Dec 29, 2011

And when you fast?

     Announcement in the church bulletin for a National PRAYER & FASTING conference: "The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer conference includes meals. Funny bulletin blooper but it points out an important truth when it comes to how we think about fasting in the church today.   

 There are many debates these days about doctrine and people will dedicate years and even lifetimes in the promotion and defense of their attempts to define God. They will go on for days about their Calvinist, Arminianist, Premilllenialist, Amillennialist, Reformist, Fundamentalist, and a whole multitude of other ists.

     Many views are created and promoted daily about God's Word and what He really meant to say. Books are written, radio shows are aired, and TV shows are produced to promote these new and fresh "insights". But have you ever heard of a Fastist? There is no group out there debating, defending, promoting a fresh and new insight on fasting.
I can understand that. When I first read "When you fast," I thought the translators must have not translated that correctly. Surely it should say, "If you fast." or "in case you fast" this is how you should act, what you should, or should not do. But Jesus says when you fast,! He is not saying if you fast or in case you fast. He is assuming that those who follow Him will fast. These words were hard for me at the age of 13. As I read them I wondered why do I not hear much about this by the other Christians around me? Why is fasting not a main topic in Sunday school or worship services? As an adult I can now answer my own question with the greatest of ease. Fasting is not a topic we like to talk about because it is a very difficult topic to teach, receive, or live by. Fasting means that we truly place God above our self, our own desires, wants, or needs. Fasting is a far bigger commitment than attending church Sunday morning, sitting through a sermon, singing a few songs, giving a tithe and coming back the next Sunday to do it all again. Fasting requires: total obedience, total trust, a willingness to be purged of even our secret sins, and a yielding of the flesh to the spirit. Simply put, if you are not truly serious about following God you will not fast.

    If you have gotten to this sentence and you are in strong disagreement with the direction this discussion has taken then reading further will most likely do you no good. You will be only more convinced that fasting is a waste of your time/energy, and will be of no benefit to you. However, there is also a danger for you who read this message and want to fast but that desire is born out of a feeling of obligation or for what you think God will do for you. I encourage you to read, think about, and consider this verse:

    "Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?" Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isa 58:3-7)

The purpose of a fast is to draw close to God, it is to be a time of purification, renewal, and dedication for the Lord's use. And he says when we fast in this manner:

    "Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." (Isa 58:8-11)

Have I lost you yet? 

   I hope and pray that you will not be like the man who after telling Jesus he had followed the 10 commandments from His youth turned away after Jesus said, "one thing you lack, go and give all you have to the poor and then come and follow me." Are you willing to give up all to follow Jesus? Even the contentment of a full belly, and a earthly tent full of secret lust and hidden treasures? If so than I encourage you to get out your Bible, a note pad, and a willingness to be filled with God as He guides and satisfies you even in scorched places.

Are you ready to begin? 

God Bless,
David Ingram
New Day Christian Ministry
Isa. 43:18-21

Dec 21, 2011

40 Days That Will Change Your Life!

   As many Bible readers know 40 days is mentioned several times in scripture during times of preparation. In studying the passages concerning 40 days there are two that normally stand out. They are the stories of Moses on top of the mountain as God gives him the Ten Commandments and Jesus being led into the wilderness for 40 days where he is tempted by Satan. There are several others however. For instance when God judged the world with the flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, Goliath challenged Israel and their god for 40 days, Jonah told the people of Nineveh that they had 40 days before God's judgment, Elijah ran to the mountain of God in 40 days, and Jesus showed himself and taught his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection, to name a few.

   As I have been studying these passages I have seen that these 40 day experiences always produced the same results; there is a purification of sin, preparation for God's people, and a clear manifestation of God's presence and power.

    In Genesis chapters 6-10 we read about how God flooded the earth as a result of the great sin that was overtaking the world. Only one family, Noah, his wife, 3 sons  and their wives, had not turned from 
God. The 40 days and nights of rain was the way God chose to purify the sin that was taking over world and make a way to preserve a people that would serve him. After the 40th day Noah was able to open the window of the Ark showing that God had saved him and his family and set them apart to be a people that would follow God.

   Moses was up on the mountain not just once but twice for 40 days and nights without bread and water. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments for the purpose of preparing the people of Israel to be the chosen people of God. He demonstrated his presence and power as he talked with and provided Moses with the 10 Commandments. The second time, Moses was pleading for God to forgive Israel for sinning against God. God's presence and power was more apparent to those around him than any other man, apart of Jesus.

   I could continue to demonstrate the results of purification, preparation, and God’s presence and power manifested to his people in all of the examples I have given but there is much more to discuss than this blog would do justice so I will high-light a few more and provide you with passages to look up if you would like to study this more for yourself. 

   Goliath challenged the children of Israel and on the 40th day God used the faith of David to deliver Israel. 

   Jonah warned of God's judgment that would come in 40 days and the people repented. As a result the largest revival recorded in the Bible took place. 

  Elijah ran 40 days during which time he was ministered to by angels and at the end had an amazing encounter with God.

   Finally Jesus was led into the wilderness for 40 days where he was tempted by Satan and ministered to by angels. At the end of this time his earthly ministry began and showed us what we, who were created in the image of God, were meant to be like and how a life completely surrendered to the will of the Father and filled by his Spirit, could truly be. After his resurrection he spent 40 days preparing his followers for the Birth of his Church and the coming of his Spirit to all that would believe and follow him.

   In 2008 I asked many of you if you would join us in 40 Days of Prayer. Many of you accepted and God responded in many amazing ways! When we started the 40 days we were still lacking $2,000 in the funds that we needed to make the journey to Africa to establish our first NDCM branch and preach a revival in Uganda. The Lord worked through many wonderful people and the funds came in time. When we arrived in Kenya we were greeted by the members of our first church start, NDCM Mogoko. They had been waiting for us to arrive for hours but continued waiting until we arrived. We are all very happy and grateful the Lord had brought us together over so many miles. After spending several days establishing Mogoko we traveled to Uganda to preach the revival we had been praying and preparing for. In the 5 days of the revival 40 people came to Christ. The revival continued for the rest of that month and by the end of the revival 150 had come to Christ. God has continued to grow and expand the work. From '08 to '09 we had 14 NDCM branches established and from '09 'till now, another 11 branches have been established. During the 40 days several of you wrote and shared all that God was doing in your lives as you joined in on the 40 Days of Prayer. The first 40 days prepared the way for God to do more than we could have hoped or imagined, in not only our lives, but in the lives of all of those who participated and countless others, as God responded in more ways than can be shared or expressed. God is indeed moved when we pray and seek to encounter the presence and power of God, he truly does respond mightily on behalf of all who call out to him. 

   Just like in '08, we are in desperate need of God to work miracles in our lives. We have a little over 40 days until we leave for Kenya and we are still lacking $3,500 to even be able to buy tickets for Africa, let alone funds for the work while we are there. We are seeking God’s wisdom as we prepare the lessons and we are seeking God’s Holy Spirit to go before us and prepare the way. Heather and I have committed to set 40 days apart to pray for the Feb mission trip to Kenya and now I am asking  if you would be willing to spend 40 days praying for God to bring to you, Heather and I, and the members of NDCM across Africa, a time of purification, preparation, and encountering the presence and power of God. If you are willing to set apart time each day and join with us for the 40 Days of Prayer beginning on Dec. 26th   , please let me know by commenting below and I will send you a lists of prayer requests that we will be praying for during the coming 40 days.

We will begin our 40 Days of Prayer on Dec. 26th but if you did not receive or read this in time that is ok, you can get started on the day you read this.

God Bless,
David Ingram
New Day Christian Ministry

P.S. These chapter's below would be a benefit to you if you're interested for further study.

Exodus 24 & 34 Deut 9 & 10 , Numbers 13 & 14, 1 Samuel 17, 1 Kings
19, Ezra 4, Jonah 3, Matthew 4 and finally Mark 1.

Dec 14, 2011

Kenya 2012 or Bust!!!

   I am so excited to be preparing for the next VBS for our Kenya mission trip that will, Lord willing, happen in February 2012!

   Last time in 2009 was the first time I ever managed a VBS in any way, needless to say I was very inexperienced and thought I knew what to expect….boy, was I in for a real surprise! I can still remember the panicky feeling growing as I realized I had only a day to reconstruct my whole “program”!  But God took the material and my inexperience and made it work so well that over 12 children were brought into Heavens fold.

   Last year I was blessed to have several Lifeway programs given to me to assist me. But this year I find myself wanting to teach them more than the basics. The Lord has led me to construct my own curriculum with His help. I plan on using some Ken Ham material as well.

My basic outline is this:

   Days 1 and 2:  we’ll answer life’s questions: Who is God? Why was I created? Why am I here? I plan on letting them ask their own questions as well. I want to take their cultural and spiritual “pulse” to understand what they’re thinking, where they’re coming from and get their world view. We’ll then proceed to look at passages in the Bible and answer these questions and set the foundation for teaching them about whom Jesus is and His relevancy to our lives.

   Days 3 and 4 we’ll move on to:  Who is Jesus?  Why do we need Him as a sacrifice for our sins? What is sin?  Why Jesus’ resurrection is also vital to the Gospel, why Jesus needs to be Lord of our lives and why it’s not enough to just believe that God exists, we must surrender to Him. At this point we’ll present the Gospel and ask if anyone wants to ask God for forgiveness and commit their lives to Him. I also want to take the opportunity during this time to explain about prayer. I will not lead them through the common “ask Jesus into your heart” prayer but I will explain that through prayer we talk to God and Jesus just like we’re talking to each other now. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to talk to each child that wants to make a commitment; although I am open to flexibility, one on one time with a child for this type of decision is very important.

   Days 5 and 6 we’ll address: what happens next now that they’ve accepted Jesus as their Savior, abiding in Christ, the importance on standing firm in their Faith, showing Christ’s love to others and basic apologetics. It’s my goal for the children who are already saved that these days will help them to expound upon their spiritual knowledge and if all goes as I have been praying for, then maybe have them give testimonies to the new Christians in the class and give examples of what being a Christian means to them.

   The school system there meets 6 days a week from about 7am-5pm. I assume I’ll have about 1-2 hours to have classes. Also, each day we’ll have verses to learn and memorize. Depending on funding, I want to have coloring sheets and pictures for teaching aids. God has already blessed and provided plenty of crayons for the children, I just need to copy and laminate the coloring pages and teaching aids. Daily crafts would be beyond wonderful but I have already decided that no matter what the trip budget is, on day 3 and 4, we’re making bracelets for the kids to wear as a reminder of the Gospel and teach them to use it as an evangelistic tool.

   I have always had a heart for ministering to children. It’s is my endeavor to give them the tools necessary to grow in their faith and to teach them that the Bible isn’t just a book filled with nice stories but that it is the standard for all Truth and it’s a living and active sword.

   Please pray for me and for the children that God will use me and the material to have a lasting and changing impact on the hearers. When the classes are over and the children go back to their normal school routines, I want them to never forget what happened the previous week!

Dec 7, 2011

It’s The Time of Year for…

Flying home to see relatives…

Shopping until you “drop”…

Remembering fond times of holiday’s past…

Remembering loved ones who have passed on and how you wish you would have known last season was their last…

Holiday parties…

Watching Christmas movies...

The same old Christmas songs being reinvented by the year’s newest singers…

   It’s also a time when pastors and teachers at churches dust off the good ole’ Mary and Joseph story. David usually shy’s away from letting the Holiday season dictate his sermons but this year he’s been led to teach about Mary and Joseph from a different perspective, one that is foreign to a lot of people.

   What happens when we read a biography about someone’s life in the Bible? We try to glean application nuggets from it and fit it into our lives here in the 21st century. Most of the time we forget or are even unaware of the importance of pausing to think and absorb the implications of what is going on in the life of the person we’re reading about. What would have been the cultural norm’s back then that would make this a tough situation? What did it feel like to be going through this? Did they have support from family and friends? What were the consequences going to be for this person actions and how would that affect other people?

   The culture in which Jesus was born in to is so foreign to us here in the 21st century that it is difficult for us to really absorb what it would have been like for Mary and Joseph. Since we don’t stone people for having affairs or getting pregnant out of wedlock, it’s sometimes hard to get our minds around why this was so difficult. A lot of times we forget this fact because in today’s world it is common for young unwed girls to become pregnant and divorce is an accepted practice. Shaming one’s family is rarely put on the “con” side anymore when weighing life decisions, most of the time it’s not even a factor.

   This past Sunday marked the beginning of a Christmas series about the birth of Jesus and the prophesy surrounding His birth. At the start of the study David asked each person present to put themselves into the shoes of the people in the story. We paused to perform an “example” session in which David asked a couple (who have been steadily dating for years) to act out a Mary and Joseph scene where Mary tells Joseph she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Afterwards we asked the audience and participants what they thought Mary and Joseph were feeling and thinking when experiencing this particular scene. At first the question was odd to them and they were confused, some said Joseph would have been happy at such a miracle, others said Mary would be proud about carrying God’s Son. It was then that David and I re-acted the same scene a bit differently and when we turned to look at our audience we seen the light bulb click on.  We were attempting to show them the story from a different perspective; we were trying to force them to put aside their foreknowledge of the story with its future implications and change their mindset of what Mary and Joseph were experiencing.

   With this new understanding we then acted out a scene where Mary told her mother about being pregnant. The light continued to stay on as the implications of Mary’s situation was understood in a new way. There was a bit of silence as everyone began to absorb the weight of this new found knowledge that had given them a shot of spiritual adrenaline.

   We had to end the study midway through David’s outline (which is a very common experience) but there was no disappointment in doing so, as some might think if this would have been done in a regular American church setting. Everyone was excited and was giving testimonies of their own situations and how this has helped them to have a deeper appreciation for events surrounding the birth of Jesus. They saw past the “cuteness” of the manger scene and the Christmas songs and all the preconceived notions about this Holiday.

   Next week as we build on this foundation we pray that this Holiday Season will take on a new meaning for everyone and will be used as a light to show others the true reason for celebrating Jesus’ birth.