Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Throwing Nets On The Other Side

A couple of weeks ago, I told an amazing story. It was about a bunch of hardened fisherman from Northern Ireland who were told about Jesus and the miracles that He did. Not long after hearing about this historical miracle maker, the guys went out, as they always did, and cast their nets. What happened next was incredible. They caught so many fish that their boat became weighed down and they all surrendered their lives to Jesus. The picture is below.

This story immediately took me to the story in the Bible of Simon Peter. He and his fishermen mates had gone out all night and had not caught a thing. Jesus was standing on the shore as they made their way back and He shouted to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "NO!" They shouted back to Him, not knowing at this moment that it was Jesus. "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." Jesus said.

Just try to imagine, if you will, yourself as the fisherman in this story. Firstly, it's the audacity of being told by someone who isn't doing what you are doing or isn't going through what you are going through, to try again but in a completely wrong way to what you're used to. I'd be like; "you have no idea, mate. Thanks but no thanks." Simon Peter and his colleagues would have had a routine, a strict way of fishing and would probably have been extremely tired and angry that they didn't have a catch. So not in a good place to hear themselves or their method being put into question.

Secondly, it's the way they respond, in this story, which I find even stranger. They just went for it. No questions asked but the attitude of, 'what's the worst that could happen?' Don't you find this a little strange, like I do? I can only assume that there was such authority in Jesus' voice that these guys did what He asked of them. When they did what Jesus asked, they struggled to contain the amount of fish - a bit like our Irish friends.

But then, for me, the most amazing thing happens. After being obedient to the Lord's call to do something which pushed their better judgement, Jesus asks them for some of the fish and cooks up a mean breakfast. Not only does this speak of Jesus honouring obedience with rewards but it also underpins the fact that He DOES understand when we face trials and knows what to do to put everything right. Even if we have made the same mistake over and over again. When we face trials are we standing aside and asking God for help and direction or are we still fishing in the same barren waters?

I've been in the same situation as the disciples many times. I have not only kept doing what I think is right and not obeying God's voice, but I haven't asked for help or direction. This always, inevitably, leads to discontentment.

"Peter disowned Jesus but Jesus cooked Peter breakfast and reinstated him."

But the thing I love about God is that He then doesn't judge me when I completely mess it up. When I go to Him and say I'm sorry, there is no 'I told you so' but utter love and acceptance and a fresh chance to be obedient. Think of how Peter was feeling at the moment he walked onto the beach and recognised Jesus. He had denied he ever knew Jesus not too long ago but here he was, being cooked for and then Jesus reinstates him completely. This is such a wonderful story of grace and redemption.

Two weeks ago I felt I'd heard God ask me to throw my nets on the other side. The idea of going back into writing was almost ludicrous, especially as I hadn't been involved in the industry since before I got married, 14 years ago. But God wasn't asking me for anything impossible, He was asking me to trust Him. I had been casting my nets on the same side, over and over again. All I seemed to be catching were scraps of junk and lots of closed doors. So, like the disciples, I put aside all my so-called knowledge and threw my nets over the other side of my metaphorical boat.

Well, if you'd have told me there and then that I'd publish my first children's story online and be asked to help start up a motoring news website in the first two days of going self employed as a writer, I'd have laughed very hard. But this has happened. God honoured my faith to trust Him and presented a fresh opportunity to take back which I felt to lay down all those years ago. He is just so kind.

So the story about throwing nets over the other side of the boat is not so much about the quantity of fish, but it's really about how much faith we have in God that when He says 'do it' we simply say 'yes'.

What are you trusting God for? What things have you been doing over and over again to try and see an answer but it just hasn't happened? Go to the Father and ask Him to show you what you actually need to do and He will tell you. He did that with the disciples, He did it with me, He's done it for countless others and He will do it for you.

It's what He does best.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Walking Out of the Forest

It's been one year and 11 months since my last post on here. I'm not sure where the time went but all I know is a lot has changed since I last wrote anything on this blog.

When I last wrote, my family and I were living in Dee Why in the Northern Beaches of Sydney and I was working for a large shopping mall company, which I loved. However there were many frustrations which I didn't speak about because I was trying to process everything. As a family we were still trying to establish why we were living in such an expensive part of the world and for some reason we weren't connecting with people or our local church in the way we thought we would. It's difficult to explain but it felt like hard work all the time. I guess sometimes my wife and I would try and take a step back and say, "what is going on?"

As well as the difficulty of establishing relationships, working out our place in the church and where we were living, we were also finding life very tough financially due to the stupidly high rent costs in the Northern Beaches. This was adding to the stress of the moment and I guess it was dogged determination which saw us through right up until May 2017. Sadly by this time we had reached breaking point. I had changed jobs, my wife wasn't happy in hers and it just all got too much. But bizarrely we still felt that we were meant to be in Australia. Something HAD to change. So we began crying out to God for something to happen. Not more than 8 weeks later, it did.

One weekend we made a decision to drive up to the Central Coast (about an hour and a half from Dee Why). We wanted to have a look as some friends of ours had moved there and they'd said it was amazing but we wanted to see for ourselves. When we arrived we ended up driving down a little road and at the end was this giant lake. The water looked like a mirror and it was as vast as the eyes could see. But even more incredible that the view, was the sense of utter peace. For the first time in a long time it just felt like we could breathe. It was amazing. Not much was said but we knew in our hearts that maybe we should come back one day.

About a week later, my wife was at home and she was watching a YouTube clip from Bethel Church's worship conference and Brian and Jenn Johnson were interviewing Mark and Darlene Zschech. They were talking about a church they were leading and my wife was instantly moved by their hearts around what leadership is and she was blown away by it. It was during this video that my wife found out that the church that Mark and Darlene were running was based in the Central Coast in a place called Charmhaven. We'd never heard of it but agreed that maybe we should go and check it out.

So on May 7th, 2017, we drove to Charmhaven and arrived at Hope Unlimited Church (Hope UC). As we pulled into the carpark there were Kangaroos sitting there looking at us; I remember it as clear as day. We were, like, 'what are they doing there?' - turns out they just 'live' there. So with an edge of excitement we got out of the car and made our way into the doors of Hope UC for the first time. Instantly we were greeted by warmth, kindness and a sense of belonging. It's quite hard to explain but I remember feeling quite overwhelmed by the instant feeling we had.

During the service, PS Darlene was bringing the word and mentioned that she was in Brighton (UK) with Martin Smith (a world renowned worship leader) and I remember thinking; 'we've only been here for an hour and already my home town is being spoken about and the person in the story is someone I know...'. At this point, my wife taps me on the shoulder and says, "That's Kirsty's friend, Hayley, at the back - I'm going to go and say hello...". I was a bit confused and asked her how she knew and she said she'd seen Hayley's picture on Facebook. The next thing I know they are hugging and laughing. It turned out it was a friend of a friend who we knew from the UK, who'd married an Aussie and moved here several years ago. It's a small world sometimes, really.

That afternoon as we drove home we had a very strange feeling. One of disappointment that we were driving away from the Central Coast and would be heading back to familiarity, and the other of excitement because none of us knew what was going to happen next. However, our kids loved the Northern Beaches and my wife and I knew that God would have to change their hearts in order for us to move. So we left it to Him and started our week.

Two days later I was praying and asking God for a word for me so I'd know that this was from Him. Randomly I got sent a verse from the bible in a text message from a close friend; it said this: "So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Jesus Christ - eternal and glorious plans they are! - will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, He does." 1 Peter 5:8 - 11 MSG. I mean, WOW. Like, seriously. My mind was blown and I felt an utter sense of peace that I should begin to push doors and see if this Central Coast thing would happen.

At this time I was working on a large building site and hating every moment of it. I felt no sense of purpose and was just turning up day after day. But just after our amazing weekend in the Central Coast I felt an air of excitement about looking forward and so I updated my profile on Seek (a job page) and within an hour had a phone call about a job in the Central Coast. I was asked a few questions and whether I was interested and I said yes, absolutely. Within two weeks I had quit my job and was offered the Central Coast role to start in June. We were on our way, it seemed.

While this was going on, my wife was chatting with my son one day and out of the blue he said, "Mum, if you and Dad think you need to move, I'm OK with that." I mean this was such a wow moment because God was in the process of changing out kids hearts for the move just like we'd asked him too. It was amazing.

The next part of the story is a bit of a blur. Not because I can't remember what happened but because it happened so quickly. I'll try and summarise what God did, in a few lines. Oh, this all happened in the space of two weeks...

1. We broke our lease and found a new tenant within a week
2. We applied to rent a particular house in Mardi on a Saturday morning and we approved on the Monday
3. Our son was offered a place in a new school, the same day we were approved for the rental
4. We were given a moving out date, earlier than anticipated
5. My new boss offered to loan me a company truck so that I didn't have to spend money hiring one
6. I was given the day off on the Friday to move in
7. By Sunday we were moved in and at Hope UC

The way I gauge whether God's plans are lining up with my dreams or not is by the speed at which He works. Sometimes He is VERY slow to do anything. Not to necessarily delay the process but because maybe He wants me to learn something new in the extended time frame before allowing me to move forward. Sometimes He is very fast. This is when His timing for change lines up with my changed heart and everything clicks. Sometimes, I wish that my heart would always be in the right place, but thank you Jesus for grace, I am not a finished work but He knows this and loves me anyway.

So we had now moved. We felt like we were on holiday. The sense of rest and peace was extraordinary and as bizarre as it sounds, we just knew we'd make really good friendships here as everyone we spoke to had similar stories to us. Stories of struggle, pain and blessing. These people had all gone through much and yet had seen incredible blessing and favour waiting for them at the other end of the hallway. We just knew that God had brought us to the right place and that now we could start putting down deep roots.

For me personally, however, despite all the joy of moving, connecting in the church, joining the worship team, seeing my kids growing in Godly stature, seeing my wife have the community she craved for so long now all around her; my heart was still feeling restless. You see, when all this Australia thing happened (see my blog post called Launchpad) back in 2004, I laid down my career in writing to go into construction, and that change of career ultimately lead to us getting a visa. Although I had always known God was in that decision, the last four years in the construction industry in Australia were horrible and I had never felt settled in it. Just one look at my resume you'll see I've had more jobs in four years than I had in 10 years in the UK. Now that old feeling of restlessness had come back over Christmas and I was dreading going back to work. But one night God gave me a dream.

In the dream (it started as soon as I closed my eyes - so I don't know if I was asleep or awake) I found myself standing on the edge of a forest. The trees were all choked up with thick thorns and it was incredibly dense - I couldn't really see into it and it looked a mess. But in front of me was the widest open place I'd ever seen. I could see luscious green fields, a lake and in the distance a beautiful mountain range. The air was fresh and I could literally feel wind on my face. I felt so free.

As I was seeing all of this, I was also thinking to myself; 'how did I get here? Is this a dream? It feels so real. I need to open my eyes!' So I did. I was back in my bed and only a few minutes had passed in literal time. I mean, what the heck was that all about?

I was so freaked out by the dream that I didn't tell anyone about it. I have a prophetic gift and have had dreams and visions in the past, but this was so real and almost unexplainable, so I was left perplexed and asked God to tell me what it was all about before sharing it with anyone. But I got nothing, for days. In the end I told my wife about the dream and she said that maybe I needed to wait a little longer for the answer, so I did.

About two weeks later I was praying with some men from our church and God began to talk to me about the dream. He said; "The forest behind you is your life. It has become thick with confusion and when you are in the midst of it, you cannot see a way out but you know I'm there with you. The wide open space in front of you is what I have planned for you. No limitations, no compromising, no boundaries. It is also a place of rest I am calling you into. The choice is yours though. You either look back and go back into the forest, or you enjoy this new season." Wow. I mean, what do you say to that, apart from 'YES LORD!'

Not long after this I began to feel such a sense of discontentment at work and this nothing really to do with my employer but more about me asking God about where I needed to be. One thing I knew for sure was that God had us at Hope UC for a reason. He had brought us to an area of the Central Coast where He really wanted us to be involved and stuck into the community and in my current work environment there was pressure on me to be travelling and away from home, this was something I did't want to happen as it had happened before in Melbourne and it was hideous. I kept telling myself, God only moves forward, not backwards. He would not allow me to head back into the forest if His plans were to prosper me.

One night, my wife and I prayed that if my current role was not right God would shut the door. Three days later He did. I was told that my employer would be looking for someone else as my interests didn't line up with the company any longer. I was given a weeks notice.

Now, in the real world, this kind of news would be devastating to anyone. Losing a job is not good at any time. But my wife and I knew, without any shadow of a doubt, that God was in this. If He had shut the door, another one would open. We felt peace wash over us and I left my job with my head held high. That was four weeks ago.

About three days later, I picked up a new job working on a production line, making timber roof trusses. The pay was shocking but I needed the money. Five days later I was told I was no longer required because I was 'too smart and too old'! What does that actually mean? So I was left scratching my head and asking God to just give me a little wisdom in knowing His heart - I literally didn't have a clue. The only glimpse on the horizon was an interview for a construction job, but this was in Sydney. Was this the answer to our prayers or another distraction? We asked God to shut the door if it was a dead end. He did. I was told that I didn't have enough experience - fair enough. I wasn't trained in project management anyway. But then it hit me...

I have been professionally trained in something. I do have a passion for something which I had once laid down for God and His plans for us as a family. Half of my working life was devoted to this passion. That passion is writing. Writing is my favourite waste of time. Writing is what I love to do the most. Writing is the overflow of my heart. I LOVE writing.

After this wave of excitement I had a quick peek on a job site to see what writers get paid these days - I was pleasantly surprised. In fact it was much better than what I had thought it would be. Plus with my previous experience, surely someone would see past the last 8 years of construction and pick me up from where I left off? So I called a writing agency to find out. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. Apparently, because I had been keeping this blog, that was technically classed as writing on a regular basis and because I had previously had written work published I stood a very good chance of getting back into the writing game...

So this, my friends, brings me to today. Literally as I am writing this sentence I am beginning a new journey and have decided to pursue my dream and vision to write for a living. I do not have crazy plans to drop everything and 'just see what happens' but I have a vision to see this gift, which I believe was given to me when I was at school, be used for God's glory in whatever context He chooses. It's time for me to let go of the steering wheel, let God take over, and just rest and enjoy the ride. I am hoping that you will come on this journey with me.

Just one final thing to say before I sign off; thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, supported us and championed us in this journey in Australia. It has been one crazy ride but God has remained faithful along every step of the way. Sometimes it is incredibly hard to live out a life of faith but when you fix your eyes on Jesus, everything seems that little bit easier. He is always good. He doesn't want us to remain in a forest, He wants us to experience His wide open space. My prayer for you is that this blog has inspired you to keep trusting Him, your season of unanswered questions will not last long. His plans are always perfect.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

New Beginnings

Since my last post in September things have become very different. In fact, my life seems almost unrecognisable to what it was and I'm happy to say, all for the right reasons.

Little did I know that not more than two months after my last entry on here, things would become so hard in my job that I felt I was heading for a serious emotional breakdown and all of my determination to stay in a job which was extremely challenging would be severely fractured. I guess, looking back on things now, it was meant to be that way in order for God to teach me more about relying on Him, but I can honestly say it was flipping hard to do so.

For one thing, the Northern Beaches of Sydney is not the cheapest area to live with a job, let alone without one. So without a steady income it would always be a massive up-hill struggle. And secondly, I had been feeling that my career would take a severe blow to go from project managing to carpentry in a matter of days. Why was this happening and also so close to Christmas? I mean, to me it looked really bleak.

But lastly, it was more about how I was feeling inside. I felt like I had lost direction, focus and drive, all of which I thought were the things still driving this crazy Australian adventure. Without these, how was I going to keep going?

In December I had two jobs, one I thought was my ideal job, working on a refurbishment of a Porsche Centre in Sydney. It seemed like the perfect 'reward' for all my hard efforts but in reality it was a shocking week and a half. If I were to sum it up, I would simply refer to that moment as a blip. Nothing more. The second job was working with a decking company. Again, probably one of the worst weeks ever but I guess it paid a weeks rent.

It was now nearly Christmas and we were out of money - literally had $7 in the bank and savings which would only cover the rent and nothing else. I had had a small interview with a property maintenance company and the guy had promised to employ me, but also agreed with me that to get over the previous month's catastrophic job flop I should not start until the new year. What were we as a family going to do? We had no money for Christmas presents and the kids had been amazing and we desperately wanted to treat them. So my wife and I did the one thing you can do in a situation like this - go shopping.

Armed with our $7 we went to a store to pick up some hooks which my wife wanted to get for some pictures. The only trouble was the picture hooks were $7.50 so it would mean I'd have to transfer money into her account from our rent savings. So, stood on a street corner with a rather desperate expression on my face I logged into our account (which I'd done about two hours before we left for the shops) to transfer the $0.50 required. But something had changed as I stared at the iPhone screen. The balance staring back at me was $4,000 more than it was two hours ago! WHAT? I looked again in case I had made a mistake, but I hadn't. Both our accounts were in credit by more than we'd had in any month at any point in the year when I was on a really good salary. I later found out it was because the tax office needed to make an adjustment based on my low earnings the year before and had finally got around to it!! God had provided BIG TIME.

When we realised what had happened it was the most amazing feeling. We knew in that short moment of time that regardless of circumstance, God would always continue to be our provider. And this time around He hadn't just given us a little, He had heaped blessings on us and we had one of the best Christmases as a family, ever. He is good all the time, right?

After our lovely Christmas I was due to start my job on January 5th. Weirdly though, I just couldn't sleep the night before my first day. My spirit was so uneasy with things and all I kept thinking about was whether I had made the right decision to work for this guy or not. By the end of the first day I knew I hadn't. It was yet another red herring and I couldn't believe it. Not only was the guy's company completely out of money, it had no vision and the guys working for him had no drive. It was bad. The owner also requested that in order for him to be insured I would need to apply for my carpentry licence. This would mean me spending $400 on something I didn't think I needed as I was going to be on salary. But then the big bombshell hit - "I won't be able to employ you for the first six months," he said.

What? So not only did he lie about the job but I would have to spend $400 with money which I was trying to save. But it's funny in a way, though. You see I was just saying about how God provided for us but again I was being tested to see if I had got this in my spirit, but I have to say that I failed. Just like Jesus' disciples when they were asked to feed the second hungry crowd and had forgotten how Jesus had provided for the first crowd, I was doing the same here - I had a disbelieving heart and had taken my eyes off the Provider.

Keen to keep working I went ahead and got my carpentry licence, as required, but the strangest thing happened when I walked out of the Office of Fair Trading with it. I felt to give up my job and trust God that He would come through for me instead of working for a company I now knew was trading illegally. I was going to do this God's way.

It's interesting the things you remember as a Christian, especially when you trust Him and let go. That afternoon, my wife and I experienced a supernatural peace like nothing we'd had for ages. It was so amazing and it will forever be there to remind me what what it feels like to trust God rather than fear circumstance. It's like I felt this complete reassurance that He would do something amazing. And, I'm glad to say, He did.

A week after this moment of letting go, and picking up a bit of casual carpentry work provided for by two amazing families in the church, I received a phone-call out of the blue asking me to attend an interview the next morning in the city for a job working within the facilities (maintenance) department at my local (10 minutes on a bicycle) Westfield mall. The strange thing was that I couldn't remember applying for the role and not only that, I had apparently applied back in November right at the end of my project management job. I curiously accepted and the next morning turned up at Sydney's main Westfield mall and breezed through the interview. It was like I was always meant to have been there. Sure enough the next day I received an email saying I had made it to the second interview at Warringah Mall. Again, the interview was like a dream and I was offered the job. A full-time, salaried position for Westfield. But the story doesn't end here, it gets better.

My wife asked me when I would get paid and I said it was monthly. We knew (or thought we did) that we'd have to find rent for four weeks as I would be paid a week after starting and then not until the following month. It was going to really stretch us but we just knew it would work out. Shortly after receiving confirmation of employment I was asked to go back into the city to sign my paper work. At this point the girl who had handed me the paperwork said, "just for your info, on Friday you will receive your first week's salary as well as three weeks in advance pay, so in effect you'll receive four weeks pay!"

If there was ever a look like that cartoon image of the jaw dropping to the floor, this was it. Not only had I been given a job but God had met our needs in spectacular fashion. But perhaps the funniest part of all of this was that Westfield had to pay me the highest rate of pay for my role because I had a carpentry licence! That means, if I hadn't have worked for the guy at the beginning of the year I probably wouldn't have been able to accept this job due to what the renumeration package would've been without it. Just wow.

Astounded by God's goodness and grace I can honestly say that these last few months have been amazing. There are so many things I could write down that He has done but I'd be here (and so would you be if you continued to read) forever. Sure, we have experienced a few financial mountains due to a smaller pay packet (for now) and have been hit by some big bills but we know that if God can provide the dream job after literally years of wrestling with bad jobs, then He can overcome all our issues for us and all we have to do is rest in Him. And to really hammer this point home, God has also provided for my wife a really great part time job at a secondary school which our son will be attending next year! So we are now both earning :)

Right now I feel like as a family we are finally on the cusp of something huge and we are starting to see fruit from that long time of pruning which I have to say was so very hard. When we didn't understand what God was doing, we tried to trust Him and focus on the fact that He has always known our future before we ever did.

I have heard it said many times before and now I actually believe it myself - if you look back over all the hard times you will always see where God has proved Himself to be a faithful and loving Father who intimately knows our every need.

I really hope this story has blessed and encouraged you as it has me.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Two Years In Australia

Two years today, my family and I boarded a plane in London to head off to Australia. We had no idea of what to expect and knew no-one in Melbourne where we were headed. It was the adventure of all adventures and although we knew God was with us, everything else would prove to be a massive challenge of our own personal faith and resolve.

As I write this, I am sitting in my 3x5m office at work and am reflecting on all God has done for us in these past 24 months. None of it has been plain sailing to say the least but all of it has brought us in a much closer relationship with our Father in heaven. To be totally honest there has been times we have asked ourselves what we are doing and when we have been at our lowest ebb, God has shown us what we have accomplished. It's safe to say that we wouldn't change what has happened because it has installed in us a strength we didn't know we had.

In Melbourne, we didn't know anyone. We arrived with nothing apart from a few suit cases and we had even left without completing the sale of our house. To almost anyone who reads this, this does sound complete lunacy and unwise and to a certain extent it definitely was. But very quickly we were able to rent a house without any references and sure enough, our home in the UK sold and we were able to pay off all of our debts.

As well as finding a house, we found two good schools for our kids and an awesome church. Not long after this I was able to string some work together and we began to connect with amazing people. Yes, we were terribly missing friends and family but knew we were not completely alone.

Six months into our life in Melbourne, I secured a job working for a shop fitting company and although we were grateful for the money it meant I had to work away from home. My wife and kids really found this season so very hard and to be frank I did, too. It was simply horrible. It felt like we were in a very barren time and I hated being away from home. But without that job which we persevered with we would never have been able to move to Sydney, which is what we did just over nine months ago.

Sydney was always going to be our dream city and the place which we had prayed about, perhaps more than any other place I can think of. But when we moved we had to start all over again. We had no home, no schools and needed to connect with the local church. The thing is, this time we knew God would supply because He had done so before. He had shown us this very early on (a week before we moved) by providing a well paid job just outside of the city (or so I thought).

Sure enough, after less than a week in Sydney while staying with friends, we were accepted by a rental agency to move into a wonderful house one road away from the beach in Dee Why. Not only that, but our daughter was accepted into the best school possible for her and our son was enrolled into an incredibly culturally diverse primary school. Everything was fitting into place.

Once settled into our home we began to connect with our local church and became part of a connect group, where we have made good friends. So far, God had done everything He said He would do.

However, when I started my job I realized that living in Sydney was going to be no walk in the park. It was incredibly difficult. I had been given a job based on my previous role in Melbourne but this time I had been promoted way above my own skill set. I was made a project manager on a huge building project and it was an hour and a half drive from our house. I tried to reason with God and ask if there was anything easier but since I started in January (and am still here) all He has kept saying is "Keep going!" That has been so very hard, but I have not given up.

You see, if I had been given this job a year earlier, I simply would have not been able to handle it. But through all the trials I faced in Melbourne, it had built up my spiritual muscles as well as my inner strength to see this as an opportunity to learn more and not as a problem I had to suffer. Together as a family we have become completely different in how we see the world. We now know that everything happens for a reason and sometimes, although extremely painful, we benefit massively by allowing God to lead us though the wilderness.

So what have we learned from two years in Australia? Well the first and most important thing is that God is ALWAYS faithful. No matter what the trial is, He never ever lets go. The second thing is that as a family we have learned that prayer is the ultimate weapon when being faced with huge difficulties. One of the things I can say which I have noticed the most in my children is they have prayed together every single night. They have grown into faithful giants with their child-like faith. It is so inspiring.

Thirdly, and this is more personal, is that I have learned to trust God in ways beyond my comprehension. What I mean is that in my job, particularly, I have trusted God for every single word that comes out of my mouth and He has literally taught me how to chair board meetings, produce performance reports and handle situations I have no former experience in. It has been mind-blowing what I have been able to achieve in such a short time by just trusting Him.

Fourthly, I have seen so many changes take place in my wife's personal faith and reliance on God that she is almost unrecognizable to who she was before we left England. She is so unbelievably strong that I am in awe of her and I know she affects everyone around her with her faithfulness.

So what happens next? Well, I don't actually know the answer to that. All I do know it we simply have to keep trusting God and letting him lead us into the next chapter. Please continue to pray for us as we venture into new territory because although we know God is faithful it certainly does not mean that we have an easy task ahead. We just know He is with us and it's always good to know that others are with us, too.

Thank you for reading this and many blessings to you.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Digging Deeper

As I write this I am currently stuck between a rock and a hard place at work. My job is extremely challenging and I also deal with people that are not nice and who tend to make life even harder. On the upside my boss wants to hire me full time, but on the downside I could be on this particular project for another four months. So I keep asking myself, should I stay or should I go and find an easier path.

I don't know if I am talking to anyone here but being caught up in an unsettling season can feel like the worst thing in the world - especially when you've felt God lead you down a road which is a lot more rocky than what you felt led to believe. It makes you feel like you've been dealt a hard hand and without clear direction it's sometimes even more difficult to see any way out at all.

But something somewhere deep inside is telling me to stick this one out. I feel like I am in a privileged position to really grow and mature, even though this all seems pretty overwhelming. To say it's an interesting paradox would be an understatement but what this last two years in Australia has taught me is that when you dig deeper into God's energy reserves things start to make sense.

And that is really the premise of this blog - someone challenged me to write down some thoughts on suffering for Christ because we had been through hard times but could see God's loving hand in it all. But for some reason, I don't wish to dwell on the sufferings, but rather focus on the blessings. I have, in the past, spiraled down into a world of drudgery and thought about all the negative aspects to my life but very quickly God has shown me how He sees it. I can tell you now, God's view of your life is VERY different!

I have come to understand that God knows how much I can handle. He knows that the deeper I dig in Him the more strength I will find and this is exactly what He wants me to do. He has overshadowed me with such grace in my work place that in spite of very difficult situations I have seen His hand of victory come in and win the day for me in unbelievable ways. I have come to a place at the base of the cross where the enemy cannot taunt me any longer because the cross and what Jesus won for me on there overshadows anything the world wants to throw at me.

I am not naïve to think for one moment that I am not going to have harder times, but I praise God for all the hard times I have journeyed so far because these are qualifying me for even greater measures of trust from on high. In other words, I could never have handled this three years ago, but bit by bit, God has strengthened me to be able to handle more and more to the point where if I see a situation coming my way I am better prepared than I was before.

So what are these situations I am speaking of? Well, firstly, I cannot go into finer details of my work place as I wish to protect my employment and the companies I am representing. However, I can say that I have been pushed into moments of complete panic because there has been a meeting coming up that I have to chair when I have no knowledge of the subject I am addressing! Sometimes I have sat in my office and thought, 'I do not know what I am doing!' This is not a comfortable place to be.

But God has taught me in the last two years to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. He says in His word that He goes before me and is behind me (Psalm 139 v 5) and He has placed His hand upon me. So I have walked into these meetings saying to God; "You know every word I am about to say before I say it, so I trust You that I will say the right things." I take a deep breath and then I speak. I have sailed through meetings using God's supreme wisdom and come out of these in disbelief of what words came out about subjects I have no formal training in. These really are, for me, walking on water moments - impossible.

In my home life, these difficult situations take their shape from decisions we need to make as a family. There have been times when my wife and I have cried together because we haven't a clue what God wants us to be doing in a brand new country with no real agenda. These, to me, are the worst moments because these decisions involve our children and we need to look strong for them, right?

But I can say that even in these times God has come through in ways we didn't expect. A year ago in Melbourne I was working away from home and we were in a constant state of limbo. During those times we kept crying out to God and saying that even though we were facing Mount Everest every day that we trusted Him. When He did come through it was better than we imagined. He moved us to a place where other Australians head for holidays, Sydney's Northern Beaches. It is absolutely stunning and I drive past the beach every day because I still feel like we're dreaming and have to see the ocean just to make sure.

You see, God knew all along that this is where we'd end up and when we said we trusted Him, He said back; "Well done my good and faithful children - have some of this now." If we had all of His blessing in one go, we'd lose the ability to trust. God keeps us strong!

So this is all I really wanted to say. Digging deeper into God through uncertain times brings fruit in unthinkable ways. His heart is always kind, always loving and always faithful. It all depends, though, on how much faith we choose to put in Him. When we put our whole heart into His hands, He is totally overjoyed that we are allowing Him complete control - I can tell you this from my own experiences. Once my trust is placed in Jesus, the rest works out for the glory of His name. So with my job, I shall soldier on and know my future is secure and that my steps have been ordered by the Most High.

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Office Party Faith Test

Just before Easter, my boss had organised a staff BBQ. I was really looking forward to it because it would give me a chance to get to know my work colleagues a bit more, plus having a cheeky beer and burger while looking out across Sydney Harbour was equally appealing.

After an hour or so, we were all in the conference room and one of ladies was chatting to a friend and was talking about the fact she'd had severe pain for six months due to sciatica and was explaining that she'd been to all sorts of physiotherapists and doctors and they couldn't help her. Instantly my heart started beating really fast and God said to me; "Go and pray for her... now!"

It was really funny at the time, I remember saying straight back, "not here, surely!" But my heart raced all the more and so it was a case of being obedient to what I felt was God's voice, or carrying on chatting and leaving it alone. The latter, though, was never an option. When I feel prompted by God to do something like this, I would rather leave with egg on my face than pass up an opportunity to see God do something brilliant. So I chose to approach her and ask if I could pray.

I said; "Sorry to overhear your conversation but I heard you had a lot of pain and I would like to pray for you if that's OK?" Much to my amazement she looked at me straight in the eyes and said "Go for it, I'd do anything to not have this." Praise God! This isn't a usual reaction but anyway, as I sat on the floor to pray for her, the room fell silent and someone even started to video it.

I asked her if her hips were out of alignment and if one leg might be slightly shorter than the other. She didn't know so I asked her to put her legs out straight. Sure enough the right leg was about 10mm shorter than the left and everyone looked and agreed it was shorter. It's funny what goes through your mind in situations like this. I was thinking, 'what am I doing? My boss is in the room and I hope I don't have to look for a new job after this.' But I needn't have worried. Everyone wanted to see what would happen. This was God's moment to do what He loves to do.

So I said a simple prayer out loud; "Father, you love to heal. Make this leg come down to the same as the other. Thank you, Dad." Sure enough, within a couple of seconds both feet were perfectly lined up. I remember the person behind me gasping and saying "WOE!" I giggled a bit to myself and said to her; "Can you see your feet now line up?" She agreed and told me she'd let me know how she goes.

Pretty soon after this, people started to leave the party and I had that sinking feeling that I'd made the whole thing totally awkward and everyone was thinking I was a nutcase. My boss had disappeared into another room to answer emails and I was just standing there not really knowing what to say. So I approached my boss and asked him if everything was OK. His answer was different to what I was expecting: "So I'm thinking of offering you a permanent position with us soon. I'd really like you to keep working with us. Would you like that?" WOW! This completely caught me by surprise. Of course I said yes!

Since that day, I had started to feel more and more sheepish about the whole thing and wondered why God would put me in that situation. It wasn't that I didn't want to be obedient but more due to the fact that I felt like it would make my job more difficult. I am new to this role and realise that I hold a much higher professional obligation than I used to. I kept feeling very overwhelmed with embarrassment and the more I thought about it the worse that feeling got.

But, I'm glad to say, I need not have worried. This week I finally got to ask the lady whom I prayed for how she was. She then stood up and said; "You know, two days after you prayed I woke up in the morning and thought 'oh, the pain has gone', and that was three weeks ago. I have not had any pain since, so thank you for praying for me!"

I was competely gob-smacked! It was the best thing to hear and I could tell from her face that she meant it, too. I think the biggest feeling in my heart was knowing that I had obeyed the voice of God even though it was such a strange moment to start praying for someone, so publically. I'm just glad I did and am totally overjoyed that God healed that lady.

Have a blessed week, everyone.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Whatever You're Thinking, Think BIGGER

Early last year my wife was out shopping in Melbourne and noticed a picture in an opportunity (charity) shop. It was a large red picture with huge bold white writing which read WHATEVER YOU'RE THINKING, THINK BIGGER.

At that particular time we were facing huge battles and it just seemed to say the right thing - it felt like it was from the heart of God to us, that what we were experiencing was not the big picture God really wanted us to see, but He was asking us to raise our gaze and have a greater vision of what He was going to do. That picture is still with us now we are in Sydney and the statement still remains as real as it did back in Melbourne.

You see, in December we moved to an extremely affluent area of Sydney, the Northern Beaches. This is a small peninsular north of the Harbour Bridge and a place where the average house price is now over $1million (AUD). It is an amazing place to live and our local church, Grace City Church, sits right in the heart of our local community in Dee Why. However, because it is such a sought after area, we have really had to trust God for every bit of provision and sometimes we have thought to ourselves 'how are we going to do this?' We have had to believe God for the bigger picture every single week we've needed to pay rent!

But to be honest, this is not the real reason why our picture is so significant. The place we live and work is what it is and we always know that God will provide for our bills and meals because that's just what He does. No, the real aspect to this picture about believing God for bigger things is all to do with how people around us view the church in the Northern Beaches and what people are expecting God to do in such a spiritually dry area.

Where we live people think they have all they need. They have the beach, the gyms, the coffee houses, the parks, the sports and the huge city. The need for church isn't really there becuse there are too many other things to do and so, even for regular attenders of church, the social and sporty distractions take people away from God's house and then it becomes a battle for the church to really make an impact. People in the Northen Beaches are, well, just too busy.

And this is a shame. Not only would it be amazing to see more people added to the local church but this area could also have such a massive spiritual influence over the rest of Sydney because of its high status and appeal. If people knew the church was making an emergance and starting to impact community I am absolutely convinced that things would be very, very different.

So what's my bigger thinking for this area? Well it's this. My God can do anything. He can change the hardest of hearts and cause entire communities to worship Jesus because I've seen him do it all over the world. Take David Yonggi Cho's church in South Korea, for instance. This country is a very hard nation to build something to do with Jesus and yet his church alone has 830,000 attendees! And that's just one I want to mention. So if he can do all of this, my expectations for the Northern Beaches are massive!

I am expecting that one day the church will take priority over social and sporty pursuits; that it will shape and win the next generation for Jesus and will have far reaching conseqences for the rest of Sydney. I am expecting to see people added daily to our church community and healed of all kinds of sicknesses. I am expecting poverty to be wiped out in all areas of the Northern Beaches as generosity from the saints overflows and meets the needs of those who have nothing. I am expecting people from all over the world to be coming to Sydney to be trained in mission and impacting their own communities wherever they are from. And above all, I am expecting all of this to start right from the church I belong to. Why can't it happen?

The thing is this. If everyone had this level of expectancy then all of this would happen, because there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that it couldn't. Faith is all about believing for the unseen - I mean every Christian who has ever given their lives to Jesus are doing so because they believe it to be true and not because they have actually seen Jesus face to face. If this is the case then believing for God to save hundreds and thousands of lives is not that big a deal, especially to the Creator of the Universe.

I believe in Jesus because He has become my friend and my brother and I feel His love through the Holy Spirit every day. I get to talk with Him regularly and I get to partake in all the goodness He has for me, just because He loved me first. So if this is my own conviction and I understand that all who hear this message can receive this same level of love in all its abundance, then I have to believe that God can make this a reality for everyone I talk to about Him. There is no doubt in my mind about this.

So, my challenge to anyone reading this and thinking how they can make any sort of impact in their church is this; come on a Sunday expecting God to break in. Expectation brings hope and hope leads to faith and faith can move mountains. If faith can move mountains then it can certainly move communities forward into God's promises.

The great thing is, is you can begin now. You can start to pray daily for your church leaders. You can intercede on their behalf and ask God to do a new thing in them and also a new thing in you. You can also make a huge impact on your church by getting there on time and attending the prayer meetings before the service. You see if you go to church with no expectancy, how can God operate in the way some others want Him to? This level of expectancy requires everyone to be on the same page and believing God for big things. Because after all, He is a great big God and so when you ask Him for big things, He is absolutely in His element.

To finish, my prayer is this. That as you have been reading this, your faith has started to stir. Even if you don't live in Sydney's Northern Beaches this could so be for your own local community. You have the ability by just praying and asking God for the bigger picture to literally change the cause of HIStory. I am personally believing that God is going to radically shake up and shift my own church into a new dimension that the area it is in has never seen before. I am believing this because I am praying it. Are you?