This has been a great journey this year! If you’re just joining us, we’re finishing the last seven days of a 21 day season of prayer and fasting. We’ve had some wonderful prayer meetings on Tuesday nights and we’ve seen God’s hand move in amazing ways as we’ve sought Him daily. I invite you to jump in wholeheartedly this week and to come to the celebration we’ll have at our annual Worship Night on the 23rd at 5pm. It’s our way of celebrating the end of the fast and giving honor and place to the Lord!
His Continued Blessings,
A Devotional For the 21 Day Fast: Days 15-21
Day 15 Chapter 15 of John
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…” and so begins Chapter 15 of John. You’ll notice that all the words of the chapter are in red and so yes, the entire chapter is a direct quote from the Lord to His disciples to prepare them for His soon absence in body. No doubt, Jesus is the Source of our life in the same way that a vine’s branch must remain directly connected to the vine itself. If disconnected from the vine, the branch dies and dries up, good only for burning in a brush fire. (Verse 6) The branch that remains or abides in the vital connection with the vine will not only live but likely bear fruit. (Verses 2-8) And so let’s ask ourselves the question: how is your personal, vital connection to the Lord Jesus? Are you spending time with Him, asking Him what’s on His heart, casting your cares on Him? Are you going to Him first, looking to Him for answers and telling Him that you trust Him to bring you to true fruitfulness? Do you pray for things on His list, according to His will and priority, or do you just bring a laundry list of concerns and requests to voice to Him? (Verses 7 and 16) His plan and will for you is that you “go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (verse 16) But what if you don’t feel as though you are bearing much fruit these days, yet you’re still abiding in Him? Two things will happen. (verse 2) Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away (or if you look at that phrase more deeply it means to “lift up”) and every branch that has been bearing fruit He prunes for more fruitfulness. He lifts up the branches, followers, and encourages them, the ones that have drooped low and are soil covered and ties them up higher, in the sun. And He prunes, cuts away the unnecessary and old, for a better future. Personal relationship, the flow of life, personal attention and the resulting fruitfulness are God’s plan for His relationship with you. Ask Him for all of that, now and in the year to come.
Day 16 Chapter 16 of John
This is yet another chapter of preparation for the followers of Jesus as He drew closer to His sacrifice. All the words were meant to help the disciples but they were confused and didn’t really understand what He said until later when He was really gone bodily. They needed what Jesus talked about here to understand what Jesus talked about here. They needed the Holy Spirit. Verse 7 remains one of the most amazing parts of Scripture. “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” Jesus said here that there was a better situation coming, better than walking with Him, talking with Him, watching Him and seeing Him do what no one had ever done before. Better? Yes, better. You and I have a better situation because the Holy Spirit, God Himself, would come to live in your life as a believer. He would lead you into all truth, telling you things to come, glorifying Jesus and helping you in ways you can’t relate to right now. (Verses 8-15) Are you listening to the Holy Spirit as intently as you can? Are you sensitive to His voice, His movements, and His convictions? Are you asking the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to bear upon the world at large, the friend or family member that doesn’t know the Lord, the backslidden friend or your own heart? He is the greatest Asset we could ever ask for. Ask the Lord to make you more sensitive to the Spirit than ever before and cooperative with His movements and instruction this year. You’ll be so much better off for doing so!
Day 17 Chapter 17 of John
This entire chapter is a prayer, the prayer that the Lord Jesus prayed for his followers. The ones who were His followers at the time and the ones to come were the reasons for this prayer. (Verse 20) So what did Jesus pray for us? That we would be “kept” and that we would be one, living in unity. (verse 11) That we would have His joy fulfilled in us and that the enemy wouldn’t get through to us. (verses 13 and 15) And that we would be “sanctified” or set apart as holy, different than the world, by the truth, God’s word. (verse 17) Are you blessed by the fact that our Savior prayed for us? That He knew just what we needed and asked the Father for it? That He interceded and still intercedes for us personally and corporately? We worry that things won’t go as we plan or hope. We have conflicts with people and wonder if they’ll ever work out. We fear that the enemy is going to pull us away from God and be successful in ruining everything of our walk with Christ. We don’t think we’ll ever really be all that different than the world around us. But Jesus intercedes for us. He prayed and prays for us all the time. He watches over us and has plans for us. Thank the Lord today for His watchful care, His intercessory prayers and His goals for us. Ask Him to show you where you can forgive and relate to others, especially Christians, so that His intent in this prayer is answered. And follow His example and intercede for others who so desperately need the Father’s intervention in their lives.
Day 18 Chapter 18 of John
And it begins. Jesus is here arrested by a “detachment of troops and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” in the middle of the night. He and the disciples had just finished praying, well, at least Jesus was praying, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas led the group of arresting soldiers and officers. By the end of this chapter our Lord appeared before the high priest and eventually Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. At first glance someone might say that Jesus was moved about and tormented by people at their whim. However, look at Who’s really in charge. The whole group of armed officers approaches Jesus in verse 3 and in verse 4 Jesus steps to the front and asks “Whom are you seeking?” When they said “Jesus of Nazareth” and He replied, “I am He,” they “drew back and fell to the ground.” Really? Were those troops arresting Jesus against His will? No, they were carrying out His will. All through this chapter we see that Jesus is sovereign and in control. He releases the disciples from arrest, verse 8. He doesn’t let Peter’s swordplay cause an all out fight, which it should have. (Verses 10-11) He answers the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas perfectly and calmly, even though He was struck in verse 23. He had predicted Peter’s betrayal and watched it play out as the cock crowed. And He controls the conversation with Pilate, witnessing that He was a King and getting Pilate to ask the question, “What is truth?” Jesus was Lord, even when He was seemingly carried along by the will of men. Question: are you attached to Jesus by faith and salvation? Are you His? You can expect that though it seems that people are in control of your destiny that God Himself is ruling over the affairs of men and bringing about His will in your life. Trust Him. People aren’t in control this year. God is. Trust Him with your family, your job, your finances and keep your trust in the One who is really in charge.
Day 19 Chapter 19 of John
Here is the day that should ever live in the annals of injustice and depravity. That man should torture and crucify the Lord of Life is the greatest irony of all time. And yet Jesus chose this out of obedience to the Father and for the “joy set before Him,” as it says in Hebrews 12.2, choosing to be the Savior of man. Thank the Lord that He did this for us or we would have no hope of ever being right with God. The entire earth would have collapsed in upon itself if Jesus had not come, lived a perfect life and given that life as a substitute for we who are saved. History would have ended if He had not come. In that greater sense, He is the Savior of every man because all life would have ceased. He endured the worst death that the Romans could devise for a person, inflicting horrible, long-term pain on its victim and controlling the populace with fear in observing it. Many did not live through the scourging that went on before the crucifixion. Jesus chose that death. For you. For me. For our children. Our friends. For people here. For people far away. For those who have lived before us and those who will live after us. We have freedom because He was taken captive. We have forgiveness because He became sin who knew no sin. Ask Him to help you to live according to what has been done for you, in the shadow of the Cross.
Day 20 Chapter 20 of John
As terrible and wonderful the last chapter was, this chapter is just simply an account of pure joy, even disbelief on the part of the disciples. We read the story of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John (he’s the “other disciple,” by the way) going to the tomb and finding it empty. Jesus reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene first in the moving account in verses 11-18. This is also the first time that we see that Jesus isn’t immediately recognizable to His followers after His resurrection. Mary thinks He’s the gardener at first, but then He unveils His identity, calls her by name and she calls Him “Rabboni,” which means literally “My Great One.” The disciples get a special visit from the Lord as they hide from the Jews in verses 19-23, but Thomas, one of the twelve, wasn’t there. He, of course, doesn’t believe that they really saw Him and declares that he won’t believe unless he personally sees Jesus and touches His body where they put the nails and spear through His skin. Thomas doesn’t miss the next meeting and Jesus calls Him out to address his unbelief. Thomas answers the Lord’s call to believe and says, “My Lord and my God!” Isn’t it wonderfully kind of the Lord to do what it took for Thomas to believe? A human might have cast him out, but Jesus brought him close. God wants to increase and solidify your faith. He will do what needs to be done to bring you from unbelieving to believing if you’ll ask. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” said Jesus in verse 29. May He bless you with increased faith this year, not having seen like Thomas got to, but seeing instead with spiritual eyes. God want you to believe. All that we’ve read during the fast was recorded by John for one reason: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Believe that He will lead you in marvelous ways this year as you pursue His will and path for your life.
Day 21 Chapter 21 of John
Here we are on the last day of our 21 day fast! God has spoken so much to us as we’ve read and meditated on the book of John for these past three weeks. However, there’s one more chapter to read and learn from. I personally love this chapter and read it often, it’s one of my favorites. Here’s Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John and a couple of other guys, just hanging out between appearances from the Lord over the 40 days He appeared to men after the Resurrection. They, seemingly, get tired of waiting and go fishing at Peter’s suggestion. Of course, they fish all night and don’t catch a thing. Jesus, whom they don’t recognize but is with them, calls from the shore, asking about their fishing expedition. They cast their net one more time and, as you know, they brought in a net full of fish, 153 to be exact. There’s so much to see in this chapter. Peter doesn’t run away from the Lord but runs, swims to Him, the nets didn’t break this time as they did in the first fishing story, the Lord already had breakfast on the fire when they came; all of that has wonderful meaning. But here’s what I want to point out: Jesus restored and re-commissioned His disciples to go out, find and care for His flock by walking in faith along the individual path He outlined for each one. Peter could have been disqualified, for that matter, all of them could have been, but Jesus had grace for each one. He could have told them that they would have the same path in life and death but He had a different one for Peter and a different one for John. He released them all to a life of Him being present but unseen by the human eye, fulfilling the call to go out into all the world and make disciples of the nations. So here’s what God has to say to you. He will forgive and restore you no matter how far you’ve fallen. He will give you repentance and He will refocus you to His calling for your life. You won’t have the same path that others will have, but you have been called to be His hands, His feet and His voice, His Body, His representative ambassadors in this world. Ask the Lord to make this year a year of fulfillment in being His man or woman in the sphere in which He’s placed you. If you love Him, you’ll feed His sheep.