Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dealing with a gift

Many people this year will receive gifts.

In Australia a considerable number of people will receive a sizeable gift of money from the government in order to stimulate the economy.

The following handout gives you something to think about in how we can view gifts as Christians...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book: A field guide for the missional congregation

If you are interested in leading your congregation in mission, maybe very helpful.

A field guide for the Missional Congregation
by Rick Rouse and Craig van Gelder

The main idea of this book is to provide congregations and their leaders the main principles of transformational leadership.

The chapters include:
Encountering God's Work Among Us: A Journey of Discovery
Does the Church Have a Future?

A Missional Identity: God's Vision for Congregations
Develop a Vision for God's Mission
Focus on God's Mission and Discipleship
Cultivate a Healthy Climate
Build a Supportive Team of Staff and Lay Leadership
Stay the Course When Facing Conflict
Practice Stewardship to Build Financial Viability
Celebrate Successes and the Contributions of All
The Missional Journey: Bearing Witness to the Kingdom of God

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Lutheran resource site: feautor is a group that shares free religious resources, primarily from people within the ELCA and World Council of Churches

It has an easy to use search facility and a considerable number of resources (eg. Christmas search turned up 91 entries, confirmation over 60, mission over 160, worship over 500)

Well worth a visit.....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pax Domini Press

Pax Domini Press as they name suggests is a publisher of Christian materials for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Christmas events with a traditional emphasis.

They state they are sacramental, liturgical, incarnational, evangelical and scriptural.

The materials are produced by two Lutheran Church Missouri pastors who emphasis quality and the Word in everything.

Vacation Bible School: there are 8 different programs available...
Lenten Bible School
Sunday School Program
3 year old program

For more information, to view samples and buy their products visit

Simple ways to highlight Jesus at Christmas

Use Advent as a way to prepare for Christmas at home, workplace and church.
Theme for week beginning 30th Nov is Hope.
Theme for week beginning 7th Dec is Love.
Theme for week beginning 14th Dec is Joy.
Theme for week beginning 21st Dec is Peace.

Be creative, make decorations and posters for your home, workplace, church.
Talk about and share how God and Jesus is bringing the theme for the week into our lives and how we can share the theme for the week with others, then do it.

Participate in Advent and Christmas reflections, devotions
Dedicate some time each day to spend time listening to and reflecting on God's word.
here are some places to go:

Reflect God's grace.
Think about how you can reflect God's unconditional grace to the people you know and interact with and do it.
Offer to help a stranger at the shops, in the street, etc..
Be courtious to people even though you are busy and flustered.
Send a card or even a gift to people even if they don't deserve it, with no conditions.
Wrap presents up in simple basic wrapping and place a note in the gift that highlights that like this gift, reflects the true love of Jesus...

Invite people
Invite people to special events for Christmas that highlight how God is at work through Christmas.
Invite someone over for Christmas lunch or dinner. (or take them your lunch or dinner).
Invite someone who looks flustered for a coffee, milkshake, icecream, etc...and offer to pray for them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Books and Resources by Pastor Mike Newman (most free...all helpful)

Mike Newman is a pastor with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Currently his calling is with the Texas District, in the area of ministry and mission for what they call area C.

He has written a number of books, some of which he offers free as a download.

On this site you will find the following resources.
Satan's Lies: overcoming the Devil's attempts to stunt your spiritual growth
Steps Forward: this weaves the ups and downs of life into stories of an ordinary family. Each chapter guides the reader to a healthy dependence on God’s strength and faithfulness.

The following are available for free download.
Harrison Town: Stories of a family that help refresh your heart and soul with God's grace.
God in the dance: making sense of baptism and Holy Communion in the Lutheran Church.
Jesus and the afterlife: Biblical answers to what happens when we die and what will heaven be like.
Who believes what: Information about various Christian denominations and other religions
A case for Christianity: Discover facts about the Bible’s accuracy and formation; dig into the history of Christianity; find out who Jesus really is.

To review and obtain these resources visit:

Fresh Expressions

The Church of England (Anglican/Episcopalian) and Methodist Church has developed the Fresh Expressions.

It aims to help Christians of any denomination think about ways of starting and growing fresh expressions of church in their area. A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

The web site offers:
a directory of fresh expression churches
news and stories
training opportunities and information regarding jobs
details regarding pioneer ministry
resources and links

There is also a sister site based in Australia:
Which says
"We believe that it takes the whole church to know God and to make Him known across Australia today. We believe that God is calling Christians everywhere to be missionaries in their own backyard. This site is a gateway for all people interested in doing church differently. It is under development and will feature a marketplace with reviews, forums on Australian culture, tips on growing churches and pointers on starting fresh expressions of church."
The site is divided into three main categories:
Culture: which looks at the context we are doing mission in?
Missional thinking; how does scripture shape our thinking and preparation for scripture today.
Fresh Stories: the aim is not to provide a stepping stone into an existing church but to create a new church.
If you are exploring the idea of being missional, starting a new church, developing a new ministry or creating something new God may use these web sites to inspire and help you

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bible Studies and Bible Study tools

Here are some more bible studies and bible study tools that may help you...

Bible Studies and Technology
Bible Studies and Technology tools is an excellent blog to keep you upto date on the software and technological advancements relating to bible studies and teaching.
Logos for Lutherans One of the most popular distributors of bible software is Logos. Logos for Lutherans is a great way to keep upto date about Logos products, ask questions about using Logos products and find out about freebies.

Lectio Divina
Some find this method of bible study very helpful in their daily devotions as it calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray from God's Word. To discover more about it visit

Baseball approach to bible study
Kerry Nelson of Covenant Lutheran Church, Houston Texas has developed a baseball approach to bible study, to uncover more about this approach visit

Crossmark Christian Resources offers a range of bible studies and other topics that can be downloaded...
Current studies available include:
In the beginning...
Mark: Marked for Life
A Reading Guide to the Whole Gospel of Mark
A Six Session Study Guide to the Gospel of Mark
1 Thessalonians:
Encourage one another with these words...
1 Peter:
Tested by Fire: Living as a Christian in a Post-Christian Era
It's About Time
Pray this Way...: A Study of the Lord's Prayer
Two Shall Become One: A Biblical Perspective on Husbands and Wives
Habits of Faith: Each day PRAY and SCRIPTURE READ, WORSHIP, GROW, SHARE, and LEAD Parables and Paradise: Living the Paradoxes of Faith - NEW CD-ROM Available!
Matters of Life and Death

Atonement Lutheran Church (Newport Oregon) offers online, interactive bible studies.
Current online studies include:
Why read the Old Testament?
The Gospel of Judas, the church and politics of exclusion
Talking back; The Psalms as a critical conversation with God
Never Left behind: The true Revelation of God.

Lutheran Hour Ministries offers online, interactive studies
Current Studies include:
Our new life in Christ
The promise is for you
Foundations of faith

Lutheran Leadership 4: Leading during difficult times

Be clear who you are!!
Leading in difficult times is not easy. It can be hard to keep focussed on what your mission, purpose, values and goals are. There are many distractions and some of these are the result of either yourself or others in your organisation being anxious or panicking.
Matthew 16:21-28, Matthew 26:42, Matthew 26:47- 56 and Matthew 6:21

What do these verses say about acting in what appear to be difficult times?
How important is understanding what your purpose is?

Now what is your church’s or organisation’s mission, purpose, values and goals?
How well do you and each of the leaders know them?
Do they support them personally?

Does everyone treasure these as important, essential, if not why not?
If you are meeting together this is a good time to share them and be reminded of them.

Always consider God and others
When difficult times arise we often need help in making decisions that will sustain us and those we lead. In Exodus 28:15-30 God gave the Israelites a tool to help them in making decisions, a breastplate. There has been much speculation of what all the parts of this tool mean, however at the end of the reading we see what the purpose of the breastplate is, that every decision that Aaron the leader makes needs to remember the Lord and the Lord’s followers (the Israelites), especially their relationship with God. Have a look how Jesus says something similar Matthew 22:37-40.
Share what is involved in remembering God and others when making decisions.
What might this mean for us?
Now consider the decisions that we or you need to make.
How does remembering God and then His followers, especially their relationship with God affect these decisions?
Have you considered not just the immediate future, but also the long term?
How are our decisions reflecting God and his light into our organisation and the wider community?

How are they not?

Rely on the truth not assumptions
One of the major problems when difficult times occur is that people begin to assume things, and these assumptions often turn into gossip. This can even result in lies being spread as facts. And most of this gossip is nothing more than scare mongering, people wanting to build themselves up by putting others down.
The small catechism highlights that the bible says:
We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray them, slander them, or hurt their reputation, but we should defend them, speak well of them and explain everything in the kindest possible way.
Also read Proverbs 12:17-22, 1 Timothy 1:3-6, Proverbs 31:8-9, Mark 14:3-9, Ephesians 4:25, John 8:31-32
Are there beliefs or ideas that are not based on scripture or fact, but assumptions that you need to address?
Are there matters that have been brought to your attention as leaders that you need to check out?
What matters need to be checked out?
How do you discern what is correct and what is not?

What is the most important during difficult times?
Difficult times are not easy times, especially for a leader. However being focused on what is important will help.
Read Psalm 23, Matthew 24:36-51, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Philippians 4:4-7; Romans 8:37-39.
During all times not just difficult times where should our focus be?
How is Jesus helpful during difficult times?
How does the focus that the above verses emphasis affect our decisions and life today?

Making disciples during difficult times
Read Matthew 28:16-20
What current difficulties are opportunities for us to bring the Good News of Jesus to people and help them become His disciples?

© 2008 Pastor Richard Schwedes, North Tasmania Lutheran Parish. Pastors and Christian congregations are free to use these to help leaders and others grow as leaders through bible studies or devotions. They are best used in group situations. If you wish to use them for another purpose or to publish them please contact Pastor Richard Schwedes (

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Living through the World's financial crisis

Recently I wrote an article called Down but not out, you can view part of the article here, that appeared in the Lutheran magazine November 2008 (Lutheran Church of Australia's national magazine)

If you would like to buy this magazine or subscribe to the magazine go here

There is also an accompanying bible study, which is available here that is suitable for individual and group study.

God bless
Richard Schwedes

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

illustration: realising what is important...amongst the frills

The Melbourne Cup is one of the most popular horse races around the world.
In Melbourne over 100,000 people attend, a normal horse racing event battles to get anywhere near this. It is televised to over 700million people in 120 different countries.

Now not everyone who attends the Melbourne Cup race came because they are enthuastic about horse racing.
Some come for the other horse races, some come to show how pretty they are(there is a major competition for this), some to look at all the pretty and handsome people, some to enjoy the company of others, some to get a free lunch, some to work, some to be weird, some to have a good time and some just to be there.

However many of them wouldn't be there if the Melbourne Cup wasn't being raced, if it was just another horse race. Every thing else relies on that race.

At church we often have many things going on. And in most cases these things are important they encourage people to connect with the church and with each other. It is important though that we always remember why we are there. It is because of what Jesus has done and is doing for us as a result of his life, death and ressurection. In some ways everything we do should connect to Christ.

illustration: Prepared for eternity

The race that stops a nation in Australia, the Melbourne Cup is one of Australia's longest horse races.
It is also one of the richest, this year the winner will receive not only a trophy worth around $125000, but also $3.3 million, with another $2.2million spread across the next 9 place getters.
Horse trainers and owners from around the world bring their horses to race in the cup.
However in a recent interview a number of trainers indicated that they train very few horses for the cup, preferring the shorter races and more immediate gains, which occur more frequently.

Many people live life like this.
Instead of having their eyes on eternal life, they focus them on the immediate and the quick gains they can make now.
They live life more concerned about today without any thought of the future.
They seek instant rewards rather than the long term reward that Jesus offers them in heaven.

However there is a major difference between a Melbourne Cup winner and someone who reaches eternity..
The Melbourne Cup winner needs to do a lot of work....some who reaches eternity needs to rely on Jesus.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Advent and Christmas Plays

The following plays have either been written by, used by or recommended by a Lutheran member, pastor or congregation.
If you have any to contribute or recommend please feel free to email me

Advent Candle Lighting Script based on characters of the Nativity by Pastor Richard Schwedes North Tasmania Lutheran Parish

Richard Fairchild's seasonal resources page includes both Advent candle lighting scripts and Christmas plays

Four Gifts of Christmas

Remembering Christmas

Tales of the Unexpected from Tea Tree Gully Lutheran Church

Twas the night before the Christmas Play by Pastor Ian Lutze of Immanuel North Adelaide Lutheran Church, Australia

Amongst a mess comes Christmas by Pastor Richard Schwedes North Tasmania Lutheran Parish

Family worship resources for Christmas includes a Christmas Play called Virtual Nativity

Don't Settle for the Wrappings and He makes all things beautiful by Kidskountpublishing can either be purchased via cd or downloaded. Kidskount is the publishing arm of King of Kings Church Omaha (LCMS).

A Religious Christmas recommended dramas

Concordia Publishing house suggests God's family tree, A shepherd's Christmas, From Heaven above, A way in a manger, Jesus born for us

Augsburg Fortress suggests The Surprising Christmas pagaent, Destination: BETHLEHEM , The Wonder: A Christmas Program for Children

North West Publishing suggests Singing with Saints and Angels ,The Savior has come, To us a child is born

Also look under last years entry as there are some other dramas and worship services listed

AND DON'T FORGET IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTION either email me or add them to the comments below