General Interest

Finding Happiness (Part 3): Financial Control


The third ingredient contributing to our everyday happiness (read part 1) is financial control.

Money isn't everything but having enough to meet our own needs as well as to give away to others can create a sense of happiness and freedom in our lives. This has nothing to do with our 'net worth' or waiting until we get that next raise or bonus. It's about how we are managing the resources we currently have. Money is a terrific servant but it can be a cruel taskmaster if we allow it control us. 

Thankfully, we don't have to wait until we have more money. We can start having a sense of financial control ... beginning today. It's about having a common-sense plan that's based on hard work, saving, controlling our expenses, paying down our debts and investing wisely. Anxiety can disappear and, in a matter of time, you can know what it is to be financially free.

Unfortunately, we don't automatically have the financial acumen we need for life when we graduate from high school. Sure, we know a little math and maybe a bit about economics, but young people today often don't learn the keys to good financial management while growing up, unless their parents took the time to teach them and model the way. Thankfully, there are tools and resources to help us acquire the knowledge that we need. And it's never too late to learn.

A few helpful resources for Australians are:

Yes, for less than $60 you can acquire all the knowledge and skills you need to gain financial control. That's well worth it.

Did you know that (all are recent statistics from Scott Pape's book mentioned above):

  • The majority of Australians pay $515 a year in bank fees. Over 10 years, that's $5,150, enough money to take you on a really good holiday somewhere!
  • Your super fund can gobble up a third of your savings in fees. Approximately 90% of Australians don't choose where their super money is invested, so they end up in their fund's default option.
  • The average wage in Australia is $78,832 (the top 0.28% of the richest people in the world by income) yet 62% of us believe we can't afford to buy everything we really need.
  • Australians on average live in the biggest homes in the world. And we need a lot of stuff to fill those homes. And we are one of the biggest waste producers in the world - second only to the USA.
  • Australia has the highest rate of household debt in the world. 
  • Only 7% of Australians have the right amount of insurance. 
  • Most Australians aren't ready to retire financially. Although having the richest people on the planet, one in three retirees lives in poverty due to the high cost of living and many run out of savings 13 years before they die ... one of the worst results in the world.

Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way. People are often destroyed through lack of knowledge. That's why it is important to "get wisdom". Get around people who know more than you do and be humble enough to ask questions. Be willing to learn. Have a teachable attitude. You can learn anything ... if you only give it a go.

Your money is just that - YOUR money. You got out of bed in the morning, went to work, and earned your paycheck. Why not learn to manage those resources better so you can achieve a greater degree of financial control? It is possible. You can do it. I'll be cheering you on. You'll be glad you did.

P.S. For some more insights on the topic of finance, be sure to check my 3 BLOG posts on Money Talks.

Finding Happiness (Part 2): Strong Personal Relationships


The second factor that contributes to our happiness (read Part 1) is Strong Personal Relationships.

Each of us is born into a family and a desire for a sense of belonging is a part of what it means to be human. Although the introverts among us tend to be energized by solitude and alone time, most people enjoy meaningful conversation and are enriched by good friendships.

In many ways, relationships are spatial. Most people have lots of acquaintances, many 'friends' or people they know more about or do life together with, but usually only a few close or best friends. Like circles of friendship, the former are further away emotionally while the latter are in close proximity. The key is knowing who is where and how best your constellation of relationships functions in a healthy manner - for everyone concerned. 

We find close friends by first being friendly with lots of people - enlarging our circle of acquaintances. Out of these casual connections, we often find people with common interests or who are of a 'kindred spirit' where there is a mutuality of commonality and enjoyment. With time and effort, close friendships can emerge. And what a gift a good friend is! Of course, to have friends one must be friendly and it is often in giving to others that we also receive. 

How are your relationships going? Who are your friends? Who needs to be closer? Who should you be creating some distance from at the moment (not that you become rude to them but that their proximity is not benefiting either of you)? 

What could you do to strengthen your existing friendships? What conversation do you need to have to take things to a deeper level?

What steps could you take to make some new friends? Where could you meet people with common values and interests?

In most relationships, we get out of them what we put into them. True love thinks about how the other person wants to be treated then grabs the initiative and treats them that way. It's called the "Golden Rule" and it enhances all relationships. 

Tomorrow: Financial Control

For some additional BLOG post around the theme of relationships, see also:

Finding Happiness (Part 1): A Sense of Purpose


Are you happy? 

What does happiness really look like?

Australia's longest running and most comprehensive survey on happiness is conducted by the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index. After 15 years of detailed research, the author of the survey, Deakin University Emeritus Professor Bob Cummins, says he's finally cracked the code to wellbeing, which he has dubbed the ‘golden triangle of happiness':

  1. A sense of purpose.
  2. Strong personal relationships.
  3. Financial control.

Let's take a look at each of these:

A Sense of Purpose

Deep inside of each one of us is a need for a sense of purpose and meaning. What are we living for? What is life all about? Why should we even get out of bed in the morning? Good questions! 

A lot of people simply pursue pleasure (more fun!), possessions (more stuff!) and prestige (more popularity!). Is it any wonder, because the media and our culture bombard us every day with these values. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with these pursuits. It's just worth pausing and asking if they are worth making the central purpose of our life. 

Pleasure doesn't last that long and before you know it, we need another fix. 

All stuff eventually breaks down and wears out and before you know it we want something newer or better (thanks to the relentless efforts of the multi-billion dollar marketing industry). Years of detailed research proves quite convincingly that once you earn over a certain amount a year, money won't make you much happier. Is it really worth the time and effort to pursue outward symbols of success - owning an expensive home, in an expensive suburb, and driving an expensive car to drop the kids off at an expensive school? Many people bite off more than they can chew. They work more. They stress more. They fight more. Is it really worth it?

Prestige can be elusive too. We can be with the 'in crowd' one day and forgotten the next. If our sense of worth and identity is based on what other people think about us, we will always be vulnerable and at risk to the whims of people's fickle opinions. 

So what are you living for? What is the purpose of your life? These are BIG questions. And it's worth pulling aside from the rat race, even if just for an hour or two, to consider and reflect on them deeply. Life's way too short to be climbing the so-called ladder of success only to get to the top and find it was leaning against the wrong wall.

Tomorrow: Strong Personal Relationships.

Here are a few other BLOG posts that might be helpful as you reflect on your sense of purpose:

The Beauty of Sleep


I'm on holidays and I'm loving every minute! My time off started just over 3 weeks ago. The difference in this break is that it began with me finishing employment at the same place for over 32 years. Needless to say, I have been gradually starting to relax and unwind, although it has taken discipline to not focus on what I have 'done' at the end of any particular day. My productivity bias is very strong!

One thing I have noticed is how long and how deeply I have been sleeping. I guess you don't really know how tired you are until you slow down or stop for a while. I said to Nicole one morning this week that it felt like I had slept at a much deeper level than I had ever experienced in my life before. Like peeling an onion, another layer of tiredness seems to be lifting off me.

When I was younger, I envied people who could survive on only a few hours of sleep a night (or who could work right through the night without a hitch!). I tried to do the same, with initial excitement about all those extra hours I'd be able to free up for work and accomplishing the many projects I was interested in. Well, it didn't last very long. I soon learned that sleep is like a bank account and you can't keep making withdrawals without it eventually bouncing through lack of deposits!

I discovered that like most people I need about 8 hours of sleep a night to function best during the day. Yes, I can survive an occasional late night or early morning here or there, but regularly deviating from this daily rhythm doesn't work for me in the long run. I need a good night's sleep - every day. And that's okay.

How have been sleeping lately?

A good night's sleep is a beautiful thing, renewing our entire being - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It's amazing how even challenges or problems look at little different in the morning after a quality sleep. It's a bit like a mental reset, a fuel tank refill, a windscreen wiper clean, or a computer reboot.

Here are a few tips I've found helpful for having a good sleep:

1. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as it can be, with no light creeping in.
2. A room that is quiet is also important.
3. Getting to bed a few hours before midnight seems to help a lot.
4. Don't eat late at night or too soon before going to sleep. Your stomach will be digesting all night ... and oh that breath in the morning!
5. Don't drink too much late at night. I try not to drink anything after 8.00 pm. It reduces trips to the toilet during the night.
6. Avoid engaging in highly mentally stimulating activities just before bed. Do something more relaxing.
7. If you are having trouble sleeping, chat to your doctor.

Good night :)

Money Talks (Part 3)

MoneyIt may take time … but having and working a financial plan is the path to financial freedom and God’s blessing whatever your situation. Notice the plan is not the 80-10-10 plan. The order is important. Put God first in your finances. Then change ratios over time as you’re able - 15-15-70, etc. This is pretty simple: a 10-year old can do it. Every person’s financial situation is unique. What is right for you may not be relevant for someone else, but these principles can work for just about everyone.

My motive in sharing this message is to help you personally – because a lot of people live under tremendous financial pressure and all of us need to learn principles of wise financial management. It is not because the church is desperate for more money. We are healthy financially. Yes, we can always use more, so don’t stop giving, but that is not the primary purpose of this teaching. Notice that our focus is not just on giving, because, as important as giving is, it is only one part of the wise financial management.

If you’re doing well financially, well done. Be a blessing and help to others around you. If you’re not doing that well, begin making some changes right away. If you’re under financial pressure or if you have a lot of debt, obtain some financial advice and help to work your way out of your current situation.

There are many things in life more important than money. You can have an enjoyable and fulfilling life without having a lot of money. There is more to life than money and possessions including pleasing God by living right (Prov.11:4; 16:8; 28:6), enjoying quality relationships (1Cor.13:13), as well as experiencing inner peace and contentment (Prov.15:16; 23:4-5. Phil.4:11-13. 1 Tim.6:6-10).

Reflection Questions

  1. The Bible talks a lot about money. How do you feel about it being talked about in church?
  2. Reflect on the dangers and the benefits of wealth.
  3. Read Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:28-30 about considering the cost of discipleship and discuss what relevance it has to wise financial management.
  4. Read Paul’s comments on work in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 and consider its application to today.
  5. In what situations is it appropriate not to be working and be dependent on someone else for income?
  6. What are some principles of promotion in the work place? How do Paul’s comments in Colossians 3:23-25 relate to this?
  7. Reflect on the problem of gambling in Australia. What are some of its causes and consequences?
  8. What are the benefits of managing resources wisely? What are the consequences of not doing so?
  9. How can the church community provide a place where each person is encouraged and helped to be blessed financially?
  10. Why do you think some Christians struggle with the concept of ‘tithing’ (giving 10% of their income to the church)?
  11. What testimonies do you have that illustrate how giving can release God’s blessing in your life.
  12. What are some things you would like to do in the future that will require money?
  13. Why is saving so hard for most people?
  14. What are some lessons about financial investment you have learned (including both successes and failures) that may be helpful to others?
  15. What are some questions we can ask ourselves before buying a particular item (‘shopping tips’)?
  16. What are some ways we can reduce our expenses so we are living within our means?
  17. Finish by praying for financial blessing for your life as you honour God with your  finances.

Money Talks (Part 2)

MoneyEstablish and Live by a Budget

If you don't take control of your money it will take control of you and your life. Money is a great servant but is a cruel taskmaster. A budget is the most important and effective tool for getting your finances under control. A budget is simply a plan for earning and spending money. It provides limits and boundaries, which give security. There are many Scriptures on planning (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18; 21:5; 27:23-24. Jerermiah 29:11. Luke 14:28-30).

INCOME - How to Acquire Money

Human labour is the means by which we earn money. It is the key to the earning side of the financial equation. God is a worker. He worked for six days (on His creation project), then rested from his work on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3). We were created to work (Genesis 2:5, 15). The primary means of acquiring income is through work. Work was not a result of sin. It is part of God’s plan for our lives. He works and he wants us to work too. We are created to make a contribution and to add value to the world. In return we receive finances for our efforts.

A Plan for Financial Freedom

Most people will earn millions of dollars in their working lifetime. However, what we do with that money is what is most critical. That brings us to the second part of our budget which is our expenses. We need a plan for doing three things with our money - Spending, Saving and Giving. Most people only do one thing with their money - spend it. In fact, a lot of people spend more than their income and as a result they’re drowning in an ever-enlarging pool of debt. Consider starting with something like the 10-10-80 plan.

1. GIVE - first, give at least 10% to God. God gives us our very breath and the power to acquire wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) All that we have comes from him and therefore belongs to him (1 Chronicles 29:14-16). Giving God the first part of our income is a regular reminder to us of this reality. In doing so, we honour him as our Lord and as the source and owner of all of our resources. In Old Testament times, ‘tithing’ (giving 10%) was a law for all Israelites. In the New Testament, the emphasis moves toward generous giving. Followers of Christ are instructed to give to God’s work - proportionately, generously, sacrificially, willingly, regularly, cheerfully, and wisely, excelling in the art of giving (see Matthew 6:1-4, 19-24. Mark 12:41-44. Luke 19:8. Acts 2:41-47; 4:36-37; 11:27-30; 20:35. Romans 15:25-27. 1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 16:1-4. 2 Corinthians 8-9. Philippians 4:18. 1 Timothy 5:17-18. 2 John 5-8). Giving 10% (‘tithing’) of our income to the work of God is an excellent principle of good financial management (not a law).

Abraham tithed 430 years before the law and Jesus affirmed the principle of tithing (Matthew 23:23. Luke 11:42). The new covenant of grace brings us to a higher law - a place where we give not because we have to but because we want to.

The subject of giving can be approached from two different perspectives - human wisdom or the wisdom of God. The natural mind says, “Giving means I make a loss.” The truth is when you give or invest in the God’s work it is not a loss but it is actually a deposit in your heavenly account. God records it and there will be return for you (Matthew 6:19-21. Luke 6:38. Philippians 4:10-19). God can make your 90% go further than you can make your 100% go without his help and blessing. Secondly, the natural mind easily says, “I can’t afford to give” or “I’ll give when I’ve got some surplus.” However, God challenges us that when we give in faith even when we are in a time of need, his miraculous provision begins to come our way. He only asks us to give of what we already have, not what we don’t have, and as we go first, in faith and obedience, we release his blessing into our life (see 1 Kings 17 and Mark 12:41-44).

2. SAVE - secondly, take at least another 10% and pay yourself by putting this in a savings or investment account. Prepare for the future by adopting a savings and investment plan (Proverbs 21:20). Savings creates freedom, reduces pressure, enhances joy, is a powerful witness and enables you to give. Make a decision to become a saver and get a plan to make it a reality (Proverbs 13:11; 21:5). Spend less than you earn, then save and invest the difference over a long period of time. Ants have small bodies and small brains but they are very smart (Proverbs 6:6-11)! They store up (save) for the winter months. We humans have bigger bodies and bigger brains but sometimes we’re pretty foolish. We have nothing saved up for the future. Growth financially takes time and continued effort. If we are faithful with what we have, God will give us more (Matthew 25:21).

Investing is about getting your hard-earned money to work for you. There are a lot of ‘shonky’ investment schemes out there that promise you a fast track to wealth (Eccesiastes 5:13-14). If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, there are many investments that can yield good returns. Do your research, obtain good advice and learn about different investment types - both their potential returns and risks.

3. SPEND - use the remaining 80% or less to pay everyone and everything else. This is for the rest of your normal living expenses – food, clothing, housing, transportation, debt reduction, entertainment, holiday, extra giving, etc. You’ve already honoured God and paid yourself. You can now enjoy life a little because you’re on plan. You’re living wisely.

Beware of the major “budget busters”, especially “impulse buying”, which refers to unplanned expenditures based on emotion. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you buy something on sale, you are not saving, you are spending. Advertising motivates us to buy things we often don’t need and seeks to make us dissatisfied with what we have now. Material things always oversell themselves and rarely deliver on their promises over the long term. Avoid situations that encourage you to spend. Be satisfied with what you have. Focus on what you have not on what you don’t have.

Use debt strategically (to increase assets) not destructively because debt puts you in bondage (Proverbs 22:7), it puts you under pressure (Proverbs 23:4), it can sabotage your peace and joy (Ecclesiastes 4:6), it can damage your Christian witness and it hinders you from being able to give (Luke 10:25-37). If you are in debt, make a decision to get out of debt, get a plan, get some help and don’t give up (Proverbs 3:27-28. Romans 13:6-8).

If you can’t live on 80% of your income you have to make some changes: Either earn some more income – find a higher paying job (upgrade your skills, if necessary, to make yourself more qualified), work extra hours or start an extra job (possibly part time). These are all possible options but consider the ramifications of each choice. The other option is to reduce your expenses, which may require you to ‘down-size’ your living standards (see Eccesiastes 4:6). If your standard of living is creating great pressure and stress in your life and relationships, why not lower it. Right-size your living expenses to match your income.

Most people think that the solution to their financial problems is to earn more. However, it’s not what you earn that matters - it’s how much you spend. If you consistently spend less than you earn, and save or invest the rest, you will gain financial freedom. It has nothing to do with how much you earn. Overspend just a few dollars a day and you can be thousands of dollars in debt in a number of years. On the other hand, put aside a few dollars a day into savings and you’ll save thousands of dollars in a number of years.

[Part 3]

Money Talks (Part 1)

MoneyJesus and Money

In Luke 16:1-13, we have an example of Jesus’ teaching about money. There’s a difference of opinion as to what exactly Jesus is commending about the manager in the story but the application of the parable is very clear: (1) all of us will be called to give an account of how we have served him and what we have done with our resources; (2) preparation for that day of account should involve wise use of our resources, especially in the area of finances; and (3) wise use of resources, demonstrating a life of true discipleship, will be rewarded with eternal life and joy. Jesus then added a few other lessons after he finished the story: (1) How we handle small things is an indicator of how we will handle larger things (vs.10); (2) God looks at how we manage the financial resources (‘worldly wealth’) he puts in our hands to determine how much spiritual responsibility (‘true riches’) he will give us (vs.11). Money is a test of spiritual maturity. It reveals our heart and the quality of our character; (3) How we handle or manage other people’s things is a test of our character and maturity (vs.12). If we can’t do well with what belongs to another person, we probably won’t be given our own; (4) Finally, Jesus observes that you can’t serve God and money, in the sense of making an ultimate commitment to both at the same time. Obviously, Jesus is saying that a real test of our discipleship is our attitude towards and our management of our finances. You can tell a lot about a person by how they spend their money. It’s more than just numbers. It reflects values. As part of another teaching on money, Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” In other words, your money follows the desires and values of your heart.

Jesus talked about money and possessions in 16 out of 38 parables and 1 out of every 10 verses in the gospels refer to this topic. He talked more about possessions and money than about heaven and hell combined. He did this because how we handle our money matters.

Your Personal Money Makeover

We live in one of the richest countries in the world. Over half of the world’s population lives on just a few dollars a day. Every one of us is ‘rich’ in comparison. Yet despite that fact, many Australians, including many Christians, are under financial pressure. When we experience financial difficulties, every area of our life is affected. Thankfully, there are biblical principles to help us achieve financial freedom and for living wisely on the resources we have.  

On the negative side, the Bible teaches us that money can become like a monster that rules our life if we allow it to. Money can be addictive (Ecc.5:10), deceptive (Mt.13:22) and destructive (1 Tim.6:9-11), and it’s only temporal (Lk.12:16-21). Money can be difficult to master and that’s why the Bible says that the “love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim.6:10). If you don’t control your money, it will control you and it has the potential to destroy you. Riches can be a threat to your relationship with God. That’s why the Bible has many warnings about the dangers of wealth. You don’t have to have money to love it. Both poor people and rich people can be lovers of money. So, should we all be poor? Not at all. God doesn’t mind us having money as long as our money doesn’t have us. Money is not the problem; it’s our attitude towards it. Money is essential for survival and the expansion of God’s kingdom. It depends on our motives, our priorities and our values.

On the positive side, the Bible teaches us that if we serve God, money can become a blessing in our life. The Bible shows us that God desires to bless his people. God prospers us for a purpose. Money can meet our basic needs (Dt.8:10-20), provide for our enjoyment (Ecc.5:19) and enable us to meet the needs of others (1 Tim. 6:17, 18) and resource God’s work on the earth.

A Financial Assessment

About 10 years ago, we shared a series of messages focused on a personal money makeover. It’s worth looking at this again. A money makeover starts with an assessment of where you are at right now financially. You will benefit from a very simple financial check-up. This is what you need to know about your finances:

  1. What you own – your This includes cash, house, car, furnishings, tools, investments, money you.
  2. What you owe – your liabilities. This is what you owe – a personal or bank loan, or credit card debt.
  3. What you earn – your income. This includes wages, investment returns, gifts, government support, royalties, etc.
  4. What you spend – your expenses. Expenses include all your living expenses, loan or debt repayments, etc.

#1 and 2 are referred to as your Balance Sheet. Hopefully, you have some ‘equity’ or a positive ‘net worth’. The percentages and proportions are more important than the actual amounts.

#3 and 4 are referred to as your Profit and Loss Statement. Hopefully, there is a ‘profit’, because you are spending less than you are earning. The percentages and proportions are more important than actual amounts.

Doing an assessment such as this takes time but it is worth it. Get some help if you need to. Make use of a simple computer program, consider taking a basic accounting course or purchase a basic book on financial management. Remember Jesus said how we manage your financial resources is very important.

A Balance Sheet statement is very important as it is a snapshot of your current financial position. However, it is simply a result of what we do on a day-to-day basis with our finances, which is shown by our Profit and Loss Statement. If you’d like your assets to increase and your debts to decrease over time, then you need to ensure that your income is exceeding your expenses on a regular basis then apply the resulting profit to those goals.

[Part 2]

The Value of Time


To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.
To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask someone who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have ... and treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with. Remember, time waits for no one.

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why its called the present.


Time to Jump?


As the age of 19, I left America with my family to relocate back to Melbourne, Australia where I was born. I had been living in the USA for 10 years. I had friends, memories, and great opportunities for the future there. But my family was coming home and so I agreed to come with them for one year and give it a try. I had prayed bold prayers of surrendering everything to God. Now was the time to put those words into action. I was leaving everything, letting it all go, with no promise or guarantee of what was ahead. I had many more questions than answers: "Could I trust God? Would it work out? Would I regret leaving?" The great unknown.

Time to jump.

Scary, yet exhilarating.

As a 54 year old, I now re-visit this same space ... but in new ways. We have begun succession planning talks at CityLife where I have been the Senior Minister for the last 21 years and part of the staff team for 31 years. Once a successor has been chosen and is in place, I will take 6 months off then see what is next. I am letting it all go - a ministry role I have enjoyed for many years, a position of respect, a platform of influence, financial security, comfort, and a life of predictability … with no promise or guarantee of what is ahead. Once again, I have far more questions than answers: "Can I still trust God? What will people think? Am I too young for this big of a change? Will it work out? What will I do next? Will I regret leaving?" The great unknown.

Time to jump.

Scary, yet exhilarating.

Is it time for you to jump?

Maybe not.

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence (it's usually greener where we water it!). Sometimes we need to stay put, to let our roots go down deep, to be faithful in season and out of season, and to stay the course even in the midst of a scary storm. 

Is it time for you to jump?

Maybe so.

What would you love to be or do … but are afraid to? We love to talk about adventure, faith and risk ... but there comes a time when we must choose to live it. Like Abraham, sometimes God calls us to leave our place of comfort and familiarity ... and go to a new place.

Have you silently been whispering to yourself, “I’ve always wanted to …”

If so, you are not alone.

Take a moment to read Mike Lewis’ story, then check out his new web site and follow the stories. You'll be inspired ... and maybe you too will decide it's time to jump.

Mike talks about a “jump curve”. This is not a strict blueprint but there are some common points that most people experience:

1. First, listen closely to the little voice in your head that won’t go away. 
2. Second, make a plan. In reality, for the vast majority of people, their jump is a lot of little steps.
3. Then jump. You can only plan, analyse and hypothesise so far. You will only get certainty to some degree. Just do it. The unknown delivers the best experience. Set the pieces right as best you can, then jump. 
4. Once you jump, don’t look back! Will it work? What does ‘work’ mean? Work just means you did it. That was the success. Trust God and his providence to carry you forward into the next season and chapter of your life. 


"You can't always wait for the perfect time, sometimes you have to dare to jump". [Unknown]

"Face It: Career Jumps Are the Future of Work." [Forbes. February 26, 2016]

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." [Mark Twain] 

"A ship is safe in harbour, but that's not what ships are for." [William Shedd]

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” [Helen Keller]

"The most dangerous risk of all - the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later." [Randy Kombar]

"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone ... I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!" [J.R.R. Tolkein in The Hobbit]

See also:

Insights from the Eagle


I love eagles.

We live in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Melbourne. When I took my first sabbatical back in 2012, on the very first day, Nicole and I were walking on a gravel road nearby and a huge wedge tailed eagle flew over our head and then up throught the trees. It was breathtaking. In the last few weeks, we have seen a pair of eagles soaring above our area a number of times. 

There are many lessons we can learn from the eagle. God likens us to eagles (Isaiah 40:28-31) and Solomon gained a lot of wisdom and insight from studying God's creation (1 Kings 4:29-34). Here are my main points:

Embrace adversity. An eagle never runs from a storm. In fact, they thrive when the wind gets really strong. Eagles have been seen soaring in the midst of even a hurricane. It does not panic but merely rides the wind until the storm is over.

Every life experiences some stormy weather. Don’t panic; don’t be afraid; don’t run. Be still and know that God is with you in the storm. He will bring you through. Be patient – this too will pass.  

Accept discomfort. A mother eagle makes a nest first with a layer of thorns, broken branches and sharp stones. She then covers this with fur, wool and feathers to make a comfortable bed in which to lay her eggs. Once the eaglets are born and ready to fly, they can easily become too comfortable - with a nice warm bed and 3 free meals a day! The only way to move them and get them flying is to make the nest uncomfortable, so the mother starts pulling out all of the soft lining so that the sharp objects start to cause some pain for her babies. Before long they are out of the nest and soaring the skies. 

In the same way, God can use discomfort to disturb us and help us to mature and grow to our potential. After all, God loves to comfort the disturbed ... and disturb the comfortable.

Go high! The eagle flies higher than any other bird, having been seen at heights of up to 2000 metres above the ground.

God does not want us to see ourselves as above or aloof from people or so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good … BUT it helps to view our lives from God’s perspective, to see the big picture … and not get so caught up in the details of our lives that we miss what God is up to. Take a long walk outside into nature (go treeside or seaside) and you'll be surprised by how quickly your life gains fresh focus.

Look carefully. The eagle has incredible vision and keen eyesight. It can see up to distances of 5 kilometers.

God has called us to have great vision – to see the needs of other people around us and to see the opportunities for us to make a difference.

Experience Renewal. Each year, an eagle’s feathers are replaced over a period of months. Amazingly, no two adjacent feathers fall out at the same time, so that an eagle is able to continue hunting and is not disadvantaged in any way.

We too, as God’s servants need constant renewal – we need a sense of freshness and newness in our hearts and lives. By waiting on God we can experience this – without having to drop out of life or ministry. Our youth can be ‘renewed’ just like the eagles ... as we continue to engage in our God-given assignments.

Let's continue to soar like eagles!

P.S. For more insights from the eagle, see The Eagle Story.

The Fisherman and the Businessman


A holidaying American businessman standing on the pier of a quaint coastal fishing village in southern Mexico watched as a small boat with just one young Mexican fisherman pulled into the dock. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. Enjoying the warmth of the early afternoon sun, the American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish. 

"How long did it take you to catch them?" the American casually asked. 

"Oh, a few hours," the Mexican fisherman replied. 

"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" the American businessman then asked. 

The Mexican warmly replied, "With this I have more than enough to meet my family's needs." 

The businessman then became serious, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" 

Responding with a smile, the Mexican fisherman answered, "I sleep late, play with my children, watch ball games, and take siesta with my wife. Sometimes in the evenings I take a stroll into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, sing a few songs..." 

The American businessman impatiently interrupted, "Look, I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you to be more profitable. You can start by fishing several hours longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the additional income that larger boat will bring, before long you can buy a second boat, then a third one, and so on, until you have an entire fleet of fishing boats."

Proud of his own sharp thinking, he excitedly elaborated a grand scheme which could bring even bigger profits, "Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman you'll be able to sell your fish directly to the processor, or even open your own cannery. Eventually, you could control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this tiny coastal village and move to Mexico City, or possibly even Los Angeles or New York City, where you could even further expand your enterprise." 

Having never thought of such things, the Mexican fisherman asked, "But how long will all this take?" 

After a rapid mental calculation, the Harvard MBA pronounced, "Probably about 15-20 years, maybe less if you work really hard." 

"And then what, señor?" asked the fisherman. 

"Why, that's the best part!" answered the businessman with a laugh. "When the time is right, you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions." 

"Millions? Really? What would I do with it all?" asked the young fisherman in disbelief. 

The businessman boasted, "Then you could happily retire with all the money you've made. You could move to a quaint coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, play with your grandchildren, watch ball games, and take siesta with your wife. You could stroll to the village in the evenings where you could play the guitar and sing with your friends all you want."

The moral of the story is: Know what really matters in life, and you may find that it is already much closer than you think.

The Devil's Most Effective Tool - Discouragement

DiscThe following fictitious story illustrates the power of discouragement.

Once upon a time it was announced that the devil was going out of business and would sell all his equipment to those who were willing to pay the price.

On the big day of the sale, all his tools were attractively displayed. There was Envy, Jealousy, Hatred, Malice, Deceit, Sensuality, Pride, Idolatry, and other implements of evil on display. Each of the tools was marked with its own price tag.

Over in the corner by itself was a harmless-looking, wedge-shaped tool very much worn down, but still it bore a higher price than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what it was, and he answered, "That is Discouragement."  The next question came quickly: "And why is it priced so high even though it is plain to see that it is more worn than these others?"

"Because," replied the devil, "it is more useful to me than all these others. I can pry open and get into a person's heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tool. Once I get inside, I can use him or her in whatever way suits me best. It is worn well because I use it on everybody I can, and few people even know it belongs to me."

This tool was priced so high that no one could buy it, and to this day it has never been sold. It still belongs to the devil, and he still uses it on people of all kinds. 

[Author Unknown]

Galatians 6:9. Let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. The Message Bible

See also: Discouragement - A Poem

Is it time to De-Clutter Your Life?


Do you feel like your life is cluttered? Are you a hoarder? Do you have stuff everywhere and the piles are only getting bigger? Do you feel overwhelmed? Maybe it's time to de-clutter.

For some assistance, why not check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpThis #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary method for simplifying, organising, and storing.

Here are the main take away ideas:

  1. The art of tidying requires discarding first (things that have outlived their purpose), then organising (the remaining things that you cherish now). 
  2. Sort by Category (not Location). Do it in this Order: Clothes, Books, Papers, Miscellany, Momentos. Sub-categories can be helpful. 
  3. Put everything in a single file on the floor.
  4. Take each item in hand and ask “Does this bring joy to my heart?” Choose what to keep, not what to get rid of. Choose to surround yourself with things that spark joy. Can you say, “I really like this!” If so, keep it, regardless of what other people think. 
  5. Tidy once all in one go, as quickly and completely as possible (take no longer than 6 months). Discover who you are and what you really want now (how you want to live your life).
  6. Letting go is more important than adding.
  7. When we delve into the reason for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past OR a fear for the future.
  8. Tidying is an act of restoring balance to your life. 
  9. Detox your house … and your life. 
  10. Your real life begins after putting your house in order.

Is is time to de-clutter your home ... and your world? 


Max Conlon - Aboriginal Artist



Last weekend, as part of our Australians Together focus, we were privileged to host Max and Tracey Conlon at CityLife Church. They are indigenous Australian church leaders who founded Walkabout Ministry. They travel and minister to many of the isolated indigenous communities across our nation.

Max was raised amongst 14 siblings in the Cherbourg Aboriginal settlement in south east Queensland and is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi/Kullali tribes. Max is an established artist and has been painting for 35 years. He has travelled extensively with exhibitions of his work in Dubai, Japan, Korea and a number of European cities.  He has also exhibited extensively throughout the east coast of Australia, collaborating with his brother Robin (Goma) on murals and art projects with cultural community outcomes. His family traditions have inspired a unique body of work which utilises traditional and contemporary symbols to communicate stories of life experiences.

Max is also an award winning artist. Check out the firsthings gallery to see some of his work.

See also: Australians Together

The Blessings of Aging

In a culture that idolises youth, it's easy to lose the value and joy of aging. Yet, wisdom says: "The glory of young men is their strength; gray hair the splendor of the old (Proverbs 20:29)." Having turned 50 years of age not long ago, I know what it's like to start to feel your own frailty. Those double digit birthdays can definitely take a significant mental and emotional toll on us. Thankfully, we are all aging at the same rate.  

The Huffington Post recently posted the following article by Sister Joan Chittister. There's some good wisdom here for us. 

The one certain dimension of US demographics these days is that the fastest growing segment of the American population is comprised of people above the age of 65. We, and all our institutions, as a result, are a greying breed. At the same time, we are, in fact, the healthiest, longest lived, most educated, most active body of elders the world has ever known. The only real problem with that is that we are doing it in the face of a youth culture left to drive a capitalist economy that thrives on sales.

So, what we sell is either to youth, about youth, or for the sake of affecting youth. But after all the pictures of 60-looking 80 year olds going by on their bikes fade off the screen, the world is left with, at best, a very partial look at what it means to be an elder.

Especially for those who never did like biking much to begin with.

The truth of the matter is that all of life, at any age, is about ripening. Life is about doing every age well, learning what we are meant to learn from it and giving to it what we are meant to give back to it.

The young give energy and wonder and enthusiasm and heart-breaking effort to becoming an accomplished, respected, recognized adult. And for their efforts they reap achievement and identity and self-determination.

The middle-aged give commitment and leadership, imagination and generativity. They build and rebuild the world from one age to another. And for their efforts they get status, and some kind of power, however slight, and the satisfaction that comes from a sense of accomplishment.

The elderly have different tasks entirely. The elderly come to this stage of life largely finished with a building block mentality. They have built all they want to build. It is their task in life now to evaluate what has become of it, what it did to them, what of good they can leave behind them. They bring to life the wisdom that comes from having failed as often as they succeeded, relinquished as much as they accumulated. And this stage of life comes with its own very clear blessings.

Given the luxury of years, the elders in a society bring a perspective on life that is not possible to the young and of even less interest to the middle aged whose life is consumed with concern for security and achievement. Instead the elders look back on the twists and turns of life with a more measured gaze. Some things, they know now, which they thought had great value at one age, they see little value in later. The elders know that what lasts in life, what counts in life, what remains in life after all the work has been completed are the relationships that sustained us, not the trophies we collected on the way.

The Elders are blessed with insight

For the first time in life, the elderly have time to enjoy the present. The morning air becomes the kind of elixir again that they have not known since childhood. The park has become an observation deck on the world. The library is now the crossroads of the world. The coffee shop becomes the social center of their lives. And small children a new delight and a companion, if not leaders, as they explore their way through life again.

The blessing of this time is appreciation of the moment.

FREEDOM:There is a kind of liberation that comes with being an elder. All the old expectations go to mist. The competition and stress that comes with trying to find a place in today's highly impersonal economy fade away and I can do what I like, wear what I like, say what I like without bartering my very survival for it. For the first time in years it is possible simply to be a person in search of a life rather than an economic pawn in search of a high-toned livelihood. The need to reek of competence and approval gives way to the need to enjoy life.

The awareness of life as liberating rather than burdensome is the most refreshing blessing a soul can have.

NEWNESS: The truism prevails that it is the young, that part of the social spectrum who stand on the brink of adulthood who have the opportunity to make the great choices of life: where to go, how to live, what to do with our one precious and fragile life. But if truth were told it is really the elderly who have the option to become new again. With the children on t heir own and the house paid for, with our dues paid to the social system and our identities stripped away from what we do to what we are, we have the world at our feet again. We can do all the things we've put aside for years: learn to play the guitar, go back to school, volunteer in areas we have always wanted to do more of like become a tour guide or a museum aid, go backpacking or become a children's reader at the local library. We can now get up every morning to begin life all over again.

The blessing of life now lies in the realization that life is not over but beginning again in a whole new way.

TALE TELLING: The elders in a society are its living history, its balladeers who tell the history of a people and the lessons of growth that come with them. The war veteran can talk now about the hell of war that belies its so-called glory. The mothers know what it means to raise children with less money than the process demands. The old couples know that marriage is a process not an event and that what draws people into marriage will not be what keeps them there. These are the ones who raise for the rest of us the beacons of hope that tell us the truth we need, on our own dark days, to hear: If these others could survive the depression, the losses, the breakups and breakdowns of life, we have living proof now, so can we.

The process of past reflection is one of the major blessings an elder can have because it crystallizes the value of one's own life and blesses the rest of the world with wisdom at the same time.

RELATIONSHIPS: In the lexicon of elders, all too often and all too late, a new event begins to take front and center where once work and the social whirl had held sway. Elders wake up in the morning aware that the only thing really left in life after all the schedules have disappeared are the people that have been left out of them for far too long: the adult children they haven't talked to for weeks -- no, months -- now. They remember the last old friend they met in the market who said "We really have to have coffee together some day" and begin to look around for the phone number. They recall with a pang the grandchildren they promised to take to the zoo and wonder with a pang whether or not the zoo is still open for the season--and whether the children still remember grandpa and the promise. Elders have the luxury of attending to people now rather than to things. And out of that attention comes a new sense of being really important to the world.

One of the great blessings of being elderly is not that it isolates us but that, ironically, it ties us more tightly to the people around us

TRANSCENDENCE: Finally, it is the elders in a society who distill for the rest of it the real meaning of life -- and right before our eyes. The quality of their reflections on life are so different than ours, they must certainly be listened to. The serenity of their souls in the face of total change--both physical and social--give promise that behind all the hurly-burly lies a deep pool of peace. The devotion they bring to the transcendentals of life--to solitude, to prayer, to reading, to the arts, to the simple work of gardening, to the great questions of the age, to their continuing commitment to building a city, a country, a world that will be better for us when they move on, may be the greatest spiritual lesson of life a younger generation may ever get as well as the greatest insight they every have.

Indeed, to find ourselves on the edge of elderhood, is to find ourselves in an entirely new and exciting point in life. It is blessing upon blessing and it invites those around them to live more thoughtfully themselves by listening to them carefully now--while we all still have time.


Also, check out Sister Joan's book The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.

World Animal Day (October 4th)

AnimalOkay, so today is World Animal Day. World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Since then, World Animal Day has become a day for remembering and paying tribute to all animals and the people who love and respect them. It's celebrated in different ways in every country.

Personally, I love animals and think we should show tender love and care to all God's creatures, great and small ...

Gen.1:25. God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. NLT

Psalm 50:10-11. Every creature of the forest is mine, the wild animals on all the mountains. I know every mountain bird by name; the scampering field mice are my friends. MB

Proverbs 12:10. The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel. NLT

King Solomon's wisdom was a gift of God but we are also told that ... "He knew all about plants, from the huge cedar that grows in Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows in the cracks of a wall. He understood everything about animals and birds, reptiles and fish (1Kings 4:29. MB)."

Matthew 6:26. Jesus said, "Look at the birds ..." NLT

Matthew 10:29. Jesus said, "What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it." NLT

Be sure to check out: 50 Animal Pictures You Need to See Before You Die.

Like an Eagle ...

EagleDuring my sabbatical last year, I saw an eagle on at least five different occasions. The first time was a huge wedge-tailed eagle that flew near the tree tops not far from our house while we were on a walk. The others I saw while travelling in various places. Eagles are so beautiful and majestic to watch, flying in an almost effortless fashion. 

To me the eagle represents God calling me to a higher life, resting in him, soaring on the wings of the Spirit, seeing life from his perspective, and riding far above the winds of adversity.  

What are some other lessons we can learn from the eagle?

1. As we wait on the Lord, we can exchange our weakness for his strength (Is.40:31). Be still and know that I am God. Let God's Spirit be the wind beneath your wings. Stop striving and struggling, flapping your wings in panic or self-effort. Let go and let God. 

2. We can soar above every wind of adversity and through any storm that comes against you. Spread your wings and take flight. 

3. God will carry us to a place of safety on eagles wings (Ex.19:4).

4. Eagles build their nests in tall trees or on high cliffs (Job 39:27). Come up higher. Get above the clutter and din of this old world. See things from God's perspective. Live with wisdom and insight. 

5. Eagles have incredible eyesight to see accurately from great distances. We have been called to have this breadth of prophetic perspective and depth of insight. 

6. God stirs our nest in order to teach us to fly (Deut.32:11). Is he moving you out of my comfort zone at this time?

There are four things that are amazing and hard to understand, one of which is an eagle gliding through the sky (Prov.30:18-19).

Australia's Population Reaches 23 Million People

OzThe 23 millionth Australian, due to arrive this week, could be a baby called Jack or even a young Pom.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the nation's population is set to hit 23 million people on April 23 at 9.57pm (AEST), but there's only a 40 per cent chance he or she will be home grown.

Migrants make up 60 per cent of Australia's population growth and the UK accounts for one in five arrivals.

If number 23,000,000 is born locally, there's a slightly better chance of it being a boy, with 105 males born for every 100 females, and Jack their most popular name.

Australia's population is increasing by 1048 people per day, or by 1.7 per cent a year, which equates to one new Canberra or three new Darwins per year.

The ABS now forecasts the population will exceed 40 million in the late 2050s.

Australia's median age has increased nearly five years from 32.7 to 37.5.

Western Australia is the fastest growing state, while Tasmania's population growth rate is contracting.

Tasmania's population increased by just 500 people last year, while WA is now growing by more than 1500 people per week.

More people are moving interstate to Queensland, while NSW had the highest departures to other states, with 1900 people leaving each week.


Work Trivia + Some Unusual Jobs in Demand

CareerThis week we've been talking about Your Work, God's Work.

Did you know that the average person today has 5-7 complete career changes in their life time? That's an average of 10 different jobs with an average of 4.1 years at each workplace. 

I sure help the average, having worked as a builder's renovator, a book binder, a printer, a music director, a youth pastor, a church administrator and now as a pastor for the last 18 years.

Maybe you've had lots of changes in career too or maybe you're one of those people who stick at something for a long time.

Just for a bit of fun, here are some unusual though highly paid jobs in demand here in Australia:

1. Senior Submarine Cook. When the Royal Australian Navy advertised that it was willing to pay up to $200,000 for senior submarine cooks, it attracted worldwide media attention. It seems that there aren’t too many individuals with the cooking skills and organisational ability to produce morale-boosting food in a cramped galley.

2. Shark Tagger. Those tags that allow marine biologists to track the movements of great white sharks don’t magically attach themselves. If you’re willing to haul a shark onto a boat and help with the surgical implantation of a tracking device before throwing it back in the water, you probably won’t find yourself competing for jobs with too many others.

3. Island Caretaker. Love the ocean, and want to live a permanent holiday life? This job requires one to explore islands, and discover areas for exploitation. One will require some basic skills, like carpentry, plumbing, communication skills etc, in-order to help the Island achieve its recreational potential.

4. Crime Scene Cleaner. Ever wondered what happens after all the dirty work has been done at a crime scene and who cleans up the mess? Crime scene cleaners do it, though they need the stomach for it, due to the emotionally challenging nature of the job.

5. Fortune Cookie Writer. If you have a creative mind and imagination, you can earn good money with this job too.

Anyway, it doesn't hurt to daydream occasionally. Maybe you need a new job OR maybe you need to go to your current job as a new person ... with a new perspective. Any plain old job or task can become a calling or a vocation IF we see ourselves as sent on a mission by Someone important. Your Work, God's Work - you're on a mission from God. Go to it! 

The 10 Commandments From a Dog's Point of View

IMG_0944Our daughter, Natasha, turns 20 in a few weeks. We bought her a dog, with some help from the RSPCA. He is a labrador and is a little over 2 years of age. His name is Oscar. Oscar is very cute and has a peaceful nature.

While looking through a few other dog pounds with my wife, Nicole, we saw the following 10 Commandments from a Dog's Point of View. Worth repeating ...

1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years; any separation from you will be painful for me. Remember that before you buy me.

2. Give me time to understand what you want from me; don't be impatient, short-tempered, or irritable.

3. Place your trust in me and I will always trust you back. Respect is earned not given as an inalienable right.

4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment; I am not capable of understanding why. I only know I have been rejected. You have your work, entertainment, and friends, but I only have you.

5. Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don't understand your words, I do understand your voice and your tone. You only have to look at my tail.

6. Be aware that however you treat me, I'll never forget it, and if it's cruel, it may affect me forever.

7. Please don't hit me. I can't hit back, but I can bite and scratch, and I really don't ever want to do that.

8. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right foods or I've been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak. It may be I am just dog-tired.

9. Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old and may also need love, care, comfort, and attention.

10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, "I can't bear to watch" or "Let it happen in my absence". Everything is easier for me if you are there. Remember, regardless of what you do, I will always love you.

[Source - Stan Rawlinson]

Cologne Cathedral - Working for Something that will Outlive You

ColoThe Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark, with an estimated 20,000 visitors each day of the year. It is a World Heritage Site and is a stunning example of Gothic architecture. 

What is most fascinating about this church building is the fact that it took 100s of years to build. The first part was constructed between 1248 and 1473. But then work was halted before eventually being resumed in the early 19th century finally to be completed in 1880, over 600 years later!

This is an amazing example of generations of people being commited to a vision much bigger than themselves - something that would outlive them. That's what the church is all about - not a physical building but a community of people following Jesus Christ and living out his mission in the world. Jesus started building his church over 2,000 years ago and generations of faithful men and women have been carrying the work forward as his humble servants, getting their hands dirty on the building site of human need.

Think about all of those that have gone before us ... we stand on their shoulders and they deserve our applause and honour.

Think of those who will come after us ... may the footsteps that we leave cause them to believe.

Think about today ... right here, right now. That's all we have. This moment. Live it to the full and may every breath be an offering of praise to the God of all creation, of all human history, and of the amazing redemption story that continues to unfold. To Him be all praise, glory and honour. 

A New Season: Spring

SunHere in Melbourne, Australia the season of Spring begins - today!

I love Spring. We start to move away from the cold, rainy and cloudy days of winter. The sun starts to become warmer. Birds are singing their little hearts out. Trees that have looked dead start to blossom with new life. Solomon described it well ...

Look, the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone. The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come. [Song of Songs 2:11-12. NLT]

God created the seasons ...

Genesis 8:22. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.

And God can change the seasons too.

Daniel 2:20-21. Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons ...

Seasons can be symbolic of the various periods or phases of our life in which we grow (see BLOG posts on "Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life"). Seasons can also be prophetic of what God is up to in our lives. Maybe you have been through a winter season recently where life has been dark and cold for a long period of time. I pray for a shift of season for you. I pray for Spring in your life - for the sun to shine brighter, for a time of singing to break out, and for new life to burst into your world!

[Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!' Robin Williams]

Separating Fact from Fiction - on the Internet

TrueEvery day or so I receive one of those "pass it on" emails explaining some horrible thing that has happened or some latest conspiracy theory. It's hard to know what to believe. How do you separate fact from fiction?

There is a web site dedicated to helping us in this area, called Snopes. Their mission is "to be the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation." You can use the search box on the web site to locate an item of interest or browse the site by category.

A recent example (actually, it's been around since 2004) is an email announcing the supposed crushing of a small boy is an Islamic country for stealing a loaf of bread. The full true story shows how this information has been twisted to give a false message. 

Their 25 Hottest Urban Legends is worth a read, just for your awareness.

A few important quotes:

  • "The first to speak in court sounds right — until the cross-examination begins." Prov.18:17. NLT 
  • "The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word." Prov.14:15. MB
  • The apostle Paul commended people who not only received his messages with enthusiasm but also "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11)." 
  • "Slander is telling the truth in such a way as to give a lying impression." Charles Finney

There are always two sides to every story and it is better to wait before passing judgment. That is why no matter or issue in Israel could be settled without the evidence of two or three witnesses (Deut.1:6-19). 

Some good wisdom for us there! Don't believe everything you hear ... check it out first.

Finally, it can be a bit embarrassing when you discover that you have been told an incomplete story or believed a lie. I followed up on one of those "You've been left millions of dollars in an inheritance" emails for a while many years ago before discovering, just in time, that it was nothing but a fraud. As annoying as it is, let's never forget, "The truth sets you free!"

Understanding WD40

A friend passed this on to me. Interesting reading ...

Before you read to the end, do you know what the main ingredient of WD-40 is? 

Who knew? I had a neighbour who bought a new car. I got up very early one Sunday morning and saw that someone had spray painted red all around the sides of his car (for some unknown reason). I went over, woke him up, and told him the bad news. He was very upset and was trying to figure out what to do.... probably nothing until Monday morning, since nothing was open. Another neighbour came out and told him to get his WD-40 and clean it off. It removed the unwanted paint beautifully and did not harm his paint job on the car. I'm impressed!

WD-40 who knew? 'Water Displacement #40'. The product began from a search for a rust preventative solvent and de-greaser to protect missile parts. WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company. Its name comes from the project that was to find a 'water displacement' compound. They were successful with the fortieth formulation, thus WD-40. The Convair Company bought it in bulk to protect their atlas missile parts. Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you... When you read the 'shower door' part, try it. It's the first thing that has ever cleaned that spotty shower door. If yours is plastic, it works just as well as glass. It's a miracle! Then try it on your stove top ... Viola! It's now shinier than it's ever been. You'll be amazed.

WD-40 uses:

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Silent Night Story

SilentSilent Night is one of the most popular carols sun across the world at this Christmas season. There are many romantic stories about how it was composed. Here is one of them that may contain an element of truth to it ...

On Christmas Eve 1818 in Austria, the Vicar of a small church in Oberndorf had written a new song to be sung on Christmas Day. The organist, Franz Gruber had set the words to music but the organ broke and it looked like it was all going to be a disaster. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Frank grabbed a guitar and accompanied the Vicar on the first ever rendition of Silent Night.

When the organ repair man turned up to fix the organ, Gruber played him the new song to test that the organ had been fixed. The repairman loved it so much that he took it back to his own village. There, the four daughters of a local glovemaker began singing it in concerts all over Austria and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Silent Night is one of the great carols of the world and it got its first big break because an organ broke.

There's a good message in that story. Sometimes when things go wrong, something good comes out of it. God has a way of working like that.

Merry Christmas!

Australian Human Rights Award goes to Tony and Lisa Clark

TonyCongratulations to Tony and Lisa Clark who were selected as the winners of the Australian Human Rights Commission - Community Organisation award at a ceremony in Sydney today.

Tony, who founded Swags for Homeless in 2007, started the non-profit homeless charity in Melbourne when he questioned what was given to street sleeping homeless turned away from shelters. Tony and Lisa Clark designed the emergency relief Backpack Bed, which received the worlds largest and most prestigious product design award the Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ in Germany this year. Backpack Beds are provided to homeless and are distributed through 139 charities around Australia.

“As well as warmth and protection, the Backpack Bed provides the homeless with dignity,” said Mr Clark.

This year the Backpack Bed also received an Australian International Design Award and the Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum Design Award for innovation and benefits to its users. 

Paul Moulds AM (Major) from The Salvation Army says the Backpack Bed has been invaluable to their organisation and used in many of their outreach programs for the homeless.

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The Starfish Story - Making a Difference

StarfishOnce upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

This story has appeared all over the web in various forms, usually with no credit given to Mr. Eiseley. Loren Eiseley was an anthropologist who wrote extensively. He was the 'wise man' in the story, and he was walking along a beach after a storm and encountered the fellow throwing the starfish back. Sometimes it is a little girl throwing the starfish into the ocean, sometimes a young man, once even an elder.


Recycling Hotel Soap to Save Lives

SoapDerreck Kayongo, from Uganda, is one of this year's Top 10 CNN Heroes nominees. Click here to read his amazing story. Through simple presence of mind, Derreck had an idea to collect used hotel soap, that usually ends up as landfill, and recycle it for use in impoverished nations such as Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and Swaziland.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from diarrhea. According to the World Health Organization, these deaths occur almost exclusively among toddlers living in low-income countries. The issue is not the availability of soap. The issue is cost. If you are living on $2 a day, paying 25 cents for soap is probably out of the question when there is food and medicine to buy. 

So far 300 hotels in the USA have joined in with the program generating 100 of tonnes of soap. Volunteers collect the soap and ship them to the Global Soap Project warehouse in Atlanta. Over 100,000 bars of soap have been distributed free to communities in nine countries.

Last summer, Derreck  personally delivered 5,000 bars of soap to Kenya Relief's Brittney's Home of Grace orphanage. "When we were distributing the soap, I could sense that there was a lot of excitement, joy, a lot of happiness," said Kayongo, whose work was recently recognized by the Atlanta City Council, which declared May 15 as Global Soap Project Day in Atlanta. "It's a reminder again of that sense of decency. They have (someone) who knows about their situation, and is willing to come and visit them ... to come and say, 'We are sorry ... We're here to help.' "

May we live with open ears, open eyes and open hearts today. Who knows who God may touch through you ... or what idea he may give you to make our world a better place. That's good news!

Ready for Adventure? An Invitation from Earnest Shackleton

AntApparently explorer Earnest Shackleton placed the following notice in a newspaper while preparing for an expedition to Antarctica:

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."

Supposedly there were 5,000 men and 3 women who responded!

Have we become too comfortable today?

P.S. The search for a copy of the advert still continues today. Click here to read more.



Unlikely Friends

CollinsChristopher Hitchens is one of the most outspoken atheists today and author of the best-selling book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Francis Collins is a world re-known scientist with a strong Christian faith, noted for his leadership of the Human Genome Project and his best-selling book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Faith.

The Telegraph, a newspaper based in Great Britain, reported on an unlikely bond of friendship and trust between these two very different people. Even so, a March 2011 newspaper headline announced, "Atheist Christopher Hitchens could be 'saved' by evangelical Christian." The article went on to report, "The two had often met in the past as adversaries in the debate about whether God exists. Against the odds they [have] become friends." This improbable friendship started because Hitchens, a cancer patient, became part of an experimental treatment program that involves genome sequencing. Doctors plan to map Hitchens' genetic makeup so they can target and treat his damaged DNA. It just so happens that this experimental treatment is being pioneered by Dr. Francis Collins.

Hitchens has spent years blasting religious faith and religious believers. In his book There Is No God, he argues that "Organized religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry …." But when asked about his friendship with Dr. Collins, Hitchens spoke with only respect and admiration. "It's a rather wonderful relationship," he said, "I won't say he doesn't pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn't discuss it with me."

What an interesting story ... God does work in mysterious ways.

Sources: Matt Woodley, managing editor, and Richard Alleyne, "Atheist Christopher Hitchens could be 'saved' by evangelical Christian," The Telegraph (3-26-11).

How Christianity Changed the World

How Have you ever considered the tangible impact of the coming of Jesus Christ on our world? Sociologist, Alvin Schmit decided to do an extensive research project to answer this question. A summary of his research can be found in his excellent book How Christianity Changed the World (formerly published with the title Under the Influence). It is an inspiring and insightful tour of church history, from the first century right through to our modern world. The number of people transformed through their faith in Jesus Christ is nothing short of astonishing, as is the resulting impact on every sector of society.

Consider the following areas:

1. Sanctity of human life

One of the more moral of Rome's philosophers, Seneca, said “We drown children who at birth are weakly and abnormal.” At that time, families wanted no more than one daughter so abandoned infants were commonplace. Followers of Christ valued human life - all life. Afra of Augsburg (late third century) was a converted prostitute who “developed a ministry to abandoned children of prisoners, thieves, smugglers, pirates, and runaway slaves.” Although it took time, through the influence of Christians, human sacrifice was stopped as were the cruel gladiatorial games.

2. Sexual Morality

Rome was known for its sexual permissiveness, with everything from adultery to fornication to pedophilia being seen as acceptable. There we no constraints on any sexual pleasure. This led to a very low view of marriage. Followers of Christ brought honour and faithfulness back into the marriage relationship and urged true love, not lust, as the highest goal.

3. Women’s Dignity and Freedom

In the first century, woman had an extremely low status in society. They had no freedom and were more like slaves to men. They lived in silence and were seen as having no social value. Without doubt, the birth of Jesus was turning point in history of women.

4. Charity and Compassion

The old Roman world was a world without charity. The Christians changed that with their loving care for everyone, including orphans, children, and the aged. 

Continue reading "How Christianity Changed the World" »