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.

 

I know who steers the ship

The wind was howling fiercely that night upon the sea in 1902. All the men even the bravest seemed frightened as we hovelled together below the deck, except for the brave captain. He was made for the seas. They say he was born at sea and had never spent more than a day on land on account that he could not stand it. He was at the helm and was not about to give into the storm. He bravely steered through the night. Meanwhile I was shivering below with the rest of the frightened men.

It was a while before I realized a young boy in the corner sleeping. Was it really possible that someone could sleep through this storm, knowing that at any moment we might meet our end? I would march right over there to ask this young boy, but the ship rocked so furiously it made it impossible to walk at all. I studied the boy from across the room. He seemed so much at peace in the midst of all the howling, rocking and crashing of the waves. Then he smiled. I could not believe my eyes. The boy must be mad! I knew I had to know the secret. I made my way across the cabin, climbing over other men, receiving nasty looks while trying to stay on my feet. Finally I was beside him. “Hey boy, are you aware of the storm? It feels like the ship is going to be torn apart.“ The boy rubbed his eyes and yawned as if he was bored and responded, “Don’t worry Mr., we will be fine, now let me rest, there is still plenty of night.” I couldn’t believe my ears, this was either the bravest or the most naïve boy I had ever known. I gave the lad a good shove and said “Boy don’t you hear the sea; it’s tearing the ship apart!” The boy patiently looked at me and with a peace I could not perceive said, “I know who steers the ship. He has never failed me. He is my captain and my dad. Go rest and in the morning we will all see the sun.”

Life is filled with storms, difficulties, trials, and problems that seem so immense they are like storms threatening to destroy the ship that is our life. But if we can have faith in the captain of our ship, Jesus Christ, we can still rest easy and be at peace knowing that He is guiding us through the storm and is taking us on the course that He knows is best for us. Sometimes we might perceive that another course might have been easier and with fewer difficulties. But we cannot forget that the destination is even more important. God is leading us where we must go and regardless of how hard it may be at times it is what is best for us. We will arrive safely and will be grateful He delivered us to a most desired and blessed place. Joseph (Genesis 37:18-36, Genesis 39:19-21), Moses (Exodus 2), Daniel (Daniel 1, 6), Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (Daniel 3), David (1 Samuel 19) and countless others suffered though horrific events, persecution and frightful challenges, but He had a great purpose for their lives. He will fulfill his purpose in our lives and we will sail through the storms with our faithful Captain. (Psalm 138:8)

© Samuel Melendez. All rights reserved

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Are you important to God?

Am I important to God? This is a question we have often asked. Every time something happens we don’t particularly like, some disappointment, even tragedy we often think God is too far away to care. Perhaps He is too busy changing the course of History, planning the return of Christ, or just setting off a small revival of several thousands in Mexico City to concern Himself with our problem.

Philip was a great man of God who was leading a massive revival in the town of Samaria. (Acts 8:4-8) However God decided that one man was worth his time. Philip was sent to the middle of a desert to speak to a eunuch who was struggling to understand a prophecy on the Messiah. Philip arrived and explained that this scripture was of Jesus. The eunuch gave his life to Christ and was baptized. (Acts 8:26-38) Then God transported Philip to Azotus, where he would continue his evangelistic tour through several towns. (Acts 8:40) Imagine God grabbing hold of Billy Graham and sending him to your living room because you are confused and need a greater understanding. God cares about each and every individual.

Jesus on countless occasions took the time to visit homes in order to speak to one individual. Such was the case of Zaccheus. Jesus was surrounded by crowds so great that Zaccheus had to climb into a tree to see Jesus. Jesus was not caught up in the excitement of the crowd. He was not too busy servicing everyone to notice a tiny man way up in a tree. He called him down, went to his house and changed his life. This man, a cheating tax collector, must have been the most hated man in Jericho, but to Jesus he was important. (Luke 19:1-10)

Perhaps we have failed God. Perhaps we lack for popularity. Perhaps we cannot see our importance to the Kingdom of heaven. But God does. Our lives, our problems, our situations are those that He is willing to tend to, if we ask, and most likely He already has. Jesus said “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”(Luke 12:6-7) Do not lose faith, regardless of how great the Universe is, God has His eye on you.

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When tragedy strikes!

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noemi was a woman who had run out of faith and was not very happy with her God. Many years ago her husband had died.  However that was not enough grief. Now her only sons lay dead.  With no money, property or foreseeable source of income, she made the best decision she could. She turned to the only family she had left, her two daughters in law, Ruth and Orpha, and said “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” (Ruth 1:8) Noemi kissed her daughters-in–law and believed she would never see them again.

Then they both began to cry and nobody was leaving. They both declared that they weren’t going anywhere. Noemi was not too happy.  Her best plan to save her daughter-in-laws was not working. She explained that she had nothing to offer them and finally convinced Orpha to leave, Ruth would be more challenging. Ruth displayed great courage, stubbornness and faith in God as she declared “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17) Ruth was determined to be loyal to both Noemi and God.  Noemi must have thrown her hands up in defeat. Both women with nothing in this world to call their own would return to Bethlehem or as Noemi would say, ” the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21)

It’s easy to understand Noemi’s bitterness. We’re supposed to raise our children and then help them raise their children. Hard work and proper planning is also supposed to provide us with a healthy income deep into our old age. It’s the plan for a whole lot of folks, including me. Then tragedy strikes. God is so merciful He can see us through the most desperate situations.

Although Ruth was a foreigner she found favor in the eyes of one of the most powerful men in Bethlehem, Boaz. He had heard the most improbable story of the foreign girl who had given up her family and homeland to stay loyal to her penniless mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:11-12)He allowed her to work his land and everything Ruth could gather was hers to keep. What would happen next would be a true shocker. Boaz fell in love with this penniless, Moabite woman, and married her. (Ruth 4:13)Noemi became the adopted grandmother of their son Obed, King David’s grandfather, and they all lived happily ever after.

God can take the worst situation and turn it completely around. Although Noemi was bitter and perhaps angry with God, He had a plan and had never forsaken her. God incorporated Ruth, the foreigner into not only David’s blood lines, but Jesus himself, also a descendant of Ruth. In this manner both Jew and Gentile were already included in the plan of salvation. Before we grow bitter consider that God knows what is best, has us in his hands and will surely fulfill his purpose in our lives.

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Heaven bound!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 

Often we get caught up in life’s struggles. We really have no choice but to address what is happening in our lives and in the world. We must hold ourselves responsible. We are living in this world, citizens of this country and citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Therefore we are responsible for our fellow man. We cannot take Cain’s attitude and say, “Am I my brother’s keeper”? (Genesis 4:9)The answer is yes.

Jesus made us responsible when he commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned.(Matthew 25:31-46) He also holds us responsible when he says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

Therefore we are allowed to get “caught up” in the world’s problems and challenges from time to time. However as Christians we have a secret weapon. We have a hope that keeps us from just losing it when the whole world seems to have gone crazy. We know some day we are going home.

We are going where there will be no more tears, no death and no pain. (Revelation 21:4) We will live in a city whose beauty will surpass anything we have ever seen. (Revelation 21:18  ) All the problems of this world will not enter and we will be with God for all eternity. (Revelation 22:1-5)  

Jesus instructs us not to worry for we have a secure place in heaven. A place built for us. (John 14:1-3) Soon enough we will be reunited with him. This is why we are told to build our treasures in heaven “where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (Matthew 6:19-21) We do this by living our lives submitted to the commandments of Jesus.

There is plenty going on in our lives and in the world to rightfully fill us with grief. We should remain active in the world doing all we can to make it better. However when those moments come that nothing seems to be working it is wise to remember, we will be going to a better place. Soon enough we will be in paradise with our Lord. We will not take this attitude to give up, but only to encourage ourselves to soldier on!

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Depression, struggle and overcoming

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 

My life has been a blessed one and I am grateful for all God has given me and all the opportunities I have had. However there have been difficult times in my life. I remember how miserable I was for almost a year at my first job. I hated getting up in the morning, hated what I had to do, auditing, and hated the politics. There were nice people there, I miss some of them, but I am happy that it is behind me. However the suffering of that time in my life pales in comparison to the last few years of my marriage. I suffered through a long separation and a divorce.

What was worse than the breakup of my marriage was that I found myself spending less and less time with my kids. Before the separation I was pretty much with them all the time, unless I was at work. I was an active dad, helping with homework, studying and most important, play time.  I taught my children their ABC’s, to swim, make pancakes and scramble eggs, took them biking and loved doing arts and crafts with them.  In comparison I would say I hardly get to see them now.

What made all of that even more complicated was that I went through all of that while being the associate pastor of my church.

Everyday was a struggle to get through.  I thank God that He provided me with many resources. Countless opportunities presented themselves to help me maintain my sanity.  Many hours at the gym, a new found love for drawing, growing my computer skills was helpful and constructive.  But nothing compared to a greater focus on God’s work. I joined the choir, the drama ministry and spent much more time in prayer and reading the bible. I had previously done many of these things. However over the years much responsibility and other complications had made it difficult to participate as much as I would have liked in these activities that now comforted me.

There are many people suffering through much more than I have ever experienced. While it is always advisable to seek professional help, there are good God fearing counselors and psychiatrist who can help in times of need, God is a strength that cannot be matched.

In the end God was faithful in keeping me in His path. I found myself wanting more of Him and he was quick to satisfy.  In Isaiah 41:10 we read “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The apostle Paul advises in Philippians 4:6-7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Life is still a struggle. I will never get over having less time with my children. Every opportunity I have with them I treasure and try to make the most of it.  I find myself thinking of them and praying for them all the time. I constantly and perhaps irrationally worry that they may be in some kind of danger. Once again I put my trust in God and pray even more, it is what gets me through the day and especially the nights.

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Faith during hardship

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good,…. Genesis 50:20

When you are the favored son and daddy buys you really cool stuff, life can be like living in a dream; especially if daddy makes you a top manager at the family business, and places you in charge of your older brothers. This was the life of Joseph. He even had dreams about how his brothers were going to bow to him. Life was pretty nice. However his older brothers didn’t think it was that great. They sold Joseph into slavery and told their father he had been eaten by wild animals. Now this was a family with problems!

Life can certainly be unfair. Perhaps Joseph’s bothers had reason to be jealous, but he did not deserve slavery. Joseph did not ask to be loved more than his brothers. He didn’t ask for special treatment. When it comes to being in charge, Joseph really was more competent than his brothers and most likely deserved the elevated position. Perhaps what they all needed was some counseling and a family meeting where everyone could air out their concerns. Joseph was actually a good, faithful, intelligent son who deserved the admiration of his older brothers. Instead he found himself on a caravan of slave traders headed to Egypt.

Joseph is sold to a top general and quickly proves he is capable. He is placed in charge of the entire estate. Unfortunately the general’s wife takes a liking to Joseph and when Joseph rejects her, she makes false accusations and Joseph is placed in jail. By now each and everyone one of us would be absolutely furious. We would be screaming “Where is God in all this?” We would be thinking “I am faithful, hardworking and honest. I am talented, intelligent and I do a great job, how can life be so unfair?” But Joseph never complained. He was one of the greatest examples of faith in history. He must have known “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

In jail Joseph once again proves himself and is placed in charge of the other prisoners. He also proves himself a great interpreter of dreams. This ability made possible by the revelation of God.

Once pharaoh heard of Joseph’s ability, he was removed from prison and made to serve pharaoh. Joseph was then elevated and made the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. From that position he was able to save the nation of Egypt and his family during a horrific time of famine and yes his brothers did bow down to him. (Genesis 37, 39-45)

For many years life was certainly unfair for Joseph. At times we may feel like we are walking in Joseph’s shoes. But like Joseph we cannot lose faith. Nor can we grow angry with God or life. We must approach every hardship we go through as if it is a new opportunity to grow and become even better, because that is exactly the reason why we go through them. Remember God is not done; He is doing something great in each of us.