Church planting, Inspiration, Leadership, Newcastle

Plucked or Planted?

treeMy community is strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches after massive cyclonic storms ravaged our region last week. Trees have crushed cars, houses and power lines. I have been shocked to see massive gums lying sideways on the ground with their entire root balls exposed like this one in the photo I took at the end of my street. It’s like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk came around and pulled up the trees like you and I would pull up a weed.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the beautiful tree imagery found in God’s word as my Facebook feed was bombarded with photos like mine. The Lord promises to make us “oaks of righteousness, displaying his splendour.” The righteous are also told we will flourish like a “palm tree” and a “cedar of Lebanon” bearing much fruit, even in old age.

I don’t know of any scriptures that refer to our beloved Australian Eucalyptus trees or of any reference to 3 metre trees being unstable and easily moved. So, I set out to do some research intending to make a correlation between trees with strong roots versus weak ones and how they might relate to us spiritually.

Much to my creative dismay, I found out all of these trees have amazingly strong roots. I mean, some go down as deep as the tree is tall. Some hardwoods have tap roots digging metres into the ground. Roots can extend sideways as far out as the canopy of leaves above the ground.

Oak trees need little water or fertiliser once their roots are established. Gum trees thrive in wet areas as their roots rest in the upper layers of the soil. Palm trees have roots that regenerate and continually jut out from all angles acting as anchors and feeders for the trees.

The roots of trees are so strong they can crack foundations of houses, lift up concrete walkways, and kill off every other living thing nearby as they take nutrients and water from the soil. No wonder God uses them as similes all throughout the Word as he paints a picture of our strength and glory in his eyes!

So, my question remains – how did these massive Eucalyptus trees in the Hunter fall over with their roots and soil in tact as if I personally transplanted them from a pot and laid them down to await their next home?

The ground around the tree became totally saturated with rainfall, making the tree vulnerable. Then, winds upwards of 100km/hr blew, ripping them out of the ground as easily as you or I could pick a daisy in our back yard. (I’m no arborist so please excuse my simplistic explanation for the sake of your personal growth and inspiration!).

I want to remain firmly planted when the storms of life rage against me, never allowing them to uproot my faith or my view of God and his steadfast care for me.

Unlike a giant gum tree who has no preference or say in where he is planted, we have the privilege of choosing in which soil we place ourselves, how much we are watered and fertilised as well as how much input we receive from the SON (pun intended).

Psalm 92:13 says those who are planted “IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD” will FLOURISH.

I’m a church planter, so it goes without saying I’m passionate about the church. It’s what Jesus says he’s coming back for, his bride; it’s to whom most of the New Testament was written; it’s the hope of the world to bring communities together and to care for those in need; it’s where we teach and instruct; it’s a house of prayer and a place of worship to our God.

Not being PLANTED in good healthy soil as a believer is like telling that gum tree to grow on the sandy shores of Redhead Beach. Or, expecting it to flourish in a car park with concrete all around, poor drainage, and pipes cutting into the roots underneath. No one would think that’s sane! We must find the nutrient rich soil of a local church and stick ourselves in it if we want to flourish.

We must care for the soil and keep it watered by serving and building relationships. Let us never over saturate with self-doubt, fear or judgement of those around us who are doing their best to thrive too. We must stand tall in the face of trials, sending out our roots for Living Water that nourishes and protects. We have to find comfort in the canopy of other believers, knowing there is protection when we aren’t isolated and exposed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9

church, Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Series

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

Australia, church, Prayer, Timing, Uncategorized

Plant, Water, Grow

Last weekend, we had the privilege of ministering at Greg’s Aunt and Uncle’s church in a small country town a couple of hours outside Melbourne.  I preached their annual women’s event and Greg the Sunday morning services.  We had the best time with cousins we didn’t know, their children, our children, Susan and Ron, and Generations Church.  If we went there under the pretense that we were going to be a blessing, we left being much more blessed by all of them.

The influence of Generations Church on its community is astounding.  For a town of only 4000 people, the church has 400 members!  They are planning to build a 500 seat auditorium and have turned an old squash court into a beautiful facility.  The name “Generations” is fitting.  From the youngest child to the oldest lady, Pastors Susan and Ron have committed to taking people on the JOURNEY to find their gifts and purpose.  They have provided an environment for those gifts to be used and God is doing a mighty work.  Their own grown children are worship and children’s pastors influencing the people growing up in Tatura.

Young men with drug addictions in re-hab come to the early service sharing testimonies of God’s redeeming work in their lives.  Teenagers are playing guitars, drums, and harmonicas.  Retirees are staying up till midnight sweeping floors and making coffees after events.  People are honoured for their service and encouraged to go out and reach more people for Jesus.  I can see why kids move away for University and then come back!

We learned from Susan and Ron’s 20+ years of experience.  We walked away with leadership training and inspiration of what Lift Church can look like down the road.  However, the most meaningful part of our weekend for me was seeing Greg’s aunt’s dreams come true before her very eyes.

See, she accepted Christ in 1984 and as the only Christian in her family, began praying for everyone else.  If you don’t know Greg’s background, he left Australia at age 19 to go to America to play baseball and had ZERO belief in God.  Greg surrendered his life to Jesus at age 26 (in 2000), served God in full-time vocational ministry in Texas, and is now planting a church back in his homeland. Unbelievable!

Watching Susan talk about how much she loved Greg when he was born (he was the first baby in the family) and seeing her watch him preach was beautiful. A “full circle” moment.

I believe it was the seeds Susan and Ron sowed in prayer across the ocean for all those years that actually brought us to this place.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:7-8, “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.”

When we pray, we partner with God to bring things to pass.  We come into alignment with his perfect will.  Seeds have been sown in prayer for us over many many years.  I can name hundreds of instances where people watered them.

And all along the way God was making them grow.

We didn’t know about those prayers.  Now, here we are.

I am so thankful for Aunt Susan.  I’m more convinced than ever that our God answers our cries.  And, I’m inspired to spend more of my day planting prayers, pouring life into people, and standing on God’s promises for a great harvest!

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
even those who sail on distant seas. (Psalm 65:5 NLT)

ARC, Church planting, Inspiration, religious, Uncategorized

It’s Up to You… And God

If you are a driver personality type and tend to “make it happen,” in life, you can lean on your own understanding to get stuff done.  I have always enjoyed taking something small or non existent and working to establish and grow it.  Whether it’s growing leaders, a department at the church, or my AdvoCare business, I have a track record of strategically putting together plans and goal setting to make something successful.  I would call myself entrepreneurial, a self-starter, and a visionary.

My husband and I have worked very well together in our business for years.  We love and enjoy building people.  We have a passion for seeing them grow and find their gifts and callings to serve the Lord.  We love helping others and serving families.  All of these characteristics coupled with our training and experience over the last few years on staff at our church would lead us to believe we have the perfect “resume” for church planting.  We have the skill set and on paper, if we were placing bets, I think our odds of success would look pretty good.

There’s only ONE BIG PROBLEM:  We are dealing in the supernatural.  Last I checked, I’m not God and I wasn’t raised from the dead!  The Bible says that we plant and sow, but it’s only God who makes things grow (I Cor 3:6).  The seed itself is what holds the power to become something great.  It’s God who created the seed with all its potential.

This week’s ARC training is full of the most amazing information any church planter would ever need or want.  We feel like we are well equipped to “do” what God is calling us to “do.”  What we will DO, however, will ultimately not be what impacts lives and changes people.  It’s what God’s supernatural power that lives in us will do as we sow and water the seed God gives us.  The people in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, waiting to hear the life changing message of hope found in a relationship with Christ will find it through our efforts of providing an environment of love and acceptance.  They will find it through relationship and encouragement.  They will love our kids ministry and our church services because they will be excellent, fun and full of life.

Ultimately, the supernatural work that will be done is going to be through the Holy Spirit.  It’s Him who sets people free.  It’s Him who delivers us out of darkness and sets our feet upon the ROCK.  It’s the Lord who will make our church grow and the people inside it come into the saving knowledge of Christ.

As scary as it is to move forward in faith and step into planting a church, the pressure is really off.  We will do all of the things we have been taught.  We will work hard, that’s for sure.  We will make wise decisions and strategically put together our plans.  We will budget well and spend money responsibly.  We will cast vision and recruit strong teams.

But unless the Lord is in it, we labor in vain.  Unless we give ourselves to HIM and chase after His voice each and every day, we toil with no return.  The discerning has to come through the Spirit.  The power of God comes through His supernatural work.