Devotion, Fasting, religious, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day ELEVEN

Read Philippians 3

You are at the halfway point of our 21 day fast! If you’re fasting some type of food, your body may be used to going without and it may not seem like the same sacrifice it was on the first few days. If you’re fasting something else, a new habit is forming in its place and it may not seem difficult to keep giving it up. If you aren’t careful, you can begin to place confidence in your own efforts.

With any type of “religious” activity, we must guard against patting ourselves on the back and calling ourselves righteous. We have to keep at the forefront of our minds why we started fasting in the first place. The apostle Paul puts it beautifully as he lists all the reasons he could boast of his own efforts. Yet, he considers everything he ever did in the name of religion worthless compared to knowing Christ. We aren’t made righteous by obeying rules, fasting, spending extra time in prayer, church attendance, etc. We become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ and the work HE has done on the cross for us.

What a relief! Let us press on in our heavenly race towards the prize that is Christ. Our time of fasting and prayer isn’t familiar, boring, or a second thought, rather it’s a way to know Jesus more and experience and relate to Christ in everything we do.

Dear Lord Jesus, give me strength to continue with my fast. In doing so, I ask that you help me to keep the main thing the main thing… YOU! Rid me of any pride or false sense of accomplishment and check my motives and heart condition. I press on towards the upward call that is Christ Jesus. I want more of you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith, Fasting, Inspiration, Lift Church, religious, Uncategorized

Break Through

Greg and I wanted to start out 2012 fasting and praying God’s perfect will in our lives.  The Bible shows us clearly that some things come to us only by prayer and fasting.  Jesus fasted for 40 days before he began his public ministry.  Daniel fasted while seeking a breakthrough for the people of Israel.

Before we began, we wrote down and prayed about some specific breakthroughs that we want God to give us: namely financial support for Lift Church and selling our house.  As Greg and I embark on the most critical season of our lives-moving across the world and starting a church, we are desperately seeking God.

As I write this morning, I am on day 10 of our 21 day Daniel fast.  God has clearly shifted my perspective.  Instead of praying for breakthroughs for myself in the aforementioned areas,  the phrase “break ME through to YOU” keeps coming up in my spirit.  Rather than a breakthrough for me, what God wants is

ME to break through to Him.

If we rid all the distractions and seek Him like never before, He meets all our needs.  At the end of the day, our needs are not physical.  That’s the miracle of fasting.  God is all we need. Cliche?  Yes. True? Absolutely. At no time in my life have I realized how much my true needs depend on His presence.  In order to feel fulfilled physically, mentally, and spiritually, we have to break through our normal routines and distractions.  James 4:8 promises that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Amazingly, God has shown me that the things I wrote down as my desired breakthroughs during this fast are all rooted in fear, doubt and worry.  My “desperate” need for God to “come through” FOR ME so that we are taken care of both financially and physically totally shifted a few days into this fast.  Instead, my “desperate” need became to be free from fear, doubt and worry.  I didn’t even realize I was worried!

My plea each and everyday is that God’s grace will be sufficient for me (2 Cor 12:9).  God’s strength is made known to us when we are weak.  I’ve never been more weak physically than I am right now.  (What I wouldn’t give for a greasy cheeseburger!) But that’s just the point.

We carve away at our carnal desires by getting rid of anything that fills us up besides God.  It can be shopping, television, or any number of things that take our time.  Once we move those out, we are left with a

reflection of ourselves

that is raw and tender.  Like an open wound or the inside of a piece of fruit that is peeled apart, we are soft and pliable for the Lord.  When we delight in the Lord, the promise that He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4) takes on its true meaning.  Those true desires are in alignment with God’s like never before when we fast.

Matthew 6:33 says that if we seek first God’s kingdom “all these things will be added unto us.”  What things?  The sale of my house?  Perhaps.  Finances to move and plant a church? Hopefully. Peace?  Certainly.  Revelation? Absolutely.

I am more thankful than ever for God’s absolute and infinite provision in my life.  He truly can meet every need.  When we empty ourselves for His glory, He is able to fill us up like never before.  When we sacrifice the most basic of our desires (food), He overcompensates with His sweet presence.  It’s better than any piece of chocolate I have eaten.

If you are a Christian and have never fasted, I encourage you to try it.  Awakening is a movement of churches and individuals who will fast corporately beginning in a few days.   You can even watch podcasts each day for 21 days.  Jentezen Franklin also has some great fasting resources available.  As 2012 starts off , seek God and

break through to Him like never before!

Australia, church, Church planting, Faith, Lift Church, religious, Uncategorized

No Turning Back

Today is a landmark day for Greg and me.  It ends our time on staff at Celebration Church as well as our time as distributors in AdvoCare.  Both have had significant impact on who we are as leaders, pastors, and entrepreneurs.  Both provided us with community and relationships that will last a lifetime.  Both have given us fulfillment and purpose.  To close the door on those two chapters in the same day feels somewhat like we have closed one of those huge floor-to-ceiling bank vaults; neither of us have the code to re-open it.  No turning back.

All day, I have been singing the old hymn:

I have decided to follow Jesus

Verse 1:

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

Verse 2:
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

Verse 3:
The world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

The words are significant and powerful. I feel like we are jumping off a cliff into an unknown abyss.  No turning back!  Whether anyone goes with us, still we will follow.  No turning back!  Soon, Texas will be behind us.  Only the cross, our calling, and Australia will be before us.  No turning back!

Sometimes “following Jesus” scares us because of what we think we will have to leave behind or give up.  What we don’t realize is great peace comes in knowing you are right in the center of God’s will for your life.  For every thing I can think of that we are giving up (and trust me, I’ve thought of them all; there are a lot), I can think of 5 possible replacements God might have in store. As a matter of fact, Ephesians chapter 3 promises that God has more planned for us than we can even think up or imagine.  That’s exciting considering I have a great imagination!

The Bible tells us to “deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.”  This is contrary to everything the world encourages us to do.  Hollywood, TV, and self-help books will tell us to “follow our hearts” or to do what makes us happy.  We are encouraged to deny ourselves nothing.

Did you know God created each of us for a purpose?  Whatever your “gift and passion” are, they were given to you by God Himself.  He desires nothing more than for you to step into that passion and change the world for Him.  Taking up our cross and denying ourselves just means deciding that even if His path seems less convenient or harder, we are willing.  It means that even if we initially feel ill-equipped and worried about the details, we will follow Him anyway.

You can bet moving across the world feels quite inconvenient.  It feels hard and lonely.  I feel like I have no business “starting a church” when I don’t even exhibit the “fruit of the spirit” in my own four walls when it comes to patience with my kids.  Even though the Bible tells me not to worry, you can bet I’ve been up half the night more than once worrying about finances, schools, my kids, losing my friends, and more.

The thought of not walking in my calling far outweighs the weight of all this.  The thought of looking back at my life and knowing I let fear or worry stop me from taking a leap of faith with God is unbearable.

To know that the God of the universe, the ONE who created me, has given Greg and me vision, desire, and training for Lift Church outweighs the sadness I feel about closing that vault.  I remind myself that if God is for me who can be against me ?  This propels me to jump off the cliff.  Knowing there are hurting people living in Newcastle whose lives and eternities will be changed because of our obedience makes me want to run forward as fast as I can.  No turning back, no turning back!

Australia, Faith, Inspiration, Lift Church, religious

Faith and Works

We are home from Australia and the question I’m getting is, “Are you really going to move?”  as if we were going to get there and realize we were way off track and God isn’t really calling us to plant this church.  We would wake up 8500 miles away and say, “What are we thinking?  We can’t do this!”

Well, that did not happen!  As a matter of fact, our faith was built for what is ahead of us and we are more excited than ever about this journey.  In some ways, it was hard to come home because there is so much work to do.  Some days, I’m overwhelmed at my to-do list. Other days, all I can think about is that I’m not spiritually ready for such a huge undertaking.  That my faith isn’t strong enough and that I must read the Bible through 20 more times before I could ever call myself a pastor or lead anything!

I’m reminded of a passage of scripture in James chapter 2 that addresses this very thing: faith and works. It’s like the old song “Love and Marriage-” you can’t have one without the other!  The Bible explains that we show our faith in God through our actions. The first steps of church planting are not very spiritual in nature.  Getting an ABN (Australian business number), credentialing Greg as a pastor there, opening bank accounts, and setting up a website. None of which takes great faith.  They’re just works.  Boring, sometimes stressful, and confusing!  But it’s faith in God and what He is calling us to do that is causing us to do this work in the first place.  Abraham was called a friend of God because of being justified in his works by offering his son Isaac on the altar.  Faith was working with his works and as a result, he was perfected (James 2:21, 22).

The Message translation of this passage says that works and faith fit together hand and glove.  We can’t profess to trust in God and then sit back and proclaim that we have accomplished something great on our own, by our works.  Don’t get this whole thing confused with thinking you have to WORK to gain God’s favor and approval (you already have this through the blood of Jesus).  I’m just explaining that faith expresses itself in works.

Selling our house and cars and half of our belongings takes faith and a lot of work.  Moving to a new city with no one in our church, no real plan for income, and no guarantee that we will be successful takes great faith.  But we can’t just sit around and pray all day and expect things to magically move us in that direction. We gotta get to work!  James says that a person is made right with God by faith fruitful in works.  We cannot separate faith from works in any area of our lives.

If you are praying and believing for a new job, I hope you are applying and putting together a great resume.  If you have a bad marriage and have faith that God can restore it, you better be going out of your way to show your spouse love and respect.  If your finances are in shambles, don’t just pray for a miracle.  Pray for one while tithing and working on a serious budget!

The faith for Greg and I came in trusting God that He was calling us to plant a church.  Now that we have this assurance, we have to get to work.  We know God has called us to start Lift Church in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.  It’s not our talent that will make this come together.  It’s the power of God in us that will allow doors to open and miracles to unfold.  God will work in our work!  God’s desire is that everyone know His name.  He wants a relationship with people in our city who are far from Him.  He wants us to be the carriers of His message to bring hope to a lost and dying world.   It’s the Holy Spirit who not only directs our path, but allows people to come to know Christ. We have to complete our LONG to-do list while praying and believing God is going to direct our path and guide our every step.  This is building our faith. Faith fruitful in works.

Australia, Inspiration, Pictures, religious, Uncategorized

Caught in Freedom

On Sunday, we visited Pastor Phil Camden’s Church 180.  It meets in two locations in Newcastle and we were in the downtown locale.  They purchased an old theater and it is perfect for church.

Everyone was so friendly as they handed us welcome brochures and offered us tea and coffee.  The pastoral care pastor, Garth Belford saw us and immediately escorted us around.  It was obvious we were new and I loved the way everyone seemed genuinely interested in greeting us and getting to know us a little.

The service opened with the Hillsong United song “Go” where the first line is “Giving it all away, away!”  I don’t know whether it was the presence of God in the room, the reality of our “giving it all away,” or just the beauty of seeing people like us worshipping God in a way that felt comfortable that caused me to be overcome with emotion.  Maybe it was a combination of it all.  The song was appropriate on every level. Greg and I are “giving it all to go your way!”  As much as all of the unknowns can be intimidating for us, we are also in a place of perfect peace. Knowing we are doing exactly what we are called to do is refreshing and meaningful.  My favorite line from the same song is “we are caught in your freedom.”

When you live in a place of total surrender to God’s will for your life, there is ultimate freedom.  So many people think if they give their lives to God, there is a list of “what-not-to-do’s” waiting on the other side.  The opposite is actually true.  Christ set us free to live a FREE life (Galatians 5).  That means we walk without fear, with an attitude of gratitude in all things, in peace, with joy and dreaming big dreams.  The only place I want to be “caught” is in this very freedom.

When we know we are standing for what Christ died for and surrendering everything to go His way, there is complete freedom.  I love the bathroom stall sign at Church 180:

I want to encourage you today to turn your “cant’s into cans.”  With God, your dreams can and should turn into plans.  All things are truly possible.  As we venture out into the unknown to plant a church in Newcastle, it is encouraging to know that we will be in a city with other great churches who are making a difference.  To know their heart and methods are Christ-centered and their “product” (for lack of a better term) is much like what Lift Church will be is very inspiring.  Many lives will continue to be changed and we feel honored and blessed to come alongside Pastor Phil and Church 180 to make a difference in this awesome city.

Australia, Church planting, Inspiration, Lift Church, religious, Uncategorized

Preparing for LIFT-OFF

Today is a significant day for many reasons!  (For one thing, it’s my daughter Sydney’s 3rd birthday.)  Secondly, we are headed to Australia for almost a month.  This trip is something like a Nehemiah reconnaissance mission where we plan to scope out Newcastle and lay some groundwork for our move.

Setting up our non-profit, opening bank accounts, looking at neighborhoods and schools, visiting churches, and networking with local pastors are all on our “to-do” list.  Not to mention we will meet our new 8 week old niece, Greg will find the surf, and we will have lots of Nana and Grandad family time.

I will drive on the streets of the city in which we are going to plant a church for the first time. Up until this point, I’ve only bypassed Newcastle via train or car from Forster (where Greg’s parents live) to Sydney.

My heart beats a little faster every time I think about what God has in store.  Have you ever been so excited about something yet so scared at the same time?  I imagine it’s how I would feel if I were standing on the edge of a bridge with a bungee cord tied to my ankle and someone behind me was yelling, “It’s ok!  You can do it!  Just jump!”  My hands sweat just thinking about it.  We are on the edge of a cliff preparing for “LIFT OFF” right now. Everything God has in store for our family, our church, and all of the people we will affect for His glory hinges on our willingness to trust Him and just JUMP!

A scripture that has been dear to us since last summer is John 12:32 and it says, “And when I am LIFTED up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  Jesus was referring to his imminent death and resurrection.  The point is that it’s Him, the Holy Spirit, who draws people to Himself.  We know that this journey is not about us.  Although we have a lot of sacrifice and hard work ahead of us, ultimately we have ONE JOB: to LIFT up the name of Jesus.  To make HIM famous.  When we do our part to LIFT Him up in our weekly services, in our training of leaders, in our parenting, in our community, HE will do the supernatural work which draws people into a saving relationship with Him.

As we head out on this amazing trip (which has now been delayed by another 10 hours as we are in a hotel in Los Angeles waiting for our new flight time in the morning), we are excited to share the name of our church with you all: LIFT CHURCH!

God is the one who LIFTS our feet from the miry clay and sets them on a rock (Psalm 40:2). He LIFTS our head (Psalm 3:3).  We LIFT our voices and our hands to praise the one who created the heavens and the earth. We LIFT up a standard. We LIFT up prayers.

God’s been clear on every part of this journey so far.  With clarity, we take the next step into what He has for us and LIFT CHURCH.  We are trusting Him with every day, every dollar, and every decision.

church, Church planting, religious, Timing, Uncategorized

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

“Hurry up and wait” is the phrase that I seem to live by these days.  We have prepared as much as we can thus far in our journey: Visa application submitted, trip to OZ budgeted and planned for this week, house for sale, de-cluttering in progress, video being made for our fund-raising when we get home… medical checks done.

The future seems so clear on one hand, yet so muddy on the other.  We know where we will be in a couple of years. I can envision living in Newcastle with an awesome church that is growing and thriving.  The kids are loving their schools and life is great.  Brett knows how to surf, we spend holidays with our family, Sam has an Aussie accent and I can drive on the left side of the road confidently.  I have a permanent visa to live in Australia as long as I want and our vision continues to grow for all that God wants to do in and through our family and church.  Life is good!

I know some of the steps that are going to have to happen before we get to that place.  It’s the timeline that’s muddy.  I know our house in Texas will sell eventually.  I know we will put our belongings into a 20 ft crate and ship it overseas.  We will say our goodbyes to family and friends.  We will have raised $100K for our church.  We will rent a house in Australia.  We will buy a car (or two).  We will start our church with an amazing launch team of people who feel called to help us get it off the ground.  We will have a website and a logo.  You get the point.

The hard part is that I really have no control over so many of these steps.  It’s the same for all of us.  We have vision and dreams for our future.  We know where we’d like to be in 5 years.  The questions is, “How do we get there?”

Every significant person in the Bible faced a situation full of unknowns.  Just think about Noah building that ark for a few decades when there was no rain in sight!  The good news is that juxtaposed with unknowns is our God who knows everything.   The Alpha and Omega, our God prepares the way.  Just like He prepared the way for Jesus through John the Baptist. God sent the wise men on a journey with provision for Jesus in Bethlehem long before he was actually born.

He sent Moses to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt while they were still in slavery.  Boaz was ready and waiting for Ruth once she took a risk and left home with her mother-in-law Naomi.

Every time I start to get impatient or worry about how the details are all going to fall into place for us to get settled in Australia, I’m reminded of this trend!  I’m reminded about every phase of my life up until now and how there has always been a season of preparation and waiting before actually eating of the fruit.

We all know you plant a seedling and it takes decades to grow into a shady tree.  We understand pregnancy takes nine months.  We tell our kids “good things come to those who wait.”  Every athlete works and prepares long before a national championship.

Waiting and preparing is oftentimes the hardest part.  I will not be disqualified because I quit.  I won’t miss out on important lessons I need to learn before we step into the big shoes of being Senior Pastors.  I will take each day as it comes and cross off the items on my to-do list without stressing over the items carried over to tomorrow.  I will wait with excitement upon the Lord to open each door He has for us.