Finish Strong

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

 
Paul was able to look back at his life and say I fought, I stayed in the race, I was faithful, and now comes the prize. I want to be able to look back and say those same things over my life. What about you?
 
I think like many of us, Paul would probably say he didn’t get it right all of the time. He wasn’t perfect. But in the end he kept moving forward. What about you?
 
Even though 21 days of prayer and fasting is coming to a close, don’t stop the race. As the saying goes, it’s not how you begin but how you end. Let these last 21 days be a launching pad into this new year. Keep the disciplines you have begun. Continue to keep Christ as the central focus of your life this year. Let these 21 days help you to finish strong.
 
Look out 2018, we’re ready for life on purpose!
Brandon Matthews

Fireplace Dimensions

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Scripture verse: Galatians 5:14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Each Christmas break my father would announce it was time for us to cut a load of firewood for the Lane’s. The Lane’s were an elderly couple that lived in a shack at the end of a dirt road a couple miles from our own house. They didn’t have any children and nobody much stopped by to check on them. What they did have were cats and lots of them. We would stop by their house so Daddy could see the fireplace and know what length to cut the firewood. I would look in amazement at the 30 to 40 cats running through their house at any one second. The Lane’s would ask me what seemed like a million questions about school, sports and girls. Then Dad and I would leave and spend a few hours cutting wood. I remember participating in this same routine every year until I moved from home.

One year as we drove to the Lane’s, I had to ask the question. “Dad you’ve seen their fireplace multiple times, why do you need to look at it again? You already know how big it is, can’t we just cut the firewood and drop it off?”

His answer was simple yet beyond my understanding. “We are providing the firewood because it is a need they have that we can see, but what you can’t see is that everyone desires to fellowship with people…to be neighborly. Visiting them to look at their fireplace is an excuse to show them how much we love and care about them.”

Take time to love and care about the people that come in and out of your life.

Jim Baggett

You Are No Duplicate

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One day, when I was a kid, I was riding my bike in an unfamiliar neighborhood, when all of sudden I saw several kids on other bikes coming in my direction. For some reason, I got nervous and pulled into a random yard and walked up to the door and acted like it was my house. I thought they wouldn’t mess with me if I was standing on my turf. All of a sudden the group of boys stopped in front of the house and stared at me; and then one of them said, “What’s he doing standing on my porch”? BUSTED! I felt so embarrassed! Point: Never try to be someone else.

In 1 Samuel 17:17-40, we read that David almost fell victim to this same thing. One moment he is bringing food to his brothers when he hears Goliath defying the name of God, and the next moment he is standing before King Saul ready to fight the giant. Immediately the king’s men began to dress David in Saul’s armor. This was probably a dream situation for a young man who grew up wanting to be like the king (think LeBron James or Tom Brady). But thankfully he came to his senses and said, “this isn’t me”. So, he put down the armor, picked up his sling and defeated Goliath.

You are no duplicate. My encouragement for you is to take off Saul’s armor. Recognize the gifts and abilities that God has given to you, and walk in that uniqueness. These things are made known as you live each day for God, as simple and average as it may seem. The extraordinary often comes wrapped up in ordinary packaging, so make the most of every opportunity. He wants to use it to accomplish more than you could imagine.

Justin Bradshaw
Cultivate Church Overseer

A New Thing

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“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19

One of the biggest obstacles to allowing God to do a new thing in our life is that we often fail to “Forget the former things.” Instead we tend to “Dwell on the past.”

It’s almost as if God has something new for us in his hands but our hands are too full to receive it. Maybe our hands are full of past hurts that won’t heal, regrets that we can’t shake, or disappointments that we haven’t coped with. It could be a relationship that isn’t healthy, a job that takes too much of our time, or even a dream that we came up with on our own. One reason it might seem difficult to leave the past in the past is because we are afraid that whatever it is we are giving up will be wasted if we do. Time, energy, emotions, resources spent on something that God is asking us to give up. That isn’t easy. We want to know that it counted for something. The good news is that we can trust that it wasn’t for nothing. The bible says in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” We know. We can be assured, that He works out everything, not just some things, for our good.

What do you need to let go of during this season so that God can do a new thing in your life?

Adam Lott
Missionary to Thailand

Embrace the Valley

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I recently came across a video devotion where the commentator was speaking about a verse that stirred my heart…

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” Song of Solomon 2:1-2.

If you are like me you are probably thinking “what does that even mean”? Have you ever been in a dark time, a bad year, a season of life, or a “valley” that you just can’t seem to get out of? Have you questioned God, why?

All around me on social media or commercials I see things like “new year, new me”. But what if you find yourself in a season of life that you feel stuck in no matter the year? For me I didn’t feel like the New Year changed anything, I was down deep in the trenches of life. I. Still. Felt. Stuck. Have you ever thought that God is your lily in the valley of thorns, and that he is the rose among the weeds? When you are traveling through a different season as a Christ follower the enemy starts to play games with you. You begin question why you are where you are, and why things can’t change. What if instead of complaining with where you are at you embraced your valley? What if you lifted your eyes above the thorns around you and focused on the lily bursting full of hope and love!? Be diligent in your season, and be intentional! Don’t let life pass you by simply because you are in a valley.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4. Live life on purpose… even in your valley!

Laura Posten

Our Deliverer

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“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord , who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies.”
Psalm 18:2 CSB

Read: Psalms 18:2-19

Is the enemy gaining a foothold in your life? Are you going through a tough time? Does it seem like everything is going wrong and you can’t catch a break? During this new year and this season, let us, like David, run to our deliverer, the one who always hears our cry. This beautiful passage describes the Lord hearing his prayer and acting. Our Lord hears us, and acts on our behalf. He helps us in our weakness. He wants us to lean into Him like never before and let Him be our Father, refuge, rock, and deliverer. And the coolest thing is, He. delights in you, His child, more than he delights in anything else in this world! He delights in being your rock, deliverer, and shelter. He delights in hearing your cries and requests.

Let’s pray to become more like a child, full of faith and expectancy in Him. He will act. He will help us. He will always be faithful, even if we aren’t always faithful. Take time everyday to pray and call out to God, making your requests known to Him, and placing your Trust in Him who is our strength.

Let this new season be a season of trust and commitment and see what He does! “Commit your way to the Lord; Trust in Him, and HE WILL ACT, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, and your justice like the noonday.” Psalms 37:5–6

Ethan Efferson
Missionary to Mexico

It’s Gonna Cost You

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So, I’m busy. Most of us have come to where we are ALWAYS busy. I do thrive under pressure, but what I’m left with is very little “free” time. That makes the time I do have a precious commodity! Same with all of us. What we choose to do with our free time holds a lot of weight.

The truth is, we’ve come to carefully consider any invitation to see how we really want to use our moments.

One story I have always loved is in 2 Samuel 24:18-25. In a nut shell, David wants to offer the Lord a burnt sacrifice and goes to buy what he needs. Because of who David was, the guy tried to just give it to him for free. Then comes my favorite part. In verse 24, David says, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”

The truth is, a relationship with God that is meaningful will cost you something. You can’t make a decision to be a Christ follower and go about your normal life and expect God to just show up when you’re sick or need money. It’s a relationship like any other. The more you ignore it, the more distant it is. But man, when you invest in it!

While there are so many things that cost our money, what this will cost you is moments. The Sunday following the fast, we’ll wrap up our time with a night of prayer and worship. This will be a powerful night as we come together after setting aside 21 days. Our teams have put together a Spotify playlist of our favorite worship songs. Use some of your moments to listen to it and worship this week.

Can you imagine what God could do with a room full of people that were already dialed into his presence?

Jen Matthews

Find Your Doors

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Over the last 35 years I’ve learned fasting is more about finding God’s will than Him fulfilling mine and becoming His answer to someone’s prayer rather than getting my prayers answered. It’s about re-calibrating my life to the purpose God has intended for me. Honestly, it’s not quick and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s led to the most fruitful seasons of my life.

“What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open…… See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:7-8

I challenge you to ask God to open the doors that He desires you to walk through this year and boldly ask Him to shut every door contrary to His will.

Genesis 7:16 says after Noah and his family entered the ark, God closed the door behind them. I’ve discovered that God cannot open a door in front of me until I’ve allowed Him to close a door behind me.

Closing doors are as personal as our DNA. For me, it’s been forgiving someone who hurt me or asking forgiveness from someone I’ve hurt, as easy as giving a financial offering and as difficult as making financial restitution for something I had done as a teenager. It’s even been repenting for something that I allowed to interfere with my relationship with Jesus or choosing the discipline to daily rise early for personal devotions.

At times, it has been more difficult than I could have ever imagined but it has always been more rewarding than I could have ever dreamed. Yours will be as unique as you. I encourage you to do it and watch God do more than you ever thought possible.

Pastor Frankie Powell
Cultivate Church Overseer

New Beginnings

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When the first of the year rolls around, we all tend to think about starting fresh and making
goals for the coming year. Some of us will look back on January 1 st , 2019 and say triumphantly “I
did it!” And if we’re being completely honest, most of us will do pretty well for the first few
weeks and then life will happen.

Luckily, our God is all about beginnings. The great thing is that if today didn’t go the way you
planned, a new beginning is coming tomorrow. Did you lose your temper with someone at
work? You get a new beginning at the top of the next hour. Even minute to minute, our days
are full of new beginnings.

So I encourage you to press hard and go after your goals for the year. I know I am. Just know
that if you do mess up, failure isn’t final. When you bend down to pick up the pieces, you’ll see
that just on the other side, the path is still there and you’ve got a chance to start over again, no
matter how many times you need it.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present” Isaiah
43:18 (MSG)

Kevin Roland

Make Him Greater

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“He (Jesus) must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John‬ ‭3:30‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I hate fasting! I am totally self-centered. If I had not been so afraid of incurring the wrath of God and being damned to Hell, as vividly expressed by a country preacher when I was 8 years old, I’m confident that I would be a complete hedonist. I’m driven by comfort and pleasure. I’m self-indulgent and spoiled rotten.
That is why I MUST fast!

My NATURAL self is at war with the SUPERNATURAL that God has for me.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Galatians‬ ‭5:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When my NATURAL self stops screaming for sugar, caffeine, social media, or any number of of things I crave, something amazing happens. My hearing and vision becomes SUPERNATURAL.

I NEED hear God above the roar of daily life. I NEED see the direction He wants me to go. I NEED all the help I can get!

Betsy King