Nearly there – now let’s go deeper
At this point in the school year, many of us are ‘running on fumes’ like an exhausted ultramarathon runner and also feverishly planning ahead.

This is the time of year when we are often frustrated on many fronts, exhausted at the pace of life, wanting to just get the rest of the year ‘done’, needing a spike of energy, and hoping that others won’t see the sense of futility and apathy we have towards those annual reports and projects that we know deserve passion and enthusiasm but encounter attitudes of tedium.

Is it a matter of talking ourselves up – a mind over matter issue? Do you feel yourself slipping, with a sense of futility, into a yearly pattern of running, running, running, breathlessly just making it to the end of the school year, wondering how to practically integrate your faith and life and wanting an invigorated sense of growth?…

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Drenched
Have you ever been drenched, deluged, totally saturated, immersed in so much rain that it overwhelms you?  Have you ever thought of God’s love this way, as if His love continually rains down on us, like an endless personal drenching?

Over the years, people have described their experience of God’s love as:

“Divine love is inherently spreading, engulfing, embracing, overflowing.” (Ortlund)

“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not”. (CS Lewis)

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us”. (Augustine)

“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely. … He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

“No matter what storm you face, you need to know that God loves you. He has not abandoned you”. (Franklin Graham)
Do you ever wonder how people who experience many hurts and difficulties can then tell you, with that steady gaze, that they are glad they have been through their situations, their circumstances, and that it feels as if Jesus is so much closer to them now than before? That their life is richer now than before and their experience of life IN Jesus has taken them to a much deeper level in their relationship with Him?…

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Take Heart | He feels for us more deeply than we know
In recent days, we, the Commonwealth and the world have lost one of the most influential and resilient figureheads to have graced our time.  Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II encouraged us all to live out our faith, saying “to many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me, the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”

From Christmas and Easter messages to National and Commonwealth statements in euphoric but also extremely difficult times, we were reminded that God is our strength and hope. Her messages were of hope and faith.  Her calm, steadfast nature embodied her hope which came from her belief.  In one Christmas message she said “At the heart of our faith stands not a preoccupation with our own welfare and comfort but the concepts of service and of sacrifice as shown in the life and teachings of the One who made Himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant.” In another: “We know the reward is peace on earth, goodwill toward men, but we cannot win it without determination and concerted effort.”

Resilient, steadfast figureheads and world leaders can positively influence us.  People such as Rosa Parkes, Martin Luther King Jnr and Nelson Mandela cause us to reflect.  They inspire…

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Sunsets and Choices
I recently took the time to watch a stunning sunset from my beach chair, coffee in hand, sensing God’s peace and strength and wanting the moment to last so much longer.  As I took many photos, trying to capture the experience, I reflected on my choices and responses to recent challenging situations, realising that sometimes I choose to cling to God’s wisdom, sovereignty and strength and at other times it was ‘doing it on my own’. When I focused on who God is, He gave me hope, whereas the times of leaving Him out of my choices decreased my hope.  My choice to believe in Christ directly impacted my hope in God as my sustainer, provider and refresher.How do my choices encourage or diminish my faith, my hope?…

 

Hope-Shaped
Tim Keller recently noted that all humans are hope-shaped. What shapes us determines how we live and how we go forward into the future with confidence. Being hope-shaped is a gift from God. Romans 15:13…

 

The Killing of Belief in God and the Killing of Hope
My grandchildren play a game called Bugs Building. It is a form of Jenga where all various coloured blocks (bugs) are stacked on top of each other and built into a tall tower. The goal is to remove the blocks without causing the tower to crumble. The more blocks that are removed, the weaker the structure becomes. One by one the blocks come out of the tower and the hope of it continuing to stand becomes less and less, until eventually, the inevitable happens and it crumbles to the ground…

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The Hope of Belief
“Catch me Granny!” Have you ever walked into a room, and you see your child or your grandchild running up the middle of the dining room table, leaping, without hesitation, into mid-air and calling out with uninhibited confidence “catch me!” You gotta’ catch that kid…

 

Joining the Dots of Truth, Belief and Hope
One of my favourite games as a child was to play join the dots with my grandfather. As we progressively joined all the dots by following the numbers on the page, a picture would begin to form. We had to believe that following the numerical sequence would lead us to a final shape or image, usually an animal of some nature. Once all the dots were accurately joined, there was much excitement to see the end result…

 

Hope with Belief
As children we loved going to the beach in Summer. Our mother faithfully plastered us in sunscreen and painted our noses with neon-pink zinc cream. Our father would line us up and give us the usual beach lecture which included always swimming between the flags, not going out too deep and if at any point we got into trouble in the water, we were to put our arm up in the air to signal to the lifesavers we needed to be rescued. Then off we would go into the surf. I recall one day, the waves were rougher than usual, and a girl was carried out into the deep, choppy waters. As she was struggling to stay above the water, she shot her arm up in the air to get the attention of the lifesavers. In a flash, the rescue mission was mounted as the lifesaver jumped on his rescue board, and paddled out, to save her…

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In the Glow of Contentment
Don’t you just love a good fire? During winter, setting up the backyard firepit, igniting a roaring fire, and enjoying the warmth of the burning wood, being mesmerised by the allurement of the flames dancing and darting, listening to the crackling, and popping of the wood and did I mention the delight of melting marshmallows, so they are gooey in the centre and charred on the outer? It’s all part of enjoying a good fire. Yet the one thing about a fire is its glow. The glow of a good fire lights the faces of those encamped and there is a noticeable sense of peace and contentment…

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Contentment – God’s Assurance
Observing my grandchildren is one of life’s great delights. One of the things I have noticed is the sense of contentment they have that comes from the assurance their father gives them. Their faces beam when they snuggle in their dad’s arms or play games with him, they enjoy him tucking them into bed, and they laugh joyously when he is acting out the characters in the books he reads to them. As he engages…

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Contentment – Transformation vs Gratification
Pumping through in the veins of our society is the ideology of consumerism which boldly claims our happiness in life will be settled and enhanced by the consumer transactions we make.  Contentment appears to be within our grasp. Or is it? …

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 In a world that is continuously on the spin cycle, and the whirl of busyness keeps pulling us every which way, we are conscious that rest is an intrinsic part of our humanity and we need to step off the fast-paced motorways of life and enter the place of rest. Rest is central to who we are and we long to reclaim it to reset our souls. Just the mention of the word rest is like gold dust falling on our time-poor souls, causing us to feel instantly rich…

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I have recently been reading through the books of 1 and 2 Kings and it has been quite confronting to read about the perpetual failure of the majority of Israel’s kings. Israel, under the leadership of God’s appointed kings were to tell and live out an alternative story, God’s story…

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The idea of contentment presupposes God is enough. We are designed to be content in God and as we pursue our purpose which is to know God, we find contentment. Yet the nature of the fall disrupted the creative design of God in our humanity…

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As we continue to ride in the saddle of Hope with Contentment as our 2021 theme, in this issue we will be looking at the way God’s plan for sowing hope with contentment into the lives of others involves His people being willing to participate in His redemptive work across the earth, through service to others…

 

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Putting pen to paper for the first time to write about our 2021 theme feels like a new adventure. Our bags have been well packed after being treated with such excellent teaching over our 3-day Hope Conference where we gained a Biblical perspective on Hope with Contentment. We have now set off to trek through another year, embracing our call to be content in Christ…

 

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As we continue our theme of Hope with Contentment it is interesting to trace the idea of discontentment back to its roots in relation to human experience. As we rewind the story, we see that in original creation, contentment was a state of delight and fulfilment in God’s presence as Adam and Eve lived in perfect relationship with their creator…

 

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2020

 

… but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31, NIV).

 

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Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us of the varying seasons of life. It also highlights that no season is the same and as we navigate these ever-changing chapters, we must adjust our sails as the winds of change blow through our lives…

 

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As we continue to persevere and navigate our way through this challenging and complex season, I have found myself asking a philosophical question that has a spiritual answer. Are we shrinking or enlarging?

 

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Walking in the track of hardship is often made a little lighter when we know that others have walked before us and faithfully honoured God by staying the path in times of trouble.

 

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As we have journeyed through 2020 with the theme of Hope through Perseverance, we are acutely aware of the truth that faith is not an indemnity against difficulty.

 

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