Day 21: “Smile at the Future”

she laughs

Laughter – good medicine. Nothing like a big belly laugh when you hear a funny joke or your kids do something hilarious. Have you ever smiled so much your cheeks hurt? Maybe it’s a day at a theme park or a show? Your wedding day?

Can you smile at your future?

Unfortunately, some of you feel dread with your approaching calendar. Unless you’ve got a holiday planned, you’re stressed about work coming up, bills that need to be paid, a problem you have to deal with… you think ahead too much and rather than hilarity, it’s a headache.

What does your future look like after these 21 days of prayer and fasting? How much of it pleases you, knowing your family is prepared to take on its next season? Your mind and heart are in a better place than they were three weeks ago. Your position is strong and secure. Your future is bright.

You know how to put your problems in the proper perspective. You’re secure in your position in your community as part of a larger world. You pray more. You encourage often. You allow vulnerability.

You close your eyes and envision what’s to come and you can’t help but crack a grin.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Advertisements

Day 16: “Pray for the Church.”

build-churchThe collective body of Christ is a most powerful force when believers gather to worship, pray, serve, and spread the message of Christ. Most of the New Testament was written to churches and God still does his greatest work on earth through his church.

Today, pray for the church. She is being persecuted in many parts of the world; however, Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against her. What the church stands for isn’t always popular with mainstream culture. It never has been. Let us pray for wisdom for church leaders. Pray that the church will treat people well and that its reputation as a hospital for the sick will override any idea that it would be a country club for the already healed.

Pray that communities will find love, acceptance and hope through local churches. Pray that churches will have the resource in both people and finance needed to reach those whom God has purposed for them to reach. As the light of Christ shines through his beautiful bride, the church, God is glorified.

“At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Ephesians 1:23 MSG)

Day 13: “Your Leader Needs Prayer.”

pray-for-mePray for your personal leaders today. Your boss, your pastors, your kid’s teachers. You often don’t know the weight they carry. To fulfil the vision for an organisation comes with a high price of sacrifice on the part of those in leadership.

They think about their work day and night. Problems at every level make their way to the top. Misunderstood, tired, and unsure at times, they must forge ahead anyway for the sake of the team they lead. They don’t always do everything perfectly, but they stand before you everyday and do their best.

The Apostle Paul asked for prayer in Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. As strong and fervent as he was in his message and presentation, he still needed people to come around him, support him, believe in him, and mostly PRAY for him. Prayer makes a difference.

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Ephesians 6: 13-18, MSG)

Day 4: “Forgiveness Matters.”

forgive-one-anotherForgiveness is the platform on which our faith stands. Seeking God’s forgiveness for our own sin by accepting Jesus as our Saviour is our first step in relationship with him. But it doesn’t stop there.

One barrier to intimacy with Christ is un-forgiveness towards others. The Bible is clear that we must forgive in order to be forgiven (Luke 6:37, Colossians 3:13, Matthew 6:14). As you seek to have deeper intimacy with Jesus during your time of fasting, your attitude towards others matters. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what someone did to cause you pain. It doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be walked on as a victim. It means you purpose to release those who have hurt you from having any hold on you. CHOOSE forgiveness. It’s not a feeling. Hand your heartbreak over to God and allow him to be your advocate in impossible situations.

When you make this a practice in your life, the enemy will not be allowed a foothold. No root of bitterness can implant in your heart. You will walk in another level of freedom and your pathway to hearing the voice of God will become clearer.

“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 MSG)

Fasting Devotion, Day Twenty-One

Ephesians 5:25-33

What a great passage to reflect upon as Paul describes The Church, the Bride of Christ! He beautifully illustrates a spotless bride, prepared for Christ’s return. We know a woman preparing for one of the best days of her life, her wedding, goes to great lengths to ready herself. Head to toe, nothing lacks attention as she awaits the moment when everyone she loves will focus their gaze upon her. Her bridegroom waiting at the altar, glowing with anticipation and desire.

Each of us as believers have the honour of building the local church. The same attention a bride would give to her wedding day should be given as we represent Christ’s bride. He desires that his church is without stain or blemish. As we work in unity together, loving one another and serving selflessly, we prepare his church for his return. As our fast draws to an end, let’s continue to grow our relationship with God and endeavour to present his church beautifully, a bride worthy of our Saviour.

Dear God, you have blessed me with your word and revelation during this fast. Thank you for the breakthroughs and insight you have given me. Help me continue this journey of knowing you more. I pray for my church and my involvement there. I want to be an integral part of the thing dearest to your heart, your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Show Up and Grow Up!

growLife is full of obligations and requirements we don’t feel like doing (think taxes, exercise, going to work, changing nappies).  Sometimes, we get complacent in our relationship with Christ only to find ourselves not feeling like going to church.  We start making excuses and we disconnect from the body of Christ.  Much like someone who puts on 10 kilos of extra weight after weeks of small unhealthy eating choices and too many “snooze-button-mornings” of skipping workouts, we make decisions that not only limit our faith but actually stunt our spiritual growth.

SHOWING UP to God’s house means we increase our odds of  GROWING UP in our faith.

Like anything worth committing to, great rewards come when we attend God’s house week in and week out.  We actually allow God the opportunity to speak to us in new ways; we lead others into His presence through serving; and, we experience life corporately alongside other believers.  I heard a powerful testimony last weekend at Colour Conference in Sydney of a young girl who grew up attending church but struggled to experience God in a miraculous way.  She testifies that she just kept turning up, however.  She never backed down, never gave up seeking God.  And now, she’s grown up and she is actually leading a huge youth ministry impacting thousands of young people.  What if she had stopped showing up?

My own Pastor Lori Champion, has a similar testimony of “showing up” while grieving the sudden traumatic death of her father who was a pastor.  Instead of letting herself go down a path of anger towards God in questioning why this wonderful Godly man could die in the middle of preaching a sermon on a Sunday morning, she just kept getting herself to church.  When she was numb from the pain and grief and didn’t “feel God,” she went anyway.

I run into people all the time who say they love Jesus yet are disconnected from His bride.  This cannot be. Am I saying the only place you experience God is in church?  No.  He is omni-present!  EVERYWHERE!  However, someone saying he wants to be best friends with my husband, but who dislikes me, his wife, probably doesn’t stand a chance at getting close to Greg.  It’s the same with Christ. He is coming back for His church.  His church is his kingdom on Earth, the hope of the world, the place where we find our ultimate fulfillment and calling.  The church is the answer to our community’s problems and needs.  “At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Ephesians 1:20-23 MSG)

So, my friend, wherever you are in your walk with God… let me encourage you:

Show up.  And then Show up again.  People aren’t perfect.  Pastors aren’t either.  The world is full of pain and it’s not God’s fault.  When you’re not happy, go to church.  When you’re hurting, attend anyway.  When you don’t know God and are searching, run to His House and look for Him.  Find a local body of believers and stay when they remind you that Jesus died for you.  Go to a sanctuary where people love you just the way you are.  Connect, dig in, serve, give, and keep showing up.  I promise you that God will meet you there.  And you will grow up your faith and convictions.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG)

Lift Church Left the Living Room

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

When we moved to Australia at the end of April, our family of five had six suitcases in our possession with no idea where we would live, what we would drive, where the kids would go to school and virtually NO PLAN for how we would get our first Lift Church members.

But, we had a word from God and an idea of our next step.

Almost seven months later, I find myself in the same boat with different circumstances.

A word from God and an idea of my next step.  

Outside the timeframe of about a week, I’m not sure what steps God will have me take to fulfill the dreams and visions he has given me.  His word lights our feet on the path like a lantern, not a floodlight.  God’s word is ever-present, yet daily bread.  We must come to him every morning to receive it and partake.  Thinking we can meet with him once and have the answers for our next few months is like eating breakfast one morning and expecting it to fill us for a few weeks.  No, we must go back for nourishment every few hours if we want to be healthy.

A lamp at my feet.  Although looking out beyond means darkness and uncertainty, there is great comfort in simply looking at my feet to see what God has placed before me.  The safety of the glow of his word keeps me in boundaries and shows me the next step.  I am hungry for his presence like never before.  If I step outside his light for even a day, I feel cold and empty.  I must get back on the path to remain in alignment with my guide.

I can’t even really explain how we graduated from the living room to have a service in a rented church building; God has done it.  I am literally IN AWE at what has transpired in every circumstance where God has provided for our needs in relationship, connections, friends, and answers to “starting church questions!”

Our goal is to grow this core team to around 25 committed families before we spend the majority of our raised money on equipment, a building, advertising, etc. to “LAUNCH” a weekly service to the public.  Right now, we are building through word of mouth and divine appointments; this keeps our costs low as this core team develops.  Our first in home meeting was on August 12 with 17 people.

I am so excited to say that Saturday night, November 17, we had 36 people at our first service with FIVE visiting families!  Our simple set up had acoustic worship with two guitarists and a couple of vocalists.  And, God’s presence was tangible!  We had our kids separated into two venues and they all LOVED IT.

It was beautiful to see our original “living room team” using their gifts to serve others in kids, hospitality, and worship.  Everyone talked like they can’t wait to come back and they are already inviting other friends.  I’m reminded of the word God gave us that inspired the name of our church, Lift.  John 12:32 says, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.”  The word at our feet guiding us daily is that we are to focus on Jesus, lifting up HIS NAME, and that by his spirit, people will be drawn.

What word are you standing on this week?  God is faithful to speak to us when we seek Him.  He promises to guide us step by step into the destiny he has for us. We may not have all the answers.  Sometimes his word is practical and feels unspiritual.  Other times, it seems so dim we feel like we can’t take the next step at all.  Maybe we aren’t supposed to.  Or, maybe we have stepped off his lighted path.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. (Ephesians 1:18 NLT)