Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Own Your Choices

One of the greatest maladies of our current cultural climate is blame-shifting.  We are declining into a victim-based society.  People who always have an excuse for not owning their own choices and living with the consequences.  From a biblical perspective, owning your own sin and confessing it is the very foundation of repentance.

Owning your own choices is foundational to living free and truly realizing how much God loves to walk this journey with us.

Like everyone, I’ve faced some big decisions in life.  Right or left?  Go or stay?  We’ve all been there.  More than once when I prayed for God’s direction…His targeted will; His response was, “It’s your choice this time son. I’m going to bless you whichever way you go.  I’m in this adventure with you; not to pre-program you like a robot, but enjoy your journey as a loving Father.” 

The trick to enjoying the ride?  Embrace and own your choices along the way.  Not everyone will agree with your choices, but they are certainly yours and yours alone.  There will be consequences both good and bad, but Abba will be there with you.

Nearly six years ago I was faced with some very difficult choices, ones I alone would have to make.  Once again I heard the Lord say, “I’m with you. I’m with you all the way.” 

After a difficult separation from the church I pastored for 12 years, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I entertained a couple of wonderful offers at churches out of state.  My dilemma?  My mother had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and my special needs child, who had always struggled in school, had finally found his rhythm as a sophomore in high school.  We also had a one-year old who was the center of attention for all our extended family.  All of our family lives in the Wichita area, our parents on both sides were not getting any younger and my wife and I had firmly made the decision that we were not going to leave them.  We needed them.  They needed us.  Our kids needed their grandparents.  Family comes first…at least for this family. I would find work, whatever it may be.

The choice to stay in Wichita would come at great cost.  The denomination in which I was raised would not allow me to remain in Wichita and minister at another church.  That was understandable.  It was the rule…what I signed up for.  Polly and I had to choose a different path for our future.  Our choice…nobody else’s. When I decided we were staying and not moving away, I was called rogue, rebellious.  All the usual stuff.  It was even written that the “God of the universe would one day judge…” my decisions.  Hurtful…but part of the price I guess.  God has judged.  He’s a good God.

Our choice proved to be right one…at least for us. I was soon asked to join the staff of a local church where my family would heal and get our legs underneath us once again.  I would travel to Nepal on a missions trip, have the opportunity to preach to thousands and personally witness more than 21,000 come to Christ in less than a week. The Lord would then graciously open up a wonderful door to plant a brand new church.  With our pastor’s blessing and encouragement, after more than 2 years out of the “captain’s seat,” it was time to run with the vision the Lord had entrusted to us.

More importantly, just two years ago, both my parents would pass away quite suddenly, within 7 weeks of each other.  Our choice truly mattered at a time of great crisis.

I will never regret being here for my mother as she battled pancreatic cancer and finally went home to be with Jesus.  The months of laughter, tears and conversation with both mom and dad are some of the most treasured blessings I have ever received from God.  I’m so grateful I was here for them, to care for them in their last months along with my brother and his family.  I’ll never regret not pulling their grandkids away from them in their final years on this earth and moving them far away.  Every day my youngest (now 6) is blessed to have his other set of grandparents close by to enjoy.  He needed them when he lost his other two grandparents.  The little church plant that started with a handful, has blossomed, grown and we enjoy ministry more now than ever.

Was there are price?  Yes.  Any regrets?  Absolutely not.

You see…these choices were mine and mine alone and it was my responsibility to own them.  They came with a cost…but they also provided great rewards.  God did that. He put some of it in my hands, as long as my heart remained pure and my motives were honorable.  But God has been in all of it.  Romans 8:28 has been proven true over and over again for the Freemans.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Choices can be difficult. But trust God, don’t lean on your own understanding…and be willing to own your choices.  Nobody else will.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fasting That Lasts

My oldest son, Michael, is a guitar player.  He caught the bug playing Guitar Hero and soon decided he wanted to play the real thing.  However, if you know anything about Guitar Hero, some of the music that he was “cutting his teeth” on was not what I wanted him listening to.  I was patient.  Rather than dropping the hammer, I backed off and trusted God.  I kept encouraging him to learn some worship music.  He did.  But his favorites were still the iconic riffs of the 70’s and 80’s.

Several years ago, as our annual fast was concluding, he informed his mother and I that he had fasted secular music for the three-week journey.  He did it on his own without telling us. I had not noticed.  Instead he had feasted his guitar prowess on Christian artists like Reliant K, Toby Mac and Family Force 5.  We were shocked.  We were very proud.  He then informed us of how much more he liked Christian music and how much better it made him feel.  My teenager experienced first-hand the power of fasting.

We are not a legalistic family by any means.  But that short, three weeks changed my teenage son.  That season of setting aside the carnal brought a deeper, long-term change.

In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches the disciples the three main responsibilities of any disciple.  He clearly says that we should give, pray and fast.  Of the three, fasting is certainly seen as more of an event rather than an ongoing habit.  We should give regularly.  Tithing and giving offerings is an important spiritual discipline.  We should pray.  Communion with the Father is vital to one’s spiritual pursuits.  However, fasting is not something we do every day…or every week…or every month.  However, fasting for a season can bring lasting change.

Fasting can become a lifestyle if you allow it.  One thing sacrificed during a fast may never be as important to you again.  The sweet savor of fellowship with Christ has a tendency to make everything else fade in importance.

This is the fifteenth year that I’ve led the church through a season of fasting to begin the New Year.  It has changed my life and certainly changed the life of my family.  As we continue this season of spiritual pursuit, be sensitive as to what is fading away and what is becoming more important.

Become “fasted” to Him and ”fastened” to Him.  He’ll never let you go.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Fasting for Results pt. 2

The Daniel Fast

We are just 3 days into our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer.  We invite you and your family to join all The Altar family for what promises to be a powerful time each January of fasting and giving God first place in our year.  We are spending 21 days seeking God and believing Him for big things to come in 2019. January 6-27.
I’m posting a series of articles and observations to help you along the journey.  I’ve had several inquiries about a Daniel Fast.  This is another practical approach to fasting that may work well for you.

Normally, fasting means to abstain from food and/or drink for a certain period of time as a religious practice. However, it may extend to anything that may be a source of pleasure, satisfaction or personal gratification.
Many at The Altar will be participating in the Daniel Fast which means we deny ourselves sweets and meats and eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Below is an extensive list of what you can and cannot eat on the Daniel Fast. 
Hope this helps!
Foods to include in your diet during the Daniel Fast
All fruits. These can be fresh, frozen, dried, juiced or canned. Fruits include but are not limited to apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, guava, honeydew melon, kiwi, lemons, limes, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, tangelos, tangerines, watermelon.

All vegetables. These can be fresh, frozen, dried, juiced or canned. Vegetables include but are not limited to artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger root, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions, parsley, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, sprouts, squashes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, yams, zucchini, veggie burgers are an option if you are not allergic to soy.

All whole grains, including but not limited to whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, oats, barley, grits, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas, rice cakes and popcorn.

All nuts and seeds, including but not limited to sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, sesame. Also nut butters including peanut butter.

All legumes. These can be canned or dried. Legumes include but are not limited to dried beans, pinto beans, split peas, lentils, black eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, white beans.

All quality oils including but not limited to olive, canola, grape seed, peanut, and sesame.
Beverages: spring water, distilled water or other pure waters.

Other: tofu, soy products, vinegar, seasonings, salt, herbs and spices.

Foods to avoid on the Daniel Fast
All meat and animal products including but not limited to beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and fish.

All dairy products including but not limited to milk, cheese, cream, butter, and eggs.

All sweeteners including but not limited to sugar, raw sugar, honey, syrups, molasses, and cane juice.

All leavened bread including Ezekiel Bread (it contains yeast and honey) and baked goods.

All refined and processed food products including but not limited to artificial flavorings, food additives, chemicals, white rice, white flour, and foods that contain artificial preservatives.

All deep fried foods including but not limited to potato chips, French fries, corn chips.

All solid fats including shortening, margarine, lard and foods high in fat.

Beverages including but not limited to coffee, tea, herbal teas, carbonated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol.

Happy Fasting!

Pastor Marty

Own Your Choices

One of the greatest maladies of our current cultural climate is blame-shifting.   We are declining into a victim-based soc...