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.

Devotion, Fasting, Prayer, Series, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day THIRTEEN

Read Acts 16:16-40

Sometimes life brings situations your way that have you feeling trapped. You may not be physically incarcerated unjustly like the Apostle Paul in this story in Acts. But, you can feel stuck in a job you hate, held captive by a diagnosis, bound by people around you who seem to drag you down. The best way out of any stronghold is through worship and prayer as Paul and Silas have shown.

You can’t control what problems life brings your way and Jesus himself told us this world would bring troubles, but you CAN control your response to your pain. Worshipping God means declaring his goodness, putting him in FIRST PLACE in your life, telling him how much you love Him for what he has done in your life, exalting HIS name above every problem you face. If you can form a habit of worshipping God and praying through every trial you face, you will experience a freedom like Paul felt when the physical shackles fell from his body.

The beauty of living a God-centered life is that people around you will witness God’s faithfulness to you; they too can be set free.

Jesus, you are worthy of all my praise and affection. I honour you above everything in my life and worship you now despite any trouble I am facing. I trust you will be faithful to release me from bondage so that I can walk in freedom. Knowing my eternity is secure with you means I can face anything life throws my way. Use me to minister to others in my world and in my church as I experience your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Devotion, Fasting, religious, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day ELEVEN

Read Philippians 3

You are at the halfway point of our 21 day fast! If you’re fasting some type of food, your body may be used to going without and it may not seem like the same sacrifice it was on the first few days. If you’re fasting something else, a new habit is forming in its place and it may not seem difficult to keep giving it up. If you aren’t careful, you can begin to place confidence in your own efforts.

With any type of “religious” activity, we must guard against patting ourselves on the back and calling ourselves righteous. We have to keep at the forefront of our minds why we started fasting in the first place. The apostle Paul puts it beautifully as he lists all the reasons he could boast of his own efforts. Yet, he considers everything he ever did in the name of religion worthless compared to knowing Christ. We aren’t made righteous by obeying rules, fasting, spending extra time in prayer, church attendance, etc. We become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ and the work HE has done on the cross for us.

What a relief! Let us press on in our heavenly race towards the prize that is Christ. Our time of fasting and prayer isn’t familiar, boring, or a second thought, rather it’s a way to know Jesus more and experience and relate to Christ in everything we do.

Dear Lord Jesus, give me strength to continue with my fast. In doing so, I ask that you help me to keep the main thing the main thing… YOU! Rid me of any pride or false sense of accomplishment and check my motives and heart condition. I press on towards the upward call that is Christ Jesus. I want more of you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith, Fasting, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Fasting Devotion, Day Five

(Post submitted by Robyn Kennaugh)

Hebrews 12:1-3 Philippians 3:12-21

The Christian life isn’t about standing by as a spectator; rather, we are all encouraged to be participators. Each of us has an individual course mapped out that only we can run. I can’t run yours and you can’t run mine. In everyday life, there are the ‘super sprinters’ and the ‘persistent plodders’; but in our spiritual life, God is looking for some “FAITHFUL FINISHERS.”

He never mentions that we should finish in record time. He just encourages us through these verses in Hebrews to strip down to the basics, to lay aside anything that would hold us back and to concentrate on crossing the finish line.

Fasting means laying aside things that take up our attention and energy under normal circumstances and focusing on things that God thinks are most important for our spiritual and physical health.

This periodic commitment helps us stay on course to finish our race strong. Remember that doing without something for a short while can help us see something far more important that will last for a long time, for all eternity.

Paul says in Philippians that he didn’t have it all together but he had his eye on the prize; his heart was set on hearing not the adulation of the crowd around him but the applause of heaven and the words of Jesus, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

So if we get despondent while running our race, we should remember Jesus – he didn’t let any hostility or opposition cause him to give up on his mission here… to save you and me.

God, you are so awesome to have a race marked out especially for me. I am thankful for this journey no matter how difficult it seems at times to stay on course. Give me strength to run my race well. Give me vision for my future so that I can run with purpose and passion. Help me to remain faithful at all times. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

Courage, Uncategorized

Don’t Stop Now

I love to run on the nearby Fernleigh Track.  It follows an old railway line and winds me through gorgeous bushland where I can hear Bell Birds and see wildlife like cute bunnies hopping across my path.  I recently ran a little further than usual and as I turned back towards home, I noticed a sign I had never seen before:

Here's the sign on my run!

Since I was a good 5km from home, this “all-caps-command” felt like an order, dictating to my tired legs what they yearned to hear.  I have a policy that I don’t STOP and walk when I’m running.  Otherwise, it feels too hard to start back up again.

Running is one thing, but what about genuine trials in life that press us down so hard, we cave under the pressure?  Our marriage feels too far in the ditch to bring back in alignment.  We STOP putting ourselves out there for relationships because we have been hurt one too many times and trusting feels too hard.  We feel helpless when it comes to our finances or our jobs so we terminate early.

Personally, this journey of church planting has felt lonelier and more stressful than anything I have ever done; at times, everything in me has wanted to fly back to Texas and give up.  The weight of expectation for what it means to be a pastor’s wife feels confusing and daunting most days. And, when our vision doesn’t come to pass quickly, it’s easy to doubt God’s word and wish I could turn back.

We all face trials that cause us pain and moments when we feel like we can’t suck in enough air to go another mile.  There are times our heart beats out of our chest with anxiety and fear and we think our bodies might explode.

Rather than letting an outside voice slow us down, why don’t we let our inner voice speed us past this wreckage that seeks to halt our progress?

Last I checked, as Christians, are actually “more than conquerors” and it’s for “freedom that Christ has set us free.”  We aren’t victims of circumstance nor are we underdogs or fools.

We have been given a “shield of victory” and we are supposed to be bold because of the hope we have in Christ. We shouldn’t be overrun by negative thinking or hopelessness.  Instead, when those thoughts come, we should remind ourselves not to “burn out or quit in hard times; instead, pray all the harder.”

I’m believing for that last bit of leg strength to keep running.  I’m believing for the breath of God to fill our lungs so we are strong and courageous.  I’m expecting God to strengthen our spiritual and mental muscles so they can take us farther than we thought we had strength to go.  That our minds would focus on the long-term marathon, not just the next km.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 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.  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it” (Phil 3:12-16).

church, Uncategorized

Growing Up

Having two toddlers in our home makes for busy days full of laughter, imaginary friends and pets, picky eating, and TANTRUMS!  Our almost-two-year old, Samuel, has two favourite words: “mine,” and “no.”  He is exerting his independence and the battle for control is raging.  Many times, he sits down and looks the other way when given a direction he doesn’t want to take.  I can beg, coax, bribe, demand all I want, but he is not cooperating.  He may kick and scream as I practically drag him where I want him to go.  Although this behaviour is quite annoying and tests my patience and every other fruit of the spirit when it happens, it’s all a part of growing up.  Sam is still young.  He drinks milk with every meal.  He takes a dummy (pacifier for my American readers) to soothe himself to sleep.

Sam doesn’t have enough experience yet to understand consequences for his behavior, although he is learning.  He doesn’t have enough maturity to know everything isn’t all about him and that he doesn’t get whatever he wants on demand.  In time, my expectation as a mother is that he WILL get control of his emotions; he WILL obey me when I ask him to do something; he WILL share and cooperate with his siblings even when he doesn’t like it.

As a Christian, it’s important that we grow up in our faith.  In the church, childish behaviour can be quite prevalent if we allow it.  We fall into the trap of “consumerism Christianity” where we go to church to be entertained; we judge everything according to our likes and dislikes: how loud is the music? How much fun did our kids have in service?  We join a small group so we can socialize with other “believers” and we only like sermons that make us feel good.  We take what we feel we deserve to get from it, never realizing our part to play.  Then, if we aren’t satisfied with something… if the pastor offends us… if we are being challenged to grow up, we quit.  We quit on church, or even worse, we quit on God.

That’s like a tantrum.

Like Saul just before his radical conversion, Jesus is telling us not to “kick against the goads.”  If we realize we have a greater purpose than ourselves, we might understand he has a job for us. Jesus has handpicked us to be servants and witnesses to what’s happened in our lives (Acts 26:16).  In other words, “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!”

How many times does God have to say it to get our attention?  Let us not be like Samuel, needing Mum to go over the basics again and again.  The writer of Hebrews says that we keep needing baby’s milk when we should have been on solid food long ago.  “Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.”  This was written to Hebrew Christians who were struggling embracing their faith in Christ, leaning back to their Jewish roots. They needed encouragement on the implications of following him and growing up in their faith.

A milk based Christian diet is BORING and BLAND!  God wants each of us to go deeper than where we are currently with him. He wants our witness to bear some fruit that has eternal impact and our life to be devoted to him.  Unlike me in my parenting, however, God doesn’t drag us where he wants us to go.  He allows us the choice to either stay where we are or to mature into all that he has planned for us.

God doesn’t want us to re-live one year’s lessons over and over so that we find ourselves the same person in a decade, just 10 years older.  

Let us not spend our lives missing the point of our salvation.  Simply ticking the box to get into heaven isn’t enough for mature Christian living.  Let’s look beyond ourselves and serve others.  Learn to give and take in our marriages.  Gain a deeper understanding of His word; experience closer intimacy with him.

When we walk with God keeping eternity in mind, we actually lead the way for others to know Him.  No one would model their lives after a two year old nor would they let Sam lead the way or give advice on any topic.  Let us not have the same reputation and

Grow Up Together.

Australia, Contentment, Uncategorized

Content Now?

Ever since I got a paid gig writing blogs last month, my own blog has suffered.  As Ecclesiastes says, “there’s nothing new under the sun;” the same feels true as I update you all on what’s going on here in Australia.  Our furniture FINALLY arrived after three long months of waiting and we have been unpacking and trying to organize our belongings all day everyday since then.

It’s interesting to see what’s inside each one.  I thought I had de-cluttered like nobody’s business.  I sold what felt like half our belongings and what remained was only the most loved outfits, personal effects that are irreplaceable, and items that would be too expensive to replace here.  Interestingly, after living out of six suitcases with only the necessities for a couple of months, I now realize 42 pairs of underwear and socks and 25 coffee mugs aren’t really that important after all.  I can’t tell you how many hangers and shoes I have no room for in my Belmont North rental.  And, that pile of paperwork that sat on my Lynnwood desk needing attention is now outdated and has no value nor importance in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although beds and outfits make life comfortable and I am certainly happy I can serve my neighbors dinner without washing dishes midway through the meal because I now have enough plates and silverware, I have come to appreciate how little we can live on if we really must.  I know, I know… everyone says it.  Missionaries live it.  Starving kids in Africa play with sticks all day and seem perfectly content.  Less is more.  I’m not saying anything new.

The trick for anyone who has experienced an adjustment to having less than what she used to is to stay balanced in the long run.  How do we remain generous with our money and possessions if we don’t have any?  Yet, once we do, how do we live comfortably, but not extravagantly?  Solomon wrote about a man who might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment.  He says “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecc. 1:7-9).

Yet Paul contrasts this with saying in Phillipians that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  He knew what it was “to be in need,” and what it was “to have plenty.”  He said he “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Contentment is sourced by our heavenly father when we are at peace with Him.  Only God can supply all our needs “according to his riches in glory.”  I used to think that meant material needs (and maybe it does) but the older I get and the more “stuff” I accumulate, I realize God supplying ALL MY NEEDS is much deeper than anything we can purchase in dollars.  Contentment means resting in peace when working really hard to pay the bills.  Contentment is enjoying the moment with my kids when dishes and laundry need to be done.  Contentment equals taking a back row seat in somebody else’s church so I can get fed and my kids can be in church even though God has called us to lead a large influential church ourselves.  Contentment means hanging onto my dreams even though they seem so far away.  Contentment when releasing control to understand unfair circumstances and grief.  Being anxious in NOTHING but by prayer and supplication, presenting my requests to God.  He promises to give peace that surpasses understanding.

Contentment means confessing John 6:35

Jesus is the Bread of Life.  I come to him and I am never hungry.  I believe in him, cleave to, trust in and rely on Him.  I am never thirsty at any time.  I am fully satisfied.

When I can confess this daily and mean it no matter my surroundings or circumstances, I have reached contentment.  In the meantime, I will enjoy my old recliner and photo albums.  And if you come to visit me, I will give you my California King and make you dinner in my Texas sized pots and pans.