Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Ezra Fast : Seeking God for Families and Revival

 As I made my morning cappuccino yesterday, my daughter popped her head out of her bedroom to ask me to be more quiet in the kitchen because she was 'in session'  on a school Zoom call and couldn't hear for all the noise. Please do not disturb! 

The irony. This is exactly what I've been asking from my kids these last 5 months! But this is their strange, new normal and they are understandably on edge as they navigate the start of an on-line school semester. Truth be told, we're all a bit on edge. Rynelle and I never put up our hands to be home-school parents and our kids feel sad about missing normal rhythms, friends and sports seasons. In Texas, Asher has begun his senior college year on-line while doing 10 hour-a-day football practices with the real likelihood that his football season will be cancelled. It's all quite unsettling, isn't it?

 Those of us who don't have children of our own can still feel the wear and tear of this season on our marriages, or with our house-mates and closest relationships. Our families and households desperately need the grace and peace of God in the midst of anxiety, uncertainty and frustration. 

There is much that is not clear to me about this current season. But of this I am absolutely certain. God is teaching us to pray with greater urgency and dependence. He is teaching us what it means to reach the end of our own resources, to declare utter dependance upon Him and to find a new atmosphere of grace amidst our current circumstances. That is why we are fasting and praying as a Church today and gathering both in-person and on-line tonight at 6:30pm. Sign up here to join in person.

Ezra was a priest in the Bible who called a day of fasting and prayer for families, and we are going to take our cue from his prayer.  It was Ezra and Nehemiah who led the Jewish people back from exile in Babylon to rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem. Before they left on their journey, Ezra called for a fast.

 "Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, 'The hand of our God is for good on all who seek Him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake Him.' So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty." (Ezra 8:21-23)

As we seek the Lord in prayer and fasting today let's pray in these ways:

1. For Humble Dependence upon God for our good, rather than depending on ourselves or others  "I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of horsemen to protect us, for the hand of the Lord is for good on all who seek him." King Cyrus had actually been very generous to the returning exiles, but Ezra recognized the limits of human authority in the protection of God's people. Of course, we should pray for good leadership in government at this time. But let's not put too much stock in them. Our good does not ultimately come from any person's hand. Our good ultimately comes from the hand of the Lord who is over all, and who responds to the entreaty of His people.

2. For Protection and Peace on our marriages, our children, our families and our properties as we navigate this season. "That we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for ourselves, our children and all our goods." Let's pray that God's peace would flow into our anxiety and conflict, that He would protect our marriages, our parent/child relationships and our closest household friendships giving us a safe journey.  Let's pray that our families would be beacons of health and mission where the lonely could find safety and community. 

3. For Revival rather than mere Survival.  I know that this can sound trite, but it's here in the prayer of Ezra. After praying for protection for families, he prays, "That our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves, but God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of God"(Ezra 9:8-9)

 Revival has historically begun at the lowest ebb of church and culture. That's why I love the description of revival as a brightening of our eyes, as in, a change in the way we see our circumstances. Prayer doesn't always change our circumstances immediately. But it changes the atmosphere of those circumstances. It injects the resurrection  hope of Jesus into the most hopeless of circumstances, so that we are not crushed by our confinement. I believe God wants to brighten our eyes today by His Spirit. I believe Jesus wants to change the atmosphere of our circumstances. He wants to give us fresh vision to see that He is at work in quiet miracles.  Revival may not look like a stadium jam-packed with thousands of worshippers in our day. It may look like a son coming to his father and asking him to pray that Jesus would break his addiction to drugs. It may look like a sceptic coming to faith because his neighbor invited him to watch his church's sermons on-line. It may look like a home school mom doing daily devotions for the kids on her street. (I've seen all these things happen recently

In our seeking for peace and protection for ourselves and our families, let's not go passive or inward looking. Let's keep asking that God would brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving so that we would be able to see his gospel spreading steadily and surely.

See you and your children tonight in-person on the Southlands Brea patio or online on Facebook Live.