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A New Destination

Father wants to put fresh, new spiritual destinations in your heart, along with a compelling purpose for pursuing them. God has a new destination for you – this is a time to be listening!

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ (Isaiah 43:19)

The Hebrew word ‘wilderness’ means, ‘a vast open field where cattle are driven’, ‘uninhabited land’, or ‘large tracts of open land and pasture’.

The picture is of someone herding cattle like a drover and discovering uninhabited, vast plains of land that are virgin territory. However, the thought is not that of dryness. Quite the opposite! ‘A road in the wilderness’ speaks of a place where there is an abundance of food for cattle. Settlers can come and prosper in a new land. The ‘wilderness’ speaks of new territory. Expansive new territory – a new destination!

Father clearly spoke to me one morning a number of years ago and said: “I want the rest of your life as a blank sheet of paper.” I was amazed, as I sincerely considered that was the case already. However, over a period of a few weeks He showed me how subtle the nature of our desires can be. Indeed, our view of the future can be influenced by our knowledge of the past. I had to discover a place of complete surrender, with no qualifications attached. What an incredible sense of anticipation then flooded my heart!

So, if you feel as though you are facing a wilderness, take courage. The promise of God is that He will give you a ‘road’ that will cause that wilderness to become accessible and a place of great fruitfulness.

Can I encourage each one of you to take some time aside to present yourself afresh before the Lord to hear from Him.  Bring your own blank sheet of paper to see what exciting new things He would write upon it for your future. Of one thing I am certain: He has a remarkable and fruitful new era for each one of us, if we dare to embrace it.

Man looking out over a lake pondering his influence

Influence or Success

God is calling us to be people of greater influence. We are all called to be godly influencers, regardless of our calling or title. We cannot make disciples without influencing others! But we can easily lose our focus on influence and instead look towards success.

The world’s focus is on success, and this focus is on self.

Success means: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the attainment of popularity or profit, a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

One of the evidences of success is growth; you have more of something and its bigger and better. This was not Jesus’ focus nor His example to us. It says in John 6:66, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Jesus had many disciples and when He began to share some challenging thoughts, many left Him. His many followers got whittled down to twelve. Of those twelve, one repeatedly cursed and denied knowing Him, another was characterised by doubt, others were known to argue with each other about their importance and who would get the best seat in heaven, one was stealing from the organisations finances and ended up betraying Jesus and committing suicide. At His point of greatest need, they all deserted Him. He was not, as man would define it, a person of great success!

However, God’s focus is on influence, and this focus is on others. Consider these scriptures:

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Mark 8:36 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Matthew 20:28 “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Influence means: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself, the power to shape policy.

While success equals gain, influence equals change. Jesus came to influence people’s lives, not to be a successful person. Leadership and influence are about us adding to others by giving, while success is about us achieving for ourselves by getting.

Jesus saw the problem in people’s lives, and He added the solution!

Jesus saw death so He came to add life. Jesus saw worthlessness so He came to add value. Jesus saw fear so He came to add love. Jesus saw worry so He came to add peace. Jesus saw hopelessness so He came to add hope.

Jesus literally changed environments, cultures and people’s lives by influencing them – by adding to them by giving.

The woman caught in adultery was feeling condemned. Jesus saw this and added acceptance, and by doing so, removed condemnation. The Samaritan woman at the well was feeling unworthy to be loved because five men had left her. Jesus saw this and added love and honour, and by doing so, subtracted unworthiness. After denying Jesus three times, Peter felt disqualified and unworthy. Jesus saw this and added acceptance and a fresh commissioning.

Like Jesus, we are always adding to or removing things from people’s lives. So, what are you adding to people’s lives and what are you subtracting? There were times in difficult conversations with others that I added frustration, anger and careless words, and by doing so, subtracted honour, respect and value. The reason I did this was because I felt I was right; therefore I focused on achieving for myself by getting the upper hand. I wanted to be successful in this argument.

But there have also been times when I added gentleness, honour, patience and respect. When my focus was on adding to others and selfless giving, I removed anger, frustration and hurt. I wanted to be influential in this conversation; to love them like Jesus does.

God is calling us all to be people of greater influence. So, in your everyday life, when you see a lack in people’s lives, add the opposite. When you see criticism, add some encouragement. If you recognise hopelessness, add some hope. Look to be influential, rather than successful. When you go up – that’s success. But when you help others go up – that’s influence.

Woman with two hands full of fruit

One Handful or Two

I have found myself at times chasing many things. And they may have been good things – related to family, ministry, or church life. But as a bit of an over-achiever, I can easily find myself with too much on my plate. I say yes out of enthusiasm to help others, which can result in feeling worn out or depleted.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

God asked me one day, “What do you have in your hand?” And when I answered the question honestly, I realised that it was not just one handful that I was carrying, but actually I had both hands full. And my hands were full to overflowing. I was so busy doing things for God that I had been distracted from chasing after God himself.

When I was younger, my Dad used to have a bit of fun when offering us certain foods – such as a slice of cake or slice of cheese. He would ask whether we wanted a one-handed slice or a two-handed slice. Of course, if my friends were around, they would always ask for a two-handed slice – it sounded like it was going to be so much bigger and so much better! But in fact, a two-handed slice was so thin and fragile that it needed to be held with both hands. It would crumble at a moment’s notice. The one-handed slice was the one you really wanted – it was thick and stable and easily held in one hand.

When both our hands are so full of stuff in our lives, it is like that two-handed slice. Life seems like it will be so much better when we have two hands full – but in fact, too much and our lives feel thin and as if things would easily crumble. We end up chasing after the wrong things, and it takes all of our energy to ensure that things don’t fall apart. But we don’t want to drop the ball or let people down, so we keep straining to juggle our many responsibilities. As a result, our life feels unstable and uncertain.

When I chase after many things that are not in God’s plan, I lose my tranquillity. I forfeit that inner state of being calm and settled. I end up toiling and working so hard I lose my joy. And if we are honest, amidst the many good things in our lives, we can end up a slave to what seem to be good things. But too many seemingly good things are not always right if they are not in God’s plan.

Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus teaches us not to worry about tomorrow, and to seek Him first. God’s ways are always higher than our ways. If we stick to one handful of the things in life, we have the other hand free – to hold God’s hand. To allow Him to lead and guide us. To ensure that we have the margin and space in our day to hear His voice and be led by His Spirit. With one hand full, our lives are stable and secure in Him. And with just one hand full, we also have the other hand free to help others along the way as He directs.

So, allow Father to speak into what you have in your hands. Don’t get caught up in meaningless toil – live your life with one handful, not two.

Philippians 1:6 (The Living Bible) “And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.”

Sun rising over the promised land

We Shall Reign

Although entering the Promised land was a wonderful, long-awaited day for Israel, there was one snag; the giants were still there! Why?

Was there a reason God did not destroy these giants after seeing His people wandering in the desert for forty years? Why risk yet another generation being turned back by their intimidation and size? Surely God knew of the battles that would have to be fought, the constant challenges to faith that His people would be presented with. The sword and the spear seemed to be such a contrast to a “land flowing with milk and honey” as promised.

This is where we must understand God’s objective, for it is the same today with all of us. From the very beginning of time, God has always had the power to destroy the devil and his hordes. There has never been a time when the Lord and His angels could not have hurled every demon into the lake of fire and left them there. Our God is sovereign, and His authority is absolute.

Why then has He tolerated this sin-infested world and the demons that so ravage it?

The answer is found in knowing God’s ultimate intention for those of humanity that have chosen to serve Him as undisputed Lord. If we are ever to be the overcomers that we all desire to be, that will not be because the Lord has removed the potential of conflict from our path. It is quite the opposite. It is the very process of being confronted and having to decide to exercise our God-given authority in prayer that develops that spiritual dominion within us.

Consider the clear declaration of these scriptures:

Revelations 5:10  “And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
Revelations 20:6  “…and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
2 Timothy 2:12  “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”.

The capacity to reign, the spiritual authority to rule, is not a gift; it is a developed spiritual muscle. It is only as we exercise it that it matures. If we see this clearly, we realise why it was so necessary for those giants to be left alive, awaiting God’s people. Let me declare it simply and plainly: Our adversaries exist to be conquered by you and I! They are our fuel for growth.

It also tells us why Jesus did not remove all evil from the Earth at the time of His triumph at Calvary. There is no dispute that Our King utterly annihilated Satan’s legal rights to rule and express evil on the Earth.

It says in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (the cross). Matthew 28:18 tells us, And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

It is in the next statement in Matthew 28:19 that says it all: “Go ye therefore”! In other words, Jesus is saying, “I paid the price to purchase all dominion and rule, but you must now enforce that and see it acknowledged on a daily basis by the enemies of the kingdom.” The legal document that guarantees us our potential victory over the flesh and the devil is the declared Word of God. It alone is the truth.

Our past failures and the accusations of the enemy can be highly persuasive, and they are often very convincing lies. But the tragedy is that everything that is human in us reaches out to accept their logic and the apparent reasonableness of their suggestions.

At times it can be a major challenge to believe in God’s integrity and that of His Word, turn your back on all that persuasive human reasoning, and declare: “we are more than conquerors through Christ!”  (Romans 8:37) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens [empowers] me.”  (Philippians 4:12-14)

Does it take faith? Absolutely. But He has already placed that faith within you. It is by your decision that you must draw upon that faith and determine to live by it. It is as you cry out to Him in prayer and claim the power of His Word that faith is released. Such an overcoming life is not for a few elite superstars but for everyday followers of Jesus like you and me.

Romans 8:37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!”

Just Three Words From Jesus

God is speaking all the time. He speaks in parables and stories, in statements and prophecies, in mysteries great and unsearchable. But Father also speaks with clarity and precision. And just three words that God speaks can be the very declaration that we need to hear right now.

We are all called to live a prophetic life. And the description of living a prophetic life is to hear God clearly and communicate Him accurately. But when we consider the prophetic, are we missing what God is saying because we are overlooking what God is placing right before us? Are we looking for a great and mighty prophecy and missing His voice because we mistakenly believe that the lengthier something is, the more impacting it will be?

Some of the most powerful moments in Jesus’ life were summed up in just three words. At the start of His ministry, Jesus finds Simon Peter and Andrew fishing, and with just three words His command changed the direction of their lives: “Come, follow me.” While being tempted in the wilderness, Jesus rebukes the enemy with just three words, “It is written” and uses the power of the Word to overcome temptation. When a man with leprosy comes to Jesus to ask if He will make him clean, Jesus says just three words, “I am willing” and then heals him. While the disciples are freaked out by the wild weather which has blown up on the lake, Jesus calms the storm with just three words, “Quiet! Be still.”

Upon the cross of Calvary, Jesus, who was giving up his perfect, sinless life for the salvation of humanity, says just three words, “It is finished.” Peter, wonderful impulsive Peter, who loved Jesus so much and yet who also disowned Him before He was crucified, was given his calling and purpose for life in just three words, “Feed my sheep.” And many of the simplest, yet most profound commands we hear from Jesus are summed up in three words: “Love one another”, “Remain in Me”, “Do not judge”, “Watch and pray,” “Do not worry”.

Focusing on just three words is not a principle to be followed or a rule to measure whether God is speaking or not. Jesus spoke for three chapters non-stop in Matthew when delivering the Sermon on the Mount. The entire Bible, all 66 books which are inspired by the Holy Spirit, is God speaking to us. It says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The length of how many words God says to you in a particular moment is not the point. The point is that God is always speaking – through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, through other believers, through creation.

When it comes to hearing God’s voice, He will speak to us with exactly what we need. Never underestimate the power of what God is saying because of the length of the words or the vessel that it is delivered through. In fact, the simplicity of just three words can burn in your heart and come back to your mind time and time again when you need encouragement in your faith.

Whether it is three words, a paragraph, or a chapter – Father is always speaking. So, when the Holy Spirit whispers something to your heart, don’t discount it just because it appears simple. When a phrase is highlighted to you from the Bible, meditate and press in to hear His voice. When you receive a word of encouragement or a scripture from a friend, listen to what God is saying. Bigger is not always better. Longer is not always loftier. God knows best – let’s allow His Words to change our lives.

stillness over a peaceful lake

Stillness and Silence

Sometimes when the pressure of decision is very real, there is a place that I like to go.  It’s a place in which stillness and silence reigns, where the beauty of God’s handiwork is seen so clearly.  It’s so easy to love a place like that for so many reasons: the quietness, the beauty, the serenity of nature’s touch.  But most of all, for me, it is a place where I find my Father’s heart.

Psalm 23:2 is such a well-known scripture – He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

His silence is still golden. In an age where the pressure of decision seems to be an ever-present adversary, we need to know a place where we can find our solitude.  A place uncluttered by the affairs of man and the tension of the time clock ticking our moments away. A place where we can hear God clearly.

In my quest for such a place over the years, I have often found some beautiful and wonderful spots.  Places that still linger and minister to my mind.  But not always so.  There are times when such a place, is not to be found.  For reasons many and varied, our search for solitude remains an unfruitful one.  For too many this moment becomes a time of crisis.

It is in such moments that the reality of the Holy Spirit is such a comfort.  I have discovered that we can find a place of haven, wherever we are.  It’s not a place of trees, and soft waters in the natural, but rather a place where our minds are at peace and our hearts are ministered to by His love.  The Bible says that the love the Lord Jesus Christ can give is a love “beyond all understanding”.  He speaks of a peace which is above all ability to reason or comprehend.  It’s a peace which knows no limits and has no barriers.  It’s a peace not borne out of the efforts of man but has upon it the sweet touch of the Divine.  The loving heart of the Father ministering to us by the Holy Spirit.

When people question me concerning the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are things I can refer to.  The miracles, the healings, the transformed lives, the sheer joy in our services from people who have previously only known despair.  But perhaps one of the greatest evidences of all is that ever present peace which is greater than my understanding.

The peace of which I’ve written, is a peace freely available.  But will never be found in the strife and struggle of physical or intellectual endeavour, for it is spiritual in nature. By coming to the Lord Jesus who is its Source and Supply we can receive in a moment that which may be the quest of a lifetime.

My prayer is that you will find your haven soon, for I know how much I value mine.

 

 

Man praying on a beach about God's will

Not My Will

There are times when we desire something different to what God wants.

Jesus was perfect and sinless, but He also had times of desiring something different to what His Father’s plan required of Him. At times, Jesus had a conflict of wills with His Father. Now this might sound wrong and terrible, but I need you to keep on leaning in with me.

By its very definition, a conflict of wills simply means ‘opposing desires’. Let’s look at this well-known verse: Luke 22:42 (NIV) “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus always wanted to please His Father, and spiritually He wanted to do His Father’s will, but He had moments where naturally He wanted to do something different.

Jesus wouldn’t have said, “Not My will” If His will was to do what His Father was asking Him to do. This is not something metaphoric; Jesus desired something different to His Father in this moment. What does this mean for us? Jesus had to submit His will to His Father’s will, which means, there were moments when His will was different to His Father’s will. We want a removal of an opposing desire, but as we see from Jesus’ example, it is about submitting an opposing desire and saying NO to it, and about saying “Yes” to our Father’s desire. Oh how this is so important to see clearly!

Too many times the enemy who is a thief throws accusations at us to do with opposing desires to God’s will. Our struggle is “How could I want that if I love my Father!” Jesus wanted something different (an easier, less painful way) to what His Father required. Sure, we put degrees on it and say, “Yeah, but that wasn’t a temptation to sin; a desire to do the wrong thing”.

No, in this case it wasn’t a desire to do something wrong…or was it? Isn’t sin ‘missing the mark’? And isn’t ‘missing the mark’ simply doing something different to Father’s perfect will? If so, Jesus was tempted to sin in this moment, just like you and I are tempted at times. It might look different, but at its core, it is an opposing desire to Father’s will; that is a temptation to sin.

And this was not the only time Jesus was tempted to sin.

Today I want to encourage you to not condemn yourself for being tempted with an opposing desire to God’s desire. It’s what you do with that desire that is the important thing.  Having an opposing desire to God’s plan is not the problem! This is what temptation is, and temptation is not wrong. Giving into the opposing desire is the problem!

Lucifer had an opposing desire to God’s plan, and he gave into it. Adam & Eve had an opposing desire to God’s plan, and they gave into it. King David had an opposing desire to God’s plan, and he gave into it. Peter has an opposing desire to God’s plan, and he gave into it. You and I have opposing desires to God’s plan, and sometimes we give into them.

Jesus had opposing desires to God’s plan, but He never gave into it! “Oh, but Steve, that was easier for Jesus because He was perfect and He was the Son of God.” Jesus wrestled so much that He sweated drops of blood; this is how anguished He was over His decision and what was required of Him!!!!

The truth is, you and I can always say YES to God and NO to temptation. Like you, I don’t “feel” like I can, but that’s not the truth of God’s Word. Not my will, but God’s will.

Read more about surrendering to God when we need to trust and let go in the seasons of life.

Present Possession

We all want to walk with freedom in our lives. But do we really understand our present possession in Christ?

Jesus is our present possession as true Christians. Sometimes as Christians, we live too much in a future anticipation for what Jesus has legally provided for us now. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, then we have received salvation (Ephesians 2:8).

Our spiritual address has shifted from death to life (Romans 6:11). Our spiritual identity has changed from slave to son (Romans 8:15, Galatians 5:25, John 15:15). This has happened! It is done! It is finished! It is ours now!

Yes, there is a work of sanctification and renewing that continues to take place, but the legal requirement has been met in Jesus, and salvation is our present possession in Him! Jesus is our present possession.

Jesus is also our future salvation: One day, Jesus will bring freedom from the penalty, power, presence and pleasure of sin. What Jesus accomplished on the cross was not incomplete or insufficient, but we still live in a world where the enemy is at work and his influence is seen and felt by many.

But one day, this will change! The enemy’s time is short! He is a defeated foe, and one day he will also be banished!

Then, our present possession will take on an even deeper level of completeness as evil ceases to be present in our reality and where there will be no obstructions or obstacles in any form!

Revelation 21:4 says, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (NKJV)

Glory, majesty, awe, wonder, and the deepest, purest form of worship and intimacy will be our eternal joy and pleasure!!! Oh what a glorious day! Praise God for our present possession of salvation! Praise God for our future salvation!

I encourage you to take a few minutes to thank God for what He has done for you.