Day 15: “Don’t Give Up.”

no-condemnationIf you’re traveling with LIFT Church for the 21 Day corporate fast, you’re starting the home stretch today – Week 3! Some of you have not wavered in your ability to deny yourselves whatever you’re fasting. Others have struggled and maybe even given up or given in to your desires. It’s OKAY!

Don’t treat fasting like a religious law from the Old Testament. If you do, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Start fresh and remember, your sacrifice is met with more time in God’s presence. You superimpose a desire to know God more intimately with your desire for certain foods. The time you might have spent watching TV or checking social media is spent in prayer. Yielding your fleshly reliance reminds you of an almighty God. Nothing on this earth holds more power over you than HIM. Your God fills every gap.

So, if you’re thinking of giving up, don’t. Your heart before the Lord is what matters most and there’s something powerful awaiting you this week.

“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, MSG)

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Day 2: “Fix Your Eyes.”

fix-our-eyesIt’s so easy to focus your attention on what’s right in front of you – the urgent matters of life (bills, schedules, kids, how you feel, etc). When you have an eternal perspective, however, you make it a practice to set aside that which demands your time. Instead, you persuade yourself to be still before your God.

What is urgent isn’t always what’s most important. To carnal eyes, this vision might seem blurry. But to you, who is walking by faith, your sight isn’t what guides you. It’s what is unseen within your spirit and what you know by the Word of God.

Today, force your mind to fixate on heavenly thoughts. See yourself the way Christ sees you – holy and acceptable, a cherished treasure, created for his good purpose. Allow his peace to invade every part of you. Take in the fresh viewpoint you receive when your faith drives you rather than fear. Remember God’s options are infinite. His blessings are boundless. His energy limitless.

Day 1: “I Will Sustain You.”

he-will-sustain-youKicking off a time of prayer and fasting is exciting, as you anticipate what God might have in store over the next 21 days! You may have questions like, “What should I fast?” or “What should I pray for?” Settle your heart and mind before the Lord each day. Ask him to reveal his will to you. Seek him through his Word and believe that he will speak to you.

If there’s an area of life in which you need breakthrough, place it at the feet of Jesus each and every morning. Are you asking for a family member to know Christ? Pray for him daily. Do you need wisdom to make some significant decisions? Trust you will hear the voice of God as you lean in.

Whether you’re believing for a miracle of some sort or you simply feel weary and need the Lord to refresh your spirit so you can tackle 2017 with strength, remember God is with you, sustaining you throughout this time.

Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

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).

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TWENTY-ONE

As our Lift Church corporate fasting draws to a close for 2015, I leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:12-19)

Dear Lord, thank you for speaking to me and answering my prayers over the course of the last several weeks. I ask that you help me to continue the good fight of faith and that you give me strength to withstand whatever trials may come my way. I put all my hope in you and commit to walking with you everyday. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day NINE

Read John 15:1-17

If you know anything about gardening, you know that pruning causes more growth in future. Giving up something for a fast is sort of like pruning back your own life so that you can bear more fruit. Sometimes pruning hurts temporarily, but the payoff is great when the crops are ready. By devoting extra time to prayer and fasting, you are doing what Jesus commands by “remaining in the vine.”

A branch without a vine makes no sense. There’s no life or fruit if we detach from our source. If we are cut off completely from Christ, we wither and die spiritually. We must remain connected in order to produce a harvest in our life.

One of the ways we remain connected to Christ is by connecting with a local church. The body of believers nourishes us like good fertiliser. It strengthens us by watering us regularly with the word and corporate worship. As we produce fruit in our lives, we are able to share it with anyone willing to partake. We bear fruit financially and it feeds those who come and find abundant life in Christ too. We bear fruit through stewarding the gifts and talents inside of us and we offer it up sacrificially to bless the whole church and serve others.

Ultimately, we blossom for the sole purpose of glorifying God and witnessing to others the goodness of God so they can come to know Him too.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the ultimate gardener. I trust you as one branch among your great vine to prune me when necessary in order that I might bear more fruit. I pray that every area of my life would bring glory to you as I remain connected. I commit to connection to you personally and to your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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.