Strengthened By Prayer

If you have been following my journey for a while, you will know I wrote early last year about some of the difficulties I faced. Although the year started rough, I learned many lessons and ultimately came out better than before. I firmly believe that my growth happened because I decided to start seriously praying.

At the start, the prayer increase was partly due to not having anything else to do, and not desiring to find anything else to do with my time. I heard a sermon at the start of the year about being equipped for battle by spending time with God, and I realised that I’d rarely spent more than an hour at a time seeking God. So I made it my goal to spend longer amounts of time with God to see what would happen.

The result of increased prayer was spiritual alertness and vision I had never experienced before. As I grew spiritually throughout the year, I saw most things differently; My perspective changed dramatically in only 12 months! The most obvious change to me was that I became more aware of the spiritual health of myself and those around me. I have realised that gifts (in and out of the church) do not equal spiritual maturity. In some cases, I saw that people with gifts had become spiritually dry over time as they started to lean on their gifts rather than their relationship with God! However, those who were healthy all had one thing in common – a close relationship with God and regular prayer.

Seeing things the way I do now, I find it quite interesting that most christians I talk to do not see the need for much intentional prayer, if any at all. I agree that subconscious prayer is incredibly powerful and should be practiced by all christians, and the bible backs this up in Thessalonians:

Never stop praying.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

But, there’s more to prayer than the inner prayer. It’s the intentional prayer, when time is set aside specifically to address concerns and talk with the Father. I believe Jesus was talking about this kind of prayer in Matthew 6:

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 NLT

And also in Luke 11:

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:9 NLT

There are many other verses on prayer, but these three already start to show what a healthy prayer life looks like. I want to encourage you to work towards this kind of prayer life. Every prayer moment is another step with Jesus, so guard your prayer life.

Since increased prayer, I noticed increased spiritual activity around me. Jesus has visited me multiple times in dreams and visions. In addition, I notice more angelic and demonic activity. Demons have specifically targeted me to bring me down and cause me to stumble, but the Father has rescued me every time. Crazy things happen now, some of which I have shared, and many which I haven’t. I am incredibly blessed, and I have had opportunities open to me that would have taken me many years to see. These are only some of the benefits of a closer relationship with God.

If you struggle with anything at all, I want to encourage you to write it down and create a list of things you want the Father to develop in your life. As Jesus said in Luke, keep asking and you will receive what you ask for. I personally focused on character development and prayers around growing spiritually and maturely, but you may want to broaden your prayers to your work life, family, friends, and other areas. In all your prayers, submit to the Father’s will so that your prayers will be answered.

Undeserved Grace

I am so thankful for the grace of God! He reminded me today that grace is a gift from him to me, because, little did I realise, I had been subconsciously trying to earn his grace. Yes, it’s a fool’s errand even to attempt to earn God’s grace, yet without realising it, I had drifted to that mindset.

It was when a friend was praying for me that I realised my error. I felt the Father’s love at that moment, and he reminded me that grace is his gift to those who confess their sins and repent. I had already done that, yet I held on to guilt, shame, and the other side effects of sin. The best thing to do is fully embrace God and accept all his gifts, including grace. The Bible has this to say about grace:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

The challenge in all of this is to have a balance based in God’s word. You cannot have grace if you do not repent because sin is still living in you and you are not made new. However, on the other side, you also cannot live a perfect life to earn it. I believe the best way is to repent from sin and accept God’s grace. This way there is a turning from sin, yet no striving to attempt to earn grace.

Grace is no reward, and it never will be. It is always a beautiful gift from God, and no one can take that away from him. By trying even a little to earn it, I went astray. I pray that you learn from my mistake and fully embrace this beautiful gift our Father has given!

Have a blessed day!

Jesus is Returning Soon! Get Ready.

On this blog, I have shared intimate details of my life that I would feel uncomfortable telling most people. Today I will go even further because I believe very strongly this message is vital. So, without further ado, here goes.

When I was young, from about age ten onward (I don’t remember exactly how old I was), I had powerful dreams that I believe were from God. These dreams were the kind where I woke up in a cold sweat, heart pounding, fearing for my very life. They were dreams of Jesus returning. It wasn’t often I had a dream of Jesus returning, but when I did, fear and emotion gripped me! In those moments, all I cared about was that Jesus took me with him into heaven.

Up until this year, as far as I can remember, whenever Jesus returned in a dream, I was left behind. Sometimes I saw specific people being taken to heaven, and other times it had less detail and just showed a variety of people going. In either case, some people went while others were left behind. In one particular dream, I was pulled down a long chamber into hell to be tortured; this was arguably the most terrifying experience of my life.

However, just weeks ago, I had another dream of Jesus returning. This time, I was pulled toward him along with other people. I felt the fear of God as in all other dreams, but this time I felt relief too! I cannot describe how I felt; I have never felt this way my whole life on earth! I should also mention that in all of these dreams, they were so real, and the emotion, fear, and utter horror experienced in them was so terrifying, that I thought they were real life! There was absolutely no knowing they were dreams.

Now, in the dream, after an invisible force pulled me to Jesus, he set me aside and brought me to a tiny wardrobe-type cupboard in the wall and told me to wait there. The door in the wall opened to a small space that was so small that only my body could fit; there was no room for anything or anyone else. It was dark and lonely, but I knew I had to pray there; It was my assignment.

As soon as I awoke, I knew that prayer would prepare me for Jesus’ coming. It is when we get alone by ourselves and pray to our Father in heaven that our relationship with him starts to grow. No amount of other things can substitute. Jesus gave this lesson on prayer: be alone and pray to your Father only; prayer is a private matter between you and him.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:5-6 NLT

Please set aside time to pray. The need to pray is no longer a light matter – this is very serious! You cannot understand the utter terror and horror experienced by those who do not know Jesus. They will be cast into hell for eternity, all because they didn’t cultivate a relationship with God; they never knew him. Jesus put it this way:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

Notice that many of those who call Jesus “Lord!” will be cast away from his presence! To me this is scary, because I don’t see unbelievers calling Jesus “Lord”. I have only seen those who call themselves Christian call Jesus “Lord”.

You and I must do the will of the Father and know him. There is no substitute.

It’s all about Jesus

Following on from my previous post about Cambodia, I want to dive deeper into the need for Jesus.

The culture I live in loves job promotions, high status, being famous, good looks, and absolutely idolises having loads of money. The thought of being able to retire at 30 and travel the world eating endless amounts of delicious food is just too good to be true for most people. I’ve often heard it said that I should “be happy” and do things I want to. Being selfish is wisdom in this culture!

However, I have come to realise that a lot of pain and suffering comes from the selfishness in me! Every idol I have put in my life has been from selfishness, and it’s those idols that hurt the most. For example, by putting my career as an idol, any time something went wrong with my job, I got extremely distressed. I was always fearful of losing my job and the social status that came along with it. The fear was crippling and draining my life.

If I had genuine unselfishness and had put my focus on Jesus and what he wanted for me, this suffering would have never happened. I am so thankful for the trip to Cambodia, which taught me a lot more about what is most important in this world. My job is just that – a job. It’s not my identity, and if I lose it, I’m sure my Father will lead me to another one to pay the bills. 🙂

I challenge you to put your trust and hope in Jesus. Don’t put more weight on things of this world than you should. After all, we are called to be “in the world but not of the world.”

Simple Humility

The following post is something I believe God is telling me to do, and I wrote it like a letter to myself. However, I want to share it with you because you may also find it useful.

Give up the desire to be better than other Christians. Don’t try to be more than others; Don’t even compare yourself to them. Comparison isn’t from God; It’s a worldly way of thinking. Your desire should be to have an intimate relationship with God. Pursue intimacy with your Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Don’t spend a single drop of energy in the pursuit of being more than another Christian. It seems godly to want more than others, but the foundation of that thinking is selfishness. You want more for you than for them.

Although you know it’s wrong, it leads to thoughts of wanting others to fail, or at least not succeed as much as you. It may lead you to prayers along these lines: Can I be more spiritual? Can I have just a little bit more anointing? Can I lead just a little better?

Put these thoughts of being better to death. You are here to be God’s hands and feet, so you represent him and no one else. No, you shouldn’t even represent yourself. The more you die to yourself, the better. Jesus said to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. So, how’s that self-denial going? How does that cross feel? Are you dying? You must die so that he can live.

“The old has passed away. Behold! The new has come.”

You weren’t given life to live for yourself. Many people do that and end up with nothing inside. Australia is arguably one of the richest countries on earth, and suicide is higher here than anywhere in the world. Why? Many, if not most, Australians do not deny themselves, and do not take up their cross to follow Jesus. They look inward rather than looking outward. Do not do that, but rather, live for Jesus instead; He gives life and fullness, and only he can satisfy.

Who are the happiest people on earth? The rich? They have plenty but often want more. The poor? Sometimes yes, but the poor can covet riches and be miserable too. No, those who are truly happy have died to themself and put away every lust of success and riches. They live not for themselves but for God alone; He gives them strength and purpose. Interestingly enough, God may give them success and riches beyond their dreams. HOWEVER, those joyful people take no pride in their riches nor do they boast in them. They boast only in the Lord because their worth is in him!

If you look at each decision you’ve made the past year, do they tell the story that you’re denying yourself and taking up your cross? Do they say you are pursuing money? Do your actions paint a picture of humility, or a picture of pride?

Rejoice because your names are registered in heaven

As many times as I write about this, it still burns in my heart: a healthy relationship and intimacy with God are more important than anything else in this world. At one time in Jesus’ ministry, he sent out the Twelve disciples, along with many others, to preach the gospel. They returned to him excited because demons obeyed them! However, Jesus brought perspective:

17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” 18 “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! 19 Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. 20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

Luke 10:17-20 NLT

From reading this, I can see how much value Jesus puts on salvation. Miracles are of more value than money because you can’t buy them, yet Jesus puts their value below salvation. Healing is impressive, but salvation is better. Spiritual authority is excellent, but salvation is better. Immunity from all earthly harm is unbelievable, but salvation is still better.

Salvation is of utmost importance to Jesus, and if it isn’t for you, you may need to change the way you think. Take a moment to pray and let the Holy Spirit point out one or two things in your life that you have put more value in than salvation.

Consistency

Consistency is hard. That’s because it requires character, not just feelings or a big moment. It’s easy for me to write about praying daily; it’s another thing to live it. I pray that I live it! It is not something that can be done in a human’s strength but only comes from the power of God himself. I pray for more character. I pray for more prayer.

Consistency changes you over time. You would prefer that every problem be solved immediately if possible. However, that’s not how character is built. Paul had a “thorn in his flesh” that caused him considerable trouble, yet God was quite okay with letting it stay. Do you have a thorn in your flesh? Perhaps it isn’t all bad. It could be more of an opportunity to grow in character rather than a punishment. You may well have done nothing to deserve it. Don’t worry; keep praying. God wants to change you from the inside out and wants those changes to remain. He isn’t interested in quick results, but “fruit that will last.”

Stay consistent and run to win. Run and don’t stop. Stopping is losing, running is winning. Even if you tire, don’t stop; keep moving, no matter how slow. If you get tired of praying for hours, that’s okay, just keep praying a little. Whatever you do, don’t stop altogether. Your Father can still help you if you stop, but that isn’t a close relationship anymore. Do everything you can to stay in a healthy relationship with him.

Cambodia

Days before the coronavirus influenced border closures around the world, I went on my first overseas trip to Cambodia. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to go overseas, yet I don’t regret it for a second.

Although the trip was a short one-week arrangement I learned a lot about the culture, people, religion and area. When I stepped outside the airport, a very strong and unpleasant smell greeted me and didn’t leave until I flew out again. I was shocked to see my “taxi” driver blindly walk across four lanes of traffic (which in Cambodia translates to about 12 lanes. I’m not kidding.) and somehow make it out alive! I was surprised to see enormous amounts of trash, rubbish, food scraps and goodness knows what else thrown on the side of the roads. everywhere. My heart broke to hear the stories of the people who were oppressed by an evil government who killed close to 3 million of their innocent only 45 years ago.

The whole trip I soaked in the culture, doing my best to learn how they work, eat, travel and live. I learned that a lot of Khmer (Cambodians) make less than $1 per day. I saw young children playing in rubbish. Most children work when not in school. Yet somehow those children were happy. They were content to play in trash, and they didn’t mind the smell.

After seeing these things, I realised just how important my attitude is. I choose to be happy or upset. I can have fun playing in rubbish, or I can live in Australia with luxuries most Khmer only dream about and think of 101 things I don’t have. Getting back to Australia, I realised just how wealthy I am. I had a different appreciation for things that I didn’t before. I’m aware that I can still be a sour grape at times 😉 but I am trying to be more thankful for what I have.

I have realised the vanity and yes, even stupidity that lies in wanting more things and not being content. A discontent man will never be happy, but Godliness with contentment is great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Desiring money seems good at first, but it always leads to harmful desires. I think I need a reality check every so-often because the whole Australian culture revolves around where you work and what you do on weekends. Do you work for a big company? Do you have a university degree? How much money do you make? How nice is your car? These questions don’t ask a more important question: who are you? For real, who are you deep down? If you had no job, education, money, or possessions, who would you be? Would anyone want to be around you?

While I was away I had a lot of time to think about these kinds of questions. Almost all tourist sites were shut down due to the virus, so there was plenty of time for deep thinking. I started to realise how selfish I am. I want a good education, job, and above all I really want to be seen as “successful”. I think my perspective is starting to change. I don’t need any of those things to be happy. I realised that when you don’t have possessions, the only reason people stay around you is because the love you for who you are. That is worth more than any amount of money or success. However, even more important than relationship with people, is my relationship with God. Am I close to our Father in heaven? Am I actively listening to the Holy Spirit?

Now that I’ve seen another side of life, I want to go back there and help. Unfortunately, many Khmer pursue greed and desire to be rich like westerners. They don’t realise the trap it leads to and that they can have everything they need without money. All they need is Jesus. All I need is Jesus. With him I have everything, and without him I have nothing. To me this is clearer than ever, and I pray that by reading my story you see this just a little clearer too.

From Knowledge to Relationship

I was at home preparing for a bible study that met on a weekly basis when I realised I didn’t remember anything spoken at church on Sunday. I wanted to pass it off as being busy and having a lot of different things in my life leading to forgetfulness. However, there was a deeper underlying problem. A hint was that this happened regularly, almost every week. Was I not spiritual enough? Did I not care about God’s word? Why was I not focused at church? These kinds of questions floated around in my mind.

Here’s what I didn’t realise: I had more knowledge of God than a relationship with him. A hint of this was how I thought about him – I thought of him as God. I didn’t talk to my Father, Jesus or Holy Spirit. They were a distant God in my mind. If you asked me, I would have told you that of course God was close to me, but in reality he was not. Did I pray throughout the day? Did I talk with the Father? Did I listen carefully? Did I ask him questions? No. I did not.

I knew what God liked and disliked, but not because he was telling me directly. I knew everything I knew because of the Bible or church preaching. The Bible is incredibly powerful, but reading it without a relationship with the Father held back its power. When I read it, I assumed I was always in the right and every promise belonged to me. In the same way, every curse or rebuke was for ‘bad’ people… or something…

How wrong I was!

I was blind to the sin and idols in my heart because I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. Knowledge of him doesn’t give room for him to touch my heart and bring up the things I need to deal with. If only I had talked with him, asking him to reveal sin to be dealt with, I would have saved myself so much pain!

So, when did the change from knowledge to relationship happen? Well, it’s hard to give a date or time because it was more of a journey, but I can say for certain the process accelerated during a recent part of my life. When I was at the end of myself I forced, yes, forced myself into prayer like never before. I changed from praying 5 minutes per day (on a good day) to many hours each day.

Through my prayer times, my Father in heaven showed me many things about my heart and the mess that was inside. He also gently showed me what other people were feeling because of my actions. Wow. That wrecked me. I had no idea of just how much pain I had caused, especially to those closest to me. It still hits me as I write this, months later!

There is so much more to God than you can ever understand through teaching. The only way to truly understand God is to have a close relationship with Him and experience Him for yourself. His power and love are so life-changing, that if everyone were to experience them, the whole world would be changed in a single day.

I want to encourage you to press into prayer and worship. Spend time meditating on the Bible and switch off other voices such as video and text media. Your hearing will clear up significantly and you will draw closer and closer to your Father and experience greater measures of His love and favour in your life.

Sharing the Faith

I am currently reading through 1 Peter, and I love the following verses from chapter 3. 1 Peter 3:15-17 ‘Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

The way to preach the gospel is not always from a pulpit, but rather by showing others a holy and pure life. This shifts the responsibility of sharing Christianity with unbelievers from the pastor to every Christian. I love that we are all meant to be a part of God’s plan. There is no one too small or insignificant to participate.

We are called to live a life that cannot be mocked or criticized, even by non-Christians. To live this way, I know I need God’s help. I can’t live this life on my own. I think this is God’s intention. No one can live this kind of life on their own, so there must be something or someone helping them. (God) 🙂 I have heard a few testimonies of Christians who came to the faith because they were challenged by Christians who didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs and who were always happy. They were challenged by the way Christians lived, and found God because of it. When my time on earth is over, I want to meet people who were challenged by the life I lived. Do you want to challenge others too?

We know that we are called to live a life that cannot be mocked or criticized, but what are some practical things to do that show this kind of life? 1 Peter 4:7-11 sheds some light on this. ‘The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

By praying earnestly, showing deep love, cheerfully sharing and using our gifts, we are living for God. The lifestyle God wants you and me to live doesn’t sound complicated; The difficulty is living faithfully day after day. If you are already living in this way, keep going! If you aren’t, don’t worry; start now. It’s important to remember that life isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon. Consistency is how we win.