Contentment, Faith, Fasting, Inspiration, Series, Uncategorized

Fasting Devotion, Day Twenty

Numbers 11:1-20

When something hurts, our tendency is to do whatever we can to make it stop. When the pressure is on, we feel like quitting or turning back; we can lose sight of the reason we chose this path and easily look to where we came from as the better place.

Every time life was tough for the Israelites, they wanted to go back to Egypt. Distrusting of their leader, their anger brewed, and they pitied themselves. God would show up faithfully and provide a solution for them but it was never good enough.

Anything that is tough requires fortitude, an ability to push ahead, and not quit. Many of us have pressed through some difficult days as we have fasted over the last few weeks. God has shown up in those moments and given us strength to continue. As we move forward, let’s not forsake this daily time with God that’s like precious manna, our provision to move forward.

Discouragement will come and some days we feel like quitting. Oftentimes, we are in a full court press and our breakthrough is just minutes away. Promotion and headway comes right after the hardest part. If we turn back when the pain feels too intense, we will never give birth.  When faced with the impossible, it’s time to dig deeper with God, stay in the game for one more round, show up and trust him to come through.

Dear Lord, you ARE the great provider in my life. You never fail. I give thanks for everything in my life – every blessing, and even the difficult parts. Help me not to look behind me but to always press on. I know my future is bright. I trust you for daily provision and an outpouring of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Contentment, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Gratefulness

grateful

Instead of focussing on what stresses me out and what worries me today, I am choosing to be grateful.  If I’m not careful, however, I can allow this positive perspective to shift to complaining and criticizing.  Just looking at Facebook status updates halfway inspires me to join the plethora of groaning about everything from what sports team lost to which side of the political isle is stupid to what a bad day we are all having!

It reminds me of the Israelites who walked across the Red Sea on dry land; shortly thereafter, they remembered with fondness the wonderful food they could eat as slaves in Egypt and longed for those days, complaining about the Lord’s miraculous provision of manna.

The very thing that they were saved from is the thing they ended up wanting to go back to time and time again.

I  read these passages and think, “How could those Israelites be so ungrateful?  Wasn’t the fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day that led them towards the Promised Land evidence enough that God was with them?  Couldn’t walking across the Red Sea on dry land to escape the Egyptians be cause enough for total devotion and gratitude to God for saving and rescuing them out of slavery? The daily provision of food and safety should have been cause for celebrating not contravening.”

They complained about the manna, having no meat to eat.  God sent quail and it wasn’t long until that was unsatisfying again.  Even when they finally reached their destination, 80 percent of the leaders sent to spy out the land came back with a negative report- faithless, and fearful.  How easy is it for us to look on the outside and judge these Chosen Ones?  We look at all of these scenarios and think, “If God did all that for me, I would never (fill-in-the-blank)!”  We look at others’ lives and think, “if I had that job, that house, those children, that vacation, I would be more grateful.”

I can remember a time not too long ago when I was desperately seeking God to provide us with a house we could live in and at a good price.  God miraculously provided the perfect location, a newer house, the price we wanted, fabulous neighbours, and more.  Yet upon moving in, I quickly started complaining about the smallness of my kitchen.  I hated the sounds of the barking dogs around me during rest time.  I lamented the small backyard.  I made excuses to my guests and compared it to my spacious kitchen in Texas. For crying out loud, I have to keep all of my food in the makeshift pantry I created in the laundry room closet beneath my staircase!

If I’m not cautious, my desire to please God daily can be overturned by my own rotten attitude at times.  Paul persuades us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing” (Philppians 2:14).

What pleases God is an attitude of gratitude.  The Israelites never quite got this and it actually kept them out of the promised land.  They missed out on all that God had for them going around the same mountain over and over.  God called them a “stiff-necked” people.  Stubborn and hard-headed were they indeed!  How quickly we can shift our tune from gratitude to complaining.  And, like the Israelites, we can miss out on all that God has in store.  Let us steward the things he has given us with a grateful spirit.  The grass isn’t greener on the other side. I can look at what is before me and see the redeeming work of Jesus in my family, the health of myself and my kids, our progress in building Lift Church, and I’m astonished!

I won’t waste time turning back to long for another day or another way.

We must turn our focus onto the things within our reach instead of the things we can’t change or influence.  We can’t control what has been placed in our hands but we can control what we do with it.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Here is another post on gratefulness from a year ago!
divine appointments, Faith, Inspiration, Newcastle, Timing, Uncategorized

We Got a House!

My learning curve on rental house hunting in the Newcastle area was fast and furious.  Although I envisioned hiring an agent to find a home, the market works differently with rentals in such high demand.  We were on our own locating properties online.  Every week, we narrowed down a list of houses and inspection times, weighing out the two hour drive from where we are living with Greg’s family against our interest on each property. Our 15 minute inspection coincided with every other Tom, Dick and Harry who also had interest in the property.  With as many as 20 other families inspecting a property, the process was intimidating.  After all, we were peeking in closets and whispering to each other about where our furniture would go right next to the “competition” and his wife.  Afterwards, we applied and hoped the the owner picked us.

My extensive applications including letters of reference, photos of our TX home, bank statements, and offers to pay the bond (deposit) plus three month’s rent up front were an effort to stand out from the crowd.  After the first denial, I was starting to stress.  I knew God had the perfect house for us; deep down, I honestly was worried about how we would find it. My cover letter needed to be just right, with the perfect “one-liner” to get the owner’s attention.  I think this striving went on even in my sleep.  My fretting over finding a home that would fit our furniture, was constant.

Every day that went by in Forster, I felt a little more concerned.  I didn’t expect house hunting to be so difficult.  Week before last, we had two properties to see with inspections on Wednesday and Friday. I really wanted the Friday house because of its proximity to the lake and primary school for Brett.  We drove down two hours each way twice and applied for both homes.

The following Monday morning brought much disappointment as the owners decided to sell the house near the lake instead of lease it. A wasted trip and wasted hours of application preparation.  But by afternoon, our situation had changed.  We had been approved for the home we viewed on Wednesday in Charlestown!  Our four week wait was over; we decided to take possession of the house and sign the lease on Friday.

God had other plans for us, however.

Our SUV was packed to the hilt on in preparation for the trip down.  Our plan was to enroll Brett in school, sign the lease, and shop for appliances.  An hour before leaving, Greg got a phone call from a golf mate about a guy he knows who has a four bedroom home in Belmont North. Greg called to inquire about the house even though I was in the background saying, “NO! We are signing our lease at one o’clock today.  We have a house now and are not interested.”

Needless to say, the man who owns the home is a Christian and felt like our connection was, in his words, “a God thing.”  He had put the house up for sale five days prior, but for some reason agreed to rent it to us for a year at $200 less per month than the Charlestown home. Belmont is a much more desirable location for us and this 2 year old house sits on a flat private street with a shared pool and BBQ right in our front yard.  Perfect for meeting our neighbors and beginning our life in Oz!

I am so thankful Greg answered the phone that morning.  It reminded me:

God is in control of everything.  Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart, man plans his course, but God orders his footsteps.”  We felt like the property management companies were controlling our steps.  I even fooled myself into thinking I was making my path by creating outstanding applications and having cash in hand.  Our heavenly father knew exactly what he had in store.  We were not forgotten in a pile of paperwork on a stranger’s desk.

God is never early and never late.  He is always on time.  In this case, the phone call came literally one hour before we were leaving to sign for the other home.  I think of Lazarus (John 11) dying because Jesus was “too late” to heal him. In actuality, Jesus raised him from the dead in his own timing. God cut through a majorly time consuming process and gave us a house with one short phone call.

God wants us to be flexible.  I hate changing course midstream.  In this case, I had been shopping for rugs and bar stools for the Charlestown home.  Our suitcases were packed and the car was loaded with cleaning supplies and other necessities.  The last thing I wanted was an interruption of MY PLANS!  Even if it seems like a detour to us, God wants us to trust him at every turn.

God opens doors we don’t even know are there.  Greg was just playing a round of golf last weekend.  He met Tom who knows Matt who rented us his home two hours away.  Greg must have made an impression that allowed Tom to put in a good word for us.  Greg is excited he has evidence to prove playing golf is ministry!  I have evidence that God, my advocate, is endlessly working on my behalf.

God wants to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). Most of our home searches over the month were near the Belmont suburb for its proximity to hiking and biking trails, the beach and lake.  I wanted a flat street (Newcastle is VERY hilly).  Brett has been praying for a pool since before we left Texas.  We were willing to let go of all of that and take the Charlestown home, but in the end, God gave us what we wanted.

God wants to be glorified by our lives.  I love testifying to the Lord’s goodness in my life.  Being open to this last minute opportunity allowed room for this “God story!”  In the end, we didn’t even need an application.  We didn’t need three month’s rent up front.  We didn’t even give our driver’s license or proof of income.  All we needed was a willingness to go out of our way to let God show us His.

Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Surprise!

I LOVE surprises, however, nothing much surprises me.  My schedule, my plans, how money is spent, etc. are all overwhelmingly predictable in my life.  Cause and effect play a big part in how I think.  Do the right things, blessings come.  Obey the word of God and he answers prayers.  Go to work, get paid.  Treat people well and you are treated well by people. Oversimplifying, but you get the point!

Even in areas where some would say I have taken risks like starting a business, going into full-time ministry, and moving across the country, I could always weigh out the consequences and make my decisions based on whether or not I could live with them whatever happened.  Not really many surprises.

In this season of preparing to plant a church in Australia, God is shaking me up on every level.  I’m thankful and exhilarated by this faith walk; it’s fun because God is surprising me almost daily.  I am not surprised by the fact that he comes through for us (his nature is faithful).  I’m not surprised that things are falling into place (God has called us to this).  It’s the manner in which things are happening that’s surprising me.  God has much better ideas than me!

God surprised us with my visa being approved early.  He surprised us when we found airfare for much less than we have EVER seen it, meaning we could book it and go sooner.  People are giving financially to Lift Church whom we didn’t even have on our list to ask.  His provision is amazing.  The way in which our house is being sold came unexpectedly.

If we are truly walking in faith, we must be ready at any moment for God to change our course through new ideas.  He has the answers we need to live a life of peace.  A life centered in His will.  I love Proverbs 16:1: “the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.”  This perfectly describes what is happening in our life right now.  We have plans in our minds and hearts.  But at every turn, the answer, what is ACTUALLY occurring is supernatural intervention from the Lord.  HE is providing answers we haven’t even thought up.  Our God thinks outside the box!

God is full of surprises.  He takes a mess we make out of a situation and turns it for good.  He can take a tragedy and use it to become the very life message we speak that ministers to others.  This is how he gets the credit and others can see his glory manifest on earth.

Like the game show, “Let’s Make a Deal,” I’m so excited to see what God has behind “Door Number One!”  The best part is, in this game, there are no dirt piles or mooing cows.  God only trades UP!  He trades beauty for ashes.  He takes us from glory to glory.  It’s not a gamble when we trust God.  But there WILL be surprises.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  It’s only going to get better from here.  I’m resting in the chaos that’s before me knowing that God has my answers in HIS TONGUE.  My heart may be full of plans, but God will have the final say and I’m expecting Him to surprise us!

“If I were in your shoes, I’d go straight to God, I’d throw myself on the mercy of God. After all, he’s famous for great and unexpected acts; there’s no end to his surprises.” Job 5:8, The Message