Category Archives: Devotional

Assessing Our Spiritual Growth

Wrapping up the 3rd Quarter of the Year this weekend. 92 more days of 2017! Good time to assess ourselves spiritually. A good 4th quarter will probably make those January resolutions a little easier. Ha!

Our church strategizes around Five Catalyst for Spiritual Growth. They are also good tools for assessing our spiritual lives. These came out of a personal investigation of things I’ve heard Spiritual Giants Say.  Pray or journal through these questions.

1. Know the Gospel – Am I depending on Jesus’ work and strength through me or my ability to perform and control? Remind yourself of the Gospel HERE and HERE.

2. Personal Devotional Habits – Am I spending time being fed and filled by Jesus through His Word and prayer? Take an on ramp to this catalyst HERE.

3. Engaging in Ministry – Am I using my gifts with radical generosity or holding on to / burying what God has given me? Christianity and Church only make sense through the lens of service. 

4. Building Catalytic Relationships – Am I involved in any relationships that encourage, challenge, and hold me accountable? Why Bother with Relationships?

5. Experiencing God’s Providential Care – Am I depending on God and graciously receiving help from others as I experience trials? Are my eyes open to how I can be the body of Christ to others experiencing hardships?

God desires for you to grow. Spiritual growth is not automatic. These catalysts reflect the tools we have for spiritual growth. Praying that this fall you  will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

“It all started when…”

Living On Mission is a lifestyle, not just an event. I overheard two great stories recently that impressed this truth on me once again.

“I’ll not charge you the impound fee on your car if you go to church with me this Sunday.”

A Tow Truck Driver said this to a young man who was drug addicted and being arrested. That young man went to church and began a journey toward Christ that now, years later, has him planting a new church in Louisiana.

Thank God for On Mission Tow Truck Drivers!

“I’m not worried about the van. Just glad you are ok.”

A small church worked hard and bought a brand new van. A drunk driver ran off the road, hit and totaled the van. The Pastor of the church approached the young driver with forgiveness, concern, and prayer. That started that young man on a journey toward Christ that now, years later, has him planting a new church in Louisiana.

Thank God for On Mission small church Pastors!

Generosity, Forgiveness, Concern, Prayerfulness, Inviting. These should all be rhythms of life for the on mission Christian. Small acts of obedience in the moment, may seem insignificant, BUT KEEP WATCHING! Years from now, they may turn into somebody saying, “It all started when…”

Carry Me

“I was all the time tugging and carrying water. But now I have a river that carries me.”

D.L. Moody

“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

‭‭Jesus, John‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬ – http://bible.com/116/jhn.4.14.nlt

  • Constantly feeling the tension of the ropes reminds us of our great need for his strength.
  • Finding ourselves thirsty, reminds us to give up on anything that promises refreshment.
  • Spring up, O well within. Carry me.

Replace FOMO with FOOMO

PhoneWe’re hearing a lot about FOMO these days or Fear Of Missing Out. Evidently Social Media is leading us to be consumed with what others are doing, instead of what we are doing. Studies show that up to 75% of young adults experience this. Oxford has even added this acronym to its English dictionary. Definition:

 Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.

Evangelical Christians of old suffered from another form of this, but it actually has added benefit to your life and the life of others. Try FOOMO. Fear Of OTHERS Missing Out. Specifically, the fear of others missing out on the promises of God in Christ.

“I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood.” Romans 9:3

“because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.” 2 Corinthians 5:11

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.” Colossians 1:28-2

What if we were consumed with the fear that friends, relatives, associates, neighbors were separated from God and it was up to us to help them bridge that gap. This is the anxiety that leads to obedience to God’s commission for our lives and the salvation and spiritual maturity of others.

Experts say FOMO is driven by what we give attention to. Giving too much attention to social media = mis-allocating attention. Let’s try giving more attention to the needs of others and especially their need to connect with Christ this week.

Turn off Social Media and get started by doing one of these this week:

  • Invite a friend to church this weekend.
  • Get to know a new neighbor.
  • Spend focused time in prayer for your Friends, Relatives, Associates Neighbors to know God.
  • Volunteer at local schools or neighborhood centers.
  • Start a Bible Study or book club in your home and invite those who are far from God.
  • Share your faith journey with someone over coffee or lunch.
  • Give away a copy of the Bible or a book that’s helped you grow.
  • Look for a project that you and your family could do to bless someone to need.
  • Don’t go alone. Invite someone along that might could use a listening ear or time away from their routine today.

 

In Christ = Relationship, Divine Presence, Family

RELATIONSHIP

“through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus” 

DIVINE PRESENCE

“those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ” 

FAMILY

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus”  

Galatians 3:26-28 (CSB)

Relationship, so we’re loved and accepted.

Divine Presence, for when we need help that’s beyond ourselves.

Family, so that we’re never alone or abandoned

Thank you Father, for making us sons and daughters, for giving us the promise of your presence, and for making us part of your great family. Let us live that others may know you, feel your presence, and desire to become a part of your great kingdom. 

Co-operation, Commitment, Communion, Commission

Prayer is co-operation with God. It is the purest exercise of the faculties God has given us—an exercise that links these faculties with the Maker to work out the intentions He had in mind in their creation. Prayer is aligning ourselves with the purposes of God…

Prayer is commitment. We don’t merely co-operate with God with certain things held back within… We, the total person, co-operate. This means that co-operation equals commitment. Prayer means that the total you is praying… Your whole being reaches out to God, and God … reaches down to you…

Prayer is communion. Prayer is a means, but often it is an end in itself… There are times when your own wants and the needs of others drop away and you want just to look on His face and tell Him how much you love Him…

Prayer is commission. Out of the quietness with God, power is generated that turns the spiritual machinery of the world. When you pray, you begin to feel the sense of being sent, that the divine compulsion is upon you.

… E. Stanley Jones in Growing Spiritually. Via CQOTD

Family Devotions: Yes! They ARE Listening!

Good encouragement here from Tony Evans, for when the Family Devotion just seems like a lot of commotion. Parents, keep showing up!

There were times when our four kids would be acting up around the table while I was trying to lead devotions, and it would irritate me. They would be talking out of turn, or one would be pouting. It just seemed like a lot of commotion rather than devotion! I admit there were even times when I called it quits and told everyone to go to their rooms because they weren’t paying attention or they were being disrespectful. But more times than not, I stuck it out, and then, at a later point, I would be surprised how one child or another would bring up something I thought for sure no one had heard during the devotions at the table simply due to the noise. They were listening— even when it didn’t look like they were listening. Those were the moments God used to remind me to hang in there when I would want to walk away from the table early and call it a night. I would remember that it was my responsibility to train these children to the best of my ability— imperfectly but consistently. I was called to show up and do my part, leaving the hard work of getting the truth into their hearts to God.

Excerpted from Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans

Hudson Taylor on Faith, Spending, and Debt

hudsontaylorsecretOne of my all time favorite books that I try to read at least every other year or so is Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China in the mid to late 1800’s. The book is a biography written by his children that details his work establishing the China Inland Mission which is still in operation today.

What’s the secret? The secret lies in his deep devotional life and trust in God to provide as a rule of life. As he stated:

Drawing for every need temporal or spiritual, upon “the fathomless wealth of Christ.”

This of course influenced his view on debt and spending which he saw as contradictory to a life of faith in God to provide:

To borrow money implied to my mind a contradiction of Scripture – a confession that God had withheld some good thing, and a determination to get for ourselves what he had not given.

Debt is now being called a national disaster. So many start out their careers burdened with tens of thousands of dollars. We drive and possess much that we don’t completely own. The thought of living without or waiting on God is foreign to our generation. What if we trusted God to know and provide what we needed? Think about these questions:

  • Are you burdened with debt? Maybe you need to get on a plan to get rid of it and began living in freedom. Our family has found Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace materials to be helpful in this regard.
  • Do you feel a sense of entitlement to have that leads you to consider buying what you can’t afford? Try getting on a budget that allows you to live on what you actually make and set priorities for what you need and want. You might be surprised how richly God has blessed you and how satisfied you might be in Him, without a hunger for more stuff. Our family uses YNAB or You Need A Budget to track expenses and set our monthly budget. Also check out EveryDollar.com.
  • Would you love to give and live generously, but you can’t because of things you have (too many debt payments) or things you want? God promises to provide for the sacrificial, regular, cheerful giver. God directs us to store up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Giving and living simply are great tools in this regard.

It takes discipline to try to live with generosity and without debt, credit cards, overspending today. But it’s worth it. Check out a few other Hudson Taylor quotes on money that challenge me to live simply and generously with complete faith in God:

  • “My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.”
  • “We can afford to have as little as the Lord chooses to give.”
  • “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.”
  • Once when told the bank account was down to $.87 he said, “We have $.87 and all the promises of God.”

 

Prayer is… 8 Definitions in the Lord’s Prayer

 

This weekend at our church we looked at the Lord’s Prayer & surrounding scriptures (Matthew 6:6-18) through the lens of how important prayer is to the believer. Jesus gave us a great model, but He also defined prayer for us by His life & His teaching. So what is prayer?

1. Prayer is ASSUMED for the Christ Follower. (Matthew 6:6)

Jesus said “When you pray…” not if. (verse 6). Is prayer a regular part of your life? Is it a when or if?

2. Prayer is RELATIONSHIP with God. (Matthew 6:5-8). 

Prayer is how we relate to, learn from, seek help from our Father in Heaven. You can’t start the Christian life without praying  (Romans 10:9, 13). You can’t maintain a healthy Christian life without praying. (John 15:5, 7). And Jesus says God doesn’t want repetition or ritual but relationship. 

3. Prayer is WORSHIP of God. (Matthew 6:9)

“hallowed be thy name”. In prayer we acknowledge who God is. And by doing so, who we are not. God wants to know our cares & anxieties (1 Peter 5:7) & our requests (Phil 4:6), but the greatest thing we do when we pray is acknowledge that He is Lord & we are his servants. That’s worship.

4. Prayer is GROWTH in HUNGER for God. (Matthew 6:10)  

When we pray, we should acknowledge & demonstrate our desire to see His will accomplished & His kingdom expanded. Are all your prayers about you and your desires or about aligning your life with God’s desires? (see James 4:3)

5. Prayer is FAITH in God TO PROVIDE. (Matthew 6:11) 

Prayer is a great act of faith. It is an acknowledgement that God exists & that He is providing for our lives.

6. Prayer is HEALING & FORGIVENESS. (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). 

In prayer & relationships with God is where we find healing & forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says that when in prayer, we confess our sins to Him, He promises to cleanse us.

7. Prayer is DELIVERANCE from SIN. (Matthew 6:13)  

Prayer & relationship with God will also help keep us from sin. When you’re aligned with God’s will, acknowledging God’s authority, depending upon God’s power, hungry for God, there’s not that much appetite for sin. Also, in our relationship with God, He promises insight & wisdom that may keep us from paths of sin.

8. Prayer is SURRENDER to GOD’S WILL. (Matthew 6:13)

In prayer, we acknowledge God’s authority & surrender our will to His.

Which one of these jumps out at you as an area of need in your life right now? How will you make prayer a regular part of your life this year?

Get the audio from Sunday’s gathering HERE. Download resources on Prayer & Fasting HERE.

“When you pray… When you fast…” ~ Jesus

prayer3Jesus seemed to assume that prayer and fasting would be a part of the lives of his followers. He didn’t say “if” but “when.” With his assumptions we see again that spiritual disciplines were not just meant for the clergy, but for everyone. In January, our church typically participates in a 21-Day Prayer & Fasting plan. With that in mind, here’s some basics on fasting from a few of my favorite books on the subject of prayer.

From Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster:

  • Fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. It’s not a hunger strike or a form of dieting. Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes.
  • Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained.
  • More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that controls us. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface.
  • In Scripture the normal means of fasting involves abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water (Luke 4:2).
  • Sometimes a partial fast is described. Like Daniel, “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth” (Daniel 10:3).

Isaiah 58 is one of the best resources on fasting in the Bible. Tom Eliff in his great book, A Passion for Prayer shares an outline with us on improper and proper motivations for and the promised benefits of fasting:

Four Improper Reasons for Fasting:

  1. Fasting to get God’s attention (Isaiah 58:3a).
  2. Fasting w/o focusing on the Lord (Isaiah 58:3b).
  3. Fasting w/o humility of heart (Isaiah 58:4).
  4. Fasting for a brief external show of piety (Isaiah 58:5). Jesus spoke against this as well in Matthew 6:16-18.

Proper motivations for fasting (Isaiah 5:6-7):

  1. To bring spiritual liberation and freedom.
  2. To relieve heavy burdens.
  3. To increase our awareness of the needs of others.

God’s promised benefits for those who fast sincerely and seriously:

  1. Insight and understanding (v. 8)
  2. Physical well-being (v. 8)
  3. A deep sense of what is right (v.8)
  4. God’s presence to protect and provide (v. 8)
  5. A sense of immediate access to God (v. 9)
  6. Release from spiritual oppression (v. 10)
  7. Real-time guidance from God (v. 11)
  8. Satisfaction and joy during difficult times (v. 11)
  9. Increased strength to accomplish the Lord’s work (v. 11)
  10. Fruitfulness (v. 11)
  11. Recovering and restoring culture (v. 12)
  12. Rebuilding what was destroyed (v. 12)

Some Options for introducing fasting into your life:

As you consider fasting, before conducting an extended, lengthy complete or total fast from all food, consider your past health and conditioning and some of you may want to consult a doctor. Consider your work. If your work is rigorous then you need food for energy to give your best to your employer. A complete fast may not be for you at this point. Here are a few other options:

  • One meal each day—The fast is not about only giving up food, but also includes praying during mealtime. Jesus said, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). It takes about an hour to prepare a meal or travel to a restaurant or get ready to eat. So this time is a perfect opportunity to pray. Those who work in hot exhausting jobs cannot fast completely because they need their strength and stamina for physical exertion. However, they can sacrifice one meal a day for the Lord.
  • Two meals each day—Some people can pray for two hours each day, sacrificing two meals to the Lord.
  • Eat only veggies—The Daniel Fast involves giving up meats, desserts and snacks, eating only the food that Daniel most likely ate. While the fast doesn’t give extra time to pray, it is a commitment of the heart that when joined with prayer, moves the heart of God.
  • Give up television—Secular people might laugh at “fasting television” or “sacrificing television” but it is a commitment to God to place loyalty to Christ first above all else. This is a spiritual choice in response to Christ, who promises, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
  • Give up sports—Giving up bowling league, golfing, fishing, jogging or other activity for a season (such as 40 days) to pray during that time is a choice. It places spiritual exercise above physical exercise.“Bodily exercise profits little, but godliness is profitable for all things” (1Timothy 4:8).
  • Give up pleasure reading—Beyond what you must read for your work or preparing for teaching the Word of God, pleasure reading could be turned into prayer time. You could consider laying aside reading the daily newspaper too.
  • Restrict mobile phone use and text messaging—While some of these communication devices are necessary, they are serious time robbers that could be placed aside for praying.
  • Facebook and other social media—These activities can consume huge chunks of time. Part of a fast could be to cease social media and use the time for prayer and intercession.
  • Other—There may be something that the Holy Spirit brings to mind that you could place aside for a season while you focus on more prayer.

The Daniel Food Fast 

Also check out www.ultimatedanielfast.com & www.danielplan.com/ for info, recipes, & more.

The Daniel Food Fast is a very healthy way to eat. So health professionals will support this eating plan but might suggest a few modifications if you have health issues that need special attention. For example, pregnant and nursing mothers might get instructions to add fish, chicken and cheese into the Daniel Food Fast but otherwise stay the course. Diabetics may need to add more carbohydrates or include chicken and fish. Also, those who are especially active either through sports, bodybuilding or vocation may need to slightly alter the eating plan. I encourage you to check with your doctor . . . and by the way, being addicted to Snickers and Coke don’t count as a special need!

What is the Daniel Food Fast?  

The Daniel Food Fast is a biblically based partial fast. It is a method of fasting that men, women and young people all over the world are using as they enter into the spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting.

There are two anchoring scriptures for the Daniel Food Fast. In Daniel 1, the Prophet ate only vegetables (that would have included fruits) and drank only water. So from these scriptures we get two of the guidelines for the fast:

1. Only fruits and vegetables

2. Only water for a beverage

Then in Daniel 10, we read that the Prophet ate no meat nor any precious breads or foods and he drank no wine for 21 days. So from this scripture, we get a third guideline:

3. No sweeteners and no breads

Another important guideline is drawn from Jewish fasting principles, where no leaven is used during the fast. So that’s why yeast, baking powder and the like are not allowed on the Daniel Food Fast.

Check out www.danielplan.com & www.ultimatedanielfast.com for more info, including recipes.

Other resources for your 21 Day’s of Prayer & Fasting:

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