Poverty Doesn’t Define Micole

Wall Art

Micole was born into poverty but the poverty he faces every day no longer defines him.

Over the last few days I’ve heard incredible stories of transformation as I’ve been part of a group visiting the work of Compassion in Manila, Philippines. I’ve had the privilege of traveling here with some former colleagues from 98five. They’re taking the opportunity to tell Perth listeners about the people we’re meeting and the life change we’ve seen.

I had the honour of meeting Micole when I visited a church in Manila which partners with Compassion. He’s now 19 yet despite being registered in a Compassion project from the age of 7, Micole openly admits that he made a number of bad life choices. He says he was smoking, drinking, fighting and choosing the wrong friends. That was all before he turned 16. He described himself as being trouble for his parents and his siblings described him as a ‘black sheep’.

At the age of 16, the things Micole had been learning at the local church began to become real to him and he started to understand the help he was receiving thanks to his Compassion sponsor.

I see the goodness of the Lord in my life. I grow spiritually and because of that I read the word of God, I pray to him every day, I confess my sin and he forgives me. Now I commit myself to God I spend more time with him and I see that he change my life. Before I have a messy life because of the sin that I have but God fixed everything. He directs me in the paths of righteousness and now I have a ministry in our church which is teaching and music. We teach children in outreach and Sunday School extension in music. Sometimes I am the song leader in praise and worship team in our Sunday service.

Micole says that he is so glad and blessed that he came to know God in his life. He thanks God that he used the church and Compassion to help him change and submit his life to him and he is happy to serve Jesus.

God will never leave me, I just call his name whenever I am afraid and broken he is always there for me to make me happy, cheer me, hug and protect me. He is faithful and loving. Thank you Christ Jesus for changing my life and now in all I do I honour you.

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Holding 80


It feels like you’ve suddenly hit some kind of time warp. Everything seems unusually slow. You been traveling at 100 kilometres an hour when you see the ‘road works’ signs. Your foot comes off of the accelerator and you let the car drop back to 80 kilometres an hour. Well at least, that’s what you should do.

I recently went through a road works area on the freeway and had to slow down for a section of my journey. While there were a few other drivers taking notice of the change in speed limit, most people just kept going at 100 or more. Cars were whizzing past me on both sides. Those traveling in my lane starting banking up behind me, probably cursing the moron who was slowing down the traffic flow. At a time like that it’s hard to remember that holding the car on 80 kilometres an hour is the right thing to do. If no one else is paying attention to the rules, is it really making any sense for me to waste my time? Do I really want everyone else cursing me for doing the right thing? Surely it’s easier to just go with the flow. Despite what everyone else is doing, sometimes you have to hold 80.

There wasn’t a lot of risk involved for me in either slowing down or speeding. The choice was to earn the scorn of other drivers or risk a fine. I chose the scorn. Other people put a lot more on the line when they go against the prevailing thought.

There’s a guy in the Old Testament named Micaiah who dares to go against prevailing thought and stand up to the kings of two nations. He chose to do so even though 400 other ‘prophets’ had already given a different opinion. Surely the majority had to be right.

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”
2 Chronicles 18:5-8

Did you notice what the king of Israel said? “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me!” Talk about shooting the messenger. He hates Micaiah because he doesn’t stroke the king’s ego by telling him what he wants to hear.

How often do we only allow ourselves to be surrounded by those who agree with us? How often have we dismissed those who bring us the truth, as difficult as it may be sometimes? Do we seek out people who have permission to challenge us or only those who will say what we like hearing?

After a bit of banter between Micaiah and the kings, Micaiah tells them the news they don’t want to hear. He tells them that God doesn’t want them to go to war. The king of Israel then sends Micaiah off to prison with orders that he be put on strict rations of bread and water.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, they go to war and it all ends in tears for the king of Israel. And by tears I mean death. Not being willing to take notice of what he didn’t want to hear caused his demise.

The 400 prophets said what the king wanted to hear, but it certainly didn’t benefit him. In the end, the fact that they wanted to please the king and weren’t prepared to stand on the side of right made them complicit in his death.

Holding 80

Holding my speed at 80 kilometres an hour was really no big deal but there are times, and I think we’ll see more and more of them in coming days, when we’ll need to ‘hold 80’ on various issues because we know it’s the right thing to do. Everyone else maybe doing something different and we may start to feel that we might as well just go with the flow, but we know that we need to stand firm.

We don’t want to be ‘people pleasers’ who just say what others want us to say. We don’t want to be those who point the finger and expect everyone to fall in line with our views. We simply need to hear clearly from God and then not be afraid to stand. Whatever the issue and whatever pressure there is to keep moving with the majority, sometimes we need to hold 80.

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The Dark Side of Doing Good


Can a life of helping, of doing good for others, of serving the greater good all be worthless? Can such a life even be doing us harm? Is there a spiritual danger in doing good?

Peter Greer, who is the President and CEO of HOPE International, has written a book titled The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good. I bought the book some weeks ago and took advantage of a three and a half hour flight couple of days ago to get a good start on reading what Greer has to say. I finished reading the book in the first half hour of the return flight last night.

I’ve found the book to be a bit like some meals I’ve had. It’s very easy to ‘consume’ but I suspect it’ll take quite a while longer to digest. By that, I mean that while it’s not a long read, and it’s written in a very easy to read style, it deals with weighty matters that will take a while to fully process.

Greer talks about those who serve in some kind of ministry yet serve from wrong motives. Being flawed human beings I suspect that that would cover about 99.9 % of those in ministry at some time or another.

One of the tell tale signs is when we begin to make our work our master. In the book he speaks of those who throw everything into doing good of one kind or another yet neglect those who need them most.

According to statistics compiled by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, “Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked … and 50 percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.”

It is a very real problem that skewed priorities mean many don’t finish life well. Even looking at those heroes of the Scriptures we see a pattern of failure when those serving God lose sight of their true calling.

Greer spends a lot of time reminding us that we don’t have all the answers and that we really aren’t able to do much worthwhile …. in our own strength …. but that’s OK.

So accept that you’re inadequate. Embrace the fact that you’re needy. Don’t try to prove to God you’ve earned His favour. Let Jesus Christ flood your life with forgiveness, acceptance and love.

Peter Greer heads up an agency working in the developing world, helping release people from poverty, so I can certainly relate to what he has to say, but I would suggest that there are many who would benefit from reading his book. I reckon it should be absolutely required reading for anyone in full time ministry of any kind and I would urge anyone else who truly desires to walk humbly with their Lord to grab a copy. There is so much you’ll get from this book.

Through real life, relatable stories, humour, personal experience, and solid teaching, Greer gently leads the reader to more clearly see themselves and their own need for change. Far from presenting himself as the example we should all follow, Peter Greer shares his own brokenness and helps us relate to stumbling blocks that face us all.

You won’t feel like he’s using a ‘big stick‘ to make you feel inadequate, rather he provides relief from our own self imposed stresses and guides us towards a more Godly way forward. He doesn’t offer easy or fast answers but his direction towards a ‘better way’ is refreshing.

The chapters are short and engaging and each one ends with questions that help us focus on how to put principles into action. There is also a link at the end of each chapter which points to some stunning online resources which will help you get even more value from the book.

From his urging that we find some ‘3:00 a.m. friends‘ (those you can call at any time of the day to keep you accountable and stop you from doing something stupid) to giving us the tools to honestly face our own failures, Greer’s desire is obvious. He earnestly wants us to ‘finish well’. As someone who truly desires that but often gets tripped up along the way, I am truly thankful for The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good and I’m sure that I’ll return to it a number of times to continue gleaning the wisdom it offers.

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What’s Christmas Really About?


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.

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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Fractured People


(This post was first published in April 2005.)

I’ve been thinking recently about all the fractured people I know. I know people who have messed up badly in the past and are still paying the consequences, sometimes years after the event. They’ve made life choices that have made circumstances difficult, not only for them, but for people close to them and many others around them. Their actions have triggered splashes that will still be causing ripples for a long time. They’ve destroyed relationships, torn families apart or caused deep divisions between friends.

I know people that are incredibly sorry for the pain that they’ve caused others and some who still don’t really care or who try to justify their actions.

Many of these people are very dear to me and I consider them to be close friends. Why do I stay close to such people? I look at myself at times and see a person that I don’t always like all that much. I’m fractured too. I’ve hurt people and let people down. It’s never been my intention to do that, but like you, I’m fractured.

Part of life

Pain and disappointment seem to be a natural part of life and I think it does us well to remember that. Not so that we can sit around feeling sorry for ourselves or letting the bitterness destroy us. We must also resist the temptation to use that as an excuse to carry on hurting others. We need to remember that hurt is a part of life so we don’t spend our days yearning for something that’s not going to happen. There isn’t going to be a time when we won’t have to deal with struggles. Some will be caused by ourselves and by those close to us. Other struggles will come through external circumstances or people we don’t know.

We often can’t control our circumstances but we can control how we react and what we turn those circumstances into.

I know many people whose lives have been fractured by the mistakes and carelessness of others. My heart goes out to them and I wish I was able to heal their hurts but while I can be there for them at times I can’t change the past for them.

Let the healing begin

Thankfully, while it can be hard to hide the scars, there can be healing. I’m glad that the more I explore issues of faith, the more I discover a deep forgiveness and healing. It’s not the forgiveness that comes from a glib ‘sorry’ but a deep, heartfelt, internal knowledge that the past is over and I can start again. It’s not the kind of healing that comes from time, that’s just denial. It’s a healing that goes deep and touches each hurt.

If anyone has tried to offer you any kind of Christianity that accuses instead of heals or brings guilt instead of forgiveness, let me assure you, they’re selling a forgery.

The kind of faith I’m talking about is the type that connects you to a person named Jesus, not to a list of rules and doctrines. The kind of faith that I’m talking about lets me know that no matter what happens and no matter what struggles I’m facing, I’m not facing them alone. And in the good times or the bad times, I know I’m right where I need to be.

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