Hope SS Q3#12 - Confinement in Ceaserea (with Hotlinked Bible verses)

1. Trial before Felix, governor of Judea
a) Acts 24:1–9, were any of these accusations against Paul true?
b) Acts 24:10–19, what impresses you about Paul’s response?
c) Acts 24:22–26, what do these verses reveal about governor Felix?
d) What is the danger of waiting for a convenient time to make a commitment to Jesus?
e) How long was Paul confined at Herod’s Praetorium in Caesarea? Acts 24:27
f) How do you handle times when God seems slow to hear and answer your prayers?

2. Appearance before governor Festus
a) Acts 25:1–5, what appeal did the Jewish leaders make to Festus, the newly appointed governor of Judea? Why?
b) What was Festus’ conclusion after interviewing Paul? Acts 25:25–27
c) Acts 25:6–12, after making his appeal before Festus, why did Paul appeal to Caesar?
d) Was this appeal to Caesar directed by God or was Paul following his own plan at this point? Might he rather have said, “I appeal to God”? Acts 26:32
e) What promise can we claim when we sense we might have made a poor decision? (see Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

3. Appearance before King Herod Agrippa II
a) Acts 25:13–22, great-grandson of Herod the Great
b) Acts 25:23–27, the confession of Festus
c) Acts 26:1–3, why did Paul begin his defence before King Agrippa with words of affirmation?
d) Acts 26:4–23, why did Paul share his life story, including his conversion, before King Agrippa? What new information is added, not found in Acts 9?
e) Why did Paul recount this additional revelation to King Agrippa? (see Acts 26:28)
f) Share a time when you were studying the Bible with someone and they were almost persuaded to become a Christian. How did the
story end?

4. Staying calm under attack
a) What accusation did Festus make against Paul? Acts 26:24
b) How had Jesus counselled His followers to respond in such situations? Matthew 5:11–12
c) How did Paul respond to the comment of governor Festus? Acts 26:25
d) Share a time when God enabled you to stay calm even when you were under attack as a Christian.

Growing Resilience


I talk about resilience a lot.

Every time my 17-year-old daughter hears the word resilience, she says, “There’s your word, Dad!” So, in a nutshell, here what I know about building resilience in ourselves and our children.
Resilience is built in Relationships
Relationships are shaped by Reconciliation
Reconciliation is the skill of making things right
by saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”
It is much easier to say: “I’m sorry” and mean it than it is to say: “I forgive you” and mean it. And yet, without forgiveness, our world stops. A lack of forgiveness stops countries sharing resources, families sharing Christmas and partners sharing a bed. Being sorry people is natural. Being forgiving people is enlightened!

So, start by saying the words “I forgive you” more often. Squeeze them into as many conversations as possible. Let people know they are loved by embracing them with forgiveness. Welcome them home.

Alongside forgiveness, offer apologies more often. It’s much better to apologise and hear, “You don’t need to apologise!” than not to apologise and risk the other person harbouring a niggle that grows into hatred. Two families in a small town hadn’t spoken to each other for generations. When a new police chief was posted to the town, he couldn’t understand the hatred and searched for an explanation. He asked everyone, including the members of the two families and no one knew the reason. The same explanation came from both camps: “We never talk to them! Our families don’t mix! They are dishonest, hurtful, horrible people!” No one knew the reason, but everyone lived the hate.

Apologise early. Apologise often. It hurts no one. In fact, it makes you the bigger person because you are willing to own your actions and admit you make mistakes. Children struggle with both sides of forgiveness unless it is modelled to them regularly. Reconciliation is a constant choice of conscience.

Once you’ve put reconciliation into full swing, your relationships will become healthy, happy and numerous. People who treat others kindly have more friends. It’s like magic. Well, not really. Everyone loves being loved!

Friendships built on forgiveness and kindness turn into deeply trusting relationships. And that’s where resilience comes from. Social researchers say people who bounce back quickly from unexpected difficulties (resilient people) have at least five significant adult relationships. That’s five emotionally healthy adults you know you can trust to eat with you, listen to you and care for you.

Resilience is a team sport. We build it together as we do life together. Invest more in your relationships, practice reconciliation, and watch your resilience — and the resilience of your children — grow, grow, grow!

“Are you busy?”

We’ve all answered this question a thousand times. In our hectic world, it’s a badge of honour to say, “Yes, very busy!”


“Busy” tops my list of least favourite four-letter words. Five years ago, I nearly destroyed my marriage and family. As we recovered, I recognised I had to prioritise relationships as the most important thing in my life. To actually put my wife and children first wasn’t easy. It meant I had to leave my busyness mindset behind. I had to change my purpose and my focus.

Now, I want people to know I am available to them – never too busy to listen or care. Of course, there are times when I have things to do. But, relationships lead to happiness and resilience. I want to be available to myself and others– even when I’ve got things to do. Pop your head into my office and no matter how ‘busy’ I may be, I remind myself that relationships come first, mentally press pause on my to-do list and invite you to come in, sit and chat for a spell.

Like busyness, availability is a state of mind. It takes a serious brain-retrain in our rush-around world to choose to be available rather than busy. But, it is possible – and highly rewarding!

Seek to be in a state of availability to self and others. Being available to others means being attentive to their needs when they show us those needs – not when we get around to it. Being available to ourselves means having awareness of our own needs and being willing to address those needs as they arise. A lack of self-awareness leads to anger, disinterest and disengagement. A lack of attentiveness to others leads to selfishness, loneliness and fragmented relationships.

When asked if I’m busy, I quickly answer, “Nope. I’m never busy.” While it isn’t always true – the quick answer reminds me of who I want to be. Then, if I’m living it that day, I offer my availability and say, “How can I help?”



Teaching Compassion

This morning I asked a year six boy what he thought the most important value was for kids. He said, “Kindness.” I asked him what kindness means to him and he said it means to be kind to other kids and then they would be kind to you. He’s on to something!



Thousands of years ago, sages in every culture taught a maxim of compassion we call the Golden Rule. “Do to others what you would like them to do to you.” This is the core reason for compassion — a knowledge that what comes around goes around.

Share and someone will share with you.

Care and someone will care for you.

Hard-wired into our early brain development, kindness is much deeper than a self-serving survival strategy. Compassion — which literally means “to suffer together” — builds strong bonds, friendships and relationships. When we feel compassion, it changes us. Our heart rate slows. Our brain releases oxytocin — the bonding hormone — and the regions of the brain responsible for empathy, caregiving, and pleasure engage. In short, being kind makes us happy.

In a world which teaches us to put ourselves first, how do we as parents teach our children to care for the needs of others? Once we get them started in compassionate behaviour, their brain’s reward system should take over and encourage them to be kind again and again.

Here are a few ideas for giving compassion a kick-start in your children:

Model Compassion: Do acts of kindness in front of your children. When you see someone drop something, pick it up and give it to them with a kind word. Help out at school functions. Hold the door for others. Always give to buskers. Back off in traffic to allow other cars to merge. After you do these things, talk about them with your children. What you did will combine with why you did it to bring compassion alive in your child’s mind.

A Family Pet: Get a pet that requires consistent but simple care — like hermit crabs or a mouse. As a family, design a list of care requirements and keep it next to the pet’s cage. Talk about the care rules as you follow them each day. After a few weeks with the pet in a shared area, move the cage and care rules into your child’s room for a weekend.

Service Activities: Get involved in activities where your family can give back to the community. Help serve at a soup kitchen. Donate a couple of hours to a local opshop. Help at working bees. Donate supplies to Breaky Club.

Values are caught not taught. Give your children the best chance to have a values-rich life by modelling and discussing the values you believe will benefit them. Start by seeing, sharing and caring for the suffering around you — this is compassion.

#8 The Jerusalem Council - Hope SS (with hot links)

1.      The challenge for the early Christian church

a)      Acts 13:42–49, why would the conversion of many Gentiles create a challenge for the early Christian church?
b)     Acts 15:1–5, the basic question: should Gentile Christians be required to follow all the Jewish laws, including circumcision?
c)      Acts 15:11, here is a clear confession that salvation comes by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why then is there such an insistence by some religious leaders regarding ceremonial laws?
d)     Why does Paul speak so sternly about these Judaizers? Galatians 1:7; Gal 2:4

2.      Circumcision

a)      Genesis 17:9–14, a sign of the covenant
b)     Exodus 12:43–49
c)      Why did Paul see an insistence on circumcision for Gentiles as a distortion of the Gospel Galatians 5:6, Romans 3:28–30
d)     How can we avoid the trap of thinking only people who are just like us can be saved?

3.      The lively discussion at the Jerusalem Council

a)      Acts 15:6–7, why is vigorous discussion and active involvement important in the Christian church? (see also Acts 6:2–6; Acts 13:1–3)
b)     Acts 15:7–11, what impresses you the most about the testimony of Peter?
c)      Acts 15:12, why is it important to listen and not just speak when you are seeking a solution to a potentially divisive problem?
d)     Acts 15:13–21, what solution did James propose?
e)     When disputes arise, how can we learn to listen to each other love and respect, and work through the issues with a spirit of humility?

4.      The Letter from Jerusalem and the Apostolic Decree

a)      Acts 15:22, what indication do you see that the group had arrived at a meaningful consensus?
b)     Acts 15:23–28, what impresses you about the way the letter is written?
c)      Acts 15:29, why do the apostles, elders, and brethren highlight the four prohibitions listed in this verse? (renunciation of paganism, outlined in Leviticus 17–18)
d)     Do these prohibitions imply issues like no idol worship (2nd commandment) or remembering the Sabbath day (4th commandment) no longer apply?
e)     Acts 15:30–33, how did the Christian believers respond to this letter from the Council in Jerusalem?

f)       What lessons can we learn from this process when dealing with challenges in the church today?

Parenting Value #1 — Reconciliation

I read an answer on Quora that made me pump my fist and say, “You tell ’em, champ!” The question was about a parent breaking an iPad because a child was addicted to a game. The parent wanted to know if breaking the iPad was overkill… Yeah, seriously.

Anyway, the answer this guy gave made me smile for a week. In short, he said his parents knew tech was the future and encouraged his gaming. They also ensured they spent lots of time doing activities as a family. Then he said, “If my parents would have broken my gaming system, I wouldn’t be working in tech today — where I make five times per year what my parents make combined.”

I’m tired of tech-bashing posts, articles and videos aimed at parents. The reason it bothers me so much is that it blames technology for family problems rather than challenging us to look in the mirror at the real problem. Technology is serving the role of both the babysitter and stable significant other for many kids. It’s not the child’s fault and it’s not tech’s fault. Kids are the victims of family angst. Tech is the fall-guy.

A lack of relationship skills is at fault. Primarily, the skill — or value — of reconciliation. We tell our kids to say sorry when they hurt someone and to forgive people when they apologise, but we often struggle to do this ourselves. Children do what we do, not what we say.

Values are caught not taught. I had a little guy in for a chat this week who I called a ‘silly monkey.’ He laughed and said, “That’s my nickname — Monkey!” And it reminded me of the three monkeys — one covering its eyes, one covering its ears, one covering its mouth. And it reminded me of my Mum shaking her head as I did another crazy thing because my friends did. “Monkey see, monkey do!” she said time and time again. We learn from watching, hearing and repeating what we see others do. We’re just like those silly monkeys!

Photo Credit
I have three kids that love their parents and each other. As a family, we regularly laugh together, play board games together, eat together and chat for hours. That said, they love their tech (as do I!) and have been tech-kids since they were in nappies. The oldest coordinated mouse-in-hand to cursor-on-screen when he was just two-years-old. He’s been at it since. Today he’s almost halfway through a Computer Science Degree in which he’s thriving. Boy two is in his first year of a Data Science Degree and thinks it’s awesome. He’s also a WOW legend! Our daughter, a budding florist, strengthens her skills by watching her favourite YouTubers and learns one creative thing after another from Pinterest, Instagram and other social media.

Dad (that’s me) has been a blogger for nearly two decades and a YouTuber (that’s what the kids at school call me! lol) for just over a decade. In just the past year, more than half-a-million people have read/listened to my content. Crazy, eh?

Tech isn’t the problem. It also isn’t the reason my kids are awesome. And, they are awesome!

They got a good start at being great people because their parents choose to suffer and succeed together. We fall. We get up. We apologise. We forgive. We mean it. We learn from our mistakes. We grow stronger. And we do these things privately, publicly and honestly — in front of our kids. They know what stupid mistakes look like. They know what huge belly laughs feel like. They apologise quickly. They forgive eagerly. They move on. Because they’ve seen it work. Loving and lovable people are good at forming and reforming relationships. Relationships are built on the ability to make things right — that’s reconciliation.

To whom do you need to apologise?

Whom do you need to forgive?

Do it. Regularly.

Let the monkeys see it and hear it — and soon they will say it too.

TECHnically Great Families

I'm tired of tech-bashing childhood research.

The reason it bothers me so much is because it blames technology for the problems caused by loss of family values and skyrocketing family breakdowns. Technology is serving the role of both the babysitter and stable significant other for many kids. It's not the kids' fault and it's not tech's fault. Kids are the victims. Tech is the fall-guy.

Photo Credit
A lack of relationship values is at fault:
Commitment.
Confession.
Forgiveness.
Reconciliation.
Here in lies the true problem.

I have three kids that love their parents, each other and have long-term friendships with non-family members.

As a family, we regularly laugh together, play board games together, eat together, and chat for hours. That said, they love their tech (as do I!) and have been tech-kids since they were in nappies. The oldest was the first one to coordinate a mouse-in-hand to cursor-on-screen when he was about 2 years old. He’s been at it since. Today he’s almost halfway through a Computer Science degree in which he’s thriving. Boy 2 is in his first year of a Data Science degree and thinks it’s awesome. He’s also a WOW legend! Our daughter, the youngest, strengthens her faith by watching her favourite Christian youtubers and learns one creative thing after another from Pintrest, Instagram and YouTube.

Dad (that's me) has been a blogger for nearly two decades and a youtuber (that's what the kids at school call me! lol) for just over a decade. In just the past year, more than half-a-million people have read/listened to my content. Crazy, eh?

Tech isn't the problem.

It also isn't the reason my kids are awesome. And, they are awesome!

They are great people because their parents suffer and succeed together. We fall. We get up. We apologise. We forgive. We mean it. We learn from our mistakes. We grow stronger. And we do these things privately, publicly and honestly - in front of our kids. They know what stupid mistakes look like. They know what huge belly laughs feel like. They apologise quickly. They forgive eagerly. Because they've seen it work.

People need to stop blaming tech and start loving each other!

A safe Australia is a values-centred Australia

Individual values shape family values. Family values shape community values. Community values shape cultural values. And cultural values shape the character of a nation. Australia is not the safe place it was a generation or two ago. Due to changes in cultural cohesion, community involvement and family structure; what it means to be Australian is shifting and in the process we are losing focus on our shared values. In short, we are no longer able to articulate what it means to be Australian.

Because values provide the foundational core of culture, The Australia Government is doing everything they can to help us find ourselves. This is why schools have values statements, buddy systems and peer mentoring for the students and programs like Real Schools for teachers and staff. It’s also why schools have chaplains, mentors, councillors and well-being officers.

US President Theodore Roosevelt said, “To educate a person in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society.” A safe Australia is a values-centred Australia. We know this! Not only do values keep us safe, they play a key role in our happiness, wellbeing and success. But, where do they come from? How do we develop values?

Values are caught not taught. We develop our values by watching and participating with other people. Values transfer from one person to another through relational pathways. The stronger the relationship, the more likely we will embody the values lived out by the other person. For most children, parents are their primary relationships and thus the strongest source for their values. Significant family members are also relational values givers. Those we value most provide most of our values.

As a parent, if we want to raise children with holistic healthy values, we need to know our core values and live by them. To do this, we need to take our own values seriously. Sit down and make a list. What are my core values? Why do I have these values? How do I live by these values and how will I ensure I live by them in the future?

A list of commonly held values is a good place to start. Values specialist Michael Gurian suggests ten moral competencies all humans need: decency, fairness, empathy, self-sacrifice, responsibility, loyalty, duty, service, honesty and honour. Happiness guru Martin Seligman adds humility, self-control, love of learning, industriousness, leadership, caution and playfulness. Parenting experts Linda and Richard Eyre continue the list with courage, peaceability, self-reliance, dependability, respect, love, unselfishness and mercy.

An honest personal values list will have just a handful of values. Although more confronting, reverse engineering your list will give you the most honest results. Instead of picking your values from a list; look at the actions, activities and communities in which you are regularly involved. Why are you involved in these things? Your core-values will likely be at the heart of the reasons why you dedicate time and energy to these things.

Once you’ve generated your list, talk about it. Notice when one of your values is lived-out by one of your children and tell them what you’ve seen in them. Put a name to the actions you want to see. Celebrate your values in action!

One by one, both you and your child will become all you hope to be. And Australia will be better for it!

Resilience Reservoirs are Filled by Sharing Your Story-Well


Stories from the story-well of your own life and the lives of others fill your resilience reservoir. The stories you pour into your children’s story-well will be drawn from for the rest of their lives.

Here are four categories of stories about yourself that are guaranteed to help your kids:

Success Stories — Your achievements from childhood, teenage years and adulthood.

Failure Stories — Things you tried, failed and learned from.

Unexpected Surprises — Unplanned things that shaped you. People. Events.

Unexpected Crises — Unfortunate events that shaped you. Accidents. Illness. Loss.


Along with these stories, make sure to include how that event shaped you for better or worse. Stories of both wins and losses are important. They show our kids that real people have real lives, just like them.

Next, expand the circle of influence to include your parents and siblings (your kid’s grandparents, aunts and uncles) and tell the same four kinds of stories from their lives. Better even, ask your extended family to tell the stories from their own perspective. You may want to prepare some key questions based on stories you know your parents and siblings are willing to tell. Prompt them for their stories with a few of your memories.

All the life-stories your children hear flow into their story-well and fill their resilience reservoir. Emotional strength comes from these stories being available when we need them.

Ask your kids to tell their stories, too. Help them to develop positive lessons from the many stories in their lives.

A deep story-well leads to a life of strength, love and joy.

The Best Way to Build Resilience in Your Children



Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback.

Some setbacks can be overcome easily, others take time. Why do some people bounce back quickly from an unexpected setback while others seem to get swallowed up?

Heaps of research has been done on what builds resilience. In short, the answer is - the more experience, the more resilience. But here's where things get interesting. It doesn't need to be your own experience. The people around you grow your resilience if you know their stories.

Amazingly, our brains do the same thing with stories we are told as they do with our own experiences. First, we receive the story. Then, we interpret the story. Finally, the interpreted story is stored with hundreds of emotional tags - good, bad, funny, angry, success, failure, happy, sad, lesson learned, random occurrence, etc.

Experience. Relationships. Stories. These three things combine to provide numerous memories of hitting bottom and getting back up. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly. Resilience comes when a person encounters a setback and digs back in their memory - into their story satchel: "Is there a story that relates to this setback?" Our subconscious scans through the tags and says, "Aha! This is like that!" And we begin to make sense of this new struggle. Or, a storyless subconscious sends back, "Nope. Nothing to work with. This is a new low." This is when resilience is hardest.

As parents, it is important to tell stories of both successes and failures. When we share success stories, the point is implied: "I tried, I won!" When we tell struggle stories, the point (resilience) is made in the way we tell the story. It gives little hope to a child to hear, "I failed high school Maths because it was too hard." A resilient telling of the same occasion could be, "I failed high school maths because I was still learning. I had to get some help and practice lots. But then, when the next exam came, I was ready for it!" Or, in my case, I shift the focus (because maths and my brain are from different planets) and say, "Maths is really hard for me. But I love to write. When I was in high school, I did my best on the maths classes I had to take but I took lots of extra English classes because I love writing. I was even the yearbook editor in year 12!"

The important thing is to tell lots of stories. Failure is important. It shows our kids they can make it because we did. Kids who believe their parents are perfect believe their parents expect perfection from them.

Life is not about perfection, it's about connection. Build resilience in your children by blanketing them in story.

Significant Adults: Surround your children with well-storied people. Explain your goal to build resilient kids to these significant adults. Ask them to share stories with your children. Thank them for helping!

Storytelling Parents: Tell your children stories of your own. Your setbacks, struggles and successes will empower them to make wise decisions and to bounce back from whatever life throws at them.

Resilient Kids: Finally challenge your kids to build stories of their own. Overcoming small setbacks gets us ready to overcome big ones later in life.

The best way to build resilience in your kids? Surround them with stories. Their own, yours and the stories of people they love.

Solving the Loneliness Epidemic by Opting Out

Values, identity and resilience once came from our Church Community and our Family Faith. Now, both church and family are relics of the past for most westerners.


Secular Primary/Secondary Schools are facing this head on. Governments (at least the one here in Australia) know intrinsic values result in extrinsic behaviour. Due to the lack of values coming from the historical sources — healthy nuclear families and community creating churches — schools are being challenged to run ‘values programs’ and teach positive identity and emotional resilience to students. Many schools have creedal statements centring around their desired values. The clear hope is that the next generation of adults will be less self-centred, disrespectful and lawless.

It is often said that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’… But the villages are empty. People are flocking to the cities. In cities, community gets swallowed up by cacophony. Without healthy relationships at the core of cohesive communities, we will not see other-centredness in the village square.

More people need to decide the relationships they are in are worth saving and savouring. Throwing a person or an organisation away because your views have changed is sending you down the path of loneliness with the rest of the west.

Right now, the default is to join the cubicle conglomeration: a collection of secluded self-actualised humans living in tiny cardboard boxes jammed-up against other boxes of other success-driven self-made men and women.

Buck the system. Leave the conglomeration and join a congregation. Find a spouse and get married. Then stick around through thick and thin. Build a family. Join a church. Face life together. Create something together today worth living in together tomorrow.

What is The Gospel of Jesus Christ?



Wikipedia summarises the Gospel this way:
In Christianity, the gospel (Greek: εὐαγγέλιον euangélion; Old English: gospel), or the Good News, is the news of the coming of the Kingdom of God, and of Jesus's death on the cross and resurrection to restore people's relationship with God.

What is the ultimate purpose of the coming of Jesus?

Why is this Good News?


The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia summarises the Gospel this way:
The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement.

How did the gift of God’s Son provide salvation? (3 points)

Why is this Good News?


Salvation for a Doomed World - John 3:16-18
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

What is the default position of humanity?

How did God’s Love solve this problem without forcing people to accept it?

What must we do to be saved?

Why is this Good News?


Paul’s Declaration – Romans 1:16
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”

What is the point of the Gospel?


Paul’s Explanation - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, . . . the twelve . . . five hundred . . . James . . . the apostles; and . . . me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I laboured even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

What is of “First Importance” in understanding the Gospel?

1. Jesus _ _ _ _ for our _ _ _ _ (according to scripture)

2. Jesus was _ _ _ _ _ _ on the Third day (according to Scripture)

Paul tells the Jesus story, the impact it had on others and then the way it changed his life. How is Jesus’ death for your sins and his defeat of death Good News for you?


Group 1
Read Acts 16:25-34

Spend time in your group writing out what you think was said in Verse 32.
Prepare to share this as a story.

Why did the Gospel mean so much to the jailer?


Group 2
Read Acts 8:26-38

Spend time in your group writing out what you think was said in Verse 35.

Prepare to share this as a story.

Why did the Gospel mean so much to the eunuch?


Personal Sharing of the Good News of Jesus Death and Resurrection
What would your answer be to a friend who says:

Why do you follow Jesus?

Why should I follow Him?








Being the Body of Jesus


Why Everyone IS Leaving the Church and Why They SHOULD BE


The reason the church is emptying through the back door, front door, windows and floorboards is simple. But it isn’t obvious. It’s simple because it’s just a matter of knowing Jesus. It lacks clarity, however, because there are more versions of Jesus than denominations. No wonder Jesus prayed for his followers to be one as He and his Father are One!


The Purpose of the Church

Contrary to the bumper sticker:
The church is not meant to be a hospital, but it often is.

Contrary to the record keepers:
The church is not meant to be an institution, but it often is.

According to Jesus:
The church is a body — one body. Well, it’s meant to be.
The church — the body of Christ — is Jesus’ chosen way to be active in today’s world.

The easiest place to see Jesus’ purpose is in his own actions. Understanding Jesus’ purpose then will help us understand the role of the church now.


Jesus’ Body

When Jesus was living on earth, he bodily served and savoured marginalised people and called religious people to drop the act.

When he was dying, Jesus’ body was broken for the lost — those besmudged and buried in sin. If you’ve hung with him, you’ve heard Jesus say, “You will be with me in Paradise.”

When his body died, everyone lost hope. Some left town.

When Jesus rose, his body walked through walls into places he wasn’t expected, a hint of things to come. Every meal — in every house — became a statement about his act of salvation. A reminder to some. An invitation to all.

When Jesus ascended, his body disappeared. Like the disciples then, we often need to hear, “Why do you stare into the sky? He will return. Now go — be His body.”

When the Spirit came, his body — the church — was in Jerusalem, praying in a small room. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ body spoke in many languages and baptised thousands on the first day of the Way.

In Jerusalem, his body brushed up against the religious leaders and told them to drop the act. Then leaving Jerusalem, his body was sent to serve and savour the marginalised.

The first outside convert was an outlier in every regard — a foreigner, a slave, a eunuch. The Spirit found him reading aloud from the Holy Scriptures in a chariot. This may not strike you across the face as firmly it should.

So, let’s reverse through it slowly: (In first-century Jewish understanding, this story is one blasphemy after another.)

Location: This Scripture reading was not in a synagogue but a chariot.
Reader: This Scroll was not being held by a Jewish Rabbi but an unwashed foreigner.
Learning: It was not being read with historical knowledge but scriptural ignorance.
Purity: This man was a eunuch. Eunuchs were not allowed in the Temple. Not allowed to be included in Jewish worship. Certainly not allowed to touch Holy Scripture. And yet, here he is — a gender-reassigned slave, touching and reading Scripture while bouncing along in his foreign queen’s chariot.

The Clincher: The Holy Spirit — knowing all this — sent Philip to catch this precise chariot. Not to tell the foreign eunuch he shouldn’t be touching, reading or questioning Holy Scripture but to tell him the rest of the story — the whole story starting with the passage he was reading. To tell him Jesus died to remove his record of sinfullness and make him — just the way he was — right with the Almighty God. Eternal life and freedom from sin was his, if he wanted it. The telling of this Good News — by the church, the body of Jesus — outside Jerusalem, throughout Judea and into all the world starts here. With a conversation. And it ends with a baptism. All in one day.

The Church: In this mission launching event, the Holy Spirit blew out the religious cobwebs and threw open the church doors. Peter’s night-time struggle with a sheet full of meat pales in comparison with this first conversion! This is what the Body of Jesus is all about. There are no limits to where the story of Jesus can reach. Jesus came to earth to save you and me while we were still sinners, and now he sends us to tell everyone His story.

Good news for the lost in a broken world.
The dying outsiders with real need.
Those who have yet to hear.
The whole story.

This is what the Body of Jesus does.
This is what the true church does.


Why They Leave

When people leave the church, it is because they have not experienced the body of Jesus. They’ve been a victim of mistaken identity — people playing church while outsiders cry out for something to make sense of the senseless pain, suffering and brokenness of life.


Why They Come

The Good News shared in the chariot that day still works. It is still needed. God loves by nature. God forgave you before you asked. Right now, God is holding His hand out calling — and His call is heard when the body of Jesus, his church, knows their purpose. Then hand in hand, two walk into the church where one walked out.


More Good News

You don’t need a degree, a Bible study training course, a script or a secret prayer to get started. Those doing the caring and sharing aren’t perfect. You’re ready right now. All you need is your story of how you met Jesus.

Just like the eleven staring into the sky, some of us still doubt. Like Peter denying; we question our own worthiness and readiness. Like Thomas doubting; we question the nature and nurture of Jesus Himself.

Like the Apostles, we question the meat in the sheet. The worthiness of the hands holding Scripture, the untrained voice reading aloud. The readiness of the eunuch in the river, the sincerity of the baptiser.

Some of us, looking at the ascending body of Jesus, still doubt. His solution? Get us busy. Give us a mission. Go — be His body. Baptising. Teaching. Obeying. Until he comes.

Such an embodiment of Jesus today is a hard place to find but an impossible place to abandon. So, let’s build it. Let’s be it.

Eat everything in the sheet. Drop the act!
Chase a chariot for the Holy Spirit! Tell Jesus’ whole story.
Then come home and testify to the glory of God sweeping the world.

One by one, we’ll shake the saints out of the pews and into the true work of the body of Jesus.

The goal of the church isn’t to stop people from leaving but to set them firmly in Jesus’ mission before they go. Then, they will go tell Jesus’ story. And return with a new friend. Go. Return. Go. Return. Winning the world for Jesus — one chariot conversation at a time!

change your habits without obsessing about them


Forming Healthy Habits

You can change your habits without obsessing about them by focusing on your environment and rituals. Let me explain.


Habits

Life is all about habits. Both success and failure are formed by our habits. Repetition is the primary way we learn. We become the things we do repetitively — these are our habits.

Growth: We build habits to achieve goals. This is how we get better at anything — try, try, try again. The more we practise, the more our success. How many times has your favourite AFL player kicked a footy? hundreds of thousands of times, no doubt. Likewise: catching, bouncing, passing and running. That’s why they are professionals!

Stagnation: We also form habits of ease or comfort. They make us feel safe. If it makes me happy, I do it. If it relaxes me, I do it. If I do it repeatedly, a habit forms and can be hard to change. Selfish habits can lead to poor relationships or poor health.


Environment

The easiest way to change a bad habit is to form a new one to replace it.
The easiest way to form a new habit is to change your environment.

Take Footy/Xbox for example: If you want to spend more time practising footy skills, spend more time on an oval with friends and a ball. It’s hard to play Xbox or watch TV on an oval. So, spending more time on an oval changes two habits — replacing one with the other — by changing the environment.


Rituals

Another way to successfully change a habit is to combine it with a ritual you enjoy. Time with a friend/partner/child. A trip to the shops. Going out for coffee. Driving.

Use your rituals to build better habits:
What more exercise? Park further from the shops — or walk from home.
Want to read more? Take a book to a coffee house and switch your phone off.
Want to learn something new? Listen to an audiobook while driving.
Want to run/walk regularly? Ask your friend/partner/child to join you.


Change

Mythologist Joseph Campbell is best known for his statement: ‘follow your bliss’ — an invitation taken to heart by many young people seeking life’s purpose. Near the end of his life, Campbell quipped, ‘I wish I’d said follow your blisters.’ He’d learned, as we all do, that our time-worn habits are what shape our greatest attributes.

Most people hate changing habits. Focusing on the habit itself can be overwhelming and disheartening. But, choosing our environment and strengthening our rituals can be fun and will cause habits to fall into place without hardly thinking about them.

Defeating the Deceptions - SS Lesson Guide for Week 9

The Messiah vs the Deceiver

Read Matthew 4:1–11

How did Jesus defeat the deceptions of Satan? (By knowing and quoting Scripture)

The Bible gives us glimpses of the deceptions that will come our way in the end times. Yet we need not fear these deceptions. Why? (We have the Bible and more than just quotable truths, we have the Truth Himself!)

What does knowing and believing in Jesus the True Messiah do for us in these End Times? (give us hope and freedom from all kinds of fears, pains and deceptions)

The evidence from Scripture is clear: Jesus is real. And So it the enemy. Satan is real. Yet many do not believe he exists. Why?

What does the above story show us about Satan's existence and purpose? (He's out to destroy Jesus)
How does Satan continue his attack today? (Revelation 12:17)

What warning does Jesus give in Matthew 24:4? It is relevant today? Why?

What is the only way to recognise the deceptions of Matthew 24:24? (Know the true Messiah!)

How do we "know Jesus" as the true Messiah? (relationship, testimony, prayer and study)


The Work of Satan

What does Satan’s deceptive work look like? 2 Thessalonians 2:9–10, Revelation 12:9, Matthew 24:4-5

Just as Jesus faced the Devil's deceptions with scripture, so can we. What scriptural truths can you think of that prepare us to face these things? (have the people who read the above texts skim them again and see if the rest of the group can come up with scriptural concepts to defeat them.)

While knowing these things is useful, what do we have that is even greater and cannot be defeated? (Jesus! The Truth shall set you free indeed!)


Worship, Work and Image Bearing

Read Mark 12:13-17
When Jesus says, "Give God what is Gods" the jaws of his listeners hit the floor. Why? Where is he expecting the minds of his questioners to be drawn? When was an image 'stamped' on humanity?

Read Genesis 1:26-27
How important is it that we are created "in God's image"? (It's repeated three times!)

What happens when we forget whose image we were created in? What two extremes can it lead to? (self-righteousness, godlessness)

What does the first Creation story (Genesis 1:1) tell us about the Source of life on Earth? (We have a Creator! We are not alone.)

Why is the Sabbath such an important reminder in a world where many have abandoned the idea of a Creator God? Genesis 2:1–3

Humanity's first full day was a day of worship. In the lives of God's image-bearers, work follows worship. What impact does a Sabbath spent in worship have on the work week which follows? (During our work, God is our focus. We act like Him: love, justice, mercy, compassion, forgiveness).

Sabbath is a day of image-renewal. With the image of God renewed within us, what impact will we have for Him during the week? (our love for God will radiate in the world as we work, drawing others to Jesus)

Click here for a more in-depth article on Genesis 1 and what it teaches us about our image-bearing purpose.


Switching on the Light in a Dark World

In many areas of life, it is true that: "It's now what you know but who you know that counts." How does this apply to defeating the Devil's deceptions? (More than we can ever know!)

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
Where would we be without the glory revealed in Jesus' face? (lost, in our sin)

When Jesus' face shines upon us, the Lights come on! The image in which we were created is revitalised within us. How does this impact our interactions with others?

How does Paul use the Creation story to empower believers? (2 Cor 4:6)

Based on 2 Cor 4:4, people who do not know the Gospel are blind, how do you treat blind people when they are nearby? (with compassion)
What if you know the blind person walking past, do you expect them to recognise you and start a conversation? How might this apply to the way we treat those who do not yet know the Good news of Jesus? (Let them know you are standing there, in the darkness. Start conversations!)

How can we best help others who are being deceived? (by knowing and loving Jesus)



A careful look at the pointy end of Genesis 1


After five ‘good’ days, God’s Creation became ‘very good’ as He shaped His Image-bearers. During this first Creation narrative, things increase in meaning and purpose. On the first three days, environments were created. The next three were spent filling those environs with life. Midday on day six, God finished the filling of the earth, paused, and “saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). Following this pregnant pause, God began His final work. He conceived of, created and commissioned humanity.

We were created in His Image.

But then God throws in another day, seemingly as a bonus. A day ‘set-apart’ where we, His ‘set apart’ Image-bearing creation, worship Him. In honouring this day of Image-recreation humanity recognises the Sabbath is not a bonus for a week well spent but the beginning of a week well focused. Eyes fixed on our Creator, His Image is renewed in us. Our identity is formed, reformed and we are empowered for a week of work. Worship alone forms our identity.

Good and very good things are not what we were created to worship.

Good and very good things define our work. Not our worship.

Day 7 was not good or very good. It was ‘set-apart’ from all the good and very good things of Creation. Sabbath is set apart from the days of work. It is a day set apart from Creation week as we are set apart as unique in Creation. Day 6 was a very good day that followed the good days of the rest of Creation. But the day 7 was especially marked — not as good or very good — but as ‘holy’. And we, His Image-bearers, are made new as we glorify and glory in Him on this 7th day.

Our work is not our purpose.

Worship is our purpose.

Sabbath was created immediately after humanity. The stage was set. The set was filled. And then, as the final creative act of Day 6, “God created mankind in his own image” (Gen 1:27). Then the sun set, and the Sabbath began.

We were created in God’s Image and that Image was of utmost importance to God when He created the world. Everything in Creation points us toward our day together with God.

The first full day of life for humanity was day 7 — the Sabbath.

Worship came the first. Work came second. Put the other way around, we become workaholics worshiping our own achievements. We were made to worship God and to gain our identity from that worship. We become that which we behold most passionately — this is worship.

After a Sabbath-day of worship, with the Image of God renewed and revitalised, we are sent out to work for the next six days. Our glory comes from His glory. Our purpose comes from His purpose. Our identity comes from His love for us and in us.

In New Testament lingo, Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath before He was Lord of the Harvest. But He is Lord of both.

Renewed in Image-identity we are sent forth to be blessed as we work. God is not absent during the week but present in each act of generosity, kindness, mercy and justice that His Love brings forth in us and through us. Some Jewish scholars say, this ever-present nature of God is the reason that, unlike the other six days of Creation, day seven is not finished with “and God saw that it was…” This day, they suggest, introduced God to mankind and He is forever with them, from one Sabbath to the next. For God’s Image-bearers, the six days of work are as much a God-thing as the day of rest.

God’s work results in rest, our worship results in work. In our worship His Image is renewed within us, in our work His Image is revealed through us. This is the point of the first Creation story: The Image of God was created in us and the work of God is revealed through us.

Commenting on the image stamped on a Roman coin, Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” Then, looking deep into the eyes of the Jewish scholars who posited the question, Jesus said, “And give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21).

When Jesus directed people back to Creation, His intent was the same as the original intent — to renew the Image of God in His people and to send them into the world to reveal God through their work and how they interact with others.

When we reach back to the Creation story, we need to ensure we conclude what God concluded — that the day ‘set apart’ from the good and very good days around it is a day for Image-recreation. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Sabbath is a day for making and remaking mankind.

The purpose of the first Creation story (Genesis 1:1–2:3) is to remind the people of God of their Creator in whose Image they are made and to remind us to renew our Image-identity through a Sabbath of rest and worship. Grounded in any other way, we lead away from God.

We make Genesis 1 say less — far less — when we make it say other than this:

So God created mankind in his own image,
 in the image of God he created them;
 male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

God’s Eternal Story

I was once corrected by a participant in a storytelling workshop (something I’m passionate about running!) when I said we will be telling our Salvation story throughout eternity — the story of what God did for us on the Cross.

He said we will not be telling stories in the Kingdom of God because stories require resolution, from dark to light, from sin to salvation, from hate to love, from broken to healed. Stories, he said, require a foundation of evil. When we get to Heaven there will be no negatives. No darkness. No sin. No death. No hate. No brokenness. Therefore, stories will not work. Instead of telling stories, we will worship. That was his punchline.

I believe we will always remember where we were and who we were when God saved us from death through His Son Christ Jesus. “I once was lost but now am found. I once was blind but now I see.” And we will tell that story, as we do now, to others — to glorify God. God’s people share the darkness-to-light story over and over, forever glorifying the love-defeats-hate storyline of sinful planet Earth.

But, when sin and suffering end and we are in the Earth made new, will we no longer have new stories to tell? At the core, do stories (and thus storytellers!) rely on the existence of evil to do their work? If so, will the greatest storyteller who ever walked the Earth — Jesus — be a non-storyteller in the Kingdom of God?

I think not!

We will forever be building stories from the encounters we have with others. Rather than being built on foundations of evil, darkness or brokenness, Kingdom Stories take their hearers from glory to glory.

In the Kingdom of God, God’s storytellers tell stories of God’s love as it has been revealed to them. And each story is gloriously unique and beautiful.

We bring each other closer to God — From where we were in Christ before meeting this person and hearing their experience of God’s love to where we are now that their story and our story have combined into a greater knowing of God and His story.

We will always be growing closer to the nature of Jesus — for eternity.

And that was and is and will be our story from now until forever!

Resilience Research Workbook - Free PDF

Resilience studies have shown that the resilience of a child (of any person, actually) can be readily demonstrated through two indicators.

1. How well they know their story and stories about their family
2. How many significant adults they participate with regularly

This booklet combines the 20 questions researchers ask kids to assess their family knowledge and a list of five significant adults and why they are significant. 

When I give this booklet to a student, we spend the session filling in all the answers they know personally. I watch carefully, asking questions as we go along, and at the end of this session I have a strong assessment of their resilience. So far, I have found it to be very accurate to my previous assessment of the student. 

I then send the workbook home with the child to complete with help from their family. This gets the family talking and, in time, will raise the wellbeing and resilience of the child.

The booklet is formatted to print double-sided and fold in half. Please print and use this booklet as you see fit. 

Please feel free to share this booklet. In the future, send me an email and let me know how it has helped the children in your life!


Resilience Research Workbook
Free Workbook PDF - USA Spelling


Resilience Research Workbook
British / Australian version

Brave Kwame - Free Children's eBook

This amazing true refugee story teaches the power of including others and telling our story!

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Jimmy and The Black Dot - Free Children's eBook

I wrote this children's book to encourage us all to see the needs of others.

Enjoy this free eBook


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If you are a publisher who'd like to see it illustrated and published, please email me!

The Forgotten Path - Free Children's eBook

I wrote this children's book to encourage respect for the elderly.

Enjoy this free eBook of an adventurous story with an important message!


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The Rescuer - Free eBook

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How Jesus Wants to be Remembered - Free eBook

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The Question of Suffering in Job - Free eBook

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The Whale's Tale - Free eBook

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Once upon a time in a land far deeper than most, there lived a family of oysters. These oysters had some very odd beliefs, as did most of the other sea creatures. The strangest of these beliefs was that the Great Levitating Ocean God would return soon. The oysters and their cousins, the octopuses and squids, affectionately called this God "GLOG," which was merely an acronym for His full name. They were quite sure he would not be offended if he knew.

The oldest of the elders were not alive the last time that GLOG passed over their home. Therefore they had only the legends and stories of recent sightings elsewhere to hold on to. Occasionally GLOG would pass near enough that the entire ocean floor would resonate from his singing. It was at these times that reverence for GLOG would return to the oyster community and some of the adolescent oysters would come back to the religious meetings.

There were a number of reasons that the molluscs worshiped GLOG. First of all, he was huge. There was no form of measurement known to the oysters or their cousins by which one could measure the length, or even the width of GLOG. One legend said that if all the oysters lined up on the ocean floor they would not be able to match the length of GLOG.

Secondly, GLOG was not bound to the ocean floor. He mysteriously hovered far above. Some of the octopuses even claimed to have seen GLOG completely leave the water and return moments later with a terrific crash. This was unimaginable to the oysters. In fact, many lifetimes ago, a GLOGian octopus philosopher had been privileged to attach all eight of his suction cup covered legs to GLOG for a brief period of time. During this time GLOG launched himself out of the water and Octoposious (the philosopher) was torn loose on re-entry to the ocean. It was because of this experience that Octoposious later wrote the immortal words, "A fish does not realize that he is in water, until he is in air." This, of course, was beyond comprehension for the oysters. But they were sure it was a great truth.

Thirdly, GLOG lived forever. As far as oysterian history as well as collective molluscan history went back, there have always been records of GLOG. GLOG was past, present, and future. He was eternal.

It was the religion of the oysters to be as GLOGlike as possible. They knew that they were incapable of leaving the ocean floor on their own. The oysters also knew that they could never be as big as GLOG. But this was okay, because only GLOG was worthy of his supreme size.  Molluscs have very short lifespans and so eternal life on the ocean floor was out of the question.

The fundamental truth of GLOGery was that soon GLOG would return, take the worthy molluscs to his home, give them the ability to levitate, and give them eternal life. This was the dream of every religious mollusc. So they spent their days learning to sing GLOGerian chants, did their best to treat each other nicely, and spent a lot of time listening to the elders pontificate on the finer intricacies of GLOG.

One day music could be felt on the ocean floor. All of the oysters came out from under their rocks and began looking up through the murky mass of water. Soon the massive body of GLOG could be seen above them. Some of the wayward oysters ran back under their rocks and begged the others to crush them.

Slowly, some of the oysters began to rise off of the ocean floor. Most of those ascending to the surface were the elders and the very young. The elders, who had been tormented by nonGLOGerian molluscs and called "spineless fools" by other sea creatures, now felt elated. Their days of asking, "When will the evil in this land be stopped?" were over. The day of vindication had finally arrived. The young, who still had unspoiled faith, giggled with glee because they knew this was going to happen all along. The entire group formed a circle and joined GLOG in singing the song of absolution as they continued floating to the surface.

The others, hiding under the rocks, knew it was their own fault they weren't on their way to GLOG's home. They all had plenty of time to change and were warned of GLOG's soon return repeatedly. Now they closed their shells in shame.

It was for those oysters who failed to believe, as well as for us in comparison, that Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "I suppose you could never prove to the mind of the most ingenious mollusc that such a creature as a whale was possible."

Zeek the Leper - Free eBook

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The Dragon's Bane: God's Storytellers - Free eBook

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Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...