Think about your daily routine. From the moment you wake up each morning to the time you finally settle in to sleep…what does that look like for you? We have our routines and our systems, tailored to our personal preferences and precise desires. Most days, we are in absolute control of everything that we do. We make a choice - this or that - here or there - now or later. Everything is up to us. But...where does God fit into all this? How can we become people that listen before taking action, seek discernment before calling the shots, and sit with God in the decisions, small or large, that we make in our lives? The answer is simple: we spend time with Him. We talk to Him. We study His Word. We lay down anything that might distract us from Him. And if you’re thinking, “Well, all those things are much easier said than done!” don’t worry. You’re not alone. One of the ways the Scriptures tell us to press into these things is through the practice of spiritual disciplines. These disciplines are the vehicle for personal intimacy with Christ, and we are excited to spend this week, Seek Week, working through 5 of them.
This is our chance as a unified body to reorient our lives to Christ and respond to the ways that He might be challenging our daily rhythms. It is a time to slow down, to pursue God individually in new and fresh ways, and to gain a deeper sense of intimacy with Him. It is the chance to hit the reset button many of us desperately need. This devotional is a resource for you to take an individual journey with Him over the next few days. It is the hope that as you spend personal and intentional time practicing these disciplines, you will experience a new sense of intimacy with Christ. Be open and willing to spend time doing things that might be unfamiliar or outside of your normal routine. As you participate in each day’s meditations, know that your Church family is participating right alongside you. Even though we are spending individual time with God – we are doing so as a community of people, dedicated to knowing Christ deeply and living out His Gospel in all that we do.
D AY 1
FA S T I N G
A powerful list of Biblical “who’s who” if there ever was one. But what, specifically, do the above spiritual juggernauts have in common? The answer is that at some point, each of these prophets abstained from food for the sake of meeting with God. Their fasts, while focused toward an individual experience with God, also paved the way for God’s people to corporately fast together. Fasting is not something that was to remain in Biblical times. Jesus makes it clear that He expects His disciples, us, today, to fast. While it might seem uncomfortable or physically challenging, we are not to steer clear of this discipline. Although it can look differently for each individual, all fasts must be centered around the glorification of God. You can think of it like this - fasting is one way we get to worship our Savior. Read: 2 Chronicles 20:1-23 Joel 2:1-17 Ezra 8:21-23 Ideas for Fasting: As we approach Seek Week, fasting will be an integral part of the process. Below are suggestions for individual fasts that you can partake in, but these are simply a guide. Ask the Lord to reveal what He might have you give up this week for the sake of hearing from Him. Be mindful that as you fast and experience God for
yourself, thousands of people in your church community are doing the same thing. 1. Fast from all non-work related media this entire week (yes, that means Netflix, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, TV, etc). Remove apps from your phone, stow your laptops where you will not be tempted to browse the internet, and hide the remotes. Note: This Seek Week Devotional is available as a downloadable PDF so you do not have to access internet to follow along each day (see Seek Week page for instructions). 2. Fast from one food element this entire week. Pray about how God might be leading in this area. You might choose to fast one meal a day, abstain from eating a certain type of food [dairy, desserts, gluten, etc.], or commit to a limited and strict fast. Please keep in mind your specific dietary restrictions. However you take part in this fast, remember that the point of fasting is to meet with God in ways that might not happen under normal circumstances. Application: One of the incredible gifts that God sometimes gives His people through fasting is the revelation of the things that control them. It is not until we go without certain things that we even realize the grasp they have on us. As you fast this week, ask that God would speak to your heart in deeply personal ways each day.
D AY 2
P R AY E R
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of the disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” – Luke 11:1 Moments before Jesus utters a prayer that would be repeated throughout history, He is already teaching. The words that often get overlooked as context to the Lord’s Prayer offer much to His followers. First and foremost, Jesus prayed. The Messiah, fully God and fully man, was in constant pursuit of regular conversation with God. The one person with the authority to ask where prayer fits in the midst of an omniscient God never did. Instead, He simply spent time hearing from His Father. Secondly, prayer is something that is learned. We have to figure the disciples prayed throughout their lives, and yet they still asked Jesus to teach them. The way Jesus communed with the Father compelled His followers to ask and to learn how they could live their own lives conversing with God. And lastly, prayer should happen with purpose. As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He didn’t just teach them how to talk to God. He taught them to pray as if their prayers would actually impact the world for the sake of the mission at hand. Read: Nehemiah 1:1-11 Ideas for Prayer: 1. Ask God for His Spirit today. Each time you pray, try to keep your mind from going to practical requests that apply to your life or to the ones of those around you. Instead, simply ask for God. Tell Him that you long for His
nearness and His voice throughout your day. As you create space for God to speak without agenda, listen to what He might be saying. Write down any thoughts, words, or pictures that are brought into your mind. 2. Spend an hour praying on your own. Quiet the noise of your life by putting the phone on silent, finding something to entertain the kids, etc. If there are specific things in your life you need to pray for, bring those before God. But don’t rush to ask for what’s practical; instead, ask for His Spirit to speak to you about those parts of your life. Listen. Write down any thoughts, words, or pictures that come into your mind. 3. Spend time praying with others. Gather your spouse, family, and/or friends and pursue God together. Start your time by asking for God’s presence, asking for His voice to lead you, and by releasing your agenda. Take time to pray for each person specifically, asking for God to speak to the group on behalf of one another. Application: One of the biggest traps our culture pulls us into is in telling us to do whatever we feel like doing. This poses a problem in any prayer life because the reality is, we don’t always feel like praying. Spend some time being honest with God about this and ask that He would give you joy and discipline for prayer.
D AY 3
Solitude is a discipline that people across the world practice…or at very least have opinion on. For some, spending time alone is to be avoided at all costs, citing things like community or simply a lack of desire as reasons to continually be around people. For others, solitude is held to tightly, to the degree that community is forsaken, intimacy with others is lost, and walls grow higher and higher. The problem with both of these stances is that the solitude [or lack there of] is often driven by fear….either of being alone or of intimacy and accountability with others. But the Bible shows a different kind of solitude not only practiced by God’s chosen people throughout history but also by Jesus Himself. This Biblical model was never driven by fear, but always was for the sake of hearing from God and being fulfilled in Him and Him alone. Read: Luke 5: 1-16 Shortly after Jesus called the first disciples, he retreated so that He could pray. Think about the message that sends to His followers. He just told them He would make them fishers of men and asked them to leave everything to follow Him. Imagine their excitement and anticipation to begin this work and to see the signs and wonders they had heard of. But that’s not where Jesus begins. Almost immediately, He
withdraws so that He can be with God, to listen to Him, and to depend on His words and His presence. Ideas for Solitude: 1. Pay attention to the little moments of solitude that are available to you today. Before you get out of bed, over a morning cup of coffee, in the car on the way to work, walking away from the office, embrace these opportunities to be with God. Turn off whatever noise you can and ask God to speak to you. 2. Spend an hour in solitude today. Find a quiet place without distractions…a place where you can listen. The point of solitude is always to see and hear things that you might not normally be able to in the day-to-day shuffle. Ask God to draw you into His presence and to speak to you in whatever ways He wants. 3. Commit to a day of prolonged silence four times a year where you spend four hours bringing your life before God. Ask Him to speak into whatever areas He wants. Application: A beautiful secondary gift of solitude is often a renewed view of others. As He speaks to and restores our souls, He frees us from needing others to validate us, and He frees us from fears of intimacy with them. Ask God to give you an authentic love and compassion for others out of your time with Him.
D AY 4
S T U DY
$169 billion was spent on the advertising industry in the United States last year.
2,000 ads seen by the average American each day…and that was 20 years ago.
Over $445 billion was spent worldwide in 2012.
In 2012, that number is calculated to be well over 5,000.
Our minds are saturated with different and constant messages throughout the day. Some we see and consciously consume. Others live on the periphery, but are not lost on our sub-consciences. And while the above figures are staggering, there is another number of even more interest…
Ideas for Study: 1. Are there areas of the spiritual life that are confusing to you? Ask God to point them out to you. Make a commitment to study what God’s word says about them. Research other resources that might allow God to transform your mind in these areas.
How many of these messages form our opinions on things like love, marriage, self-worth, identity, happiness, and community? We can’t argue this simple fact - what we study forms our opinion - for better or for worse.
2. Are there things that you have allowed culture to define instead of God? Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to reveal if there is anything that you don’t have a right view of. Commit to studying God’s word about whatever is revealed and allow God to redefine these things in your mind.
Paul gives a charge to the Romans to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Perhaps at no other time in human history has the discipline of study been more important to God’s people than now. The failure to do so leaves our culture to define the above things…things that God Himself has spoken clearly about. Read: 2 Timothy 3: 1-17
3. Consider making a longer-term commitment to study. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to give you a picture of what this could be for you. Application: Being transformed by the renewing of our minds demands that we consider what we allow ourselves to be exposed to. Think about the media you consume: television shows, movies, video games, Internet sites, etc. Spend some time praying and ask God if there is anything He wants you to give up for the sake of a renewed mind?
D AY 5
The career. The spouse. The kids. The nice car. The corner house with the white-picket fence. The vacations. The 401K…. The American Dream. And the truth is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of its individual pieces. They are good gifts from a good God that loves and provides for His people. The question concerning it is the rigor and fervor by which Americans now pursue it. For many, it’s thrust into a central position that gives ultimate purpose, a spot it is not remotely equipped to hold. Perhaps that is why we hear statistics like 40 million people above the age of 18 suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. Constant striving for the sake of things that were never intended to fulfill them. Jesus gives His followers a command that brings purpose that looks a bit different from the American Dream. Read: Matthew 6:25-33 Jesus says to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all things will be added. It’s a call to simplicity, to simply seek God and, in doing so, to allow Him to bring everything else that’s necessary into its proper order.
Ideas for Simplicity: 1. Spend time simply seeking God today. Confess the ways you have spent your time and energy pursuing other things. Ask Him for a renewed passion for His kingdom and His righteousness, that this would become the desire of your heart. 2. Ask God what practical ways you need to re-orient your life in pursuit of His Kingdom. Is it how you spend your money? How you view your possessions? Ask that God would bring these things into your mind and give you the faith and the courage to respond however He leads. 3. Give something away today. Pursuing the Kingdom of God always revolves around the benefits of others. Ask God to show you an opportunity to bless someone around you in ways that will reflect who He is. Application: Sometimes, being in God’s creation can give us a renewed desire for simplicity. There’s something about listening to the birds, watching waves crash, and smelling flowers that restores our soles. These things pull us closer to the Creator of the universe, not the creators of the American Dream. Spend some time outside today in a quiet place and ask God to speak to your soul.