This year has been amazing. January 18th ended a spiritual drought that I was in since 2011. He came flooding into my life after I gave my life back to Him and was prayed for by Rolland Baker. That one night changed the direction of my life forever. No it didn’t change my physical direction – I still had to go to work and do the same job. I still had my debts, and still have my struggles I have to work through like everybody else. Life has gone on and I’ve had major ups and major downs. But a year that could have been like the previous 6 years of no life within, maybe worse, ended up being the best year of my whole entire life. The direction of my heart changed. Instead of being blasé about life and just living day to day, I’ve sought God in my life again. On January 18th, in essence God told me that He forgave me and still has a plan for my life, when I thought there was no hope for a future in His presence EVER. I had previously settled in my heart that I was lost and heading to hell. And of that I was scared. I hated plane rides but I went on them anyway. I was scared I’d die and go to hell. I became a health freak coz I didn’t want to bring on my death sooner than I had to, though I knew inevitably that day would come. I remember watching on YouTube and seeing how a Chinese man years ago apparently lived to 256 … yet his day still came. I realised that I could live the most devout and disciplined life as he did and not eat all the junk and exercise everyday and live to 1000 years – and STILL that day would come when I would die and face my Creator – and of that I was afraid with all my heart. This is because everyday I knew I was in sin but did not believe God would forgive me- that I had somehow gone too far and I had certainly committed the unpardonable sin.

On January 18 this year – I found out I was wrong about God. He has so much more grace than we, mere humans give Him credit for. There is NO sin He not only CAN forgive – but that He wants to and WILL forgive. If only we will come to the end of ourselves and bow humbly before Him and ask His forgiveness.

Jesus truly loves us more than we will ever know. As the saying goes, if He did it for me – He certainly will do it for you too!!!

I am now reminded of the story in Luke 18:9-14, where the Pharisee and the tax collector are praying to God. The Pharisee prayed such an obnoxious prayer, thanking God He is not like the Tax collector and lists his reasons why he is better than him – that he fasts and tithes. He thought his works were a sign of his righteousness. Meanwhile, the Tax collector was too ashamed to even look up to heaven, begging God for mercy, admitting he was a sinner. Jesus said the tax collector went out justified before God, NOT the Pharisee. January 18th – I was like the Tax collector. I needed God and was desperate for Him. I knew I was a sinner and still felt ashamed before Him – and I cried out Him, responses to an invitation of prayer and with all His love and grace He actually came!!! I’m not even talking about the peace one feels as he prays, which is a beautiful gift from God in itself and I thank God for that everyday – but this night He literally came physically – I physically felt the Lord touch me….and I’m forever grateful. No words can describe the gratefulness I feel for that moment of time. I’m still in awe at the end of this year how God touched me at the start of this year. I will never forget, and by His grace and mercy I will never go back to the way I once was.

I think through the year since though, if my heart may have become like the Pharisee at times. I had such an amazing encounter with God and know His forgiveness in my life …. then life goes on and I stop praying and seeking Him like before. My attitude in these times change. I see other “sinners” and think I’m glad I’m not like that anymore …. then wake up to myself and say “whoah wait a minute- did I really think/say that??” You bet ya! Then through the turmoil of my heart I realise how vulnerable I am to fall into sin again – that without God and His grace in my life, I am indeed the worse sinner on earth. So I check my heart and humble myself before Him again – and in that place of brokenness He is found. Just the other night He came afresh into my very soul as if for the first time, when I felt dry and weak and withered within – He is a fresh spring rain to the weary and thirsty … and humble heart. Where did the wise men find Jesus? Wasn’t He in a manger, not a king’s palace? So He is also found in the humble manger of our hearts – never in the proud.

For me this year has been about not only a change of heart, but a retraining on the right way to live and think. It’s about training in righteousness and learning to walk the way He wants me to walk. And a major part of that has been through discovering my identity in Him. More than all the encounters with God I had this year, which I could tell you all about and make you go “wow!” – it’s actually the TRUTH that sets us free, and continues to set us free.

I read a book called “Awake to Righteousness” from a Pastor in Darwin named Mark Greenwood, who I also got the privilege to meet. In its pages I discovered that having a new nature means I’m a completely new person. The old has gone, dead and buried, I’m now a new man completely. Funnily enough, the Bible also says this! Just look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 for example …

This means I don’t HAVE to live that old way I was living anymore. Sin no longer has any control over me. I remember after reading this, I again got tempted in a situation, and remembered that because of my new nature in Christ, I don’t want to do this anymore. So I spoke it out loudly and said “this is not me thinking this way! I’m a new man!” And literally the oppression from that temptation lifted off me. I lay there in awe of what just happened. The power of that truth hit me – this was an absolute reality. The new man inside doesn’t want to sin – but the enemy will come along with temptations and externally inject thoughts into our minds, with the intention of deceiving us into thinking that those are OUR thoughts – but they’re not! It’s a complete deception of the enemy. Adam and Eve were perfect and sinless on the inside – but were tempted externally and gave in. Jesus was the same, and was tempted in all points – externally from the enemy. Unlike Adam, He recognised this and was able to resist. If He didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today!

The challenge was now to keep walking in the power of that truth. At the start I think I need constant reminder of this truth until I walk in line with it. We are now like Adam and Jesus – righteous and made new in our spirits, and every devil in hell hates that fact and will throw arrow after arrow of temptations our way to cause us to sin again – arrows come from the outside, and that’s why Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness- to quench those fiery darts of the wicked one! We need to wake up to this truth and walk as Jesus walked, resisting the external arrows of temptation that want to destroy our walk with God.

Lastly, of course the highlight of this year was no doubt my marriage to my beautiful Bride on October 6th to the lovely Juvy Langcamon.

As Proverbs 18:22 says, he who finds a wife finds a GOOD thing, and obtains favour from the Lord. I’ve never been so blessed in all my life, I don’t deserve such a good woman, but I feel the favour of the Lord, He gave her to me as a precious gift, wrapped in pure love and beauty, and everyday I’m discovering the unconditional love this woman has for me. There is no love than that of a Filipina, but even more so than from a woman who fears the Lord – and Juvy is a woman who fears the Lord and is truly described in proverbs 31 – fancy my wife being in the Bible! Amazing …

I want to honour a few people who have walked with me in my journey this year. Firstly my parents for praying for me for the last 6 years to come back to Jesus. Without your faithful prayers I wonder where I would be? God hears prayer, and every time I heard Dad say to me he and Mum were praying for me, I thought to myself it was pointless, God didn’t want to forgive me, just stop praying, you’re wasting your breath. I appreciated the sentiment, but I had given up – the truth is prayer WORKED!

Next my pastors Daniel and Katy Spackman. You’ve walked with me through my ups and downs this year and have stood by me and believed in me. As long as I’m in Alice Springs, I’m going to remain faithful by your side as much as possible, the Lord willing. And if He moves us on and our paths separate, you will always remain in my prayers and heart and will forever be a part of the testimony of my new life in Him. You’re an amazing couple filled with the love of God. That’s why I stay!

Next I want to honour Rolland Baker, whether he will ever see this or not. One night changed my life and set me on the right path again – thankyou for your ministry with all my heart. You’ll never know what one night can do in someone’s life, so please please keep doing what you’re doing, the kingdom needs men and women who lay down their lives for the gospel like you!

I also want to honour my friend Brett Dewey who is in London! We have gotten to form a close friendship this year from afar, and there have been God moments that have lifted me up in my heart when I was down. I can be myself around you and tell you anything, and I feel comfortable with you. You’ve really become a dear friend to me, and I’m so inspired and encouraged by your walk of faith that you’re walking, even through the struggles that you face on a practical level everyday – being in a big city like London anyway! I can only imagine. Can’t wait till we finally catch up in person my friend. Love ya bro…

And lastly I want to honour Mark Greenwood. The book you wrote, Awake to Righteousness (for those of you who don’t know it, get it) opened my eyes to the reality of our new nature in Him, making me see it’s truly possible to walk free of the sins that once enslaved us.

2017 was amazing…I can’t wait for what God has in store this next year.

To all my friends and family out there – have a happy New Years celebration and may 2018 be the year you draw closer to Jesus – draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you – that’s a promise, no matter what you’re going through. God’s richest blessing on you all…

Rob Battye