Blog

2019

APRIL FROM OUR PASTORS

Christian Fasting – What Does The Bible Say?

The Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions. In Acts 13:2 and 14:23, the Apostle Paul prayed and fasted with fellow believers.  It was through this period of fasting that the Apostle Paul knew with certainty what the will of the Lord was concerning his call and where he was to go next to spread the gospel. In fact, in verse four of Acts 13, the Scripture was clear in saying, “so, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went …” They knew the certain will of God, in this circumstance, only through prayer and fasting, so much so that the Scripture didn’t say they went where they wanted. Rather, they were sent by the Holy Spirit. 

In today’s age, we are often told that we cannot know the will of God, we cannot truly know what God says of things. This is absolutely false. While this is whole other subject matter, it goes without saying that fasting is one means by which the Bible is clear we can come to know exactly what the Lord’s will is for our call and direction. 

Fasting and prayer are often linked together as found in Luke 2:37 and Luke 5:33. Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. While this is a component of the spiritual discipline of fasting, fasting looses its vital significance when we place it in the context of the following statement, “what are you giving up for Lent?” 

Fasting, is not a spiritual discipline when one simple gives up something or a particular food if is not accompanied by a heart desire to want to draw near to God. Furthermore fasting must also be accompanied by intentional prayer and reading of the word of God during the time allotted for any fast. Throughout Scripture, in every context where fasting is mentioned, it is always followed up with deliberate mention of prayer or a visual description of the act of prayer the person or persons are engaged in. They didn’t just give something up for selfish reasons and went on a head with their daily routine without even given Christ a second thought throughout the day. 

Brothers and Sisters, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. When taken together, the Scripture points to fasting as meaning, “to bring our flesh under the authority and discipline of God.” 

Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast as found in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. You may fast from the food or things which you feel are a hindrance to your intimacy with Christ. In other words, maybe you have been using television as a way to feel better, pass the time, or feel motivated. In this scenario, you are using television to do for you temporarily what God can do for you permanently when you bring your needs, thoughts, and desires under His authority through prayer. Fasting from television for a period of time will help you shift your dependency on television to dependency on Jesus Christ. 

Fasting from something doesn’t necessarily mean that that thing is bad, this is not the case at all. Rather, fasting from something, food or otherwise, is to develop spiritual disciplines that will deepen our relationship with Christ, God said, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Fasting from food, helps us to draw closer to God and be reminded that the true sustenance for our souls isn’t from earthly food but heavenly food, the word of God. This passage also reminds us that fasting from food or things or activities isn’t the Biblical understanding of fasting if we don’t spend quality time in prayer and the study of the Word which comes forth from the mouth of God.

Also, it is important to know that whether in the Bible or in a secular dictionary, fasting isn’t choosing to do more “good deeds,” or “doing charitable work,” or “taking on something extra.” No matter how wonderful and well meaning a gesture, extra good deeds will not achieve the same spiritual goals, discipline, and intimacy with God. Fasting is requires the refraining from, or giving up the pleasure of, a food or thing. 

In summation, fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method” either. The purpose of a Biblical fast is not to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God. 

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude.

Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.”

2019

OCTOBER FROM OUR PASTORS

What is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement?

October marks a solemn month for followers of Judaism this year as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, falls on October 8. Just what is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and why is it significant to us as Christians? 

To answer these questions, we first we need to understand the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. While today we have two distinct religions, that is not the way Jesus intended it. Jesus came to fulfill God’s plan of redemption for humanity which had been planned since the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Jesus came first to preach His message to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6), to gather them up as hen gathers her chicks under her wings (Matt.23:37). Christ’s first followers did not refer to themselves as “Christians” but rather as followers of the Way (Acts 9:2). By calling themselves this, they meant to say that they didn’t see themselves as followers of a new religion but as followers of the true way to God, as Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The relationship between Judaism at the time of Christ and what eventually became known as Christianity is similar to the relationship between John Hus and the Catholic Church. Hus didn’t intend to start a new church, but he sought to reform the church by calling it back to the true ways of God. In light of a corrupt generation, Jesus came to call the people back to God and also to fulfill God’s plan of redemption that the Lord had foretold to the people throughout the ages.

Some time would pass between when God first spoke to the people of Israel and established a covenant relationship with them and the time of Jesus’ appearing. In the time between, God gave the people His Law which contained directions for living a godly life and maintaining a relationship with Him. But without the revelation of Jesus, the Law was incomplete. It was a “shadow of the good things” that were to come (Hebrews 10:1). It was a guardian until Christ came (Galatians 3:24). The Law before Jesus’ appearing gave people a temporary solution to the problem of sin. Sin is that thing that breaks our fellowship with God. While it promises us fulfillment and satisfaction, it always leaves us empty and lost, and it leaves others and ourselves wounded and damaged. For the harm and the offense we cause by not following the Lord’s will, our God demands justice. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But our God is also loving and merciful, and even before the time of Jesus’ coming, God provided a way out of the punishment for sin — through sacrifice. With a repentant heart, people could bring an animal sacrifice to God to take the place they deserved to take for their sin. It cost something to them — a precious animal — and many of the animals God allowed for sacrifice had a foul odor to them, further reinforcing the foul consequences of the people’s sinful choices. 

But even this regular sacrifice system was not enough. The repeated sins of the priests and the people built up so much and even tainted the temple of God that something even greater needed to be done to remove the sin of the people. God ordained the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, to do just that. Once a year on the designated Day of Atonement, the High Priest would make a sacrifice for the sins that the people had committed over the last year. First he would sacrifice a bull for his own sin so that he could approach God in the temple’s Holy of Holies. Then he would sacrifice a goat and sprinkle its blood on the mercy seat of God to cover the sins of the people. A second goat was also brought to the temple. This goat was not sacrificed, but rather the High Priest would lay hands on the goat and confess over it all the wickedness of the people. He would then send the goat out into the wilderness to carry the people’s sins to a remote place (Leviticus 16:22). This was done as a symbol to the people to show that as far as the east is from the west, so far has the Lord removed the people’s sins from them (Psalm 103:12). 

The Day of Atonement provided a means for people to be freed from the punishment of their sin, to be healed from the burden and guilt of their disobedience, and to be made right with God again, but this too was insufficient. It was a temporary fix. This sacrifice had to be performed year after year, with a new bull and a new goat. But with Jesus’ coming, something changed. On Calvary, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood and obtained eternal redemption for the people (Hebrews 9:12). What can be more powerful than God saying, “I, Myself, will pay for the sins of my people”? Jesus did just that. He paid the price for the sins of humankind, and He offers forgiveness to whoever believes in Him. 

Today, followers of Judaism still celebrate the Day of Atonement because they do not believe in the work of Jesus on the cross. Many followers of Judaism also believe that a sacrifice is no longer necessary for the forgiveness of sins. Rather, through a contrite heart and service we can obtain God’s forgiveness. But God’s standards haven’t changed. Before, God required the blood of creatures for the atonement for one’s life (Lev. 17:11). When Jesus came, the standard was still there, however, Jesus fulfilled that standard with His own blood:  “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus is the final sacrifice and the blood that was shed for our souls. 

We no longer need to observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, because of what Jesus has done for us. This holy day’s place in the history of our faith, however, is a reminder for us. It is a reminder that God loved us so much that He Himself was willing to take the punishment for our sin. The day is also a call for us to look into our hearts and ask God, “Lord, how have I sinned against you?”, to turn back to the Lord, and to receive His forgiveness. And lastly, it is a call for us to talk to God about the wound that we carry as a result of someone else’s sin against us and to ask God to help us to forgive that person. 

All is made right with the Lord. May we receive His forgiveness, His healing, and His help this month as we accept His gracious invitation to come to Him. Amen. 

2019

SEPTEMBER FROM OUR PASTORS

Getting Back on Track With God

By the time you read this, you will have without a doubt dropped off your child at the bus stop four or five times already, picked him or her up from soccer, football, cheerleading, or band practice several times, and packed a few lunches. If you aren’t a parent of a child in school, maybe you help with some of the running around, or maybe you’ve noticed how traffic has gotten a little busier on your way to work. Maybe you’ve heard the sound of whistles or snare drums from your back yard. Whether you are in school or not, back-to-school affects all of us. We’re entering — indeed have entered — the season of busyness once again. 

Just as January marks the start of the new year, the end of August into September marks a change in the seasons of our life. It is the start of something new. We’re turning the page onto the next chapter, and as we turn that page and embark into the new, God grants us the opportunity to start on the right foot and get back on the right path. Perhaps you’ve wandered away a little bit. Well, today is the day you can get right with God again. Today is the day you can ask God to realign you with the purpose for which He has redeemed you — to serve Him and give Him glory. Today is the day in which you can ask God where the good way is so you may walk in it find rest for your soul.

We can do a few things to help us get back on track with God. First is giving thanks. When we give God thanks, we remind our souls that God is the giver and that everything we have is thanks to the Him. As Jesus says, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) One of the first acts of humankind recorded in the Bible is the giving of an offering (Genesis 4). In particular, Abel gave to God the fat portions of the firstborn of his flock. This was good meat from the very first animals to be born in his flock. Abel drew near in his heart to God to give Him thanks. As we turn that page to the start of the new season of life, we too can draw near to God as we give Him a piece of our time, our energy, and our resources as a thank you. In our offering, we move closer to our Father and we embrace Him with a hug and thank Him for all He has done for us. 

At the start of something new, there are usually tasks to be done, forms to be filled out, questions to be answered, and problems to be addressed. It can feel like we have no time to do anything but to get to work. To stop to do anything, especially to spend time with God, can seem crazy in the moment. But this is the model that God gives us. Before He embarked on His mission to preach the Gospel, Jesus turned to God in prayer (Mark 1:35-39). Likewise, at the start of his reign, King Solomon, did not forget God but turned to the Lord to make sacrifices to Him. It was as Solomon drew near to God by giving sacrifices that God drew near to Solomon. In a dream, God said to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5). Surprisingly, Solomon did not ask for wealth or the defeat of his enemies, but he asked for wisdom to rule in the right way. He said to God, “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties … So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7,9). Solomon called himself a little child, but he was probably about 20 years old at this time. By calling himself a little child, he acknowledged how little he knew and how much he needed God to complete the tasks ahead of him. This sincere humility and desire for God’s help pleased the Lord, and God gave Solomon the wisdom he needed. Won’t God do the same for us if we ask Him? As we turn the page to the start of this new season, things can seem overwhelming, but if we turn it over to the Lord and ask for His help, He promises to be there for us. 

One last way we can get back on track with God this season is to remind ourselves of our purpose. There are a lot of things that may demand our attention as mentioned above and a lot of things to which we might want to give our attention. But in the midst of it all, God wants us to remember why we are here:  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). As believers born again into the family of God, the Lord has equipped us with gifts of the Holy Spirit to help, to serve, to teach, to give, to encourage, to lead, to show mercy, and more (Romans 12:6-7). Jesus has rescued us with His blood from an empty way of life so that we may live for Him and make His name known to all. Along with our prayer for wisdom each day should be the prayer, “Lord Jesus, how can I serve you today?” 

As we begin this fall, let us take time to thank God each day, to pray for His help and direction, and to pray for Him to renew in us our purpose as His servants. Let us get back on track with Jesus and His plan for our lives. To Him be the glory, both now and forever. Amen!

In His Service, 

Pastors Garritt and Sanette 

2019

AUGUST FROM OUR PASTORS

Giving Thanks for Hardship

“For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:10-12)

Psalm 66 begins as prayer of praise. “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (verse 3). “Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind!” (verse 5). What are these deeds? Verse 6:  “He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot…He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.” (verses 6,9). But interspersed with an expression of thanks and praise to God for His wonderworking and deliverance, we find these verses “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.” These hardly seem like pleasant experiences and reasons for giving God thanks. Do I wake up and give God thanks for the pain in my back? Do I thank God for the disappointment I feel when the thing I hoped for doesn’t happen? 

Hardship, trials, pain are not fun things to go through, and no, they are not always caused by God. In the book of Genesis, Joseph finds himself bruised and abandoned in a well not because God desired him to go through suffering, but because Joseph’s brothers, filled with jealousy, wanted to get rid of him (Genesis 37:19). 

But sometimes the burdens on our backs are from God. Not only are they sometimes from God, but we might also consider them a gift of God. They are God’s method for preserving us, protecting us, and making us more like Him. The Bible refers to these kinds of hardships employed by God as discipline:  “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10b-11). As the verses say, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. A broken foot, a sickness, a separation from family or friends — none of these things seem good at the time. But when the wound begins to heal, when relationships begin to be restored and we begin to see how God has shaped and sculpted our character, as we reflect on the lessons we’ve learned, we can see that God was loving us all the way through that trial. In fact, He was loving us more than if had He done nothing, more than if He had not stepped in to do His work. His discipline in itself was an act of love. 

In the face of trials, let us not give up hope, but let us turn to God in obedience and faith. And let us be encouraged by God’s words:  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

In Jesus’ Love,

Pastors Garritt and Sanette 

2019

JULY FROM OUR PASTORS

STRENGTH THROUGH PRAYER

Where does his strength come from? We might wonder this about Jesus as we study His encounters with the Pharisees in chapters five and six of the Gospel of Luke. In these chapters, the Pharisees try to pin down Jesus with argument after argument. First they challenge Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors (Luke 5:30). Then they question Him about what they perceive to be His and His disciples’ lack of spiritual discipline (5:33). Next they criticize Him for working on the Sabbath, first by plucking grains (6:2) and then by healing a sick man (6:11). It’s one battle after another. Even though Jesus wins these battles, we are left wondering, “What is He going to do the next time? How long can He keep going?”

How long can He keep it up? Just as Jesus was fully God, He was “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus “suffered when He was tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). And so if Jesus suffered in the experience of temptation, as He was tempted by the devil on the mountaintop (Luke 4:1-13), then He also must have felt beaten down and fatigued at times by the relentless opposition He received from the Pharisees and others who opposed God’s message. “You unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you?” (Matthew 17:17). Jesus spoke these words as yet again someone didn’t believe in the power of God. Jesus did get tired and weary in His labor for God. 

How did He do it? How did He keep going? Where did His strength come from? After the repeated jabs and punches from the Pharisees as outlined above, we read this:  “And it came to pass, in those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). Yes, He may have been weary, but Jesus did not give up hope. To get the strength He needed — to be replenished — He turned to His Father in prayer. It had been several rounds in the ring with the Pharisees, and so to get His strength back, Jesus spent several rounds in prayer with the Lord. After His time in prayer, Jesus came back refreshed and refilled to serve God. He started by naming the twelve disciples (6:12-16) and then by preaching a sermon in which, among other things, He encouraged the disciples to take heart when they are being persecuted, because great is their reward in heaven (6:23). 

We see how not just here but in other instances, prayer is Jesus’ go-to for a recharge. He spends an evening healing a village of people; the next morning where is He? — in prayer (Mark 1:35). After feeding the five thousand, Jesus dismisses the crowd, and what happens next? He goes “on a mountainside by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23). Just before He goes to the cross, where does He go? He goes out “as usual to the Mount of Olives.” To do what? To pray (Luke 22:39). 

It’s at the Mount of Olives that Jesus reveals a secret about prayer. He says to the disciples:  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). There are very real pressures of fatigue and weariness that will come and that will tempt us to give-in and give-up. But those things are a signal to us that we need prayer more than ever. Prayer is the antidote. 

It is during Jesus’ prayer that an angel comes to give Him strength (Luke 22:43). God ministers to us through the time we spend with Him in prayer, giving us answers, strength, direction, help, and deliverance. 

Sometimes we get to the end of the day or the end of the week and say, “I just need to decompress.” “I need to lie down.” “I need to watch some TV.” All of that is OK. We need to stop sometimes and separate from our stress. But to really make it through, to really keep on going, to truly be restored, we need something more:  we need time with God. We need time in prayer. 

This month, do not forsake Jesus’ invitation to you come away with Him and pray. In prayer, He will restore you, help you, and give you the strength you need. Amen. 

2019

JUNE FROM OUR PASTORS

Lord Teach Us How To Pray

In Luke 11:1-13 the word of God says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:” “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil…” For Thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever and ever amen. 


Notice, the disciples didn’t say, “Lord teach us to preach.” The also didn’t say, “Lord teach us to lead.” Nor did the disciple say to Jesus, “Lord, teach to heal.” Rather, of all that that they could have asked Jesus to teach them, they ask Him to teach them how to pray. They must have noticed that there is power in praying. Jesus, whom they witness exhibiting the power of God to heal, cast out demons, bring the dead to life, is the same Jesus they witness spending quality time in prayer to the Father. 


Notice also that they mentioned John The Baptist as having taught his disciples how to pray. They would have known and believed that John the Baptist was a prophet send from God, equipped by God, and in the model of one of Israel’s greatest prophets, Elijah. So here they are witnessing two people who are filled with the power of God, and they notice that their power came through prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 


When we pray, our Heavenly Father changes our perspectives, our attitude, our resolve, our vision, our heart, and our hearing. Every one of our senses are altered. Hence the reason why, when we commit things to prayer we are able to better discern what we are to do, we are able to love even the person who slaps us on one cheek, we are equipped with wisdom to know when to be still and silent versus when to move and speak. Prayer also releases us from the burden of sin and the weight of the various trials in life that we are experiencing. 


It’s not that the disciples didn’t know how to pray. In fact they grew up in a praying society. Jewish worship and rituals consist of a lavish prayer life. They were constantly praying. Even today, if you travel to New York City and have have the privilege of being on the subway with an Orthodox Jew, you will see his or her torah (bible) open and in hand and see him or her moving in forward and backward, praying through the Psalms. 


However, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray because they recognize that they did not know how to pray with the kind of authority with which Jesus and John the Baptist prayed. When Jesus and John the Baptist prayed, everything changed and that’s how the disciples wanted pray. They wanted to pray by the authority of God the Father in Jesus Christ, and NOT by the authority of their flesh and earthly wisdom. Notice the difference? 
Ask the Lord to teach you how to pray and what to pray about concerning anything that you are going through. Don’t just pray, but pray according to the authority of our Heavenly Father, whose name is Holy (Hallowed). Amen.