In this message, we focus on creating space to talk with God.
Hey everybody, happy New Year. Are you ready for a year filled with the goodness of God?
Hey, I want to really just echo what Ben said there. You all are Saturday night, which means you set the tone for the whole weekend. This is the first service of all of our services for the entire year, and every weekend Saturday night you guys set the tone. You set it in motion. When you come in and bring the presence of God on Saturday night, it lingers and it hangs out all Sunday morning. So you’re blessing people —
— that you don’t even think about, that you don’t even know about. But if you come in and you do, you know, the grumpy Gus kind of thing, sometimes that lingers all Sunday morning too. And we don’t want any of that. We want the presence of God lingering with us. And so happy New Year. I hope you and your family had a great Christmas and New Year, and I am so excited about what God is going to do in 2014 here at Valley Creek Church. 2013 was really a banner year for us. God did incredible things. He led us to some amazing places, revealed some incredible things to us. God was just good and faithful to Valley Creek all year, and He was good and faithful to you all year. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, whether you had a hard year or not, God was still faithful and He was still good to you. And it’s really important to stop and remember the goodness of God, because it’s God’s faithfulness yesterday that will give you the faith you need for today. So sometimes you’ve got to stop and just be thankful and have a marker stone a little bit of who God is and what He has done in your life. And I’m believing that 2014 is going to be an even better year, that God has great things for us, that He has got some deep places that He wants to lead us some revelations, some new encountering of Him. And I want us to enter this year full of hope. And you know what hope is right? Hope is a confident expectation of good. Let’s enter this year full of hope, expecting God to do good things. In fact, I love this verse, Psalm 65:11. This could be a theme verse for you in the year. It says, “You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths drip with abundance.”
Is that not a cool verse? When I found that verse this last week I was like, “That’s incredible.” God says He wants to crown your year with His goodness. That means He wants to fill your year with His goodness. It’s going to be a good year because God wants to put His goodness in your year. And it says, “Your paths drip with abundance.” That means whenever we follow God we always find abundance. If we’re willing to have the faith to walk with Him, to follow Him, to do things His way, you will find the abundance that you’re looking for, the abundance of peace and joy and hope and provision and love and grace. In fact, every next step that God invites you to take this year is a next step further down the path of abundance. So my hope for you this year is every time God puts a next step in front of you, instead of sitting there and debating whether or not you want to take it, just think this is a step down a path that drips with abundance. That should give you some faith and some courage and some motivation to say, “Alright, God. I want to go down the path that drips.” It’s so overflowing that it literally drips with abundance. In fact, Proverbs says there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it only leads to death. You know that right? There’s a path that looks really good to you, but in the end it’s death and destruction. And then there is a path that seems right to the Lord, and in the end it leads to abundance. Let’s let this be the year that we choose to walk down the path of abundance, His ways that God sets out for us. And my hope for all of us is James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Can you just decide in your heart first week of the year? This is the year you’re going to draw near to God, that you’re going to choose Him, pursue Him, seek Him with everything that you’ve got. Because it says, “When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.” And what I love about God is He always draws nearer to us exponentially greater than we draw near to Him. Like, you turn and take one step towards God and you will watch as He starts running towards you. The prodigal son — one step back towards home and the Father came running to the son.
Let’s draw near to God, because He wants to draw near to us this year. Okay? Alright. You’re ready to get into it?
Okay. We’re going to start a new series today called ‘Conversations, Prayer, Talking with God.’ And if you’ve got your Bibles, turn with me to Luke 11 and Matthew 6. Let me encourage you. Let this be the year you bring your Bible to church. I know it sounds silly or trite, but let this be the year that you bring, and I encourage you to have a paper Bible because I know technology, but there’s something about a paper Bible where you can get used to where things are in the scriptures. You can take notes. You can highlight things. You can write things down. Let’s let this be a year where we get really familiar with the scriptures and value God’s written word. Okay? So we’re going to start this new series, ‘Conversations, Prayer, Talking with God.’ And we’ve never done a series on prayer before. And if I can be real honest with you right out of the gate, I’m a little bit insecure about this series. Oh, it sounds really good to start a new series that way, doesn’t it?
I’m a little bit insecure with this series, and here’s why. Because prayer, it’s a mystery. I mean, we’re not really sure what to do with prayer if we’re honest with ourselves. I think a lot of times we think it’s a religious duty, like we have to do it. I think sometimes we use the term, it’s a Christian discipline, which I’m not sure discipline is the right word to associate back with prayer. I bet if we did a survey in this room, 95% of us would say we’re not really satisfied with our prayer life. Most of us including myself, not really satisfied with our prayer life. I think a lot of us are disillusioned with prayer. Like, we’ve prayed big things and asked God to do something and it didn’t happen the way we were hoping. So we’re kind of not sure if we believe in it anymore. [Laughs] I think some of us think we have to be real religious and spiritual and use the perfect words to start a prayer, to end a prayer, big King James Version only, big words in the middle. Right? Like, we’re not really sure what this whole prayer thing is about. And then on top of all that Jesus makes these crazy claims about prayer.
Mark 11:24 — He says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it and it shall be yours.” [Laughs] Like, that’s it.
I just got to pray it and believe it. Well, how much does that happen in your own life? Or how about in John when Jesus says, “If you ask for anything in my name, I will give it to you?” Or how about this one? “If you have faith to speak to the mountain and say, “Mountain, pick yourself up and be thrown into the sea”, the mountain will be picked up and thrown into the sea.” Has anybody thrown a mountain into the sea ever?
So you go like skiing and a rocky mountain is now missing. You woke up one morning and you say, “Well, go to the sea. Go check it out.” Jesus makes these claims and we’re not sure what to do with it. And I’m going to try to answer those questions for you along the way, not today. You’ll have to come back later for the rest of the series [Laughs]. But we’re going to talk about it and try to understand prayer in a new way together. So Luke 11, Verse 1, pick it up with me. It says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”” Okay, I love this. Jesus goes off by himself and he goes to pray like he often does. He withdraws. He goes to lonely places. He goes to spend time with the Father. And he comes walking back and the disciples see him, and the disciples can see on Jesus’ face. He is refreshed. He is recharged. He is encouraged. He is full of faith and wisdom. And they look at Jesus and they understand that Jesus had a very personal, passionate and powerful prayer life. And as Jesus makes his way back to the disciples one of them speaks up and looks at him and says, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It’s really the cry of every Christian, isn’t it? Lord, teach us to pray. And what the disciples were asking for was not a religious experience. These were good Jews. These were good Israelites. They understood religious prayers. They knew the distant, obligated, lifeless prayer life. They knew all about that. That’s not what they were asking.
They were saying, “Lord, teach us to pray, that we might have a personal, passionate and powerful prayer life just like you. That we might be your disciples and become like you.” And I love what Jesus does. He doesn’t rebuke them. He doesn’t get mad at them. He doesn’t tell them to go figure out prayer on their own and then come back. He starts to teach them. Can I give you some really good news today? God doesn’t expect you to figure this Christian journey out by yourself. He doesn’t expect you to go and figure out all the answers. In fact, He wants to be your teacher. He wants to be your guide, your instructor, your counselor, your source of wisdom. That’s what the scriptures say. And how different would life be if we would just stop and say, “Lord, teach me to” — fill in the blank? Lord, teach me this year to be a good husband, because I’m just finding myself not really a good husband lately. Lord, teach me this year to be a loving person, because there’s a whole bunch of anger and rage inside my heart and I don’t know how to get rid of it. Lord, would you teach me this year how to walk in the power of the spirit, because this flesh nature is just tearing me down and it’s sucking me into things I don’t want to be a part of. Lord, would you teach me this year how to make disciples, because I really want to be a part of your kingdom purpose, but I’m just not sure how to actually go and make a disciple. Lord, would you teach me to — fill in the blank. See, Jesus says, “Come and learn from me.” And if we would just approach him with openness and transparency in our heart, a teachable spirit, a humility, Jesus always responds with grace and patience, and he will teach us everything that we need to know. And what I love about this verse is so you know, I think this is the verse for Valley Creek Church in 2014. Lord, teach us to pray. I think this is the year where we learn to become a praying church. I think this is an invitation from God for our church in this time, in this place that He wants to take us deeper. He wants to take us farther. He wants to invite us into new things.
And no matter what your prayer life may look like today, you can have a personal, passionate and powerful prayer life just like Jesus did, because Jesus is going to teach us how to pray this year. Okay? Are you with me on that? Does that resonate with anybody’s spirit?
We’re going to learn how to talk to God, is what I’m saying. We’re going to be a house of prayer, and for us to become a house of prayer you and I as individuals first have to become houses of prayer. And what I love about church, what I love about all the stuff we’ve been talking about is, the reason you want to be in one church for a long period of time is so you can experience the unique journey that God is leading a unique group of people on. See, this is our verse for this year, Valley Creek Church, but there’s other great churches in our city. God has got a different verse for them. He’s got a different direction for them, but this is our journey. This is why you want to be all in and stick it out through the good times and the bad times, because you get to experience this great life that God leads us on, and you get to be a part of — [Audio Breaks at 10:57] — teach us to pray, because if we’re honest, we struggle with praying. Like, why do I pray? How should I pray? Is it even worth praying? I think we have a faulty view of prayer in a lot of ways. I think a lot of us see prayer as a last resort. Like, if you’ve ever heard anybody say something like this — “Well, you’ve done everything you can do. The only thing left to do is” — it’s a pretty sad view of prayer, isn’t it?
Or how about this? I think a lot of us see prayer as a genie in the bottle. If we can just rub the thing just right, maybe God will give me what I want. I think a lot of times prayer is crisis mode only. We get desperate enough and desperation drives us to prayer. I want my prayer life to be a whole lot more than just being desperate for things and having to throw up some stuff when I have no other resort. And I bet all of us have prayed crazy, random, weird prayers at different points of time. Anybody want to admit to that? Like, how about this one? Anybody ever show up at like a final exam or a test?
You didn’t study at all. You haven’t thought about God all week, but you sit down at that desk and that Scantron shows up. And all of a sudden you’re like, “Dear Lord, give me the spiritual gift of guessing.”
“Make me the most anointed guesser in this room, Father. I believe it in the name of Jesus. [Laughs] I declare it over my life.” Or how about this? Anybody a really good prayer on Sunday afternoons?
Like, does anybody pray something like this? “Dear Lord, help them hand the ball off right now in the fourth quarter instead of throwing it, so maybe we could win.” [Laughs] Come on, come on. Don’t leave me out there. It’s mean, but it’s true.
And I think sometimes we try to negotiate with God. Anybody ever negotiate with God? Like, “Lord, if they could just win today, just this game Lord, I promise I’ll wake up early tomorrow and read my Bible. I promise, Lord.” [Laughs] Man, apparently we haven’t been negotiating good enough with God over this last football season. But I think we have these faulty, weird views of prayer, and I kind of want to level set it for us. Okay? So here’s what I want you to do. If you’re taking notes, write this down. Here’s what I think prayer is. Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other. And prayer is not about asking for things; it’s about talking about things. Let me say it again. Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other. And prayer is not about asking for things; it’s about talking about things. Prayer is a conversation between two people who are in love. And they share and they process and they dialogue and share their secrets and their fears and their failures and their insecurities, and what’s going on inside of them. And prayer is not just about asking for things all the time. It’s about talking about things, processing life. Like, imagine if all I ever did with Colleen was ask her for things. “Hey honey, I need this. Honey, can you do that? Honey, will you give me this?”
That relationship is not going to last very long, because no relationship can survive on constantly asking for things. And prayer is not this endless list that we’re trying to throw up into the heaven somewhere hoping that some God somewhere hears it and somehow responds to it. Prayer is about talking about things. You say, “What am I supposed to talk to God about?” Talk to Him about Himself. Talk to Him about you. Talk to Him about people in your life. Talk to Him about your struggles or your fears, your insecurities, your failures, your celebrations. How about this? Did you ever just ask God what He wants to talk about? I think sometimes we’re so busy asking for things that we never just stop and say, “Hey Lord, what’s on your heart today? What do you want to talk about today, God? What have you been thinking about? How do you feel about this? When you look at that situation what does that do to you, Lord? And how would you like me to view that situation? What’s your agenda today? And where do you want to go and what do you have in store for us?” Like, what would prayer be like if we started asking God what He wanted to talk about instead of us just asking for a bunch of things? And I realize some of you, you’re thinking, “I don’t want to talk to God about everything in my life. Like, I don’t want to bother Him.” Can I tell you? He wants to be bothered, because to Him it’s not being bothered. He wants to talk to you. I was thinking about it this week. This is what I’m saying. This is why I’m insecure on this. In my own life I’ve reflected and I’ve realized, most of my prayer life is asking for things. Lord, will you bless this person? Will you do this? Can you show up here? We need this provision. God, I need your wisdom. Lord, will you anoint me for this message? I mean, I’m asking God constantly for different things in my life. I started reflecting. I bet that’s very true of your life as well for most of us. And the more I’ve been thinking about it this week, the more I’ve come to this realization that the more you and I would just choose to talk to God about things, the less we would have to ask Him for things. The more I just start talking to God about things in life, the less I’ll ask Him for things and I’ll start asking Him for different things because now I’m alignment with Him.
Let me give you some examples. Let’s say you start talking to God about your future, what He has in store for your life, for your future. And you’re processing that with Him. He is giving you revelation and He is giving you focus on what’s in store. Then what that job opportunity comes along, that promotion that you can make a whole bunch of more money, and it shows up, but it’s out of alignment of what God has already told you He has in store for you. You’re not going to beg and plead and ask God to give you that job, so you can make more money. You’re going to look at it and say, “Lord, you’ve already told me we’re going in this direction. So I ain’t even interested in that. Thanks for already clarifying my future. I’m not going to ask for anything.” And you’re just going to keep moving forward. Or how about this? If you start processing with God what’s inside your heart, your insecurities and your own fear, and you start talking to God about that and He starts revealing to you what those insecurities are and why you feel certain ways that you do and how. Maybe God reveals to you that you use things around you to numb your pain or as a coping mechanism. Well, then the next time that thing that you want shows up, a new house, a new car, a new possession, a new opportunity, some new gadget or gismo, instead of praying and asking and really wanting this thing, you will look at it and you’re not going to ask God for it because He has already told you that you use those kinds of things to numb your own heart. And you look at it and instead of saying, “God, I really want that. Will you give it to me?”, you will say, “Lord, thanks for revealing to me that I use that to fill a need in my heart that only you were meant to fill. So Lord, I’m not interested in that and I’m going to walk over here with you. I need you to meet that insecurity in me that we’ve been talking about.” Or how about this? When you find yourself in a life storm, the world is raging around you, things are awful and you’re processing it. You’re just talking to God about it, and He has revealed to you that that storm is in your life because He wants to forge some character inside you or stretch you to put something inside of you. Well, if you have talked to God about that, you’re not going to sit there every morning and wake up and say, “Oh Lord, please end this storm.”
You’re going to look at the storm and say, “Lord, this is painful and this is hard, but I know you’re doing something inside of me. And so let’s keep talking about how my character is being shaped and formed.” You’re not going to ask Him for that. Do you see what I mean about how when you talk to God about things it will change what you ask for? Are you with me on that?
Does that make sense? Think about Jesus for a second, okay? Jesus prayed all the time. I mean, just read it in the scriptures. All the time — withdrawing by himself to pray, on the mountainside, pulling away from the crowd. He is praying all the time, but read the gospels. Jesus very rarely asks the Father for something. He almost always is talking to the Father. It’s conversation. They’re processing everything. And because they talk about everything, Jesus is in 100% alignment with the Father. And because he is aligned he walks in incredible authority and anointing. They talk about everything, which aligns him with the Father’s heart. So now he walks in this incredible authority and anointing. In fact, John tells us that Jesus only went where he saw the Father going, did what he saw the Father doing, and said what he heard the Father saying. How did Jesus know where the Father wanted to go, what he wanted to do, and what he wanted to say? Because he processed everything with the Father. And the more he talked with the Father, the more he understood the Father’s will and the Father’s heart. And so because he was aligned, he had authority and anointing. That’s why when you read the gospels and Jesus is walking down the road and he sees a blind man on the side of the road, he just looks at the man and says, “Receive your sight.” Did it ever bother anybody that Jesus doesn’t pray for miracles? Receive your sight. Boom, the guy can see. No prayer. How about the little girl that has died? Jesus walks into the room, takes her by the hand and says, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” Boom, she gets up. He never prays. Or how about the man on a mat. “Son, take heart. Your sins are forgiven. Pick up your mat and walk.” Boom! The guy gets up and walks. Jesus never prays. How about when he is in the boat with the disciples and the storm is raging around them? And they wake him up and he looks around and he just says, “Quiet and be still”, and the all the wind and all the waves just stop. He never prays.
How about this one, the feeding of the 5,000? Jesus takes the loaf of bread and he breaks it, and it says he gives thanks to the Father. He just gives thanks. Jesus doesn’t — I was thinking about this. He doesn’t sit there and say, “Dear Lord, I need you to show up big today. I’ve got five loaves and two fish and 5,000 people here. If you don’t show up, this ain’t going to look good for any of us.”
“I need you to move. I need you to do something.” He gives thanks, breaks the bread, and 5,000 people are fed. Why? Because he had already talked to the Father. He processed with the Father what the Father wanted to do. He didn’t have to ask. He walked in kingdom authority and in kingdom anointing. I was thinking about you and me. I was like — okay, maybe this is just me, but I bet this is most of us. I’m trying to make myself feel better here. We’ll associate all of us.
I’m walking down the road and I see the blind man. There’s a couple of us. We’re like a little small group. We see the blind man. [Laughs] We run to him and we’re like, “Oh man, what shall we do?” We start cuddling up together and talking like, “Okay, did you have your devotions today? Okay, good. Did you? You did not? You have to leave. Go, go.”
“Okay, you had your devotions? Okay, we’ve all had our devotions. Now we probably need to confess our sin. Any sin you need to confess, because God doesn’t answer prayers if you aren’t confessing? Okay everybody, blind men, is there anyone confess sin in your life or this thing ain’t going to work, man? You need to say it. You need to say it now.” And so we all confess our sin. And then we’re going to anoint him with oil, but not with any oil from Walmart. I mean, this is oil from Israel because we’ve got to make sure we got the right stuff. And so we anoint him with oil and kind of look at each other. Like, alright, assume the position. And everybody goes, “Hmm.”
Because for some reason we think God answers prayers more with our eyes closed, hands folded and heads bowed because it really says that somewhere in the Bible, but we’re not sure. We just believe it. And so everybody, don’t look around because God might not — just don’t look around.
Okay, and then we pray something like this. We’d say, “Dearest Lordeth, I beseecheth thee on this fineth day. If it be thou will, would you healeth this poor maneth? If it is not thy will thou Father, we will understandeth since you are soverigneth. Do your will, Father.” Come on man, are you serious?
But that’s what we do, like some kind of crazy version of that instead of just talking and processing life with the Father beforehand. When you talk with the Father you get in alignment with Him, and when you’re in alignment with Him you can bring heaven to earth wherever you go. You can release the power of the kingdom of God wherever you go. You don’t have to stop and have a whole little prayer session over these things that are happening in life. You’re just walking with God and He has already told you what He is up to. I think we ask God to do things for us that He has already given us the authority and the anointing to do. Those are some of the worst moments in, I think, our Christian journey because we’re doubting God. Or we ask God to do things that are inconsistent with His heart. That’s why Jesus prayed, not to ask but to talk about. And at the end of the day the whole point of why we pray is to get to know God and so God can get to know us. You’ve probably heard this said before, that you can know all about God without knowing God. Did you ever hear that? It was the Pharisees. They knew everything there was to know about Jesus and the Father, but they didn’t actually know Him. Do you understand God can know all about you without knowing you? That He can know more about you than you actually know about yourself. He can know the number of hairs on your head, everything about you, but not know you. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 7. “Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive our demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you away from me.””
Does that verse scare anybody? That verse scares me. People are doing ministry for Jesus and Jesus says, “I never knew you.” He didn’t say, “I don’t know about you.” He says, “I don’t know you.” Why? Because they never let him in. They never invited him into the recesses of their heart. They never had a conversation with him. They never shared their fears and failures and insecurities. They never invited God out on to the trust bridge of life and say, “Let’s cross this thing and really get to know each other in new and deep and intimate ways.” You see, you and I, we think prayer is about asking for all this stuff. God sees prayer is a way for us to get to know each other. We think prayer is about talking about all these things around us. God sees prayer as talking about what’s in here. He wants you to tell him what’s in here, and He wants to tell you His secrets and what’s in His heart. Just think for a second. Are you with me on all this?
Think for a second of some of the people in the Bible that we would say knew God the best. Okay? Think of Abraham. Bible calls Abraham a friend of God. Would that not be an awesome nickname if God Himself nicknamed you a friend of God? Why? Because they talked all the time. Abraham and God constantly in conversations. Abraham shares with God his disillusionment of not being able to have a child. God shares with Abraham the unknown of the future and where He is going to lead Abraham. God and Abraham talk about the secret covenant that God is going to bless Abraham to be a blessing to the world, and Jesus is going to come through that lineage. They sat there and processed everything. Abraham knew God, and God knew Abraham. Think about Moses. Exodus 33:11 says, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a man would speak to his friend.” That sure doesn’t sound like asking for a whole lot of things. That sounds like a friendship, where you sit down and you talk about what’s going on and what’s in your heart.
Read the story of Moses. Him and God talked together about how they’re going to free the Israelites from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Moses — after Aaron and Mariam, his brother and sister betrays him, Moses sits there and he processes out his feelings with the Lord. I’m sharing these with you because these are real life things that happened to us and these men, they talked to God about it. Moses had so many conversations with God that at one point he got God to change his mind, the Bible says. God was ready to destroy the Israelites and Moses stopped Him and said, “Lord, I think you can have more glory if you give them a second chance.” God changes his mind. How about this one? Moses looks at God and says, “Show me your glory.” Are you that bold to look at God and say, “Show me your glory?” The only way you can be that bold is if you really know somebody. You don’t ask for their deepest, most intimate secrets unless you know them and they know you. They talked about everything. Moses knew God, and God knew Moses. How about David? A man after God’s own heart, the Bible says. More than anybody else David probably exemplifies what prayer is all about and talking with God. Read the Psalms. He talked about everything — struggles, failures, fears, insecurities, running from Saul, hiding in caves, parenting problems. David feels so comfortable with God that he starts cursing his enemies to God and at one point says, “Lord, break the teeth in their very mouth and may they melt away like a slug.”
You know you feel comfortable with somebody when you just let it fly like that out of your heart. “May you melt like a slug.” I mean, come on. [Laughs] Right? He poured out his heart to the Lord. And what David did was he confessed sin to God. See if you can catch this. As followers of Jesus we don’t confess sin to be forgiven. Okay? We’re already the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We are forgiven. We confess sin to have an intimate relationship with God.
We confess our sin to Him because if I will share with Him the deepest, darkest, blackest part of my heart, will I not then share with Him everything else? If I let Him in to that place that I won’t let anybody else in my life into and I share with Him, He just got to the deepest part of knowing me. It changes everything. See, these guys in the Bible, they didn’t ask God for all these things. They talked about everything. They gave their heart to God, and God gave His heart back to them. And when you have God’s heart you literally have everything. So my question for you is, do you feel like you know God and do you feel like God knows you? Okay? That’s what prayer is all about. And so in 2014 as we’re stepping in to New Year’s resolutions, anybody got a new year’s resolution? Come on, anybody got a new year’s resolution? Like, three of us? Come on, man.
Go for some change, new things. Let’s do this, alright. Well, this isn’t going to work if you don’t have a new year’s resolution, what I’m about to say. Most of us, not really not in this room some of us in this room have some new year’s resolutions getting healthy or spiritual life or spending time with our kids or a new job. Whatever it is, what if this year our new year’s resolution was to just talk to God more? What if that was the main resolution? “I’m just going to talk to God this year.” Matthew 6:33 — “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and everything else will be added on to you.” Put Him first. Talk to Him. He will take care of everything else. In other words, talking to God is the solution for all your new year’s resolutions. That was good, come on.
No, I wasn’t. That doesn’t work at Valley Creek. That’s not our kind of preaching. But it’s really true because if you would just talk to God, He changes your desires. He changes your direction. He gives you the discipline to actually make the change in your life. Let’s stop talking about God and start talking to God. But the only way to do that is to reorder your life.
You have to create space to talk to God. That’s the thing we struggle with the most. Our busy, fast-paced, hectic lives especially in this area are the biggest enemies to living a prayer filled life, to taking time to talk. This is why I think we just ask God for things all the time, because we don’t have time to sit and listen to His response. I’ve got enough time to throw something up. Say, “Lord, I got a big meeting today. I need you to show up and bless me.” Boom! I’m out the door. I don’t have time to say, “Hey Lord, what do you want to do in the meeting today?” Hello?
Sometimes you’ve got to sit and wait on the Lord. It’s like any real relationship in your life. If you’re going to be intimate and go deep, it takes time. It takes waiting. It takes talking. So we have to reorder our lives. Listen to what Jesus says. Matthew 9:17 — “Neither do men pour new wine into old wine skins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wine skins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wine skins, and both are preserved.” What in the world is Jesus talking about with wine and wine skins? Basically here’s what Jesus says. You can’t put new wine into an old wine skin. You pour it in, it will explode the old wineskin, and everything will be ruined. In other words, Jesus says the new life he wants to give us always takes a new lifestyle. You can’t put God’s new life in your old lifestyle. It will come in and it will explode it. It just does not work. New life needs a new lifestyle. It can only be maintained or received within changing things, reordering things, creating space. That’s why we’ve changed the service order here at Valley Creek. If you were here a few weeks ago, I explained this whole thing to you, how we want to create space for God this year. And we think God wants to move, and so we’ve reordered the service. We’ve created space. One of the things we’ve done is put the link at the beginning, so you don’t get an infomercial right in the middle of the service, which means you’ve got to shop on time if you want to hear what’s happening around here or you will miss it. That’s just up to you. But we’ve put it at the beginning to create space.
We’ve created more time for you to do when Ben said, actually engage each other and say hi and get to know people and get familiar with who sits in your section, because you’re all creatures of habit. We all sit in the same seats. So get to know the people around you. Then what we’ve done, probably the biggest thing is put giving at the end, because we think giving is a response to meeting with the Lord. And no longer there is no passing of baskets here at Valley Creek for a couple of things, and I explained this a few weeks ago. One is, we never want people who don’t know Jesus to have a basket passed to them, because it is an unintended consequence that they will feel like an obligation to give. When people who don’t know Jesus walk in here, Jesus doesn’t want them to give. He wants them to receive. We’ve got to posture and position our somebodies to be prepared to come in and receive what God wants to do. And the other reason we don’t want to give is because it’s — to pass the basket is because it’s right in the middle of our service, which then implies that you have to give money to meet with Jesus. Like, how much? Do I want a dollar’s worth of Jesus today or $5 worth?
Maybe I will take some money from Jesus today.
So it’s free to meet with Jesus. Jesus has already paid the cost to walk into the presence of God. And we never want anybody else to think otherwise. So giving is going to be a response. Now when you leave there’s boxes at the doors for those of you who give your ties and your offerings, it’s on you now as a response, as part of your worship experience here to walk up and say, “Lord, I’m giving this to you because I trust you. Your paths drip with abundance. Why would I not give fist to you and give back what you have given to me? Your paths drip with abundance. I can’t wait to see where you’re going to take me. That’s a reordering, so God can move. You need to reorder your life if you want God to move. You’ve got to create space if you want to hear His voice. That’s why together as a church we’re starting next week, 21 days of prayer and fasting. Okay? We’re going to start 21 days of prayer and fasting together to create space, to seek God together.
Let me read you this one last thing and I’m just about done. Matthew 6, Verse 16 says this. It says, “When you fast” — okay? When you fast, not if you fast; when you fast. It doesn’t say when you diet, when you fast. You know that fasting without prayers is just dieting. But since you don’t have New Year’s resolutions you don’t have to worry about that.
When you fast — so he implies it’s something good for us, Jesus says. When Jesus implies you’re going to do something, it’s because he knows. It’s his path that drips with abundance. “So when you fast do not look somber as hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they’re fasting. I tell you the truth. They have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head, wash your face so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your father who is unseen. And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Fasting has nothing to do with anyone else in your life. It has everything to do with you and God. That’s what he says. Fasting is simply giving something up to spend time with God. It’s creating space in your life to engage and encounter and converse with the living God of the universe, who wants to hear what’s on your heart and wants to share with you what’s on His heart. And I love what he says. It’s an invitation for the Father to reward you. How will He reward you if you do 21 days of prayer and fasting? I don’t know. Maybe its provision He will give you. Maybe it’s a new vision for your life. Maybe He will show you your next step. Maybe you will get breakthrough in that area you’ve been dying for breakthrough. Maybe you will get some revelation in an area you need revelation. Maybe it’s physical healing He wants to bring it to you. I don’t know. I just know this. The Bible says God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. That’s what fasting is. It’s giving up something in my life to say, “Lord, I’m tuning back into you. I’ve been wayward. I’ve been numb maybe or apathetic or not really interested. It’s just become routine. Okay, I’m going to give something up and I’m going to focus in on you and hear what you want to say to me.”
So practically you’re like, “What does that mean?” Maybe it means every day for 21 days instead of having lunch with your coworkers you don’t each lunch and you go for a walk and you talk to God. Maybe it means every morning instead of having 20 minutes and a cup of coffee you give up the cup of coffee — you give up the cup of coffee and you spend 20 minutes reading the Bible and talking to God. Maybe instead of spending a bunch of time on Facebook or social media at night you do a social media fast and say, “I’m not really interested in what everyone else has to say right now. I’m really interested in what God has to say.” Maybe it’s doing a TV fast or something like that where it’s giving something up. And here is the thing. Give up something that’s hard for you to give up. Don’t be like me saying, “I’m going to give up broccoli for this fast.”
So hard guys. I don’t know if I can make it. I hate broccoli. Fast something that’s hard for you to give up, because every time you crave it, it’s supposed to remind you that our hearts long and crave for Jesus. That’s fasting. And the reality is that if you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you always got. If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got. If you like what you’ve been getting, keep doing what you’re doing. If you want something to be different, you’ve got to make some change. You’ve got to create some space for God in your life. Listen, Coleen and I in our busy, fast-paced life with two little kids, we have to create space to talk. We don’t get to have real conversations in the middle of the day or at night when we get home from work, because I’ve got one kid crawling on me. This kid wants to play Legos. This one wants to do princesses. This one is hungry. We’re cooking food. The TV is on. There’s so much happening that to try to have a real conversation with Coleen is a joke. We’ve got to create space and sit down and talk.
Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we joke. Sometimes we’re serious. Sometimes we’re processing vision. Sometimes we’re talking about conflict and difficulties. Sometimes we’re mushy. I mean, you just got to create space in order to converse with one another. The same is true with God. And I believe if you have the courage to do this at the beginning of the year, I think God has got something great for you. New wine needs a new wine skin. His new life only works in a new lifestyle. And I realize some of you, you’ve never done this before. That’s okay. That’s okay. We do it together. That’s why we are a church. That’s why you don’t go and have your own fasting plans all the time. We do it together. We’re a church, and we’re going to encourage each other more. We’re going to walk through it. For those of you that need breakthrough and you feel like it’s dull and you’re apathetic towards the Lord, this is your chance to break through and experience something new in Him. What might the Lord want to say to you this year? Because one word from God will change everything. That’s prayer. Not asking for all these things; it’s talking about things. Getting to know and being known, that’s when we walk in authority and anointing. That’s when great things happen in our lives. So will you close your eyes with me? What do you sense the Holy Spirit just saying to you tonight? First service of 2014 and the spirit of the Lord is in this place, and He wants to talk to you. I think for some of us the Lord is saying this is a year especially in church gatherings where He doesn’t want you to just talk about Him or hear about Him. He wants you to talk to Him.
And He is going to talk back. Some of you are hearing the voice of the Lord for the first time right now in your hearts. He is whispering something to you. If you feel it bubbling up from the inside of you, it’s the Lord whispering to you. His voice is encouraging. It’s life-giving. It’s building. It’s full of love. It gets rid of all the fear in our lives. It’s not condemning or shame-inducing. God’s voice is kind and compassionate. Maybe this is a week that you just spend this week talking to God. Just ask — say, “Lord, this week I want to hear from you whether or not you want me to fast and pray for 21 days.” Just ask the Lord. I’m not telling you that you have to do it. Don’t do it if the Lord is telling you not to do it. Ask the Lord. “Lord, do you want me to fast and pray, give something up to seek you for these 21 days? And if you want me to fast and pray, what do I need to fast, Lord? What’s the plan that you have for us? Where do you want me to meet you? How do you want me to seek you? What do you want me to give me to focus on you? That’s what I’ll do, Lord.” And I promise you, if you just start before we even start fasting next week — and this starts next weekend, I’ll explain all of it to you in detail. It will be all next week. Don’t worry about it. But if you’re already prepared and ready to go, you’re going to be ready to hit the gate running, seeking after the Lord with everything that you’ve got. So Lord Jesus, we just proclaim and declare that you crown the year with goodness and your paths drip with abundance. And we choose to walk down your path of abundance to fast and pray, to seek you first at the beginning of this year. And we say, “Lord, teach us to pray.” God, we’re humble enough, we’re broken enough, we’re open enough to say we don’t know how to do it, but you do.
So teach us, Lord. Teach us how to hear your voice and speak to you. May this be the year where we learn how to have a personal, passionate, and powerful prayer life just like Jesus did. Lord, we love you in this place. We bless you this year. We choose to take next steps and follow you. And we’re believing for great things in store. We have hope in following a great God who is going to lead us to great things. Can you receive that, church? Let’s believe it. Let’s live it. Let’s have a great year with the Lord. If you’re here and you need prayer for anything, we’re going to have people up here to pray for you. Maybe you need some prayer for something going on in your life. Let them pray for you. If you’re new to Valley Creek Church, we’d love to invite you to Guest Central, which is right out these doors. As a way of reminder for those of you that give tithes and offerings, there’s boxes at the doors. We’ve got more ordered, so don’t worry about it if it takes a second. That’s where we want you to give your tithes and your offerings. But I pray you go rejoicing this week, talking to God about everything in your life. Blessings.