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Weekly Messages

Part Four: Laughing All the Way

II Corinthians 9:1-15

II Corinthians 9:1-15
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Daily Devotionals

October 20, 2019: Day Fourteen of the Great adventure Self-Discipline is Good.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Lance Armstrong, the name carries with it all sorts of images and memories. Armstrong won seven Tour de France bicycling events as well as other events in bicycling events worldwide from 1999 to 2005. He was a master at using his skills in planning his routes and his strategy in his competition. People said there would never be another Armstrong after he captured his seventh tour title.

When interviewed before one of the Tour DE France races, he was asked what it was that woke him up every morning. His swift reply was, “The yellow flag is what wakes me up and tells me what to eat and how to train. It is the yellow flag that sets my course.”

For all his years of training and practice and grueling workouts, he was the best in the field worldwide. No one even questioned this fact; that is until it was discovered that he had cheated and broke the rules by taking performance-enhancing drugs to give him a competitive edge over the other racers.

When the news finally broke, and he admitted to taking the drugs, his name was removed from every record he held, all his medals were returned, and he was stripped of all his titles of bicyclist of the year and sportsman of the year. His name no longer carries the admiration of sports fans. He is only known now as the one who cheated to win but lost in the end.

The Apostle knew something of this warning when he writes in I Corinthians that every athlete must compete according to the rules and not let his desires cause him to cheat. If an athlete does not play by the rules he will be disqualified, worse than that if a person who calls himself a Christians lives a private life of immorality and selfish pleasure and appears to all others like he is competing according to the rules he must know that there is one who sees his dark disobedience and will one day disqualify him for his rewards.

We are not of those who look for easy shortcuts to our walk with God. We choose to accept the call to deny ourselves and to accept the disciplines of fasting and prayer so we might grow to love our God more.

Let us lay aside those things which so easily entangle us and let us pursue our God through this great adventure of prayer and fasting,

Following Hard after God,


Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals Daily Devotionals

October 19, 2019: Day Thirteen of The Great Adventure

This subject of fasting has captured our hearts here at Lakeland for these weeks because it is in this one discipline that we see more clearly our real need for Christ.

Go back with me to the garden of Eden. Look at the two newly created human beings as they stand next to each other at the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.

Recall the command that God has given them to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What was the reason for this command? On the surface, it appears somewhat odd that God would limit their choices of food to this one tree. They could eat from all the others, but from this tree, they could not.

The reason for this command does not at first appear to us, but if we look underneath the surface, we can understand it clearly. Adam and Eve were created by a loving, caring God who had designed this garden to fulfill their every dream and desire. The only condition was that they could not eat of one tree.

Fast forward a few days or hours even and find them at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There we watch as Satan grabs their attention. The fruit certainly looked good to eat. There was no other fruit quite like this one in its appearance. Eve was at once captivated by the scene.

She was made to worship God and love him supremely, but now she has her heart turned to something else. In her turning towards the tree, her heart was captured by the beauty of this tree. Perhaps she watched as other animals ate from this tree and saw that nothing bad happened to them. Maybe the scent of the fruit trees blossoms caught her senses and allured her to come close?

Her bodily appetites were now operating at full speed. She was hungry, and this tree could satisfy her craving. Why wait for the time it would take to go to another tree to find a fruit that would also satisfy? She had needs, and they needed to be met. There would be no waiting now. Her appetites were what she wanted to satisfy no matter what. She did not see it coming, but it was already too late. Her focus was no longer on God and His command but her stomach and its demands.
Think of it, if Eve had abstained from her physical appetite just a little longer, things would have been vastly different.

Fasting not observed led Adam and Eve down a very slippery slope ending in the complete curse of the universe and all of creation.

Because Adam and Eve did not choose to abstain from one fleshly desire, we are now slaves to sin both in our nature and personal choices.

But now, as a new creation in Christ, we fast to remind us of our absolute dependence on God. If we did not have the food we need, we would not survive. If we did not choose to love God, we would be lost in an infernal hell that only grows more evil and wicked with every passing moment.

As we fast from food and other appetites, we tell ourselves that only in Christ can we find that which truly satisfies. We communicate that there is nothing in this world that we will run after, like the God that we love and serve.

Fasting is an exercise, only in Christ can we be fully satisfied. Let us draw near to Him today as we seek to find our lasting satisfaction in him alone.

Looking for the One Person that will satisfy my soul, Christ.

Happy fasting Church,

Pastore Phil

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Daily Devotionals Daily Devotionals

October 18, 2019: Day Twelve in The Great Adventure Our Real Food and Our Real Strength


John 4:28-34 (NIV)
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,
29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile, his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

Jesus had arrived at the well sometime in the morning. His body was exhausted, and he could not move another foot forward. His disciples left him and went into town to find some food.. While they were gone, a Samaritan woman arrived at the well to fill her water jars. She too was exhausted from the war being waged in her soul. She had tried to find life everywhere else, but her search only let her empty and her soul parched.

Jesus, exhausted, began to speak to this woman, and over the next hour or so, he gradually revealed himself to her. She came to the well, seeking water, but she found the water of everlasting life. She came with her water pots empty, but she left her water pots when she met the One who is Living Water.

The disciples returned with lunch, and they found Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman. They noticed something about Jesus, though, that caught them by surprise; he was not hungry any longer. He was full of strength and energy he did not have when they left him a few short hours ago.

How could Jesus have found strength at this out of the way watering hole? Did someone give him something to eat? How could this man who was once exhausted and parched now have such energy that he no longer needed food? This idea was lost on the disciples.

Jesus then explains the source of his strength. “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me.” Physical food will only sustain for a brief time, but doing the will of the Father will provide energy forever. O dear saints’ taste and see that the Lord is good, and drink deeply from the source of living water and never thirst again.

In fasting from the things of the world, we find that we can truly feast on Christ, the bread from heaven.

Happy feasting Saints,

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

October 17, 2019:Day Eleven of the Great Adventure

Growing in our desire for God

Psalm 42:1-3 (NIV) 

 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 

 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 

 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 

“I love the Cardinals! I love Chocolate Cake! I love my car!” We have all heard these statements of affection spring from our mouths when we talk about our possessions and our likes. People line up hours beforehand to buy tickets to the Cardinals playoff games. Just the word Chocolate cake causes mouths to begin to salivate as dreams of enjoying the thick creamy icing and the soft, warm chocolate cake. Pulse increases when we think of driving a new Corvette through town. All these things bring about a reaction in our body. How often do our thoughts of God cause our heart to beat faster, our taste buds to water ore, our mind to conjure up thoughts of majesty and beauty?

God is not glorified when we look at the spiritual disciplines like we would a visit to the dentist, necessary but certainly not delightful. It has been ten days since this fast observance has begun. How is your heart for God? Is it growing in passion and desire for God himself? Do you find yourself longing to pray more and commune more with God as a result of this fast? 

The Apostle Peter said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Has your taste for the things of God grown? Does your heart beat faster when you consider the time you get to be with God in prayer and communing with Him as you read the Bible?

Perhaps you have had this thought in your mind, “I cannot wait until this is over so I can get back to what I love.”

Let this prayer that David prayed be yours today as you seek to set your affection on Christ.

“Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.”

May you find your heart for God increasing as you follow Him through this great adventure.

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals Daily Devotionals

October 16, 2019: Day Ten of The Great Adventure-The Reason We Fast

Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV) 

 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 

Michael Reeves writes in his book “Delighting in the Trinity,” that sin is something far deeper than just not doing what is right or moral. Sin is something far more heinous than just not obeying the rules of the Bible. If that was all sin was, then perhaps even the devil could b saved. He already has good theology.

Reeves quotes Jonathan Edwards about this subject,

               “The devil once seemed to be religious from fear of torment. Luke 8:28, “When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, what have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. “Here is external worship. The devil is religious; he prays; he prays in a humble posture; he falls down before Christ, he lies prostrate; he prays earnestly, he cries with a loud voice; he uses humble expressions-“I beseech thee, torment me not”- he uses respectful, honorable, adoring expressions-“Jesus, thou Son of God Most High.” Nothing was wanting but love.” (Jonathan Edwards, Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith,” in the Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang Hyun Lee (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1957-2008), 21:171.)

Sin is not just not doing the right things; it is the turning inward of love that was supposed to find its highest pleasure in loving God to turning inward to the love of self. Eve saw that the fruit was good and to be desired to make one wise. Instead of loving God supremely, she sought to love herself and gratify her desires, thereby choosing to love something more than the source of all love, that being God.

Fasting is that act in which we put our physical affections for food and other earthly pleasures on hold so we might focus our affection on God alone. Through fasting we experience the cravings of our physical body crying out to be satisfied, but we take control over our earthly appetites and say to God that we will set aside our earthly desires so we can experience more of His pleasure and bounty.

Fasting exposes the real source of our pleasure. It reveals where our heart’s affection is set. Go without food for a few hours and see what happens to your cravings. Food begins to cry out for you to satisfy your longings by taking of food to quench your gurgling stomach. Pleasures of drink and other forms of entertainment cry out to be satisfied. In fasting we purposely set aside these cravings. It is as we do this that we have the real source of our heart’s contentment exposed.

Do we love God above all else? Can we say along with Job that we esteem the words of His mouth more important than my necessary food? Can we cry out like David, “Who do I have in heaven but you and being with you there is nothing I desire on earth? Can we agree with Paul that all the things of this world are nothing to us but a pile of dung or a pail of garbage?

Fasting is designed by God to bring us to see the real state of our soul. When the hunger pains cry out to be satisfied, let those pains be that which propels you to cry out for God to satisfy you more than food or clothes or forms of entertainment.

Search me O god and try me and know my heart and see if there be any way in me that has set its’ affections on anything other than you alone.

May my heart be for you and you alone, O God.

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Daily Devotionals

October 15, 2019: Day Nine of the Great adventure: The Day of Bold Asking


Nehemiah 2:1-6 (NIV)

1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before;

2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid,

3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven,

5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

How would you like to have the order to go before the president of the United States and tell him that you want him to finance the return trip of the Jews from America to Israel? To even think of such a thing would be the height of lunacy. Yet this is precisely what Nehemiah was told by God to ask the king of Persia.

Nehemiah was a man who was responsible for making sure that the king was safe from all those who would seek to do him evil. He tasted all the food that was set before the king and all the drinks that he was to drink to make sure they had not been poisoned.

For the cupbearer to the king to look sad in the presence of the king would be one of two things. Sadness perhaps because he was attempting to overthrow the king by poisoning, and he was afraid of being caught, or the sadness of the heart because of some grief that he was currently going through.

Note that the king did not even entertain the first option. He knew Nehemiah and trusted him with his life. When Nehemiah appeared before him with a sad countenance, the king knew it could only be because of sadness of heart.

Nehemiah sees the door opening. He had just prayed according to God’s promise that if God people confess their sins and repent, He would return them to their land even though they had wandered very far away.

The king asks Nehemiah what is it he needs. Nehemiah quickly consults with God with a very brief prayer, and then he answers the king. Think of it saints, a quick prayer to God was enough to answer a king and ask him to finance the return of God’s people to the land of Israel. What boldness, what sheer confidence before an earthly king. How is it that Nehemiah receives such courage?

He had met with the King of the Universe, so speaking to any earthly king was no problem. If we be would better at speaking with our Heavenly Father, we would have less trouble speaking to any earthly potentate.

While you are praying and fasting today, look carefully for the promises God has given you to claim for our church, your family, our culture. Then be bold in praying for those promises to be fulfilled in our day.

Now go out and pray boldly and then speak to those without Christ confidently.

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

October 14, 2019: Day Eight of The Great Adventure Nehemiah 1:8-11 (NIV)

8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

I was cupbearer to the king.

There is more to learn from Nehemiah about prayer and fasting in this one chapter than most people realize. In this chapter from Nehemiah, we have learned how a man of God responds to the news that God’s people and land are in ruins.

News of God’s people under oppression by the enemy should cause those who know God to be deeply moved to intercede for their brothers in sisters in other lands.

Such news can be quite overwhelming if we only look at the circumstances with our eyes. Nehemiah helps us see behind the scenes and see the spiritual realities. The realities that many miss because they close their eyes to such things.

Nehemiah has his eyes wide open to reality as he looks upward to God. He sets his affections on things above; he sees things as they really are. This vision leads him to praise God. We saw the power of praise at the beginning of his prayer in this chapter.

Praising God certainly helps regain the proper perspective. If we see God for who He is then, we will have no excuse to be overwhelmed by whatever circumstances. Nehemiah’s vision of God does more than help him see the real reality; he sees the eternal promises that God has made to his people.

Seeing God for who He is and seeing his promises he has made to his people brings great strength to Nehemiah. HE is no longer one under the circumstances, but one who now sees things from God’s perspective.

If he only saw his circumstances from an earthly perspective, he would never have even uttered this prayer. See what happens when Nehemiah sees things from God’s perspective. He is strengthened to believe that God would turn his people back to himself and that he really could be used by God to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and encourage God’s people to trust n God again.

Take careful note of verses 8-11. He claims the promises of God that if his people would return to God then God would bring them home, even though they were in far off lands. The Jews had been in captivity for over 140 years now. Some returned to Jerusalem seventy years ago, but the city was still in ruins.

The people of God were in bondage over 70 years longer than they needed to be. Why? Could it be that no one saw the promise of God like Nehemiah?

God opened Nehemiah’s eyes to see the promises, and he gave him faith to believe the promise, and then he merely asked God to do what God had promised. The rest is history.

Today as you fast and pray, pay careful attention to God’s promises and listen to the voice of the Spirit of God to see if any of the promises you are reading are for the church or your culture today? If they are, pray them as one going to the bank of heaven and ask that the promise be fulfilled as you pray.

Dear Saint, God loves to have his children take his promises and ask Him to fulfill them. What would happen if the people of God all claimed the same promise at the same time in asking God to deliver a nation or people? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know the answer to the question of what would happen if just one person claimed the promises of God?

Nehemiah was that one person, and when he claimed the promise, he was able to lead a multitude back home to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so the people of God could worship Yahweh once more.

Time to find and claim the promises of God bringing revival to our land.

Let’s get to praying the promises of God.

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Daily Devotionals

October 15, 2019: Day Nine of the Great adventure: The Day of Bold Asking

Nehemiah 2:1-6 (NIV) 

 1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 

 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 

 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 

 4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 

 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 

 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 

How would you like to have the order to go before the president of ht United States and tell him that you want him to finance the return trip of the Jews from America to Israel? To even think of such a thing would be the height of lunacy. Yet this is sely what Nehemiah was told by God to ask the king of {Persia.

Nehemiah was a man who was responsible for making sure that the king was safe from all those who would seek to do him evil. He tasted all the food that was set before the king and all the rink that he was to drink to make sure it had not been poisoned.

For the cupbearer to the king to look sad in the presence of the king would be one of two things. Sadness perhaps because he was attempting to overthrow the king by poisoning and he was afraid of being caught, or the sadness of the heart because of some grief that Nehemiah was currently going through.

Note that the king did not even entertain the first option. He knew Nehemiah and trusted him with his life. When Nehemiah appeared before him with a sad countenance, the king knew it could only be because of sadness of heart. 

Nehemiah sees the door opening. He had just prayed according to God’s promise that if God people confess their sins and repent, He would return them to their land even though they had wandered very far away.

The king asks Nehemiah what is it he needs. Nehemiah quickly consults with God with a very brief prayer, and then he answers the king. Think of it saints, a quick prayer to God was enough to answer a king and ask him for him to finance the return of God’s people to the land of Israel. What boldness, what sheer confidence before an earthly king. How is it that Nehemiah receives such courage?

HE had met with the King of the Universe, so speaking to any earthly was no problem. If we would better at speaking with our Heavenly Father, we would have less trouble speaking to any earthly potentate.

While you are praying and fasting today, look carefully for the promises God has given you to claim for our church, your family, our culture. Then be bold in praying for those promises to be fulfilled in our day.

No go out and pray boldly and then speak to those without Christ confidently.

Pastor Phil

Categories
Daily Devotionals

October 21, 2019: Day Eight of The Great Adventure

Nehemiah 1:8-11 (NIV) 

 8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ 

 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” 

I was cupbearer to the king. 

There is more to learn from Nehemiah about prayer and fasting in this one chapter than most people realize. In this chapter from Nehemiah, we have learned how a man of God responds to the news that God’s people and land are in ruins.

News of God’s people under oppression by the enemy should cause those who know God to be deeply moved to intercede for their brothers in sisters in other lands.

Such news can be quite overwhelming if we only look at the circumstances with our eyes. Nehemiah helps us see behind the scenes and see the spiritual realities. The realities that many miss because they close their eyes to such things. 

Nehemiah has his eyes wide open to reality as he looks upward to God. He sets his affections on things above; he sees things as they really are. This vision leads him to praise God. We saw the power of praise at the beginning of his prayer in this chapter.

Praising God certainly helps regain the proper perspective. If we see God for who He is then, we will have no excuse to be overwhelmed by whatever circumstances. Nehemiah’s vision of God does more than help him see the real reality; he sees the eternal promises that God has made to his people.

Seeing God for who He is and seeing his promises he has made to his people brings great strength to Nehemiah. HE is no longer one under the circumstances, but one who now sees things from God’s perspective.

If he only saw his circumstances from an earthly perspective, he would never have even uttered this prayer. See what happens when Nehemiah sees things from God’s perspective. He is strengthened to believe that God would turn his people back to himself and that he really could be used by God to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and encourage God’s people to trust n God again.

Take careful note of verses 8-11. He claims the promises of God that if his people would return to God then God would bring them home, even though they were in far off lands. The Jews had been in captivity for over 140 years now. Some returned to Jerusalem seventy years ago, but the city was still in ruins.

The people of God were in bondage over 70 years longer than they needed to be. Why? Could it be that no one saw the promise of God like Nehemiah? 

God opened Nehemiah’s eyes to see the promises, and he gave him faith to believe the promise, and then he merely asked God to do what God had promised. The rest is history.

Today as you fast and pray, pay careful attention to God’s promises and listen to the voice of the Spirit of God to see if any of the promises you are reading are for the church or your culture today? If they are, pray them as one going to the bank of heaven and ask that the promise be fulfilled as you pray.

Dear Saint, God loves to have his children take his promises and ask Him to fulfill them. What would happen if the people of God all claimed the same promise at the same time in asking God to deliver a nation or people? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know the answer to the question of what would happen if just one person claimed the promises of God?

Nehemiah was that one person, and when he claimed the promise, he was able to lead a multitude back home to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so the people of God could worship Yahweh once more.

Time to find and claim the promises of God bringing revival to our land.

Let’s get to praying the promises of God.