fasting: aligning with God for a money goal

Matthew 6:19-24

I am fasting from the service of money. Lately I find that my increased focus on money has caused thorns and thistles to grow and choke the words in the soft garden of my heart. Thus, I have found an additional purpose to fast. I am fasting from the most prevalent worry of this world, the fear of a lack of money (Actually not for myself, ironically.) Like the Apostle Paul advised, “I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control.” What has money got to do with subduing the body (physical)? For me and many other born again believers, we believe we need to hear God and receive wisdom to manage our lives on earth. God actually speaks through His revelation words and many other ways. When we are tied down in our physical needs and worrying and occupied mind we just cannot hear Him clearly and align with His plan accurately. Fasting is always accompanied with reading His words and praying. I pray this sharing of my experience encourages you to ponder over how you may hear God too.

As I have written in this blog previously, there are variations and ways to prepare. (click this link to read)

Three types of fasting: Normal- Abstaining from food, solids, liquids except for water. Absolute – Abstaining from everything. (Not more than three days.) Partial (Daniel 10:3) Restricted Diet. Jesus fasted and taught it as a part of the Christian discipline.

You may choose from a long list of choices: 1. the number of days (1, 3, 7, 14, 21, 40) 2. the number of meals to abstain (1, 2, all ) 3. eat vegetables/fruits only 4. no solid intake, drink water/liquid only.

This time I decided to have plain water with no food and solid intake for three days. Prior to this, I did a full 24 hours’ fast as a preliminary trial, followed by a break of taking one light meal a day for two days. I would urge you to follow the prompting you receive from the Lord. How is the fast so far? It is showing positive effect after getting through the tough second day. For new comers, yes, you may feel physically uncomfortable initially. But you can overcome it by focusing on the right source of your strength and purpose. Throughout the Bible God tells us that He is our strength and focus.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Paul’s Disciplined Lifestyle

24 Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack[a] keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. 25 A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. 26 For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise[b] or box like one throwing aimless punches, 27 but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body[c] and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 9:24 Or “the runners in a stadium.” This refers to the Pan-Hellenic stadium near Corinth where the Isthmian games were held.
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:26 Or “I don’t run aimlessly.” That is, Paul ran with his eyes on the goal of ending well.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:27 Or “I beat my body black and blue.” This is an obvious metaphor of placing the desires of one’s body as second place to the desires of the Holy Spirit. See Rom. 8:13.

Money Matters: To SERVE money means to place such a high value on it that we develop a wrong priority compared with our relationship with God and others. Here are some symptoms: Place our trust and faith in it. Look to it for our security and happiness. Expect that it will guarantee our future. Desire it more than we desire God (as evidenced by the time we spend with whom). Our life is then spent in the pursuit of it rather than God.

Jesus spoke about money through these Bible verses:

Matthew 6:19-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

Teaching about Money and Possessions

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

22 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

Paul’s warfare and weapons

We finally reach a key survival tactic, how do Christians win wars? Apostle Paul is really an expert in this field judging from the long list of challenges he went through and his always emerging as the victor and not the victim! I have done a simple chart with the key Bible verses from 2 Corinthians 10. Please read the whole chapter for a better understanding. Paul’s other letters speak of how we can control and train our thought life. For example, Philippians 4:8 is a good place to start your meditation.

2 Corinthians 10 warfare and weapons

Philippians 4:8  (NKJV)

Meditate on These Things

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

2 Timothy 1:7  (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

the new transformer

Revelation 18:4-8

Today we are reminded that the ten plagues only struck those who chose not to believe and acknowledge the righteous God whom Moses and his people believed, the same God we believe. Take note the idolatry arrogant heart of Pharaoh caused him to make foolish and self-destructive decisions. He exalted himself above the righteous and holy God. Pharaoh did not fear God because he thought he himself was god. While he comfortably indulged himself in his luxurious palace wining and dining opulently, his people suffered in prolonged incremental fear and torment. He had no love or compassion even for his own people. Why was his heart hardened? He was obsessed with keeping an ample supply of cheap/free labor the miserable enslaved Israelites provided to perpetuate his wealth and related social-political power. He was consumed with jealousy of Moses, a former prince of Egypt, now the formidable great transformer leader championing for the justice, freedom and wellbeing of the Jewish nation.

Moses, on the other hand, after his miraculous encounter with God, was truly supernaturally transformed into a great and courageous leader who at the age of 80 would leave his comfort zone and even stick out his neck for the love of God and God’s own people. What happened in the end? “Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”  The rest is history.

The life of Moses produced good fruit that lasts to eternity. Pharaoh’s life? Plagues and burning.

The First – Fifth Plague Exodus 7-9
The Sixth – Ninth Plague Exodus 9-11
the Tenth Plague Exodus 12


Paul’s leverages: grace and economics

In recent years the world notes how effective economic leverage works in social-political re-engineering. Today we study another kind of successful leverages from a great master, Paul, a businessman-apostle. Economic (financial) interest is always the top priority in this world. It ties with the micro self-interest of an individual and the macro self-interest of a group, a nation or even the whole world.

In 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9 we continue to reflect on Paul’s motivations and strategies, supporting a broader understanding of mission – one that sees the purpose of the church as going beyond mere evangelism, and including all manner of personal and social reconciliation (including the use of financial and economic resources). Paul presented a sustainable economical and spiritual inter-linked blue-print to the Corinthians who were already well versed with the marketplace and its language. Now Paul teaches them the higher spiritual reality which is an integral part of their physical financial reality. Take note that the Corinthian Christians were just ordinary individuals (not particularly outstanding or privileged in terms of intellect, wealth and status) when they were first converted. But they have apparently been transformed and blessed with bountiful physical prosperity and spiritual gifts after that. (1 Corinthians 1:26) Apostle Paul showed them the way of God’s economy and finance.

Here is my simplified chart on this practical application of grace and economics by Paul. (Please read Chapters 8-9 in 2 Corinthians)

2 Corinthians 8-9

Application regarding Christian giving:

  • Paul reminds us that our source of wealth is God’s grace through Jesus Christ
  • God gives us the ability to make wealth
  • God makes us abound in everything
  • We are to abound especially in giving grace
  • We are to give ourselves to God first
  • Then we will be able to give financial gift to others
  • We (the believers) are expected to give to the ministry of Christ
  • We give what we have (not what we do not have)
  • God will ensure we have more than enough to give
  • We must complete the doing of the giving
  • He who sows sparingly will also reap bountifully
  • The recipients are to ensure that gift be administered with transparent honor

Background:

In the summer of 50 A.D., the apostle Paul left Athens and traveled to Corinth city where he met Priscilla and Aquila, a tent-making couple who greatly aided him in his ministry. He stayed with them and joined them in the marketplace. Following Paul’s visit between 51 and 52 AD, Corinth became the centre of early Christianity in Greece. Paul’s friends and fellow evangelists Silas and Timothy joined him in Corinth. He preached the gospel every Sabbath until he left the city around Autumn of 52 A.D. Paul revisited the city in 58 A.D. during his third missionary journey (see Acts 20:1-3).

Why did Paul choose to leave a somewhat neutral intellectual Athens where he discoursed with civil Jews and Gentiles without being obstructed but instead proceed to a melting pot like Corinth? Because he saw a greater Gospel sharing evangelical opportunity at Corinth with its strategic crossroad location situated between Italy and Asia Minor on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors and a large population with various needs conglomerating for the economic boom and related activities. Corinth city was flourishing by the 1st century AD as an important international center of administration, trade, games and entertainment. Corinth had the largest population in Greece with Greeks, Jews, Romans, even the Phoenicians and Phrygians from the east. Corinth’s financial prosperity was the result of business activities, athletic games, the skills and quality of its statesmen and craftsmen, and immorality. Because of its close connection to the sea, with ports to the east and to the west, the cosmopolitan population of Corinth consisted largely of sailors, merchants, adventurers, and refugees, which included retired and discharged veterans.

Thus, Paul and his team had found a needy evangelistic target as well as a market niche from the Jewish refugees (from Rome), Roman soldiers, the many tradesmen and religious pilgrim travelers and the games competitors and spectators.

Corinthian became the second largest city in the Roman empire, boasting a population of 700,000 people. In eighteen months Paul built the largest church in the history of the world.  The lowest estimates are 40,000 and most historians say the number was more like 80,000 people.

Paul’s Ambassadorship: Rule of law

Today I have done a simple diagram. Let us read this new wine revealed in new wineskin. I am awed that we can actually apply this simple rule of law to every practical aspect of our lives, as ambassadors for Christ, representing the Kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Be Reconciled to God

12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not [a]imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:19 reckoning

Paul’s testimony: how he uses the mind of Christ

2 Corinthians 6:4

Today we learn how effectively Paul use both his mind and spirit: aligned with the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ.

His challenge list reads like a horror movie, far worse than any nightmare: five times whipped with 39 stripes each, three times beaten by rod, once stoned, three times shipwrecked, one night and one day in the deep, in journeys often, in perils of waters, robbers, own countrymen, gentiles, city, wilderness, sea, false brethren, weariness, toil, sleeplessness often, hunger, thirst, fasting often, cold, nakedness, deep concern for all churches, threat of imminent arrest (his life) from city authority. He was in constant physical and mind challenges: in much patience, tribulations, needs, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, and labors. (2 Corinthians 11:24-26; 6:4-5)

Imagine a human always being hounded, on the look-out, on the run, slandered, taunted, intimidated, verbally and physically abused, violently assaulted, falsely accused, brutally arrested, beaten, condemned as guilty without evidence, imprisoned without a just trial, and always overhung with the death sentence.

But what did Paul say about his conditions? How did he deal with such an overload of injustice and schemes of torments after his life? His letters showed how he looked at things both sides. He lived in both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, the spiritual and the physical realms, the temporary and the eternal, the external and the internal, the seen and the unseen. To Paul, both were real. He really experienced them, the natural and the supernatural. By knowing the two parallel realities Paul was able to handle the challenges confidently and overcome them successfully. Because his focus and priority are always on the side of the real victor, Christ.

He explained this plainly in his letters (2 Corinthians 6:6-10). There are two sides in everything: the view of the enemy and the view of a Spirit-filled Christian (reflecting God’s view). The evil and the good. The good will always overpower the evil one. Paul effectively and fearlessly exercised his spiritual power and authority over his unseen foe who worked through other human and natural elements. I append below self-explanatory Bible verses on this awesome revelation!

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (NKJV)

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much [a]patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by [b]sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Corinthians 6:4 endurance
  2. 2 Corinthians 6:6 Lit. unhypocritical

Acts 26:24-26 The Passion Translation (TPT)

24 Festus interrupted Paul’s defense,[a] blurting out, “You’re out of your mind! All this great learning of yours is driving you crazy.”[b]

25 Paul replied, “No, Your Excellency Festus, I am not crazy. I speak the words of truth and reason.[c] 26 King Agrippa, I know I can speak frankly and freely with you, for you understand these matters well, and none of these things have escaped your notice. After all, it’s not like it was a secret!

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 26:24 The Aramaic can be translated “As the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul, Festus interrupted.”
  2. Acts 26:24 Or “So much Scripture has made you senseless!”
  3. Acts 26:25 Or “words of sober truth.”

Paul’s relationship: with the Holy Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:3

I now realize that in the previous two chapters of 2 Corinthians Paul spoke of his relationship in Christ with God and then with man. In the third chapter he described his relationship with the Holy Spirit, his power source. I summarize below my understanding. Indeed this is my favorite chapter!

Chapter 3: Paul’s Ministry of the Holy Spirit

  1. Paul described the Holy Spirit as: The Spirit of the living God, the Spirit of Christ, the Lord.
  2. The Holy Spirit writes letter in the heart, gives lives, changes lives.
  3. New covenant of the Spirit gives life.
  4. Ministry of the Spirit is far more glorious than the ministry of the Old Testament.
  5. Whenever the Scripture is read and the people turn to the Lord, the Holy Spirit removes the veil in hearts to see Jesus as the Christ.
  6. The Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
  7. The Holy Spirit transforms us into the same image of the Lord, from glory to glory.
  8. Paul’s sufficiency is from God who made him minister of the new covenant of the Spirit who gives life.
  9. The ministry of the Spirit is also called: the ministry of the new covenant, the ministry of righteousness and the ministry of glory.
  10. Holy Spirit causes: Boldness, unveiled heart when the truth is preached, liberty whenever one turns to the Holy Spirit, transformation of lives.

Paul’s fearlessness: right priority right time right target

2 Corinthians 2:14

Today I am back to 2 Corinthians on why Paul was fearless against all odds. Chapter 2 showed a different Paul from the evangelistic goal-focused apostle Paul we may imagine he was. I summarize below my deeper understanding after reading this part of his letter to the Corinth Christians.

Chapter 2: Pauls’ Ministry of the body of Christ -Paul teaches the right priority in ministry, motive and manner in handling the body of Christ.

  1. He clarified that his ministry was not to bring sorrow to himself and/or the body of Christ but joy: through forgiving, comforting, reaffirming God’s love.
  2. He showed his concern for the body of Christ which took precedence over his personal ministry. For example, he wanted to follow through their progress in Christ. So he chose to forego an opportunity to preach gospel at Troas and instead returned to Macedonia to wait for his co-worker Titus whom he expected to bring the latest news about the Corinthian body of Christ.
  3. Paul followed the Holy Spirit and the peace in his heart. When he did not find rest in his heart he decided not to start an evangelical work in a new place alone despite the valuable opportunity offered. He also followed the rule that they worked in a team of two or more (he, Titus and others).
  4. Whilst in the midst of uncertainty with his flocks at Corinth: their spiritual condition and his (and his team’s) relationship with them, he remained calm and confident of the positive outcome and described the work of the evangelists always in triumph in Christ because it is God who initiates the work and causes the victory to manifest.
  5. He has personally experienced the God-initiated work which always gives life and triumph over death and doom.
  6. Paul was confident with the Corinth Christians because he was fearless to preach the word of God with sincerity and authority in Christ. He wanted them well. He had God’s heart for them.

Paul’s confession: his key success factor

2 Corinthians 1:3

I started reading 2 Corinthians in the Bible with freshness and revelation in my spirit. I believe this is an antidote to the prevailing fear in the face of uncertainties in the external factors that appear to impact our life and our ministry. In chapter one Paul displayed his key success factor, the God he believed in. Who is God? What can God do? What has God done? What is his relationship with God? These are the questions he has answered. I pray you too will be comforted and reassured as you read Paul’s confession in this letter.

My summary of 2 Corinthians Chapter 1 Paul is entirely God-focused:

  1. God is: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
  2. God raises the dead: who delivered them (Paul and his team) from death in the past, and does deliver them (present), and in whom they trust that He will still deliver them in future.
  3. God is faithful with all His promises: when He says Yes He means Yes.
  4. God is his witness; anointed them; given them the Spirit as seal and guarantee; God gives grace and wisdom abundantly to Paul and his team.
  5. Paul is apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.
  6. Paul follows God’s plan (walking by the Holy Spirit) in every decision.
  7. With God in mind, Paul and his team conduct themselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity.
  8. Paul values the answered prayer/intercession by the Corinthian and Achaia Christians for Paul and his team’s safety.

Jesus’ teaching on what and how to watch

Luke 21:34

Today we learn what Jesus said about what and how to watch to be ready for dangerous times in answer to His disciples’ questions. We also read some historical accounts of what happened after Jesus prophesied. Note that they asked when the temple would be destroyed and the signs. Jesus answered more than that. But today we only read the part about the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem which came to pass in AD 70.

Because Jesus had given adequate warning about thirty-seven years ahead, those who heeded the prophecies survived, while most others perished. While the Jews suffered starvation, slaughter, and capture, Christians in Jerusalem escaped. Jesus foretold the terrible events that would follow his death. He warned his followers to immediately flee Jerusalem when the signs he predicted occurred. The Christian community carefully watched for the signs and followed the Savior’s warning. History reveals that His prophecies were realized. It also reveals the stunning fact that the believers obeyed the warnings, fled Jerusalem to a town called Pella, and thus saved themselves. 

I quote here some of the historical accounts of what happened. “The members of the Jerusalem church by means of an oracle, given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the city before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella.” (Book III, 5:4,Eusebius, Historian, AD263-339). “For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis (de Mens. et Pond., 15). “or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time;” [Thomas Aquinas (1841)

Luke 21:5-7, 20-24, 34-37 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was [a]adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see—the days will come in which not onestone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”

The Destruction of Jerusalem 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Importance of Watching 34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with [f]carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may [g]be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 21:5 decorated
  2. Luke 21:34 dissipation
  3. Luke 21:36 NU have strength to

You may click this link to read more on the subject

Not Ashamed: Jesus’ words for today

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 

Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Ephesians 6:16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.

A sample of The New American Standard Bible, 1977 edition (NASB)

The Love Motivation

John 21:15 So when they had afinished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, 1son of John, do you 2love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I 3love You.” He *said to him, “Tend cMy lambs.” 16 He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you 1love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I 2love You.” He *said to him, “aShepherd My sheep.” 17 He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you 1love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him athe third time, “Do you 1love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, bYou know all things; You know that I 1love You.” Jesus *said to him, “cTend My sheep.

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes

2 Corinthians 1:19-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,