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My Testimony...A Brief Story of My Life In Christ

How It All Began…

I moved from the north of England to the south in April 1995 to start on an exciting new career path. During that time, I was interested in self-help and personal development, having just read the classic book The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy. A friend of mine had introduced me to a charismatic church in the north, not far from where I lived. I had an open-mind about Christianity, but I was not altogether serious about it; I was much more interested in using affirmations to re-program my subconscious mind.

It was quite a lonely time for me at first when I made that move in 1995. But just before I left the north, the pastor of that church gave me the details of a church of the same denomination in the area that I was to live. I attended that place; it was rather large, having once been an old nightclub. Although I had made a first-time commitment to Jesus, I was still only semi-serious about my faith; I was still only partially convinced that Christianity had the power to really change my life.

My Journey into the New Age

My interest in self-help methods naturally progressed towards New Age practices. I would often go to a rather large and popular New Age shop in Covent Garden. It was there that I became rather addicted to fortune-telling; I just wanted to know that I had a bright future and that everything was going to be alright. I started trying to use Tarot Cards for myself and that led to a rather frightening encounter, upon which I will elaborate no further. Suffice to say, my journey with New Age ended right there and then! It was at that point that I became a lot more serious about Christianity.

Getting Serious About Jesus at Kensington Temple

I would spend quite a lot of time on my own exploring London. On one occasion in 1997, I happened to hear some preaching in Trafalgar Square, so I hung around there for a little while out of curiosity. I was approached by a young African man who introduced himself and told me that he was with the church that was preaching. He introduced me to attend this church, which was the rather famous Pentecostal church, Kensington Temple. I met my new friend at what was called the Tabernacle: a warehouse in North Acton which was rented by Kensington Temple and was converted into a 1300-plus seating auditorium. The music, atmosphere and preaching was amazing. So I quickly switched churches. What caught my attention more than anything about this place were the signs and wonders. Colin Dye, the senior pastor, would walk around the auditorium after the service and minister under the power of the Holy Spirit, many people would be healed. I absolutely loved Colin’s dynamic and often humorous style of preaching – a real one-off. He is an amazing communicator.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

One evening at the end of the service, I accepted an altar call and went to the front to be prayed for. I had my eyes closed at the time and a man came to pray for me. I’ll never forget what this man said to me: he said that I was going to be set free from my burdens, sadness and pain. He said that this was something that God would do for me. They were not the exact words but the gist of it.

The friendship with my new friend grew and we would attend prayer groups together. My friend possessed the gift of praying in tongues, which fascinated me. I had bought my own flat in Middlesex around this time and my friend would occasionally come to visit and we would pray together. Well, he would pray earnestly in tongues and I would wonder around muttering something vaguely spiritually sounding. Anyway, one evening in October 1998, my friend prayed over me and I remember hitting the floor. My muscles contracted and I suddenly felt as if I was being crushed in a vice! I writhed around on the floor muttering some unintelligible words. I had been baptised in the Holy Spirit! I remembered that this was about a week after I had had that prophetic message spoken over my life in church: that the Lord was going to set me free.

Ever since that moment, my life was changed. I was able to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit. My prayers were often more like conversations with God, rather than a one-way communication with Him. I started to pray in tongues, often for three hours at a time. I would fast at weekends, praying in tongues every hour or so. Nothing began to change in my life dramatically as a result of this type of prayer – but I decided to persevere and see what would eventually happen.

For about two months after this incident, I felt absolutely wonderful. I had suffered from depression and anxiety all of my life. But suddenly, I was set free and I experienced such a profound sense of peace and joy. The wonderful thing was: I did not have to do anything for it; and the circumstances of my life had not changed – only I had changed, on the inside. It did not take very long for the dark clouds of my depression to come rolling back. Soon, I was reunited with the same anxious thoughts that had blighted my life before. However, I noticed that it was not quite as strong as it was before.

Shortly after my life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit, my African friend disappeared from my life. His work in my life had been accomplished and the brief time in which our paths cross, had now passed.

My Interest in the Word of Faith Movement

I became very interested in reading Christian books. There was one popular author who caught my attention in particular: Kenneth E. Hagin. Hagin had a powerful testimony of how he was miraculously raised from an incurable heart disease at the age of seventeen. Hagin’s books veered away from the usual dos and don’ts and focused more on the practical application of faith in order to manifest the power of God in your life.

I became fascinated with Hagin’s teaching. It would follow a predicable pattern: a Biblical text, followed by a seemingly accurate and well-written explanation, and then a powerful, practical testimony of how that Word was applied in the life of Hagin or someone who knew.

I was not interested in routines and duties. I just wanted the power of God in my life. Christianity often seemed to be portrayed as people being “nice” and doing good things for people. Personally, I hated all of that. Some Christians would make a big fuss about doing community projects and how it impacted lives. But I just felt that these efforts were perfunctory and ineffective. People were not interested in acts of charity and people who were soft and soppy – people were interested in having a life that was transformed by faith in Christ.

I became enamoured at this time with name-it-and-claim-it style faith. This message of practical, powerful faith went hand-in-hand with the prosperity message. Why, of course God wanted His children to prosper in life – I thought to myself. This was a belief that was also shared by many other weak, frustrated, confused and struggling Christians who shared the same ideas about Christianity that I did. I suppose I was eager to influence other people, to make myself known to the world. I had been rather quiet and un-influential in the past and I was eager for people to sit-up and notice me for once. I became rather competitive and wanted to take on the world and prove that there was more to Christianity than just routines, duties, and charity-work and dull Sunday services. But my desire to prove the case for Christ was really a veiled disguise for my own suppressed desire to prove myself, that I was "a somebody" and that people should acknowledge me. I hated the notion that Christians were meant to take some sort of forfeit in life that they were not meant to enjoy prosperity and success – as if all of that was reserved for a select few unbelievers. I wanted to compete with the world on there own terms – and win. I saw Hagin’s style of faith teaching as being the fast-track to accomplishing that goal.

The Orange Folder

Despite reading a great deal on the subject of faith – I did not seem to be able to really get going with it. I would begin repeating Bible verses enthusiastically, but then I found that my enthusiasm would begin to wane. Then, weeks or months later, I would tell myself that I had to “do something” and would re-new my efforts with Biblical confession. The same cycle would then repeat itself.

I began to write-out my confessions on a single page of typed A4 sized paper. These confessions would be packed with Bible verses that I cut-and-pasted from Bible software. I really prided myself on these confessions because they sounded really powerful and eloquent. I would confess that God would give me favour in the sight of other people, that I would make a lot of money, I would get promoted two grades at work and that I would have a wonderful Christian wife who believed in faith like I did.

I eventually printed-out about fifty or so of these confessions, which I kept in an orange folder. But after an enthusiastic start – I could not bring myself to make those confessions anymore. It was at that point that I had become burnt-out as far as faith was concerned. But I blamed myself, of course, because I felt I was too lazy to confess the Word. I remember reading in one of Hagin’s books that he knew of people who had all of his books, but they did not experience any breakthrough in their lives because they failed to act upon his teaching and to confess the Word. I did not begin to question my motives at this point. I just believed that God was right there with me, earnestly striving to fulfil my every wish. After all, God did want me to prosper so that I could influence the word for Christ – didn’t He?

A Desperate Move

I began to get really depressed at this point – my faith just wasn’t working. Could it be that I was not giving enough money to the church? Should I serve more in the church? Perhaps it was my sin that prevented God from blessing me? I ended-up paying a double-tithe because I was desperate to see the blessing of God flowing in my life.

It was in 2002 just as property prices began to sour in the U.K. Desperate to see a change in my life, I seized upon this opportunity to change my life. Although I did not have a clear leading from God, I was convinced that He wanted me to just “do something”. So, I sold my flat at a substantial profit and awaited God’s instructions. I was delighted to finally move to the same town as my workplace. I used to hate waiting for the bus, which was once-an-hour and quite often late.

Did He want me to go back up north? Did He want me to leave the country? Did He want me to go into full-time ministry? I don’t know, but I got myself ready for God to lead me in the path of my destiny. Nothing happened!

The Doctrine of John Avanzini

It was then that I decided to read a book that I had bought from the first church I attended when I moved to London. It was Un-answered Prayer – Answered, by John Avanzini. Avanzini conveyed the argument that in order to see answers to prayer and the blessings of God in your life – you had to give an offering to the church. Avanzini explained that the tithe was something that you owed God, and that the promise of God to pour out such a blessing as per Malachi 3:10, would only come into effect if you gave an offering to the church in addition to the tithe.

I waited for God’s next move. I just assumed that with all this liquid cash that was suddenly made available to me, God would be keen to move in my life with directions on how to invest this money. But no direction came. I assumed that I had to make a substantial offering to the church, as Avanzini had prescribed, in order to cause God to act on my behalf. So I gave quite a large offering to Kensington Temple. Despite this offering, I then got hit with two share scams. I became rather demoralised at this point. Nevertheless, I did my best to remain optimistic and waited upon the Lord.

A Touch of Legalism

I stopped attending Kensington Temple as it was too far for me to travel. I decided to check-out a small, charismatic fellowship that was less than a mile down the road from my new flat. It was not quite up to Kensington Temple standards, but the worship was quite good, the people friendly and the preaching seemed enthusiastic and motivating. So I made this my new church.

I think I was convinced that I was meant to go into full-time ministry at that time. So I made efforts to get as close to the pastor as I could. I joined the house group that was run by the pastor, which I attended every week. I then became an usher and began attending the weekly prayer meetings. I even tried to go to the early morning prayer meetings, which started at 7am, but I was rarely able to get out of bed in time.

Despite the enthusiastic start with this church, I began to question my motives and the preaching. There was a strong emphasis on servant hood, which I agreed with at first, but began to question. I really could not see the point of some of the perfunctory routines and duties. The community projects just seemed to be a waste of time. I just felt as if the pastor was putting on a religious show – and I was part of the act!

I came to see that the preaching was rather legalistic. At first, it seemed rather inspiring; being told to make greater efforts to minimise sin in your life and to serve God with all your heart – seemed to make a lot of sense to me. But I came to see that I could not fulfil the demands that were placed upon me. There was nothing in this teaching that told me who I was in Christ, how to practically apply faith and how redemption could change my life. I was still heavily into reading Kenneth E. Hagin at this time and I could see that there was a disparity between Hagin’s message of faith and this pastor’s preaching.

I became increasingly frustrated with this church and decided that it would be a better use of my time to stay at home and study. It was a difficult time for me because I was rather confused and frustrated; coupled with this was the fact that I had committed myself to serve in the church and to attend various weekly activities. I eventually stopped going to that church altogether and entered a church-less state. But I was certain that I was doing the best thing.

The Message of Grace

It was at this moment that the Lord began to open a door of revelation to me. The Lord began to pour His wisdom into me on the subject of His grace. I was not acquainted with grace teaching at that time and I had not even heard of Joseph Prince. For me, what kept on arising time and again was the fact that I truly could do nothing apart from God. The notion that it was all up to me to “just do something” became utterly refuted. The verse of scripture that made the greatest impact on me was 2 Peter 1:2-4.

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:2-4 nkj

It did not make sense to me that the church was preaching a message that put the onus on the believer to “just do something”. Surely, the truth was clear in the Bible that the only way we can truly serve God is to become a partaker of the divine nature. I became frustrated at the lack of teaching on this subject: there seemed to be no teaching that actually told me how to access this new nature which the Bible says that Jesus had so freely wrought for us by His death and resurrection. I struggled quite badly with sin; no matter how hard I tried, I just could not shake myself free from bad habits. I came to see Hagin’s faith teaching as being rather legalistic in that he assumed that it was a simple matter for a believer to stop sinning. Yet, I could see that Hagin did go into this subject more than most Bible teachers. Hagin taught that we have been born-again; we have been made new creatures with a new spirit that is not inclined towards sin. Despite this, Hagin seemed rather vehement in his attitude towards those who sinned – as if we could just simply stop sinning with a simple effort of the will. I began to study the scriptures for myself with the aid of Bible software. I could see that God’s love was all that I needed. But the great mystery was how to get God’s love. Some people seemed to believe that you get God’s love by serving Him in the church and loving other people. But I could not seem to do this because I felt I needed the love of God first – it was a catch-22 situation.

It at this time that I began to study and write a lot. I would get excited at studying the Word and finding out what Christ had already done for me. I would write for hours and hours – I could not stop myself.

Hillsong London…Where I am Today

A few of my friends from my previous church told me about Hillsong London. I was familiar with the name Hillsong. I knew that Hillsong was the name of a large, contemporary church in Sydney, Australia that was well-known for its contemporary worship music, which was fast becoming very popular all over the world. But I did not know that they had a church in London.

So in 2006 we went to Hillsong London for the first time. This church was based in the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road in London, which is where it is still based today. What struck me at once about this place was the servant hood: there was a veritable army of hosts, greeting you as you made your way into the theatre. I think my friends and I agreed afterwards that the preaching was “okay” and the music was good, but too loud.

Another thing that struck me about this church was the atmosphere of the place. We made our way to the coffee lounge and were welcomed by people who engaged us in conversation and asked where we were from, etc. There seemed to be many young people milling about, chatting enthusiastically. I noticed that many of the people were from other countries, mainly Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I was also struck at how good-looking many of the people were, which was a welcome change from the churches I had attended previously.

I began to attend this church every week. My friends decided not to join me and continued to attend their local church. This church was like a dream come true to me. I eventually got used to the loud music and learned that it was best to not sit so close to the front! This church was slick, professional and highly organised. The people were serving out of a genuine heart of love, I felt, rather than a sense of having to do something for God. There was a real sense of community in this place – you were made to feel welcome. The band and the A.V. presentations were truly impressive and professional.

The church had lots of activities going on and they welcomed people to find out more about joining a team. So I decided to join the New Christians team. This was the team responsible for looking out for people who raised their hands upon the altar call being given at the end of each service. I would spot who put up their hand and then introduced myself to them and take their details. Being part of this team entailed meeting with the rest of the team for a brief, just before the service was about to start. This was where I got to meet other people and really feel part of the church.

The Dream Is Shattered

I noticed that I was beginning to struggle in my new found role. These were the kind of Christians that I wanted to meet: people who were enthusiastic, exciting, charismatic, positive and care-free. However, I struggled to get along with them. I didn’t really feel part of the team. They were positive and I would often feel rather sad and frustrated. I think this showed because I became something like a ghost in those meetings and failed to gel with those people and to make friends. I think the weight of past frustrations and my ongoing struggle with depression and anxiety just seemed to subtly ward these people off. I believe, in retrospect, that my motives also had something to do with it: I wanted to impact the church with my Biblical wisdom; I wanted to make my name known and to vie for position in the church. I was pouring my unmet needs into my role in this church – something that God was going to put a stop to. After about six months of serving on team – I finally quit and become another solitary member of the church.

Joseph Prince Comes to Hillsong London

Joseph Prince came to Hillsong London in October 2006 for a week-long teaching series. We have always been privileged as a church to have great speakers visit from all over the world, including Joyce Meyer, and of course, Brian Houston and Christine Caine (it is Hillsong after all). But it was at the time that Joseph Prince came to our church that the teaching in our church became radically transformed. Many people said that Pastor Prince managed to condense years of teaching into that week.

The Teaching I Listen to Now

I began to listen to Pastor Prince’s teaching on my MP3 player. I began to veer away from legalistic preaching and kept with grace teaching. Later on, a friend introduced me to Andrew Wommack, another wonderful grace preacher. Around this time I also subscribed to Hillsong London’s podcasts and Joyce Meyer’s podcasts. Nowadays, I tend to stick with mainly Joseph Prince and Andrew Wommack.

I personally feel that Joyce Meyer’s teaching is the best when it comes to what could be called attitudinal-adjustment. But I find that Joyce will often come out with grace teaching that blows me away and gives me such peace. But then Joyce will come out with something rather legalistic that puts the onus on the believer; what I call the “just do it” message – which I hate.

I began to find correlations between Joseph Prince’s teaching and what the Lord had been showing me during those times I spent at that charismatic, but legalistic, church. Pastor Prince’s emphasis seemed to be on our knowing that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, and finding power and rest in that. My teaching tended to be around receiving God’s love and life as a free gift and being empowered and motivated from there.

My Writings and the Divine Nature Ministries

For me, it was all about the divine nature. I vowed that if ever I began my own ministry it would be called The Divine Nature ministries. I put all of my writing into a big Word document, with the intention of writing a book someday. I now have enough material to write a whole series of books. I am frustrated because I don’t really know what step to take next with my writing. What seems to add to the frustration and the desire to hold-off on approaching a publisher is that I seem to be encountering misnomers all the time; it seems to be an on-going thing. Christianity strikes me as being like a person who enters a maze: some people seem to make there way through quite quickly, whilst others reach dead-ends and go the long way around. I think I fall into the latter category. But I see it in the light of mapping-out territory – the traps and the pitfalls that many are sure to fall into. I look back on some of the things I once believed and shake my head in despair. But I now see this as being an essential part of the journey. When I look back on some of the things I have written, I can learn from those mistakes and re-write them as, “This is what I used to believe, this is why I believed it – and this is what is really true.”

I suppose I am waiting for “something” to happen now. It is difficult to try to work out what to do sometimes and it is tempting to just force something to happen sometimes. It is tempting to think that I am taking things to extremes by waiting on God and that I must make an effort to “do something”. But I have come to learn that, despite what some people preach in church, I can do nothing with God. I have noticed that there is one big thing missing from my writing: powerful testimonies.

I believed that I would write Christian books and gain my sense of identity, significance and prosperity through that. But in this era of the Internet, I can have a ministry without having a church and without getting books published. I can use social networking sites, blogging and podcasts. So here is my first attempt at getting started with my blog. Perhaps God has not destined me to be a King David. Perhaps I am more like a Jonathon – who forfeits his right to prominence so that another can take his rightful place?

I have calmed down a great deal from the time that I was into the Word of Faith teaching. I still find myself reacting out of Word of Faith programming, which often contradicts grace teaching. I am coming to see that the best thing I can do now is to simply accept myself, other people and the world – just as they are. This is something that the Word of Faith distracts people from: faith teaching tells us that God hates “average” and that we must confess the Word to make a breakthrough and achieve miracles, prosperity and the like. There is a world to win for Christ, and to do that, we must perform, achieve and do miracles in order to influence them.

What grace teaching has taught me is that I can have an impact just as I am, doing what I do. Hillsong London has taught me a great deal about this. My whole vision of what the church should be like became completely blurred. I sought after people, power and possessions to give myself a sense of security, significance and self-worth. I felt justified in these pursuits because there was a world to win for Christ and they wouldn’t listen to a bunch of Bible-bashing legalists whose idea of doing something radical was to tidy old-people’s gardens.

Many of the people in Hillsong London are charismatic, influential and appealing – without having to achieve incredible things, without having a position on the board of directors, without being rich, without having lots of possessions and without having amazing talents and abilities. No, these people just live out of who they are in Christ. They just accept themselves as they are without wanting to change things. As these people accept their righteousness in Christ, God gives them the favour that they need – without having to exercise great faith in order to manifest miracles. It is all about having the favour of God and receiving the divine nature…

The Divine Nature | TNB