Monday, March 12, 2012

I Dare You...

At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God. -Ezra 9:5
So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. -Nehemiah 1:4
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart. -Psalm 35:13
Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. -Daniel 9:3
"Now, therefore," says the Lord, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." -Joel 2:12
So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. -Ezra 8:23 
In the last post, I pointed out the fact that God has been repeatedly shaking our world, and specifically our country, in an effort to wake us up, to bring to our attention the fact that we have gone so terribly far astray. I also made the point, and I want to make it again because it is SO important to understand, that when God speaks of those going astray, he is speaking to us, the believers, his own children. We are the ones who need to effect a revival, and it needs to start with each of us individually. I have heard it said that if you want to see a revival, you need to go into a room by yourself, draw a circle around yourself, get on your knees and beg God to change everyone inside the circle!

So how do we start this revival? The answer is simple. We need to get in the Word and on our knees. That's it.

I'm not talking about 5 minutes a day with your little purple paperback "Women's Daily Devotional Inspirational Verse-of-the-Day" book. I'm not talking about a daily scanning of your favorite "spiritual" blog or e-devotion. I'm not talking about praying in the shower while you get ready for work or passing thoughts about all the issues that you "meant" to pray about. I'm not even talking about your regular quiet time of actual Bible study and focused prayer. Now, don't get me wrong, none of these things are bad. Please don't stop doing any of them. I point out these common practices, not to belittle them, but simply to make us all aware that while they may be sufficient to get us through the day, the times in which we are living call for something much more intentional, something much more powerful.

When's the last time you fasted and prayed? Believe me, I include myself in this question. This is definitely an area of worship that I do not observe nearly as often as I should. I recently got to thinking about a practice that many Americans observe around this time of year-- Lent. I have never observed Lent before, mainly because it was not advocated by any of the churches that I have been a part of throughout my life. It is a practice that was started long after the life of Christ, and is in no way Biblical-- it is not necessarily unbiblical either, but it is important to understand that there is no biblical reason to fast specifically during this season of the year. It is merely a religious practice, that unfortunately holds absolutely no real value for the vast majority of people who choose to observe it out of either obligation or tradition.

But then I got to thinking... what if everyone who observed this "practice" actually treated it with the purpose and intent that true biblical fasting is meant to have? What if we all took a 40-day period, whether it be over the traditional time of Lent, or any other time of the year, and gave up something truly significant to us, something like watching television, surfing the internet, reading "fun" books, whatever it is that you spend time doing everyday, and replaced that exact amount of time with prayer-- real, focused, dedicated, specific prayer for our nation, for our leaders, for the lost, for our own sin. How many hours a week do you spend watching television? Looking at Facebook/Twitter/Path/Pinterest? Playing video games? Playing Angry Birds? Whatever it is that you do? What would happen if for 40 days, you sat down during that exact same amount of time and prayed?

What would happen if you sat still and quiet for an entire hour, and simply asked God to speak to you, to reveal to you buried sin, ignored sin, unrecognized sin in your own heart? What might the Lord be able to reveal to you over the course of a month or so? And what if you then acted on those convictions and asked the Lord to make the necessary changes in your life, regardless of what that might mean for your lifestyle? What kind of impact might that have on your life? On your ministry? On your witness and testimony to those around you? On our nation and our world if every Christian did this?

And we need to not only be seeking the Lord for personal reformation and revival, but we need to be humbling ourselves before the only One who has the ability to fix this broken world and begging Him to heal our land. This country is headed for one of two scenarios: either revival unlike anything we've seen since the Second Great Awakening of the 1800's OR complete and utter spiritual, financial and political implosion.

I will quote it again:
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14
I dare you, I dare myself, to take the call of God seriously to pray and to fast and to do it with purpose. Will YOU take the fasting challenge?

*There is a new non-fiction book coming out on June 12 of this year by Joel C. Rosenberg called Implosion. It deals specifically with these issues and talks about the desperate and growing need for national repentance and revival in an effort to avoid the imminent collapse of this nation. I cannot wait to read it!

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