joy (17)

God's Chosen Fast

Fasting from all, one day at a time.

The body grows weak, dreams come to mind.

All food abandoned, an annual fast.

We’re seeking forgiveness and healing that lasts.


Forty days pass, like Jesus I fast.

Temptations and trials start to attack.

Breakthrough will come, if only I win.

Could fasting help us all overcome sin?


Abstaining from pleasure, I walk Daniel’s path:

Rich foods forgotten, in this partial fast.

I yearn for my homeland: a vision revealed.

The future unfolds; the Scripture unsealed.


Demons must flee, as I starve my old flesh.

Evil must leave! I passed the test!

Mercy increases, I yearn to be right.

The journey’s been long, but the end is in sight.


Transform my hunger to faith in the Lord.

Refraining from comfort as I bear the Sword

Of the Spirit to vanquish my foe and pierce

Through the dark: no lusts, no pride, and no fears.

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Have you ever seen a medieval castle? Have you noticed the broken lines at the tops of the walls? A rook or castle on a Chessboard has the same cuts.

I suspect you could guess what those were if you didn't already know. They were essential to the defense of a castle. Those slots were the lookouts for soldiers on watch.

On several occasions Scripture tells us to watch and pray. Have you thought about what God is saying to you in those passages? Let's look at those Scriptures and allow God to speak to our hearts through them. The first of them that comes to my mind is when Jesus was praying with His disciples in the garden before the cross. He prayed earnestly that that cup might pass from Him. And yet He surrendered His heart to the will of God. Then He looked and saw that Peter, James, and John were asleep. He was amazed that they could not watch with Him for one hour. And in Matthew 26:41 Jesus commands us.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The word translated, “watch” here is also used for soldiers, or possibly shepherds, keeping the watches of the night. On that very night while they were in the garden soldiers would come to arrest Jesus. This would be the most severe trial that the disciples would ever face. Earlier Jesus had told them they would all abandon Him. Peter and the rest swore they would never leave Him even if they had to die with Him. Their spirits were willing but their flesh was weak.

You might say they should have known this trial was coming. Jesus had told them over and over again. And it didn't take any great genius to see that the High Priests had determined to kill Him.

And it it should not surprise you that you are going to face trials and temptations. Peter himself warns us that we are going to be tried. In 1 Peter 4:12 he wrote,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Like soldiers on guard duty we are told to watch and pray for spiritual strength and protection.

The next place we are told to watch and pray is in Luke 21 where Jesus warns us about the trials that will come in the last days. In Luke 21:36 Jesus gives us this same command.

“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

It seems to me that many of these things are already coming upon us. I am crying out to God for a great prayer movement. We need to be on guard, and pray as we have never prayed before. These things could be seen to begin when the Roman General, Titus, led his army to destroy the city of Jerusalem. As Jesus predicted, not one stone of the beautiful temple was left upon another. 2 Timothy 3:1 and other Scriptures warn us that there will be terrible times in these last days. Will we be on guard as these things come about? How seriously will we watch and pray?

We are also to watch for our hope in God during difficult times. He has made very great and precious promises to us even for the worst of times.

Another place where we are called to watch and pray is much more positive. Colossians 4:2 says,

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

We not only need to watch for spiritual attack that will come. But I am afraid we are not alert enough to see God at work around us. There is great encouragement and joy in seeing the hand of God and thanking Him for working in our lives.

Finally, we need to watch and pray for others in our families and in the church where God has stationed us. Ephesians 6:18 commands us.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

In 1 Samuel 12:23 Samuel said he would be sinning against the Lord if he failed to pray for the people of Israel. Are you alert to pray for those God has commissioned you to pray for?

We need to see watching as motivation and preparation for prayer. But all four of these passages see watching as integral to prayer. As we spend extended time in prayer God shows us more and more of what we will face and what He is doing and preparing to do all around us.



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"Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn
and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!"
Isaiah 64:1-2
Call on the Lord to come down, burst out of heaven and come to the Arabian Gulf people. Ask Him that the rocks and mountains desert in the Arabian Peninsula would tremble at His presence, filling the land. As a spark sets twigs on fire and causes water to boil, may the coming of the Lord on the Arabian Gulf people be like fire that causes water to boil. May His coming have such a great effect on them that they react and boil with joy in knowing Him. May He make His name known in the Arabian Peninsula and may they fall on their knees before Him. Pray for the fame of the Lord to grow across the Arabian Peninsula and all His enemies would know of His fame.
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There is a notion that someone believes the gospel or not, but there can not be any evidence of it. In fact the proof of the gospel is integral to the presentation itself. On the Day of Pentecost Peter stood before the people and reminded them of the miracles Jesus had done among them which they knew.

I recently heard Tim Keller tell about a man who told a pastor he would believe if he could be shown airtight proof. The pastor said, “”Read the New Testament.” “Will that show me an airtight argument?” he asked. “No, but God gave us an air tight person.” It is difficult to read The New Testament without being impressed with Jesus.

Peter went on to declare that God raised Jesus from the dead, “and we are all witnesses.”

You may be familiar with Vince Vitale, now the Director of The Zacharias Institute in Atlanta.Vince has a PHD from The University of Oxford. He went off to college as a secularist, believing all truth claims were equal. But there his thinking was challenged for the first time. Someone gave him a Bible and invited him to read it. For some time he read skeptically, labeling things he thought unscientific with “b.s.” But as he came to the resurrection of Jesus and studied a little, learning that the resurrection was confirmed early, publically, by multiple witnesses. The testimonies of the witnesses went against their culture. It radically transformed their lives. They willingly, even joyfully gave their lives maintaining their testimony.

This was too much. How could he explain these testimonies? He made an appointment with the two leading New Testament scholars at Princeton where he was studying. Neither were believers, so he was sure they would explain away this problem. But one of them half-heartedly posed the theory of mass hallucination, which, incidentally does not exist. There is no such thing as mass hallucination. The other simply said, “As an historian, I'm not interested in the question.” What was he to do? While still at Princeton Vince gave his life to Christ.

In Acts 2:32 Peter declared,

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all Witnesses.”

Who were the witnesses included in that declaration? Peter was referring to those believers who were present. That included Thomas who would not believe if he could not touch His hands and side pierced by the soldiers. It probably included James, the brother of Jesus who didn't believe until Jesus rose from the dead. It may not have included Stephen who was later martyred asking God not to count the sin of those stoning him against them, and crying out that he saw Jesus seated by the Majesty on High. It did not include Paul who met Him on the road, and it could not have included all 500 people who saw Him at one time.

But there are still others who are witnesses of the living Christ working in their lives. Are you among them? Has He made a radical difference in your life? If so you too are a witness of His resurrection. You know he rose from the dead because of the difference He has made in your life. Others will see that evidence in you. And that means you know that He is Lord.

Acts 2:36 reads,

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

This is the last of several blog entries taken from a sermon I preached at Crosspoint Church in

, NV. You can find the recording and other good things on their website.


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Do you know the central teaching of Scripture? It can be found in every book of the Bible and brings it all together. It is the gospel. “For God so loved the world. . .” “That Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood and explained what God was pouring out into the world and in Acts 2:22-24 Peter focused everything on the gospel.

Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

It is important to understand that Peter did not present the gospel as an abstract concept.

Look at Peter’s words. “Hear these words, ‘Jesus of Nazareth!’”

Jesus is the gospel. If you have never come to know Jesus Christ personally, you need to understand that Jesus Himself is reaching out to you in His incomparable love. In John 14:6 Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life. 1 John 5:20 tells us He is eternal life.

You who are believers need to understand that the gospel is not something you will ever grow beyond. The privilege of knowing Jesus is the wonderful foundation of everything you will ever learn, or need, or enjoy in Christ. Let me point out just one narrow application of this truth. Do you know why the fellowship of the church is so wonderful? It is because Jesus indwells us. You can see Jesus, you can hear His voice and feel His embrace when we get together in the church.

But there are many applications of the gospel in our lives. If we look at the fruit of the Spirit for example. Galatians 5:22-23 begins the list with love. “We love because He first loved us.” The next is joy. At the birth of Jesus the Angel told the shepherds he brought them “Good news of great joy!” Next comes peace. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The list continues from patience through self-control. Each of these and every other facet of spiritual growth comes as we understand and apply the gospel to our lives. And the gospel is Jesus Christ. We do not believe in it. We believe in Him.

This and the next few entries in this blog come from a sermon I preached at Crosspoint Church in Reno, NV. You can find the recording on their website.

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Pray for Peace and Justice over Yemen

Yemen has felt the burden of injustice for the past three years with war, famine and epidemics which have ravaged the country. Please pray Psalm 12:5 over the people of Yemen: "Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, now I will arise," says the Lord; "I will set him in the safety for which he longs." (NASB).

Young men are forced to join militias in Yemen due to threats and needing the money given them, to feed their families. Displaced people flee from their bombed out homes. Pray for the people who are burdened by fear. Pray that they will hear about the Savior who can give them peace and even joy, in the midst of fearful times.

In fact, the sin of hatred is strong in a land where tribes are fighting one another. Please pray that hatred will be replaced with forgiveness and love. This can only be done through Christ. Pray for the people, Ephesians 4: 31-31: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you."

Furthermore, humanitarian tragedies have permeated. Each statistic represents a person who has suffered grief, heartache and hopelessness. Please pray that everyone will hear about a loving Savior who will take away pain and will comfort those who mourn. Pray that the physical needs of the people will also be met, that food and supplies will be allowed into the country and will be given to those who need them.

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“Pleasure is to happiness what candy is to nutrition.”


James 4:3 reads, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” How do we justify this verse with verses like Matthew 7:7-8? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

When you find two things in the Bible that seem to contradict one another, study them prayerfully and you will come to understand both passages far more deeply than you would have at a glance.

In fact Jesus gave us a hint at the answer in Matthew 7. The very next verse compares God answering our prayers to a father giving to his child. Does a father who loves his daughter give her all the candy she asks for?

In John 15:7 Jesus brings this promise into divine perspective. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

The English Standard Version of Scripture footnotes the word passions in James 4:3 as “pleasures.” We live in a society that is driven by pleasure. And we may be the first generation to have no awareness of problems with pleasure. Pleasure is to happiness what candy is to nutrition.

The word translated passions here is a broader word than simple desire. It refers to the drive for comfort, luxury, thrills, and physical pleasures in our world. 1 John 2:15,16 warn us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the father but is from the world.”

The entire passage, James 4:1-10, brings all three of these together.

God, as the ultimate Father, protects His children from those things that draw us away from Him. In his book Desiring God John Piper coined the term “Christian Hedonism.” But he was talking about living for the deeper pleasures and the higher joys that come in the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 affirms, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Our prayers spring from what we love. As long as we love the world, we will be drawn away from the only source of satisfaction in our lives. And our prayer lives will be frustrating because our Heavenly Father loves us too much to let us fall into the worlds quagmire of pleasures.


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know Thanksgiving is over. Most of us have already unpacked Christmas decorations, and begun preparations for the biggest holiday of the year. But I would like to suggest that we hold on to the Thanksgiving holiday a little longer. In fact, I think we should continue to celebrate it 365 days a year.

Let me draw your attention to a Scripture passage that is so rich that all of you are familiar with it. Philippians 4:6 reads,

"Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,

let your requests be made known unto God."

This verse clearly teaches that we are to give thanks as we let our requests be known. You might well ask why would we not wait until we see God's answer before we start saying thank you. The Scripture offers such thanksgiving as a statement of faith. But I have had prayers answered with, "no." Haven't you. In fact, some of those I have in time thanked God that He didn't answer them the way I wanted when I prayed. John 15:7-8 gives us this promise of prayer.

"If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples."

I strive to discern His words and will for my prayers. I know that is the only way I can bear spiritual fruit. I also find a wonderful freedom in this promise. I can pray in confidence trusting God to keep me from praying mountains on top of your house or my own.

I also find a great joy giving thanks to God as I pray that He is at work in the most difficult or fearful situation that I pray for, even if I am unsure or mistaken about how He should answer.

So join me in continuing our Thanksgiving all year long. It is a wonderful celebration with or without the turkey.

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For Muslims in the region most of the very basics of Christianity are a struggle to accept and contrary to their view of God. To think of God as Father, or even more than that; as Daddy (Abba) is really difficult. As well,the concept of the Trinity is a big obstacle. It is believed God does not share his deity with another so it is hard then to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Another difficulty is the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. It is believed that if Christ was God he would never have had to die on a cross set apart for criminals. As well, it is thought that no man can die for the sins of another, each must make restitution for their own wrongs. The people in this regions struggle with some of the most basic truths that come from God's Word.
Pray for the truth about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be revealed across the region. Pray that many in this region would come to understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be released over the hearts and lives of people in this region. Pray for a revelation of God's personal touch in this area of the world.
A young man is praising God for being with him in hard circumstances. God has promised that he will "never leave or forsake" his people. Pray for Believers in the AP who are struggling with their surroundings, whether it be physical hardship or lack of freedom to live openly for Christ. Pray that God will give them joy even in their suffering.
I look up to the mountains-
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!  Psalm 121:1
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2 Chronicles 7:3
When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the Lord filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying, "He is good! His faithful love endures forever!"
Psalm 31:20
You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.
Jude 1:24
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.
Pray that God would take His people (Muslim-background believers in the Arabian Peninsula, missionaries, other Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula) deeper in the presence of God. Pray that they all find their souls satisfied in God. Pray that they have a deeper hunger for God. May these ordinary people find themselves growing deeper in Him. May their own prayer life increase with fervent prayer and fasting. Pray that as they grow deeper, Muslims around them will see and yield their lives to Him as well. Lord draw the people living in the Arabian Peninsula to Yourself. 
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I thought about using the word blessedness in my title this week. Of course that would have turned readers away in droves. But blessedness is really what I want to write about even though we seldom, if ever, use such a word in these days. I was surprised to see it still listed in my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. We tend to replace blessedness with words like success or happiness. But other words do not capture the concept of the blessing of God on our lives. So blessedness is still used in our English translations of Scripture. And while it means so much more, blessedness touches the core of true happiness.

One of my favorite scripture passages that deals with this crucial concept is Psalm 1. It begins, "Blessed is the man." Let me point out several important perspectives of happiness that God shows us in this Psalm.

First, Real happiness is Deep. If we used the psychological definition of happiness we might call happiness, contentment. But contentment is contingent upon how a person feels in a given moment. Your momentary contentment may be shattered in the next instant.

In Psalm 1:3 we read about a truly happy person. "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season." His happiness does not depend on what is happening in a moment or season. You can trust God in painful times if the source of your blessings are deeper than what is happening on the surface. Yes, you are weeping in this long night of pain or sorrow. But it need not overwhelm you. You can trust God to bring you into His joy in The Morning.

True happiness is Heavy. The life of the person depending on God is sometimes uncomfortably heavy with trials. But you can rejoice in knowing that the heaviness is fruit being matured in your branches. The chaff is not heavy. But it will be blown away.

Finally, Complete happiness is Ultimate. If you asked Kids, who are exhausted and playing poorly in a high school ball game with their team far behind, "Is this is a good game? They would say? "No! This is a terrible game." But if they somehow turn everything around, and come back to win against impossible odds in the final seconds, what would they say about that game?

In this corrupt world I am sometimes tired and weak, foolish and sinful. But I can grin in the struggle because I  know how it will end. Jesus already took the penalty for me. God has promised to lay on my shoulders all the glory that Jesus earned. Romans 8:18 and following assures me that nothing I endure now can compare with the glory that will be revealed in me.

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In Matthew 23:9 Jesus spoke these words.

"And call no man your father on earth,

for you have one Father who is in heaven."

It is terribly important to grasp this truth. This is at the heart of the gospel. And the gospel is the heart of Christian theology. When Jesus instructed us to pray to God as our Father, and when Paul said God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, "Abba, Father," the pattern was set for our relationship with God. We are born again into His family, into His embrace.

When I recognize God as my Father, I admit that He is the source of all that I have and all that I am. He brought about my spiritual birth. He suffered all the labor pains. He's covering the cost.

I am physically the product of my parents combined DNA. Even that was determined by God. He determined when and where I would be born. He decided who my parents would be.  More than that, He has determined my spiritual gifts for His great purposes. He plants His spiritual DNA, in me.

He is developing His character in me. When I was a child my earthly father worked with me to develop my character. The summer before my final year of high school I went to work on a farm in a different state, hundreds of miles away. All that spring Dad was obvious in his purpose of developing my character. He did that because he loved me. He also let me know he was proud of me even though he was often frustrated at how slow I was to apply what he was trying to teach me. Knowing God is my Father leads me to submit to Him. It gives me a hunger to spend time with Him in prayer, Bible study, service, and obedience, so He can graft His nature into my heart.

Knowing God is my Father helps me trust Him to provide my needs. If the God of the universe is my Father, I can be at peace about my needs. More than that I can grow in the joy of His generosity. As God prompts me to give more and more, I can enjoy it, trusting Him to provide. If God is my Father, I can risk everything in the adventure of His purpose. My Heavenly Father will take care of me in and even beyond this life.

I have one final word for this blog, although we will never grasp the breadth and length and depth of this reality. If we are God's children, we do not do any of these things to win His approval. We serve Him because are His. We have become God’s children. He loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Your pictures are on His refrigerator. He holds you in his heart.



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In Battle with Black Magic

Black magic is a reality on the Arabian Peninsula.  Although orthodox Islam forbids magic of any kind, local women still resort to it in order to gain power and influence in societies where they have little power.  Those who practice magic seek different things such as getting pregnant, harming a woman whom she is jealous of, and seeking favor for their children.  Currently, in one city which is in the heartland of black magic in this Arabian Peninsula country, there is a local woman who has been casting curses on believers.  She goes to witchdoctors and has used amulets to cast these curses most likely due to the witchdoctor's advice.  In short, she has caused work-related and relational chaos for these believers.  Most recently, she has been inviting these believers to several different parties to "celebrate" them.  However, they suspect that she is doing something evil to the food and wanting them to eat it.  Some of them got sick from her food before and it seems like she is using food as an "innocent" weapon against them.

Pray that these believers would stand firm, taking up the shield of faith with which they can extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one (Eph 6:16).  Pray that the Son of God would come and destroy the works of the devil in this woman as He promised (1 John 3:8).  Pray for the believers, that no harm would come to them and that they would be a strong witness for Jesus Christ.  Pray that God would have mercy on her soul, deliver her from all evil, and give her true faith in Jesus Christ alone.  May the truth of Christ set her free! (John 8:32)

This week one of our friends was approached with a request for a Bible. As this book is forbidden in the country but readily available for download, the person was guided on how to get a Bible App. She read large portions of the NT that very night and had all kinds of questions! She was able to discuss in her heart language with a second friend who spoke better Arabic.  "Whatsapp" turns out to be a great resource for guiding her through her questions in the context of relationship.  Please stand with us in prayer that this woman will recognize the authority of the Bible and respond to His call of love to follow Him even if this would mean being persecuted.
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Prayer Changes Things

Pray for the country of Y as unrest continues. Now that the port of A is open, pray that ships bringing food will come and that those who need the food will receive it. Pray for all the logistics necessary to make this happen. Pray for peace in Y. Pray for a number of believers who are in great need now - without jobs and means to provide well for their families. Pray that some of this food will go to them and that they too would provide for those in need (Luke 10:25-37).
In the same country, pray for a young man who is searching for Truth due to trauma in his childhood. Thank God that he now has access to the Scriptures. Ask that the Holy Spirit will help him understand them. Pray that he and his whole family will believe. In addition, pray for a believer who was put in prison last week for trying to help meet the material needs of other believers. Pray for his release, spiritual encouragement, peace and joy (Matthew 5:10, 11), and boldness to speak God's word (Acts 4:29).
In another country, there had been a budding church of nationals coming together. However, a jailing of one of the new believers, then a court case between two of them, etc. caused the group to crumble. Pray for the long-time tentmakers and these believers, that they will all have renewed faith, love, hope, guidance, encouragement from the word (Romans 15:4), and wisdom from the past, to see God's chosen church established together in the faith in unity (Psalm 133, Romans 15:5-7).
Pray for the young men in another country who live in a small, conservative town. Some of them are hostile to the truth but they are still willing to discuss the issues. They are hungry for spiritual substance in contrast to their peers who only care about material comfort. Pray that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil who has captured them to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25, 26).
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Rejoicing in Hope


My youngest son was invited to a "sleepover party" this week. One of his closest friends was turning 10 and wanted my little guy to celebrate with him. You might not think a sleepover is such a big deal at your age, but for a nine-year-old who has often been left behind while two older brothers go on sleepovers, this was like being given the world! Oh, the fun they would have! They would stay up until TEN O'CLOCK, he boasted to me! They would eat popcorn! Watch movies! Candy for dinner! And on and on he went.

The invitation arrived a week or so ahead of time. It was beautiful: a full-color, printed invitation complete with pictures, time and date. It promptly earned a coveted place on our fridge, where my son could visually savor its promised delights until the momentous day should arrive. We discussed it daily: what to bring, what to wear, how exciting that HE had been invited, along with one or two of his best friends! This was just THE BEST!  

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Prayer is the constant desire to be in God's presence. We are learning His will, seeking to follow His will and inviting Him to be part of all we are doing.

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon."

Few of us have really been trained in prayer. We see the pastor pray on Sundays, people pray before meals and over their kids, but few of us have ever been trained to desire to be in constant contact with the Father, asking Him to lead, guide and protect. Pray for old and young Christians in the Arabian Peninsula, both foreigners, and the few children from the local peoples, that God will become a greater companion all day long. He is there, we are not. Pray that this connection with the Father will release more of His presence right across the AP. Pray that Christians would be praying for Gulf Muslims more and more.

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Laughter and Joy in the New Year

"Create a habit of happiness and laughter instead of a habit of worry. When you laugh, it lowers stress hormones and relieves stress. Laughter also boosts the immune system, protects the heart, and improves overall health. Ten belly laughs a day are equivalent to getting a good aerobic exercise workout, and they're the ultimate ‘stress buster.'" Don Corbert, MD

As we enter into this New Year, it is critical that we maintain a good heart attitude in life. If you look around, you see many people incredibly stressed out worrying and without hope about the future and what will happen. Their hearts are troubled. Many are burdened in this New Year and are using all of their resources fearing the future rather than really living life to the full.

Is this really how God wants us to live?

Did you know that laughter helps promote good health? A laugh can help: Lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, improve your brain function, elevate your mood, reduce your stress, help you relax, and protect your heart.

"True laughing offers one of the most powerful and natural healing methods without any side effects. Laugher lowers the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. It increases feel-good hormones. It keeps you squarely in the present moment. It helps you to reframe and feel thankful and helps you to see negative events in a more positive light. There's not a single bad thing laughter will do for your body and mind.” Corbert, MD.

In Proverbs 17:22 the Bible says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine." In Nehemiah 8:10 we read, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  The Bible supports the fact that cheerfulness and joy promote good health. Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:4-6, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." 

But is it possible to rejoice in the Lord always? Paul states it twice in Philippians 4:4. He knew that it's something we have to command and encourage ourselves to practice. Struggles are not easy, but Paul, while in prison, was able to rejoice. And then he tells us to pray about everything with thanksgiving as we present our requests to God.

Perhaps prayer is a key to the ability to rejoice always. Prayer will help us find joy and laughter as we enter into this New Year. It certainly is not easy to rejoice in certain circumstances of life, but there really is a choice of how we will view them. God has an answer for everything, even when we don't see it through our human eyes. He knows the beginning from the end, and it's our choice if we want to link with Him or not. The world is negative and tries to squeeze us into its mold, but God has a way that we can walk through our circumstances victoriously.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not something we can create ourselves. God's joy is super-natural and can remain deep and abiding even when we are in the midst of hardship. It is not the absence of pain or difficult circumstances. What could be harder than prison? But it is learning to let God's Spirit fill you with His unquenchable joy, regardless of your circumstances. For a world looking desperately for hope, your life becomes a miracle and a testimony of Christ's light especially during this time of year.

Choosing to pray is not always easy, but it is the true path of life. Psalm 16:11 says, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." There is joy in the secret place of prayer. There is joy as we choose to center our life in God and knowing Him. There is joy, laughter, and breakthrough even in the darkest of circumstances when we choose to make Jesus our highest ambition, our deepest desire, and our greatest goal. Then He breaks through for us with transcending peace and supernatural understanding. 

There are destroyers of joy, laughter, and prayer that the enemy uses against us. Philippians talks about many of these destroyers. It would be good for us to evaluate ourselves at this time of year so that we may guard ourselves diligently against these thieves. Here are some of the ways that the enemy uses to try to steal our joy and diminish our effectiveness in prayer. As you enter into 2014 guard against destroyers of joy, laughter and prayer found in the book of Philippians:

  • Anxiety - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Disagreements and poor relationships - "Agree with each other in the Lord" (Philippians 4:2).
  • Difficulty and discontentment - "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).
  • Wrong thinking - "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
  • Lack of confidence - "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:15).
  • Complaining - "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure" (Philippians 2:14-15).
  • Selfish Ambition - "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
  • Bad Attitudes - "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:5-7).
  • Pride - "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8

If you are feeling down and can't seem to get out of it at the beginning of this New Year, take the authority in prayer that is rightfully yours, and break that discouragement in Jesus' name. Then ask God to fill you with His joy and peace. Write down the positive things in your life, and thank God for each one of them. God is able to push the negatives out as you begin to praise Him and dwell on the positive things that He has provided for you.

Don't live your life according to your earthly circumstances but according to your position in Christ. Remember that you are seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3-6), are God's possession (Ephesians 1:14), are chosen of God (Ephesians 1:11), are complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10), are a kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood (Revelation 1:6, 1 Peter 2:9), are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are able to do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Healthy joy and laughter are yours.

"Don't be satisfied with a joyless life. There ought to be in every Christian a deep, settled fullness of the joy of Christ that no circumstance of life can dispel. This comes as you allow the Holy Spirit to express Himself in your life. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). This joy is unlike any happiness that is produced by the world. It fills you and permeates everything you do. Jesus did not pray that you would merely be happy or even that you would escape grief. He prayed that you would have the same joy that the Father had given Him: a divine joy, a joy that comes from a deep and unwavering relationship with the Father. It is a joy that is grounded so firmly in a relationship with God that no change in circumstances could ever shake it. This is the kind of joy that Christ is praying will be in you." Henry Blackaby

Intercessors Arise News

Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff

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