Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preparing for a Move of God

I've been talking to a lot of people, lately, who've been interested in a move of God in their lives.  God does move.  But the question for the day is, “How can we prepare for a move of God.” 

There is an old story about two farmers.  Both of them are struggling to keep crops growing in the middle of a drought.  Both of them were in dire need of a miracle.  Their crops were failing.  They were looking for a move of God. So they did the only thing they could do, they prayed that God would bring rain.  Then one of them sat back and waited for God to move and the other went out and prepared his fields for rain. 

We can prepare for God to move.  Of course, this illustration is talking about faith.  We all have great faith, right?  We are all full of faith, right.  I knew it.  But faith isn't about just believing.  It isn't just about intellectual thought.  It is about faith in action. 

There are things we can do that will initiate a move on God’s part.  So today I want to post on preparing for a move of God from this portion of scripture:

Acts 10:29-33 (NKJV)
10:29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?" 30 So Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.' 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God."

The Actions of Faith

So, here we have Cornelius, he’s a centurion.  That means he’s a Roman commander of 100 troops.  He’s not a Jew, but the Bible tells us that he fears God.  I’m talking here about reverence and respect.  He’s a Roman leader that believes God.

Acts 10:1-2 (NKJV)
10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

He doesn't live like a Jew.  He’s not following all the Jewish laws about food, for one thing.  He lives like a Roman.  He’s a Gentile.  Interestingly, God gave him a vision, of an angel.  The angel told him to send for Peter in Joppa.  So he did as the angel commanded.  Peter came to him even though there’s a Jewish law that says that Jews don’t mix with Gentiles.  Look at what Peter says when he arrives at Cornelius’ house:

Acts 10:27-28 (NKJV)
10:27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

So, there are two actions of faith taking place here: 

1)      Cornelius sent for Peter based on the angel’s word.
2)      Peter broke Jewish law to answer the call and go.

You can say that both of these men prepared for God’s move.  In the illustration only one farmer prepared for God’s move.  What I want to look at today isn't their faith.  Obviously, both of them had faith.  What I want to look at today is preparation. 

Cornelius, by the way he lived, prepared for God to move.  Let’s examine that; let’s look at what the angel said to Cornelius.

Acts 10:31 (NKJV)
10:31 and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.

This is the angel speaking to Cornelius and he says, “Your prayers have been heard…”  God has heard the prayers and is answering them.  Then he says, “Your alms have been remembered.” So this wasn't a chance thing here.  God moved because of Cornelius’ preparation. 

First, Cornelius prayed and fasted:  Acts 10:20 says, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house.”

Second, Cornelius gave alms, in verse thirty-one it says, “And your alms are remembered in the sight of God.”  So fasting and prayer, and the giving of alms was the way that Cornelius prepared to see God move.  Both of these are an act of faith. 

Have you ever fasted?  Fasting is an act of denial.  You go without eating because you believe God will respond to your fast.  It takes faith to fast.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people have told me that fasting is bad for my health, but I’m still here, still in relatively good health,  and I have fasted many, many times.  In fact, I fast at least one day per week. 

Fasting and prayer goes hand in hand.  If you fast without prayer what you’re really doing is just not eating.  Fasting and praying together are the actions of faith. 

It also takes faith to give.  We always think we have to hold on to our money, in order to have more of it.  Time and time again, though, financial advisers recommend giving.  Look at this quote from a book entitled The Power of Giving

With so many challenges to cope with, you may ask yourself, “Why should I expend any effort in giving?” or “I’m already scrambling to deal with all the demands and pressures on me.  How will I find time and resources to give more?” or “No one gives to me, why should I give to others?”

In this chapter we hope to show that no matter what your circumstances in life, you have the ability to give.  As well, giving is good for you.  it provides the following benefits:
  • It can make a positive difference to others.
  • There are emotional, physical, even financial benefits to you.
  • It can help you to achieve your full potential.
  • It can bring you more meaning, fulfillment and happiness. 
This is a secular book.  These authors are financial men and fund raisers.  The book is about how giving benefits both those who receive and those who give. 

So, if we examine what motivated God to move in Cornelius’ house it's prayer and fasting, and giving that the angel mentioned that God noticed.  Both are acts of faith.  Those acts show an openness to a move of God.

How are These Things a Preparation?

Why is it that we can look at fasting and prayer, and giving as a preparation for a move of God?  To answer that let’s look at them individually.    Let’s begin with prayer:

James 5:16 (NKJV)
5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

So, James tells us that the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Let’s break all of that down by looking at the definitions of those words.

  • Effective – producing a decisive or desired effect.
  • Fervent – marked by great intensity of feeling (impassioned)
  • Avails – to be of use or advantage:  HELP:  BENEFIT

You can produce the desired effect by praying with great intensity.  This is what Cornelius did, he prayed AND fasted; that fasting, that denial of self is what gave the prayer great intensity.  Throughout the Bible there are stories of men who have fasted and seen God move.  Daniel fasted for clarity of the vision of the end times that he had.  The early Christians fasted and prayed for Paul and Barnabus on their first mission trip.  King Darius, (another non-Christian like Cornelius) fasted and prayed so the lions wouldn't eat Daniel.  Saul of Tarsus, King Ahab, the people of Ninevah, they all fasted and God moved in every case.

When we’re passionate about something we’re willing to do whatever it takes, to make it happen.  If you want to succeed in business you have to be passionate enough to overcome all the hurdles of life to get there.   If you want your business to be successful there is always something you have to work through.  The thing that really helps you is how much passion you have about what you’re doing.  If you passionately believe in it, then you will do whatever you need to do to see it happen.  You won’t be complaining that you have to get up in the morning and go to work.  You won’t be upset about having to work a lot of hours.  You won’t mind the sacrifices you have to make to have it happen. 

Shouldn't the same be true of the things you need God to move in, in your life?  Don’t we go to God for the things we really need God to move in?  Do you REALLY want God to move in your finances?  Do you REALLY want to see friends and family saved?  Do you PASSIONATELY want God to move?  If so, then you need to be fervent, passionate, intense about seeing God move, and He will move. 

Let’s look at giving, now, as a means to prepare for God to move:

Mark 12:41-42 (NKJV)
12:41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

Look at this story of the widow.  Jesus is sitting by the treasury; He’s watching people give.  He’s looking at their giving as a way of seeing their fervency.  He sees the Pharisees give out of their abundance.  They rich and they give large amounts.  The widow gives a very small amount, but there is something special about her giving. 

Mark 12:43-44 (NKJV)
12:43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

She gave it all…there is no doubt about her passion.  The others gave greater amounts, but it was what they could afford.  The widow gave in faith.  She gave without thought for what would happen in the future.  God sees that.  We’re still reading about her two thousand years later.  He giving is a remembrance before God.  Do you remember where you've seen that before?

Acts 10:31 (NKJV)
10:31 and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.

That’s what the angel said to Cornelius.  The widow and Cornelius have something in common, they’re both fervent about their giving and it touches God. 

God is touched when we give in faith:

Genesis 4:2-5 (NKJV)
4:2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The difference between Cain and Abel’s giving was faith.  Cain gave out of abundance.  He came with leftovers.  Abel gave in faith; he gave the firstborn.  If you give with fervency like the widow, like Abel then God will move.

What is Preparation for a Move of God?

God moves powerfully in Cornelius’ life.  Look what happens:

God instructs Cornelius in what to do.  He tells for Cornelius to send for Peter in Joppa.  At the same time He’s preparing Peter to respond.  God has to overcome some things in Peter’s life so that he can respond to God’s call here.  First, there’s the food issue.  Cornelius is a Gentile and he eats like a Gentile, Peter can’t do that.  God has to work it out.  He does that with a vision – “Rise Peter, slay and eat.” 

The second thing that must be overcome is that Peter and Cornelius don’t know each other. These people show up at his house and tell him that Cornelius wants to see him.  Peter isn't supposed to visit the home of non-Jews.  It’s a matter of Jewish law.   God has moved to prepare Peter and Cornelius so that He can respond to Cornelius’ prayer. 

Now, look at what happens when Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house:

Acts 10:44-48 (NKJV)
10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Cornelius’ whole household is saved, and then the Holy Ghost fell.  This is a powerful move of God.  This is the first time the Holy Ghost has fallen on a Gentile. This is a powerful move of God.  So what was the preparation?  Prayer Giving and obedience.  Cornelius had to be obedient to what God told him.  Peter had to obediently respond to God’s call.  We can’t downplay obedience, here. God moves through obedience. 

Do you remember the widow of Zarephath?  She’s facing ruin and God responds by giving her an instruction that results in God’s provision for her.  If we obey God’s message then we will see His response to our prayers, too. 

If you’re like me you’re looking at this New Year and you’re saying, “God I need you to move in this specific area of my life.”  But you can’t just say, “God I need you to move,” you need to prepare for a move of God; prepare your field for rain.  Pray and fast with passion and fervency, so that God will make your prayer effective.  Give with faith so that your giving touches God.  Be obedient to God’s instruction, do what God calls you to do and God will be able to move.  If you leave out a part of that you tie God’s hands.  He’s trying to move but you’re not listening.  Open your heart and prepare for God’s move and watch what God will do.

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