FIRST – January 4th-24th

23 12 2015

Your focus determines your direction. Your focus affects your quality of life. Whatever your heart is focused on your life will be focused on and this will determine much of what becomes of your life!

Jesus says“Seek first the kingdom of God”. My heart focus is to be on the things of God first. They are of greater value, they are more important than anything else in my life.

How you start each day has a direct impact on how you will respond to what comes of the day. How you start 2016 may have a significant impact on how you live throughout the year.

How do I “seek the Kingdom of God above all else,”?

When Jesus said, “seek first,” He was also describing that a person following Him would do three things: give, pray, and fast (not for show but as a personal “Thank You” to God). We find this talk in Matthew 5-7 and in chapter 6 Jesus is saying, “when you give, when you pray, when you fast,”

The results are a life where we can reasonably choose to not worry, knowing that God will provide for us and reward us. See Matthew 6.

It’s a conviction that starting a new year by seeking God brings us to right focus. As a church, we begin the New Year by setting aside a time of “sacred assembly” to dedicate ourselves to God afresh. As individuals, we set aside time for prayer & fasting to allow the Holy Spirit to deal with us personally (about our lives/homes/work) – to make sure that anything that should not be in our lives is cut out & anything that should be in our lives is put in.

The practice of fasting means – going without to focus on God. Setting aside time to focus on God is a perfect way to check your focus! “This practice removes distractions, cleanses your soul, deepens humility, intensifies prayer, feeds your faith, and it produces self-control.” – Pastor Frank Damazio

For best results, this includes changing your normal schedule and going without some of your normal activities so that you have more quality time for God. This may mean that you spend less time on the internet or watching TV in favor of investing more energy into your spiritual life.

At the beginning of every year as a church we are going without meats & sweets (at least) for 21 days to be focused on God through prayer & fasting. We are choosing to go without normal food and entertainment so that we can start the year more focused on God than anything else. Consult your Dr before changing your diet.

Please consider writing down your answers to these questions:

  • What do I want to be focused on?
  • Why am I choosing to “go without”?
  • What food, activities, music, TV, or social media will I be doing without?
  • What will I be praying about?
  • What days and times will I be in prayer and Bible reading?

Here’s an opening prayer:

God, you are more important to me than anything else. This Jan. 4-24 I’m going without _. I am doing this because _. I will be more focused on you than anything else. I choose to live for you. Please speak to me God. Thank you!

Here’s a few more verses to consider:

“When you give, pray, fast…focus, seek FIRST, and don’t worry.” Matthew 6

“Love with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind ie: with all your passion, prayer, intelligence,” FIRST Commandment Matthew 22:37

“You keep Your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before You in wholehearted devotion.” 2 Chronicles.6:14

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

“Turn to me now. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate.” Joel 2:12-13

Here’s a few books to consider:

  • Fasting – Jentezen Franklin (also “The Fasting Edge” same author)
  • 101 Reasons to Fast – Dr Bob Rogers
  • Toxic Relief – Don Colbert MD
  • Purple Book (Bible studies that every believer should go through with a friend) and Wiki Church Steve Murrell
  • Crazy Love – Francis Chan
  • The Jesus I Never Knew – Philip Yancey
  • No Perfect People Allowed – John Burke

January Prayer Focus – Lent?

In the spring we will enter the ancient Christian calendar season of Lent, the 40 days leading to Easter. It’s good to learn from our history. Three major themes of this practice are self-control, prayer, and reflection. It certainly brings great joy in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus! It also honors the 40 days that Jesus spent in prayer & fasting, Matthew 4. For more resources on Lent, click herehttp://bit.ly/YBOuXf

For the past couple of years we’ve chosen to not observe Lent directly. We follow the principles by starting the year with a prayer and fasting focus on Jesus (January 4-24). Then during the weeks leading up to Easter we set aside time to consider, reflect, and celebrate the Cross of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ.

Practical To Do:

  1. Prepare spiritually. (You’re hearing from God and know that you’re doing it because you’re led.)
  2. Determine what kind of fast and how long. (Certain meals or food, number of days, full fast?)
  3. Write down why you are doing it and your fasting plan.
  4. Devote extra time to prayer & the Bible.
  5. Limit time spent with TV, internet, and social media.
  6. Be physically prepared: headaches, lightheaded, bad breath, more sleep, plenty of water.

Spiritual Keys to Fasting:

  1. Fasting is an invitation. Not a requirement. (Breaking out of the routine of life, “You love me regardless, I am voluntarily giving this up, I am coming after you God.”)
  2. Fasting is a grace. Not gritting your teeth. There is a connection between the Holy Spirit and fasting. God gives you grace.
  3. Fasting is humbling yourself before God. “Lord I need you.”
  4. Fasting is an act of worship.
  5. Fasting is giving up something perfectly good, acceptable, so that you can have more of God.
  6. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is a physical act.
  7. Fasting is a time of Spirit-led self-examination. You will see God begin to do a deep internal work in your life.
  8. Fasting increases our sense of humility and dependence on God.
  9. Fasting allows us to set aside time for prayer.
  10. Fasting expresses our earnestness and urgency to God in prayer.

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