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.

The Secret Place

Relationship with God is just. so. important. Every day is an opportunity to grow. Are we actively taking that opportunity or squandering it?

I want to share a testimony. As I have said previously, I got addicted to porn at a young age and last year stopped watching it. Completely. It was amazing because low-level depression along with most other symptoms of porn left 🙂 Yes! It was amazing! However, although I was set free from watching it, I was still tormented in some capacity by thoughts of going back. Scenes would replay in my head and it was horrible. I prayed throughout the whole year for my Father to set me free from it. But nothing seemed to happennnnnn 😦

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. (This is very close to a year since I started praying.) Holy Spirit led me to a certain kind of prayer that:

  1. Acknowledged the sin by name (e.g. watching porn, lusting, etc.)
  2. Repented of the sin and asked forgiveness
  3. Told the sin and evil spirit to leave in Jesus’ name

Wow!

I felt so freeeeee

All those thoughts just. stopped. It felt like I almost had an “empty” mind or something. It was kinda weird, but amazing!

The reason I tell this story is to make this point. I would never have been set free if I didn’t have a relationship with God. I had to pray and really listen to the Holy Spirit leading me. He was so patient with me and not in a hurry. When I was ready, he gave me the words, exact words to pray to break those evil spirits. The thing is, as good as all other christians and churches and podcasts and sermons are, they never knew my heart and set me free. Only God could see what I was dealing with and knew exactly what to do. 🙂

I have found that the most impacting moments in my life were all when I was alone and praying, worshipping or reading the Word of God. Our Father is in heaven, yet he is so close to us and understands us better than any other person. Because of this, I have changed my view on church and my spiritual growth. Rather than seeking that growth from my church, I have changed my focus to expect my growth to come directly from God.

This means that the only stopping capacity is how far I am willing to go. I am no longer capped by anything except myself. How many hours will I pray before stopping? How long will I ask God for freedom before being set free? Am I willing to give up gaming to spend more time praying? These are the kind of decisions that determine my level of relationship with God.

Here is a list of some positive side affects of doubling – tripling the amount of time I spend with God:

  1. Far less fear
  2. Freedom from lustful/unclean thoughts
  3. No more nightmares
  4. Peace. So much peace.
  5. Being shown things by God
  6. Ridiculous favour at work
  7. Very deep relationships with people I previously had little to none
  8. More wisdom
  9. Increased awareness of others

Each of these points came either directly from praying for them, or just general prayer and listening to God. Some I asked for specifically, others just came.

The more I spend time with the Father, the more I feel his heart for me, and others. He is so loving, so gentle, so patient, so kind, and so humble. He is so humble! The love in his eyes is so pure, it changes you. You cannot be the same after; I’m quite sure it’s impossible.

There are things you can’t experience unless you spend several hours just praying. There are experiences you will never experience until you get on your knees for extended periods of time. I will pray that you open your heart to this idea and pray for a desire to be drawn to prayer.

If you want to be closer to God than most people even know is possible, pray for it. Ask God to draw you into the secret place. Don’t let anyone put a limit on you for what is acceptable. I used to believe that an hour each day is enough time with God, simply because a pastor told me. That is a very good amount of time with God if you want to stay a bit above average. However, if you’re anything like me and want to push the boundaries, I dare you to spend 5 hours each night praying for a week in a row.

If your world isn’t absolutely blown apart by God, send me a message and I will personally video chat with you and pray with you. I double-dare you to do it. Pray for 7 hours a day. Pray for 9. Don’t stop there, see what happens for even more. Try 12 hours in a single session.

This change absolutely shook my world and turned it upside-down. I believe it will do the same to your world too. Please let me know what happens. I want to hear your testimonies!

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. (More details here) 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 hours each day – I’m talking many hours praying, crying, pleading, crying… Yeah, it wasn’t glamorous 😉

BUT…

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!

Some things you cannot explain. Other things you can. Only the explainable things are talked about at church, which is understandable to some degree. However, there is so much more to God than you can ever understand through teaching. The ONLY WAY, please read carefully, THE ONLY WAY to truly understand God is to have a close relationship with him.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but now the only people I can truly relate to in a spiritual setting are those who also have an intimate relationship with the Father. They talk act differently. Things get under their skin that just don’t bother most people. They understand another side of God and his heart, so they will not stand for things that break his heart. Sure, they still mess up plenty! But they’re different.

When was the last time someone, christian or not, told you “you’re different”? Do you stand out, especially to those who don’t know Jesus? If not, it might be time to lock your door and get on your knees for a few hours a day until that changes.

Trusting in God (like your life depends on it)

It was just a few days into the new year that I received the phone call. Unsuspecting, I picked up my phone and answered. From the other end I heard a weak voice say “aunty (blank) has passed this afternoon”. I didn’t know how to respond. She had a severe cancer so I was expecting the news, yet hoping against it somehow. I was unsure of how to feel.

To give some backstory, I moved to the city of Adelaide, Australia back in early 2018. I felt God lead me to move, but before I had made plans for a place to live, I was at a Christmas family gathering just weeks before I needed to move. Out of no where, an aunt of mine approached me and asked what I was doing early next year. She then explained that she and her husband, (my uncle), were going overseas for a month and needed someone to look after the house. The timing was perfect from me needing to move to Adelaide matching when they were leaving.

Wait, what???

Oh yeah… she wanted to PAY ME to stay there too.

Needless to say I promptly accepted the generous offer. I ended up staying on after this lovely couple returned from their trip. Altogether I was there for around 18 months. We got a lot closer and became good friends.

Now all of that was gone. She was gone.

In the midst of this happening, I felt misunderstood by some friends and experienced a breakup.

My emotions were in utter turmoil. Most days became a blur of strong sad emotions. I didn’t know how to handle so much loss at the same time, so I started praying like my life depended on it.

Through prayer, I was drawn into God’s presence in a way I have NEVER experienced before! In this terrible mess of a season in my life, God was with me. He brought deep comfort to me.

I am reminded of Psalm 23 which says

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever. – NLT

Verse 4 stands out to me the most – Even when I walk through the darkest valley … you comfort me.

I know this to be true; when I trusted God and let him be my shepherd, these things followed. It’s all good and well to speak these verses into your life and believe for them, but I really believe that it is when you actively put your trust in God and allow him to lead you that these verses become a part of your life.

I had to trust that God loved me and still had a plan for my life.

I’m going to be honest. It was FRIGGIN’ HARD! (Mind the Christian swear word) Yet God was there the whole time. I had to trust him above my feelings.

To really trust God and let him lead me, I had to put aside every plan I made and give it to him in prayer. I recognized some goals I had in life that probably (definitely) weren’t aligned with God’s.

Sad face.

I had to let go of them. MANNN that was hard. It’s one thing to let go of an idea that just popped into your head, it’s a whole different thing letting go of hopes and dreams that you have poured blood, sweat and tears into.

As I gave each hope, dream, and plan for my future to God, he started showing me his hopes, dreams, and plans for my life. Now that was cool! I found out that God had called me to so many different things I never saw when I was too busy pursuing my own selfish plans! The shock to me was that God’s plans were actually bigger than I dared dream myself!

This part blew my mind. God trusted me more than I trusted myself!

What do I mean? God’s plans for my life are beyond what I consider myself capable of. He puts more faith in me than I put in myself. I do not mean that my human ability is able to do this, but that with God, I can do more than I dared even think possible. It turns out that trusting in God unlocks a whole other world!

I really believe that because I started learning to trust in God, my relationship with him grew more in the last two months than the last two years. I do not say this lightly. One month truly trusting in God saw more growth than a year of being a good Christian guy.

What are your experiences of trusting in God? How did you trust in God? How did God respond to you?

The Deal with Pride

Today I was reading from Jeremiah 50. After reading the chapter, (a prophesy of judgement for the nation of Babylon), I noticed a few things.

Firstly, Babylon had been used by God to bring His judgement to nations that disobeyed Him. Babylon didn’t deserve God’s blessing or attention, yet He chose to use them to fulfill His purpose. By carrying out His work, the nation became very wealthy. (Lots of plunder from sacking many a city)

Secondly, Babylon didn’t acknowledge God and His blessing, but instead put themselves as the reason for success and praised their idols. They were so prideful that they couldn’t see past themselves and their own abilities. They put their full trust in themselves. Further to this, they decided that some man-made idols should be praised and worshipped. (uh-oh… I can take a guess where this is headed)

Thirdly, God didn’t take kindly to their pride. (Surprised? Me neither) God saw their arrogance and commanded a judgement on them that was, (get this), worse than every other judgement the other nations suffered. The worst part? There was no chance for repentance. The judgement on Babylon was to be final, and no one would ever live there again. Never ever is a very long time, so you know God was serious. In fact, God says “desert creatures and hyenas will live there” (v29), meaning God basically made the land haunted. All because some people trusted their own strength rather than the all powerful God of heaven. God doesn’t mess around, and I believe He wanted to make a point about pride and humility for people living after (aka you and me!). Those who call out to God will be saved, while those who trust in themselves will be brought low. James 4:6 says it well:

And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

All throughout the old testament you can read of God bringing judgement on Israel for disobeying Him, yet they always turn and repent. God loves a humble heart, and gives grace when He sees it. Therefore, the lesson for you and I is simply this: Pride is a big no-no. You and I can start practicing more humility. And if you already are? Great! Keep going.

Rethinking my Obedience to God

For the past few weeks I have been reading a book written by Pastor John Bevere, called Killing Kryptonite. The book focuses on a common sin many Christians in Australia deal with; idolatry – which is generally putting anything above God or before God. The deadliest part about this sin is how it goes unnoticed by anyone committing it. The result of this sin is a church and body of Christ without power and authority.

I could talk about many different lessons learned, but one that stood out to me was my attitude when reading the bible. For a couple of years I have been fairly consistent in reading devotions, attending church, and thinking I’m a good Christian, but after reading this book, I realised I had lost humility and always assumed I was doing the right thing.

Let me give an example. Matthew 7 verses 1-3“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?’

When reading this passage, I have always assumed I follow this commandment by Jesus. However, after driving for about 2.7 seconds in Adelaide traffic, I get cut off and immediately feel anger and judgement toward the person. ARGHHH I HATE TRAFFIC! Never mind that I just cut someone off myself! I have been judging people A LOT without realising how much I do it.

I’m especially good at judging people and being a hypocrite on a day I do a double-devotion.

Yup. That’s bad. And very true.

Here’s the thing… I never realised my sin until I started reading the Bible honestly. Instead of assuming I’m already doing it right, I have adopted the attitude of assuming I’m doing it wrong, then examining my actions over the past couple of days/weeks to honestly assess how I am doing.

Okay, that’s a nice lesson Caleb, but what does it have to do with idolatry? Well, after reading this book I realised the biggest idol in my life was…. drum roll..

me.

Now I don’t know who you are or where you’re at or what you’ve done, yada yada yada… But I do know that I thought I was a healthy Christian while frequently sinning. And I ONLY realised I was in trouble when I stopped idolising myself and thinking so highly of myself. If you think you’re pretty well on track with your relationship with God, I suggest you stop right now and have a good, long think about that. No judgement here from me! You may be perfectly in God’s will, …buuuuuuut chances are that if you believe you’re not sinning, you are.

All the best.

The Bible as an Anchor

I often find myself caught up in being busy, doing things that aren’t important and forgetting what is necessary. After working for 8.5 hours, I want to recharge for a couple of hours before completing chores at home. Time slips away, and soon I have to go to bed to prepare for the next day. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this. However, it tends to go wrong when I don’t set aside time with God.

Living my life away from God is dangerous. I am likely to stay positive and continue to be a “good person”, but lose the power of Christ living within me. As I lose focus on God, I find myself drifting away, like a boat in a river that hasn’t anchored to stay still. When distractions come in, it’s hard to draw the line and say no when they encroach upon the time that should be spent with God. The next thing I know, I’ve missed my morning devotion 4 days in a row…

It’s times like this that I pull the bible back out again and start reading. 2 Timothy 3:16 says ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.’ After reading, peace returns to me and I find myself wondering why I got distracted in the first place. Being close to God is so powerful and amazing, I don’t want to live any other way. Yet, there I go again, isolating myself from God by filling my days with entertainment and social media.

Can you relate to this; filling your day with things that are fun for the moment, but distract you from God in the end? This happens to me far too often, so I have asked two people to keep me accountable to daily devotions. What do you do to keep your focus on God and remain consistent?

A Lesson From My Relationship

I have resisted writing about my relationship with Katie, my girlfriend, partly because she sometimes reads my posts and I don’t want to embarrass her, but also because the relationship is new and I’m still learning a lot. However, I have learned so much from dating her I can’t pass up an opportunity for content to write here 😉

Being in a relationship is like having a giant magnifying glass looking at my character. Before I met Katie, I thought I was a great Christian guy because I diligently went to church to serve, read my bible, and prayed often. However, when I started going out with her, I quickly started to see gaps in my character that needed immediate attention. The list is too long to cover here, but the first area I observed needing improvement was my relationship with my family. I saw how Katie loved and cared for her family, even though they let her down at times. Seeing this forgiveness and love challenged me. After being hurt by my family, I isolated myself and was living away from them with minimal interaction. I preferred to not talk about them, and when asked, would generally bring up the bad things that happened. I understand that no one has a perfect family, but my attitude toward my family was not right. Seeing how forgiveness brought healing and restored relationships in Katie’s family challenged me to forgive my family too and invite them back into my life. I started organising times to see them and enjoy each other’s company.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says ‘If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

As it turns out, there is a lot more to being a “good Christian guy” then simply going to church and reading the Bible. Without showing love, I had nothing. When I did change my tune, I was amazed at how fast relationships were strengthened and renewed. Have you had difficulty in family relationships? What have you done to restore those relationships? Let me know by commenting below 🙂

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.