Mar 28, 2019

Fallacious Fasting

1. The act or practice of abstaining from or eating very little food.
2. A period of such abstention or self-denial.
3. To eat very little or abstain from certain foods, as a religious discipline.

During this year, Cathy and I have been fasting in a variety of ways.

We are not fasting as a religious or a superstitious exercise; hoping to gain God’s special attention, or to tip the invisible scales of blessing in our direction.

Our goal as a couple (and individually) is to deal with our hearts; which tends to want what it wants. We are longing to have a heart change as we long to be in deeper fellowship with Him.

And fasting things like sugar also has some health benefits such as feeling better and weight loss.

Individually, we have been noticing that when we stop eating something like anything made of sugar or fasting from social media, just how often we go to what we are giving up rather than to Him.

It has been amazing to me how often when my heart is wandering or feeling “blue” that my flesh longs for chocolate; rather than going to the LORD for His help.

It is my observation that too many people fast for wrong reasons. John Wesley said that “some have exalted religious fasting beyond all scripture and reason, and others have utterly disregarded it.”

Fasting is not to be thought of as a means of earning God’s favor or improving one’s status with God. The general purpose of it is to humble the soul before God.

The Bible asks the question in Zechariah 7:5-6 (NKJV):
“Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?

So it is possible to fast and not really be doing it for the LORD.

My favorite (heart exposing) scripture on fasting is from Isaiah 58. The prophet Isaiah (speaking for the LORD) is explaining to the people how their fasting is wrong. They had been fasting with no apparent success in reaching their goals.

Sounds like you and me doesn’t it?

The LORD lovingly rebukes them in an effort to correct their wrong theology and to share His heart on how He wants them to seek His face in a fast.

My prayer is that as you read Isaiah 58 from the Message version of the Bible, your heart will be corrected in areas where (perhaps) you too have been off during your times of fasting.

Remember, the LORD “did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17 NKJV)

Isaiah 58 
1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell My people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about Me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask Me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having Me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and You don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and You don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build a new,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use My holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mar 21, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Post Office

With the risk of coming across weird(er), I will admit that I think I hear from God. No, not audibly, but deep in my spirit.

And, at the risk of exposing others; I will go out on a limb and state that MANY people will confess that they too hear from God.

I would love to say that it is an exact science or formula: I ask God something and He answers me; clearly and very concisely. But, if I did have that ability or gift, I would probably somehow misuse it for my own gain.

What I am referring to are the times when we hear a prompting to do something or to not do something and we either take action steps or we don’t.

Sometimes it is hearing where I placed my phone or keys. This has been very helpful in saving me valuable time of unnecessary searching.

Sometimes it is hearing to call or write someone who is struggling. Oftentimes the other person will communicate that what I did was exactly what they needed to hear during a time when they were struggling or sad or sick or...

Sometimes the sense is to not open an email or friend request on Facebook. And when I obey, I save the embarrassment of seeing images that I really didn't need to see.

I had one of those promptings today. I wrote a check to a ministry and placed it in an envelope to be mailed. In the past I would have just placed the envelope in my mailbox, put up the flag, and it would be picked up and delivered as per my request.

But, for the past six months, we have been having trouble getting our postal carrier to pick up the mail from our box. So, I made a decision to take the letter up to post office later in the day.

A short time later, I decided to take a walk and heard a prompting to take the envelope with me. I reasoned to myself that because the post office was in a completely different direction, I decided to NOT take the envelope with me and that I would stick to my original plan.

As I was putting on my boots, again I heard to take the envelope with me with further instruction that I would see a postal carrier on the way.

Still, I reasoned that I didn't want to misplace the envelope in my backpack and put the envelope in a place where I would see it when I returned home, after which I would take it to the post office.

As I headed out the door, I heard a third time to take the envelope with me. Again I ignored the prompting and continued on my journey.

As I crossed the street one block from my house, a postal carrier crossed my path. I stopped and briefly thought about heading back to retrieve the envelope so that I could give it to him. But I didn't and continued on my journey.

I went another block and once again, a different postal carrier was also crossing the road. Ok, that's two of them and I realized that I should have listened and obeyed. I continued on my journey, not letting the missed opportunity trip me up.

I walked another two blocks and, you guessed it, I spotted another postal carrier. This one was already on the other side of the street. 

I want to give you the full picture of my situation and state that the walk from my house to my destination was only five blocks! In my short journey I had three opportunities to hand my envelope to a postal carrier who would have taken it to the address on the envelope.

AND, even as I sit here and write this blog, another postal carrier came into the shop and briefly spoke with me! 

Four postal carriers in five blocks.

On the surface it may not have seemed like that big of a deal; but not obeying never really does seem like a big deal. Oftentimes, because of free will, we pick and choose what we obey and follow. 

But I had been given instructions and I had chosen to ignore them; and it cost me something. What it cost me was a piece of my heart that was now clouded by disobedience. 

I had justified not obeying, and anytime we do that we end up setting a course that has the potential of becoming a rut that will impede our drive through life... 

Which reminds me of a sign on the Oregon Trail that said; "Choose your rut wisely; you will be in it for the next 200 miles".

Oftentimes these ruts become a way of life and we grow cold and deaf to the promptings and end up missing out of the insight that God was trying to give us.

The solution is learning to listen to His voice and knowing what His voice sounds like so that when the promptings come, they can be followed knowing Who is speaking. 

Jesus said; "My sheep know My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27) 

And: "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:5) 

Simple obedience, in all things, is what He is looking for. This is for things that are wrong to do as well as things that He wants us to do. And to not follow them can mean life or death to us.

King Saul ran into this hard lesson in 1 Samuel 15. Saul was told by God to go attack and utterly destroy Amalek and EVERYTHING the Amalekites had. The LORD told Saul to fight against them until they were all consumed.

But Saul decided to ignore what he heard and kept alive the best of the livestock and Agag the King; destroying only the things that were despised and worthless.

Saul hadn't listened to the LORD, so God spoke to the prophet Samuel instructing him to go speak on behalf of the LORD to King Saul.

When confronted by Samuel, Saul rationalized that he had performed the commandment of the LORD and that the people had spared the lives of the animals so that they could be sacrificed to the LORD; as an offering...

Samuel told Saul that it is better to obey than sacrifice; in ALL things.

Not following what Saul was told to do cost him the kingdom. Because Saul rejected what the LORD said, He rejected Saul from being king. 

A simple act of not doing what the LORD had said was probably not done 'just this one time'. My guess is that Saul had developed a pattern (a rut) of not fully following what the LORD said; things that were wrong to do as well as things that were right to do. 

Saul had learned to rationalize and justify what the LORD had said one prompting after another; like me ignoring the prompting to take along a piece of mail...

I want to learn from my mistake as well as the mistakes of others like (the former) King Saul. 

I want to learn to say yes to whatever He says to do or to not do. 

I want to develop a rut of automatic obedience for His Name’s sake, as well the sake of others whose paths I cross.

Time for me to go mail my letter; which would've been half way to its destination if I had obeyed my prompting...

Mar 14, 2019

Holding My Breath While Trying To Breathe

There were five of them sitting around the table today. All of them looked retired and able to slowly sip their coffees as they seemed delighted in each other's company.

"I want you to know that you have always been a good neighbor and friend and I am going to miss you...” one of them said to another and was met with a warm smile.

"So when did you sell your house?" another man asked and then waited to hear of the process of selling his house that he had lived in for a long time.

"Do you have any plans for what you are going to do with the snow?"; another friend chided, inquiring as to whether he was planning on taking the snow with him to his new home. 

Laughter filled the coffee shop as each gave their opinion as to how to get rid of the snow and other items that he didn't plan on taking with him when he moved.

In time, the conversation turned to medical issues and tests and blood pressure revealing that they were much older than I.

They were also much more relaxed than I as they seemed in no hurry to finish their coffee and "do some real work..."

I'm sixty one years old this year. Slowly, methodically I transition into the next phase of life; whatever that means...

It was always my understanding that as one gets older it would be easier to relax and yet to come up to the coffee shop today took a lot of effort.

My plan was to come up here yesterday; and yet my day was soon filled with the tyranny of the urgent, and quickly the day was over.

So today I got up, showered, took time to read my Bible and several devotionals for the day before heading out the door. 

But, before I could actually leave, several attempts to grab my time came up as I wrestled to get out of the house with as much effort as getting an overweight lady into a pair of size small pantyhose!

I received multiple texts from multiple people seeking my attention and response. And with each response, another text would come in response to my response, keeping the conversation going.

And, when not responding to the texts, phone calls and emails would also "take-a-number" and seek my attention.

As I ponder the "interruptions", I speak to God that it is a nice 'problem' to have so many friends who want to talk. In this world of individuals, I so blessed to have the 'problem' of so many who would like to talk. I am a rich man.

But, as I tried to get to my task of heading out the door, I found myself actually having to give myself permission to stop and to rest and to slow down. And no amount of justifying that I needed to leave and get some writing done was working.

You see, I have a very large office in my home and with Cathy gone for the day, I really have no reason that I can't get work done at home. In fact, while sitting here a neighbor came in and chided; "Ain't you got nothing to do?" referring to me sitting and drinking coffee.

I showed him my IPad and explained that I was working.

The main reason that I come up to work here one day a week (rather than working at home) is so that on days when I am not meeting with individuals or couples for counseling, I don't go stir crazy. The noise of the coffee shop keeps me reminded on these long winter days that I am not alone in this world.

Coffee shops aren't just about coffee; we always have an ample supply at home. No, they are places to sit and ponder and dream and write and socialize.

But I digress as I once again slow myself down and enjoy the environment which I am in.

Why, oh why, is it so hard to slow down? Possibly because I am trying to do so in my own effort; using all of my own methods. I was trying to hold my breath while trying to breathe; and it wasn't working.

Something had to give...I thought as I sat and eaves-dropped on the table across the room from me. These men seemed to be in no hurry to go anywhere; geographically or even in conversation.

It is on days like these that I realize the futility of trying to do things on my own; after all that is why I am sitting in a noisy, crowded room instead of sitting at home alone.

I realize just how much I need the LORD to direct my steps. And to lead me. And to complete the work that He started. And everything in between today and perfection.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.” (Psalms 37:23)

Once again I realize that the LORD isn't asking me to change anything but trying to be my own lord. He wants me to stop and to pause awhile and KNOW that He is God. He is LORD, He is in control.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalms 46:10)

Once again I am reminded that this walk or journey that I am on is about trusting Him more; which is something that I need to rely on Him to do. I need to believe that He will increase my trust in Him. 

“Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalms 37:5 NKJV)

He will bring about change in my life as He leads me through opportunities for me to see that I really can trust Him. He is trustworthy and can be relied on. He faithfully shows me that He is faithful.

I can stop trying to hold my breath as I try to get through my day and allow Him to be the very breath that fills my lungs. 

“For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)

And so I stopped; even paused what I was writing, and listened and talked with people who crossed my path as I slowly drank my coffee as I stopped trying to be the LORD of my life today.

So where are you at today, my friend? Do you know Him as your Savior? That's really where it all starts. Today is the day of salvation to all who call upon the Name of Jesus.

He simply wants you to acknowledge (confess) your wrong doing (sins) and admit your need to surrender to Him. He died and was buried and rose again to pay for your sins (and mine). It is a free gift to you that cost Him His very life.

He wants you to come to Him TODAY.

And to you who already are a follower of Jesus; resting totally on the completed work of His death, burial, and resurrection: Have you once again surrendered your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? 

Or have you once again tried to take control? My exhortation is for you to stop trying to hold your breath and to really allow Him to be your breath.

“You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” (Psalms 104:29)

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Mar 7, 2019

Surrender VS Quitting

On March 12, 1995 I was ordained as a pastor. At the ordination ceremony the worship team sang; "All To Jesus I Surrender".

It was the cry of my heart that day and has sustained me during times when I wanted to quit; to run from the calling that is on my life to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am so grateful that His love has kept me faithful to the calling and that His Holy Spirit has continued to keep me going forward.

This year, 2019, I start my twenty first year as a pastor, and the song of my heart is still the same: I SURRENDER!

As the Apostle Paul wrote it so eloquently:

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24 NKJV)

“I Surrender” Songwriter: Matt Crocker Hillsong Worship

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all
Surrendering all

And find me here
Lord as You draw me near
Desperate for You
Desperate for You

I surrender

Drench my soul
As mercy and grace unfold
I hunger and thirst
I hunger and thirst

With arms stretched wide
I know You hear my cry
Speak to me now
Speak to me now

I surrender
I surrender
I wanna know You more
I wanna know You more

I surrender
I surrender
I wanna know You more
I wanna know You more

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me
Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

I surrender
I surrender
I wanna know You more
I wanna know You more

I surrender
I surrender
I wanna know You more
I wanna know You more

I Surrender lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group