church, Fasting, Lift Church, Newcastle, Series

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.

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Fasting Devotion, Day Twenty-One

Ephesians 5:25-33

What a great passage to reflect upon as Paul describes The Church, the Bride of Christ! He beautifully illustrates a spotless bride, prepared for Christ’s return. We know a woman preparing for one of the best days of her life, her wedding, goes to great lengths to ready herself. Head to toe, nothing lacks attention as she awaits the moment when everyone she loves will focus their gaze upon her. Her bridegroom waiting at the altar, glowing with anticipation and desire.

Each of us as believers have the honour of building the local church. The same attention a bride would give to her wedding day should be given as we represent Christ’s bride. He desires that his church is without stain or blemish. As we work in unity together, loving one another and serving selflessly, we prepare his church for his return. As our fast draws to an end, let’s continue to grow our relationship with God and endeavour to present his church beautifully, a bride worthy of our Saviour.

Dear God, you have blessed me with your word and revelation during this fast. Thank you for the breakthroughs and insight you have given me. Help me continue this journey of knowing you more. I pray for my church and my involvement there. I want to be an integral part of the thing dearest to your heart, your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Shrug Your Shoulders!

sam_shrug

Discouragement is something we all face at varying times in our lives.  Having unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and sadness.  I would be lying if I told you this last year moving across the world didn’t hold moments of true discouragement for me personally and for my family.

We had a local pastor who questioned our coming with strong statements like, “are you sure you’re called to Newcastle?  We already have a lot of great churches here.”  Great people have visited our church and didn’t return for whatever reason.  That’s always discouraging for me because I think everyone should love our church and want to be a part of it!

I’m sure you all have the regular letdowns of your spouse not meeting certain expectations (is mine the only one who leaves socks all over the house) and/or kids disobeying or deceiving you despite all your good efforts at instilling morals and molding their character.

It’s not “IF” we are going to be discouraged, it’s “WHEN” and the bigger question becomes “HOW” do we deal with it?  At times, I have had big fat pity parties for myself becoming the victim in my own mind about how life isn’t fair and usually blaming others.  If everyone would just “do things my way” life would be so much easier!  That’s not a good approach… it’s self-centered and a set up for more disappointment because I have yet to master the art of controlling other people!  It’s a losing battle that will bring casualties every time.

In the book of Acts, Luke writes the story of the beginnings of the church and many experiences of the first followers of Christ.  It’s like an exciting action movie in parts and if we read the passages carefully, we see extraordinary accounts of persecution and trials that these early church leaders came up against.  Discouragement unlike any most of us have or will ever encounter.

Paul and Barnabas were going about telling people the good news of Jesus and lives were being changed.  Practically the whole city turned up one Sabbath to hear Paul preach.  The message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.  You could say these guys were building the first “mega-church” with great success!  Week after week, the numbers were growing and people were coming their way.

Then, towards the end of Chapter 13, something interesting happens: “Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave. Paul and Barnabas

shrugged their shoulders

and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.” (vs 50 – 52 MSG).

How many times do we have difficult situations (usually involving people) that keep us up at night?  Stomach ulcers ensue from the difficult co-worker who seems out to get us.  Pastors who let financial stress or a conflict in the church cause them to question their call.  Major stress from family members can bring on depression and sadness.

How did Paul and Barnabas seem to move on quickly from this major setback in their ministry?  Momentum was going their way with influence in the city among leaders; momentum that was building the church was suddenly thwarted by some negativity and bad influence.

I believe they shrugged their shoulders (one version says they “dusted off their feet”) and kept moving on the same way we can all move beyond discouragement – by staying full of the Holy Spirit!  Staying in close proximity to our Heavenly Father who loves us no matter what our circumstances.  Keeping a heavenly perspective throughout trials knowing that this world is not our home.  Making sure we aren’t setting people up as our Gods in order to gain approval or fulfillment.

I want to remain FULL OF JOY as ONE HAPPY DISCIPLE no matter what comes my way.  What about you?  How do you stay encouraged?  Feel free to share in the comments section so “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).

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Launch Rewind Video

So thankful for our talented volunteers!  This awesome night was captured beautifully on video.  Check it out:

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Grand Opening

launch team2

Well, this amazing journey of church planting is now entering a new phase.  Last Saturday, May 11, we officially “launched” Lift Church!  This just means we pushed all of our marketing (radio, mass mailers, FB ads) towards this ONE BIG DAY in order to create some critical mass.  And, guess what?  It worked!

Prior to last weekend, our core team has been holding great services with anywhere from 30-60 people in them.  Saturday, we had 161 in attendance and most were first time guests.  Friends and fellow pastors drove from Sydney, Maitland, and Nelson Bay to celebrate with us.  The service itself was very special and we sizzled some sausages while kids ate sugar and ran laps through the jumping castles afterwards!

Most importantly, one lady made a decision to become a Christian and many of our guests experienced church and God in a fresh way that was upLIFTING, pardon the pun, and actually surprising for them.  Many will return and begin this journey of understanding their Creator alongside us.  Now, we have a great foundation on which to build.

On a personal note, I have to share what meant the most to me on the day…

Our family moved to Newcastle 11 months ago from Texas; we didn’t know anyone here.  We came with amazing training from ARC on how to plant a church, money we had raised from supporters in the States, some experience in pastoring, and that’s about it for the tangible pieces.  Everything else we owned was all tied up in the secret places of our hearts.  Our dreams, vision, and burden was alive in us but we felt very alone.  We believed strongly that God had called us and sent us here; however, we really had NO IDEA how we would get our first members.

One family moved here from TX to help us and then suddenly in July, one more approached us and asked if they could come along (which we thought was quite funny as we really weren’t in a position to say NO!)!  Over the next month, we gathered a couple more people which allowed us to begin “living room church” with five families.

As the weeks went on and one by one we added to this core team, shared our vision, and began putting systems in place and holding serves, a significant shift began to occur.  What was once only in OUR hearts, poured out and took root in OTHER PEOPLE’S HEARTS.  What I saw on Saturday, and what made me weep on and off all day (and again as I type), was a group of about

40 “LIFTERS” who were absolutely SOLD OUT to our vision.

They came early and stayed late.

They moved equipment and decorated.

They shopped and planned and cooked and cleaned.

They practiced playing their instruments and singing.

Their kids joined in the labour of love that was about to “LIFT-OFF!”

The enthusiasm was electric and each and every one of them invited friends and family and were so proud of what they, with God’s help, had accomplished.

This, to me, is God’s Church at its best.  Unity and enthusiasm working hand in hand.  A dying to ourselves and a willing sacrifice in order to provide a place of refuge and hope for the lost and hurting.

When we place our gifts in God’s hands and allow them to be used in the local church, there’s no greater example to the world of Christ’s love and character; and THIS, my friends, is why I love the church.

Before Jesus was captured and crucified, he prayed a beautiful prayer for his followers.  Tonight as I reflect on all that is good in my life, I am praying a portion of this same prayer over Lift Church and our amazing team:

“I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.” (John 17:20-23, MSG)

church, Church planting, Lift Church, Pictures, Uncategorized

Watch This!

hillsborough

Having three kids means someone is ALWAYS trying to get my applause.  Brett (11), is constantly learning a new method to solve one of his FIVE Rubik’s cubes and wants to show me.  Sydney (4) is perfecting a trick, dancing ballet, putting on shows, and practicing her letters.  Sam (2)… well, this cheeky little toddler is usually jumping off something or hitting some sort of ball showing off his skills.  He shouts “LOOK-A ME!” and it doesn’t matter what important grown-up task I’m doing at the time, I can’t help but stop everything to see what this bundle of joy is up to now!

Needless to say, a child seeking his parent’s attention and approval is at the very core of his nature.  Our kids aim to please the ones who love them most; they want affirmation and encouragement every step along the way.

I feel like this with my Heavenly Father right now.  Our lives revolve around fulfilling the mandate we’ve been given to build a church here in Newcastle.  At every step, we know God is working on our behalf, supernaturally aligning and drawing people to us.  We are also doing everything we can to “show off” for our God.  At every step, I’m so excited to say,

“Look at this, God!”

“Take notice of what we are doing for you!”

“Watch what we can do as a team!”

“See how amazing we will make your church!”

“Be on the lookout out for how we will please you with our offering!”

The Bible says that “the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB).

God loves us just the way we are and we can’t make him love us any more or less.  However, just like our own kids have the ability to please us, we are equipped to make choices that will please God.  Our task is to “single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and [we’ll] kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above [us] and proving [our] worth to the people around [us].” (Romans 14:18 MSG).

Last weekend, we moved into the school hall Lift Church will call “home” for the next year or more.  Our beautiful team worked tirelessly opening boxes of equipment, setting it all up, training on its use, and then executed a powerful, anointed service that was PLEASING on every level.  We had 53 people and one woman became a Christ follower!

We are gearing up for our advertised May 11 “GRAND-OPENING” and our goal is to fill up our venue with hundreds of people who are hungry to know more about God and His church.  In single-mindedly serving Christ, we believe He is well-pleased.

Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. (2 Cor 5:9 MSG)

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Show Up and Grow Up!

growLife is full of obligations and requirements we don’t feel like doing (think taxes, exercise, going to work, changing nappies).  Sometimes, we get complacent in our relationship with Christ only to find ourselves not feeling like going to church.  We start making excuses and we disconnect from the body of Christ.  Much like someone who puts on 10 kilos of extra weight after weeks of small unhealthy eating choices and too many “snooze-button-mornings” of skipping workouts, we make decisions that not only limit our faith but actually stunt our spiritual growth.

SHOWING UP to God’s house means we increase our odds of  GROWING UP in our faith.

Like anything worth committing to, great rewards come when we attend God’s house week in and week out.  We actually allow God the opportunity to speak to us in new ways; we lead others into His presence through serving; and, we experience life corporately alongside other believers.  I heard a powerful testimony last weekend at Colour Conference in Sydney of a young girl who grew up attending church but struggled to experience God in a miraculous way.  She testifies that she just kept turning up, however.  She never backed down, never gave up seeking God.  And now, she’s grown up and she is actually leading a huge youth ministry impacting thousands of young people.  What if she had stopped showing up?

My own Pastor Lori Champion, has a similar testimony of “showing up” while grieving the sudden traumatic death of her father who was a pastor.  Instead of letting herself go down a path of anger towards God in questioning why this wonderful Godly man could die in the middle of preaching a sermon on a Sunday morning, she just kept getting herself to church.  When she was numb from the pain and grief and didn’t “feel God,” she went anyway.

I run into people all the time who say they love Jesus yet are disconnected from His bride.  This cannot be. Am I saying the only place you experience God is in church?  No.  He is omni-present!  EVERYWHERE!  However, someone saying he wants to be best friends with my husband, but who dislikes me, his wife, probably doesn’t stand a chance at getting close to Greg.  It’s the same with Christ. He is coming back for His church.  His church is his kingdom on Earth, the hope of the world, the place where we find our ultimate fulfillment and calling.  The church is the answer to our community’s problems and needs.  “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 1:20-23 MSG)

So, my friend, wherever you are in your walk with God… let me encourage you:

Show up.  And then Show up again.  People aren’t perfect.  Pastors aren’t either.  The world is full of pain and it’s not God’s fault.  When you’re not happy, go to church.  When you’re hurting, attend anyway.  When you don’t know God and are searching, run to His House and look for Him.  Find a local body of believers and stay when they remind you that Jesus died for you.  Go to a sanctuary where people love you just the way you are.  Connect, dig in, serve, give, and keep showing up.  I promise you that God will meet you there.  And you will grow up your faith and convictions.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG)