Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Pastor's Corner - April 24th, 2020

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A Congregation of the United Church of God

Pastor's Corner - April 24th, 2020

There are times in our lives where we do what we can to ascertain God’s will in our lives. 

We know that God desires that we should be sanctified and that we avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3 1 Thessalonians 4:3For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication:
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), we know that He wants us to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18 1 Thessalonians 5:18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
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), that he desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4 1 Timothy 2:3-4 [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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), He desires us to take up our cross and follow Him. (Luke 9:23 Luke 9:23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
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), He desire that we do good (1 Peter 2:15), that we should be wise in our thoughts, actions, and use of time (Ephesians 5:15-20 Ephesians 5:15-20 [15] See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, [16] Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [17] Why be you not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. [18] And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; [19] Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; [20] Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
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), He desires that we persevere. (Hebrews 10:36 Hebrews 10:36For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.
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).

God has plans for us, plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
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), and want us to have life more abundantly. (John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
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Often we get stuck in decisions, and are uncertain of which direction we should go, or perhaps there are situations in our lives which are incredibly challenging, and God is not answering our prayers in the way we desire that He answer them, and we can wonder whether or not what is happening in our lives is God’s will, or if we are exerting our will. Is the door open, or is it closed? Should I open it, or leave it closed?

What does God want me to do here?

We saw the passages above that illustrated God’s will for us. He desires we be holy, sanctified, and avoid sexual immorality. He desires us to be thankful, that we repent and turn to Him. Taking up our cross and following Him, becoming His disciple. That we do good to others, exercise wisdom and discernment, and persevere. 

Note - none of these things provide details.

God can bless a person in a variety of circumstances. Some are obvious - God wants us to avoid sexual immorality, therefore, entering into a relationship with someone that violates this is clearly against God’s will. He desires that we be thankful - constantly complaining and being unthankful would be against God’s will for us. He desires that we do good, so purposefully doing contrary to that would be against His will.

But what about those times where it could go either way? How do you know what God desires? It may be that either scenario would bring blessings, but one might be better and provide a person opportunities to help others. 

Often, in these times, we turn to God and seek His will. 

One of the ways we do that is through fasting.

Fasting helps us to put aside our own desires, the physical needs which we have–food and water, and seek instead God’s support and guidance, yielding to the spiritual instead of the physical. God desires that we have an attitude that is appropriate during a fast, that we’re not seeking a specific outcome, but instead, focusing on the righteousness of God, on doing good to others, fasting to loose the bonds of wickedness, undoing the heavy burdens, breaking free the yokes. Sharing our blessings with others, seeking to help others. Aligning our mindset to God’s mindset… That is the fast that God desires. (Isaiah 58:1-14 Isaiah 58:1-14 [1] Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. [2] Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. [3] Why have we fasted, say they, and you see not? why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors. [4] Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. [5] Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? [6] Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? [7] Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? [8] Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. [9] Then shall you call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the middle of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; [10] And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon day: [11] And the LORD shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones: and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. [12] And they that shall be of you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. [13] If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: [14] Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
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When we seek God in the appropriate attitude, with the appropriate mindset, He hears us, and He answers.

We have an opportunity to fast as a Church this Sabbath. Either the 25th or 26th, specifically for His guidance. For the situation that we face at this time as a nation, and the world. Praying for God’s will to be clear, for His discernment, for what He desires us to do. How we might serve Him more effectively at this time. 

But not only that - it provides each and every one of us the opportunity to turn that magnifying glass inward, and focus on asking God to help lead each and every one of us too. That His glory might be magnified through us toward others, that we might do good, help and support others as needed. That we might learn the lessons from this situation and consider the ‘new normal’ going forward. We have the ability to craft this new normal, and to re-center our lives toward the right priorities.

We all have needed improvement in our relationship with God. This upcoming fast and the COVID-19 pandemic has given us all the chance to examine that which is truly important and to make shifts as we see need.

Brethren, during this weekend’s fast, seek God with your whole heart. Truly turn to Him - seek His face. Reflect on His Sabbath, keep it Holy, call it a delight… raise up the foundations of the generations, repair the breaches… restore the streets. Build up the city and strengthen it. 

I pray you have a meaningful fast and that it helps you to draw ever nearer to Almighty God.