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Is Prayer a Priority in our Lives? (Acts 2:41-47)

Acts 2:41-47
Is prayer a priority in our lives? I have been personally sensing the Lord impressing about a need for renewal in my heart about prayer. I have been expressing to the Lord that the one thing I want to do is to finish well. If you and I want to finish well in our walk of faith, then the best thing to do is to pray everyday. To have an earnest prayer that day by day it causes us to hunger for God.
I am honestly trying to learn about prayer for myself in a new way. Yes, I have a routine on how I pray just like most of you, but I feel the Lord dealing with me about my methods of how I have been approaching Him. Now there is nothing wrong with my discipline or organization in my prayer, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with yours as well, but I am recognizing some things new and afresh. And it is not based on a list (nothing wrong with having a list) but rather just being together with the Lord. When you and I just come to the Lord and just call out to Him and pray, we quickly discover how empty we are and therefore the need to just be with the Lord.
Why should we learn about the value and importance of prayer, everyday seeking God’s face and heart?
Why you and I should pray?
1. We should pray because it spares us from incredible number of times of pain and grief. It spares us from a lot of trouble because God knows the roadblocks ahead and He knows the detours ahead. He knows what is ahead and we don’t.
2. We call out to God because He has a better idea than we do. One of the reason people don’t pray is we often think we know the way to go and what to do. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 14:12)," but God’s ways are better (Isaiah 55:8-9).
3. Trusting God is rewarding. We will either trust ourselves or trust God.
The early church prayed.
  • The early church made prayer a priority (Acts 2:42). They devoted themselves to the Word of God, times of communion with God-the breaking of bread, to sincere fellowship with each other and to prayer. They devoted themselves to calling out to God and to pray.
  • Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (ESV).” Constant means to be devoted, faithful, strong toward. It is my commitment about how essential prayer is. The early church didn't know what tomorrow lies for them and couldn’t figure things out so they prayed.
Jesus Prayed.
  • Jesus called out to His Heavenly Father and prayed every single day. If Jesus prayed, then how much more do you and I need to talk to our Father in Heaven and call out to Him. Jesus habitually spent time in prayer.
  • Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 11:1, Luke 22:39-41
Two basic things about the prayer life of Jesus.
1. Jesus was balanced. The times He spent time with the Father followed prolonged times of intense public ministry. Jesus knew the need to balance times with God and times with people. It is so easy to loose this balance. Do you ever get so involved with your family, with your work, ministry, friends, things to do around the house that you rarely have time alone with God? Are you the kind of person that find yourself so involved with many things and find it difficult to find time to be with God? Jesus discovered that taking time to pray and be with the Father makes you more effective with people and closer to God. When you have received from God, then you have something to give out to people that did not come from you but from the Lord.
2. Jesus was always prepared. He always seemed to be prepared for life’s big moments and big events. He was praying before each milestone of His life.
We are called to pray.
  • How can you and I make prayer a habit in our lives?
1. You and I need to just set aside time. It is busyness that keeps us away from spending time with the Father. For whatever reason we are such busy people. There are lots of demands, but in the busyness comes the crowding out of the opportunities to be with the Lord. You give Him time and watch Him stretch the rest of your time and make you more effective.
2. You and I need to find a place. We need to find a place to be alone with our Heavenly Father.
3. You and I need to be accountable. Be in partner with someone who will help you develop your prayer life. Being accountable to someone puts a little pressure on us but it also makes it possible to be praying for the concerns of others and not just our own.
4. You and I need to come praying with expectancy. It is knowing that the Lord hears and answers. Our Heavenly Father wants to talk with you and me. It’s not just us praying and calling out to Him, but knowing that the Lord’s presence is with us. He comes to spend time and listen and speak into our lives.

Signs of the Christ’s Return

Signs of the Christ’s Return
Jesus began His public ministry with the simple message, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 24:4-5 “Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.’”
The first and most important sign pointing to Christ’s coming is deception. As we move closer and closer to the end religious deception will be widespread affecting people everywhere. People will be out of control spiritually chasing whatever makes them feel good. Truth itself is on trial.
Matthew 24:6-8 “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
Jesus points to a sign of worldwide tragedies and disasters; these are the “beginning of birth pains.” The worldwide birth pains that lead up to the return of Christ is far greater than natural birth; however, the joy for us who are expecting Christ will likewise be far greater than the joy parents share at the birth of a child.
Matthew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
Jesus told His disciples plainly in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Matthew 24:10 “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.”
Watch out for those that were once among us, and now have left the faith.
Matthew 24:11 “And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”
Jesus point out that people will be deceived through false prophets.
Matthew 24:12 “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
Violence, crime and a disregard for God’s law will increase as we continue to get closer to the Day of Christ’s return. Things we see happening right within our own community is a sign that the end of the age is near.
Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The gospel is currently being preached all over the world.
We live with the tension between the imminent return of Christ and the delay of His coming. Until that day, and as long as we have breath let’s preach the Gospel to everyone everywhere.

“Be Still, and Know that I Am God” (Psalm 46:10)

Psalm 46:10
God desires to be a part of every area of your life. He wants to give you direction and meaning in all that you do. We no longer need to “juggle” different things but seek God to bring balance to our lives. We are pulled in many different directions. Most of us work, go to school, single mom/dad or care for sick loved ones. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed or stuck in a rut or wonder what’s next. God never intended our life to be filled with chaos but rather embrace His will and seek Him for guidance in every aspect of our lives.
As Christians we were created to be “pillars of influence” in our community, how do we live a balanced life as intended by God?
1. Be still and know that He is God.
  • Being still is acknowledging that God is your God.
  • The pressures of life will always be there, so you need to seek the presence of God! God didn’t promise a life without troubles. John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • When I say, “Be still and know that I Am God,” I don’t mean just sit around and do nothing and wait for something to happen. I’m talking about when you’re doing every day things, (working, ministry, driving, etc.) Know that God is helping and guiding you (Psalm 121).
2. Be still under God’s covering.
  • Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
  • God wants to be your umbrella to cover you from the elements of this life.
  • Under God’s protection there is peace. There is a sense of order even when everything around us seems out of order (Philippians 4:6-7).
We all need to evaluate if we have a balanced life. Are we allowing God to balance our lives? Do we need to make adjustments? Have you put yourself in a position to hear God, to be still and know His will and guidance for your life? God will show you those areas. This is an every day process, but Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose.”

Testing of the Heart (Deuteronomy 8:1-20)

Deuteronomy 8:1-20
Determining truly the condition of our heart is vital. Is this heart a loving heart? Is it a troubled and bitter heart? Is it a lonely kind where you and I think nobody loves and cares for us? It is true that the circumstances we go through in life would reveal what the condition of our heart is really like. Yes, the only way to know is to test it. We like it or not, we will be tested one way or another. And the Lord uses everything that we encounter and face in life, everything that we go through to reveal to you and me what we really think, how we really feel and if we are going to trust Him and put Him first. Moses in the book of Deuteronomy uses the word “remember” and the phrase “don’t forget” numerous times. Don’t forget the Lord, don’t forget to observe His commands, remember what He has done and don’t forget His great love. As we go through the testing of our heart, let us examine and see if we could remember some things about the Lord’s goodness to us.
Committed to the ones He loves.
  • God’s love is so wonderful that everything He does for you and I, everything that He allows in our lives is always for our good. The true love of God is shown through His commitment to see the best always fulfilled in us. God saw what was best for us in that He would send His Son. He knew there was no hope for us, no chance for us unless there is “salvation” that His Son would come and give His life, die and rise again for you and me. When we look in our heart, do we have to wonder if God loves you and me? Everything that God has done has been with you and me in mind. Every plan, you and I are included. No one has loved us quite like the Savior.
Applying this definition of love.
  • Our love should be a personal commitment to see God’s best fulfilled in those we love as well. It is a commitment to love them in such a way that everything we do is having them in mind and to have God’s best in their lives fulfilled.
Committed to helping you and me.
  • The Lord led the Israelites to the impossible. He brought them to impossible places, He brought them to battles they could not win, He brought them to places where He knew there was no remedy, He brought them to these types of circumstances so that He may show them that He alone is enough, that He is sufficient. Do I believe this in my own heart that He is committed to helping me? God is trying to convince us to never doubt again His commitment to help us because He loves us.
Concern about our future.
  • Is the Lord concerned about our tomorrows? (v.5, Hebrews 12:6)
  • If God loves you and I, then He will discipline us. Discipline is essential. The reason God disciplines you and I is because He loves us, and He is concerned about our future. It is God looking at the condition of our heart and life and He knows if He doesn’t deal with things in our heart that is unacceptable to Him, then He knows in time, it will ruin us and destroy our life. When He sees something in our heart that is unhealthy, He focuses on it and deals with it with our future in mind.
The many blessings of the Lord. (v.4, 7-18)
  • Forget not all His benefits. He continues to bless.
Five simple things to decide on.
  • Stop saying that God has given up on you. He has not, and He will never give up.
  • Stop questioning God’s love for you. He has proven it on the cross.
  • Stop trying to earn God’s favor. You and I can’t earn God’s favor. It is free.
  • Remind in your heart of God’s love each day. If you don’t you will become callous or hard in your heart.
  • Remember that no matter how much of God’s forgiveness and love you have received, He still has some more. So, if you have failed in your obedience to Him, then repent, asked Him for forgiveness and receive His love.

Testing the Heart (Deuteronomy 8:1-3)

Deuteronomy 8:1-3
Many times, God puts us through testing in life not to prove to Him anything about us for He already knows about us, but it is to prove to us and show areas of weakness in our hearts, in our life. God tested the Israelites not because He did not know their hearts, but because the Israelites did not know the condition of their own hearts. God puts us through a test to show us how weak we are and how we need to depend on Him. We simply cannot depend or rely on ourselves, we need to rely on the Lord. Again, the Lord knows the condition of our spiritual heart. It is us that do not know everything in our own heart. And in the midst of circumstances is when we discover what’s really going on within our own hearts and lives (v.2). God allows us to experience circumstances and be exposed to certain conditions in life to test our hearts. He is using those situations to do one thing, and that is to reveal the condition of our own heart to ourselves.
Why does God put such importance with our hearts? Why is God checking the spiritual condition of our hearts?
1. God knows that our heart is wicked.
  • Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NLT), “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
  • We hear people say that what’s happening in our island today is a reflection of our culture. I don’t think this to be true, but God knows that what’s happening in our island is not the reflection of our culture, but it is the result of people’s hearts, for our hearts are wicked.
2. God knows that our hearts are filled with secrets. (Psalm 44:21)
  • Everyone of us holds some secret that we never told anybody. Something that you have done or seen or said that you don’t want anybody to know. Only God knows about it and He knows how it affects us, how it affects our relationships. He knows how it affects the things we do.
3. God knows that our hearts is what brings life and health to you and me.
  • Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Why is my heart so important?
1. My heart affects how I feel about myself.
  • I think that much of our discouragement and depression is grounded in hurts of sins. When you and I feel wanting to quit it is because there is something about our own heart and life that is out of order. When our hearts have not been healed from the wickedness within, then God knows how it is going to affect us. We won’t believe in ourselves, we won’t feel there is any value in us. When our hearts have been abused, maybe even dulled and dirtied because of circumstances, we begin to think who would ever want us and choose us. We may look pretty good outside but deep within we know there is something in there that is less than it ought to be. But the Lord in His amazing way looks at the brokenness in people’s hearts, invites us to come to Him just as we are because He is the one committed to changing you and me.
2. My heart affects my relationship with others.
  • It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with anybody if you and I are not healthy in our own heart. 1 John 3:18-19, do not love in just word alone but love by the things that we do as well. We look to bless the people that we love when our hearts are healthy.
3. My heart affects my relationship with God.
  • 1 John 3:16, the condition of our hearts will affect how we respond to Him.
  • How do I know the love of God? He laid down His life for us even when we are feeling worthless, but still He chose us.
How can my heart be changed?
1. I need to believe that God can change even me. (Romans 10:9-10)
2. What can I do? We believe that we are saved by grace and not works.
  • By faith in Jesus alone. There is nothing you and I could ever do to merit salvation. It’s in Christ alone. I personally believe that the Lord calls us to do something in our heart (1 John 3:22). Yes, we are saved by faith and by grace, but change comes to us by works. In other words, transformation comes to your life and mine by works. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Faith in Christ always results in good works. It is the evidence of salvation and not the means to salvation. It is in the things we do through our obedience to His Word, His ways, His commands when God begins to do transforming things in our lives.
3. To daily exercise 1 John 3:23, “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
  • Healing in people’s heart happens often when we look beyond our own personal pain, hurt, trouble that we’re going through and look somehow to helping others. To constantly be doing things for people, even doing the small things that makes a difference rather than thinking about ourselves and what would make us happy even when you or I are not doing well ourselves.
God was checking and testing the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:1-3) to see what their hearts were really like. Yes, He provided for them, brought the increase, but also humbled and healed their hearts and He did it through circumstances. Familia today, we need to allow the Lord to continue to show us the condition of our hearts and every time we do the Lord will reveal things that needs to be healed and touched by His love.

When Overwhelmed in the Middle of a Storm (Mk 6:45-51; Jn 6:15-21; Mt 14:22-33)

Learning to Live in Confidence with the Lord | When Overwhelmed in the Middle of a Storm
Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21; Matthew 14:22-33
When you and I are overwhelmed in the middle of a storm, there is no doubting that the Lord wants us to know today that He is not far away and distant from us. Understanding that the Lord have not forgotten about us, that He will show up just in time and take us through the other side of life’s challenging circumstances. Yes, the struggle is real, the physical issues we deal with doesn’t seem to go away, circumstances are against us and whether we got into it by some failure on our own part or it was just thrown in our way or maybe it seems that the forces of darkness is coming right at us, you and I need to believe that we will not go under and sink because God is with us.
I am sure that you would agree that lately, parts of our world, including our island have been overwhelmed by storms. In some cases, storms so destructive in many ways. Understand that the Bible is full of lessons about storms.
  • There was the great flood in the days of Noah that happened. There is a lesson here about judgment. That sin can only go so far but eventually it brings judgment from God (Genesis chapters 6 through 8).
  • There was the story of Jonah and the storm he got caught in. Here God uses storms to get people adjusted in their viewpoints, straightened out and re-targeted on what their life is about (Jonah chapters 1 through 4).
  • There is the storm Jesus talked about when He finished the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus emphasized not just hearing His voice, His commands but also doing them. That those who hear and don’t obey are like those who built on the sand and when the storm came, the house fell with a great crash even though it looked like the other house that was built on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49).
  • In Matthew 14, this is one of two events in the Gospels in the life of Jesus in which Jesus is on the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. In one of them, He is in the boat and a storm comes (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 8:18,23-27; Luke 8:22-25). In that situation Jesus stills the storm. In this particular one, Jesus was not with the disciples when they start. This event is a picture of life and the lessons we face. Storms are symbolic of life’s circumstances. Sometimes a storm brings a blessing in the form of much needed rain. You don’t necessarily enjoy getting wet, but in the long-term, it is a good thing. Now there is the other category, the typhoons and tornadoes. Like the story of Job in which the Bible says a mighty wind came through and destroyed the house where his children were and killed them (Job chapter 1). We are told that the mighty wind was brought by Satan himself. Understanding that not every mighty wind is from the devil, but the Bible tells us that one was. In other words, along with storms that can be a blessing, there are storms that are satanic in origin and destructive.
The wind at Matthew 14:24 represents a kind of storm, but not so much a destructive one. This is not something that brings the disciples to destruction. This is not the same as the other time when they said, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” This time around they are just laboring against the wind. What we see is that “the wind was against” them. In the original language the word simply means “opposite.” The winds were opposite them. That is the kind of thing that often gets our lives overwhelmed. There is a goal we have, and everything seems to be against it. It could be people are against it, or lack of resources are against it. This is a picture of life’s circumstances that we all face. Circumstances that are not about to sink or destroy us completely, but they do tire us out and we find our strength is draining and the goals we hoped to finish are hindered and we can’t seem to get there.
What to remember when we are overwhelmed in the middle of a storm.
1. You and I need to settle in our heart and accept that God has a plan in all of it. His hands are in the circumstance.
  • Jesus “made them” (v.22) get into the boat. In the original language the word means to force the situation. Jesus compelled, required them to get in the boat. I believe Jesus was not unaware about what is going to take place out in the lake. It is no surprise to Him that the winds would come up. There was a plan in it. Remember Jesus made them get in the boat. This is a picture of circumstance that you and I face where we have no choice. We are in a difficult situation and we did not have anything to do with how we got there. A situation where you are not compromising yourself, but you are just going through something you had no way of controlling. Familia, the Lord has put us in circumstances knowing what we would face, but it is not because He designed the adversity or the problem, but He has assigned our involvement in the circumstance and to settle something in our heart. I think He is showing us that life with Him is not just a continuation of miracles without times of struggle in-between. There are people who mistakenly believe that if you are a real person of faith that any problem you face will just go away with a wave of a magic stick.
2. You may be stretched and stressed by the difficulty of the circumstance but understand that the Lord is sensitive to the struggle you are facing and when He sees you straining, struggling against the wind, He goes out to you (Mark 6:48).
  • The word “straining.”
  • Describes the struggle people go through when they are involved in legal situations that are just pressing all over them and brings great strain. It is a long-term situation of something being settled and it is having a wearying effect on them.
  • Another way the word is used is the distress of a severe affliction. It could be a medical disease people would like to get over with, but they can’t seem to shake it off. It could be mental struggles that are not even necessarily due to mental illness but just strains the mind. It could be that there are things that happen emotionally.
  • Another is straining because you are surrounded by pressure of circumstance of living or working in an environment that is ungodly, filled with darkness.
  • Another is torment that comes from satanic attack (Revelation 12:12). Satan is our worse enemy and he comes to destroy, to tire us out, and to hinder the path God has for us.
Familia, God sees our struggles and He cares. When Jesus looked out over the lake, He sees the disciples straining and goes to them. Whatever struggles you and I are having to endure, the Lord sees and knows the right time to come. Not only He is willing, but He will be there for us. He is on His way even now. Today, let us realize and settle in our hearts that when we are overwhelmed in the middle of a storm, that the presence of the Lord is the answer. It is the presence that comes in our heart when we recognize and rest in knowing that God has a plan in the midst of whatever we are dealing with. It doesn’t mean He created the problem, but He can surely prepare us to deal with it. There will come an end, remember when Jesus got in the boat, they were immediately at the other side (John 6:21). When the end comes, it comes quickly, but it’s the getting there that tries our heart, our inner most being.

Walking on Water (Mt 14:22-33; Mk 6:45-51; Jn 6:15-21)

Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21
This event where Jesus walks on the water and eventually Peter walking on water as well is a good illustration of the life of discipleship being a constant experience of testing and deliverance. The disciples were not in this situation of difficulty because of being willfully disobedient or stubborn, but they were in this predicament again (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 8:23-27) simply because of their obedience to the commands of Jesus. In other words, they found themselves in this danger because of obedience. Being pounded by the waves because the wind was against them does not mean they have strayed from the path of God’s will, but instead, God’s path for them lay through the storm. In Matthew’s account includes an event about Peter asking Jesus to walk on the water and come to Him. Let us look at this particular event and then ask the question: why did Peter want to walk on water and be open to listening to what God may speak to our own hearts.
The amazing event.
· Walking On Water - Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21
The Apostle Peter
· People often make fun of Peter, I know I do. He is sometimes labeled as being proud or foolish. It is one way to look at this man who had the courage to ask questions, who tried to answer difficult questions, who tried to do things too hard for him, or was willing to fight to protect Jesus from harm. I think the way we react to Peter reveals much about our own approach to life. Fearful people think of him as foolish, but bold people think of him as someone brave enough to take a risk and fail. But whatever we might think about Peter’s behavior before the Day of Pentecost, there can be no argument about who he became afterward. Remember that he became one of the main leaders for the early church and performed miracles as remarkable as those done by Jesus Himself. We have to admit that Peter’s aggressive approach to discipleship doesn’t seem to have damaged his spiritual potential. No doubt he became a great leader. He was vital in welcoming Gentiles into the Jewish church, he wrote two great letters that we still use today, and he died as a martyr, bravely confessing Jesus to the very end.
· Today, let us focus on one particular event in Peter’s life which revealed his heart – the moment when he stepped out of the boat and walked on water. Why did Peter want to walk on water? The other disciples all stayed on the boat. It never probably crossed their minds to ask Jesus if they could walk on the water.
· But we know Peter did and we know the Jesus was pleased with his request because He answered, “Come” and then scolded Peter when he became frightened. That means that amid that terrible storm Peter did not do anything foolish but did something right. He was an example of what Jesus would want you and me to do, and not an example of what to avoid. You and I may think that because we were not there, sitting in the boat, that we will never know how we would have responded, but that is not true. Jesus tests us all. Sooner or later everyone of us finds ourselves deciding whether or not to “step out of the boat.” Jesus gives us opportunities in life which force us to decide whether or not we are willing to “walk on water.” If, however, we allow fear to keep us in the boat, we won’t experience the joy that comes when we are forced to desperately depend on Him.
One simple question.
· Why did Peter want to get out of the boat? Why did Peter want to walk on water? The answer to this question will explain why you and I also want to walk on water. But first, we need to recognize that no answer is given in the text. We only have a description of what Peter and Jesus did and said, but we are not told why. So, we have to guess.
Several possibilities.
1. Peter simply wanted to be near Jesus. This was a common characteristic of him. He followed Jesus and waited in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial (John 18:15). He ran to the empty tomb after Jesus was resurrected (John 20:3-4). He even jumped into the lake and swam to shore when he recognized the resurrected Jesus (John 21:7).
2. Another possibility is that Peter wanted to be like Jesus so much that he wanted to do whatever He did. If Jesus walked on water, then he wanted to walk on water too.
3. May I suggest to you this other possibility that I think is the main reason Peter called out to Jesus in the middle of the storm, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” I truly think Peter longed to feel the joy of having God’s miraculous power hold him above the water. After experiencing a miracle like that, who could ever doubt the reality of God again? Peter would be like his ancestors who walked through the Red Sea, or the priests who stepped into the Jordan River and then watched the water stop flowing. He would know the power of God, not as a spectator but as a participant. And who can blame him? Don’t you and I long for that same joy?
Growing Deeper.
· Has God ever asked you to “step out of the boat”? What did He want you to do?
· What was the fear-factor? Why did it seem impossible?
· Did you do it? Why, or why not?
· What happened?

A Call to Praise and Worship the Lord (Psalm 96)

Psalm 96
Why is giving worship and praise so essential and important in our lives? I think worship is all about redemption. It’s obvious that it is all about our salvation. The reason we gather together in our services is because of Jesus. We come to praise, worship and glorify Him because of who He is and all that He has done. Worship has often been misunderstood as the musical prelude to the sermon, rather than how we, as the people of God, invite the rule of His kingdom to be established on earth. Worship is ascribing or giving worth to something or someone. But true worship is also a matter of the heart. It must be felt. It can't be a ritual we do. It can't be just an external going through the motions. True worship is a heartfelt expression of love, adoration, admiration, wonder and celebration. It is something that happens in our heart and soul when we begin to praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He has done. Wherever God’s people come together to worship, and where that happens, all His glory, His rulership, and His rule are present. In situations where worship ushers in the presence of God there are important things that take place:
Worship keeps our affection and our focus on Jesus
  • To truly come with a genuine heart-set and mindset to praise and bless the Lord helps us to constantly give our life, our time focused on Jesus. This is a real decision in our part. If we continually keep our eyes on Jesus and see His ways, we are not worried, we know what we are to do. But when we lose sight of God’s place in our lives we will become disoriented (confused and unsettled). A person who really stops to worship and praise the Lord become unsure of who they are, what their lives is all about and they become confused. This world is filled with temptations and distractions to take our attention away from Jesus and put our affection on somebody or something else.
Worship forces us to deal with issues of sin.
  • People who truly worships the Lord will discover that it forces them to constantly be dealing with sin. Sincere worship will mean a continual dealing of sin in our lives. You and I cannot be in a worship service and not have God deal with sin in our lives. When we come and sing unto the Lord in the splendor of His Holiness, God simply begins to show us things or places in our lives that you and I are not trusting and believing Him as we should. God begins to press us about things in our lives that are far below what they should be and have not risen or come to a strength or confidence with Him.
  • 1 Samuel 15:22 “But Samuel replied: Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” Obedience is doing what God says and sacrifice is doing something because you and I did not do something God has said. If we would just obey Him, His ways, then we do not have to spend our whole lives sacrificing because of the things we have done wrong. In engaging in worship, the Lord reveals to us things in our lives that is unacceptable to Him and that needs to change.
Worship makes us receptive to the fullness of the Spirit of God.
  • In worship, our lives become open to receiving the work of the Holy Spirit, the cleansing and purifying work of the Holy Spirit that allows Him to fill us with the things of God and we then become a channel for Him to work through our lives. Worship makes me a different person. It washes, cleanses and purifies my heart (Psalm 51).
Worship causes us to keep moving forward on the things of God.
  • People who truly worship are on the move for God. They are the ones who are making a difference for the Kingdom of God. What stops people from growing in God? There are people who have known the Lord for a long time and never change because they don’t obey the Lord. The moment you don’t do what Jesus has commanded, you immediately stop yourself from growing and moving forward from the things of God and His Kingdom.
Worship keeps us from falling away.
  • Worship strengthens our hold on the Lord. It really does cause us to intensify our passion for Him.
Worship frees us from the failures of the past.
  • The Lord heals, saves, restores and delivers us from our past. Jesus paid it all. This is truly amazing and worthy of all our worship and praise, but many treats this so casually.
Worship equips us to face difficult situations and circumstances.
  • Worship reminds me that God is there to do all the things only He can do. Blessing the Name of the Lord is important because we need to be renewed in our confidence that Jesus is with us and that He will see us through our circumstances. He provides everything that needs to be provided.

Shout! For the Lord Has Given the City (Joshua 5:13-6:20)

Joshua 5:13-6:20
Familia, as Christians God has given us an inheritance to possess (Joshua 6:2; 2 Chronicles 20:11). He has given us our family, our well-being, our health, provisions, purpose in life, our ministry, people that we want to see come to Jesus, promises that has to do with every aspect of your personal life and mine. These are God’s possessions and He wants to give to us to receive and inherit. Today we read about this incredible story about the walls of Jericho and the fact that it fell, and the city was given to the Israelites. When it comes to experiencing a breakthrough in peoples lives and mine, how does it happen? I know that God does it, He brings the breakthrough and that the Bible says that He does. I know that He has done it in the pass and is doing it today. But when it comes to God’s deliverance in people’s lives, how does it really happen? What are some of the elements to experiencing God’s miracle breakthroughs. Adding to some of the things we have learned in the last several weeks regarding this subject, let us look at other things that I think characterizes people who experiences God’s blessings in their lives.
Understanding what it is that God has purposed for my life. (v. 1-2)
  • It is understanding the things God has really given and provided. But understanding what? It is discovering what God has promised us personally. It is understanding what really belongs to me that Jesus purchased with His precious blood. What is it that you have the right to believe God for and contend for because the Lord has already said it is yours. It is ours in Jesus Christ. What is it that Jesus has promised for your life, family, ministry? I believe that you and I will never experience breakthroughs until we discover what God wants for you and for me.
Knowing the importance of obedience. (v. 3-6)
  • To possess all that God has intended and purposed for our lives will require obedience to His plan. In Joshua chapter one, God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous” several times. Why? So that he can and will do the will of God. This is true for us. We need to be strong and courageous so that you and I will obey and do what God says. This is important because when we face insurmountable situations, we always come up with a plan on our own. When troubles and difficulty come my way, one of the first thing that I do is I will think through in my mind how I am going to handle and fix the issue at hand. I begin to think of how I am going to work the situation out. Now, if you are honest with yourself, I think you would say the same thing. We come up with our plan and what we think will be the remedy to the situation. God is saying for us not to do this. Whatever we are facing, God already knows what He is going to do. He has a plan. Now I need to obey. His ways may not make sense to us, but we need to wait on God and follow Him. Obedience is not something that is very easy to do but somewhere along the line I need to decide to obey Him.
Breakthrough comes to people of faith. (v. 5)
  • It is not in our nature to do things we don’t completely understand. God’s instruction to Joshua and to the Israelites is an unusual way of doing things in a battle. It seems ridiculous to yell before the victory. I think it is not in our nature to praise and thank God before we experience the promises God said we can have. We don’t normally praise (yell) before the victory, before the breakthrough, before the walls come down in our lives. But faith is confidence in God. It is believing God to do what you and I could never do. Why did the walls fall down? Was it because of the huge crowd? Or maybe the shout? Was it the trumpets? No, the walls of Jericho fell because of their obedience to God’s words, to His instructions, to His plan.
Most important is relationship with Jesus. (Joshua 1:1-9; 5:13-15; 6:6-13)
  • Breakthroughs can’t happen without a relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of us desire breakthroughs in our lives but live in rebellion towards God. We must come to repentance from our rebellion and allow Jesus to be King and guide. Jesus will go before us and make a way.

For the Battle is Not Yours, But God’s (2 Chronicles 20:1-24)

Hoping for a Season of Breakthroughs
For the Battle Is Not Yours, But God’s (2 Chronicles 20:1-24)
A word has come to Jehoshaphat the King of Judah of an invasion of a vast army by several nations coming together and was advancing towards them. Jehoshaphat feared for the nation because he knew they lacked the power to defend themselves. They were hopelessly outnumbered, there were no human solutions. Their situation was difficult and overwhelming, and they did not know what to do (v.12). Familia, there comes a time in our lives when we are faced with what looks like impossible situations. We all face problems or crisis in life. These uncertain, difficult, painful situations come in a variety of forms and sizes. We encounter relationship issues, school, work and home related stresses, health issues, financial hardship and so on. No matter what the crisis may be, they disrupt our lives. Therefore, it is important that we are prepared and ready to face them regardless what come our way. The questions that we need to answer for ourselves are the following: How do I conduct myself during times of crisis? Can I really be prepared for them? When crisis comes, will I be ready? What am I to do? Today, let us look at what Jehoshaphat and the Israelites did during this situation when they came under attack and won this great battle.
An inheritance given by God.
“See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance (v.11).” Whose possessions? The Lords. Which He has given to whom? The people of God. Understand that it is God’s possession and He had the right to give it to the people to receive as an inheritance. Familia, as Christians this concerns us. God has given us inheritance to possess. He has given us homes, your family, your business, your well-being, your health to possess, His provisions to possess, promises that has to do with every aspect of your personal life and mine. He has given us to possess our purpose in life, our ministry, our love ones we want to see come to Jesus. Remember that Jesus died to purchase our love ones and to bring them to Himself. They belong to the Father and Jesus paid the price. There are things that belongs to God; it is His possessions and He wants to give to us to receive and inherit. But then there are others that wants to hinder us from receiving the inheritance God is giving or wants to take it away from you and me. Therefore, the warfare.
Inquire of the Lord, ask of Me.
“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah (v.3).” I believe the word “alarmed” or “feared” here surely has to do with the overwhelming situation at hand, but I think it has to do more about respect than panic. It is not panicking but turning to prayer and respecting and regarding what God has to say about the situation more than what the circumstances is saying. It has to do with respect to God’s principles and ways (v.3-4, 12). There is an element of reverence because they had faith in the one and only true God. It is realizing they have a great Judge in the middle of their situation that cannot be defeated if they would appeal their case to Him. So, they turned to prayer and inquired of the Lord. Familia, we are not called to walk in panic, we are not called to voice our complaints, but we are called to have Faith in Him and ask of Him (Psalm 2:1-8).
Proclaiming a fast.
“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah (v.3).” The people of Judah were in a situation where the oppression is coming and so, Jehoshaphat called them to a fast. The discipline of fasting is something that I know is important but have been a constant struggle in my own life. God calls us to a fast because it is the means to where the oppress goes free. It is significant to the release from spiritual bondage (Isaiah 58). One of the things we can do to break the oppression is fast. For your personal need, for your home, your familia, for others, for our island and for our nation.
The battle is not yours, but God’s.
“He said: Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s (v.15).” Praise God knowing that the battle is His. Familia, you and I come to an important turning point in our lives when we recognize that the battle is the Lord’s. But understand that this doesn’t leave us sitting on the sidelines. God involves us in some way, but I must keep in mind that what brings about the victory is entirely up to God. “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you (v. 17).” I believe that the challenge to our faith is to stand firm or stand still and actually be crushed.
Get before the Lord in worship and praise.
“Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with very loud voice (v.18-19).” Get before the Lord, worshipfully and seeking after Him for the solution to the problem or solution to the vast circumstances coming to oppress you and me. I need to come before God in worship and waiting on Him and not running away because of fear and panic that arises within my own nature.
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