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The Follow Fast

Vertical Church will do a 5 or 12 day fast beginning at sunrise on Monday, January 13th through sunset on Friday, January 17/24th.

As we go into this new year we are asking God to help us to love Him more than anything and to love people as much as we love ourselves. The purpose of “The Follow Fast” is one of personal devotion and spiritual cleansing. As we learned last year in Psalm 25:4 says, we are praying and asking God, “Make me to know Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths.” Fasting is one of paths that God uses to increase our faith.
The goal of fasting isn’t doing without food – the goal of fasting is to draw nearer to God. During this time we are connecting with God and disconnecting from our busy lives. Work hard to remove some of the distractions of your life (tv, facebook/twitter, video games, texting) and replace that time with things that will nourish your spirit (the bible, prayer, a spiritual book).
We want everyone to participate in the fast in one of 3 ways:
  1. A Specific Food or Activity Fast – Omit a specific type of food from your eating. Example: all red meat. all processed or fast food, or sweets. You may fast from a regular activity or habit like Facebook or TV. Some may do a combination of all of this. Important thing: have a plan and stick to it.
  2. Daniel Fast – Consist of fruits, vegetables and water only. Also omitting distractions (tv, facebook/twitter, video games, texting)
  3. Juice Fast – Fruit and vegetable juices and water only.
  4. Water Only – This is the normal fast referred to in the Bible, how Jesus and the early church fasted.
If you are going to be successful it’s important to prepare. It’s easy to prepare for a water only fast – but for others (juice or Daniel), having the necessary items will help you to be more successful. Below is a sample of some fasting menus.

FRUITS, VEGETABLES, JUICES, AND WATER

Breakfast

• Fruit smoothie with whey protein

Mid-­‐morning Snack

  • Fresh fruit or fresh vegetables Lunch
  • Raw vegetable salad with light, organic dressing and vegetable broth soup Mid-­‐afternoon Snack
  • Fresh fruit or fresh vegetables Dinner
  • Fresh salad with light, organic dressing and steamed or grilled vegetables

    SAMPLE MENU 2: LIQUIDS ONLY

    Breakfast

• Fruit smoothie with whey protein

Mid-­‐morning Snack

  • Herbal tea or vegetable broth soup Lunch
  • Raw, juiced vegetables Mid-­‐afternoon Snack
  • Fresh fruit juice or fruit smoothie with whey protein Dinner
  • Vegetable juice or vegetable broth soup

    SAMPLE MENU 3: MODIFIED DANIEL FAST

    Breakfast

• 1–2 servings whole grains with fresh fruit juice

Mid-­‐morning Snack

  • Fresh fruit or fresh chopped vegetables Lunch
  • 1–2 servings whole grains; fresh salad with legumes and light, organic dressing Mid-­‐afternoon Snack
  • Fresh fruit juice or fruit smoothie with whey proteinDinner
  • 1–2 whole grains; fresh salad with legumes and light, organic dressing
We will have a daily online devotional for each day of the fast to guide you as you take the Path towards a greater faith.

3 THINGS I WANT “FOR” YOU IN 2014

I had the opportunity to close Sunday’s service with the following challenge for all of Vertical Church as we look to a new chance for a new start. Let me share it with you briefly:

The call of God on our life is not to attend church services – it’s to become a follower of Jesus. The mission of Vertical Church is “to lead people to become passionate about Jesus so they can lead others to Jesus.” It’s why we do this, set up in a movie theater and a community college week in and week out. We want YOU to become passionate about Jesus.

As we close 2013 and approach a new year there are 3 things that I really want FOR you:

To grow in your relationship to God

  • I want you to commit to spend daily time with Him, in His presence, allowing Him to lead you in this life.
  • I want you to give Him a prominent time in your day. Don’t leave it up to chance. Begin by setting the clock 15 mins earlier. You will never believe what a difference this will make in your life.
  • I want you to begin a daily bible reading plan. We have them available at the NEXT table. You can also find many great reading plans at www.youversion.com

To grow in your relationship with people

  • You need people IN YOUR LIFE who are striving to grow in their relationship with God. I want all Vertical attendees to participate in a VGroup in 2014, a group of people growing together and ministering to one another. You can join one in January.
  • I want you to be aware of the people God has put in your life who do not know Jesus. They are there on purpose. Begin (or continue) praying for them, for open hearts, for their salvation. Be purposeful in HELPING them meet Him.

To grow in your relationship with this church

  • I want you to commit to weekly attendance (when you are in town). One conversation that has never taken place in my family’s life since I began following Jesus is this: “dad, are we going to church today?” I dare you to become so consistent that the convo changes to, “we’re NOT going to church today?!?” This will change the tone of your family’s life.
  • btw…. if you have children, they NEED to be in VKidz weekly. You will be amazed at the way it will help you. If you have teens MAKE THEM connect to FUZE on Wednesday night’s at Bill Sapp. I’m telling you, it’s a game-changer.
  • I want you to find a place to serve at Vertical. Nothing activates your faith like service. NOTHING.
  • I want you to become a Vertical Partner. We do this about 4 times per year. Your next opportunity will be on January 19th. Sign ups begin Sunday.

You can try to do all of these half-hearted and it will be going through the motions. If you do it won’t have the desired effect. But if you will prayerfully enter into this, I’m telling you, You will be well on your way to a life that brings glory to God. Sunday we begin a new series, “NEXT”, and it will direct you in figuring out what is next in your Jesus relationship. I am praying for you and love you all.

What God Needs from a Worship Leader

Prior to Vertical Church I was a worship leader for 13 years. As a worship leader the tension I found myself dealing with was getting beyond the challenge of programming for JESUS rather than people. If you plan worship long enough you will eventually get to the place where you will be challenged by the desire to program in a way that achieves the desired results of the music. But the truth is…

What God needs from me as a worship leader isn’t good music – He desires a leader who can present supernatural worship.

Our music should be set apart and anointed by God. When we lead worship, that worship needs to hold within it the supernatural - the presence of JESUS, the power to break through all the junk that people bring into the house from their week. Let’s face it – they come in from all different places in life: some worshpers, some seekers; some broken hearted, some wholehearted; some offering all they have, some giving God one more chance.

We shouldn’t… NO! WE CAN’T just half-heartedly walk into worship acting as if we’re doing God a favor by showing up. This is especially huge for the worship leader, singer, band member and A/V tech – but you know it’s also important for the believer sitting in the congregation. After all, prayer and worship is not for God’s benefit (He doesn’t need our worship – He has created beings who were made for the purpose of worship who have and will worship Him for eternity). Worship and prayer is for our benefit drawing us closer and into the presence of our Father.

I am so thankful for the worship leaders God has given us at Vertical Church. One thing that I know that they understand is this concept – they demonstrate it weekly. But for all of my worship leader friends out there who read, maybe you need some encouragement in this area. May we all remember that what we do in woship is not entertainment – it’s our spiritual act of worship, singing to the ONE, the only ONE Who holds the power to break the chains that people have in their lives.

A Couple More Thoughts about “Falling Out of Love”

As a Pastor probably the most common phrase that we hear from people who are considering divorce is “we just fell out of love”. Gary Thomas says, “Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance” That statement has absolutely ROCKED my world – I have literally thought about it every day since I heard it. People quit living lives that are guarded by repentent hearts. It is impossible for you to be in a relationship with God, one where you are in daily communication, one that says, “Lord, I ask You to help me to follow You in all of my ways today” and later in that same day look at your spouse and say, “I don’t love you anymore and I want to live a separate life from you”.

“Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance” – Gary Thomas

In a article he wrote some years back he writes of the way that marriage is designed by God to make us more like Jesus. He tells this story,

One of the challenges my wife and I faced in our marriage centered around ice cube trays. Lisa rarely filled them back up, so when I pulled out a tray it might have just two or three ice cubes left. This frustrated me no end. So one time when my wife was talking romantically, telling me she would love me forever, I replied, “I don’t need you to love me forever. I need you to love me for seven seconds.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“Well, I timed how long it takes to fill the ice cube trays and put them in the freezer, and that’s about seven seconds..”

The next morning, however, it dawned on me while I was praying that if it takes my wife just seven seconds to fill the ice cube trays, how long does it take me? Seven seconds, naturally. And the question I believe God placed in my heart was piercing: Is my love so shallow that I would seriously resent my wife putting me out for seven seconds’ worth of work? After all of her love and commitment to me, am I so spiritually immature that I grow angry at seven extra seconds of lost labor?

The sad answer was, “Yes, I am that immature.” (you can read the rest of this excellent article here)

Maybe you get that. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience just as I have. You find yourself seeing your spouse’s flaws yet missing your own. What I have found to be my biggest issue is the wickedness of my own heart.

(Proverbs 4:23 NIV) Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

How’s your heart? You know, i have realized about myself that I am better at monitoring Keyna’s actions than I am at guarding my own heart. We believe that if we can get them to be who WE want them to be it will be better. “If he would just change I wouldn’t be angry all the time” or “If she would quit nagging me I would be more apt to do what she wants”. It’s his fault! She makes me that way! Sounds like the excuses in the garden. v.12-13.

Your ability to successfully fight FOR your marriage has as much to do with the condition of your heart as it does with the behavior of your spouse. Guard your heart for everything great in life flows from it.

How We Overcame our Struggles

I began Sunday’s message, “Fighting IN or Fighting FOR” by sharing my story of a rough period Keyna and I had in our marriage about 8 years ago. I love my wife and our marriage and am so thankful that Jesus gave her to me. This year we will celebrate our 23rd year of marriage!! You can hear the details of our issues in the message (should be here later today).

As painful as that period was to go through as a couple I truly believe that we are so much better BECAUSE we went through it. How did we come through? Keyna finally chilled out and accepted me for who i am am and automatically things got better? Yeah right!! NO, THAT DEFINITELY isn’t what happened. One day I woke up and realized that SHE wasn’t the problem, I was. My wife wasn’t picking on me or nagging, she was sharing her heart. What did i do? I applied the teaching that I shared in this past weekend’s message. I can truly say that this message was formed from the scripture and my own personal experiences as a husband.

Here are some of the steps that I took to become the husband Keyna deserved to be married to:

  • Step One: I started listening. Up to this point I heard what she said every time that we had this argument – my issue is that I was not doing anything with what I was hearing (James 1:19-23). I began to listen and realize that my actions were making my wife unhappy. As I said Sunday, if you are having the same fight over and over somebody isn’t listening. In order for me to take this step I had to lay down my pride – I had to say that my marriage relationship was worth more to me than being “right” was. I had to lay my desire to be right at the feet of my Savior – when I did I discovered that I wasn’t “so” right.
  • Step Two: I began to communicate with my wife in the way that she desired. I have always been the kind of person who doesn’t open up easily and kept my feelings to myself. Keyna wanted to know what was going on with me, she desired to be my helper (Gen 2:18), the person that God designed her to be yet I would not let her in. This was and continues to be hard for me as my natural tendency is to take things in and bury them very deep in me. In order to win in this area of our marriage I had to make a conscious effort to tell her things that I just didn’t want to talk about.
  • Step Three: I asked God to help me love her the way Jesus loves the Church (Eph 5:25). The desire of my heart was/is to love her the way that Jesus does – to see her through His eyes… and see how precious she is. Keyna Pittman is my most valued earthly possession. Get ya some of that! That may make some of you uncomfortable as you would not count your spouse as being your greatest earthly possession. If asked to do so, many would list their kidz as their most valuable possession – and I get that except that God expects us to love our spouse before them. Let me remind you that loving your spouse more doesn’t make you love your kids less. If your love is an outpouring of the love of Jesus in your life it will help you to love your kids more. YOUR KIDZ NEED YOU TO LOVE YOUR SPOUSE FIRST! Kidz want to know their parents are in love!! They might think it’s kind of “gross” but it brings security among all the families they see splitting up in their friends lives.
  • Step Four: I got the spiritual priority order right. I gave it to you earlier. God comes first (Matthew 22:37 ESV), then your spouse (Ephesians 5:25 ESV), then family (Psalm 127:3 ESV), then everyone else (by the way, this does include work. There are times where you have to do what you have to do to make things happen workwise, but some people use supporting the family AN EXCUSE and don’t give their family priority over work. None of you will lie and your deathbed and say, “I wish i would have worked more) and finally yourself (Ph. 2:3) Check this: someday your kidz will leave… and if we make life all about them and let our marriage suffer there will be nothing to live for when they leave. I want to make sure there is still a Mike and Keyna in 6 years when Matt leaves for college.

After 22 years our marriage is strong and enjoyable. Of course we have our difficulties and challenges as everyone does. But I believe we hold our relationship as the highlight of our life. Best of all (and most importantly) Jesus is at the center of our relationship – you can never go wrong if you start with your Savior. While I am still not the husband Keyna deserves I am striving day by day to become more like Jesus and to serve her in a way that brings honor to Him.

I truly hope our experiences helps some draw closer to the Lord and our spouse as we strive to have a marriage that is pleasing to the Lord.