Bridging the gap from hope to faith

Hope (/h??p/), noun, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.”

When I was younger, I hoped a lot of things for myself. I hoped I’d have a long career in education. I hoped I’d become an award-winning or bestselling author. I hoped I’d become a successful stand-up comic. I hoped I’d become a successful YouTuber.

The dictionary tells us hope is a feeling. The thing about feelings is that they, like movie schedules or the cellulite on your thighs, are subject to change, and sometimes without prior notice. This is why it’s important to know the difference between hope and faith.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

When all we have is hope, our foundation is feelings, and that’s not always the most stable foundation to have. When we have faith, we have more than just feeling, we have an assurance of that for which we hope, and conviction in something that has happened yet.

The context for Hebrews 11:1–where in the previous chapter, we learned the early Christians were able to sacrifice and love others and accept the seizure of their property as part of the persecution they were experiencing–is essential to taking in the full weight of this verse. In Chapter 10, people were called to sacrificial love; in Chapter 11, we are introduced to several people whose lives showed the impact of a great faith, that is, the assurance of things hoped for.

They were able to overcome their current circumstances because they had faith–not just hope–that God would see them through. And no matter what happened, that for which they were expectant–the glory of the Father through their situation, whatever it was–would happen, either in this lifetime or the next.

Thing is, the transition from hope to faith is a journey that every person takes at his own pace. The fact that I’m older–with so much more white hair to prove it–sometimes makes me question if these hopes are still worth nurturing in my heart. Then, when I look at these hopes through the lens of faith–will it glorify God?–it becomes clear what hopes need to be nurtured and what hopes need to die to themselves.

Whatever you’re hoping for in life, I have faith that God will open your eyes to see which are worth praying for, and which need to be laid to rest. Have a great day!


Let’s go, boys and grills

Summer’s coming up and it’s time to fire up the barbie!

My mates from our Canberra church are holding a barbecue on  11 November, 4:30 p.m., at 11 Pickler Rise, Moncrieff. Just blokes, beef, and barbecue!

If your Canberra air conditioning is shot and you’d rather join us, you can email us at or message 0423 233 723.

This is going to be fun!

Six Characteristics of Godly Men in the Workplace (from Timothy 2:3-7)

Last week, I identified six characteristics of godly men from 2 Timothy 2:1-2. This week, we go through the next four verses, which I notice seem to be related to our calling as “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” So I took a look at these verses, and identified six characteristics of godly men in the workplace. But first, let’s take a look at the verses.

3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

  1. Godly men are empathetic towards their colleagues. Verse 3 reads, share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. The difference between sympathy and empathy is the former involves feeling pity, and the latter involves putting oneself in the shoes of another. No man is an island, and we go through life with brothers in the faith. If someone is suffering, we can’t simply let them be; we understand their situation, share their pain, and help them overcome it, so that by their testimony, others may come to know Christ.
  2. Godly men are focused. Verse 4 reads, No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. Whatever it is we were called to do as a career, we are called to do it with excellence, as if we were working for God (refer to Col. 3:23). So when it’s time for work, we would do best to focus on the work, and give our employers our full attention.  This verse uses a military example: soldiers getting distracted by non-military things can spell the difference between life and death; because God put us where we are, it is our responsibility to focus on that job, and therefore please God who gave it to us, as well as those on earth who were chosen by God to lead us.
  3. Godly men play by the rules. Verse 5 reads, an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. We cannot expect to receive recognition if we cheat our way to the top. Godly men are called to follow the rules and set good examples for others.
  4. Godly men are industrious. Verse 6 reads, it is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. The hard-working farmer deserves his share of the harvest because he invested quality time and effort into preparing it. We, likewise, would do best to also work conscientiously and with passion in our places of work, and expect by grace to receive what is justly due us.
  5. Godly men are just. In the same breath, Paul writes in verse 6 that  the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. I  understand this to also imply that godly men will also stand up to ensure those who deserve what they should be getting, in fact, get it.
  6. Godly men are thoughtful. Paul, in the last verse from this week’s selection, suggests we think about what we’ve just learned. He writes,  Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. We can trust that God will reveal to us what He is trying to say in His Word if we don’t understand it right away.

These are six characteristics I’ve observed from four verses; I hope this was helpful to you. Did you see anything I may have missed? Want to share any positive experiences that have helped you grow in your walk as a Christian man in the workplace? Please share them in the Comments!

Six Characteristics of Godly Men (from 2 Timothy 2:1-2)

Going through 2 Timothy, I was struck by the two opening verses of the second chapter. Verses one through thirteen are titled “A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ,” and I was under the impression that this would be behavior or attitudes that God’s mighty men would (have to) possess.

The letters of Paul to Timothy are so fantastic because they’re written by a godly man who knows his spiritual brother and friend so well. There’s an intimacy to it that allows Christian men who are equally connected to other men in the church, to receive the wise lessons taught in it.

It opens with these two verses:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men,[a] who will be able to teach others also. – 2 Timothy 2:1-2

What rich verses! As I thought about them more, I identified the following attitudes or behaviors that I think Paul is encouraging godly men to have as they fight the good fight:

  1. They know they are members of the family of God. The first four words of the verse are “You then, my child.” As Paul writes this, he calls Timothy his child. As the man who led Timothy to his faith in Christ, Paul is like a spiritual father to him, but he also plays a mentoring role to Timothy’s growth in the faith. When we come into the family of God, all the men in our spiritual family become brothers, and the wiser, more experienced ones take on a mentoring role, and it can be lifesaving to know that there are godly men we can run to, in times of trouble.
  2. They are humble. The next portion of the verse reads, “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” While the verse clearly tells us to be strong–that’s number three on this list–it also tells us to BE strengthened BY THE GRACE. The world will tell us that physical strength comes from within, that we get strong by working out and pumping iron and all that. The strength referred to in this verse, for me, is an inner strength that serves us just as powerfully. The Bible tells us that God’s grace is abundant, and ultimately, He is our source of strength. To me, it indicates that godly men are humble because they acknowledge their strength comes from God, and they are willing to be strengthened.
  3. They are strong. Men who rely on the grace of God for strength know that this grace never runs out and is always available. When our source of strength is infinite, there is a strength and courage that permeates every area of our lives. After all, “he gives strength to the weary and increases the power to the weak.” (Isaiah 40:29)
  4. They are open to instruction. Verse 2 opens with “…and what you have heard from me…” This indicates that Timothy heard godly instruction from Paul, which tells us he actively sought to listen and learn from Paul. A mark of a true man is when he learns from the wisdom of others.
  5. They keep the company of other godly men. The next portion reads, “in the presence of many witnesses…” This tells us that Timothy wasn’t alone in listening to Paul; he was with other godly men who also heard and benefited from instruction. The Christian walk cannot be done in a vacuum; we are all called to spiritual unity, accountability, and brotherhood in the body of Christ, and it is both a responsibility and a challenge to build relationships with other godly men in the church. But, as we see, not only in the verse, but two thousand years later, the church is still very much alive, thanks to the familial relationships that are built over time in the church.
  6. They are open to teaching others. The rest of the verse reads, “entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It isn’t enough for us to attend church; we need to be engaged, and engage others as well. If there is a shortage of godly men in church, it isn’t because God hasn’t provided the men! Godly men also establish other men in the faith. By faith, we can build godly men in the church to lead: we identify, instruct, impart and intern these future leaders.

These are six characteristics I’ve observed from these two verses. I hope this was helpful to you. Did you see anything I may have missed? Want to share any positive experiences that have helped you grow in your walk as a Christian man? Please share them in the Comments!

Deen Family Strategic Planning 2018

At the end of every year, I bring my family together for a family strategic planning meeting. As I wrote more extensively about in this blog post, family strategic planning sets direction, helps manage family resources, and sets family members up for success.

26170236_10156104720323573_7933505914530801455_o This is why we take the time to go out of town, recharge and relax, before heading into a meeting that allows us to revisit what we’ve done in the past and where we plan to go, moving forward. Ideally, the goals set at the strategic family planning meeting are then followed up at monthly family meetings that allow family members to discuss issues and incidents that are important to then, celebrate the wins, learn from the losses, and plan adequately for the future.

This year, however, was a little different. The family voiced out that the core values that we identified–godliness, respect, integrity, perseverance, and excellence–seemed to be driven by performance, and left little room for grace.

“Let’s do a little design thinking,” Catherine, my wife, suggested, “and revisit the core values.”

I was initially hesitant–my vision of core values saw them as values that would stand the test of time, rather like La Salle’s Religio, Mores et Cultura–but the feedback that it was high-pressure and performance-driven could not be ignored. So Caths led us in a Design Thinking exercise that gave us the opportunity to write down different values that were important to each of us. We then categorized them together into groups of similar intention, and grace, God-centered, joy, respect, and excellence were the values that stood out.

26111911_10156107279288573_7766162826156376487_nWe then wordsmithed these values into more tangible content that seemed more relatable and achievable, and these are the results.

In 2018, the Deen family will endeavor to live out:

– Grace-Filled Living
– A God-Centered Lifestyle
– A Joyful Disposition
– Respect in All Relationships
– The Pursuit of Excellence

RESOURCES! If you’d like to try strategic planning for your family, here’s a sample family strategic planning template (in Excel format) that you can use, and  here’s a sample family meeting template that you can use for your monthly meetings. Just replace the section on Family Values with your own, or feel free to adapt ours to suit your family’s needs. Happy new year from the Deens!

On spending time with thyme

A few weeks ago, my thyme plants appeared to have died. All the leaves had withered; the stems were dried out. I thought they were dead, but I continued to water the plants for weeks.

Today, I decided to transfer Nathan’s tomato plant–currently housed in a plastic soda bottle–to the thyme pot. To my surprise, hidden among the thick dried leaves were small leaves, and there was faint green along the stems. I pruned the plant and was relieved and excited to see that it wasn’t dead. My watering, even when I didn’t see it working, had paid off.

What great rewards await us when we simply stay faithful. Whether people or plants, pets or a career, just keep at it, & trust that God will reward your faithfulness and obedience with whatever you need to sustain His mission for you.

Because I’ve learned that in this life, He makes all things beautiful in His thyme.

Wives, your husbands are not your…

A few months ago, I wrote Husbands, our wives are not our…, with the goal of encouraging us husbands to look at our wives differently. Today, I’d like to flip the coin on its head. Wives, your husbands are not your…

1. Saviors. The assumption of this statement is not that wives need saving–because we all need a Savior–but that many wives place the pressure of total hope and salvation on our husbands. The primary role of a man as husband is to lead, love, and provide for his wife and family; it’s a leadership role, not a salvation role.

We all need to remember that marriage is all about teamwork. In Genesis 1:27-28, God blessed the marriage of Adam and Eve, blessing them and commanding them to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, and have dominion over the land. It wasn’t an individual blessing; it was a blessing and command to be carried out together. In this context, while your husband may be the leader of the household and the marriage, you also have much to contribute to the union. Which is why husbands are not your…

2. Servants. Actually, husbands aren’t your servants, but they should want to serve you. Jesus uses a slave and servant metaphor to illustrate how leaders put others’ needs above their own, and since the husband is called to lead his wife and his family, he is encouraged to lead with a servant-leader’s heart. So, if your husband desires to love and lead you with a Christ-like love, he will actually serve you.

However, do not look on or at him as a servant, and do not abuse his heart for you. Submit to him, because he is your leader. His role is to love, provide for, and take care of you and your family, and he can’t do this alone. Genesis 2:18 tells us that God made woman as a helper for the man. This implies two things: that the man is the primary worker, and that the woman supports him. Your men need your help, ladies. Supportive wives encourage, console, listen to, and cheer on their husbands; they don’t nag, scold, or gossip about him to others.

Also, helping their men lead may sometimes be a challenge to some wives whose husbands aren’t particularly proactive in every area of their family lives, but God is in the business of salvation, and I can assure you, I can speak from personal experience when I say it is possible. (And here’s an additional article that may be helpful to you.) Finally, wives, your husbands are not your…

3. Fathers. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Clearly, your husband is not your father.

While fathers love, provide for, and take care of their children, do not get your husband’s role as father confused with that of his role as husband to you. Whether your father was a great man who loved, provided, and took care of you, or a deadbeat dad who disappeared from your life and left you to fend for yourself, it is not fair to your husband that you compare him to your father. (Nor is it fair for him to compare you to his mother, dear God.)

And, oh, to all the wives whose fathers were, unfortunately, never there for them: please do not expect your husband to fill in the gaps your father could not fill. Instead, know God is the father your dad couldn’t be, and trust He will use your husband to love you the way your father never could.

An author’s and husband’s note: I just want to honor my wife, Caths. She is my strongest supporter, my staunchest ally, my most passionate cheerleader, my gentlest critic, my favorite travel partner, and my absolute best friend. No one has loved me more unconditionally, despite my many flaws and faults, and no one is more invested in making a legacy of my life than she is. Writing this particular blog entry, I look at her and see how she lives out the spirit of what you’ve read, and I am forever grateful to God for partnering me with this incredible woman… for life

Three Things Your Children Will Learn Best From You

Yesterday, my sister-in-law and my niece rode with us to school. Before we left our home, my kids prayed, as they always do. My son prayed for  the safety of his mother, who was away on business, while my daughter prayed for the family’s day ahead. My sister-in-law prayed for our father-in-law, who is in the hospital sick. Her daughter, who I’m sure loves to pray but was probably shy that day to pray with others, agreed with us, and it set the tone for the day ahead.

My wife and I work very strategically and intentionally to create a culture of prayer in our home, because we acknowledge that an active prayer life is one of the best weapons in every Christian’s arsenal, so to speak. But this is only one of many things that parents can influence on their children. While they can always learn this outside the home, there is something very powerful about the example and vision-casting that a parent brings into a child’s life. Here are three areas you can really impact on your kids:

  1. Character and Values. A Christian can present all kinds of exteriors to the world, but only one’s spouse, children, and God Himself knows the full extent of a person’s character.  We could be the sweetest, kindest people in the eyes of the world, but behind our closed doors and four walls, our kids and spouses know who we really are. Your values will reflect on your child, and if you speak good values, like godliness, respect, integrity, perseverance, and excellence, you are equipping your child with great tools for the future.
  2. Prayer. I always notice that people tend to pray like the people who discipled them. The same applies in the family setting. If your children see you praying, they will pray. How you pray, how often you pray, and the quality of your prayers will influence how they pray. I am so humbled yet proud of my 12-year-old Nathan, who is a veritable prayer warrior. Ever since he was a boy, both he and his sister have been encouraged to pray, but this young man does not hesitate to pray for people, especially in the areas of provision and healing. (I myself love to pray for people’s healing, so I think that may have rubbed off on him. But he’s such a provision prayer warrior!)
  3. Love. A recent study showed that arguing parents impair their children’s development. Likewise, another study showed that parental warmth is crucial to a child’s well-being. I think it’s safe to say that children who grow up in a home where the parents clearly love and are  intentionally affectionate with each other (especially if expressed in all love languages–physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and quality time) will want to create a similar home environment for their spouses and family.

What about you? What are some things that you feel children can learn best from their parents?