Living with Jesus is Hershey Free Church's way to describe how we connect with God in a fuller and richer way. Practicing spiritual rhythms in a consistent manner nourishes the soul and creates the opportunity for transformation. Below are suggestions that can be beneficial in helping you take next steps on your spiritual journey.
There are a variety of ways to view of the practice of fasting. Scripturally, fasting is abstinence from food, specifically abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting has always been a choice that is connected to the body in some way. The fasting rhythm for this month will focus on the broader definition of fasting which is abstaining or denying oneself a desire or pleasure in order to focus on deepening his or her relationship with God and prepare us for Easter. For example, there may be a need to fast from involvement with people, from some type of media, from a sport or a hobby, from sleep, from certain kinds of food or from a specific meal each day or week. The reason for the fast is that there is a sense that the activity is exerting too much influence our heart or time and we need to regain a more biblical perspective on how we are living.
One key concept to understand is that fasting should not be seen as a way of manipulating God to get what we want. Fasting should be birthed out of a recognized need or loss and the sense that God is leading us to intentionally abstain from something that has taken on too much importance in order to re-focus on God and our relationship with him.
Fasting can be defined as, “the self-denial of normal necessities or desires to intentionally attend to God in prayer and taking time to listen to the Spirit. It is the opportunity to turn to Jesus who alone is the one who satisfies our needs.
The Key Idea: Fasting is a choice to abstain from something and a choice to replace it by prayer and time with Jesus.
Below are some suggestions for fasting this month:
- Abstaining from food, drink, shopping, desserts, etc to intentionally be with God (fasting should not be seen as an attempt to diet or lose weight).
- Abstaining from media: TV, social media, radio, music, email, cell phones, computer games, etc to allow space to listen to the voice of Jesus.
- Abstaining from habits, sports, reading, hobbies, for the purpose to give God undivided attention.
The benefits or spiritual fruit that comes from fasting:
- Being with Jesus in releasing and relinquishing normal patterns of behavior.
- Intentionally praying for the needs of the body of Christ and the Kingdom.
- Freeing up more time to pray.
- Fellowshipping with Jesus in a deeper way that leads to deeper fellowship with others.
- Repenting of self-indulgent, addictive or compulsive behaviors.
- Awareness and confession of sin and brokenness.
- Seeking strength from God for obedient love and service to others.
Take time to pray about how the Spirit is leading you to fast this month. Don’t make it a burden or try to do too much. Choose something that will give you opportunity to be with Jesus in a deep and rich way as we anticipate Easter on April 4.
This has been and continues to be a challenging season for us. Relationships have been harder to maintain because of social distancing and separation. This month we are focusing on the rhythm of encouragement others. True encouragement or blessing is not flattery, it’s speaking words that build up and instill hope and confidence through expressing the delight that God has in others.
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2). This is a great verse to keep in mind as you look for ways to bless someone.
The rhythm for this month is encouragement and the goal is to look for ways to bless someone in his or her spiritual journey.
- Begin by asking God to help you think of the person or people you would like to bless/encourage.
- Ask God to lead you to a scripture that can encourage him or her. Several helpful passages to consider are 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:4-5 or 2:6-7. These, and other passages, provide a good framework for what you could write or say to the person.
- You can focus on the fruit of the Spirit and write how this person expresses one or more of the fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.) Another idea is to think of the gifts of the Spirit and express how you see this person using his or her gifts.
- Take time this month to write the blessing or encouragement that God is giving you for the person in a card and mail it to them.
- Think about ways you could encourage the person multiple times during the month or choose more than one person to bless.
Traditionally, February is seen as a month of romantic love because of Valentine’s Day. Let’s use this month as an opportunity to express Christ’s love by blessing and encouraging others.
During this Christmas season, we encourage you to participate in a simple rhythm of Advent.
"The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"God of hope, I look to you with an open heart and yearning spirit. During this Advent season, I will keep alert and awake, listening for your word and keeping to your precepts. My hope is in you." ~ Matthew Kelly
These two quotes help us understand the deeper meaning of Advent. Not only does the Advent season focus on the anticipation of Christ’s birth, historically, it pointed not to the first coming of Christ but the second. We are in a time in history where Advent is both a time of remembrance and a time of anticipation. We remember the first coming of Christ as a baby in a manger, and we anticipate the second coming of Christ as the King.
Typically, Advent is celebrated with an advent wreath of evergreens. The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839 and had 20 small red candles and 4 larger white candles to represent the 24 days in December leading up to Christmas Eve. The most common Advent candle tradition, however, involves four candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Occasionally, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
This year, consider the value of celebrating Advent as a way to remember the birth of Jesus and anticipate his coming again. Below are short passages to read and reflect on, one passage to read on the four Sundays of Advent, and the final one to be read on Christmas Eve. May this season, even with all of its challenges, help you focus on the anticipation of the coming of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Week One: Hope
Read Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Listen to the song, Silent Night.
Week Two: Preparation
Listen to the song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
Week Three: Joy
Listen to the song, Joy to the World.
Week Four: Love
Listen to the song, O Little Town of Bethlehem.
Christmas Eve: Adoration
Listen to the song, O Come All Ye Faithful.
If you desire, download a free daily Advent devotional.
Since prayer is talking with God, why don’t we pray more? Why don’t we, the people of God, enjoy prayer more? People want to pray, but it may be that the reason we don’t feel like praying is that when we do pray, we tend to say the same old things and we feel discouraged or even bored. This month we want to focus on the rhythm of praying scripture. As we pray the word of God for people, we release the work of the Spirit in their lives.
Now, more than ever, we need a fresh work of the Spirit to strengthen and renew our souls. This month let’s unite as the body of Christ, and pray these scriptures together for one another. Pray earnestly the truth of these verses for the renewal of our families, our church, our community, and our world.
November 1: Philippians 4:12-13
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
November 8: Psalm 46:1, 10
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
November 15: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
November 22: Psalm 100:4-5
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
November 29: Colossians 1:9-11
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
One of the most essential rhythms in a believer’s life is the attitude and action of prayer. Prayer is conversing and communicating with God, and it involves listening and speaking. As believers, we know the importance of prayer, but we often fail to follow through. Each week this month, we will engage prayer in a different way.
Practicing Prayer: engaging in rhythms of prayer
Pray with an attitude of expectancy that God is hearing and answering our prayers! Be intentional and set aside time to spend with Jesus.
Week One: the Lord's Prayer
Take time this week to focus on the Lord’s prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he had a simple, but profound response: he prayed. Start and end your day with the Lord’s prayer. As you pray, ask the Spirit to guide you into a deeper understanding of the words and phrases. Make this a sacred time where you make the words of the prayer a reality in your life. Pray the words slowly and deliberately, remembering that Jesus prayed this prayer and that every word and phrase is rich with meaning.
Week Two: Listening Prayer
Since prayer is communicating with God, take time this week to listen to God. Good communication is a two-way street, and listening is just as important as talking. Developing habits of listening provides a solid foundation for talking to God. Listening prayer allows God to set the agenda for prayer and responds to the word that is given. Listening prayer is a dialog that requires listening to God’s thoughts and not your own. Focus on 1 Samuel 3:9-10, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Let these words help you develop the discipline of listening prayer. Don’t worry about distractions; acknowledge them without self-judgment and humbly return to giving listening attention to Jesus. Persevering in listening prayer is an act of trust that God is present.
Week Three: Prayers of Praise
Too often prayer is viewed as asking God to respond to a specific need or request. Isaiah 61:3 instructs us to put on the “garment of praise.” This week take time to focus your prayer time on praising God, thanking him for his goodness, his blessings, and his presence. Look for opportunities each day to glorify him by praising him for who he is and what he is doing in your life. It may be as simple as thanking him for the food you have to eat, or the job you have (even if it’s not your dream job!) It’s so easy for us to find things about which to complain, the habit of intentionally looking for reasons to praise God can change our perspective and give us a different outlook.
Week Four: Petitioning Prayer
Prayers of petition invite God into our world with its cares and concerns. It is a way of bringing our families, friends, community, and the world into the throne room of God. When we petition God, it is not manipulating him to do our will, rather it is the practice of petitioning him in a manner to join him in the accomplishment of his will. Prayers of petition also remind us that God cares about us and the world that we live in. This week, focus on bringing your needs, concerns, and struggles into God’s presence and lay them at his feet. Take time to specifically pray for the upcoming election and for the peace of our nation.
D.L. Moody stated that “the Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.” Scripture itself states, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
The rhythm for this month is designed to help you focus on scripture in a manner that moves beyond information in to transformation where you give the Spirit freedom to reveal thoughts, emotions, and desires. To practice this rhythm, choose a short passage or a few verses then:
READ the passage or verses slowly. Let the words penetrate your mind and your heart.
REFLECT on the verses. Give the Spirit freedom to show you how they apply to you that day.
RESPOND with obedience. Let the word of God guide your thoughts, attitudes, and actions as you go about your day.
As you intentionally engage in this rhythm, the word of God will become richer, deeper, and more personal. Practicing this rhythm is not to master the text but to allow the text to master you; you are reading in this manner for depth, not breadth. May this rhythm draw you closer to the God of the Word, deepening your intimacy with him and your obedience to him.
As everything seems to be changing and the future is still unclear, it's important to keep our focus on the unchanging truth of Christ. These challenging days can be tiring and lead to discouragement. It’s so important that we create the space in our daily lives for the Spirit to speak into our souls. How can we even more intentionally lean into Christ and allow him to direct our thoughts and our emotions.
Our mission as a church is to live with Jesus, love like Jesus, and lead others to do the same. One of the ways we can live with Jesus is to develop patterns that keep us connected with him. We encourage you to practice a daily rhythm of Surrender and Remember. It’s not hard and only takes a few minutes each day.
Surrender - Each morning before your feet hit the floor, stop and surrender your day to the Lord. Give your thoughts, attitudes, actions, and interactions to Jesus before they even happen and ask him to guide and make you aware of how you can best love others. Pray the words of a verse of scripture like Romans 12:1-2, which help us to see our lives as an act of worship.
Remember - Each evening before you fall asleep, take a few minutes and think about your actions and attitudes from the day. Give Jesus thanks for the blessings you received, and ask him to show you where you could have loved others differently. Fall asleep committing yourself to him, asking for his strength for the next day. Remember the words of Philippians 1:6, which tells us that we can be confident that God will complete the work he has started in our lives.
As a church family, let’s practice this rhythm together for the rest of July and wait expectantly to see how God will work in our lives as his followers. Parents, model and help your children live this rhythm as well. Hershey Free, let’s surrender ourselves to God and remember all that he is doing in our lives to transform us to be like Jesus!
Connect with God
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