Read Exodus 34:27-35
Pray that God will direct and order your prayer during this fast.
When we fast, we say “no” to something so that we can say “yes” to something more significant. We invite you to say “no” to sugar, media, or food over the next 21 days so that you can say “yes” to hearing from God. In doing so, we follow the example of biblical figures and create space for God to do a profound and transformative work in our lives.
As is most often the case, God’s transformative work results from the words He speaks to us. Exodus 34:27-35 illustrates this beautifully. In the preceding passage, Moses encounters God on Mount Sinai. God instructs Moses to record the words he hears on two stone tablets. As the story continues, we learn that Moses hears from God and works on these tablets for forty days without eating bread or drinking water. Moses deemed hearing from God more important than feeding his body.
The result of Moses’s time in seclusion with God through fasting is a radical transformation of his physical appearance. When he goes back amongst the people, everyone is afraid of him because his face shines. Everyone recognizes that Moses is different because of his time with God on the mountain.
Interestingly, Moses is unaware that his face is shining after his time with God. He only learns of this difference when the people around him point it out. Now, our faces are unlikely to shine at the end of these 21 days. However, that doesn’t mean our lives won’t be significantly different than they were at the beginning. What’s more, we may not personally recognize the difference in us, but the people around us should. People should note that we are more patient, kind, loving, and merciful.
Abstaining from bread and water isn’t what transformed Moses’s face: it was his willingness to sit in the presence of God. Don’t focus on the discipline of fasting over the next 21 days. Instead, focus on being in God’s presence. Ask God to lead and direct you. Allow God’s word to transform your heart and mind. You never know, you may walk away from these 21 days with joy that passes understanding.
Prayer: God, would you guide our prayers during this fast? Would you mold our hearts until they look more like yours? We invite you to speak to us. We commit to listening. We commit to obeying. Amen.
Read: Luke 19:1-10
Prompt: Pray for the lost loved ones need an encounter with God and for the construction needs of our church.
We all have those that we would love to see accept Christ and begin to be used by him. Maybe you feel the person is not living right on some level and you’ve shunned them. The community has disowned them. They’re not welcome in your circles. Now, imagine that person is, unbeknownst to you, seeking an encounter with Christ. It happens and they begin life anew. The person begins to live more successfully than ever and you just can’t believe it has happened. They gain popularity you never thought for them. The favor of God is evident in their life.
Can you believe that this very story is in the Bible? This story is about Zaccheus, a chief tax collector and a man considered treasonous by the Jews. Luke 19:1-10 tells the story of a man that made an effort to see Jesus as he passed by. The Lord knew of this man’s desire to change his life and follow him. There, before all of Zaccheus’s detractors, Jesus invited himself to Zaccheus’s home and there Zaccheus offered the sacrifice of wealth and restitution to the poor and those he had wronged in order to follow Christ.
Jesus can save anyone. Anyone. Our job is to love, forgive and let people walk in the newness of Christ. Who is it that we have left out of our circles? Who is it that we have shunned because we feel that the person is not like us or they’re somehow not living righteously. Jeremiah 17:10 says only God can search and know the heart and deal with him according to the results of his deeds. We should not give up on people even though our judgements about them may, on the surface, appear correct. We should ask The Lord what we might do to effect change for them.
Obviously through Zaccheus and his sacrifice of wealth, the community grew wealthier and the community was blessed. Who are we ostracizing that could use salvation through Jesus? Are we making it easy for them to come to Christ? Are there people that we think we are above? Rich and poor, young and old need Him.
Prayer: Lord our prayer today is that we focus on being a church that welcomes the lost in order to teach Your way of living through Jesus Christ. We are all blessed by the gifts You give the church through Your people. Allow us to increase our territory that we may serve the lost, bringing them into the wonderful knowledge of Your Son and the benefits of serving Him. Amen
Read: Psalm 37
Prompt: Pray for our church that God would give us direction in the new year.
My wife shared a story with me about her life before the days of the GPS. Her family had just completed their 2nd term on the mission field in the Dominican Republic and she and her older brother were about to start college. They packed up their family’s green Ford Taurus and started the marathon trek from Southern California to Central Florida. My brother-in-law took the first shift and drove across three states before deciding to let Jaimee have a go so he could catch up on some much-needed rest. Jaimee asked him for directions and so he offered her some snarky cursory comment about “staying straight” and drifted off into a deep slumber. Hours later he awoke, wiped the blur from his eyes and asked Jaimee where they were. “Kansas,” she responded. “Kansas!” he retorted, “Kansas isn’t even on our route!!!” “Well,” she said, “you told me to keep driving straight and that is exactly what I did. There was a fork in the road in New Mexico and I took the path that looked the most straight!” The lack of clear direction was certainly a culprit in causing them to steer off course, as was my wife’s poor handle on American geography, which was a byproduct of growing up overseas. That mishap cost them about ½ a day on their long journey, but could have been easily avoided with clearer directions. Most of us can relate to this story on some level because we have all taken a wrong turn at some point in our lives. It’s one thing to lose a day, but some of us have lost years… we have chased whims, got caught up in what we believed to be good opportunities that ultimately fell apart, trusted folks that betrayed our confidence, and have given our best efforts to succeed at tasks only to come up empty time and again. At least now we have GPS systems on our phones and in our cars that can guide us on the road. How amazing would it be if someone could invent a GPS for our lives; that would definitely be a game-changer! Yet in scripture, we see a positioning system that was always at work, which was in place to guide God’s people. In Genesis it was the voice that called Abraham to leave Ur, Jacob’s wrestling in prayer that changed the heart of his brother that was bent on killing him, and the faithfulness of God that brought Joseph from being sold into slavery, then to Potiphar’s house, through a dungeon, in route to Pharaoh’s palace. During the Exodus, God led the Israelites with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, later He used the voice of the prophets and then, at the dawn of the New Testament, he sent His Son Jesus Christ to show us God’s way and what God is like. God has always directed His people, and longs for us to know what to do, particularly at our most critical of moments. King David picks up on this idea and writes in Psalm 37:23, “the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord.” In this verse the sense is not so much that the righteous are the only people that have the hope of God’s guidance, rather it’s our trust and obedience in God that makes us righteous and through this: we have the sure confidence that God will order our steps. This entire Psalm weaves through our human experiences of hope, suffering, uncertainty, but more so our need to trust in the Lord no matter what it is that we are up against. The result, he exclaims, is that when we “commit our way to the Lord and trust in him, He will make our righteous reward shine like the dawn” (Ps. 37:5-6). What David knew, because he had lived it, and what he wants us to know through this Psalm, is that no matter what we face in life, God longs to guide us through it. David experienced this when he faced the daunting giant Goliath, when he lost it all at Ziklag, as he mourned the death of his best friend, and then again when he faltered in the sin of adultery, because through these experiences he learned that God was there to guide him and to push him towards the paths to victory, restoration, comfort and renewal. God has the same in store for you. I encourage you to read this Psalm (Psalm 37) and find your intersection with God’s word for your life and then pray and expect God to speak and to guide you as you set your coordinates into your GPS (God’s Positioning System) and watch him accomplish blessing and His purposes for your life.
Prayer: God, would You guide our steps this year? Show us how to walk in the paths that You have ordained for us. Help us to surrender to Your will and Your plans. Keep us from wandering down a path You have not planned for us. Lord, would you do the same for our church? Help us to follow You as a community throughout this year. Amen.
Read: John 10:1-10
Prompt: Pray for spiritual, social, and financial increase in your life and the church.
In our modern, industrialized world images like “shepherds” have lost much of their earthy quality. After all, many of us know shepherding as a profession solely through the religious context. For the animal lovers among us, we know of the special trust that is built over long periods of caretaking for these creatures. You are their source of food, provision, and protection.
In Jesus’ day, Shepherds were already a known metaphor for leadership. For instance, Ezekiel once used the shepherd image to shame poor leadership as Jesus does (Ezekiel 34:1-6). Jesus uses this image to contrast himself with other leaders who, like the leaders in Ezekiel’s day, have failed to properly care for God’s people. The metaphor would be adopted into Christian parlance, with the word “pastor,” the word we call our religious leaders, deriving from the Latin word for “shepherd.”
So many of us have experienced bad shepherding. It is the failure of lesser shepherds that often drives away people from believing. Oftentimes, people back away from the joining with a Christian community because of the failures of human leaders. It is the failure of these shepherds that leave a stain on the Christian faith and cause people to doubt. From abuse scandals to shady handling of money, human leaders can fail us morally and they will have weaknesses. But Jesus never fails. Despite our many failures, Christ’s love never fails. We can trust Christ to be our caretaker.
Therefore, we cannot allow our faith to be destroyed because of the failure of humans. Our faith is in Christ alone, the true shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. It is this shepherd only who will never disappoint us.
Jesus encourages his followers elsewhere to trust in the provision of God, as flowers and birds can trust in God’s provision (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-32). For many of us, it is hard to let go of that responsibility to be responsible for all of our own care. While it falls to us to do the best we can, to work the hardest we can, to provide the most we can for those who depend on us, most of our anxiety comes from what we cannot control. What if we lose our job? What if the market takes a sudden downturn? Christ encourages us to trust in the God who will ultimately work things together for our good.
Part of fasting is remembering the true source of our well-being. We survive not merely by food, but by the Word of God. We can trust Christ with providing for our care. This season, we trust Christ to take care of us in our needs: we pray for God to take care of us and give us increase this year.
Prayer: God, we pray this not only for us as individuals but as a community. As Christ’s church, we believe that You will continue to provide for us and help us to meet our financial obligations and beyond so that may grow to do the work God has called us towards. Amen.
Read: 2 Chronicles 25:6-9
Prompt: Pray against attitudes that prevent you from hearing God’s voice clearly and experiencing God’s love.
A while ago my 80 gig Ipod went on the fritz. It was one of the old school models that had the square screen and that tracking wheel that seems impossible to get to work right. I tried my hand at repairing it myself but after a substantial amount of time and money I discovered that the best course of action was to send it off to have it repaired. I jumped online and found the most reputable company I could find and began packing it up to send it away. My wife walked in and saw what I was doing and suggested that I should just let it die and get a new one… But it had thousands of songs and videos from several computers and trying to get all of that back was far too arduous of a task to even consider. So I sent the Ipod away and received it back in about a week with 70% of the files on it corrupted and irretrievable. So now I am well over the cost of a new Ipod and have in my possession a nice paperweight that, if I’m lucky, can maybe play a tune every now and then. Life is often a lot like this story in that we have a hard time knowing when it is time to rethink decisions that we make. We make poor choices and instead of abandoning them we continue to try and work out positive solutions while still wandering down a bad path. The result from such efforts is a leaning tower of Pisa existence that becomes an icon for a lack of prudence. In scripture we come across many stories that fit this bill, however one of the more obscure accounts is found in 2 Chronicles 25:6-9. King Amaziah had conscripted fighting men form Israel for a hundred talents of silver to help him to wage a battle against his enemies. However, a prophet warns him not to align himself with the Israelites because they had rejected the ways of the Lord. The king essentially responds but what do I do about the money I have already spent, as if to say, “I have so much invested already that I can’t turn back now. Here the prophet’s words are very important. “The Lord can give you much more than that” or to put it another way stop sending good money after bad because the fastest track to success is being on God’s path for your life (2 Chor. 25:9). The king decided to send the Israelites home with his money and easily won the battle that was ahead of him with what he deemed as an insufficient amount of fighters. The lesson is this; God can take our insufficiency no matter how small we think it is and make it more than enough. God can stretch our efforts and bring great benefit from walking in His ways. Yet often in life we feel like we have gone so far down a path that to try a different route would be too costly. We invest in bad business ventures, poor friendships, time constraining work habits and so many other poor choices that ultimately quell the good that God intends concerning us. The net result is our ruin and displays an unsightliness of our lack of prudence to those around us. The lesson we glean from the first part of Amaziah’s life is that no amount of time, money, or effort is worth persisting down the wrong path. What paths are you on that may not be God’s best for your life? This question is a difficult one and must be accompanied with some soul searching and a willingness to turn around, but the great that God intends concerning us mandates such a question. The prophet Jeremiah asserts in 29:11 that God’s intention is “to prosper you… and to give you a hope and a future.” His plans for you are good, so why not try it His way.
Prayer: God, help us get out of our own way. Help us to hear Your voice and respond appropriately. Grant us the capacity to experience Your love and to share it with other people. Amen.
Read: Psalm 85
Prompt: Pray that God will bring you and the church into a new season.
Our journey with Christ is never a straight line. Wouldn’t it be convenient if it were? We would read God’s word, discover a way we need to grow, and implement the lesson flawlessly into our lives. Before long, we would be like Mary Poppins: “practically perfect in every way!” Instead, our lives are a series of false starts and backward progression mixed in with small victories and positive growth. As we approach the end of the first week of our fast, let us ask God to bring Covenant Life Church and us into a new season. Let us ask Him to bring us into a period of growth.
We join the chorus of men and women who worshipped God before us when we ask God to do something afresh in our lives. Psalm 85 is a poem that makes precisely this type of request. The psalmist reminds himself that God is good and longs to show love and mercy to His people. He asks God to “revive” the people again (v. 6). The purpose of this revival is to rejoice. Revival always brings rejoicing because it always takes something nearly dead and restores it with life.
Today, won’t you remind yourself of God’s goodness. Think again about the times you encountered the Lord and felt His incredible mercy. If much time has elapsed between your last taste of the Lord’s goodness and this current moment, ask God to revive you once again. Ask God to bring you into a new season by the power of His love and mercy.
The psalmist is confident that God answers these types of requests. He goes on to say: “The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase (v. 12).” Since Israel was an agrarian society, they often felt the closeness of the Lord in His provision for them through the production of their fields. Like our lives, successful farming is seldom an easy process. Seeds are planted and watered, but weeds try to choke out the new life, and animals eat whatever is left. As each spring offers a chance to till the fields again and prepare for a new season, fasts like the one we are in afford us time to soften our hearts towards the Lord’s work. Before you know it, God produces something beautiful in our lives.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask for a new season today. We ask you to bring us into a harvest time once more. Produce the fruit of the spirit in our lives. Please give us a glimpse of the work you are doing in our midst. Cause the work of our hands to be productive for Your kingdom. Amen.
Read: Hebrews 6:1-12
Prompt: Pray for our church to grow not just numerically, but also spiritually.
Whenever we pass by a Sam’s Club, my daughter gets excited. No, she is not thrilled at the prospect of buying large packs of paper towels or containers of ketchup; she wants to do taste tests. For her, it is a place to get free snacks from people. For Sam’s and other stores like it, taste tests are a way to demonstrate the quality of their product, with the confidence that if someone were to know the tastiness of their food, they would commit to buying it.
The author Hebrews uses a similar kind of image when talking coming to know God. Using the language of Psalm 34:8, which invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The author of Hebrews takes that idea and pushes it even further; it is impossible for him to imagine someone to have experienced the goodness of God and not continue on the path. His language may seem to us extreme “it is impossible,” for those who have tasted the goodness of God, to be brought back to repentance (Hebrews 6:4-6).
For the author of Hebrews, tasting the goodness of God should lead to a lifetime of following God. It must produce a lifetime of obedience, not just a moment of excitement singing a worship song or at an altar. The word we use for this lifetime of following God is “discipleship.” While our initial experiences with God may begin our journey, discipleship is the long journey afterwards. Discipleship is a “long obedience in the same direction,” to quote Eugene Peterson.
When speaking about how we follow Jesus, many of us talk about our initial decision, that first moment we decided to follow Jesus. Of course, as with a significant other, it is important to always remember those first moments we first fell in love. Those first steps on the journey will always be important, but they will never be the whole of the journey.
The author of Hebrews knows that beginning to walk with Jesus continues past those first few steps. He tells his readers to “move beyond” elementary teachings and go towards maturity (Hebrews 6:1). After all, Jesus tells his followers to “make disciples” not “make decisions” (Matthew 29:19-20). Christians must be made every day by discipleship.
The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously called an emphasis on grace without an accompanying emphasis on discipleship “cheap grace.” Cheap grace is a grace that does not require anything of us. Instead of cheap grace, Bonhoeffer suggests that when Christ calls us, he always calls us to die to ourselves. Death to ourselves is simply a way of saying that we have to give up who we were before Jesus and to gradually become more like Jesus by taking on his character. It does not mean that all of who we are is simply eradicated. In many ways we become more of ourselves – more of the person God has called us to become.
Prayer: Today, we pray that God will help us to grow in our spiritual maturity. While our Sunday worship services may certainly be places that we can experience Your presence in highly emotional, exciting worship ways, these are the beginning of a journey, not the end. Lord, would you help our community to grow in in our devotion to You and to live a long obedience in the same direction.
Read: Proverbs 22:29
Prompt: Pray that God will bring new leadership opportunities into your life.
A year ago, Pastor Shane delivered a sermon where he stressed the importance of giving not just our treasure (though necessary) but of our time and talents as well. I struggled with this, believing that I had nothing to offer. I had no treasure beyond my regular giving and even that was already a hardship, my time was constricted beyond my control, and I honestly thought I had no talents. Then an opportunity arose in my community. A local business owner was battling cancer and ran a retail/coffee shop. I was the only person this business owner knew that understood the coffee shop and the retail side. I jumped into volunteer to help. I had no idea that my offer to help would mean that I would be handed the keys to the business and all involved to run it on my own for a little while. God slowly brought me in, first as a volunteer of my own schedule, but then as the need exploded, He made it clear that I had talent I had forgotten, my time was His time, and it was to be used in that particular season to help this local business owner.
God equipped me to serve. For this particular season, God equipped me to serve that local business owner. At first, I thought it was just for the local business owner, to give back to someone in a way so many have given to our family, but I quickly learned God had greater plans. He used my willingness to serve, to show me talents I had no idea I possessed, reminded me of forgotten talents. God took care of my time constraints and provided abundantly for us. He opened new exciting doors and opportunities beyond my wildest dreams.
You, like me, might think you have no talents, time is hard to come by, and treasures seem nonexistent… but God. The Bible shows us over and over again, that God uses us right where we are. God used a murderer (Moses) to lead the entire nation out of slavery, He used a prostitute (Rahab) to help guide the Israelite leaders to take their promise land, He used a simple Hebrew girl (Esther) to save an entire nation, and He used a boy (David) to fight a giant and win victory over all the Philistines. The truth is, we can serve and lead, through our time, talents, and treasure despite our circumstances because ultimately, it’s God who equips us. If God is calling, He will equip you. Whether it’s within Covenant Life, around the world, the local community, or serving and leading right in your home, the truth is we are equipped as believers to serve and lead.
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.
Prayer: God, we ask for wisdom and direction and use of our time, talents, and treasure. We trust that even if we are stepping into something that seems uncomfortable, You will equip us. We pray for where/how your time and talents can be used within our church body and family. Amen.
Read: Matthew 5:6
Prompt: Pray for Jesus to fill you in greater measure with the Holy Spirit, and that God would help you hunger for the right things.
Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they shall be satisfied.
I have been to funerals of both believers and unbelievers, of people who didn’t know Jesus, where there was weeping and despair from those seated in attendance, and conversely, of people who had peace with God through their daily walk with the Savior. For the onlooker, it tells a tale of two completely different lives. One who trusted in wealth and education, but had not considered eternity, and one who surrendered all their earthly desires to Christ to be fully rewarded in the end. As a younger man, the juxtaposition of these two different endings made a great impact on me.
There are many books in print about practicing the presence of Jesus. I have found that when I take the time to focus on the things of God, there is nothing that compares to him! He brings immeasurable joy and complete satisfaction! Doubts are silenced and darkness flees! I pray for Jesus to fill you in greater measure with the Holy Spirit and that God would consume you with his love today!
Prayer: God, You are my everything. You are my ALL. You are my everything, both great and small. You gave Your Son for me and made everything new. You are my everything and none other will do. Amen
Read: Titus 1:5-9
Prompt: Pray that God will send new leaders into our church with like vision and passion and that God will provide all of our needs.
In this letter, part of what we call the “pastoral epistles,” Paul advises one of his protégé pastors whom he left in the field to do work. He commissions this pastor, named Titus, to continue what he started. While Paul began the work, it was not yet at a place where it could continue and thrive in his absence. It needed leadership. So, Paul commissions Titus to commission elders for every town in the island of Crete. While Paul lit the spark of the Gospel in Crete, he needed more people to fan the flames to make the fire grow.
As movements grow, more structure is required to make it work, to let it live on past the first generation. While many see this as a negative - what was once a movement becomes a bureaucracy – but this is a natural progression that to some degree all groups and organizations must pass through in order to ensure their long-term health. If ideas are to come to fruition, if they are to have any true staying power. It is essential that any group, church or otherwise, maintain its initial hunger to spread its message while finding better ways to organize itself and to prepare the next generation of leader to step up. If the church had not implemented systems and prepared new leaders, this Jesus movement could have never spread past Jerusalem, nor could it have survived past the initial generation. Therefore, raising up new leadership is always a necessary act if the church is to continue to grow.
The idea of creating a support system of leadership in the community is one with a history in the scripture. In Exodus, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro suggests the same for the Israel. Moses selects leaders to divide the work, to make the load more manageable (Exodus 18:1-27). In the early days of the church, the apostles do something similar by selecting a group of people, often referred to as “deacons,” in order to spread around the growing amount of work (Acts 6:1-7). Many hands make the load grow lighter.
But Paul is clear that not just anyone is to lead, and it is revealing that his list of requirements focuses on character instead of skill. Elders should be able to manage their homelives. They must display control over their emotions and refrain substance abuse. Many of the qualities point to the importance of self-control and disciple. In part, this demonstrates that those who manage themselves and their families well will probably elsewhere show great leadership skills. The point is that the quality of the person matters more than any individual skill. The rest, God can equip, and the leader can learn.
Prayer: God, as our own community grows we need to spread around the work to make the load lighter. As we grow, we need leaders to help lighten the load. God would you continue to send leaders to our community as well as raise up leaders within our community? Would You provide our needs as a community? Amen.
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Prompt: Pray for the ministries of our church (youth, children, young adult, couples) that God would assist us in growth and send leaders to help in these areas.
When I was 10 years old, my older brother and I went to the park to ride bikes. He must have been bored that day because he thought we should add in a game of catch. While I was trying to catch the ball, my front bike tire slipped off the sidewalk, and I fell and broke my left arm. I went on to summer camp two weeks later with my glow-in-the-dark cast, and that one broken arm kept me from participating in the best parts of camp: swimming, volleyball, water balloon fights, and the final relay race. I needed help with simple tasks like doing my hair and tying my shoes. I didn’t know how much I needed that left arm until I broke it.
Do you know how much we need you as a part of the body of Christ? There is no one else in our church with your personality, your expression of love, or your specific talents. There are areas in our church right now that you could serve in that would make a valuable difference. But we don’t just need you because of the task that you perform. In fact, if you show up to perform your task and leave without speaking to anyone, I think God has more for you.
God created His body, the Church, to be relationally connected. We all give and take, and we help each other grow. If you’re new to the body of Christ, or you haven’t been connected in the past, there is a family here for you that you might have never had before. There is accountability here to help you have victory once and for all over a stronghold in your life. There is faith for you to be healed. There is care for you when you’re sick. There is unconditional love for you, no matter what you’ve done. And perhaps you are the person to offer that to someone else in our church who has yet to feel connected.
Let this passage be your guide today to determine if you are a part of the body of Christ as God intended you to be. Are you using your gift to serve God and His Church? Are you striving for unity? If others suffer, do you suffer with them? Do you rejoice with them when they rejoice?
Prayer: Father, we help us grow as the body of Christ. Would you inspire people to help especially in the nursery, children, and youth areas? Thank you for striving with us to be the body of Christ as described in this passage- a beautiful, productive, unified church that brings glory to God. Amen.
Read: Acts 2:42-47
Prompt: Pray that God would bless our church with the finances necessary to accomplish his purposes.
The Believers Form a Community
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Out of Community you are finding everything you need to meet the needs of the community around you. From inside the church we can meet the extended needs outside of the church. Because of what the community was doing – more people were regularly being added to the church community.
What are some of the things that the believers were doing?
- They were meeting together; devoting themselves to the apostles teaching; devoting themselves to prayer; sharing what they had; pooling resources to distribute to those in need; the believers hearts were linked to one another,
- The group worked to meet the needs that were outside of the church. Where did the Acts church find the resources to give to those in need? They were engaged in selling personal possessions in order to provide for the needs of others.
- Everyone had something to offer: no one was disqualified or lacked enough to contribute something: someone had to plan daily meetings; someone had to provide the bread they shared; someone had to open their home; someone had to organize meetings; someone led the group in praise; someone taught (apostles); some sold property and possessions.
- Even in today’s world, with all of the busyness of our lives, everyone has something to contribute – we’re all really busy, but sharing in fellowship and sharing in meals are important components. What can you give out of what you have to offer?
Prayer: God would You bless our church with the finances necessary to accomplish Your purposes. Please, show me how I can be a part of the answer to this request. Would you show me how to invest more in your kingdom this year through Covenant Life Church? Amen.
Read: Psalm 150:1-6
Prompt: Pray that God will increase and grow our worship talent and a heart for worship.
- Praise God because of Who He is (Psalm 150:1).
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty heaven!” (Psalm 150:1, NLT)
He is the One we praise.
This Psalm is a global call for all to praise God because of who He is. In these moments we acknowledge Him as our creator, redeemer, comforter, healer and our heavenly Father.
- Praise God because of what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is about to do. (Psalm 150:2).
“Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness.” (Psalm 150:2, NLT)
This is why we praise.
We have seen and experienced God’s move throughout history as well as our personal lives. He created the world. He molded and shaped each and everyone us. He has done things that man could not do or even come close. Even in an age of technology, God still performs miracles and exceeds our expectations!
- Praise God with the instruments. (Psalm 150:3).
“Praise Him with the blast of the rams horn; praise Him with the lyre and harp.” (Psalm 150:3, NLT)
We were created to worship Him. The instruments, songs, dance and art are all expressions of worship but the simple truth is worship is our connection to Him.
- Praise God because He made us His instruments of worship.
“Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing; praise Him with strings and flutes!”(Psalm 150:4, NLT)
As we study the Bible we find the first instrument created by God to praise Him were human beings. The very heart beats to a rhythm set by its creator. You can listen to the music of God when you stand atop a mountain and you hear the wind blow through the trees. The roar of the ocean is its own symphony to the King. God has placed a melody in the hearts and souls of each one of us.
- Make your praise loud in 2020! An awesome God demands no less than an awesome praise.
“Praise Him with the clash of cymbals; praise Him with loud clanging cymbals.”(Psalm 150:5, NLT)
God is taking us to higher heights and deeper depths. As we move with Him let the song in your heart spring forth as you witness walls coming down and chains of bondage being broken!
- Raise A Hallelujah!
“Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!”(Psalm 150:6, NLT)
Psalm 150:6 is our call to worship! God inhabits the praises of His people because we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works – such as praise God.3
“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming.”
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
God, would You increase and grow our worship talent and a heart for worship. Would You make Your presence known as we commit to worshipping You with our whole hearts? God, would you hear us from heaven and send Your Spirit into our midst? Amen.
Read: Proverbs 7:1-5
Prompt: Pray that God will give you ears that you might rightly perceive the work He wants you to do.
I woke up this morning and before my feet could even hit the compressed strands of fiber of our vanilla carpet I was already thinking of the million and a half things that I had to do today. I wish I could say that such an experience is the exception but I find that life always seems to be a web of complicated scenarios that entangle us in the sticky quandaries of captive existence. In Proverbs 7 however, we are offered a piece of wisdom that provides a way of navigating the difficult space of life. In this passage the teacher implores the student to “store up the commands of wisdom” in such a way that they are always present. But here is the tricky part… wisdom knows that life will always offer us a deluge of choices that range from what we will eat, choosing our attitude in the middle of a conflict, who we will marry, or whether or not we will believe in God’s design for a life lived by faith. The choices are many and thus traversing their ebbs and flows requires a kindred to wisdom that is embedded in every fiber of our being (“Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” 7:3). Yet, what is it that makes a particular decision wise or foolish? Often the recourse of decisions that we make aren’t totally clear until we follow the ripples to the shore line. Upon the banks of our lives we experience the effects of the decisions that we have made, both good and bad, and live with the influence of these upon us like a shore buffeted by its waves. This is why possessing wisdom is so important but often this is where we are challenged the most. Like the foolish lad who is led astray by the seductive words of the temptress we are constantly being lured by the glit and glamor of choices that are less than God’s best for our lives. These decisions can be putting money ahead of a friendship, allowing that hurt experienced to fester in unforgiveness, making things happen in our own strength instead of trusting in God’s, and doubting God’s promises concerning our lives. The symptoms of such a malaise are usually reflected in the way that we encounter each day. Do we allow life to simply happen to us and navigate the choices on the fly or do we live on purpose in the focused plan of God for our lives each day. Here wisdom is helpful again: “My child, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye” (Pr. 7:1-2). What we need then is an undivided heart that refuses to be tossed by the whims of life and is purposeful each day to ground ourselves in God’s purposes by focusing on His words to us in scripture and listening to His voice in prayer. When the trajectory for our existence is tempered this way we have the opportunity to enjoy life rooted in God’s wisdom. This wisdom understands that failure isn’t final and that struggle is the pathway for greater blessing and so come what may today… God’s wisdom is enough to illume our path in His hope.
Prayer: God, help me to slow down today. Help me to quiet the noise of my to do list and the urgency of my daily tasks. Would you give me ears to hear Your word for my life today? Would you help me to know Your will and to walk in it today? Amen.
Read: Exodus 31:1-12
Prompt: Pray that God will help you and the church to be innovative and creative in life and in our ministry
I’ve always been fascinated by origin stories. I don’t mean the kind you find in superhero movies, but the ones you see in biographies or business books. How do people start businesses? What spurs someone to innovate, produce a new product, and disrupt an entire industry? The people who tackle problems in unique ways often produce amazing results and pave the way for others to make progress using the innovative product.
Our church faces unique problems as it grows. Our benevolence center has access to more resources than we can manage. Likewise, our community has more significant needs than our current resources can handle. Our youth and children ministries share space and need help making sure each group feels the church values them. Our worship and art department has dreams that need people with specific skill sets to pull off. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the needs and fear that we don’t have the resources or people to meet the needs.
Don’t be alarmed! God’s people have been in these situations before. Exodus 31:1-12 tells the story of when the people of God were constructing the Tent of Meeting and objects to go in it. The Bible tells us that God inspired two men and gave all the able-bodied men the necessary skills to accomplish their tasks. God can take care of the needs of His people. God can equip His people with all they need to achieve the needs of the ministry.
The same is true for Covenant Life Church! God will equip people to do the tasks He wants to be done in this church! What’s more? God may equip you to accomplish His goals in this church! Even if God doesn’t give you a specific needed skill set, this passage reminds us that God can use all people who are available for the work. The question facing us today is this: are we available for God’s work in our midst?
Prayer: Creative God, would you give us creativity and skill to further Your kingdom? Help us see the problems facing our church with new eyes! Help us think imaginatively about ways we can resolve the issues we encounter! Lord, send people with unique abilities to innovate so that our origin story will inspire people to follow You with their whole hearts!
Read: Romans 8:38-39
Prompt: Pray against the oppressive forces that hold our city captive such as poverty, greed, and lust.
I am a fan of large, epic storytelling. Sagas like Star Wars span decades, telling powerful tales of good triumphant over evil. Our desire for these kinds of stories is primitive, I think; they resonate with a truth deep within us. They tell us an unspoken truth, because at all times there is a war waging – within us, for us – that many of us have only the slightest idea is even happening.
A war wages at the center of the Gospel. As with some of the great cinematic sagas of the last century, like Star Wars, there is a great clash between great forces dark and light. In Paul names some of these forces: death and sin. These are among the dark forces that enslave humanity.
The idea of sin as a form of slavery should be apparent for any who have experienced it firsthand. That is to say, it should be clear to all of us, for one of Paul’s foundational arguments of Romans that all of us find ourselves under the sway of sin. Many of us find ourselves in patterns of sin we cannot break in anger, in addictions, in unhealthy relationships. But this is where the Good News comes in.
If the Good News is a story about a conflict, it is also a love story. It is the story of the God-Who-is-love who so desperately wanted our rescue that for us and for our salvation God took on flesh and dwelt among us, breaking the bond of sin and death by Christ’s own death and resurrection. The powers of sin and death hold power for now in our present time, but they are already defeated.
The power triumphant over all others, in the end, is this relentless love of God that overpowers even the forces of death. There is no force in heaven or hell that can overcome God’s love for us. God’s love pursues us to our deepest, most broken places and pulls us back out again. There is no deeper truth. But neither there any bottom to the truth of God’s love. There are always new depths to plunge, always a new part of the mystery. One of my favorite hymns describes it this way: what if every tree on earth were a quill, the sky was parchment, and the ocean ink. Would that be enough to write the love of God? The songwriter concludes that even if this were the case “To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” The power of God’s love has already overcome the power of sin and death in your life.
Prayer: God, today we pray for Your victory in our lives. We pray that the light of Your love would overtake our whole city, overthrowing the strongholds of sin and death. We pray to see liberation from addiction and division, that the God-who-is-love would work among us and throw off the chains of bondage in our relationships and our communities. Would You break into our midst today? Amen.
Read: Hebrews 13:1-3
Prompt: Pray for the persecuted church that they might find comfort and deliverance.
1Let brotherly love continue. 2Don’t neglect to show hospitality for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. 3Remember those in prison, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.”
I don’t know about you but I must admit, when there is a connection between the one I am praying for and my prayer, I pray more fervently and consistently. As I pondered this recently the Holy Spirit brought three words to mind – brothers, sisters and family.
A crowd told Jesus one day His mother and brothers were outside. Jesus’ replied, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-49; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21)
My mother, my brother, my sisters, my family; these relationships are all temporal UNLESS they have repented of their sins and received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord THEN the relationships change to eternal ones. On the heels of this thought came the reminder that all who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior are my eternal family: my eternal brothers and sisters.
Why did my thoughts go in this direction? I was praying for the persecuted church and asking God to help me feel a deeper connection, that I would pray more fervently. The definition of church – “a people called out of the world and into God’s kingdom”. These people are my eternal family. As I read stories of “my family” being shunned, ridiculed, threatened, harassed, beaten, jailed, and murdered it now touches my heart in a deeper way. Even though the majority of them I have never met, they are still “my family” – my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am encouraged by the Word of God to love them and to do so more and more. Whenever a loved one is being attacked (whether it be verbally or physically) may I be driven to action.
As we at CLC fast and pray for the persecuted church I am asking God to help us remember our connection to them. These are our brothers and sisters who need our prayers. Our prayers will bring down the powers of heaven to encourage and strengthen our loved ones, our family. As Hebrews 13:3 states,“Remember those in prison, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily”.
Prayer: Father, we bring before Your throne my brothers and sisters who face these difficult circumstances. we thank You that the angels are encamped around about them and You are a fire ring of protection for them. Thank You that even as this prayer comes before You, You are filling them with a greater knowledge of Your will and purpose for their lives. Oh, may each one remain steadfast in their faith. Thank You for the deep sense of Your Presence that will strengthen them and also encourage their families. Thank You for the Holy Spirit Who will guide, direct and counsel them. Thank You, Father, that no matter what the circumstance may be Your perfect love will cast out all fear. May they receive a fresh in-filling of the Holy Spirit and be empowered to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and courageously as they obey You, O Lord, rather than men. Please bring to their remembrance that the Holy Spirit will provide the words for all circumstances, words full of grace and seasoned with salt. By Your grace help them remain compassionate and kind, full of Your love which will shed light to set prisoners free! May the Word spread quickly and be honored. Thank You for each and every opportunity that is presented to them. As they go forth may eyes be opened, hearts receptive and may much fruit come from their labor, may many souls be brought into the kingdom. Thank You, Father, for Your protection and provision (for all that is needed spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially) for each of my brothers and sisters. Thank You for being a faithful Father. We praise You, Almighty God! May Your will be done.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
Read: Romans 15:23-33
Prompt: Pray that God will open up new doors for ministry not just too busy ourselves but to do the right things.
Work never ends. Opportunities never cease. How do we know what to do and what not to do? The need for discernment is ever-present in our lives. You may be offered a new job or promotion. You may have a chance to start a business. You may be able to take on new clients. While these may be good things, they could also be detrimental. Sometimes the good is the enemy of the best. As we enter 2020, let us pray that we ruthlessly pursue what is best, even if it means saying no to what is good.
Our church faces the same type of issues. We always want to grow our influence in ministry. We want to make sure that we are pushing the envelope of what we can be doing for God in Cary, NC, and around the world. However, discerning which tasks and projects are the correct ones for us to adopt is a complicated process. Consequently, every venture we take on as a church must be done with the big picture of God’s mission in mind.
Fortunately, the Bible gives us a picture of how to do this in the Apostle Paul. Whether you are wondering what tasks to take on in your life this year or praying about what ministries the church should develop, Paul has a lot to teach us. In Romans 15:23-33, we discover that Paul’s larger mission helped motivate some of his shorter-term decisions.
Paul wanted to take the Gospel to Spain, but he knew he needed help along the way. So, he wrote a letter. Perhaps there were more pressing issues he could have addressed during the days he was working on this letter, but the Church would be without one of its most influential documents. Romans has played integral roles in shaping the lives of countless Christians, and it originated as a fund-raising campaign. One of Paul’s main reasons in writing it was to prepare Roman Christians to help him take the Gospel to a new location in the world.
We must be selective with our initiatives in 2020. They must always fit in with God’s larger plans. You never know what may happen as a result of your ruthless persistence in pursuing the few things God has planned for you. I’m confident that God can use our disciplined approach to ministry in ways that we never expect. Like Paul’s letter to the Romans, the things we do to prepare for what God has for us may end up being the real work He intended all along.
Prayer: God, would you open new doors of ministry for us this year? Please help us to walk through only the doors you open. Please give us the discernment to know what is best. Please help us to recognize when we are trying to pry open a closed-door or crawl through a window. Grant us the patience to follow you where you are leading. As we do this, bless our endeavors for the sake of Your kingdom. Amen.
Read: Romans 5:3-5
Prompt: Pray that God will give you peace and joy through every trial that you face this year.
When I was a teenager my first job was in landscaping. I entered the work force in the deep-end of manual labor in the hot and relentless summer heat that Central Florida is notorious for. The hours were long and the work arduous as we dug trenches through the layers of shell and limestone to place irrigation piping three feet into the earth. The stratums of shell and rock we dug up bore witness to generations past and I imagined in my curious mind the fate of these creatures that had left only their shells for exploration. Then my thoughts wandered to my own life, and the kind of legacy that I would leave once my time here on earth was over. Would people find in my skeletal shell the markings of a valiant warrior that had been run through while daring greatly? Would they see the worn impressions upon my knees where I had cried out for God’s mercies for myself and my generation. Or would my life leave in its wake the kind of obscurity that I saw in the shells in those days as a young man? The truth is legacies are not left in bodies; rather they are left in the hearts and lives of those that we touch while here on earth. Through the years however I have come to realize that legacies are not built easily and are often established in the moments of crisis that test the medal of who we are. Suffering has a way of revealing the hidden greatness within each of us as we learn to stand in strength with each new trial. The Apostle Paul says it this way in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” What Paul is driving at is that because of God’s love that is made evident through the Holy Spirit, each of us can have the confidence that with each trial that we face that His promises will not fail us. Our hope as Christians is in the Crucified One that journeys with us into the abyss of our greatest sadness, weakness and failures and raises us up new in the power of His life. The struggle that we have in leaving the kind of legacy that we hope to, is found in our inability to persevere. Sadly, when trials come many abandon the hope of their faith for the rationale of what we are able to accomplish within our own strength. The cross however offers us a different kind of muscle that is not contingent on human ability or intellectual prowess but rather a new divine fortitude that is mingled with Christ’s divinity. Thus at every turn of life we have an option to endure suffering with Christ or to brave it on our own. Suffering can only produce character however when we allow ourselves to be fashioned after God’s character. The challenges that we face offer to us an opportunity to experience new realms of His grace as we trust in the God that shows up “at the right time, while we were still powerless” (Rom. 5:6). As we overcome each new difficulty that we face, the world is offered vivid testimony of our need for God and what his resurrection means to our daily existence. When they see us overcome our trials they too are given the hope that character produces for their own frailty and it is here that legacy is developed and transferred to the observing generations. What they see in the life of the one that endures suffering in this way is the power of Christ’s resurrection and the hope that somehow they can overcome as well. The way, we trust in God’s power has a direct corollary to our legacy and this is the stuff that will outlive all of us.
Prayer: God, would you grant us peace in the midst of our trials? We do not know what this year holds for us, but know that You will walk through it all with us. Would You make us keenly aware of Your presence no matter what we face? Would You also give us the wisdom to be Your hands and feet in someone else’s life? Help us to walk with others through their most difficult moments. Amen.
Read: Ephesians 6:10-18
Prompt: Pray that this would be the year of your breakthrough where the promises of God are realized and hope is renewed.
Ephesians 6 provides this magnificent image from Paul, with its swords and shields and implications of war. This imagery always appealed to me as a young kid who grew up with stories such as the King Arthur legends. I loved to imagine myself as a knight in shining armor, dueling and jousting on a horse. It was image that allowed me to imagine myself in a great heroic battle against the forces of evil, wielding a sword and shield.
While what I described above may be a child’s power fantasy, what Paul describes is precisely a reminder that we are not on our own when it comes to facing the power of Satan. God has given us resources by God’s mighty power.
The six elements of Paul’s armor seem to reflect the steps a Roman soldier would take in preparation. Most of these steps are defensive and not offensive armaments: a shield, a breastplate, a helmet, and so forth. Only the sword offers any sort of weapon against the enemy. In order to stand against spiritual attack, Paul tells us we must cover ourselves with truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, and salvation. It is only the Word of God that provides as a method of attack against the enemy.
In addition to these armaments, Paul offers something else: prayer. Paul recommends that we pray at all times, with all sorts of prayers (Ephesians 6:18). The prayer might be something akin to the watchfulness a soldier at war must practice, always aware and prepared for engagement at a moment’s notice.
The war we fight, of course, is not against others, but against the forces of sin and death that enslave them (6:12). We are fighting a war of liberation. Therefore, we must always be aware that even when evil appears to bear a human face, that person is themselves only the slave of the darkness that currently reigns over the world.
So we are reminded that, whatever evil remains out in the world, God has prepared us for it. God has given you the strength and the preparation through the Spirit to be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Lean into to the spiritual power of God, not your own power, to deliver you from the oppressive forces of Satan. And when you can do nothing else, stand (6:13).
Whatever war you are fighting, whether it be at work, in your marriage, or in yourself, the war you wage is not against a person, but a power. And no matter how many times you have pressed against that power and have not been able to budge it, you do not have to depend on your own strength. It is by the power of God that we claim victory over the things that have held us back from God’s promises. By God’s victory we claim these promises as our own over and against all the powers that try to subdue us.
Prayer: God, we pray for Your victory against the powers and principalities in our lives. We realize that our hope is not in our own power, but in the might of the Gospel, in the One who has already overcome sin and death and who has been appointed by You as head over all things (Ephesians 1:22). We believe in Your victory and in Your provision. Would You help us experience breakthrough this year? Amen.
Read: Colossians 3:13-14
Prompt: Pray that the Spirit would carry our church in unity into the endless love of Christ.
Unity in the Church is one of the most critical indicators of God’s love at work in the world. Jesus even told his disciples that people would know they were his followers by the love they have for one another. It should come as no surprise then that maintaining unity is one of the hardest aspects of church life. We find countless reasons to be offended. We concoct rationales for why we can allow conflict to remain. All the while, we damage our ability to reflect God’s love into the world.
As we end this fast, I can think of no better challenge than the challenge of unity. Let us resolve to fight for unity this year. We don’t fight for unity with others. The fight for unity is always internal. It requires our submission to the lordship of Jesus. We must lay down our right to be offended, to be center of attention, or even to be right. We must fight off our desires for personal gain. Instead, we must relentlessly lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Colossians, Paul implores the Church to strive for unity by modeling the forgiveness of Christ. Jesus demonstrated radical forgiveness. He turned the religious establishment upside down by his willingness to pursue the outcast of their society. He ruffled feathers by forgiving and embracing tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus’s forgiveness knows no bounds; neither can ours. No offense should separate believers. Instead, we must resolve to forgive one another when we have been wronged and to seek forgiveness when we are the ones who have done the wrong.
Paul doesn’t just tell us to forgive, though. He tells us to put on love. Paul claims that love binds everything together in perfect harmony. When our lives and our church are marked by the love of God, we will be like a magnificent symphony. All sorts of instruments contribute their unique sound under the direction of the conductor and produce a unified, brilliant piece of music. If we commit to following the direction of our conductor, our church can enter into harmony it has never known before.
Prayer: To the God who orchestrates our lives, would you arrange the affairs of Your Church this year? Would you teach us to walk in Your paths and humbly submit to your leadership? We want to grow in unity this year! We want everyone who comes into contact with Covenant Life Church to be struck by our commitment to unity. Let us be a beacon of love in Cary, NC.