A couple of weeks ago I was having one of those honest conversations with Jesus about how things were going, and because I care deeply about this city and the people we are on mission with (foylevineyardchurch), the conversation was about church.
I happen to be one of those people who believes that God still speaks and that we can learn to hear and respond to His Voice. So I was sharing my thoughts and fully expected to get a response.
As I was walking across the Peace Bridge I was reminding God of all the incredible promises that He has given us as a couple and as a church community. He truly does call us to living a life beyond ourselves. And as I walked on, I had a question bubbling up in my heart. It wasn't a question about whether God was going to do the things He promised but a question of how? The conversation went something like this.
"God, I get your promises are true and you will be faithful. But your promises are also an invitation to us to respond. So I'm asking you HOW? How am I, are we, to respond to you? What is our part to play in seeing your promises come to pass? How are we going to see growth, fruitfulness, breakthrough and blessing? How do we see a city and region transformed?"
The answer came back "I want you to lead a covenant people, a people holy and set apart." It was not an audible voice, simply a still small voice that is like someone intervening in your thoughts, something I've come to recognise as the Holy Spirit.
Okay, I thought. That's a strategy, that sounds like something God would say. But how can I be sure. We had already been considering calling us as a church community to more, to increase our hunger for God and our passion for the city. We'd talked about prayer, fasting even and other options. As I walked home, I felt like part of our immediate response to what God had just said was to 'call a fast'.
I wanted to be sure, though, so I asked God to confirm it through the Bible. I went home, opened up my readings for that day and I happened to be in the book of the prophet Joel, chapter 2. There it was! As clear as day verse 15:
"Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even the nursing infants."
The promise that follows is that God will bring blessing and fruitfulness and remove the enemies of His people. As I began to pray, I remembered another conversation a few days previous with God in my office. I had felt Him say to me, "Do you have a strategy to take the city? Would you like to hear mine?" and strangely I had felt compelled to draw it out. This is what I had drawn.
In case it isn't clear, the picture is of a mountain and a river and the river is a symbol of the blessing of the Lord. It is based on Psalm 24:3-6
"Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob."
So, this month at Foyle Vineyard we are going to fast every Wednesday. Fasting is simply going without something (usually food) in order to turn your attention towards Jesus. To let your heart and soul and everything you are, hunger after Him. It is a way to intentionally turn your heart to Him afresh. And I'm incredibly expectant for what He will do in response. We can't earn His blessing but he loves to respond to a hungry people. So join us, come hungry (literally and spiritually) and come expectant.