Author: Ben Fryer
This story starts about four months ago. At that time, I really didn’t know what I was going to do once I left school. I’m in year 12, so that sort of information’s some of the more important stuff people my age need to figure out. And I just hadn’t got a clue.
Now, one night, I was reading the bible in bed and a thought popped into my mind, “Why don’t I work for Compassion.” I mustn’t have been paying attention to the reading. Compassion’s been a fairly big part of my life, impacting mostly through being on a few mission trips with them. So yeah, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to work for them. This sort of started me exploring different paths I could go down to reach that.
During this past term I went to a careers expo through our school. So I went around to all the different universities asking them about certain courses to try and see how this thought I had about Compassion, or aid organisations, could become a reality. So anyway, I walked around and spoke to heaps of different people, eventually coming to Macquarie University. This was the last uni I’d speak too at the day and definitely the most important. Coming from that chat with a current student (who’s name happened to be Ben), I found a course that hadn’t been at any other uni, and an early entry leadership program that he recommended for me. And I was sold on it; afterwards, thinking and praying about it I really thought that this was where God wanted me to be.
A week or two later I applied for the program and was told that there’d be about a six week wait for it to be processed and to hear back from them. Those six weeks turned out to be a really challenging period for me, particularly in reference to prayer. God was challenging and teaching me things through that time. I really wanted to get into this program, it’d take all the pressure off my studies and just provide that reassurance, and I was fairly confident that this was the path God wanted me to take in terms of my future, so I was praying that I’d be accepted. But at the same time I wanted His will to be done, maybe I’d misheard or misunderstood God’s calling, so I was really torn, and also really confused about what to actually pray about.
There was one verse in particular during that time which I read in a devotion and it sort of helped and challenged me, Mark 11:24, in which Jesus says, “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” In verse 23 prior to it, and in other passages, believing and not doubting is spoken about. So that aspect of not doubting made praying for it even harder because I’d pray about it, then doubt would creep in, and then I’d worry it wouldn’t happen because I doubted. Looking back on it, in this situation I believe God gave me this verse to comfort and encourage me to keep praying for it because it would happen, which it did by the way. Sort of felt like the parable of the persistent widow, if I keep asking surely I’ll get it.
Now there are lots of other passages that explain the idea of asking for things in prayer and receiving them. A few examples are, James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.” And Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I think these verses, and many more, are connected in the way that when we place our complete hope in Him, His desires become our desires. They will therefore line up with His will, and so of course he’ll answer them.
But if we take it back a little, and look at why we’re able to ask things in prayer, and ultimately have that personal relationship with Him, we see the cross. More specifically, the tearing of the temple curtain at the point of Jesus’ death. We read in Mark 15:37-38, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” This curtain, which separated the Most Holy place from the rest of the temple, represented the barrier between God and man. Only the high priest – God’s anointed, who would offer sacrifices and consult God on behalf of the people, could pass this point. The tearing of the curtain removed this barrier, making way for the new covenant, and allowing the Lord’s followers, us, to be in constant two-way prayer with Him. We find in Hebrews the comparing of Jesus to these high priests, illustrating Jesus as the Great High Priest, who paid the sacrifice for all, chapter 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Another great verse is James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Jesus has made us righteous; our prayers are powerful and effective, through His death and resurrection. You might like to take this time to remember His sacrifice, and rejoice in the fact that we can now, ask and receive, and have that personal relationship with Him.
Author: Matt Miller
When people think of ‘colour’ the first things to come to mind may be changes we are seeing lately with the season moving from summer to autumn; as the green and bright colours of the warmer months give way to gold and brown, heralding the onset of winter. Or perhaps, the vivid colours of the rainbow might come to mind.
But, just how many would recognise Colour as being a ground-breaking movement of women that has been going strong for 22 years? Along the way, this movement of Christian women, has been transforming lives of not only women right around the world and here at home, but it has been stepping-out in faith with ambitious ministry projects that are making a difference in the lives of those who cling to the margins.
Women Coming Together for Christ
The annual Colour conference is hosted by Hillsong. Women from around Australia meet, connect, stand together in the name of Jesus, worship, and encourage each other in stepping-out in faith.
New Vine Lake’s very own Kate Warner was there for Colour 2018 and gives us an impression of what this year’s conference was like. What is it about Colour that has seen it have such an impact?
Kate says that taking people out of their everyday lives to meet tends to mark the annual Colour conference as special. It is a break from the ordinary and sees like-minded Christian women meeting in a safe and empowering environment.
"Colour is just so empowering! You come away from the conference feeling empowered and charged-up to step out in faith for Christ. It kind of gives you energy to fuel you for another year, and you meet so many like-minded women. The connections women make with each other often last a lifetime."
Colour tends to leave an indelible impression on those who come. Many conference delegates have been attending Colour conference for years. Kate is no exception and 2018 marks Kate’s 11th Colour conference.
“People do keep coming back to Colour regularly. It’s an opportunity to be spiritually fed and uplifted. It’s a different experience to Church, which I love – there is just something really powerful about so many women meeting in the name of Jesus and stepping-out in faith and making a difference.”
"It's the one time I have marked on the calendar from year to year. My family knows I set this time apart and it is just something I do for me."
Colour 2018 – The Proverbs 31 Connection
This year’s conference was animated by the Proverbs 31 image we have of a striking and influential woman. This verse was mirrored by the strength in numbers that is Colour – women from all walks of life, all kinds of backgrounds, and from every direction of the compass, meet in this one place to make a powerful statement about how faith in Jesus can make such a huge difference.
Proverbs 31 has two verses in particular that Colour has taken hold of as it pushes boundaries with its ministry focus. Verses 8 and 9 read: “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NRSV). Kate gives us a very moving impression of this growing movement of Christian women who are working for God’s Kingdom.
"Jesus says, 'Where two or more are gathered in my name, there shall I be', and you really can feel the Holy Spirit's presence. There is often a tangible change in the atmosphere. "
“There was a really powerful moment a few conferences ago, where we stood up. Everyone had been given a tin - like a metal money box. Colour has been moving into ministry areas like funding specific overseas missions. In this moment, we were asked to place a single coin in the tin money box and shake it. Although, the amount we each had to give at the time may have seemed insignificant, when we each took our money boxes and shook them, the sound of thousands of women doing the same throughout the venue, was deafening. ”
“For me, it hit home how powerful that moment was. It demonstrated how we can come together in Christ's name and make a difference, no matter who we are or where we have come from, the little we had to bring, collectively can make a difference."
Powerful Worship Music Moved Delegates
People familiar with Hillsong will recognise their famed worship music. Kate said this year’s worship was some of the most powerful and moving she can remember in all the years she has been going to Colour.
“With Hillsong, as you can imagine, worship time is always very good. This year there was something else about it that seemed to make it all the more powerful."
"For me, there was a moment where I realised that all of the thousands of women are here for one thing: to worship Jesus. You can imagine standing shoulder-to-shoulder and there isn't much room. No matter where people have come from - and there are people from all over the country - it is just so powerful and moving to have everyone worshipping like that. You get a little glimpse of what Heaven must be like. ”
Kate recommends getting along to Hillsong. She says you can have this kind of transformative experience too.
"If you haven't had the chance to go to Hillsong; whether it's Colour or the main Hillsong Conference, I urge you to get there at least once. Hillsong have come in for criticism, but no matter what is said, they do a really good job of creating the atmosphere where people can connect with each other, and to God through worship experiences. There is just nothing else that matches it. I totally recommend it to anyone."
As a church we have so much to be thankful for, we thought why not have a whole month of expressing how thankful we are. So for the month of November we are going celebrate everyday with Thirty days of Thanksgiving. We would love for you to join us by adding your stories in the comments below.
“Mum, he hit me!” “You’re stupid!” “LEAVE – ME – ALONE!!!”. Do any of these sound familiar? Avoiding arguments between our children entirely may be an impossible task - humans, after all, are born inherently selfish - but we can go some way toward reducing them, and helping our children develop friendships which will see them through the school years and hopefully into adult life.
I’m no parenting expert (many of you know my kids, and I’m sure you know they are not perfect and do not always relate perfectly to each other!) but here are a few things I find helpful in being intentional about building their companionship.
1. Set an expectation of friendship from the outset.
Very young children will happily accept statements which refer to siblings as friends and playmates: ‘Lachlan and Katie are your good friends’ or ‘It’s great fun playing at the park together with Lachlan and Katie’. As they get older, you can talk to them about the importance of respecting and cherishing each other, and the idea of being lifelong friends.
2. Build faith and character
As we help our kids to grow closer to Jesus and become more sensitive to His Spirit, slowly (SO slowly!) a likeness to Christ will begin to flow out into their relationships. Imagine how sibling relationships would look if the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control – were evident all the time! Remember to actively help build these traits rather than just berating our children when they are lacking (“Look, Charlie bear is helping Zoe bear to wash her dishes!; Let’s be kind to Katie today by picking her some flowers).
3. Allow appropriate expression of frustration.
When children use words like “I hate you!” or “You stupid idiot!”, you can let them know that this is disrespectful and will not be allowed. At the same time, acknowledge the feeling behind the words. Alternatives to teach might be “I feel really frustrated that the baby knocked down my tower” or “That made me feel sad and angry, please leave me alone for a while”.
4. Manage the environment
If a particular situation is causing constant tension, try to be creative in altering it. Maybe an older child could be given their own corner of a desk or bench, to keep constructions away from the toddler. Consider giving private spaces even in shared bedrooms, eg “you are only allowed on your sister’s bed with her permission”.
5. Find common ground.
Variations in age, gender and personality can lead to widely different interests and a lack of commonality. However, often siblings will have something in common such as an interest in Star Wars or sports, a love of creating fantasy worlds, or a desire to build cubbies. If you pay attention to the times they play well together, you can kick-start a game at key moments. If you have more than two children you may need to make time for just two to be together at a time, with their shared interest.
6. Guard their inboxes
Of course this again applies to much more than just the sibling issue, but it is relevant here. So many of the TV shows and books and internet content available today, particularly for older children, undermine the qualities we are trying to build. Young heroes are often rude, snarky or disrespectful to their families and others. Teenaged characters are portrayed rolling their eyes and trying to get rid of the ‘annoying’ younger siblings. As always, try to guard their eyes and ears, and talk through any questionable content.
7. Quiet words alone
It is easy to criticise kids ‘in the moment’ in front of each other, but sometimes the most effective way to help them is to speak to them later, alone. If you notice that Big Sister deliberately stirs up Little Brother until he snaps, have a quiet word to her later about the issue. Maybe she could identify the triggers to this behaviour and brainstorm how to manage them, or have a say in which negative consequences you will apply if she continues.
My final comment is that all of the above takes time. Time with our kids. Time to be present. How easy it is to get caught up in the societal push for to work ever increasing hours, trying to squeeze in hobbies, sports, and church and social commitments in around the edges. But at what cost? Do the daycare and OOSH workers have the same commitment as we do, to build Christlikeness and character into our children? Do the older children, left at home alone or with each other, have the maturity to make wise decisions about how to spend their time and relate well to each other? Do we arrive home stressed and exhausted, and leave them to sort out their own arguments because we are too tired or too busy catching up with the chores?
I have not got the balance right yet, and perhaps I never will. Sometimes I despair of my children’s continued squabbles on a subject that I have taught, encouraged and admonished them on. But as I compose this article in my head, we are nearing the end of a 9-hr car trip together which, although not entirely squabble-free, was actually quite enjoyable and I allow myself to think maybe, just maybe, they will one day be able to decide on my nursing home together, without it coming to blows.
Snippets of typical conversation in car trip to Wodonga.
L – OK, come on, lets name the flowers we pass. Frangipani, pointsiana, Hibiscus....
T – Pointsiana, bottlebrush
B - Bottlebrush
J – Green leaves, Spiky leaves, round leaves, spiderwebby leaves....
D – Rowland family leaves. [Newcastle]
L – Eucalypt, geranium....
D – marijuana.
Ben bored and squirmy.
L – look, Ben, look at the two dogs in the back of the Ute.
B – where, I can’t see them.
J & T – THERE, Ben, out your window.
B [Looks again then turns away from window to face us and say “I can’t see ANYTHING there”, just at the moment we pass right by the dogs.
J&T THERE Ben, you just missed them!
B – (starts to get upset)
L – nevermind Benny, you’ve seen dogs before.
D – But not these dogs. These were the BEST dogs EVER. They were tap dancing and playing banjos!
(This makes fuel for further conversation about the tap-dancing, banjo-playing dogs when they next come into view, at which point Ben does actually see them).
By Wendy Brown
I'm not really a resentful person. I've coped with a lot of challenges with a good attitude. But as a Christian parent living in a complicated world, I've had some resentments along the way. I started off full of ideals of how to raise well balanced, Christian kids. This included a stable Christian family unit, and a nurturing church community for the kids to grow up in....just like I had growing up. My faith was deep and strong by the time I left home at 18, and I wanted to provide the same benefits to my sons. However, during their primary school years, divorce happened. And then a short time later, the church community we had invested into fell apart in spectacular fashion. So there goes plan A. Life was very messy.
Navigating family life after divorce is tricky. My child-raising partner was no longer on the same page as me. We did the best we could, putting the kids first, but I was sad that my kids had to grow up as part of a split family. I now had the sole responsibility of instilling faith into their lives. And to make that job harder, my kids had missed out on the joy of growing up in a church where they felt like they belonged naturally. It was a double blow. We eventually found a lovely church, but by then the kids were at an age where they didn't adjust to change as easily. Plus most kids at church these days attend Christian schools. We had chosen to send our kids to the local public school for a variety of reasons, but the popularity of Christian schooling has left very few Christian families or teachers in the public school system. Overall, it seemed the odds were stacked against my kids and it felt so unfair.
But God started to change my attitude. Resentment is not a Godly attitude. It's a choice and there is a better way. A growth way. A way that accepts the disappointments and resentments, and lets them drive me to prayer and, when needed, to action. Many things were outside my control, but they were not outside His control. The impossible is possible with God. I knew that, but it took some time for me to grab hold of it.
So I formed a small prayer group for parents of kids in public schools. We meet monthly and prayed from every angle we could think of for God to intervene on behalf of the kids and teachers at the local schools, for favour upon Christian programs in schools and for the truth of Jesus to be everpresent with our kids. We prayed for Christian friendships to develop and boldness within the peer groups. The parents in this group prayed for over 5 years for our own kids and the kids in the local schools. I remember praying specifically for my boys in yr 7 that God would provide at least one Christian friend for them in high school. It seemed like a miracle would be required because at the time I didn't know of any other Christian families at their school. But God is good! Both my boys naturally developed friends that were Christians. I don't know the full extent of the fruit that has come from this prayer group, but I do know that little group helped focus my thoughts in the right direction and that we were fighting spiritual battles of eternal value every time we met.
Meanwhile I continued praying for greater connectedness at church for my kids, and a hunger for things of faith. Many family members, friends and people in the church family have invested into this over the years and it requires a good deal of persistence. The story isn't finished yet. One son is not especially close to God, although has certainly not rejected Him. But my younger son, having been through a few years of showing only casual interest in church life, has now connected strongly with the youth of the church, attending weekly bible studies and youth group, and has a circle of Christian mates at school. They are even talking about starting a Christian band at school at lunch times! As a parent, I am rejoicing in the progress and passionately hopeful for the future, both at the same time.
The point is, if we bring our disappointments and resentments to God, He can show us a new way forward. He will work despite the messiness of life. The key is to not look back resentfully at what could have been. Accept the new normal and trust God will bring about His purposes in unexpected ways. He just needs us to trust Him in all circumstances and to remain faithfully prayerful. He knows what lies ahead and what is needed.
I don't resent those things any more. I accept them as part of my journey. I embrace them as ways God has revealed himself to me. I see my kids having Christian friends as a wonderful gift from God in a way I wouldn't have appreciated if they'd gone to a Christian school or if we'd had the church stability I'd wanted when the kids were younger. I have more wisdom, compassion and insight having been through divorce and a church meltdown. Those things were hard, but by the grace of God, they have shaped me.