The church in 21st Century America finds itself in an interesting position. On the one hand, students of church history mostly agree that our glory days are in the past. On the other hand, we realize that living in a time when the line between the spiritual and the secular grows clearer, the church is poised to shine brighter.
A similar moment took place in the life of Israel about 500 years before the first advent of Christ. The nation had been in exile, separated from the glory days of Kings David and Solomon. The younger generations knew nothing of the storied past and had grown comfortable in the secular ways of the Babylonians.
God would use two ordinary men named Ezra and Nehemiah to influence the people of faith to want a return to Jerusalem. He moved on the heart of an unbelieving king to permit such a return. They gathered themselves and began to march toward the city. In an obscure passage, a most pivotal moment is recorded for us. It took place on the banks of the Ahava River. A place mentioned only here in the Scripture.
The purpose of the gathering is recorded in Ezra 8:21-23; “I (Ezra) proclaimed a fast by the Ahava River, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions. I did this because I was ashamed to ask the king for infantry and cavalry to protect us from enemies during the journey, since we had told him, ‘The hand of our God is gracious to all who seek Him, but His great anger is against all who abandon Him.’ So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and He granted our request.”
We are living in a time where we must stop being busy and simply camp out by our own Ahava River. The church must humble itself before God and plead for a safe journey into the future for us, our children, and our possessions. These men and women had made a monumental decision to leave the relative security and comfort of their life in exile to which they had become accustomed. The church in America has for a long time existed without challenge. It is time to prepare for greater adversity and that preparation must include an Ahava River moment!.
Let me encourage you to one significant discipline that can change you and your world for 2014. Prayer. At First Baptist Church I am encouraging members to participate in a number of corporate prayer opportunities. First is a community prayer gathering at City Hall every Monday at 12:15. The purpose is clear. There we join brothers and sisters from other churches to pray for our city, county, and country.
This year we will attempt to record 40 small group events that have praying for our church and church leaders as the paramount goal. If you would like to host one of these events in your home or in your favorite restaurant please click here to register.
In addition, I challenge each of you to make a daily prayer and devotional a regular part of your life. If you have never had a quiet time alone with God then start out slow to help ensure success. You choose one day a week, (the same time each week) and one hour that day (the same each week) to read and meditate on a word from God. This identified moment will become your date with Him. If you are serious about starting or maintain a quiet time with God, register here and I will seek opportunities to encourage and hold you accountable.