Prayer and Devotions

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church when we are away.

I will add two other areas we should not let slip during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. 

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, have meaningful engagement with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away, which he graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaningful time with our good God is refreshing.

READING THE BIBLE SUPERNATURALLY

 

Last year, I enjoyed reading John Piper’s book “A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness”, which presents the self-authenticating nature of the Bible.

Now my soul is being thrilled by reading Piper’s follow-up book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”.

Piper wants to do more than motivate us to a renewed commitment in reading the Bible, he wants us to recognize the extraordinary potency that should be in our everyday reading of it.

The Bible is a supernatural book, that is understood through a supernatural work of God, and should produce supernatural effects for God in us and through us!

“Reading the Bible Supernaturally” will inspire, encourage, excite and clarify. Consider how wonderful it will be to have your daily walk in God’s Word become more fully what the Holy Spirit intends for it to be.

All that the Spirit says is wondrous, and all that He intends for the believer is wondrous. This should lead us to spend more time with our Bibles open before us. And this should fill our heart with expectation at the turn of each page.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!

PRAYING FOR YOUR PASTOR

It is always meaningful when someone earnestly lets me know they are praying for me. It simply never gets old.

We all need prayer and we all need to be praying for one another.

I don’t know if pastors need prayer any more than other believers, but I do know that we don’t need it any less!

Pastors do have some unique pressures which make them vulnerable to the enemy and to weariness.

Jason Allen is a pastor who shares a few reasons why it is good to pray for your pastor in this article.

Praying for your pastor will not only bless him and his family, it will bless you and your church family.

 

IT’S NOT A CHORE!

You should be thoughtfully reading God’s Word on a regular basis.

But you already know that.

A good definition of regular is each day. There will be days when circumstances get out of control and you miss your reading time. When that happens, don’t drift into guilt. Simply thank God for his graciousness and pick up again the next day.

I cannot remember ever hearing a Christian tell me they didn’t think Bible reading was important. But I know there are many Christians who have not consistently established a habit of regular Bible reading.

The most common excuse we use is that “We don’t have time”.

But I think the actual most common reason is that we think of it as a burdensome chore.

In an article on the desiringGod website, David Mathis wrote:

“One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.”

I hope you will consider reading his entire article, “Treat Yourself to the Voice of God”.

David, not only encourages us in what Bible reading is – he also presents several helpful and perhaps unexpected tips for enjoying regular Bible reading.

If you enjoy David’s article, I highly recommend his outstanding book, “Habits of Grace”.

 

HOW TO SPEAK TO THE KING OF BORNEO

 

If you want to speak with a king, be prepared to either be ignored, or jump through an impressive series of hoops.

An interesting example of this comes from the pen of the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led the first voyage around the world from 1519 to 1522.

In his journal, Magellan records his visit to the king of Borneo, which is the third largest island in the world, at almost twice the size of California.

Here is the description of what was involved in speaking to that king:

When we arrived at the city, we were obliged to wait two hours, until there came two elephants covered with silk, and 12 men, each carried a porcelain vase covered with silk, for wrapping and conveying our presents. 

All the streets were full of men armed with swords, spears, and bucklers, the king having so commanded. 

We entered the palace and ascended a staircase, accompanied by the governor and some of the chief men, and entered a large room full of courtiers; there we sat upon a carpet, with our presents.

There were placed 300 men of the king’s guard with naked daggers in their hands, which they held on their thighs.  At the end of a second and higher hall was a great opening, covered with a curtain, and on this being raised, we saw the king sitting at a table.

One of the chief men informed us that we could not speak to the king, but if we wished to convey anything to him, we were to say it to him, and he would say it to a chief of higher rank, who would lay it before a brother of the governor, who was in the smaller room, and they by means of a blow pipe placed in an opening in the wall would communicate our thoughts to a man who was near the king, and from him the king would understand them. 

He taught us meanwhile to make three obeisance’s to the king, with the hands joined above the head, raising first one foot, then the other, and then to kiss our hands to him.  This is the royal obeisance.

Magellan’s experience doesn’t surprise us, because people in power often want to demonstrate their greatness.

How amazing it should be to us, that Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, allows us to have immediate and constant access.

You don’t need an appointment

You don’t have to speak through a priest

You are not limited in the time you have to spend with him

You can come as often as you want

And you always have his focused attention

Child of God, consider how sad and wasteful, when we neglect to use the wondrous access we have to speak to the King of kings!

 

READ IT ALL

route-66-travel-through-the-bible

Every Christian should agree with what is in the Bible

Every Christian should live by what is in the Bible

Every Christian needs to know what is in the Bible

Every Christian ought to be reading the Bible – regularly, methodically and completely

God’s people are all on board with my first statement, and they most likely are not in disagreement with any of these statements.

But they may find themselves increasingly uncomfortable and disconnected as they go down the list.

There are many ways to approach Bible reading, and few of them are unhealthy (jumping around passages without reading through books of the Bible would be one). Yet there are important steps to becoming biblically literate and healthy.

One ingredient to biblical rootedness, is to read through the entire Bible (translation: read every page of it).

Certainly there are some portions of the Bible that are not as enjoyable or essential as others (skin diseases in Leviticus, and property allotments in Joshua come to mind). Yet there are plenty of important benefits to reading it all.

As we begin 2017 and the brief days of acting on New Year’s Resolutions, make a commitment to reading the Bible regularly and all the way through. How long this takes is not that important. But getting it done will benefit your life.

As an encouragement to reading the entire Bible, take a few minutes to peruse this article by Kristen Wetherell, “17 Benefits to reading the Entire Bible”.

This will take effort and persistence, but it will leave you joyful and without regret. Which is more than you can say for all the ways you spend time not reading your Bible

FAMILY DEVOTIONS, CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM?

 

“Can our family live without having devotions together?”

This a prodigious question for parents with children still at home.

The short answer is, yes you can live.

But the fuller answer is, not anywhere near as well as a Christian family should!

Family devotions are not about parents being scholars, teachers, or having all the answers.

Family devotions are about inserting God and his Word into family life. It an essential process for making sure that the most important truths for life and eternity are given a prominent voice in our home.

If your answer is “My children get enough of God at church and their Christian school.”

My response is NO THEY DON”T!!

What your children don’t get – and this is enormous– is to see that the most influential people to them are committed to loving God and putting him first in their lives. They don’t see that your family is led by God’s Word – unless they experience your family reading and implementing God’s Word

In the end, God has placed the primary discipleship role on parents. God gave your children to you and God made you their parents. Your church has an essential role that supplements, not supplants the role of parents.

If your answer is “But I don’t know where to start and what to do?”

I understand. Keep it simple.

Gather the family

Open your Bible to the New Testament

Read a small portion (they key is consistency not amount)

If an application or comment comes to you, share it. If not, don’t worry about it

Close with prayer

Over time you will become more comfortable doing it. And if you sincerely pray for God to help, he will answer that prayer.

Be encouraged in knowing that God is always the main character in the process.

To help stir up some good ideas for family devotions, I urge you to read this article by Tim Challies. He gives 10 Ideas for family devotions and then adds 10 Tips to help make it work.

THOUGHTS TO HELP US IN FASTING

In Mark 2:18-20 Jesus is asked a question about fasting. 

“Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

Jesus is telling them that he is the bridegroom and his disciples are like the wedding guests, and his presence with them is like the joyous atmosphere of a wedding.  Because Jesus is with them it is a time of feasting and celebration, fasting is not appropriate. 

Jesus gives two more pictures that connect with this wedding metaphor  vs 21-22

Just like fasting at a wedding, these two examples – using new cloth to patch an old torn garment and putting new fermenting wine in old wineskins – both talk about inappropriate actions. 

You can’t put a new patch on old clothing and you can’t put new wine in old wineskins.  Jesus is saying you can’t mix the new with the old. 

How does this relate to fasting?

Under the Old Covenant the Jews fasted on the Day of Atonement – their fasting on this set day was a fast of repentance and remorse for their sin.  They also fasted in times of crisis or to avert a coming judgment.  And now, in Jesus time, the Pharisees fasted twice a week.  Yet they fasted in a self-righteous way emphasizing the external practice with a heart that was often far from God. That was the old way of fasting.  

Jesus had come and he was making all things new – including fasting.  Now that Jesus was present this old type of fasting was no longer appropriate.  If the disciples followed this old fasting it would be like they were using new cloth to patch an old torn garment or putting new wine in old wineskins.  Now that Jesus had come the purpose and motivation for fasting would be new. 

The purpose of fasting is now tied to Jesus, the bridegroom.  We fast for the bridegroom – we fast because we desire the bridegroom.  We fast because we want more Jesus, we want his help, we want his wisdom, we want his joy, we want his love, we want his peace, we want his blessing, we want his presence, and we want to know Him.  We want more Jesus, so we fast. 

The motivation for fasting is not to make us more spiritual.  The motivation is to know and seek God.  Fasting is a whole hearted seeking and searching for God; putting food aside to pursue Him (Joel 2:12, Jer 29:12-13)

Fasting is an aid to help us draw near to God in prayer.  Fasting without purpose and without prayer has no spiritual value.  We don’t just fast to fast.  We fast in order to draw near to God in prayer and other spiritual disciplines.  We enter into fasting with a purpose for why we are fasting and a plan for how we will use the time. 

Fasting is not done to impress others, impress God or earn His acceptance.  (Matt 6:1-18)

We are free to fast for any spiritual purpose.  Some suggestions are; to strengthen prayer, to sharpen focus in seeking God’s presence, to seek Gods direction or guidance, fasting on behalf of another person’s needs, fighting temptation, developing self-discipline, love and worship of God.

Fasting is a biblical practice, not a biblical command. (Mark 2:20, Matt 6:16-18)  We are free to fast or not to fast.  The Bible gives no guidance for how long we are to fast, or how regular the practice of fasting is to be in our life.  Those specifics are left to our judgment and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Because we have no direct command to fast, if you have never fasted you are not in sin, you have not disobeyed God.  There is an expectation for each Christian to at least consider the practice of fasting. 

What is fasting?  Abstaining from food (or some other thing) for a spiritual purpose.

Basic idea – Fasting is not eating for a set amount of time that has a God centered motive and purpose

Types of Fasting

Normal Fast: no food, only water

Partial Fast: slimmed down diet OR only vegetables/bread etc..

Juice Fast: no food, juice only

Private fast:  self appointed, under the leading of the Holy Spirit -between you and God.

Corporate Fast:  group or whole church being led into time of prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23)

If you have a medical condition, consult your doctor before fasting.

If you have never fasted before start small.  Skip a meal or two.  A bad first experience with fasting will make it hard to try fasting again.

God doesn’t evaluate our fasting by what we eat or don’t eat.  A three day fast isn’t more holy than a juice fast.  God cares for what is happening in our heart. 

Matt 6:18 “Your father who sees your fasting in secret will reward you.” 

God delights to bless us as we fast and pray. 

But we need to remember….“We cannot manipulate God to do our bidding by fasting any more that we can by any other means.  As with prayer, we fast in hope that by His grace God will bless us as we desire…”  – Donald Whitney.   

What does fasting accomplish?

Increased gratitude: fasting increases our gratitude for God’s gifts.  Going without makes you thankful for what you have. 

Increased humility: Prayer and fasting are displays of humility.  We acknowledge we are not God and we need God’s help.  We seek God’s wisdom not our own.

Increased joy in Christ: Fasting takes our eyes off the temporal and focuses them on the eternal.  We seek more Jesus now as we fast expectantly -we look forward to the day we will experience eternal and perfect joy feasting with Christ. 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.23.16

A Biblical Understanding of Fasting

We are studying fasting, so that as a church family we understand how to think about and hopefully use this biblical discipline for spiritual health

Fasting in the Old Testament

Almost all fasting in the Old Testament was during times of great distress

King Jehoshaphat called for fasting when enemies were marching against them

The City of Nineveh fasted when God’s prophet declared judgment was coming

David fasted when his infant child was dying

Nehemiah fasted when Jerusalem remained in ruin and the people were oppressed

There is only 1 designated fast in the Mosaic Law, which was on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16)

On the Day of Atonement, sacrifice was made to pay for the sins of the nation

It was a solemn day in which having an attitude of repentance was the central theme

Most fasts mentioned in the Old Testament were “proclaimed” fasts

These were fasts “called for” by leaders during times of national distress

Individual fasts are mentioned less often, but the reasons given when individuals fasted, are similar to those of the “proclaimed” fasts

Fasting in the New Testament

When we reach the time of Jesus, fasting was part of the fabric of religious life

We read that the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist fasted regularly

In Matthew 4, Jesus fasted 40 days prior to beginning his public ministry

In Luke 2, Anna fasted often “worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day”

Fasting appears to have become a mark of people who were serious about devotion to God

Sadly, fasting had became a status symbol for showing righteousness

Pharisees had influenced religious culture of Israel with the emphasis on external practices

The result was self-righteousness that was devoid of true love for God

What we hear from Jesus on fasting, is an emphasis on confronting the misuse of fasting

He unmasks and corrects those who use fasting to feed their pride (Luke 18:9-14, Matthew 6:16-18)

The role of fasting looks different in the New Testament Church

The emphasis is no longer on times of distress and repentance; although it still could be

Fasting was used in seeking God’s involvement in life and ministry

In Acts 13:2, fasting was joined with worship by leaders of the church

In Acts 13:3 and 14:23, fasting was part of the church commissioning leaders

This difference is appropriate to life in the New Covenant

Christ has taken our guilt forever, so we no longer need to fast to escape judgment

This doesn’t minimize repentance, it reflects our standing in Christ

What Should We Understand About Fasting Today?

Fasting is not mandated or required by God’s Word

Fasting is not a command, so it is not sinful if we don’t practice fasting

When we do fast, there is no required length or specific way we ought to fast

Since fasting is not commanded, is fasting still for the Church today?

Jesus indicates his followers would fast after his earthly ministry was finished (Matthew 9:14-15)

In Acts, fasting does not seem to be an unusual practice in the church

The Church has always recognized fasting as an important spiritual discipline

Our primary motivation for fasting is from a heart for Great Commandment Living, rather than from fear of circumstances

What are the purposes and benefits of fasting?

1.  Develops self-discipline before God – the major obstacle to fasting

2.  Fasting is a form of humbling ourselves before God – this is always a significant need in us

3.  Helps to sharpen our focus in seeking God’s presence and reign

4.  Expresses our love for being sacrificial toward God – similar to being generous with our money

5.  Corporately, it is a way for churches to come together prayerfully – this seems to be what was taking place in Acts

These reasons all work cooperatively with other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading, giving and serving

Why is our church looking at fasting?

This is an appropriate time for our church family to come together in focused prayer

Taking this step together encourages those who have never fasted to explore this important spiritual discipline