All, prayer|fasting
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Day Thirteen: Quiet, Test in Progress

Please-Quiet-Standing-Floor-Sign-SF-0212

Week two is almost complete. How’s it going?

One time I was walking through a dry season in my life. By that I mean I was having my normal quiet time with God, serving with my gifts, and generally doing everything as normal. However, there was one key difference. I was empty. I felt like I was a ship out in the open water with no wind to move the sails.

After feeling this way for a while I spoke with a friend about it. His council is something I want to pass along to you today. He said, “Did you realize that if a teacher never gave you a test they could never gauge whether or not you had learned anything? What if God isn’t mad at you? What if you haven’t done anything wrong? What if God is merely putting you out there to see if you have learned from the lessons He’s already taught you?”

That light a fire under me. I was determined to pass my test. I kept moving forward seeking God and doing my best not to get discouraged.  Before long, I began to feel the presence of God on my life again. I passed the test.

What are you going through today? Do you feel as though God were a million miles away. Be careful. He might be leaning over your shoulder looking at your quiz. He might be giving you a test.

Don’t give up. Keep moving forward.

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Twelve: Strong Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

You remember that really old story called “Footprints in the sand”? Here it is in case you’ve never heard it,

One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;
One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before us,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
There was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way;
But I have noticed that during the
most troublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I
needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious
child. I love you, and I would never,
never leave you during your times of
trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.

I’ve had times in my life when it looked as though God was no where to be found. Everything I tried to do just didn’t work. I’ve even prayed and said, “God, are you still there?”
It was in these time though I later realized God was at work the most in my life. If you are going through a tough time in your fasting journey today, refocus on why you are doing this.

Take a few minutes and allow the presence of God to quite your heart and mind.  There’s a video below with the song STRONGER. Truly Christ is STRONGER in our lives than anything else we face.

ACTION STEPS

  • Find a time and place today when you can get away from ‘life’ for 5 minutes and draw strength from God.
  • Think about the fact that when we are at our lowest Christ becomes the strongest.

 

 

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Eleven: Good Intentions, Bad Results

You’re now officially past the half way mark. Way to go!

Proverbs 24:16

Though a righteous man falls seven times,
he will get up,
but the wicked will stumble into ruin.

There’s an old song by Donnie McCluckin that says, “We fall down but we get up. We fall down but we get up. We fall down but we get up. For a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up.” A video of the song is located at the bottom of this post.

Fasting takes a lot of effort, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of accountability. Let’s be honest with each other. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Yet it is. During the process of this journey you may have had a moment of weakness, maybe two.   If you’re not made any mistakes and you’ve held strong you have so much to be proud of.  You’re halfway there. Keep going.

However if you haven’t made this fasting journey without a slip up you need to know that you’re not a failure. Nothing you ever do as an act of worship to God will go unrewarded.
Don’t allow yourself to end down. Get back up again.

You still have halfway to go. Make a new decision today to continue this journey. It’s worth it. You’ll see.

ACTION STEPS:

  • Forgive yourself if you have slipped a little on your commitment.
  • Don’t allow yourself to end on a down note. Keep moving forward and finish strong.

 

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Ten: Who’s Really Changing Here?

2 Corinthians 4:16-

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

Believe it or not you are halfway there! Yeah! Good for you. I wish I could tell you it’s all downhill from here. Don’t give up. Hopefully by now you are already beginning to feel God’s nearness. The truth is God is always near. It’s we who don’t always recognize it.

That’s really the whole point of fasting. Fasting is an act of worship. As we fast we are disciplining our bodies and allowing ourselves to become more sensitive to His presence.  When I first began fasting, I thought it somehow bribed God into answering my prayers. Like it was some sort of cat-nip for Christ. He couldn’t resist watching me suffer and rushed in to spoil me.

Well… that’s not quite right.

The truth is living in a world dominated by sin has its downsides. One of them is we get so accustomed to it we lose our sharpness as it relates to sensing the presence and voice of God. Fasting brings us out of our normal routine for a while in order to re-itemize our priorities so we can regain our closeness with God.  Have you ever been around a couple who were experiencing martial issues? Especially if it had stemmed from lack of communication the antidote usually is a trip away from everyone else so they can spend time with each other and reestablish their relationship. I know of at least one getaway place that’s only for couples in trouble. There’s no phones, tv’s, radios, computers, etc. etc. etc. It’s just them and the medicine bottle reads, “Talk to each other.”   That’s what you are doing. You’re taking time away to reestablish your relationship and reconnect with God.

So, fasting doesn’t change or coheres God into anything. It changes us and reconnects us back to Him.

Action Steps

  • If you’ve lost it over the past 10 days, regain your focus to ‘come out’ from everything else and spend time with God.

 

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A Letter to RLC, All
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A Letter to RLC>>>

Hello RLC! It’s great to be back at it writing the weekly wrap up we call “A Letter to RLC>>>”. Today I have six things to share with you:

#1. What an amazing first week at our new location on Scottsville Road! It felt great to stand and talk with everyone following the worship experience and not having to hurry and tear everything down. We will miss the theater but we are already enjoying the benefits of being stationary. This facility is going to be a great way to impact our community, begin small groups for college and high school students, be a staging point for outreach, better band rehearsals, etc, etc,… The sky is the limit when we begin to work together. I cannot wait to see what’s just around the corner. 2013 is going to be a year to remember!

#2. SHOUT OUTS!!!  If I began saying THANK YOU to everyone who made this past weekend at our new location possible, I’d run of room before I ran out of names. Therefore let me simply say THANK YOU to everyone. You know who you are. It doesn’t matter what you did, big or small. Without you it wouldn’t have been possible. Every chair, light, truss, carpet, bags, platforms, etc, etc, etc—- that was moved, cleaned, and placed was all done for the glory of God. Thank you for making it all possible.

#3. Two people committed their lives to Christ Sunday! That never gets old! Let’s pray for them this week as they begin their journey toward Christ. At RLC we don’t want people to do life alone.

#4. I’m so proud of all those who have committed to taking the fasting journey. RLC began an increased time of prayer and fasting last week. This Sunday was the completion of the first week. It’s such a joy to be surrounded by people who are serious about taking their relationship with God to the next level.  I’ve made a personal commitment to not only taking the journey with you but also blogging about it everyday. —>Here is a link to it.<— For all those fasting… keep it up! Don’t quit. You’re accomplishing more than you know.

#5. This weekend Upcoming Series is something I’ve been excited about for a while now. It’s called Soul Detox. Did you know that we are not a body with a soul but rather a soul with a body? We all know that body needs rest, relaxation, and care. However, when is the last time we did that for our soul? In this series we’re going to unpack what it means to ‘detox’ your soul.

#6. God gave us a place. It’s up to us to fill it up. Invite. Invite. Invite. So far this year God has really been speaking to me that our church is in a great place spiritually and physically to move forward. We finally have a location which will allow us to move out and up toward everything God has for us.
However, none of that just happens. There’s not going to be a GreyHound bus pull up next Sunday with people marching off in a straight line saying, “What must I do to be saved?”
Sure it’s possible but not really probable. The real way people are going to come to Real Life Church and experience our life-changing atmosphere is when we invite, invite, invite.
The responsibility is ours to invite. It’s God’s responsibility to speak to their hearts.  We plant the seed. God makes it grow. I’m committing to inviting more people.  How about you?

Why wouldn’t we want to ask people to come to a place where they can find hope, freedom, and acceptance?

I love you RLC!
Can’t wait to see you again this weekend or at a life group this week!

 

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Nine: Wearing Misery Like a Crown

Matthew 6: 16-18-

 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

I’ll admit it. When it comes to pain or discomfort, I’m out. How about you?
When it comes to fasting though, discomfort is the name of the game. You’re saying no to desires that aren’t use to it. They usually don’t take it too well. However, Jesus tells us plainly if we walk around wearing our misery like a crown we won’t receive the benefit we could have.

He tells us the most productive way to fast is to act natural. Around Real Life Church, we talk about fasting so we can support one another but we’re careful never to use it as a spiritually mature measuring stick. At one point the Bible mentions the Pharisees fasted twice a week yet they weren’t getting a lot of things right.

So while it’s important to have accountability and encouragement when you are fasting be careful not to take it too far. Don’t wear your fasting as a crown. Keep the struggle as quiet as possible. That way God will, who sees in secret will be able to reward you.

ACTION STEPS

  • Make a determined effort to hide your struggles
  • Remember this is all as an act of worship and an effort to move closer to God. Therefore don’t allow yourself to fall into a rut.

 

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Eight: Deciding to be Disciplined

Hebrews 12: 1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb which says, “The journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.”
That is very true as it relates to getting started.
However, it takes consistent, determined effort to see your goals accomplished.

The scripture above says that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. It admit He didn’t enjoy it. But, it was the reward was worth the struggle.
Be encouraged today. If fasting were easy it wouldn’t produce the spiritual results it does. The struggle is part of the reward. The satisfaction that we endured.

Your effort is going to be worth it. Think like Jesus. He endured hardship in the present to receive joy afterward. What are you hoping to achieve?

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Day Seven: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Yeah! The end of the first week!
What could be better than celebrating your success with all your friends and family at RLC!

Don’t be ashamed to celebrate it!
The local church can be a wonderful place to connect with other believers as well as serve using your gifts, talents, time, and resources.

Everyone needs something bigger than themselves to plug into.
Everyone needs something to that makes them better.
Everyone needs a place where everybody knows your name.

The above reasons are just a few of the things I love about RLC.

David said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Come and let us go to the House of the Lord.'”

See you at church today!

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Six: Read Through Your Journey

You’ve almost made it to the end of your first week. How is it going? I know. I know. Hang in there.

Yesterday we talked about how important praying is while fasting. It really can make all the difference. Another secret to successful fasting is reading God’s Word.
The Word of God is one of the chief ways God speaks into our life.
The Bible really is relevant. When we apply our belief with God’s Word we can receive a revelation which can speak directly to our lives.

The only problem with reading God’s Word is where to begin. I would recommend reading the One Year Bible program with Real Life Church. It’s great.
Something else which can make reading God’s Word really work is to not try and take everything in at once. If you are reading the One Year Bible you will read about 4 chapters a day. That’s too much to soak in and apply. Don’t even try. Instead, look for one verse you feel really applies to you. Then, on your way to work, waiting in the elevator, waiting in line at Starbucks, or wherever think about it. Trust me. It will change your life.

Here is a link to a message from last year about reading God’s Word.

Action Steps:

  • Make a commitment to read God’s Word everyday
  • Make a decision to find one verse every day you feel you can think about and apply.

Resources:

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All, Books, Church Planting Resources
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Book Review: Making Vision Stick

Making-Vision-Stick-Stanley-Andy-9780310283058

Book 2 of 5o in my quest to read 50 books in 52 weeks. (2013)

Some books are annual re-reads for me.
Some are ‘one-and-done’.
Some are every six months.
Every once and a while though I come across a book that I read as often as I can. Maybe even once a quarter.

Making Vision Stick is one of the books.
It’s great.
If you have ever lead anything and tried to lead with vision rather than your title, you need this book.

Andy Stanley take the difficult task of communicating VISION and puts it on the bottom shelf for everyone to reach.
You owe it to your team more than yourself to read this book often.

Link to purchase the book.

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Five: Prayer the Journey

When you are fasting, what you’re putting in is just as important as what you’re keeping out. Adding more prayer to your lifestyle is just as important as skipping meat and bread for 21 days. Without it all you’ve done is deny yourself a great hamburger.

Prayer is something most Christians avoid simply because they don’t understand it.

Here is a link to a series Real Life Church did last year. The title of the message was “Enjoying Prayer”. —-> Click here

ACTION STEPS

  • Make an effort to add at least 5 more minutes of prayer during my time of fasting.
  • Use the video below as a worship starter

RESOURCES

 

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All, prayer|fasting
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Day Four: Journal Your Journey

How was Day Three? Stay Strong.

One of the most rewarding disciplines you can have in life is a habit of consistent journaling. Some people do it via a blog. Some keep a journal on their Ipad or computer. Some have these colorful pads with multi-colored paper inside. Still others use a regular spiral notebook. It doesn’t matter. What makes the difference is the journaling or writing of your life’s journey.
Many times I’ll look through the past years of my journal and realize how much I’ve forgotten. I didn’t remember the time when God brought a financial miracle into my life. I’d forgotten about the time when this happened or that.
It can be so encouraging.

You can see David kept something like a journal through his song writing.
World changers like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan all kept consistent journals or diaries.

In its most simple form, journaling is writing out your time on Earth. You’re spelling out your legacy. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Sometimes just a sentence will do like, “Nothing happened today.” The important thing is keeping up the habit so when life does become challenging and you need a place to vent, you pick up your pen instead of railing at the first person you see.

A journey you definitely want to remember is this one, your fasting journey. It’s great to write in it every day and watch your progress. While you’re praying, write down anything that comes to your mind as God speaks to your spirit. Write down a key verse while doing your daily Bible reading. It will cause you to look back on this time with great memories.

The journal I have chosen is called Day One Journal. This journal syncs with all my tech devices so I can write wherever I am. It doesn’t matter whether you find something online or write it out by hand. You owe it to your future self to write out the blessings and struggles you face today. It was mean more than you will ever know.

Below is an article from one of the architects of the modern journaling movement. His name is Pastor Wayne Cordeiro. He pastors an amazing church in Hawaii and leads them every year through reading their Bible and journaling every day.

Why Should I Journal?

by: Pastor Wayne Cordeiro

Some people say, “Wayne, I read the Bible, but I don’t journal. Should I journal?”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
Well, partly because in the book of Deuteronomy, God required Israel’s kings to write out all of His Word in their own handwriting, then read, every day, what they had written. He mandated this practice, He says, so that the hearts of the kings might not be lifted up above their fellowman and would not become prideful.

If God made this a daily requirement of Israel’s kings, then I think it’s not too much to ask of the King’s kids. Regular, prayerful time in the Bible keeps our hearts from straying.

How about other reasons? For one thing, journaling will help you when the tests come—and they will.

Also, as a communicator, I counsel people to journal because I know that the more you learn to write, the better your communication will be. You become better able to take tangled thoughts and articulate them. You develop the ability to compose your feelings and ideas in an effective and powerful way. When you’re called upon to stand and speak, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively because you’ve learned to write.

Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference maketh a ready man; and writing maketh an exact man.” Today, we’d say that writing makes us more precise thinkers.

As you write, you become a wordsmith: “Hmm, this adjective doesn’t work; this adverb is better; this turn of a phrase is better.” Writing teaches you to do it on the fly. One practical serendipity is that one day, when you begin to speak extemporaneously, you’ll also start to wordsmith on the fly. You’ll say in your head, This phrase works better than that, and this is better than the other. In nanoseconds, you’re wordsmithing. The regular practice of journaling will be a tremendous help in developing your communication skills.

ACTION STEPS:

  • Check online for online journals
  • or Grab a notebook
  • Commit to writing down your journal entry everyday for the remainder of your fast

OTHER RESOURCES:

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