Monday, November 21, 2016


GIVE THANKS

Oh give thanks unto the Lord; 
For He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 136:1 NKJV)

We live in a world of unrest, uncertainty, and unpredictability, yet God's Word encourages us not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Thursday we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Traditionally, it is a time when we gather with family and friends to enjoy a bountiful feast of our favorite holiday foods. This American custom commemorates the 101 Christian men, women, and children who made the perilous 66-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean, seeking religious freedom in the New World. Only fifty-one survived that harsh first year. Despite their losses, they expressed their gratitude for God's provision as they shared their harvest table with the Indians who had taught them to fish and grow corn. 

Interestingly, it was President Abraham Lincoln who, during the Civil War of 1863, wrote a proclamation establishing a special day for all people to give thanks to the Lord in perpetuity:

     The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come; others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart, which is habitually insensitive to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
     No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
     I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens. In testimony, whereof, I have hereunto, set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Lincoln understood the importance of I Thessalonians 5:18, which says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Giving thanks acknowledges our trust and faith in our Creator. In other words, we say, "Lord, I may not understand, but I praise You in the midst of these circumstances, and I choose to trust and give thanks to You. For You are a good God."

In 1973, the country was going through a rapid and alarming downturn in the economy. I was a divorced, single mother of a two-year-old son. Multiple companies were firing huge numbers of employees. Rumors swirled that our company planned to fire several hundred people; however, God's peace was with me as I continued to trust and praise Him.

The day before Thanksgiving, my boss called me into his office to inform me that the company had determined my job was nonessential; therefore, I was being terminated. I assured him that God had a plan for my life and that everything would be fine. Of course I had no clue what that plan was, but I was confidant that God would make it known to me.

God often uses people to reveal His plans. A very good friend urged me to return to college and finish my degree. My confidence level was at an all time low after having been in an abusive marriage. Yet I knew that with God, anything is possible. So, I pursued the possibility of taking classes, and within a very short period of time, God made a way. My tuition and books were paid through a scholarship fund, and I obtained employment through the campus work-study program, which allowed me to work around my classes. The Lord took care of every detail including daycare.

Psalm 37:25 says, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." My son and I always had food to eat, and I was able to pay the bills.

God's provisions are limitless; He owns all the silver and the gold (Haggai 2:8). Therefore, His storehouse never runs out to those who have surrendered their life to Him.

The Puritans had lost half of their community, yet they gave thanks to Almighty God for what they did have. President Lincoln, in the middle of a Civil War, called a nation to give thanks for God's blessings. There were many who viewed my firing as a disaster, but it was one of the greatest blessings in my life. It enabled me to complete my degree with honors and eventually teach college.

God wants to do great and marvelous things in our lives. All we have to do is trust, believe, give thanks, and receive. Proverbs 3:5 urges us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding. For the Lord says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God looks for those who will trust Him.

Every day is an opportunity to give thanks to God. So, when we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, let us voice our gratitude for what the Lord has already done for us, knowing that He is our provider and protector who keeps us from all harm and watches over our coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:7-8).

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
(Psalm 107:8)

Monday, November 7, 2016

WHY FAST?

"Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.
(Joel 2:12)

I have shared with you that delays are gifts; God always has a reason for His delays. But there are also times when a delay is not  orchestrated by God. Some delays are initiated by Satan and his demonic realm to interfere with God's plans, confuse us, unsettle our faith, and divert us from God's best. Fasting and persistent prayer will uncover the source of the delay, so that we know how to pray more effectively and powerfully.

WHAT IS A FAST?
The dictionary defines "fast" as abstaining from all or some types of food or drink, especially as a religious observance. Scripture tells us that fasting is a form of discipline and self-control that allows us to focus on God and not ourselves. It is a time for praying and seeking God's guidance, wisdom, help, and answers.

Fasting is something that a person, community, or a nation will do to acknowledge failure before God as they seek His mercy. Over recent years, we have seen this nation and our government turn further away from God. But His Word tells us, "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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Fasting is preparation to receive from God. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24 NIV). Because the hypocrites would fast for show, Jesus said, "when you fast," don't tell others that you are fasting. Anoint your head with oil and wash your face, and God will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus did not demand that we fast, because in His statement, "when you fast," implies that fasting should be a normal activity like prayer. Fasting denies the flesh so that we become more God-focused, thereby, enabling us to hear and receive from Him.

EXAMPLES OF FASTING AND THEIR RESULTS:
— Moses, who was the precursor of Christ and intercessor for Israel, was born approximately 1,400 years before Christ. He ascended Mt. Sinai, where he fasted bread and water for forty days and forty nights in preparation to receive the Ten Commandments and the instructions for the tabernacle of God. (Exodus 34:28).

Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert to prepare for the ministry that God had intrusted to Him. In the Bible, the number 40 is associated with the testing of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. Jesus' fast was redeeming God's other "son," Israel, by linking the Lord's travel in the desert with the exodus of the Jewish people who wandered in the desert for 40 years.

— Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, received word that his land was being invaded. Alarmed, he resolved to inquire of the Lord and proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, who said: "This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's.' Jehoshaphat then appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise God as they went out ahead of the army. As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies and defeated their invaders" (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).

Why did Jehoshaphat appoint men to sing and praise God? Worshipping the Lord with singing and praising tears down strongholds and makes a way for angelic forces to come to our aide. For our fight is not with men but with spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). It is through worship, prayer, and fasting that the enemy is vanquished.

— The Jews were under threat of annihilation by evil Haman, who served under King Ahasuerus. Esther, queen to the Persian king, hid the fact that she was Jewish. Subjects, including the queen, were not allowed to approach the king unless summoned. To enter his presence without invitation meant certain death. Therefore, Queen Esther requested that all the Jews living in Susa, fast night and day for three days, in preparation for her meeting with the king. After the three days of fasting, she presented herself before Ahasuerus, who graciously received her and heard her plea for the Jewish people. Haman was summarily executed and the Jewish nation was spared (Esther 4:15-17; 5, 6, 7).

— Daniel received a message in a vision concerning a great war. For three weeks he mourned, prayed, and fasted choice food, meat, and wine. A messenger of the LORD came and said, “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom (a demonic realm) resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael (the Archangel), one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia (Satan who controls the demons). Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come" (Daniel 10:1-14). Daniel's persistence in prayer and fasting brought forth his answer.

— Seven years ago, my husband, who was diagnosed with aggressive Stage 4 tyroid cancer, was in surgery for 14 hours. During that time, my prayer partners and I fasted and prayed for my husband, his team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and everyone involved in his surgery and care. We learned later that his surgeons never expected him to live through the operation. In fact, after he made it through the surgery, they didn't expect him to live more than a few months. They have since called him a miracle.

There are times, when more than prayer is required. Satan would have us believe that he is a fantacy, but God's Word tells us that our fight is not with people made of flesh and blood. Our fight is with persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those satanic beings and evil princes of darkness who rule this world along with wicked spirits (Ephesians 6:12). Clearly, Jesus not only warned us about the unseen world, but He dealt with Satan and his demonic forces throughout His ministry.

WHY FAST?
Fasting is a form of worship as we focus on God. We enter His presence with humility and gratitude while denying the flesh, so that His power may increase in us. Fasting allows the Holy Spirit to reveal our true spiritual condition so that we can grow in faith, receive answers, guidance, healing, and serve Him more effectively.

Isaiah 58:6-9 answers that question as to why we fast:
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I Am."

HOW TO FAST:
1. Determine the duration and what you will fast.
2. Humble yourself before God in prayer. (For those who enjoy a morning walk, bike ride, or working out, use that time to talk with God).
3. Ask God for forgiveness; forgive others; forgive yourself (if applicable)
4. Thank and praise God for your blessings, regardless of the circumstances.
5. Read, meditate, and ask for understanding of His Word.
6. If possible, limit outside distractions during the fast.
7. Listen for God to speak to your spirit.

WHEN TO FAST:
A person fasts when God leads them to fast and when there is a call to fast for this nation, the world, or a major event. The key is to be led by the Holy Spirit, because the flesh has no power to overcome the enemy of our soul. Only in denying the flesh and focusing on God can the spirit of God direct us to victory, freedom, healing, guidance, and clarity of mind, body, spirit, and soul.

WHAT TO FAST:
Some people have health issues, which makes fasting food a problem. However, fasting is not limited to food. Once you decide the time frame, whether it is a day or more, you then decide what you will fast. It can be a beverage, food, dessert, a daily treat, an iPad, Facebook, computer, T.V., sport, or whatever you consider a sacrifice to give up during that time. Some choose to fast breakfast and lunch and eat only dinner. God knows our needs and our capabilities. He will honor our efforts, because He looks at our heart, our intentions, and our motives.

God's Word admonishes us to seek the LORD, His strength, and to seek His face continually (I Chronicles 16:11). Fasting is often necessary in seeking God and His will so that our prayers can be answered. Remember Daniel? Demonic forces were preventing the answer from reaching Daniel, until he fasted. God wants our prayers answered, but we must be participants in the process.

Tomorrow is Election Day. It is my prayer that many, if not all who read this, will fast, pray, and vote, so that God's choice will be elected President as well as those whom He wants in government positions.

America has reached a dangerous crossroads. This is the most important election in the history of our nation. Our vote is our voice, which is a privilege denied to many around the world. As registered voters and Christians, it is our moral responsibility to vote. Shockingly, Twenty-five million Christians did not vote in the last election!  America's destiny rests in the hands of the voters. We won't get another chance, if we get this wrong.

PRAYER:
Lord, I come before you with a heavy heart for this nation. We need our land healed. I ask that You would speak to the hearts and minds of those who have made the choice not to vote, because no vote is a vote. Lead and guide each voter to vote for that person who will uphold the Constitution, protect life, and protect the biblical tenets set by God's Word. You have given us the freedom to choose. Help us to choose wisely. I pray Your will be done, in Jesus name. Amen.