Thursday, February 20, 2020
Home Authors Posts by David Webster

David Webster

Addiction: God’s way out

Love. Oxygen. Water. Food. Relationships. Affirmation. Scientists and psychologists have concluded these are essential to our wellbeing. And they are all clear examples of how we, as humans, will always be dependent on something to live. But there is a difference between dependence and being a slave to something. 

That is what I find addiction to truly be – it’s a twisting of basic needs into something terribly unhealthy. It takes an element of our lives where we naturally are dependent and distorts it into an unhealthy obsession that ends up ruining our lives. 

Food is one of the more clear examples of this permutation. We all need to eat. But if there is an unhealthy obsession with what we naturally are dependent upon, it results in drastic problems – whether it be obesity, bulimia or anorexia. All of these conditions stem from an unhealthy relationship with a basic human need – food. There are some other factors involved, of course – like the basic need for affirmation that is twisted into despair, resulting in refusing to eat or trying to emotionally regulate oneself with food. 

I struggled with an addiction to pornography that stemmed from a desire to be included and a desire to be fascinated. Both of those desires are pure and there is nothing wrong with them. But since I didn’t have much fulfilment in those areas, I created an unhealthy perception that drove me to trying to fulfil those desires in the wrong way. It took a lot of therapy and, to be honest, uncomfortable moments, to figure that out. 

But knowing the reason why I was addicted wasn’t enough. I know many friends that can tell me exactly why they are depressed. But if you simply stay there, you’ll end up justifying your actions rather than changing them.. 

This is where God comes in. I have not seen an example of true change without God in the equation. And I believe He truly is the only way I was able to break free from my struggle. 

It’s important to firstly realise God is not in any way shocked or angry with you for your addiction. He is actually deeply saddened on your behalf. 

Jesus Christ died for our sins once and for all, and if you accept His sacrifice you are immediately given grace – where you can find love and acceptance that you don’t deserve. But Jesus didn’t only die so that we can feel better for ourselves. He died so that we can actually be healed. 

And that healing comes through a dependence on God. 

The only way I was freed from my addiction was when I recognised I could not do it on my own. I recognised that I constantly need God to lead me from temptation. I need God to affirm me when I didn’t get it from my peers or family. I need God to highlight the detailed wonder of the life that He created. I need God when I’m tired and want comfort. I need God when I’m lonely and struggling with my thoughts. 

And that’s a daily reality. I cannot be myself (who I was made to be) without God in the picture. In times of temptation, as I have prayed He has literally led me out of it. In times of pain and frustration, He has showed up and changed my perspective. When I have needed comfort, His presence has literally held me so close. 

That is why I truly believe that Christianity is not just a belief system. Knowing Jesus is a relationship. And it’s a constant adventure that saved my life. I pray you experience it for yourself. Click on the link below to find out more. 

How do you know that you know God?

These days many people claim to know about God. Some claim he’s a higher power that cannot be accessed; who rules over us with an iron fist. Others believe he can be reached through many avenues and can be found in many forms and traditions. Religion itself is a construct in which people have tried to make sense of the supernatural. But, as a Bible-believing Christian, I believe there is a very clear way to truly KNOWING God.

You can be in church your whole life and never have an authentic relationship with God yourself. As some of my friends have said – walking into KFC doesn’t make a piece of chicken! The KEY to this life being lived the way God intended is to KNOW the Personhood of God. To have a relationship. You might be thinking about your own life and asking, “How can I be sure that I know God?”

I’m going to do my best to help you figure that out right now. The Bible lays out some very clear steps for us:

1. You have surrendered your life to Jesus.

You might think that is a very strange statement – or one that has lost its meaning in the traditional language of church. But it basically means that you have realised that you cannot live life on your own – that you need help and connection with God himself.

In John 14:6 Jesus says this himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the only way to life. He is the only way to a daily, relevant relationship with God. And when you believe this, your life begins to change.

Romans 10:9 directly confirms that you will be saved from the downward, dangerous life you lived on your own when you acknowledge Jesus both in your heart and in your speech: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

2. Receive the Holy Spirit

As you spend time with God, reading the Bible, you will find yourself wanting to do what pleases Him. And he enables you to do it.

Many people think that Christians are judgemental and hold impossibly high standards when it comes to living. And I agree – we do have a very different lifestyle that is the right way to live. But BY NO MEANS can any of us live to please God without His help!

Later on in John 14, Jesus continues to tell us about this help: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.”

The Spirit of Truth is God present right now in my life – and I pray He is in yours as well. He is the one that enables us to live differently. He transforms our thinking and our desires. He helps us understand how much God loves us and others. He is the counsellor through hard seasons and the one who makes me laugh when it seems like all hell has broken loose in my life.

Romans 8:16 makes it clear that when we know God, “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

If you want to know that you are God’s own – that he loves you more than any father could love their child. Then you need to be aware of the presence of God in your life.

As you grow in your relationship with God – you will begin to recognise yourself changing. It may be incremental, but you will begin to recognise it more and more. One of my friends used to have terrible bouts of rage – he really struggled with anger. One night after giving his life to Jesus, he flew into another bout of rage and hit his leg on the coffee table. Instead of continuing to throw things and shout, however, he simply began to laugh. In that moment God showed him how ridiculous he looked while shouting and screaming and he simply could not stop laughing.

I know for myself, I became way more confident through spending time with God daily. As I began to hear God for myself and believe what He said about me, I began to look people in the eye more, I grew in my ability to speak to others and even discovered I have a sense of humour hiding behind the intimidation that had kept me quiet for years.

If you want to truly know God, I would encourage you to reach out to us on the link below. And if you want to have that sense of confirmation – to truly know that you are in a relationship with God, I would encourage you to pray and simply ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you. I believe He will. In my experience, He’s honestly the only way to live this life well.

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Christmas is an incredible time of year for much of the world. So many cultures, traditions, family tendencies and more define this multi-faceted time. With all of that comes the media – driven by the powerful retail market – adding even more layers of complexity.

From the craziness of navigating family dynamics, to holiday plans and Christmas movies, from the cooking of dinners and the wrapping of presents through to end-of-year parties – it can all drown out the truth with much jolly merriment. But there has been an age-old cry from many a Christian to “not forget the meaning behind it all”.

That does require us, however, to know what REALLY lies behind it all. What are the truths that truly lie behind this manic festive storm called Christmas?

Some quick facts:

  1. Jesus was not born on the 25th of December

In fact – the 25th of December was actually a pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice. When the Church was looking for a way to integrate Christianity into a culture and society that was exceptionally resistant, they decided to integrate pagan festivals with Holy days. So Jesus was more likely to have been born around the middle of September – where there was definitely no snow in Israel.

2. The Wise men weren’t in the Nativity

Not only that – their number wasn’t ever defined. It could have been two wise men, or twenty. Neither were they necessarily kings. The Bible simply states that there were men from the east that visited King Herod speaking of a new king born in Israel.  But not only that – the wise men may have only found Jesus up to two years after he was born. In connection with the time in which King Herod expected the Magi’s return and the prophecies about Jesus, we can surmise that there was definitely a span of time between the Shepherds’ visit and the Wise Men’s arrival.

3. Christmas Trees and Tree Decorations are pagan

Yes – the conifers point towards the sun and miraculously stay green throughout the winter. Druids believed they held mythical powers and would hang orbs (or mini suns) on the boughs as a result.

4. (SPOILER ALERT) Saint Nicholas WAS Real

Yes – in the fourth century there was a Bishop from Turkey who was extremely wealthy and generous. He would help the poor and needy and earned his sainthood after being imprisoned by Emperor Diocletian. He may not have had a sleigh or elves, but he did exist and the Roman Catholic Church celebrated him on the 6th of December – around the date he died.

So if the foundations of Christmas are so twisted, how are we as Christians meant to approach this time of year?

There are two things that I think we should keep in mind that can bring true meaning to the time.

Christmas is an incredible reminder

Christmas is a time where the world slows down enough to allow you to remember Jesus’ birth and life. It is a very bright red and green, flashing reminder that God Almighty humbled Himself and became a helpless baby so that I could know him.

Christmas is an incredible opportunity to reach others

If we know anyone who does not believe in God, the ONE time where they are more-than-likely going to come to church with you is on Christmas. And no matter when the exact date or what details of the popular stories are, the eternal fact is that every human being needs the love and authority of Jesus Christ in their lives. It is also an opportunity to make amends and bring peace to your family.

Christmas is fun!

No matter what is founded on truth or not, there is nothing wrong with enjoying life and seasons. Even in the Hebrew culture, God intentionally told people to feast and have extravagant, memorable yearly gatherings. If you aren’t intimidated with the worry of becoming ‘corrupted’ by the manic materialism, or intoxicated in some kind of ancient idolatry there is no harm in enjoying the festive traditions that surround Christmas. God wants you to have fun. He wants you to enjoy life. And the most fun things you can do in life are found in Christmas culture: generosity, family unity, good food and worshipping God together at church.

Knowing Jesus is the only way you can truly know the power of what the church remembers at Christmas. Outside of that personal relationship, there is not going to be much meaning in anything we do on the 25th of December. But you have an opportunity to navigate Christmas this year with an intimate revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. I always step into this season remembering that He included Himself into my story – long before I ever chose to accept it. He came to reunite us with God and to set us free from the tangled mess we had made of our lives. If you would like to know more, click on the link below.

Where do I find the solutions to my problems?

I get Julia Michaels. I’ve got issues and I’m sure you’ve got them too. From figuring out what we want out of life to choosing what clothes to wear – you are faced with millions of decisions that all have the potential to affect your day. Where do you go to find these solutions? How do you make the right decisions?

I wish there was simply a one-stop-shop for all problems where you would be able to find every solution. I also wish that I could just plaster the ‘Christian’ solution that the Bible has every solution you need. But it’s deeper than that. And as a writer, I wouldn’t be worth your time if I didn’t speak to a deeper issue that arises from this question.

To anyone asking ‘Where do I go to find the solution to my problem?’ I would respond by saying ‘Why is what you’re seeing a problem?’.

You see, in a world that is used to one-dimensional solutions to basic problems, it is harder to discern the true root of some of the issues you might be facing. For example – you can’t see, so you simply turn a light on. If you need to organise something, you simply call your friend. If you want to know how to make the best jollof rice and egusi soup, you simply turn to Google. But that’s not how life actually works. In many ways, a world where so many problems have been solved for us has made us lazy in our expectations and understandings of problem-solving.

You won’t find the solution in a place. You will find solutions within people. There are three categories of people who I would turn to if I have a problem:

  1. Turn to yourself

Before going out into the world and expecting anyone else to solve your problems for you, have a good honest look at your own life. I have found myself living in denial and expecting everyone else to solve problems that I actually had total control over. The greatest example is my finances. I was constantly living in anxiety over not having enough money. In that struggle I would freak out and pray like crazy asking God to bail me out each month, I would also look to people to help me – my parents and even sometimes friends. But the fact is that the problem lay with the fact that I did not take control of my spending. I did not budget, so the money flowed out of my life on every whim and ‘crisis’ that I encountered.

This is when it is helpful to ask that question – ‘why do I have this problem’? You have to get honest with yourself. Because that will catalyse a solution that will be sustainable. Instead of being bailed out each month, I took a finance course and began to intentionally change how I understood and saw money. I dealt with the emotions that I associated with money and let God guide me in understanding His will and plan for my finances.

2. Wise Community

No, this is not your friend Ebo who comments ‘Yasss’ on your Insta posts. I mean real and honouring relationship connections. If you have problems that you cannot solve, I would encourage you to go to people who are wiser than you in that area. Firstly, identify people you admire that have what you want in terms of the solution to your problem. As I shared above – I found people who were financially savvy to help me with my finances.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE – there is not one person who is the solution for everything. If I asked the person who helps me with finance to give me fashion advice, I would look like I worked in the 1980s. In Proverbs, it says that ‘wisdom is found in the counsel of many’. Find the specialists in the area you need to grow in and chase down their expertise. I would also say that they should be people who are living honourably in terms of their faith in God, as there are many worldviews that may seem ‘sensible’ but will lead you completely astray.

WARNING!

Don’t do this if you have not already done step 1 and thought it through yourself. You don’t want to waste someone else’s time. I would suggest when approaching others, there are a few things you should do first:

  • Write down and clarify what the problem is. Otherwise, you’ll blubber around, waste everyone’s time and seem like you just want attention. Come with clear questions.
  • Honour and respect the person. I already mentioned this with regards to time, but if you are going to see them more than once, you have to DO what they tell you to and bring feedback. It is your responsibility to outwork whatever wisdom you receive.
  • Repeat whatever they advise back to them – this way there is no room for misunderstandings… they hear that you have actually listened to them.
3. God

Yes. God is SOMEONE you turn to. He is deeply interested in your life and your wellbeing. He doesn’t want you to live in anxiety. He wants you to live well and be an example to others in every area of life. So pray about your problems. And be willing to do whatever the Bible says regarding your situation. There are very clear directives in the word – some are very clear (sex before marriage, tithing, fasting, worship) and others take deep study and prayer (true freedom, worldview and relationships). But in the end, it is the PERSON of God who will make these things relevant to you in your situation. The only thing I would advise is that if you turn to God, you are going to have to be willing to OBEY what He instructs.

If you would like to know God personally – in a way that will help you to be the best version of yourself, then click on the link below.

How do I interpret dreams?

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I recently had a very vivid dream that changed my life. It helped me make sense of a complex set of problems that I had struggled with for a while and I can definitely say that the past few months have been significantly better because of the dream. While speaking to my psychologist (yes – as a person who works with other people’s struggles every day I do invest in my own mental health), he had an interesting viewpoint of the science behind dreams – It opened up a whole new world when it comes to making sense of the strange movies that play in our sleep. Here are two aspects of dreams that I found interesting:

Dreams are connected to your everyday life

Whether it was when you were four years old or you had one last night, everyone has had at least one very strange and arbitrary dream in their lives! Whether it was giraffes at a petrol station or a whole group of action heroes crying in an Amazonian canoe about a koala they thought was their mother – dreams can be extremely odd. But there is a scientific theory that could explain these things.

During sleep, there are different phases or ‘cycles’ of sleep which can be categorised as light sleep, non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Terminology aside, basically during sleep, our brain first works on restoring our body (non-REM) and then restoring itself (REM). In the phase when our brain restores itself, the brain does its best to reach homeostasis – a state in which everything is balanced. In simple terms, the brain tries to make sense of all the random tethers of thoughts, experiences and processes.

This is where the random billboard you saw at work, the open-ended phone call that was rudely interrupted and the episode of a series you watched last week combine in your subconscious to find some sort of resolution. Now the science along this theory is, in many ways, hard to prove, but it is interesting to understand that our subconscious absorbs a whole lot more than we might know. And the brain is working to reconcile all that ‘unfinished business’. Logical, right? But there is more to it than just science.

God uses dreams all the time

In the Bible, there are countless times in which God uses dreams to communicate to His people – and it changes the course of history.

  • Isaac had a dream in which he saw a stairway to heaven when escaping from his brother at Bethel.
  • Pharaoh had a dream that Joseph interpreted and saved the whole known world from starvation.
  • Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that only Daniel could interpret, which basically predicted the rise and fall of kingdoms for over a thousand years to come. It humbled the king and changed his rule in Babylon.
  • Joseph the father of Jesus had a dream that stopped him from divorcing Mary and accepting Jesus as the Messiah. He also had another dream where he saw the danger Jesus was in from King Herod (who killed every child under two in the region) and escaped to Egypt.
  • Paul had a dream that resulted in the gospel being preached for the first time in Europe.
  • John had a dream that resulted in the whole book of Revelation.

God definitely uses dreams to speak to his people and that is in no way denied by the science behind dreams. If our faith is not grounded in our present situation, it is not effective. Everything that we witness and take into our subconscious can be used – with the combination of God’s divine presence and counsel – to direct our decisions and change our behaviour. Notice – that in every instance in the Bible, the dreams applied to real life and directed the witnesses of those dreams towards the will of God.

So how do I interpret my dreams?

I have had a few dreams that directed some decisions and changed my life. One warned me of a coming attack on my family before my mom got cancer. Another dream instructed me to stop dividing my time between too many commitments in a very practical way. One dream even freed me from my pornography addiction. But they could have just stayed as dreams… unless I did something with them. If you want to interpret what God might try to be saying, I would do the following:

Write the dream down

In writing down what you witnessed, I have found that it is easier to clarify what was happening. You also are actively ‘rewitnessing’ what happened in your deep conscious but with fresh eyes, as you see it on the page. You could go further and read it out loud – then your brain is given a chance to order the series of events and also the emotions that you experienced during that time. What to write down?

  1. Write down what you witnessed (saw, tasted, heard, touched)
  2. What you felt, in an emotional sense, about those things
  3. The order in which all of this occurred (it can be blurry so don’t be too pedantic).
  4. The first thing that comes to mind in terms of what it applies to in your life (your instinct is definitely the first port of call – before you try to rationalise)
Pray

The two most powerful dream interpreters in the Bible – both Joseph and Daniel – would pray. Daniel did it so regularly that his enemies tried to use it as his downfall. In praying there are a few things that will help you:

  1. Praise God. Whatever dream you have will firstly glorify God, so make sure that you elevate Him above your own thoughts and desires – you might not like what the dream means, but it will be the best for you.
  2. Humble yourself. This is when you are able to truly be honest – God is probably speaking into an area in your life that you need to change. And you cannot change unless you are willing to admit you’re flawed, in need of help and are willing to be obedient.
Submit it to a trusted friend

You are going to have to be careful about who you speak to – Joseph told his brothers and ended up being sold into slavery because of it. Go to someone who is wiser and more experienced in faith and tell them the dream and what you think it means. Even while doing this, I have found the true meaning of the dream becomes clearer. That person will then also hold you accountable to outwork that dream practically and truly doing what God asks of you.

This might be a whole lot of news for you if you have never had a relationship with God. The fact is that God knows and is deeply invested in your unique life. He wants to communicate with you, encourage you and guide you in many ways – not only in dreams. If you want God to be real for you. Click on the link below to find out more.

Dare to be different

Difference. Every teenager’s nightmare. Every oppressive regime’s enemy. Every person’s inescapable truth.

Apart from the crowd

I remember growing up, how there were a group of kids in my lift club that would call me ‘special’. You might think that was a nice thing to say… but you didn’t know the tone in which they said it. They weren’t referring to anything good. But they were also not insinuating that I was stupid. It was simply that I was different. Granted I was getting a whole lot of opportunity for solo work that they weren’t – it could have been jealousy. But regardless of their reasons, it was just one way that I was aware that I was unique.

To be honest, I didn’t have much to hide behind. After dancing for six years, I started a dance crew at the age of 14. I was composing and performing songs at school, achieving well academically and failing dismally socially. I was the son of two well-respected teachers and then pastors in my school and church community. I had an incredibly high EQ for a teenager, which didn’t help. There were many ways in which I was just too different to even try to be the same as someone else.

Party of one

That came with rejection and sometimes there was ridicule. Many times it caused distance because of some sort of ‘pedestal’ I was put on. Being different is lonely.

Well… let me restate that. Being different is lonely if you view everyone else as the same. That’s where the fault in my thinking caused most of my struggle as a young guy.

Everyone is different. Some deny it, some fight it, some embrace it, but few truly use it.

Yes, your uniqueness adds so much benefit to the world. You need to do some groundwork first, to make sure that all the struggle and vulnerability of being different is WORTH it:

1. Your uniqueness is for OTHERS

I know what it’s like to not be able to identify with anyone in the room. I know what it’s like to want to have a conversation that will be meaningful, but not being able to find anyone who thinks like you. Yes, friends and family you can identify with are important. BUT you are not placed on this earth to identify with others, you are here to make a difference.

And you cannot make a difference without being different. 

Your unique skills, the way you understand life, your style, your opinions, your gifts and skills are NEEDED in the room where no one else is the same. They are NEEDED at the table where no one else can understand you. They are VITAL in broadening people’s worldview, in breaking down biases and building a better reality. You are not different for your own edification, you are different for the betterment of others. Your difference doesn’t make you a stigmatised target or an awkward add-on. It makes you a bridge into a greater market reach in business, it makes you a unifying agent in social situations when new people come, it makes you an educator for change in times of struggle AND you become a trusted ally in progressive thinking.

You might not be someone’s friend because you have the same beliefs, ideas or background, but you WILL be a friend to that person’s future if you allow yourself. Get the focus off of what you can’t get. See your difference as an asset and put it to work for the good of others.

2. Your uniqueness is a cog, not a cage

I think recent times have shown how polarising the difference can be when the focus is self-protection. I have grown to feel sorry for those that are not willing to accept a difference of opinion, or change of circumstances. They have imprisoned themselves in their own comfort. They have fought so hard to identify with those around them that they no longer have the freedom to experience the incredible richness of diversity.

You are not meant to use your ‘differentness’ as an excuse to abdicate from society. It’s an important element in making sure we all stay on course as we move ahead.

I have learnt to appreciate that everyone is unique. And because of that, we all need each other. I for one consider people, more than any functional requirements when it comes to an organisation. But that has come back to bite me sometimes – because the practical realities still need to be outworked. The moment I align myself with someone who is incredible at tasks and strategic administration, I find myself able to care for people a whole lot better – because they grow in the tasks as well as in their identity. Everyone’s strengths help balance out the negative repercussions.

You will never be the sole solution to the world. You need people different to you to compensate for your shortfalls. You need to align your uniqueness with that of others in order to amplify the impact you can have on this world. You were made to be a part of something bigger. Don’t be a spinning cog all by yourself. It will simply push people away. Align yourself in a community.

3. Your uniqueness speaks of someone greater

Many times I asked God, “Why am I so different?” Even though I didn’t get a direct answer, over the years that I have spent getting to know Him better, I have learnt that God Himself demands diversity.

Every subtle difference in perspective, expression and skill in its purest form reveals an element of the greatness of God.

Every angle represents a 4-dimensional picture of who God is.

Every different skill and passion woven into the fabric of humanity together depicts a vastly creative, vibrantly expressive and violently passionate Creator.

That realisation truly enabled me to begin to celebrate the fact that I am different. Knowing God’s immensity allowed me to understand my otherness. Beyond that, I actually began to be grateful for my uniqueness.

If you are ever struggling with your identity in relation to others, I would encourage you not to look for the closest community to identify with. First, invite God to personally explain and reveal Himself to you, through His son Jesus. There is nothing greater than having an intimate relationship with the person who gave you your uniqueness. You can know Him. Click on the link below to find out more.

You don’t have to feel ashamed

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Everyone experiences shame. It’s one of those emotions that is immediately identifiable. But unlike most other emotions – it is one that is very hard to resolve. When I feel happy, I laugh; angry – I shout; sad – I cry and guilty – I apologise. What happens when I feel ashamed though?

I believe the answer is found in understanding what shame truly is. Guilt is similar, but more easily resolvable. Guilt is the feeling you get when you have done wrong, but shame is the feeling that you are wrong – there is a massive difference. Where guilt deals with your situation and your actions, shame goes much deeper into the very core of who you are. It festers beneath your thoughts and desires and causes you to be susceptible to offence, despair and shallow pleasures that last only moments.

In my life, I remember the first time I ever felt shame. I was about four years old on the playground and a girl came up to me and asked me if I was gay. I didn’t know what the word was or what it meant. She and a whole lot of children laughed at me because of this and that was the first real memory I have of feeling like I was somehow wrong.

Twenty-two years on and I can recognise the situation for what it was – and the insecurity that the girl had at the time in her family situation. But it made me question who I was on a deep level at a very young age – and I felt stupid, unworthy and ostracised for a reason I could not understand.

To be very honest, that shame developed into a fear of what other people thought of me – and a fear that I was not man enough. That fear raised its head in pornography addiction, strained friendships and a high sense of competitiveness. All of these things further piled on the shame, the belief that I was fundamentally flawed – wrong from the start.

Now please understand that I am not blaming one moment for ruining a good part of my life. There are always multiple factors when it comes to identity. But it is important to understand that shame is rooted in the feeling of being exposed.

The first couple on earth experienced this. When tempted by the snake, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God for the very first time ever. And when they did – they saw that they were naked and felt ashamed. Right from the start the enemy of our souls wanted us to feel shame. Adam and Eve were exposed and believed that they had become wrong. And ever since then – the very beginning of the human race – shame has been part of our narrative.

So how do we get free of it? How do you change the foundations on which you build your thoughts, emotions, reactions and beliefs? Let’s look at a few elements that were present when shame first entered the narrative of humanity:

1. Sin

I don’t know if you believe in the concept of sin. You might have a skewed understanding of what sin is. Sin is fundamentally doing something wrong – but in this age where everything is relative, there needs to be a stronger stake to tie a definition to. In essence – sin is the opposite of God. And I believe God is good. Just as darkness is the absence of light, sin is choosing to be without the goodness of God. Sin is willfully turning away from the Creator of your very being and turning towards the environment you find yourself in. If you consider this definition, it is no wonder that we feel that something is wrong with who we are when we are absent from the context in which we were created for.

The world around us doesn’t fit with who we are. But instead of questioning our environment, we question ourselves. It’s like jumping into the sea and blaming yourself for not being able to breathe – you weren’t created for the environment but instead of changing the environment, you blame yourself and your soul begins to suffer. You were not created to exist outside the loving will of God. But sin will take you out of that will and then make you question yourself instead of the absence of God in your life.

2. Others

Adam and Eve were present in front of each other when they became ashamed. But they weren’t ashamed of each others’ nakedness – they were ashamed of their own. I believe shame is only present in the presence of others, but it is always focussed on self. It is a self-loathing that is only present because of others around us. But once you are exposed in front of others, you will stay ashamed even when alone. It is important to recognise that in the first instance of shame Adam and Eve did not impose shame on each other. It was an internal response that automatically made them want to hide from each other. Shame will ostracise you. It will make you go to incredible lengths to try and ‘fix’ yourself. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to try and hide their shame. All of a sudden they were not enough as they were – they had to add to themselves to feel okay.

Now it’s important to understand that fig leaves are not only a very awkward shape to try and sew together, but also that they are irritating to the skin. They would have been incredibly uncomfortable. And that kind of discomfort is the daily chafing pain of living with shame. In the presence of others, shame will keep you working hard to feel safe and have approval. And in this broken world it traps us in cycles of anxiety, addiction and exhaustion.

3. God

Adam and Eve felt the need to hide from God – because they felt wrong. That was the very first misunderstanding of how God actually sees humanity. He made us intentionally. He made us to be exactly who we are and He sees all our nakedness and flaws. And He loves and accepts us as we are – completely exposed. He came searching for Adam and Eve. Even though the consequences of what they had done still applied, He killed an animal so that Adam and Eve could have better fitting clothes. He sacrificed another one of his creations to make them feel unexposed.

Eventually, He did the very same thing with His Son – Jesus. He sent him to die and cover all our shame. Jesus was stripped naked and was abused physically, with words and even spiritually so that we could finally be rid of shame.

I know it might seem too good to be true, but receiving that sacrifice, and choosing to believe that God did that for me has completely set me free of my shame. And in getting free of shame, I was able to be set free from my pornography addiction, my insecurity and my competitiveness. Shame fuels the wrong kind of obsessions in our lives. But the moment you choose to believe that you are valuable enough for the God of the universe to die for you – then your whole identity has to be transformed. You will find yourself truly being able to accept who you are regardless of what others think of you. And, most importantly, you will be in the environment you were created for: a daily relationship with God himself.

If you would like to find out more, please click on the link below.

You are more than your past

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In one of my favourite podcasts, the interviewer always starts with the questions, “Where were you born and raised?” and, “What did your parents do for a living?” You might think these questions are random, but what they do is invoke a picture and situation that contextualises so much of the guest’s life and makes them relatable. All of a sudden these famous people became both real and remarkable.

Another favourite form of media is the Origin movies in the Marvel universe. In all of these stories, a series of events, situations and people result in the extraordinary gifts and statuses of the heroes.

In both cases, the past is a valuable and interesting descriptor of who someone is, but there are some noteworthy perspectives that need to be considered in both cases that actually make us understand where the past belongs in our own narrative:

1. Your past is only valuable in the light of the present

I have found that my interest in the podcast guests is piqued by their past situations – not because of how remarkable their past was in itself, but because of how far they have come from that past. It is a marker of how much they were able to overcome, rise above, grow their passion and become unique. Their present frames their past – not the other way round.

One way to become free from your past is to recognise the differences in who you are presently to who you were a few years back – even the fact that you have simply lived longer tips the scale towards the value of your present.

In the unrealistic ideal world where superheroes exist, origin stories relay how someone became so remarkable. In the same context – most of these situations are insignificant in themselves: being bitten by a spider, being an orphan from somewhere else, being inventive and imaginative. Yet these all led to one or other superhero becoming the saviours of the universe. If Clark Kent landed on earth and that is where the story ended, he would have belonged in a museum, not on the frontline of wars against evil. In the same way, our past experiences can contribute to who we are, but they are not the defining element of our identity. They are simply the passages we walked through to be present right now.

2. Everyone is familiar with their own story

My childhood consisted of flying to multiple continents, singing in world-renowned choirs, composing music and engaging in interesting conversation. I once auditioned for a television reality show. Once I was a model for a German cell-phone ad. I once had my own dance crew. I once threw my hockey stick at my coaches head. On one occasion I spent a whole two weeks with one change of clothes in a foreign country. I once woke up at three thirty AM to set up for church.

All of these facts are part of my past. I am extremely familiar with them – but some are incredibly strange or extraordinary to you.

In the podcast interviews, it is interesting to hear these successful people start to realise how interesting and unique their story is when they verbalise it. It is very normal for a guest to literally realise more about themselves as they share it with someone else. In the same way, superheroes can be familiar with their abilities, but in the context of those around them who do not have the same abilities, their past becomes more interesting.

Another way you get free of your past is by telling others about it and allowing yourself to recognise the extraordinary or devastating aspects of it.

I have been working through my past with a professional counsellor and I have found this to so true. Some things that I have taken for granted – traumatic experiences and significant relationships – have resulted in me being bound to think a certain way about myself. Watching someone being affected by the stories that I am familiar with helps me realise that my past has more of an effect than I actually realise.

Say someone’s ‘normal’ would be to eat sand for breakfast. The only way they are going to realise that it is not healthy or normal is when they are placed in the context of others. It is the same with our past – if we are going to get free of it, we need to recognise the significance it has had on who we are today. Then we can intentionally move forward by adjusting our present experiences and actions.

3. Your past is a weapon for you to use, not to be used on you

You can either use your past or you can be used by your past.

I know in my life there are moments that have held me captive for years. Whether it was bullying, sexual abuse, life-threatening illness, unhealthy relationships or financial desperation – there were many reasons for me to be bound by what had happened to me.

But I have learned that all of those things have no power over me BECAUSE I am still alive and kicking today. As I have focused on building my life, I have found the past becoming fuel and motivation for change in myself and in others. But most importantly it has made me empathetic to those around me.

The origin stories of superheroes allow us to relate to them. In the same way, the stories of the podcast guests make the ‘stars’ human beings that we can empathise and be inspired by.

Your past is not meant to hold you back from who you are becoming – it should be the weapon with which you carve where you are going.

The key to making that transition – to truly be free from your past – is by believing in yourself. Don’t view yourself in light of your history, but view yourself in light of your potential.

There is no way you can walk away from your past without being convinced that there is a better way to live – that there is hope for your present and future. I have found the only way to truly change my perspective on my past was to give all my experiences to Jesus and ask God for help.

In so doing, I received a peace and a grace to forgive myself for what I had done, while also being able to forgive those who had done things to me. I was able to process my anger to a point of acknowledgement, and then move on to more exciting things. I wish I could explain it, but all I can say is that you need to experience it for yourself – the transformative power of receiving God’s opinion on who you are. If you would like to know more about the difference Jesus can make in your life, please click on the link below.

Men and Women – Different but equal

This world needs women. Unapologetically excellent, beautiful, gifted and accomplished women. And God has provided! There are over 3.5 billion women roaming this planet – with all the potential to nurture, impact and challenge this world. But there is a huge shortfall in society. There is a concerning gap between what is possible and what is present, and one has to ask why?.

In recent years there has been a spotlight on many women and men that would identify themselves as feminists. This group is not an unruly mob of extremists – as many unaccustomed to feminism fear. They are people who have an issue with the fact that women are not given equal opportunity to contribute to our present world. I believe that if women were truly empowered to live out their God-ordained potential in society, there would be less war and poverty, a greater sense of community in our diverse nations and a deeper consciousness of others.

Where many are trying to say that women need to be seen exactly as men, I do believe that women are fundamentally different (this is where some feminists would not agree with me). I do believe God made woman to carry the nurturing, justice-driven, mediating force in the relationship between man and woman. God is very clear on there being a partnership in taking dominion of the earth – but there are things men do not see or understand that women are definitely called to influence.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of people called the Ephesians. In it, he says something that some people (specifically those who identify as feminists) take issue with.  Generally, people start off this specific passage with the verse:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”

But the very verse before is the headlining idea, which frames everything:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21

So starting off, I think it is important to understand that a mutual commitment to submission is key to the relationship between a man and woman. I have found in my relationship that there needs to be a mutual relinquishing of self-interest and a responsibility to carry and consider the interest of your significant other.

This biblical passage (in the modern Bible – originally husbands were addressed first) then continues along the lines of how the wife is required to submit to the husband – comparing her to the church and the man to Christ. But before people get all worked up – it is important to remember that the partnership between Christ and the Church is the most valuable relationship humanity has. I believe it is the key to heaven becoming a reality on earth. Yes, without Jesus Christ, the church would not have a reason to exist. But the Church is meant to be the visual representation of Christ this side of him returning.

In many ways, women have the power to represent or expose man. Guys, if we are honest, there is nothing scarier than knowing how vulnerable we are. In a committed relationship, we are required to trust that our more beautiful partner will endear and support us. Many men in the past have allowed that insecurity to manifest itself in the oppression and rejection of the power women hold. In turn, women have used that power to expose men in a way that completely strips them of their authority as well – and so a vicious, unbiblical cycle of degradation has been formed.

And this breakdown can be boiled down to one issue – the insecurity of men (which is an unspoken virus to modern society).

Paul continues in his letter to address the husbands, telling them that they need to love their wives just as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her. Where women are required to submit and honour their male counterparts, men are actually required to die for the sake of their relationship. Guys – no pressure, but we are actually called to be the full expression of Jesus in our relationship. The sacrifice is actually higher. And if we are not representing the heart of God to our partner or to women in general, we are no longer the foundation for the prosperity of this world.

Other things men are called to do for women are: protect and cultivate her sanctity, pastor her with the word of God, make her radiant and spotless. Man is called to love his wife as much as he loves himself. Man is made to feed and tend to his wife. If a guy truly does this, I believe women would find it natural to respect and submit to their husbands. But it also takes a woman’s submission and respect to empower her man to be who he is called to be for her.

Ultimately, the relationship between man and woman is completely interdependent. It is a balance of trust and respect that is only strong when it is equal – not in outward expression always, but in commitment.

This world is anything but balanced when it comes to gender and it is up to both men and women to reset the scales. I know of many women who have been hurt by the misrepresentation of men in their lives. I know of many men who have been betrayed and deeply damaged by hurt women as well.

God made us to be dependent on each other. But without God, we will always end up caught in the complicated mess of emotions, past and present hurts, and distrust. God made both genders to be one expression of himself: in community together, in a constant state of love and sufficiency. But there is no way that we can attain this on our own. We need the author of this glorious blueprint to be present in our relationships – whether in marriage specifically or in society.

If you find yourself broken by those around you. If your identity has been damaged by the injustice of this world – my experience is that Jesus (and a community of people who are committed to him) is the only way to wholeness. Click on the link below to find out more.

Women are more than an accessory

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You can’t go far these days without seeing the global community’s focus on women’s equality – from UN speeches to promoting a plethora of publications, festivals and interviews. Feminism has been a topic many would have considered something of the past – with two major waves having taken some significant ground. But there are some extremely compelling battlefronts that are yet to be taken when looking at equal rights for women and it is exciting to witness how the world is sitting up and taking note.

Despite the steps that have been made towards equality, I recently sat down with a great colleague of mine who had an extremely negative experience online. A guy commented on her Facebook feed, saying that feminism was fundamentally evil and against God’s will. It upset me enough to think that someone was taking such a vehement stance in such a public and irresponsible way – in a tone that would drive people away from ever considering the true nature of God.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but I take issue when the foundation of any conversation about Jesus Christ and His church is not based on love and respect. There are many controversial ways in which the subject of feminism and the Bible interact, and I would encourage everyone to read those passages within context, and with the historical and cultural perspective needed to understand the immediate application of that time. But there are a few fundamental things that cannot be ignored when it comes to God and womanhood. I would like to remind us all of some of the indisputable facts.

Adam was made from dust. Eve was not.

In the beginning, the Bible says that God made Adam first and then Eve. God formed Adam from mud and breathed into him. But when it was time for Adam to have a “comparable” companion, Adam was put to sleep and God removed a rib from his side. When Adam woke up, he spoke the famous words, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. No animal was a good enough partner or “comparable” to Adam. That is why God made Eve. She was the finale of creation: the piers de resistance to God’s masterpiece. She was the fullness of Adam’s existence in the garden.

One of the saddest things I have seen in many cultures and even in the church is the terrible devaluation of women. Many have seen Eve and her daughters as an ‘accessory’ to men when in fact, they are the fulfilment of God’s will for men.

Feminism (like many other worthy social causes) has been blown out of proportion by people who are not interested in understanding it. Fundamentally the cause is for women to receive equal opportunity and respect as men in every field. When God said, “Be fruitful and multiply”, He was addressing both man and woman. He continued by telling to take dominion together and rule the earth. In limiting the role of women in our society we are not only withholding the possibility to steward the earth responsibly as we are called to, but more pressure is placed on men to carry a weight that was firmly allocated to all of humankind.

Jesus valued, included and relied on women.

God could have decided to reveal Himself to this world in any form. There was no need for Him to become a foetus and be born through the willingness of a teenage girl in a restrictive culture two thousand and seventeen years ago.

Yet what I believe to be the redemption of the whole world came only through the obedient faith of a woman. Mary should have been stoned for being pregnant out of wedlock. In that day, the women were severely punished for sexual immorality while the men rarely saw any consequences. Yet in the face of that kind of suffering, a brave young woman chose to risk her reputation as well as her very life to bear the cornerstone of Christianity.

Some might argue that she was an exception. The church even tried to assign a degree of deity to explain away the immensity of her commitment. But she was a normal girl with a strength that spanned the breadth of the Messiah’s life on earth. And speaks volumes about the importance of women in God’s narrative.

When it comes to Jesus’ life on earth, it was the women who tangibly served and honoured Him: not out of duty, but out of love. Women were the ones supporting Jesus’ ministry financially (Luke 8:2,3 in the Bible). From cooking meals to washing his feet with expensive perfume, to attempting to embalm His body after He died, the women present in Jesus’ life are formidably significant. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after He had risen. Where some disciples’ names only get mentioned once – there are multiple stories of women being impacted by Jesus. Even in the throes of death, He placed value on His mother.

There is no question in my mind that God sees no difference in the degree of significance and capability of the female gender when compared to that of man. As a Christian, I believe He has intentionally created us with abilities, characteristics and perspectives that are as vital to society as they are unique. The lack created by the devaluing of women has resulted in a broken world – in many ways, humankind has been operating at half (if not less) its true potential.

One of the most radical things about knowing God personally is that He intimately reveals how much he values us. You are the delight of His attention.

Do you feel like you have to fight for your voice to be heard? I know for a fact God hears you and is interested in what you have to say. If you want to know more about His specific intention towards you and learn more about having a personal relationship with Jesus, click on the link below.

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