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.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stand your ground

I wanted to share something with you all I've been challenged on very deeply recently.

I first became a Christian at the age of 18. Not long afterwards, I was thrown head first into the spiritual wilderness. The wilderness has been a long, drawn out and often exasperating period of my life which I am only now just starting to come out of at 32 years old. There have been some very long and very demanding trials I have faced throughout this period - one of which lasted exactly 4 years. In fact, my experience in the wilderness has been so profound that it will be the subject matter of my next book.

If there is one thing that is consistently true about the wilderness - it's that everything is temporary and that nothing lasts. When the Israelites left Egypt on their journey to the Promised Land, they walked in the desert for 40 years - yet they were constantly moving. They would follow the Spirit of God through the wilderness which took form in either a pillar of cloud during the day or a pillar of fire during the night. They would be led by the Spirit of God to a campsite in the wilderness and would remain there until the Spirit departed - and they knew that the right thing for them to do was to follow the cloud wherever it went and not to lag behind or get ahead of it otherwise they would be in the wilderness without the presence of God, and therefore without the protection of God.

This has been my experience. Since I left home at age 20 I have moved house approximately 30 times. I have moved all over my home country of New Zealand to different cities and even out of the country altogether for a 3 month stint in California in 2007. There was no real reason for this other than I was moving where the Spirit lead me to move. Whenever things began to get really ugly where I was (this happened regularly and in a variety of different forms) it was an inevitable sign that it was time to move on. It wasn't always really ugly when it was time to go however - sometimes you would just get a sense that the favor was moving from where you were to somewhere else and though nothing particularly bad was happening you just knew in your spirit that it was time to go.

I am now planted in a full time job that I have been in for over a year now - working in a call centre. A job like this is very people-orientated as I am often talking to over 100 people every day. I am an introvert by nature- someone who does not gain their energy from people but someone who needs a lot of space and time to recharge, and my prime strength is in task-based administration. Needless to say - I find this job challenging. Over the last few months due to various reasons I have been extremely busy at work to the point where I am answering far more calls than usual and coming home each day utterly drained and exhausted to the point where I've barely had any energy to speak to anyone in my own household.

My experience in the wilderness has taught me that something like this means that it is inevitably time to resign and move on. The job not working to my strengths and being so overwhelmed with the constant busyness has had me questioning my future almost daily. I've spent time in prayer - going to God and almost begging Him to reveal the next step for me so that I can move forwards.

Finally, God did respond - but not in the way that I expected.

He responded with 3 simple words -

"Stand your ground."

These words caught me off guard as I'd never really heard anything like that before - but I knew that they were from God. From that point on, I've had days at work where I was so stressed and overwhelmed I wanted to walk out - yet those words resonated in my mind and gave me a strong, tangible peace within the chaos.

This was totally new to me - but I began to realize why they were significant. My whole life has been about the wilderness and with the complex trauma I have carried in my heart that has given me the constant desire to get away from where I am and be somewhere else, I've been perfectly designed for the restless, vagabond lifestyle that comes from walking in the depths of the spiritual wilderness for so many years. I know how to survive. But I don't really know how to live. And this is what is starting to change for me.

I am beginning to see just how much confidence in myself and in my circumstances has been lost due to the wilderness mentality of constantly abandoning ship and moving on. Confidence will start to grow again as I learn that I will actually learn more by staying somewhere than I ever would by leaving. I've had to learn to face my fears of what could happen to me if I stand my ground - confrontation, having to fight for something and the risk of loss that comes with that, and having to develop the necessary grit to dig my toes in and just say "I'm not quitting - I'm staying put." It's easy to run. It's familiar to run. It's releasing to run. And for so long, that's been what's necessary for me as it's been part of my journey. But that time is over now.

Standing your ground means that instead of bowing to circumstances as you do in the wilderness, you stand firm and wait to see positive change. Instead of being constantly focused on changing yourself as the wilderness requires - it's ok to now start wanting and expecting to see circumstances change. Instead of dwelling in a place of self to bring about internal change to end trials as the wilderness requires - it's ok to now start thinking more about others and about circumstances rather than just saying "this is just happening because I've got something I need to learn about myself and something is being pinpointed in my heart to deal with." This can still be the case at times and I'm sure will remain as a relevant thinking process over the years - but the over-excessive focus on self that comes from wilderness-based thinking must now come to an end.

Standing my ground is a new and very scary thing. But it's the next step in my journey to become a whole, strong and healed human being. I have no doubt standing my ground will require vulnerability and exposure of some sort at times. I have no doubt it will cost me different things and I will be forced to challenge others and at the same time, challenge myself. But I am slowly learning that the overwhelming desire to run and move on is not the right thing anymore and that I will see better results if I just stand my ground as God has said.

Someone out there may be experiencing something in their lives that they just want to quit. Sometimes quitting is the right thing, as I well know. But sometimes it's not. If that's you - ask yourself today - am I being challenged to stand my ground and endure as well? Will I really learn more by leaving or will I learn more by digging my toes in and staying put?

Food for thought.

Take care.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fantasy VS Reality

This is going to be a very raw and personal blog over something that has dominated my life - yet I have struggled to understand it for a very long time until recently.

Throughout my life I have struggled greatly with any kind of difficulty in my circumstances or in relationships. The slightest hiccup in any of these categories has often sent me into a tailspin where my perception of reality has become clouded by a whirlwind of complicated, mixed emotions. I have only been able to get back to sense of balance and tranquility by taking active steps to make things better - usually by becoming a peacekeeper in situations and circumstances where I really didn't need to (and in some cases shouldn't have) but I did so anyway just for the sake of harmony. Keeping the peace is not a bad thing, by any means - but my motive for doing it has not been for the sake of relationships or anything else - it has been to spare myself of the chaotic whirlwind of emotions any sort of distress or discomfort creates in my inner being.

It has become increasingly more obvious to me that something has been seriously wrong with my thinking regarding real life and real circumstances. Getting upset and distressed at things that go wrong is a natural response but I have seemed to take it to a whole different level. I have been asking God for answers and I felt that He spoke to me regarding what the real problem has been in my life through one, simple yet extremely powerful word - "Fantasy."

This word floored me as I realized just how much sense it really made for me and my way of thinking. I began to realize that I have been living in a world of make-believe. Yes I have operated in the real world - but most of the time my heart and soul was never really there and never really prepared to face the facts of what was around me and what I was truly facing and dealing with. I began to see a pattern emerging in my life of being faced with very real circumstances and very real issues that I had been living in and facing yet instead of doing something to address it or at the very least speaking out about it, I have simply retreated into a world of make believe where I simply pretended the problem away and acted as if it didn't exist. For example - I was once in a situation with an organization where I saw a tremendous amount of backstabbing, gossip, criticism and negativity coming from the leadership and directed towards nearly everyone in the organization behind their backs - no doubt it included me as well once my back was turned. These things ate away at me but I continued to just ignore them because living in my little fantasy kingdom where I ruled everything and kept the peace all the time so I didn't have to face reality was more important than telling the truth and listening to what my heart was telling me. Though I did speak up in the end it took a long time and a lot of wasted energy lying to myself and ignoring the facts.

I realized that the primary way that this wrong thinking has shaped my life has been regarding my circumstances and my outlook on life. I have lived in a fantasy world where I have been at the center of the universe and therefore in charge of everything, where things happened the way that I wanted them to and I could control the future by controlling the present. I lived in a bubble of self preservation and all of my energy and effort went into protecting the bubble that I lived in rather than dealing with the real life circumstances and situations around me. Through prayer and further insight I began to see that this had been a problem my entire life - even when I was a child I used to constantly pretend and imagine that I was somebody else completely different to who I was. Imagination and fantasy among children is very common, granted - but I began to realize that for me it was based on a wrong foundation and from a young age in childhood it had become an obsession.

I began to realize that this fantasy world I had created was all rooted in the spiritual forces I had carried around with me since conception (many of these are explained in my book, No Way Out But Through). I realized that the darkness and pain in my soul was so great I had to basically create an alternative universe to live in where these things didn't exist and I could be who I wanted to be, where I could be in charge and where I oversaw everything including the future. This need for a fantasy world, borne from the need to escape the reality of what I was carrying around with me had consumed my entire life and made me into someone I really wasn't - not to mention it meant I was having very little genuine interaction with other people as most of the time they were not seeing me but rather a mask of illusion I had created over my personality in order to fit in with the circumstances I was facing and keep my fantasy universe bubble intact.

However - you cannot live like this forever. One thing that the last few years has taught me is that God is the master of popping bubbles of illusion in people's lives. What started the transformation from fantasy to reality for me is that I began to realize that I was never really that happy where I was and always wanted to be somewhere else. Even once I got something that I was longing for - such as a good job and financial security - my mind would automatically be wandering to the next thing, wanting for something else on the horizon. Then, of course, once I got that next thing, I would find a way to be dissatisfied with that too and would be longing for something else yet again. I became unable to enjoy anything - even the good things that God has blessed me with because I was always wanting something more, something different.

The main eye opener regarding this whole revelation came from actually receiving things that I had always wanted and then having to see that there were downsides to these things as well. I remember a while back once I had started working again, I became dissatisfied about something and began to question whether or not I was meant to still be at the job I was doing. God spoke to me and in a rather frustrated tone He said "You got what you wanted." I remember seeing a meme on the internet that said "Don't despise where you are because at one time this was exactly where you wanted to be." This helped me to realize that once I had gotten what I wanted, if I was not happy with this fact it was more to do with me and my thinking than it was to do with the circumstance itself. I began to realize that if I wanted to be happy where I was - this place I had wanted to be before I actually arrived there - that it was ME that needed to change and not my circumstances. I began to foresee that if I had continued living my life in a bubble of fantasy that I would have missed out on so many different things - such as the opportunity to speak into people's lives which is something that I enjoy being able to do. I realized I would have come to the end of my life and looked back on it to realize that I had never really lived at all, but just existed, drifting from place to place, working so hard to keep up an illusion while ignoring reality and real life responsibilities.

My reason for sharing this very personal story is because I believe that this way of thinking - fantasy and the constant need to maintain that fantasy - are very prevalent in today's society and contribute a great deal to unrest, dissatisfaction, relationships breaking up that really shouldn't have and people actively seeking to change circumstances when the true nature of the problem actually sits with them and them alone. I want to issue a challenge to each one of you out there - where are you living? Are you really living your life, in the now, in the moment, in the reality of your circumstances and where you are, or are you living like I was, in a zone of fantasy, looking at your real life and saying "I'm not really here - my body is here but my heart and soul are elsewhere." I'm not saying you can't live like this forever. Some people seemingly can. But how much destruction will you leave behind you if you choose to live this way? How many people and circumstances will you overlook and ignore because rather than being concerned with them and their reality your concern is made up with keeping your own little fantasy universe intact by controlling things around you to stop people from piercing your bubble? And, if you continue to live like this - are you really living at all, or are you simply existing, waiting for a point of happiness in the future that will never arrive?

Take care.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What makes a TRUE follower?

I have been thinking a lot recently about what it truly means to really follow Jesus. It's easy to call ourselves "Christians" but at the end of the day - what does that term really mean?


To be a Christian means to follow Christ - which means to go where He goes, follow in His footsteps and to obey His leading in all things. It is a life that is often sacrificial, a life that is not truly your own but a life lived under the command of Jesus to carry out His will and plans for your life.


Throughout the course of my Christian walk I have been lead by God into some frustrating, upsetting and often deeply hurtful circumstances. I have seen jobs that have been a huge blessing one day literally turn into a total nightmare the following day - and remain that way until I resigned. I have been lead into situations and called by God to do things that no one has understood and resulted in alienation and the loss of a lot of friendships. There has been times when I have been called to speak words of knowledge into people's lives (who claim to be Christians themselves) advising them to change their behaviour or suffer severe consequences yet I have witnessed them ignore the warnings and continue with their behaviour with seemingly little or no consequences despite the warning that I was called to give them.


I've seen myself living a life reduced to having very little, being unsure where I am going to live just a few weeks before I had to move out of my current location while I had my entire emotional psyche turned upside down, pulled apart and examined from head to foot while I've seen others who claim to be Christians living a life of ease where everything just couldn't go more smoothly for them if it tried, despite the fact that I've been called by God to speak truth into their lives and advise them that things need to change.


This has frustrated, hurt and upset me and has lead me to ask the question - "That person is doing wrong in God's eyes - I know as I was clearly called to warn them about their actions - yet they just keep doing it and nothing ever happens to them. I have absolutely no doubt that if I was in their shoes, I would see my entire world collapse in an instant for refusing to obey the spoken word of God over my life. So howcome there are consequences for me for ignoring God's word when I have done so in the past, and not for them?"


I asked this of God and I felt that this was His reply - "Graham, I can't bring about consequences in the lives of those you were called to warn because I do not have the power and the authority to do so, as they haven't given that to me. The reason consequences would happen to you if you tried to stray off the path is because you call Me Lord of your life - and you mean it. Therefore - I have authority to take control of your life and circumstances because that's what you've given to me and allowed me to do. I will not go against free will and I can only guide people when I am truly on the throne in their lives."


God's response helped me to realize that it is because I truly follow Him that He has the authority to lead me where I am meant to go in life and that He has the power to open and close doors regarding my circumstances because I have given him that authority. I have put Him on the throne in my life and those who have heard the spoken word of God to them, knew that it was God and chose to ignore it because it didn't suit them do not put Christ on the throne in their lives. Where He leads - they refuse to go because it doesn't line up with what they want.


Truly following God is not pretty, nor is it for the faint of heart. I was called into a season of financial famine where I was called to live with next to nothing in the bank. Every time it looked like I was about to get ahead financially something would happen to take the finances away - such as being called to go and study or to finance my book. I have been called to take huge risks I never would have otherwise taken - such as moving to a country for 3 months where my only contacts were people I had met on the internet. And I have been pushed over, above and beyond my limits emotionally and spiritually - sometimes even physically. Following God has been far from pretty in my life - and far from easy.


So why do it then? What are the rewards? For the answer to this question I often choose to look at the lives of some rich, famous people who seemingly have it all yet inside they have nothing. Look at Robin Williams for example. All of his fame and wealth yet he chose to end his life. Material possessions and fame could not cure the darkness in his heart. The only cure for that darkness is a powerful, honest relationship with God where Jesus is on the throne of one's life - where He belongs. My life has not been easy. But over the years of hardship and having my emotional and spiritual life almost constantly upheaved - I have steadily been building a foundation of peace and truth which has replaced the lies I have carried in my heart. I know now that my life from this point forwards will be built on a strong foundation which has been built by years of relentlessly pursuing after God - and paying the price for doing so. Anything built on a foundation of darkness and untruth will not last, and the higher it has been built, the more damage it will do when it falls. Not to mention a foundation of darkness will seep through and pollute even the most glorious life built on top of it.


What happens to those who claim to be Christians that God calls to follow Him in order to face the parts of themselves that they need to face in order to build a strong foundation - but they refuse to follow because it doesn't suit them? The most terrifying aspect of this is that for all of God's children - He wants to be on the throne in their lives. If there are idols occupying that throne - be they friends, relationships, pride, fear - God will relentlessly pursue those idols. If His people reject His pursuit of those idols in their lives then in time, they will reap a bitter harvest. Even if they do seemingly "have everything" and get to keep it, it's based on a wrong foundation so they will never really appreciate it anyway. And over time, others around them will begin to see the undeniable truth about who they really are - because the truth cannot be contained and buried under lies forever. God will go after them and will go after the idols in their lives. But if people continually reject Him - they are in grave danger of putting out the Spirit's fire in their lives, and seeing themselves walk into a place of continual wilderness where everything is just constantly difficult - an endless uphill battle. When we follow God into the wilderness - He is with us, so we are safe. When we lead ourselves in there due to our negligence and refusal to honour the spoken word of God in our lives - we put ourselves in mortal danger and even if things do go seemingly well for a time - that undercurrent of darkness God wants to address will rot away at everything they build from the inside out, meaning that even the shiniest, most perfectly happy looking life will be rendered meaningless.


In conclusion - it is worth it to follow God. We are not in danger when we seek after Him and when He leads us through immense hardship. We are in far more danger when we ignore His spoken word in our lives and therefore refuse to follow Him - thus putting someone or something else on the throne. A life following God is often not glamorous. But it builds a foundation that will last, and that alone is worth all of the hardship one can face.


Take care and God bless.