Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Lessons To Achieve Your Goals

At the conclusion of another grand tour on the international cycling calendar, the Tour de France provides an endless source of inspiration and life lessons from three weeks of endurance and intense competition by elite cyclists.  As I approached the Tour de France this year, I didn't want to just be a spectator from afar but a participator in my own cycling context.  So, I set myself a challenge...21 Rides in 21 Stages!

My challenge was to go on a bike ride during every stage of the Tour de France in my local area, aiming to cycle routes that offered similar terrain to each stage of the Tour.  For example:  Stage 1 was a 13.8 km individual time trial, so I rode 13.8 km around our local criterium track; Stage 4 included stretches of cobblestones, so I included some gravel roads in my ride; Stage 8 was up in the Pyrenees Ranges, so I went for an epic ride through the Dandenong Ranges; Stage 20 was over the famous Alpe d'Huez, so I rode up a popular local climb known as "The Wall"; etc...  The distance for each ride didn't matter.  The point of the challenge was just to ride, regardless of the conditions, each day of the 21 stages of the Tour de France!

How did I go?  I achieved 22 rides, 759 km in 21 stages.  Challenge accomplished!

While I am far, far, far from being an elite cyclist and cycled in far less exotic surrounds than the picturesque countryside and breathtaking moutains of France, my own little 'TDF 21 Rides in 21 Stages Challenge' offers some life lessons that may be a source of inspiration for anybody else setting goals or pursuing their own challenge.

Life Lesson #1 - Avoiding DISRUPTIONS
Embarking on such a challenge immediately collides with existing family and leadership responsibilities.  There is something always competing with my time and for my attention.  To avoid allowing the everyday disruptions, the expectations of others and the unexpected from derailing my goals, planning ahead was crucial.  This involved scheduling rides into my diary in advance of each day and treating them as important as anything else on my calendar; not at the expense of things needing to be done, but alongside them.  Planning ahead made time for this challenge rather than hoping to find time to fit it in.

Life Lesson #2 - Overcoming DIFFICULTIES
This challenge fell in the middle of one of the coldest and wettest winters in Melbourne for a long time, presenting some pretty nasty riding conditions.  You need to know that I am a sook in the cold which made these conditions very difficult for me!!  Unfavourable conditions often present themselves in many forms in life and can quickly demotivate you from achieving your goals.  I chose to embrace these difficult conditions as a part of the adventure, adding another dimension to each stage of the challenge.  What could be viewed as a nemesis can become an ally; for example, I once heard another cyclist refer to 'head wind' as his training partner!

Life Lesson #3 - Facing DANGERS
During stage 12 of the challenge I came off my bike in the middle of heavy traffic, landing hard enough on the road to break my helmet.  The reality for any cyclist is it is dangerous on the road!  Rarely do I come back from a ride without a near miss or incident involving another road user.  Risk is a part of life and leadership!  We can mitigate some risks, manage others, but we should never abandon our goals out of fear or avoidance of risk.  Courage to face inherent dangers builds confidence to navigate through any challenge and to pick yourself up and keep going when you fall down.

Life Lesson #4 - Dealing with DISAPPOINTMENT
About half way through stage 4 I stopped along a gravel road to take a photograph of my surroundings.  Unfortunately, my phone battery went flat and I was unable to continue recording my ride on the Strava App on my iPhone, losing the last 15 km of my ride!  Now, this may not sound like a big deal to most, but to lose data in the middle of a challenge was a major disappointment for me.  No matter how trivial or big the disappointment, it is too easy to allow it to distract you from the original purpose of your challenge.  Disappointment needs to be right-sized and not permitted to overshadow your goals.

Life Lesson #5 - Going the DISTANCE
Twenty-one days is a long time to commit to a challenge, given the variables of a busy lifestyle.  There were several points along the way when it was tempting to skip a day or give up on the challenge altogether.  There is a well ridden hill in Adelaide called 'Mengler's Hill' that has the words "Pain is Temporary, Victory is Forever" painted on the road about half way up the climb.  These words echoed in my mind while climbing 'The Wall' during the final stage of my challenge.  The battle was as much mental as physical to push through the pain barriers and go the distance to reach the summit.  

Bailing on any challenge, at any stage of the journey, robs you from the immense satisfaction of not only achieving your goals but developing the resilience required to pursue even greater challenges in the future.  However, avoiding DISRUPTIONS, overcoming DIFFICULTIES, facing DANGERS, dealing with DISAPPOINTMENT, and going the DISTANCE positions you for future success!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Which Door?

Recently, I've been hearing in pastoral conversations and reading on social media comments along the following lines:

"When God closes a door, He opens another"
"If God shuts a door, stop banging on it"
"Until God opens the next door for you, praise Him in the hallway"

These phrases are meant to offer reassurance and encouragement when life takes unexpected turns or when things don't turn out the way we plan.  I have even found myself using similar lines from time to time when responding to someones disappointment.  While they are well meaning, are they true?  Do they provide a correct biblical representation of God?  What do they say about the choices we and others make along the way?  How well do they position us to discover God's will?

The idea that God opens and closes doors suggests to me that God is someone who can lead us down pathways that are either the wrong destination or a dead end.  This could imply that God doesn't know what He is doing, thus denying His sovereignty.  Or, if God is indeed sovereign, it could infer that He is testing us or toying with us.  None of which align with a biblical image of God.

Consider this alternative view of God, as revealed in Scripture, not on social media.  It may seem less comforting according to our pop-theology, but a biblical theology is a far more solid foundation to pursue God's purpose for our lives.

God doesn't open or close doors, He is the door.

Jesus declared, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and will find pasture" (John 10:9).  What an interesting two sided statement.  The first part affirms what we know about Jesus, He is "the WAY" to God.  The second part references our response to "the WAY".  Jesus doesn't open multiple doors for us to choose from or for Him to change, but is "the DOOR" for us to choose whether or not to remain in Him (a point later expounded in John 15).  Combine this thought with the rest of the passage:  "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14).  It is only when we enter through "the DOOR" and remain in "the DOOR" that we can truly come to know the Shepherd and recognise His voice from counterfeit voices outside "the DOOR" that will try and lure us through other doors.

I wonder if the confusion over other doors is more to with the amount of time we spend inside "the DOOR" listening to the voice of the Shepherd whose role is to guide, protect and provide for His sheep?  In this space it is easier to discern and decide which doors to open and close in our lives when we engage in the world outside of "the DOOR".  

Maybe it is not God who opens and closes doors.  Maybe it is through "the DOOR" that we are given divine wisdom to discern the will of God in order to open and close the right doors ourselves as we pursue His purpose for our lives.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”  (Acts 2:5-12)

My dream for our community is that everyone we encounter, from all cultural backgrounds, will say of the Cranbourne Salvation Army, "We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"  

Today, I captured a photo of some of our Community Support Services volunteers representing six nations, different faith perspectives and diverse life experiences. Yet, each one of them identify with the mission of The Salvation Army in some capacity and voluntarily give their time to serve our common humanity.  In this space there are many messages being spoken by both our words and actions, but I wonder what part of our mission is most being heard and understood?  What is our primary witness - the works of 'man' or the wonders of God?  Is there a langauge of love that personifies the love of God and transcends culture?

The cultural diversity of our volunteers is reflective of the cultural diversity of our community.  My prayer is that the Spirit of God will move with such power through our ministry that everybody we encounter will be "utterly amazed" just like those gathered at Pentecost and will also ask, "What does this mean?"  When they do, may we be empowered to declare the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in such a way so "that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Be Careful What You Sing For!

Like other Salvationists from all over the world passionately engaged with the #Boundless2015 Congress, both in person and online, I too was inspired to hear the collective cry in our worship for God to "Send the fire today" and the corporate desire expressed through song that "We need another Pentecost" in The Salvation Army!  

But do we really want it?  Are we prepared for what it might look like?  Can this fresh outpouring of the Spirit be fully released within our existing structures?  Will we ride the wave or will we erect breakwaters to protect the harbour?

When we sing "Look down and see this waiting host" - how expectant are we?

When we sing "We need another Pentecost" - how well did we respond to the first one?

When we sing "And make us fit to live or die" - what price are we willing to pay?

When we sing "To burn up every trace of sin" - do we have a truly repentant heart?

When we sing "The revolution now begin" - will we try to risk-manage it?

When we sing "The fire will meet our every need" - how does that influence our fundraising efforts?

When we sing "For strength to always do what's right" - is that in spite of unpopularity?

When we sing "For power to walk the world in white" - will holiness precede tolerance?

When we sing "To make our weak hearts strong and brave" - are we prepared to be persecuted?

When we sing "To live a dying world to save" - do we still believe the world is in need of salvation?

When we sing "Oh see us on Your altar lay" - does that include what we have always done?

It is easy to sing such stirring words in the security and affirmation of a united gathering, but living such words is quite another story when immersed in the trenches of mission, navigating layers of bureaucracy or soliciting community and government support!  

While it is true that The Salvation Army ministers in challenging and complex times, it is equally true that "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).  

Therefore, when we sing "Send the Fire" let us dare to allow Holy Spirit to consume the dross and reignite a Christ centred, Spirit empowered, faith driven, and prophetically guided movement that repositions God's salvation message as central to our mission!

Thursday, July 2, 2015


On this second day of July in 2015, the immortal words penned by our founder General William Booth are echoing across the world as delegates from 126 countries gather for an International Congress in London to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of The Salvation Army...

O BOUNDLESS salvation! deep ocean of love,
O fulness of mercy, Christ brought from above.
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free,
Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!

This gathering of Salvationists is aptly themed BOUNDLESS - The Whole World Redeeming capturing the spirit of Booth's song and the soul of his movement that is still passionately pursued by The Salvation Army today!

While I am interacting with this congress from a distance in Melbourne, Australia via live streaming, the BOUNDLESS energy and enthusiasm of such a diverse crowd united by a common mission is palpable, even on the other side of the world.  The BOUNDLESS nature of our mission flows out of the BOUNDLESS love of our BOUNDLESS God who transcends all cultural boundaries!

Today, we acknowledge the BOUNDLESS grace of God (Ephesians 1:6-8)
Today, we receive the BOUNDLESS strength of God (Ephesians 1:18-20)
Today, we demonstrate the BOUNDLESS mercy of God (Ephesians 2:4)
Today, we preach the BOUNDLESS salvation of God (Ephesians 2:8)
Today, we share the BOUNDLESS riches of God (Ephesians 3:8) 
Today, we seek the BOUNDLESS wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10)
Today, we experience the BOUNDLESS love of God (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Today, we advance in the BOUNDLESS power of God (Ephesians 3:20)

Tomorrow, we march forward as The Salvation Army, full of the Holy Spirit, transformed by the BOUNDLESS salvation of Jesus Christ, to fulfil the Great Commission of the WHOLE WORLD REDEEMING for another 150 years!  Hallelujah!!