How can I bring my children up in the training and instruction of the Lord without exasperating them?

I love my kids, however being a Dad is not a simple thing.

I love my kids, however being a Dad is not a simple thing.

I am a trained youth worker.

I know most of the theories of adolescent development.

I have worked with all kinds of youth from all kinds of backgrounds.

You would think that being a parent of teenagers would therefore be easy.

Its not.

Being a youth worker is completely different to being a parent.

A few months ago I wrote a reflection on the realization that parenting teenagers is fundamentally about a clash of Kingdoms. My realization  was that parenting teenagers is about stepping into, and not avoiding the right kinds of conflict.

Leeanne and I committed ourselves to seeking first the Kingdom of God in every area of our lives when we we were married, and that commitment (based on Matthew 6:33)  has been the foundation of our marriage and family. That doesn’t mean we have got it right all the time.

Knowing that we are meant to seek first the Kingdom in our parenting doesn’t automatically mean we know how. Our life has been a constant journey of facing our blind spots and learning what our original commitment actually means.

As a Pastor I realise that one of the qualifications for leadership in the church is that:

4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.
(1 Timothy 3:4 NIV)

So what does it mean to manage my family well and see that my children obey me?

If my 18 year old son refuses to do what he is told, does that mean that I am no longer able to be a pastor?

As a family, we have read out Paul’s pattern for a healthy family a number of times:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV)

I quite like the first three verses, I’m less excited about the fourth.

Over the past couple of weeks a book that I didn’t want to like has helped give me a clearer vision of what it means to lead my family in a way that takes Matthew 6:33, 1 Timothy 3:4 and Ephesians 6:1-4 all seriously.

The book is called Creating a Culture of Honour by Danny Silk.

The reason I didn’t want to like the book is that Silk is pastor from Bethel church. Bethel is one of those mega-churches that lots of people visit and quote.

I’m not sure if it’s because I am an Australian, or simply because I am immature, but when it comes to something that lots of people think is special, I am pre-disposed to look for what is wrong rather than what is right.

I have a sense that God takes particular delight in challenging my prejudice by teaching me through Danny Silk’s book. Continue reading

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The majority of Christian mission and ministry is ineffective. Whats wrong?

Originally posted 2011-11-23 21:35:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I wonder if you added up all the hours that were spent in ministry or mission in the last week around the world, what the number would be?

If all those hours are spent serving God, and seeking first His Kingdom, why doesn’t the world look much different?

In the United Kingdom, many churches are gearing up for the London Olympics. They are seeing it as an opportunity to connect with their communities in new and innovative ways. Thousands of hours will be spent in all kinds of ways.

I’ve seen the church in action at the Sydney Olympics, Melbourne Commonwealth Games, South African World Cup and Vancouver Winter Olympics. There was lots of activity, but only in a handful of places is it possible to point to something of value that was lasting from all that effort.

It is tempting to say that what our action produces is the wrong kind of question, that you can’t measure the real effect of spiritual endeavor.

That’s a cop-out.

We are called to “Seek first the Kingdom”, to take part in what theologian Stanley J. Grenz calls “God’s powerful invasion of our word”.  In short, we are called to be, with God, world changers.

Why aren’t we? Continue reading

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Grace in leadership

Originally posted 2010-09-14 20:00:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jesus and Leadership

(Poatina Morning Tea devotion given yesterday)

I came to Hobart with Fusion when I was 20 and subsequently have made lots and lots of mistakes!  In that time,  the wrestle with leadership has been an issue for me. Over the years I have read a few books and articles by Warren Bennis. He was one of the youngest infantrymen in WWII and his experience helped him frame his thinking about leadership. He was one of the pioneers in the whole field of leadership training. He and a man named Shepherd actually invented Group Life Laboratories.

(We played an excerpt of a Podcast where the an interviewer said to Warren Bennis “As you get to the end of your life, what have you discovered is the key to leadership?”

He said “My understanding of being a leader  is that it will more and more depend on things we don’t usually talk about.   Things like sacrifice. That sounds easy, but it is not easy and it takes you away from your family; from taking care of yourself sometimes.   People are going to have to think about leaders who really understand sacrifice, and redemption, to build a company back up that has lost its way”.

“I am not a religious man, but my next book may be called, GRACE  focussing on things like generosity, respect, redemption and sacrifice. You won’t find these things in many books on leadership, including mine, however increasingly I am seeing that they are the key to effective leadership”.

So Bennis says, ultimately leadership is about Grace.

Continue reading

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The enemy’s agenda is to kill communities and marriages. We all need to learn what it actually means to stand firm.

My first Wedding as a Pastor gave me a bit to think about.

My first Wedding as a Pastor gave me a bit to think about.

I conducted my first wedding yesterday.

As I prepared for Andrew and Pamela’s big day,  I was reminded just how profound a privilege it is to officiate at a moment like that.

Marriage is important. It has far reaching implications for our health and that of our kids.  According to the American Psychological Association:

Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems

There are big theological implications for marriage too.

At the heart of our faith is the picture of the three-in-one God. At the heart of our faith is a picture of being one, but not the same. We who are created in the image of this one-but-different God are called to bear his image.

We most effectively do that image bearing in relationships that are one-but-different. The most intense version of this is marriage. The second chapter of the first book of the bible says that marriage is about two different people becoming united as “one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

Despite these significant benefits, and the incredible theological implications, divorce rates hover around 50%.

Two different people becoming “one flesh” is not simple.  Continue reading

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Only he can command who has the courage and initiative to disobey

Originally posted 2012-05-12 15:08:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

In 1943 Winston Churchill said:

“First we shape our buildings, then they shape us.”

Churchill could just as well have said, first we shape our organisations, then they shape us.It’s all very well to talk about empowerment one –on – one, but most of us find ourselves within some sort of organisational framework.

What does empowerment look like in that context?

The assumption built into a normal organisation structure is that order comes through control, and that everybody is accountable to someone and the chain of command goes right up to the top of the pyramid where, ultimately the power to make decisions is vested in one person. While it is true that in most healthy organisations that one person is accountable to a board or some other structure, the fact remains that in day to day operations, the buck stops with one person. One person is the most powerful.

Good organizational leadership establishes objectives and then works to have a plan that is deliverable. An organisation develops resource through its activity and hires the people it needs to expand its operation. Organisations need a vision but often the people who work within an organisation would not see a lot of connection between what they do day to day and the organisational vision.

When it comes to people joining an organisation, the question is not “how do we help this person find their vocation?”, but “does this person fit our organization?” This way of seeing things runs the danger of reducing people to being replaceable parts of a big machine. Even the language of “Human Resource Management” is essentially dehumanising. People are not resources to be used. Continue reading

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I admit lies and sin

Originally posted 2010-06-13 19:00:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Honesty… is such a lonely word

Since 2006 I have carried around in the back of my bible an article with the heading “Pastor admits lies and sin”.

It is a story about Ted Haggard, one of the most significant leaders of the evangelical church in America who made some significant mistakes.

I carry it around for two reasons:

Firstly as a reminder that we are all in danger of being idiots.

Secondly as a reminder that we all should be admitting lies and sin a whole lot more than we do.

I am sick of the unstated message we end up communicating in the church that somehow we are meant to “have it together”. Continue reading

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We can recognise those people who are fellow kingdom travellers not by how they talk, but by how they walk

Originally posted 2012-07-17 18:08:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I am preparing myself for a journey to the U.K. this week. It is a strange feeling knowing that I am heading over for the launch of my book and that lots of people will be reading the thoughts I have written down sitting here at my desk in Poatina.

A joy for me in it all is that I am able to take my son Daniel. We made an agreement with our kids a number of years ago that I would not go away for more than two weeks without taking one of them with me. We knew it was right for me to go, but even making that happen seemed impossible, but in the end everything has fallen into place and we leave Launceston airport at 6 a.m. on Friday.

As I prepare myself to do seminars about the book, I was struck today with why the book is important. It is called 6 Radical Decisions and is focussed not on what you do with your time, or any particular method, but who you are as a person.
Continue reading

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It’s moments like this that remind us what a good person looks like.

The images from Fort McMurray have been surreal, but also a little familiar for an Australian.

I am writing this in front of the television which has been on more than usual in our house over the last three days.

If you been near any media this week you might realise why: The city four hours to the north of us, Fort McMurray, has been decimated by a fire that seems to be continuing to rage out of any sign of coming under control.

As an Australian watching the images on the screen there is a strange sense of familiarity in it all.

For our family this has all brought back memories of the King Lake bush fires in 2009. Back then, as now here, there were all kinds of stories of heroism and heartbreak.

A story that particularly touched me today was the news that, of only two fatalities from the fires so far was a triplet and a daughter of the assistant fire chief of Fort McMurray. When fire crews realized that their boss and friend’s house was threatened containing all the remaining memories of his daughter, they surrounded the house and fought to save those precious memories. While they knew that their own houses were probably burning, they were fighting for their friend.

Its moments like this that remind us what a good person looks like.

We all know that the ultimate show of love is about self sacrifice, and people all over Canada are exhibiting real love at the moment.

My daughter works at Costco and she told me how large numbers of people are coming from Fort MacMurray to purchase whole new wardrobes and basic supplies, looking shell-shocked and bewildered. Maddi also says that lots of people are purchasing things to give away. She was particularly touched when one customer decided to pay for the entire bill of the person in front of them who had just arrived from Fort Mac and was purchasing all the necessities of life.

A crisis helps us all remember what it is important. Its what happened in 2009, its what is happening now. Continue reading

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Step four and five: See things from their point of view

Originally posted 2010-08-21 19:00:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The world makes more sense when you are not at the centre

After stopping long enough to objectively review your own position, the next step is to engage with the other persons position.

An old American Indian Proverb says:

Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

Continue reading

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Its life but not as we know it

Originally posted 2010-09-29 20:00:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Adjusting focus

I’ve been chewing over Colossians 3.

As I mentioned yesterday, the chapter became a bit of a theme for our conference and now seems to be something that God is trying to use to help me see some things.

This morning I only got as far as verses 3 and 4 and they have been running around in my head all day as I try to come to terms with what they mean: Continue reading

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Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this, hanging around.

I’m preparing myself for Sunday. In some ways I am feeling a little apprehensive because I feel a weight of responsibility.

We are launching a two month series based on Ephesians 4 and there is a vision for the church that Paul is communicating, that I hope and pray I will find a way to help our church engage with… because it changes so much.

It’s interesting to search for “Ephesians 4” on this site and very quickly you discover just how much God has brought me back to this book, and this particular chapter since I started writing. Just some of the reflections are:

This coming Sunday I will be launching the series by doing an overview of the profound vision that Paul paints in the first three chapters.

The central idea of the whole sermon series is that Paul’s vision of the church is radical in the proper sense of the word. Continue reading

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Wood, hay and straw are cheap but its the gold, silver and costly stones that matter.

Originally posted 2012-01-29 15:20:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

20120129-143824.jpgI’ve been thinking a bit about legacy.

I’m at a point where I am looking back at 20 years in ministry and looking forward at maybe another 25 years and I am asking myself where do I want to be in 2037? Even writing that date seems ridiculous, as thinking about 2012 must have to my Dad when he started Fusion in 1960.

I loved seeing my son Daniel receive his Foundations certificate on Friday. He had done the course for the first time, along with Maddi and Josh and the week had a real impact on them all. Maddi even taught her first unit.

It was a strange feeling for me, sitting up the back and just enjoying the looks on peoples faces at the end of a very busy week, given that I was not involved at all. As I saw the big group huddle together, I thought to myself “Well done Dad.” Dad wrote the first incarnation of the course in 1963 and in 2012 it was still changing peoples lives. Many of them didn’t even know who he was, and yet their lives will be different because of his work.

I came across a Chinese proverb that says:

One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.

Continue reading

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Time Off

Originally posted 2011-04-27 21:34:56. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I had a great day today. We took the day off and went for a family day. We went for a walk on a boardwalk to a pretty Island and then visited a place called Grindewald where I gave the boys a game of mini golf while Leeanne took Sophie and our visitor to the jumping pillow.

My daughter Maddi is on the Uluru Pilgrimage and she is studiously avoiding letting us know how she is going.. I think she enjoys the chance for a bit of independence. I was pleased to see a photo of her on the official blog lining up for a sandwich, so at least we know she’s alive…..

Today has reminded me just how important it is to have days off, and for me how important it is to spend time with my family.
Continue reading

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The role of faith in the formation of willpower and emotional health is one of the strongest arguments against atheism

willpowerOne of the core questions I have been wrestling with for the last three years is how a
person actually changes. I have been wrestling both for myself and for those I am responsible for in the church.

At the core of the question is how it is possible for a person to make choices and not simply be determined by their circumstances or feelings. I agree with Roy F. Baumeister who wrote “Self-regulation failure is the major social pathology of our time

I have just finished reading the New York Times best-seller Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierny.

One of the interesting things that emerge in the book is that all of us have a finite amount of willpower (the ability to choose against our impulses). The other interesting finding is that:

You use the same supply of willpower to deal with frustrating traffic, tempting food, annoying colleagues, demanding bosses, pouting children.

The researchers have identified four different kinds of willpower:

  1. The control of thoughts
  2. The control of emotions
  3. The control of impulses:
  4. Perseverance of focus.

The authors are both self-described agnostics, spend a lot of time in the book trying to explore why religious people experience tangible benefits in the development of health and willpower from their faith. They report that:

Religious people are less likely than others to develop unhealthy habits, like getting drunk, engaging in risky sex, taking illicit drugs, and smoking cigarettes. They’re more likely to wear seat belts, visit a dentist, and take vitamins. They have better social support, and their faith helps them cope psychologically with misfortunes. And they have better self-control, as McCullough and his colleague at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, recently concluded after analyzing hundreds of studies of religion and self-control over eight decades.

While the authors have to struggle to explain why faith seems to work as a framework for life, it is not a surprise for people who read their bibles or who are familiar with church history. Continue reading

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Leaving with a bit to reflect on

Originally posted 2011-10-10 08:38:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Well I’m now at the end of my time in South Africa.

It has been a great week and I think has helped me personally get some perspective on what is important.

Tonight I had two special interactions.

One was with Jayne. I was sad that Jayne was unable to be with us this week at Foundations because she is a Paralympian who will be representing South Africa next year in London and has an athletics meet this week.

Tonight though she turned up for the Graduation and afterwards she gave me a hug and looked me in the eyes and said:

“Matt you must make sure that Fusion doesn’t lose it’s vision. People will have lots of different opinions but it is the vision that gives Fusion it’s heart. You must not give up.”
Continue reading

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