The lines were drawn. We will eat vegetables and drink water and your servants will eat the king’s food. After ten days you observe and see who is in better condition. The ten days passed, the meals ate and as the king observed both groups, it was evident that the four young Hebrew men were stronger. Not only that, but scripture says that God had given them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. While we cannot comprehend how, we cannot deny the fact that God honored their fast, their commitment and faith in God. In the New Testament, after fasting, the powerful and influential church in Antioch was inspired to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. That period of submission brought about an explosion of the gospel that changed the world. It all started with a church that prayed and fasted. Again, how it works we don’t understand, but that it works we cannot deny. As we step into a new year I am encouraging every person to get involved in Life Fast 2019. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a contract between God and His people. It’s a simple contract. If we will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from sin then we will hear from Heaven, He will forgive and He will heal. 2019 can be a year of incredible change and blessing. It starts with making a commitment, staying the course and keeping the faith. Want to see something different happen in your life? Then do something different. Get on board, fast, pray and seek God like never before.
Moving toward a new year, one of your purposes should be to create a culture in your heart, life and home that is growing closer to God. For your spiritual life to be authentic, your relationship with God must become personal; you must have ownership. One of the best ways to grow in passion and make spiritual changes is to read inspiring and challenging books. As you read, take time to pray and fast a day or a meal. Below are some suggested reads for 2019 that will change your life.
- The Bible (Start with Proverbs and read as led.)
- Draw the Circle, The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson
- The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn (365 Day Devotional)
- The Fasting Edge by Jentezen Franklin
- Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
- It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado
- Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin
- Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
- Storm by Jim Cymbala
- Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd
- Men: Play the Man by Mark Batterson
- Ladies: A Heart Like His by Beth Moore
The year, and especially the past nine months, had seen more twist, turns, ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It was more than they could have ever imagined. The announcement of their engagement had filled their lives with celebration, travel, gifts and preparation for marriage. Nowhere in their engagement script was a pregnancy. They were virtuous and God-fearing people. Their family had taught them the law with passion and they loved God with all their heart. But a visit of an angel to Mary brought news beyond comprehension. She was stunned and speechless, filled with joy but at the same time feeling the sting of the overwhelming challenges. To be the one chosen to be overshadowed by the Spirit and bring God to earth was the greatest of honor. To explain it to her family and soon to be groom was nearly an impossible task. Joseph’s angelic dream brings some strength and hope to the moment, but still there are doubts. Those doubts would visit often; the thought of divorce would surface in his mind almost daily. Resolve moves into both of their hearts and they decide they will believe in the words from Heaven. That the pregnancy was supernatural and that God was truly growing inside of a teenager from Nazareth. Though they believed, others didn’t. There were endless questions from their parents. Friends strayed and foes judged. There are whispers, innuendo and downright rude gazes. That an angel visited a young couple from Nazareth with a prophetic word, and teenagers at that, was just too much. May we suggest that there was even mockery. There is an incredible moment when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth; her baby leaps with joy inside her womb. There came flashes of hope when Joseph and Mary were alone and realized, it’s God in her womb. The end of the pregnancy brings yet another challenge. Herod has called for a tax, one that required families to return to the home of their birth. So, nine months pregnant, they begin a pilgrimage. It too is filled with challenges. Dangerous travel, poor weather and challenging terrain are all a part of the journey. Mary, days from birthing a child, must keep up with the caravan. For nearly two weeks, through rain, cold and wind they walk. Down mountain paths, across deserts and then a fifteen-mile ascent through rocky cliffs. When it seems as though it can’t get any more overbearing, it does. Bethlehem, a wide gap in the road on the journey to Jerusalem is their destination. They arrive in the small village only to find the family house already filled with relatives. No room in the house, they are relegated to the stable behind the house. Cold, damp, smelly; what place could be lowlier for the birth of any child, much less God in flesh. A stable, a place for animals now houses God. In the midst of all the hardship and difficulty, when no one could see the possibility, Joseph and Mary likely feeling hurt, lost and forgotten have no idea that the world changed. That night would be end of so much and the beginning of so much more. No one knew that in that moment the dateline would change from B.C. to A.D. No one knew that night that the sheep He laid among would never again have to die for the sins of a man. It was just a rough nine months for two obscure teenagers who believed the impossible could happen through them. Who could have imagined? Probably not Joseph and Mary. Whatever this year has held, whether hills and valleys, twist and turns you’ve walked through, know three things. First, the journey can be hard but you will make it. Second, regardless of how it looks in the moment, the impossible may be taking place in the midst of the most difficult situation. Finally, like Joseph and Mary, God has been with you, is with you and will always be with you. Christmas. The celebration of change!
I need new shoe strings. It’s not that I can’t afford them, it’s just that I haven’t taken time to go to the store. So, I deal with frayed shoe strings that get in tangled knots. Instead of taking a few minutes to make the purchase I find myself spending extended time trying to untangle the knots. What a picture of life. There are so many aspects of life that become complicated, not because God doesn’t have the solution but because we refuse to bring our difficulties to Him. Instead of saying, “God I’ve got a mess or God, this is broken,” we sit for hours, weeks and months trying to untangle, get the “knots” out, by our self. Jesus said, “come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden or overwhelmed and I will give you rest,” in essence just give it to me. How many times do we find ourselves wanting to talk it out with a friend or even worse, trying to fix it our self. Our lives will have areas that get frayed and there will be complications. Just like the solution to my shoe strings is to go to the store and buy a new pair of strings, the solution for our tangled and knotted messes is Jesus. Have complicated situations in your life that’s bringing stress? It’s time to simplify, take them to Jesus. He specializes in taking care of knots and tangled situations.
Moments of opportunity. If we miss them we may miss a life changing experience. They don’t come in neon lights, they come in common every day moments. They come disguised as an opportunity to make a difference in a life, to impact your child with an encouraging word, to take your marriage to a new dimension, to see a dream come to life or to take your faith and spiritual life to another level. Be careful not to miss your moment. Elisha hands king Joash a bundle of arrows and says, “strike the ground.” Joash, oblivious to the opportunity, strikes three times and misses a chance to utterly destroy Israel’s enemy. Agrippa, hearing Paul’s persuading testimony, says, “Paul, you’ve almost persuaded me to be a Christian.” As far as we know, Agrippa never became a Christian, he misses his moment. You never know when a moment or a season of opportunity is coming to an end. It calls us to live with spiritual awareness every day. Too many times we find an excuse instead of opportunity. We look at moments and think it’s too expensive or difficult but it may be too expensive or costly not to act. The woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years hears that Jesus is coming to town. Rather than making excuses, reasoning why she shouldn’t, she chooses to seize her moment of opportunity. In that one moment, her entire life is changed. May I suggest we follow her lead. Seize your moment!
In the prophet Haggai’s day, God had brought His people back from failure and difficult situations. Instead of focusing on what God had done and the possibility, many of the people could only focus on “what was” and on their failures. Haggai’s message was, “the end was going to be greater than the beginning.” To someone today you need to know your best days are in front of you! But it’s a choice. How you view your situation is so important. We have a choice. Do we talk about the past, the problems and the pain? Do we give more power to the failure or the Father? Do we keep grace from covering us, mercy from mending us and forgiveness from freeing us? Do we live in the old house or move to the new? If we move to a new house mindset we see the possibilities in Jesus. In the new house there’s a God view instead of a guilt view. In the new house faith starts speaking, the gifts start working and we start living in the Spirit. In the new house there’s a different countenance on our face, different attitude in our spirit and conversations that springs from our heart. Your end is supposed to be better than your beginning. It’s time for someone to move into a new house.
Back to School Service. It’s the day we take time out as a church community to pray over our students. A prayer cloth is given to each student to remind them that God is surrounding them. We hope they leave today knowing that they can be a person of great influence in their school. Though the challenges are great, the God that is with them is greater. This time that our kids are living in reminds me of Daniel. He was a young man, in a foreign land, that faced amazing adversity yet Daniel 6:3 says, “Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him.” What an amazing statement about this young man. In the midst of a dark world, devoid of God, facing the temptation to blend in, Daniel elected to stand out. He was a leader among leaders. While many around him were talented, gifted and intelligent, Daniel stood out because of His excellent Spirit. Where did it come from? His time spent in devotion with God which created a strong faith in God. To every student, stand out! Stand out by having excellent character. Stand out by going the extra mile. Stand out by having the best spirit. Stand out by living out your faith. Stand out and see where God might take you.