If you ever need encouragement about God's involvement with your life, read Psalm 139, the whole thing. King David, who wrote it, paints a positive picture of how much God knows us intimately, protects us, and is never far from us. This is a psalm you need to read, especially if you think God isn't answering or hearing your prayers, because it will encourage you to keep praying. Some might ask why we have to pray if God knows what we are going to say before we even say it (Psalm 139:4). But, if we took that attitude, we would miss out on intimacy with God, hearing Him when He answers, and the power of prayer.
Ash Wednesday, for main-stream churches, is traditionally the start of forty days of fasting to observe the Lenten season. I grew up in the Anglican church where it was observed, but when I married into the Baptist church, this observance went mostly unnoticed. If it wasn't in the Bible, it was not something God ordained, so it simply wasn't a "thing" with Baptists or any Bible-based churches.
Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season is a man-made construct but one created with good intentions. It is to be a period of reflection and preparation for Christ's burial and resurrection. It can be a very satisfying spiritual journey when done correctly. The forty days is in remembrance of Jesus' time spent in the wilderness, where he fasted and was tempted to sin by the devil for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4). But for many Christians, this commitment to "fasting" has transitioned more into a second attempt at a forgotten New Year's resolution. Now people are goal setting (losing "X" amount of pounds in forty days) or giving up a luxury or guilty pleasure of some sort, (taking the bus instead of a car or giving up chocolate). Sadly, what the church began as an exercise in growing spiritually, has de-evolved into how one can best help themselves for the next forty days. So today, I am going to re-appropriate a post I wrote on the true meaning of fasting and share it again here.
This is what God said true fasting should look like:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test
How do I know God's will for my life? How do I "renew" my mind? There is only one way to have a renewed mind that is transformed and not conformed to the patterns of this world. Without this way you will never know God, never grow spiritually, and never understand what it means to follow Jesus.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
Christians often use the verse above as a source of comfort when our plans fall through or life gets too hard. I know in my own life because I have so much to deal with concerning my health, it's nice to have one of those "go-to" verses that help me not lose hope or give up entirely.
Prosperity teachers would have you believe that Jeremiah 29:11 is all about how God wants us to prosper financially. But that is not what this verse is all about. So what does Jeremiah 29:11 tell us about God? What are His plans for us? Especially in pandemic times?
You may think your God-given gift is a special talent in writing, music, art, etc. A special talent is something you excel at. You either practised all your life to become the best, or it just came naturally to you - like God made you for that particular purpose.
Or, your God-given gift could be what you like to do the most in life, what you enjoy doing more than anything. In truth, that could also be closely aligned with your talent. I loved singing and had a powerful soprano voice, so when I felt led into a singing career it seemed natural to do so. When I came to the realization that perhaps God gave me the gift of singing to glorify Him and spread the Gospel, I used my voice for Him, rather than for my personal gain.
Now, you will notice that I have not talked about Spiritual Gifts. There is a reason for that. These gifts are given when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. But, God-given gifts are different in that they have been with us since before we were born.