Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Compassion Family: Version 2.0

I am excited to introduce my updated Compassion family!

I now financially sponsor 14 kids (10 girls, 4 boys) and I am correspondent sponsor for 5 kids from Kenya (3 boys and 2 girls). This means that they have a financial sponsor who, for whatever reason, is unable to write to them, so I fill that gap.

As you may be aware, in 2014 I served as a volunteer in an orphanage in the Philippines called The Ruel Foundation. I was living off my savings, which meant that I could not financially sponsor with Compassion. In November 2013 I let my family and friends know this, and within a month, all my kids were sponsored by many wonderful people (I was never going to just dump them and leave them without a sponsor).

During the year it became apparent that sponsorship and advocacy with Compassion was still what I desired to do, and I felt it was still the mission and purpose that God had for me. So I came back to Australia at the end of November 2014 and was immediately reconnected with five of the kids I had previously sponsored and visited.

After impatiently sitting through the six weeks of summer vacation in December and January, God provided me with a part-time teaching job.

I have been back in Australia for almost five months. When I came back, I was determined to continue living the life of sacrificial generosity I had been living previously when I was spending over half my income sponsoring kids. However, I quickly lapsed back into a comfortable, me-centred mindset and started taking everything for granted despite everything I have seen and experienced on my travels to 12 developing countries with Compassion.

So I guess the decision to increase my Compassion family despite only working part-time is my way of getting back on track and using what I've been given to serve God and others. It is a step of faith, but at the same time I am single and debt-free, so it's not that much of a stretch :)

The more I think about it, I know that caring for these kids and their families by partnering with Compassion is the most important thing I can do on this earth, regardless of the cost. It is an honor and a privilege and I look forward to developing relationships through letters (and visits, God-willing!).

This is Sehila from Bolivia (BO180). She turns 17 on December 25th. I started sponsoring her in 2008 and visited her in 2009 

This is Josefa from Guatemala (GU400). She is 16 and I visited her in January 2013

This is Larissa from Brazil (BR329). She is 6 years old and I visited her in 2012 and 2013

This is Antonio from Nicaragua (NI221). He turns 11 in June and I visited him in January 2013

This is Danna from Mexico (ME738). She turns 12 in July and I visited her in January 2013

This is Aljane from the Philippines (PH268). She turns 8 in December and attends the Project and church I went to when I was in the Philippines last year.

This is Dahiana from the Dominican Republic (DR436). She is 11 and was introduced to me by my friend Amanda Lane.

This is Helen from Honduras (HO374). She is 8 and was introduced to me by my friend Amanda Lane.

This is Jeilin from Honduras (HO416). She is 6 and was introduced to me by my friend Kim Hall.

This is Karol from Colombia (CO381). She is 7 and was introduced to me by my friend Allen Rowe.

This is Tais from Ecuador (EC554). She is 14 and was introduced to me by my friend Allen Rowe.

This is Vanoshan from Sri Lanka (LK218). He is 5 and was introduced to me by my friend Judy Myers.

This is Worrawit from Thailand (TH378). He is 8 and was introduced to me by my friend Judy Myers.

This is Daniel from Bolivia (BO553). He is 10 and was introduced to me by my friend Emily Hamilton.

These five kids from Kenya I write to but do not financially sponsor: 

Ann (4), KE722

                                                                         Ken (5), KE718

Samson (5), KE505

Daniel (14), KE712

 Delfin (10), KE704

"Go Into All The World" blog reviews

Before I published my book Go Into All The World, I contacted quite a few friends who are fellow Compassion sponsors and advocates, wondering if they could review my book on their blogs, in return for a free PDF advance copy. I received about 24 affirmative replies and so far ten of them have come good and given me a book review on their blog.

I want to share those with you now. Feel free to click on the links and check out the good stuff my friends are putting into the world, to counteract so much of the junk that's out there.

Aimee Esparaz
blogs at "mamaof2greatkids.blogspot.ca"

Alicia Watt blogs at "desertviolet.blogspot.com"

Jill Foley blogs at "compassionfamily.blogspot.com"
Svenja Besler blogs at "connectedinwriting.blogspot.de"

Crystal Kupper blogs at "crystalkupper.net"

Hannah Hinojosa blogs at "forshamim.blogspot.com"

Kerri Kaczynski blogs at "givinggratefully.com"

Sarah Tummey blogs at "childrencount.wordpress.com"

Megan Prence blogs at "thisomerofmanna.blogspot.com"

Bev Yearwood blogs at "bevscompassion.blogspot.com"

  I'm hoping that there will be more blog reviews in the near future and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sports Journalism - Following a Passion

As you can tell if you've had a look at my blogs, I love to write! I definitely consider myself a better communicator on paper than I am in person. I also love my sport, mainly basketball and Australian football. So I guess it makes sense to combine the two and see if I can make some sort of career out of it.

Now I'm not really a people-person, so I won't be the sort of journalist who does lots of interviews and asks lots of questions. I'm quite happy to watch a match - of anything really - and write about it. I've had some articles published by the Portland Observer, the local newspaper of a small town where I lived a few years ago. I coached a junior basketball team and would do write-ups of their tournaments. I appreciated The Observer promoting local junior sport and accepting submissions from amateurs such as myself.

I am under no illusions about my career prospects in sports journalism. Unless you get to the very top of the tree, for someone like me my teaching career will always remain more lucrative, but heck, if I can make a little bit extra writing about sport, then why not give it a go? (And you know where that extra money will go, don't you? I'm always looking to increase my Compassion family).

I've enrolled in a couple of online sports journalism courses, but when I had a chat to a school colleague who was previously a sports journalist, he said that while 'letters after your name' are fine, editors are more interested in seeing the work you've had published.

So, a couple of weeks ago I was on the website of the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA), probably the third tier competition in Victoria after our national competition and the Victorian Football League (VFL), and I noticed they had an advertisement for a scribe to write the weekly round-ups for their Premier B section (second highest division). I submitted a brief match report from an AFL game the week before, they were happy with it and all of a sudden I had the job!

Fortunately I was on school holidays, so I had three days to do a whole lot of research about the comp, the clubs and players, then last Saturday I attended my first match. One week later I was a published football writer! (click photo to enlarge or click here to read online).

The Premier B section of the VAFA is a ten-team competition and my job is to write a round-up of the weeks matches. I attend one match per week (they all play at the same time on a Saturday) and with the other matches I either receive match reports from the clubs or watch the game videos online. My column will appear in the weekly VAFA journal "The Amateur Footballer" which is available online and in print form at matches each week. It is not a paid position but at this stage I am more interested in getting my stuff published and see what happens from there.

I am very blessed that my current employment situation (part-time PE plus emergency teaching) gives me the flexibility to pursue my other interests such as sports journalism, basketball coaching and bowling. If a full-time teaching job came up I wouldn't turn it down, but with me it tends to be all-consuming, which isn't necessarily a healthy thing.

Here are some previous articles I had published by the Portland Observer back in 2009 and 2012:

Coasters Continue Busy Tournament Schedule

Coasters Finish 15th in Victoria

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Reactions to Jesus: From The Gospels

Without a doubt, mention the name "Jesus" in our world today and it evokes all sorts of reactions, both positive and negative. Whatever you think of Him, take a cursory glance at the four accounts of His life in the Bible (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and He certainly can't be accused of being meek and mild, namby-pamby, dull, boring or bland.

I have long been fascinated by the variety of reactions, opinions and emotions which are evident in different people and groups in the story of Jesus' life. As a little Easter "project", I have read right through the four gospels and recorded each time someone responded to Jesus as a result of His interactions with them. I hope you find it interesting and at the same time challenging.

A couple of things:
* All Scripture references are from the New Living Translation
* I have used a capital letter for all pronouns referencing Jesus (He, His etc). It's just my little way of giving Him the honor and respect He deserves in His position as the Son of God.
* I've kept it reasonably general and have avoided going into too much detail, so I'm hoping you'll open up The Book and have a look for yourself.

Mary, on being informed that God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus, despite not being married, was confused and disturbed (Luke 1:29)

The shepherds were terribly frightened when they were surrounded by the Lord’s glory (Luke 2:9) but then joyful and praising God (Luke 2:20) that they had a front row seat to this amazing event.

The wise men were filled with joy (Matt. 2:10)

A prophet named Simeon had been waiting a long time to meet the chosen Messiah and was very old. He held Jesus in his arms and made this declaration: “He will be rejected by many in Israel and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others. Thus the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35)

Herod was disturbed, then furious to the point of commanding infanticide (Matt. 2:3, 16)
When Herod Antipas found out about Jesus he was worried and puzzled (Luke 9:7) and mistook Him for John the Baptist come back to life (Matt.14:2)
Pilate was surprised that Jesus remained silent in the face of accusations (Matt.27:14; Mark 15:5)

John the Baptist was Jesus' relative and was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.
Although John was a very popular and powerful communicator who led many people to follow God (Matt. 3:5) he knew his place and recognised his unworthiness next to Jesus. (Matt.3:14; Luke 3:16; John 1:26-27) "I baptise you with water, but One is coming soon who is far greater than I am; so much greater that I am not even worthy to carry His sandals."
Later on when Herod had him put in prison, John sent some of his disciples to Jesus to just double check whether He really was the Messiah "or should we expect someone else?" (Matt.11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23)

Jesus was doubted and mocked by His own family (Mark 3:21). "...the crowds began to gather again and soon He and His disciples couldn't even find time to eat. When His family heard what was happening they tried to take Him home with them. "He's out of his mind!" they said.

Jesus was also mocked by his own brothers. Toward the end of His life He was in hiding, under siege and being searched for by the authorities. His brothers offered this helpful piece of advice: “Go where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become a public figure if you hide like this. If you can do such wonderful things, prove it to the world!” (John 7:3-4)

The Disciples
Jesus had a small group of followers who were loyal, devoted and committed, but also at times clueless, selfish and all-too-human. I admire and respect them, but I think labeling and revering them as "saints" as some traditions do is a bit of a stretch.

- They left everything immediately, no questions asked (Matt.4:18-22; Mark 1:17-20)
- The first disciples: Peter was well aware of his unworthiness (Luke 5:8), “awestruck” (Luke 5:9), James and John were “amazed” (Luke 5:10)
- Jesus was scoffed at by Nathanael for His place of birth “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)
- Jesus constantly baffled them with cryptic parables and sayings (Matt.13:10, 13:36, 15:15, 16:7; Mark 3:10, 7:17, 8:16, 9:32; Luke 18:34)
- On witnessing the Transfiguration they were terrified by His true glory (Matt.17:6; Mark 9:6; Luke 9:34).
- Their hearts were filled with grief about what would happen to Him (Matt.17:23)
- They were astounded by the reality of the difficulty of entering the Kingdom of God (Matt.19:25; Mark 10:26)
- They still did not understand the significance of the miracle of the multiplied loaves because their hearts were hard and they did not believe (Mark 6:52)
- While witnessing Jesus walking on the water they were terrified (Mark 6:49-50), then astonished when He got into the boat. At first they mistook Him for a ghost (Matt.14:26) then worshipped Him, (Matt.14:33)
- When Jesus calmed the storm they were “filled with awe and amazement” (Matt.8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25)
- On the road to Jerusalem they were filled with dread, and the people following were overwhelmed with fear (Mark 10:32)
- In Jesus' greatest time of need, in the Garden before His crucifixion, He asked them to pray but instead they fell asleep (Mark 14:37-42)
- Many people found Jesus' teaching about Himself 'too hot to handle' "At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted Him." (John 6:66) When challenged by Jesus about whether they would leave as well, Peter declared: “Lord, to whom will we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy one of God.” (John 6:68-69)

The Crowds
- People were drawn to Him (Matt.4:24-25)
- The crowds were amazed at His teaching (Matt.7:28)
- The crowd was afraid (Matt.9:8)
- The grieving crowd laughed at Him (Matt.9:24)
- The crowd marvelled (Matt.9:27)
- The crowd was amazed (Matt.12:23; 15:31)
- Crowd “gripped by” amazement (Mark 1:27-28)
- Jesus was immensely popular “...everyone is asking for you!” (Mark 1:37; 1:45, 2:2),
- The crowd watched Jesus in awe (Mark 9:15)
- Jesus heals a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:36-37): Crowd is amazed, ordered not to tell anyone but they spread the news.
- People honoured and praised Him (Mark 11:8-10)
- “stunned onlookers” – we’ve never seen anything like this (Mark 2:12)
- When Jesus heals the demoniac at Gadara, the herdsmen and people of the town are hysterical (Mark 5:14-20). The news spread throughout Decapolis. People in the region begged him to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them (Luke 8:37)
- Even at age 12, people were amazed at His understanding and wisdom of His answers (Luke 2:47)
- Expectation and hype surrounded Him “everyone stared at Him intently” (Luke 4:20)
- When Jesus casts out a demon (Luke 4:31-37), people were amazed at the things He said, because He spoke with authority (v32, 36, 37)
- Crowds were desperate for Him (Luke 4:42)
- Crowd gripped with great wonder and awe (Luke 5:26), praised God.
- Jesus raises a widow’s son: “great fear swept the crowd and they praised God…” (Luke 7:16)
- Jesus heals demon-possessed boy: “Awe gripped the people as they saw this display of God’s power.” (Luke 9:43)
- Many people made public declarations to follow Him, but Jesus reminded them of the cost. They had good intentions but their priorities were mixed up (Luke 9:57-62)
- Jesus casts a demon out of a man “The crowd was amazed” (Luke 11:14) 
- "The crowds grew until thousands were milling about and crushing each other" (Luke 12:1)
- People were convinced He was the Messiah because of the miracles he did at the Passover “but Jesus didn’t trust them because He knew what people were really like.” (John 2:23-24)
- Feeding the five thousand (John 6:14-15): When the people saw this miraculous sign they exclaimed “Surely this is the prophet we have been expecting?” Jesus saw they were ready to take him by force and make him king, so he went higher into the hills alone
- Crowds actively searched for and pursued Jesus “When the crowd saw that Jesus wasn’t there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for Him.” However they pursued Him with the wrong motives “You must show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What will you do for us?”
- "When all the people heard of Jesus arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus." (John 12:9-11)
- "The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A huge crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him." (John 12:12-13)

The Pharisees and Religious Leaders.
How to summarise the relationship Jesus had with the Pharisees?
Conflict. Argy-bargy. Shenanigans. Animosity. Fracas. Antagonistic.
Bottom line, it wasn't pleasant and did not end well.

- "The Pharisees were indignant." (Matt.9:3, 11)
- The Pharisees regularly plotted to kill Jesus, but were also afraid of inciting a riot, as well as His immense popularity. (Matt.12:14; 26:3-4; 21:46; Mark 11:18; 14:1-2; Luke 19:47-48, 20:19, 22:2)
- After the resurrection of Lazarus they began to seriously plot His death (John 11:53)
- There were some legitimate attempts to take His life (Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59, 10:31)
- Jesus heals a lame man on the Sabbath. “The Jewish leaders objected.” (John 5:10) They began harassing Jesus for breaking Sabbath rules, then tried to kill Him for claiming God as His Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:16-18)
- His authority was regularly questioned by the Pharisees (Matt.21:23; Mark 11:27-28; Luke 20:2; John 2:18)
- Jesus’ wisdom rendered both the Pharisees and Sadducees speechless (Matt.22:22, 33, 46; Mark 12:12, 17, 34)
- Taxes for Caesar discussion: they tried to trick him but “they were amazed by his answer, and were silenced.” (Luke 20:26)
- The Pharisees were literally spoiling for a fight: "When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came to argue with Him." (Mark 8:11)
- After Jesus healed the deformed hand of a man on the Sabbath “the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage, and began to discuss what to do with him.” (Luke 6:11)
- After Jesus criticized the religious leaders “They were furious and grilled Him with many hostile questions.” (Luke 11:53)
- After Jesus heals the crippled woman: “The synagogue leader was indignant” (Luke 13:14)
- The lost sheep – tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus. This made the Pharisees and religious teachers complain that He was associating with such despicable people, even eating with them! (Luke 15:1-2)
- In response to “You cannot love both God and money”, the Pharisees scoffed because they dearly loved their money. (Luke 16:14)
- Then the Pharisees said to each other “We’ve lost. Look, the whole world has gone after him.” (John 12:19)

Faith of Individuals:
- Jairus’s daughter – parents were absolutely overwhelmed (Mark 5:42)
- Gentile woman faith rewarded (Mark 7:24-30)
- Faith of the leper (Mark 1:40)
- Faith of the paralytic's friends (Mark 2:4-5)
- Samaritan leper after being healed: “He fell face down on the ground at Jesus feet, thanking him for what he had done.” (Luke 17:16)
- Zacchaeus climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the crowds were displeased and grumbled (Luke 19:6-7)
- Roman officer and his entire household believed after Jesus healed his son (John 4:53)
- Roman officer (Matt.8:5-13); synagogue leader (Matt.9:18); bleeding woman (Matt.9:20); blind men (Matt. 9:27)

The Reality For Demons
A large part of Jesus' earthly ministry was healing people who had been possessed by demons. When confronted by Jesus, the reaction from the demons was always the same. They were terrified, reacted violently, screamed, shouted, shrieked, begged and fled
(Matt.8:29; Mark 1:25-26; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28)

Reaction of Groups of People
- The town of Gadara begged Him to leave them alone (Matt.8:34)
- The entire city of Jerusalem was stirred when He entered (Matt.21:10
- Some towns did not repent and turn away, despite having a front row seat to the miracles (Korazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum) Matt.11:21-24
- The Samaritan woman at the well was “surprised” that Jesus would talk to her (John 4:9) The disciples were “astonished” (John 4:27) She spread the word and many Samaritans came to Jesus and believed. They begged him to stay at their village (John 4:39-41)
- The Galileans welcomed Him, for they had been at the Passover and seen all His miraculous signs (John 4:45)

Accusations and Judgements towards Jesus
- He was accused of being demon possessed, despite the fact that He was healing people who were demon-possessed (Matt.9:34, 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; John 7:20)
- He was accused of blasphemy for claiming He was equal with God (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21)
- He was judged for “eating and drinking with ‘sinners’ and scum” (Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30). People “complained bitterly” about Him.
- When He was anointed by the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) He was met with judgement and disgust.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt
Jesus was not accepted or believed in in His home town.
- The people in the Nazareth synagogue were both astonished and offended at his teaching (Matt.13:54)
- “...many who heard Him were "astonished” but “they were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him” (Mark 6:2-3)
- "Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because He had said 'I am the bread from Heaven.' This is Jesus, we know His father and mother. How can he say ‘I came down from heaven?” (John 6:41-42)

Jesus: Divisive, Controversial, Polarising
- Jesus caused much curiosity and was a polarising figure (Matt.16:14-16; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9; 18-20; John 7:11-15; 25-52)
- "Then the people began arguing with each other about what He meant." (John 6:52)
- After Jesus heals the man born blind: “This man Jesus is not from God, for He is working on the Sabbath.” “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was deep division of opinion among them. (John 9:16)
- The Good Shepherd and His sheep (John 10:1-21) When He said these things the people were again divided in their opinions about Him. Some said “he has a demon or he’s crazy. Why listen to a man like that?” Others said “this doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
- Despite all of the miraculous signs he had done, most of the people did not believe in Him. (John 12:37)
- Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders believed in Him. But they wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43)

The cost of following Jesus caused sadness to the rich young ruler (Matt.19:22; Mark 10:22)

Jesus was the recipient of an extravagant act of generosity (Matt.26:7; Mark 14:3)
The disciples and others were indignant (Matt.26:8-9; Mark 14:4-5)

Jesus' Final Hours
- Betrayed by Judas (Matt.26:49; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:47)
- Deserted by his friends (Matt.26:56; Mark 14:50)
- Betrayed by Peter (Matt.26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62)
- Treated with violence despite offering no resistance (Matt.26:47, 50, 67, 27:26, 30; Mark 14:43, 65; Luke 22:62-65; John 18:3)

"Jesus asked them 'Who are you searching for?'
They replied 'Jesus of Nazareth.'
'I am He.' Jesus said.
As He said “I am He” they all fell backward to the ground." (John 18:4-6)

- Jesus was unjustly tried and lied about (Matt.26:59-66; Mark 14:55-64)
- Anger was roused and stirred up against Jesus (Matt.27:21-25; Mark 15:11-15; Luke 18:5, 18-24)
- He was mocked by soldiers (Matt.27:27-31) (Mark 15:16-20)
- He was mocked and abused while on the cross (Matt.27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-39)
- His death caused darkness, earthquakes, tombs to be opened and people to rise from the dead (Matt.27:51-53; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:44-45)
- His death caused soldiers to seriously reconsider who Jesus really was. While they confessed Jesus as the Son of God in that moment, we don't know whether they became followers (Matt.27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47)
- His death caused "security issues" for the authorities, thus why they placed a large stone across the tomb and employed soldiers to guard it. (Matt.27:62-66)

Reactions to Jesus' Resurrection:
* The guards fainted with "deathly fear" (Matt.28:3)
* The women who went to Jesus' tomb were variously described as "frightened but joyful" (Matt. 28:8), puzzled (Luke 24:4) and terrified (Luke 24:5). They fled from the tomb trembling and bewildered, too frightened to talk (Mark 16:8)
* There was corruption among the authorities. The religious leaders bribed the soldiers to claim that Jesus' followers came during the night and took the body, and they would help cover it up.  (Matt.28:12-15)
* The disciples were stuck between a place of worship and doubt (Matt.28:17)
"When Jesus appeared to the disciples they were “terribly frightened” (Luke 24:37). Still they stood there doubting, filled with joy and wonder" (Luke 24:41)


Whew! I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted! What an incredibly vast spectrum of opinions, emotions and reactions to this one man. And the funny thing is, nothing has changed. If you quiz people today about their thoughts on Jesus, you will likely find the same strong reactions and responses.

Whatever your views, both Jesus' mission and His identity were clear right from the start. I don't think anyone disagrees that the world is broken, fallen and messed up. In the Christian worldview this is a result of being separated from God. We believe Jesus came to be that bridge, to live the sinless life that we cannot and to make us right before a Holy God. Through His death and resurrection He has achieved that for us, and if we accept the free gift we can be made right with God and be with Him for eternity.

For that I am thankful, and in return I am doing my best to live a life of serving others and bringing glory to God, with His help.