6/4/18

"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" An Exhortation To Walk In Diligence (4:11-12) by Mark Copeland


               "THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS"

             An Exhortation To Walk In Diligence (4:11-12)

INTRODUCTION

1. In his "apostolic instructions", we have seen Paul exhort the church
   at Thessalonica...
   a. To walk in holiness - 1Th 4:1-8
   b. To walk in love - 1Th 4:9-10

2. His next instruction (1Th 4:11-12) is an exhortation to "diligence",
   to ensure that...
   a. They walk properly toward those who are outside - cf. 1Pe 2:12
   b. They lack nothing - cf. Ro 13:8

3. That this requires diligence is evident from the word "aspire"
   (study, KJV) in verse 11...
   a. A word meaning "to be ambitious"
   b. As translated in the NASB (to make it your ambition)

[In three particular areas does Paul want them to be ambitious, the
first being...]

I. TO LEAD A QUIET LIFE

   A. AN APPARENT PARADOX...
      1. For the phrase "quiet life" suggests a calmness, a serenity
      2. Yet for this we are to be "ambitious", apply diligent effort, 
         which seems to be contrary to the idea of quietness, calm
      -- The "quiet life", like many good things, does not come without
         concerted effort

   B. AN ADMIRABLE GOAL...
      1. As much as possible, to live peaceably with all men - Ro 12:18;
         14:19; He 12:14
         a. Though such is not always the case
         b. As Paul found out even in Thessalonica - cf. Ac 17:1-6
      2. For which we are to diligently pray - 1Ti 2:1-2
         a. That we might live quiet and peaceful lives
         b. That we might live such in all godliness and honesty
      3. A quiet and peaceful life is more likely if we:
         a. Seek first the kingdom of God - Mt 6:25-34
            1) Which requires setting our priorities
            2) Which requires saying no to many distractions
         b. Learn contentment in Christ - Php 4:11-13; 1Ti 6:6-10
         c. Overcome anxiety through prayer - Php 4:6-7   
      -- The search for "simplicity" is a popular trend today; for the
         Christian, it is to be more than just a trend, but a way of
         life conducive to godliness and honesty

[As we "aspire" to lead a quiet life, we cannot do so unless we also
give diligence...]

II. TO MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS

   A. THERE IS A PLACE FOR LOVING CONCERN...
      1. As we watch out for one another's welfare - Php 2:4
      2. As we seek to help each other overcome our weaknesses - Ga 6:
         1-2
      -- Therefore we should not construe the words in our text to mean 
         that we should not seek to reprove, rebuke, or to restore an 
         erring brother - cf. Jm 5:19-20

   B. THERE IS NO PLACE FOR NOSY INTERFERENCE...
      1. Paul is warning against becoming "busybodies", people who have
         nothing to do but interfere in the affairs of others
      2. A problem that often existed in the early church
         a. Even at Thessalonica - 2Th 3:11-12
         b. Which Peter lumped together with murderers, thieves, etc. 
            - 1Pe 4:15
      3. A danger especially when one is not focused on their own 
         business
         a. Which is why Paul refused to let churches support younger 
            widows - 1Ti 5:11-14
         b. Which is why Paul instructed the older women to properly 
            teach the younger women their responsibilities - Tit 2:3-5
      -- The peace and quiet we desire in our lives and in our churches
         cannot exist unless we maintain a proper distinction between
         brotherly concern and becoming "busybodies"

[It certainly helps to maintain that distinction if we "aspire"...]

III. TO WORK WITH OUR OWN HANDS

   A. THE PURPOSE OF THIS COMMAND...
      1. To provide for our families - cf. 1Ti 5:8
      2. To help the less fortunate - Ep 4:28; Ac 20:34-35
      -- Through example and precept, Paul taught the early Christians 
         to support themselves and not be dependent upon others

   B. THE SERIOUSNESS OF THIS COMMAND...
      1. Failing to provide for our families makes us worse than 
         unbelievers - 1Ti 5:8
      2. Refusing to work was grounds for church discipline, just like
         adultery, extortion, etc. - 2Th 3:10-14; 1Co 5:11
      -- While we may occasionally need assistance from our brethren 
         (even our government), we are not to make it a practice to 
         "live off welfare"

CONCLUSION

1. With diligence, therefore, we are to "aspire"...
   a. To lead a quiet life
   b. To mind our own business
   c. To work with our own hands

2. Again, the purpose behind these instructions is two-fold...
   a. That we might walk properly toward those who are outside - 1 Th 4:12a
   b. That we might lack nothing - 1Th 4:12b

For the sake of our reputation as Christians, as well as for own well-
being while we sojourn here on earth, we must heed this exhortation to
walk in diligence!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5010

Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


On Monday, July 14, 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to allow females to be appointed as bishops in their denomination by an overall count of 351 in favor and 72 opposed (Kaleem, 2014). This vote is a result of a two-decade controversy within the denomination regarding the issue. The proposition was defeated two years earlier in 2012, because it did not gain the necessary two-thirds majority vote it needed to pass. What does such a decision say about the religious climate of western civilization?
This pronouncement manifests the fact that many religious groups no longer care what the Bible has to say on a given subject. It is a simple matter of fact that the Bible very clearly, in no ambiguous terms, states that bishops are to be males, and each one is to be “the husband of one wife” who “rules his own house well” (1 Timothy 3:2,4). In addition to this verse, each instance in the New Testament in which a bishop is mentioned refers to the person as a male (e.g., Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1). In fact, as Albert Mohler, stated, “virtually every major media outlet in Britain acknowledged, at least, that the vote reversed 2,000 years of Christian tradition. They also tended to note that the vote came after 20 years of controversy. Evidently, 2,000 of years of tradition was no match for 20 years of controversy” (2014).
This approach to religion is what Jesus had in mind when He accosted the religious leaders of His day by saying: “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). What kind of religion allows the culture, instead of the God it professes to worship, to dictate the beliefs and regulations that it will uphold? Is it the case that if our culture no longer views homosexuality as a sin, those branches of Christianity should “take another vote” to see if they will accept the lifestyle or not? Some have already done this. And is it not the case that to insist that Jesus Christ is God’s Son is a controversial topic? If enough “Christian” leaders vote to soften that teaching or abandon it altogether, would that represent the mind of God? Did God’s attitude toward the ordination of women bishops change at the precise moment that a two-thirds majority was achieved by the Church of England?
In reality, those who claim to be Christians must ask themselves who they are going to follow. Will they accept God’s Word, as found in the inspired Bible, to be authoritative? Or will they put their fingers in the wind and move whichever way the cultural wind happens to be blowing at the time? Let us all consider Peter’s words to the Jewish leaders of the first century: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).

REFERENCES

Kaleem, Jaweed (2014), “Women Bishops Approved by Church of England,” Huffington Posthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/women-bishops-church-of-england-_n_5584266.html.
Mohler, Albert (2014), “‘Get with the Program’—Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops,” http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/07/15/get-with-the-program-the-church-of-england-votes-to-ordain-women-bishops/.


Chronology and the Bible's Arrangement by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=441

Chronology and the Bible's Arrangement

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Since the Bible begins at the Creation with Genesis—the book of beginnings—and ends with the book of Revelation (which many scholars believe was the last recorded book of the Bible), students of the Scriptures often assume that the Bible was compiled chronologically. Many students approach their reading of the Bible with the mindset that everything in Scripture is arranged “from A to Z.” Since Genesis records what took place at the beginning of time, and it is the first book of the Bible, then the rest of the Bible follows suit, right? Actually, what the diligent student eventually finds is that the Bible is not a book of strict chronology. All sixty-six books of the Bible are not arranged in the order in which they were written. Furthermore, all of the events contained within each book also are not recorded chronologically.
Consider the following arrangement of books in the Bible:
Although the books of Haggai and Zechariah have been placed near the end of the Old Testament, these men prophesied while the events in the book of Ezra were taking place (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Twenty books separate Haggai and Zechariah from the book of Ezra, yet the events recorded in each book were occurring at the same time. Obviously, these books are not arranged in chronological order.
Even though 2 Chronicles appears before the book of Job, the events recorded in Job took place long before those that are recorded in 2 Chronicles. In fact, if the Bible were a book of strict chronology, the events recorded in Job likely would be placed somewhere within the book of Genesis, after Genesis 6 (since Job 22:15-16 is more than likely a reference to the Flood).
In the New Testament, one might assume that since 1 Thessalonians comes after the book of Acts, that Luke penned Acts earlier than Paul penned his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. The truth is, however, 1 Thessalonians was written years before the book of Acts was completed.
In addition to the books of the Bible not being arranged chronologically, inspired writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence. Making the assumption that the entire Bible was written chronologically hinders a proper understanding of the text. For example, Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where Genesis one left off; rather, it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in the first chapter of the Bible. (Whereas Genesis 1 is arranged chronologically, Genesis 2 is organized topically.) The differences in the arrangement of the temptations of Jesus recorded by Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) are resolved when we realize that at least one of them is not reporting the facts in sequential order. Some also question whether Jesus cursed the tree before or after He cleansed the temple. Since Matthew records this event before the cursing of the fig tree (21:12-19), and since Mark places the cleansing of the temple after Jesus cursed the tree (11:15-19), it is supposed that one of the two writers was mistaken. The truth is, however, Matthew’s account is more of a summary, whereas Mark’s narrative is more detailed and orderly. Mark’s more specific account reveals that Jesus actually made two trips to the temple. Thus, as Albert Barnes noted: “Mark has stated the order more particularly, and has ‘divided’ what Matthew mentions together” (1997). Obviously, the gospel accounts were not arranged to be a strict chronology of Jesus’ life.
When studying with those who know very little about the Bible, it is helpful for them to understand the arrangement of Scriptures. By recognizing that many books of the Bible (as well as the events contained therein) are not in a sequential order, one will have fewer problems digesting Scripture.

REFERENCE

Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

Christ at the Door of Your Heart? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1184
Christ at the Door of Your Heart?
by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


One of the most familiar expressions uttered within Christendom is: “Christ stands at the door of your heart.” Many have been the preachers who have urged their hearers to “invite Jesus into their hearts” in order to be forgiven of sin and made a Christian. Someone said if you repeat a statement enough times, people will come to accept it on the basis of sheer repetition and familiarity. The admonition that “Christ stands at the door of your heart” has been repeated so frequently that, for many, to question it is unthinkable. One would think that since this approach to salvation is so widespread, and the expression is so predominant, that surely the statement can be found in Scripture—even if only in so many words. How disturbing to realize that the statement is not found in Scripture and that the Bible simply does not teach this doctrine!
The phraseology is reminiscent of Revelation 3:20—the passage usually quoted to support the idea of Christ standing at the door of one’s heart. But observe the context. Revelation chapters two and three consist of seven specific mini-letters directed to the seven churches of Christ in Asia Minor near the end of the first century. At the outset, one must recognize that Revelation 3:20 is addressed to Christians—not non-Christians on the verge of conversion.
Second, the verse is found among Christ’s remarks to the church in Laodicea. Jesus made clear that the church had moved into an unfaithful condition. They were lost. They were unacceptable to God since they were “lukewarm” (3:16). They had become unsaved since their spiritual condition was “wretched and miserable and poor” (3:17). Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus had abandoned them by removing His presence from their midst. Now He was on the outside looking in. He still wanted to be among them, but the decision was up to them. They had to recognize His absence, hear Him knocking for admission, and open the door—all of which is figurative language to say that they must repent (3:19). They would have to return to the obedient lifestyle so essential to receiving God’s favor (John 14:21,23).
This means that Revelation 3:20 in no way supports the idea that non-Christians merely have to “open the door of their heart” and “invite Jesus in” with the assurance that the moment they mentally/verbally do so, Jesus will come into their heart and they will be simultaneously saved from all past sin and counted as Christians! The context of Revelation 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church.
“But doesn’t the Bible teach that Christ does come into a person’s heart?” Yes. But not the way the religious world suggests. Ephesians 3:17 states that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Faith can be acquired only by hearing biblical truth (Romans 10:17). When that biblical truth is obeyed, the individual is “saved by faith” (Hebrews 5:9; James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22; et al.). So Christ enters our lives when we “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [i.e., when we repent of our sins] and our bodies washed with pure water [i.e., when we are baptized in water]” (Hebrews 10:22). Here is the New Testament (i.e., non-denominational) way to accept Christ.

“I, Not the Lord, Say...” by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2075

“I, Not the Lord, Say...”

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Q.
What did the apostle Paul mean by the statement, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say...” (1 Corinthians 7:12)? Does this phrase indicate that what Paul subsequently wrote was uninspired?

A.

Considering how many times Paul claimed to write and preach by inspiration of God, it is irresponsible to conclude that he was denying inspiration when addressing marriages between Christians and non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Earlier in this letter, Paul noted that while in Corinth, his preaching was “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:4-5). Paul contrasted human wisdom with the wisdom and power of God, and declared that he had the latter. Later, in this same epistle, Paul wrote: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (14:37, emp. added; cf. 7:40). Paul also claimed inspiration in his other epistles (Galatians 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:8,15). Even Peter alluded to Paul’s writings as being a part of Scripture, and thus inspired (2 Peter 3:15-16).
When Paul wrote that he (rather than the Lord) was addressing a particular marriage relationship, he did not mean that he was speaking without authority from God. He simply meant that he was making application of marital truths that the Lord did not specifically expound upon while on Earth. Jesus most certainly was the Master Teacher (cf. Matthew 7:28-29; John 7:46), but He obviously did not specifically address every subject under the Sun. Thankfully, through His inspired apostles and prophets, more specific truths and applications eventually were revealed. Christians have every reason to believe that such truths originated with “the Spirit of truth,” Who guided Paul and the rest of the Bible writers “into all truth” (John 16:13).

Does God Exist? by Trevor Bowen

http://insearchoftruth.org/articles/god.html

Does God Exist?

Introduction

As students in search of truth, the first issue that must be resolved is the question of God's existence.  The search for the existence of a supreme being transcends all cultures, races, ages, genders, and backgrounds.  No matter what our station in life, we eventually form some conclusion to this question that confronts our unified existence.  This is the beginning point for all religions and philosophies because our outlook on everything else is built upon the foundation laid by this answer.  Therefore, before we can even investiagate objective truth and the Bible, we must first answer this fundamental question.

Going Where Science Dare Not Tread

One point must be understood before we continue any farther:  Some basic similarities do exist between the realm of science and the realm of religion and philosophy.  Both depend on observant, unbiased reasoning skills.  However, the two are diametrically opposed in purpose.   Science is not flawed, but it seeks another purpose, to explain phenomenon through formation of hypothesis and experimentation.  It deals in the realm of the demonstrable.  It has no power, or usefulness in explaining anything that can neither be observed, tested, or demonstrated.
Yet, philosophy and religion are concerned with the questions of origin: "Where did we come from?"  The point that must be clear before we continues is this:  Any answer to this question cannot be scientifically proven!   If we accept either theories about evolution or ideas about God, we must understand that none of these solutions can be observed, tested, or demonstrated!
So, if the rules of science do not apply to this question, then how will we find the answer?  We must consider the evidence, weigh it, and based upon it, determine which choice is the most compelling and rational.  This cannot be emphasized enough:  if any one seeks to prove his or her answer, then will they have vainly set out to complete an unfinishable task.  Judgment can only be made upon the most compelling evidence.  Within this realm, science is powerless, and the honest open mind reigns as king.

Simple Answers

The Bible never addresses the question of God's existence directly.  It is indirectly referenced in a few passages, but no formal defense is set forth.  However, it does speak harshly against the one who "says in their heart, 'Their is noGod." (Psalm14:1).  But, why does God's Word make such a strong condemnation?  How does the Bible expect us to make a conclusion to a problem that philosophers have argued for hundreds of years? 
The Bible teaches that the truth, the answer is evident to all.  So, what is this testimony that speaks so clearly?  We have already stated that no experiment exists to test the existence of God.  Science cannot help us detect something that is undetectable.  The location of the answer is found in this psalm, or song, of praise to God:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4)
The answer surrounds all of us, regardless of our nationality, language, or location.  The very existence of such a magnificent and awesome universe demands the existence of a Creator.  Something cannot come from nothing.  This is the only the argument that the Bible offers in response to those who would debate this question.  We all understand that nothing breeds more nothing, order cannot arise from disorder, every effect had a cause.  Any variation from this is forced by a cause outside the system.  As we push back through time, searching for the cause of each effect, we eventually must come to a "first cause", a cause outside the universe.  What then is the rational, compelling choice to the identity of this "first cause"?  Did an eternal, intelligent mind bring order and substance out of nothing, or did inanimate substance pull itself out of nothing to produce an intelligent mind?

"What Are the Alternatives?"

Considering the origin of the universe and humanity is probably the most compelling argument for God's existence.  But, it becomes even more compelling when we consider the plausibility of the alternatives:
  1. The universe spontaneously created itself.
  2. The universe always existed - Matter is eternal.
Let's consider the first alternative.  All that we know and understand compels that nothing is spontaneously generated or created.  Pasteur debunked this myth many years ago.  No person would believe that a house, or a tree, or a person, just spontaneously popped up out of thin air.  Why then would it be reasonable to believe that the universe, countless orders of magnitude larger in mass, spontaneously popped up out of absolute nothing with a precharged energy potential to accomplish work, not to mention purposeful and intelligent work?  Believing this first alternative requires not just faith, but blind faith!  There is no evidence to support this view whatsoever, and all that we know and understand defies the very principles upon which it is founded.
Now, please consider the second alternative.  It also defies all that we know and understand.  All of science and common sense teaches that life, the world, and the universe is "running down".  Thermodynamics teaches that the universe has a fixed amount of energy (considering all mass translated into energy), and the entire system is proceeding from a state of higher order to a more disordered state.  Eventually, it will climax into a motionless state of complete disorder.  In effect, the universe is one gigantic alarm clock, which is running down.  No one would deny this phenomenon.  Houses dilapidate, people grow old and die, machines rust, stars burn out, etc. If matter has always existed, and it is always digressing to a more disorderly state, then why has the universe not "run down"?  It would have already expired, and we would not be here.  Our very existence disprove the plausibility of this alternative.  The very fact that it is "running down" demands that it must have had a beginning, a time when it was "wound up" and "the alarm set."  So, who set the alarm?

Conclusion

Over the centuries, several arguments have been proposed that illustrated evidence for the existence of God.  The most powerful evidence is the very world that surrounds us.  The apostle Paul also spoke of this:
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20
This creation not only tells us of God's existence, but it also demonstrates His great and "eternal power" that is part of His divine nature as member of the "Godhead".  Through the visible world we are able to see something of these otherwise "invisible attributes."  Even though it cannot be "scientifically proven", this passage teaches the evidence is so compelling that if one fails to acknowledge His Creator, he is left "without excuse."
Yet, the magnitude of creation can only demonstrate the existence and power of this supreme being.  It cannot teach us what He asks of us.  In fact, without revelation from Him, we cannot know anything more about Him or His will for us.  It is this need that the Bible fulfills, and it is to this purpose we now direct our focus, establishing the Bible as God's will for us today.

Trevor Bowen

Fasting that Pleases God by Ben Fronczek

http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?p=575

Fasting that Pleases God

Fasting That Pleases God
In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus said,  “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,  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.”
In our study of Matthew 6, so far we learned that Jesus wanted His disciples to understand how important it is to take our religion serious and not to act like the Pharisees and teachers of old who seem more interested in showing off. As He raises the righteousness bar, in this lesson we are going to look at something that most Christians have little experience with, and that is fasting.
In all my years of being a Christian I am not sure if I ever heard a lesson preached on fasting. Many of us do not understand or or appreciation its significance.  Fasting done properly can be very powerful and life changing!
I hear frustrated Christians asking questions related to their faith and religion and walking the walk of a Christian. I believe that by fasting that practice could help them get some answers and solutions.
For example; some say, ‘I have been praying about this thing so long and I just can’t seem to get an answer. Or, I have been struggling with this sin so long – How many times am I going to have to go around and around and deal with the cycle of sin, having to confess, repent, sin again, confess, repent and not moving forward?  Or, I’ve been just so discouraged. I don’t know what’s happening to me. I should be the happiest person in the world but I’m not.’
I personally believe that fasting is a tool that God has given us to help us find some answers to such questions and so much more.And I believe it just may be the missing ingredient in your life. I believe it is a lost discipline that Christians should be re-examining and taking full advantage of today.
A survey of 100 Christians (take by James MacDonald) was taken and these people were asked the following question:  What is it that personally frustrates you as a Christians in your own life, in you own walk as a Christian? Here are the top five answers which given which Christian personally frustrated over in their life :
#5 –  The Inconsistency of their quiet time. ‘I know I should walk with God.    I know I should read the Bible. I want to do it. Sometimes I try to use a study guide. Sometimes I make myself do it. But the fact of the matter is, a week goes by and I don’t do it at all. It’s been like that more than weeks or months at time. In all honesty it’s been like that for years. I know the right, I want the right, but I don’t choose the right. And it’s frustrating me.’
#4 –  I don’t sense God’s presence with me‘I sense it at church. I sense it occasionally in other places, but mostly my life is relatively secular.  I don’t think about God all the time. I don’t sense God at work. I don’t sense God in my home very much. Sometimes I wonder if we are really any different than our neighbors. Why don’t I sense God’s presences more when I love Him as I do?’     This is frustrating to many people.
#3 – I feel like I don’t measure up‘I have nagging areas of secret sin and attitudes I can’t shake. I have anger inside. I have bitterness inside. I Lust, I struggle with fear and anxiety and depression. I have secret sins that trip me up. In a lot of ways God has helped me grow, but in some certain areas I wonder if I’ve progressed at all.’
#2 – Where’s the miracles? ‘Where’s the answered prayers? The Bible is filled with stories of them. How about just one God? You know I hear about other Christians that have had miraculous things happen; answered prayer, break troughs with specific things that they’ve prayed about. But I feel like I prayed for a lot of things a lot of times and I am just not seeing that much happening.’     And that frustrates many Christians.
So  far the things that frustrate Christians:   – Inconsistent quiet time  – Not sensing His presence like I want.  – Feeling like we don’t measure up. Having certain areas we struggle with. – Not seeing the answer to prayers and the breakthroughs we long for
– And the  #1 thing that frustrates Christians is quality of their own their prayer time  ‘I said that I want to pray more and what happens, I didn’t do it. I want to, I know that it is right to do but just don’t seem to do it as much as I should. And that frustrates me and I feel guilty about it.’
Some people would say, “Well you don’t change because you don’t want to.”  That is not correct.  The problem is not that we don’t want to; the problem is that even though you feel you like you want to, you want other things more.
So what can I do when the things that I want the most don’t become my reality. The problem is that I am not getting from knowing what’s best to doing what’s best and so I feel stuck and frustrated.
Now God has given us some tools to break these cycles of frustration, but even some of the tools He has given us require us wanting to use them. Study of God’s word can help break these patterns. Memorizing scripture reading God’s word can help. But what has God given me to break the pattern of not doing the thing I want to do most? Answer, FASTING.
If you don’t believe me I would challenge you to take a concordance and look up the word fasting and how much it is used in your Bible. You will be shocked how frequently the subject of fasting comes up in scripture. It’s in the OT and it’s in the NT. It’s in the Gospels and it’s in the epistles. Jesus fasted regularly. He even fasted for 40 day and nights before he launched out into His three year ministry.
So what is the definition of fasting for a Christian: It is  “Abstaining from foods (or something else) for measured periods of time in order to heighten one’s hunger for the things of God.”    
I declare that fasting can ignite your hunger for God. If we do it for the right reason, as you yearn and hunger for food or whatever you have give up, it can help you turn to the Lord. When you turn your hunger to Him and give it to Him as a sacrifice to be closer to Him, it helps clears your mind to receive His will.
Unfortunately, whether we realize it or not, one problem that most of us have is that we are addicted and enslaved to food. We think we can’t go without it even for a day.   But again that’s not true.
We can be enslaved even to good things, things that are good for us, whether it be food, or sex, or exercise, rest or a bunch of other things. Anything that can empower you can be set aside for a time to break it’s potential enslavement.  When we fast that enslavement is broken and we are able to focus on our hunger for what we really want.
Listen to what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 6:12-13, “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
Anything that I have to have can enslave me. Paul said I am not going to let anything, anything enslave me.  Fasting also can reveal the things that control us. It also humbles us and shows us our true selves.
As Jesus was teaching the Sermon on the Mt. He show that our Fasting can be misplaced. We can do it for a bunch of reasons other than trying to draw to God.  In Zechariah 7:5 God ask the Jews that very question. He Asked, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?  And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?”   
That’s what the Pharisees were doing in Jesus’ time. And we can do the same thing fasting for reasons other than to drawing closer to God.
Read Isaiah. 58:1-5        As you read thsi you see how displeased the Lord was with their fasting, but then in the following verses 6-12 we not only see the importance of fasting properly, but also the actions and attitudes one should have that please the Lord.  Read Isaiah 58:6- 12 (Click on verse to read)  
There are some indications as to why we should fast here:
#1) In verses 6 it indicates that proprer fasting will helo when we have a heavy burdens to deal with. If you have been carrying a heavy burden and you’ve been carrying it for a long time and you are not seeing the changes you need to see, it time to fast.  I challenge you to skip lunch for a whole week and rather than eating give that time to God praying about this. Let the gnawing in your stomach heighten your hunger for God
Maybe you are burdened because someone, maybe in your family, is not walking with God and you’ve prayed and prayed for them. Have you fasted? Have you fasted and prayed that God may break the yoke that enslaves them?
#2 Vs 7 seems to indicate we may need to fast in order to get the right attitude about giving, sharing and helping others.
#3 In Vs 8 it seems to me that we may need to fast when we need direction and the Lord’s encouragement and support.
#4 And in Vs 9 we need to fast when I need an answer to prayer vs 9
#5 Vs 9b -10 Seems to indicate that it will help us get back on the right track.
#6 Vs 11 seems to indicate that if we fast the Lord will guide us and satisfy our needs. He said you will be like a well watered garden.
Does something has a hold on you? You want to do the right thing, but can’t seem to do it? You wish you could move from knowing to doing. When you are in a sinful pattern, when you have a heavy burden, when you need direction — anytime you need more of what only God can provide — you need to develop the discipline of fasting. Let this practice ignite your hunger for God and increase your capacity to choose that which truly satisfies; and that is living in obedience to your Heavenly Father.
Based on a sermon by Dr. James MacDonald   
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566

THE BIBLE IS FOR EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE by Alfred Shannon Jr.

https://biblicalproof.wordpress.com/2011/04/

THE BIBLE IS FOR EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE

In a fast moving, high paced world, one almost has to schedule time to breathe. Yet, the bible is available in every stage of our lives. We can have it at the mall, in the car, in our homes, and any place imaginable. From the highest mountain peak to the lowest valley, and in every language, the bible is there. There is not a valid excuse under the sun that anyone can say, that they don’t have time for God’s Word. The Bible is for everyone, everywhere, and at anytime. Read it, study it, obey it, and live it.
Isa 34:16; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 2:15; Acts 17:11; Jn 14:15

BAPTISM AS A PRAYER & A WITNESS & A COMMITMENT by Jim McGuiggan

https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/2017/11/

BAPTISM AS A PRAYER & A WITNESS & A COMMITMENT

Barry Reed, a highly respected trial lawyer honored in a number of important ways by his peers died in 2002. He specialized in medical malpractice, retired and wrote The Verdict, which was adapted by David Mamet for the screen and came out in 1982 with Paul Newman playing the lead.
Newman plays Frank Galvin, a lawyer who spirals down to being nothing more than an “ambulance chaser” and his wrestle with alcohol was a major factor in that downward plunge. But he gets a shot at redemption when he is offered a case involving a young woman who is given wrong medical treatment and is now in a permanent vegetative state. The medical people are guilty and clear evidence is offered to prove it but the testimony is stricken due to a genuine legal ruling. It seems clear that like countless millions in various situations down the centuries the stricken girl and her family will be denied justice and it’s at that point Galvin, deeply grieved, offers an emotional but accurate summation to the jury. Hesitant and groping now and then for the right words and recognizing the difficulty facing the jury he says this:
“Well…so much of the time we’re just lost. We say, ‘Please, God, tell us what is right; tell us what is true.’ And there is no justice. The rich win and the poor are powerless. We become…tired of hearing people lie and after a time we become dead, we think of ourselves as victims. We become victims. We become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions. We doubt the law. But today you are the law. You are the law! Not some book. Not the lawyers. Not a marble statue or the trappings of the court. Those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a payer, a fervent frightened prayer. In my religion they say, ‘Act as if you had faith and faith will be given to you.’ If we are to have faith, faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice. I believe there is justice in our hearts.” 1The jury returns and renders a verdict in favor of the patient and her family..
What I find compelling in Galvin’s speech is that the longing for righteousness is not entirely absent from human hearts though as in this movie it isn’t always present—for here the church and the medical fraternity were suppressing it.  Jesus would tell you this wasn’t the first time religious people and the powers were united against justice.
Galvin reminds the jury (and us) that the visible structures and written laws bear witness to something deeper. He reminds them (and us) that in a very real sense these things are “a prayer, a very frightened prayer” that our longing for justice will be heard. The structures, the “trappings,” the marble statues and the thousands of law books all speak and they speak falteringly; they speak sometimes poorly and they speak to people who feel helpless and unsure, people who don’t always know what is right or how to bring it about.
Still, in a world, a big round teeming world, where injustice is rampant, where the liars and the powerful hold sway these buildings and judges and trappings and laws continue to protest.  And we need to remember that the movie originated in the heart of a real-life Barry Reed and isn’t just a movie—it describes life as it is in this fallen world. And when a movie has the impact that this movie had it’s only an ignorant cynic that dismisses it as having nothing worthwhile to say.
As the visible structures that are part of the judicial system point to something beyond themselves and become a sort of prayer for the best and for what is right so it is that the visible act of Baptism is a profound act of trust and commitment and it’s a prayer that reaches out in trust to Someone who lived, died and lives again for the entire human family. Baptism proclaims and in its very action it images the resurrection of Jesus. In doing that it shouts to an enslaved human family that it has a champion. Baptism says, “The One who lives again and forever is not your enemy; He is the enemy and conqueror of your enemies!”
In Acts 17:30-31 Paul contrasts the years that passed before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with what is now revealed about God and he speaks of them as years of ignorance. God had never been concerned only about the welfare of a single nation or a particular group! In Christ who died for all in all the ages we learn that all tyranny in all the nations will be taken into account and dealt with. Victims and oppressors will all be treated with fairness, a righteousness that only God can exercise, a righteousness that’s perfectly imaged in the person of the Lord Jesus. “Look at Him, “ baptism says, “That’s the embodiment of fairness and righteousness that will judge the world.”
And our assurance of that is what? Once more, God assures us that this will take place by raising Jesus Christ from the dead. Every man, woman, boy and girl that rises from the watery grave announces the coming righting of all wrongs! The groaning, anguished world needs to hear that truth—all wrongs will be righted—and God appointed baptism as a witness to that truth.
It’s too easy to reduce this true word about judgment and the entire section to threat and ignore the assurance, the promise, and it’s too easy to leave the impression that God is nothing more than a heavenly legalist. The section is not threat so much as it is assurance for it identifies the one true God who will judge the world in faithfulness and fairness as the giver of life and everything else; it tells us that He gives these because we are His children and because He wishes for us to seek after Him and find Him (Acts 17:25,27-29). Seek after Him guided by His abundant provision, seek after Him and find Him! God wants us to find Him; to find Him!God loves to be longed for,
He longs to be sought
For he sought us Himself
With such longing and love.
He died for desire of us,
Marvelous thought
And he yearns for us now
To live with Him in love. 2
All the gods in the world’s ancient and modern marketplaces make their claims and offer their credentials and promises but one of them stands out above all the rest. Other than this one, the rest have kept their distance from the human family, living in myths and in imagination on far away mountains and in “once upon a time” periods—playing games with mankind and feasting as the lords they were imagined to be.
Heinrich Heine died in 1856. He was a highly regarded German-born poet, journalist and literary figure and he wrote about his travels in Travel Pictures. In the book he quotes the Homeric description of the feasting gods and then he imagines and says this:
“Then suddenly approached, panting, a pale Jew with drops of blood on his brow, with a crown of thorns on his head, and a great cross laid on his shoulders; and he threw the cross on the high table of the gods so that the golden cups tottered, and the gods became dumb and pale, and grew even paler till at last they melted away into vapor.” (I wish I’d written that!) He goes on to say this.
“Anyone who sees his god suffering finds it easier to endure his own pain. The merry gods of the past, who felt no pain, did not know either how poor tortured human beings feel, and a poor person in desperation could have no real confidence in them. They were holiday gods; people danced around them merrily, and could only thank them. For this reason they never received whole-hearted love. To receive whole-hearted love one must suffer. Compassion is the last sacrament of love; it may be love itself. Therefore of all the gods who ever lived, Christ is the god who has been loved the most.”3Paul claimed that the one true God permitted the human family freedom to reject Him and go its own way but He left a witness of Himself. He didn’t go into a ceaseless divine sulk and rage, He continued to do good, to give us sunshine and rain, fruitful seasons and to fill our hearts with gladness.4 And the final proof, the climatic proof, the astonishing truth (hard for some to believe) is Jesus!We must come to understand that it’s life God offers to the world in Jesus Christ. God isn’t like a vain man or woman who is interested only in being told how wonderful He is. He created humans to love and be loved, to live in righteousness and enjoy life in which warm and gladly expressed righteousness prevails.
Those who have little concern about justice for all haven’t yet understood the mission of God. He is about the forgiveness of sins but He is about humanity and about humanity’s needs; He is about dying but He is about living. When He came to us in and as Jesus Christ He not only forgave, He healed and fed and He called on people to do the same (see Acts 10:38). “Religion” that is not “life” is not the religion God is about. The OT is saturated with the truth that God is profoundly concerned about injustice, the deprivation of people, about their hunger and their needs. Because this is so we hear about Him dismantling national and political structures that abuse and deprive the poor and needy [Ezekiel 16, Daniel 4; Amos 7 illustrate].
How people live and die matters to Him! And one vast and complex aspect of His mission to reconcile the world to Himself and to one another is to bring about life and peace and joy under the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ!
All our best dreams in our best moments include life that is joy-filled and with reachable opportunities for all that will permit them to grow and love and live in the fullness of life. Our wise reforms smash on the rock of human wickedness. Despite our best efforts in our best and wisest moments horror stories reach us about cruelty, humiliation, slavery and despair that defy adequate description.
Though it is many things baptism is a confession and a prayer. It is a confession that humans cannot cure themselves and that if a warm justice is to prevail God will have to step in and see it is done.5 Baptism is a prayer, sometimes a hesitant prayer, because we humans are so vulnerable and easily frightened by power that’s demonic; but it is a prayer that what is right will triumph because Jesus Christ who is truth and right has triumphed. It’s a prayer based on the truth that He didn’t triumph just for Himself; He didn’t triumph simply to show how much wiser and stronger God is than humans—He triumphed for us—for His human family, for his Father’s children. 6This truth is an aspect of the gospel! Whatever else we take to humans that live in distant lands or close to home, and live under oppression or in ceaseless deprivation; whatever we take we must take that truth!
Of course we’ll tell them that they too are sinners but we must tell them that God has sent us to tell them that He sees their pain and suffering and that in Jesus He will right all wrongs and will “restore the years that the locusts have eaten.” We need to tell them that and then we need to tell them that God wills it that they join Him in telling this to their family and friends and enemies and nations. God is more than a judge; He is a Savior who is their Father!
And when they go down into the water and rise again they say to all those powers that oppose Christ and his Spirit, “Your day is coming! You think we’re beaten because you enslave, torment and kill us? You’re wrong! You’ve done that with millions of us but one day you did it with one who had your number! In us, in our faith and our living hope He continues to defeat you even now and He’s returning and will obliterate you!” And to all the victims of oppression, all the multiplied millions that have gone down or are going down under the heel of oppressive governments, under unjust laws and systems their baptism says, “You are not forgotten! All wrongs will be righted and life that spills over with life will go on forever!”
[Holy Father, help us to believe in the Son you love and who simply by being Himself is the Judge of the world. We can’t deny that we believe in Him but there are times when we look inward and around and we know with a disappointing certainty that we desperately need you to help us in our unbelief. Now and then and for a while we realize how difficult faith in Him is for those whose lives are one long experience of rejection or ill health or economic oppression or humiliation or loneliness—they hear His name spoken and sung but they know only hurt and loss and a daily trudge toward old age, feebleness and the grave, while the rich and powerful and their content supporters, the lairs and those that manipulate the truth and control the flow of information are blessed. In truth, at times we wonder how anyone can be saved. In our sinfulness we have helped build a world that has become our master, it frightens us and it is too strong for us. We find our faith is fervent within the walls of a place of public worship but find it listless when intimidated by daily life that confuses and hurts us so that we put our trust in power and shrewdness and lies. We remember sometimes that you will gain your eternal loving purpose even if we do not help you but in our hearts we do not wish you to do it without us. Leave us not, continue your patient work with us and trust in us and equip us better for your service. Though we deserve it not, keep us ever near to your heart that ours might find its rhythm in yours. Deliver us from the temptation to make alliances with the gloomy and savage powers of the world as did your People in ancient times and if need be rip away all the props we use to support ourselves and leave us with no option but to trust in you through Him. Help your Church to remember our Baptism and to daily live its message that poor tortured suffers might hear and be drawn to trust and to live in vibrant hope because of Jesus Christ. This prayer in the Lord Jesus.]

Notes

  1. I’m well aware that that speech will offend many serious church-going people who might mutter, “Humanism.” But I’m not interested at this point in discussing the weaknesses of the “theology” in the speech. I wish only to say before moving on that God does not bring justice about by magic. And he does not bring it about solely through people who have a perfectly worded theology. He does it through flawed humans; humans that are not so flawed that they can’t recognize and long for social justice in this world; humans that God has helped to so shape whether they know it or not and sometimes—as in the situation in view—they that are able to see that it’s done. In this book/movie he does it through a jury of twelve ordinary people.
  2. The closing verse [last line slightly adapted] of F.W. Faber’s great poem, The Desire of God. Easily found online.
  3. Archipelago Books, 2008, translation by Peter Wortsman, page 174. 4. Acts 14:15-17
  4. Baptism calls Christians to live life now in the image of Jesus Christ who is the embodiment of the fullness of life in the final unveiling of kingdom life. We’re not given the right to yawn and say God will make the difference when he comes so noting is asked of us.
  5. & 6 See Acts 17:23-29