21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 21

herefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58

For all those who participated in the 21 day fast let me say a resounding congratulations!  It is my hope that you God has given you clarity and renewed strength to accomplish the work of the Lord in 2017.  

On a personal note, I want to say what a privilege it is to be your pastor and brother in Christ.  I always believedGod was going to do some crazy cool stuff at DC3 but I’m still amazed when I see lives changed.  Many of you will have seen Chris Clow’s testimony video this week and how God took a “misfit” and used DC3 to bring him home to Christ.  While we know the power to change lives is all God’s, the privilege to be a conduit for God’s power is ours!  And that my dear friends is one huge reason to be thankful.  

So on this final day of the fast, may we be thankful.  

Thankful for where God has brought you from…

Thankful for where you are…. 

And thankful that God is going to use your life, uniquely designed by Him, to day some more crazy cool things in people’s lives.

I love you all and thank God for your friendship and prayers!

2017… Ready… Set… GO!

Here’s a “get pumped for 2017” tune for you!

-Steve

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 20

I love to read.  I like great novels but sometimes it feels overwhelming to get caught up in a long story when life is so busy; so I really enjoy short articles about good workouts, how to lose weight, great recipes, organization, being more efficient, etc.

I was thinking about some articles I’ve read that say how important diet & nutrition are to losing weight.  Exercise is great & necessary for many reasons but if you don’t get that diet in line and make it a lifestyle, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to healthy weight.  Some of the tips they gave were:

  • Plan ahead.  Set a meal plan for each day so that you don’t get caught starving.
  • Quality over quantity.  Eat smaller portions of quality food & be mindful of your choices.
  • Slow down & savor each bite.  Really enjoy & taste what you are consuming.
  • Don’t stand & eat or sit in front of the t.v. where you are mindlessly eating food.

As I thought about those tips, I began to think about it in terms of our time with the Lord.  I love how the Bible often relates food & exercise to our spiritual journey with him.  There are so many parallels.

In order to have a rich spiritual life & healthy relationship with Jesus, you have to:

  • Plan ahead.  Set a time each day where you will be with Jesus, studying His words to you & focusing on him.  
  • Don’t get caught up in having to read 5 chapters of the Bible & an hour in prayer each day.  Spend quality time. Read a smaller portion of Scripture & give yourself prayerful time to ingest what you’ve read.  Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the words & make them come alive to you.  
  • Slow down.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone that is ahead of you on the journey where to read & what to study so you can really enjoy what you’re reading.  
  • Eliminate distractions & interruptions.  Don’t put your phone, ipad, computer next to you if it’s a temptation.  If you have a busy home, look for a time where there will be minimal people or a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. 

A couple of other thoughts.  “Enjoying what you read” doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be easy or fun.  Lots of content in God’s word is challenging & hard & we have to grapple with it.  I just mean that you will enjoy what you are reading b/c you know it’s speaking to & changing you, disciplining & shaping you.  Another thing, there are seasons of life.  Don’t be condemned if you can’t spend as much quantity time studying as someone else but (& here’s the big but) don’t starve yourself either.  You can not maintain a healthy weight without the above steps nor can you maintain a healthy relationship with Jesus without meeting with him regularly.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”  Psalm 34:8 (NLT)
“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” Psalm 119:18 (NLT)
"I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure.” Psalm 119:162 (NLT)
“At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” Hebrews 12:11 (MSG)

Enjoy one of my favorite songs to Jesus right now. 

-Sarah

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 19

A trip to the mountains was just what this Florida girl needed. It was a much-needed time of reflection, while planning and preparing for the year ahead. Our group had spent the afternoon by the creek and the ladies wanted to enjoy the scenic walk back to the cabin. We began the steep ascent as my muscles protested. I was nearly breathless, trying to pretend that I could keep up. My friends were obviously in way better shape more experienced than I was.

"Don't worry, it levels off just up the way," one friend encouraged. 

Expectantly (desperately, really), I searched for "just up the way." Where was this promised land of level ground? I feared I may collapse before it appeared. Sure enough, we soon walked easily on level ground (for several yards, before the steep climb resumed). 

"Isn't that just like life? One uphill climb after another," our friend commented. 

Truth. It seems that the struggle doesn't stop. We all look forward to a moment without a fight, a season to catch our breath. Our human nature wants to relax, take it easy, stop pushing, quit pursuing. 

As we head into the final days of our church-wide fast, let me encourage you to keep pressing forward. This isn't the time to fall back or "take it easy." As I’ve recently heard it said, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Moving closer to God will always require a purposeful pursuit. 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Keep pursuing God, friends.

-Marla 

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 18

“It is Well”
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago businessman and devout Christian in the 1800s. He invested heavily in real estate to the north of Chicago. In 1871 Horatio lost his only son to scarlet fever at the tender age four. One year later, the Great Chicago Fire broke out and destroyed his sizable real estate investments. His life’s savings were gone. In 1873, Horatio decided to take his wife and remaining 4 children on vacation to England. At the last minute, Horatio was held back due to business. His wife and 4 daughters boarded the ship and set sail. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank in 12 minutes. 226 passengers were killed. Horatio’s 4 daughters were among those who died. The next day Horatio received a telegraph from his wife that read, “saved alone, what shall I do?”  Horatio immediately boarded a ship to meet his wife. While crossing the Atlantic, the captain of the ship came to Horatio to inform him they were passing the location the ship his family had been on had sunk. While staring into the watery grave, Horatio penned the words to the famous hymn “It is Well”.

God never promised to keep us from storms in this life, but He will give us the strength and peace to walk through them. With God’s help, the Spaffords were able to pick up their broken lives and founded a Children’s Center which still cares for more than 30,000 children each year.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 23

“Assign purpose to your pain.” -Jeanne Mayo

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 17

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Genesis 16:1

            Abram and Sarai, later renamed by God as Abraham and Sarah, are the “first couple” of Israel. In Gen. 14 we learn God established a covenant with Abram declaring him to be the father of a great nation, and that he would have a son of his flesh to carry on Abram’s lineage. (Gen. 14:4-6) Abram and Sarai were given a promise from the very mouth of God! Yet, in Sarai’s haste she rushed the plans and created a mess.

            Rather than trusting God to work out His plan, Sarai concocted her own scheme to bear Abram a son. By pushing her husband towards her maidservant, Sarai began a domino effect of bitterness and resentment lasting generations.

            Look at the last line of today’s verse, “perhaps I can build a family through her.” Sarai’s goal was not to fulfill the will of God, but rather to build her family and her name. God will never ask us to commit sin to fulfill His will.  

            How often does God give us a word of promise and we’re quick to create our own plans rather than wait on Him? How often do we turn God’s work into something for our gain, rather than His glory. God will always be faithful to His word. He can be nothing but faithful. His work will always result in His glory. When we rush the will of God and manipulate events for our gain, our fame, or our legacy we create nothing but chaos and frustration for all parties involved.

            God, in His goodness, worked all events out in spite of Sarai’s sin. But so much of her misery and pain came because of her own doing. Let us be wise as we seek God and His plans for our lives. And let us be patient to wait on His timing to work out His plans.

Blessings,

Natalia

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 16

You’re standing in the middle of the gymnasium floor leaning slightly forward to stand on your tippy toes, giving the false image of looking a little bit taller.  Sweat forms in the palm of your hands as the anxiety builds to the point of passing out, even though that never has happened before.  Standing 10 feet in front of you are two of your classmates choosing their teammates one by one.   The line gets smaller and smaller until there you are with one other classmate, the one who reads encyclopedias for fun.  Despite the efforts of standing on your tippy toes to look talker than 5’3”, it happens.  You’re picked last.  Again. 

Maybe you were never picked last for a game of basketball because you were the shortest kid on the gym floor, or maybe you were picked last like I was.  Growing up as the shortest kid in the class, I was picked last for many things.  I think this is what lead to my competitive nature, but that’s another story. 

Perhaps you are in a situation where you feel like you are the second choice.  Maybe it seems like your friends or co-workers always get picked before you, whether for a raise or promotion or something simple like employee of the month.   Maybe others get a phone call to go out to dinner while you’re sitting at home with nothing to do, leaving you to feel socially rejected.  Whatever the case is, you’re not alone.  Remember David—you know, the guy through whose lineage Jesus came—yeah, he wasn’t picked last; he wasn’t even picked.  The prophet Samuel who was to anoint the next king of Israel went through all 7 of David’s brothers before David’s father Jesse said, “Oh yeah, I have one more son out in the field tending sheep.”  Think about that. Seven.  Seven brothers are brought before Samuel before David is even considered.  While Jesse and Samuel were looking at the outward stature, God was looking at the heart of David.

Samuel had Jesse send for David.  Upon his arrival, God had Samuel anoint David as the next King of Israel, showing us that it doesn’t matter how you’re picked, it only matters by whom you’re picked.

1 Samuel 13:10-12
10Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have? “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep. “Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 

-Eddie

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 15

It was late afternoon, and this Friday, like so many others before it, found us in working on our new house. It had already been a busy morning, and all seemed well when the text came through. The text read "I need you now 911! - 911! “

Those 3 numbers can send one’s mind reeling in an instant. The conversations that followed were one nightmare after another, a veritable disaster. A relational bomb had blown a whole in our family a mile wide.

What do you do when someone you love makes choices that inevitably hurt your entire family? Since that October day, our family has been wrought with heartache. I have found myself all over the map emotionally, vacillating between heartbreak, shock, sadness and anger.

As a Christ follower, what are we to do with such powerful emotions, situations and people that we cannot change? According to David, in Psalm 121, our help comes from the LORD. 

NKJV Psalm 121     I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth

This is the space where I’ve purposed to live. It’s been hard - really, really hard.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have cried alot and said things out of the deep hurt that needn’t be said. Still, HE meets me there in the middle of my brokenness. HE calms my heart with the comfort of HIS Word which rushes to the very forefront of my mind amidst the chaos. Words I have hidden there for such a time as this. My soul finds rest in these moments, until I need reminding again that HE IS. HE is good, HE is sovereign, HE is just, HE is loving, HE is gracious, HE is merciful! HE IS GOD. Despite my offenses, HE forgives and loves me the same; not any more or any less. This relentless love is the very same love we are called to give. A no matter what kind of love. An I love you even when you don’t deserve it kind of love. It’s not easy to do, yet we so eagerly look to receive it when we fall.  

Friends, I challenge you to hide HIS Word in your heart. Memorize scripture regularly. Make prayer and the Bible your first response when life gets hard, so that when these trials come…. yes, when - HIS sacred promises will rush to remind you who you are in Christ and that all HIS plans are good (Jeremiah 29:11), even when we cannot yet see it. 

This is not my first hard season, and it will not be my last. I pray though, that with every trial and sifting, I am quicker to run to Jesus and fall less. GOD is beyond faithful. HE has redeemed my mess ups and hurts time and time again in the most amazing ways. HE will do the same for you! 

Choose HIM!    Trust HIM!     Follow HIM! 

Through all of it! For we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from a poem about Mary and the crucifixion of Jesus by Jeremiah Denton, Easter 1969.

Her face shows grief but not despair,
Her head, though bowed, has faith to spare,
For even now she could suppose
His thorns might somehow yield a rose.
Her life with Him was full of signs
That God writes straight with crooked lines.
Dark clouds can hide the rising sun,
And all seem lost, when all is won!

Much Love,

Anita

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 14

In his book titled “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day”, Mark Batterson writes: “If you’re not willing to look foolish, you’re foolish.” At first read that statement seemed silly to me; I guess we’re all going to look foolish according to Batterson, but as I continued reading the chapter he referenced 2 Samuel chapter 6. King David had just defeated the Philistines and recaptured Zion, God’s holy city. Naturally, there was a huge parade to celebrate.

“But as the Ark of the LORD entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she was filled with contempt for him.” - 2 Samuel 6:16 (NLT)

David was the king, and here he was, in the middle of a serious procession, stripping off his ceremonial robes, making a complete fool of himself. In the eyes of some he wasn’t acting very kingly, as shown by Michal’s complaint to David:

“20...Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”

David kept his cool:

21 David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. 22 Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!

We aren’t kings or queens. Most of us didn’t just defeat an enemy army and return home to a parade to celebrate our victory. We don’t have to worry about ceremonial robes, but we do worry about what people will think about us when we choose to do something counter cultural. In the eyes of the world, fasting is foolish, friends. We live in a world of overindulgence. A place where many get as much as they can, without any thought to the negatives.

When you’re struggling to find the courage to tell that friend or coworker why you keep denying something you really enjoy, remember:

“God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NLT)

Batterson ends with: “Try doing one important “foolish” thing for God today and see if the blessing isn’t greater than the embarrassment.”

-Ethan

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 13

Back in November, I had already decided on one thing I would be fasting in January when our churchwide fast began. I would be fasting something different each week instead of one thing for 21-days. I was glad that God had made it clear to me so early what week one would be because I needed some time to prepare for what was ahead. I had a plan in place and was excited because the timing was perfect. I was anticipating the start of the fast to be the second week of January so things were working out perfectly according to my plan, my goals, and my desires.

I was excited and anxious at the same time. This was a big deal for me. I knew that this was something I needed to do, but I knew it would not be easy. Fasting is a sacrifice and sometimes I try to find the least sacrificial thing to fast so as not to cause myself too much discomfort (I am just being honest here). This would be different, but like I said before, I had my plan in place so I was ready to start my one-week exercise fast on January 9.

Before I go on, I know some of you are thinking, “what’s the big deal about not exercising for a week?” If you know me, then you know that it’s a huge deal. I am an exercise enthusiast, more specifically, a running enthusiast. There are not too many things that would be harder for me to fast than this.

For over a month I had been planning my fast and even sought some wise counsel ahead of time. I was ready! Then, the unthinkable happened. On New Year’s Eve, I felt in my heart that God told me it was time to start January 1. What? Are you kidding me God? What about my tradition of working out on New Year’s Day? What about my run streak? And my perfect plan of ending my new run streak with a run on my birthday? But it was clear. The time was now and I needed to be obedient. The other things didn’t matter. In light of eternity, no one cares about my run streak or if I exercised on New Year’s Day, the only person concerned about those things was me. What matters most is my obedience to God.

Did anyone notice how many times I said “I”, “my”, and “me”? Somehow, I had turned this opportunity to fast into something that was all about me, instead of all about God. So, the time came to make a true sacrifice and be obedient to what God was asking, even if it interrupted MY plan.

 But Samuel replied,

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
    your burnt offerings and sacrifices
    or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
    and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” ~ 1 Samuel 15:22

 

“We can make our own plans,
    but the Lord gives the right answer.
2 People may be pure in their own eyes,
    but the Lord examines their motives.
3 Commit your actions to the Lord,
    and your plans will succeed.” ~ Proverbs 16:1-3

- Jennifer

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 12

“Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’” – Joshua 1:11

If you have ever taken a trip or several, you know that there is a big difference in the experience, based on whether or not you were ready for the trip. When you don’t pack and make preparations in advance, people are running around frantic to get ready, you don’t leave on time, which makes your travelling stressful, you stay behind schedule, and inevitably, you get where you are going realizing you forgot to bring something important. On the other hand, when you are prepared in advance, people are more relaxed, the travel time is peaceful, and you arrive on time, having everything you intended to bring.

2017 and all of its opportunities are here and coming. Are you ready for what may come?  The Roman philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Sometimes it seems that others get all the breaks, but most of the time, they were prepared when an opportunity presented itself. When opportunities come and we are not prepared, we miss them. We may not be equipped to handle it, or be in the right position to accept it. And its gone. You have to get ready before an opportunity comes.

Sometimes we know what’s coming, sometimes we don’t, but we should always be ready.

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. – Matthew 24:44

Opportunities are coming, and even more so for those of us who have our hope in the coming of Christ!

Get Ready!

-Sandy

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 11

“Give it up.”

The thought came seemingly randomly. There was no way I would have come up with the idea on my own. Yet I knew it wasn’t my imagination.

“Give it up,” the thought persisted.

This can’t be God. God wouldn’t ask such a thing of me…would he? He knows that this is one of the simple things in life that I enjoy, look forward to, thank him for every day. I fought it for months. Then January came—our yearly time to set aside a few weeks for focused prayer and fasting. Reluctantly, I chose to finally obey what I knew deep down was God’s voice prompting me to give up something so cherished.

Day 1: I miss it.

Day 2: I don’t feel so well.

Day 3 (three!): I’m dying.

Day 4: I don’t think this could possibly be God. This is inhumane.

And so the days went by. The first week was awful and the second wasn’t much better. But by the end of week 3 I felt better, knowing I was walking in obedience. In fact, some physical issues I was having had cleared up and I knew this was to be an ongoing change for me.

I don’t know why I have this pesky little habit of hanging on to things that God wants me to give up for my good. It’s always in my best interest to obey him—and I know it is—yet I fight it like toddler fights a nap he desperately needs.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

In his love, God was asking me to give up something because he knew that doing so would draw me closer to him. Whatever God is asking of you today, remember that he loves you and wants what is best for you. When you surrender to him, you are surrendering to his best plan for your life. 

-Marla

21 Day Fast & Prayer: Day 10

Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember.  I don’t recall a time without church being the center of my life.  Church almost every time the doors are open.  Volunteering since I was in single digits.  Attend every youth outing.  Sing on the worship team.  Work in the office for no pay.  First missions trip on the brink of my teens.  Stay away from parties, drinking, drugs, the wrong crowd.  Ridiculed in front of my entire senior class because I took a stand for what was right. Lead the youth group when there was no youth pastor. 

Within the last few years, I think I’m just learning what it really means to trust and obey.  I don’t do it perfectly.  I love the saying “imperfect progress” because that’s exactly what it is.  I see progress but it’s not 100%.  It’s a continual listening.  Listening to the Holy Spirit.  Being present with Him in every decision.  Especially the hard ones.  The ones where you are shaking and sweating and your heart is beating fast because you know it’s going to cost you something.  You are letting go, giving up, sacrificing…reputation, time, pride, controlling what others say about you, how they will react, what the outcome will be. 

Within the last few days, the Lord has reminded me of this set of scriptures in Zechariah 4:6-7 (AMP).  The Israelites have returned from exile in Babylon and have set about to rebuild the Temple but they get sidetracked & apathetic & quit trusting & obeying the Holy One, their Rescuer, Restorer, Deliverer.

6 Then he said to me, “This [continuous supply of oil] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [prince of Judah], saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of whom the oil is a symbol],’ says the Lord of hosts. 7 ‘What are you, O great mountain [of obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel [who will rebuild the temple] you will become a plain (insignificant)! And he will bring out the capstone [of the new temple] with loud shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”

How many times do we try to use our might or power or money or position or knowledge to work our way out of a situation, figure out that difficult relationship, make everything work out exactly how we see it, or “handle it”?  No trusting & obeying there…except in ourselves & yet clearly, the Lord says, I’m going to put you in a situation where you can’t figure it out, smart it out, manipulate it out, work it out, force it out.  You have to trust and obey me.  And those obstacles?  They will be insignificant when you allow my Spirit to work it out.  And when the thing is done, everyone will know that it was ME, GOD, the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  Trust & obey, I AM, in MY time, by MY Spirit, trust & obey.

-Sarah

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 9

As a young child, I grew up dreaming of the days where my mom was going to teach me the best way to make her homemade banana bread, how to curl my hair, how to be a good wife and mother, but I never expected how she would teach me to be independent, at least not as promptly as she did.

It was October 2008, and I had no choice. I was almost halfway through my first semester as a freshman in college. Life was easy, but learning how to “adult” was not. After I accidentally washed my cell phone in the washing machine, my roommate and told me some man was on our room phone and needed to talk to me.

“Who could be calling me at 11pm?” I thought.

I picked up the phone. It was my dad.

“Hello?” He cut straight to the chase and said “Rebecca, I have some bad news… we lost your mom.”

Suddenly, a cue of emotions played through my head, leaving me without a moment to comprehend what had just been said. Sad, angry, confused, frustrated, concerned. My feet gave out and I was on the ground.

This was a pivotal point in my life.

I took a plane home, celebrated Mom’s life and returned to college life. I didn’t have enough time to take it all in. My life didn’t feel any different, but there was a hole. A hole I didn’t know existed until I fell into it. I would pick up the phone to call her, only to realize no one would pick up. My mom was my rock, my truth-teller, my supporter, my everything. Why would God take her from me? I needed her.

Who was going to fill that void? Not God. It was His fault in the first place. I didn’t understand why He “took” her from me.

“How could I do this on my own?”

I fought God for 3 more years, never understanding who to turn to. Back and forth, we danced this dance where I felt like God wasn’t there when I needed Him, only to realize He had been there the whole time. There were times during the dance I thought it was my own strength holding me up, but I was standing on His feet, as we swayed through the speed bumps of life.

Now in 2017, I still imagine those littlest of moments where the Lord let me go and spin around (at times I may have even tripped over my own feet), but He was there waiting for me to come back to Him. His arm stretched out wide, His hand reaching for my embrace, but He needed me to choose to come back. Life isn’t ever going to be perfect, but our Heavenly Father doesn’t ask for it to be. Are you willing to let Him lead you? In a dance where the finale is to heal your heart with His love and help you begin to set your hopes on eternity with Him?

Can He have this dance?

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!”
Psalm 30:11-12 NLT

-Becca

 

 

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 8

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.”
 Psalm 42:1

Last year I lived in Bonifay, Florida and men in Bonifay, live to hunt. Wanting to be manly, I decided to try it out. 

On the first day of the season, I woke up while it was still dark, trudged through the mud, climbed the stand, sat down, and tried to remain completely still. I waited, and waited, and waited… no deer. If you want to know what hunting is like, it is similar to going to Disney. You get excited, wake up early, arrive with high hopes, and then… wait around all day. 

However, I learned some things about hunting that day. First, the branches on the trees start to look like antlers after a few hours. Second, location is extremely important. Our deer stand was in a bad location. If you want to get a deer, you must be in the right spot at the right time. 

    The right spot and the right time for many hunters in biblical times was near the water. They didn’t have long range weapons, so if they wanted to bring food home they had to get close, real close.  One of the best places to do that was near the water. Animals, need water to survive, so hunters would wait (apparently a really long time) near the water. That meant a deer had to risk its life to get a drink of water. Since I learned that a few years ago I have never read Psalm 42:1 the same. “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.”

The Psalmist deeply longed for God. What do you deeply long for? Risking death is a reality for many Christians around the world. Let us remember them as we continue our fast.

-Davey

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 7

Quite often, you might read a verse like James 1:2 and think something along the lines of, "But my problems are so big, how can I possibly be joyful?". Maybe you're on the opposite end of the spectrum, and you're thinking, "Compared to the stories I've heard about the horrible things that are happening to Christians abroad, my issues are trivial. God must not be teaching me anything right now". 

For reference, here's James 1:2, NIV -

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 

I want to focus in on a short but critical word in this scripture: many. 

Recently, my wife and I have gone through a lot of change in our lives. We've graduated college in Virginia, moved into an apartment here in Florida, started new full-time jobs, and moved again across the city, all in the span of about 8 months. All of that adjustment has been a serious challenge for both of us. We've both struggled at work and at home, and to be completely transparent here, we still haven't really found the sweet spot.

Now, our lives aren't in danger like so many are in the world today. However, our trials have a difficulty that is all their own, I'm sure many of you can relate. How then, can we be joyful? The next couple verses in James give us a clue:

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4 NIV

That's so huge! The testing of our faith, our struggles, our frustration, our challenges; they're uniquely designed by God so that we might gain perseverance, maturity and completeness.

Our loving, faithful God of the universe has created a perfect system
for growing us and drawing us closer to Himself.

If that doesn't fire you up, you need to check your pulse! I hope that your year is full of joy; intentional, faith-inspired joy. 

Here's one of my favorite worship songs for those of us who are going through a challenge. Remember: the Father's arms are open wide. 

 

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 6

I was recently on vacation and purchased some whole bean espresso coffee to make specialty drinks for my family.  The coffee shop had just run out of coffee bags so the lady behind the counter had to sell them to me in 12 ounce plastic cups with lids.  

After getting home I happened to think, “These cups measure 12 liquid ounces, which is quite different from 12 ounces by weight.”  So I put the coffee on my scale and sure enough, it measured 19 ounces when I had paid for 24 ounces.  I thought, “No problem, I’ll just make a quick phone call and explain the situation.  I am sure they will make it right.”

I called the coffee shop and a different person than the one who sold me the coffee answered the phone.  I explained my situation to the lady on the other end, who really didn’t seem to care all that much about my dilemma.  In fact, it appeared she didn’t care at all.  I asked to speak to the lady who sold me the coffee and the lady on the phone said, “She is not here right now.”  I asked, “Okay will she be in the shop tomorrow?”  to which the lady replied, “I don’t know.”  “Is there a schedule you can look at or someone you can ask?” I questioned.  She replied, “Hang on.”

I felt my frustration building.  What I wanted to do next was to walk in that coffee shop and show that lady a picture of planet earth and say, “Wish you were here!”  The lady didn’t care.  I had a right to be frustrated.  I had a right to speak my mind.  

That’s when it hit me: the lady on the other end of that phone was not just a voice fielding my frustrations, she was a person made in the image of Christ, a real life person with real life feelings just like I have.  Who knows what she was dealing with in her own personal life?  Who knows if she was depressed or dealing with the loss of a loved one during the Christmas season?  I had an opportunity here, one to show the character of God, an opportunity to be Christ like in this time of frustration.  The lady returned to the phone call and said the one who sold me the coffee would be in tomorrow.

I’m certain that the lady on the other end hung up the phone and waited on the next customer without even thinking twice about the interaction we just had.  But I did.  I’m thinking of it right now.  I’m thinking when the opportunity presents itself to be easily angered or frustrated with others I have two choices: lash out at the party on the other end because I have every right to, or take a minute to think about the person on the other end as a human being, made in the image of Christ, who is dealing with their own set of circumstances.  Only one of those choices displays the character of God. 

1 Corinthians 13:5

"[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

-Eddie

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 5

Vision without action is merely a dream.
Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world.
~Joel A. Barker

Time …what a complex thing to navigate.

We all get the same amount of it each day, yet none of us are guaranteed the very next second.

Widowed at a very early age, I can say, that at the end of life, the one thing we most often long for more of - is time.

TIME…not money, clothes, trips, status, or stuff  - Just. More. Time.

Ironically, that’s the very thing we tend to squander most.

In Ecclesiastes, according to Solomon, there is a time and a season for everything.

In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, there were three men, who were each entrusted with a portion. The first wasted no time and went at once to put his portion to work, so also the second, each doubling their portion. The third man hid his portion, he didn’t invest it, share it, or spend it. He hid it in the ground and buried it, burying his potential with it.

Each of us is given the same amount of seconds, minutes, and hours per day. As you fast and pray, ask GOD what He would have you start and stop doing this year. Then make a plan for how you will you invest and spend your GOD given time.

Without a plan to change and accountability to keep you moving forward, by default you will keep doing what you’ve always done. True change, lasting change, requires sacrifice. It will cost you something, but in exchange you will reap the rewards of your efforts…achieving the goals set before you.  Whether that be growth spiritually, physically, relationally, or all of the above, the rewards of sacrifice are great.

Imagine now that is December 31, 2017, the ball is dropping and the countdown nearing its end…

10, 9, 8 the year comes to a close,

7, 6, 5 and you reflect on your year,

4, 3, 2, 1 what would you have liked to accomplished?

How will you spend your …

31,557,600 seconds …525,960 minutes …8766 hours, or 365 days?

Remember friend, if nothing changes - nothing changes.

Father, stir us up. I pray that we will be unsatisfied with anything less than YOU and your best for us. Help us make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16) starting with this one Lord. Help us take that next step in becoming all that you have called and created us to be.

In Jesus name, Amen.

-Anita

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 4

After lacing up my running shoes, I headed out the front door into the night. It was late, but I didn’t think twice about running after sunset because I had a subconscious trust in the streetlights that lined the roads in my neighborhood. As I started to jog out of my driveway I could see the lights casting their orange glow onto the pavement, brightening everything within their radiuses.

I was hoping that my run and the night air would help clear my head. I felt confused about my next step in life and God wasn’t giving me an apparent answer. I felt like He was leaving me in the dark, and I didn’t like it. 

Without much thought to where I was running, I ran from one sphere of light to the next. After I had been running for some time, I realized I could no longer see where I was going. I was suddenly aware of the lack of light. Now I was literally in the dark. I slowed down to a walk as I stared into an inky, enveloping darkness that covered one of the back roads I had come to during my absent-minded run. I slowed to an unsteady walk as the confidence of safety from a bright and clear path deserted me. I knew it would be dangerous to attempt to run in that darkness. That wasn’t the way I wanted to go, so I turned around and made my way back towards the light, towards safety. 

As I turned, my eyes snapped immediately to one of the streetlights illuminating my new running path. As I began to run back in and out of the circles of orange light, God spoke to answer my frustrated plea. 

God is light. God’s truth is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. If the road you are running suddenly becomes dark, do not be discouraged. Just slow down and look around. God’s truth is ever present, and if you look up and ask Him, the Holy Spirit will guide your eyes back to the path He wants you to run. 

When you are under the light, things around you look clear and are easily defined, they make sense, they aren’t scary. When you leave the safety of that light, that’s when the fear and danger creep in. Keep running from one of God’s streetlights to the next. Keep seeking His truth. If you keep His light in your sights, you will end up where He wants you to be. 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” - Psalm 119:105 NKJV

Enjoy this song that reminds us to set our eyes on the ultimate source of light, the Son!

-Ethan

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 3

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Genesis 6:22 NIV

    I’ve marked this verse twice in my Bible. Chapters 6 & 7 of Genesis hold this sentence. Short, sweet and to the point, yet important enough for it to be marked twice in Holy Scriptures!

    I began to think of the task God asked of Noah. Insanity to many, why build an ark when there’s no rain? Yet the faithfulness and trust of Noah was precisely what saved him, his family and the future of mankind. 

    Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Woah! Do I do EVERYTHING just as God commands me? I’d be lying if I said I did. More often than not I grumble and complain, or better yet, try and negotiate with God for another task. 

    It’s not like God’s asking me to build an ark; but tasks that make me uncomfortable I shy away from and pretend I didn’t hear God. 

    As we spend these next weeks in prayer and fasting, what is God commanding you in your life? Does He want your time? Your service? Your surrender? Is God asking you for your marriage to be healthy? Your temper to be controlled? Your finances to get in order? Maybe God wants your kindness to be shown to a colleague, or your eyes fixed on Him. 

    Whatever God is asking and bringing to your mind and heart these next few weeks, let us be people who like Noah do “everything just as God commands us.” 

    Imagine the ripple effect in our community if we would be obedient! How might God move? Who might God save? How might we be blessed if we would just do exactly as He commands of us? 

Blessings, 
Natalia 

21 Day Prayer & Fast: Day 2

When we choose to fast, we are choosing to say no to something. We can think of it as exercising self control or maybe denying a desire. But, really, when we say no to one thing, we are saying yes to something else. Sometimes we have to say no to something now, so we can say yes to something better later.  Some things are obvious, but other things may not be. When we say no to the junk food, we are saying yes to living healthier.  When I say no to caffeine, I am saying yes to a lesser chance of having kidney stones. :) When we say no to spending money we don't have, we are saying yes to freedom from debt.  When we say no to comparing our lives to someone else's, we are saying yes to living the life we were meant to live.  Conversely, when we say no to spending time with God, our spouses, or our kids, what is it that we saying yes to instead?

During this time of fasting, use the opportunity to reflect and look for areas in your life that you should say no to, in order to say yes to something more important. Things that bring you satisfaction in this life or things that make an eternal difference?

Yes or no? You decide.

Joshua 24:15 - But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Jesus said no to saving His life, so He could say yes to saving yours!

Have a great day today, knowing Someone loves you that much.

-Sandy