Fix your Focus

Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:12 NKJV)

Do you know what dawned on me a while ago? Fasting is not about food! It’s nothing to do with food and it’s all about fellowship.  It’s all about fellowship with our Father. For years I just didn’t get the reason why Jesus asked us to fast. That would explain why my one and only attempt to fast went so wrong. I skipped a meal and within a couple of hours my grumbling tummy had me complaining. I didn’t resist temptation for much longer, and was soon stuffing my face. Oh dear! I should give it another shot instead of giving up on it altogether!

What’s fasting all about?” I hear you ask!  The answer: our focus.  Fasting fixes our focus on God. It calls us to turn away from good things (food) and turn to greater things (God). Just look at Daniel 9:3 (NIV). “I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel repented and prayed for forgiveness over his people as he understood that the ruin of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So what did Daniel do? He turned to God. Do likewise; keep your eyes upward instead of on yourself.

If you too thought that fasting was little more than a crash-diet, I’ll fill you in on what it’s not. Fasting is not a fad. It may seem strange to some but it’s just as much for the present as it was for the past. Jesus commanded that prayer and fasting be a part of our Christian walk. It’s not a throw-away; it’s here to stay. It’s most definitely not out of fashion. We can’t pick and choose bits of the Bible; we can’t choose to ignore practices we’d rather forget.  We have to accept all of it. We have to accept its relevance and apply it today.  As Christians in this day and generation we should be following in the footsteps of disciples throughout the ages who turned to God through fasting.  When they turned to God He delivered.  As it says in 2 Chronicles 20:3 (NKJV), set yourself to seek the Lord, turn to Him.

But be careful. Fasting isn’t a fix. It’s not the answer to every question. Sometimes when we pray and fast we treat God like a mend-it-man. He’s far more than that. Don’t use fasting as a weapon. Don’t try and use it to bend His arm, making Him submit to His servants. When we pray and fast we’re seeking after God’s own heart, His Will above our own. In Luke 18 Jesus tells the tale of a Pharisee who tried to use fasting to force God’s hand to move where he wanted. He proudly prayed “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11-12 NIV). I hate to burst his bubble, but he got it wrong.  Fasting is not to be used as leverage.

So, why am I telling you all this? As Christians I think we should set ourselves challenges.  Don’t worry; I’m not saying to start off with a forty day fast.  Start slowly and add to it over time.  Bite-size is the way to go; otherwise you’ll end up getting discouraged and not having another try at it.  As you set yourself challenges remember the reason why: prayer and fasting were created to bring you into communion with your Father-God. Why don’t you take Him up on the offer and get to know God that little bit better?

Think upon these things…

Spend some time in fellowship with your Father. Seriously considering fasting. Set yourself to seek the Lord! I’d encourage you to start off with something small; you don’t have to fast from all foods on your first attempt.  You could turn off the TV for an hour or two. Spend this time praying and reading the Word. Or you could stop snacking for the day, switch off your iPod, or limit your time on the computer. The time you’ve saved you could spend wisely, why don’t you go along to your Church’s prayer meeting?

Ask yourself?

Just for one day set yourself a bite-size challenge.  What will it be?

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Comeback-King!

stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive” (Matthew 25:13 MSG)

Here’s a question that’s bound to get your brain in gear: are you living in expectation? Jesus could come back any day now. It could be today, tomorrow, or next week for all we know! He’ll come riding through the skies on His white horse, coming to claim His own. Here’s what’s to come, “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven” (Mark 13:26-27 NKJV). When that day dawns on us our time has run out. We won’t be able to turn back time.

Here’s something to think about. When Jesus comes back for His own, do you count yourself included? Will you be one of that number? If you aren’t, your future is frightening. The day Jesus comes back will be your ‘pay-day‘.  If you didn’t accept His gift to you on Calvary you’ll have to pay that debt for all of eternity.  Even more so, you’ll have to pay the price for living a life of disobedience. Hell is not for a holiday. If you end up there you’re there to stay. As Mark 9:45 (NKJV) puts it, Hell is “the fire that shall never be quenched.” There will be no escaping it.  Listen to me. There’s still time. You have today to make a change! If you admit that you’ve rebelled and repent, God will restore you! I thank the Lord that there’s certainty with our Saviour. You can be secure in your Salvation!

Think upon these things…

This is a dead cert: the Coming of the King is just around the corner. He’s coming back for His own. It’s time to get right with God and get ready for His return.

If you’re saved and serving you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief. But you probably don’t realise your responsibility? Are you warning your family and friends of the wrath? Are you putting it plainly? Spell it out: if you live without God you will spend eternity dying to know Him. It’s so easy to side-step talking about Heaven and Hell, but we shouldn’t dodge it, we can’t afford to. We have to warn our loved ones that there are only two destinations to choose from. It’s their choice; they have to live with it for all of eternity.

Ask yourself?

When was the last time you told a loved one about their need to turn to God?  If you haven’t been witnessing, why not?  What’s your reason for staying silent?  We have to take our responsibility seriously.

Back to the Coming of our King, we’ve to ready ourselves for that day! We haven’t got a second to spare; we’ve work to busy ourselves with. The Bible makes it clear that we’ve to live each day as if it was our last; we’re to live as if Jesus was on His way today! The coming of the Kingdom is just around the corner. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NKJV). Before we know it He could be before us. I don’t know about you but I’m not ready to meet Jesus face-to-face just yet. There’s so much work to do and so little time. I want to be ready. God’s counting down the days until He sends His Son to bring us Home. I pray that each and every day I live will count for His Kingdom. I want to make the most of every opportunity; I want to take every chance. I may not know the day He’ll come to take me Home but I do know my decision. What’s yours?

Ask yourself?

Are you making the most of every opportunity that passes your way? Or are you allowing them to pass you by?  Taking chances may appear to be a bit risky at times but it’s what God asks of us, we’re meant to take every opportunity to speak of Him.

Bible-bones

Turn to Matthew 25:1-13 and read the story about the coming of the Kingdom.  There are two sides in this story, on one side there are those who were ready for the Bridegrooms return, and on the other there are those who were far from it. Pay attention to verse 13 (NCV), “So always be ready, because you don’t know the day or the hour the Son of Man will come.” My good friend, Alex Atwell, reminded me that Jesus won’t come smiling down the street on a donkey once again.  When He returns He’ll be riding a white horse through the clouds, coming to judge us.  Will you be ready for His return?

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Without Words

Have you ever tried to worship God without words? I’ve been finding out how much harder this is than it sounds. Maybe it’s just me; maybe you find it to be a breeze? I love to worship God in writing. I have one-hundred-and-one journals on the go at the minute. Almost every inch of my daily readings are scribbled over in my spidery writing.  And if you were to walk through my house you would come across post-it-note, after post-it note, with worship scrawled over them.  If I see a piece of paper I attack it with ink; I can’t help it. If I have a prayer of praise in my heart I have to write it down incase it escapes me. If I was asked to put my pen and paper down, I wouldn’t last long.  I’d give it a day, or two, at the most.

It’s oh so important to be able to worship without words. Just think about it; what about when words aren’t enough? What about when you can’t pen your praises? What about when you’re almost unaware that you’ve even wandered into His Throne Room until you’re before Him? All you can do is smile up at Him, in awe. This reminds me of John 19. Something that most people pass over catches my attention. Jesus is hanging on the cross and Mary His mother is looking up at her Lord. Here’s what happened. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:25-27 NIV)

The thing that stands out to me is Mary’s silence. You may think that she was passive in this story but in fact she’s active.  If you look close enough you can see that she was worshipping, when words weren’t enough. She still played her part even though her worship wasn’t recorded.

I love those moments, where you’re worshipping from within, yet you aren’t quite sure what you’re saying. This is why we should try to train ourselves to not rely solely on wording our prayers. This is where prayer-living comes into play. Prayer-living is a way of worship. You should try it out sometime?! Instead of telling God that you love Him, why don’t you show it? Go to the prayer meeting even if it’s the last thing you want to do, volunteer to set-up for your youth service or sign-up to bag-pack to raise money for your Church missionary.  Do something that you don’t want to do!  It works!  Sometimes I have to force myself to serve, I find street evangelism to be terrifying and administration to be frustrating at times but I find myself doing them because there’s no point me saying I love Jesus if I don’t do anything for Him.  Remember that if there isn’t any weight to your worship it isn’t reverence.

Ask yourself?

In what way can you practice prayer-living today? Don’t write anything down if you don’t intend to do it.  Never forget that He wants so much more than a song, service can be a way of worship.  In what way can you worship Him today?

Think upon these things…

I love it when God’s Presence is so overwhelming you’re in awe. Read through John 19- the crucifixion. Fix your eyes on Jesus and worship Him without words. Now, here’s the next step, don’t just say you love Him, show Him! Add some weight to your worship! To help you along your way why don’t you read Romans 12:1-2? It reminds us to place our lives before God and worship Him in works as well as in word.

Heart-cry…

Prayer-living is a way of worship, so if you’ve promised to do something for God be active about it!  Use the space to talk to God, just think of all He’s done for you.  Write down what you intend to do for Him as an act of worship and reverence…

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