Beginning next month, our church will embark upon our corporate fast as we have done for the past several years. I am praying that this year will lead us to a fresh spiritual breakthrough in our church as well as everyone who participates. I have been praying for the Lord to reveal to me what He wants me to fast from and what to fast for.
As we gathered this morning for prayer, I was led to Joel 2:12-17:
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Fasting sheet guides will be available in the Worship Center on the back of each chair. Plan to pick yours up on Sunday and prepare to intentionally fast and pray for a spiritual breakthrough. We are in desperate need of one not only in our Nation but our church as well.
Joy in Jesus!
If the Son of God were to personally accompany us through each one of our days we would soon become highly sensitive to right and wrong. We would quickly realize that our excuses to walk in the flesh do not hold water. The truth is that this is exactly what he’s promised to do! Jesus told his disciples that the father would send “another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit dwells within us and performs this role of teaching and guiding and reminding for all who desire to be sensitive to Him.
I can remember when I was younger I had moments where I would find myself in a situation where there were two blatant decisions to make. I don’t think you ever grow out of that. But being as young as I was, it was as if my hand was holding a door knob that I knew wasn’t the right choice to make and I had these thoughts rush through my mind. One of my thoughts sounded like this, “If my mom knew I was going to do this, she would be so disappointed.” I have to remember that there is One who is more sensitive against sin than the purest mother who ever walked the earth. This One dwells in our hearts, and if there is anything unholy, impure, selfish, mean, petty, unkind, harsh, unjust, or evil in act or word, He is grieved by it. We must remember that there is no place I can go where I am alone. I might think from time to time that I am but I must never believe it.
Look what Paul says, “19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” - Galatians 5:19-26
In this passage Paul writes about Christians learning to live by the Spirit. Look over the list and see what is prevalent in your life. Red flags ought to surface if you see the flesh coming through. Remember, the Holy Spirit, who is the embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit, is living inside of you as a disciple. As a growing disciple of Christ, you would have to go out of your way to grieve the Spirit. As I look through the list of the “acts of the flesh,” I notice that many of these qualities influence others or are a reaction to others. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. It’s time we keep in step with the Spirit and to do that daily. There should be no room for anything but Christ alone.
I am looking forward to continue our series, “Inside the Fence.” Have a blessed day as you are intent on listening to the Spirit of God show you where you reside today.
Joy in Jesus!
I love the beginning of a New Year. Time to have a redo on several areas that are lacking. One of the things I try to work on is my relationship with the Lord. Being more consistent in practicing the Lord’s presence is the key to revival in your personal life. When you experience personal revival it is bound to affect others around you. I know that I want to raise the spiritual vitality of any place I am simply because of the presence of Jesus spilling out of my life.
A commitment to this lifestyle is what David describes in the familiar Psalm that many quote.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Sheep are not adept at taking care of themselves. Even when blessed with a good shepherd they still stray. In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller writes, “A commonly held, but serious misconception about sheep is that they can just ‘get along anywhere.’ The truth is quite the reverse. No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more detailed direction, than do sheep. No doubt David, as a shepherd himself, had learned this firsthand from tough experience. He knew beyond dispute that if the flock was to flourish and the owner’s reputation was to be held in high esteem as a good manager, the sheep had to be constantly under his meticulous control and guidance.”
The truth is that we don’t have to live very long to realize that people are a lot like sheep. They have a tendency to wander off. Without being under the care of a good shepherd then they could end up in a pretty bad predicament. We have the Greatest Shepherd of all – Jesus Christ. We need to intentionally stay as close to the Shepherd as possible. He is both our protection and our blessing. We can trust that David knew what he was talking about when he referred to the events of his younger years. The former shepherd boy did not hide the identity of his Shepherd. He wanted to stay as close as he could.
Beginning this Sunday I will be preaching a series called, “Inside the Fence.” God has always protected and provided for his sheep and our role is to stay close so He can do so. He even has given us some principles in order to stay close in this up and down world. Come and learn how to stay close to God in all areas so He can be Lord of all. I am looking forward to worshipping with you on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
Every Wednesday morning from 6:30am – 7:30am, there is a small group of people gathered in the Worship Center for prayer. We spend the hour praying for the needs of our church, our community, and our nation. You will be glad to know that there are dedicated people who come every week to pray and believe God will do miracles in and through our fellowship. The Bible tells us that Jesus often went away by himself to pray. His life was filled with times of prayer. Jesus would not have been able to function without this dedicated, daily time of prayer.
As we make prayer a priority, our relationship with the Father deepens. It is as if we familiarize ourselves with the voice of God and are able to discern when He speaks. As we link our hearts together and form a chain, our prayers form a complete circle as we embark upon the throne room of God. It is through prayer that we discover how much we are connected to God and to one another.
From time to time as a church, there seems to be a season of many incidents that remind us of our need of the Lord each and every day. Several have had physical ailments come upon them as well as major life changing diagnosis and incidents that will forever change the way people live from here on out. Through it all, the Lord reassures us that He is in control. But there are things we must go through to get to that place.
It is during these times that I feel like the disciples in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us to pray!” We have had these prayer times on Wednesday morning for several years and in one sense it feels like we have only begun. Can I remind you today to spend time, during this Advent season, quieting your hearts before the Lord and just talking to Him as you would your best friend.
I love Christmas. I love the songs, the snow, the chance to serve together. I love it even more when I take the time to slow down and enjoy the Giver of the greatest gift of all – sending Jesus to save His people from their sins. May God continue to speak to you as you seek Him with all of your heart.
Be sure and invite your neighbors and loved ones to the services this weekend and to our Christmas Eve Service at 4pm or 6pm. Let’s embrace the unexpected…
Joy in Jesus!
13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. - Psalm 27:13-14
To have confidence is to hold a firm belief – to feel certain about something. David writes that he is confident he will still see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (verse 13). With this conviction he takes heart while waiting for the Lord to work it all out. It is as if he is going through a very difficult time and is reminding himself that God has greater things ahead.
This can be applied to our church, our nation, and our families. Let me talk to us as a church. Are we confident that we will see “the goodness of the Lord in our lives? Will we once again know the joy of his presence? There have been some discouraging things that have happened this fall at our church. From challenging issues in relationships, physical ailments and diagnosis, discouragement, and problems families connecting with others – it becomes apparent that we are experiencing some heavy spiritual warfare.
In The Great American Revival (1934) Arthur Strickland wrote, “The history of the past gives us a chart for the future. What God did in the past shows us, as Saint Augustine puts it, ‘the direction in which the will of God operates.’ History repeats itself. This encourages us to believe that there will be another great revival. Although the spiritual tide may be far out, the ocean of God’s limitless resources is in no danger of going dry. The tide will come in again.”
Take heart, the church is not on the eve of perishing, it is on the eve of revival according to Scripture. Revival always follows a time of purging, persecution, or sickness. There is nothing more certain than this. So the question should not be, “Will we recover?” The question ought to be, “When will we recover?” And then we keep praying to be faithful till that time has come. It is during these upheaval times that God brings us closer together and helps us to realize who is in this for the long haul. So I say all of that to say, “Hold on church, the day is coming when the Lord will show us that He has been with us the whole time.”
I am looking forward to this Sunday as we look for the “Unexpected” in our Advent series.
Joy in Jesus!
Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Speaking truth from the heart”? It is all about integrity. It concerns motivation, honesty, and truth all rolled up in one. Do you live an upright life when no one is looking? If you had the chance to get away with something that you know is wrong, would you do it if no one would ever found out? It all boils down to integrity and living a life pleasing to the Lord.
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart. Psalm 15:1-2
David reminds us that we are to be blameless in order to dwell in the Lord. It means that you cannot even be accused of any unrighteous acts. It reminds me of when the Lord appeared to Solomon in 1 Kings.
9 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, 2 the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 4 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ 6 “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 8 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 9 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” 1 Kings 9:1-9
In verse 6 when it says, “you,” it is plural in the Hebrew which means, “You all.” Pardon my Tennessee talk. The following Biblical conclusions about integrity fall from this passage.
Chew on this today and thank the Lord that He provides the means necessary to love and follow Him with all of our heart.
This Sunday in the 2ndSunday of Advent. The first service will be in the Worship Center and the second service will be in the Family Life Center with a family ministry flare to it. You will want to be sure and come to participate in the Unexpected during this season of wonder.
Joy in Jesus!
We have many things to be thankful for. Just take a look around and your list should be too numerous to count. For me, this week ushers in the Advent season. It is a choice to be thankful in the midst of a dark world around us. But I choose to see the light and be the light. For Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
When this verse says, “In the same way,” what is it referring to? That is a good question. Let’s visit the verses prior to this verse and see what it says.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
We are to be salt and light in a dark world. I know you could choose to focus on all the things that are wrong in the world or even disrupting your peace of mind right now. But you could also choose to trust the Lord with those things and not let it become a weight that you carry from house to house. I love the way that verse 15 ends. It says, “it gives light to everyone in the house.” So let’s talk turkey.
What are you serving or eating on Thanksgiving? I know some families that try to be creative or rebellious and serve anything but turkey on Thanksgiving Day. I have an idea. How about serving, “Light” to everyone in the house? Now that may not get you out of cooking or taking a dish to your family get-together but I know one thing, everyone will see God if you serve up the Light of Christ. Take the time to share your story of how Jesus continues to bring Light into your life. Don’t let the preparation for the meal get in the way of what God wants to do in the house. God comes and exposes the darkness so that we may see the path that leads to His righteous ways. It will be a good lead into the Advent Season that is starting this weekend.
Speaking of Advent, I am looking forward to experiencing Advent with my church family this season. I will be preaching about the “Unexpected” things that the Lord does to fulfill His promises this Christmas. He goes to whatever lengths He needs to in order to show us the purpose of His birth and ultimately His death and resurrection. Come and bring someone to experience Advent here at FFCN.
Joy in Jesus!
We are coming near the end of the football season. In just a few weeks, Ohio State will be playing Michigan. It’s going to be intense, especially if the game is close in the final few minutes. At the end of each game, the two-minute warning reminds both teams that the outcome of the game is now on the line. If the athletes intend to win, this is the time to give it all they’ve got. These final 120 seconds are often the most intense moments of play.
When revival comes in its full expression, it’s as though a spiritual two-minute warning has been sounded. The battle intensifies, and the stakes are higher than usual. Certainly the enemy is aware that this is the time to pull out all the stops! He knows that something good is about to happen.
The book of Ephesians talks about the Spiritual battle we are in. The weapons of our warfare are not to be carnal or worldly. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Most people have not experienced this kind of battle or spiritual warfare. When we come to a place when we encounter this kind of resistance, then we are not sure how we are to combat it. We need to understand that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ then you already possess the tools you need to fight off the enemy. Paul tells us to stand firm in Ephesians 4:14.
The Lord has given the church her purpose and direction. It is to be faithful in making Christ-like disciples. We know what we are to do with every breath we have been given. The devil’s business is to hinder us. Let me remind you not to flinch when you hear the lion roar. Let the devil do his worst. Just be sure to let nothing hinder you from fulfilling the work of God before you.
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10
In one sense, I get excited about what God is doing in and through our church as the enemy pulls out all stops. As Paul admonishes us, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Do whatever it takes to see the Holy Spirit work and bring us together as one. May the Word of the Lord be honored, praised, and lived out. I look forward to finishing up our series, “Simply Grace” on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
In the middle of Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the chief priests start to openly confront Jesus to try to expose Him as a false teacher and blasphemer. It was backfiring on them because people were amazed at His teaching. The power of God was flowing through Him and no one could stop it. He is looking like a prophet in the eyes of the crowds gathering around. The Pharisees try to stump Him on paying taxes or not. Jesus amazed the people at His response. The Sadducees get in the ring and pull out the marriage of several brothers to one wife and whose wife will she be at the resurrection. Jesus flies through this as well and the crowds go from amazed to astonished at His teaching. This just means that they were impressed at what He said and how He handled Himself. Why wouldn’t they be, He was God.
Now comes the Pharisees again. An expert in the law is intent on stumping Jesus in front of everyone.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Again Jesus drops the microphone and moves on. He was the Word that became flesh. They were never going to be able to trap Him. As a matter of fact, they helped Him reveal who He was. His light was exposing the darkness in which they were living.
Have you ever loved anything with all that you are? Have you ever risked giving the totality of your being, entrusting it to the care of another? In the first part of the greatest commandment, have you ever considered that it’s not God who needs all of us? It is we who need to give all of ourselves to God. For those of us who are followers of Christ, we know that we need all of God, but do we know as clearly that our wholeness is dependent on our giving all of ourselves?
I don’t know if I fully grasp what it means to give all of myself in every dimension as Jesus describes. I am learning and growing more everyday to understand it a little more than I did yesterday. Here is what I do know – I know what it is like to love healfheartedly or to be doubleminded. I am far more acquainted with holding back, playing things close to my chest, and keeping my inner most vulnerable part guarded. Love always requires trust, and trust always requires risk. Yet God is inviting us to give all of ourselves, even down to the core. Did you know that God can be trusted with all of who you are? He knows we will never fully experience the love He intends to give us until we give all of ourselves away. Even those who have been hurt and betrayed in the past, God wants all of us. He will never betray us. Paul discovered in his own life experience that if you take the risk and give your whole self to God, you will never be put to shame.
11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11
May you trust God with your all today. Let God comfort you at your deepest need. It is much better to live vulnerable before a loving God and trust that He will carry you through than it is to protect yourself and look like everything is in control. That choice leaves you all alone with no place to go.
I’m looking forward to continuing our series, “Simply Grace” on Sunday. Invite someone to come with you and experience the grace of God.
Joy in Jesus!
Next week we will have over a thousand people go through our Family Life Center in 3 days. Why? That is a great question. Families will be coming and bringing their children to be evaluated for Upwards. We try to divide the teams up with kids at different skill levels. It makes the competition a little more even and more fun. Cheerleaders will come and learn a few basic moves for the season coming up. The place will be hopping. This is our 22nd year of hosting Upward Basketball & Cheerleading. It has brought many children and their families to church and we have seen many of those same kids come to faith. That is why we invest so much into this ministry.
Pastor Tracy has been doing a great job leading this ministry for the past several years. This year is going to be a great year of seeing many more come to Christ.
Having a ministry like this for as long as we have had it can have some challenges. Many people will assume that someone else is volunteering for it since we have had it for so long. That is a myth. Every year we need to be as passionate for Upward as we were when we first began in 1999. We need everyone to come and work together to see a great harvest. There are many ways we each could serve next week and next season as our games begin in January.
I think of the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet in John 13. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” John 13:14-17.
Sometimes we need to get out of our routine and not only minister to people who participate in Upwards, but we need to minister to those who are on the front line. We have several people who put many hours in behind the scenes in order to make this season as smooth as possible and to remove any obstacles that distract us from our purpose and mission. We will have more people come through our building than any other ministry over a period of 3 months. Can you imagine the relationship of trust we can build with some families? This is where you come in.
Would you be willing to help us serve the many families that will be here for Upward Evaluation week? Next week Monday through Wednesday, we will be registering people, helping kids with proper uniform sizes, finding out their skill level, and loving each person who comes through the door. Don’t assume someone else will do it. Inform the church office that you are willing to help with something during these crucial days.
Remember that this Sunday night we will also have our Harvest Dinner at 5:30pm. Who have you been inviting to come with you? Let’s all come together as one and see Jesus transform lives.
I pray that you will pray and do what you can to help us love others in the name of Jesus this next week.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene