Success: All the More Reason to Pray

February 3, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Here we are, day 6 of Setting the Course.  For me it is 6 days without sugar and TV.  Throw in a full day food fast on Wednesday and it has been quite a week.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying this week.  It has been good for me personally, and for you Grovers out there, I hope it has been good for you as well.

I’ve been reflecting over the last few days about where we are as a church and what we want to see God do in our church and our hearts, individually and corporately.  Wednesday marked our 18-month anniversary at The Grove Church.  It has been an incredible 18 months. The church has more than doubled in attendance.  We have seen 20+ people give their lives to Jesus Christ.  We’ve seen God heal marriages and draw people closer to him.  We’ve seen missionaries sent out and orphans adopted.  I could go on and on with stories of what God is doing and has done this last year and a half.

I say all this not to brag on me, the church or you.  I don’t mean this as a boast at all.  In fact, as I have been reflecting this week, it feels more like a warning.  It feels like a reminder of how desperately we need God.  People often feel the need to pray when things are not going well, when they are struggling, when bad things happen.  Then when life turns around, we go back to living life.  We feel that we only need God when we need something.

What success can do to us is help convince us that we are fine, that we can be self-reliant.  My concern is that is where we may go.  That we believe that we have this “figured out.”  We are winning.  However whatever success we have can only be attributed to God being with us.  What we need is more of Him.  A building would be nice, more room for kids, more parking and more seats in the worship room.  Better finances would be nice as well.

All of that is meaningless if God is not leading us and filling us.  So as you pray over the next week, please pray that the leadership would be dependent on God.  Pray that there would never be a time where would say, “Remember when God was truly blessing us?”  Pray for humility.  Pray that we would not be victims of our own success.

God has tremendously blessed us, is tremendously blessing us.  We do not want to switch from that to “I’ll bet we can still do well.”  We want and need God’s blessing and leadership over everything that we do.

Why Fast?–Guest Post by Aaron Gonzalez (aka Gonzo)

January 30, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

During these next two weeks we at The Grove are seeking God in prayer as one church and asking Him to set the course for The Grove in 2012.  Along with prayer we are challenging the church in another spiritual discipline–FASTING! (Sounds scary, huh?) Specifically, we are hoping you will join us in two types of fast.  Let’s look at each of these and discuss the heart behind fasting.

1. The “Lent” fast.  You’ve probably heard of Lent before.  In the season of Lent Christians often choose something that they do or enjoy to “give up” for a period of time as an act of worship to God.  Charlie summed this up for us a couple of days ago.  He said, “The idea behind these kinds of fasts are that during the time that you would normally do the activity, you spend that time connecting with God, praying, reflecting, talking to God, etc…”  People also will fast from certain foods as well.

Let me give you a great example of this.  Over the next two weeks I have decided to give up and  (I know what you’re thinking… whoa don’t strain yourself Gonzo!)  Here’s why.  It doesn’t matter whether I am doing homework online or researching for a sermon or using social media, eventually when I am in front of a computer I ALWAYS check the scores of whatever game is going on at the moment on or  Call it an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, or just call it what it is…obsession!  I knew I was out of control when I could tell you whether or not Sri Lanka won their cricket tournament.  How does one break this habit?  They submit it to God and put sports in their proper place, far, far, far behind our relationship with God and others.

So I am using these next two weeks to pray and lead my family in prayer.  I am confident that God will be reestablishing priorities in my life that will strengthen my walk with Him and my relationship with my family.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a great relationship with my family, but imagine how much better it could be if God was leading us more and we were in line with what God was doing through us?  That’s what I want.  What about your life?  Your family?  Isn’t that what you want too?

2. The Food Fast. We are challenging everyone that is physically able (no pregnant mothers or children who need to eat for school, etc.) to take Wednesdays for the next two weeks and fast from food all together!  Now before you get all Chris Farley on me (Lay off man, I’m starving!) let me tell you why.

Let’s face it, our minds are focused more on food than any other substance or activity in our lives.  “Where we going for lunch?  What are you cooking for dinner?  I need to pick up some spinach for that salad tonight!”… all said within minutes of each other!  We are constantly thinking about food.  Have you ever wondered why?  I’ll tell you why, because without food we would die!

Yet Jesus fasted during His ministry and He expected His followers to fast as well.  Matthew 6:16 says, “When you fast” not “if you fast.”  He told the religious leaders that after He was gone His followers would fast. (Matthew 9:15)  Jesus nails it on the head when He says “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

You see, even more than we need food, we need God! As Christians we have been born again of God’s Spirit and now we live by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  When we fast we declare this with our actions.  When we fast we place our physical needs and our physical appetites beneath the need for “spiritual food.”  Instead of feeding our bodies, we spend time in prayer and worship and we “feed our souls.”  We don’t fast to get God to do stuff for us, we fast to give God our undivided attention, to spend time with Him and to worship Him.

So here are some final instructions:

  • Don’t turn fasting into a show. (Matthew 6:17-18)
  • It’s about your heart.  Replace food with prayer and seek after God.
  • You can’t earn God’s love, He already loves you, enjoy that love!

We are praying for you throughout these two weeks.  Shout it out on Twitter (#stcgrove).  We love you Grove.