Prayer and Fasting #6–He Restores!

I believe there is a progression of actions God takes when His people turn their backs on Him:

1) He calls them back–through Prophets, the Word, Preachers, the Holy Spirit, etc.

2) If they refuse to listen, He removes His hand of blessing (which they may have previously enjoyed, but have not given Him credit or praise for.)

3) If they continue in rebellion, He sends them discipline (may be through economic turmoil, security threat, natural disaster, etc.

4) If they continue, He then sends His wrath (this is bad–major problems, overthrow, collapse…)

You can see this pattern throughout the Old Testament, in the New Testament book of Romans, the early chapters of Revelation, etc.

For Example…

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18-32)

The big question of the day is ‘Where is the United States on that continuum’?

 

That is IF you assume that there was a day when our country sought and acknowledged the blessings of God, and tried to fulfill His will in this earth, and IF you acknowledge that, as a country, this is no longer the case…where are we at in this progression?

I believe we are on #3 and rapidly heading toward #4.

The only reason we haven’t experienced economic collapse is that our FED and the Central Banks around the world are propping countries up–with smoke and mirrors–to keep the charade going. This is not sustainable, and at some point will implode.

Our morality is imploding around us, and we are no longer simply ‘allowing sin’ (as defined in the Scriptures), but are now CELEBRATING and APPLAUDING sin and are attacking anyone who calls it that (see v. 32 above).

Our political leaders seem to either lack courage, lack conviction, or lack wisdom–so that they refuse to do what is necessary to get us back on track. (It’s possible that they not only lack those things, but that they actually posses evil, greed, and avarice, so that they are purposely doing these things.)

Bottom Line: We’ve told God–as a nation–to leave us alone, we’ve shut Him out, and now we are in danger of experiencing His wrath.

So, what is the answer?

We’ve pointed to it all week: The Only Hope is in His People–the church–dedicating themselves anew, with new-found boldness, all-out worship, and life-changing passion–to know Him, serve Him, and make Him known.

That’s why Revival and Renewal are so crucial!

And they only come through prayer, humility, repentance and worship–See 2 Chronicles 7:14)

If that happens, then we may get our nation back on track, acknowledging Him and experiencing His blessing again.

Otherwise…Not good.

Even then, though–even if we do experience His wrath and punishment–His People are going to have to humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our own wicked ways. Then, perhaps, He will restore.

In the days of the Prophet Joel He said this:

 

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
    and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
    for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    declare a holy fast,
    call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
    consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
    gather the children,
    those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
    and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
    weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
    Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
    a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”

18 Then the Lord was jealous for his land
    and took pity on his people.

19 The Lord replied[a] to them:

“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
    enough to satisfy you fully;
never again will I make you
    an object of scorn to the nations…

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm[b]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

28 “And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.”  (Joel 2:12-28)

I hope and pray that God’s people and the Church will repent and turn to the Lord.

I hope and pray that the Lord will show His mercy.

I hope and pray that, no matter what happens we will serve Him, worship Him and point others to Him.

Let us pray for that.

 

Prayer and Fasting #5–Open the Door!

What is the point of times of Prayer and Fasting?

Why do we do it?

Is it because somebody tells us we should? Is it because we feel guilty and want our guilt removed? Is it because we realize we’ve gotten off track from God and want to get right again?

Yes–all of the above…and then some!

Ultimately, times of prayer and fasting should be because we want a renewed relationship with the Lord.

Many of us have realized that our country has gotten “off track”. What used to be a country that was at least ‘friendly’ to God and His Word has now become increasing antagonistic to it. What used to be a Church that lived for the Lord and His glory has increasingly a church that seeks above all, to fit in and be comfortable and, as a result, have compromised our standards and beliefs.

This week, we’ve also realized, as hard as it is to admit, that we–individually–have lost touch with the One we need. We’ve grown lukewarm in our faith, and have taken on a very tepid feel, so that there’s little contrast between us–as a child of God–and a person who has no faith whatsoever.

We have–as a nation, as a church, and as individuals–become far too comfortable just ‘going along’ in this world.

We think in America in 2015, we don’t need much. We’ve pretty much got it made. We’re pretty safe, pretty comfortable, pretty content.

God sees us differently, just like He recorded about the church in Laodicea.

 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning[e]of God’s new creation:

15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” (Revelation 3:14-19)

God said to that church–that comfortable, safe, content and lukewarm church–that they were about to be spit out! They thought of themselves as ‘rich’ and without needs. They didn’t realize that they were “miserable, poor, blind and naked”.

The way God viewed them and the way they viewed themselves were very different.

He advises to ‘buy gold from me–that has been purified by fire.”

I believe this is referring to trials, tribulation, and persecution…which the Lord allowed in order to ‘purify’ the Church again.

It is a sad fact: Many of us simply Will Not humble ourselves (see yesterday’s post) unless we face hardship, crisis, or trial.

The Church has historically done much better at ‘Being the Church’ when it is not in the ‘majority’ status. The Church has always been more committed and more pure when it faces opposition.

I believe that this is part of the reason the church in America has been weak over the last few decades–we took for granted our influential status on the country and its culture, and became too enamored with the things of this world. We lost touch with our purpose: To Glorify God. We turned it around and made ‘God’ be about ‘us’!

As a result, we stopped calling for Repentance, Obedience and full-on Worship. We stopped spreading the great news about Jesus and started emphasizing ‘fitting in’. We found ourselves going along with–albeit reluctantly–a culture that celebrated sin, and we started re-interpreting the Word of God to make it more ‘palatable’.

We started bowing down to the ‘gods’ of this age: Popularity, comfort, ease, religious pluralism, moral relativism…

And we grew lukewarm.

Well, today is a new day!

It is time to get white-hot again, on fire for Him–and that will only happen through Prayer and Fasting, Repentance and Obedience, Worship and Service to Him!

He does not want to punish us, but to restore us!

20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

22 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:20–22)

Are YOU listening?

Do YOU hear?

Will YOU “Open the door” and let Him come in again to restore your ‘spark’ of love, your commitment, and a white-hot vision for His Glory? Will you share it with others, no matter the ‘cost’? Will you live it out in love, service and devoted obedience, even in the face of persecution?

If you will, I believe He will come in and restore us.

Otherwise, we’re in serious trouble.

Prayer and Fasting #4–Friends with this World

What is your attitude toward our world, and specifically our culture?

Do you go along and let it influence and define you?

Most of us probably do–at least, to a large extent.

That’s a problem, though–because this world is not our home!

“Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” (1 Peter 2:11)

When we identify ourselves more with this world, with our culture–it’s values, it’s ‘morals’, it’s treasures–then we are defining ourselves differently than God does, and we are setting ourselves up to live in rebellion to Him.

“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.” (James 4:4-5)

James is pretty blunt! He calls us adulterers because our ‘partner’ has become this world, rather than the Spirit of God!

Unfortunately, some people in our churches don’t see it that way.

For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (Philippians 3:18-21)

Even within our churches there are people who live for the here-and-now. Their ‘god’ is their appetite (note: Not only about food). Their desires reign in their lives…and they continue to stand in opposition to God!

I believe that, increasingly in the coming days, the Church in America will be divided. There will be those who want ‘church’ to be a small part of their lives, but who mostly identify themselves with this world. There will be others who see themselves as citizens of heaven more than anything else, and who want to purify their hearts and love for Christ.

As James continues:

 “And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”[c]

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” (James 4:6-10)

I believe the Lord is looking for His children who will love Him, first and foremost…who will turn their backs on this world system and all that it means, and will submit themselves to Him, living for His glory. That means showing love and grace, but living by the Word of God as well…and not compromising!

Are you ready? These are serious times!

Pray! Repent of your worldliness! Ask the Lord to help you view yourselves as Christians first, everything else second. Ask for wisdom–as to how to be ‘involved’ in this world, but not to be ‘immersed‘ in this world.

Prayer and Fasting #3–Are You Thirsty?

Have you ever been really thirsty?

Maybe after a round of Basketball in the driveway, or after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day?

What do you do?

When I was a kid I’d play basketball almost all summer long at my friend Rob’s house. Afterward, we’d go in and have an ice-cold Mountain Dew–-AHHH, refreshment!

Something about a cold drink when you’ve been working and sweating…hits the spot.

Some of us are praying and fasting this week for ourselves, for our churches, and for our nation, but here’s the question: Are you Thirsty? Really Thirsty?

The Psalmist wrote: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and meet with Him?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

He knew the ‘Thirst’ I’m referring to.

It’s much deeper than physical thirst. Spiritual thirst leaves us aching for God.

Spiritual thirst is a thirst for love, intimacy and connection with God. It drives us to our knees. It cannot me satiated with simply a ‘sip’–like a worship song on the radio or quick prayer before bed. This kind of thirst goes down to our core!

So let me ask you again: Are you Thirsty? Really Thirsty?

I contend that most of us–if we’re being honest–are not!

We don’t sense our thirst because we’re distracted by other things. We are distracted by the ‘stuff’ of this life–entertainment, material goods, food, money, friendships, sex, work goals.

Within reason, all of these things are good, and can be blessings from God. But they are never to be a substitute for God! These blessings come from His hand–they don’t replace Him!

Others are distracted by temptations…things that entice us to compromise and sin. We think they will satisfy, but they don’t. All they do is leave us more ashamed and defeated…and we are still thirsty. Yet now, because of sin and the enemy’s accusations, we don’t think we can go to the ‘Living Water’ for refreshment.

Jesus said “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)” (John 7:37-39)

Again, the question we need to answer is, Are YOU THIRSTY?

I’m not only talking about those who need to come to Jesus in faith as Savior and Lord for the first time–although they are welcome and to be celebrated.

I am talking to those who have already received Jesus, by faith, and have New Life within (2 Corinthians 5:17), but have grown tired, apathetic and comfortable.

So let me ask you…and be honest…

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness–not so much ‘in society’ as in your own heart?

Do you long for a deeper, closer relationship with Him?

Do you ache to rid yourselves of the temptations and distractions, so that you can know Him more?

Are you (as we say @ KCC) “Passionately pursuing an ever-deeper relationship with God”…or are you ok where you’re at?

I long for our church to be ‘on fire’ for Him–to be so Thirsty for Him that we break every chain that holds us back and we turn our back on our apathy and compromise and we seek Him above all things.

I’m sure that He longs for ALL Churches to be that way!

Today, in prayer, pray about this. Be honest with Him.

If you’ve been too full–of yourself, of this world, or of temptations–to really sense the ‘thirst in your soul’, then repent! Ask His forgiveness and lay aside every single thing that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind which has held you back.

It’s time to become ‘Thirsty’ again…and let the Living Water fill you!

Prayer and Fasting #1–Key Questions

Many of you have heard of “Prayer and Fasting”; some of you have done it. Others wonder what it’s all about.

Let me answer a few questions about it:

 

1) WHAT is ‘prayer and fasting’?

To Pray is to communicate with God about something specific. To Fast is to limit yourself voluntarily so that you may dedicate yourself more fully to pursuing God. Often, it involves withholding food–or a specific kind of food–for a specific amount of time, in order that, during that time, you might turn your attention to God. Some ‘fasts’ involve all food (ie; Luke 4:1-2; Daniel 10). Some might involve TOTALLY fasting from food, while others involve fasting from some foods. (Some might fast from dessert, some might fast from everything except fruits and vegetables, etc.)

Some people choose to prayerfully consider what to ‘fast’ from. In today’s culture, it might be TV, Social Media, Dessert, alcohol, etc. The point is that…IF it going to have any impact, it should be something that currently brings you pleasure and/or distraction, but something that may be inhibiting some element of spiritual growth.

2) WHY do we ‘Pray and Fast’?

Prayer and fasting almost always go together, and they function as ways of opening up to, and seeking a closer communication with, God. Oftentimes in the Scriptures, the people were called by their leaders to a time of community-wide Prayer and Fasting. In those cases, they may have been seeking the forgiveness of the Lord, seeking a move of God on their behalf, or seeking a time of closeness to God.

One example of this is found in Joel, Ch. 2. The people of Israel were facing an attack so strong that their very existence was in danger.

In this instance, God moves Joel  to call a national time of prayer and fasting, seeking God’s forgiveness and protection. Forgiveness for their sins, and protection from their enemies.

(Joel, 2: 15-17)”Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem!
    Announce a time of fasting;
call the people together
    for a solemn meeting.
16 Gather all the people—
    the elders, the children, and even the babies.
Call the bridegroom from his quarters
    and the bride from her private room.
17 Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence,
    stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar.
Let them pray, “Spare your people, Lord!
    Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery.
Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say,
    ‘Has the God of Israel left them?’”

The reason I am calling for a time of Prayer and Fasting today, and inviting you to join, is that our nation is in peril. Because of our sins–which are many–we have turned our back on God and ‘assumed’ His blessing rather than ‘seeking’ His blessing in relationship with Him. We have become arrogant. We have become greedy. We have become lazy and have not allowed him to work in our hearts and lives. We have increasingly turned away from the teachings of His Word, and have  rebelled against His standards.

Increasingly, our country is denying His very existence, and therefore is figuring out their own ‘standards’ of morality. This is a situation very much like existed in the Old Testament book of Judges, in which “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). When that happens, all standards of morality become subjective, and a ‘downward spiral’ begins.

I believe this has been the case in our culture for about the last 50 years, and it seems to be increasing in speed and effect.

Therefore, we need to turn back to God! We need to seek His forgiveness and ask Him to put us back on the right track. We need to admit our sin, repent, and commit ourselves to doing what He says (in His Word) is right. HE is God, We are NOT!

 

3) HOW should we ‘Pray and Fast’?

We need to Make time in our schedules to Pray–not a quick prayer on your way to something, but dedicated, specific time of Prayer–communion and communication with God–to talk to Him about the things that concern Him–things in your life, things in your family, things in your church, things in our country.

We need to find some way that works for us–individually–to put the ‘desires of the flesh’ aside in order to focus this much more. For many of us, it’s food. For some, it’s Facebook. The point is that you do it, and that you substitute seeking the Lord more for that time that you would have been involved in those things. It may work to dedicate the morning or evening time you had been using Social Media to time in Prayer and the Word instead. If you choose to fast from food, use every craving and reminder of that food as an opportunity to rededicate yourself to the Lord and to seek to hear Him more clearly.

 

4) The PERSONAL Application:  So…Why are YOU Praying and Fasting? What is God moving YOU to change in pursuit of Him? Is there anything specific He wants you to repent of? Are there specific issues that you are burdened about in your life, your family, your church or your country? Write them down! Journal about what God is showing you! Ask Him to take you deeper in prayer and communion with Himself.

 

5) The RESULT of prayer and fasting:

For many, these times can be very revealing–about how much we want God ‘on our terms’, and how we want the blessing of God, but refuse to forego any comfort or make any real change when He moves us to. We may find that He puts His finger on something specific, and IF we repent, turn to Him, and let Him lead us, we may find increasing intimacy with Him, increasing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, increased appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace of God.

In Joel’s day, here’s what God promised if the people did this:

“That is why the Lord says,
    “Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
    Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
    but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
    He is eager to relent and not punish.
14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
    sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
    to the Lord your God as before.” (Joel 2:12-14)