Pleasing God, REAL Transformation, and Steps of Faith

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Pleasing God, REAL Transformation, and Steps of Faith

By Stephen L France

There are so many occasions when I’ve heard church leaders and Christian speakers present the perception that, “we cannot please God.”

Yet, there are multiple verses where we clearly see that God can be pleased with us.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. – Romans 12:1

for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:8-10

Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.Colossians 3:20

And of course, the renowned verse:

and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." – Matthew 3:17

When we put on Christ, we assume everything that Christ is, including this verse.

What I believe these preachers and speakers mean when saying “we cannot please God,” is that we’re unable to earn God’s love; that our life with Christ isn’t a question of performance.

The aspect of our life that pleases God is a transformed heart that parallels His own.

This is NOT God’s domination, coercion, or manipulation of us, but about our wilful surrender to Him, fully conscious that our Lord knows what’s best for us even if we don’t agree with the decisions He places before us.

Since He is our creator and sovereign, He knows the perfect path for each of us, and He’s also aware that when we possess a heart like His, we will be brought to a place of joy, peace, and righteousness.

Therefore, the only way we can please God is through transformation of our hearts;

1.       a renewed mind that works by faith not attempts to control life,

2.       Spirit-filled vision not what is right before us in the flesh,

3.       and works of selfless intention as opposed to selfish desire and self-protection.

In this journey, our true identity and purpose are founded in a transformed heart that cheerfully seeks to do what God wants.

But how do we engage this transformation?

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Taking Steps of Faith

When I read the Word fully for the first time and engaged in prayer three years ago, I relished the spirit-filled connection that profoundly told me I had reviewed the complete truth.

Simultaneously, I realised that the character Jesus seeks for us to become is impossible. Looking to a future ‘self’ that adhered to Jesus’ teaching provoked anxiety because the traits God sought in me appeared incredulous to reach.

I was left with a very stark choice. Do I trust the Lord God as described in the Word and who I’ve felt in Spirit to take the steps of faith He asks? Or do I continue my life as the world dictates, trying to live by my own controlled methods?

God makes it very clear that His journey for us must be taken one day at a time—no looking to the future and no assessing things by ‘past’ experiences. It’s one step of faith at a time. [Matt. 6.34]

As we a take these steps, although some can seem unrelated to what God wants us to be like, He does a work in us without us even knowing or having to understand.

To give one major example from my own life, a massive life-changer for me was joining a Purity Group back in June 2016.

Now a ‘purity walk’ is actually an extravagant name for ‘walking with God.’ It’s not some special, unique part of our walk with Christ; it’s walking with Christ in its entirety.  

The reason it’s called a purity walk is because it distinguishes those who have taken on the challenge of conquering sexual immorality in all its forms.

We’re not just talking about celibacy before marriage, or no adultery during marriage. We are talking about all sexual immorality including the most prevalent form within the church that goes undetected; use of pornography, masturbation, and the overwhelming general concept of fantasy/lusting after women.

It’s the subject that the vast majority of the church are uncomfortable with discussing, which gives it incredible strength over Christ’s bride (us the church). The secrecy, shame, guilt, and isolation produced by sexual immorality erodes the seams of us believers and our relationships with others, subtly destroying the foundation of our Kingdom by creating holes in our spiritual life that the enemy can use.

When taking a step of faith like a purity walk, God forges work in our hearts that one could never anticipate. He does the impossible and all the doubts we had about the possibility of being Christ-like don’t seem so unbelievable anymore. The transformation is engaged and we begin to see with a Godly perspective.  

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Change of Desires (REAL TRANSFORMATION)

Real life transformation (Romans 12:1 – 2) begins with us learning to love and desire what God wants. It starts with our heart’s intention matching the Lord’s, which is pleasing to Him. When we begin to seek after that change in ourselves with the aforementioned step-by-step faith motions, we witness real change in our souls, making us better disciples.

One of my favourite moments in our Kingdom history is when Abraham ‘negotiated’ with God about the salvation of the people of Sodom.

What I love most about this moment, is that God wanted to see His heart exhibited in a human being, demonstrating the same love that He has for us.

God’s overall wish is for all to come to repentance [2 Peter 3:9] and when He sees that same desire in one of His children, He is very pleased.

God wants to see a man after His own heart.

Genesis 18

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

When I took on the purity walk with our Lord’s grace as my strength, my perceptions were changed in ways I could not have planned or crafted. My sight was made clearer on the nature of the Kingdom and a more powerful desire toward seeking out the lost and wounded grew inside me.

This transformation was not my planning. My goal was to rid myself of pornography, but our Lord took my step of faith and turned it into much more.

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Training and Edification

In August 2017, I recommitted my life to Christ. I saw clearly that the only thing of importance in this world is being dedicated to Kingdom Works. All else is vanity.

14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. – Ecclesiastes 1

In realising this, I said to God—with some mild trepidation at the severity and sincerity of my words—that “I wanted my entire life to be devoted to Him.” I added “that I would follow Him wherever He needed me.”

Out of hurricane (literally), God directed me where to go, responding to my declaration only a few days later.

He decided that I had to be extracted completely out of my comfort zone if I was going to serve Him in such fullness.

Now, I find myself on a YWAM DTS in Oregon, US feeling a mixture of the surreal and familiar—a bizarre sense of déjà vu.

I have a few ideas of how God can use this time, but no real knowledge of what will actually happen. Anything can happen and so I’m in a true moment of trust and faith…I look forward to the next steps in this walk.

Our Worst Enemy – SELF

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Our Worst Enemy – SELF

By Stephen L France

I thought I would close this year with a look at self-deception and the need to walk by faith in order to witness the perfect job that God can do with our souls.

Some of this is material I’m repeating, but in journeying with God, the wisdom has become even more clearly applicable as His authority reigns in my life.

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Perhaps one of the staples of my time examining Scripture, has been the moment India Mission team leaders Femi and Mona Lisa interviewed me in 2016.

They dropped a verse on me that would further clarify my perceptions on what it means to walk by faith.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and brining into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:5]

This verse revealed something I hadn’t known before:

Spiritual warfare isn’t just a supernatural, invisible battle between angels and demons in the spirit world (Daniel 10: 12 – 13).

No.

It’s combat in the mind where we have choices between following our Spirit, or Flesh [Romans 7 & 8].

We either submit to our Lord Jesus Christ, or, everything else the world offers.

Walk in light, or walk in darkness [1 John 1:5].

The renowned cartoon sketch of the angel and devil on the shoulders—whispering in opposite ears—truly came to life.

Our mind has two wills working; the will of the Spirit and the will of the flesh/enemy/world/SELF/ everything else.  

The reason I deem SELF the worst enemy in my title for this blog, is because we have to authorise the enemy (the devil) to work in us.

The hugest self-deception in this authorisation, is we unwittingly make a pact with an evil entity who hates us and wants nothing more but to see us robbed, killed, and destroyed (John 10:10).

Of course, he will offer pleasurable, tangible gifts for our allegiance (Matthew 4:4-11) in the disguise of certain desires we have.

The problem?

The desires that the devil uses to attract us fall under the spiritual bondage of sin.

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There are three ways that the enemy/SELF attempts to reach us that I’ve both experienced and seen in Scripture:

1)      The devil himself and his demons through spiritual attacks – these can be as quiet as whispers in our mind, telling us to act in a way we know to be against God’s wisdom e.g. retaliate to an insult with wrath. It may also be a whisper speaking into our value, telling us “we are worthless” and “no good.” Or, it can be as vicious and audacious as violent night terrors, paying a visit during our sleep

2)      Through the world around us – this can range from seeing a lusty, provocative image on a billboard that distracts us; it can also be the distraction or deception of the opinions of other people e.g. an induvial saying: “you’re only into religion because you don’t have a life.” Even more subtle and unassuming, it might be someone giving you advice e.g. “you have to take care of yourself, look after yourself, put yourself first,” in response to your own assertion that life is about serving others

3)      Our own flesh and conscience – this is particularly dangerous. The identity I created out of wounds from the past is not my friend. It’s actually self-defence, self-protection, spiritual contracts, promises, and vows I’ve formed to make sure I’m never hurt again, creating barriers against people and obstructing the full protection and healing offered by the Spirit

These three methods then divide into multiple, creative tactics that the enemy attempts to use to steal from us, kill us, and destroy us [John 10:10].

He is a truly hateful being, desiring the destruction of our identity, the theft of our purpose, and the decimation of our worth. All of this requires our SELF-ish agreement to make his desires a reality in our lives.

I’m always irked by the ‘kill and destroy,’ part of this verse in John. It’s not sufficient for us to be dead. He wants us absolutely devastated and tormented. 

This is where SELF is the danger.

As soon as any of us have agreed to the devil’s opinions, SELF becomes the living, breathing enemy within; a voice in our head that can torment us in a multitude of deceptive ways.

Here are a few examples from my life:

·         It can make me mistrust people/ suspicious of people

·         It wants me to retain secrets about myself and others to keep me isolated

·         It wants me to gossip and use that as crux for power over others

·         It wants me to put on masks to pretend everything is okay

·         It will even compel me to spew Godly language in my diction so that I look more ‘Christian’ to others

Essentially, SELF—the part of me filled with the enemy’s lies—wants to escort me to a place of utter isolation where I can be killed and destroyed.

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Where are my decisions emerging from?  

It is our prideful choices that make this SELF entity come to life as the enemy within, but just where are our decisions coming from?

There are several places to look to:

1)      Jesus or ‘the rest’ – ‘the rest’ can be seemingly positive teachings like forgive because it will lighten your burden. But without Jesus, true forgiveness is impossible

2)      Humility or pride

3)      Love or fear

What I’ve found is the clarity of God’s wisdom can be difficult to apply when SELF still has a voice.

One of the challenging decisions I made early on in my Walk was regarding theft.

I was a proud serial thief—a kleptomaniac of sorts.

My great robbery was downloading films illegally.

Sometimes, I would acquire movies with no need or reason other than just to have them.

I had terabytes worth of films and TV sagas—many of which I hadn’t watched like a proud magpie hoarding my precious treasures.

I would boast of this collection in my mind, saying I’ve got one over on the world by accumulating all this free stuff.

The black and white of the situation was “theft is theft and we are not to steal.” [Mark 10:19, Exodus 20:15, Ephesians 4:28, Leviticus 19:11]

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But our human minds are creative with vindication; I remember my reasoning well:

1)      I’m not harming anyone really – the film companies have millions of dollars

2)      Films are overpriced – I deserve this because the movies are too expensive

3)      The film companies deserve to be robbed for being greedy with extortionate prices

4)      When I would lose something costly, I would say in my mind, I’m still winning because I’ve downloaded all these free movies (and music)

The day arrived at the end of 2015 (my first year in Christ) when I had to erase all of these films.

There was no human reasoning. Just the truth. They had to go.

After a couple of months of deleting films one at a time, I deleted them all with ‘ctrl + a,’ then ‘delete.’

The enemy as we know is always looking for a way into our lives and the deception comes when we unwittingly agree to authorise him in through sin, even through seemingly harmless activity as downloading pirate films.

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

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Overall, I discovered that the most dominant ways I’ve allowed the devil into my life was through the abundance of effort invested in SELF-protection and my desperate need for my own SELF-ish desires to be fulfilled.

To the world, both seem harmless, but in the spiritual dimension, it’s different.

SELF-protection and SELF-ish desires are about egocentric fulfilment and if we review Scripture in its entirety—especially the book of Job and Jesus’ battle with the devil in Matthew—we can gain a strong perception of what the devil thinks of us and why he is able to attack us through these means

The devil thinks we are selfish, fearful beings and this is what he plays on. He can operate with any human move that's based in selfishness and any action founded in fear.  

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(1)    Self-Protection

The most obvious way that comes to mind about how I managed self-protection was my passion for psychology—knowing people’s minds so I would know if they could be trusted and be able to defend my heart against any reprisals.   

Self-protective thinking leads to:

1)      Fantasy – imagining scenarios where everything works out to our specification

2)      Pessimistic fantasy – predicating things aren’t going to work out and planning accordingly for the unpleasant result we believe is coming

These mental thought processes kick faith and all our Lord’s promises out the window, presenting the illusion of SELF-control while allowing fear, anxiety, and a host of other erosive thoughts and emotions to enter.

(1)    SELF-ish Desires

Reviewing desires, this is a very deceptive area.

Desires can be good.

We know the Lord gave us our desires, but we also know that it pleases Him greatly when we live a life of self-sacrifice [Matthew 19:21].

My main desires have always been to have a family of my own and a successful career in writing that reaps financial prosperity.

I find myself seeing a great trial of refinement right here.

Can we surrender our greatest, deepest desires to experience further intimacy with the Lord our God? In essence, can we have faith over the tangible physical pleasures of the world?

I learned a very powerful lesson this year about surrender.

The lesson was simple.

Either I surrender all. Or I don’t. My choice.

We sing the words of surrender in church all the time, but do we actually surrender all?

I tried to cut a deal; a fair bargain with our Lord in December 2016.

I said to Him, “Lord, I have given you two years of my life so far and made massive changes by your grace. Let me have 2017 to build my career and finances so I can then move on to the next step and have a family.”

2017 has not gone as planned.

Far from it.

It has turned 180 degrees the other way. If I could add more degrees on 180 to express how much my year has gone in the opposite direction, I would.

I won’t go into the details of this transformation, but I learned something very clear.

Surrender is surrender.

It can’t be half way, attempting to mix my ways with the Lord’s. It’s His plan or whatever I want to do. 

Now, I must be clear.

It’s not that the Lord doesn’t want me to have the aforementioned desires; it’s simply that He’s guiding this journey now, because I’ve opened that door to Him.

Desires--although natural--can be a blatant distraction.

When things don’t go our way to meet our ambitions, reactions can range from wrath to depression, from madness to suicide.

This is the hard lesson—surrendering control (or more accurately put, the illusion of control).

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Conclusion

So, I find myself vigilant of both SELF-protection attempts on my part and my own SELF-ish desires (1 Peter 5:8).

They are pitfalls, taking us off the track of salvation and leading back into slavery to sin. 

Personally, there is no complaining or upset.

No sadness or confusion.

Just a step of faith every day, not worrying about tomorrow (Matthew 6:33-34), but seeking after the Lord daily.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It’s been hard. But dying to SELF is not meant to be easy.     

Closing 2017, my prayer for all who read this is: Let God transform us so that every word from our heart, mind, soul, and mouth be of the Word of God and the Word of God alone. Take away opinions that spring from a fallen, SELF-ish mindset in Jesus’ name and let us be filled up with the Holy Spirit so that all we think and speak about is for the glory of God and His Heavenly Kingdom. Amen

Being Refused Entry at the India border – the Denial of Christ

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Being Refused Entry at the India border – the Denial of Christ 

By Stephen L France

If you are already aware what happened to the EEC India Mission Group—the Magnificent Chennai 10—then you likely have an idea what this blog is about.

However, there may be one surprise that you’re not anticipating; a confession of our sins…  

The Deportation Experience

Allow me to create the setting for what might have been one of the greatest trips of our lives.

There we were in London Gatwick Airport on the morning of Friday 3 November, 2017.

As our well-organised mission leader Tayo provided the materials she’d prepared—a mini journal with a Word for each of us, and a worship pamphlet neatly laminated and bound—my heart warmed with joy; this was going to be the best EEC India Mission yet.

I looked at the nine faces of our group and knew, we had a fantastic team—Tayo, Femi, Mona Lisa, Patrick, Jo, Naomi, Sophia, Nina, Indra, and I comprised the troop, ready and willing by faith to do God’s work in foreign territory, resisting our fears and preconceptions.  

I didn’t even fully realise just how excited I was about the trip. In fact, I wouldn’t comprehend the depth of my happiness until the mission was snatched from us in the abrupt, vivid moment at the Chennai Immigration Border.

Skipping ahead two amazing flights, we met the devastating words that would shift our mindsets into fervent prayer:

“They’re not letting us in,” Jo said to me of the words relayed to Indra and Naomi who had already been permitted entry.

I felt crippled, but held a deep hope I’ve never held before.

God would prevail over this immovable, mountain-sized security decision.

I was certain of this despite knowing from experience that when a security decision is made, NO ONE I’ve ever known rescinds it.

We fought with every rational plea for eight hours without food or water and then endured the final, crushing words “your time is up, you have a Visa Violation, you have to go back to the United Kingdom.”

A security guard with a visible firearm at his side approached.

We had to leave.

Throughout the experience, several Words emerged in my mind:

“Do not be surprised by the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12 -13

…and the Word that Tayo had provided for me in the front of my journal.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Interestingly, these two mandates of the Lord have been in my thoughts for a couple of months.

It’s the contrasting idea of the two verses that really intrigues me; that we are not to be surprised by terrible things, but also maintain hope throughout everything—a mindset only possible with God’s grace. This thought pattern is truly one of faith where we would not be worried about anything because we know God means us well in all things that occur.

After hearing those crippling words from Immigration, we felt disheartened, demoralised, and a touch of Christian persecution.

The treatment in Chennai Airport was atrocious—of that there is no doubt. It is likely a bribe may have swayed the officers as has been insinuated by others and it was clear that Christianity is a conflicting interest with Hinduism.

I will not delve into how we were regarded as I feel it has little relevance when compared to God’s revelation of what we must do by faith in Him and our co-labouring with Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9).

The immigration officers and airport staff are forgiven for their dubious behaviour—it’s that simple (Matthew 5:44).

***It’s amazing—right now as I write these words, I haven’t got a single ounce of anger/wrath inside me nor do I care about the airline cost loss. It’s so irrelevant—praise God!

The correct term for what we experienced was ‘refusal of entry’ not ‘deportation,’ nevertheless, we ‘relished’ a deportation experience with the joy and peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:4 – 7).

We were not deportees, but we were referred as such in Chennai and were detained in a detention room in Dubai until our final flight back to the United Kingdom, all under Emirates’ escort.

For my own personal walk with the Lord, this journey has arrived in the midst of a series of deep cuts since recommitting my entire life to the Kingdom in August 2017.

I can only attribute the name to this season as “dying with Christ,” meaning dying to self, pride, ego, and human wisdom (Romans 6:6, Romans 8:36, 2 Corinthians 4:11, Galatians 2:20).

There is no denying, it hurts a great deal, but there’s also a mysterious peace that’s protecting me as well. I cannot explain it, hence my mention of the verse Philippians 4:7.

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Prayer in aftermath

Personally, I was resigned to the idea that this entire event was spiritual warfare and there was no rational answer to such a huge loss.

The damage encompassed:

1)      not being able to help the poor and sick in Chennai,

2)      missing our wonderful fellowship,

3)      and the theft of a deep spiritual growth opportunity, residing in a location that visibly shows God’s hand at work—something that’s difficult to spot in the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, many of us went into prayer, asking the Lord the clear question that plagued us at the border;

Lord, what are you trying to teach us from this experience?

What do you want from this experience when your Word is so clear about mission?

Yesterday (Sunday November 5 2017) Nina’s diligent and obedient questioning of the Lord, warranted a revelation; a revelation that I feel is important to share with everyone.

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Denying Christ

We’ve all known that going to India is a short-term mission. That’s what it’s labelled as and it’s what we do.

Although we do receive a guided tour from CMCT for edification and exhortation, our real purpose is to spread the Word of God.

We have an intention. We have a purpose. We have a mission. We are on mission for God.

Concealing ourselves behind a tourist visa—which is what we did to protect ourselves from instant rejection—when we’re actually going to do faithful work for our Lord and Saviour through the guided tour of CMCT, is not the Christian way.

We needed to go on a mission visa. Full-stop.

Deception is deception.

A little lie is a lie.

Holiness is holiness.

Purity is purity.

Truth is truth.

It’s a hard pill to swallow and when Nina relayed her revelation to me, I felt the pain of it; however, it completely fell in line with everything I’ve learned about our Lord and Saviour to date, and especially this year when the word over my life for 2017 has been SURRENDER.

We cannot mix up His ways with human attempts to control situations.

It’s either His pure way or everything else.

If we alter that TRUTH in any way at all, we cannot expect to come down on the side of Holiness and have His supernatural support overpower the devil’s schemes.  

God allowed us to go all the way to Chennai to realise the real issue—we as Christians are not standing up for ourselves the correct way (Nina's revelation).

We often say things like “God is bigger than our problems,” and then leave an issue without fighting it His way.

The ultimate truth is we have God inside us. Only by doing things completely His way, can we then unlock the supernatural abilities He has for us to usher in Heaven on Earth (2 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 2:22, Ephesians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 3:16).  

Our Lord is the living God who will do a complete and perfect work in us (James 1:1 – 4). As such, He WILL take us all the way to the Chennai border to be refused.

Why?

Because He wants to finish the work in us so completely and definitely through deep trials that guide us to the end of our wits, only to bring us back stronger and with a firm grasp on His REAL MESSAGE.

Even more importantly, He wishes to show our human weakness so He can be strong for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When we proceeded with a tourist visa as opposed to a mission visa, we were denying Christ—perhaps not directly, but anything of 'grey matter' is of the evil one (Matthew 5.37).

I personally hold my hands up to this in confession to God, because I remember in 2016—the first time I embarked on India mission—thinking this procedure was incorrect. I’m pretty sure I said it once (though I may have kept it to myself), but because this was how the process had been conducted for years, we all abided.

No matter how I try to rationalise it in my mind, I denied Christ by going into mission under a false guise. A visa violation.

Going forward

It felt like an immense loss—indeed it did.

We had the most people going on India Mission ever from EEC, showing an expansion in our church’s Mission Task Force efforts, supporting the phenomenal supernatural works of God around the world. But, we were rejected from Chennai and then ejected under personal guard (Emirates’ staff) no less.

The escort was actually a gentle one. We received seating together on our flights to continue consoling one another and the seats were extra spacious.

God kindly ushered us back home without incident and there was no damage done to our flight records.

It’s as if we never flew to Chennai, yet, we gained a magnificent gift; a new mission.

We are aware the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy—his work against CMCT is clearly one to isolate them from the assistance of brothers and sisters around the world; a tragic state of affairs as there’s nothing but the Christian effort to support a great multitude in their country.

But on that day we were in Chennai, we were not on the side of pure truth.

We had used human wisdom to conceal our real identity and purpose, which was a mission in Christ.

Our real job in this is to begin to tackle the giants that stop mission and facilitate a change that permits us entry the right way (Nina's revelation).

Our faith has a place, indeed a founding spot in every single type of industry and institution whether it be aid in other countries, politics, media, or economics to name a few, but Jesus has been removed.

If India does reject Christian mission visas, we need to be asking “why?”

We’re then required by God to be pushing at this prejudice/discrimination through our faith and using spiritual discernment in our actions, after all, our God is capable of all things.   

No one is to blame here, but there is an accountability and responsibility in the use of a tourist visa over a mission visa.

The words written on the Emirates Refusal of Entry form presented to us were Visa Violation.

How can we argue against that?

This is exactly what we did.

Our actions were especially highlighted when the immigration officer claimed he contacted CMCT and they allegedly responded that, “we’re expecting 10 people for Short Term Mission.” 

Our debate that we were tourists had no backing at all…and we should never have been arguing it in the first place.

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Rejoice

We must rejoice—the devil’s weapon in this has failed.

The enemy has made a monumental mistake, just like pushing Judas to have Christ betrayed and subsequently sacrificed (1 Corinthians 2:8).

None of us have been harmed in our faith.

Personally, my faith has increased and my desire to serve the Lord in everything I do has expanded.

Praise God for the response of our souls to this difficult experience.

We are children of God.

We have a duty to make certain that we do not authorise the infection of the enemy’s vision to separate us from CMCT or each other at EEC.

In all of this, there is one vital factor and I repeat it again—we still have our faith. Praise God!

By sight, things look pretty awful, but in the spiritual realm, there is a bright future indeed (Jeremiah 29:11).

Thank you Lord for the experience of the short-lived, short term mission.

We will move forward stronger and bolder in truth and in love.

Please feel free to leave any comments below about our experience or an experience you may have had, glorifying God

“Seek God’s Face”

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“Seek God’s Face”

By Stephen L France

Luke 9:23

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Over the last two months, God has been showing me who He truly is, allowing me to boldly and clearly acknowledge the following statement in all its entirety:

“I am a sinful man. I am not a good person. I’m not nice at all.”

This is not to condemn myself—far from it.

This has been the automatic response of my hungry soul, seeking after God. It’s a visual of my true wicked nature as I go through the gradual transformation God is doing to burn out the impurities, ‘refine me like silver and test me like gold’ bringing about the identity He wants me to be. [Zechariah 13:9]

In realising my sin, I recognise how much I’m forgiven. And in seeing how much I’m forgiven, I view how much I’m loved. And in perceiving a snippet of that quantity of love, I’m receiving the true image of God the Father. But this process isn’t happening without a very nasty and dirty fight from the other side…

The challenge at this point in time isn’t so much the devil as it is what I allowed the devil to do in me growing up…

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Galatians 5:24

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires

The Creation of ‘Self’

As a child, I attended Anglican C of E church with my family ritualistically and religiously, but I wasn’t experiencing a relationship with God, which is what our Christian walk is all about.

Therefore, for sake of argument, I was not raised in a Godly home. Instead of knowing to surrender to God for His provision of my unique identity in Christ, I took my free will choice and selected independence, constructing my identity from bits and pieces I felt to be lovable and worthy of appreciation.

As I pridefully constructed what I thought to be the perfect identity, picking the ideas that I felt were cool in society and building my own moral compass to work with, this identity got tested with the pains that life hurls at us.

There was my parents’ divorce, bullying at school, racism, and rejection on many levels etc.

Under the construction of my identity, I had to adapt to the wounds inflicted; therefore, protective barriers of control were created for self-preservation.

This was to ensure I would never be hurt again.

It all seemed like the perfect plan, but I’ve learned well; we are not good at creating identities!

In fact, we’re awful at it.

Like Doctor Frankenstein, we set out thinking we can make the perfect human being, sewed and stitched together in what is intended to be a beautiful work of art. Sadly, we end up unwittingly creating a monster and the deception is that we still think this monster looks good! We believe we’re in control!

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Galatians 2:20

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Identity Issues and the Major Challenge I’m facing Now

Forgive me if I sound like a paranoid schizophrenic or someone suffering multiple personality disorder, but the battle of Spirt and Flesh is definitely a case of two very different characters vying for territory of my mind.

I’ve arrived at a real angel/devil on the shoulder moment in my life.

My identity—the self I created, the monster—is literally attacking my mind, viciously disgusted by my decision to choose faith over independence/control.  

This is not a gentle battle by any means and has gotten increasingly worse. My own mind has no limits to the malicious comments it will say to me against my decisions of faith.

A bizarre parallel came into my head regarding this identity creation. In creating this perfect identity that now rebels against me and tries to bring me under, I thought about God and how he created the angel Lucifer perfect. It was pride that turned Lucifer-God’s creation—nasty. The same is true of the identity I created—the self. Pride turned it nasty and I’m now feeling the full brunt of it, because I’ve chosen faith.  

Memories are being resurrected to provide evidence that God will not protect me. It’s like a court room scene in my mind where the proof that God will betray me is in the life I’ve lived.

“There is no escape,” the prosecution declares. “God has never been there for you. Remember your childhood? Remember your parents’ divorce? Remember how university didn’t work out the way you wanted? Remember that girl who broke your heart? You are crazy to go by faith. God is never there for you.”

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In all the unpleasantness of these thoughts, I’m compelled to remember Jesus. My advocate. My defender.

I recall the decision the innocent Son of Man made in the Garden of Gethsemane. The most loving choice in all of history…

Most importantly, I’m leaning into God for it’s clear that I must trust in the Lord with all my heart, and not lean on my own understanding. I’ve got to continue to acknowledge Him in all my ways so He can make my path straight. [Proverbs 3: 5 – 6]

Spiritual Warfare and the Power of Relationship

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Spiritual Warfare and the Power of Relationship

By Stephen L France

“Love your neighbour” – Matthew 22:39

It was a very unpleasant night that prompted this blog, so I haven’t formatted it as well as I’d like.

I went to sleep with a hollow feeling in my stomach, that commenced immediately at the end of a cell social.

It was a Friday night; the cell social was dinner at a Chinese Restaurant, but the meal hadn’t tasted good.

The conversation had been fun, but when the night came to an early end after the meal, there was a feeling inside me of incompleteness.

Perhaps it was because two years and seven months ago, nights would end much later than 9:00pm.

Perhaps it was because one of the guys suggested going for drinks afterwards; although I'd have liked to accompany him, I knew I couldn’t do that; re-entering the arena of ‘worldliness’—even if I drank a cranberry juice—would be dangerous territory for me.

This is because it would put my mind in a place best described in Psalm 73, or Exodus when the Israelites wish to return to Egypt.

In other words, I'd survey my surrounding of a Friday night in Leicester Square where we were, and begin to wrestle with the desires of worldly living.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this feeling of incompleteness after a Christian social night.

My transition from being ‘of the world’ to ‘of the Kingdom’ has warranted many changes in my life.

One of the more superficial amendments, is growing accustomed to the early end-time to socials.

This is where the ‘unpleasant night’ statement earlier, enters.

Going to bed, the incompleteness inside morphed in my sleep, transforming into nightmares with both physical headaches and stomach pains, keeping me between consciousness and sleep.

Although this could have been inspired by food poisoning, I knew straight away that this was a spiritual attack as well.

People may have different descriptions of spiritual attacks, but there are some common points that differentiate it from a bad dream.

1) It hurts you emotionally to such a degree that you carry it into your waking life

2) It drains your energy – a very similar, possibly identical feeling to depression

3) It plays on your personal, deep mental wounds and deceives you massively

The major factor about a spiritual attack, is that it’s not simply a random affair. It arrives with purpose and plays a part on past pains within.

The pain within was loneliness and so I had to ask myself, “why now?”

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God has done a miraculous work to clear loneliness out of my soul – I don’t say ‘miraculous’ lightly.

Nothing has physically changed in my life this past year, yet somehow to the best of what I know, loneliness has disappeared—a true Godly wonder!

However, on this night, it returned with a vengeance because of an incompleteness inspired by the social.

It might appear like I don’t have a point here and I suppose because this blog wasn’t planned, it might not be going in a very structured direction, but there is a point.

I’ve stressed time and time again that ‘relationship’ is the powerful aspect of our Christian life.

It forges our walk with God and ability to surrender to Him completely.

When we have cell socials or any fellowship at all, the principle core is ‘relationship’ founded on:

1) God’s love for us [1 John 4:19] in Christ who gave His life

2) Our restored relationship with our Father in Heaven

3) Our image of God as the perfect Father

Through this grace, I'm able to clearly see ‘relationship’ to other people as:

  • Love/charity/selfless service to others
  • Transparency in truth with others
  • Vulnerability to others
  • Honest communication

…living the aforementioned points can create the best kind of life – a life founded in Christ without loneliness or the fear of isolation.

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The words “Love your neighbour,” aren’t just simple words or a rule for the sake of righteousness. It’s a law that guides us on living THE perfect life; Heaven on Earth.

ANYTHING contrary to relationship—anything at all connected to isolation—will see us in a less favourable emotional disposition.

Putting this into practical terms for my life, this means taking a step of faith, serving my Christian brothers and sisters even more than I’ve been doing. It means calling my church peers simply to see how they’re doing. It means studying scripture with others and praying together either face-to-face or via phone outside of cell gatherings.

Overall, it means relating, and doing everything available that Christ strengthens me to do as He is my source of hope, peace, and fulfilment.

Through Him, everything is possible and I have every faith that the loneliness that attempts to distort my perceptions will disappaear.

When Will My Heart’s Desire Arrive?

By Stephen L France

For the last few blog entries, I’ve talked about trials in various ways.

Although there are plenty of new testimonies I could offer about God’s grace, what I’m really waiting on is a clear, indisputable answered prayer, meeting my heart’s desire.

The challenges that have occurred over 2017, where God has allowed me to overcome haven’t been desire fulfilment. They’ve been fiery trials [1 Peter 4: 12 – 13] and I’ve been called to keep faith, and by His grace, He’s seen me through. I gleefully anticipate transformation where ‘I delight in the Lord, and he gives me the desires of my heart.’ [Psalm 37:4]

This may sound ungrateful or selfish, but I’ve come to learn that in our relationship with the Lord, we all should expect that He will meet our ‘heart’s desires;’ it’s part of His loving nature [Jeremiah 29:11].

After wise Godly counsel regarding the difference between ‘spiritual blessings’ and our ‘heart’s desires,’ this blog has almost doubled in size for what was initially intended. My soul understands that I’m spiritually blessed – “praise God, for He is great!”

But, I’m still wondering when my heart’s desires will be met.

To clarify, my dreams are:

1)    Start a Godly ministry for men to serve the Kingdom (this is very new to me and has become increasingly stronger over the last 7 months)

2)    Have enough finance from my writing career to funnel into Kingdom works

3)    Have a Christian wife and ‘x’ children and be in loving service to them

I’m not saying there has to be a specific number of desires and the order changes with my feelings and thoughts; I would love to be noble for the kingdom, but my desire no.1 often exchanges with no.3.

Perhaps I’m being naïve, but there is a particular type of situation when we pray for something and our desire is met exactly as prayed for. The kind of gift that is better than our human fathers could ever give [Matthew 7:11], which compels us to get down on our knees, praising and worshipping God in all His glory.

Francis Chan, one of our renowned brothers in Christ says, “there is nothing better in this world than an answered prayer.” How many of us can say we’ve received something exactly as we prayed for?

This is the kind of gift where we’re certain God has moved in our lives and instils us with loving obedience to cast off all fear [1 John 4:18], and give thanks in live testimony in front of our church congregation.

Along this journey, the Lord has continued to transform my mind [Romans 12:2] with sincere changes that have impacted my soul, leading to an increasingly selfless attitude. Don’t get me wrong; when God takes us to the depths of our souls, there are some very unpleasant revelations to accept about how selfish we really are, but in surrender, He changes all of it with a power beyond our comprehension. 

Overall, what I’m looking forward to revealing to anyone who will listen, is to say “my God gave me my heart’s desire;” to write without doubt, fear, or anxiety that God has truly shown favour in my life.

As I’ve said earlier, I could certainly testify to God’s greatness this year – it’s never ending; I’m able to write a list of the amazing things He’s tasked me with, that have shown how much I’ve been changed. But the Lord knows my heart. I would only be fooling myself and others if I were to embellish persevering with 2017’s trials, professing that they were meeting of my heart’s desires.

They’re not.

And that’s just being profoundly honest.

Nonetheless, I’m appreciative because He’s allowed me to see clearly how He’s transforming me.

I repeat, “the Lord knows my heart” and I’m aware He’s the God who makes the impossible happen.

I maintain faith I will soon know what it’s like to be truly delighted, undoubting, unwavering, joyful, peaceful, and thankful, continuing this path so that I finish well.  

I believe the most important lesson we come to learn, is God’s significance and foundation within our heart’s desires.

God doesn’t ally His desires to ours as if we’re the foundation. No.

He transforms us so that we align our desires to His perfect, flawless way. When this happens, then we find our desires being met, because we are walking with His will in us.

The question at the centre of all this—which is the embodiment of the faith struggle—is, God’s way, or my way?

The tricky part of God’s way – it requires focus, faith, perseverance, and patience. Attributes often lacking in the best of us. But in this weakness, that’s where He can do His best work in us [2 Corinthians 12:9].

Please feel free to give testimony of God meeting your desires, so that it might benefit others

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When do God’s Trials for us end?

When do God’s Trials for us end?

By Stephen L France

There is a simple answer to this question – “they don’t until we die…and our last breath maybe a trial in itself!”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [Matthew 16:24 – 26]

We’re in a struggle with ourselves for as long as we make the ‘free-will choice’ to live by Spirit and not by flesh.

The quarrels among us aren’t about the people we’re fighting with; work colleagues, friends, family, or spouses. They come from our desires that battle within us, [James 4:1] which is why many of us arrive at the God-given wisdom to submit to our Lord and resist the devil, [James 4:7] knowing that our internal fight can only be won with surrender to our Creator’s sovereignty.

However, I ask ‘when do God’s trials end?’ in reference to the deep cleaning of my soul from past wounds and deceptions; the hurts and lies that live with me daily whether I’m conscious of them or completely oblivious.

I’m talking about the pains that slipped in throughout my childhood and adolescence, that now govern how I think, behave, and react – the secret gods of my life, that work to steal true joy and peace, and provide false happiness and temporary resolution.

1 Peter 4:12 – 13 and James 1: 2 – 4 speak of trials, but they also reveal that there is a conclusion that brings joy to the individual who has gone through them and glorifies God.

Recently, I was waking up at 6:04 on the dot for several consecutive days.

I didn’t know why and had gone to bed at late hours; however, on the third morning, I woke to a foreign and overwhelming thought with an accompanying emotion.

This thought was like someone smashed a gong beside my head and has put me on the path of my hardest mental trial to date. The Lord knows this is difficult for me, because He’s fully aware of my heart.

Despite my usual transparency, I’m not willing to disclose this specific thought, but suffice to say, it is here to stay until the trial inside me concludes and I learn that God can bless me.

Subsequent to revelation of the trial, that very morning I jumped out of bed, got on my knees, and pleaded with God to take the trial away from me, but I also added: "let the Father’s will be done.”

Of course, I always have the option to get out of this trial as we all do, but it’s so well-tailored to me, and avoiding it would be running away from God’s love and care in making me perfect and entire [James 1:4].

I shared the following verses and accompanying spiritual revelations with my Bible cell group, regarding trials; the Scripture and Lord’s message gave me an incredible sense of strength for the struggles to come.

My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations... [James 1:2]

One huge reason why I sincerely count it joy that I’m in my present position, is because it reveals that the Lord must love and trust me so much to present the burden he has.

He's aware it’s my greatest weakness and yet He believes I will overcome it.

I know this for certain because our Lord does not desire or have any practical purpose for hurting me to the point of losing me from His narrow road.

He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [2 Peter 3:9]

See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. [Isaiah 48:10]

In my challenging situation, I imagine my Father in Heaven declaring to His assembly hall:

Have you considered my servant Stephen? There is no one on earth like him…a man who fears God and shuns evil. [Paraphrasing Job 1:8]

He's exalting me saying:

“He can handle the issue.”

“He can stand firm in this trial.”

A Godly sister added to my revelations to my Bible cell with this response:

So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. [2 Thessalonians 1:12]

I cannot say for certain when the Godly trials of my soul are going to end.

Truthfully, it isn’t the spiritually apt question to ask and is more of human curiosity.

My focus lies on what our Lord wants and what He wishes me to learn during the trial.

So that’s what I will do; continue to give thanks for the trial and know that the Lord intends to fortify me for greater things.

Do you have Godly trials that you’re struggling with at the moment?

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How does pursuit of DESIRES fit with GOD'S plan?

By Stephen L France

On the ‘worldly social scene’ in my teenage years and early twenties, I’d always felt obstructed by moral barriers. I was only free of these principles, following consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.

But in Dec 2014—after five years abroad—I returned to London a changed man, transformed, and liberated of inhibitions.

I had a simple plan for my life going forward.

Initiate my financial boom through writing my novels, and take full relentless advantage of my newfound amorality — a conscience that no longer knew ethical boundaries as a result of many painful situations, during my time on the other side of the world.

The multitude of hurtful occasions while away from home, implanted a soul-destroying lesson; the world is cruel and no one cares for morals anymore, so I don’t need to either.

Being back in London, I joined the most popular dating apps on my phone and was about to commence my tenure on the ‘worldly’ side of life—fully intentional—knowing my desires were permissible by secular world standards.

I’d never felt such freedom before; I was ready to make money and chase a licentious life with the enticing delights London has to offer…

The ‘worldly’ plan…interrupted

Jesus said:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” [Mark 8:35]

Before I even had time to begin making money, enjoying the night life of London, and pursuing my own will, things took an unusual turn.

A week after arriving in the city of smog, I was unexpectedly at a Christian Bible cell dinner, then Emmanuel Evangelical Church, followed by joining a cell, then reading the Bible cover to cover, and my baptism.

There was no time for middle-ground or Luke-warmness in these months.

It was either ‘in’ with Christ or ‘out,’ and I made my choice.

This was not easy and was met with many moments where I attempted to blend worldly desires with Christ’s life for me.

Of course, this NEVER works.

After a gruelling set of Godly trials—examining past wounds and the self-deceptive coping mechanisms I created (scroll down to see previous blog)—2017 has seen me beginning life again, but with God as the foundation of every single facet.

I have surrendered my life to Christ’s grace, knowing what the Lord means when he says “you will save your life.”

I can’t help but feel that in giving my self to Christ, this is not only describing saving my life in eternity, but also my life on Earth.

The transformation He has nurtured has seen me living a healthier physical, mental, and spiritual lifestyle.

Of course, my conscience attacks sometimes with words equating to: Life is passing me by…

Going forward

Having travelled this narrow road with a fierce hunger for the Lord, my main cause for writing this blog is to ask the questions:

Where does life ambition and money fit in with God’s will?

Is life truly passing me by now that I'm spending much of my time in Godly pursuits?

I’ve been on a part time salary for the past two years and four months and strongly believe this has been God’s will, because it has allowed me ample time to get to know Him intimately.

It’s blessed me with the freedom to consult Scripture daily, read many secondary sources, attend a variety of Godly conferences, and take on multiple courses for profound soul-searching and healing with Christ.

If you speak to me today, my two main statements of revelation are:

1) I cannot believe I ever thought God didn’t love me – He loves people more than words can describe. Everybody needs to know this for the foundation of their self-worth, significance, and security

2) I’m so sorry and sad for the abundance of deceptions that exist in this world – it’s preposterous how many lies are living around us, in us, and through us. I wish to do my Lord’s will and expose the lies to the Light

With this now founded in my heart, I’ve turned my attention back to my life’s desires in the form of my career and regaining financial stability.

This has meant vigilance over time management and making some difficult choices.

The major question that has arisen in my mind is:

Am I putting my own life pursuits before God?

I reviewed the following three verses to answer my query:

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [Mark 10.21]

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. [Matthew 6:24]

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. [1 Timothy 6:10]

There are three fundamental points I drew from this:

1) I cannot let money or anything in life assume control over God. E.g. In making decisions between paid work and voluntary service for the Lord, my choice comes down to spiritual discernment and knowing the Word of the Lord. The fact is, He knows my heart so there is no way around my choice, save being absolutely honest about my intentions in heart-felt confession

2) It is impossible to have two Gods so there’s no point in trying to align them. I have to understand that either I serve God or other life pursuits – never both

3) Love of money or anything else other than God will lead me to evil, translating into wicked behaviour like selfishness, arrogance, ostentatiousness, greed, lust, envy, pride etc.

Conclusion

God does not say that I cannot be ambitious in my career nor does He say that acquiring financial wealth is a sin.

The statute our Lord commands of us is to make sure that money does not become a God substitute or godly idol.

God must come first in all things I do, including pursuit of career and financial stability.

I must fall in line to God’s will--the narrow and perfect way--and not try to align God’s will to my pursuits in life.

So, bringing this into my own life: if a Godly course, conference, or book recommendation emerges and there is a strong calling on me to pursue it for the Lord, am I going to say “no” due to time management and my own desires?

Absolutely not; I will prioritise whatever God has for me, because His way is always the right way in all things.

This may mean firing forward with my career or submitting to further patience, knowing that the Lord's way is always good and right.

Do you ever debate with God’s will for you?

COMMENTS BELOW PLEASE

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