2015 Fasting Devotion, Day SIXTEEN

Read Psalm 127:3-5 & Mark 10:13-16

Children are God’s greatest gifts. Unfortunately, too many little ones are exposed to adult problems and difficult home situations. They face bullying at school, an over-abundance of social media and other electronic influences which can warp their self-images and contradict what the Bible says about them. Families are busier than ever and our kids often struggle to have the Godly affection and attention they deserve.

If you have kids in your life – whether they are your own, your grandchildren, those you serve in kids’ church, or just neighbours or friends, let me insure you: they NEED Godly encouragement and wisdom. Jesus took the children into his arms and blessed them; we can and should do the same. Never tire in telling kids God has a plan for their lives. They are unique and special. God gave them each amazing gifts and talents; find out what they are. Tell them to pursue their dreams. Show them love in every circumstance, even when they fail. Teach them to stand tall and confident.

Pray for Godly friends to come into their lives – people who bring out the best in them. Listen to them when they need to talk. Hug often. Tell them they are smart and capable.

Dear God, thank you for placing children in my life whom I can influence. Help me to be led by your spirit to speak the right words at the right times to lift them up and call out their Godly destinies. Show me how I can be used to influence the next generation so they grow up to know their identity in YOU. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day FIFTEEN

Read 1 John 4:7-21

**Today begins our third and final week of corporate fasting and we will concentrate our prayers over the next seven days on our families.

As we lean into God’s voice for direction and wisdom moving forward in 2015, let us place the highest value and commitment on loving our families. John reminds us that by loving each other, we actually reveal God’s character to the world. Since God SO LOVED US, we ought to love one another.

Oh, I know… we all love our kids and our spouses. But, true love is laying our lives down for one another as Christ laid his down for us. Can we love a little more intentionally this week those God has placed in our families? Can we serve our spouses a little more with less strings attached? Can we bless our children with joy despite fatigue or irritation? Let’s put aside negative history with our extended families or parents and reach out.

We are only able to love others because Christ first loved us.

No matter what personal goals we have regarding our careers, health, or finances in this new year, can we commit to loving our spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers? Let’s pray for those we care for most and call out their gifts and uniqueness through kind words and prophecy.

Dear Lord, I want to thank you for my family. For the ones I chose and the ones I didn’t! I commit to obeying your command to love the people in my life just as you love me. I will do my part to serve and bless my family so that you may be glorified. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day FOURTEEN

Read Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 23:4-6, and Isaiah 43:2

(Today’s thought is submitted by Paul O’Rourke.)

These are just a few of the dozens of verses promising God’s strength, peace and protection in the midst of trouble. Being a Christian does not make us immune from various painful and sometimes prolonged challenges.

We live in an increasingly violent world where terrorists purposely seek to strike fear into the hearts of the innocent. The random and barbaric nature of their frequent attacks means it is difficult to avoid danger as those in Martin Place, Sydney and France found as they went about their daily lives.

The frequency and severity of natural disasters can cause us to be fearful. We may fear sickness, pain and death, the loss of our jobs, being abandoned by those we love, financial ruin, violence. These are serious and often legitimate concerns.

However, we have an ever-present and reliable friend and protector who promises to be with us in our time of need. 

God promises never to leave us or reject us; we won’t be faced with temptation or trials that are beyond our ability in Him, to withstand. Repeatedly we are reminded, “Do not be afraid.’’ God is with us, for us, ahead of us, behind us.

Our problems threaten to overwhelm us when we attempt to overcome them in our own strength, or when we see them as bigger and stronger than God’s promises. We must stay grounded in the Word. God is trustworthy and we must renew our minds daily to strengthen ourselves. We must fill ourselves with eternal truth rather than the world’s negativity; that’s what we are doing during our fast, hopefully forming a habit that will continue beyond 21 days.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the extraordinary peace that guards my heart and mind when I focus on you and your promises. I bring to you my real concerns but I lay them at your feet and refuse to let them dominate my mind or control my behaviour. Thank you for your provision and protection. Give me wisdom to lay aside anything that is out of my control. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day THIRTEEN

Read Acts 16:16-40

Sometimes life brings situations your way that have you feeling trapped. You may not be physically incarcerated unjustly like the Apostle Paul in this story in Acts. But, you can feel stuck in a job you hate, held captive by a diagnosis, bound by people around you who seem to drag you down. The best way out of any stronghold is through worship and prayer as Paul and Silas have shown.

You can’t control what problems life brings your way and Jesus himself told us this world would bring troubles, but you CAN control your response to your pain. Worshipping God means declaring his goodness, putting him in FIRST PLACE in your life, telling him how much you love Him for what he has done in your life, exalting HIS name above every problem you face. If you can form a habit of worshipping God and praying through every trial you face, you will experience a freedom like Paul felt when the physical shackles fell from his body.

The beauty of living a God-centered life is that people around you will witness God’s faithfulness to you; they too can be set free.

Jesus, you are worthy of all my praise and affection. I honour you above everything in my life and worship you now despite any trouble I am facing. I trust you will be faithful to release me from bondage so that I can walk in freedom. Knowing my eternity is secure with you means I can face anything life throws my way. Use me to minister to others in my world and in my church as I experience your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TWELVE

Read Matthew 13:1-9

(Today’s thought is submitted by Pastor Greg.)

As we continue to pray and fast, the word of God is being sown into our hearts. We can determine what sort of result comes from the seed being scattered based on the condition of our hearts. For example, if we let any sort of sin take up residence inside of us, our hearts are hardened and it’s not likely that the seeds will take root. We must keep ourselves soft and fertile for God’s word to take root and produce a harvest in our lives.

This week, we continue to focus our prayer on the local church. When the church is full of healthy people growing in their walk with God, the “soil” of a church is healthy and full of nutrients as well. When we foster a culture of love, humility, growth, acceptance, honour, servanthood, giving, and leadership, we actually create an environment where people can prosper and reap a harvest in Christ. Let’s aim to remain in a healthy place where God can do what he wills in us personally and corporately as a church body. We will see thirty, sixty and a hundredfold blessing as Jesus declares.

Lord, cultivate the soil of my heart in order to produce the righteousness of Christ. Let every seed being sown in this time of fasting fall upon fertile ground within me. God I thank you that I am planted in my church and I pray I will fully mature and see a harvest both personally and in others alongside me. Amen

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day ELEVEN

Read Philippians 3

You are at the halfway point of our 21 day fast! If you’re fasting some type of food, your body may be used to going without and it may not seem like the same sacrifice it was on the first few days. If you’re fasting something else, a new habit is forming in its place and it may not seem difficult to keep giving it up. If you aren’t careful, you can begin to place confidence in your own efforts.

With any type of “religious” activity, we must guard against patting ourselves on the back and calling ourselves righteous. We have to keep at the forefront of our minds why we started fasting in the first place. The apostle Paul puts it beautifully as he lists all the reasons he could boast of his own efforts. Yet, he considers everything he ever did in the name of religion worthless compared to knowing Christ. We aren’t made righteous by obeying rules, fasting, spending extra time in prayer, church attendance, etc. We become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ and the work HE has done on the cross for us.

What a relief! Let us press on in our heavenly race towards the prize that is Christ. Our time of fasting and prayer isn’t familiar, boring, or a second thought, rather it’s a way to know Jesus more and experience and relate to Christ in everything we do.

Dear Lord Jesus, give me strength to continue with my fast. In doing so, I ask that you help me to keep the main thing the main thing… YOU! Rid me of any pride or false sense of accomplishment and check my motives and heart condition. I press on towards the upward call that is Christ Jesus. I want more of you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TEN

Read Psalm 68:1-6

(Today’s thought is contributed by Janine O’Rourke.)

Mother Teresa once said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

Working in retail, I have become aware of how many lonely people there are around us. As I’ve asked different ones about their Christmas or New Year, so many spend either or both on their own. I have been moved with compassion for them as these are the times we spend with family and friends.

As we go about our busy schedules, rubbing shoulders and trolleys with these lonely ones, pray for them to be set in families and communities that embrace and care for them. We must shine forth the bright morning star who dwells within us; it might be the only Christ they meet.

Heavenly Father, I pray today for everyone who is lonely in our community. I ask that they would somehow experience your love through one of your followers. You say you set the lonely in families. I ask that they would find a place in a loving church family. You are the perfect father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.