"Open;" such a beautiful word! After a year of restrictions, lockdowns and border closures, the very mention causes our hearts to fill with fresh hope and expectation. The Oxford Dictionary's primary definition of the word open is: "not closed". Simple, but so true. The closures we have experienced in our physical world have certainly taken a toll on our emotional world. It's time to open our hearts and minds and shake off a closed mentality. It's time to re-connect with those around us. It's time, once again, to open our hearts and open our homes.
We ask all of our wider INChurch family to join us for 21 Days of prayer and Cornelius-styled fasting. In Acts 10, we read of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion who was a God-seeker. It was around 3 PM when an angel appeared to him with instructions to contact Peter. The next day Peter also received a vision with instructions to travel to Caesarea. The result was the salvation of Cornelius, his household and the birth of the Gentile church.
Cornelius not only sought the Lord for himself but desired that others would know Him too. Cornelius used his circle of influence to invite family and friends to his home to hear a message from God. Certain key elements of this Bible account provide the framework for our fast.
They are: Prayer - Fasting - Gathering - Feasting.
1. Pray – Designate a set time and place to pray every day. Seek the Lord with all your heart. Pray for those in your circle of friends and family who are yet to know the Lord. Ask the Lord to show you the people He wants you to extend an invitation to connect in some way - a coffee, a walk and talk, a meal - allow the Lord to show you what and when.
2. Fast – Fast every day that you can until 3 PM and in a manner appropriate to your physical ability. Some may abstain from food totally, whereas others may limit themselves to one type of food, such as fruit & veg. Afterwards, enjoy a meal as usual. Seek medical advice if you are uncertain about what is appropriate for you.
3. Gather – During the fast, gather with the church family. If you do not regularly attend a Connect Group, you may want to join one for the next three weeks.
4. Feast – Plan at least one special meal with your group or with your family and friends. Be creative and work within the guidelines we must follow during these times. We highly recommend moving out of doors, dining on the patio, hosting a BBQ, or even a picnic may be your best choice.
We are living through an unusual season when regulations around gathering can change at any time. All that we do must align with the public health orders.
Be considerate of your well-being and that of others. Only do what you feel safe and comfortable to do.
Think about all that you may need to do to be COVID safe, e.g. offer hand sanitiser, individual servings, separate tongs and so forth. Think this through in advance so you can be well prepared and make everyone feel at ease.
Prepare a delicious meal. Share the cost and preparation with others if that's available to you.
Invite those you have been praying for to join you for your dinner or other event. Sharing a meal fosters relationship. Try to have a natural, comfortable flow of conversation and ask the Lord for a unique opportunity to share about Him. Maybe talk about how you came to faith in Christ or how the Lord helped you through a tough time. Ask another member of your group to share a personal thought. People love stories! Tell them yours and ask others to share as well.
Open your heart and open your home. Let's see what God will do!
This 21-day devotional is for personal use as well as a basis for Connect group discussions during the 3 weeks of the fast. Most groups usually choose one or two of the devotions from the previous week that were particularly meaningful to them.
You may find it helpful to keep a journal during this time, record your thoughts as you reflect and respond to what God says to you during your daily reading of the devotion.
Pastors Craig and Melissa Maher have joined me in writing these devotions. During the past six years of pastoring INChurch Melbourne, and particularly during this past year of extended lockdown, their home has served as their ministry centre and hospitality hub. They have something to say and we can all learn a lot from their example.
Ps. Carol Hanes
Imagine Nations Church
Written by Ps. Carol Hanes
An open door means "welcome". When we expect guests at our home, we leave the front door unlocked, as our friends know we are happy for them to just come inside without having to knock.
The book of Revelation uses the term "open" twenty-five times. John saw a door standing open in heaven. He heard of the One "Who opens and no one shuts". These speak of our incredible access to God through Jesus Christ.
In Revelation 3, the imagery around “open” is different and speaks of Christ's access to our hearts. Jesus' words were to the lukewarm, indifferent church of Laodicea. Apparently, their door was shut and locked. Jesus is left standing outside their door, knocking, asking for them to open up to Him. They were not looking and waiting. There was not expectation of His coming. Quite the opposite: their thoughts were "I don't need a thing!"
Jesus invites us to communion and intimacy with Him. He wants to "dine" - eat the main meal of the day with us, but we are the ones who must open the door of our hearts to Him.
In Middle Eastern culture, the main meal is never rushed. The food that is served, often from a communal platter, is enjoyed over an extended time, accompanied by lively conversation with family and friends. This is the type of meal Jesus invites us to relish with Him.
Consider your personal devotional practices. What elements of this invitation from Jesus could you put into practice and richly enjoy!
Our spiritual temperature correlates with our communion with Jesus. What do you need to do to raise the temperature of your heart?
What areas of your life do you sense you need to open up to the Lord?