By Kristin Bonham

Prayer & fasting as a church body can be a powerful experience.  It can help us break barriers in our personal lives and accomplish things together as a like-minded group of believers.  On Tuesday, January 1st, we will begin a church-wide fast at Grace Family Church.  The fast will last for 21 days and will end with a Celebration Night on Monday, January 21st. 

I have to say that I am excited about this Church-Wide fast!  I would not have said that years ago… the thought of giving something up, especially food that I love like desserts, cheese, chips and salsa, makes me want to eat up as much as I can even as I write this.  However, over the years, God has changed my heart about fasting and I look forward to eliminating distractions and focusing on hearing God.

What is a fast?  What is the purpose?  Do I have to give up all food? 

You may have a lot of experience fasting or this might be the first time you have heard of doing a fast for spiritual reasons.  So to answer the first question, fasting is abstaining from something.  It could be certain foods, an activity or entertainment.  The point of fasting is to remove something that focuses on physical pursuits and replace it by focusing on our spiritual life. 

The purpose of fasting is to focus on God.  You may be looking for direction from God in a certain area.  You may feel the need to pray more specifically about something.  You may choose to fast in order to break the hold of sin in your life.  Whatever it is, when we eliminate distractions and set time aside to pray, God will do a work in us and reveal more of who He is to us.

Fasting involves sacrifice.  You may have health concerns that would prevent you from fasting food.  I would suggest praying about fasting something else that would be a sacrifice to give up for 21 days.  I have fasted different things at different times; social media, refined sugar, meats, television, even sleep.  A few years ago, I had been praying about fasting and what to fast and I felt God leading me to wake up at a certain time during the night and pray.  At first, I set my alarm to get up but as the days passed, I would find myself awake at my time to pray.  It was a strange thing to consider at first but the times of prayer were free of every distraction.  I love to look back on that prayer journal and see what God showed me during that time and what He has done in me since.

Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.  But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face.  Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Here are some things to think about as you prepare for a fast. 

  • Determine what you will fast.  Don’t feel pressure that you have to give up what someone else chooses.   Ask God to lead you and He will. 
  • Write down the things you want to focus on during your daily prayer time; Your relationship with God, Family relationships, Friends, Church.
  • Plan for your fast.  Removing things from your pantry that you will be giving up will help you succeed on your fast from certain foods.  Shop ahead if you are doing a dietary and plan your meals. 
  • If you’re fasting an activity like social media, television or something else, prepare for how you will spend your time.  
  • Start a new journal for writing what you’re praying about and specific Bible verses that stand out to you. You can write what you feel the Holy Spirit speaks to you during your fast. 
  • You may want to prepare your family ahead, not to boast about fasting, but so they are aware and will be supportive and sensitive.

I hope you are encouraged as you consider joining Grace Family Church on this 21 day fast.  We are asking everyone to pick one hour each day to pray, and consider coming to the GFC campus if you can. The Sanctuary will be open for prayer every weekday from 6:00 AM – 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM and on theweekends from 6:00 AM – 8:00 AM.  The GFC Facebook page will have prayer and fasting encouragement and the Beautiful Blog writers will be sharing their fasting testimonies with you all month. 

“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

                                                                                    Numbers 6:24-16

 

 Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby and Casey. She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Pastor Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

by Dani Catherine

Self-control: restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.

Self control wasn’t always easy for me. And writing this post wasn’t easy for me either. The term “self control” brings me back to a time where I had no self control and wasn’t walking with the Lord. I grew up in a Catholic home and attended Catholic school until 7th grade. As I entered public school, I felt as though I didn’t fit in. Was I sheltered for most of my childhood that I didn’t fit in with the “cool kids”? No, not at all. But that’s what it felt like. I felt like there was so much emphasis on, “Who was most popular? Who was the best looking? Which girl has the most guys after her.” I felt my cheek turning from the Lord and focused more on exercising self control to maintain the way I looked rather than exercising self control when it came to moral issues such as staying pure, sober and honest. I was faced with many temptations, and with those temptations came lack of self control, as well as lack of my hunger for the Lord.

In all of the “no-self-control” messes I had, there is one distinct moment that I can remember where I knelt down, looked up to the Lord and said, “I need you. I want to come home.” I had a lot to drink the night before and woke up not remembering what I had done. I remember I drank so much to numb depression. I was depressed over incidents that happened in my past due to my lack of self control: sex before marriage, fulfilling the desires of my flesh (getting in debt to have all those worldly “things” that society portrayed as being “important”), and disappointing my family and friends. I realized my world was shaken and I was defenseless against sin. As Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” I couldn’t keep living like a wild animal. I needed to be tamed and controlled.

As I started my new journey walking with the Lord, I reminded myself of the motivators to have self control (and still remind myself of these motivators daily). The first motivator is Christ’s redemption. His redemption has motivated me to live a life honoring to Him because I recognize the sin I was rescued from. And the second motivator is the law of harvest. As Paul states in Galatians 6:7-8, “…we reap according to what we sow.”  By living a life honoring to Him, my life will reap and sow accordingly. Without self control, I am a slave to the world, the flesh and Satan, but as I walk more and more in the Spirit,  I find victory. Although at times self control is difficult, (buying a new pair of shoes when I don’t need it – worldly desires – still working on it!), self control does comes easier. I am blown away, in constant awe and thankful for God’s grace and mercy.  I want to leave you with this, Beautiful ladies:

1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

 

Dani Catherine is a social worker by trade, although is currently working with a fundraising organization. She loves to bake, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones. Dani enjoys leading a table at Beautiful Monday nights and loves to volunteer as much as she can at Grace Family Church.

by Debbie Altman

Recently, I was on my way to the first Saturday evening service at church.  I was in the right-hand lane waiting to turn onto Dale Mabry from Zambito Road near my home.  I was the third car from the intersection and was stopped, waiting for the cars ahead to go.  The light was red and, of course, you can go right on red in Florida, so we are all waiting for the first car to make its move.  Suddenly, the car behind me starts honking the horn.  I ignored it thinking he could not possibly be beeping at the front car to go, since he was four cars away!  But he beeped again, and then again.  So, I turned around and gave him the look… the “what is your problem” look!  He gave me an angry look right back, including some gesturing, but not the bad kind!  So, a bit later, the cars begin to move and we all make the right turn onto Dale Mabry. 

I’m watching him, as you do when you’ve had a moment with another driver like that, to see if he is going to end up right next to me at the next light, which, of course, no one wants!  I moved into the far left lane, as it appeared he was moving into the far right lane.  Then, all of a sudden he is right next to me!  We look at each other.  He is a man around 30-something, with a nicely trimmed beard in an SUV with a nice looking girl with him. 

Sometimes things just come over me and I can’t help it.   I rolled my window down on his side and I say gently, but pleadingly, “Sir, I don’t understand why you had to beep your horn from four cars back…you can’t see from where you were if there were cars coming!”   He replies testily, “You can go right on red, and there weren’t any cars coming.”  I say calmly, “Well, you can’t truly see, but…I mean, even so!”   He has a rather deep, gruff voice anyway, and has not been happy with me, and he replies rather intensely still, “OK…you are right!”  I think he is being sarcastic so I look at him inquiringly and he says again, still rather gruffly, “No really, you are right! I shouldn’t have honked!”  I am still not sure what is happening, but I say nicely, “Well it’s OK, we all get impatient sometimes.”  Now he is arguing with me again, “No, it’s not alright, because I hate it when people behind me honk at me!”  And he points at me and smiles, and says, “So don’t be mad at me, OK?”  And I tell him, “I am not mad at you, and you have a great night.”   “You too Miss.”  And the light turns green. 

I was truly in shock.  What just happened!?  A beautiful example of “Speaking the truth in love,” “Iron sharpening iron,”  “Examining yourself for the splinter in your own eye,”  “A wise man heeds correction,” “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”  So many Biblical principles were exemplified in that moment.  I wish I could have stayed and talked a little longer and had the opportunity to ask him about the Lord in his life.  Maybe he truly loved God but just had a bad moment.  We all have them.  I had to wonder later if maybe he recognized me as the Pastor’s wife at Grace Family Church, and felt bad!  But either way, I felt that in that tiny microcosm of a situation, I communicated with a stranger and we had a moment of human frailty, conflict, communication, restoration and then joy.

I wish all my communications with the people in my life went so smoothly and settled so quickly!  I mean this all happened at one red light!  But I was reminded of how much I believe in healthy communication.  It is a passion of mine.  Most of our conflicts don’t start gently!  They start out something like this one did with accusation and anger.  I don’t always do it perfectly myself, and at my age I am STILL learning the fine art of communication!  But I believe strongly that when we are frustrated or angry, if we will make the effort to turn the conflict to a place of “gently” communicating our feelings, we will work things out with people in the long run.  When we calm down and communicate and listen to each other’s hearts, we will end up on the other side with restoration and a deeper intimacy with one another.  I believe my gentler appeal turned away his wrath, and his sudden crumbling of pride turned away my wrath!  Neither passivity nor aggression is the answer…. Honest, respectful, caring communication is.

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control …” Galatians 5:22,23

As the holidays approach and the tensions rise, let’s try to remember to be gentle with those we love and with others that we encounter, and absolutely try not to honk our horns at strangers! 

I love God!  What a funny experience!  He reminds us of His ways and surprises us with joy in the most unexpected places sometimes!  Thank you for the lesson, and may God bless you, sir, wherever you are. 

 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games. 

by Kim Wiezycki

You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout and I’m about to tell you why! Most of us want to be good people. We want our kids to be good people. It is the Christmas season, a time of year when most people are inspired to do good deeds. So…what exactly is goodness? 

God says, “The fruit of the spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Galatians 5:22 tells us that if we have the Spirit in us, goodness will be demonstrated in our actions and that is “acceptable unto the Lord.” Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “a good man with good treasure brings forth that which is good.”

So what does “being good” look like?  Simply put, good is the opposite of evil.  According to the Daniel Webster dictionary of 1828: Goodness is the state of being good, having the physical qualities which constitute value, excellence, or perfection, moral qualities of a Christian virtue, kindness, benevolence, charity, humanity exercised, mercy, gratitude.

God gives us many examples in the Bible of what He considers to be evil, and the list is long! Destructive words, ignoring a person in need, physically harming another, lying, corruption, stealing, pride, arrogance, cursing, idol worship, just to name a few.

Then I read examples that God uses to show us what goodness looks like. The Bible tells us of people who spoke kind words which had the power to give life, or of a woman who gave a servant a glass of water and then went above and beyond and offered water to his camels, or the demonstration of a man helping a stranger (even an enemy!) in need, and many people humble enough to give credit to another, or praising God when they felt just the opposite.

In my daily walk with God, I have noticed that He will point out to me those ways in which I can do something He considers to be good. Every moment is an opportunity to say a kind word, give a hug, be a good listener, give a gift, spend time with someone who is lonely, share abundance, offer gifts and talents humbly, or forgive someone who has wronged me.  God says these actions are good, and when we do them, we know in our hearts that they are indeed.

Be encouraged by the fact that we can never be “good enough” to earn our way to Heaven and yet God loves us anyway!  We will not always do the good thing and we will fall short daily! He provided a way through the sacrifice of His perfect son in our place. Yet, He has equipped us with ways to show goodness during our lives on earth, which blesses Him tremendously. And that… is good.

 

Kim has been married to Larry Wiezycki for 16 years and they have two boys, ages 9 and 11. When Kim isn’t in church, she can be found teaching curly girls how to take care of their hair, spending way too much time on Facebook or reading real books, and running a 5k here and there.

by Paige Eavenson

In the wake of the tragic school shooting that happened last week in Connecticut, it’s hard to see God’s kindness in any way, shape or form in this world. As I watched the news reports on TV, I sat and cried for those parents who lost their young children and asked, “God how can you let this happen. Especially to these children who were so innocent…and at Christmas time?” I have children the same age as some of those from Sandy Hook Elementary, and I couldn’t help but want to pull my kids closer and be thankful for the moments we are getting to share, yet so many parents are not able to hold their babies close nor will they ever be able to again.

As I’ve prayed about what to write in light of the topic of kindness and all that has happened in our world this week, the first verse that came to mind was Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Evil is all around us in this world, but God’s Word teaches us that we do not have to be overcome by evil but that we can overcome evil with good. I believe this can start with kindness.

The word kindness comes from the Greek word chrestotes (khray-stot-ace), which meant to show kindness or to be friendly to others, and often depicted rulers, governors, or people who were kind, mild, and benevolent to their subjects. Anyone who demonstrated this quality of chrestotes was considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind, or gentle. The apostle Paul uses this word to depict God’s incomprehensible kindness for people who are unsaved (see Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Kindness is basically goodness in action, without expecting anything in return, even to those who are taxing your patience. Kindness is something we each have the ability to share. I’m sure you can think of at least a handful of people who need God’s touch through your random acts of kindness. Maybe it’s your spouse, your children or just your coworker or neighbor.

Whoever it is, I challenge you this week to be aware of the opportunities God is giving you to extend kindness to others. You never know, your act of kindness just might be the one good thing God wants to use to overcome some of the evil in this world.

 

Paige Eavenson and her family have been part of Grace Family Church for 13 years and she currently serves on staff as a women’s small group coach. A homeschool mom of three, Paige is an avid reader who loves collecting new friends and helping people get connected into small groups. You can learn more about Paige on her blog, www.sincerelypaige.com