Devotion, Fasting, Kids, Uncategorized

Day 18: “Children are God’s Best Gift.”

fearfully-madeToday’s children are bombarded with more information than any previous generation. Just go to a shopping mall you’ll see iPads strapped to prams and realise even two year olds are filtering messages coming at them at breakneck speeds. The pace doesn’t slow as they get older.

The most important data young people need is God’s word which tells them they are precious in his sight. An urgent affirmation of the Lord’s plan for them is due.  Timely reminders that they aren’t in your way nor too naive to make a difference.

Today, focus on praying for the children and youth in your life. Maybe they live with you… Look them in the eyes and say, “God loves and cherishes you. You are SO SPECIAL and worthy of love, perfectly made in his image and fully equipped to change the world.”

If you have grandchildren, nieces and nephews, kids at church over whom you have influence, don’t take your position for granted. The world will tell them everything they aren’t and will reinforce what they lack. As Christian leaders, parents, grandparents, you have a responsibility to speak and pray into the lives of the precious ones in your life.

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!
 (Psalm 127:3-4 MSG)

Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Day 5: “Everyone Experiences Sadness.”

sow-tears-reap-songs-of-joyGod knows your most intimate thoughts, fears, and desires. He loves you with an everlasting love and he never likes to see you suffer. Unfortunately, until you get to heaven, this world includes hardship. Sorrow over a death brings a time of bereavement. You grieve when you lose relationships due to disagreements or distance. When marriages break up, hearts are broken.

What makes you melancholy? Everyone experiences sadness. The pain of regret causes remorse. Maybe you bury your pain so much, you can hardly admit it’s there. As you continue to fast and seek the Lord more intimately, don’t be surprised if these emotions come to the surface. Sow your tears before the Lord and watch him turn them into joy.

This miracle is hardly logical. But you serve a supernatural God.

Only your Heavenly Father can come through on a promise to bring laughter to you who weep. Isaiah prophesies a phenomenon to those who grieve – you will receive the oil of joy instead of mourning. Even in your darkest hour, God hasn’t forgotten you. Continue to seek him with every part of you and watch him come through.

“And now, God, do it again—
    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
    will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing” (Psalm 126:4-6).

Contentment, Leadership, Personal Growth, Social problems, Uncategorized

Step Out of the Traffic

I love to run because it helps me clear my head and hopefully keeps my metabolism from totally shutting down now that I’m 40! The thing is, my running is dangerous at times… I’m so zoned out that I sometimes forget to look before crossing streets or I misjudge the distance of the cars coming my way.

Oftentimes, when I’m about to cross Pacific Highway to head to Fernleigh Track in Belmont, I don’t wait for the light. If there’s a break in traffic, I just go. Last week, while I was on my own, I looked to my right and realised there was no way I could cross with all the traffic coming; then, as if in some sort of superhero dimg_0692aydream, I started envisioning myself weaving in and out of the cars, running so fast that I could actually make it to the other side safely. I even actually put my foot out onto the road before snapping out of my trance and realising I wasn’t in a real life game of Frogger.

If you lived through the 80s, chances are, you owned an Atari gaming system and used your joystick to get that little green frog safely across traffic. If you made it to the halfway point, you then had to jump him across logs on water avoiding snakes and alligators. I can still hear the “beep beep” of the frog making his way and I can see him splayed out in front of the trucks on the times his judgement failed.

Some of us live our lives like we are inside an advanced level of Frogger, hoping we have five lives in case this one goes “splat.” We race out before thinking; we misjudge the speed of the truck headed our way, able to crush us under its weight. We jump into over-committing our kids with activities with no regard to whether there’s time to survive safely to the next term. We’re so busy running from one thing to tfrogger3he next that we don’t even notice our heart racing and blood pressure rising. We’ve leapt onto a fast moving log, not even aware of the snake standing next to us…

We compete and run around like there’s a one minute timer ticking down and  I’m just wondering if the everything we’re racing to accomplish is really something keeping us from having anything worthwhile.

When we don’t proceed through life with caution, looking out at our surroundings before stepping into the traffic, we risk losing what’s most important – our God perspective.

When we leap from one activity to the next with no margin, our Creator’s voice is drowned out with the beeping of horns; the smog from our surroundings clouds our vision and inhibits our judgement. Jumping out into the street each day before grounding ourselves in God’s word, praying and seeking HIM for our priorities means risking our spiritual lives, possibly even forfeiting our destinies.

Frogger drowns by staying on a diving turtle too long, letting it take him under. He can die by jumping into a “home” occupied by someone else. The game is over if the frog doesn’t make it home before time runs out. When our lives are on a shaky foundation, they can crumble underneath us causing us to drown. If we aren’t careful to choose the path God has for us, we can wake up one day having lived someone else’s life, occupying the wrong space. The Bible says our lives on this earth are but a vapour – how awful if we just simply run out of time to do all God has called us to do.

You and I don’t have to let the world around us dictate our pace.

No one can make us risk our lives by stepping into chaos God never intended. Psalm 46 encourages us to “step out of the traffic.” Our peace doesn’t have to be destroyed because of the noise around us. Learn to go to God in the quiet place, jump on his back and let him carry you through the traffic. His path is always secure, his methods are sound.

“Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God. I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth” (Psalm 46:9-10, Passion Translation).

 

Church planting, Inspiration, Leadership, Lift Church, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Transplanting Cactus

img_9967

I recently planted three gorgeous little cacti for my bathroom windowsill. They came in tiny yellow plastic pots and I presumed it would take all of five minutes to transplant them to their new homes. My goal was the finished product you see on the left. Simple, eh? Some nice healthy soil, the perfectly sized pot, a sun-filled window ledge. For $10 each including the black ceramic, I was proud of myself for coming up with a cute, inexpensive, low maintenance idea.

What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to get my fat fingers around the edges of the pots in order to pull out the cactus and remove it. As I tried to reach for the little plant, I kept pricking my fingers. It seemed so fragile and small yet every time I tried to grab it, I would pull away in pain. I knew what was best for this little fellow: my cute K-Mart black pot. Not this ugly Bunnings temporary home. img_9965Yet, as the plant drew my blood, I almost ripped the little sucker straight from its roots trying to detach it from its former dwelling.

As a Pastor and leader, I often think about the environment, the soil if you will, of LIFT Church, where people are being planted. Jesus has a whole parable about the quality of soil and how something can flourish or die depending on the environment in which it’s planted.I feel a great responsibility to ensure our “soil” is full of nutrients, giving every opportunity for people to thrive.

However, planting these little cacti made me think more about the plant than the soil.

Each of us has a great personal responsibility to ensure we are not so prickly on the outside that God cannot guide us into the place where our roots can run deep.

I’ve witnessed hurting people hurt others unintentionally because of fear or insecurity. Some people stagnantly wilt in their current circumstances even though healthy soil awaits them only a few steps away. An unwillingness to allow God to grab hold of us causes us to die a slow spiritual death. People are as supple as succulents; and, I know my cacti could have lived quite some time in their flimsy yellow pots. That doesn’t mean it was the best choice for them, however. Just because you and I can survive despite ordinary, mediocre circumstances, doesn’t mean we should.

Our God wants us to have an abundant life.

img_9966Sadly, I’ve watched someone with outward beauty actually push people away, inhibiting her future growth. Soft and beautiful on the outside like like this little succulent on the left, but if anyone gets close enough to see past the gauzy exterior, ouch! We may not physically harm someone in order to keep them out, but harsh words or negativity drive others away. A defensive nature puts distance between us.

God can never wrap his loving arms around us if we rebuff him with our thorns. We might not even realise the repellent we have become because we have learnt to hide behind our brilliant bristles.

I believe God has a wonderful place for each of us to flourish if we allow him to move us. When we let Jesus soften our rough edges, he can grab hold of us completely. I don’t want God to have to pull away because my spurs have pushed him out. I don’t want to inhibit what he wants to do with me because my own personal pain manifests in spikes.

Let’s remind ourselves today of God’s beautiful promise in Psalm 92 and never allow the status quo to forbid our fruitful planting. Allowing God to gently move us, will only bring forth the beauty he has in store.

“Good people will prosper like palm trees, Grow tall like Lebanon cedars; transplanted to God’s courtyard, They’ll grow tall in the presence of God, lithe and green, virile still in old age” (Psalm 92:14 MSG).

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

Devotion, Fasting, Kids, Prayer, Series, Social problems, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day SIXTEEN

Read Psalm 127:3-5 & Mark 10:13-16

Children are God’s greatest gifts. Unfortunately, too many little ones are exposed to adult problems and difficult home situations. They face bullying at school, an over-abundance of social media and other electronic influences which can warp their self-images and contradict what the Bible says about them. Families are busier than ever and our kids often struggle to have the Godly affection and attention they deserve.

If you have kids in your life – whether they are your own, your grandchildren, those you serve in kids’ church, or just neighbours or friends, let me insure you: they NEED Godly encouragement and wisdom. Jesus took the children into his arms and blessed them; we can and should do the same. Never tire in telling kids God has a plan for their lives. They are unique and special. God gave them each amazing gifts and talents; find out what they are. Tell them to pursue their dreams. Show them love in every circumstance, even when they fail. Teach them to stand tall and confident.

Pray for Godly friends to come into their lives – people who bring out the best in them. Listen to them when they need to talk. Hug often. Tell them they are smart and capable.

Dear God, thank you for placing children in my life whom I can influence. Help me to be led by your spirit to speak the right words at the right times to lift them up and call out their Godly destinies. Show me how I can be used to influence the next generation so they grow up to know their identity in YOU. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting, Series, Uncategorized

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.