Category Archives: Family

Take a punt on Jesus

If you’re in Australia, chances are you will, along with the majority of the nation, “Stop” at around 3:00pm AEDST to watch the Melbourne Cup horse race. Whether you care for horse racing or not, you’ll probably watch it. Most of us will not be able to avoid it. Workers are given time off to gather in front of the television, students, if still in school, pause to do the same. In some parts of the country the entire day is a public holiday. You might even detest the idea and not give a toss ;) about the race. But I bet ;) you know it is on.

It is in many respects as much a public institution as some of the national religious and public holidays. Throughout workplaces and schools, sweeps are run, where, usually, by way of random allocation, entrants are given a horse for a small fee of maybe $2-$5. If your employer is particularly fortunate with their winnings, it is not unusual to be given the rest of the day off, to celebrate!

By the time you have read this you have probably already decided to enter one of those sweeps or even had a little flutter. Based on some reports the takings from punters in recent years has increased alarmingly. 2009 the Sydney Morning Herald estimated takings exceeded $143 million in Victoria and New South Wales. The 2011 estimates were $280 million plus another $100 million on the track. 2013 expectations were thought to exceed $800 million. These increases are occurring the same time our national household debt levels have grown to 180% of annual income. So, while the nation parties on, families are destroyed.

The premise of gambling is trying to get something large for a disproportionately small price. The idea is that you make a bet, and not have to work to earn the same amount. What might take several days, weeks or months to otherwise earn or cultivate, can be gained in a matter of seconds, simply by placing a well-timed bet on the right horse (in the case of the Melbourne Cup). It doesn’t take much to argue yourself from there into the place that by increasing the bet, you could increase your winnings, and if you win enough, you might never have to work again. Obviously, not everyone is consumed with, or tempted by, an addiction to gambling. But for those that are, even a sweepstake entry can prove to be a deadly distraction. So, in wisdom, we must be careful how we represent and take part in the good fun of our nation’s (arguably) favourite past-time.

Speaking to Christians for a moment, if, by entering a sweep, you communicate that your sustenance and hope for provision is elsewhere than in what God has provided, you may find it difficult to convincingly discuss your faith in Jesus and why he is exclusively enough for spiritual salvation. What would you truly prefer? That God dealt with you randomly by way of spinning a wheel, drawing lots, or let the roll of a dice determine our eternal fate or via his deliberate intention to set his love upon us and show his grace to us via Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection?

Gambling is emotionally charged controversy that provokes passionate advocates both for abolition and enjoyment in moderation. I hope you consider carefully how you will “profit” from your little flutter compared to finding your passion in Christ. How about you take the money you were going to put into the office sweep or on the race via a betting agency and give it a charity organisation that provides debt relief for struggling families. Invest in your community and not try to rob from it.

Don’t throw away your money. More than a horse race is at stake. Pray to God with the Psalmist:

Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Psalm 119:116 NIV

If you’re struggling with gambling addiction or need help with debt counselling consider contacting some of the below organisations.

Gambling Help or phone 1800 858 858
You can also talk with Hope Street Inner City Counselling call  02 9332 3506 you don’t need a referral, just call.

Gamblers Anonymous  or phone: 02 9726 6625

Salvation Army – Moneycare (Parramatta) phone 02 9633 5011

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Posted by on 04/11/2014 in counselling, Family, services


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Should modesty be a concern?

Jessica Rey’s recent qideas talk on “The evolution of the swimsuit” is popping up all over the net at the moment. Some promoting her arguments about modesty, others lambasting her for being a prudish irrelevant hypocrite.

When it comes to ideas of morality and standards, many decisions are very personal and by nature individual. What one person in one place at one time considers modest or immoral may differ significantly from another. It could even be the opposite!

What are the motivations behind a choice to modest in any context? There are going to be instances where that so-called modesty is used as a tool to repress freedom, creativity and expression and as an excuse for oppression and kinds of abuse. In those instances the passionate calls for modesty are often driven by weak minded men struggling to keep power over women. Yet in those very same contexts there are still problems with rape and sexual abuse. The cause of those evils is not lack of modesty any more than it is where such inhibitions do not exist.

A concern for modesty cannot be engineered in such a way to excuse perpetrators from crimes or disrespectful behaviour. Modesty, as Rey notes in her conclusion, isn’t about hiding or covering up because someone else has a problem. Modesty is about revealing your dignity.

Rey also cites some research to support her arguments that has also been criticised. Was her motivation solely to sell her own products? We all know that stats and data sets are vulnerable to manipulation so that has to be a concern when research is cited as a defence for any argument. However, read what Rey says in response to that criticism:

Wow! When I was first asked to give this talk, I asked, “how can I possibly say everything I want to say in 9 minutes?” I was told that the point is to get people thinking, to get people asking questions. It seems I have done just that! Thank you for taking the time to watch and to continue to ponder the issue.

For those of you saying that all of the men in the study were hostile sexists, I invite you to read the research again. Some of them were, some of them were not. I also encourage you to read some of the comments on various blogs/articles about the research. Men are laughing that money was spent to research something that is obvious:
“It took a STUDY by people with PhDs to determine this? Good grief.”
“Water is wet. Fire is hot.”
When I give talks to teens and young adults, I do not use this research, though it would be helpful. I simply ask them to sit at a coffee shop for a couple of hours and take note of how various men react to women who have their bodies on display and those who are more modestly dressed. I invite you to do the same.

For those of you who think I used this opportunity to plug my own business, it was actually suggested I speak about my business for 3 of the 9 minutes. Instead, I mentioned my business and tied in the tagline, “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?” which is relevant to the talk. I spent the rest of the time on the topic at hand.

One other quick caveat. Modesty isn’t a concern exclusive to women. Men also need to consider how they reveal their dignity in their conduct and dress. More on that another time perhaps.

For now, I would recommend you watch it and if you have children, perhaps from school years 4 or 5 upwards, watch it with your kids and talk to them about it.

For my part, as the father of a daughter, I think Jessica, in this presentation, is a great role model with admirable motivation and rationale behind her arguments.
Were I the father of a son, I would want him to think this through and decide to hold all women in highest esteem as his intellectual, moral and spiritual equal.

There’s much more that could be said, I’m sure. Please take a few minutes to watch it.
Let me know what you think when you’re ready.

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Posted by on 21/06/2013 in Culture, Family, video


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Family is … Adoption!

HT: Challies

Other adoption related articles on this blog.

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Posted by on 21/12/2012 in Family, Info on Adoption


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China, Stars and 20 years

The Starry Night, June 1889, The Museum of Mod...

The Starry Night, June 1889, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aster alpinus

Aster alpinus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

20 years ago today my lovely fiancé became my wife! I’m blown away that I am privileged to be her husband for a full score of years. Doubtless our continuing deepening love for each other is a wonderful gift of God’s grace. We both have changed in so many ways in the last 20 years. But we’ve changed together. Kids of the eighties whose two hearts are living in just one mind!

I’m told that 20 years is the China anniversary and that the flower is an Aster. Aster as the name suggests, means star and describes the shape of flowers by that name. There is also a Chinese Aster or China Star. That cool coincidence leads me, in a geeky way, to note a few other coincidences about the correlation of China, Stars, and 20 years of marriage. Stay with me while I try to string them together.

Our daughter’s Chinese name is 春星(Chunxing) which, literally, translates as spring star. Since she was born in China, she is our China Star! My wife studied art and art history and her favourite painter is Van Gough, who, among other things, painted The Starry Night. They featured in a favourite TV show of ours that involves a traveller through the “stars” and inspired Vincent, a song by Don McLean that we got to hear live at the Sydney Opera House shortly before we became parents of our China Star. McLean wrote the lyrics for Vincent in 1971, the year both of us were born! There you have it, China, Stars, 20 years, you and me and I didn’t even get to another favourite “Star” show, but I won’t trek off on that tangent now. Such an amazing collusion in time and space surely prompts me to posit that …

If in the infinitude of the heavens God by grace did call

me to thee betrothed and wed and not another instead

then as I gaze upon what lies in future stall

I bid the stars to come and shine upon us well

as we journey thence where eye or ear cannot tell

that we boldly go where none have gone before

in our married love, let future excel yore

that 20 years be but the start of this grace


Happy Anniversary my love. You’re a grace to me and a pretty good sort for hanging in there 20 years!

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Posted by on 28/11/2012 in Family, marriage


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You make me feel like dancing

Sometimes you just have to go for it :)

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Posted by on 22/11/2012 in Family, Just for fun, video


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Australian Evangelicals and The Royal Commission institutional responses to child sexual abuse

On Monday 12 November 2012 the Prime Minister announced that she will be recommending to the Governor-General the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia.

The Terms of Reference and the membership of the Commission are currently being developed. These arrangements will be discussed with Premiers and Chief Ministers, as well as survivors groups, religious leaders and community organisations in coming weeks. The Attorney General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, will co-ordinate this work on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.

The Australian Government is putting in place a broad consultation process to ensure the perspectives of key stakeholders inform the decisions that need to be taken in establishing the Royal Commission.

As part of this consultation process, the Australian Government has released a consultation paper to seek the input of interested individuals and organisations on issues such as the scope of the Terms of Reference, the form of the Royal Commission, the number and type of Royal Commissioner/s and the reporting timetable for the Royal Commission.

These factors will guide the Commissioner/s in their task of examining responses to instances or allegations of child sexual abuse in the context of public and private institutions or organisations in Australia. ~ via Royal Commission website. Read more...

This is not a subject that I think warrants a soft, gentle introduction by way of friendly anecdote or witty illustration so I’ll blunder right in. Whatever the Terms of Reference this Commission settles upon, all Churches, religious organisations etc should do their utmost to be proactive and supportive. That the situation in Australia has come to the point where a Royal Commission is necessary means, in part, that that the Church is already behind.

This is something that evangelicals, in particular (as they my “tribe”), need to ensure they are not obstructive and defensive about. From my experience in Sydney Churches I’m confident that the majority will not wait for an official investigation to make enquiries. In fact we probably already have stringent processes in place. However, the Commission should be an urgent prompt to update processes and educate and orient everyone in the Church, not just paid staff.

The recent discussions in NSW State Parliament about confessional confidentiality as sacrosanct in Roman Catholicism ought not be dismissed lightly either. I consider pastoral confidence one of the highest responsibilities I hold as a gospel minister. However, I am in full agreement with our politicians and other Church leaders, that a report of child abuse must be responded to exactly the same as it ought to be in any other context. The Church should not be a hiding place for abusers.

Mine is a barely audible voice in the Sydney Evangelical scene. I am sure there are others who will weigh into this more persuasively and eloquently (late edit: CPX & InFocus have already done so). I hope that as they do, we can form a genuine and serious consensus that provides more than just protection of our children. We need to more than respond and react. We need to actively contribute to their thriving and flourishing. Anything else falls short of Jesus own standard and example.

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Posted by on 20/11/2012 in Family, leadership


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How can Australian Churches help orphans more?

Adoption has been practiced in almost every country and culture throughout history. Still today there are millions of children all over the world needing shelter, health services, education and a primary carer/family. However, you could be forgiven if you thought there was an anti-adoption culture within Australia. The use of adoption in jokes are still commonplace – Why is your brother so strange/odd/etc? He’s adopted! When couples cannot have children by natural conception, they are encouraged vigorously to pursue IVF and GIFT programs and in some cases can get government funding to aid them. Adoption is usually regarded as a last, desperate resort to have or extend a family. When some notice that an adopted child was adopted into a friends family it is spoken of in hushed embarrassed tones as though it is a dreaded, shameful sin that dare not speak its name. Adoptive couples are often bailed up by strangers with rude, intrusive questions and comments, like: Oh! So, you couldn’t have your own then?! For some reason, there are some people that assume normal social decorum and decency no longer apply. In the case of an interracial family strangers behave even bolder: Where were they born? What happened to the mother? Did they suffer in the orphanage? Adoptive parents soon learn how to deflect these novice paparazzi, mostly with gentle humor, but sometimes it gets a little much and the reply might be as curt and rude as the original question.

Historically, Australia’s involvement in adoption and orphan care (particularly interracial) hasn’t always had a healthy or positive outcome for the children, their biological families or the adoptive families. Recent moves at federal level, supported by private initiatives such as National Adoption Awareness Week are seeking to improve upon this by promoting a positive approach to adoption. This not only provides education to adoptive parents to help them learn about the factors of abandonment, attachment and identity of the child but also extends to, where possible, support for the biological families of the children. We have a long way to go, but as they say, you have to start somewhere.

Adoption and orphan care is far to complex to resolve in a simple blog post. However, what I would like you to consider is, how can Australian Christians and Churches become more interested, involved and committed to orphan care. Adoption is an wonderful and amazing picture of how God has brought us into his family. If anyone can understand the beauty of adoption, surely it is the bible believing evangelical Christian? Perhaps it is an education and awareness issue. Perhaps, in part, it stems from a reaction to the efforts of various social and welfare groups, that due to their focus on serving the community by way of providing aid, comfort and help to ease temporal suffering, the gospel message of Jesus has been diluted and in many cases dissolved completely. After all, they reason, what good is accomplished if you give a homeless person a bed for the night if they later die anyway and spend eternity in the torments of hell? I once had this exact attitude. When working in Africa as a Bible Teacher and Church Planter I became callous and cynical to the requests for medical aid, touting that, “I’d rather preach the gospel to them than give them chloroquine so they can be relieved of malaria symptoms and die later and go to hell.” Yet, as a wiser, older Christian pointed out to me when making my progress (!) reports later, “If you had given them medicine they might have lived longer to hear and respond to the gospel.” I had completely missed the point of mercy and welfare. I was no different to the arrogant, unloving priest and Levite, that crossed to the other side of the road so I wouldn’t be tainted by those I esteemed worse off than I.

Attitudes like this deaden our concern for children at risk, vulnerable to illness and disease and the orphaned in need of compassion, care, love, nurture, healing and restoration. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that if you preach the gospel correctly you are going to be accused of heresy, licentiousness and lawlessness. (Commentary on Romans 6, ch1) Likewise, I would contend that a proper proclamation and application of the gospel by living a life of extravagant service and generosity, such as poverty relief and care of children, will result in accusations of diluting or neglecting the gospel in favour of social action.

If you have a genuine commitment to the gospel wouldn’t you will relish the opportunity to reenact the redemption and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ even it meant taking the risk that some might accuse you of wrong motives?

Mistreatment of vulnerable children was tantamount to the grossest of sins in the Old Testament. It belied a selfish, hateful cruelty that contradicted God’s character, justice, mercy, love and compassion. Describing genuine faith in Christ in the New Testament, James says:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world ~ James 1:27

A fair-dinkum commitment to the gospel, one that is theologically robust and historically orthodox, will be evident in our Churches when we have Christians, who are confident in God’s love for them and are compelled to love others. This is no more evident than when that love is manifest in the protection and nurture of orphans and vulnerable children. Our response needs to go well beyond a token Child Sponsorship or putting Christmas Gifts in a shoebox once a year. Don’t stop doing those things, but do realise that genuine orphan care goes considerably beyond that. How would your Church react, for instance, if a couple who were active members shared their wish to extend or start their family via adoption? Could you conceive that family being supported and prayed for in the same way as your favourite missionary couple off to New Guinea or Vanuatu? Could you see how assisting that couple with the exorbitant fees associated with adoption is an investment in not only caring for an orphan but also serving your brother and sister in Christ for the sake of the gospel? Adopting parents do not get any subsidy from the Government nor can they claim any fees or costs through Health Insurance. What a great way to start.

If you’re a pastor, how often do you talk about adoption? Would you consider doing a series on the doctrine of adoption that concluded with a challenge and call for families in your Church to adopt a child? There are some excellent resources to help you get started. Reclaiming Adoption (free Study Guide) and Adopted for Life are two very good ones.

Please, lets not sit back any longer, lets step forward and lead by example. How, where and when can you respond?

Note: Albert is a husband, adoptive Dad and Pastor of an independent non-denominational Church in Sydney. He has previously served as a volunteer in association with National Adoption Awareness in Australia supporting and promoting adoption awareness and education programs in the Sydney region.

Post Edit Comment: This article was written before the proposal for an Australian Royal Commission into Child Abuse amongst the Catholic Church. That is something that should be welcomed by any Church & Faith Community as an opportunity to protect our children. The Church should lead the way in the care, nurture and flourishing of our children. It is abominable to think she has not. All Christians and Churches should be on the front foot and take steps to cooperate with the Commission and put all possible processes in place for the flourishing of all children.

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Posted by on 18/11/2012 in church, Culture, Family


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