Notice Me, Please!

At my son’s recent cross-country race, every kid suddenly picked up his pace as he came down the stretch of the course where parents were lined up cheering. Knowing they were being watched and hearing the roar of the crowd, maybe even their own names, provided a catapulting adrenaline boost!

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Me, at the finish of the race!

A few years ago, I ran the Blackmores Half Marathon. It was a dream-come-true for this Texan to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge afoot and then finish those 21km at the steps of the Opera House. As I was running, I knew my husband, Greg, was somewhere out on the course and as my legs fatigued, I longed for his smiling face to find me amongst the crowd. I needed my adrenaline boost. At about the 10km mark, I turned a corner and spotted his bright red jumper in the distance. My smile quickly faded as I realised, he wasn’t looking my direction…

I kept staring at him as my feet pounded the pavement, music blasting in my ears, willing him to turn around as I approached. I kept thinking, “He knows my pace. He knows I should be at this point in the race about now. I’m doing so well… surely he’s going to clue in and start yelling for me any minute.”

When I was within about 50 metres of him, not only did he not begin cheering for me, but I started yelling out for him!  I’m singing Taylor Swift, “I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving. It’s like I’ve got this music in my mind sayin’ it’s gonna be all right,” only,

IT. WASN’T. ALL. RIGHT.

Greg wasn’t the one huffing and puffing. He had the easy job: stand there in his nice bright red, warm jumper, cuppa in hand, and look for me. Yell out; clap; whistle; say, ‘you’ve got this babe!’ You know, catapult me forward. Make me feel like a star!  Show everyone around me how special I am and point out how I’m smashing this race!

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Here’s the bright red jumper which can be seen from a great distance!

By the time I was within 10 metres of him, not only was I exerting extra energy to yell out, but now my arms were waving and I almost tripped the guy next to me for looking to my right to get Greg’s attention. Just as I was passing him, he finally saw me. He yelled out a little ‘great job’ (or something) and I was turning the corner, on my own again. Now, instead of feeling an adrenaline rush of energy, I was feeling sad and irritated that my one fan didn’t even notice me.

He didn’t see how great I was going… How strong I looked. How fit! How my determination and discipline had paid off and, perhaps most importantly – how I was rocking my new shoes.

In that moment along the course, I needed him to recognise me. I wanted everyone around me to hear MY MAN cheering me on, to see that I was good at what I was doing.

A lot of us compete throughout our whole lives like we are in a footrace, panting along, hoping someone will notice us. We wear our achievements like a pinned on race number, right across our social media sites, longing for likes and views. We feel defeated when we don’t get invited to the party, as if everyone passed us at the finish line. We give up when the boss doesn’t notice how hard we worked, wounded like the runner in the courtesy shuttle who sprained her ankle.

We pour our blood, sweat and tears into things praying for

SOMEONE to NOTICE.

Looking to others to motivate, encourage, acknowledge, or validate you will, most certainly, lead to disappointment. Your friends might get it right one day, but forget all about you the next. Your kids may say “thank you” today and demand more than you can give tomorrow. Just as quickly as your followers “liked” your last post, they will un-follow you for something more popular.

If your self-worth is tied to what’s temporal, you’ll find yourself striving with an insatiable need to please. Or, you’ll constantly be bitter with the taste of envy, disappointment, and anger on your tongue, a resident victim.

The encouraging news is that there is ONE who is ALWAYS monitoring your progress, cheering you on, noticing your every move and smiling upon you.

His name is Jesus.

He never loses sight of you; as a matter of fact, his eyes are ranging about the earth, ready to strengthen those whose hearts are committed to him. He’s on the lookout for you and you have no other competitors. He goes before you and behind you. Our God never loses step or forgets to turn. You don’t have to yell out or wave him down. He loves you, just the way you are, at whatever pace you’re running your race.

Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice (Psalm 51:16-17).

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Day 19: “Be the light.”

be-the-lightAs you mature in your faith and continue to pursue God, your life reflects his glory. God is on your lips, in everyday conversations. This time of prayer and fasting has created new habits for you and you have received revelation of who God is in your life.

Do people around you know that you are a Christ follower? Have you stepped out to encourage someone by sharing what Jesus means to you? You may be surprised at how open others actually are towards him when you make known the goodness of your God.

Remember, no one can take away your personal testimony of how Jesus has touched you. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or have all the answers in order to shine the light of Christ.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG)

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.

Fasting Devotion, Day Fourteen

(Post submitted by Robyn Kennaugh)

Deuteronomy 6:6-9

As our period of fasting finishes its second week, hopefully we are focussing ON something spiritual while fasting FROM certain things. We may spend time praying, or in worship, thinking about God’s amazing provisions for our lives; and, we may reflect on areas that we know we need guidance as we discipline ourselves to withdraw from certain foods or habits.

Reading and studying the word of God is a focus for most of us while fasting but should be incorporated in every area of our lives, whether fasting or not! Knowing what God says about certain matters helps us to not sin and it enables God to show us the next steps we need to take. God’s word reminds us of our identity and place in God’s family. Our futures are certain because of the promises we find in his word.

It’s important to weave God’s word into every part of our lives. Our default when a question arises should be, “what does the Lord have to say about this?” Our children should be taught godly principles at any opportunity – trips in the car to and from school and to other activities. And of course when we when we tuck them in at night and around the dinner table, we should incorporate the word of God.

Taking his words with us during our day to keeps us on course, staying faithful to the finish, and to bringing honour to Him!

God, your word brings life, healing, direction, and encouragement to me. Thank you that it is living and applicable to life in 2014. Help me retain and memorise it so I can recall it at just the right time. You are my ever-present help in time of need. I love your ways and your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Call Me a Pioneer

I get one of two main responses when I share our vision for Lift Church:

1) A glazed over look and a patronizing or confused smile that says, “Awe, poor thing.  She doesn’t get it.  That’s nice, but we will see what actually happens.”  You can tell our viewpoint is either so foreign to them that they just can’t relate or understand.  Or, they really DO think we are crazy; or naive; or short-sighted.

2) An excited face and ‘edge-of-her-seat’ body language that screams, “I want THAT!” Some people hear what we have to say and it’s like a breath of fresh air to them.  They get so excited and can’t wait to ask questions and how they can be a part of what we are doing.

It’s not hard to admit that not everyone will see what we see.  Sometimes we are just planting a seed.  For some folks, they will not grasp “it” until the groundwork has been laid- when we have hundreds of people and and comfy chairs, amazing kids’ programs, coffee, flashy lights and amazing bands.  Other people will never  be excited about anything related to Jesus!  Yet others will come alongside us even in this inaugural season where all we have to show the way is our spearheaded conviction and our word.  Seven amazing families have already decided to pioneer alongside us (Praise God)!

I’m reminded of the start of our AdvoCare business in 2000.  All we had was a $50 investment and a vision for how the products and company could change our lives.  People thought we had gone mad!  We lived everyday with negative opinions about network marketing.  However, with hard work and God’s favour on us, we continued to share our vision and ONE BY ONE, we built a team.  That company has paid us over $1 million.

Here we are again, only this time, the stakes are much higher.  We have eternity in mind every time we initiate and instigate.  When we preach and promote the cause of the local church, our own avant-garde family’s legacy is tied to this dream.  All our chips are on the table and no matter the risk, despite the “no’s” we receive or disappointments along the way, we will lead the way.  We are forging a trail so others will have a clear path to find Jesus.

Day after day, we keep pitching our vision and sharing what God has placed in our hearts.  The idea of a church that impacts this city and raises up leaders, disciples Christians and molds the next generation isn’t hard for me to see. Partly, because I experienced it firsthand at Celebration Church.  Secondly, I know people everywhere are hungry for what we will serve.  No one wants his kid to grow up a failure, on drugs or without purpose.  Most people just have no idea that the answers they seek can be found in the church.

The Bible says when people lack vision, they are unrestrained.  One version says, “they go wild!”  Take one look at our Western society and the word “wild” could easily describe our morals, theology, and young people.  Even non-believers will agree with this.  A hunger is raging for a leader who knows where he is going and whom one can trust and follow.  Our desire is that we will continue to press on despite the critics, despite those who don’t see what we see, despite the temptation to settle in and accept the status quo.  We are pathfinders blazing a trail and chartering new territory.  One by one, we know God will draw people to this vision.

No matter what role each of us fill, as Christians, we are called to advance The Church on the earth.  Let us not shy away when the path seems unclear or we get scratched by the underbrush.  We can’t turn around or back down when the climb is steep or the weather changes.  The mission is too important and the eternal rewards are worth it.

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; Psalm 127:1