Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Rhema word

No, this isn't a blog post about NZ's Christian radio station! Today I am focusing on the Rhema word of God. To start with - we shall examine the different forms the word of God comes in. There's the Logos word of God (a Greek word which has many meanings but is often interpreted as the written word of God) and the Rhema word (another Greek word which literally means  an "utterance" or "thing said").

In modern day Christianity, the Rhema word is used to describe the "spoken word of God" where as the Logos is used to describe the written word - being the Bible. It's important that we realize as believers that although God still speaks to us through His written word - He also speaks to us directly through the Holy Spirit. Though the Bible is the Word of God, just because the Bible begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation doesn't mean that this is all God has to say to us - although sometimes God uses His already written word to speak into our circumstances (e.g. God Rhema'd a scripture to me the other day). There are also times when God gives us specific instructions relating to circumstances in our lives that require Him to speak to us directly. He can do this through many different forms - through other people speaking to us, through the writings of others, and often through a still, small voice that speaks directly to our own hearts.

One thing I've learned throughout my Christian walk is that there is literally nothing more important when it comes to direction for one's life than the Rhema word of God. I remember at the end of 2006 when I was on holiday in Melbourne, Australia. I'd just finished my second year of Bible College and I was seeking direction for my life from that point onwards. I set aside a lot of time during my trip to ask God what it was He wanted me to do. Finally, He answered - through that still, small voice in my heart. "I want you in ministry" He said. So I asked Him where He wanted me to go - and at that moment I received an email from a new friend I'd just made who lived in the United States. Her email read - "Perhaps your missionary work will bring you to California someday". Those words just jumped off the page and hit me - and all of a sudden I knew where I was going. Once I got back to NZ I announced that I felt God was calling me to California.

The friend I had made was someone I'd met off the internet (and is still a very good friend today I might add!) We arranged that I could come over in May and live in the family caravan. To say I had my share of skeptics about this arrangement, would have been an understatement. I had several people tell me that what I was doing was incredibly stupid - that I was traveling to the other side of the world to stay with a family I didn't really know at all for quite a long period of time (My tourist visa was for 3 months) and I had nothing else to go on except "I feel God has told me to go". I had a job working as a furniture salesman which helped me save for my airfares and I even took a second job washing dishes in the evening to help fund the trip which lead to some very long hours and a very tired Graham, but it was all worth it!

Eventually people began to realize that I had my heart set on going, and that I wasn't going to take no for an answer, nor would I listen to people telling me what I was doing was stupid. Was this pride, stubbornness and arrogance? Without the clear and distinct Rhema word I received, it probably would have been. But because God had clearly spoken to me - it was nothing more than me believing in the Word of God and trusting that He wanted me to go to the USA for 3 months, and that he'd provided me a contact over there who was willing to put me up. I knew that I was doing the right thing, and no one could tell me otherwise. Eventually the time came to fly out to the USA. I ended up being at the place I had organized for only a month before things changed for the family and I had to find another place - with another host family from the church who gladly put me up (and are still great friends to this day!) Both places I stayed at were a huge blessing, I was able to branch out and meet many new people, help out in the music team at church and even got to do a bit of out of state traveling. I was also able to volunteer at a Christian Camping ground just outside of Los Angeles. It was the greatest 3 months of my life and I bid a very sad goodbye to the amazing friends I made over there who told me they were sure they'd see me again, as I'd be back one day.

When I got back to New Zealand, within two weeks I had a well paying job at a solid, reliable company up in Auckland and as a result my finances began to rise again after becoming rather depleted during my 3 months overseas. People were amazed at not only how brilliantly the trip worked out but that I came back immediately to a good job. My answer was the same - it worked out because God called me to go.

Romans 10:17 states that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God". I remember when I was at Bible College and I had this vision that remained with me for many years. I saw a vision of a man in a completely darkened universe standing on a flat, circular platform that was suspended in space. There were others behind him where he'd been before. He remained still - with nothing whatsoever in front of him - until the Word of God clearly spoke to him and said "jump". He jumped - seemingly into nothing - and then after a very brief sensation of falling, another platform materialized out of nowhere and he landed safely on his feet.  The important point to realize is that the man jumped when God said to. Had the man jumped forwards before God had said anything, I doubt that the platform would have appeared seeing as it wasn't God who called him to jump - so he would have fallen to his death.

This vision - and the experience of going to the USA later on - both communicated to me that even if you don't see anything to land on in front of you, if God has called you to jump - then you jump. He knows what He's doing and even if the answer isn't what you may expect, you've still done the right thing by obeying God. The danger comes when we jump into things without God's consent. If that man had fallen to his death and arrived in heaven, demanding to know why another platform hadn't appeared - I can pretty much guarantee God would have said to him - "Did I tell you to jump that last time?" If the guy was honest, he could only answer no. So he didn't really have anyone else to blame except himself as he ran ahead of God.

The most challenging part is learning to trust and believe that we hear the voice of God. There are counterfeits that can come and imitate what God is saying. These voices can sound a lot like God but at the end of the day, there always seems to be something about them that just doesn't quite sit right. John 10:27 says "My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow me." I've found for me that God's voice seems to come from a place that somehow, within the very core of your being, you just know that it hasn't come from you. It doesn't speak to my mind, but to my spirit, and I just know that it's right. Having a mind as busy as mine, it can often feel like a 4 lane highway, full of traffic racing along as fast as possible. I've found for me that one word from God causes all of that traffic to immediately come to a complete standstill. If this doesn't seem to happen, there's a good chance what I'm hearing isn't right and I find that if I'm not sure about what I've heard, it often means I'm wrong and those words fade away after a while. The bible also clearly states that "Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying 'This is the way - walk in it.'"

In conclusion, learn to hear the voice of God for yourself by asking Him to speak to you. And if He's spoken to you and tells you to do something, and you know in your heart of hearts that its Him - as I did with going to California - do as He's told you to. You'll please God and increase your faith.

Take care.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Understanding the nature of trials

This is another subject I am extremely qualified to write about. I've been a Christian for the past 11 and a half years. Nearly that entire time has been trials. Only in the last few months have I begun to feel that the time of trials in my life is over and that the blessings of the Promised Land are on their way at last. It's been a long, hard and incredibly demanding road which has cost me absolutely everything - it even came close to costing me my life on a few occasions. But I learned to face and walk through them properly so I am now finally beginning to see a harvest.

Trials have taken many different shapes and forms in my life. Some have been very short and intense - like the last two months of my time in Taupo - others have been long and drawn out, such as periods of unemployment that have lasted nearly a year. Most of them have been specifically ordained by God to help me learn something about myself - others, sad to say, have been self inflicted and utterly pointless except to teach me to listen to God and do things His way rather than trying to make them happen on my own.

Every single trial serves a purpose. The final two months in Taupo were absolutely awful and were used to show me that God didn't want me in that town anymore and that it was time to move back to Tauranga. I faced a trial of finances while I was living in Auckland several years ago which taught me to be more careful with my money in future and helped me to learn the value of a dollar. The trial of burnout was used to completely destroy me so that I could be rebuilt from the ground up which was the only way that I could get better. And the trial of living at home at 29 years old helped give me the finances to fund my book and gave me a safe place to detox from getting off 8 years of antidepressant medication. These are some of the points I've learned about trials along the way.

The greatest trials in your life will reflect the deepest struggles in your heart.
The deepest areas of tension in my heart throughout my entire life have been massive issues with injustice, cruelty and suffering due to the selfishness of others. These areas were buried very deeply in my own psyche and although I was aware of them to some degree, they hadn't been brought to the surface so I couldn't really face them. In order to bring these to the surface, God put me into a situation where I was badly and unjustly hurt by the selfishness of others. God knew that this is what it would take to get me to face the reality of my own heart and what was happening under the surface. The anger at the injustice I suffered only began to fade once I began to face the real issue I was carrying around with me. Not to say that the circumstance I faced was right and that those people were justified - it was wrong and they were certainly in the wrong. But anger at the circumstance (however justified it was) was only part of the issue. The real issue was the deep tension God wanted to reveal in my life - so He used something to mirror it to get me to face it.

If you fail to learn the first time - you'll keep facing the same issue again until you do.
This is to coin the phrase "going round the mountain". If there's an issue in your heart that you refuse to face - you'll keep being put in circumstances and situations by God until you do. Not because He wants to be cruel and torment you - but because you can't walk forwards until you face what He wants you to face. I always remember hearing this quote, which, although it's rather harsh, has a lot of truth in it - "The only consistent factor in all of your failed relationships is you." If you keep trying to do something and it just continues to not work out for you - simply trying again is not always the answer. It could be that God is using the failure of something that you really want to see work out in your life because He wants to reveal something in your heart that's blocking you from receiving the very thing that you want to work out. Continuing to try and make something work out when God's trying to show you why it isn't working out is just like banging your head against a brick wall. It doesn't help anyone and only hurts you until you change your mindset and decide to make the change in your own heart.

Sometimes it's not God who determines the length of the trial - but us.
There are times when trials are not defined by any time period (40 weeks for examples sake) but by us and how long it takes us to realize the truth. Sometimes God puts us in specific trials until we learn that we actually have the power to put them to an end by either changing something in our circumstances that perhaps we didn't believe that we could change beforehand, or changing something within ourselves. I went through a long trial due to a friendship that had been badly strained due to the selfish actions of that person who lied to my face on two separate occasions and proved himself to be a selfish, dishonorable man. I suffered for a long time trying to keep the friendship alive and feeling worse all the time - until one day the penny dropped and I finally realized that perhaps I was only suffering because I was trying to continue this friendship when it wasn't meant to go any further. I asked God if He wanted me to cut all ties with this person and the peace of God flooded my heart like a river, plus He dropped one, simple word into my heart - "Irrepairable." I ended the friendship that day - permanently. I thought to myself afterwards - "If I'd just realized this was the case earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of needless agony!!"

If we don't listen to God when He speaks to us -  He will make us listen.
Several months after I faced burnout, I began to get a sense in the Spirit that things would change after 40 weeks. So, on the exact day that 40 weeks had passed since going through all of this, I asked God for an answer. "40 weeks is up - what next?" He immediately dropped the words into my heart - "Go to Tauranga". (I was living in Taupo at the time). So I said "Ok" & went to Tauranga to visit for a few days. When I got back to Taupo - things started getting worse and worse. Throughout this time I found myself blurting out the following saying without even thinking about it - "My time here is finished, I want to go back to Tauranga for good" but for some amazing reason I failed to even take notice of what I was saying and kept trying to make thing work in Taupo - not realizing that what I was saying was actually God speaking to my spirit telling me to move. Finally, all hell broke loose in the house I was living inand I was at a friend's place in tears, with no clue what was happening to me and why. She said to me - "Graham, your time here is done. Leave. Go back to Tauranga" and I finally realized she was right. Immediately I realized I had always known since I got back that my time in Taupo was finished, but my own stubborn mentality got in the way and I refused to listen to it. Therefore, God forced me to listen by making my circumstances unbearable until I finally woke up and smelt the coffee. Once again I realized if I had just listened earlier I could have spared myself a lot of agony.

I dedicate this blog to those of you who are going through trials and perhaps need a bit of clarity regarding what you are facing. I really hope and pray this speaks to you in some way.

Take care.