How To Grow In Faith In 2017

Posted in Change, Church Growth, Faith, Fasting, New Year, Personal Growth, Prayer by PCraig on January 1, 2017

I want to encourage every Crossroads family member to take the following challenges in January to grow your faith like perhaps never before!

  • Begin reading the Bible everyday starting today. You can do this thru downloading and printing a reading plan to keep inside your Bible as a checklist. Another way is to purchase a One Year Bible and it will guide you through daily readings. Or, you can use the YouVersion Bible App and select a reading plan for 2017 to read from your phone, computer or other electronic device.
  • Attend church every Sunday for the next three weeks. We’re launching a new three-week series called PRAYING BOLDLY beginning January 8. For these three weeks you will learn how to pray more bold, powerful prayers that will literally change your life and relationship with God.
  • This is also a great time to invite friends, family and anyone who needs to grow in faith to be a guest at Crossroads. Be sure to carry the invite cards that are in the lobby to help you to share with others. These cards give our service times, location and web address so they have something in their hand after you’ve invited them.
  • Begin a 21-Day fast on January 8. Next weekend starts our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer. Powerful things happen when people fast and pray. If you would like to learn more on this topic, you can follow this link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/fasting-for-beginners. Just know that you don’t have to give up food only, there are other things that may have more of your time and life than what you place in your mouth. We’re going to believe God together for a spiritual breakthrough in our church, our families, our community and our country during these 21 days!

Don’t allow yourself to be left out of what God may want to do in your life this year! Get off to a great start by accepting this challenge and just see what God will do. I believe this could very well be the greatest year for our church and your life also. Get ready to be changed!

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Fixated

Posted in Distractions, Fasting, Mind, Pursuing Jesus by PCraig on January 28, 2016

The other day I was holding our Student Ministries Pastor’s son, and he was just locked in on something nearby to the point where it was like nothing else existed.  Have you ever been like that?  Maybe your husband loses all sight of everything around when the playoffs are on the TV.  Perhaps your teenager doesn’t know you exist when they are texting with one of their friends.

We’ve been studying the book of Hebrews from the Bible this month, and the word “better,” which occurs there more than any place else in God’s Word.  But, there is a phrase that appears toward the beginning of this ancient writing and then a similar version near the end.  Anytime something is repeated in the Scriptures, I pay attention.

In Hebrews 3:1 the writer challenges, “fix your thoughts on Jesus,” then in Hebrews 12:2 he says, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”  Since there is the redundancy of emphasis, it made me think of getting fixated on something.  How many of us get fixated on sports, money, careers, bad relationships, our past, habits, addictions, hurts, toys, and plenty of other things rather than Jesus?

Would people look at you with accusation that you are fixated on Jesus?  Let’s accept the challenge of the author of Hebrews and get our minds and eyes fixed on Jesus.  After all, He has more to give than anything the world has to offer.

I hope our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer has helped with this.  If it has, let someone know.

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21 Days of Prayer

Posted in Expectations, Faith, Fasting, Miracle, Prayer by PCraig on January 7, 2016

This Sunday will begin our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer.  As a church family, we are going to be believing God through prayer to change lives (starting with us), change situations, change our country, change conditions, and overall do incredible things that only He can do!

It is going to be a powerful time personally as each of us put aside what we want for what He wants.  Options for fasting could be doing a “Daniel Fast” (just Google it if you don’t know what it is), partial fast (give up meat, soda, or other addictive foods), fast one meal a day, or fast social media or TV (this might be hardest of all for some).

When we give up we go up!  Bondages and addictions can be broken, captives to sin can be set free, and miraculous moves of God take place.  You can’t out-give God, so if you put aside time to be with Him, instead of food, TV, social media and whatever else, then you can be assured of gaining His attention.

Don’t miss this chance to grow in your faith and relationship with God.  I’m believing for more than we could ask or think to break forth as we seek Him during this focused time of prayer.  Get ready!

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Lessons From A Meat-Lover

Well, today I get to eat meat again!  I’m ending my fast of meat that I started at the first of this year.  Here’s some lessons I have learned:

  • I miss meat in my diet, but I didn’t die without it.
  • Every time I got hunger or empty feelings I thought about what this was for and it helped me stay focused.
  • My heart was open to hearing from God and was more aware of Him over these past three weeks.
  • It has given me a great start to a New Year where I am hungry for His presence in my life.
  • There are things I need to delete or take less time for in my life to make time for what’s more important.

This is why fasting and spiritual growth activities are important in our lives.  There’s just nothing like a spiritual retreat (Discipleship Walk), fasting, or spiritual growth campaigns (40 Days of Purpose) to ignite our lives to burn brighter.

What lessons have your learned in times of fasting, prayer or spiritual retreat?  If you are struggling for an answer, it may be time to do it.

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How To Fast

Posted in Fasting, Holy Spirit, New Year, Prayer by PCraig on December 18, 2013

Here’s some thoughts I’ve gleaned from the writings of Bill Bright on the topic of fasting as we get ready to begin the NEW YEAR with another time of fasting & prayer.

How to Begin Your Fast

 How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. By following these seven basic steps to fasting, you will make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding.

STEP 1: Set Your Objective

Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify His leading and objectives for your prayer fast. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically.

Through fasting and prayer we humble ourselves before God so the Holy Spirit will stir our souls, awaken our churches, and heal our land according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. Make this a priority in your fasting.

STEP 2: Make Your Commitment

Pray about the kind of fast you should undertake. Jesus implied that all of His followers should fast (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14,15) For Him it was a matter of when believers would fast, not if they would do it. Before you fast, decide how long and what type of fast you will undertake.  I am challenging those who can to a 21 day fast.  There are many resources for a Daniel type of fast for 21 days.  Here’s some other things you could fast:  TV, Facebook or social media, shopping, or other potentially controlling things for 21 days (for some, these could be more difficult than food).

Making these commitments ahead of time will help you sustain your fast when physical temptations and life’s pressures tempt you to abandon it.

STEP 3: Prepare Yourself Spiritually

The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers. Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:

Ask God to help you make a comprehensive list of your sins.
Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3,4).
Make restitution as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit according to His command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15.
Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).
Meditate on the attributes of God, His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8,11-13).
Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (Galatians 5:16,17).

STEP 4: Prepare Yourself Physically

Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some persons should never fast without professional supervision.

The first two or three days are usually the hardest. As you continue to fast, you will likely experience a sense of well-being both physically and spiritually. However, should you feel hunger pains, increase your liquid intake.

STEP 5: Put Yourself on a Schedule

For maximum spiritual benefit, set aside ample time to be alone with the Lord. Listen for His leading. The more time you spend with Him, the more meaningful your fast will be.

When possible, begin and end each day on your knees with your spouse for a brief time of praise and thanksgiving to God. Longer periods of time with our Lord in prayer and study of His Word are often better spent alone.

A dietary routine is vital as well. Dr. Julio C. Ruibal – a nutritionist, pastor, and specialist in fasting and prayer – suggests a daily schedule and list of juices you may find useful and satisfying. Modify this schedule and the drinks you take to suit your circumstances and tastes.

When your designated time for fasting is finished, you will begin to eat again. But how you break your fast is extremely important for your physical and spiritual well-being.

STEP 6: End Your Fast Gradually

Begin eating gradually. Do not eat solid foods immediately after your fast. Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract will likely have negative, even dangerous, consequences. Try several smaller meals or snacks each day. If you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will result in continued good health.

STEP 7: Expect Results

If you sincerely humble yourself before the Lord, repent, pray, and seek God’s face; if you consistently meditate on His Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of His presence (John 14:21). The Lord will give you fresh, new spiritual insights. Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. You will feel mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed. You will see answers to your prayers.

A single fast, however, is not a spiritual cure-all. Just as we need fresh infillings of the Holy Spirit daily, we also need new times of fasting before God. A 24-hour fast each week has been greatly rewarding to many Christians.

It takes time to build your spiritual fasting muscles. If you fail to make it through your first fast, do not be discouraged. You may have tried to fast too long the first time out, or your may need to strengthen your understanding and resolve. As soon as possible, undertake another fast until you do succeed. God will honor you for your faithfulness.

I encourage you to join me in fasting and prayer to begin 2014.  May God help us to truly experience revival in our homes, our church, our nation, and throughout the world.

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Lent & Valentines Day

Posted in Fasting, holiday, Love, Love for God by PCraig on February 14, 2013

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day period of Lent that culminates with Easter Sunday.  I’ve never followed the church calendar very closely, but I think it can be a useful tool for a time of spring-cleaning for the soul.   Lent is not simply about giving something up. I like to think of it more as a time for creating space, just like we did with our 21 Day Fast to start off 2013.

My life is cluttered with secondary things that constantly vie for my attention and threaten to overtake God’s rightful place in my life. Lent can be a time of deliberately clearing that clutter, identifying with Christ’s sufferings (Rom. 8:17), and remembering who it is we truly serve.

It’s also Valentines Day and we can leverage it to show love to those around us.  You don’t have to be romantically involved with someone to participate!

Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God (Matt. 22:37-40).  But, He didn’t really separate loving others right after that as well.  In other words, we should get crazy in love with God, let His crazy love fill us, then take some of it and pour it on others.

What kind of Easter season could we have if we would clear clutter from our lives and get filled up with God’s love and show it to others?  Let’s give it a try!

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Share Your Story

We just came out of an incredible time of revival as a church.  I heard so many great stories of how God used our 21 Day Fast, read through the New Testament and Scripture Journals.  Some have said that they are getting more out of the Bible than they ever have in all of their lives.  Others have said that the fast totally took them by surprise on how God used it.

Here’s what I would like for you to do, write and give a testimony of what God has done for you recently.   When I grew up in church, occasionally we would have testimony services in which people would stand up and share what God had done for them.  Well, this is your chance to give a testimony of what the Lord has done for you.

I’d like for you to comment back what God has done for you since the first of the year.  Just share how God used the Fast, the Scripture reading, journaling or a service or Life Group meeting to touch and impact your life.

Can I get a witness?  Just take a minute and write it down in the comments and let others rejoice with you in the goodness of God.  It will encourage me and everyone else who reads it.

 

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Reflections of the Fast

Well, it’s the end of the line.  Hard to believe in some ways, but my participation in the 21 Day Fast that we promoted for this New Year is over today.  Here are my thoughts at this point:

  • It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be (giving up meat & sweets).
  • It did cause me to feel closer to God.  I had some intimate times with God that I wouldn’t have missed for anything.
  • Mixed with our Night of Prayer, journaling the New Testament, and other events has made for some unique experiences with God.
  • The impact on the church family was bigger than I expected.
  • I want to be open to other times of fasting throughout the year, just as an individual.
  • I am looking forward to feasting this week to celebrate the end of the fast.

I’m really pumped about what stories I’ve heard already, but I want to hear every story.  If you have had a unique experience through our 21 Day Fast, will you please comment on this blog?  I would love to hear from you.  Don’t just hold it to yourself, give God glory and share a testimony of what God has done for you!

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Jesus Led

Posted in Fasting, Hearing God, Lordship, Prayer, Pursuing Jesus, Submission by PCraig on January 20, 2013

Guest post by John Money:

Today is day 20 of our 21 day church-wide Fast.  I trust that this has been a time of connection to Christ and spiritual growth for you. I have heard many testimonies of how our fellow fasters are experiencing a deeper connection with Christ.  Many have expressed a sense of Jesus being near, speaking more clearly, and more visibly leading their lives.

This is what our hearts truly long for!  Connection with Jesus and following His leading for our lives.

As we come to the close of our Fast, I am focusing on re-affirming to Jesus that I want Him to lead me.  I want him to reign in me.  I pray that you too will join with me in saying, “Jesus, lead me.”

A great verse to meditate on as we close our season of fasting is found in the book of Revelation.  In this verse Jesus says……

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus is standing at the door of your life….the door of your heart….the door of your mind and is saying, ”Here I am, please let me in”

I am praying that each of us will hear him knocking, open the door, and let Him in!  Let’s fight against self-sufficiency and say to Jesus, “Please lead me Lord!”

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Away From Me Satan

Guest post by John Money:

Today I feel compelled to offer a spiritual warning….a “heads-up” to all who have joined our church-wide 21 day Fast.

Scripture tells to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8)

Our enemy, the devil, hates us and he hates that we are seeking to draw closer to Jesus through fasting and prayer.  He wants to ruin your fast.  Ruin your faith.  Ruin your relationship with the Lord.

How do I know?  The Bible tells me so!

Satan hates us; just like he hated Jesus.  Look at what he tried to do to Jesus during his 40 day fast.  Satan came to tempt him at the end of the fast and when Jesus was hungry, tired, and weak.  Satan will try to do the same thing to us.  We are at day 18 of a 21 day fast.  It is time for us to be spiritually alert and ready to refute Satan’s lies/attacks with faith and the truth found in God’s Word.

Matthew 4:1-3 -Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Let’s be ready like Jesus was.  We too have been led by the Spirit to Fast.  The devil will try to tempt us to give up, to take short cuts, to doubt, to despair.  Let’s do what Jesus did and answer with the Word of God.  Let’s put on the armor of God and say to Satan, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)

“Away from me, Satan!”  “Away from my family!”  “Away from my friends!”  I have been fasting for 18 days and I am connected to Jesus….get away from me!”

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