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
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Day 13: “Pray for Your Pastor”

bold

Who comes to mind when you think, “bold” or “courageous?” An Army ranger going into battle or an astronaut into space?  Maybe a single mum or someone battling cancer?

What about your Pastor?

Today, pray for your spiritual leaders. All of hell wants to come against the work they do. They live in a glass house with everyone watching how they act, what they say, what they buy, and how their kids are turning out.

They often balance administrating finances and budgets with seeking God for a word for the next sermon. They juggle a desire to meet everyone’s needs with the pressing obligations of their own families.

Pastors and leaders in churches all over the world have given their lives up in service to others. They love what they do and are passionate about the Kingdom. They pray for you constantly and love until their hearts break. They seek God continually and desire to reflect and represent him well.

Knowing you’re behind them with your own dispatch to heaven will shore them up. Your encouragement and belief in them will continue to make them brave as they go into battle. When you pray for them, you’re praying for your own spiritual covering and blessing as you reap the fruit of their labour in your church and ministry alongside them.

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to appreciate those who diligently work among you [recognise, acknowledge, and respect your leaders], who are in charge over you in the Lord and who give you instruction, and [we ask that you appreciate them and] hold them in the highest esteem in love because of their work [on your behalf]. Live in peace with one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 AMP).

Day 13: “Your Leader Needs Prayer.”

pray-for-mePray for your personal leaders today. Your boss, your pastors, your kid’s teachers. You often don’t know the weight they carry. To fulfil the vision for an organisation comes with a high price of sacrifice on the part of those in leadership.

They think about their work day and night. Problems at every level make their way to the top. Misunderstood, tired, and unsure at times, they must forge ahead anyway for the sake of the team they lead. They don’t always do everything perfectly, but they stand before you everyday and do their best.

The Apostle Paul asked for prayer in Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. As strong and fervent as he was in his message and presentation, he still needed people to come around him, support him, believe in him, and mostly PRAY for him. Prayer makes a difference.

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Ephesians 6: 13-18, MSG)

What is Sinking My Boat?

who sank

Everyone knows a teeny little mouse isn’t big enough to sink a whole rowboat! But what if that boat is first filled with a cow, a donkey, a “fat-as-butter” pig, and a knitting sheep? The little mouse, last to get in, who was lightest of all DID sink the boat in the case of this adorable children’s book, “Who Sank the Boat?”

I wonder what the “straw that broke the camel’s back” looked like? It could sound like a crying baby after weeks of sleepless nights. Or maybe a teenager’s back talk on the heels of a stressful day at work? Maybe it’s the online bill paying when month after month there doesn’t seem to be enough money to make ends meet?

We can’t always predict what will cause us to feel like we are going to crumble. But, I DO believe we can work out some disciplines and boundaries that will keep us afloat even in the worst of times.

We must carefully ensure that the most important, “only-I-can-do-this” priorities come first. Only I can be wife to Greg and Mum to Brett, Sydney and Sammy. This means I can’t give so much time to friends, church members, social media, and working out that I suddenly have nothing left for the ones counting on me most.

Only I can be co-pastor of our church. That comes with certain restraints on my weekends and where I invest in relationships whether I like it or not. If you work, you’re the same. You’re not tempted to go to lunch with friends when you can’t afford it if you work every Friday. You’re unavailable! The weight of our responsibilities only feels heavy when we are spread thin and are weak in every other area.

So often, we can over-commit to pressures of life out of guilt or tradition (think family holidays) or even just disorganization. We forget to check our diaries when we say we are available to help a friend and realize on the day we have double-booked ourselves. The boat starts to rock.

Sometimes we fill our lives with things that don’t really add value. Then, when we look up at a commitment we really DO want to follow through on – like having new friends around for dinner or volunteering at school or church, it’s suddenly the despised one because it pushes us over the edge.who sank2

We have to guard our time and our gifts. Not every great cause deserves our money. Not every invitation deserves a “yes!” Instead of merely checking the time slot in your calendar when making a commitment, why not prayerfully consider whether or not that invitation keeps you on track with your goals and the other roles ONLY YOU can fulfill? Otherwise, when push comes to shove and space is tight, the loved one to whom we are responsible may not fit. We look up and wonder how the water started seeping.

Maturity in accepting our responsibilities and creating healthy boundaries comes with practice. Prioritizing takes organization and forethought. I love the encouragement James gives and I’m putting it into practice today:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 (MSG)

 

Fasting Devotion, Day Six

Romans 13:1-6

We all have leaders in our life. Whether our parents, a boss, a teacher, a pastor, they play important roles in guiding us, educating us, and overseeing our progress and work. Leaders have the ability to influence us greatly. We can all remember the coach who believed in us and pushed us to do something we didn’t think possible on the field. I can remember a teacher who told me I was something special and that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. For years, it was her voice that caused me to push through hard times.

Sometimes, we don’t like to listen to authority figures. They can tell us something we may not want to hear. Our pridefulness can avoid input into our lives for fear of feeling weak, needy or ignorant.

God has established all authority figures in their places. Whether good or bad, right or wrong; decisions we like or ones we deem unfair. The great news is that as Christians, we are ultimately submitted to the most competent and absolutely perfect leader, Jesus Christ. If we truly trust him and totally rely on him, then we can handle whatever comes our way in this life.

As we continue our 21 day fast, let us remember and pray for the leaders in our lives. Their jobs aren’t easy. Sometimes they have very heavy burdens and they aren’t able to share publicly the struggles they face. May we always have compassion and grace towards our leaders, respecting and honouring them while trusting God. He ultimately helps us fulfill the plan and purpose for our lives no matter what life brings us.

Dear God, thank you for placing leaders in my life to help guide me. I pray for each of them to know you and to follow your voice as they lead. Strengthen our governmental leadership, civic leaders, bosses, teachers, and pastors. Give them wisdom to make tough decisions and encourage them through the people they lead. May it be a joy and not a burden to fulfill their roles. In Jesus’ name, Amen.