Reef Puka by Mark Rogers

Day 2: Rest your burdens in the Father's care and He will renew your strength and show you the mighty acts of His love. Obey His commands with sincerity, and He will exalt you before your enemies and let His glory be shown through you for all to see. Amen.

Fasting has not even finished and I am already a day late in posting! Terribly sorry guys~ I am typing this post after a few hours of study in an uninterrupted, private study room within the depths of the vast and enormous Monash University. After reclining on a fancy neon-orange coloured chair after several minutes, I began to notice what awesome facilities we are actually getting as Monash students. (Go Monny!) I would be home, eating my dinner or would already be sleeping depending on the time you're reading this post. But for now, whilst this post is slowly being typed-up, I am witnessing all sorts of projectors, massive TV screens catered for projects and group assignment presentations, fancy chairs and tables and smart boards. And oh yes, the latest BOSE-powered speakers overhanging from those very practical smartboards (a Godsend really...)

It's been really quiet in here, ever since I sat my bum on this one super comfy chair/sofa. Oh hi security guard who just walked past...I won't be here for too long guys, because they are locking the teaching rooms pretty soon. But don't worry, it's long enough time for me to write and finish this post, all clean and good. So how's your week been? So far, fasting on two of my favourites, korean drama and coffee have been quite challenging especially the moment I pass by a coffee shop and smell their delicious pastries and classic coffee brewery. I'm working at the cafe tomorrow (yes, free coffee ♥) so that will be even more challenging for me. And yes, when I say "coffee", it means anything from a coffee shop (or the cafe where I'm working at), and that includes all their meals, delicious patisseries and all, cakes, chocolate fudge slices, sundaes, and even tea (at a gracious 50% off). So pray for me yes?

Today's topic was brought forward by one of my youth leaders, Abhi who is a gifted brother in Christ currently doing his PhD in Information Technology. The joy that radiates out of his personality and actions as well as his love for God and His Word inspire without fail. I still remembered how he shared to us his life testimony, how he was introduced to the all sovereign Jesus when he recently came down to Melbourne and the miraculous process of his scholarship into the university's PhD program. Such a blessed testimonial indeed and I thank him for being a part of 180 BIC :)

Okay. Back to focus. 
We are entering a new season and a new /unknown territory that needs to be battled and conquered for the Kingdom of God.

This can mean different things individually, and similar interests as 180 and the whole church are concerned, and God wants us to be prepared for what He is going to do.
After all, we are God’s army. 
But before and also through the battle it is important for each of us to dwell in the shelter of God to find rest in His shadow (Psalms 91:1).
It is interesting to note that God promises us weaponry and strength when we find rest in Him (His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart- Psalms 91:4), while the remaining verses especially verses (5-7) describes God’s promises of protection on the battle field.
5. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6. nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. – Psalms 91: 5-7
These are the same weapons that God promises us to give us according to Ephesians 6 – shield of faith, and the sword which is the word of God and the breastplate that blocks all the flaming arrows of the evil one. All we need to do is find rest in God to receive everything we need.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. - Exodus 14:13-14.
The above verses need no explanation, however, Moses said this just before they walked through the red sea, and saw the Pharaoh’s army advancing against them. And what resulted from the stillness in that situation? The enemy troops were destroyed by the thousands on their right and left side in the red sea, also as per Psalms 91:7 
The “firm stand” against the enemy is also mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-15 - Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Reflections :
1) Don’t be afraid, the enemy can come only till God allows him to. Stand firm through God. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. Psalms 91:7
2) Submit our battles completely to the Lord, and find rest by focusing our eyes on Him in His presence, and not becoming anxious or discouraged by focusing on the problem or other issues that take our affections from God. It is the enemy who wants us to do the latter.
3) Who are you in the eyes of God? In hard times, ask God to reveal who you are by just soaking in His presence. Don’t let your situations define you.
Sunset in My Hands by Maja Topcagic.

It's not your our past or failures that define who we are. Rather, it's something beyond our control, the sole reason of our creation and our conviction in our Creator that defines our true identity. Knowing this, what changes we make in our perspective to problems and adversity from now? What is our new attitude to them? How can we use and learn from our weaknesses, mistakes, and failures to realize a better future?

God does not use shortcuts. Something that's easily gained is easily lost. Relationships quickly developed fade easily when the tide comes, and so is the same for committments. Devotions, promises, commitments, oaths and trust that is quickly earned with no justification or process have very little value and is quickly lost and forgotten. In this devo, I want to share about the significance of uprooting communication in a relationship. It doesn't matter if it's between you and God, between you and your parents, siblings or family relatives, between you and your friends or even between you and your potential partner in life. The essence is the same. Strong relationships take time, and is continuously refined and strengthened by tackling adversities together with good, uprooting communication. I have to be honest, I am going to sidetrack A LOT from the content shared by Abhi. Feel free to look up the verses he mentioned in the devotional if you want to. I dwelt on them last night and Exodus this morning and experienced such fresh wisdom from the Spirit as I read through the passages again and again. But just when I was about to jot them down on-net, something much more profound struck me. It is knowing about the nature of our relationships. We are called into a season of harvest and pruning, of reflecting on our relationships and being wise on choosing which relations are to be strengthened, and ones that are meant to cut away. Straight away, this becomes unpleasant for our ears. And yes, pruning does hurt. 

I remember how my parents used to express their strong disapproval in the friends I used to hang out with. One night I told my dad that I was going to the city to attend my friend's birthday party and he asked where I would be going so late a night. It was pretty obvious now, but at that age, I was not wise enough to fully grasp what my dad thought and how he felt. Seeing me so vainly dressed, as if going to a night club, he became highly concerned and asked me for my honesty. He knew where I was going, and what sort of people I was around at that time, but he chose to indirectly build me stronger even in my own weakness and unawareness. Story cut short, I lied and told him I was going to a restaurant in the city with my friends and that I would be home quite late. Immediately his face changed and the classic, you-would-have-experienced-too-at-some-point-in-the-past parent vs. child conflict ensued. I went back to my room with a smeared, gothic face, and bloodshot eyes expressing so much anger and dislike at my parents. Funnily, I was also disappointed at my mum for not supporting at any of my arguments. I tried my best to prove the right out of the wrong things and was still selfish enough to expect my own parent to support me. That night was the first of many conflicts whenever 'those friends' were brought up in discussion. Every time I was home late, they would suspect my friends. Every time I dressed in a certain way, well you know it...These relationships which were quite strong and meaningful to me at that time did not only cause conflicts within my inner circle but also broken the trust between me and my parents and my confidence in doing the things I was able to do, e.g. study back at school till late, meeting a friend for dinner, etc. Without realizing, these negative relationships seeped into my life, changed my perspective, and when it was time for God to redirect me back into His grace, broke my heart. Furthermore, they infected my relationship with those who genuinely cared for me. 

I never wanted to break-off these relationships yet I still prayed for God to set my life back to His ordained ways again. Guess what? I got the answer my heart wanted. As time goes on, God redirects me to a new position in life, and with that, the old has to be changed with the new. 

"No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined." (Luke 5:37)

God answered my prayer. In-order for the Spirit to be continuous at work in my life, several things needed to be pruned away. A house needs to be cleaned and discarded of all things unnecessary and potentially damaging to its new tenants. The verse above really showed how God has the best decision. I could never be where I am right now without losing my old relationships. However, if I still strive to keep those relationships, then I will not be wholeheartedly within God's path. In-fact, the moment I choose both of them, I would lose both of them and gain neither of them. In other words, I would lose my friends and fall further away from God, self-throwing my life into a place of abandonment. 

"No man could serve two masters: for either, he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)

God is a jealous and full of zeal for our devotion just as He is fully committed to us. Can you imagine how it's never going to work if you have a devoted husband and a flirtatious wife? Or a fully committed girlfriend and a boyfriend who never fully appreciates her presence and her beauty. We are created to be zealous and pursuant for those who we truly love. Have you ever felt such a strong desire to know and talk with who you have a crush on? No, it's not just about getting close and looking at him/her up close, but to really find out what their personality is, how they frown, their favorite things in life, and even imagine their sleeping baby face. A sprouting relationship means a fondness for connection and understanding, regardless if it's intimacy and mutuality in your potential life-partner or need for protection and belonging in your family. God expects the same from us. How many of us think we can devote our hearts to two people without experiencing conflict? Do we truly think God will be satisfied by our broken, divided hearts? Personally, serving God and caving into our flesh is possible, yet it does not grow any good fruit in our life. Rather, we are just increasingly becoming divided and conflicted about who we should choose, who we should dedicate our time to, and in the end, we have such troubled hearts and minds that cast self-ruin into our lives. Jesus is not referring about whether we can truly do it (oh surely yes, for there are a lot of cheating people and lukewarm Christians) but whether we will fall into a state of depression, abandonment or self-condemnation. It all sounds extreme but if you think back to all your past mistakes and relate it to where you are now, and extrapolate it to answering the "IF" question if God has not saved you...then these three things would be included in the bank of answers somehow. 
Spring Melody by Sue Hsu

In all things, always know that no matter how unpredictable or crazy your life gets, or whether your situation is so dire and far from what you've prayed for, God is always in control if you commit your lives to Him. The Israelites in Exodus 14 did not have it easy as well. God spoke to Moses to build camp right beside the Red Sea. This seems like a dead end to the Israelites, and they were quick to think that God has spoken to Moses to condemn their lives there for their unbelief. What they forgot to realize was how God wanted to use their dire situations to show His unsurpassed glory before their enemies. 

In a similar way, if God is drawing you close to certain groups of new people, do not go against Him. Discern yourself of His voice and His calling and truly know the relationships you should pursue in, the people and connections you should seek and also those who you need to repel and stay away from. Sometimes, God allows you to fall into temptations, major-life distracters and "sin baits" which do inflict real good damage in your life. It hurts him but maybe that's the only way we would be able to learn. Sometimes we are so far from Him and the moment we pray for God to mould our hearts again, God is quick to act with the strongest solution- and sometimes, that would mean us tasting the real consequence of sin. But I believe He never abandons His people, just like a mother never forgets her breastfed baby. He is always there for us, His love never too small for us to experience, His timing never too late or early, and His power never fails in creating radical changes in our life. See why we should be proud in being called His children? ♥

ps. Okay, it's currently 7.31PM and the project room next to me is filled with the excited screams and laughters of a group of Koreans playing-I-don-t-know. Baduk? Haha. It sure does make this place a bit friendlier and less creepy haha. Imagine if there's no sound at all in the room but only the sound of tapping keys. Wouldn't that put me off? Thank you God for placing a group of uni students next to this room, at least to remind that I'm in safe company :)

Lots of love and see you real soon for the next devo everyone!

Catherine xx

Maira Gall