January, and the start of a new year with the promise of a fresh beginning with renewed purpose... and emails, articles and blogs overflowing with advice on setting new goals and resolutions....
But the success of these new year resolutions is doubtful. I know that, by about March each year, I struggle to even remember my carefully planned goals. Statistics indicate that 25% of resolutions are abandoned within one week, with another 60% within six months. Weight reduction is a common new year resolution but only 5% of those who determine to lose weight keep it off.
So, what about you? What will 2014 bring for you?
A suggestion for this year, instead of attempting ten or even five goals for the year, is to determine three words that encapsulate your focus for the year. Some suggestions might be: 'Consistently Encourage Others', 'Help Others More', 'Inform- Train- Delight'. Someone has humorously suggested, 'Dream Big ger'.
Use these words as a constant reminder of your focus but also as a launching point for action throughout the year. But don't just limit yourself to these words; take the time to think and pray as you claim a special Bible verse or passage for your new year.
Remind yourself frequently of your verse and your chosen theme words for the year. Write the words down. You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you take the time to clarify what you seek to accomplish by writing them down.
Display them prominently. Print them off and pop a copy in a photo-frame to display on your tabletop. Use the words as your computer screensaver. Find an online illustration of your chosen verse and use it as your iPad wallpaper.
In a similar way, we're identifying three words as our focus for our church: Rejoice- Refine- Relate. We'll be outlining more about this theme for the year and how it will impact our focus and our ministry over the next few weeks and, in greater detail, at our upcoming Vision Dinner.
But in case you've missed some of the great articles recently written about starting your year well, I've included some links below. Maybe a great focus for the year could be 'Read- Read- Read'. Enjoy...
Many years ago, I read of a father who relocated his family to ensure that his children grew up under the godly influence of his own dad. Apparently, work commitments had caused his father to move interstate and he decided it was better for the family to pull up roots and move, too.
It was a big decision, but he explained that the benefits of his father's unconditional love and support and the instilling of his wisdom and experience into the lives of his children far outweighed the inconvenience of moving.
As I read that story years ago, I prayed that when I reached that stage of my life I, too, would be able to provide a hard-wrought wisdom, a powerful testimony of faith and a stabilising connection with the past for my future grandchildren.
Today's grandparents are a far cry from the image of the homely grandma knitting gently in her rocking chair while granddad happily potters in the warmth of his backyard veggie garden. Today's gran may be a successful career woman just reaching the peak of her game and granddad has taken up abseiling. Yes, modern families may be more complicated but most grandparents still want to be an integral part of the lives of their grandchildren.
Many grandparents have pushed retirement aside and increasingly taken on regular care-giving roles in families.They are 'grand-parents' in every sense of the word as they take on these parenting roles after families fracture for a host of reasons.
The figures show that while half of all Australian children under 12 received childcare of some form last year, just 24% were in formal care, compared with 26% who were cared for by their grandparents.There are also more than 14,000 grandparent families in which the grandparents are the guardians or main carers of co-resident children aged 0 to 17 years.
While the previous mobile generation living in different states, regions and even countries were separated from grandparents and struggled to maintain family connection, today's families appear to have rediscovered the value and support of close, involved grandparents.
Many have established a multi-generational family approach to raising kids with grandparents as providers, mentors, teachers, nurturers.. providing a spiritual rock during hard times. For grandparents, it's the opportunity to teach important values, establish Biblical foundations and pass on family traditions to their grandchildren.
How appropriate then, this Sunday on Grandparents Day, to be able to celebrate the rich and living heritage of loving grandparents who provide a powerful testimony of God's faithfulness in the lives of their families.
I've always enjoyed sport- been reasonably good at it, too. I would be loathe to rate it as an obsession but I am Australian, after all. It's been said that 'few countries use sport to measure national achievement quite like Australians'. We are passionate about winning gold!
Sport is everywhere, whether it's couples out jogging, cheering parents on the sidelines of soccer games, early morning cyclists chewing up the miles, men and women packing a gym session into their lunch break or solitary surfers astride their boards at dawn. Yes, sport is everything and everywhere.
So it goes without saying that our sporting heroes, those whose achievements on the sports field have been crowned with success, feature prominently in news reports, magazines and media.
It's been disquieting to notice that, increasingly, the news reports feature these 'heroes' off-field where their attitudes, character and morals decidedly 'miss the mark'. Are these the types of men and women we want our youth to emulate?
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. 2 Peter 1:5-7
I was feeling discouraged and disappointed watching such reports as our church presented our recent special family events - the father/son wild game dinner and the mother/daughter high tea. But, slipped between the full-colour, big headline articles, I read of professional golfer, Hunter Mahan. Mahan was leading in the Canadian Open, which pays its winner more than $1 million, when he received word that his wife had gone into labour 3 weeks early. He had a choice- money and fame or family. His decision?
Mahan put the lure of fame and glory behind, pulled out of the competition and flew to Dallas for the birth of his baby. He commented later, "When I'm done playing golf, I'd rather be noted for being a good husband and good father than anything else."
These are the sporting highlights that kids and their families need to hear. These are the attitudes and qualities we want displayed by our heroes in every sporting arena. Bring on more reports like this one. Bring on more sporting heroes with prowess both in sport and in determining the things that really matter.
Yesterday, I read a blog post by Chris Lema with this title and it piqued my interest. Chris writes about business and new product development and innovation but he writes in an simple, engaging manner that even I can understand.
So, since Father's Day arrives this Sunday, I read his post with interest. (You can check it out yourself if you're interested... here.)
The influence of a father
He recalls memories of his family and, in particular, the influence of his dad, unmeasured at the time, that impacted his lifelong outlook, his attitude and his focus in work and family life.
You can read part of it below....
When I was a kid, my parents would occasionally take us out to dinner. Sometimes it was Pioneer Chicken. Other times McDonalds. And a few times we went to Taco Bell.This was back in the days when the restaurants looked like a bell (late 70′s). But one day we went to a different Taco Bell and this time the restaurant looked a lot like the ones you may have seen recently.
An important question
Chris concludes his article with a question, not an answer. It's a question that he asks of his readers in a professional context, but also challenges each of us in the personal arena of family life. It's a question that I pose to fathers now.
'Are you asking the right questions in front of the right people (read here- family) to spur on their curiosity and challenge them to keep learning and growing?"
Mmmm... tough one.... even now, in retrospect as a father of grown children and now a grandfather, I struggle with this challenge. As parents, as fathers, as grandfathers, are we living out our faith with our kids, and grandkids, day by day? Are we encouraging them to apply God's promises and principles of living as they interact with their friends and family? Are we spurring them on to keep learning and growing in their Christian faith and understanding? Are we challenging them to measure and evaluate the culture, rather than merely accepting and accommodating our beliefs to fit in?
As with Chris, I believe it's a lot harder to live out. But the benefits are indeed long-term, even eternal. What memories of you will your children retain and hold dear? What impact are you having on your kids in small, but important ways day by day?
I used to start each day while it was still dark but lately, the faintest glow of dawn is edging over the horizon as I make that first cup of coffee. It won’t be long before we will be altering our clocks for daylight savings. It always reminds me of the reader who complained to the newspaper, ‘That extra hour of sunlight will fade my curtains!”
Time is an intriguing subject, and so slippery. On some occasions, like holidays, it just slips by but when you are waiting or looking forward to an important date and want it to zip by, it drags. Also.. some of us can stay longer in an hour than others can in a week. And have you noticed how quickly deadlines arrive?
Robert D. Smith once titled an article he’d written, 'Everyone who reads this post will die.' It certainly grabs your attention and although it's true, perhaps it might discourage you from reading. The point of his article, though, was to encourage his readers to re-evaluate their use of their time and see whether there may be ways to add purpose and meaning to daily activities.
There’s a Youtube clip that I’d like to share with you titled, ‘The time you have.. in jellybeans’. Take a look at the clip below- it portrays your life as a counted heap of jellybeans. It’s amazing, and a little sobering to see the pile of jellybeans disappearing in often meaningless activities.
'Help us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.' Psalm 90:12
The Bible encourages us to examine our use of the time allotted to each of us. Everyone complains that they have no time.. no time to help in ministry.. no time to connect with others … no time to read more or learn more. We all have the same number of minutes and hours in a day. But perhaps there are ways that we can plan our time for greater impact.
What if I watch half as much TV- I would have another 1338 days. Maybe I could use my time more wisely by listening to podcasts and audio books while travelling. I could enjoy more of my meals with others and create memorable experiences with family, and build connection and community with others. I can spend time developing teams and leaders to share the load of ministry rather than doing everything myself.
How can you alter your day and your activities for greater impact?
If you had just one more day, how would you spend it?
Our sermon series, the Church, has been particularly helpful as we currently consider church leadership roles and our involvement in the ministries of our church family. During our upcoming church meeting next month, which I’d encourage you to attend, we will be considering our own church leadership and nominating church deacons.
So, rather than tackling this subject myself as a church leader, I've requested a guest post for this subject of church leadership … I encourage you to read the following article..
Pastors have a tough job. Most people are looking for their pastor to do all, be all, and solve all.
‘We want a pastor who preaches like Billy Graham, counsels like Dr Phil, budgets like Donald Trump, strategizes like General Patton, comforts like Mother Teresa and inspires like Winston Churchill.’
A pastor is expected to provide excellent leadership in 5 main areas:
1. Provide a vibrant vision for the church
2. Provide road maps and outline, in detail, the required steps to reach the desired vision.
3. Guarantee that all the needed skills and knowledge for ministry are available and current.
4. Keep the ministries ‘heart-healthy’ and encourage the troops to grow spiritually.
5. Provide muscle- lead, organise and execute all the tasks to ensure that progress is made.
The perfect pastor
It’s quite a job description. In fact, it’s not possible. It’s time to shatter the myth of the perfect pastor. In reality, a pastor is no Superman. They are human. They get discouraged; they don’t have all the answers or know what to do in every situation; they get tired and sometimes, need some down-time. Just like us, they struggle with the difficulty of balancing the needs of their personal family with those of the church family.
Certainly, one leader can't do it all. A pastor needs a team he can count on to assist him in ministry. He needs ministry-minded deacons who can support, encourage and help him by sharing the load in these important areas of leadership and pastoral responsibility.
How can you help and encourage your pastor and the church leadership team?
Having recognised the challenges of church leadership, there are many ways that each one of us can ease the burdens, encourage and support both your pastor and the church leadership team.
*Pray specifically and consistently. Send your pastor an encouraging email to let him know you’re praying.
*Serve. This is unbelievably encouraging. Give freely of your time, talents and spiritual gifts and be faithful to the ministry of the church so that the pastor can direct the affairs of the church.
*Give cheerfully and liberally.
*Speak well of your church and deflect any criticism of church leadership on their behalf. Refuse to listen to or spread gossip.
As our church considers church leadership and looks particularly at the important role of deacons, take a moment or two to reflect on ways that you, too, can encourage and support the church leadership and particularly, your pastor in encouraging and practical terms.
This week, we say farewell to our guests from the United States. It's been a joy to have them as special guests of our church family, our lives and our homes for this short period.
We've appreciated their involvement in our Sunday morning worship services and we've been encouraged and inspired by the testimonies they have shared.
For our part, we hope and pray that they have enjoyed their time with us, seeing and experiencing just a small slice of our life and the people, places, scenery and attractions that are uniquely Australian.
It's been said that Australia and U.S. are a united people separated by a common language and our guests have laughingly attempted some colloquial Australian phrases. And we've struggled a little, too. One of our kids from LifeKIDS admitted, "It's a bit hard for me to hear that French accent." We share an amazing bond, though, through our Lord Jesus Christ and it has been a wonderful privilege to hear and share of His work in each of our lives.
We wish our guests God's blessings and safe travel back home and look forward to continuing our relationship over the coming years.
The devastating tornado in Oklahoma and the magnitude of this disaster has generated world-wide attention. Even here on the Gold Coast, it has received front-page newspaper coverage. Our thoughts and prayers are with this community as they deal with the heart-breaking destruction and loss.
The Skit Guys have responded to this tragedy with the offer of a free clip, 'The Storms of Life', in the hope that you can download and use this to encourage discussion about this and other tragedies. (see below)
"We hope that your church community will remember ours. Remember that there’s a community aching. Remember there’s a lot to rebuild––both homes and hearts. Please keep OK in your prayers today and in the weeks to come.' Skit Guys
In Australia, natural disasters are common: drought, cyclones, fire, floods. The predictability of these disasters has been immortalized in the imagery of our poetry and literature, but are you and your church leadership team prepared for it? Can your small group, or you as an individual, comfort families and children and help them cope with disaster?
There are a number of points to keep in mind for children:
1. Children need physical reassurance. They need to be with their family to feel safe. Keep in mind that displaced children will require even more physical comforting.
2. Children need to talk. Listen to them. They need to know others understand and share their worries and concerns.
3. Talk honestly.... but don't scare them. Share worries in an age-appropriate manner.
4. Remain as calm as possible. Maintain normal routines as much as you are able.
5. Expect regressive behaviour. Generally, such behaviours will fade over time.
More helpful information can be found from the following resources:
Our summer series, The Parables of Jesus, resumes following the Christmas/ New Year break. More information about the recommencement dates and times will be available soon. But for those who wish to do some additional reading or to keep the content fresh in their mind, I have included some suggested reference material below.
Our Parables of Jesus infographic (see below) provides a visual overview of this series- a great starting point for further study.
'Cracking the Code- Understanding Jesus' Parables' by LeRoy Lawson is a small but well-written book that deals with some of the more well-known of Jesus' parables.
Warren Wiersbe has selected eleven noteworthy sermons on the parables of Jesus from some of Christian history's most notable preachers in his book, 'Classic Sermons on the Parables of Jesus'. He has also written 'Meet Yourself in the Parables.'
Dr Herbert Lockyer's book, 'All the Parables of the Bible' studies and analyses parables of the Bible both Old and New Testament- over 250.
You also may wish to check out the sermon outlines on some of the well-known parables here as an overview and starting point for you own study.
And.. if you wish to introduce the parables of Jesus to your own kids, a great place to start is NestLearning's 'Animated Bible Story of the Parables of Jesus'. This is a well-produced series; the complete set of 36 dvds seeks to help you train your kids to become spiritual champions. You can check them out on YouTube... see below.
Church planting and growth has been a focus for most of my ministry. I frequently lecture and speak on church planting and have been actively involved in many church plants. Under God's hand and direction, my wife, Kaye, and I planted the