“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9
A few years ago a friend gave me and some other guys a "challenge" coin. Later, I watched my son, Cory receive one from his Training Instructor in a special coin ceremony at Lackland Air Force base. Challenge coins are a great way of reminding us of our belief system.
Like so many other aspects of military tradition, the origins of the challenge coin are a matter of debate without much supporting evidence. While many organizations and services claim to have been the originators of the challenge coin, the most commonly held view is that the tradition began in the United States Army Air Service (a
forerunner of the current United States Air Force).
Air warfare was a new phenomenon during World War I. When the army created flying squadrons they were
manned with volunteer pilots from every walk of civilian life. While some of the early pilots came from working class or rural backgrounds, many were wealthy college students who withdrew from classes in the middle of the year, drawn by the adventure of this new form of warfare.
Allegedly, one student, a wealthy lieutenant, ordered small, solid-bronze medallions which he gave to the other pilots in his squadron as mementos of their service together. The coin was gold-plated, bore the squadron’s insignia, and was quite valuable. One of the pilots in the squadron, who had never owned anything like the coin, placed it in a leather pouch he wore around his neck for safekeeping. A short while later, this pilot’s aircraft was heavily damaged by ground fire forcing him to land behind enemy lines and allowing the Germans to capture him. The Germans confiscated the personal belongings from his pockets but they didn’t catch the leather pouch around his neck. They held him overnight in a small German-held French village near the front lines. During the night, the town was bombarded by the British and in the chaos the pilot escaped.
The pilot avoided German patrols by wearing civilian clothes but his I.D. had been confiscated so he had no way to prove his identity. Finally, he made it across no-man’s land and made contact with a French patrol. Unfortunately for him, the French had been on the lookout for German saboteurs dressed as civilians. They mistook the American pilot for a German saboteur and immediately prepared to execute him.
Desperate to prove his allegiance but without any identification, the pilot pulled out the coin from his leather pouch and showed it to his French captors. One of the Frenchmen recognized the unit insignia on the coin and delayed the execution long enough to confirm the pilot’s identity.
Once the pilot safely returned to his squadron, it became a tradition for all members to carry their coin at all times.
We must remember that character requires resolve and commitment. The example we set is how others will view us. Just like those early pilots, we must do everything we can to remind ourselves about what we stand for. If we don’t, we will become very vulnerable in this world and to our enemy.
It was Alexander Hamilton, the first treasurer of the United States who said, “If you stand for nothing, you will
fall for anything.” We must do all we can to sustain our belief system every day.
Pastor Jim Asberry
Dr. Bill Bright
Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines. Through fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit can transform your life.
Fasting and prayer can also work on a much grander scale. According to Scripture, personal experience and observation, I am convinced that when God's people fast with a proper Biblical motive-seeking God's face not His hand-with a broken, repentant, and contrite spirit, God will hear from heaven and heal our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation and world. Fasting and prayer can bring about revival - a change in the direction of our nation, the nations of earth and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The awesome power can be released through you as you fast through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
Fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual admonitions. In fact, it has been ignored for so long that it is difficult to find information on the "how-to's" of this life-changing experience.
This blog is designed to answer your practical questions about fasting and ease any concerns you might have. I want to share with you what I have learned and what has helped me. Whether you hold a 1-day fast or an extended 40-day fast, I pray that our Lord's most wonderful love and blessings will be poured out on you as you take this exciting step of faith.
Why You Should Fast
If you do not already know of the power and importance of fasting, here are some very important facts:
Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras. For example, Moses fasted at least two recorded forty-day periods. Jesus fasted 40 days and reminded His followers to fast, "when you fast," not if you fast. ·
Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the "first love" for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ. ·
Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, "I humble myself through fasting." ·
Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life. The Holy Spirit will quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you! ·
Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life-and make you a channel of revival to others.·
Fasting and prayer are the only disciplines that fulfill the requirements of II Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
If you fast, you will find yourself being humbled as I did. You will discover more time to pray and seek God's face. And as He leads you to recognize and repent of un-confessed sin, you will experience special blessings from God.
How Long And What Type of Fast?
If you have never fasted before, I applaud your present interest! Fasting has been a major emphasis in the lives of many of the great spiritual leaders throughout history. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, fasted every Wednesday and Friday and required all of his clergy to do the same. Effective ministers of God from the apostle Paul to Martin Luther to John Calvin made it a continual part of their walks with God.
None of those men had a "formula fast" that was the only "right" way. Fasting is about the condition of the heart, not the number of days. Each time that I have fasted, it was because I felt impressed by God to do so.
So, start slowly. Fast for one meal a day, or one day a week, or one week a month. Build up your spiritual muscles.
The Bible Recounts Primarily Two Types of Fasts
A partial fast is described in the book of Daniel. Although the water fast seemed to be the custom of the prophet, there was a three-week period in which he only abstained from "delicacies," meat, and wine (Daniel 10:3).
The two primary types mentioned in the Bible are the "absolute" and "supernatural absolute" fasts. These are total fasts-no food (solid or liquid) and no water. Paul went on an absolute fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Moses and Elijah
engaged in what must be considered a supernatural absolute fast of forty days (Deuteronomy 9:9; I Kings 19:8).
So, I strongly advice you to drink plenty of liquids. Obviously, if God leads you to undertake an absolute fast, you should obey. If so, be certain, without doubt, that God is leading you.
Water-only fasts that last for more than several days need to be undertaken with complete rest and under medical supervision because of the extreme danger of over-toxification, breakdown of vital body tissues, and loss of electrolytes.
I personally recommend and practice water and juice fasting, especially if you are going to fast for an extended period of time. This type of fast will provide you with more energy than absolute or water-only fasts and still lead you into the humbling experience of denying your desire for solid food that you can chew.
When it comes to making your final decision about what type of fast is right for you, the best advice I can give you is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will guide your heart and mind as to what is best for you. Remember, the most important consideration in fasting is your motive. Why are you fasting? To seek something personally from God's hand or to seek His face in worship, praise and thanksgiving?
How to prepare Physically and Spiritually
Spiritual Preparation: In preparation for this special time with God, I strongly urge you to examine your heart, and detect any unconfessed sin. Scripture records that God always requires His people to repent of their sins before He will hear their prayers. King David said: Come and hear, all of you who reverence the Lord, and I will tell you what he did for me: For I cried to him for help, with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it! Blessed be God who didn't turn away when I was praying, and didn't refuse me his kindness and love. (Psalm 66:16-20)
In your prayers, confess not only obvious sins, but less obvious ones as well. The sins of omission as well as the sins of commission experiences. These may be experiences leaving your first love for our Lord: worldly-mindedness, self-centeredness, spiritual indifference, and unwillingness to share your faith in Christ with others, not spending sufficient time in God's Word and in prayer, a poor relationship with your spouse, your children, your pastor, or other members of your church.
Another great way to prepare for your fast is to practice what I call "Spiritual Breathing." The concept is simple, but it has changed my own life and that of millions of others. Like physical breathing, Spiritual Breathing is a process of exhaling the impure and inhaling the pure. If you knowingly sin, breathe spiritually to restore the fullness of God's Holy Spirit in your life. You exhale by confessing
your sins immediately when you become aware of them, and you inhale by inviting the Holy Spirit to re-take control of your life. As an act of faith, trust Him to empower you. During the fast, spiritual breathing-constant reliance on the Holy Spirit-will enable you to resist temptation, not only to sin but to abandon your fast.
Physical Preparation: Although fasting is primarily a spiritual discipline, it begins in the physical realm. You should not fast without specific physical preparation. If you plan on fasting for several days, you will find it helpful to begin by eating smaller meals before you abstain altogether. Resist the urge to have that "last big feast" before the fast. Cutting down on your meals a few days before you begin the fast will signal your mind, stomach, and appetite that less food is acceptable.
Some health professionals suggest eating only raw foods for two days before starting a fast. I also recommend weaning yourself off caffeine and sugar products to ease your initial hunger or discomfort at the early stages of your fast.
How to make Your Spiritual Experience the Best It can Be
Receiving God's best blessing from a fast requires solid commitment. Arranging special time each day with God is absolutely crucial in attaining intimate communion with the Father. You must devote yourself to seeking God's face, even (and especially) during those times in which you feel weak,
vulnerable, or irritable. Read His Word and pray during what were mealtimes. Meditate on Him when you awake in the night. Sing praises to Him whenever you please. Focus on your Heavenly Father and make every act one of praise and worship. God will enable you to experience His command to "pray without ceasing" as you seek His presence.
As you enter this time of heightened spiritual devotion, be aware that Satan will do everything he can to pull you away from your prayer and Bible reading time. When you feel the enemy trying to discourage you, immediately go to God in prayer and ask Him to strengthen your resolve in the face of difficulties and temptations.
The enemy makes you a target because he knows that fasting is the most powerful of all Christian disciplines and that God may have something very special to show you as you wait upon Him and seek His face. Satan does not want you to grow in your faith, and will do anything from making you hungry and grumpy to bringing up trouble in your family or at work to stop you. Make prayer your shield against such attacks.
Bring your personal needs before the Lord, intercede for your loved ones, your friends, your church, your pastor, your community, your nation, and the world. By your prayers of humility, as you fast, you will help the Great Commission be fulfilled.
However, do not become so caught up in praying for yourself and others that you forget about simply reverencing and praising God. True spiritual fasting focuses on God. Center your total being on Him, your attitudes, your actions, your motives, desires, and words. This can only take place if God and
His Holy Spirit are at the center of our attention. Confess your sins as the Holy Spirit brings them to your attention and continue to focus on God and God alone so that your prayers may be powerful and effective.
A renewed closeness with God and a greater sensitivity to spiritual things are usually the results of a fast. Do not be disappointed if you do not have a "mountaintop experience," as some do. Many people who have successfully completed extended fasts tell of feeling a nearness to God that they have never before known, but others who have honestly sought His face report no particular
outward results at all. For others, their fast was physically, emotionally, and spiritually grueling, but they knew they had been called by God to fast, and they completed the fast unto Him as an act of worship; God honored that commitment.
Your motive in fasting must be to glorify God, not to have an emotional experience, and not to attain personal happiness. When your motives are right, God will honor your seeking heart and bless your time with Him in a very special way.
What Physical Effects to Expect
Although fasting can be an indescribable blessing, it is not always easy for everyone. In this time of discipline, self-sacrifice and reflection, do not be surprised if you experience mental and physical
To begin, you may experience some inner conflict when you deny yourself the pleasure of eating delicious food. Any sort of fast may sometimes leave you feeling impatient and irritable. During a 3-day fast, this struggle can intensify toward the end of the second day. That seems to be a favorite time for the "self" to rise up and say, "This is as far as I want to go. I have done enough."
These are greatest usually during the first three days of the fast. Your body is adjusting from using the food in your digestive tract (which remains about three days) to consuming stored fats.
Psyllium Bulk: Help eliminate hunger pangs and also aids in cleansing the body. Several capsules can be taken throughout the day with plenty of water. Silymarin tablets may also be helpful, for they are believed to protect and enhance the cleansing of the liver.
How to Finish Your Experience
All the experts agree that "breaking the fast" is the critical phase of fasting. While your body is in the resting mode, your stomach shrinks and your intestines become idle, so solid food must be re-introduced very slowly to avoid kidney failure or digestive distress. In fact, after a 40-day fast, you should make a careful transition for at least three days before returning to eating meats or fats or normal foods. Further, if you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will linger for days. But if you rush into solid foods, you may lose much of your deep sense of peace and experience physical problems such as diarrhea, sickness, fainting, and frankly even death in some cases, due to shock!
Dr. Paul Bragg and his daughter Patricia have conducted fasting clinics for many years. Their book, The Miracle of Fasting, gives a specific daily food plan for breaking a 7-day fast that could be adapted and stretched out over several more days for a 40-day fast.
Extended fasts are not the only fasts which need to be ended with caution. Even a 3-day fast requires reasonable precautions. It is wise to start with a little soup --something thin and nourishing such as vegetable broth made from onion, celery, potatoes, and carrots -- and fresh fruits such as watermelon and cantaloupe.
I encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and let your decisions about your biblical fasting come from Him. Ask the Lord to show you areas to target during your time of fasting and prayer. I believe that, as we pray and seek God and give Him our best then He will bless our lives and our church Matthew 6:33)!
May the Lord bless each of you!
Thoughts for Father's Day Luke 15:11-32
My family had the privilege yesterday of celebrating my father’s 80th birthday. Some 200 plus people, many coming from far away distances came together to surprise my dad. We had such a good time hanging out, laughing and of course, eating! I come from a large family and seeing all those assembled yesterday reminded me of the days of long ago when we had our family reunions. It was during a time when very few of my family were Christians and those reunions could get very
interesting. I thank the Lord for how He has reached down with His love and grace and has saved so many of us. Our gathering and celebrations look much different today than they did those many years ago.
This morning as I sit in my office pondering about Father’s Day, the Lord has led me to read Luke 15:11-32. It is the story of the prodigal son who comes home. I encourage you to take time to read or re-read it today. As you read the story you will find that it has three main characters in it.
* The Prodigal Son.
* The Pouting Son.
* The Persistent Father.
The one son asks for his share of the money and then takes off to live it up. He spends all of his money and ends up feeding pigs. It was there that he came to his senses and decided to return home. As he approaches his father’s home we see that his dad was waiting for him. But do you know what the story is really about? Let me give you 3 quick thoughts about our heavenly Father is concerned about our relationships.
1. He is concerned about your relationship with yourself.
I like in the story of the prodigal son that he comes to the point in his life where he comes to
himself. He figures it out. He is living in a pigpen when he could be living in his father’s house. All of us need to come to ourselves. We need to figure out where we are.
In the story of the fall of man Adam has sinned. It’s interesting that when God comes looking
for Adam He asks the question: "Adam, where are you?" Do you think that God didn’t know? Do you think that Adam had hidden himself so well that God could not find him or was God asking Adam to
do some self assessment? Where are you today - really?
Is there guilt? Is there bitterness? Is there shame? Is there un-confessed sin? Do you really think you can hide it from God? Come to yourself - do a self evaluation - where are you?
2. He is concerned about your relationship with Him.
He doesn’t care about how far you’ve gone. He doesn’t care about what a mess you made with your life. He doesn’t even care how bad you smell. He cares about the relationship that you have with Him. John 3:16 tells us of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish – but have everlasting life.”
Matthew 18:11 tells us of Christ’s purpose, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”
This story reminds us of an important fact. The Father is always ready to take us back! There is a
painting of the prodigal son by the 17th century Spanish artist Murillo. In the painting you can immediately find the father and the prodigal son. The prodigal son is thin and filthy. His hands are clasped in prayer and he has a hopeful look on his face as if he is wondering, “Will my father take me back? Will my father let me be a servant in his house?” The father is leaning over and
embracing his son. The father seems oblivious to the dirt and the smell.
Beside the father, two servants are bringing a tray with a fine robe and sandals for the son. Another servant is holding a ring. To the left a young servant is leading the fattened calf, and a workman has an axe ready to kill the calf so the feast can begin.
It’s a joyful scene – except for one face. There standing in the shadows, Murillo painted the older brother. There is an unmistakable resemblance between the two sons. The older son seems to have a smirk on his face. In his eyes and on his lips you can see resentment and sarcasm. The younger son is on his knees looking up at the father, the father is leaning over his lost son, but the older brother is the highest head in the painting. The older brother seems to be looking down on all the activity. Looking down not just from his vantage point – but looking down in disgust.
3. God is concerned about your relationship with your family.
My point is this: You don’t have to leave home to be lost. The older brother was just as lost as the younge!.
After working in the fields all day, the older brother arrives home only to hear the Karaoke music shaking the rafters. When he learns that a party is going on because his younger brother has returned home and becomes angry. Verse 28 literally means he flew into a rage. He becomes the pouting son. He refuses to go to the party. He points out the sins of his brother – the wasting of money and loose living.
But we all know there are other sins besides these two don’t we?
What about sins like jealousy, pride, and resentment? Yeah, they are easier to hide – but they are just as devastating. The pouting son had been keeping the rules. He had been faithful. Shouldn’t there be a celebration for him too? Shouldn’t someone notice his contributions? Shouldn’t someone pay attention to his needs? Shouldn’t someone throw him a party too?
For a long time I missed what the father was really saying in verse 32. But as I studied the text, I saw it. What the father was actually saying was “Son, you and I must celebrate.” The verb is an imperative. He was saying, “It’s not your younger brothers party, it’s MY party. I’m the one who’s
celebrating because my son was dead and he’s alive. So you MUST celebrate with Me. Not for your brother’s sake, but for MY sake.”
You see, the party was not for the prodigal son… it was for the persistent Father. God is concerned about your relationship with Him. He wants us to celebrate with Him.
As I prepare to go into the worship service this morning I am reminded that Sunday morning is not about us. It’s not about a fashion show or a social gathering. No, it is about the Father celebrating
because His children have come home! They have come into His presence to worship Him! Let’s celebrate with our Father today!
Pastor Jim Asberry
May 24, 2012
“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3
This coming Monday, May 28th, we will observe what is called, “Memorial Day.” It is a day marked by parades and speeches. Many will place flags and flowers on the graves of servicemen and loved ones. The very first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868, for the purpose of decorating the graves of the Civil War Dead. Now, it remembers all of those who died in the wars our nation has fought.
I think as well, we would be wise to remember the “good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” who paved the way for you and me in our Christian lives. Thank God for the good soldiers of Jesus Christ who have fought well, such as those who are mentioned in Hebrews 11! So, what are some marks of a good soldier? Let me give you a few:
1. He is a Follower. Mark 8:34 says,“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”
My point is this…no one can be a good leader who cannot first be a good follower. In the military there is almost always someone in rank above you, whose orders you must follow. You see, following Jesus is not an option, it is a command! In the military, refusal to obey an order is not allowed. You will face court martial if you disobey. Yet, it amazes me how we take obedience to God so very lightly in our daily lives.
2. He Is a Fighter. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were
called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
A good soldier is trained and taught to be aggressive when necessary. He will not cower or retreat in the face of the enemy. He will defend his own honor and that of his country. The verb “fight” in 1 Tim 6:12 is present tense (suggesting not letting up) and is in the imperative mode (which means it is a command and not a suggestion).
3. He Is Familiar. First, he is familiar with the strategy of the enemy (2 Cor.2:11). Secondly, he is familiar with the skills concerning his weaponry (Eph.6:10-18). Thirdly, he is familiar with the shadows of his friends (Heb.10:25). The good soldier is not only looking out for himself, but also for his friends–there is a mutual need for being close to other soldiers as you fight the enemy.
4. He is Faithful. He remains true even when he must “endure hardness” as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim.2:3). That expression means, “to take one’s share of rough treatment; to suffer or endure affliction together.” It actually means to, “suffer hardship in company with”—the good soldier is always true and loyal.
As we observe those who have served our country so valiantly in the past I pray that we are determined to be a good soldier for the Lord in this spiritual warfare which is going on all around us. May the Lord bless each of you today as you serve Him!
Pastor Jim Asberry
Richard Bandler tells a story about visiting a mental institution and dealing with a man who insisted he was Jesus Christ - not metaphorically, not in spirit, but in the flesh. One day Bandler walked in to meet this man. "Are you Jesus?" he said. "Yes, my son," the man replied. Bandler said, "I’ll be back in a minute."
This left the man a little bit confused. Within three or four minutes, Bandler came back, holding a measuring tape. Asking the man to hold out his arms, Bandler measured the length of his arms and his height from head to toe. After that, Bandler left. The man claiming to be Christ became a little concerned.
A little while later, Bandler came back with a hammer, some large spiked nails, and a long set of boards. He began to pound them into the form of a cross. The man asked, "What are you doing?" As Richard put the last nails in the cross, he asked, "Are you Jesus?" Again the man said, "Yes my son." Bandler said, "Then you know why I’m here."
Somehow, the man suddenly recalled who he really was. His old pattern didn’t seem like such a good idea. "I’m not Jesus. I’m not Jesus!" the man started yelling!
Starting on Sunday, March 11th, I will begin a sermon series on the cross of Jesus. As I began to pray and prepare a question kept coming to my mind, “Who was responsible for Jesus dying on the Cross?”
Was it the Romans? Was it Pontius Pilate? The Jewish mob? Herod? Judas Iscariot? Was it Satan himself? Perhaps you say it was us! Hey, if it weren’t for our sin then He would not have needed to die. That’s right.
Fact is, there were many hands that had a part in holding the hammer which pounded the nails in Jesus’ hands. But what I’m asking is: Who was ULTIMATELY responsible for Jesus going to the Cross? Whose idea was it? 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself . . .” As I ponder that Scripture a thought comes to me, "GOD HIMSELF was responsible!"
Let me see if I can make sense of this thought.
1. God sent His Son into the World.
It all began with God. He saw our plight. He saw that we were helplessly and hopelessly lost in sin. We were cut off from any kind of relationship with Him. So He sent His only Son into the world on a dark but vital mission, behind enemy lines to purchase our salvation. From the glory of Heaven God sent Jesus
into the world so that the world might be saved through Him.
2. God prepared Jesus for the Mission.
Isaiah 53:2a, "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground."
Like a gardener, God planted His own seed in a virgin’s womb. He watched Him grow through childhood, into adolescence, into manhood - He grew up strong and holy. And all the while, God Himself was preparing Him for what He must do. He was preparing the tender plant to be cut down. For 33 years, God was preparing His Son for the mission.
3. God drew Jesus to the Cross. When the time was right God summoned Jesus to Jerusalem. As He and His disciples travelled there He began to speak about dying. They didn’t understand it, but Jesus knew that He was being led by God into the final, all-important, conflict.
Jesus wasn’t fooled by the crowd as He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey (“Hosanna to the Son of
David”). He knew why He was there. By the end of the week everyone would desert Him and He would be crucified.
It was the Father Who led Him into the garden where He would agonize over the task before Him. It was the Father Who led Him on to the trial and to the Cross.
4. God placed His Son on the Altar.
As Jesus hung there, suspended between earth and heaven, God’s hands came down, and He Himself wrung the precious blood of Jesus out on the ground. As the blood poured out on the ground, our penalty was being paid. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He bore it all…all our shame, all our condemnation, all our grief - it was put on Him!
Finally, Jesus cried out ,“It is finished.” At that time the mission was accomplished. WHAT A SAVIOR!
The question is, “Why did God do all of this? Why did Jesus give Himself?”
The answer is, “Because He loves us that much!” John 3:16, “For God so love the God the world . . .”
May we take time to meditate & remember HIS LOVE for us during this Lent season? Remember, we are bought with an incredible price!
Pastor Jim Asberry
As I was driving down I.581 last night I noticed the large lighted heart that they had placed on the side of Roanoke Memorial Hospital. I am not sure if they have it there for the Heart Association or if it is there to celebrate Valentine Day which is coming up. It doesn’t really matter except that it made me think about
the attribute of “love.’ During the month of February we often think of love don’t we? Well, the Apostle Paul lists fifteen characteristics of Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13.
1. Love is patient. The Greek word (makrothumein) means patience with people and not patience with circumstances. It describes the man who is slow to anger and it is used of God Himself in his relationship with men. Such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength.
2. Love is kind. Origin had it that this means that love is "sweet to all." So much Christianity is good but unkind. Sadly, many good people have an attitude of criticism. I wonder how many “church people’ would have sided with the Jewish Rulers and not with Jesus if they had had to deal with the woman caught in adultery?
3. Love knows no envy. I have heard it said that there are only two classes of people in this world--"those who are millionaires and those who would like to be." Well, there are two kinds of envy as well…the one covets the possessions of other people. The other is worse…he grudges the fact that others should have what he doesn’t have; he doesn’t so much want things for himself as he wishes that
others had not got them at all!
4. Love is not boastful. Some people are in love with the idea that they are doing somebody a favor. But the real lover cannot ever get over the wonder that he is loved. Love is kept
5. Love is not proud. The really humble man doesn’t focus on his own importance. William Carey, who was once a shoe cobbler, became one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever seen. This man actually translated parts of the Bible into thirty-four Indian languages. When he came to India, he was regarded with contempt. Once, at a dinner party of a highly thought of man, someone asked in a
condescending tone, "Mr. Carey, did you once work as a shoe-maker?" "Oh no,"answered Carey, "not a
shoe-maker, only a cobbler!" This great man of God didn’t even claim to make shoes--only to mend them.
6. Love is not rude. In Greek, the words for grace and for charm are the same. There should be graciousness in Christian love which never forgets that courtesy, tact and politeness are lovely things.
7. Love is not self-seeking. Most of our problems in life could be avoided if we would think less of our rights and more of our duties. Whenever we start thinking about "ourselves" and "our place" then we begin drifting away from Christian love.
8. Love is not easily angered. When we lose our tempers, we lose everything. Kipling said that it was the test of a man if he could keep his head when everyone else was losing his. The man who is master of his temper can be master of anything.
9. Love keeps no record of wrongs.The word translated keeps (logizesthai) is an accountant’s
word. It is the word used for entering up an item in a ledger so that it will not be forgotten. Isn’t that what many people do? Too many people brood over their wrongs until it is impossible to forget them. To
have Christian love is to have learned the great lesson of forgetting.
10. Love does not delight in evil. This is best understood as meaning, “love finds no pleasure in anything that is wrong.” Christian love should not find any pleasure in bad reports.
11. Love rejoices with the truth. Christian love has no desire to hide the truth; it has nothing to hide and so is glad when the truth is revealed.
12. Love always protects. It is possible that this may mean "love can cover anything." Christian
love would rather mend things than display them in public.
13. Love always trust. This characteristic has a twofold meaning. (1) In relation to God, it means that
love takes God at His Word. (2) In relation to our fellow men, it means that love always believes the best about other people.
14. Love always hopes.Hope here means to expect to know! Love "knows" that God has everything under His control and rests in that promise.
15. Love always perseveres. The verb used here (hupomenein) is translated to bear or to endure but what it really describes is not the spirit which can passively bear things, but the spirit which can conquer.
In verse 13, Paul writes three final things about Christian love as he ends this chapter.
1. Love never fails. The Song of Solomon 8:7 says "Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot wash it away." The one unconquerable thing is love. Barclay says "When love is entered into, there comes into life a relationship against which the assaults of time are helpless and which transcends death."
2. Love perfects us. Love makes us complete. (I John 4:12-18) Love matures us, it allows us to see ourselves as we truly are and God for Who He truly is. Love keeps us from acting like children only concerned for our own desires. It is a process which will not be complete until Christ’s return.
3. Love is supreme. Faith and hope are great but love is even greater! Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim. You see, love is the fire which kindles faith and it is the light which turns hope into certainty.
Can you believe it... We are 1/2 way thru January 2012 already! Something hit me the other day; I realized that this is the century in which I will die. Might sound kind of morbid but I believe this thought holds out a tremendous challenge for us. You see, most of us will not live to the year 2100. So we are faced with the reality of what our tombstones will say. 19 something to 20 something. I like what H.J. Brown, “Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.”
There is a lot of truth in that statement. The areas of life we omit are harder to accept forgiveness from God, from others and from ourselves for than some of the sins we commit. When we look back on life, we very well may regret the things we didn’t do a whole lot more than we regret the things we did. So, in 2012 may we take a step in the right direction and resolve to do things like: Spend more time with family; Exercise more; Read more; Eat healthier; Do more for the community; Be more involved in church; Take up a new hobby; Enjoy the outdoors more; Show love to those around us; etc. All these things are good but if we were to narrow it all down – if we were to do only one thing, and concentrate on it for the rest of our lives – what should that one thing be?
Let me ask you, when it’s all said and done, wouldn’t you like to have the peace and sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you chose the right thing? What is this one thing?
The answer is found in Colossians 4:2,“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” The word “devote” is also translated as “to adhere to, to persist in, or to busy one’s self with.” When I learned that “devote” means “busy yourself,” I asked myself some questions to see if this was true of me. To see if I was really devoted to prayer.
How about you. . .Are you devoted to prayer? Answer these questions to help determine your answer:
1. Yes / No When others refer to you, are they likely to say, “He/She is a person of prayer?”
2. Yes / No When you tell someone,“I’ve been busy,” is it primarily because you’ve busied yourself with prayer?
3. Yes / No Do you find yourself daydreaming about the next extended period of time that you could be alone with God?
4. Which is more likely of you?
a) To say no to something because it would cut in on your prayer time.
b) To skimp on prayer because you have a lot of other things going on.
Are you really devoted to prayer? I hope that by answering those questions, many of you could say, “Yes” because you busy yourselves with prayer.
If you are currently not devoted to prayer then let me give you 7 reasons why you should be:
1 - Because it’s our duty as Christians. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
2 - Because we are promised that God hears. "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their
troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)
3 - Because we need to hear from God. “I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:15)
4 - Because we need strength in temptation. “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
5 - Because we need to overcome our own wills. The night before Jesus was put to death he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But in the end he still wanted God’s will to be done. “Yet not as I will, but as you ” (Matthew 26:39)
6 - Because we need help for what lies ahead. “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me…” (Psalm 25:4-5)
7 - Because unbroken communion with God is possible. “I’m an open book to you; even from a distance you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start my first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful – I can not take it all in!”(Psalm 139:1-6, The Message)
So, if you want 2012 (and the rest of your life) life to be different. If you want to have the peace that comes from doing one thing and knowing you chose the right thing. If you want to know the joy that comes from doing something you may have been omitting and seeing the hopes and dreams for your spiritual life and communion with God become a reality – THEN DO THIS ONE THING… DEVOTE YOURSELF TO PRAYER.
Suggestions for doing this one thing:
A. Begin to take every thought to God. (First thing when you wake up, when you’re waiting somewhere in line or driving down
the road, when you’re working whisper to Him what’s on your mind. At the end of the day let your mind settle on Him and go to sleep in His arms – take every thought to him)
B. Develop a quality Quiet Time. (Get in God’s Word, take time to get alone and pray, use devotional books to give you direction)
C. Keep a running prayer list or a prayer journal. (We have some available if you need one.)
There are many good things that you could do in 2012, but if you do only one thing, then let it be devoting yourself to prayer.
Pastor Jim Asberry