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 5: “Can You Slow Down?”

slowResting sounds good in theory; however, slowing down could make you realise some struggles you can’t seem to overcome. A cluttered mind helps you avoid that which is uncomfortable. Busy-ness allows you to sweep your pain under the proverbial ‘rug,’ denying Christ’s gift of rest. Your condition is clogged – your heart, hardened.

Consider the writer of Hebrews’ words: “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a NIV).

What hinders you from an encounter with The Living God? He’s nearer than ever, watching over you, loving you, yearning for you to cast off whatever holds you back so you can stay on the course he has mapped out for you.

Are you insecure and unsure of your worth?

Have you fallen into the comparison trap?

Is it fear?

What about anger or un-forgiveness?

Can you slow down long enough to inspect your heart? 

We all have tender places of struggle. That’s not bad. We get into trouble when our compulsions consume us, our transgressions taint us, our shortcomings strip God’s truth right out of our hands.

Over the next several days, let’s pause, take an audit, and then believe God for breakthrough. Ask the Holy Spirit to shed light on any darkness that has caused a blockage in your walk with God. Don’t be afraid of what you discover. The very area you might be avoiding could be the key to freedom and peace – true rest.

“So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul” (Hebrews 3:12-14 MSG).

 

Day 4: “Rest.”

restDo you ever feel like your spiritual life is relegated to a check list with items that weigh you down like a household chore? Pray. Read your Bible. Go to Church. Serve. Finding a rhythm of spending time with God is about as easy as eating dinner with a two-year old. Sometimes it’s nice and everything stays on the plate. Other times, you look at your life and like Spaghetti Bolognese flying off the high chair tray, you see the messy pieces of what you desire to have in order smashed and messy and someone is crying.

Failure. Again.

Somewhere, you lost sight of companionship with God and felt like your worth and spiritual growth should look like a high school exam table, all laid out in neat rows with a time allotment and every subject neatly labelled.

Life screams at you to ‘do more’ and ‘be more.’ List off your achievements and post them on Instagram. Get more initials behind your name. Make more money. We take these action verbs and insist that Jesus expects the same level and pace that the world demands.

Guess what? He doesn’t.

He actually gives us rest as a gift. Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality says, “Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the wold can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us.”

Jesus models an un-hurried life spending time with the people he loves and a slowness that allows him to hear the Heavenly Father’s voice, whispering what matters most, (not a demanding cry for a better performance).

Why not take today and practise resting?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

How Did I Get Here?

highway hypnosisHave you ever driven somewhere and realised when you arrived that you had no recollection of the journey? Highway Hypnosis, “also known as ‘white line fever,’ is a mental state in which a person can drive a truck or other automobile great distances, responding to external events in the expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so.”

In some ways, my life looks like highway hypnosis! I haven’t felt like I was asleep at the wheel. My eyes have been open, but I wonder, “Have I responded to some external events in the ‘expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so?'”

We are all prone to “white line fever” and some of the tips used to avoid it for drivers are profoundly applicable to our everyday lives:

Get Enough Sleep

The word “rest” is mentioned in God’s word over 500 times. One of our 10 commandments is to ‘Honour the Sabbath.’ God made us with a daily need for sleep and yet our world tells us to do more, go faster, stretch the limits, run down our competition, outshine last year’s numbers. Resting can be perceived as weakness.

Consciously making decisions about the direction of our lives means resting with intentionality and not beginning each day exhausted and overwhelmed. Having a rested soul prohibits twists and turns from taking us into the gutter.

Start Early

The mind is more alert when we are fresh. We have the ability to respond to our surroundings with competency when we leave margin and operate with a long-term approach rather than urgency from running late or falling behind. There’s nothing worse than the panic we feel from racing around trying to meet expectations, knowing we didn’t slow down to absorb the details.

I used to have a quote on my office wall that said, “YOUR lack of planning does not constitute MY emergency.” How many times do we get a late start, find ourselves falling into bad habits, doing what’s convenient, most familiar or accessible, never even stopping to analyse whether it’s a good choice or the best avenue to our destination?

Open Your Windows

It’s hard to fall asleep at the wheel of a car with hair blowing across our faces. We can smell the outdoors and hear the sounds of traffic around us with the windows down. Tuning into our surroundings keeps us engaged in the authenticiy of life, negating autopilot. I battle anxiety and a technique I use when I feel the familiar knot in my stomach is walking outside, looking around and naming the tangible – that which I can see, feel, smell, and hear. My concrete surroundings take me out of my imagination where people play tricks on me, chauferring me down a dangerous road.

We must not shut out nature, our family, our hobbies. Coasting down the freeway of life, unconscious of our surroundings, means we miss out on cuddles with kids, secrets with spouses, laughter with friends. We can fly over seemingly insignificant moments in everyday life, but this triviality is what actually makes up a life.

I don’t want to live in an unconscious trance, drifting wherever the road takes me, unaware. I’m committed to sleeping well, creating margin, and breathing deeply the fresh air around me. Let’s do it together!

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God” (1 Peter 1:18a MSG).

Fasting Devotion, Day Sixteen

(Post submitted by Paul O’Rourke)

Psalm 23

The use of personal pronouns Me, My, and I mean the promises contained in this magnificent Psalm are for, well, ME! and YOU!

Consider: The Lord (creator of the universe, God himself) is MY (my very own) Shepherd (guide, counsellor, refuge and protector). He makes me lie down in deep pastures (lush green grass; a blue sky overhead). He leads me to rest beside quiet waters where he restores (and revives) my soul (mind, will and emotions).

He guides me in paths of righteousness (shows me how to live, where to go, what’s best).

And though I walk through tough times, he is with me; therefore, I will fear no evil (won’t be anxious or fearful as he keeps me on the straight and narrow). His rod and staff comfort me.

He prepares a table (a feast, the best of everything) in the presence of my enemies and anoints me with oil (the Holy Spirit’s life-giving seal of approval), and fills my cup to overflowing.

Surely (I have no doubt) goodness and mercy WILL follow me all the days (here and now) and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (then I will live with God in Heaven thereafter).

Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking to us about your nature through your word. I choose to grab hold of every aspect and promise Psalm 23 contains. You are a faithful and loving father who takes such great care of me. I rest in your promises today, Amen.