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Focus Fast Day 3 – Hungry for the Wrong Things

Vertical Church is on our 3rd day of fasting and I have a question for all of my fasting friends:

ARE YOU HUNGRY?

“Am I hungry for the wrong things?”

Your answer for me is probably, “DUH!”, right? But you know, to be honest, as I write this on Tuesday I’m not THAT hungry for food. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my body and my mind crave physical food right now, but it’s more of a want than a need.

This morning as I was reading “Authentic Fasting from James MacDonald” I was struck by how easy it is for me to NOT be hungry for God. I am easily tempted by my hunger for things other than God: entertainment, the wrong foods, laziness. In the devo he pointed out that we don’t often miss a physical meal but find it VERY EASY to miss a spiritual meal (prayer, Bible, devotional material, spiritually uplifting sources like a book, movie, etc.). Does that resonate with you like it does me?

I was praying with some friends on Monday and was reminded of what Paul said in Philippians 3:

17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

I don’t want to mildly want God, like I often tend to do.

I think that often times I find myself hungrier for things other than God than I am for God. I don’t want to mildly want God, like I so often have a tendency to do. So today, as my fast continues, I am asking JESUS to chip away at the hardness of my heart, the sinfulness of my mind and the selfishness of my desires, that I might be content IN Him and WITH Him. “As You make me more like You, make me want You more.”

Here are a few verses I will dwell/meditate on today:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 143:5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. 6 I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. “Selah” 7 Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. 8Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the wayI should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

We can rejoice that God answers us:

Isaiah 55:1 ”Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, ”I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

FOCUS FAST Day Two

How was Day One of your fast? I am truly wondering and would love to hear from you about it. Also, share those prayer requests.

Are you ready? Today we will focus on drawing near to God.

Jesus’ brother, James, shared this thought when he said,

[8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10 ESV)

I am SO double-minded: I want one thing yet often do another. 

Humility, the act of being humble, is such a huge part of fasting. In the verse above we are told to “cleanse our hands and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Does that describe you like it does me? I am SO double-minded: I want one thing yet often do another. During this time of fasting, look at it as a time to be purified of the junk that so easily slows us down spiritually.

One way to purify our hearts is to prayerfully ask God to reveal any sin that would keep you from being able to experience His presence. Pray for the ability to see your sin as He does. Don’t rush this time – allow God to thoroughly examine your heart and show you your attitude and hidden things. As things surface, confess that sin, ask Him to break your heart about this as His is broken. Ask for His forgiveness and the ability to turn in the opposite direction of that sin.

[5] I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
(Psalm 32:5 ESV)

Now, draw near to God with boldness because of what HE has done, not yourself:

[16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

I may draw near because of God’s love for me. He forgave me even though I wasn’t worthy of His forgiveness. (Romans 5:8 ESV) tells us this when it says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Hallelujah! Even though my sin should disqualify me He proves His love by forgiving and loving us anyway. I can trust God’s love for me.

So, confess your sin…

[8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:8-10 ESV)

Thank You, God, for showing me that You love me and for giving me a hope to change.

Focus Fast Day One

Here we go…

We are fasting to seek God’s plan for 2016. The writer of Psalm 25 expresses the heart of our prayer when he says,

[4] Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
[5] Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
(Psalm 25:4-5 ESV)

As the new year begins, lets ask God to awaken our heart to His love. As we seek Him, let’s pray for an increased hunger for God; a desire to spend time in prayer and the study of God’s word. Let’s pray for personal holiness and that our heart would be tender and open to pleasing Him in our thoughts, words and works.

What are you specifically fasting for? Maybe you haven’t really thought about this – you were just fasting because our church is fasting. Is it for spiritual renewal, for healing, for wisdom in a particular area, or the resolution of a specific issue? Could it be for a relationship, an addiction, or for a person? Maybe you have more than 1 – Pick the top 1-3 prayer requests or things you would like to seek God on. Don’t overwhelm yourself and make a laundry list of items. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in deciding and clarifying your goals for fasting.

Pray this, David’s prayer to God:

[10] Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
[11] Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
[12] Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51:10-12 ESV)

In the book of Daniel we see that it was Daniel’s practice to go to his room 3 times a day, opening the windows facing Jerusalem and getting down on his knees to pray. I’m sure that Daniel also prayed throughout the day, as should we. But his apartment prayer, that was a special time where it was priority to meet with God in prayer. It reminds me of Jesus’ words that we looked at in yesterday’s message:

[6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:6 ESV)

This time for Daniel was a priority for Daniel – a special time that he met with God in prayer. It was such a priority that when the king said that the people could only pray to him, the king, Daniel didn’t listen. Daniel was an important official in King Darius’ kingdom but for Daniel, God’s law superceded that king’s unlawful law.

If you know the story, Daniel’s refusal got him thrown into a Lion’s den but God protected and delivered Daniel. And you know what else God did? He honored Daniel by putting the story in the scriptures that we might be encouraged by it.

Here’s what I want you to see in this:

  • We should set aside a special time daily to spend time with God. Daniel prayed 3 times per day. The bible doesn’t command that. You can, but you aren’t commanded to. Most importantly, we see that we are to set aside time to be with God – a time that we prioritize.
  • We should also pray throughout our day. Let’s have an ongoing conversation with the Father. Try this: how about for the next few days setting an alarm to go off at 20 minutes after every hour and praying for a couple minutes every time it goes off? Share the moments of your day, your thoughts, your attitudes.
When you do these things you will see God begin to fill you with His presence, feeding your soul and preparing you for whatever the day may bring. Step one: Open the door.

Focus Fast Begins Tomorrow Morning!

Drink lots of water.

I’m very excited that you have decided to join us to seek God for your life through fasting. For some of you this will be your first experience with fasting. Others of you will take your fasting to another level this time. Regardless of which fast you are choosing (the different options for our fast are listed HERE) we all have the same goal:

To grow closer to God by removing distractions from our life as we purposely pursue Him.

Begin your day by offering yourself to God. Listen to worship music as you get ready (Pandora or Spotify is great for that – Hillsong United radio on Pandora’s good stuff). Read God’s Word. As you pray on this first day remember to pray these things:

  • Invite God to use you for His work in your family, your environments (work/school/relationships).
  • Ask God to show you that thing that “just isn’t right”, that burden that He wants you to pursue.
  • At lunch, spend some time with God. Maybe take a walk as you talk to Him. Whatever you do, change up your norm as you pursue Him.
  • This evening, make time to spend time seeking Him.
  • If you have friends or family who are fasting, meet with them (even if by phone, facetime, skype, etc.) and discuss the day, pray together and help each other out.
  • Avoid anything that will break your spiritual focus.
Add a bible reading plan from the Bible App (If you don’t have this app on your phone you should get it today – and the Vertical App too!) such as “Authentic Fasting with James MacDonald”“21 Day Fast”, or “Restart: Stepping out in Faith” (40 days in the book of Nehemiah). If you are on the Bible App please add me as a “friend”.

Find Alternatives that Help you stay FOCUSed. Turn off the tv – read a spiritual book. I will sometimes read a Christian fiction novel like something by Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Jerry B. Jenkins. Listen to worship music – spend extra time in prayer. Anything to help you to continue to FOCUS and turn your heart towards Jesus.

2 final points:

  1. Keep your fast as private as possible. Don’t walk around telling everyone how hungry you are so they will KNOW you are fasting. Here’s what Jesus says about that in Matt 6:16: 16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
  2. Drink lots of water. A bottle by your side is your constant friend over these next 6 days of fasting.

Focus Fast 2016

Have you ever found yourself spiritually stuck? Through the years there have been times when I wanted to do something spiritually but did not seem to have the strength, nor the willpower, to see it through. I was absolutely sincere – I really wanted it to happen, but I just found myself falling short. Have you ever found yourself in that place?

I HAVE OFTEN FOUND THAT MY GREATEST DILEMMA IS THAT MY HEART WANTS ONE THING, BUT I PERSONALLY DESIRE SOMETHING ELSE MORE.

If you can relate to the above statement I have some good news for you: GOD has given us a tool that will help us to break free and that tool is fasting.

Each year during the month of January we encourage our Vertical family to join us for a period of prayer and fasting. What better way to start our year the right way, desiring to grow in our relationship to God? The purpose of fasting isn’t to go without food, the goal of fasting is drawing near to God (Jas 4:8) As we eliminate distractions for spiritual purposes we focus on God – it’s like hitting a spiritual reset button and renews us from the inside out. When we remove distractions from our life (food, tv, social networking, video games, texting) and replace them with things that feed our spirit (bible reading, prayer, devotional time, soul searching, reading encouraging spiritual works) we put ourselves in position to grow closer to God.

Through the years I have found that most believers do not practice fasting even though Jesus Himself did. As a matter of fact, in Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus says twice, “WHEN you fast…”, not “IF you fast…”. I am convinced that Jesus expected that His followers should and would fast. (Here is a link to the best guide ever for understanding fasting). I know most people are kind of freaked out by fasting because they have never actually done it. It’s not as bad as you think – especially when you are doing it with others.

VERTICAL CHURCH BEGINS A 6 DAY FAST BEGINNING AT SUNRISE ON JANUARY 11TH (MONDAY) AND ENDS SUNSET JANUARY 16TH (SATURDAY). #FocusFast2016

We are very excited to share that for the first time we will finish the Focus Fast with 24 Hours of uninterrupted prayer at each of our locations (6 pm Friday (1/15) until 6 pm Saturday). During this time, which is open to everyone, people will sign up to come pray for an hour at our prayer locations. If you are worried whether you are able to pray for 60 minutes straight don’t worry, we will provide you with a 60 minute prayer guide that will give you specific things to talk to God about in prayer. No experience necessary, just a willing heart. We suggest signing up with a friend, spouse, even your family (if your children are of an age that they can join and not be a distraction to the others praying). Please sign up for a one hour time slot at NEXT.

Types of Fast

Complete Fast - Abstain from all food with only water to drink (fruit and vegetable juice can be permitted for strength). This is the normal fast referred to in the Bible and the way that Jesus and believed to be the way that Jesus and the early church fasted. This fast also includes giving up things of distraction mentioned above. Remember, the purpose of fasting isn’t to go without food – God isn’t blessed by your suffering but rather, desires that you grow closer to Him, spending time in His presence.

Daniel Fast - Fruits, vegetables and water only. Don’t forget to omit the distractions.

Specific Food or Activity Fast - This fast would include removing certain items from your diet. For example, no red meat; all processed or fast foods; sweets; Coke or Mtn Dew. Fasting spinach if you hate spinach would not be considered fasting. Others who do not have experience fasting food, or have health issues that prevent fasting, or need to refocus certain areas of their life might choose to fast social media or watching TV during the fast. Some may do a combination of certain foods AND other distractions. The key is to be honest with your decisions.