
consistently, they fool you. That’s part of the reason C.S. Lewis used to say:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. . . The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.

We mark our calendars with deadlines—dates that set limits for the completion of objectives and projects. To ignore those deadlines brings consequences. To live without deadlines is to live an inefficient, unorganized life, drifting with the breeze of impulse on the fickle wave of moods. We set deadlines because they help us accomplish the essentials . . . they discipline our use of time . . . they measure the length of our leash on the clothesline of demands.

God, however, brings about birthdays . . . not as deadlines but lifelines. He builds them into our calendar once every year to enable us to make an annual appraisal, not only of our length of life but our depth. Not simply to tell us we’re growing older . . . but to help us determine if we are also growing deeper. These lifelines are not like that insurance policy you invested in last year. There’s no automatic promise of annual renewal. Obviously, if God has given you another year to live for Him, He has some things in mind . . . He has some very special plans to pull off through your life. Surely it includes more than existing 1,440 minutes a day!

The psalmist gives us the perfect prayer to pray every year our lifeline rolls around. So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Now let me caution you. Don’t expect wisdom to come into your life like great chunks of rock on a conveyor belt. It isn’t like that. It’s not splashy and bold . . . nor is it dispensed like a prescription across a counter. Wisdom comes privately from God as a by-product of right decisions, godly reactions, and the application of scriptural principles to daily circumstances. Wisdom comes, for example, not from seeking after a ministry . . . but more from anticipating the fruit of a disciplined life. Not from trying to do great things for God . . . but more from being faithful to the small, obscure tasks few people ever see.

Stop and reflect. Are you just growing old . . . or are you also growing up? As you “number your days” do you count just years—the grinding measurement of minutes—or can you find marks of wisdom . . . character traits that were not there when you were younger?

Take a look. You really don’t have a lot longer, you know. As a matter of fact, one of these years your lifeline will be God’s deadline. (CHARLES R. SWINDOLL)

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The Prayer Life Of Jesus

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
— Mark 1:35

This incident occurred after our Lord experienced a tremendous spiritual victory over Satan. He had endured the fierce onslaught of Satan in the wilderness. But after this ordeal

the angels ministered unto Him. — Mark 1:13

There is a peril in assuming that we are strong after a victory, and Jesus realized this fact.

I wonder what was the subject of the Lord’s early dawn experience in prayer?

Jesus went with such easy power through life; what did He do in those solitary moments with God? The fame of the Lord Jesus Christ grew steadily; people brought all the diseased and the demon-possessed to Him, and He delivered them.

Yet, in the midst of such a marvelous career of relieving and blessing people in need, He spent practically the whole night in prayer.

Do you realize that after eminent success in God’s work, there is more need for prayer than when we are at the foothills of a struggle for survival? The moments of victory and success are more dangerous than moments of darkness and depression.

PRAYER THOUGHT
Dear Father, may the spiritual success I experience be fortified with seasons of earnest prayer.

REFLECTION THOUGHT
Whether we are in a season of great success, or a season of great trial, just like the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to pray. We need to rely on the power of God every day of our lives to walk in sync with Him. (DEVOTIONS FOR A DEEPER LIFE by OSWALD CHAMBERS)

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Victory Keys

Gideon was an unlikely hero for sure. When God called him, he was hiding in a wine press and threshing wheat, getting ready for an attack by the Midianites. He ultimately would defeat the huge Midianite army, needing just 300 men. But three key steps were involved in his victory:

KEY 1: Encounter the Supernatural: When Gideon was at his lowest point, living in fear and desperation, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said he would save Israel from the Midianites (Judges 6:21-22). Without seeing something supernatural, it’s doubtful Gideon ever would have found the courage to step out and obey God.

KEY 2: Get God’s Perspective: Despite Gideon’s dismal circumstances at the time, the Angel of the Lord said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!…Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:12, 6:14). Instead of seeing Gideon’s weaknesses, failures, or mistakes, God saw a man of fearless courage—a victor instead of a victim. Yet Gideon didn’t initially accept God’s evaluation. The Lord had to change his perspective and get him to start seeing himself differently.

Perhaps you’ve had the same struggle as Gideon did with low self-esteem. “How can God use me?” you ask. “Look at what I’ve done and all the times I’ve failed.” If this has been your mind-set, you need to let God give you a new perspective.

KEY 3: Rely on God’s Power: The Lord told Gideon, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). How was one man supposed to defeat an army that was “as numerous as locusts” (Judges 7:12)? Only one way…with God’s power.

God is asking you to do the impossible, too. He allows you to face problems you can never solve in your own strength. If you see a situation that looks impossible, remember that God says, “I’m not limited to the natural. My power has no limits. If you could do it in your own strength, you wouldn’t need Me.” As soon as you acknowledge that you can’t do it on your own, God will step in and bring you victory. And when He gives you victory in an “impossible” situation, He alone will receive the glory.

When he accepted God’s plan and became willing for God to use him, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon” (Judges 6:34). Gideon wasn’t given additional human strength—he received the very strength of God. In the same way, God wants to clothe you in supernatural power, enabling you to step into your destiny. He will never leave you to fight your battles in your own strength and ability.

Friend, it’s time to start looking at the bigness of your God instead of the bigness of your need. You may be in your darkest hour, surrounded by enemies like Gideon was. But fear not! God is going to come and meet you at the point of your need. He’s the God of abundance and overflow, ready to give you overwhelming victory. (BEN CERULLO)

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