Monday, December 31, 2012

Vision & Hope For The New Year

At the close of 2012, I celebrate the extraordinary impact God has had on the lives of a number of new members of our congregation.  Below is a New Year's message from Sharyn sent tonight via text to all her friends.  Sharyn is a bright light in our church who has emerged out of a past of hurt and brokenness through rediscovering her faith.  She has a vibrant personality, a passionate spirituality and can't help but to share the hope that she has found in Christ Jesus.

Sharyn's message (inspired by Scripture and Joyce Meyer) shared with her permission for your encouragement:

People who have a sad past need to be able to believe in a bright future - Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is no vision, people will perish.

A vision is something we see in our mental minds - "a mental sight " as one definition puts it - it may be something God plants in us supernaturally or something we see on purpose. It involves the way we think about our past, our our future, and ourselves.

Some people are afraid to believe God for a vision. They think they may be setting themselves up for disappointment.  They have not yet realized they will be perpetually disappointed if they do not believe.  If I am describing you, remember this truth - it does not cost anything to believe!  You're better off, feeling on purpose, like believing for a lot and get even half of it, than believing for nothing & getting all of nothing!

I challenge you this new year to come along side me & start believing me that something good is going to happen to us out of all this pain, hurt & emotional stress that we've all experienced recently or been ongoing.  Ask God for a vision to pursue, and believe you can do whatever you need to in life through Christ - DO NOT have a "give-up-easily" attitude!  Let your faith Soar!

Be creative with your thoughts, either using materials like scrapbooking, journaling or paint or drawings or magazine clippings & take an inventory of what you NEED your life to look like or need to achieve (need is better than wanting, as needing to get better is stronger & far out ways the want!) - I myself found this out the hard way only this week! And it's okay if you're not artistic either - just doodle something & have fun! (although remember it needs to relate to your hopes, dreams & goals) - & nothing's too big!!  Remember to dream again & believe as our future is so bright!! 

Ask yourself - "what have I been believing lately?"  An honest answer may help you understand why you have not been receiving what you have wanted to receive.  Allow God's redemptive revelation to lead you away from the dead ends of your life and give you a vision & new hope for your future!

Have a happy & safe new year & looking forward to seeing all the progresses in which we all can make if we chose to this new year!  

Love Sharyn x x x

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Passionate Resolution

This morning, on this penultimate day of 2012, we finished the year the same way we commenced it at the Noarlunga Salvation Army by revisiting my New Years Day message I preached at the beginning of the year - Pursuing a Passion for the LORD, the LOST, LIFE and LEADERSHIP.

I commenced the year by putting out each of these passions as resolutions for our congregation to pursue during 2012.  Today, we took time to reflect on the same passions and review their intensity and impact throughout the year.

Pursue a passion for the LORD
Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  (Matthew 22:37)

How has your relationship with Jesus deepened over the past twelve months?

Pursue a passion for the LOST
Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."  (Luke 19:10)

Who have you led to salvation or helped progress along their faith journey this year?

Pursue a passion for LIFE
Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  (John 10:10)

When have you made time in your schedule to invest in your own well being?

Pursue a passion for LEADERSHIP
"To prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."  (Ephesians 4:12)

What training or development opportunities have you engaged in to equip you for ministry?

For you and the church to effectively participate in God's redemptive plan and fulfill His vision for our lives we need to be a people who are...
  • Passionately pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Passionately seeking those who are not-yet-saved
  • Passionately living to the full the life God intended for us
  • Passionately committed to developing and utilising our spiritual gifts
As we reflect on the year past and look to the year ahead, let us resolve to continue pursuing a passion for the LORD, the LOST, LIFE and LEADERSHIP in 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Not Only Christmas Day


Lord, this is my prayer
Not only on Christmas Day
But until I see You face to face
May I live my life this way:

Just like the baby Jesus
I ever hope to be,
Resting in Your loving arms
Trusting in Your sovereignty.

And like the growing Christ child
In wisdom daily learning,
May I ever seek to know You
With my mind and spirit yearning.

Like the Son so faithful
Let me follow in Your light,
Meek and bold, humble and strong
Not afraid to face the night.

Nor cowardly to suffer
And stand for truth alone,
Knowing that Your kingdom
Awaits my going home.

Not afraid to sacrifice
Though great may be the cost,
Mindful how You rescued me
From broken-hearted loss.

Like my risen Saviour
The babe, the child, the Son,
May my life forever speak
Of who You are and all You've done.

So while this world rejoices
And celebrates Your birth,
I treasure You, the greatest gift
Unequalled in Your worth.

I long to hear the same words
That welcomed home Your Son,
"Come, good and faithful servant,"
Your Master says, "Well done."

And may heaven welcome others
Who will join with me in praise
Because I lived for Jesus Christ
Not only Christmas Day

Written by Mary Fairchild

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Source Of Hope

In response to recent personal reflections I've written about the source of hope we are promoting this Christmas and a prompting by the Holy Spirit, we refocused our Christmas Carol service today to give an unmistakable message of hope found in Christ this Christmas.  We invited four amazing people from our Celebrate Recovery congregation whose lives have been radically transformed to share the hope they have found in Jesus at our Christmas Carol Service tonight.

Cheryl spoke about the brokenness of her past: "September four years ago I was an alcoholic, drug addict, smoker and I was very lonely, clinically depressed and suicidal - especially at birthdays - and Christmas.  I was in trouble with the police due to bad company."  She then shared the hope she has found in Jesus:  "I've been forgiven for the sinful life I used to live.  I've found freedom in Christ Jesus who loves me and accepts me for who I am.  Jesus gives me hope for eternal life in heaven...My Christmas gift to you is to share this good news...God has made a mighty transformation in my life.  If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you my friends will be able to move mountains."

Jayne shared about a life of abuse and depression that led to a battle with self-harming:  "When I was a child I withdrew into a shell as I couldn't deal with my brother physically abusing me...I was sexually assaulted at high school and when I told my mother I felt she didn't really believe me...I had my daughter in 1990 who I instantly bonded with, then I had my son in 1992 when I developed post-natal depression and started self-harming after a stay at Glenside."  Despite the demons she has been fighting all her life, Jayne found freedom in Christ:  "In 2004 I went to jail for five weeks after a series of events that made me very frustrated towards the public health system...I still believe that time in jail was probably the most valuable learning time in my life; it has shown me the difference between the freedom that the world offers and the freedom that Christ gives by his death and resurrection."

Lynne bravely stepped up and shared her story after a long "struggle with anxiety, stress, agoraphobia and codependency...On 21st September 2010 during the week of prayer in the prayer room at Huntfield Heights with Deb I allowed God into my heart and became a Christian.  After this momentous occasion I found many things on my journey were a lot clearer and easier to understand...I really want to tell you that no matter how far you have travelled on your journey you will always have stones and pebbles to trip you up, but as long as you have your faith you can get through the troubles...I was once asked what I feel at this point in time and I answered, 'the feeling of achievement that I feel for this journey of healing is like that of a child that has just started to walk.  I am up and walking and now I want to explore.'"

Dale's journey of faith has led him down an unexpected pathway of terminal illness:  "In August last year I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.  As you can imagine, this has turned life upside down not only for me but for my family and friends also.  As my condition has progressed I have had to come to terms with a number of things, including having to leave my work, having to take multiple medications and the prospect of a shortened life span...Where does hope fit into this.  Perhaps if I borrow the words of an old hymn - "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."  I talk about hope because of the reason we are here together singing carols today.  There is a saying, 'Jesus is the reason for the season.'  Jesus is why I can talk about hope...I know people all over the world have been praying for me over the last year or so.  Many have been praying I will be healed.  I know I will be healed, whether that is during my time on earth or when I am in that place we call heaven where there will be no sickness."

Each story, while different, spoke of a common theme of hope that was found through Jesus Christ amidst their brokenness.  These testimonies of hope put flesh on the carols we sung about Emmanuel - God with us.  These testimonies fulfilled the missing dimension of Christmas I spoke about in my previous posts:  The White Elephant of Christmas, Christmas Expectations, Christmas Hope.  While I don't know what impact these testimonies had on the faith journey of those gathered tonight, I do know that there was no mistaking the source of hope in our message this Christmas!

"Hope is a candle.  A light in the window showing the way for a heart to come home.   Hope is a Saviour  who was born in the manger, sent down from Heaven to rescue our hearts - Our Christmas hope" (Newsong)

Friday, December 21, 2012

End Times

I've been fascinated by all the attention the Mayan end of the world prediction has attracted from a society that would otherwise be indifferent to biblical prophecy.  While many of us have poked a bit of fun at the imminent apocalypse, I wonder how many of us are really aware that we are indeed living in end times?  The Bible speaks of a time when Jesus will return and the world as we know it will come to an end.  A fundamental difference between Mayan prophecy and biblical prophecy is that no one actually knows the time and date when Christ will return.  But when He does return, there will be no mistaking it, as "every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" (Philippians 2:10)

Have a read of these insightful thoughts that fellow blogger and Salvation Army Officer Lieutenant David Jones had to say about the subject earlier this week: 


In his blog, David reminds us that "We need to remain alert and ready for what WILL happen.  One day, our mocking and self-assurance and arrogance will backfire and we will each ultimately be responsible for our preparation for it...What if today was your last day here on this earth, would you be ready?"  

I, for one, want to participate in the world's readiness during these end times for the return of Jesus, not through mockery or scare mongering, as has been associated with the Mayan prophecy. But by actively sharing the good news that Jesus loves this world and has an eternal plan of renewal for His creation. I want everyone to know this plan so they too can participate in God's will, as declared by Jesus:   "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The White Elephant Of Christmas

There is a stirring in my spirit I cannot shake and a discontent in my soul I cannot silence.  I am struggling to share the joy of my colleagues who are celebrating 6,000 people who have been assisted with toys and hampers in South Australia this Christmas in the absence of any recorded statistics of those we have assisted getting saved.  Everywhere I look I see our message of "hope" buried deep within a campaign calling upon our community to provide the resources we have convinced ourselves will bring hope this Christmas.  Somehow we have traded our prophetic calling to proclaim the Messiah for a cultural expectation to perpetuate the materialism of Christmas.  There is no doubt the presents we distribute will bring joy for a moment, but that hardly compares to the presence of Christ who brings joy for eternity.  

Our publicity and programming for this season centres around how much money we can raise by feeding off the insanity that drives people into shopping centres to spend money they can't afford.  From the giver to the receiver, the only people who seem to really benefit from the "hope" we offer this Christmas are the retailers.  The paradox is that society is being sucked into a vortex of spending, stress and social expectations that is drawing them further away from the things they really hope for at Christmas.  In a genuine attempt to fill a void at Christmas time we seem to be inadvertently magnifying the things people don't have instead of magnifying the One they could have!

Maybe my perception of our message this Christmas is overstated or generalised, but the uncomfortable truth is that I think it is closer to reality than we are prepared to speak out.  There is an enormous 'white elephant' sitting in the middle of our Christmas outreach endeavours that is largely being ignored or justified away.  I hope this provocative reflection stimulates robust discussion among all Christ followers to have the courage to acknowledge the 'white elephant' and challenge the status quo of how we do Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Who's My Neighbour?

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Who's My Neighbour?
Whatever our context of leadership, there is a common humanity that transcends religious, cultural, political and economic boundaries.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Racial Division

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Racial Division
Leaders must face the challenge of digging beneath the facade of tolerance to create an environment of genuine acceptance.

Monday, December 17, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Discovering Your Purpose

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Discovering Your Purpose
Discovering your vocation or mission is like having the fuel that drives an engine.

Featured Blog - Major Marney Turner

It's All About Jesus:  The Grace of Jesus...The Truth of Jesus...The Love of Jesus
http://jesusrevival.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/the-grace-of-jesus-truth-of-jesus-love.html

Gospel Of Hate?

I'm writing this post while watching a Louis Theroux documentary on ABC about the "most hated family" in America who are members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in the USA.  They are known for their offensive ministry that preaches God's hatred and judgement against anyone or anything they interpret as an affront to the Word of God.  With placards like - "God Hates Fags" - "Pray for More Dead Soldiers" - "God Hates You" - "You're Going to Hell" - they picket funerals and public places with their gospel of hate.

As a student of theology I am often engaged in discussion with people who interpret Scripture differently, but never have I encounted such an extreme misinterpretation of the Word of God that is so opposite to the established character of God, who is presented in the Bible as a God of love.  

Every action of God from the Fall of humanity to the Cross of Christ was to bring people back into relationship with God, whereas the actions of this church repel people from God.  The gospel of John teaches that "For God so loved the world...For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."  Whereas, the gospel that Westboro Baptist Church teaches says God hates the "world" and condemns it to hell.  Jesus demonstrated his love for "sinners" by doing life with them and creating community, whereas this church demonstrates a lifestyle that divides communities.

A "gospel of hate" is not only offensive to the world, but I am convinced that it is offensive to the Creator of this world also!  Any doubt or confusion about the core message of the bible and the character of God, as manifested through Jesus, can be put to rest through the revolutionary words and the relational ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by all four gospel writers.  Their eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus (the incarnational presence of God) promote a gospel of love, not a gospel of hate.

While this documentary evokes all sorts of strong emotions as I see God and his Church so grossly misrepresented, I know that hate can only be conquered by love.  For it was Jesus who said the very opposite to Westboro Baptist Church, "You have heard that it was said,‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:43-45)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Expectations

Expectations are a powerful force that have the ability to drive human beings to greatness or cripple them from realising their full potential. Leadership author Stephen M.R. Covey highlights the life altering impact of expectations in his book 'The Speed of Trust' - "We tend to get what we expect - both from ourselves and from others. When we expect more, we tend to get more; when we expect less, we tend to get less." 

As a leader I understand first hand the tension between my own expectations and those of others and the conflict that is created when those expectations are violated by either party. There is much that could be discussed about expectations from a leadership perspective, but Christmas offers us many other conflicting expectations that are worthy of discussion. 

From a historical perspective, Jesus was born into a culture that expected the Messiah to be a warrior who would come and overthrow the Roman Empire, liberating the Jews from oppression. Yet, he came into the world as a baby, born to a virgin in humble and vulnerable circumstances. While he did indeed come to save the world, the manner in which he lived and died defied the expectations of those who awaited the promised Messiah.  

The birth narratives of Jesus recorded in Matthew and Luke provide the backdrop for this season we celebrate called Christmas and feature in traditional Christmas carols. Yet, the birth of Christ is conspicuously missing from many of our modern Christmas festivities and songs.  The absence of Christ from Christmas outrages the expectations of the Church, while the presence of Christ offends the expectations of a secular community.

This sacred season that evokes expectations of peace, hope, love and joy has evolved into a commercially driven season that is more commonly defined by busyness, stress, over-eating and over-spending.  Expectations of gift buying, family gatherings, and holiday schedules have distorted our expectations of a season that is far from being a time of peace, hope, love and joy.

It seems the further our expectations of Christmas move from their origins, the greater the conflict arises from a misalignment of those expectations.  Just like the misaligned expectations around the coming Messiah, our Christmas expectations run the risk of completely missing the point of a season that offers everything, but delivers far less.  Maybe if we choose to defy the expectations of what Christmas has become, we will rediscover what it was intended to be and experience the life transforming expectations of a God who entered into our world through Jesus Christ.  Maybe if we choose to embrace God's expectation of salvation through Jesus Christ, Christmas will be restored to a season of real peace, hope, love and joy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Christmas Hope - Newsong


  "Hope is a candle

  A light in the window

  Showing the way for

  A heart to come home

  Hope is a Savior

  Who was born in the manger

  Sent down from Heaven

  To rescue our hearts

  Our Christmas hope"

Train A Child In His Ways

Tonight, as we celebrated Rebekah and Adam's graduation from primary school (year 7 in South Australia), we were filled with pride at the way our children have grown into extraordinary young people.  Their vibrant personality, positive attitude, keen social conscience, depth of spirituality and eagerness to learn are just some of the qualities that evoke such pride and joy.  

As parents of twins (hard to believe given the height diffence now) we knew we were blessed with two incredible gifts from God from the day they were born and have seen that blessing manifested through every stage of their lives. I can honestly say that parenting has been an absolute joy, despite the challenges, as we have done our best to nurture and raise what has been entrusted to our care.  Every night we pray the same prayer with our children:  That God would "protect them from harm and help them to continue to grow and develop in body, mind and spirit."  This is our earnest desire as we seek God for their physical, mental and spiritual well-being.  While it is our parental responsibility to create the right environment and opportunities for growth, only God can make them grow.  Therefore, we look upon their growth and development to this point in their lives with awe and wonder, given our limitations as fallible human beings, and with gratitude for God's wisdom and grace.

To be frank, there is a part of me that is scared to death about High School and their teenage years, yet there is another part of me that has confidence in a faithful God who has brought us this far.  I have no idea what the future holds for Rebekah and Adam, but I continue to pray that the values upon which they have been raised will provide a solid foundation for the choices they make for their lives.  As their dominant influence shifts from their parents to their peers, we pray that they will hold fast to the faith they possess and allow the Spirit of God to guide and empower them "to continue to grow and develop in body, mind and spirit."  As for us, we hold fast to God's promise in Scripture that if we "Train up a child in the way he [she] should go: and when he [she] is old, he [she] will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6, KJV)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Hope

Reading Salvation Army Commissioner Jim Knaggs recent post Christmas Hope prompted me to share my thoughts on this same subject.  It seems that "hope" is a popular theme for various church based charity Christmas campaigns this year.

Baptist World Aid Australia - Be Hope Christmas Appeal
"In Jesus, God has given an incredible gift of hope to the world.  His love is renewing creation, bringing an end to poverty, exploitation and injustice.  As we share Jesus love and live out His hope, incredible change is taking place...extreme poverty is ending."

"We are local people, looking after local people. We believe poverty, disadvantage, old age or disability shouldn’t be the final word on someone’s life; we’re all entitled to be a part of a vibrant, positive community.  Anglicare SA is seeking help for families who are struggling this Christmas. We want to make the festive season a time of hope for all people in Adelaide, and to bring a brighter New Year to the unemployed, the homeless, the suffering and children in care."

"Today, as many families prepare to celebrate the festive season with their loved ones, please spare a thought to those people doing it tough this Christmas. Some gifts have the ability to stay with a person for life and forever change the way they see the world and how they deal with it. Hope is such a gift. At Vinnies, we see hope in the face of despair."

The Salvation Army - Hope Christmas Appeal
When hope changes lives..."Two weeks before Christmas Susan and her family finally moved into permanent housing. The house was empty, and the few pieces of furniture Susan stored in a shed had been stolen or smashed.  The family began by sleeping on the floor, until we brought around a trailer-load of furniture and an old fridge.  In the ‘lounge’ was a second-hand Christmas tree the family found. The children sat alongside it, but there were no presents. Our Salvos volunteers got to work and found presents for the three children, wrapped them and wrote the children’s names on them so Susan could put them under the tree as if Santa had brought them.  When Susan saw the presents, she just started crying because she couldn’t believe that people would care so much.  A few months later, one of the children thanked me for the presents they’d received.  He especially liked his ‘Nerf toy’, and said he had played with it every single day!  The thing that really touched my heart was that Susan had three babies who all died at birth. Each Christmas, she and her surviving children have donated three small gifts to a charity in remembrance of the babies. They did this even in the year they were living in the car.”  Your Christmas will mean more this year when you give.

While I applaud the genuine love and care expressed by each of the above mentioned agencies, their respective campaign pitch highlights a number of questions that have been troubling me this Christmas.  As a part of the body of Christ, what does our Christmas campaign promote as the source of hope?  Is our message of hope primarily material or spiritual?  Where is Jesus found in our message of hope?

I recognise and embrace the "whatever you do for the least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46) dimension of our Christian message.  I understand the alignment between our social mission and the fundamental principle of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  I know that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-26).  But how far do those we serve need to look to find the why behind the what?  How intentional are we in sharing the message behind our mission?

Out of the Christmas campaign messages of hope I've presented, I am most encouraged by the upfront declaration "In Jesus, God has given an incredible gift of hope to the world"  by Baptist World Aid Australia.  While I know little about their mission, I do know from their campaign pitch that Jesus is unmistakably their source of hope and "As [they] share Jesus love and live out His hope, incredible change is taking place...extreme poverty is ending."

Featured Blog - Commissioner Jim Knaggs

TCspeak:  Christmas Hope
http://tcspeak.com/blog/2012/12/10/christmas-hope-2/

Monday, December 10, 2012

Transformed Lives

On a night like this when there is little of interest on television, I default to our ever growing DVD library where I find myself gravitating to movies with a common theme of life transformation, reflecting one of my many passions.  There is something incredibly inspiring about movies where a teacher or a coach take a group of troubled kids and radically transform their lives.  When noone else believes, they have faith; when everyone else see overwhelming problems, they see unrealised potential; when everyone else has given up, they stay committed.


I think what attracts me to these movies is that they align with my faith perspective that no life is too broken that it can't be restored.  I passionately believe in a God who is in the business of transforming lives.  This God went to extraordinary lengths to provide a pathway to restoration through the life of Jesus Christ.  Jesus affirmed this life transforming mission when he said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10, NIV)  The fullness of life that comes through Jesus is both a present transformation and a promise of what is yet to come!

"But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him." (Philippians 3:20-21, The Message)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Have Pleasure In His Service

This weekend in the Australia Southern Territory of The Salvation Army is the commissioning and ordination of new Officers for full-time leadership and ministry.  It is a significant event that marks the beginning of a covenant "to love and serve [God] supremely all my days, to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life, to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends, to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God's grace to prove myself a worthy officer."

As I reflect back upon my own Commissioning weekend 16 years ago, I remember standing before the congregation at the Melbourne Town Hall taking turns to declare a one line testimony as we stood on the threshold of an adventure of a lifetime.  From the words penned by Ruth Tracy in The Salvation Army song book, I testified that "I have pleasure in His service, more than all, more than all."  I can say to you with the same wide-eyed confidence of a newly commissioned Officer ready to change the world, that this is as true today as it was when I first spoke it out.  The only difference between then and now is that today these words have the credibility of experience.  

So, when I say "I have pleasure in His service, more than all" it is in the context of leadership challenges, ministry failures, spiritual attacks and personal cost.  Yet, at the same time it is with a clear vision of the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit who radically transforms lives through the grace of Jesus Christ.

I have pleasure in seeing the LORD honoured and glorified
I have pleasure in seeing the LOST redeemed
I have pleasure in seeing the LIVES of broken people transformed
I have pleasure in seeing LEADERS equipped and empowered

My pleasure in His service is not conditional upon the realities of leadership and minsitry, but more than all upon an unshakeable calling and a passionate belief that I really can make a difference.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Carolling - Community Worship


As we embark on another Christmas carolling season, I was deeply moved by a Youtube clip of a flash mob performing at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach, captivating the hearts of their unsuspecting audience.  This clip reminded me that by playing or singing Christmas carols in public places we are actually facilitating a time of public worship in our community.  Think about the words of the carols we play or sing:

"O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!"
"Hark! the herald angels sing; Glory to the new-born King"
"Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King"
"Hallelujahs to our King, Jesus Christ is here"

Every year I watch shoppers stop, listen, hum or sing familiar words that are as overtly an act of worship as anything we sing in church on any given Sunday.  I wonder if the 'good feeling' and 'good will' that accompanies Christmas carol events comes from the same Spirit who inhabits the worship of every believer?  Imagine, then, the life transforming potential of such a season for those who have not yet had a relational encounter with Jesus. Imagine, also, the divine opportunities that Christmas carolling presents those who are in relationship with the Christ of Christmas. 

Let us not miss a moment this Christmas to fully engage in a season when worship is welcomed in our community!

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Accountability

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Accountability
To accept responsibility without any accountability is like making a commitment or confession without any consequences.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Necessary Endings

It seems timely that I have picked up Henry Cloud's book "Necessary Endings" again, as I approach a major transition in my leadership, preparing to leave my current appointment after 8 years of ministry.  Cloud speaks about the seasons of life and leadership and the importance of recognising when necessary endings come and how to embrace them as doorways to new beginnings.

Like with any ending of significance it is met with mixed emotions and responses.  When you invest yourself into people and programs to fulfil the vision that drives your leadership it can be difficult to release them to an unknown future.  I can only guess (as my children are still at home) that it is not that dissimilar to parents releasing their children into the unknown, after investing themselves into raising them with a vision for their future.  One has to trust that the values and vision that have been imparted are strong enough to guide future life directions and decisions.

As I face this reality of change and the uncertainty that it brings, I find myself reflecting on two verses of Scripture:

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10)

"
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 1:6)

There are many truths in these verses, but I am particularly drawn to God's faithfulness and the confidence it gives me to trust Him with what has been begun in His name.  I am just a steward of all that God has given me, including the people He entrusted to my leadership, therefore, this 'necessary ending' is not releasing God's people into the unknown, but passing the baton of stewardship onto another anointed leader.

"God is not unjust; he will not forget" the values and vision that have been imparted, so I can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work...will carry it on to completion."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Fire Draws Fire

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Fire Draws Fire
One of the tensions for leaders experiencing opposition, whether from competitors or colleagues, is to know when to react and when to hold back.

Outrageous Grace

As a Christian who has grown up in the church I have often sung about God's "Amazing Grace" through the words of the well known hymn written by former slave trader John Newton, and more recently through Chris Tomlin's revised version of this classic song.  Alongside the truth that God's grace is indeed amazing, is the less poetic and palatable truth that God's grace is also outrageous.  This idea was, in fact, also captured in a lesser known song written by Godfrey Birtill, titled "Outrageous Grace."

I was recently reminded just how outrageous God's grace is while reading Andy Stanley's book 'The Grace of God' when he suggested that "grace is inviting to the unrighteous and threatening to the self-righteous."  The self-righteous tend to approach grace as a right because of their own righteousness, usually expressed through faithful religious observance.  The unrighteous, however, don't expect grace as they feel unworthy due to their own sinfulness.  What makes grace so outrageous is that the exact opposite is true!  No amount of religious correctness can earn God's grace and no amount of human brokenness can escape God's grace.  Grace is counter-cultural to the values of this world - secular and religious - because it cannot be earned, nor is it deserved; it is not exclusive, but inclusive; it's not about fairness, but all about forgiveness; it has nothing to do with being good, but everything to do with the goodness of God.

It is because God's grace is so outrageous that we can sing about it being so amazing! 

Featured Blog - Corey Turner

The Oracle:  Calling vs Career!
http://theoracle.cc/2012/11/30/calling-vs-career/

Friday, November 30, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Unity In Adversity

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Unity In Adversity
Staying united during times of adversity reveals an unshakeable resilience that makes the impossible seem possible, empowering leaders to overcome their circumstances instead of being overwhelmed by them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Doing Church Or Being The Church?

The community I live in recently presented the local churches with an interesting challenge when the city council changed the day of the community Christmas pageant from a Saturday morning to a Sunday morning.  This clash with traditional Sunday worship times was further complicated because, for the past 6 years, the combined churches were the organisers of an after-pageant BBQ immediately following this community event.

What was interpreted as an afront to the Church, provoked passionate discussion at our Minister's Fellowship meeting where we debated the council's motive and the churches response.  Does the church close ranks and protect our worship time, protest the decision, boycott the event, come to some sort of compromise or maintain our involvement?  What reaction is the council expecting?  What will best glorify God? 

As you can imagine there was an equal tension between wanting to make a clear statement about the value of Sunday worship by not compromising the priority of "doing church" and wanting to maintain an active witness by keeping Christ in a community Christmas event by "being the church".  Some viewed this as a threat to the church, while others viewed it as an opportunity for the church. Who is right, who is wrong?

After much discussion and prayer between the churches and within our respective congregations, the outcome was that three churches chose to see this as an opportunity and take "church" to the streets and continue to serve our community.  We believed that God was best glorified not by retreating but by reaching out.  We felt it was more important to bless our community than our congregations.  We wanted to defy the religious expectations of Christians by giving a relational testimony to Christ.

In the context of this event, I don't think that it is any cooincidence that I read the following statement by Andy Stanley about the church this week: "If the church is God's primary vehicle for dispensing the message of grace, then the local church is clearly not for church people.  It's for everybody."  This ethos of the church is further supported by Erwin McManus, as quoted by Craig Groeschel, “When have we forgotten that the church doesn’t exist for us? We are the church and we exist for the world.”

While I still hold Sunday worship as a high value, I am more concerned about being the church than doing church!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Top 5 Influential Books

I was recently asked what is my top 5 list of books that have had the most impact on my leadership and faith journey.  Wow, what a tough question to answer!  I read so many amazing authors on such a variety of subjects, to narrow it down to the five most influential is a tough call.  Nevertheless, here goes the impossible.  I will choose a book I've read during the past couple of years for each of the categories of my EphesiansFour12 blog +1 that captures my life theme:

1.  Passion for the LORD:  The Divine Mentor - Wayne Cordeiro

2.  Passion for the LOST:  Just Walk Across The Room - Bill Hybels

3.  Passion for LIFE:  Chasing Daylight - Erwin McManus

4.  Passion for LEADERSHIP:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

5.  "Equipping the people of God for the work of the ministry":  The Equipping Church - Sue Mallory

This is a reluctant top 5 list, as there are so many other books that have had equal influence and impact in each category; then there are other subjects I'm passionate about that have also shaped my spiritual journey.  Maybe I will do a follow-up list identifying another top 5 books...in fact, it could be an annual top 5 list of books I've read that year - there's a thought!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Who Deserves The Credit?

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Who Deserves The Credit?
By myself, I bring a limited set of skills and knowledge to my leadership roles, but together with a team there is a collaboration of shared wisdom that increases my leadership capacity.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Divine Moments

"When we choose to seize divine moments, we create an environment where others are unleashed to fulfill their God-given potential."  Erwin McManus, Chasing Daylight

Throughout my leadership journey I have been presented with numerous divine moments that have had the potential to have a profound impact on my own life and the lives of those I lead.  When I've embraced those moments that potential has translated into a life changing reality, however, when I have missed those moments, opportunities for growth are lost.

God has placed an unquenchable passion upon my heart to "equip the people of God for the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ."  Therefore, it stands to reason that God will unleash divine moments to enable me to embrace those opportunities to create an environment to fulfil this passion.

There is an extraordinary privilege that comes with leadership to help people realise their God-given potential through recognising and participating in their own divine moments.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Journey Of Faith

I am almost finished reading "Chasing Daylight" by Erwin McManus, which has been an inspiring read about seizing divine moments and living a passionate life pursuing God's will and purposes.  In his chapter on 'Uncertainty', McManus discusses the progression of faith in the context of miracles by making a comparison between Moses standing at the edge of the Red Sea and Joshua standing at the edge of the Jordan River.

"With Moses, God parted the waters, and then the people crossed over."
It is relatively easy to step out in faith when we see the miracle first.  God does something spectacular that demands our attention and gives us the confidence to embrace those divine moments.  When the waters are parted and we see the way through, standing on the edge of faith is exciting.

"With Joshua, the leaders were required to begin crossing first, and then the waters parted."
It is quite another story stepping out in faith before the miracle occurs.  God's promises go before divine moments giving us confidence that He 'can', however, that confidence requires us to trust that He 'will'.  When the waters block our path and we cannot see the way through, standing on the edge of faith is scary.

McManus captures this development of faith that comes through maturity in Christ brilliantly:

"What it means to live on the edge as your faith begins to develop is not the measure of faith when you walk in maturity.  You should expect and desire that God would move from parting the waters while you stand on the edge of the shore to calling you to step out into the waters and experience the miracle happening around you.  In the first, you watch the miracle.  But in the second, you become a part of it.  Both experiences were expressions of a journey of faith.  Both had amazing similarities, but what God required in the second exeeded what He required in the first." (McManus 2002, p. 89)

There is another dimension of faith living that takes us beyond the need for the certainty of miracles to act.  When our faith rises to a level of maturity that drives us to act amidst the uncertainty of life, but within the certainty of God's faithfulness, we create the context for miracles to happen!