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0 In Devotions

Why You Need To Go To Church – Now More Than Ever

Recently in a “Word for Today” I read about why we should go to church and the article gave us five reasons for going.

But it actually reminded me of something that the Holy Spirit put on my heart a few months ago and I wrote into a personal blog. You may not agree with all this but perhaps you can take something from it:

Why You Need To Go To Church – now more than ever

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but it seems people are going to church less than ever before. I don’t mean less people are going to church; as the percentage of people who identify as Christian lessens that is going to happen. No, I mean Christians are going to church less. Whereas once you might miss once a term, or a couple of weeks when you were on holidays, now it seems the norm for a large percentage of Christians is to attend church fortnightly, or even monthly. And right now, as Christians, we need to rethink this.

Train Up A Child

One of the toughest lessons the Holy Spirit has taught me is to do with Proverbs 22:6. That verse says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have had parents talk to me and say how concerned they are because their child has decided to “stray”, to not walk with Christ. And I have heard other people respond the same as I always did, “keep praying because you have raised your child right so he/she will come back to Christ”. Sounds good, right? Except the Holy Spirit pulled me up on this a few years ago and told me: God never said that. Of course, I argued, I even quoted chapter and verse, but was clearly told to read the verse again.

How many times I have been told that, I don’t know, but I hate hearing it because I’ve never been right yet!

Anyway, I read it and of course I was wrong – God didn’t say the child would come back, He said he wouldn’t depart. Now, this worried me because I have dear friends who I know have raised their kids in church and with Christ. Some have stayed but others have strayed, so I was always careful where I said this revelation. I don’t believe my friends did the wrong thing. Not long ago I was away and visited a different church; on the same week they had a visiting pastor who preached about family.

At the end of the service I really wanted to go out for prayer, it was a burning desire and with adult children it took me a while to work out why.

Then I worked out I wanted prayer because of people we have decide to open our house to. The pastor gave some great advice. He said to make sure that when we welcome the young person at the door to pray before they enter. Pray quietly but pray and command the devil to leave them. Our house is run by God and the devil isn’t welcome.

He went on to explain that he suggests the same thing to parents who are separated or divorced.

Some have commented to him that when their child returns from the other parent (who holds different values to their Christian beliefs) their child takes 3 or 4 days to settle back into the house and house rules; and how many have returned to say this prayer works – as they meet and hug their child they quietly pray for the devil to leave their child, that he isn’t welcome in their home. The devil is stopped at the door and not allowed to enter. And this I believe is why some children do stray when they grow up; nothing to do with the parenting but with the outside influences.

You see, we are not fighting a worldly battle but a spiritual one

Ephesians 6:12

So, what does this have to do with being in church?

I’m going to focus a little on children/teens but the principles apply to everyone. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly “worldly”. The 2016 census found that 52.1% of Australian’s see themselves as Christian. Now, I know one lady who is a Christian because “she is born in a Christian country” – sounds legit, right? She can’t be the only one. That means that less than 52.1% of Australia are actually Christian. This means that every time you send your child to school, surfing, music, sport, art classes, drama, family, bird watching, to visit a friend, or wherever you send them the chances are they will relate to people with influences different to yours.

As the world changes, what your child will be taught at school will change.

Even a Christian school is required to teach the theory of evolution and I know that at my local Christian school this is carefully taught and taught only as a theory. But that thought still enters your child’s mind; there is a chance that without follow up in life, that theory could take hold of your child (or the devil could whisper to your child that this is the correct theory). Every time you allow them to visit a friend, they have about a 50-50 chance of being influenced in a non-Christian way. Am I suggesting you don’t allow your child to associate with non-Christians? Definitely not; we are called to mix with other people, we are called to live in the world. But, we do need to protect our children, and ourselves.

If we don’t find a way to keep our children in church then the world will find a way to keep them out

So, if I am suggesting you still mix in the world you may be wondering what you can do, or why I am suggesting going to church is important. As I spent two sleepless nights pondering this the Holy Spirit suggested to me that if we don’t find a way to keep our children in church then the world will find a way to keep them out of it. If we don’t make church important then our children won’t see church, or God as important. I heard a really good quote in a message recently “God will share your children with the world but the world will not share your children with God.”

I know we think we have legitimate reasons to miss a week:

Sunday is my day to relax.

My bible says “come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)

My child plays sport and they are really good, so they are using the gift God gave them

Agreed, but sport doesn’t run night and day. If sport is in the morning, then find a night church.

I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.

You certainly don’t, but that is where you will be fed and encouraged.  Your children will also get the balance from being in the world.

But Friday night is family night; we are exhausted and to pick the kids up after youth means I can’t relax.

Sounds legit, but what is your priority.

That last word is important.

What priority are you showing your family?

Our bible explains what the world is going to be like in the last days. Are we living in the last days? Sometimes it sure seems like it but I really couldn’t tell you. People have been saying that we are for the last 35 years.

Let’s see what the bible has to say. Jesus said – more earthquakes, food shortages, nations against nations, old and new diseases (Matthew 24). Paul said, in 2 Timothy 3, people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, unnatural affection, no self-control, fierce, lovers of pleasure, false appearance of godliness.

Is this a scare tactic?

Definitely not. But, it is preparation tactic.

As our world becomes increasingly less godly it is important that we go to church more, not less. You may not think it is important for you to be there. Maybe your faith is sealed and secure, but consider what is important for your children. Church, youth groups, church camps and events – the more the better as we get closer to the final days.

Remember: “God will share your children with the world but the world will not share your children with God”
0 In Devotions

Ugly Past, Pretty Future

no longer ugly

I know I’m not the only person on earth who doesn’t fancy a visit to the doctor. No matter how healthy you feel, a doctor appointment is never exciting unless you are expecting a baby maybe. A few months ago I underwent a surgery to remove an ugly cyst. I have been seeing my doctor for routine check up ever since. And each time we talk about my recovery, I am reminded of what was inside of my body that could have grown worse and worse.

Each time we discuss it, I get to see a glimpse of what the cyst looked like from my doctor’s files, whether intentionally or by accident. I only see a glimpse because I refuse to look at it closely. And when I do look at it closely, it is usually because it is shown to me.  To be honest, it isn’t a nice sight. I get sick to the stomach just looking at it. A hideous kind of blob, almost like an alien or one of strange substances in David Lynch’s bizarre psychedelic movies.

I’m glad it is out of my body now but I would rather not see it time and time again. It is good for a reminder to me of what I’ve been through and how God has been faithful in that journey; of how gracious He is for keeping me strong and steady while waiting for the healing He provides through those who prayed for me, through doctor and hospital treatment and everything that surrounded me. In this case, that ugly alien-looking worthless organ is a constant reminder of where I was and where I am now and I am so grateful I do not want to go back! I am moving ahead, I refuse any ties with it anymore! I am a new person!

The old has gone; the new has come!

I remember reading the Scripture and finding that God actually cannot stand looking at sin. Habakkuk the prophet says that His eyes are too pure to look on evil. He cannot tolerate it. I wonder how much uglier sin will look like under God’s microscopic lens compared to the hideous cyst that I refused to look at. It must be so ugly. It’s probably the ugliest sight in the universe. If it separates us so far from God, if it causes Him to look away, it must be so unpleasant to see. When Jesus was crucified, God had to look away. The one who had no sin had been made sin for us so that we didn’t have to bear the punishment of sin. So that in Him, we receive His righteousness.

Come in Confidence

Friends, you and I used to wear that ugly looking blob, unpleasant in our walk with the Creator. If God is so perfect, then all of us have fallen short of His standard. No matter how big or small our sin may seem, every one of us has missed the mark. Some of you may have $1000 and some others have only $10 but we are all broke and none of us can free ourselves from this debt unless the Master himself grants us remission.

And this is exactly what He did! Through Christ He cancelled our certificate of debt, took it out of the way and nailed it to the cross. What we owed to God has been paid in full! Now when He sees us He sees His Son’s perfection in us. It’s like putting on a new robe that contains the purity of Christ. Our imperfection has been covered by someone else’s righteousness. Therefore we can now come to God with confidence, knowing we are in the right standing with Him.

A Joyful, Prettier Future

But with this robe of salvation comes the obligation to walk accordingly. If you put on a ball gown you don’t go swimming in it. If you wear a swimsuit you don’t go to a business meeting in it. Our walk adjusts to whatever garment we wear. So walk accordingly. I also don’t look at my cyst and keep feeling sorry for myself for something that has happened in the past. Instead I choose joy for where I am now and where I am headed in the future (a healthier, wiser me). I know I am not a victim. I am a survivor and I don’t use my past circumstance as an excuse to not live life to the fullest because, you know what, Christ only died once and we will live with Him for all eternity. Isn’t that amazing?!

Love,

Sudi Smeeth

2 In Devotions

Fight Well: Know Your Enemy

armour - fight well

Fight, Flee or Flow

Many times in life we come to a crossroads. Are we going to fight, flee or flow? When we fight, we stand our ground and fight for what we believe. To flee is to run from conflict and let other’s deal with it, seeking a new place of comfort. Or we go with the flow, and let what happens to happen and adapt to the changes that the crossroads brings.

Many times we get into fights over little offences and who was wrong or unjust to ‘Me’. Our focus turns from raising Jesus higher, and we concern ourselves with our own rights and wants. This is when we enter the blame game. “She did this to me…” “If he wasn’t so…” Our entire attitude toward life shifts when we take our eyes of Jesus and focus on ourselves. Over the past several months, the past year even, God has been teaching me a good deal about his grace. Jesus’ grace doesn’t seek to blame or run from troubles. Jesus’ grace seeks to fight for us. To change us to be more like him.

Jesus desires for us to be more like Him.

Not for us to blame the others.  That causes further separation. Not for us to run from every moment of conflict. That is not constructive. Not for us to just give up and let the actions of others dictate what we do and who we become. No! His grace enables us to fight strong. That we may fight the unfairness and injustice in our lives. To fight against our own sin and the sins of others, not to blame, but to bring us closer to Him.

John 3:17 says,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

If we are to be saved, we need to accept the change Christ offers to us in his grace. He does not condemn us, but he convicts us to change us and save us.

Which brings us back to our fight. Our war is not with each other. When we sin it is not good for us to hold ourselves nor each other guilty. We need to recognise that this is a spiritual warfare. The devil wants us to fail and he schemes and fights against us to make us weak so we fail. Let us prepare for this battle and pray all the more so that we are stronger each day. Prayer and the Word of God is what we use to fight against the devil when he wants us to fail. It is so important for us to immerse ourselves in scripture so we can recognise the battle and fight against it in strength.

Let’s fight this together.

Build knowledge of the word of God to build our faith. Know the truth and keep our righteousness that comes with salvation. We must always be ready and pray continually. God will give us strength to fight but we must be strengthened and trained. In scripture and prayer we learn to use the proper tools to fight our enemy, the devil. Pray with me that we may be strong in this battle together.

Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-18‬ ‭ESV

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” ‭‭

 

4 In Devotions

Boundaries and Rules for Protection

boundaries

Whilst in worship during a recent time of fasting, God revealed to me that one of the practical ways I can worship Jesus, is by not doing things that will potentially lead me into sin. Creating boundaries of protection to keep me from sinfulness.

I saw an image of my old high school. When I started in the school, the school boundary was laid out by some low walls around the premises, some parts not even walled. Easy for people to jump over. About a year after I began, the school put up high fences, realigning the boundaries. Kids commented that the school was fenced in like a jail. In reality, the fences were put up to keep people out. To keep people out during school hours who may potentially want to harm children. Also to keep away people outside of school hours who would desire to damage school property.

God’s Boundaries

God’s rules are much like that fence. When we have the wrong attitude about his boundaries, we may think that Jesus wants to keep us trapped. In reality, Jesus knows that without rules and boundaries, we allow the enemy to come in and bring danger to us. He wants to tempt us and bring harm to us.

Jesus explains in John 10:10, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (NLT)

When we understand the purpose of Jesus’ rules for us, we embrace them. We know it is for our protection for an abundant life (ESV). Any playing against the rules just serves to let the enemy in and bring us harm.

The best way we can worship Jesus is through obeying him. Stay in the boundaries of protection and enjoy the freedom in Jesus, away from harm. How can we obey him? By growing in knowledge of what the Bible says about these things. Daily Bible reading is key to knowing God’s will and his word. It is through consistent growth of knowledge that we can obey Him.

Psalm 119

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules[c] of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word.

(Click the link above to read the full Psalm)

Lord Jesus, Thank you for your boundaries of love to bring me protection and an abundant life. Help me worship you by living in obedience to your Word each day. Amen

2 In Devotions

Dealing with Dream Doubters

Chase the Lion If your dream doesn't scare you, it's too small.

I was recently reading a devotion on my Bible App. Maybe you’ve heard of Chase the Lion: If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small. by Mark Batterson. This was a devotional based on his book. I suddenly got to Day 5 and Mark Batterson wrote:

You’re going to offend someone. You’ve got to decide who. My advice? Offend Pharisees, those who nitpick and belittle while walking apart from the Spirit of God. Jesus did this very kind of offending with intentionality and regularity.

Your dream is going to ruffle some feathers, but don’t play chicken. Operate in a spirit of bold humility, knowing that God goes before you. He turns the harm others would do to you into the kind of good that only he can accomplish.

And remember this: a compliment from a fool is really an insult, and an insult from a fool is really a compliment. Make sure you consider the source. And never abandon the dream. What kind of criticism or opposition have you been receiving? How do you need to respond to it?

How do you respond to it?

This jumped at me. How do I respond to those nitpickers and critics? Recently when I took on a new role, I felt I had some expectation to work harder and accomplish more than my successor. I worked hard, and I did make some accomplishments. But when the previous staff in my role would come and make critical comments, it would irk in my soul and fester in frustration. I wanted to scream and shout. I felt that nothing I did was ever good enough.

Dream to Glorify God

Dream to Glorify God

Dream to Glorify God

When I read this devotion, I realised my head wasn’t in the right place. I realised I was working hard to prove something in myself. I wasn’t doing this for the glory of God. If I were, what she said or did wouldn’t have bothered me so much. When I am working for the glory of God and chasing his dream, those critical voices don’t simmer inside. I hear them, then move on, refocusing my mind to why I do what I do. It’s hard for me to admit this, but it’s true.

Facing the Dream Critics

When critics do come, I’m learning to see what I can learn from them, to become better. Listen first, analyse later, sifting it through scripture. And if someone has offended or hurt me, I will always accomplish more towards my dream and glorify God when I act in forgiveness towards dream doubters and put him first.

Remember what we can learn from Joseph when his brothers criticised his dreams and how he acted in forgiveness towards them:

Genesis 50:15-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

God’s Good Purposes

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.