What Leaders Do

LeadershipLast Thursday night, we had our first All Leader's Summit at CityLife Church. It's always good to get tighter with such an enthusiastic and committed group of people, who help care for our congregation and lead our various ministries.

At the meeting, I took some time to review what it is that leaders actually do. Here is a summary of what I shared ...

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘leader’ or ‘leadership’?

My Story - Personally, I never saw myself as a ‘leader’. It was someone else who first pointed out a leadership gift in my life when I was about 18 years of age. I started out as a volunteer leader over the worship ministry of our church, a role I filled for four years before coming on to church staff. Over the last 30 years, I’ve been involved in a variety of leadership roles. Each of them was taken on with a bit of hesitation as I wasn’t sure at the time if I had what it would take. Often I felt like I had been thrown into the deep end and having to do things I hadn’t done before. But over time, I continued to grow in my leadership – through God’s help, learning from other leaders, some studies, and lots of experience. I became involved in leadership because someone else believed in me and I was given an opportunity to serve. Over time I gained experience, developed my skills, and learned how to lead effectively. I was more of a ‘reluctant leader’ who needed a lot of encouragement to get involved in leading. It wasn’t something I set out to do or even aspired too. 

Your Story - What about you? Do you see yourself as a leader … or not? If you are a leader, maybe your journey was similar to mine – an unfolding of your calling over time – OR maybe you always saw yourself as a leader and wanted to be one. On the other hand, maybe you aren’t a leader and you never see yourself as being one. Many people avoid leadership at all costs and are reluctant to get involved. Maybe you have feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you don’t feel ‘good enough’ to be a leader. Maybe you think that to be a leader, you have to have it all together. Maybe you feel that the commitment level is too high (in time and effort). Maybe you’ve had a previous negative experience in leadership.

God and Leadership - What does God think about all of this? Does he need leaders anyway? I believe he does. When God desires to do something on earth he usually works directly through individual people. He first calls them and then them he empowers them to carry out his purpose and plan. He also holds them accountable for their obedience to his instructions. Leadership expert, John Maxwell, says that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” In others words, when something good is happening it can usually be traced back to a leader who is leading effectively. On the other hand, if something bad is happening, or things are falling apart, it can usually be traced to a lack of leadership or to poor leadership. Leadership matters. This truth can be seen in any group of people, including a family, a team, a business, an organisation, a church, or a nation. No group or enterprise tends to rise above the quality of its leadership. Personally, I believe that God calls ALL of us to lead in some way. Yes, there are certain people who God gives a gift of leadership to, but all of us need to lead to some degree based on our unique style and level of calling.

What Do Leaders Do?

Let’s look at three things that leaders do. This will be helpful for everyone, whether you’re an existing leader (in any context), a potential leader, a follower, or someone who thinks they could never ever lead! We’ll take the apostle Paul as an example of a godly and effective leader. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ”. This short phrase contains three important principles for effective leaders.

1. Visualise a Better Future. Notice that Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor.11:1).” He doesn’t want people to stay where they are. He wants them to move forward to become more like Christ and to pursue his purposes on earth. A good leader has a sense of vision and direction. They are going somewhere, following something or someone. They are moving forward and seeking to get others to do the same. They can visualise a better future and they’re working to make that a reality. According to Bill Hybels, vision is a “picture of a preferred future that produces passion.” Leaders see something that excites them and gets them moving. Nothing much happens without vision. However, when someone gets a vision … something powerful begins to happen and significant movement takes place. What about you? Do you have a vision? Do you have a dream? Do you have a cause that you’re living for and working towards? Vision is very important. Without a vision (a prophetic revelation from God, a sense of purpose and direction) we will live an undisciplined, careless and casual life (Prov.29:18).” With vision, we live lives motivated by a sense of purpose and meaning.

Where does vision come from? Well, we can come up with our own vision for our life (ambition) OR we can take time to see God’s vision – for the world, for the church, for our church, for our ministry. Catching a glimpse of God’s vision takes time and effort. However, when we turn aside to see what God wants to do, he will show us his plans and purposes (Hab.2:1-3). What do you see for the future - for your own life, your family, your career, your ministry, this world, and your church? What do you see through your efforts?

2. Initiate Change - Once a leader starts to visualise a better future, they take the lead and endeavour to get people to move forward. They create movement. An effective leader initiates change. Notice that Paul said, “Follow me ...” Vision must be translated into action. Otherwise it is nothing more than a fantasy. Leaders must lead! They take initiative in changing the situation. The Character First organisation defines initiative as “recognising and doing what needs to be done, before being asked to do it.” Followers need to be asked to do something. Leaders see what needs to be done and getting doing it. Leaders see where they are now (today’s reality) and where they want to be (tomorrow’s vision). Then they take appropriate steps of action (today). Leaders take responsibility for changing things for the better. Instead of blaming others for ‘what is’, they getting moving towards’ what could be’. Leaders are not reactive (people affected by their environment, circumstances or conditions). They are proactive (driven by values that affect choices).

Once you visualise a better future and begin initiate change so that it becomes a reality – you are leading (whether you see yourself as a ‘leader’ or not). That’s leadership. In reality, many people today are leading, in the true sense of the word, without seeing themselves as leaders AND unfortunately many any people who have titles or positions of leadership are no longer leading or are leading poorly.

3. Present an Example - Thirdly, an effective leader leads by example. Paul said, “Follow me”. The Greek word “follow” has the idea of imitation not just of direction. “Imitate me, be like me. I am your example. Do as I do.” This was a common theme and emphasis in Paul’s leadership (1 Cor. 11:1; 4:16. 2 Thess. 3:7, 9. 1 Thess. 1:6). He understood that words alone were not enough to bring about change in people’s lives. They needed to be accompanied by a real life model that believers could imitate. Leadership is about influencing other people positively and your greatest influence is who you are, not what you say. People tend to do what they see other people they respect doing.

Each one of us is influencing and being influenced. The issue is not whether we influence others but what kind of an influencer we will be. What do you want people to be like? You be that kind of person. Do you want the people who follow you to be friendly? Then you be friendly. Do you want them to be enthusiastic? Then you be enthusiastic. Do you want them to be prayerful? Then you lead the way through your example. Whatever you want people to do, you do it first. You are being watched! So think about the kind of example you are giving people to follow. 

See: A Great Sermon

In doing these three things you become a VIP – very important person - because you make the world a better place for everyone around you. If you are already a leader, we need you. Take the lead! Visualise a better future, initiate change, and lead by example. Many of you are potential leaders, and we need you too. Step up and take up the challenge. Consider becoming a leader. Followers, we need you too. Let’s move forward together to make the world a better place and into all that God has for us.

You can be a leader! You can rise up and be used mightily by God. You can lead and influence others according to your gifting and passion. The world and the church need people to rise up and aspire to godly and effective leadership. YOU can lead! YES YOU CAN.

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘leader’?
  2. Do you see yourself as a leader? If so, why? If not, why not?
  3. What do you think are common reasons why some people avoid leadership?
  4. What do you think leaders do?
  5. Think of some good leaders you have observed (in business, church or community). What makes them so good?
  6. Think of some leaders you know who you don’t think are very effective. What is missing?
  7. What annoys you? Could this be an indicator of a calling from God for you to do something about it?
  8. If you could change anything in the world at all, what would it be? What could you do about it?
  9. If you could change anything in the church at all, what would it be? What could you do about it?
  10. Discuss the 3 things that leaders do from Paul’s life. Can you think of an example of someone who does this well?
  11. What are some ways you could take the lead more – at home, at your workplace, or in the church?
  12. What would the benefits be if everyone started thinking more like a ‘leader’?
  13. What are the rewards of leadership? Do you think it is worth taking up the challenge?

A Great Sermon

Sermon

Here’s an old poem by Edgar Guest that's worth reflecting on, especially for all of us who teach and preach others ...

A Sermon

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.

The eye’s a better pupil, and more willing than the ear;

Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear.

So I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do;

It is not enough to preach it, you must live the sermon, too.

For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,

But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.


Jesus, THE Transformer

Jesus

2016 – a New Year

We live in a world of great upheaval and uncertainty right now.

  • ISIS, a group of militants, is creating terror and fear in many parts of our world.
  • It is estimated that over sixty million people in the world are displaced right now. That’s approximately one in every 122 people.
  • Economically, a recession or financial downturn seems to occur in a cycle of every 7-8 years. Many forecasters are saying we are nearing another correction.
  • There are wars and conflicts going on right now in various parts of the world.
  • Politics continues to be uncertain, with upcoming elections in the USA and Australia.
  • Natural disasters seem to be increasing, some say because of humanity’s neglect of the environment and failure to care for our planet.
  • The marriage equality debate is heating up here in Australia, especially after it became legal in the USA last year. Religious freedom is also believed to be under threat.
  • The challenge of domestic violence continues to be prominent in the news.
  • Cases of child abuse, especially within institutions such as the church, continue to be exposed.

This IS the world we live in, like it or not. In Australia, due to the tyranny of distance, we are often immune to much of the tension that people are living in across the globe … as we often see it only on TV. We live in a world that desperately needs JESUS! Only HE can change a human heart. Every crisis is an opportunity. Darkness provides an environment where the light can shine even brighter. 

Jesus’ World

The first century, the time that Jesus walked on this earth, was similar in many ways to our world right now. There were political tensions - between the Roman Empire and its subjects. There were conflicts and uprisings in various places. There were religious tensions, with various factions vying for prominence. There were Messianic, ‘end of the world’ type expectations, especially amongst the Jewish people. 

What did Jesus do? He sought to bring about transformation to his world … one day at a time, one life at a time. Jesus was a transformer of the human heart. The impact of Jesus (God in human form) is seen in the gospel stories. Through personal encounters with Jesus, individual people came to faith in him. People from every walk of life and every strata of society were transformed through meeting Jesus – both the religious and the irreligious. 

This has continued to occur throughout history, with numerous stories of conversion. Many people affirm that genuine religious experience is still found, not just in merely thinking about God (as important as that is) but in experiencing God through His Spirit. Jesus is alive and by His Spirit, he is still transforming people’s lives. Jesus is a real person who reshapes and guides our lives.

Vision – What Do YOU See?

What do YOU see for the year ahead? Humans are forward thinking creatures. We plan our day, our week and our years, looking forward to holidays or special occasions. This helps to create a sense of purpose. In fact, living without a purpose is harmful to our health. We need something that motivates us to get out of bed every morning. God is a forward thinker too. He has plans and dreams for this world and your life. So what do you see?

Church Vision

Churches need to have vision too – a sense of direction. Right now, we have a vision to see over 10,000 stories of transformation by the end of 2016. This 3-year vision is something that was birthed in prayer and our desire to join Jesus in his work of transformation in our world. Every number has a name; every name has a story; and every story matters to God. 10,000 new stories ... and counting. We have already made good progress towards this becoming a reality. We are thankful to God for every story of transformation that has taken place – decisions for Christ, water baptisms, new volunteers, new community clients, churches planted overseas, healings, Holy Spirit–fillings, as well as answers to prayer. As we move into our final year of this vision, let’s continue to be captured by the vision that Jesus has for his church as contained in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). After all, transformation (positive change) is what CityLife is all about … transformation of individuals, families, communities, cities and nations. It’s about seeing God’s kingdom established here on earth as in heaven. This is WHY we are here - to make a genuine difference in our world. 

Your Part of Our Vision

So what can you do to be part of this Vision? How can you contribute? It’s good to have a vision, but how will we move from where we are now to that becoming a reality? There are two primary activities we can each participate in to make this vision a reality.

  1. Connect. This is the ‘raise up’ part of our mission. Vision is best achieved in community with other people. This occurs best through connecting with a small group, like one of our LifeGroups, or a serving team. Together everyone achieves more. It’s about being fervent followers of Jesus Christ in our world.
  2. Engage. This is the ‘reach out’ part of our mission as a church. As each one of us engages with people who don’t yet know Jesus, we establish a connection that makes transformation possible. One of the best ways to engage is to focus on just 1 person and then intentionally reach out to them with the love of God in practical ways – pray for them, listen and hear their story, share a meal, serve them in some way and, perhaps, share the story of Jesus in our life. Jesus talks about the good shepherd leaving the 99 to go after 1 lost sheep (Mt.18:12). This is not another program but rather a way of life.

The Meaning of Life

Be transformed through your experience of God. Hear the call to a personal encounter with the living Jesus. Will we follow Jesus? He wants to give us life to the full (John 10:10). Church cannot transform you nor can preaching or meetings themselves. Only JESUS can do that - and he often works through church, preaching and meetings. Be a transformer wherever you go. Holiness is about living life how it was meant to be lived. Justice is about making the world right again. Jesus is calling out: “follow me”. Who’s IN? Be transformed to be a transformer this year. 

Reflection Questions

  1. As you watch the daily news, what concerns you most about what is taking place in our world?
  2. What is your favourite story of transformation in the Gospels?
  3. What are you personally excited about or looking forward to this year?
  4. Why is vision so important for our lives?
  5. Reflect on the FOCUS 1 strategy and how your Life Group can use that this year to Engage.
  6. Discuss ways your LifeGroup can be more enjoyable and effective? What would make it better?
  7. Share a personal story of transformation with a friend. What factors contributed to the work Jesus in your ? How can this inform your FOCUS 1 this year?
  8. Pray for the church and its’ vision to see over 10,000 stories of transformation.

The God Who Pays Attention

Hairs-on-headJesus tells us that we have a Father who pays attention to our lives - down to the very details.

Matthew 10:29-30. God cares what happens to it (a small canary) even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail — even numbering the hairs on your head.

Numbering the hairs on our head (an easier task for some of us than others!) is not a statement of God's mathematical prowess but rather of his caring attention to even the minute details of our life.

The priestly blessing says this:

Numbers 6:24-26. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

What would it look like to realise that every moment of every day, God is looking at you - with full attention. And that he is doing so with a smile on his face - shining on you, as it were. Well, it's true!

May you live with that awareness today and may it release amazing love, joy and peace into your heart. So much so, that is overflows onto others around you.


Overcoming Worry

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Worry is a normal part of the human condition. Our minds naturally drift towards thinking about what could or is going wrong in our life or our world. Jesus understood this and addressed it (Matthew 6:25-34), as did the apostle Paul. When writing from prison to the church at Philippi, Paul said:

Philippians 4:6-8. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. NLT

I like the way the Message Bible translation words this:

Philippians 4:6-8. Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. MB

I found that a good practice - as soon as I start to worry about something, I shape that worry into a prayer and start talking to God about my concern. It is amazing how much more you pray and how much less you worry with this kind of ritual!

May we each know and experience the peace of God today, protecting us from the worries and concerns of this life. 

P.S. To read more about anxiety, including anxiety disorders, see Nicole's recent BLOG post on Let's Talk About Anxiety, as well as our daughter, Natasha's story: Anxiety and Eating Disorders: Tash's Story.


The Race of Life (Part 4)

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How is Your Race Going?

4. Are You Detoured?

Sometimes we take a wrong turn. We're going the wrong way. We might even be lost. Even Jesus said that there is a wide road that seems attractive but it doesn’t always lead to life.
 
Think of the prodigal Son who left home for the bright lights of the city only to end up in a pigsty. Thankfully, he came to his senses and made a decision to get back on the right road by returning home.
 
Think of Jonah. He intentionally went the opposite direction that God told him to. A storm got his attention, not from the devil but one of his own making, with God seeking to get his attention.
 
Is it time for a U-turn? Don’t wallow in self-pity. Get up and get back on the right road. 

So, how's your race?

Are you going strong? 

Are you slowing down, maybe because of fatigue, uncertainty or lost passion?

Have you stopped, maybe because of tragedy, personal failure or discouragement?

Are you detoured? 

Conclusion

I’ve been in ALL these conditions in my race! But where are YOU right now? Yesterday is gone forever, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Where are YOU right now? We can be at different places in different areas of our life. Thankfully, things can change in a moment! Wherever you are, God’s desire is for you to win - to finish the race he has given you to run.

Read God Sent You To Finish This Race

Then read The Race, a poem about a children’s race.

My prayer for you today is that, wherever you may be in your race, you will be encouraged to keep running and that we will be part of communities of faith where we continually cheer one another one in our journey.  


The Race of Life (Part 3)

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How is Your Race Going?

3. Are You Stopped?

Sometimes we stop because of tragedy. Bad things happen to good people. Pain, hurt and tragedy touch most people’s lives. We don’t always know why. Life tends to ‘freeze frame’ in these moments. We need healing and comfort. Grief, which is a normal response to ‘loss’, is a powerful emotion that takes time to process. In these times, though life must go on, it’s okay to stop, as it were, for some healing and restoration. You can’t keep running at full steam on an injured leg. Things have to change for a season – but hopefully not forever.
 
Sometimes we stop in our race because of failure. We’ve tripped up for some reason, taken a tumble, fallen down. This can be soul-destroying, embarrassing, humiliating. Thankfully, God is a God of second chances.
 
David made some very unwise choices in his life, commiting adultery then murder He rationalised and justified his actions resulting in deception that lasted until he was confronted from spiritual blindness. Eventually, when he stopped making excuses, admitted his sin and cried out to God in repentance, he was forgiven, though he had to live with the consequences of his actions. BUT he kept running and& finished his race (Acts 13:36).
 
The aposle Peter made some bold declarations about personal courage. But in the pressure of the moment, he failed. He denied Jesus three times! After that we are told that he wept bitterly. He was heartbroken. He has not lived up to his good intentions. Yet Jesus forgave and restored him. He went on to be used mightily by God.
 
Stories like these should encourage us! Have you ever failed or made a mistake? You may not be fully responsible for your fall but you are fully responsible for whether you get up or not. Refuse to wallow in self pity. Winning the race of life is not about never falling. It’s about getting up each time you fall. Proverbs 24:16 says, "For though a righteous person falls seven times, they rise again. Come on, the race is not over yet. Get up and win the race!
 
Sometimes we stop because of discouragement. Life has just gotten too hard.
 
Elijah hit the wall after a major encounter with prophets of Baal. Note: we are often most vulnerable after a big victory! He was so tired that he slept for hours. He ate, then slept again. He was exhausted and needed rest. Discouragement then settled in, then depression, then suicidal thoughts. He was so low that he wanted to die! God came, visited him and encouraged him. He gave him a reality check, correcting his distoreted thinking (which was out by 7,000 to 1!) then gave him a fresh focus on calling, with a few simple tasks to do to get him moving.
 
What abvoiut you? Are you frustrated or disappointed about unmet expectations? Jesus understands. He’s cheering you on, reaching out to lift you up, and to give you strength to finish your race (see Isaiah 40:27-31).
 

The Race of Life (Part 2)

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How is Your Race Going?

2. Are You Slowing Down?

Maybe you are slowing down for various reasons.
 
You could be tired or fatigued. You've been through a busy patch that has felt like running up a steep hill. Maybe you've been working too many long hours, running too fast for too long, and now have some 'adrenaline exhaustion'. You need some rest and a long drink. God understands this. That's why he created the Sabbath and integrated a rhythm of activity and rest into all of creation. 
 
You could be slowing down because you are uncertain. Maybe you are moving through some new territory and into changed conditions. You could be coming up to an intersection or a crossroads. It's normal to slow down during these times. You need to look around. You can’t go too fast or you’ll miss things. Go ahead and slow down a little … just to get your bearings. It takes to time to adjust and re-orientate to a new situation where you are unfamiliar and a little uncomfortable. See also: Seasons.
 
You could be slowing down because you have lost your passion. You're just cuising or coasting. Your level of passion and excitement has diminished. You've lost some vision and purpose for some reason. Complacency, lethargy, indifference, apathy, or lukewarmness have settled in on you like a wet blanket. You've lost the fire of your first love. Thankfully, God is a fire-lighting God who can ignite fressh passion in us, if we ask. See also: A Personal Check Up.
 

The Race of Life (Part 1)

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As we begin the New Year together, it's a good time to reflect on our life - where have we come from, where are we now, and where are we going? Through the course of time, we all move through: age stages (child, teenager, young adult, adult, senior adult), faith stages (seeking, finding, growing, maturing), and seasons, with their beginnings and endings. One thing we know for sure - time is moving, and so is your life. This can be exciting and also sobering (see If Life Were a 24 Hour Clock, What Time Is it For You?).

No wonder, Moses gave us this advice: 

Psalm 90:10-12. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures … they quickly pass, and we fly away … Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. NIV

Today, we want to look at the metaphor of a race as representative of our life. This may just offer us a NEW perspective that will be helpful. The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote this:

Hebrews 12:1-3. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. NLT

As you run your race of life, throw aside anything that might hinder or slow you down. Understand that your race will require sustained effort (“endurance”). Keep your eyes not only on the goal but on Jesus. HE is the source of your faith and your strength.

So, how is your race going right now?

1. Are You Going Strong?
 
Maybe for you, life (family, work, ministry) is going great. Everything is clear. You are focused and passionate. You are making progress and have a sense of meaning for your life.
 
If so, that's a great place to be. Be encouraged. All of heaven is cheering you on! 
 

[Part 2]


Suffragette

Suffragette_posterIn the holidays, we went to see the movie Suffragette. It was very moving - showing the struggle of women to gain the right to vote in Britain back in the early 1800s. The movie does not claim to be a comprehensive exploration of every activist who falls under that broad term, but instead revolves around one working class woman’s story. As a result, critics have noted that the full detail and nuance of this mass movement has been lost in the transition to the big screen. Nevertheless, it's a story crying out for justice for everyone everywhere - regardless of gender, race, age or socio-economic status. 

What would it look like to treat all God's creatures with respect, honour and dignity? After, all we are all created in the image and likeness of God. 

The Bible reveals God as a Trinity - one God existing in three persons. There is no hierarchy, domination or abuse. The Godhead is THE model for all earthly relationships - characterised by love, honour, selflessness and serving.

May God's kingdom come and may his will be done - on earth as in heaven!

May we live and work each day so that becomes a reality. Men, let's lead the way - starting with how we treat the women in our world.

See also: Women in Ministry


Relax

Relax_1

Today, some words from Jesus as recorded in Matthew 6:31-34 (Message Bible translation).

What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's givingPeople who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he worksSteep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be metGive your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Wow, what incredible insight there is in those words. 

What phrase or word spoke to you about how you could go about your life today in a more relaxed an peaceful manner?


The Power of Focus

The-Power-of-Focus-is-Amazing-702x401

Proverbs 4:25-27 says (Message Bible translation):

  • Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.
  • Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
  • Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.

Here is some good and helpful advice for life:

1. Look straight ahead. We need to have a clear vision and direction for our lives. Know where you are going. This requires time aside in prayer and reflection about God's will for our life and the options we have available to us. There are many things we could do or places we could go, but what will we decide to do with the one life we have? What does God have in store for us?

2. Ignore distractions. We then need to focus on our intended direction. Avoid swerving to the left or right. Many things will seek to distract us and pull us to the side.

3. Take one step at a time. In addition to a vision, we need a plan for getting from where we are now to where we want to be. Craft this, then work on your next action step.

How does this apply to your life today? 


Has Science Buried God? with John Lennox

220px-John_LennoxUnfortunately, many people today see science and faith as enemies rather than friends. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of scientists and intellectuals who are speaking out about their faith. John Lennox is one of them.

John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, is an internationally renowned speaker on the interface of science, philosophy and religion. He regularly teaches at many academic institutions including the Said Business School, Wycliffe Hall and the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, as well as also being a Senior Fellow with the Trinity Forum. He has written a series of books exploring the relationship between science and Christianity and he has also participated in a number of televised debates with some of the world’s leading atheist thinkers. Check out his excellent web site.

There are also many very good videos available of him speaking or debating atheists. For exampe, he gave this presentation at the 2013 Xenos Summer Institute (www.xenos.org/xsi) - "Has Science Buried God?". It's well worth watching - You Tube video.


Living a Joy-Filled Life

Joy1In order for us to live the joy-filled life God desires for us, we need to be on guard for joy robbers. This takes some work. It doesn't happen by just saying, “Don't worry, be happy”. We need a strategy.

1. Overcome Irritations with PATIENCE.

We can't avoid irritations coming our way. We have to learn to handle them. Thankfully, in-between what happens to us and how we respond or react, we have a choice to make. Jesus' brother James put it like this:

James 1:19-20. My dear brothers and sister, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

It’s not wrong to feel angry but what we do with this powerful emotion can be destructive. Angry words or actions can be very damaging. Anger needs to be handled with self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives (Galatians 5:19-23). We either express ourselves or control ourselves. The issue is control. Meekness is yielding my right of control to God. Our perspective must embrace the fact that God is in control. He's allowed this irritation for a reason.

Dealing with past anger by apologising appropriuately or seeking to sort out unresolved conflicts. Then prepare for future irritations that will inevitably come your way. Ask yourself, "Is this worth losing my joy over?"

2. Overcome Worry with TRUST.

We've talked about worry before on the BLOG, showing how research reveals that most worry is a waste of time. Some worries are simply decisions waiting to be made. If we take action on our worries, worry can actually be helpful. But there are some things we worry about that are beyond our control. This is where we can learn to "shape our worries into prayers" (Philippians 4:6. Message Bible) and place our trust in God. 

God cares for us. He is in control and his providence undergirds everything that happens in this world - orchestrating the good, the bad and even the ugly into an ultimate purpose (Romans 8:28). Yes, we make decisions and other people make decisions, and decisions have consequences, but in the end the Lord's plan prevails. Ask Joseph, from the Old Testament period, who underwent all sorts of betrayal, disappointment, suffering and delays but in the end essentialy said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God used it for good ... to bring about his purpose" (Genesis 50:20)."

Overcome worry faith trust in God today. 

3. Overcome Nagativity with GRATITUDE.

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel complained about everything - lack of water, no food, giants, their leader Moses, pretty much everything. God heard their grumbling (Numbers 14:27, 29, 36). The apostle Paul wrote about this as an example for us: "Do not grumble, as some of them did - and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:10-11)."

Negativity, grumbling and murmuring destroys our joy and that of others.

Many things that happen to us (directly or indirectly) cause irritation. Often our response is to murmur, to complain, to grumble or to whinge. These negative attitudes usually lead to negative words that effect the atmosphere around us and expel our joy. Other people don't want to be around unless they're the same.

To overcome negativity, develop the character quality of gratitude. Gratefulness is about being thankful, showing appreciation, and giving recognition. Israel forgot the works of God as soon as something went wrong. When we murmur or complain, often we are forgetting the good things. It's in all of us. We are so blessed yet we take so much for granted. We have been given so much - let's be thankful.

Overcome negativity with gratitude.

4. Overcome Hurts with FORGIVENESS.

It's not wrong to hurt. Pain and hurt are part of this life. They will come your way at some time or another in various ways. It's inevitable and often beyond our control. We are all victims of sin in this world and we all carry its scars.

The Bible's pages are full of great and mighty deeds but they are also bathed in blood, sweat and tears. Pain and hurt touches everyone in varying degrees. For example, Joseph was rejected by his brothers, David was betrayed by his son Absalom, and women were barren. People like Job suffered deeply, as did Jesus, Paul and the early Christians.

Christian counsellor Larry Crabb says, "Our joy in Christ in not to replace suffering and pain, it is to support us through it”. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted or familiar with grief. He endured the cross as He focused on the joy ahead. Joy is rooted in the future! Happiness is dependent on present circumstances.

God is to be the source of our joy and the fact that He is in control and will work all things together for our ultimate good. Weeping may endure for a night (season) but joy will come. Incomparable glory is coming!

Just like physical injury, emotional pain and hurt must experience a 'healing process' over time to bring about restoration. The church is to be a place where this can happen. Loving, encouraging and supporting one another. Scars may remain, but the pain can go away.

Wehen we respond with bitterness or unforgiveness, we delay or stop the healing process. The pain and the hurt remain. This dramatically effects us physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. God did not intend us to live like this. Bitterness is like a destructive poison. It destroys us and takes away our joy. Only forgiveness begins the healing process. Prayer, deliverance, counselling, inner healing, quoting Scripture all don't help - until you obey God's word and forgive. We can go through a bitter experience and not become bitter. Forgiveness releases God’s power into your life and into the situation.

Are you hurt? Ok. You have a choice. Do you hold on to it or let it go? God wants to give you His grace - the ability to respond rightly to life's pressures. He can turn our negative experiences (trials) into “gold”.

Conclusion

How’s your joy level? It’s the key to victory and spiritual strength. It comes from God and is independent of circumstances.

What’s your “joy robber”? Is it irritations, negativity, worry or hurts?

How can you choose to respond today?

My prayer is that you will truly live a joy-filled life. 


Joy Robbers

25 Joy RobbersYesterday, we talked about Christmas joy - the message of "good news of great joy for all the people." Yes, joy is God's will for your life ... all because of Jesus. 

But, we have an enemy!

Jesus made this very clear ...

John 10:10. “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”

God wants us to experience an abundant life characterised by an inner joy and peace, despite our circumstances. But we have an enemy who comes to take away our joy anyway he can.  We need to be aware of how he does this and be on guard so that we can maintain our joy each day.

Have you ever been robbed? I have. It's an eerie experience. We came home one night to discover someone had broken in the back door of our house and stolen a bunch of things. Notice that the thief comes at night and when we are least expecting them. In the same way, our enemy seeks to rob us of our joy in ways we often don't expect. Let's look at four subtle joy robbers today:

1. Irritations.

Irritations are things that agitate us (ruffle our feathers, get under our skin), causing frustrated and angry emotions. An irritation is something that exasperates, aggravate or stirs us to anger. When this anger is expressed, it scatters all joy. There are three major sources of irritations:

  • People - people's personality traits and idiosyncrasies are an ever-present source of potential irritation. It could be a family member (husband, wife, children), a work-mate, a neighbour, a church member, annoying drivers, or even someone at the shopping checkout. 
  • Our environment or circumstances. It could be simple inconveniences, such as the weather, the traffic, a squeaky door, or a flat tyre or battery. 
  • Yourself. We can be irritated by our own sickness, deficiencies, weaknesses, or mistakes.

Irritations rob us of our joy. In fact, it is impossible to be irritated and joyful at the same time!

2. Worry.

To worry means to fret, be anxious or be concerned. Worry brings a burden, a load, a strain and tension into our life. Worry can come from many sources, including finances, relationships, or the future.

Worry robs us of our joy. It is impossible to worry and be joyful at the same time.

3. Negativity. Negativity means to murmur or complain, to grumble or to “nit pick”. It often results in words that affect the atmosphere around us and push away our joy. We awfulise things out of proportion, distorting reality. We turn molehills into mountains. We see the jar as half empty rather than half full. We focus on what is wrong with a situation or person rather than what is right. 

Negativity robs us of our joy. It is impossible to be negative and joyful at the same time.

4. Hurts. 

When we are hurt, we have been wounded which results in pain, a broken heart or grief. Hurt can come from people (their words, a conflict, rejection, lack of appreciation, abuse - verbal or physical, or a broken relationship) or circumstances (personal failure, grief or loss, disappointment or loneliness).

Hurts rob us of our joy. It is hard to be joyful when you are feeling hurt. 

Think of Joseph and Mary and the potential of these things to rob them of that first Christmas Joy.

  • Irritations - from a long 120 kilometer journey back home because of a census, possibly riding on a donkey, not the most comfortable trip when you are pregnant! Then finding no room in the guest house and ending up having your baby in a stable. 
  • Negativity - baby Jesus is God in human form. Surely they could have received a business class upgrade or a better welcoming party! And then those unusual gifts - what's a baby to do with frankincense and myrrh!
  • Worry - for their very lives, because of jealous king Herod. 
  • Hurts - from people’s opinions, the criticism, and inevitable gossip. 

Which joy robber is trying to steal (or has already stolen!) your joy right now?

Tomorrow: Living the Joy-Filled Life


Christmas Joy

Joy

Christmas is probably a distant memory for most of us now but it is good to be reminded of the core message that it brought - one of "good news of great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10) because of the arrival of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The One who would bring salvation and make forgiveness possible, restoring our relationship with God and making the world right again. 

Joy is a major theme not only of the Gospel of Luke but of the entire biblical narrative.

  • The Psalmists regularly call out for rejoicing, singing, and gladness of heart (Psalm 16:11; 32:11; 68:3; 110:1; 149:2, 5).
  • The prophets predict everlasting joy for God's people, with gladness and joy overtaking them, and sorrow and sighing fleeing away (Isaiah 51:11).
  • Even God himself is portrayed as one who takes great delight in his people, rejoicing over them with singing (Zephaniah 3:14-17). 
  • Jesus told his followers, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11)."
  • The apostle Paul saw joy as a sign of the kingdom (Romans 14:17), as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and as something that we should experience every day (Philippians 4:4).

No wonder A.W. Tozer once said, "Joy is an infallible sign of the Lord's presence."

Of course, joy is different than happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances - what ‘happens’ to us. Joy is independent on any external conditions.

God wants us to experience an abundant life characterised by an inner joy and peace despite our circumstances. 

How's your joy today?

Next: Joy Robbers

See also Laughter is Good Medicine


Laughter is Good Medicine!

Child-laughingWhen was the last time you laughed? I mean, really laughed? One of those big belly laughs that goes on and on and brings tears to your eyes. If you are lucky it was in the last couple of days but if you are like most people you have been so busy trying to get ahead or attending to your TO DO list that laughter isn't as familiar as it once was. 

Children laugh on average up to 300 times a day. Adults, about 17 times. That's a huge difference in our level of happiness. Obviously, age is a factor as kids don't have the same level of concerns and responsibilities that we do. But part of why they laugh more is because playtime is on their calendar. 

Adults find it hard to schedule in fun because there are only so many hours in the day. Many of us feel we need to earn our play time or are on a race to success and feel our time is too precious to sacrifice. But research shows that happiness is a huge part of success. This means, rather than focusing all of our time on achieving future goals, it benefits us to access joy right now. 

How much happiness do you experience when you were doing things in order to get ahead in the future verses immersing yourself in an activity that brings you joy in the moment? It's likely a significant difference because it is proven that when we are in a flow or completely immersed in something, our level of happiness is the highest. Think of how good it feels when you engage in activities that make you happy and what it's like to be with people who make you laugh.

Reflect on how it feels to be completely swept up in something you are passionate about. One of the keys to happiness includes carving out time each week to engage in play - not waiting till you are further ahead in life to feel that you are to entitled to take the time. 

So relax and be at ease. 

Reflect on a time when you were joyful as a child, experiences that made your heart race and grow bigger. Think of how good it feels to laugh. Think of some things that inspire you, invigorate you, and fill you up with joy. Think of things you would do if you had all the time in the world. What kind of activities could you bring into your life on a more regular basis? Is there a hobby you haven't been able to justify making time for? What would it take to step out of your comfort zone and try something new? Carve out time for things that would bring you joy and enhance your happiness. 

Joy is the one thing we can never get enough of. 

[Source: www.calm.com]

Proverbs 15:13: A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. NKJV

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. NIV

A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day. MB

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. NASB

A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit. NLT

Proverbs 17:22. A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. NKJV

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. NIV

A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone–tired. MB

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. NASB

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. NLT

See also Christmas Joy


An Alternative to Task Lists - Kanban Project Management

KanAll of us have tasks we want to get done or projects we are working on. Keeping a record of them all in one place is really important. The most popular method is a task or project list, which can be looked at regularly then items are ticked off when completed. But what if you are more of a visual person?

The Kanban (meaning 'signboard' or 'billboard') project management method was invented by Japanese engineers to create a logical workflow system. Over time the concept has been adapted for use by organisations, workteams or individuals. The method involves (1) visualising your workflow by using a board to diagram all your tasks/projects, (2) limiting your work-in-progress to a minimum, and (3) viewing your accomplishments.

All you need is a pen, a whiteboard and some sticky notes to start mapping your workflow and boosting your productivity. Use three columns:

  1. READY (work waiting to be tackled)
  2. DOING (for work-in-progress)
  3. DONE (for completed tasks).

Understanding your work is often the key to controlling it. Kanban helps you to keep everything in sight.

I now use an App based on the Kanban method of time management called Kanbana (iPad video demo), which is highly visible, lists projects that are in backlog, focuses on what I am doing now, and allows me to move completed items to an area where I can see what I have done so far in the day. I really like it. You might too ...

Read more about the Kanban Method:


All Things NEW!

NEW

God is a God of new things. He has made us new creations, given us new hearts, a new spirit, a new covenant. We live in a new day; we have a new name; we have a new commandment; we’ve been given new garments; His mercies are new every morning; we drink of the new wine; we’re headed for a new Jerusalem and eventu­ally a new heavens and earth. In the end, God makes all things new!

Embracing the new things God has for us implies leaving the old behind. It requires change and transition. God wants freshness in our lives not stagnation, staleness or sameness. God sent the manna to Israel fresh daily. It could not be kept for the next day or it would rot and stink (Exodus 16:12-31). In the same way, we need to keep receiving the new things God has for us. He wants us to be willing, open and ready to change.

Let's have a great start to the new year, embracing all the new things and new stories God has in store for us together.

All things NEW - that's our theme this month at CityLife.


Getting Ready for the New Year

New-years-resolutions

In a few days time, we'll be into a New Year - 2016. The year 2015 will be history - water under the bridge. At transition times like this between years, it's beneficial to pause, take some time aside and think about your life. Someone once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living" and Moses prayed to God , "Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12)."

Over the years, I have written a variety of BLOG posts designed to assist you in this process. Check out a few of these links below. I'm sure you'll find some helpful insights or questions for your own life.

Here's to an enjoyable and fruitful New Year!


Developing New Habits

Good_bad_habits_large

Habits are what we do habitually, automatically or without thinking. They are very powerful! An old poem puts it like this:

    Sow a thought, reap an act

    Sow an act, reap a habit

    Sow a habit, reap a character

    Sow a character, reap a destiny.

A lot of new research has emerged of late about not only the power of habits but about the difficulty we experience in breaking bad habits and establishing new healthy habits. One of the keys to developing new habits is to have some accountability for the goals or rituals you are seeking to embed in your life. This could be a friend that checks up on you or even better an App that can be your daily coach.

There are now a huge variety of apps that have been designed to help you form good habits. Recently, I've started using the Strides App and I find it really helpful. It syncs across different devices and has a variety of types of goals and habits you can measure. The basic version is free and it's very easy to use. Check out a review or a video demo if you are interested.

My habits are vital to my disciplined lifestyle and having a tool that holds me accountable is very helpful. I DO have good intentions but if they are not pushed to me and if I don't measure my progress, I can often drift and fall short. This leads to frustration and ill-health. In contrast, living daily by habits that shape my life positively creates joy and a sense of fulfillment.

What new habits are you going to form or strengthen in the new year? It's all about becoming the person you really want to be.

See also:


Devotional Bible Reading

Bible-Reading

Every year, we encourage our church to read through the Bible. There are a variety of reading programs available online. This year we will read through the New Testament, as well as the books of Psalms and Proverbs. Visit our church web site for the complete reading program. 

There is a great benefit in using a devotional format for Bible reading aimed at hearing from God daily and responding to his leading. The goal is not to just ‘get through’ your Bible reading but to allow God’s Word to ‘get in’ to your heart and life, bringing about personal growth and positive change.

As you do your daily reading, consider using the following devotional format:

Scripture – write out a verse or two that speak specifically to you today.

Observation – make a note of what you observe in the text. What was happening back 'there and then'?

Application – write out how God’s Word applies to your life. What does this mean to you 'here and now'?

Prayer – write out a prayer of response to what God has said to you.

You can do this by yourself, with your family, with some friends or as part of your Life Group. As you make your time with God and his Word the priority of your day, you will experience a tangible ‘washing of the Word’ in your heart and life.


The Power of Clarity

Clarity

As we prepare to move into a new year, I am sure we all face various circumstances that are beyond our control. Sometimes what we need is actually not more power but more clarity. Three times in the Gospels, Jesus was approached by someone obviously needing healing and he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus assumed nothing but asked them to declare what they wanted. Maybe their greatest need was clarity. What do you really want?

Not what do other people want for you? We all know that many other people have a wonderful plan for our lives! What do YOU want? What are the desires God has put within your heart?

Although we are to live with a servant heart, we can't live our life for others or we will become dependent on their approval, constantly looking for their affirmation. We are to live for an audience of one and that One (Jesus) asks us to consider what we want. 

The end of another year provides us with a perfect opportunity to reflect on the answer to that question - one that only you can answer.

So what do you want?

Getting clear on that has a ripple affect on everything else in our life, including our priorities and our decisions.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭37:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬


What to do with Christmas?

Christmas-Garland
Can you believe it's almost Christmas! 

Usually around this time of the year, you'll hear some questions or comments from some well-meaning Christians such as:

  • "Jesus was not born in December."
  • "The Bible never tells us to celebrate the birth of Jesus."
  • "The Christmas tree is a pagan tradition."

True, the early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus and Jesus never asked them to. They focused on his death and resurrection, as well as his promised return. Christmas Day as it is celebrated today did not begin until the fourth century. Interestingly enough, Jesus was most likely born in October not December. Shepherds don't have their sheep out in the December snow in the northern hemisphere! 

Many of today’s Christmas traditions (including Santa Claus and Christmas trees) have nothing to do with the message of Christ as portrayed in the Gospels. Nevertheless, it is a great time for Christians and the church to make the most of the opportunity to focus on the coming of Jesus Christ to earth as a baby born in Bethlehem. 

At CityLife Church, we find that unchurched family members, neigbours and friends will often visit our Christmas services even more than at other times of the year. So we love to take advantgae of this season to get the good news about Jesus out there loud and clear. Just because 'Santa' is an anagram for 'Satan' doesnt mean we should boycot Christmas!

No other person has influenced the world like Jesus Christ. Let’s worship him together and make him known this Christmas season.

See also:


The Best Christmas Gifts are FREE

Gifts

Christmas is right around the corner and many people are starting to think about what gifts to buy for family and friends. The truth is that as you get older you start to realise that you don't really need more 'stuff'! In fact, more 'things' don't bring more happiness. 

Some of the best gifts in life are FREE. Here are a few of those you might consider giving this Christmas:

1. Gratitude.

Why not give the gift of appreciation? Just say 'thank you' to someone in your world. The story is told in the Gospels about Jesus healing 10 lepers but only one taking the time to come back to Jesus and express his gratitude. I am sure the other 9 were thankful, they just didn't take the time to express it. We too, take so much for granted. Where would you be today without …? Who has helped you along the way this year? Let them know. Give the gift of gratitude.

2. Encouragement.

Encouragement is like "oxygen for the soul” - we all need a heap of it just to breathe. No child wants to feel like the only way to get mum or dad's attention is to do something wrong. No employee wants to only hear from their boss when they've made a mistake. No politician only wants to hear from their constituents when they have a criticism to make. No pastor only wants to hear from their congregation when they have a complaint. We all thrive on encouragement! Why not give the gift of encouragement to someone this year at Christmas. Mark Twain once said, "I can live for two months on a good compliment."

3. Forgiveness.

We all say or do things we regret. That's why we need forgiveness. Other people hurt us too - through offences, annoyances and mistakes. Our natural desire is to get even or to take revenge. However, that anger not only damages other people, it also damages us too. Nelson Mandela once said, "Holding on to bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill our enemies!" Who can you forgive this Christmas? Don't lose your joy over something someone else has done to you. 

So ... who can you thank, who can you encourage and who can you forgive ... this Christmas?

These gifts are FREE but they may turn out to be the best gift you give the people around you this Christmas.

See also Jesus, the Perfect Christmas Gift.


Jesus - the Perfect Christmas Gift

Christmas-2015-6ta1qp7t

It’s Christmas time again. I wonder what you enjoy most about this season? Maybe it’s the Christmas carols, the holidays, or the shopping. I know for the kids, it’s the presents. That’s what I looked forward to when I was young - maybe a new Mechano set or an extension to my Motorific slot car course. Today kids are into Star Wars paraphernalia, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the most covered gift of the season - the hoverboard. Pretty cool … and pretty pricey. 

You know, God took time to think about the kind of gift we needed. As Max Lucado once said,

“If our greatest need had been technology, he would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need was information he would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need was money he would have sent an economist.

But because our greatest need was forgiveness, he sent us as Saviour."

My prayer is that you will open up that amazing gift this year.

Jesus is the Perfect Christmas Gift for Everyone.


Celebrate the Day

Xmas

Home is a place to celebrate and engage in meaningful traditions together as a church family. This week is our Christmas Carols Production at CityLife, as together we will celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into our world, forever changing its future.

In my brief message, I will be presenting the central message of Christmas - celebrating the day that Jesus was born as Saviour of the world. 

Everyone is welcome!

[Services times and details]


HOME - Seasons

4_Seasons_by_CJ_FALCON

 

Insights from Paul’s Life Journey

The Bible was written by real people as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to record stories that would be of benefit to our lives. Today, we will glean some lessons from the the life of the apostle Paul, using our SOAP devotional format (Acts 20:13-38). Here are my Observations:

1. Life is a Journey with Many Seasons

Paul grew up as a strict Pharisee, committed to his Jewish faith and its legal requirements. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), his life was radically changed and he became an apostle to the Gentiles, sharing the gospel of Jesus to people from every strata of society. He ended up basing at the church in Antioch from where he travelled out on a number of church-planting missionary journeys (Acts 13). Eventually, he re-located to Ephesus where he had three years of his most fruitful ministry. This episode in his life shows us his transition away from Ephesus towards his eventual destination of Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire.

Paul’s life, like ours, was a journey with many different seasons, a story with many different chapters, much like a movie with many different scenes. Time is a constant as everything continually moves forward and is constantly changing. We can’t control or stop the seasons, which are under God’s control (Ecc.3:1).

In his book The Making of a Leader, leadership expert Robert Clinton says that each leader that God uses goes through a common journey with different phases - sovereign foundations, ministry maturing (doing), life maturing (being), convergence, and afterglow. There are many tests and incidents along the way – both positive and painful. There is benefit in stopping and reflecting on your journey. Life is lived forward but often understood backward.

Take some time to reflect on your life. Look back … where have you come from, where are you now, where are heading? What is God up to? What are incidents that have shaped who you are today? What have you learned? What season are you in right now?

2. Seasons are Marked by Endings and Beginnings

Paul felt an urgency that compelled him to leave Ephesus and go to Jerusalem, though he was completely in the dark about what would happen there (Acts 20:22). In fact, he knew there were hard times and imprisonment ahead (Acts 20:23). What mattered most was to finish what God had started through him - letting everyone know about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God (Acts 20:24). He wanted to finish what God had started in and through him. While with the church at Ephesus, Paul gave it all he had (Acts 20:18). He was with them totally, doing is best, giving his all (Acts 20:26-27, 31). But now he knew his time in Ephesus was coming to and end. He took time to seek God and read his own heart (Acts 20:13, 22).

Life’s seasons are marked by endings and new beginnings. In fact, life is a series of endings, in-betweens, and beginnings, all interconnected. Examples include family changes (getting married, becoming a parent, a marriage breakdown, sickness, aging or death), school changes (from primary to secondary to university), work changes (career changes, downsizing, merger, acquisition, promotion or a new boss), house changes (moving, immigration, relocation), church changes (relocation, changing demographics) and ministry changes (transitions, relational changes).

Henry Cloud is his book Necessary Endings says, “Endings are a natural part of life - we either face them, stagnate or die. Without the ability to do endings well, we flounder, stay stuck and fail to reach our goals and dreams. Endings are crucial but we rarely like them. We naturally avoid them. That’s the problem. When endings are done well, the seasons of life are negotiated, and the proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached and better lives. Endings bring hope. When done poorly, bad outcomes happen, good opportunities are lost, and misery either remains or is repeated ... Endings are not failures or something to be avoided. Nothing lasts forever. Endings are normal. Life produces too much - more relationships, activities, clients, mentors, partners, strategies and stuff than we have time and room for. It it time for pruning? An ending does not mean you have failed. Avoid misunderstood loyalty and co-dependency. Insecurities and fears cause us to resist endings.”

3. Endings Require Us to “Let Go” of the Past

Paul had to let go and the church at Ephesus had to let him go too (Acts 20:36-37). Saying “good-bye” is never easy (Acts 20:25). Why? Because most of us don’t like change … unless we are initiating it. It’s difficult and we experience it as an unwelcome intruder into our life. We prefer to be in control and operate in familiar terrain. We tend to hold on to the past rather than letting it go.

Signs of a possible ‘ending’ nearing may include loss of passion, loss of motivation, or simply an unsettled feeling or a calling to something else. This requires much discernment, courage, and a great deal of wisdom. Do you simply hold on through the current storm, hoping things will get better, or is it time to acknowledge an ending has arrived? To give up hope when there is victory in sight is a mistake but to hang on to false hope is a fantasy that can end in dismal failure. Admit it when more effort will not bring about a different result.

4. Endings Involve Grief

As Paul leaves Ephesus, not only are their final words and prayers, there are also tearful and painful good-byes, knowing they will never to see each other again (Acts 20:36 - 21:1).

We experience grief anytime there is a loss in our lives. Even good changes involve loss - leaving the past behind. Grief includes a range of emotions: sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even anger at times. Usually there is process that includes initial shock, eventual acceptance, then letting go, followed by reaching out to a different future. We need to take time to be grateful and to grieve our losses. Henry Cloud encourages ‘metabolising’ endings for our benefit. We ingest life experiences like we ingest food. Keep what is usable to you and eliminate what is not. Talk it out, cry if you have to, feel your emotions fully, express them, forgive, then let it all go … after you have given it adequate attention (not denial). Only then will you be ready for whatever is next.

It is often not the endings that do us in, it is the transitions. Transitions involve the emotion of change during the in-between times, like a trapeze artist hanging in the air! It can be exciting, yet frightening. In these liminal spaces, nothing is familiar or normal.

5. Endings Make New Beginnings Possible

Once Paul and his team had said their goodbyes, they were on their way … to Jerusalem then Rome (Acts 21:1), where he will spread the good news of Jesus even further, as well as speak to kings.

Some chapters need to be closed before a new chapter can be written. Death is a necessary prelude to resurrection! Jesus’ life is a pattern for our life too. Some things must die so new things can grow. Endings can be opportunities for a new future. Today may be the enemy of your tomorrow. The tomorrow you envision may never come to pass if you do not end some things you are doing today. To get to a new level, a new tomorrow, or the next step, something has to end. What’s in your hand the you are holding on to that is hindering you from receiving the new things God has for you?

Quotes

  • “True life success is doing the very best you can at where you are now then not being afraid to end that and take the next step. The endings and the great beginnings are somehow linked together. You can’t have one without the other.” Henry Cloud.
  • “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Roman philosopher Seneca
  • “On the spiritual journey … each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around - which puts the door behind us - and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls.” Parker Palmer

Conclusion

What is God up to right now in your life journey? Are you experiencing a new beginning, an in-between time, or an ending? What has ended for you? What needs to end for you? Are you “stuck in a moment”, feeling paralysed (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually), unable to move, comfortable and content with a certain attitude or outlook? Could Jesus be calling you to stand up, take up your mat and move to a new place?

Is there something you need to let go of, that is hindering you from receiving the new things God has for you? Maybe it is bitterness, resentment, anger, regret, guilt, shame or grief. Is it time to move on?

Sample Reflection Questions

  1. Take some time to reflect on your life. Look back … where have you come from, where are you now, where are heading? What is God up to? What are incidents that have shaped who you are today? What have you learned? What season are you in right now?
  2. What is the most difficult thing you have had to let go of?
  3. The first half of life involves mostly beginnings. In the second half of life there are more endings and new beginnings. What endings have occurred for you that led to new beginnings? What was this time like and what did you learn?
  4. What are some areas we get stuck in at times, where an ending may need to be embraced? Could it be an unhealthy relationship, a dead-end job, a home that no longer serves our needs, a ministry that no longer stirs our passion, or security that hinders us the adventurous mission God is calling us to?
  5. In non-Western countries, they often take weeks or even months to grieve the death of a family member loved one. What can we learn from this practice?
  6. What new opportunity have you experienced that only came after a closed door (an ending)?
  7. Reflect on an ‘in-between time’ in your life where you found adjusting to change extremely difficult. What was most helpful during this time?

Necessary Endings

NecessaryEndings

Do you feel like a chapter is coming to an end in some area of your life? Maybe that is just what is needed in order for God to begin something new for you?

Life is lived in seasons and seasons are made up of endings and new beginnings. This coming weekend at CityLife, I will share a message with some insights into how to navigate these transitions well, which includes learning to let go of the past and move forward into the future God has for us. 

Quotes

  • "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiates 3:1
  • “True life success is doing the very best you can at where you are now then not being afraid to end that and take the next step. The endings and the great beginnings are somehow linked together. You can’t have one without the other.” Henry Cloud in Necssary Endings.
  • “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Roman philosopher Seneca
  • “On the spiritual journey … each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around - which puts the door behind us - and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls.” Parker Palmer

HOME - Decisions

Home

“What is God’s will for my life?” This is probably the most commonly asked question by Christians today. Paul addresses this matter (Eph.5:17-19) and tells us that wise people know God’s will, seize opportunities and invest their time wisely. Foolish people don’t know God’s will, they miss opportunities and they waste their time. God does have a will – a sense of purpose; intentions and desires; thoughts and plans. He also calls us to be a part of his purpose (2 Tim.1:9). The good news is that God wants us to know His will so we can then get on with doing it. He does not want to hide it from us (Col.1:9. Jn.10:27).

Wrong Approaches to God’s Will

Knowing God’s will can seem difficult and confusing at times. Often this is because of wrong approaches or misconceptions we have about God’s will. Let’s look at some of them:

  1. A Fatalistic Approach. This view says, “What will be, will be.” Some people just ‘resign’ themselves to God’s will. This view overemphasises the sovereignty of God and downplays human responsibility. It denies or minimises the fact that there are choices that we make and that we are therefore responsible for our lives. Yes, there are things beyond our control either caused by God or other people. But we don’t have to be victims of the circumstances or other people’s choices. We are responsible beings. Trust in God’s Providence but don’t believe in ‘fate’.
  1. A Negative Approach. Some people believe that God’s will is meant to make them miserable and depressed. God will make you marry someone you don’t like or send you somewhere you don’t want to go. The truth is that God’s will is ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (it can’t be improved on). God’s will is an expression of His love. He knows more about what will fulfil you and make you happy than you do. Yes, there may be both problems to solve and sacrifices to make but his will is good (Rom.12:1-2. Jer.29:11).
  1. A Frustrating Approach. Some people become frustrated with God’s will because they believe that God has some super-detailed plan for every aspect of their lives that they have to try to discover. They think they must try to find the next step God wants them to take every moment of the day so as to not please Him. The truth is that God is a very empowering God. He gave Adam and Eve an overall purpose to live for. He also gave them some specific boundaries but he then gave them freedom of choice within those (Gen.2:15-17). God treats us the same way. He has a general purpose for our lives. He then communicates any ‘limitations’ or areas that are restricted to us (notice that the 10 commandments are mostly ‘what not to do’). Within these parameters, we are free to choose what we want to do. There is more freedom in God’s will than we realise. More often than not, there are many options we could choose from, all of which are in God’s will.
  1. A Fearful Approach. Sometimes people are so worried about missing Gods will or making a wrong decision that they live paralyzed by fear. Or people live in fear because they have failed in the past and think that they can now no longer be in the will of God. The truth is that a bad decision doesn’t ruin God’s will for your life. Yes, choices have consequences but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your whole life has fallen apart. The most important thing is where you are headed today. That’s more important than where you have been. God is the God of the “second chance”. Ask Jonah. Start afresh today and you can have a new end.
  1. A Mystical Approach. Some people think that being in God’s will is dependent on some special feeling, impression or sensation. They want God’s leading as to what clothes they should wear or where they should sit in church! The truth is that God’s will is very practical and it doesn’t depend on some mystical feeling.

God’s Guidance Principles

So, what are God’s ‘navigation systems’ to guide His people? Let’s consider five of the ways God uses to guide us:

  1. God’s Word – the Bible. God’s Word contains God’s will! As we read and meditate on the Scriptures, we will begin to think like God thinks. No other means of guidance should contradict the inerrant Word of God. Nothing He calls you to do will contradict the Word. His Word is a ‘light to our path’ (Ps.119:105). God gives us enough light to see to make the next step but not always enough to see the entire journey. You will arrive safely if you watch the lights on the road and following God’s leading. However, if you don’t know the Word, you may be deceived. God guarantees success in life to those who meditate upon and obey his commands and principles for life (Josh.1:8. 2 Tim.3:16-17). God’s Word contains principles for every area of our life. Unfortunately, we often tend to live our life without first reading the ‘instruction manual’, which often results in unnecessary mistakes and detours (Hos.4:6). Make a regular habit of reading God’s Word and listening to it being taught (1 Pet.4:11. 1 Thess.2:13).
  1. Wisdom. God created wisdom before He created the world (Prov.8). In the book of Proverbs, we are encouraged, if not urged, to get wisdom (Prov.4:7). God wants to help us develop wisdom, which is the proper application of knowledge and understanding. God gave us a brain – we should use it! He won’t make all the decisions for us. He wants us to use “common sense”. Ask God for wisdom (Jas.1:5), look in the Bible for it, do personal research and listen to wise counsellors or advisors (Prov.15:22; 19:20; 20:18). Every decision needs careful planning and thinking through. Jesus taught the importance of wise planning and decision-making (Lk.14:28-32). Consider your options and the likely consequences of each. Then choose the best option and commit to making that decision work.
  1. Circumstances. Circumstances define the context of every decision. God can use circumstances to direct us, but never in isolation from other guidance factors. Don’t let circumstances alone dictate your decision. It’s one way of guidance. You can’t be led by it alone. Gideon made use of a ‘fleece’ and God confirmed his will through this means because of Gideon’s fear and lack of faith in what God had already told him (Judges 6:36-40). We need to be very cautious in this type of approach to guidance (“If this happens, then I’ll know it is God’s will).
  1. The Inner Witness of the Spirit. God has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us (Rom.8:14). Pray and commit all of your ways to the Lord, asking for His guidance and direction. God wants to reveal His thoughts and feelings to us. He does this through His Word but also through the person of the Holy Spirit. He has been sent to be our friend and our helper. He also gives us his peace to rule in our heart and mind (Phil.4:6-7).
  1. The Supernatural. God sometimes uses “special revelation” to guide us. This includes things such as dreams and visions (Acts 2:17-21), angelic visitation, an audible voice and prophecy (1 Cor.14:3). God uses the prophets to speak to His people and reveal His heart. We should not take prophecy lightly but we should also ‘test’ each word (1 Thess.5:19-24). We can be inspired and aided by the prophetic word (1 Tim. 6:12. 2 Tim. 4:7. 1 Cor.9:26). In God’s time he will bring His will to pass in your life (Ecc.3:11). Never give up! Pray them through! Understand the “time principle”. God’s word will be tested and so will your faith in it (Ps.105:17-19).

God never guides by one of these things alone, always by more than one. Like “lights” that need lining up, God established the principle of two or three ‘witnesses’ (Dt.17:6. 2 Cor.13:1). The bigger the decision, the larger the risk, the more witnesses you need lined up. Most errors occur when you make too much of one of these principles. Overemphasis will kill you. There is not one key to knowing the whole will of God or making wise decisions. Make sure things are in agreement. Don’t move until they are.

Our journey through life is nothing but a process of decision-making. Every day is a day of decisions. Our decisions greatly affect our lives. In fact, where you are today is largely a result of the decisions you made yesterday. Where you will be tomorrow will be a result of the decisions you make today. Make every effort to understand God’s will for your life. Seize opportunities and invest your time wisely to pursuing God’s will for your life.

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the concept of being in the ‘centre of God’s will’. What does this mean and is it a helpful concept?
  2. Discuss the five ‘navigation systems’ God uses to guide us. Share stories or personal examples of how God used one or more of them to guide you.
  3. Discuss the concept of using ‘fleeces’ (see Judges 6:36-40). Is this an appropriate way to seek God’s guidance? What are the dangers of this approach?
  4. Ask people to share a decision that they made that they wish they hadn’t. What did they learn from it? How did it help them in future decision-making situations?
  5. Reflect on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a grid for wise decision-making.
  6. Some people are too dependent on ‘logic’ and ‘objective’ aspects of decision-making while others are too dependent on ‘feelings’ and ‘subjective’ aspects of decision-making. What are some ways we can achieve balance between these two extremes?

5 Things to Do Before the New Year

Ny

The new year begins in only 5 weeks time, ready or not!

I am sure you have a long list of things to do before then and I don't want to stress you out by adding to that list. However, here are 5 very important things that are well worth the investment of your time:

1. Reflect

Experience isn't the greatest teacher, only experience that is reflected on. Reflection helps us gain insight from our life so we don't repeat the same patterns and fail to learn the lessons God has for us. Take some time to reflect on your life, on the year that is about to finish, on what God may be saying to you, and about the direction your life is going.

Read also: Three Great Questions to Start the Day and Pause and Reflect for some more thoughts and ideas about reflection.

2. Evaluate

Take some time to prayerfully evaluate your own personal effectiveness this year.

  • What went well? What didn't go well? What did you learn?
  • Consider your priorities and your use of time. What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of? What will you do differently next year?
  • How balanced is your lifestyle? Consider your energy level, your family, your spiritual life, your social life, and recreation.
  • What areas do you need to grow or change in?

Plan any necessary adjustments or changes.

3. Relate

Life is about loving God and loving people. Spend some extra time with the important people in your world.

  • Encouragement – express appreciation for who they are.
  • Feedback – what have they done well
  • Coaching - ask in what ways you can improve?
  • Reconciliation - who do you need to rebuild a relatiuonship with before the year ends? Address and/or resolve any outstanding issues.

See also Connecting Skills.

4. Plan

Think about the year ahead - 2016 and start doing some planning.

  • Holidays – plan them now. Do something different and make it the best yet. Shut down, turn off and enjoy your God, your friends, and your family.
  • Major events or experiences.
  • Clean your office – make an appointment with yourself. Block out plenty of time for this. Sort through your filing cabinet(s), shelves, and desk drawers. Clean out your email folders. Throw away as much as possible. Get your 2016 diary up to date.

Check out: Time Management Tips and also Life Planning for a series of BLOG posts to help you plan for your best year ever.

5. Play

Work without play makes for very dull people. Jesus came to give us "life" and life to the full - not meetings, programs, projects or tasks, although life includes these. Stop and smell the roses. Take some time out. Do something fun. Laugh. Go for a walk. See a movie. Cook dinner for some friends. 


Living in the End Times

1peterThe apostle Peter wrote this back in the first century:

1 Peter 4:7-11. The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The anticipation of the end and of Jesus Christ’s return should impact our attitudes, actions and relationships.

How should we live in the “end times”?

  1. Be clear minded. We are to be wise and have a clearly defined sense of purpose. Don’t allow confusion or fuzziness into your mind. Know what’s important and focus on it. Know what’s not important and avoid it.
  2. Be self-controlled. 
  3. Pray.
  4. Love others deeply. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love forgives again and again.
  5. Be hospitable ... and not just because you have to.
  6. Use your gifts (given you by God’s grace) to serve others.
  7. Serve with all your heart. Do your very best so that God may be praised and receive glory through you.

Now that's not just good advice; it's essential living for followers of Jesus Christ.


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.5)

Courage2

5. Believe that God is with you.

Joshua 1:5, 9. “I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you … God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

Joshua was promised God's constant, personal, un-ending presence - “I will be with you; I won’t give up on you, I won’t leave you.” For his next step, the step after that, and every step he would ever take! 

Jesus also promises us as his followers his personal presence. He is: Immanuel = “God with us”. It's guaranteed. We don't have to ask him for it. We can simply thank him for it.

Jesus' presence means we also have his power and everything we need!

WHAT is calling out your courage right now? Take a moment and share one challenge you’re facing right now with a friend and then pray for one another – speak words of life, faith and blessing. 

Pray for fresh courage. 


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.4)

Courage2

4. Don’t walk alone. 

Joshua 1:2. “Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people.”

Joshua's journey was not a solitary journey. It was a community walking together. Joshua was moving forward with the elders, the leadership community, and all of Israel.

He challenged them to help each other (Joshua 1:12-15). They were to stick together. Unity was vital. Discord, division or dissent in the ranks would threaten their future. They were many tribes (diversity) - but ONE nation (unity).

In the same way, Jesus' church is ONE body with many members - different but united. “United we stand - divided we fall.” We face the same dangers today - disunity, internal fighting, and division. How we view the 'other' is vital. It's so easy to say, "Those young people ..." or "Those old people ..." or that ministry or that group. But them is us! It’s about WE not ME. It's about turning from competition to co-operation by honouring each other.

Leaders are to be in partnership together with others - supporting each other. Leadership can be lonely at times but no one is meant to walk alone. Adversity doesn’t destroy people but rather lack of encouragement. We all need “safe” people in our world who can ask us, “How are you ... really?”

I am so thankful for my wife Nicole and our family, along with friends, team members and associates in ministry who are such a support and encouragement to me as a leader. They help provide perspective, insight, and wisdom in my journey. Even Jesus had 12 others who he did life and ministry with. When you have a TEAM, together everyone achieves more. 

Don't walk alone.

[Part 5 tomorrow]


HOME - Serve

Home

Today’s message draws inspiration from the story of a relatively unknown woman named Dorcas (or Tabitha) from the first century church (Acts 9:36-43). She probably didn't think of herself as that significant, but she impacted the lives of many people through her faithful service.

Inspiration from the Life of Dorcas

Her Conversion

The story begins with a description of Dorcas as a “disciple” of Jesus (Acts 9:36). Somewhere along her journey she had heard of Jesus and had become a Christian. We know that the good news about Jesus spread over time from the Jewish community in Jerusalem out to various Grecians or Hellenists. Dorcas heard and responded. This resulted in a ‘conversion’ in her life – a transformation from the inside out.

Conversion can be described as ‘waking up’ to God and the life he has for us. Some people have an ‘alarm clock’ conversion (like Paul on the way to Damascus) while others simply find themselves gradually awake to the love and grace of God. Either way, conversion usually involves (1) Admitting our need for God, (2) Believing in Jesus, and (3) Choosing to follow him. When we do that, a transformation occurs that changes everything. That’s what happened to Dorcas and it can happen for us too.

Her Compassion

Dorcas’ conversion immediately released amazing compassion within her for the needs she saw around her. We are told that she was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). In the same way that Jesus had been moved by compassion when he went out and saw multitudes of people wandering aimlessly (Matt.9:35-37), Dorcas’ eyes were open to the needs in her own world. In this context, it was some widows in the local community, who may have been left destitute without husband or even children, thereby being vulnerable and open to abuse.  

To be compassionate means to suffer or feel with another person. It means to be moved by the needs, hurts or challenges of another. What do we see today? Who do we see today? What crises in our own world calls forth a response of compassion from us?

Her Contribution

Dorcas didn't just feel sorry for people nor allow her emotion to overwhelm or paralyse her. She translated her emotion into action, her compassion into contribution. She started “doing good” and actually “helping the poor” (Acts 9:36), and she made robes and other clothing for many widows (Acts 9:39). Jesus’ brother James would later write, “Faith without works is dead!” (James 2:20).

We can’t do everything but we can all do something. Dorcas didn't write a book or preach a sermon. She did what she was able to do – with what was in her hand. There are so many ways to contribute today - giving money to people or the work of the church; giving food, drink or clothing to the needy; showing hospitality to newcomers; visiting those who are sick or in prison; helping orphans or widows; doing good to our enemies and those who hate us; or using our gifts to serve others. Jesus calls his disciples to a life of contribution not consumerism!

Her Courage

We can’t assume that life was easy for Drocas. She was a woman, which was not a favourable identity in the first century Roman Empire. She was possibly a widow herself, as we have no mention of a husband or of any family members. If so, her own life would have required great courage, persistence, determination and tenacity. You will also notice that she was “always” doing good and helping the poor. A single serve or a one off offer to help is quite easy but serving for the long haul – day in, day out – that takes courage!

Living for Jesus requires courage today. We all have our own challenges and personal limitations that we have to rise above. Even when we do choose to serve, it’s so easy over time to become weary in doing good. Like Dorcas, may we take up our cross daily, pick up the towel and faithfully serve others in need as Jesus has called us to.

Her Connection

Dorcas didn’t do all of this alone or in isolation. She served in, for and with the church community she was a part of. When she died, people grieved – not only because she had served them, but because she was known and loved by the people she did life together with.

If you or I disappeared, who would miss us? Would there be tears? What would people say? What kind of eulogy would our life evoke from other people in our world? We live in such a fragmented society – crowded yet lonely in so many ways. Church provides one of the best places to find and be part of a community and experience a real sense of HOME. Belonging is a primal human need. Our brains are wired to connect socially. We long to belong yet that requires “being long” with people - doing life together over an extended period of time.

Conclusion

The story of Dorcas inspires us in our life of serving as disciples of Jesus. I don't think Dorcas woke up one morning thinking, “Today, I am going to do some sewing, then I’ll pass out and die, then Pete is going to come running and raise me from the dead - and then I’ll be in the Bible for 1000’s of years and have great influence!” Dorcas was simply a faithful and somewhat ordinary woman who decided to follow Jesus and take the call of discipleship very seriously. In the end, she had an extraordinary impact on those around her ... and here we are 2,000 years later, talking about her.

Dorcas’ friends celebrated her miraculous resurrection from the dead through Peter’s prayer (Acts 9:40-41). A miracle occurs when the world is not left to itself but when something supernatural intervenes into the natural order. Miracles come in many disguises – an inner conversion through faith in Jesus, compassion moving to contribution to the needs of others, courage rising above challenges, and deep friendship and connection in a world of selfishness and isolation.

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. If you are a Christian, reflect on your own conversion story of “waking up” to Jesus. Ask other Christians to share their story with you too.
  2. Read this story of theological students stepping over a sick man to present their ideas about the Good Samaritan. Reflect on what we can learn from this story about living a life of compassion. Visit this web site for additional ideas.
  3. If you volunteer in a ministry (inside or outside the church), reflect on your experiences – especially the joys and rewards of contribution through serving.
  4. In what way does serving require courage? What are some keys to keeping enthusiastic about serving (either at home, work, church or the local community) over the long haul? How do we handle seasons of discouragement and/or weariness?
  5. In such a large church community we are faced with the challenge of helping people connect in a meaningful manner. Thinkl about what it takes to move beyond the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to belonging and having a genuine sense of connection.

How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.3)

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3. Follow God’s instructions. 

Joshua 1:8. “Don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed."

God have given Moses the ‘book of the law’ to guide them. When we hear the word 'law' we often think of legalism or rules. But to Israel, the Torah was a revelation of God’s character and it contained principles for maintaining a loving, covenant relationship with God. His commands were always “for their good”. Joshua was to read, meditate, study, and obey God's instructions. Only then would he know success in his mission. It was easy for him to drift. God's instructions provided a compass and a map for his journey.

Jesus commanded his followers to “Go and make disciples … teaching them to DO all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). Today, in addition to the Old Testament and the lessons we can learn from it's stories, we have the Gospels which contain the stories and teachings of Jesus about how to live LIFE in the kingdom. The Christian life is about “life before death” not just “life after death”!

By reading God's Word, as contained in the Scriptures, we can regularly re-calibrate our lives. It is so easy to end up with a culturized form of Christianity that looks nothing like Jesus. God’s Word provides us with encouragement, direction, and wisdom for our lives. It is our “daily bread”. One good meal once a week, no matter how nutricious and delicious, won’t get you through the week! In the same way, no weekly sermon will feed you spiritually. Learn to be a “self-feeder”. 

[Part 4 tomorrow]


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.2)

Courage2

2. Face your challenges.

Joshua 1:6, 9. “Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors … Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged.”

God said to Joshua three times, “Be strong & courageous!” He must have known that challenges were ahead - rivers to cross, cities to conquer, and giants to defeat. Between every promise and its fulfilment there is a battle! He had to possess his inheritance. The reality was that this was a momentus, risky, humanly impossible task. Joshua was leading a group of nomadic herders to take fortified cities! The fears were very real. 

In the same way, the Jesus Mission will take courage to face the inevitable challenges. As I travel from time to time and talk to church leaders all around the world, in the midst of many good things happening, everyone has challenges! Leaders are a bit like ducks - they often look calm on the sufrare ... but they are paddling like mad underneath!

Challenges have the potential to develop resilience in us. The hard times make us strong. Great leaders navigate great challenges. Challenges are the crucible where greatness emerges. The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is the same word for ‘opportunity’. What do you see?

[See more Quotes about Courage]

In their book Finding the Courage to Lead, leadership experts Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner note that leadership doesn’t happen without courage. In fact, leadership can be defined as “courage in action.” Courage is not being fearless so much as it is being able to control one’s fear. Courage requires making a choice in the face of adversity. It is situational and personal. All the stories they research about moments of courage involved hardship, struggle, challenge, or suffering. Everyone has moments of courage. They are not necessarily monumental, life and death struggles. More often they involve meaningful encounters with everyday challenges (taking a stand, making a tough choice, quitting a job, caring deeply enough to act). Courage is not just for heroes after all. It may be precious but it is not rare. It is within you. You may not call on it very often, but its there when you need it.

WHAT is calling out your courage right now? Time pressures, family, finances, conflict, health, coping with change, work, fatigue, habits, negative emotions, keeping fresh? What courageous conversations do you need to have? With other people? With yourself (about your values, challenges, your fears)?

Don’t run!

Don’t ignore them!

Don’t be afraid !

Don’t be discouraged …

FACE your challenges head on … You can do this!

[Part 3 tomorrow]


Four Kinds of Churches

Churchmuseum

There are four kinds of churches in the world today:

  1. The Museum Church. They are old and beautiful but empty (like the picture above). No one goes there. They are showpieces of past. Sadly, there is no spiritual vitality within their ancient walls.
  2. The Maintenance Church. These churches are a little better. They are almost empty ... but hanging on. Their mission is to survive, to maintain amidst the many drastic social changes. They refuse to change, members are dying off. Sadly, they too will soon become a Museum Church.
  3. The Ministry Church. These churches pursue Christian ministry to people within their walls. They have a full calendar of activities … Sunday worship (with free coffee and donuts), Bible studies, prayer meetings, good youth group, weekly choir, holiday services, summer camps, fellowship dinners. A quality staff of loving pastors and devoted members deliver its full-service programs. But there is no contact with people outside the church. They would rather stay securely this side of the Jordan than to cross into uncharted territory and engage in conversation.
  4. The Mission Church. These kinds of churches offer full service ministry, caring for their members, AND they reach out to serve their community, their city and other nations - sharing the good news of Jesus and taking his command to GO seriously. They go OUT the church door and INTO the world (locally and globally). They are actively crossing the street and going into the world.

What kind of church is yours?


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.1)

Courage2

Last night at our church leader's meeting, I shared some thoughts from the life of Joshua as an encouragement for us to be courageous leaders today. Here is a summay:

Joshua 1:1-9. After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses ‘assistant:  "Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I'm giving to the People of Israel. I'm giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on – just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River - all the Hittite country - and then west to the Great Sea. 

It's all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going.

And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed. Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take. [The Message Bible]

This is a new day for Israel. Over 600 years have passed since the promise of land was given to Abraham. But now the next stage of the adventure begins! The long awaited moment - a dream becoming reality. God commissions Joshua afresh for the task ahead …

1. Accept your God-given mission.

Joshua 1:2, 7. “Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people … Give it everything you have, heart and soul …”

God’s eternal purposes are outworked through the generations of the righteous. Each generatiopn has three tasks: (1) reach back and receive their inheritance and heritage from the previous generation, (2) run their own race by serving their generation, and (3) passing the baton to the next generation. God’s promises to Abraham included a promised land. Moses helped deliver Israel out of Egypt. Now it is Joshua’s time - move forward, get going, cross the river, let go of the past and embrace the future. Joshua was challenged to embrace his calling - wholeheartedly (vs.7) - to accept his mission.

The Jesus Mission as contained in the Great Commission (Mt.28. Acts 1:8) is a similar moment. This comprehensive, holistic mission was given to 11 people! They were a bit slow to get going, but eventually they did … and there's still more to do! “Cross the Jordan” is similar to “Go into all world.”

Jesus wants every church to be a Mission Church and every Christian living their life "on mission".

What about you? What is your personal calling and contribution to the Jesus mission? What has God asked YOU to do? What’s your primary calling? Fulfil your ministry. Focus on your assignment. Get clarity on this.  

The well-known movie series Mission Impossible begins with a mission invitation: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it .... is ..."

Put aside any doubts, fears or uncertainties and accept your God-given mission. Maybe for the first time ... maybe for the hundredth time! Say “YES” again.

It's time for “ALL in!”

[Part 2 tomorrow]


Remembrance Day 2015

 Re

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. 

Every year, on 11 November at 11 am – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – Australia pauses to remember those men and women who have died or suffered in all wars, conflicts and peace operations since the beginning of the 20th century.

All Australians are encouraged to pause all activities and meetings this morning at 11 am for a minute of silence in respect of those who have given their lives for our nation and our freedoms.

For more details, visit the Australian War Memorial web site or The Department of Veteran Affairs.

Here is a brief history from the Australian Government website:

History of Remembrance Day

At 5am on 11 November 1918, three German government representatives accepted the Armistice terms presented to them by an allied commander, General Foch of the French Army. The demands of the Armistice included the withdrawal of German forces to the east bank of the Rhine within 30 days; immediate cessation of warfare; and surrender of the German fleet and all heavy guns with no further negotiations until the signing of the peace treaty.

The armistice became effective at 11am the same day, and as the guns fell silent on the Western Front in France and Belgium, four years of hostilities ended.

The cease-fire was made permanent the following year when members of the Commonwealth and the League of Nations signed the Treaty of Versailles. People across the world celebrated the war's end - celebrations tempered by thoughts of the enormous suffering and loss of life resulting from the War.

World War I began in 1914 and lasted for four years. More than 416 000 Australians volunteered for service in World War I. Of these, 324 000 served overseas. More than 60 000 Australians were killed, including 45 000 who died on the Western Front in France and Belgium and more than 8 000 who died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. As well as Australian soldiers, many nurses in the Australian Army Nursing Service served on the Western Front. These nurses worked in overcrowded hospitals for up to 16 hours a day, looking after soldiers with shocking injuries and burns. Those who worked in hospitals close to the fighting were also in danger of being shelled by the enemy.

In Australia and other allied countries, including New Zealand, Canada and the United States, 11 November became known as Armistice Day - a day to remember those who died in World War I. The day continues to be commemorated in Allied countries.

After World War II the Australian Government agreed to the United Kingdom's proposal that Armistice Day be renamed Remembrance Day to commemorate those who were killed in both World Wars. Today the loss of Australian lives from all wars and conflicts is commemorated on Remembrance Day.

In October 1997 the then Governor-General issued a Proclamation declaring 11 November as Remembrance Day - a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have died for Australia in wars and conflicts.

The Proclamation reinforced the importance of Remembrance Day and encouraged all Australians to renew their observance of the event.


Blinkist - a Great Personal Growth App

Blinkist-offerHave you ever noticed that there is so much to learn and so little time! We live in an age of informaiton overload. We don't lack knowledge, just the ability to process it sufficiently and make meaning out of it all.

Learning how to read more effectively can be a help as can book summaries.  

Recently, I came across an App called Blinkist. Blinkist takes great works of non-fiction and distills them into powerful, made-for-mobile units. The blinks, 2-minute-reads built around memorable key messages, give you the main concepts of an entire book in 15 minutes. Choose audio or text.

Why not try their 3 day trial and see how you like it. Just sign up for 3 days of unlimited access to our library, no strings attached. Download Blinkist from the iTunes store, the GooglePlay store or the website.

Blinkist is a great tool to help you never stop learning. I highly recommend it. 

See also:


When Troubles Come Your Way

Roller-coasterHave you ever been on a scary roller-coaster ride? Your blood pressure is up, your heart is racing fast, and your stomach is feeling wheezy! In the midst of the thrill of it all, the joy is in knowing how it will end … as you safely return to terra firma. Life can be a lot like that. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, moments of stress and moments of peace. The joy is in knowing what’s ahead.

Jesus’ brother James puts it this way:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is a fully developed, you will be a perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4. NLT

James tells us to consider it an opportunity for joy when we face troubles and trials of various kinds. Why? Because we know that the testing of our faith develops endurance. Endurance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What we need during this time is “wisdom” – an ability to see and respond to life’s situations from God’s perspective. Ask God and he will give it to you generously. When you ask, believe and don’t doubt. Doubters are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Double-minded unstable people won’t receive anything from the Lord.

Lessons:

1. You can’t be mature without having a spirit of endurance that refuses to quit or give up. This enduring quality is the mark of maturity. Once you have this, you are complete, not lacking anything. Immaturity demands for everything to go well all the time and for no delays!

2. The only thing that produces this kind of endurance is the testing of our faith. Things like delays, contradictions, unanswered prayers and disappointments. Untested faith will not develop this important quality.

3. Therefore, we should so value endurance that we consider it a joy when we go through troubles that test our faith! Joy is only possible if we keep the end in mind (Hebrews 12:1-2), just like that scary roller coaster ride. The joy comes from knowing how it will end!

4. What we need during these times is “wisdom” – seeing and responding to life from God’s perspective. Thankfully, God offers to gives us plenty of it if we simply ask him. But don’t doubt when you ask.

5. Always pray and ask in faith without allowing doubt to settle in your heart. Doubting people are double-minded and unstable. God doesn’t answer this kind of person’s prayers.

If you’re feeling afraid or uncertain right now, hang on. God is in control and he is holding you in the palm of his hand. He’ll give you all the wisdom you need. Simply ask him for it.


Walk Together Australia

Walk-together-2013

This coming weekend in locations all across our nation, hundreds of people will walk together to say welcome to newly arrived Australians and people seeking asylum. An annual event, #WalkTogether is a time for all of us to come together in unity and communicate the clear message that all people are equally valuable and deserving of dignity. It is a message of generous welcome and a practical display of Jesus’ beautiful call to neighbour love.  

Constantly we are faced with children suffering in detention and people being abused and dying. But in Jesus Christ we know that the victory is his. That in the end compassion and love will win and that our fight for the safety of all people seeking asylum will be vindicated. #WalkTogether is a wonderful moment to celebrate the justice that we know will come and to share in God's ways of welcome and embrace.

For more information, visit the Welcome to Australia web site.


Church Unite 2015

CNWhat a terrific time we had together last Sunday afternoon and evening as Christians from over 200 churches in Melbourne gathered together for worship and prayer at the Melbourne Convention Centre, lifting up the name of Jesus over our city.

Brendan Nottle from the Salvation Army reminded us of some of the inspiring stories from the early days of the foundation of Melbourne as a city. After an extended time of worship, we took time to pray for three relevant areas: the well-being of Indigenous Australians, the important matter of domestic violence, and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. As we listen, we learn, and then we position ourselves to love as God loves.

A special thanks to the many volunteers who invested hours of their time to make this such a wonderful event this year.

One of Jesus' final prayers was about the unity of his followers which would aid their mission in the world (John 17). May we continue to unite as followers of Jesus, regardless of our church or denominational name, focusing on what we have in common rather than our minor differences. As we do, God will command his blessing on us and our world (Psalm 133).

Mark your diaries - next year's Church Unite will be on Sunday, 16 October, 2016

I hope to see you there!


A Call to Courage

Courage wordle

The apostle Paul finished his letter to the church at Corinth, which was facing many challenges at the time, both internally and externally ...

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians. 15:58. NLT

Bill Hybels writes this in his excllent book Courageous Leadership ... 

"No matter how difficult the hardship, no matter how long the particular storm lasts, no matter how dark and scary it gets, no matter how the winds how and the waves crash … choose the path of courage. Be steadfast, immovable, endure. Decide in advance you are never going to quit. That’s courageous leadership!” 

Mary Anne Radmacher once said, "Courage doesn't always ROAR. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "

Aristotle said, "You will never do anything in this world without courage."

C.S. Lewis said, "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."

Dorothy Bernard said, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

Mark Twain said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not the absence of fear."

Victor Frankl said, "There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a person has the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer."

Napoleon said, "Courage isn't having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don't have the strength."

Winston Churchill said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." Unknown.

God said to Joshua, "Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take." Joshua 1:9. MB

Do you need to hear a call to courage today?

I do.


The Impact of Poker Machines in Australia

Pokie-machines
 
TONIGHT at 9.30pm on ABC TV, Ka-Ching Pokie Nation will screen across Australia

By all reports, it is a shocking report into the way that poker machines are placing a terrible cost on our society. There is stunning new evidence that pokie addiction functions in exactly the same way as heroin, cocaine or ice. This product has not just been licensed by the State but spread irresponsibly throughout Australia for the profit of the gambling industry, not to mention State Treasuries.

PLEASE help us lift awareness about poker machines by:
  1. Watching Ka-Ching tonight and encouraging others to watch it to. You can see and share Ka-Ching's trailer here. 
  2. Live tweeting during the event with the hashtag #kaching so that we can contribute a distinctly Christian voice to the conversation. 
  3. Stay tuned for next steps we can all take as part of an alliance of more than 40 community groups committed to addressing the problem.
“The problem we have is that [poker machines] are everywhere,” says Ms Keogh. “We’ve got 20 per cent of the worlds’ machines, and five times per capita more than the United States, and it’s really causing a lot of damage.”
 
Ms Keogh says that when it comes to poker machines, the gambling industry continues to talk about “problem gamblers”, casting blame on the user and diverting conversation away from the product itself.
 
“Roughly 30 per cent of people who play [the pokies] end up with a problem. If any other product caused 30 per cent of people to get sick we would actually look at the product rather than blaming the person,” she says.

[From Bible Society article]


Further Limitations Proposed on Religious Freedom in Victoria

 19 October 2015 | Author: Christian Schools Australia Canberra

The Victorian government is proposing amendments to the Adoption Act 1984 (Vic) which would allow same-sex couples to adopt. While such an amendment may be of concern to many within the community, of even greater concern is a further proposal within the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015 which proposes amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic).

The proposal will see the existing rights of religious bodies to act in a manner which ‘conforms with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion’ or ‘is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of the religion’ removed with respect to adoption.

This proposal goes well beyond simply allowing same sex couples to adopt, it actively requires religious bodies, regardless of doctrines and genuinely held beliefs, to participate and support such adoption. It expressly denies the freedom of conscience freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief recognised extensively in international law and notionally protected by section 14 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) on the technicality that religious bodies are organisations and not individuals, thus outside the scope of protection of the Charter. Such an approach sets a potentially dangerous precedent for families seeking to exercise their freedom of religion through a Christian school.

We understand that the Bill is to be debated in the Victorian Parliament this week. All schools are encouraged to make parents aware of the Bill and its implications for religious freedom. Parents can contact their local MP to raise concerns directly or use the link here to email your Member in the Legislative Assembly, together with your Legislative Council representatives (where applicable) if you so choose.

Note: 

Please act now to prevent erosion of our religious freedoms. There is concern that if the proposed amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act gets through without too much of a fuss being raised, it will pave the way for further amendments to the Equal Opportunity legislation, particularly, the forecast changes re the ‘inherent requirements’ test for staff of faith-based organizations. The same sex adoption legislation seeks to limit the religious freedom of faith based organizations.

Please join me in sending a very clear and immediate response to the politicians.

Update (Monday 16 November)

Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to your Members of Parliament regarding the attempt by the Victorian Government to amend the Equal Opportunity Act at the same time as amending the Adoptions Act. The Legislative Council has now rejected the Bill that was passed in the Legislative Assembly, and amended it to remove Clause 17 which threatened both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

This is a significant victory and will significantly strengthen the campaign to oppose the Government’s further attempts  to amend the Equal Opportunity Act, particularly with regard to the ‘inherent requirements’ test for staff of faith based organizations. 

Please refer to the link below for further information on the recent decision.

http://www.csa.edu.au/briefings/vic-tas/upper-house-ensures-key-protection-of-religious-freedom


How's Your Cultural Intelligence?

CQ-word-cloud

The apostle Paul worked hard to relate to a wide variety of people. Have a read of this from his letter to the church at Corinth in the first century:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose–living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized––whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ––but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God–saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it. Message Bible

As followers of Christ, we are to the same. This means learning to relate to people of different personalities, background, educational level, religious belief, age, gender and race. When it comes to race and nationality, we now live in a truly 'global village'. Yet people living in different localities still have their unique manners and customs.

Over the last month, for the purpose of both holidays and ministry, I have had the privilege of travelling to Russia (St Petersburg and Moscow), Sweden (Uppsala), Poland, Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi). What a whirlwind it has been yet what an enjoyable experience visiting different places and meeting different people.

Cultural differences include (noted by David Livermore):

  • Individualistic versus Collectivist.
  • Low verses High Power Distance.
  • Cooperative verses Competitive.
  • Punctuality verses Relationships.
  • Direct verses Indirect.
  • Being verses Doing. 
  • Particularist verses Universalist.
  • Neutral verses Affective.
  • Tight verses Loose.

These differences can be seen across a wide range of cultures, including Anglo, Germanic, Easter European, Asian (with many differences between regions), Latin American, African, and Arab ... just to name a few.

A simple example is my recent experience with Indigenous Australians. When two men from Western descent greet each other, after exchanging names, their next question is always something like, "So what do you do?" We derive our primary identity from our work - our doing. In contrast, when two indigenous men meet, after exchanging names, their next question is more likely to be "Who's your mob?" In other words, tell me about your family. In their culture, your family and tribe are the source of your identity - your being. What a difference this makes in how people from these two different go about their daily lives!

Not everyone will travel, like I have had the opportunity to do, but people from different cultures are everywhere around us - in our neighbourhoods, our schools, our workplaces and our churches. Everyone of us should seek to understand people who are different, so we can better love and appreciate them, do life together with them with appreciation, and share the love of Jesus with them in meaningful ways.

Every time I travel to a new place, I do a few things to prepare myself:

1. Read as much as I can about the history, demographics, and local culture. Wikipedia as well as various travel guides are a good source of up-to-date information.

2. Learn about the people - their values, language, interests, education and well-being.

3. Study various maps to understand the geographical area and it proximity to other places.

4. Read about the state of Christian faith in a particular area, as well as the other local religious beliefs. Operation World is an excellent resource for this.

I am always enriched the more I know and understand about the people I am visiting and connecting with. 

Here's some recommended further reading for those who are interested in learning more:


Church Unite - 25 October, 2015

CU

The stage is set. The countdown is on. Are you going?

The next Church Unite is only 10 days away. It's on Sunday 25th October and there are two services - 4.00 and 7.00 pm. It's a night of worship and prayer for Christians from all churches right across our great city of Melbourne and beyond.

Last year's event was fantastic with over 7,000 peopel gathering together to demonstrate and experience the power of unity. 

Don't miss this year's event. It's FREE but we do ask you to register to help us prepare for the night effectively.

A special thanks to our many sponsors, including Australians Together, World Vision, Koorong, Compassion, LIGHT FM, New Hope Baptist Church, Harvest Bible College, Stairway Church and College, Crossway Church, CityLife Church, Bayside Church, Gideons, Fluro and Melbourne Prayer Breakfast.

Here are some comments from last year's event:

  • "We found the worship amazing, and were impressed by the variety of segments and presenters, rather than simply worship followed by a speaker. It made us feel a part of something much bigger."
  • "I just wanted to thank you so much for all the work everyone put into this night! It was amazing & I enjoyed it so much. I look forward to it developing in the years to come and praying for more people to commit their life to Jesus not just in Melbourne but all around the world. I was so moved and inspired by this night. Thank you so much!"
  • "Thank you for organizing Church Unite - it is truly a significant event for the new season that is coming upon Australia!!"
  • "I was blown away, the Spirit of God was there and it was so uplifting. Can’t wait for next year!!"
  • "It was an absolute delight to look around and see such joy and unity."
  • "It gave me new insights into the place where I'm living, thanks!"

CityLife International Church - Ethiopia

Congregation Worship - Ethiopia copyI’m very excited to be in Africa for the 5th anniversary of CityLife International Church, Ethiopia. The local pastors, Paulos and Ababa Djini, have done an outstanding job planting and building this church and ministry over the last few years. They have such rapport and favour here among the people, the leaders and the nearby churches. There are now 9 CityLife congregations across the capital city of Addis Ababa and there has been extensive outreach in the rural areas, where there are still many unreached people groups.

[Picture above right: one of the local Ethiopian CityLife congregations at worship]

I spoke at 3 church services over the weekend, including the 5 year anniversary celebration. Over the next few days, I am privileged to give some spiritual input and training to the pastors, leaders and volunteers here.

CityLife International Church - Worship Team 1 copy

The congregations here are very enthusiastic, as can be seen by their energetic worship, and it is great to see so many young people passionate for God. Here are a few pictures and some short video clips of some of the weekend church services.

[Picture above left: one of the worship teams]

[Visit YouTube for some short videos of one of the congregations during worship and the enthusiastic youth section]

A special thanks to everyone from CityLife Church in Melbourne for your part in sowing into what is occurring here. Many of you have come here on teams (short or long term, on a ministry or medical team), and/or have prayed, and/or have given financially to the work here. I can assure you that it has been a wise investment and that the fruit is good.

AddisEthiopia is such a strategic country in Africa today with over 95 million people, 70% of them under the age of 30. In the past it has been hit by war with nearby Somalia and Eritrea, while HIV AIDS and poverty still affects many people. Over 90% of the population make a living from agriculture, making the economy so dependent on the weather seasons. At the same time, Addis Ababa is emerging as a vibrant global city, with over 3 million people. Foreign interest and investment is increasing due to the relative peace and stability of this region. Interestingly, Ethiopia just celebrated their new year in September and it is the year 2008 here!

Please join me in continuing to pray for Citylife International Church here in Ethiopia - for its leaders and people - that they will continue to have a positive impact on this country and beyond. 

[Picture above right is Addis Ababa from the air and the picture below is Paulos Djini at the 5 year anniversary]

Paulos Djini - 5th Anniversary