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The Church Isn't Disney World

To allow Pastor Rick time to enjoy the Christmas season, we are re-publishing some of his most popular blog posts of 2013. (Originally published on November 4, 2013) 

If you're a church goer, how do you view your church?  Is your church like Disney World or a mission outpost?  

Disney World is great, isn't it?  You enter a magical kingdom of a whole new world of fantasy and fun.  You escape the demands and pressures of the real world (unless you go in August with little kids).  Disney World is the mecca of consumerism where you are inundated with food, shows, rides and entertainment.  You don't go to Disney World to contribute.  You go to consume…a lot.  You don't go to Disney World to make a difference, but to be impressed and "wowed."  

This is how many Christians approach church: to consume more than contribute and to be impressed more than challenged.  Some Christians view the church like a Disney cruise ship more than a battle ship.  On a Disney cruise ship, the guests pay money for services, and the hired staff takes care of them.  On a battle ship, those on board are commissioned, assigned specific tasks, equipped and well trained, and when they enter into battle, everyone has a role, and they know what to do.  We've lost the sense of the call to battle.  We were made for wonder and grand adventure, but we have settled for lounge-chair Christianity.

The church isn't Disney World.  Disney is great for a vacation, but that's not where you live life, raise your children, or find your greatest sense of fulfillment.  Chocolate cake is nice as an occasional dessert, but if that's all you eat, you start to feel nauseous and malnourished.  If our Christian experience is just about consuming the productions that come from a stage, we will become spiritually weak and malnourished.  

It's time to awaken our spirits to a revolution of the high demand of discipleship.  The church is a mission outpost where we are training for spiritual battle between ideas and world views, and where eternity hangs in the balance.  Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:35).  This is a high calling which requires the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 3:16).  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:10-17).  

So, the next time you enter a church building, see it as a mission outpost, and notice how that changes your attitude and perspective of why you're there.



The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

To allow Pastor Rick time to enjoy the Christmas season, we are re-publishing some of his most popular blog posts of 2013. (Originally published on July 29, 2013) 

This past Sunday I announced in our church that we are calling our church body to a two-week period devoted to prayer and fasting. Since I don't have a lot of opportunity over the next two weeks to teach on fasting, I wanted to take this week to write about this ancient, biblical spiritual discipline to help us understand more about why and how to fast. Whether or not you are a part of our church body, I hope this teaching helps you in your own spiritual growth in becoming more aligned with the heart of our heavenly Father.

What is fasting? Fasting is a spiritual discipline where you voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time and purpose. It can also include a broader concept of voluntarily abstaining from various activities in order to spend that allotted time in devotion and prayer. One way to describe it is that we fast from the things of earth in order to feast on the things of the Spirit.

Why fast? Fasting is not just about abstaining from eating or watching television or giving up Facebook for a period of time. Fasting is about abstaining from something IN ORDER to do something else, namely spend time with God through His Word and Spirit. If you fast one meal a day, take the time that you normally would spend eating and use that time to be in God's Word and prayer. Fasting demonstrates our dependency upon God. Every time you feel hungry, it's a reminder of our need to be hungry for God. When a church unites together for a period of fasting, it can become a tool we can use when there is opposition to God’s will. Satan would like nothing better than to cause division, discouragement, defeat, depression, and doubt among us. United prayer and fasting has always been used by God to deal a decisive blow to the enemy!

What does the Bible say about fasting? In your own devotional time this week, I encourage you to look up and study the following passages: Matthew 6:16-18; Acts 13:2-3; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:12; Ezra 8:23; Isaiah 58:6; 2 Chronicles 20:2-3; Daniel 9:3; Nehemiah 1:4; Luke 4:2.

A word of caution: Remember that fasting is not “earning” an answer to prayer. God cannot be blackmailed by human effort. God wants to answer our prayers, and He answers out of grace. Fasting simply prepares us for God’s answer.

For those of us at Eat 91st Street Christian Church, we are fasting these two weeks for the following three purposes:

1. Seeking God's direction and guidance for our elders, staff and church body;

2. Seeking God's power to move through our church body to engage our culture and community with the love and truth of Jesus Christ;

3. Praying that God will unite us through His power to be His vessels in a world that often does not understand Him.

May the Lord grant us His presence as we "humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, turn from our wicked ways" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

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