FASTING part 3

Matthew 6:16-18  16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

For the 40 day fasting of Jesus what would be the thing that stirred in His soul? Keep in mind that even at the age of 12 He had a deep appetite for God’s Word and astounded the religious leaders for three days.

Jesus attended the wedding of some friends where He was asked to help with the wine shortage. He told His mother that the two of them were not on the same page. His heart was yearning for something deeper than getting wine. Keep in mind that the first thing that Jesus did when completing His fast was to start preaching and carried the message of Repentance all around Galilee. Matthew remarked in chapter 9 how He had compassion toward the crowds of Israelites, the sinners, the lost sheep of Israel.

Jesus was not just hungry from the lack of food when He fasted. He was hungry for the hurting, the frustrated, the confused, the neglected, the poor, the sick, the demon possessed. His passion was driven by compassion. Even though Peter asked Him to go away because he was a sinner, Jesus would not give up but called him to follow Him.

What are you hungry for? Where is your Mem, your stirring of the emotions? What is your heart aching for?

The hypocrites? They had a stirring of the emotions alright. They hungered for recognition. They hungered for the praises of man. They received their rewards and those rewards faded with them.

But, when we have hungers that involve God then our reward is great and will be seen by all. Why? God get’s the credit. He will reward you, but in such a way that all will want to know your secret.

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FASTING part 2

Matthew 6:16-18  16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Let’s go to the letters themselves in the Hebrew word for fasting in the original pictogram. What story do they tell?

    • The first letter is the Tsade. It is the picture of a man laying on his side. The letter means need. In this case it would be a person in need for lack of eating.
    • The second letter is the Vav. It is the picture of a nail. It means to connect and is often used as a conjunction in connection two ideas together.
    • The third letter is the Mem. It is a picture of water and is the word for water. But not just any water. The water is troubled, stirred up. The letter can also mean chaos and stirred feelings deep within.

What are the two ideas that the Vav is connecting together? The person weakened by the lack of food and the stirred emotions.

Put this definition with Jesus’ description of what He suggests we do when we enter into the public during or following a fast, wash up and cover the smell, and it gives a picture of someone who is willing to spend the day or more before God in anguish rather than satisfy the personal need for food.

Fasting is not focused on what you give up as much as the anguish deep within you. What is stirring within you? What drives you to tears? What keeps you awake at night? What will never happen that you need so desperately unless God jumps in and takes control? It is that which burns within you that will determine what you are willing to give up in order to receive what you so desperately are interceding for.

Therefore, whether a partial fast, a water only fast, or a fast with nothing – all is determined by what you are able to give up for what you so desperately seek for.

What else is Jesus saying about fasting?

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FASTING part 1

Matthew 6:16-18  16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Recently, fasting has become a little more of a common practice because of an emphasis on the church as a whole to participate in a Daniel fast during the month of January. But fasting has to be understood to be more than a fad or a diet. Jesus said, “When you fast…” This practice is not an option but to be expected among His believers. It is great to participate, but the idea of a fad has to be kept out of the practice.

With the Daniel Fast many more have felt that they can participate in fasting and it not effect their work performance or health issues. To simplify it the more, there are now several Daniel Fast cookbooks. There are some very amazing dishes for anyone wanting to fast and yet not feel like they are fasting.

No, I am not downing the Daniel Fast nor the cookbooks. They are great as long as we understand that what we eat and do not eat are not the focus. Does Jesus make any reference to the food that you eat or do not eat in these verses? His reference is to the physical result that fasting tends to have and how important it is to cover it up in order to keep it a private matter.

From my studies and experience I have concluded that far too much is made over trying to do things exactly like Daniel did. We have no evidence that he had any scriptural guidelines for what he chose to eat and not eat. There are many who have become all bent out of shape because “they aren’t doing it right.” Give me a break! I believe that what Daniel chose was what he felt that he could do in order to not draw attention to himself by the authorities. He did what he could to make it a private matter.

So, what is fasting? The Greek word here literally means to starve, to do without food. This was the closest word they had to what the Hebrew word was and yet it was not close enough. It was a common practice of that day among the heathen to fast in order to enhance their spiritual connectivity with their gods. Sounds like our understanding today. Are we satisfied to have the same understanding as the heathen do? James just said to draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Therefore, this can not be the definition that Jesus understood.

So, do we use the Greek definition and feel satisfied? Jesus was a Jew speaking to Jewish people in a Jewish culture. What did those of the Old Testament understand about fasting? What understanding would Jesus’ listeners have had from their Jewish roots?

If you look up fasting in you discover that the Hebrew word for fast means “to fast.” Therefore, the assumption is that we already know what it means to fast. The next step is to discover what story the letters tell in the Hebrew word for fast. It is an amazing story.

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The Passion of Yashua

Luke 2:41-42  His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.

This passage is not so unusual. A set of parents taking their son  to participate in a big event. Jesus is now of the age to begin His entry into manhood. Up to this point, as a traditional Jewish boy, He had been a student of the Tanakh (scripture collection of the Old Testament), memorized the five books of the Torah (the law), and has possibly began His studies in the Talmud (collection of teachings and ethics). It becomes very evident from His three day stay in Jerusalem and His knowledge of Scripture later in life, that Jesus was passionate about the ways of His Heavenly Father. “…I must be about my Father’s business.”

My son has a love for cars. At age 15 he purchased his first car for $750.00, a 1969 Mustang. He poured two years into its restoration and about $7,000. By the age of 18 he owned an additional 4 cars; a 67′ convertible Mustang, a ’95 convertible Mustang, a ’79 Z28, and a ’05 Focus. He worked at a cookie store and paid cash for all but the Focus. Instead, he paid the five year payment off on it in less than 3 years. Within the next two years I had to stress to him how important it was to focus on one project car and get rid of the rest. My driveway had become a car lot.

Today, between his ministry trips to Romania, he works 60+ hours a week as an auto mechanic. He has a passion for cars and a second love for Romania.

At the age of 12 Jesus’ passion was already evident. He loved the Word of God. He loved to talk about the things of His Father. He was already, at this age, aware of what His Heavenly Father’s business was and wanted to be a part of it.

Separated from His parents for three days, would it not have dawned on Him that His parents might be stressing over His absence? Where did He sleep? Who fed Him during the days?

He was a normal 12 year old lost in His growing passion. The last verse of this chapter describes Jesus as increasing in wisdom. How many wise 12 year old boys do you know? None and Jesus was a human boy. But, how many 12 year olds already have a passion? Some do and Jesus was one of them.

Therefore, I do not believe that this was His last trip over the next 18 years before His ministry. But, this may have been the last time He sat and talked with the leaders for three days like this.

If he did not talk about the greatness of God and the conflict of God’s Word and their modern culture with these leaders anymore, then who did He discourse with? Joseph? Mary? Neighborhood boys? His local Rabbi?

For the most part, I believe that much of it Jesus kept bottled up, ready to explode it upon a people who are hungry to hear what He has to say. For this, He will need someone to work the crowd. Someone who will spread a single word, “Change.” And John the Baptist one of the few who did this effectively. “Repent!”

It has been 10 years since my son’s first car and he still has it and the ’95 convertible. He collects facts, attends classes to advance his career, is making plans to do a second restoration on his first car, and knows more about his field than most his age.

We may not have anymore glimpses into the life of Jesus until He enters into ministry, but you can be assured that His passion for the Father and the Word always set the stage for any conversation and any collections He may have had.

If He was truly 30 years of age when He began His ministry then He spent most of his childhood, his teen years and his young adult life preparing for the moment that He would pour His wealth of collection into a small group of men. Jesus’ investment into their lives would change them forever and thus change the world.

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picture-131Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season. Whose leaf also shall not wither; and what ever he does shall prosper.

1. The Hebrew word for “blessed” can also mean “enriched.” David begins this Psalm with this word and ends Psalm 2 with it. Therefore some say that 1 and 2 are one psalm. It is within these Psalms that we discover how to be enriched. From the letters of the root it literally means “strength consuming your mind.” The root word means straight or level.

2. Our delight is in the law of the Lord, meaning, the law which God gave to Moses. But here is something interesting. There are those who believe that the next phrase does not refer to the Lord – “and in his law.” Rather, this law of the Lord, when practiced, becomes ownership of the one being enriched. It’s God’s law and when we begin to work it it becomes a part of us and is ours.

3. We become like a tree planted. The Hebrew word for planted or rooted in water is not used here. Rather, it is a word which gives the picture of our soul being replanted in heaven. Taking God’s commands as ours plants our roots in heaven.

4. Fruit in its season – our fruit is by divine timing. Nothing is automatic nor constant, but our fruit is timely.

Who Is A Minister?

Equip the Saints

Equip the Saints

Ephesians 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

I went to College and obtained a degree so that I could be a minister. I took several test to climb a ladder of succession in my denomination to have credentials to be a minister. And then I read this scripture from Ephesians and realized that I had the wrong definition.

When I mention the words laity and minister a very clear picture comes to mind. A minister is a minister of music, youth minister, children’s minister, pastor, evangelist, etc. and everyone else is a laity. Right?

Did you know that the word laity means someone who is in the presence of a professional. When I go to the doctor’s office I am a laity. It is not a scriptural word. The Message does use the word in 1 Chronicles when it is referring to the people who are not priest. But Peter says twice that we are all in the priesthood.

So, who are the ministers? Paul says that five offices were given, not one person holding all five offices. Five offices have the distinct responsibility to equip the saints. That is their primary function.

Who are the saints? According to Romans 1:7, 8:28, 15:25, 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc. . . the saints are those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Are you a follower?

The Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers are to equip the saints or followers of Christ for what purpose? For the work of ministry. What do you call someone who does ministry? A minister.

Therefore, in our congregation the saying is heard often, “You are a minister or a minister in training.” There are no laity here!

Feel free to leave your comments or insights.

Mustard Seed Faith

From seed to tree

From seed to tree

For those of us who have grown up around faith talk we have heard a thousand times that if we have faith the size of a mustard see that we can move mountains. Not only is that a teaching not supported by any other scripture, but it is a misquote.

Jesus said in Matthew 17: 20 ” . . . I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from her to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

The down side is that there are a few translations which translate this to say “the size of” or “as small as.” And yet, in the original text it is a comparative.

Allow me to explain.

1. In Matthew 6:30 Jesus chides the disciples for having little faith.

2. In Matthew 8:26 Jesus scolds the disciples for fearing the storm and having little faith.

3. In Matthew 14:31 Jesus tagged Peter as having little faith when he began to sink on the water.

4. In Matthew 16:8 it happens again.

Now on the other hand Jesus praises several individuals for having great faith; the Centurion in Matthew 8:10 and the gentile woman in Matthew 15:28.

So, if Jesus is not referring to the size of the mustard seed then what is He referring to? We find the answer in Matthew 13:31-32. The mustard seed one of the smallest of all seeds and yet when it grows it is as big as a tree. The mustard plant in Israel will grow to 6 to 9 feet tall within 6 months.

With that information we can better understand that Jesus was saying that faith, like that of a mustard see, can move a mountain. For the mustard seed understands that it may be the smallest yet it will be great. It is growing faith!

Feel free to leave your comments or insights.