2015 Fasting Devotion, Day EIGHTEEN

Read Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG)

A new year causes us to both reflect on last years wins/losses as well as plan for the year to come. How can we get ahead? Earn more money. Ensure our kids have a good year in school. Lose weight. Pay off debt. Buy a house. Grow our church! Stay on top of schedules, school work, housework! Cook healthier meals. Keep closets organised. Make new friends. And the list goes on…

We must not turn all this planning and forward thinking into WORRY. Jesus reminds us to focus on today and encourages us to look around at how well he takes care of the birds and flowers. Don’t we matter much more?

When we spend all our time preoccupied with “getting,” we miss out on God’s amazing “giving.” The more we get to know God and the way he works, the less we should worry about the future. God is at work in our TODAY. Beauty and blessing all around. Learning to BE in the moment with our families brings honour to God. Finding rest in our crazy lives means trusting Him with our tomorrow. Turning our focus outward instead of on ourselves and our problems shines the light of Christ in a dark world. God is doing his best for us, working on our behalf. Let’s allow this to be enough for today.

Jesus, you bring great perspective and wisdom to my situations and worries. Thank you for reminding me that you’re in control of my life and that you WILL provide everything I need. As I set goals and look toward the future, help me to trust YOU ultimately and receive what you’re giving each day with gladness. You’re the giver of all good things and for that I am grateful. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

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Stop and Smell the Roses

I’m amazed at how many people in my BEAUTIFUL city complain about it or say negative things.  No matter how many other beautiful places around the world there are, I refuse to look around at this:

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Newcastle Beach (20 mins from my house)!

And this:

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Lake Macquarie (5 mins from my house)!

And this:

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Lake Macquarie from Green Point Reserve (5 mins from my house)!

And this:

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Blackbutt Reserve (15 mins from my house)!

And think anything except, “GOD, I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU CALLED ME HERE!  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!”

Oh, how sweet the light of day,And how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour… (Ecclesiastes 11:7 MSG)

Gratefulness

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Instead of focussing on what stresses me out and what worries me today, I am choosing to be grateful.  If I’m not careful, however, I can allow this positive perspective to shift to complaining and criticizing.  Just looking at Facebook status updates halfway inspires me to join the plethora of groaning about everything from what sports team lost to which side of the political isle is stupid to what a bad day we are all having!

It reminds me of the Israelites who walked across the Red Sea on dry land; shortly thereafter, they remembered with fondness the wonderful food they could eat as slaves in Egypt and longed for those days, complaining about the Lord’s miraculous provision of manna.

The very thing that they were saved from is the thing they ended up wanting to go back to time and time again.

I  read these passages and think, “How could those Israelites be so ungrateful?  Wasn’t the fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day that led them towards the Promised Land evidence enough that God was with them?  Couldn’t walking across the Red Sea on dry land to escape the Egyptians be cause enough for total devotion and gratitude to God for saving and rescuing them out of slavery? The daily provision of food and safety should have been cause for celebrating not contravening.”

They complained about the manna, having no meat to eat.  God sent quail and it wasn’t long until that was unsatisfying again.  Even when they finally reached their destination, 80 percent of the leaders sent to spy out the land came back with a negative report- faithless, and fearful.  How easy is it for us to look on the outside and judge these Chosen Ones?  We look at all of these scenarios and think, “If God did all that for me, I would never (fill-in-the-blank)!”  We look at others’ lives and think, “if I had that job, that house, those children, that vacation, I would be more grateful.”

I can remember a time not too long ago when I was desperately seeking God to provide us with a house we could live in and at a good price.  God miraculously provided the perfect location, a newer house, the price we wanted, fabulous neighbours, and more.  Yet upon moving in, I quickly started complaining about the smallness of my kitchen.  I hated the sounds of the barking dogs around me during rest time.  I lamented the small backyard.  I made excuses to my guests and compared it to my spacious kitchen in Texas. For crying out loud, I have to keep all of my food in the makeshift pantry I created in the laundry room closet beneath my staircase!

If I’m not cautious, my desire to please God daily can be overturned by my own rotten attitude at times.  Paul persuades us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (Philppians 2:14).

What pleases God is an attitude of gratitude.  The Israelites never quite got this and it actually kept them out of the promised land.  They missed out on all that God had for them going around the same mountain over and over.  God called them a “stiff-necked” people.  Stubborn and hard-headed were they indeed!  How quickly we can shift our tune from gratitude to complaining.  And, like the Israelites, we can miss out on all that God has in store.  Let us steward the things he has given us with a grateful spirit.  The grass isn’t greener on the other side. I can look at what is before me and see the redeeming work of Jesus in my family, the health of myself and my kids, our progress in building Lift Church, and I’m astonished!

I won’t waste time turning back to long for another day or another way.

We must turn our focus onto the things within our reach instead of the things we can’t change or influence.  We can’t control what has been placed in our hands but we can control what we do with it.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Here is another post on gratefulness from a year ago!

Content Now?

Ever since I got a paid gig writing blogs last month, my own blog has suffered.  As Ecclesiastes says, “there’s nothing new under the sun;” the same feels true as I update you all on what’s going on here in Australia.  Our furniture FINALLY arrived after three long months of waiting and we have been unpacking and trying to organize our belongings all day everyday since then.

It’s interesting to see what’s inside each one.  I thought I had de-cluttered like nobody’s business.  I sold what felt like half our belongings and what remained was only the most loved outfits, personal effects that are irreplaceable, and items that would be too expensive to replace here.  Interestingly, after living out of six suitcases with only the necessities for a couple of months, I now realize 42 pairs of underwear and socks and 25 coffee mugs aren’t really that important after all.  I can’t tell you how many hangers and shoes I have no room for in my Belmont North rental.  And, that pile of paperwork that sat on my Lynnwood desk needing attention is now outdated and has no value nor importance in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although beds and outfits make life comfortable and I am certainly happy I can serve my neighbors dinner without washing dishes midway through the meal because I now have enough plates and silverware, I have come to appreciate how little we can live on if we really must.  I know, I know… everyone says it.  Missionaries live it.  Starving kids in Africa play with sticks all day and seem perfectly content.  Less is more.  I’m not saying anything new.

The trick for anyone who has experienced an adjustment to having less than what she used to is to stay balanced in the long run.  How do we remain generous with our money and possessions if we don’t have any?  Yet, once we do, how do we live comfortably, but not extravagantly?  Solomon wrote about a man who might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment.  He says “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecc. 1:7-9).

Yet Paul contrasts this with saying in Phillipians that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  He knew what it was “to be in need,” and what it was “to have plenty.”  He said he “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Contentment is sourced by our heavenly father when we are at peace with Him.  Only God can supply all our needs “according to his riches in glory.”  I used to think that meant material needs (and maybe it does) but the older I get and the more “stuff” I accumulate, I realize God supplying ALL MY NEEDS is much deeper than anything we can purchase in dollars.  Contentment means resting in peace when working really hard to pay the bills.  Contentment is enjoying the moment with my kids when dishes and laundry need to be done.  Contentment equals taking a back row seat in somebody else’s church so I can get fed and my kids can be in church even though God has called us to lead a large influential church ourselves.  Contentment means hanging onto my dreams even though they seem so far away.  Contentment when releasing control to understand unfair circumstances and grief.  Being anxious in NOTHING but by prayer and supplication, presenting my requests to God.  He promises to give peace that surpasses understanding.

Contentment means confessing John 6:35

Jesus is the Bread of Life.  I come to him and I am never hungry.  I believe in him, cleave to, trust in and rely on Him.  I am never thirsty at any time.  I am fully satisfied.

When I can confess this daily and mean it no matter my surroundings or circumstances, I have reached contentment.  In the meantime, I will enjoy my old recliner and photo albums.  And if you come to visit me, I will give you my California King and make you dinner in my Texas sized pots and pans.