Saturday, April 27, 2013

Latest review for No Way Out But Through

Hello friends,

I'd like to invite you to check out this awesome review for the book at the following link -

Many thanks to James for taking the time to write this review. Much appreciated.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Walking the right path

I've been thinking recently about the purposes of God in my life as a Christian. God walks with the people who have chosen to accept Him and lays out paths for them that He wishes for them to walk in their lives. So how do we know when we are on the path He wants us to walk on, or the path we've chosen for ourselves that's actually gone against what He wishes for us?

I remember one particular incident in my life when I had just finished my first year of Faith Bible College. I returned home to Wellington and without asking God what He wanted I just went for what I wanted to do, which was get a job and work to pay off the student debt I had accrued. I didn't bother to ask God what He wanted me to do. Looking back now, I know that wasn't God's will for me. I think I was meant to go back to Faith Bible College. But I didn't care. I told God if I didn't get this job, I was moving to Australia. ANd I meant it. When I was first offered the job it just seemed to me as if God was saying "fine - have it your way". But I didn't care. I had a job. I got what I wanted.

Things started off ok. But as time wore on frustrations began to creep in and I began to lose any sense of peace I ever had about this job. I became more and more distressed and unhappy. I thought if I just continued to hang in there and persevere things would improve. They didn't. Despite all outward appearances that things were fine, I was in complete chaos on the inside. Things only continued to get worse and finally I ended up speaking to my doctor who prescribed me antidepressants. The thing is, I had very low serotonin levels in my brain so I had been in need of antidepressants for some time. It was a blessing in the sense that this situation at work made me aware of my need for medication. But then the horrible side effects began. Sweating, shaking and the like.

I continued to persevere but I was regularly taking days off work sick due to the horrible side effects of the medication I had just begun. My body was under so much stress I was struggling to eat and often couldn't keep food down. Eventually Christmas time rolled around and I went to stay with friends on Great Barrier Island. On the way up to Auckland I had the first sign that something was seriously wrong with me. I felt this horrible wave of nausea ripping through me and it was so bad I had to ask the bus driver to pull over. I crouched on the side of the rode in Turangi, gasping for breath.

At Great Barrier things only got worse. What was supposed to be a relaxing holiday got ten times worse when one day I literally felt as if my stomach had been ripped in half. Shortly afterwards I began vomiting blood. I was rushed to the doctors who immediately called the helicopter to fly me to Auckland hospital. Turns out I had a bleeding stomach ulcer due to high stress levels. I lost a huge amount of weight (not like I have any to lose anyway) and after a few days in hospital, I returned back to Wellington. When I got back to work I was told I was not performing adequately and that regular meetings would be happening to discuss my performance. I soon realized I was more or less being asked to leave. I finally realized I couldn't keep this going and that I had to quit. So I resigned and moved back to Tauranga to do my second year at FBC like I was meant to in the first place.

What did I learn from all of this? To ask God what He wants instead of just taking what I want. Because although things can look good for a while, eventually the reality will begin to sink in that all that's really happening is that you're "pushing crap uphill" so to speak. What happens the second you stop pushing something uphill? It rolls back down on you. There's nothing else to help it continue its journey. There's no one else pushing - only you.

I also learned that acts of willful disobedience by not asking God His will and expecting Him to just fit in with what I wanted to do can only continue for a season. It got to the point where I think God just said "that's enough - you're not going any further in this." It was always going to fail at some point. A Christian who wants to follow God's will can only continue in deliberate disobedience for so long before they hit a brick wall.

Yet another thing I learned was that although I was doing wrong - good things can be taken out of these situations. It was actually a huge blessing to me to realize that I needed to start a course of medication at that point because it helped take my serotonin levels back up to normal. It also taught me that the safest place to be is in the place of God's will and if Godly people or God Himself are warning you not to do something you should really listen to them as there's quite often a good reason why.

When we walk in the path God has set for us - we're not pushing crap uphill. It can be hard at times - incredibly hard. But if God has brought us to it, then He will bring us through it. The all important factor is that because we are being obedient by listening to His voice and obeying His instructions, He is actively involved in our journey - closing doors He doesn't want us to walk through and opening doors He wants us to walk through. There's a deep sense of spiritual peace that comes from walking in the path God has for us - the peace that "surpasses all understanding". (Philippians 4:7). When we are walking in accordance with our own selfish desires and not in the will of God, we lack that peace. It simply isn't there. We can get some kind of emotional gratification from that path - such as we would out of being in a wrong relationship - but the deep down, underlying sense of spiritual peace isn't there. The lack of peace will eventually force its way to the surface and until then we aren't really living but existing, in a place of numbness because we know what we are doing is wrong, but we refuse to admit it.

Isaiah 30:21 says "When you turn either to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying 'this is the way, walk in it.'" God has promised us in His Word that He will speak to us and guide us. The question is - are we prepared to listen to Him, even if the voice is telling us what we really don't want to hear? The fact is - if we continue deliberately walking against His will, we will someday realize it and regret it.
So if you hear God's guidance behind you today, if you see Him actively closing doors in your life and warning you not to continue the way that you are going - listen to Him. You don't want to go through what I did to learn this lesson.

Take care.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Defining good character

This is a word you see thrown around a lot in Christian circles. "Character". It's all about the "character" of God, what sort of character we should look for in a spouse, etc. But what does the term actually mean? How do you define if someone has good character or not and what kind of people are the ones who have good character?

I believe a person's character is defined by the heart attitudes and belief systems they hold onto which surpass absolutely everything else in their lives. Despite whatever spiritual and emotional issues they may be facing - their character overrides that.

People with good character are not necessarily completely emotionally healthy, fully functional people. They can still have deep emotional wounds that they haven't faced yet, perhaps because they aren't ready to face them at that time. People with good character can still be prone to explosive incidents where they make mistakes and get things terribly wrong. But their real character overrides that - because it's defined by what they do with the mistakes that they have made.

Trials and tribulations are designed to rock our human lives to the core so that we face who we are as human beings and are given an opportunity to face and change the darker parts of our lives. The deepest issues in our lives can never be exposed unless our world is shaken to the core, and that shaking process can be both violent and terrifying. Even the most spiritually and emotionally aware human being who already has a good strong knowledge of themselves and their own emotional make up can find themselves in very darkened places within their own hearts thanks to the shaking happening in their circumstances - and that's exactly how it's meant to be.

Character is defined by how we respond to this shaking and how we respond to the ugliness that's revealed within ourselves when the darkest parts of our own hearts are revealed to us. A person with good character may have found themselves overreacting thanks to a situation that they'd never faced before which brought up something within their own lives that they needed to address. They perhaps weren't able to address it right in the heat of the moment and overreacted. Which is common. However, their character is defined as to how they respond to their overreaction. Do they shirk blame and responsibility, blame others for the state of their own hearts and walk away ignoring this opportunity for personal growth due to being blinded by their own pride, or do they use it as an opportunity to better themselves by learning to look within and ask God to help identify the emotional driving forces that pushed them to this point so that they can work through them and be healed of them? When confronted with their own sin, do they own up and take responsibility (regardless of who is confronting them about their sin) or do they knowingly and willingly defend doing what they know is wrong? To respond in the first manner shows poor, undeveloped character. To respond in the second way shows good character.

The next definition of character is what happens from that point on. Do those who have done wrong learn from their mistakes, heal themselves of the pain that surfaced when their life is shaken and automatically respond better next time, or do they apologize and give the illusion of having changed yet just continue to make the same mistakes all over again and respond the exact same way when next faced with that obstacle (which they'll undoubtedly face once again if they haven't fully worked through it)? This is something that in a lot of ways can only really be observed over time. It's easy to give the appearance of having made significant change in one's life but appearances can be deceiving at times. Once push comes to shove again, you'll see what they are really made of and if they've changed at all.

Everyone is at different stages along this journey. Some are further along than others. I would like to believe that my character is defined by the continual desire to become a stronger, healthier, more well adjusted person. I've learned how to take good things out of hard times and I've certainly faced some times over the past few years that have pushed me well out of what I believed I was capable of coping with at the time and into some dark, terrifying emotional landscapes in my own heart. Sometimes I've reacted badly. Does this make me a bad person and does this cause me to have bad character? I don't believe it does. For the simple reason that despite all these experiences where I know I've made mistakes, I've learned a great deal about myself and become much stronger and healthier as a result. Those who know me well and have observed me over time have noticed a drastic change over the past few years. I could easily have decided to sit and sulk in my misery but I made the effort to improve myself, and I believe that effort is showing. I've made mistakes, and those mistakes have had consequences. But they don't change who I am as a person.

I have also had to make choices to remove people from my life for the way that the place that they are in currently in regards to their journey has affected me and in some cases, hurt me very deeply. People immediately say "you shouldn't judge". I believe you can't judge a person's heart. But you can judge their actions and when people are deliberately defending wrongdoing in their own lives which is hurting other people, I feel I am quite within my rights to make the choice to remove them. I can't judge what is happening in their hearts. That's not my place. But what I can do is say to myself that "I don't believe it's beneficial for me or this person if we remain in each other's lives. Their character has proven that they may do this to me again and they also need to face some consequences for their actions". Which I think is a fair point. God forgives us our sins. But there's still consequences for the wrong we've done and sometimes those consequences are irreversible. I know I've done some things in the past with irreversible consequences to friendships and relationships. I've learned from them and grown as a result. But the consequences remain.

I guess my point is that we need to be very careful whom we allow closely into our hearts and before we go off crying out to God for a spouse or anything like that, we need to make sure our own character is in a place of being ready for it and being able to handle it. I believe that God knows our hearts and our lives better than we do. He is capable of bringing the right people into our lives at the right time - people of character. But we must have good character ourselves first. Developing good character is a messy and painful process. It can take years before any change is seen. But it's necessary if we want to live healthy emotional lives and want to truly be able to better ourselves as people and make the world a better place.

Take care.