Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sheep Stealing?

I was recently  having a discussion with some people who were new to our town and were looking for a church to attend.  Ours had been suggested by a mutual friend, so they dropped in to have a look around and ask some questions.  I was a little surprised when asked if Extreme Life was the biggest church in town.  My reply was “Not yet”.  I was astounded when the reply to my answer was a pointed finger and the accusation of “Ah, so you’re a sheep stealer!“.

Image sent to me by email, not sure where it originated from.

Image sent to me by email, not sure where it originated from.

I very quickly responded, informing that we have absolutely no intention of ever stealing sheep from anywhere else.  In fact we are quite direct with people when it comes to such activity.  When we get repeat visitors from other churches here in town, we actually phone the other church and ask if they know that they have people dropping in more than once to our meetings.  This usually very quickly resolves any potential “sheep stealing” issues.

To be quite honest, the whole concept of just relocating believers from other churches to our church, is quite repulsive.  Christian relocation programs in no way answer the challenge Jesus left of  “Go into all the world and make disciples of all men“.  This involves reaching into our community to those who do not not know Jesus and showing him to them.  Our growth strategy is a very simple one…Be Jesus to our city, show as many people as we can his love and grace and the amazing power of Biblical, Christian living.  As we introduce people to Jesus and they follow the Biblical pattern of being “saved and added“, our church grows.  Simple!  The Kingdom is also grown as more and more people step into the rule and reign of Jesus.

Sadly, not too many churches are very well known for being effective at this kind of growth, or for even presenting the Gospel very well to those who do not know Jesus yet.  At Extreme Life, we value ensuring that every believer knows the truth and has a grace in the way they present it to others.  We never want to be the street screamers or those bashing down doors to offend people with something they don’t want to know, but we are always looking for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to those who need it most.  Jesus himself said that “it is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick” and that he came for those who recognise that we cannot earn of achieve our own way to God in Heaven, but can only freely accept the incredible gift that only he can give…His own righteousness in place of our lack thereof.

We can have relationship with God because Jesus opened the way by living the perfect life for us and having his perfect life, written over the record of our lives.  That is truly amazing!

My goal is to reach as many as possible with the incredible truth of the Bible and all of the benefits and blessings it makes available to us.  This will actually add to Kingdom growth instead of just church growth by relocating some current believers into our church.

Sadly there are other pastors in town that don’t mind the “sheep stealing church growth” strategy and are currently and actively targeting members of Extreme Life, inviting them to leave us and go and be a part of what they are doing.  Every time I hear of this happening, it staggers me that they would have the audacity to attempt this and the rudeness and just plain slack attitude of taking those building with us to build with them while having little concern for the tens of thousands in our town that desperately need to have Jesus presented well to them.  What I do love though, is that our guys largely, have the maturity to reject the advances of these predators and to let me know about it…but relax guys, I will not be blogging about who you are.  You have enough to live with already…yourselves!

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“Prophetic” People = Happy People

It has been said that “Prophetic People” are those who see the future, prepare for the future and become the future.Windscreen View

With this being true, truly prophetic people should have the least amount of hurt and resentment in their lives.  Truly prophetic people have no opportunity to have a victim mentality or things to regularly complain about.

This is simply because, if we really are prophetically seeing the future, preparing for it and becoming it…we are always looking forwardsand nothing bad has happened to us there yet.

It is only when the focus of our lives looks backwards that we have anything to complain about or hurts that can lead us into a victim mentality.

This is why when writing to a group of new believers in the Roman colony of Philippi (Philippians 3:14), Paul encouraged them to look forwards, and keep pressing on towards the goal.  With our eyes firmly focussed forwards on a God given goal, that goal will become the clearest thing we see in our lives.  When we have opportunity to discuss things in life with others, guess what we are going to bring up…that goal.  We will not see opportunities to complain or “bag out” on others, we will only see an opportunity to reveal our passion for reaching the goal that God has set before us.  Every discussion we have, will be a motivating force that helps to keep us on course and heading directly at that goal.  In essence, many of the natural things happening in our lives, will become spiritual motivators that constantly launch us forwards in our spiritual life.  The inverse is also true…if we are always looking backwards, nursing our hurts and offloading about others at every opportunity, these discussions too, will launch us…backwards, into exactly the things we are wanting to get away from.

Have you ever noticed that the windscreen in a car is much bigger than the rear view mirror?  That is because we need to have the best view of where we are going, not of where we have been.  Our focus determines our direction and we need to ensure that our focus is always on Jesus and the things he sets before us.  We all have issues and hurts and offenses in our past, and it is very easy to get distracted and dragged back into them, but becoming a truly “prophetic” person will ensure that we are free from such painful distractions and are able to get on with preparing for and becoming all that God has designed us to be and set before us to become.

The future is bright people…let’s go!

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12 Month Harley…

Harley Logo12 months ago, a friend teed up an arrangement for me where I was loaned a Harley Davidson for 12 months. “What kind of deal is that!” you ask (exclamation point intended). Well it belongs to a dairy farmer who is finding that very demanding times in his industry have meant that he really has had no time to ride it and it had been sitting in a shed on his farm (that overlooks the Great Ocean Rd) rusting for a couple of years. It had really deteriorated to a point where it was not all that attractive to look at and was not worth any where near what it should have been if he decided to sell it.

My friend suggested that he let me take it and clean it up again making it more pleasurable for him to ride and worth a higher resale value should he choose to go that way. Being an obviously generous young man, he asked if I would be willing to do that in exchange for having his bike for 12 months…I would have done it for 2!

The answer to that being obvious, I collected his bike on a trailer just before Easter last year and brought it home to commence the clean up. It was quite bad and required some effort before even riding it on the road for the first time. I gave it a good wash, fitted a battery and had a roadworthy test conducted, got it registered and that’s when the hard work began.

Every single piece of chrome on the whole bike was very rusty. The dash, the handle bars, the wheel spokes and rim, the seat bolts, the headlight…every single piece!

I took to that Harley with my Dremel fitted with polishing wheels, with Glitz rust remover, with WD40, with microfibre cloths and with a number of Harley Davidson cleaning products. It took many, many hours of scrubbing and polishing, but I got that Harley looking pretty amazing. And I had the great privilege of a good many hours riding it too. We did a number of day trips to Apollo Bay, The Otways, The Grampians and other places. I took it regularly to my favorite thinking haunt in Timboon and had many pleasurable “mental escapes” on it.

Was it worth it? The look on the owner’s face when I handed it back to him, made it totally worthwhile! He was speechless at how clean and shiny it had become. It had been transformed from a wreck to a pride and joy and I got 12 months worth of reward just in those first few moments of seeing his face when he first saw his newly restored Harley.

Big thanks to Angus for providing me with such a cool project to keep me out of trouble for a year and for the opportunity to make a farmer’s day when I returned it.

 

 


The Power of Passion

I was chatting with a parent of one of our young people recently and they were telling me about the hours of committment their son was putting into his beloved motor sport. He was required to work from 10:00am until 2:00am and to work hard. Exposed to extremely high pressure, demanding circumstances, unexpected challenges, unpredictable weather conditions and many other kinds of daunting obstacles to their attempts at success. And all at his own personal cost…not only did he not get paid a cent, but he was required to cover all of his own costs.

I have to say, I was impressed by how hard they work to overcome all these challenges and always do their best to succeed. Now I am a motorsport fan, but even as a fan, I was also challenged by how these teams can require such total, sold out committment from young people…and get it!

If we asked for this kind of committment from any age group in our church, we are labelled “legalistic” or “demanding” or “controlling“…and yet in motor sport it is perfectly normal and acceptable.

In many sports, such practices are fine. It is nothing to be told by a coach, that if we want to play the game on Saturday, we are required to attend mid-week training sessions…every week, rain, hail or shine! (And we should…be very wary of those who consider themselves too good for training and just move on to an option that allows them to play without training!)

In fact, it is also normal practice in our work places. If we want to keep our jobs, we know exactly what time we are required to arrive, how long we have to stay and what we should be doing between those times. We commit to fulfilling those obligations and dedicate 5 or 6 days a week to them, sowing all our available (and required) time and energy into our workplaces.

I would love to think we are that dedicated to our workplaces or even maybe our employers, but I have been around long enough to know, that what we are really dedicated to is those funds that turn up in our bank accounts each month. This explains our dedication to our work places, but what about our sporting clubs and other places we freely give our lives away with no thought of “legalism“?

Getting back to my young motor sport enthusiast friend, I asked his parent how the teams involved got such committment from young people with so little return. The answer was a resounding “This is his passion“. He radically sows his life into a motor sport team, because motor sport is his passion and where he intends to one day build a career. In this stage of his life, he gives away whole weekends and countless other hours, investing thousands of dollars into cars and other equipment all because he is passionate about his sport. In the future he will give away even more and more of his life to this sport in return for funds arriving in his bank account and if he gets good enough at it, some fame.

Whilst this is somewhat admirable, the question must be asked, “What is my passion, and is it worthwhile?”. I guess if we are going to have a career, it is best to have one we enjoy and are passionate about. This will seemingly lessen the “cost” of our chosen career on our lives, but the reality is that even the best career doing something we absolutely love, is still only temporary. We are willingly, tirelessly and endlessly, sowing our lives into something that will count for absolutely nothing in eternity. And yet, if any of our church leaders asks us to get involved and serve, we cannot commit to a team because we are too busy with all of our other life committments. If they ask again, we label them “legalists” and withdraw to continue selling our lives to the highest bidder.

My question is this: “Why are we not as passionate about Jesus as we are about things like sports and careers?“…after all, he really is, the highest bidder! The only answer I can think of, is that we are not living with eternity in mind. We think we will worry about eternity in eternity and live this life for this life. The Bible (I know, how dare I bring that into anything!) teaches that the purpose of this life is to invest it into the next life. How we live now (where we invest our lives) will affect the quality of our eternity. We are taught that we can make choices to invest our Earthy lives into our eternal lives. We can live now, in such a way that our eternal life will be even better! But if we miss this truth and just live this life for this life, we miss the greatest opportunity we will ever have to impact our own lives…for the longest time. We may think we need our careers to provide for us in this life and things like superannution to help us take care of ourselves later in life, (and those are good and recommended things!) but what about after that? If we think that is the end, it is understandable that we would sell out for this life, but if we understand there is life to come after this one, it really does change the way we think about this life. 70-100 years is an extremely short time in an eternal context. Why would we waste them investing only into them, when we can choose to invest them into eternity? Only because we are not living with eternity in mind!

Andrew Carnegie said this: “And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret – concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it. The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is all wrong. I tell you ‘put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.’ Look around you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks the most eggs in this country.

Jesus teaching in the Bible agrees. He said “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all the rest will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). Jesus says put all your eggs in one basket, but make sure that basket is going to last for all eternity, by making it the one who made eternity. He also taught, that when we do that, he will take care of us in this Earthly life too. When we spend all our time trying to take care of our own Earhtly lives, we are proving that we don’t really trust his ability to do so (even if we say we do) and think we will be better of relying on ourselves. We get distracted and caught up in temporal things…at the expense of eternal quality.

We need a modern church that is sold out again to seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and whose primary passion in life is once again Jesus Christ. We need believers who are more committed to Jesus than their employers or their sporting coaches and will invest their lives in the many ways Jesus teaches us to instead of spending them on our own gain and Earthly interests.

We need to learn to live again, with eternity in mind.


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