The Road to Purpose…

FAITH – HOPE – DESIRE – CONVICTION – ACTION

Where are you?

When we’re lost in the dark of what we’ve done to ourselves and it seems grace doesn’t cover us there…

Sad man with depression.jpg

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ’Where are you?’”

(Genesis 3: 8-9)

So I ask you again. Where are you?

Are you hiding? Are you in the dark? Have you fallen? Are you curled up in a ball? Have you failed? Are you trapped? Are you hulled up in a prison of shame and guilt that you built up around yourself? Does it feel as though God has turned away from you? Are you so far from your Father that you don’t even know what to do anymore?

And why are you there?

“He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’”

(Genesis 3: 10-11)

 

Again I pose this question to you, why are you where you are?…

I could write for days about the many ways and things that cause us to drift from God and end up separated from Him, but by far the most devastating of all is when I find myself separated from God because of a sinful decision I made when I knew it was wrong.

How could I ever go back to Him? How could I ask Him for forgiveness or grace when I’M the one that messed this up? I did this to MYSELF? How can I expect Him to get me out of this one when I deliberately disobeyed or resisted Him? How could I ever look Him in the eye again?

That place I once cherished as His darling daughter seemingly lost forever, not because someone fooled me or stole it from me, but because I willingly GAVE it up for the sake of some kind of fleshly desire or lack of ability to resist my human flaws. I pulled an Esau and gave up my treasured place with God, for the sake of some momentary, fleeting desire. Am I the only one who ever goes through this?

At a point in this year I had been wrestling with the darkness once again because of something I did to myself. Grappling with where I now stood with God, if He’d even have me anymore? And there in that darkness He spoke a few things to me through messages on tv, devotions, discussions at Connect groups, videos, encouragement from people in my world and scripture that jumped out at me during my tear soaked sessions clinging to His Word while trying to figure out if I was indeed lost forever. So this piece is in no way my own genius, but a culmination of all the messages and encouragements that God used to speak to me during one of my darkest seasons.

First of all, I want you to remember – You are not alone.

In the immediate aftermath of my poor decision I found myself in a great darkness that felt the way I imagine Peter must have felt the moment that rooster crowed for the third time and the whole world came to a screeching halt because he realised what he had just done. That kind of moment where your heart stops and your blood runs cold and you realise you may have just ruined everything. There in that place, I just remember hearing one thing amidst all the accusations and terror in my head – and that was “Remember Abraham?”.

You see Abraham messed up. I mean, he didn’t just mess up, he seriously messed up. And he didn’t just mess up once, he did it time and time again. He had this glorious promise straight from God Himself, but got tired of waiting, tired of doing it God’s way, and took things into His own hands. In so doing he messed everything up. He set lives on courses they maybe weren’t meant to go, he started nations that maybe weren’t meant to be started, he caused delays and got himself into trouble more than once. And he did it to HIMSELF. Yet in Hebrews 11, all God talks about is his accolades, his righteousness and his faith. Abraham, a man that is credited as being a great pillar of faith, a father of God’s people, failed MANY times and not just because of random mishaps, but most often because of things he did to himself.

So I sat there in the midst of my devastation and reminded myself of one thing – this is not the first time someone that loved God made a mess of their own life and just because I did this to myself doesn’t mean that God is done with me. There is still a way back to my place with Him.

But I stop here to ask this question again – why do we even find ourselves here in the first place? Why is it that when we cause our own downfall we question our place with God? Is it Him who turns His face from us or is it us that cower and hide from Him out of guilt and shame because we know we put OURSELVES in this position? And I look at Adam and what he says – “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

I’ve always interpreted “naked” to mean “vulnerable”, but I see this differently now. He may as well have said, “I was afraid because I felt unpresentable to You, so I hid from You Lord.” When we end up in trouble because of our own fault we don’t have the “luxury” of being able to say “well God will still understand or help me because such-and-such got me into this situation”. In other words, we can’t blame our downfall on another person, an unforeseeable circumstance, a mistake made with good intentions or whatever. When we fall because of simple, conscious, sinful nature and selfish decisions we feel dirty. We feel unpresentable to God. So we stay away.

“But who told you that you were naked?” Who told you that what you had done made you unpresentable to God and unworthy of any connection to Him ever again? What gets me here is that God doesn’t go “Oh Adam stop being silly, those are just your OWN guilty thoughts”. God immediately highlights that when you’re in that dark place, that place of hiding from God, you’re not there alone. Someone else is there talking to you, telling you things, planting thoughts and feelings in your head and in your heart and ultimately telling you that you are no longer presentable or acceptable to God. That because of this you can’t possibly go back to Him. And who do you think that is? Those thoughts aren’t from God. Those thoughts aren’t even from YOU. They are straight out of the mouth of the deceiver, Satan. For some reason when it’s US that get ourselves into a mess we hide or keep ourselves at a distance from God which only serves to break our connection to Him all the more. And that’s just where the devil wants us. Alone, isolated and convinced that we are now unpresentable and unacceptable to God.

You see, you and I are not alone in this. We think yes, if something bad happens to us through no fault of our own, sure we can depend on God to help us. But if we put ourselves in a bad situation we’re on our own. We’re done. But look at Abraham, look at David, look at Peter, look at Jacob. In fact look at the entire history of the whole of Israel from Genesis through Revelation. God’s people have this idiotic ability to lose sight of what they have with God and go off on their own only to cause their own despair and demise. And once we indeed “eat the fruit we were commanded not to eat” we hide OURSELVES from God because we can’t imagine that we could ever be presentable to Him again or that He would ever give us another chance.

Exactly, ANOTHER chance.

This is the other problem. You’ve done it AGAIN! This is not the first time you’ve failed in this way. This is not even the first time you’ve willingly allowed yourself to go astray with this specific “fruit”. And yes, right away I will say that God is not there to be made a fool of or be taken advantage of. We cannot just go out and sin and come back and be forgiven, and go out and intentionally sin again and come back and be restored again. That’s not how it works. We need to make sure that the position of our heart is not to do as we please for the rest of our lives and just use God when we need forgiveness. That’s not the point.

But when I sat there wallowing in my pit saying, “Surely this is it. Surely there’s no more leeway for me because this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself here” all I heard was “70 times 7”.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” [or as other translations say – seventy times seven]

(Matthew 18:21-22)

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent’, you must forgive them.”

(Luke 17:3-4)

We can sit and argue at length about the meaning of these numbers, the intentions of these parables, whether this means we are to forgive 490 times or whether this was merely a parable to teach us to forgive others because God has forgiven us. There are many interpretations to be drawn from these passages and what precedes and follows them.  But apart from all those valid and interesting debates, I want to pose one question to you – would God expect us to uphold a principle that He Himself did not already employ?

Is not the whole intention of the bible to teach us to become more and more like Jesus? And if so, would not the lessons in it pertain to the very same principles that Jesus Himself employs? At face value these passages express two concepts, that 1) forgiveness is meant to be boundless when 2) the heart is repentant.

So here you are.

You are in a mess.

You are in a mess because you did this to yourself.

You are in a mess because you did this to yourself in the same way for the millionth time and you cannot possibly ask God to forgive you for the same thing YET AGAIN.

But tell me, are you happy about what you’ve done? Do you realise that what you did separated you from God (in a manner of speaking) and it wasn’t worth it? Does the fact that you disobeyed or betrayed God for the sake of some fleeting human whim cause you distress? Would you say that you feel remorse? Do you want to go back to Him? Would you say that your heart is repentant?

Go back to God. He was never far off and He’s been waiting for you to come out of hiding all this time.

God’s not asking you where you are because He doesn’t know where you are. He’s God, He knows all things. He asks this question of you, just like He asked it of Adam and Eve in the garden, because He wants you to take a look at where you ACTUALLY are. He wants you to look at how far you’ve kept YOURSELF from Him and to understand that you are the one hiding, in the dark, separating yourself from Him. He asks this question because essentially He’s been waiting for YOU to make the first move, to come out of hiding and go back to Him.

And just like He knows all things, God’s not caught off guard by your sin. He knows the beginning from the end and He knew all along you’d find yourself here. But He doesn’t stop us from our sin because it’s the one thing that humbles us and reminds us that no matter how “good” we are or how “by the book” we live our lives, we can never save ourselves. Our right standing with God can never be enhanced the more we behave like “good Christians” or the less we fall. Our righteousness and right standing with God lies solely on one thing, Jesus and what He did on the cross. Nothing we do can ever change that.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

(2 Corinthians 12: 7-9)

That thorn, that messenger of Satan, is the sin that no human being can ever completely shake themselves free of. No matter how good a person may be, every single person has something sinful in their lives. It’s what reminds us that we are no better than anyone else, no more deserving of God’s love and salvation than anyone else. He wants to make sure we understand that nothing we do, no amount of living right, can make us more deserving of righteousness in His eyes. And I have to imagine then that for the one who loves and believes in Jesus the opposite is true as well, no amount of failing or sin can make us less deserving of righteousness in His eyes either. Our righteousness, our right standing with Him, relies ONLY on His grace. HIS grace. The grace He gives us freely and equally because HE is good, not because we are. And it’s our faith and reliance on this grace, the grace we receive when we choose Jesus, that makes us righteous in His sight. Nothing else.

But when we find ourselves doubting our place with God because of something we’ve done, it is because we do not properly understand this concept and the nature of His grace.

The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

(Luke 15:11-24)

I always looked at this passage as though it was about someone who had newly come to salvation. Someone who had been “lost” their whole life and finally accepted Jesus as their Saviour. I never looked at it realising that it was about someone who once belonged to God – a son who once belonged to the father – and only then went astray, coming back to Him when they realised what a mess they had made. Realising this changed something for me. God not only rejoices with compassion and grace over those that come to salvation for the first time, but this passage describes the manner in which God receives back those of us who meekly and repentantly stumble back to Him once we realise the mess we’ve deliberately made of our own lives and that He is the only One who can restore us to what we once were – His.

Something that really broke me and also gave me break through in this season is what one pastor on tv said about the WAY God forgives. Even those of us that have extremely compassionate and forgiving parents, are still normally only used to forgiveness that comes with conditions, loop holes, consequences, pep talks, lectures, disapproving snares, snide comments, “I-told-you-so”s and the inevitability that somewhere down the road this short fall will be brought up or held against us. So we become paralysed by the fear of what may be expected of us in order to get back to God or to finally be worthy of His forgiveness again and what His forgiveness is going to require of us. We fear the consequences. But this passage shows us something different, something we may not be used to and something we definately wouldn’t expect from a holy and perfect Father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer WORTHY to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

It breaks me even today to see how the Father didn’t even wait for the son to get to Him. The second He realised His son had decided to come back to Him, He ran out to meet him right where he was at. Right there in his mess and despair the Father lavished His compassion and love on him. Even when the son holds himself unworthy to be reinstated as a son and only asks that he be seen as a servant, the Father doesn’t even take note of that whole notion and just starts calling to the servants to make provisions to restore His son as His own. Not a servant, but to his initial place in the household, a SON.

We think that God is waiting with arms folded, tapping His foot, peering down His nose at us as we crawl back to Him, waiting to explain the hoops we need to jump through before He will forgive us and bestow His grace on us again. Yes, maybe we realise we can be forgiven again, but we think it’s going to come with some kind of suffering, because let’s face it, we deserve it. But God says,

“all my compassion is aroused.

I will not carry out my fierce anger,

For I am God, and not a man – “ (Hosea 11:8-9)

“If we are not faithful, He remains faithful,

because He cannot be false to Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Then He adds:

‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’” (Hebrews 10:17)

“Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them,

and to our God, for He will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)

God does not forgive as man forgives. We may be familiar with forgiving parents, but one thing we aren’t always familiar with is someone who will forgive us “just because”. No catches, no strings, no expectations, no repercussions. Someone who forgives us FREELY, without a tally and without holding onto what we’ve done to use it at a later stage. Someone who forgives not because we are worthy but JUST BECAUSE it is their nature to forgive the ones they love, just like that. Even the most forgiving person we know, is still human and does things in a human way. But God is not a man and His nature will NEVER change. It His nature to forgive freely, unconditionally and wipe the slate clean once you have come back to Him with a repentant heart.

Why? Because of LOVE.

In all of this we may have forgotten one thing. While we were out there trying to figure this all out for ourselves, distancing ourselves from God because we felt dirty, naked and unpresentable, God was waiting here in LOVE for the day we realised it takes a simple decision to come back. Even though we have felt “separated” from Him all this time because of what WE have done to ourselves, what does the Word say?:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or NAKEDNESS [I’m so glad it uses this specific word, HELLO] or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including you your very own self], will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 8:35-39)

And just to convince you that little bit more that He is open to those that love Jesus coming to Him to receive grace and forgiveness regardless of their “nakedness”:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence [some translations say “boldness”], so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

(Hebrews 4:15-16)

He has told us that we are His, no matter what.

He has told us that He loves us, no matter what.

He has told us that we can come to Him, no matter what.

He has told us that nothing can separate us from Him, not even our own sin.

So take Him at His word.

Ok, I’ve got it, but what do I DO now?

Although His love and forgiveness are unconditional, getting back on track will take a few things from our side.

  • Repent

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19)

You’ve realised you messed up, you’ve realised it was all your own doing and you’ve realised you need to go back to God. What you also need is to be refreshed because all that time spent in the dark, in hiding, has depleted far more from you than you realise. And I could probably spend a whole lot more time delving into what it means to repent, but in my humble human understanding I would summarise it as confessing your sins to God, taking full ownership of your mistake and having an honest resolve in your heart not to go down that road or end up in that situation ever again. Essentially, TURNING from whatever it is you are repenting for.

  • Be on your guard

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23)

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Once you have repented it may not mean that you are necessarily home free. Our genuine resolve is now to never let this happen again, but we also know we’ve said this before. Sooner or later we get busy, we get tired, we experience trauma, we go through great disappointment, we get impatient, we go through a season of spiritual drought, we drift from God for whatever reason OR we may even be going through such a good season that we don’t realise we have become vulnerable to the same pitfalls again. It is at our weakest or most unaware moment that the enemy will pounce and in an instant drag us right back to what we thought we had successfully shaken ourselves free from and overcome once and for all.

This may mean recognising triggers that cause you to end up in the same place again. For example, say you have successfully kicked a chronic smoking habit but something happened and now you’re back to smoking 3 packs a day. What got you there? Stress? Heartache? Tension? If you know what the trigger is, you can be on your guard and recognise it next time and try to find a better, healthier way of coping the next time round.

BUT, for some of us these things come out of nowhere. In my most recent experience I found myself in a place where I had completely and totally put a certain dream to bed. I had finally laid it to rest and thought that I was over it and happy and moving on with life despite leaving this desire behind once and for all. What I didn’t realise is that along with putting this desire “to bed”, a part of me had died along with it. I found myself drifting from God and letting other things in just so I would “feel something” again. This was not a place I had ever been before and because of that I didn’t realise just how dangerous it was going to be for me in the long run. I thought I was on top of it, I thought I could handle it, but I was actually NOT on guard. The devil knew that something that I thought didn’t matter to me anymore was actually my greatest weakness and just like that he pounced, and he got me. And in these times, when you don’t actually know what to be on guard for, the most important thing is my last point.

  • DO NOT stop putting yourself in the presence of God, and God’s people, NO MATTER how you feel.

“Keep me safe, my God, for in You I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, apart from You I have no good thing.’…

Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup; You make my lot secure….

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;…

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

You make known to me the path of life;

You fill me with joy in Your presence” (extracts of Psalm 16)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I struggle to limit this point to a scripture or two because God’s Word is simply full of reassurance on what we find when we get ourselves into His presence. And yes, while God is omnipresent and you may argue “well we are always in His presence”, there is a difference between His omnipresence and His manifest presence. In my humble attempt to explain it, God may always be looking over you (His omnipresence), but He may not always be sitting right next to you (His manifest presence). Sometimes what we do, or don’t do, can cause us to lose out on His manifest presence and I think it is in His manifest presence that we find the riches we need. Specifically when we are in a season of darkness like we are talking about here and don’t know what to guard our heart against or how.

It’s in God’s presence that we find safety, security, refuge, wise counsel and advice, joy, rest, strength and all good things that will feed our souls and protect our hearts in those times that we don’t really know what is going on or what to guard our hearts against. Those times we don’t know what’s wrong, we just know that something IS. As it says above, apart from Him is no good thing, so why risk it? Why allow yourself to drift further from His presence when you know you need it most, or are most at risk of falling prey to the enemy?

In the beginning man enjoyed the most intimate presence of God until he fell and was separated from God’s presence for all those years. But God yearned for reconciliation, not because He needed anything from us but simply because He was deeply in love with His own creation. So He sent a Saviour, Jesus, to destroy the old way of doing things and make sure that no one would ever be banished from His presence again simply because of their own “uncleanliness”. Ever since Jesus’s resurrection, God sees those who put their faith in Jesus through a “veil” of Jesus’s blood and does not withhold His presence from them, no matter what they’ve gotten themselves into. Because of this, the only one who can keep you out of the presence of God is yourself. In other words, you are not out of His presence because He has cast you out of it or turned away from you, but because you have hidden yourself or run away from it. He is still there waiting to embrace you again, waiting to speak to you again and most of all to have His presence refresh you again. But it is YOU who has to get yourself into His presence, no matter how you are feeling.

Go back to Him, no matter how unpresentable you feel right now, because He is waiting, His grace covers you unconditionally and He’s not far off.

“You see, I can STILL do something new.”

long-road

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Sitting in a car full of people, waiting for God to tell me what to share with them that day, this phrase, “You see, I can still do something new”, resounded in my head. To be honest, I was like “thanks, that’s pretty catchy, but, ah, what?”. As I meditated on that phrase for a few seconds God reminded me of the year our program and our team had been through. We had seen favour and provision at the beginning and we started strong, but then we had seen huge lack and days where I actually didn’t know what I was doing. I just had to wing it because so many things were just not going according to plan. But that day, the last day of our program for 2016, we had a van full of volunteers. In fact we had so many volunteers that we had a problem figuring out how we were going to get everyone out to our destination. And like that I felt God show me, sometimes, when you’re near the end, you think that because things have been a certain way for so long and you’ve just been able to deal with them that way, that they will never change and you will just have to find a way to accept that this is just the way things are going to be. But even when you’re at the end and you think God probably won’t do anything now because things are closing off and winding down, He can still show up and sprout something new in the most unlikely of moments, in the eleventh hour, on the last day. Even when you’ve BEEN in a season for the longest time and have gotten used to the fact that things are just not going to change, He can still come and do something new.

This may sound obvious to some. But have you ever been in that season where things have just been so difficult, so unclear, so disappointing, so confusing, so frustrating, so defeating and so never ending for so long that you actually just “make your home there” in a way? You get so used to it being that way that you forget to even hope for it to be any different because you get so used to this just being the way things are for you. You sit in the middle of this season and give up on ever believing there will be an end in sight because things just never change, never get any easier, never get any better. When you get to this point it’s not that it seems impossible, but rather that it just seems highly unlikely that God will ever show up, because if He hasn’t shown up by now He probably isn’t planning to…

To be quite honest, and excuse me while I get extremely “bare” and vulnerable, this is the place I find myself right now. To say the last year and a half has been hell on earth for me is putting it lightly. In fact, I would have to say that roughly the last 3 or so years have been my own personal hell. But this ongoing season of struggle seemed to have reached its peak last year and just plateaued there and never came back down to a normal struggle again. From the outside people might say that I seem miserable, difficult or negative, but only a handful of people in my life know the gravity of what I’ve been going through. What you see on the outside is the absolute best I can do considering where I find myself. I feel like I’ve been clawing through life for the longest time, like I’m pushing forward through a sand storm that just keeps beating away at my body, ripping skin here and there and knocking me down at every chance. Every time I think this is finally where God is going to step in and bring something good, it just gets smashed down as if to say “Syke! Nope.” So I gave up hoping for anything anymore. And the problem is, this is where I live now. I don’t see an end in sight and I’ve lost the ability to imagine how it could ever be any different for me. So I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve basically said to God, it’s ok, you don’t have to do anything for me anymore, I’m used to this now and I’ll just make this work. It just seems that I’m just not one of those people He’s ever going to do those things for I guess… Ever been here? Ever been in this place? You might say no, you’re not the kind of person that thinks like that. You’re one of the fortunate ones then. Or maybe you just haven’t been through the magnitude of struggle that would get you to this place, and I pray you never do. But some of us, we end up here. And this is the place I’m talking about, this is the place that I want to remind you that God CAN STILL do something new.

But how will we ever see the day that He does show up if we give in to where we are now as if this is the destination? The things I say next can sound so cliche and “easier said than done”, but I wanted to let you in a bit on my struggle above so that you can know that for me it’s not just some pretty words that look cool on paper but are impossible to apply. I’m IN the thick of it with you, I’m living this with you, but these are the things I’ve had revelations on in this season.

Things to remember when you start to feel that God is done and this is all there is:

  • Don’t go back“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Isaiah 43:18. The first thing we want to do and the quickest or easiest remedy we see to our current place of despair is to run back to the most recent place we felt familiar or comfortable. We conveniently forget all the reasons we left that place in the first place and only the glimmers of happiness stand out to us. We feel like if where we are now is all there is, well then what we had back there was way better and we’d rather go back thanks. This quote always resounds in my head in these moments: “God didn’t help you stand up so you could run back to what knocked you down” (credit to whoever wrote this). I think of the Israelites and how every time they hit a snag in the road, thinking God couldn’t possibly help them out of this one, they immediately wanted to run back to Egypt, even though they were slaves there, because it was the last place they remember feeling familiar. The place you’re in may be unfamiliar, it may seem like a dead end or maybe a never ending story of nothingness, but don’t go back. There is only more nothingness and more darkness back there, nothing good can come from going back. If God wanted you there He wouldn’t have brought you out of it. Keep going forward. How will you ever know what God COULD have in store for you if you don’t keep going forward? What is back there is NOTHING compared to what God quite possibly is still GOING to do.
  • Endure “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3-4 NLT. The work that seasons like these do within us is invaluable. One of the most valuable qualities that a season like this can develop is our capacity to endure. If our ability to remain steadfast, unshakeable, unwavering and strong can be refined, then God can count on us and use us for many important and challenging purposes in His bigger plan. A person who can endure is a very valuable tool in God’s belt. See this season, however long it may seem, as a season of preparation and refining so that at the end of it, whenever that may be, you will be more of the person He designed you to be and ready for whatever He has for you to carry.
  • Get that hope back up again “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 NIV. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5 NLT. Trust me, I know how impossible it can seem to stir up hope for things to ever change. But when we lose hope, we lose the battle. Hopelessness is a very dangerous play ground where the enemy gets the upper hand and begins to fill your head, heart and spirit with lies that will defeat you. And that’s all it is. This feeling that this is it, this is all there ever will be, nothing will ever change, this season will never end and the things you once hoped for will never come to be. LIES! That’s all it is. You lost hope and he got in your head and filled it with lies, using your current reality as proof. When that is all it is. Your CURRENT reality, not your permanent reality. Remember what you once hoped for and continue to pray on it and commit it to God in prayer. We show faith in God when we continue to hope for something we cannot yet see and because we know He loves us we can know that putting our hope in God can never lead to disappointment. It may not ALWAYS turn out exactly as we’d hoped, but I don’t think He will ever let us be disappointed. No matter where you find yourself in your season, pick up that hope again, put it in your pocket and keep walking with your head up you trooper.
  • Be MORE patient “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 NKJV. I know you’ve BEEN patient, but sorry, you’re going to have to KEEP being patient just a little more. It’s when we start to get impatient that we start to look for ways to make what we want to have happen, happen in our own way. And this is where the proverbial poop hits the proverbial fan. We make a complete mess and get in God’s way. At the end of it all, IF He steps in and helps us clean it up, He places us back at the place we were just before we got impatient and we have to start waiting and being patient all over again. If you get what I mean? So let’s just skip all that and just stay put, be patient and wait on God’s timing and God’s releasing.
  • Ask for wisdom“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NKJV. If there’s one thing God will never say no to giving you, it’s wisdom. The most immense peace can come from receiving wisdom on where you are in your season and understanding of what God is doing. Wisdom enables you to see things differently and strengthens your relationship with God in the midst of an unpleasant season. Wisdom about your season will help you navigate it more effectively.
  • God’s presence is a promise “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV. No matter where you are, God is still there. Jesus died so that God never had to turn away from us ever again. And as if this wasn’t enough, He sent His Holy Spirit down to us when He left so that we would never ever be alone again. We would never ever be far from His presence again. We could ALWAYS have Him with us no matter where we were. Where ever you are in your season, you are not far from God, no matter how the enemy convinces you that He no longer has His eye on you or has His hand in your life. BULL!! If there is one thing God has promised, it is that He will ALWAYS be with you.
  • Stick to Him and His word“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” Josh 3:3-4 NIV. In the unknown stick to Him, His people, His word and His covenant, then you will know which way to go even though you have not dealt with these things or been in this place before. When you are unsure, confused or can’t see your way through the forest follow His word and His people who carry His word with them in their hearts and you will find answers and you will find guidance.
  • Leave nothing undone“As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.” Joshua 11:15 NIV. “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.” Joshua 11:23 NIV. This reference may seem weird and off base, but I am currently reading the book of Joshua, and something that stood out to me in these verses is that the only way Joshua could give what was promised to Israel and enjoy a season of rest there after is because during the season just before that he made sure to do every single thing God instructed him to do. This season that we find ourselves in now is actually an amazing gift if we choose to look at it that way. God has given us the opportunity and time to focus only on Him, on our relationship with Him and on refining some areas that may need refining before He can give us what He has promised or what He has planned to give us. It may just be that He can’t let you progress to the next season and give you what He has for you until you have mastered some things in this season. He may need you to learn how to trust Him in the unknown, He may need you to learn to persevere passed the point you thought was the end, He may need you to work on some issues you have or let go of some things you have previously refused to let go of or He may be using this season to show you and the world that it is His hand alone that brings you through tough seasons and brings the break through. Without this season we may step into what He has planned for us before we are ready, thereby messing it up and not being able to enjoy it the way we are meant to, with “rest from war”. We may enter into our new season carrying things with us that we were meant to resolve in the season before and that will now cause us to continue to fight old battles in our new season that we should have mastered in the season before. I encourage you, in this long and unpleasant season resolve to leave nothing undone. Work on all that God leads you to address in the midst of this season so that when He does release you from it you may leave this season with nothing left hanging or undone, carrying nothing with you into your next, new season unresolved. That there may be rest from war in your next season and that you will be able to enjoy it to its fullest potential.
  • This is a journey, not a destination“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.” Hebrews 6:11 NIV. I think what gets to us the most is seeing this season of lack, of despair and of nothingness as the destination, that this is all it is ever going to be for us, instead of just part of the journey. And a vital, necessary, valuable and rewarding part of the journey at that if we make a point of mastering it before God releases us into the next season. This is after all JUST a season. And you know the great thing about seasons? They all have an end. Especially the unpleasant ones. They may last long, longer than we want them to, but they all have a point, they all have a reason, they all have a goal and they all have an end. So keep navigating through this season with the same determination and diligence as when it started and press on until the very end so that you may receive what you hope for in full and not just in part because you gave up half way there. A new season IS coming.
  • Something new can happen at the end, and not always in the beginning – Look at these lyrics: “I cast my mind to Calvary, Where Jesus bled and died for me. I see His wounds, His hands, His feet. My Saviour on that cursed tree… His body bound and drenched in tears, They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb. The entrance sealed by heavy stone, Messiah still and all alone… Then on the third at break of dawn, The Son of heaven rose again. O trampled death where is your sting? The angels roar for Christ the King!” – O praise the Name, Hillsong Worship. Tragedy came on day one. Silence, confusion and despair came on day two. The miracle that shook the earth for all eternity came on day three. We seem to think that “new” and “beginning” are synonymous, that something new needs to always come at the start of something and if it doesn’t then we’ve missed the boat. And when we get stuck into our “day two” season where nothing is happening, nothing is changing, nothing is looking any different and all that we hoped for just isn’t materialising we get discouraged and hopeless and start to feel that all we thought was coming our way was just our imagination. But God does His most important and greatest miracles on day three. You’re only on day two, hold on for day three. God can STILL do something new.

“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I WILL make a pathway through the wilderness. I WILL create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT

Survival Tips for the Desert

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So you took a huge leap of faith expecting something enormous would come of it that would be worth the struggle it took to make the leap, only to find that nothing much really was waiting on the other side. Or maybe you’ve been believing and waiting expectantly for something for a really long time, but recently realise that there’s just no steam left in your hope train because the nothingness is starting to demoralise you. Sometimes you can even be in a desert for so long that it begins to look like normal life to you instead of just a season. You begin to just accept it as it is and become so familiar, comfortable and complacent in it that you don’t even realise that there is more for you. I see people all around me in seasons of waiting and seasons of nothingness, the “waiting rooms” and the “deserts” of life, and one thing I think we all know is that the waiting can be tiring, frustrating, discouraging, demoralising, confusing and straight up defeating at the best of times. But another thing we have to realise is that there is no way to rush God’s plan or God’s timing. If we do in our own strength try to do this we end up botching things up more than anything. We just have to endure the wait, or even better, make the best of it.

Making the best of this period means that you need to keep doing a few things.

1) Keep Showing Up

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

In the midst of your desert, whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through, wherever you are in your journey, just keep showing up for God.

When you’re just not making it under the weight of what you’re carrying, just keep showing up to that program, project or course you’re helping to facilitate.

When you’ve been running on fumes and can’t see a way to get out of bed, just keep showing up to that church service or Connect group.

When you struggle to find passion for that area in church that you’ve been entrusted with, just keep showing up to make sure it is covered and prepared for.

When you just can’t gather up the energy to speak into someone’s life, just show up to that coffee date.

When your heart isn’t really in what you do anymore; when you don’t know what God’s plan for you is; when you don’t know how to follow God’s will or what direction to go with your life, just keep showing up to what’s in front of you right now and trust Him for direction and answers to your questions. Whatever you do, if it’s for the Lord it will not be in vain, just keep doing it. And if you can, do it “fully” and “enthusiastically”.

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, ‘God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch His breath. And He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” Isaiah 40:29-31 (MSG)

You CAN do all things through Christ who is the strength you need, you just have to show up. After all, how can He use you if you’re not there? If you just keep showing up, sooner or later GOD will show up too.

2) Keep Tithing

“Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” Proverbs 3:9 (NLT)

“Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.” Exodus 34:26 (NIV)

What do you consider wealth? It’s not always money or material possessions. It can be relationships; it can be things you get to experience in life; it can be the success and fruitfulness of a project that you get to be a part of; it can be a team that you’re a part of and the way you work together; it can be the end results of something you work hard on; it can be getting run sheets out on time or getting a conference’s set up done with time to spare. Wealth can be whatever is valuable to you, whatever you count when you count your blessings. The Word says to honour the Lord with these things, and a way to do this is to give your first and your best to the Lord in all these areas. Apart from your monetary tithe this also means that when you show up, give the first and the best part of your time to the Lord. Give the first and the best part of your day to the Lord. Give the first and the best part of your energy to the Lord. Give the first and the best part of your enthusiasm, your attitude, your work ethic, your effort, your diligence, your friendliness and your will to the Lord. Once you’ve shown up, do whatever you are asked or required to do with the first and the best part of yourself.

3) Keep Waiting

“Wait on the Lord. Be courageous, and he will strengthen your heart. Wait on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14 (ISV)

“But if we hope for what we do not yet observe, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25 (ISV)

“But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.” Romans 8:25 (NLT)

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (ESV)

So we’ve kept on showing up and we’ve been working really hard to give our best in every avenue, but we still have no idea what’s next, what our next move should be or what His will and plan is. It feels like there’s just nothing in front of us and we can’t go back to where we were because we know that what’s behind us is dead. Where is His guidance? Where is His direction?

Can I encourage you, don’t give up just yet. And don’t settle just yet. Keep waiting.

You never know just how close you could be, break through could be right around the corner. Imagine you turned back now and missed it all. What happened to Lot’s wife in Genesis 19 is a good reminder that lingering behind, looking back or longing for what was can only lead to your destruction. God has finished and closed off all things that you have walked out of and everything that lies behind you now will no longer be constructive for your life. Lot and his family were instructed to “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (Genesis 19:17 ESV). Looking back, or even just stopping in the valley you find yourself in currently, can cause you to risk everything that God has for you in what’s ahead of you. Nothingness lies in what is already behind you, the only way is forward, into the hills and mountains of God’s favour and promise. So keep waiting, there was never a waiting season that lasted forever and I believe that yours will be no different. Your waiting season will come to an end and when you reach that end you will realise that what is at the end was worth the wait.

I know the waiting can get demotivating and discouraging and it’s easy to start worrying. In these moments, remember to constantly take your questions and request to God in prayer, trust Him to answer them in due time, trust Him to give you the direction and guidance you seek and as it says in Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” If we are expectant and confident that we WILL hear from Him, we WILL receive His guidance and that what we hope for IS in our future, we must eagerly and patiently wait for Him to direct our path, bring revelation and come through for us.

4) Keep GOing

One thing to realise in this season is that waiting and sitting still doing nothing are two different things. If in our waiting season we just sit back and wait for the things of God and the work of God to come to us it’s as good as stopping in the valley. We risk being “swept away” with the destruction or completely missing anything God has for us in the “hills” ahead of us because we are being passive and inactive. Even though we’re waiting, we still need to keep GOing. Mark 16:15 says, “GO into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The disciples got to do, see and experience amazing things but all of them had to GO before they could do, see or experience anything. You make it difficult for God to direct you if you’re just staying stationary. It’s easier for Him to direct you if you’re already moving, you need to have SOME kind of path in order for Him to direct it.

I think sometimes we are too cautious to make a move because we are scared that it will be in the wrong direction, that it won’t be the will of God or that possibly it will be a move that is in our own will or our own strength instead of God’s. But sometimes I think it is necessary for us to remember that we are not so powerful that WE can mess up God’s plans. I believe that God’s plans and God’s will will always prevail, no matter what you do, especially if you genuinely seek Him and desire His will in every situation and every avenue you embark on. His promise in Proverbs 3:6 is this, “Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Similarly “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV). If your heart is for God and you truly seek His will I believe that He will work through you and for you wherever you go. Ps. Tommy Barnett once said, even if you “miss” God’s will for your life the first time around, if your heart genuinely desires His will He will bring the opportunity, the open door and the chance to follow the path He has for you back around again. So instead of worrying whether a move is in His will or not and thus staying inactive, pray about it, commit it to Him and then GO. As long as you make sure that “Whatever happens, [you] conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27 NIV) and “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV), then I believe God will make sure that what happens to you will actually serve to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12) and that all things will work together for your good (Romans 8:28). But you have to get up and GO!

Lastly, I just want to encourage you that “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). God created you and He cares way too much about you and the outcome of your life to let your life dwindle and fail just because you make a wrong decision or go in the wrong direction. Keep on seeking Him. Keep on waiting. His plan and your desires are but a season of waiting away.

Winning the War with Hands Lifted High – Part 2

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“Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” – Exodus 17:8-13 (NKJV)

Part 1 of this series spoke to how you as the person in the battle can navigate these battles with “hands lifted high”, but when reading the above section of scripture we can see that there was more than just one role player in the defeat of the enemy. Moses didn’t influence victory on his own. Israel’s victory may never have even been achieved were it not for two other very important figures, Aaron and Hur.

Which leads to the question, what if YOU played an important part in someone else’s victory or defeat? What if you as the outsider could have a significant effect on someone having victory over a situation just by being there to “hold their hands up” until the battle is won? Whose Aaron or Hur are you?

You know, we are so quick to look at someone else’s walk from the outside and devise our own opinions and ideas about their behaviour and ultimately, about them as a person. But how well are you acquainted with their story? Do you know what it has taken for them to get to where they currently are? Do you know the intimate details of the situation they find themselves in? Sometimes, like Moses, all a person can do is find a rock to plonk themselves down on and just sit there because the battle has gone on for so long that they just can’t anymore. What if in this monumental moment Aaron and Hur just stood back in ridicule, or worse, rebuked Moses for not having the strength and perseverance to last through the battle on his own? No, it took three people that day to ensure the battle was won. Even Jesus had help carrying His cross to Golgotha, so why do we expect people to be able to overcome their battles on their own, without falling and without making mistakes?

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2 (NIV) 

Asking us to help each other couldn’t be any clearer than that.

But what does “holding someone’s hands up” look like?

1) Let go of judgement so you can hold onto their hands

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Proverbs 21:2 (NIV)

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1 (NIV)

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:2 (NIV)

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” – Luke 6:37 (ESV)

“God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” – James 4:12 (NLT)              

“It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” – 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 (ESV)

 “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” – Romans 14:13 (NIV)

These are just a few of the hundreds of verses on this topic. I could write for days on this topic, but I’ll try to keep this “in a nutshell”.

The very first thing to remember when looking at someone who is struggling is that you have no idea what they are going through. You may have been through the same or similar thing, you may know them and their story well, you may have even been there for what ever has caused their struggle. BUT, you are not them. You do not know the thoughts that plague their mind like cogs that keep running and running. You do not feel the influx of anxiety and emotions that torment them at every turn. You are not the product of the background and upbringing that they have had that has made them the person they are with the coping mechanisms they have. Essentially, two people can go through the exact same situation but experience it and handle it COMPLETELY differently because each one of us is so complexly different from the other. ONLY the Lord is able to see the inner most workings of the heart and ONLY the Lord knows every single bit of a person’s make up from the day they were designed until where they currently are. He sees the secret places and knows them intimately. He knows every bit of what has gotten them to this point, and this is why ONLY He can be the judge. To you they may not look like they’re “handling things the right way”, but only God knows what is really going on in their heart.

Secondly, the way in which you judge others will be the way in which you will be judged. At some point in our lives we either have faced or will face tremendous trials. You may think that you will always handle your trials a certain way, “the right way”, but perhaps you have simply never met a trial of the magnitude that would cause you to stumble the way you perceive someone else to be stumbling. We must remember that in some or other way “we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. We shouldn’t be so quick to jump on our horse of righteousness but rather in humility realise that we are all in this together. Life is hard at times and it’s better to lift each other up and push each other on than to, as it says in Romans, put a stumbling block in front of a struggling loved one by standing back and judging them. Imagine Aaron and Hur had stood back and judged Moses for not being able to keep his hands raised himself. After all these years leading the Israelites, after all they had gone through to be free. They’ve lasted through plagues and parting oceans and deserts with no food or water in sight and now he can’t even do a simple task like keep his hands raised? No, they found a rock for him to sit himself down on and when he no longer could in his own strength they did nothing but stand by his side and keep his hands up for him. Sometimes all a person will be able to do is plonk themselves down somewhere because they just can’t do it in their own strength anymore. In those moments, instead of letting your judgement be a stumbling block to them, let your understanding and support be a rock for them to sit down on while you stand by their side, holding their hands high until the battle is won.

2) Love

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31 (NIV)

“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:10 (NIV)

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:12 (NIV)

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

“…for love is as strong as death…” – Song of Songs 8:6 (NIV)

I don’t know if there’s anything more I could say to put it better than it is already put in the scriptures above. Your love, true and genuine love, 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love, is the cushion that the person in battle can fall on when the waves of battle keep knocking them down. Your love for this person means that you are there at 03:00 in the morning holding the tissues even if it is the 15th time they’ve shed tears over the same issue, because love always perseveres. Your love is the solid base from which the person in battle can get back up to their feet again, because loving someone properly covers their list of wrongs and shows them their wrongs do not define them. Your love gives the person the strength to face the next wave of battle and go out and fight it again knowing that should they fall back they still won’t be overcome, because love always protects, even if it is from the back. Love is a command. Love is the law. We are asked in scripture to have each other’s backs, to care about the good of another as we care about the good of ourselves. We are asked to love at ALL times because we are in fact born to be there for each other through adversity, not to give up caring for one another when their struggle becomes “old news”. Loving someone through their struggle is more than just comforting words. It’s fetching them and taking them out to the movies; it’s calling them everyday to check in on them and maybe take their mind off of their current situation for a little while; it’s sitting by their side holding them until the tears dry up. Love is action. At the end of the day, no matter what you think of the situation, you have to ask yourself, is your judgement or your love going to help this person more? Which of the two will set them up for a win? The power that love has is of the exact same magnitude as the power of death. YOUR love, or lack there of, has that much power, because God resides in true and genuine love. He IS love.

3) Support and Encourage

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV)

“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.” – Colossians 3:16 (NLT)

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” – Romans 14:1 (NIV)

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” – Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)

Battles have the tendency to completely knock the wind out of someone’s sails for a time. A person can become consumed with anxiety and fear and be completely fatigued in spirit. One can lose all hope of circumstances ever being any different, and amidst the struggle we can completely lose all sense of who we are anymore. In these times it is necessary for someone to be there in love, reminding us of who we are and the value we hold as a person. It’s not always easy to hold fast a clear perspective of ourselves and the strength we have. Having someone there to build us up and remind us of our worth, “sharpening” us with powerful truth and the Word of God, can mean the difference between victory and defeat. As the one on the outside we need to remember that in this very fragile time we need to build up at all times and not break down. We need to speak only what is helpful and what will help the person in battle get up to fight another day. In essence, supporting and encouraging means that we’re there propping them up when they’re weak, catching them when they fall and pushing them back up when they’ve lost the motivation to try again, giving them what they need in order to spur them on and move them a little more forward every time they get up. Whatever that looks like.

4) Patiently endure with them

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20 (ESV)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” – Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” – 1 Peter 4:8-10 (ESV)

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)             

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

It is going to take time. A person may fall a hundred times, they may lose over and over, you may have to run after them and bring them back time and time again, but what is going to make the difference is whether you give up on them or not. I get it. It’s frustrating, it’s not your responsibility and in all honesty it is draining on your own well being. But if you’re willing to walk the road with someone until the end, bear with them even when it becomes tedious and be an integral part of their triumph over a situation, your life as well as theirs will be all the more enriched by the victory. Of course I don’t mean that you should let someone and their struggles drag you down with them, things can sometimes reach a point where it would be destructive to your own health to keep on trying to help someone, especially if they don’t even want to help themselves. But there is something to be said for not giving up on people when they’re trying but struggle to find their way out of a situation.

What is crucial to remember is that everyone has their own, very different pace. No matter what you think of the time they’re taking to overcome something and how long they should be taking or whether they should be over something already, everyone is different and it would only be damaging to hurry someone else’s process. They may miss important lessons, they may make decisions that actually set them back even more, they can become frustrated and completely aggravate the situation even more or they may lose their footing completely and have to start all over again just because they were rushed into a pace they were not intended to use. When someone’s pace and process is rushed or pressured their triumph over a certain struggle may not be sustainable because they haven’t gone through the necessary process that would ensure their victory was set in stone, never to be undone again. They may experience back sliding if they do not win their battle properly the first time around. We must remember that God has His own plan with the person in battle and His ways, plans, intentions and thoughts may be very different to what we think is going on. Who knows but that He may HAVE TO take someone on this very specific journey in this very specific way in order to teach them what He wants to teach them or get them to where He wants them to be. Our job is simply to love them in the midst of it all, patiently bear with them and make sure they don’t give up until they have won the battle.

5)Pray continuously

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16 (NIV)

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matt 18:19-20 (ESV)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)       

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” – 2 Corinthians 10:4 (ESV)

“Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’ He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’ Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” – Luke 18:1-8 (MSG)

“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.” – Psalm 138:3 (NLT)

For those that do believe and pray, perhaps the most powerful way you can assist someone in their battle is through prayer. As the bible says, most of what we are fighting is not in fact physical or tangible powers, but powers in the spiritual realm that are always at war with us, striving for our destruction. Truly, no one can fight these forces in their own strength, but we need the help of the One who can fight for us in the spiritual realm. Prayer is promised to bring peace and fighting from a place of peace is way more sustainable than fighting from a place of fear and anxiety. Peace brings the ability to replenish easier and the capacity to endure longer in a fight. Peace is like a spiritual Berocca that helps you fight a little harder for a little longer than usual. Consistently, incessantly praying in agreement with and for the person in battle takes huge spiritual strides forward towards their victory. God Himself says that the prayer of the righteous person has great effectiveness. And you are considered to be righteous if you are among those that believe because those that believe have received righteousness through Christ’s death simply by accepting Him into their lives. Prayer is our most powerful weapon in this warfare of life and to pray with someone, especially when they cant find it in them to pray for themselves, is a monumental way to “hold their hands up” until the victory is won.

I leave you with this well known story:

Luke 10:25-37 (NIV) – “The Parable of the Good Samaritan. On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Yes, it may take time and effort that seems inconvenient for you and no, you may not feel that other people and their struggles are your responsibility. But the fact remains that carrying each other’s burdens fulfils the law of Jesus and He said to “Go and do likewise”. You may be the one person able to get someone from A to B. God may have put you in their path strictly for that purpose. And what if you resist that call? Because of struggles people lose their way, because of struggles people become addicted to harmful behaviour, because of struggles people choose destructive paths, because of struggles some people even decide to end their lives… What if you could’ve changed it all simply by being willing to stand at their side and hold their hands up until the war was won? Be willing to “Go and do likewise”.

 

Winning the War with Hands Lifted High – Part 1

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“Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” – Exodus 17:8-13 (NKJV)

A while back, in the middle of praise and worship, I felt God say to me “As long as your hands are lifted up, the battle is won”…

I have gone over this statement over and over in the last few months and have learnt a few interesting things. I started getting pictures of circumstances in which we find ourselves lifting our hands and found they all linked back to important things I was learning about my battles.

1) Worship Wins the War

Probably the most important picture I got of hands lifted is when we worship. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a moment during worship to look around and take in the atmosphere. It’s one of my favourite things. To see everyone around you in their own space with God. Sometimes it even seems like a battle field of warriors all winning their own personal battles in that moment of abandonment to their Saviour, warring on through worship to overcome and overtake every mountain they’re facing, mountains that others may never even know about.

Of course not all of us lift our hands when we worship, this is a personal way to express yourself during worship and I believe God doesn’t expect us all to express our worship in the same way. After all, He made us each unique and thus too our way of connecting with Him. Some of us jump, some of us cry, some of us close our eyes, some of us stand completely still, some of us might not even sing because we use worship as a time to get completely quiet before God in an atmosphere that is filled with His Spirit. And some of us lift our hands. The picture of hands lifted in worship is a metaphor here to say that as long as we continue to worship the war is being won. Just like as long as Moses’s hands were lifted the Israelites gained on their adversaries, so too as long as we continue worshipping we will gain on our battles. It is through worship that we take ground against the enemy and lift God above the circumstances that the enemy is trying to use to defeat us.

While I’m writing this I’m listening to a song that talks about “El Shaddai” so I quickly looked into the meaning of this name of God and one root of this name in Hebrew means “to overcome” or “to destroy”. It is in God’s very own name that we see that He is the one who overcomes and destroys on our behalf on the battle field, we need only remain in worship.

2) Surrender to the Authority

Another picture I got while thinking over this statement was how when a criminal or suspect gets caught and they end up having to give themselves up to the police chasing them they often have to walk with hands raised as a sign that they surrender.

I have found this one of the most difficult things to do when in the midst of a battle. Surrendering everything you’re dealing with to God means letting go; it means giving in; it means letting go of your control over the situation and giving this control over to God. It means you sit back and let Him take over. It means you have to stop snatching/holding onto all the random threads of your life as your whole life unravels in front of your eyes, just let it all go and TRUST that God will somehow catch all these threads and pull it all together again. Trust… That word… TRUST… Something I find almost impossible to do these days. But ultimately surrendering all to God cannot be done without completely trusting Him.

I find that in the absence of surrender to God we just end up messing things up even more. By trying to do it all ourselves we almost get in His way and make things worse than they actually were in the beginning. At some point we will probably end up surrendering to God as a last resort anyway, but by this time we’ve made such a mess that it would have been better to just surrender in the first place. In battle there is no true victory until one side either wipes out the other or one side chooses to surrender. In our personal battles, to avoid being wiped out by the enemy and the exhaustion that will come from taking the fight in our own hands, it is better to get ourselves to a place where we can surrender it all to God.

What we don’t realise is that just as police take a criminal into custody once he/she surrenders, so too does our Father take us, and our battle, into HIS custody once we surrender. Up until that moment it is almost like we are out on the battle field alone, as if you are actually striving against God as well as the enemy. Once we surrender our battle to Him, He takes us into His rest and His peace and fights FOR us. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14 (NIV). The Lord will fight for you, you need only to let go, sit down, be still and stop trying in your own strength to fix this.

“So let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name”… This line from a well-known song is playing right now as I write this part, so bazaar… Think about that properly. Let go, trust Him, everything in creation is STILL subject to His name. His name has not lost it’s power, even when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control, all things on earth are still subject to the power and control in His name. His name, El Shaddai. Another root of this name means God Almighty, One who is All Powerful. Who better to surrender our battles to than the One who has power and authority over all things. A warrior who cannot be overcome – ALMIGHTY.

3) Victory is in the Last Round

The last picture I saw when thinking about this statement was that at the end of a boxing match there is usually one guy on the ground and one guy whose hands are being lifted up in victory by the ref. If we are aiming to be the guy with our hands being lifted in victory and not the guy on the ground, we have to do what the guy on the ground couldn’t do and what the other guy did do. We have to last the rounds.

Something I’ve learnt is that battles and wars often come in waves. Just as you master one battle and get back on your feet, another one comes rushing at you out of nowhere. If we want to be the one standing with hands raised in victory at the end we have to learn to last the rounds, weather the storm and get back up after each wave of attack. This takes determination, it takes a strong mind set, it takes a spirit that refuses to give up. Ultimately it takes hanging onto God for dear life. Well in my case anyway, haha.

I think of someone powering forward in a sandstorm. Eyes closed, posture pushing forward against strong opposing winds as the sand grazes their face, taking one small, struggling step forward after the other. Just like in boxing, the victory is won by not giving up and not giving in. Knowing when to back off in defense and when to advance in attack. Enduring the blows and not staying down long enough to be counted out but getting back to your feet even if you have to struggle and limp to get there. Don’t let one blow, one set back, one mistake, one slip up, one lost battle keep you from struggling back up onto your feet. Even if you have to take small struggling steps forward, even if you get knocked a few steps back again, even if you can only gain ground little bit by little bit, DON’T STOP, DON’T STAY DOWN. Fix your eyes on the fact that this battle, this war, this season WILL. COME. TO. AN. END. I feel like that is a promise to you, this will come to an end. The last round is coming. You just have to make sure you are still standing when it does.

Something so comforting about “El Shaddai” is that amongst all these strong, powerful meanings to the name, it is also linked to words in the Hebrew language that mean One who is all-sufficient, provider, protector, One who supplies, One who nourishes and One who sustains. You are not alone in this battle and you are not expected to make it to the end without a scratch on you. God knows you’re not titanium, you’re not bullet proof, you’re not invincible. He knows that at some points during your battle your knees are going to buckle, your sword is going to break, the handle of your shield is going to fall off, you might trip, your feet may stumble, you’re going to get bruised and maybe even break a few bones. But in His very name He promises you that HE will be the one that protects you, provides for you, nourishes you and sustains you through the battle. HE is the one that makes sure you reach the end as the victor and not the defeated. Afterall, the victory has already been won for you by the Lord, it’s just a matter of time. ❤

“Do your best, prepare for the worst— then trust God to bring victory.” – Proverbs 21:31 (MSG)

““When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! When you prepare for battle, the priest must come forward to speak to the troops. He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” – Deuteronomy 20:1-4 (NLT)

“And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” – 2 Chronicles 20:15 (NKJV)

“Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” – Psalm 60:11-12 (NIV)

Look at your battle head on and repeat what David said to Goliath: “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NASB)

Part 2 to follow shortly, keep your eyes peeled 🙂

Cloudy with a Chance of God’s Presence

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Exodus 13:21-22

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

Exodus 14:19-20

And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.

Exodus 16:10

Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

Exodus 19:9

And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.”

Exodus 24:15-18

Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 33:9

And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.

Exodus 34:4-5

So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.

Exodus 40:34-38

Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

One particularly over cast day I was driving to work, the entire sky was grey, it was cold and windy and the clouds covered anything that could be seen for miles, even Table Mountain was completely out of sight. I have recently been going through one of the darkest times of my life for about 3 months already and I wasn’t finding my way out. I just stared ahead at where the mountain should be and I was just like, “God, how am I supposed to see my way out of this?”. I mean anything that could give me guidance in the natural was just as covered by clouds as anything that could guide me in the supernatural was covered by darkness. On this drive I just felt a whisper that said, “Where there are clouds, there is God’s presence”.

During this same time period I was busy reading through the book of Exodus and all the above verses began coming to mind. God’s presence was always represented by a great cloud. And while I still have not found my way out completely, I refuse to leave a rough season without learning anything, so I just wanted to share some lessons I have taken from this experience.

  1. Moses had to head into the cloud to hear from God – perhaps in the midst of your greatest cloudy season is where God is waiting to reveal something important to you. Don’t fear bravely going head first into your cloud, trust that God is there, He is waiting there for you, He has gone before you and nothing can catch Him by surprise.
  2. Often the cloud’s purpose was to guide and protect the Israelites from their enemies – it may be that God sets a cloud over your life to protect you from something, sway you off of a wrong course you were going down or form a barrier between you and something destructive. As Steven Furtick once said, not all droughts are from the enemy, I also feel that possibly not all cloudy, dark periods are from the enemy. Not that God brings it upon you maliciously, but perhaps He allows it in order to slow you down or cause you to learn something essential for your road ahead. If God is in the cloud, He will form a barrier between you and anything that can destroy you while in this cloudy season.
  3. Many times the cloud offered a sense of privacy to God and Moses while they met and separated them from the rest of the Israelites – a cloudy season could mean that God is trying to have you to Himself for a while. Many times we can find ourselves getting completely distracted with life, even a life of service to God, and sometimes a cloud may be necessary to get us to stop, slow down, turn to God and hold desperately to Him again. In cloudy seasons it can end up feeling like it is literally you and God against the world. But maybe that isn’t so bad, after all our most important relationship is the one we have with Him. Maybe sometimes we neglect that a bit, or simply get off track, and a cloud is all we need to bring it back to basics again, back to Him again.
  4. The presence/glory of the Lord was demonstrated by the presence of a cloud – so often in the midst of our cloud it seems like we are completely alone. It feels like at our darkest, most confusing time God just leaves us hanging, like we are forsaken. But in Exodus the very presence of a cloud meant that God was more present than ever. The cloud in essence WAS His presence. And I promise you, your cloud IS His presence too. God IS in your cloud. Even when you don’t feel it in your heart, remind yourself of James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This is in God’s Word, and His Word never changes. If you, in the midst of the darkness, pain and confusion, relentlessly seek to stay close to God, He will relentlessly hold onto you.

Lastly, I want you to know that there is an end to the cloud. If you keep going you WILL come out on the other side. Clouds cannot last forever because in reality all a cloud is is a bunched of condensed air, a bunch of fog. Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” The Lord is bigger than any whirlwind, storm or cloud. They are but the dust of His feet and have no choice but to obey His word. This reminds me of the words in the Bethel version of “It is well with my soul” – “So let go my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name”. The waves and wind, though they may seem to be over coming you, still know His name, the name that has authority over all things and the name to which they MUST bow. The cloud cannot and will not over come you when you are under God’s wing because HE alone has authority over all things. If you endure you WILL see the day where you can breath easy again. It seems cliché, but I’m speaking from experience when I say, this too shall pass. It WILL pass.

“The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud.” – 1 Kings 8:12 – And He does what He says He will do.

Soul Mate or Soul Tie

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This piece is something I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve been very convicted by the amount of times we refer to people as our soul mate and how desperately we’re all searching for this person. We meet people, fall in love, call them our soul mate because we like the same flavour chips and then next week we’re broken up again, back in pursuit of that one and only soul mate. I really wanted to look into this topic just to share with some of the younger ladies in my life, to kind of encourage them that there is value in the waiting. I found myself so intrigued and enlightened that I couldn’t help but write this piece. It is long, in fact I’m going to stop excusing myself for writing long pieces, they seem to be the only kind of pieces I know how to write. So from now on just expect that every post I write is going to be super long. Haha. But I promise I will make sure they are worth your time. Please bear in mind, this is simply my own opinion and stuff I feel God has spoken to me about. Even I struggle with a lot of these things as I’m still trying to figure this kind of thing out. It is not meant to criticise or belittle anyone or what they’re going through. I for one know that matters of the heart are the hardest to figure out and I’m still trying to understand my own love-life-journey-thing. Please read through and I welcome any comments, opinions or discussions you’d like to add. Enjoy! 🙂

There are so many things to look at when deciding if someone is really your “soul mate” or not, if someone is the one you should tie yourself to eternally or not. The dictionaries describe so many different aspects regarding this word “mate”, it is uncanny how well it puts things into perspective. For the purposes of this piece I looked at the trusty Mirriam Webster dictionary that one of my role models loves to refer to.

1) associate, companion: an assistant to a more skilled worker : helper: friend, buddy —often used as a familiar form of address

One of the important aspects of a mate is that the person is your associate, companion, buddy, helper, peer, someone you are familiar with. Basically your bestie. How would you describe your bestie? I would say it’s someone who makes me laugh and wipes my tears. Someone who would look after me when I need it. Someone who knows all my quirks and loves me more for them and I them for theirs. Someone who knows me deeply and intimately, who knows all my secrets, desires, dreams, passions and stories and holds them in confidence. Someone who gets me, like just gets me. Someone who is blatantly honest with me, who calls me on all my crap, but out of love and the desire to help me better myself. Someone who will have my back even when I’m wrong, and then in private correct me. “Companion”, to me, denotes a type of longevity and consistency. It would be someone who doesn’t intend on ever going anywhere, someone who walks a road with you on a constant basis. Now imagine this kind of relationship in relation to your soul. It would be someone who not only has your back in the natural but someone who holds and supports your soul in the spiritual and is invested in the best interest of your soul. Someone who gets you on a spiritual level and is able to connect with you on this level too. Someone who is invested in your spiritual goals and passions and wants to see you thrive in this area. They want to see you move closer and closer to your spiritual potential and take ground for the kingdom through your unique purpose.

Genesis 2:18 (ESV) – “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) – “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) – “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

2) a deck officer on a merchant ship ranking below the captain

Another aspect is that a mate is often the term used for someone whose rank is directly below that of the captain on a ship. By this use of the word “mate” it can be said that your soul mate should be ranked directly below your captain. “Jesus my Captain, my soul’s trusted Lord”. We were designed to have Jesus as our soul’s first and perfect love. Our soul mate should then be the one we hold in highest importance after Jesus. AFTER Jesus. But yes, ranked directly after Jesus. Is this person as in love with Jesus and as trustworthy and faithful as they should be for you to put THAT much importance on them? And along with that, are you this person for them? Can they trust YOU with THEIR soul, heart, spiritual growth, best interest, upliftment. A ship mate is the one that takes over control in the absence of the captain. Now Jesus will never be absent, BUT can you trust this person’s authority and guidance with your life and your spiritual wellbeing? In times when you feel distant from Jesus, as if He were absent, can this person be trusted to guide you back on course? This is no small thing. Life is tough, and Christian life is even tougher. Can this person hold your hand through it all, the way Jesus would, in those times when you need a physical representation of the guidance of your Saviour? Can they LEAD you as Jesus would? Can you trust their spiritual journey enough to give them “control of your ship”, the guidance of your soul, when you are struggling to find your way through the fog of your spiritual walk?

It is vital that shipmates and their captain are sailing for the same destination and on the same voyage. Where would they end up if each person had their own voyage plotted and a different destination in mind? Likewise, for someone to truly be your soul mate they have to be like minded about your spiritual voyage and the vision that you ultimately have for your life. It will be difficult to go together to where you believe God is taking you if where they believe God is taking them is in a completely different direction. This doesn’t mean you have to have the same calling or even serve the same cause, but if their voyage is taking them North and yours is taking you West it is going to make the journey near impossible. Someone will have to eventually compromise their calling. Together you need to have the same ideas about what Jesus is telling you about your life. In other words, both of your visions need to ultimately be aligned with the Captain’s intention for both of your lives. Along with this, each person needs to believe in the other’s vision for their life and support and encourage them in this, walking along with them on the road to where they see God taking them. You need to be able to take the voyage together, even if while at sea their job is to cook the food and yours is to scrub the deck. You don’t have to serve in the same area but you need to be on the same ship.

Proverbs 27:17 (ESV) – “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV) – “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

James 5:19-20 (ESV) – “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Philippians 2:4 (NKJV) – “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Colossians 3:16 (NLT) – “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”

3) equal, match, peer:

A mate also refers to one’s equal, one’s peer, one’s match. As soul mates you should be well matched. Similar to serving on the same voyage, if you have completely different and conflicting ideals, completely different and conflicting perspectives on important topics, completely different and conflicting beliefs (even within the same religion) you are probably going to have some serious struggles down the road. Take one simple example, your children’s discipline. I have had first-hand experience of how when two parents have two completely different and conflicting ideas of how their children should be raised and disciplined it can unravel everything. It leads to conflict between the parents on how things should be done and how discipline should be carried out. It may result in each parent trying to discipline in their own way and thus, at times, undermining the other parent. This behaviour begins to affect each parent’s credibility in the eyes of the children and the children then learn to play parents against each other and lose respect for one or both of the parents. Don’t be fooled, this can happen in even the most genuine, faith lead households. But this is just one example. Two people can view finances, family life, how to celebrate Christmas, family traditions, how and where to educate their children and so many other things completely differently. And that’s not even touching on how if you are a person after God’s heart and you and your partner view how to pursue Him in completely different ways it can lead to a lot of struggle. Especially if each of you hold these views very strongly and passionately. Now of course, if two people truly love each other and believe in their relationship, they can work on these things and come to compromises and agreements about important topics that they differ on. This is necessary in any relationship you ever have. I’m just saying this is something to look at when looking for your soul mate or deciding whether someone truly is your soul mate or not. Are your different opinions going to make your relationship or break it? Are you well matched? Are your different views, perspectives or beliefs going to creep up at a later stage and cause problems in your relationship and family life? And if you take on this journey together have you got a clear idea of how to navigate these differences that may creep up? “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers”, is pretty clear on what it means, but if I may be so bold as to propose, be careful of being unequally yoked in the really important aspects of life and partnership as well.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV) – “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

4) one of a pair; either of two matched objects

Funnily enough, on the other side of what was just discussed, part of being “matched” means to be part of a couple, one of two, part of a whole, two parts making up one whole. This means you need to complement each other. You need to be able to “fill the gaps” for each other so to speak. A great soul mate is a person whose strengths make up for your weaknesses and whose weaknesses can be compensated for by your strengths. What one lacks, the other is able to fill. And at the same time this person should be able to love you for your weaknesses, quirks and faults and passionately walk with you and help you as you work on what you feel needs adjusting. Matched soul mates should be able to take turns carrying the load when the other is experiencing the type of weakness or exhaustion that prevents them from being able to carry their own load for a while. At the same time, they should be able to help each other regain the strength, focus and direction to take on their “load” again. Where one experiences darkness the other is able to bring light. Together, soul mates are able to make the other effective despite what the other lacks, just by being in a united unit with them.

Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV) – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

5) either member of a couple and especially a married couple; either member of a breeding pair of animals; to join or fit together – couple; to join together as mates; to copulate

I want to touch on what, to me, is the most important aspect of soul-mate-hood (you’re allowed to make up words in the blog world so just go with it :-P). Of course, depending on what your beliefs are this may not be as important to everyone reading this, but my beliefs are not a secret so we all know what view point I’m coming from. A soul mate, to me, means forever. I can’t help thinking of that part in Twilight where Edward says he’ll only allow Bella to change if she can promise him one thing, she asks him what and he says, “And then forever”. I get goose bumps every time. There’s something so intimate, so deeply moving, about someone wanting to literally be with you for the rest of their lives. Never mind the rest of their vampire life, which literally is forever, haha, because vampires are so real (cough, sarcasm). But that to me is a serious sign of a soul mate. Deep and true love. The commitment and determination to never have you missing from their life ever again. For us who believe the same thing this means two very important things, two definitions of the word “mate” that came up often while I was looking up the word: to join together as a married couple and to, in plain terms, be intimate sexually…. Woah, yeah I said it. Haha.

But let me go into what really gets to me about this part of soul-mate-hood. In Mark 10:6-9 Jesus says, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“One flesh”… Think about those two words for a moment and what they mean to you… “One flesh”… The most obvious and probably most common perception of “one flesh” is to physically become one flesh by having sex. This is probably the most important part of marriage. Numerous times in the bible it talks about this aspect of one-flesh-ness/soul-mate-hood. Take 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 for example, “The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” God supports having A LOT of, um, “intimacy” in marriage. God Himself emphasises how important this bond between a married couple is. God created this level of intimacy to be a beautiful and fulfilling experience and a physical expression of becoming one with each other. Each person’s body is not even considered separate from each other anymore but is considered to together make up one physical entity, belonging wholly to both partners. You are literally “one flesh” in God’s eyes.

But have you ever thought of what else it could mean? Becoming “one flesh” could refer to the children produced by the couple that are genetically made up from both parents’ genes and biology. “One flesh” can also refer to how a woman and a man, bonded together in marriage, make up a complete expression of man being made in God’s image. Mal Fletcher made this very interesting comment in a talk I had the privilege of sitting in on the other day. Basically God created Adam in His image. Then He took a part away from Adam to make him a woman, a mate. Adam and Eve were now two separate entities, no longer representing God’s whole image on their own but each representing a different part of God’s image. Only by being united in marriage, becoming “one flesh”, do they together represent God’s image in entirety again. “One flesh” means that in all things (financial, emotional, aspirational, intellectual, spiritual etc.) the married couple must rely on each other first and foremost (after God of course). They are one unit and therefore in all things should act as a united front, as a whole. Their bond, their unit should take precedence over all other things other than God.

This leads to a very practical and important concept behind being “one flesh”, which is that being “one flesh” with one another means that together, as a whole, the couple is to pursue God. God does not intend for a marriage to slow you down in your calling but rather that your marriage should propel you in your calling and as a married couple you shake up hell together. “Two are better than one”. I saw this image the other day and it really gave a good perspective of this approach to being “one flesh”. The more you pursue God and the closer you get with Him, the closer you will get to your partner and the deeper your bond will be. God takes pleasure in blessing marriages and pouring out joy into a marriage that is fulfilling the purpose He placed on it in the first place.

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Ephesians 5:22-30 (NLT) – “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Saviour of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.”

Proverbs 31:11-12 (NLT) – “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Malachi 2:15 (NLT) – “Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does He want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.”

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

6) Lastly, and very quickly, something that God has spoken to me about is that by becoming “one flesh” you become one soul as well. Each physical body has a spiritual soul, therefore if your flesh is to become one so is your soul. What kind of soul will you be binding yours to by becoming “one flesh” with the person you intend to become “one flesh” with? Is it a soul that is tarnished and will pull you down or pull you away from God? Is it a soul that is weak and will lay a burden on you that you were never meant to carry? Is it a free spirited and lively soul? Is it a beautiful, gentle, kind and loving soul? Is it a soul very much like your own or is it vastly different from yours? The soul that you bind your own soul to means everything. What ever your soul is bound to it will become like. Could you handle your soul becoming like the soul of this other person? Don’t confuse someone’s heart with their soul. Someone can have a good heart but a weak soul. They can have a hard heart but a steadfast soul. A soul is something deeper, something more spiritual. Being soul mates means just that, your souls are mated, intertwined, bound together. What is the nature and calibre of the soul that you intend to bind yours to? This is something worth thinking about before calling someone your soul mate and entering into all that goes with being soul mates.

In closing, after all this, it is possible that even in a relationship that lacks many of these parts of “soul-mate-hood” you still feel inexplicably bound to someone. Someone you can’t let go of or can’t live without, but at the same time don’t feel peace about or feel unsure of. Maybe their effect on your life is not always positive or in some areas you feel held back. You may struggle with doubts about them or your relationship even though you love them with every part of your being. They can be your best friend in the whole world, your lover or your worst nightmare, but whatever they are you can’t shake them from your heart. Can I humbly suggest that possibly this person is not completely your soul mate, but actually more your soul tie?… Soul ties can form over a long relationship or even over a short relationship in which you experienced a strong bond. Soul ties can be formed between people with the most genuine hearts or between people that really don’t treat each other well. Soul ties most commonly form between people that have been intimate with one another because sexual intimacy was designed to be more than just physical but actually a bonding of two souls. But no matter how they are formed, or who they’re formed with, I believe every person deserves to find their SOUL MATE and to break free of their SOUL TIE. Breaking a soul tie is hard, ugly, painful and can take you to the darkest place you’ve ever been. It’s a sore experience, BUT it is possible. “All things are possible through Him who gives me strength”. If Jesus willingly put Himself through what He went through to break the ties that death, sin, evil, the grave and the devil had on you, don’t for a second think He wouldn’t stretch out His arms to break the ties a mere person has on you. But YOU are the one who has to make the decision and take that step. YOU cut the rope, HE will catch you. This I PROMISE you, in the name of my Saviour, Jesus.

“Let’s Spend Time Not Money”

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So I’ve been sitting on this piece for a few months. I wasn’t really sure if it was relevant and also whether it would step on too many toes or not so I’ve been putting off posting it. But in this week alone its relevance has come up about 5 times so I decided maybe now is the right time to address this topic.

In light of a heated debate myself and two of my friends got into two days before voting day, I’m going to start off by saying that, in my opinion, the government, no matter who is in power, is probably never going to fix this country. And I don’t say this to stir, so please wait until the end of this piece before you give up reading out of fury or send me angry comments etc. If you’ve read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell you understand what I mean here. As the saying goes, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We’ve seen it in Russia, we’ve seen it in Germany, we’ve seen it in colonialism, and we’ve seen it in South Africa more than once – even when the oppressive or corrupt ruling power is overthrown, the new ruling power eventually becomes no better than the former. It is human nature. It is human flaw if you will. We seem to be innately selfish, lazy and greedy for some reason. Just give us enough power, enough money, enough connections and enough time and for some reason we just complete the vicious cycle. In my opinion, until someone comes to power who is completely and genuinely selfless with a real, genuine PASSION for uplifting this country and its people for the benefit and growth of the people, not themselves, AND who has God at the front and centre of their lives, we will not see a change in governance no matter who is in power.

So now you’re like “Wow, Tamzyn, for a Christian girl you’re quite cynical don’t you think?”, and then I’m like “No, I just want you to question a little bit and be like ‘well what CAN be done then?’”. Ah, thank you for asking. In the past few weeks leading up to elections and voting I’ve been in the midst of A LOT of people moaning and complaining and even fighting about the state of this country and its government and each time I just sit by and think “Ok so you’ve recognised all the problems, but where are your solutions?”. Oh we just love to sit and moan and talk about immigrating to another country where it will be better because our government doesn’t do anything for its people etc etc. But now tell me, what are YOU doing for this country and its people? Like actually DOING? Oh, nothing? Oh ok, I was just checking? So we’re just sitting back and moaning with no intention to ever be part of the solution? Oh ok, I was just checking…

NO PEOPLE!!! This is the problem! We want to moan that people in this country “don’t want to work for anything, they just want everything handed to them”, but then we sit back and moan and just want a prospering country to be handed to us without working for it. No. It is up to us to get involved at grass roots level, to stand in the gap where the government is falling short. As faulty as the government is, even a perfect government probably wouldn’t be able to address every issue and completely obliterate oppression, struggling, disease, crime, disadvantage and sin from the world. Haha. Who are we? Pageant contestants from the movie “Miss Congeniality” who just want world peace? Like it can happen with the flick of a magic wand. It’s going to take WORK to get this country where it should be. And unfortunately our government isn’t made up of a bunch of super heroes. They cannot possibly make everything right after the history of oppression our country has had since 1652. It was the government AND the people that perpetuated oppression so now it is the government AND the people’s responsibility to set things straight again and at least work on progressing forward as optimally as possible. WE are the answer, WE are the ones that need to get off our butts and DO something about this country if we want to live in a South Africa that is stronger, thriving, fruitful and prospering. What are you going to do in another country? I’m sorry to say, but they don’t want us. Unless you’re extremely qualified. Look at how places like England and Australia are getting fed up with all the SA immigrants and how difficult it is to become a citizen in these places. No, I believe God put everyone exactly where they needed to be. This is where He decided you should be born because YOU have something to give towards building this country that no one else can give. Only YOU. This is your home, this is where you belong, this is where we NEED you.

And now you’re like, “yeah but I donated a blanket 3 years ago to disaster relief, I do my part”. I know that sounded really rude, I’m sorry, I just say it that way to emphasise a point. Thank you, these donations are needed and they make the world of a difference to the select few that are fortunate enough to receive it, but on its own it is not enough. Charity and donations are not enough. Giving money is not enough. The key word here is “sustainability”. Shelling out a few bucks here or there and donating a bag of clothes once a year when you spring clean is not going to make a lasting, sustainable contribution to the progress of South Africa. Don’t get me wrong or get offended or stop doing these things. They are needed, they are valuable and they make a difference to the people that receive them. However, the people that receive these blessings are but a handful of the thousands, if not millions, of people that need the same relief. This country needs more than just our hand-outs, it needs something more valuable, something we aren’t really willing to give up as easily as last season’s bootleg jeans because they’re out of fashion now. It needs our TIME. And this is something we aren’t too keen on giving up.

This is the reason for the title of this piece. We need to stop being a nation of lazy, greedy, selfish people invested only in what serves us and acquiring immediate gratification. Why do you think our leaders are like that? Because they come from within this nation. I bet you, if we all did our part the country would thrive despite the government. Why are we waiting for a government to just hand it to us. We need to be willing to do the work. And here’s the tricky part, we need to be willing to do the work for NOTHING IN RETURN. No remuneration, no recognition, no promotion or fame or fortune. When we can all chip in simply because we want our country to shake off its past and break free of its “3rd world problems” for the mere fact that we are preparing for the future of this nation, the future of our children, then that is exactly what’s going to happen. We need to be future minded and realise that not everything is going to be rewarded immediately. Some things we need to sacrifice now so that the future can be better. A quote I heard from Thabo Mbeki says it quite plainly, “We need to rekindle the spirit of volunteerism in this country” if we expect it to go anywhere.

So now I ask you quite practically, what is your skill set? What is your passion? What would you not mind doing for free? Where are the places in this country that you could offer these services and more importantly where are the places that need it? I want something to become real to you at this point: There is something that only YOU can do, only YOU can offer, a gap that only YOU can fill, something that YOU have that our country needs, something that absolutely no one else can do and if YOU don’t do it, it is going to be left undone and we are going to struggle to progress without it. What is that one thing and couldn’t you set aside a few hours a week to offer that service to the benefit and building of our beautiful country? An hour or 2 is all it may take to really catapult our country forward if we all do our little part, our little 1 or 2 hours a week. And I can take you a bet, once you start, you will find yourself investing more time than that because you will find your purpose in life and in this country. YOU are specifically HERE for a reason.

So my challenge to you now before you get going on this exciting new chapter:

In this week, take 5 minutes to actually have an encounter with those that aren’t from the same walk of life as you. When you fill up at the petrol station ask the attendant about his day, how long his shift is, how his family is doing. When you’re washing your hands in the bathroom at the mall and it’s awkward because the cleaning staff member is just standing there watching you, ask her how old her kids are or give her a hug and thank her for the work she does because it makes a difference to your day to not sit down and realise there’s no toilet paper. You will start to realise that every person is exactly that, a person. A person with a home, a family, a life, a passion, a desire for a better lifestyle for themselves. A person with value. And I also bet that doing these things will also make your experience of service in this country better because the people serving will feel better about their day but I guess that is a whole other piece to be written.

I leave you with 3 things Darren Kitto mentioned during his messages last week:

1)      You can actually do way more than you think you can do

2)      It’s not enough to only give hand-outs, we need to give a hand-up

3)      No, you can’t do everything, but you MUST do something

And 1 thing from me:

1)      Whatever you decide to do, please make sure to do it responsibly. Which means, the aim is to help in a sustainable and empowering way. That you help in such a way that if your help had to be withdrawn for some or other reason the people you’ve helped will be able to continue without that help. And not only continue but continue better than they were before. Make sure that you remain committed and consistent in the way that you help and when the time comes that you cannot help in that way for a period or at all anymore, prepare whoever you’re helping for the absence of your help. Do not enable or perpetuate with what you do and make sure that what you do does not result in someone becoming dependant on you.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” – Helen Keller

And for my fellow hearts for Jesus (and those who are curious):

Matthew 25:31-46

Luke 6:38

YOU are the reason…. #crossequalslove

Hey readers!

I just wanted to take the opportunity to share something heart altering that was revealed to me about Jesus’s love for us during Colour Conference this year.

One of the items that the amazingly crafty Hillsong team put together was to play an array of images depicting Jesus’ life and especially His crucifixion while the worship team sang “Calvary”. And as I sat there, tears streaming down my face, I thought of the same thing I thought when I watched “The Passion of the Christ” for the first time many many years ago when it first came out – we have become desensitised to Christ’s crucifixion.

We’ve lost touch with the magnitude of the crucifixion. Easter has become a simple tradition, a special time yes, but full of routines. It’s the sun rise sermon, it’s the toasted hot cross bun with melted cheese on, it’s the tea at gran’s place after the Good Friday service, it’s the pickled fish, it’s the Easter egg hunt for the kiddies, it’s the Easter Sunday service with family. It’s the same old message about how Judas betrayed Jesus and then Pilate had no backbone and the crowd were so ridiculous that they’d rather set a murderer free than spare Christ’s life and then they made a crown of thorns and Jesus was ridiculed and they attached Him to a cross and then He died and then 3 days later when some people went to look for Him an angel said He’s alive and then He appeared to some other people and turns out He’d actually risen from the dead and then He rode on some cloud up to heaven a few days later…. Isn’t that how it goes?

We wear necklaces with crosses on where Jesus is hanging, we see pictures of Jesus on the cross, we sing songs about how He died to save us… Like Rob Schneider says in Hot Chic, “I don’t think [we’re] understanding the gravity of the situation here”. Find a quiet place to take your laptop or ipad or phone or tablet or whatever you’re reading this on, take a deep breath in, let it out and with that let everything occupying your mind at the moment out and meditate on this for a second…

A mother, staring up at her 33 year old son, a flesh and blood man, a son that she raised and watched take the people by storm, that she watched grow up, that she battled persecution and judgement for because of the situation surrounding her pregnancy, a son, her son, who she adored, now nothing but a writhing, screaming, struggling, hurting, life form hanging from a cross like something less than a human, treated worse than a stray dog. She pains and burns inside. She screams and wails and wants with all her might to just run up to Him and get Him down, stop His pain and comfort Him. That’s her son up there, her baby, her flesh and blood.

Some friends hold onto her as she screams for her son and they beg and plead the people around them to believe what they know to be true, this man is the Messiah. “Please. What are you people doing? Can’t you see who this is? How can you do this? How can you be so blind?”. They petition everyone around them to see what they see and stop this madness now. Their friend, their brother, the person they have followed around for months and possibly years, the person they gave up their lives for is being brutally and savagely beaten and disfigured by willing participants. The crowd is cheering and the authorities are soaking up the praise from the crowd. Put yourself in this scene, literally close your eyes and try to imagine, if you even can, what it must have been like to be there, outside, in the sand, sun baking down on you, people all around you. Imagine, if you can, the sound of the people cheering for the murder of your most beloved Saviour. You witnessed His miracles, you were crowd control at His teachings, you shared special moments eating and drinking and laughing with this meek, humble, gentle yet steadfast and unshakable man and now these people cheer for His murder in probably one of the most disgusting manners ever. Imagine what it must have sounded like when He was beaten, when His mother cried out for the sake of her son.

I feel like we’ve lost touch with what the crucifixion must have been like. Imagine the person you love most in the world was sentenced to death by crucifixion. What would that look like? What would that sound like? What would that feel like? Can you even imagine standing right infront of a cross today while police or whoever brutally nail even the worst criminal to it? Could you watch that? Can you imagine the traumatic-ness (I’m making it a word) of such a situation? The brutality, the dehumanisation, the sickness of such a practice. Jesus did this for us. He was wholly divine yet in a wholly human form, capable of feeling every human emotion and capable of experiencing the extent of physical pain any human being would who went through the same ordeal. I think we tend to think well because He was supernatural He didn’t really feel anything or it wasn’t that bad, it was child’s play for him. “The Word became flesh”. He was flesh people. He would have experienced every single second to the exact same extent you or I would have experienced it. Every thorn, every splinter from the cross He had to carry, every bruise from its weight, every time someone in the crown spat at Him or threw something at Him, every vain, muscle and bone that was pierced by the nails, every cramp He would’ve gotten trying to hold himself up while pinned to the cross, every rip into His hands and feet as He lost the strength to hold Himself up and had to sag down, every pierce from the soldiers’ swords in His side and the sting of the vinegar they rubbed on His wounds. He experienced every single second just as we would. And to top it all, He had to endure the excruciating emotional pain of the fact that the people perpetrating all this were the very people He lowered Himself to human form in order to save, people He helped the Father create, people He loved with a depth we can never grasp.

He endured all of that and throughout all of that the only reason, THE ONLY REASON, He held on and didn’t summon the angels in their drones to help Him was because He had YOU in mind. Not just generally, like oh He’s just doing this for the sake of mankind in general, like He thought over and over “this is for mankind, this is for mankind”. No. He had YOU, you specifically, in mind. When He got to the point where He just couldn’t anymore, when His strength and might were dwindling and He just wanted to cry out to God to release Him, the very only thing that he kept in mind was YOUR face and the only word on His lips was YOUR name. He focussed on YOU and gathered every bit of might He had left to get through the process because he wanted YOU to have a place next to Him in heaven one day. He knew that without Him completing that process He would not be able to see your face walk through the gates of heaven one day. So He bit the bullet and endured with all His might all for the sake of YOU. Even if you were the only person on earth, He would have done it all, just for YOU. I feel that He just about said to Himself “I need to endure this until the end, just so that ____________ (your name here) will know that I LOVE him/her and that I want him/her to be with me one day”. He had your face in His mind when He was hanging up there on that cross, having the nails that were hammered into his hands and feet ripping through His flesh as He sagged from exhaustion, as He had His side pierced and then rubbed with a vinegar soaked sponge, as the blood that had dripped down from the crown of thorns on His head dried on His face. He blocked it all out and focused on YOUR face and reminded Himself that He is doing this for you, so that one day you would read some random nobody’s blog and be reminded that He LOVES you. I don’t think you get it, He LOVES you. With the purest and deepest of loves we could ever try to fathom. Love. Say it out loud. “LOVE”. Not like your mother does, not like you thought your ex did, not the way you love your brother or your cousin. Think of the fullest, deepest, purest, most sacred, calmest, most tender, most steadfast, unconditional, incomparable, unfathomable, gentlest love you can imagine. Whatever you are imagining is but a whisper compared to the roaring magnitude of Jesus’ love for you right now, at this very moment, no matter where you are in life.

Let me try and explain it in a way that I only just realised myself during one of the sessions this weekend. We all know that famous verse about love in 1 Corinthians. But all my life I’ve always looked at this scripture as a guide on how to identify when someone is showing me real love or not and also a guide on how we should try to love others. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. But only this weekend I realised, we know God wrote the Bible (through men and women of course), and if he wrote this part of scripture and that is how He explains true love that must mean that this is actually the way HE loves US. Maybe that’s like dah Tamzyn, how slow are you on the uptake? But have you ever thought about it that way?

How often have we actually thought about the fact that the magnitude of God’s love for us is the exact same as the magnitude of His patience with us, because love = patience. It’s right there in the scripture. Maybe it’s just me but I always feel like I’m frustrating Him because I keep failing in certain areas and I just can’t seem to get some things right. But God loves us so much that no matter what we do wrong, how many wrong turns we take, how long we take to finally get on the path He’s trying to get us to take, He is patient with us. He doesn’t just at some point get frustrated with how much we mess up and give up on us. He is patient with us. Like supernaturally patient, to a whole ‘nother level.

He loves us so much that He is kind to us. Think about your capacity to be kind to someone, the kindest you’ve ever been, now increase that kindness by the magnitude of God. This is how He treats us, with a God-sized kindness. He treats us with Godly, supernatural goodness and gives us every good thing He can, depending on our free will and whether that ruins what He tries to give us or not. And when we are broken because of this free will of ours He kindly and lovingly extends His mercy to us.

Because of His true love for us He is not proud, He does not keep His grace from us because we hurt His feelings or disappointed Him one too many times or bruise His ego. His grace is available to anyone who would reach out for it. No matter what you’ve done to Him or His name.

Because He loves you with real love He does not do anything to you that would bring you dishonour and in fact He will do anything to put your best interest before His own as He is not interested in Himself, He is interested solely in you and your well-being. I think the cross makes this pretty evident.

Despite what some of us struggle with, that God is constantly angry with us and punishing us because we keep messing up, He tells us here that because of His real love for us He is slow to anger. I for one am very comforted by this, if it weren’t for this aspect of His love for us I’d constantly be feeling the burn of His wrath unfortunately. But He isn’t just there with His stern look and wooden spoon waiting to whip your butt into shape because you keep not getting it right. He’s slow to anger, He will give you time to learn and get it right, He gives you a chance to find your feet, He looks down at you with compassion and love.

“it keeps no record of wrongs”. Need I say more. It’s not like with humans, forgiven but not forgotten. No, He lets go and forgets our wrongs every time we repent. He doesn’t pile up your offences and keep them locked away somewhere ready to bring them up every time you mess up. In fact, the reason He says this about the way He loves you is so that we can come to Him boldly and guilt free once we have repented and we don’t have to feel ashamed to come to Him once you mess up again. Shame and guilt are used by the devil to build a wall between you and God. I’ve experienced this at large, the guilt and shame of how you’ve messed up keep you from being able to face God and you let more and more distance get between you and Him and this fortifies that wall even more. We need to realise that He keeps no record of wrongs if we have repented. It is like it is the first time you’ve ever messed up to Him. Don’t let guilt and shame keep you from your God and your forgiveness.

The last characteristics I want to bring to attention from this part of scripture is that real love:

1)      ALWAYS protects – He will always act in the interest of your protection. Even though you feel you are under attack or that you are out in the wilderness alone and vulnerable, He IS there, He IS in control. He sets the parameters of what can happen to you and will never let anything bring you to destruction. He always has a reason for what He allows to happen to you. Death and destruction are not your destiny, not when you cling to God.

2)      ALWAYS perseveres – You will never lose His love and He will never take it from you. It cannot fade, it doesn’t wither or become diluted with time and it is always available to you in its strongest, deepest, purest form.

3)      NEVER fails – his love will never fail you or disappoint you. With patience, strong will and determination, if you hold onto His love, you will see His will and purpose in every dark period where you felt His love was not taking care of you enough. Don’t let go of His love, it won’t let go of you.

This is the love that Jesus had in His heart for YOU while he was hanging on that cross. This love for YOU is the reason He stayed up there and didn’t give up or give in. This love for YOU is the reason He endured to the end, the reason the whole world has the opportunity to be saved… YOU are the reason ❤

“I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself” – Mandela The Legend

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Hey all. Bear with me, this is going to be a long piece. But please do take the time to read it.

Ok, so, I’ve been kind of absent from my blog over the past +- 2 months. Let’s just say that I have been going through a rough, rollercoaster period in my life recently and struggled to find the inspiration to write about something because I vowed to myself that this blog will always serve to write about topics that matter, topics that are worthy of being written about. And now as I sit here trying to put this piece together about someone who is more than worthy of being written about I wonder, am I worthy of writing about him…

I sat yesterday morning in my car, staring at Table Mountain, listening to 5fm and bawling my eyes out. I had a pretty good view of the city of Cape Town and as I looked over it I could almost see with the naked eye the sorrow that has descended over our nation. Even the bright, warm sun bearing down on the mountain seemed to be doing so simply to pay its respects to our great Tata. The entire city felt like it had come to a standstill. As did the world the night before while watching Zuma’s national announcement… My world had been affected two-fold, because while babysitting that night I was called and told that I needed to make my way to the vet as my beautiful babygirl of 15 years, my cat Cuddles, was on her last. Anyone who is a cat-mom will understand the pain that goes through your heart when you receive such a call. So I sped through and was able to spend a few last minutes loving my baby and stayed with her when the vet ended her suffering. Seeing her little, yet feisty as always, light be blown out so easily like that was the hardest to come to terms with. Going home I felt an undeniable emptiness in my home. No more heavy lump to sleep on my leg every single night without fail making it difficult for me to turn in my sleep and forcing me to wake up and lift her every time I wanted turn over. But while watching TV to try to take my mind off what had just happened that feeling of emptiness was suddenly extended to my whole world, Tata Madiba has finally passed on to true peace…

We merely have to listen to the radio, switch on the TV or go watch the amazing movie that has just been released about his life to see just what Madiba endured for this country and did for this country. His fight is well known and in fact legendary. However, because I never lived in those times, I mean I was only born 12 days after he walked free, I feel like I have missed out somewhat on what Madiba and his fellow fighters truly meant to South Africa. I sometimes wish I had lived during those times, not as a white person or any specific race, but merely so that I could have a personal reference base, personal experience and a personal appreciation of how exactly the people struggled. Because I think as a white South African born in the very year Madiba was released and who has only known a free and democratic South Africa, I think I am somewhat distanced from what apartheid truly meant, what it was truly like and what it truly felt like on that day Madiba took his 1st walk out of that prison as a free man. I wish I could have been old enough on that day to appreciate the history that was being made at that very moment.

In saying this I take a second to think about what Madiba’s fight means to me personally and what affect it has had on my personal life. Tears come to my eyes as I think about the fact that at the very moment the father of our nation was passing on, I was on the phone talking my beautiful Zulu friend about our love lives, our studies, our future plans and laughing about how there are some things that only the two of us find funny and no one else understands. Think about that little fact for just a second. The mere fact that my friend and I were ALLOWED to study together, meet each other, become friends, communicate via the phone with each other and make plans to visit at each other’s homes shows how far this country has come as these things would have been seen as an offence against the law just 24 years ago. And maybe, in a simple way, that is what Madiba’s fight has meant to me. Without what he and the people he fought with did I would never have had this beautiful person in my life whose laugh at the other end of the phone lifts my spirit immediately no matter how low I’m feeling. And she is just one of many of my multi-racial friends that I would not have had in my life had I not been born in the free South Africa that Madiba gave to us on a silver platter. My life is made richer by their presence in it. I sometimes pity the white people who lived in the apartheid era, both those that supported it and especially those who didn’t (we forget that there were many white people that did not support the apartheid regime at the time), as they missed out on so much by not having people from all races, cultures and backgrounds in their lives. There is a richness and deep, deep value to be found in having diverse people in your life.

This brings me to my wondering about what the future holds for this country. While watching all the news coverage yesterday I saw many prominent figures, such as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Jacob Zuma and many of Madiba’s esteemed colleagues and friends, urge that the people of this country pay tribute to this great man by striving to maintain, and even improve, Madiba’s vision of unity in the people of this country. My fear is that with time the people of this country will begin to lose touch with Madiba’s ideals, values and vision for our nation and become lead astray by modern leaders with ulterior motives. I would hope that in everything, the people in this country – whether they be black, white, brown, peach, pink, orange, yellow, red, blue, green, purple, whatever – come back to his wise and pure vision. If a man who endured what he did can walk out at the end of the day and have genuine forgiveness in his heart and reconciliation as his goal then there is NO excuse for any of us, no matter what we have been through, to not have the same attitude. I think of his words that attest to his superior wisdom, “As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison”… Our country has the potential to be a prominent power in the world, a force to be reckoned with. Our country can heal itself, our country can truly be great if everyone, from all walks of life, can swallow their grievances as he did and put their blood, sweat and tears into building a truly equal, truly non-racial, truly non-sexist society here in our South Africa for the next generation. The white government of apartheid stole this potential from our country as their regime broke down, oppressed and destroyed the people and their rich cultures instead of uniting us all, enriching our country and building it up. But I do feel, although it will take time, we can choose to do it right (as it has been done in the past 20 years, however there is still much to be set right), as Madiba would say “the time is always ripe to do right”. This is where something else Madiba said comes to mind, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner”. Now, I don’t mean to convey that any of us are enemies. The meaning of this quote to me is that even though people have grievances and grudges and hurts and tension between them, if they make that 1st step and decide to work together they will be able to become unified. In this way those tensions between them will gradually be worked out. I know this is an idealistic way of thinking and it isn’t that easy to just shirk what this country’s past has done to its people, but it is a goal, a point to work towards. After all, “It always seems impossible until it is done” – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

So what is our role as the next generation? How do we uphold Madiba’s vision and work towards its complete realisation? This is not a rhetorical question. This is something I’d truly like an answer to. I often feel an immense sense of guilt for this country’s history and even though my generation did not live during the thick of it – we experience the indirect effects – it was still people that looked like me that were responsible for what happened. Note that I say “people that looked like me” and not “my people” or “my ancestors”. This is specifically because I am so ashamed, embarrassed, disgusted, sickened and devastated by what they brought on this country that I officially disown them. I don’t want them as part of my family tree. And I would personally like to take this opportunity to say, I’m sorry. I don’t know if that has ever been said? With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Affirmative Action, the BEE, the land reform and reclaim, the different point systems used in universities, all these things that are done to try to right the wrongs of the past, has anyone just stood up and said “We’re sorry, the apartheid government got it so wrong”? I know a sorry doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t build houses in the informal settlements, it doesn’t bring the education level and quality to an equal level across the nation, it doesn’t provide sustainable jobs to the unemployed and it doesn’t bring back the millions of lives that were lost during the fight for a free country. It doesn’t do much. Except when done in a genuine, heartfelt way it conveys that from me to you and your family and your ancestors that I am truly sorry and I deeply wish I could change what happened, but seeing as I can’t I want to know exactly what I can do to help right the wrongs of the past. That has always been in my heart. I always thought, if by some miracle I had the chance to meet Madiba I would just ask one question, “Sir, what can I do as a white girl to help this country regain what apartheid took from it?”

I think the task now falls on our generation to say from our generation forward we will work to live with the same mind-set and attitudes that Madiba did. We will not forget the past and we will not let go of what the oppressed had to go through to give us the country we now live in, no, but we will work to RELEASE the past in order to move forward. Could we not as the next generation say “I will work towards getting to a point in this country where we are not white or black or coloured but we are SOUTH AFRICAN. And every SOUTH AFRICAN is my brother and my sister. I decide today that I will not be a part of breaking this country down or holding it back but that I will be a part of the answer, a part of building it up to be the strong, powerful force it always deserved to be. I will work with ANY of my SOUTH AFRICAN brothers and sisters to attain this goal and I WILL BE THE CHANGE”.  As Madiba said, “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation … No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective”.

In coming to terms with exactly how much of a legend Tata Madiba is all I can say is that I am truly honoured to have lived during his best years and to have been able to live in the country that he built and handed down to us, not only for one or two races or cultures but for all races and cultures. I think of all those who fought with him that have not had the honour of becoming the legend that he is, those that were not able to live to see this day where their fight has been honoured through the honour that we attribute to Madiba’s life. I hope that God has opened a special little window in the clouds so they may spectate what is going on in this country currently. I can only imagine the welcoming Madiba must have gotten as he entered heaven’s doors. As I write this every hair on my body stands on end as I imagine the crowds gathered in heaven simply smiling, cheering and clapping as Madiba walks slowly through the streets of heaven and at the end of the road he hears God’s voice saying “Welcome home, good and faithful servant”.

To the young and old that fought with Madiba, that died in the fight, that were oppressed, beaten and incarcerated, that remain anonymous still today, I hope that today brings justice and honour to your lives as well as Madiba’s. You are as deserving as those that are known for the fight and we as the younger generation do not forget or trivialise the contribution you have made to what this country has become. Tata, anytime you left us would have been too soon. You could have lived to be 358 years old and we would still not be able to come to terms with your departure easily. As necessary as it may have been. In more ways than one, but most importantly because you walked out of those doors and chose to forgive, you are The Bigger Man. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts…

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Madiba