Surprised by Joy

I have been reading CS Lewis’s book “Surprised by Joy” and finding it very interesting and edifying. The book is unabashed in its description of Lewis’s personal life, which is really direct and refreshing. Lewis was one of my favourite childhood authors. I’m happy to say he’s a wonderful read as an adult as well. A beautiful passage ending his book:

But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe…that the old stab, the old bitter-sweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.

But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. “We would be at Jerusalem.”

Not, of course, that I don’t often catch myself stopping to stare at roadside objects of even less importance.

What to do when grace departs

I thought I’d write a brief posting on how the Lord Jesus has lead me to cope with a recent dry spiritual spell, as this may help and encourage others going through similar things.

Recently I had a situation where I felt dried up and lacking in faith, it was really quite difficult to push through. Then the Lord brought the following scripture passages to mind, quietly, while I was reading the Bible. He reminded me that steeping myself in the Word of God and prayer is essential – not optional – for maintaining a strong spiritual life. Faith grows from this:

Romans 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

John 15:7-8
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

John 6:35
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:63
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

I hope the above has brought as much strength and comfort to you as it did me. If you ever feel weak in faith, or lacking in spiritual strength, just reflect on the above passages then turn to intense meditation and prayer upon the Word of God. You will grow by the milk of the Word. As it is written:

1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby

My testimony

Childhood faith in Jesus

When I was a young girl, around 4-6 years of age (approximately), my parents witnessed the story of Christ’s crucifixion to me.  I was very little and humble, as most kids are, and I believed the truth of what I heard immediately.

My parents later read me stories from the “Children’s Bible” and I took to them wholeheartedly.  I used to gaze at pictures of the boy prophet Samuel and imagine that I too could minister to the Lord as a child priest.  I sometimes practiced acts requiring great faith such as dividing the Red Sea with an imaginary staff, as Moses did, or keeping evil vampires at bay with a crucifix.  I remember saying aloud – as a child’s honest prayer to God – that I wanted to be an Israelite, a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The above was my response to the Old Testament.  My response to the New Testament was just as fervent.  I believed in Jesus Christ wholeheartedly, telling my parents that I wished I could sit at His feet and listen to His teachings.  One interesting experience I had was when I was ill with a fever one day.  I remember putting my hand out and praying earnestly to Christ, from my whole heart, to heal me.  I then sensed an invisible presence move towards me comfortingly, and the fever left me so that I was able to fall into a restful sleep.

During my primary school years I tried to live out Jesus’ teachings: loving God first and foremost with all your heart, then loving your neighbour as yourself.  But I struggled with pride, self-will and fear of rejection.  I was also very rebellious, saying one day proudly to my father, “I don’t need to follow God, I can do things myself” (or words to that effect).  My father just looked at me steadily, with a slight smile on his face, and said quietly, “You’ll come back to it.”

I should add that I also remember several unpleasant spiritual experiences that occurred to me in the wake of finding faith in Jesus.  I suffered from bad dreams occasionally, including dreaming that my bed was spinning around on its own axis and levitating: I now know that these experiences were demonic but believe the Lord didn’t suffer them to continue as I was too young at that stage to understand what was occurring.

My parents were very strict with me growing up, in an attempt to teach me obedience and respect for authority (both of which are necessary to find faith in God and keep His commandments).  At the time, however, I didn’t understand the purpose behind their strictness, so felt miserable, unloved and rebellious (Proverbs 23:13-14, Hebrews 5:8, Matthew 18:3).

During my childhood I was exposed to people of faith on both sides of my family – both sets of grandparents were Christians in fact – but the person who made the biggest impression on me was my grandmother on my mother’s side, Mary.  Mary was quiet and gentle (1 Peter 3:4), with a forgiving sense of humour when laughed at or provoked.  She was also humble – my mother often talked about how well Mary kept house, even scrubbing the stone step on her knees when it needed cleansing (1 Timothy 5:14).

As a child who often had tantrums and other fits of bad temper, I found it incredible when my mother told me of Mary’s patience: she once made my mother a very elaborate meal of rissoles then quietly took it away when Mum didn’t want it anymore.  She had the true fruit of the Spirit that every real Christian is to have (Colossians 3:12-17).

When Mary died my mother gave me the source of all her patience and good character – her faith in her Saviour Jesus, stemming from her King James Bible.

We never went to church regularly during my childhood but Mum always ensured that we kept up remembrance of God through saying grace before each meal:

“Lord make us truly thankful,

For what we are about to receive,

For Christ’s sake,

Amen.”

High school to University

I vacillated between being a faithful Christian, drawn to the Lord Jesus and His Father, and being agnostic.

At University, I had a deep longing to be loved, due to my misunderstanding of my parents’ strictness in trying to teach me obedience to authority.  When I met my future husband at 18, he said to me, “I don’t believe in God.”  At the time his statement caused my spirit to shift uncomfortably but the human drive within me to be loved was so strong that I overrode the spirit.  I remember consciously choosing to love an unbelieving man over God.

I fell in love with this man – Luther – and retained a vague thankfulness to some higher authority (though I was no longer a believer) for the many joys I experienced in life.

Yet I was struggling intellectually and spiritually at University.  I noticed that as students progressed in the course I was studying (Medicine), they became less friendly and cooperative with each other, more ambitious.  Their characters seemed to change, and not for the better to my eyes.  I also struggled with the demands of study, failing several subjects and having to repeat them.  Other students seemed to have less difficulty with their memories but mine troubled me.

In the end I dropped out of Medicine half-way through 5th year, then took a break.  With my boyfriend Luther’s encouragement I took up a new course, IT, which I hoped I would be better suited to.

Karate school

In the late 1990’s, while I was studying IT, my brother Ben invited me to join a karate school he was attending.  This I did, though I had some concerns about the characters of the people running the school.  My then boyfriend Luther expressed it best by saying that there was “something stinky” about the instructor, and he was cautious of him therefore.

I later found out that the instructor was molesting some of his students/seducing them, plus having affairs on his wife.  There were rumours that he had placed cameras in the girls’ change-rooms, which added to a palpable sense of evil and dread that I had whenever I entered the school.

I now believe the school was almost overrun by demons of fornication and evil.  It took almost all of my remaining strength to leave the school (and not be overcome by its seductive, carnal pull) but I was damaged in all ways: physically, mentally and spiritually.  I tried my best to fight what I sensed was evil in the school by going to a detective (to check for hidden cameras), then to the police.  However, none of it did any good.  It was a hard lesson to learn but, as Christ Himself says, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

USA trip

Soon after I left the karate school my boyfriend (who then became my husband) Luther got transferred overseas.  I was told I could go with him, but we had to be married to do so.

At first I was rebellious about marrying, then, when we were, I felt happy to be a wife with a husband.  It felt right in my heart and soul.  I married my first partner.

However, I was unable, try as I might, to find employment in the USA.  I remember almost praying for a job (and being unconsciously angry at God, though I was not a believer at this stage), but none materialised.  So I then decided to keep house and not be a burden to Luther.  I washed and cleaned, surfing the Net when I had time.

One night Luther directed me to some writings by a man called Steve Kangas.  They were on left wing politics.  I started reading and became intrigued by Steve’s character.  He was thoughtful to others, went the extra mile in his duties, gave to those in need, and died in the end for his cause.  I quite literally fell in love with those aspects of his personality that I saw in his writings, becoming grief-stricken to the point where I saw no meaning in life any more once I realized he had either been murdered or suicided.  As I said to my husband, Steve’s life and character “reminded me of God.”  It was unbearable to me therefore that such a beautiful person had been trampled upon, thrown away forever.  I then tried to keep Steve’s memory alive by building a website devoted to his writings.  I tried to make peace between both the left and right sides of politics by including both viewpoints in the site.

The buffeting/damage I’d given myself spiritually at the karate school, plus the damage I took grieving for Steve, shifted my consciousness onto a different plane from the purely materialistic. One night I had a strange experience: I was drawn up from my bed and what felt like an arrow of fire pierced my chest, flooding my body with an oddly ecstatic feeling.  I was then dropped back onto the bed.  Later (perhaps that same night, I cannot now recall), I was awoken from sleep by a strange vision.  The vision was of a golden egg which spoke to me and said, to the best of my recollection, that I would never fall sick again.  In 2006 I wrote about these experiences here on this site: this was before I became a practicing Christian so please read what I wrote with care and discernment.

For a long time I believed that because the vision looked friendly and spoke nicely to me, that it must have a good source.  It was only when I got a slight cold (after the promise that I’d never be sick again) that I began to doubt.  I then wondered, “How can you tell if something behind a nice vision is good or evil?”

Around this time, while I was looking into the spiritual side of life, my brother gave me some books on New Age religion.  I trusted my brother Ben, and knew very little about any kind of religious doctrine (except what little I could recall from my children’s Bible), so I embraced the teachings with an open mind and heart.

One night, after my husband and I had returned from the USA back to Australia, I was reading the New Age teachings when I had a strange experience.  I felt descending upon me invisible hands, molesting my body.  I had no control whatsoever over the hands, the experience was disgusting and terrifying.  Though it felt physically pleasant, I knew it was wrong spiritually so burst into tears.  I remember weeping to my husband, saying, “How can He (meaning God) love me now?”  I felt soiled and unholy.

Return to Christianity – Orthodox Church

In the wake of the spiritual experience with the invisible hands, I began looking online for explanations.  The only religion I found that described the kind of spiritual evil I was experiencing was Biblical Christianity: it called this evil demons.  I was also concerned to read in the Bible that the “ascended masters” my brother Ben was following with his New Age religion were in reality demons from the pit of hell.  Ben told me they were “flaming beings”, which fit exactly with how angels (including the fallen ones who sinned against God) are described in the Bible.

More out of terrified obedience than love (Psalm 111:10), I returned to Christianity, and then tried to find a faithful Church that stuck to a plain, literal interpretation of the Bible.  I had what my husband described as a “conversion” and made the decision to follow the Lord first and foremost.  My husband was very jealous at the time and kept asking who my “new man” was!

Before I found a church to join, I emailed my family (including my brother Ben) a warning on all world religions that were not Bible-believing Christianity.  I told them I had found faith in Christ again after making a grave spiritual error and urged them to do the same.  To my surprise and shock, all my siblings came around to my apartment and I immediately understood that they did not believe me but thought my faith was a sign of mental illness (Luke 12:51-53).  There was a division now spiritually between myself and the rest of my family.

My family actually called the CAT team around to my apartment but I panicked, grabbed my handbag, and fled to a nunnery at an Orthodox Church I had been attending.

I was a faithful member of St Nicholas’ Antiochian Orthodox Church for at least 12 months, living as a novice in one of its nunneries, but eventually left.  The reasons I left included the following:

1)      The character of the Sister I was living with did not have the true fruits of the Spirit spoken of in the Bible eg. Galatians 5:22 and Ephesians 5:9.

  1. In particular, she could not discern truth from error eg. she was convinced a Nigerian email scam letter was a genuine movement of God to give her money for a monastery.
  2. She did not welcome visitors to the monastery with patience or gentleness but grew visibly irritated with them, as she felt they were interrupting her prayer time.  She was even irritated with little children, when Jesus says children have the closest characters to people in heaven (Matthew 19:14).
  3. She did not want to actively spread the gospel or minister to people, preferring to pray for “enlightenment” (or sanctification of the heart), over and over again, in solitude.  The Bible calls such prayers “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7) and Jesus warns against doing this.

2)      They had practices and traditions that made the Word of God of non-effect, or profaned it eg. selling “holy” water for money.  The latter contradicts Christ’s commandment to His disciples in Matthew 10:8, “Freely have ye received (of the Holy Ghost), freely give.”

After leaving the Orthodox Church, I attended many other Christian, Bible-believing churches in Melbourne.  I was trying to obey the commandment in Hebrews 10:25 to not forsake assembling together with other believers.  However, problems ensued.  I quite literally found no church in Melbourne where people were willing to follow the examples of Christ and His apostles/followers (including Paul) and become “conformed to the image of His Son.”  Romans 8:29 states that God the Father picked souls He knew would accept Christ during their earthly lives, and that He planned for these souls to be refashioned in the image of His dear Son.  To do this, they would have to live lives patterned after that of Christ and His followers (such as Paul), who knew they worshipped a holy, merciful, just and fearsome God (Acts 17:22-28).  Those lives should be filled with the fruits of the Spirit in each person’s character, leading to good deeds based on faith (Galatians 5:22, James 2:22).  Their lives should be self-sacrificial, directed to loving the one true God first and foremost (as His nature is revealed through close reading of the Old and New Testaments), then your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:25-28).

Yet many churches I joined were worldly (1 John 2:15, 2 Corinthians 4:18, Colossians 3:2) or else had fallen away from the truth of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).  The latter was of grave concern to me spiritually as it indicated that the existence of “watered down” (or apostate) Christianity, mingled with other religions into one big, unholy, mass, heralded the coming of the Antichrist and the end of the world.  The Bible prophecies that the Antichrist will head up a one-world religion (with “lying signs and wonders” – such as the one I was given in the USA – behind it, as per 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10), which will deceive everyone who is not a true follower of Christ.

True followers of Christ will be persecuted, as they stick to living out the simple truths of God’s Words in the Holy Scriptures, but are exhorted by Christ to be faithful to Him “unto death” and they will inherit eternal life (Revelation 2:10).

We are exhorted to live holy, humble, self-sacrificial lives in obedience to God’s Words in both the Old and New Testaments (but especially the New).  We are told we must love God and our neighbour with everything we’ve got, and that our hearts must not be divided, or we just won’t have the kind of faith that stands up to persecution and death (Luke 6:49).

The Holy Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments have great promise of a new heaven and a new earth for believers, where order and peace are restored – even between animals that once preyed upon each other (Isaiah 11:6, Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:1-2).

But we need to be actively striving, with everything we’ve got, to live humble, separate from the world (ie. holy), blameless lives – the straight and narrow gate to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 13:24).  If we do not work with God’s Holy Spirit to transform our characters by living out His commandments (see Christ’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7), we will become foolish virgins or unprofitable servants (Matthew 25:1-3, Matthew 25:24-30).

It is not that doing things makes us right in God the Father’s eyes.  Rather that, faith that Jesus redeemed the fleshy, bodily side of us by coming to earth as the perfect Man (as He was also God), then sacrificing Himself on the cross…this faith in what Christ did means believers can have fellowship with the Father again.  If Christ had not sacrificed Himself (1 Peter 1:19), nothing any human could have done would ever have made them right in the Father’s eyes.  This is because even our best and truest acts have traces of selfishness (or sin ie. not doing God’s will but your own) in them.  So we are covered by Christ’s blood in the same way that the Israelites were covered by the Passover lamb’s blood on their door lintels in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:23).  I’m sorry if this explanation isn’t very good or detailed.  Basically, you just have to trust that Christ’s sacrifice makes you OK in the Father’s eyes, freeing you up to wholeheartedly do good deeds in His eyes.  Then, as Christ knows who you are (because you genuinely lived your whole life patterned after His, even up to your death), you can stand before Him on Judgement Day (James 2:22, Luke 21:36, Ephesians 6:13, Revelation 6:17) and be accepted before His Father.

One existing false Christ

Maitreya.  This being sits behind New Age religion and is a so-called “World Teacher” whom many non-Christian religions are waiting for.  His symbol is a six-pointed star (hexagram) and his powers come straight from Satan.  I have read there will be a “Day of Declaration” where he will telepathically message everyone on the planet to pretend that he is the one true God…however, we shouldn’t focus too much on him but on living holy, blameless lives to ensure we serve the real Jesus Christ so are kept from worshipping the Antichrist or False Christs (Revelation 3:10, Revelation 7:3, Revelation 9:4).  If we know who the real God is (holy, humble, merciful, self-sacrificing, just), we won’t fall for an imposter.

Christ Himself warned of the existence of False Christs at the end of the age, and said He has already given us the sign of His coming (His death and resurrection).  So signs and wonders, and people claiming to be Christ today, are sent to test out who God’s real followers are: Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Matthew 12: 38-40.

There are instructions in the New Testament on how Christian men and women are to live their lives.  Scriptures for women:

As believers in Christ, we are to forsake all worldly things/attachments, ready to give to whoever may need them:

  • Luke 14:33, Matthew 19:27-30 (this is a promise of life to come in the New Kingdom, in return for forsaking worldly goods in the present time)

We are to become as humble, open and trusting (and honest) as little children, then only can we enter the Kingdom of God:

If we sin after we have accepted Christ, we can pray to Jesus directly to forgive us (as He is our advocate with the Father).  We don’t need to confess to any human being:

We are to love not just with words but actions

Here is how believers overcome the Antichrist during the end times (which we are in):

  • Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Hope for you in tribulation

  • 1 John 4:4: “…greater is he that is in you (ie. Christ) than he that is in the world (ie. Satan)”

Put on the armour of God to stand strong spiritually against the powers of darkness

How I came to faith most recently (ie. 2013)

After leaving the Orthodox Church in 2004, I struggled to find a church in Melbourne that was really keeping Christ’s commandments.  In fact, I could find none that were.  Exhausted and disillusioned, still suffering from demons, I fell away from faith.  I went back to the world (ie. got a job), reunited with my husband (we had separated when I went to the nunnery), and “slumbered and slept” spiritually (Matthew 25:1-12).  I saw a psychiatrist instead of praying to the Lord, though the drugs she gave me did not help at all.

Interestingly, when I reunited with my husband he refused to go near me physically, hence we both became celibate.  We still loved each other, and still do, but I believe the hand of the Lord was there to prevent me falling into further sin/fornication.  As I’d married outside the Lord, and was still suffering from demons of fornication, I could not be with my husband physically and be OK spiritually.

As time passed, and the celibacy/abstinence continued, the torment of the demons lessened noticeably.  I have now been celibate for 9 years and the sensations are much less than when I first began.

A combination of factors occurred most recently to bring me to faith:

  • Feeling uncomfortable in a “leadership” role

I have never liked being a leader, and am in fact a happy helper and natural follower.

At NAB, I was put into a leadership role over men, which really embarrassed me.  I felt bossy and lacking in authority.

As Christ commands us to be servants who minister to each other, the above was going against what people should be like in the Kingdom of God.  Hence my feeling uncomfortable with it.

  • Being physically/carnally pressured by 2 men in the team at NAB.

This brought back memories of the spiritual darkness I fought at the karate school.

One of the guys kept putting his hands on me.  Though it was non-intimate, I felt very uncomfortable.  I only like my husband and my cat Buster touching me – people/creatures I know very well and trust.

The other guy was a Christian, though in the Catholic Church.  Though I was a non-believer at the time, I saw that he was not truly living the teachings of Christ.  He was eating lots of food, staring at my body and lips, and talking about how much “fun” it would be to see prostitutes in Thailand.

All of the above stirred up my spirit and made me realise that I agreed with all of the values held in the Bible eg. it is good to be spiritual and not earthly or carnal, it is good to be faithful to your spouse, etc.

  • My husband then went overseas for 2 weeks to the USA, so I had lots of time on my own.  This lead to contemplating where I was going in life and I realised I was craving stillness and solitude.  I saw that I was very unhappy and wanted to turn away from the world completely: I hated it.
  • I then came across a picture of Michael the Archangel on the Internet, striking with his sword.  The purity and inexorable decisiveness of what he was doing struck me – the beauty of holiness.  I was drawn to him due to what he represented and slowly found myself drawn back to the Bible.  At one stage I even heard myself say happily, “The Bible is a beautiful book, so much wisdom is in it…though I’m not a believer.”
  • It was then like there was a battle between two sides of me, the physical and the spiritual.  A line from the Bible struck me and I burst into tears: “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).  When I read this, I knew I did have faith (or, rather, that I had been given it by God) and I had to then make a choice.
  • I remember consciously choosing the seed of faith in my heart over the logical mind (which was battling my heart).  I said to the Lord, “This will be difficult because my husband is not a believer, but I’ll try.  I promise to try.”

So it was that I came back again to faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour.  I pray that this is where I will remain eternally, and not just me but others I have met (such as you) who I care about.