Friday, November 10, 2017

The great falling away. What is it?

Dear friends and readers,

The falling away.  What is it?   2 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 3 is speaking of  "the day of the Lord---and the man of sin".  Basically in the context of the Rapture of the church. Verse 3 includes the words "The falling away comes first".  Last week I put a post on one of my FaceBook feeds and was asked by a lady if I had written any articles on "The falling away"?  Since I had not for a long time, this seemed like the perfect time to do so.

A very long time ago when I was a young pastor, I thought that the falling away would be in a time near the end of the church era when people (believers) would actually begin denying Christ.  Of course in those days I knew very little about end times events and even less about Bible Prophecy.

Now after being a student of Biblical prophecy and a teacher/writer thereof for many years, I have come to realize something entirely different.  Of course I am sure along the way there have been a few "believers" who have actually denied Christ for whatever reason.  In fact I myself know of a couple of people who did exactly that.  Difficult to imagine.  We could argue about whether of not these people really were believers to begin with but that would get us no where since only the Holy Spirit knows for certain.  For those people who have ever done that despicable act there will be no possibility of returning to the faith according to Hebrews 6:4-6  "For it is IMPOSSIBLE for those once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, IF THEY FALL AWAY (my emphasis added), to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame".  Scary!

But to clarify, I do not believe the scripture in Hebrews is referring to believers who make occasional mistakes that require repentance.  This is referring to a TOTAL AND COMPLETE falling away as in walking away from and denying Christ.

While I suppose that has happened to some extent over the centuries, I do not believe that 2 Thessalonians is speaking in that context.  I would like to add here though that I have always urged great caution for people who somehow cast their anger upon a Holy and Righteous God because somehow mankind has injured them.  Some church has let them down, a loved one has died of accident, cancer or some other malady resulting in a person believing that God somehow caused it too happen or even allowed it to happen.  Not so.  Maybe this is a good time for a small "bunny trail" because I know for certain that very many people do blame God for natural circumstances or mean spirited actions by other humans.

It reminds me of one of the greatest travesties of all time;  The Holocaust of WWII in which a despicable tyrant tried to wipe out the Jewish people and in fact killed over 6 million people including 2 million children.  A horribly tragic indictment on mankind in general.  But God neither caused nor allowed that to happen. So many times I have heard, "God allowed the Holocaust so Israel could become a nation in 1948".  No, No, NO!  Folks have that all backwards and forget that after the events of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3), mankind in general has carried the scars from that terrible mistake ever since.  And it was only after the first coming of the Son of God and His substitutionary death on the cross of Calvary that the original sin (and our personal sins ) were atoned for---but ONLY for those who repented for their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

From the Garden of Eden until now all mankind has been born in sin and the ONLY escape is through Jesus Christ.  For those who are not believers in Christ terrible things can develop in and through their lives.  I am not talking here about the age old saying,  "bad things can happen to good people".  Which of course can be true.  But rather, without the anchor of the Holy Sprit in the lives of any man or woman, terrible proclivities can lead to extreme behavior including a drive for excessive power, extreme wealth through any means, sexual deviations, drug abuse, crime and violence to mention only a few.

God did not cause or even allow the Holocaust.  An evil dictator, Adolf Hitler did that all by himself and much more.  But God did in fact do something;  Romans 8:28  "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose".   In other words, while God did not cause terrible catastrophe to land upon His chosen people, after the fact He did  use those events to once again begin bringing His people home to their beloved land of Israel.  Also during WWII it has been documented that God used very many Christians to save and protect countless lives from extinction.  And He used some non Christians as well.

Can you see the difference here?  I hope so because that brings me back to the point.  It is a dangerous and uncalled for thing to blame God for circumstances that either happen by design of mankind or through the natural evolution of the effects of mankind living in a diseased and sin ridden world.

In fact that leads us directly to the thresh hold of "FALLING AWAY".  So the question is, falling away from what?

The answer to that is found in scripture.  2 Timothy 4:3  (The Apostle Paul speaking to a young pastor by the name of Timothy).  The context is the end times.  "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables".  Earlier in 2 Timothy we find the words (Chapter 3 verse 7---speaking of eventual apostasy)  "Always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of truth).  But first what are itching ears?  It is a matter of mankind, even some within the church looking around for pastors to tell them what they want to hear, irrespective of what the Bible actually says.  I have run into this many times when people seeking marriage counseling "shop around" for a pastor or counselor who will tell them what they want to hear.

I need to be really careful here with what I am about to say because I do not want to lead anyone to believe that Bible studies are bad or that Studying the Bible will do anything but make one better in their walk with the Lord.  Still I do have a question for you?  Do you know people within the church who have attended Bible study after Bible study, year in and year out?  But do not seem to be able to put those principles to work in their own lives?  Many have been successful but in my experience much fewer of them take that knowledge outside the paint on the inside of the church door.  No broad brush strokes here folks so if you do use that information to help people outside the church to come to faith then good for you.  And yes once again, of course the study of God's word is in itself very edifying for our personal lives and walk with the Lord.

But many do not take the information they learn to the outside world.   In fact for many the learning of great stuff from the Bible has become a way to make themselves better with little thought about an unsaved world.  Once again no blanket condemnation there. That is why Paul speaks in terms of  "ALWAYS LEARNING AND NEVER ABLE TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH"!  And what is the truth?  Nearly the last command that Jesus gave to the church before He was drawn up to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20.  We as Christians cannot sit around in our church houses and wait for an unsaved world to come knock on the door.  Ain't going to happen.  We need to be proactive in our efforts for evangelism.  Still there is no problem with either Bible studies or using them to help us become the best we can in Christ Jesus. I hope that is crystal clear so I don't receive any  "nasty grams" claiming I am against Bible studies (-:

So, now for the great falling away from faith.  What is going on that may indicate a falling away is happening today?

1).  People heaping up false teachers.  Flocking to "feel good churches" but in many cases not bothering to take their Bibles along with them.  One needs only turn on televised Sunday morning church services to see false teaching.  Having said that there are also some very good people teaching on the television but without checking what is heard with a reliable Bible, it is easy to begin thinking that good sounding stuff is actually Biblical when in reality it is not.   There is an old country saying  "If a truth is only 99% truth---IT IS ALL LIE!

2).  Example;  I have a great friend with a church in heavy decline.  This pastor teaches the word exactly as written. Well balanced, works hard and loves his congregation.   Just two weeks ago he told me that the word is getting around his town,  "Those folks over that at that church are nice people but there is just too much talk about Jesus".  Really?  Think about that for a moment because it is exactly that issue that is symptomatic within some of our churches today.  "Tell me good stuff but for heavens sake not too much about accountability". And friends, Jesus is all about responsibility and accountability!

3).  Downright heretics daring to teach the gospel and leading multitudes astray. False doctrines ranging from doubting the Bible as a reliable document, Allegorizing it, doubting or arguing over the rapture, Trying to predict timing of future events, denying the Trinity by claiming that Christ was a created being and therefore not really God.  And many, many more false doctrines being taught today.  2 Peter 2:1 speaks of these people. "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction".  We are warned about teachers in James 3:1 "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment".  As a pastor, that scares me because I know one day I will stand before the Judgement seat of Christ and the books will be opened.  I want to be able to tell the Lord that I taught the word of God exactly as written.

4).  DRUGS;  Just two weeks ago the President of the USA announced that drug abuse (use of Opioids)  is now a national epidemic.  Not just in America either, This is worldwide.  In the Greek language the term SORCERIES is translated as "PHARMAKEIA".  The root word for Pharmacies.  Galatians 5:17-21 describes the fruits of the flesh and one of those is (verse 20) SORCERIES.  But of course in addition to drug abuse, there is also a drift by many in the world today to things within downright witchcraft such as an organization known as the Wiccans or WICCA which is pagan witchcraft at it's worst.   Revelation chapter 7:21 and related scripture is speaking about the eventual death of a full 1/3 of all mankind.   It concludes in verse 21 by saying  "And they did not repent for their murders or their sorceries.  Or their sexual immorality or thefts". Lack of sincere repentance before the Lord is a sure fire path to an eternity in a place called hell. Oh, Oh, I nearly forgot, hell is no longer politically correct is it? Well, I for one say down with P.C. and lets get back to the Bible.

5).  Pornography;  It is now estimated that as many as 60% of adult males WITHIN THE WESTERN CHURCH are addicted to internet porn.  Including some pastors and pastors wives.  There are now entire ministries springing up to help pull these people out of pornography which is an addiction that insidiously destroys entire families, marriages crumbling, both pre teen boys and girls watching this free crud on their cell phones with zero restrictions (unless imposed by parents---hint!). Of course that's another P.C. thing isn't it? Parents can no longer regulate their own children's activities.  Child welfare services says so! Hmmmm?

6).  Hollywood;  Has anyone noticed how violent and sexual movies are becoming?  Movies that are now approved for PG-13 audiences? T.V. series filled with witches and werewolves? Prime time filled with sexually replete shows and pure unfettered violence?  Need I say more?  Does anyone honestly believe that Christian youth are not also  being led astray by that kind of thing since it surrounds them every single day, floating as a magnetic force---free of charge on the internet?

7).  Legalism within the church;  This one subject runs more people off from the church than anything else.  It hurts people to the point that they run away and never want to enter a church again.  Not a valid point because there are a lot of well balanced pastors and churches but still it happens far too often.  Someone told me a story years ago that I have never forgotten.  A much older and wiser man than I was speaking about what the two most destructive enemies are to the church.  And no, one of them was not satan.  He said, they are the two thieves on the crosses beside Jesus cross at Calvary; Obviously a metaphor but none the less accurate.

They are 1).  legalism because that is religion run amok.   This is becoming more prevalent by the day.  Denominations and some churches and pastors trying to "make" their congregation holy through  extra Biblical rules and regulations.  Holiness can only flow from a heart that is sold out and in love with the Lord. True pastors lead their flocks through positive example. They do not drive their flocks through implied threat or intimidation.

 2).  License;  Defined in this instance as religion that turns a blind eye to sin within a congregation. Respectfully and privately helping a person with a sin issue in their life is good and called for. Ignoring issues of that nature is literally the rotten apple that spoils the entire barrel.  Because of that, large portions of any church can be led astray. An example is denominations who now approve of homosexuality and in fact ordain people who are involved in that lifestyle. The word of God is very clear about that issue and in Galatians chapter 5, rank that issue right up there with Adultery, fornication, murder and drunkenness. So for those denominations, does that mean it's also ok to ordain a serial murderer?

Other sins listed In Galatians are also not always dealt with.  Turn the blind eye, after all that guy sleeping with his secretary is an elder. No rocking the boat for goodness sake!  Which brings up another subject; Have you ever noticed that when a killer or rapist is finally released from prison and has had a conversion experience to Christianity, they are often guest speakers on some Christian television? But how often have you ever seen a woman or even a man who has been cheated on and suffered a divorce because of it, interviewed on T.V.?  Never or very seldom.  Reformed violent abusers are celebrated but people suffering a divorce within Christianity are "dirty forever" and often treated like pariahs. Not by everyone of course but I can tell you about a case I recently handled in which a pastor was caught dirty having an affair with a 20 year old girl. Lot's of effort went into his restoration (which praise God eventually did happen). On the other hand, his innocent wife of many years lost most of her support for a continuing very worth while ministry---because she was headed for divorce that was not her fault. This stuff happens all the time and then we wonder why people get as far away from the organized church as they can.

The divorce rate within some parts of the western church is almost as high as in the secular world. "Maintenance drugs" are winked at, abortion has become a social issue many denominations do not want to deal with. And it goes on and on with an inexhaustible list, all of which water down true Christianity and a Biblical message. Do we wonder why so many people disengage from churches today? However I am quick to say there are thousands and thousands of great pastors and churches still out there. If you have been injured by other believers or church rules and regulations, please do not give up. In searching you will find some great congregations who will gather around and love you  unconditionally and without prejudice.

 I will conclude this section with a question from Colossians chapter 2 verse 20-22. "Therefore if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, WHY, do you subject yourselves to regulations---do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using--ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN"? Find yourself a church which uses the Bible and only the Bible. You will be a happy camper when you do.

8).  Folks, the Bible is replete with warnings about all these things destined to happen in the end times.  And all those things are happening in our world today in ever increasing amounts.  NO one who reads the Bible should miss these warnings.  Matthew chapter 7 verses 21-23 is speaking of end times people who obviously believe they are followers of Christ---but who are not!  (Jesus speaking) "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?  And then I will declare to them.   I never knew you;  Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness".

Did you notice that Jesus said MANY?  Not a few but many will be cast aside by the Lord because they practice lawlessness.  These people are inside many of our churches today.  Some in leadership roles.  This is not the occasional sin repented for.  These people are openly PRACTICING evil.  And yet obviously they have been duped---perhaps by all those false teachers into believing they were actually sincere followers of Christ.  Did they once upon a time make an altar call?  Did they say the little prayer of repentance but walked away with zero intent to conform their lives to a Biblical standard?  I sincerely wish I knew.

I just read an article this morning about a young believer in England who was attending the University of Sheffield as a graduate student.  He made a statement on his private FaceBook account that got him summarily expelled from college.  He said "Same sex marriage is a sin whether we like it or not.  It is God's word and men's sentiment do not change His word".  He was expelled from college because "he may have caused offense to some individual".   An English court of law upheld the college ruling.  Folks this stuff is happening worldwide and P.C.  (political correctness) is for many people far more powerful than the Bible.  Including for many Christians today.

This is a world gone mad in which even many believers no longer endure sound doctrine.  And that is what I believe the falling away of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 3 is speaking about.  Falling away from sound doctrine.

May the Lord of glory reveal to all of us ways in which we can lead these kinds of people to a stable relationship with the Lord before it is too late.

God bless you all,
Pastor Rance.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fasting within the church. What is it really? You might be surprised!

Dear friends and readers,

Todays article is about "fasting", sacrosanct for many generations of church goers.  While in fact it may be that many within the church do not fully realize the actual Biblical purpose of fasting. Obviously others will.

First allow me to be crystal clear.  Fasting of food or others things has been practiced within the church forever and in many cases is called for.  I am not disputing that one tiny little bit.  But, as is the case of many other things that God instituted for the well being of mankind, there is a much larger purpose that is seldom taught.  And yes, this much larger purpose is very Biblical and written for all to see.

So no one misunderstands my intent, allow me to list several passages in which people did fast food for specific purposes;  Judges 20:26 Israelites fast and inquire of God before going into battle.  1 Samuel 1:3-7 Hannah prepares for worship and prayer.  2 Samuel 12:16 King David tries to save his son.  Ezra 8:23 People ask God for protection.  Nehemiah 9:1 Fasting coupled with repentance.

In fact in the Old Testament several other passages indicate fasting of food as follows;   Interesting, look them up.  1Samuel 31:13, 1Chronicles 10:12.  1 Kings 21:27.  2 Chronicles 20:3.  Nehemiah 1:4.  Esther 4:16.  Daniel 6:18.  Joel 1:14.  And Jonah 3:5-10.  So we know for certain that Old Testament people for various reasons fasted food and that the fast was in many cases accompanied by prayer.  The main purpose was for the people to humble themselves before God and through the denial of worldly necessities, to afflict their souls.  A good thing to do but in fact "fasting" was only specifically commanded in the Old Testament for the Day Of Atonement which is part of the fall High Holy Days (we just passed through that time during September and part of October this year).  It should be noted that no where in the Bible (Old or New Testaments) did God ever set in place any principles governing the length or nature of fasting at least in terms of what physical objects to fast.

For the New Testament, we are almost immediately told that Jesus fasted during His 40 day sojourn in the wilderness at the very beginning of His earthly walk and ministry in Matthew 4:1-9 and Luke 4:1-2.   Jesus felt it necessary to fast all food during this time period so we can conclude that fasting for the right reasons certainly has real value.  Jesus also taught in Matthew 6:16-18 that fasting was to be done privately NOT publicly.  He was teaching about forgiving men their trespasses and followed with this injunction "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your heavenly Father who is in the SECRET PLACE (my emphasis added).  And your Father who sees you in secret will reward you openly"!

Jesus then goes on to tell us not to lay up our treasures on earth but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  Of course we can also conclude in that statement that although having "STUFF" here on this earth is not a problem for most people, worshipping or even valuing the stuff more that our commitment to the Lord is a problem.   In other words when fasting or even doing good works for other people, do not advertise it.

P.S.  Legal or not perhaps if your giving is really unto the LORD?  Do you really need that tax deduction?  Because if that is the case are you not also receiving reward in return for your giving?  Just a thought to ponder.

I fully understand that lot's of Christian folks innocently declare their fasting and good works.  How many times I have heard  "I am fasting this week and going for 40 days just like Jesus".  Or,  "you know that poor family down the block?  We took care of all their needs just last week"!  Well, according to Jesus words, any heavenly rewards for that fasting giver are not going to happen because they have already received their kudos here on earth.   Secondly, although I am sure there are a few people in the world who have been able to make it for 40 days of fasting, in my entire ministry life I have ever known one man who did that successfully.  And although I sincerely respect his self discipline and commitment, he went around telling people about his achievement.  Basically by telling people what he had done all he accomplished was making himself hungry for 40 days.  A very good brother by the way so no slap on the wrist here.  It's just that very many believers do not realize that their fasting or good works should always remain in the "secret place".

NOTE:  In response to questions about doing good works, I DO advise that since married people are "ONE FLESH" before the Lord, in my opinion they should be on the same page where these things are concerned and I have always encouraged couples to talk these things over.  NO secrets in a happy marriage!

Jesus did say that His disciples would fast AFTER He was taken from this world.  Matthew 9:15 plus reiterated in Mark 2:18-20 and Luke 5:33-39.  Basically all the same message.  The church in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) fasted and prayed for the Apostle Paul and Barnabas before sending them on their way.

The churches in Galatia fasted and prayed in Acts 14:21-23.   And we could discuss other times.  But I have a question for all my readers?

Where in the Bible does God actually EVER explain what constitutes a fast?  Do you know off the top of your head?  Well actually there is one very specific place in the Bible where God tells us what a fast is and that is found in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah chapter 58:6-9.  And it is extremely specific.

While fasting coupled with prayer, done very privately, certainly has value for the individual believer, the overarching theme of fasting in the eyes of God is something altogether different.  As you read the following passages which were penned by Isaiah through the leading of God's Holy Spirit, please keep the New Testament GREAT COMMISSION command in the forefront of your mind because these two extremely important areas of both Testaments dovetail almost exactly but with slightly differing objectives.  Or are they different?  Really?

In Matthew chapter 28:18-20 Jesus literally gives us a command to accomplish and He did this just prior to ascending to sit at the right hand of our heavenly Father.  "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;  And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age".  Amen.

So the question is?  Who exactly was Jesus speaking to?  Just pastors and evangelists?  No, He was speaking to ALL church age believers without exception.  As a pastor myself I would like to tell you a short story that convicted me when I realized what I was inadvertently doing myself.  A very long time ago, I was preparing for a large outreach in 5 different towns in another country.  I spent months in preparation and teaching my missionary crew what we would be doing which included door to door invitations, handing out tracts, evangelizing, teaching, altar calls, working with the local pastors,  ad infinitum!  Before we actually left for the planned 21 day vigil, I was exhausted and took a couple of days off for quiet time, speaking to the Lord etc.  My own prayer time.  Do you know what the Lord put in my heart?  I had put all this effort (for a good cause) into going "somewhere else" to preach the gospel but during all those months had literally walked past thousands of unsaved souls without ever giving them a second thought.  People I would probably never see again.  And yes, the Lord could certainly reach these people through other means.  But I was convicted to the tips of my toes.  In my rush to DO the great commission, I had NEGLECTED the great commission.   It reminded me of what I had always told my own congregation;  Missions (in this case evangelism) begins right next door.  Keep that in mind please as we see what God has to say about fasting because in my opinion, God's stated purpose for fasting is very connected to the great commission.

Isaiah 58:6-9  (Remember please that this is the ONLY place in the entire Bible where God defines what a fast is).   God begins by asking a question.  "IS THIS NOT THE FAST THAT I HAVE CHOSEN?  To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undue the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?  Is it not that you share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor that are cast out;  When you see the naked that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?"

Clearly while privately fasting food may provide benefit to you as an individual, God defines fasting as something different entirely.  He defines fasting as helping other people.  So let's backtrack a bit. In our complex, often dangerous  society today I do not recommend that you pick up strange homeless people and bring them to your house.  But everyone can either volunteer time or help in some way at a homeless shelter or church doing outreach to these folks or others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Or if you cannot do so physically support with finances or even prayer covering.

Another story may help explain how helping others may qualify as a fast.  Remember that fasting may not be limited to food intake.  It could include setting aside movies for a week or month, using this years vacation money to help build a needed house for a poor family, donating something that is important to you because someone else has sincere needs.

I remember clearly (nearly 30 years ago) when several ladies from a local church kindly showed up at our mission base with a bunch of used clothing for the poor and they wanted to volunteer some time.  These were all very dedicated Christian ladies with good intent so I do not want to demean them in the slightest way.  The clothing they brought although greatly appreciated was somewhere around 20 years old.  The kind of styles that hang in your closet for years, are faded and spotted and you would never ever think about wearing today.  These ladies were dressed to the hilt. Great clothes, jewelry, make up and hair done to the max.  No fault, no criticism.  Well, as the case is at most missions bases, donated used clothing is not always clean upon arrival.  As a result the used clothing room is a processing plant that can be somewhat odiferous until all those intended give-a-ways are sorted and washed.

Meaning well about their plans to volunteer time, these ladies immediately turned up their noses about touching someone else's used garments.   So they settled in for coffee, donuts and conversation which I was glad to oblige because I sincerely appreciated their hearts.  In the process they explained that they had all decided to go through their closets and donate dresses and things that they would never wear again because styles had changed.  Then one of these sweet ladies asked me the dreaded question that I really did not relish answering.  "Tell us what we could really do to give of ourselves and bless someone else"?

Well, I have run into that before and knew that by being honest with them I could easily offend but I also knew that I had to be truthful with them.  My answer?  "How about if you go home and take out of your closet the very best dress that you have and donate that to the poor"?   You know, a little clothes horse fast?  Of course I did not say that last part but when we give, the question is are we giving our best to Jesus or our worst, no longer wanted's?

Matthew 25:35-40  (Jesus speaking)  "For I was hungry and you gave Me food;  I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;  I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me;  I was sick and you visited Me;  I was in prison and you came to Me."  Then the righteous will answer Him saying, Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you etc?"  And the King will answer and say to them,  "Assuredly I say to you, in as much as you DID IT to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me"!

In verse 45 the tone changes to something entirely different!  (Also Jesus speaking), Then He will answer them saying  "Assuredly I say to you, in as much as you DID NOT do it to one of the least of these, you DID NOT DO IT TO ME"!  Uh, oh!

When we give, do we give our best to the Lord or what we would otherwise sell at a garage sale?  Well, needless to say my answer to these other wise very nice ladies went over like the proverbial lead ballon.  In fact it was the very last time I was invited for coffee and donuts.

Now lets go revisit Isaiah chapter 58, and begin with verse 8.  Remember that this is the ONLY place in either Testament where God Himself defines what He considers to be a fast.  The context beginning in verse 8 is that AFTER WE HAVE DONE VERSES 6-7, the result will be as follows;  "Then your light will break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness will go before you;  The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the LORD WILL ANSWER, You will cry, and He will say  "HERE I AM"!

Do you want to be a true light in this world?  Want your healing to come speedily?  Really want to be righteous before the Lord?  Want the Lord to be your rearguard?  Sincerely want to hear the Lord's voice speaking to you from within?  Take another look at Isaiah 58:6-9.

That's pretty clear don't you think?  While fasting food or drink is clearly a Biblical concept when done correctly, the Creator of the universe defines fasting as service to other people.  Very privately done service to other people.

By definition for believers, whatever we have accumulated in life has been provided for us by the Lord.  Often through our own hard work or career but even that is something provided to us by God.  So the question is a simple one.  How is it that we can receive bounty from the Lord with our right hands and sell it back or give it back to Him as unwanted junk with our left hands?

At the risk of glorifying myself which is not my intent, I will close this article with another story.  More years ago than I can count, I was running a large missions base and church.  The base had a warehouse  of 35,000 square feet filled with donated food, clothes, furniture, kitchen utensils and enough used bowling balls to outfit the cannons of a small army from 1800.  A young lady freshly relocated from a large city went to a local Christian book store and told them she wanted to donate a lot of newer city style clothing but did not want to donate them to any organization who would in turn sell them.  The owner of the store told her to go see Pastor Rance because he is the one locally who refuses to take money from the poor.   (NOTE: I personally know of many other pastors and leaders who have that policy.  The reason you may not know it is because those kinds of people generally keep it to themselves).   Forgive me for sharing my own story and feelings about this but it is the only way I could think of to get my point across.  I still feel strongly about that to this very day.

She came, donated her clothing, eventually came on staff as a missionary, became my best friend and in time my cherished wife for life.  As we were planning our wedding, I shared with her that the Lord had given me (years before) a very special verse to begin the basis of the missions organization He had begun through me.  It was Isaiah chapter 58 verses 6 and 7.  She was shocked and shared with me that when she was beginning her Christian walk, the Lord had given her "life verses" that were Isaiah chapter 58 verses 8-11.  An exact follow up to mine!

No mistakes or coincidence where the Lord is concerned.  He has it all planned out before we were ever conceived in our mothers womb!

Folks, if you value fasting continue to do so but do so quietly.  If you want to help someone in need, do so but do it privately.  The main things we can accomplish in our lives are at least four;

1).  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength---and love your neighbor as yourself.  Mark 12:29-31

2).  Do your best to obey the Lord's commands.  Luke 6:46.

3). Understand that God's definition of fasting is service to mankind.  Isaiah 58:6-7.  And yes, continue fasting food and drink if you feel called to do so.

4). Keep your priorities straight.  God first, then spouse and children---family.  Then, work, job, career.  Also quietly take care of those around you who have need as best you are able.

God bless you all today,
Pastor Rance.