Friday, September 26, 2008

Prayer and Fasting

Matthew 17: 21 “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Is fasting required or recommended?
Matt 6: 16-18 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Christians are expected to fast! Jesus did not command fasting, he expects it. The Apostles never commanded fasting, but they practiced it. (Matt 4:2; Acts 13:2-3).
Why should we fast?
 To Seek Deliverance.
 King Jehoshaphat prayed and fasted for God to deliver him from opposing armies (II Chronicles 20:3-4)
 Esther prayed, fasted and asked others to fast on her behalf.
 To Express Repentance and remove the wrath of God (I Sam 7:6).
 Nineveh’s fasting for repentance -- Jonah 3:5-8.
 Saul fasted after his experience on the road to Damascus – Acts 9:9.
 There are instances when national fasting is commanded of a nation to bring about repentance -- II Chronicles 20:3; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:16; Jonah 3:5-8.
 To overcome Temptation.
 Jesus’ fasting did not weaken him, but strengthened him to stand ground against the Devil’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11).
 Matthew 17:20, Jesus said about those that couldn’t drive out the demons that some could only come out with prayer and fasting.
 Discerning God’s Will.
 Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33).
 Fasting doesn’t change God’s hearing as much as it changes our praying.
 Barnabas and Saul were commissioned for a special work from God as they were worshipping and fasting – Acts 13:1-3.
 Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for God’s guidance with the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23).
 Jesus prayed all night before selecting the twelve disciples.
 Daniel fasted 21 days for God’s guidance in understanding.
 Fasting makes us more receptive to the one who guides us.
How often should we fast?
 Fasting, like praying and giving, is a legitimate spiritual discipline to be practiced in private between a Christian and the Lord. How often we practice it is not prescribed, because that too is between the believer and Christ. When we desire to seek God’s face more than we want dinner, that will be the proper time to fast.
 “It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive. “ Matt 6: 16-18 “"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
 Fasting must forever center on God. How often you fast depends on whom you want to impress. If your fast is for your spiritual benefit and God’s glory, no one else needs to Applaud your commitment.
When should we fast?
 Whenever any matter of difficulty and great importance is under consideration.
 The sacred custom of all ages has been for pastors to exhort the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayer when manifestations of the divine anger appear, as pestilence, war, and famine, etc.
 Prophetess Anna worshiped with fasting and prayer night and day:
 Luke 2:36-37 “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”
 Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when the fasting is from food. Extended periods of time without eating are harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish our flesh, but to focus on God.
 Anyone can fast. Some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example), but everyone can temporarily give up something in order to focus on God.
How should we fast?
 Set the purpose of the fast.
 Determine the length of time.
 Determine the activities from which you are restricting yourself.
 Married person should seek agreement with spouse to fast.
 Begin with short term fast (e.g. no food and only water x one day).
 (one meal at noon x 3 days).
 (No lunch x 7 days).
 (No food and no water x one day).
Focus on Jesus through meditation, prayers and His Word.
Scripture References to Fasting:
 Acts 14:23 “When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.
 2 Sam 12:23 “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back? I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!’”
 2 Chr 20:3 “Jehoshaphat was afraid, so he decided to seek the Lord’s advice. He decreed that all Judah should observe a fast.
 Esra 8:21 “ I called for a fast there by the Ahava Canal, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and seek from him a safe journey for us, our children, and all our property.”
Prayer and Fasting - What Does it Accomplish?
• John 5:14-15 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him."
• In the prophet Isaiah's time, the people grumbled that they had fasted, yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by proclaiming that the external show of fasting and prayer, without the proper heart attitude, was futile (Isaiah 58:5-9).
How can you know if you are praying and fasting according to God's will?
 Are you praying and fasting for things that honor and glorify God?
 Does the Bible clearly reveal that it is God's will for you?
 If we are asking for something that is not honoring to God or not God's will for our lives, God will not give what we ask for, whether we fast or not.
 God promises to give us wisdom when we ask.
James 1:5 tells us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dying Declaration

Luke 23:33-34, "When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots."
The scripture says that the words of Jesus were like no other words. When the Roman soldiers heard the words of Jesus, they came back and they reported to their superiors, they said, "no man has ever spoken like this man. For his words had authority, and not like those of the scribes." In the words of Jesus, He could still the storm, He could raise the dead, and He could cleanse the lepers, in the words of Jesus there was power and there was light.
Matthew 24 tells us "that heaven and earth will pass away but my word will never pass away." Jesus himself said in John 6:35, "the words I speak to you, they are spirit and they are light." No other man could say that about his words and so the words of Jesus are extremely important.
I believe that the words Jesus spoke from the cross are very importance. Why? They reveal the very heart of God. If we wanted to know the heart of God, if we want to understand the Father, then we need to study the words Jesus used on the cross. Then we will understand the heart and the mind of God as in no other words in the bible.
Many times we hear people say, "Nobody’s perfect!" The Bible wholeheartedly echoes this point. Look at Romans 3:23: 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Micah tells us that shameful men "do evil with both hands earnestly" while Hosea proclaimed, "they sin more and more." Sinful folk rise early to corrupt their own lives (Zephaniah 3:7) and become as chaff which God blows away! The vain nothingness of corruption is best described in: Jeremiah 3:25: "We lie down in our shame, and confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God."
Paul wrote of men who were without God and without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12)? In Hebrews 3:13 we read of the deceitfulness of sin and in II Corinthians 2:11 we learn of Satan's devices. Only being steadfast and loyalty to Christ can we withstand his wiles (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Sin is like the lizard which change its colors to meet the surroundings. Sin is dangerous because the Devil is clever and man is gullible. Too many people would rather believe a lie and be condemned than to joyously embrace the Truth and be saved (II Thessalonians 2:10-12). As Isaiah state, rebellious children sin more and more (Isaiah 30:1) we know that as time pass "evil men wax worse and worse." It takes little effort to be a sinner while righteousness requires the very best production of our lives. The path of least resistance makes crooked rivers and ungodly people.
The penalty of sin is death. Death is both physical and spiritual in nature. Our sin dooms us for all eternity. But God in all His grace has offered us a free gift. One that cannot be earned, and is most certainly undeserved. That gift is Life...Eternal Life. Only God could give us this gift and once given He will never take it away.
Jesus replied, "I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3 (NLT)
That free gift of Eternal life is amazing. It begins with a new beginning. Spiritual birth takes place, we receive a clean slate as children of God.
Just as God has given the gift, He has provided a way to receive that gift, but there is only one way...Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 (NCV) Jesus answered, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me."
One way means there is only one way to God. You can’t get there by being a "good person", going to church, by being "religious" or by being baptized. Only through Jesus Christ can we come to God...there is no other way.
Jesus died so that you might live.
Corinthians 5:15 (NLT) He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.
Jesus died for everyone. No one is so "bad" that Jesus did not die for them. As with any gift, God’s gift of salvation must be received, it’s a free choice. With salvation comes new life, a fresh start, a chance to live for the purposes in which God has created you.
Will you open the door of your life today?

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