Pastor Rick Bell, who has visited and spoke at Faith Church before, has a tremendous article about how we have it backwards when we say that God is using something to tempt us or to make us stronger when in fact, if we listen to the bible, God is delivering us from these temptations that are inherent to our fallen world.
This excerpt says it all.
“It’s often been taught that God brings His people into trying situations in order to produce something good. But if this is true, why would Jesus teach us to pray, “lead us not into temptation”?
Temptation is present everywhere. It’s present with you the minute you wake up in the morning! You might be tempted to sleep in, or tempted to dread the coming day. Temptation is broadcast into our homes through the TV and internet. It’s present through friends who want to do the wrong things. Everywhere you go there are noises and sights that tempt you away from being focused on God.
Temptations often come in the form of attempts to get you to sin. But perhaps they come more abundantly to get you to question God or to weaken faith. Whichever way it goes, temptation is the devil’s business, and he doesn’t let up. It all started in the garden with the forbidden fruit, and he’s offered forbidden fruit ever since.
Thus the Lord taught us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13). Notice that He didn’t teach, “Help us to overcome temptation.” Temptation seems powerful, but it’s really not, because Jesus has overcome the world. You have the greater One living on the inside of you, the One who is a proven deliverer from evil.”
Click here to read the full version:
Like many churches this time of year, we as a church, are fasting. As we begin 2014, for the first 21 days we are choosing to put God before our bodies and/or our habits. We are not doing this from a religious standpoint but with a desire to refocus in our relationship with God we have through Christ.
The beginning of the year always seems to present itself with an imaginary reset button. Jan 1 is just a day like any other but it gives us a chance to look at the previous year and with vision and imagination look forward to the New Year. When we fast and pray putting God first, it allows us to hear better what his plans are for our lives, because we are tuning out and putting down what is most common to us. This is much like when you are talking to someone while they are watching TV. Or texting, it’s like saying to God, “you have my undivided attention”.
Prayer and fasting moves God, but not in the sense of causing God to move currently from a position of heaven on our behalf. God has already moved in the mightiest of ways on our behalf 2000 years ago when he gave of himself, Jesus.
Sometimes we have a particular need or perhaps go to God seeking an answer or direction. Prayer and Fasting moves God because with our renewed focus, God is no longer this unapproachable being in the sky but instead as Jesus said, I am in you. Our relationship with God is not one of proximity; it’s a relationship of surrendering.
Seeking God through prayer and fasting helps us to see Him for who He truly is, the living, the now and current God, our Abba father. It’s about a physical submission to a spiritual goal of allowing God’s will with our lives, working His power.
Phil 2:13 says that, it is God that works in us both to will and His good pleasure in us. But we are not zombies. We have a say in our lives through our will. It is the same will in which we choose Christ. God has placed the Holy Spirit in us but we must submit to the Spirit. If we don’t, God won’t move and his good, acceptable and perfect will, cannot be proved out in our lives (Romans 12:2).
When we renew, refocus and put God first as we fast and pray we are putting aside our will and saying yes to His, effectively moving God from the inside, where he dwells in our spirit to the outside where we need him in our soul and flesh, the place we struggle and where we are used in his kingdom.
Generally fasting is of some level of food as this is common to us all but in today’s electronic age, Facebook, the internet and T.V. and video games are just as common and sadly with some, more desired than food.
We all like food, want it and need it. Assuming you choose to fast food and by that I don’t mean the McDonald’s diet. However, there are various ways you can fast. You could fast certain types of foods like sugar, soft-drinks or chocolate. Yes I said chocolate. You could fast a particular meal each day or do what is called a “Daniel’s fast” (look it up) as he did for 21 days and received an answer from the Lord.
Fasting is not just about the first of the year, you can fast at any time and I am an advocate for living the fasted lifestyle. Since it is about a laying down with a refocus toward God and not about a religious act of punishment or penance, take those times normally spent doing these things and replace them with spending time with the Lord, reading your bible, praying about this year, your church or whatever it is you are seeking personally. It is between you and God what you might fast as it is an action of the heart.
The focus is not on the menu of what is allowed or not but on connecting better with God. Be realistic not legalistic or else you miss out on the many benefits and enjoyment of fasting.
One such benefit is helping us with temptations as we surrender those things to Jesus that we had little success in trying to quit or deal with on our own.
Jesus was tempted more than any man and it was during His 40 day fast where he was tempted the most. Fasting not only helped him overcome the temptations, but Luke 4 says that afterwards he returned to Galilee strong in the power of the Spirit.
Prayer and fasting produces spiritual strength allowing the power of God through the Spirit to move and make us strong in our soul and flesh. The bible says that some things can only be overcome by prayer and fasting. That means you will never have the strength on your own to face some of the spiritual battles and struggles the adversary may bring. So fasting becomes a spiritual weapon to us.
Fasting increases spiritual sensitivity. Fasting brings revelation of things not known in the natural. In Daniel chapter 9 mysteries were revealed. Fasting brings favor. Daniel and his boys skipped the king’s delicacies and instead of being punished were shown great favor. Fasting gets prayers answered. Nehemiah prayed and fasted for 4 months and his desires and requests of God were more than met.
Fasting is generally more than a day if you really want to see some results. In Isaiah chapter 58 the people were complaining that their fasting was going unnoticed. They were taking a day to fast but were not changing anything else in their lives. They were still treating people badly, exploiting their workers and just doing as they pleased.
Mathew Chapter 6 says to not walk around with look on your face that lets everyone know you are missing out on what they are enjoying. Verse 18 says that Fasting should be…..
Matthew 6:18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Jesus prayed and fasted often.
Fasting is about humility before God seeking his greater will than ours. It’s very difficult to be full of pride when you are fasting. Fasting gets our minds back to the reality that we are not self- sustaining, we do not produce within ourselves all we need. We are fragile as individuals and depend on God and others.
The goal is to experience a real hunger for spending time with God, causing a spiritual awakening in our lives.
Let that craving for the common habit or a chocolate bar to become a constant reminder to seek the will of God and what you are praying for in your life.
Stir the Holy Spirit within you by prayer and fasting. Let it have an effect on your soul, strengthen your faith and see God purpose revealed that will change your life forever. Join those that have and seen the results it produces.
We know Jesus fasted and as mentioned Daniel but did you know that Paul the apostle, David the king, and Elijah the prophet fasted? How about you?
With the Holiday coming up we all have a sense to start looking to what we can be thankful for. Keep in mind Thanksgiving is an American holiday and God is not an American. There are 364 other days in which we should be living and walking in thanks.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
This was written by Paul while in prison.
Living in peace and thanks allowed Paul to have an attitude of thanks-living. The circumstances were not the source of Paul’s happiness, therefore when bad, they could not rob his joy either.
Paul was thankful for the love of Christ in his life always. It allowed him to change his perspective.
Happiness has more to do with perspective than circumstances. It’s hard to complain about your struggles when your are thankful for what Christ has done.
The thanks-living lifestyle will greatly improve all areas of your life. You may not realize the work being done in your life by sowing those seeds of gratitude, but it will produce a harvest full of life to be enjoyed every day in which the circumstances of life can’t devour.
Guest Post by Dr. Michael Brothers
As Paul most interestingly puts “We are the Body of Christ”. The question is just like in any biological system, does this actually make sense? Do we observe in our own biological systems anything that resembles this?
Yes we do and we have to look no further than in the mirror. For a healthy individual, it is amazing to observe the similarities between ourselves and the body of Christ.
Let’s focus on the fundamental building block of life, the cell. In the body of Christ, that same building block is a person. The origin of cells is the stem cell, that based off of location, hormones, and the environment matures into a differentiated cell that can perform a singular purpose. That stem cell can become a neuron, directing the activities of others; it can become a muscular cell doing much of the work; it can become a neutrophil and thus act as enforcement agencies to detain and destroy any deviant cells (police) or can clean up the aftermath (custodial staff); it can become part of the dermis and thus protect the Body of Christ from invaders and attackers (military) or can supply nutrients or other essential minerals (cardiovascular or epithelial tissue, gastrointestinal tract, etc.) just like farmers and manufacturers produce our sustenance, while others simply provide the supports and structures that we need to exist as a society (construction). Within these cells exist a variety of organelles that allow the cell to function. Just like in each one of us, we are given kidneys, lungs, etc. to allow our own physiological function.
But we are all given gifts in the beginning of life are we not? Yes! And stem cells in a mature organism are pluripotent, not omnipotent, meaning that certain cells can only evolve to be a selected few number of specialized cells…some cells are destined to become bone, others skin, and yet others cardiac tissue. Not every cell is destined to become a neuron, but a sub-set are, just as not every person is called to the ministry or has the requisite skills, but we are given skills that allow us to perform our duty within the body of Christ. Some are meant to go to the central nervous system and are meant to control the overall function but have no direct contact with the people (i.e. the cells they act upon) while others are receiving orders from above, but are directly influencing the cells that they control (motor neurons, the local priest). The overall consciousness that arises belongs to God, which voluntarily controls the firing of specific sequences to do work. Thus neurons, or church leaders, are but conduit passing along and translating God’s word to the masses of cells that will be performing many of the deeds and using their specialized talents. These must work in harmony…a neuron that is not attached directly to a muscle cannot stimulate contraction just like the world’s best preacher is lost without a congregation to preach to and motivate by preaching the word of God sent from the neural center. The larger the muscle it connects to, the more force it can exert and the more work it can do.
What controls us as our own little cells, as individual blocks in body of Christ? We cannot comprehend the vastness of Christ nor fully comprehend the exact purpose or the exact plan. We just know the information that is encoded within ourselves and the bible (or in a cell’s case the DNA). While the cell itself has a certain degree of consciousness, it can only understand what is going on right around it without being cognizant of the larger picture and react to the stimuli provided by the environment, which it relies upon for survival. Sometimes these stimuli cause patterns of reaction that are not ideal in the grander scheme because of learned behaviors that might have lent themselves to survival previously, but under the wrong circumstance can harm the host, and thus these behaviors must be unlearned to fully function within the Body of Christ. Even those chosen to be neurons in the brain of Christ but form critical synapses, and only the Body of Christ has a true consciousness, just as even as we lose brain cells and remove connections, we do not lose track of who we are or where we have come from…our consciousness is a summation of our body, just as the body of Christ functions as an entity of higher consciousness when we work together. In that way, how Christ can be omnipotent and the knowledge can be much more readily translated. We are but seeing the microscopic details as opposed to the larger picture.
Just as the human body has symbiotic relationships with lesser creatures (bacteria), we have symbiotic relationships and are supported by our pets and livestock, which provide sustenance and nutrients that we could otherwise not obtain. Just like we cannot continue to take antibiotics and destroy our microbial environment and expect to be healthy as we will suffer without the nutrients that they provide, we must shepherd and take care of the animals that have been entrusted to us to help provide us the essential amino acids, soluble iron, and nutrition that our bodies require to function optimally so we can continue to work at our highest level.
Just like the body can occasionally be invaded by viruses or bacteria, the Body of Christ must continue to fend off and ward off attacks from the brokenness that defines our existence on this plane. Areas where disease often times leads to destruction of the neurons and separation from God. When cells are isolated from God, they become dysfunctional, weak, and potentially necrotic as they dye. Cell signaling mechanisms usually cause an entire group of cells to die through an apoptotic cascade when one cell dies; one person deciding to leave the church often cascades and affects all those in the surrounding region. A vibrant cell that survives but is surrounded by death becomes deprived of the sustenance provided from the Body of Christ, causing the cell to reach final equilibrium as it lacks the nutrition to continue to function and produce the necessary fruits. By definition a cell at equilibrium is dead, just as we are when we are choked from the sustenance that is God. Just as cells rely on a continual influx of nutrients, the Body of Christ requires the constant presence of God to continue to function properly and to receive the proper messages and to truly be alive.
What happens though in the case where the cell goes rogue, whether its because it is receiving the wrong signals from the environment (think our brokenness), the environment has irreparably damaged the DNA that encodes us just as ultra-violet rays (the seven deadly sins), or the cell begins to act on its own, growing and dividing on its own time table and no longer taking commands with consideration for others (selfishness)…Cells are constantly bombarded with mutagens that would easily cause deviance from their instructed code without a multitude of repair mechanisms in place, which we can think of as a church community, family, societal norms, and a strong connection with God. When these mechanisms are overwhelmed and fail to counter the mutation of our core being, by definition the cell has mutated from a normal healthy cell into a cancerous cell. Some cancers divide a few times before becoming senescent while others threaten to take over the entire body and must be excised. In a similar fashion, the Body of Christ must be ever watchful to ensure that these cancerous growths are controlled and maintained before they ruin the beauty that is the church.
It is in this way that the Body of Christ goes beyond just a simple name and can be expressed as a beautiful metaphor that gives clues as to how science and church can be integrated in order to highlight the beauty of both, as it can be argued that science is simply looking into the beautiful patterns that God has put on this earth.