Identity + Purpose (Ps. Mark)

On Sunday at Lighthouse Ps Richard preached the first part of a very important message entitled, “What's This Life All About?” (have another listen to it here). As I was taking notes and reflecting on the themes of his message, I started to write a summary in my notebook which went something like this: “IDENTITY+PURPOSE=LIFE”. Each and every human being asks these 2 pertinent and perennial questions throughout their life: “who am I?” and “what am I here for?” A lack of purpose can lead to confusion, restlessness, doubt and anxiety while a strong sense of purpose leads to clarity, faith, resilience and immense hope for the future. As I reflect on my own life I know my capacity to overcome adversity, consistently set goals, remain persistent in my pursuit of Jesus and get up every day is inextricably linked to the answers to those two key questions I receive from our Heavenly Father. The only One who has the authority to define my identity is my Creator, namely God. Just as the lead design engineer for an automobile is able to speak with authority over the identity and purpose of his creation, God as our Creator is the only One who is able to speak with authority about our identity and our purpose.

Are you looking to God and to His Word to receive the answers to those questions? Am I? A great place to start is to utilise a list of Scriptures which define your identity in Christ and to read them, pray them and appropriate them over your life and your future. I encourage you to search online for such a list and use one or two of those Scriptures in your life this week.

ACTS - A Practical Prayer Guide (by Ps. Paul)

One of the simplest prayer formats of prayer I have tried over the years is ACTS - an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I normally spend about  10 minutes on each of these four parts, allowing for 30-40 beautiful minutes of undistracted prayer in my day.

Here's what I do at each segment:

ADORATION

"Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.
Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits."

Psalm 103:1-2

I tell God how much He means to me. I spend time praising God for all the His Son, Jesus, is to me. I normally loosely follow a "litany of praise", which you can find here.

CONFESSION

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Corinthians 5:21

I tell God my sins and failures, not so I can be forgiven but because I know I am forgiven. But  confession doesn't stop at telling God our sins, we must also tell our souls the forgiveness and righteousness that we have in the everlasting sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I normally do this latter part out loud, making sure that I am articulating loudly and clearly who I am in Christ.

THANKSGIVING

"I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving."
Psalm 69:30

I have discovered that gratitude is one my best weapons against the bitter, painful, and destructive circumstances that life throws at me. I have so much to be thankful for - not just for what God has done for me, but more importantly who He is to me. At this segment of my prayer time, I make sure I give God a "sacrifice of praise" because He is worthy, but also because it's healthy for my soul!

SUPPLICATION

"Be anxious for nothing; but in everything with prayer and supplication, and thanksgiving, make your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6

I go through this segment by creating a "prayer list". I pray for myself, my wife and kids, different needs in the church, and people that come to mind. 

Senior Pastor's 2015 Review

JOURNEYING THROUGH 2015 by Ps. Richard

1) NATURALLY

2015 was a busy year - what's new? I think it was as fast as I can remember. Sign of ageing?

Anyway, amidst it all, there were some ups and downs, disappointments and highlights, but overall the latter exceeded the former. In fact, Pauline and I feel we are in our "Golden Years" when our sense of success, prosperity, well-being, etc. is at an all-time high! I am reminded that the 'old oak tree' not only has a lot of 'yellow ribbons' tied to it but bears more fruit than the young one!

Psalm 92:13-5 says, "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."

I use this passage as a favourite for this year - because I turned 70! Unbelievable, I know, but I'm finally admitting it. It took a bit of doing - not chronologically, but emotionally and mentally. I had to sort out whether it was immaturity, carnality, or good godly thinking. It turned out to be a bit of all three!

Some highlights of the year include:

  • Successfully helping our daughter church at Rosebud come through a tough time and painful attrition towards a 'new day', a sense of springtime, unity, and a good-spirited, healthy congregation - special thanks to John and Sandra Doubikin.
  • Successful steering of another new school about to be birthed - this  time in Skye, Victoria named Australis Christian School. It will be small beginnings with big endings. Very exciting! Thanks to Pastor Caleb and Southern Lights board plus our own Lighthouse School council.
  • My wonderful 'Coming of Age' celebration back in July. I haven't had many birthday parties but this was a whopper. About 60 guests, happy occasion, lots of fun and memories. Special thanks to family members Pauline, Karen, Martin, Jensen and Brianna, Steve and Elise and Chloe and all the guests.
  • My BIG RUN for Teen Challenge Victoria. I called it 70/2/10 = Age 70, 2 hours for the half marathon, and raising $10,000 for TC. I ended up just about achieving it all. My time was just outside 2 hours but I was stoked for a personal best for the last 3 years and coming 4th in my age category. I raised a total of $10,852 - an incredible amount - thanks to all my friends and supporters. It was a joy recently to visit TC and present them with the cheque - they were stoked too!
  • Our overseas trip this year was a real highlight. We took 7 weeks to visit - Joe and Lisa at Iloilo in the Philippines, attend the Asia-Pacific conference in Phuket, visit UK - parents, family, some Aussie friends in UK (viz. Steve and Maylin, Wyndham, Ash and Angie Barker, Kirk and Tracy McAtear). I then did a few days ministry in Slovenia - I fell in love with the people - what a bash for Jesus!
  • We then came back via Sri Lanka and surveyed some extra mission possibilities up north and south with our great friends Danny and Vasanthy Moses. A very fruitful trip. We followed that up with a great fundraiser at Lighthouse with nearly 250 people present, raising awareness for Sri Lankan Missions in general. A great success. Many thanks to so many. I was just a figurehead.

2) SUPERNATURALLY:

A huge highlight has been our school's progress - from good to great, from great to excellent, and now into our Golden era!

Lighthouse Christian College results are at or significantly higher than the State mean in every year level and in every assessment area for both literacy and numeracy. This is a wonderful achievement and indicates further progress and improvement.

Here is a summary of our VCE (Leaving certificate) scores:

  • Top ATAR score 98.75 (record achievement)
  • 13.6% of students achieved an ATAR at or above 96
  • 32 % of students achieved an ATAR at or above 90 (top 10% of Australia)
  • 10.7 (11%) of students achieved study scores of 40 and above
  • One student has been awarded the VCE Baccalaureate (first ever)
  • 100% VCE completion
  • Median score: We are currently ranked equal 2nd place in our Christian schools network having achieved a median score of 32.

I put this in the 'supernatural' category as it truly is! 90% of our students are from overseas parent-origins with high ESL. Our prep classes are sometimes 50% ESL so to get a high NAPLAN score in English by Grade 3 is truly a miracle - Praise God!

Our ALPHA program this year has blossomed into being the most fruitful evangelistic  program of the church. 80% of our intake (twice yearly) is from school enquiries. In 2015, I estimate we have put our 400th person through Alpha in the last 4 years! While attrition is unavoidable, our fruitfulness has been heart-warming. As Billy Graham once said, "The decision is 1% and follow-up is the 99." We are now engaging with the most serious of our discipleship ministries we have ever embarked on and we're believing for even greater results in 2016.

For the last quarter of 2015, I felt God urge me to make an evangelistic altar call at the end of every Sunday morning service. Out of the 13 Sundays we have had 11 altars calls for salvation and seen over 50 first-time decisions for Christ in this period - WOW - something's happening!

Pauline and I have began a discipleship home group too which has been very fruitful and a joy to meet new people, and become friends and disciples of Jesus.

Now I'm 70 and I'm amazed at the Grace of God upon me. I am relatively fit and in good health, have a burning passion to see a great work done in Lighthouse for Jesus - God has given 1000's in my heart to win for Jesus - and although we may seem a bit fragile in our leadership, I am believing for great provision for His vision in 2016. After 35 years at the same mission-base, it's a miracle we haven't declined or grown weary - we are hot to trot. On to another season of service, son, salvations successes for the Gospel, the Church and the Kingdom.

I am thankful to all God has given to us who will help with this great mission and vision. I will be sounding out the clarion call again for labourers, servants, and disciples who will join us to see the most unprecedented year ahead for His glory. To God be the Glory - now and forever!

Aim For Spiritual Growth And Fruitfulness

"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."
1 Corinthians 15:10

It's a scary thought that God's identity-imparting, labour-empowering grace can "prove vain" in our lives - in can go to waste and be ineffective. What a scary thought, that the most powerful, life-transforming force available to us has the potential to be unfruitful and unproductive.

As God's amazing grace surrounds and consumes us, we have a responsibility to maximize and "exhaust" the inexhaustible grace of God (Eph. 2:7; Rom. 2:4). By God grace, it's each Christian's responsibility to be all that Christ redeemed and recreated us to be. Here are some questions that can help us aim for spiritual growth and fruitfulness.

WHAT: What is Christ's vision for my life? If I am a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17), then what does that exactly look like in me? What is Christ calling me to do? What's my divine mandate - the purpose heaven commissioned me for?

WHO: Who is God calling me to reach? Who has the Father called me to be in spiritual family with? Who has God called me to serve? Who is God calling me to lead? Who do I need to become to fulfill my purpose?

WHERE: Where does God want me to be planted - what church, what spiritual community/family? Where does God want me to serve? Where has God sent or commissioned me to proclaim His gospel, love, and power?

WHEN: How can I re-prioritize and rearrange my schedule so it serves God's purposes for my life? What do I need to stop doing in my schedule and what do I need to schedule more of?

WHY: Why is it crucial for me to know and live out my identity and purpose? What are the consequences if I miss God's purpose for my life and waste His grace? What will it mean to my life and to the glory of God if I fulfill all that He's called me to do?

Reigning In Life (by Ps. Paul)

"For if by one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

I believe with all my heart that God wants us to live to the full. He wants us reigning in life - stable, successful, significant, and victorious. I don't think it's a selfish thing at all to desire and believe the Father for this kind of life, as long as we connect that with God's command to BE A BLESSING (Genesis 12:2).

God has not left us to our own strategies when it comes to abundant, victorious living. He has given us His overflowing grace fully revealed in the life and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. The more we study and meditate and saturate our thinking with the glory of Jesus, the more grace to reign in life is released in us.

I pray that, as a church, we will always receive God's unmerited favour and grace. So keep discovering more about the unsearchable riches of who Jesus is. When you do so, you'll find your spirit strengthened and encouraged. You'll find your emotions become more stable. You'll find your vision and strategy for the future becoming clearer as you know Him more.

And I pray that we will never lose sight of God's mandate on us to be a blessing. We are His representatives, His ambassadors in a lost and hurting world.