Monday, October 21, 2019

Being an Outsider

We live in a world where social acceptance is desired and strived for, quite often at the expense of moral truth and law. So what does it mean to be a Christian in a world where everyone wants to be liked and accepted?

The more I think about it, the more I have realized that Jesus was an outsider. Yes he was very popular during some stages of His ministry but there were also a lot of people who He offended and rubbed the wrong way because to Him, truth was more important than popularity. He stuck to what He knew was right, especially regarding Himself and His calling on earth, even when it cost Him everything. Towards the very end of His ministry on earth as He was dying on the cross he had only a small handful of people with Him as nearly everyone had deserted Him. This was a man who once had thousands of people hanging on His every word and was now in a position where He was almost completely alone due to His commitment to the truth and what His calling was.

This has been a very challenging aspect of Christianity for me to grasp. When I was younger, due to my internal issues I was struggling with I really wanted to be liked and accepted above all things. I learned to let everything slide that offended me in the name of keeping the peace because I didn't want to stir the pot. This was an easier and safer way to live. It was too overwhelming for me to feel like I had offended someone else or done something wrong so the only way that seemed right to live was to be on-side with everybody, all the time.

However, this way of thinking was not to last. After I got very sick with burnout about 7 years ago God began challenging me on speaking the truth to other people. He began putting me in situations where unjust things were happening and people were ignoring the truth because it suited them, and then challenging me to speak the truth about what was happening as it simply needed to be said. The words He clearly used towards me were "Get over yourself!" which meant - just speak out and do what you are meant to do, and stop worrying about whether people like you for it or not.

Needless to say this has not made me a very popular person over the years. I have been called into many situations that I was hoping would work out and last only to realize that I had just been called there for a temporary season to confront issues that were happening in that environment, speak the truth about them, and then leave. I recently had a job on a fixed term contract that seemed ideal until I began to realize what was happening between the team members in the environment I was working in. Several people had started their own little clique and would regularly bully, manipulate and gossip about other members of the team, and if anyone dared complain to management about their behavior they would gang up on that person and go out of their way to reject and exclude them for daring to disrupt the terrible way they treated others.

The ringleader of this little club decided one day that they were in charge of me and that I had to answer to them to the point where their behavior became intrusive and disrespecting of my boundaries. They would regularly check up on me and ask what I was working on, when I was starting and finishing and would even go on my computer while I was away from it to see what websites I had been viewing. This person told me once that when they had a disagreement with their partner it would last for days and wouldn't end until their partner said that they were wrong and this person was right, so it was obvious they had major control and pride related issues. This person was very vain, bossy and used to getting their own way, and enjoyed feeling popular and "in charge" in this work environment, and their friends enjoyed gossiping about others they worked with and would do it on a regular basis. The last straw came when this person humiliated me by telling me off in front of all of my colleagues because they weren't happy with the time I was finishing work on that particular day. I found out shortly after that this person had no authority whatsoever to be doing what they were doing, so I complained to management who very quickly told them to stop their behavior. Their response was to hate me for daring to stand up to them and they quickly rallied their friends around them to exclude me and make it seem like the whole situation was my fault.

These people were excellent at deceiving others and making them think that they were all sweetness and light when the total opposite was true, and due to the people they surrounded themselves with no one would do anything about their behavior - people would just make excuses for it or flat out deny that it was even happening. This little group of bullies expected to just keep on getting away with it until I realized that God had called me into that situation to stand against them and be a voice of reason and truth. I had a word burning on my heart for the ringleader of this little club who treated me so badly warning them specifically about their bullying and unrepentant behavior, need for control and the terrible company they surrounded themselves with. I felt to warn them that unless significant change happened in their life that they were going down a very dark path which would end in regret. I especially felt to warn them that if they continued treating their partner in the same way that they treated me that their marriage would eventually disintegrate and that even if it lasted their partner would resent and not respect them.

Having to do this was a huge act of sacrifice for me as this was a work environment I had hoped would last a long time so it was heartbreaking and frustrating to have to not only leave the environment but have to directly confront the perpetrators that were causing so much harm in this environment which lead to me leaving on worse terms than I wanted to. But I realized that the alternative was worse - I couldn't live with myself if I just sat back and said nothing about what was happening as the word would just continue to sit inside of me and eat me alive until I decided to forget about the consequences to myself and my reputation, and be obedient to what God was telling me to do. I realize that in many of these situations some of the issues could be perceived as being "none of my business" but as far as I am concerned, my business is being obedient to God and if I know God is calling me to give a word of warning to someone then it becomes my business to do that.

I have been called into situations like this a lot over the years  - such as ministry environments lead by people who were just thinking about their own selfish gain, living environments with landlords with serious boundary issues and problems with greed, pride and unteachability, and workplace environments like the one I just mentioned. Being called into situations to be a voice of truth has not become any easier over the years but I know that the alternative of being disobedient by not speaking out when I am meant to will make things worse for me in the long run. It will mean that I am living without internal peace until I get over myself and my desire to be liked, and place obedience to God before my own need for acceptance and desire not to ruffle the feathers of others.

I have realized that God needs people to do this and calls people specifically for this task. It might seem like people continually get away with the sin they are committing and I believe that this often happens because no one has directly warned them about what will happen to them if they don't stop. I believe God often doesn't allow bad consequences to come upon those who are persisting in regular sin that hurts both themselves and others until that person has been specifically warned so that they can never say to God "well I never knew this was going to happen as nobody warned me". I have found on many occasions that nothing changes in the circumstances of people who are acting like these bullies have acted until I have spoken a truthful warning to them as it gives God room to move, as He will be able to tell them someday - "Graham warned you, and you ignored the warning, so harm came upon you". I've often felt specifically that I "bring out the worst in people" and I've realized that this often happens because the strong demonic forces in others manifest around me - such as the way that they manifested with the person I worked with. This happens because God wants me to see what is truly going on with them so that I can speak the truth about what they are really like, so that they have the chance to change. Needless to say this is a very stressful way to live and a very difficult calling to have on your life.

The main thing that has kept me going and helped me to be somewhat ok with living as a voice for truth in a world that loves lies is the realization that this life is temporary and that I'm living for something greater. I have realized as I have gotten older that life is short and what really matters is doing what God specifically calls you to do because at the end of the day nothing else here is truly going to last. Accumulating a whole lot of wealth might make living here a bit easier but at the end of the day we are all going to pass away one day anyway, and once that happens all of that wealth just gets handed over to somebody else, so it is better to "store up treasure in heaven where thieves do not break in and steal, and moths and rust do not destroy" (Matthew 6:19-21). 

You never know when your last day will be - I knew a lady who was extremely ambitious and full of life - so much so that taking one look at what she was up to made you really think she was living life to the fullest and was going to be around forever. She had her own performing arts group, was on television commercials and regularly traveled the world. All of a sudden she fell off a horse and died due to internal injuries at just 34 years old, so you never know when your time is up. When you choose to look at life on earth as a temporary place you are just passing through and that your real goal is to store up treasure in heaven through obedience, it makes life that much easier to deal with when you encounter hard times, especially when you know that it could end at any moment and you will go on to eternity which will last forever.

I know that there are a lot of people who don't like me because of the calling on my life. I know that the little club in my old workplace despise me and if I see any of them on the street I see them looking straight at me while smiling wickedly and gossiping with their friends about me, but I can safely say I don't care as I know I've done the right thing. I know there are others throughout the years that still harbour resentment against me for standing up to them and speaking the truth, but my conscience is clear so I sleep easy at night. I have achieved the total opposite of wanting people to like me and have replaced it with something far more important - I have achieved God's approval for being obedient and doing what He has called me to do regardless of the cost.

Is God calling you to be an outsider? You need to ask yourself - which is more important, going with the flow and not "rocking the boat" so to speak, or doing the right thing and speaking up against things which you know are wrong, regardless of the cost?

Take care.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Spiritual Realities - Dealing with Curses

This is going to be a very honest blog post about something I've been going through for almost my entire life, and have only just started to find answers for.

Have you ever struggled with what seems like an invisible force over your life, controlling the outcome of situations and influencing your circumstances and even the interactions of others towards you? Have you ever felt so frustrated with this that you've tried with all of your strength to change your circumstances, only for all of your efforts to be in vain?

I know this feeling all too well as this has been a huge part of my life. Starting from when I was very young, I have always felt like a loser. There was nothing I hated more than losing at absolutely anything - be this a computer game, an argument with someone, literally anything. When I was a child and I would play sports at school, if I was ever on the losing team (which was most of the time) I would burst into tears. The biggest cry of my heart would be the words "It's not fair". It wasn't really so much losing the game that I was playing - it was that I felt there was something behind the scenes, subtly affecting my every move, subtly affecting the circumstances to ensure that I was on the losing side, every time. I could sense that something was happening but I couldn't define it and therefore I couldn't stop it, so every team game I played I would immediately be at a disadvantage - and so would the team that I was on. Other children would tease me about this mercilessly but I couldn't help the overwhelming emotion that I felt - it was so strong and told me so clearly that something was not right and was working against me, and this would turn into immense frustration which would result in anger and tears.

This sensation of something working against me did not stop with time - if anything, it got worse. When I began to play competitive football against other schools, most of the time I would end up in the worst team in the league and we would get thrashed at games, sometimes with scores up to 12-0. As a child with the sensation that something was following me and creating this yet I couldn't do anything about it, this was devastating. Sometimes it just seemed as if nothing I did would ever be right - a goalkeeper on the other team could be having a terrible game, but if ever I took a shot against him, he would miraculously be able to save it every time. The frustration became overwhelming and turned into bitterness and anger which began to result in violence - many times on the football pitch I would take my frustrations out on the other team which would mean kicking the other players, and I would also become violent towards myself at times too such as hitting myself out of the overwhelming frustration.

This sensation did not just stick with the sports field - it began to interfere with every aspect of my life. When I sat my exams when I was a teenager I needed 50% to pass one of them and ended up with 48% - when I requested a recount on my marks they marked me up to 49% - agonizingly close but just not good enough. When I was on the debating team at school I would somehow manage to say the wrong thing every time and all of my answers would get picked to pieces by the opposing team. If I was joining in with several others being disruptive in a classroom I would be the only one called up for it and getting in trouble while everyone else escaped punishment - something which once again made me feel "this isn't fair". There were times when I would be able to win and come first at things but those times did not happen often and when they did, it did not come easily - it felt like it took a herculean amount of effort on my part to achieve any sort of victory.

Over time this sensation of constantly failing and not being quite good enough - just falling short of the mark - began to seriously deteriorate my self esteem and self belief. I began to think like a loser - sometimes I would even say to myself over and over again "I'm a loser!" and I began to develop a negative, bitter and defeatist mentality in life that would literally say "there's no point in even trying because I'm just going to lose anyway" and if I ever did try something, I would end up losing just like I thought I would, which would just further reinforce what I already saw as absolute truth. This defeatist mentality began to lead to severe bullying even in my teenage years as I didn't see any point in fighting back because I felt I wasn't ever allowed to win a fight - verbally or physically - which lead to severe depression as time went on and turned me into a very timid, fragile and oversensitive person who could not express their extreme anger and frustration.

Even since dedicating my life to God this issue has not gone away and I have seen quite frankly ridiculous injustices over the years - such as being stabbed when I foiled a robbery and the judge letting the offenders go with absolutely nothing - which made me say to myself "I bet that happened just because this was me - if it had been someone else they'd have been punished properly." This issue has caused me issues in the workplace in my adult life as I have struggled to stand up for myself against unacceptable behavior from colleagues because everything inside me has said I would just make things worse if I fought back. I struggled a lot when it would come to dealing with unpleasant and rude customers, especially if I had to tell them something they didn't want to hear as they would just start arguing with me and because I had learned to just expect defeat I would just fold under their pressure, which created frustration for me and colleagues.

The other day, everything came to a head when I was doing some online gaming and I was on the losing team every time for about 10 games in a row and something in me finally snapped and I just said "I've had enough of this. God - something is seriously wrong here. Please tell me what it is because I desperately need breakthrough. This issue has dogged me my entire life and I can't take it anymore. Please help." 

Almost immediately these words came into my mind very strongly - "Satan is a defeated foe."

I will share a bit about what I have recently been learning about spiritual forces here, and about my own background. I have learned that getting deliverance through prayer from spiritual forces is only a part of the journey to healing and freedom. The other part of the journey is confronting and exposing the wrong thinking and curses that often comes along with these spiritual forces. Sometimes one event can lead to a host of spiritual forces taking control of a person's mind and each one needs to be dealt with individually, along with the wrong thinking that comes with it.

I have learned that in my family history before my time that there was some form of Satanism which went back generations and had been passed on to me. This Satanism had given evil spirits unlimited access to my inner being as they had legal rights to be there due to generational sin. One thing that has become apparent to me in my study of the Bible over the years is that Satan and his purposes were defeated at the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. His fate has been sealed and his time of destruction will come. I believe that he knows this and is miserable beyond words about this fact - so his whole purpose is to take as many people with him as he can to destruction to share in his misery because as the old saying goes - "Misery loves company."

Because Satan is an eternally defeated foe who is fighting a battle against God he can never win, and because generational sin had given legal rights for Satanic spiritual forces to take over in my life, I realized that I was under the curse of being a defeated foe myself. Once I realized this, I prayed against it and began to declare victory over myself saying things like "I am an overcomer" and "I am not defeated, I am victorious and amazingly strong to have survived this long under this curse". I began to see change almost immediately. Slowly but surely I have begun to see self belief grow where self doubt, negativity and defeatism always used to be. I am beginning to feel a little more confident when it comes to dealing with customers at my work, because now that the curse has been brought to the light and broken, I am slowly beginning to realize that I can win and stand my ground and that my opinion deserves to be respected - and that sometimes other people have to back down to me.

The reason I am sharing all of this so openly is because I believe that there is great power in sharing stories such as mine because all too often this kind of thing is not talked about in daily life - not even in the church. I am grateful I have the Holy Spirit and have learned to understand spiritual forces and the way that they work because whether we like it or not, we are all living in a spiritual universe and spiritual forces are around us and influencing our daily lives. If we deny this and say that these forces do not exist because you can't see them, it's the same as denying the wind - it is there, it does influence your life and you can definitely feel it, so it is certainly real even if we can't see it and to deny the wind is real would be unwise as all of the evidence proves otherwise.

If I had not learned about this curse that was haunting my every footstep and had breakthrough from it I would have spent the rest of my life trying to find answers as to what was causing this and getting nowhere - which would have led to an ever decreasing state of mental well being for me over the years. No psychologist or therapist could have told me that this was what was happening to me and causing all of these problems, and I certainly could not have found the answer in medication of any sort - be that prescription medication or more unhealthy forms such as addictive behavior. Satan is legalistic and he loves to hide in the dark and unknown parts of our minds and hearts, where him and his forces can operate unseen without people even realizing. If I had never had this revelation he would have continued to work against me in my life and caused me even more continued misery, bitterness and frustration over the years. Once I brought these things into the light and confessed them, they lost their power over me and I began to walk in the freedom I have always deserved.

My question to you is this - have you ever felt like I did in some form? It might not look the same as it did for me, but have you ever felt that there are things in your life that are greatly holding you back but you just cannot define what they are, and therefore cannot break free of them? I would encourage you to seek out answers with God and seek to learn about the spiritual reality that we all live in. You may find the answers you have been looking for in there, and find the freedom you've longed for.

Take care.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The power of belief

One of the most important ingredients to being able to live a healthy life is what you believe in. So much of our lives are based on what we believe in, as our beliefs shape our choices and our choices shape our character and the lives that we lead.

Throughout my life I have struggled with a lack of confidence. It has been difficult for me to believe in nearly anything, including myself. Sometimes there have been things laid right out in front of me that were clearly true yet I have written them off in my own mind as being lies. This belief system (or lack thereof) has contributed to a very negative, depressive and unhappy outlook on life and a very passive mentality which would often come across as being weak.

Recently in my prayer and meditating times the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I have struggled with a deeply rooted mentality of unbelief. This mentality has said to me that God isn't real (even though I know He is - I've still had this lie buried deep in my subconscious mind), that the spiritual realm isn't real, that everything that came into my life and proved itself to be fact was in fact just an elaborate deception to try to get me to fall for it so that I could be harmed as a result. This mentality has told me to believe in nothing because nothing was real, nothing was dependable and nothing was as it appeared to be. Most of all it told me that I couldn't believe in myself and my own perceptions of the world because the moment I believed in something, it would undoubtedly be proved wrong.

I had a vision of myself and another person standing on a flat piece of land. The person next to me began walking around on the land, running and even jumping. They knew that they could do this as they had the belief that the ground would support their weight and were so certain of this belief that they were willing to put it into practice - and their belief was justified because what they were believing was indeed true. This other person said to me "Come on Graham, aren't you going to run around and explore with me?" To which I replied - "No, because I don't believe the ground is going to hold me up. I believe that the moment I set foot outside of this spot, the earth will collapse under me and I will fall". The other person then replied "But look at me - I'm running around on the same area and nothing is happening to me - therefore it's safe for you too!" But I still could not be convinced and therefore refused to move - therefore robbing myself of the ability to move forwards and ensuring I remained stuck and stagnant in the same spot in life.

I realized when I had this vision just how powerful this mentality of unbelief really was in my life. I also realized that simply "going and doing the thing I didn't believe I could do" wasn't going to change anything as if I had followed that other person and gone running and jumping on the ground without changing my thinking first I would be overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. The change needed to come from within first - then and only then could I change my actions.

I began to realize how much of life I had been robbed of and the amount of times I had let gross injustice happen without standing up to do something about it because I simply didn't believe that I could. I have always had a strong desire for revenge that I had never been able to understand until I had this revelation as I realized that this mentality of unbelief told me that people would not be held accountable for their sins and that God would not bring about justice and restoration and consequences for the sins of others - because God didn't exist and neither did the spiritual realm.

I have realized that unbelief is an enormous tool of the kingdom of darkness as it tries to convince people that it does not exist and that there is no such thing as a spiritual realm - all so that people will not believe and fall into sin and harm without even realizing it. It is also a good way of holding Christians prisoner and keeping them from becoming effective - not to mention happy in life - because if they don't believe they can do anything or bring about any sort of change, then they are not even going to bother trying and won't end up doing the things that they are called to do.

Confessing this unbelieving mentality has already begun to make change in my life. The constant sense of uncertainty and self doubt is beginning to be replaced by a sense of confidence, courage and boldness which comes from learning to believe in the right things - including myself. I will keep working at this as I refuse to be held captive by a prison of unbelief any longer. I refuse to remain rooted to one spot, unable to move on because of fear - and I refuse to doubt every single thing that comes into my life. I want to start really believing in what is true and living my life accordingly - to learn to move on from that one safe spot and believe that I can walk forwards in freedom and that the ground underneath me will be able to support me.

I am reminded of the movie The Matrix - where the character Neo is believed to be the One who can stand up to the agents and save humankind, and can manipulate the Matrix as he wishes. At the beginning of the movie he tries to jump between two buildings and fails miserably. Yet by the end of the movie he is able to stand and fight against the Agents that had caused the human race to run in fear - plus he is able to manipulate the Matrix in any way that he desires - such as by flying. He was always able to do these things from the beginning - it was only his unbelief that stopped him. Once he began to believe the truth about himself - that he was the One - he was able to throw off his limitations and walk in the truth of who he really was.

Obviously wisdom is still called for when it comes to changing your thinking to a mentality of believing - there's no point in going and jumping off a building because you believe that you are going to be able to fly, and that therefore just because you believe it, you will be safe - as we don't live in the Matrix and gravity would tend to disagree with you if you think that you can fly. So there is still a balance that is required. But if obvious truth about something is staring you in the face and the only thing that is holding you back from believing it is your own doubt and self belief - you will need to change your thinking in order to be able to bring about change in your circumstances.

My challenge to you is this - does any of what I have said today resonate with you? Do you struggle with unbelief and doubt? Do you look at every thing that happens with suspicion and need a long list of facts about something before you can be convinced that it is true? Do you remain stuck in the same spot because you are afraid of moving on? Perhaps you struggle with unbelief like I have. I would encourage you to be honest about it. Tell others about your struggles and if they don't get it, find someone who does. Bring the dark places in your heart to the light by talking about them as this is what breaks their power and their hold over you. Don't allow unbelief to rob you any longer of what is rightfully yours.

Take care.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Progress or stagnancy

This is a topic very dear to my heart, due to the journey through life I have faced up till this point.

I believe that one of the most important words that defines Christianity is the word "progress". 2 Corinthians 4:16 states
 "though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day." But what defines a person who is in the process of being "renewed?"

One of the most powerful stories I heard as a new believer was from a young man who lived in Wellington, the city I spent most of my teenage years in. I can't remember that much about his testimony other than the fact that when he got saved, he had dropped out of school and was working for a greengrocer, stacking produce each day. He had been doing this job for some time - but once he got saved, things changed. He said that God led him to many other different jobs and cities around New Zealand, and throughout all of his experiences in these different places he got the courage to share his story. What struck me the most about his story was that the way he worded it seemed to say that he had no hope or ambitions for anything other than stacking fruit and vegetables in a grocer's shop - until the Holy Spirit got hold of him and challenged him to move on.

The book of Exodus in the Bible talks about the plight of God's chosen people - the Israelites. Suffering in slavery, they cried out for deliverance and breakthrough. God eventually answered them. But He did not answer them through making things better for them where they were. His answer was to lead them out of the place of slavery - and into the wilderness, where they had to learn to rely on God and God alone for their sustenance. Gone were the days of being planted in one location, and gone was the safety that they had experienced in the sense that although they were enslaved, they knew that they would always have enough to eat and a roof over their heads. Now they were lead into a constantly changing environment, where every location was temporary and nothing could be depended on other than God, who said that he
 "...led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (Deuteronomy 8:2). It was hard, and it forced them to face the truth about themselves, it got them out of their comfort zone, and challenged them. But it was necessary for their growth and was the proving ground that they had to walk through before entering into the promised land.

One thing that I have witnessed over the years which has frustrated me deeply is the amount of stagnancy in Christianity in the world today - especially in the Western world. There are so many people out there who call themselves "Christians" yet simply do not want to change and move forwards. I've experienced many people like this over my time and have even lived with the odd one on occasion. They find a bubble of comfort zone, where they don't have to be challenged about anything and receive constant enabling from those around them which gives them even less reason to change. When questioned or challenged by anything - or if something happens that threatens their little bubble of security - they react defensively and even aggressively, wishing to remain in an unteachable state, not wanting to hear the truth, wanting to remain in a place of complete ignorance so that they can hide from the truth about themselves and dream of a better future without doing the necessary character development and "soul work" to turn it from dream to reality.

The reality of this kind of living is that it is governed by fear and cowardice. It goes nowhere. Satan wants nothing more than to see God's people remain mediocre and ineffective, while watered down "truth" is given to them to help them feel good about being where they are instead of challenging them to move forwards and grow. I believe wholeheartedly that the Holy Spirit is deeply frustrated by all of these things. He calls His people to be overcomers and part of that means overcoming themselves. Living in a bubble of comfort zone, reacting in a hostile manner when challenged to get out of it and being constantly mollycoddled and enabled by those around them is not being an overcomer. No one who lives like this will ever see their dreams fulfilled. Chances are, they will also miss out on God's best for them because they do not have the character needed to be able to fulfill the destiny and the calling that God has for them, because during the time that they should be developing said character, they are simply sitting around making excuses and expecting everyone else to pander to them and "accept them the way that they are."

The reason this frustrates me so much is because I used to be exactly this person before I went to bible college for the first time. I was so full of fear that I didn't want to face or even know how to face, so I just stayed stagnant, living with my parents at home, not really wanting to move out, wanting all of my creature comforts around me at all times to help me feel better about where I was. When I left to go to bible college, I was a fragile mess for a long time. I constantly wanted to go home - even though it wasn't where I really wanted to be, it was easier than where I was. However as time went on I began to realize that it was really me who needed to do the changing. I began to turn my focus from building a little impenetrable safe bubble around me where I could live without ever being challenged on anything - to realizing that a better life resulted from a changed heart, so I set about changing myself. I began taking up the challenge of following God through the different locations He had assigned for me to go to and the lessons He had for me to learn at each one.

This journey lead me to different living environments and jobs all over the country, and even overseas at one point where I was called to live in California for 3 months. The hardest part was when I fell very ill in 2011 - this move required me to move back home with my parents for a time and begin the process of speaking the truth to some people I had once been close with, while focusing constantly on rebuilding myself and my own heart by clearing out the wrong thinking and replacing it with the truth. This was where I really began to embrace 2 Corinthians 4:16 and I began to really see the effects - by working on my soul and focusing on healing myself, I felt my soul becoming more and more renewed - which translated to better physical health and better relationships with others.

As time went on, however, this journey got easier and easier. I am now planted in a good city with a great job and I am happily married with a lovely living environment. I am in the healthiest place emotionally and spiritually that I have ever been and I become more and more healthy by the day. I also have a lot of wisdom to share about the journey that I have been on and I know that there will be many more adventures and challenges to come over the years. But I no longer face these with fear - I am excited as to where they might take me.

I believe the kind of freedom and wholeness that I am coming into is available to everyone. I believe it is what the Holy Spirit wants for everyone. But to those who are insistent on remaining unteachable and do not want to leave their comfort zones - mollycoddling and pandering to them and their "needs" is not going to work. I believe people like this need  - through much prayer and intercession of course - to be put in a position where they simply have no choice other than to make a change, to grow up, get over themselves and learn to take responsibility for becoming who God has created them to be. This is what had to happen to me. I had to leave behind a secure living environment with my parents and move hundreds of kilometers away to a bible college campus I had never even seen before with people I didn't know. It was hard. But I simply had no choice but to sink or swim. I'm not saying that moving forwards means to be constantly changing location, as that can also be a form of escapism and therefore destructive. I am saying that moving forwards involves being challenged by the Holy Spirit and to accept that challenge.

Throughout my recovery from having a nervous breakdown, God has been equally harsh with me on other things. He challenged me to speak the truth to someone and this challenge had me quaking in my boots. God saw my fear, and simply said to me - "Do you want to get better, or don't you?" I realized I had no choice other than to feel the fear and do it anyway. Once I did this and spoke the truth to this person I saw a definite change in myself and a definite sense of release of tension and improvement in my mental health. 

This is not optional. God cannot win the world to Himself through a cowardly, mollycoddled church, where all of their "needs" are waited on hand and foot and watered down truth is delivered to them to make them feel good about themselves, yet not give them any real motivation to change. He cannot use people who refuse to be taught the truth and just want to stay in their comfort zone forever, wasting away both internally and externally. God does not need leaders who will pander to people like this and not challenge them to better themselves. God needs a church of people who will deliver the truth in love and a church who will receive correction and instruction in love and will see it as a benefit to them rather than a hindrance. God needs a church who will follow Him even when it scares them and a church who can stand their ground and endure when the going gets tough. The Holy Spirit wants us to be overcomers through His power. He wants us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. He wants to test us and challenge us to make us stronger and more effective for His Kingdom.

In conclusion, I want you to ask yourself - where do I fit into this? Am I one of those unteachable people who calls themselves "Christian" but doesn't really want to let go of their sin, doesn't want to change and doesn't want to be challenged? Am I one of those leaders who neglects the speaking of truth out of a sense of wanting to be loyal to people and a fear of "ruffling any feathers"? Or am I on the right path, living by the Holy Spirit, obeying His commands and promptings, seeing and feeling the renewal of a changed heart through His healing touch and revelations?

Take care.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Jeremiah Calling

We live in an increasingly fake and non-genuine world these days. It is too easy to invoke our own sense of rights and blame other people for things than it is to take responsibility ourselves - and it is easy to reject truth when we hear it spoken but it doesn't fit with what we want or clashes with our loyalties to one another. So how does the truth come to a world that doesn't want to hear it?

My favorite Old Testament prophet is Jeremiah. Jeremiah was bold, courageous and spoke truths that other people didn't want to hear. He told the nation of Israel that they had turned against God and that God's judgment was coming upon them as a result - but Jeremiah's word clashed with the words of the other "prophets" at the time who were continually telling Israel how great they were and how pleased God was with them despite their unrepentant, sinful nature. Needless to say Jeremiah's words did not go down well. He was publicly shamed, imprisoned, labelled as a "traitor" and even thrown into a well and left to die. However, Jeremiah stood true to his word and refused to back down - and ultimately what he prophesied came to pass.

One of the most important things to note about Jeremiah are revealed in Jeremiah 1 vs 6 where he tells God that "he is not a good speaker and that he is too young". From this passage we can grasp the truth that Jeremiah does not believe in himself and does not believe he has the ability to speak the truth to a wayward nation. But God comforts him by telling him that "I have put My words in your mouth" (Jeremiah 1 vs 9) and God confirms that He is supposed to oppose the people and that they will "fight against him but will not overcome him, for I am with you and will rescue you" (Jeremiah 1 vs 19). This is the beginning of Jeremiah's boldness. He knows that despite his flaws, self doubts and weaknesses, God is with him and that he must do as God wishes and that God will empower him and carry him through despite any opposition.

I have seen a strong parallel with my own life over the last few years. After falling very ill back in 2011, part of the process of my recovery has been learning to speak the truth to other people - mainly into the lives of other Christians. This has been incredibly challenging for me especially because due to many factors in my background I have struggled to speak my mind - I have felt it was easier and better to just keep silent as that is how you keep the peace. This was how I learned to live my life. I can relate completely to Jeremiah when he says that he was not a good speaker - I was not either. In fact, talking to people - especially bringing a tough truth to someone - was something I dreaded.

In 2012 this journey of carrying the Jeremiah mantle over my life began. I began to receive words of knowledge that I knew had to be spoken to other Christians around me. These were tough words and it pained me to think about what would happen when I brought them. These were not words borne out of a desire to "get even" or to fulfill my own agendas, or satisfy my own loyalties. Jeremiah spoke of how the word of the Lord was "in my heart like a fire - a fire in my bones. I am weary of holding it in - indeed, I cannot." These words were exactly like this in my life - they would just burn and burn and eat away at me until I finally said something. Of course, very often these words were not received well but I knew that I had done the right thing. Often, the fallout from speaking these words was so minor compared to the relief I had of not having them burning inside of me like a furnace any longer. Eventually I realized that I had been called to preach the truth as Jeremiah had - not from stadiums to mass audiences, but quietly to people that God had brought into my life for various reasons.

I began to realize why God picked me for this assignment. God takes the weakest people imaginable and uses them to bemuse the powerful and the wise - as a testament to His own power. But He also does it to help heal the weak and broken people as I was. My journey of carrying the Jeremiah calling has forced me to face so many of my fears - most of which were directly connected to the fear of speaking out and saying something, and what could happen to me as a result. Being put in a position of having to face my fears has brought me incredible relief and freedom. If I had been called to something other than the Jeremiah mantle it would have been more difficult for me to face my own darkest fears and therefore find the healing I needed.

One of the main things that I learned throughout this journey were to have confidence in both God and myself that I was hearing and doing the right thing. There were many times when I would speak something out to someone and face a retaliation of some sort. These often made me doubt myself and question whether or not I had heard right in the first place and if I had done the right thing in saying something to that person. But I learned to trust myself and my own heart. Once I lashed out at someone and spoke out of term towards them - the guilt ate away at me for days on end until I went to them and apologized. Once I did this the heaviness was removed and I began feeling at peace again. So I have learned to gauge my own actions against this - if after I have said something I feel a peace and a release from doing it, then I can be confident that I have done what I was meant to do. This was challenging for me as confidence was not something I was overly familiar with but it has grown stronger over time.

Jeremiah did not see or feel much blessing in what he did. He went through a great deal and was called a traitor by his own nation who didn't understand his true heart. He loved Israel and wanted the best for them and wanted to see them repent in order to escape the destruction that was coming against them. But he was hated for his message because the so-called "prophets" of the time would speak in favor of Israel's sinful actions and Israel automatically sided with the other prophets of the time as their message was easier to digest and did not require something from them. So they turned against Jeremiah and sought to silence him rather than pay attention to his message. Jeremiah ultimately was imprisoned and would remain in prison until Israel fell the army of the Babylonians, just as he had foretold. Throughout his ministry Jeremiah doubted himself and doubted God - even despairing the day of his birth (Jeremiah 20:17-18). But despite his doubts, God sustained him and though the messages of destruction he preached took a long time to come to pass, they did eventually happen and he was proved as one who carried the truth in the end.

Throughout my journey so far I have often felt the same way. I have not suffered to the degree Jeremiah has of course but carrying the Jeremiah mantle has been costly. I have lost many, many friendships over the years due to speaking the truth to popular, well liked people and having my message rejected by them which means the inevitable falling out - not just with the people I spoke to but with the others they were connected to as well. I've had my fair share of dirty looks and stares and received a few nasty messages over the years - plus a few messages from people trying to bring "correction" to me by telling me that "I've been forgiven for what I've done" i.e. accusing me of sinning. I've seen many people put loyalty to themselves, friends and family over truth which needed to be spoken and I've had to remove myself from them as a result. Of course the self doubt has started to creep in at times - "Did I really hear right? Was I supposed to say that? Was I too harsh? Have I done something wrong here? Is this really any of my business?" Just to name a few. But every time I have had that still, small voice of reassurance come and tell me that I had done what I was supposed to do all along - and at the end of the day I go to bed with a clear conscience every night.

What fruit did Jeremiah see from his own ministry? Very little. He prophesied death and destruction, was hated for it and the only real fruit he saw was his own prophecies fulfilled - which of course meant death, destruction and exile for his own people. But he was proved right in the end and is now upheld as a hero of the faith in the scriptures. In the same way I have seen very little fruit from my own calling. But I believe that once God inspired truth is spoken out to people and situations, those words have power and the truth will begin to have its day. I have seen situations where people going against God's will for their lives have had things working out incredibly well for them until the word of truth was spoken - then all of a sudden the truth begins to take effect and the favor they were under switches off. This can take years to happen - but it does happen.

To you who are reading this, maybe the Lord is calling you to also walk the path of Jeremiah. In an increasingly dishonest world, God needs people who are willing to be lead by His Holy Spirit and speak words of truth into the lives of those around them despite the cost. I can't promise it will be pretty. I can't promise you will be listened to and that you will not suffer loss. But I can promise that if this is truly what God requires from you - then it is surely the right thing to do.

Take care.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Overcoming fear

Fear is a huge issue in our world today. Everywhere we turn there is something we either see or hear that has the potential to scare us if we let it. So how do we stop fear ruling our lives and move forwards?

For regular readers of this blog, most of you will know that I have one approach towards combating fear that I use regularly - which is the process of examination, dissecting the emotions and learning to understand the root cause of where they came from. Though this mentality has served me exceptionally well over the years (and has doubtless caused me from getting myself involved in some very unpleasant circumstances) - I have recently come to realize that there is sometimes another way to go about beating fear.

There's an age old saying I've heard many times throughout my life which states that in order to overcome fear we must "feel the fear and do it anyway". Over the years I have been skeptical and often critical of this statement as when used incorrectly I believe it can be at best noneffective and at worst, deeply damaging and traumatizing. To put it simply there is nothing worse than putting a person in a situation and trying to force them to face something they are simply not ready to face. However over the last two years I have been placed in a few different circumstances where I have been forced to "feel the fear and do it anyway" and I have found the results incredibly freeing and liberating.

The first situation happened to me about 2 years ago. I was working as an intern at a church at another city. This church was poorly run and took on a building project that it was woefully short staffed to adequately manage - so a huge amount of pressure and responsibility fell upon me as an intern. The pressure of the long days and hours (I often found myself working 16 hour days just to try and get the building ready on time) plus other negative factors in the environment such as the constant back stabbing and belittling of fellow church members and leadership from the head pastor began to take their toll on me. The church began an outreach to the homeless people in the city and after one especially chaotic Sunday morning service I was instructed that the senior pastor would be away the following week and that I was to call the police if any shenanigans unfolded.

The following Sunday can only be described as the worst church experience I have ever had in my life. The service was literally taken over by homeless people who were abusive and rude to fellow attendees (I was told to "burn in hell" by someone simply because I was trying to police the food rationing as I was instructed to do) and finally all hell broke loose when one of these people began physically fighting with several others at the venue - including females. I called the police as instructed who very promptly arrived - only to be sent away by the assistant pastor who was managing the church on that day on the basis that "we are working with these guys and have seen amazing change in them" (which was blatantly not true as far as I was concerned - because if there had been amazing change in them we wouldn't be seeing this happen).

I was then taken aside and told that I had been in the wrong for trying to police the food rationing which was "hurting" people and that I was "acting in fear by calling the police" which was once again what I was told to do. At this point I had simply had enough and absolutely exploded at the second in charge pastor. After storming out of the venue I received a phone call from the senior pastor saying that he was "not impressed with my actions" and that a meeting would be held about my actions. I went into this meeting a few days later and was once again told how wrong I was - but something had changed in me after losing my temper at the church. I stuck to my guns and told these people that they were in the wrong and that what was happening was dangerous and that someone had to say or do something otherwise people were going to get seriously hurt. I was ignored and shortly afterwards I decided to leave the church for good - and two years later after more chaotic services, the church closed its doors for good.

I need to explain something of my past and my default nature at this point. I had always been a deeply timid, shy and fearful person with a powerful dread for authority figures and discipline. There was nothing I feared more than standing up to someone in authority and power as I dreaded what they could do to me. God put me in a situation where there was constant pressure around me from all sides such as financial pressure due to being a student, physical and emotional pressure due to the fatigue from the long hours and finally pressure from foolish and baffling leadership decisions that literally left me with no other choice than to "feel the fear and do it anyway" and let fly at the leadership by drastically losing my temper as this was the step I had to take to banish that fear out of my life once and for all.

This proved to be a turning point in my life. From that moment on my whole personality changed. Previously I often used to sit there and say nothing even when there were things on my mind I should have said. But after this all of a sudden the words started to flow more freely. It was like I had "found my voice" so to speak and the only way I was truly able to find my voice was to be put in a situation where I was literally forced to use it. I believe it was God's plan for me to experience this and that He put all of these things in place so that I would finally be able to overcome the fear that had kept me so restrained.

Another huge issue in my life has been fear of physical violence. Due to numerous factors from my childhood and mainly due to the spiritual inheritance I received when I was conceived, I have dreaded physical violence more than just about anything in the world. I never had much experience getting into fist fights as a child or anything like that so I didn't have any real experience of what physical violence was like to go back to which could have helped ease my fears - all I knew was that it was something I didn't know much about, and that it was something I feared and dreaded more than anything. However - God had a plan for me to face this fear too - and the event that He put in my path to get me to face it came to pass only recently.

I was on my lunch break at work and I was walking down the street and saw two young people walking towards me with masks on and hoodies with the hoods drawn up. I immediately got a sense that something was very wrong and I turned and followed them as they walked into a dairy and threatened the owner with a weapon. One was standing at the door threatening all passers by with a weapon if they tried to do anything. I stood at the door screaming at them and a combination of my screaming and the screaming of the owner caused the thieves to take fright and run out of the shop. Pumped full of adrenaline and anger at what had just happened I high tailed it after them without thinking.

Eventually I was able to corner them both against a fence and other members of the public noticed and also joined in the chase. I grabbed one of them and he struck me on the side of the head with his weapon and stabbed me in the right forearm, but I stood my ground and held on to him with the help of another man until the police arrived. Both of the thieves were arrested and were later charged for their crimes. Only afterwards did I realize I was bleeding as there wasn't any pain due to the adrenaline rush - I only found out when the other man holding the criminal told me there was blood coming out of the side of my head.

Amidst the whirlwind of emotions during this period I realized that another important, life-changing event had taken place - in the midst of this situation I had faced and overcome my fear of physical violence. Before when I thought about physical violence there was continual, overwhelming dread - but now that I had experienced an extreme case of physical violence that I had survived without any serious injury (thankfully) and had managed to stand my ground until justice was done in the situation despite my injuries - my "unknown" fear had now become "known" and therefore had lost its power over me. Of course I was very lucky to escape serious injury as the strikes on the side of my head were very close to my left eye, and I was lucky that the other members of the public showed up when they did. I believe that God's protection was with me during this time as He knew that this was something I needed to go through in order to banish my fears of physical violence once and for all so He was watching over me the entire time.

Since this incident I am seeing more and more just how much has changed in me and just how much fear has been banished out of my life as a result. I walk more confidently and I no longer shy away in fear when I see other people on the street. I feel bolder and more powerful within myself than ever before and more confident when it comes to dealing with people at my work. In short, though this was a terrible thing to go through - tremendous good has come out of it for me and I believe that as time goes on there will be more and more evidence as to how much stronger and healthier in myself I have become as a result of this incident.

In conclusion - simply talking through and "writing through" fear is not always enough. Sometimes you need to go out and really face head on that which you are afraid of as that can sometimes be the only way to truly break free and overcome. Would I suggest screaming at your pastor, or chasing down armed robbers on foot with nothing to defend yourself with in order to free yourself of fear? Absolutely not. In fact I would more than likely advise against both of them! But for me personally those two situations were ordained and put in place by the Holy Spirit as these were exactly what I needed to face my fears. The timing was right for me to face these fears and the Holy Spirit was with me right the way through. Your situations may look totally different from mine (and probably will). But when you know in your gut that you just have to do something - don't sit back and do nothing and then try to justify it to yourself or others. You are holding yourself back from much needed personal growth and as long as you stick with the Holy Spirit and are obedient to His leading and prompting, you have nothing to fear and you will experience breakthrough and freedom on the other side of it.

Take care.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Truth vs loyalty

The subject matter I am discussing today is something I have had a lot of experience with over the years.

Loyalty is a funny thing. In one sense it is immensely powerful and brings incredible bonds and unity between people - which of course is not a bad thing. However there are times when loyalty is actually a hindrance towards things which need to be said and growth which needs to happen - because there are times when loyalty can actually blind someone from seeing the truth about themselves or about another person that is close to them.

Several years ago I was called to speak a strong word of knowledge into the lives of two people I was once friends with who had entered into a relationship that was not based in truth and was not God's plan for them. I was called to tell them to end their relationship or there would be serious trouble in their future. I didn't want to have to bring this word to them as I knew what the consequences would be - but I knew I simply had to do it as the word just burned within me until I found the courage to speak it out. They ignored the word that was given and proceeded with their relationship anyway.

One of these people was friends with others that I was also very close with and had developed a strong bond with over the years to the point where I basically called these guys family. The hardest part for me about bringing this word was the repercussions I knew it was going to have among the other people I was still friends with. These guys had all grown up together and although they considered me a good friend I had entered into their lives much later in the picture - so their bonds of loyalty with one another were very strong. I had a strong suspicion that giving this word of knowledge to one person would result in friendships with the others disintegrating as well but I knew I simply had to do it.

One by one these friendships evaporated just as I suspected they would have. One of these guys even admitted I was doing what God had asked me to do when I stood against these people and their relationship yet he still chose to stand by them even though he knew it was against God's will - so he basically chose to stand against God because of his loyalty to his friend. Over time there was only one person left that I was still "friends" with after this episode and I knew in my heart of hearts that this friendship had to end and that I would not be able to walk free until it did. However I kept putting it off because I didn't want to believe it as I wanted to believe that somehow the good friendship we once had could be saved - but deep down I knew the truth.

Once I ended that friendship the truth came out - I was accused of all kinds of different things - one of the main things being that I was "lashing out at all of those around me". However I know that this is not true as I know the difference between speaking a word given by God and speaking a word for selfish reasons. I have had times when I have wanted to speak to people harshly who have been really nasty to me but God has actually told me not to say anything and given me the scripture that says "Do not answer to a fool according to his folly or you will be just like him" (Proverbs 26:4). This time with this situation was totally different as I actually didn't want to say anything to anyone - but the words I needed to speak just kept burning within me and eventually I just had to get over myself and my fear of what would happen and do it anyway - so I know that I was doing what God wanted and not just speaking for selfish reasons.

I was told that everyone had "forgiven" me when all I had done was what I knew I was supposed to do. I had not sinned in standing against them and I had not used abusive language or anything - all I did was say what God told me to say and how He told me to say it yet I was the one accused of being in the wrong. However I was relieved when all of this came out as I had suspected it all from the beginning anyway and it gave me a chance to say to this last person that his loyalty to his friends blinds him to the truth about who they really are. We parted ways and haven't spoken since - and I was finally free.

I remember literally shouting at God because of all of this - "God, why did you call me to be so closely intertwined with the lives of these people only to force me to leave them all behind?" God responded quickly, and was straight to the point - "Because I needed you to speak the truth to them." It broke my heart to walk away from these people but it was what God had wanted me to do all along.

What I realized had happened was that loyalty had taken over truth in this situation. I believe that deep down these people knew that I was doing what I was supposed to do seeing as one of them even admitted it to me. But they just couldn't bring themselves to accept it as it meant having to stand against their friend and their own wants and desires. The loyalty they had built up between each other over the years had blinded them to the truth. In the end their blind loyalty cost them a friendship with me and unfortunately for the couple I was called to warn, their loyalty to each other and their own wants and desires which has proven to be more important than the word of God will cost them a life lived in blessing and favor - because if someone walks outside of God's will for their lives, they will remain outside of it until they choose to walk back into it, and they will remain there without God's favor and protection. Over time this will become clearer and clearer to these people and those whom they surround themselves with.

Ultimately I was at fault here too as I knew from the first moment I was called to speak into the lives of the couple who later ended up marrying that my friendships with the others were going to end. I kept putting off saying something to them in the hope that things would improve so my loyalty to them actually prolonged the suffering I went through of desperately wanting this issue to finally be resolved. If I had been focused on what I knew was true in my heart and soul from the beginning I would have saved myself a lot of hurt and needless agony and frustration. This trial dragged on for four years and by the end of it I was almost losing my mind as I just so desperately wanted it to be over. If I had just been loyal to the truth sooner I would have saved myself some time and frustration.

I was most guilty of putting loyalty before truth when I worked for an organization in 2014. This organization worked people to death, continually demanded time and money from them whilst giving almost nothing in return and the environment was incredibly vile and toxic - people would be absolutely ripped to shreds by the so-called "leader" of this organization behind their backs. Though in my heart of hearts I knew that all of this was bad and unsustainable I continually and deliberately turned a blind eye to the truth because of my loyalty to the leader who had been of help to me in the past. As time went on others began to gather around me and tell me that this place was bad news and that the management was "amateur" - but I didn't want to hear it because I was also blinded by loyalty. I was told that I was being used and that I was being worked far too hard and that I needed to be more careful due to my health history over the years but I refused to listen to this and kept on pushing forwards. Eventually, all hell broke loose when the leadership began implementing policies and procedures that actually put people in physical danger. I realized at this point that I had to leave or I was going to get seriously hurt.

A few months after leaving I spoke with the leader of this organization wanting to get a receipt so that I could claim back for some of the money I invested into this place. I asked 5 or 6 times and each time I got excuses and "yeah it's in the post" but it never showed up, or I was told "I'll email it to you soon" but it never came. Finally it was given to me via Facebook without even a word of apology for taking so long to get it to me - in fact it came without any words at all. Considering all that I invested into that place I was pretty disgusted but once again I became aware that I had known this was going to be the case all along - I had been told before about the leader of this place that he was a taker and just continually took from other people without giving much back in return, yet I had refused to listen to my gut. I had also seen and heard just how many people this so-called leader had fallen out with over the years which made me really think just how long his organization was going to last - not to mention how long it would be until he fell out with me. I had my doubts the place would continue much longer and a couple of months ago I received word that it had closed its doors permanently. When I spoke with some of my good friends about this who had walked with me throughout this time and stood by me with all I was going through when I was involved there, they all said the exact same thing - "I'm not surprised."

These two significant life events made me realize one thing - truth is sovereign and it will always have its day. Loyalty can block it out for a time but truth will always shine through as it simply cannot stay hidden forever. Truth doesn't have to be defended. All it needs is to be spoken and it will do the rest on its own. I am hoping that I have learned my own lesson and that I will learn to side with the truth much sooner than what I have done in the past going forwards. I am hoping that loyalty to anyone - including myself - will no longer prevent me from saying what I know needs to be said and doing what I know needs to be done.

I want you to ask yourself this - is there any truths out there that you are not living by, or not speaking out, because loyalty is holding you back and is blinding you from what is really going on? If so I encourage you to learn to find the courage to do something about it. The truth will have its day eventually as it always does. But if you are being called to say or do something to help bring it to the light, you won't find any peace until you do what you have to do. You will save yourself time and a lot of frustration if you do what you know is right and stop putting it off.