Beneath the Wrapping

(This is based on a post that I republish each year around this time.)

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

I find it interesting that any time someone suggests removing the word ‘Christmas’ from our celebrations at this time of year there are cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ yet we still pay so little attention to what that word actually signifies.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.



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Considering Easter

The long weekend is almost here. There’ll be chocolate, hot cross buns, time with family and friends. I’ll enjoy it all this Easter.

Easter can be a busy time of eating and catching up with people as well as all the usual things that fill our weekends. Our lives are already crammed so full and long weekends can tend to be overflowing with activities and life’s distractions.

That’s why, amongst the busyness, I’ll also take time over the weekend to block out all the distractions to focus on what Easter is all about – Jesus – who came to earth as fully man, fully God.

I’ll reflect on his cruel execution and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection which defeated death once and for all. The resurrection says our past doesn’t have to determine our future. The past can be over for those who believe. That’s incredibly good news.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

The thing is, it’s not only seasons like Easter that fill up with activity so quickly. That’s why blocking out all the distractions is something I need to do every day. Every day there are more calls on my time and attention.

All year round I need to choose to find moments that allow me to block out a crazy busy world to focus on who Jesus is, what he accomplished on the cross, and what that means for my life every day.

The story of Easter brings hope so powerful that it can change our own story for eternity. It’s a great time to focus on Jesus but each day we must choose to connect with the God who loved us so much that He held nothing back, not even His own son.

I really hope that you can enjoy good food and fun with those close to you this Easter but more than that, I pray that you can find some quiet moments to consider something more.



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The Voice Grows Silent

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where God begins to speak louder and more clearly than previously. Through the Holy Spirit, His voice directs us, challenges us, comforts us. So how do we capture those promptings and ensure they have more than a passing effect?

Over the past couple of months as I cycled across Australia, God used that radical change in daily routines to speak to me. It wasn’t as if I had extra time to hear from God. My ‘busyness’ levels were higher than ever but when we’re placed into different circumstances we can’t just fall into mindless routines. We’re forced to think differently.

I’m not sure I could even articulate everything God has been saying. Some of the conversation has been an invitation to go deeper, to seek greater closeness, to explore more of who He is and what that means for me. God reinforced care for the poor and care for those we encounter every day.

As life starts returning to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) there is the very real danger that the voice that was so clear in past weeks will grow increasingly silent. It won’t happen intentionally but everyday, ordinary life has a habit of crowding out the extraordinary. So how do times of the extraordinary help form a ‘new normal’?

Routines are helpful and the day to day stuff of life demands our attention but how do we intentionally grab hold of those times of difference and ensure they continue to reform the everyday stuff of life? How do we ensure that we are the ‘good soil’ that doesn’t let our busy lives choke out what’s important?

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:3-8 ESV

I think part of the answer is in examining routines and deciding if there are any that we need to let go to make way for more helpful routines. We need to make way for those moments where God has our attention and can speak. We need to reset our priorities regularly to see if those things that are lasting and eternal have given way to the temporary and passing pursuits of this world.

We also need to act on what we hear, we need to practice obedience to what God is calling us to do or be.

Perhaps we should be writing down those ‘nudges’ the Holy Spirit gives us and returning to those notes often so that the directions we are given become part of our new routines.

How about sharing what God is saying with others so that they can be part of the journey you’re taking?

These are just a few thoughts and really only scratch the surface. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do we ensure the voice we heard so clearly does not become silent?

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Have You Met Alphonse?

Have you met Alphonse? Alphonse is a child from Rwanda who is receiving ongoing help through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund. That’s the fund that Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast is supporting.

You can watch Alphonse’s story here:

Ride for Compassion: Alphonse's Story from Compassion Australia on Vimeo.

Today marks exactly two months from the first turn of the pedals on Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast. We’ll be riding for children just like Alphonse.

The ride will start in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be just over 150 kilometres. Our longest days will be just under 200 kilometres. There’ll be around 25 cyclists and a support team of around 9.

The team’s fundraising tally is currently stretching towards $250,000 with over 60 children sponsored but I’m sure we can go higher and offer a hand up to even more children.

Two Months Today

That first day’s ride between Perth and Northam will come so very quickly. Planning for this ride began some years ago and yet here we are, two months out, working towards that first day on the bike, then the second, then the third and so on all the way to the other side of the country.

More than 4,300 kilometres from west to east won’t happen unless there are thousands of kilometres in training beforehand. I’ve been on my bike quite a lot so far this year but there’s still a lot to be done.

It’s Too Important

The cause behind the ride is too important to treat lightly. Hundreds of children living in extreme poverty are depending on those of us making this journey and making it count. They don’t know we’ll be riding across the continent, they’ll probably never know, but it’s an important cause all the same.

There are children, just like Alphonse, who through no fault of their own are living in the most unacceptable circumstances. We plan to make a difference for as many of them as we can by offering them a hope more powerful than poverty.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

The Long and Winding Road

So there is quite literally a long road ahead for me beginning two months from today but the journey has already begun. I’ll be doing my best to fulfil my responsibilities in training, fundraising and then riding. Will you support me on this massive venture?

It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty so I’m putting my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Have You Met Alphonse?? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

100 Days

Today marks 100 days from the first turn of the pedals on Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast.

The ride will start in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be just over 150 kilometres. Our longest days will be just under 200 kilometres. There’ll be around 25 cyclists and a support team of around 8.

The team’s fundraising tally has already exceeded $175,000 with over 50 children sponsored but I’m sure we can go higher and offer a hand up to even more children.

100 Days Today

That first day’s ride between Perth and Northam will come so very quickly. Planning for this ride began some years ago and yet here we are, 100 days out, working towards that first day on the bike, then the second, then the third and so on all the way to the other side of the country.

So much has already been done in planning and preparation but there’s so much still to be organised and completed.

More than 4,300 kilometres from west to east won’t happen unless there are thousands of kilometres in training beforehand. I’ve been on my bike quite a lot so far this year but there’s still a lot to be done.

It’s Too Important

The cause behind the ride is too important to treat lightly. Hundreds of children living in extreme poverty are depending on those of us making this journey and making it count. They don’t know we’ll be riding across the continent, they’ll probably never know, but it’s an important cause all the same.

There are children, through no fault of their own, who are living in the most unacceptable circumstances. We plan to make a difference for as many of them as we can by offering them a hope more powerful than poverty.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

The Long and Winding Road

So there is quite literally a long road ahead for me beginning 100 days from today but the journey has already begun. I’ll be doing my best to fulfil my responsibilities in training, fundraising and then riding. Will you support me on this massive venture?

It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty so I’m putting my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading 100 Days? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂