Exceedingly abundantly above…

It seemed to happen everywhere I went – all throughout the day I ended up with more than I bargained for.

It started early in the morning – I walked up to the taxi rank and was told to head to bay number 6 and waiting for me was the biggest taxi I have ever seen; a 21 seater bus – I climbed aboard and we drove off – the cab was so big that I had to yell to the driver to tell him where we were headed. Arriving at my destination I found that the class I was lecturing had twice as many participants as I was expecting – another good problem but a little adjustment was needed. Next came lunch, a quick walk down the road led me to a sandwich shop but my request for a ham and salad roll ended with me being handed a sandwich that would make a Subway ‘foot-long’ look like a canapé!

At the end of the day I headed towards my hotel and for the first time I tried ‘Uber’ – the service was quick and efficient but the Hiace van (12 seater) was probably more than I really needed – there really was a pattern emerging.

I was dropped off at my hotel by my oversized transport, checked in and unlocked my room – not a room, not a suite, a fully fledged apartment – king-sized bed, double sink in the ensuite, full kitchen, 2 tvs, foxtel, more wardrobe space than at home and a massive balcony as well.

So I had a day filled with more than I needed and it was a good day – I have had many other days where the opposite has been true, the taxi too small, the lunch less than sufficient, the motel room so tiny that the door hits the bed as you walk in…but today was an exceedingly, abundant day!

I know that you have meet people who do more than you expect and I know that you have met people who habitually do less – but what is your perspective on God? Which category does He fall into?

Whilst not every day of my life is filled with sandwiches which are too large or apartments that are over the top, my experience is that the Lord is willing to shower me and those who seek Him with an abundance of the things which matter.

“…to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, … to Him be glory … to all generations, forever” Ephesians 3:20–21

Hopefully you realise how much “more’ is available!

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Not a resolution, a revolution…

The tree is back in its box, the baubles have all been packed away, the fairy lights are back in the garage and the confetti and streamers have been cleaned up from the New Years Eve celebrations – and so we are into another new year.

When people write about the New Year they often speak about a ‘fresh start’ or a ‘new focus’. They express hope and confidence that this year is going to surpass the previous one and that improvements are on the way in various areas of their lives. People make resolutions and state that they are going to get fit, thin and more beautiful – they determine that they need to change house or work or relationship status – it is actually a time when people consider change and wander through various scenarios of how their life could be different – but then the reality strikes – the exercise regime is halted, the old challenges remain and become our focus and the post ‘silly season blues’ take over.

For many of us, this time of year is a challenge – for some the year is going to be filled with ‘excitement, adventure and really wild things’ but for others it is going to be filled with ‘life’ – and not a very different life from last year.

I am sounding a little depressing but that is not my purpose, I just want to point out that we cannot survive on just the hype of a Christmas cake and a midnight countdown – true happiness and contentment require more substance.

The truth is that I could be fitter, thinner and more beautiful – I could diet, exercise and have a face lift but the contents of my ‘life’ would not change, I would still be the same ‘me’ inside, facing the same challenges on the outside.

The only way I can change my life is to allow change within – and this is more than a ‘resolution’ it is a ‘revolution’. It is a determined decision to allow something to happen within that changes my perspective and is outworked in my actions and behaviour.

The Lord said two things of interest for us as we start this year – ‘My mercies do not fail…they are new every morning’ & ‘I have come that you might have life and life more abundantly’.

So the Lord is willing and ready to work with you as you seek for more life, joy, hope and peace to be present (not just for a few weeks in January but) throughout the whole year ahead!

Let’s allow Him room in 2017…

What a difference the light makes…

“And just out this window you will have a beautiful view of the river…”

We had arrived at our destination after the sun had fallen, it had been a good trip but it felt like we had been taken into the middle of no-where and it was dark. There were no stars to be seen and no moon gracing us with its presence. For most of the afternoon it had been raining steadily and how we had arrived at our very nice accommodation but it was dark, cold and wet. We looked outside but we could see nothing at all. I found myself trying to imagine what I was missing and the longer I looked, the darker it seemed to get. I wondered if it was going to live up to the expectations I had been encouraged to hold – I would just have to wait until the morning.

What a difference the ‘light’ makes!

When the dawn arose (I was awake because of the time change), there truly was a sight worth seeing; an expansive river, framed by a picturesque grove of trees, an un-interrupted and totally natural viewpoint which refreshed your heart just by looking at it. The little Bungalow where we were staying sat right on a bend in the riverbank so from every angle it felt like you were surrounded. To say it was peaceful was an understatement and to say that it lived up to the hype was dreadfully inadequate.

The fact was that the beautiful view was there the night before but we couldn’t see it because it was obscured by the darkness. The fact was that the ‘peace and tranquillity’ were there but they were overrun by the effects of the cold and falling rain.

One of the sad things in life is when our circumstances overtake our potential and when the challenges we face cause us to lose sight of all that is available to us. The truth is that many positive opportunities are missed because we never allow ‘the light’ to shine upon us. Darkness closes in and traps us in a cage of unbelief and doubt and we miss out on what could belong to us.

The purpose of God and the very mission of Jesus; was to come to earth as ‘the light of the world’ – to shine true light on our potential and to demonstrate the picturesque nature of a life lived on His terms.   That is an image worth seeing and that is a life worthy of waking up for!

The flat battery…

I don’t want to admit that I made this mistake but I did. It is a classic error and one that you are do not know you have made until it is far too late…

As I approached my car I was suddenly frustrated to find that the button on my remote control was not working – in fact, none of the buttons on my remote were working – and then the possibility of what had happened dawned horribly upon me. Two days before, very early in the morning, I had parked my car in the long-term car-park at the airport and had flown off to Melbourne – the only thing was that I had left the lights on. So when I returned to the car, everything was dead and I was more than a little stuck. I had to push the car out of the car spot (much harder than it sounds when the power steering is not working), pop the bonnet, look forlorn, flag down a passing car and ask them for a jump start – as I always say, it is always good to meet new people!

As I was on my way home after only a delay of 20 minutes or so, I thought about how I had made such a rookie and clichéd mistake. Like most modern vehicles the motorcycle I ride most days and our other car have automatic headlights – they turn on when you start the car, they get brighter when they are needed and they turn off when you turn the key – but it is still my fault, because my current car has a warning buzzer which sounds when you leave the lights on!

I was in such a hurry to meet my take-off deadline that I completely ignored the warning and rushed off, oblivious to the problem I had just caused for myself.

On the way home I also thought about the solution, all I needed was a momentary spark of life to reignite what had been completely dead… The car’s electrical system is designed to regenerate itself as long as there is enough stored within to start the engine… the human Spirit is the same but can become depleted and weary with all of the challenges life offers.

All of us have had a moment when we have ‘left our lights on’ and found ourselves with nothing left and no ‘spark’ to speak of.

I was happy for the guys who stopped to give me a jump-start and I am happy for the One who is always ready to assist us when we call.

“He gives power to the weak, & to those who have no might He increases strength.” Isa 40:29

Spending time…

“I spend a lot of my time…”

I was having a conversation the other day with a close friend and we were catching up and comparing notes as to what had been happening in our respective worlds. Each of us has a few things on; we have multifaceted jobs, we both have families, we have a wide circle of acquaintances and we also juggle other responsibilities which, when all mixed together, require us to carefully manage what we do in order to get done those things which are really important.

As we were talking I heard myself say, “I spend a lot of time in the car” and “I spend a lot of time filtering emails” and “I spend a lot of time writing reports”. What hit me was the thought that I was ‘spending time’. Just like my personal financial budget, I have a commodity which daily I make decisions about how this precious resource will be appointed and distributed.

When I thought a bit more, I realised that I need to be really careful about how I use this resource; in the same way I have to be careful with my money. Each month, like many of you, I have bills I have to meet – mortgages, car payment, food, electricity and the list goes on. The only way I can meet those commitments is to work hard and budget carefully.

But I wonder if you have ever thought of your time in a similar way? The truth is we have a limited amount of it – there are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a year and we have an unknown number of years to walk this earth – the question is “How are we spending our time?”

In some ways it would be a luxury to have no commitments and no financial constraints. It would be easy to choose what we would do and when we would do it – but our reality is very different – we have to juggle our responsibilities and ‘fit in’ those things which are important to us. In the midst of that comes the question – “Are we spending our time doing the things which really matter?” it is always a shame when a time, an opportunity, is past and regret is your only companion. There are also things that can only happen on this side of eternity which determine what happens on the other side of it.

“But this I say, brothers and sisters, the time is short”                                    1 Corinthians 7:29

Hopefully you are ‘spending’ your time well…

25 years…or more…

It can’t have been that long – but yet it has. This week marks 25 years since my wife and I moved into the Hornsby area to commence our church and to start assisting with the needs of the community. I remember that we moved house on the Saturday and started church in the Berowra Public School on the Sunday.

We have had a great time watching the community develop and grow with countless changes taking place over the last quarter of a century. We have also seen changes in ourselves – when we arrived we had 1 child (now we have 4 adults), when we started I had a very unacceptable moustache and my hair was long and not grey! I also didn’t know as much as I know now but I feel like there is still so much more for me to learn.

The last 25 years have been amazing in terms of change – we have been involved in Gulf Wars 1 & 2 in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and the defence of Timor Leste, in 1990 the internet had not been launched, iphones had not been heard of, facebook was not even conceptualised and George H.W. Bush was President of the USA.

We have had 9 Mayors of Hornsby during the last 25 years, 7 Prime Ministers and 2532 contestants on ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’

The pace of life has changed, people’s views have changed, you have probably changed and I know that I have definitely changed.

I wonder what the next 25 years will bring? The fact is, that we probably cannot predict the future with any certainty but the future will come upon us no matter what we do.

Actually, I am looking forward to the next quarter century, the technological marvels, the political upheavals, the personal challenges and the individual growth that is coming our way – the future is not to be feared but embraced and the change it heralds will be exciting to navigate.

But I only feel this way because I have confidence in the continuing goodness and grace of God which has kept me and my family for decades. He is the one constant that has been the same from 1990 until now and will still be constant in 2040.

What else could you guarantee for that length of time? What else is stable enough for you to rely on and build upon?

I want to thank you all for being part of the last 25 years of my life and I look forward to the next 25 with you all.

Playing the wrong tune…

We sounded great, we were confident but we had obviously got it wrong!

I don’t remember exactly how it happened but I found myself ‘volunteered’ to provide the music at an important joint service of several different church traditions. What is even more interesting is that two of my kids don’t exactly remember how I managed to ‘rope them in’ to helping out as well.

The original request had been “Would you be able to lead a couple of your church songs at the service?” This was not a problem until a week before when I got a call saying “These are the two songs we have chosen.” The problem was that neither I, nor my band, knew either of them.

Usually this would not be an issue and I would just ask ‘the mighty google’ and an answer (as well as the music and a youtube clip) would help us out but there was nothing – no matter how hard I searched, I could not find the music or indeed any reference to the pieces we now had to perform just two days away. I rang the organiser and asked if they had the music and the best he could do was to hum them over the phone asking me if that was ok!

Eventually we found what we needed for one but the second proved illusive – all I had to work off was a melody line that had been recorded on what sounded like a kazoo. From that we worked out the music and practiced for the service.

The truth is that we played well, we sounded great and sang with skill – the problem was that a significant number of people in the audience made it clear that we were singing it wrong!

We were obviously too fast in some parts and too slow in others and we were greeted afterwards with comments like “Thanks for that – it is always interesting how different people play the same music” and “I haven’t heard it sung like that before!”

This reminded me how it is possible to think you are right even when you are wrong – it is possible to have good intentions but to still miss the target that you are required to reach. When it comes to the more important issues of life and how we are living it, we need to remember…

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.” Isa 55:8

Maybe we need to adjust the ‘melody’ we are playing?