Devotion, Fasting, peace, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 5: “Peace. Not Problems.”

Photo: izismile.com

We all have the ability to take our minds off what’s bothering us. Unfortunately, the headaches of life are often addressed with unhealthy medication God never prescribed… alcohol, overeating, pornography, drugs, overspending. Anything to escape the reality of the obstacles you face. Retreating into Netflix, shutting others out, worrying incessantly… whether extreme or subtle, your concerns are not meant to be numbed away.

Problems can become crushing if you let them. Their roots can take hold and produce prolific weeds in your life, making the real issues hard to see. They become buried underneath the growth of unwanted tangled vines as they seek to attach themselves to your heart and soul. Strangled by their embrace, your desire to fend off these pests becomes so overwhelming you don’t know where to turn.

You may be praying and fasting around a specific dilemma you’re facing. Over these 21 days, you are rehearsing putting those issues at the foot of the cross, allowing yourself to release your grip on finding a solution and fixing what’s wrong. When you allow Jesus to lead the way, your answers will surely come. But they won’t come by avoidance; and they won’t appear through high blood pressure and angst. The solution isn’t found in self-medicating or avoidance.

Peace isn’t the absence of problems. It’s found in the person of Jesus who meets you in your struggle.

As you allow God to prune and garden your life over this time of prayer and fasting, he may expose some roots you weren’t aware of. Your vulnerability before him may feel uncomfortable or even unwanted. Remember: He comes lovingly and gently to dig down below your pain and pluck out your predicaments. What’s left behind is a tender heart, viable and strong, unmasked and unafraid of the future.

Your Heavenly Father wants to minister to you right in the midst of your quandary. Imagine yourself replacing that which you have forgone in your fast with a greater portion of your God. Be filled with more of Jesus – his presence, his peace, his promises, his problem-solving.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Contentment, Fasting, Prayer, Series

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
Inspiration, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).

 

Community, Courage, Devotion, Friendship, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 10: “Your Kingdom Come”

thy kingdom comeWhat did Jesus mean by saying, “Thy Kingdom Come?” while teaching his disciples how to pray? God’s plans, not mine. His intentions, not yours. Undertaking the Lord’s strategy before our own.

Total surrender to the will of God is easier said than done. Dying to your fleshly desires – submitting your goals, money, children, health to a Heavenly Father comes with resistance.

Your inward focus over the last week and a half has allowed you to hear God with more clarity, to tune into the Holy Spirit, to find freedom in areas where you struggle. Hopefully, you’re learning to yield to his voice in a more meaningful way.

However, if your biggest obstacle is yourself (your problems, insecurities, fears), then understanding “thy kingdom come” as it relates to others, will prove difficult. Ask God, “why have you put me in this spot at this time with these people?”

It’s time to begin looking outward. How can your own personal revelation benefit someone else in your world?

“God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).

Sharing the love of Christ looks different for everyone. You may give time to a friend who needs a listening ear. Or, make a meal and cart kids around for a mate stuck at home with an injury or a newborn. You might go out of your way to help your co-worker.

Encourage someone.

Extend forgiveness.

Whatever God is asking you to do, go for it! Pray for opportunities. Step out in faith.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Contentment, Devotion, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Day 4: “Rest.”

restDo you ever feel like your spiritual life is relegated to a check list with items that weigh you down like a household chore? Pray. Read your Bible. Go to Church. Serve. Finding a rhythm of spending time with God is about as easy as eating dinner with a two-year old. Sometimes it’s nice and everything stays on the plate. Other times, you look at your life and like Spaghetti Bolognese flying off the high chair tray, you see the messy pieces of what you desire to have in order smashed and messy and someone is crying.

Failure. Again.

Somewhere, you lost sight of companionship with God and felt like your worth and spiritual growth should look like a high school exam table, all laid out in neat rows with a time allotment and every subject neatly labelled.

Life screams at you to ‘do more’ and ‘be more.’ List off your achievements and post them on Instagram. Get more initials behind your name. Make more money. We take these action verbs and insist that Jesus expects the same level and pace that the world demands.

Guess what? He doesn’t.

He actually gives us rest as a gift. Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality says, “Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the wold can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us.”

Jesus models an un-hurried life spending time with the people he loves and a slowness that allows him to hear the Heavenly Father’s voice, whispering what matters most, (not a demanding cry for a better performance).

Why not take today and practise resting?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Day 19: “Be the light.”

be-the-lightAs you mature in your faith and continue to pursue God, your life reflects his glory. God is on your lips, in everyday conversations. This time of prayer and fasting has created new habits for you and you have received revelation of who God is in your life.

Do people around you know that you are a Christ follower? Have you stepped out to encourage someone by sharing what Jesus means to you? You may be surprised at how open others actually are towards him when you make known the goodness of your God.

Remember, no one can take away your personal testimony of how Jesus has touched you. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or have all the answers in order to shine the light of Christ.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG)

church, Devotion, Fasting, Uncategorized

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)