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  • Australia

    by Bryan Rogers | Aug 22, 2017

    Australia

    This large island nation in the south Indian Ocean was begun as a colony of European powers in the mid-sixteenth century. Eventually, most of the island was controlled by the British Empire until early in the twentieth century. However, the history of the natives of Australia is much longer and much more diverse. English remains the official language. While the Western world has greatly influenced the culture of most of Australia’s population, the native Aborigines have gone to great lengths to retain their culture and language whenever possible.

    Australia Quick Facts

    Capital:  Canberra
    Population:  22,751,014
    Pastor:   Nathan Potts
    Language(s):

  • Purpose

    by Joni Halpin | May 24, 2017

    Monotony and mediocrity mesh like teeth in gears. One spawns the other, leaving us yawning, bored, and adrift. In referring to monotony, I do not have in mind a lack of activity as much as a lack of purpose. We can be busy yet bored, involved yet indifferent. Life becomes tediously repetitious, dull, humdrum, pedestrian. In a word, blah.

    Look into the faces of entertainers off the stage. Talk to physicians out of the office and hospital corridors. Those in the political arena are equally susceptible. Show me an individual who once soared, whose life was characterized by enthusiasm and excellence, but who no longer reaches those heights, and I'll show you a person who has probably become a victim of the blahs.

    A blah attack may sound harmless, but it can leave us in an emotional heap, seriously questioning if life is worth it.

    Yet even during your drab and seemingly meaningless assignments of life, God is there! He cares! He knows! From your yesterday to your tomorrow—God. From the little involvements to the big ones—God. From the beginning of school to the end of school—God. From the assignments that will never really make the headlines (which seem to be mere busy work) all the way to those things that gain international attention—God. He is there! So the very next time you feel those clammy, cold fingers of the blahs reaching around you, remember, "From yesterday until tomorrow, You, O Lord, are there. You care!"

  • Determination

    by Joni Halpin | May 23, 2017

    When Jesus tells us to "seek first the kingdom of God," the very word "seek" implies a strong-minded pursuit. J. B. Phillips paraphrases the idea with "set your heart on." The Amplified Bible says, "Aim at and strive after." The Greek text of Matthew's Gospel states a continual command: "Keep on continually seeking . . . ." The thought is determination, which I define as "deciding to hang tough, regardless."

    We need to keep in mind the difference between natural sight and supernatural vision. When we look at life with vision, we perceive events and circumstances with God's thoughts. And because His thoughts are higher and more profound than mere horizontal thinking, they have a way of softening the blows of calamity and giving us hope through tragedy and loss. It also enables us to handle times of prosperity and popularity with wisdom.

    I'll be frank with you. I know of no more valuable technique in the pursuit of successful living than sheer, dogged determination. Nothing works in ministry better than persistence—persistence in godliness, determination to stay diligent in study, persistence in commitment to the priorities of ministry, determination in working with people. I often remind myself of those familiar words in 2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season." That's a nice way of saying, "Hang tough! Do it when it comes naturally and when it is hard to come by. Do it when you're up, do it when you're down. Do it when you feel like it, do it when you don't feel like it. Do it when it's hot, do it when it's cold. Keep on doing it. Don't give up."

    That is persistence and determination. Staying at it. Hanging tough with dogged discipline. When you get whipped or when you win, the secret is staying at it.

  • Commitment

    by Joni Halpin | May 22, 2017

    People of excellence are those who see through the clutching greed of our times—people who have declared their undivided allegiance to Christ's message, people who have humbled themselves to Christ's sovereign authority.

    If you are greatly gifted, you may be able to do marvelous things that would cause the public to be swept up in your skills and in your abilities. In the process of your growing, you will find great temptation to make a name for yourself, to make a big splash, to gain attention, to get the glory, to strut around, to increase your fees, to demand your rights, and to expect kid-glove treatment. You're in authority now! People are talking about you!

    Let me remind you that if you're in life only for yourself, you'll have no endurance. On that precarious top of the ladder, you'll always have to maintain your balance by maneuvering and manipulating, lying, deceiving, and scheming. But if you're committed to kingdom-related excellence, when you go through times of testing, you can count on kingdom endurance to get you through.

    If you're the kind of Christian who really wants the whole purpose of God, then you dare not leave out kingdom commitment. That means your motives must be investigated. For example, every time you make plans to acquire a sizable possession—a car, an expensive boat, a house, and such like—you must deal with it before God and ask: Is this His will? Would this honor Him? Would this glorify Him?

    Am I suggesting that you take a vow of poverty? No, not that. My message is not that you go hungry and give up all nice things. I just say you give up control of them. Give all you have to the Lord God and trust Him to give back all that you need.

  • Creativity

    by Joni Halpin | May 21, 2017

    God is a God of freshness and change. But wait, before I leave that thought, let me make something very clear: God Himself isn't changing, nor is His Son. He "is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). Isn't that a great thought? God is no different this year than He was last year or a decade ago. Nor will He change one hundred years from now. But even though He is the same, His working is different. It stays fresh. His ways and methods are forever fresh, unpredictably new.

    I need to warn you, if you like things to stay the same, you're going to be terribly uncomfortable in heaven. Everything is going to be new. God is a God of freshness and change. He flexes His methods. He alters His way so much, it's as if you've never seen it before. You can't imagine what it may be like next time.

    God says we are to be "imitators" of Him, which really means we are to "mimic." Since God is a God of freshness and change, so we should be. If we are to fulfill this command, then I suggest that we stay fresh—that we remain open, innovative, willing to change.

    Every age knows the temptation to try to restrict God's dealings. The majority of people in this world are maintainers. Once we get things set, we don't like them changed.

    Are you open to change in your life? Are you willing to risk? Are you flexible enough to innovate? Are you willing to tolerate the sheer possibility of making a massive change in your direction for life? "Lord, is it South America? Great! Or Indonesia? I'll do it. I'll move or change my profession. Fine! Are You leading me into a new venture? I'll do it. Count me in!"

    That's the spirit! It may mean moving across the street. It may mean moving across the States. It may mean moving across the seas. How flexible are you? It may not involve a move at all, only a willingness.

  • Flexibility

    by Joni Halpin | May 20, 2017

    Are you open to change? People who make a difference can be stretched, pulled, pushed, and changed. You heard it from me: traditionalism is an old dragon, bad about squeezing the very life out of its victims. So never stop fighting it. Let's be careful to identify the right opponent. It isn't tradition per se; it's traditionalism. I'm not trying to be petty, only accurate. The right kind of traditions give us deep roots—a solid network of reliable truth in a day when everything seems up for grabs. Among such traditions are those strong statements and principles that tie us to the mast of truth when storms of uncertainty create frightening waves of change driven by winds of doubt. For example: believing in the authority of holy Scripture, knowing and loving God, bowing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, committing ourselves to others, and becoming people of genuine encouragement. Such traditions (there are others, of course) are valuable absolutes that keep us from feeling awash in a world of relativism and uncertainty.

    However, there is a great deal of difference between tradition and traditionalism. By traditionalism, I have in mind mainly an attitude that resists change, adaptation, or alteration. It is holding fast to a custom or behavior that is being blindly and forcefully maintained. It is being suspicious of the new, the up-to-date, the different. It is finding one's security, even identity, in the familiar and therefore opposing whatever threatens that. And if you'll allow me one more, it is substituting a legalistic system for the freedom and freshness of the Spirit—being more concerned about keeping rigid, manmade rules than being flexible, open to creativity and innovation.

    By now you've guessed where I stand. Clearly, my position is on the side of openness, allowing room for the untried, the unpredictable, the unexpected—all the while holding fast to the truth. Believe me, there are plenty of people around who feel it is their calling to tell others what to do and what to say. They are self-appointed wing-clippers who frown on new ways and put down high flight. They work hard to "squeeze you into their mold."

    Whoever decides to soar must first fight through the flatland fog that hangs heavy over the swamp of sameness.

  • Optimism

    by Joni Halpin | May 19, 2017

    Vision—the one essential ingredient for being an original in a day of copies—gets lost, overwhelmed by the odds. Too bad! We start focusing on the trouble. Then we start comparing the odds. The result is predictable: We become intimidated and wind up defeated.

    What is your challenge? Which giants make you feel like a grasshopper when you face them? What does your future resemble when you measure it on the basis of facts and figures? You'd like not to surrender, right? You'd like to be courageous, wouldn't you? There is a way through, but you'll need one essential quality—vision.

    Vision is the ability to see God's presence, to perceive God's power, to focus on God's plan in spite of the obstacles.

    When you have vision it affects your attitude. Your attitude is optimistic rather than pessimistic. Your attitude stays positive rather than negative. Not foolishly positive, as though in fantasy, for you are reading God into your circumstances. So when a situation comes that cuts your feet out from under you, you don't throw up your arms and panic. You don't give up. Instead, you say, "Lord, this is Your moment. This is where You take charge. You're in this."

    This is nothing more than having a strong belief in the power of God; having confidence in others around you who are in similar battles with you; and, yes, having confidence in yourself, by the grace of God. Refusing to give in to temptation, cynicism, and doubt. Not allowing yourself to become a jaded individual. Belief in oneself is terribly important.

    Determination is hanging tough when the going gets rough. I have no magic wand to wave over your future and say, "All of a sudden everything is going to fall into place." Vision requires determination, a constant focus on God who is watching and smiling. Even in a world that is negative and hostile. Even in a world where the majority says, "We can't," you can. Trust God today. With eyes of faith, get back in the game. Play it with great enthusiasm!

  • Integrity

    by Joni Halpin | May 18, 2017

    If some corporate position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility. If your career, however, is simply a part of God's plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle a demotion just as well as you can handle a promotion. It all depends on who's first and what's first.

    Breaking the magnet that draws things ahead of God is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. There is a line found in the Jewish Talmud that puts it well: "Man is born with his hands clenched; he dies with them wide open. Entering life, he desires to grasp everything; leaving the world, all he possessed has slipped away."

    Everything created was through Christ and His power, and furthermore, it was created for His honor. That includes everyday things today. If you have a good job, it's to be enjoyed for Him. If you have a nice salary, it's to be enjoyed and invested for Him. Do you have good health? It is for Him. Are you planning a move? It's to be for Him. You're thinking about a career change? It needs to be for Him. That is true because He's the ruler of our kingdom. He is Lord.

    You're dating a young man. You think you're falling in love with this man. Does Christ have first place in that relationship? Or have you decided that a moral compromise really feels better? Maybe you have chosen not to maintain such a strict standard of purity as before. If you've made that priority decision, then face it—Christ really isn't in first place in that romance.

    Are you struggling right now between a decision that requires doing what is exactly right and losing closeness with an individual or giving in a little and keeping that friendship? You know the rest of the story. If Christ is going to have top priority, it must be according to the standard of His righteousness.

    Just remember: Whatever is in first place, if it isn't Christ alone, it is in the wrong place.

  • Ethics

    by Joni Halpin | May 17, 2017

    We need heroes. I mean genuine heroes, authentic men and women who are admired for their achievements, noble qualities, and courage. Such people aren't afraid to be different. They risk. They stand a cut above. Yet they are real human beings with flaws and failures like anyone else. But they inspire us to do better. We feel warm inside when we think about this rare breed of humanity. The kind we can look up to without the slightest suspicion of deception or hypocrisy. The kind who model excellence when no one is looking or for that matter when half the world is looking.

    I'm concerned that we seem to be running shy of folks like that. Certainly, there are some, but not nearly as many, it seems, as when I was a small boy. Back then I distinctly recall looking up to numerous people in various segments of society—politics, athletics, education, science, the military, music, religion, aviation—all of whom not only stood tall during their heyday, but they finished well. Society mourned their passing. This was no childhood fantasy, you understand; these were not make-believe movie idols. I can still remember my dad being just as impressed as I was with certain folks—maybe more so. Some of our father-son conversations are still logged in my memory bank. And because he was inspired, so was I.

    You may be surprised to know that for any number of people, you are the person others point to. It may be in the place where you work, and no one has even told you. It may happen where you live, and no neighbor has been brave enough to encourage you by saying, "You're the one everybody watches. You're very unique. We all respect you." It may be in your school where you are admired by colleagues and peers. If you knew how many felt that way, I'm convinced you would be all the more careful how you live.

    I am certain of this—if you are one of those people, then you're not like the majority. You're living differently, and I commend you for it. It takes unusual people to make a difference in our world. Mediocre people impact no one, at least not for good. But one person of truth can impact the whole world!

  • The Impossible Is God’s Ideal

    by Joni Halpin | May 16, 2017

    I'd like to underline a major truth in this world of ours that I don't pretend to understand. Here it is: The best framework for the Lord God to do His most ideal work is when things are absolutely impossible and we feel totally unqualified to handle it.

    That's His favorite circumstance. Those are His ideal working conditions.

    God does His most magnificent work when the situation seems totally impossible from a human point of view, and we feel absolutely unprepared and unable to do anything about it, yet our eyes are on Him . . . . That's when God rolls up His big sleeves and says, "Step back out of the way a moment, and watch Me work." Time after time, He brings us to our absolute end and then proves Himself faithful.

    That, my friend, is the story of the Bible in a nutshell.

  • Priorities for Parents

    by Joni Halpin | May 15, 2017

    Let me make three practical suggestions to you who are parents:

    First, determine your priorities. Ask yourself how high the family rates on your list of involvement. How are your children in particular—just how serious are you regarding time with each? Have you told them or your mate? . . .

    Second, record your observations. If a child reveals his or her bents in everyday life, those things are worth writing down. Keep a journal on each child . . . . As you write, pray for wisdom. Ask God to guide your thoughts. Please remember, each child is unique. No comparisons! . . .

    Third, share your findings. Children long to know themselves better. They respect your counsel, and will long remember your remarks. Be candid and honest as you help them "see" who they really are.

  • Five Cheers for Mom

    by Joni Halpin | May 14, 2017

    What does motherhood require?

    Transparent tenderness, authentic spirituality, inner confidence, unselfish love, and self-control.

    Quite a list, isn't it? Almost more than we should expect. Perhaps that explains why Erma Bombeck used to say that motherhood takes 180 movable parts and 3 pairs of hands and 3 sets of eyes . . . and, I might add, the grace of God.

    If you happen to be a mother, here's one guy who applauds your every effort. Five cheers for all you do! . . .

    Remember the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit? All his stuffing was starting to come out, his hair had been "loved off," but how valuable he was! . . .

    Carefully kept mothers don't have secure kids. Carefully kept, untouchable "velveteen mothers" turn out fragile, selfish, untouchable children.

    But unselfish, giving, secure moms somehow manage to deposit healthy, wholesome kids into our lonely, frightened society.

  • Forever Discontented

    by Joni Halpin | May 13, 2017

    Let's take a brief look at greed.

    Practically speaking, greed is an inordinate desire for more, an excessive, unsatisfied hunger to possess. Like an untamed beast, greed grasps, claws, reaches, clutches, and clings—stubbornly refusing to surrender. The word enough is not in this beast's vocabulary.

    Akin to envy and jealousy, greed is nevertheless distinct. Envy wants to have what someone else possesses. Jealousy wants to possess what it already has. But greed is different. Greed is forever discontented and, therefore, insatiably craving, longing, wanting, striving for more, more, more . . . .

    That's the whole point of greed. You'll want more and more of something that really isn't good for you. And in the getting of it, you'll suffer the painful consequences. That's why Jesus warns, "Beware. Be on your guard. This thing is like a cancer—an insatiable leech that will suck the life right out of you."

    Enough will never be enough.

    Beware.

  • Sacred Serendipity

    by Joni Halpin | May 12, 2017

    Seren-dip-ity–the dip of the serene into the common responsibilities of life.

    Serendipity occurs when something beautiful breaks into the monotonous and the mundane. A serendipitous life is marked by "surprisability" and spontaneity. When we lose our capacity for either, we settle into life's ruts. We expect little, and we're seldom disappointed.

    Though I have walked with God for several decades, I must confess I still find much about Him incomprehensible and mysterious. But this much I know: He delights in surprising us. He dots our pilgrimage from earth to heaven with amazing serendipities . . . .

    Your situation may be as hot and barren as a desert or as forlorn and meaningless as a wasteland . . . . But all I ask is that you . . . be on the lookout. God may very well be planning a serendipity in your life.

  • What to Do with Worry

    by Joni Halpin | May 11, 2017

    Here's a question worth your time: What are we to do when worry comes knocking on the door of our mind?

    First, we must set our minds on Christ. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [that would worry you] will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). When the temptation to worry first arrives, that's the critical moment. The tendency is to entertain it. To let it onto the front porch and allow it to sit there. But before you know it, worry has crawled in through the window and made itself at home!

    No, worry must be stopped. We have to decide that we are going to commit this worry to God right now and refuse to entertain it, even on the front porch of our thinking.

  • Magnificent Relief

    by Joni Halpin | May 10, 2017

    Like a cool, cleansing shower on a hot, sweaty day, God's forgiveness washes away not only sins but their tormenting guilt.

    God goes into the depths of our inner being and provides that magnificent relief that only He can bring: PEACE . . . .

    If you are harboring some sin—if you are keeping hidden a few secret regions of wrong—don't expect to enjoy freedom from guilt, child of God.

    There is an unspoken axiom threaded through Scripture: secret sin cannot coexist with inner peace.

    Peace returns only when our sins are fully confessed and forsaken.

    Few grinds are more galling than the grind of an unforgiven conscience. It's awful!

    And few joys are more relieving than having our sins forgiven. It's wonderful!

  • Seeking Success

    by Joni Halpin | May 09, 2017

    We are a success-saturated society. The tell-tale signs are everywhere. Each year dozens of books and magazines, scores of audio and video tapes, and hundreds of seminars offer ideas, motivation, techniques, and promises of prosperity.

    Curiously, however, few ever address what it is most folks want (but seldom find) in their pursuit of success: contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, and relief . . . .

    At the risk of sounding ultra-simplistic, I'd like to offer some counsel to those seeking success . . . .

    First, submit yourself to those who are wise . . . .

    Second, humble yourself under God's mighty hand . . . .

    Third, throw yourself on the mercy and care of God.

  • Sow Generously, Reap Generously

    by Joni Halpin | May 08, 2017

    Do you have eyesight? It's a gift.

    Do you have a good mind? It's a gift.

    Do you have leadership abilities that cause others to follow? A good education? These are all gifts.

    Has God given you a family? Has He given you sufficient clothes? . . . These are all gifts from God's hand.

    Reflect on His numerous gifts to you. It will increase your joy . . . .

    Then remind yourself of God's promises regarding generosity. God promises if you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully. So give! Give abundantly! Even extravagant giving is honored by God.

    I've never known anyone who went bad because he or she was too generous. Remind yourself of His promises regarding generosity and start giving!

    Don't be afraid of out-giving God. It is absolutely impossible to do that.

  • A Giant Step Toward Maturity

    by Joni Halpin | May 07, 2017

    One of the hardest things for you and me to do is own up to our own failures.

    Whether we're talking to our spouses, our kids, our employers, or with our Lord Himself, it goes against the grain to come clean and admit our offenses. The knee-jerk response every time is to employ defense mechanisms: to deny, to excuse, to rationalize, to reinterpret our shortfalls.

    The best and healthiest course is to 'fess up. To call failure, "failure." To name sin for what it is. To admit we were wrong, and having declared it, to learn what God may have to teach us from the experience.

    Sir Winston Churchill . . . offered the best definition of success I've ever read: "Success is moving from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." . . .

    As you begin to interpret failure correctly, you will take your first giant step toward maturity.

  • God Speaks to the Quiet Heart

    by Joni Halpin | May 06, 2017

    If the pace and the push, the noise and the crowds are getting to you, it's time to stop the nonsense and find a place of solace to refresh your spirit.

    Deliberately say "no" more often. This will leave room for you to slow down, get alone, pour out your overburdened heart, and admit your desperate need for inner refreshment.

    The good news is God will hear and He will help. The bad news is this: If you wait for someone else to bring about a change, things will only deteriorate.

    All of us can testify, God does not speak to the hurried, worried mind. It takes time alone with Him and His Word before we can expect our spiritual strength to recover.