“GO GET YOUR BALL!”

IMG_3029We have the most adorable King Charles Cavalier who has stolen my heart over the last year and a half. He is kind, loyal, cuddly, obedient (mostly), and always so happy to see me. Cavies aren’t known for being the smartest dogs on the planet, but he does few tricks we have taught him and he seems to know what’s going on at all times.

I’ve never been one for lots of clutter with kids toys and I’m the same when it comes to Nolan, our dog. He typically only has one toy at a time and it gets replaced when he chews it up. The first toy he ever had was a rope with a ball attached to it and we trained him to “GO GET YOUR BALL!” whenever it was time to play. When we bought a new toy, it didn’t have a ball attached to it, but we kept on saying, “GO GET YOUR BALL!” and he knew exactly what we were talking about.

Now, after about a dozen toys from stuffed chickens to a snorting pig, to various types of ropes, Nolan knows what we mean when we lie to him and tell him, “GO GET YOUR BALL!” He is now destined to look stupid in front of all his dog friends as well as ours when he mistakenly goes and gets his toy even though it rarely includes a ball. The only way this will change is if we take the time and energy to re-teach him, to work with him to show him the truth. We have no plans to do so; therefore, Nolan will live with this lie for the rest of his little doggie life.

How many of us are living with a lie each and every day? We walk around oblivious to its deception and sometimes even other people see us buying into its power. The Bible says that the enemy is a liar and that he is constantly prowling around trying to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). You may not be chasing a silly rope around the house, but you’re chasing the approval of a parent or a boss because you believe their opinion matters more than it does (a lie). You aren’t looking in the laundry room for a squeaky toy, but you’re looking in the mirror believing you’re not beautiful or that you need some work to be more valuable (a lie).

Oh, you’re not a silly dog looking for a ball that’s really a stuffed animal under the sofa, but you’re reflecting on past mistakes believing you’ve missed your opportunity for success or that you’ll never amount to anything. You’re probably not wasting time running in circles and panting but you might be going around the same mountains in your failed relationships based on false pretenses.

I’m not interested in enlightening my fluffy dog, but I AM interested in encouraging YOU today:

You don’t have to chase after a lie.

No matter what anyone has told you in the past or what you’ve even told yourself, you are made in God’s image and you are worth everything. You’re unique and lovely and have as much potential as anyone who has changed the world before you. You can chase after Jesus and find truth at every turn. You can run into hurdles, get locked out of opportunities or even make the wrong call with everyone watching.

Your owner is Jesus, who bought you with a high price, his very own life and blood. And, he finds you worthy enough to give you a clear path of second chances and unlocked doors. And that’s no lie.

“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32 MSG)

Day 21: “Keep Going.”

come-like-rainTo paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Philippians, “[You’ve] got your eye on the goal, where God is beckoning [you] onward – to Jesus. [You’re] off and running, not turning back.” The 21 Day fast is coming to an end, but you will continue to benefit from a vibrant relationship with God.

This relationship is two ways, however. It’s often said that God is a gentleman, never pushing his way in or demanding anything from you. James promises that God will come close to you when you come close to him.

You must acknowledge him and shift your thoughts towards him daily in order to experience his refreshing. Faith brings full assurance when you draw near to God with a sincere heart (Hebrews 10:22). In other words, you can count on your faithful God; but, it’s difficult to trust someone you don’t talk to or spend time with.

“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it”(Philippians 3:15-16 MSG).

“Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

Day 20: “Abide in Him.”

vine-and-branchesYou are setting yourself up for a rewarding 2017 as you have given this first part of your year to God through prayer and fasting. You have experienced a form of pruning as you have denied yourself something over the last three weeks. Now, you will see a prolific harvest in your spiritual life as your fruitfulness multiplies.

You must abide in the vine in order to experience the fulness of what God has in store for you. His beautiful reminder in John 15 is that you must remain in Christ to bear fruit. As you rest in Christ’s love and stay connected to him and his word, nothing is impossible.

Attach yourself to him like a child attached to a mother’s breast. Hook up to his word as if your life depends on it. Let your church family be the fertiliser that enriches the soil of your life so that every area yields a by-product of Jesus.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” (John 15:4 MSG)

Day 19: “Be the light.”

be-the-lightAs you mature in your faith and continue to pursue God, your life reflects his glory. God is on your lips, in everyday conversations. This time of prayer and fasting has created new habits for you and you have received revelation of who God is in your life.

Do people around you know that you are a Christ follower? Have you stepped out to encourage someone by sharing what Jesus means to you? You may be surprised at how open others actually are towards him when you make known the goodness of your God.

Remember, no one can take away your personal testimony of how Jesus has touched you. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or have all the answers in order to shine the light of Christ.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG)

Day 18: “Children are God’s Best Gift.”

fearfully-madeToday’s children are bombarded with more information than any previous generation. Just go to a shopping mall you’ll see iPads strapped to prams and realise even two year olds are filtering messages coming at them at breakneck speeds. The pace doesn’t slow as they get older.

The most important data young people need is God’s word which tells them they are precious in his sight. An urgent affirmation of the Lord’s plan for them is due.  Timely reminders that they aren’t in your way nor too naive to make a difference.

Today, focus on praying for the children and youth in your life. Maybe they live with you… Look them in the eyes and say, “God loves and cherishes you. You are SO SPECIAL and worthy of love, perfectly made in his image and fully equipped to change the world.”

If you have grandchildren, nieces and nephews, kids at church over whom you have influence, don’t take your position for granted. The world will tell them everything they aren’t and will reinforce what they lack. As Christian leaders, parents, grandparents, you have a responsibility to speak and pray into the lives of the precious ones in your life.

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!
 (Psalm 127:3-4 MSG)

Day 17: “Marriages Matter.”

loveSocieties flourish when families flourish. Families thrive when marriages are healthy. And, unconditional love is at the centre of a strong marriage. 1 John 3:18 encourages us to love not with words or speech, but with actions and truth.

How can you show love to your spouse today? First, begin by praying for him or her. If you’re not married, pray for your future spouse or for important marriages in your life. Seek to look at your partner through God’s eyes today. It’s important to have him at the centre of your marriage. As each person seeks to know Jesus more intimately, intimacy grows between the couple.

You may not be married to a fellow believer. Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to your spouse through your selfless actions of love. Ask him to reveal himself to your partner in creative ways.

Pray that marriages within the church will be strengthened. Ask God to give help those who may be struggling.

The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24 MSG)

Day 16: “Pray for the Church.”

build-churchThe collective body of Christ is a most powerful force when believers gather to worship, pray, serve, and spread the message of Christ. Most of the New Testament was written to churches and God still does his greatest work on earth through his church.

Today, pray for the church. She is being persecuted in many parts of the world; however, Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against her. What the church stands for isn’t always popular with mainstream culture. It never has been. Let us pray for wisdom for church leaders. Pray that the church will treat people well and that its reputation as a hospital for the sick will override any idea that it would be a country club for the already healed.

Pray that communities will find love, acceptance and hope through local churches. Pray that churches will have the resource in both people and finance needed to reach those whom God has purposed for them to reach. As the light of Christ shines through his beautiful bride, the church, God is glorified.

“At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Ephesians 1:23 MSG)