PASTOR’S P.O.V.: MY 40 DAY FAST (Conclusion)

The Bible says in understated terms that “after fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry.” So was I. Not only hungry, but starving. Literally.
On January 6, 2016, I began a 40 day fast because I needed to get God’s attention to help me with all the troubling issues I was facing. My former pastor suggested I do this until I get a clear word from the Lord. On Valentine’s Day, the fortieth day, I got that “word from the Lord.” (Please read parts 1-4 by going here: www.bit.ly/LongFast)
Few people knew about the fast because I kept it mostly secret. My congregation probably thought I had some fatal disease since I had lost 42 pounds. On day 41 this is what happened: I awoke at 5A.M. with severe leg cramps. My plan after awaking was to pray, read my Bible, go for a two mile walk and thank God for his sustaining power.
Then eat.
My wife the nurse prepared my “re-feeding” program, which would take up to ten days. She thought the best course of action would be to follow the guidelines of the U.K.’s Scarborough Hospital. It was very important to break a fast slowly because if I ate too much at first, I could have a heart attack. Starving Jews ate too much, too fast, when liberated from the Death Camps after World War II and many died. I had to be patient a few more days, then I could eat what I wanted.
After praying, reading and walking, I had my first breakfast in nearly six weeks: twelve ounces of beef broth. Oh how glorious! Lunch: half an avocado. Delicioso! Dinner? Eight ounces more of beef broth. Restricted to 350 calories the first day and 700 the next, I gradually increased my caloric intake before eating that big cheeseburger I craved.
But what about all those problems I fasted about? Well, nothing much changed.
This is the word God gave me: “My grace is sufficient.” That was it. This was the very same word given to the Apostle Paul after he asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn from his side. In other words, life will still be hard, problems will still come, but Jesus will be with me. Always. Even to the very end of the age.
Now, that’s a good word!
“Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, to sacrifice ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.” (Andrew Murray, 1828–1917)
You can read my follow up article, “40 Days Past My 40 Day Fast” here: www.bit.ly/40DaysPast.
*Steve is pastor of Community Church of the Hills located at 212 Klett Ranch Road, Johnson City. Services are Sunday at 10:30am. Contact him at www.CommunityChurchOfTheHills.org

Mission Minded and Making a Way

On Saturday, May 21 the First Christian Curch will host a spaghetti supper from 5:00-7:00 pm. The meal (by donation) will be served in the exhibit hall at the Fair Grounds to raise funds for their upcoming trip to Zacatecas, Mexico.
Joni Topper stated, "Helping with the vacation bible school there, last year, was definitely a highlight of the trip. This year our trip will be enhanced by the fact that we are preparing our workers to have less of a language barrier by taking seveal spanish classes.”
Please plan to join them for a meal and help meet their financial needs.

Community Easter Service at Whittington's Hill

As the Disaster Used Clothing Drive neared its end, several churches consolidated their collections into Johnson City’s main pickup point at the First United Methodist Church. Toni Silver, from St Luke United Methodist Church in Austin, was one who added to the mountain of bags. By the time you read this, the two semis should have made their pickups from all 21 participating churches.

An All-Church Community Easter Son-Rise Service will be held at 7:00A.M. at Whittington's Hill. Everyone is invited to hear the message of the Resurrection given by Pastor Steve Sanchez and to sing special traditional songs commemorating this spectacular day played by Beverly Voron, both from Community Church of the Hills. Please bring a chair, a blanket, and wear warm clothes. If there is bad weather, then the service will be held at the First United Methodist outdoor pavilion. For more information, call 830-868-7667 or email pastor Steve at [email protected]

Threatened at Walmart

I came close to getting punched out at Walmart last Sunday. Why? Because I gave the Gospel to a cashier while purchasing my items in line.
It wasn’t the clerk who threatened me, nor the customer behind. I wasn’t holding up the line, just simply having a friendly spiritual conversation as I was loading my sixty-plus items on the conveyor. But some random dude in the line next to mine was agitated because he overheard our conversation.
This is what happened: I gave the cashier a million dollar bill Gospel tract before she started my order. I love handing out Gospel tracts; they are the surest way to “break the ice” with a stranger. And everyone loves a million dollars! (Email me and I’ll give you one.)
I asked, “On the back is the million dollar question: If you died today would you go to Heaven or Hell?
“Heaven,” she replied.
“Are you a good person?” I queried.
“Have you kept the 10 Commandments? That’s God’s standard of moral goodness.” I asked if she had ever lied, stolen anything or misused God’s name. She admitted she had. “Then God sees you as a liar, thief and blasphemer. If God judged you now, based on the 10 Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?”
“Heaven or Hell?” I persisted.
“Does that concern you?”
I then gave her the good news: “Do you know what God did for you so you wouldn’t have to go to Hell? He became a man in the person of Jesus, suffered and died on a cross for all your sins. He was buried and on the 3rd day, rose again. If you repent and put your trust in Jesus, he will forgive you. Then you are his. You must now live for him.”
At this point, the eavesdropping man piped up. “This isn’t your church.”
“The whole world is my parish,” I replied, paraphrasing John Wesley.
“Yeah, I’ll give you your church,” he threatened.
“That’s okay,” I cheerfully answered back.
Turning to the cashier I explained how sometimes people get mad when I share the Good News. Jesus said, “You will be hated by everyone because of me....” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Emboldened as I remembered my Savior’s words, I paid for my items, straightened my back, fixed my gaze, then left the store...making sure to look in every direction as I walked to my car in the darkened parking lot.
*Steve is pastor of Community Church of the Hills located at 212 Klett Ranch Road, Johnson City. Services are Sunday at 10:30am. www.CommunityChurchOfTheHills.org
Email him at [email protected]

A Bridled Tongue

It is said that a doctor can tell a great deal about our physical condition simply by looking at our tongue. The same is true of our spiritual condition. How we use our tongues is a great indicator of our spiritual status. Did you know that all of our religion amounts to nothing if we do not learn to bridle our tongues? “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). Jesus warned that it is the things that come out of our mouths that defile us (Matthew 15:18). If we want our religious devotion to be meaningful, we need to be careful what we say to others.
A story is told of a man who sent his slave to the meat market with strict instructions to bring back the best piece of meat the market had to offer. The servant returned with a piece of tongue. Out of curiosity, the man sent his slave back to the market with orders to bring back the worst piece of meat the market had in stock. Again, the servant returned to his master with a piece of tongue. When asked for an explanation the servant said, “the market told me that when the tongue is good, it is the best meat and when the tongue is bad, it is the worst meat.” This story illustrates Solomon’s point about the tongue, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue...” (Proverbs 18:21). The words we speak have amazing potential for both good and evil.
According to James one who can bridle (or control) their tongue has the ability to control their whole body and is perfect. This type of self control is a mark of spiritual maturity (James 3:1-18). When we allow our tongues to get out of control it doesn’t take long for our body, our whole being to follow suit. A tongue that is out of control affects the entirety of one’s life. Even our eternal fate is determined by how we use our tongues. Solomon said, “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3). According to Jesus the words that come out of our mouth can either “justify” us or “condemn” us (Matthew 12:36-37). As is true with any sinful behavior we must master it or it will master us.
Our words have a tremendous impact on those around us. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness” (Proverbs 15:1-2). Changing the way we talk to others is a sure way to improve our relationships. Think about the way you talk to your parents, your spouse, your children, your coworkers and everyone else you encounter. Do your words build them up or tear them down?
These mouths of ours are described as “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). We use them so inconsistently, one minute cursing each other, the next praising God (James 3:9-10). We have done some amazing things in terms of taming dangerous wild animals, but we are incapable of taming our own tongues! In God’s Word we find “instruction in righteousness” so that the people “of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Achieving spiritual maturity in our speech can only be done with the help of God’s Word. It is by the power of God’s Word that our tongues can be used for good rather than evil.
Given the power of words we need to be determined not to let any corrupt communication come out of our mouths (Ephesians 4:29). We must take great care with what we say and learn to lay our hand upon our mouth (Job 40:4). As David said, “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle...” (Psalm 39:1). God’s Word says the way you use your tongue is a mark of spiritual maturity and reveals your spiritual status. What does your speech say about your spiritual condition?
If you have a Bible question, please call (830) 868-9911, email [email protected] or visit worship services. The church of Christ in Johnson City meets on Sunday at 10am for Bible Class, 11am for Worship, 6pm for Worship and on Wednesday at 7pm for Bible Class.

Mustard Seeds

Once upon a time a Master of Wisdom and his young apprentice were traveling through the countryside when they came upon a poor farmer’s cottage. The master instructed his apprentice to go to the door and ask for food. “But we have plenty,” protested the apprentice. “Just do as I say,” ordered the master.
The apprentice dutifully did as he was instructed and knocked on the door. He was met by the poor farmer who was dressed in dirty clothes that were worn and tattered. “Do you have any food to share with two hungry travelers?” asked the apprentice.
“We do not have much but we will share with you what we have,” responded the farmer. He went inside the little hovel and soon returned with some cheese and a crust of bread. The apprentice did not want to take it from the poor fellow but the thought of facing his awaiting master made him reach out and receive it.
“We have one great blessing,” said the farmer. “We have a little cow that provides us with milk that we turn into cheese, some of which we consume and some we sell. It is not much to care for my large family but it is enough to live on.”
When the apprentice returned to his master with the cheese and crust of bread and told him the tale of the little cow, the master was pleased by the generosity of the man.
“I want you to do one more thing,” said the master to his apprentice. “I want you to go and get that cow and bring her here.” The apprentice was puzzled by the request but did as he was told. Next the master said, “See yonder cliff? I want you to take the cow up there to the highest point and push her over the cliff.”
The apprentice was dumbfounded and protested but the master insisted. The young apprentice reluctantly did as he was ordered and the poor cow died at the foot of that terrible precipice. They then turned and continued on their way.
Over the years the apprentice grew in mercy and in wisdom. One day he decided to return to the poor farmer’s shack and apologize for that which he had done. His conscience would not let him rest. When he arrived at the place, instead of the poor farmer’s cottage, he found a great, spacious and beautiful villa. “Oh, no!” thought the apprentice, “my deed brought ruin on the family and they were forced to sell their farm.”
Curious to know what had befallen the farmer and his family, the apprentice knocked on the carved villa doors. When the master of the house appeared, well dressed and well groomed, the apprentice asked what had happened to the farmer and his family that used to live on that land. “We have owned this land for three generations,” said the man. It was then that the apprentice realized that the prosperous man standing before him was none other than the man who had once been an impoverished farmer.
“God works in mysterious ways,” said the now wealthy landowner. “We used to own a little cow that provided all we needed to get by. One day she fell over a cliff and was killed. My wife and I and our seven children had to find other ways to make a living and to provide for ourselves.
“We discovered that we had greater powers and abilities than we ever realized. We found new and better ways to provide and to live. Each of my children now has a villa of his own and all are prospering.”
I suppose the moral of this Brazilian folk tale* is that we can choose to be victims of circumstance or we can be masters of our own fate. But we cannot be both.
“Up to a point,” said Louis L’Amour, “one’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be....Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.”
(“The Walking Drum”)
*Paraphrased from Richard Paul Evans’ book, “The Walk.”
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