This one only comes out by fasting and praying

Living often means facing challenges, problems and obstacles. We often enjoy confronting these situations and overcoming. It confirms our self worth and validates our belief that we are intelligent and capable. But none of this teaches us to depend on God and trust in his power. Occasionally God allows situations that seem insurmountable.  Situations that nothing in our past has prepared us to deal with or problems that are just too great for us to solve. We are forced to turn to God for help. It is a wonderful thing when we can approach him with faith. But what if we can’t?

Perhaps this is a problem too great for God. Blaspheme you say. Well isn’t that what we are thinking, when we surrender and give up all hope? We are saying this problem will never be solved. This obstacle cannot be removed. God can’t do it.

Jesus explains that what we lack is faith. He also sends us to do something that has become less and less popular these days, pray and fast. We have become adventurers in a fast paced world of digital wonder and bright lights. Who has time for a quiet moment with God? But for all the wonder of our generation it does not compare to the power and glory of God. This is not discovered in virtual reality, but in spiritual reality. It is discovered on our knees.

This power can transform, heal, and enlighten. It turns sinners into saints, and the weak into conquerors. The foolish become wise and the enslaved are set free.

In Matthew 17 a desperate father brings his child to Jesus. He believes Jesus can set him free. The boy was afflicted with demons that caused the boy to have seizures, throw himself into fire and other times into water.  This evil spirit had every intention of tormenting and destroying this child.

The man reported that the disciples had tried and failed. Jesus rewards the man’s faith and sets his child free, but not before these words ” O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.”  Later he tells the disciples that to cast out this demon they needed to fast and pray more.

Taking time out regularly to pray and fast is not like doing an extra credit assignment. We shouldn’t do it if there is time and when we feel like it. We should purposely make the time to pray and fast. This should be quiet time where we worship God and present all our cares. This is time we spend remembering all the needs of those around us and our entire community.

The problems we face are great and real. Many we will not solve on our own. Faith in God will be required. The kind of faith prayer warriors and those that fast will have.

 

The wisdom of the crowd

A crowd or group can be a powerful force. It can intimidate even the bravest among us.  since the beginning of time it seems that individuals have been known to submit to the “wisdom” of the crowd. “Everybody else is doing it” or “everybody thinks this” is a persuasive reason to just go along with it.  If we think a little different or don’t do as everyone else we are considered weird, foolish, deviant or at worst psychotic.  When individuals are classified in this negative way some really awful things can start to happen. They are made fun of for sure, and they are also ostracized.  Sometimes it can lead to violence and other forms of attacks. No doubt most of  us whether consciously or not try to fit in. But what if being a little different is best for us or just the right thing to do.

In Nazi Germany many fell under the influence of the group and just did what everyone else was doing. They turned in their fellow countrymen if they were Jews and looked the other way while they were systematically stripped of their possession, taken into camps and ultimately killed. It was madness for sure, but everybody was doing it.  Sometimes the crowd is not so wise. It is a warning that screams from the pages of history that doing what everyone is  doing and thinking like everyone else, although easy, even safe for the moment, may be the wrong action to follow.

In Mathew 20 the crowd is present. The force is clear as they attempt to control the situation. Two blind men heard Jesus coming and immediately knew the right thing to do. They called for Jesus.  There is a need for Jesus’ presence in our society today. Many are hurting because of a dark episode in their past that haunts them. Some know there is more to this life  and just want to understand what it is. Some are rightly concerned about eternity. Others desperately seek the truth and what is good. All of these seekers are in need of Christ. However the crowd is screaming for them to be quiet. Today they scream that Jesus is a fable. The crowd says religion is a hoax and God is not real.  It takes courage to persist in seeking what is right for you even when it goes against the crowd.

In Matthew 20 these two blind men could not be controlled by the crowd and as scripture proclaims “…cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O lord, thou son of David.” They kept calling on Jesus and did so even more forcefully than before. Jesus, God almighty made flesh turned to these lowly blind men, and asked them what he should do. Jesus already knew. But He wanted them to proclaim their faith to an unbelieving world and they did.

They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. (Matthew 20:33)

Jesus had compassion and healed them. The lesson to learn is simple.  We can’t be guided by the wisdom of the crowd.  We have to understand what is best for us. The crowd can be wrong. Even when it takes courage we must do what is right. Finally, seeking Jesus is the right decision even when the rest say no. He will have compassion and hear your call.

Laughing at God

Laughing at God is probably not the most respectful way to react when God comes with a message. Sarah thought it was quiet funny to hear that she was going to have a baby when she was already an old woman. With all the logic and reasoning she could muster, all she could do was see the humor in it and laugh. Others might have cried after waiting so long to have a child. There were probably many times in her life and during her marriage that she had felt like a failure. She had failed to provide a child, especially a son, to her faithful and fine husband Abraham.

Laughing is what we sophisticated people often do when we hear something unbelievable. It is certainly not a sign that we are taking the matter seriously. It is a lack of faith. God “straightened” Sarah out a bit when He said ““Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

Sarah failed to realize that when logic and reasoning say God can’t, it is God that smiles and says “Oh yea, I’ll show you!” It was God who got the last laugh when Sarah at the age of ninety-one had a son.

When God makes a promise, He will fulfill it. There are no miracles too small or too great for God. We are blessed to know that God loves us and will hear our prayers. Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Instead of laughing or showing our incredulity let us rediscover and strengthen our faith, knowing that God is still able and will deliver us in His time.

 

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Sacrificing your son

There you were minding your own business enjoying the son that God had promised you many years ago. Now everything had fallen into place. What could possible go wrong? Then you heard the voice of your God, the voice that had always comforted you, the voice that had always directed you. How many blessings had you received by just listening to this voice? The day just couldn’t get any better, except God made the strangest request. This loving, faithful God who hated evil and sin had just asked you to commit the most heinous act of sacrificing your son.

What do you do? Abraham found himself in this position. (Genesis 22:1-2) What is remarkable is that Abraham’s faith never faltered. He followed God’s direction to the letter.

He went to where God directed him to go, laid down the wood and placed his son on the altar. He then raised his knife and at the very last moment was stopped by God. (Genesis 22:9-12)

God provided a ram for the sacrifice. (Genesis 22:13) This must have felt like the definition of relief. Isaac was spared and Abraham did not lose his son. Beyond any doubt he proved his love and obedience to God.

Jesus reminds us that we must love God above all things. (Matthew 22:37-38) Consider those things that have the most value to you. Now consider the people you love the most. Are they more important to you than God? Would we be willing to sacrifice our relationship with God to please them?

Abraham was willing to lose his son for God. What are we willing to surrender to please God and have a closer relationship with God? This is the God who has already proven His love to us. God is the father who actually did sacrifice His son Jesus so that we might be forgiven and be saved. It was the sacrifice of His son Jesus that paid the debt of our sin and allowed us to be called sons of God.

He has shown us His love. Perhaps it is our turn to show Him our love.

 

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Faith and a flood

In a world that had forgotten God, a world filled with violence, there was one man who God considered “perfect.” His life was a story of faith. There were no bibles or churches. No place to go to strengthen your faith. No group to seek comfort in. It was an entire civilization that had turned its back on God. Somehow Noah had managed to stay faithful to God. He was proof that even when we must stand alone it is possible to keep the faith.
God challenged him even more. He told Noah that he was going to do something that had never been done. He was going to destroy His own creation with a flood. Imagine what the naysayers said. “Noah you’re mad. You’re just hearing voices.” Perhaps they said “But God created us and loves us. He’ll never destroy us.”

However Noah was a believer to the end. He built an ark that was 450 feet long, 50 feet wide and 30 feet tall. It included 3 stories and was built to occupy his family and a multitude of animals. How he managed such a feat the bible does not explain. In the long time it took Noah to build the ark his faith never diminished. (Genesis 6)

Due to his unwavering faith Noah and his family were saved. This is the faith that is necessary today. Many have lost faith. Those that believe in God, the bible and see Christ as their savior appear to be fewer with each generation, however Paul prophesied a “falling away in the last days” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) or a falling of the faith. Like in the time of Noah, Paul also prophesied a coming destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Like in the time of Noah most are not concerned. However Christ is faithful to His word and will surely return. Therefore like Noah we must strive to keep the faith even in the most difficult of circumstances; a storm may be on the way!

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Jesus receives strength

Jesus, the messiah, God made flesh, showed a whole range of emotions. He was angry when He turned over the tables in the temple and cast out the money changers. He proclaimed that His house would be a house of prayer. He was welcoming and loving to many, especially the children that the disciples tried to keep away. He was merciful to the women found in adultery and the unpopular tax collector Zacchaeus . However it was in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus came face to face with the terror of being a human sacrifice so that the world may be saved. He knew he was going to be killed in the most horrific way. However the scariest event to come might have been the necessary separation He would feel on the cross when the full weight of humanities’ sins would be upon Him. This is when He said,

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:46)

Jesus Had never felt apart from the father his entire existence from the very beginning as related both in John and Genesis.

John says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)In the same chapter he also says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) This is Jesus.

We get another clue of Jesus’ eternal past with the father in Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” That “us” includes the father and the son.

Jesus Knew he would be forsaken, spat upon, beaten whipped, forced to ware a crown of thorns, and left to die on a cross. (Matthew 26:57-Matthew 27:50) In Gethsemane Luke reveals that even Jesus received the necessary comfort and strength from God to soldier on.

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)

Through prayer and the Father’s support Jesus was able to complete the greatest mission ever, the way of Salvation for all Humanity. We too can soldier on under the most horrific circumstances through prayer and God’s support.

It is now up to us to believe and we will reap a great reward, not only strength and support through difficult times, but the greatest gift of all, our Salvation.

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Joy in Prison

To be accused unjustly of doing something you are innocent of is a painful experience.  Imagine living your life trying to do what is right only to be labeled as guilty and criminal.  It is enough to depress us and discourage us. I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to be imprisoned for crimes you have not committed; looking at four walls knowing there is little chance you will ever be set free, knowing you might never walk freely among those you love and enjoy all the simple pleasure a free man has, such as the enjoyment of walking across a field of grass on a spring day or dipping into the ocean during the heat of the summer.  This was the case of the apostle Paul who was imprisoned unjustly for exercising a basic human right, freedom of speech. But Paul was not dissuaded. He was not discouraged in preaching the gospel. He showed no sign of depression.

Paul writes to the church in the town of Philippi while he was imprisoned. Instead of complaining about how unfair life was and how corrupted the government was or how cruel his enemies have been he tells them that being imprisoned is a great thing.  He claimed it as a victory because he saw it as an opportunity to preach the gospel. But Paul was already preaching the gospel before he was in prison.     Couldn’t Paul have reached more people outside of prison?  However Paul did not consider any of these arguments instead he saw an opportunity to reach people he would have otherwise not reached. (Philippians 1:12-13)

Paul also notes that many Christians were encouraged by his imprisonment. They were embolden because they saw that Paul was not depressed, or discouraged.  They too saw that Paul had not surrendered the gospel and others decided to follow his lead. (Philippians 1:14)

There are many circumstances in our lives that may seem unfair, even painful. It is often not easy to see opportunities in these times. However scripture does say “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Regardless of what we are going through we must try our best to see the purpose or trust that God will show us His purpose in due time. It will certainly be for His glory and for our benefit if we can remain encouraged. We also cannot measure the benefit it will provide countless others to witness our faith in practice.

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