Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Three Fold Cord: Fasting, Giving and Praying

Though one may be overpowered by another,
two can withstand him. And a threefold
cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12

It is fair to say that most of us would have heard the verse above referred to, in the context of a marriage ceremony or around the meaning of what it means to work and walk together, in unity and strength as brothers and Sisters of God's kingdom.

However, I realise that this same 'three fold cord' principle can be applied to the three key disciplines expected of a believer - FASTING, GIVING AND PRAYING.

Fasting, Giving and Praying are key disciplines every believer must practise and often. It is expected of us. When we fast, give and pray - (all together), I believe it connects us to one another (through such things as interceding and helping the less privileged) and to God (humbling ourselves before Him and seeking His guidance).

Mathew 6:16, reads "And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get".

The operative word here is 'when', and I believe it means that - there will always come a time when the need for a fast (to humble ourselves before God, to get direction, wisdom and much more) will arise.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Reads (note verse 17) "16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

The operative word here is 'NEVER', which means "at no point in time" , which we can relate to the verse above as thus; "at no point in time, should we stop praying". At no point in time should we stop having conversations with God.

Mathew 6: 2 - 3 reads "2So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing..."

We see that word 'when' again, in this passage, and in the understanding of the word 'when', reading the passage above, it teaches us that we are expected to live a life of Giving, it is something we must do, continuously. We must help the poor or those less privilege, those in need of our help and much more. It also tells us how we should go about doing it.

I believe that when we operate the three fold cord of 'Fasting, Giving and Praying (together), NOTHING shall be impossible!.

So, are you feeling stuck in a rut, needing direction and focus
or wanting to know your very purpose on earth or
the season you are in? Why not seek God's guidance
in Fasting, Giving and Praying.

When we want to decipher how a new product that we have just purchased works, we either speak to the manufacturer (creator) or refer to the manual that comes along with the product. God is our maker, He created / invention us. If we need to know His will for our lives, to obtain clarity of purpose and focus or find out how to get out of a rut that we might be in, we need to ask Him, and read the life manual he wrote for us - The Bible

When we read Matthew 17: 20 - 21 (story about Jesus disciples not being able to cast out evil suicidal spirits in a boy, and the father of the boy brought him to Jesus for deliverance - please read the whole chapter for completion)

The passage reads: "20And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting

The key that unlocks the power of this passage is the word "Howbeit". Yes, the disciples of Jesus needed faith and the power (which had already been given to them by Jesus in Matthew 10) to cast out demons, but "howbeit - however or regardless" there are some type of demons (strongholds, blockages or curses) that cannot or will not be removed without fasting, giving and praying - done together.

Taking a step back, we must remember that not long before this incident took place, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness (Mathew 4, please read for completion), whereby He prayed to the father also, and we know that His life was about giving and helping the people.
If Jesus Christ was able to accomplish all that
He came to earth to do without fasting,
praying and living a life of giving,
then why did He do them? Selah...

"Students are not greater than their teacher.
But the student who is fully trained
will become like the teacher"
Luke 6: 40

Could it be that we are missing the very reason or understanding of our purpose in life? Could it be that we are missing the very combination that will lead to that breakthrough that we desperately seek, because we fail to understand the importance and ramifications of the three fold cord of 'fasting, giving and praying'?

I envisage the ramifications of this three fold cord as the thirty fold, sixty fold and hundred fold return Jesus spoke about in Mark 4;8, 20 (please read for completion):
  • When praying is a constant part of our lives, we can release the thirty fold return

  • When praying and giving - together is a constant part of our life, we can release the sixty fold, and

  • When praying, giving and fasting is a constant part of our lives, we an release the hundred fold return.
When we hunger for God He will fill us. When we make time for God, pray to Him, have conversations with us, He will hear us and reveal secret things to us. When we live a life of giving, we show the good and perfect nature of God displayed through us.

Sometimes, when we are disciplined enough to Fast, give and pray, continuously, and we don't see or sense that anything is happening, there is the tendency to get discouraged. However, we must not be. We must hold on to faith, hope and expectation that God is good, and He has answered our prayers and accepted our sacrifices and He will reward our diligence. It's all about timing, all about His time.

We can also learn and be encouraged from the faith of our forefathers, those that were here before us. They went through most, if not all that we are experiencing today.

In Psalm 35:13 -14 David the psalmist said "13 Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. 14 I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother".

It was obvious David had not received the answers to his prayers, but he still waited on God in faith. Do not be weighed down with discouragement.

So, do you want to know the Will of God for you life? Do you seek a breakthrough in any particular area of your life? Do you want to do great and mighty great exploits as Jesus declared? Do you want to see changes in your life for good?

If so, why not weave up a three fold cord of Fasting, Giving and Praying, seeking God's help, wisdom, and knowledge; calling forth that breakthrough, giving you tremendous testimonies to strengthen your brethren, glorifying God's name, and making Him famous along your way.

Much Love
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Monday, 18 May 2009

The Good And Perfect Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence
of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me. All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house
of the LORD Forever.

Psalm 23 (NLT)

The dictionary defines a shepherd as thus:

  • a person who herds, tends, and guards sheep.
  • a person who protects, guides, or watches over a person or group of people.

From that definition, it is safe to say that a Shepherd would naturally care for the sheep. An individual who is a leader should have a caring nature for and towards those whom he is leading or directing.

John 10:11-14 reads "11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep".

From the verse above, Jesus was explaining that He is the good shepherd. For Him to have to clarify and distinguish Himself as a 'good shepherd' means that there are 'bad shepherds' around. It means that there are bad shepherds who lead the sheep, his people astray.

Further reading of the same chapter in verse 14 - 15, Jesus not only further re-affirms and distinguishes himself as the good shepherd, but also explains, His love and what He, as a good shepherd, does, continuously, to look after His sheep; his people. It reads 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep".

Now in John 10:12-13, we see the characteristics of a bad shepherd, and it reads "12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep

From this passage, it is obvious that the bad shepherd, referred to as 'hired hand', does not care about the sheep; the people. A bad shepherd abandons the people at the first sign of trouble, causing confusion and displacement.

From that understanding, the questions I ask of you today is thus:

"who is your leader, who are you following?
Who is your Shepherd?
Is God and His word your Shepherd
or is man and the world your shepherd?"

Just as a shepherd tends to the needs of his sheep, by watching over them carefully, protecting them from the dangers of the field and elements of the weather, guiding them away from trouble, leading them out of trouble, when they have wandered off into trouble, and leading them to what will satisfy their needs, daily and constantly; God does the same for His people.
Yes, there might be times when life strikes a painful blow, and we start to feel discouraged and in our discouragement cannot sense the presence of God; Him being there or leading us.

However, learning from the nature of a shepherd (in the natural), a shepherd does not always have physical or direct contact with the sheep he is herding, but his presence is there all the same, looking after and over the sheep. So even when we don't feel God's physical touch or feel Him near, He is always and will always be there as He declares in the second part of Hebrews 13:5, which reads "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So, today, I encourage you to start your, day, week, month and season in submission to the Good and Perfect Shepherd, Almighty God. I encourage you to submit yourself to be led by the shepherd who knows what you need before you ask. The one who knows where all the provisions and opportunities (jobs, contracts, business opportunities, promotions and much more) are, even in the midst of the current economic climate. The one who will lead you in the paths of righteousness, even in the world's darkness, for the glory his holy name.
I for one, declare that God is my good and perfect shepherd, and with renewed understanding of His goodness and his mercy and His love, I can further re-affirm Psalm 23 as thus:

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
I distinguish you Lord (set you apart, and obove) from all others leaders, as my good and perfect shepherd. As my guide, my teacher, my leader and my life coach!. And because you are a good God, I shall never lack any provision or any good thing.

2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He leads me into abundance
In your goodness, you lead me in blessed abundance (plentiful, more than enough of everything that is good and enriching for and to me), even in recession. You know where all the opportunities are; how to get them to me or how to get me to it, as long as follow your lead... and as you lead me along, you gift me with perfect peace within my soul.

3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
You bring me back to my original position, how you created me to be, living in peace, in love and in abundance. You lead me in right thinking, right doing for your name's sake. (this is the part I love). Now because you do this for your namesake, I have no need to worry or be stressed, because you cannot forsake your name, for your name is your very reputation, and you will not forsake your reputation, you cannot. Assured Confidence! Hallelujah!

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Even when I go astray from your will (yeah, I am silly like that sometimes, and wander off on my own), and work and walk myself into some disastrous situations (and you know I have had a few Lord); in your goodness and like the good and perfect shepherd that you are, you still come and find me, and help me out of my own mess! Wow!

Your rod, you use to correct me (that's right, sometimes it sure hurts, but it is for my own good, so I thank you) and your staff you use to lead me out of that very situation (guiding me out by insight through your word, your teaching, your wisdom and your Holy Spirit). In so doing you show me the nature of your perfect character, which is all goodness.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Even in the presence of my enemies, those who want to see me fail, you prosper me (to their amazement, and for your glory). In the presence of those who doubt that I serve a living God, you show yourself strong, and then you go further to anoint my head, blessing everything that concerns me, and it still does not stop there, you then bless me so much that I have to expand my territory to contain it all, and its still keeps coming. Your blessing is never -ending. When I think I have seen all your goodness, you 'wow' me some more!

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me. All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
As long as I follow you and let you lead me as the good and perfect shepherd that you are, your goodness and your mercy will always surround me, be with me and be manifested in me. It will follow me everywhere I go, be evident in everything I do, I touch and I'm involved in ... all the days of my life.

As long as I keep my eyes, firmly focused on you, follow your instructions and whilst doing so (no matter how long the journey or work I must do; and Lord, I must confess, sometimes the journey is long and the work, extremly hard, but by your grace, I have been and always will be able), remember your constant faithfulness, love and goodness. I must always remember that you are my good and perfect shepherd, whose desire is to lead me in the right path, for your name's sake and for your glory. And for all these and even more, I declare I will live within the realms of your will and love forever more...Amen.

How about you? How do you declare and re-affirm Psalm 23, confessing the Lord as your shepherd? Have a wonderful day being led in spirit and in truth by God the good and perfect shepherd, glorifying His name in your life along the way.

Much Love
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Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Not Without His Permission

And the Lord said,“Simon, Simon! Indeed,
Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, that your faith should
not fail; and when you have returned to Me,
strengthen your brethren.”
Luke 22: 31 - 32(NKJV)

Jesus spoke the words in the verse above when He and His disciples were eating the 'Lord's supper' and when He was predicting Peter's imminent denial of Him.

Jesus told Peter that Satan asked for Him, meaning that, Jesus had previously had a conversation with Satan whereby, Satan requested for Peter. This implies that Satan cannot pick and choose, freely, whom he desires to afflict or torment, on this earth, 'he must ask God, he needs God's permission to do so'. (Head spinning right? - Yes, it was for me also when I was opened to this understanding).

However, surprised we must not be, for in the Bible, there is another example whereby it shows that, Satan requires God's permission for everything, especially when it comes to His children. Where is that written? I hear you ask. In the book of Job. It is evident in Job 2: 3 - 6, and it reads "3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.” 4 Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!” 6 “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.”(NLT)

Here we see, Satan having conversations with God regarding Job and asking permission to torment Job so that he(Job), can turn his back on God.

To ask permission means: "authorization granted to do something; formal consent"

To sift means to: "pass or fall through or as if through a sieve"

We learn from this same Luke 22 passage that, Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat, thereby putting Peter's FAITH to the test. He wanted to put Peter's FAITH UNDER PRESSURE.

What is the essence of putting Peter's faith to the test, I hear you ask?
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (NLT)

Breaking this passage down further, it means that our FAITH, which is our BELIEF (which is in the fundamental fact of God's existence and in His word, which is our firm foundation), that what we hope (which is in God's word) for, will actually happen; it gives us total and complete assurance (total confidence) about the things that we cannot see.

Thus, with that definition in mind, when our faith is tested, our belief, confidence, hope and total assurance and declaration in God and His word, is being tested. It is not to test if we can hold on to our earthly possessions (cars, houses, jobs and the rest), but if we can hold on to our firm belief in God, during the trials and tribulations we go through.

Reading Luke 22: 31 - 32 further, we learn that, even though Jesus gave Satan permission to test Paul, in His goodness, He made sure that Peter was going to be alright. Jesus prayed for Peter. He prayed that his Faith (which is what was to be tested) will not fail him, Luke 22: 32 reads "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail;" However, the beauty of our Lord Jesus is that, as He prayed for Peter then, He still prays for us now, during our trials and tribulations as confirmed in Romans 8:34, which reads "Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us." (NLT)

We also learn from the 2nd part of verse 32, of Luke 22, that regardless our trials and tribulations, we will come through. However, when we do, we will have a testimony, which is to be used to help others who are going through the same difficulties we just came out of. Luke 22:32 reads "...So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers. (NLT)" This is why it is important to share our testimonies with others so that it will help them towards their breakthrough and also bringing glory to God's name.

From all of the above, we must remember that:
  • Nothing happens to us without God's permission. Satan has to obtain permission from God to afflict us. I like to say he requires a 'permission slip' that states his limited, under permission authority and boundaries on anything concerning us.

  • When we are going through trials and tribulations, being tested, it is our FAITH - our foundation, our belief in God that is being tested.

  • God is always there to help and see us through as we are assured in 1 Corinthians 10:13 which reads "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure". (NLT)

  • The testing of our faith is good for us, for it brings growth through endurance as confirmed in James1: 2 - 4, which reads "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."(NLT) Endurance is the ability or strength to continue or last, esp. despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina: He has amazing physical endurance

So I encourage us all to be of good cheer, for every single test of faith we go through, has not happened without God's notice or permission.

Nothing occurs to God and nothing takes Him by surprise.

However, we must do whatever it takes, to hold on to the very foundations of our faith, our belief, which is in God and His word. We must believe that He is on our side, He is praying for us, and the tests are to refine us. This means we will be fine, we will come out refined and much stronger. We will come out victorious armed with powerful and life changing testimonies. These we must share with others, to strengthen and help them through their own tests; whilst making our good, wonderful and merciful God, famous along your way.

Much Love
Remi Banjo
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