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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

Passion For God

Acts 21:1-4, 7-8 tells the story of Paul travelling through various places and encouraging Christians as he went. Just focusing on the travel, it says ‘After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We โ€ฆlanded at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a weekโ€ฆ‘ (Skip verses 5 and 6) ‘The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.

This story illustrates the passion Paul had for God and the Church. He travelled the world teaching and encouraging believers wherever he went.

The passion Paul had for God and the Church inspires me. However, when it comes to my life, I can so effortlessly get busy with unimportant tasks. I never intend to put God below other things, but it is so easy to find fun and exciting things to fill my day.

Does your life reflect the passion Paul had? Travelling the world is obviously not required to pursue God passionately. Loving God looks different for everyone, but is there an opportunity to bring your passion to a higher level? Do you find yourself ‘too busy’ to spend a meaningful time alone with God each day?

Family

This week God has been talking to me about family. It started when I was talking with a friend about her family. Her family experienced some hardship but didn’t handle it well. As a result, some relationships suffered and today still need attention.

The conversation I had with my friend reminded me of my family. Last year I moved away from family but didn’t make an effort to stay in contact. I wanted to leave them behind as much as possible because of my past (terrible) experiences. However, after some thinking and praying, I believe God wants me to connect with them again.

Have you struggled with your family in the past? Are there relationships you can help mend?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

God wants every one of us to love each other the way He loves. This includes family.

Respectful Yet Honest

I was talking to a friend at church when he started talking about another friend of mine in a negative way. He didn’t respect them at all, saying they were an idiot. I’m sure there was a reason why this friend wasn’t the smartest, but that doesn’t justify putting them down like that! Not only did my friend manage to pull down my friend, but he also lost my trust.

Honesty is critical, but say behind someone’s back what you would say to their face. It may be hard, to be honest in a respectful way when they are wrong, but it is so essential to maintaining trust in relationships. If something is wrong, tell them! The worst thing to do is gossip about them when they are likely to fix their problem if only they were told.

2 Corinthians 8:21 says ‘For we aim at what is honourable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.‘ Respect and honesty build trust, one small conversation at a time. Don’t underestimate its power, but instead aim to respect everyone, including God.

What are you filled with?

At around the age of 18, I went to one night of a youth camp. A guest speaker was preaching about being filled with God. Afterwards, I knelt for prayer and just started crying out to God, asking Him to fill me. As I was kneeling people began praying for me. The feeling of God filling me intensified. After a little time, I started to feel normal again and thought that must be it. I thought God filled me, but He had more. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said ‘Caleb if you want more, press in harder.’ I started praying again, and tears continued to flow even more freely. After repeating this process four or five times, I was a wreak. I looked terrible! (I know because I went to the bathroom after and looked in the mirror. I was shocked at how bad I looked!) I had given everything I had to God. At that time, I felt so close to God I could feel every little uncaring comment and each rude remark. I felt all my senses on high alert, each one pouring love. I have never felt closer to God all my life. There has never been a time before or after that has been even close.

How hungry are you? Are you willing to put everything out there? Are you ready to surrender everything to God and trust Him to fill you, or are you too busy? Do you want a life-changing experience, or are you comfortable with your current relationship with God?

Revelation 3:20 says ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.‘ In this verse, Jesus is talking. He desperately wants a relationship with you! Regardless of your current position with God, if you open your heart, even more, God will respond.

The Power of Relationship

Today I found it natural to spend time with God. My devotion didn’t feel forced, but instead very refreshing. I have often experienced reading the Bible, praying and worshipping as dry and dull. I can’t wait to finish so I can do something else. I don’t feel a real connection because I’m not there for the right reasons. I have found myself being there to ‘tick the devotion box.’ Today was different when I felt a natural pull toward worshipping and praying. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the time and feeling disappointed when it ended.

Real relationships are based on love. I will never build a strong relationship by giving five minutes each day. I have a choice to make. I can give with generosity, or I can love the smallest amount possible. After giving my time I don’t feel like I lost what I have given, but instead, I feel like I have gained from it. Real relationships are built on love, not duty.