Mid Year Stock Take

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that time keeps slipping away at an ever increasing rate.

Today is the first day of the second half of 2017.

Here in Australia, the 1st of July marks the beginning of the new financial year. For businesses, it’s a time to draw a line under one year and to look ahead to what the new financial year will bring.

For all of us, being halfway through the calendar year means it’s a good time to look back before looking forward. It’s as good a time as any to reassess where our lives are heading and look at making adjustments or changes where needed.

Every day gives us an opportunity to start again but I think there can be something special about setting a new course on certain landmark days such us the start of a new year, the midpoint of the year, the start of a new financial year or on a birthday. There’s nothing magical about those days but we can use them as markers throughout the year that remind us of where we’re heading or perhaps where we should be heading.

What about you? Are you going to review the goals and resolutions you made at the start of the year?

Are you prepared to put the broken resolutions behind you and start again? I just love the fact that what has happened in the past doesn’t have to decide the direction of our future. While we can’t erase the past, we can deal with it and move forward.

When I look back over the first half of 2017 I see both triumphs and disappointments. I guess that’s what life is all about. It won’t always be smooth sailing but it’s how we deal with the tough times that helps us develop and grow into the people we will become, for better or for worse.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do this year is spend more time on my bike. I need a lot more kilometres in my legs over the next twelve or so months if I’m going to be ready to cycle across the country in September next year. (You can read more about that adventure in my post, Going the Distance.)

While I haven’t cycled as much as I would have liked, I have cycled a lot more than I did last year, so things are improving. Now I get to reasses, reset and move on with the plan to ride more.

There are always things in my private life, my family, my spiritual journey and my work that need reflection and readjustment.

If you’re interested in help towards a mid-year spiritual stock take, I recommend listening to a couple of messages that Rob Furlong preached recently. Check out The Springs of Life and Keeping the Springs Fresh.

How is 2017 looking for you? What adjustments will you make to ensure that you achieve at least some of your goals by the end of the year?

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An Incredible Adventure

If you’re interested in finding out more, head to Ride for Compassion.

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A Different Hope

What are you hoping for? What are your big hopes?

I find hope to be a very interesting idea. It’s about looking forward to good things or better times even though we don’t yet see any evidence of the object of our hope. Sometimes we can be in a dark place but hope says there’s something better on the way.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
– Desmond Tutu

Most of the time when we talk about hope it really is a desire or wish for something to happen. That desire can be stronger at some times more than others and there can be a higher possibility of that desire being fulfilled at times, but it’s still looking ahead with a desire that may or may not come to pass.

When we say, “I hope this year is better than last year”, we’re stating a desire for something good but we have no way of knowing if that will be the case. Maybe the year will be worse.

If someone says, “I hope I won’t lose my job.” It’s possibly because they see that things are tough and their job isn’t certain. They have a desire that their job will continue but we’re not sure.

There are a lot of desires that we express in terms of hope.

“I hope the weather stays nice this afternoon.”

“I hope the economy improves soon.”

“I hope the West Coast Eagles can win the premiership this year.”

There is a different kind of hope.

The kind of hope that we find in the Bible is different. When we put our hope in God we are certain of the outcome. It’s not about wishing for something that may or may not happen. God has provided certainty through the gift of his son Jesus.

Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it. When the word says, “Hope in God!” it does not mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to use the words of William Carey, ‘Expect great things from God.”
– John Piper

The Bible tells us that we are born again to a hope that is alive. The hope that we as followers of Jesus have is the hope of eternal life together with our saviour. It’s a hope that keeps us alive, supports us, motivates us and drives us forward.
 
It’s a hope that invigorates and spurs our souls to action, to patience, to perseverance to the end.
 
But there’s more to it. It’s a hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it comes with an inheritance. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
– 1 Peter 1:3-9

This kind of hope doesn’t ignore our dark days or the difficulties we face, instead it looks them in the face and says that all those trials cannot compare to what is ahead of us. That’s real hope.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peter talks in the Bible about the various trials that test the genuineness of our faith. He talks about our faith being precious but says that it will be tested.
 
There’s a rejoicing that comes despite circumstances because we have this living hope. It’s more than a desire for things to be different. It’s more than hoping that better times are around the corner. It’s a confidence and an expectation that there’s something better waiting for us.
 
This kind of living hope works in us despite our surroundings, trials and circumstances.
 
The passage from Peter wraps up saying, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
 
So right in the middle of testing and trials, this living hope, grounded in Jesus Christ, his work on the cross and resurrection, lets us rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
 
This living hope bubbles up and overflows because we are certain of the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
 
This kind of Biblical hope is so different to the kind of hope the world offers.

If your hopes have been dashed again and again, can I encourage you to cling to a different kind of hope … a living hope.

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Missed Out Again

At this time each year, most of Australia celebrates the Queen’s Birthday with a day off work. It’s also the time that the Queen’s Birthday honours list is announced. This year almost 900 Australians have been recognised for their contributions to the community in a variety of fields. As well as the many famous names on the list, there are many who have just been working behind the scenes to make their community and the world a better and more interesting place.

Another thing that happens each year at this time is that people feign surprise that they’re not on the list. Many joke about missing out again or searching the names on the list only to find they haven’t been included.

The truth is, most of us will never receive recognition from the Queen.

While we may be making a difference in our own way, most of us won’t be receiving any kind of letter or medal from Her Majesty with her congratulations and thanks.

So where do we get our recognition?

I have to admit that while I think it would be a great honour, I’m not particularly concerned that I’m not on the list. The things I do for the benefit of others are not done to receive recognition, but if that recognition comes, I’m happy for it to come from people less royal. A simple thanks from those who receive kindness is often enough, even though the kindness is not done for any return whatsoever.

I always appreciate it when those close to me – family, friends, colleagues – recognise any efforts I may make. I don’t need to see my name in lights but an occasional word or two that lets me know I’m on the right track is always appreciated.

So who is it for you?

Where do you want to find recognition? Who do you want noticing the efforts you make at work, in the community or even at home? Is there a significant person in your life whose words bring affirmation?

Sometimes the affirmation and encouragement we yearn for never arrives. Maybe it’s not the Queen’s list on which you’d like to see your name appear but someone closer to home. Is there someone from whom you’d love to hear the words, “well done”?

Life can be difficult when we yearn for the kind of approval that never comes. Often it can be a parent or another significant person in our lives who has never taken the time to put their hand on a shoulder to speak words of kindness and recognition.

Thankfully, we don’t have to receive recognition to continue doing good. There is a kind of recognition that far outweighs any earthly honours list. That recognition doesn’t just come with a medal and a title but with an imperishable inheritance.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24

While having people see our work and encourage us is often welcome and helpful, if we choose to follow Jesus and get involved in his kingdom work, there’s something far greater at stake. If you aren’t receiving recognition from the Queen or from those closer to you, don’t give up. Your labours are not in vain.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galations 6:9

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Going the Distance

It seemed like a strange thing to do for a young man who had never really been interested in any kind of sport. Riding over four and a half thousand kilometres across Australia was surely the domain of fanatical cyclists yet there I was, an overweight guy in my mid-twenties getting ready to pedal from Perth to Canberra with around a dozen other cyclists.

That was thirty years ago.

Thankfully I made the distance and loved it so much I did the same fund-raising ride the following year. Two years after that I cycled from Perth to Adelaide. Some years later I also undertook rides from Perth to Sydney and then from Perth to Hobart.

So far I’ve cycled across the Nullarbor five times.

I’ve tackled the ride in my twenties, thirties and forties but I haven’t attempted it in my fifties. That all changes next year when, at the age of 55, I’ll be back on my bike for another crossing of our wide, brown land. The thought of taking to the roads again both terrifies and thrills me.

So, what’s getting me back on my bike after all these years? For the last three and a half years I’ve been working for Compassion, a Christian international holistic child development organisation.

I’ve visited Compassion’s work in 7 of the 25 developing countries we serve and I’ve met many children living in extreme poverty who are being released from poverty in Jesus’ name. I recall the faces of children like little Ammanuel in Ethiopia as his mother stood in the small room with its dirt floor that is their home.

She told me through her tears that neither of them would still be alive today if it weren’t for Compassion. That compels me to do whatever I can to bring hope to more children.

The Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will see around 25 cyclists and their support crew travel over 4300 kilometres from Perth, Western Australia to Newcastle, New South Wales. There’ll be 28 days of riding an average of just over 150 kilometres with the biggest days reaching almost 200 kilometres.

There’s no denying that my ageing body won’t find the journey as easy as it did thirty years ago but I’m looking forward to cycling into Newcastle in October next year.

I’m still looking for some team members, both cyclists and support crew, who might like to join me on what will be an amazing adventure. So, if you’re looking to stretch yourself and to make a difference for the most vulnerable people in our world, children living in poverty, get in touch either through my Contact Page, leave a comment on this post, or head to the Ride for Compassion page. Registrations are now open.

Compassion’s programs are delivered in partnership with local churches. These local congregations can best identify the specific needs of children in their community, supporting them through every stage of life, bringing lasting change to their families and communities. While Compassion is a distinctly Christian organisation, they assist children and their families living in poverty regardless of their beliefs, gender or background.

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