This morning we read all of Matthew 6.
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.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 “seek first” Context: focus, “don’t let concern about provision dominate your thoughts…seek first…and He will provide.”
How you start each day has a direct impact on how you will respond to what comes of the day. How you start 2018 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.
We believe that God gave us his best, in Jesus, and so as a “Thank You” to God we choose to live in courageous generosity. We choose to live on less of our own time, energy, and money so that we can give of ourselves to the needs of others and the purpose of God in our homes, neighborhoods, and beyond. Jesus challenged us to be sure that we are not doing this for a good reputation with others, but as a personal “Thank You” to God. See His specific instructions in Matthew 6.
We believe that Jesus knew we would need help in this life and so He taught us how to talk with and listen to our Father God. Jesus challenged us to be sure that we are not doing this for a good reputation with others, but as a personal “Thank You” to God. Find Jesus’ specific suggestions (a power tool really) in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.
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! Using the practice of “going without” is extremely helpful to that end. “This practice removes distractions, concentrates your life on God, cleanses your soul, deepens humility, intensifies prayer, feeds your faith, and it produces self-control.” – Pastor Frank Damazio
Biblical Fast – Going without food in order to focus yourself on God. You are trading your meal time for prayer time. You do not fast to obtain merit from God or to atone for sin. In contrast you are going without food, for a spiritual purpose. To this time of fasting you are adding prayer, meditation, Bible reading/memorization, and a seeking God for your life. Then prayer and fasting works something into you that prayer by itself would not.
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, watching TV/movies, playing games, or doing other stuff 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 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.
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.
For each person this may be different. You may choose to go without certain activities, particular foods, or go without food entirely. Medical research actually shows that periodic fasting is good for your overall health and Hippocrates recommended medical benefits of fasting, including the fact that it slows the aging process. Recent research shows that giving your digestive system a break has many health benefits. Please consult your Dr before making any changes to your diet.
Personal spiritual disciplines…are just that “personal spiritual disciplines”. Please consider making a plan for how you choose to respond to Jesus, “When you pray, when you give, when you fast” (in Matthew 6). If this is a meaningful and personal commitment for you, it will mean something to God. If it doesn’t mean anything to you please don’t participate. How you choose to participate is personal, and yet you can benefit from the group “water level” of your friends and family doing it at the same time you are.
Please consider joining us by starting your 2018 with three weeks (January 8-28) of being more focused on God than anything else. Pray, between now and New Years, and ask God what He would have you do during those three weeks. Please take time to write out a personal purpose for this time of prayerful focus.
Read “whole hearted devotion” and fasting Scriptures from slides.
Please consider writing down your answers to these questions:
- What do I want to be focused on?
- Why am I choosing to “go without” over January 8-28?
- What food, drink, activities, music, TV/movies, social media, or activities will I be doing without?
- What will I be praying about?
- What days and times will I be in prayer and Bible reading?
- What is most important in my life?
Here’s an opening prayer: God, you are more important to me than anything else in this world. Thank you for taking away the guilt of my sin through Jesus. This January 8-28 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 books to consider:
- Fasting – Jentezen Franklin (also “The Fasting Edge” same author)
- Prayer – Timothy Keller
- 101 Reasons to Fast – Dr Bob Rogers and/or Toxic Relief – Don Colbert MD
January Prayer Focus – Lent? In February 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 here. http://bit.ly/
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 8-28). 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.