Day 3: “A Beautiful Exchange”

photo: starfishjourney.tumblr.com

Reciprocity is the law by which most of you live. Give and receive. Sow and reap. Work and be paid. Pray, fast… and, ahem… what’s there to gain? It’s the question on your lips; or at a minimum, in the back of your minds. What’s in it for ME?

Our expectations guide us through life. Treat others well and you’ll be treated well. Karma. We see a good person achieve something great and we say “they deserved that!” A bad one gets his due and we celebrate justice. This is why unmet expectations can throw us for a loop. They can derail us, cause us to lose faith, resent others, become bitter.

You may have entered into this time of prayer and fasting with a list of expectations, maybe even a bit of an ultimatum with God because you’re so desperate to see something shift in your life. Your hope lies in a formula with an acceptable rate of return on your investment over these three weeks.

Can I encourage you to put aside your predictions today and solely seek peace through the PERSON of Jesus? Rest at his feet and to allow yourself to receive his love and mercy as the ultimate gift, not because of anything you’ve deposited into your spiritual bank account but because of who HE is.

We are going to explore, over the coming days, areas of blockage to our peace.

But, it won’t be possible if you don’t first understand that peace isn’t a status quo to be obtained. It’s not a place you’ll suddenly arrive if you do and say mostly all the “right” things. Peace is not obtained if everyone around you cooperates a little more. It’s not even found in answered prayer or miracles.

The Prince of Peace is a person who is with you always. If you look closely at the page of your written words and requests, you’ll find him staring back at you, longing for you to trust him with your heart’s desires. No matter how major your hurdles, your peace guides you directly into your purpose and prosperity. Stop waiting for the stars to align perfectly in order for you to take your next step on the journey with Jesus. He is inviting you to come NOW.

A disciplined spiritual life, an authentic faith walk, isn’t one sans problems or difficulties. It’s not led by a Christian who never stumbles or sins. You can’t add up 2 good deeds plus 1 act of forgiveness minus 2 stuff ups and get 1 perfect life.

Jesus promises you ONE thing: in this life you WILL have trouble but he also promises you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Matthew 6:30-33
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Day 15: “Love Your Neighbour”

loveIf you read the news, you’ll see consistent coverage of polarizing topics and conversations that divide. Politics, government spending, inequality in the workplace, global warming, immigration. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion and divisiveness is the status quo. Marching, arguing, hating.

The thing is, you have more in common with your neighbour than you have differences.

If you’ve ever traveled to another country and spent time people-watching, you know a mother’s love is universal. Laughter in a movie theatre or adoration for a sunset alongside strangers transcends which suburb you grew up in or what sort of car you drive.

Stand in line at a water park with thousands of other guests and you’ll see that stretch marks don’t discriminate. Shade cover is ubiquitously desired and over-priced burgers taste good after a long swim in sunshine. Everyone agrees.

Can you spend some time today focussing on what you have in common with your neighbours, rather than your differences? Pray you will be able to extend grace to those you might disagree with and smile despite your disparity.

Prayer opens your heart and eyes to the need around you. The Holy Spirit will show you how to bless those across the road and serve your neighbours, no strings attached. Meeting people where they are will diminish your differences and allow God to make his way onto your street and into your hearts. Love lessons the gap between us and that’s something everyone can admit is more fun than fighting.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

 

“GO GET YOUR BALL!”

IMG_3029We have the most adorable King Charles Cavalier who has stolen my heart over the last year and a half. He is kind, loyal, cuddly, obedient (mostly), and always so happy to see me. Cavies aren’t known for being the smartest dogs on the planet, but he does few tricks we have taught him and he seems to know what’s going on at all times.

I’ve never been one for lots of clutter with kids toys and I’m the same when it comes to Nolan, our dog. He typically only has one toy at a time and it gets replaced when he chews it up. The first toy he ever had was a rope with a ball attached to it and we trained him to “GO GET YOUR BALL!” whenever it was time to play. When we bought a new toy, it didn’t have a ball attached to it, but we kept on saying, “GO GET YOUR BALL!” and he knew exactly what we were talking about.

Now, after about a dozen toys from stuffed chickens to a snorting pig, to various types of ropes, Nolan knows what we mean when we lie to him and tell him, “GO GET YOUR BALL!” He is now destined to look stupid in front of all his dog friends as well as ours when he mistakenly goes and gets his toy even though it rarely includes a ball. The only way this will change is if we take the time and energy to re-teach him, to work with him to show him the truth. We have no plans to do so; therefore, Nolan will live with this lie for the rest of his little doggie life.

How many of us are living with a lie each and every day? We walk around oblivious to its deception and sometimes even other people see us buying into its power. The Bible says that the enemy is a liar and that he is constantly prowling around trying to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). You may not be chasing a silly rope around the house, but you’re chasing the approval of a parent or a boss because you believe their opinion matters more than it does (a lie). You aren’t looking in the laundry room for a squeaky toy, but you’re looking in the mirror believing you’re not beautiful or that you need some work to be more valuable (a lie).

Oh, you’re not a silly dog looking for a ball that’s really a stuffed animal under the sofa, but you’re reflecting on past mistakes believing you’ve missed your opportunity for success or that you’ll never amount to anything. You’re probably not wasting time running in circles and panting but you might be going around the same mountains in your failed relationships based on false pretenses.

I’m not interested in enlightening my fluffy dog, but I AM interested in encouraging YOU today:

You don’t have to chase after a lie.

No matter what anyone has told you in the past or what you’ve even told yourself, you are made in God’s image and you are worth everything. You’re unique and lovely and have as much potential as anyone who has changed the world before you. You can chase after Jesus and find truth at every turn. You can run into hurdles, get locked out of opportunities or even make the wrong call with everyone watching.

Your owner is Jesus, who bought you with a high price, his very own life and blood. And, he finds you worthy enough to give you a clear path of second chances and unlocked doors. And that’s no lie.

“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32 MSG)

Day 20: “Abide in Him.”

vine-and-branchesYou are setting yourself up for a rewarding 2017 as you have given this first part of your year to God through prayer and fasting. You have experienced a form of pruning as you have denied yourself something over the last three weeks. Now, you will see a prolific harvest in your spiritual life as your fruitfulness multiplies.

You must abide in the vine in order to experience the fulness of what God has in store for you. His beautiful reminder in John 15 is that you must remain in Christ to bear fruit. As you rest in Christ’s love and stay connected to him and his word, nothing is impossible.

Attach yourself to him like a child attached to a mother’s breast. Hook up to his word as if your life depends on it. Let your church family be the fertiliser that enriches the soil of your life so that every area yields a by-product of Jesus.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” (John 15:4 MSG)

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day NINE

Read John 15:1-17

If you know anything about gardening, you know that pruning causes more growth in future. Giving up something for a fast is sort of like pruning back your own life so that you can bear more fruit. Sometimes pruning hurts temporarily, but the payoff is great when the crops are ready. By devoting extra time to prayer and fasting, you are doing what Jesus commands by “remaining in the vine.”

A branch without a vine makes no sense. There’s no life or fruit if we detach from our source. If we are cut off completely from Christ, we wither and die spiritually. We must remain connected in order to produce a harvest in our life.

One of the ways we remain connected to Christ is by connecting with a local church. The body of believers nourishes us like good fertiliser. It strengthens us by watering us regularly with the word and corporate worship. As we produce fruit in our lives, we are able to share it with anyone willing to partake. We bear fruit financially and it feeds those who come and find abundant life in Christ too. We bear fruit through stewarding the gifts and talents inside of us and we offer it up sacrificially to bless the whole church and serve others.

Ultimately, we blossom for the sole purpose of glorifying God and witnessing to others the goodness of God so they can come to know Him too.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the ultimate gardener. I trust you as one branch among your great vine to prune me when necessary in order that I might bear more fruit. I pray that every area of my life would bring glory to you as I remain connected. I commit to connection to you personally and to your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day Twelve

(Post submitted by Janine O’Rourke)

John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and life abundantly.”

Fasting is a journey of discovery and lingering in God’s presence, not an activity to tick off, or a discipline to be endured. In spending time with God, I’m reminded of the verse in Psalm 46:10 where he tells us to “be still and know I am God.”

As we take time to sit and ponder God’s word, “abundance” takes on fresh revelation.

Abundance means:

  • A very large quantity, amount or volume of something.
  • To have more than you need.
  • Excessive, liberal, an extravagant portion.
  • Overflowing, profuse, over-and-above.
  • An extremely plentiful or over-sufficient quantity or supply.

Abundance isn’t just for each one of us personally in various areas of our lives, but it is given to us because we are salt to the earth, flavour to the world, the fragrance of Christ in us and through us as the world cries out for his bounty.

Sometimes our heads can know this, but as we truly plant this word in our hearts, it comes more alive. No longer do we secretly think we don’t deserve this abundance, but we now long to live in it and watch for it to unfold daily in our interactions with others, in our daily habits.

We don’t have to hold back because we barely have enough for ourselves, but we have overflowing and surplus of whatever it is – love, mercy, compassion, finances, peace.

Jesus, I am so blessed that you came down from heaven to give us life abundant. I choose to see your excess everyday. I make agreement with it; I walk in it; I listen to it; and, I will look for it always. You are an awesome God of “more-than-enough.” Whatever area in my life that feels lacking, I trust you are going to fill it up to overflowing. In your name I pray, Amen.

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.