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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Fasting can be a mysterious concept, and you may be reading this today with several questions about what fasting is, what it does, and how to go about it.  Richard Foster says in his book, The Celebration of Discipline, “The central idea of fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”  He also goes on to describe just how many heroes of the faith fasted in the pages of Scripture:

“Abraham’s servant when he was seeking a bride for Isaac, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Hannah when she was praying for a child, David on several occasions, Elijah after his victory over Jezebel, Ezra when he was mourning over Israel’s faithlessness, Nehemiah when he was preparing the trip back to Israel, Esther when God’s people were threatened with extermination, Daniel on numerous occasions, the people of Nineveh – including the cattle (involuntarily no doubt), Jesus when he began his public ministry, Paul at the point of his conversion, the Christians at Antioch when they sent off Paul and Barnabas on their mission endeavor, Paul and others when they appointed all of the elders, and on and on it goes.”

That intense spiritual activity that Foster is referring to is most typically prayer and intercession and usually includes extended periods of time spent listening for the voice of God.  The voluntary denial of normal functions can include a variety of activities.  I’ve outlined a few for you:

  • Food:  Whether it’s a partial fast (not eating certain kinds of foods or at certain regularly scheduled times) or a complete fast (abstaining from all foods altogether), this is the most common form of fasting.  A common method for a first time fast would be to go without food from sundown to sundown the next day.  [Note:  Make sure your body is healthy enough to do this.  If you are not sure, talk to your doctor beforehand.]
  • Media:  Another version of fasting that can be highly effective at helping to direct our attention to the Lord is to give up all forms of media.  This would include television, computers, social networking, smart phones, etc.
  • Social Activities:  Many people find that withdrawing for a set amount of time from interaction with people is a wonderful way to focus on their relationship with the Lord.  These are often labeled as “spiritual retreats” and are just simply a time to remove yourself from normal conversation with those around you and get alone with God.  This often works best if you travel to a location away from home and stay in a place where you can have solitude and quiet.

The most important part of fasting is to make sure you keep God in the center of it.  It should have nothing to do with making you look spiritual and everything to do with sharpening your ears to hear God’s voice and heightening your commitment to obey what He tells you.

May God’s grace cover you, as you seek Him this week.

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All the backpacks are lined up by the front door. The first day of school clothes are waiting on their hangers. The crayons are pointed and unbroken.

My birds are asleep in the nest, ready to fly away tomorrow. And it’s this hour that a Mama kneels and prays… (Discover more about how you can pray for your children as they head back to school on Mindy’s blog, “Treasure the Ordinary.”)

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On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, bound for New York.  Four days into her maiden voyage, she hit an iceberg and sunk into the Atlantic Ocean.

The sinking of the Titanic is a story ingrained in our culture with mythic proportions.  The events of that tragic day have been scrutinized from every angle, but the greatest contributing factor to the loss of so many lives was the simple neglect of multiple warnings from other ships, “Icebergs ahead.”

Failure to head warnings has lead to more disasters than just the sinking of one ship.  It has lead to loss and heartbreak at every level of life and human relationships.

I believe there are three significant warning signs every follower of Jesus must be aware of if they desire to steer free of icebergs as they navigate their way through life.

Three warning signs of ice bergs ahead:

  1. When what I hear on Sunday morning changes my language, but not my life, I am in iceberg waters.
  2. When the cry for comfort is louder than the cry for compassion, I am in iceberg waters.
  3. When my eyes are so focused on this world that I am not homesick for Heaven, I am in iceberg waters.

Warning signs are not a guarantee of either a collision or avoidance thereof.  They simply are what they are, a cautious observation that you are sailing in dangerous waters.

I pray you will give careful consideration to the warning signs around you, and may you steer clear of the icebergs that could hurt you or the ones you love.

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Super Size, Value Size, Whata Size.  It has become the nature of American consumer that when we place an order, we want to go big with it.  We all want to get the most bang for our buck.

But, real life is much more complicated than ordering off of a fast food menu.  How do I go big on the menu of everyday living?

Jesus may not have frequented fast food establishments (though He was the originator of the super-sized happy meal), but He understood the principles that can make life much bigger and more full than the smallness we often relegate ourselves to.  In Luke 6, He tells us:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  — Luke 6:37-38 (NIV)

Jesus says you are the determining factor of the size of your life.  When you measure generously toward others, you measure generously toward yourself.

I pray you find freedom in this remarkable teaching from our Lord Jesus.  As you walk in forgiveness and generosity toward others, may it lead you to experience the fullness of life our Lord desires to pour into your lap.

May you experience the joy of a King-Sized life today!

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There is a special place in God’s heart for widows.  Widows, orphans, and foreigners represent a vulnerable demographic of both ancient and modern culture.  Without a steady source of income or strong representation in business and legal affairs, they can easily find themselves exploited.

It is interesting that over and again God chooses the vulnerability of widows to demonstrate the principles of His kingdom.  Throughout the lineage of Jesus, we see widows taking their place in God’s unfolding story of redemption through the lives of women such as Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheeba, and even Mary.

It is a widow who provides for the prophet Elijah.  It is a widow who recognizes Jesus as Messiah when He is presented in the temple and only eight days old.  It is a widow who is commended by Jesus for her generosity when she offers her two mites.  And it is the story of a persistent widow Jesus uses to teach his disciples to always pray and not give up.

There are powerful lessons to be learned from those who would appear to be helpless among us.  Little is much when it is held in faith-filled hands.

The following is a collection of sixteen verses in the Bible that tell us of God’s heart for widows.

  1. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.  Exodus 22:22 (NIV)
  2. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV)
  3. When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  Deuteronomy 24:19 (NIV)
  4. Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”  Deuteronomy 27:19 (NIV)
  5. Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.  1 Kings 17:9 (NIV)
  6. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  Psalm 68:5 (NIV)
  7. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.  Psalm 146:9 (NIV)
  8. The Lord tears down the proud man’s house, but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.  Proverbs 15:25 (NIV)
  9. …learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.  Isaiah 1:17 (NIV)
  10. Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives.  Your widows too can trust in me.  Jeremiah 49:11 (NIV)
  11. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
  12. 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.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)
  13. Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Luke 7:11-15 (NIV)
  14. Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)
  15. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 1 Timothy 5:3 (NIV)
  16. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27 (NIV)

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Somewhere along the journey of life each one of us takes a picture of ourselves.  And in that snapshot, we magnify our faults.  We memorialize a moment of failure, a moment of weakness, or an insecure or awkward stage of life.

At some point in time, someone said something, pointed out a fear, or made a judgment about you — and it stuck.  In fact, it is still sticking.

As much as we try to hide, it seems impossible to get away from the flaw-filled person we see in the mirror.  We are all wounded by the damage we have received, and even more, we all fear the damage we can cause.

As personal as our story may be, we are not the only ones who feel this way.  It is a wound common to us all.  Tucked away in the pages of the Bible, we find a man who shared our common pain, our common fear.

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.  (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV)

I see three simple, yet powerful connections between each of us and the life of Jabez.  Through acknowledging these three truths, we could each find ourselves breaking the cycles of our past and enjoying the grace of God for our lives today.

  1. We all carry scars.  However hidden or personal our story may be, we are all united by the simple fact that we are not alone.  Everyone around us finds themselves trying to make sense of their life.  We all carry scars of the pain we have received and the pain we have caused.
  2. We all carry fear.  The most damaging impact of the scars we carry is the haunting fear that the pain may not be over, that our past may wound us again in the future.  We carry the fear of being hurt again and the fear of hurting others in the same way we were hurt.  If left unanswered, our fears will box us into a small and unsatisfying life.
  3. We all carry hope.  It is what moves us forward.  Somehow, somewhere, someone has to have more to offer than a life lived in cycles of fear and pain.  Hope invites us to take risks and embrace a life of meaning and purpose.

This was the story of Jabez.  He carried the scars of the wounds he caused as a child and the fear of the name given him that he would continue to cause pain all the days of his life.  But somewhere in the midst of the scars and fear, Jabez nurtured hope, and his hope caused him to cry out to the God who created him, “Bless me, indeed.  Enlarge my territory.  Let Your hand be upon me.  Keep me from evil.  Keep me from causing pain.”

A powerful and faith filled prayer.  A prayer we still connect with on a very deep level.

If I were to summarize my personal connection with the prayer of Jabez, it would be: “I don’t want to keep hurting from the same old wounds, and I don’t want to be the link that causes my pain to become my children’s pain.”

Do you have a personal connection with the prayer of Jabez?  How does his cry touch your heart?  What does it stir in you?

May you be blessed indeed!  May God enlarge your territory, your sphere of influence!  May the hand of God be upon you.  May God keep you from evil!  May you and those you love be free from pain!  Amen.

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Every Sunday morning, about three songs into worship, just before we receive Communion, I stand before my friends at church and invite them to experience the healing grace of our Lord Jesus.

I usually have a list in my hand, filled with words of knowledge from our ministry team.  As they pray for the service each Sunday morning, they take time to listen to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to speak to specific physical and emotional needs of people attending our worship service.

I often find myself saying something to the effect of, “When Jesus died on the cross, He made a way for your sins to be forgiven and your body to be healed.”  And every Sunday I watch in awe as people respond to the call for ministry and receive the healing Jesus purchased for them.  I’ve seen it over a hundred times and it is beautiful every time.

But, this Sunday was different.  This Sunday I was the one in need.  A few years back, I became aware of a painful spot in my left shoulder while I was lifting weights.  I didn’t give it much thought, changed my workout routine so as not to aggravate it, and moved on.  Recently that “catch” in my shoulder has resurfaced.  I felt it in the gym, I felt it wrestling with my sons, I felt it laying down to sleep, I even felt its sharp reminder when I would cross my arms.

The usual battery of fear began to run through my mind as I considered living a lifetime struggling with shoulder pain.  I found myself contemplating the possibility of shoulder surgery to heal the damage.  And then I remembered Sunday morning.  Every Sunday morning I invite people to experience God’s healing.  Why not accept my own invitation?

So last Sunday, I was the first one to the healing line!  I went to the first person in the line, explained the situation and received prayer for healing.  It was a simple and sincere prayer.  I didn’t feel anything or hear anything while being prayed for, but at the end of the prayer I started testing my shoulder and I was pain free!

It amazes me how I am still amazed by answered prayers.  I truly expected my shoulder to be healed and then I was stunned when it was.  Then, I began to wonder if it was really going to last.  We often program ourselves for disappointment in such a way that we have trouble receiving good gifts from God.  I still find myself being careful with my left shoulder, expecting a sharp pain when I move in a certain way.  But, the pain is gone!  And it’s not coming back!

I know many of you have been whispering fragile prayers and holding on to fading hope.  Hope for healing.  Hope for freedom.  Hope for reconciliation.

God answers prayers, my friends.  Psalm 103 tells us He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, and satisfies.  I encourage you to stretch out and ask God to bring healing to your situation.  I encourage you to let a friend pray with you at church this Sunday.

And don’t be too surprised when God answers your prayer.

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