For the last few years we’ve taken 21 days in January (this year the 3rd to the 23rd) to fast and pray for the year to come. We try to do it as a church, a community of believers, and seek the Lord together. If you’d like to join us, please do! A fast like this is for breakthroughs in areas that need radical, godly change; in other words, for God to step in! For the fast I prepare a devotional for us to read each day. Here’s the first seven days worth. It’s all from the Gospel of John and we’ll be preaching from John on each of the Sundays during the fast as well. You can hear those messages on our website, www.cccbrockport.org, normally the day after the service.
A 21 Day Devotional for Fasting and Prayer January 3 – 23, 2011
Day One John 1
Just a note, these devotionals can in no way cover all that’s in these marvelous chapters! I can only take a piece, a snippet, of each one and comment on that alone. My suggestion to each of you is to read the chapter for the day, pray before you do so, and find more of what the Lord has placed in this book to convince you of the Truth, the Lord Jesus Christ….
In chapter one, verses 29-34, the greatest prophet ever, John the Baptist, gives his witness to Who Jesus is. He looks ahead and sees (verse 29) that He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” as Jesus walks toward him. And then he says something in verse 31 that he repeats in verse 33. “I did not know Him.” And yet, John the Baptist tells us things about Jesus that are eternal in nature and profoundly spiritual. How did he go from not knowing to knowing? From two sources: the Scriptures and the Spirit. The Baptist had studied and read over the Scriptures from the time he was young, taught at his father Zechariah’s feet. He knew that Messiah was to come and it had to have a strange warmth to him, as his life was to point to Him. But how would he know the specific One out of so many faces? The Spirit of the Lord instructed him specifically: “Upon Whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
How do you and I know Him, we who live so many years beyond this moment in history? The same way! We read and study the Scriptures and we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to us. We seek in the same way John the Baptist did and we get the same results, Jesus is revealed. Not by human eyes or ears can He be known, but by the work of the Holy Spirit of God. That’s how we go from not knowing Him to knowing who He really is and then declaring Him to a lost world. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you in new ways this year!
Day Two John 2
In this chapter we find a story that is not related in the other Gospels. John tells us selected stories from the myriads of events surrounding the Lord in order to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing in Him you might have life in His name. (see 20.31) Here is the story of His first recorded miracle, which happened at the wedding He and His disciples were attending in Cana of Galilee. He turns ordinary water, meant for ceremonial washing, into the finest of wines once they had run out at the wedding feast. Interesting to me is the fact that it wasn’t exactly a public miracle, but one that His disciples, His mother and the servants saw and not the rest of those gathered there. He was primarily teaching His disciples who He was through this miracle. However, note carefully that this miracle has much to say about servanthood. Jesus, the Lord of All, took on the role of a servant in responding to His mother’s “request” of sorts in verse 3. And then she told the household servants “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Jesus serves. And if you’ll notice the practice of the human servants, they serve, just doing what they’re asked without questioning. They filled the waterpots “to the brim”, drew out the liquid inside, which they might not have seen was wine when they were asked, and took it to the Master of the Feast. They had a front row seat to the first miracle and even had a part in it; lowly servants! When will you see the miracles of God through your life? When you humble yourself, obey instantly as a servant and carry out His promptings without question. Risk the embarrassment of maybe bringing plain water to the people in charge, it’s always going to be a marvelous miracle ending if you humble yourself and obey. Ask the Lord to make you more His servant this year, more able to hear His voice and more instant to obey!
Day 3 Chapter 3
This is such a familiar chapter to most of us who have been reading the Bible for any length of time! Here we listen in on the Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and hear Him speak of being born again by believing in His Name. Of course, John 3.16 is the most quoted verse in the Bible. But let me draw your attention to the end of the chapter where once again John the Baptist is speaking. He is addressing his own disciples here and responds to their questions regarding Jesus and His new found popularity which rivaled John the Baptist’s fame. John answers humbly in verse 27-30, ending with the famous line in verse 30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” But read on and hear John the Baptist’s witness in verses 31-36. Plainly he’s learned much of Who Jesus is by the Spirit! Verse 36 says “he who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believer the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God aides on him.” Profoundly deep and accurate is his conclusion to Chapter 3. So let’s ask ourselves: are we as clear with ourselves and the world around us when we answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” Are we the clear message givers that we could be if we were as humble and truthful as John the Baptist? Could we say these same words to someone that doesn’t know the Lord yet? Pray that God would make us humble, clear and truthful in declaring to others the message of Who Jesus is and how important it is to believe the Son.
Day 4 Chapter 4
This is the chapter that tells us the story of Jesus’ challenge to the Woman at the Well, which took place in Samaria. Samaria was a region within Israel that was occupied by a sort of mixed breed of people, partly Jewish and partly pagan, leftovers from the occupation of Assyria in previous times. The pure Jews just wouldn’t deal with them and considered them to be unworthy of contact and fellowship. In other words, they were prejudiced against this race of “misfits,” at least that’s how they saw them. Jesus, taking a trip and passing through this region, taught us how God sees people that we might see as unworthy. First of all, Jesus, left alone by the town water well, speaks to a woman directly. Women of the day were not seen as equals to men and a Jewish Rabbi like Jesus was especially not to have a conversation with a woman like this, Samaritan and common. He shows no hesitancy in conversing with her and addressing the present, the past, and the future. He shows that He cares for her and knows all about her, sins and all. He offers her the hope of Living Water and reveals Himself as the Messiah. A woman and a Samaritan! Of course we read that Jesus ends up revealing Himself to the entire town and they all believe for themselves, asking Jesus to stay for a couple of days. Which He and the disciples do! The message here? Believing in Jesus is to be offered to everyone. God doesn’t keep His goodness through His Son to just your kind of people. He made all for His glory and all souls are His. Jesus, the Light and Life, is that for everyone. Even though the Samaritans hadn’t gotten much right about the Lord, they did know they needed a Savior, humbled themselves and believed Him. Don’t withhold the goodness of God from someone you can’t relate to. Ask God to use you to reach the unlovely, the different, the repulsive, as well as the easy love, this year. If Jesus could, you can. Note: He went from the Samaritans right to the nobleman’s request to heal his son. God is no respecter of persons! Aren’t you glad for that?
Day 5 Chapter 5
Here Jesus goes up to a feast in Jerusalem, likely Pentecost, and heals a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years. Interesting to me is the fact that this man was still seeking the Lord’s healing by laying beside a pool of water in Bethesda, waiting for an Angel to stir the waters. (He was nothing if not persistent.) When that happened, the first person in the water was healed. As you can imagine, there were lots of people waiting around the pool and watching the water for the first sign of movement. It was a desperate lot. Jesus, ever the obedient Son, knew what the Father was going to do. No one knows why just him, but Jesus heals the man by simply speaking to him, commanding him to get up, take his bed in hand and walk away. It was the most important moment in that man’s life. He encountered God and was healed in the same moment. Later Jesus finds him in the Temple, giving thanks to the Lord presumably and finds more accurately Who healed him. The Jews, however, seek to persecute and kill Jesus because He dared to heal this man on a Sabbath day, a day on which no one was to work. The Jews carefully made up their own rules as to what the definition of work was and they took great pride in those carefully made up, carefully enforced, rules. They were offended at the challenge to their authority and pride. The man who was healed trusted in a system of healing that didn’t work. The Jews made up rules that didn’t work either. Jesus broke both systems because the things of God are about God Himself and His Person is extended to those who believe, not those who follow rules perfectly. Do you still think that God relates to you, moves in your life, according to how well you’re performing? Not that we shouldn’t want to obey Him out of love and humility, but that’s not why God extends Himself to you. It’s grace through faith that God cares about. The Son of God is full of Grace and Truth. Abandon your thoughts if you think that you’ve earned a place at His Feet. Ask God to give you a humble heart and faith to simply believe that He loves you and wants to relate to you. Believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And rest from your efforts to relate by something you have to offer this year.
Day 6 Chapter 6
This is a rather long chapter and there’s much to be learned from it! It begins with the story of the feeding of the 5,000 and then the stormy boat trip that ended with Jesus walking on the water. (These incidents, by the way, are among the very few that John repeats with the other Gospel writers.) Who but God could do such things? Both incidents were amazing and especially with the feeding of the 5,000, very public. Jesus gained many followers from the events of that day! But what were their motives for following Him? Look at verse 26. They were into the miraculous meal and ignored the One who served it! They loved what He could do for them, but were missing the more significant gift, God Himself! They looked at the temporal (bread) and didn’t think the eternal was very important. They missed the message: “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (verse 35) Are you asking God to give you things this year? That’s not wrong of itself. God wants to supply what you need. But are you preoccupied with what He can give you in the way of earthly things and not preoccupied with Him? That’s a huge mistake! Believing in Him brings everlasting life. (verse 47) He is the “Bread of Life” and it’s He Himself that sustains us and gives us all we need. As you pray for the year ahead, ask the Lord to forgive you for prioritizing things and not the Son. Seek God for more of Him and believe in the One who has the words of eternal life. (verse 68) It makes all the difference.
Day 7 Chapter 7
Chapter seven describes some interactions the Lord Jesus had with the Jews in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, a Fall feast at the end of harvest. It has much to do with timing. In the beginning of the chapter, Jesus’ natural half-brothers give Him some advice regarding where He should go and when. Jesus ignores them when He says in verses 6-8 that His timing is not man’s timing. At the right moment, He goes to the Feast and speaks to the crowds at the Temple. (Verse 14) The Jews challenge Him and even try to arrest Him (Verse 30) but “His hour had not yet come.” Even later when officers were sent to arrest Him again, they returned empty handed saying, “No man ever spoke liked this man!” (Verse 46) God’s timing is always perfect but is most often misunderstood and in opposition to ours! He came at the right time in history and gave His life when it was just the right moment, not the time that men thought He should give His life. So God uses time, comes at the right time and sees time as His tool to accomplish His will. Are you yielding to His timing? Sure, there are things that you would like to see happen this year and you should ask Him for them, presuming that they are the right kinds of things to ask for! But are you content to believe Him and trust that His timing is the right timing? As you pray today, let God know what you have in your heart. But focus on Him, yield to Him and tell Him that you trust Him to time the fulfillment of every important turn of your life.