Summary: In order for God to show up and display his power in our life and church we need to do a spiritual inventory and confess and repent of our sin.
Today we have set aside as a day of prayer and fasting. We began our 24 hour vigil at midnight last night and it will go until midnight tonight (so if you just heard about it this morning you are still in luck). We are preparing ourselves, our church, our community, for a God visit during our upcoming 40 Days of Community. This summer, as we went through the book of Acts, we noticed was that about every time God worked in powerful ways (people receiving healing, church coming together in unity, people trusting in Jesus Christ) we read how it was preceded by prayer, and many times fasting is included in that. When God’s people are in concert together in prayer God responds. When we accompany our prayer with fasting, we are unlocking another spiritual tool. Fasting, of course, is choosing to abstain from food for a period of time for spiritual purposes. When we fast we are letting God know we are serious about our prayer, because we are willing to abstain from something in order to see God work. We are not twisting God’s arm to answer, we are just demonstrating our sincerity to him, the desire of our heart. Fasting also helps us free up more time for prayer because we can pray when we would have been eating (if you want to know more about fasting there are copies of guidelines in the back for you to take).
We don’t want our 40 Days of Community to be just another program on the church calendar, something for us to keep busy this fall, one more thing to cram into our already busy schedules. The reason we are doing the 40 Days of Community, encouraging everyone to be part of small groups (meeting in the church or homes), is because we believe it will help us move closer to God, closer to each other, and help us impact the lives of others in our community. We don’t want to just talk about being in Christian community, we need to live it out. "Do not just be hearers of the Word, but doers." Every part of the 40 Days is important, the weekend services, the small weekly groups, the community service project (to name a few) to get the full experience. But it won’t be successful without our participation and our prayers. As John Wesley once remarked, "God does nothing but in response to prayer." Our prayers, our seeking God’s face, pave the way for the work of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to be in prayer with us today and in the weeks ahead for a God visit.
Preparing for a God Visit
Let’s say an important person was going to come to your house. [Ask someone to name their favorite musician]. Let’s say, so and so, called you up out of the blue one day and said, "I heard that you are a big fan of my music and I am passing through the area sometime in the next week, and I was wondering if I could stop at your house and visit with you for a while." What would you do? First, you would probably call all of your friends and say, "you’re not going to believe this," and tell them the story. But what would you do after that. You would probably look around the house and see all the things that need to get done. The linoleum floor hasn’t been swept and mopped in a while, the carpets haven’t been cleaned, and look at all the dust on those shelves. What are you going to do with a celebrity coming to your house? You would probably prepare for their visit wouldn’t you? Since you don’t know exactly when they are coming you begin to get on it right away. For some reason we could live with all that filth before, but now there seems to be a reason to clean up. I remember when we first moved here, we liked having a weekly Bible study at our house because it forced us to clean up.
What if the guest we are expecting is God, what should we do? Prepare.
In the OT the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, had miraculously escaped from the hands of slavery from the Egyptians, by God’s mighty hand and they fled to the desert guided by a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. After two months they arrived at a mountain called Sinai. Moses, their leader, went to the top of the mountain to meet with God. God told Moses he was going to personally visit the people in three days, and he said "Go down and prepare the people for my visit. Purify them today and tomorrow...(Ex. 19:10, NLT)."
I realize God is always near us. He promises never to leave us or forsake us, and as Christians we believe he lives within us by his Holy Spirit, yet sometimes our relationship with God grows distant, and we aren’t experiencing God as fully as we should. When I talk about a God visit I am referring to the power of God’s Spirit at work in our life, church, and community.