Church Government

Today I share a re-post from Pastor Loren Sandford.  His verbiage may be a bit stronger than I would use, but the importance of proper church government is such a passion of mine, I decided to post it anyway.

A number of years ago, I was “called on the carpet” about spending $2000 for a drum set for our church. (I had sold our previous set for $1700 so we’re were literally talking about a $300 decision on my part.)  The challenge to my decision-making caused me to ask our “apostle” to join us for one of our board meetings so he could offer his insights from many years of experience overseeing hundreds of churches and pastors…a great hero of mine.  He was asked, “Is there a recommended dollar limit with which the pastor could not unilaterally decide to make such an expenditure?”  Fair question.  After more than 10 years of managing in the very same manner (with great results all glory to God), I was very interested in the answer as well… open to suggestions if needed.  His reply was just as interesting.  He said, “Yes, many churches have those constraints on their pastors.  And those churches are either plateaued or in decline.”

I share that antidote because it really does speak to how healthy, biblical church government keeps everyone safe, secure and accountable. My mentor always said, “I believe in pastor-led, board-supported churches.”  And I’ve learned over years of ministry that leading and managing are very different.  We manage things…we lead people.  May we as church leaders bring excellence to both.  There is proper hierarchy.  There should be.  Healthy structures allow leadership to lead people well…while accountability and transparency keep the people safe from harm.

 

A doctrine of demons has been circulating in the church in recent years that has been gaining increasing traction. Cloaked in robes of false righteousness and even claims of prophetic inspiration, but born in rebellion, it appeals to something in our culture that undermines and despises the leadership God has anointed and appointed. Wherever it goes, it weakens, divides and destroys.
 
It’s the idea that because we are all equal, there should be no “hierarchy” of leaders in the body of Christ. Somehow, people have gotten the idea that the churches and ministries should be governed by a team of “co-equal” elders. Let me begin by saying that everywhere I’ve seen this unbalanced and unbiblical philosophy applied, it has ultimately resulted in ministry failures, wounds and broken relationships. I realize that this doctrine of governance grew out of reactions to leaders who have led with domination and control or for self-exaltation, but the existence of abuses by leaders who missed the heart of God can never justify rejection of the kind of order Scripture actually mandates. Today, tragically, this unbiblical idea of church governance has gone beyond a reaction to abuses and has become an infection spreading into places where leadership has not been abusive or controlling. Good leaders are being diminished and dishonored. The body of Christ is being weakened.
 
In point of fact, every successful ministry of which I have been aware over 42 years of professional pastoral ministry in multiple nations—and so many churches I’ve lost count—has been overseen by an anointed leader whom everyone recognizes and submits to. In some cases, a team of elders claimed to be co-equal, but the obvious dynamic was always that one person rose to be the recognized driver of the vision. By dint of character, service and anointing, that person led with an authority everyone willingly followed.
 
God called Moses to lead. Moses had a team in Aaron and Miriam who demanded equality in Numbers 12 and were sternly rebuked by God for it. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Has He not spoken also by us?” Numbers 12:2b). God’s response came immediately: “And the anger of the Lord burned against them, and He set out. When the cloud went away from over the tabernacle, Miriam became leprous as snow, and Aaron turned toward Miriam and saw that she was leprous” (Num. 12:9-10).

The issue was never whether or not Aaron and Miriam heard from God. The issue was that they sought to pull Moses down from his appointed place of authority. Legitimate challenges to those in leadership are legal and necessary. Any good leader humbly holds his heart open to such things, but the spirit that seeks to pull a leader down to the level of false equality brings the judgment of God. When people in a ministry begin to behave like Aaron and Miriam toward the authority God has established, then, unless repentance comes quickly, ministries fail and die of spiritual leprosy.
 
The apostle Paul, a man anointed of God for leadership in the church, traveled with a team over which he clearly exercised godly authority. The churches he planted knew him as their apostle, and he expected obedience from them, not simply because he carried a mandate from God, but because he had led them with the heart of a father. In Philippians 2:12 he wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but so much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” On the basis of having fathered the church in Corinth in Christ, he carried the authority to discipline the people there. First he wrote, “For if you were to have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. In Christ Jesus I have become a father to you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15) and then verse 21, “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness?”

Without a doubt, Paul’s spiritual son, Timothy, functioned as the pastor in authority over the church in Ephesus, even while working with elders who served as his team. Paul wrote both I and II Timothy to exhort him to pick up his authority and exercise it, not allowing anyone to despise his youth in doing so. Timothy carried the authority to discipline elders who served under him (I Timothy 5:19-20). To Titus Paul delegated authority to “appoint elders” (Titus 1:5) and set the church in order. God never intended the church to be a democracy.
 
See Ephesians 4:11-13: “He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Or Hebrews 13:17, “bey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account. Let them do this with joy and not complaining, for that would not be profitable to you.” Focus on the word “unprofitable.” It implies loss when God’s appointed authority is not respected.
 
Isn’t it clear that God has established a structure of leadership and authority in the church and that He has commanded us to work within it? It has nothing to do with equality of persons. We are all sinners made saints by the blood of Jesus, but in order to destroy the people of God, the enemy of our soul has twisted the idea of equality into something God never intended. Leaders are never superior to those they lead. They merely occupy a place of authority for which God will hold them accountable. In fact, the task of a good leader is to equip, enable and elevate those he leads. The heart of a real father longs for his children to rise higher in what they do than he ever could. This is why Jesus promised in John 14:12: that we would do the works He did and greater works than He did. He showed us the Father’s heart and revealed what a real leader does. Good leaders don’t keep people under. They rather lift them higher.
 
We live in a day of doctrines of demons and destructive heresies as prophesied in the Word of God. Some of them undermine core doctrines of our faith. Others chip away at the structures God ordained for the leadership of His people. Let us be on guard. And, leaders! Lead with the heart of the Father and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not about you. 

R. Loren Sandford is an author, musician and the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colorado. He has a bachelor’s degree in music and a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. In addition to pastoring, Sandford has an international teaching and worship ministry. Married since 1972, he and his wife, Beth, have two daughters and one son. They live in Denver, Colorado.

Posted in Church, Pastors

Learning Contentment

I’m teaching this week on the 10th commandment, “You shall not covet…”  The secret to not falling into covetousness is learning contentment…being pleased and satisfied with what God has already provided.  Some of my resourcing came from the following article by my former pastor, Bob Yandian.  Hope you enjoy.  It’s a powerful teaching.

So many Christians believe the new birth is the goal for all people in the world. Yet, being born again is only the beginning, not the end of God’s plan for our life on earth. Even the Great Commission is divided into two parts. Mark 16 gives the side of the preaching of the gospel which redeems a person who believes in Jesus. Matthew 28 gives the second part of the mission given to the Church – discipling and teaching the word of God to those who have just believed. Jesus, in John 8:31-32, told the Jews who believed on Him while He was preaching, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. It is not even the truth that makes us free, but knowing the truth. The goal of the Christian life is to first receive Jesus, then begin maturing in the word. The new birth is instant, but growing up lasts a lifetime. We never fully reach the goal of maturity.

Renewing the Mind

Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times and strength of salvation (Isaiah 33:6).

The new birth recreates our spirit and makes us a child of God. But the word of God, taught to us as a believer, renews our mind, making us a mature child of God. What the world needs more of is not necessarily more Christians, but more disciples. Those who continue in the word of God. Christians do not bring stability to the world, but those who know and act on God’s promises bring stability. Stability is not spiritually genetic, but learned. In other words, who you are does not make you stable, but the knowledge you possess and the wisdom you walk in does.How you think makes you stable.

I Have Learned, I Know, I Know, I Am Instructed

Not that I speak in regard to need: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to have plenty and to be in need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

How often have we quoted verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” but fail to read the two verses before?  There is four times more learning and knowing than doing.

Paul first declares that in whatever condition he finds himself in, he has learned to be content.  Contentment is not a feeling. Contentment is learned. When you apply what you have learned to the situation, you may have a feeling of contentment come over you, but feelings are a result, not the goal.

Then, Paul declares twice that he knows how to be at the bottom of circumstances and he knows how to be on top. He has been broke and rich. He has been hungry and full. Yet, he is not moved by his situation, financial condition or lack of food, only by what he knows from God’s word.  In other words, what does it matter what the situation is? “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God’s promises do not change despite the circumstances. Yet, the circumstances will change when the Word of God is applied.

Next, Paul tells us that in the hunger or financial need, he is instructed on how to handle the situation. Again, the circumstances should not change what you know. But, what you know will change the circumstances.

It is often difficult to shut your eyes and stop your ears to what is going on around you. Bills in the mail and phone calls demanding payments can be overwhelming to the senses. Running away to some island will not solve the situation either. You just take your problems with you. Wherever you go, there you are. But, what you know from God’s word can make wherever you are an island of tranquility. Having your bills paid, a clean doctor’s report or your wife asking you to take her back is not the present answer. Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times right now.  A change in circumstances will come in due season. You can be at peace when all hell is breaking loose around you.

Deliverance

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19)

Is your life in danger? Have the doctor’s given you a short time to life? Have you been wrongly blamed, and your reputation, job or security is threatened? What does the word say? What you know is more important than what you are going through. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Deliverance comes from what you know.

Are You Doubting You Are Even Saved?

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

Assurance you are saved is not a feeling. Assurance comes from what you have learned and what you know. Or as John says, from what is written. Because you do not feel saved, does not mean God has moved out of your heart and left you a sinner. You are still the temple of the Lord and you still possess eternal life. How do you know that? Because the word of God says so. What you feel will not change the word of God. But the word of God will change how you feel. Feelings come, and feelings go, but the word of God never changes. You are saved, whether you feel like it or not.

 How Is This Situation Going To Change?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

All things do not work together for good for all believers. Only for those who know they do. Many Christians are bitter because they think God is a respecter of persons. He has met the needs of others and their situations have turned around. But their needs are not met, and their circumstances have not changed.  God is not a respecter of persons, but a respecter of His word. Ignorance of scripture or lack of application of the word is an open door for Satan. Obedience to God’s word shuts the door in Satan’s face and opens another door for God to move and alter the situation. You do not know how God will change the situation, but you just know He will. It is up to me to trust Him and up to Him to handle the situation.

 Fear of Death?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.”  (Romans 8:38,39)

One of the things Jesus came to save us from was fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). Being free from the fear of death is not a feeling. It comes from being persuaded. It is learned. The same scriptures you have depended on for years to assure you of your salvation and deliver you from fear and circumstances, is the same word you can depend on when you die. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) “I know my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25)

Posted in Christianity, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Mephibosheth

In chapters 18-20 of I Samuel, we find that Saul had become jealous of David and wanted to kill him. David was forced to leave Saul’s palace and go into hiding. Thus, he and Jonathan were separated.

Before David left, he and Jonathan plotted to meet each other (I Samuel 20) Verse 41 gives an account of the first secret meeting between the two. “And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. 

The word “exceeded” actually means “overwhelmed.” David cried so violently that he could not control himself. He was overwhelmed because he loved Jonathan, his covenant brother, as he loved himself.

Their friendship is a type of the day when Jesus, on the cross, entered into a covenant with us. Just as David and Jonathan were separated, so are we physically separated from Jesus. We are on earth and He is in heaven, but our hearts yearn to see Him. When we do rise to meet Jesus in the air, I’ll probably be so overwhelmed and overcome with emotion when I stand before Him in heaven, that I will cry. This is scriptural, because the Bible says He’s going to have to dry away all tears.

This covenant between Jonathan and David was an everlasting covenant that applied to future generations. In I Chronicles 8:34, we learn that Jonathan had one son, Meribbaal. Actually, that is a Caldean word; his Hebrew name is Mephibosheth. The covenant between David and Jonathan was rightfully to pass from Jonathan to Mephibosheth after Jonathan’s death.

After Saul, Jonathan, and all his brothers were killed in battle, David took the throne. But, he has not forgotten the covenant nor his love for Jonathan. Therefore, David takes the initiative and seeks out anyone of the house of Saul. “And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1)

Ziba, a former servant in the house of Saul, tells him of Jonathan’s son, “…which is lame on his feet”(II Samuel 9:36).

In II Samuel 4:4, we learn how Mephibosheth became lame. At this time Saul and his sons were dying in battles and the house of Saul was crumbling. When Mephibosheth’s nurse heard all this bad news, she realized that David would take the throne. Furthermore, because she believed Saul’s lies that David was the cause of Israel’s problems, she feared that the child would be killed. “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jesreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.” (II Samuel 4:4)

The name Mephibosheth means “a shameful thing.” He became “a shameful thing” after his nurse tripped and dropped him during a fear-filled flight. Since that time the child had been living in Lodebar (dry places) in the house of Machir (salesman). In other words, he’s crippled, living in the desert, and being sold a bill of goods! All these years his nurse and whomever he had been staying with had been telling him over and over again, “The reason you live in this dump is because of David. The reason your feet are lame is because of David. David did this to you.” And the boy grew up hating and fearing the household of David. Furthermore, he was living in ignorance, not knowing of the covenant that was drawn up between his father Jonathan and David.

Mephibosheth is a type of a person in the world. The devil dropped him one day and in the fall, his feet became lame and all this time the devil has been telling him, “God did this to you and it’s all God’s fault that you’re this way. It’s God’s fault you can’t get off the ground. It’s God’s fault you’ve never done anything right. It’s God’s fault that your family is falling apart. It’s God’s fault for this economy. It’s God’s fault for all the wars and rumors of wars around the world.” Sadly, the man in the world believes the devil because he doesn’t even know about the covenant that was drawn up before he was ever born. Does this sound like you? For years, ignorant of what God had done? Blaming God for your situation? Thinking God was the culprit? Being sold a bill of goods? Living in dry places?

Happily, like you, Mephibosheth didn’t live in ignorance forever. “Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.” (II Samuel 9:5)

An important point to notice is that David (who now had everything to lose and nothing to gain) took the initiative and “fetched” Mephibosheth! Like Mephibosheth, the ignorant sinner doesn’t take the initiative. Aren’t you glad there was a day when Jesus came out and found you, and literally picked you up and escorted you into the kingdom.

“Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence.” (II Samuel 9:6a) Mephibosheth probably thought that he was going to be killed.

But “…David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!” (II Samue/9:6b)Aren’t you glad David called him by name? Likewise, Jesus knows our names.

Verse 7 of II Samuel 9 tells us what David did for Mephibosheth and why he did it. “And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”

You see, David is honoring the covenant. He knows he will get nothing in return from Mephibosheth. The boy is poor and has been living in a shack in the desert. He has nothing to offer a king. Why, he wouldn’t even make a good servant because he is lame in both his feet.

Mephibosheth is just like we were when we came to Jesus! What did we have to offer Him? Nothing! All our righteousness before Him is as filthy rags.

David’s bringing in Mephibosheth and saying to him, “I’m going to restore everything to you that your father lost” is similar to our being given everything Adam lost. Like Mephibosheth, we fell and our feet became lame. From that time on, satan, the great salesman, has sold us a bill of goods, and we have blamed God for our “lame feet.” Weren’t you surprised one day when you came to God and found out He was a God of goodness?

Don’t you know that when Mephibosheth was lying prostrate before David, his mouth hung open? Don’t you know he kept thinking, “This couldn’t be right. Everything I have ever heard was how bad you were, how you killed everybody, how you were out looking for me.” He was overwhelmed by the generosity of David as he was offered everything that David had.

Mephibosheth’s reaction to David is found in verse 8. “And he bowed himself, and said, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such dead dog as I am?”

Verse 9 says, “Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant…” In other words, David totally ignored what Mephibosheth said. There is nothing wrong with realizing that in the sight of God you’re nothing. But, if you go around confessing before God that you’re a worm of the dust and un- deserving of all God’s blessings, He cannot agree with you. He’ll turn His ears from that. You may have nothing before you came to the Lord, but the moment you walked through the front door of His kingdom, you became the righteousness of God in Him.

What did David say to Ziba? “…I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him.” (II Samuel 9:9b-10a)

Not only did David give back all the lands that Saul lost, but he also told Mephibosheth that he would not even have to work it. The servants that Mephibosheth got were Saul’s servants who had come to work under David. David received all the servants and then gave them back to Mephibosheth. He gave him all the land, and servants to work it so that Mephibosheth could stay in the house and eat the good of the land. All Mephibosheth had to do was be a good steward of what they brought him from the field.

When you came to the Lord Jesus Christ, He gave you back the earth and all the fullness thereof. What was lost under Adam has now been restored to the Church. Jesus gave it to you, but the beautiful thing is, He gave you all His servants to go out and till the land and bring you back the good of the land. That’s not a bad deal is it? When I came to the Lord Jesus, He gave me angels and said that they were to do my bidding. He says angels respond to the voice of His Word. Furthermore, we are to send angels and messengers out into the field to do the bidding of God for us. And then, as it says here, they will bring back the fruits of it. “Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread always at my table. Now Ziba had fifteensons and twenty servants.” (II Samuel 9:10) Mephibosheth now had thirty-six people to go to work and till the land for him while he sat there and ate continually at David’s table.

“Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons. ” (II Samuel 9:11)

It was necessary for David to make it clear to Ziba and for Ziba to make it clear to the other servants that Mephibosheth was to be treated as the king’s son because there may have been a tendency for other servants in David’s household to look down on Mephibosheth as the poor lame upstart who was taken out of the dry places.

Because of our position in Christ Jesus, angels don’t hold anything over us. We are children in the house of God; angels are servants. They might be bigger than we are. They might have been around a lot longer, but we have been given special privileges in the house of God. There’s coming a day we will rise to meet Jesus in the air and sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Guess who’s going to serve this supper? The angels will be serving us. Furthermore, we’ll sit right next to the Son! In II Samuel 9:12, 13 we further read, “And Mephibosheth had young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.”

At the first mention of Mephibosheth and at the last mention, the fact that he was lame in both is feet is brought out. His feet being lame is not a type of divine healing. It is simply bringing up that his “walk” did not get him into the castle. His “walk” did not keep him in the castle. He was brought into the castle because of the covenant that was drawn up between David and Jonathan.

Just as Mephibosheth probably stumbled, we have all stumbled and fallen. Yet, despite our falling, a place is still prepared for us at the table of God. Have you ever noticed that when you’re sitting around the table, you can’t see your feet. The table of God hides all your blemishes, your faults, your failures. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, continually cleanses you from all sin. Some of you have been out of fellowship with God for a year, two years, a month, two weeks, a number of days. And because you’ve fallen, you’re running around listening to the liar, the devil, who is selling you a bill of goods saying, “You’ll never be as good as you used to be. The covenant is no good for you anymore.” He has you right back out in the dry places again. I just want to tell you the table is still prepared. All you have to do is walk through the door of I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins,” and the blood covenant will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then we can slide up to the table right next to Jesus because it wasn’t our good works that got us in and it’s not our good works that keep us in. We got in only because of the covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:17 tells us that God so wanted to show His immutability or His unchangingness to His children, the heirs of the promise, that He confirmed it by an oath. An oath is a covenant. God so wanted to enter into covenant with you, He so much wanted to show youhow unchanging He was, that He swore to it by an oath.

The eighteenth verse goes on to say, “That by two immutable things…” God is immutable. He cannot change. God wanted to enter into covenant with you, but He couldn’t. Covenants are only as strong as the weakest personality. Since we have crippled feet, God couldn’t enter into covenant with us. He had to find somebody who did not have a crippled foot. Therefore, God the Father entered into covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ. They are both immutable. Like Mephibosheth, we merely walked into a covenant which cannot be broken and which cannot be changed.

Jesus now offers the completed covenant to us and says, “Get in on it. If you blow it, you can’t break it. If you miss it, you can’t break it. You didn’t get in because you had good feet. You don’t stay in because you have good feet. You get in because I have good feet. You can’t walk it, but I did. I already walked it. Get in here and flow with me and I’ll take you.” “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ” (Hebrews 13:20-21)  -Repost Bob Yandian (used with permission)

Posted in Christianity, My Story, PsMartyFreeman

Fasting & Prayer Pt. 4 Finishing Strong

You’ve been there. So have I. When the heavens feel like brass. Prayers feel like they’re bouncing off the ceiling and falling silently to the floor. Where are the goose bumps? Where are the angelic visitations? Why does my head still hurt? Am I doing it wrong?

The answer? It is important to step back and understand that fasting itself is a prayer. It is a sacrifice that is a sweet aroma rising to the Father. You may not be “feeling” it but God sees what you’re doing for Him and He will reward.

My best friend is a missionary in India. When Stan and I went different directions after high school graduation (he moved to Wichita and I went to ORU in Tulsa), we also embarked on fresh, new spiritual journeys. He was winning that race. Every time I would talk to him, he would share new things he had learned about the Lord. His faith was growing rapidly and I wanted to know why. One day, while visiting Stan in Wichita, I was awakened by him praying loudly in the next room. When I arose, I discovered he had stacks of prayers and scripture confessions all over the table. He was fervently running hard after God. He shared some of his tools for successful prayer and I began to run hard with my friend after the Savior we both so zealously love.

However, as any faithful believer will testify, every prayer time is not a heavenly rapture of angel choirs and nearly audible voices from the throne. Some of them are hard. Sometimes it feels like we are plodding along with little result. The next time Stan and I were together I told him about my dilemma. He said something I have never forgotten: “Marty, 95% of prayer is just showing up…making yourself available.”

Sometimes the prayer, the fasting seems a dry, difficult dirge. But every time, it is an acceptable offering to the Lord.

Stay with it. Finish strong. Don’t let discouragement get you down. Keep showing up. Your breakthrough very likely is just around the corner. The seed you sow during the fast will often produce a harvest the week after or a month later. But the harvest will come. The breakthrough will be realized.

Keep showing up. God is showing up every time!

Posted in Christianity, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Fasting That Lasts

My oldest son, Michael, is a guitar player. He caught the bug playing Guitar Hero and soon decided he wanted to play the real thing. However, if you know anything about Guitar Hero, some of the music that he was “cutting his teeth” on was not what I wanted him listening to. I was patient. Rather than dropping the hammer, I backed off and trusted God. I kept encouraging him to leaPrayer & Fasting Artrn some worship music. He did. But his favorites were still the iconic riffs of the 70’s and 80’s.

Several years ago, as our annual fast was concluding, he informed his mother and I that he had fasted secular music for the three-week journey. He did it on his own without telling us.  Admittedly, I did not notice.  Instead he had feasted his guitar prowess on Christian artists like Reliant K, Toby Mac and Family Force 5. We were shocked. We were very proud. He then informed us of how much more he liked Christian music and how much better it made him feel.

We are not a legalistic family by any means. But that short, three weeks changed my teenage son. That season of setting aside the carnal brought a deeper, long-term change.  There is a tenderness in him toward God that I continue to see as a result of that decision.

In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches the disciples the three main responsibilities of any disciple. He clearly says that we should give, pray and fast. Of the three, fasting is certainly seen as more of an event rather than an ongoing habit. We should give regularly. Tithing and giving offerings is an important spiritual discipline. We should pray continually. Communion with the Father is vital to one’s spiritual pursuits. However, fasting is not something we do every day…or every week…or every month. Although, fasting for a season can bring lasting change.

Fasting can become a lifestyle if you allow it. One thing sacrificed during a fast may never be as important to you again. The sweet savor of fellowship with Christ has a tendency to make everything else fade in comparison.

This is the 16th year that I’ve led the church through a season of fasting to begin the New Year. It has changed my life and certainly changed the life of my family.  These particular fasts at the “first” of the year have always reaped new vision, determination and focus for our church family.

As we continue this season of spiritual pursuit, be sensitive as to what is fading away and what is becoming more important. Become “fasted” to Him and ”fastened” to Him. He’ll never let you go.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Family, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Fasting for Results Pt. 3

The following is an excerpt from Marilyn Hickey’s book on Prayer and Fasting (noted below).  I do not think the importance of this spiritual discipline can be emphasized enough in our churches today. I fear that far too few pastors and spiritual leaders are digging into this powerful tool.  I hope you enjoy Marilyn’s insights.

“Fasting and prayer? Didn’t those go out of style decades ago?” The woman who said this to me was a godly woman, a woman who had been in the church all her life, and a woman intent on obeying the Lord. She knew her Bible. She was very serious in her questions.

Yet for some reason, she had concluded — at least subconsciously — that fasting and prayer were no longer intended for believers in today’s world.

The truth is, fasting and prayer are for today! In fact, now more than ever!

The combination of fasting and praying is not a fad or a novelty approach to spiritual discipline. Fasting and praying are not part of a human-engineered method or plan. They are not the means to manipulate a situation or to create a circumstance. Fasting and praying are Bible-based disciplines that are appropriate for all believers of all ages throughout all centuries in all parts of the world.

Through the years, I have learned that many people in the church have never been taught about fasting and prayer, and many have therefore never fasted and prayed. As a result, they don’t know why fasting and praying are important, what the Bible teaches about fasting, or how to fast. To many, fasting sounds like drudgery — or a form of religious works. To others, fasting sounds extremely difficult. People tend to stand in awe at reports of those who have fasted for several weeks. When I hear about such fasts, I no doubt think what they think: If I fasted that long, I’d die! I couldn’t possibly do that!

Let me assure you at the outset of this book that I am not advocating prolonged periods of fasting for every believer. A fast can be as short as one meal. Neither do I advocate fasting and praying for the mere sake of saying with self-righteousness, “I have fasted and prayed about this.” I do not advocate fasting so that the hungry in a foreign nation might have the food you would have eaten that day — which is highly unlikely. I do not advocate fasting apart from prayer.

KEY REASONS TO FAST AND PRAY

I do, however, encourage every believer to fast and pray for two very important reasons:

1. The Scriptures Teach Us to Fast and Pray

The Bible has a great deal to say about both fasting and praying, including commands to fast and pray. The Bible also gives us examples of people who fasted and prayed, using different types of fasts for different reasons, all of which are very positive results. Jesus fasted and prayed. Jesus’ disciples fasted and prayed after the Resurrection. Many of the Old Testament heroes and heroines of the faith fasted and prayed. The followers of John the Baptist fasted and prayed.Many people in the early church fasted and prayed. What the Scriptures have taught us directly and by the examples of the saints is surely something we are to do.

2. Fasting and Prayer Put You into the Best Possible Position for a Breakthrough

That breakthrough might be in the realm of the spirit. It may be in the realm of your emotions or personal habits. It may be in the realm of a very practical area of life, such as a relationship or finances. What I have seen repeatedly through the years-not only in the Scriptures but in countless personal stories that others have told me — is that periods of fasting and prayer produce great spiritual results, many of which fall into the realm of a breakthrough. What wasn’t a reality . . . suddenly was. What hadn’t worked . . . suddenly did. The unwanted situation or object that was there . . . suddenly wasn’t there. The relationship that was unloving . . . suddenly was loving. The job that hadn’t materialized . . . suddenly did.

The very simple and direct conclusions I draw are these: First, if the Bible teaches us to do something, I want to do it. I want to obey the Lord in every way that He commands me to obey Him. And second, if fasting and praying are means to a breakthrough that God has for me, I want to undertake those disciplines so I might experience that breakthrough!

Every person I know needs a breakthrough in some area of his or her life. I am no exception. I need breakthroughs all the time — it may be a breakthrough in understanding a situation, a breakthrough answer to a problem, a breakthrough idea, a breakthrough insight, a breakthrough in financial or material provision, a breakthrough in health. If you have any need in your life, you need a breakthrough from God to meet that need! Fasting and prayer break the yoke of bondage and bring about a release of God’s presence, power, and provision.

I certainly have seen this borne out in the course of my ministry.

When I was forty-two years old, I went to an Assemblies of God camp in Alexandria,Minnesota, to speak for a women’s retreat. The first two days of the retreat went very well, and then I had one day in between the first retreat and the second — so many women had registered, the camp could not host all of the women at the same time. I took that day in this lovely place in Minnesota to enjoy the lakes and trees — it was a gorgeous environment — and to fast and pray about God’s will for my life. I felt as if I was doing a lot of good things, but I also thought I might miss God’s best for me. I longed to hear from God and to receive a revelation from Him about my life.

In that day of fasting and prayer, God spoke to me words from Isaiah 11:9: “I have called you to cover the earth with the Word.” Through the years, the Lord has confirmed that word to me a number of times, but this was my initial call to take the message of God’s Word to the whole earth, and it came as the result of one day of prayer and fasting.

The breakthrough that you may need in your life is a sense of God’s direction — not only for today and tomorrow, but for the broad scope of your life. If you long to know God’s purpose for you on this earth, I strongly encourage you to seek God in prayer and fasting.

THE PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL FASTING

There are two main overriding principles related to prayer and fasting in the Bible.

First, biblical fasting is going without food. The noun translated “fast” or “a fasting” is tsom in the Hebrew and nesteia in the Greek language. It means the voluntary abstinence from food. The literal Hebrew translation would be “not to eat.” The literal Greek means “no food.”

I know people who say they go without television or movies, and they call these “fasting” times. I’m not opposed to that definition of fasting-fasting does imply that we are giving up one thing in order to replace it with something else, and in the Bible sense, specifically to replace it with prayer. But in the main, I believe fasting has to do with our abstaining from food. Second, biblical fasting is linked with serious seasons of prayer. The more seriously we approach prayer and fasting, the more serious the results we will experience.

I sometimes hear people say, “I’m giving up chocolate” and they regard this as a type of fasting. I think this is a rather frivolous approach. The first and foremost purpose of a biblical or spiritual fast is to get a breakthrough on a particular matter that one lifts up to the Lord in prayer. A spiritual fast involves our hearts and the way in which we relate to and trust God. It relates to discerning and receiving strength to follow through on what God might reveal to us about circumstances in our lives or a direction we are to take.

I am not against people fasting in order to lose weight. Many people fast to lose weight or maintain their weight.What I am opposed to is making the losing of weight your primary goal in a season of spiritual fasting and prayer. To have weight loss as a goal makes your fasting a diet plan, not a time of genuine fasting and prayer. If losing weight is your purpose in fasting, you will be missing out on the full reason for fasting, and you likely will be concerned only with what you don’t eat rather than with what you are led to pray.

Now there’s certainly an issue of food that is associated with many seasons of prayer and fasting, and let me quickly add this: control of eating is a valid reason to fast. The purpose is not the number of pounds you might lose during a fast, but rather, trusting God to help you regain mastery over food during a fast. Jesus said, “The spirit is . . . willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Fasting is a means of bringing the flesh into submission to the Lord so He can strengthen us in our mastery over our own selves. Fasting in the flesh makes us stronger to stand against the temptations of the flesh. Those temptations very often deal with food.

Abstaining from food is often God’s way of showing that His desire for us is that we regain mastery over all things associated with our flesh in order to subdue our flesh and elevate our emphasis on spiritual matters. God’s promise is to help us as we overcome the flesh and put all carnal temptations into subjection.

ABSTAINING FROM FOOD TO REGAIN MASTERY OF THE FLESH

We are wise to recognize that food was the enticement the devil used to cause Eve and Adam to sin in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2 the Lord God told Adam and Eve that they could eat freely of every tree in the garden of Eden, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). God did not tell Adam and Eve to refrain from touching a particular animal or smelling a particular flower or swimming in a certain stream. He told them to refrain from taking a particular fruit into their bodies-one type of fruit out of all the many types He had made available to them.

God had given Adam and Eve authority over all things that He had created-every bird, fish, beast of the field, and over “every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Gen. 1:29). God did not prohibit Adam and Eve from interacting with any part of God’s creation when He commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it-except for this one tree and its fruit. They were not to eat of a particular tree,what God described to them as the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Why did God set apart this one tree and its fruit? God was giving Adam and Eve free will and the ability to make choices and decisions. Free will isn’t really free if a person has no choice.

Adam and Eve had a choice to make about this one tree. God told them to abstain from eating from its fruit because He did not want His beloved creation to have a knowledge of evil. He had already given them a full knowledge of everything He called “good.”He wanted to spare them the heartache of knowing evil. That’s true for us today as Christians. God calls us to pursue only what is good. Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). God desires only good for His children. He tells us in His Word, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

Even as God calls us away from evil and toward good,He gives us a choice. So many of the problems we have in our world today are the result of men and women making the wrong choices. They have knowingly and unknowingly chosen what is evil.And the end result is the same for us as it was for Adam and Eve: death and all forms of sin that lead to death (see Rom. 6:23).

Let me point out to you two results from the disastrous choice that Adam and Eve made about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

1. Diverted Attention

First, Eve listened to what the devil had to say to her about the fruit itself. The devil diverted her attention from whatever it was that Eve was doing. He called her attention to the tree and its fruit. The Bible tells us the devil came to her in the guise of a beautiful and subtle serpent and said to her, “Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). There’s no indication that Eve had given much thought to the tree before the devil asked her this question. There’s no record that she longed for it or had any curiosity about it. She certainly didn’t crave it, because she had never tasted it!

In many ways, the devil uses this same tactic today. He calls our attention to how beautiful and refreshing certain foods and beverages appear. It’s difficult to go through a day without seeing enticing food and beverage commercials on billboards, on television, and in magazines. Foods are presented in the most tempting ways in stores, restaurants, and on menus. The devil says the same thing to us he said to Eve:”Has God really said you can’t have a bite of this?”

A woman once said to me, “If there’s a piece of pie in my house, it calls out to me. It says to me, even in the middle of night, ‘Eat me. Come eat me.’ I can’t resist.”

Now I’m certainly not linking the devil to a piece of pie, but I am saying this: the devil will always call your attention repeatedly to the thing that is harmful for you, but he will do it in a way that makes you feel deprived if you don’t indulge in eating, drinking, or partaking of what is harmful. The implication of the devil is always: “This is so good. Has God really said you can’t have any of this good thing?”

Never forget that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the knowledge of good and evil. There was an element of good in that fruit, not just evil. The devil told Eve specifically that the fruit of the tree was “good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6). All Eve had to do was look to see that the fruit was pleasant. She made a bad assumption, however, that what was visually pleasant would also be “good for food.” In that, the devil was very wrong!

What about us? There’s an element of good in foods and substances that are ultimately bad for us, even if it’s just the good appearance, smell, or taste. Have you ever noticed how beautiful all the colored and distinctly shaped bottles look in a bar? Those bottles always seem lighted in just the right way to make them look very special, very festive, very appealing. Many foods are pleasant to the eyes. Many drinks are presented in ways that make them appear pleasing. We buy into the lie that what is pleasing is also nutritious and beneficial.

Fasting calls us to turn away from food. Fasting calls us to redivert our attention back to the things of God and His commandments. Fasting calls us to face and overcome the devil’s call: “Has God really said you can’t have this?” Fasting calls us to abstain from all things harmful for us, and in most cases, from all food for a period of time. The devil’s insistent question is likely to become very loud in our minds as we begin a fast: “Has God really said you can’t eat? Not anything? Not the things you love the most? Has God really called you to fast- to abstain totally from this thing that you have labeled as ‘good’?”

Our answer must be a firm “Yes! God has called me to fast. He has called me to give my full attention to Him and to His commandments. He has called me to obey Him fully in all things. And God has called me to say no to you, devil!”

2. Temptations Toward False Benefits

Eve listened to what the devil had to say to her about the benefits of eating what God had prohibited. The devil always points out the would-be and usually short-term benefits of sin. Many substances that are ultimately harmful for us taste good or feel good or bring pleasure. In some cases, the partaking of the substance makes us feel like adults, feel accepted by others, or feel more powerful and in greater control. Some people say about certain foods and substances that they “give me quick energy,” “make me more alert,” or “help me relax.”

The devil told Eve that the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make her wise-she would be as a “god,” knowing good and evil.

In the short term, the devil was right. Eve suddenly had a knowledge of evil. She really knew in her own experience as a human being that evil existed. This was the first time in her life she had ever known the contrast-up to that point, all things had been good.

What the devil failed to mention to Eve was the ultimate consequence that God had associated with eating of this fruit: “You shall surely die.” The devil failed to mention any downside to her disobedience. In fact, he dismissed God’s consequences with a sarcastic question.

The devil comes at us the same way. The devil never tells us that drinking alcohol can make a person an alcoholic. He never tells a person that smoking cigarettes can cause him or her to have lung cancer. He never tells a person that eating too much of the wrong foods can lead to chronic illness and premature death. The devil points out only short-term benefits, never long-term disasters.

When we fast, we are suddenly aware once again of what is good and evil. We have a heightened awareness not only of God’s goodness and of God’s commandments, but of the evil that abounds in the world around us.

A man once said to me about fasting, “It seems that when I fast the world seems much more black and white, at least for a period of time. I see right and wrong much more clearly. I see good and bad, blessings and cursings, benefits and negative consequences, what is godly and what is ungodly. I am much more discerning about what lines up with God’s commandments and what falls into the category of ‘man’s commands.'”

I asked him what happened after he stopped fasting. He laughed and said, “I am still very clear on these things, but there’s also a time after I end fasting that the whole world seems more vivid and more colorful than ever before. I can distinguish tastes again. The sky seems bluer than before. The air seems crisper in the mountains. All of my senses seem to be heightened toward what is God’s creation-which is always good- and what is man’s invention-which very often has an element of evil to it.”

Those who fast often experience greater discernment of good and evil. In fact, it seems to be a major by-product of fasting. God seems to give us an opportunity as we fast to take a look again at our lives and the world around us and to discern what is good and what is evil.

Excerpted from The Power of Prayer and Fasting by Marilyn Hickey. Copyright © by Marilyn Hickey. Used by permission of Warner Faith, a division of Time Warner Book Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Posted in Christianity, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Fasting for Results Pt. 2

We’re just a few days into our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer. We invite you and your family to join all the The Altar family for what promises to be a powerful time each January of fasting and giving God first place in our year. We are spending 21 days seeking God and believing Him for big things to come in 2018. January 7-28.

I’m posting a series of articles and observations to help you along the journey. I’ve had several inquiries about a Daniel Fast. This is another practical approach to fasting that may work well for you.

Normally, fasting means to abstain from food and/or drink for a certain period of time as a religious practice. However, it may extend to anything that may be a source of pleasure, satisfaction or personal gratification.  Many at The Altar will be participating in the Daniel Fast which means we deny ourselves sweets and meats and eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Below is an extensive list of what you can and cannot eat on the Daniel Fast.

Hope this helps!

Foods to include in your diet during the Daniel Fast
All fruits. These can be fresh, frozen, dried, juiced or canned. Fruits include but are not limited to apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, guava, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemons, limes, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, tangelos, tangerines, watermelon.

All vegetables. These can be fresh, frozen, dried, juiced or canned. Vegetables include but are not limited to artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger root, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, parsley, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, sprouts, squashes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, yams, zucchini, veggie burgers are an option if you are not allergic to soy.

All whole grains, including but not limited to whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, oats, barley, grits, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas, rice cakes and popcorn.

All nuts and seeds, including but not limited to sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, sesame. Also nut butters including peanut butter.

All legumes. These can be canned or dried. Legumes include but are not limited to dried beans, pinto beans, split peas, lentils, blackeyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, white beans.

All quality oils including but not limited to olive, canola, grape seed, peanut, and sesame.
Beverages: spring water, distilled water or other pure waters.

Other: tofu, soy products, vinegar, seasonings, salt, herbs and spices.

Foods to avoid on the Daniel Fast
All meat and animal products including but not limited to beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and fish.
All dairy products including but not limited to milk, cheese, cream, butter, and eggs.
All sweeteners including but not limited to sugar, raw sugar, honey, syrups, molasses, and cane juice.
All leavened bread including Ezekiel Bread (it contains yeast and honey) and baked goods.
All refined and processed food products including but not limited to artificial flavorings, food additives, chemicals, white rice, white flour, and foods that contain artificial preservatives.
All deep fried foods including but not limited to potato chips, French fries, corn chips.
All solid fats including shortening, margarine, lard and foods high in fat.
Beverages including but not limited to coffee, tea, herbal teas, carbonated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol.

Keep pressing ahead.  Even if “you’ve fallen off the wagon.”  Get back up and expect God to hear your prayers (2 Chron. 7:14).

Posted in Christianity, Church, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

The Anointing

I’ve always been drawn to seeking out what “the anointing” truly is.  In Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, we often throw the term around without regard to historicity or context.  I discovered some notes from a message I delivered years ago about anointing with oil.  Take time with it. Pray over it.  See how the anointing is available for you today. My research is also prompted by recent discussions with a couple of pastor/friends who have some pretty jacked up theology of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  I’ve been dumbfounded by the error spreading through the Body of Christ.  The end times are upon us and much of that is signaled by error in doctrine.  I hope this helps shed some light as well

New Testament Versus Old Testament Anointing With Oil

Mark 6: 7 “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;”

vs. 12 “And they went out, and preached that men should repent.”

vs. 13  “And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.”

The anointing with oil was very much a part of the Jewish culture. When Jesus talked to the disciples about anointing with oil, they were very familiar with the practice. Anointing with oil was found throughout the Old Testament but was not reserved for the sick. Anointing with oil in the Old Testament was often a symbol for God’s recognition of a position, a sacrifice, furniture in the temple, etc. But in the New Testament, the main purpose of anointing with oil was for the healing of people. This was an ordinance given in the New Testament. Because we no longer live according to types and shadows, the New Testament contains far less ordinances than the Old Testament. Jesus Christ has come and there is no longer a need for types and shadows.

It is so good to know that we do not have to drag an animal with us to church as a sacrifice. No longer do we have to have the priest offer up a sacrifice on our behalf to atone for our sins. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and fulfilled the requirements of the law. He fulfilled all of it and is now seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father.

The Purpose of Rituals

Rituals were never designed to bring power, healing, or blessings. The purpose of rituals is to point to the One who is the source of power, healing, and blessings. Animal sacrifices did not save people.

Hebrews 9:12  “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

Instead, animal sacrifices symbolized the pouring out of the life of Jesus Christ. They symbolized His shed blood and spiritual death. Jesus’ shed blood represents life, for the life is in the blood.  When Jesus went to the cross, He voluntarily gave up His life. On the cross, he died…gave up the ghost to suffer for us, even beyond the cross and physical death. Jesus suffered three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

All that Jesus did on the cross is spoken of in types and shadows in the Old Testament. The sacrifices, the spices, and salt for the sacrifices, the smoke that went up, the incense…all of these spoke about the impeccable life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But following Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, God was satisfied with His work.

There are also some rituals in the New Testament. Water baptism, the communion elements cannot save. However, if we understand the symbolism behind them, it can lead to salvation, healing, and blessing.

Discerning of the Lord’s Body

I Corinthians 11:30 “For this cause, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

This verse is speaking of partaking of the communion elements without first examining yourself. The Greek infers that many are becoming weak, many are sickly, and many die prematurely because they do not discern the body of the Lord Jesus. They did not understand that the bread represents divine healing and the cup represents the remission of sins. This verse does not say that they did not eat the bread because they were making a meal out of the bread. The bread was to remind them of the work of Jesus on the cross; it was to remind them of the remission of sins and healing made available through the stripes on Jesus’ back. Whether it was the cup or the bread, Jesus said, “Do it in remembrance of Me.” The ritual of communion does not bring healing, but remembering what Jesus did on the cross and putting faith in Him can bring healing.

Old Testament Anointing With Oil

1. Anointed for Office

In the Old Testament, anointing with oil represented rank. Whenever an individual took an office, they were anointed with oil. The four offices that were anointed were the prophet, the priest, the high priest, and the king. The anointing with oil was a designation of their rank and the acknowledging and recognition of a new level of operation in the Holy Spirit.  The oil typified a new anointing, a new level of responsibility, and a new outpouring on the life of the individual being anointed with oil.

2. Oil and Sanctification

In the Old Testament, oil also represented sanctification. It was used as a dedication. That sanctification showed that the individual was not only stepping out of something, they were also stepping into something.

When Samuel went to the house of Jesse to look for the next king, God did not reveal to Samuel which son it would be. After Samuel had seen all of Samuel’s sons, he asked if there were any other sons. Of course, David was out with the sheep. Jesse called for him and immediately Samuel knew that this would be the next king of Israel. Samuel laid hands on David and anointed him with oil, signifying that he was stepping out of being a shepherd and into being king over Israel.

David remembered being anointed by Samuel for the rest of his life. When he was running from Saul and his armies, when it looked impossible that he would become king, when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam, David would remember the time he was anointed to be king.

The oil represented sanctification. Sanctification means separation, a dedication into a new ministry. When we were born again, we were separated out of the world and into Christ. Not only are we saved out of the world and into Christ, we keep moving up to new levels of stepping out. This is the process of sanctification.

3. Oil and the Sacrifices

Oil was poured out on the sacrifices made to God in the Old Testament. The sacrifice was separated from man and ordained to God, but also anointed by the Holy Spirit. The sacrifice no longer represented an animal of the field; it now represented something that was going to be used for God’s glory.

4. Oil and the Establishment of the Tabernacle

When the tabernacle was established in the wilderness, it was anointed with oil. The tabernacle represented the habitation of God. Oil was used to sanctify the place where God’s anointing was to abide and the place where the people would come to receive the teachings of the Word of God. The tabernacle was the place where the people would come to be edified, blessed, and encouraged. It was also the place where they would come to praise and worship the Lord, where their sins could be forgiven, and where they could learn about the One who would redeem them from their sins.

5. Oil and the Unity of Believers

Oil was also a symbol of unity in the Old Testament.

Psalm 133:2  “It (unity) is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.”

The unity we have is with each other and with the Father, and with the Lord Jesus Christ. It always starts with the Head and flows down to us. We are first unified in the Lord Jesus Christ and then we become unified with each other.  On the Day of Pentecost, the anointing oil began to flow from Jesus Christ in heaven down to the body of Christ. By the end of the day, there were 3,120 born again.

6. Oil and the Holy Spirit

Finally, oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. The Holy Spirit sanctified and separated us. The Holy Spirit also makes us a sacrifice unto God.

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. No matter what the oil represents, it is really a symbol of the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

The Anointing That Abides Within

There is an anointing that abides within that is always present, whether we feel it or not. But there is also a tangible anointing that comes during a service. When we praise and worship the Lord, God says, “I inhabit the praises of My people.” That is the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit, which we also call the anointing.

The word “anointing” also means “to massage, to rub in.”  In the Old Testament, oil was used for medicinal purposes. Often when a person was sick, they would be rubbed with oil. There was not just a dab of oil put on their body; they were saturated with oil.

When the Holy Spirit comes in, it is not intended to just be a touch. He wants to saturate us.

The First Mention of Oil Used for Ministry in the New Testament

When Jesus sent forth his disciples, two by two, He had instructed them about how to minister to others. By implication, we know that Jesus instructed the disciples about anointing the sick with oil.

Mark 6:13 “And they (the disciples) cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.”

The disciples did not use oil for medicinal purposes, rather as a representation of the supernatural healing power of the Holy Spirit. The oil does not heal. The power of God heals. When Jesus called His disciples He gave them authority and power over unclean spirits and over sickness and disease.

New Testament Uses of Anointing With Oil

1. Anointed for Burial

Luke 7:46 “My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.”

Mary anointed Jesus with oil, which represented Him dying and being buried. But not only was the oil a symbol of Jesus’ burial, it was also a symbol of His resurrection.

When we rub oil on a sick person and pray for them, we expect them to be healed. If we anoint a person with oil who is dying, we expect them to be resurrected.

Mary witnessed Lazarus coming out of the grave. When Mary anointed Jesus for burial, she also knew she was anointing Him for resurrection. She was one of the first to arrive at the tomb of Jesus. She came to the grave knowing that Jesus would be resurrected from the dead, just as Lazarus had been. No wonder Jesus commended her for her faith.

2 Anointing for Healing

Luke 10:34 “And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”

When the Good Samaritan found the man who had been beaten on the road, he bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine into those wounds. Oil was the first element poured into the wound. Again, oil represents healing. It also represents the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. The wine represents the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

3 The Oil of Gladness

Hebrews 1:9 “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

Verse 9 is speaking of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. More than that, it speaks of His ascension after being resurrected from the dead. This verse is God the Father speaking to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ at the resurrection.

The “oil of gladness”  represents that the work was completed. Jesus’ time on earth is often referred to as a time of sorrows. Jesus knew His purpose. He came to redeem us, heal us, and deliver us, but the ultimate reason He came was to die for us.

I John 3:8 “For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

For Jesus, destroying the works of the evil one meant suffering, dying, going to the cross, taking on the curse, and removing it. However, once He was resurrected and ascended to heaven, He was anointed with the oil of gladness.

Hebrews 1:9 says, “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” The word “fellows” is a reference to the angels. The importance of this verse is that a human being was exalted above the level of the angels. This verse does not refer to Jesus in His deity; it refers to Jesus in His humanity. Jesus earned the right to be exalted above the level of angels.

When He came to earth, Jesus was given a human name and any human name is lower than an angel’s name. But through death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, a human name has been elevated to an equal level with God. Jesus Christ is now synonymous with God.

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

vs. 2 “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.”

Symbolic of Psalm 133, the oil began on the head and flowed down to the skirts of the garments. The same oil of anointing flowed to the upper room where 120 were anointed with the Holy Spirit.

On the day Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, He became the High Priest over the Church, anointed with oil. He became King of kings, Lord of lords, Head of the Church. He was anointed with oil for every position He filled.

Again, the disciples were anointed to lay hands on the sick and to anoint them with oil. But the original disciples are gone. Mary anointed Jesus with oil, but she is gone. Jesus ascended into heaven and was anointed by God the Father, but that happened in heaven. So, how does the anointing with oil apply to us today?

Anointing With Oil Today

James 5:14 “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

The anointing with oil has come down through the centuries and we still practice it in the church today. The practice of anointing with oil has literally spanned the dispensations. It began in the Old Testament and has continued to the day in which we live. But something new was added when the anointing with oil reached the New Testament days. People were anointed with oil to receive healing.

Laying Hands on the Sick

Laying on of hands is not just a ministry for pastors or apostles or those called to the healing ministry. It is a ministry that has been given to every believer.

Mark 16:18 “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Importance of Prayer in Healing

James 5:13  “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.”

vs. 14 “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

vs. 15 “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

vs. 16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

vs. 17  “Elias (Elijah) was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

vs. 18 “And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

The subject of this passage is not anointing with oil. The subject is prayer. Notice the number of times prayer is mentioned.

Verse 13, you pray for yourself. Verses 14 and 15, you let others pray for you. Verse 16, you pray for one another. This passage of scripture emphasizes the importance of prayer. If you are weak and do not have the faith to pray for yourself, you can have an elder pray for you. It is not necessary to call up the pastor every time you are attacked with sickness. You can pray for yourself, you can have others pray for you, you can pray the prayer of agreement with another believer, or you can call for the elders of the church to anoint you with oil.

Verse 16 says again, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This verse is simply saying, “If you are born again, you have no faults between you and your brother, and you stand clean before God, you are one of those effectual fervent prayer warriors. You may not feel like you are. You may not look, think, or even act like one, but you are. These verses even compare us to Elijah, who was emotionally up and down yet, he prayed and the earth did not receive rain for three and a half years. Then He prayed again and it rained.

Are you afflicted? Pray for yourself. Are you merry? Sing psalms. Are you to the point of weakness, where you need someone else to pray for you? Call the elders and let them anoint you with oil and pray for you. That prayer is going to heal you and the Lord will raise you up.

When verse 16 says to “confess your faults one to another, that does not mean confessing your sins before everyone. This verse means that we are to go to the person we have wronged, confess our sin, and then pray for one another.

Call for the Elders of the Church

Verse 14 says again, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

The Greek word for “sick” actually means “sickly or weak and sick.” If you are having difficulty rising up in faith because you have been beaten down by the enemy and you have prayed for yourself, you have had others pray for you, and there is no sin in your life, then call for the elders of the church and let them pray for you and anoint you with oil.

Verses 14 and 15 could actually read, “Call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith shall save the sick one.” The “sick one” is a weak one. Not only is this person sick, but what is accompanying that sickness is a spiritual weakness.

The oil does not heal. It is simply used as a point of contact for our faith to begin operating as it had been previously. The oil does not heal and the prayer of faith does not heal. God heals. The vehicle God uses for healing to be manifested is the prayer of faith.

What Anointing With Oil Means to the Believer

1. You Have a Position

If I anoint you with oil, it means you hold a position. As believers, we are no longer servants. We are sons and daughters of God. We belong to the family of God. The moment we are born again, we hold a high rank in the body of Christ. It is a higher rank than the Old Testament prophet, priest, or king because they were still servants in the house of God. Romans 8:29 says that Jesus was “…the firstborn among many brethren.” We, as New Testament saints are the “many brethren.”

2. You Have Been Separated

Satan will often tell believers, “You are worthless. You are no better than the world. Just yesterday you got angry with the store clerk. A few hours ago you said something bad about your boss. You call yourself a Christian? God will never use you.”

That is when we can reply, “I have been called out of the world and into Jesus Christ. I am no longer part of the world, I am part of the family of God.”

2 Corinthians 6:17 “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…”

The oil represents that point of sanctification.

3. A Living Sacrifice

Whenever sacrifices were offered to God, oil was placed on those sacrifices. A believer can confidently declare, “My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I have been sanctified and set apart. Why should my body be sick? My body should be well and whole. My body is a living sacrifice unto God and God wants well bodies and not sick bodies as a sacrifice.”

God wants us well so we can spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be difficult to receive from someone talking about the goodness of God if they are deathly ill. It is much easier to receive the message of the gospel from someone who is well.

4. Your Body is the Tabernacle of the Holy Spirit

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not only a living sacrifice, it is where the Spirit of God dwells. There was a day when the temple was made of animal skins. The physical temple would be built and anointed with oil and the presence of God would move into that temple built with physical hands. God’s presence in the temple was called the shekinah glory.

Today, the shekinah glory of God dwells in us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The moment Jesus Christ died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from the top to the bottom and the presence of God moved out. On the Day of Pentecost, God’s presence moved into His people, which is where He had always desired to abide.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence moved from place to place. It moved from the tabernacle of Moses to the tabernacle of David to the temple of Solomon to the temple of Herod. But after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, He came to dwell within us and He will never leave. He will be with us forever.

5. A Symbol of Unity

Satan tries to sell the lie to believers that they do not fit in with other Christians and he tries to alienate them. But the oil is a reminder that we are part of the body of Christ, that we have a specific function within that body, and that they have been unified with other all other believers

A Symbol of the Holy Spirit

Finally, the oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The type of oil is unimportant. Some people make an issue about needing to use a certain kind of oil, what type of water they are baptized in, or whether real wine or grape juice is used for communion. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is what they represent.   Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Posted in Christianity, Church, Holy Spirit, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Fasting for Results Pt. 1

As we enter into our 21-day fasting and prayer time, I always anticipate what God is about to say and reveal to us as a church family. He promises to speak to us individually and corporately. It’s an exciting time of the year!PlugInOver the next few days, I’m looking back at some of my teachings on the discipline of fasting. I feel strongly it’s important to equip you with ideas and strategies to make your fasting time successful. Fasting can be incredibly frustrating. Satan knows that God’s power will be released in you if you persist, so he will throw everything at you…and very often, you can fell like it’s simply not worth it. I don’t want you to lose out on this powerful blessing. So keep some of these notes and use them as encouragement over the next few weeks.

Matthew 6:1-18 (NLT)
1 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.
3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.
6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.
8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “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.
17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face.
18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Notice the three core actions of a successful follower of Christ: One who gives, prays and fasts. Jesus never said, “If you pray…if you give…if you fast.” But these are the directives that will lead to righteousness.

Fasting is simply the removal of one action and the replacement of another in its place. Typically, we fast food. Fasting food is the type of fast most taught in scriptures. However, in our culture, with so many voices and activities overwhelming our lives, fasting can be successful in other forms as well.

Fasting media is a big one for me personally. I’m a news junkie. I love to read the paper every day, usually at least two. I read magazines, blogs, periodicals…nearly anything I can get my hands on. I like to know what’s going on in the world. I find that setting aside the talk radio station, the television, the news casts and the newspapers really detoxifies me. It’s important to me to silence every other voice in my life, except God’s…including my own.  I like to replace that “brain space” with worship music, teachings from my favorite pastors and I always read (or re-read) a Christian classic by one of my favorite authors.

Fasting is a challenge. Find out what the Lord would have you do. Fast one meal each day? Fast an entire 24-hour period each week? A 3-day fast each week? Maybe fasting certain foods like sweets, sodas, sugars, fried foods, etc. But please remember this: If it doesn’t mean anything to you, it doesn’t mean anything to God.

One more important thing to remember about fasting: Fasting is not penance for sin. Don’t approach your fasting as a punishment…you’ll quickly get sick of trying to appease God for your sin. Jesus Christ already paid the price for our sin, so that game is over.

Get excited about fasting and prayer and allow your faith to rise. Anticipate all that God wants to reveal to you. He is speaking. Fasting doesn’t cause God to speak. Fasting causes you to hear a God who has been speaking all along.

Fasting will detoxify your soul from fleshly desires. The normal burdens of life can cause unbelief to rise and your faith to be smothered. Fasting and prayer will wash all those contaminants and allow your spirit to soar in faith and fellowship with the Lord.

Get ready to hear! Get ready to see! God is going to blow your mind!

Helpful reading:
“Fasting: The Private Discipline That Brings Public Rewards” by Jentezen Franklin
“The Power of Prayer and Fasting” by Ronnie Floyd
“Pivotal Praying” by John Hull and Tim Elmore
“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
“The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer

Posted in Christianity, Church, Holy Spirit, Pastors, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Fasting for Results Pt. 1

As we enter into our 21-day fasting and prayer time, I always anticipate what God is about to say and reveal to us as a church family. He promises to speak to us individually and corporately. It’s an exciting time of the year!PlugInOver the next few days, I’m looking back at some of my teachings on the discipline of fasting. I feel strongly it’s important to equip you with ideas and strategies to make your fasting time successful. Fasting can be incredibly frustrating. Satan knows that God’s power will be released in you if you persist, so he will throw everything at you…and very often, you can fell like it’s simply not worth it. I don’t want you to lose out on this powerful blessing. So keep some of these notes and use them as encouragement over the next few weeks.

Matthew 6:1-18 (NLT)
1 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.
3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.
6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.
8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “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.
17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face.
18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Notice the three core actions of a successful follower of Christ: One who gives, prays and fasts. Jesus never said, “If you pray…if you give…if you fast.” But these are the directives that will lead to righteousness.

Fasting is simply the removal of one action and the replacement of another in its place. Typically, we fast food. Fasting food is the type of fast most taught in scriptures. However, in our culture, with so many voices and activities overwhelming our lives, fasting can be successful in other forms as well.

Fasting media is a big one for me personally. I’m a news junkie. I love to read the paper every day, usually at least two. I read magazines, blogs, periodicals…nearly anything I can get my hands on. I like to know what’s going on in the world. I find that setting aside the talk radio station, the television, the news casts and the newspapers really detoxifies me. It’s important to me to silence every other voice in my life, except God’s…including my own.  I like to replace that “brain space” with worship music, teachings from my favorite pastors and I always read (or re-read) a Christian classic by one of my favorite authors.

Fasting is a challenge. Find out what the Lord would have you do. Fast one meal each day? Fast an entire 24-hour period each week? A 3-day fast each week? Maybe fasting certain foods like sweets, sodas, sugars, fried foods, etc. But please remember this: If it doesn’t mean anything to you, it doesn’t mean anything to God.

One more important thing to remember about fasting: Fasting is not penance for sin. Don’t approach your fasting as a punishment…you’ll quickly get sick of trying to appease God for your sin. Jesus Christ already paid the price for our sin, so that game is over.

Get excited about fasting and prayer and allow your faith to rise. Anticipate all that God wants to reveal to you. He is speaking. Fasting doesn’t cause God to speak. Fasting causes you to hear a God who has been speaking all along.

Fasting will detoxify your soul from fleshly desires. The normal burdens of life can cause unbelief to rise and your faith to be smothered. Fasting and prayer will wash all those contaminants and allow your spirit to soar in faith and fellowship with the Lord.

Get ready to hear! Get ready to see! God is going to blow your mind!

Helpful reading:
“Fasting: The Private Discipline That Brings Public Rewards” by Jentezen Franklin
“The Power of Prayer and Fasting” by Ronnie Floyd
“Pivotal Praying” by John Hull and Tim Elmore
“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
“The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer

Posted in Christianity, Church, Pastors, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits