Vulnerability

I’ll never forget having lunch with a friend a few years back. As we sat down, I asked him how he was going. “Awesome” was his answer and he went on to tell me about a bunch of good things happening in his life at that time. Then he asked me how I was doing. I thought for moment – “Will I go with ‘Awesome’ or will I be honest?” I decided to be honest and so I said, “Yeah, not the best. I’ve had a few challenges lately.” And I began sharing some of things I was facing at... Read more →


Selfie

Each year a new word is added to the English dictionary. A few years back, in 2013, it was the word ‘selfie’. Yes, there is nothing like a good ‘selfie’ taken with your mobile phone and maybe even with a selfie extension. On a recent overseas trip, my wife and I had a 24-hour layover in Beijing, China. We decided to tour the city. Our final stop, on what turned out to be a really hot day, was the Great Wall of China. We took the chair lift to the top, then climbed 100s of steps to one of the... Read more →


Your Story Building Project (Part 3)

God’s work of renovation is designed to make us more like Jesus so that we can have a greater positive impact on our world. Ask yourself, “Is there anything about my life that makes being a Christian attractive to the world?” We are to be a sweet smelling aroma not someone carrying around stinking attitudes. Sadly, there is often a big difference between being a “Christian” and being “Christ-like”. We are called to join with God is seeing thousands of stories of transformation in our world. BUT guess what? Transformation starts with me and with you. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Now... Read more →


Your Story Building Project (Part 2)

How Do We Co-Operate With God's Work of Renovation is Our Lives? Firstly, let go of the past. See yesterday's post. Secondly, deal with what is happening today. God is more interested in who we are becoming (our character) than what we are doing for him (our achievements). So what is God up to in your life right now? Not everything that happens to us has to have some deep and meaningful reason … but what are we learning? This season you are in right now is only one chapter in your life - it is not the whole story.... Read more →


Your Story Building Project (Part 1)

Not only is the church God's story building project, you individually are also. The apostle Paul puts it this way: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. NIV You as an individual person are the temple or dwelling place of God. Through the Holy Spirit, He lives inside of you. You are his home - his house. Often at church services, we hear people... Read more →


God's Story Building Project

Most churches I have been a part of over the years have undergone a building project or extension at some time. Of course, a church is not a building nor is a building ever meant to be the vision or the focus. After all, buildings don't change people's lives but what happens in them can and does. When the building project is finished, it is easy to think that the work is done. But in reality, the work is only just beginning. Buildings are a tool to continue to carry out the mission of the church. Not only do churches... Read more →


Is it Halftime for You?

I came across the best-selling book Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance by Bob Buford in my late 30s. I loved the concepts but I was busy chasing 'success' as a young pastor of a large church in Melbourne, Australia. By my late 40s, I was what other people considered 'successful', as our church had grown by 5 times in size - from 1, 000 people attending church services each weekend to 5,000 people attending. But I was tired, very tired. During a 3 month sabbatical in early 2012, I travelled to Dallas, USA with a business... Read more →


Shame

Have you ever fallen flat on your face? Have you ever disappointed yourself, others or God? Maybe it was a sin, a mistake or a personal failure. For some reason, you didn't live up to your own expectations or promises. We have all experienced this, at one time or another. Sometimes, over-confidence, arrogance and pride are the catalysts. At other times, they are not. When personal failure occurs, we experience guilt, embarrassment and at times shame. Guilt is the result of a convicted conscience. It is usually specific and aimed at a response which usually includes feeling bad (genuine sorrow)... Read more →


Guilt

Have you ever thought about your conscience? I once heard a story of an American Indian who gave a great definition of what a conscience is. He said our conscience is like a small wooden triangle on the inside of us. When we do something wrong, it turns and scrapes the sides and we feel some pain. If we ignore it, however, over time, the edges of that wooden triangle eventually wear off and when we do something wrong, it spins, but we don’t feel anything anymore. How profound. You know guilt can be our friend. It is trying to... Read more →


Attitude

I think we all understand the importance of our attitude. After all, life isn’t so much what happens to us as much as how we respond to it. Our attitude determines so much of who we become and what we are able to achieve in our lives. Of course, everyone has times when they feel bad or down. A good attitude doesn’t prevent this from happening but it can stop us from getting stuck during those times. The key thing is to realise that we are responsible for our attitudes. I remember one Saturday morning, one of our kids, who... Read more →


Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is one of the world's most well-known Psalms, written by King David. It has been a source of comfort and encouragement to people from all ages and generations. Below is the entire Psalm from The Message Bible translation. I encourage you to read it through slowly, taking in every word and phrase. The words in bold were meaningful to me today ... God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send... Read more →


Externalisation

Have you noticed the increase in demand for fields such as counselling, coaching and mentoring over the last few decades? There is something highly beneficial about talking with someone else about what is going on in your life, especially what is happening on the inside of you. It is sometimes referred to as “externalisation.” The story is told of Einstein going for a walk with a friend. At the time, he was struggling with a problem he couldn’t solve. In the process of telling his friend about it, he ended up getting an idea about how to fix his situation... Read more →


Church Life AFTER Marriage Equality: The Questions No One Is Asking

Right now, Australians are deliberating about just one question - “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” A majority of conservative Christians (as well as Jews and Muslims) are campaigning for a 'No' vote, while less are saying it should be 'Yes'. A majority of society in general seems to be campaigning for a 'Yes' vote, while some are saying it should be 'No'. Whatever your answer is to this one question, the work of discussion and deliberation doesn’t end on the 15th November (or whenever the government makes a decision); it just begins. Regardless of... Read more →


Self Care

Have you been on an aeroplane lately? Before the plane takes off there is always a safety spiel – which we all pay close attention to. Right? Right. The instructions always include something like this: “In case of an emergency, an oxygen mask will fall down from above you. Put it on yourself before assisting others.” Have you ever thought about that? It sounds a bit selfish doesn’t it. If it was a Christian flight, you’d think it would say, “Put it on your neighbour first!” But no, ‘self-care’ is primary. Why? Because if you aren’t breathing, you are of... Read more →


Influencer

Think for a moment about ‘atmosphere’. Every room has an atmosphere – it could be bright or dark, hot or cold, pleasant or smelly. So does every family, every team, every school, and every workplace. That atmosphere is usually the composite result of the people in that group or of its strongest influencers. Two particular instruments deal with atmospheres. First there is a thermometer, which measures the temperature of a particular room. If the room is hot, the thermometer goes up. If the room is cold, it goes down. It is a reactive instrument. Then there is a thermostat. In... Read more →


A Pain in the Back

I was in agony. I couldn't move. As I lay on my bed, the pain down my back and through my right upper leg and calf muscles was so great that I didn't think I would get through it. Eventually, I rolled very carefully to the side of my bed and somehow managed to get up ... very slowly. What was happening to me? It was January this year. I had overdone it with lifting a month earlier - moving house and moving a heap of boxes (762!) of my dad's books with the help of my son Josiah and... Read more →


The Smart Phone?

I love my mobile phone. I have had one ever since they first came out back in the 1990s. I've moved from the Motorola brick size ones ... to the flip lid ... to a few versions of the Nokia ... and now I have my faithful iPhone 6 Plus (no, I never had a Blackberry or a Samsung). I am an 'early adopter' when it comes to technology. I love to have the (almost) latest and greatest. But I probably won't jump right away to the new iPhone 8 or iPhone X (with face recognition!), as amazing as they... Read more →


The Berlin Crows

Nicole and I are nearing the end of our 12 days of touring Germany. The beauty of the stunning scenery of the villages, lakes and mountains of southern Germany has been a stark contrast to the horror of the Dachau Concentration Camp and the Holocaust Museum in Berlin. Reflecting on the genocide of 6 million people (primarily Jews, but also gypsies, gays, the elderly and the disabled) is a sobering experience, not for the faint of heart. Yesterday and today we meandered around the streets of Berlin - a city with plenty of attitude, and it's easy to see why.... Read more →


A New Day

Nicole and I are currently spending 12 days in Germany while on our way to Russia, where I will speak at three church leaders' conferences (in St Petersburg, Moscow and Novosibirsk). Our day is about over here in the northern hemisphere and we have had a wonderful time touring some of the beautiful southern Germany countryside. Today we drove from Triberg in the Black Forest all the way to Fussen where we will visit a few famous castles tomorrow. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Lindau, a picturesque town right on the edge of magnificent Lake Constance with... Read more →


Successful Christian Ministry

I love cooking. Sometimes I discover a new recipe that I am keen to try out on the family. At other times I pull out one my ‘classics’, a recipe that I have used before that everyone already loves. One of those classics is a roast chicken and vegetable meal based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. It is delicious! No wonder it is a hit every time I cook it up. This time last week I was in Adelaide speaking at a ministers' conference for about 250 church leaders. The theme was ‘Growing Leaders to Grow the Church.’ Any time... Read more →


Personal Update from Mark Conner

It is hard to believe that it has been 6 months today since I finished up as Senior Minister of CityLife Church. The month of February this year was such as special time as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of CityLife, had my farewell, and inducted Andrew Hill as the next Senior Minister. These important events all went so well and I look back with gratitude for that. Nicole and I are particularly thankful for the many 'thank you' notes and video messages we received from people both inside and outside of CityLife, as well as the generous gifts from... Read more →


Reflections on Psalm 139 (Part 4)

As we said when we began these reflections, the writer of Psalm 139 was facing many challenges from unjust people and oppressors. In this context, a hymn of adoration was crafted, declaring that (1) God is always with us, (2) God's affections are towards us, and (3) we have a unique purpose. In concluding this journey, the psalmist offers a prayer to God: An Open Book Vs. 23-24. Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide... Read more →


Reflections on Psalm 139 (Part 3)

Psalm 139 not only reminds us that (1) God is with us and that (2) we are objects of his affection. It also shows us that we have been crafted for a specific purpose. Crafted for a Purpose Vs. 15. You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, How I was sculpted from nothing into something. Vs. 16. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; All the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my... Read more →


Reflections of Psalm 139 (Part 2)

As we continue our reflections on Psalm 139, we move on from the awareness that God is always with us to the understanding that you, like every other human being, are made in the image of God. Let's read on ... Vs.13-15. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God — you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration —what a creation! Your Identity - A Child of God We all long for a sense of identity and significance. We often search... Read more →


Reflections on Psalm 139 (Part 1)

This beautiful Psalm begins by boldly declaring that God knows all about us, will never let us go, and has been involved with us from our earliest beginnings (vs.1-18). The latter part of the Psalm provides the context - one of feeling the injustice of people who go about doing wrong and need to be held to account (vs.19-23). When we are faced with life's contradictions, with personal challenges, or opposition from others, it's good to remind ourselves of these truths about God: God With Us Vs.3-5. I'm never out of your sight ... I look behind me and you're... Read more →


Pass the Baton: Successful Leadership Transition

CityLife Church, located in Melbourne Australia, had three Senior Ministers in the first 50 years of it's history. Richard Holland was the founding pastor and led the church for 20 years, followed by my father, Kevin Conner, who led the church for the next 8 years. I was the Senior Minister for the next 22 years before passing the baton in February of this year to Andrew Hill. [Read my announcement on 28th February 2016] Like any relay race, passing the baton effectively is vital for any organisation, including a local church. I wrote about this a few years ago,... Read more →


Living with JOY

Over the last month or so, I have been gradually reading through the book of Psalms in The Message Bible translation. It's a wonderful collection of songs and poetry, expressing the full range of human emotion: disappointment, frustration, anger and hope, as well as praise, worship and joy. One of the most well known Psalms is Psalm 100 - which is a call to worship. It begins by declaring, "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!" The next line is "Serve (or worship) the Lord with gladness (or joy)." Every day, as we go about our life,... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 10)

Hope for the Future The amazing thing about Elijah is that, despite his incredible bout of depression, he continued to minister. God helped him to honour his physical body, he learnt to observe his thinking then renew his mind, God provoked him to action, and then God moved him back into relationship. Elijah lived on. In fact, what is quite humorous is that the biblical record tells us Elijah never died, even though he experienced a suicidal episode. How good is that! Apparently, he went straight up to heaven. When you feel depressed, it can seem as if you will... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 9)

Establish Supportive Relationships The final lesson we learn from the story of Elijah is to establish supportive relationships. You will notice that Elijah had left his servant just prior to this episode of depression and during this entire incident, he was alone. Look at the story again. Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 8)

Provoke Yourself to Action To break free from depression we first honour our body and then we observe our thinking. The next step is to provoke ourselves to action. Here is what God said next to Elijah. Then the Lord told (Elijah), “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 7)

Observe Your Thinking The next step in dealing with depression is to observe your thinking. Let’s keep reading the story. There (Elijah) came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) After the angel attended to Elijah’s physical well-being, God met personally with Elijah. In the course of conversation, God asked Elijah a question – “What are you doing here?” We need to understand that when God asks a question, it is not because he lacks information. In the garden, when God said, “Adam, where... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 6)

Let’s use the word HOPE as an acronym and draw four principles out of the story of Elijah for finding freedom from depression. Honour Your Body The first step in dealing with depression is to honour your physical body. Let’s keep reading. Then (Elijah) lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 5)

Let us look a bit more in depth at one person in Bible times that went through an incredible battle with depression. His name is Elijah. Yes, the great prophet Elijah. Elijah was a prophet in Israel during the time of King Ahab. Ahab was far from God and most of the nation was worshipping a foreign god by the name of Baal. Elijah preached during this time and there had been no rain for three years because of God’s judgment on the people’s rebellion. Elijah then called for a confrontation. He told the people that they had to make... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 4)

Biblical Examples of Depression God is very interested in the practical areas of our life, including emotions such as depression. If you look up at the word ‘depression’ in a concordance, you will not find many verses in the Bible on depression, but the concept of discouragement, despair, low mood, and depression are mentioned frequently throughout. In fact, some of the heroes of the faith experienced depression. Consider the man Job and listen to what he had to say: "Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant my desire. I wish he would crush me. I wish... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 3)

Attitudes toward Depression Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to depression, along with a great deal of ignorance and misunderstanding. Some people think that depression is a sign of weakness and that strong people never get depressed. This is simply not true. Winston Churchill was one of the great political and military leaders of the twentieth century. He led the allied forces in World War II to victory over Hitler. Yet he suffered regularly with depression. In fact, he labeled his depression, ‘the black dog.’ There were many days in his life when the black dog was in the room.... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 2)

Symptoms of Depression Depression is a complex subject, as it can take on many different forms and it has a variety of causes, as well as symptoms. Unlike a physical injury or illness, depression is hard to ‘see’, but it is no less painful or difficult to work through. Depression affects people in a wide variety of different ways. Symptoms of depression may include a negative change in thought, in mood, or in behaviour. Depression can happen to everyone in varying degrees or levels - from mild (feeling ‘down’) to very serious (even becoming suicidal). When it comes to a... Read more →


Dealing with Depression (Part 1)

Back in 2002, I went through what could be called an emotional valley. It took everything within me to get through the day. Each appointment, meeting, task or project seemed like an insurmountable mountain that I had to somehow climb. I was relieved when something was over and I did not experience much joy or pleasure during any of these activities. It was like a cloud had settled in over my heart and mind. Everything was bleak, like someone had closed the window shutters. In the natural, nothing was going wrong. My family life was good, as was work and... Read more →


The Priority of LOVE (Part 6) - Visible Love

Known by Our Love Jesus’ dream was that his followers would be known by their love (John 13:34-35). Think of all the various qualities Jesus could have told us to be known for – truth, justice, holiness, or righteousness. All of these are very important, yet Jesus’ desire was that LOVE be the mark, the measure, and the goal for his new community – the church. I Want to Know What love Is Love is such a misunderstood word and concept today. It can mean anything from friendship to romance to sex. Jesus came to demonstrate a love of another... Read more →


The Priority of LOVE (Part 5) - Tough Love

Jesus calls us to a life of love. Sometimes love has to be tough, especially when there has been a conflict. Arguments and disagreements separate people and create division between friends, families, communities, and even in the church. It takes a great deal of courage, wisdom, and sensitivity to resolve conflicts and restore relationships. Jesus understood that conflict would occur and he prepared his followers for these times. He warned against anger and made reconciliation a priority for disciples (Matthew 5:21-23). He commanded loving confrontation and taught a clear process for sorting out differences (Matthew 18:15-17). He expected his followers... Read more →


The Priority of LOVE (Part 4) - Awkward Love

The Christian God exists eternally in a Trinity of loving relationships – Father, Son, and Spirit. God created us as the object of his love and invites us to participate in a community of loving friendships. As we fully understand how much God loves us, we are able to love others from a strong foundation of acceptance, significance, security, and purpose. A Community Characterised by Forgiveness Because of sin, loving others is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it is awkward. This is especially so when people act in ways that offend or cause hurt to us. Situations such as... Read more →


The Priority of LOVE (Part 3) - I Am Loved

The foundation of our love for others is a revelation of God’s love for us. The most important question in your life is not how much you love others or even how much you love God. It is how much do you think God loves you. Everything flows from this. Once we grasp and fully understand how much God loves us and allow that love to transform our lives, we are in a much better place to reach out in love to those around about us. In contrast, when we are unaware of God’s love for us, we can tend... Read more →


The Priority of LOVE (Part 2) - Original Love

Relationships in Turmoil Despite the fact that there are many good things happening in our world today, it doesn’t take a lot of insight to realize that we are a time of turmoil – especially in our relationships. At our very core, human beings are relational creatures. We have this tendency to ‘herd’ - to want to be together with other people. Deep inside, we have longings for belonging, for acceptance, for love, for intimacy and for meaning – all of which are found in a relationship with others. Yet despite our obvious need and our best efforts, there is... Read more →


The Priority of LOVE (Part 1)

The fairly new church in the bustling seaport city of Corinth back in AD 65 was booming. It was a dynamic charismatic and Pentecostal community attracting pagans and religious people alike. The meetings were pumping - inspiring worship times, sensational preaching, insightful teaching, as well as regular healings and miracles. It was the place to encounter God. The Holy Spirit was at work in powerful ways. But something was wrong. In the midst of all the growth and hype about this church, a kind of spiritual cancer had subtly set in. Yes, it was good at pretty much everything ...... Read more →


Prison Break: Finding Personal Freedom

The BLOG posts from the last few days about worry are a summary of a chapter entitled "Freedom from Worry" in the best-selling book Prison Break: Finding Personal Freedom. The rest of the book contains similar practical teaching about: Freedom from Fear Freedom from Anger Freedom from Depression Freedom from Rejection Freedom from Addictions Freedom from Spiritual Bondages You can purchase a paperback version of this book from WORD Australia OR a digital eBook version from Amazon. The eBook version can be read on the Kindle APP which is available for FREE for all devices (phones, tablets, etc) and operation... Read more →


No Worries! (Part 6)

Conclusion As you can see from our recent conversation about worry, there are two things not worth worrying about: Those you can do something about. Those you can't do something about. Simply take action on the former and trust God and pray about the latter. In other words, don't worry about anything! WHY break free from worry? First of all, it doesn't help us at all, unless it leads us to action. Secondly, it takes away our joy. You can't worry and be joyful at the same time! And finally, worry causes us to be consumed and preoccupied with our... Read more →


No Worries! (Part 5)

Place Your Trust in God Now let's be honest, there are some things on our list of worries that we can't take action on. They are truly beyond our control. Yes, we can pray about them but we can't do anything about them. What do we do about that? This is where we can make a choice to place our trust in God. The wisdom of Proverbs puts it this way (Proverbs 3:5-6): "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you... Read more →


No Worries! (Part 4)

Offer a Prayer to God In addition to taking action on our worries, we can also pray and talk to God about our concerns. The apostle Paul wrote this in a letter to some people living in the city of Philippi the first century (Philippians 4:6-7): "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." NLT Sounds like Paul must have heard... Read more →


No Worries! (Part 3)

Okay, what next? Take action on your worries As you look over your list of worries (you did this yesterday, didn't you?), ask yourself, "Can I do anything about this?" Turn your worries into actions. Re-define them as problems and come up with solutions for each one of them. Then crowd out your worries by actually working on them. After all, worry can be useful ... IF it gets your attention and motivates you to action. If the fuel light on your car dashboard is flashing red, don't worry about running out of petrol (or 'gas', for my American friends)... Read more →


No Worries! (Part 2)

Yesterday, we noted that Jesus tells us to STOP worrying. He doesn't tell us HOW to do so, so obviously he wants us to use our common sense and life experience to figure it out. Here are some practical ways I have found that we can actually do that on a day to day basis, using the acronym STOP. Specify your worries. Ask yourself, "What am I worried about?" Often, worry becomes this dark cloud of vague concern that hovers over our mind, ruining our day. That's why it pays to define your worries. Make a list. Get them all... Read more →


No Worries! (Part 1)

One of the great Australian greetings is, "No worries!" The truth is, we do worry a lot. And let's face it, there is a lot to worry about. We can worry about our health, about our family, our relationships, our money, the weather, our career or job, whether our football team is going to make the finals, and about the future. Then, of course, there are all the global concerns - the economy, the environment, global warming, politics, and the growing threat of terrorism. That's a lot of worry fodder! I have found that the more we worry, the worse... Read more →