Thursday, November 17, 2016

Back to the Basics of Love

Give me a pure and faithful heart Lord, a hunger to know who You are, and a passion to live in the love You have given me.  Cause me to burn with Your fire, fill me with holy desire to stand in Your grace, forever embracing You Jesus.  Give me a pure and faithful heart for You, my King.

The Lord created us with His own hands. His banner over us is love.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. God loves us so much that even before we were born, He gave up His only Son to die for us, so we could be with Him eternally. God wants us with Him forever, starting now.

When we asked Jesus into our hearts, we were made whole again. He washed us and made us clean. Sometimes, after a while, we lose that cleanliness. Dirt and sweat get in the picture. We need that shower again. We sometimes lose that honeymoon feeling so our spiritual life needs a pick-me-up, a refreshing. Our feelings for Jesus are not as fervent as they use to be. We tend to forget what Jesus has done for us in the past or what He is doing for us now. We even forget to think of what He will do for us, the promises that He has given. The fire in our heart has gone down. Instead of a blaze of burning desire to know and be with God, there’s just a little ember flickering somewhere. Ask God to light that fire, to rekindle that desire again. Make Jesus your first priority. Put the Lord first in everything, above all. Exodus 20:3 says Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Other gods include work, money, spouses, children, hobbies… whatever you value more than the Lord. Not putting Him first is a sin, it is turning and stepping away from Him.

Acts 3:19-20 Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you. When we let our fire die down, that means we are not tending to the fire. We are not feeding it with the fuel it needs. We are not taking care of what needs to be taken care of. If the fire dies, we have no heat, we will get cold, and the light will disappear. If the fire dies, it shows we are not paying attention to a very important part of our life. God says to seek Him first. He is our fire, our Love; the Holy Spirit is the oil for the fire. God’s Word is the fuel. it feeds and rekindles that burning desire and keeps the fire going strong.

We need to repent, ask forgiveness for not paying attention to Him as much as we should, for getting our eyes focused on other things. Turn back to God so He can wipe the slate clean again and get all the old ashes out of the way that are smothering the fire so it can breathe and become flaming hot again. God can refuel that burning desire for Him, but you have to do your part and turn back to Him.

Revelation 2:4-5 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent. The Ephesians did God’s work and heard His Word so often that they grew tired of hearing it or became dull of hearing. They were born again, hardworking, had good morals, didn’t sin, but God’s Word was just there. They lost their first love. After the honeymoon, the excitement wore off, now it’s just a fact of life. It is comfortable, non-appreciative. It is just there. Jesus told them to repent.

Remember where you used to be with Jesus, how excited you were. God doesn’t want us to grow cold. When you fell in love for the first time, that’s all you could think about, from sunrise to sunset. The sky was always blue, that rain was sweet, flowers were gorgeous, the stars were so bright and beautiful, but somewhere down the line the sky turned a little dingier. His blessings go unnoticed.

Make sure to fill your lamp with God’s Holy Oil. Very first thing in the morning, seek His face, pray and worship Him. Spending extra time with God and paying more attention to His Word will revive your relationship again. Plan time to become closer to Him, to get to know Him more. Spending time with the Lord can bring revival to your soul, and that fire can spread to others. Seek that second honeymoon with Him.

Remember the heights you have fallen from. You can climb to that height again and reach even higher goals with the Lord. Remember how you were so excited and expecting to see what God had for you around the corner? You were looking for something from Him every day. You can have that again, and more. Let your prayers be full of faith.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. A broken heart, contrite spirit is destroyed, hurt, and full of sorrow, whether it be from tragedy or sin of another, or his own sin. This spirit cries out to the Lord. This is a heart that the Lord can work with and grow near to.

Rev 2:7 … To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. To those of us who overcome our sins by repenting, asking forgiveness, forgiving others, we have the right to eat from the tree of life, we can feed on the Word of God. When we are born again, we are given eternal life. Those that have known the Lord for years can still repent, live a more vital life and come back to their first love with God’s Word. His Word brings life because it is Life.

We can come back to how it was when we first gave our heart to Jesus. Nothing came between us. Overtime, we might have lost some of that excitement and love. Do you still read your Bible for hours daily? Do you look for answers in the Bible and trust every Word written? We use to sing praises to Him all day long and see His beauty in everything around. We were always excited to go to church and hear His Word, to stand in His streams of refreshing living waters. Soaking in His presence was a daily event.  Hearing the Lord’s voice was so easy and seeing His works were so evident. We had no doubt that every prayer we prayed would be answered in time because our faith was so great. We knew every blessing, great or small, came for the Father of Lights. Every time we heard the name Jesus, our ears would perk up and our heart would automatically jump with joy.

Things pertaining to the Lord get set aside when we lose that first love. Soon, Sunday school is not important, and we walk into church during song service. Prayer meetings aren’t a priority because we have other things to do during that time. When we were first born, we couldn’t wait to attend all of these things the Lord blessed us with, no matter how far the drive was. Seeking the comfort of our bodies now instead of the prosperity of our soul comes first.

The world used to think you were a nut for going to church all the time, but it was that burning love and desire to be with Christ 24 hours a day that kept you going back. It was a blazing love for the Lord. How high is that blaze now? How many songs do you have in your heart now compared to then? Is your first love stronger or has it grown weaker?

We used to listen to the preacher hanging on every word with joy, excitement and expectancy. But somewhere along that line, that excitement was lost. We were hungry for God’s Word then. We can get too full of the world and too busy to have room for God’s Word. Sometimes our watches or lunch plans get in the way of hearing a message straight from God Himself. Our spiritual ears can close up after a while. We could have been in fellowship with Jesus that whole time, but our minds were somewhere else. Why? Because we lost our first love. Other things to do first and not enough time are two excuses. Seeking God’s face in prayer was continual, now we rely on our self for the answer. We now have a quick one minute prayer instead of our intense, compassionate one hour or more conversation with our Heavenly Father. A couple scriptures will do for the day, if any, instead of the in-depth study we used to have with the Lord. We used to pray over difficulties, now the worry has crept in.

Where is our first love? Did we outgrow it? Are we much wiser now? Have we grown older and richer? Maybe in some ways, but not spiritually. There is a void in our life that only God can fill. No matter how much we have now, we had much more when we came to know the Lord. We were fully engulfed in His grace and love, but now we’ve stepped outside a little bit, or maybe a whole lot. Have we given up a little time with God to do something else? Or have we given up something else to be with God? Do we talk about where we are going in Christ?

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. We need to remember where Jesus brought us from and thank Him daily for this. We were nothing but a sinner bound for hell. If we keep remembering God’s grace and going back to the Cross, we will be led back to our first love.

At times, we get caught up doing for Christ instead of seeking Him. Like 10:40-42 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Martha was busy worried about other things first, while Mary knew where the good stuff was. She wanted to be in the presence of Jesus. He was her first love.  Don't end up being a Martha, doing what you think is important, putting tasks before the Lord. Work needs to be done, but we can be with the Lord while tending to these matters.

We must get back to our prayer closet to meet with our Heavenly Father. Forget religion and tradition, get back to the basics of love- which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Remember the Cross, remember the grace He gave. The more we sit near Him, the more we grow to love Him.

James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Repent daily for not giving Him enough time. If God wasn’t in your every thought, you didn’t give Him enough time. Repent for disobedience. Every breath comes from God, why not give it back to Him?

Our love to Christ depends on our nearness to Him. Psalm 42:7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The depths of your soul should cry out to the depths of His. Getting to know the Lord can do nothing but benefit you. Immerse yourself in the Living Waters, plunge into and remain in His presence. The more we seek Him, the more we recognize and receive from Him.

A heart that is close to God can’t help but be on fire for Him, full of His love and energy. Going weeks and months without personal contact with Him is not staying near to Him. You have moved away, putting other things first. If you lose your fist love, you lose purity towards your first love. You will not stay true to that love. Love and purity go hand and hand together. The Lord chastises His children when they are impure. Deuteronomy 8:5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. Job 5:17 Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

When you are close to the Lord, you are in earshot of His voice, therefore hearing Him clearly unless you are focused on something else. It is very hard to get out of the will of God when you are in His presence and hearing His voice. Stay in the Holy of Holies with your Father, grow in the knowledge and wisdom He gives you. Constantly return to your prayer closet, stay under his grace, stay in fellowship with the Lord. Sit at the feet of Jesus Christ and fall in love again.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. Mark 12:30. Since the Lord put this as the first commandment, it is probably the most important one. He tells us this for a reason. God knows if we do this, we will stay close to Him, we will be in His will and the devil can’t touch us there. We are safe in God’s hands. We are the Lord’s children. God is love, we are the children of Love.

Let’s not let Jesus hold anything against us, let us not forsake our first love.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Benefits of Fasting

Benefits of Fasting

Some interesting facts... Doctors today are finding that fasting brings physical benefits. When we fast for several days, it has a cleansing effect on the body and clears the mind. God made our bodies to do that naturally.  When we are sick, we are not hungry, we lose our appetite, therefore not taking toxins in and subsequently cleansing our body.

The Fasting Center International says fasting can remove 5-10 lbs. of toxic chemicals in the average adult’s cell, tissue and organ areas. They also suggest that fasting heightens your clarity of consciousness, it moves you back towards your life’s birthright potential of optimal health, increasing your happiness and healing power as you scientifically reset your body’s odometer. Even people who are underweight at the beginning of a fast have been known to gain weight after completing the fast.

According to Mark Mattson Ph.D., the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging, "Fasting does good things for the brain, and this is evident by all of the beneficial neurochemical changes that happen in the brain when we fast. It also improves cognitive function, increases stress resistance, and reduces inflammation." Dr. Mattson has discovered fasting 2 times a week can significantly lower the risk of developing both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Fasting removes unnecessary weight naturally, restores energy you used to have, enhances the wisdom God gave you naturally, enhances you spiritually and lifts your faith.

Along with physical benefits, fasting for the Lord has spiritual benefits. Matthew 6:16-18 Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full, But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly.

In other words, it’s between you and God. Nobody else has to know about it. Jesus says “when you fast” not “if you fast”. Fasting is just as essential for your spirit as praying, it should be in your routine regularly. Fasting with prayer is an act of righteousness.

Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms (acts of righteousness) before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Verse 2-3 talk about giving in secret, 5-6 says to pray in secret and verse 16-18 says to fast in secret. Our Father knows all  our acts of righteousness and will reward us.

The hypocrites fasted for “self”. They made their faces black with ashes, or sometimes wore a veil, or made somber faces, didn’t wash their face or comb their hair when they fasted. They did it outwardly for their own reputation. It was not for their own spirit, but for their self. They didn’t fast for the Lord.

Fasting is an act of self-denial, mortification of the flesh. Dr. Mattson suggests it is a challenge to your brain. It is telling your flesh that your spirit is in control. When fasting, you are curbing the flesh and its desires, making you to be more lively in religious exercises- Matthew Henry commentary. If you’re busy letting people know you’re fasting, you’re wanting attention. When you seek attention and pity, or praise and applause, you are not seeking God. Seeking attention is wanting to uplift yourself which leaves no room for listening for God’s voice, no room for hearing Him, and no room for praying, therefore there will be no spiritual breakthrough.

Jesus doesn’t tell us how often too fast, but He will let you know when to. He will speak to your heart. Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline for the Christian. Fasting and prayer can let the Holy Spirit transform your life. When we seek God’s face through fasting and prayer with a broken, repentive and contrite spirit, He hears from Heaven and heals our lives, our churches, our communities. Fasting and prayer can bring about revival, it can actually change the direction of a nation and fulfill the Great Commission.

Some benefits of fasting can be 1. Light 2. Health 3. Righteousness 4. God’s glory being your rearguard (securing your passage) 5. Answered prayers and cries for help 6. God’s guidance 7. Satisfaction 8. Strengthening 9. Restoration. This is all found in Isaiah 58:8-12

Fasting can restore your first love for the Lord and give you a closer walk with Him. The purpose of a fast is to sacrifice to God, humble yourself to Him, come closer to Him, understand His Word more, find His will and direction, seek healing or to intercede and pray on behalf of others. When you need an answer to something and prayer alone hasn’t gotten any results, fasting is a helpful tool.

Psalm 35:13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; …David humbled himself before the Lord with fasting and prayer for his enemies as though they were his friends or brothers. (35:14) God wants us to respond in mercy to our enemies, just as God responded towards us while we were yet sinners. Christ sacrificed Himself for us.

Fasting helps loose the chains of injustice, set captives free, to raise relief for the poor, renewal, and protection. Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?  Isaiah 58:6-7

The Lord wants us to fast, deny ourselves and seek Him so He can do a mighty work in us and through us, for us and for others.

The devil doesn’t want you to fast and will try and make it difficult for you by distraction or otherwise. He knows that it wins battles against evil. Matthew 17:21 "But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." (In fact- the devil has taken this verse out of some Bible versions because he doesn’t want you fasting) Jesus was talking about a demon. Fasting is used as a weapon in a spiritual battle. Combined with prayer, it is one of the most powerful weapons a Christian has. It shows discipline to the Lord, and it shows Him you are serious about your prayer requests whether they be for others or yourself.

When fasting, you are not forcing God to do something, but resisting supernatural strongholds and power in your life. While you fast, you are to seek God’s face, especially during times of weakness when you want to partake in what the Lord has asked you to give up- usually meal times. Focus wholly on Him, desire God's will instead of yours. Make every act one of praise and worship toward Him. This brings you into a time of heightened spiritual devotion. This in turn strengthens your faith, and this is your shield against the enemy’s attacks. Your prayers can become powerful and effective when focusing on God.

In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus fasted 40 days and nights. During this time, it is recorded that the devil tempted Him 3 times. Luke 4:2 says He was tempted for 40 days. Each time Jesus responded with God’s Word. He was armed and prepared for the enemy with the Word of God, with the Truth.

Biblical fasting is always connected to prayer and communication with God. Just before Jesus was sent to the wilderness for 40 days, He had gotten baptized and was praying, then Heaven opened up and God said, “You are My beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.”

Praying, seeking God, reading His Word, and being humbled goes hand in hand when you fast. It is natural to want to seek Him more. You have more time to pray the more or longer you fast. You become aware that you need to turn to God and seek His face. There is nothing else to rely on for strength except Him. You become aware that He is your strength so you lean on Him more.

True spiritual fasting focuses on God. Zechariah 7:5 … for the past seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted? Your attitudes, actions, desires, motives and words need to be totally centered on God. He has to be your center of attention- all else is by the wayside. Nothing else should be important. The Holy Spirit will bring your sins to your attention so you can ask forgiveness and go on and continue with God.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Humble, pray, seek Him, confess, turn from wickedness… these are all contained in fasting. God said He will hear from heaven and forgive and heal. Through your fasting God can heal our land. Through your prayer and fasting, others are blessed.

There are many examples in the Bible of fasting and many different ways. No certain way is right or wrong. There is no certain length of time, or certain food or thing to abstain from. John Wesley fasted every Wednesday and Friday, requiring his clergy to do the same to keep their walk close to God. Apostle Paul made it a continuous part of his walk with God. Nobody’s method was right or wrong. Fasting is a condition of the heart, not the number of days. Some people are impressed by God to fast 40 days. Saul fasted 3 days while he was blind. Moses fasted 40 days, then another 40 days.

Some fast 1 meal a day, 2 meals a day, 1 week a month, 1 day a week, some are no food or water, some are no food but water, liquids only, or abstain from a certain thing or habit that God has impressed upon them to give up. The Holy Spirit tells you what He would like you to fast and when to stop. He will never ask you to fast longer than you can handle. God never intends to harm your body.    

The important thing is to remember why you are fasting. Your vow to God can lead to desired spiritual results as you seek His face. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:17-18