Gratitude

This year has been a tough year for millions of people all over the world. People have died because of COVID-19, others have committed suicide, people have lost businesses, their homes and everything they have worked for. It has been a tragic year. Earlier this year I didn’t work for 5 weeks, I didn’t know if I was going back to my job. Through that time, I was still grateful to God for having a roof over my head and food on the table. It was difficult. One thing I have learned over the years, to be grateful for what I have; being homeless, living in my car, little possessions, living in prison, and a life of singleness.

I’m on my delayed honeymoon, as I write I am sitting outside a beautiful cottage looking over the bay in Yanakie, Wilsons Promontory, feeling very grateful. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness towards God. It brings me to tears. My wife and I got married earlier in the year over zoom. Because of the restrictions in Melbourne, we weren’t able to travel. We had to delay the honeymoon 3 times because of restrictions. I still had my moments of, why God? Overall, I was grateful for everything I had.

Yesterday we went for a walk along tongue point track in Wilsons Promontory. It is approximately 8kms return. The views are spectacular. As I was admiring the view, it overwhelmed me with gratitude towards God; for His creation, and for my life. I know what it is like to be hungry, homeless, to be in Prison. I also know what it is like to have things I enjoy. A new laptop for my birthday, a new camera for Christmas. At all stages of my life, just having a few clothes or being blessed with luxuries of life.

Strongs definition of gratitude is actively being grateful to God, as an act of worship: That is being thankful, (giving of) thanks (-giving). It’s important to come to a stage in life; no matter what you have or where you live, having gratitude for life can bring you much joy and peace. When I was in prison, my gratitude towards God was a key to my attitude and a life of peace. I found something different each day to be grateful for. Every day I gave thanks to God. Some days were tough, I found strength having gratitude.

Gratitude takes the focus off of us and directs it to God. It is easy to go down a path and look at what we don’t have, or things we might want or need. If our gratitude is on God, then our eyes are on what He has done rather than down a path of angst. It’s also important to show gratitude for creation. I often show gratitude for something I have seen. If I see a bee, I’ll show gratitude because it produces honey. Gods creation is for our enjoyment, so why not express gratitude for it? Sometimes I’m so grateful for Gods creation it brings me to tears. I feel blessed going for a walk to the beach, or the mountains.

I encourage you, as the new year approaches, attempt to express gratitude towards God. Be thankful for the things you have, and the things you don’t have. It will bring you a joy that is satisfying to the heart.

1Th 5:18 NLT – 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

No Condemnation

Rom 8:1 NLT – 1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

This scripture comes after the struggles Paul has regarding sin. He comes to a question; Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Romans 7:24. Then he says. V25, Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. I believe Paul had a revelation, that’s written in Romans 12:2 NIV – 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Paul was a man with temptations, and I believe sometimes he fell into temptation. He struggled the same way as you and I do. If he didn’t, then he wouldn’t be human. Paul realised freedom came through Jesus. Then he finds comfort with; there is no condemnation of those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Those who belong to Jesus should no longer feel the condemnation of God. God through His graciousness sent His Son to show mercy for those who love Him. God was teaching Paul the same thing, and that’s why he wrote what he learned, to help others because he saw the power in it.

It is through our union with Jesus that God looks at us. Jesus paid the price for us, The condemnation that once was is no longer.

Most Pastors I have heard preach on this scripture have said Paul wrote this as a lesson rather than a personal experience. I believe all of Paul’s writings are from personal experience.

If you keep reading in verse 2.

Rom 8:2 NLT And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

We have the power of the Spirit to free us from the power of sin. That means we are overcomers of sin. When temptation comes, we can break the power of it through the Spirit of God. To know Jesus is to have a relationship with him. If you don’t, then it will be difficult to overcome the sin. It is not a sin when temptation comes; it is a sin when you fall into the trap of temptation. It is important to recognise the temptations. The devil tempts all people, that is what he does. He comes to steal, kill and destroy all people, especially those who belong to Jesus.

I had a pornography problem for 27 years. It was a vicious cycle. I knew it was wrong. I sought prayer and counselling; I didn’t overcome it. I felt condemned, and I hated myself for it. Years later I realised, even though I was going to church, I didn’t have a relationship with God. I was a Sunday Christian. Meaning I only read my bible and spent time with God on Sundays. If I was to spend only one day a week with my wife, then how do we become closer or get to know each other better. We can’t. Relationships take time and effort. That is how we need to be with God. Spend time with him, in prayer, reading your bible, study and talking with Him.

I am reminded of the seven sons of Sceva. Acts 19. They tried to mimic Paul. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” Verse 20. And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Spending intimate time with God gives you an authority in God that comes through Jesus. Living in this authority and knowing it helps us to overcome the power of sin. I knew God has given me the authority to overcome, living it and knowing it are important ingredients to living a Christian life. That comes from spending intimate time with God, which I didn’t do.

If we don’t know God intimately, there will be consequences. If we are not clean within ourselves, there are consequences. If you read Luke 11:24-26 24 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ 25 So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. 26 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.”

The devil will not stop, he will try and try again. When I had the pornography addiction, I would get prayer. I wouldn’t look at it for at least two weeks and then temptation would come. I would fall into that temptation and the addiction got worse. Through the healing process, God showed me three things. I didn’t have a relationship with Him; I had other issues to deal with relating to pornography, and I had un-forgiveness festering in my heart. It wasn’t until I dealt with those issues when my addiction stopped and the condemnation stopped.

I look back at my addiction, and I know God has forgiven me. I know I’m not condemned for what I did. If I was to continue down a path of pornography and sexual sin, I would have lived a life of destruction. If I was to look at porn now, through temptation, it would actually bring a sadness in my heart and a separation from God. That’s because of the relationship I have with God, and light can not mix with darkness.

It is good to know God doesn’t condemn us. It is good to know that He will forgive when we ask for forgiveness. This does not give us an excuse to keep on sinning. If we continue to sin, then Jesus’ death was in vain. Gods love should steer us away from sin, whereas the devil will try to steer us away from God. There is a Spiritual battle going on and we have to know how to fight. We have to know the authority we have in Jesus. Ephesians 6:12 NLT says. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. It is important to have your Spiritual armour on to fight off the devil. Read Ephesians 6:10-20. Through counselling I was told to put on the armour figuratively. If you don’t know how to use the armour, then the armour becomes useless. The only way to use the armour is by having a relationship with God, who is the provider of the armour.

If you have any prayer points or comments, please leave a comment. I am happy to pray for you.

Free From Sin

I wrote this while in Prison, and adapted since my release.

As I sit at my desk looking out the window through bars across a dry paddock. I can see birds fly freely. They fly over the prison fence and back over to the paddock. They have free will. If someone has a bird for a pet, they put the bird in the cage at night, let it out during the day. Is this bird free?

I’m reminded of the scripture, Rom 6:18 NLT.

Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

As I read that scripture and reflect on my living status, does that make me free? I may not be free physically. Spiritually I am, and that’s what Paul was talking about. He was talking bout Spiritual freedom from sin.

Jesus died on the cross to free us from the bondage of sin. We are no longer bound to sin. To be free from sin, there must be a repentance from the heart, not the head. I believe there has to be a genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit to be free from sin. When we are free from sin, I believe the desire to please God will overcome sin, because the love of God will pull you away from sinning. Look at the temptations of Jesus. When the devil tempted Jesus, He had a relationship with His Father and,  He quoted scripture. If you are struggling to be free from sin, are you holding onto it in some form? From my experience, the forgiveness and healing process can be difficult. It may feel you’re going through a tug of war. You’re leaning towards sin, but you don’t want to. This is your flesh fighting against the spirit within you. The flesh is weak, but the Spirit is strong. Do you feel like, when you do sin, your heart has been tighten by a vice? This is because you have disobeyed God. The spirit of God is already doing his work within you. This is the same troubles Paul had.

Rom 7:23-25 NLT –

23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Sin will always tempt us. As Christians we can overcome sin, because we have the Spirit of God within us to empower us to overcome. For me, I had to allow God to go back in my life to heal old wounds. I could fight off the temptations that came my way when God dealt with the old wounds once and for all. It is also important to live a life that brings you closer to God. You need to have a relationship with Him. I never used to, and so I struggled with sin. Once God had dealt with my past, I didn’t feel like it was a fight to spend time with Him.

I was in a dark hole for many years; I made bad choices. My life was like ground hog day.  I would sin, ask God for forgiveness, then sin again. This happened for years. Then I felt a spiritual burst within me to cry out to God. A cry of repentance, asking God to forgive me. The cry came from deep within my belly. It was a deep sorrow within my heart, when my life changed. 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Now, If I do sin, my heart aches. I feel hurt because I have hurt God, and if I sin deliberately, then Jesus’ death is in vain. I’m walking in the flesh and not the Spirit. Galatians 3:4. Through this healing process, it is important to remember;

Rom 8:1-2 NLT

1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Trying to fight the temptation of sin in the flesh will lead to failure. Fighting with Gods help, through the Spirit, will help you overcome the temptation. As you develop your relationship with God; spending time in prayer, fasting, and reading the bible temptation becomes easier to overcome.

Facing the truth

When I want to write a new topic for my blog, God will tell me the week prior. Either through reading scripture, studies, a tv show or a book I am reading. This week has been slightly different. Today is Sunday afternoon, and I hadn’t felt within my heart to write anything, until only a few minutes ago. As I was sitting on the couch (sofa), I felt God say to me to be honest.

Prior to this happening, I was sharing with my wife; I have had enough of COVID-19 and everything related, being in lockdown, the restrictions in place, and not being able to go to places. As I was sharing with her, my eyes were teary. That’s when God said to me, “be honest.” I could write on pretence. That’s a lie, so this weekend sucks and I am writing on honesty.

Last night we had pre-crumbed processed chicken (I’m a chef; this isn’t something I would normally do). An hour later I had a headache still have one and felt very lethargic. I checked the ingredients and they have MSG in them. I am allergic to MSG. My body reacts to it. I get severe headaches; I get lethargic, irritable and pain in my guts. It is an unpleasant experience. When I feel like this, noises affect me. So much so, when my wife types on the keyboard, the noise of that sound echoes in my ears like a loud drum.

I was told for many years struggling while in leadership is a sign of spiritual weakness. For many years, I used to lie in relation to my feelings and emotions. As an adult, the emotions and feelings I bottled up came to the surface, just like a can of coke has been opened after someone shook it.

We are experiencing a pandemic. It has affected us in different ways. The stresses related to this pandemic are mind blowing. It has taken hold of people, mentally, emotionally, physically, Spiritually, financially, and in relationships. I have heard people try to keep it together. It’s ok to not be ok. God made us with emotions and feelings. We live in a sinful world and things are going to happen, life will have struggles. God knows this. When you have gone through hurt or life struggles, it’s ok to feel the emotion, hurt. When you are feeling unhappy or frustrated, it’s ok. It is how we handle those feelings that are important. We can feel emotion and react negatively, or we can react positively.

I have learned, being honest with yourself, recognising your struggles, and sitting in them is the first step to giving them over to God. God knows everything anyway, When you verbalise how you are feeling, it brings freedom. The truth breaks darkness. It comes to the light and the devil can’t use that against you, although, he can try. The power is saying it out loud to God.

Looking to God

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)

Count it all joy

Spiritual Hope . Joyful Faith . Trust in God

Drawing Closer to Christ

Trusting the Love of Jesus Christ, One Day at a Time - Psalm 13:5 NIV, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story