Life on the front porch

Faith, life, kids & bikes

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Resisting the urge to jump into Alpha

I meet many pastors, youth pastors are especially guilty of this, who try to run Alpha without taking time to do good training. Whether its urgency or lack of preparation, not training usually has the effect of making things more difficult than they need to be.

I asked Cher Paulson, interim pastor of Alpha at Calvary Temple in Winnipeg, why training is critical to having Alpha run well. Here’s her response.

“The most valued part of our training sessions is the learning from each other and hearing from others and what they do to manage their table. It helps for the table hosts to share their ideas, triumphs and challenges and we can all learn together. I think training is also crucial because there is always more to learn. We can also be sharpening our skills. There may be something that we need in that moment because every time we lead it’s a different experience with different people. I think it’s important to keep the training relevant and interesting and give lots of room for input and venting. It’s important for each table host to know they are not alone and they are not the only one to have faced this challenge and what they have learned along the way may help another leader who is struggling.

“I try and get my leaders to look at training as not what they can get out of it but rather what they can put into it for others to get out of it.”

What do you think? Can you think of a time when you failed to train or prepare well enough? In a program or sports or a family vacation?



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Fasting is easiest when you’ve got friends with you (#6)

Okay,  I’m running to the end of this little series on fasting.  It’s been good for me to reflect on my own discipline and to remember that I am after joy, peace, full life and the good things.  By fasting, I am making more space in my life for these things.

Through a lot of failures and mistakes (I make more than most) I’ve learned a few things that help me practically in fasting.

  1. Do it in community. Let your family know before so you don’t have to be awkward and actually be supportive.  I have friends who have a list on the fridge of what everyone is fasting and their schedules.  Don’t put it on Facebook or twitter, that’s not quite the spirit of Godly fasting.
  2. There are certain questions you should not ask people who are fasting: “how’s it going?” What are you doing for your fast?”
  3. There are helpful questions to ask? “How can I pray for you in your fast?” “Is there anything I need to know about your fast?”
  4. Fasting is not my licence to be grouchy.  If I’m getting grouchy, chances are, there’s something that God is revealing in my heart that I can be set free from.  How exciting and gracious of God to do this through fasting.
  5. Include my children.  By talking openly and inviting them to know and understand fasting, I’m giving them a jumpstart on a lifestyle that will set them apart for the things of God’s kingdom.  Being wise, children can participate in various types and lengths of fasts.

My prayer is that you would experience the depth & height, the width and breadth of the love of God and that you would find fasting to be an accelerator.  Jesus came so that you could know God and he’s given us great gifts to help.

If you’ve questions or stories about fasting, I’d love to engage with you and help where I can.

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Why flog a topic when it’s not necessarily popular (fasting #5)

I often think in lists – things to do, people to see, topics to write about.  As I reflected on why I’ve just spent a month thinking and sharing on the discipline of fasting, I wondered to myself, “Why?”  It isn’t a topic that grows crowds or inspires lots of conversation. Teachers who want to grow big crowds, tell them what they want to hear and make promises that are larger than life.  Teaching on fasting is a bit of a downer compared to other interesting topics.

There are 3 main reasons why I teach on fasting:

  • It’s hard for me.  I don’t like to be hungry but I want desperately to be hungry for God and his provision.  My first reason is to teach myself.
  • There’s a serious lack of good teaching on Biblical fasting (there are some great resources, but not many). Resources I’d recommend include Richard Foster’s Celebration of the Disciplines and – follow the link to resources where there is much written and spoken on fasting).
  • I believe the life following after Jesus is a life of delayed gratification (which includes fasting food).
    • Giving is a fast where I keep less of my money.
    • Sabbath is a fast where I provide for my family on one less day of labour.
    • Abstinence is a fast of sex outside of the marriage relationship.
    • We believe that less with God is infinitely greater than everything without God.

Pray with me today that you and I would be hungry for the things of God. Jesus invited us to look for God’s kingdom first, and to be made right in the way that God makes things right. This is his answer to the worry and stress in our lives because his promise comes with his reward: everything we need to live daily will be included in what we receive.

Jesus I believe you, I will look for you and I will find your resources.  I will follow you and you will be enough for me. Amen.


Someone Else’s Testimony on Fasting (#4)

When I crashed with my back, and was literally put on my back for some time, we attended Southland church. The month of January was focused on Fasting and Prayer. Was kinda a new concept for me, but was very excited about this. And so I felt very strongly to be a part of this. My husband and I both committed to fasting every Mon for that month. And it was amazing what God taught us both through this.

I have since then done for of it but not so faithfully.

Would love to be encouraged to do more of this faithfully.

I truly believe if we were faithful to do so, it would be so exciting as to how God would change me.

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How to get more of of the good stuff God wants to give you (fasting #3)

My friend Don has taught me much about thriving in the Kingdom of God.  As a Lutheran pastor he was hijacked by the Kingdom and learned to keep saying “Yes” to the Holy Spirit.  I often think of Don when I am struggling with how much more of God I can handle – how much more disruption to my plans and schedule can I endure?  Don’s licence plate says it all: “MOR LRD”.

I want to have that same attitude; I want to be a MOR LRD Jesus follower.  This is available to each of us: to choose trusting and risk over fear, worry and playing-it-safe.  MOR LRD people are dissatisfied people – they never have enough time with God, never have shared the Good News enough, never seen enough people healed, never sold out and radical enough.  It’s an attitude that changes me inside and outside.

Fasting is one of my key ways to develop my MOR LRD lifestyle.  I hope that you’re seeing that the regular practice of fasting is for the purpose of changing me inside more than it is about changing others on the outside.  Let me share some practical tips that any Jesus Follower can use in fasting.

  1. Open up space for the Holy Spirit to move.
    • Hunger helps.  I get grouchy, I’m tempted to work through lunch rather than pray, I eat the leftovers off my kids’ plates and worse.
    • I have a simple, four letter prayer, for when I fast: “HELP!”
  2. Say yes to the affections of the Bridegroom God
    • John 3:16 – it is for the sake of Love that Jesus came and why he relentlessly pursues you and me.
    • It was God’s love for us that turned things around.  He loves us because he loves us.  He enjoys us like a groom enjoys his bride (I remember staying up all night and not fighting sleep).
  3. We agree with the prayer of Jesus that we would be as close to the Father as he himself is.
    • John 17 – Jesus prayed some things, imagine knowing Father God like Jesus knows him.
    • It is the ongoing prayer of Jesus that we would know the Father like Jesus know him. And I am confident that Jesus’ prayers get answered.
  4. We lay our head on the chest of Jesus.  Hearing his heart beat.  Feeling his breathing.  Enjoying the nearness of the Man, Jesus Christ.
    • We follow a real man who really is God and who really is sitting on a real throne.  He really will return to earth and will establish his real kingdom.  He’s real.
    • If you feel silly saying all that, practice it.  Jesus, you are real.  I want to know your thoughts and your emotions.  Tell me; I need to know!

Today, can you think of a reason why you wouldn’t say yes to the discipline of joyful fasting.  Agree with the Holy Spirit that you are loved and enjoyed by God.  You are not a disappointment to the creator of the universe.  You are the apple of his eye; the object of his desire.  He loves you with lovesick desire and He craves, even longs, for the day when you and He will be completely one.

Join me today in saying MOR LRD and opening up yourself for the affections of God to fill you again.

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Why do I encourage fasting (#2)

One day, Jesus was out with his followers when he was confronted by this question: “Why do all the other religious groups fast but your followers don’t?”  It’s a confusing question for me as a western Christian – I don’t know anyone who fasts outside of the Muslims who participate in Ramadan.

This question reminds me of a day I was telling a young First Nation’s man about a fast I was doing.  I told him that I skipped breakfast and lunch and only ate supper for a day.  I was feeling quite proud of myself for such sacrifice on behalf of Jesus but this young man couldn’t show his disappointment – this didn’t even rank as a fast for him.  He was thinking of a Sundance where people  dance and do self-flagellation without food for up to 4 days – now that was a fast.  So much for me being a burning, fiery & passionate follower of Jesus.

Jesus answered this question in a way that is offensive to my mind – it doesn’t quite make sense.  He got us thinking about a wedding – no one fasts at a wedding!  But, a day was coming soon when, Jesus predicted, that his followers would fast because they missed their friend, the Bridegroom.  The kind of fasting that Jesus instituted for us is joyful, hope filled and lovesick.

So, I encourage evangelists and all followers of Jesus to fast because:

  • every religion values fasting;
  • it’s Christianity for beginners.  Jesus predicted and prescribed fasting for his followers.
  • everything in my natural body resists prayer, and fasting helps;
  • It’s a way of expressing, “Jesus, I wish you were right here, right now.”
Jesus is inviting everyone, but specifically me and you into a joy-filled ongoing relationship with the Bridegroom God.  This same one who was present in creation eagerly and affectionately calls you friend.

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Why do evangelists fast? (#1)

Nearly 9 years ago I was introduced to the discipline of fasting and by now I’m a full believer in its effectiveness to change me.  I think that I initially thought that fasting was meant to change God, that I could manipulate God to do what I needed.  Then as I matured, I had ideas about how to get supernatural power and insight through fasting.  Now, after nearly a decade, I realize that it’s just a weak, foolish means to my own deepening in Christ.  Nothing seems to change in fasting but me.  Maybe the heavens are moved and maybe history is changed by my fasting, but the only thing I can be certain of is that I am changed.

In the next number of posts I want to give encouragement and instruction on proper fasting for every believer, but especially for those involved in the work of evangelization and disciple making.  If you feel driven to action, seeing the lost saved, reviving the saved and training them all – you will need to know how to fast.  It’s basic faith – not just for the spiritually mature, and it’s our oxygen – keeping us on the move.  We were made for this!

If you’ve got a story or testimony about fasting in your l life, Share it here to encourage others on this path.

 right now!