2015 Fasting Devotion, Day NINETEEN

Read 1 Timothy 4

As parents, we know we have a responsibility to teach and train our kids in certain areas. We train them to eat with cutlery and use a toilet when they are little. We teach them how to obey and respect adults. We make them go to school for their education and often put them in extra-curricular activities like sport and music to develop other skills in their lives.

As Christian parents, we must not forget to invest in and train our kids spiritually. In order to do this effectively, our kids must see us training ourselves. That’s why daily time in the word, prayer, and even disciplines like fasting as a family are invaluable. The Apostle Paul is reminding his young follower, Timothy, that exercise is valuable, but a disciplined life in God makes us fit for today and forever.

Whether we have children under our roof or we are just influencing those around us, it’s our life that speaks volumes – through our words, actions, love, faith and integrity. We must cultivate and immerse ourselves in these matters, placing higher value on them than physical exercise or secular education.

Practically, you can ask your kids to read a scripture with you and discuss it. When you correct and discipline, bring it back to a Godly principle and pray for forgiveness, asking God for help going forward. Have daily times when you thank God for your many blessings and train your kids to have a grateful spirit. Pray with them before school and before big moments in their lives, teaching them to lean on God in every situation.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for reminding me of the importance ongoing spiritual education is in my life and the lives of the young ones in my care. Help me to make it a high priority each day. I pray that the fruit of my investment would be plentiful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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2015 Fasting Devotion, Day SEVENTEEN

Read Colossians 3:18-25 (MSG)

You’ve probably heard the mantra, “God First, Family Second, Job Third.” Although I don’t believe life can be so simple as to compartmentalise our relationships in a linear fashion, I understand this thought speaks to priorities. In any given moment, I’m loving God, my husband, my kids and my work all at the same time! However, the out working of my first love and affection being Christ means my other obligations fall into alignment. I love my husband better. Then, when we are healthy and walking in unity, our kids benefit. As our family prospers, we can invest in other areas with joy and ease.

When our jobs become more important than our kids, people suffer. When our personal expectations and image trump our kid’s feelings and struggles, we risk crushing their spirits. As employees, husband and wives, we must serve and work as though we are serving the Lord. This removes any chance of offence or bitterness when our own expectations aren’t met.

As we continue to focus on our families through prayer and fasting this week, let us commit to doing everything in our power to serve and bless those whom we influence. Keeping our priorities and investment of time, energy, kind words, and service in the right order, we not only bring honour and glory to God, but our families prosper as well.

Heavenly Father, only YOU know what the dynamics of my work and family life are like. Give me strength to do what you have called me to do to love and honour those in my life. On good days when it’s easy, I rejoice! On bad days, when life is hard and I don’t receive the respect and love I so desire, help me to focus on YOU first and honour you anyway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting, Day Three

Read Genesis 41

(Today’s post is submitted by Pastor Greg.)

Joseph’s story is one of rags to riches – a story of a guy who went from a pit to the palace. Joseph constantly sought after, honoured, and devoted himself to God no matter what circumstances surrounded him. Miraculously, Joseph found favour with Pharaoh and became second in command in the most powerful nation in the world at the time.

When you, like Joseph, devote yourself to God, you can expect doors to open in your life. You can have influence with those around you. Whether you are a corporate executive or a stay-at-home-mum, you can make a difference for others. People want what you have when they see the fruit of the spirit in your life. Your voice can bring the right word at the right time to encourage someone. Or, to give Godly advice in a difficult circumstance.

God, I want to know you as Joseph knew you. I pray that you will open doors for me to have influence with the people around me. Turn impossible situations in my life into miracles that will testify to your greatness! Give me influence and a voice in my city that will bring honour to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Push Baby Push

colour explosion

If you’ve ever given birth, you know what “transition labour” is all about: that excruciating moment where you begin to second-guess your plans for a drug-free delivery. You self-doubt; and if you’re me, you begin to shake and cry a little, your begging eyes looking at your spouse for any sign of comfort that “this too shall pass.” You were SO ON TOP OF IT for the last 5 hours but now it seems like all your best efforts to breathe, relax and work with your body have gone out the window.

However… not long after this no-turning-back moment of insanity, the wrangling is over and your valuable prize is delivered – all slimy and perfect. The pain COMPLETELY ceases and there you are, sweaty, exhausted, and reveling in the most amazing moment of your life – the agony but a small twinge now!  Everything you worked for and more lies bundled up in your arms.

We could all use personal analogies to make my point today. My recent marathon or moving across the world to plant Lift Church would suffice. You battled an illness or a job loss. Your season of little children testing your insanity meter 24/7 while feeling sleep deprived and overwhelmed seemed like it would never end. And what did you do?

You

Kept

Going.

No matter what you’re facing, there are days when you hit a wall. Pain prevails over the promise. “Something’s got to give” and you might internally combust. Finances, health, teenagers, in-laws, husbands, commitments, jobs… they all have their say, but somehow your own voice seems silenced. You literally think you can’t stretch another centimeter or else you’re going to snap. The laundry piles up, the toilets need cleaning AGAIN, homework isn’t done, and your husband is no longer your lover but a co-labourer and fellow cab driver.

NOW is NOT the time to throw in the towel! Keep forging ahead! Get up another day and take the step that’s before you. Remind yourself of God’s word and His hand in your life. Don’t say things like, “I can’t handle this” or “If one more bad thing happens, I’m going to lose it!” Don’t quit your commitments and for the love of God, please DO NOT rant on social media!

PUSH baby PUSH!

Fight for something bigger than yourself. Don’t let your circumstances win. Those will come and go, but you?

YOU’RE HERE TO STAY.

When you feel backed in a corner, come out brawling. Maybe someone told you that you were weak. He LIED. You’re very strong. You’re quite capable. Try pushing through the pain and just see what’s on the other side. It’s VICTORY, not DEFEAT. The only way you’re defeated is if you quit.

None of my mommy friends explained the gory agony I would face postpartum. (Stitches and calluses on places you don’t normally talk about publicly to mention a few.) The cost/benefit analysis made it all worth the risk I presume.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)

 

Who Can You Call A Friend?

myfriends

Throughout my life, friends have brought both the greatest joys and some of the deepest hurts. What happens when we let someone in on our dreams, insecurities, or opinions believing they “get us” only to find we were worlds apart in our understanding? They can betray us or leave us feeling rejected if they exit our “inner circle” unexpectedly.

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). How do we define a “real friend?” I heard a great teaching a few years ago from TD Jakes that helps put our relationships in context. Lamenting over a “bestie” who was really just a companion for a season is a waste of time. I’m sure I’ve adjusted the Bishop’s original thought but here’s my take on it:

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

CONFIDANTS are friends that are “FOR YOU” no matter what you are for! They love you unconditionally. They stick by your side no matter where you live, what direction your life takes or what mood you’re in. You can confide in them; they don’t judge you. You can screw up and hurt them; they forgive you. Your best moments will find them cheering. Your worst? Alongside you crying. Time nor distance can keep you apart in your hearts. If you have a couple of these in a lifetime, consider yourself blessed.

CONSTITUENTS are “FOR WHAT YOU’RE FOR” and nothing more. (This doesn’t negate their importance or value.) I would venture to say most people in your circles could be considered constituents. They come along when your kids are in the same class and you have chats over coffee after drop-off. Or, you connect because of a common cause. Maybe it’s political. Or, a project at work puts you in the same place at the same time everyday. You mesh because you’re connected to a vision or the same leader.

It’s easy to feel like “BFFs” but if your commonality changes, you might feel the relationship fade. Understanding constituents properly can help you avoid being hurt when this normal cycle occurs. I’ve often met someone new at church who’s offended because “no one reached out” to her after she left her last place of worship. (You may have experienced this in a job transfer too.)

Maybe you mis-took those friends as confidants when all along, they were constituents? 
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don't buy one too soon!

Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don’t buy one too soon!

You were connected because you both “FOR” the same thing. If YOU chose to leave, you can’t expect the ones who are still there to follow you. You’ve detached yourself from what joined you together. You may remain connected for a season but don’t be surprised if your relationship vaporizes over time.

Constituents are great. You need them in your life! But if they go, remember they were merely “for” what you were “for.” They were never “FOR YOU.”

COMRADES are actually “AGAINST WHAT YOU’RE AGAINST!” They might be the people on the committee at school who help you fight the administration’s decision to get rid of recess. Or, you’re connected on FaceBook because you all hate Ps Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Caution: As quickly as you hooked up, you will be dropped because the next bandwagon is available for hire. I see these groups play out in kids sports; everyone is on the same page because they dislike a certain coach or rule. You’re allies as you rant over how YOU think things should be run. Then, when the team disseminates or you get a new coach, nothing remains to keep you connected.

Pastors, be careful of the comrades who join your church because they are against the way the last church operated. They will leave you too once you offend or refuse to bend to their demands.

Comrades aren’t always negative. They can come along like scaffolding to help you fight a fight. Once the job is done, they are gone but their impact and importance aren’t soon forgotten.

Knowing the difference between confidants, constituents, and comrades brings perspective and keeps your expectations in check. Feel free to post comments if this post helped you or you have another perspective on the matter!

 

What is Sinking My Boat?

who sank

Everyone knows a teeny little mouse isn’t big enough to sink a whole rowboat! But what if that boat is first filled with a cow, a donkey, a “fat-as-butter” pig, and a knitting sheep? The little mouse, last to get in, who was lightest of all DID sink the boat in the case of this adorable children’s book, “Who Sank the Boat?”

I wonder what the “straw that broke the camel’s back” looked like? It could sound like a crying baby after weeks of sleepless nights. Or maybe a teenager’s back talk on the heels of a stressful day at work? Maybe it’s the online bill paying when month after month there doesn’t seem to be enough money to make ends meet?

We can’t always predict what will cause us to feel like we are going to crumble. But, I DO believe we can work out some disciplines and boundaries that will keep us afloat even in the worst of times.

We must carefully ensure that the most important, “only-I-can-do-this” priorities come first. Only I can be wife to Greg and Mum to Brett, Sydney and Sammy. This means I can’t give so much time to friends, church members, social media, and working out that I suddenly have nothing left for the ones counting on me most.

Only I can be co-pastor of our church. That comes with certain restraints on my weekends and where I invest in relationships whether I like it or not. If you work, you’re the same. You’re not tempted to go to lunch with friends when you can’t afford it if you work every Friday. You’re unavailable! The weight of our responsibilities only feels heavy when we are spread thin and are weak in every other area.

So often, we can over-commit to pressures of life out of guilt or tradition (think family holidays) or even just disorganization. We forget to check our diaries when we say we are available to help a friend and realize on the day we have double-booked ourselves. The boat starts to rock.

Sometimes we fill our lives with things that don’t really add value. Then, when we look up at a commitment we really DO want to follow through on – like having new friends around for dinner or volunteering at school or church, it’s suddenly the despised one because it pushes us over the edge.who sank2

We have to guard our time and our gifts. Not every great cause deserves our money. Not every invitation deserves a “yes!” Instead of merely checking the time slot in your calendar when making a commitment, why not prayerfully consider whether or not that invitation keeps you on track with your goals and the other roles ONLY YOU can fulfill? Otherwise, when push comes to shove and space is tight, the loved one to whom we are responsible may not fit. We look up and wonder how the water started seeping.

Maturity in accepting our responsibilities and creating healthy boundaries comes with practice. Prioritizing takes organization and forethought. I love the encouragement James gives and I’m putting it into practice today:

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)

 

Rub People the Right Way

shorts

One of the most annoying things about running long distances is the chaffing that can occur from clothes or other objects rubbing your skin over and over. I bought a very expensive sports bra last year that was cute and colourful; yet, after wearing it for my first 10km run, I realised the shoulder strap had one little spot where the overlap was rough and that tiny 2cm seam rubs uncomfortably the ENTIRE TIME. I have pushed this to the back of the drawer and only wear it on days when workout clothes make me feel productive even when I haven’t stepped foot out the door!

I bought some new bright orange and grey Nike running shorts recently when I was in America and couldn’t wait to wear them. I did a few shorter runs and they were fine. Then, one morning on a longer one, the seams between my legs suddenly felt two inches thick and I realized how course and bumpy they were as they rub, rubbed, rubbed my inner thighs all the way home. I had a scab mirroring minor road rash for over a week after that one!

So many times, something seems nice on the outside, even enticing (I mean who doesn’t love a hot pink and blue Lorna Jane bra?), but upon further investigation, it’s actually not suitable for where I’m traveling. If I’m pushing ahead, extending myself and actually going beyond normal expectations, something as silly as clothing takes on a whole new meaning. I’m no longer looking at it for its “cute-factor” or whether it’s the right size. Now, I’m looking deeper into its construction. Finding out if what seems right on the outside is actually good for me on the inside (of my armpits, legs, or foot). What might seem like a perfectly good pair of shoelaces, if laced up too tightly for several kilometers can cause a bruise on the top of your foot (that’s my most recent faux pax).

Our relationships work much the same way. Have you ever been around someone for a short time who was funny, interesting, and kind and then spent a little more time only to find out his humour is actually used negatively to insult or tear others down? She’s “interesting” because she knows all the latest gossip and is happy to share it. Or even her “kindness” comes with an agenda.

I want to be the type of person who, upon further investigation, actually looks and feels even better than the first impression. I want people to feel good after spending some time with me and I pray their experience of rubbing shoulders with me leaves them stronger and more like Christ, not down in the dumps, wanting to avoid me next time my number comes up.

I often say we become the people we hang around and the books we read. I encourage you to look at your friendships and ask yourself:

“If I keep running with this person, am I gonna be better for it or am I gonna have some scars and bruises?”

“Is my conversation life-giving and generous towards others, believing the best and seeing the positive?”

“Can I become more like Christ with each encounter I have, or am I being pushed away from God, my church, and other Christian friends?”

It’s the subtleties that make all the difference in time. Paying attention to our words and taking note of how someone affects us can determine our endurance level and strength. Take note when someone “rubs you the wrong way” because it may be your first clue to pick another partner to run with.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:28-30