28 December, 2017

Unashamed - My Unexpected Word of the Year

I never intended to have a ‘word of the year’ this year. I like the concept; I chose one last year, and it was good. But I thought maybe by choosing my own focus I would miss out on other things God wanted to teach me - He should pick my the word, if I have one. It wasn’t a lightning-bolt revelation, and it wasn’t until part way through the year, but God gave me a word. 


I place a lot of value on being honest and genuine; it’s what I strive to be. But God brought to my attention areas I don’t live like that. I avoid opportunities to share my faith. I choose my words when I’m talking about what I believe – not to make sure the truth is clear, but so it sounds similar to what people are comfortable with. I wonder what people think of my family and friends sometimes. I try to make myself as ‘normal’ as possible, and feel intimidated when someone questions my decisions. I’d rather not talk about my struggles until they’re in the past. I’ve realized I live a lot of my life being ashamed: of my faith and my God, of my friends and family, and of myself, my choices, tastes, and struggles.

I was surprised to find the Bible full of the concept of being unashamed. Before sin, no one was ashamed, which means striving to live unashamed is something God would have us do. He promises so many times that in Him, we won’t be ashamed:

They looked unto him and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. Ps 34:5

…ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. Is 45:17

…and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. Is 49:23

For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like 
a flint; and I know that I shall not be ashamed. Is 50:7

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame… Is 54:4

…my people shall never be ashamed. Joel 2:26 & 27

Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. Rom 10: 11 & 9:33

I don’t have to be ashamed. I can make my faith a natural part of conversation instead of trying to hide it. I can answer when someone asks why I do what I do instead of hesitating. I can smile when people I claim do something I wouldn’t do. I can wear what I’m happy and comfortable in without worrying what others think. I can own my decisions instead of justifying them. I want to be bold, brave, free: unashamed.

Just because God’s been teaching me this, I see how it applies to my life, and I’ve experienced it, doesn’t mean I live unashamed all the time. I have insecurities and fears, and want to hide my light under a bushel sometimes. I’ve been busier and more stressed this year, and it’s harder to live unashamed. I’ve been using tiredness as an excuse. But the call is still there, and maybe it’s the next step in teaching me there’s no way I can live like this on my own. It’s got to be His strength alone.

Unashamed isn’t just my word for 2017; I want it to be my life. Part of me whispers it’s too hard, but I know it’s part of God’s plan to restore us to Him and that’s the very best thing. If God will claim me as part of His family, I can own Him, who He’s given me, and how He’s made me.

And now, little children, abide in him, that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 1 John 2:28


So that’s a big part of what God’s been teaching me this year! I have so far to go, living the unashamed life, but from the tiny experiences I’ve had: it’s the best and most freeing thing. How do you see living unashamed? Did you have a word or focus for 2017? What have you been learning this year?

18 December, 2017

I came. I saw. I judged.

I judged a person once. He came over where I was volunteering at a homeless shelter-like place. One of the other volunteers started talking to him which gave me plenty of time to form an opinion. There seemed to be something not quite right about him, and I thought he fit in well for the category of the place; a prime example of a young man ruining himself on drugs. He was roughly kept, and had lots of bright misshapen tattoos. I was sad, but it was a self-righteous kind of sad. I felt no compassion. 

The next time I was there, he came again. The other volunteers were busy, and this time I listened. He asked my name, and when I told him, he said he had a hard time remembering names. I brushed it off by saying, ‘That’s okay. We all do sometimes!’ But he shook his head.

He told me he was a successful business person; he made a million by twenty-three. He had a family, he had kids. He had everything life had to offer. And then, he had an accident. He was in a coma in hospital for a couple of years, he said. When he woke up, he had nothing. No money, no business, no family. Instead, he had a twitch which left him unable to pour a cup of coffee, let alone work. The doctors didn't know how to fix it. He had to teach himself to speak again, and he had loss of short term memory. That’s why he wouldn’t be able to remember my name.

He went on to tell me he’s only had three people in his life he’d call a friend, and he wondered why we’d go out of the way to help people like him. He told me his first rule to live by is self-preservation, making sure his needs are covered: food, water, and shelter. Anything beyond that wasn’t really a need. He said the hardest thing about sleeping on the streets was people walking past and pretending you didn’t exist.

Every single one of my assumptions – except his age – was false, absolutely ungrounded. I saw past my initial judgements. The cynicism in his voice was because he’s hoped with no expectation too many times. The pain in his eyes was the unspoken question: why?

It leaves my heart heavy. How do you explain the unconditional love of God to someone who’s never experienced sacrificial love? How do you explain why Someone would give themselves in our place to a person who's never acknowledged as a human being? How can I be used of God to reflect Him when I can’t meet a person without judging them? 

I want to shout: we’re all human. We’re all sinners, fallen, struggling. We’re all in the same boat, if only we acted like it. I don’t know how to change our culture’s habits. But I’m pretty sure it starts with realizing humans are humans. I’m not any better than you. I’m not more human than an addict on the street. 

We can do our part. Please: come, see, listen. I have a feeling the world will be better that way.

11 December, 2017

What Does the Bible Mean to You?

Hellfire bay, Cape Le Grand, Western Australia 

Maybe you’re like me. I know the Bible is the word of God, full of practical truth and wisdom, but my life doesn’t always reflect that. I’m on a break from study at the moment, and the first things I thought of doing in my spare time were: finally read some books, catch up on blogs and emails, and work on a couple of projects. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but today I felt prompted: why wasn’t my first thought to spend more time in the Bible and prayer? Why aren’t those things my priority? If a stranger were to see a log of how I spend my time, would they know I am a Bible-believing Christian?

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, that bringeth forth fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3

This is the incredible thing about God: He only counsels us to do what will be best for us. Reading the Bible isn’t a theological ritual to make us feel holy; it’s interacting with the Divine. It’s not about formalism or legalism; it’s because God knows we’ll be blessed, encouraged, strengthened. His word is powerful, life-changing. We’ll have constant refreshment, like a tree growing next to a river. We’ll not only grow in our personal life, but produce fruit to benefit others. The psalm continues: ‘his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.’ That’s a promise made by a God who cannot lie. But the condition of the promise being fulfilled, is for us to delight in God’s word, and meditate on it day and night. It has to become a part of us.

It’s tempting to sustain the Christian life with second-hand faith – hearing someone else’s experience with God, or reading inspirational Instagram captions or Pinterest pins. They can be encouraging, but we can get it directly and personalized. If they’re good, the source can only be better.
Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters! Also, you that have no money, come, buy, and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why spend your money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in rich food. Pay attention to me, come to me; and listen, so that you may live… Isaiah 55:1-3

It’s speaking to me. I’m spending time in things that don’t satisfy, while God is offering more than I can imagine. Will I choose to prioritize Him and His word? Will I go to the Source and have my own connection with God rather than trying to gain it through others? Will I give time to His word, knowing that the results will not only nourish me, but be a blessing to others?

It’s a challenge – and I write because this is where I am; not to shame you into reading the Bible. But this is life everlasting, and communion with the Creator we’re talking about. It’s far superior to anything else we can experience. But as it is written: no eye hath seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 Will you join me?

04 December, 2017

A Call to Follow God's Will

I apologize for missing last week’s post. Thanks for still being here when my priorities get out of order. And to all you dear people who commented on the previous post: you’re heard, and you’re not alone. Let’s live unashamed.

 It’s interesting when something you share becomes increasingly relevant to your own life. A few weeks ago I wrote about knowing God’s will, and since then I’ve been wrestling – not so much with knowing what God’s will is for me, but how to live it out; what it looks like in practice.

I’ve been realizing God doesn’t align my circumstances so I automatically follow His will. It doesn’t mean I won’t have to give up anything – even good things. I feel for the past couple of years I’ve only followed God’s will for me in a certain area of life when it’s convenient. It’s when I have holidays from studying, exams are over, and I have time off work. I wait until then and say, ‘Hey God, I’m available!’ But He’s saying to me, ‘What are you doing?’ Why does following God only happen when it’s convenient?

Following God’s will isn’t going to make sense according to our culture’s standards sometimes. It might look like quitting a comfortable life and good job. It could seem counterproductive, totally radical, and even unnecessary. We may not understand why. 

It reminds me of the Bible story about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked what to do to have eternal life. This guy was already doing good things. He was devoutly religious, he kept the commandments. Maybe he considered himself to be in God’s will, and simply wanted validation. But Jesus didn’t tell him to keep up the good work. He told Him to do something radical and unexpected. 

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. (Matt 19:21) 

Does that make sense? Does it seem like a financially wise thing to do? Maybe it seems noble, but most would’ve said it foolish and uncalled for. It would mean giving up a good, stable life to follow a Man who was ‘despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ (Is 53:3) It would mean rejection. People would’ve thought him insane. It didn’t make earthly sense, and the man chose not to take the advice.

But does God know what He’s doing? Am I willing to follow His leading if doesn’t add up in my mind or seems like a backwards move, like His advice to the rich young man? Living in God’s will isn’t a nice thing to say, a kind of spiritual lifestyle. It’s absolute surrender, being totally sold out. It’s scary; my self-sufficiency runs deep. But this isn’t servitude under a ruthless dictator we’re talking about. It’s the Creator of the universe being willing to take me on as a co-worker. All He’s waiting for is me to say yes.

Maybe you don’t relate; this isn’t your experience. But I desperately want to encourage you: if God’s calling you to do something, don’t wait until it’s convenient. Don’t wait until school’s finished, or you’re more qualified, or you have financial security. It will only get harder and harder. You’ll find more excuses. I’m talking from experience; putting off following God’s will is one of my biggest regrets. Please don’t make the same mistake. We only have now. 

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer that when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. (Rom 13:11-12) Behold now is the accepted time… (2Cor 6:2)