Day 19: “Peace”

peace worldAs you approach the final three days of prayer and fasting, you are more at peace. Yet, learning to walk in peace despite your circumstances is a lifelong practise and takes more than a few days to master. Composure comes when you make it a habit to take negative thoughts captive and submit them to God. You can walk in harmony with others when you learn to separate what someone else might say about you that’s contrary to what God says.

Nothing can steal your peace when you completely trust God no matter what curve balls life might throw your way. No scary diagnosis. No unforeseen accident. You’re embracing the blessing of well-being within your spirit which your mighty God offers you each day.

You can find the “Prince of Peace” right alongside you when you seek him continually. He is longing to embrace you and to care for you. He desires nothing more than to guide you into a quiet place of relaxation amidst any storm you’re facing. The practise you have incorporated into your life over the last three weeks is allowing you to experience more of Jesus.

You know that you’re not alone. You have seen and heard him speak. You can see that dedicating time to your relationship with your Heavenly Father brings contentment and rest. You, as a carrier of God’s peace, can actually set the temperature in your home, your family, your workplace. You make and maintain calmness everywhere you go.

“Finally, believers, rejoice! Be made complete [be what you should be], be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace [enjoy the spiritual well-being experienced by believers who walk closely with God]; and the God of love and peace [the source of loving-kindness] will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11 AMP).

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Day 7: “Free From Insecurity”

free from insecurityEveryone knows a pubescent teen battles insecurities; they can own up to their self-doubt. Insecurity is a common vocabulary word in a young person’s vernacular and you empathise when an adolescent acts out. You know where it’s coming from.

When you’re all grown up (18? University graduate? Marriage? Parenthood?), it’s suddenly no longer socially acceptable to admit you’re insecure. On the contrary, it’s entirely EXPECTED that you never show weakness, that you exhaust yourself covering up your problems, and that no one knows your pain.

Women might admit they feel embarrassed in a bikini but they hardly confess how insecure they feel in bed. Men appear overconfident by dominating conversations about work yet fall silent when asked to open up about their feelings.

You cover up uncertainty by gossiping and judging… it’s so much easier to tear down others so your own short-comings are masked. You feel belittled by your wives and criticised by your fathers, so you retreat and self-medicate with porn or alcohol.

Living a life of cover-up is exhausting. Vulnerability is a scary word, one you avoid at all costs. You’re weakened by your negative self-talk and proving yourself to the world. Relaxing in your own skin is about as comfortable as a fish is out of water. You may not call it insecurity, but it is.

The opposite, (self-acceptance), stems from knowing your identity in Christ. Author and research professor Brené Brown says, “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” Where do you acquire love and belonging, especially if you’ve ever been rejected?

God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He says he has plans for your life, that you were created with a purpose uniquely yours. He loves you and says you’re created in his perfect image.

In a world longing for validity, you, as a child of God, are the legitimate and conclusive evidence of God’s love; you belong to HIS family. Your imperfections merely highlight your need for Jesus and they aren’t something to run from. There’s no greater peace than embracing the skin you’re in and loving the only you you’ll ever have.

As you go deeper with Jesus during your fast, allow vulnerability to expose your insecurities and expect God to re-define and re-align your identity.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

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).

Day 9: “The Holy Spirit Speaks.”

god-of-hopeWhen Jesus’ ministry on earth was finished and he rose from the grave to be seated with God in heaven for all eternity, he sent a helper for you in the Holy Spirit. You have hope and can access power because of this gift. The Holy Spirit comes to guide you and provide wisdom. If there’s something specific you’re praying about, trust his presence in your life.

Weigh your options against the word of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to confirm through scripture what you’re seeking. Speak to someone you trust who has a close relationship to God and ask him or her to pray about your situation too. Lastly, be led by peace. If you’re unsure of something and do not have peace, the Holy Spirit isn’t guiding you that direction. At times, you take a step of faith into the unknown and you may not have all the answers; but you should have peace.

Our beautiful helpmate, the Holy Spirit, nudges us when we need to know something about our kids. He might bring someone to mind for whom you need to pray or ring. He is faithful with revelation so you aren’t in the dark. If you trust the Holy Spirit, you never have to fear. Listen closely for him as you continue your time of fasting.

Fasting Devotion, Day Eighteen

(Post submitted by Paul O’Rourke)

Psalm 133

We can all agree with King David that people living together in unity is beautiful and pleasant. The Psalmist likens unity to precious oil, signifying the cleansing, healing and directing power of the Holy Spirit being poured out on us by the bucketload. It’s like fresh rain falling on normally barren dry ground (dew of Hermon falling on Mt Zion).

And there, in the midst of true Biblical unity, the Lord commands blessing and life.

Unity is obvious. It’s attractive and sweet-smelling. It’s exemplified by a genuine love for one another, a commitment to others’ success and welfare. Discernible peace and contentment within a marriage, a family, a congregation exist alongside people living in harmony.

John says that when we are of one heart and mind, we reflect Jesus to the world. Where there is unity, people care; they go the extra mile; they forgive quickly and completely; they are secure.

Disunity repels; it stinks. Dissension is characterised by jealousy, strife, malice and anger where people put up with one another – tolerating, rather than forgiving and serving.

Jesus said people would know we are his followers by our LOVE.

Love is the means, unity the ends.

God, thank you for your promises in your word. They bring life and favour to me. I commit to living in unity with those you have placed in my life. I choose to go the extra mile, to serve, to encourage, and submit where necessary. This brings blessing upon my life and I receive this word today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day Fifteen

Galatians 5:13-26

Have you ever seen someone who looks absolutely miserable and then spoken to them and realise they are actually quite enjoyable and happy? I used to have a friend who would say, “Are you happy? Then, tell your face!”

Sometimes our outside isn’t a true reflection of what’s happening on our inside. Remember the kids’ song, “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it…?” Our countenance SHOULD reflect the joy of the Lord. People SHOULD notice something different about the way we carry ourselves as Christians. Negative Facebook posts, complaining, gossiping, and an overall grim outlook on life are oxymoronic for Christ-followers.

We all have bad days! We all have moments when we just feel we need to “VENT!’ But let us not forget our body language and faces reflect the beauty of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is:

LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, and SELF-CONTROL.

Those traits LOOK like something! Just like you can pick an apple from an apple tree because there are apples growing on it, people can pick what sort of person we are by what comes out of our lives. As we continue to press into all God has for us in 2014, let’s focus on the fruit in our lives and reap a plentiful harvest by which everyone around us can partake!

God, you are so magnificent and wonderful. Thank you for creating me in your image. I ask that every area of my life reflect the fruit of the spirit so others will be drawn to you through my actions, words, and expressions. Forgive me for the times I fall short of displaying your glory. Give me courage and strength to trust you and remain joyful despite difficult circumstances I may be facing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day Ten

(Submitted by Paul O’Rourke)

Ephesians 4:1-6

Paul exhorts us to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received.” The Message version encourages us to RUN on the path God has called us. He says, “I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere.”

So how do we live a life worth of this calling?

Paul tells us in Ephesians, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” In yesterday’s post, we talked about healthy relationships. Looking beyond our own personal influence and happiness, think of the corporate influence we have when we live at peace with one another.

Imagine a church, family, marriage, workplace where the individuals are completely humble and gentle, patient and loving. Where each one makes every effort, and takes personal responsibility to maintain unity through the bond of peace? A life worthy of the calling!

Everyone generously donating their gifts for the benefit of others.

Speaking the truth in love.

Renewing our minds.

Not allowing disagreements to go unresolved.

Working hard.

Ridding ourselves of all bitterness, malice and slander.

Being kind and compassionate.

Speaking words that benefit those who listen.

Everything we do either contributes to unity or takes from it.

Heavenly Father, I want nothing more than to live a life worthy of the calling you have for me. Thank you for giving me clear guidelines for how to live in unity with others to create peace all around me. Help me to be kind, compassionate, uplifting, hard-working, generous and loving to those you have placed in my sphere of influence. I pray your name will be glorified as I continue to seek you in everything I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.