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Archive for September, 2012

When Should We Fast?.

… and humbled myself with fasting—Psalm 35:13

You might be thinking, I’m willing to fast, but when do I do it? I would therefore like to suggest five occasions on which fasting is justifiable.

I think the first of those would be when the burden we are under is so great that we do not really have a desire for food—for this may be a hint from God that we should fast. David experienced a time of great mourning when God smote the son born to him as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:15-16).

The second occasion that justifies fasting is when we are about to embark on a very great task for God or have to make an important decision. At the beginning of His ministry, after His baptism, Jesus fasted (Matt. 4:2). Maybe you need to know God’s will and don’t know what to do. It is justifiable to fast because you need wisdom for something in the future.

A third reason is if we feel that God is hiding His face. Perhaps we are in a rut or have known better days spiritually. Perhaps God is not as real as we have known Him to be, and we are not sure whether we have grieved Him or whether He has just chosen to hide His face for reasons we can’t understand. Perhaps God is hiding His face from us in order to drive us to our knees to seek Him.

The fourth occasion is when we have experienced delay in the answers to our prayers. In the Old Testament in particular we have accounts of situations where God did not step in as it had been hoped He would, and as a result the people fasted.

The fifth occasion that justifies fasting is when we feel the need of unusual power that we don’t have, such as in the case of demon possession in Matthew 17, which was too big for the disciples to handle.

Fasting is a way of ensuring that we are completely dependent upon God and open to Him. It seeks spiritual emptiness and cleansing, and it enables us to hear God speaking.

Excerpted from Worshipping God (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004).


{ Day 272 }.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. —Psalm 31:14-15

David said, “My times are in your hands.” It’s one thing to commit our spirits into God’s hands; it’s quite another thing to trust God with the timing of His breakthrough.

Each “committing” has its own challenges and anxieties. After we commit our spirits into God’s hands, the test of time comes.

One year turns into two, and two years turn into ten. We begin to question, “What about the breakthrough? What about the promises?”

Though we have committed our spirits to Him, the years have multiplied. David saw there were two steps to this.

First, he committed his spirit; then he committed the timing of those dreams. He learned to rest in God’s sovereignty. We too must give ourselves to this two-part progression.

First, we commit our spirits and dreams into God’s hands by living lives of prayer and fasting as we seek their fulfillment. Second, we trust Him for the season of release.


Father, in all my life, You have never been one minute too early or one minute too late. When I am tempted to question Your timing in the future, help me to remember Your track record from the past. I rest in You and wait for Your promises.

When we stand before God in eternity, we will realize He was never one minute late.


Closer than you think…

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
-Psalm 34:18

I remember going through a dark time that was very much connected to my faith. It began when I learned that the book of Mark wasn’t written down until 30 years after Jesus’ ministry. That really bothered me. Then, I started questioning much in the Bible, and I really didn’t know what to do with this frustration. I hadn’t yet learned that Mark, for example, had probably already memorized the whole Tenach, the Hebrew Bible. So, without this and other knowledge and understanding, I started to wonder if the Bible was real and if God was real. What was I to do with this doubt?

I remember, in the midst of this time of doubt, sitting down to play the piano. For some reason, I played Beethoven’s “Pathetique,” a song I learned when I was 15 and hadn’t played it in years. Nonetheless, I played it perfectly from beginning to end. Then, a light went on in my brain, and I began to weep. I realized that, in the same way, the gospel of Mark in the Bible could be written many years after the events happened because of memory.

In that moment, I had to sit in the darkness, the doubt, and the struggle. I had to wait there on the Lord and I couldn’t force any of it to end. Then, organically and naturally, God brought me out of that dark time and prepared me to be a new person. And that renewed and deepened faith had to happen before I could go to seminary because, in seminary, much of what you believe is challenged as you’re prepared to be a pastor.

Sometimes, in the dark night of the soul, when you wonder if God even exists, if he hears your prayers, he is closer than you think.

Prayer: Dear Lord, even in the dark times, you are near to me. Your light shines brightly in my soul. Amen.

Reflection: Did you ever doubt the existence of God? The authenticity of your faith? What convinced you to continue to believe?

By Bobby Schuller, Crystal Cathedral Pastor.


“He said to him, ‘Well done, you good servant! Because you were found faithful with very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ – Luke 19:17

It is remarkable how much the Word of God makes of faithfulness – simple faithfulness. It is not great things that God requires of us unless our mission is to do great things; He asks only that we be faithful in the duties that come to our hand in our commonplace days.

That means that we do all our work as well as we can; that we serve well in the varied relationships of life in which from time to time we find ourselves; that we stand heroically in our lot, resisting temptation and continuing true and loyal to God; and that we fulfil our mission in all ways according to the grace given unto us, using every gift and talent for the glory of God and the good of the world.

The world crowns “success;” God crowns “faithfulness.”

Jesus tells us that faithfulness in this life lifts us to places of authority hereafter. So, then, life here is only a trial to see what we are capable of doing. It is after all a real probation to find out who may be set over large trusts. And the real life is to be begun in the other world. Those who prove faithful here will have places of responsibility in the kingdom of glory.

This ought to give a new and mighty motive to our living in this world. Our eternal honor and employment will depend upon the degree of our faithfulness here. good men and women often say at the close of their lives, “If I could only begin now, with all my experience, I could live my life much better.” Well, if they have been faithful, that is the very thing they will be permitted to do in the next world. A mother who had brought up a large family said: “I have just learned now how to train children. I could do it well if I could begin it again.” If she has learned this, that is just what Christ wanted her to learn. Now she is ready for full service in His kingdom.

By Vine.

Bible In A Year: September 30th…

By Book Old Testament New Testament Proverbs & Psalms
Nahum 1-3 Jeremiah 1-2-30 Philippians 1:27-2:11 Psalm 115:1-11

Obama and Romney fight for religious groups’ votes. Then there’s Romney’s Mormon faith.


Separation of church and state may be a constitutional requirement in US government. But in Election 2012 politics, religion has become an increasingly important factor.

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney are focusing on particular religious groups – Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Evangelical Christians. Mr. Romney’s religion – Mormonism – is being covered by the media like never before in US political history. (At least since the sect moved to Utah in the 19th century in order to practice its own beliefs – including, at that time, polygamy.)

Off to the side, meanwhile, is an apparent spat between the two most prominent Mormon politicians – Romney and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – which seems to bear on their religion’s theology.

Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz

The cover story in the current issue of Time magazine is headlined “The Mormon Identity: What Mitt Romney’s faith tells us about his vision and values.” It’s written by Jon Meacham, who’s a member of the Leadership Council of the Harvard Divinity School and whose books include “American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation.”

“[T]he question is whether Romney has the capacity to draw once more on the pragmatic tradition of his religious forebears,” Mr. Meacham writes. “Will he stick with a strategy that seems not to be working against President Obama, or will he respond to changing events … with bold policy proposals or a more overtly negative campaign or whatever might move the election in his favor?”

“One thing is clear: as a devout Mormon leader, Romney knows his church history, and he knows that difficulty and doubt are inherent elements of life,” Meacham writes. “The key thing is to remain faithful, to serve, to press ahead – to the next territory that might welcome you, to the next voter who might decide to give you a chance. From the outside, Romney’s life looks to have been easy and affluent. There is, however, another angle of vision, one that reveals a deep-seated Romney instinct to survive and thrive in even the worst of storms.”

In the New York Times a few days earlier, Simon Critchley, professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York, had a long column titled “Why I Love Mormonism.”

There, professor Critchley (who is not a Mormon) sought to explain to non-believers – especially urban skeptics whose knowledge is limited to snarky superficialities – that the Mormons he met as part of his academic work “were some of the kindest, most self-effacing and honest people I have ever met.”

“They were also funny, warm, genuine, completely open-minded, smart and terribly well read,” he added.

But with many non-Mormons today, he finds “a casual prejudice that is not like the visceral hatred that plagued the early decades of Mormonism – lest it be forgotten, Joseph Smith was shot to death on June 27, 1844, by an angry mob who broke into a jail where he was detained – but a symptom of a thoughtless incuriousness.”

Washington, DC being a company town, the Washington Post visited the Mormon “ward” (congregation) where a President Romney likely would attend.

“More ethnically and economically diverse than the typical Mormon ward, its roughly 200 congregants are drawn largely from Northeast Washington and have included deported immigrants, a teen shot dead in gang violence, refugees from African wars, and youths who depend on the church for meals, tutoring for class and support to pay for Boy Scout camp,” the Post reported.

The writer seemed surprised to find that most ward members are Democrats. Still, one said, “I’d welcome him with open arms.”

One who would not welcome Romney to Washington with open arms is fellow Mormon Sen. Reid. When Romney made his now-infamous comment which seemed to write off the 47 percent of Americans who “are dependent upon government … believe that they are victims … believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” Reid was quick to comment that Romney had “sullied” their religion and that the GOP presidential challenger “is not the face of Mormonism.”

In the Washington Post’s “Belief Watch” column, Lisa Miller puts Romney’s controversial “47 percent” remark to wealthy donors in historical and theological perspective.

“Mormons regard thrift, industry and self-reliance as non-negotiable obligations,” she writes. But, she adds, “The dark side of the Mormon devotion to self-reliance is a corresponding horror of failure and dependency on outsiders.”

“A good Mormon wants to care for others in need, but he doesn’t want to be cared for,” she writes. “If in dire straits, he should seek help first from family and then from his church community – not from government assistance.”

Not all Mormons agree with Romney’s apparent interpretation.

“That’s Republicanism,” Kathleen Flake, professor of religion at Vanderbilt Divinity School and a Mormon, told the Post. “That’s not Mormonism.”

“What thunders from the Book of Mormon in LDS churches on Sunday, professor Flake added, is ‘if you judge the poor, you have no place in the kingdom of God.’”

Beyond Romney’s faith, both he and Obama are watching closely as other religious groups move toward one candidate or the other, seeking to influence that trend.

The Religion News Service reported this past week that “President Barack Obama’s support among Catholic voters has surged since June … despite a summer that included the Catholic bishops’ religious freedom campaign and the naming of Rep. Paul Ryan, a Catholic, as the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate.”

“On June 17, Obama held a slight edge over Mitt Romney among Catholics (49 percent to 47 percent), according to the Pew Research Center,” the news service reported. “Since then, Obama has surged ahead, and now leads 54 percent to 39 percent, according to a Pew poll conducted Sept. 16.”

Among Jewish voters in 2008, Obama won an overwhelming 78 percent, according to exit polls. This year, the GOP is trying hard to win a larger percentage of such voters.

Reports the New York Times: “Focused on South FloridaOhio, and Nevada, the Republican Jewish Coalition, backed mostly by the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a Zionist, has begun spending $6.5 million on an air-and-ground strategy to reach Jewish voters who may view Mr. Obama as unreliable on the question of Israel’s security.”

In recent weeks (and especially in light of the perceived threat from Iran’s nuclear progam), Romney himself has played up his close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Evangelical Christians – a substantial minority of whom had previously indicated they might not be able to vote for a Mormon – apparently began gravitating toward Romney once it became clear he would be the Republican nominee.

“There are at least two explanations for why Romney’s Mormonism matters so little among this powerful voting bloc,” writes Jonathan Merritt on the blog site for Sojourners, the progressive religious and social action organization. “First, evangelicals seem to care more about political ideology than orthodox theology as far as voting is concerned. Polls show that voters care most about the economy, not faith. It’s why the Tea Party – most of them being self-described evangelicals – have gravitated toward another Mormon, Glenn Beck.”

“Second, any discomfort about Mormonism is outweighed by an even larger disdain for President Obama,” Mr. Merritt writes. “Many evangelicals bemoan the last four years of his administration’s policies and they fear what he’ll do if re-elected.”

As religion scholar John-Charles Duffy of Miami University in Ohio put it in the Religion & Politics online news journal, “Evangelicals may not think Romney’s a Christian, but at least he’s not Obama.”

Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz


By Brad Knickerbocker | Christian Science Monitor

USGS reports deep 7.1 Earthquake in Colombia.

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian authorities say there are no immediate reports of injuries or damage from an earthquake centered deep underground in the country’s southwest whose magnitude the U.S. Geological Survey placed at 7.1.

The USGS says the quake struck at 11:31 a.m. local time on Sunday 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the regional capital of Popayan. It says it was centered at a depth of 94 miles (150 kilometers).

National disaster director Carlos Ivan Marquez says there are no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The regional emergency director, Isabel Hernandez, also reports no damage.


Associated Press

Chavez to Obama: I’d vote for you, and you for me.

CARACAS (Reuters) – With both presidents facing tight re-election fights, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavezgave a surprise endorsement to Barack Obama on Sunday – and said the U.S. leader no doubt felt the same.

“I hope this doesn’t harm Obama, but if I was from the United States, I’d vote for Obama,” the socialist Chavez said of a man he first reached out to in 2009 but to whom he has since generally been insulting.

Chavez is running for a new six-year term against opposition challenger Henrique Capriles, while Obama seeks re-election in November against Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Venezuela’s election is next weekend.

“Obama is a good guy … I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or some Caracas neighbourhood, he’d vote for Chavez,” the president told state TV, referring to a poor coastal town known for the African roots of its population.

Chavez is one of the world’s most strident critics of Washington and his 14 years in office have been characterized by diplomatic spats and insults at the White House.

He called former U.S. President George W. Bush a “drunk” and the “devil.” After an initial overture to Obama came to nothing, he said the new president had disappointed progressives the world over and was the “shame” of Africans.

But Chavez was back in a conciliatory mood in a TV interview with friend and former vice president Jose Vicente Rangel.

“After our triumph and the supposed, probable triumph of President Obama, with the extreme right defeated here and there, I hope we could start a new period of normal relations with the United States,” he said.

“Obama recently said something very rational and fair … that Venezuela is no threat to the interests of the United States,” he added.

Since coming to office, Chavez has projected himself as the head of a global “anti-imperialist” movement inspired by his friend and ideological mentor Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Relations with Washington improved briefly after Obama took office in January 2009 and promised more engagement with Latin America. Chavez toned down his tirades against the “Yankee empire” and shook hands with the new U.S. leader at a summit.

But months later, he accused Obama of sticking to Bush’s foreign policies and capitalist agenda, and the tirade against the United Sates began again.

Despite the ideological gulf between Washington and Caracas, both sides take a pragmatic approach when it comes to business, with OPEC member Venezuela remaining the United States’ fourth biggest crude supplier.

(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jackie Frank)


By Helen Murphy | Reuters

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