April 6-10, 2020

Fast & Prayer Tour

A few months ago we had set aside the week of April 6-10 as a time for Anthem Thousand Oaks to spend fasting and praying. 

It seems more important than ever to press into seeking Jesus. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that reflects our dependence on Jesus. We set aside good things in order to seek the greatest thing...Jesus. We set aside things that we depend on daily to remind ourselves that in Jesus alone we find our truest needs met. 

In talking with our elder team we believe that the call to fast is of increased urgency and necessity, but we also understand that the call to participate has been altered with all of our changing circumstances. In light of that, we are calling on Anthem to participate in the fast in one of three ways:

Ways to Fast 

Food Fast — We choose to fast from food in some way (all food, a meal, two meals, etc) with the intention of replacing that food with times of prayer and dependence on Jesus.

Screen Fast — We choose to fast from screens as a declaration that our source of hope and clarity comes from God and his word. We need to quiet the noise and hear God’s voice. The challenge is to turn off all non-essential screens for the week, allowing 15 minutes/day to get caught up on the news.

Spending Fast — We choose to fast from the spending of our resources for a week as a discipline away from “meeting our own needs” and showing our dependence on Jesus. Feel free to shop in advance, stock your fridge and then put away the cards/cash for the week. 

I encourage you to evaluate your past few weeks. In the midst of all the stress and turmoil and exhaustion, where have you gone, or been tempted to go for comfort other than Jesus? That may be the thing to choose to fast from.

Prayer Tour

Along with the fast we wanted to provide some opportunities for us as a family to seek Jesus on behalf of our world together. Rather than meeting in physical locations and walking the neighborhoods, we have daily opportunities to listen, pray and worship together. All links and content will be provided in our app so go download it now! 

Morning devotional — Each morning a devotional will be provided (around 6 AM) to start the day and prompt our prayers.

Midday prayer room — Each day at noo n we will have hosted prayer rooms. We will focus our prayers and provide ways to both pray and hear the prayers of others. Look for the links in our app.

Evening worship livestream — We have asked our worsh ip leaders to provide a 45 minute time of worship each night (Mon-Thur) with some prayer prompts and scripture readings. We want to be people who worship and celebrate the living God in the midst of uncertainty. 

Daily Devotionals

Get all five days of devotionals from the prayer and fast week below. 

Prayer Themes

We have been asking the Lord if there is a focus for this fast, something for us to specifically press into while we lay down food/screens/money for a week. Three themes emerged for us to be praying over as a church.

Contending for our worldOur world needs mercy… so we ask for it with full zeal, passion and desire.

Hearing God’s voiceWe are a “royal priesthood” and as such, we need to commit ourselves to hearing God’s voice. We want to ask him to speak to us and to remove all obstacles that are preventing us from hearing him.

Raising our hands to serve our kingIsaiah said, “Here am I, send me” while standing in the throne room of God (Is. 6). We want to come before the Lord with our hands raised, ready to be commissioned into action, to serve our Lord and his purposes.

Day 1 | Mon, April 6th 

Overview: Opening

Jesus was asked in Matthew 9:14 why he and his disciples don’t fast like the Pharisees do (following the regularly scheduled religious calendar). He responds with a wedding picture… You don’t fast while the wedding is happening, but a time is coming when the groom will be taken away, then they will fast. Scholars all recognize that Jesus was prophesying about his death and after his death, his disciples would fast… So now is the time for his disciples to fast. 

Grant Osborn says: Fasting is an intensely personal activity centering entirely on one’s relationship with God, and is an important Christian discipline for kingdom children in this interim age between the advents (Matt 9:15). Fasting is closely connected to prayer and therefore connotes an intense relationship and communion with God.

What that means is that it is a really important thing for us to fast and stepping into it is not something that we do lightly or flippantly. A fast is something to take seriously and to join in for the advancing of our relationships with God and our hunger for his kingdom.

As you begin day 1 today, consider it a day of preparation and repentance. Go before the Lord and call on him to Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24)

I want to encourage you this morning to sit with Jesus and ask him to reveal what you need to turn from. Remember repentance is not something only “bad people” do, repentance is the activity of all believers. We are consistently turning from our old ways to become more like Jesus.

Feel free to ask your own questions of the Lord, but here are a few I came up with to get you started…

- Jesus, what idols and sinful attitudes has this time of isolation brought out in me?
- What things do you want to refine in my life over the next few days?
- As I prepare for the week ahead, what am I lacking?
- Jesus, what of your qualities do I need to grow in imitating?

It is incredibly helpful to journal through this process. After you do, be sure to take some time with the answers you wrote down and spend time with Jesus turning from (repenting of) the things you heard Him reveal. 

So what is it that are we preparing for? 

Contending.
Hearing.
Being sent.

We’ve got a busy week ahead, let’s let God refine us as we prepare to call on him with focus and intentionality.

Scriptures to read today:

- Hebrews 12:1-2
- Romans 12:1-2
- Ephesians 4:20-24
- 2 Peter 1:3-11

Day 2 | Tues, April 7th

Contending

Good morning Anthem! This morning we ready ourselves to contend for our world. It is not a passive kind of prayer.

In his book, Reappearing Church, Mark Sayers defines contending like this…

“To contend is to battle, stretch, or reach for something. To step into the phase of contending renewal requires the shedding of the life posture of consumer.”

Later in the chapter he adds, 

“God invites us to partner with Him, contending and centering our lives around His mission in the world. This is a truth that is not just affirmed...it is walked out. Nets must be dropped. We believe with our feet, each step a choice to contend rather than simply live to consume. The way out of the paralysis that endless consumerism creates is through following the Father’s footsteps”

“Contending is choosing to step into the hard places with God.”

That is what we will set out to do today but we know we need to be prepared for battle, setting aside our own desires as we step into those hard places with God. 

Ephesians 6 gives us a handbook for preparing for battle. Let's spend some time there this morning. 

Ephesians 6:10-19

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.

On who or what do you generally place blame for the things you see going wrong? 

We often assign blame to physical things but this passage clearly tells us who we are preparing to wrestle (or contend) with and it is sobering. Thankfully, as we read on, we are given clear instruction on how to be ready to stand strong.

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Belt of Truth

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Breastplate of Righteousness

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Gospel of Peace

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7

Shield of Faith

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5

Sword of the Spirit...the Word of God

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

Spend some time “putting each one of these things on” this morning. I’d encourage you to journal through what that looks like for today. Then get ready to pray. Set aside specific periods of time to pray but also be ready to “pray without ceasing” having an ongoing conversation with God as you go through your day.

I am sure you have many things on your heart to contend for in prayer today but here are a few to get you started…

- For those who are in abusive situations
- For those who are sick
- For those struggling to put food on the table
- For those who have lost their jobs
- For those separated from their loved ones
- For those grieving people who have lost their lives
- For countries with extreme poverty, vulnerable to the virus spreading rapidly
- For the refugees with no home to shelter in
- For those battling addiction
- For those battling fear/anxiety/depression/loneliness
- For this virus to go away
- For those who don’t know Jesus.

Day 3 | Wed, Apr 8th

Hearing

Good morning, Anthem! Earlier this week we read an excerpt from the devotional, Streams in the Desert, that seemed wildly relevant to the state of the world we find ourselves in. We wanted to share it with you here. As we start the day wanting to hear from God...it’s crazy to think, he actually wants to speak to us! (For context, read 2 Kings 4:1-7). 


Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons
(2 Kings 4:4).


They were to be alone with God, for they were not dealing with the laws of nature, nor human government, nor the church, nor the priesthood, nor even with the great prophet of God, but they need to be isolated from all creatures, from all leaning circumstances, from all props of human reason, and swung off, as it were, into the vast blue inter-stellar space, hanging on God alone, in touch with the fountain of miracles.


Here is a part in the programme of God's dealings, a secret chamber of isolation in prayer and
faith which every soul must enter that is very fruitful.

There are times and places where God will form a mysterious wall around us, and cut away all props, and all the ordinary ways of doing things, and shut us up to something Divine, which is utterly new and unexpected, something that old circumstances do not fit into, where we do not know just what will happen, where God is cutting the cloth of our lives on a new pattern, where He makes us look to Himself.


Most religious people live in a sort of treadmill life, where they can calculate almost everything that will happen, but the souls that God leads out into immediate and special dealings,
He shuts in where all they know is that God has hold of them, and is dealing with them, and their expectation is from Him alone.


Like this widow, we must be detached from outward things and attached inwardly to the Lord alone in order to see His wonders. --Soul Food

In the sorest trials God often makes the sweetest discoveries of Himself.


"God sometimes shuts the door and shuts us in,

That He may speak, perchance through grief or pain,

And softly, heart to heart, above the din,

May tell some precious thought to us again."


This morning we set out to hear God. It is a different kind of prayer than contending where we are asking God to hear us, we are setting out to hear Him yet we need to be just as passionate in this kind of prayer, just as focused. 

How do we hear from God?

Cut out the noise

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Luke 5:16

Go to the Word

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

Engage with the Spirit

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him—These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-16


So here is an exercise to get you started…

- Take out your journal or a piece of paper… what Scriptures has the Spirit of God been bringing to your attention over the last week or two? Look them up, write them down. 

- Spend some time reading and re-reading each one. Ask the Spirit for wisdom and insight for your own life. Ask Him to point you to other scriptures. Ask Him how this applies to your life today, to the church today, to His mission today. Write down your thoughts.

- One more piece of hearing from God is the counsel of other believers. Sometimes it is hard to discern if God is directing our thoughts, or we are directing our thoughts. So ask someone else! Take what you are hearing today to someone else in the Body of Christ to weigh, confirm, correct or add color. 


We are praying that today is refreshing as you spend time with Jesus, cutting out the noise and hearing from Him.

Matt & Kristen

Day 4 | Thurs, April 9

Hear I Am, Send Me

Good morning, Anthem Church! Today’s theme is “Here I am! Send me.” We wanted to look at those words from Isaiah that represent an attitude/posture of readiness to serve the Lord. So, take a moment to open up to Isaiah 6:1-8

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send Me.”

There are 4 things we want to encourage you with from this interaction:

Practice the presence of Jesus
Just as Isaiah was brought up into the presence of the Lord, we also are invited to be in His presence. Jesus said,

“Abide in me and I will abide in you.” John 15:4

The invitation is clear, Jesus wants us to experience his presence, to be with him everyday. The first step to being able to raise our hands and be sent, is to abide. We need to be in the presence of Jesus. Today for our time of prayer we start by entering the throne room of Jesus. In case that sounds intimidating, look at the amazing language of Hebrews 4:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16


Listen
Isaiah listened for the voice of God and heard His call.

Jesus made the statement often… “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23) Jesus was talking about more than a physical set of working ears. He was talking about a posture of readiness to hear from God. 

We might think that being taken up into the throne room would get us ready to listen, but part of our task is to prepare our hearts, our minds and our “spiritual” ears to hear the voice of God. Jesus is speaking… are we listening?

Jesus’ next statement in Mark 4 was, “Pay attention to what you hear” and then he went on to teach more. Jesus was clearly trying to shape a listening posture in whoever would respond.

Take a moment this morning and posture yourself as a listener, ready to pay attention to what you hear.


Respond
Isaiah responded to God by raising His hand to be sent. Looking at the story of Isaiah… he said yes to God before God gave him a specific instruction. The question was “whom shall I send?” Isaiah said, “Here I am, send me!” And then God gave him instructions… 

A few months ago we asked our friend Nick Hardy to come and teach to Anthem. We asked him to give us any encouragement he felt like the Lord had given him for our church. One of the things he challenged us with was this statement, “Before God moves, he looks for a servant.” He is not looking for a well trained theologian, a slick communicator or a seasoned wiseman, He is looking for a servant. 

We want to be a part of God’s redemptive story. We are fasting, we are contending, we are hearing… unless we take the posture of a servant, a willing servant to respond to the voice of God with, “Here I am, send me!” we will miss the opportunities that God has prepared for us. 

Today is about raising our hand, posturing ourselves to serve our Lord.


Obey
Then comes obedience. Once God knew He had a servant in Isaiah, He gave him specific things to do. And Isaiah did them. In the same way, God has prepared things for us to do.


“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10


It is an awesome reality that God wants to partner with us. As we walk through today, in the presence of Jesus, posturing ourselves as listening servants let's do the things we hear him asking of us.

So here’s the challenge:

Abide in his presence.
Posture yourself as a listener.
Be a ready servant.
When you hear His voice, obey…
And then share it with us :)

We would love to hear the stories of God’s power at work! Much love to you all! -M&K

Matt@anthemchurch.org or Kristen@anthemchurch.org.  

DAY 5 | FRI, APR 10TH

Good Friday...Grief and Hope

Today we celebrate Good Friday, the day that Jesus went to the cross, declared, “It is finished” and took his last breaths. It is a day of paradox: utter grief, divine hope. The disciples must have been grieving, confused, hurting and angry at the apparent circumstances...but in the promises of God there was a whisper of divine hope.

Today we are also experiencing grief, confusion, hurt and anger at the circumstances...but as far as hope goes, we have so much to stand on. Our hope comes from the words declared by Jesus on the cross, “it is finished” and, of course, we get the benefit of seeing what the disciples couldn't yet see….His resurrection three days later. 


Our encouragement today is 2 parts...


1. Take some time to talk to Jesus about your grief. There has been a lot lost in the past few weeks. What is making you sad, confused, hurt, angry etc.? What hopeless thoughts run through your head? Where do you doubt? Be honest.

2. Spend some time in these passages working through what was “finished” for us through His death and resurrection. Make it personal, writing down a prayer of thanksgiving for the things Jesus accomplished on your behalf, letting these truths build your hope.

- You have been set free. Romans 6:6-7
- You have Christ interceding on your behalf. Romans 8:31-39
- You have been made alive. Ephesians 2:4-10
- You have been brought into the Kingdom. Colossians 1:13-14
- You are forgiven. Colossians 2:13-15
- You have the righteousness of Christ. Philippians 3:8-11
- You have been justified. Romans 3:21-26
- You have been healed. 1 Peter 2:21-24
- You have a living hope. 1 Peter 1:3-9

These passages may not answer the challenges that we are facing immediately (quarantine, virus, economy, etc.), but they do teach us how to grieve and live differently. 

As far as hope goes, ours is not a whisper...it is a solid rock we can build our lives and bank our futures on. Today, as we remember what was accomplished on our behalf, let's be people filled with hope in the midst of the grief… and maybe that hope will spill out on those who need it most.

The dream of God over your life is that you come alive in His presence and bring life to every environment, spilling contagious hope into hurting humanity. God has entrusted believers with an assignment to lead the earth into life. —Alan Scott

We have loved walking through this week of fasting and reflecting on God’s goodness towards us. Thank you for all that you shared with us and we look forward to celebrating Easter together!

We love you and miss you!
Matt and Kristen