Contentment, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Timing, Uncategorized

How Many Pages?

IMG_3213Every night, my 6 year old (who dislikes most things about school and sitting still), reads a book as part of his home reading program. He’s doing well, but every time he opens the book, he gets that disgruntled pout on his face in anticipation of how lengthy it will be. The inevitable moan comes with, “how many pages are in this book?”

Sometimes, there are only one or two sentences on a page, but there might be 40 pages total. This makes him VERY UPSET! So much so, that I can hardly persuade him to keep going. It wouldn’t matter if every word was easy to pronounce and the plot of the story was thrilling.

The mere thought that there are a lot of pages makes him cringe. If there are tons of words on each one but only 15 pages in total, Sam is happy to proceed… even if the words are challenging and he doesn’t quite understand the storyline.

He equates the length of the book with its difficulty level.

Confession: I’m the same in this chapter of my spiritual journey. If a goal seems like it’s a long way off, I tend to lose heart. I get discouraged and I find it arduous to concentrate on the day ahead, even if its pages are filled with fun! I worry more and find myself dreading what’s to come, rather than embracing the “now.”

However, if I must tackle something really difficult but I know it’s tomorrow or the next day, I’m ready to flip the page and bring it on. I don’t shy away. I’m ready for the fight.

Somehow, I, not unlike my 6yo, have fooled myself into thinking the future, that which is out of reach, is more difficult than the “now.” However, the future becomes the now in a few days time. We have to go through it either way.

There are spiritual principles at work as we navigate the stories of our lives, today and everyday. The pages of life keep turning and sometimes our issues stare back at us like the bad 1980s photography in some of Sam’s home readers. We don’t want to look at them!

I’m aiming to be at peace even when the words are unfamiliar.

Our most desperate times, the moments when our worlds are blurry and our endurance is tested, are no different than the more concise, easily simplified issues of today. If we believe God is with sometimes, then we must believe he is with us always.

Full Stop.

Finding rest and peace when our externals seem formidable can be challenging. Trusting a God who exists outside of linear time is hard too. But, if we pause, breathe, take life one page at a time, line by line, not rushing ahead or dreading the future, rather enjoying the present, we will make it to the end.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:28-31 MSG)

Devotion, Fasting, Uncategorized

Day 12: “Be Inventive Today.”

love-and-good-worksMuch of the New Testament was written to churches, giving instruction and encouragement.  We are no different today in our need for constant affirmation of our faith, authentic friendships, a pat on the back. Hebrews 10:24 in The Message says, “let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.”

It’s easy to offer up a prayer for someone in your life who may need it. Today, why not go the extra step and use a little imagination in how you encourage someone in your world?

You often receive back what you’re willing to give when it comes to friendship and community. Think about who in your church might need to hear from you today. See how resourceful you can be in reaching out. Try picking up the phone instead of the easy text message. Invite someone for dinner or coffee. Write a nice card. Bring flowers.

You know the old adage, “actions speak louder than words.” Usually things are cliché because they hold truth. God created us with a need for friendship and support. You aren’t meant to do life alone.

Fasting, Series, Uncategorized

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.

Fasting, God Speaks, Inspiration, Prayer, Uncategorized

Fasting Devotion, Day Seven

(Post submitted by Pastor Greg)

John 10:1-18

Within each of us lies a desire to be known, understood, and valued. God made us this way. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, emphatically states that he KNOWS US. The eternal God acquaints himself with every part of us from the inside out. He knows our very thoughts, fears, dreams and desires.

The fact that the creator of the universe knows us this intimately brings great joy, peace and security. It gives us the ability to approach today and everyday with a boldness and confidence knowing God is aware of our weaknesses, faults, and fears. It’s in spite of them that he laid down his life for us. He did it so that we could have “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Jesus also reminds us that we know HIS voice.  In order to discern the voice of God, we must spend time in his presence through prayer and reading his word.  With so many distractions shouting for our attention, screaming at our inadequacies, and roaring at our faults, we have to listen carefully to hear our shepherd’s voice. It takes discipline to push them out and if we aren’t careful, those negative murmurs can define who we are, too easily drowning out his voice. We can find ourselves wandering aimlessly through life lacking purpose.

God has great plans and purposes for us all, however! And, like a “good shepherd” He leads us to pastures of fruitfulness, peace, and blessing. Concentrating on our shepherd’s voice during this time of fasting reminds us of our worth and how much he cares and loves us all.

Dear God, I am so humbled and grateful for your voice in my life. You are truly a good shepherd. Help me to hear your voice more clearly as I continue to fast and seek your face. Show me your plans for me. Drown out the negative self-talk and other distracting voices that seek to pull me away from you. I only want to be guided by YOU. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.

church, Church planting, Contentment, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Shrug Your Shoulders!

sam_shrug

Discouragement is something we all face at varying times in our lives.  Having unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and sadness.  I would be lying if I told you this last year moving across the world didn’t hold moments of true discouragement for me personally and for my family.

We had a local pastor who questioned our coming with strong statements like, “are you sure you’re called to Newcastle?  We already have a lot of great churches here.”  Great people have visited our church and didn’t return for whatever reason.  That’s always discouraging for me because I think everyone should love our church and want to be a part of it!

I’m sure you all have the regular letdowns of your spouse not meeting certain expectations (is mine the only one who leaves socks all over the house) and/or kids disobeying or deceiving you despite all your good efforts at instilling morals and molding their character.

It’s not “IF” we are going to be discouraged, it’s “WHEN” and the bigger question becomes “HOW” do we deal with it?  At times, I have had big fat pity parties for myself becoming the victim in my own mind about how life isn’t fair and usually blaming others.  If everyone would just “do things my way” life would be so much easier!  That’s not a good approach… it’s self-centered and a set up for more disappointment because I have yet to master the art of controlling other people!  It’s a losing battle that will bring casualties every time.

In the book of Acts, Luke writes the story of the beginnings of the church and many experiences of the first followers of Christ.  It’s like an exciting action movie in parts and if we read the passages carefully, we see extraordinary accounts of persecution and trials that these early church leaders came up against.  Discouragement unlike any most of us have or will ever encounter.

Paul and Barnabas were going about telling people the good news of Jesus and lives were being changed.  Practically the whole city turned up one Sabbath to hear Paul preach.  The message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.  You could say these guys were building the first “mega-church” with great success!  Week after week, the numbers were growing and people were coming their way.

Then, towards the end of Chapter 13, something interesting happens: “Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave. Paul and Barnabas

shrugged their shoulders

and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.” (vs 50 – 52 MSG).

How many times do we have difficult situations (usually involving people) that keep us up at night?  Stomach ulcers ensue from the difficult co-worker who seems out to get us.  Pastors who let financial stress or a conflict in the church cause them to question their call.  Major stress from family members can bring on depression and sadness.

How did Paul and Barnabas seem to move on quickly from this major setback in their ministry?  Momentum was going their way with influence in the city among leaders; momentum that was building the church was suddenly thwarted by some negativity and bad influence.

I believe they shrugged their shoulders (one version says they “dusted off their feet”) and kept moving on the same way we can all move beyond discouragement – by staying full of the Holy Spirit!  Staying in close proximity to our Heavenly Father who loves us no matter what our circumstances.  Keeping a heavenly perspective throughout trials knowing that this world is not our home.  Making sure we aren’t setting people up as our Gods in order to gain approval or fulfillment.

I want to remain FULL OF JOY as ONE HAPPY DISCIPLE no matter what comes my way.  What about you?  How do you stay encouraged?  Feel free to share in the comments section so “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).