church, Devotion, Inspiration, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 12: “Peace. In Church.”

Photo: avante.biz

A communion of saints, gathering of believers, a company with a cause to fulfil the Great Commission: The Church on Earth. In Moses’ time, great value was placed on the tabernacle as sacrifices were made and festivals celebrated. The temple of the Old Testament was the location of profound teachings and gatherings. The early church came into existence in the New Testament after Jesus’ death and resurrection. God, over and over again, uses flawed people to come together to worship, learn, encourage, eat, and pray. Those people are his Plan A for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the Earth.

The church equips the saints to do the work of the ministry. Diversity in age and experience among God’s people brings the tapestry of each one together in beauty and purpose. Unfortunately, churches can also be a source of heartache and dysfunction as many of you seek to find a perfect place without problems or strife. As long as the church is full of people, it will never be absent of problems.

The Bible promises blessing to flow when you live together in unity:

“How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:1-3 (NIV)

You may not agree on every theological point with your fellow Christians in a different denomination. Your style of worship may look loud and “free;” or, perhaps it’s reserved and quiet. The source of your lyrics – hymnals or power points? Does it really matter?

God’s church is alive and well on the earth and it deserves all our focus and attention today.

Pray for your pastors and leaders in church. Pray for its specific vision and purpose to be carried out. Ask God to bring peace where there is discord. Truce in disagreement. Jesus considers the church a spotless bride for whom he will come back one day. He loves the church and it’s worth fighting for in prayer today.

“I hope to visit you soon, but just in case I’m delayed, I’m writing this letter so you’ll know how things ought to go in God’s household, this God-alive church, bastion of truth. This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough:
He appeared in a human body,
was proved right by the invisible Spirit,
was seen by angels.
He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples,
believed in all over the world,
taken up into heavenly glory.”

1 Timothy 3:14-16
Devotion, Fasting, freedom, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 6: “Free From Fear”

I will not fearFear – obvious when it makes you sweat, keeping you up at night. Other times it’s subtle and heavy and creeps in like dread. Fear can cause you to make poor decisions (like marrying the wrong person because you’re too scared to wait for Mrs. Right). It compels you to overspend if you’re afraid of missing out.

That one four letter word represents anxiety as your mind anticipates unknowns and worries that your worst case scenario will come to pass.

Fearful parents are controlling parents – unrealistically believing they can protect kids from pain or from making mistakes.

If you’ve ever been hurt in a relationship, you’re too scared to risk again so all your suspicions turn to distrust. The root of your brokenness – FEAR.

You can be afraid of failure; and, equally, you can fear success.

Fear is a spirit that can manifest in every area of life. However, Jesus came to give you a full and wonderful life and you can’t have that if you’re walking in fear. Trusting your Heavenly Father is the antidote to fear. It’s the key to true rest and peace. Author Ann Voskamp says, “You have to let hope always carry you – or fears will carry you away.”

God’s desire for you is total surrender and acceptance of him and his plans. He wants you to believe in a blessed outcome with the battles you face; Jesus has already defeated your enemy. Recognise that your eternity is secure.  Believe God has your back. Learning to REST in these truths isn’t easy but it IS simple.

If fear has a hold of you in any area of your life, you CAN be set free. Slow down, breathe deeply, and allow your mind to settle on the goodness of God. Repeat. Daily. Hourly.

Maybe even minute by minute.

Live in reckless abandon alongside Jesus and see what peace it brings. Go on, I dare you! You’re strong and courageous. Look how far you’ve come and what you’ve been through and let that give you strength. Sleep well tonight and fear not.

The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart. Day and night I’ll stick with GodI’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go” (Psalm 16:7-8 MSG).

Devotion, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 2: “Pray Continually?”

pray continuallyWho prays continually, really? Monks in a monastery? Nuns in a convent? People without kids? Early risers? Is this the expectation of a Christian during a time of prayer and fasting? Seriously, there’s work to do. Distractions. The mind races and praying for more than five minutes can bring on sleep for some. So, praying without ceasing seems a bit far-fetched…

What if prayer didn’t look like kneeling with your head bowed and lacing your fingers with your eyes closed?

What if you just start your day by asking God to be with you and for the Holy Spirit to remind you of his presence as you move ahead, intentionally mindful that he is listening? Every time you feel stressed or anxious, why not take a deep breath and meditate on the fact that your creator is right beside you, gently leaning in with a whisper of hope for your temporary need?

Talk to Jesus while you hang out your washing.

While driving to work, thank God for loving you.

Ask your Heavenly Father to guide your decisions and be honest with him when you’re not okay. Think about him and ponder his ways while you walk the dog.

Your never-ending need will never be too much for a God who never sleeps. Place him at the forefront of your mind and heart throughout the next 20 days. You’ll be praying, continually.

May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 MSG

Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 1: “I Need You.”

I need youAfter all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, do you feel like you need to re-calibrate yourself? Like everything is just a little out of alignment… the housework, routines, your midsection, or even your bank account? What about your spiritual life? Are you longing for a word from God for the new year? Maybe it’s a rejuvenation of your spirit and a reminder that God is near and present, loving you just the same even if you’ve neglected time with him over the past month.

Spending 21 Days in Prayer and Fasting is a way of drawing near to God once again, saying out loud, “I need you, Lord.” It’s a focus on spending time with him, sacrificing something in order to make way for more of his presence and peace. You’re taking the first portion of 2018 to lean in and hear God’s voice, praying for breakthrough, seeking him intentionally.

Let these daily devotions be a catalyst for your personal prayer time, journaling, singing, and/or quiet meditation. Join me on a journey to lift high the name of Jesus and expectantly await what he has for us this year.

But all who are hunting for you—
    oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about
    tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:
    make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—
    but God, don’t put it off. Psalm 40:16-17 (MSG)

Devotion, Fasting, Lift Church, Uncategorized

Day 15: “Don’t Give Up.”

no-condemnationIf you’re traveling with LIFT Church for the 21 Day corporate fast, you’re starting the home stretch today – Week 3! Some of you have not wavered in your ability to deny yourselves whatever you’re fasting. Others have struggled and maybe even given up or given in to your desires. It’s OKAY!

Don’t treat fasting like a religious law from the Old Testament. If you do, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Start fresh and remember, your sacrifice is met with more time in God’s presence. You superimpose a desire to know God more intimately with your desire for certain foods. The time you might have spent watching TV or checking social media is spent in prayer. Yielding your fleshly reliance reminds you of an almighty God. Nothing on this earth holds more power over you than HIM. Your God fills every gap.

So, if you’re thinking of giving up, don’t. Your heart before the Lord is what matters most and there’s something powerful awaiting you this week.

“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, MSG)

Church planting, Inspiration, Leadership, Newcastle

Plucked or Planted?

treeMy community is strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches after massive cyclonic storms ravaged our region last week. Trees have crushed cars, houses and power lines. I have been shocked to see massive gums lying sideways on the ground with their entire root balls exposed like this one in the photo I took at the end of my street. It’s like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk came around and pulled up the trees like you and I would pull up a weed.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the beautiful tree imagery found in God’s word as my Facebook feed was bombarded with photos like mine. The Lord promises to make us “oaks of righteousness, displaying his splendour.” The righteous are also told we will flourish like a “palm tree” and a “cedar of Lebanon” bearing much fruit, even in old age.

I don’t know of any scriptures that refer to our beloved Australian Eucalyptus trees or of any reference to 3 metre trees being unstable and easily moved. So, I set out to do some research intending to make a correlation between trees with strong roots versus weak ones and how they might relate to us spiritually.

Much to my creative dismay, I found out all of these trees have amazingly strong roots. I mean, some go down as deep as the tree is tall. Some hardwoods have tap roots digging metres into the ground. Roots can extend sideways as far out as the canopy of leaves above the ground.

Oak trees need little water or fertiliser once their roots are established. Gum trees thrive in wet areas as their roots rest in the upper layers of the soil. Palm trees have roots that regenerate and continually jut out from all angles acting as anchors and feeders for the trees.

The roots of trees are so strong they can crack foundations of houses, lift up concrete walkways, and kill off every other living thing nearby as they take nutrients and water from the soil. No wonder God uses them as similes all throughout the Word as he paints a picture of our strength and glory in his eyes!

So, my question remains – how did these massive Eucalyptus trees in the Hunter fall over with their roots and soil in tact as if I personally transplanted them from a pot and laid them down to await their next home?

The ground around the tree became totally saturated with rainfall, making the tree vulnerable. Then, winds upwards of 100km/hr blew, ripping them out of the ground as easily as you or I could pick a daisy in our back yard. (I’m no arborist so please excuse my simplistic explanation for the sake of your personal growth and inspiration!).

I want to remain firmly planted when the storms of life rage against me, never allowing them to uproot my faith or my view of God and his steadfast care for me.

Unlike a giant gum tree who has no preference or say in where he is planted, we have the privilege of choosing in which soil we place ourselves, how much we are watered and fertilised as well as how much input we receive from the SON (pun intended).

Psalm 92:13 says those who are planted “IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD” will FLOURISH.

I’m a church planter, so it goes without saying I’m passionate about the church. It’s what Jesus says he’s coming back for, his bride; it’s to whom most of the New Testament was written; it’s the hope of the world to bring communities together and to care for those in need; it’s where we teach and instruct; it’s a house of prayer and a place of worship to our God.

Not being PLANTED in good healthy soil as a believer is like telling that gum tree to grow on the sandy shores of Redhead Beach. Or, expecting it to flourish in a car park with concrete all around, poor drainage, and pipes cutting into the roots underneath. No one would think that’s sane! We must find the nutrient rich soil of a local church and stick ourselves in it if we want to flourish.

We must care for the soil and keep it watered by serving and building relationships. Let us never over saturate with self-doubt, fear or judgement of those around us who are doing their best to thrive too. We must stand tall in the face of trials, sending out our roots for Living Water that nourishes and protects. We have to find comfort in the canopy of other believers, knowing there is protection when we aren’t isolated and exposed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9

Devotion, Faith, Fasting, Lift Church, Series, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TWENTY-ONE

As our Lift Church corporate fasting draws to a close for 2015, I leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:12-19)

Dear Lord, thank you for speaking to me and answering my prayers over the course of the last several weeks. I ask that you help me to continue the good fight of faith and that you give me strength to withstand whatever trials may come my way. I put all my hope in you and commit to walking with you everyday. In Jesus’ name, Amen.