I wonder how many believers take the time to pray and fast? I can honestly say I am not in the category of those who have. I have taken time away from things using the excuse that I work too hard to give up food, but I could give up something else. Sure, it can be giving up something else, but I believe there is something about fasting in the traditional sense that has meaning to it. Here in Nehemiah, we see the prophet of the same name hearing the stories of the broken city of Jerusalem and her walls in shambles from those who had escaped. In his heart, he knew something needed to be done but he did not know what, so he prayed.
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you”
This is only the first part of his prayer but it is the cry of many believers who felt they have lost their way. Those who feel like they haven’t heard God’s voice in such a long time, maybe they have just been going through the motions. Then one day something breaks them, brings them to their knees with an unbridled passion to repent and crying out to the one who loves them. Nehemiah didn’t just expect God to answer, he fasted and prayed for some days, how long is not important but he prepared his heart to listen to what God would say. He trusted that God would answer and give him some sort of guidance in what was happening. We don’t hear what exactly God says to Nehemiah but what we do see is the confidence he has to speak to King Artaxerxes about what he needed to do.
What I love reading in 2:4 it says: Then the king said to me, “ What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. Think about it. He didn’t respond right away. Nehemiah stopped and went to ask God for what to do. I know all to often I have made brash and rapid decisions that have changed the course of my life. Did I stop and ask God, I wish I could say yes or that I took more than a 2 min moment with Him? No, I rushed into things and expected it to be okay. Why, because we love to make our own decisions. We don’t know how long Nehemiah took from the moment he was asked till his answer but the king waited, and he gave Nehemiah what he requested.
Imagine with me if you will a church that takes the time to fast and pray for their communities.? What if believers when making life decisions took the time to ask God what he thought about the situation? We need to be church inside and outside of the building. Sunday is a place where we gather and grow but for the rest of the week, we need to be sharing the love of Jesus all over the place. How much more effective will we be if we take the time to ask and listen to what God’s thoughts are?
Maybe you have been living a life that is on the outs, you once served God but now you’re not so sure. God loves you and is calling you back. Take the words of Nehemiah and make them yours, let God know that you have fallen and you want to get right with him again. That’s the awesome thing about our relationship with God, he is not vindictive and will always be ready to welcome you back. Don’t ever think that you have done something that there is no returning from. Take some time and pray, I encourage you to try to fast a meal and focus on him. It is one thing to skip a meal but if you don’t pray and focus on him you might as well just eat. Fasting and Prayer go hand in hand. I am going to try to myself, are you up to see what God has to say to you?
Father, I am done making excuses for my actions. I choose things without prayer and wonder why life isn’t going the way I expected. This shouldn’t surprise me as I know that when I trust you it all works out. So forgive me for my arrogance. I give my life back to your hands and I will work at strengthening our relationship with more prayer and fasting. Help me to reach those around me that need to hear about the love Jesus has and the hope found in him. Let me now hide in the shadows but step out and share. Like Nehemiah, my heart breaks form those who are hurting living in shambles. Use me. Amen
As we conclude this 50 Dyas of 3:16 we see that many of these verses all lead us to the same thing. That God loves us and desires to know us more.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16
The words teach us how to live as believers.
Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:16
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
These words teach us how to be bold in our faith.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.”
It reminds us that sometimes we must wait on the Lord but that he will speak to us.
After seven days the Lord gave me a message. Ezekiel 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
2 Timothy 3:16
Remember that God is always with you seeing what is happening and waiting for the right moment, our ways are not his ways.
“Now go and call together all the elders of Israel. Tell them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has appeared to me. He told me, “I have been watching closely, and I see how the Egyptians are treating you.“
Take some time to study your bible. Grab hold of a scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to connect you to God through it. You will find that he can speak to you through his word. There is truth in the scriptures that will help you manoeuvre through this life and become effective in reaching the lost.
Father use us to be a people who want to hear from you. Holy Spirit gives us boldness to step out of our comfort zones and share our faith with others. Bind our fears and help us to be great witnesses and fishers of men. Use me. Amen.
Thank you for following with me through his 50 days. I will be back in September with a new series.
The church has come to a place where they need to decide where they stand in the world. Many have split and split again each time becoming something that suits the needs of the people. Inherently this leads to unbiblical foundations sneaking there way in and undermining the faith. The traditions and rules become the way of living and attendance almost feels more important than the relationship with God.
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Our relationship with God needs to be the driving force in our lives. We see here in today’s verse one statement that has been used by many ministers to hopefully motivate the congregation to action. The sermon preached and the all to action accepted but the follow-up is lacking. If we want to see the church come alive we cannot expect it to happen without follow-up. Expecting Sunday services week after week to grow a church might happen but there are a few key things that need to happen;
- Believers must spend time in prayer and read their bibles,
- Connecting with fellow believers in fellowship, accountability, and study, and
- Putting faith into action and taking the love of Jesus to the world around them.
Lukewarm tends to be comfortable. We were never called to live comfortable lives. Jesus promised us a comforter, he sent a comforter because our life in Christ isn’t meant to be comfortable. If we are living a comfortable life it may be time to asking ourselves where we stand in our relationship with God. A fire engulfs and consumes things around it. It is unafraid to share itself with others. We sing many songs that ask God or the Holy Spirit to send the fire, why? Because we need to have a life that is willing to be shared with others. Our faith needs to consume us and positively influence those who need to experience the love of Jesus. We are called to be the light, light gives off heat. Cold is the absence of heat. There is heat in life, God is calling us to live a life full of the light.
Father, set me on fire, help me to move past an apathetic kind of faith. I want to be more then an attendee and experience what you have for me. Let me be willing to share my faith with those around me. Give me boldness to step up in my faith, not being comfortable in where I am now. Use me. Amen
The world desperately is looking for love. People have an ingrained desire to connect and have a relationship that foundation is so much deeper. Not just the superficial love in which we fall in and out of, but a love that will stick around when times get tough. Hollywood has become a love-generating machine showcasing fantasies of how man and woman might fall in love. It rarely continues the story and focuses on the deep love that keeps us connected.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16
Have you ever been in love? How many times would you say that this feeling of love has overwhelmed you to the point of telling the person? It is to bad that we have this one word overused to the point where in our conversations we throw it around cheapening the meaning. I love this hamburger. I loved that movie. I love this music artist. I love, I love, I love. We have truly lost the meaning of what it means to love. No wonder it is difficult for people to understand the love that Jesus has for us. If the acquaint love of Jesus with the love of superficial things it becomes non-important. Something we say when we enjoy something, yet it is really not going to become the centre of our lives. We may love the burger, but we do not embrace it in such a way we change our lives for it.
Here we see love explained in such a way that we must be willing to give up everything as Jesus did to showcase that love. This act of love asks us to change for the betterment of what we love. Jesus asks us to love him and follow him, giving up our old habits and burdens. His love for us is more than superficial love, so much that he was willing to die to show us how much he loved us. We often hear people say would you take a bullet for someone else, this is exactly what Jesus did for ever single person on earth, past, present and future. But we are called to do the same for our brother’s and sisters. Do we love them like that? Would you be willing to lay down your life so that someone else would live?
Hearing about these random shootings around my country, USA and the world, I often wonder why we don’t hear much about those standing up to take down the shooter. We are a people with a self-preservation instinct that gives us a flight or fight mentality and we tend more often than not to run. Love is stepping into the fight and preparing to lay down your life in love, not to be the hero, but so that others may experience the love of Christ. It has been said that love isn’t loving until you give it away. Laying down your life can also be sacrificing something that is important to you so that someone else can grow. It could be time, money, talents or many other things.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus and his sacrifice of love so that we could show love to others. We ask for boldness and faithfulness to show this love to others as Jesus did for us. Let our lives reflect a love that would be willing to be laid down for our brothers and sisters. Let our love be deeper than the word that is thrown around. Empower us to reach the lost. Amen
Peter in writing his letters did not water down the faith and what each and every believer was responsible to do. This made it frustrating for those who wanted the express version of faith. They didn’t want to take the time to study his letters and see how they should apply it, they wanted the three easy steps. They would twist his words to satisfy their own version of Christianity.
He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:16
The bible is clear about not twisting the words to satisfy our own version of Christianity. Yet even today there are people doing just that. It can be confusing to a new believer or someone exploring faith to run into two men telling them that they are Christians, yet their beliefs are not based on the teachings of Jesus. In truth, Jesus isn’t even close to the centre of their faith. I wish I could say all those who have done this are outside the Christian faith, but there are those inside who are teaching things that contradict the bible. The prosperity gospel is one message that is out there that many believers get caught up in. Yes, God will bless you and takes care of you, but we were never called to work towards being rich. If this was so would have not Judas been a more prominent disciple as his desire was riches? Jesus downplayed money and its importance in the life of a believer. He promoted character building over material wealth.
As followers of Christ, I encourage you to take hold of what you hear and read from others in the faith. Challenge what you are inputting into your life against the Holy Scriptures. Is what you are listening to following the truths that the Apostles wrote about, does it align with what Jesus taught? If we take the time to examine the sermon of the Sunday past during the week it will help cement the teaching and confirm what they were teaching is the truth. We tend to treat Sunday sermons like fast food, eat it and think nothing else of it. But if we think of it as fine dining, which we truly enjoy we would be talking about it for days about how good it was. How many of you can remember what was talked about last Sunday at your church?
Take some time and study scripture, it is okay if some things are hard to understand. Ask God to reveal what it means through the Holy Spirit. He is there to be the wisdom you need. Find someone in the faith who will guide you in your questions. We do not have to go through the Christian walk along, nor should we.
Father, thank you for the Scriptures. We thank you for the faithfulness of those who wrote them. Reveal to us the wisdom and knowledge we need to strengthen our lives and walk in faith. Give us boldness to go out into our world and share this with others. We want to be a light in the darkness. Amen
Bigger, better, faster, stronger, cooler, more exciting. These are just some of the things we see that other people have a desire to obtain. Many call it keeping up with the Jones. If your neighbour buys a new car well then we had better buy a new car, they upgrade something in their house, must be time for us to upgrade. Your friend buys the latest phone, you can’t have that and buy a better phone. All these things lead us into debt and jealousy. A place where we just want to be better, instead of just being happy for the person and their success we need to one-up them.
For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
Jealousy is not a New Testament concept. It first popped its ugly head up back with the first two recorded offspring of Adam and Eve. Cain and Able were both adept at what they did, one a hunter the other a gatherer. They offered some of their respective hunts to God and God was more pleased with Ables offering than Cain’s. Cain could not control his jealousy and recorded the first murder ever. If only Cain had been happy with his brothers offering, things might have been different. He could have learned from him, Able had given the best of the best. One might assume that Cain had not given of the best, maybe he had added a few pieces of fruit that had already fallen off the tree, being lazy he offered God bruised fruit in hopes that it would not get noticed. His selfish ambition to one-up his brother was his downfall. It might have also been a case of Able seeing his brother about to give a sacrifice, not to be left out decided to give one as well and gathered things in a hurry not to glorify God but to make himself look good.
How are you living your life? Are you content in what God has provided for you or are you always looking at what others have, desiring to upgrade your life so you are living like them? Is your self-ambition overpowering your desire to serve others? Working hard to be seen by others so they take notice of you and shower you with praise? Being recognized for things you do is not a problem, but when we work looking only for the praise it leads to cutting corners and stepping on others in our quest for this recognition. God honours those who work diligently in their jobs, the mission and church that push forward knowing what needs to be done, doing it and not boasting about it. I have heard it said that if all you desire is mans praise for the works you do here on earth then that will be the blessing you receive. God promises to give us crowns for our faithfulness here on earth, I would prefer those then mans praise. Let us not let our jealousy and self-ambition lead us to a road of disorder and evil.
Father, thank you for loving us. If we have been envious of others in our lives I pray for forgiveness. Help me to be satisfied with what I have. Let me take time to pray and be wise in the things I do buy so not to be keeping up with the trends. I want to work to glorify your name, if I have been working for man’s praise, forgive me, I want to work to show my faithfulness to you. Let us be a witness to those around us, working hard and consistently. Give us wisdom and boldness to be a light in the world around us sharing your love with others. Speak to us today. Amen