Happy New Year! Thought it would be a good idea to get 2016 off and running finally with my first blog of the year. How is this year going to be different from the last one? It seems like every January, we all set the same goals, most of them unrealistic, and by February we are feeling bad while tucking in to a pie or bar of chocolate that we had vowed to give up at least until Easter. Last year, we got one day into our fast when our year got lives got flipped on its head with Emma having her first of two back surgeries a year ago yesterday. A lot can happen in a year.
So far, this year is different in that we have had to make zero hospital visits, and long may that continue. For me, I have begun this year with one simple goal: To give God my best. I don’t want to be giving Him my second thoughts, or rushing to read a verse before going to bed at night, but I choose this year to give God my best. I felt like God was challenging me on this about a month ago, and so this is my response to that challenge: to begin each day with devoted time to Him, on my own but also with Emma. I am choosing this year to, if need be, get up earlier just so I can have time with God. Sounds simple, but life can get crazy busy some times, and if we don’t set standards within our lives from the outset, then we will simply meander through life without much direction and without much connection with God.
So, may 2016 be the year for you, the year where long awaited hopes and dreams become fulfilled, where relationships are renewed and where you enter into a more full and real relationship with God. When we put down our busyness and make time to give God our best, everything else will come into alignment. God is speaking to us, always, but it’s up to us to make the time to listen out for His voice.
Each day we have a choice for what we are going to partner with. Several times over the last few weeks, I have caught myself having anxious thoughts, and in that moment, my choice is whether or not to continue with these thoughts of anxiety. I was listening to a sermon by Shawn Bolz, and something he mentioned really stuck out to me. He was reading from Philippians chapter 4, which gives insight into how to remove any anxiety from our minds before it has the chance to take hold of our lives.
Do not be preoccupied about anything, but let the things you ask for be pointed out to God by means of prayer and earnest requests with gratitude. And the peace of God, which conquers all processes of thinking, will keep watch over your minds and what you think about by means of the Anointed One Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (The Source Translation)
There’s a couple things I love from this passage. Firstly is Paul’s encouragement to not become preoccupied or filled with anxiety over what is or isn’t happening. Instead, we should point our requests out to God through prayer and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving releases us from anxiety. Feeling anxious over your week? Begin to give God thanks for what is about to happen. Press in to God for more.
Second thing I love from the passage is that the peace of God will actually watch over our minds, even as we work through our situation, waiting for the breakthrough we have been pressing in to. Peace that transcends all knowledge and understanding is available to us in place of anxiety.
So next time anxiety comes your way, flip it on its head by giving God thanks, by allowing yourself and your mind to be filled with His peace that will more than sustain you through any situation you may find yourself in.
A little over two weeks ago, we held our Annual Conference here in Glasgow, with Steve Backlund from Bethel Church in California. It was such an incredible time and a real honour to have Steve with us for his first time to Scotland.
One of the things Steve spoke about was the power of our words, they literally carry the power of life and death. Something he and his team did recently was to make 100 declarations daily for 30 days, declaring who they were in God and speaking into being areas of breakthrough they wanted to see in their own lives.
Two days ago, I decided to try this out for myself, and downloaded a Tally Counting app to help me keep on track with how I’m doing each day. Each time I begin to make declarations – “I am loved” ” I am trusted” ” God provides all my needs” “I thrive in all my relationships” – I can feel my faith and expectancy raising within me, as I declare things that are not yet a reality in my life as though they were. I know that by the end of 30 days, my life will never be the same again!
I wanted to encourage you to try the same – begin speaking blessings and life over your circumstances. For us to truly allow a transformation to happen within the way we think and view God and our situations, we need to first speak it out.
I am so excited for our conference coming up next month, right here in Glasgow. We have a leader coming from Bethel Church, whose teaching had such a huge impact on me during my two years there. It was because of one of his books, Igniting Faith, that I experienced major breakthrough in my own life. This book is set up as a 40 day negativity fast, where we spend time speaking life over our lives and circumstances, declaring truths about who the Bible says we are, and who the Bible says God is.
Prior to reading that book, I thought I was pretty good at speaking life and positive things over my circumstances, but, not long into reading it, I soon discovered just how often I chose to put myself down, how often I chose to look at the negatives in my own life and the lives of others, and how often I allowed negative words spoken over me by other people to become part of who I was. As I worked through the 40 days, I began breaking off previous mind sets, lies and other stumbling blocks that had prevented me from moving forward into all that God has in store for me. My life has forever been changed.
Proverbs 18:27 says “The Power of life and death is in the tongue” – What are you speaking over yourself? Life? Death? What would it look like if we changed the way we spoke about situations and circumstances, or the words we speak over others? Paul makes it clear that we should be encouraging and edifying others, building the church up, speaking life. Let’s transform our words, let’s shake things up, only when we transform ourselves can we truly transform others around us.
If you’re anywhere near Glasgow next October 16th and 17th, I strongly encourage you to come and hear all that Steve Backlund has to say. This event could change your life! You can get more info by clicking here
Hope to see you then!
Emma and I spent this past weekend over in Ireland, traveling around the Dublin area and on down to Kilkenny to be with a church there. On the Friday night, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 43, and since reading those verses, I have found myself coming back to them each day. Here’s what it says:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
God’s promise to us here is that He is at work in our lives. He is not lying dormant, but is actually active in bringing new things in to our lives. Sometimes it can be so easy to become focused on our lack that we miss out on what God is actually doing. The Bible tells us we lack nothing, so once we believe this, we can position ourselves to receive all that God has for us in this coming season of life.
The danger of dwelling on the past is that it prevents us from moving forward, it holds us back and distracts us. Jesus warns of this in the NT, when He says “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
To forget something requires us to let go. Are we willing to let go of the things in the past so that we can fully move forward? Let go of that feeling of guilt, or shame, or doubt or anxiety. The enemy would love for our focus to be on who we were in the past, not who God sees us as today.
Let’s position ourselves for God to do a new thing in our lives this week, whether that is letting go of a hurt, breaking a cycle of thought, or forgiving someone who let you down, it’s time to look forward, don’t miss it.
Throughout the NT we see many occasions where Jesus instructs and encourages us to ask of Him anything we want, and it will be given to us. Its an invitation to partner with Jesus, as we bring forth our requests to Him, He in turn brings it before the Father. Paul talks about our partnership with Jesus in 1 Corinthians 1:9, we were created for this very reason.
The trouble is that for so many of us, we feel guilty asking for something from God, thinking we just need to work for it, or earn it, or that perhaps it’s too big or not important to God. If it’s important to you, it’s important to God.
Jesus gave us the ultimate gift, through the work on the Cross. He set the bar pretty high and still invites us to ask of Him the desires of our hearts. The danger is that when we don’t ask, we miss out on joining with Jesus and receiving all that God has for us. God wants to lavish us with gifts and provision, but if we don’t ask and seek, then why should we expect to receive anything from Him? The whole point in Jesus dying on the cross for us was so that we could experience an intimate relationship with the Father, and what Father doesn’t want to give good things to his children?
It’s time to get specific when we ask God for something, press in for it. It can be too easy to ask and then move on, without pressing in for an answer or for breakthrough. Write out in your journal all the desires of your heart, all that is on your mind, then lock yourself away with God, press in to Him for answers, for breakthrough, for provision.
I was reading through Ephesians earlier this week, probably one of my favourite of Paul’s letters, and this time reading it in the Source translation, which is directly from the Greek, rather than a translation of a translation. I came across this passage, which has been on my mind ever since:
Due to God’s favour you have been saved through faith; and this is not due to anything you yourselves have done; rather, it is God’s gift to you. You weren’t saved by your actions, and so no one can boast. It is his workmanship that we are! We have been created by the Anointed One Jesus to do the good things God prepared beforehand for us to do, and to live how he wanted us to live. – Ephesian 2:8-10
It’s not through our works that we have been saved, by through His grace, favour and love for us. It’s because of who we are and not what we do. You can’t strive to get something that has already been given to you. This passage gives us the freedom to step into all that God has got for us, it invites us to take the focus off of what we do and choose instead to look at Him. How many Christians live today with the mind set that if they just work a little harder, live a little holier, then maybe they can catch a glimpse of God, maybe they can earn they way into heaven. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, it’s the opposite. As we learn to live from His Presence, His rest, His comfort, and not for it, we learn to let go of the things that the world deems as necessary to move forward.
So, this week, take the pressure off yourself, you can’t do anything to earn more love from God, He already loves you so much He sent Jesus to die in your place. There is no striving in the Kingdom of God, our work for Him shouldn’t come from a place of trying to earn something, rather to show to the world of the grace God has given to us.