4 0 D A Y S O F spiritual preparation
40 Days of Spiritual Preparation
WEEK 5, COMMUNITY AWAKENING
Being an average community—or a run-of-the-mill local church family—takes only a modicum of physical presence and/or semi-regular attendance. On the other hand, being a healthy community, which includes having the corporate virtues of fidelity, speaking truthfully, having gratitude, offering hospitality, being sacrificial, practicing reconciliation, and having a posture of selflessness, takes dedicated work and endurance. This week we will focus on the various virtues that constitute healthy Christian community. The book of James will be our guide, as any local church that merely talks about community without practicing the difficult tasks of living alongside each other is, in the words of James, “dead.”
March 25 – Fidelity:
James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Take some time to reflect on individuals in the church body who have been faithful to you in the face of trials. What kinds of Christ-like characteristics were they displaying? What kind of responsibility do you have in order to be faithful to others, especially those outside this church body? How does unfaithfulness slowly (or rapidly) move us away from God? In what ways can we take the faithfulness that we’ve been given and show the world how to truly live?
Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to a person outside the church who needs a faithful friend.
March 26 – Truthfulness:
Read James 4:1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
The virtue of truthfulness is one of most difficult character traits of all. How do/should we respond to questions that are seemingly harmless: “How does this outfit look?” [says spouse in embarrassing garb]. While at the same time, how do/should we be open and vulnerable? Challenging our Christian brothers and sisters can take truthful courage.
With whom do you need to work on a culture of truthfulness? How are you a representation of truthfulness to your secular friends/community? In what ways can you be simultaneously kind and challenging?
Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the discernment to avoid lies and white-lies as well as tactlessness.
March 27 – Gratitude:
Read James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
In Living Into Community, Christine Pohl writes, “Gratitude and thanksgiving help to make all of the other practices more beautiful. When gratitude shapes our lives, fidelity is more likely to be joy-filled, truth is life-giving, and hospitality is offered with generosity and joy.”
Are there times in your church-life where you might need to put the “free” back in Free Methodist—freely worshiping God with the gratitude that He deserves? If not, what habits can you put in place to best sustain a posture of gratitude? In what ways can you recognize the beautiful little things of life? How are you actively showing the world where true freedom comes?
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be freely grateful in your private and public church community life for the sake of the lost around you.
March 28 Hospitality:
Read James 5:13-15, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
What role has hospitality played throughout Church history? What Old Testament and New Testament stories come to mind when thinking about taking in a stranger or providing a meal for someone who is “least of these?” Are there movements in your life where you can be a welcoming presence to a foreigner in your midst—all the while potentially welcoming an angel or the Lord Himself?
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your home to be a welcome place of hospitality for those outside our church body.
March 29 – Sacrifice:
Read James 4:4-5, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?”
A sacrifice constitutes the giving up of something we need or desire. What areas in your life could you sacrifice, beyond this Lenten season? Are there ways to simplify your life for the sake of both the church community and the secular environment in which you live and work? We’ve heard about being “So heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” But could it be possible that the bigger struggle in the American church is that our communities are so earthly minded that we’re no heavenly good?
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to what items in your house you could give away to someone in need this week—practicing the virtues of sacrifice and generosity.
March 30 – Reconciliation:
Read James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
One of the main tasks of corporate community gatherings at church is the practice of reconciliation. Have you accidentally or intentionally wronged a Christian sister or brother? Have you wronged someone outside our church? Do you feel that someone owes you an apology? What if we started by first apologizing for our wrongs, whether or not we get reciprocation?
Ask the Holy Spirit to make known to you what areas in your life have put a rift between you and God and you and the Spring Arbor/Jackson community. Seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
March 31 – Having a Posture of Selflessness:
Read James 5:14-15, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
We know from the early Church’s example that taking on the needs of others before oneself is the hallmark of a healthy Christian community. Are you currently serving the church in the world? Is your current task critical for the community to be an unerring witness to Jesus? If not, do you have other passions where you can give through the local church to the secular world for the sake of the gospel? How can you pray for your pastors and church leaders?
Ask the Holy Spirit to tell you what the needs of the outside community are? How can we put others before ourselves?
Living Out Your Prayer:
Consider taking one or all of these action steps in the coming days.
Think and pray about taking someone into your home (an extra room) without charging rent.
Offset a utility bill for a person in need. Or pay for the groceries of the person next to you in the checkout line.
Give an anonymous gift.
Try to say “thank you” at least 5 times today.
Write a letter of gratitude to your church leaders.
Fast from negativity - don't speak any negative or critical words for the next week.
Humble yourself and give an encouraging word or take a step toward someone you have had a strained relationship with or someone you encounter this week as difficult to be around.
Pray and ask God to direct you to someone without a church home and invite them to our Easter services.
40 Days of Spiritual Preparation
WEEK SIX, COMMUNITY AWAKENING
As we enter the final week of our time of spiritual preparation for God to move mightily in our time of praying for personal renewal, church revival and community awakening, please ponder over Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Jesus becomes our mentor in praying. He prays about the Christian’s relationship to the world. Jesus’ prayer teaches us that the world is a battleground where spiritual forces of evil and Christ’s followers are in conflict.
Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26 Note verses 1-5
What a blessing to be "prayed for." Jesus prays for us. He represents us to God, the Father.
What an awe-inspiring reality. The Apostle Paul emphasized our Lord prays for us in Romans 8:34, "Jesus Christ, who died, more than that, who was raised to life, is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Note verse 3. “Now this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” How do we “know God”? What are you doing to “know Him” better? Time in His Word? Time in prayer? Time in worship and fellowship with His followers?
Read John 17:1-9. Focus on verses 6-9
Listen to Jesus praying for His followers. What is He asking of the Father? What will He ask of the Father, for you? Jesus is praying about His disciples’ relationship to the world. Key words are “out of.” Jesus prayed, "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world." What do you suppose Jesus meant? How were they and how should we be "OUT OF" the world? The call of a holy God is a call for a holy people. The whole of the Old Testament is the story of a holy God preparing a holy people. Jesus has a passion for his followers to be pure in heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" Matthew 5:8. How are you a “called out” one? As a Christian, what is distinctive about your relationship to the world?
Read John 17:1-12 Note verses 10-12
Jesus prayed, “I am in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name." We are still in the world. Jesus said “glory has come to me through them.” The lives of Jesus’ disciples reveal His character. Jesus is present in the world through His disciples. Does your life reveal Jesus to those near you? Jesus realized the power of this world to squeeze the Christian into its mold. Jesus knows the subtle and seductive powers of this world. We dare not retreat. Christians are called to be salt and light in the dark corners of our world. We are “still in.” How are you being an influence for righteousness in our community? What new initiatives can you take to be a positive witness for Christ?
Read John 17:1-16 Pay special attention to verses 13-16
The prayer of Jesus continues to emphasize His concern about the Christians’ relationship to the world. Jesus prayed, ". . . they are not of the world any more than I am of the world."
How was Jesus not of the world? As Jesus met with His disciples at the last supper, in John 13:3 it is written that as He washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus knew that “. . . he had come from God and was returning to God. . ." How do we keep that eternal focus in our lives? In John 17:24, Jesus prayed, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory. . ." We are not permanent fixtures here. We are mortals. We will die. We came from God and will return to God. How are the priorities of your life reflecting your eternal future?
Do you need to adjust your spending or the investment of your time to focus on your eternal destiny?
Read John 17:1-19 Note verses 17-19
The prayer of Jesus emphasizes the missionary mandate for His followers. Jesus prayed, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." Sent into the world. God is a missionary God. He sent prophets. He sent kings. He sent angels. He sent His one and only Son. Now He sends us into the world. Our model for mission is His model. Note v. 4 ". . . I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." v. 6 "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world." v. 8 "I gave them the words you gave me. . ." v. 17 "I have sent them into the world." Jesus did not ask His Father to take His followers out of the world, but instead use them in the world. Because we are “sent ones” we dare not try to escape the world. How are you intentional about initiating relationships with non-Christians? How are you responding to your mission as a “sent one” in Spring Arbor? In Jackson County? In our world?
Read John 17:1-19 Focus on verses 17-19.
Jesus prayed for the Father to “sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth.” Jesus prayed, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” We are able to complete the mission of God in the world only as we are “truly sanctified.” What does that mean? To be sanctified means we are set apart by God to accomplish His will in and through us, unhindered by worldly passions and pursuits. We are set apart, consecrated to fulfill God’s missionary plans for our world. We are missionaries to our community, our world. As one of the early Church fathers expressed it, “Baptism is ordination into ministry.” Every Christian is called, consecrated and commissioned as a “sent one,” as a minister of the Gospel. Is there any area of your life that is not “sanctified” for God’s purpose?
Read John 17:1-23 Note verses 20-23
Jesus prays for unity among believers. v.21 – “that all of them may be one.” v .22 – “that they may be one as we are one.” v. 23 “may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Complete unity is powerful evidence of our identity as Christians. It is not uniformity, but unity. Unity in our redemptive purpose is powerful in bringing the world to faith in Christ. Division among believers is a strong deterrent in keeping unbelievers from coming to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. How are you helping to unify the body of Christ, the church? Do you pray for other Christians? Do you avoid gossip? Do you build other Christians up? What can you do to help sustain unity in our church and community of faith?
Read John 17:1-26 Give special attention to verses 24-26
Jesus concludes His prayer by expressing His desire that His followers would be with Him in heaven and “see My glory.” We find the real glory of life is doing God’s will. The greater our obedience, the greater the glory. The joy we have now is a foretaste of the joy we will experience in heaven. Jesus also prays that the love of the Father would be in us and that Jesus would be in us. How is the love of God being expressed in your life? How is your life reflecting the glory of God? Is there a hint of disobedience in your life? What steps do you need to take to be an authentic and attractive witness for Christ?