Week of Fasting

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Exodus 20: 1-3 reads; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”  Why do you think we need a commandment like this? To love and be devoted to the Lord who saved us? What is it about our heart that can’t find contentment in the Lord alone? The Passion Week is a great opportunity to consider fasting.  Fasting is great way to draw near to God. Below are a number of biblical reasons for fasting.   Begin the week asking God to speak to you about fasting. 

 

Key Verse: Philippians 4:12 "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

 

Additional verses for meditation and study:

Biblical reasons for fasting:

·       To humble ourselves before God - Psalm 35:13

·       Distress and grief - Judges 20:26

·       Repentance - 1 Samuel 7:6, Joel 2:12-13, Nehemiah 9:1-2

·       Spiritual strength - Mathew 4:1-11, Ezra 8:23

·       Help making important decisions - Acts 13:2, 14:23

·       Drawing closer to God and separating yourself from the world - James 4:8, Romans 12:1-2

·       Warnings against fasting (not to manipulate favor or works based salvation) - Titus3:5-7

 

Prayer discipline:

·       The practice of fasting is less about what you are giving up and more about what you are replacing it with. In this case make a deliberate effort to spend time reading the word seeking God in prayer listening for his voice and praying for others. Don’t simply not eat, and “will yourself” through it. Fasting is not a diet plan. It’s replacing food with God and experiencing our true dependence on him and his genuine sufficiency in our lives.

·       Ask the Lord this week leading up to Easter to reveal the things in your life that prevent you from finding contentment in Him.  Ask him to show you the way to freedom from those things.  Ask the Lord to give you a change of heart and to find your contentment in him and not in your life’s circumstance.

 

Listen to the DEC | Lent playlist on Spotify

Asking God

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Have you ever noticed a little toddler interact with their parents? They are so un-abashedly petitioning!  “Dad help me with…” “Mom can I ….”” Can I have a …..” What do you think those kids haven’t learned yet? What fundamental belief about their parents do they have to have in order to ask so willingly? Some of this might illustrate the child like faith that Jesus talks about in Matthew 19:13-15.  What do you think we learn later as adults that might stop us from being so willing to ask God our Father so openly?  What comes more naturally to you, asking for yourself or others? Why do you think that is?

Key Verse: Ephesians 6:18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

 

Additional verses for meditation and study:

·       Mark 9:14-27, Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 7:7-12

The Scriptures are more than stories, more than moral lessons. They reveal the Heart of God, his character, and his desire. Ask God to meet you here, in the passages this week. Ask him to open your eyes to see him, to unblock your ears to hear him, and to soften your heart to trust him.

 

Read Mark 9:14-27

·       What do you think prevents the Father from asking out right? Why is Jesus frustrated? In the end, the father says something profound. "I believe, help me in my unbelief."

·       What do you think the relationship is between asking Jesus for something and believing that he will do it? (Mark 9:23)

·        What about Jesus’ heart is revealed here?

 

Read Mathew 11:28-30

·       What are the reasons given for laying our burdens on the Lord? 

·       What about Jesus’ heart is revealed here?

 

Read Matthew 7:7-12

·       What does this passage say about asking God?  What reason does Jesus give? 

·       What does Jesus say about the Fathers heart for his children?

 

Special Prayer discipline:

Find a quiet place without distraction. Ask God to bring to mind your needs, fears, anxieties, and worries. One at a time as they come to mind offer them up to him claiming one of the passages you read above. 

1. Help me believe you can

2. Lord your shoulders are wide and this burden is too heavy for me please carry it

3. You are a father who loves me and has asked me to come to you. So I’m coming to my daddy who loves me…

 

Listen to the DEC | Lent playlist on Spotify

Giving Thanks to God

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We are constantly teaching our children to say “thank you”. And we may be a little annoyed by those who don't. Why do we do that? Is it so that our kids are polite? Is it because we don’t want people to think we are bad parents? Is there some character quality that we want our children to possess? If we are honest parents it's probably a little bit of all of them. The question we are all faced with in our own lives and that of our children is “How is a thankful heart developed or cultivated?” 

 

Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Additional verses for meditation and study:

·       Luke 17:11-19, Psalm 100

Prayerful time in God’s word:

Ask the Lord to show you the ways he has been good to you. Wait silently and listen for his voice.  When something comes to mind simply thank him for it.

 

Read Luke 17:11-19

·       Look at the request of the ten lepers. What do you think they meant by 'have pity on them'?  Do they seem entitled to you? Why or why not?

·       What was the reaction of the one that returned? How do you think he felt and why? Why did the other nine not return?

 

Special Prayer Discipline:

·       This week ask God to show you the places that he has “healed you” and 'had pity on you'.  Respond in the same heart felt way as the leper in the story. Don’t be bashful or ashamed to be expressive!

·       What are the times that you struggle to be thankful? Ask the lord to help you and give you a thankful heart that responds in action this week.

Here is an Idea:

·       Can we be thankful to God and thankless to people around us?  Ask God to help you see and express thanks to the people he has placed in your life. 

·       On a Pray A-Z prayers of thanks, start with A Example: “Thank you Lord for A-nother day to glorify you, “Thank you Lord for B -eing there for me very day” etc…

 

Listen to the DEC | Lent playlist on Spotify

Confession to God

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Consider the power of a secret lie. On one hand it’s the ultimate attempt to manipulate another.  Weather that’s an attempt to manipulate or control a situation or an opinion or even an outcome, it’s still a manipulation. Have you ever tried to keep a lie secret? What power did it have over you?  Often it eats at us and it’s not long before we realize that the cost of a secret lie outweighs the consequence we were trying to avoid, or at least we desire peace even if the consequence stinks.

Have you ever considered confession like this; If God already knows my sin then why do I need to confess? I wonder if that is even the right question. I wonder if we see confession as the gift that it is. Confession is the beginning of humbling oneself followed closely by repentance. Confession is the acknowledgement that we've done wrong from a wrong heart and we're in great need of God’s forgiveness and restoration. A restoration that was paid for so dearly with Jesus own blood. Confession cleanses us from the guilt we feel and we can hear the words of forgiveness from the God we've sinned against. Thank God he offers us confession and walks with us in repentance.  It's the gift of freeing us from shame and guilt!

 

Key Verse: Psalm 32:5 “Then I acknowledged my sin to you,  and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin."

Additional verses for meditation and study:

·       John 19:15-19, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 103:12

Prayerful time in God’s word:

As you read this passage about Peter’s restoration, ask God to reveal to you your sin, and any relationships in your life that need restoration confession and forgiveness.

 

Read: John 21:15-19 (for important context read John  13:31-38, 18:15-18, 18:25-27)

·       In John 21:15-19; Why do you think Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times?  Why does Peter need to tell Jesus he loves him three times? 

·       Is there a secret shame in your life that you need to confess?  Ask God to reveal it to you? 

·       What is revealed in this passage about the nature and character of Jesus?  What do you think he has to say to you about your sin and shame?

Special Prayer discipline:

This week focus on confession each and every day.  Ask God to reveal to you your sins and be specific, name them before him as they come to your attention and ask for his forgiveness and help with any repentance that is needed.

 

Here’s an Idea: You guessed it! The key verse would make an excellent passage to memorize.  After each sin named and confessed this week repeat the following prayer “Thank you Jesus for dying for me, I don’t deserve your forgiveness but I’m so grateful for it. Thank you for seeing me as your beloved son / daughter. Help me love you as much as you love me.”

 

Listen to the DEC | Lent playlist on Spotify

The Adoration of God

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Have you ever marveled at how God did something in your life that you did not plan for? When we read the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, it's hard not to marvel at God, who he is and all that he does. One look at the genealogy in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 reveals God's incredible sovereignty throughout history to bring about the birth of Jesus the Messiah! Consider this 13 year old girl and her great faith and submission to God's will in the face of incredible opposition and uncertainty. It certainly qualifies as miraculous. The thing that inspires the songs of both Mary and Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) is the realization of who God is, God's “character”.  

 

Key Verse: Isaiah 55:8, 9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.”  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Additional verses for meditation and study:

·       Luke 1: 39-56, Psalm 8, 46

Prayerful time in God’s word:

This week we will be focusing on the character of God and giving him the praise and adoration that he is due. As you read and meditate on Scripture this week ask God to reveal himself to you.  As you see Him through the word as well as in the world around you, give Him praise!

 

Read Luke 1:39-56

·       Make a list of all the things that God does in this passage.  What does each of these things reveal about who God is? 

For example: Luke 1:41 "God caused the baby leaped and filled Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirt. What a gift undeserved and a joy or reassurance, clearly God is so very gracious!"

Special prayer discipline:  Ask God to reveal himself to you in specific ways throughout the day, each day. When you see him at work in scripture and the world around you, name the character quality that is revealed. Give him praise and thanks when you identify it, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Don’t worry who can hear you!

Here is an Idea: Keep memorizing the Key verses.  You might also consider asking a friend at church, or a spouse where they are seeing God at work and praising him together!

Listen to the DEC | Lent playlist on Spotify

God Desires A Relationship

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As we read the bible there is no debating that God desires a relationship with his people.  This week and over the next 40 days we hope that you will participate in these devotions in a “talk with Jesus kind of way”, not an academic “complete the assignment” kind of way. That will mean simply talking with Jesus as you read, throughout your day, and in a deliberate place and time that you have made to meet with him.

Make a decision today to carve out time from your regular daily activities. How much is up to you.  Ask the Lord what he wants and respond to him. 10, 20, 30 minutes? Do what you think he is telling you. As you ask questions of what you are reading, don’t just ask them to yourself or friends, but ask God to show you their meaning and ask God to speak to you. 

Over the next week and in the days to come we encourage you to stop and listen for God's voice. When you do these devotions, we hope that you will draw near to him and we are certain that he will draw near to you. Listen for his voice, we are certain that he is with you!

 

Key verse:  James 4:8 “draw near to God and he will draw near to you”

Additional verses for mediation and study:

·       Moses relationship with God Ex 33:7-33

·       2 Chronicles 15:2, Rev 3:20

Prayerful time in God’s word:

Take some time at the beginning to simply thank God for whatever comes to mind, ask him to help you spend the next few minutes with him. Confess your need for Him and desire to draw near to Him.

  

Read Exodus 33:7-33

Some questions to ponder with God this week:

·       What about Moses’ meeting with God is special and unique? In what unique ways does the Lord want to meet with you and you with him?

·       Looking at Exodus 33:13, Ask the Lord to “teach you his ways, so that you can know him"

·       Make a list of God's ways in this passage and the other passages listed. How do you see God's ways in your life this week? Ask God to reveal his ways to you.

 

Special Prayer Discipline:  In your designated times of prayer make time to “listen” for God's voice. Simply ask him to speak to you. Make note of what he tells you and pray about whatever comes to mind.

 

Here is an Idea: Be sure to pray the key verse this week and consider memorizing it!

 

Key Verse James 4:8 “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

 

 

Listen to the DEC | Lent playlist on Spotify

Advent | A Week of Peace

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have Peace”. In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer—I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

The scriptures say that in the last days there will be many going around proclaiming “peace”, yet there will be no peace. It doesn’t take much to convince folks that we live in a world and in a time where peace is a terribly scarce commodity. Which is why, this Christmas season, that we hold on dearly to the One who came into this world carrying the title of “Prince of Peace”. The great hope we have in Jesus, is that there is coming a day when He will finally reign in total glory. And on that day there will be no more conflict, no more war, no more violence. As the prophet Isaiah said,

“And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isa. 2:4)

But as we wait for the coming of the Prince of Peace, we must not forget about another kind of peace that is so needed—the peace in our own souls. How many folks seem amazingly concerned about “world peace”, yet inside they are full of hatred, anger, and anxiety? To put it another way, they have no peace in themselves. This is why Jesus’ words above are so important to the believer. It is true that this world will bring to us trials and tribulations, but He tells us not to fret about these things. Instead we are to “be of good cheer”. Why? Because He has already overcome the world.

God’s desire for you today is that as wait for coming of the Prince of Peace, that deep in your soul, you will have the peace that passes understanding. (Phil. 4:7)

 

SCRIPTURES ABOUT PEACE

James 3:13-18; Psalm 29:11; 1 Peter 3:9-11; Isaiah 54:10

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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Advent | A Week of Joy

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:10-11)

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come”. What do you think… is it the best known Christmas song out there (Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High would be right up there)? The strange thing is this—we sing about joy to the world, and yet most folks struggle to even define what joy is.

We know it isn’t the same as “happy”, because happy usually depends on our circumstances. If the weather is awful, if I am sick, if my kids are going bonkers, etc…….. I’m not usually happy. Turn it around: if it is a beautiful day, if my team won a game, if someone in my small group took a huge step of faith…..that stuff makes me “happy”. But joy is different, it is deeper. James says we can “count it all joy when we encounter trials of many kinds” (1:2). But let’s be honest, it is really hard to say “be happy” in the midst of life-crushing trials.

So what is “joy”? It seems to be the flip side of the coin with hope. If hope means we are certain of how the future is going to work out, then joy is that deep seated (somewhere in the soul/heart) response to hope. John Piper says it well, 

            Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.

When the Magi saw the star in the sky, they had great joy, because they knew that the star was pointing to the King of the World and His arrival. The beauty of Christ and His gospel had come, and that was a reason for great joy. No matter what the circumstances may be, the reality that Jesus has come, and we are secure in Him, should bring a great smile (joy) to our souls.

So this Advent season, “ponder anew what the Almighty can do”, and let that put a very deep seated JOY in your soul.

SCRIPTURES ABOUT JOY

Psalm 119:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:1-18; Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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Advent | A Week of Love

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,  being made in human likeness.”   (Phil. 2:5-7)

In Fiddler on the Roof, there comes that great scene where Tevye asks his wife of many years, “Golde, do you love me?” The question sparks quite a dialogue. Golde, starts to recount all the many things that she has done for Tevye over the years they were married, and then sums it up with the question, “if that’s not love, what is?”.

In answering that question, we actually come face to face with Christmas. Because Christmas shows us the true character of God’s love: not just a warm feeling, but an incredible action. How often do we look at the circumstances of the day, and in all earnestness ask God, “do you love me?” Because often life hurts, and things come our way that are painful. And we know there is a God in heaven who is sovereign over the earth….. so why, if He loves me, does He allow these kinds of things to happen to me?

The answers to the specific trauma of the moment may not be easy to discover, but there is one thing that God wants all of us to be sure of…. that Christmas should once and for all settle the question of whether or not He loves us. Think about that passage above in Philippians. Jesus left a throne of glory to become a human, and He did it in the most humbling of ways. He journeyed from a throne to a manger to a cross. And He did this all for you. The goal of it all was to bring you into a family that is eternal. It was an incredible sacrifice, but He willingly did it for you.

So let’s join Golda and say about our Savior,  “if that’s not love, what is?”

 

SCRIPTURES ABOUT LOVE

Psalm 136; John 15:9-17; 1 John 4:9-11; Ephesians 2:4-5

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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Advent | A Week of Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”  1 Pet. 1:3

It is kind of like the movie Groundhog Day. Every day we get up, read/watch the news, and then declare with a certain amount of sadness, “this world is hopeless”. North Korea is going nuts, the sexual improprieties of our nation are on full display, politics has divided our country in the meanest of ways, and the list goes on and on. To be honest, without Jesus, the conclusion that our world is hopeless is spot on.

But as we celebrate that time of year when we focus on the birth of our Lord Jesus, one thing is for sure—Christians are a people full of hope (no matter what is happening in the world around us). Let’s make sure though, that we are speaking the same language. Hope is not the same as wish. “Wish” is a word we use when we would like something to happen that would bless us…..be we don’t really know if it will happen or not (such as, “I wish I could win the lottery”). “Hope” is something totally different. It is having a certainty about something which has yet to occur. That is why in the Bible, our great hope is in Jesus, who arrived in a manger and broke free of the grave. The hope of our future resurrection from the dead is the greatest gift that began on a Christmas years ago. We don’t “wish” for this, we are certain of it—that’s hope.

So during this first week of Advent, take some time, slow down, and let your soul meditate on the hope that you have in Jesus. Hope of ultimate healing. Hope of eternity with the Father. Hope of a heavenly city. Hope of a life free from tears, pain, and death. These are not wishes, they are certain. And that is why Jesus’ return is called “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

 

Scriptures about hope

Luke 2:1-20; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 5:17-26; Jeremiah 17:7-18

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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