Day 21: “Smile at the Future”

she laughs

Laughter – good medicine. Nothing like a big belly laugh when you hear a funny joke or your kids do something hilarious. Have you ever smiled so much your cheeks hurt? Maybe it’s a day at a theme park or a show? Your wedding day?

Can you smile at your future?

Unfortunately, some of you feel dread with your approaching calendar. Unless you’ve got a holiday planned, you’re stressed about work coming up, bills that need to be paid, a problem you have to deal with… you think ahead too much and rather than hilarity, it’s a headache.

What does your future look like after these 21 days of prayer and fasting? How much of it pleases you, knowing your family is prepared to take on its next season? Your mind and heart are in a better place than they were three weeks ago. Your position is strong and secure. Your future is bright.

You know how to put your problems in the proper perspective. You’re secure in your position in your community as part of a larger world. You pray more. You encourage often. You allow vulnerability.

You close your eyes and envision what’s to come and you can’t help but crack a grin.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

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Day 12: “Children of God”

kidsHave you ever been annoyed with little children? Maybe they’re your own, throwing a tantrum in the shops over a lollypop while you’re trying to buy groceries? Or perhaps someone else’s little darling is making noise in church and you just need her to shush so you can concentrate? The chaos of youngsters can be a bit much. Kids definitely bring energy and volume to a room!

Children also carry a faith unlike your own. 

The world hasn’t jaded them. Their tender souls cry out for God’s blessing and presence. Children see the world with wide eyes and wonder. They believe in the miraculous and move in the moment, embracing everything around them without fear or hatred. Kids dream big and hug you hard. They laugh loudly and cry easily.

What reckless abandon!

Jesus loves children:

“The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Parents, you must lead your kids to Christ, for he wants to bless them. Pray for your precious ones today and model a life of surrender so they will chase after God, fully submitted to his lordship too.

If you’re not a parent, don’t get in the way of children having an encounter with Jesus. Look them in the eyes, say something kind, and believe God’s best for them, shining the light of Christ. Lift the young ones in your world up to him in prayer today.

And, pray for yourself… that you can grab hold of a child-like faith, one that embraces its simplicity and allows Jesus to lay hold of you and pour out a blessing.

“What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are” (1 John 3:1a MSG).

Day 11: “Home Sweet Home”

it's good to be homeWhat’s happening within the four walls of your own home matters more than anything you do outside of it. Your household environment affects every aspect of your life.

Is it good to live in your home? Is there an atmosphere of faith? Is the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) around every corner?

Home should be your sweet spot of serenity. The people you live with should be your safety net when troubles come and your party when it’s time to celebrate. Sadly, this isn’t the case for so many of you; do you have faith enough to believe it can change?

Your family needs prayer. They need support, acceptance, love, validation, encouragement. Your husband needs respect and honour. Your wife needs affirmation and attention. Your kids need cuddles and quality time together.

Ask God to show you where the needs are within your own home. Pray for each person in your family, specifically asking God to be present and for his will to be done in every situation you all face. Extend grace and forgiveness where it’s needed and seek wisdom from above.

“Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], and by knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4 AMP).

Day 10: “Your Kingdom Come”

thy kingdom comeWhat did Jesus mean by saying, “Thy Kingdom Come?” while teaching his disciples how to pray? God’s plans, not mine. His intentions, not yours. Undertaking the Lord’s strategy before our own.

Total surrender to the will of God is easier said than done. Dying to your fleshly desires – submitting your goals, money, children, health to a Heavenly Father comes with resistance.

Your inward focus over the last week and a half has allowed you to hear God with more clarity, to tune into the Holy Spirit, to find freedom in areas where you struggle. Hopefully, you’re learning to yield to his voice in a more meaningful way.

However, if your biggest obstacle is yourself (your problems, insecurities, fears), then understanding “thy kingdom come” as it relates to others, will prove difficult. Ask God, “why have you put me in this spot at this time with these people?”

It’s time to begin looking outward. How can your own personal revelation benefit someone else in your world?

“God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).

Sharing the love of Christ looks different for everyone. You may give time to a friend who needs a listening ear. Or, make a meal and cart kids around for a mate stuck at home with an injury or a newborn. You might go out of your way to help your co-worker.

Encourage someone.

Extend forgiveness.

Whatever God is asking you to do, go for it! Pray for opportunities. Step out in faith.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Day 9: “Relentless Pursuit”

Day 9You started a new diet in January and you’re hungry. You began working out and your muscles ache. You decided to take on a time of prayer and fasting and you’re tired. Your will is in a battle. Warfare is on. You feel under attack on every side.

Advance or retreat?

Step up or back down?

Make excuses or stake your claim?

Remember, your goal is to know Jesus more intimately; it’s to become more like him. Maturity in Christ means learning to embrace wherever he has you and whatever you’re up against. You’re relentless in your pursuit.

If you’re spending time with him, you’re winning. If you are thinking about God instead of Facebook, you’re kicking goals. When you feel hungry or need a coffee and instead, you pause to listen for the still, small voice of your Saviour, you’re killing it.

Those prayers you’re praying are reaching heaven’s door. The desire for breakthrough is being heard on the other side of your heartache. Your longing for clarity and energy and vision for your future is met with open arms by a mighty God who loves meeting your needs.

Keep going. Persevere.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG).

Day 8: “Pursue Freedom.”

freeWeek 2 of the fast hopefully finds you more rested, clear-headed and at peace. Pursuing freedom is a lifelong journey, not to be oversimplified here. However, you have hopefully identified some blockages in your life which rob you of your peace and inhibit your ability to receive God’s gift of rest.

The Holy Spirit wants to rid your life of shame, guilt, un-forgiveness, offense, anger and strife… whatever torments you or holds you back.

Today, meditate on this:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5 MSG)!

Allow the Holy Spirit to flood your life with more of his Word, an abundance of  love, additional blessings. Let your heart overflow today with worship and thanksgiving. When you see your troubles developing passionate patience in you, you can even count them as benefits. Divulge your secrets to your God. Declare victory over your past.

As you speak these things out loud in your prayer time, you’re pioneering your path to freedom.

Day 7: “Free From Insecurity”

free from insecurityEveryone knows a pubescent teen battles insecurities; they can own up to their self-doubt. Insecurity is a common vocabulary word in a young person’s vernacular and you empathise when an adolescent acts out. You know where it’s coming from.

When you’re all grown up (18? University graduate? Marriage? Parenthood?), it’s suddenly no longer socially acceptable to admit you’re insecure. On the contrary, it’s entirely EXPECTED that you never show weakness, that you exhaust yourself covering up your problems, and that no one knows your pain.

Women might admit they feel embarrassed in a bikini but they hardly confess how insecure they feel in bed. Men appear overconfident by dominating conversations about work yet fall silent when asked to open up about their feelings.

You cover up uncertainty by gossiping and judging… it’s so much easier to tear down others so your own short-comings are masked. You feel belittled by your wives and criticised by your fathers, so you retreat and self-medicate with porn or alcohol.

Living a life of cover-up is exhausting. Vulnerability is a scary word, one you avoid at all costs. You’re weakened by your negative self-talk and proving yourself to the world. Relaxing in your own skin is about as comfortable as a fish is out of water. You may not call it insecurity, but it is.

The opposite, (self-acceptance), stems from knowing your identity in Christ. Author and research professor Brené Brown says, “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” Where do you acquire love and belonging, especially if you’ve ever been rejected?

God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He says he has plans for your life, that you were created with a purpose uniquely yours. He loves you and says you’re created in his perfect image.

In a world longing for validity, you, as a child of God, are the legitimate and conclusive evidence of God’s love; you belong to HIS family. Your imperfections merely highlight your need for Jesus and they aren’t something to run from. There’s no greater peace than embracing the skin you’re in and loving the only you you’ll ever have.

As you go deeper with Jesus during your fast, allow vulnerability to expose your insecurities and expect God to re-define and re-align your identity.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9-10).