Zechariah 7:5,11-13 — “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?…But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
The danger of fasting, and really any mode of physical denial or fleshly restraint, is that it may become the end in and of itself, rather than the means to an end that it was meant to be. The people in Zechariah’s day had engaged in the discipline of fasting for seventy years! But God asks them a cutting question, “Was it really for me?” Sometimes our service to God, our pious activities, or our religious observance can be self-serving more than God honoring and God seeking. In the end, God always knows our hearts, and if we are not listening…neither will He.
The specifics of fasting (as far as the how-to) in the Bible are sparse. While almost every example in the Bible refers to a fast from food (all foods, certain foods, etc.), it would not be out of line to call Sabbath observance a fast from work/activity. The purpose remains the same — mourning, weeping, confession, drawing closer to God.
Therefore, the how of fasting is very open. You can fast from one meal, devoting the time you would have spent eating on reading God’s Word or in prayer. You can fast from certain foods, maybe foods you ordinarily enjoy often (sweets, soda, sweet tea, pizza, burgers, bbq, etc.) You can fast for an entire day or several days in a row (please be sure to consult a physician to ensure you are able to do this). You may fast from certain activities, especially ones that consume much of your time (TV, golf, movies, cell phone, internet, hobbies, etc.)
Only be sure that you do not dilute yourself into thinking that because you forgot to eat, or didn’t have time for a certain activity that you are fasting. Fasting is purposeful and intentional, and therefore focusing your time on God during this denial of food or activity is crucial. Be sure that you are doing it for God.
God please forgive me when I have not engaged in fasting or prayer for the right reasons. I confess that my motives have often been selfish, and my intentions have not always been pure. Please help me engage in the discipline of disciplining my body. Help me to pull down the flesh so that I might be built up in the Spirit. Ultimately God, I want to know You more. Help me remove any distractions, inhibitions, or sin that stands in the way of that. Thank You for Jesus Christ who has paid my sin debt and given me the access to You through His blood. May I never take that lightly. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Luke 11:1-4 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”
The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Basically, “Master, how do we pray?” Now that we know the why, the how is the natural next step. Jesus gives them a prayer — we often refer to it as The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is a rudimentary model of how to pray. If Jesus had given this to us in our day, He might have called it a sort of “Idiot’s Guide to Prayer,” or “Prayer for Dummies.” (Jesus may have even done a YouTube how-to video!) This was never meant to be the only way to pray, but simply a guide, a how-to, for children or amateurs. We teach our children, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Not because we wish for them to pray this exact prayer every night for the rest of their lives, but so that they learn to communicate to God in a simple way — they learn to see God as their Father in heaven who wants to hear from them. It is a starting point to communion with God. So, what is the how of prayer? Jesus says:
Remember Who you are talking to. “Our Father in heaven…” God is Holy. He dwells on High, in heaven. But He is also our Father, and a Good Father at that. We can converse with Him. We can ask of Him, we can talk with Him and He loves us.
Remind God that you want what He wants. “Your will be done…” If you really desire for God’s will to be done, then be a part of what He is doing. Before you tell Him what you want, ask Him what He wants. But be prepared for His wants to some times (or many times) be in conflict with your own desires…are you willing to let Him have His way?
Request what you need. “Give us each day…” Some people will tell you at this point to just ask for your needs not your wants. But the Bible teaches us that if we “Take delight in the LORD, then he will give us the desires of our heart.” (Psalm 37:4) If you want what He wants, then ask Him for anything you want! Let God distinguish between your wants and needs and be content with what He provides. God will bring our desires into conformity with His — in His time.
Reveal your sin and Release others from theirs. “Forgive us our sins…” This may seem hard on the surface, to expose our sins to God. However, upon closer inspection, it is really quite simple — God already sees and knows about our sin! We are really just agreeing with Him that our sin is wrong and promising to turn away from wrong doing. But, because God does not hold our sin against us, then neither can we hold others’ sins against them. We model God’s forgiveness, and in so doing, we become a true testimony of His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Repeat your requests until God says otherwise. “Ask…Seek…Knock…” (vv. 9-10) Ever meet someone for the first time and find it hard to converse? Conversation didn’t come easy or natural, it seemed forced and a little stiff. Then with time you became friends, because of persistence and deeper communication. Don’t give up just because you don’t get the answer you wanted…persist in prayer. Keep praying until it becomes like breathing…second nature, you don’t even think about it, it just happens naturally. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Revel in your status. “Suppose you have a friend…” (v.8) As God’s beloved, a friend of God and a child of the King the Jesus says we can come to the Father with “shameless audacity.” (Luke 11:8) When a child bursts into his father’s business meeting disrupting everyone else in the meeting (and everything on the agenda) simply because he can’t wait to tell his dad what he did at school that day…that’s shameless audacity! Your intimate relationship with God should make others blush! “The gall of that child!” “What impertinence!” “Doesn’t he know there are more important matters at hand?” We don’t know and we don’t care! We have to speak to daddy!…and He loves it.
Lastly, don’t forget to be thankful. Thankfulness has its own ability to transform our thoughts off of our circumstances and needs and reminding us of how good God always is. Jesus is still willing to teach us how to pray.
Oh Father! You are God alone, and there is no other like You. I want nothing more than Your will to be done in this world and in my life. Do whatever it takes to conform me to Your will and surrender my own. Forgive me when I fail in this. I confess that I am full of sin and my desires often take place over Yours. I’m sorry when that happens, please help me to allow Your desires to override my own. I have held others responsible for the hurts they have given me. I have kept them in debtors prison for their transgressions..forgive me. Today I will release them with Your help, and help me also to forget the pain and not bring it back to remembrance. Thank You for listening, for hearing, and for answering. But most of all, thank You for being my Daddy and for loving me so well. I love You, Dad. Amen.
We are excited to announce we are currently accepting resumes for a full time Youth Pastor ministry role we are filling at the church.
Do you communicate via emojis? Do you type 38 WPM via text? Is your Instagram game strong? Above all, do you love children and want to see them transformed by the power of Jesus? This may be your calling.
To learn more and apply, please visit http://cometothecreek.com/youth-pastor/
1 Samuel 7:6 — “When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.”
I believe the why of fasting is equally important to the why of prayer. Just as Genesis 4:26 was the first mention of prayer (calling upon the LORD) in the Bible, so 1 Samuel 7:6 is the first mention of fasting in the Bible. And just as mankind, in the book of Genesis, lost fellowship with God through sin and they sought restoration of that fellowship through prayer — mankind, in the book of Samuel, lost God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant — a symbol of God’s presence) and they sought restoration through fasting and confession (prayer). While prayer is an activity of communicating to God, fasting — the deliberate denial of food to the body — is an activity that communicates to God the seriousness of our commitment. In this instance, the children of Israel had indulged their appetites by worshiping other foreign gods. They were no longer committed to serve God, but rather distracted by their own desires. The Ark was captured by the Philistines and “The Glory had departed from Israel, for the ark of God had been captured.” (1 Sam. 4:22) The why of fasting is this: we are distracted. There is a battle within us between our desire to do things our way and a desire to do things God’s way. The New Testament writer, James puts it this way, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) When we deny ourselves basic necessities like food, it weakens our worldly body…but it strengthens our spiritual body! (Mat. 4:2; Mat.16:24-26) It disciplines our flesh and we are more able to commune with God because we are less distracted by the desires/appetites of our bodies. We show God in a very tangible way that we are committed to Him more than to ourselves. (Job 11:13-19) We live on the spiritual food He gives us more than the earthly foods we crave. (Mat. 4:4; Deut. 8:3) God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10), and when we weaken our sinful bodies through self denial…we are strengthened by God’s power and God’s glory returns! We experience His presence in new ways and we recommit our hearts to what really matters. We refocus upon God and we forsake our distractions and hinderances, for the sake of sweet communion and fellowship with God. We fast because we are distracted.
God of grace and God of glory, forgive me for being distracted by my own sinful desires. Even now, talking about denying my body food there is a visceral reaction from my flesh…it is angry, and it desires to disobey. Help me to discipline my body through fasting. Not so that I am holier than anyone else, but because my body is in constant rebellion to Your ways. Let me use the things of this world — food, money, power, talents as if they do not have a hold on me. Let me not be controlled by any of them, but surrender them all to Your control. Help me to keep my commitments to You. Thank You for Your loving kindness and Your faithfulness even when I am unfaithful. Thank You for Your perfect power in my weakness —help me to truly embrace weakness, and fully trust in Your power and grace. All glory is Yours in heaven and on earth. Amen.
Genesis 4:26 — “Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.”
Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Sometimes we launch into trying to teach people how to do something without helping them understand why they are doing it in the first place. Then, often years later, the person wakes up realizing that they have been doing something simply because someone told them how to do it…but since they have never really understood its purpose, they often find it has meant very little to them or worse — what they are doing has become nothing but stale, dry ritual devoid of any meaning. The why of prayer is this: we need God. We need fellowship with Him, we need to hear from Him and to be heard by Him. In Eden’s perfection, we had unhindered, unbroken fellowship with Him — man and woman “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” (Genesis 3:8) But sin broke that fellowship and became the hindrance to our hearing from Him and and the also the hinderance to Him hearing from us. Death entered the world through sin (Romans 5:12), and all the brokenness and consequence that sin brings came with it. Cain murders Able — dysfunction reigned in the very first family, not because God created it that way, but because sin (rebellion against God) is so devastating. When sin has ravaged our lives, our families, and our communities —“men begin to call upon the name of the LORD.” This is why we pray. We long to communicate with God. We need to reconnect with the Author of our story, the Creator of our world, the Father of us all. We need the Author to tell us what happens next, to show us how to walk in this broken world. For only the Creator can distinguish between what is broken and what is good and can tell us how to fix what is broken. We need the Father to hear us when we cry, to wipe away every tear. A Father to hear us when we are joyful and celebrate with us. A Father to teach us what pleases Him, and what is best for us…because He knows what is best for His children. We pray because we need God.
Heavenly Father, LORD of all creation and Author of my story, today I call upon You. I need You to hear my cry, I am broken by sin. I need You to rescue me from the consequences of sin in my life. I need You to help me know right from wrong. I need You to guide me in all my decisions and actions. I also need to hear from You. Please speak to me, through Your Word, through other people, through Your powerful Holy Spirit. I promise that when I hear Your voice, and I know it is You, that I will do what You want me to do. Please be patient with me when I fail, love me even when I forget Your ways, and bring me back when I walk away. Thank You for loving me, I truly love You and I thank You for writing me into Your story. Amen.
We are standing on the edge of a mighty move of God. Can you feel it? Like a woman about to give birth, there is an expectancy, a vibrant hope of new life, and new adventure to come. It is not the first time (and most likely not the last) that we have been here. Certainly, God’s people have always lived on this edge of hope. Crossing the Jordan River into the promised land, expectantly searching for the long prophesied Messiah, awaiting the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost…God has relentlessly pursued His people, and relentlessly provided hope, light, life, and salvation — always in the nick of time!
But have we been so relentless in our pursuit of Him? Half-hearted at best and apathetic at worst, we have so many times forsaken the deep spiritual vaults that would yield their riches to us if we would but engage in the disciplines of prayer and fasting. Yet all too often we have exchanged learning about how to properly engage in these divine practices for empty and hollow platitudes and rigidly rehearsed rituals.
This devotion was written to look deeper into God’s vast storehouses and haul out exquisite treasures from God’s Word regarding prayer and fasting. For when God’s people have stood on the edge of hope in ages past — they have prayed, fasted and sought the Lord’s face and the God of all hope has renewed, revived and restored His people…again and again.
It is our hope that, during this season of Lent, you will discover (or re-discover) the relentless God who pursues His people and engages with His people through prayer and fasting. Please don’t let this season pass without renewing your love for the God who loves you with reckless abandon and (Re)Lent-less grace!
We are excited to announce a unique opportunity to be involved with the ministry of Shoal Creek. We are now accepting applications for an Executive Admin role.
Does this sound like you? Above all, you love the Lord and are passionate about seeing lives changed by the power of Jesus Christ. You are excited and passionate about people. You have a talent for managing multiple projects with excellence. You are professional, kind, compassionate, and able to maintain composure in stressful situations. If so, apply now!
To learn more about this role or apply now, please visit http://cometothecreek.com/executive-admin/
We’re starting a new 8 week series in January, walking through the book of Nehemiah, entitled “Let’s (Re)Build a Church.” Building something from scratch and rebuilding something that has fallen into disrepair are two very different ventures. As a matter of fact, building or rebuilding something physical is very different than building or rebuilding something spiritual — isn’t it? Maybe not as different as we’d think. In reality, they are not so very dissimilar. In both instances, it is the foundation that is key…so we have to begin with the question, what are we building upon?
Paul said to the Church at Rome, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom. 15:20) Paul essentially says the only way to know what spiritual foundation has been laid is if I do it myself. But the reality he discovered is that ultimately he would build upon others teaching, just as others would build upon his teaching. For Paul would tell the Corinthian Church that “I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:10-11) Where we begin in the build or rebuild process is key. We must first examine the foundation.
As we examine Nehemiah’s journey to rebuild the wall and the temple in Jerusalem, we will follow his process and discover the keys to a successful rebuild. I hope you will join us beginning Sunday January 5th at 11AM for this journey through God’s Word…so Let’s (Re)Build a Church!
Senior Pastor Scott Bosier
’Tis the season once again! We have entered into the season of Advent. I know that comes with a certain amount of dread and cynicism because the shopping season has been here since October and it really begins to overwhelm us with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, parties, presents, concerts, cantatas, and all the bells and whistles that accompany the season. If you add in the political campaigns and season ending fundraisers from secular and religious entities alike, it’s not surprising that we always worry about losing the “reason for the season.”
But if we back off all of that for just a moment, let’s just remind ourselves what the “meaning” of the season truly is. Advent means “a coming into place, view, or being; arrival.” Some synonyms are “onset, beginning, commencement, start.” The season of Advent was originally a celebration of the “the coming into” of Jesus the Christ.
Jesus first “came into” Being. Now that can be misleading, because Jesus has always existed, He has always “been.” The Bible describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) God is one, but he is also three…Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit. Jesus has always existed as God, but He “came into” being by being born as a baby. Jesus the Living “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) Jesus became like us so that He could save us. He would experience everything we experience, and yet would be without sin…so unlike us. In doing this, He became the perfect sacrifice for our sins — making atonement for our sins (paying our sin debt) — so that we can be fully restored to right relationship with God, our Heavenly Father.
Jesus also “came into” Place. He came into this place, our broken world full of hurt, pain, disease, lies…the list goes on. He left the perfection of Heaven to come to this place, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) But He didn’t go from the throne room of Heaven to a throne room on earth, no he was born in a manger (an animal food trough). Born in a stable, surrounded by animals, welcomed and announced by shepherds, he became a fugitive, hunted by a King desperate to keep a throne that Jesus was not there to assume. Jesus came into our world, and He took our place. He took the punishment we deserved for our sins upon Himself. All our evil, lies, lust, selfishness, pride…He became sin and took our place on the Cross.
At last, He “came into” View. On public display and for all the world to see, He was raised up on a Cross…executed publicly. Shamefully, scorned, despised and rejected by mankind — the very creatures He sought to save and redeem — they put Him to death…we put Him to death. Because when perfection comes into view it only points out all our imperfections. But this very act was deliberately devised by the Father to bring everlasting life, hope and salvation to all mankind. God put Salvation on display as Jesus “came into” view…”And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
This Advent season, let us be reminded that Jesus arrived and started a revolution that would allow all mankind to be saved, restored and returned to our Heavenly Father. Now that’s something to celebrate!! If you haven’t already heard it, I’d like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!!
In Christ’s Love,
As we celebrate Labor Day this week I couldn’t help but think, as we begin the busy fall season of getting back to school, back to work, football games, fall festivals, work, school fundraisers, PTA meetings, work, cutting grass, raking leaves, work, trick-or-treating, backyard bbq’s, work, grocery shopping, birthday parties, work, work, Work, WOrk, WORk, WORK, WWOORRRRKKK!!! How much do we all need a rest from our labor. Life is so full of so many good things! But without the balance of rest, we will ultimately fall apart. It can become overwhelming when we work all the time and sometimes we just don’t see the results or feel like any of it is paying off.
Two things came to mind as I reflected on this. Two critical things that I sometimes forget about or overlook in the everyday buzz of activity and the hectic pace of life.
Number 1 – God created us for work and for rest. God gave us work as a blessing! In the garden of Eden, in perfection and paradise God gave us work because it was good. Work gave us purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. But when sin enters the picture, work becomes frivolous, fruitless, and frustrating. But God created a special day of rest, a Sabbath day, so that man could release his frustrations, find his energy recharged and ultimately, contemplate meaning and derive purpose once again. One special day a year dedicated to rest from our labor (Labor Day) will not cut it! God rested on the seventh day after creating the universe, not because He was tired, but rather so He might set the pattern of work and rest for man. God created us for work and for rest.
Number 2 – Nothing we do for the Kingdom of God is in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58 says this: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Sometimes I must admit that I feel like nothing I do matters. There are times when it seems like everything I do fails, nothing is getting through…”God am I really supposed to do this?” I feel frustrated, because everything I do seems frivolous and fruitless. Maybe, just maybe, I need some rest. Time to reflect on verses like this that help redirect me back to the purpose, meaning and fulfillment I have in following Jesus. I need to be reminded once again by God’s Word that I can stand firm – keep doing the work of the Gospel, don’t move – keep in the place God has put me, give everything – I can give my full effort to Jesus knowing that none of it is wasted!
There’s a lot of things to look forward to this busy season…get the rest you need, and give all you have for the work of the Lord – it’s not in vain, and in the end, it’s the only thing that really matters.
In Christ’s Love