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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!”

Alarm clock that is set to just before noon

Never Too Late

There are times when we feel like God is too late. Our challenges have become overwhelming, and that answer to prayer still hasn’t come. There is a depth of experiencing God in pain and travail that transcends anything we know in times of rejoicing.  These are the ‘wells in the desert’; the ‘treasures discovered in darkness’. These are the moments in which all pretence and all insincerity are stripped away; and in a state of spiritual and emotional nakedness, we stand before God unashamed and desperate for His love.

The intimacy possible in such times does not depend upon emotional highs nor sensations of well-being; it is a deep inner awareness of being loved by our Father, of being held in His embrace of unconditional acceptance and care.

When no argument is convincing, when no evidence is apparent, there comes the assurance of an unreasonable faith: ‘My Father loves me!’ The beauty and depth of character forged in such times will remain with us forever and will become a well of life for others to drink from, others who are questioning their time of difficulty or transition.

Friends, all of life is made up of seasons, and seasons demand a transition from one to the other, that insert of scary vulnerability.  Perhaps some of you can identify an area in which you are undergoing such a transition right now: vocation, marriage, ministry, finance, relationships, or even in who and what God wants you to be. For all of you, I have a word of encouragement from the Lord; and I want you to keep it before you.

It is never too late! You are birthing a new day of promise! God has not forgotten you, and you are going from bearing fruit to bearing extravagant fruit. Your promise is on its way and it is God’s intention that it will come right on time.

Jeremiah 33:1-3 says, ‘Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison, saying, “Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name): ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

Now, for some of you that feel your difficult season has gone on for a little too long and the devil has suggested it is too late now for you. In John 11, we read about Mary and Martha’s grief at the loss of their brother Lazarus. They thought it was too late!

John 11:21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” It appeared that this was one transition that had gone on too long.  The subject had died! Martha is saying, “If you had only intervened earlier, we would not have gone through this death experience.” But Jesus declares that it is NEVER too late! Mary and Martha were about to witness a resurrection!

The Lord allowed this delay because Lazarus had not only a message to deliver but a message to become.  Jesus knew that when he came out of that tomb, he will be the message!  A message no one will be able to refute nor deny.

Friends, God always has a purpose.  We must learn to trust Him. It is never too late.

Woman reading her bible

Whatever We Do

Following the life and example of Jesus can be a hard act to follow. Or is it? Can we be so radically transformed by the goodness of God that whatever we do brings honour to the Father?

Colossians 3:17 says, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

In this verse, I see two filters that should be applied to everything that we say and do. These two filters can be summed up in two statements. Firstly, it says, ‘do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’. If we can’t apply Jesus’ Name (His reputation) to what we are about to say or do, then we shouldn’t say it or do it.

So, here’s the first statement that I find myself meditating on more and more: “If Jesus wouldn’t say it or do it, then I won’t say it or do it.” This is easy to say, but it is much more difficult to apply. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us. The good news is that He longs to do just that.

The second filter can be summed up in this very challenging statement: “If I can’t give thanks to God for what I am about to say or do, then I won’t say it or do it.” Everything that we say or do should be something that we believe Jesus would say or do, and something that we can give thanks to God for. You might be thinking, “But Steve, that’s too high a standard, and more than just a little too fanatical!”

Naturally speaking (and that is an important clarification), I agree. But we are not created and called to live by what we naturally think or what the world tells us is right and wrong! Let me put this thought and question to us all today: “If we think that comparing ourselves to Jesus is too high a standard, who do we compare ourselves to in order to get our standard validated?” Other people’s standards must never be the measure of my standards.

Jesus’ standards (evidenced by the life He lived) are to be the measure of my standards. And to do this, we need to care more about Father’s thoughts than people’s thoughts. If we are going to live like Jesus did, then we need to move past the fear of man. I am realising more and more, that the fear of man is not based on a guaranteed outcome. Many times, the fear that we have of other people’s opinions are not what they actually think. Therefore, the fear of man that is based on other people’s opinions is actually based on other people’s possible opinion.

And as I meditate on this, here’s what I felt prompted to write: “Other people’s possible opinions about me are nowhere near as important as Father’s stated thoughts about me!” Please read that again.

My friends, I want to see the grip of fear of what others may think be completely broken this year in all of our lives! May our confidence and security come from what Father has said about us! I want to leave you to meditate on these two statements and seek to apply them to all that you say and do:

“If Jesus wouldn’t say it or do it, then I won’t say it or do it.”

“If I can’t give thanks to God for what I am about to say or do, then I won’t say it or do it.”

May our lives, in whatever we do, bring glory to the Father.

Pocket watch in the sand showing time

God’s Timing

Have you ever dared to dream a dream but wondered when? Has God said that it is time for change, but you are wondering when? Have you ever been challenged to take a new horizon in faith but wondered when? What does God’s timing really look like in our lives?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is an appointed time for every purpose. God has an appointed time! But history tells us that, on many occasions, God’s people missed that divine moment. All heaven was anticipating with great excitement only to see man missing that opportunity; procrastination, human logic and selfish complacency robbing them of their destiny.

In Exodus, God delivers Israel from Egypt in order to take them into the Promised Land in a matter of days. Right on cue the day arrives, but unbelief and a lack of trust causes them to miss their moment. The result was a wasted generation – 40 years spent in regret. They failed to seize the moment! Oh, the tragic consequence of failing to seize the moment!

Contrast that with World War 2 and what would become D-Day. In the middle of a week of horrendous weather came a brief window of opportunity. It was so brief that the German High Command did not believe anyone would attempt anything. But Churchill and Eisenhower were men that seized the moment. They launched that invasion and the tide of world history changed.

In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. Why? Because, “You did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (verse 44) They failed to seize the moment of God’s opportunity.

Friends, we live in urgent days. In each of our lives, God is challenging us to greater horizons of faith, deeper levels of trust, greater intensities of commitment, zeal and passion, bolder steps of initiative. But will we seize the moment? Or will we procrastinate and lose the promise? I believe that our Father is looking for an attitude: My people shall be willing in the day of My power!

Now the question arises: How do we know if it’s God’s timing or not? Here are my thoughts on that:

  • God is a God of order
  • Psalm 37 declares that the steps of a righteous person are ordered by the Lord
  • Philippians 3:15 tells me if my heart and motivation is right, that should I ever leave the path of God’s intention, the Holy Spirit will let me know
  • God is not the author of confusion

Therefore we can deduce that:

  • If it isn’t clear, it isn’t the right time
  • If I have a check in my spirit from the Holy Spirit, it isn’t the right time
  • If my spouse or spiritual oversight have a conviction that it is not the timing, it isn’t the right time
  • If I’m not living as a man or woman of purity, prayer and friendship with God and His people, then I shouldn’t trust my own instincts

However, if:

  • I am a man or woman of prayer
  • I am in a right relationship with my oversight and the people of God
  • I am pure in my motivation to serve God and His Kingdom
  • The fog has cleared and what God has said to do is clear

Then, start taking steps of obedience and faith! Do it now!

Let me encourage you to be bold and courageous in your response to Father’s invitation and see that new day drawn out of the realm of promise into the realm of today’s experience.

Embracing the future of our Father’s intention for God’s timing in our lives.

Man on rocky cliff thinking about difficult decision

The Hard Decisions

There are times in our lives when we have to make some very difficult decisions. Sometimes, in obedience to a very clear word from the Lord, we have to make decisions that tug at our emotions and defy our logic.

The challenge in such times is to not to look at personalities and circumstances, or even the human evidences that present themselves. The very simple answer is that Father sees aspects of the future that we do not. He not only sees His intention for you but for each individual involved. It comes down to trust. There are times in all of our lives that we must simply trust the One who is directing our ways and to Whom we have given that unconditional right.

When our decisions (no matter how hard) are the fruit of obedience, there will always be an abundance of grace for each one affected by that decision. It has been truly wonderful for me to see the Grace-filled responses from people over decades now who have been confronted with the need for change that they could not at that time see the reason for. No bad attitudes, no reactions. Just a wonderful commitment to continue as true friends of Jesus and their brethren, trusting Fathers wisdom as He now writes a new chapter.

The truth is, that no one can take a step of faith and obedience without that step leading to a season of increased fruitfulness. That, I know, will be the outcome for each of you now in that moment of decision. We already celebrate with you in the anticipation of that which Father will now do for you.

My friends, I trust that this will encourage you to trust in the times of your difficult decisions.

One thing is totally predictable: Our Father is always motivated for our good and always working to a strategic plan to reveal His faithfulness to us. Let’s continue to trust Father in the midst of the hard decisions.

A significant mountain range

Significance

Do you know that you are significant? That’s right: you are significant to God. Do you also know that God wants you to do something significant with your life? Significance speaks of substance and weight; it is about meaning, worth, importance, and impact… your life is significant.

You might say “Steve, that’s just not possible. You don’t know my situation. My family life is challenging and I don’t have any special gifts. I simply don’t have the opportunity and arena to be significant. I love God but my life will never be significant”. There are some of you that honestly feel that but I have some good news for all of us.

It all depends how you measure significance. Most of the time our thought of significance is doing something amazing! People might do something amazing and it might be significant, but it may also be insignificant in terms of importance and eternal value. True significance is measured by our obedience to what God asks us to do. This is great news for a couple of reasons:

  1. We can all hear from God, and we can all obey Him.
  2. God knows about my current situation and He knows what we are capable of.

Today, here is a good question we can all ask.
“God what would you like me to do with my life that is significant?” Then listen and obey. God might ask you to pray, to encourage, to give, to go, to listen, or to share. He may ask you to simply love your family and give to them sacrificially. Father might speak to you about changing direction or persevering in the same thing. If God asks you to do something and you do it, then that is significant!

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

We don’t need to be important before others; let’s measure our significance according to God’s direction and our obedience.