Day 17: “Pray for Governments around the World.”

He’s got the whole world in his hands. He’s got the itty bitty babies in his hands. You may have sung this song as a child – a reminder and promise that whatever comes your way, you can trust a BIG God to take care of it and you.

It’s hard to imagine your personal, intimate God who loves you and cares about everything you’ve brought to him during this time of prayer and fasting is the same One who set the stars in place. Named them too. The Earth orbits the sun by his hand, the same gentle hands that tell the children to come to him.

Poverty, world hunger, climate change, wars, economic failure, corrupt officials, Dictatorships, Communism. The world needs people like YOU, calling up to heaven, petitioning for heaven to come down.

Today, pray for those who are elected to serve our democracy. Elections in both state and federal governments will occur this year. Pray for the right leaders to fulfil the offices required to move our country forward. From local to national, their burdens are heavy and they need wisdom and strength to serve with integrity.

Pray for world leaders and nations divided. Ask for God’s protection and hand upon children less fortunate than yours who live in tumultuous places. You may never visit those lands but from your lips to God’s ears, you can affect them.

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.”

Romans 13:1-3 (MSG)
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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 14: “Pray for Government Leaders.”

pray-for-rulersIf you’ve been watching any world news, you know we are living in interesting times. Instability in various nations around the world, changes in leadership, and uncertainty seems to be the overriding noise in our ears. Romans 13 reminds us that all authority which exists has been established by God. The Apostle Paul admonishes us to be “good citizens” under that authority.

Part of our civic duty as Christians is to pray for our local, state, national and international leaders. The problems they seek to solve are not black and white. They are complex and varying and we must lift them up and ask God to intervene with his sovereignty and love in every situation. Pray for safety and wisdom. Ask God to help leaders to lead with humility and grace.

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Step Out of the Traffic

I love to run because it helps me clear my head and hopefully keeps my metabolism from totally shutting down now that I’m 40! The thing is, my running is dangerous at times… I’m so zoned out that I sometimes forget to look before crossing streets or I misjudge the distance of the cars coming my way.

Oftentimes, when I’m about to cross Pacific Highway to head to Fernleigh Track in Belmont, I don’t wait for the light. If there’s a break in traffic, I just go. Last week, while I was on my own, I looked to my right and realised there was no way I could cross with all the traffic coming; then, as if in some sort of superhero dimg_0692aydream, I started envisioning myself weaving in and out of the cars, running so fast that I could actually make it to the other side safely. I even actually put my foot out onto the road before snapping out of my trance and realising I wasn’t in a real life game of Frogger.

If you lived through the 80s, chances are, you owned an Atari gaming system and used your joystick to get that little green frog safely across traffic. If you made it to the halfway point, you then had to jump him across logs on water avoiding snakes and alligators. I can still hear the “beep beep” of the frog making his way and I can see him splayed out in front of the trucks on the times his judgement failed.

Some of us live our lives like we are inside an advanced level of Frogger, hoping we have five lives in case this one goes “splat.” We race out before thinking; we misjudge the speed of the truck headed our way, able to crush us under its weight. We jump into over-committing our kids with activities with no regard to whether there’s time to survive safely to the next term. We’re so busy running from one thing to tfrogger3he next that we don’t even notice our heart racing and blood pressure rising. We’ve leapt onto a fast moving log, not even aware of the snake standing next to us…

We compete and run around like there’s a one minute timer ticking down and  I’m just wondering if the everything we’re racing to accomplish is really something keeping us from having anything worthwhile.

When we don’t proceed through life with caution, looking out at our surroundings before stepping into the traffic, we risk losing what’s most important – our God perspective.

When we leap from one activity to the next with no margin, our Creator’s voice is drowned out with the beeping of horns; the smog from our surroundings clouds our vision and inhibits our judgement. Jumping out into the street each day before grounding ourselves in God’s word, praying and seeking HIM for our priorities means risking our spiritual lives, possibly even forfeiting our destinies.

Frogger drowns by staying on a diving turtle too long, letting it take him under. He can die by jumping into a “home” occupied by someone else. The game is over if the frog doesn’t make it home before time runs out. When our lives are on a shaky foundation, they can crumble underneath us causing us to drown. If we aren’t careful to choose the path God has for us, we can wake up one day having lived someone else’s life, occupying the wrong space. The Bible says our lives on this earth are but a vapour – how awful if we just simply run out of time to do all God has called us to do.

You and I don’t have to let the world around us dictate our pace.

No one can make us risk our lives by stepping into chaos God never intended. Psalm 46 encourages us to “step out of the traffic.” Our peace doesn’t have to be destroyed because of the noise around us. Learn to go to God in the quiet place, jump on his back and let him carry you through the traffic. His path is always secure, his methods are sound.

“Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God. I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth” (Psalm 46:9-10, Passion Translation).

 

Transplanting Cactus

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I recently planted three gorgeous little cacti for my bathroom windowsill. They came in tiny yellow plastic pots and I presumed it would take all of five minutes to transplant them to their new homes. My goal was the finished product you see on the left. Simple, eh? Some nice healthy soil, the perfectly sized pot, a sun-filled window ledge. For $10 each including the black ceramic, I was proud of myself for coming up with a cute, inexpensive, low maintenance idea.

What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to get my fat fingers around the edges of the pots in order to pull out the cactus and remove it. As I tried to reach for the little plant, I kept pricking my fingers. It seemed so fragile and small yet every time I tried to grab it, I would pull away in pain. I knew what was best for this little fellow: my cute K-Mart black pot. Not this ugly Bunnings temporary home. img_9965Yet, as the plant drew my blood, I almost ripped the little sucker straight from its roots trying to detach it from its former dwelling.

As a Pastor and leader, I often think about the environment, the soil if you will, of LIFT Church, where people are being planted. Jesus has a whole parable about the quality of soil and how something can flourish or die depending on the environment in which it’s planted.I feel a great responsibility to ensure our “soil” is full of nutrients, giving every opportunity for people to thrive.

However, planting these little cacti made me think more about the plant than the soil.

Each of us has a great personal responsibility to ensure we are not so prickly on the outside that God cannot guide us into the place where our roots can run deep.

I’ve witnessed hurting people hurt others unintentionally because of fear or insecurity. Some people stagnantly wilt in their current circumstances even though healthy soil awaits them only a few steps away. An unwillingness to allow God to grab hold of us causes us to die a slow spiritual death. People are as supple as succulents; and, I know my cacti could have lived quite some time in their flimsy yellow pots. That doesn’t mean it was the best choice for them, however. Just because you and I can survive despite ordinary, mediocre circumstances, doesn’t mean we should.

Our God wants us to have an abundant life.

img_9966Sadly, I’ve watched someone with outward beauty actually push people away, inhibiting her future growth. Soft and beautiful on the outside like like this little succulent on the left, but if anyone gets close enough to see past the gauzy exterior, ouch! We may not physically harm someone in order to keep them out, but harsh words or negativity drive others away. A defensive nature puts distance between us.

God can never wrap his loving arms around us if we rebuff him with our thorns. We might not even realise the repellent we have become because we have learnt to hide behind our brilliant bristles.

I believe God has a wonderful place for each of us to flourish if we allow him to move us. When we let Jesus soften our rough edges, he can grab hold of us completely. I don’t want God to have to pull away because my spurs have pushed him out. I don’t want to inhibit what he wants to do with me because my own personal pain manifests in spikes.

Let’s remind ourselves today of God’s beautiful promise in Psalm 92 and never allow the status quo to forbid our fruitful planting. Allowing God to gently move us, will only bring forth the beauty he has in store.

“Good people will prosper like palm trees, Grow tall like Lebanon cedars; transplanted to God’s courtyard, They’ll grow tall in the presence of God, lithe and green, virile still in old age” (Psalm 92:14 MSG).

Embracing the Grit

cleaningI hate cleaning; not solely because of the time it takes or just because I’m afraid of cancer-causing chemicals. Cleaning toilets with three boys in my house means finding wee in places it doesn’t belong; however, I hate cleaning mostly because once I start, I find out just how dirty things really are. I’ll be dusting the window ledge and then I see that the frames have little tiny black spots of mould on them. Or, I vacuum the carpet and find so many dust bunnies under the couch that I’m afraid a real rabbit might jump out of one of them! Or, what about the bathroom drawers? I am wiping the outside while finding toothpaste and hair covering the inside.

It’s just so much easier to throw in the towel than to keep cleaning. I mean, I didn’t even think about the inside of the drawers until I started cleaning the outside. Maybe I should just leave it all and live in squalor?

My Christian journey is a lot like this: I start out all gung-ho when I first experienced the presence of God. Like putting on a new pair of cleaning gloves and pulling out all the supplies, there’s excitement for what’s to come. How great will my house smell this afternoon? How shiny will the mirrors be? How exciting to dream about God giving me the desires of my heart and multiplying my blessings!

Then, I look closer at the mirror and I see that there’s actually a layer of dust all around the edges. I reach those “up-high” edges and now I glance at the top of the vanity. Uh-oh… I’ve never even seen up there and it’s covered with dust too. I clean that and then decide to look the cabinet and find a dead roach. EEW!

What was supposed to take 2 minutes has now taken 10 and I’m utterly discouraged.

Everyone at my new church was SO FRIENDLY when I first came. I wondered if these people were for real. They seemed so genuine and so kind. Then, I looked closer and realised there were some cliques. The lady who greeted me those first few weeks doesn’t even remember my name. And, the Pastor didn’t talk to me this week.

Now, that feel-good endorphin that was released when my “floral scents all-purpose cleaner” made its way across the kitchen is suddenly overridden by my disappointment that this journey with God requires some work.

Like the blinds on our windows, I find a collection of grit just under the surface. I liked that part of the Bible that told me how much I was loved and forgiven, but I’m not so sure I want to see it from the angle of “sanctification.” I like spraying the counter top and giving it a quick wipe, but don’t make me move the toaster, kettle, and canisters out of the way.

I have bad habits I need to break but I’m not even sure I want to. I hold onto anger and resentment like it’s a high school boyfriend I can’t afford to lose. I have always done it and I’m not sure who I am anymore if I stop. I’m happy to sweep or vacuum, but please don’t ask me to move the furniture or clean behind the toilet.

I’m afraid of what I might find.

I hate looking closer at myself and picking at old wounds that have scarred and crusted on my heart, covering it like soap scum covers my shower door. I like not being able to see inside myself. What I see causes me to feel vulnerable. It causes me to take responsibility for my own actions and feelings. It forces me to have grace for others and I’ve always been able to judge others and point the finger.

I must embrace the grit to experience the gloss.

Only when I put elbow grease into something can I erase what once stood in my way. No one can do it for me. Just like no one is going to come and inspect my house with a white glove and then offer to clean for me, no one is going to inspect my heart and remove the callouses. I’m the only one who can keep my eyes clear enough to see the beauty of Christ and all that he offers me. I must choose each day to not let the sediment fall on my heart, drying it up and losing all tenderness.

Becoming more like Christ is a never-ending journey. Just when I think I’ve have mastered one area, I find myself seeing three more that need work. Kind of like getting all caught up on the washing only to find some dirty PJ’s shoved under my 5 year old’s bed…

The good news is that I have the Holy Spirit on my side, empowering me and cheering me on in my daily detox. And, unlike house chores, there’s actually an inheritance awaiting me when I allow God to purify my life.

But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” (Luke 3:16-17, MSG)

Plucked or Planted?

treeMy community is strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches after massive cyclonic storms ravaged our region last week. Trees have crushed cars, houses and power lines. I have been shocked to see massive gums lying sideways on the ground with their entire root balls exposed like this one in the photo I took at the end of my street. It’s like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk came around and pulled up the trees like you and I would pull up a weed.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the beautiful tree imagery found in God’s word as my Facebook feed was bombarded with photos like mine. The Lord promises to make us “oaks of righteousness, displaying his splendour.” The righteous are also told we will flourish like a “palm tree” and a “cedar of Lebanon” bearing much fruit, even in old age.

I don’t know of any scriptures that refer to our beloved Australian Eucalyptus trees or of any reference to 3 metre trees being unstable and easily moved. So, I set out to do some research intending to make a correlation between trees with strong roots versus weak ones and how they might relate to us spiritually.

Much to my creative dismay, I found out all of these trees have amazingly strong roots. I mean, some go down as deep as the tree is tall. Some hardwoods have tap roots digging metres into the ground. Roots can extend sideways as far out as the canopy of leaves above the ground.

Oak trees need little water or fertiliser once their roots are established. Gum trees thrive in wet areas as their roots rest in the upper layers of the soil. Palm trees have roots that regenerate and continually jut out from all angles acting as anchors and feeders for the trees.

The roots of trees are so strong they can crack foundations of houses, lift up concrete walkways, and kill off every other living thing nearby as they take nutrients and water from the soil. No wonder God uses them as similes all throughout the Word as he paints a picture of our strength and glory in his eyes!

So, my question remains – how did these massive Eucalyptus trees in the Hunter fall over with their roots and soil in tact as if I personally transplanted them from a pot and laid them down to await their next home?

The ground around the tree became totally saturated with rainfall, making the tree vulnerable. Then, winds upwards of 100km/hr blew, ripping them out of the ground as easily as you or I could pick a daisy in our back yard. (I’m no arborist so please excuse my simplistic explanation for the sake of your personal growth and inspiration!).

I want to remain firmly planted when the storms of life rage against me, never allowing them to uproot my faith or my view of God and his steadfast care for me.

Unlike a giant gum tree who has no preference or say in where he is planted, we have the privilege of choosing in which soil we place ourselves, how much we are watered and fertilised as well as how much input we receive from the SON (pun intended).

Psalm 92:13 says those who are planted “IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD” will FLOURISH.

I’m a church planter, so it goes without saying I’m passionate about the church. It’s what Jesus says he’s coming back for, his bride; it’s to whom most of the New Testament was written; it’s the hope of the world to bring communities together and to care for those in need; it’s where we teach and instruct; it’s a house of prayer and a place of worship to our God.

Not being PLANTED in good healthy soil as a believer is like telling that gum tree to grow on the sandy shores of Redhead Beach. Or, expecting it to flourish in a car park with concrete all around, poor drainage, and pipes cutting into the roots underneath. No one would think that’s sane! We must find the nutrient rich soil of a local church and stick ourselves in it if we want to flourish.

We must care for the soil and keep it watered by serving and building relationships. Let us never over saturate with self-doubt, fear or judgement of those around us who are doing their best to thrive too. We must stand tall in the face of trials, sending out our roots for Living Water that nourishes and protects. We have to find comfort in the canopy of other believers, knowing there is protection when we aren’t isolated and exposed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9