You should be living in tension

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The wise are mightier than the strong,

and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger.

Proverbs 24:5 (NLT)

If you are not living in tension you are not growing. This might be a comment you wish to challenge, but give me some time to explain. Growth has to do with improving and developing yourself. Unless you plan this growth, you will never understand the benefit of living in tension.

You need to know where you going and growing too. When you've set a growth goal for yourself, rationally, you should understand that you are not there. This is the reason you need to plan the journey. This creates a tension between where you are and your goal. The strain of growing from your current position to your goal is the tension you need to create intentionally. Stretching between your current position and the desired result is a good thing.

If you desire growth, you need to answer these 5 questions.

  1. Do I know what I want to achieve?

    Growing intentionally is something only a few people want. One of the reasons is due to the nature of intentionality. Intentionality requires commitment and clarity. Too many people think growth will happen as life goes on. This kind of passivity is due to a lack of clarity. Do you know what you want to achieve?

  2. Why do I want to reach this goal?

    You should not try to grow simply for the sake of growing. You need to know why you want to develop your skills, knowledge and talents. When you are intentional with your growth goals, you will be much more motivated to meet them.

  3. Am I in the right environment to achieve my goals?

    Your environment determines a lot of your success in life. It is important to be with the right people and organisation and in a proper atmosphere. When you commit to reaching your goal, you would understand how important your environment is for your development. If you need to, change your environment.

  4. Am I willing to sacrifice to achieve this dream?

    Anything worth achieving requires a trade-off. You need to give up the good to gain the best. If you are willing to trade comfort for fruitfulness you will have to make some tough decisions. These tough decisions will be sacrifices that are worthwhile investments.

  5. What alignments do I need?

    Success is never achieved in isolation. You need to align yourself with those who will add to your gifts. Every person has God-given gifts. Many of these gifts amplify and multiply when you align with the right people. Often times people will be in the right place and going in the right direction, yet don't seem to have the desired fruit they need. This might be due to a lack of increasers. God has designed certain people who can increase another's gifts. Increasers need you. Increasers cannot increase nothing. These are God alignments. Ask God to align you with the right people who will maximise your fruit.

Do not feel satisfied with your current situation if you are not fruitful. Be intentional. Ask difficult questions. Make tough choices. Grow! Your talents are what God has given you. Fruitfulness is what you give back to Him.

You were made for greatness

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And God blessed them. And God said to them, 
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,
and have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the heavens
and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 (ESV)

Whenever a product is not used for it's originally intended purpose, you will end up abusing and destroying the product. Substituting a shoe as a hammer might be a normal occurrence for some diy-disabled ladies, but the original purpose of the shoe got altered and will eventually break.  You need to use the product for the reason it was primarily intended or you will destroy it.  

When God created us in His image, He never intended for us to be small or downcast.  To have thoughts of inadequacy is nothing short of abusing God's original design with images of deceptive humility.  This will end up destroying God's creation. 

When God explained to mankind His original purpose for us, He used some pretty strong words to make convey His expectation He has of us.  He created the human "product" for greatness and success, not failure and submission. 

No-one who feels small will ever describe themselves as "fruitful," or "multiplying".  God told us to "subdue" the earth and have "dominion" over it.  These are words of faith, encouragement and leadership.  More than that, it is a mandate.

Sin, however, has the opposite effect. It makes you feel inadequate and selfish.  Sin will cause you to look at yourself from a different perspective.  Do not be slaves to sin and submit to its lies.  Sin has no hold on you.  Shake it off and stand in the redemption of the Gospel. 

Do not let sin define you.  Ignore the voices of small thinking and listen to your Designer that says you have the innate ability to be fruitful and multiply everything you touch.  Listen to the echo of design telling you how to rule over your circumstances and dominate your world by love.

God's original design was success and greatness.  Jesus came to restore this original mandate for mankind by destroying the ugliness of sin on a cross.  On that glorious day when Jesus was raised from the dead, this original mandate was given back to mankind.

We do not honour our King by thinking ourselves to be sinners and nothing in this world.  Jesus' Name is glorified when you believe in the power of the Gospel to enlarge your capacity daily and live with a victorious mindset in His Kingdom.

I love this encouraging prophecy given to Jerusalem by Isaiah:

Awake, awake,
put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for there shall no more come into you
the uncircumcised and the unclean.
Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.
Isaiah 52:1-2 (ESV)
 

Get up from the dust and shake off the thoughts of despondency.  Loose the bonds around your neck that drag you down into this pit of despair.  You were created in God's image and redeemed by the Blood of Jesus.  This is how much you are worth. 

Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it!

Am I still ok with Jesus?

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Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

This is a pretty high expectation that God has for us here. Forgiving like God! Who can ever love and forgive like Him? We all have some form of judgement in our heart towards people and categorise them in some way. This is a pretty tough expectation to reach.

But, it is important to read the first two expectations first, kindness and gentleness.

Kindness is listed among the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. Most people will think of love and peace when you mention the fruit of the Spirit. These two are important, but not more so than kindness and gentleness.

I know a gentleman who is a great theologian. This guy can contend with the sharpest minds and wrestle with the toughest critics. He also has a faith that is impressively bold. He will pray for anyone anywhere resulting in many miracles and healings. But, unfortunately, kindness and gentleness would not be adjectives anyone would use to describe him. This results in his influence being hampered in many places.

How can you know your heart is tender towards the Lord? When your heart loses its tenderness, forgiving like God will be impossible. Through the grinding of life and rubbing against other difficult souls, you will gradually develop calluses in your heart, resulting in hard-heartedness. This does not occur overnight but happens deceptively slow. Before you know it, bitterness will reign in your life.

Following are some markers to assess whether your heart is still gentle and tender towards the Holy Spirit.

Guilt over sin

One of the surest ways to know that your heart is being deceived is knowing how quickly you feel guilty about sin. When a room is dark, you do not realise there is dust on the table. It is only when light comes in that you see the dirt in the room.

In a similar fashion, you will not feel guilty over sinful behaviour unless the light of God’s glory shines in your heart. The moment you start to hide sinful behaviour and don’t realise you are grieving the Holy Spirit with your wrong thoughts and behaviour, you should have a look at how much light you are allowing into your life.

With this approach, I am not advocating condemnation. We know that we are not perfect and the Blood of Jesus has cleansed us so that we can live forgiven. You should not live weighed down under the guilt of sin. The point here is simple. When you allow sin into your life, do you have an attitude of repentance or are you careless about your behaviour? When you desire light, the dust in your soul will annoy you.

Desire for God

A person in love has desire. The desire to be with their loved one. This desire to spend time with someone is an indication of a heart’s affection towards another person.

When desire is absent or fading, it indicates cold love. Love is the greatest motivator for affection. When your affection for God's presence and your desire to be with Him is not red hot, it should be a point of concern.

I just took a flight from Brussel to Copenhagen. Right before I boarded, I called my wife. After a 90 minute flight, I wanted to speak to her again. When I start neglecting this habit I should get concerned about my marriage. Similarly, when you go a certain period of time without desiring God it should indicate where your affection towards Him lies. The level of your desire for God indicates your level of love for Him.

Hearing God’s voice

During pre-marriage councilling, I spend quite a bit of time explaining the value and art of communication between spouses. Each person has a love language and a love dialect. It is the privilege of a spouse to go on a treasure hunt and discover the perfect way to communicate with the other. One of the most important aspects of a great communicator is the ability to listen. Listening is a more valuable skill than good talking.

A person who can listen well can love well. This is one of the greatest heartaches in many Christians’ lives. They do not have the ability to quiet their souls to listen to the still small voice of God's Spirit. Most people's prayers consist of requesting needs, rebuking some critter and citing scripture. Often times people lack the patience and desire to keep quiet and listen. What kind of relationship will it be if there is only one-sided communication?

When your heart has grown dull of hearing God's voice, you are losing your tender-heartedness. Do not let the gradually formed caluses of subtle offences block your ears to hearing the voice of your God.

Love the broken

The reason Jesus came to this world was to save the lost and heal the broken-hearted. One of the surest ways to know you are growing cold in your heart is when you lose compassion for a lost or broken soul. The Love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). When God's Spirit and Love is in you, your heart will break for things that break His heart, i.e. the cry of a lost soul for a Father's love.

Every heart has a built-in desire to find God. This longing to know our origin is a design that God has placed in every heart to seek Him all of our days. Jesus Himself cried over those who were like sheep without a shepherd.

When you lose your passion for those who do not know their God and whose lives are marred by sin, you need to be concerned.

Cry about injustice

I heard Bill Johnson once say something that stuck with me ever since. He explained how he would judge himself by how often he cries in God's presence for the brokenness and injustices in this world. He explained that two weeks is his maximum. If he would go two weeks without crying before God about the state of this world, he knows his heart is getting infected and he is losing the tenderness of the Holy Spirit.

When was the last time you saw some injustice in the world and it broke your heart? Do you cry for this world that Jesus gave His life to save?

When your heart is tender before God, you would not want to carry bitterness. This will result in your ability to forgive as God does.

What do your mirrors say?

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Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity,
but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)

Good planning and hard work do not always go hand-in-hand for people.  Some people plan but never execute. Others work harder than what should be humanly allowed, yet never seem to succeed.  Hard work should include smart work, and diligent planning is vital.  

This mail is not going to be about the best practices of planning but I do want to give an important piece of advice regarding your growth journey.  

You need to listen to your mirrors.

On any flight, you are instructed to first put on your own oxygen in the case of an emergency before you assist anyone else.  The logic is simple.  You are useless to someone when you are dead, or busy dying.  First, put on your own mask, then you can help someone else.

In life, it works the same way.  You are counterproductive when you are stupid.  First, educate yourself and grow your capacity before you instruct others.  Self-development is something you should do for your entire life.  

This is where your mirrors come in handy.

Every situation in life has the potential to reveal something to you about yourself.  When you are humble and teachable, you will allow every situation in life to teach you something.  It becomes a mirror to reveal your character to yourself.  You just need to learn the language of the echo.  Just like this verse above teaches us, hard work without the proper planning (which includes good evaluation), will not prosper you. 

Here are 5 easy steps to evaluate a situation.

Honestly reflect

Brutal honesty is key.  Have the right self-talk and get your internal conversation on the appropriate track.  Self-deception is easy.  You can lie to yourself without knowing it.  Most people lie in either extreme, resulting in condemnation or snobbishness.  This kind of honesty is all about your attitude.  Be honest about your attitude and ask yourself:

  1. How could I have acted more lovingly?

  2. Why did I react the way I did?

  3. What did this really reveal about who I am?

If you struggle with these answers, get someone to help you reflect.

Ruthlessly Evaluate

When you answer these questions about honesty, you need to evaluate the answers.  Any unevaluated experience is a wasted opportunity.  There are a few questions you can ask to make any experience a learning opportunity. 

  1.  What can I do differently next time?  What would I need to change about myself in order to do this?

  2. Are there any habits in my life that lead me to act the way I did?  How will my life and behaviour be different when I stop these destructive habits? 

  3. Are there any results form my behaviour that I would need to make amends for?  What can I do to fix what got broken? 

Wisely strategise

This talks about taking responsibility for your own behaviour, especially when integrity is revealed.  When you can be honest about your attitude and intentionally look to improve your behaviour, you can take responsibility for your life and grow. 

List the things you need to adjust and decide on the following:

  1. Who would be the right people to help you make these adjustments in your life?  Talk it through with someone and discuss your desired outcomes.

  2. What would you need to learn to be able to help you achieve these changes?  To learn new skills and acquire new knowledge is an important aspect of self-development. 

  3. When will you do this?  Without putting a timeline to it, you will end up procrastinating.  Put an end date to your plan and stick to it.

  4. Write down clearly what your motivation is for wanting to make these adjustments in your life.  Unless you are moved by the right motivation, you will not follow through.

Consistent accountability

There is no point in designing a plan and leaving it at that.  It's great to see it written down, but do get someone involved to help you achieve your change.  Successful accountability requires a certain way of measuring results.  Have a specific quantifiable score written down.

Give your accountability friend full authority to challenge you and put consequences in place for not achieving your deadlines or goals.  Be intentional and serious to improve yourself.

Joyfully celebrate

To celebrate is very important.  Celebrating joyfully releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone into your brain.  This will result in more than just a goal being reached, but it will contribute to an internal feeling of satisfaction, thus truly rewarding your inner self.  This celebration can become addictive and motivate you to keep growing yourself.  Never achieve anything without celebrating it thoroughly.

Are you in the right environment?

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‘Leave your country and your people,’
God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
Acts 7:3 (NIV)

God knew Abraham would never be able to fulfil his life calling while he was still with his people.  The first step to his calling and success in life was going to the right context.  God had to move Abraham away from the environment that hindered his growth and faith.

One of the most important decisions in life is to decide what environment you will live in.  Once you have decided that, the most important decision to make is whether you will stay there.

King David is a great example of this.  He had to be a shepherd.  This was God's place for him.  But he outgrew his place and had to be moved.  It was God's will for him to be the leader of a band of misfits, but only for a period of time.  Once he learned what he had to and impacted that place, he moved on.  It is a good thing he wasn't like so many of us that feel like we cannot move anywhere because of a previous decision we made.

It is important to find your place.  But equally important is the discernment to know how long you have to stay.

How do you know what the right environment looks like?  The following factors might give you a guideline for assessing your current environment.

Purpose

Too many people spend a great number of hours working in a job that does not move them towards their purpose.  The general motivation is money.  Mostly, these people do not want to admit that they are driven by money, but their ultimate motivation is to fulfil their needs. To live in your purpose will require intentionality and sacrifice. 

When you are living out your purpose, you will:

  • Not notice time flying by

  • Find fulfilment in your work

  • Be excited to talk about it

  • Willing to sacrifice in order to achieve goals


Many people do not live in their purpose because they have not found their people. 

People

Are you with the right people?  You will never be able to accomplish your purpose in isolation.  Achieving your purpose requires the right people.  

When you dissect your soul, you will find the sum total of various people and experiences inside yourself.  Therefore, your future you will be determined by the people you are spending time with now.  Consequently, it is crucial that you surround yourself with the right people.

When you are with the right people you will:

  • Trust them

  • Love them

  • Encourage them

  • Follow them

If you cannot tick these boxes, you need to either change yourself or change the people you spend your time with.  The right people will help you to move forward in your life.  You will be able to design a process that will move you forward. 

Process

One of the sure ways to know whether you are in the right environment is to look at the processes that help you move forward.  When you have clear goals and know the direction of your life, you will be able to develop systems that will create constant progress in your life.  This consistency will help you achieve goals easier and quicker.  

When your priorities are clear and your systems in place, you will be able to determine what tomorrow looks like and have a sense of security in your life.  Many people who are in the wrong environment will let their circumstances determine their priorities.  When you are living on purpose, you will spend your time and energy on your purpose.

Ask yourself, what are the 5 most important things I need to do every day in order to accomplish my dream? If you can not achieve these 5 things every day, you probably need to start assessing whether you are in the right environment.   The right processes will determine progress.

Progress

I heard John Maxwell say "if you are at the top of your class, you are in the wrong class".  Whenever you are in an environment where you can grow and develop, you are in the right place.  The moment you stop growing, you need to move.  Personal development is a huge part of reaching your design in life.  When God told Abraham to move, Abraham had no idea how many opportunities for failure and development awaited him.  But he grew and developed because he was willing to move with God. 

You will achieve progress in your life when:

  • What you are doing is beyond your current skill level

  • You need to sacrifice to achieve goals

  • Failure is possible

  • You need other people's input 

This kind of thinking will help you to determine whether or not you are in the right place for your dreams to come to life. 

Place

I usually advise cross-culture couples to consider living in a third culture.  When these married couples live in the home country of one of them, the other would always be out of place and have to adapt to the lifestyle of the spouse.  Often-times, the one living in the home country would not be able to fully understand how much their spouse has to adapt and sacrifice.  This could become a tension in the marriage.

Similarly, some people are in companies, cities and even countries that are not the right fit for their particular dream.  When I moved to Europe over 15 years ago, I was asked why I am doing it.  My answer was simple.  Even at that young age, I realised my environment at that point was holding me back from living out my full potential.  I had to change.  I moved to a place where I could find my own identity and not live out someone else's expectations of me.

When you are in the right place you will:

  • Feel at home

  • Grow yourself constantly

  • Help others around you to grow

  • Love the place and the people

Your environment determines a lot of your successes in life.  For some people, they might feel like they are running away looking for a better life somewhere else.  This feeling of guilt might be the very reason they refuse to consider a change.  My advice is simple.  If you are in the wrong place and cannot bear fruit, you need to assess whether YOU need to change or whether you need to RUN!

5 virtues that add value to people

Adding value to people is one of the most significant actions we should do every day. Several people believe they have nothing worth adding to another's life.  Excuses like lack of knowledge or success become their identity and reality.  Because of these limiting beliefs, they sit in isolation and fail to impact the world around them in the most basic manner: kindness.

Was it the devil?

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For 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 (NIV)

All of us go through difficulties in life. Some people think that every kind of struggle they endure is the result of some devil attacking their lives. Honestly, I think the devil gets blamed for so many things that is not even remotely his doing. He obviously likes it because he is like a naughty child seeking attention. But let’s look at this in a bit more detail.

Four reasons for difficulties

God

Just like any good father or coach, you would want to develop the potential of your children to its maximum.  The principle in this regard is resistance. You cannot develop stronger muscle without resistance.

God will oftentimes design tough situations for you to deal with.  The aim of the struggle is not to succeed per se, but to develop.  Even though we might often think we have failed miserably, God looks at the strength that was developed and is pleased with our progress.

Another reason God might place us in a predicament is, He might see a character flaw in our lives that He wants to Father.  He will then construct a situation for you to be confronted with your pain or immaturity. By His Grace, He will help you to deal with this inner brokenness.  The purpose of this will be to bring healing and maturity.

In many cases, people will resist this training by God and attribute the difficult time to the devil.  They refuse to acknowledge God’s Sovereign hand and Love in their lives and start rebuking the devil and fighting an enemy that doesn’t exist in this case. Which brings us to the second reason for difficulties in our lives:

Bad Character

One of the ways you know someone has a bad character in their lives is by giving them loving correction.  We all have character flaws that result in situations going haywire in our lives. The problem is, we don’t like to admit it.

There is a very big difference between being teachable and learning something. I know a lot of people who love learning new things. They have a wealth of knowledge about either a specific topic or even a wide variety of subjects, but they are not teachable at all.  With knowledge comes pride. This is why we need to stay teachable.

To be teachable means you are willing to acknowledge your own flaws and work on them. The Biblical term will be repentance.  Giving someone loving correction about blind spots or character flaws in their lives will reveal whether they are simply smart vs teachable and repentant.  

Again, those who are unteachable in this situation will rebuke the devil and fight an enemy that is supposed to be overcome by humility and repentance, not pride in spiritual warfare.

Sin in the world

Another reason why people might experience tough times is simply that we are living in a fallen world.  I am currently sitting in my bed with bad head-cold. Eyes and nose running, feeling really sorry for myself.  It is fast approaching man-flu.  I am not sitting blaming the devil for this.  Nor am I thinking God is trying to teach me something.  I don’t think it is a result of unrepentant sin or bad character. It is part of life.

I know there will be no flu in heaven one day.  But, we are not in heaven yet.  So while I am down here I need to eat healthily and keep my immune system pumped up.  And, while I am now feeling sick, I must just as well use the opportunity to rest and take advantage of everyone serving me in bed (or just dream about it I guess).

The Devil

Then we also have an enemy.  Yes, there is a real devil with minions that hate you and wants to destroy your faith.  He will do whatever he can to make you either stop believing in God or stop growing in your faith.

In order to do this, he can use multiple tactics.  

Here are a few examples:

  • He can cloud your discernment about God teaching you.  Instead of embracing God’s discipline, you start blaming God for not making you feel comfortable.  This will increase your fear of the devil and decrease your faith in God.  A very effective way to get people to live in fear.

  • The devil will make you blame other people for your troubles.  We cannot take responsibility for other people’s behaviour, only our own.  Yet the devil would try to convince you that you are the victim and you are entitled to have things easier.  This will lead to a lack of repentance and becoming unteachable.

  • He could also make you give too much attention to him.  The devil is very small in comparison to God. Yet, when we focus on him, we don’t see this great God we serve.  The devil loves attention and would not mind you beating him up and even defeating multiplied minions under his command.  As long as you are fighting him you are not worshipping God. The devil is not always trying to win.  Oftentimes he is just aiming to distract.  The very fact that you are fighting him is a win for him.

  • Then, in seeming contrast to the previous point, failing to discern the enemy and resisting him.  When the devil does attack to destroy, we sometimes do not recognise his schemes. By failing to discern his plan, he will then hide so you cannot notice him.  

When are you under attack?

I will give you three reasons whyI think anyone might be under a demonic attack. Let me use a war analogy.

  1. Target of opportunity

  2. Planned targeted attack

  3. Living in warzone

Target of opportunity

Imagine you are in a war.  You are supposed to stay in a safe zone and hide in the bunker.  Above your head is a fighter jet looking for someone to shoot. He is not looking for someone specific, but just someone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time - a target of opportunity.

This does not mean he WILLattack. It means he COULD.  He might not attack immediately.  He might wait for others to think it is ok and safe and in that way lure them out of hiding as well.  This passive aggressive behaviour is to create an opportunity to shoot all of them.

The Bible gives us various analogies of hiding under His wings and running into a strong tower.  Within this safe place, the devil cannot strike you. But then, you might wonder out in the open field through taking offence in someone.  Now you are an open target.

Let me give you a classic example that I deal with often in our context over here.  Because families are so heavily broken here, children struggle to honour their parents.  The command that says you have to honour your parents has a promise of long life attached to it.  By implication, it means you open yourself up to premature death if you don’t honour your parents.

Now, as I said, not everyone dishonouringtheir parents will die prematurelybecause you MIGHTget shot, not you WILL.  It might also not mean that you will die prematurely, but that this spirit of death might only touch certain areas of your life like your finances, health or relationships.  

This is deceptive and a tactic to numb your conscience.  Not always attacking, but only when the opportunity is favourable, lulls you into a deception that your sin has no effect on your life. For this reason, God wants us to obey His commands and his principles. It keeps you safe from being a target of opportunity.

Planned targeted attack

Another reason you might end up getting fired at is simply that of your calling.  You have a target on your head.  This means the devil knows you are a threat and will plan an attack against anything you are involved.  This is strategic and intentional.

This can come in various ways against you.  For the sake of not turning this email into an e-book, I will mention only one.  During our time in Belgium, we had the occult send undercover christiansinto the church to intentionally bring division.

One of the ways out of an attack like thisis by going on the offence.  Your biggest mistake would be to become passive. You need to intentionally stand on the Word, intentionally trust God, intentionally live holy and intentionally resist the devil and his schemes.

When you are busy with God’s work, you are a threat to the devil.  He will plan to take you out somehow.

Living in a warzone

The third reason might simply be that you are living in a place of heightened spiritual activity.  I remember years ago God showed me a prophetic picture for a good friend of mine being in a tough spot.  The picture was of a bunch of ants climbing onto his legs while he is walking through the field.  He was living in South Africa at the time.

I told him that he is being bitten by ants simply because he is in a place where there are a lot of ants.  Ants are not a problem we have in Belgium.  I don’t think I have ever seen any ants over here.  This means I do not have to be prepared to fight them.  Every area has its own unique battles and struggles. You need to be aware of your spiritual geography.

When I moved to Belgium in 2010, I prepared as much as I could to get ready for life here.  But there are simply things I could not have been prepared for.  The atmosphere threw a whole bunch of curveballs our way that we simply did not anticipate.  This was not because of a target of opportunity or because my life was targeted.  It was simply because the spiritual climate here has its own flavour.

When you are in a situation like this, you need to do one of two things.  You either move away or you learn to engage your spiritual warzone. Toughen up or move out.  It’s as simple as that.

How do you know if it is the devil?

One of the simplest and easiest ways to know whether it is the devil or not is by looking at the frequency and intensity of the situation.  When something is abnormally intense and/orlast longer than it should in the usualsetting, you should consider the fact that his might have a spiritual origin.  When it is of the devil it has a heaviness to it that is recognisable.

I am definitely not one that blames the devil for everything.  I hate giving him any attention at all. He is not worthy of my attention. I do not live in reaction to the devil but in response to the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance. So, when something is not right, I do not immediately turn my attention to the devil. I only do it when God places my attention on it or when I realise this is something out of the norm.

I do not live in fear of spiritual attack nor the devil's plans.  My life is in God’s hands and plans. The discernment comes when you are fully immersed in God’s Kingdom.  You will know and have a sense of something that simply “smells” off.  When you spend time with God, your spiritual radar will become sensitive enough to pick up on that what comes from another camp.

I want to encourage you today to live for God, obey His commands with everything in you and be open to the fact that not everything bad is devil’s fault.  But, when he shows up, deal with it swiftly.

Why Coaching?

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The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.

It doesn’t take much to bump into a coach nowadays.  Seems like it is a new craze and everyone does it.  There are coaches for everything from eating, exercise, business, anything really.  But what is this craze all about?

I absolutely love the discipline of coaching. One of the mentors in the John Maxwell Team, Paul Martinelli explains that “If you can tell me where you are going, I can help you get there.  This is the biggest problem in so many people's lives.  They have no idea where they are going.

Not being clear of your direction and purpose is like going on holiday and having no destination.  Myles Munroe often said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.

This is where the big difference in coaching lies.  I will try to explain coaching by first telling you what it is not.  

There are four major disciplines when helping people grow and develop: Teaching, Counselling, Mentoring and Coaching.  Understanding the difference between these four approaches will help you to realise the importance of having a coach in your life.

 

Teaching:

According to theCambridge Dictionary, to teach means “to give someone knowledge or to train someone; to instruct”  

Teaching can happen from a distance in a very impersonal way.  I have had teachers who have imparted knowledge to me whom I have never met before.  In fact, it is exactly what I am doing now by means of this writing. I am imparting knowledge and perhaps a certain level of skill without even being close to you.

Even though teaching is one of the most important disciplines we need in our lives, it can happen without relationship and impartation of character and values.

Teaching is simply "mindfacts" that can be learned without ever changing the type of person you are.  Though we know this is not always the case, it is quite often what we find in people who are very knowledgeable but lack character.

 

Teachers give knowledge.

 

Mentoring:

TheCambridge Dictionarystates that to mentor is “to help and give advice to a younger or less experienced person, especially in a job or at school".

The main aspect of mentoring is helping someone develop a skill. This means I have to be in closer proximity to the mentor in order for the skill to be taught and assessed.  Like a carpenter who is training his apprentice to work with wood, the trainee will do everything that the mentor teaches him and then, after the work has been done, evaluate and correct the mistakes.  This is what makes mentoring, in my opinion, a better option than mere teaching.

There is a constant evaluation of your skill and impartation from a more experienced “father” in the trade. You do not simply gain knowledge, you improve your abilities to apply knowledge.

Mentors give wisdom

 

Counselling:

TheCambridge dictionarydefines counselling as “the activity of a trained person listening to someone who has a problem and giving them advice on how to deal with it”.

This discipline is particularly focused on past hurts and pain and helping people to overcome mental and emotional struggle.  This will involve some form of teaching, could involve some mentoring to help a person gain the right skills to deal with emotions, etc. but is mainly focused on giving an individual the tools to help them cope with mental health and past trauma.

This is a skill that should be done by trained professionals.  I have seen some people who give themselves out as counsellors that do more damage than good.  Just because you have compassion for brokenness and some experience in giving advice to friends, you cannot call yourself a therapist.

Counselling focusses on inner healing

 

Coaching:

The dictionary defines coaching only as a trainer for sports and a type of long bus.  The term coach seems to be so ambiguous that anyone can call themselves a coach and not do any coaching at all.

According to our training at the John Maxwell Team “You cannot lead unless you can Coach. Coaching is the art of influence that underpins leadership in the 21st century. If you’re to be a credible teacher of leadership, you have to know how to Coach.

Coaching is both an art and a science.  There are certain tools and skills that you can learn and master, but a large part relies on intuition. Therefore the purpose of coaching needs to be understood before any skill can be mastered.

When you teach, mentor or counsel a person, you help them with WHATto think.  In coaching the aim is helping people HOWto think. A coach will help you to develop the self-awareness to be able to dig out the golden treasures that God has placed inside of you. One of the starting assumptions of a coach is “You already have all the resources for your success inside of you.”

This process does not involve teaching information but asking open-endedquestions in such a way that you become aware of that design that God created in you.  In many senses, people will develop a codependent relationship upon a teacher, mentor or counsellor. The aim of a coach is to help a person become independent from their coach and interdependent upon those who can create networks of success and progress.

A coach does not determine the agenda of a meeting, but will simply help you to reflect deeply upon the purpose you have and help you achieve the goals you set for yourself.  Therefore you need to be aware of where you are going before the coach can help you get there. The coach, unlike a teacher, mentor or counsellor, will not determine the end goal of the coaching journey.  Unless you know where you are going and what you want to achieve, you will not be coachable.

This is why we would first assess whether a person is coachable or not. To be coachable means you are fully aware of the responsibility you have as a person to live out your God-givenpurpose.  You take ownership of your own life and will not blame others for your failures. This mindset will make you a perfect candidate for a coach.

A successful coaching relationship will develop the maturityof character and self-awareness in a person to achieve success in their own purpose and design.Coaching bridges the gap between what a person knows and what a person does.  This happens on such a fundamentally deep level, that the person being coached will know the depth of their God-given design and purpose.

So why would I need a coach?

One of the most important aspects of leadership is self-development.  If you are serious about developing yourself, you will also be serious about allowing someone to reveal your blind spots to you.

A coach will help you to overcome the not-so-obvious hurdles in your life that will hinder you from further movement and growth.

If you are serious about leadership, get a coach to help you develop.

Blessings

Trevor

A Balanced Life

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People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.

Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)

According to the online dictionary, integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.  I simply say that integrity is doing the right thing even while nobody is watching.  

This is easier said than done.  Many people, without knowing it, still live with a high degree of approval addiction.  We want people to recognise us and see what we do. This desire for approval can easily bring us to a point of compromise.  

Compromise is like a bad smell.  It bothers you in the beginning, but you soon get so used to it that you don’t notice it anymore.  Then you will walk around with this really bad smell stuck to you and can’t figure out why “clean” people avoid you.  It is time to take a shower and get your integrity back in place.

Here is an exercise I regularly do with those I coach. Take the five main areas of your life: Spirit, soul, body, relationships and finances.  For each area, give yourself a mark out of 10 for how you FEEL about it. Do not rate it based upon the fruit you see, but how satisfied you currently feel about it.

With 0 being “can’t get any worse” and 10 being “Even God can’t be happier about it” rate each area with the following in mind.

Is this balanced and healthy.? Living healthy physically will involve rest, exercise and healthy eating.  We can use this same analogy for all the different areas.  What does your diet look like, your practice and yoursabbath? You list could look something like this

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I’m not giving this list as a prescription, but an example.

Now take this list and rate yourself according to how you feel you are doing.  The reason you need to rate the feeling and not the success is simple. You might do well according to others’ opinions, but you might be functioning completely outside of your designed purpose from God.  You might be a very successful entrepreneur but unfulfilled in your business.  You might be the employee of the month in your department, but you were actually called to be a missionary.  This will rate you as successful, but leave you feeling unfulfilled.

When you rate yourself based on success, you will keep other people's’ opinions in mind.  There is nothing in life that can derail you from God’s purpose in your life than fearing the opinions of others.  So, be honest in your rating according to your feeling of satisfaction.

Now transfer your rating to a wheel.  Draw a circle with pizza slices. Each slice represents an area of your life.  Your wheel can have only the five slices of the main areas, or you can choose to have an individual slice for each of the portions in the table.

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Then, with the centre of the wheel being 0 and the circumference 10, colour each area with your rating.  It should look something like this image.

Now ask yourself the question: “If this is the wheel of my life, how smooth is my life going?”  I’m pretty sure that you will be able to say that the part of the circle which is the smallest, is where you usually get stuck.  This should be the first place where you need to get some help. No, not where you should work on, but get some help.

To get an outside opinion and coaching on the area of your smallest rating is important.  If you are going to be honest with yourself, you need to acknowledge that you don’t know how to make this work for you.  If you did, the score would not be so low.

Integrity will help you to be honest.  Do not deceive yourself. Do the right thing.  Get help in this area of your life and get your life in balance.

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Intentional living

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Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)

If I can use one word to describe our current generation it is DISTRACTED.  We live with more distractions today than we’ve ever had before. Children today have so many things to keep them busy that they are losing their ability to come up with creative toys themselves.

One big result of this distraction is the fact that few people are focused on intentional personal development.  For those who are committed to growth, there is a temptation to do it without human interaction. It is so easy with our current virtual world to find online information for whatever problem you are trying to solve.

This might work well to get the information you need, but there is no way to get connected with people.  We were created for relationship. The very fuel that makes the engine of our lives work is love, not information.  

When Jesus said we need to make disciples, I do not think he had FaceBook in mind.  Even this email you are reading now is not the primary way to get your life connected to God.  God wants us to be in relationships.

This is the reason we find so many people today who are highly informed but struggling with mental health problems.  Our struggles are not going to be solved by reading another great blog or book (as important as it is to live informed).  We have to get to the place where we realise that it is relationship first.

Paul told Timothy in this verse above to “Work hard”.  We can stop right there and say that hard work is what makes you successful.  The thing that Timothy had to work hard in was his relationship with God and to make sure that he can present truth to people without being ashamed.  

This hard work means we have to grow ourselves not only in knowledge, but in character.  We cannot present the truth of God’s Word without the proper character. It is easy to write something online and people never know your character.  It is also easy to read something online and feel like you have done your dues because you are informed.

But, to be able to present truth with Godly character, we need to be intentional to get into relationships.  Those tough relationships that will help you grow. Those relationships that will ask you the difficult questions and challenge your thinking and behaviour.  People who can ask you the tough questions and listen to your heart.

It seems that intentional personal development can easily be put aside nowadays because of the deception of online virtual discipleship.

Get out of your isolation.  Be intentional. Get discipled and grow.

Ahab & Jezebel

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“Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him”

(1 Kings 16:33)

“Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33).

A lot has been said and written about Jezebel in the last three decades.  Some good, some not so good and some downright wrong. There has been some who have gone so far as to suggest that any woman who with a remotely strong personality or distinguished leadership skills can be called a ‘Jezebel’ in Christian circles.

I would like to bring clarity around this issue from my studies and experience here in Belgium over the last eight years.  What I will say might shock some and inform others, but I believe that it is necessary to bring clarity to this topic.

Even though I do not believe that there is a particular demonic spirit, stronghold or entity with the name ‘Jezebel’, I too use the name Jezebel to describe the behavioral characteristics of certain people or demonic entities.  This is simply derived from the name we get in scripture given to a very evil and manipulative Queen, Jezebel.  So, in referring to a person or spirit, it does not mean they carry the name, it is a reference to behavior or characteristics. 

From my experience, so much energy has gone into fearing Jezebel or trying to predict or dissolve her schemes and tactics, but that should not be our attention.  The solution is much simpler. The way we respond is of most importance.  Jezebel is simply not as big as many make her out to be. The big devil behind it all is Ahab.  Once Ahab is dealt with, Jezebel will not be a problem at all.  

Ahab was the King.  In all understanding of the way a monarchy works, the king is the higher authority.  Unless the King dies or, like in this case, is extremely passive, the queen would need to submit under the authority of the king.

The biggest empowerment behind Jezebel is passive leadership.  Jezebel does not usurp the authority of the king, but uses it to manipulate and so achieve personal gain.  Without the passivity of Ahab, Jezebel cannot function. 

When a leader is standing on principle and acts out his delegated authority, there will be no room for the manipulation to take place.  Once a leader is insecure and does not stand for what is right, there is a vacuum of authorityjust waiting to be taken in. This is the space which Jezebel steps into and takes the lead.

The biggest enemy in this equation is not Jezebel, but passive leaders, i.e. Ahab!

The reason it is so difficult to see this is simply because the one who makes the most noise gets the most attention.  For so many years we have tried to fight Jezebel. The characteristics of this type of spirit or behavior are just everywhere today.  Over the last eight years, we have seen many Jezebelic characters trying to get their way in our ministry. I can now spot them a mile away.  The reason this attitude has not been able to take over the lead is that we learned to simply refuse to get into a fight with Jezebel. Instead, we focussed our efforts on addressing an ‘Ahab’ attitude.  We refused to be passive in our leadership. We did not compromise on our values and principles but instead, we stood for righteousness and truth.

You don't overcome Jezebel by confronting this, but by pro-actively and strongly refuse to compromise on holiness.  Let me give an example.  When a Jezebel will make you angry, this will open the door for her to take the upper hand.  You need to refuse to let go of your love walk and keep God's great commandment as the highest priority.  Do not be manipulated by the tactics and fall into the trap.  Seek holiness, not revenge.  On the other hand, do not tolerate the sin issue, but speak out against it in love.

On many occasions, we were presented with the opportunity to not address sin issues.  We all know how messy those confrontations can be.  It’s definitely something we all wish we don’t have to deal with. In one case we were even pushed by manipulative parties to stay quiet about gross sin in leadership circles.  But we had decided to honor God instead of allowing sin to dominate. Jezebel surely did not like her sin to get exposed, but also had no foothold to stand on and had to leave.

Jezebel can only function where passive leadership allows sin to stay hidden.  Jezebel cannot function in a holy and righteous environment.This is why this verse quoted above is focused on the sin of Ahab, and not the queen.

Even in the book of Revelation, it does not say that Jezebel was the problem, but the fact that the church TOLERATED her.

Revelation 2:20 (NASB) But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Whatever you tolerate will dominate.  If you tolerate sin in your leadership, Jezebel will have a foothold to manipulate you. The moment you stand strong in your relationship with God and lead according to righteousness, you remove all of Jezebel’s power.  

The real problem comes in when Jezebel is tolerated and gives birth to Athalia.  Athalia was Jezebel's daughter.

I’ll explain this evil spirit next week.  In the meantime - do not be an Ahab who tolerates sin.

Bless the world

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Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:14 (NASB)

Human beings are the only creatures in existence that have the ability to live in the spiritual realm and the physical realm simultaneously, 100% of the time.  We are created in God’s image. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world. Everything physical is temporary, by every means of the word.

What is the significance of this?  God created us as His image bearers and placed us in this physical world to rule and influence this physical world with His Creative power.  One of the most effective ways to do this is by blessings your world and the people around you.

This world has been cursed by sin and the effects of sin are destroying everything.  Relationships are being destroyed; land, time, everything God created is negatively influenced by sin.  God called us to bring His Kingdom of redemption and sanctification into a world that is in desperate need of healing.

This is why God wants us to bless everything.  By blessing things and people around you, you become a water faucet that sprinkles God’s glory and life onto a dying world.  You bring that what is in the heavens into the physical and you bring God’s Kingdom into this world.

More than that, you become a hose that acts as a channel for His Spirit to flow through.  Whenever you bless something, you open yourself up to become the hose which God can flow through.  No blessing can flow through you without influencing you directly.

The same with cursing.  You become the channel of the curse and you end up being cursed yourself.  But when you bless, you end up being blessed.

You are a powerful force in this world, created by God to destroy evil and spread His Glory.  

Learn the language of blessing.

Be anxious for nothing

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Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 (NASB)

I love the first four words of this verse, “be anxious for nothing”.  This verse talks about prayer and the effect and power of it. The conclusion I want to draw is simply this: prayer removes anxiety.

Paul explains to us here that you should not be anxious about anything but that you should pray.  Prayer is one of the most powerful things anyone can ever do. This is the way to connect heaven and earth.  Prayer brings God’s Kingdom into the earth in a way that no other action or behavior can do.

A few years ago I faced a situation that was extremely difficult.   It involved a lot of conflict with an individual who wanted to destroy the church.  Sin infiltrated on leadership level and I faced what felt like a “do or die” decision.  The church wasn’t even two years old then.

I realised that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (NASB).  So I contacted an advisor and received great counsel on the way I should pray against this particular spiritual force which was coming against the church. With my wife and one other person, we prayed and did a prophetic act to remove the stronghold from our church.  We were very careful to direct everything against the spiritual realm, and not against any person as praying against people is nothing but witchcraft.

We prayed a very specific and intentional prophetic prayer against this stronghold and within two days, that grueling season which lasted for nearly a year was diffused.  Now, seven years on, the situation has never come up again in that same manner.

No matter what you are facing at the moment.  You have a  power in you that is greater than that what you are facing at moment.  God gave you His resurrection power that destroyed death, hell, and the grave.  So, get up and take back that what is yours in Jesus' Name.

Living a sanctified life

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 (NASB)

In my last mail, I wrote about the destructive nature of passivity.  This often results in a manipulative spirit taking control that is commonly referred to as Jezebel.

When we study Scripture to see the result of passive-aggressive behaviour, we see that the authority of a leader is often given over to evil forces due to the sin of omission (not doing the right thing).  When this kind of manipulation is tolerated and Jezebel gets a foothold in your life, work or ministry, the result that follows is often much worse. We can see this in the “offspring” from Jezebel.  She was called Athalia.

Athaliah was the generational seed of Jezebel and Ahab (see 2 Kings 8:18, 26). Some theologians believe she was their biological child and Omri's granddaughter. Others believe she was the daughter of Omri, and therefore the sister to Ahab, and that Ahab took her and became her father. The Hebrew word daughter used in 2 Kings 18:26 means "a daughter in the wide sense, and in terms of relationships, a branch, or company."1

Athaliah was far more wicked than her mother Jezebel.  Unlike Jezebel who used the king's authority to get what she wanted, Athaliah killed all of the male heirs to the throne in order to position herself as the final authority.

The main difference between Jezebel and Athaliah is simply that Jezebel used the king’s power to get what she wanted, while Athaliah wanted the power for herself.  The story portrays how one kind of evil progressed into an even worse kind of evil, from one generation to the following. This is often the same in leadership. Once you tolerate the evil that comes against you in one situation, it will escalate in a later season. Unfortunately, sin does not go away by turning a blind eye to it.

When you do not live in holiness as the Bible instructs us to do, you will create a breeding ground for parasites.  Where something has died, you will find flies. You cannot just leave the dead thing there and expect the flies to go away.  Eventually, the flies will have larvae and diseases will start to spread. You have to remove the corpse in order to deal with the flies.

When you tolerate Jezebel, you will not only be manipulated and controlled by evil but ‘she’ will eventually steal your authority from you.  Where you see great men and women of God fall into sin, it is often linked back to a time where manipulation was tolerated and that then resulted in a compromise in behaviour in that leader.  When giving in to this in the beginning it might look as though all is well on the surface with no imminent threat. But eventually, it will have “offspring” and the sin will increase to the point of causing total destruction.

If you are serious about living a life that is Christlike, it is important for you to be sanctified in your spirit, soul, and body.  As it is stated in the opening verse, we need to “pursue” sanctification.  It does not come by itself but we need to be intentional and seek after it.  Only when you are proactive in your pursuit of holiness will you be able to live in the authority you have as a child of God.

God wants us to live in the fullness of His grace.  His Holy Spirit is a gift to us. Therefore we should “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”,  Ephesians 4:30 (NASB).  In everything you do in word, action or thought, live for the glory of God and seek to please Him.  

Remember, you were made to serve many and please One.  Do not live to serve One and please many.

Spiritual Health Check

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:16-17 (NASB)

I am constantly intrigued by our Godly design.  We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 134:19).  We are created in God’s image, i.e. we are first of all designed as a spirit.  We were designed to function primarily in the spirit realm.

When God initially created us, we were in full relationship with Him.  Spirit to spirit communication and flow was as natural and life-sustaining as breathing air.  But then the biggest tragedy that ever happened entered this world! SIN. Spiritual death became a reality and we got separated from God in this intimate relationship.  

Jesus thankfully came to restore this tragedy.  He destroyed sin on the cross and gave us a newborn spirit through His resurrection.  Voila - redemption and restoration! Good news right! It’s called the Gospel.

Now, this is supposed to be the solution to all the problems in the world, yet we still see so much evil around.  Why is that?

This verse above explains the reality of the life of so many bus-driver who are born again and call Jesus Lord.  Unfortunate they have to admit that Jesus is not really Lord of their lives. Their flesh is lord. According to this verse abovethere is a constant struggle between the “desire” of your flesh and the desire of your spirit.  They are in constant “opposition to one another”.

The result of living from the flesh is, “you may not do the things that you please”.  Your spirit has a desire to commune with God and your flesh has a desire to sleep and watch tv.  It is important that we understand how to discern whether we’re living in the spirit or in the flesh.  Any person who is serious about their own spiritual growth and journey, will regularly take time to assess their own spiritual health.

I once heard a preacher say that whenever he goes two weeks without crying before God about something, he knows his heart is becoming hard and he needs to spend more time with the Holy Spirit to soften himself up.  

Do you have a checkpoint like this to warn you when you are stepping into the flesh and out of the spirit?  Is the little red light on your dashboard flashing? Do you even know where the little light is?

This portion of scripture in Galatians gives us a checklist of attributes that you can see whether your character is being influenced by the Spirit of God in your new-born spirit, or whether you are being led by your flesh.

If you are serious about living a life that reflects God and grows in Him continually, this might be a good exercise for you to do.

Rate yourself from 0-10 on each of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Take love as example, the first on the list.  If you would be honest with yourself, how much do you act in love on a daily basis?  Are you easily irritated and upset by small things or do you have the ability to love unconditionally and forgive instantly?  Even the bus-driver in London traffic?

Or maybe the last on the list; self-control.  How good are you to say “no” to your fleshly desires and follow your spiritual disciplines?

Many think these are characteristics of successful people who are born with great personalities and naturally good habits.  The truth is, these are supernatural virtues that can be obtained by exercising your spiritual muscle. These fruit are not aspects of your soul but of your spirit.  This means it cannot be obtained by thinking differently, but by spending time with the One who fills you with these abilities.

This is why they are so opposite from the desires of the flesh.  How many would not rather want to say something nasty to the driver that cuts you off in traffic than bless him with God’s love?  If your flesh is still running your life, then it’s time that you take some time out and refresh your spirit.

Be honest with yourself.  Are you living from your spirit or living from your flesh?  I am not asking if you are a christian. I am asking whether your life is ruled and directed by God’s Grace and power, or whether you are submitting to your fleshly desires.

Just remember, if you think you can’t be deceived you already are deceived.  So don’t dismiss this too quickly. Do the exercise honestly and rate yourself objectively.  Do you need to soften your heart in God’s presence? Do it today!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit.  Join me on this growth journey.

The Gospel

"even when we were dead in our transgressions,
made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)"

Ephesians 2:5 (NASB)

The more I spend time with Christians helping them to deal with life's difficulties, I realise that very few people actually have a revelation of the Gospel.  They not only struggle to put it into words but have no idea how to apply it to their lives. Many people want some kind of experience that will instantly set them free from their pain, instead of letting the Gospel minister to them.  And when they don’t have this ‘instant’ experience, they often start doubting.  Not only doubting God's goodness but also question the Gospel itself. 

The Gospel is the hook on which every truth in Scripture hangs. Unless you understand the Gospel in its fullness, nothing else in Scripture will have the power you think it has.  You don’t only respond to it when you first become a Christian, but it is very important to let the Gospel minister to you every day.

The problem is that the pure foundation of the Gospel is not clearly understood.  

So exactly what is the Gospel?

Let me try to explain it with five simple words today:  DEAD in SINMADEALIVE in CHRIST.

Imagine you went skiing and lost your gloves way up on the glacier.  You came down and one of your fingers froze solid; it has turned black and blue with gangrene.  It has no life whatsoever and your finger’s tissue is beyond the point of healing. IT IS DEAD!  There is nothing you can do to make it better.  No effort on your side will bring a cure or be able to repair this.  It is a hopeless situation.

This is the state of a person’s spirit before they are born again.  There is nothing you can do out of your own to obtain life. You cannot be coached by a professional nor develop disciplines to remove the gangrene from your spirit. You do not need a cure or a set of exercises, you need to be MADE ALIVE!

DEATH is not solved by discipline or good living.  The gangrene can only be reversed by being MADE ALIVE.  This means life does not come through your effort, but by the one who MADE the finger in the first place.  You are not becoming more ALIVE as you obey the tasks given to you.  You are MADEALIVE by your Creator.  Nothing and no one else can deal with DEATH.  

You either need a miracle, administered through your Creator, to give you life, or you will lose your finger forever (eternal death).  

This is the result of SIN.

I believe with everything in me sin is one of the most misunderstood theologies in the Christian world. If sin is properly understood, you will undoubtedly cry out for a Saviour.  The reason we do not understand sin is because we want to call it something else; a problem, brokenness, difficulty, a mistake, etc.  

When you call it a problem, then you need to deal with it yourself.  God doesn’t deal with your problems, He deals with your SIN.  In our analogy above with the gangrenous finger, sin can be compared to the snow storm.  

We are living in a world fallen, in sin.  Unless you are clothed with CHRIST, you will be affected by the SIN in this world.  SIN results in DEATH, not problems.  So do not talk about your bad self-image as a result of your lack of fathering.  If you do this, it might just get you to look for the cure at some counselor. If you get to a counselor who thinks he can reverse the death caused by a father wound, you need to leave his office right away.  He is not your Messiah.

A Godly counselor will help you to understand you are not suffering from a bad self-image.  You are suffering from DEATH caused by the SIN in this world.  When you are alive in CHRIST, you will be far less concerned about your own image.

SIN is not simply something you do wrong.  It is the complete and utter state of eternal separation from God that this world finds itself in.  Because it is separated from its Creator, there is nothing it can give you that will bring you back into life.  Life comes from God alone and not from any other source.

Let me repeat myself - NOTHING YOU DO CAN REVERSE THE DEATH CAUSED BY SIN.  YOU NEED THE AUTHOR OF LIFE.

To be MADE alive is done by someone outside of yourself.  It is not an inside effort on your part. Someone else needs to MAKE you alive. Unless you understand this, you will always think that through your own efforts you can earn your stripes with God.  

Let Him MAKE you alive.  Being made ALIVE is the result of the Author of Life and the very Giver of Life giving His Nature to you.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

John 1:4 (NASB)

All things came into being through Him,

and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

John 1:3 (NASB)

Being MADE ALIVE in CHRIST is the only one single solution to the death that you carry in your soul.  The opening verse says that we were MADE ALIVE together with CHRIST. The reason Jesus had to die on the cross is to deal with SIN.  The result of SIN was DEATH.  For this reason He destroyed death by taking it upon Himself so that we do not have to.  He became gangrenous on the cross.

Jesus was raised from the dead so we can be MADE ALIVE in HIM.  Every restoration in your life will happen in direct connection with the Resurrection of Christ.

If you have unforgiveness, you need a resurgence of love.  When you repent of your unforgiveness by bringing it to the cross, the resurrection of Christ will heal your heart.

Unless you allow the cross and resurrection to deal with sin in your life, even after you’ve become a Christian, you will never see God’s resurrection power touch you with His life.

The Gospel is the solution to all the death caused by sin.  

Unfortunately, I have dealt with quite a few divorces over the last few years.  In every case, I realised that the decision to divorce was not something that came up overnight for that couple.  It was a gangrenous finger that got neglected, way back somewhere. This death in one part of the soul slowly started killing the rest of the soul.  Eventually, there was no more turnaround.

The biggest problem is not even the fact that the death spread throughout everything.  The biggest problem is the fact that, very deceptively, the dead finger way back then, was never called sin.  The fact that there was never any repentance for those initial unhealthy thought patterns or half-truths, caused the spouse to get to a place where they have no faith that Jesus can resurrect the marriage anymore.

The truth is, Jesus can give life to everything and anything.  Unfortunately, the faith is not there for the big issue because there was never repentance for the small one.  The small “problem” was soaked in death and it killed everything around it. The result? A dead marriage.

DEAD in SINMADE ALIVE in CHRIST!

What dead fingers do you have?  Let the Gospel minister to your sin today.  Call it SIN. Realise it causes death. Let the cross of Jesus destroy the sin.  Let His resurrection bring life and live in Christ.

The Holy Spirit

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 10:38 (NASB)


I want to tell you a story of the time my dad asked me to go pray for a baby in a hospital once.  This was many years ago. On the way to the hospital my dad told me how he sensed that God was up to something big.  I was a teenager at the time, so I just agreed to what my dad said. That day I saw one of the saddest things I had ever seen.  A baby, just a few days old, with arms and legs all blue and black with gangrene.

Somehow a bacterial infection invaded this little boy’s body and slowly started killing off each of his limbs.  When me and my dad entered the room, the doctor just informed the parents that their little boy would most probably be dead within two or three hours.  The gangrene was spreading at such a rapid rate that amputation was no solution. The shock we all felt was something I still remember to this day.

My dad turned to the parents and asked them, “do you believe God can do a miracle for you?”  They were honest enough to admit that they didn’t believe that but my dad continued and said that he believes in God and offered to pray for their son.

I remember it so well. I stood on the one side of the hospital crib and my dad on the other.  We couldn’t lay our hands on the baby because he was full of wires and tubes. So I just put my two index fingers on him, following my dad’s example.  My dad prayed, what felt to me as a very insignificantly, short prayer. We turned to the parents and my dad also prayed a very simple prayer.

We drove home in complete silence.

The next morning at around 5am the phone rang.  This was before mobile phones with mute buttons.  It was one of those wired home telephones that would wake up the whole house.  My dad picked up, had a short conversation with someone and ran into my room to give me the news.  The doctors had no idea what happened, but the gangrene simply disappeared an hour or two after we left and the baby was doing fine.

A month or so later the family came to church to dedicate their son the Lord.  It was truly a God moment.

This incident taught me so much.  It is not the size of the faith or the length of the prayer that made any difference.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like our opening verse states, not even Jesus did anything significant until He was baptised in the Holy Spirit.  But when He was Baptised in the Spirit, He did marvelous things.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit more than we need anything else to be able to succeed in God’s Kingdom.  Without the Holy Spirit, we are truly like rotten wood floating down a stream going wherever the current takes us.

Without the Holy Spirit our:

  • Praise and worship songs are just music,

  • Sermons are simply prideful information shared

  • Prayers are feel good gestures of false hope

  • Services are acts of meaningless waste of energy

But when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, a very simple prayer can turn death around in its tracks.   Every song you sing will penetrate a heart, sermon you preach will save a soul and act of kindness will raise a Godly leader.  

How much of what you currently do is out of the flesh vs. out of the Spirit of God?  

A couple of weeks ago I challenged you to rate yourself based on the fruit of the spirit.  Today I want to make a similar challenge: rate your life based on the gifts of the Spirit.

How often, when at work, do you open your heart to receive a word of wisdom to give you a supernatural answer to the problem you are facing?  

Do you believe God for a gift of faith to reach your goals and supersede all expectations?  

Have you ever trusted God to give you discernment with a client to know where things are going?   

Are you involving the Gifts of the Spirit to help you with your PhD research?

Do you believe God can heal, restore and set free?  

Do you believe God can use you to do it?

Often times when we fail to answer yes to these questions, it is because we lack the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We think it is through ability of our own we need to be able to pray a good enough prayer with enough faith to get things moving forward.

My dad did not pray a death defying prayer that got rid of gangrene in a baby’s body.  He prayed a Holy Spirit empowered prayer that needs only one word of faith to be released.

Are you baptised in the Holy Spirit?

Know The Father

As a child I always had the idea that God designed everything perfectly and then something went wrong.  Somehow He had to come up with plan B. This plan B was never intended as the original idea, but He had to fix what went wrong. Imagine that; Jesus being plan B?  Well, I honestly thought this was the case.

Until one day God showed me a truth I’ve never seen before in Ephesians 1:4-5, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

Even before God made the world He had it in mind to adopt us as sons through Jesus.  This plan never changed.  Before the Garden of Eden His plan was to adopt us as sons through Jesus.  After the fall of man into sin the plan never changed.  He wanted sons and daughters and the plan still remained the same.  Jesus is God’s predestined and chosen way for people to come into relationship with Him.

It has always been God’s desire to be a Father to us.  The idea has always been to be in covenant with Him through Jesus.  Sin just changed the way it happened a little, but the original plan has and always will be God’s idea.

To know God as Father has always been God’s first and foremost priority with us.  This kind of relationship with us is God’s primary motivation for doing everything He desires to do.  He loves us and will give anything for His children.

I have heard many teachers say that the ultimate revelation to obtain is to know the Father.  I disagree; it is the first. Nothing you do in God’s Kingdom should come from any other motive than relationship.  We cannot earn His love.  It is given unconditionally like only a Father can.

If you are functioning in your Christian walk and doing things for people and God without a deep understanding of the Father Heart of God, then you are not working from a place of rest, love or grace.  You are working from a place of law trying to do the right thing in order to gain acceptance. Your are serving from an orphaned heart.

Your motive should be love, having fully understood that you are part of His family. God is not a slave driver but a Father.  This is the Gospel. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father. The Gospel is not that Jesus gave us power to serve in a Kingdom of slaves.  The unfortunate reality is that so many people look to God through the lenses of their own fatherly experiences as a child.

Before we can grow in our spiritual journey and mature in God, we need to get the father wound in our lives healed and understand that God is a loving Father.  

This is the first thing God wants us to understand.