Saturday, 23 May 2020

Fasting

This week I have been pondering about fasting - The ancient, Biblical practice of abstaining from food.
It seems that our view of fasting has altered over the years from what I read in the Bible. It seems to of been quite a common practice in history, people using fasting as a way to connect with God and demonstrate humility. I do not see much of that now, do you?

 I know some people do fast from food, but it think more often I have seen fasting from social media, or technology, or even heard of fasting as part of an eating program to lose weight, but these are not the kinds of fasts I read about in the Bible. Fasting was never about removing distractions or maintaining weight. From what I have read, fasting, abstaining from food (and maybe drink), for a period of time is about humility and communion with God.

The purpose of Biblical fasting is to; humble yourself before God, worship Him, communicate with Him, to show reverence and gain guidance from Him. Fasting is all about God. when we fast, God should be our focus. We should not come with an agenda, but a desire to demonstrate reliance on God, to show humility to Him and honour and worship Him. To put ourselves under His will rather than our own and ask Him to help us in our weakness.

This concept is not popular in our modern day society. We are caught up in being independent, taught that we are able to do anything, my kids have even been told that ‘impossible’ means ‘I’m possible’ -  what is that about?!
We have been lied to folks. We have not been created to be self-sufficient beings, we cannot do everything. Some things are impossible for us. We do not have the power, the strength, the knowledge or capability to do some things. And that is ok. We are not meant to do it all on our own anyway.
We have been created not to be independent entities, but we are built for community. We are created to be in relationship with one another and with God. We are not meant to be selfishly doing our own thing or striving for independence, but actually should be striving to be fully dependent on God.

This is why fasting is important. It is about giving up even our most basic of needs to be fed and nourished in order to rely on God. It is about trusting that God is enough, and admitting that we aren’t. That is when fasting becomes powerful. When it becomes less about us and more about God.

Fasting was a common practice through ancient times as a way to show reverence and gain a closer relationship with God. People showed humility through it by demonstrating their physical weakness and dependence on Almighty God.  Jesus even did it. As he fasted he gave his attention and focus to God and demonstrated his humility and weakness through fasting to his Father God.

Do you want to show God your humility and put all your dependence on Him? If so, then I invite you to participate in some kind of fast.
The Bible includes many different styles of fasting, abstaining from food for; a meal, a day, a week, 40 days, or even abstaining from some types of ‘rich food’ as Daniel did.  Consider what is appropriate for you to do.
The practice of fasting was a part of culture and taken part in regularly, it seems we have lost something of the relevance or reverence for what it is. I think it is time to put fasting back on the agenda. Not as a one-off special, but as a regular practice in our christian lives. Are you ready to put this ancient, Biblical practice of fasting into practice.? To humble yourself and pray? To give up food in order to seek God?

Can you fast?

Thursday, 14 May 2020

seek the welfare of the city

The last couple of weeks I have impacted by a passage in Jeremiah, chapter 29, verses 4-14.

To begin with the part that jumped out at me was v 7, 'seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on it's behalf, for in it's welfare, you will find you welfare'. I was convicted because, I realised that I hardly ever think to pray that way. I may pray for particular people, groups, initiatives, areas at times, but do I actually pray for the welfare of the town where I live? do you?
So, I began to read and re-read this verse and the surrounding verses. This section of scripture is a prophesy spoken by the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites as they were swooped off to Babylon having been captured and exiled there. What a challenge for them! They are told to pray for the places that they have been thrown into for it to prosper, to know peace, to increase and become great. Not many of us can imagine the reality of being exiled into a culture and community you know nothing about. Most of us have in some way had a choice about where we live. Yet, even if you haven't, you are still to pray for the best for the place where you live.

Not only are the Israelites instructed to pray for where they live because it will be of benefit to them in the long run, but they are also instructed in the earlier verses to; build, settle, plant, eat, give, get married, increase and invest in the younger generations. Even if you're not passionate for the place where you live, are you investing in it? are you putting down your roots because God has put you there? Are you making something of the life you have, are you building and planting? We all have something to offer the community we live in, are you settling in and making a home where you are? God has carried you to this place, and God invites you into His mission there, and part of it is about getting stuck in; working, playing, making a home and just living life.

After God instructs the Israelites to do this, then He commands them to pray. Different interpretations of v7 tell us that we are to pray for our town's; wellbeing, good, prosperity, peace and welfare. God promises that as we do that, it will be good for us. it will be good for us practically and spiritually because as we pray for what God wants, we connect with Him, and we connect more with where we live. I believe as we pray, we will see breakthrough, we will see change, and God will show us how we can be a part of the good for the communities we are in.

Later on in this passage, the Lord God Almighty makes some amazing promises, He says that; He will come, He will cause you to prosper and not be harmed, He will give you hope and a future. Also that when you seek Him, He will listen and He will be found. Do you want that for yourself? Do you want that for where you live? If so, get praying!

God is ready to work where you live - are you?

God wants to partner with you in the place He has carried you. He has expectations of what you should do there, and that is basically to get on with life, but also to pray for where you live to do well. You can be the answer to the town's troubles, and it all starts with prayer.

Jeremiah 29:4-14 (NIV);

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: *5*“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. *6*Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. *7*Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” *8*Yes, this is what the LordAlmighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. *9*They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”













Thursday, 7 May 2020

Confidence in the throne room

‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’
Hebrews 4:16.

Confidence.

Do you have confidence when you approach God?

We are invited into the very throne room of God, and told we can approach the very throne with confidence. Isn't that incredible?

I don’t know how many of you have been to a throne before, or even into a palace (I haven’t), but these places are set aside for royalty. They are grand and demonstrate something of the wealth and importance of the ruler. They are the private residence of the king and queen, places where only the powerful and privileged are invited, and that’s just the palace in general. The throne room is a special place within the palace, a place where even only a few of the privileged enter. It's a place for some  serious commands and decisions to take place with the trusted few. Very few people are allowed entry, not many have the permission or are qualified to get a place in the throne room. Yet, here, in Hebrews, we are told we can approach our God the highest King in His throne room in confidence.

It’s serious business to enter the throne room, yet, you’re allowed in. You have a free backstage pass that allows you into the most defining area of the kingdom, and you don’t even have to crawl in or be in fear for your life because you have permission to enter. Not only do you have permission, but your actually invited! You can approach God’s almighty presence as He sits on the throne with your head held high in confidence! WOW!

Doesn’t that amaze you? That you have permission to enter the greatest throne room?

You haven’t done anything to deserve that honour, in fact, you’ve probably done plenty to be kicked out! But, the fact remains that you are free to enter the throne room of God. What a privilege and what a gift!

The only reason you have this honour is because the son of God, Jesus, invites you. When you believe and trust in Jesus, and acknowledge his sacrifice and resurrection, when you repent and give Jesus the leading role in your life, then Jesus vouches for you. He passes onto you the privilege and honour that he enjoys. This is how you can enter the great throne room of God in confidence because Jesus has made the way for you.

So, enjoy your privileged access to the throne room. As you pray, remember that you are connecting with God on His throne.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

The Bible is alive!

‘the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. *13*And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’ 
Hebrews 4:12–13.

The Word of God is ‘living and active’ - what does that mean to you, and does it effect the way you approach the Bible?

The fact is that the very words you read within the Bible are alive. They are the active words of God; The printed out words that we see on a page, or glowing from a screen, are actually alive, they have breath in them. That seems strange, doesn’t it?
The fact that these words are ‘living and active’ shows me that they are; constantly applicable, relevant, able to bring life, change, challenge and a new perspective. These words can; inspire, direct, convict, comfort and grow new life in you. Isn’t that incredibly powerful?!

Not all printed words have life, only the words of scripture do because they are the very words of God himself. God who is living and active right now has given us His living and active revelation throughout the Bible.
What a privilege it is then to be able to hold these words  in our hands, to have access to these God-breathed utterances and read them! Do you feel the privilege and weight of what you are accessing when you read God’s words?
These words can actually breathe life into your life, they can bring refreshment, comfort, restoration, conviction. In short, these words can alter your life - and you have free and easy access to this.

I think, really, the Bible should come with a warning. Something like, ‘open at your peril, are you prepared for your life to change?’!
The Bible is a living work. It contains God’s words, which we all know are powerful - I mean, they separated the light from darkness, created the world, speak life and death, bring healing, separate seas, transform minds, I could go on…. And you can find out for yourself many more incredible things God’s word achieves when you read it.
Bearing this in mind - when you are reading your Bible; are you prepared?
Are you prepared to meet Jesus?
To hear from God?
Be convicted by the Holy Spirit?

God’s words have the propensity to change you. They can pierce your heart and mind and interpret your innermost thoughts and intentions, and no matter your excuses -  your true nature will be revealed. As you read God’s words, it’s like you are laid bare before Him. Nothing hidden. All of your; bumps, bruises, wounds, pain, comfort, passions, lies, responsibilities, strengths, sins and weaknesses are laid open. Completely exposed.
Does that scare you?
In some ways it should - if you have something you want to hide, then yes, be aware that the living and active word of God will highlight it - He is good at separating light and darkness! But in the most part being exposed before God shouldn’t scare you. God is a loving, nurturing Father. He wants to heal your wounds and diseases, to remove the pain and discomfort, to revel in your passions and your strengths. He wants to be your strength in your weakness, to be with you in the difficulties and reveal truth in your life.

So, next time you take hold of this living word in your hands - take a moment to prepare yourself.
Beware when you open your Bible - there’s no hiding from God when you do, He is ready to talk to you and He’s ready to; transform, challenge, renew, energise and cleanse you - are you prepared for that?

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Oh God I need you


Oh God I need you…

Is that the cry of your heart?

It has been mine this week.

It is easy to see our need of God when things seem to be falling apart, when we are stuck in sin or desperate circumstances, when we have nowhere else to go, in those times it is easy to see that we need God. When we can’t do something; we are emotionally drained, exhausted with effort, tired, struggling alone - then it is was to cry out to God in desperation, fear, as a last resort. It is when we are aware of our limitations that we have no shame in saying, “oh God, I need you”.

But, how about the rest of the time?

It is easy to realise our limitations and inexperience when times are tough, when there’s a struggle, but how abut when things are fine? When life is good even? Do you have the same cry of your heart then - “oh God I need you”?
I’ve got to confess, I don’t. I mean, I know I still need salvation and forgiveness, and I do love God, and talk to him about stuff, but I don’t think I really recognise my need of Him in the same way. Normally, I just get through life, tackle challenges and daily occurrences without much thought of the Most High - is that your experience too?

So, this week, as things have been tough, I have needed God. I have been aware of what is lacking in me, and what God can provide, I have leant on Him afresh. I have cried out many times, “oh God I need you”. So, why don’t I do that the rest of the time? Usually, I just get carried away with the false idea, that when things are ok, I can actually manage this life alright by myself. Is it the same for you?

If it is, then we are both mistaken. God is so involved in every intricate detail of our lives, it’s great really that He gives us these trying times in order for us to recognise our weakness and His strength, our ineptitude and His ability. Are the hard times opportunities for us to renew our dependence on God? To cry out again that we need Him? For God to remind us, that actually, haven’t you got this yet - you need me all the time?

There’s a song that has been going round my head this week that includes the phrase “oh God I need you”. Here are some of the lyrics;

“Without you I fall apart……..Oh God I need you….Every hour I need you…… oh God I need you….My one defence my righteousness….oh God how I need you”

The bit that really impacts me, is that ‘every hour I need you’. Are you and I aware that our need of God is so huge, that every hour we need Him? Every hour God is caring for you, every hour He is there for you, every hour He is putting the very breath in your lungs.

I think I want to end this blog with a prayer this week, if you, like me, get so distracted with life and your own abilities, rather than your need of God, why not pray along with me:

Oh God, Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your forgiveness, and your incredible love. Thank you for wanting to share our little lives with us.
Sorry that I don’t always realise your presence. That I don’t recognise my need of you when life is alright. Thank you for giving me those tough times to remind me that I am not enough, but you are. For allowing me to realise again how much I do need you. Help me God, to see you evident in my life, and build in me an every day awareness and dependence on you. Help me today to rely on you not myself.
Thank you for your kindness, forgiveness and presence. Thank you that your love never runs out, and that you want to share not just this life with me but eternity.
You are so good, and I Love you.
Amen

[Chris Tomlin - Lord I Need You - YouTube](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rR_Rdb1CTE)

Thursday, 16 April 2020

sinfulness of unbelief

*12*Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. *13*But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. *14*For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 
Hebrews 3:12–14.

Are you walking free from sin? Or are you getting tangled up in it?

These verses tell us that the root of the deceitfulness of sin is because of, ‘an evil, unbelieving heart’. It makes sense that sinfulness and disbelief go hand-in-hand - Evil stems from unbelief. Think of it this way - someone who has never believed in God has no knowledge of Him, so they go about their life and get up to all sorts of wrongdoing, yet they do not have a sense that it isn’t right because they have no experience or knowledge of anything different - their unbelief has led to sin. This gradually infects the heart, causes it to be hardened and increase in evil, all because of unbelief.

So it follows then that those who DO have belief should be free from sin. This is true in the fact that Jesus has died in order to wipe away our sins when we turn to him and turn our hearts away from wrong, but you and I know, that we still get it wrong. we still fall for temptation and sin. So, what do the verses above mean for us? Well, if you are a believer in Christ, and you continue to wilfully sin, do you realise that you are choosing to, ‘fall away from the living God’? If you purposefully sin then you are wilfully separating yourself from God. I hope that causes you to pay attention! It is scary, but it is true. When you purposefully do what you know is not right, you are turning away from God in unbelief and falling away from Him - have you ever considered it like that before?

If you are convincing yourself that your wrongdoing is actually not that bad, that everyone does it anyway, that it is not hurting anyone else, then aren’t you just making excuses and trying to downplay sin? This is the ‘deceitfulness of sin’ and the ‘unbelieving heart’ will make excuses and allowances where none should be made. If your belief in God is not strong, then nor will your tolerance for temptation be.

As we can see, sin is not an isolated problem, nor even the root problem itself, unbelief is.

Somewhere along the line your vision of who God is has waned. At some point your trust and security in Jesus has dwindled, and you have allowed your own ideas and temptation to win instead. That is why these verses encourage us to keep our 'original confidence'.
Do you remember the heart-leaping times with God where your spirit is overwhelmed by His love? when you smile just because you are alive and God is with you? Do you remember those times that Jesus felt closer than your brother?
If you have lost that sensation, that assurance and confidence in who God is, then be aware that unbelief can sneak in and steal your heart. You can start to look about for other ways to satisfy. Sin seeps in when belief dips. Maybe you feel let down by God so your trust in Him has dwindled, or maybe things have felt a bit flat recently. I am here to tell you God hasn't changed. He is still the same God that mets your needs, hears your prayers and died for you on the cross. He is still the same God who gave up his majesty, strength and rights to give you a place in his kingdom. He is still the same God who created your innermost being, who has planned your life with purpose and walks with you in it - have you lost sight of Him? Do you consider that God is in your life everyday?

Keeping a focus on who God is squashes unbelief. Doing things that increase your faith like; speaking with Godly people, spending time in prayer and Bible study- these things will increase your belief and will give you power to fight sin.

Are you ready to do that?

It is not too late to deal with you wrongdoing.
Today is a new day, and can be a new step forward for you to escape sin. Jesus has made it possible for you to live a life free from 'the deceitfulness of sin', and stay connected with God. Are you choosing to live that life?

I exhort you to recognise your share in Christ, recapture your confidence in who He is and denounce afresh the deceitfulness of sin. Jesus has paid the price. He has freed you. Is your belief big enough to walk in that freedom?


Monday, 13 April 2020

Take Care

‘Take care, brothers’ 
(Hebrews 3:12)

Are you taking care of yourself?

Are you purposefully looking after, not just the state of your body, but also that of your mind, heart and soul? We can get focused on being healthy meaning to make sure our body is in good condition, but our wellbeing is much more than that. Are you actively looking after yourself, and guarding against what can make you unhealthy?

Are you ensuring your mind is healthy by checking your thoughts? Are you mindful of the media you are exposing yourself to, and are you taking your stray thoughts captive when they descend into chaos, depression or depravity?

What about your heart health?
Do you allow emotions to dictate your actions? Are you giving time to things that give you peace and contentment, or is your heart filled with pain and frustration?

Then, how about your soul?
How is your standing before God right now?
Are you forgiving as Christ forgives?
Are you free from sin?
Are you making an effort with your relationship with God and other believers?

Hebrews 3:12 instructs us to ‘take care,’ so, are you taking good care of yourself as a brother or sister in Christ?  Today, take time to check the healthiness of your heart, mind and soul. Ask God to reveal what it is you need to start or stop doing, then be brave and the change. It may be difficult, but the end result will be a healthier state of wellbeing for yourself, a renewed reassurance of your standing with God, and an uplifted spirit.