Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My COFFEE New Year's Resolution

As a year ends and a new year approaches it is a good time to evaluate where I've been in the year past and to plan for where I want to be in the year ahead.  Among my many passions is a love for good COFFEE, so what better framework to base my New Year's resolution:

C   COMMUNE deeper with God
O   OUTREACH further into our community
F   Spend more quality time with my FAMILY
F   Invest more intentionally into my FRIENDS
E   Engage in regular and intense EXERCISE activities
E   Enroll in further EDUCATION opportunities

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Blessing

May the JOY proclaimed in the Angel’s song resound in your soul this Christmas Day.

May the PEACE experienced by Joseph & Mary still your mind this Christmas Day.

May the LOVE contained in the gift of the Christ Child envelop your heart this Christmas Day.

May the HOPE fulfilled in the promised Messiah prepare you to confidently embrace the opportunities of the New Year beyond this Christmas Day! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Who Stole Christmas?

Tis the season for Christmas movies, Fa la la la la, la la la la!

One of the more off-centre Christmas movies, based on a Dr Seuss children's rhyme, is 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'.  While not my choice of Christmas movies, I fulfilled my dad duty and watched it with my kids the other night, who seemed way more entertained by Jim Carrey's antics than I did.  However, it wasn't until the end of the movie that I really appreciated the deeper message of Dr Seuss' rhyme.

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Secularism has stolen the miracle of the Christ Child and replaced it with the magic of Kris Kringle.  Consumerism has stolen the gift of the Christ Child and replaced it with a credit card.  Yet, neither of them have stolen the Spirit of Christmas, because the Christ Child is God with us through the continued presence of the Spirit of God, who cannot be replaced or bought!  

Christmas indeed "means a little bit more" than the "packages, boxes and bags" and cannot be stolen from the hearts of those where the Christ Child resides.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Partnership

This morning I had the opportunity to speak at a school assembly while receiving a very large donation of food items for The Salvation Army Christmas Appeal.  Instead of citing the usual statistics of how many people we help and how many donations are received at Christmas in my thank you speech, I felt compelled in my spirit to offer a different vote of thanks:

Your generosity forms a partnership with The Salvation Army to share the Good News of Christmas by demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ through the assistance of struggling families at a vulnerable time of year.

Your partnership in the gospel helps people to see that hope, peace, joy and love can be found in every season of life.

Your expression of care reinforces the power of community and restores faith in our common humanity and Creator God.

Your giving changes lives!

This prompting by the Spirit in the moments leading up to the assembly gave me a brief platform in front of hundreds of students, parents and teachers to connect their community activity to our Christian mission.  It is too easy to stay in the security of our public image as a charity when receiving donations, but I feel strongly that we need to embrace every opportunity to expand the community's perception of our mission by stepping out of our comfort zone and declaring Christ as the source of our charity!

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership 
in the gospel from the first day until now, 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 1:4-6

Thursday, December 12, 2013


"The great missionary movement we have today did not exist 300 years ago:  it all started with a young thirty year old Baptist minister by the name of William Carey reading an article in England's first missionary magazine reporting on Moravian missions around the world.  After reading the article, Carey marched into a meeting of senior Baptist ministers and in front of his fellow ministers threw down onto the table copies of the magazine and said, "See what the Moravians have done!  Can we not follow their example, and in obedience to our heavenly Master go out into the world and preach the Gospel to the heathen?"  Carey proposed that at a future meeting of Baptist pastors they should consider taking concrete steps to reach out to the world's unreached.  A senior pastor curtly told him:  "Sit down, young man!" and added, "If God wants to save the heathen, he will do it without your help or mine!"  (Tony Keys, First Love Discipleship Series, Philippians - 'For to me, to live is Christ')

The beginning of the modern mission movement emerged out of a self-centered gospel and realigned to a Christ-centered gospel that embraced the spirit of Paul and the command of Christ to go into the world and preach the gospel to all nations.  Missionaries like William Carey became discontent with what the church had become and captured a vision of how the world should be.  Not deterred by bad theology, wrong thinking or insular tradition; but challenged by the efforts of the Moravians, compelled by the mandate of Christ and filled with the power of the Spirit, Carey inspired a movement of missionaries and societies with a renewed passion to take the gospel to the whole world!

While I am a little uncomfortable with some of the language and perception of this movement, viewing the unreached as 'heathen', I am captured by their courage and sacrifice to GO and advance the gospel to the far ends of the earth.  Our missiology may have changed and cross-cultural sensibilities developed, but I pray that our passion for the lost will intensify and inspire a new kingdom-oriented movement of Christ followers to complete what was begun - the Great Commission to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela On Life & Leadership

The passing of former South African President and human rights campaigner Nelson Mandela today has the international community mourning the loss of an extraordinary leader.  While we mourn his death, we also celebrate his life, which had a profound impact not only on his nation South Africa in their fight against apartheid, but the rest of the world in our pursuit of justice and freedom for the oppressed.  Nelson Mandela is arguably one of the most quoted leaders of all time speaking wisdom and truth that will inspire generations to come.  

Here are some of my favourite quotes by Mandela on life and leadership that inspire my life and leadership:

Nelson Mandela's Passion for LIFE...

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."

"To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."

"Where globalization means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom."

"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

"Poverty is not an accident.  Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings."

"Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future."

"One of the most difficult things is not to change society - but to change yourself."

Nelson Mandela's Passion for LEADERSHIP...

"It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."

"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

"It always seems impossible until it’s done."

"A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed."

"I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."

"I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people."

"There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way."

"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Miracle Of Christmas

At this special time of year we often hear people speak about the 'magic of Christmas' or describe this season as a 'magical time of year'.  The problem with a magical approach to Christmas is that magic is all about marveling at an illusion that isn't real.  While it may evoke a feel good moment, the joy is as temporary as the illusion.

Alternatively, Christmas can be seen as a 'miraculous time of year' focusing on the miracle of the Christ Child.  This miracle is far from an illusion, but the incarnation of God in human flesh through the person of Jesus Christ who entered our world with "good news that will bring great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10).  Celebrating the Christ of Christmas engages us with the miracle of this season, which brings lasting joy!

So, what would you like to experience this festive season?  The 'magic' or 'miracle' of Christmas?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Am A Soldier!

I'm not sure of the original source of this powerful statement about being a Christian soldier in God's army, but it provides an extraordinary description that could/should be aligned with what it means to be a Soldier in The Salvation Army:

I am a soldier in the army of my God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer. The Holy Scripture is my code of conduct. Faith, prayer and the Word are my weapons of warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity and tested by fire.

I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity. I will not get out, sell out, be talked out or pushed out. I am faithful, reliable, capable and dependable. If my God needs me, I am there. I am a soldier. I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up, or pepped up. I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me or lure me. I am a soldier. I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name and building His kingdom! No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards or candy, or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around. I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.

When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing, I will still come out ahead. I will win. My God has and will continue to supply all of my need. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ. The devil cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me. I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me. For when my Commander calls me from His battlefield, He will promote me to captain and then allow me to rule with Him. I am a soldier in the army, and I’m marching claiming victory. I will not give up. I will not turn around.

I am a soldier, marching heaven-bound. Here I Stand! Will you stand with me? 

Imagine the impact of an Army filled with such soldiers!  

Imagine an Army that took spiritual warfare seriously, fighting from a position of victory in Jesus!

Imagine a Spirit filled Army, empowered and equipped to defeat the forces of darkness in this world!

Imagine a Salvation war where people were being saved and restored to right relationship with their Creator!

I am a soldier in The Salvation Army and I dare to imagine and engage in this audacious mission to win the world for Jesus Christ, whatever the cost!

Do Not Be Afraid

A Christmas meditation based on Luke 2:10-11, Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:30-33...

Do not be afraid…when you are disillusioned by our political system, 
For to us a child is born and the government will be on his shoulders. 

Do not be afraid…when you feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety,   
For to us a child is born and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor. 

Do not be afraid…when you feel powerless or out of control, 
For to us a child is born and he will be called Mighty God. 

Do not be afraid…when you are isolated and alone, 
For to us a child is born and he will be called Everlasting Father. 

Do not be afraid…when you face conflict and hardship, 
For to us a child is born and he will be called Prince of Peace. 

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people! 
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. 

His name is Jesus!  
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end. 

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Share Their Stories...Chapter 2

Stories are powerful!  They transcend statistics, providing an insight into the hearts and minds of people, inviting us to look beyond the numbers as they reveal a part of people's lives.  When I wrote Share Their Stories I sought to "stop the dehumanizing of people seeking the same basic human rights that we celebrate and share in this country."  I continue to share these stories to the same ends:

Aziz & Masuda arrived in Australia from Afghanistan with their children Ali and Nargis, on a boat via Indonesia, after selling everything they had to escape the violent threats of the Taliban.  The Taliban threatened to kill Aziz’s family in front of him if he didn’t give up his older brother who had previously held a government position in Kabul before fleeing Afghanistan.

Mohommad & Marium also escaped from Afghanistan on the same boat as his brother’s family.  Marium is 8 months pregnant and has struggled to attend night time hospital appointments via public transport.  She has recently been supported by a couple of our church families who have assisted with transport and other practical needs.

Mohommad (aka Sam) & Jamila have come from the Middle East and connected with our church a number of years ago.  They have found a real sense of community through Sam’s volunteer work and Jamila through her involvement with Playgroup where their English skills have greatly developed.

Christine is from Sri Lanka and recently came to us for assistance because she had been taken advantage of by a second hand car dealership.  We are currently advocating for her through Consumer Affairs and Legal Aid, because of the questionable contract that has crippled her financially.

Greg is a volunteer with our Community Support Services who has a heart and a passion to support the most vulnerable people in our community.  He has been partnering with our church to create community and engage socially with the asylum seekers we are supporting.  Two weeks ago we took a group of asylum seekers to Phillip Island for a day out and to visit the famous Penguin Parade, which Greg organised with the support of funding from the local council.   It was such a joy to see the excitement and appreciation of these families as we did life together!  We laughed, we played, we ate together and we listened to heart breaking stories that affirmed the resilience of human beings facing overwhelming challenges.

Keep sharing their stories and change the conversation about asylum seekers...