40 Focus for Prayer and Fasting

Blow a Trumpet n Zion, Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, sanctify the congregation. Assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; …then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, “Behold I will send you grain and oil, And you will be satisfied with them.” (Joel 2:15-18)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

I just wanted to let you guys know that it is exactly 40 days until Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I am beginning a 40 day period of fasting and prayer. It is my intention to foster a greater intimacy with God and to pray for a powerful out-pouring of God during the week of the feast similar to what we experienced during Tabernacles. I wanted to invite all of you to join me on this 40 day focus.

Fasting is a wonderful thing for me. I will be fasting certain foods as well as caffeine over the next 40 days in order to get my mind focused more on the spiritual realm than on the physical worldly fleshly world that seems to catch me within its snares. The first tenet of Satanism is “1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence! Nothing is to be gained by denying oneself pleasure. Religious calls for abstinence most often come from faiths that view the physical world and its pleasures as spiritually dangerous. Satanism is a world-affirming, not world-denying, religion. However, the encouragement of indulgence does not equate mindless submersion into pleasures. Sometimes refrain leads to heightened enjoyment later, in which case patience and discipline are encouraged. Finally, indulgence requires one to always be in control. If satisfying a desire becomes a compulsion (such as an addiction), then control has been surrendered to the object of desire, which is never encouraged.” (this was taken off the church of satan website. ) As you can see, the logic of this statement is extremely flawed and unbiblical. Without getting into a lengthy response, fasting is the opposite of Satanism. The denial of worldly stuff in order for a greater growing in spiritual stuff. Hence, I want to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and fasting. Oftentimes, I am naturally more like a Satanist that I am a Christian, this is what I want to change.

 Additionally, after the feast of unleavened bread, there are exactly 50 days between it and Pentecost. Hence, in order to foster a lifestyle of prayer and fasting, I will be organizing something between those two feasts as well. Of course, we will be celebrating these feast and all are invited to attend.

Let me know if you are interested in joining this prayer focus and I will send out weekly updates etc… or maybe we could start something through Rina on face book, depending on how many are interested.

Love and Grace to all of you,

Jon

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Surprised by the favorable answer of God

Why is it that we as the people of God are surprised when God answers our prayers. Today, two different believers (people who I know have intimate relationships with God) told me, rather joyfully and surprisingly, that God had answered their prayers. What is it about us that makes us brace ourselves for God to not answer our prayers. Then, when He answers, we are shocked. Why? I don’t know about others but I understand why I do it. There are two reasons. First, a lack of faith in His willingness and secondly, a lack of trust because of past woundedness when I prayed something and it didn’t get answered.

Before proceeding any further, we should describe the appropriate response that we should be surprised when the God of love, who didn’t even spare His own Son for us, answers in a way that is favorable towards us. This should be the knee-jerk response of any believer that engages in prayer. So, why do we not believe Him? Why do we hold resentments towards God because of past woundedness. We definitely are lacking something when we are shocked by His favorable response towards us.

Resentments and past woundedness from a prayer that didn’t get answered, stem from a lack of knowledge of Him. It is rooted in not knowing the character of the Master. God is good and incapable of evil. He is not a cosmic vending machine that we can deposit prayer into and get out what we want. He doesn’t serve us. If he just heaped upon us all our request, He would raise spoiled children. But, many of us have prayed for certain things or for others and neither received desired effect nor the desired answer. I don’t know why this happens. But, it is at these times that we must rely on our knowledge of His character. His character is love and He is incapable of evil and sin. It is impossible for God to move towards us out of anything but love because God is love. When these prayers are not answered it must be that it serves a higher purpose other than our desire, that we may not understand.

Unbelief in His willingness is exactly what happened to Israel after their Egyptian captivity and subsequent deliverance. These people had seen God blast Egypt with 10 plagues and divide the Red Sea, all on their behalf. Then, after a few days, they doubt His willingness to provide even the basic necessities of water. Why? What happens to humans that we doubt His willingness to repeat miraculous provision? Do we not know His promises to us or do we not know that He is incapable of lying? Is it counter intuitive to us who know we are not worthy of God’s favor and have had instilled into our souls that we should strife to not be dependent upon God, nor upon His grace? Is it society that teaches us that we should work towards not needing Jesus anymore? Is it just easier to be dependent upon our leaders in the physical realm than to rely upon our spiritual Father? Do we not know that He is burdened for us and desires to be our Hero? Do we not know how much He loves us? Perhaps it is a culmination of all these things. Whatever it is, we are lacking something when we are surprised when the supernatural God does miracles.

I want my soul to have a cellular response that speaks, “of course, He heals diseases. Of course, He raises the dead. Of course, He provides financial deliverance. Yes, I have favor with God in all aspects of my life. Why wouldn’t He answer this prayer favorably towards me, He loves me.” God really loves us, He really loves us a lot.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Deep Calls To Deep: A Study in Calvinistic Spirituality

“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. My soul is cast down within me; Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Sections of Psalm 42 ESV)

I’ve been, predominately, an Arminist in my spirituality. (Arminius was a theologian who focused on the free will of man in creating their spirituality) Recently, God has been doing some things in my life and in the lives of many who I am close to, that relate more to Calvinism. (John Calvin was a theologian who taught that God’s will controls the circumstances in our lives and our personal will matters little) (1) It is my opinion that the two positions are neither diametrically opposed, as church history has tended to make them, nor are they necessarily mutually exclusive, also as the church has tended to make them. Be all of that as it may, I’m progressively embracing more Calvinistic spirituality. (2) What I mean by Calvinistic spirituality is “God orchestrating circumstances in our lives to bring us into a position where we will do His will.” He is a really Big and Smart. He knows the hearts of people and how they will respond in a given set of circumstances. This is what I will define as Calvinistic spirituality. Let’s come back to this in a minute.

In Psalm 42 (sections of which are quoted above), the Psalmist is very depressed. He is “pouring out his soul”, and is “downcast” and crying. We are not told of the circumstances surrounding this depression; but, a solution is offered. The Hebrew word for “deep”, in the Psalm, generally refers to the deepest part of a body of water. (Hence, the references to water in the rest of that verse.) It can also mean the “deep part.” So, how is it that deep calls to deep? It is evident in the Psalm that the “deepest part” of man is calling out to the “deepest part” of God. When the heart of man touches the heart of God, things get shaken up in both the physical and the spiritual realm. It is my opinion that God desires this and, using my new found Calvinistic spirituality, orchestrates circumstances, occasionally, in our lives where the deep of us calls to the deep of Him. Today, I found a biblical example.

In the opening chapters of I Samuel, we read of a woman named Hannah. She is married to a man who has two wives. One of them, Penniah, has children and Hannah, the other wife is barren. Two times the text tells the source of her barrenness. It states, “the Lord closed her womb.” (I Samuel 1: 5&6) As a result of the Lord’s action, she is provoked by her rival, the other wife. In ancient times, a barren woman was considered cursed. She would’ve been seen as a social outcast. This, of course, greatly distressed her. She gets depressed and she is stirred in her deepest parts. At the yearly sacrifice, her deepest parts can no longer take it. She arises from the festive meal and the deepest part of woman calls to the deepest part of God. She pours out her soul to God and, in doing so, is accused of drinking by the High Priest. She informs him that she is not drunk but she is praying out of the depths of her soul. He, in turn, speaks blessing over her. She arises from the prayer with a sense of release about the matter and returns to the festive meal contented and eats. Shortly thereafter, she gets pregnant and has a son. That son is Samuel. In Hebrew, the name means “heard of God.” She names him a name that describes what takes place when the deep of humans call to the deep of God. He hears and He acts. It is my supposition, that God set all of this up. He is the One that closed her womb. He is the One that put her in a position of adversity from her rival. He is the One that caste her in the social light as being “cursed.” What could be His motive, a Samuel.

Samuel was not birthed by chance. He was prayed into existence when God ordained circumstances in the life of Hannah, knowing how she would respond, where the deepest parts of her would call out to the deepest part of God and give occasion for God to act and birth a Samuel. The prophet and priest. God ordained all of this. Thus, Hannah happened to be on the receiving end of Calvinistic spirituality.

What can we learn from all of this? The next time we find ourselves in an emotional pickle, it may very well be that God has ordained these circumstances. Why, to birth something great our of the deepest part of me calling out to the deepest part of Him.

Endnotes

1. It is not my intention to delve deeply into the doctrines of either camp here. My superficial parenthetical note does neither Arminius nor Calvin justice. Anyone wishing further information is encouraged to Google either name, and a wealth of information will follow. Wikipedia has good stuff on both.

2. By spirituality I mean the way that I live out my theology. Thus Calvinistic spirituality looks for the hand of God in adverse circumstances.

The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur

The Habitation of the Living God

In the opening scenes of the movie, The Fiddler on the Roof, the main character Tevye begins to explain the traditions of his Jewish village.  In the middle of his dissertation he says, “why do we do these things?  Because of tradition.  And why do we have these traditions? I will be happy to tell you… I don’t know.”  Like Tevye, many of us believe or go through religions motions or religions traditions without knowing the exact nature behind the Holy Day.  Many of us have read about the feast days in the bible only we have never embraced them as holy days to be observed.  The Day of Atonement is one of those days in scripture that has powerful implications if we will embrace it.  Thus, let us explore the history of the day, the Messianic fulfillment, and the practical application for the Christian.

God is a holy God (Isaiah 6:3).  He is so Holy that He can’t dwell in the presence of sin (see Numbers 5:13, 19:13,19,20).  This makes relationship with His Image-bearers strained and difficult.  Yet, His Love for humanity is so strong that He has developed principles by which He can continue to dwell among us.  The Day of Atonement is about those principles.  The foundation was laid in the Old Testament and Messiah brings fulfillment in the New Testament.  These principles, that are outlined in the Day of Atonement make possible the ultimate covering of sin by Messiah.  The Day of Atonement is a specific day, the tenth of the seventh month, in which God provided a release of the penalty of sin.  This release requires the shedding of blood and a sacrificial death must take place. ( see Lev 17:11)  A payment for sin must be paid for a Holy God to “cover it.”   A sacrifice is required for God to continue to dwell among His People.  Avram Yehoshua writes, “Sacrifice represents the penalty that God exacts for sin.  The animal dies but is a picture of what should happen to Israel.  Atonement happens on this day due to the sacrifice.” (1)   A Holy and Moral God must deal with sin.  If He turns His back on it, He would be immoral and unholy.  He would have to violate His character to overlook sin.  Because of who He is, His character will not afford un-holiness and immorality.  Therefore, in order for him to maintain trueness to his character and his nature, he must in fact deal with sin.  Therefore, the Lord came up with a plan to deal with sin.  Interestingly enough, it was not men who approached the Lord and asked for forgiveness for their sins.  It was not men who came to Mt. Sinai and said “what can we do to be in right relationship with you?  No, we didn’t choose God, God chose us.  And the Day of Atonement and the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua His son were all God’s plans, they were all in His mind from the beginning so that we would have perfect relationship and perfect fellowship with him.  We didn’t ask for it, this is something that he gave to us.  All of this bespeaks of the love that God has for us.  His Great Love is evidenced in the fact that He Himself, set up a system to deal with sin, so we could maintain fellowship with Him, it was totally originated in Heaven.

This necessitates a response from those who receive His great Love and Sacrifice.  Our response is that of obedience driven out of a love for God and a heart that is turned fully toward Him.  This is what Yom Kipur is all about!  Intimacy and fellowship with God are the underlying themes of “The Day”.

Events of the Day

“The object of this solemn ceremonial was to impress the minds of the Israelites with the conviction that the whole tabernacle was stained by the sins of a guilty people, that by their sins they had forfeited the privileges of the Divine presence and worship, and that an atonement had to be made as the condition of God’s remaining with them.” (2)

All of the events of the Day centered around the High Priest.  He was the focal point of the day and he was the one who would intercede for Israel in the divine presence.  Likewise, Messiah would become our intercessor in the divine presence.  The bulk of his activities is listed in Leviticus 16.  The entire chapter is dedicated to his activities on this day.  The reader is referred to that chapter and a paraphrase and discussion of those activities is listed below.  The messianic symbolism of the day can’t be overlooked to any objective reader of scripture.

1.  The High Priest lives within the temple precincts for the entire week before the day.  He is maintained in the highest level of purity during this week.  He assumes the majority of priestly roles for the daily sacrifices.  It was extremely important for him to be prepared for the ministry of this day.  Interesting, that Messiah spent thirty years preparing Himself for a ministry of three years.

2.  On the morning of the Day of Atonement, the High Priest is prepared.  He goes to the courtyard for the ceremonial washing.  He removes his “royal robes”, and is dressed in a white tunic.  The motivation for this is Isaiah 1: 18 which states, “Though your sins are scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…”  These are also the normal uniforms of the regular priest.  Again, we see the High Priest humble himself, remove his royal robes, and become a servant to intercede for the people.  Sound like anyone else in the bible?  Jesus laid aside His Divinity, to become a man, to serve us, to willingly go to the cross because of His Great Love for us.  (Phillipians 2:5-11)

3.  Once prepared, He goes and sacrifices the bull, at the alter of burnt offerings, to make atonement for himself and his household.  He lays his hands on the bull and confesses his sins and the sins of the priesthood and the bull becomes his sacrifice providing the covering of sin.  Likewise, Messiah knew no sin, but became a sin offering for us.  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

4.  Having now obtained atonement for his sin, he is permitted to go behind the veil and into the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God.  This is only permitted once sin is forgiven.  Perhaps, this is the reason why Aaron’s two sons died upon the dedication of the tabernacle, see Leviticus 10:1 for details.  He offers the incense offering and the cloud covers the ark, or the mercy seat, or the dwelling place of God.  Then, he sprinkles the blood of the bull in the holy place.

5.  Now, he returns from the holy place, and two goats are brought to him.  They cast lots for the goats.  One is to be sacrificed on behalf of Israel, and the other is to be sent into the wilderness (more on the scapegoat later).  Once the lot is determined, the goat for the sins of Israel is killed after laying on of hands and the confession of the sins of Israel..

6.  The High Priest returns behind the veil and sprinkles the blood of the goat in the Holy of Holies.  Thus he has atoned for Israel after having atoned for himself.  Again, tremendous Messianic parallels that we will discuss later.

7.  He goes out into the courtyard and lays hands on the live goat.  He confesses the sins of Israel over the goat and the goat is taken away alive and sent of into the wilderness.  Thus, the goat carries the sins of Israel far from them and separates Israel from their sins.  Likewise, Messiah has removed our sins from us.  A later tradition developed in Judaism in which a scarlet cord was tied around the horn of the scapegoat.  This goat was later pushed off a cliff outside of Jerusalem and killed.  If the scarlet turned white, sins were forgiven.  Tradition maintains that for forty years after the death of Messiah, the cord remained scarlet and led up to the eventual destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

8.  The high priest enters the holy place and removes his special servant garments, washes and puts on His regular garments.

9.  As a final sacrifice he went out to the great alter and offered a ram as a burnt offering for himself and another ram for the people.

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is an interesting item in the ceremony.  All of the sins of Israel are confessed over the head of the animal; thus, transferring the sins of Israel onto the goat.  The goat is then lead away to “Azazel”.  Much controversy has arisen over the exact meaning of this word and it is most often translated wilderness in contemporary translations.  As one writer suggest, “Some debate exists as to the exact meaning of Azazel.  Some believe it was a reference to satan, for in Jewish traditions Azazel was the name of a fallen angel.  However, most scholars believe that the word was derived from the Hebrew word azel which carries the idea of escape. This line of thought led to calling this goat the ‘scapegoat’ since it escaped death and was instead driven into the wilderness.” (3)  The other school of thought seems to make more spiritual sense especially in light of the events of the day.  Keil and Delitzsch write, “This complete deliverance from sin and its author was symbolized in the leading away of the goat, which had been laden with the sins, into the desert.  The goat was to take back the sins, which God had forgiven to His congregation, into the desert to Azazel, the father of all sin, in the one hand as a proof that his evil influences upon men would be of no avail in the case of those who had received expiation from God, and on the other hand as a proof to the congregation also that those who were laden with sin could not remain in the kingdom of God, but would be banished to the abode of evil spirits, unless they were redeemed there from.” (4)  The Intervarsity Press commentary states, “It is most consistent to consider Azazel a proper name, probably of a demon.  Early Jewish interpreters had this understanding, as is demonstrated in the book of Enoch (second century B.C.).  this goat is not sacrificed to Azazel (consistent with 17:7) but released ‘to Azazel’.” (5)  When we sin, we agree with satan in rebellion against God.  Thus, a covenant of rebellion is formed against God.  When we repent, the old covenant with death is broken (Isaiah 28:15 &19) and a covenant with God is established.  Thus, the symbolic events of the day are repackaging all the sins of the past year and returning them to their originator marked “return to sender” with no forwarding address. (see Psalm 103: 10-12).

The Messianic fulfillment

“But just as with the tabernacle and the sacrificial system, so too the Day of Atonement contained only the shadow of future good things, but not these things themselves (Heb 10:1).  Its intrinsic limitations are manifest, both in the repetitiveness of it numerous atoning acts and by it recurrence year after year (Hebrews 7:27).  Yom Kippur was an acted prophecy or type of Christ, who has entered into the holy place not made with hands, viz., into heaven itself, and has now appeared before God, by once for all giving Himself as a sacrifice for the removal of sin (Heb 9;23).  Like the first goat, burned out side the camp, he died outside the walls of Jerusalem for us (Heb 13:12) and like the second, the scapegoat, He suffered substitutionary condemnation, sending sin back to its demonic author and abrogating satan’s claims over the fullness of Israel (I john 3:8).  By this act, the purpose of the OT sacrificial worship in its highest development (the Day of Atonement) has been fulfilled. (6)

The kingdom principles that were laid down in the Day of Atonement, made possible the ultimate fulfillment of Messiah destiny.  God realized that something more was necessary than the rituals contained in Yom Kippur.  It is impossible for “the blood of bulls and goats” (Hebrews 9”12-13) to change our selfish and sinful nature into a new servant Christ-like nature..  Furthermore, because the ceremony had to be repeated year after year, it allowed no room for spiritual progress.  Something else was required for this type of result.  It was the sacrifice of Messiah Himself that would open the door for the dwelling place of God to come into the hearts of men.  A better covenant was needed.  Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.  The bible states:

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience form dead works to serve the liming God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14 NKJV)

Thus, Messiah fulfills all the kingdom principles outlined in the Day of Atonement.  When Jesus spoke, “it is finished” (John 19:30), and the veil in the temple, the same veil that the High Priest went through on this day, tore into (Matthew 27:51), the presence and the dwelling place of God became the hearts of men.  No longer did it have to be contained within tabernacles and temples because of the sin problem.  The veil tore in two because the presence of God was bursting to get out and once the sin was removed by Messiah, the presence of God exploded out of the Holy of Holies!  God is so motivated by the Great love that He has for us that Jesus willingly came, endured all that torment, pain, and affliction so that we could have fellowship with Him.  The Bible states.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this the love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the  propitiation for our sin,” (I John 4:9-10).

What else can be said about this?  The only response to such love is to open one’s heart and receive all that God has purchased for us.  His very presence and everlasting intimacy with Him.  John G. Lake writes, “God has been seeking a habitation a long time.  God found a habitation in Jesus Christ, and He became the dwelling place of God.  Christ’s purpose for the world was that men like Himself should become the dwelling place of god.  It was not purposed that Jesus Christ was to be  a particular or special dwelling place of God.  It was rather purposed that mankind should be just as much a holy and desirable dwelling place of God as Jesus Himself was.  The purpose of the Gospel of God was that through Jesus Christ His Son, many sons should be begotten of God, would be begotten of Christ.” (7)

The Current Observation of the Day

Leviticus 23:27:  “Also the tenth day of the seventh month shall be the Day of atonement.  It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, an offer an offering by fire to the LORD.” (NKJV).

In Leviticus 16:29, God commands that this day is a “statute forever”.  This means that it was God’s intention for us to continue to celebrate the Day. What is to be done if Jesus has fulfilled the requirements?  First, this is a day of confession and repentance of sin.  A day to re-align our hearts with God.  A day for  breaking off covenants with the demonic and the sin that so easily ensnares us. (Hebrews 12:1).  It is a time when we, in humility, remember that we are “saved by grace through faith and not of works” (Eph 2:8).  A day to remember all the love that God has for us and that we also reciprocate towards Him.  Additionally, there is still a powerful role, that we fulfill in the scriptures and in the fulfillment of this day.  In the role of priests, and intercessors.  Our role in this day has powerful implications

This day God has chosen to be a holy convocation.  A convocation in Hebrew can best be described as a gathering of the ‘called out’ ones.  A holy convocation, the holy and chosen people of God, a royal priesthood, a nation of priest and prophets, all of the called out and holy people, are commanded by God to gather on this specific day.  To come together in unity (See Psalm 133).  What does God command this chosen people to do?  To Afflict one’s soul.  Noah Webster defines afflict as, “To give to the body or mind pain which is continued or of some permanence.” (8)  Traditionally, this has always been seen as fasting.  Basically it has this idea:  If sin is the willful taking of that which is unlawful, affliction (fasting) is the willful giving up of that which is lawful for the sake of consecration.  It is a sacrifice of what is lawful for the sake of the call.  This has tremendous power in the Kingdom of God because it is just like Jesus.  He was God and put on flesh, becoming a servant for us.  Hence, when God’s people humble themselves and afflict themselves they identify with the nature of Jesus, and this moves in power.  What we have so far is this, a specific scripture day, when all of the called out ones are commanded by God to gather and fast.

Now, what are these holy and called out people to do while they are fasting?  Well, Aaron is commanded to offer an incense offering before the mercy seat, “lest he die” (see Lev 16:13).  Incense, scripture tells us in heaven, is seen as the prayers of the saints (Rev 8:4).  So, the called out ones who are afflicting their souls are to pray and the incense offering will go up before the throne of God and prevent death.  We are a royal priesthood, Peter tells us this and this has been God’s plan all along for His called out ones( I Peter 2:9, Exodus 19:6), we minister to the LORD through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-3), so, on this particular day, which has been commanded to be a statue forever in three different places (Lev 16:29, 16:31, and 23:31), we are commanded to gather, to fast, to pray, to intercede, and sprinkle the blood of Jesus over our nation, so that the presence of the Spirit can begin to move like never before.  In fact, the New Testament believers called this day, “The Fast”. (Acts 27:9).  They knew it was a special consecrated day, for believers to confess, repent, fast, pray, make sacrifice, that will advance the kingdom of God.  (see Isaiah 58 for Godly instructions on fasting)

As we fast for the advancement of the kingdom, we become more like Yeshua (Mark 9:29).  The putting aside of self and the indulgence of the flesh is one thing, and a necessary thing, for walking in the Spiritual.  However, it is at another level to give up even what is lawful for one to have.  This is the whole basis of fasting which is the opposite of sin.  As stated previously,  sin is taking that which is not lawful, fasting, is a willful giving up of that which is lawful.  It is the sacrifice that makes the difference, this is the heart of Yeshua, the offering of self.  This sacrifice, be it fasting, be it lifestyle, be it finances, or whatever is lawful that someone is giving up, is a powerful force in moving the forces of heaven.  This is the basic premise of any apostolic work or any missionary work and we see it in so many stories throughout church history and in the life of Paul and the apostles.   The laying aside of what is lawful for the sake of the call.  It’s the cross, it is this level of self imposed sacrifice that moves the kingdom.  All intercessory prayer and fasting is based upon this premise.  It is a basic commonality in all types of ministry that are going to be Spirit empowered. Lou Engle’s “The Call” comes close to this type of kingdom activity.

Let’s fulfill the commandment of the “Fast”.  Let the Body of Christ gather together, a holy convocation, a gathering.  Let us fast and prayer with a  heart that is motivated out of a love for God and for the advancement of His Kingdom.  This obedience out of love always moves the heart of God.  He guarantees us action, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Endnotes

1.  Avram Yehoshua, “Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, article on website, http://www.seedofabraham.net.  Page 1.

2.  Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., second printing, vol. I,  page 479.

3.  Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the LORD, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1997, page 123.

4.  C.F. Keil, F Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament,  Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass.  Second printing, 2006  Volume one,  page 590.

5.  John H Walton, Victor H Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament,  InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill, 2000, page 131.

6.  Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.  1979, page 362.

7.  Liardon, Roberts, John G. Lake, The Complete Collection of His Life Teachings,  Albury Publishing, Tulsa OK,  1999  page 767.

8.  Webster Noah, American Dictionary of the English Language 1828 edition, San Francisco, CA, Foundation for American Christian Education, 2006.

Fasting and the Kingdom Sacrifice

“I will not sacrifice anything to the Lord that cost me nothing.”  1 Sam 24:24

The Biblical sacrificial system demands that only the best animals are to be sacrificed.  It was designed to cost the worshipper, set up to put the worshipper in a position of dependency upon God.  When one considers a fast, it should be done prayerfully and it should cost the worshipper.  Sacrifice demands faith and faith is the currency that releases the Kingdom.

“The Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.”  (Luke 4:14)

If sin is the willful taking of that which is unlawful; then fasting is the willful sacrifice of that which is lawful.  Jesus learned obedience by willfully sacrificing that which was lawful when He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, the beginning of His 40 day fast.  The Bible says that Jesus was filled with the Spirit when He went into the wilderness, but something happened upon His return.  “He returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).  The willful sacrifice of fasting, led to an increase in “power.”   Jesus illustrates this point with the disciples.

“Assuredly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “move from here, to there” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’” (Matthew 17:19-21)

The willful sacrifice of fasting (obedience and sacrifice), leads to a faith that can move mountains.  “Faith needs fasting for it’s full growth … In nothing is man more closely connected with the world of sense than in his need for, and enjoyment of, food.  It was the fruit with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise.  It was with bread that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.  But He triumphed in fasting … The first thought suggested by Jesus’ words in regard to fasting and prayer is that only in a life of moderation and self-denial will there be sufficient heart and strength to pray much … Without such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful, no one will attain power in prayer.  Such power comes only through fasting and prayer” (1).

“Blessed are those who hunger … for they shall be filled” (Mat 5:6).

There is a certain humility that comes with hunger.  It’s a good thing to know what it means to be hungry.  “Hunger is a mighty good thing.  It’s the greatest persuader I know if.  It’s a marvelous mover.  I wish we all had it spiritually.  I wish to God we were desperately hungry.  Wouldn’t it be glorious?  Somebody would get filled before this meeting was over” (2).  The hungry get fed.  The exercise of fasting is birthed from a spiritual hunger for more of God and His world.  It is a sacrifice of lawful things, a physical hunger.  This hunger impacts the soul with desperation for feeding.  Heidi Baker, a missionary in Africa, speaks of the power of the desperation of hunger:  “The people there are so hungry that when it comes time to eat, they literally stomp on each other.  They are so desperate that they push and shove each other out of the way in order to get to the food first.  It does not sound nice, I know, but the ones who scream the loudest and push the hardest get fed first.  The ones who press in always get the bread.  I have witnessed this happen time and again, so I asked God, ‘what is this, God?’  He said: ‘the ones who are hungry get fed.  The ones who are thirsty get to drink.  It is as simple as that’” (3).  When we get desperate for an increase of God, and that desperation leads to sacrifice and we will not be disappointed in God’s response.  We will be filled.

1.)  Murray, Andrew, With Christ in the School of Prayer; Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA; 1981; pp 100-103
2.) Liardon, Roberts, John G. Lake, The Complete Collection of His Life Teachings; Albury Publishing; Tulsa, OK; 1999; p 452
3.)  Baker, Roland and Heidi, Expecting Miracles; Chosen Books; Grand Rapids, MI; 2007; p 48

Prayer for Revival

While I was disappointed with the cancellation of our Red River Revival trip, I have been impressed by God to continue in prayer and fasting for revival.  A recent study I have done of past revival demonstrates that great moves of God have been birthed through prayer.

The Welsh revival in the early 1900’s was birthed out of prayer and intercession.  Evan Roberts was the individual whom God used to bring about this movement.  “Evan gave himself to frequent prayer and intercession” (1).  His early meetings were characterized by prayer and intercession.  Those meetings are described as follows: “strong moves of intercession flooded the room during each service and many times the services would go past midnight.  Once, Evan prayed all night with a congregation and didn’t return home until the next morning.  This small group of intercessors led by the young evangelist transformed the entire community.  Some meetings lasted until 4am with crowds gathered outside for 6am prayer” (2).

Similarly, the Azusa street revival was birthed out of prayer.  The revival was led by William Seymour, but Frank Bartlemann and others birthed it through prayer and intercession.  He writes: “the Spirit is breathing prayer through us for a mighty, general outpouring.  Great things are coming.  We are asking largely that our joy may be full.  God is moving. We are praying for the churches and the pastors. The Lord will visit those willing to yield to Him” (3).

Lastly, the Red River revival was likewise birthed through prayer and fasting.  Three years before the revival broke out, James MacGready, (the pastor of the Red River congregation), enlisted the help of interceding Christians who would sign a covenant of prayer.  Once they agreed, they covenanted to pray every Saturday evening and Sunday morning for revival in Logan county.  Additionally, they agreed to spend the third Saturday of the month fasting for revival.  Things in Logan County didn’t improve immediately, actually they got worse, but MacGready encouraged them to continue in prayer.  He wrote on the covenantal agreement: “when we consider the Word and the promises of a compassionate God to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith — to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow men … with these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unite our supplications to a prayer hearing God, for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children, and sinners generally, may be converted” (4).

Hence, let us continue steadfast in prayer that God will open the spiritual door at Red River.  Let us pray for revival in Kentucky that will shake the nation, and eventually the world, standing on the promise of God which says: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8).

1.)  Liardon, Roberts; God’s Generals; Whittaker House, New Kinsington, PA; 1996 (pg. 81)
2.) Ibid, pg 85

3.)  Bartlemann, Frank; Azusa Street; Whittaker House, New Kinsington, PA, 1982; (pg 9, 14,15)

4.)  Marshall, Peter; Manuel, David; From Sea to Shining Sea; Revell Company, Old Tappan, NJ, 1986; (p 60-61)

History of the Red River Revival

The Red River Revival began in July of 1800 at a communion service officiated by Reverend James MacGready.  The Red River is located in Logan County, Kentucky, and in the years preceding this revival, conditions were really bad.   “Logan County attracted so many murderers, horse thieves, highway robbers, and counterfeiters that it was nicknamed ‘Rogues Harbor’ by the outlaws who fled there to escape justice back east.” (1) It was on the cutting edge of the frontier in the late 1700’s.  There was no real police force, per se, and locals often attempted to administer justice themselves.  “ So many desperadoes and ungodly people had settled there, that when an attempt was made by vigilantes to run these outlaws out, the outlaws burned the homes of some of the vigilantes, killed others, and forced still others and their families to flee the area. (2)  Reverend MacGready began praying for revival long before he moved to Logan County.  He pastored a congregation in North Carolina and developed intercessory prayer groups who signed the ‘Carolina Covenant’, in which, they agreed to prayer specifically for revival in Logan County (more on this in a moment).

Reverend James MacGready  rode into Rogues Harbor in 1798.  He wore buckskins, like the local frontiersmen, and was a Presbyterian minister.  He oversaw three congregations in the County along three different rivers, the Muddy, the Gasper and the Red.  MacGready was a man given to prayer and a pastor who encouraged parishioners to pray for revival.  He encouraged them to join him in covenant to pray for revival in Logan County.  He wrote on the covenant:  “When we consider the Word and promises of a compassionate God to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith–to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow-men.  None ever went to Christ when on the earth, with the case of their friends, that were denied, and , although His people, He has left it on record, that were two or three agree upon earth to ask in prayer, believing, it shall be done…With these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unit our supplications to a prayer-hearing God for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children , and sinners generally, may be converted.” (3)  Those who joined him in covenant agreed to pray every Saturday night and Sunday morning for revival. Furthermore, they devoted the third Saturday of each month for fasting.  They continued in prayer despite the worsening of conditions, they remained faithful.  God always honors covenant , commitment, and humility expressed through prayer and fasting.  Those who remained faithful would not be disappointed.

The first instance of revival began at a quarterly communion service in the summer of 1799.  At the end of the three-day event. God moved upon the congregation,   MacGready described it as, “some of the boldest, most daring sinners in the county covered their faces and wept bitterly.” (4) MacGready knew prophetically that this was not the end of the outpouring but the beginning.   He described the event as “a few scattering drops before a mighty rain-the overflowing floods of salvation that would commence the following summer.” (5)

In June of 1800, another communion service was scheduled.  The “buzz” from last years event had drawn a crowed of over 500 people surprising even MacGready.  The event was scheduled for three days with not much happening till the last service on the last day.  In fact, many of the ministers MacGready had invited to participate had already gone home.  At the end of the last service, which was preached by William Hodge, “a solemn weeping fell over the house” (8).  John McGee, a Methodist minister who was attending the meetings, composed himself for a final appeal to the lost.  McGee explains, “I exhorted them to let the Lord Omnipotent reign in their hearts and submit to Him, and their souls should live.  Many broke silence.  The woman in the east end of the house shouted tremendously.  I left the pulpit to go to her…Several spoke to me:  ‘You know these people.  Presbyterians are much for order, they will not bear this confusion, go back and be quiet.’  I turned to go back, and was near falling, the power of God was strong upon me.  I turned again and losing sight of the fear of man, I went through the house exhorting with all possible ecstasy and energy.” (9)  When McGee turned around to look over the church, he states that, “the floor was covered with the slain; their screams for mercy pierced the heavens.” (10)  God had poured out His Spirit and MacGready described the effect on the lost as, “As multitudes were stuck down under the awful conviction the cries of the distressed filled the whole house.  There you might see profane swearers, and Sabbath breakers pricked to the heart, and crying out, ‘what shall we do to be saved.’  There frolickers and dancers crying for mercy.  There you might see little children of 10,11, and 12 years of age praying and crying for redemption, in the blood of Jesus, in agonies of distress.  During this sacrament, and until the Tuesday following, 10 persons we believe were savingly brought home to Christ.” (11)  This was the beginning, a year later, another meeting was scheduled at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and the response was overwhelming.  To put this into perspective, the closest city to Cane Ridge was Lexington and it was 100 miles away.  Its population in 1801 was around 800 people.  At the Cane Ridge revival, it was estimated that 10,000 people came with God pouring out His Spirit similarly to what happened at Red River.  This was the beginning of the camp meetings and the beginning of the Second Great Awakening.

It is important to note that the frontiers people were not schooled in theology.  They placed great value in demonstrations of power.  God would meet them where they were at and they would not be disappointed.  Some powerful manifestations of the revival have been recorded.  A Reverend Stone writes, “ There, on the edge of a prairie in Logan County, Kentucky, the multitudes came together and continued a number of days and nights encamped on the ground, during which time the worship was carried on in some part of the encampment.  The scene was new to me and passing strange.  It baffled description.  Many, very many, fell down as men slain in battle, and continued for hours together in an apparently breathless and motionless state, sometimes for a few minutes reviving and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep grown or a piercing shriek, or by a prayer for mercy fervently uttered.  After lying there for hours, they obtained deliverance.  The gloomy cloud that had covered their faces seemed gradually and visibly to disappear, and hope in smiles brightened into joy.  They would rise, shouting deliverance and then would address the surrounding multitude in language truly eloquent and impressive.  With astonishment did I hear men, woman, and children declaring the wonderful works of God, and the glorious mysteries of the Gospel. (12)  The power of God would come over people so tremendously that it would appear that they were having some seizure-like activity.  It became known as “the jerks.”  Peter Cartwright, the well-known Methodist circuit rider, and himself converted at Red River writes, “To see proud young gentlemen and young ladies dressed in their silks, jewelry, and prunella, form top to toe take the jerks would often excite e my risibilities.  The first jerk or so you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly and so sudden would be the jerking of the head their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a waggoner’s whip.” (13)  It baffled the theology of the time.  They called it experimental religion, but today, we would call it experiential religion.  An encounter with the living God who displays the gospel of power.

The revival was not without opposition.  MacGready was never immune to persecution throughout his ministry and even at Red River.  In North Carolina he had his pulpit burned and received death threats written in blood.  AT one point, the opposition at Red River, chained and locked the door to the revivalist.  MacGready, not to be deterred, continued top preach on the steps of the meeting house.  While preaching and gesticulating backwards violently, the power of God upon him broke the lock.  The door was never locked again.  MacGready own denomination denounced him and sent a man from the seminary to debunk and renounce the revival.  Dr, George Baxter of the Presbyterian denomination came to Kentucky to discredit the revival and became, himself, a revivalist.  He writes, “The power with which this revival has spread, and it influence in moralizing the people, are difficult for you to conceive, and more so for me to describe…I found Kentucky,  to appearance, the most moral place I had ever seen.  A profane expression was hardly ever heard.  A religious awe seemed to pervade the country…Never in my life have I seen more genuine marks of that humility which…looks to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only way of acceptance with God.  I was indeed highly pleased to find that Christ as all and in all in their religion…and it was truly affecting to hear with what agonizing anxiety awakened sinners inquired for Christ, as the only physician who could give them any help.  Those who call these things ‘enthusiasm’ ought to tell us what they understand by the Spirit of Christianity…Upon the whole, sir, I think the revival in Kentucky among the most extraordinary that have ever visited the Church of Christ, and all things considered, peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of that country… Something of an extraordinary nature seemed necessary to arrest the attention of a giddy people, who were ready to conclude that Christianity was a fable, and futurity, a dream.  This revival has done it; it has confounded infidelity, awed vice to silence, and brought numbers beyond calculation under serious impressions. (14)  God, by an outpouring of His Spirit, had changed Rogues Harbor into one of the most moral places in the country.  This is the gospel.  Describing the events of the summer, MacGready would write, “The present summer has been the most glorious time that our guilty eyes have ever beheld.  All the blessed displays of Almighty power and grace, all the sweet gales of divine Spirit and soul-reviving showers of the blessings of heaven which we enjoyed before, and which we considered wonderful beyond conception, were but like a few scattering drops before the mighty rain which Jehovah has poured out like a might river upon this, our guilty, unworthy country.  The Lord has indeed shoed himself a prayer-hearing God; He has given His People a praying sprit and a lively faith, and then he has answered their prayers far beyond their highest expectations,  This wilderness and solitary place has been made glad, this dreary desert now rejoices and blossoms abundantly, and rejoices even with joy and singing.”  (15)

This is the spiritual heritage that God has left for us to obtain.  The Spirit breathes prayer through
God’s People and He answers their prayers with miracles, signs, and wonders.  This is the Gospel of power and how genuine revival is hallmarked.  Let us join those who have gone on before us, joyfully expecting and praying for the mighty river to be again, poured out upon us.

Endnotes

1.  Marshall, Peter, Manual, David, From Sea to Shining Sea, Revell Cp, Old Tappan New Jersey, 1986, page 60.

2.  Anzac Prophetic List, The Red River Revival, associate.com/groups/anzac/0::17read.html – 16k

3.  Jarboe, Frank, The Red River Revival, http://www.goodshepherdfarm.us/1800/redtext.htm.

4.   Marshall, page 61.

5.  Ibid.

6.  Ibid, page 62.

7.  Ibid.

8.  Ibid.

9.  Ibid.

10.  Marshall and Manual, page 63.

11.  Grider, J.S.  The Red River Meeting House, http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/churches/RedRivKY.htm.

12.  Marshall, page 63.

13.  Grider, page 2.

14.  Marshall, page 69.

15.  Marshall, page 64.