Life is full of surprises. One minute you are walking down the road in one direction and then all of a sudden you find yourself going in another direction. Sometimes that is the way the cookie crumbles. But there are sometimes that you want to eat the cookie before it crumbles. There are times when you like the surprises and then there are times when you are not so sure. For example:
You could probably add to the list of surprises. Some are good and some not so much. Surprises can lead to excitement and then some lead to disappointment. Some you can’t believe it is happening and others you wished you were only dreaming.
Have you ever stopped and looked at how many surprises are in the Bible? How about when Adam and Eve stumbled upon Abel’s fresh grave? When Noah’s neighbors first realized the rain wasn’t stopping? When Sarah actually realized that God did actually mean that she would get pregnant in her old age? When Pharaoh’s wife screamed, “He’s dead! Our son in dead!” There were many surprises. The Israelites are running for their life and all of a sudden the waters parted. Jericho’s walls actually came falling down after marching around them 7 times and then blowing their trumpets. David actually killed Goliath with one stone. This Samaritan women was told by Jesus all of her past history of failed marriages and the one she was currently living with. How about Jesus dying a criminal’s death even though He was without sin?
There are surprises all through the Bible. Like John at the end of his Gospel, if I would write them all down, there wouldn’t be enough room. When we talk about Jesus’ return it says that it is going to be like a thief in the night. Even today we continue to face surprises. Some we embrace and others we wish they never happened.
Can I remind you today that no matter what comes your way, we have a God who is watching over you. He has a way of turning the darkest day into the brightest outcome and the biggest surprise into the biggest blessing. It may not happen in your timing but I know it will be the right time. All we are asked to do is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” Psalm 18:12. This is reminding us that God truly is our protector and our provider. Put all your trust in Him and embrace the surprises because you never know where it will lead you.
Last Sunday was such a blessing as we worshiped with the Ohio Christian Chorale. I may be biased but I thought the Spirit of God was thick. Come with great anticipation this Sunday as we continue to see the Lord’s hand move in our services.
Joy in Jesus!
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6
“This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29
As a church, we have committed the month of February to fast for the Lord to loose the chains of spiritual bondage, set the captives free, and lead us to be the church Jesus calls us to be. With each one of us taking a spiritual stance in our walk with Christ, together, the Holy Spirit will be unleashed and we will all be changed for the better.
Many Christians are just going through the routine of following Christ. Their relationship with the Lord has grown cold or apathetic and they are not alarmed by that. Many find themselves helpless before the Lord because of a stronghold they thought would be a way of life. If there is a sin that cannot be broken with more discipline then it could be termed a besetting sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, it says that your temptation is not unique. Others face it as well. Unfortunately, many people believe the lie that they have to live with it. Yet this verse says there is a way out.
By committing to fast during the month of February, you have made a commitment to take control of your physical appetite so you can develop the strength to take control of your emotional appetite. You give up food as a demonstration of the commitment of your will. When you make a choice to fast, you are saying that you want to strengthen your spiritual appetite and grow closer to God.
In the Old Testament, fasting played an important role in the life of the believer. They had several national days of fasting. One was called the National Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 23:27, it states that they shall afflict themselves on that day. That literally means to fast and abstain from food for reasons of feeling sorry for your sins and confessing them to God. The Day of Atonement was so sacred that if one of them were disobedient, they were cut off from the people (Leviticus 23:29).
I have noticed an ever increasing battle being waged in our church. When you see all the mishaps, discouragement, and fear increase, I believe it says that we are hitting on something. Things could get worse before the chains are broken. I want to encourage you to continue to fast and pray. Don’t let the small battles bring fear into your daily journey. I don’t think the devil is under every rock, but sometimes it may feel that way.
Have I reminded you to stick to your commitment to fast and pray for God to loose the chains that bind? I love what I see the Lord doing behind the scenes. It is starting to come to the surface and when we fully see the divine activity surface, then that is the ingredient for revival. Keep on keeping on.
Joy in Jesus!
During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples the principles of the Kingdom of God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern specifically addressed three duties of a Christian: giving, praying, and fasting. Jesus said, “When you give…” and “when you pray….” And when you fast….” He went on to say, “The Son of God fasted because He knew there were supernatural things that could only be released that way. How much more should fasting be common practice in our lives? According to the words of Jesus, it is the duty of every disciple, every believer, to fast.
The Bible tells us that fasting is not for show. 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” Matthew 6:16-18.
Biblical fasting always occurs together with prayer in the Bible. You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast (Biblically speaking) without praying. It is deliberately abstaining from food, or whatever you have chosen, for a spiritual reason. It is communication and relationship with the Almighty.
One of the things that takes place when we fast is that we set aside our appetites and allow our body to concentrate on the work of praying and demonstrating how serious we are at seeking God. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” It is emphasizing the whole heart, every desire in your being, submitting to seek the Lord.
As we enter into the half way mark of fasting this month, let me encourage you to continue to do what you set out to do during this fast. As I have mentioned many times, make fasting and prayer your first response and not your last resort.
This morning, at the Front Row Ministries, we prayed for the requests we gathered from the past two Sundays during worship. God is on the move. Keep praying and believing that God will break the chains of despondency, the chains of apathy, and the chains that bind us from being who God created us to be.
Join me as we continue to seek the Lord with all of our heart.
Joy in Jesus!
Can you believe it? Last Sunday there was no snow. It was a great day to get together and worship the Lord. I always enjoy hearing the stories of others as they are baptized. God is continuing to stir our hearts and move in a powerful way in people’s lives.
This week is the first full week of our fasting. I am hearing many stories of people getting serious and intentionally seeking the Lord with all their heart. There are many reasons to fast. Some of us have had procedures performed by a doctor who asked you to fast in preparation for a clear path to get real results. I don’t think I will go into detail on all that is involved. Let’s just say that it is a moving experience. Do I hear an AMEN?
There are many reasons why people may go without food for a time. It could be for medical tests, depression, illnesses, or even a part of a weight loss diet. Fasting in the Bible was primarily going without food and possibly drink for a spiritual cause. For a fast to be Biblically based one must go without food for a spiritual purpose. Our focus as a church is to break the chains for spiritual breakthrough.
The enemy is relentless is trying to get a foothold in our lives. Subtle things can get a grip on our lives and can many times be detected only after it has wreaked havoc. Today we choose to fast from food but there are many other things that we can fast from. Social media, television, and the list can go on. It is basically something that has gotten out of balance or has distracted you from the things that you know you should be doing as a follower of Christ.
God made us in such a way that we can enjoy food. Food fuels our body. Unfortunately it can also fuel our passions that are not aligned with God. Throughout history, most celebrations included feasting and special meals of celebration. Yet the Scriptures clearly reveal that there are times and reasons that the normal consumption of food should be set aside to accomplish a spiritual purpose.
In Isaiah 58:4 it says, “Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” Let’s pray that our fasting doesn’t end in quarreling. I know that I have a tendency to be cranky when I get hungry. “Lord, help me not to react according to the way I may be feeling at the time.” I would encourage you to read the whole chapter found in Isaiah 58 as you fast this month.
If you look at the last phrase of verse 4 you will see, “…your voice to be heard on high.” Fasting gives an opportunity to humble ourselves before the Lord, sharpen our spiritual focus, adjust our priorities to the spiritual rather than the physical or material, and to make your voice heard on high. As you fast, keep focused on your goal of wanting more of Christ. Make your voice heard on high and wait patiently for God to break the chains that bind.
This morning we gathered and prayed for all the requests that came in on Sunday. God is wanting to give each of us the victory over all things. Be encouraged to know that God loves you and so does your church. This Sunday we will continue to ask the Lord to keep us OnPoint as we look at the paths we find ourselves on.
Joy in Jesus!
Beginning in February, we are going on a Corporate Fast. It is where we choose a set time to do without certain foods or from eating foods in general for a period of time. For our church, we have chosen to go the whole month of February. Some may even choose to fast from items such as social media platforms. It is praying and asking the Lord to help you to know what it is you can set aside as you seek to get closer to Him. It may be something that is beginning to take a hold of you in manner that consumes you.
I love what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12-14. 12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
God wants to strengthen us and give us the power to overcome anything that sets itself in the way of being all that God has called us to be. The things that we choose to fast from are not bad in themselves, but they can become a distraction from choosing the things that will take us where God wants us to dwell. We need to keep our life in balance and remember that the Lord Himself will sustain us.
After Jesus fasted for 40 days, the enemy was right there to tempt Him. Jesus response was recorded in Matthew 4:4 when he said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” God will help us as we fast and pray. He wants to do so many things in the life of our church and our families. The benefits far outweigh the change in pace fasting will create.
Fasting increases our spiritual vitality, gives us new and fresh Biblical insights, a new sense of purpose, and increased desire to pray and spend quality time with God, it brings victory over the enemy’s stronghold, it increases awareness of God’s presence in our lives, gives us new power for spiritual warfare, it provides answered prayers and restoration from our past, and it brings powerful renewal and revival to our land.
I rest on Ezra 8:23 when it says, “So we fasted and entreated our God for this. And He answered our prayer.”
I so desperately want God to move in and through our church. I want to see so many lives transformed in Findlay and Hancock County. Would you join me in this fast?
If you are available to join us on Wednesday mornings from 6:30 – 7:30am, I know that you will be blessed for it.
Make sure you take the precautions to stay warm on these cold days. Boy am I thankful for coats, gloves, and hats. It is a covering that we need to intentionally put on in order to avoid frostbite. The covering only the Lord can provide during Prayer and Fasting can also protect me from the frostbite of the enemy that promises to take me off course. Pray with me as we enter into this wonderful privilege of covering through Prayer and Fasting.
Joy in Jesus!
I have been doing a study in the life of David with Cody these past few weeks. It has been remarkable to see that during opposition, David totally trusted in the Lord and did not see the need to speed up God’s timing in order to escape ridicule or persecution. God had a plan for David and if God says it, it will happen. Whether it was Saul pursuing him to kill him or his son Absalom, David showed a quiet confidence in the protection of the Lord and faithfully followed Him unswervingly.
David wrote a lot of Psalms that go through his real emotions as he was experiencing different trials. Psalm 91 is attributed to David. It looks like the heart of David as he reminds himself of the provision and protection of the Lord no matter what he may be going through.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Psalm 91:1-6
I love the promise within these few verses. He who dwells, abides, or remains in the shelter of the Most High will experience rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I can sit and ponder all the times when God’s presence came so near to me that all the cares of this world began to drop to the wayside. He is a place I can run to for protection. When I do, he will save me from places I can get ensnared, from the enemy who is hunting me down whether it be in a physical or spiritual sense. My God will cover me and give me a safe place behind a shield of protection. His faithfulness is my shield protecting me from the blows of the enemy.
Throughout the day I can choose to side with the Lord by remaining in Him through all circumstances that come my way. Praise the Lord for being true to His Word.
I couldn’t help but turn to this Psalm today because I just got off the phone with Barb Frost who said they changed Jack’s diagnosis to Pancreatic Cancer. It is during these kinds of diagnosis when you truly understand what it means to trust the Lord. Please pray for Jack and Barb Frost in the days ahead.
No matter what you are facing today, please remember to dwell in the shelter of the Most High so you can rest from the crippling worry of what tomorrow holds.
I missed being together at church this past Sunday. In the 18 years I have pastored here, we have cancelled twice on Sunday. There is nothing you can do when the county issues a level 3. Risking being arrested for being on the roads is not an option when it comes to safety. We are going to move our Believer’s Baptism back one week and have it on Sunday, February 3 in the morning services. I pray that the Lord stirs the heart of someone who needs to experience the waters of Baptism. It is good to follow the steps of Jesus and take a public stand for our faith.
I also want to remind you to be praying for what the Lord wants you to do during the month of fasting in February. Would you consider coming to the Front Row Ministry during this corporate fast? It happens every Wednesday during February between 6:30am and 7:30am. Let’s believe together that the Lord will break the chains that bind us from having spiritual breakthrough.
I pray that we will have a break in the weather and be able to come together to worship on Sunday. May God give you a sense of His peace today as you accomplish His will today.
Joy in Jesus!
We are now 9 days into the New Year. How has your journey been so far? Have you closed out last year yet? What do I mean by that? Have you left behind the things that dragged you down or distracted you from being your best self? Are there any amends that you need to make before you move forward? Just a note, a quick phone call, an invitation to coffee or hot chocolate (I’m a non-coffee drinker) might be all it takes to clear away one more hurt and bring you closer to the image of God you are trying to live out. Maybe there is a habit that you have developed that is not so good on your future journey toward Christ-likeness. It sounds so simple yet can be so difficult.
Here is a good verse to ponder on as you move into the New Year:
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I want to be as disciplined as possible in order to accomplish as much as possible in the most effective way possible for the One who can do the impossible. I want to improve my devotional life, my accountability, my service, my generosity, and my walk. Would you join me in this journey as we begin a new series on Sunday? We are going to examine the paths we take that determine our outcomes. Some are desirable and others are not so much. It’s going to be a great time together as we open our lives up for God to give us the most productive and fruitful year ever.
May God be glorified in 2019 as we put Him first in all things and may we see His hand at work in and through our church. Have I told you lately that I love our church? I always look forward to the whole family of God coming together to worship. We just so happen to do it every Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene