church, Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Lift Church, Series, Uncategorized

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, Series, Uncategorized

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, 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.

ARC, Australia, church, Church planting, Inspiration, Lift Church, Newcastle, Uncategorized

Grand Opening

launch team2

Well, this amazing journey of church planting is now entering a new phase.  Last Saturday, May 11, we officially “launched” Lift Church!  This just means we pushed all of our marketing (radio, mass mailers, FB ads) towards this ONE BIG DAY in order to create some critical mass.  And, guess what?  It worked!

Prior to last weekend, our core team has been holding great services with anywhere from 30-60 people in them.  Saturday, we had 161 in attendance and most were first time guests.  Friends and fellow pastors drove from Sydney, Maitland, and Nelson Bay to celebrate with us.  The service itself was very special and we sizzled some sausages while kids ate sugar and ran laps through the jumping castles afterwards!

Most importantly, one lady made a decision to become a Christian and many of our guests experienced church and God in a fresh way that was upLIFTING, pardon the pun, and actually surprising for them.  Many will return and begin this journey of understanding their Creator alongside us.  Now, we have a great foundation on which to build.

On a personal note, I have to share what meant the most to me on the day…

Our family moved to Newcastle 11 months ago from Texas; we didn’t know anyone here.  We came with amazing training from ARC on how to plant a church, money we had raised from supporters in the States, some experience in pastoring, and that’s about it for the tangible pieces.  Everything else we owned was all tied up in the secret places of our hearts.  Our dreams, vision, and burden was alive in us but we felt very alone.  We believed strongly that God had called us and sent us here; however, we really had NO IDEA how we would get our first members.

One family moved here from TX to help us and then suddenly in July, one more approached us and asked if they could come along (which we thought was quite funny as we really weren’t in a position to say NO!)!  Over the next month, we gathered a couple more people which allowed us to begin “living room church” with five families.

As the weeks went on and one by one we added to this core team, shared our vision, and began putting systems in place and holding serves, a significant shift began to occur.  What was once only in OUR hearts, poured out and took root in OTHER PEOPLE’S HEARTS.  What I saw on Saturday, and what made me weep on and off all day (and again as I type), was a group of about

40 “LIFTERS” who were absolutely SOLD OUT to our vision.

They came early and stayed late.

They moved equipment and decorated.

They shopped and planned and cooked and cleaned.

They practiced playing their instruments and singing.

Their kids joined in the labour of love that was about to “LIFT-OFF!”

The enthusiasm was electric and each and every one of them invited friends and family and were so proud of what they, with God’s help, had accomplished.

This, to me, is God’s Church at its best.  Unity and enthusiasm working hand in hand.  A dying to ourselves and a willing sacrifice in order to provide a place of refuge and hope for the lost and hurting.

When we place our gifts in God’s hands and allow them to be used in the local church, there’s no greater example to the world of Christ’s love and character; and THIS, my friends, is why I love the church.

Before Jesus was captured and crucified, he prayed a beautiful prayer for his followers.  Tonight as I reflect on all that is good in my life, I am praying a portion of this same prayer over Lift Church and our amazing team:

“I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.” (John 17:20-23, MSG)

church, Church planting, Lift Church, Newcastle, Uncategorized

Lift First “Service”

We have been living in Newcastle for two and a half months now.  Our timeline for starting Lift Church was always ASAP but with the clear understanding that much of its inception would depend on 1) GOD and 2) People around us.  I am amazed at what God has already done!  We have been planning and speaking about the vision for Lift Church to everyone we meet and last night, we had four families in our living room engaged and excited to hear Greg’s first message and our vision for where we see our church going long-term.  We are going to meet once a fortnight for now and our messages will center around “The Church We See” as we endeavor to impart the vision God has given us for Lift Church into the hearts and spirits of those he has entrusted us to pastor.

Our gathering was full of life with a side of coffee, tea, dessert, and Lift cans! Oh, and beautiful kids!  We feel honoured and blessed already to see whom God has brought around us; we can’t wait to watch this little group grow.  One of my favourite scriptures is Isaiah 60:22:

“The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

Our little family has already grown from 5 to 20.  We are reminded of the scripture the Lord gave us for the naming of Lift Church in John 12:32 when Jesus says,

“And I, if I am LIFTED up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

Our job is to continually LIFT the name of Jesus.  He does the drawing of men to Himself.

Greg shared a great message from Matthew 2:1-12 gleaning from the amazing story of the wise men who followed the star and ended up at Jesus’ side in the manger, bearing their gifts.  The Church We See is Cause Driven. Our Cause:

  1. Makes us Walk by Faith
  2. Faces Opposition
  3. Energizes Us
  4. Causes us to Give Generously
  5. Always Leads to His Son

I won’t re-preach the whole sermon, but let’s just say, it was great!  Lift Church exists to advance the Cause of Christ in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie area and eventually the world.  This faith journey is surely exhilarating!