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Building Faith at Home

Building Faith at Home

Most nights when my family sits around the table eating tea, we talk about our days.

Most nights when my family sits around the table eating tea, we talk about our days.

My 14-year-old son Micah generally shares about what sport he played during lunchtime, and groans with despair if he’s had a double lesson of maths (‘it was the worst day EVER Dad!!’). My 12 year old daughter Immy might talk about her winning streak playing Uno with friends at lunchtime, and how she didn’t like the lunch her Mum made for her. Given a choice, she would eat Sushi 3 meals a day.

Eating tea together each night is an important part of our family rhythm. No TV playing in the background, no rushing to get to the next thing, no technology at the table. It’s just the 4 of us: talking and listening to each other.

Its been a conscious decision for a long time now, mindful of the importance of making time to talk and just be together, and of our responsibility as parents to be the chief ‘disciplers’ of our kids. That just means that we try and model how to be a follower of Jesus, with all the ups and downs that are a part of that journey. We try and show them how to talk with God, how to be honest with Him, how to think through what we believe and why, and how to try and trust God in all situations.

It can be tough. The questions that Micah asks sometimes leaves me stumbling for an answer, and I’ll often say something like ‘that’s a great question….im not sure I have an easy answer mate.’ So we’ll keep talking through it, and in the process I trust that he realizes that following Jesus isn’t about having all the answers, rather its about knowing what questions to ask, and where to go with them. Sometimes there are no adequate answers, and the best we can do is to live with the tension of not having a clear, easy answer.

As a family we’re always on the lookout for simple resources that can help us make the most of those mealtimes.

I thought I’d share one such resource with you.

It’s called ChatMatters. It’s a placemat that you can download for free, and its built around 10 important questions that are designed to help families engage in life forming conversations. There are two versions available – for families and adults – and they’re available in multiple languages as well.

This resource has been developed by Here2Stay, a collaborative initiative by the Bible Society, Compassion, Focus on the Family Australia, Scripture Union and Willow Creek Australia. Download your copy today from here2stay.organd while you’re there, discover other helpful strategies and resources for your family. You can also follow the conversation on Facebook.

If you use ChatMatters, I’d love to hear how you go with it. Send me an email and let me know.

Adrian Blenkinsop

Next Gen Leadership Coach

A Heart Change

A Heart Change

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)

Anyone who knows me must feel like I sound like a broken record when I go on and on about the need for a paradigm shift in our “thinking” about how we are called to “Do” or “Be” the church. I feel like I have ached for a long time now to see a “mind” shift amongst Church leaders about the way we disciple young people. The need to re-think how we live and grow in lifelong faith within an environment of multi-generations and how to strengthe the family. While, I love the faith community I have been a part of for the past 10 years and have seen my children flourish, I still feel like Christendom has made very little shifts as a whole. I walk away from conference after conference, and church after church and find I mostly feel sad and despondent.

But this week I got to listen to Rob Rienow from the USA. He was talking to my spirit and my mind, but mostly God spoke through him to my heart. He spoke about an aspect of scripture I had never seen before and I thank God for people who listen and study God’s word and are able to stretched and inspire us.

He spoke about the last word that God speaks in the Old Testament.

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)

Just before the world entered into a time of 400 years of God being silent, these were his last words to the world. Imagine if you had one final thing that you could say to the world before you left, what would it be? Or course, there are some other key things He says before that, about remembering what He has done in the past and trusting that He will return…..but in the meantime, this is what He longed for His people…….

This is God’s heart for us all…..that we may turn toward each other and be loving, soft and gracious. To acknowledge each other, regularly, with deep, soft hearts. God could have said remember to confess your sins, remember to sacrifice animals when you make a mistake, remember to make sure you meet regularly and honour the sabbath, remember to build buildings that people can attend and worship me, remember to be very busy sharing my love because people need to know about me…….but He said …..fathers (mothers) turn your hearts towards your children and children turns your hearts towards your fathers (mothers). For where there is love and unity and in the families (my little bodies of Christ all over the world/my little Churches) , there is hope that my love will shine.

How could I have missed this…….it is a “heart” change. Here I have been talking about a “mind-set change” all these years, but just like our faith…..it must first start in the “heart”.

And then 400 or so years later the first time we here from God again in the New testament is in Luke 1:15-16

“He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

The angel speaks God’s message to Zachariah to assure him of a new thing that is being born. The angel told him that his wife will bear a son, and that he is to call him John and that he will bring a special message to the world and prepare the world for what is next to come. The angel speaks about the fact that John will prepare everyones heart to be soft to the message of Christ……that we might hear the heart of His father, who is the father of all fathers. And the way that the message will be strong and will stay, is when the hearts of the parents soften to their children, which will help them to be soft to their father in Heaven.

What an incredible strategy that we might come to know the Love of our father in heaven, could it be that simple? What a more amazing strategy for Satan to do all he can to destroy the fathers love for his children, to encourage him to abuse that love, to be too busy to do that, to confuse the importance of the fathers (parents) soft love towards their children, to down play it, to encourage parents that it is ok for others to teach and bring their children up in their spirituality, to mis-guide church leaders (for all the best intentions) to believe that they can do a better job of that and to structure the institutional church with programs and systems that have basically left parents feeling like they simply don’t know where to start.

I wonder if His heart breaks, well I know that mine does, so I can only imagine what God may feel. Yes, He is patient and kind and gracious and flexible and unconditional, but there must be sometimes when He says “really………how much clearer can I be?” The book of Malachi
finishes with a “curse” , so to Him, this is serious stuff…..the matters of the heart always are.

So, in 2017, where the word “marriage” is being redefined by the world, the word “family” is almost as much a dirty word as the “church”, the idea of a ‘mother’ and ‘father’ is confused, the world looks at the Church and sees reports of abuse from the Royal commission, they see the Church filled with families that are broken, marriages with the divorce rate as high as those who don’t walk in faith, leadership that is male dominated and yet many who are absent from their families and kids….is it any wonder we are not seeing a “mind-set change”. It is because we all need a “heart” change.

I like to Imagine…… a Church (household / faith community) where the fathers (parent) heart is turned towards to the child and the children’s heart is turned towards the father (parent)! That would mean that we would need to be together often, to really know each other, that we would all be other centred and soft to differences and diversity. It would mean that our time, our resources, our focus, our daily activity would be focused on whatever it took for each other to grow and feel loved and accepted. In that environment God would be able to draw us closer to Him, and those who don’t know what that is like would be drawn to this expression of love. Their “hearts” would be soft.

I have been convicted yet again….that my language my have been not helpful all these years. I have been reminded, if God can change our “hearts”…..our “heads” will follow then finally we might begin to see the paradigm shift we so desperately need.

Forgive me, from today I will continue to pray about a “heart" change for us all.

Taking Young People Serouisly

Taking Young People Serouisly

The depth of these young people and their desire to know more about God, themselves and others was astounding.

At a time where Integrity in leadership is being questioned all over the world, I spent 3 days with 21 young people who gave me hope in our future leaders.

Recently we ran a “Spiritual Retreat” called VERGE, for young people aged 12-14 years old. (6th -7th Grade).  21 young people applied, knowing it was all about looking deeply at who they are in God, learning about their strengths and challenging them to think outside themselves and serve others.  Can I add, 17 of them were boys and fine young men they all were. For so long, I have heard that they are just too young. Well, I refuse to listen anymore.

The retreat was set up with the express view that it was not just a one off. Each young person was connected with a mentor at the retreat, who was aged between 18-30 years old and who had made a commitment to connect with them a minimum of 3 times throughout the year. The leadership team running the event were in the 30+ bracket. So, three generations spent an intense three days, listening, laughing, learning, stretching ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually to see what God had to say to us all.

The depth of these young people and their desire to know more about God, themselves and others was astounding. There were times where they had to be silent, times where they had to be honest, times where they had to be other-centred, times where that had to be self-reflective. I often sat back and was amazed at the richness of these young people and was excited to think that if this is an indication of the leadership and integrity of this generation, we are in very good hands.

I was serious about leading this retreat, but I didn’t expect the young people to be so serious. There were times when I couldn’t stop them from praying together. The spaces for learning were so engaging. The creative sessions just went on and on. They were really hungry for it all.

We have all made a 2 year commitment, as we look forward to retreating again together this year. We will then invite them to continue on for another 2 years in a further retreat called “Deeper.”

There is a strong partnership with the parents. We met with them at the beginning for a couple of hours and the end of the retreat to share what we had been doing.  We talked about how we can all partner together to walk with these young people, helping them to stay on the journey at a time when statistics show they are leaving the Church.

We created an APP so we all connect regularly. The young people with mentors, mentors with team, mentors with parents …it is wonderful.

When we asked the young people what was the best thing about VERGE they said:

1. Getting Closer to God

2. The Worship

3. Spending time with mentors

4. The Silence Walk

5. Conquering fears

6. Making new friends

7. The smaller amount of people

It only takes the willingness to create an environment where young people are taken seriously and allow them to connect with their Father in heaven and the faith community here on earth. I know it will not catch everyone, as there are too many young people leaving the church every year, but surely we are called to simply try. Generations intentionally walking together, faith communities walking with families, young people being empowered to know that their Father in heaven wants to connect with them and that they are never alone in this journey. A chance to give them a bigger story than what the media and our world leaders are giving, or at least some stability to navigate the road ahead.

I want to be a part of that …don’t you?

I want to be a part of that don't you ?

The Legacy we leave for our grandchildren

The Legacy we leave for our grandchildren

What legacy are you building today?

What will be passed onto the next generation because you have lived?

I was at a funeral just recently of a man who walked with God his whole life. He was what I would call a SAGE of the faith, and there are not as many of them in Christendom as there should be. In fact I often called him “Gandalf” as he was tall and had white hair with a long white beard and was very wise. He was known in our community as GRANDPA, as a large part of our ministry is to hurting, dysfunctional families through a ministry called Southern Cross Kids Camp (SCKC) and Southern Cross Club (SCC). So all the children came to call him Grandpa. I have only known him for about 12 years and so when you go to someone’s funeral the rest of the story gets filled in.

I learned that what he gave to us all and the families in our community was how he lived his whole life. He had many paternal grandchildren ages ranging from 15-25 years old, and each of them wanted to speak at their Grandfather’s funeral. Through tears they told stories of a man that was always intentional about the time he gave them. He took them all on challenging and stretching adventures, and always had a story to tell that was grounded in His faith and walk with God.

His adult children shared similar stories and were incredibly thankful for the legacy that their father had left them with. They shared how this was not something that had been modeled by the previous generation and that their mother and father were creating something new in the family. As one of the sons finished, he said this week he had been asking himself “what do I do now?” He came to the answer, “to do what Dad did!” What a legacy to leave.

 

As we listened to the love and deep faith of this man, in the way he loved his wife, children and grandchildren, it was very moving. They spoke of the special role he played at Southern Cross Kids Camps and Southern Cross Club and how it meant so much to him to give to these children as well. Little did the family know that two of the children who had been at those camps, who are now youth, independently made their way to the funeral to be there to honor his life and say goodbye. The two walked up to Grandma (the man’s wife) and hugged her after the funeral and she was so touched that they had come. The boy said to her “I missed school for this, but the teachers and my parents understood that this was an important person in my life, so they let me come.”

Proverbs 13:22 say, “A good life gets passed onto the grandchildren” (MSG). Everything about us, says something about us. Nothing is wasted and time is short. A funeral has a way of reminding us that life is not to be wasted and to ask the question, ‘what will really matter when all is said and done?’ It will be the time, the adventures, the memories, the love, the way we lived our life that will be remembered and passed on. The things we stood for. The tears at this funeral were largely for the loss of not having him around anymore, not because of what he didn’t do, or of what he didn’t say, or of how he didn’t live or who he didn’t love. Not only was there the peace of knowing that he is in a better place, but a joy that we even knew him at all.

The number of people who said to me after the funeral, “If my grandchildren speak like that about me at my funeral I will be very happy”, was amazing. Christ was honored that day, Christ was honored in his life and he left a legacy that will last and bring hope to the next generation. I can only imagine Jesus saying to him in heaven “Welcome, well done good and faithful servant”.

What legacy are you building today? What will be passed onto the next generation because you have lived?

A mothers rant on sex and love

A mothers rant on sex and love

If we give our love away so easily, how will we ever understand the pure love God longs for us to have with Him: not multiple Gods, just one jealous God who wants ALL of us! The Devil revels in watering down that kind of love.

As I sat and watched one of my favourite Aussie TV shows with my family, I was saddened as the young teen character decided that after ‘weeks’ of going out with his new girlfriend, they ‘loved’ each other so much that they wanted to have sex together. She was leaving town very soon, because she was only here on vacation when they met, so before she leaves they decide that having sex would be the best way to say goodbye to each other. He talks to his dad about it and while the father’s first response is “are you sure?” which indicates a little reservation, the son’s reply is “but I love her.” So, the father and everyone in the family encourage him to “be safe” and “have a good time.” I am so sad that something so important in life (i.e love and sex) is seen as something so flippant. I know it is just the norm now. If you want to and it feels right, just do it. The teens I minister with think I am too conservative or think I don’t know what I am talking about when I say, “wait.” They simply feel they know better. I have been married for 29 years and still my marriage and sex life, while wonderful, is certainly not simple or just a “bit of fun.” True love is complex and hard work and true intimacy is worth all the required self-sacrifice and other-centeredness that comes with it. So, I ask, “How can you know in three weeks you really ‘love’ someone and simply see sex as, ‘if it feels good do it?’ I don’t think the world is being honest as they disconnect sex from the deep emotions that go with it. The world tells us that the key is to “be protected” A poster I saw in the doctor’s surgery the other day said this: “Because sleeping with one person is sleeping with many” So as a result the NSW Health Care’s advice is: “Wear a condom and check for SDI’s whenever you start with a new partner.”     There is nowhere on the poster that says there are other alternatives, no mention of the emotional scars that might result from giving yourself to many partners, and no sense that something so precious is really worth waiting to share with one person for a lifetime. I sit on the lounge with my 16 and 19 year olds and feel worried for the world they are in where the only morals we are allowed to talk about are, “if it feels good do it.”

It was interesting that when the father on the TV show wanted to talk in detail with the boy about what he was about to do, the boy was embarrassed and ran away. Interesting how somehow they can’t talk about it with anyone and yet feel they are old enough and mature enough to actually do it. It is the same with the young people I work with. They won’t talk about how they feel and what they are doing but are happy to give a precious part of themselves to anyone who gives them some attention.

 

I know this is a topic no one really wants to talk about and yet relationships and love are the bases of nearly every movie, every book, every TV show, most songs, and the list goes on. Love and relationships are at the very core of who we are, the need for love and safety, for trust and acceptance, and yet no one seems to see that most of the problems we have in society today are due to the abuse of love, the lack of it, the misunderstanding of it and the deep need we have to acquire it.

So how can something so deep and important to us have become so abused, misused and shallow? It seems if we make out that it doesn’t really matter, then we fool ourselves into believing we won’t get hurt.

I know it is not a new thing. It has always been there under the surface, but the changing culture even from when I was young, finds us in a place where it is even the ‘norm’ for Christians to sleep together. I am simply laughed at, to believe that to stay pure for your wedding night is even possible, not to mention that it is God’s preference and desire for us all to commit to one person and to love them for a lifetime.

I am simply sad for those who will never know that kind of love. For me, true intimacy is a glimpse of the way our Father in Heaven loves us; jealously and purely, unconditionally, completely, holding nothing back, sacrificially and completely other-centered.

I have been with my lifelong partner for over 30 years. We have a long way to go to get close to “true intimacy” as stated above, but the adventure and rewards are worth it. It is a love like no other and I know that God longs for that for all his children.

In John 4, the woman at the well was looking for love. She was so thirsty for love that she searched for it in many men. When she met Jesus, He said, “Anyone who drinks from this well will thirst again, but anyone who drinks the water I give, will never thirst again.”

If we give our love away so easily, how will we ever understand the pure love God longs for us to have with Him: not multiple Gods, just one jealous God who wants ALL of us! The Devil revels in watering down that kind of love.

I am not sorry if this offends or sounds like a rant. If most TV shows, movies, books, songs, magazines, not to mention our Health Services, who are considered authorities we should listen to today, can so easily make statements about the way we should view sex and love, then surely I have a right to do so as well. If our young people are never given an alternate story, how will they ever know there is an alternative, a different way, a way that our Creator/Father made us so we might enjoy life to the full. (John 10:10)

Ï have come so that you might have life and life to the full" John 10:10