Life. Abundantly.

Boldly equipping followers of Christ.

The Storyteller

I love to write – there are few things I find as satisfying as contending to build a story with a strong narrative arc, compelling characters and a message that resonates with its audience. There are guiding principals in storytelling that have been deconstructed and expounded upon since antiquity that any young writer hoping to hone their craft must master. One of these, as I’ve learned, is that to know how the story is going to start you have to know how the story is going to end. How the story is going to end is the crucial piece of information that guides all the creative choices you make throughout the build-up of the first and second acts. Just as with any other journey, you have to know what the final destination is in order to take the right twists and turns that will finally lead you to that location.

The more I understand of the God I serve, the more I realize that He is the master storyteller. He delights in building the most incredible narratives in our lives, whether that be love stories, or stories of triumph, or stories of perseverance. And I believe that, like any good storyteller, God is only able to craft these narratives because He knows what will take place in our final acts. He knows where He wants to get us to and He knows what the purpose is that He wants us to achieve. This informs all the divine encounters, all the opportunities, and all the provision that we experience. God has planned out a glorious ending for us, and it’s only as we look back on our lives that we will perceive how He interwove so many narrative strands and sub-plots to lead us to the destination that He ordained before we were even born.

Psalm 139:13-16 declares “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I know that when I look back at my own path in filmmaking for many years it appeared as though my career trajectory was a completely illogical combination of seemingly disconnected areas of expertise. It certainly wasn’t the career path that I should have chosen to reach my career goals as a writer, director or producer. This was highly unnerving as so many of my peers were taking a very linear path towards their own goals. And yet now, on the verge of one of the most important projects of my life, I can see how His hand carefully guided me to the very specialities that I needed in order to be a good custodian of this project. It blows my mind that a career path that I thought was completely dispersed and so far from ideal could not have been better curated if I had known what God had planned for me!

Furthermore, I believe that God is not only the master storyteller of our own lives but that He is also the master storyteller of the story of humanity. I believe that He has been and is lovingly guiding the Church towards its final glorious act. And I believe that the narrative that He has crafted since the dawn of time is a story that has been very carefully and permissibly guided by His hand.

There is so much peace that comes when we are able to let go and know that while we may not understand why we’re in a certain place in our lives, God does, and that it will not go to waste. If you allow Him to, He will give you a story that will defy belief! And when you get to that destination all the break-ups, all the strange career turns and all the disappointments will finally make sense.

Until that time comes, keep trusting and keep breathing.

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White Swan

A ballet dancer looks so graceful when she dances, so elegant, and yet what she is doing requires untold strength. It is the hours of practice she puts in when no one else is looking that allows her to perform with excellence when the spotlight is upon her. For years she disciplines herself and chooses the path of pain and denial so that she can one day shine when called upon. Her beauty and her grace is the result of unyielding endurance and a deep sense of her purpose and calling.

Someone prophesied over me a while back that they saw me dancing to the music of heaven. I see now that I am a ballet dancer – subverting pain and sweat and tears into beauty and triumph. Sometimes the music is sad, sometimes the music is joyful, sometimes the music is faint, sometimes the music is loud. But one constant remains: my dedication to follow every beat and every harmony with as much sacrificial submission as I can find within me. For one day I will dance before my King, and when that glorious day comes I want to be prepared.

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Throne Room Creativity

As I start work on my second book I’ve been reflecting on the overwhelming evidence that suggests the world doesn’t need yet another book. Indeed the writer of Ecclesiastes 1:9 declared “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” When one surveys the vast shelves of books in a library, or the racks of DVDs at the grocery store, or the tens of thousands of songs available to download in the iTunes store, it seems as though the world already has more than enough entertainment. Surely it’s sheer foolishness to think that one could add anything new to it? Surely everything has already been done?

But then I remember one of my favorite verses, one that brings hope to me every time I read it: Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

So how is it that God can do a new thing when scripture says there is supposedly nothing new under the sun? How can both these statements possibly be correct?

I believe that these statements are perfectly compatible. This is because I believe that when the writer of Ecclesiastes referred to works that take place under the sun he was talking about the nature of this earthly realm, which is characterized by limitations, imitation and lack. However God sits upon His throne in an entirely different place, the third heaven, a place that is characterized by His very nature: it is a place of both infinity and creativity.

For this reason both scriptures are true: while there is nothing new under the sun God from His throne on high is doing a new thing.

I believe that as we too are seated in heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6) and are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), we have access to this place. And as we access that realm through prayer, through meditation, through journaling and through relationship we are able to join with an outpouring of creativity unlike anything to be found on earth.

I believe that Heaven is bursting at the seams with new things that God is desiring to gift to us. I believe that there are warehouses in Heaven full of books, songs, paintings and designs that are just waiting to be claimed by people who will position themselves to receive them. I believe that we can draw these things down to earth if we will simply start asking and contending for them. I believe that He is doing a new thing.

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Life Is A Highway

I recently learned how to drive, and during lessons my instructor repeatedly warned me that I needed to focus my eyes on the direction I wanted to go. She told me that if I started looking at the side of the road, or at the oncoming traffic, I would surely end up colliding with it. So I had to learn to quieten my fears and to fix my gaze on where I was aiming for, rather than focusing on all the things I wanted to avoid.

Increasingly I am realizing that my life’s success is entirely bound up in how well I manage to do this in my thought life. My spiritual, interpersonal, and professional success rests solely on how disciplined I am in stopping my thoughts from being monopolized by enactments of every possible and dire thing that could possibly happen. I have to single mindedly focus on the truth of God’s promises. It’s a daily battle, and the battlefield is my mind.

With my tongue I have the power to bless or to curse my life, I have the power to open heaven’s floodgates of provision over a situation, or to give the enemy a legal right to kill, steal, and destroy. I can speak God’s perfect will into being, or I can come into allegiance with hell’s desire to devastate my life. And with my thoughts I can dwell on the truth that God is good, that He calls me His daughter, and that He cares more for me than I could ever fathom, or I can allow deception to take root and fear to overcome.

The enemy has only one trick – he lies. If he can get me to focus for just long enough on driving off the road, I probably will. So I am determined to keep my eyes fixed steadily on the goal.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

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66 Love Letters

Have you ever received a love letter that you’ve read over and over again, analyzing every word, carefully studying every punctuation and grammatical choice?

In contrast, have you ever stared down at your Bible with absolute boredom, barely able to keep your mind from drifting?

For many years I had great trouble engaging with the Bible. I rationalized that this must be because I’m a visual learner, because I’m not good at embracing abstract concepts, or because I’m not particularly academic.

But today I find myself completely captured by this book. So what changed?

Well, it seems to me that the importance that we attach to correspondence completely depends on the relationship we have with the author. We interpret their words through our perception of who they are, and through our relationship with them. Our level of intimacy with the author largely dictates our response to their words.

So for me what turned a dull text into a compelling one was a shift in my understanding of its author, and a revelation of my identity in relation to Him. That turned this previously grey text into vivid color. And now I read it over and over again, analyzing every word, carefully studying every punctuation and grammatical choice, like the love letter that it is.

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Legend Of The Seeker

In my life I have been a member of a couple of “seeker-friendly” churches. If you’re not familiar with this term, the stated primary focus of “seeker-friendly” churches is reaching the lost. They focus the vast majority of their resources and teaching on appealing to non-believers.

There are some genuinely wonderful things about these churches. They tend to embrace the truth that we were each born for a purpose, which in our culture’s current climate of orphan spirited mediocrity is a message that is much needed. They also do a great job of espousing the truth that Christ came not only to give us eternal life, but also to give us an abundant life on earth, a truth that has unfortunately been almost entirely neglected throughout the last few centuries of Greek oriented theology.

However, I feel that deception can be engendered when church is primarily focused on appealing to non-believers. And I believe that such deception is currently misleading and permeating part of the body of Christ.

My concern stems from the fact that in “seeker-friendly” churches unbelievers are typically perceived as consumers, and church meetings are often perceived as advertisements. In my experience, the result of such thinking is that whatever might be considered offensive is often discarded, revamped, or downplayed.

As such the teaching in these churches tends to be chronically elementary, prophetic acts are often actively discouraged, and manifestations of the supernatural are typically not welcome.

Furthermore as “seeker-sensitive” churches heavily rely on entertainment and conveniences in order to attract non-believers truth and repentance are often significantly downplayed.

The focus of such churches is often on running a popular youth program, having a cool band, and making sure that they’re on the cutting edge of technology.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong in pursuing these things, and I must say that many of these churches do genuinely succeed in delivering a truly excellent experience, it concerns me that the main criteria of such churches is often whether something will appeal to people, in other words, the consumer experience. The issue is that when one has successfully developed the perfect consumer experience one can easily can lose all dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Heidi Baker, an amazing missionary who runs an orphanage in Mozambique that has cared for more than 10,000 children, has often taught on how her community is entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit. “If God does not turn up, we are dead,” she says bluntly in acknowledgement of just how much of their existence is entirely dependent on Him.  She explains the amazing breakthroughs that are happening in her ministry by saying “Jesus works here because the people are poor in spirit, humble, desperate and dependable. They need God 24 hours a day because there is no backup plan.”

From what I’ve seen, much of the “seeker-friendly” mentality is based in accommodating the world. The typical explanation for why overt public displays of dependence on God are avoided is “we don’t want to damage God’s reputation.” Sadly, my experience is that the vast majority of people who say they don’t want to damage God’s reputation actually just don’t want to damage their own.

In the Bible we see a very clear example of this mindset, and of the consequences involved in such self-serving priorities. In 2 Samuel 6 King David dances in the streets to celebrate God having given him victory in bringing the prized Ark of the Covenant to the newly-captured Jerusalem. His wife, Michel, is embarrassed by his public display of worship to God. But rather than simply being honest about her feelings she choses to try to deceive him out of any such future acts with a manipulative rebuke: “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

While it could seem that her intention was pious, she was actually being deceptive about her reason for cautioning him. Michel wasn’t concerned that David would bring dishonor on his position. She was concerned that he would negatively affect her reputation. Her concern stemmed out of pride and an incorrect set of priorities. You see, Michel was a people pleaser, and as such she prioritized her own reputation over the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

It’s possible that Michel was so utterly deceived about her priorities that she did not even realize that she was being deceitful and manipulative!

So what is David’s response to this? He nobly responds: “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes! But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor!”

And what was the result of his response? Well, God called David “a man after his own heart”, and throughout his life David experienced an outpouring of abundance and greatness, the vastness of which remains legendary to this day. Michel, on the other hand, remained barren for the rest of her life – a state that could be surmised as having been metaphorical just as much as it was literal.

Indeed this testimony of the disparity between David’s attitude and Michel’s attitude is reflected in Luke 17:33, which states that “whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

Desiring to reach the lost is certainly a Biblical principal and a commendable endeavor. However if the cost of us “reaching the lost” is the disempowerment of God, then the price is too high. And if we are withholding the fullness of God from people, are they really encountering Him?

I lovingly submit to you that such “seeker-sensitive” thinking is based in fear of man. This fear of man drives people to try to moderate God, as though they know better than Him. It leads people to want to rebrand Him, to want to repackage Him. And that, in my opinion, represents incredible pride and foolishness.

Many “seeker-friendly” churches claim that if they do not water down the gospel that people will not be saved. But this seems to me to be incredible arrogance. God has been the business of radically reaching the lost for thousands of years, and He doesn’t now need us to rebrand him in order to continue doing so!

It seems to me that, like Michel, this kind of prioritization has far more to do with people pleasing than it does with a genuine heart to reach the lost.

The Bible is very clear that God hates the dilution of His word, and that He will not have any part in it. In Revelation 3:16 the Laodicean church, a church that was supposedly characterized by neutrality, lack of zeal, and arrogance was warned,  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

In the some vein Matthew 5:13 warns: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

So my word to seeker churches is this:

If you say that you are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the lost, what would you do if God asked you to do something that made you seem like a fool for Him? What if he asked you to lay down your programs, or your technology, or your current style of music? Would you be willing to do so? Because anything that you don’t feel able to sacrifice holds a place of idolatry in your life, and God is very clear that there is nothing He abhors more than idolatry!

And what do you say about all the non-believers that are completely alienated by your consumerist, self-serving, superficial theology? Those that truly hunger for God, those that thirst for righteousness, truth, and power will not be attracted to a modernized version of man-made religion! So if you truly desire to appeal to people’s hearts, should you not focus on appealing to those who are genuinely seeking the truth that the Bible contains?

Let us not forget that Christ was the most subversive, offensive, unorthodox character in the history! 1 Peter 2:8 acknowledges the highly offensive nature of Christ by describing Him as “a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”

Indeed Christ was so highly unpopular with many that he was eventually murdered in one of the most barbaric manners ever invented by man. And most of his closest followers from his time on earth eventually met the same fate!

So why do we think that God is now calling us to be people-pleasing, inoffensive, culturally acceptable people? Why do we think that we are called to be popular, and to save our own lives and reputations at all cost?

Yes, to many the favor and love on our lives is highly attractive and desirable. We are called to greatness, to influence, and to build platforms from which we can shape our culture. But alongside that is the reality is that as we increasingly become a reflection of Christ those who hate him will hate us! There is no circumnavigating this.

Christ polarized those who were seeking Him and those who hated Him. As such the better job we do of representing Christ the greater the divide will appear between those who love us, and those who hate us.

In John 15:18-20 Christ himself said that “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”

For this reason I believe that focusing on what others think and then working back from there is entirely the wrong direction to come from in our evangelistic efforts. For it is as we primarily and foremost focus on passionately pursuing God that our lives will bare the most powerful testimony. As John Wesley said of his own evangelistic success, “I set myself on fire, and people come to watch me burn.”

The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. Matthew 5:14-16 states: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I absolutely agree that the first message we need to tell the world is simply that God loves them and that He wants to abundantly bless their lives. However I also believe this must be followed by the display of his power and the truth of his righteousness, as otherwise we will have absolutely failed to introduce people to the fullness of who God is.

The fact is that we live in a world that is so utterly desperate for the supernatural that it is currently cleaving to all kinds of counterfeits. Our youth are so desperately hungry to encounter the supernatural that they are turning in droves occult fiction, occult movies, and occult television series. This is often the only opportunity on offer to them to encounter the supernatural! As a result Hollywood has a huge opening to meet this legitimate desire through illegitimate means. This will only persist to the extent that the Church fails to provide what they are genuinely hungry for!

If we want to appeal to the world we need to offer it something it doesn’t already have. If the best we can provide is good entertainment and a self-help message then we are providing nothing that the world can’t already do for itself.

But if we’re willing to stand apart as a supernatural people who radically love Christ and passionately love people, as a supernatural people who are willing to pursue everything that God has for us, even when that makes us look weird, foolish, or positively abnormal, then those who are genuinely seeking will see in us what they are truly looking for.

Those who are genuinely seeking God will find Him when we show the full truth and scope of who He is. Those who are simply seeking to feel good about themselves will not. As 1 Corinthians 1:18 says: “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Sadly as “seeker-friendly” churches tend to grow at a fast rate, many take this to be a sign of success. However we know that God’s measuring stick for success is far different from mans. In Isaiah 55:8 God cautions: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” And in 1 Samuel 16:7 we learn that “the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I think Heidi Baker would agree that being willing to offend and seem weird for the gospel works. Indeed her unashamed proclamation of the full truth of the Bible, and her simple dependency on the supernatural has lead to over 8,000 churches being planted in 20 nations within just a few years.

As I read of the incredible impact that Heidi Baker has had across Africa and beyond through her simple message of love and her willingness to follow the Holy Spirit – no matter how offensive or weird His directives might seem – the encouragement that Jesus sent to John the Baptist echoes in my mind: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me!”

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What’s The Most Important Thing You Did Last Year?

Most believers would agree that the birth of Jesus was the most important event that happened on earth (rivaled only maybe by His death). Nevertheless, when He was born only a handful of people knew what had happened. To the casual observer a baby being born wouldn’t have seemed like something that was of even local significance. Who would have ever thought at the time that this event would be of crucial consequence for all the ages to come?! However thanks to our greater perspective we now know just how misleading appearances were on that day.

Unfortunately many of us think that something cannot be a major event unless it makes the news. So we view works, events, and circumstances through our filter of what they look like today, rather than through the filter of what they might look like in the light of eternity.

The truth is that so many things that seem of vital importance to us right now will prove to be utterly insignificant when viewed from a heavenly perspective. And so many things that seem inconsequential to us at present will one day be revealed to have had eternal implications.

On this basis it is wisdom indeed to refrain from making value judgments about our works. It is wise to be diligent about every matter we turn our hand to, and to always heed the truth that the story might be so much bigger than we realize. If anything, we should be encouraged to know that even those works that presently seem mundane and futile might in fact be truly eternally monumental.

Sadly our hearts and minds so often go the opposite way. So much of our foolishness and our offense at God results from our having forgotten that His perspective is so much bigger than ours.

As such, it is vital that we cultivate an attitude of humility in our interpretation of events. When we remain circumspect about how limited our perspective is we keep ourselves from getting offended by God. By remaining in an attitude of patience and faith, and by staying dedicated to the fact that His ways are higher than our ways, we shroud ourselves in truth and we keep our hearts free from offense, even when faced with circumstances that seem cruel or bewildering.

God is searching for a people who are dedicated to seeing life through a kingdom perspective. Indeed, it is so glorious to Him when we do so, as doing so requires true faith, as we have not yet experienced the revelation of eternity.

Surely, now we see reality but through a glass darkly. But a day is coming when all truth will be revealed, and when many seemingly meaningless actions and events will be unveiled for having been truly historic.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

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They May Take Our Lives But…

It’s ironic that the very subject that I want to discuss today – lack of freedom – is the very reason that this is such a difficult article for me to share. But two days ago I felt God very distinctly say to me:

“Vanessa, you will not be able to follow Christ until you’re willing to offend people.”

Wow. You see, I know that Jesus did such an excellent job of offending people that they eventually crucified Him, brutally murdering Him by one of the single most horrendous means of execution ever devised by man. However misguided fools have been telling me for most of my life that being a good Christian (whatever that is) means never offending anyone, never hurting anyone’s feelings, and never ever ever shocking anyone, so sometimes I still think that the wimpy, emasculated, “Ned Flanders” version of Jesus that our media and churches have so brilliantly propagated is the model for how I should act.

But the fact stands that some of the most powerful displays of love I’ve seen in my life have been from people for whom actually loving me was far more important than necessarily making me feel good.

So, even though I like to people please, and however much I know that the people that I typically like to please (i.e. those in positions of power) generally don’t like to hear what I’m about to say, I’m going to bring it. And if I get crucified for this, at least I’m in good company.

For the last few days I’ve been obsessively meditating on this one statement, rolling it round and round in my head like a mantra…

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Isn’t that just the most rousing statement you’ve ever heard? Can’t you just see William Wallace charging across a Scottish glen yelling this at the top of his lungs to a crowd of dishevelled countrymen? Can’t you just see Maximus Decimus Meridius commissioning his most noble soldiers with words of the sort?

In the last few weeks these words have been blowing my mind, offending me with their greatness and amplitude as I peel back more and more layers of understanding of how this corrupt and depraved world has so utterly ensorcelled me into believing that slavery is both normal and acceptable. Truly our world is more like the Matrix than we even realize. So many of us have been brainwashed into thinking that our life choices are what we were designed for, when in fact our very being is slowly having the life sucked out of it by entities that do not have our best interests at heart.

It’s not coincidence that most Christian men I meet almost invariably quote “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” as being their favourite movies and “Wild At Heart” as being their favourite book. And it’s not coincidence that most women I meet have suffered substantial wounds from being treated as though they’re second class citizens, placed here on earth solely to help men fulfil their destiny. All of this is to do with the glorious thing we call FREEDOM.

I don’t think that most of us even start to fathom how important our freedom is to God. Sadly most Christians’ idea of freedom is being able to wear jeans to church. And if we’re really lucky we might even have the “freedom” to dance in the aisles! Wow – with freedom like that who wouldn’t want to join us?! (If you haven’t figured out by now that I’m a big fan of sarcasm, this might be the day. If my tone offends you, please see the article I devoted to this subject titled “What To Do With a Double- Edged Sword.”)

I don’t think most of us have any understanding of just how much God hates slavery, bondage, and burdens. If we did I doubt we’d be quite as passive as we are about the sheer amount of bondage going on all around us. If we did I doubt we’d put up with the sheer the amount of crap we do in our own lives.

While freedom is one of the least understood commodities in this world, it is also one of the most needed commodities in this world. Our society needs people who are boldly, valiantly, and irreverently saying “no” to bondage. We know this because the most enigmatic and legendary people in history are those who had the guts to irreverently give the finger to slavery and run their race with strength and perseverance.

We say that we’re free, and yet we chose to place ourselves under the yoke of…

Religion

We say that we’re free, and yet we chose to submit ourselves to church systems that benefit a few elite people, while the masses are relegated to being just as much followers of men as they are followers of Christ.

I believe that so much of what we are taught about subservience and respect of authority by church organizations is mass manipulation and control, and absolutely not what God wants for His bride.

Where there is truth there is freedom. But I see so many church organizations where people don’t feel they have the right to disagree, where people don’t feel they have the right to say no, and where people don’t feel like they have the right to their own thoughts, or to be treated as an equal by their church staff.

Now I’m not saying for a moment that it’s wrong to be expected to defer to others at times. I’m not saying for a moment that we shouldn’t honour those who teach us, or seek out truth from those who have genuinely consecrated their lives to the pursuit of it. I’m not saying for a moment that the body of Christ shouldn’t congregate together.

What I am saying is that it’s absolutely wrong for there to be a two-tiered system within the body of Christ between the elite few who periodically stand on stage in a building, and everyone else. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong when there’s a culture of “celebrity” within the local church. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong when people get ostracized or penalized for laying down boundaries with their leaders or voicing different opinions to them. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong when people are looking to man to lead them more so than Jesus, and are being encouraged at some level or another to do so by their leadership.

This stuff is so incredibly insidious that much of the time we don’t realize we’re being controlled and manipulated. We misjudge the level of religion that’s going on simply because the church features modern music, because the speaker is charismatic (and wears jeans!), or because the church uses sofas rather than pews. We comment on how wonderfully non-conformist it all is, how hip it all is, and how modern it all is, when really it’s still the exact same system of man-centered hierarchy that I believe makes God very, very angry. In such situations the majority are still being controlled, manipulated, and repressed to serve the purposes of the minority, which is still the exact same system of slavery that religious leaders have been employing for thousands of years.

We say that we’re free, and yet we place ourselves under the yoke of…

Unfulfilling and Abusive Employment

God designed Adam for dominion. Adam was an entrepreneur; he farmed his land and was the sole decision maker about a great deal of important things. He was designed for work and he partnered with God in developing and transforming the world he lived in. He lived a life that was deeply cogent with his purpose.

We were all designed for dominion. We were designed to impact our world and to be a vital part of transforming our reality. And yet so many of us have yielded to what is in essence little more than organized slavery in many cases. We work in these inhumane little cubicles, have to ask to take toilet breaks, and have our schedules dictated to us by a clock. Our work is dull and we have absolutely no driving reason to do it other than to pay the bills. This is a truly dismal way to live!

It saddens me greatly that even though I live in the United States of America, historically the most entrepreneurial country in the world, so many of its people seem to have largely forgotten their heritage.

I do understand that in certain seasons of life it’s necessary to temporarily submit to The Man. Doing so can actually be very strategic in setting us up for our destiny, as demonstrated by Biblical leaders such as Joseph and David. But it deeply shocks me when I see countless unemployed young people with incredible skills and talents that are just waiting for someone to give them a job. It seems that nobody has ever really taught them to take initiative and to build a business around their skills or talents!

I personally believe this is the case because it doesn’t behove corporate America to teach children and young people about just how much power and dominion they were designed for. It seems to me that it’s highly unlikely to be by accident that most people go through twenty years of schooling without learning how to run a business or even manage money. I mean, in all your years of schooling, did you even have a single class on how to invest, protect, and grow your money? Surely wouldn’t that be one of the most key skills to teach people, more so than say, the names of ancient dinosaurs?! I believe that however well intentioned the education system might seem that a blunt appraisal of it can only conclude that it’s largely designed to set people up for slavery (and in many cases, debt.)

But we just all accept that it’s normal to be in bondage to an unfulfilling job for forty plus years of our lives, because that’s what the system teaches us. As a result we face unfulfilled destinies and mid-life crisis, and our nation faces countless unsolved problems because the very people who were designed to be the answer have been indoctrinated into believing that someone else should be in charge.

Please understand that I’m not saying that employment is necessarily bad. If someone has a job that they genuinely love and that is allowing them to fulfil their calling, then they are absolutely living out freedom in this area. I’m just pointing out that the vast majority of people who are employees do not feel like they’re living a life of freedom, as evidenced by the fact that if someone gave them a blank check they’d be out the door in a heartbeat. As subversive and radical as this suggestion is, I don’t think that forty years of bondage to a job we hate is what God had in mind for us when He designed us.

We say that we’re free, and yet we place ourselves under the yoke of…

Gender Inequality

Every form of religion throughout history has involved the oppression of women. This is because ever since woman was created Satan has been looking for ways to undermine and destroy her, because he knows the true power of her beauty and calling.

So many believers have an incorrect understanding of what scripture says about women, and this has sadly warped their minds into believing that the oppression of women is not only righteous, but also mandated by the Bible. This lie unfortunately appeals to the woundedness of many men, and as a result countless women are bound to unhealthy and unsatisfying marital dynamics that are crushing them rather than elevating them.

I battled for many years with the pain and confusion that comes from being told that a godly wife is a wife who never says “no” to her husband, who doesn’t lead ministry, and who doesn’t engage with the marketplace.

For me one of the saddest consequence of such thinking is that the fact that it essentially endorses HALF of God’s army being largely disabled! Jesus (the guy we’re actually supposed to be following) declared, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” But yet we foolishly wound and hamper half those workers because of a few utterly misinterpreted directives, taken utterly out of context, which were never even spoken by Christ himself!

Indeed in some local churches the grasp of the fact that freedom is not gender specific is so dismal that the very suggestion that women were made to co-reign and co-lead with men results in accusations of the spirit of Jezebel faster than you can say “oppression”!

I would love to be able to discuss in greater depth this matter, as it’s such a commonly accepted form of bondage. However, because space prevents me from doing so, I encourage you to discover the very excellent “God’s Most Beautiful Creatures” series by Kris Vallotton, which you can download by clicking here.

In this teaching Kris proves that there is a demonic conspiracy to disempower, deface and destroy women. He shows us how the devil has used religion to carry out his devious plot for thousands of years. He demonstrates through scripture how God created women to co-reign and co-lead with men, and the difference between the power of the curse in the Garden of Eden and the power of the Cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. Women – if you want to be free to live the life you were designed for, you need to acquire this teaching. Men – if you want to truly be the man and husband God designed you to be, you need to invest into this teaching!

We say we’re free, and yet we place ourselves under the yoke of…

The Media And Other People’s Opinions

I don’t think we even realize how many hours a day we spend absorbing the opinions and thoughts of worldly, corrupt, and evil people through the radio, TV and many other forms of entertainment! These people continually speak curses over us, bind us to fear, and brainwash us into being desensitized to perverse, corrupt, and abhorrent things!

We indiscriminately leave the TV on and get blasted with hours a day of advertising that either guilts and manipulates us into buying thing we don’t need, or makes us miserable because we can’t.

We give our time over to utterly damaged and narcissistic fools like Lady Gaga, or Paris Hilton, or anyone who has Kardashian for a last name. We allow our schedules to be dictated by this drivel, because we’ve been conditioned to believe that we have no other choice than to let these perverse people reign in our lives.

We think that it’s normal to know all kinds of gossip about people we’ve never even met, and some of us are actually foolish enough to spend our money on getting into even further levels of bondage with that stuff.

Now I’m not saying that entertainment is bad, I did spend the best part of a decade working in film and television after all. I’m just saying that we need to seriously question whether we’re the ones in control of this area of our lives or not.

It really alarms me when I think about how much time I’ve personally given over to reading about the opinion of Paris Hilton. And why did I do that? Because almost everything around me had told me that that was normal, and that that was good for me. Wrong, and wrong! I’m at a point in life where I will boldly declare to King Media that I will not be dictated to about whose opinion I should value, and whose I shouldn’t.

So look…

Freedom isn’t free, and if you’re truly serious about being free you’re going to have to give some things up.

Are you serious about being that William Wallace figure that refuses to bow his knee to oppression? Are you serious about being that Maximus Decimus Meridius character that remains noble and unfettered no matter what circumstance tries to dictate to him? Are you serious about being that William Wilberforce figure that sets captives free? Or do you just want to be like everyone else – trading your freedom for the supposed comfort of cable TV and the safety of “acceptance” into a religious social group?

If you want to live a quality of life that most people don’t have then you’re going to have to gain some skills and discipline that most people don’t have. You’re going to have to make some choices that most people don’t make. And you’re going to need to be willing to ask yourself some questions that most people aren’t willing to ask themselves.

Sadly freedom is a fight that has to be constantly fought and it’s a war that has to be continually waged because the demonic realm is absolutely relentless in trying to place us in bondage, and the depravity of those around us almost just as much. Almost invariably there’s going to be a person or a situation trying to place you in bondage and dictate to you how you should live your life. Even Galatians 5:1 corroborates that we’re going to have to stand firm, because there are things that are going to try to put us in slavery time and time AGAIN! People’s brokenness, their controlling and manipulative bents, and their lack of respect for the basic rights of others is such that there’s probably always going to be someone who you’re going to have to be saying “no” to if you’re serious about pursuing and maintaining freedom.

So I encourage you to be bold, and to ask yourself with honesty what things are oppressing you. It might be that every time you get round a particular situation, or a particular individual, that you start feeling less than good. May I humbly suggest that those feelings are an indication that at some level a degree of bondage is at play? It may be that the bondage has to do with your own junk, it might be that the bondage has to do with the other person’s junk, or it might be a combination of both. You have the permission to explore those feelings. And you have the permission to then say “no” to whatever form of bondage you find to be at the root of it, even if some people don’t like it.

For it is for freedom that Christ has set YOU free. Stand firm, then, and do not let YOURSELF be burdened again by a yoke of slavery!

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Let’s Talk About Sex

I was drinking a cup of tea whilst staring blankly out of the window when I felt God tell me to write an article on sex. Nonplussed, I slowly swallowed down a gulp of tea and then proceeded to tell Him He was wrong. And, as usually happens when I try giving advice to the creator of the universe, I lost the argument.

I think that discussing sex in the context of theology is almost always a challenging endeavour. This is in large part because so many believers come from backgrounds that ascribe all kinds of legalism to sex, all while utterly failing to recognise the context of scripture. So, to lay a quick foundation for such people, this article is based on the firm belief that:

1. God is a big fan of sex. If we truly believe that God created man and that God created woman then the logical conclusion is that God also created sex. And, just to rattle a few religious bones, let me put it very bluntly: God created orgasms. Certainly He could have instituted that we would procreate by a completely mundane means, but instead, because He’s a really, really good God, He planned something entirely more fun.

2. Sex isn’t just for procreation. While procreation is certainly a wonderful by product of sex, there are all kinds of other great reasons for engaging in sex, such as fun, enjoyment, connection, intimacy, and comfort. (There are numerous verses that indicate this, but I won’t dive into that right now because it’s somewhat outside of the scope of this article.)

3. Moral boundaries are of the Lord, but undue inhibition isn’t. If you doubt this, read the Song of Songs. This holy book describes in detail (all within the context of a monogamous marital relationship) stripping, erotic dancing, oral sex, and foreplay. Yes, they’re ALL in the book.

(This actually reminds me of the time that a friend who had just started following Christ told me she thought she had a faulty bible because she’d discovered all this raunchy stuff in the Song of Songs. I found it somewhat funny but also somewhat sad that I actually had to explain to her that God’s word declares Him to be a huge fan of enjoyable marital sex.)

So, that foundation laid, I feel that the topic of this article is to be a discussion of sex as an act of prophecy and spiritual warfare. (Yep, bet you’ve never seen that in Cosmo before!)

It seems to me that the first step towards understanding why sex is (amongst other things) designed to be a prophetic act is to start by defining what a prophetic act is, and what the function of a prophetic act is.

In my mind there are few words that explain this more aptly than Ed Silvoso’s in the epic manifesto “Prayer Evangelism”. He starts by explaining that prophecy is simply a symbolic act designed to denounce a specific spiritual lie and/or to announce a spiritual truth:

“The primary intent of a lie is always to exert some form of control over the person being lied to. The truth is always more powerful than lies; but those who believe a lie come, within the scope of the lie, under the control of the liar.

When even a small group, made up of people affected by such lies, performs a prophetic act that exemplifies and declares the opposite of what a particular lie proclaims, then a circle of truth is painted around the devil, thereby exposing his scheme for all to see, for he cannot stand in truth.

Prophetic acts are powerful because they express on earth what God has already decreed in heaven.

When we read that the devil is a liar, we assume that he lies to us but not to his minions. If the devil were to speak the truth to his demons, he would have to disclose certain unpleasant facts about the end of time – facts concerning the lake of fire, their eternal demise and satan’s utter defeat. If he were to let them in on news of their fate, it is safe to assume that his troops would not fight for him so intensely.

To be successful, a liar must conceal the fact that he is a liar, otherwise no one will believe his lies. The devil avoids truth so his cover will not be blown. A prophetic act does exactly that, altering and eventually exposing, through the insertion of truth, the devil’s carefully orchestrated cover of intertwined lies.

Spiritual truth can never remain dormant; it has to be declared. And when it is, the truth challenges and eventually changes that which opposes it. As a result, what was thought to be impossible (through satan’s lie) now becomes possible (through Jesus’ truth) – not just in that time and place but beyond. Like ripples in a pond, the spoken truth moves outward in ever-expanding circles set by the initial prophetic act.

When we punch a hole in the darkness, at first light just filters through the hole. But the light keeps on spreading, until the once-impenetrable mantle of blackness eventually dissipates.”

From this we learn that a prophetic act is simply any kind of symbolic act that denounces a specific spiritual lie and/or announces a spiritual truth. The purpose of such an act is to make truth known at a spiritual level.

So how is sex a prophetic act?

We read in scripture that the relationship between man and wife is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church. In fact many Bible scholars have written on how the act of sexual union between man and wife actually foreshadows the the union and intimacy that will eventually take place between Christ and His people.

As such we can propound that the sexual union between man and wife is actually, amongst other things, a prophetic act that declares the truth of God’s coming kingdom, because it expresses on earth what God has already decreed in heaven.

It declares the truth of a wonderful alliance to come when God is finally fully united, exposed, and intimate with His bride.

As such I believe that every time a married couple have sex together, amongst other things, it releases truth and faith into the spiritual atmosphere. As such it’s actually a form of spiritual warfare, as the very act of it declares satan to be a liar.

And satan doesn’t like that one bit. He doesn’t like being repeatedly reminded of what God has decreed about the end of days, or what God has ordained about the salvation of believers, and he doesn’t like his lies being blown.

For this reason I believe that the prophetic component of marital sex is one of the major reasons that satan has done his best to corrupt, pervert, and undermine sex as a whole.

Indeed the prophetic element of sex is part of why sex outside of marriage is so utterly destructive, and part of why adultery and fornication grieves God (as well as it being relationally, emotionally, and physically destructive.) Certainly the uncommitted, selfish, and self-seeking nature of such perversion is a mockery of what sex was designed to be: a symbol of commitment, unity, dedication, consecration, and servant-heartedness.

I think that when we start realising just how multi-faceted and powerful sex is we start to realise that its importance goes even beyond matters of human relationship. Sex can literally be a symbol of truth and a prophetic act of spiritual warfare, or it can be a means by which the demonic realm mocks God.

So whether we’re single or married lets make sure that we fully elevate and honour marital sex as the wonderful and prophetic act that it was designed to be.

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Letter To A Lost Friend

Dear Friend,

Last night I found myself crying. To my shame, I should have been in tears so much earlier about what happened between you and me.

The truth is that I haven’t been able to cry about it until now. I was consumed by anger and hatred for all the things you put me through. I kept replaying those moments over and over again in my head every time that I thought of you, until finally your face became synonymous with pain in my mind. I erased the truth of who you are with petty resentment and bitter thoughts.

And then last night I found myself in tears. I wasn’t crying because of what you’d done to me, or because of the pain I was choosing to relive again. I was crying because I finally saw how incredibly sad what happened between you and me was.

Because there was a time when I held so much love in my heart for you. There was a time when I saw you through God’s eyes, when I saw the beauty and light in you. There was a time when we were friends.

And then somehow, somewhere down the line, I let unforgiveness and bitterness creep into my heart. You did some bad things, and I did some bad things, and before I knew it we’d lost the precious thing that was our friendship. Where there had been so much grace and love darkness and contempt brewed instead.

I thought I could never forgive you. I thought that I could never get past the bad things you’d done to me. And then it struck me. However genuinely bad and uncool some of that stuff was, there was nothing, absolutely nothing, worse than us losing the precious and irreplaceable thing that was our friendship.

I think that part of why I was so angry was that, for me at least, it feels a lot less painful to be angry than it does to feel the full force of sadness about what happened.

I know that this doesn’t change the past. The issues are very real. The past can’t be changed. But I’ve finally remembered that there was a time when I was blessed by you, when I genuinely cherished you in my heart and in my mind. And to know that I allowed the memory of the genuinely good things that we shared to be lost is just the saddest thing I think I’ve ever heard.

I think I need to put a different priority on things. Because prioritising my hurt above showing you grace just isn’t working out for me. I don’t like the person that it’s made me one bit, and I can’t spend another day murdering you in my heart.

Vanessa

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