Monday, August 25, 2008

Freedom through relationship

Events concerning "high profile" ministries over the last few weeks have really saddened me. I can't help but wonder about the health of modern church culture.

I have experienced first hand the type of leadership that discourages people from showing weakness and from being honest about their struggles. I have also experienced first hand the culture that creates superstar status of leaders.  That really saddens me.  

When did these people become any less human than you or I?  When did they become the benchmark of success or wisdom? It seems some of them answer to no one and will not allow anyone to question their Authority or teachings.

This type of leadership is so opposite to the example of Christ.

I feel really sorry for Mike G.  I certainly don't agree with what he did but the thing that I'm really sad about is how he managed to battle in secret for so many years.  

What can be said for those leaders around him (those that are trying to manage the fallout and some that will distance themselves from his failings to protect their empires). Some of them will try to "manage" and control the fallout to reduce the extent of collateral damage. After all there's a lot at stake for some of these empires.  These leaders have been alongside him for years. Did the culture prevent them from being honest with each other?  Did the culture force them to push their weakness into the dark? Weren't any of them close enough to Mike that he could feel safe enough to share the pain and guilt he was carrying? Have they hid their own struggles away behind the position and power of leadership too?

What has church become if the culture makes it unsafe for people to fail?

There's lots of questions floating around in my head about this.  Some of them I'll find answers to and some I may not but I think there's some good food for thought in all this.

We all have challenges and struggles on the journey and it's through relationship that we can find strength and freedom. Firstly relationship with the Father. As we grow to understand His unconditional love and acceptance (that's a journey in itself).  An secondly through honest relationship with trusted friends.

I have been blessed to have a few trusted friends on my journey that I can be totally honest with and have found that the power of my own struggles and battles seems to decrease when I can share and offload them to someone I can trust.  Strongholds breed in hiddenness and darkness and it's through bringing them into the light that their power is weakened, and the unconditional acceptance of those we can trust also relieves some of the guilt and pain we carry.

I hope that's a culture I can help to cultivate.  It's one that we desperately need in christian community.  We are all sinners saved by GRACE.  Not by being superheroes.  We are all very human and we have a loving Father that accepts and embraces us in that humanness, so there's no reason for us to judge those around us who are in the same boat.  

Judgement of others is only about holding out a yardstick to them so we can measure how much better we are than they. Clambering over the top of them to reach a new level of piety.

I don't want to be that type of person.  I want to be a person that can be a listening ear to someone who's struggling.  To walk along side them.  To allow the light of Christ to shine through my brokenness like a shaft of grace and acceptance. That's part of the Father's plan for us, using for good that which the enemy meant for evil.

Everyone needs that on their journey.  If you are stumbling around in the darkness and despair of your weakness and battles, ask the Father to help you find a trusted friend that you can offload on to.  There's no sense in struggling on your own.  The initial shame will be washed away by the river of God's grace and love that can flow through honourable relationship.

Please don't struggle on by yourself.

Freedom is a journey and I'd be happy to walk alongside you on the road to your freedom too......

Friday, August 1, 2008

This Skin I'm in

This pretty much sums up this journey for today......

The butterfly can just look back 
Flap those wings and say Oh, yeah
I never have to be a worm again

The snake gets tired of being him 
He wriggles from that itchy skin
Leaves it lying where he’s been and moves on

I’ve been longing for something tangible
Some kind of proof that there’s been change in me

Feels like I have been waking up
Only to fight with the same old stuff
Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt
Come on New Man where have you been
Help me wriggle from this Self I’m in
And leave it like a skin upon the ground

(Lyrics by Sara Groves - Like A Skin)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In Memory of my Dad

On the 4th of march 2008 at 11:30am my Dad died.  He had a 5 year battle with cancer. 

I wasn't real close to my Dad in my adult years. We had very different views on some things and I let that put distance between us. I blamed him for some of the weaknesses I struggled with and judged him for some decisions he made that I didn't understand. I really struggled to tell him that I loved him.

In the last year or so of his life I realised that I needed to sort things out so I spent some time just me and him talking a few things over. I asked him to forgive me for the way I had shut myself off from him emotionally. I also shared with him about the weaknesses we had in common. That day was a real watershed for me and every time I spoke to him from that day until he died I told him I loved him. It was like the years of distance between rolled away and I began to embrace the good in my Dad again.

Don't let anyone in your family pass from this life without making your peace with them. You will regret it and that makes for very messy grief.

I wanted to share my reflections of Dad that I read out at the funeral......

My Dad had a shed that was like a young boy’s heaven. Any bits and pieces you needed to make any number of contraptions could be found in Dad’s shed. I loved going in there and rummaging around in the drawers and boxes to look for treasures.

Dad was really good with his hands and he always managed to make things with the resources he had. He made many items of furniture, improvements to the house and the yard, and cubby houses when we were growing up.

When I look at my Dad’s hands I see my hands, and I too have inherited his enjoyment in making and building things. He took the time to teach me about wood working and electronics. I watched and learnt and worked with him. Not long before Dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 we built a bed together as a gift for Laura.

Dad’s memory will live on in my thoughts but his legacy will live on through my own hands, and I embrace now all those things we have in common. Some of which are a love for the outdoors, camping, building stuff, and all things remote controlled.

Dad also taught me by example that Chivalry is not dead. He knew how to treat a lady and treated Mum with respect, dignity and honour.

The greatest gift he gave me was to point me towards our creator and heavenly father. So much of the character and nature of our creator God was revealed through my dad. He was creative, compassionate, giving, forgiving, long suffering, faithful and devoted.

Because we are created in God’s image, each of us has the ability to reveal His character in creation. The choice is ours. My Dad chose to reflect that image as best he could and he did what God asks of us… to connect with the good in creation and be the hands and feet of Christ to those around us. Some days I follow that example.

So… over the last few days of Dad’s life as I sat with him in the stillness and quietness I was able once again to reflect on what is really important and what Dad really contributed in this life. I believe his greatest contribution was to point people to Jesus through his lifestyle.

And now the Creator who holds the world in His hands now holds the hand of my Dad and says to him “Well done good and faithful servant enter in to the joy of your Lord”

I Love you Dad.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Land of Confusion

After my last blog entry I was tested on my journey of listening to the Master's voice.  I had a couple of weeks where I began to get really mixed up in my head over some important decisions and some direction.  

I couldn't fall back on my usual source of trusted advice because my trusted advisor was the one asking me to make a decision.  

I'm on this journey, and one blog entry doesn't make me an expert on listening to the Master. So I was left in this no-mans-land with a maelstrom of voices in my head all shouting their opinions.  As days went by I became more and more troubled and confused.

Then my beautiful wife came to my rescue.  She felt I was being troubled by a spirit of confusion. So right there and then we prayed and took authority over confusion.  We acknowledged together that...
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4,5  
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12.  

I acknowledged that I had allowed the enemy to have a field day in my mind, and through prayer and declaration of those verses over the next few days clarity and peace returned.

I realised that the battlefield of my mind is one I have not paid much attention to at times and there's some old thought patterns and learnt behaviors there that need to be dealt with.  So I've been taking stock of my thoughts and bringing them captive, taking back some of the ground that I have let slip away, and now the Master's voice is becoming clearer again.

Last week on my way home from work I was having a conversation with my Heavenly Father and asking Him to show me what He wanted me to do.  The next 3 mornings He spoke to me through three dreams. All relating to each other. Now I don't usually remember anything I dream about, but I woke much later than usual those mornings and the dreams were so clear that I am in no doubt that God was speaking to me.

Now whether I ever remember a dream again remains to be seen, but I believe that taking authority over the enemy and taking thoughts captive created an environment in which God could use my mind to speak to me.  Even more importantly I believe that winning in the battlefield of my mind is a crucial part of my journey to freedom.

"Once more into the breach dear friends"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Master's Voice

It's been a while since my first post but believe me there's been lots happening on my journey.

For some months now I've been on a journey of discovery, kind of an awakening I guess.  So I thought I might share a bit about my thoughts on who I'm learning to listen to.

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be introduced to my Heavenly Father at a young age.  I am thankful for my Godly parents who led me to Jesus.  Where I think it all got a little messed up was in organised church....

I'm not blaming anyone in particular but I somehow developed this idea that Pastors and Leaders had some kind of direct line to the Father that I didn't, and because they must be more 'spiritual' than me then they would be able to help me make the right decisions or give me direction. But quite often those people let me down or counselled me with their own interest in mind.  I also had this incorrect belief that if the 'Man of God' said it then it must be right. Sometimes even followed along as a loyal and faithful church member even when I felt uncomfortable about what I was hearing and seeing.  

Now I'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water here so don't panic.  I do believe that there is wisdom in good counsel and that there are people ahead of me on the journey that can be a source of encouragement and help me with direction, but I was neglecting something far more important....

The Creator of the universe restored me to Himself so I could have a vibrant intimate relationship with Him.  And that includes being able to go to Him for my direction first and then Him speaking to me.

I look at it like this...  Say you were introduced to someone new at a friends house and you both really connected in conversation. Then before going home you said, "Hey I really enjoyed chatting with you a little, and I'd be keen to spend more time getting to know you, can we hook up again soon?" But your new friend answered, "Well that sounds great but I'm not usually available for direct conversations so if you talk to Peter over there he'll ask me anything you want and then he'll get back to you with my answers".  That would be kind of weird wouldn't it!

I'm discovering that the Father is not like that at all.  He's waiting for me, He longs to share every moment on the journey with me.  He knows and understands my questions better than anyone, His motives are pure and He cares so deeply for me.

The exciting part for me is that He has been speaking to me, and I'm learning to listen to His voice.  He's leading and guiding me. We're beginning to have regular conversations, and the more I'm understanding his incredible love for me as a son, the more I feel us getting closer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

This Journey is my own

Ok, so the title for my blog is inspired by the lyrics of a Sara Groves song by the same name.  

The lyrics pretty much sum up the fact that so much of our lives are lived trying to figure out what other people think of us and then acting in a way that we think will make us more acceptable.  

That's kind of crazy don't you think.  I mean it looks pretty dumb on paper but try to stop yourself from thinking that next time you are in one of those situations where you value the approval of another person.  Or heaven forbid you should think like that about your relationship with the Father. (tsk tsk)

"I don't do that"  I hear you say...
Well you may be further along on the journey than the next bloke, so i'll celebrate that with you,  and your journey is your own too, right?

Well I for one don't want to live like that and I have to admit that for a lot of my life I did.  But having my eyes opened to that has helped turn a corner on my journey.  

The key for me has been connecting with my heavenly Father in a more intimate and relational way and just drawing near to Him.  Listening to His voice and seeking Him first.  Hey I'm no expert at this but it's a journey, right?

It's so easy to look to others for direction, affirmation, approval, value, acceptance, belonging etc but I have to say that I'm realising that the Father wants me first, because He loves me, because He moved heaven to earth for me.  It will be out of that relationship that all the encounters and experiences in my life will gain meaning and purpose and out of that relationship I will find direction, affirmation, approval, value, acceptance and belonging.

So here's the lyrics of the song, and so begins my foray into the "stayed up late last night updating my blog" world.  

I hope I can share your journey with you too.

When I stand before the Lord, I'll be standing alone. This journey is my own. 
Still I want man's advice, and I need man's approval, but this journey is my own. . 

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price? 
What would it mean to gain the world, only to lose my life? . 

So much of what I do is to make a good impression. This journey is my own. 
So much of what I say is to make myself look better. This journey is my own. . 

I have never felt relief like I feel it right now. This journey is my own. 
'Cause trying to please the world it was breaking me down, it was breaking me down. . 

Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one, now I live and I breath for an audience of one. 
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one, 'cause I know this journey is my own. 

You can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain. 
I can't even judge myself. Only the Lord can say, "Well done."