Courage, Fasting, Inspiration, Series, Uncategorized

Fasting Devotion, Day Eight

(Post submitted by Paul O’Rourke)

Romans 5:1-11

We are one week into our three week’s of fasting. The newness of it has probably worn off by now and the excitement and anticipation of what God will do may have disappeared in the monotony of what little you may be eating! Motivation gets us started, but perseverance, commitment, discipline and accountability help us to continue.

It takes courage to continue. Bill Hybels writes, “Every day we choose between courage and conviction. To follow our convictions, or cave-in for the sake of comfort, convenience or greed.”

We aren’t too big on suffering. In fact, our society is geared to maximising pleasure and minimising pain. We won’t suffer a headache, a fool, bad service, a hunger pang for very long. We give up too easily and too soon. Jesus endured the cross and we are encouraged not to grow weary or lose heart in pursuing the things of God.

As we embark on this second week, do not be discouraged if things didn’t go exactly as you planned the last week. No one is condemning you for that. Just pick up here and start afresh. Accountability can help you through as well. It’s harder to miss a day’s training when you exercise with a partner who is waiting for you to show up. It’s harder to break a fast or a promise when it has been written down and shared with others.

Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Exercise your faith through your spiritual disciplines.

Make a plan and tell others.

Be accountable.

And never, ever give up.

Remember: “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character begets hope, and hope never disappoints” (Romans 5:3-4).

Heavenly Father, you alone are the one who can give me strength to continue to persevere. No amount of suffering I withstand compares to your sacrifice on the cross. Help me remember this as I continue to seek you during this fast. Build my character. Give me courage. I pray for breakthroughs in every area of my life as I trust you as well as do my part to stay disciplined. In your son’s name, Amen.

Courage, Fasting, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Fasting Devotion, Day Three

2 Corinthians 3  Acts 4:30-33

When we picture someone who is bold, we think of shoulders held high, a confident step, eye contact, a voice that carries… someone who isn’t afraid to try something new, even if it’s risky. We find it admirable when our children step out to try new things and we encourage them to have confidence in the face of peer pressure. We teach them to stand up to bullies and to walk without fear.

If someone is too aggressively bold, however, we call her “forward.” We think, “that was a bit audacious” of her and we want her to back down. It seems there’s an unspoken line we aren’t meant to cross where lies too much risk. Her actions just become stupid and irresponsible.

Someone can move quickly from admirable for her courage to just plain senseless because she puts herself in precarious situations too often.

Thankfully, when we walk with God, we can be as bold as we wish towards him. He loves for us to shout daring prayers and to put forth colossal requests. After all, he holds the world in the palm of his hand. Nothing is too difficult for him! The apostle Paul reminds us that nothing should hold us back through the power of Jesus! Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

This means you and I have freedom to bring ANYTHING before God during this fast with ANYTHING. Even the things we don’t want to say out loud because they might seem too far-fetched. We can ask God to set us free from lifelong addictions and struggles. He can restore broken relationships. He can heal us from any disease. God can multiply our influence and our finances if he chooses. God can bring back wayward children; and by his spirit, he can make a way where no path seems clear.

Jesus, thank you for spilling your blood out on the cross for my redemption. Because of your sacrifice and the hope I have in who you are, I come boldly before your throne of grace. I ask you to move mightily in my life in the area of ________________. I look forward with excitement for the testimony that is to come from what you will do in this situation. In Christ’s mighty name, Amen.

Courage, Uncategorized

Don’t Stop Now

I love to run on the nearby Fernleigh Track.  It follows an old railway line and winds me through gorgeous bushland where I can hear Bell Birds and see wildlife like cute bunnies hopping across my path.  I recently ran a little further than usual and as I turned back towards home, I noticed a sign I had never seen before:

Here's the sign on my run!

Since I was a good 5km from home, this “all-caps-command” felt like an order, dictating to my tired legs what they yearned to hear.  I have a policy that I don’t STOP and walk when I’m running.  Otherwise, it feels too hard to start back up again.

Running is one thing, but what about genuine trials in life that press us down so hard, we cave under the pressure?  Our marriage feels too far in the ditch to bring back in alignment.  We STOP putting ourselves out there for relationships because we have been hurt one too many times and trusting feels too hard.  We feel helpless when it comes to our finances or our jobs so we terminate early.

Personally, this journey of church planting has felt lonelier and more stressful than anything I have ever done; at times, everything in me has wanted to fly back to Texas and give up.  The weight of expectation for what it means to be a pastor’s wife feels confusing and daunting most days. And, when our vision doesn’t come to pass quickly, it’s easy to doubt God’s word and wish I could turn back.

We all face trials that cause us pain and moments when we feel like we can’t suck in enough air to go another mile.  There are times our heart beats out of our chest with anxiety and fear and we think our bodies might explode.

Rather than letting an outside voice slow us down, why don’t we let our inner voice speed us past this wreckage that seeks to halt our progress?

Last I checked, as Christians, are actually “more than conquerors” and it’s for “freedom that Christ has set us free.”  We aren’t victims of circumstance nor are we underdogs or fools.

We have been given a “shield of victory” and we are supposed to be bold because of the hope we have in Christ. We shouldn’t be overrun by negative thinking or hopelessness.  Instead, when those thoughts come, we should remind ourselves not to “burn out or quit in hard times; instead, pray all the harder.”

I’m believing for that last bit of leg strength to keep running.  I’m believing for the breath of God to fill our lungs so we are strong and courageous.  I’m expecting God to strengthen our spiritual and mental muscles so they can take us farther than we thought we had strength to go.  That our minds would focus on the long-term marathon, not just the next km.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it” (Phil 3:12-16).

Courage, Faith, Uncategorized

Jump In!

I have always been intimidated by water.  I’m not a strong swimmer so being in water with people splashing around me or in the ocean with big waves makes me nervous.  I don’t like the feeling of being in over my head.  Training for a triathlon in college was the first time I learned to swim with a proper stroke, wearing goggles and a swim cap.  My coach taught me an important lesson the first day.  I was so tired after just 50 meters because I was fighting the water instead of letting it hold me up.  When I learned to relax and go with it, I actually found a smooth stroke and could swim for ages.  I had to trust her advice and have courage to try this new approach before it would work.

Courage isn’t just bravery or boldness.  Courage means we trust GOD in any situation despite our circumstances or fears.  It means having the audacity to step out in faith even when we don’t know what to expect or how big the task.  Courage that says we are willing to get in over our heads with God.  Wading out into unknown territory with Him instead of splashing around with our floaties on or staying where we can touch the bottom (having control), we let go.  Instead of fighting against his will, we learn to relax in his embrace, letting him guide us.

This reminds me of a vision God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel where water was gushing from the Temple; God was leading Ezekiel out where the water flowed.  He first describes it as being ankle deep, then knee deep, then thigh deep, then a river that was so deep he could not touch the bottom.

Many interpret this vision as the gospel going out into the earth, starting small and growing into an overwhelming force;  it could be the process of the work of grace in our hearts as we learn to let God take over every part of our being.

I, however, think about courage when I read this passage.

It takes courage to trust God to lead us through any situation.  No matter how big the waves of life crash against us, no matter how muddy the bottom (our future) may seem, be courageous.  Choose courage no matter what lurks around the next bend in the river.  The undertow seeks to get us off course, but God gives us the determination, fortitude and endurance to withstand it all. Courage is not a genetic trait like our height or skin color.  We aren’t born with courage.  We choose courage every time we can’t control our circumstances, yet wade in a little deeper with God anyway.

God isn’t going to lose us on his depth finder.  When we wash away in his will and his plans, he sees us.  Like the inter tube holds us afloat on a lazy river, God’s loving arms are holding us no matter how deep the water gets.  If you can swim, it makes no difference if the water is 10 feet deep or 100.  If you are jumping in, you’re getting wet.  No use in trying to keep your hair dry.

As we embark on this journey to plant a church in Australia, there are those who think what we are doing is crazy.  Some admire us for taking a leap to start over our lives at our ages and with three children.  Many people have said they could never do what we are doing.

We are not brave.  We’re not special.  We are choosing to trust God.  And when fear starts to creep in, I lay back and let His living water hold me up.  When you know that God has called you to do something, you can let it sweep you off your feet.  You can step in past your ankles.  You can melt away and let God’s path take you anywhere. Even all the way across the Pacific Ocean.