Welcome to this year’s 21 Day Fast. It is exciting this time of year to hear of so many others in the Body of Christ coming together and fasting as well. As the old saying goes, “Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power. No prayer, no power.” I know that we have not all met together to talk much about this year’s fast, but Pastor Martha and I feel that most all of you know deal pretty well by now since this is not our first time by any means. The main point I want to emphasize this year is not to set a new record in terms of how many days on the full fast, but let’s concentrate on 100% participation. Please don’t say to yourself this year, “I can fast this year because …” Go ahead and find a way to get on board. The best advise I could give you is to start by giving up something small and then increase it every week.
The point is to get on board and not be left behind. As we do so, I heard a word from Bishop Hillard for 2017 that applies, “wonder-working-worship.” But in order to get the wonder-working power working, you got to get into his presence by real worship. The same is true with the fast, it won’t do you any good if you don’t join on at some level. I was encourage by one of our young ones that in years gone by sacrificed bacon, but this year I heard them say they were contemplating challenging themselves a little more. As I was channel flipping last night, there was a local preacher preaching on fasting. He made it sound so intense. He frowned on the 6 to 6 fast. He even frowned on having chewing gum. According to him the saints of old only had water. I think chewing gum or having a breath mint is just plain wise if you know what I mean. Even though at times God will call you to up the ante, there are a number of different types of fasts. This time around, my desire is for us all to participate and avail ourselves to the corporate prayer times. More on that later.
Day One – God’s Path
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Heb. 12:1-2
Most interpret the “cloud of witnesses,” as the KJV puts it, as those gone on to heaven before us. Some even go so far as putting people looking over the balcony of heaven at us, cheering us on. That all sounds good, but my only problem with that is that there is no more crying in heaven. Sad to say, that if the onlookers were allowed to see too much, there would be some crying going on up in heaven. The point is that many have gone on before us. For example, Min. Angelique is there. Apostle Ron is there. Another faithful warrior just went this past Friday, Uncle Buddy. I am quite sure they have more to do than to watch us all the time, but I do ask Jesus often to tell Min. Angelique hello for me. After all, we do have an open line to heaven. We just have to use it! We are encouraged by the faith of those who have gone before us to run this race and not quit!
Secondly, we are admonished to run the race with endurance that “God has set before us.” With the faith and steadfastness of all those who have gone before us in mind, we should stop making excuses and remove the obstacles out of our lives and strip off the things that slow us down! I often encourage others at the homegoing of a dear saint, that we should live more intensely for Jesus because of the life that person lived before us. We should take all they have poured into our lives, take out all the stops, and forge ahead with full blast! We also have to make sure that we are running on the path that God has set before us an not one that we have fabricated ourselves. Fast-forwarding to end a bit, we have to make sure it is a holy path and not one that makes provision for the flesh! In choosing a path, one must always step back and ask the question where will that path take me? I the context of this passage, how did things turn out for the saints that have gone before us? What paths did they choose? What sacrifices did they make? If I want to make an impact in this life, if I want to end up in the same place as they did, I had better stay the course. I had better remove the obstacles out of my life that are holding me back and keep me from serving God the way that I know that I should, and they way that I know those who have gone before me would admonish me to if they were here.
Day Two – The Proper Focus
The proper focus or perspective is always important but it is extremely important when going through trials. Think about when Peter briefly walked on water. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus and walked toward him, he stayed afloat. As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus and fixed his gaze on his feet -that naturally weren’t supposed to be held up by water- he began to sink.
Yesterday we learned that God has given us a race to run or in words, a path. How do we run the race with endurance that God has set before us this year? Verse 2 says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.” If you think about it, this fixing our gaze on Jesus goes hand in hand with the instruction on how not to get tripped. Remember verse one says, “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” So putting them together, keeping our eyes on Jesus this year will give us the proper perspective and steer us away from sins and weights that slow us down and trips us up! Another reason why looking to Jesus is a must is because he “initiates and perfects our faith.” Our faith originates in him and is finished or perfected in him. There is no way to have strong healthy faith apart from him. We could also add here staying in the Word and Bible study.
Yesterday, we drew strength from those who had gone before us in the faith, but today, we are to look at Jesus who enured the path that God had for him, the cross, because of one key essential heavenly ingredient we are told. We could say it this way, He endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him. Another key to getting to the other side of what ever stands in our way today, is that he “disregarded its shame.” No matter what trial we may be facing today, it in no way tops what Jesus endured. This verse tells us that no matter how shameful, awful, and agonizing the cross was, Jesus looked past it! What was he looking at? He had is eyes fixed on the joy that was set before him.
Within this verse we can also unwrap the key to the highest promotion. Because Jesus was able to look past the horrible cross and see God’s path or God’s purpose in all this, our verse concludes that “now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” As M. C. Hammer says, “You can’t touch this.” As Yolanda Adams says, “Mountain high, valley low.” As Bishop Jakes says, “You gotta have a cross before a crown.” You get the message. You don’t get promoted without going through something. And today we learned that the way you successfully go through something is by fixing our gaze on Jesus and keeping the joy ever before us.
Day Three and Four – Don’t Get Weary
Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Heb. 12:3-4
Our verse for today tells us to think of all the hostility that Jesus endured, and “then you won’t become weary and give up.” The KJV says it this way, “lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” This exposes where the devil has to break into if he is going to be able to cause us to get weary and quit; it always starts in your mind!
Recall from yesterday that all important heavenly ingredient that enables you to go through victoriously, joy. Nehemiah tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Well then how does the devil steal your joy? We know he has to get us to take the bait in our thought life, but what kind of bait does he use? Remember how Jesus endured the cross? He kept his eyes on the “joy that was set before him.” I’d like to recall one of Jeremiah’s most popular verses 29:11. We are told there that God’s thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace and not evil. We are also told that God’s thought or plan is “to give you an expected end.” The bait that Satan gets us with is to see the wrong ending! In other words, we have to keep God’s ending always before us while going through the trial just like Jesus did.
There is another major lesson we must glean if we are going to stay the course that God has for us and not quit. We have to compare our trails to Jesus’ and not your next door neighbor’s. If you think you are having a tough time, just consider what he went through. No matter how difficult it may seem right now, “you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” Often times I have heard Jesus’ temptation in the garden called to mind when explaining this verse. I was question when I said, “You have not resisted to the point where you had sweat drops of blood as Jesus did.” This verse doesn’t not say all that. The KJV does say however, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Most of the modern translations, as ours does, say something to the effect that you have not laid down your life in your struggle against sin. I do want to be careful not to read too much into the verse, but I too can’t help recalling Luke’s account of the night before he was crucified: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). When you keep in mind all that he went through, I think you would have to agree that our afflictions are only “light” and momentary (2 Cor. 4:17).
Day 6-7 – Divine Discipline
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? Heb. 12:5-7
I know that this is not a very appealing title, but disciple is something we’d better not avoid. I have heard people say concerning discipline, “God will take you to the spiritual wood shed.” The passage does say that God “disciplines those he loves, and he punished each one he accepts as his child,” but it does however begin with the question, “Have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?” If you are one who has undergone God’s discipline, then you should feel very special! I mean, thinking of the alternative is frightening in and of itself. I can recall times that I was so glad that Father God was getting on my case. At least, I knew he was still talking to me and that he did it because he loved me.
With the thought of discipline, the next thought is what did they do? When one kid gets a spanking, a holy hush falls on the house. Instantly, the crime and the sentence is household knowledge. I have read the Book of Hebrews numerous times and have made many have notes all throughout the book, but I still can’t tell you what the recipients of this great letter did wrong, or even if they did something wrong. I do know that the letter is designed to assure them that their faith in Jesus Christ was legitimate and strongly urges them not to revert back to Judaism. Many believe the book was written just before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., and it was preparing these Jewish believers for what was about to occur. It is clear that the writer of the book thought that they should be teaching others instead of having to be reminded of basic doctrine of Christ (5:11 – 6:1). They had also endured some tough afflictions after they gave their hearts to Christ (10:31). In other words, discipline taken as a whole might be more about the child rearing process to maturity rather than just a wood shed incident.
The point is if we are children of God, we all must “endure this divine discipline.” It may be that you can’t eat dessert until after you have eaten your vegetables. It may be that you can’t go to your friend’s house until after you have cleaned your room. It may be that you can’t have that car until you start making good grades and showing yourself to be responsible. Remember, that God is just “treating you as his own children.” One thing for sure, if you make “light” of his discipline and “give up” when he corrects you, you will not pass go. You got to admit, an 18 year old would look funny in the 6th grade. Anyone remember Jethro? This sounds silly in the natural, but in the spirit people do it all too often. There is only one way out of spiritual immaturity; you must grow out of it! In my experience as a pastor, the number one reason that people leave the church is because they can’t take being corrected. To avoid this, they start going to another church. That scenario is just a set up for a viscous cycle unless of course you find a church where you blend into the crowd and manage to fly under the radar. That certainly is not a formula for spiritual growth. After all, have you ever “heard of child who is never disciplined by its father?”
Day 8 – Legitimate Children
If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Heb. 12:8
If there are legitimate children, then there must be illegitimate ones. I have often said that contrary to Hollywood, everyone is not a child of God. I based this on what Jesus told his Jewish contenders who claimed to be children of God. Jesus told them that if God was their daddy then they would love him. Then he really dropped the bomb and said, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:42-44). Some claim that since God created us all then we are all his children. I guess they are right, but now the real question is are we legitimate or illegitimate children of God?
Before we tackle that question, let’s think about what father’s do in addition to disciple for their legitimate children, or shall we say the ones that really belong to him. A good father always protects and provides for their kids. I have not always done what I was supposed to do. I have been caught in the procrastination trap more time than I would like to admit. I have had my share of divine discipline, but in spite of it all, one thing I always knew was who my Father was. This one confession gives me great comfort even in the most difficult times: “I belong to God and God knows how to take care of what belongs to him.” And again, if God doesn’t discipline you, you are not his kid. Since God treats all his kids the same, we all are in store for some good ole discipline. As they say before the big roller coaster takes off, “Sit back and enjoy the ride.” It comes with the territory.
Day 9 – Submit and Live
Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? Heb. 12:9
Now back to the question of how is a legitimate child of God. Today’s verse makes it so clear that we can’t miss it. The true children of God submit to the “discipline of the Father of our spirits.” In the past, we submitted to the discipline of our earthly fathers, so now we should submit to the disciple of our spiritual Father even more. Now can you tell the difference? You may have even spotted a few that claim to be children of God but in no way submits to his discipline.
Jesus made this distinction even clearer when dealing with those who claimed that God was their daddy in John 8. He told them, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father, and ye do that which you have seen with your father” (John 8:38). In case there was any doubt as to who he was referring to, he said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). In other words, spiritually speaking, your daddy is the one who you obey, and there are only two choices. It is not just a matter of calling God your Father, you have to obey him as well. To do otherwise would make us apart of the same lie that Jesus’ audience was living.
Submitting to the Father of our spirits is so crucial because our verse also shows us that the end result is that we “live forever” with him. There isn’t anything more important than the question of eternal life. And to be more specific, we all will live forever somewhere, so the question becomes where will we spend eternity? Again, that all depends on who your daddy is. You could get this question of the ultimate destination answered in children’s church by simply asking, where does the devil live, and where does God live? You will ultimately go yo where your daddy resides. It is really is quite simple. Only we make the waters murky by making a ga-zillion excuse for our actions.
Although it is popular today to preach an all-inclusive, feel-good gospel, the truth is that God is paying attention to our actions and we will be judged for them. In fact 1 John tells us that the way to tell the difference between God’s children and the devil’s is determined by who does righteousness or not, or in other word whoever loves their brother or not ( 1 John 3:10). We have to remember that Jesus is the Light of the World, and he “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). And there are only two responses to the Light: those whose actions are evil and refuse to come near the light for fear of their deeds being exposed, and those “who do what is right” and “come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (John 3:20-21). I know we who preach this way are accused of legalism, but that is not it at all. The word is clear that those who are righteous do righteous things. If you heart is to “do what is right” and you fall and miss it, be quick to repent to your loving Father and get back up again!
Day 10 – Share in His Holiness
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. Heb. 12:10
Throughout the Bible, God tells his children to be holy for I am holy. Ephesians puts it simpler by saying “Be ye imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). The next verse explains how: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us” (5:2). Our verse today ties discipline and holiness together by saying, “God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.” If we don’t endure his discipline then we can’t share in his holiness. If we don’t share in his holiness we can’t share in his power.
Before we can get to his power, we have to settle the fact that Father knows best and his discipline is “always good for us.” That pill is not so easy to swallow, but we have to take a big glass of water and just let it slide on down. If it was up to me, I would have taken a turn on easy street and avoided all the difficulties that we as a church have been through over the 5 or 6 years. We would have had a big comfortable building with plenty of people coming to hear the word and help out with all the work that God has called us to. But as his child, the only question I need to concern myself with is am I submitted to his discipline? Do I really trust that God knows what he is doing and that he is working all things together for my good? As a child of God, I have to trust in his timing and in his discipline as well.
I was reminded the other day of the answer one preacher got when he asked God why he didn’t give him more? God told him, “If you would have needed more, I would have given you more.” That is basically what God told David after he exposed him for his sin of adultery, “And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more” (2 Sam. 12:8). One reason that discipline is good is because it gets us ready to handle what God has for us in the future. Some of the things we have been believing God for, we just simply weren’t ready to handle. But thank God for his wise and good disciple, we will be ready when he sends it!
Back to sharing in his power. Did you know Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Plain and simple, if Jesus had have committed even one of the sins he carried to hell, he wouldn’t have came out! But he did come back from hell and the grave with all power in his hand. In other words, the fact that he was raised from the dead says that he was the holy Son of God. Peter explained, “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed him from the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24). Did you get that? God loosed him, but it just was not possible for death and hell to hold him. Why? Because he was the holy, sinless Son of God, and for that reason, hell could not keep him. That’s power! If you are holy and blameless before God in love (Eph. 1:4), then tell the devil with all authority to take a hike because it is impossible for him to hold you as well!
This is my prayer for each of us this year that we share in his holiness that we may share in his power: “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again” (1 Thes. 5:23).
Day 11 – It was painful, but it is over!
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Heb. 12:11
For those of us who have endured the discipline, we can truthfully say that it was painful, but thank God we made it through, and thank God it is over! If you were being disciplined by a parent that did it because they were mad at you or even one that did not love you, then you would not be so sure when or if the discipline would end. When you are being disciplined by a loving father, you know that it will be over soon, and it is for your good. And such is the case with Father God. We know that every legitimate kid is going to get it, but thank God we know it is for our good and it won’t last forever.
In fact, the focus of today’s verse is after the discipline is over. Afterwards, we are encouraged, discipline yields peaceful harvest of right living. That brings to mind what James says, And the fruit of righteousness (or a righteousness Harvest) is sown in peace of them that make peace (or the peacemakers as Jesus called them) (3:18). Thank God we know that living right or godly bring rewards both in this life and the one to come (1 Tim. 4:8, 6:6).
But this only applies to the ones who have been so trained. This is why I favor looking at divine discipline as found in this year’s fast passage as the child rearing process to maturity by a loving Father rather than a woodshed experience. God really is not out to get you. As one preacher said, “If God was trying to get you, you would have already been go!” Rest assured, if we do act up, he will discipline us, but the good news for those of us who have endured the divine discipline or the ones of us who have been trained in this way, we will now enjoy the righteous harvest!
God is getting ready to “do a new thing” (Is. 43:19), and I believe he wants to use us in it. God has given us the vision of a revival center to spread to the nations, but he needs revival agents! Although God is all powerful and nothing is to difficult for him, he does need mouths, hands, and feet. That is why it is so important this year that we sanctify ourselves wholly, spirit and soul and body. Let’s make this our prayer, “Lord send a great revival, and let it begin with me.”
Day 12 – Take a new Grip
So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Heb. 12:12
I know we have been through so much as a church family in the past, but the word of the Lord for us in 2017 is to “take a new grip!” Our verse today encourages us that even with tired hands we must take a new grip and strengthen our weak knees. I feel God”s strength is being made available to all this year who will “take a new grip.”
This won’t work if you cling to the past way of doing things. Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results, we are told, is the definition of insanity. Paul said he didn’t consider himself to have arrived, but “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
The movie The Lion King is filled with great sayings. One of my favorites is when Rafiki meets Simba while he is reflecting down at the lake. Rafiki bops Simba on the head. Simba asks, “What was that for?” Rafiki says, “It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.” Simba replies, “Yeah, but it still hurts!” And wise Rafiki explains, “O yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” The next time Rafiki swings at him, Simba ducks out of the way. I think this is what Paul means when he says he forgets those things which are behind. I am sure he learned from them, but he no longer focused on them. You can”t drive forward while looking in the rear view mirror. Soon you will run into an obstacle and have a wreck.
Paul not only forgot what was in the past, next he said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Notice he didn’t say he “glided,” but he said he “pressed toward the mark.” Taking a new grip and pressing our way into the new things God has for us at Faith Harvest may not be easy, but one thing for sure if we all take God’s word for us, we will be moving forward and we will do it together!
Day 13 – Mark Out Straight Paths
Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Heb. 12:13
Many Christians have the Doris Day mentality – whatever will be, will be. With that attitude, I can blame God for all my messes. Believe me, people get real creative with it. Some view the circumstances of life as a roll of the dice. Whatever situation they find themselves in, God gets the credit, or the blame depending on how you view it. As I have grown older in the faith, I have embraced the saying, “God is in control.” In days pasts, many faith teachers wouldn’t dare say this, but in the grand scheme of things he is. Even, with this mentality you can error and start blaming God for stuff you should have done something about. For instance, God is not in control of my sleeping late, not paying my bills, skipping church, always excusing myself from prayer, and never doing anything to better myself. That would be me letting my flesh control me, not God.
At this time of year is when we hear a lot of sermons about being intentional and strategic. I took a course in seminary about strategic ministry and read books along this line. We had to go through and define the particular terms related to strategy making. Here again, I think this is a lot like budgeting class. Although there is a lot of wisdom out there on the subject, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make a budget. No, the problem is sticking to it. The best analogy I can think of to show how this all works is taking a trip in your car. You have to intentionally make the proper arrangements and preparations for your trip. You may even have to get out the old map and study your route, find filling stations along the way, rest stops, and places to eat. Depending on how long the trip is, you may have to book hotel arrangements at some convenient half way point. You probably had to book your time off from work months in advance. And it would be a miserable trip if you didn’t start putting money aside for the things you wanted to do while on the trip. And most importantly, you must know your destination before pulling out of the parking lot.
If you can do all of those steps, strategic and intentional thinking will come easy to you. Since we are all capable of this, why do so many of us leave our spiritual life and even our personal lives to chance. As the slogan says, we have to “just do it!” If you keep overdrawing your account, get some budgeting help this year. In most cases, it is a matter of having someone to hold you accountable for your spending. If you are stuck on the same job, take some courses this year to train for an advancement. If you want to understand the Bible more, stop making excuses and go to Bible study and maybe even get enrolled in an online course. Start your day off with prayer and Bible reading this year. As we learned in budgeting class, “Tell your money where to go instead of it telling you where you can’t.” The same would apply to the people that always talk about how busy they are. Be intentional with your time this year and tell your time where to go instead of being late and missing out on opportunities.
Let this be our prayer, Father God, give us your plans for 2017. Lead is into the good works that you have before ordained that we should walk in. And thank you that you have given me the spirit of love, calm, well-balanced mind, and discipline and self-control to carry them out.
Day 14 – Be Intentional about living in peace and holiness
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Heb. 12:14
This verse brings all the things we learned about being a legitimate child of God, submitting to his divine discipline, and sharing in God’s holiness. Why is this so important? You may have taken this devotion so far as a motivation talk and making and sticking to your New Year’s resolution, but that is not what this is about! We must work at living in peace, and we also must intentionally work at living holy from now till Jesus comes. If we don’t, we “will not see the Lord.” As we have said before, we don’t want to think about the alternative. Everyone in their right mind wants to see God when they pass from this life to the next.
This is a matter of eternal significance. If you are one who believes that we are all children of God, saints and sinners alike, let us stop here and make sure we understand what the word of God is saying to us. Illegitimate children, ones that don’t submit to divine disciple, ones that don’t on purpose live in peace and holiness, will not see Jesus when he comes! Jesus made this very clear in his sermon on the mount when he said: “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:8-9). This again is why I am not in favor of the we are all the children of God reasoning because it may give a “hell raiser” the idea that they are going to heaven. That is far from the truth! Only the pure in heart will see God, and only the peacemakers will be called his children.
Let this be our prayer, Lord give us the utterance and the open door to boldly witness for you this year. Help me to love others enough to tell them of their need to accept what you did on the cross to bring us back to the Father.
Day 15 – Mark out straight paths for the sake of others
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Heb. 12:15
Before we delve into today’s verse, let’s go back to verse 13 and pick up a key phrase. There we are told to “mark out straight paths for you feet SO THAT those who are weak and lame will not fall.” It is not just important for us to mark out straight paths for our feet, but it is important to do so that we don’t make others fall! In other words, for example, me skipping Bible study, not showing up prayer, not volunteering when help is needed, overspending and not paying my bills on time will not only keep me from all that God has for me but will hold others back as well. You don’t know who would show up to pray if you started coming regularly. You don’t know who would volunteer to lead a small group if you would become a group leader and encourage others to do the same.
One translation makes it even stronger, “so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint.” The Greek word that was translated “be put out of joint” is also used in a medical sense of dislocated limbs. It would really be bad if we are keeping God from adding to the church as he desires, but think about how bad it would be if we dislocated a member of the body by choosing to remain on a crooked path this year? The positive side of the verse is that when we mark out straight paths for our feet then others will be strengthened. We are all stronger and loaded with a lot more gifts and talents than we realize. The decisions we make to mark out new straight paths for our feet and step out this year on those God-given paths, will not only drastically change us, but it will strengthen others as well.
Let’s make this our prayer: Lord give me your straight path my our feet, so that my example will strengthen the weak members and not dislocate anyone.
Day 16 – Keeping your well pure
Now with today’s verse it gets more intense! We have to “look after each other so that NONE of you FAILS to RECEIVE the GRACE of GOD.” The term “look after” or “see about” something or someone, it brings to mind doing things for those who are unable to tend themselves. This could be the care that a doctor or nurse gives to a patient until they get well. This could also be the care that a parent gives to a child that has been injured. This kind of care for those who sick or shut in is not emphasized nearly as much as it used to be in years gone by. The thought of taking care of others is contrary to much of the selfish talk going around these days, like “That’s your problem, not mine,” or “That’s just your perception.” I am sure that each of us have found cases where either of the above phrases applied, but we must be careful not to become a broken record. It would be best that we listen to the complaints first before spouting off phrases that always let us off the hook.
Again, the reason this caring for the weak is so important is so that none of us “fails to receive the grace of God.” It is bad enough that our actions could keep us from receiving the grace of God, but when we cause others not to receive, it is a really big deal. If you think about it, what is there that God has to offer us that doesn’t fall under the heading of grace? Salvation, healing, deliverance, forgiveness, all are made available through grace. It is our job let our lights shine so that we draw others to God in order that they may receive his grace, not drive them from it. We should have the attitude in life as my mother-in-law who says, “If I can’t help you, I don’t want to hinder you.”
The other caution in this verse is not to let a root of bitterness spring up in us, “corrupting many. Bitterness is dangerous in that we start spewing out poisonous words that harm others instead of words that minister grace to the hearers and help (Eph. 4:29). I often heard the phrase growing up “time heals all.” Actually, given enough time, unresolved conflicts and unforgiveness equals bitterness. Jesus said that offenses would come, “but woe unto him through whom the come” Luke 17:1). Jesus also strongly warns us to take heed that we don’t offend one of the little ones. Being mindful of especially the weaker ones around you in the body, we must do everything to make sure pure, clean, healthy water is flowing from our wells and not the polluted water of bitterness.
Let’s make this our prayer/confession: I got a river of life flowing out of me. It makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors sets the captives free. I got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring O well, and give to me. That life abundantly!
Day 17 – Bind us Together with Peace
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Eph. 4:3-4
Earlier in the fast, we were reminded that only peacemakers will be called the children of God. Our verses today reveals the key for making peace as well as a foundation for maturity: being “patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” I didn’t say you would like it; I just said it was the foundation for our maturity. Our focus should be to make allowances for the fault’s of others and not always try to point them out and fix them. Remember, our parts to help people receive the grace of God.
Over the years, I have spoken much about love being the “bond of perfectness” that keeps us lively stones together on the wall, but verse 4 tells us “make every effort to keep ourselves united.” But how do we do that? We have to “bind ourselves together with peace.” Think about it; if I make allowance for your faults and you make allowance for mine, and we refuse to let anything come between us, then we will always be united. That’s what children of God do, make peace. This peace is what binds us together.
Further in Ephesians chapter 4, Paul explains how the ministry gifts are given to equip the saints do the God’s work and build up the body of Christ. This will continue, he says, “until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord” (Eph. 4:13). If we submit and receive from the ministry gifts that God has assigned us, we will come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of Jesus that we will be mature! The word produces unity in us and the unity produces maturity or growth. I am no expert on the natural body, but if every cell in your body set out to do its own thing your body would no longer be cohesive and it certainly wouldn’t grow. That is the reason I question some in their quest for knowledge in the body because of the fruit it bears. True, the verse did say that knowledge was a result of the word coming from the ministry gifts, and we know that grace is multiplied through knowledge, but if the knowledge obtained is not producing unity, then it won’t result in true growth of the body of Christ.
As we launched out on this year’s fast, two of our main prayer focuses were church growth and unity. Until now, I didn’t know how closely they were related. Let’s make this our prayer: Lord, I commit to walk in peace with all the members of my church and make every effort to keep the unity. I will continue to submit and allow the word to produce such unity and knowledge of Jesus in me that I will be mature.
Day 18 – Let Your Love Overflow
And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 1 Thes. 3:12
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. Phil. 1:9
Another prayer focus that God has given our church this year is for our love to be restored. When I say love, I am not referring so much for our love for each other because thankfully, we are doing that. The problem is when it comes to loving those outside of the church. With all that we have gone through as a church family over the past few years, it is easy for our love and focus to turn inward. While that is good is some ways, it is not good in that we aren’t doing what God called us to do as a church. After all, our name is Faith Harvest International. My prayer is that this year, more than ever, we live up to our name and fulfill our vision of being a place where people of all nationalities work together in love to reap the end time harvest by faith. In order to do that we have to make today’s verse our prayer and focus this year. It is good that we love each other, but that is not enough.
Not only does our love have to grow, it has to overflow this year. Paul, as an imitator of God, loved the Thessalonians and challenged them to follow his example. If we are imitators of God as dear children, we too will be examples of love for others to follow. To truly imitate God, we not only have to love, but we also have to give (John 3:16). You can’t love without giving. And love is not love until you give it away. This giving love away cause the necessary outflow of love in our lives in order to reach a lost and hopeless world. Love will cause us to treat one another right and serve one another, but an overflow of love will cause us to go outside the four walls of the church. Time is running out. This year we can no longer allow circumstances or people stop us from doing what God has called us to do. We must go outside the church to reap the harvest for the harvest is now!
Let’s make this our prayer: Lord, make my love for one another and for all people to grow and overflow. I also pray that my love will overflow more and more, and that I will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
Day 19 – The Right Time to Sow
He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. Eccl. 11:4 KJV
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; [therefore] shall he beg in harvest, and [have] nothing. Prov. 20:4 KJV
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 2 Cor. 9:6-10 NLT
If you over analyze your finances, you will usually conclude that the time is not right to give. When I read the above verse of the farmer that is bound with the paralysis of analysis, I imagine he would have concluded the same thing about the rain, the cold, and the heat as he did the wind. He probably would have put the seed back in the barn and saved them for a “rainy day.” But when is the right time to plant? If you need a harvest, the right time to plant is now.
I am always encouraged by a dear brother that even during the times when our church has been so inwardly focused getting through the moving and building hurdles, he would bring gift cards to give to those in need and even pledge to support the radio ministry. Honestly, concerning the radio ministry, after analyzing the challenges with my voice and the finances of the church, I have been much like the farmers in the first two verses.
Usually, for fear of not upsetting the sheep, we make great efforts to stress the part about every person deciding in his own heart what to give and not giving “in response to pressure” which usually results in small offerings. But the rest of the verse says, “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” On the other hand, we usually frown on churches that get up and have long drawn out services trying to meet some challenge or giving goal. While compulsion or pressure is certainly not of God, the truth of the matter is that most of us won’t give unless there is a need or some challenge before us. Like I have said for years, I would not have fasted beyond 12 hours if I wasn’t challenged by people stronger in fasting than I was. And if I hadn’t heard some heard some strong challenges from the pulpit urging me to do more in my giving, I still probably would have been giving tithes plus a twenty dollar offering.
When we start listening to God on the subject of giving -and stop changing the channel- the word says, “God will generously provide all you need. THEN you will ALWAYS have EVERYTHING you need and plenty left over to share with others.” This ties in nicely with yesterday’s devotion about our love overflowing. As we said, you can’t love without giving, and love is not love until you give it away. We too have to be like the brother who is thinking of those in need and ministry abroad even in times of drought!
Paul concludes our passage of the day with a different farmer, one who sowed bountifully, gives generously to the poor, a cheerful prompt to do it giver. Here he says, “God is the one who provides seed to the farmer and then bread to eat.” If asked who wanted their resources increased, I am sure every hand would go up, including mine. Well, God has a plan for that! But our resources can only increase as we step out in faith and obey God in our giving. As Pastor Parsley puts it, “When God asks for the seed in your hand, he has a harvest in mind for you.” Just like this farmer, when we let go of that seed that God provided (who listens to God’s station and not the Weather Channel), “He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”
Let’s make this our prayer/confession: Lord, I am ready to trust and obey you with the seed that you provide, so that I will have a great harvest of generosity this year. And with this harvest, I will always have everything I need and plenty left over to share with others.
Day 20 – An Eruption of Thanksgiving
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! 2 Cor. 9:11-15
Yesterday we learned that as we are obedient with the seed that God provides, he will generously provide all that we need, and we would have plenty left over to SHARE WITH OTHERS. To sum it all up, God will “increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Cor. 9:10). The passage made it clear that this overflow of resources was not just for us to hoard up all for ourselves, but it was given in order that we might be a blessing to others. In other words, this overflow, when taken and given to others in need, put us into ministry mode. It would be much like a farmer that had a bumper crop of potatoes, so much that he didn’t have enough room to store them. If he kept them hoarded away in buckets, the potatoes would soon rot, but if he distributed them to his neighbors that didn’t have any, others would share is his bountiful blessing.
Paul list two outcomes of this ministry of giving. First he says the needs of other believers would be provided for, and secondly, the recipients would “joyfully express their thanks to God.” As I read it, there are two other results in the list: their giving would prove they were obedient to the Gospel of Christ, and the recipients would pray for those that gave. They will break out in prayer and thanksgiving for the “overflowing grace God has given you.”
This ministry of giving will start a chain reaction or a gift that keeps on giving! Paul already explained this chain reaction when he testified how God past tense mightily delivered them from a life threatening situation, present tense delivers them, and he trusted that God would do it again in the future (2 Cor. 1:10)! He invites the Corinthians to get in on the blessing by praying for them. This he said would result in many giving thanks for great blessing God has granted them. The blessing granted was given because of the “prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11). Hold on, it gets better! Next, Paul explains how multiplied-thanksgiving brings abundant grace on the scene: “that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). “Redound” is just another way of saying one of those exceedingly, abundantly, above blessings!
So what are we waiting for? I see two entry points into this chain reaction: by praying for others (2 Cor. 1:11) and through giving to others in need as detailed in today’s passage. So jump on into this miracle ministry of prayer and giving. Pastor Martha and I have been praying at the six-o’clock hour for revival for our church, and I see this is one sure way to get it started! I mean think about it; the devil doesn’t want this abundant grace to break out because he knows “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). As we saints get in line with our giving and our praying, sinners won’t stand a chance when the walk into our services. Not because we are so wonderful, but because God’s grace is overflowing in our church.
Let’s make this our prayer today: Lord, I am ready to be a part of this miracle ministry. From this day forward, I will obey you by first giving my tithes to my storehouse, then giving to others in need, and by praying for others, so that the abundant grace of God will pour out in my church. Lord, use me to be an answer to someone’s prayer and start a chain reaction of thanksgiving today.
Day 21 – Completing the Task
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Zech 4:1-10 ESV
Faithful is that calleth you, who also will do it. 1 Thes. 5:24 KJV
God gave Zechariah a vision of a lampstand with seven lamps fed from a bowl or reservoir on top. We are told that this lamp that never went out was a symbol of God’s watchfulness and power to fulfill his covenant promises to Israel. On top of this elaborate lighting system was a bowl that powered it all. This was an endless supply of power, or as one commentary puts it, “the inexhaustible source.”
The context of the divine vision was an unfinished temple and a man chosen to lead the project apparently surrounded by a bunch of people that “despised small beginnings.” God then gives the following direct word to his chosen leader, Zerubbabel, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Even the most seeming monumental tasks before Zerubbabel, explained the prophet, “shall become a plain.” He continued to say that the same leader that laid the foundation stone would lay the top stone. Not only that, he would complete the task amid people shouting, “grace, grace” to the completed temple. God was giving him a vision of the temple dedication. Using our definition from earlier in the fast, we could say that his hope restored by replacing the ending Zerubbabel pictured with God’s.
If you remember from the book of Haggai, this unfinished project had had basically stalled because people went off building their houses instead of God’s. So what would cause this miraculous turn around? The focus of the Zechariah’s vision was the oil that comes from the bowl and powered the lamps. The focus of the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel was the power of God’s Spirit or the anointing. This fatigued leader was told that this project would not be completed by might (an army), or might (human strength), but by God’s Spirit. In other words, the anointing of God would bring about the turn around and complete the task, so much so that even the ones who despised the day of small beginnings would rejoice to see Zerubbabel at work.
Our concluding scripture for the fast simply says, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” Even though we are challenged this year to mark out straight paths for our feet and to start walking out those God-given paths, we always have to remember who is actually going to do it! Even though we are working together like never before this year reaping the harvest, we must always remember that it is God doing the work through us and not our own strength. We must never forget that we have an “inexhaustible supply” of divine aid, power of the Spirit, or Holy Ghost anointing. Our job is to stay connected to the heavenly supply and draw from it by faith.
The project at Faith Harvest has long been stalled, but now it is almost ready to be dedicated. Even though the fast is almost over, we must remain united and connected this year so the faithful God who called us to this great work “will also do it.” That beats Nike’s saying by a long shot! Pastor Martha and I thank you so much for fasting this year for our church. As I said during the fast, as our prayer focus has been for the church, we stand in agreement with you for the breakthroughs for each of your households as well as for you individually. Let us keep the words of Isaiah before us this year, “Behold I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth” (Is. 43:19), and the words of Apostle Paul, “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). This is our year, and we are indeed looking for great things that God will do through us in the months to come as we allow him to.
God bless you and keep you on this year’s fast!