Day 19: “Pray in the Spirit.”

What do you do when you don’t know what to pray? When this journey is over and there are no devotions landing in your inbox nor any clear direction?

Some of you enjoy the structure of having a thought to pray around; you you can easily find a devotion online or on the YouVersion Bible app.

Others write down your prayers like a Santa Claus wish list – all those wants and needs pouring out of you in desperate yearning like a child highlighting items in the Target ad circular.

You might pray “HELP!” when a desperate need arises. Or, you may have the same prayer you keep bringing before God day in and day out; it’s caught in your headspace like a bad pop song you heard yesterday that just won’t go away.

Prayer is as much about talking to God and sending up your heavenly airmail as it is about listening to what your God has to say to you regarding your situation. Oftentimes, the answers you seek are right before you as you calmly wait on God to intervene on your behalf. But, you are so busy shopping around for what YOU can do, striving to make stuff happen. You are box ticking and stretching yourself beyond your human capacity to work out the angles and to try and solve your problems, all the while crying out to God, “come along with my plans… bless them. Guide me as I jump off this next cliff. Save me as I step out to do more, more, more, more!”

What if you relax into his loving arms and do nothing today except pray in the spirit and wait? The most troubling situations you’re facing might resolve themselves without your angling and posturing. The answer you seek might be found in the secret place alongside your Saviour. He is intervening on your behalf. He goes before you. He is behind you.

Wait on him and give him a chance to come through for you.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27
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Day 3: “His Mercies are New.”

mercies-are-newSo often, your personal struggles are what hold you back from pursuing all that God has for you. Guilt over poor choices dismantles your ability to see yourself as God sees you. Bad relationships bring you down and discourage you. Other people’s problems encroach on your peace. Work or financial issues cause you to feel overwhelmed.

Although these are everyday realities for you, you must not let them overshadow your walk with God. Today, reflect upon God’s goodness and mercy towards you even though you live in a fallen world and a sinful body.

The author of Lamentations wrote while mourning the impending exile of the Jews in the midst of great sin and disarray in Jerusalem. The Message version of Lamentations Chapter 3 implores you to “keep a grip on hope” because God’s mercies are new each day; “the worst is never the worst.” If life doesn’t look quite like you wanted as you woke up today, stay the course. Stop beating yourself up because of your failures. Say something nice to yourself. Apologise for hurts you’ve caused and move on.

It’s a new day. God is on your side and “his stockpiles of loyal love are immense.” He is still on the throne and no matter your circumstances, he can be found in the midst. Turn your full attention to him today. Relinquish the desire to be perfect or to wallow in guilt or shame. Embrace God’s mercy in giving you another day, a do-over, if you will.

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.

Slowing Down Makes Me Notice

map of 20km run

What I love about training for my first marathon is that the “busy-ness” of the 100km/hr life I lead building Lift Church and raising three kids slows down to 10km/hr as I pound the pavement in training runs 5 days a week. Recently on a 20km run from my house in Belmont down to Caves Beach, I observed many things I have never really seen before. I’ve driven and I’ve sat passenger in a car down the Pacific Highway many times. The magnificent views of the ocean and Lake Macquarie pass by in an instant.

I don’t notice the slight undulations of the road or the bumps and uneven bits in the grass. I take no note of the smells with my windows rolled up; nor do I contemplate the old houses and rusty mailboxes, wondering how long its been since they have opened for communication. Nope. When I’m riding in a car, these are merely background images racing past my subconscious mind, rarely ever making me glance twice.

Yet, when I’m afoot, looking down to keep my stride through the parts with no path, I notice them all. The RunKeeper updates in my ear saying another five minutes have passed give me pause to remember exactly where I am on the road…

I can feel the gaps between the wooden planks on the bridge. The aroma of meat pies from the Bakers Cottage in Belmont South contrasts the stinky fish being caught as I cross Swansea Bridge. I resent the exhaust from passing cars and relish the fresh outdoor fragrance of trees and flowers on Fernleigh Track.

I’m reminded like never before that God is alongside me. He is Omni-present. He is Omniscient and Omnipotent. He sees above and below, to where I’m facing and from where I’ve come. I think I’m in control, metaphorically marking out my steady path so I avoid disappointment and pain; but he already knows the potholes and wrong turns I’ll make. He is never disillusioned or disappointed in me.

He numbers the hair on my head and died for me before I ever lived. He knows the fluctuations of my moods and the uneven ways of my motives. Every step I have taken and every one I’ve yet to take are ordered by him and I don’t even notice most of the time. I’m passing through this life, all 37 years, with speed and persistence as if I have somewhere important to go. All the while, he’s alongside me, patiently holding his hand out for me to slow down and consider his ways.

I think I’ve noticed a slight rise in elevation as I approach Swansea Heads, clever in my mind at how strong I’ve become and how long I have run. I am surprised at the beauty; how did I never notice it before? swansea headsMy Father, in his glory, gently reminds me that he created those waves with the work of his mighty hands and the revelation is all mine. Nothing has ever occurred to the One is WAS, who IS and who IS TO COME.

I run and I wonder the story of the broken down shack, all tagged with graffiti and disregarded as refuse. broken down shackI think of my own life and the damaged places and wounded bits and rest in knowing my God still finds me useful and worthy of his love, despite the scars.

No matter what rocky path might come my way or what heartache or tragedy takes my breath away, my God steadies me and secures my steps and my faith. For it’s not in the ground itself that I place my security. My assurance lies not in the width of my path.

swanseaIt’s in knowing the One whose

Faithfulness

Equals

Fidelity.

He maps my course and gives me comfort when the path seems too narrow and enmity enters in. He can calm a raging sea inside of me when I waver. He lifts me from the clay when I’m bogged down heavy and sets me on a rock, firm and surefooted again. His wing shelters me and his promises shift me toward everything I need and everywhere I should go. I only have to slow down to notice.

If you don’t know the God I’m talking about or have questions about your own faith journey, I’d love to introduce you to your Heavenly Father and come alongside you in your walk. Please contact me here.

Fasting Devotion, Day Seven

(Post submitted by Pastor Greg)

John 10:1-18

Within each of us lies a desire to be known, understood, and valued. God made us this way. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, emphatically states that he KNOWS US. The eternal God acquaints himself with every part of us from the inside out. He knows our very thoughts, fears, dreams and desires.

The fact that the creator of the universe knows us this intimately brings great joy, peace and security. It gives us the ability to approach today and everyday with a boldness and confidence knowing God is aware of our weaknesses, faults, and fears. It’s in spite of them that he laid down his life for us. He did it so that we could have “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Jesus also reminds us that we know HIS voice.  In order to discern the voice of God, we must spend time in his presence through prayer and reading his word.  With so many distractions shouting for our attention, screaming at our inadequacies, and roaring at our faults, we have to listen carefully to hear our shepherd’s voice. It takes discipline to push them out and if we aren’t careful, those negative murmurs can define who we are, too easily drowning out his voice. We can find ourselves wandering aimlessly through life lacking purpose.

God has great plans and purposes for us all, however! And, like a “good shepherd” He leads us to pastures of fruitfulness, peace, and blessing. Concentrating on our shepherd’s voice during this time of fasting reminds us of our worth and how much he cares and loves us all.

Dear God, I am so humbled and grateful for your voice in my life. You are truly a good shepherd. Help me to hear your voice more clearly as I continue to fast and seek your face. Show me your plans for me. Drown out the negative self-talk and other distracting voices that seek to pull me away from you. I only want to be guided by YOU. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day One

Matthew 6:16-18

Starting the new year with a fast is a great way to re-align ourselves with God as well as place priority on our spiritual lives. This year, Lift Church is corporately fasting and we will be posting a daily devotion for the next 21 days.

In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches some basic Christian principles. Giving, prayer, and fasting all help us live a blessed, fulfilled life. Sometimes, people run to God as a “self-help” phase during a crisis. They feel better after going to church for a while or getting counsel from a Christian leader. Then, this “feeling” wears off and they are on to the next thing.

In order to truly experience the fullness of a Christian walk, there are some disciplines we must undertake. This is different from “working” our way to heaven or striving outwardly to change ourselves to please God. We have already been set free by the blood of Jesus and what he did for us on the cross. However, seeking God through prayer, Bible reading, and by denying our flesh one of its most basic needs pushes us to a new depth in our walk with God and clears the path for us to hear from him like never before.

Moses fasted before receiving the ten commandments. Hannah went without food and practically lived in the sanctuary praying and crying out to God until she had a breakthrough in conceiving a child. Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before he began his ministry.

Fasting helps us hear from God more clearly. By eliminating something as vital as food, we cling to God and seem to feel his presence in a more palpable way. If you are joining us as we embark on this 21 day journey, here are some things to consider:

What do you wish to gain by fasting? Focusing on this rather than what you are giving up will help you stay motivated throughout your fast. Be specific with God about what areas of your life you wish to see breakthrough.

What specifically are you giving up? Some people fast all food; some forego specific items like meat, sugar, or caffeine. Others fast social media, television, or video games. Whatever you give up, stretch yourself and stay the course!

Dear God, help me and each person embarking on this journey of fasting. Give us strength and vision for this new year. Forgive us for our shortcomings and allow us a deeper communion with you. Speak to us. Give us breakthroughs in our health, finances, our families, and every area of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For more great information on fasting, check out the resources of Pastors Jentezen Franklin or Stovall Weems.

Too Good to Be True

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  How many times have I heard this, said this, and even believed this throughout my life?  Because of disappointments early on, I developed a habit of lowering my expectations as a way of protecting myself from getting hurt or let down.  If something great came across my path, I hesitated to embrace it; if it didn’t come the hard way, I thought I didn’t deserve for it to come.  Then, once something good DID happen, I would expect it to fall apart.

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, as they say.

The option of praying and seeking God in my situations rarely crossed my mind.

The longer I walk with God, the more he has debunked this warped negative thinking.  A healthy relationship with my Creator means TRUSTING Him and EXPECTING Him to show up with answers when I need Him.  Jesus, who’s not too good to be true, rather, who IS TRUTH, sets before me a path for success.  According to Matthew 7, when we seek, we will find.  If we ask for bread, God will not give us a stone.  He gives good gifts to his children.  He doesn’t put forth pie in the sky, pipe dreams or people in order to tease us or to set us up for failure.

I’m not suggesting we act on every whim or that we use poor judgement and then expect God to bail us out when we get into trouble.  What I AM suggesting is that when we are walking closely with the Lord and praying for him to act in certain areas, we shouldn’t hesitate to trust him when he comes through with a solution.  No matter what it is.  Sometimes he comes with an answer quickly, and other times we have to wait patiently.  Often, his answer requires obedience in a difficult area or it may have consequences we do not like, but we can ALWAYS trust him.

The key to knowing whether what is before us is from God or not is learning SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT. 1 Cor 2:14 says, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Moving to Australia, selling our business, and starting over our “careers” with no promise of income seems nuts to the natural man.  What we are doing in a city that many would say already has enough churches seems foolish to some folks.  But we KNOW that we have heard from God.  What has been discerned in the spirit causes us to keep pressing forward, knowing God will build his church and what seems “too good to be true” in my dreams is actually vision from God that he has placed in my heart.  Instead of staying comfortable in my “former life” and being afraid to step out for fear of failure, we went for it!
I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I’m expecting God to do more than I can even ask, think or imagine according to Ephesians 3:20.  Whatever you are seeking God for in your life, I pray you will not only trust Him to speak to you and guide you, but that you will EXPECT Him to do the miraculous through you.