Day 12: “Peace. In Church.”

Photo: avante.biz

A communion of saints, gathering of believers, a company with a cause to fulfil the Great Commission: The Church on Earth. In Moses’ time, great value was placed on the tabernacle as sacrifices were made and festivals celebrated. The temple of the Old Testament was the location of profound teachings and gatherings. The early church came into existence in the New Testament after Jesus’ death and resurrection. God, over and over again, uses flawed people to come together to worship, learn, encourage, eat, and pray. Those people are his Plan A for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the Earth.

The church equips the saints to do the work of the ministry. Diversity in age and experience among God’s people brings the tapestry of each one together in beauty and purpose. Unfortunately, churches can also be a source of heartache and dysfunction as many of you seek to find a perfect place without problems or strife. As long as the church is full of people, it will never be absent of problems.

The Bible promises blessing to flow when you live together in unity:

“How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:1-3 (NIV)

You may not agree on every theological point with your fellow Christians in a different denomination. Your style of worship may look loud and “free;” or, perhaps it’s reserved and quiet. The source of your lyrics – hymnals or power points? Does it really matter?

God’s church is alive and well on the earth and it deserves all our focus and attention today.

Pray for your pastors and leaders in church. Pray for its specific vision and purpose to be carried out. Ask God to bring peace where there is discord. Truce in disagreement. Jesus considers the church a spotless bride for whom he will come back one day. He loves the church and it’s worth fighting for in prayer today.

“I hope to visit you soon, but just in case I’m delayed, I’m writing this letter so you’ll know how things ought to go in God’s household, this God-alive church, bastion of truth. This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough:
He appeared in a human body,
was proved right by the invisible Spirit,
was seen by angels.
He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples,
believed in all over the world,
taken up into heavenly glory.”

1 Timothy 3:14-16
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Day 13: “Pray for Your Pastor”

bold

Who comes to mind when you think, “bold” or “courageous?” An Army ranger going into battle or an astronaut into space?  Maybe a single mum or someone battling cancer?

What about your Pastor?

Today, pray for your spiritual leaders. All of hell wants to come against the work they do. They live in a glass house with everyone watching how they act, what they say, what they buy, and how their kids are turning out.

They often balance administrating finances and budgets with seeking God for a word for the next sermon. They juggle a desire to meet everyone’s needs with the pressing obligations of their own families.

Pastors and leaders in churches all over the world have given their lives up in service to others. They love what they do and are passionate about the Kingdom. They pray for you constantly and love until their hearts break. They seek God continually and desire to reflect and represent him well.

Knowing you’re behind them with your own dispatch to heaven will shore them up. Your encouragement and belief in them will continue to make them brave as they go into battle. When you pray for them, you’re praying for your own spiritual covering and blessing as you reap the fruit of their labour in your church and ministry alongside them.

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to appreciate those who diligently work among you [recognise, acknowledge, and respect your leaders], who are in charge over you in the Lord and who give you instruction, and [we ask that you appreciate them and] hold them in the highest esteem in love because of their work [on your behalf]. Live in peace with one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 AMP).

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)

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 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.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day NINE

Read John 15:1-17

If you know anything about gardening, you know that pruning causes more growth in future. Giving up something for a fast is sort of like pruning back your own life so that you can bear more fruit. Sometimes pruning hurts temporarily, but the payoff is great when the crops are ready. By devoting extra time to prayer and fasting, you are doing what Jesus commands by “remaining in the vine.”

A branch without a vine makes no sense. There’s no life or fruit if we detach from our source. If we are cut off completely from Christ, we wither and die spiritually. We must remain connected in order to produce a harvest in our life.

One of the ways we remain connected to Christ is by connecting with a local church. The body of believers nourishes us like good fertiliser. It strengthens us by watering us regularly with the word and corporate worship. As we produce fruit in our lives, we are able to share it with anyone willing to partake. We bear fruit financially and it feeds those who come and find abundant life in Christ too. We bear fruit through stewarding the gifts and talents inside of us and we offer it up sacrificially to bless the whole church and serve others.

Ultimately, we blossom for the sole purpose of glorifying God and witnessing to others the goodness of God so they can come to know Him too.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the ultimate gardener. I trust you as one branch among your great vine to prune me when necessary in order that I might bear more fruit. I pray that every area of my life would bring glory to you as I remain connected. I commit to connection to you personally and to your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day EIGHT

Read Matthew 16:13-20 (MSG)

*Beginning today, we will spend time each day during week TWO of our fasting to specifically pray for the church.

Ultimately, as we focus on God during our time of prayer and fasting to kick off the New Year, we are seeking a deeper revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation just means gaining new insight into his character and nature. The disciples who walked with Jesus were no different. Daily, they were gaining revelation into who Jesus was and out of that flowed their own identity and purpose.

Jesus applauded Simon Peter for understanding him as the Messiah and made a declaration of who Peter was in turn. Jesus exhorted Peter and told him that it was upon HIM that Jesus would build his church and that not even the gates of hell could destroy it. We can walk in confidence today knowing it’s God who ultimately builds his church and nothing will stop it.

That’s pretty exciting!

God is continuing his work on this earth today through his church. There’s nothing else like it and we, at Lift Church, have such a privilege and honour to be a part of it. Let us take our personal revelation of who Christ is a step further and allow him to build his church through us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me new insight and revelation into who you are during this fast. I pray specifically today that you will continue to build your church to be strong and mighty across the earth. Specifically, I pray for LIFT Church: I ask you to bless and grow it further so that we can make a difference in our city, reaching people for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.