Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Ten (January 21): The Joy of Rest

Tonight at the East Campus, our intercessors will gather @ 7:30 p.m. along with the entire congregation for a time of prayer and praise. Congratulations! You’re at the end of the fast. We will break our fast at the end of tonight’s service. Our time of prayer will focus on a number of corporate needs including the economy and the need for a powerful move of God to hit this region. The pastors will lay hands on you and anoint you with oil, as we claim a fresh anointing from God.

Did this fast show you anything about your spiritual strength? What parts of your life needs a fresh visitation? Could it be that your busyness is prevent you from enjoying God’s best…and the rest He promised you? You have witnessed the benefit of a rich devotional time with the Lord. This means that you should now guard your time like a watch dog so that your Sabbath day is not spent doing everything but resting.

We have been designed by God to need rest. Not just the ceasing of physical labor, but the ceasing of emotional and psychological labor. You cannot keep running a hundred miles a minute and expect to sense the glory of God. Even Jesus forced Himself and His disciples to rest when He said: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31b). He knew that restoration of emotional and spiritual energy comes not only through prayer and fasting, but also through quiet moments of solitude and rest.

What will you do to recharge emotionally? How do you guard your rest? What will you do to protect your Sabbath day?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day Nine (January 20): The Joy of Restoration

Tonight at the West Campus, our intercessors will gather to pray with you @ 7:30 p.m. You may want to get there early to help set the tone of intimacy with God. The pastors will also anoint you with oil coupled with the laying on of hands. We want to close our time of prayer with this kind of personalized ministry to you.

I hope you feel restored in your walk with the Lord. Fasting has a way of repairing broken walls and restoring streets with dwellings—two metaphors that symbolize the repairing and restoring of our lives. Through this fast, God restored my joy of studying. Don’t get me wrong. I like studying but the deep joy had not been at the height that it is now.

Now, I am like a kid in a candy store when a book is in my hand. Thank God for His restoring power.

What was restored in your life during this fast?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day Eight (January 19): The Joy of Restoration

Your posts are quite intriguing. But, I’m still wondering if you’ve sat down and knocked out your goals for 2011. Don’t let this year rule you. You must shape your life by managing it with plans, goals, and vision.

Verse 12 of Isaiah 58 gives us a unique value to fasting. Fasting gives us the appetite to rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations of our life. What ancient thing(s) have you seen crumble in your life? Perhaps it was a marriage, an employee to employer relationship, or a pastor to member bond that used to be healthy. Have you ever considered holding out the olive branch—a symbol of peace—to that person? God may be using this fast to repair something that had been ruined in your past.

I would not discount something so precious as God concerning Himself with a private area of our life that you’ve moved away from and now think it unimportant. Pray about it! If God speaks to your heart to shoot someone an email saying: “You were on my heart and I wanted to say: I miss our times together. I wish the painful things didn’t occur; but I want God’s best for you.” Maybe one of the benefits of this fast is not just getting you to move in a new level of spiritual vitality, but also to shift your heart to want to rebuild the age-old foundation of reconciliation and friendship.

Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day Seven (January 18): The Fire of Revival

You’re almost there—the end of the fast. Don’t go hog wild afterwards and sleep in the neighborhood McDonald's. Adopt some healthier eating habits, if you struggled in this area prior to our fast. Your body will love you and your church family will have you for a longer period of time.

What needs have you been asking God to satisfy during this fast? Have you already mapped out your 2011 goals, for the six major areas of your life as this past weekend’s sermon challenged us to do? If not, why not block out some time before Friday and jot down some goals that you’ve always had on your heart. Remember the six areas: 1) Personal & Family; 2) Spiritual & Ethical; 3) Cultural & Societal; 4) Financial & Career; 5) Health & Physical Well Being; and, 6) Mental & Educational.

Ask God for His help in meeting those goals. We’ve all been given the gift of time. And, time is like real estate. God is not making any more of it. If you need to get a friend to coach you in mapping out your 2011 goals, give them a call.

Some people need to have questions put to them in order to formulate an orderly plan about their future. If you’re like that, there’s no harm in it. The harm would be if you simply did not use the gift of time to map out your goals.

What are some of the craziest excuses you’ve heard from friends and family as to why they never outlined personal goals. I need a good laugh. Please share it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day Six (January 17): The Power of Renewal

Verses nine and ten of Isaiah 58 are faith-building tools. Fasting gives you confidence to cry out to God with the kind of attitude that says: “I will not be denied! I cannot be denied! I know that I know that the thing I’m asking God for is aligned with His will.”

This holy boldness comes when your life has been cleansed through repentance. This cleansing of soul allows you to confidently cry to God for help. His response is to say: Here am I.

Fasting should have allowed you some reflective time so that you can “right the ship of your life”. Living in a more Christ-honoring way should now yield greater compassion for hurting people in addition to gaining a greater level of wisdom regarding your own life.

Is there anything in the past 12 months that you were afraid to ask God for? Can you now revisit that need? You should not be hesitant because of your newfound place of spiritual strength and confidence. Go for it!

Post a description of your newfound confidence and boldness in the Lord.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day Five (January 14): The Power of Recognition

God offers a couple of powerful promises when we fast. He says: “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8).

Light represents clarity, wisdom, and understanding. During this fast, ask the Lord for clarity in how you’re to approach this New Year. Ask Him for wisdom in how you can circumvent some of the challenging economic circumstances our nation is facing. He assures us that our fasting is intended to address these kinds of difficulties.

Another wonderful benefit tied to fasting according to verse eight is the unveiling of our righteousness. Righteousness is a character based word. It has to do with how others see and interpret our behavior. Through fasting they will see the uprightness fueling your character and not assume the negative. Who in your life needs to have an altered perspective of you? Pray that they may see your heart…the righteousness that God is unveiling.

During this season of fasting I’ve found myself praying for my level of compassion to increase. And, my fasting is also focused on my character that I may grow in a more patient way with others. What about you? What have you recognized that God is doing in you during this fast?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day Four (January 13): The Power of Realization

Our corporate time of prayer at the East Campus last night was rich. Everyone’s heart was open to engaging the Holy Spirit in a time of intercession. If you were there, you probably could tell that when people are fasting in a God-centered manner, their inner eye—the eye of the soul—is open to pray about the things on the heart of God.

This is what realization is all about. Verses three and four of Isaiah 58 are corrective to anyone embarking on a time of fasting. We are told that if in previous times we did not experience results when we fasted, we must begin to examine the intricacies of our fasting. This is where the power of realization comes in. Realization is the opening of your inner eye to see where your heart is in contrast to God’s heart. Praying in alignment with the will of God is where you reap the wonderful benefits of fasting and prayer.

According to Isaiah 58:5-7, fasting is not limited to spiritual actions or activities. We are not simply to humble our souls. We are to seek social justice for those who’ve been wronged. Our prayers should include loosing the chains of injustice and untying the cords of the yoke. This is Bible language to mean, our fasting must include justice issues along with our personal needs.

My heart breaks whenever I read or hear about children being abused by their parents. I’ve also found myself praying for the Coptic Christians in Egypt who are being targeted by radical Muslims whose goal is to exterminate them for political and religious reasons. Our calling is to seek justice for the underdog. This is not simply limited to prayer, but in practical ways as opportunity exists.

What justice issues are you praying about during this fast? Are there any practical steps that you can take to answer your prayers?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day Three (January 12): The Power of Reflection

I love reading all of your postings. It shows me how the word of God is impacting you in a personal and therapeutic manner. Stay strong during this fast so that you can reap God’s rewards!

Verse three of Isaiah 58 poses a question that triggers an internal wrestling match. We must search our hearts to discover the main reason(s) why we are fasting. To discover your reason perhaps this question will be key: What’s the unmet cry of your heart during this season of your life? This question helps you to learn the power of reflection. You look back to see what’s missing from your life. This helps you to look ahead in prayer and fasting.

Fasting must have a clear direction…a target that you want God’s help in hitting or reaching. This is why the church always publishes its fasting (prayer) goals while encouraging you to identify your own personal reasons for fasting. I’m fasting for a whole host of things including the stimulation and improvement of our nation’s economy. On a personal note, I’m fasting for a greater anointing in my preaching and teaching. The kind of spiritual unction that is more engaging, effective, and transformational to the hearer. Only God can do this for me.

Is there someone in your life that seems unreachable? What do you think God could do if you add this person’s name to your “prayer hit list” during this fast? Topics like this will be the focus of our prayer time at the East Campus tonight @ 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day Two (January 11): The Sweet Smell of Repentance

Fasting was instrumental in the early days of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9). He spent three complete days ensuring that his heart was totally aligned with the heart of God. If you were a fly on the wall during those three days of Paul’s life, what would you have learned? I bet you that you would have seen brokenness of the highest order. This man discovered that he had been 100 percent wrong in how he saw and related to God prior to encountering Jesus along the road to Damascus.

Had we been there, the deep sobs of brokenness probably would have emitted the sweetest aroma—the scent of repentance. This is exactly what Jesus smelled when the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-39) broke the alabaster jar of perfume and wiped his feet with it, as tears of repentance fell from her eyes. Repentance, according to an early church father by the name of Lactantius (A.D. 260-330), is a “recovery of one’s mind”—a return to a mind unperverted by sin. Like the repentant woman regained her spiritual sight, Paul gained a mind unperverted by sin.

The first two verses of Isaiah 58 rings loud and clear in my mind. God’s trumpet is blowing, as we are being urged to search our hearts for any sign of rebellion, hardness of heart towards God, or deep seated sin. The kind of sin that feels comfortable and appears socially acceptable, but to God, even this species of sin is a deal breaker concerning His miracles.

Over the course of this day of fasting I’m asking God to search the crevices of my heart so that I can become a new wineskin fit for the new wine of refreshing (Matt. 9:14-17). If you empty out the pockets of your life—the areas of disobedience—what do you think God would do for you? Or, what do you think God can do through you?

Post a personal story or tell us about someone that you personally know who became transformed when they truly repented of something that God considered a deal breaker concerning His blessings. How can you be motivated to take your repentance to a new level of brokenness?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day One (January 10): The Journey Begins

The 10-day journey of fasting and prayer begins today. I am eager to move to a new dimension in my relationship with God. To experience this transformation, fasting plays a critical role. Isaiah 58 says a whole lot on the do’s and don’ts of fasting. The do’s include seeking God for justice not only for myself but for the oppressed. Anyone oppressed in your family or on your job? In your time of fasting, pray for their deliverance and healing. The do’s also requires me to share my food with the hungry, which is an action of generosity. Imagine that: While I’m fasting, I should be engaged in some loving action that shows mercy to someone else who doesn’t have enough food, clothing, healthcare, etc. to survive in our complicated contemporary era.

The don’ts include my trying to muscle through fasting without a clean heart before God. Isaiah 58:3-5 tells me that I need to consider my motivation, attitude, and behavior before I should expect God to honor my fasting. This is another way of saying: “Start your fast by repenting of your sins. Get that right and God will be more apt to listen and respond to your cry for help.”

Let’s do that…repent! What justice-based prayers will you be praying along the 10-day journey? What social ills are you believing God to correct within your sphere of influence? Who will you be sharing your bread with during this fast?

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