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).

 

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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).

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)

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)

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 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)

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TWELVE

Read Matthew 13:1-9

(Today’s thought is submitted by Pastor Greg.)

As we continue to pray and fast, the word of God is being sown into our hearts. We can determine what sort of result comes from the seed being scattered based on the condition of our hearts. For example, if we let any sort of sin take up residence inside of us, our hearts are hardened and it’s not likely that the seeds will take root. We must keep ourselves soft and fertile for God’s word to take root and produce a harvest in our lives.

This week, we continue to focus our prayer on the local church. When the church is full of healthy people growing in their walk with God, the “soil” of a church is healthy and full of nutrients as well. When we foster a culture of love, humility, growth, acceptance, honour, servanthood, giving, and leadership, we actually create an environment where people can prosper and reap a harvest in Christ. Let’s aim to remain in a healthy place where God can do what he wills in us personally and corporately as a church body. We will see thirty, sixty and a hundredfold blessing as Jesus declares.

Lord, cultivate the soil of my heart in order to produce the righteousness of Christ. Let every seed being sown in this time of fasting fall upon fertile ground within me. God I thank you that I am planted in my church and I pray I will fully mature and see a harvest both personally and in others alongside me. Amen