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Hey Friends, I want to make sure that we keep connected with you in the future so I need to ask you a favor. Would you please visit our website today at http://www.cfnpr.org, click on today’s post and subscribe to it there?

Currently we are double posting here and on the new blog but that won’t be the case much longer, so please visit the site today and subscribe there that way you’ll be sure to get every blog as soon as they come out.

Blessings,
PT

Putting First Things First

Maybe you can relate to my morning.  It started at about 6am, I fixed a cup of herbal tea and sat down with my bible (the ET – that’s electronic tablet not English Translation) and the urge hit me.  You see, not only is my bible now in my hand but so is a barrage of social connection.  The ability to connect early with a dozen or so people I “need” to talk to today, the tool to check in on some folks I haven’t connected with this week… they are all vying for just a moment of my time.   It’s only a finger swipe between getting a jump start on what I know is already a busy day for me and the opportunity to sit at the feet of the Master.  A no brainer right?

“Come on Martha, I need a witness up in here”.

Jesus knew all too well the demands of public life, of running an organization, of raising children (just read the Gospels, those twelve guys acted more like adolescents than adults most of the time).  I read of some of the encounters Jesus had with His disciples and know deep in my heart that He understands when I say about my grandkids on a night at Chuck e Cheese… “they’re like herding cats!”.   Yes my friends, Jesus knows all too well our temptation to get up and just get started with our day.

In this season of fasting I want to encourage you to develop a faith discipline of putting first things first.  You wouldn’t think of heading out the door in the morning without putting on some street cloths (although a late night trip to Walmart might challenge that concept).  I’d hope that you’d do you momma proud and eat your breakfast, brush your teeth and comb your hair before you stepped out the door.  My point is there are routines that you and I follow every day before “starting” our day.  My challenge?  Make personal time with the Word one of those routines.   Taking just a moment to pause and invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you on your commute, to that morning meeting, that interview, or on the production line – inviting His presence and power to stand beside you throughout today will profoundly change your ordinary into extraordinary, your mundane into miraculous.  Simply putting first things first will make all the difference in the world.

Mark 1:35
Matthew 6:28-33

How Will You Look at the End of This Fast?

As we begin this season of fasting, I want to challenge you to look ahead.  What will you look like on day 22?  When Daniel addressed the Officer of King Nebuchadnezzar he persuaded him to allow Daniel and his friends to forgo the rich cuisine of Babylon’s “delicacies” and instead to feast on a more simplistic diet.  A reluctant officer agreed only when the challenge was laid down that there would be a visible difference between he and his friends and the rest of the King’s court.  Just ten days later there was no denying that the four Hebrews were “different”, healthier, more vibrant and alert.

With just a little effort you can find all sorts of medical, psychological and spiritual research on the benefits of fasting.  It’s not hard to understand that the discipline of fasting can have substantial positive effects in a person’s body, soul and spirit.  Often when you go for medical tests you are asked to take no food or drink 12 to 14 hours before.   Why, because the results of the test are clearer as the result of the fast.  Think on that for a moment.  The test comes out clearer when you fast.  In other words there can be a marked difference between in the results if you fast and if you don’t.   If that is true of our physical body, how much more is it true for our spirit man?

What is it that you want to see differently at the end of your fast?  What would life look like on the other side of that breakthrough; if that financial blessing came through, if that relationship was restored?  Friend, don’t just look at this season of fasting as one more day of denying yourself of the “delicacies”, look ahead at the transformation your Heavenly Father desires to make in your life as you turn your focus on Him.

Heavenly Father, as I begin this season of fasting, allow me to see myself in a new way.  Allow me to look through the lens of faith to see my circumstance, my relationships, my life fully transformed by the power of Your grace.  In the matchless and mighty name of Your Son, Jesus.  Amen!

Daniel 1:3-15

Are You Expecting?

Today marks that last full week of our 21 day fast (the fast ends at sundown on Monday).  It ‘s been rather quiet as far as reports of what God has been saying to some of you during this season of fasting.  That doesn’t mean nothing at all is going on;  hardly!  But if you do say, “Pastor Terry, I’ve gone 14 days now and really haven’t had that ‘ah ha” moment with the Lord”. Don’t be concerned, you are in good company.  I was reading in Luke 4 this morning.  It’s the account of Jesus’ 40 day fast.  Have you ever stopped to think that during His season of fasting, the only thing we have recorded of Christ’s experience is temptation?    Think about that for a moment.  Jesus walks away from a baptismal service where He, and everyone else around, has an incredible encounter with God and is immediately led, by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness.  The purpose of that journey?  To be tempted.  In fact, according to the text, Jesus wasn’t tempted three times from the devil, he was tempted 40 days by him! (Luke 4:2)

What if that had been you or I?  What would our attitude on day 21 of that fast have been?  “Wow Lord, I really didn’t expect this.  I mean, I thought, you know, we’d hang out… we’d talk, you’d do some cool stuff for me…”  Okay, maybe not that relaxed but you get my point.  Perhaps in this season of fasting God is not so interested in what we get out of this time as much as He is interested in what we will allow Him to take out of us.

Let this week be a week of total cleansing.  If the the rest of chapter 4 is any indication, the results will be worth the test.

You chew on that today!

21 Day Fast Mid Week Meditation

I hadn’t really intended to post daily or even frequently throughout the week during the fast.  That was as much for myself than anything else.  Sometimes, as a pastor, I can easily fall into a trap of reading the Word for the sake of others rather than for myself.  It would be like preparing an awesome meal (Daniel approved for now, of course) and serving everyone in the room but not taking one bite for yourself.  Do that for a meal and you’d be alright, I suppose, but meal after meal, day after day; the signs of malnutrition would begin to show.  See, I have a confession to make.  I’m walking through this fast as much, if not more, for me than for my congregation, church or community.  I want God!  I want a renewed sense of His presence;  and dare i say, I’m even looking for that in tangible ways.  So I’ve been going to the Word a couple times a day, just for me.  But there’s nothing that says I can’t allow you to eat off of my plate. (I’m speaking clearly metaphorically for those who do not know me well – for those who do, you can stop gasping now)

I was led to read the whole of the 119th Psalm this morning and those of you who know your Word, I felt an urge to get up and go to the bathroom then prepare a snack (Scratching your head?  It’s the longest chapter of the Bible).

I was first struck by the fact that of the 176 verses in the chapter the “Word” (in such references as law, testimonies, word, way, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgement or justice and ordinance) is mentioned over 180 times.  In fact there are only two verses of the 176 that do not hold such references but listen to what they say…

Verse 122
“Be surety for Your servant for good; Do not let the proud oppress me.”

Verse 131
“Look upon me and be merciful to me, As Your custom is toward those who love Your name.”

Being fair to my point these two verses do not refer directly to reading, meditating, knowing or declaring the Word, but there’s no argument that a person could not trust in the provision and protection (surety in verse 122) or have a developed “love” for the Name of the Lord without some foundational  knowledge of what the Word itself says about the person and character of God.  But I was drawn to two verses in particular that compelled me to share from my plate today…

Psalm 119:133  “Direct my steps by Your Word.  And let no iniquity have dominion over me. (134) Redeem me from the oppression of man. That I might keep your precepts.  Then the thought occurred to me that if the psalmist trusted that the power of the Word could break the dominion of sin over his life, how much more can I trust the “Word who became flesh (John 1:1) to give me authority over iniquity?   That I have been fully redeemed from the oppression of man; past, present and future because of the everlasting work of Christ at Calvary!

Today, I rejoice in the completed work of Christ for my redemption and for my victory every day.  “Victory every day? what planet are you living on pastor?”  The same one you do my friend but the victory I choose to look at, you see, is not that which I, in some fleshly way might have stumbled into or by mere chance avoided some trap of the enemy.  No, I choose to cast my eyes on the victory that is mine in Christ.  And because He lives in me that victory, by venture of His triumph over death and hell, is in me!!  

When I read this passage, I imagined the psalmist sitting at a table in the corner of the Tabernacle David had build, writing the words of this psalm and when coming to the truth of these two verses, he paused and dropped his quill.  Rising from the wooden stool he approaches the Arc and with tears in his eyes he crys “Oh that I could have such dominion over the waywardness of my heart”.  In that moment the very Word steps up beside him and standing there, together, before the majesty of what was the Arc of the Covenant, the incarnate Christ reaches into the psalmist’s chest and touches his heart.  “In Me, that’s what dominion feels like”  At once the man is overwhelmed by wave after wave of emotion he has never sensed.  A confidence, not in his own strength  but in the abiding presence and power of El Shaddai rushes through his very being.  He has been touched by the Word, the Word that one day would become flesh and dwell among men.  The Word that would endure throughout time.  After, what seemed to be an eternity and yet a fleeting second in time, the man rises to his feet and returns to the dimly lit table, Picking up the quill and dipping it in the well he writes, (165) “great peace have those who love your law”.  Peace in oppression?  Sure, when the Prince of Peace touches you!

Eat on that today!
PT

Why Aren’t You Eating?

Fast Reflection  Week 2

I’ve found it to be a pretty common thing for people to ask the “how” of fasting.  You know,  “what’s the ‘right way’ to fast?  Does it have to be food or can I fast exercise for the next three weeks.  Okay, no one has actually asked me about fasting exercise during our corporate fasts and before you would choose that as your fast, please do talk to me!  Too many of us have been on that fast far to long.

Last week I encouraged you to walk in a spirit of liberty during this time of fasting (yes, I understand the foundational irony of that statement) in that our fast is so much more of an attitude of our heart and not so much an attention to a menu.  Jesus Himself spoke of this when He confronted the Pharisees, who knew all too well how to fast, but had forsaken the deep reasons for fasting.   So, I ask, why aren’t you eating?  Because if you don’t others might see you as less spiritual?  Because you feel that joining the fast it’s the “right” thing to do?   Or is it because your hunger for the presence and power of God is so much stronger than your hunger for certain foods or eating at all?  If your response more resonates with the latter, you’re getting warmer.

When I fast I become increasingly aware of spiritual things, and particularly, as my stomach rumbles, I’m reminded of my own spiritual hunger – or the lack of it.  As I press through the pangs, I’m reminded of those things that God has impregnated my spirit-man with;  dreams and desires to become a more effective man of God, bolder in my faith and more eager to share my faith story with others.  And somewhere in the midst, there arises a confidence that, in beating back the urges of my flesh to satisfy my physical hunger, I can do the same with those things that appeal to my flesh and desensitize me to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Why not eat?  Because in bringing my flesh under subjection to the Spirit I am in turn liberated to satisfy my hearts hunger for an intimate encounter with Father God.

So It Begins

Last Sunday during my message, I reminded our congregation that, as a corporate body we would be observing a 21 day fast as the new year began.  I reminded you to seek God as to what HE would have you “put down” as your means of fasting and explained that, in the Jones home, we would be observing the Daniel Fast for the next three weeks.  Then it began!  “Does the fast start on January 1st or after corporate prayer on Saturday night?”  “Do I have to give up meat altogether?  I’m going to start working out and getting back into shape for the new year so I need my protein.”  “What do you think about me giving up cigarettes for the fast?” – – Now, that one, I have to say, I responded pretty quickly to.  “I think that it would be awesome to give up cigarettes for the fast and fasting will probably help you go a long way in quitting!  Then I suggested the Daniel Fast and praying for strength to stop smoking altogether.  I walked away from those types of conversations a little fearful that walking into a fast some might step over their own cliff. Not the financial kind. I’m talking about a cliff of legalism!

As much as many of you get a little nervous about fasting, I so want to encourage you to step into this season joyful, excited and expecting, not fearful.  “What if I can’t complete the fast?”.  “What if I slip and eat something I shouldn’t?”,  Folks, the earth is not going to open up and swallow you whole because you sneaked (snuck??) an Oreo at grandma’s today.  Now, if you don’t dunk it in some ice cold milk first, that’s a whole other story!  No, I’ve got some great news for you,  Grace applies to fasting just as much as it applies to our other struggles with weakness.  It’s like the age old question, “Which sin is the worst” kind of thing, the one Hershey’s kiss or the slice of Death by Chocolate?   I feel I shouldn’t have to answer a question like that, but for those who continue to struggle; “Neither”, and “both”!  See, like any other aspect of our walk with Christ, the how, what, when, and where of fasting is all about the why.  I fast because I need to bring my life back into submission to the Holy Spirit.  I fast because I want to empty me of me so that I can be filled with Christ’s fullness all the more.  I fast to bring my thought life back into alignment with the mind of Christ.  I fast to unclutter my spiritual life so that the power of God might flow through me more freely.

So it begins. Whether that is, for you, today or Saturday – start and kick it off joyfully.  God’s got something amazing in store for you in this season of fasting.

Postscript:   Let me encourage you to re-post these blogs, “like” them on Facebook, forward them on twitter.  Pass them along as much as you desire.  But, please take a minute to share your thoughts and experiences right here during this 21 day fast.  We would love to hear from you.

Today’s Scripture reading:  Daniel 10

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