Friday, January 30, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 30: Love Him

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied with this. Love God, and the second was love your neighbor as yourself.

So, as we close out this 30 days of prayer and fasting, meditate on this word. We don't love God or others because of our goodness. We love because we were loved first by a boundless and infinite saviour.

Let's end with this simple truth. Love God. Love others, and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 29: God Loves

The Bible is made up of 66 books and written over a period of 1,500 years telling one single story, a love story. God has always wanted a relationship with His creation from walking with Adam in the cool of the mornings; to spending time revealing Himself to Moses; to sending His son Jesus to restore a relationship with you and I.

Our God is very different than gods that were created by man. Instead of having to try and please a god to receive favor for rain, or harvest etc. Our God wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to serve us and love us. His story is a love story, many times of unrequited love, but still He pursues us to this day.

Isaiah 40:11
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
As we begin to bring this time of prayer and fasting to a close. I pray that you are beginning to understand the depths of God's love for you. As He tends to you and gathers you close to His heart. Our God is amazing and He loves and cares for you.

Prayer Focus: Pray that you begin to understand the depths of His love and that you begin to love Him for who He is, your loving Father in Heaven.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day 28: Faith

This past week has been a difficult one for families in our church. We have mom's, dad's, and cousins in critical or terminal conditions for various reasons. The good news is we serve a God that is Above the Storm. Even though we don't understand why bad things happen in this world, God that has a different perspective. When Job wanted a response from God as to why he was suffering so greatly, God responded in Job 38:4 "Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundation?"

God's eternal perspective is so much different than ours. He sees things we do not see. Although our questions are valid, God's purposes and plans are so much bigger than our own. We need to continue to "walk in faith and not by sight" even in the most difficult of times. One day we will have a different perspective than we have today. When that day comes we will rejoice in the righteousness and wisdom of our God.

Prayer Focus: Pray that we can walk in faith through the most difficult of times. Also pray for members of our extended church family who need your prayers today-Celia Calvillo, Phil Heick, and Cheryl Young.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day 27: Legacy

I have a thought to share with you about Proverbs 4:23 and the instruction God gives us to “guard our hearts.” We should know how important it is that we celebrate what God has already done. I believe it is equally important for us to expect the best, as well.

We should wake up every morning shaking off any negativity, all the naysayers’ voices and all the doubt - and instead start each day with the decision to believe God and simply take Him at His word. And we should be obedient to that word. It’s easy to look at negative signs and get depressed. But our confidence is in God, and we look forward knowing who we are in Christ. Because of that, we can expect the best.

The beginning of Joshua 1 gives us some great thoughts along these lines. Check out verse 9 in particular:

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

As Kingdom Builders, we can believe that our lives have a legacy, that we are changing the world, that we’re doing something that matters, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Because we guard our hearts and deliberately put our confidence in God, we are able to dream, hope, expect joyfully despite the issues around us. Now is the time to be courageous, to realize that God is in control and is with us. Ask Him today what He wants you to commit, then obey Him with confidence and great expectancy.-Pastor Dino Rizzo

Prayer Focus: Pray that we can truly leave a legacy in El Paso/Juarez and beyond

Monday, January 26, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 26: Decide

One of the raddest characters in the Bible would have to be Elijah. He was a prophet of God. These were the men that spoke for God to the people by divine inspiration. Probably the craziest story about Elijah was when he faced off with 850 pagan prophets on top of Mount Carmel.

He presented a challenge for them and the people of Israel.

1 Kings 18:20-21
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."
But the people said nothing.
Elijah told the pagan prophets to call down fire from heaven to burn up a sacrifice. After hurling some unique insults at their powerless gods, he prayed and the true God sent down fire that even burned up the rocks of the altar he had built. Then the people knew that Elijah's God was real and chose to listen to him.

Isn't that a sad story? They had to wait for God to send fire down from heaven before they would actually believe. Jesus had a similar group to deal with.

Matthew 12:38-40
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." 39He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
"But the people said nothing." Those words are unsettling. I would hate to think that given that chance I would make the same mistake. Yet sometimes, I too demand a sign before acting on what I know is right. My hope is that we as Christians make our minds up now whom we will follow. Let's not wait for angels to tell us what to do. Jesus already gave us the sign of Jonah. He died and three days later rose again. Let's believe that is true. Let's share that with others. Let's decide to follow Him with our whole hearts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 25: We Cry Out

Exodus 3:9
And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.

We can never forget that God sees our pain and hears our cries. God's people were being oppressed in Egypt, and from their point of view, I'm sure it almost seemed like God had forgotten all about them. If you read ahead though, God sent his servant Moses to free his people from the bondage of slavery.

Be encourage that God still answers prayer, and He still moves on behalf of his people. So, don't give up in the face of insurmountable odds. Keep crying out to him.

Prayer Focus: Keep going to God with your petitions and believe that He will answer your prayers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 23: Seeking God

2 Chronicles 20:1-5 says “Moab, Ammon, and some of the Meunites came to make war against Jehoshaphat.” Upon hearing what he was about to potentially face, Jehoshaphat became alarmed. He was moved by the news of a war. Jehoshaphat found inspiration to move toward God because he needed God to fight this battle. He faced a time and a situation where he felt small, weak, and inadequate, but Jehoshaphat would overcome by the following principles:

1. Jehoshaphat Overcame by Making God a Priority.
He turned his attention to seek the Lord. Like a laser beam, Jehoshaphat became focused on God. Every situation in life can cause us to refocus on Christ in a new and fresh way. In our twenty one days of prayer and fasting, hopefully you have come to know Christ better and deeper than ever before.

2. Jehoshaphat Overcame by Making Fasting a Priority. (2 Chronicles 20:3)
He disciplined his life to seek God by detaching himself from everything that would preoccupy him from what was really important.

Nothing makes us focused like fasting. Fasting for me has always caused me to see how strong the world’s pull and food really is. It’s amazing how preoccupied we are about our next meal and when we’re going to eat it. Fasting has always caused me to trust God more for strength and energy. In God, we are never stronger than when we are weak. I believe fasting signals to God that we are serious about His involvement in our lives.

3. Jehoshaphat Overcame by Fasting and Praying with Other Believers.
2 Chronicles 20:4 says, “Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; they even came from all the cities of Judah.”

How pleased the Lord had to be, and how pleased He is to see hundreds of cities and churches gather together like Judah for twenty one days of fasting and prayer. Jesus said where two or more are gathered, He is in the midst of them, and I believe God has been in the middle of this fast. He may be more pleased about our coming together than He is our fasting.

As we come to the end of these twenty one days, I pray the same peace that came upon Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:30) would come upon us all as we continue to seek God together.

God is moving and will continue to move as we pray and fast.-Pastor Joe Champion

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 23: Closer

James 4:8
"Come close to God, and He will come close to you."

Many of us love this amazing promise from God. To think that God will come close to us is an incredible thought. God will come close to you, but there is a prerequisite-You must first draw close to Him. Too often we get so involved in our own little worlds we rarely spend time in His big world. Therefore, not seeing things from His perfect perspective. Let's take a look at this verse in the greater context of this passage of scripture.

"God opposes the proud but favors the humble. So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor."

In looking closely at this passage we see that the prerequisite before we can come close to God is to humble ourselves. Moreover, we need to ask forgiveness and truly grasp the fact of how deeply sorrowful we should feel for having a divided heart. I think there is so much emphasis on mourning in this passage because it breaks the heart of God when we abandon and reject Him.

When we truly and deeply repent for not coming close to God because of our focus on our own world rather than His, in this state of humility, we can approach the throne and He will lift us up in honor.

Prayer Focus: Ask forgiveness of the things you have done that break the heart of God and pray that you can come closer to Him and that He will come closer to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 22: Ask
Matthew 7:7-12
7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our God is referred to as "Father" over and over in the scriptures. Some of us may not like the comparison quite frankly. The concept of a wonderful and gracious father may be completely foreign to anyone who has had a strained relationship with their earthly dad. Yet God thought it was important to reveal himself as a heavenly patriarch watching out for his kids.

Here in the scriptures Jesus implores his followers to simply ask, seek and knock. When we turn away from prideful arrogance and humble ourselves before God, He answers our cries. The answer may not be what we expected, but just like a loving Father, he will answer without fail.

With that said, you still have to ask. Such is the importance of prayer. Present God with your needs. Leave them at His feet.

And then, don't forget the "do to others" part. If God supplies your needs, how much should you give back to others?

Prayer Focus: Ask God to supply your needs and to show you ways you can supply others' needs as well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day 21: Perseverance of Failures

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the Bible is a book full of failures. The Bible never fails to show us the true humanity of the figures we've grown to hold in high esteem. Whether it be Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Peter, Thomas, Paul or any number of characters, they all were completely fallible and failed often. Yet despite all of their faults, God still found a way to use them.

One of my favorites is the story of Jacob. He's seen as one of the three Patriarchs of our faith (Abraham & Isaac are the others), but let's look at his early life. He cheats his brother out of his birthright, lies to his father to get the blessing of the first-born and runs away in fear for his life. That's not the best start one can make. Still, he made a decision to follow God and listen to his words, and for this faith he was blessed to be the father of a great nation. It's not how you begin, but how you finish.

If we look at another person from the Bible, David, we'll see the opposite of Jacob's story. He started out with things going for him. He kills a giant and becomes famous, and even though he has hard times he always does the right thing. It isn't until he was king for a while that he committed the sins of adultery and murder. He paid the price for his sin the rest of his life. When we look back on his life, it becomes a cautionary tale. Again, it's not how you begin, but how you finish.

Perhaps you've had a rocky start in life. Maybe you are living for only yourself. The good news is, no matter what you've done, your story isn't over yet. Get back in the race, and you too can finish strong.

Prayer Focus: Pray that you can persevere to the end despite your failures.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day Twenty: Liberty

What a great day in our nation's history. Whether you call yourself a republican, a democrat, an independent or something else, we are all Americans. Today was a great day to see an African-American take office, but more than that a common man. A man with very humble beginnings, great disappointments, and significant faults being elected to the most powerful office in the free world. Whether you agree with him or not, scripture calls us to pray for him.

To see a peaceful transfer of power by the inauguration of another President of the United States never gets old for me. I am a patriot and I am proud of our country. We truly live in the greatest nation on earth. Not because of our greatness, but because of the greatness of our God.

Below are the words of John F. Kennedy that were echoed today by President Barack Obama in his inaugural address. See also below a quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. and an excerpt from the Mayflower Compact.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God...Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah "to undue the heavy burdens...and let the oppressed go free." ...The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.-JFK

An excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.'s, "I have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.-MLK, Jr.

An excerpt of the Mayflower Compact that the pioneers of our nation wrote after they landed in Virginia documenting the purpose for their voyage which was signed November 11, 1620.

In the name of God, Amen...Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia.-documented by William Bradford

Let us not forget that all things flow from God. The reason the United States of America is the greatest country in the world; is because it was founded "for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith". It is freedom through Christ alone that is the light of this great nation.

Prayer Focus: Pray that Jesus Christ is exalted in our great nation and that revival comes to the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day 19: Give Thanks

Leviticus 25:38
38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

If you read the Old Testament, you'll notice a repeated theme over and over again. God is constantly reminding the nation of Israel that he was the one that brought them out of Egypt. It may seem strange or even pretentious of God at first to keep replaying the same message, but I think it represents an important idea.

Present situations can cloud our memory. When you're in the heat of the moment important details get quickly overlooked. Maybe you've been in an argument with your spouse and at the time couldn't remember why you got married in the first place. Your current situation clouded your judgment. There might be some things said, in the heat of that moment, that you'll regret later in the day. Often times, our immediate issues cloud out any sense of history. We forget too easily.

The Hebrews were no exception to this rule. They had to constantly be reminded of what God had done for them. We need to be reminded too. God has done a great work for us by taking away our sins. It would be very easy to look at any of our situations and forget what God has done for us. This is why we need to give thanks to God, especially during the hard times. I love how Paul puts it.

Romans 5:2B-5
2B)And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3)Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4)perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5)And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

"And hope does not disappoint us..." This is probably my favorite piece of scripture. That promise is so visceral, so tangible. We all have hopes, and often times they end up crushing us with disappointment. But there is one hope that will never disappoint. Just don't forget that hope. Don't let the worries of today cloud the promises of tomorrow, and never forget what God has already done for you.

Prayer Focus: Give thanks to God for what he has done for you today.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day Eighteen: Our God is an awesome God!

Just reflecting on the journey that God has taken my wife and I on for the last six years. We are so blessed to be able to serve Him. We had a great service today where four more people came to Christ. Tonight, we have been connecting to old friends on FB, what an amazing thing!

Yesterday, Jerry Trevillian and I did an impromptu outreach to a new friend of ours, who is homeless. He is currently living under a bridge with his wife Cathy. He called me and explained his situation and I asked him what he needed. He said they were hungry and cold. So Jerry and I packed up a few things we had lying around the house and went to meet the need. John and Cathy were happy to see us and we hung out and talked underneath the railroad tracks. Their dogs had food, but they didn't. There are so many needs that need to be met. I pray that God will use you to meet the needs of hurting people in your life.

Prayer Focus: Pray for Big John and Miss Cathy. Pray that they are warm, have a full stomach, and are in the hand of The Father that loves them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Seventeen: Just do it!

James 1:22-25
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

Sometimes we need to do what the old Nike campaign said and "Just do it". I know far too many people who can quote scripture, talk about God in everyday conversation, and eloquently express their faith, but many of them fail to make even the slightest impact for God. Let's not be the man who gazes at the Word, but let's listen to God and then, "Just do it". Our world needs us to hear from God, by reading his word, and then acting on it. If more of us "just do it" we can be part of a revival like the world has never known.

Prayer Focus: Pray that you apply The Truth and make a Kingdom impact in your world today.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Now that I’m in my 40’s (as hard as it is to believe I admit “yeah I’m in my forties”), one of the things I am learning to really enjoy is a passion for practicing reflection. I truly believe it is hard to chart a good future and keep the wind of His Spirit in your sails if you’ve never taken time to look back over the sea of life you have just covered – whether it is for ministry, family, friendship, or seasons of life.

Stopping for reflection is a key to understanding this life in the Spirit. Check out 1 Corninthians 2:10 where Paul reminds us that “God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” To see life by His Spirit – now, that’s the journey I want.

So for me, one of the essentials of all this is the fasting we have been talking about. I need it in my life. These are days to seek a laser focus on what God is saying by the Spirit and the Spirit of His Word that can be amplified by our dedication to a fast.

My prayer for you today as you sail across this 2009 is for your faith to be strengthened as you reflect on what God has done – on what He is doing now during this personal devotion time – and on what He is going to do with you on this amazing voyage called life.

So set your sails. The wind is blowing. And the seas are calling. -Pastor Dino Rizzo

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Fifteen: Listen

Genesis 12:1
The LORD had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.'

As I was asking the youth last night "How can we hear from God?" I heard some very good answers and some out of the box ones as well. Overall, I was trying to get them to think about the simple ways of stopping and listening to God's voice.

Reading the Old Testament like the scripture above can easily give someone the impression that in order to hear God speak, they need to hear an audible James Earl Jones-esque voice. No matter how hard you try or how long you wait, you may never have one of those experiences. But nonetheless, God still speaks today.

Have you ever just stopped and tried to listen to what God is saying to you? There are all sorts of ways to hear his voice. Let's get back to that conversation I had with the youth, and see some of the ways they said God can speak to us: friends, other Christians, dreams, the Bible, praying, quiet time, and on, and on, and on. We serve an infinite God that speaks to us in infinite ways. So, my encouragement is to take the time to try and improve your hearing. You may not have a chorus line of angels dancing on your duvet, but he will speak to you if you listen.

Prayer Focus: Pray for God to reveal to you ways of improving your spiritual ears.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Fourteen: Margin

Leviticus 23:22
"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God."

Throughout the Bible, God speaks to us about His concern for the poor. How many gods that man has created to worship have cared about the poor...let's just say not many. What a caring and compassionate God we serve. It's us that get in the way. God has created enough resources to support the entire earth. The scarcity comes from our greed. Our God is a god of sufficiency. He has supplied us with everything we need. Think about this, "what do you eat or wear that doesn't ultimately come from Him"? God has enough for you and I and wants to use us to leave "the very edges of our field" for the poor and the stranger.

Prayer Focus: Pray for what you can cut out of your daily life, maybe Starbucks, that you could take and give to the poor.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Thirteen: Journaling

Some of you have asked about journaling. The Bible neither commands nor suggests that the believer should journal. However, we would not have the scriptures that govern our life if someone did not write them down.-Amen?

Personally, I think journaling is a good exercise. Writing down your prayers, thoughts, and events in your life can be simple yet profound. The act of writing them down is beneficial, but the best part comes in reading them afterwards. You can see how you reacted in a difficult time, remember how God has blessed you, and see how you have matured throughout your walk.

I will put an excerpt from my journal in March 2008. This excerpt was when we were just beginning the initial stages of HPC El Paso. We had no building, no worship leader, and very few people on the team. This was the day before our very first team meeting when Esther and I first shared the vision of HPC El Paso.

At this point in my life, I was unemployed but with a dream that God placed in my heart. I normally journal about one scripture, but this day for whatever reason I journaled after I read two passages of scripture. These are short entries but they need not be long. I typically journal my prayers and sometimes record events from our lives that are special to me.

Read Mathew 26:57-68
"Jesus, you were rejected for being the Messiah. I pray that you strengthen Esther and I so that we can stand with you...whatever the cost!"

Read Psalm 46:1-11
"Lord, I thank you for being my fortress. I shall not fear what happens on Earth for you are in control. We (the church) are secure in you! Be with us, inspire us, encourage us, protect us, and fill us with your Spirit as we preach the Gospel to the nations!

I will post one more journal entry before we finish our 30 days of prayer and fasting. I hope this helps see how easy yet how meaningful these acts of journaling can be.

Prayer Focus: Pray that we let the Word of God empower us as we draw closer to Him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Twelve: Children of Light

Proverbs 4:18
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

Excerpt from Mathew Henry's Commentary:
"The way of the righteous is light; Christ is their Way, and He is the Light. The saints will not be perfect till they reach Heaven, but there they shall shine as the sun in His those that walk in the light. It is as morning light, which shines out of obscurity and puts and end to the works of darkness."

God has called us as believers in El Paso and Juarez to begin to shine. The darker it is, the brighter the light shines. Darkness cannot overcome the light, rather it is light that overcomes darkness. As you draw closer to God, you will begin to reflect His glory and so shine. As you grow in Him, you will shine brighter and brighter like "that of the rising sun"!

Prayer Focus: Pray that you truly begin to shine so that others might see the glory of Christ through your life and believe.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 11: Make it Simple

Here is a truth I've learned, how we manage our time (just like managing our money) will reveal our priorities in life.

Where does your time go?

My time gets wasted more often than I'd like to admit, but one of the best things I can do is prioritize reading God's word. Anything we prioritize, we will find time to do. No matter how crazy our lives are, there is almost, always time for the important things. No, it's not always easy to do, but it can be simple. Just cut out the fat and eat the meat. Find what's not so important in the grand scheme of things and replace it for what is eternal.

A great resource for any of you that want to prioritize getting closer to God this year is the One Year Bible. They have online reading plans or you can pick one up at a local bookstore. In one year, you'll have read through the entire Bible. You'll be amazed at all of the things you've missed out on once you read the whole book.

Proverbs 3:5-8

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.

8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

Hide the truth in your heart. Don't just try to figure everything out on your own, but rely on God's word to see you through this year.

Prayer Focus: Pray that God will reveal what excess you can cut out of your life in 2009.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day 10: Go

Let's use our imaginations for a second. Jesus has just died. Here is this guy that we've been following for a few years now. He was the one that was supposed to change the world, make everything wrong with the world right and turn our lives upside down. But now... Now he just dies?

Think of how his disciples must of felt for those three days before he rose from the dead. Just look what they decided to do after they found the empty tomb. According to John's account, they went back home and locked their doors in fear.

But as suddenly as he had left them, Jesus returned to bring good news. He was alive and well and would be sending his spirit soon. In his final moments with them he gives some of the most important instructions we Christians will ever hear.

Matthew 28:19-20
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
He tells them to GO, which stands in stark contrast to the disciples hiding in fear. We the Church must never forget this commandment. God is not in our buildings. He is not in our programs. He is in us and we shouldn't be stingy with him. We can't just try to make people meet us where we are. We have to GO to be able to share him with others.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Nine: Relationships

I just spent the last couple of hours on the phone with a couple of great friends of mine-Howard Ashkinos and Charles Young. We had a great time reminiscing about the past, dreaming about the future, talking about our families, and being grateful for God's purpose in our lives. Friendships are a gift of God and a way to draw closer to Him. Friends are there to encourage you during life's difficult times, to celebrate the great times, and true friends are there for your life's journey. Below are some of my favorite versus on friends.

Romans 5:11
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Revelation 3:20
“Look! I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Isn't it great to know that we are friends of God? In Jesus Christ we can have an intimate relationship with Him. As you press in Closer to God this month remember that He loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with You! For many years as a Christian, I didn't even know what that meant. Have a personal relationship, with someone I can't see...what?

Through spending time with God in prayer, reading the Bible, and through connecting with Christian friends, you can begin to improve your relationship with Him. And then one day, you can look forward to Jesus knocking on your door and sharing a meal...maybe even some enchilada's montanas, :)

Prayer Focus: Pray that your relationship with God gets Closer as you come to know Him more.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Eight: Life and Death

What we sometimes overlook is that Christ's death defeated sin. What I mean is, mentally we kind of lump Jesus' death and resurrection into one compartment. We need to remind ourselves that these are two separate events with two separate outcomes.

Through the death of Jesus, we have victory over sin in our life. Jesus' last words were, "It is finished." If Jesus stops there...we win, because we already have forgiveness of our sins. Thank God He didn't. He rose to a new life! So then, as we die (to our sinful nature) with Christ we can also live. After His resurrection, Jesus' first word's were, "Why are you crying?" No longer is there a reason to be afraid, no longer do we need to cry, for we have new life!

2 Timothy 2:11:
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him
So today, I ask you to live. Live life with a new passion. Live life like there are no secrets. Live life like today were your last. Yesterday He died for you, but today He lives for you. The old adage is true, "Everyone dies, but few people live." Live life for Jesus today.

Prayer focus: Pray that you begin to live the life found only in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Seven: Humility

I have been reading the book, Humility, by Andrew Murray. Andrew Murray was born in South Africa in 1828 and was a pastor, missionary, and author. His book is one that is a must read for those that want to get closer to God. Murray shows how humility is the very essence of Christ in His coming to this Earth, His life, and His death and contrasts that with how, as Christians, we seek not this virtue. If that were true of most Christians in the 1800's, imagine how much more so today. I mean it's hard to be hip and humble at the same time!

I've always thought that humility was my greatest virtue. (For those that need an explanation, that was a joke) I must have a problem with humility because God has given me so many attributes to keep me humble. I am humbly reminded of my inadequacies daily.

Here are some quotes published in Murray's book that you may enjoy:
"Humility is the proper estimate of oneself."-Charles Spurgeon

"Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil's reach as humility."-Jonathan Edwards

"...humility is the very essence of holiness. It is the displacement of self by the enthronement of God. Where God is all, self is nothing."-Andrew Murray
So as we work to get closer to God this month. Let us not forget, but emulate the essence of Christ--humility. Allowing yourself to become nothing so God can become ALL.

Mathew 20:26-28
"Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Prayer Focus: Pray that you truly become humble so that God can use you greatly for His glory.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day Six: True Religion, James 1:27

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that the heart of God is for the poor, lonely, and hurting. When the world says to run towards your own pleasure; God says to run towards the pain of someone else. God cares for His children and wants to use you to reach them. As you are drawing closer to God, begin to ask Him what you can do for His Kingdom. Many times He will guide you "to the least of these".

I would be remiss if I didn't cover the other qualifier for pure religion...personal holiness. Many times we leave this one out. Maybe because it seems to be even more inconvenient than reaching out to hurting people. As we draw closer to God this January, He will open up our eyes to some adjustments that we need to make in our personal lives.

Many people don't want to get too close to God because they think He won't let them have any more fun. However, making adjustments in our life to please Him begins to open up a world of intimacy, passion, and dare I say "fun" that few experience. Once you begin getting closer to God, you realize that nothing in this world can compare to an intimate relationship with Him.

Prayer Focus: Pray that your relationship with God deepens and that He opens your eyes to opportunities to bring a healing touch into a hurting world.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day Five: The Call

A friend of mine expressed a frustration because she said she didn’t know what “the call” was on her life. It struck me, so I thought I would deviate to that thought for today’s devotional.

Sometimes we use that phrase “being called” and it can mislead people. I am definitely called into ministry, which is a specific call on one’s life. However, I don’t believe that as Christians we are called to “the one big thing”. If we don’t find that “one big thing” we feel like we are failing somehow. Moreover, we can tend to wait for the “one big thing” to come our way. Or even worse yet, try to manufacture a call on our life that God never intended.

As Christians, what are we called to do?
The first and foremost call on a person’s life is the call of Salvation. It is through responding to this call that begin our new life’s journey. We are called to love God and love each other. We are called to meet the needs of others, particularly the hurting. It is through our response that God can touch those He loves so much.

Jesus always met the need. The man with leprosy needed a touch, the adulterous woman needed compassion, and the 5,000 needed to eat.

The call on our life is to begin a journey through Christ. As we walk with Him, we are called to meet the needs of others along the way. For most of us, “the call” is a lifestyle of love that has a beginning, but no end…Amen.

Prayer Focus: Pray that you become aware of the needs around you and that you respond to them, one at a time, out of your love for God and others.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Closer: To God. To Home. To Others.

Day Four: John 4:9-14

The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

As we get closer to God, our souls begin to come alive in Christ. The scales fall from our eyes and we begin to discover a life that we never knew existed. Many Christians know Christ intellectually and maybe can even quote a few scriptures, but how many of us have experienced the spring of water welling up to eternal life? Our faith is more than emotions, but when you begin to become Closer to God-a passion, an adventure, and a life begin to come alive. Once the living water begins to well up in your heart, you will never be the same.

Prayer Focus: Pray for the living water, found only in Christ, to become alive and real to you as you begin to draw Closer to God.

If you have not received Christ as your personal Savior, you can do that now. Romans 10:9: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." You don't need to be at church and there doesn't need to be any fireworks, you can accept Christ as your Savior right now next to your computer. Accept Him and begin to live a life of which even your dreams could not begin to imagine.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Day Three: 1 Samuel 14:6

"And Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, Come, and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For there is nothing to prevent the Lord from saving by many or by few."

While Saul, Jonathan's dad and King of Israel, sat under a pomegranate tree with 600 men; Jonathan and his armor bearer defeated the Philistines. One of the most courageous acts in all of the Bible! There are three lessons that we learn from this story.

1) Jonathan took action (without knowing his fate)
2) Jonathan had great faith
3) God rewarded Jonathan’s faith

Many times we want God to move and then we’ll take action, but God wants us to move and then He’ll take action. Faith is not constantly waiting on God to move. At some point, we must venture out into the unknown and the uncertain if we are going to accomplish great things for God.

It may be, what a statement Jonathan makes! Today it may be, that God will answer your prayer. It may be, that God will give you peace and see you through a difficult time. It may be, that God is waiting on you to take a step toward your destiny...

The Bible says that, "Our God is a God that owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the whole Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof"

God has unlimited power and resources that can help you accomplish your God-sized dream. The question is, will you take a step?

Prayer Focus: God give me the courage of Jonathan. The strength to step where you've called me to step and be the person you have destined me to be.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

We serve an incredible and amazing God. My prayer is that you press in and begin to realize how much God loves you. May we become closer to God in 2009 than we ever have before.

Day Two: Psalm 145:8-10

8 The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
10 All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will praise you.

Our Father showers His compassion on all of His creation. We are so blessed to have a Father who loves us so much. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, how much more so does He watch and care for you...

Prayer Focus: Praise Him for His unfailing love towards you and all of His creation.
Tip: Unleash God's word in your life by praying scripture, i.e. "Father thank you for being slow to anger when I fail you..." "Thank you for your unfailing love towards me..." "I am grateful for your compassion in my life..."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Closer: 30 Days of Prayer and Fasting

As we head into 2009, let us put God as a priority on our agenda. Each day you can go to this blog and see a new post. Each post will have a scripture, possibly a few thoughts, and a prayer focus for the day. As a church, we will be united in prayer by using this tool for the next 30 days. I look forward to taking this journey together as we focus on getting "Closer" in 2009.

Day One: Acts 3:19-20
19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.
Repent sometimes seems like such an old-fashioned or even mean-spirited word. However, it is actually a beautiful word because when we repent of our sins, God will wipe them away! We will have a clean slate, a second chance to be united with God. We are blessed to serve a God of the second chance. No matter what we've done in our lives, through repentance, God will wipe away our sins so they are completely gone. What a promise from God! But that's not all, verse 20 gives us another promise that times of refreshment will come into our lives from the very presence of God Almighty.

January 1, 2009 is a great time to repent of your sins and turn towards God! He will wipe them away, restore your relationship with Him, and see that you are refreshed as you come "Closer".

Prayer Focus: Forgiveness for your sins, the strength to turn from them, and to receive your blessings as you turn towards your Father in Heaven.