The Christian Experience: To Give and Receive Encouragement

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     Yesterday’s blog post dealt with a reality of our Christian experience that can make us feel like we are walking alone. While our journey towards righteousness will inevitably offend someone, and we often find ourselves offended when another Believer doesn’t agree with us, the antidote to such discouraging seasons is to find encouragement; in the Word and in the Father’s love for us.
     But I also want to focus this message on the importance of giving encouragement and receiving it. This is a message that is heavy on my heart today because my spirit is sensing that we are in a season of growing spiritual attack against the Body of Christ.  Just this morning, my phone exploded with text messages asking for prayer for several strong Believers. And even my own husband was under attack.  All the attacks centered around worry and anxiety over the care and protection of family and loved ones. Christians who are on the front lines of spiritual battle suddenly find themselves with concerns and fears and, yes, even doubts, that they are up to their assignments.

     When this happens, it is up to the rest of us to rise up and lift them up. Encouragement is going to be an important weapon in this season of our Christian walk and in the seasons to come. The Enemy sees our hearts and spirits growing stronger in the knowledge and mysteries of the Lord, and he knows his time is short. So we can expect his attacks to grow stronger, too. But we don’t need to suffer them!
     In John 16:33, Jesus says, And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in Me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in Me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous,  for I have conquered the world! That should be our greatest encouragement! But there are times we need to come alongside our Brothers and Sisters in Christ and confirm that Word from our Lord. And there are times we need it to be confirmed to us. 
     The Bible speaks to us of the many forms of encouragement: building one another up; stirring one another up to love and good works; meeting together; giving grace to each other; bearing one another’s burdens; standing with others and Christ on behalf of another; gently encouraging those who feel themselves inadequate; encouraging others by teaching the Word and admonishing one another in all wisdom; singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; strengthening each other to endure; helping each other to renew our minds in Christ; teaching and exhorting and equipping each other to do the works of ministry; urging each other to stand on our faith; promoting God’s Truth that He will carry our burdens and anxieties because He cares for us; and reminding each other that the favor of God is upon all those He calls His children.
     Encouragement is such an explicit part of our walk with the Lord. In this carnal world, if we lack encouragement we will feel unloved, unimportant, worthless, and abandoned. And if we don’t receive encouragement from soaking in the Word, our spirits will be dry, unproductive, and powerless.  Either way, we are vulnerable to the attacks of the Enemy. Encouragement is vital! And God knows we need to not only give it, but receive it, as well.  
     But if you are like me, there are times I just don’t feel up to the task. I don’t have the right words or my spirit is struggling itself.  That’s when I have to set aside my self-interests and ask the Holy Spirit to counsel me exactly how the person needs to be blessed with encouragement. Most of the time I have a sincere and convicted heart of the promises the Lord has given us, but just can’t seem to convey them in my own words.  That’s when I have to be still and let the Holy Spirit take over. My words don’t need to be long or lofty; I just listen to the prompting of the Spirit and He will share the riches of God’s grace with me.
     But what about the times that we need encouragement? Is it hard for you to receive it? That’s exactly what the Enemy wants — to convince you that either you have to handle your battle by yourself; or that you are unworthy of asking for help. That is a lie! First of all, our Lord and Savior promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. But the Enemy will try to convince us that He, too, will let us down, like so many others in our lives. That isolation is one of the most debilitating tactics of the devil. When he can keep you secluded from Jesus and fellow Believers — especially if it is your spouse or family — then he is free to whisper his lies as you struggle to keep from drowning in self-condemnation. Stay focused on Jesus and reach out for encouragement!  There is not one of us who has not suffered an attack from the Father of Lies. Even Peter, who was perhaps the most outspoken when it came to declaring Jesus’s promises, took his eyes off His Savior as he walked on water, and the result was he began to sink! 
     I want to point us back to John 16:33.  Jesus tells us it is inevitable that we will undergo troubles and sorrows in this world. But it is important that we retain our Identity. We are the Sons and Daughters of Him that conquered this world! In view of our eternal life with Jesus, these short-lived troubles are platforms to come together for our mutual enrichment. Whether we are the one giving encouragement, or the one receiving it, it allows for God’s marvelous grace to spread among more and more people, resulting in an even greater increase of praisetowards God, and bringing Him even more glory! So, whether we are the Encourager or the Encouraged, let us focus our attention not on what is seen or the lies whispered in our ear, but focus on what is unseen; in the promises of our Lord to be with us through this temporary life. Remember, whatever is seen before your carnal eyes is also temporary. The promises of Jesus are eternal. He has taken away the power this world has to defeat us, and has conquered it for us. Let us be encouraged in the Peace He offers us, and encourage others to rest in His victory! 

1 Thessalonians 5:11      Because [Jesus gave His life for us], encourage the hearts of your fellow believers and support one another, just as you have already been doing.
     

The Christian Experience: Offending and Being Offended

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     I want to be clear: I am not going to talk about offending the world.  As Christians, the lives we live before the unbelieving world should offend them. Instead, the concept for this post comes from a passage in a Bill Johnson book, titled When Heaven Invades Earth.  In regards to the title of this post, Johnson, the senior pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California is no stranger to offending Christians. His walk with the Lord can safely be called “outside the norm” of most Christians. He believes that the mysteries of God reveal the power of the Christian life, and it is the hunger of our hearts to seek them out and understand them. This quote from Johnson sums up my own Christian journey: “The walk of faith is to live according to the revelation we have received, in the midst of the mysteries we can’t explain”.
     But what I have discovered is that the mysteries I see [and can’t explain] tend to offend some of my fellow Christians … And oftentimes, even the revelations I do understand cause offense. Let me be clear … I am not talking about offending in the sense of being a stumbling block that causes another to sin. I am talking about being offensive in terms of declaring an unpopular Biblical viewpoint — like our authority to heal and cast out demons; or the gospel of the Kingdom being Jesus’s priority. But where does that offense come from? It has been my experience that when a Believer hears a testimony that is outside their own experience, or what they’ve been taught, their response is to be offended personally — or even to be offended on behalf of God! Or, as I have heard it expressed … “if it makes me uncomfortable, it can’t be from God”. The responses vary — feelings of displeasure, annoyance, even anger. Sadly, it is often our family that is the most easily offended. But Jesus can identify with that. His own family disregarded His revelations from the Father. 
     Furthermore, in this age of technology and social media, when you throw in the email or text factors, our words can take on whole new meanings not intended by the sender. Mix that with different levels of maturity and knowledge in our faith, and you have a recipe for misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and a big ol’ dose of OFFENSE.
     I know for sure that I have offended. But I can honestly say that it has never been my goal to intentionally offend. The passion I have to understand how big my God is — and to share what has been revealed to me — is not always received with the excitement that I present it. But what frustrates me — and yes, offends me, is that another Christian is unwilling to let me present my findings, let alone even consider that they might have some merit.  And I have struggled with just being silent; not causing any controversy or friction. But is that what glorifies God? If I limit my Christian conversation to what is “acceptable” to an audience, am I being obedient to His call on my life?
     I am not saying that everyone has to agree with everyone else.  There are those who understand mysteries of God that I cannot even fathom. But I try really hard not to subject their message to my own understanding, but listen to them, follow up with their Scriptural references and ask God to reveal His truth. I do not understand everything in the Bible, but I don’t want my lack of knowledge to limit the truth of what God is revealing to another.  And I’m okay with not understanding it all yet.  I take to heart 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face”. That being said, I also don’t want to restrict the possibility that I might see more than what I understand at this moment.
     And I will admit that I don’t like to think that my belief system might offend another Christian. Offending another Believer is looked down upon by the Church — in all instances. But is it ever acceptable in God’s eyes? I only have to look at my Savior to see that offending others who share your faith is going to be part of your walk with God.  Even at the young age of 12, Jesus did not seem to be concerned that he might have offended Mary and Joseph when He stayed behind at Passover to discuss the Scriptures with the religious leaders in the temple in Jerusalem.  When Mary scolded Him, He didn’t apologize, He didn’t make any excuses, He only said, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  It’s very clear that His priorities were different than everyone else’s.
     Jesus also did not shy away from offending those who were religious; whether leaders like the Pharisees or those who turned away from His teachings in Galilee. And let it be clearly understood … they were offended merely because God’s instructions to Jesus did not coincide with their personal beliefs! Was the offense they took at His words justified? Looking back, as Believers, the answer is unmistakably No! And did He shy away from sharing what had been revealed to Him by the Father? No!  Again, His priorities were simply different than everyone else’s.

     I think it is important that we all understand that we are maturing in our faith at our own pace; our levels of understanding are never going to be the same at any given time. But we should not stop growing! Also, I wish we could embrace the concept that because God is SO big, He might reveal one piece of the puzzle [that is Him] to me, while revealing a completely different piece to you, and they won’t look like they fit together at all. But if we can come together out of a desire to know His heart and take these revelations to Scripture, we might find they are both true and we just have to wait for Him to reveal the piece that connects us. 
     We must not allow the Enemy to develop a culture of automatic unbelief just because we are uncomfortable with a concept, or it doesn’t harmonize with our current belief system. It is the great privilege of a Christian to be able to go to our God with our questions. To limit your beliefs to only what you currently understand is controlling the greater things God wants to reveal to you. And believe me, He will honor that free will decision and wait for you to grow hungry before He reveals more of Himself. 
     But I want to develop a heart that is willing to embrace a new concept of God without being offended [always confirming it with Scripture and the Holy Spirit]. I’m really trying hard not to be so quick to judge because a new idea is unfamiliar to me. And I will admit that sometimes my spirit recognizes a new Truth before my mind can comprehend it.  That’s when I have to seek a renewed mind so that I am in complete alignment with the  Father. And it is sometimes a struggle … the Enemy wants me thinking out of my carnal mind because then I am a Christian in my thoughts and body, but without the power of the Spirit in my spirit. Make sense?
     I truly believe that it is so important for us to develop the ability to hear God’s voice and recognize His presence in us. It is the only way that we will quit being paranoid about becoming deceived, and quit being so offended by new Biblically-sound revelations. It is then that we can trust what our spirits are telling us because we know, without a doubt, the Author of those thoughts or words [because we recognize His voice].
     I guess, in the end, there are always going to be Christians who are satisfied [and feel safe] with what they already know, and Christians who long to know more of the mysteries of God and are willing to seek them out.  And with that deliberate decision will come the inevitable result of offending another Believer. I think God knows who will obey the Truths they seek and find, and who would be unable [or unwilling] to obey. That’s why Proverbs 25:2 speaks so strongly, and consistently, to me: God conceals the revelation of his word in the hiding place of his glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says.
     So, let me apologize right now to everyone I have ever [and will] offend. As a king and member of the royal priesthood of God’s Kingdom, I have legal access to the mysteries of God’s realm. He has placed things there for me to discover, and I will spend the rest of my life seeking to know Him more through these hidden mysteries. They are my right and my inheritance as His child.  It is not my desire to offend you, or to harm you, but the priorities of my life are to walk as Christ did, and that means knowing my Father to the fullest extent I can. I will try not to be offended by your rebuttals or rejection, and I pray that what I share from my heart will not offend you, but instead, touch your heart, renew your mind, and provoke your own search for God’s hidden Truths. He is waiting for you to discover Him!

Matthew 13:11    Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”

“Beware Of The Natural Familiarity of Ichabod Churches”

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     Are you as intrigued by that statement as I am? It certainly captured my attention when reading an article written by John Burton for Charisma Magazine. But, what exactly is an “Ichabod Church”? To understand this reference, one must go to the Old Testament and the Book of 1 Samuel. There the Israelite Judge Eli (who helped raise the prophet Samuel) and his family were judged disrepectful of the Lord, despising the sacrifices and offerings made to Him, and taking the choice parts of meat and fat for themselves.

     The result was that the Israelites were defeated in battle by the Philistines; Eli’s sons were killed in battle; and Eli, himself, dies upon hearing the news that the Ark of the Covenant has fallen into the hands of the Philistines. But it is his daughter-in-law, who before dying in child-birth, learns of the deaths of her husband and father-in-law and the capture of the ark, then names her son Ichabod, and proclaims, “The glory has left Israel, for the ark of God has been taken.”
     So, in essence, what John Burton is alluding to is the fact that the glory of God has left our churches today. At the heart of his article is this statement: “Most every day, in one venue or another, I’m hearing from disillusioned, frustrated people who cannot find a church that has been overtaken by the Holy Spirit. No extreme revival atmospheres can be found for many. The Upper Room experience that innumerable desperate people are searching for are nowhere to be seen, in some instances, within 500 miles of where they live. They complain of short, ordered, controlled services that, according to them, aren’t worth their time. There’s a measure of spirituality, but they don’t even come close to the explosive, supernatural experiences they are craving”.
     Now, when I read this my heart was pricked, and my mind became super-charged, and I felt as if God was down-loading thoughts faster than I could comprehend them and tie them all together!  First of all, we know that the Ark of the Covenant was the presence of God with the Israelites. So, if the ark is gone, then the glory [and His presence] of God is gone. But how do we define the glory of God? What is it? It is certainly true that, in history, God’s glory has been externally manifested not only in the Ark, but in the plagues; the pillars of cloud [by day] and fire [by night]; in His appearance on Mount Sinai; in the fire initiating the sacrificial system; and in Solomon’s Temple. His glory certainly became a reality at the birth of Christ and will be evident in the restored Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, in the future.
     But what should His glory look like for us today? And if Mr. Burton likens our modern Churches to a condition similar to the circumstances surrounding the birth of Ichabod, what is he really saying? Let me see if I can connect the dots between his article and what the Lord is showing me.  I have heard it preached and spoken by today’s pastors that “God’s glory can be seen in things such as love, music, heroism and so forth—things belonging to God that we are carrying “in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are the vessels which “contain” His glory. I can’t disagree with that, but if we are the vessels that contain His glory, what about those vessels in the Upper Room on Pentecost? Why have we, in the modern Church, dismissed the glory that they contained? Why do we dismiss the signs and wonders and the power of the Holy Spirit that was evidence of God’s glory in them? 
     In his article, Mr. Burton likens the state of our churches to the Wise and Foolish Virgins in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In this well-known parable, half of the Virgins have their lamps full of oil (which is representative of the Holy Spirit in the Bible). The wise Virgins had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil (Holy Spirit), whereas the foolish Virgins had apparently procrastinated. Engaging frequently with the dispenser of the oil [the Holy Spirit], the wise had an adequate supply of oil to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper when the bridegroom finally arrived. They were prepared! But the foolish Virgins think they can just borrow some of the oil from their wiser counterparts.  But that’s not how the Holy Spirit works!
      And this gets to the crux of Mr. Burton’s premise: “Churches are filled with people the Bible would call foolish—those who are not spiritually vibrant, personally disciplined, and deeply intimate with Jesus. Their lamps are empty… If a church is ablaze with the spirit of prayer and alive as the Holy Spirit blows and burns through everyone there, those who are asleep and without any oil will definitely not feel comfortable. There is no way they can integrate in such a place without feeling the pressure to fill their lamps”. Then he asks, why are we so willing to share our oil; to dilute the glory of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit in order to make those people feel comfortable? Why is the Church of today so willing “to integrate nicely with others who are equally resistant to the deeper things of the Spirit? They are [all] spiritually interested, but not spiritually invested. They have not paid the price and have not bought their own oil”.
     Here’s the thing … the oil (Holy Spirit) cannot be borrowed. And it cannot be passed from one person to another.  Each person must determine just how much of the Holy Spirit he or she wants.
     This principle reminds me of those 120 who were present in the Upper Room at Pentecost. But do you recall that after He was resurrected, Jesus appeared first to Peter, then to the 12 Apostles, and then to more than 500 of His followers? Acts 1:3 says, “He presented himself alive to them after His suffering [on the Cross] by many proofs [signs and wonders], appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God”.
     The Bible tells us in Acts 1:2, that just before He ascended into Heaven, He left instructions for ALL of those followers and apostles [which means “sent ones”; not restricted to the Twelve]. He told them all to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit; that which had been promised by the Father [in Joel 2].  So there were at least 512 people who had seen the resurrected Christ and been told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Why were there only 120 who received Him? Did the others get tired of waiting? Did they think they had lots of time and weren’t diligent about being prepared? Or did they think that the gift of the Holy Spirit wasn’t for them or worth their while? Do you see the similarities with the Foolish Virgins? With the modern Church?
     If we think that we’re on solid ground, or good enough, with being saved and having the Holy Spirit indwell us, and thus being content with a moderate level of the Holy Spirit in us… aren’t our lamps only half full? Don’t we want the full measure of Him, which means we are willing to pay the price to seek Him on our own? Do we really want to be like those 200 or more people who missed out on the Upper Room experience because they weren’t willing to pay the price to wait for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit? As Mr. Burton writes, “Those who had their lamps full, those who responded to the command of Jesus to wait and pray, were ready when the wind and the fire came!”
     So, I believe the underlying message to the Ichabod Churches and to the foolish Virgins is this: Don’t quench the desire of the Holy Spirit to manifest among you in the supernatural power of Heaven. Don’t restrict His Presence because some are uncomfortable, or lazy, or fearful. Don’t limit His Presence to the lowest common denominator. The glory of God is to make His Presence known; to pour out His Spirit on all mankind.  What He did in the Upper Room at Pentecost is His desire for you and me. We must not let His glory depart on our watch!

Exodus 24:17    “Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel”.

    

Are You Willing To Be Possessed By The Spirit?

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     By now it should be pretty obvious that I am captivated by the Holy Spirit — or at least, it is my heart’s desire to be His possession. I want every thought, every word I speak, every cell in my body to be His. He is increasingly drawing me into His Presence, and I desperately want to experience the fullness of His living water flowing from my heart. But I also recognize that I need His purifying fire to cleanse me and make my spirit holy like His.  So, if like me, you have recently discovered a hunger to be filled with the Holy Spirit — or even if this is your present reality — I invite you to consider these thoughts….

     Do we understand who and what the Holy Spirit is? First we must understand what we mean by “spirit”. Spirit is a specific and identifiable substance; as real as matter, but different.  In our physical bodies we are matter. We have weight; we yield to gravitational pull; we have dimension and shape, and are extended into space. Matter bumps against other matter and stops.  But Spirit is different in that it has the ability to penetrate. In fact, Spirit can penetrate everything. For instance, your body is made of matter, and yet your spirit has penetrated your body completely. And Spirit can penetrate spirit.
     But what is the Holy Spirit?  The answer is that He is a Being dwelling in another mode of existence. He doesn’t have weight; can’t be measured or sized; doesn’t have color, or extend into space. But He nevertheless exists as surely as you and I do. He is a Person, with all the qualities and powers of a personality.
     We often think of Him as being the literal breath, or wind, of God. If that’s how you see Him, then you think of Him as nonpersonal and nonindividual. But the Holy Spirit has will and intelligence and feeling and knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think and hear and speak and desire the same as any person has.
     [I would venture to say that] many of us have grown up on the theology that accepts the Holy Spirit as a Person, and even as a divine Person, but for some reason it hasn’t done us any good.  We are as empty as ever; we are as joyless as ever; we are as far from peace as ever; we are as weak as ever. Why?
     Historically, the Church has recognized the Holy Spirit as God. I mean, how many of us grew up on the Nicene Creed: “we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified”. We say we believe this, just as we believe the Scripture: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Yet, if you would go to most churches and ask the preacher, “Do you believe that the Lord answers prayer and heals the sick?” he would reply, “Sure, I do!” He believes it, but he doesn’t teach it, and what you don’t believe strongly enough to teach won’t be evident in your life.
     It is the same with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Christianity believes it, but few experience it. Instead, this truth has been buried under mounds of inactivity and inattention, although the Lord Jesus made it clear this was His intention for Believers. Jesus spoke of the “promise of His Father” in Luke 24:49, which was a reference to the promised Holy Spirit in Joel 2:28-29, It shall come about after this that I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

     This promise was realized when the Father poured out His Spirit at Pentecost. He wanted to take religion out of the external and make it internal and put it on the same level as life itself, so that a man knows he knows God the same as he knows he is alive and not dead. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit can do that. The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from books [and rituals and traditions] into the human heart. The problem is that we too often try to confirm the truth of our Christianity [or faith] by appealing to external evidence. But the proof lies in an invisible, powerful, but unseen energy that visits the human soul and spirit when the authentic Gospel is preached. 
     Jesus came to do away with a religion that depended on external evidence, and gave us the promised Holy Spirit that brings a bright, emotional quality to our faith. What’s more, we have inherited what He gave the Apostles — direct spiritual authority that removes our fears, our questions, our apologies, and our doubts; an authority founded upon life in the Holy Spirit. 
     But, I want to explore a thought, here … If you believe that the spiritual grace and power which was given to the First-Century Christians was only for them, or that it is unnecessary for us to desire it individually because it was given to “the Church”, once and for all, then I have a question for you. Does each Christian need to individually be “born again” for his faith to be valid? Can you get born again by proxy? The fact that those first 120 at Pentecost were born again, does that mean that we don’t have to be? 
     I’m assuming your answer was “no”. In that case, is the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which those first Christians received, enough for us? Does it cover you and me? If not, [and if we have yet to experience the fullness of the Spirit] is our state a satisfactory fulfillment of the expectations of the Father and Christ? Didn’t Jesus express that there were certain high expectations of what the Father was going to do for His redeemed people?  Didn’t He raise an expectation that was simply beyond words [and our ability to comprehend]; something so wonderful and beautiful and thrilling that it is hard for us to imagine? He gave us so much more than words can express, and the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment.
     But look around us … are we living up to that expectation for His people? Are we possessed by the Holy Spirit, and does our life reflect it? Is our life evidence of His internal presence flowing out of us in immeasurable fruit? Here is what I believe is an unmistakable truth: Satan has opposed the doctrine of a Spirit-filled life about as strongly as any other doctrine there is.  He has confused it, challenged it, and surrounded it with false beliefs and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought inheritance. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth — that there is now, for every child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit. 
     But here’s the rest of that truth: You must believe that this is nothing added or extra to the Christian experience. The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part of the total plan of God for His people. It is not abnormal — perhaps unusual, because we see so few people who walk in the light of it. We must believe that the Holy Spirit is the essence of Jesus imparted to Believers, and we have a right to a full, Spirit-filled life, purchased by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.
     But here’s the catch … Before you can be filled with the Spirit, you must desire to be filled. I think, for too many people, there is fear or doubt when it comes to being possessed by a spirit other than their own. [They don’t want to give up control]. And here is the kicker … that Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your life! If we’re honest, we will admit we want His benefits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control/discipline). But do we truly want to be possessed by Him? Because He will not tolerate self-confidence, self-love, self-righteousness, self-magnification, or self-pity. Through God’s holy Nature and Authority, He forbids these characteristics and He cannot send His mighty Spirit to possess the heart where these characteristics reside. 
     So we must decide if we are willing to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, and if we are willing to advance from our early stages of salvation to cultivate His presence, so that He might illuminate and bless and lift and purify and direct our lives. We must decide if we are willing to give up all so that we might have the All. And it is time to answer the hard questions … Are we ready to give up our social concept of religion for the greater truth of the spiritual? Have we watered down the New Testament until it has no strength or taste in it? Are we more influenced by the world, and others’ opinions, so that much of what passes for the Gospel Message today is little more than orthodox religion grafted on to a heart that is sold out to the world and its pleasures, tastes, and ambitions?
     We must cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit if we desire to be possessed by Him. We must dedicate ourselves to the glory of Jesus, honoring Him by doing the things He told us to do, trusting Him as our All, following His voice as our Shepherd, and obeying Him fully. When we honor Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit will become the aggressor and seek to know us, and raise us to new heights of faith, enlighten us spiritually, fill us, and bless us!
     I have just one more point: Cultivate the art of recognizing the presence of the Spirit everywhere. Begin by opening your Bible, getting on your knees, and saying, “Father, here I am. Begin to teach me”. 

     FULL DISCLOSURE: While I am in full agreement with these thoughts … they are not mine. What I have presented to you is a compilation of a series of sermons by one of the most preeminent theologians of the last century, A.W. Tozer. These are his words — all of them — they are not mine. This self-taught theologian lived from 1897-1963 and committed his life to the ministry of God’s Word.  
     I ran across his tiny little 64-page book, titled “How To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” and read it in one sitting. While a man’s thoughts are never a substitute for God’s, I found Tozer’s words to be written in the spirit of the Scriptures, and I was only slightly surprised to find that those thoughts mirrored my own. Although I’m not as bold as he, to declare that modern Christianity in the Church is a “pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh”, I do recognize that, too often, the power of the Holy Spirit has left the building and been replaced by a weakened Gospel that leaves Christians influenced by man-made traditions and teachings, and suffering oppression from the devil. [I am reminded of the Disciples in John, Chapter 6, who were offended by Jesus’s teachings, and turned away from Him, forfeiting all that He had to offer them].
     So, I applaud A.W. Tozer for his straight-forward representation of the Holy Spirit. It saddens me to think that the weakness he saw in the Church three-quarters of a century ago is still prevalent, and I urge you to heed his instruction. Talk to the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is a Person! He desires relationship! And He wants you to become His sanctuary. He brings great power and revelation with Him, and if we surrender to Him, the most simple and menial task becomes a ministry to the glory of God. Search the Scriptures to see what is revealed about the Holy Spirit. Then, as Tozer says, “pray and yield; obey and believe”. See if ALL of what the Lord gave us is what you desire. And then ask Him to fill you and possess you!

John 6:63    “The Holy Spirit is the One who gives life, that which is of the natural realm is of no help. The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.” 

Are You Willing To Be Possessed By The Spirit?

     By now it should be pretty obvious that I am captivated by the Holy Spirit — or at least, it is my heart’s desire to be His possession. I want every thought, every word I speak, every cell in my body to be His. He is increasingly drawing me into His Presence, and I desperately want to experience the fullness of His living water flowing from my heart. But I also recognize that I need His purifying fire to cleanse me and make my spirit holy like His.  So, if like me, you have recently discovered a hunger to be filled with the Holy Spirit — or even if this is your present reality — I invite you to consider these thoughts….

     Do we understand who and what the Holy Spirit is? First we must understand what we mean by “spirit”. Spirit is a specific and identifiable substance; as real as matter, but different.  In our physical bodies we are matter. We have weight; we yield to gravitational pull; we have dimension and shape, and are extended into space. Matter bumps against other matter and stops.  But Spirit is different in that it has the ability to penetrate. In fact, Spirit can penetrate everything. For instance, your body is made of matter, and yet your spirit has penetrated your body completely. And Spirit can penetrate spirit.
     But what is the Holy Spirit?  The answer is that He is a Being dwelling in another mode of existence. He doesn’t have weight; can’t be measured or sized; doesn’t have color, or extend into space. But He nevertheless exists as surely as you and I do. He is a Person, with all the qualities and powers of a personality.
     We often think of Him as being the literal breath, or wind, of God. If that’s how you see Him, then you think of Him as nonpersonal and nonindividual. But the Holy Spirit has will and intelligence and feeling and knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think and hear and speak and desire the same as any person has.
     [I would venture to say that] many of us have grown up on the theology that accepts the Holy Spirit as a Person, and even as a divine Person, but for some reason it hasn’t done us any good.  We are as empty as ever; we are as joyless as ever; we are as far from peace as ever; we are as weak as ever. Why?
     Historically, the Church has recognized the Holy Spirit as God. I mean, how many of us grew up on the Nicene Creed: “we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified”. We say we believe this, just as we believe the Scripture: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Yet, if you would go to most churches and ask the preacher, “Do you believe that the Lord answers prayer and heals the sick?” he would reply, “Sure, I do!” He believes it, but he doesn’t teach it, and what you don’t believe strongly enough to teach won’t be evident in your life.
     It is the same with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Christianity believes it, but few experience it. Instead, this truth has been buried under mounds of inactivity and inattention, although the Lord Jesus made it clear this was His intention for Believers. Jesus spoke of the “promise of His Father” in Luke 24:49, which was a reference to the promised Holy Spirit in Joel 2:28-29, It shall come about after this that I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

     This promise was realized when the Father poured out His Spirit at Pentecost. He wanted to take religion out of the external and make it internal and put it on the same level as life itself, so that a man knows he knows God the same as he knows he is alive and not dead. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit can do that. The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from books [and rituals and traditions] into the human heart. The problem is that we too often try to confirm the truth of our Christianity [or faith] by appealing to external evidence. But the proof lies in an invisible, powerful, but unseen energy that visits the human soul and spirit when the authentic Gospel is preached. 
     Jesus came to do away with a religion that depended on external evidence, and gave us the promised Holy Spirit that brings a bright, emotional quality to our faith. What’s more, we have inherited what He gave the Apostles — direct spiritual authority that removes our fears, our questions, our apologies, and our doubts; an authority founded upon life in the Holy Spirit. 
     But, I want to explore a thought, here … If you believe that the spiritual grace and power which was given to the First-Century Christians was only for them, or that it is unnecessary for us to desire it individually because it was given to “the Church”, once and for all, then I have a question for you. Does each Christian need to individually be “born again” for his faith to be valid? Can you get born again by proxy? The fact that those first 120 at Pentecost were born again, does that mean that we don’t have to be? 
     I’m assuming your answer was “no”. In that case, is the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which those first Christians received, enough for us? Does it cover you and me? If not, [and if we have yet to experience the fullness of the Spirit] is our state a satisfactory fulfillment of the expectations of the Father and Christ? Didn’t Jesus express that there were certain high expectations of what the Father was going to do for His redeemed people?  Didn’t He raise an expectation that was simply beyond words [and our ability to comprehend]; something so wonderful and beautiful and thrilling that it is hard for us to imagine? He gave us so much more than words can express, and the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment.
     But look around us … are we living up to that expectation for His people? Are we possessed by the Holy Spirit, and does our life reflect it? Is our life evidence of His internal presence flowing out of us in immeasurable fruit? Here is what I believe is an unmistakable truth: Satan has opposed the doctrine of a Spirit-filled life about as strongly as any other doctrine there is.  He has confused it, challenged it, and surrounded it with false beliefs and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought inheritance. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth — that there is now, for every child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit. 
     But here’s the rest of that truth: You must believe that this is nothing added or extra to the Christian experience. The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part of the total plan of God for His people. It is not abnormal — perhaps unusual, because we see so few people who walk in the light of it. We must believe that the Holy Spirit is the essence of Jesus imparted to Believers, and we have a right to a full, Spirit-filled life, purchased by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.
     But here’s the catch … Before you can be filled with the Spirit, you must desire to be filled. I think, for too many people, there is fear or doubt when it comes to being possessed by a spirit other than their own. [They don’t want to give up control]. And here is the kicker … that Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your life! If we’re honest, we will admit we want His benefits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control/discipline). But do we truly want to be possessed by Him? Because He will not tolerate self-confidence, self-love, self-righteousness, self-magnification, or self-pity. Through God’s holy Nature and Authority, He forbids these characteristics and He cannot send His mighty Spirit to possess the heart where these characteristics reside. 
     So we must decide if we are willing to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, and if we are willing to advance from our early stages of salvation to cultivate His presence, so that He might illuminate and bless and lift and purify and direct our lives. We must decide if we are willing to give up all so that we might have the All. And it is time to answer the hard questions … Are we ready to give up our social concept of religion for the greater truth of the spiritual? Have we watered down the New Testament until it has no strength or taste in it? Are we more influenced by the world, and others’ opinions, so that much of what passes for the Gospel Message today is little more than orthodox religion grafted on to a heart that is sold out to the world and its pleasures, tastes, and ambitions?
     We must cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit if we desire to be possessed by Him. We must dedicate ourselves to the glory of Jesus, honoring Him by doing the things He told us to do, trusting Him as our All, following His voice as our Shepherd, and obeying Him fully. When we honor Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit will become the aggressor and seek to know us, and raise us to new heights of faith, enlighten us spiritually, fill us, and bless us!
     I have just one more point: Cultivate the art of recognizing the presence of the Spirit everywhere. Begin by opening your Bible, getting on your knees, and saying, “Father, here I am. Begin to teach me”. 

     FULL DISCLOSURE: While I am in full agreement with these thoughts … they are not mine. What I have presented to you is a compilation of a series of sermons by one of the most preeminent theologians of the last century, A.W. Tozer. These are his words — all of them — they are not mine. This self-taught theologian lived from 1897-1963 and committed his life to the ministry of God’s Word.  
     I ran across his tiny little 64-page book, titled “How To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” and read it in one sitting. While a man’s thoughts are never a substitute for God’s, I found Tozer’s words to be written in the spirit of the Scriptures, and I was only slightly surprised to find that those thoughts mirrored my own. Although I’m not as bold as he, to declare that modern Christianity in the Church is a “pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh”, I do recognize that, too often, the power of the Holy Spirit has left the building and been replaced by a weakened Gospel that leaves Christians influenced by man-made traditions and teachings, and suffering oppression from the devil. [I am reminded of the Disciples in John, Chapter 6, who were offended by Jesus’s teachings, and turned away from Him, forfeiting all that He had to offer them].
     So, I applaud A.W. Tozer for his straight-forward representation of the Holy Spirit. It saddens me to think that the weakness he saw in the Church three-quarters of a century ago is still prevalent, and I urge you to heed his instruction. Talk to the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is a Person! He desires relationship! And He wants you to become His sanctuary. He brings great power and revelation with Him, and if we surrender to Him, the most simple and menial task becomes a ministry to the glory of God. Search the Scriptures to see what is revealed about the Holy Spirit. Then, as Tozer says, “pray and yield; obey and believe”. See if ALL of what the Lord gave us is what you desire. And then ask Him to fill you and possess you!

John 6:63    “The Holy Spirit is the One who gives life, that which is of the natural realm is of no help. The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.” 

The Power Of Our Testimony – Part Two

Click here to view the original post.

     I want to finish out my discussion on how our testimonies can encourage others to step out in the power and authority Christ has given us to effect change on the earth. I’m speaking of change in the sense of changed lives; lives that need to receive the message of what the Kingdom of God on earth looks like. And this “change” involves the power of the Holy Spirit to bring a pardon and forgiveness of sins to those who have been held captive by the lies of the Enemy [who whispers they don’t deserve it]. It involves the power of the Holy Spirit to bring sight to the blind — both those with physical blindness, as well as spiritual blindness to the truth of the Kingdom Gospel. This “change” also includes the power of the Holy Spirit to free those who have been oppressed by sins committed against them; those wounded by tragedy; and those who walk in false identities given to them by the devil. And finally, change can be effected when we share the good news of the acceptable year of the Lord (the day when salvation and the favor of God will abound upon all the earth for those who accept Jesus as their Redeemer).  This is the change prophesied by Isaiah and spoken of by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.

     I want to make it perfectly clear that all this comes about by the power of the Holy Spirit — whether one receives the power of these truths through their own unwavering faith; through an independent move of the Holy Spirit; or by us acting in our authority to represent the Kingdom… all allow the Holy Spirit to exhibit His power through us. Furthermore, it is our testimonies of that power that encourages others to seek the Divine Power in their lives… all of which transforms this earth for the glory of God.
     In the previous post, I presented Jeremy’s testimony; one of hearing the Holy Spirit and responding in obedience to take a message of the redemptive love of Jesus to heal a hurting family. As I said in that post, it is clear to me that we have to find the balance between battling in spiritual warfare and proclaiming Christ’s healing love.  They are really two sides of the same coin, and when you are doing one, you are doing the other, and both reflect the power of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s life.
     Today, I want to share my dear friend, Terah’s testimony.  First, I want to say that when it comes to being steadfast and committed in battling the Enemy and his schemes, I want Terah by my side. She has been unflinching in battling for her marriage and her family; always relying on her identity as a Daughter of the King. Even when the devil has landed a well-placed fiery dart, she quickly recovers, and returns to her true identity.  I think the secret to Terah’s strong faith is that she was willing to examine her theology, and was willing to be discipled through a Bible study, where the Holy Spirit revealed God’s truth. Then she was willing to accept those truths and walk out her salvation [in fear and trembling]. Now, together with her husband, Greg, [who is undergoing his own amazing redemptive transformation], Terah is growing in her spiritual maturity.  As we all should do, this couple was willing to undergo some critical self-evaluation and then commit themselves to advancing the Kingdom that Scripture has revealed.
     But before I let Terah tell you her story, I want to say that it is always amazing to me when I see the opportunities [to share the Kingdom Gospel] that God puts in front of us when we are willing to be obedient. Somehow, supernaturally, our hearts and spirits become both softened and more alert to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is what has happened in Terah’s life. And I ask her forgiveness if I have the timeline of her testimony wrong, but I am sure that her heart and her commitment to serve others through the power of the Holy Spirit in her life will come through.  Here’s her story…
      “I have been praying for awhile for an acquaintance of mine who had been in a long-term relationship, and had finally broken it off.  My opportunities to minister to her just happened kind of organically. I was coming into contact with her through a series of meetings the residents of our county were convening regarding some concerns over government policies.  I could tell that she was upset and having a difficult time, so I made sure she knew we were there to support her.  But she remained heavy on my heart.
     Shortly after one of these meetings, I received a prompting from the Holy Spirit and texted her that Jesus loved her and wanted her heart to be whole.  She responded that she was struggling, and then she began to open up.  I prayed over her, encouraging her to turn to Jesus and reminding her that her comfort would be found in Him.  I then sent her a copy of The Full Armor of God: Defending Your Life From Satan’s Schemes by Dr. Larry Richards”. [My Note: This book has played a very important part in Terah’s own spiritual transformation, and it is a book I highly recommend].
     Terah continues: “This girl was doubting her own self-worth, and I wanted her to know that each of us has an important role to play in God’s plan for mankind and the earth. So, I quoted her a sentence from the book that had spoken to my heart.  I wanted her to know that she was important to God … And through you, God will reveal something of Himself that will never be seen through anyone else. I then shared with her that one of Satan’s primary schemes is to block our spiritual development by convincing us that we are worthless.  And then I told her, ‘You aren’t! You were worth the death of God, Himself!’ 
     I told her I knew how she felt! God wants to hold a full-length mirror in front of us to show us in all of our created and beloved beauty. But what is Satan’s counter-move in this spiritual battle? To hold up a magnifying mirror to show some slight defect, and then we become distracted from the full-length redeemed image God provides. The devil’s battle plan then proceeds to make us appear ugly to ourselves; to feel bad about ourselves; and to keep us from becoming all that God designed us [and assigned us] to be. I encouraged her to pray with all her might, pressing into Him, and I promised her that Greg and I would be with her every step of the way.
     And then by the power of God and the Holy Spirit’s ability to set up Divine appointments, within a few days, we passed her unloading hay on the highway. Both Greg and I felt the prompting to stop and pray over her, invoking her identity as a child of God, and the Daughter of the King. We pressed into Jesus on her behalf, trusting Him to renew her mind as to her new identity. 
     I have to say that I am amazed at these opportunities that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are presenting to Greg and me! And I see us both growing in our own identity, and our power and authority. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is bringing people to us so that we can share our own testimonies of what He has done in our lives. For instance, a friend from college called Greg out of the blue to discuss his marital problems. Considering that our own marital issues are being healed by the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, it is a blessing to let Them work through us to heal another! I can only imagine the impact in the spiritual realm when my husband prayed a warfare prayer over this man’s marriage, with authority!
     And within this same time-frame, an acquaintance from these political meetings in our county called us in a panic. After feeling threatened for her participation, Greg was able to talk her off the ledge by walking her through an emotional healing with Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit she was able to imagine Jesus healing her emotions and fears, and letting Him speak into her. In the spirit, she could see herself kneeling at the feet of Jesus while He ministered to her, and then she responded out of her gratitude by washing His feet. What a beautiful picture of spiritual healing! Then Greg showed her how to put on her spiritual armor to stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceptions of the devil. This woman has no need to fear the tactics of men when God is for her! It is such a privilege to share [with another] the power of the Holy Spirit, when we are willing to put on our armor and walk in the authority [given to us by Jesus] to overcome all the power of Satan. That’s such a tremendous testimony of God’s love for us!”
     

     I hope you can see the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, as represented by these two very different posts. Jeremy’s testimony shows how just sharing a word of God’s love, received from the Spirit, can begin the process of healing, while Terah and Greg’s testimony exhibits our power and authority to battle Satan’s schemes to intimidate and defeat us. But it is essential that we recognize both are anchored in the Father’s love for each one of us.
     And we need to embrace the truth that the word of God (Jesus) is living inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit; He is active and full of power — whether to reveal a word from the heart of God to our heart, or to ask us to partner with Him in defeating a spiritual attack upon our souls and spirits. Whether we experience that power as Love or Warfare, it all serves the same purpose… to remind us that we belong to the Father, and that we are representatives of His Heavenly Kingdom while we are here on earth, commissioned to help set people free from the Kingdom of the god of this world. As heirs of that heavenly kingdom, we are to walk in obedience to our King!
     When we realize that each Person of the Godhead committed Himself to seeing that we receive eternal life, and dedicated Himself to helping us walk in freedom while behind enemy lines, then it is critical that we testify to the Power that can change lives for eternity! But for our testimony to be convincing and persuasive, it must involve more than recitation of Scripture and adherence to rituals and tradition. We must walk in the Power of God that resides in us. Our presence in any circumstance must convey an atmosphere that is charged with His Presence and Power. We must be the conduit between Heaven and Earth, using our testimonies to transmit God’s love to a hurting world. 
     I don’t need to remind you that God doesn’t need us to exhibit His power and love — He could just whack any of us in the heart and change us if He wanted. And it is surely not our own clever abilities which allow us to minister to others, but the empowering Presence of the Holy Spirit within us who guides us and counsels us whether to give a word from the Father, or to employ a tactic on the spiritual battlefield. Either way, we will have a testimony to share from our hearts; hearts that have been transformed by the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit within us. If you have personally been changed, and know the love of the Father, ask the Holy Spirit to use you and your testimony to change the life of another human being. Let God be glorified through our obedience to Christ and the Holy Spirit!

Psalms 107:2-3   So, go ahead — let everyone know [Jesus’ faithful love never ends]! Tell the world how He broke through and delivered you from the power of darkness and has gathered us together from all over the world. He has set us free to be His very own! (Passion Translation)



 

The Power Of Our Testimony – Part Two

     I want to finish out my discussion on how our testimonies can encourage others to step out in the power and authority Christ has given us to effect change on the earth. I’m speaking of change in the sense of changed lives; lives that need to receive the message of what the Kingdom of God on earth looks like. And this “change” involves the power of the Holy Spirit to bring a pardon and forgiveness of sins to those who have been held captive by the lies of the Enemy [who whispers they don’t deserve it]. It involves the power of the Holy Spirit to bring sight to the blind — both those with physical blindness, as well as spiritual blindness to the truth of the Kingdom Gospel. This “change” also includes the power of the Holy Spirit to free those who have been oppressed by sins committed against them; those wounded by tragedy; and those who walk in false identities given to them by the devil. And finally, change can be effected when we share the good news of the acceptable year of the Lord (the day when salvation and the favor of God will abound upon all the earth for those who accept Jesus as their Redeemer).  This is the change prophesied by Isaiah and spoken of by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.

     I want to make it perfectly clear that all this comes about by the power of the Holy Spirit — whether one receives the power of these truths through their own unwavering faith; through an independent move of the Holy Spirit; or by us acting in our authority to represent the Kingdom… all allow the Holy Spirit to exhibit His power through us. Furthermore, it is our testimonies of that power that encourages others to seek the Divine Power in their lives… all of which transforms this earth for the glory of God.
     In the previous post, I presented Jeremy’s testimony; one of hearing the Holy Spirit and responding in obedience to take a message of the redemptive love of Jesus to heal a hurting family. As I said in that post, it is clear to me that we have to find the balance between battling in spiritual warfare and proclaiming Christ’s healing love.  They are really two sides of the same coin, and when you are doing one, you are doing the other, and both reflect the power of the Holy Spirit to change a person’s life.
     Today, I want to share my dear friend, Terah’s testimony.  First, I want to say that when it comes to being steadfast and committed in battling the Enemy and his schemes, I want Terah by my side. She has been unflinching in battling for her marriage and her family; always relying on her identity as a Daughter of the King. Even when the devil has landed a well-placed fiery dart, she quickly recovers, and returns to her true identity.  I think the secret to Terah’s strong faith is that she was willing to examine her theology, and was willing to be discipled through a Bible study, where the Holy Spirit revealed God’s truth. Then she was willing to accept those truths and walk out her salvation [in fear and trembling]. Now, together with her husband, Greg, [who is undergoing his own amazing redemptive transformation], Terah is growing in her spiritual maturity.  As we all should do, this couple was willing to undergo some critical self-evaluation and then commit themselves to advancing the Kingdom that Scripture has revealed.
     But before I let Terah tell you her story, I want to say that it is always amazing to me when I see the opportunities [to share the Kingdom Gospel] that God puts in front of us when we are willing to be obedient. Somehow, supernaturally, our hearts and spirits become both softened and more alert to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is what has happened in Terah’s life. And I ask her forgiveness if I have the timeline of her testimony wrong, but I am sure that her heart and her commitment to serve others through the power of the Holy Spirit in her life will come through.  Here’s her story…
      “I have been praying for awhile for an acquaintance of mine who had been in a long-term relationship, and had finally broken it off.  My opportunities to minister to her just happened kind of organically. I was coming into contact with her through a series of meetings the residents of our county were convening regarding some concerns over government policies.  I could tell that she was upset and having a difficult time, so I made sure she knew we were there to support her.  But she remained heavy on my heart.
     Shortly after one of these meetings, I received a prompting from the Holy Spirit and texted her that Jesus loved her and wanted her heart to be whole.  She responded that she was struggling, and then she began to open up.  I prayed over her, encouraging her to turn to Jesus and reminding her that her comfort would be found in Him.  I then sent her a copy of The Full Armor of God: Defending Your Life From Satan’s Schemes by Dr. Larry Richards”. [My Note: This book has played a very important part in Terah’s own spiritual transformation, and it is a book I highly recommend].
     Terah continues: “This girl was doubting her own self-worth, and I wanted her to know that each of us has an important role to play in God’s plan for mankind and the earth. So, I quoted her a sentence from the book that had spoken to my heart.  I wanted her to know that she was important to God … And through you, God will reveal something of Himself that will never be seen through anyone else. I then shared with her that one of Satan’s primary schemes is to block our spiritual development by convincing us that we are worthless.  And then I told her, ‘You aren’t! You were worth the death of God, Himself!’ 
     I told her I knew how she felt! God wants to hold a full-length mirror in front of us to show us in all of our created and beloved beauty. But what is Satan’s counter-move in this spiritual battle? To hold up a magnifying mirror to show some slight defect, and then we become distracted from the full-length redeemed image God provides. The devil’s battle plan then proceeds to make us appear ugly to ourselves; to feel bad about ourselves; and to keep us from becoming all that God designed us [and assigned us] to be. I encouraged her to pray with all her might, pressing into Him, and I promised her that Greg and I would be with her every step of the way.
     And then by the power of God and the Holy Spirit’s ability to set up Divine appointments, within a few days, we passed her unloading hay on the highway. Both Greg and I felt the prompting to stop and pray over her, invoking her identity as a child of God, and the Daughter of the King. We pressed into Jesus on her behalf, trusting Him to renew her mind as to her new identity. 
     I have to say that I am amazed at these opportunities that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are presenting to Greg and me! And I see us both growing in our own identity, and our power and authority. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is bringing people to us so that we can share our own testimonies of what He has done in our lives. For instance, a friend from college called Greg out of the blue to discuss his marital problems. Considering that our own marital issues are being healed by the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, it is a blessing to let Them work through us to heal another! I can only imagine the impact in the spiritual realm when my husband prayed a warfare prayer over this man’s marriage, with authority!
     And within this same time-frame, an acquaintance from these political meetings in our country called us in a panic. After feeling threatened for her participation, Greg was able to talk her off the ledge by walking her through an emotional healing with Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit she was able to imagine Jesus healing her emotions and fears, and letting Him speak into her. In the spirit, she could see herself kneeling at the feet of Jesus while He ministered to her, and then she responded out of her gratitude by washing His feet. What a beautiful picture of spiritual healing! Then Greg showed her how to put on her spiritual armor to stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceptions of the devil. This woman has no need to fear the tactics of men when God is for her! It is such a privilege to share [with another] the power of the Holy Spirit, when we are willing to put on our armor and walk in the authority [given to us by Jesus] to overcome all the power of Satan. That’s such a tremendous testimony of God’s love for us!”
     

     I hope you can see the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, as represented by these two very different posts. Jeremy’s testimony shows how just sharing a word of God’s love, received from the Spirit, can begin the process of healing, while Terah and Greg’s testimony exhibits our power and authority to battle Satan’s schemes to intimidate and defeat us. But it is essential that we recognize both are anchored in the Father’s love for each one of us.
     And we need to embrace the truth that the word of God (Jesus) is living inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit; He is active and full of power — whether to reveal a word from the heart of God to our heart, or to ask us to partner with Him in defeating a spiritual attack upon our souls and spirits. Whether we experience that power as Love or Warfare, it all serves the same purpose… to remind us that we belong to the Father, and that we are representatives of His Heavenly Kingdom while we are here on earth, commissioned to help set people free from the Kingdom of the god of this world. As heirs of that heavenly kingdom, we are to walk in obedience to our King!
     When we realize that each Person of the Godhead committed Himself to seeing that we receive eternal life, and dedicated Himself to helping us walk in freedom while behind enemy lines, then it is critical that we testify to the Power that can change lives for eternity! But for our testimony to be convincing and persuasive, it must involve more than recitation of Scripture and adherence to rituals and tradition. We must walk in the Power of God that resides in us. Our presence in any circumstance must convey an atmosphere that is charged with His Presence and Power. We must be the conduit between Heaven and Earth, using our testimonies to transmit God’s love to a hurting world. 
     I don’t need to remind you that God doesn’t need us to exhibit His power and love — He could just whack any of us in the heart and change us if He wanted. And it is surely not our own clever abilities which allow us to minister to others, but the empowering Presence of the Holy Spirit within us who guides us and counsels us whether to give a word from the Father, or to employ a tactic on the spiritual battlefield. Either way, we will have a testimony to share from our hearts; hearts that have been transformed by the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit within us. If you have personally been changed, and know the love of the Father, ask the Holy Spirit to use you and your testimony to change the life of another human being. Let God be glorified through our obedience to Christ and the Holy Spirit!

Psalms 107:2-3   So, go ahead — let everyone know [Jesus’ faithful love never ends]! Tell the world how He broke through and delivered you from the power of darkness and has gathered us together from all over the world. He has set us free to be His very own! (Passion Translation)



 

The Power of Our Testimony — Part One

Click here to view the original post.

     This is a very personal post. It is personal because it speaks to new places the Lord is guiding my spirit; and personal because it involves the testimonies of people who are dear to me and walking in obedience, which has become the essential part of my own faith walk.
     If you have been reading me for awhile, then you know that the Lord has taken me on a journey towards Kingdom living and all that that term encompasses.  I have been given new revelation through His Word about the Kingdom of God invading this earthly realm in the person of Jesus. And what that means is that the control the Enemy has enjoyed over mankind since the fall in the Garden has been broken, and Jesus came with authority and power from His (our) Father to destroy the works of the devil and set people free from their bondage to sin.
     But you also know that I believe the Word when Jesus tells us that He has transferred that authority and power from Heaven to those who believe in Him, so that we can continue to destroy the Enemy’s control over our fellow man.  It is really a very simple plan that God set in motion to re-establish His Kingdom on earth as it was in the Garden — He sent a part of Himself, as His begotten Son, [and thereby bringing Himself into the world] in order to give us a model by which we could destroy Satan’s goal of setting up his own permanent kingdom here on earth.
      Jesus defeated the power of Death over mankind by providing a way for us to live forever in the possession of our Creator and Father God. He paid the price and the debt that we all owe God for our sinful ways, AND THEN Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell us, which means we can receive the same instructions and spiritual sight that Jesus received SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO DEFEAT THE ENEMY AND GROW GOD’S KINGDOM!
     And how do we do that? By walking as He did, using that authority and power from Heaven to take action and speak into peoples’ lives. I want us to consider when He stepped into the power He received through the Holy Spirit to heal the blind man and the lame man; when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well of His desire to give her a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, flooding her with endless life; when He rescued the adulteress woman from the mob of hypocritical accusers, and told her to “Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin”; when He cast the demons out of the Gadarene demoniac and set the man free — all these instances, and so many more, testified to the power of the love of God in their lives. But we need to see the divine purpose of those stories. And it can be summed up by what Jesus told the Gadarene madman when he begged to stay with Jesus: “Return to your home and your family, and tell them all the wonderful things God has done for you”.

     You see, part of God’s divine plan is to exhibit His power [to heal] through us and to use our testimonies to lead others to the freedom that knowing and experiencing His love can provide in our lives. And that is why I was so blessed this week to hear the testimonies of some of my beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ. They inspired me with their obedience to the voice of God and how they made themselves vessels of His love for another.  Just the other day, I received a long text from my spiritual son, Jeremy. Let me share …. Jeremy found himself in a coffee shop when the Holy Spirit gave him a prompting to speak to a woman who walked in on crutches.  She wasn’t suffering from something as normal as a broken leg; she had a club foot in which the lower portion of her right leg was so twisted that her right foot was pointing to her left ankle. From here, I will let Jeremy tell you his testimony in his own words:
    “I immediately knew I was going to have to pray for her. She came in and sat to the far left of me and my business partner, Doc. We were talking over elements of our new business, and the nudging [from the Holy Spirit] just got stronger and stronger.  I see her get up to leave, so I felt let off the hook for a minute.  But she moved over to the table right in front of us and sat facing me… so, now my palms start to sweat and I begin getting knots in my stomach.  I mean, this is not a headache I’m praying to heal here, but a very difficult healing, that frankly, I don’t have the faith for. Plus, we are surrounded by serious businessmen, dressed in suits, and I am out of my comfort zone. I finally tell Doc that I have to pray for her before we leave, and I am real nervous.  
    I stand up to walk over to her and immediately Holy Spirit says ‘You are not to pray for her leg, but to tell her how much I love her, and I want you to pray for her heart.’  Suddenly, I know I can do this, because I have the confidence to proclaim this, and I know I have the authority to declare it. So I go over and introduce myself and Doc, and then ask her if I can pray for her.  She gets very defensive and says, ‘What, you came over here because you saw my crutches?’ She said lots of Christians have prayed for her leg and she’s not interested if that’s why we came over to her. I told her, ‘Actually, I feel like I am supposed to pray for your heart’. 
     Immediately, she relaxes, still very perplexed by the whole thing, and says, ‘Sure, sit down’.  I told her that Jesus loves her very much and that He wants her to know He is protecting her heart. Then I asked her if I could pray for anything specific, and she proceeds to tell us that her marriage is falling apart and she didn’t know if they were going to be able to reconcile. [In fact, her husband had left that morning]. 
     I almost lost it when she said that… so I proceed to give her the short version of the struggles my wife Mary, and I, faced in our marriage. At this point she is getting emotional.  She says that she and her husband are Christian, but her husband has stopped going to church because of his struggles with sin. I shared with her that the devil has him convinced that he’s not worthy of forgiveness (porn) and all the guilt and shame that comes with that. I was also able to show her compassion because I understand what Mary went through during our marriage, and I was able to speak the LIFE we had received into their situation.  I was then able to pray with her, and she asked if she might be able to connect with Mary. 
     It was the scariest thing [like that] I have ever done, but by the end of our conversation, we were all very moved by God’s goodness and love.  And we agreed that it was a Divine appointment, because the reason she was there alone was because she was supposed to meet a friend who forgot they were getting together, and she was going to leave when we got up and walked to her table. As I look back on this event, I am overcome with the Father’s Goodness and Faithfulness”.
     Jeremy’s testimony doesn’t end there. He also shared with me a text message he received from the woman: “Jeremy, thank you for chatting with me and praying for me and my husband, William, today. I excitedly called him right after you left, and shared with him our ‘divine appointment’. He was encouraged and thanks you, too, for praying for us! I’ve attached a photo of our family. Our daughters are Taylor (oldest) and sweet Olivia Grace, our youngest. Wishing you many of God’s blessings, Jennifer”.  Furthermore, Jeremy has invited Jennifer and her husband to visit with him and Mary in the future, and he fully believes that more healing will be accomplished in this family — including the finished work of healing her leg!
     This testimony was such a blessing to me! It speaks to the certainty I have in my heart and spirit that this is what we are supposed to be doing as part of our commission from Christ.  And let me be perfectly clear, this is not about walking in our own power, but about being obedient to the calling upon our lives to speak and act in the lives of those who need to know the love of Christ and the Father. 
     During a subsequent conversation I had with Jeremy, it became so clear to me that we have to find the balance between battling in spiritual warfare and proclaiming the redemptive love of Jesus.  There are times that demons need to be cast out to the foot of the Cross, because a stronghold has been established in a person’s life. But it always has to point back to the love of Jesus that fills that void the enemy just vacated.  That’s why it is so important to show Jesus in those painful memories and let people feel His embrace and love as He heals their wounds. Those voices of despair, abandonment, rejection, pain, fear, anger, etc. are all defeated by showing a person that they are qualified to receive Jesus’ love, because He died on the Cross for them!

     As I finish this testimony, I hope it is clear that God arranged the steps of each of the participants in this story. By Jeremy being obedient to the Holy Spirit, the atmosphere was changed in that coffee shop. Jeremy honored the voice of Holy Spirit by hosting His presence, which allowed the power of the love of Jesus for Jennifer and her husband to begin their healing.  And Jeremy will be the first to tell you that it was Holy Spirit who did the talking, because he can’t remember what he prayed. 
     Finally, I am in total agreement with his advice to our fellow Christians who find themselves in a similar situation … Just have courage and step out in obedience. The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say and the authority to say them. He will not put you in a situation in which you have no authority to speak. Because Jeremy’s marriage is being healed, he had the authority to speak Jesus’s love and grace into Jennifer’s marriage.  And Jeremy found the whole experience encouraging. He said that speaking the Holy Spirit’s message of life and hope [and giving his personal testimony to Jennifer] created an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit could begin to work in Jennifer and her family. Because of the positive result of this experience, it will be easier for Jeremy to trust his authority the next time he receives a prompting. The result has been an increase in his faith to simply be obedient, and he knows that he can be a willing vessel to show the love of Christ to those who desperately need to receive it.  
     I would like to add that I also believe Jeremy and Mary will continue to receive blessings in their own marriage because he was willing to speak the message of healing into another’s marriage. In the end, I hope Jeremy’s testimony will encourage you to listen to those promptings when you hear the Holy Spirit, and to act on them. Jeremy thought he was in that coffee shop to discuss his business plans. But God had another plan to use him for Kingdom work — to invade that coffee shop with the presence of the Holy Spirit to effect the life of a hurting family — to invade that coffee shop with the atmosphere of Heaven on earth … all because He loves each of the people involved with a love that defies our human understanding. How Great is our God!!
           
Proverbs 16:9     A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.

Understanding Satan’s Role In The World

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     Mark and I recently had the opportunity to visit with a Christian couple whom we dearly love, and with whom we identify as faithful Believers. We don’t get to see them very often so when we get together, and after we have caught up on the superficial affairs of our lives, we always end up spending most of our time in deep discussion about the theological premises that guide our faith. We don’t agree on everything and that is okay. We recognize that each other loves the Lord and all of our hearts are focused on relationship with Jesus.
     That being said, our foundation of Kingdom living is a new concept for most Christians we come in contact with. The truth that the dominion God gave man over the earth was given away to Satan [by Adam and Eve in the Garden] — and the consequences of that fatal mistake — often go unrecognized by modern-day Christians. Understandably, in this fast-paced world we live in, with all of its distractions, the ramifications of that long-ago sin often get lost in the faith identity we construct for ourselves. We Christians tend to identify more with God’s nature of love, mercy, grace, and peace. But there is more to His nature, and we should be aware of how we are called to walk in a greater identity.
     For instance, during our discussion with this couple, the wife was clearly disturbed when I made the comment that because our dominion was sacrificed for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “Satan is god of this world”.  Her response was, “How can you say that?” (clearly feeling as if I was demoting God. I could tell my statement was offensive to her). My response was, “Because the Bible tells us so”. Our discussion continued with the citation of Scripture that pointed out this truth (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the additional one that calls him “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). It was important that she understood these titles were in reference to unbelievers. Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior recognize the One True God. BUT, it is important for Christians to recognize the fact that the devil is the god of this world, and it made me question how many Christians don’t recognize the major influence that he has in the everyday lives of the world’s population?
      His influence can be see in political opinions and policies (abortion; gay marriage; government-instituted welfare); education (teaching of ungodly sexual lifestyles; prayer in schools banned; acceptance of other religions while limiting Christian values); our goals and ideals (getting rich and living like Hollywood/Rock stars versus seeking to live a righteous life according to God’s standards) … everything from our thoughts to our entertainment to what we value as human beings are influenced by the devil’s lies and deception.  He rules over what is presented and promoted in this world, and it is up to each human being if they wish to follow him, or accept the invitation of their Creator.
     But there is an extra component to the devil’s ability to rule that we need to contemplate.  Satan may be “the god of this world; the ruler of this world, and the prince of the power of the air”, but he does not completely rule the world.  There is the factor of God’s sovereignty.  And this is another concept in which I probably differ from most Christians. God’s “sovereignty” is His dominion, His rule over what He has created.  I do not believe that it means He controls everything He has created.
     God is a god of order, and He has set rules and boundaries for His creation. And remember God created Satan, too. So within His Sovereignty and Dominion, He allows Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries He has set. If it makes it easier to understand, then picture, if you can, that God has Satan on a leash; there are boundaries beyond which he cannot act. And those boundaries extend only to unbelievers in Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness on earth. But when, as inhabitants of this earth, we accept Christ, we are given a new nature; are seated with Him in the heavenly realms; and we now operate under the rules of God’s Kingdom of Light, which Jesus inaugurated and brought with Him when He walked this earth. We are no longer under the rule of Satan, but until Jesus returns and defeats evil, Satan still rules the rest of the world and we are behind enemy lines.
     This does not mean that we concede God’s authority to Satan while we still live here. But it does mean that as sons and daughters of God and representatives of His Kingdom on earth, it is our responsibility to spread the truth of that Kingdom and work with the Holy Spirit [in us] to help set captives free from this domain of darkness and take back dominion of the earth for God. This dominion cannot and will not be completely restored until Jesus comes back to defeat the Enemy once and for all. But we must come to the conclusion that there is more to our duties as Christians than to speak only of God’s Love and Grace.  YES, they are part of His nature and we are to extend that to all people.  Jesus showed us that!  But He showed us so much more in this battle we are engaged in with the god of this world. 

     He showed us that disease, deceptive and demonic spirits, and death are all weapons of our adversary. And He showed us that with our new nature [empowered by the Holy Spirit] we can defeat the Enemy [just like He did] by using that Heaven-sent power to heal those the devil has afflicted; bind the deceptive voices of demons and cast them at the foot of the Cross for Jesus to deal with; and, as impossible as it sounds, even bring someone back to life whom the devil has conquered through death.  It is all part of God’s sovereign rule that He transfers the same power He gave to Jesus to us, so that He can continue His battle plan to restore dominion of the earth to His Kingdom.
     God wanted to work with Adam and Eve to establish His Kingdom here on earth when He handed over all that He had created to them.  And He wants to work with us [who have pledged our allegiance to Him] to reclaim that dominion and once again establish His Kingdom “on earth as it is in Heaven”. Until Jesus returns it is important for us Christians to take our blinders off and see this world as it truly is … under the rule of Satan, the earth’s king of Darkness. And we must see the role we are to play, beyond telling others of God’s amazing Love, Mercy and Grace. That’s a start — showing unbelievers Who it is that we serve and obey.  
     But we have another role, too, and that is as warriors. There is a spiritual battle to be won, and we must see our role as God sees it — to begin to use the power He has given us to defeat the wiles of the devil (sickness, demons, death).  Until we can do that, there are too many people still suffering and in captivity to these very schemes that keep them in darkness. Why not go that extra step? After telling someone about how much God and Jesus love them, why not show them the power of that love by healing them, or setting them free from the spirit of fear or anger? That’s what Jesus did — and because He did, we now believe. 
     It was the testimony of those He healed and set free, and the testimonies of those His followers healed and set free, that brought freedom to people around the world, and Christianity flourished. I just don’t understand how we, as 21st-Century Christians, can say we believe the Bible and believe those accounts, but because we haven’t been taught them or practice them, they no longer have any validity.  How can we say we know better than the Early Church disciples [who learned directly from Jesus]? It just seems to me this is another lie and deception from Satan, and it serves his purposes. As long as we deny our power and that role, he will continue to keep people in bondage — even Christians.  We must step into our true and complete identity. We are to be images of Christ; ALL that He was — a representative of God’s Love as well as Satan’s major opponent in the battle for men’s souls. Love and Conquer is our motto!

2 Corinthians 10:3-4   For although we live in the natural realm, we don’t wage a military campaign employing human weapons. Instead, our [spiritual] weapons are energized with divine power to effectively dismantle [demonic] strongholds.

      
      
    

Are You Willing To Take A Step Towards the Lord?

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     I just love this season of my life! Just as I feel the tension from some Christians who aren’t in agreement with what I believe God is showing me, He brings me into relationship with someone new who inspires me to keep reaching for greater revelation.  In no way, is it my intention to turn my back on those Believers who disagree with me, it is just that God is showering me with mercy as I continue my journey, free from discouragement and discontent. Oh, I have those moments of disappointment, but they are overshadowed by the illumination I am receiving from the Lord.
     One of the new voices that is inspiring me to seek a greater level of relationship with the Lord is Pastor Chad Norris, Lead Pastor at Bridgeway Church, in Greenville SC.  I was introduced to his ministry by Jeremy, my spiritual son, and I have to tell you that a church whose motto is “Rooted in the Word, empowered by the Holy Spirit, building an extended family, and making disciples that make disciples” is one that speaks to my spiritual heart.

     Jeremy recommended that Mark and I listen to a sermon by Pastor Norris called “Go”, and I want to share some of his points, along with my own expanded thoughts on what he has to say.  Pastor Norris really challenged me to go to Scripture to see what God thinks about the following aspect of our relationship … how aggressive am I willing to be in order to step into Jesus’ and the Father’s plan for my life?  Or, in other words, am I content to wait for the Lord to come to me, or am I willing to go up against what has been established by precedence in the Church and instead, go after what the Lord has spoken or promised? Will I listen to the religious people, or as Pastor Norris calls them, “the how you’re supposed to do it” people? Or will I trust what I believe is the word over my life, and step into the unknown, trusting that the Lord is going before me to secure that promise?
     Here’s what usually happens among Christians … we are faced with a situation in our lives and we tell ourselves “I don’t want to bother the Lord, so I will just get someone to beg God for me in prayer, and maybe He will heal me”.  Or, we say, “The Word tells me to wait on the Lord, so in the meantime, I know He is building my character through my perseverance in this season of pain, so I will wait and see if He answers my prayer.  And if He doesn’t, then it must not have been His will for my life.” No!
     I agree with Pastor Norris that there will always be something in our lives to overcome.  And I believe that far too many Christians receive a word from God to move towards Him in those moments of battle in their life. But instead, they wait for Jesus to walk into their situation [and salvation] and take care of it.  Here’s the deal … He took care of it at the Cross! We are able to see the Kingdom of God manifest in our lives when we reach out and grab it, because it already came at Calvary! Our faith is only as powerful as what we put our faith in — and it has to be Jesus!
     Jesus or the Holy Spirit doesn’t give you a prompting to step out in faith, just so He can take you to a safe place where it is quiet and protected. Stepping out in faith is stepping onto the spiritual battlefield! He’s prompting you to step into that word you’ve received — about a new job opportunity; a physical healing; increased financial provision; restoring a damaged relationship — whatever it is, He wants you to trust Him as you enter into that battle, trusting that He is in the middle of the battle and that He will defeat all your enemies before you.
     And we see some great examples in the Bible that show us the result of defying the norm, and taking that step towards Him.  Pastor Norris shows us the story of Blind Bartimaeus, who shouted at Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  He didn’t listen to the religious people who “sternly rebuked him, telling him to keep still and be quiet”.  After all, it was unacceptable by their religious standards, to be yelling at a Rabbi.  But what did Bartimaeus do? “He kept on shouting out all the more”. The response? Jesus told His disciples, “Call him to come to me”.  Bartimaeus jumped at the chance, threw his beggar’s robe off, and made his way to Jesus.  The result?  His faith healed him; and the Greek word here is sozo, indicating he was delivered, saved, restored, healed, rescued, preserved, and made whole with his sight restored. Hallelujah!
     But we see the same kind of breakthrough come in the lives of others who weren’t willing to sit back passively, waiting for Jesus to solve their problems. We see it in the life of Zaccheus, the wealthy tax collector, who wasn’t willing to miss seeing and hearing Jesus because of his short stature. He was so desperate for an encounter with the Lord that he defied protocol and climbed a sycamore tree to gain access to Jesus. Result? Jesus called to him and Zacceus’ life changed forever as he received his salvation.
     We also see it in the life of the woman who had a bleeding issue for 12 years.  She was not content with being passive and hoping that the Lord might see her and heal her. Remember, it was unlawful for her to even be in the midst of the public, but she, too, was willing to risk the scorn of the religious people so that she might grab hold of her healing.  Her result? Her faith was strong to heal her because she had put her faith in the One who had the power to heal.
     And we can’t forget the instance in Matthew 14 when Peter goes against conventional wisdom and steps out of the boat in the middle of a raging storm to walk to Jesus when the Lord commands, “Come!” Peter was able to defeat the laws of gravity and this world as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. But as soon as he began listening to the voices of the scared disciples in the boat, or the voice of human reason in his head, he broke that connection of faith with Jesus and began to sink.
    

Here is what we need to understand…. When we receive a word [from Jesus] to step out in faith, He has already positioned Himself in the midst of the circumstance, and is actually waiting on us to take a hold of that word and the promise that accompanies it.  But too many of us Christians wait for Him or the Father to perform that word out of His grace.  For instance, we tell ourselves we have received a word that the Father wants to bless us with increased provision through a new job offer.  Instead of understanding that He is waiting for us to step out in faith and make ourself available by putting out job feelers or networking our contacts, we tend to stay passive and wait for the job to come to us. We need to understand that the Kingdom can’t advance in our lives if we don’t know how to take hold of it violently; that is aggressively by pressing in to it, unwilling to take “no” for an answer.
     In summary, give this a thought … all of these people had challenges to overcome. What if Bartimaeus or Zaccheus or the woman with the blood issue had not been willing to press into their encounter with Jesus? What if they had ignored that prompting to be aggressive and seek Him out? Could God have bestowed favor on them and had Jesus heal them anyway? Of course! But I believe that would be opposing the principles that He set concerning His character. I believe that He likes to see breakthrough in people’s lives due to us trusting in the word He sends to us, confessing it, and then taking a step towards Jesus. That’s the epitome of Faith. And remember, without Faith, it is impossible to please God.  These people all modeled aggressive faith which saw them walk away victorious. 

     So, the next time you receive a word over your life, cooperate with that word given and take a step towards the promise.  We can either bless or curse ourselves [or our churches] by confessing the word (believing it and acting on it), or holding back out of fear that it might not come true, and then blaming God for why it didn’t manifest.  (And I include the times that we take a step, get scared, and take a step backward). That’s opposing those principles of God’s character!
      It’s time we realize that “waiting on the Lord” does not always mean being passive and safe and secure. Sometimes, it means we are to be aggressive and renew the strength of our faith by trusting the word we have received. Sometimes, “waiting on the Lord” means being persistent and fighting the good fight of Faith. Jesus has promised that He will always be with us.  Take a step towards Him … He will be there!

1 Timothy 6:12    So fight with Faith for the winner’s prize! Lay your hands upon eternal life for this is your calling — celebrating in faith before the multitude of witnesses!” 

     

The Question About Faith

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     A perfect day for me is to be involved in a discussion with other serious Christians about the hard questions concerning our relationship with our Father in Heaven.  I like nothing better than to spend hours in conversation examining what the Holy Spirit reveals in the Father’s Word. And the harder the analysis, the more rewarding it is to hear what has been revealed to others, and then compare to my own relationship with God.
     That’s why I have been enjoying a new series (called Questions With God); half-hour round-table discussions filmed by Darren Wilson and including a group of various pastors, all who represent a cross culture of the modern Body of Christ.  They don’t shy away from those hard questions, and they are all walking in the power of God, exhibiting intimate relationships with Him, so they speak from experience — and to my way of thinking, experience counts if you’re going to have any relevance in talking about walking in power.

     One particular session really grabbed my interest.  Although it seemed like a simple question, I think it holds a lot of weight in a Christian discussion … Why is Faith so difficult?  Think about that.  Faith is the very foundation of our relationship with the Father, right?  Yet, I wonder how many Christians could even explain what their faith means to them, or why it seems so important to God.  I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I read, And without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6) that tells me that I should understand what it is and why it matters so much to Him. It is obvious from this verse that our faith actually moves God’s heart.  So, maybe our faith is something we should have a real handle on.
     I must say that I found it fascinating during Questions with God, when it was mentioned that the word “faith” only appears twice in the Old Testament, while it appears 245 times in the New Testament. However, the various forms of “faithful”, “faithfully” and “faithfulness” appear an additional 109 times throughout both the Old and New Testament. It is obvious Faith has always been important to God!
     In the Old Testament, the connotation of “faith” is trustworthiness; to be established, lasting, continuing, certain.  Using the King James version of the Bible, the word “faith” only appears in Deuteronomy 32:20 and Habakkuk 2:4. The Deuteronomy passage reads, And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very perverse generation, children in whom is no faith.  The Habakkuk verse reads, Look at the proud one, his soul is not right within him. But the righteous will live by his faith [in the true God]. In both verses, we get the picture that faith is an established and continuing trustworthiness.  The Israelites lacked faith in Deuteronomy, and the righteous lived by it in Habakkuk.
      In the New Testament, Faith seems to be a belief system in respect to man’s relationship with God, generally including the idea of trust and holy power, which is born of faith and becomes a concrete confidence that Jesus can be relied on in all matters of our earthly life and eternal salvation.  HE is the one who is eternally trustworthy and we put our continued confidence in Him. I know that is a wordy explanation, but the idea of faith covers so much ground, that I just can’t reduce it to a short definition.
     So, are you beginning to see that Faith is difficult because it involves risk? Which automatically leads us humans to fear? Let’s be honest; by all human standards it is risky to put our trust in a God we cannot see. There is the obvious risk factor of the unknown, and we are certainly not in control if we engage in this relationship.  At the very core of our faith we must have TRUST in this God we can’t see, and we must yield and surrender all control to Him.
     If you think about it, our relationship with our Heavenly Father is a whole lot like any of our earthly relationships.  The more we come to know someone, our experience with them either proves or disproves that they can be trusted, right? So can we agree that this ability to trust God comes through our history with Him and the intimacy that grows between us as we get to know Him more? And that intimacy is an expression of God’s love working in us!
      After listening to the round-table discussion in the video Why Is Faith So Difficult, I wanted to pursue a particular Scripture that was mentioned, namely Galatians 5:6, which one of the pastors said suggested that Christians might have more of a “love problem” than a “faith problem”.  If you will indulge me, I’d like to submit to you the entire passage of Galatians 5:1-6, in which Paul says ….
     “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free — not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.
     I, Paul, tell you: If you think there is benefit in circumcision and Jewish regulations, then you’re acting as though Jesus, the Anointed One, is not enough. I say it again emphatically: If you let yourselves be circumcised you are obliged to fulfill every single one of the commandments and regulations of the Law!
     If you want to be made holy by fulfilling the obligations of the Law, you have cut off more than your flesh — you have cut yourselves off from the Anointed One and have fallen away from the revelation of grace!
     But the Holy Spirit convinces us that we have received by faith the glorious righteousness of the Anointed One. When you’re placed into the Anointed One and joined to Him, circumcision and religious obligations can benefit you nothing.  All that matters now is living in the faith that is activated and brought to perfection by love.” 
     So, here is what I see Paul saying: RELIGION WILL NOT RESULT IN FAITH. It tends to focus us on rules, rituals, and regulations, while taking our eyes off of seeing and experiencing God’s grace in our life. And it is God’s grace that gives us the ability to recognize and receive His love and develop that intimate relationship that grows into continuing and steadfast trust… the things hoped for, but not seen.
      Can you see it? Faith is a choice — the willful decision by any Believer to decide to trust Jesus [and God] above and beyond anything this world tries to tell or show us — including our religious traditions.  It is a matter of pressing into Them for that intimate relationship; developing a history together that proves Their trustworthiness in all matters. Faith then becomes a growing process; a continuous action on our part that is activated and made stronger through the power of God’s love in our life. And I believe the Pastor rightfully diagnosed a potential problem in the faith lives of Christians — we must recognize the power of God to love us into our faith. We must be open to an encounter with Him and the activating power of His love to move us into intimacy with Him, whereby we experience more of Him and learn to trust Him, which all adds up to FAITH. That requires surrender … and trust … and, sure, it’s risky. But it is so worth it!

1 John 5:4      ….. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
    

Experiencing The Power of The Holy Spirit

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     I  have come to realize that discussing the power and the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is a difficult topic to broach.  It is difficult for many reasons … First, the modern Church isn’t consistent in its understanding of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Every denomination has its own doctrine, and from what I can tell, too few of them teach that we Christians should be seeking an experience with Him.
      Ask any roomful of Christians about desiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or if we should be walking in the power of the Spirit [as Jesus did], and you will get opinions ranging from those who have been wounded by the Church because they didn’t appear to have a particular gift, and therefore don’t desire to seek more of Him; to those who, while unknowledgable about the subject, are curious to know more; to those who flat out reject it; to those who have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and are walking in His empowerment, healing the sick and setting the captives free from bondage.
       So, I guess the fundamental questions become Are the gifts and the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit only for a chosen few? Does this intimate experience with God through the Holy Spirit mean anything in God’s Kingdom on earth? And finally, Can anybody do what Jesus did?
     First of all, it is important that Christians realize Jesus was 30 years old before the Holy Spirit rested upon Him and He had the power to begin His ministry.  The Bible tells us that As Jesus grew, so did His wisdom and maturity. We must realize that the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives comes through our own process of gaining wisdom and maturing in our faith; of walking with God and experiencing an increase in His grace, and an increase in the comprehension of the Father’s plan for our life — and all of that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We must recognize His presence in us!
     But I think most Christians are scared of the power of the Holy Spirit, primarily because they are unfamiliar with it. The Bible tells us there is a purpose for a five-fold ministry in the Body of Christ. By God’s grace, some have been called to be apostles [an ambassador of the Gospel of the Kingdom]; some prophets [a proclaimer of a divine message]; some evangelists [a preacher of the Gospel of the Kingdom]; some pastors [providing tender care and vigilant oversight]; and some teachers [an instructor concerning the things of God and the duties of man]. But Ephesians 4:12 specifically says that these callings are to equip [nurture and prepare] all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry…  And here is the root of that concept: God’s grace is the power of the Holy Spirit in us to do those things we have been called to. And lest you misunderstand, we are all called to do the things that Jesus taught and commanded (defeating the works of the devil) and to walk in the manifestation [the enabling power] of the Holy Spirit to serve God in whatever gifts, achievement, or abilities He has designed for us to carry out.
     So, how many of us can say that we have experienced any of this nurturing within the Body of Christ?  Jesus is our model, and everything He did was the product of the Holy Spirit working in Him to carry out His commission [ministry] from the Father. AND it is the function of those called by God’s grace to equip us to receive that same Holy Spirit power to do our “own works of ministry.” But how many of us received that equipping … that nurturing and preparing … that instruction and modeling of how to become more like Jesus?
     This is not just my own opinion to back up my own brand of theology.  The Bible says it plainly and clearly … in Hebrews 10:23-25, we are told to hold tightly to the promise given us [that the Holy Spirit would come to empower us and guide us]; and we should give considerate and deliberate thought to encouraging each other to love and do the good deeds Jesus modeled, not forsaking the gathering together to encourage each other to do these things as we wait for His return. The “gathering together” is not the primary focus; it is the encouragement of each other to walk in the power that God sends us through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

     But here’s the thing … since I would venture to say that a large majority of us were never encouraged or equipped to walk in our own giftings and callings, we are uncomfortable with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and it is easy for the Enemy to convince us that this concept is not from God.  When the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives through the gifts and counsel He gives us is never taught, or it is explained away, or it is not used, or it is buried under disappointing attempts that appeared to fail — then it is easy to believe the lie that this empowerment is not for Today.  And then we end up with powerless Christians who miss out on encounters with God and fulfilling the purpose for which they were called.
     So, back to my original questions … Are the gifts and the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit only for a chosen few? The answer is No! It says in 1 Corinthians 12:6-7, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers [gifts] that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them. Each believer is given continuous revelation by the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”. But I believe it is up to each believer to seek and receive that revelation.
     Does this intimate experience with God through the Holy Spirit mean anything in God’s Kingdom on earth? Yes! It is the only way to impact this world for the Kingdom of God.  Without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, it is my humble opinion that you can’t truly know God, and know His will for His Kingdom. You can read and study Scripture and recite all the verses from memory, but as my wise husband expressed, “It’s like how can you say you know how to swim, if all you’ve done is read every book in the Library on swimming, but never actually experienced getting in the water and swimming?”  And I liken it to reading every post on Facebook by a friend, and reading every text message she sends me, but if I’m never in her presence and experience her, can I say I really know her?  How can we be ambassadors for a Kingdom when we don’t know the King and what He desires?
     Finally, Can everybody do what Jesus did? The simple answer is Yes. But can we guarantee success every time? No. But what I can tell you from my own experience in walking in His power, the more you do it, the more confidence you get in your identity and the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through you.  In other words, people who pray more for healing, will see more healings happen. John Wimber, one of the founders of the “Power Evangelism” movement in the U.S. prayed for healing for 1,000 people before he saw anyone healed. And I have heard so many similar testimonies from those who walk in Jesus’ signs, wonders, and miracles say the same thing: Christians must make a commitment to press into what CAN happen and SHOULD be happening.
     My final analysis of experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Christian life is that God brings each of us to a place of maturity that requires our perseverance through the discouragement.  The Enemy likes nothing more than to send obstacles to our walking in the power of the Holy Spirit that is in us. The Body of Christ must begin to overcome our long season of apathy and indifference [and yes, fear] towards embracing the power of Heaven within us. The Holy Spirit of God is the key to an effective Christian life of service. Without His ministry to our spirits, our Christian life will be powerless and fruitless for the Kingdom. And this life is all about the Kingdom!

Ephesians 3:20   Never doubt God’s almighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you.


    

Experiencing The Power of The Holy Spirit

     I  have come to realize that discussing the power and the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is a difficult topic to broach.  It is difficult for many reasons … First, the modern Church isn’t consistent in its understanding of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Every denomination has its own doctrine, and from what I can tell, too few of them teach that we Christians should be seeking an experience with Him.
      Ask any roomful of Christians about desiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or if we should be walking in the power of the Spirit [as Jesus did], and you will get opinions ranging from those who have been wounded by the Church because they didn’t appear to have a particular gift, and therefore don’t desire to seek more of Him; to those who, while unknowledgable about the subject, are curious to know more; to those who flat out reject it; to those who have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and are walking in His empowerment, healing the sick and setting the captives free from bondage.
       So, I guess the fundamental questions become Are the gifts and the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit only for a chosen few? Does this intimate experience with God through the Holy Spirit mean anything in God’s Kingdom on earth? And finally, Can anybody do what Jesus did?
     First of all, it is important that Christians realize Jesus was 30 years old before the Holy Spirit rested upon Him and He had the power to begin His ministry.  The Bible tells us that As Jesus grew, so did His wisdom and maturity. We must realize that the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives comes through our own process of gaining wisdom and maturing in our faith; of walking with God and experiencing an increase in His grace, and an increase in the comprehension of the Father’s plan for our life — and all of that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We must recognize His presence in us!
     But I think most Christians are scared of the power of the Holy Spirit, primarily because they are unfamiliar with it. The Bible tells us there is a purpose for a five-fold ministry in the Body of Christ. By God’s grace, some have been called to be apostles [an ambassador of the Gospel of the Kingdom]; some prophets [a proclaimer of a divine message]; some evangelists [a preacher of the Gospel of the Kingdom]; some pastors [providing tender care and vigilant oversight]; and some teachers [an instructor concerning the things of God and the duties of man]. But Ephesians 4:12 specifically says that these callings are to equip [nurture and prepare] all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry…  And here is the root of that concept: God’s grace is the power of the Holy Spirit in us to do those things we have been called to. And lest you misunderstand, we are all called to do the things that Jesus taught and commanded (defeating the works of the devil) and to walk in the manifestation [the enabling power] of the Holy Spirit to serve God in whatever gifts, achievement, or abilities He has designed for us to carry out.
     So, how many of us can say that we have experienced any of this nurturing within the Body of Christ?  Jesus is our model, and everything He did was the product of the Holy Spirit working in Him to carry out His commission [ministry] from the Father. AND it is the function of those called by God’s grace to equip us to receive that same Holy Spirit power to do our “own works of ministry.” But how many of us received that equipping … that nurturing and preparing … that instruction and modeling of how to become more like Jesus?
     This is not just my own opinion to back up my own brand of theology.  The Bible says it plainly and clearly … in Hebrews 10:23-25, we are told to hold tightly to the promise given us [that the Holy Spirit would come to empower us and guide us]; and we should give considerate and deliberate thought to encouraging each other to love and do the good deeds Jesus modeled, not forsaking the gathering together to encourage each other to do these things as we wait for His return. The “gathering together” is not the primary focus; it is the encouragement of each other to walk in the power that God sends us through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

     But here’s the thing … since I would venture to say that a large majority of us were never encouraged or equipped to walk in our own giftings and callings, we are uncomfortable with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and it is easy for the Enemy to convince us that this concept is not from God.  When the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives through the gifts and counsel He gives us is never taught, or it is explained away, or it is not used, or it is buried under disappointing attempts that appeared to fail — then it is easy to believe the lie that this empowerment is not for Today.  And then we end up with powerless Christians who miss out on encounters with God and fulfilling the purpose for which they were called.
     So, back to my original questions … Are the gifts and the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit only for a chosen few? The answer is No! It says in 1 Corinthians 12:6-7, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers [gifts] that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energies and activates them. Each believer is given continuous revelation by the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”. But I believe it is up to each believer to seek and receive that revelation.
     Does this intimate experience with God through the Holy Spirit mean anything in God’s Kingdom on earth? Yes! It is the only way to impact this world for the Kingdom of God.  Without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, it is my humble opinion that you can’t truly know God, and know His will for His Kingdom. You can read and study Scripture and recite all the verses from memory, but as my wise husband expressed, “It’s like how can you say you know how to swim, if all you’ve done is read every book in the Library on swimming, but never actually experienced getting in the water and swimming?”  And I liken it to reading every post on Facebook by a friend, and reading every text message she sends me, but if I’m never in her presence and experience her, can I say I really know her?  How can we be ambassadors for a Kingdom when we don’t know the King and what He desires?
     Finally, Can everybody do what Jesus did? The simple answer is Yes. But can we guarantee success every time? No. But what I can tell you from my own experience in walking in His power, the more you do it, the more confidence you get in your identity and the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through you.  In other words, people who pray more for healing, will see more healings happen. John Wimber, one of the founders of the “Power Evangelism” movement in the U.S. prayed for healing for 1,000 people before he saw anyone healed. And I have heard so many similar testimonies from those who walk in Jesus’ signs, wonders, and miracles say the same thing: Christians must make a commitment to press into what CAN happen and SHOULD be happening.
     My final analysis of experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Christian life is that God brings each of us to a place of maturity that requires our perseverance through the discouragement.  The Enemy likes nothing more than to send obstacles to our walking in the power of the Holy Spirit that is in us. The Body of Christ must begin to overcome our long season of apathy and indifference [and yes, fear] towards embracing the power of Heaven within us. The Holy Spirit of God is the key to an effective Christian life of service. Without His ministry to our spirits, our Christian life will be powerless and fruitless for the Kingdom. And this life is all about the Kingdom!

Ephesians 3:20   Never doubt God’s almighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you.


    

Experiencing The Power of The Holy Spirit

     I  have come to realize that discussing the power and the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is a difficult topic to broach.  It is difficult for many reasons … First, the modern Church isn’t consistent in its understanding of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Every denomination has its own doctrine, and from what I can tell, too few of them teach that we Christians should be seeking an experience with Him.
      Ask any roomful of Christians about desiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or if we should be walking in the power of the Spirit [as Jesus did], and you will get opinions ranging from those who have been wounded by the Church because they didn’t appear to have a particular gift, and therefore don’t desire to seek more of Him; to those who, while unknowledgable about the subject, are curious to know more; to those who flat out reject it; to those who have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and are walking in His empowerment, healing the sick and setting the captives free from bondage.
       So, I guess the fundamental questions become Are the gifts and the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit only for a chosen few? Does this intimate experience with God through the Holy Spirit mean anything in God’s Kingdom on earth? And finally, Can anybody do what Jesus did?
     First of all, it is important that Christians realize Jesus was 30 years old before the Holy Spirit rested upon Him and He had the power to begin His ministry.  The Bible tells us that As Jesus grew, so did His wisdom and maturity. We must realize that the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives comes through our own process of gaining wisdom and maturing in our faith; of walking with God and experiencing an increase in His grace, and an increase in the comprehension of the Father’s plan for our life — and all of that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We must recognize His presence in us!
     But I think most Christians are scared of the power of the Holy Spirit, primarily because they are unfamiliar with it. The Bible tells us there is a purpose for a five-fold ministry in the Body of Christ. By God’s grace, some have been called to be apostles [an ambassador of the Gospel of the Kingdom]; some prophets [a proclaimer of a divine message]; some evangelists [a preacher of the Gospel of the Kingdom]; some pastors [providing tender care and vigilant oversight]; and some teachers [an instructor concerning the things of God and the duties of man]. But Ephesians 4:12 specifically says that these callings are to equip [nurture and prepare] all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry…  And here is the root of that concept: God’s grace is the power of the Holy Spirit in us to do those things we have been called to. And lest you misunderstand, we are all called to do the things that Jesus taught and commanded (defeating the works of the devil) and to walk in the manifestation [the enabling power] of the Holy Spirit to serve God in whatever gifts, achievement, or abilities He has designed for us to carry out.
     So, how many of us can say that we have experienced any of this nurturing within the Body of Christ?  Jesus is our model, and everything He did was the product of the Holy Spirit working in Him to carry out His commission [ministry] from the Father. AND it is the function of those called by God’s grace to equip us to receive that same Holy Spirit power to do our “own works of ministry.” But how many of us received that equipping … that nurturing and preparing … that instruction and modeling of how to become more like Jesus?
     This is not just my own opinion to back up my own brand of theology.  The Bible says it plainly and clearly … in Hebrews 10:23-25, we are told to hold tightly to the promise given us [that the Holy Spirit would come to empower us and guide us]; and we should give considerate and deliberate thought to encouraging each other to love and do the good deeds Jesus modeled, not forsaking the gathering together to encourage each other to do these things as we wait for His return. The “gathering together” is not the primary focus; it is the encouragement of each other to walk in the power that God sends us through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

     But here’s the thing … since I would venture to say that a large majority of us were never encouraged or equipped to walk in our own giftings and callings, we are uncomfortable with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and it is easy for the Enemy to convince us that this concept is not from God.  When the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives through the gifts and counsel He gives us is never taught, or it is explained away, or it is not used, or it is buried under disappointing attempts that appeared to fail — then it is easy to believe the lie that this empowerment is not for Today.  And then we end up with powerless Christians who miss out on encounters with God and fulfilling the purpose for which they were called.
     So, back to my original questions … Are the gifts and the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit only for a chosen few? The answer is No! It says in 1 Corinthians 12:6-7, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers [gifts] that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energies and activates them. Each believer is given continuous revelation by the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”. But I believe it is up to each believer to seek and receive that revelation.
     Does this intimate experience with God through the Holy Spirit mean anything in God’s Kingdom on earth? Yes! It is the only way to impact this world for the Kingdom of God.  Without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, it is my humble opinion that you can’t truly know God, and know His will for His Kingdom. You can read and study Scripture and recite all the verses from memory, but as my wise husband expressed, “It’s like how can you say you know how to swim, if all you’ve done is read every book in the Library on swimming, but never actually experienced getting in the water and swimming?”  And I liken it to reading every post on Facebook by a friend, and reading every text message she sends me, but if I’m never in her presence and experience her, can I say I really know her?  How can we be ambassadors for a Kingdom when we don’t know the King and what He desires?
     Finally, Can everybody do what Jesus did? The simple answer is Yes. But can we guarantee success every time? No. But what I can tell you from my own experience in walking in His power, the more you do it, the more confidence you get in your identity and the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through you.  In other words, people who pray more for healing, will see more healings happen. John Wimber, one of the founders of the “Power Evangelism” movement in the U.S. prayed for healing for 1,000 people before he saw anyone healed. And I have heard so many similar testimonies from those who walk in Jesus’ signs, wonders, and miracles say the same thing: Christians must make a commitment to press into what CAN happen and SHOULD be happening.
     My final analysis of experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Christian life is that God brings each of us to a place of maturity that requires our perseverance through the discouragement.  The Enemy likes nothing more than to send obstacles to our walking in the power of the Holy Spirit that is in us. The Body of Christ must begin to overcome our long season of apathy and indifference [and yes, fear] towards embracing the power of Heaven within us. The Holy Spirit of God is the key to an effective Christian life of service. Without His ministry to our spirits, our Christian life will be powerless and fruitless for the Kingdom. And this life is all about the Kingdom!

Ephesians 3:20   Never doubt God’s almighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you.


    

A New Look At The Sermon On The Mount

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     How many of you have struggled with understanding the section of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount that is presented in Matthew 5?  It is commonly known as “The Beatitudes” or “Blessings of the Kingdom”, and for years I have heard sermons or teachings on this particular portion of Scripture, and have always been left feeling as if the real meaning was missing.
     And then I read Matthew 5 based on the translation from Aramaic, and it was like a window was opened to the Father’s heart!  Before I show you the fullness of these important verses, I want to tell you why I think it is relevant to read the Aramaic translation.
    First, I will tell you that after doing extensive research as to what language Biblical scholars believe Jesus spoke, I was surprised to find so much disagreement and controversy.  It was almost equally divided among the experts who belived that Jesus primarily spoke either Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek (from which our English translations are derived).  After weighing all the opinions, I feel confident that this Aramaic translation is relevant for the following reasons…
     I believe that Jesus most likely spoke all three languages, depending on what was appropriate for a particular audience He was speaking to.  Hebrew was most likely the language in which the Scriptures were spoken or taught in the synagogues.  And it was spoken by the scribes, teachers of the law, Pharisees, and Sadducees, or the “religious elite.” So when Jesus appeared before the Sanhedrin, it is reasonable to assume that He spoke in Hebrew.
     Greek was the universal language of that time, and the language that the Romans, who had power over Israel during Jesus’ time, spoke.  It is was the language of the political class, so it is quite plausible that when Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate, He spoke in Greek.
     

     Aramaic was a particular Galilean dialect spoken during the late Second Temple period, at the time of Jesus and His Disciples. It was the language of the common people. According to the Associates for Biblical Research, and as written in the Gospels, Jesus’ earthly ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee. While important events occurred in Jerusalem, the Lord spent most of the three years of His ministry along the shores of this freshwater lake. Here He gave more than half of His parables, and here He performed most of His miracles. Seven of the Twelve Disciples were from the Galilee area, and tradition tells us that the Sermon on the Mount took place on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Gennesaret. Since Jesus’ ministry centered around the common people in this particular area, it is quite logical [to me] to take a look at how this important message would have been delivered in the language they spoke and understood … Aramaic.
     Before I give you that translation, I would like us to consider that the Sermon on the Mount was presented in the context of being the Constitution, if you will, of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is telling the crowds that the Ten Commandments serve as the Law on earth, but there is a higher concept of the Torah that portrays all that God expects and provides for those who yield to Him.
     In essence, God offers promises of power to fulfill all that He asks of us. In this important Sermon, Jesus puts the emphasis on the inward transformation of our hearts by the grace of God, rather than the outward duty to obey the Law. Jesus is telling all of us that God’s Kingdom is available to those who will learn His ways and offer ourselves to Him in full surrender.
     So, let’s take a look at what Jesus taught the crowds that day [in Aramaic]…

     What wealth is offered to you when you feel your spiritual poverty! For there is no charge to enter the realm of Heaven’s Kingdom.
     What delight comes to you when you wait upon the Lord! For you will find what you long for.
     What blessing comes to you when gentleness lives in you! For you will inherit the earth.
     How enriched you are when you crave righteousness! For you will be surrounded with fruitfulness.
     How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy! For tender mercy will be demonstrated to you.
     What bliss you experience when your heart is pure! For then your eyes will open to see more and more of God.
     How blessed you are when you make peace! For then you will be recognized as a true child of God.
     How enriched you are when you bear the wounds of being persecuted for doing what is right! For that is when you experience the realm of Heaven’s Kingdom.
     How ecstatic you can be when people insult and persecute you and speak all kinds of cruel lies about you because of your love for Me! Do leap for joy — since your heavenly reward is great. For you are being rejected the same way the prophets were before you. 

     Can you see the bigger picture here? Instead of our English translation that repeats “Blessed art thou”, the Aramaic provides independent and separate blessings for each of the Beatitudes. The word for “blessed” in Aramaic is toowayhon, and it implies more than a universal blessedness. It suggests, or intimates, fuller meanings of “enriched, happy, fortunate, delighted, blissful, contents, and of course, blessed”.
     Now, I better understand the full implications of these blessings. These verses now speak to me of total reliance upon God for everything.  When I wait upon the Lord, I am actually mourning for being away from Him, and I will be comforted when I finally receive what I have been longing for. When I am gentle [flexible], or meek, and claim nothing as mine, everything will be given to me. And I love the connection that is made between righteousness and fruitfulness!
     And I was amazed to find that the Hebrew and Aramaic concept of mercy is that is comes from our innermost being. In fact, the root word for “mercy” is the root word for “womb” — where we are transformed from spirit being into human being, as Jesus knits us in to the womb. (If you doubt this concept, remember that Jesus says He knew us before He knit us in the womb — I believe as a spirit being, made in the image of our Father). 
     I also understand more fully the concept of being pure of heart, for I will progressively see more of God as I mature in my faith and experience encounters with Him. Then the final verses speak of being persecuted and insulted because of the way we show our love for Jesus! But we are to live in such a way that people will have to lie when they speak evil of us.
     I am so thankful for this new and refreshing translation of the Beatitudes, because it is important that we understand the full picture of Kingdom living.  I will no longer read these verses with a veiled understanding, but can now delight in the picture they paint of how God wishes to bless us if we surrender fully to Him, and seek and embrace His Kingdom. I can only image what hope this gave to the crowds of simple and humble people who were hungry for these promises of the Kingdom. I am no different from them, and I suspect you aren’t either.  We all long for the hope of Heaven! So now, read this ancient, yet fresh, version of the Beatitudes again, and anticipate all that will be ours when the fullness of God’s Kingdom comes with our Savior!

Psalm 130:5    I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope”

How We Christians Judge

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     I’m going to talk about what will be a debatable subject among Believers … our capacity to judge others — especially our fellow Christians. This topic has surfaced after watching a new series of videos by Darren Wilson called Questions With God, where he asks hard, often thorny questions about God and faith.  Yes, it is that Darren Wilson who produced the highly controversial Holy Ghost series of films, where he took viewers to locations around the world to see if the Holy Spirit could truly lead a film. [In full disclosure, I loved the Holy Ghost series].
     I am also interested in this subject matter due to a recent question posed to me by one of the members of our Home Church.  Claire is an intelligent and passionate seeker after the Lord, and she was asking mine and Mark’s opinion on an article she had seen regarding Bethel Church and “Destiny Cards”.  In short, there was a barrage of articles appearing across Christian websites condemning Bethel Church for promoting occultic practices at a New Age festival.  It involved the use of “Destiny Cards”, which were likened to Tarot Cards. 

     I read several of the articles, and knowing the sources were ultra-Conservative sites and not prone to “coloring outside the lines”, I decided to write to Bethel and see if I could get them to clarify. [NOTE: It goes without question, that I do not approve of anything resembling Tarot Card readings or what could be classified as fortune-telling.  But I have seen too many instances of deliberate distortion against fellow Christians on some of these sites to believe their condemnation without further research].
     I reached out to Bethel by sending them an email which read, “We are a small Home Church in South Texas who is teaching from Bill Johnson’s book, When Heaven Invades Earth.  One of our members is concerned after reading an article on The Christian Post’s website that Bethel is confirming the use of Destiny Cards.  Could you please explain to me if this is true — and if so, explain your reasoning for approving this method of providing a prophetic word to believers. We have been encouraging our group, who are coming out of strict legalistic doctrines and battling spirits of religion … Stories like this make it difficult to keep them from sliding backwards.  Thank you for your time”.
     I was pleased to receive a reply within a few days.  It read: “Thank you for reaching out to us to ask about this issue directly. We appreciate your effort to know the truth and value the opportunity to bring clarification to this recent conversation. We’ve compiled our thoughts and perspectives in a statement on [the ministry known as] Christalignment and the supposed “Christian tarot cards,” as well as points of clarification that we feel are necessary from our leadership”. 
     They went on to include an official statement from Bethel concerning the subject of “Christian Tarot Cards”, and Christalignment, the ministry that was under attack.  Bethel made it very clear that Christalignment was not affiliated with Bethel, although the son of the ministry’s founders is involved with Bethel. The leaders at Bethel reached out to the ministry to make sure they understood what they were doing, and what they have been accused of doing.  And they made it clear that Christalignment stated that they stand in agreement with the Scriptures that all occult practices (like tarot cards) have no place in the Kingdom and should not be used.
    The long and the short of it can be explained in this section of Bethel’s response to me: “Reaching people where they are with the truth and love of God is our job as believers. Many people will not come to our churches, yet they are in great need of a personal encounter with Jesus. The leaders of Christalignment feel called to share the Gospel with a people group that most of us would feel unsure of how to approach. We value their efforts to minister to unbelievers in the ways they can more easily receive it and in the places they are going, like New Age festivals… This ministry is a form of outreach meant to share Jesus with those who have never met Him, or think they hate Him, or worse, that God hates them. This practice is not what the ministry leaders do in their church, in their devotional lives and Bible study, when making major life decisions, or when discipling people. It is not taught as the next great way of maturity, a secret new thing for young Christians, or an easy syncretism. This ministry is a way of getting people to stop and engage with fellow humans so that they might encounter the love of the Father and the truth of His Son Jesus Christ. If one of our sons or daughters was away from the Lord and looking for truth at a festival, we would be praying for them to meet believers like this ministry, who know the love and truth of God”.
     I have to tell you, that I value the honesty and the sincerity with which this response from Bethel was presented.  They didn’t give me a canned [or short] answer.  They provided a well-thought-out statement, addressing what they had discovered when they took the time to research the issue and talk to those involved.  I wish we could all follow that example! Which brings me back to Darren Wilson’s Questions with God series.  I was particularly struck by some statements presented by Chad Norris, the lead pastor at Bridgeway Church in Greenville, NC. 

     He said that it had been his experience, early in his Southern Baptist faith background, that his Christianity was defined by the 5 or 10 things he couldn’t/didn’t do.  When it came to having discussions with other Christians about debatable topics it was often characterized by “seeking to understand without listening”.  In other words, his mind was always going through his mental roladex looking for ways to dispute what his Brother or Sister in Christ was trying to explain… which always lead to misconceptions about their faith practices or beliefs.
     He said his paradigm looked like this … You are either in or you’re out [in eternity], based on what you believe. And if you happen to believe incorrectly, then everything is at stake.  So … [please get this, because I believe this is the crux of why so many Christians are terrified of considering any new concept of God] … Pastor Norris says the pursuit of his life became having the perfect theology, and if anyone [or any theology] threatened that, it threatened his eternal security. Heaven and hell are on the line, here, and we’re going to fight! Because if I’m wrong, I can lose it all! 
     How many of our fellow Christians can identify with this thought pattern?  How many would be honest enough with themselves to admit that this is their belief system?  And sadly, Christians who fall into this category will absolutely condemn anyone who strays outside the “acceptable pattern” of what gets you into eternity with God. 
    But for me, it comes down to this… are we not all called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world?  How are you going to do that if you’re not going out into the world, including all the ugly and unholy places?  That includes New Age festivals and Heavy Metal concerts, and means consorting with prostitutes and drug dealers and gang members on their terms! They’re not going to listen to you, if you don’t.  
    Do I always approve of the methods or the language or the actions of my fellow Christians who approach sharing Jesus in these unorthodox manners? No. But if the love of Jesus is their baseline, and there is fruit on that tree they’ve planted, then I believe they are doing God’s work and those other matters are between them and God.  
     There was another portion of Bethel’s response to me that I think fits this subject.  They wrote, “At times, some of the efforts of a particular ministry may not be wise risks or best practices, and may need to be addressed. If someone is doing something a fellow believer is concerned about, that believer should go to them directly and privately share their concerns, seeing if they can build mutual trust and value for one another. Perhaps, an explanation will bring understanding, or they can adjust to protect their connection in Christ. But even if they must ultimately disagree about the validity of the belief or practice, they have built a bridge for ongoing dialogue and possible change. One might end up saying, “I don’t appreciate the way they are doing such and such and think there are dangers, but I value their priorities and look with generous eyes to see what they are trying to accomplish.” 
     Isn’t that where our hearts should be aimed?  Shouldn’t we be encouraging those who are being obedient to the assignments God has given them — even if they fall outside of the mainstream Christian activities, or are something we would never consider? Isn’t that what Jesus did?  He, too, upset the religious boundaries of His day, and was condemned for “not following the rules”. 
     As for the Christalignment ministry team, here in their own words is how God has told them to share His Kingdom through “Destiny Cards”: “Our aim at Christalignment is to attract tarot reading clients, people who are fully into new age practices, psychics, and witches. All of these people can immediately recognize that our cards are not tarot once they sit down at our tables. Card sets, including cards we made named “Psalm cards” with scriptures on them, address the gifting in a person’s life. The color God is showing the person in a prayer encounter will speak to the person through the prophetic image on the front or meaning on the back. It’s the same as when we give someone a prophetic painting, just much smaller. They are all non-predictive, but we call them Destiny Cards, as we believe that giftings and callings given by God for people are certainly part of their destiny. All cards contain beautiful paintings by four different world renown prophetic artists and these paintings alone have deep meanings that have led to salvation and healing for many clients.
     The team is trained not only to be able to release deep encounters with the Spirit of Truth to clients but to also release words of knowledge and healing. For clients to see Jesus standing before them in an encounter is not uncommon, and many of them get born again.  The prophetic word given over us four years ago was that we would see hundreds of witches come into the kingdom, thousands of people turn from darkness, and that tarot cards would be disabled. Praise God this is happening!! As a deliverance ministry, we are able to stop clients ever going to a psychic again and this is our aim”.
     This ministry will not be for everyone. And I will be honest with you, it’s outside my comfort zone. And that’s okay. They are filling a need to reach the New Age community in this lost world; and they are instrumental in implementing encounters with Jesus. So, where are you being called to serve a lost world? Because if you’re not in the world and you are limiting yourselves to serving fellow Christians, you may be sharing the love of Christ, but how much fruit are you producing for the Kingdom? May all of us be led to serve and focus on the assignment the Lord has for us to preach and live the Gospel, make disciples of nations, and build the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. 

2 Corinthians 4:5-6    “We don’t preach ourselves, but rather the Lordship of Jesus Christ, for we are Your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let brilliant light shine out of darkness’ is the One who has cascaded His light into us — the brilliant dawning light of the glorious knowledge of God as we gaze into the face of Jesus Christ”.

What Kind Of Faith Will Jesus Find When He Returns?

     At this dawn of the year 2018, I am seeing lots of prophetic warnings coming forth from the Body of Christ. As far back as 2010, when Mark and I were part of an exceptional group of Believers in a Sunday School class called Spiritual Readiness For the End Times, I remember class members being interested in comparing the prophetic warnings in the Bible with what we were seeing on the world stage.
     As generations have done for centuries before us, the topic of the Return of the Lord was one of the most debated.  And although we all knew that no man knows the hour or the day, I think it is human nature to prognosticate based on Jesus’s words, as well as the prophets.  At one particular time, emboldened Believers were looking at the occurrences of the Blood Red Moons in history and connecting the dots to significant events in the history of God’s chosen people. And, though it seemed far in the future, 2018 was marked as a crucial year … and here we are.
     One of the most daunting prophetic messages has come from Bill Yount, an itinerant pastor of sorts, who states that his calling “is to encourage the Body of Christ to move forward into God’s Destiny as they are sent into the Harvest field”. He often receives a prophetic word from God, and for the year 2018, he has heard the Father saying, “Batten down the hatches”!
     Here is what his message is specifically about: “I sense 2018 will be a year of ‘everything at once’. All hell will break loose and all of heaven will break loose, but heaven is greater than hell. I sense the presence of a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, including family members, standing to cheer us on this coming year. The eyes of heaven are upon us, waving checkered flags in the distance. The heavens are shouting, ‘Don’t lose your excitement for what God has called you to do’. Your excitement excites Him and activates the angels among you. Excitement is a powerful weapon against the enemy, as it ties his hands.”
      And now I want to get to the heart of this post. How many of the Body of Christ do you think would read Mr. Yount’s prophetic word and pronounce it, for lack of a better word … crazy?  How many believe that God no longer speaks to prophets in our day and therefore we are not to listen to such warnings or exhortations?  How many are hesitant to even call statements like this “prophecies” for fear that it somehow dishonors the prophets of the Bible? Instead, they might call them predictions or even (gasp) fortune-telling.
     How many faithful Christians would say this is excessive and has no place in the ministry of the Church today?  But I would ask, does God love us any less than He did the faithful throughout the ages? If He sent prophets with timely words of warning then, why would we think that He would not speak through prophets today?
      But just as then, there are skeptics today. Here is the most common argument I have run across:  The early Christians did not have the complete Bible. Some early Christians did not have access to any of the books of the New Testament. The New Testament prophets “filled the gap” by proclaiming God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So, the Lord sent prophets to proclaim God’s Word to His people. If the purpose of a prophet was to reveal truth from God, why would we need prophets if we have the completed revelation from God in the Bible? If prophets were the “foundation” of the early church, are we still building the “foundation” today?
      I want to make it perfectly clear that any prophecies made today must be tested by Scripture. But I also believe that Paul makes it obvious that prophecy comes from God.  In fact, he says in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy“.  And I really like how the Passion Translation renders his words in 1 Thessalonians 5:20: “Never restrain or put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. And don’t be one who scorns prophecies, but be faithful to examine them by putting them to the test, and afterward hold tightly to what has proven to be right. Regard everything seriously and do what is best, avoiding every appearance of evil”.  [The Passion Translation translates from the Aramaic, which was what many of the manuscripts were written in.  We lose so much in the literal Greek translations].
     Here is what is important for us to realize… Prophecy is a valid gift of the Holy Spirit needed by the church today. There is no place in Scripture or church history that indicates the gift of prophecy has ceased or disappeared. The argument in the preceding paragraph comes from man’s mind, not the mind of God; nor can you find that argument in Scripture. Prophecy is an active function of the Holy Spirit in the church around the world . We must not ignore, despise, or scorn any true gift of the Holy Spirit. We need prophets and prophecy to keep the fire (inspiration) of the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts. Just as in the days of the prophets of old, we need to be rightfully discerning the words of today’s prophets. Do they reflect the nature and character of God as supported in the Bible?
      Now, I have no doubts that there will be many Christians who are secure in their faith, yet are offended by another Believer whose faith has shown them that God still talks through prophets today. Christians with the latter kind of faith threaten our comfort zones, don’t they? Those who are made nervous by this kind of “radical” faith often opt for a “middle of the road” position; a place within their Church doctrine where they feel safer and less threatened. But here’s the problem with this approach … does this lead to the lukewarm Church that Jesus warns us about in Revelation? And does this kind of apprehension eventually lead to doubt and unbelief? By playing it safe and renouncing the possibility that God still talks through prophets, are we playing into the hands of the devil? In the words of Bill Johnson, “Unbelief is safe because it takes no risk and almost always gets what it expects”. 
     Furthermore, how does such unbelief serve the Body? Whether it is unbelief in the gift of prophecy, the ministering of angels, our power and authority to defeat the schemes of the Enemy — it doesn’t matter. If we, as the Body of Christ, are afraid of being deceived, and are willing to stay on safe, middle ground, then we run the risk of limiting the benefits of such knowledge to our fellow Believers and the Lost.  We produce less fruit for the Kingdom, and we certainly are no threat to satan. 

     
     That is why Jesus’s question in Luke 18:8 should give all of us pause .. It comes after He has shared the parable of the widow receiving justice from the unjust judge. The point of this parable is that the widow was persistent in demanding justice, and the unjust judge finally awarded it to her to make her go away. Here’s the part of Scripture I want us to pay attention to: The Lord continued, “Did you hear what the ungodly judge said — that he would answer her persistent request? Don’t you know that God, the true judge, will grant justice to all of His chosen ones who cry out to Him night and day? He will pour out His Spirit upon them. He will not delay to answer you and give you what you ask for. God will give swift justice to those who don’t give up. So be ever praying, ever expecting, just like the widow was with the judge. Yet when the Son of Man comes back, will He find this kind of persistent faithfulness in His people?  
      Will He find a Church and Body that is willing to believe in ALL that the Word tells us, and who is unwilling to be shackled by the limitations of our doctrinal “sacred cows”? Will He find Believers who have been willing to accept the calling He has invited them to, and are excited to be working with Him to bring about the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom on earth? Will He find true Disciples whose aggressive faith is contagious and aren’t afraid to shine His Light into every dark corner of this world? And will He find a strong and growing Remnant who, like the widow, know the eternal inheritance they are due and are willing to fight tooth and nail for it, never giving up; who know what “batten down the hatches means” — it means focus on Jesus and His return. Pray like the widow did; be persistent in your prayer and your calling. And above all else, listen for Him to speak to you; both individually and personally, and through prophets whom He has chosen to communicate His will. 
     I am probably going to offend some people with this statement, so I hope that I word it to reveal my true heart … I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and I believe that it includes all the inspired writings that He commanded. But I also believe that our God is bigger than the words on those pages. I believe He has given us the Bible in order that we will seek Him out; seek more of Him than words can give us. For those who believe that the Bible is the complete revelation of God, I have this to say … (John 21:25) Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. This verse alone tells me that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are waiting for us to engage with them beyond what the Bible reveals. The Bible is an accurate and true picture of the God we serve, but I believe that it doesn’t contain all that He is or display the full extent of His Magnificence and Power.
     So, I guess in the end I am left with a certain sense of frustration … for those who want to keep God in a box and for those who are unable, for whatever reason, to see our full potential and what it looks like to “be in Christ”.  It is my prayer that God’s Spirit would rest on everyone who calls themselves Christian, and that there will be those who will accept the mantle being placed on their shoulders and walk in obedience [in their power and authority] to effect change in this world for the Kingdom. I will pray for those Christians who are satisfied in their doubt and skepticism, and willing to follow Jesus from a distance; who are more interested in refuting Scripture’s clear mandate than taking the risk to follow Jesus in an uncommon and risky manner.  But here’s the thing … I don’t want to have religious arguments. That’s living like the Pharisees. I want everyone to see the Light of Jesus in the uncommon ways He is calling out His own.  I want them to be unafraid and be willing to risk everything … their reputation, their church friendships, their families, their jobs … everything for the sake of being obedient to Jesus! I want us all to press toward the goal of our holy calling, and be completely possessed by the Holy Spirit to do the works God has prepared for us since the foundation of the world. That’s the kind of faith that I want Jesus to see when He returns!

John 15:15    No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”.
     
     
 

          

What Kind Of Faith Will Jesus Find When He Returns?

     At this dawn of the year 2018, I am seeing lots of prophetic warnings coming forth from the Body of Christ. As far back as 2010, when Mark and I were part of an exceptional group of Believers in a Sunday School class called Spiritual Readiness For the End Times, I remember class members being interested in comparing the prophetic warnings in the Bible with what we were seeing on the world stage.
     As generations have done for centuries before us, the topic of the Return of the Lord was one of the most debated.  And although we all knew that no man knows the hour or the day, I think it is human nature to prognosticate based on Jesus’s words, as well as the prophets.  At one particular time, emboldened Believers were looking at the occurrences of the Blood Red Moons in history and connecting the dots to significant events in the history of God’s chosen people. And, though it seemed far in the future, 2018 was marked as a crucial year … and here we are.
     One of the most daunting prophetic messages has come from Bill Yount, an itinerant pastor of sorts, who states that his calling “is to encourage the Body of Christ to move forward into God’s Destiny as they are sent into the Harvest field”. He often receives a prophetic word from God, and for the year 2018, he has heard the Father saying, “Batten down the hatches”!
     Here is what his message is specifically about: “I sense 2018 will be a year of ‘everything at once’. All hell will break loose and all of heaven will break loose, but heaven is greater than hell. I sense the presence of a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, including family members, standing to cheer us on this coming year. The eyes of heaven are upon us, waving checkered flags in the distance. The heavens are shouting, ‘Don’t lose your excitement for what God has called you to do’. Your excitement excites Him and activates the angels among you. Excitement is a powerful weapon against the enemy, as it ties his hands.”
      And now I want to get to the heart of this post. How many of the Body of Christ do you think would read Mr. Yount’s prophetic word and pronounce it, for lack of a better word … crazy?  How many believe that God no longer speaks to prophets in our day and therefore we are not to listen to such warnings or exhortations?  How many are hesitant to even call statements like this “prophecies” for fear that it somehow dishonors the prophets of the Bible? Instead, they might call them predictions or even (gasp) fortune-telling.
     How many faithful Christians would say this is excessive and has no place in the ministry of the Church today?  But I would ask, does God love us any less than He did the faithful throughout the ages? If He sent prophets with timely words of warning then, why would we think that He would not speak through prophets today?
      But just as then, there are skeptics today. Here is the most common argument I have run across:  The early Christians did not have the complete Bible. Some early Christians did not have access to any of the books of the New Testament. The New Testament prophets “filled the gap” by proclaiming God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So, the Lord sent prophets to proclaim God’s Word to His people. If the purpose of a prophet was to reveal truth from God, why would we need prophets if we have the completed revelation from God in the Bible? If prophets were the “foundation” of the early church, are we still building the “foundation” today?
      I want to make it perfectly clear that any prophecies made today must be tested by Scripture. But I also believe that Paul makes it obvious that prophecy comes from God.  In fact, he says in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy“.  And I really like how the Passion Translation renders his words in 1 Thessalonians 5:20: “Never restrain or put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. And don’t be one who scorns prophecies, but be faithful to examine them by putting them to the test, and afterward hold tightly to what has proven to be right. Regard everything seriously and do what is best, avoiding every appearance of evil”.  [The Passion Translation translates from the Aramaic, which was what many of the manuscripts were written in.  We lose so much in the literal Greek translations].
     Here is what is important for us to realize… Prophecy is a valid gift of the Holy Spirit needed by the church today. There is no place in Scripture or church history that indicates the gift of prophecy has ceased or disappeared. The argument in the preceding paragraph comes from man’s mind, not the mind of God; nor can you find that argument in Scripture. Prophecy is an active function of the Holy Spirit in the church around the world . We must not ignore, despise, or scorn any true gift of the Holy Spirit. We need prophets and prophecy to keep the fire (inspiration) of the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts. Just as in the days of the prophets of old, we need to be rightfully discerning the words of today’s prophets. Do they reflect the nature and character of God as supported in the Bible?
      Now, I have no doubts that there will be many Christians who are secure in their faith, yet are offended by another Believer whose faith has shown them that God still talks through prophets today. Christians with the latter kind of faith threaten our comfort zones, don’t they? Those who are made nervous by this kind of “radical” faith often opt for a “middle of the road” position; a place within their Church doctrine where they feel safer and less threatened. But here’s the problem with this approach … does this lead to the lukewarm Church that Jesus warns us about in Revelation? And does this kind of apprehension eventually lead to doubt and unbelief? By playing it safe and renouncing the possibility that God still talks through prophets, are we playing into the hands of the devil? In the words of Bill Johnson, “Unbelief is safe because it takes no risk and almost always gets what it expects”. 
     Furthermore, how does such unbelief serve the Body? Whether it is unbelief in the gift of prophecy, the ministering of angels, our power and authority to defeat the schemes of the Enemy — it doesn’t matter. If we, as the Body of Christ, are afraid of being deceived, and are willing to stay on safe, middle ground, then we run the risk of limiting the benefits of such knowledge to our fellow Believers and the Lost.  We produce less fruit for the Kingdom, and we certainly are no threat to satan. 

     
     That is why Jesus’s question in Luke 18:8 should give all of us pause .. It comes after He has shared the parable of the widow receiving justice from the unjust judge. The point of this parable is that the widow was persistent in demanding justice, and the unjust judge finally awarded it to her to make her go away. Here’s the part of Scripture I want us to pay attention to: The Lord continued, “Did you hear what the ungodly judge said — that he would answer her persistent request? Don’t you know that God, the true judge, will grant justice to all of His chosen ones who cry out to Him night and day? He will pour out His Spirit upon them. He will not delay to answer you and give you what you ask for. God will give swift justice to those who don’t give up. So be ever praying, ever expecting, just like the widow was with the judge. Yet when the Son of Man comes back, will He find this kind of persistent faithfulness in His people?  
      Will He find a Church and Body that is willing to believe in ALL that the Word tells us, and who is unwilling to be shackled by the limitations of our doctrinal “sacred cows”? Will He find Believers who have been willing to accept the calling He has invited them to, and are excited to be working with Him to bring about the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom on earth? Will He find true Disciples whose aggressive faith is contagious and aren’t afraid to shine His Light into every dark corner of this world? And will He find a strong and growing Remnant who, like the widow, know the eternal inheritance they are due and are willing to fight tooth and nail for it, never giving up; who know what “batten down the hatches means” — it means focus on Jesus and His return. Pray like the widow did; be persistent in your prayer and your calling. And above all else, listen for Him to speak to you; both individually and personally, and through prophets whom He has chosen to communicate His will. 
     I am probably going to offend some people with this statement, so I hope that I word it to reveal my true heart … I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and I believe that it includes all the inspired writings that He commanded. But I also believe that our God is bigger than the words on those pages. I believe He has given us the Bible in order that we will seek Him out; seek more of Him than words can give us. For those who believe that the Bible is the complete revelation of God, I have this to say … (John 21:25) Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. This verse alone tells me that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are waiting for us to engage with them beyond what the Bible reveals. The Bible is an accurate and true picture of the God we serve, but I believe that it doesn’t contain all that He is or display the full extent of His Magnificence and Power.
     So, I guess in the end I am left with a certain sense of frustration … for those who want to keep God in a box and for those who are unable, for whatever reason, to see our full potential and what it looks like to “be in Christ”.  It is my prayer that God’s Spirit would rest on everyone who calls themselves Christian, and that there will be those who will accept the mantle being placed on their shoulders and walk in obedience [in their power and authority] to effect change in this world for the Kingdom. I will pray for those Christians who are satisfied in their doubt and skepticism, and willing to follow Jesus from a distance; who are more interested in refuting Scripture’s clear mandate than taking the risk to follow Jesus in an uncommon and risky manner.  But here’s the thing … I don’t want to have religious arguments. That’s living like the Pharisees. I want everyone to see the Light of Jesus in the uncommon ways He is calling out His own.  I want them to be unafraid and be willing to risk everything … their reputation, their church friendships, their families, their jobs … everything for the sake of being obedient to Jesus! I want us all to press toward the goal of our holy calling, and be completely possessed by the Holy Spirit to do the works God has prepared for us since the foundation of the world. That’s the kind of faith that I want Jesus to see when He returns!

John 15:15    No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”.
     
     
 

          

What Kind Of Faith Will Jesus Find When He Returns?

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     At this dawn of the year 2018, I am seeing lots of prophetic warnings coming forth from the Body of Christ. As far back as 2010, when Mark and I were part of an exceptional group of Believers in a Sunday School class called Spiritual Readiness For the End Times, I remember class members being interested in comparing the prophetic warnings in the Bible with what we were seeing on the world stage.
     As generations have done for centuries before us, the topic of the Return of the Lord was one of the most debated.  And although we all knew that no man knows the hour or the day, I think it is human nature to prognosticate based on Jesus’s words, as well as the prophets.  At one particular time, emboldened Believers were looking at the occurrences of the Blood Red Moons in history and connecting the dots to significant events in the history of God’s chosen people. And, though it seemed far in the future, 2018 was marked as a crucial year … and here we are.
     One of the most daunting prophetic messages has come from Bill Yount, an itinerant pastor of sorts, who states that his calling “is to encourage the Body of Christ to move forward into God’s Destiny as they are sent into the Harvest field”. He often receives a prophetic word from God, and for the year 2018, he has heard the Father saying, “Batten down the hatches”!
     Here is what his message is specifically about: “I sense 2018 will be a year of ‘everything at once’. All hell will break loose and all of heaven will break loose, but heaven is greater than hell. I sense the presence of a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, including family members, standing to cheer us on this coming year. The eyes of heaven are upon us, waving checkered flags in the distance. The heavens are shouting, ‘Don’t lose your excitement for what God has called you to do’. Your excitement excites Him and activates the angels among you. Excitement is a powerful weapon against the enemy, as it ties his hands.”
      And now I want to get to the heart of this post. How many of the Body of Christ do you think would read Mr. Yount’s prophetic word and pronounce it, for lack of a better word … crazy?  How many believe that God no longer speaks to prophets in our day and therefore we are not to listen to such warnings or exhortations?  How many are hesitant to even call statements like this “prophecies” for fear that it somehow dishonors the prophets of the Bible? Instead, they might call them predictions or even (gasp) fortune-telling.
     How many faithful Christians would say this is excessive and has no place in the ministry of the Church today?  But I would ask, does God love us any less than He did the faithful throughout the ages? If He sent prophets with timely words of warning then, why would we think that He would not speak through prophets today?
      But just as then, there are skeptics today. Here is the most common argument I have run across:  The early Christians did not have the complete Bible. Some early Christians did not have access to any of the books of the New Testament. The New Testament prophets “filled the gap” by proclaiming God’s message to the people who would not have access to it otherwise. The last book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not completed until late in the first century. So, the Lord sent prophets to proclaim God’s Word to His people. If the purpose of a prophet was to reveal truth from God, why would we need prophets if we have the completed revelation from God in the Bible? If prophets were the “foundation” of the early church, are we still building the “foundation” today?
      I want to make it perfectly clear that any prophecies made today must be tested by Scripture. But I also believe that Paul makes it obvious that prophecy comes from God.  In fact, he says in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy“.  And I really like how the Passion Translation renders his words in 1 Thessalonians 5:20: “Never restrain or put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. And don’t be one who scorns prophecies, but be faithful to examine them by putting them to the test, and afterward hold tightly to what has proven to be right. Regard everything seriously and do what is best, avoiding every appearance of evil”.  [The Passion Translation translates from the Aramaic, which was what many of the manuscripts were written in.  We lose so much in the literal Greek translations].
     Here is what is important for us to realize… Prophecy is a valid gift of the Holy Spirit needed by the church today. There is no place in Scripture or church history that indicates the gift of prophecy has ceased or disappeared. The argument in the preceding paragraph comes from man’s mind, not the mind of God; nor can you find that argument in Scripture. Prophecy is an active function of the Holy Spirit in the church around the world . We must not ignore, despise, or scorn any true gift of the Holy Spirit. We need prophets and prophecy to keep the fire (inspiration) of the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts. Just as in the days of the prophets of old, we need to be rightfully discerning the words of today’s prophets. Do they reflect the nature and character of God as supported in the Bible?
      Now, I have no doubts that there will be many Christians who are secure in their faith, yet are offended by another Believer whose faith has shown them that God still talks through prophets today. Christians with the latter kind of faith threaten our comfort zones, don’t they? Those who are made nervous by this kind of “radical” faith often opt for a “middle of the road” position; a place within their Church doctrine where they feel safer and less threatened. But here’s the problem with this approach … does this lead to the lukewarm Church that Jesus warns us about in Revelation? And does this kind of apprehension eventually lead to doubt and unbelief? By playing it safe and renouncing the possibility that God still talks through prophets, are we playing into the hands of the devil? In the words of Bill Johnson, “Unbelief is safe because it takes no risk and almost always gets what it expects”. 
     Furthermore, how does such unbelief serve the Body? Whether it is unbelief in the gift of prophecy, the ministering of angels, our power and authority to defeat the schemes of the Enemy — it doesn’t matter. If we, as the Body of Christ, are afraid of being deceived, and are willing to stay on safe, middle ground, then we run the risk of limiting the benefits of such knowledge to our fellow Believers and the Lost.  We produce less fruit for the Kingdom, and we certainly are no threat to satan. 

     
     That is why Jesus’s question in Luke 18:8 should give all of us pause .. It comes after He has shared the parable of the widow receiving justice from the unjust judge. The point of this parable is that the widow was persistent in demanding justice, and the unjust judge finally awarded it to her to make her go away. Here’s the part of Scripture I want us to pay attention to: The Lord continued, “Did you hear what the ungodly judge said — that he would answer her persistent request? Don’t you know that God, the true judge, will grant justice to all of His chosen ones who cry out to Him night and day? He will pour out His Spirit upon them. He will not delay to answer you and give you what you ask for. God will give swift justice to those who don’t give up. So be ever praying, ever expecting, just like the widow was with the judge. Yet when the Son of Man comes back, will He find this kind of persistent faithfulness in His people?  
      Will He find a Church and Body that is willing to believe in ALL that the Word tells us, and who is unwilling to be shackled by the limitations of our doctrinal “sacred cows”? Will He find Believers who have been willing to accept the calling He has invited them to, and are excited to be working with Him to bring about the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom on earth? Will He find true Disciples whose aggressive faith is contagious and aren’t afraid to shine His Light into every dark corner of this world? And will He find a strong and growing Remnant who, like the widow, know the eternal inheritance they are due and are willing to fight tooth and nail for it, never giving up; who know what “batten down the hatches means” — it means focus on Jesus and His return. Pray like the widow did; be persistent in your prayer and your calling. And above all else, listen for Him to speak to you; both individually and personally, and through prophets whom He has chosen to communicate His will. 
     I am probably going to offend some people with this statement, so I hope that I word it to reveal my true heart … I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and I believe that it includes all the inspired writings that He commanded. But I also believe that our God is bigger than the words on those pages. I believe He has given us the Bible in order that we will seek Him out; seek more of Him than words can give us. For those who believe that the Bible is the complete revelation of God, I have this to say … (John 21:25) Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. This verse alone tells me that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are waiting for us to engage with them beyond what the Bible reveals. The Bible is an accurate and true picture of the God we serve, but I believe that it doesn’t contain all that He is or display the full extent of His Magnificence and Power.
     So, I guess in the end I am left with a certain sense of frustration … for those who want to keep God in a box and for those who are unable, for whatever reason, to see our full potential and what it looks like to “be in Christ”.  It is my prayer that God’s Spirit would rest on everyone who calls themselves Christian, and that there will be those who will accept the mantle being placed on their shoulders and walk in obedience [in their power and authority] to effect change in this world for the Kingdom. I will pray for those Christians who are satisfied in their doubt and skepticism, and willing to follow Jesus from a distance; who are more interested in refuting Scripture’s clear mandate than taking the risk to follow Jesus in an uncommon and risky manner.  But here’s the thing … I don’t want to have religious arguments. That’s living like the Pharisees. I want everyone to see the Light of Jesus in the uncommon ways He is calling out His own.  I want them to be unafraid and be willing to risk everything … their reputation, their church friendships, their families, their jobs … everything for the sake of being obedient to Jesus! I want us all to press toward the goal of our holy calling, and be completely possessed by the Holy Spirit to do the works God has prepared for us since the foundation of the world. That’s the kind of faith that I want Jesus to see when He returns!

John 15:15    No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”.
     
     
 

          

The Power Of Morning Prayers

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     How many of us, as children, remember praying “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”? It is customary for us to pray before we go to sleep, isn’t it?  Perhaps it is the fear that comes with the nighttime, which we equate with evil and satan’s power of darkness.  We feel defenseless while we sleep, and let’s be honest … how many of us are attacked during the night and early morning hours with fearful thoughts and doubts, and sometimes much worse?

     But why do we protect ourselves [in prayer] so diligently at the end of the day, and tend to ignore the beginning of our day?  How many of you pray as steadfastly and fervently in the morning as you do at night?  This matter has come to my attention after listening to a teaching by Dan Duval of Bride Ministries. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Mr. Duval’s because of his boldness in going after a higher understanding of how the Enemy has afflicted both believers and non-believers alike.
     He has truly sought after God’s heart in revealing all the strategies of the devil and his demons; specializing in areas that the everyday Christian doesn’t even know exist, and would be hard-pressed to accept. He has achieved tremendous breakthroughs in the lives of people suffering everything from mind control programs; satanic ritual abuse; ancestral and bloodline bondage; regions of captivity in evil realms; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts; to the “average” issues of grief, PTSD, broken hearts — and everything in between.
      Dan Duval’s teachings are probably not for everyone.  I say that because he is fearless in uncovering and identifying all the ways that satan can attack the children of God. But I believe that God has entrusted him with supernatural knowledge of the programs, strategies, and mechanics that enslave us, and the means by which we can partner with Jesus to get set free.
     And one of the most natural, but often overlooked, ways to fight the Enemy is to start each day with prayer. This should not be so surprising to us! If we are Spirit-led Christians, then we know that “the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour”. We also know he comes “to kill, steal, and destroy”. Why would we think that we could begin each day and not be a target?  You see, the problem for most Christians is that they don’t know they can operate in the authority and power of Jesus, and they try to control whatever the Enemy throws at them from their human abilities and strength. They don’t even know that we have been given spiritual armor to protect ourselves, let alone think to put it on and never take it off!
     First of all, Scripture tells us how important praying in the morning is to living a successful life behind enemy lines.  The Psalms give us several examples of morning prayer: At each and every sunrise You will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to You.  Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart (Psalm 5:3); But as for me, Your strength shall be my song of joy. At each and every sunrise, my lyrics of Your love will fill the air! For You have been my glory-fortress; a stronghold in my day of distress (Psalm 59:16); Lord, You know my prayer before I even whisper it. At each and every sunrise You will continue to hear my cry until You answer (Psalm 88:13). Let the sunrise of Your love end our dark night. Break through our clouded dawn again! Only You can satisfy our hearts, filling us with songs of joy to the end of our days (Psalm 90:14).
     As if the endorsement of morning prayer by King David in the Psalms is not enough, we have an explicit example from our King and Savior in Mark 1:35, The next morning, Jesus got up long before daylight, left the house while it was dark, and made His way to a secluded place to give Himself to prayer. He did this in preparation for delivering His Gospel Message, and knowing that He would be confronted by satan’s demons and those who listened to their lies.  Should we be any less prepared?
     So, it was with great interest that I listened to Dan Duval’s teaching on how he has constructed a morning prayer to introduce Jesus to his whole day. What I am about to share is a synopsis of his suggestions for morning prayers. As you will see, he covers a lot of ground and a lot of ways to pray against the Enemy’s tactics. This may seem excessive to you, but if you had the knowledge of all the ways satan plots to destroy us, wouldn’t you want to cover them in prayer? Here is just a sample of how you might proceed ….
     To start, I would begin my morning prayer in the Mighty Name of Jesus, praising God for His greatness, and boldly approaching His throne for mercy and compassion in my time of need. I would express myself with boldness and confidence, declaring that I am putting up smokescreens in the spirit that act as sight and sound barriers against intruders, trespassers, satanic agents, and evil spirits.
     I declare that I start each day washed by the blood of Jesus and cleansed from all filthiness of the world and its sin.  I am cleansed of all unrighteousness and washed by the water of Your Word, God. I declare that any evil word spoken over me during the night, or in my dreams will be devoured by the locusts of God so that no fruit may come from such evil deeds. I declare that any unholy bondages attempted against me are being consumed by the Holy Fire of Jesus Christ. I renounce and declare destruction against all evil altars set up bearing my name or image in every timeline, age, realm, or dimension. I renounce and break the power of all sacrifices or rituals performed on these altars, declaring they will have no impact on me or anyone else.
     I repent for and renounce every act of agreement with evil agendas and assignments taking place during my sleep, including the reception of evil spirits and counterfeit gifts and callings, mandates, judgments, technologies, revelations and assignments.

     I declare that the blood of Jesus covers not only me, but my house, cars, bank accounts and everything under my stewardship, in Jesus’s Name. I declare that my body, soul, and spirit are blessed, in Jesus’s Name. I call for the oil of anointing to be poured over every component of my person, anointing me for service, establishing my heart in joy, and awakening the strength of Jesus Christ in my members.
     Angels, bless the Lord and praise His holy Name. Excel in strength and perform His Word and hearken unto the voice of His Word. You are made ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. As an heir of that salvation, I speak to you that your ministry to me is the execution of your assignments. Angels of finance, you are loosed to bring to me what has been appointed to my storehouse. Establish me in the provision of the Lord and cause the abundance of the blessings of the Lord to overtake me. Angels of opportunity, you are loosed to bind and secure opportunities and to establish an environment of favor around me.
     Angels of healing, you are loosed to insure that attacks against my health are derailed. You are loosed to block the transmission of infectious diseases; to prevent food poisoning; to interrupt accidents that would cause harm to my body, and to heal issues in my flesh, soul, and spirit.
     Angels of warfare, you are loosed to conquer the enemies of God that oppose me, my assignments, mandates, and callings. I declare that the warhorses of heaven are loosed against the strongholds, strategic positions, war rooms, and laboratories of darkness that have been erected against my life. I bombard the Enemy with hailstones, bowls of fire, tsunamis of living water, instruments of war, and the armies of heaven. I cover the Enemy with clouds of confusion and smite evil with plagues of destruction and disaster, in the mighty Name of Jesus.
     I declare that the sun, moon, stars, and planets are created to praise the Lord. The earnest expectation of the Creation eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God because the Creation, itself, will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
     Therefore, I declare that all evil and demonic agents of darkness are being excised by the Sword of the Lord. I declare that these evil assignments are being replaced by the Word of the Lord, which says, Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. 
     And I declare that all the stars in the heavens will be employed in exploits against the enemies of Jesus Christ; fighting alongside the children of Light to expand the influence of the government of God in the earth. I declare that the Creation is re-oriented at the outset of this day to serve the Lord, so that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.  I declare that the whirlwinds of the Lord surround me. They draw all resources that are expedient to my calling, and destroy the snares of the Enemy from before my face.
     Lord Jesus, You are my shield, my buckler, and my rear guard. I take this opportunity to put on my spiritual armor… my belt of truth, my breastplate of righteous, helmet of salvation, shoes for the preparation of the Gospel of Peace, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit [which is the Word of God], the garments of vengeance, and the cloak of zeal. I will not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrows that fly by day, nor the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor the destruction that lays waste at noonday. I will trust in my Lord completely and without hesitation.
    And I declare that I dedicate this day to the service of the Lord and the advancement of His Kingdom on earth. I thank you, Father, and Lord Jesus for loving me, and I seek the counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit as I walk through this day, honoring and glorifying You. I come before you in reverence and humility, and ask that you hear my prayer and receive it, as I declare my allegiance and love for You in the Holy Name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.
     Now…. how do you think you would approach each day if you began it with a prayer as powerful as this one?  Do you think you would feel defeated by encroaching deadlines, financial difficulties, health issues, and the fear of possible calamity — or would you walk in an attitude of victory and gratitude that becomes a child of God?
     Mr. Duval has given us an exceptional model to follow in executing our morning prayer. In fact, he has provided many resources for prayer on his website. I often share them with people who come to us for ministry. And I would also recommend that you consider purchasing his new book, Prayers That Shake Heaven and Earth, which can be pre-ordered here. I have found his prayers to be very effective in fighting the wiles of the Enemy, and I can’t think of a better way to start our day than to come before the Lord, declaring His Greatness and Majesty; declaring protection over our callings, health, and resources; and declaring our power and authority over all the schemes of the Enemy. Prayer is a powerful tool in the hands and spirits of those called by the Lord.  Let us not take another breath in the morning without devoting our day to our Creator and our service to Him. What a privilege it is to pray before the Lord!

Mark 11:24    This is the reason I urge you to boldly believe for whatever you ask for in prayer — believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

Revealing God’s Heart In His Word

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     It is true that the language of the Bible, as we know it, is subject to man’s interpretation of God’s Divine inspiration.  That does not mean that we should view the Word of God with a skeptical eye, but be aware that the various versions throughout the centuries are influenced by how God communicates His word to the stewards who reproduce the Bible.
     For instance, I was aware that the Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. But I was amazed to find out that, as of October 2017, the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1521 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1121 other languages. Add to my astonishment the fact that there have been 107 full versions of the Bible, dating from 1388 (Wycliffe’s Bible) to 2017 (the Christian Standard Bible, a major revision of the 2009 Holman Christian Standard Bible).
     Each of these versions attempts to bring a modern relevance to God’s ancient Word; and with it the gift of new meaning for each generation that will give rise to a new source of revelation and revival. And Mark and I were blessed by our spiritual mentor, Barbara Bucklin of Luke 4:18 Ministries, with such a gift. Barb had shared with us that she had discovered a new translation of the Bible that she thought would inspire us, and we were pleased to receive it at the beginning of this New Year.    

     It is called The Passion Translation, and rather than try to describe it myself, I will share the statement of the Publisher: “The message of God’s Word is timeless; the Word of God doesn’t change. But the methods by which that story is communicated should be timely; the vessels that steward God’s Word can, and should, change. One of those timely methods is Bible translation.  Bible translations are both a gift and a problem. They give us the words God spoke through His servants, but words can be poor containers of revelation because they leak! The meanings of words change from one generation to the next. Meaning is influenced by culture, background, and many other details. Just imagine how the Hebrew authors saw the world three thousand years ago from the way we see it today!
     … The purpose of The Passion Translation is to reintroduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader. It doesn’t merely convey the literal meaning of the words [from the Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic manuscripts]. It expresses God’s passion for people and His world by translating the original, life-changing message of God’s Word for modern readers … God longs to have His Word in every language in a way that would unlock the passion of His heart … [The Passion Translation] is a heart-level translation, from the passion of God’s heart to the passion of your heart”.
     That is what I feel is often lacking in our modern translations. Various versions have struggled to provide us with the literal meaning and context of ancient manuscripts, but have often fallen short in giving us the passion behind the inspiration for the divine message. In other words, we get an accurate transcription, but the intensity of God’s heart for us is lost. 
     I want to recommend that you consider purchasing this new translation, which includes Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs with the New Testament.  At the same time, I recognize that there will be those who are averse to change, and the strict translations of your youth will somehow be the only versions you are able to accept.  But I would encourage you to not let a spirit of religion keep you from experiencing what I believe is God’s heart revealed in this new translation.  I do not see anywhere in this Bible that the truth of God’s Word has been sacrificed for the revelation of His passionate Nature. 
     And I would like to share with you some of my favorite verses in the Bible and compare them to this new Passion translation.  For instance, Proverbs 25:2 reads like this in the English Standard Version (ESV): It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Here’s how it reads in the Passion Translation: God conceals the revelation of His Word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says. This is exactly how Mark and I have tried to explain what this verse means to our fellow modern Christians, but the old sentence structure and abstract nuance made it difficult for some people to accept the full truth of our interpretation.
     Now consider this comparison … Ephesians 3:20-21 in the ESV reads, Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 
      Here it is in the new Passion Translation: Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you. Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ — and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!
     And just look how the simple verse of Philippians 4:13 comes alive!  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (ESV) becomes the following in the Passion Translation: And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.  
     I believe that we modern Christians sometimes get so caught up in our denominational doctrine that we quote Scripture without really understanding how it reveals God’s heart, or His purpose and plan for us.  Take for instance this well known foundational doctrine of the Christian faith: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads like this in the ESV, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 
      But see if your heart doesn’t respond differently when you read the Passion Translation of this verse: Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness. Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to fulfill any assignment God gives you. Isn’t it a more personal and heartfelt message to your spirit?
     As one last example, I would like you to examine Philippians 2:10-11 which says, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (ESV). Now consider it in this new translation: The authority of the name of Jesus causes every knee to bow in reverence! Everything and everyone will one day submit to this name—in the heavenly realm, in the earthly realm, and in the demonic realm. And every tongue will proclaim in every language: “Jesus Christ is Lord Yahweh,” bringing glory and honor to God, his Father! Can you receive the fuller revelation that the Passion Translation provides?
     And in case you haven’t picked up on the underlying message of this new unveiling of God’s Word, it is that this Bible exalts the power and authority of the name of Jesus; the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in our lives; and the power and the authority of the believer! No longer is the Bible speaking to us in mere literal translations, but from the very passion and heart of God for each of us who seeks Him through His Word! I pray that this latest version of God’s Word will ignite a fiery passion in your heart to do more than just memorize or study the Bible.  I pray that it will create a desire for Him that will connect your heart to His. May this be a season like no other; both in your life and your relationship with the Father. May it be all about the heart! 

Thanks to Barb Bucklin for her unwavering example of seeking after the Lord’s heart; for her encouragement and support of our ministry, and for her continual exhortation to seek the Kingdom. You strengthen us with your faith and your friendship. We praise God for connecting our hearts.

All Scripture quotations are from the Passion Translation®. Copyright ©2017 by Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC. Used by permission. All rights reserved. thePassionTranslation.com.

Psalm 63:1   “O God of my life, I’m lovesick for you in this weary wilderness. I thirst with the deepest longings to love you more, with cravings in my heart that can’t be described. Such yearning grips my soul for you, my God!” (TPT)  

Ministering To The Lord

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     As you know, I’ve been settling in to the Book of Acts for some time now. My spirit is inspired by the boldness and determination of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus to establish a believing Body that could walk out the teachings and commandments of the Lord. We tend to think that they had it all “together” on that Day of Pentecost; that they knew exactly how to advance this new “Kingdom” to which Jesus was calling them. But they were relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them into this new realm and new life, just as Jesus had. They ministered to the people, to each other, and to the Lord.
     As I was reading in the 13th Chapter of Acts, it was just prior to Paul’s first missionary trip. Scripture tells us that “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’ ” (Acts 13:2). I was struck by those words … the believers were ministering to the Lord.  What did that mean, and what did it look like? Other translations read “serving the Lord” or “worshipping the Lord”. But I sense that “ministering to the Lord” is more accurate, with a deeper significance for us. As the modern Church, or Body of Christ, we are certainly aware of the need to minister to people. Their needs are so obvious.  And the Lord certainly doesn’t need us in order to be God; after all, He is self-sufficient, right? 

     Further study revealed that this idea of ministering to the Lord is apparent throughout the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 10:8 tell us that after giving the Torah at Mount Sinai, God set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.  And the whole design of the early Tabernacle, and later the Temple built by Solomon, was intended for ministering to the Lord; to minister to His Presence in the Holy of Holies. 
    What did this ministry to the Lord look like? We get an idea in 2 Chronicles 31:2 … And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the Lord and to give thanks and praise. Here, ministering to the Lord involves the giving of thanks and praise.
     But then there is the ministering to the Lord in Joel, chapters One and Two … Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God … Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.” Here, the meaning is obviously about interceding on behalf of the people of the Lord.
     Ultimately, I think that ministering to the Lord is centered on ministering to His heart.  As modern-day priests, we come before the Lord giving Him the praise and thanksgiving He is due for His abundant Goodness, as well as fasting and interceding on behalf of His people from our broken and burdened hearts. Both facets of ministering to Him touch His heart. 
     However, the more I studied all the examples in the Word of ministering to the Lord, the more I became convinced that there is another important component to this concept — that ministering to the Lord should take precedence over ministering to the people. In other words, we must be careful not to get so caught up in doing the work of ministering to the people, that the work becomes our focus.  We must never forget that it is the power of our Lord that allows us to do the work. 
     I don’t want you to misunderstand me — I believe God honors our desire and obedience to minister to people’s broken hearts. But I think He desires something deeper between us and Him.  We must not become consumed with the excitement that comes with ministering in this realm. We must never lose sight that God desires that we minister to Him in His realm; through our praise and intercession, revealing our trust, confidence, and dependence on Him. 
    So, I find myself more aware of how I perceive this ministry that God has called my husband and I to.  Have we made it all about the work we do for the Lord, or are we mindful that our priority is to attend to our Lord? To exalt and glorify Him, seeking to be in touch with His heart? It is through these efforts to minister to Him that our ministry to others will bear more fruit. And that is why my prayer has become, “Father God, I want to enter into Your Presence, connecting my heart to Your heart. I want to make You my priority; praising you and giving you all the glory for my Kingdom work. I want my ministry to You to overshadow my earthly ministry. I want to be ever mindful of pleasing You first, and of being worthy to be set apart to do Your work. Lord, help me, Your humble servant, to be a blessing to You and others”. For me, that is what ministering means. 

Revelation 1:6   To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His bloodand made us a kingdom, priests to [minister to] His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Looking Forward To New Beginnings

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     I recall so many New Year’s sermons from the pulpit titled “You Can Begin Again”, all preaching the truth that we serve a God of new beginnings.  And I don’t want to repeat this message in a trite manner but rather, the purpose of this post is to exhort us all to step into new identities in 2018.
     As Bill Johnson says, the new year is really “the nature of the Christian life.  We are born again; given a new beginning”. We are all familiar with God’s nature of Grace, giving us second chances when we repent and turn towards Him. But how many of us are stuck in our pasts and can’t move forward into that new beginning and new identity?
     That is what I hope to address today.  Because, you see, the one thing that I really want you to understand is the truth of Lamentations 3:22-23, which says,  It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses [mercies] that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness. This is the word of God telling us that each morning is a new day with Him; a new start and a new beginning to make progress towards a life that abides wholly in Him. 
     It is important for us to understand that “abiding in God” gives us, not only a promise of restoration from captivity by the Enemy, but of remaining in the presence of God, Himself.  That means that we must stop looking back at past failures and past disappointments. We must have faith that God can help us develop new attitudes, new goals, and new hearts. But that means we must believe it is possible to begin again, and become a new person in Christ.

     I know that there are many people who are beginning 2018 with a lot of pain.  Whether it be failing health, failing marriages, or failing hope, it just seems that others [or God] have let them down. And there are those of you who are disappointed in yourselves, thinking that there is no future or way to move forward in your goals, including your relationship with God.  But that is NOT what the Word says!
     The Bible says in Lamentations that we have access to the Lord’s mercy and compassion and faithfulness towards us. Whose fault is it if we don’t take advantage of that, or walk in faith towards that truth?  I will admit that we fight a spiritual battle against an enemy that seeks to steal, kill, or destroy our hope, joy, and faith. But we have been given spiritual armor to effectively fight that battle. And as I’ve heard more than one pastor point out, there’s not a piece of that armor that is positioned on our back — it is all for our forward progress!  Looking back at our past mistakes and failures only serves to keep us from the new beginning and identity God wants to give us!
     The Reverend Tony Cooke writes on his website about historical men who serve as our example for moving forward from past mistakes and failures.  Let me share a few…
     Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when he was nine years of age. At 23, he invested in a small store. Three years later his business partner died, leaving him in debt for years to come. At 37, on his third try, he was finally elected to Congress. He ran again two years later but wasn’t re-elected. Two years later he was rejected for Land Officer. At 45, he ran for Senate and lost. Two years later, he lost the nomination for vice president. At 49, he ran for Senate again…and lost again. At 51 he was finally elected president of the United States, but with only 40 percent of the popular vote. Yet I believe God used him to keep our nation from destroying itself.
     Moses’ initial try to convince his brethren that God would deliver them from Egyptian bondage failed, and he spent 40 years in exile before he believed more in God’s new offer of mercy [and guidance] than in his own past mistakes. He was willing to believe that God’s compassion for the Israelites would never fail, and that a new day of freedom was available and waiting for them.
     There is no one in the Bible that I can think of who had more reason to regret his past mistakes than Peter.  He professed his eternal allegiance to Jesus, yet rejected Him three times in His hour of need.  But we must not forget that Jesus knew Peter would fail Him, but He loved Peter; saved him; and called him to His service anyway.  Do you not think that He will do the same for you?
     These are only a few examples of men who rose above their past mistakes to walk in new beginnings. They didn’t let their failures in life keep them stuck in place, or focused on the past, or hinder them from walking into a new identity.  Abraham Lincoln could have embraced an identify of failed businessman and politician. Moses could have hidden out in Midian, having lost his exalted title and position in Egypt, and never have been heard from again. Peter could have spent the rest of his years in disgrace and shame and guilt for having abandoned his Master.  But each of these men answered a call upon their lives and were renewed, restored, and regenerated.  They were each given a new and higher spiritual nature and identity.
     That is what God wants for you!  I urge you to look upon this new year with expectation and a desire for a new and greater identity. Stop listening to the lies that the Enemy is telling you, and start this new year by declaring that you are a new creation; that God is doing a new thing in you; that you have a renewed spirit, mind, and heart; that you are forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus… and finally, that our God is a god of Creation, not of destruction or disappointment. This new year is full of opportunities for you! Reach for them, accept them, and walk in them. And trust in God’s faithfulness to grow you! Happy New Year!

Ephesians 4:20-24    But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”. 
 

    

The Hope and Expectations For 2018

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     Thanks to Charey, one of the faithful readers of this blog, I have been introduced to the writings of Daniel K. Norris, a minister who travels full time bringing a message of repentance and revival, and challenging believers in their walk with God. His desire is to see the Church experience the power and presence of God and yield a harvest of souls for the kingdom. 
     As I read his analysis of a project that he and his family experienced in 2017, I was amazed at how similar our perspective is on what God is doing among the faithful.  So, I wanted to share his testimony, and thought you would be blessed by it as we get ready to enter 2018. Read and contemplate…


     We sold everything (our cars, furniture and home) in 2016 and moved our family of five into a motor home to travel the entire United States in 2017 on a tour we called the Trail Of Fire. This week, we arrived back where we started. We covered 50,000 miles, visited 47 states and connected with 80 amazing ministries.
     This past month, the question I have been asked the most is “What is your biggest takeaway?” Curious?  
     One thing this year has done for us is this: it has given us a national perspective. We didn’t just pass through a city or state, we lived there. We didn’t just minister in the church. We walked their streets, bought groceries in their supermarkets, sat in their homes and around their tables. We spent time getting to know them and listening to their stories. Our lives have been greatly enriched because so many were willing to share their own lives with us. 
     It’s been a blessing! We set out in January of 2017 dreaming about the impact we could make on the nation; however, we never considered the impact the nation would make on us. We have truly been changed by this year for the better!
     Ultimately, we found a great remnant across the land that also carries the same burden for national awakening. These churches, ministries, revival hubs and houses of prayer are strategically positioned across America. They are a faithful battalion of believers that have made seeking a greater awakening for their city a priority.
     This year has greatly encouraged me about the possibilities for national awakening. I believe that true nationwide revival is not just a distant dream, but an imminent reality if we will pay the price. I assure you that though the full breakthrough we’ve prayed for may tarry, we ourselves are not tarrying in vain!
     So, what was my biggest takeaway from 2017?
     Just as I am encouraged at all we saw and experienced, I also see a tremendous need. I believe the church, as a whole, has lost its eternal perspective. So much of what occupies our present time is making little eternal impact. This must change if we have any hope of true revival.
     This week I came across the following in a book called In Light of Eternity. It is the biography of the late great revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill. At the end of the book the biographer writes the following account. He asked Ravenhill in the last year of his life if he had any regrets. This was his response:
     “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.”
     Stop and read that again! “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.” I pray it hits you like it did me!
     Ravenhill was a man with a colossal prayer life. He would often spend entire days locked away in his study in prayer. I’ve heard unbelievable stories about the prayer meetings he hosted. The man was a giant in prayer, yet here he was, at the end of his mortal life, with eternity in view and his response was, if only I had prayed more and preached and planned less.
     If such a man could say this, how much more should we!
     That quote only reinforced what I had been feeling over the past few months—that so much of what the church world is doing right now is missing eternal intentionality. Let’s be honest, we could all say, “If we spent more time alone with God this year, rather than—(preparing that sermon series, watching television, golfing, on Facebook), I would be a different person right now.”  
     Interestingly, here we are back where we started, and I find myself confronted with a truth I wrote about one year ago in my book, Trail of Fire. Fifty thousand miles traveled, only to arrive right where we began. I am convinced the Lord gave us this assignment to give us His perspective on a serious need within the American church. This is the key to unlocking national awakening—we must bring eternity into view.
     I said above that much of what the church occupies its time with carries very little eternal significance. Most of what we call “ministry” is really day-to-day maintenance.Granted, this daily maintenance is necessary, and when done properly, it allows us to actually do ministry. However, let’s not confuse the two as being the same thing.
     This is true for individuals and churches.Whether it is working a 9-5 just to make one more paycheck so you can make one more payment or if it’s one more Sunday so we have one more offering just to keep the wheels spinning one more week, the effects are temporal, not eternal.
     I think back to all the meetings, the plans, the series, the programs, the budgets, the tasks that I let dominate my time and realize much of it could have been eliminated or done more efficiently, allowing more time to pray and truly love others. At one time, I called all of it ministry and was proud of my busy ministry life. Looking back through the lens of eternity, I see so much of that was arrogance. It is only the things that impact eternity that can truly be called ministry.
     This year, I stood by a man and watched as he was born again. What a moment to witness and share with him. I’ve seen this so many times this year. There is nothing like seeing eternal life come into what was once a broken soul. That moment changed eternity, not just for him, but for his family as well. I think about the orphans in Uganda we were able to help through our giving. Yes, it was a simple thing that simply met a temporary need. However, it also enabled a local church to show the love of Christ to them as well. That moment impacted eternity. This was ministry! We should have, could have done more!
     The key to true eternal impact is found in learning to minimize the maintenance so we can maximize the ministry. This shift is made simple by adopting an eternal perspective.
    Jonathan Edwards often prayed, “Oh God, stamp eternity upon my eyeballs.”  He endeavored to live each day with eternity firmly fixed in view. The result was America’s First Great Awakening. Ravenhill wrote that were we to be so bold to pray such a prayer, we would likely change everything we do.
     Now, there’s a thought. Ravenhill went on further to say, “Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more, wept more, grieved more, loved and prayed more, and given more.”  Oh, my friend, if that statement is true, then a great deal must change. If we truly desire to see more in the coming year then we need to start living with eternal intentionality today.
     So what do we do?  Let’s start here. Take a moment to evaluate 2017 in light of eternity. What things have you done that will make a difference 10 years, 100 years or even 1,000 years from now? Take a look at your checking account. How much money went into temporary things and how much went into things that will last?  How much more could have been moved toward eternal purposes?  Look at your calendar. How much time was wasted in frivolous activities and how much was sown into eternity?
     I admit, this is a sobering exercise, but it is necessary. Too often, we treat time as if it is something that can be wasted. However, eternity leaves no time wasted. Each second is precious and must be invested wisely.
     Here are three eternal priority shifts we must make this year:
1) Prioritize the Secret Place. Rather than letting that place of prayer and devotion be the last place you run to, let it be the first place. We must tackle each day and every problem from the same starting point. There is no getting around this. Prayer must be paramount.
2) Prioritize the Word. God’s Word is eternal, powerful and life-changing, but it does you no good as long as the words sit unread on the shelf. The American church is becoming increasingly and biblically illiterate. If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to minimize the trivial sermon series that offer a few verses and take your congregation into actual study of biblical texts. Let’s preach the Word and let the Word transform them. Don’t just give your people verses, give them the Word. For the rest of us, let me encourage you to adopt a daily reading plan. Get the Word in you!
3) Prioritize Eternity in your Present.Every day is pregnant with eternal possibilities. Most go unnoticed and unrealized. Make it a daily goal to look for one eternal moment in each day. You’ll be surprised how many there are.

Eternal intentionality is the key to making 2018 more significant. Eternal intentionality is the key to getting the church on track toward awakening. Eternal intentionality is the key we’ve been missing. It’s time we find it.

     WOW! I feel like I could have written so much of this article! And there are several perspectives that struck me as identical to my views. First of all, I am in agreement that there is an awakening and revival among the faithful remnant of this country. And as I have written, God is now connecting us, making for a bigger impact for the Kingdom of God. 
     Then there is the idea that Daniel Norris presents that the Church has become all about “Maintenance”.  I would expound upon that and say it has become a Business. The Church’s efforts are too often spent more on budgets and programs, than equipping the saints to continue the work of Jesus.  And I agree with Mr. Norris, that this applies to us as individuals, too.  It is sobering when we look at where we spend our efforts — both financially and spiritually.  How many hours a day do we spend watching TV versus studying the Word? How much of our money goes towards buying things “of the world” for ourselves versus spending our money to help ministries or individuals that are making a difference for the Kingdom?
     I join with Daniel Norris in challenging myself [and you] with this question:  How much have we sown into eternity? Could I stand before Jesus right now and be proud of how I’ve invested my time and treasure on earth? 
     And, if you have been reading my blog for awhile, then you will recognize my advice for 2018:  1) Make your prayer life change the atmosphere and display the power of Heaven, so that both you and others have encounters with God.  2) Be ever-mindful of the opportunities to present Jesus to the world. That is our commission! There are 365 days in a year — how many days were you able to meet that goal? 3) We are all the Church. We don’t need to meet in a building to come together and work with Jesus to take back territory from the Enemy and advance the Kingdom.  When two or more are gathered in the Name of Jesus, that qualifies as the Body of Christ. It’s all about exhibiting the Power of the Holy Spirit in how we represent Him. Without the power that He walked in, we cannot fulfill our commission.
     So, let’s look forward to 2018 and all that we can accomplish for the Kingdom. Let’s get excited for what God is going to do across America, and the part we can play when we cooperate with Him. We were born for such a time as this!

Hosea 10:12   Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.

  

The Hope and Expectations For 2018

     Thanks to Charey, one of the faithful readers of this blog, I have been introduced to the writings of Daniel K. Norris, a minister who travels full time bringing a message of repentance and revival, and challenging believers in their walk with God. His desire is to see the Church experience the power and presence of God and yield a harvest of souls for the kingdom. 
     As I read his analysis of a project that he and his family experienced in 2017, I was amazed at how similar our perspective is on what God is doing among the faithful.  So, I wanted to share his testimony, and thought you would be blessed by it as we get ready to enter 2018. Read and contemplate…


     We sold everything (our cars, furniture and home) in 2016 and moved our family of five into a motor home to travel the entire United States in 2017 on a tour we called the Trail Of Fire. This week, we arrived back where we started. We covered 50,000 miles, visited 47 states and connected with 80 amazing ministries.
     This past month, the question I have been asked the most is “What is your biggest takeaway?” Curious?  
     One thing this year has done for us is this: it has given us a national perspective. We didn’t just pass through a city or state, we lived there. We didn’t just minister in the church. We walked their streets, bought groceries in their supermarkets, sat in their homes and around their tables. We spent time getting to know them and listening to their stories. Our lives have been greatly enriched because so many were willing to share their own lives with us. 
     It’s been a blessing! We set out in January of 2017 dreaming about the impact we could make on the nation; however, we never considered the impact the nation would make on us. We have truly been changed by this year for the better!
     Ultimately, we found a great remnant across the land that also carries the same burden for national awakening. These churches, ministries, revival hubs and houses of prayer are strategically positioned across America. They are a faithful battalion of believers that have made seeking a greater awakening for their city a priority.
     This year has greatly encouraged me about the possibilities for national awakening. I believe that true nationwide revival is not just a distant dream, but an imminent reality if we will pay the price. I assure you that though the full breakthrough we’ve prayed for may tarry, we ourselves are not tarrying in vain!
     So, what was my biggest takeaway from 2017?
     Just as I am encouraged at all we saw and experienced, I also see a tremendous need. I believe the church, as a whole, has lost its eternal perspective. So much of what occupies our present time is making little eternal impact. This must change if we have any hope of true revival.
     This week I came across the following in a book called In Light of Eternity. It is the biography of the late great revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill. At the end of the book the biographer writes the following account. He asked Ravenhill in the last year of his life if he had any regrets. This was his response:
     “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.”
     Stop and read that again! “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.” I pray it hits you like it did me!
     Ravenhill was a man with a colossal prayer life. He would often spend entire days locked away in his study in prayer. I’ve heard unbelievable stories about the prayer meetings he hosted. The man was a giant in prayer, yet here he was, at the end of his mortal life, with eternity in view and his response was, if only I had prayed more and preached and planned less.
     If such a man could say this, how much more should we!
     That quote only reinforced what I had been feeling over the past few months—that so much of what the church world is doing right now is missing eternal intentionality. Let’s be honest, we could all say, “If we spent more time alone with God this year, rather than—(preparing that sermon series, watching television, golfing, on Facebook), I would be a different person right now.”  
     Interestingly, here we are back where we started, and I find myself confronted with a truth I wrote about one year ago in my book, Trail of Fire. Fifty thousand miles traveled, only to arrive right where we began. I am convinced the Lord gave us this assignment to give us His perspective on a serious need within the American church. This is the key to unlocking national awakening—we must bring eternity into view.
     I said above that much of what the church occupies its time with carries very little eternal significance. Most of what we call “ministry” is really day-to-day maintenance.Granted, this daily maintenance is necessary, and when done properly, it allows us to actually do ministry. However, let’s not confuse the two as being the same thing.
     This is true for individuals and churches.Whether it is working a 9-5 just to make one more paycheck so you can make one more payment or if it’s one more Sunday so we have one more offering just to keep the wheels spinning one more week, the effects are temporal, not eternal.
     I think back to all the meetings, the plans, the series, the programs, the budgets, the tasks that I let dominate my time and realize much of it could have been eliminated or done more efficiently, allowing more time to pray and truly love others. At one time, I called all of it ministry and was proud of my busy ministry life. Looking back through the lens of eternity, I see so much of that was arrogance. It is only the things that impact eternity that can truly be called ministry.
     This year, I stood by a man and watched as he was born again. What a moment to witness and share with him. I’ve seen this so many times this year. There is nothing like seeing eternal life come into what was once a broken soul. That moment changed eternity, not just for him, but for his family as well. I think about the orphans in Uganda we were able to help through our giving. Yes, it was a simple thing that simply met a temporary need. However, it also enabled a local church to show the love of Christ to them as well. That moment impacted eternity. This was ministry! We should have, could have done more!
     The key to true eternal impact is found in learning to minimize the maintenance so we can maximize the ministry. This shift is made simple by adopting an eternal perspective.
    Jonathan Edwards often prayed, “Oh God, stamp eternity upon my eyeballs.”  He endeavored to live each day with eternity firmly fixed in view. The result was America’s First Great Awakening. Ravenhill wrote that were we to be so bold to pray such a prayer, we would likely change everything we do.
     Now, there’s a thought. Ravenhill went on further to say, “Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more, wept more, grieved more, loved and prayed more, and given more.”  Oh, my friend, if that statement is true, then a great deal must change. If we truly desire to see more in the coming year then we need to start living with eternal intentionality today.
     So what do we do?  Let’s start here. Take a moment to evaluate 2017 in light of eternity. What things have you done that will make a difference 10 years, 100 years or even 1,000 years from now? Take a look at your checking account. How much money went into temporary things and how much went into things that will last?  How much more could have been moved toward eternal purposes?  Look at your calendar. How much time was wasted in frivolous activities and how much was sown into eternity?
     I admit, this is a sobering exercise, but it is necessary. Too often, we treat time as if it is something that can be wasted. However, eternity leaves no time wasted. Each second is precious and must be invested wisely.
     Here are three eternal priority shifts we must make this year:
1) Prioritize the Secret Place. Rather than letting that place of prayer and devotion be the last place you run to, let it be the first place. We must tackle each day and every problem from the same starting point. There is no getting around this. Prayer must be paramount.
2) Prioritize the Word. God’s Word is eternal, powerful and life-changing, but it does you no good as long as the words sit unread on the shelf. The American church is becoming increasingly and biblically illiterate. If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to minimize the trivial sermon series that offer a few verses and take your congregation into actual study of biblical texts. Let’s preach the Word and let the Word transform them. Don’t just give your people verses, give them the Word. For the rest of us, let me encourage you to adopt a daily reading plan. Get the Word in you!
3) Prioritize Eternity in your Present.Every day is pregnant with eternal possibilities. Most go unnoticed and unrealized. Make it a daily goal to look for one eternal moment in each day. You’ll be surprised how many there are.

Eternal intentionality is the key to making 2018 more significant. Eternal intentionality is the key to getting the church on track toward awakening. Eternal intentionality is the key we’ve been missing. It’s time we find it.

     WOW! I feel like I could have written so much of this article! And there are several perspectives that struck me as identical to my views. First of all, I am in agreement that there is an awakening and revival among the faithful remnant of this country. And as I have written, God is now connecting us, making for a bigger impact for the Kingdom of God. 
     Then there is the idea that Daniel Norris presents that the Church has become all about “Maintenance”.  I would expound upon that and say it has become a Business. The Church’s efforts are too often spent more on budgets and programs, than equipping the saints to continue the work of Jesus.  And I agree with Mr. Norris, that this applies to us as individuals, too.  It is sobering when we look at where we spend our efforts — both financially and spiritually.  How many hours a day do we spend watching TV versus studying the Word? How much of our money goes towards buying things “of the world” for ourselves versus spending our money to help ministries or individuals that are making a difference for the Kingdom?
     I join with Daniel Norris in challenging myself [and you] with this question:  How much have we sown into eternity? Could I stand before Jesus right now and be proud of how I’ve invested my time and treasure on earth? 
     And, if you have been reading my blog for awhile, then you will recognize my advice for 2018:  1) Make your prayer life change the atmosphere and display the power of Heaven, so that both you and others have encounters with God.  2) Be ever-mindful of the opportunities to present Jesus to the world. That is our commission! There are 365 days in a year — how many days were you able to meet that goal? 3) We are all the Church. We don’t need to meet in a building to come together and work with Jesus to take back territory from the Enemy and advance the Kingdom.  When two or more are gathered in the Name of Jesus, that qualifies as the Body of Christ. It’s all about exhibiting the Power of the Holy Spirit in how we represent Him. Without the power that He walked in, we cannot fulfill our commission.
     So, let’s look forward to 2018 and all that we can accomplish for the Kingdom. Let’s get excited for what God is going to do across America, and the part we can play when we cooperate with Him. We were born for such a time as this!

Hosea 10:12   Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.

  

The Hope and Expectations For 2018

     Thanks to Charey, one of the faithful readers of this blog, I have been introduced to the writings of Daniel K. Norris, a minister who travels full time bringing a message of repentance and revival, and challenging believers in their walk with God. His desire is to see the Church experience the power and presence of God and yield a harvest of souls for the kingdom. 
     As I read his analysis of a project that he and his family experienced in 2017, I was amazed at how similar our perspective is on what God is doing among the faithful.  So, I wanted to share his testimony, and thought you would be blessed by it as we get ready to enter 2018. Read and contemplate…


     We sold everything (our cars, furniture and home) in 2016 and moved our family of five into a motor home to travel the entire United States in 2017 on a tour we called the Trail Of Fire. This week, we arrived back where we started. We covered 50,000 miles, visited 47 states and connected with 80 amazing ministries.
     This past month, the question I have been asked the most is “What is your biggest takeaway?” Curious?  
     One thing this year has done for us is this: it has given us a national perspective. We didn’t just pass through a city or state, we lived there. We didn’t just minister in the church. We walked their streets, bought groceries in their supermarkets, sat in their homes and around their tables. We spent time getting to know them and listening to their stories. Our lives have been greatly enriched because so many were willing to share their own lives with us. 
     It’s been a blessing! We set out in January of 2017 dreaming about the impact we could make on the nation; however, we never considered the impact the nation would make on us. We have truly been changed by this year for the better!
     Ultimately, we found a great remnant across the land that also carries the same burden for national awakening. These churches, ministries, revival hubs and houses of prayer are strategically positioned across America. They are a faithful battalion of believers that have made seeking a greater awakening for their city a priority.
     This year has greatly encouraged me about the possibilities for national awakening. I believe that true nationwide revival is not just a distant dream, but an imminent reality if we will pay the price. I assure you that though the full breakthrough we’ve prayed for may tarry, we ourselves are not tarrying in vain!
     So, what was my biggest takeaway from 2017?
     Just as I am encouraged at all we saw and experienced, I also see a tremendous need. I believe the church, as a whole, has lost its eternal perspective. So much of what occupies our present time is making little eternal impact. This must change if we have any hope of true revival.
     This week I came across the following in a book called In Light of Eternity. It is the biography of the late great revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill. At the end of the book the biographer writes the following account. He asked Ravenhill in the last year of his life if he had any regrets. This was his response:
     “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.”
     Stop and read that again! “If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man.” I pray it hits you like it did me!
     Ravenhill was a man with a colossal prayer life. He would often spend entire days locked away in his study in prayer. I’ve heard unbelievable stories about the prayer meetings he hosted. The man was a giant in prayer, yet here he was, at the end of his mortal life, with eternity in view and his response was, if only I had prayed more and preached and planned less.
     If such a man could say this, how much more should we!
     That quote only reinforced what I had been feeling over the past few months—that so much of what the church world is doing right now is missing eternal intentionality. Let’s be honest, we could all say, “If we spent more time alone with God this year, rather than—(preparing that sermon series, watching television, golfing, on Facebook), I would be a different person right now.”  
     Interestingly, here we are back where we started, and I find myself confronted with a truth I wrote about one year ago in my book, Trail of Fire. Fifty thousand miles traveled, only to arrive right where we began. I am convinced the Lord gave us this assignment to give us His perspective on a serious need within the American church. This is the key to unlocking national awakening—we must bring eternity into view.
     I said above that much of what the church occupies its time with carries very little eternal significance. Most of what we call “ministry” is really day-to-day maintenance.Granted, this daily maintenance is necessary, and when done properly, it allows us to actually do ministry. However, let’s not confuse the two as being the same thing.
     This is true for individuals and churches.Whether it is working a 9-5 just to make one more paycheck so you can make one more payment or if it’s one more Sunday so we have one more offering just to keep the wheels spinning one more week, the effects are temporal, not eternal.
     I think back to all the meetings, the plans, the series, the programs, the budgets, the tasks that I let dominate my time and realize much of it could have been eliminated or done more efficiently, allowing more time to pray and truly love others. At one time, I called all of it ministry and was proud of my busy ministry life. Looking back through the lens of eternity, I see so much of that was arrogance. It is only the things that impact eternity that can truly be called ministry.
     This year, I stood by a man and watched as he was born again. What a moment to witness and share with him. I’ve seen this so many times this year. There is nothing like seeing eternal life come into what was once a broken soul. That moment changed eternity, not just for him, but for his family as well. I think about the orphans in Uganda we were able to help through our giving. Yes, it was a simple thing that simply met a temporary need. However, it also enabled a local church to show the love of Christ to them as well. That moment impacted eternity. This was ministry! We should have, could have done more!
     The key to true eternal impact is found in learning to minimize the maintenance so we can maximize the ministry. This shift is made simple by adopting an eternal perspective.
    Jonathan Edwards often prayed, “Oh God, stamp eternity upon my eyeballs.”  He endeavored to live each day with eternity firmly fixed in view. The result was America’s First Great Awakening. Ravenhill wrote that were we to be so bold to pray such a prayer, we would likely change everything we do.
     Now, there’s a thought. Ravenhill went on further to say, “Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more, wept more, grieved more, loved and prayed more, and given more.”  Oh, my friend, if that statement is true, then a great deal must change. If we truly desire to see more in the coming year then we need to start living with eternal intentionality today.
     So what do we do?  Let’s start here. Take a moment to evaluate 2017 in light of eternity. What things have you done that will make a difference 10 years, 100 years or even 1,000 years from now? Take a look at your checking account. How much money went into temporary things and how much went into things that will last?  How much more could have been moved toward eternal purposes?  Look at your calendar. How much time was wasted in frivolous activities and how much was sown into eternity?
     I admit, this is a sobering exercise, but it is necessary. Too often, we treat time as if it is something that can be wasted. However, eternity leaves no time wasted. Each second is precious and must be invested wisely.
     Here are three eternal priority shifts we must make this year:
1) Prioritize the Secret Place. Rather than letting that place of prayer and devotion be the last place you run to, let it be the first place. We must tackle each day and every problem from the same starting point. There is no getting around this. Prayer must be paramount.
2) Prioritize the Word. God’s Word is eternal, powerful and life-changing, but it does you no good as long as the words sit unread on the shelf. The American church is becoming increasingly and biblically illiterate. If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to minimize the trivial sermon series that offer a few verses and take your congregation into actual study of biblical texts. Let’s preach the Word and let the Word transform them. Don’t just give your people verses, give them the Word. For the rest of us, let me encourage you to adopt a daily reading plan. Get the Word in you!
3) Prioritize Eternity in your Present.Every day is pregnant with eternal possibilities. Most go unnoticed and unrealized. Make it a daily goal to look for one eternal moment in each day. You’ll be surprised how many there are.

Eternal intentionality is the key to making 2018 more significant. Eternal intentionality is the key to getting the church on track toward awakening. Eternal intentionality is the key we’ve been missing. It’s time we find it.

     WOW! I feel like I could have written so much of this article! And there are several perspectives that struck me as identical to my views. First of all, I am in agreement that there is an awakening and revival among the faithful remnant of this country. And as I have written, God is now connecting us, making for a bigger impact for the Kingdom of God. 
     Then there is the idea that Daniel Norris presents that the Church has become all about “Maintenance”.  I would expound upon that and say it has become a Business. The Church’s efforts are too often spent more on budgets and programs, than equipping the saints to continue the work of Jesus.  And I agree with Mr. Norris, that this applies to us as individuals, too.  It is sobering when we look at where we spend our efforts — both financially and spiritually.  How many hours a day do we spend watching TV versus studying the Word? How much of our money goes towards buying things “of the world” for ourselves versus spending our money to help ministries or individuals that are making a difference for the Kingdom?
     I join with Daniel Norris in challenging myself [and you] with this question:  How much have we sown into eternity? Could I stand before Jesus right now and be proud of how I’ve invested my time and treasure on earth? 
     And, if you have been reading my blog for awhile, then you will recognize my advice for 2018:  1) Make your prayer life change the atmosphere and display the power of Heaven, so that both you and others have encounters with God.  2) Be ever-mindful of the opportunities to present Jesus to the world. That is our commission! There are 365 days in a year — how many days were you able to meet that goal? 3) We are all the Church. We don’t need to meet in a building to come together and work with Jesus to take back territory from the Enemy and advance the Kingdom.  When two or more are gathered in the Name of Jesus, that qualifies as the Body of Christ. It’s all about exhibiting the Power of the Holy Spirit in how we represent Him. Without the power that He walked in, we cannot fulfill our commission.
     So, let’s look forward to 2018 and all that we can accomplish for the Kingdom. Let’s get excited for what God is going to do across America, and the part we can play when we cooperate with Him. We were born for such a time as this!

Hosea 10:12   Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.

  

Being The Presence Of God

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    I want to relate an experience that my husband and I had a couple of days before Christmas.  Although I posted a quick synopsis on Facebook, there is more depth to the story than I was able to express on that platform.  It is a stark reminder to me of how I need to be more focused on being the presence of God to another person.
     As millions of Americans did, Mark and I had to get out in the Christmas rush to buy household essentials, and I needed to return a rug I had bought on an impulse. Big mistake, I thought at the time.  I waited in the Return line at Walmart for over 30 minutes, my frustration beginning to mirror the poor woman trying to figure out how to send money orders around the world. But I kept myself in check, clinging to thoughts of the peace of this season. Finally, I was up next. I finished my return, we scrambled to find the other items we came for, got in another line to purchase them and were happy to be exiting the store.
     As we approached the exit, there was a woman ahead of me, obviously in pain, and moving very slowly. Although we were ready to get out of the rush, I got a clear prompting from the Holy Spirit … “You are not going to walk past this woman.”  Mark and I waited for her to clear the final door, and once in the parking lot, I approached her and asked if she was having trouble walking because of knee pain.  She told us that her right knee was swollen because she’d recently had that hip replaced. She was supposed to have the left hip replaced, too, but Hurricane Harvey caused a delay, and now she is displaced, waiting for her house to be repaired so she can move back in.  I asked her if we could pray for her knee pain, and she was enthusiastic in her approval, “Yes! I would love that!”
     I laid hands on her knee, prayed and asked if the pain was gone.  She said it was better, and we said, “Then, let’s go after it again!” We continued to pray, laying hands on her, and releasing the power of the Holy Spirit against the spirit of pain in her knee.  We looked up and tears were running down her face.  Mark asked her why she was crying, and if those were tears of pain or joy.  She said, “Who are you people?”  We said, “Just followers of Jesus, doing what He has asked us to do, and what we are called to do”.  She replied, “I have felt so distant from God for too long.  And He has sent me several people this week to remind me that He is still present in my life”.  And the tears began flowing even more steadily.
     Mark asked her why she felt God was so far away, and she replied that she was the one who had pulled away.  So we held her hands and prayed that her relationship with Jesus would be restored and she would know how much He loves her and desires to rekindle the fire that once invaded her heart.  We asked her if she had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and she said she had; that she had received the gift of tongues, but had lost it. We asked if she wanted it back, and she said, “Oh, God, yes!” So Mark prayed over her, calling for more of the Holy Spirit, and she prayed along with us, but nothing happened.  We reassured her that if she wanted it, all she had to do was keep on asking for it.  It is the Father’s desire to restore her to fullness.  She said, “I know this, y’all! I know this!  My daddy was a Pentecostal preacher and I should know this!”
     We asked what happened to her that she had abandoned her faith.  She struggled for an answer, finally saying that things had just happened in her life.  We asked who she needed to forgive, and the answer finally came out … herself.  So we led her in a prayer asking Jesus to help her forgive herself, as He has forgiven her.  By this time, I became aware of the strange looks we were receiving … two white people hugging and praying and laying hands on an infirmed black woman … and none of us cared!  Our Sister in Christ, Tracy, was walking in less pain, smiling through her tears, and declaring to anyone who cared to listen, “This is what we are supposed to be doing! We are all the same! We are all God’s children and we are supposed to care about each other!”  We walked her to her car, blessing her and reminding her that Jesus will never leave her.  It was such a blessed reminder that Jesus will give us unending opportunities to represent Him, if we will be present in our spirits.
     I tell you this story, not to point out mine and Mark’s actions.  It’s not about us!  Remember, I just wanted to get out of that store, and there is another detail to the story… I had noticed Tracy as we rushed around trying to grab our two small items after my long wait in the Return line. But I was so self-absorbed with my own needs and getting out of there as fast as I could, that I had walked past her. Then here she was in front of me as we were exiting the store. I am telling you this because I am ashamed that I wasn’t listening to the Holy Spirit when I first saw her, and I am praising the Father for giving me another chance to walk in the identity that I am seeking. I now see that my wait in the Return line was by His design — otherwise our paths would never have crossed at the end.
     Again, this is not about the work that we did that day, although I know that it ultimately pleased the Father. But, rather, it is a serious inspection of myself as to why the presence of the Holy Spirit is not continuously expressed in my actions, every single minute of every day.  I want to be a person that the Holy Spirit “rests upon”, as He did Jesus throughout His time on earth. 

     I know the Spirit lives in me; my body is His Temple, and I am confident that I have been born again. But I have to honestly look at myself and ask, “Can I say that the Holy Spirit rests on me?”  To me it is as Bill Johnson explains, “The Holy Spirit is IN me for my sake, but He rests UPON me for the sake of another”.  That means that I should be having an impact upon others because of His presence upon me, and I should be effecting the world around me. Does it happen occasionally? Yes! And I know when it does that it is not me who is affecting a person’s spirit, but the Holy Spirit leading me “on paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake”.
     During this season of my walk with the Lord that’s where I’m at — I want more than anything else to facilitate an encounter with God for another human being; to be the vessel or pipeline, if you will, through which God reaches out and touches a human heart. But I am also very aware that my heart must be always open towards the Holy Spirit in order for that encounter to flow through me. And my experience at Walmart, two days before Christmas, shows me that I still have work to do. I want to be constantly engaged with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was.
     John the Baptist, when testifying to the validity of Jesus as the Son of God, says in John 1:32, I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him [Jesus]. It means that for the rest of His earthly life, Jesus continued to position Himself to effect others, as the Holy Spirit directed Him. For me, it means I must direct my heart ever more towards God, so that I will be aware of every possible occasion or circumstance in which someone might encounter God through me.  I do not write this as a matter of self-deprecation, because I know I am a Daughter of the King.  Rather, I write it as a testament to my self-awareness, and to encourage others to walk with me as we seek to become more like Jesus. So, Father, I pray for more encounters like the one you blessed me and Mark with, and I pray that You will come to entrust me with more opportunities as I learn to recognize Your presence and share You and the Holy Spirit with others.  I want to cooperate with You more; fully representing You and what You are doing in the world. I ask all this so that my life may exalt my Lord and Savior. Amen!

Titus 3:5    He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,  

A Prayer For Christmas 2017

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     With the birth of this holy child, God came to be with the world. And in His Name the world had reason to hope.  So, on the day that Jesus’s birth is celebrated, I wish to bless you with this prayer:
Heavenly Father,
     I come before Your throne with a grateful heart for the immense love you have shown for each of us.  I thank You that You chose to humble Yourself and walk among us; coming as an innocent child, but with a Light that shone into the world’s darkness.
     This year, Father, I am praying for that Light to shine into the hearts of every person on earth. To those who love You, let the Light reveal the areas of their lives that still keep them in bondage.  Let them develop a hunger for the freedom this baby came to bring them. Let them be dissatisfied with anything that is not pleasing in Your sight, and may they resolve to unlock the shackles of oppression.
     And, Father, may the Body of Christ remove the scales from their eyes, and step into their Divine Commission.  It is my prayer that each of us say, “Yes, Lord!” to living the life of power that we were designed to walk in.  Let the lame and sick be healed; and let the demons quake and flee when we speak because they recognize our authority. And, Father, I ask, in the Name of Jesus, that the Spirit of Religion be removed from the Body. Help us to shake off the attachments of Unbelief and Doubt that accompany this Spirit. And let us realize that each time we hesitate to answer Your call or invitation to partner with You, that we are signaling the Enemy that we have more faith in his ability to deceive us than we do in Your ability to rightly communicate with us and lead us into righteous works for the Kingdom.
     Father, for those who are hurting and poor in spirit this season, let me be the vessel You use to show them You are still with us.  I surrender my own selfish desires, my pride, and my self-worth to become Your conduit from Heaven.  Let them see only You in me.  Cleanse me of anything that interrupts the flow of Your love to those who desperately need to know their identity as a child of God.  And, if they doubt Your existence, give me the words to convince them, or a way to supernaturally touch their life in an exhibition of Your Truth.
     But, Father, for those who stubbornly reject You, let me react by praising You, displaying my belief and trust in the midst of their unbelief.  And I will praise You because I know that, ultimately, it is You who will reveal Yourself and Your Son to the unbeliever, not me.  So, I will continue to pray that their heart of stone will be transformed and they will come to know You, receiving the joy that this relationship brings to the spirit of every man.
     Father, over 2,000 years ago, You set Your plan in motion to reconcile with us, and I believe that You are releasing revival and restoration to Your remnant in these days.  Oh, Father, how I pray that we will receive it and walk in greater power and strength in the coming days and years!  I rejoice at seeing the Body of Christ awaken to its assignment, and I pray that our numbers grow; just as I pray that those healed and set free will be rightly discipled and join Your army on earth.  
     Father, I pray that more of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of You will be transferred to me and my fellow believers.  Just as Your Holy Child grew into His assignment on earth, let us continue to grow and mature and walk in higher power and authority.  I don’t want any aspect of my life to be less than pleasing to You!  
     So, on this day that we celebrate Immanuel’s birth, I am focusing on the work You have done in my life, and asking for more, Father.  Keep challenging me to accept Your next invitation, always looking expectantly and eagerly for the next encounter with You.  I promise to fight the efforts of the spirits of weariness, complacency, and procrastination that endeavor to keep me from moving forward in my journey with You.  The Christ Child was born to give me unrestricted access to You and the possibility to partner with You in redeeming the world.  I want to take advantage of every opportunity!
    Lastly, Father, I am grateful and thank you for the people you have brought into my life.  For those who mentor and encourage Mark and I in our ministry; for those who are willing to risk ridicule and censoring as we walk together in search of more of our God; for those who have the courage to listen to their hearts rather than the voice of the crowd; and for those whose own transformation and conversions are an amazing inspiration to us. Father, make me ever mindful to speak love and encouragement to them.  But perhaps, most importantly, Father, I thank you for the wonderful and Godly husband you have given me.  You have given him much wisdom and a hunger to live a righteous life.  I stand in awe of his boldness for the Kingdom and look forward to where You will take us in the coming year.  I am so blessed, Father!  And it’s all because “Unto us, a child was born”. THANK YOU! Amen.
Today I honor the life of one of our “spiritual children”, Ben Breedlove, who died on Christmas Day, 2011.  (If you would like to read what I wrote about Ben, please click here). Ben, you filled our lives with such joy, and I thank the Lord for recently showing me a glimpse of you in heaven.  And that last month of your life here on earth showed us all that our hope for eternal life is real, and it is so much better than anything we can experience in the flesh.  You have left us deeply inspired to reach the world for Christ, just as you did. I can’t wait to see you again and behold your beautiful smile.  Mark and I still love you and miss you every day!
John 1:14   And the Word (Christ – the Anointed One) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception).

“Glory To God In The Highest, And On Earth Peace Among Those With Whom God Is Pleased”!

     These words from Luke 2:14 are spoken so often during Christmastime, and usually stated as the more casual “peace on earth, good will towards men”.  But do we Christians really know the context in which these words were proclaimed by the heavenly host, God’s angelic army?  I would surmise that most people interpret this verse to mean the angels are announcing the peace among men that the birth of the Christ child signifies, resulting in feelings of goodwill among mankind.
     But I believe that is a shallow explanation of the Word, and rather self-centered.  The focus then becomes about us and our feelings; and is even sometimes rendered to mean that this peace is only intended for a select group of people God has chosen — the Elect if you are Calvin-inclined.
     And although I don’t celebrate Christmas from the man-made holiday, materialistic shopping frenzy, and Santa Claus perspective, I do honor the birth of Jesus and the reason I believe the angelic host made their appearance to make this stunning announcement.  (The fact that I also don’t believe Jesus was born on December 25th, doesn’t enter into the importance of this discussion.  If you are interested in my opinion on this matter, click here).

     So, what is the underlying significance of this dramatic pronouncement?  To whom does this “peace” refer, and what exactly does it cover? Rather than revealing tranquility and harmony between men as a result of the birth of Jesus, the peace that the angels were speaking of was actually announcing the termination of hostilities and ill will between God and man — the conflict that had existed since Adam and Eve had betrayed God’s trust in the Garden.  The angels were announcing that the Christ child was bringing reconciliation between The Most High God and His creation.
     Until God determined that it was time to end the hostilities, all men had been slaves to sin, separated from Him, and doomed for judgment and condemnation.  But now it was time for the words of the Prophets to be displayed… Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us) (Isaiah 7:14)The birth of this child will, in effect, make a way for peace between God and man. And even though man is unable to be completely sin-free, this child will pay for sin with His sacrificial blood; and all who have faith in Him as their Savior need not fear eternal damnation.  By declaring “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom God is pleased”, the angels are rejoicing in excitement and expectancy of what Jesus will eventually accomplish for mankind — peace between them and God: Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior] (Romans 8:1). 
     But there is more to this story than just the image of the Christ Child in the manger.  There is a depth to it that we must not miss.  It is imperative that we see the fullness of the Godhead in the particulars of this event.  First, we cannot ignore the fact that the Father conceived this plan to send His only begotten Son as payment for the sins of those whom He dearly loved; that as the Son of God, this child was the sole representative of the Being and Character of the One who sent Him. 
    Secondly, Jesus was the “Christ child”, known as Jesus Christ, or Jesus, “the Anointed One”.  The word anointed means “consecrated” or “set apart” to a Divine purpose.  In the religious ceremonies of the Jews, God instructed the “anointing” or “smearing of oil” to confer a divine or holy office upon a priest.  Jesus was literally “smeared” with the power of Heaven from the moment of His supernatural conception. Born as fully human, He was able to accomplish God’s plan of reinstated peace with man, through the power of Heaven initiated by the Holy Spirit.
     And from the moment of that Divine conception, the Holy Spirit and the power of Heaven played a central role in Jesus’s ministry. According to Steven Studebaker, author and Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, “The Spirit is central to both who Christ is and what he did.”  The Holy Spirit not only enabled the incarnation of the Son of God, but He provided the power for Jesus to do the signs and wonders from the Father, virtually invading earth with the saving power of Heaven.  
     Furthermore, if we, today, correctly view the birth of the Christ Child, we should recognize that this same Holy Spirit is central to our Christian identity and what we are able to do for the Father’s Kingdom here on earth.  If we are to be “those with whom He is well pleased”, then we must mirror Jesus, whom God declared He was pleased with at His baptism.  And that means being willing to activate the power that comes to us through the Holy Spirit.  In that sense, we are no different than Jesus.  
     He was given a mission which He accomplished. From the moment He was born, until His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus was born of the Spirit and filled with the Spirit to accomplish His Father’s will.  It is a given that we have not been divinely conceived.  Only Jesus can lay claim to that distinction.  And while we may not be continuously filled with the Spirit as He was, we have access to that same Spirit and the ability to achieve that goal … if we desire it, and ask for it.  That is God’s intention for us and what would please Him!

     So, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year, let’s try to look at this event as more than a nativity scene.  Let us recognize that He came to us on a mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the Father’s will in bringing peace — the reconciliation between man and God.  And let us recognize that this same mission is still the will of the Father, and it is the mission we have inherited now that the Holy Spirit not only lives in us, but empowers us to do what God called Jesus to do.  Contemplate the holiness of the Christ Child; His assignment; and the power given to Him to carry it out… all of which pleases the Father.  And let us not be satisfied in merely meeting our own standard of pleasing Him, but keep asking Him for more power to accomplish the mission He has given us.  Be resolved to look beyond the sentimentality of this holiday, and walk in the truth of the Word … For we are not like many, [acting like merchants] peddling God’s word [shortchanging and adulterating God’s message]; but from pure [uncompromised] motives, as [commissioned and sent] from God, we speak [His message] in Christ in the sight of God.  That will please Him!

    

2 Corinthians 2:15    For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…”
     
    

“Glory To God In The Highest, And On Earth Peace Among Those With Whom God Is Pleased”!

     These words from Luke 2:14 are spoken so often during Christmastime, and usually stated as the more casual “peace on earth, good will towards men”.  But do we Christians really know the context in which these words were proclaimed by the heavenly host, God’s angelic army?  I would surmise that most people interpret this verse to mean the angels are announcing the peace among men that the birth of the Christ child signifies, resulting in feelings of goodwill among mankind.
     But I believe that is a shallow explanation of the Word, and rather self-centered.  The focus then becomes about us and our feelings; and is even sometimes rendered to mean that this peace is only intended for a select group of people God has chosen — the Elect if you are Calvin-inclined.
     And although I don’t celebrate Christmas from the man-made holiday, materialistic shopping frenzy, and Santa Claus perspective, I do honor the birth of Jesus and the reason I believe the angelic host made their appearance to make this stunning announcement.  (The fact that I also don’t believe Jesus was born on December 25th, doesn’t enter into the importance of this discussion.  If you are interested in my opinion on this matter, click here).

     So, what is the underlying significance of this dramatic pronouncement?  To whom does this “peace” refer, and what exactly does it cover? Rather than revealing tranquility and harmony between men as a result of the birth of Jesus, the peace that the angels were speaking of was actually announcing the termination of hostilities and ill will between God and man — the conflict that had existed since Adam and Eve had betrayed God’s trust in the Garden.  The angels were announcing that the Christ child was bringing reconciliation between The Most High God and His creation.
     Until God determined that it was time to end the hostilities, all men had been slaves to sin, separated from Him, and doomed for judgment and condemnation.  But now it was time for the words of the Prophets to be displayed… Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us) (Isaiah 7:14)The birth of this child will, in effect, make a way for peace between God and man. And even though man is unable to be completely sin-free, this child will pay for sin with His sacrificial blood; and all who have faith in Him as their Savior need not fear eternal damnation.  By declaring “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom God is pleased”, the angels are rejoicing in excitement and expectancy of what Jesus will eventually accomplish for mankind — peace between them and God: Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior] (Romans 8:1). 
     But there is more to this story than just the image of the Christ Child in the manger.  There is a depth to it that we must not miss.  It is imperative that we see the fullness of the Godhead in the particulars of this event.  First, we cannot ignore the fact that the Father conceived this plan to send His only begotten Son as payment for the sins of those whom He dearly loved; that as the Son of God, this child was the sole representative of the Being and Character of the One who sent Him. 
    Secondly, Jesus was the “Christ child”, known as Jesus Christ, or Jesus, “the Anointed One”.  The word anointed means “consecrated” or “set apart” to a Divine purpose.  In the religious ceremonies of the Jews, God instructed the “anointing” or “smearing of oil” to confer a divine or holy office upon a priest.  Jesus was literally “smeared” with the power of Heaven from the moment of His supernatural conception. Born as fully human, He was able to accomplish God’s plan of reinstated peace with man, through the power of Heaven initiated by the Holy Spirit.
     And from the moment of that Divine conception, the Holy Spirit and the power of Heaven played a central role in Jesus’s ministry. According to Steven Studebaker, author and Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, “The Spirit is central to both who Christ is and what he did.”  The Holy Spirit not only enabled the incarnation of the Son of God, but He provided the power for Jesus to do the signs and wonders from the Father, virtually invading earth with the saving power of Heaven.  
     Furthermore, if we, today, correctly view the birth of the Christ Child, we should recognize that this same Holy Spirit is central to our Christian identity and what we are able to do for the Father’s Kingdom here on earth.  If we are to be “those with whom He is well pleased”, then we must mirror Jesus, whom God declared He was pleased with at His baptism.  And that means being willing to activate the power that comes to us through the Holy Spirit.  In that sense, we are no different than Jesus.  
     He was given a mission which He accomplished. From the moment He was born, until His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus was born of the Spirit and filled with the Spirit to accomplish His Father’s will.  It is a given that we have not been divinely conceived.  Only Jesus can lay claim to that distinction.  And while we may not be continuously filled with the Spirit as He was, we have access to that same Spirit and the ability to achieve that goal … if we desire it, and ask for it.  That is God’s intention for us and what would please Him!

     So, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year, let’s try to look at this event as more than a nativity scene.  Let us recognize that He came to us on a mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the Father’s will in bringing peace — the reconciliation between man and God.  And let us recognize that this same mission is still the will of the Father, and it is the mission we have inherited now that the Holy Spirit not only lives in us, but empowers us to do what God called Jesus to do.  Contemplate the holiness of the Christ Child; His assignment; and the power given to Him to carry it out… all of which pleases the Father.  And let us not be satisfied in merely meeting our own standard of pleasing Him, but keep asking Him for more power to accomplish the mission He has given us.  Be resolved to look beyond the sentimentality of this holiday, and walk in the truth of the Word … For we are not like many, [acting like merchants] peddling God’s word [shortchanging and adulterating God’s message]; but from pure [uncompromised] motives, as [commissioned and sent] from God, we speak [His message] in Christ in the sight of God.  That will please Him!

    

2 Corinthians 2:15    For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…”
     
    

“Glory To God In The Highest, And On Earth Peace Among Those With Whom God Is Pleased”!

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     These words from Luke 2:14 are spoken so often during Christmastime, and usually stated as the more casual “peace on earth, good will towards men”.  But do we Christians really know the context in which these words were proclaimed by the heavenly host, God’s angelic army?  I would surmise that most people interpret this verse to mean the angels are announcing the peace among men that the birth of the Christ child signifies, resulting in feelings of goodwill among mankind.
     But I believe that is a shallow explanation of the Word, and rather self-centered.  The focus then becomes about us and our feelings; and is even sometimes rendered to mean that this peace is only intended for a select group of people God has chosen — the Elect if you are Calvin-inclined.
     And although I don’t celebrate Christmas from the man-made holiday, materialistic shopping frenzy, and Santa Claus perspective, I do honor the birth of Jesus and the reason I believe the angelic host made their appearance to make this stunning announcement.  (The fact that I also don’t believe Jesus was born on December 25th, doesn’t enter into the importance of this discussion.  If you are interested in my opinion on this matter, click here).

     So, what is the underlying significance of this dramatic pronouncement?  To whom does this “peace” refer, and what exactly does it cover? Rather than revealing tranquility and harmony between men as a result of the birth of Jesus, the peace that the angels were speaking of was actually announcing the termination of hostilities and ill will between God and man — the conflict that had existed since Adam and Eve had betrayed God’s trust in the Garden.  The angels were announcing that the Christ child was bringing reconciliation between The Most High God and His creation.
     Until God determined that it was time to end the hostilities, all men had been slaves to sin, separated from Him, and doomed for judgment and condemnation.  But now it was time for the words of the Prophets to be displayed… Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us) (Isaiah 7:14)The birth of this child will, in effect, make a way for peace between God and man. And even though man is unable to be completely sin-free, this child will pay for sin with His sacrificial blood; and all who have faith in Him as their Savior need not fear eternal damnation.  By declaring “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom God is pleased”, the angels are rejoicing in excitement and expectancy of what Jesus will eventually accomplish for mankind — peace between them and God: Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior] (Romans 8:1). 
     But there is more to this story than just the image of the Christ Child in the manger.  There is a depth to it that we must not miss.  It is imperative that we see the fullness of the Godhead in the particulars of this event.  First, we cannot ignore the fact that the Father conceived this plan to send His only begotten Son as payment for the sins of those whom He dearly loved; that as the Son of God, this child was the sole representative of the Being and Character of the One who sent Him. 
    Secondly, Jesus was the “Christ child”, known as Jesus Christ, or Jesus, “the Anointed One”.  The word anointed means “consecrated” or “set apart” to a Divine purpose.  In the religious ceremonies of the Jews, God instructed the “anointing” or “smearing of oil” to confer a divine or holy office upon a priest.  Jesus was literally “smeared” with the power of Heaven from the moment of His supernatural conception. Born as fully human, He was able to accomplish God’s plan of reinstated peace with man, through the power of Heaven initiated by the Holy Spirit.
     And from the moment of that Divine conception, the Holy Spirit and the power of Heaven played a central role in Jesus’s ministry. According to Steven Studebaker, author and Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, “The Spirit is central to both who Christ is and what he did.”  The Holy Spirit not only enabled the incarnation of the Son of God, but He provided the power for Jesus to do the signs and wonders from the Father, virtually invading earth with the saving power of Heaven.  
     Furthermore, if we, today, correctly view the birth of the Christ Child, we should recognize that this same Holy Spirit is central to our Christian identity and what we are able to do for the Father’s Kingdom here on earth.  If we are to be “those with whom He is well pleased”, then we must mirror Jesus, whom God declared He was pleased with at His baptism.  And that means being willing to activate the power that comes to us through the Holy Spirit.  In that sense, we are no different than Jesus.  
     He was given a mission which He accomplished. From the moment He was born, until His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus was born of the Spirit and filled with the Spirit to accomplish His Father’s will.  It is a given that we have not been divinely conceived.  Only Jesus can lay claim to that distinction.  And while we may not be continuously filled with the Spirit as He was, we have access to that same Spirit and the ability to achieve that goal … if we desire it, and ask for it.  That is God’s intention for us and what would please Him!

     So, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year, let’s try to look at this event as more than a nativity scene.  Let us recognize that He came to us on a mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the Father’s will in bringing peace — the reconciliation between man and God.  And let us recognize that this same mission is still the will of the Father, and it is the mission we have inherited now that the Holy Spirit not only lives in us, but empowers us to do what God called Jesus to do.  Contemplate the holiness of the Christ Child; His assignment; and the power given to Him to carry it out… all of which pleases the Father.  And let us not be satisfied in merely meeting our own standard of pleasing Him, but keep asking Him for more power to accomplish the mission He has given us.  Be resolved to look beyond the sentimentality of this holiday, and walk in the truth of the Word … For we are not like many, [acting like merchants] peddling God’s word [shortchanging and adulterating God’s message]; but from pure [uncompromised] motives, as [commissioned and sent] from God, we speak [His message] in Christ in the sight of God.  That will please Him!

    

2 Corinthians 2:15    For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…”
     
    

The Holy Spirit: We Can Have More!

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     As you have likely noticed over the last year, a lot of my posts have centered around the Holy Spirit.  And I believe this is because there is so much more of Him that God wants us to experience.  And to that point, I wrote a blog post in August, 2015, sharing my opinion on the difference between water baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  What a difference two years can make!  Although I do not necessarily disagree with what I wrote back then, I have now experienced a fuller encounter with the Spirit and I must amend my opinion. As I continue growing and maturing in my faith, God reveals more, and I’d like to share that knowledge with you.

     I would venture that a majority of Christians would agree with me when I say that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.  It is accepted that water baptism is evidence of our repentance, and we are walking in a new relationship with God, the Father, and Jesus, our Lord.  In fact, according to Strong’s Concordance, water baptism by a Christian believer is “witnessing to their identification with Jesus in death, burial, and resurrection”; we die with Christ, and rise with Him. When we get baptized in the Name of Jesus, we become closely bound and associated with the One into whose Name we are baptized.
     Yet I am convinced that we do not need to be water baptized to be saved.  Yes, it is a public act that proclaims to both the physical world and the spiritual world that we have faith in Jesus and His teachings — that we are learning to be like Jesus by following His example of submission, service, and sacrifice in response to faith in Him.
    But, now, let me present a different look at salvation without water baptism.  There is the account in John 13:8-11 of a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus is about to wash Peter’s feet, but Peter protests.  Jesus tells him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me”.  Peter then tells Jesus that he wants to be washed completely — “not only my feet, but my hands and my head”, which indicates full body immersion.  Jesus responds, Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, and is completely clean. And you [My Disciples] are clean…”. 
     What does Jesus mean by that word “bathed” and how does it render the Disciples clean? This becomes clear in John 15:3, when Jesus tells His Disciples, You are already clean because of the word which I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you]”. They were bathed in the Word and therefore saved by Faith in Him [and His teachings]. Do not get me wrong!  There is nothing wrong with being baptized in water!  It honors your commitment to your faith as a follower of Christ. But water baptism itself, does not save.  “For it is by grace we have been saved by faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
     I’d like to share the writing of the late Jay Guin on his interpretation of what Jesus was expressing to Peter in this passage:  “You are utterly clean, by grace, because you’ve accepted My teaching and so have faith. But neither My teaching nor your cleansing will be complete until you learn one last lesson, the lesson of humble service. I’ll teach this lesson by washing your feet, but I’ll complete the lesson by dying for you. But I know already that you’ll learn that lesson well”.

     Now, let me continue with my thoughts on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that “having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise”. This indwelling of the Spirit allows Jesus to come into our hearts and reside there with us; in effect, giving us a new heart and a new [indwelling] spirit, just as God proclaimed in Ezekiel 36:26.  We are a new creation, and we no longer have to be subject to our sinful flesh and human nature.
     But in order to overcome the temptations of this world and the fiery darts of the devil, we must receive the power of the Holy Spirit — and actually we should be asking for that power, which comes to us by another form of baptism … the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Luke 11:13 tells us, If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”  So, the obvious question is if this is the indwelling of the Spirit that accompanies our declaration of faith in Jesus, then why is Jesus telling us that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask Him? This must be a greater manifestation of the Spirit.
     And, in truth, Jesus tells His Disciples right before His ascension, But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” It is clear to me that what happens to them in the upper room at Pentecost is the bestowal of that power and ability — an empowerment for service to the Kingdom of God and to represent Him and do His works.
     One of the best illustrations of the difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was presented in an article on the Christian Broadcasting Network website … “if we drank water from a glass, then the water would be inside us. However, if we went to the beach and stepped into the ocean, then we would be in the water. We receive, as it were, a drink of the Holy Spirit when we are saved, but when we are baptized in the Spirit, it is as if that initial drink becomes an ocean that completely surrounds us”. The indwelling of the Spirit gives us the opportunity to live our lives [set apart to God and in righteousness], as Jesus did.  The Baptism of the Spirit gives us the ability and the power to do the ministry of Jesus, including miracles and healings. 
     Think about it… the Great Commission, as stated in Mark 16, says, Go into all the world and preach the gospel [of the Kingdom] to all creation. He who has believed [in Me] and has been baptized will be saved [from the penalty of God’s wrath and judgment]; but he who has not believed will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak in new tongues they will pick up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” It is my opinion that the baptism of these believers is the baptism by fire of the Holy Spirit — not water baptism! Jesus knew they would not be able to do these signs (miracles) under their own power. So that’s why He told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promised [supernatural] power of the Holy Spirit, and they would be able to accomplish their commission.  The “promise” of the Holy Spirit is not merely His presence in us, but it is a promise of the power that accompanies Him!
      Is it possible to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom and make Disciples without the power that comes from the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?  I believe it is, but it amounts to trying to train people to undertake a supernatural assignment with their limited human power.  The fruit that is borne will be less profitable for the Kingdom of God.

     Just like the baptism in the Name of Jesus, we become eternally associated with and bound to the Holy Spirit when we are baptized with His fire. When we are baptized by immersion in water, we do so in repentance of our sins, recognition of our new identity in Christ, and a desire to live in obedience to God.  But it takes receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk in a higher calling to God.  And the Disciples are our example.  They were bathed in the Word and had faith in Jesus, which caused Jesus to pronounce them “clean”.  And there are numerous references to “cleansing” being related to salvation, such as 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
     And, yes, it is a fact that the Disciples were able to heal the sick and cast out demons before they received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, but it wasn’t until the fire of the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost that they received a fuller measure of supernatural, heavenly power to carry out the Commission Jesus had given them. 
     I know that many Christians will not see eye-to-eye with me on this matter.  It is a difficult concept to understand, and sadly, I do not believe the modern Church has attempted to seek a deeper knowledge. They do not understand that the Bible clearly states that Paul taught that one received this greater power by the laying on of hands… Acts 8:17, Then Peter and John laid their hands on them [one by one], and they received the Holy Spirit; 2 Timothy 1:6, That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands…;  Acts 19:1-6, It happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the upper [inland] districts and came down to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed [in Jesus as the Christ]?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he asked, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John performed a baptism of repentance, continually telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, [to confidently accept and joyfully believe] in Jesus [the Messiah and Savior].” After hearing this, they were baptized [again, this time] in the name of the Lord JesusAnd when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesying. This speaks of the water baptism in response to faith in Jesus, [rather than the baptism of repentance that signified John the Baptist’s baptism], followed by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, received by the laying on of hands; and the gift of tongues clearly being a sign of this baptism into power and ability.
     There is so much more that I could discuss — that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to each one of us because if the Holy Spirit indwells us, He brings His gifts with Him, and, as 1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us, All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills. ALL the gifts are available to ALL believers! The Bible tells us that not all are apostles, nor prophets, nor teachers; and not all perform miracles, or healing, or speak in tongues.  But does this mean we are not able to do these things?  The Bible also tells us to “earnestly desire the higher gifts”. Seek after them; ask for them! Luke 11:13, If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? 
     The Baptism of the Holy Spirit requires a deep study of the Word, and is not without controversy and disagreement amongst the Body of Christ.  But it is an essential part of the Bible and worthy of our time and consideration. I hope you will earnestly seek God’s heart on this matter.

Acts 8:15-16   They [Peter and John] came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit for He had not yet fallen on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus [as His possession].
     
    

The Spirit Is Moving!

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     While a majority of Christians in the U.S. are embracing their Christmas traditions, I am sensitive to a greater sentiment for rejoicing.  I am sensing a connection among Spirit-led Christians, while at the same time, an expansion of where the Spirit is leading us.  I know that may not make much sense, so let me see if I can expound on this premise…
     Until very recently, I have felt as if the Lord had called Mark and I to a solitary place; a calling that seemed to almost isolate us from the Body of Christ.  I knew He was doing a work in us and preparing us for a unique and, perhaps, even greater service than what we experienced within the corporate body of the Church.  But now I’m discovering [and recognizing] those that have experienced the same “calling out”, so to speak, and have been on their own individual paths of serving the Kingdom.
     And now, the Lord is connecting us, each with his or her individual and particular assignment.  And when we come together, it is expanding our ability to reach the Lost and the Saved! Because, as I have said before, [quoting Dr. Charles Kraft], our churches are full of wonderfully saved Christians who are still in bondage. And [quoting the Lord], the harvest of the Lost is great and the Laborers are few.

     God needs us all! That’s why He has given some the assignment of healing the brokenhearted and setting the captives free; and others to take back the Land and declare that it belongs to the Lord; and still others to train up disciples of Christ to hit the streets, lay hands on people to physically heal, and share the Gospel of the Kingdom.  And now He is connecting us so that we are actually beginning to work together as a real body works … each being the hand or the foot or the arms and legs — but all working under the direction of the Head.  The Spirit is moving!
     I don’t claim to know the mind of God, but I am left wondering if it isn’t like how God orchestrated Joshua and the Israelite’s conquering of the Promised Land … learning our individual responsibility and then how to relate collectively as we come together in one Body; learning from each battle as we step into the next.  If we had each tried to walk out our new assignments [when we first received them] as part of a corporate body, there would probably have been much in-fighting for position, a lot of confusion, and much discouragement — which would have delighted Satan.
     But since God has taught each of us our roles, and refined us through our victories and defeats, we are now ready to come together without any jealousy, suspicion, or mistrust.  We see the bigger picture and it is not about us, but for God’s glory and establishing His Kingdom on earth!
     I actually experienced this new Army of the Lord last night.  I attended what was called a “worship and healing service” in Corpus Christi, Texas — which coincidentally, means Body of Christ in Spanish.  At this service, I witnessed people coming from the community to be ministered to for both physical and spiritual healing.  There was the young Hispanic man, with obvious signs on his body of gang affiliations, who was prophesied over.  I stood waiting to minister to his female friend, and watched as his countenance changed from scared [and skeptical] to a complete surrender to the Lord. As the minister declared that God had a word for him; that he would become a leader among his community and walk in authority, leading others to Christ, I saw a man broken in his flesh, fighting back tears, until he gave in and allowed the love of Jesus to flood his heart. There was much more spoken over him than I have recorded here; words from the Throne of God, specifically for this special young man who needed to know that God loves him. I watched as, tears finally flowed, and he allowed himself to be hugged and received by the men who were laying hands on him.  You could tell that being hugged was a foreign action for him, but I saw his spirit respond to the love of Jesus through those men, and my spirit just kept saying, “Receive it, Brother, receive it!”
      And then several of us women ministered to his friend, who was obviously suffering emotional pain from bad decisions in her life.  The minister declared her a thing of beauty to the Lord and spoke of a bright future that God had planned for her, recognizing her gifts and talents that she would use for the Lord.  He then asked us women if we were seeing anything in the spirit.  My friend, Wanda, spoke of seeing a mantle of grace flowing over her, and covering her; the Lord delighting in her beauty. I spoke of seeing that the Enemy had placed a dirty veil before her eyes and that’s how she saw herself. I prophesied that God wanted to remove that veil so she could see herself as He sees her, beautiful and pure; and that she would be able to do the same for other young women who lived their lives in shame and guilt.  Then the minister asked my other friend, Debbie, to prophetically act out removing that veil from her.  It was so powerful! You could see her face and her eyes brighten, the darkness being removed by words of knowledge and prophecy.
     I witnessed physical healing — including my own! And I was able to minister to another woman, leading her through forgiving her father for molesting her as a child, and releasing him to God in the Name of Jesus. She needed to know that she is a daughter of the King, and that is her new identity. Seeing her tears, I assured her that she was much loved — by her Father in Heaven, and by each one of us. In short, I believe I was seeing what the Early Church must have looked like.  We were people of God, gathered together; each obedient to our different calling and assignment, but partnering with Jesus to do the works that He did while on earth.  And perhaps even more importantly, I saw Ephesians 4:15-16 in person: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  That is what training and equipping the saints is to look like!
     But we didn’t look like what “church” normally does today.  We didn’t all sit for 30 minutes while someone preached to us.  Instead, we spontaneously responded to the need of those who were in attendance.  Several groups sprang up around the room, as the Holy Spirit called us to minister to a hurting soul. We came together with strangers to release the power of the Spirit to those in need of Jesus’s forgiveness, mercy, and love. We were no longer solitary laborers, but were working in unison to advance the Kingdom of God and take back territory from Satan. It was palpable and the presence of God was unmistakable.
     It excites me to declare that there is a definite movement of the Holy Spirit across this land, and I am seeing it in ways unlike anything I’ve seen before.  Connections are being made from great distances apart, and communities are being supernaturally effected by this cooperation and spirit of unity among this growing remnant within the Body of Christ.  It is a beautiful and compelling and powerful thing to behold! And it is happening near you — I just know it!  Ask the Lord to show you where you can connect into His power here on earth … and then let nothing stop you from becoming a laborer for the Harvest.  He will equip you for the work and the battles — and it will taste and smell and look and sound and feel like sweet victory!

Luke 16:16   The Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptist]. Since that time the Good News of the Kingdom of God is being proclaimed, and everyone with the utmost earnestness and effort is pressing into it for his share in it. (The Expanded Greek Translation)
    

Nuggets of Revelation From The Book Of Acts

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     After watching the movie, The Last Reformation, God has put it on my heart to do a serious study of the Church in the Book of Acts. It is really the only model we have been given from the Word of God about a Holy Spirit-led Church. And by what other means would we want to be led?
     Both History and Scripture have shown us that when we are led by men and their traditions that we get an incomplete picture of how God wants us to worship and respond to Him.  The Bible plainly tells us that the Pharisees and the Sadducees got it wrong.  And Paul was constantly warning the small home churches to be careful of false teaching and the evil spirits that were behind the men who would try to deceive them.  For centuries, his warning that there would be those who would “fall away from the faith” has haunted the Church.
     A careful study of history shows us that the Emperor Constantine set the stage for a wrong turn in the Church that we still haven’t recovered from.  Further separation emerged within the Church with the advent of different denominations — all of whom got some aspect of Jesus’s Great Commission right.  But no Church has walked in the fullness of Jesus’s teaching as much as the First Century Church that we see in the Book of Acts.
      That has made it worthwhile for me to dive deep and try to see how I can replicate that model.  And it doesn’t take a whole congregation to be defined as the Church.  Wherever two or more are gathered, Jesus is there, and able to lead us into His Righteousness and Truth, which should be the goal of all Christians — whether it be individually or corporately.

      So, let me share just a few of the precious insights I have received while immersing myself in the first few chapters of this remarkable Book of the Bible.  Let me first say, that these nuggets of revelation are by no means all that is available, nor are they likely to be held by a majority of fellow Christians. But they are the ones that struck me as the most distinct from what I was taught [or not taught] in my church background.
     It begins in the first few verses of Chapter One in Acts.  I was aware, [as verse Three tells us] that Jesus appeared for 40 days after His resurrection, teaching them the things they would need to know to carry on for Him.  I had always assumed that He spent those 40 days teaching and showing them where the Prophets had proclaimed Him, and what God desired from His people.  But Scripture very clearly says He spent those 40 days “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God“… not the rituals or traditions; not religion; and not just salvation.
     Once again, here is a reminder that it is Jesus’s priority that the Disciples [and us] understand the concept of the Kingdom of God invading earth. The Kingdom of God is the domain or territory where God is King and where He rules.  Right now, the perfect picture of that is Heaven.  But when God sent His beloved Son to earth, Heaven came with Him.  And the Parables He taught in Matthew 13 stressed how the Kingdom of Heaven operates, and were lessons on how it is to be established on earth.  In short, the Kingdom of God [both in Heaven and on Earth] has been Jesus’s focus — from the foundations of the world, to the present Age, and will be into the future.
     Second, in verse Five of this first chapter, Jesus very clearly states that while John baptized with water, His baptism is by the Holy Spirit.  John, himself, confirmed this when he said in Matthew 3:11: I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. I will admit that for years I labored about this distinction, because the churches I attended only talked about being baptized in water when you were ready to confess Jesus as your Savior — not to mention the options of being sprinkled or immersed.  And they never talked about being baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit.
     First of all, water baptism does not save anyone.  It is just as John said … it is for repentance; for recognition that you need a Savior, but the act itself does not provide salvation.  And that brings me to the next points that enlightened my understanding of God’s Word.  In Chapter Two, Scripture says, And Peter said to them, “Repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways, accept and follow Jesus as the Messiah] and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit... Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 
     Here’s what I see in these verses … The Church has always proposed [and I am including myself in this] that the baptism Peter is referring to here is [only] the water baptism of John. But I am beginning to see that Peter is talking about Jesus’s baptism [that which John referred to] where we will receive the Holy Spirit!  It cannot be said that this could only happen while Jesus was on earth, because Scripture does not record one time that Jesus baptized.  And this is not to say that water baptism is obsolete and/or has no purpose — it is a worthy act of repentance; of confessing and dying as sinful flesh, and rising into a new identification as a Spirit-filled co-heir of the Kingdom with Christ.  And, of course, Jesus, Himself, was baptized in water, but that was because water baptism was still part of the Old Covenant as a work of repentance. 
     Secondly, everyone got baptized in the Holy Spirit the same day they repented.  Why would anyone want to wait to receive the power of Heaven?!? And sometimes [as in the case of Cornelius] they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then they were water baptized. It is my humble opinion that both baptisms are beneficial and show the connection between repentance and receiving the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, through tradition and religion the modern Church only sees the picture of water baptism.
     I received another little nugget in Chapter Three of Acts.  It came in verse 16:  And His name—by faith in His name—has made this man strong whom you see and know. This is in reference to the lame man that Peter and John healed at the Beautiful Gate.  All those who witnessed the miracle of healing wondered at the power that Peter and John had to heal the man.  But Peter admonishes them.  It is not their power, and [here is the distinction I want to make] — it is not even by the Name of Jesus, BUT faith in the Name that healed the lame man.  
    Peter is making sure they understand that simply saying the Name of Jesus is not a magic talisman that can be used to get what you desire.  It is more than that.  It is the trust and confidence in Who Jesus is, His position in Heaven, and the power and authority that He has transferred to us that allows for His work to continue here through us.  And I believe that this is an important recognition that the Modern Church needs to make as we come into our newfound knowledge that there is power in the Name.  It is important to know that the power comes from our faith — our complete trust in the One whose Name we exalt.
     The last little nugget that I want to expound upon comes in verse 20, Chapter Four:  For we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard.  This is walking in the footsteps of Jesus.  Scripture tells us that Jesus only spoke of what He saw the Father doing or saying.  Jesus was a witness of the Father’s actions, and Peter and the Disciples were witnesses of all that Jesus said and did.  Furthermore, they sought to hear and see [in the Spirit] from the Father, just as He did.
     There is validity in one’s teaching and words when you can give witness to what you’ve seen and heard.  In these days, we should be seeking to hear from the Father, and seeing in our spirits what His instructions are to advance His Kingdom here on earth.  If Jesus was the model for the Early Church, then He and that First Century Church should be our model.  Sadly, we don’t resemble them much.  That’s why I urge you to study and to take to heart all that the Book of Acts reveals about what the Church should look like.  Then like those early Disciples, be a true Disciple of Jesus and just go do it!

John 15:8    By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples”.

 

The Holy Standard of God

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     There are times, as I am immersed in my Bible, when I get those “Aha” moments and I feel like God has opened a direct line of communication from His throne to my brain.  Other times it is my heart or my spirit that nudges me to take another moment to meditate on that verse because I just know there is something more to glean. 
     If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that I love the history of God’s relationship with His chosen people in the Old Testament. There is much there for us to learn because God never changes.  He is a God of order, and I believe He has set a standard by which He operates, and He does not waver from it.  In essence, that means He does not break His own rules, and is faithful to what I call His “Spiritual Mechanics”.  All this is to set up a nugget of revelation that my husband pointed out in Exodus, Chapter 33.  I want to preface this blog post, by saying this is my opinion, and there are many facets to the following discussion, and I cannot address them all in this one post.  I know there will be differing opinions, and that’s okay.  Our God is pleased when we come seeking knowledge of Him, and He is not condemning when we are seeking Him from a faithful heart.
     Here is the setup:  In Chapter 32, the Israelites had broken a couple of those rules, which we call commandments, that God had established when He brought them out of the Land of Egypt … You shall have no other Gods before Me, and You shall not make for yourself any idol. But while Moses was visiting with God on Mount Sinai, the Israelites became concerned because he was delayed.  Worrying that something might have happened to him, they pleaded with Aaron to help them make a Golden Calf; an idol that could go before them and lead them.
     We know the consequences of that act … YHWH was angered and determined to destroy the Israelites (Exodus 32:10) until Moses interceded upon their behalf.  Yet, three thousand were slain that day because they refused to consecrate themselves to the Lord (Exodus 32:26-28).  
     Now, here is the nugget that was revealed to me:  In Chapter 33, YHWH tells Moses that He is going to send an angel before the Israelites as they enter the Promised Land and drive out the idolators who inhabit the Land [the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizites, Hivites, and Jebusites] because if He went, Himself, He would destroy them.
     Once again, Moses intercedes for the children of Israel and reminds God that He has told him he [Moses] has found grace in His sight.  Moses asks to know who will accompany them, and YHWH says , “My presence shall go with thee”.  So what does this tell us?  Several things.  First, God hates idolatry and sin so much He is willing to blot us out of the Book of Life (the list of those who will inherit eternal life and live with God in heaven forever).

     SIDE NOTE: Now, I know that there will be those who say Jesus fixed that problem by taking on the punishment that is due us.  And you can find commentaries that support the belief that Ephesians 1:3-6 says that God chose us from the foundation of the world and predestined for us to be adopted as children of God, so if your name is written in the Book of Life, it cannot be blotted out. My personal opinion is that these verses show the heart of God and that is was His plan and purpose that all would remain in Christ according to the grace He has given us in Christ.
     BUT THEN, there is the verse in Revelation 3:5, when Jesus is addressing the Churches … He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] will accordingly be dressed in white clothing; and I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, and I will confess and openly acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels [saying that he is one of Mine].  Various translations record those first few words as, “He who conquers”, or “The victor”.  Either way — whether you are an overcomer, a conqueror, or a victor, there is a suggestion that there is a battle; a fight that might possibly result in your name being blotted out.  The very concepts of overcoming, conquering and winning alludes to repentance of sin in one’s life. And repentance is an ongoing activity in the life of a Believer.  If it is a foregone conclusion that God chose us and predestined us [with no decision on our part for failure], then why would Jesus even need to present the option of blotting out a name? Could unrepented sin be the causal factor?
     Okay, back to my original premise … God tells Moses that He is sending “an angel” before the nation of Israel to drive out the native inhabitants [who are idolators] because ,if He went Himself, He was so angry, He would destroy His chosen people.  Later, he relents when Moses asks for mercy and God says, “My presence shall go with thee”.  I believe we should understand this “angel” and “presence” to be Jesus.  
     For me, this is a picture of the Nature of God.  He maintained His Holy standard of no other gods, and no idols, by refusing to accompany them Himself — while exhibiting His attribute of Mercy by sending His presence with them.  It is also a picture of His Grace.  He never relents on his hatred of idolatry and sin, yet provides a way for us to remain in His presence, even when we sin [repentance].  In this Old Testament picture, it is through the angel who goes before them, which is a picture of Christ in the New Testament.
    From this nugget of revelation I received this week, I can know that I serve a God who never changes.  There is no God of the Old Testament who is different from the God of the New Testament — it is the same God … the One who is at the same time Holy [maintaining His righteous standards], yet also Merciful and full of Grace.  He is a God who commands us to be holy and righteous as He is, for we are made in His image. And we need to understand that there will come a day when we will stand before our Savior, and in order to not be blotted out of the Book of Life we must overcome this world.  We know that some of will succeed, some will fail, and some will fall away.  It is not God’s will that He lose anyone, just as it was not His desire that the Israelites accept Him as their God and then fall victim to idolatry and sin.  Are we any different?  There is a very important lesson to learn from this Biblical example. The same concept of our God is presented in Exodus as is represented in Revelation. Do not let us think that we are beyond the temptations of those ancient Chosen People. 
     We are to walk out our salvation with fear and trembling … lest we stumble and fall away. If we see only God’s attributes of Mercy and Grace, and ignore His Righteousness and Holiness [which includes His Judgment], we run the risk of becoming complacent and spewed out of His mouth.  We serve a Mighty God, who reveals Himself day by day to those who seek Him!

1 Corinthians 10:12   Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being overconfident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation]”.

     

The Holy of Holies In Our Temple Of God

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     I know there are differences of theological opinion when it comes to discussing the Temple of God in modern or future times.  There are those who are focused on the rebuilding of the physical Temple in which the Antichrist sets up “an abomination of desolation” in the Last Days.  They wait with anticipation for signs that this Temple is about to be constructed, because they know the return of our Lord is near.
     While I do not discount the importance of this final Temple being built, I have been seeking ways to press into Him within the temple that is my human body.  You see, I am fully aware of all that Scripture tells me regarding the truth that I am the Temple of God. Yet I still find there are times I struggle to enter the Holy of Holies in my spirit.  I can read in 1 Corinthians 3:16, Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  Or 2 Corinthians 6:16, For we are the temple of the living God; or 1 Peter 2:5, You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 
     When God instructed Moses to build His Tabernacle, it was because He desired a place to meet with His people.  His presence was with them.  The Tabernacle, or Temple, included the Outer Courts, the Inner Courts, and the Holy Place (where the golden candlestick, the table of showbread and the altar of incense were place).  Behind the altar of incense was a thick veil that separated off a small area called the Holy of Holies. Inside the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant, upon which rested the mercy seat and the cherubim. God’s presence rested on the mercy seat.

     This is where God’s attribute of Mercy was displayed.  Sin is a deadly serious matter to God, because it is what separates man from God. Therefore, sin is an issue that man must acknowledge about himself and reckon with. The mercy seat represented where sins were acknowledged and forgiven.  And because God is Holy, and man is unholy, the meeting place in the Temple, the Holy of Holies, was a restricted area.
     But that is no longer true.  Because we are now the temple of the living God, we have access to the Holy of Holies in our heart because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.  Scripture tells us that the very moment Jesus gave up His spirit, the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).  Man now had access to the presence of God and was no longer separated from Him.  And to make sure we understand this, Scripture confirms it in Hebrews 10:19-20, Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh.
     But how many of us have instituted new veils that keep us from His presence?  How many of you struggle with knowing there is more to receive from your relationship with God, but you just can’t get past some impediment that keeps you from the Holy of Holies in your heart?  Is it something you covet in your flesh, or perhaps some sin you can’t quite forgive someone [or yourself] for?  How many want to see in the spirit, but there is a dirty veil that keeps you from getting that breakthrough?  Or you want to hear from Him, but there is a soundproof barrier that keeps you from entering your Holy of Holies?
     And how many have only been able to press into the Inner Court of your heart, while others are still stuck in the Outer Courts?  You don’t even feel worthy to enter into the Holy presence of your God, even though you desperately long for that connection.  I have a feeling that for many of us, we find ourselves navigating in and out of these Courts and the Holy Places.  Why can’t we enter into His presence and maintain that peace and love and power that defies description?  Who doesn’t want to experience communing with the Spirit of God and meeting with our Living Lord?
     It is a serious matter and undertaking to seek and find God in our Holy of Holies.  It is a matter of pressing in, acknowledging His Holiness, and seeking Him diligently until we break through whatever new veils have been erected in our hearts.  But it is worth the effort because it is a sacred place; it is our personal meeting place with God where we experience His presence and receive instruction to move from glory to glory in our redemptive journey. Praise Him for our opportunity to spend a lifetime in His presence, and then seek Him with all your heart.  Press in until every shred of those human veils are eliminated and you bask in the revelation of His glory!

Ephesians 2:21   We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

      

You Know Jesus As Your Savior … Do You Know Him As Adonai?

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     Christians are able to identify Jesus as their Savior because [they will tell you], He died for their sins. I’m not sure they all recognize the enormity of that statement, or the concept that because of the Divine Nature of God, and who He is, we all deserve damnation and death for sinning against our Holy God (Romans 1:32 and 3:23). Therefore, Jesus “dying” for our sins means He took the punishment of all God’s Creation who rejected Him.  That is a debt we can never repay, either independently or corporately.
     And the New Testament gives us a very clear picture of Jesus as our Savior in Acts 5:31, God exalted Him to His right hand as Prince and Savior and Deliverer, in order to grant repentance to Israel, and [to grant] forgiveness of sins.  This grace through faith is also extended to us because we are grafted in as God’s sanctified people.  But Jesus is worthy of an additional title, if you will, as expressed in Luke 2:11, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
     It is common for Christians to refer to Jesus as their Lord.  But there is a more accurate description of who He is in the Hebrew … Adonai.  The title Lord for Jesus comes from the Greek Kurios, a translation of Adonai. And this word “Adonai” means Lord, Master, Owner.  It is also important to see that Jesus’s name in Hebrew, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus Chist) is YHWH “come in the flesh”.  So, to say that Jesus Christ is Lord is to declare that He is YHWH (Adonai), Himself. 
     But Adonai is more than a name or a title.  It essentially speaks of the relationship we have with YHWH.  It is God’s total possession of my life through my submission (surrender) to Him. We get a good picture of this in the Bible with the relationship between Abram and God. In Genesis 14, God has delivered Abram through the War of the Kings and he (Abram) announces to the King of Sodom that it is El Elyon (the God Most High) who has given him the victory. It is then in Genesis 15:2, that the name Adonai first appears.  Abram addressed God as Adonai or Master, understanding that the Master has the right of possession, and the one possessed is charged with submission to God, his Master. The Bible affirms this in Genesis 15:6, Then Abram believed in (affirmed, trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to) the Lord (Adonai); and He counted (credited) it to him as righteousness (doing right in regard to God and man).
     Abram understood this Master/servant relationship.  He knew that the Servant depended on the Master to be faithful in provision, protection, and direction (guidance). We can see this concept reflected in the New Testament with the idea of believers as bondservants. This is a reflection of Jesus as Lord or Master.    

     But I have a question … Do we in the 21st Century still walk in that identity?  Do we acknowledge that Jesus is our Lord and Master and Owner?  The Biblical relationship that “Adonai” signifies means that Jesus has mastership and ownership over us; and it indicates that God is the owner of each member of the human family, which gives Him the authority to claim the unrestricted obedience of us all. 
     Unfortunately, our American history has stained this idea of a master/slave relationship.  But human history need not sully the spiritual portrayal of God’s relationship to us as Adonai.  From a Biblical perspective, Pastor Kenneth Hemphill explains it best: “The relationship of slave and master in the Bible was more often one of love and allegiance. In the Jewish relationship, a slave had more privileges than the hired help. A slave could participate in the Temple sacrifices and was a member of the household. The hired help was excluded from these privileges. The servant is assured that his Master has the resources and ability to care for him. As a member of the master’s household, the master provides for all the servant needs. The servant need not worry about his basic provision. The servant is assured that help and resources are available for him to carry out his duties as a servant. The master provides what is needed, not only for basic needs, but also for the fulfillment of the tasks assigned to the servant. The servant has the privilege of calling upon his relationship with the Master to get the help he needs. Access to the Master is guaranteed, and is only a prayer away”. 
     To some, it may seem that this look at Jesus as Adonai is simply a mundane word study, but I believe the acknowledgement of this concept of Jesus as our Lord, Master, and Owner has great implications for the Body of Christ today.  For far too long, the Church has allowed the culture to dismantle the identity of Christ. As I stated in a previous post, I am concerned that we no longer fear God. And I see Jesus relegated to an equal with other gods, while the Holy Spirit has largely left the Western Church. 
     Sadly, too many Christians don’t read their Bible with any hunger to know the Father or the Son.  And if you don’t know Them, how can you have a relationship with Them, let alone in the proper perspective?  I want to see and know and declare Adonai as Abram did! And it starts today!  
     Yes, Jesus is my Savior, and I know the eternal gift of salvation that He has afforded me!  But I also know Him as Adonai — my Lord … my Master … and He owns me! I acknowledge that I am His servant. And I acknowledge that, as Adonai, Jesus is Owner of all, and we are all stewards who have been declared worthy by Him to serve — and we all count it a privilege to serve. 
      I understand and declare that as Adonai, Jesus is my Master and can supply all my needs, including supernatural empowerment enabling me to serve God.  And, finally, I recognize that I can do anything and all that Jesus, as Adonai, commands me to do. There is no doubt or fear or unbelief in His authority and power — or mine to carry out His commands! 
     Yes, I know Jesus as my Savior, and I truly honor His sacrifice and the gift of eternal life that is mine.  But I never want to diminish His role as Adonai; as my Lord and Master.  Nor do I want to refuse the challenge to live my life as a demonstration of His Lordship in it.  On that day when I stand before Him, and say, “Lord, Lord”, I want Him to smile and say my name, acknowledging that He has known me. And I will cry out, as King David did, “You are my Adonai. I have no good besides You.”

Thanks to the website, Precept Austin, for their references on the meaning and concept of Adonai.
     
Malachi 1:6    A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is the [reverent] fear and respect due Me?’ says the Lord of hosts…
      

Come All Ye Angels!

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     I am so blessed to be surrounded by such Godly friends who constantly inspire me with their hearts of faith!  And I recently had just a couple minutes of conversation with a good friend about one of my favorite subjects…. angels.  And then my husband, Mark, told me he was awake in the early morning hours today and while reading, he happened upon a 2014 article, titled How To Command Your Angels by Tom Brown.  I am fully aware that just reading that title will be enough to send some Christians into shock. But it was enough affirmation that perhaps this is a subject that we should discuss, and so began my research.

     First of all, I want to make it perfectly clear, I do not worship angels! And I am perfectly aware that each time [in the Bible] a man falls to his knees to worship the appearance of an angelic being, he is told, as in Revelation 19:10, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” So, I want to assure you that I take that mandate in Scripture very seriously.
     That being said, I am also very aware of the importance and purpose of angels in the Bible. And Scripture is clear about their status when it comes to both Jesus and man, so let’s establish a few things first, according to the Bible.  As Believers, there should be no question that Jesus, as God, is the Creator of all things, including both man and angels.  That’s a no-brainer.  Therefore we understand that He is superior to all things, right?  But we also need to understand, as put forth in Hebrews, Chapter Two, the following truth: But we see Him [who for a little while was made lower than the angels], namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
     For the short time that Jesus was on earth as a man, He was made a little lower than the angels. But that is not His reality today, as Chapter One tells us:  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Jesus resumed His superior position when He ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.
     But what about our relationship with the angels?  Where do we fit into the hierarchy, and what is our connection to angelic beings?  I’m going to give you my rather unorthodox opinion, which I believe can be backed up by Scripture, and we will see where this theory goes…  We are made in the image of God [and are primarily spirit beings as Genesis 1:26 tells us], and we were given dominion over the earth.  I believe Scripture tells us that the angels were created before the Seventh Day:  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them (Genesis 2:1)While the word “host” sometimes refers to God’s army or military, here it signifies angels, and is confirmed in 1 Kings 22:19, I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.  Yes, this could be the army of heaven, and if so, it is an army made up of angels.

     So, at this point of the story in the Bible, it appears to me that we were given dominion over the earth, and the angels served the Lord in Heaven. And I would say that being created in the image of the Father and the Son, we were a close second in authority.  But by Genesis 3, man has turned over dominion of earth to the devil, and lost that authority. But what of the angels? Were they ever given any authority?  First of all, I want to make clear that angels are not the chubby looking babies that resemble Cupid. Nor are they people who have died; the Bible clearly calls those beings Saints. One of the clearest descriptions of angels is found in Hebrews 1:14, Are not all the angels ministering spirits sent out [by God] to serve (accompany, protect) those who will inherit salvation? [Of course they are!]
     The primary job of angels is to do the bidding of God; to serve Him in various assignments.  Those assignments include our protection, our deliverance from danger, the worship of God in Heaven, and to minister to our needs. Some angels are Messengers; chief among them is Gabriel.  Others are Chief Princes; Michael is one. Still others are Divine Attendants, such as the Cherubim and Seraphim. Then there are those whom Timothy referred to as the Elect Angels; the Living Creatures as referenced in Ezekiel; and the Watchers whom Daniel mentioned.  But in the context of this article, I want to concentrate on the “ministering angels” mentioned in Hebrews 1, because they are specifically referred to in relation to us.  It seems that their job, according to all the references to them in the Bible is (1) to worship God (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8); (2) to serve as messengers of God (Dan. 9:22; Luke 1:11, 26; 2:9; Rev. 1:1); (3) to serve as soldiers in spiritual combat (Dan. 10:13; Rev. 12:7); and (4) to serve as ministers to God’s people.
     At this time, I’m going to interject the controversy that is occurring in our theological discussions today.  There are those [like me] who discern that these ministering angels can be called into service by Believers; and then there are those Believers who interpret that as giving angels more authority than they have, and it can border on worshiping them.  But it is my humble opinion that it is not the angels who have the authority, but us, the Believer!
     You see, under the prior covenant with God, [and before the Cross], man had lost his authority.  But after the Cross, Jesus has been “crowned with glory and honor”, so that the angels submit to Him and His name.  Scripture is very clear about this … Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him (1 Peter 3:22) … and That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth (Philippians 2:10). 
     Here is where we really need to see the Big Picture.  As I have put forward many times in the past, Believers need to recognize the power and authority given them by Jesus.  Not only were we given authority over all the power of the Enemy, but we were told that anything we asked in His Name, would be given us.  So when Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:18, Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, it should be clear that we are binding the power of the devil and his demons, and we also have the authority to loose the resources of Heaven.  But how is that accomplished?

     Follow this line of reasoning … Psalm 103:20 says, Bless the Lord, you His angels, You mighty ones who do His commandments, Obeying the voice of His word! By this, we should understand that angels in Heaven listen [and act] upon the VOICE of God’s Word.  We know that the Bible is His Word, right? But unless we SPEAK the Word, no voice is given to It.  So, when Jesus spoke the Word during his temptation in the Wilderness, He was able to resist the devil, and afterwards, Scripture says, Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.
     The same is true for us!  When we give voice to the Word of God, the angels in Heaven hear us, and are loosed to act upon the Word and carry it out in our lives!  You’ve heard the expression, “Just say the Word”, right? Well, when we quote Scripture aloud during our prayers, it looses the angels to do the assignments and work they were created to do.  They have purpose and I believe they love working with us to see God’s will done here on earth.
     Here’s another way to look at it … since Jesus announced that the Kingdom of Heaven “is at hand”, and returned to His position in Heaven, we are regaining territory from the Enemy and coming into our own identity as His co-heirs. The full reality of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth will not be fulfilled until Jesus’s Second Coming, but it is important to know that we, as Faithful Believers, have been given His power and authority to act in His stead until He returns.  And because we have been given the authority to use His Name to accomplish God’s will, and the angels are subject to that Name, then we can loose them to help us do Kingdom work until Jesus returns.  And at that time, we will co-rule the world with Jesus.  And what does the Apostle Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 6:3?  That we will not only judge the world, but also judge the angels!  
     In conclusion, I am clear about what Scripture says about angels and how they minister to us in our service to the Lord.  Only God is worthy of our worship and praise, but He has created angels to minister not only to Him in Heaven, but to us, here on earth to see His perfect will done.  And that’s a partnership made in Heaven!

Nehemiah 9:6    You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and You preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships You.  

What Has Happened To Our Fear Of God?

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     I know I am not the only one who is receiving new and previously undiscerned perceptions of the Nature of our Lord Jesus.  So, what I am about to share has been carefully gleaned from Scripture and reflects how He is widening and stretching my field of vision, so to speak, and allowing me to see a bigger picture of Him through God’s Word.  And I’m afraid that what I am about to write will be met with resistance by many in today’s Church. But I hope you will read with a heart to receive and accept the Word of God.
     I’m sure that some of you will be way out in front of me on these revelations, while others may not be as far along the path of your own journey.  And that’s okay — I am not writing this so that we compare ourselves to each other, but rather, to rejoice in the fact that these revelations are being shared in stages throughout all of our lives.  In fact, I am beginning to see clearly just how far the Body of Christ has come in knowing Jesus … and how far we have to go.
     So, I’m going to try to express my latest revelations in easy-to-understand premises, and then unpack it all to share why it is important that we not lose our fear of God.  Here is the new discernment that I have received, and while it may not seem earth-shattering at first, when I looked at the implications of it, I was actually astounded … Let’s start here: We should be able to acknowledge that Jesus existed as God before His birth to the virgin Mary. And while the Body of Christ is coming into a fuller understanding that Jesus experienced everything on earth as a human being — at no time did He invoke His privileges as Deity to deal with demons, disease, or difficulties with man — He has now returned to His original identity as God, seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father.

     So here’s what I found so amazing: Out of all the immense vastness of infinite time, those three-and-a-half years spent as a man changed the dynamic of everything that came before and all that has come, and will come after.  BUT … and here is where we must be careful in our discernment; we cannot become stuck on the image of Christ as a man, and must now [more than ever] see Him in His fullness and greatness as Deity.
     While we honor Him as our Redeemer and Deliverer, I’m afraid we may cling to an image of Him as He was on earth — the precious baby in the manger; the prophet and teacher who performed signs and wonders as God; the sinless man who was willing to die to save us from the wrath of Almighty God.  True, He was all that and more! But He is greater than He was while on earth, and we must respond to Him as Supreme Creator of all (1 Corinthians 1:16-17); King of Kings (Revelation 17:14); Mighty God and Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6); and Righteous Judge (Acts 10:42)!
     Because, you see, as John says in the first chapter of his Book, Jesus was God. And He loved the world so much that He sent a part of Himself to earth to live as a man, not only so that He could identify with our struggles, but also as the payment due God for our sins. God established in Leviticus 20:26, “You are to be holy to Me; for I the Lord am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples (nations) to be Mine”. This was spoken to the nation of Israel, but Peter reiterates it to the Early Church, who are our ancestors in the Faith, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  He then goes on to say, ” If you address as Father, the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, [then] conduct yourselves in [reverent] fear [of Him] and with profound respect for Him throughout the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:15-17). We must discern that God takes sin very seriously, and that Jesus [who is called Everlasting Father in Isaiah 9:6] will be the One who judges us!
     And here is where it all comes together….  In John 1:21-22, the Apostle makes God’s position clear: Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life [and allows them to live on], even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment [that is, the prerogative of judging] to the Son [placing it entirely into His hands] And here is where the Modern Church has been tempted to be deceived.
     How many of you have spent your church lives under the teaching that we are no longer under the Law, but under God’s Grace?  That is certainly true, but do we know the full implication of that premise?  John 1:16-17 says, For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

We must first understand that God’s grace abounded under what we commonly call the Old Covenant in the Old Testament. (I have come to understand that the covenants found in the Pentateuch are principally agreements made between God and the Biblical Israelites, while the covenant He made with Noah applies to all of humanity and to all other living creatures. In this covenant, God promises never again to destroy all life on Earth by flood and creates the rainbow as the sign of this “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth”).
     Back to the premise that grace was evident in the Old Testament… the Bible abounds with examples of God’s grace. I think we can all agree with A.W. Tozer, who says that grace is “the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” It was certainly the case with Adam and Eve, who received grace after sinning in the Garden.  And how many times were the Israelites disobedient to God’s commands as they came into the Promised Land?  Yet, He continued to offer them His grace.  King David is another good example. He killed Uriah, and lusted after his wife, yet God called him “a man after His own heart”.  And Jacob, who cheated Esau out of his inheritance was a man that God declared He loved, while Esau, He hated.  So, we cannot deny that God’s grace existed in the Old Testament under the covenants He held with the Israelites.
     Here’s what we need to understand about Grace in the Old Testament…. It did not set you free from the consequences of sin.  In fact, sin had dominion over the people because the Law of Moses couldn’t do what Jesus did; it couldn’t set us free!  Death was often the consequences of your sin under the Law of Moses.  For instance, any Israelite who offered their children as sacrifice to Molech was to be put to death; anyone who cursed their mother or father, or committed adultery, or any number of sexual perversions were all to be put to death.  And King David certainly suffered the consequences of his sin, with the death of his son with Bathsheba. Sin had sovereignty over one’s life.
     But Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross proved to be greater than the Law for setting us free from sin, and offered man a greater concept of God’s Grace. So, what is different about the Grace offered in the New Testament?  This [New] Covenant of Grace is where God promises eternal salvation to Man based upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Blood sacrifices in the Old Testament [where the High Priests used the blood of animals] could not take away our sins.  It only cleansed the outer man, and that’s why they had to be done every year.  Jesus is now our High Priest and is greater than the Priests who were under the Law, and who died and had to be replaced.  He is eternal and He never dies. And we understand that His sacrifice was “one time for all”, and with His own blood.  His blood has the power to forgive everyone on earth, and we are now under the Blood.
     But here is the danger of deception in the understanding of God’s Grace versus the Law.  Yes, we are forgiven our sins, and we no longer have to worry that we could be put to death if we sin.  We confess our sin, repent, and ask for God’s forgiveness.  BUT, we must not forget that God, from the beginning, has called us to be holy, as He is Holy. That why Paul warns in Romans 6, “we can [not] go on sinning so that God’s grace abounds”.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews warns, “For if the message given through angels [the Law given to Moses] was authentic and unalterable, and every violation and disobedient act received an appropriate penalty [death], how will we escape [the penalty] if we ignore such a great salvation [the gospel, the new covenant]”? (Hebrews 2:2-3).

      Remember, Jesus is greater than the angels, greater than Moses, greater than the High Priests of old.  So, here is what I am afraid the Modern Church has ignored in Scripture; a passage that should have every Christian examining themselves to see if they are living a holy life … and what is plainly declared in Hebrews 10:26-31: “For if we go on willfully and deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice [to atone] for our sins [that is, no further offering to anticipate], but a kind of awful and terrifying expectation of [divine] judgment and the fury of a fire and burning wrath which will consume the adversaries [those who put themselves in opposition to God]. Anyone who ignored and set aside the Law of Moses [was] put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much greater punishment do you think he will deserve who has rejected and trampled under foot the Son of God, and has considered unclean and common the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and has insulted the Spirit of Grace [who imparts the unmerited favor and blessing of God]?  For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine [retribution and the deliverance of justice rest with Me], I will repay [the wrongdoer].” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  It is a fearful and terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God [incurring His judgment and wrath]”.
     I’m afraid the Church thinks we are under Grace and we won’t be punished like the people of God were under the Old Covenant and the the Law of Moses.  But that is not what the aforementioned verses in Hebrews says! We should understand that Jesus is so much more in Heaven than He was while on earth!  Yes, He is our Mediator and Advocate, but we cannot ignore Luke 12:10, which says, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”.  This is affirmation of what is declared in Hebrews 10… the one who insults the Spirit of Grace [who is the Holy Spirit who imparts God’s grace to us] will be repaid with vengeance by the Lord. We have ample evidence of what that looks like in the lives of Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit in Acts.
     I know there will be those who accuse me of being legalistic and corrupting the concept of Grace according to the Church.  But a complete and exhaustive study of the Book of Hebrews will give you a more accurate understanding of what Scripture says, instead of following Church culture.  And I am NOT saying that if you are sincerely trying to live a righteous and holy life and encounter struggles, which result in confession and repentance, that you will suffer vengeance by the Lord. 1 John 1:9 shows the heart of God and Jesus: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But if you are a Christian that is indifferent or callous towards your own sin, thinking you have nothing to worry about because we are under the new covenant of Grace, then I would suggest that you examine your attitude and see if you willfully and deliberately continue to sin, without any consideration of consequences, or just because you think all you have to do is continue to ask for forgiveness and it will be yours.  And I would recommend you take to heart Psalm 25:14:  The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
     In conclusion, I just want us to be aware that the fear of the Lord is not only awesome reverence for who He is and what He has done for us, but should be seriously considered if we, who have received that knowledge of Truth [of eternal salvation due to His sacrifice for us] should willfully and deliberately continue to sin. For Scripture very clearly states that there is no further atonement to be made for us, and there is a terrifying expectation of divine judgment. Just as Jesus is greater than the Law of Moses, so is the punishment greater for us than it was under the Law.  This is the undeniable truth of Scripture and no amount of 21st Century Church doctrine or softening of the language can negate the Word of God.  That is why we should all work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  It is a process, and your eternal life [and my Lord] are worthy of this admonition.

2 Corinthians 7:1    “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God”.

   
   

What Does It Mean To Be A Part Of God’s Remnant?

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     You’ve often seem me write and refer to the remnant of God’s Church on earth.  But what does that mean, and what significance does the Bible give to this term?  According to the dictionary, remnant means “a small remaining quantity of something; a surviving trace”.  The dictionary even gives a definition as to what the word means in Christian Theology: “a small minority of people who will remain faithful to God and so be saved (in allusion to Biblical prophecies concerning Israel).”
     In this manner, the only time that I have seen Jesus refer to “the remnant” is in Matthew 22:6, as it pertains to the Wedding Feast: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. In this instance, He is indeed, alluding to Israel who slew the prophets God sent to them to reveal His will that they might glorify Him among the nations on earth.  This truth is attested to by the first appearance of the word, remnant, in Genesis 45:7-8 when Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

     But even though “the remnant” refers specifically to a minority of the Israelites that God destined for His purpose, we in the Christian Church are grafted into God’s promises to the Israelite remnant, if we have been called to demonstrate His power and glory to a skeptical and unseeing world (and Church).  And it is indeed God who has brought us to this point, for the purpose of God’s remnant, whether Jewish or Christian, never varies … they are used to speak His Truth to His people, revealing a timely Word for the particular season they have been called.
     And since I am writing to a largely Christian population, I am attempting to impart the significance of God’s remnant within the Western Church and the implications of their calling. To begin, the remnant may look different than you might expect. They are not perfect, and often include those who are relegated to the sidelines by Church leadership. They are often those injured by the Church. They just don’t seem to fit in. And they can be the meek as well as the outspoken.  The point is that the Remnant doesn’t choose their role, but are chosen by God through an encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It is not His desire that they be seen as separate from His Church, but rather to be the conscience of the Church as they seek to speak into the heart of Believer’s and call them to repentance and obedience to the fundamental Truths of God and His Word — Truths that very often, are no longer understood or practiced by the established Church.
     It is a sad fact that the Remnant shouldn’t look any different, at all, from the rest of the Body of Christ!  But it is a testament to the state of the Church that they do.  Keeping in mind that we are all part of one Body; and members of that Body with different functions according to the gifts given to us by God’s grace, then what is the role that God is calling the Remnant to undertake?
     From my humble perspective, I see that the Remnant of today’s Church is being guided by the Holy Spirit to cause a revival and hunger among the Body to seek the Kingdom of God first — just as Jesus commanded, and instead of remaining mired in doctrine, religious practices, and comfortable theology.  In essence, the Remnant will find themselves taking the brunt of the Enemy’s attacks because they are a threat to Satan’s kingdom here on earth, as well as the brunt of the Church, itself, as it struggles against new revelation that threatens its status quo.  In other words, the Remnant will find themselves positioned on the front lines of the Body of Christ as they partner with the Lord to take back territory for Heaven’s Kingdom on earth.  In addition, the majority of the Church will be happy to let the Remnant be “the tip of the spear” while they remain safe and comfortable at the rear of God’s army — even to the point where they will disapprove of where the Remnant is being led by Christ, Himself. The Church might see themselves as “Christian soldiers”, but they never enter the battle.
     So, if you identify with that forward guard of the Church, let me suggest how you came to be called to this position.  First, I would suspect that you had a stirring in your spirit that there was “something missing” in your experience as a Christian.  You wanted more, and it was nothing that this world could offer you.  You found yourself seeking more of God on your own because your spirit was hungry for regeneration and revival. Your prayers became more powerful and deeper in their urgency and desire for the Lord.  It became important to you to hear God’s voice, and your time in His Word revealed new concepts of His Nature and His call upon your life.

     What’s more, you actually believe all the promises in the Bible as to your power and authority! You know that spiritual warfare is real and that Satan and his demons really exist because you literally engage in battle for the Kingdom.  You know what it means to practice discernment and intercession.  You know that the Church must be revived and enter into a new understanding of the full counsel of God’s Word — not just the politically correct, watered down version that leaves your fellow Brothers and Sisters locked in an immature, powerless faith and unable to reach a lost world.
     You sense that our time is running short and you desperately try to drag the Church into the destiny God has planned for them; speaking boldly with urgency and heartfelt compassion, that no one [whether in the Church or out] miss the true Gospel Message of repentance, prayer, and obedience… yet, you are often misunderstood and isolated.
     But take heart!  You have been called by the Most High God for such a time as this!  You know who you are!  You are not anti-Church, nor do you want to be separate from the Church, but you are passionate about seeing the Church step into their true identity and the power that Jesus assigned to us.  You long to see the Church rise up in revival and transformation to share the Gospel of the Kingdom as our Lord modeled for us and commanded us to do. And you also realize that Scripture tells us Jesus warned of the “luke-warm” nature of the Church in the Last Days.  And He has called you to stand, just as He did Jeremiah, who declared, ...if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). You will find yourself in the position of Ezekiel, whom God told, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen…” (Ezekiel 2:7).
     So, my friends, if you identify as a part of God’s Remnant, then I would say you’re in pretty good company.  Count it all joy as you partner with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Go forth, boldly and confidently, knowing that this is the path you have been called to walk.  Rejoice in your mission, and draw strength and encouragement from your fellow sojourners and your Lord, who also experienced obstacles and disappointments on His way to glorifying the Father. For there is no greater calling this side of Heaven. Walk in Victory, for it is ours from the Lord.

Isaiah 58:12    “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in”. 

How Religious Spirits Keep Christians From An Intimacy With The Lord

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      Have you ever encountered a religious spirit in a fellow Christian?  I daresay if you are walking in your delegated power and authority from Christ, and know who you are in Him, then you most likely have met a fellow Christian with a religious spirit.  How will you know and what effect does this spirit have upon the Body of Christ?

     First of all, a Believer with a religious spirit will be critical of any revelations you might have received from God that are outside of his or her mainstream doctrinal training.  Just think Pharisees, and you will get a good picture of men with religious spirits. They might accuse you of being deceived, or constantly challenge you to show where that particular spiritual truth is found in the Bible. But I’m not writing this post in defense of those of us who have found ourselves at odds with our fellow Christians, nor to condemn those who don’t see eye-to-eye with us, but rather in the hopes of highlighting the detrimental effects this spirit can have upon the relationship of our fellow Christians with our Savior.  Let me repeat that … THIS POST IS NOT CONDEMNING CHRISTIANS, BUT RATHER EXPOSING THE SPIRIT THAT KEEPS THEM FROM A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. You see, I want all Christians to enjoy the intimacy that I have with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and I want them to step into the freedom that can come when this spirit is expelled from their lives.
     So, what exactly is a religious spirit?  This may shock many in the Body of Christ but it is actually a spirit that comes from the Enemy to wage war against an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus in a Believer’s life.  And I want to take a moment to point out a fact that escapes so many people who say they believe in God …. we are made in His image, and the Bible says, God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  So, if we are made in His image, then we are spirits, too, correct? But here is what too many people miss when considering how they live out their faith in God …. we are created as spirits who are living through a temporary physical experience.  We came from Heaven where we were spirits, and after a very short life span here on earth, we will return to Heaven (which we call “home”, right?) as a spirit. We are not primarily physical beings created to stumble upon an occasional spiritual experience, even though I’m afraid that this is how most Christians see themselves. When the Bible says those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth, that is the truth we must embrace as we seek to relate to Him as spirits in a spiritual realm outside of this physical world. 
     But back to the purpose of a religious spirit, which is in all reality, a spirit sent by the Enemy against Christians to keep them feeling distant from God and to ensure that they never meet Jesus in the spirit.  This spirit can severely limit a Christian’s intimacy with their Lord and Savior, and result in a life lived in virtual isolation from the One who created them and Who longs for a heart/spirit relationship.

      I heard an excellent Youtube video by Ryan LeStrange, the founder of Impact International Ministries. Ryan gives a very short and concise description of what a religious spirit is and how it affects a Christian’s life.  He describes the religious spirit as “a demon power that uses religious structures to entangle people in bondage; to prevent transformation; and to enforce the spiritual status quo”.  In other words, the spirit entraps the religious person into religious systems and traditions that result in little or no growth in their understanding of how they are to relate and work with Jesus, which essentially results in no fruit.
     LeStrange goes on to say, “The religious spirit fights [against] revelation; it defies prophetic insight; it hates apostolic authority; and it uses tradition to build structures of limitation”.  All that is just another way to say that it builds a chasm between the Believer and a spiritual intimacy with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.
     If you have spent time with God in His Word, then you know that it is His heart’s desire to lead us into new and fresh revelations of His nature and His plans for invading earth with the Kingdom of Heaven.  It only makes sense that Satan would do everything he could to keep that from happening.  As long as the devil can keep us entangled in our limited human reasoning, and uninterested in pursuing the spiritual realm and encountering Jesus there, then he can keep us impotent and ineffective.
     You see, God wants us to be in sync with Him; to be aware of what He is saying, what He is doing, and what He is releasing in the earth — just as Jesus was when He walked among us.  We can only do that if we are tuned in to the Spirit through our own spirit.  We must be aware of His presence, and the only way to do that is in the spirit!  It is the devil’s express desire to keep us from being transformed from our physical limitations into a spiritual awareness where we can commune and work with Jesus to bring about God’s will on earth.
     Satan loves it when we, as Christians, are stuck in a paradigm that is unable to experience the presence of Jesus in our lives.  When we are stuck with our religious ideas and traditions, we are not able to partner with Him to bring about prophetic change on the earth.  The religious spirit works to block people’s minds from becoming renewed and seeing and hearing in the spirit, which is our birthright — it is what we are created to do!
     You see, God wants to reveal the deep and hidden mysteries of His Kingdom to us, so that we can help bring about the times and seasons of His plan for mankind.  But the Religious spirit develops blockades that keep men from seeking those new revelations. So, as a Body of Christ, we must pray for freedom from this spirit; we must pray to break the opposition that comes against us as we share these truths with Believers; and we must pray that our Brothers and Sisters in Christ are transformed with new hearts and minds that can resist this hindering spirit and come into alignment with us and our Father in Heaven, to bring about His plans for these times. It is now time to defeat and remove this spirit’s stranglehold on the Church, so that we might enter into our inheritance!

1 Corinthians 2:14   The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him [absurd and illogical], and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters].
   

An Encouraging Word

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     Mark and I have been on a little road trip for the last week, and it’s always interesting to view the world when you are out of your comfort zone and away from familiar territory.  We drove over 4,000 miles across our amazing country and had lots of time to contemplate our Kingdom assignments and observe what God is doing in our culture. Let me address the latter first…
     It seems like overnight, the national spotlight (which I know is God’s Light) has focused on the sexual misconduct and misdeeds of not only those who have made it their job to entertain us, but those who have been elected to govern us and administer our laws.  I find it intriguing that the definition of a spotlight is as follows: A spotlight is a powerful stage lighting instrument which projects a bright beam of light onto a performance space. Spotlights are controlled by a spotlight operator who tracks actors around the stage.
     It isn’t difficult to see this situation in the spirit.  God is projecting a bright, powerful light onto the moral and ethical performances of men who have received His blessings of influence and power.  He is making it clear to those of us who have spiritual discernment, that He is the operator of this spotlight and that this is His time to reveal and judge their sins.
     And if you think that sounds just a tad too morally legalistic, let me refer you to some prophetic statements in the Word.  First, let’s look at Luke 12:1-3 … Jesus began speaking first of all to His disciples, “Be continually on your guard against the leaven [the impurity] of the Pharisees [that is, their pervasive, corrupting influence and teaching], which is hypocrisy [producing self-righteousness]. But there is nothing [so carefully] concealed that it will not be revealed, nor so hidden that it will not be made known. For that reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. 
     That’s a pretty clear picture of what we have seen over the last couple of weeks, isn’t it?  And when this same Word is repeated in Mark 4:22 (For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been kept secret, but that it would come to light [that is, things are hidden only temporarily, until the appropriate time comes for them to be known]) and Luke 8:17 (For there is nothing hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come out into the open), then you can be sure that the Lord meant it for our ears to hear.
      But that is not all!  If that isn’t enough to begin to realize that this latest news cycle has been orchestrated by our “Spotlight Operator” in Heaven, then consider 2 Corinthians 5:10 …  For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives—the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities].  Even the wisest, richest and most influential king in Israel’s history, Solomon, knew the truth of this Word when he wrote, “For God will bring every act to judgment, every hidden and secret thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
     You see, I do not believe it is coincidence or simply bad luck that we are seeing the moral misconduct of the rich and powerful come to light.  I believe that God’s remnant are humbling themselves and praying for His forgiveness for the sins we have done as a nation.  We confess that nearly 60,000,000 babies have been killed because our laws approve of abortion (nearly 1600 today alone). We confess that nearly a quarter million (244,000 to be exact) American children and youth are at risk for sex trafficking each year. We acknowledge and repent that pornography is a $12 billion industry in the U.S.
     And I believe the Lord has heard our prayers and it is His hand that we are seeing as His Light shines on every immoral and evil act committed by men in positions of power and influence.  You just don’t get this kind of upheaval and unveiling [nearly overnight] without the intercession of Heaven.  May God continue to reveal the devil’s impact upon the souls of sinful man, and may He continue to encourage us as He heeds our prayers. We confess, repent, and seek His forgiveness for the rebelliousness of this nation and our abandonment of the covenant He made with us.
     Now I would also like to extend a word of encouragement to those who find that their Kingdom assignments are outside what their Church family finds acceptable.  Do not despair! As I recently wrote to a dear Sister in Christ, “I also know what it is like to be called by God to walk towards Him on a path that diverges from the path of comfort and contentment.  With that comes the excitement of new revelations and seeing God in a new light … His light.  And it can be a lonely place.  All of a sudden, your spirit is awakened to a view of God that is exhilarating as He shows you His glory and character and power in ways that you’ve never seen or understood before.  All of a sudden the Bible is opened up wider and your understanding reaches new heights that are almost dizzying.  And you want to share it all with your fellow Christians.
     Then you discover that God is not showing them the same things — or they are unwilling to receive it.  And, at first, you may have doubts that what you are discerning is correct, because your church family doesn’t see it, and they have Scripture to back up their warnings.  But when you go to the Father in prayer, the Holy Spirit convicts you that He is, indeed, calling you to a greater and higher understanding.  And you cannot turn back”.
     But what do you do when those Brothers and Sisters in Christ admonish you to be careful of being deceived by the new revelations that your spirit KNOWS are from God?  All I can tell you is what I told her … when you are called by God to a Kingdom assignment, you will learn that being a true Disciple of Christ is an exciting journey, but it can also be a lonely road. But when you willingly and obediently go where the Lord takes you, you probably will no longer look like your fellow Christians or meet with their approval.  But neither did Jesus or the Twelve.  And that’s pretty good company, from where I sit.
     My final word of encouragement comes from the Bible: “The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands”. (Psalm 138:8).  In other words, pray that the Lord will finish the good work He has begun in you, because it is for His glory. And know that you will never be alone.  He and the Holy Spirit will always be with you, and along with the saints in Heaven, they are interceding for you and praying before the Father on your behalf. Remember, you are part of a holy and consecrated remnant; set aside and called for holy purposes.  Rejoice that you stand out as different among the multitudes of the faithful. You are not alone! I share in your identity and count it joy that you have joined our ranks.  Blessed are we who have been entrusted with hearing God’s heart for these End Times, and whose Word is a Light for the path we are on.

Luke 8:15   “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance”.

A New Season of New Assignments

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     After attending the Christian Warriors retreat for female military veterans, and spending hours in conversations with new and old friends who have been called to a new understanding of our place and duties in the Kingdom of God, I am coming to a new realization that I think God is about to do something completely different in the Body of Christ.
     I can’t explain it, but I have a heightened sense that those of us who are being called out of the traditional model of service to our God are going to be given new assignments that will greatly advance the Kingdom.  First of all, just in my own experience, I have been able to step back and see that how I view my faith is worlds apart from what it was just four years ago.  Then, I was content to accept the doctrines of the denomination I attended without question, and without any real interest to go beyond the surface level of understanding His character, His will, or His nature.  I didn’t even understand that He desired to partner with me, or what I could possibly do for Him.  I admit He was somewhat of a distant fatherly figure whom I didn’t really know.

     But He changed all that because He had an assignment for me.  Why He felt I was worthy of being called, I couldn’t have told you at the time.  But the ensuing years have been nothing less than astounding in regards to how I view our relationship now.  I will tell you that for me, my faith has evolved into one that is completely Christ-centered.  Oh, I knew John 3:16 in my prior Christian life, but I cannot say I knew Jesus.  But now when I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, I mean it and I live it.  He is literally at the center of everything I do.  He has invaded my soul and spirit and nothing is more important than serving Him in obedience.
     When I read the Bible now, I see Him on every page, in both Old and New Testaments — not just in the red letters of the four Gospels. He is at the center of the Bible; He IS the Word! And although I was introduced four years ago to the concept of Christ’s delegated power and authority to all Believers, this concept is now a guiding principle by which I live out my faith.  And it is exciting to see more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ embracing this same mandate from our Lord.
     Perhaps even more exciting is the acceptance of the supernatural in our faith lives.  I have been saying for the last few years that the Bible is a supernatural Book and we serve a supernatural God. What’s more, the Supernatural permeated the lives of Jesus and His Disciples and Apostles. But it seemed to me that the only ones who were willing to accept and espouse the supernatural were those who engaged it from the dark side.  Not anymore!  Christians are coming into their authentic identities as spirit children of a God who is spirit, and we are no longer skeptical or afraid of letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit work through us [and with us] supernaturally.
     And this all results with us being able to identify more with Christ.  After all, the Bible tells us we are being changed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), and we will, in all things, grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  And with our new identity in Christ, we grow into a desire to empower others to come into their true identities.  No longer are we satisfied to just be a part of a group called Christians, but rather, we desire to fulfill our destinies as designed by our Creator from the foundations of the world. We are no longer pleased to just bide our time on earth until God calls us home.  Instead, we want to actively carry out our assignments to advance the Kingdom until Jesus returns.
     Up until now, I believe that Jesus has been training us for these all-important assignments.  I believe that it will soon be revealed what part each of us will play in the Master Plan to defeat the Enemy’s evil moves.  I do not think that it is by accident that we have discovered how to release people from the bondage of Satan, or that we have the capabilities to heal and cast out demons, just as Jesus and the first century Church did.  I believe the revelations of these truths that we have been receiving in recent months and years is just the beginning.  Jesus is going to give us the keys to unlock so much more that hinders us from achieving the fullness of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
     Things that haven’t quite made sense, aren’t in alignment, or that seem to be veiled will come into full view, and we will have no hesitation about stepping into our roles as co-heirs with Christ.  In other words, we need to get ready for a major shift in how we operate in this realm as the spirit children of God.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but my spirit is telling me to get ready.  I already recognize a remnant that is forming into a cohesive group of willing Disciples for the advancement of the Kingdom. We have all independently been transformed and are now coming together under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, being provided with wisdom and knowledge for what will be coming.  I feel it in my spirit; it’s a new season for new assignments, and it will all be for the glory of YHWH.  It’s an amazing time to be alive!

1 Corinthians 7:17   “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

A New Season of New Assignments

     After attending the Christian Warriors retreat for female military veterans, and spending hours in conversations with new and old friends who have been called to a new understanding of our place and duties in the Kingdom of God, I am coming to a new realization that I think God is about to do something completely different in the Body of Christ.
     I can’t explain it, but I have a heightened sense that those of us who are being called out of the traditional model of service to our God are going to be given new assignments that will greatly advance the Kingdom.  First of all, just in my own experience, I have been able to step back and see that how I view my faith is worlds apart from what it was just four years ago.  Then, I was content to accept the doctrines of the denomination I attended without question, and without any real interest to go beyond the surface level of understanding His character, His will, or His nature.  I didn’t even understand that He desired to partner with me, or what I could possibly do for Him.  I admit He was somewhat of a distant fatherly figure whom I didn’t really know.

     But He changed all that because He had an assignment for me.  Why He felt I was worthy of being called, I couldn’t have told you at the time.  But the ensuing years have been nothing less than astounding in regards to how I view our relationship now.  I will tell you that for me, my faith has evolved into one that is completely Christ-centered.  Oh, I knew John 3:16 in my prior Christian life, but I cannot say I knew Jesus.  But now when I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, I mean it and I live it.  He is literally at the center of everything I do.  He has invaded my soul and spirit and nothing is more important than serving Him in obedience.
     When I read the Bible now, I see Him on every page, in both Old and New Testaments — not just in the red letters of the four Gospels. He is at the center of the Bible; He IS the Word! And although I was introduced four years ago to the concept of Christ’s delegated power and authority to all Believers, this concept is now a guiding principle by which I live out my faith.  And it is exciting to see more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ embracing this same mandate from our Lord.
     Perhaps even more exciting is the acceptance of the supernatural in our faith lives.  I have been saying for the last few years that the Bible is a supernatural Book and we serve a supernatural God. What’s more, the Supernatural permeated the lives of Jesus and His Disciples and Apostles. But it seemed to me that the only ones who were willing to accept and espouse the supernatural were those who engaged it from the dark side.  Not anymore!  Christians are coming into their authentic identities as spirit children of a God who is spirit, and we are no longer skeptical or afraid of letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit work through us [and with us] supernaturally.
     And this all results with us being able to identify more with Christ.  After all, the Bible tells us we are being changed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), and we will, in all things, grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  And with our new identity in Christ, we grow into a desire to empower others to come into their true identities.  No longer are we satisfied to just be a part of a group called Christians, but rather, we desire to fulfill our destinies as designed by our Creator from the foundations of the world. We are no longer pleased to just bide our time on earth until God calls us home.  Instead, we want to actively carry out our assignments to advance the Kingdom until Jesus returns.
     Up until now, I believe that Jesus has been training us for these all-important assignments.  I believe that it will soon be revealed what part each of us will play in the Master Plan to defeat the Enemy’s evil moves.  I do not think that it is by accident that we have discovered how to release people from the bondage of Satan, or that we have the capabilities to heal and cast out demons, just as Jesus and the first century Church did.  I believe the revelations of these truths that we have been receiving in recent months and years is just the beginning.  Jesus is going to give us the keys to unlock so much more that hinders us from achieving the fullness of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
     Things that haven’t quite made sense, aren’t in alignment, or that seem to be veiled will come into full view, and we will have no hesitation about stepping into our roles as co-heirs with Christ.  In other words, we need to get ready for a major shift in how we operate in this realm as the spirit children of God.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but my spirit is telling me to get ready.  I already recognize a remnant that is forming into a cohesive group of willing Disciples for the advancement of the Kingdom. We have all independently been transformed and are now coming together under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, being provided with wisdom and knowledge for what will be coming.  I feel it in my spirit; it’s a new season for new assignments, and it will all be for the glory of YHWH.  It’s an amazing time to be alive!

1 Corinthians 7:17   “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

A New Season of New Assignments

     After attending the Christian Warriors retreat for female military veterans, and spending hours in conversations with new and old friends who have been called to a new understanding of our place and duties in the Kingdom of God, I am coming to a new realization that I think God is about to do something completely different in the Body of Christ.
     I can’t explain it, but I have a heightened sense that those of us who are being called out of the traditional model of service to our God are going to be given new assignments that will greatly advance the Kingdom.  First of all, just in my own experience, I have been able to step back and see that how I view my faith is worlds apart from what it was just four years ago.  Then, I was content to accept the doctrines of the denomination I attended without question, and without any real interest to go beyond the surface level of understanding His character, His will, or His nature.  I didn’t even understand that He desired to partner with me, or what I could possibly do for Him.  I admit He was somewhat of a distant fatherly figure whom I didn’t really know.

     But He changed all that because He had an assignment for me.  Why He felt I was worthy of being called, I couldn’t have told you at the time.  But the ensuing years have been nothing less than astounding in regards to how I view our relationship now.  I will tell you that for me, my faith has evolved into one that is completely Christ-centered.  Oh, I knew John 3:16 in my prior Christian life, but I cannot say I knew Jesus.  But now when I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, I mean it and I live it.  He is literally at the center of everything I do.  He has invaded my soul and spirit and nothing is more important than serving Him in obedience.
     When I read the Bible now, I see Him on every page, in both Old and New Testaments — not just in the red letters of the four Gospels. He is at the center of the Bible; He IS the Word! And although I was introduced four years ago to the concept of Christ’s delegated power and authority to all Believers, this concept is now a guiding principle by which I live out my faith.  And it is exciting to see more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ embracing this same mandate from our Lord.
     Perhaps even more exciting is the acceptance of the supernatural in our faith lives.  I have been saying for the last few years that the Bible is a supernatural Book and we serve a supernatural God. What’s more, the Supernatural permeated the lives of Jesus and His Disciples and Apostles. But it seemed to me that the only ones who were willing to accept and espouse the supernatural were those who engaged it from the dark side.  Not anymore!  Christians are coming into their authentic identities as spirit children of a God who is spirit, and we are no longer skeptical or afraid of letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit work through us [and with us] supernaturally.
     And this all results with us being able to identify more with Christ.  After all, the Bible tells us we are being changed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), and we will, in all things, grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  And with our new identity in Christ, we grow into a desire to empower others to come into their true identities.  No longer are we satisfied to just be a part of a group called Christians, but rather, we desire to fulfill our destinies as designed by our Creator from the foundations of the world. We are no longer pleased to just bide our time on earth until God calls us home.  Instead, we want to actively carry out our assignments to advance the Kingdom until Jesus returns.
     Up until now, I believe that Jesus has been training us for these all-important assignments.  I believe that it will soon be revealed what part each of us will play in the Master Plan to defeat the Enemy’s evil moves.  I do not think that it is by accident that we have discovered how to release people from the bondage of Satan, or that we have the capabilities to heal and cast out demons, just as Jesus and the first century Church did.  I believe the revelations of these truths that we have been receiving in recent months and years is just the beginning.  Jesus is going to give us the keys to unlock so much more that hinders us from achieving the fullness of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
     Things that haven’t quite made sense, aren’t in alignment, or that seem to be veiled will come into full view, and we will have no hesitation about stepping into our roles as co-heirs with Christ.  In other words, we need to get ready for a major shift in how we operate in this realm as the spirit children of God.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but my spirit is telling me to get ready.  I already recognize a remnant that is forming into a cohesive group of willing Disciples for the advancement of the Kingdom. We have all independently been transformed and are now coming together under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, being provided with wisdom and knowledge for what will be coming.  I feel it in my spirit; it’s a new season for new assignments, and it will all be for the glory of YHWH.  It’s an amazing time to be alive!

1 Corinthians 7:17   “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

Martyrdom: Receiving The Crown of Life

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     What I am about to discuss is a sensitive subject.  And to some of you, it will be a difficult subject to contemplate. I want to broach it however, as we, here in Texas, are still mourning the loss of 26 lives from the demonic attack on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.  The state’s official count is 25, but because one of the victims was pregnant, God recognizes 26 killed in this evil slaughter of His saints.
     While the media has continued a constant barrage of cameras and reporters who have besieged this small town of 600 souls, causing chaos and confusion, they have failed to accurately report the horrendous actions that took place at the beckoning of Satan, himself.  Based on local and first-hand reports, the massacre was orchestrated straight from hell.  As always, the Sunday morning service was recorded, and when the gunman entered the sanctuary with a semi-automatic carbine, among the first victims were those recording the service.  So the cameras kept rolling.
     I know that the promoted storyline is that the attack was based on a domestic dispute with the gunman’s in-laws.  But they were not even present at the church that day, and what occurred at the scene could only have been carried out by a satanically influenced individual.  It is beyond comprehension that if the intended victims were not there, that any person (even a mentally ill one) would empty magazine after magazine into the crowd and then systematically apply an execution-style shot to each victim.
   

     The world may want to label these innocent church-goers as tragic victims, but I’m willing to say that, in heaven, they are viewed as Christian martyrs.  And I think they deserve to receive that notable title.  As I stated in an earlier blog, the Enemy of all mankind knows his time is short.  And he is very aware that God’s remnant is walking in the power and authority Jesus gave us to “trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy”.  So he is actually feeling cornered and is ramping up the persecution and martyrdom of God’s saints.
    The Apostle Paul warns us of these days in 2 Timothy 3:13, when he writes, “But evil men and seducers will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” No one knows for sure how the gunman became seduced by evil, but it is obvious that he was deceived into thinking he had a right to do what he did.
     It is commonly accepted that we are in the last days before Jesus’s return.  The world is in chaos, and our sense of security is being tested.  I mean, if you can’t feel safe at church, then you know that evil is on the rise, right?  But it is exactly because this attack was so evil and took place against Christians that we must identify these saints as modern-day martyrs.  Jesus, Himself, said,  “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9).
     It is natural that as these kinds of events become more commonplace, that Believers begin to fear for their lives.  But we must face the fact that lawlessness the Bible predicts is indeed increasing, and that the Bible also tells us that we must be prepared to “overcome him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony; and love not our lives unto death.”  That is exactly what those 26 innocent saints did one week ago.  They are those who are written about in Revelation 6:9-11 … “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed”.
     That may be a frightening picture for some, if not most, of you.  But we must realize that Death was the price the faithful in Sutherland Springs paid for the testimony of their faith in Christ.  And we can rejoice that as Revelation 2:10 tells us, because they were faithful until death (martyred) they will receive the Crown of Life. the martyr’s crown.  And just like Stephen, who was martyred, their spirits were received by Jesus, Himself.  In truth, they have no better testimony than they were hated by the Anti-Christ and his human agent.  We can take some comfort in knowing that they stood in the presence of Jesus immediately upon their martyrdom.
     Did any of these people wake up that morning and think it was going to be the day they would be called to martyrdom?  I seriously doubt it.  But martyrs they are, nonetheless.  And their numbers will rise as we close in on the Day of the Lord. We must not be surprised nor dismayed.  The Holy Bible tells us this will happen.  So how do we prepare for martyrdom should we be called to that fate?
     These are just a few suggestions, but we can begin by confessing all known sin to God and asking for forgiveness.  Next keep the Word of God in your mind and heart as much as possible, staying focused on our Lord instead of fearing the Enemy. Pray for the Lord’s Grace to keep you strong in your faith until the end. Pray for our Lord Jesus to be glorified by your death and martyrdom. As difficult as it might be, pray for the murderers.  And above all else, keep looking to Jesus.
     None of us want to think that we will be faced with the possibility of martyrdom for our faith.  But if we can fear God more than we fear evil men or the Enemy who wishes to kill and destroy us, then we can endure what this world brings against us for the sake and purpose of glorifying Him.  And if nothing else, last week’s tragic event should tell us that we cannot expect advance notice — it is time that today’s Christian be prepared to confess the Lord Jesus Christ every moment of every day.  Such is the course laid before us.

Revelation 14:13    Then I heard [the distinct words of] a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired) are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes, [blessed indeed],” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest and have relief from their labors, for their deeds do follow them.”

Are You A Sinner or A Saint?

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     This question really makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?  I have to admit that when my husband, Mark, posited it to me, my immediate thought was, “Well, of course, I am a sinner.  There was only one human being who wasn’t, and that is Jesus”.  But then, I hesitated, and thought, “Wait a minute, but how does my Lord see me?  Isn’t that my true identity”?
     If you scour the internet, you will find a wide variety of opinions … some theologians and Bible teachers will call Christians sinners; while others declare we are all saints; and yet others try to walk the line and call us both saint and sinner.  But I wanted to definitively know in my heart what I believed, and the only resource that mattered to me was the Bible.  So, I began my quest to determine who I am … sinner or saint.
     In a sense, all human beings, as a category, are sinners because we are born in sin.  So, it is not difficult to think of ourselves as sinners because we know we are capable of sinning. But when we take a look at the word “saint” in the original Greek (hagios) it is used to designate all believers or people set apart for the Lord and His Kingdom.  It is not used to typify those Christians of exceptional holiness, or those who have gone on to be with the Lord in heaven, but rather any and all who are reborn into a new identity.
     And Scripture backs this up in 2 Thessalonians 1:10, which reads, “… when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day [that is, glorified through the changed lives of those who have accepted Him as Savior and have been set apart for His purpose], and to be marveled at among all who have believed…”.  
     Now, there will always be those Christians who don’t see themselves as this new creation called “saint” and want to cling to their old identity.  They will tell you that if we don’t still see ourselves as sinners, then what value does the Cross have to us?  My answer to that is simple: the Cross is the reason that my identity has changed from sinner to saint; it is the catalyst that transformed me. Did not the Apostle Paul say, “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.”
     True, Paul called himself “the foremost of sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:15.  But, as is often the case, we tend to read Scripture out of context. A more careful study shows that he is referring to his former self, i.e., the “old Paul” rather than the new one.  And that may be why he tends to refer to the readers of his letters as “saints” to remind them of who they are, and who they have been called to be.  And that is an important distinction.
     “Saint” is both a description and a calling of the Christian. This is made very clear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified (set apart, made holy) in Christ Jesus, who are selected and called as saints (God’s people), together with all those who in every place call on and honor the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours…”.
     To be a sinner is to be separated from God, with no relationship.  But Scripture tells us in Ephesians 2,  that “through Him we have a [direct] way of approach in one Spirit to the Father”.  When we are reborn we enter into a new relationship with our Creator, and we are”fellow citizens with the saints (God’s people), and are [members] of God’s household”.  We now identify as a saint!
     But what about the times we hurt others with our sins?  How can we possibly think of ourselves as a saint then?  That is where repentance comes in.  With this act of confession and asking God for forgiveness, we show a new nature that is in relationship with God; a new nature that is growing towards the image of Christ — and which definitely is not the nature of a sinner.
     So, after all this discussion, and back and forth, how do you view yourself?  Are you a saved sinner, or a sinning saint?  I will tell you how I have determined this question for myself… I know I am a Christian who is growing in holiness, while still struggling with sin in my life.  But that is the old nature that is still trying to control me.  I KNOW I am a new creation.  I KNOW I have been called to a special purpose and called to be holy because God is holy.  And I know Jesus is the ultimate picture of saint.  I also know that when we are saved, we are identified with Christ by grace through faith.  And I believe that my faith in Christ radically changes not only my identity and my walk, but how God sees me.  He no longer sees a broken vessel, but a renewed and restored receptacle of His grace and mercy.  How can that be labeled a sinner?  From now on, I will only answer to the name Saint. So, I ask my original question to you … Are you a sinner or a saint?

 1 Corinthians 6:11   And such were some of you [before you believed]. But you were washed [by the atoning sacrifice of Christ], you were sanctified [set apart for God, and made holy], you were justified [declared free of guilt] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God [the source of the believer’s new life and changed behavior]. 
   
   
   

Triumph and Tragedy

     I write this post today from a position of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, as well as with a heart that is deeply saddened.  We had just ended our four-day retreat for Christian female military veterans and were having an assessment meeting when we got the news of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.  It is difficult to express the sense that the intense victories we had experienced over the Enemy this weekend were tarnished for just a moment by this profound evil.
     You see, that little church is only about 45 minutes from where I live, and Mark and I have visited that church to hear a friend preach. This was too close to home and personal. But it only took a moment for us in Leadership to declare that Evil will never overcome the Light… the Light of Jesus will continue to shine even during the darkest of times.  And I do not want this tragedy to overshadow the life-giving work done by our Savior at the retreat.  So, let me share those thoughts, and I will make a final comment on the tragedy at the end of this post.
     It was such a blessing to have been invited to this retreat, and from the beginning, the devil tried to interfere. Several of the female veterans tried to cancel at the last minute, but with encouragement on our part, and courage on theirs, they took a leap of faith and boarded those planes, coming from California, Arizona, Washington D.C., and North Carolina.  There were some disappointments … one Seeker had car trouble and missed her flight and decided to return to her home.  We pray that God will arrange another opportunity.  And at first, we fought disillusionment that the number of women we were expecting dropped off by half, to where we only had six women show up. But God knew what He was doing!

     That small number of Seekers allowed us to create an intimate atmosphere in which we were able to minister to them in a more personal and individual way.  Add to this situation the fact that many of the women on the Leadership team (which included female vets, along with four of us who were civilians) were first-time participants in a Christian Warriors Retreat event. It allowed us to weather the storms of a first-time retreat without sacrificing what we wanted to accomplish. In the end, the opportunity to spend 4 days encountering Jesus was a journey for each one of us.
    And as with any first-time event, there were rough patches, but we had the advantage of learning from the nine male veteran retreats that preceded ours.  At first, we fought schedule interruptions, but decided that everything would be on God’s timing and under the Holy Spirit’s direction. Once we let go of that concern, we were ready to see what God had in store for these women.
     I do not want to betray any confidences, but I will tell you that, as expected, it was a spiritual battle from beginning to end.  The devil tried to throw personality conflicts at us; spirits of rebellion and pride and divisiveness; and an occasional physical trauma.  But we knew our authority and the power of our Lord to overcome any opposition from our spiritual enemies. Every time we were confronted with an obstacle, we fought back by praying against the spirits, praying for God’s will to be done in a particular situation, and laying on of hands to correct sudden and severe back pain, bodies that were out of alignment, and lengthening legs where one was shorter than the other.  We were not going to give up ground when Jesus wanted to set these women free!
     And how precious these women were!  Each one had her own particular beauty and strengths. But also, you could see the battle going on inside them.  At the risk of being politically incorrect — and in no way, is it my intention to insult or condemn the brave service of these women to our country — but I cannot imagine how women go to war and DO NOT come home with some sort of trauma, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  And some of these women are married to men who are, or were, in the military, too.  So add that combustible element to the mix, and you could see the pain in their eyes.
     But Jesus wanted them free!  Slowly, hour by hour, and day by day, we saw them begin to let down their guard as they trusted us.  The female vets who were on the Leadership Team shared their testimonies, pointing the way to each woman’s significance in the Kingdom; the absolute need to forgive; the importance of prayer and how to pray; what Christian action and Discipleship looks like; how we can identify with the Prodigal son; the value of perseverance; and then left them with a Battle Plan to keep the freedom they received during the retreat.
     And let me tell you … when you hear the life stories of the Leadership, which encompassed abusive husbands, rape, abortion, molestation, promiscuity, adultery, alcoholism, etc., it broke your heart to know that your Sisters in Christ had endured such pain in their lives.  But, oh the redemption! They shared how Jesus freed them from shame, guilt, blame, unforgiveness, feeling lost and without hope, and then set them upon a journey to grow into the clean, purified, blameless, and strong women that stood before us.  Let’s just say, a lot of kleenex was handed out during those four days.
     But these veteran Leaders spoke Truth and Hope into the lives of the younger veterans.  They declared that they were washed clean by the power of Jesus’s blood and they had new identities and new names … a child of God; the daughter of the King; and the Bride of Christ.  Slowly, we saw eyes begin to shine, heads held higher, and they began seeing Jesus as the solution to their trauma and their issues. We watched them begin to open up, and through their Leader’s testimonies they received evidence that it is ALWAYS Jesus’s desire to redeem lives… but you have to seek Him, confess the sins in your life, ask for His forgiveness, and then receive the overflowing abundance of His love and the freedom He offers.
     Women who had arrived with wariness and distrust left with confidence that their demons (both literal and figurative) had been defeated. There were late nights filled with hearing their stories, and afternoons spent in the presence of the Lord, as all those painful wounds were healed. As part of Leadership, I got about 4 hours of sleep each night, as we prayed for the Holy Spirit to reveal the blockage in their spirits, and discussed how to partner with Jesus to see them set free. And always … always …. the answer was to point them to Jesus to receive their answers and strategy. In the end, with each of those six Seekers, and several of the Leadership team, there was a relationship with Jesus that had been forged through tears, confession, and surrender.  Spirits were lighter and hearts were cleansed.

     To seal everyone’s new identity, we were blessed with a special dinner on the last night.  It was kept secret until we entered the dining hall, which had been transformed into a wedding feast.  White linen, china settings, pearls and flowers.  We were Brides!  We were seated and served by the men who served as our retreat “angels” (who spent the entire four days praying for us, interceding for us, and showing us into the presence of Jesus in the “Bridal tent”). We saw ourselves worthy of the King and to be called His Bride.  Oh, how I wish I could describe the radiant looks on their faces as they walked into that beautiful wedding feast.  Words fail me, but it is a memory that will never fade.
     The final day, we had a closing ceremony and the local community came to celebrate with our Seekers.  They were invited to come and answer two questions before the public … What did you get out of this retreat?  And what are you going to do with it?  Leadership sat there holding their breath.  Were our efforts to encourage a relationship with Jesus enough to make a difference in their lives?  Would anyone feel their experience was so transforming that they wanted to share it with the people in attendance?  And finally, would they keep Jesus to themselves or share Him when they returned home?
     Imagine our surprise when two of the quietest and most shy of the six got up to declare that Jesus had set them free and they were going to go back home and encourage other female vets to come to this retreat. There were tears from the podium, in the audience, and from the Leadership team. Thank you, Jesus! We had grown to love these women and now we were sending them out into the world to resume their lives, and all we could do is pray they keep their freedom.  We had done the best we could to point them to Jesus; we had overcome Satan’s fiery darts; and now the inaugural female veteran retreat was over.  The Enemy was defeated!

     That sense of victory was literally maybe 15 minutes old, when we started getting the text messages about Sutherland Springs.  What we initially felt was a safe place was now a target.  i remembered my husband asking me if I was going to take my handgun with me (I am licensed to carry, and highly trained).  I said, “I’m going to a retreat for Christian female veterans at a secluded retreat center. I’ll be fine”.  I felt there was no threat… until there was.  We would have been a perfect target.  The Director of the retreat and I drove three of the Seekers to Houston to the airport — a seven hour round trip — in a church van, and I can tell you, we felt vulnerable.
     But it didn’t take me long to declare this attack is because the devil is getting scared.  He sees small pockets of the Remnant becoming stronger in our ability to fight in this spiritual battle, and he must ramp up his opposition.  He is fighting back because we are winning!  This retreat was about bringing the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the forefront of these women’s lives, but it was equally a testament to fighting in the spirit, applying the blood of Jesus to strongholds and powers of darkness, and developing spiritual battle plans to overcome the Enemy and take back spiritual territory.
     As extremely sad as the Sutherland Springs tragedy is, we can rejoice that God knew that very morning that those 26 spirits would be returning home.  He has known since the foundation of time.  We can rejoice that Satan and all his demons know they are going to lose this battle!  They see us rising up in spiritual warfare, and they know we are gaining valuable revelation from Heaven as to how to fight in the spiritual realms.  He is angry because we are winning and we are not going to stop!
     So, I ask you to pray for continued revelation; that more people will join us in spiritual warfare; and that the Heavenly host will come down to protect us from any more of these tragic displays of evil.  Bless the spirits of those killed, and the families who must now arrange for 26 funerals.  Father God, give us the strength to mount up for battle, while remaining in Your mercy and grace.  We are ready to follow you into battle, Jehovah Nissi! We know the battle is Yours, and we are neither afraid nor dismayed. We know that You will deliver our enemies into our hands.  Praise You!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9      We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 

Triumph and Tragedy

     I write this post today from a position of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, as well as with a heart that is deeply saddened.  We had just ended our four-day retreat for Christian female military veterans and were having an assessment meeting when we got the news of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.  It is difficult to express the sense that the intense victories we had experienced over the Enemy this weekend were tarnished for just a moment by this profound evil.
     You see, that little church is only about 45 minutes from where I live, and Mark and I have visited that church to hear a friend preach. This was too close to home and personal. But it only took a moment for us in Leadership to declare that Evil will never overcome the Light… the Light of Jesus will continue to shine even during the darkest of times.  And I do not want this tragedy to overshadow the life-giving work done by our Savior at the retreat.  So, let me share those thoughts, and I will make a final comment on the tragedy at the end of this post.
     It was such a blessing to have been invited to this retreat, and from the beginning, the devil tried to interfere. Several of the female veterans tried to cancel at the last minute, but with encouragement on our part, and courage on theirs, they took a leap of faith and boarded those planes, coming from California, Arizona, Washington D.C., and North Carolina.  There were some disappointments … one Seeker had car trouble and missed her flight and decided to return to her home.  We pray that God will arrange another opportunity.  And at first, we fought disillusionment that the number of women we were expecting dropped off by half, to where we only had six women show up. But God knew what He was doing!

     That small number of Seekers allowed us to create an intimate atmosphere in which we were able to minister to them in a more personal and individual way.  Add to this situation the fact that many of the women on the Leadership team (which included female vets, along with four of us who were civilians) were first-time participants in a Christian Warriors Retreat event. It allowed us to weather the storms of a first-time retreat without sacrificing what we wanted to accomplish. In the end, the opportunity to spend 4 days encountering Jesus was a journey for each one of us.
    And as with any first-time event, there were rough patches, but we had the advantage of learning from the nine male veteran retreats that preceded ours.  At first, we fought schedule interruptions, but decided that everything would be on God’s timing and under the Holy Spirit’s direction. Once we let go of that concern, we were ready to see what God had in store for these women.
     I do not want to betray any confidences, but I will tell you that, as expected, it was a spiritual battle from beginning to end.  The devil tried to throw personality conflicts at us; spirits of rebellion and pride and divisiveness; and an occasional physical trauma.  But we knew our authority and the power of our Lord to overcome any opposition from our spiritual enemies. Every time we were confronted with an obstacle, we fought back by praying against the spirits, praying for God’s will to be done in a particular situation, and laying on of hands to correct sudden and severe back pain, bodies that were out of alignment, and lengthening legs where one was shorter than the other.  We were not going to give up ground when Jesus wanted to set these women free!
     And how precious these women were!  Each one had her own particular beauty and strengths. But also, you could see the battle going on inside them.  At the risk of being politically incorrect — and in no way, is it my intention to insult or condemn the brave service of these women to our country — but I cannot imagine how women go to war and DO NOT come home with some sort of trauma, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  And some of these women are married to men who are, or were, in the military, too.  So add that combustible element to the mix, and you could see the pain in their eyes.
     But Jesus wanted them free!  Slowly, hour by hour, and day by day, we saw them begin to let down their guard as they trusted us.  The female vets who were on the Leadership Team shared their testimonies, pointing the way to each woman’s significance in the Kingdom; the absolute need to forgive; the importance of prayer and how to pray; what Christian action and Discipleship looks like; how we can identify with the Prodigal son; the value of perseverance; and then left them with a Battle Plan to keep the freedom they received during the retreat.
     And let me tell you … when you hear the life stories of the Leadership, which encompassed abusive husbands, rape, abortion, molestation, promiscuity, adultery, alcoholism, etc., it broke your heart to know that your Sisters in Christ had endured such pain in their lives.  But, oh the redemption! They shared how Jesus freed them from shame, guilt, blame, unforgiveness, feeling lost and without hope, and then set them upon a journey to grow into the clean, purified, blameless, and strong women that stood before us.  Let’s just say, a lot of kleenex was handed out during those four days.
     But these veteran Leaders spoke Truth and Hope into the lives of the younger veterans.  They declared that they were washed clean by the power of Jesus’s blood and they had new identities and new names … a child of God; the daughter of the King; and the Bride of Christ.  Slowly, we saw eyes begin to shine, heads held higher, and they began seeing Jesus as the solution to their trauma and their issues. We watched them begin to open up, and through their Leader’s testimonies they received evidence that it is ALWAYS Jesus’s desire to redeem lives… but you have to seek Him, confess the sins in your life, ask for His forgiveness, and then receive the overflowing abundance of His love and the freedom He offers.
     Women who had arrived with wariness and distrust left with confidence that their demons (both literal and figurative) had been defeated. There were late nights filled with hearing their stories, and afternoons spent in the presence of the Lord, as all those painful wounds were healed. As part of Leadership, I got about 4 hours of sleep each night, as we prayed for the Holy Spirit to reveal the blockage in their spirits, and discussed how to partner with Jesus to see them set free. And always … always …. the answer was to point them to Jesus to receive their answers and strategy. In the end, with each of those six Seekers, and several of the Leadership team, there was a relationship with Jesus that had been forged through tears, confession, and surrender.  Spirits were lighter and hearts were cleansed.

     To seal everyone’s new identity, we were blessed with a special dinner on the last night.  It was kept secret until we entered the dining hall, which had been transformed into a wedding feast.  White linen, china settings, pearls and flowers.  We were Brides!  We were seated and served by the men who served as our retreat “angels” (who spent the entire four days praying for us, interceding for us, and showing us into the presence of Jesus in the “Bridal tent”). We saw ourselves worthy of the King and to be called His Bride.  Oh, how I wish I could describe the radiant looks on their faces as they walked into that beautiful wedding feast.  Words fail me, but it is a memory that will never fade.
     The final day, we had a closing ceremony and the local community came to celebrate with our Seekers.  They were invited to come and answer two questions before the public … What did you get out of this retreat?  And what are you going to do with it?  Leadership sat there holding their breath.  Were our efforts to encourage a relationship with Jesus enough to make a difference in their lives?  Would anyone feel their experience was so transforming that they wanted to share it with the people in attendance?  And finally, would they keep Jesus to themselves or share Him when they returned home?
     Imagine our surprise when two of the quietest and most shy of the six got up to declare that Jesus had set them free and they were going to go back home and encourage other female vets to come to this retreat. There were tears from the podium, in the audience, and from the Leadership team. Thank you, Jesus! We had grown to love these women and now we were sending them out into the world to resume their lives, and all we could do is pray they keep their freedom.  We had done the best we could to point them to Jesus; we had overcome Satan’s fiery darts; and now the inaugural female veteran retreat was over.  The Enemy was defeated!

     That sense of victory was literally maybe 15 minutes old, when we started getting the text messages about Sutherland Springs.  What we initially felt was a safe place was now a target.  i remembered my husband asking me if I was going to take my handgun with me (I am licensed to carry, and highly trained).  I said, “I’m going to a retreat for Christian female veterans at a secluded retreat center. I’ll be fine”.  I felt there was no threat… until there was.  We would have been a perfect target.  The Director of the retreat and I drove three of the Seekers to Houston to the airport — a seven hour round trip — in a church van, and I can tell you, we felt vulnerable.
     But it didn’t take me long to declare this attack is because the devil is getting scared.  He sees small pockets of the Remnant becoming stronger in our ability to fight in this spiritual battle, and he must ramp up his opposition.  He is fighting back because we are winning!  This retreat was about bringing the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the forefront of these women’s lives, but it was equally a testament to fighting in the spirit, applying the blood of Jesus to strongholds and powers of darkness, and developing spiritual battle plans to overcome the Enemy and take back spiritual territory.
     As extremely sad as the Sutherland Springs tragedy is, we can rejoice that God knew that very morning that those 26 spirits would be returning home.  He has known since the foundation of time.  We can rejoice that Satan and all his demons know they are going to lose this battle!  They see us rising up in spiritual warfare, and they know we are gaining valuable revelation from Heaven as to how to fight in the spiritual realms.  He is angry because we are winning and we are not going to stop!
     So, I ask you to pray for continued revelation; that more people will join us in spiritual warfare; and that the Heavenly host will come down to protect us from any more of these tragic displays of evil.  Bless the spirits of those killed, and the families who must now arrange for 26 funerals.  Father God, give us the strength to mount up for battle, while remaining in Your mercy and grace.  We are ready to follow you into battle, Jehovah Nissi! We know the battle is Yours, and we are neither afraid nor dismayed. We know that You will deliver our enemies into our hands.  Praise You!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9      We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 

Triumph and Tragedy

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     I write this post today from a position of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, as well as with a heart that is deeply saddened.  We had just ended our four-day retreat for Christian female military veterans and were having an assessment meeting when we got the news of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.  It is difficult to express the sense that the intense victories we had experienced over the Enemy this weekend were tarnished for just a moment by this profound evil.
     You see, that little church is only about 45 minutes from where I live, and Mark and I have visited that church to hear a friend preach. This was too close to home and personal. But it only took a moment for us in Leadership to declare that Evil will never overcome the Light… the Light of Jesus will continue to shine even during the darkest of times.  And I do not want this tragedy to overshadow the life-giving work done by our Savior at the retreat.  So, let me share those thoughts, and I will make a final comment on the tragedy at the end of this post.
     It was such a blessing to have been invited to this retreat, and from the beginning, the devil tried to interfere. Several of the female veterans tried to cancel at the last minute, but with encouragement on our part, and courage on theirs, they took a leap of faith and boarded those planes, coming from California, Arizona, Washington D.C., and North Carolina.  There were some disappointments … one Seeker had car trouble and missed her flight and decided to return to her home.  We pray that God will arrange another opportunity.  And at first, we fought disillusionment that the number of women we were expecting dropped off by half, to where we only had six women show up. But God knew what He was doing!

     That small number of Seekers allowed us to create an intimate atmosphere in which we were able to minister to them in a more personal and individual way.  Add to this situation the fact that many of the women on the Leadership team (which included female vets, along with four of us who were civilians) were first-time participants in a Christian Warriors Retreat event. It allowed us to weather the storms of a first-time retreat without sacrificing what we wanted to accomplish. In the end, the opportunity to spend 4 days encountering Jesus was a journey for each one of us.
    And as with any first-time event, there were rough patches, but we had the advantage of learning from the nine male veteran retreats that preceded ours.  At first, we fought schedule interruptions, but decided that everything would be on God’s timing and under the Holy Spirit’s direction. Once we let go of that concern, we were ready to see what God had in store for these women.
     I do not want to betray any confidences, but I will tell you that, as expected, it was a spiritual battle from beginning to end.  The devil tried to throw personality conflicts at us; spirits of rebellion and pride and divisiveness; and an occasional physical trauma.  But we knew our authority and the power of our Lord to overcome any opposition from our spiritual enemies. Every time we were confronted with an obstacle, we fought back by praying against the spirits, praying for God’s will to be done in a particular situation, and laying on of hands to correct sudden and severe back pain, bodies that were out of alignment, and lengthening legs where one was shorter than the other.  We were not going to give up ground when Jesus wanted to set these women free!
     And how precious these women were!  Each one had her own particular beauty and strengths. But also, you could see the battle going on inside them.  At the risk of being politically incorrect — and in no way, is it my intention to insult or condemn the brave service of these women to our country — but I cannot imagine how women go to war and DO NOT come home with some sort of trauma, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  And some of these women are married to men who are, or were, in the military, too.  So add that combustible element to the mix, and you could see the pain in their eyes.
     But Jesus wanted them free!  Slowly, hour by hour, and day by day, we saw them begin to let down their guard as they trusted us.  The female vets who were on the Leadership Team shared their testimonies, pointing the way to each woman’s significance in the Kingdom; the absolute need to forgive; the importance of prayer and how to pray; what Christian action and Discipleship looks like; how we can identify with the Prodigal son; the value of perseverance; and then left them with a Battle Plan to keep the freedom they received during the retreat.
     And let me tell you … when you hear the life stories of the Leadership, which encompassed abusive husbands, rape, abortion, molestation, promiscuity, adultery, alcoholism, etc., it broke your heart to know that your Sisters in Christ had endured such pain in their lives.  But, oh the redemption! They shared how Jesus freed them from shame, guilt, blame, unforgiveness, feeling lost and without hope, and then set them upon a journey to grow into the clean, purified, blameless, and strong women that stood before us.  Let’s just say, a lot of kleenex was handed out during those four days.
     But these veteran Leaders spoke Truth and Hope into the lives of the younger veterans.  They declared that they were washed clean by the power of Jesus’s blood and they had new identities and new names … a child of God; the daughter of the King; and the Bride of Christ.  Slowly, we saw eyes begin to shine, heads held higher, and they began seeing Jesus as the solution to their trauma and their issues. We watched them begin to open up, and through their Leader’s testimonies they received evidence that it is ALWAYS Jesus’s desire to redeem lives… but you have to seek Him, confess the sins in your life, ask for His forgiveness, and then receive the overflowing abundance of His love and the freedom He offers.
     Women who had arrived with wariness and distrust left with confidence that their demons (both literal and figurative) had been defeated. There were late nights filled with hearing their stories, and afternoons spent in the presence of the Lord, as all those painful wounds were healed. As part of Leadership, I got about 4 hours of sleep each night, as we prayed for the Holy Spirit to reveal the blockage in their spirits, and discussed how to partner with Jesus to see them set free. And always … always …. the answer was to point them to Jesus to receive their answers and strategy. In the end, with each of those six Seekers, and several of the Leadership team, there was a relationship with Jesus that had been forged through tears, confession, and surrender.  Spirits were lighter and hearts were cleansed.

     To seal everyone’s new identity, we were blessed with a special dinner on the last night.  It was kept secret until we entered the dining hall, which had been transformed into a wedding feast.  White linen, china settings, pearls and flowers.  We were Brides!  We were seated and served by the men who served as our retreat “angels” (who spent the entire four days praying for us, interceding for us, and showing us into the presence of Jesus in the “Bridal tent”). We saw ourselves worthy of the King and to be called His Bride.  Oh, how I wish I could describe the radiant looks on their faces as they walked into that beautiful wedding feast.  Words fail me, but it is a memory that will never fade.
     The final day, we had a closing ceremony and the local community came to celebrate with our Seekers.  They were invited to come and answer two questions before the public … What did you get out of this retreat?  And what are you going to do with it?  Leadership sat there holding their breath.  Were our efforts to encourage a relationship with Jesus enough to make a difference in their lives?  Would anyone feel their experience was so transforming that they wanted to share it with the people in attendance?  And finally, would they keep Jesus to themselves or share Him when they returned home?
     Imagine our surprise when two of the quietest and most shy of the six got up to declare that Jesus had set them free and they were going to go back home and encourage other female vets to come to this retreat. There were tears from the podium, in the audience, and from the Leadership team. Thank you, Jesus! We had grown to love these women and now we were sending them out into the world to resume their lives, and all we could do is pray they keep their freedom.  We had done the best we could to point them to Jesus; we had overcome Satan’s fiery darts; and now the inaugural female veteran retreat was over.  The Enemy was defeated!

     That sense of victory was literally maybe 15 minutes old, when we started getting the text messages about Sutherland Springs.  What we initially felt was a safe place was now a target.  i remembered my husband asking me if I was going to take my handgun with me (I am licensed to carry, and highly trained).  I said, “I’m going to a retreat for Christian female veterans at a secluded retreat center. I’ll be fine”.  I felt there was no threat… until there was.  We would have been a perfect target.  The Director of the retreat and I drove three of the Seekers to Houston to the airport — a seven hour round trip — in a church van, and I can tell you, we felt vulnerable.
     But it didn’t take me long to declare this attack is because the devil is getting scared.  He sees small pockets of the Remnant becoming stronger in our ability to fight in this spiritual battle, and he must ramp up his opposition.  He is fighting back because we are winning!  This retreat was about bringing the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the forefront of these women’s lives, but it was equally a testament to fighting in the spirit, applying the blood of Jesus to strongholds and powers of darkness, and developing spiritual battle plans to overcome the Enemy and take back spiritual territory.
     As extremely sad as the Sutherland Springs tragedy is, we can rejoice that God knew that very morning that those 26 spirits would be returning home.  He has known since the foundation of time.  We can rejoice that Satan and all his demons know they are going to lose this battle!  They see us rising up in spiritual warfare, and they know we are gaining valuable revelation from Heaven as to how to fight in the spiritual realms.  He is angry because we are winning and we are not going to stop!
     So, I ask you to pray for continued revelation; that more people will join us in spiritual warfare; and that the Heavenly host will come down to protect us from any more of these tragic displays of evil.  Bless the spirits of those killed, and the families who must now arrange for 26 funerals.  Father God, give us the strength to mount up for battle, while remaining in Your mercy and grace.  We are ready to follow you into battle, Jehovah Nissi! We know the battle is Yours, and we are neither afraid nor dismayed. We know that You will deliver our enemies into our hands.  Praise You!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9      We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 

God Is Changing Names, Identities, and Assignments

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     I am writing this blog post on Wednesday night, on the eve of attending the first ever female military veteran Christian Warriors Retreat. In keeping with the mighty power of our God, I pray that as you are reading this, He is doing great things among the 14 women military veterans that I have the privilege of spending this weekend with.  I’m not able to tell you at this moment what, if any, new revelations they will be receiving from this retreat.  But I can tell you that as you are reading this early Saturday morning, they will have heard some of the most moving testimonies I have ever witnessed; declarations of Jesus’s mercy in the lives of my fellow Sisters in Christ who share that military background with our Seekers.

     If the transformation in my Sisters’ lives is any indication, the Seekers will be shedding their old identities with which the Enemy has labeled them, and receiving new names as they are restored to who God made them to be.  I expect to see new looks in their eyes, and new enthusiasm in their walks. I want them to see the lies they’ve been believing about who they are.  I hope to be able to say to them, “Stop calling yourself _____, and ask God, ‘What do You call me’ “? And then I want them to hear His answer … “I call you blessed, prosperous, healed, whole, friend, beautiful, and Daughter.  I call you my beloved Child”. I want them to see themselves as God and Jesus see them, and I want them to hear the Holy Spirit call them by their new names.  And I definitely want them to renounce the names the Accuser has been calling them.
     The other day, I listened to an inspiring podcast by Jennifer LeClaire, the news editor of Charisma Magazine. With a testimony of God’s power to turn ashes into beauty, she shares her amazing story with women who need to understand the love and grace of God in a lost and dying world. And from my own life, and the lives that these female veterans have experienced, I know that message can be life-saving. But I also found it most interesting that Ms. LeClaire states she has received revelations from the Lord that we Believers are about to enter a season where we will receive new names, new identities, and new assignments.  That is exactly what I want to speak over our retreat Seekers!
     You see, I believe when God reveals our new names to us through the healing power of Jesus, it is often to let us know we are destined for a new mission in life.  It lets us know we are part of a Divine Plan and that God intends to fulfill His plan through us.  The perfect example is the father of our faith… God changed Abram’s  name (“high father”) to Abraham, “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5); and his wife’s name from Sarai, “my princess,” to Sarah, “mother of nations” (Genesis 17:15–16).  Both name changes portray how God planned to use them.  Their names indicated their new identities and their new assignments as God began His plan to establish His Kingdom on earth.
     But what happens to people when they don’t know their identity in Christ?  When life’s experiences tell us we are a failure; or that others see us as someone to be used and discarded?  When our identity is defined by what others tell us about ourselves (including the devil), then the very foundation of our life can be shaky and unstable.  So think about the identities these female military veterans are carrying.  I’m sure I don’t have to spell out the challenges of women co-existing in a warrior atmosphere. What would it be like for them to have an identity formed knowing they are someone whom God loves deeply and fiercely? How would that change the way they think of themselves and live their lives? What if they could see themselves as Ephesians 1 describes them … “blessed with every spiritual blessing; holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight”. What if they could take off those identities that have them wearing — the “filthy rags” determined by what they’ve done, or had done to them, and put on a beautiful clean identity of having been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, grace-lavished, and unconditionally loved and accepted. Just think of what it would be like for them to see themselves as pure, blameless and forgiven!
     Then they would be free to walk in the new assignment, and receive the resources, the time, and the anointing (blessing, protection, and empowerment) to carry out their new mission.  Think of the excitement and expectation this would bring to their lives! But let’s not limit this new season to just my retreat Seekers. Are you ready for a name change? A new identity and a new assignment? Who among us would not be excited to think God looks at us as worthy of a new identity and deserving of a new calling to serve Him?
     So, while I am looking forward to telling you of the radical changes that will take place in the atmosphere of our retreat, and in the lives of our female veterans, I want to tell you that just like Jennifer LeClaire, I am discerning that God is about to give us all new and more powerful names as we accept our new identities and assignments in the rapidly approaching fulfillment of His Kingdom. I just can’t wait for each of us to receive that “white stone with a new name engraved on the stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17).  Some theologians explain that white stones were sometimes used as tickets of admission to public assemblies. Here the white stone may symbolize admission to the Messiah’s banquet. That, to me, is a picture of the Bride!  And that’s an identity and assignment that none of us will want to turn down!

Isaiah 62:2   “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give”.
   
   

An Invitation To Our Military Veterans

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     Although Veteran’s Day is still more than a week away, it is never too early to be focusing on honoring our nation’s Military veterans.  Also, I have a very unique opportunity this coming weekend to serve as Assistant Spiritual Director for a Christian retreat for retired female military veterans.  I will be serving as a part of a team under the auspices of an organization called Christian Warriors Retreat. And I want to call attention to the need for our military to accept an invitation from Jesus to lay their burdens down.
     CWR is the brainchild of Nick “Doc” Lowry, the son of a career Navy man and a Vietnam era Marine grandfather. Not surprisingly, Doc grew up with a passion for the military and became a Marine corpsman. He was deployed to Iraz in 2003, and to Fallujah in 2004 during Operation Phantom Fury.  Like many military veterans, Doc came home with a lack of trust and the inability to relate to civilian life, which resulted in bouts of alcoholism.  It cost him two marriages; he couldn’t keep a job, and his diagnosis of PTSD and TB (Traumatic Brain Disorder) left him feeling he had no hope.
     Long story short, Doc reunited with his best friend in high school, Nikki, who introduced him to Jesus, they married, and in 2008, he gave his life to Christ.  He has rededicated his life to helping other vets heal through a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s where the Christian Warriors Retreat comes in.
     Through the 4-day retreat experience and discipleship, CWR initiates and sustains three levels of success for veterans:  They will understand their value in Christ; they will heal and improve vital relationships; and most importantly, they will find God’s mission for which they were created.
     What an important mission for our veterans!  As the proud daughter of a WWII Navy veteran, my dad never discussed his experiences as a tailgunner over the Pacific.  But after having the honor of being on the Board of Directors of the Chris Kyle Memorial Foundation, and serving wounded warriors and their families at the Fisher Houses at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, I have seen the devastation to the flesh and spirits of our military veterans.

Doc Lowry

     Doc Lowry also knows firsthand the sacrifice made by his Veteran community.  And he is doing something about starting the healing process by working with Jesus.  But, the average civilian is unaware of some of the startling statistics that surround the veterans.  Let me share just a few of them with you:  Every 65 minutes, a military veteran commits suicide; 22 military veterans commit suicide every day; 31 of these suicides were veterans aged 49 and younger; Every month nearly 1,000 veterans attempt to take their own lives; That’s more than one attempt every half hour; About 7-8% of the population with have PTSD at some point in their lives; The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 10% — this is higher than the national rate of 7.3%; More than 2 million American children have coped with a parent going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; As many as one half million of those children may have become clinically depressed; The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed signs of substance abuse disorder; The divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Heard enough facts? Can you see the devil’s tactics of “steal, kill, and destroy”? War should not be the natural state of man, if we are made in God’s image.  So you can see where all this damage to our veterans is coming from, right?  They may have come home from some battlefield on earth, but there is a spiritual battle going on for their souls.  (I have written several articles on the spiritual war our veterans face, but this one seems particularly fitting considering my subject today).
     With Veteran’s Day in another week and a half, I just wanted to put a spotlight on this organization who is trying to help our veterans by focusing on the healing powers of Jesus in their lives.  What a breath of fresh air from government-sponsored programs that do nothing about healing the inner wounds of our servicemen and women.  Only Jesus can do that! And I am anxious to see the new movie, Thank You For Your Service, in which the director, Jason Hall, likens it to a “spiritual sequel to American Sniper”, saying, “[It’s about] the return home of the warrior — it’s about home coming. It’s about the return to self. And the warriors blessed with all the masculine gifts of heroism. And then the warrior has to turn inside. It’s finding a way back into the light and that’s what this movie is about”.  Of course, we and Doc Lowry know how imperative it is that our warriors find their way into the Light of Jesus.  Through His Light they will be restored to a new life in Him. 
     And I am excited about being a part of the very first Female Veterans Retreat.  I think that oftentimes they are overlooked and no one is seeing to their healing.  But I am blessed to be a part of an amazing group of women leaders who will be ministering to these female veterans as they are restored and renewed through our support, and the unconditional love of Jesus.  So, I ask for your prayers beginning tomorrow and through Sunday, when we will see the results of this retreat.  Our goal is to let them meet Jesus and receive His forgiveness, His love, and the cleansing power of His Blood.  They may be arriving as spiritually wounded female veterans, but they will be leaving as healed and renewed Daughters of the King! 
     Give me a couple of days after returning home on Sunday to process all that Jesus will have done in the lives of these remarkable women, and then I will write about the experience. Also, if you make any comments, I won’t be responding to them until Sunday night, but I will post them and give you my follow-up comments. I just want to leave you with this … The very thought of how Jesus will revive the spirits of these women, heal their broken hearts, and redeem their souls fills me with such joy and anticipation!  Praise Him, all who love Him!

This Veteran’s Day, let us renew our commitment to our veterans and pledge our efforts to begin a spiritual revival within their ranks.  Please check out www.christianwarriorsretreat and support this important effort to bring spiritual healing to the veterans of our nation. Consider sponsoring a veteran to attend the next retreat. Thank you!  
    
John 8:12    Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”       

Our Relationship With The Holy Spirit

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     I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject for quite awhile now; not only my own personal relationship, but the Church’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Personally, there has been this deep-down realization that something was missing. I prayed to God and Jesus; talked to them throughout the day; in and out of crisis situations.  I praised Them and tried my best to express my worship of Them in a manner that pleased Them and glorified Them.  And I remember the day that the Holy Spirit whispered, “What about me?”
     That began a journey to seek more of the Holy Spirit, including the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And I know that is a difficult conversation to have with many Christians, because so many denominations don’t teach that it is different than the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  But that is a discussion for another day — a necessary discussion, and I promise to come back to it in a future post.

     I just want to share the hunger that began to grow in me for that most personal of relationships; with the One who resides in my heart and communes with my spirit, and instructs me according to what the Father and the Son desire for and of me.  How could I have ignored Him and turned a deaf ear to Him for so long? And how many of my fellow Christians have done [or are doing] the same thing?
     Let me tell you what I think has been going on in the Western Church… This is just my opinion, mind you, but I would like to share what I have experienced and have seen in the Church.  For those in my close community who only know me as someone who appears to be “anti-Church”, and who has endured public battles with Church leadership, and who no longer attends services every Sunday like a good Christian should, I want you to know this:  For over 20 years, Mark and I were loyal members of a church; attending every Sunday (even driving 2 hours each way when we moved to a new home); members of a Sunday School class; and attending church functions, tithing, and serving when called upon.  In fact, we are still close with that Church “family”.
     But sometime around 2010, God began working on us.  We no longer felt “fed” by the messages we were receiving from the pulpit of our long-time church.  And, in fact, the questions that we had as we began to dig deeper for God’s message in His Word could not be answered by leadership, or in some cases, we were discouraged from even asking them.  It was as if our own relationship with our Creator had to match with church doctrine or we were in error.  In essence, “The Church” became God, and the pastor replaced the Holy Spirit in instructing us what was true and what was not.  We realized something was very wrong.
     If we wanted to explore any deeper truths, we had to make sure we kept the system happy, and keeping the system happy means you follow their rules.  But as we read our Bibles and the way Jesus instructed His disciples to do “greater works than even He did”, we were not supposed to be doing the same thing over and over [inside the building].  The system had become a machine that was stuck in one gear.
     We took to heart this admonition from Jesus in John 15:8 … My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples. Did you get that? It’s all about bearing fruit for the Father’s Kingdom on earth!  Getting a pat on the back from church leaders or the members of your Sunday School class is not enough! They’re not so impressed in Heaven with all the money or time you give to the church.  They don’t really care how well you preach or sing every Sunday.  But, if your money, time, and talent produces disciples who glorify God and who go out and make more disciples who glorify God … now, that’s something that will have all Heaven applauding!
     So, like many of you, when we realized that we weren’t meeting the criteria of a true disciple of Jesus, we knew we needed to make a change.  Do we go to a different church? Start a Home Church? Or do no church at all, and just go out and do what the early Disciples did?  We realized that we believe in the Holy Spirit, but we weren’t really letting Him do anything in our lives.  We had relegated Him to the sidelines as we tried to re-establish our tepid relationships with the Father and the Son.
     But here’s the danger in ignoring our relationship with the Holy Spirit… We are supposed to lead Spirit-led lives! And the only way to be led by the Spirit is to be filled with Him. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and [constantly] guided by Him.  When we are actually “filled” with the Holy Spirit, He becomes the controlling influence in every aspect of our life, and He leads us into the righteousness of Jesus and living a truly holy life.
     How many of us can say we have reached that venerated state?  How do you know if you are led by the Spirit?  By “the fruit” that is evident in your life, which Galatians 5:22-23 says are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I can tell you that by that standard, I need to keep asking for the Holy Spirit to fill me up!  And, please, do not perceive these particular verses in Scripture as some nice, warm and fuzzy words to make yourself feel good about being a Christian.  Jesus said it glorifies the Father when we bear this fruit, and the evidence of this fruit in our lives is what makes us a true Disciple!  It is not about our church attendance, or the success of our Home Church, or our head knowledge of Biblical concepts — if we are not bearing fruit by the actions of our faith and being led by the Holy Spirit, then none of the rest matters!  We are not glorifying our Father! We are just patting ourselves on the back and having no effect in this world.

I urge you to start conversing with the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him to circumcise your heart with Holy fire.  Ask Him to fill you up with His counsel and His wisdom.  Tell Him you want to bear more fruit from your relationship with Him. Tell Him you want Him to be in control of your life and you want Him to lead from now on. Lately, I have stopped asking God so much for direction, and have begun seeking the Holy Spirit’s advice and counsel. After all, He is Jesus’s replacement while we are here on earth, and just like the Holy Spirit did for Jesus, the man, He will instruct us in all the Father says to say and do. He is our direct line to the Kingdom of God in Heaven, so why would we not tune in to His every whisper?
     In summary, I want you to consider a revelation my wise husband received regarding the world’s relationship with our Creator… in the Old Testament, the world focused on God and ignored the Son. Now, as we live out the New Testament covenant, we seem to have embraced the Son, but are ignoring the Holy Spirit… and we are paying the consequences. We must recognize our need for all three, and embrace the fullness of the Godhead.  Don’t waste another day before asking for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
     And I can hear you now [because I had the same question] … How do I get the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  All I can tell you is to ask for Him … and keep on asking until you get what you earnestly desire.  I can’t tell you why some are filled to capacity with the Spirit almost immediately upon conversion, and why some spend years of asking until they are fully empowered by the Holy Spirit.
     I daresay that the lack of Holy Spirit power in our churches has resulted in an impotent body of saints.  I submit to you that through the centuries, “the Church” has not remained faithful to the sacred trust imparted to her at Pentecost. The Apostles and the new disciples walked in a measure of power that I do not see in this church Age.  We MUST begin to fan the fire of the Holy Spirit within us and keep it fueled with our obedience and desire to bear fruit for the Kingdom.  Let us not be content to be “lukewarm” any longer.  I want ALL that the Holy Spirit offers.  I give Him control of my spirit and my life. Holy Spirit, fill me up!

2 Corinthians 3:18    “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

     

Down, But Not Out

     Isn’t it funny how you can go from almost a supernatural high in your ministry one day, to feeling like you must have misheard God’s calling you to it?  And as difficult as it is for me to say that I have a “ministry” — because that sounds like such a religious term — the fact is that a ministry is the spiritual work or service of any Christian.  In fact, we should all have ministries if we call ourselves Christians; we should all be doing work for the Kingdom and serving the Lord.
     And when we know [that we know] that we know what we are called to, we experience the joy of seeing the fruit of our work, in both Believers and non-Believers.  But it is the Enemy’s job to kill, steal, or destroy that joy, and to instill the joy-robbers of disappointment, discouragement, and dissatisfaction.  All it takes is that one conversation or incident to quell your enthusiasm, and you begin to question if this is where God wants you.
     But you don’t have to have a ministry to run up against the three D’s.  You can be a teacher, an evangelist, or even a Christian seeking a reliable church to attend.  Eventually we all face frustration. And when we do, we need only look to the Apostle Paul and Jesus for our examples of how to deal with it.  First Paul … He wasn’t shy about writing of his discouragement.  Church leadership and other Christians disappointed him quite often with their lack of commitment, lack of support, and lack of visible results or fruit, especially considering all the time he had invested in them.
      I can tell you, personally, that I would much rather minister to an unchurched person than someone who considers themselves “faithful”.  With the unchurched, you can bypass the Christian “face” that is put on to show the world, and minister to the real and undisguised soul and spirit that will actually receive an honest evaluation and is eager to meet Jesus in the process.  In fact, I’ve been having some interesting discussions with a good friend who accepted direction through our ministry, and is now on fire to find a church that has the same passion as she does about doing Kingdom work and making disciples; sharing all that Jesus has done in her life.  But guess what?  Each church that she approaches seems to be hiding behind a well-crafted mission statement, that when examined and questioned, reveals entrapments of “religion”.  To say that my friend is disappointed, discouraged, and dissatisfied is heartbreakingly accurate.
     But none of this is new. Paul warned his protégé Timothy that ministry is hard and discouraging, but we are never to give up on the calling of the Lord.  As he says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear [cowardice, timidity] but of power and love and self-control.  In other words, in the face of discouragement or disappointment, we need to re-focus on God’s call on our lives.  We need to recognize that the Enemy would love to capitalize on our disappointment and shut our ministry down.   That’s when we square our shoulders, see our true identity as a royal priest, and shout into the spirit realm, I WILL NOT QUIT!
     I think it is so important for those who are called to unique ministries outside the church walls to make a commitment to Christ. We must declare that we are taking the “I’m done” option off the table, and that even when we get discouraged, are tired, or scared, and even uncertain about what the next step is, that we will just move forward out of obedience, and if need be, walk out our calling tired, scared and uncertain. That’s the kind of commitment that Paul exhibited in 2 Timothy 1:11-12: “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the One in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that He is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
     And speaking of those uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with being discouraged, Jesus offers us the perfect remedy.  When He was tempted in the wilderness, before His ministry even began, He countered the temptations (which were actually demonic attacks) with the Word.  I always urge those to whom I minister to recognize the lies they are hearing in their heads whenever discouragement or disappointment threatens to halt their spiritual maturity and/or progress.  I tell them to speak out loud, “I reject the lie __________, and I declare the truth of the Word which says ______________ (usually the opposite of whatever the lie is)”.  For instance, “I reject the lie that I am worthless and will never amount to anything, and I declare the truth of my Father’s Word which says I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and I am  precious in His eyes, and honored, and loved”.
     Sometimes the stress and demands of our ministries can become overwhelming.  It is in those seasons, that we must remember to approach our ministry the same way Jesus did His … one day at a time, one breath at a time.  Jesus rested in the knowledge that His Father would give Him strength and guidance for each challenge confronting Him. We must rest in that knowledge, too.
     So, if like me, you have the occasional failure in ministry, or your agenda is not met, or your hopes and plans come crashing down, take on the mindset of Jesus.  He knew He was always working out of God’s eternal purpose, and that there was not enough power in hell to thwart God’s master plan.  If you are walking in an anointed calling, then take those times in stride.  It is just a bump in the road.
     And we must never forget the power of prayer and alone time with God.  Even Jesus removed Himself from the crowds when the pressure became too much or He needed time to hear His Father above all the noise.  It’s okay to retire from the scene for a moment or two to get back into balance to complete the work God has entrusted to us.  Nothing is more important than that.
     Finally, on those days or in those seasons, when it seems as if our ministry is bearing no fruit, or we don’t even recognize those we have been discipling, then we must remember God’s faithfulness. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Your ministry might look messy today, or on the verge of collapse, but you can be confident that God will have the final say.  We can entrust our ministry to Him for safekeeping because He is the one who called it into being.  We just have to walk it out until the end and never look back and never give up.
     I decided to write this post to encourage you if you are feeling defeated or discouraged. I know how it feels, and it’s a fiery dart of the Enemy to get you to step down from your calling.  But don’t you do it! It may feel like you have lost a battle or two, but you haven’t lost the war.  And that war has already been won.  You are on the winning side, and you still have much fruit to bring into the harvest.  Lift your head high!  You are an ambassador of the King of the Universe and you have an important assignment to carry out.  You may be down, but you are never out when your King fights by your side. And now get ready for the increase in your ministry and harvest!

1 Corinthians 15:58    “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain”.  


   

     

Down, But Not Out

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     Isn’t it funny how you can go from almost a supernatural high in your ministry one day, to feeling like you must have misheard God’s calling you to it?  And as difficult as it is for me to say that I have a “ministry” — because that sounds like such a religious term — the fact is that a ministry is the spiritual work or service of any Christian.  In fact, we should all have ministries if we call ourselves Christians; we should all be doing work for the Kingdom and serving the Lord.
     And when we know [that we know] that we know what we are called to, we experience the joy of seeing the fruit of our work, in both Believers and non-Believers.  But it is the Enemy’s job to kill, steal, or destroy that joy, and to instill the joy-robbers of disappointment, discouragement, and dissatisfaction.  All it takes is that one conversation or incident to quell your enthusiasm, and you begin to question if this is where God wants you.
     But you don’t have to have a ministry to run up against the three D’s.  You can be a teacher, an evangelist, or even a Christian seeking a reliable church to attend.  Eventually we all face frustration. And when we do, we need only look to the Apostle Paul and Jesus for our examples of how to deal with it.  First Paul … He wasn’t shy about writing of his discouragement.  Church leadership and other Christians disappointed him quite often with their lack of commitment, lack of support, and lack of visible results or fruit, especially considering all the time he had invested in them.
      I can tell you, personally, that I would much rather minister to an unchurched person than someone who considers themselves “faithful”.  With the unchurched, you can bypass the Christian “face” that is put on to show the world, and minister to the real and undisguised soul and spirit that will actually receive an honest evaluation and is eager to meet Jesus in the process.  In fact, I’ve been having some interesting discussions with a good friend who accepted direction through our ministry, and is now on fire to find a church that has the same passion as she does about doing Kingdom work and making disciples; sharing all that Jesus has done in her life.  But guess what?  Each church that she approaches seems to be hiding behind a well-crafted mission statement, that when examined and questioned, reveals entrapments of “religion”.  To say that my friend is disappointed, discouraged, and dissatisfied is heartbreakingly accurate.
     But none of this is new. Paul warned his protégé Timothy that ministry is hard and discouraging, but we are never to give up on the calling of the Lord.  As he says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear [cowardice, timidity] but of power and love and self-control.  In other words, in the face of discouragement or disappointment, we need to re-focus on God’s call on our lives.  We need to recognize that the Enemy would love to capitalize on our disappointment and shut our ministry down.   That’s when we square our shoulders, see our true identity as a royal priest, and shout into the spirit realm, I WILL NOT QUIT!
     I think it is so important for those who are called to unique ministries outside the church walls to make a commitment to Christ. We must declare that we are taking the “I’m done” option off the table, and that even when we get discouraged, are tired, or scared, and even uncertain about what the next step is, that we will just move forward out of obedience, and if need be, walk out our calling tired, scared and uncertain. That’s the kind of commitment that Paul exhibited in 2 Timothy 1:11-12: “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the One in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that He is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
     And speaking of those uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with being discouraged, Jesus offers us the perfect remedy.  When He was tempted in the wilderness, before His ministry even began, He countered the temptations (which were actually demonic attacks) with the Word.  I always urge those to whom I minister to recognize the lies they are hearing in their heads whenever discouragement or disappointment threatens to halt their spiritual maturity and/or progress.  I tell them to speak out loud, “I reject the lie __________, and I declare the truth of the Word which says ______________ (usually the opposite of whatever the lie is)”.  For instance, “I reject the lie that I am worthless and will never amount to anything, and I declare the truth of my Father’s Word which says I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and I am  precious in His eyes, and honored, and loved”.
     Sometimes the stress and demands of our ministries can become overwhelming.  It is in those seasons, that we must remember to approach our ministry the same way Jesus did His … one day at a time, one breath at a time.  Jesus rested in the knowledge that His Father would give Him strength and guidance for each challenge confronting Him. We must rest in that knowledge, too.
     So, if like me, you have the occasional failure in ministry, or your agenda is not met, or your hopes and plans come crashing down, take on the mindset of Jesus.  He knew He was always working out of God’s eternal purpose, and that there was not enough power in hell to thwart God’s master plan.  If you are walking in an anointed calling, then take those times in stride.  It is just a bump in the road.
     And we must never forget the power of prayer and alone time with God.  Even Jesus removed Himself from the crowds when the pressure became too much or He needed time to hear His Father above all the noise.  It’s okay to retire from the scene for a moment or two to get back into balance to complete the work God has entrusted to us.  Nothing is more important than that.
     Finally, on those days or in those seasons, when it seems as if our ministry is bearing no fruit, or we don’t even recognize those we have been discipling, then we must remember God’s faithfulness. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Your ministry might look messy today, or on the verge of collapse, but you can be confident that God will have the final say.  We can entrust our ministry to Him for safekeeping because He is the one who called it into being.  We just have to walk it out until the end and never look back and never give up.
     I decided to write this post to encourage you if you are feeling defeated or discouraged. I know how it feels, and it’s a fiery dart of the Enemy to get you to step down from your calling.  But don’t you do it! It may feel like you have lost a battle or two, but you haven’t lost the war.  And that war has already been won.  You are on the winning side, and you still have much fruit to bring into the harvest.  Lift your head high!  You are an ambassador of the King of the Universe and you have an important assignment to carry out.  You may be down, but you are never out when your King fights by your side. And now get ready for the increase in your ministry and harvest!

1 Corinthians 15:58    “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain”.  


   

     

Immanuel: “God With Us”

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     This weekend Mark and I hosted a mini-conference in which Barbara Bucklin, of Luke 4:18 Ministries, came to speak to a small group of about 30 Christians.  Her focus in the morning session was to educate them regarding Freemasonry and its nefariousness, with all the connotations that word evokes: wicked, evil, sinful, iniquitous, egregious, heinous, atrocious, vile, foul, abominable, odious, depraved, monstrous, fiendish, diabolical, unspeakable, despicable; villainous.  But that is not the focus of this blog post today. (If you disagree or wonder what all the fuss is about over Freemasonry, I urge you to click on these links and read my extensive posts on the subject, here, here, and here).
     But today, I actually want to focus on what the afternoon session of our conference was about.  First, I need to tell you that this congregation of 30 souls covered a wide spectrum of Believers.  Many are struggling to come to terms with their faith because their theology is being rocked by the precepts we have introduced.  These include the Gospel of the Kingdom vs. the Gospel of Salvation; introspection of their religious “sacred cows” and Church doctrine; following man-made traditions and rituals vs. following God’s commandments in the Bible; and just what the Great Commission is really commanding us to do.
     Others in this group are cautiously dipping their toe in the water to see how the concepts of Deliverance, Spiritual Warfare, and True Discipleship will affect them in the natural realm.  And still others have whole-heartedly accepted Jesus’s invitation to partner with Him and the Holy Spirit in taking back territory from the Enemy and setting the captives free.  But ALL of them were about to get a glimpse of Immanuel!
     I’m sure everyone reading this blog is familiar with the story in Matthew where the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph by an angel who told him that a son would be born who would be called Immanuel – God with us.  That is the only place I am aware of in the New Testament that “Immanuel” is mentioned.  And while, we Christians in the Western World think Matthew 1:23 is announcing Jesus’s name, the purpose of this Scripture is to actually show us that the Lord has been gracious and faithful to send the sign that the prophet Isaiah had foretold in the Old Testament.

     If you will recall in Isaiah, Chapter 7, the ruler of Judah, King Ahaz, was facing a formidable battle against the king of Aram (Syria) and the king of Israel, who had become evil allies in their attempt to capture Jerusalem and defeat Judah. The Lord instructs Isaiah to deliver a message to King Ahaz: “Take care and be calm, do not fear and be weak-hearted because their threats will not stand nor shall it happen …  [But], if you will not believe [and trust in God and His message], be assured that you will not be established.”
     Then the Lord speaks to King Ahaz and tells him to ask for any sign he wants; “[one that will convince you that God has spoken and will keep His word]; make your request as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven”.  But King Ahaz is afraid to ask, and fears testing the Lord.  So, Isaiah, the prophet, steps in and scolds Ahaz for trying his patience, as well as the patience of God. So God has Isaiah relate the sign that He, Himself, will give … that His promise to deliver His people can be relied upon; that He will be faithful to deliver Judah out of the hands of the enemy, and the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us). 
     The first thing we need to see is that Immanuel is not merely a name for the baby, Jesus, but is the fulfillment of what God has promised through His prophets … not only that He will deliver us from the Enemy, but that He will be with us [forever].  And in the literal sense, God certainly was with us on the earth, in the human man, Jesus.  He now remains with us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus’s representative.
     What does this have to do with our conference this past weekend?  I saw this varied body of Believers come into the realization that God can truly be with them!  I think our Western minds and culture have nearly erased our ability to fully comprehend this reality in our spirits.  But here is how these Believers were able to connect to the Truth of Immanuel … Barb led them in an exercise that I am going to share with you.  I want you to grab a sheet of paper and a pen and just get off to a quiet place by yourselves and partake in the presence of the Lord.  Let’s get started.
     The goal of this exercise is to start developing a communication with God; one where you speak to Him and you hear His voice; one where you experience the reality of Immanuel (God is with you).
     Step One:  Gratitude.  Write about something for which you are grateful.  You might start by writing, Dear God, I am grateful for …. Now, sit for a moment and tune in to your spirit, and listen for God’s response to your gratitude.  Hear what He has to say about what you’re grateful for. Write it down.
     Step Two:  He can see me.  Write from God’s perspective — what is He telling you about what He observes in you right now?  It might be the physical sensations He sees you feeling, or where you are located.  Example:  I see you curled up on the couch, pen in hand, and your shoulders are tense.
     Step Three:  He hears me.  Write what God is telling you He hears you saying to yourself.  Example: You are worried that you won’t hear from Him, or that you’re struggling to hear Him over the noise of all the things you have buzzing around in your head, OR, it could be that you want more of Him and the Holy Spirit.
     Step Four: He understands how big this is for me.  How does God see your dreams, your blessings, the troubles in your life? Write what He is telling you about those events, and your efforts to communicate with Him in all areas of your life.  Example:  [God speaking] I want you to know that I care about what matters to you and what you are facing in life.  I understand why this exercise might be difficult or intimidating to you, but your desire to honor Me brings Me great pleasure… OR, I know this situation [whatever it might be] is feeling overwhelming and all-consuming, as if you are about to sink, but I know what you desire, and it is My desire to give it to you.  Sit quietly for a moment, and listen to what He is telling you about your life circumstances and write it down.
     Step Five:  He is glad to be with me and treat my weaknesses tenderly.  Listen for God’s voice and write down what He is telling you about His desires to participate in your life; how He wants to be a part of every area of your life. Example:  I delight in seeing your growth, and I will lovingly correct the areas that need work, so that you come into full relationship with me.
     Step Six:  He can do something about what I’m going through.  Listen for God to tell you how He will help you navigate the situations you are facing.  Example: I will strengthen you in those times you feel week. Just turn to me for rest and refreshing, OR, I give you My peace of knowing you are growing into My image.  I give you patience to enjoy (find joy) in the process.

     The whole point of this exercise is to learn to interact with Immanuel (God with us) in a way that you are in His presence constantly.  This exercise is a meaningful way to renew our minds and hearts to hear the voice of God during the painful experiences of this life.  When we can appreciate God’s presence [and hear His voice] in the moments we focus on what we’re grateful for, we can then learn to hear His voice in those painful circumstances, and learn not to be stuck in the negativeness of our own voice. We can learn to stay seated at the top of the hill, [in His presence], and not at the bottom of the hill, [in our own head].
     By experiencing Immanuel, we can learn to ask questions of God and actually hear His solutions!  If there are painful memories that need cleansed and purged, the presence of God/Jesus will take the lead and clear a path for you to make the decisions and choices you need to make, or actions you need to take.  The important thing is to learn to interact with God and seek His voice.
     I will tell you that I saw breakthroughs among those 30 precious people who stepped outside of their comfort zones to attend this conference.  Yes, there were those who totally disengaged and shut down, not even attempting to allow God to be with them.  But there were those who were willing to seek Him and experience His presence.  They heard His voice, perhaps for the first time, and it was not unlike this precious deaf baby hearing her mother’s voice for the first time. Watch the emotion on her face when she hears those words we all long to hear from the Father, “I love you”.
     The conference attendees left that meeting place at the end of the day; some with tears, some with smiles on their faces, and some with a lighter step than when they entered. Seeds were planted that I know the Holy Spirit will water! God was with us, and Immanuel is what He wants to experience with you, too.  It is the intimacy that all mankind desires. Just take that first step, and He will answer. Both He and I promise you that!

Zephaniah 3:17    “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”
   
   

The Doctrine of Christ

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     Yesterday, I walked in on a theological discussion between my husband and our neighbor’s son. First of all, I just love that this young man is as interested in Scripture and figuring out how to live holy lives according to it, as much as we older adults are.  And anytime I’m invited to participate in a conversation about the Bible, you’ll never see me turning it down.
     The discussion they were having centered on Hebrews 6:1-3, and it is, I believe, a much over-looked passage.  Yet it is vital to a Christian’s life, and I daresay, most of our churches don’t teach of its significance and the part it plays in a Believer’s growth and maturity.  So, let’s dive right in, shall we?  Scripture says, “Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ, the Messiah, advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belongs to spiritual maturity.  Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works, and of the faith [by which you turned to God, with teachings about purifying [washings], the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment. [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware long, long ago. If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advanced teaching]”.
     I want to stop there, and avoid the oft-disputed verses that follow and have become a breeding ground for theological conflict between Calvinists and Arminians as to whether one can lose their salvation. So, I want to stay focused on the importance of these three beginning verses.
    First of all, were you even aware that Christ had a “doctrine”? And did you know the substance of it?  The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that there is such a doctrine, and practicing it is the elementary stage of our salvation process. Secondly, did you notice the six precepts of Christ’s doctrine?  They are 1) repentance from dead works;  2) faith in God;  3) the purification by washing;  4) the laying on of hands;  5) resurrection from the dead; and 6) eternal judgment and punishment.
     Before we examine each of these and see if we, as the Western Church, understand them fully and have accomplished them, perhaps we need to take a look at what the purpose of a doctrine actually is.  It is my understanding that a doctrine is to set forth a body of teachings according to a specific plan or system.  In this case, Christ has declared that these six precepts are the foundation of reaching a goal of spiritual maturity in Him. Not only are they the introductory stage of our salvation process, but they are to be accomplished in this order before we can go on to “advanced teaching”.
     Have you ever had this explained to you in your Church? I certainly never did, but as I have stepped outside the “box” and let the Holy Spirit lead me, I am seeing these elements of Christ’s doctrine in new and stronger terms.  They are no longer the watered down versions that 2,000 years of man’s manipulative interpretation has wrought!  And I will tell you, that I am humbled by my lack of understanding and I will never again regard them in anything less than the holy reverence they deserve.
     Why has this new discovery [for me, at least] moved me so much?  It is because I now see the power of God in each of these doctrinal precepts that Jesus laid down as our foundation.  They are more than rituals to be marked off our Christian checklist.  They are life to a new Believer and should propel us to greater heights in our Christian walk.  And here is why … true repentance should bring us to our knees, weeping for the offences we have rendered against our holy God.  When we realize how easily we commit the works of our flesh that bring us spiritual death, just saying “I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again” is not enough.  When we can see that, without true repentance, Anger can lead us to Unforgiveness, and Bitterness easily turns to Rage, we see how easily a shallow repentance keeps us in bondage to those spirits that separate us from a holy and righteous life. That’s what Jesus has called us to.  It’s unacceptable to God that we simply “try” to live a righteous life, thinking that He knows we’re human and He expects us to slip up now and then.  No!  A real, life-changing repentance is required to take the next step.
     If you can accomplish a soul-searching, heart-searing repentance, then you can fully appreciate faith in God. You know what it is to trust Him — truly trust Him! — because you know it is only by His power that you can turn away from that sin you just repented for.  You can believe in His promises, and can count on His faithfulness to you.  To live the life that Christ has called us to, it is necessary to have faith in God.  If we claim we trust Him and His power to render us born again, yet continue to sin, then we are being hypocritical, because God is holy.  And if we try to turn away from sin on our own, without trusting Him, then we either fail or become puffed up in pride.  Real faith is an essential part of the foundation of our spiritual journey.
     The concept of “purification by washing” encompasses several things, and it is by the power of God that they are all accomplished.  First, we understand that baptismal immersion is the initial purification, or cleansing, when one comes to faith.  We are washed of our sins; dying to self and rising to Christ, receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Then with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we receive the power to carry out the Great Commission — healing, casting out demons, raising the dead. But we are also cleansed “with the washing of water by the Word.” The Word of God contains power to cleanse our minds and our hearts.  And working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, the Word cleanses us with a purifying fire that results in a new nature, ready to grow in spiritual maturity.
     The laying on of hands exemplifies both the power of God to heal through us and our touch, and the power He gives to those who have been prayed for and elected to serve Him in the administration of His Kingdom.  And one cannot consider the resurrection of the dead without seeing the power of God in that act.  A Believer’s life becomes pointless without that reality.  If there is no resurrection, then there is no point in living an obedient life.  And the very power that raises one from the dead lives in us, and gives us the ability to defeat the Enemy.  Finally, the resurrection shows us that God is just, and there is an eternal reward for living a righteous and holy life; and there is eternal punishment for rejecting the life God offers.
     In the end, it is the power of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes all of these fundamental principles possible.  And the writer of Hebrews says that these are the “elementary” stages in the teachings of Christ’s doctrines.  In other words, they are the basic, introductory steps in pursing the process of salvation.  He says let us not have to continually return to this “milk” that all Believer’s should have consumed by now.  It’s time to move on to the “advanced” phases of Christ’s doctrine, which would be His high priesthood and His sacrifice.
     Believer’s should understand the power of God in His Kingdom on earth and be approaching the completeness and perfection of walking in the image of Christ.  But how many Christians today truly understand those elementary steps?  How many understand the display of God’s power in repentance? In baptism? How His power can manifest through our faith? Or that He wants to see His power displayed in us raising the dead? And how many truly understand the power that will be evident in His wrath on Judgment Day? These might have been basic steps for Baby Christians in the days of the writer of Hebrews, but I’m afraid we might not past the writer’s test today.  When it comes to the state of our spiritual maturity, I’m afraid we’re a long way off from complete and perfect.

Ephesians 1:19    “and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength”  

Knowing God

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     I have often expressed that I want to hear your experiences and journeys with God.  So, I was delighted when I was asked to consider posting the following thoughts of one of my readers. Like many of us, her relationship with God has been a complicated one, and I’m not sure any of us ever get it right until the moment we are face-to-face with Jesus.  But I love to hear the things God is teaching you — your new perspectives on old precepts.  By sharing our journeys, we may impart a new jewel of knowledge, or reinforce a word from God that we have let slip away.  So, take a moment, and read this reader’s story, and see if you can identify.       
   

     I recently received a revelation while reading 1st Chronicles, Chapter 28. It is where King David is passing his Kingdom on to his son, Solomon. The passage starts out telling us that King David had gathered, in Jerusalem, “all the officials of Israel, the officials of the tribes, the officers of the divisions that served the king, the commanders of thousands, the commanders of hundreds, the stewards of all the property and livestock of the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty men and all the seasoned warriors”.  Obviously, this is going to be a very big event! Everyone who was somebody had gathered, along with all the people. and I am sure King David had prayed about the speech he would give for a long time.
     He had to know it would be important to Solomon, as the soon-to-be King, as well as all the people who were present. The first thing King David says in his speech to Solomon is “know God”. Until recently, I had never realized how important those two words were. That is what King David deemed most important for Solomon to do, and the same advice applies to us, as it does to Solomon.
     Notice the words weren’t “know about God”. I know many of us have been brought up knowing the Bible stories and having an idea of what God is about, but at what point do we begin to actually KNOW God?
     King David goes on to say “If you seek Him, He will be found by you”. This implies that it will take work on our part to actually get to know God. I guess like anything else some may find Him quite easily, but for me it was somewhat of a process. I had to learn to talk to Him in ways that I find uncomfortable when talking to people. It took some persistence and lots of knocking [for that door to be opened] and to find a real relationship with my Father. Now, after lots of work, there are days when He and I are completely in sync. We have a constant banter, if you will, running throughout the day. He gives me instructions and I follow them even when I think He’s crazy.
     I am starting to learn that if I follow His instructions I will be okay. Sometimes I hesitate to step out to do what He is guiding me to do, and His voice in my head gets a little louder and more stern, so then I listen and do whatever I’m supposed to do. He has not failed me yet! I also still have days where I feel so very far from His presence. I know that has nothing to do with Him and everything to do with me. I can see Him saddened when I put distance in our relationship, and I know it is something I need to work on.
    Any relationship takes work, but this one is the most worthy of your time. It took me longer than it should have to get to know God, but the important thing is that He was waiting there for me the moment I surrendered to Him. Take the advice of King David … when you know God, you can’t help but serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind. And that results in a relationship beyond all earthly treasure!

     Did you see yourself in this testimony?  I will agree that actually KNOWING God is one of the most difficult tasks in a Christian’s life.  But it starts with doing what she did … keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking … and God will respond to your persistence.  Secondly, did you notice the over-riding theme of her story?  Did you see that it took persistence AND obedience until that door was finally opened and she experienced the intimacy with the Father that all of us [and He] desire? 
     But also notice that there are days when He feels far away from her.  I know that happens to all of us, too.  It certainly is part of my journey. But she rightly lays the blame at her own feet, and knows she still has work to do to tear down those walls of aloofness that keep distance between her and the One who loves her like no other.
     Her final admonition is right on target — it takes work!  And we do well to remember King David’s final words to his son in Chapter 28 … “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished”.  YOU are the unfinished work!  YOU have been designed to serve the house of the Lord, and He will not quit on you until the day Jesus Christ returns!  So, rejoice in this relationship and work at it like your life depends on it … because it does!

Philippians 1:6      “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]”.

Can You Identify?

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     If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, then you understand the journey the Lord has taken me on. You have seen the new seasons and paths to which He has directed me and Mark, and I’ve tried to be as honest as I could about my questions, as well as my convictions.  As you know, we are entering a new season of learning what it means to be a True Disciple of Christ and to be a member of what I will term, “the True Church”.
     What has been perhaps the most surprising part of this journey is just how simple [to understand] Jesus’s commandments to us, yet how difficult they are to carry out because we’ve never been encouraged to do them … Throughout my church experience I heard references to “the Great Commission”, but never once was it elaborated on, beyond the message to “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor”. And that’s not even what Jesus categorized as His Commission!  Until you read, word for word, His precise explanation [in Mark 16 and Matthew 28], I doubt you will even know what we are called to do.  And I imagine if you have watched the movie I recommended, The Last Reformation, then your world has been rocked.

     I know I have been enthusiastic in urging you to understand His missive … to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, baptize in His Name, and spread the Gospel of the Kingdom … but how many of you are thinking, right now, “I could never do that!  That is for people who are far more spiritually experienced and knowledgeable than me? The Lord may have called Mark and Pam to do this work, but I am not equipped to represent Him in this exalted way!”
     Well, I’m here to tell you that I am no different than you!  And guess what?  Neither were the Twelve Apostles!  Jesus called ordinary men to follow Him to show us that it is possible for all of us!  And if you have made the mistake of elevating Peter, John, Matthew, James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Simon, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Philip, Thomas, and Judas Iscariot as extraordinary, exceptional men at the time they were called to follow Jesus, then I assure you that they only became extraordinary when they were baptized by the Holy Spirit [into the power of God] to carry out the Great Commission.  And if you are having a hard time accepting their “ordinariness”, then I will let Jesus prove it.
     As I am slowly progressing through the Bible [again], I saw something that I had skimmed over the other times I read it, but which now leaped out at me.  Shortly after the Passover meal in which Jesus announces that “one of you shall betray me”, He proceeds to tell the Disciples that He will only be with them a little while longer (John 13:33) …  Little children, I am with you [only] a little longer. You will look for Me and, as I told the Jewish religious leaders, so I tell you now, ‘Where I am going, you are not able to come.’
     So, I want you to notice how He addresses the disciples … the same men who have been with Him for three-and-a-half years; who have watched Him do the miracles; and who have sat at His feet receiving the teachings that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; who have heard Him say that He only does what the Father tells Him to do, or what He sees the Father doing.  He calls them Little children! 
     I am going to borrow from a sermon I heard Bill Johnson give once … although the Twelve had been with Him for several years and seen His works, they still did not understand!  We don’t read about very many successes they had in imitating Him, and He gets frustrated with them at times, calling them an “unbelieving and perverse generation” (Luke 9:41), and calls out their lack of faith, asking, them, “Why can’t you understand?” (Matthew 7:7-11). So, the whole time they were with Him, they didn’t really get it!
     Here’s what I see in that verse:  By calling them “Little Children”, Jesus is telling us that they are just infants in their faith, Baby Christians, if you will.  They have yet to grow into a spiritually mature believer who is advanced enough to represent the Kingdom of God.  But He offered them His grace, and He knew they would grow through obedience.  Did He decide they were unworthy to carry forth His message and works, and then dismiss them?  No!  He opened their minds to understand Scripture and told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them with power, and then they would be able to carry His Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

     Why didn’t He open their minds to understand Scripture at the beginning of the three-and-a-half years?  Wouldn’t the journey have been easier for them all? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but perhaps God knew that if they didn’t walk out that training, they probably would have credited themselves for the work they did do.  Plus, if they had been given to understand all of Scripture at the beginning, there would have been no growth and maturity in their walk. I think we can all agree that with experience and maturity, comes wisdom and the ability to persevere.  Jesus knew they would be tested and would need to remember the lessons He taught them along the way. So He took them on a three-and-a-half year apprenticeship, knowing they needed training and guidance.
     So, I submit to you, that you are no different than those twelve ordinary men who made a decision to follow Jesus. They had moments of doubt and fear. They made mistakes. There were many times they didn’t understand what God was doing in their lives; and I’m sure there were days they wondered if they were doing His will or fulfilling their purpose. They didn’t suddenly and miraculously become Pillars of the Faith.  But they knew Jesus offered something they couldn’t live without. And so they trusted Him in their lives, remaining obedient to their calling.
     I will agree that it is more difficult for us because they could touch Him and hear His voice, and actually watch Him do what He calls us to; and we are separated by a distance of over 2,000 years and a couple of heavens.  But the calling is the same… His is the Way to follow [with all that He did]; He is the Truth that overcomes the Enemy’s lies about who we are; He offers a Life that transcends these earthly bonds; and He is the Light that shatters the darkness that threatens to overcome us.  And He has shown us that He wants to use ordinary men and women — fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers — to reveal the power of God’s goodness over the evil of the prince of this world.  He has shown us that ordinary people can defeat Satan by healing the sick, and casting out his henchmen, the demons, and taking back territory among the souls of men. He has shown us that the Power and the Love of Heaven can invade this earth, and it can come through us!
     All you have to do is be willing to say, “Yes, Lord!” And I will tell you, it is absolutely a journey; and for some it may take longer than the three-and-a-half years it took the Twelve, but just as with them, Jesus will be with you every step of the way — teaching you, correcting you, encouraging you, and bestowing His Power and Authority, that you might become a conqueror, just as He was.
     So, never think that you don’t match the qualifications of those early saints.  Each of us, on acceptance of Him as our Savior, have the opportunity to receive the power and authority from Heaven, and to do the works Jesus and His Apostles did. I will tell you that there was something inside me that responded to the first time I realized what the Great Commission really was. And the first time I listened to the experiences of others who were being obedient to this calling on all of us, I never looked back. The Holy Spirit communed with my spirit and I knew it was right! So, I urge you to trust Him and just be ready to obey. He will answer your willingness with His Love, give you His Authority and Power, and you can walk in the shoes of a Son or Daughter of the Most High God.  Just take that first step of your journey … tell Him your heart longs to walk in His footsteps, and that you want to learn how to be a true Disciple. Then watch your identity change as you enter into one of the most glorious seasons of your life on this earth!
     Jesus, Himself, says, By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  What better way to love another than to set them free of sickness and demonic oppression, and then share the Gospel of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, baptizing them in Jesus’s Name and setting them free from their sin?  After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and taught His first disciple to do, isn’t it? And the Bible tells us that whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

2 Peter 3:18    But grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Can You Identify?

     If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, then you understand the journey the Lord has taken me on. You have seen the new seasons and paths to which He has directed me and Mark, and I’ve tried to be as honest as I could about my questions, as well as my convictions.  As you know, we are entering a new season of learning what it means to be a True Disciple of Christ and to be a member of what I will term, “the True Church”.
     What has been perhaps the most surprising part of this journey is just how simple [to understand] Jesus’s commandments to us, yet how difficult they are to carry out because we’ve never been encouraged to do them … Throughout my church experience I heard references to “the Great Commission”, but never once was it elaborated on, beyond the message to “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor”. And that’s not even what Jesus categorized as His Commission!  Until you read, word for word, His precise explanation [in Mark 16 and Matthew 28], I doubt you will even know what we are called to do.  And I imagine if you have watched the movie I recommended, The Last Reformation, then your world has been rocked.

     I know I have been enthusiastic in urging you to understand His missive … to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, baptize in His Name, and spread the Gospel of the Kingdom … but how many of you are thinking, right now, “I could never do that!  That is for people who are far more spiritually experienced and knowledgeable than me? The Lord may have called Mark and Pam to do this work, but I am not equipped to represent Him in this exalted way!”
     Well, I’m here to tell you that I am no different than you!  And guess what?  Neither were the Twelve Apostles!  Jesus called ordinary men to follow Him to show us that it is possible for all of us!  And if you have made the mistake of elevating Peter, John, Matthew, James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Simon, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Philip, Thomas, and Judas Iscariot as extraordinary, exceptional men at the time they were called to follow Jesus, then I assure you that they only became extraordinary when they were baptized by the Holy Spirit [into the power of God] to carry out the Great Commission.  And if you are having a hard time accepting their “ordinariness”, then I will let Jesus prove it.
     As I am slowly progressing through the Bible [again], I saw something that I had skimmed over the other times I read it, but which now leaped out at me.  Shortly after the Passover meal in which Jesus announces that “one of you shall betray me”, He proceeds to tell the Disciples that He will only be with them a little while longer (John 13:33) …  Little children, I am with you [only] a little longer. You will look for Me and, as I told the Jewish religious leaders, so I tell you now, ‘Where I am going, you are not able to come.’
     So, I want you to notice how He addresses the disciples … the same men who have been with Him for three-and-a-half years; who have watched Him do the miracles; and who have sat at His feet receiving the teachings that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; who have heard Him say that He only does what the Father tells Him to do, or what He sees the Father doing.  He calls them Little children! 
     I am going to borrow from a sermon I heard Bill Johnson give once … although the Twelve had been with Him for several years and seen His works, they still did not understand!  We don’t read about very many successes they had in imitating Him, and He gets frustrated with them at times, calling them an “unbelieving and perverse generation” (Luke 9:41), and calls out their lack of faith, asking, them, “Why can’t you understand?” (Matthew 7:7-11). So, the whole time they were with Him, they didn’t really get it!
     Here’s what I see in that verse:  By calling them “Little Children”, Jesus is telling us that they are just infants in their faith, Baby Christians, if you will.  They have yet to grow into a spiritually mature believer who is advanced enough to represent the Kingdom of God.  But He offered them His grace, and He knew they would grow through obedience.  Did He decide they were unworthy to carry forth His message and works, and then dismiss them?  No!  He opened their minds to understand Scripture and told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them with power, and then they would be able to carry His Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

     Why didn’t He open their minds to understand Scripture at the beginning of the three-and-a-half years?  Wouldn’t the journey have been easier for them all? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but perhaps God knew that if they didn’t walk out that training, they probably would have credited themselves for the work they did do.  Plus, if they had been given to understand all of Scripture at the beginning, there would have been no growth and maturity in their walk. I think we can all agree that with experience and maturity, comes wisdom and the ability to persevere.  Jesus knew they would be tested and would need to remember the lessons He taught them along the way. So He took them on a three-and-a-half year apprenticeship, knowing they needed training and guidance.
     So, I submit to you, that you are no different than those twelve ordinary men who made a decision to follow Jesus. They had moments of doubt and fear. They made mistakes. There were many times they didn’t understand what God was doing in their lives; and I’m sure there were days they wondered if they were doing His will or fulfilling their purpose. They didn’t suddenly and miraculously become Pillars of the Faith.  But they knew Jesus offered something they couldn’t live without. And so they trusted Him in their lives, remaining obedient to their calling.
     I will agree that it is more difficult for us because they could touch Him and hear His voice, and actually watch Him do what He calls us to; and we are separated by a distance of over 2,000 years and a couple of heavens.  But the calling is the same… His is the Way to follow [with all that He did]; He is the Truth that overcomes the Enemy’s lies about who we are; He offers a Life that transcends these earthly bonds; and He is the Light that shatters the darkness that threatens to overcome us.  And He has shown us that He wants to use ordinary men and women — fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers — to reveal the power of God’s goodness over the evil of the prince of this world.  He has shown us that ordinary people can defeat Satan by healing the sick, and casting out his henchmen, the demons, and taking back territory among the souls of men. He has shown us that the Power and the Love of Heaven can invade this earth, and it can come through us!
     All you have to do is be willing to say, “Yes, Lord!” And I will tell you, it is absolutely a journey; and for some it may take longer than the three-and-a-half years it took the Twelve, but just as with them, Jesus will be with you every step of the way — teaching you, correcting you, encouraging you, and bestowing His Power and Authority, that you might become a conqueror, just as He was.
     So, never think that you don’t match the qualifications of those early saints.  Each of us, on acceptance of Him as our Savior, have the opportunity to receive the power and authority from Heaven, and to do the works Jesus and His Apostles did. I will tell you that there was something inside me that responded to the first time I realized what the Great Commission really was. And the first time I listened to the experiences of others who were being obedient to this calling on all of us, I never looked back. The Holy Spirit communed with my spirit and I knew it was right! So, I urge you to trust Him and just be ready to obey. He will answer your willingness with His Love, give you His Authority and Power, and you can walk in the shoes of a Son or Daughter of the Most High God.  Just take that first step of your journey … tell Him your heart longs to walk in His footsteps, and that you want to learn how to be a true Disciple. Then watch your identity change as you enter into one of the most glorious seasons of your life on this earth!
     Jesus, Himself, says, By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  What better way to love another than to set them free of sickness and demonic oppression, and then share the Gospel of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, baptizing them in Jesus’s Name and setting them free from their sin?  After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and taught His first disciple to do, isn’t it? And the Bible tells us that whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

2 Peter 3:18    But grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Can You Identify?

     If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, then you understand the journey the Lord has taken me on. You have seen the new seasons and paths to which He has directed me and Mark, and I’ve tried to be as honest as I could about my questions, as well as my convictions.  As you know, we are entering a new season of learning what it means to be a True Disciple of Christ and to be a member of what I will term, “the True Church”.
     What has been perhaps the most surprising part of this journey is just how simple [to understand] Jesus’s commandments to us, yet how difficult they are to carry out because we’ve never been encouraged to do them … Throughout my church experience I heard references to “the Great Commission”, but never once was it elaborated on, beyond the message to “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor”. And that’s not even what Jesus categorized as His Commission!  Until you read, word for word, His precise explanation [in Mark 16 and Matthew 28], I doubt you will even know what we are called to do.  And I imagine if you have watched the movie I recommended, The Last Reformation, then your world has been rocked.

     I know I have been enthusiastic in urging you to understand His missive … to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, baptize in His Name, and spread the Gospel of the Kingdom … but how many of you are thinking, right now, “I could never do that!  That is for people who are far more spiritually experienced and knowledgeable than me? The Lord may have called Mark and Pam to do this work, but I am not equipped to represent Him in this exalted way!”
     Well, I’m here to tell you that I am no different than you!  And guess what?  Neither were the Twelve Apostles!  Jesus called ordinary men to follow Him to show us that it is possible for all of us!  And if you have made the mistake of elevating Peter, John, Matthew, James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Simon, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Philip, Thomas, and Judas Iscariot as extraordinary, exceptional men at the time they were called to follow Jesus, then I assure you that they only became extraordinary when they were baptized by the Holy Spirit [into the power of God] to carry out the Great Commission.  And if you are having a hard time accepting their “ordinariness”, then I will let Jesus prove it.
     As I am slowly progressing through the Bible [again], I saw something that I had skimmed over the other times I read it, but which now leaped out at me.  Shortly after the Passover meal in which Jesus announces that “one of you shall betray me”, He proceeds to tell the Disciples that He will only be with them a little while longer (John 13:33) …  Little children, I am with you [only] a little longer. You will look for Me and, as I told the Jewish religious leaders, so I tell you now, ‘Where I am going, you are not able to come.’
     So, I want you to notice how He addresses the disciples … the same men who have been with Him for three-and-a-half years; who have watched Him do the miracles; and who have sat at His feet receiving the teachings that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; who have heard Him say that He only does what the Father tells Him to do, or what He sees the Father doing.  He calls them Little children! 
     I am going to borrow from a sermon I heard Bill Johnson give once … although the Twelve had been with Him for several years and seen His works, they still did not understand!  We don’t read about very many successes they had in imitating Him, and He gets frustrated with them at times, calling them an “unbelieving and perverse generation” (Luke 9:41), and calls out their lack of faith, asking, them, “Why can’t you understand?” (Matthew 7:7-11). So, the whole time they were with Him, they didn’t really get it!
     Here’s what I see in that verse:  By calling them “Little Children”, Jesus is telling us that they are just infants in their faith, Baby Christians, if you will.  They have yet to grow into a spiritually mature believer who is advanced enough to represent the Kingdom of God.  But He offered them His grace, and He knew they would grow through obedience.  Did He decide they were unworthy to carry forth His message and works, and then dismiss them?  No!  He opened their minds to understand Scripture and told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them with power, and then they would be able to carry His Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

     Why didn’t He open their minds to understand Scripture at the beginning of the three-and-a-half years?  Wouldn’t the journey have been easier for them all? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but perhaps God knew that if they didn’t walk out that training, they probably would have credited themselves for the work they did do.  Plus, if they had been given to understand all of Scripture at the beginning, there would have been no growth and maturity in their walk. I think we can all agree that with experience and maturity, comes wisdom and the ability to persevere.  Jesus knew they would be tested and would need to remember the lessons He taught them along the way. So He took them on a three-and-a-half year apprenticeship, knowing they needed training and guidance.
     So, I submit to you, that you are no different than those twelve ordinary men who made a decision to follow Jesus. They had moments of doubt and fear. They made mistakes. There were many times they didn’t understand what God was doing in their lives; and I’m sure there were days they wondered if they were doing His will or fulfilling their purpose. They didn’t suddenly and miraculously become Pillars of the Faith.  But they knew Jesus offered something they couldn’t live without. And so they trusted Him in their lives, remaining obedient to their calling.
     I will agree that it is more difficult for us because they could touch Him and hear His voice, and actually watch Him do what He calls us to; and we are separated by a distance of over 2,000 years and a couple of heavens.  But the calling is the same… His is the Way to follow [with all that He did]; He is the Truth that overcomes the Enemy’s lies about who we are; He offers a Life that transcends these earthly bonds; and He is the Light that shatters the darkness that threatens to overcome us.  And He has shown us that He wants to use ordinary men and women — fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers — to reveal the power of God’s goodness over the evil of the prince of this world.  He has shown us that ordinary people can defeat Satan by healing the sick, and casting out his henchmen, the demons, and taking back territory among the souls of men. He has shown us that the Power and the Love of Heaven can invade this earth, and it can come through us!
     All you have to do is be willing to say, “Yes, Lord!” And I will tell you, it is absolutely a journey; and for some it may take longer than the three-and-a-half years it took the Twelve, but just as with them, Jesus will be with you every step of the way — teaching you, correcting you, encouraging you, and bestowing His Power and Authority, that you might become a conqueror, just as He was.
     So, never think that you don’t match the qualifications of those early saints.  Each of us, on acceptance of Him as our Savior, have the opportunity to receive the power and authority from Heaven, and to do the works Jesus and His Apostles did. I will tell you that there was something inside me that responded to the first time I realized what the Great Commission really was. And the first time I listened to the experiences of others who were being obedient to this calling on all of us, I never looked back. The Holy Spirit communed with my spirit and I knew it was right! So, I urge you to trust Him and just be ready to obey. He will answer your willingness with His Love, give you His Authority and Power, and you can walk in the shoes of a Son or Daughter of the Most High God.  Just take that first step of your journey … tell Him your heart longs to walk in His footsteps, and that you want to learn how to be a true Disciple. Then watch your identity change as you enter into one of the most glorious seasons of your life on this earth!
     Jesus, Himself, says, By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  What better way to love another than to set them free of sickness and demonic oppression, and then share the Gospel of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, baptizing them in Jesus’s Name and setting them free from their sin?  After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and taught His first disciple to do, isn’t it? And the Bible tells us that whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

2 Peter 3:18    But grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Am I Following the Lord’s Commandments … Or Tradition?

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     Yesterday, I made a couple of statements that have set me on a path of much contemplation. I’m pretty sure that there are many of you who have struggled with this same concept, so let’s just have an honest discussion, OK?  What I’m about to talk about has been a challenge to me in my Christian walk, and I simply want the Body of Christ to grow together in love and understanding over this issue.  So, here it is … I wrote that there are Christians becoming dissatisfied with being “in the box”, but not yet comfortable enough to let go of their traditions.  I also said that Jesus did not come promoting man’s religious traditions.  And I have to tell you that there is one tradition that has never settled well in my soul or spirit, and I just want to share what I think Scripture is revealing to me.  It is the tradition that Christians are to be in a church setting every Sunday, or they are failing a Scriptural mandate.

     Regardless of the fact that Sunday worship was never part of the early Church, and it’s origins are derived from Emperor Constantine’s worship of the Sun god, I can tell you that I have felt frustrated while sitting in Christian circles and hearing comments like “Well, at least they were in Church on Sunday” — as if that one act fulfilled some Christian checklist of what makes a righteous person. And never mind how they behaved the rest of the week!  Plus, where did the every Sunday come from? Shouldn’t our greater consideration be whether that person was fulfilling the Commission Jesus gave every Christian in Mark 16 and Matthew 28?  And didn’t Jesus say, “You will recognize them by their fruits”? Nowhere do I see Him saying that His followers will be recognized by their Church attendance, or that Church attendance guaranteed a saved soul.
     I would like us to consider that perhaps this is a man-made tradition and not a commandment from Jesus or the Father. Yet there are many Believers who cling to this tradition, and they always go to a corrupted use of a partial verse in Hebrews 10 as the foundation of their argument … they will quote it as follows, “Let us not forsake the gathering together as is the habit of some”.  So I decided to take a good look at this Scriptural reference. FIRST OF ALL, there is a whole important segment of that verse between “Let us” and the “not forsake gathering together” part.  SECOND OF ALL, I believe we need to consider the context of the entire chapter of Hebrews 10.  Let me try to summarize my understanding of it as concisely and accurately as I can.
     In Chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews is juxtaposing the religious system of the Old Covenant with the freedom from sin [offered by faith in Jesus] in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was characterized by ceremonies and traditions that could never completely deliver one from sin.  The New Covenant completes the atonement of sin [through Jesus’s sacrifice] and cleanses those who are being sanctified and brought to spiritual completion and maturity. Righteousness comes by faith in Christ, not any Law. Yet how many Christians don’t think they can live a righteous life if they are not involved in some kind of structured, organized religious practice?  [For the sake of argument, we are just considering Sunday Church attendance, but I’m sure you are thinking of other rituals that have taken on un-Scriptural significance]. 
    The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that there is a new and Living way to live life; and we can receive a full assurance of faith by believing [with a true and convicted heart] the promises made by Jesus.  THEN comes Hebrews 10:24-25, from which the fragment of Scripture is used to validate man’s tradition … And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  
     Now, I know I’m probably not going to convince someone who may be struggling with their religious traditions, but I ask all to seriously study these two verses. One cannot simply extract the middle of that sentence [to prove their argument] and ignore the significance of the entire precept.  The idea of not neglecting to meet together is for the purpose of stirring up one another to love and good works. It is not about Church attendance!  It’s about loving our fellow man and doing good works!  And what are those “good works”? I would propose to you that Jesus came as our model of how to do “good works”.  He says in Matthew 5:16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  He says in John 14:12Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
     I contend that the “good works” are the works that Jesus did; His ministry to the sick, those dying in their sin, Deliverance and Healing [both physical and spiritual]. So the Scripture actually says don’t neglect to meet together to stir each other up to do these works, and then goes on to say that meeting together is to encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day of the Lord drawing near.  The other part of doing the good works of Jesus is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom; and to go out and make Disciples of others to spread the Word so that no man may be dead in his sins — because the rest of the Chapter goes on to say that there will be a Divine Judgment and It is a fearful and terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God [incurring His judgment and wrath]. And that’s why we don’t need to neglect to meet together — to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus; teach them about Kingdom living; and then send them out as Disciples to teach others.  That is what the “encouraging one another, and all the more” is about!

     So, I can’t help it.  When these two verses are reduced to an argument for Sunday Church attendance, with no regard to the exhortation to do the good works that Jesus commanded us to do — which by the way, does not get accomplished sitting in a pew — then I can’t help feeling that we have just exchanged the Religious System of the Old Testament for a new System that is just as ineffective for saving souls and advancing the Kingdom!  In both systems, it is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who accomplishes the cancellation of our sins — not the traditions of the systems! I can’t help recalling Mark 7:13 … “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”  We need to honestly ask ourselves if our traditions really confirm and advocate for the Word.  Or are they part of our own standards for worship?

     Back to Hebrews 10 … I am NOT saying that you have to separate doing the good works and loving your fellow man and encouraging Disciples from Sunday church attendance.  And I am not saying that there aren’t Church congregations, both large and small, who are bearing much fruit for the Kingdom! God bless you if that is your mission! But if you are one who needs that tradition of structured gathering, honestly ask yourself this question … Do I see my Church/Home Church doing the good works, saving souls, and making Disciples? Or are we telling ourselves that’s what we’re doing as we meet together, listen to a sermon, teach a Sunday School class, have a meal together?  Are we encouraging each other to go out into the world [as Jesus and His Disciples did] to display the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives? Or are we content to gather together and “talk” about partnering with Jesus and the Spirit?  Are we substituting the study of Jesus’s model for actually doing what He did for the glory of His Father?
     I will admit that these are questions that Mark and I are asking ourselves.  We feel as though God is finishing up a season of downloading His knowledge about His Kingdom and the part we play in it, and He’s about to take us into a new season … one that demands we walk out what He’s taught us.  And I will also admit it’s hard to make these transitions in our service to Him and our fellow man.  It’s much easier to study and discuss — and, yes, to “meet together” and declare these new revelations — and it’s harder to put them into daily practice.  So, I empathize with you, if what I’ve presented is difficult for you to swallow.  And if you disagree, then can I, in love, challenge you?  Can you at least accept that there is no clear Scriptural mandate that Sunday Church service is obligatory to serving God and His Kingdom? I am not condemning those who do.  I simply ask that you do not judge or condemn others who see a different calling upon their lives as to how they worship and walk out their faith. The important thing is that our lives serve as a light to shine upon the glory of God – every day! 
Colossians 1:9-12    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.        

We Are The New Wine!

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    Well, hopefully you have had a chance to watch Torben Sondergaard’s The Last Reformation. And I would really love to hear your comments about what you thought.  I suspect there were some that were freaked out. After all, this is nothing like what you experience in your Church. And I’m sure there were others who were excited … “This is what I’ve been looking for!”  No matter which end of the spectrum you are on, I sincerely hope the movie created a genuine introspection on your part.
     As Christians, we can no longer avoid the uncomfortable conversation … there is a growing schism among the Western Church.  People who five years ago were comfortable “in the box” suddenly find themselves at odds with what they are coming to realize is a powerless Church.  And they also find themselves in conflict with people [who are quite content where they are]; people who they’ve worshipped beside for decades.  So more and more Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo of the Western Church.  And I would suspect that there are more than a few who are caught between those two paradigms … out of the box, but not yet comfortable to let go of their traditions.

     The number of Home Churches are growing, and Christians are struggling with what that’s supposed to look like.  I saw this struggle materialize in the comments posted on Torben’s Pioneer School website (an online course structured to help Christians break free of man-made traditions, and study the Bible in order to live the Holy Spirit-led life as exhibited in the Book of Acts). One particular commenter stated it perfectly, “We all seem to have our “pet” issues. For the Sabbath Keepers it’s what day we worship. For the Catholic, it’s what source of authority we listen to. For the “In Jesus’s Name folks” it’s what words are spoken over you when you get water baptized. For the Church of Christ it’s how you conduct worship services (sans music). For each of us, there is a grid or a system that we relate to. Everybody says that by following their steps, you can know God better, you can be happier, you can…(insert claim here)”.  I would add, for the Baptists, it’s “Once Saved Always Saved” and the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture”.  For the Lutherans, it’s that the Communion Sacrament of eating Christ’s Body and Drinking His Blood is literal. By now, you’re getting the idea…
     Everyone’s faith comes with attachments.  And those attachments differ, depending on which religious traditions you embrace.  But here is what we need to understand: Jesus wasn’t promoting man’s traditions.  He came representing the Father, with a clear message to His Disciples of how His Father wanted the Gospel of the Kingdom advanced.  The Disciples were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then baptize people in both water and the Spirit; healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and spreading the Good Word that all this is possible because our Father in Heaven wants to partner with us to bring Heaven to Earth. All that — the works and the Gospel Message — is all about POWER.
     The problem is that the Western Church has preached the Gospel [without the Power component] for so long, they are freaked out when they see it!  The Western Church proclaims they have the correct knowledge of the Bible (in all their variations), but what we need is the obedience the Bible calls for.  The Church has become a system.  We even take tests to see what “gift” we have, or what “office” we should occupy. But if we look for a model, or instructions, on how Jesus told the Disciples to “do Church”, it is the Church that sprang up in the Book of Acts.  It is the only Book of the Bible that clearly shows the Disciples doing all that Jesus taught them while He was on earth.
     But how many of your fellow Christians do you see healing a sick person, then baptizing them in water, and then urging the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to come upon them as it did in the Book of Acts?  Right now, some of you may be thinking, “But I’m not a Pastor. I don’t have the authority in the Church to baptize someone”. But we are called by Jesus to do it! Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
     Our traditions have reduced millions of Christians to sitting in a pew, or a class.  They get taught and receive knowledge, but unless you go out to do “all that Jesus commanded us to do”, you are not going to bear fruit or advance the Kingdom. So how much is that knowledge really worth in the Kingdom of God? Since we are not just supposed to be “hearers of the Word”, how much does that model result in “doers of the Word”?

     So, the reality is that more and more Christians are awakening to the fact that Church as we know it is no longer satisfying to their soul and spirit.  They are recognizing the Truth about what the Great Commission really is — that it’s more than sharing the Message of Salvation; more than Jesus dying to cover our sins. He died to remove our sins and to create in us a new man or woman — one that bears fruit for the Kingdom by doing the things the Church in the Book of Acts modeled for us. And so they are leaving the traditional Church model and seeking ways to observe all that Jesus commanded those Twelve Disciples.
     But here is a warning that I want to give… Yes, Christians are breaking free of the powerless Western Church, but there’s one thing we must guard against.  The challenge when we leave “the box” is not to create the same thing we just left! How does it advance the Kingdom if we teach the same way and act the same way?  If we never actually become that new wine that can’t be contained in the old wineskin? How can we expect to get new results by continuing our old behaviors? As one commenter posted, “House Churches can be just as dead as those who gather in “the box” “.
     As we get closer to Jesus’s return, we are going to see a split in the Western Church.  One side thinks we have evolved beyond the actions of the Disciples in that First Century.  They think that laying on hands to heal the sick, delivering a Christian from demonic torment, or baptizing in the Spirit is not for today. We are to submit to the authority of the Pastor and the Church system. The other side has been awakened to the power of the Holy Spirit in the Believer [to bear much fruit for the Kingdom] and they want to see the Body of Christ become the Church Jesus intended it to be.
     The bottom line is this …. I don’t care if a Christian goes to a 5,000 member mega-Church, or is part of 20 devoted Believers who meet in a home.  If there is no fruit being produced by either group, then the Holy Spirit is not present.  And when the Holy Spirit is absent, there is no power to fight the spiritual battle against the sinful nature of this world. And that is not what Jesus had in mind for His Church.  Yes, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  But I want the Fire of the Holy Spirit. Remember that John the Baptist said He baptized with water, but “He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”.  It was that fire that changed the world; that needs to change the world today.
     God poured out His Holy Spirit with fire and signs, healings, and spiritual gifts on the Church of the Book of Acts. He knew if the Early Church was going to survive the horrific attacks that would come against it, Believers would need the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit to counter those attacks and advance His Kingdom on earth.  He has awakened us in the 21st Century Church to the same truth.  We need the joy of being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to counter the ambivalent, compromising, and weak institutionalized Church.  As we begin to walk out the power that the Book of Acts Church modeled for us, we will see God renewing us; restoring us; and equipping us to do the works Jesus did, and even greater works — all with the advancement of the Kingdom on earth in mind.
     This is an exciting time to be a Christian … let us walk in the footsteps of those Early Disciples and see the True Church established in power and obedience to Jesus’s commands upon our lives. Let us be like the new wine … so alive with our conversion from the powerless Church that we can no longer be contained in the old vessel. There is reformation and revival brewing in the Church.  That is the legacy left to us by the Church in the Book of Acts. It’s time we picked up the mantle!

Jeremiah 6:16  Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
     

The Power Of The Holy Spirit In Our Battle With A Compromising World

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    In a previous post, I asked a question … How did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?  The “it” I’m talking about is the power of the Early Church in representing the Kingdom of God and carrying on Jesus’s works from the Father, and the spreading of the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  God has brought so many revelations to me in recent days, and I hope I can organize them into something that makes sense for all of us and shows us the path He wants us to walk.
     I will begin by asking you to consider the doctrine I pointed out that every Church embraces … Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.  We all believe that, right? And we believe that He  has gone to prepare a place for us and will come back for us soon. But what else are we told to believe and embrace?  Throughout John, Chapters 14 and 16, Jesus says over and over again, that when He is gone, the Father will send a Helper, a Counselor, a Strengthener in Jesus’s Name, and He will “teach you all things, and help you remember everything that I have told you”.  Of course, we know that Person to be the Holy Spirit.  But here’s what I want us to get…
     By sending the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s Name, that means the Holy Spirit comes in Jesus’s place; to represent Jesus in all matters; and to act as Jesus would act in all circumstances.  Why?  Because both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are sent by the Father to invade the earth and the hearts of men with the very power of God.  So… if Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, doesn’t it make sense that the Holy Spirit is, too? Which brings me to the big question, If we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, why aren’t we seeing the power of a Holy Spirit-led Church as we do in the Book of Acts? Is there any reason on earth that what we see happening in Acts in the lives of the disciples of Jesus [and the Early Church] should not be happening today and into tomorrow and the future? 
     As I’ve told you before, I have been earnestly seeking more of God and Jesus, but I have especially wanted more of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who lives inside me and I have often found myself talking to God, the Father, and Jesus [in Heaven] in my prayers, but not recognizing that I have both of Them inside me in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who can express my prayers better than I can! And that’s when I really began examining my prayers and how Jesus prayed, and realized I wasn’t doing as He commanded regarding prayer.  And in my persistent and continual prayer for more of Them, God sent me a movie that literally wrecked me.
     I want to recommend that you watch this movie, called The Last Reformation: The Beginning.  Director Torben Sondergaard and filmmaker Lebo Akatio, not only asked those questions that were on my heart, but they answered them and showed me that it is possible for the world to return to those Holy Spirit-infused days of power in the Body of Christ! But why does the Church not believe this?  Why do we think that Holy Spirit-filled Believers can no longer lay hands on the sick and heal them; or command demons to come out of a body and they will go; or for a person to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that they are “baptized” with fire and the power of God to see His Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven?
     This movie gave a concise, and what I believe to be an accurate, synopsis of how the Church was compromised down through the centuries… It is a fact that the Church in the Book of Acts was a living body of Holy Spirit-led Believers; a Disciples Movement, if you will.  But when Christianity came to Greece, the Enemy whispered to men, and it became a Philosophy.  When Christianity came to Italy, men compromised and it became an Institution.  When it came to Europe, the devil convinced men it was a Culture.  And when Christianity came to America, it became a Business.  And the filmmakers asked this heart-piercing question:  If you take a body and make a business out that body, is that not prostitution?
     Watching this movie, my heart and soul were raised to new heights of passion for the power of God in my life.  I saw a raw, visual, and moving image of what the Church is supposed to look like — what I’m supposed to look like as a follower of Jesus!  And I wept from pure joy and hunger from knowing it is still possible and what God wants for every Believer! I know that I have taken the first steps down this path, but I want more!  I want the people around me to see the power of God the Father through me, just as the Disciples saw it in Jesus — and then the world saw it as the Disciples displayed that power as they took it to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth! It wasn’t supposed to stop! We can still display that power as representatives of the Kingdom of God!
     …. And then I received a close-up view of just how compromised men have become in this corrupted and prostituted world. I saw an interview with Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code and other anti-religion books. My heart was actually quite moved by the depths of his “lost-ness”, if I can use that word.  When discussing his books, here are a few of his quotes … “Religion does an enormous amount of good in the world. But at the same time, there are factions in every religion that take the metaphors and the myth of Scripture, and they hold them up as literal fact.  That is the danger of any philosophy or religion.”  (Right there, we see validation of the movie — Dan Brown sees Religion as a Philosophy, and has no sense of Faith). Then when talking about his new book, Origins, he said this: “Traditionally, all the gods fall.  Are we so naive today to believe that all the gods of today won’t receive the same fate? Our planet would be fine without religion and we are evolving in that direction”.
    What an explosive contrast to the The Last Reformation!  But can you see exactly what Torben Sondergaard was saying? Religion has become a philosophy and, for Dan Brown, a business.  There is no power in it — unless we return to being the Church of the First Century, then we our families, our communities, our nation, and the world will go the way that Dan Brown envisions.  BUT we have men like Torben Sondergaard, and Todd White, and Steve Harmon, and David Hogan who are on the front lines to declare that this will never happen!
     I truly believe that there is a movement of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ today — a movement that actually wrecks the souls and spirits of men and women who are hungry for more of God; who hunger to experience what the Disciples of the Early Church did, when the power of the Holy Spirit literally touched them. And I’m not just talking about the Twelve.  There were hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of disciples and followers of Jesus, who received the power of the Holy Spirit to do the works of God on earth — to do the supernatural miracles and signs of the Kingdom, and to preach and teach the Gospel of God’s Kingdom on earth. It is our legacy to join them in that same walk. The Spirit within me won’t settle for anything less — and I have surrendered all to His power.

Acts 1:8   “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

Halloween: The Satanic Connection

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    I was going to continue yesterday’s blog on Prayer with a post on how the Holy Spirit has recently moved in my life. But a text message from a concerned Christian friend has me taking a slight detour. I will continue with my testimony on Friday, but I wanted to address this question, because it is of primary consideration over the next few weeks.  So, here is the question: Is “trunk or treat” a God-honoring alternative to Halloween? Here is my answer and some important facts you need to know…

     One can go online to search out whether Halloween is an acceptable holiday for Christians, or if it is really an evil day, celebrated by Satanists and occultists.  For each site you visit, I suspect you will find a different answer.

      There will be those sites who declare it to be a benign evening of “tricks and treats” for the youngsters, while others will warn of its demonic undertones.  There will be attempts to “Christianize” the holiday by offering Trunk-or-Treat events (popular among churches) to bring Halloween to parking lots where kids go from car to car and get candy.  There will be countless Fall Festivals innocently celebrated, and there will be people who simply don’t care, accurately saying that all holidays have pagan roots and it is what you make of it today that matters.
     And that’s exactly why we should care about this controversial holiday.  Whether a devout Christian or a non-religious secularist, most people believe that Halloween is a night of candy and costumes and autumn celebrations/festivals that ALL people can share.  But what about the satanists and witches?  Shouldn’t we care what it is to them?
     Known as “Samhein” to this latter group, Halloween is a transitional time, and an initial stage of a process in which the veil between life and death grows thin.  I found a Christian website (Logos Resource Pages) that featured an article by Pastor David Phillips that seemed to offer some straightforward information on the holiday.  Consider what the following self-declared witches had to say about the holiday… “Halloween is one of the four Great Sabbats of the witches that everyone has heard about. To witches, Halloween is a serious occasion, however merrily celebrated. It is the old Celtic Eve of Samhain. With the coming of Christianity, the Church tried to Christianize the old festival by naming November 1st as All Saints Day, or All Hallows as the old term was. Thus Samhain Eve became All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. But attempts to discourage the pagan celebrations were so unavailing that the festival was eventually banned from the Church calendar. It was not until 1928 that the Church of England formally restored All Hallows to its calendar, on the assumption that the old pagan associations of Halloween were at last really dead and forgotten; a supposition that was certainly premature.”

     Another witch’s testimony:  “All the Great Festivals of Paganism, wherever they may be found, correspond in common with the Solstices, Equinoxes, and other natural annual cycles of life. Most of these remain with us today, in more or less disguised form, as the so-called Christian holidays of Christmas (Yule), Easter (Ostara), May Day (Beltane), Thanksgiving (Harvest Home), Halloween (Samhain) and even Groundhogs day (Oimelc).”
     Still, another confirmation of Halloween’s importance to occultists:  “Salem (Massachusetts) is a mecca, especially around Samhain. It is our holiday, our new year, and a lot of witches come here from all over the world”.
     And if that’s not enough confirmation for you that everyone should avoid the celebration of Halloween, let me give you the cold hard facts of their official “holy days”:
December 21st (Yule, or the Winter Solstice);
February 1st (Candlemas, also Groundhog’s Day; a Illuminati Human Sacrifice night);
March 21st (homage to goddess Ostara; Human Sacrifice Night);
May 1st (Beltaine Festival, also called Walpurgis Night. This is the highest day on the Druidic Witch’s Calendar. May 1st is the Illuminati’s second most sacred holiday. Human sacrifice is required);
June 21st (Summer Solstice; Litha is one of the Illuminati’s Human Sacrifice Nights);
August 1st (Lughnasa, Great Sabbat Festival; One of the Illuminati’s Human Sacrifice Nights); September 24th (Autumn Equinox); and
October 31st, which is the highest and holiest night of sacrifice for the secret society of the Illuminati.
      For the discerning Christian, it should be easy to see the connection between ancient paganism and the modern customs and costumes of Halloween. Perhaps the most relevant is the goddess Hecate, the Titan Earth mother of the wizards and witches, who illustrates perhaps better than any other ancient goddess the connection between Wicca, the Celtic Halloween traditions, and the realm of evil supernaturalism.

     Hecate’s followers sincerely believed in and feared her magic, and her presence was legendary. This was primarily due to her role as the sorceress of the afterlife.  But true believers also feared Hecate’s ability to afflict the mind with madness, as well as her influence over night creatures. She was thought to govern haunted places where evil or murderous activity had occurred. Such areas where violence or lechery had a history were believed to be magnets of malevolent spirits, something like “haunted houses,” and if one wanted to get along with the resident apparitions they needed to make oblations to the ruler of the darkness—Hecate.
     But here’s what we need to know: the Hecatian myths adopted by Celtic occultists continue in today’s pop culture, symbolism and tradition in the following ways:
•  People visiting neighborhood homes on Halloween night represent the dead in search of food (the treat).
•  Masks of devils and hobgoblins represent evil spirits seeking mischief (the trick).
•  Those who pass out candy represent the homes visited by the dead, or may also represent worried individuals seeking to appease Hecate and other nighttime terrors.
•  The Jack-O-Lantern (will-o-the-wisp, fox fire, fairy fire, etc.) is, according to some histories, a wandering soul stuck between heaven and hell. Others claim the Druids left Jack-O-Lanterns on doorsteps to ward off evil spirits. Another legend concerns a drunk named Jack who made a deal with the devil. Each claims to be the true origin of the Jack-O-Lantern myth.
     And in case you think this is all just a bunch of harmless folklore, I want you to consider this …. not long ago some 300 exorcists flocked to Poland for a week-long congress to examine the current fashion for Halloween-themed monsters like werewolves and vampires the world-over, and the apparent connection between this fascination and a surge in demonic possession. Is it possible that  the world is experiencing an explosion of ancient occultism combined with wicked fascination for ghosts and all things paranormal?  Those who monitor social trends now say that Halloween is the second most popular holiday, surpassed only by Christmas; itself full of pagan symbolism.
     I know there are some secularists, and even Christians within the Church who will dismiss all this information as an imagination run wild.  But it is imperative that we understand that the Mass Media, including the Internet, television, film, radio, and other communications systems, have traded Bela-Lugosi-like vampires of former years and silly Abbott and Costello’s Frankensteins and Mummies, (which could be vanquished with Christian symbols), for monsters of profound demonic character depicted as impervious to Christ’s power. As a result, today’s youth have exchanged yesterday’s pigtails and pop-guns for pentagrams and blood covenants aligned with forces far stronger than former generations could have imagined…. and forces that they are ill-informed to withstand.
     I think it is dangerous to dismiss these warnings that I’ve presented. I think that we do that at the risk of our children.  The celebration of Halloween can be an effective tool to lure them into the occult and/or to become victims of satanic rituals.  Current headlines have certainly shown us that evil and wickedness are on the rise; with more and more lurid stories of bizarre and sadistic rituals happening almost every day.  It will be interesting to see what the headlines reveal in the coming days, as to the unholy celebrations that will be taking place at the end of this month.
     Obviously, it is up to you to decide what you think about this commonly accepted holiday.  But for me, I know the power that the Enemy wishes to use against us, and I will not only be on guard tonight, but will be praying for protection and authority to thwart his attacks against innocent children.  Let me leave you with these frightening words from a high priestess of the Church of Satan:  “As a child drawn to darker passions from birth, I always delighted in the fear and fantasies of Halloween. It gives even the most mundane people the opportunity to taste wickedness for one night. They have a chance to dance with the Devil, either stumbling, tittering and nervous in the arms of the Black Prince, or boldly, ravenously sharing in the sensual excesses and fright of others on this magical, unholy night. Now, birth and death have, for me, become inextricably interwoven into this day.”  Parents beware!

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12   “And with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Halloween: The Satanic Connection

    I was going to continue yesterday’s blog on Prayer with a post on how the Holy Spirit has recently moved in my life. But a text message from a concerned Christian friend has me taking a slight detour. I will continue with my testimony on Friday, but I wanted to address this question, because it is of primary consideration over the next few weeks.  So, here is the question: Is “trunk or treat” a God-honoring alternative to Halloween? Here is my answer and some important facts you need to know…

     One can go online to search out whether Halloween is an acceptable holiday for Christians, or if it is really an evil day, celebrated by Satanists and occultists.  For each site you visit, I suspect you will find a different answer.

      There will be those sites who declare it to be a benign evening of “tricks and treats” for the youngsters, while others will warn of its demonic undertones.  There will be attempts to “Christianize” the holiday by offering Trunk-or-Treat events (popular among churches) to bring Halloween to parking lots where kids go from car to car and get candy.  There will be countless Fall Festivals innocently celebrated, and there will be people who simply don’t care, accurately saying that all holidays have pagan roots and it is what you make of it today that matters.
     And that’s exactly why we should care about this controversial holiday.  Whether a devout Christian or a non-religious secularist, most people believe that Halloween is a night of candy and costumes and autumn celebrations/festivals that ALL people can share.  But what about the satanists and witches?  Shouldn’t we care what it is to them?
     Known as “Samhein” to this latter group, Halloween is a transitional time, and an initial stage of a process in which the veil between life and death grows thin.  I found a Christian website (Logos Resource Pages) that featured an article by Pastor David Phillips that seemed to offer some straightforward information on the holiday.  Consider what the following self-declared witches had to say about the holiday… “Halloween is one of the four Great Sabbats of the witches that everyone has heard about. To witches, Halloween is a serious occasion, however merrily celebrated. It is the old Celtic Eve of Samhain. With the coming of Christianity, the Church tried to Christianize the old festival by naming November 1st as All Saints Day, or All Hallows as the old term was. Thus Samhain Eve became All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. But attempts to discourage the pagan celebrations were so unavailing that the festival was eventually banned from the Church calendar. It was not until 1928 that the Church of England formally restored All Hallows to its calendar, on the assumption that the old pagan associations of Halloween were at last really dead and forgotten; a supposition that was certainly premature.”

     Another witch’s testimony:  “All the Great Festivals of Paganism, wherever they may be found, correspond in common with the Solstices, Equinoxes, and other natural annual cycles of life. Most of these remain with us today, in more or less disguised form, as the so-called Christian holidays of Christmas (Yule), Easter (Ostara), May Day (Beltane), Thanksgiving (Harvest Home), Halloween (Samhain) and even Groundhogs day (Oimelc).”
     Still, another confirmation of Halloween’s importance to occultists:  “Salem (Massachusetts) is a mecca, especially around Samhain. It is our holiday, our new year, and a lot of witches come here from all over the world”.
     And if that’s not enough confirmation for you that everyone should avoid the celebration of Halloween, let me give you the cold hard facts of their official “holy days”:
December 21st (Yule, or the Winter Solstice);
February 1st (Candlemas, also Groundhog’s Day; a Illuminati Human Sacrifice night);
March 21st (homage to goddess Ostara; Human Sacrifice Night);
May 1st (Beltaine Festival, also called Walpurgis Night. This is the highest day on the Druidic Witch’s Calendar. May 1st is the Illuminati’s second most sacred holiday. Human sacrifice is required);
June 21st (Summer Solstice; Litha is one of the Illuminati’s Human Sacrifice Nights);
August 1st (Lughnasa, Great Sabbat Festival; One of the Illuminati’s Human Sacrifice Nights); September 24th (Autumn Equinox); and
October 31st, which is the highest and holiest night of sacrifice for the secret society of the Illuminati.
      For the discerning Christian, it should be easy to see the connection between ancient paganism and the modern customs and costumes of Halloween. Perhaps the most relevant is the goddess Hecate, the Titan Earth mother of the wizards and witches, who illustrates perhaps better than any other ancient goddess the connection between Wicca, the Celtic Halloween traditions, and the realm of evil supernaturalism.

     Hecate’s followers sincerely believed in and feared her magic, and her presence was legendary. This was primarily due to her role as the sorceress of the afterlife.  But true believers also feared Hecate’s ability to afflict the mind with madness, as well as her influence over night creatures. She was thought to govern haunted places where evil or murderous activity had occurred. Such areas where violence or lechery had a history were believed to be magnets of malevolent spirits, something like “haunted houses,” and if one wanted to get along with the resident apparitions they needed to make oblations to the ruler of the darkness—Hecate.
     But here’s what we need to know: the Hecatian myths adopted by Celtic occultists continue in today’s pop culture, symbolism and tradition in the following ways:
•  People visiting neighborhood homes on Halloween night represent the dead in search of food (the treat).
•  Masks of devils and hobgoblins represent evil spirits seeking mischief (the trick).
•  Those who pass out candy represent the homes visited by the dead, or may also represent worried individuals seeking to appease Hecate and other nighttime terrors.
•  The Jack-O-Lantern (will-o-the-wisp, fox fire, fairy fire, etc.) is, according to some histories, a wandering soul stuck between heaven and hell. Others claim the Druids left Jack-O-Lanterns on doorsteps to ward off evil spirits. Another legend concerns a drunk named Jack who made a deal with the devil. Each claims to be the true origin of the Jack-O-Lantern myth.
     And in case you think this is all just a bunch of harmless folklore, I want you to consider this …. not long ago some 300 exorcists flocked to Poland for a week-long congress to examine the current fashion for Halloween-themed monsters like werewolves and vampires the world-over, and the apparent connection between this fascination and a surge in demonic possession. Is it possible that  the world is experiencing an explosion of ancient occultism combined with wicked fascination for ghosts and all things paranormal?  Those who monitor social trends now say that Halloween is the second most popular holiday, surpassed only by Christmas; itself full of pagan symbolism.
     I know there are some secularists, and even Christians within the Church who will dismiss all this information as an imagination run wild.  But it is imperative that we understand that the Mass Media, including the Internet, television, film, radio, and other communications systems, have traded Bela-Lugosi-like vampires of former years and silly Abbott and Costello’s Frankensteins and Mummies, (which could be vanquished with Christian symbols), for monsters of profound demonic character depicted as impervious to Christ’s power. As a result, today’s youth have exchanged yesterday’s pigtails and pop-guns for pentagrams and blood covenants aligned with forces far stronger than former generations could have imagined…. and forces that they are ill-informed to withstand.
     I think it is dangerous to dismiss these warnings that I’ve presented. I think that we do that at the risk of our children.  The celebration of Halloween can be an effective tool to lure them into the occult and/or to become victims of satanic rituals.  Current headlines have certainly shown us that evil and wickedness are on the rise; with more and more lurid stories of bizarre and sadistic rituals happening almost every day.  It will be interesting to see what the headlines reveal in the coming days, as to the unholy celebrations that will be taking place at the end of this month.
     Obviously, it is up to you to decide what you think about this commonly accepted holiday.  But for me, I know the power that the Enemy wishes to use against us, and I will not only be on guard tonight, but will be praying for protection and authority to thwart his attacks against innocent children.  Let me leave you with these frightening words from a high priestess of the Church of Satan:  “As a child drawn to darker passions from birth, I always delighted in the fear and fantasies of Halloween. It gives even the most mundane people the opportunity to taste wickedness for one night. They have a chance to dance with the Devil, either stumbling, tittering and nervous in the arms of the Black Prince, or boldly, ravenously sharing in the sensual excesses and fright of others on this magical, unholy night. Now, birth and death have, for me, become inextricably interwoven into this day.”  Parents beware!

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12   “And with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Hear Me, My God!

     The last several days God has gotten ahold of me and literally shook me out of a stupor.  I have been asking for more of Him… desperately wanting to encounter Him as Jesus did.  I’ve been wanting to see evidence of Him in miracles like the Disciples saw; to see a burning in the hearts of my fellow Christians like what happened in Acts, Chapter Two. I KNOW that, as today’s Body of Christ, we are missing so much of what Jesus told us we would experience after He sent His Spirit to us!  I KNOW we are to be having a greater effect on the world; to be seeing a greater intimacy with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I KNOW so much is lacking … in my prayer life; in how I communicate Jesus to a lost world; in how I communicate the power of a Christian life to fellow Believers. I want more of God in my life, and in my community, my state, and my nation! And I’m SO weary of living in a compromised world — I just don’t want to settle for any less than what the Early Church experienced. So how did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?
     I’m going to try to relate in this post and the one following, just what God is showing me, and just what He has done in me.  Let me start by asking, how many of our churches preach the message that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow — essentially Forever? If He is truly the same, then everything about Him is the same — what He wants for us and what He intended for us to do after He went to the Father. And He gave us a clear model to follow … Himself! He even gave us a model Prayer to pray, yet I’m not sure we haven’t lost the essence of that because it has become almost a mechanical prayer for so many of us.
     I have spent the last week studying and listening to different teachings on Prayer because I want that intimacy that Jesus had with the Father. He knew that whatever He asked for in prayer would be answered because He talked with God and heard [and saw] His Father’s heart. And He did that as a man! It is available to us, too, because Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  So why don’t we believe it? Why isn’t our prayer life the source of our power, as it was for Jesus?
     Could it be that we are too wrapped up in ourselves when we pray — that we are only conscious of the need(s) we are asking for, instead of focusing on Who we’re praying to?  I think Jesus believed His prayers would be answered, because He really knew the One He was praying to, and that the model for answered prayer is always Heaven — Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
     But perhaps the biggest failure in our prayer life [and it certainly has been in mine] is the lack of persistence.  I’m sure you’ve heard the teaching on Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you … that the tense of those verbs is really “keep on asking”, “keep on knocking”.  But what have we come to believe?  If our prayer isn’t answered right away, then “it must not be God’s will”. But I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible that Jesus said to someone who came to him [in prayer] for healing or deliverance, “I can’t help you because it is God’s will for you to suffer”.
     Can you discern that His parables of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) and The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) are about showing us what our Father is not like? Unlike the Friend, our Father wants to give us everything we ask for. Jesus says, For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives. And unlike the Unjust Judge, our Father won’t delay in giving us justice, if we pray and not give up and lose heart. Here is the question on Jesus’s heart as He told this parable: When the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?
      So, we must ask ourselves, do we pray once or twice and then give up? Or do we knock until our knuckles are bruised, and ask .. no, shout! … until our voices are hoarse? Are we prepared to never give up until we get the answer we’ve prayed for, crying out to God, “Father, YOU SAID, in Your Word that if I asked in Jesus’s Name, I would receive! We have made a covenant, God! I am trusting in You to respond! And I know, Father, that no answer doesn’t mean this is Your will. You are not like the Unjust Judge or the Friend who doesn’t want to help.  I’m going to pray [like Jesus did], until I see Your Presence in this situation and something happens!”
     But, I fear that we put no more effort into prayer than we do studying our Bible. We have become too casual about our prayer life, instead of depending on prayer the way the Disciples did.  Do you recall that they returned to Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and prayed for days in the Upper Room, with one accord, while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit?  They gave themselves “continually to prayer” (Acts 6:4), and after Herod had James killed, and Peter was arrested, “fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).
     And why were they so persistent in prayer, and why did Jesus stress that persistence was so important?  Could it be that persistence in prayer changes us?  That God wants to develop and change our hearts so that we will be better suited to “rule and reign” as kings and priests?  Think about it! When that time comes on earth, He is going to need Saints who will be able to persevere and declare His Word into the storms of life; Faithful who won’t give up because they know their authority.
     The bottom line is this … our prayers don’t have to be lengthy and religious, like those of the Pharisees. We just need to be persistent, and don’t stop! But here’s what I want to make sure we all understand … Jesus points out [at the end of the parable about the Friend] that the real reason we should pray persistently is this:  If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
     When we persist in prayer and seek the Father’s answer until He gives it, we will receive more of Him, namely an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  Yes, I have been fervently praying for healing, and for miracles, and for His provision — but what I’ve really hungered for is more of Him.  I want to be made more full of God! I want that intimacy with Him that only the Holy Spirit can give me. Because I have come to realize that when my prayers are answered, it is the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, by persisting in prayer, my heart is changed and that moves the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit is involved in both.
     All of this has brought me to this point … I am changing the way I pray.  I am praying boldly; I am knocking loudly and often; I am going to ask until He can no longer ignore me; and I’m going to pray, expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit … because I know it His good pleasure to answer my prayers and to see how much I’m willing to seek Him. Prayer is an important part of strengthening my relationship with my Father, and it is teaching me to grow my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it is that process that has become an answer to my most fervent prayers.  More on that in an upcoming post…

Thank you to the teachings on Prayer by Bill Johnson, who helped me to recognize the longings of my heart, and how my prayer life effects my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:23-24    In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Hear Me, My God!

Click here to view the original post.

     The last several days God has gotten ahold of me and literally shook me out of a stupor.  I have been asking for more of Him… desperately wanting to encounter Him as Jesus did.  I’ve been wanting to see evidence of Him in miracles like the Disciples saw; to see a burning in the hearts of my fellow Christians like what happened in Acts, Chapter Two. I KNOW that, as today’s Body of Christ, we are missing so much of what Jesus told us we would experience after He sent His Spirit to us!  I KNOW we are to be having a greater effect on the world; to be seeing a greater intimacy with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I KNOW so much is lacking … in my prayer life; in how I communicate Jesus to a lost world; in how I communicate the power of a Christian life to fellow Believers. I want more of God in my life, and in my community, my state, and my nation! And I’m SO weary of living in a compromised world — I just don’t want to settle for any less than what the Early Church experienced. So how did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?
     I’m going to try to relate in this post and the one following, just what God is showing me, and just what He has done in me.  Let me start by asking, how many of our churches preach the message that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow — essentially Forever? If He is truly the same, then everything about Him is the same — what He wants for us and what He intended for us to do after He went to the Father. And He gave us a clear model to follow … Himself! He even gave us a model Prayer to pray, yet I’m not sure we haven’t lost the essence of that because it has become almost a mechanical prayer for so many of us.
     I have spent the last week studying and listening to different teachings on Prayer because I want that intimacy that Jesus had with the Father. He knew that whatever He asked for in prayer would be answered because He talked with God and heard [and saw] His Father’s heart. And He did that as a man! It is available to us, too, because Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  So why don’t we believe it? Why isn’t our prayer life the source of our power, as it was for Jesus?
     Could it be that we are too wrapped up in ourselves when we pray — that we are only conscious of the need(s) we are asking for, instead of focusing on Who we’re praying to?  I think Jesus believed His prayers would be answered, because He really knew the One He was praying to, and that the model for answered prayer is always Heaven — Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
     But perhaps the biggest failure in our prayer life [and it certainly has been in mine] is the lack of persistence.  I’m sure you’ve heard the teaching on Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you … that the tense of those verbs is really “keep on asking”, “keep on knocking”.  But what have we come to believe?  If our prayer isn’t answered right away, then “it must not be God’s will”. But I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible that Jesus said to someone who came to him [in prayer] for healing or deliverance, “I can’t help you because it is God’s will for you to suffer”.
     Can you discern that His parables of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) and The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) are about showing us what our Father is not like? Unlike the Friend, our Father wants to give us everything we ask for. Jesus says, For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives. And unlike the Unjust Judge, our Father won’t delay in giving us justice, if we pray and not give up and lose heart. Here is the question on Jesus’s heart as He told this parable: When the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?
      So, we must ask ourselves, do we pray once or twice and then give up? Or do we knock until our knuckles are bruised, and ask .. no, shout! … until our voices are hoarse? Are we prepared to never give up until we get the answer we’ve prayed for, crying out to God, “Father, YOU SAID, in Your Word that if I asked in Jesus’s Name, I would receive! We have made a covenant, God! I am trusting in You to respond! And I know, Father, that no answer doesn’t mean this is Your will. You are not like the Unjust Judge or the Friend who doesn’t want to help.  I’m going to pray [like Jesus did], until I see Your Presence in this situation and something happens!”
     But, I fear that we put no more effort into prayer than we do studying our Bible. We have become too casual about our prayer life, instead of depending on prayer the way the Disciples did.  Do you recall that they returned to Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and prayed for days in the Upper Room, with one accord, while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit?  They gave themselves “continually to prayer” (Acts 6:4), and after Herod had James killed, and Peter was arrested, “fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).
     And why were they so persistent in prayer, and why did Jesus stress that persistence was so important?  Could it be that persistence in prayer changes us?  That God wants to develop and change our hearts so that we will be better suited to “rule and reign” as kings and priests?  Think about it! When that time comes on earth, He is going to need Saints who will be able to persevere and declare His Word into the storms of life; Faithful who won’t give up because they know their authority.
     The bottom line is this … our prayers don’t have to be lengthy and religious, like those of the Pharisees. We just need to be persistent, and don’t stop! But here’s what I want to make sure we all understand … Jesus points out [at the end of the parable about the Friend] that the real reason we should pray persistently is this:  If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
     When we persist in prayer and seek the Father’s answer until He gives it, we will receive more of Him, namely an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  Yes, I have been fervently praying for healing, and for miracles, and for His provision — but what I’ve really hungered for is more of Him.  I want to be made more full of God! I want that intimacy with Him that only the Holy Spirit can give me. Because I have come to realize that when my prayers are answered, it is the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, by persisting in prayer, my heart is changed and that moves the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit is involved in both.
     All of this has brought me to this point … I am changing the way I pray.  I am praying boldly; I am knocking loudly and often; I am going to ask until He can no longer ignore me; and I’m going to pray, expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit … because I know it His good pleasure to answer my prayers and to see how much I’m willing to seek Him. Prayer is an important part of strengthening my relationship with my Father, and it is teaching me to grow my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it is that process that has become an answer to my most fervent prayers.  More on that in an upcoming post…

Thank you to the teachings on Prayer by Bill Johnson, who helped me to recognize the longings of my heart, and how my prayer life effects my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:23-24    In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Hear Me, My God!

     The last several days God has gotten ahold of me and literally shook me out of a stupor.  I have been asking for more of Him… desperately wanting to encounter Him as Jesus did.  I’ve been wanting to see evidence of Him in miracles like the Disciples saw; to see a burning in the hearts of my fellow Christians like what happened in Acts, Chapter Two. I KNOW that, as today’s Body of Christ, we are missing so much of what Jesus told us we would experience after He sent His Spirit to us!  I KNOW we are to be having a greater effect on the world; to be seeing a greater intimacy with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I KNOW so much is lacking … in my prayer life; in how I communicate Jesus to a lost world; in how I communicate the power of a Christian life to fellow Believers. I want more of God in my life, and in my community, my state, and my nation! And I’m SO weary of living in a compromised world — I just don’t want to settle for any less than what the Early Church experienced. So how did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?
     I’m going to try to relate in this post and the one following, just what God is showing me, and just what He has done in me.  Let me start by asking, how many of our churches preach the message that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow — essentially Forever? If He is truly the same, then everything about Him is the same — what He wants for us and what He intended for us to do after He went to the Father. And He gave us a clear model to follow … Himself! He even gave us a model Prayer to pray, yet I’m not sure we haven’t lost the essence of that because it has become almost a mechanical prayer for so many of us.
     I have spent the last week studying and listening to different teachings on Prayer because I want that intimacy that Jesus had with the Father. He knew that whatever He asked for in prayer would be answered because He talked with God and heard [and saw] His Father’s heart. And He did that as a man! It is available to us, too, because Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  So why don’t we believe it? Why isn’t our prayer life the source of our power, as it was for Jesus?
     Could it be that we are too wrapped up in ourselves when we pray — that we are only conscious of the need(s) we are asking for, instead of focusing on Who we’re praying to?  I think Jesus believed His prayers would be answered, because He really knew the One He was praying to, and that the model for answered prayer is always Heaven — Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
     But perhaps the biggest failure in our prayer life [and it certainly has been in mine] is the lack of persistence.  I’m sure you’ve heard the teaching on Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you … that the tense of those verbs is really “keep on asking”, “keep on knocking”.  But what have we come to believe?  If our prayer isn’t answered right away, then “it must not be God’s will”. But I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible that Jesus said to someone who came to him [in prayer] for healing or deliverance, “I can’t help you because it is God’s will for you to suffer”.
     Can you discern that His parables of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) and The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) are about showing us what our Father is not like? Unlike the Friend, our Father wants to give us everything we ask for. Jesus says, For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives. And unlike the Unjust Judge, our Father won’t delay in giving us justice, if we pray and not give up and lose heart. Here is the question on Jesus’s heart as He told this parable: When the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?
      So, we must ask ourselves, do we pray once or twice and then give up? Or do we knock until our knuckles are bruised, and ask .. no, shout! … until our voices are hoarse? Are we prepared to never give up until we get the answer we’ve prayed for, crying out to God, “Father, YOU SAID, in Your Word that if I asked in Jesus’s Name, I would receive! We have made a covenant, God! I am trusting in You to respond! And I know, Father, that no answer doesn’t mean this is Your will. You are not like the Unjust Judge or the Friend who doesn’t want to help.  I’m going to pray [like Jesus did], until I see Your Presence in this situation and something happens!”
     But, I fear that we put no more effort into prayer than we do studying our Bible. We have become too casual about our prayer life, instead of depending on prayer the way the Disciples did.  Do you recall that they returned to Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and prayed for days in the Upper Room, with one accord, while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit?  They gave themselves “continually to prayer” (Acts 6:4), and after Herod had James killed, and Peter was arrested, “fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).
     And why were they so persistent in prayer, and why did Jesus stress that persistence was so important?  Could it be that persistence in prayer changes us?  That God wants to develop and change our hearts so that we will be better suited to “rule and reign” as kings and priests?  Think about it! When that time comes on earth, He is going to need Saints who will be able to persevere and declare His Word into the storms of life; Faithful who won’t give up because they know their authority.
     The bottom line is this … our prayers don’t have to be lengthy and religious, like those of the Pharisees. We just need to be persistent, and don’t stop! But here’s what I want to make sure we all understand … Jesus points out [at the end of the parable about the Friend] that the real reason we should pray persistently is this:  If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
     When we persist in prayer and seek the Father’s answer until He gives it, we will receive more of Him, namely an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  Yes, I have been fervently praying for healing, and for miracles, and for His provision — but what I’ve really hungered for is more of Him.  I want to be made more full of God! I want that intimacy with Him that only the Holy Spirit can give me. Because I have come to realize that when my prayers are answered, it is the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, by persisting in prayer, my heart is changed and that moves the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit is involved in both.
     All of this has brought me to this point … I am changing the way I pray.  I am praying boldly; I am knocking loudly and often; I am going to ask until He can no longer ignore me; and I’m going to pray, expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit … because I know it His good pleasure to answer my prayers and to see how much I’m willing to seek Him. Prayer is an important part of strengthening my relationship with my Father, and it is teaching me to grow my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it is that process that has become an answer to my most fervent prayers.  More on that in the next post…

Thank you to the teachings on Prayer by Bill Johnson, who helped me to recognize the longings of my heart, and how my prayer life effects my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:23-24    In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Hear Me, My God!

     The last several days God has gotten ahold of me and literally shook me out of a stupor.  I have been asking for more of Him… desperately wanting to encounter Him as Jesus did.  I’ve been wanting to see evidence of Him in miracles like the Disciples saw; to see a burning in the hearts of my fellow Christians like what happened in Acts, Chapter Two. I KNOW that, as today’s Body of Christ, we are missing so much of what Jesus told us we would experience after He sent His Spirit to us!  I KNOW we are to be having a greater effect on the world; to be seeing a greater intimacy with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I KNOW so much is lacking … in my prayer life; in how I communicate Jesus to a lost world; in how I communicate the power of a Christian life to fellow Believers. I want more of God in my life, and in my community, my state, and my nation! And I’m SO weary of living in a compromised world — I just don’t want to settle for any less than what the Early Church experienced. So how did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?
     I’m going to try to relate in this post and the one following, just what God is showing me, and just what He has done in me.  Let me start by asking, how many of our churches preach the message that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow — essentially Forever? If He is truly the same, then everything about Him is the same — what He wants for us and what He intended for us to do after He went to the Father. And He gave us a clear model to follow … Himself! He even gave us a model Prayer to pray, yet I’m not sure we haven’t lost the essence of that because it has become almost a mechanical prayer for so many of us.
     I have spent the last week studying and listening to different teachings on Prayer because I want that intimacy that Jesus had with the Father. He knew that whatever He asked for in prayer would be answered because He talked with God and heard [and saw] His Father’s heart. And He did that as a man! It is available to us, too, because Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  So why don’t we believe it? Why isn’t our prayer life the source of our power, as it was for Jesus?
     Could it be that we are too wrapped up in ourselves when we pray — that we are only conscious of the need(s) we are asking for, instead of focusing on Who we’re praying to?  I think Jesus believed His prayers would be answered, because He really knew the One He was praying to, and that the model for answered prayer is always Heaven — Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
     But perhaps the biggest failure in our prayer life [and it certainly has been in mine] is the lack of persistence.  I’m sure you’ve heard the teaching on Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you … that the tense of those verbs is really “keep on asking”, “keep on knocking”.  But what have we come to believe?  If our prayer isn’t answered right away, then “it must not be God’s will”. But I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible that Jesus said to someone who came to him [in prayer] for healing or deliverance, “I can’t help you because it is God’s will for you to suffer”.
     Can you discern that His parables of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) and The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) are about showing us what our Father is not like? Unlike the Friend, our Father wants to give us everything we ask for. Jesus says, For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives. And unlike the Unjust Judge, our Father won’t delay in giving us justice, if we pray and not give up and lose heart. Here is the question on Jesus’s heart as He told this parable: When the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?
      So, we must ask ourselves, do we pray once or twice and then give up? Or do we knock until our knuckles are bruised, and ask .. no, shout! … until our voices are hoarse? Are we prepared to never give up until we get the answer we’ve prayed for, crying out to God, “Father, YOU SAID, in Your Word that if I asked in Jesus’s Name, I would receive! We have made a covenant, God! I am trusting in You to respond! And I know, Father, that no answer doesn’t mean this is Your will. You are not like the Unjust Judge or the Friend who doesn’t want to help.  I’m going to pray [like Jesus did], until I see Your Presence in this situation and something happens!”
     But, I fear that we put no more effort into prayer than we do studying our Bible. We have become too casual about our prayer life, instead of depending on prayer the way the Disciples did.  Do you recall that they returned to Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and prayed for days in the Upper Room, with one accord, while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit?  They gave themselves “continually to prayer” (Acts 6:4), and after Herod had James killed, and Peter was arrested, “fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).
     And why were they so persistent in prayer, and why did Jesus stress that persistence was so important?  Could it be that persistence in prayer changes us?  That God wants to develop and change our hearts so that we will be better suited to “rule and reign” as kings and priests?  Think about it! When that time comes on earth, He is going to need Saints who will be able to persevere and declare His Word into the storms of life; Faithful who won’t give up because they know their authority.
     The bottom line is this … our prayers don’t have to be lengthy and religious, like those of the Pharisees. We just need to be persistent, and don’t stop! But here’s what I want to make sure we all understand … Jesus points out [at the end of the parable about the Friend] that the real reason we should pray persistently is this:  If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
     When we persist in prayer and seek the Father’s answer until He gives it, we will receive more of Him, namely an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  Yes, I have been fervently praying for healing, and for miracles, and for His provision — but what I’ve really hungered for is more of Him.  I want to be made more full of God! I want that intimacy with Him that only the Holy Spirit can give me. Because I have come to realize that when my prayers are answered, it is the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, by persisting in prayer, my heart is changed and that moves the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit is involved in both.
     All of this has brought me to this point … I am changing the way I pray.  I am praying boldly; I am knocking loudly and often; I am going to ask until He can no longer ignore me; and I’m going to pray, expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit … because I know it His good pleasure to answer my prayers and to see how much I’m willing to seek Him. Prayer is an important part of strengthening my relationship with my Father, and it is teaching me to grow my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it is that process that has become an answer to my most fervent prayers.  More on that in the next post…

Thank you to the teachings on Prayer by Bill Johnson, who helped me to recognize the longings of my heart, and how my prayer life effects my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:23-24    In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

It’s A Page Out Of Satan’s Playbook

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     I know this will be a controversial subject, but how many of you are tired of hearing about the battle between the President and the NFL?  I am not here to judge the pros and cons, or the decisions of those who chose to kneel, or to stand with their hand on their heart, or to lock arms, or to stay off the field all together.  We live in a country where freedom of speech and expression are still a birthright. But those in the midst of this controversy [who profess to be Christian] need to recognize that their birthright as Sons of God takes precedence over their identities as members of a football team.
     I don’t even really see this as a matter of supporting the troops or racial inequality or police brutality or crime in black communities.  All I see is Satan spreading deception, discord, and chaos. Are all those issues a reality in our culture?  Yes, they are. Are they insurmountable? Not if we quit listening to the lies of the Father of Lies. As I see it, this entire situation has been orchestrated by the devil.  Does he have his human partners in this state of affairs? Absolutely! But it is time Christians take the lead in these circumstances and shut down the Enemy’s scheme to use man’s pride as his tool to sow evil.

     It is the devil’s delight to destroy … whether it be your peace, your marriage, your health, or our national dialogue.  He loves to kill relationships, and cause anger and conflict.  And his signature is all over this NFL controversy.  He started it with a snide comment and tweet, and then he escalated it with wounded pride, and whispers in the ears of both sides, “You don’t have to take it!  Who does he/they think they are? Strike back! I’ll show them! We need to stand for what is right!”  And then he caps off his scheme by stealing the camaraderie and joy between the players and the fans, which in turn, causes another layer of discord and disharmony.
     I wish just one faithful person would stand up and say, “Guys, look at what Satan is doing to us!”  I mean these players are trained to size up their opponent’s strategy and be ready to adjust their game plan when they find themselves losing.  And there is nothing about this situation that says anyone is winning.  I see the devil’s strategy as plain as day … As I wrote a couple of years ago in a post titled The Four D’s Of The Enemy’s Battle Plan, I am seeing that this battle between the President and the NFL is shaping up to be a tactical salvo in the devil’s spiritual war against this nation.
     The devil is using Deception to convince both sides that they can win this argument. Whatever immediate satisfaction they might gain from making their point will be lost in the escalated animosity that will spill over into all of our society.  He is promising that righteous indignation will win the day, but dramatization and exaggeration will diminish the message.  And if that’s not enough to destroy any goodwill that might be left, the Enemy will employ the news and social media and the world of entertainment to fan the flames and sow more seeds of deception through bitter and malicious comments.
     Division is the next tool Satan is using to implement his scheme … division between races, between players and fans, between political and social agendas, and between those who play a game for millions of dollars and those who die on the battlefield to defend their right to say and do what their conscience tells them.  He uses man’s arrogance, pride, resentments, fear, and misunderstandings  to keep us from finding a better way to communicate our differences and experiences.  He seeks to divide us among ourselves, so that we do not recognize him as our common Enemy who is out to kill and destroy us all.
     And it seems so clear to me that this whole mess is nothing but a Diversion that keeps us from looking at our real problems … a lack of relationship with Jesus Christ, first and foremost; lack of love and respect for our fellow man; and lack of personal responsibility for the ills of this nation.  Is this controversy really worthy of such national conflict?  Whether one stands for the National Anthem is a statement on how we feel about our citizenship in this country.  But where is our statement about our superior citizenship in Heaven (Philippians 3:20)? Satan has us so caught up in this lesser dispute, that we have abdicated our identities as ambassadors of our Father’s Kingdom.
     And lastly, the devil is using a strategy of Discouragement to make us feel that we will never achieve unity in this nation or world. Whether it is the NFL or North Korea, he is painting a bleak picture of our future.  He convinces us that we are headed down a path of no return, and that we will never settle our differences.  We find ourselves tired and apathetic that change will ever be accomplished, and so we don’t turn to the One who could be the instrument of our revival.
     There are voices of reason and faith among members of the NFL, but their voices are small in number.  Let us pray that more Christians among them will walk out their faith in leadership roles, pointing to a higher calling in these circumstances.  And let each of us pray that men of principle will recognize the devil’s strategy and refuse to play by his rules.  Nothing is impossible when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, and lock arms in unity with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. That is where we are all equal in our worth to the Father. Let it be on earth, as it is in Heaven…

2 Corinthians 2:10-11   “…. if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes”. 
           

What Should Be Our Response To Human Suffering?

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    I realize this is a rather general question to be asking, but yesterday was the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Harvey hitting Rockport, Texas and the suffering in that small seaside town is still so acute. And in the ensuing days, we have seen more suffering in Florida, and the Caribbean, and the situation in Puerto Rico has been described as “apocalyptic”.
     In one month’s time, there is a small semblance of order in Rockport, as the debris is beginning to be cleaned up and piled on the curbs, waiting to be hauled off.  But, there are no words to describe the amount of debris!  And the repairs of homes, if they haven’t been condemned, is still weeks away.  Tent cities that I think must resemble those of the Dust Bowl era dot the landscape, while Relief Tents offering a hot meal and clothes have become a mainstay of the communities.  

Puerto Rico, last Wednesday

     As always happens in such disasters, it is the poor that suffer the most.  I look first-hand at Rockport, and view the images of Puerto Rico and some of the other Caribbean islands, and wonder, “Where will these people live? How will they survive?”  But, I also saw the devastation in the richer neighborhoods of Rockport as well. Some of those homes on the waters edge were completely destroyed, and they were retirement homes for people who fear they will never see Rockport the same in their lifetimes. So whether, rich or poor, suffering is no respecter of persons; it rains on the just and the unjust.
     And as the Bible says, we are to love our neighbors, — all our neighbors. Why is that? The Bible says, “so that we may show ourselves to be the children of God”.  So what should the response be of the children of God to all this suffering we have witnessed in the last month?  Certainly, giving of our time and money to alleviate the suffering are worthy acts of the children of God.  But it has been interesting to see the response of the Christian community to the suffering in my own backyard.
     As expected, churches were eager to help in those first couple of weeks after Hurricane Harvey struck.  Groups signed up to haul debris, and chainsaw crews were especially needed to clear property of the twisted oaks that were a hallmark of this hurricane.  Food and water were distributed in those initial days when both were scarce.  And I will say that the response from the Christian community outshone the presence of FEMA and Red Cross.
     But, here we are a month later, and there is still so much work to do.  Not only have people begun to be less motivated to lend a helping hand, but I believe they are experiencing what I would term “disaster fatigue” or “disaster overload”.  There have been so many natural disasters that we have become numb to the need of our fellow man, and there is a sense that it is so overwhelming, or so far away, that we couldn’t possibly make a difference.
     That is not to be the attitude of the Christian!  When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourself, He isn’t talking about your next door neighbor, or the neighbor in your own city, or even the neighbor in your state.  Our neighbors are any fellow human being who has a need or who is suffering; regardless of whether we identify with them or not.  According to the Bible we have a responsibility to relieve that suffering.  It doesn’t matter if we have a litany of excuses … our job, our family, our finances, our time, or we think it’s been long enough, the government is going to step in and take over.

Rockport, TX today

     How we respond to our neighbors’ needs is a personal choice — we can let this world numb our souls and hearts; or we can sacrifice our self-interest and put our neighbors’ needs first.  As we’ve labored the past two weekends with groups of Christian friends, doing the dirty work of tree clean-up, it seemed like we didn’t accomplish that much— averaging visits to two homes each weekend until the heat and fatigue shut us down. But that’s not how the people we served saw it.  They were grateful that people cared enough to just show up and offer to help.  My wise husband observed that if every Church in 100 mile radius made the decision to forego a Sunday worship service to go out and “be the Church” to the community of Rockport, the restoration would be accomplished in a fraction of the time.
     Of course, secular voices, like those suggested by USA Today, will tell you that the best thing people can do is donate money.  But I disagree. Yes, it takes money to provide the physical things that will restore people’s lives. But, as witnessed by my first-hand experience, it is the willingness of a stranger to come to your aid; to lay a hand on your shoulder and tell them you care; to pray over them as you leave their circumstances a little better than you found them; and to ask God to keep them and provide for them — those are the things that will feed their souls and strengthen their spirits.
     I know this may seem like a rambling piece of writing, but I just had to comment on the great need of the human race at this time … that we love our neighbor as ourself.  We can have empathy and we should pray for them.  But we shouldn’t stop there.  This is the time that the Body of Christ can shine brightest. I know in my heart that there are many Christians doing the work of Christ at this time, and I praise the Lord with gratitude and thanksgiving for their loving hearts.  The commitment to love our neighbor should be our priority in the world right now … Let us be the Church as Jesus created us to be.

Mark 12:30-31, 34   “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these … You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 
     
   

What To Make Of September 23, 2017

     I have really hesitated whether to even write or comment on all the uproar over the prophetic implications of today’s date.  I would venture that “September 23, 2017” has become the hottest Google search item in the last few weeks.  Why wouldn’t it be, when headlines like the following are all over the internet?  Will The World End on September 23, 2017?  The Apocalypse Will Begin on September 23rd! And my favorite … The End 2017: Watch This Video Before It’s Too Late!
     I want to be clear that there are many serious-minded Bible scholars who reverently look to the Book of Revelation as they proclaim their prophecies.  I do not mean to mock them.  But there are as many New Agers and Astrology enthusiasts who mix their theories with just enough Bible components to cause confusion and inaccurate predictions.  It is my goal to present a simplified, yet informative overview of the topic.
     Let’s talk about what CAN BE verified and SHOULD BE considered.  First of all, it is important to note that Astronomy and Astrology are not the same thing.  Astrology is the study of the relationship between planets and celestial objects and human affairs.  In other words, a person looks to the planets and stars for their identity, instead of to God, the Creator of the heavens.  God is missing from the relationship equation.  Astronomy, on the other hand, is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. What is the difference, and is there a relationship to God in Astronomy?  If you are studying the planets and stars (instead of worshipping them), then [if you are willing], you can hear the voice of God … When God created the heavens and the earth, He said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,” — Genesis 1:14.

     So, fast forward to all the conversation about what is going on in the heavens right now, and specifically, surrounding September 23rd.  Astronomers point out that during this time frame, (on September 23, 2017), the moon appears under the feet of the Constellation Virgo. The Sun appears to precisely clothe Virgo, and the nine stars of the constellation Leo, along with the three planetary alignments of Mercury, Venus and Mars, combine to make a count of 12 stars on the head of Virgo.  Many Bible prophecy “experts” see this phenomenon as the fulfillment of Revelation 12:1-2:  And a great sign [warning of an ominous and frightening future event] appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child (the Messiah) and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.  They believe that this signifies the Second Coming of Jesus, connecting this verse with Jesus’s mention of birth pangs and His warning of the signs that proclaim His return and the beginning of the Tribulation in Matthew 24: But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs [of the intolerable anguish and the time of unprecedented trouble].
     Now, consider all the speculations over the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the weather phenomena, the flooding in Europe, and all the conspiracy theories about the “rogue” planet coming perilously close to earth. This phenomenon is known variably as “Planet X” or “Niburu”, which some theorize could be what the Bible calls “Wormwood”, which makes its appearance when the third angel sounds his trumpet in Revelation 8: and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood.  All these events coming together at this time is fueling lots of conversations among Christians and non-Christians, alike.
      I will tell you that there are many different concepts floating around about these prophecies, and by no means, is the Church in agreement.  Chief among the points of contention is when one believes the Rapture of the Church takes place.  There are many who are believing that if this is indeed the beginning of the Tribulation, then the Body of Christ will be raptured any moment.  Others aren’t so pre-occupied with declaring the day or the hour, because as Jesus said, But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  BUT, let us not forget that God, Himself, said in Genesis, Chapter 1, that the sun, moon, and stars, [and constellations] are to be useful signs for marking the seasons.  So, is there any Biblical justification for tying seasons to Jesus’s return?
     Let me begin by saying in Genesis 1:14, that word “seasons” is the Hebrew word môed”, meaning “a festival; an assembly convened for a definite purpose; the appointed place of meeting”.  It is very important to note that this is the same Hebrew word God uses when He speaks to Moses about His established Feast Days.  It is also valid to point out that the “season” of the Spring Feasts of the Lord coordinate with the First Coming of Christ — He died on the Feast of Passover (as our sacrificial lamb, delivering us from the bondage of sin); was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (born without sin, He is our Bread of Life); He rose on the Feast of Firstfruits (as the first fruit of the Harvest of Souls); and 50 days later, on what we call Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks of the Whole Harvest) He sent the Holy Spirit to write God’s Laws on the hearts of new Believers, for a harvest of souls.
     If you need it summarized more than that, here it is in a nutshell …. Christ died on Passover, was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits!  To carry on His Plan of Salvation, God sent the Holy Spirit to write His commandments on the heart of Believers on the day of the Feast of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai nearly 1500 years before.  Now that Law is written on our hearts.  That all happened [precisely, I might add] in the season of the Spring Feasts.

     Therefore, we should also be mindful of the “season” of the Fall Feasts, because God, Himself, said He made the seasons as useful signs. So, what do the Fall Feasts foreshadow?  The Bible tells us that the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) celebrates the return of the King (as Messiah) and the Rapture of the Church of Believers.  It is known as the “Day of the Lord”.  The next Feast day is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and it is a day of repentance and recognition that Jesus sacrificed His life for ours.  It most likely also represents a future Day of Judgment for all mankind.  Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) shows us that Yeshua is our Tabernacle (our sanctuary) as we celebrate our deliverance from this sinful world.  It is also a “feast of ingathering” of the fall harvest, which is symbolic of Yeshua’s gathering the faithful to Himself in the Millennial Kingdom.  So you can see, that the Fall Feasts are a time of rehearsal for His Second Coming, and a time of great expectation.  So in light of all the focus on this September, the question becomes, “Will He come on this year’s Fall Feasts?”
     But that is always the question … Yes, we don’t know the day or the hour (as Jesus makes clear), but I believe we are to know the seasons, so that we will not be caught unawares. That’s why we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4,  For you yourselves are fully aware that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
     So, here is another link to the “signs in the heavens” and the pregnant woman in labor (as represented by the constellations of Virgo and Leo at the present time).  You can see how everyone is getting excited about what they see going on in the heavens.  For the first time, in a long time, both the heavens and the Feast Days are aligning.  But here is what you need to know about my personal opinion … I put more stock in the Return of Jesus according to the Feast Days than I do according to the stars and the constellations.  And in 2017, the Feast of Trumpets (in which the angels will announce His Second Coming) is the ONLY Feast of The Lord in which the arrival is dependent upon the confirmed sighting of the new moon [in Jerusalem] before it can officially begin. For that reason, there are always two days alloted and considered to be “one long day”.  In 2017 this Feast is held on the 21st and 22nd of September. So, if you are reading this blog on the 23rd, we may be witnessing the constellations of Virgo and Leo coming into alignment, but the Feast of Trumpets has passed.
     Does this mean that all this hoopla is over nothing?  Not necessarily. There are certainly signs in the heavens that match Biblical descriptions.  But we must not get so focused on them that we take our eyes off God’s “appointed times” that have already signified [so accurately] Christ’s First Coming.  Let us earnestly contemplate the blessings of having God show us His planned redemption for those who have faith in His Son. And let us search the Scripture for all the references to the Feasts and how Jesus celebrated them.  They are appointed times, set forth by Jehovah God, for all His people to meet with Him and see that each holy Feast Day is a picture of Jesus and His redemptive work on behalf of all mankind.  Let us look upon these Fall Feast Days, and their prophetic nature, with praise and thanksgiving.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4   “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God”.

What To Make Of September 23, 2017

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     I have really hesitated whether to even write or comment on all the uproar over the prophetic implications of today’s date.  I would venture that “September 23, 2017” has become the hottest Google search item in the last few weeks.  Why wouldn’t it be, when headlines like the following are all over the internet?  Will The World End on September 23, 2017?  The Apocalypse Will Begin on September 23rd! And my favorite … The End 2017: Watch This Video Before It’s Too Late!
     I want to be clear that there are many serious-minded Bible scholars who reverently look to the Book of Revelation as they proclaim their prophecies.  I do not mean to mock them.  But there are as many New Agers and Astrology enthusiasts who mix their theories with just enough Bible components to cause confusion and inaccurate predictions.  It is my goal to present a simplified, yet informative overview of the topic.
     Let’s talk about what CAN BE verified and SHOULD BE considered.  First of all, it is important to note that Astronomy and Astrology are not the same thing.  Astrology is the study of the relationship between planets and celestial objects and human affairs.  In other words, a person looks to the planets and stars for their identity, instead of to God, the Creator of the heavens.  God is missing from the relationship equation.  Astronomy, on the other hand, is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. What is the difference, and is there a relationship to God in Astronomy?  If you are studying the planets and stars (instead of worshipping them), then [if you are willing], you can hear the voice of God … When God created the heavens and the earth, He said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,” — Genesis 1:14.

     So, fast forward to all the conversation about what is going on in the heavens right now, and specifically, surrounding September 23rd.  Astronomers point out that during this time frame, (on September 23, 2017), the moon appears under the feet of the Constellation Virgo. The Sun appears to precisely clothe Virgo, and the nine stars of the constellation Leo, along with the three planetary alignments of Mercury, Venus and Mars, combine to make a count of 12 stars on the head of Virgo.  Many Bible prophecy “experts” see this phenomenon as the fulfillment of Revelation 12:1-2:  And a great sign [warning of an ominous and frightening future event] appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child (the Messiah) and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.  They believe that this signifies the Second Coming of Jesus, connecting this verse with Jesus’s mention of birth pangs and His warning of the signs that proclaim His return and the beginning of the Tribulation in Matthew 24: But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs [of the intolerable anguish and the time of unprecedented trouble].
     Now, consider all the speculations over the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the weather phenomena, the flooding in Europe, and all the conspiracy theories about the “rogue” planet coming perilously close to earth. This phenomenon is known variably as “Planet X” or “Niburu”, which some theorize could be what the Bible calls “Wormwood”, which makes its appearance when the third angel sounds his trumpet in Revelation 8: and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood.  All these events coming together at this time is fueling lots of conversations among Christians and non-Christians, alike.
      I will tell you that there are many different concepts floating around about these prophecies, and by no means, is the Church in agreement.  Chief among the points of contention is when one believes the Rapture of the Church takes place.  There are many who are believing that if this is indeed the beginning of the Tribulation, then the Body of Christ will be raptured any moment.  Others aren’t so pre-occupied with declaring the day or the hour, because as Jesus said, But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  BUT, let us not forget that God, Himself, said in Genesis, Chapter 1, that the sun, moon, and stars, [and constellations] are to be useful signs for marking the seasons.  So, is there any Biblical justification for tying seasons to Jesus’s return?
     Let me begin by saying in Genesis 1:14, that word “seasons” is the Hebrew word môed”, meaning “a festival; an assembly convened for a definite purpose; the appointed place of meeting”.  It is very important to note that this is the same Hebrew word God uses when He speaks to Moses about His established Feast Days.  It is also valid to point out that the “season” of the Spring Feasts of the Lord coordinate with the First Coming of Christ — He died on the Feast of Passover (as our sacrificial lamb, delivering us from the bondage of sin); was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (born without sin, He is our Bread of Life); He rose on the Feast of Firstfruits (as the first fruit of the Harvest of Souls); and 50 days later, on what we call Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks of the Whole Harvest) He sent the Holy Spirit to write God’s Laws on the hearts of new Believers, for a harvest of souls.
     If you need it summarized more than that, here it is in a nutshell …. Christ died on Passover, was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits!  To carry on His Plan of Salvation, God sent the Holy Spirit to write His commandments on the heart of Believers on the day of the Feast of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai nearly 1500 years before.  Now that Law is written on our hearts.  That all happened [precisely, I might add] in the season of the Spring Feasts.

     Therefore, we should also be mindful of the “season” of the Fall Feasts, because God, Himself, said He made the seasons as useful signs. So, what do the Fall Feasts foreshadow?  The Bible tells us that the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) celebrates the return of the King (as Messiah) and the Rapture of the Church of Believers.  It is known as the “Day of the Lord”.  The next Feast day is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and it is a day of repentance and recognition that Jesus sacrificed His life for ours.  It most likely also represents a future Day of Judgment for all mankind.  Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) shows us that Yeshua is our Tabernacle (our sanctuary) as we celebrate our deliverance from this sinful world.  It is also a “feast of ingathering” of the fall harvest, which is symbolic of Yeshua’s gathering the faithful to Himself in the Millennial Kingdom.  So you can see, that the Fall Feasts are a time of rehearsal for His Second Coming, and a time of great expectation.  So in light of all the focus on this September, the question becomes, “Will He come on this year’s Fall Feasts?”
     But that is always the question … Yes, we don’t know the day or the hour (as Jesus makes clear), but I believe we are to know the seasons, so that we will not be caught unawares. That’s why we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4,  For you yourselves are fully aware that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
     So, here is another link to the “signs in the heavens” and the pregnant woman in labor (as represented by the constellations of Virgo and Leo at the present time).  You can see how everyone is getting excited about what they see going on in the heavens.  For the first time, in a long time, both the heavens and the Feast Days are aligning.  But here is what you need to know about my personal opinion … I put more stock in the Return of Jesus according to the Feast Days than I do according to the stars and the constellations.  And in 2017, the Feast of Trumpets (in which the angels will announce His Second Coming) is the ONLY Feast of The Lord in which the arrival is dependent upon the confirmed sighting of the new moon [in Jerusalem] before it can officially begin. For that reason, there are always two days alloted and considered to be “one long day”.  In 2017 this Feast is held on the 21st and 22nd of September. So, if you are reading this blog on the 23rd, we may be witnessing the constellations of Virgo and Leo coming into alignment, but the Feast of Trumpets has passed.
     Does this mean that all this hoopla is over nothing?  Not necessarily. There are certainly signs in the heavens that match Biblical descriptions.  But we must not get so focused on them that we take our eyes off God’s “appointed times” that have already signified [so accurately] Christ’s First Coming.  Let us earnestly contemplate the blessings of having God show us His planned redemption for those who have faith in His Son. And let us search the Scripture for all the references to the Feasts and how Jesus celebrated them.  They are appointed times, set forth by Jehovah God, for all His people to meet with Him and see that each holy Feast Day is a picture of Jesus and His redemptive work on behalf of all mankind.  Let us look upon these Fall Feast Days, and their prophetic nature, with praise and thanksgiving.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4   “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God”.

Who Do You Listen To?

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     I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about the different responses we Christians have when it comes to trials in our lives.  Why do some seem so able to hear from the Father or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and walk out their circumstances in confidence and trust … while others seem to strive and struggle under a mantle of oppression?  Both sets of Christians love the Lord without question and earnestly seek Him; yet only one overcomes their trials in victory.  What is the difference?  Is one’s faith stronger or bigger or more mature? Perhaps. But Jesus says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can do the impossible (such as telling a mountain to move).

     Before I go on, I would like to say this [about that] … depending on which version of the Bible you read, that verse can be rendered, “faith like a mustard seed”, which implies a different connotation than referring to the size (small) of the mustard seed.  Jesus might have been suggesting that if your faith [acts] like a mustard seed, it will grow from a small seed into a bush 4 feet tall, or a tree 10-15 tall (which are actual sizes of various mustard seed plants), putting the emphasis on the active growth of your faith, [rather than the size], which enables you to move mountains. But back to my original issue…
     Ultimately, I think my question is this:  why do some Christians seem to go from anxiety to anxiety, while others go from glory to glory?  You may be familiar with 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit (Amplified Bible).  Now, I have heard this verse interpreted like this … The first “glory” is that of the Old Covenant—the Law of Moses—while the second is that of the New Covenant, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The interpretation goes on to say that it is two different kinds of glory, and the transformation is from the glory of the Law to the glory of faith in Jesus Christ.  The conclusion is that each “glory” refers to something different.  I disagree with this interpretation.
     The word “glory” is from the Greek word dôxa and Strong’s Concordance tells us it refers to “what God essentially is and does, as exhibited in whatever way He reveals Himself; the character and ways of God as exhibited through Jesus and through Believers”. So, in the case of 2 Corinthians 3:18, those who move from “glory to glory” progressively grow into being like Jesus in every circumstance in their life; revealing the very character of God while walking in the ways of God’s own glory.  It isn’t a question of two kinds of glory, but rather a measure of growth [through our faith] in becoming more like Jesus in how we respond to trials.
     And that word “respond” correlates to Jesus’s model for us.  Jesus always responded to the Father (staying focused on hearing or seeing what the Father communicated), rather than reacting to the dark side.  That allowed Him to walk out God’s glory (character and ways) instead of being distracted and turned aside by the temptations of the dark side.  Here lies the difference between those who react to spirits of anxiety [which are the temptations] and those who respond to God’s glory.
     Both sets of Christians are new creations when they receive Jesus as their Savior.  They have new foundations from which to occupy this earth.  Those Christians who live in anxiety and oppression have allowed that foundation to become weakened by listening to two eternal temptations that the Enemy presents to them:  1)  The first is what he whispered to Adam and Eve in the Garden … Can it really be that God has said ….? Today, he asks the anxiety-ridden Christian, Is that really what God said [in His promises over your life]? Can you really trust Him to deliver on those promises?  2)  The second temptation was delivered to Jesus in the wilderness:  IF you are the Son of God … Today, the same Enemy whispers to the anxious Christian, Are you sure you are a Child of God? Are you confident in who you are?  
     Can you see that if we truly believe the promises of God which are contained in the Bible, and if we are certain of our true identity as a Child of God and Co-Heir with Jesus, then the trials and fiery darts the Enemy throws at us can be defeated by our faith because we stand on a strong foundation of God’s glory (His character and ways) as exhibited through Jesus, in whose image we are being transformed.  When you listen to the Holy Spirit, instead of the Enemy, your journey through this life will be from one glory [experience and encounter] to another.

     But if you do not take captive those tempting and persuasive thoughts that the Enemy tosses your way, you will listen to his seductive whispers that cause cracks in your foundation, and you begin to doubt the promises of God and who you are.  I am not saying it is easy!  And I am not condemning those who struggle with these battles of faith.  The Bible says the devil is cunning and intelligent and deceptive.  He prowls around looking for someone who has doubts about God, or who doesn’t fully believe the character and ways of God. BUT he is no match for the Christian who recognizes those snares and traps, and who is ready to declare that they are joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17).
     I know from our deliverance ministry how difficult it can be to stop listening to the devil, especially when you have a history of sinning or being sinned against — and we all have that to varying degrees. But when you accept Jesus as your Savior, you become sealed with the Holy Spirit who will help you to start to renew your mind, so that those old thoughts now come against a mind that is being transformed to the mind of Christ, who resisted those tempting thoughts.  You will be able to fight the way He fought those temptations; each and every one was defeated with the Word of God.
     Believers must come to realize that just because you have been Saved, it does not mean that the devil will quit trying to talk to you.  Salvation does not guarantee a devil-free life.  You are not transported into the magic Kingdom of God, where the devil has no access.  On the contrary, you are now behind enemy lines, because “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).  In fact, you can expect that you have become an even bigger target for him, and he will use all the tricks and schemes that worked before you accepted Christ to cause a crack in that new foundation.
     So, let us become convicted that we will no longer listen to the devil when he comes knocking on the door to our mind.  We will do what Jesus did … speak the Word of God as the Holy Spirit inspired His thoughts.  Remember, the Bible says in Matthew 4:1 that “Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”.  Matthew 10:19-20 tells us that when we are handed over to our enemies, we don’t need to worry about what to say, “for what you are to say will be given you within that [very] hour; for it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”.  That’s what happened in the wilderness, and is our model when our thoughts do not conform to the mind of Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit gave the Word to Jesus to speak to the devil in response to the temptations in the wilderness, so should we seek the Word from the Spirit when that same enemy comes against us.
     Once you begin listening only to the Holy Spirit, and consciously and persistently stop listening to the devil, you will find that the whispers of those spirits of anxiety, doubt, and unbelief will be harder to hear. You will recognize them for who they are, and the Spirit will give you the words to resist them.  Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear …

Luke 8:18   “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

     

Who Do You Listen To?

     I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about the different responses we Christians have when it comes to trials in our lives.  Why do some seem so able to hear from the Father or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and walk out their circumstances in confidence and trust … while others seem to strive and struggle under a mantle of oppression?  Both sets of Christians love the Lord without question and earnestly seek Him; yet only one overcomes their trials in victory.  What is the difference?  Is one’s faith stronger or bigger or more mature? Perhaps. But Jesus says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can do the impossible (such as telling a mountain to move).

     Before I go on, I would like to say this [about that] … depending on which version of the Bible you read, that verse can be rendered, “faith like a mustard seed”, which implies a different connotation than referring to the size (small) of the mustard seed.  Jesus might have been suggesting that if your faith [acts] like a mustard seed, it will grow from a small seed into a bush 4 feet tall, or a tree 10-15 tall (which are actual sizes of various mustard seed plants), putting the emphasis on the active growth of your faith, [rather than the size], which enables you to move mountains. But back to my original issue…
     Ultimately, I think my question is this:  why do some Christians seem to go from anxiety to anxiety, while others go from glory to glory?  You may be familiar with 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit (Amplified Bible).  Now, I have heard this verse interpreted like this … The first “glory” is that of the Old Covenant—the Law of Moses—while the second is that of the New Covenant, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The interpretation goes on to say that it is two different kinds of glory, and the transformation is from the glory of the Law to the glory of faith in Jesus Christ.  The conclusion is that each “glory” refers to something different.  I disagree with this interpretation.
     The word “glory” is from the Greek word dôxa and Strong’s Concordance tells us it refers to “what God essentially is and does, as exhibited in whatever way He reveals Himself; the character and ways of God as exhibited through Jesus and through Believers”. So, in the case of 2 Corinthians 3:18, those who move from “glory to glory” progressively grow into being like Jesus in every circumstance in their life; revealing the very character of God while walking in the ways of God’s own glory.  It isn’t a question of two kinds of glory, but rather a measure of growth [through our faith] in becoming more like Jesus in how we respond to trials.
     And that word “respond” correlates to Jesus’s model for us.  Jesus always responded to the Father (staying focused on hearing or seeing what the Father communicated), rather than reacting to the dark side.  That allowed Him to walk out God’s glory (character and ways) instead of being distracted and turned aside by the temptations of the dark side.  Here lies the difference between those who react to spirits of anxiety [which are the temptations] and those who respond to God’s glory.
     Both sets of Christians are new creations when they receive Jesus as their Savior.  They have new foundations from which to occupy this earth.  Those Christians who live in anxiety and oppression have allowed that foundation to become weakened by listening to two eternal temptations that the Enemy presents to them:  1)  The first is what he whispered to Adam and Eve in the Garden … Can it really be that God has said ….? Today, he asks the anxiety-ridden Christian, Is that really what God said [in His promises over your life]? Can you really trust Him to deliver on those promises?  2)  The second temptation was delivered to Jesus in the wilderness:  IF you are the Son of God … Today, the same Enemy whispers to the anxious Christian, Are you sure you are a Child of God? Are you confident in who you are?  
     Can you see that if we truly believe the promises of God which are contained in the Bible, and if we are certain of our true identity as a Child of God and Co-Heir with Jesus, then the trials and fiery darts the Enemy throws at us can be defeated by our faith because we stand on a strong foundation of God’s glory (His character and ways) as exhibited through Jesus, in whose image we are being transformed.  When you listen to the Holy Spirit, instead of the Enemy, your journey through this life will be from one glory [experience and encounter] to another.

     But if you do not take captive those tempting and persuasive thoughts that the Enemy tosses your way, you will listen to his seductive whispers that cause cracks in your foundation, and you begin to doubt the promises of God and who you are.  I am not saying it is easy!  And I am not condemning those who struggle with these battles of faith.  The Bible says the devil is cunning and intelligent and deceptive.  He prowls around looking for someone who has doubts about God, or who doesn’t fully believe the character and ways of God. BUT he is no match for the Christian who recognizes those snares and traps, and who is ready to declare that they are joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17).
     I know from our deliverance ministry how difficult it can be to stop listening to the devil, especially when you have a history of sinning or being sinned against — and we all have that to varying degrees. But when you accept Jesus as your Savior, you become sealed with the Holy Spirit who will help you to start to renew your mind, so that those old thoughts now come against a mind that is being transformed to the mind of Christ, who resisted those tempting thoughts.  You will be able to fight the way He fought those temptations; each and every one was defeated with the Word of God.
     Believers must come to realize that just because you have been Saved, it does not mean that the devil will quit trying to talk to you.  Salvation does not guarantee a devil-free life.  You are not transported into the magic Kingdom of God, where the devil has no access.  On the contrary, you are now behind enemy lines, because “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).  In fact, you can expect that you have become an even bigger target for him, and he will use all the tricks and schemes that worked before you accepted Christ to cause a crack in that new foundation.
     So, let us become convicted that we will no longer listen to the devil when he comes knocking on the door to our mind.  We will do what Jesus did … speak the Word of God as the Holy Spirit inspired His thoughts.  Remember, the Bible says in Matthew 4:1 that “Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”.  Matthew 10:19-20 tells us that when we are handed over to our enemies, we don’t need to worry about what to say, “for what you are to say will be given you within that [very] hour; for it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”.  That’s what happened in the wilderness, and is our model when our thoughts do not conform to the mind of Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit gave the Word to Jesus to speak to the devil in response to the temptations in the wilderness, so should we seek the Word from the Spirit when that same enemy comes against us.
     Once you begin listening only to the Holy Spirit, and consciously and persistently stop listening to the devil, you will find that the whispers of those spirits of anxiety, doubt, and unbelief will be harder to hear. You will recognize them for who they are, and the Spirit will give you the words to resist them.  Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear …

Luke 8:18   “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

     

Even When You Don’t Understand Why …

     There are times I think the best blog posts are when you share your experiences, and others can identify with your walk with Jesus.  I received the following email, and was struck with the courage and the obedience that this reader exhibited.  I have received permission to share the following experience, and I hope the story inspires you, too.

     This morning I really struggled with going to a “church”, and strongly felt like God guided me to this particular one. [But when] I walked in, it was like a club. Disco lights, fog machine, the drummer was in one of those platform cages that dancers are in at clubs. I struggled the entire time with the desire to get up and leave. 
     There was a clock on the back wall that was a countdown until the service was over. Do you think God wants a countdown clock at His Church?? The sermon was against what I believe, and if I did believe it, I would be in a very bad place. Basically, they believe that when you are at your breaking point you should just wait and eventually Jesus will find you and rescue you. 
     I disagree! Jesus never has to find you, and that’s not His job. You should seek Him out! If I had waited for Him at my breaking point I would probably still be waiting. He’s always there, you just have to find Him. The point is this was a BAD experience.
     So, at the end there was an altar call. By this point, I was just ready to leave. God spoke to me and told me to go pray over one of the prayer leaders. My response, “But God, this is not comfortable. I don’t know her situation and she looks pretty confident up there. How am I supposed to just walk up there and pray for her?!” 
     But I got up, walked down there, and grabbed her hands. I told her, “God told me you needed prayer”, and I prayed with her, as He guided me. I have no idea what I said, but after a few minutes she was bawling and I felt like He was done, so I left. 
     I have NO idea what her life is like and I will never know, but God used me to intervene. I think that is why I was sent to this terrible “church” and why He wouldn’t let me leave. It’s funny how you just never know why you’re in a situation. I feel like most of my steps these days are for a purpose I will never understand. But it was pretty exciting to feel like He used me like He did. I feel like my relationship with Him is strengthening more and more every day.

     How many of you identify with this person?  How many struggle with attending Church because you are not being fed?  How many think you have to leave the Church to do His work?  I can tell you that these are questions that I have asked myself, and I want to make sure you understand that I think the answers and solutions to these questions are different for every person, and the key to getting your answer is to listen to the Holy Spirit.
     For me and my husband, we clearly saw the Spirit leading us in a specific direction of spiritual warfare and deliverance.  We wanted to share these revelations with the Church, but they weren’t interested. So we were instructed to just go do these acts of service for the Kingdom, and He would bring people to us who needed Him.
     In the case of this person, they were instructed to go into the Church and stay for that one hour, with a specific purpose of reaching that one prayer leader.  Then they were released to leave.  Another person might hear they are to stay for years.  My point is, God has a specific purpose for each of us, and can use us in many different ways — and in many different places — to spread His Gospel of the Kingdom.  He has different roles for us to play in the administration of His purposes, and different deeds He wants us to perform.
     We will each have different responsibilities and duties in our walk with Him. And what He has planned for me is probably not going to look like what He has in mind for you.  But the one thing we should all have in common is the willingness to say, “Yes, Lord!” when we are called.  It is fruitless to compare ourselves to each other and how He is using us — and I mean that word “fruitless” in its most pure spiritual sense.  We do not bare fruit for the Kingdom when we are too busy judging others whose journey with Christ doesn’t look like the way we think it should — which usually means it doesn’t mirror our own walk.
     As far as I can tell, once Jesus had finished training up the Twelve Disciples and left them to carry on His work, they each walked a different path from the other Eleven. Yes, they had the advantage of seeing all the various ways that Jesus modeled how the Father wants us to administer His Kingdom on earth, so they weren’t trying to conform to a “one-size-fits-all” framework.  But isn’t it time that we step outside of the cookie-cutter mold of what “a Christian walk” should look like, and celebrate the unique and extraordinary ways He can use each of us?
     I’d like to finish my commentary by saying that whatever situation we find ourselves in — whether in the Church building; in a Home Church; in the line at the grocery story — they are all opportunities to listen for the Holy Spirit’s instruction, and then to be willing to act on it.  We were commissioned to go out into the world, with no restrictions on where the Spirit might take us, or how He might use us.  I pray that Christians will be more sensitive to experiencing the unexpected, the uncommon, and the unfamiliar.  You might find it difficult to comprehend … but Jesus is there, too.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9   “He who plants and he who waters are one [in importance and esteem, working toward the same purpose]; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building”.


Even When You Don’t Understand Why …

Click here to view the original post.

     There are times I think the best blog posts are when you share your experiences, and others can identify with your walk with Jesus.  I received the following email, and was struck with the courage and the obedience that this reader exhibited.  I have received permission to share the following experience, and I hope the story inspires you, too.

     This morning I really struggled with going to a “church”, and strongly felt like God guided me to this particular one. [But when] I walked in, it was like a club. Disco lights, fog machine, the drummer was in one of those platform cages that dancers are in at clubs. I struggled the entire time with the desire to get up and leave. 
     There was a clock on the back wall that was a countdown until the service was over. Do you think God wants a countdown clock at His Church?? The sermon was against what I believe, and if I did believe it, I would be in a very bad place. Basically, they believe that when you are at your breaking point you should just wait and eventually Jesus will find you and rescue you. 
     I disagree! Jesus never has to find you, and that’s not His job. You should seek Him out! If I had waited for Him at my breaking point I would probably still be waiting. He’s always there, you just have to find Him. The point is this was a BAD experience.
     So, at the end there was an altar call. By this point, I was just ready to leave. God spoke to me and told me to go pray over one of the prayer leaders. My response, “But God, this is not comfortable. I don’t know her situation and she looks pretty confident up there. How am I supposed to just walk up there and pray for her?!” 
     But I got up, walked down there, and grabbed her hands. I told her, “God told me you needed prayer”, and I prayed with her, as He guided me. I have no idea what I said, but after a few minutes she was bawling and I felt like He was done, so I left. 
     I have NO idea what her life is like and I will never know, but God used me to intervene. I think that is why I was sent to this terrible “church” and why He wouldn’t let me leave. It’s funny how you just never know why you’re in a situation. I feel like most of my steps these days are for a purpose I will never understand. But it was pretty exciting to feel like He used me like He did. I feel like my relationship with Him is strengthening more and more every day.

     How many of you identify with this person?  How many struggle with attending Church because you are not being fed?  How many think you have to leave the Church to do His work?  I can tell you that these are questions that I have asked myself, and I want to make sure you understand that I think the answers and solutions to these questions are different for every person, and the key to getting your answer is to listen to the Holy Spirit.
     For me and my husband, we clearly saw the Spirit leading us in a specific direction of spiritual warfare and deliverance.  We wanted to share these revelations with the Church, but they weren’t interested. So we were instructed to just go do these acts of service for the Kingdom, and He would bring people to us who needed Him.
     In the case of this person, they were instructed to go into the Church and stay for that one hour, with a specific purpose of reaching that one prayer leader.  Then they were released to leave.  Another person might hear they are to stay for years.  My point is, God has a specific purpose for each of us, and can use us in many different ways — and in many different places — to spread His Gospel of the Kingdom.  He has different roles for us to play in the administration of His purposes, and different deeds He wants us to perform.
     We will each have different responsibilities and duties in our walk with Him. And what He has planned for me is probably not going to look like what He has in mind for you.  But the one thing we should all have in common is the willingness to say, “Yes, Lord!” when we are called.  It is fruitless to compare ourselves to each other and how He is using us — and I mean that word “fruitless” in its most pure spiritual sense.  We do not bare fruit for the Kingdom when we are too busy judging others whose journey with Christ doesn’t look like the way we think it should — which usually means it doesn’t mirror our own walk.
     As far as I can tell, once Jesus had finished training up the Twelve Disciples and left them to carry on His work, they each walked a different path from the other Eleven. Yes, they had the advantage of seeing all the various ways that Jesus modeled how the Father wants us to administer His Kingdom on earth, so they weren’t trying to conform to a “one-size-fits-all” framework.  But isn’t it time that we step outside of the cookie-cutter mold of what “a Christian walk” should look like, and celebrate the unique and extraordinary ways He can use each of us?
     I’d like to finish my commentary by saying that whatever situation we find ourselves in — whether in the Church building; in a Home Church; in the line at the grocery story — they are all opportunities to listen for the Holy Spirit’s instruction, and then to be willing to act on it.  We were commissioned to go out into the world, with no restrictions on where the Spirit might take us, or how He might use us.  I pray that Christians will be more sensitive to experiencing the unexpected, the uncommon, and the unfamiliar.  You might find it difficult to comprehend … but Jesus is there, too.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9   “He who plants and he who waters are one [in importance and esteem, working toward the same purpose]; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building”.


The Anti-Christ Spirit in Israel Targets Jewish Messianic Believers

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   The other day I read, with much astonishment, an article at World Net Daily which shouted the headline, Sanhedrin Bans All Messianic Jewish Marriages in Israel.  I knew that Orthodox Jews were unfriendly towards Messianic Jews, reviling them for their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  And I knew that the court system in Israel was becoming increasingly hostile to Messianic Jews, but I wanted to understand why this latest assault against the Messianic faith was taking place.

     According to the article, Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level. “A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country”.
     First of all, this brings up thoughts of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus; and secondly, I wondered what purpose it serves this religious court to ban these marriages.  The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported the same understanding of the new ruling … “Judges say the couple are not Jews but converts to Christianity, and must either renounce their new religion or marry as Christians”.  In other words, this couple would have to renounce Jesus Christ as their Savior and deny any faith in Him as the Son of God in order to have a state-recognized Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel.
     But Messianic Jews are Jews, and faith in Jesus does not change that, although it looks as if the modern-day Sanhedrin wants to change their legal status.  To deny a Jewish couple the rites and observances of a traditional Jewish wedding seems excessive and indefensible. According to the website Judaism 101, “A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism”.  Furthermore, according to the website, “A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism. And a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship”.
     So, let me get this straight.  You can be born to a Jewish mother and be an atheist, and still be a Jew.  But if your mother is Jewish and you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then you are treated as if you are a non-Jew. But here’s what I didn’t know:  ALL marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other faith. This is according to laws handed down under the Ottoman Empire, and retained by the British Mandate when Israel became a nation in 1948.  But it gets even more interesting… according to halacha, which is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah, this Jewish couple would be seen as Jewish, because even Jews who convert to another religion can still be considered Jewish. So, why is this modern-day Sanhedrin so hell-bent on denying them a Jewish wedding, and denying them their rights as Jewish citizens of Israel?
     Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author, is quoted as saying, “In the eyes of most Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews are heretics and idolaters, unworthy of being part of the larger Jewish community, even though they would consider us still Jews,” Brown told WND. “Many of them want to keep us out of Israel entirely, so refusing to grant two Messianic Jews an official rabbinic wedding is in keeping with their hostility toward us.”  Dr. Brown goes on to point out that this ruling is in keeping with the persecution against Jews and believers in Jesus that the Bible tells us will come in the End Times.
     Then there is Messianic Rabbi Zev Porat, who is founder of the Tel Aviv-based Messiah of Israel Ministries. He grew up an Orthodox Jew, and his grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Porat, was a Holocaust survivor who later became one of the heads of the Sanhedrin in Israel.  Rabbi Porat laments this decision because it will deprive people of retirement, medical and other benefits that come with a state-recognized marriage. He said Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are celebrating this move because they have long been “furious” about Jews coming to Jesus Christ.
     Sound familiar?  This is the same anti-Christ spirit that the Bible portrays among the members of the Sanhedrin that sought to kill Jesus.  Before I go any further, I do not want this to be interpreted as hating or blaming the Jews for Jesus’s crucifixion.  On the contrary, I do not blame the Jews in Judah who were blinded by an anti-Christ spirit sent by Satan.  Instead, I agree with Romans 11 which declares that God is not through with Israel, and that the fullness of Israel involves the full number of Jews being Saved by faith in Jesus as their Messiah, so that they will operate in full power and full character as God’s Chosen People, and they will enter into their full purpose of leading the world to Christ.  I celebrate the Jewish roots of my faith, embrace my Messianic brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for the day that all Jews and Christians join together in praising Yeshua as the Son of G-d.
     That being said, I also recognize that the Enemy has sought to keep many peoples of the earth, especially the orthodox among YHWH’s chosen people, blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ.  And now that same Anti-Christ spirit of old is attempting to destroy the identity of Messianic Jews by using the Sanhedrin to declare them no longer Jews, but Christians.
     According to Rabbi Porat, this couple will now be required to leave Israel, get married, return and apply for this certification of marriage to the Ministry of Interior.  “The ministry, of course, will delay the certification and legitimization of their marriage for up to as many as five to seven years,” he noted. “While they are waiting, by design, the Ministry is going to make this process as difficult as possible because the ultimate goal is for the Messianic believers to vacate Israel all together.”
     Can you see how this would serve the purpose of Satan?  If he can get the Israeli government to forbid Jewish believers in Jesus Christ to marry, and ultimately force them to leave the country, then Romans 11 will be more difficult to achieve.  But I am here to tell you that there is an increasing number of Jews coming to faith in Jesus, and that is precisely why this orthodox rabbinic council in Tel Aviv is setting up roadblocks.
     Rabbi Porat puts it all in perspective … ““What is the true motivation behind this new law? Jews to leave, get out of Israel and go preach your Jesus elsewhere,” he said. “They have no problem with all manner of sin including a gay pride parade in the main streets of Israel, which is a total abomination to the word of God. Not one rabbi comes out against this, but yet [they] will do all manner of gymnastics to go after Messianic Jews! God forbid they should be allowed to live in Israel! There is a huge, unreported spiritual revival in Israel that the rabbis are apoplectic over. They deem the rise of believers in Yeshua as a danger to their futures, just as 2,000 years ago. Nothing changes.”
     But there is one more aspect of this situation that I found fascinating.  Lion & Lamb Ministries points out that on October 13, 2004, the Sanhedrin Council of the Jewish nation was reconstituted for the first time in 1,600 years. The ceremony took place in the Israeli town of Tiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the site of the council’s last meeting in the year 425 AD. This incredible development, largely ignored by the press, appears to be one more step toward the construction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, there have been several attempts by Jewish religious leaders to ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where they hoped to pray and investigate clues pertaining to the location of the Second Temple, the one destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Speculation has persisted that these attempts are all in preparation for the building of a Third Temple.
     It is interesting to consider that while the Sadducees of the Bible are believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Pharisees are believed to have changed and become the basis of Rabbinic Judaism today.  Remember, the Pharisees in the Bible adhered to Jewish law and kept away from the Romans and secular authorities. They were the authorities that compiled the Mishnah and Gemorrah (the two parts of the Talmud) and thus they are the direct ancestors of Jewish law and practice today.  So, it appears that the current Orthodox stream of Judaism in Israel and elsewhere, is a continuation of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Judaism.
     If the modern Sanhedrin has the building of a Third Temple in mind, then we know they are still awaiting the Messiah, and would resent the Messianic Jews who believe He has already come!  But “resent” is probably too mild a word.  This latest ruling that declares that the marriage ceremony of two Messianic Jews will not be recognized by the State amounts to nothing less than persecution.  We are reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:  Beware of men [whose nature is to act in opposition to God], for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles … And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name.  Note that these were His Jewish Disciples; and He is warning them that their fellow Jews would persecute them because of their faith in Him.
     All of this amounts to a spirit of fear [sent by God’s Adversary] among the Jewish religious leaders, causing them to come against a sect of “Jesus-Believers” who are upsetting their power base and blaspheming G-d with their words and faith.  Doesn’t sound much different than what happened more than a couple centuries ago, does it?  But this time, the outcome will be different, and I pray that the scales will be removed from the eyes of these religious men, and they will at last recognize their Messiah.  It’s been a long time coming, and I hope He doesn’t tarry too much longer.

John 1:12-13   “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.

The Anti-Christ Spirit in Israel Targets Jewish Messianic Believers

   The other day I read, with much astonishment, an article at World Net Daily which shouted the headline, Sanhedrin Bans All Messianic Jewish Marriages in Israel.  I knew that Orthodox Jews were unfriendly towards Messianic Jews, reviling them for their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  And I knew that the court system in Israel was becoming increasingly hostile to Messianic Jews, but I wanted to understand why this latest assault against the Messianic faith was taking place.

     According to the article, Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level. “A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country”.
     First of all, this brings up thoughts of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus; and secondly, I wondered what purpose it serves this religious court to ban these marriages.  The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported the same understanding of the new ruling … “Judges say the couple are not Jews but converts to Christianity, and must either renounce their new religion or marry as Christians”.  In other words, this couple would have to renounce Jesus Christ as their Savior and deny any faith in Him as the Son of God in order to have a state-recognized Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel.
     But Messianic Jews are Jews, and faith in Jesus does not change that, although it looks as if the modern-day Sanhedrin wants to change their legal status.  To deny a Jewish couple the rites and observances of a traditional Jewish wedding seems excessive and indefensible. According to the website Judaism 101, “A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism”.  Furthermore, according to the website, “A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism. And a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship”.
     So, let me get this straight.  You can be born to a Jewish mother and be an atheist, and still be a Jew.  But if your mother is Jewish and you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then you are treated as if you are a non-Jew. But here’s what I didn’t know:  ALL marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other faith. This is according to laws handed down under the Ottoman Empire, and retained by the British Mandate when Israel became a nation in 1948.  But it gets even more interesting… according to halacha, which is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah, this Jewish couple would be seen as Jewish, because even Jews who convert to another religion can still be considered Jewish. So, why is this modern-day Sanhedrin so hell-bent on denying them a Jewish wedding, and denying them their rights as Jewish citizens of Israel?
     Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author, is quoted as saying, “In the eyes of most Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews are heretics and idolaters, unworthy of being part of the larger Jewish community, even though they would consider us still Jews,” Brown told WND. “Many of them want to keep us out of Israel entirely, so refusing to grant two Messianic Jews an official rabbinic wedding is in keeping with their hostility toward us.”  Dr. Brown goes on to point out that this ruling is in keeping with the persecution against Jews and believers in Jesus that the Bible tells us will come in the End Times.
     Then there is Messianic Rabbi Zev Porat, who is founder of the Tel Aviv-based Messiah of Israel Ministries. He grew up an Orthodox Jew, and his grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Porat, was a Holocaust survivor who later became one of the heads of the Sanhedrin in Israel.  Rabbi Porat laments this decision because it will deprive people of retirement, medical and other benefits that come with a state-recognized marriage. He said Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are celebrating this move because they have long been “furious” about Jews coming to Jesus Christ.
     Sound familiar?  This is the same anti-Christ spirit that the Bible portrays among the members of the Sanhedrin that sought to kill Jesus.  Before I go any further, I do not want this to be interpreted as hating or blaming the Jews for Jesus’s crucifixion.  On the contrary, I do not blame the Jews in Judah who were blinded by an anti-Christ spirit sent by Satan.  Instead, I agree with Romans 11 which declares that God is not through with Israel, and that the fullness of Israel involves the full number of Jews being Saved by faith in Jesus as their Messiah, so that they will operate in full power and full character as God’s Chosen People, and they will enter into their full purpose of leading the world to Christ.  I celebrate the Jewish roots of my faith, embrace my Messianic brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for the day that all Jews and Christians join together in praising Yeshua as the Son of G-d.
     That being said, I also recognize that the Enemy has sought to keep many peoples of the earth, especially the orthodox among YHWH’s chosen people, blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ.  And now that same Anti-Christ spirit of old is attempting to destroy the identity of Messianic Jews by using the Sanhedrin to declare them no longer Jews, but Christians.
     According to Rabbi Porat, this couple will now be required to leave Israel, get married, return and apply for this certification of marriage to the Ministry of Interior.  “The ministry, of course, will delay the certification and legitimization of their marriage for up to as many as five to seven years,” he noted. “While they are waiting, by design, the Ministry is going to make this process as difficult as possible because the ultimate goal is for the Messianic believers to vacate Israel all together.”
     Can you see how this would serve the purpose of Satan?  If he can get the Israeli government to forbid Jewish believers in Jesus Christ to marry, and ultimately force them to leave the country, then Romans 11 will be more difficult to achieve.  But I am here to tell you that there is an increasing number of Jews coming to faith in Jesus, and that is precisely why this orthodox rabbinic council in Tel Aviv is setting up roadblocks.
     Rabbi Porat puts it all in perspective … ““What is the true motivation behind this new law? Jews to leave, get out of Israel and go preach your Jesus elsewhere,” he said. “They have no problem with all manner of sin including a gay pride parade in the main streets of Israel, which is a total abomination to the word of God. Not one rabbi comes out against this, but yet [they] will do all manner of gymnastics to go after Messianic Jews! God forbid they should be allowed to live in Israel! There is a huge, unreported spiritual revival in Israel that the rabbis are apoplectic over. They deem the rise of believers in Yeshua as a danger to their futures, just as 2,000 years ago. Nothing changes.”
     But there is one more aspect of this situation that I found fascinating.  Lion & Lamb Ministries points out that on October 13, 2004, the Sanhedrin Council of the Jewish nation was reconstituted for the first time in 1,600 years. The ceremony took place in the Israeli town of Tiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the site of the council’s last meeting in the year 425 AD. This incredible development, largely ignored by the press, appears to be one more step toward the construction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, there have been several attempts by Jewish religious leaders to ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where they hoped to pray and investigate clues pertaining to the location of the Second Temple, the one destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Speculation has persisted that these attempts are all in preparation for the building of a Third Temple.
     It is interesting to consider that while the Sadducees of the Bible are believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Pharisees are believed to have changed and become the basis of Rabbinic Judaism today.  Remember, the Pharisees in the Bible adhered to Jewish law and kept away from the Romans and secular authorities. They were the authorities that compiled the Mishnah and Gemorrah (the two parts of the Talmud) and thus they are the direct ancestors of Jewish law and practice today.  So, it appears that the current Orthodox stream of Judaism in Israel and elsewhere, is a continuation of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Judaism.
     If the modern Sanhedrin has the building of a Third Temple in mind, then we know they are still awaiting the Messiah, and would resent the Messianic Jews who believe He has already come!  But “resent” is probably too mild a word.  This latest ruling that declares that the marriage ceremony of two Messianic Jews will not be recognized by the State amounts to nothing less than persecution.  We are reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:  Beware of men [whose nature is to act in opposition to God], for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles … And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name.  Note that these were His Jewish Disciples; and He is warning them that their fellow Jews would persecute them because of their faith in Him.
     All of this amounts to a spirit of fear [sent by God’s Adversary] among the Jewish religious leaders, causing them to come against a sect of “Jesus-Believers” who are upsetting their power base and blaspheming G-d with their words and faith.  Doesn’t sound much different than what happened more than a couple centuries ago, does it?  But this time, the outcome will be different, and I pray that the scales will be removed from the eyes of these religious men, and they will at last recognize their Messiah.  It’s been a long time coming, and I hope He doesn’t tarry too much longer.

John 1:12-13   “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.

The Anti-Christ Spirit in Israel Targets Jewish Messianic Believers

   The other day I read, with much astonishment, an article at World Net Daily which shouted the headline, Sanhedrin Bans All Messianic Jewish Marriages in Israel.  I knew that Orthodox Jews were unfriendly towards Messianic Jews, reviling them for their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  And I knew that the court system in Israel was becoming increasingly hostile to Messianic Jews, but I wanted to understand why this latest assault against the Messianic faith was taking place.

     According to the article, Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level. “A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country”.
     First of all, this brings up thoughts of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus; and secondly, I wondered what purpose it serves this religious court to ban these marriages.  The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported the same understanding of the new ruling … “Judges say the couple are not Jews but converts to Christianity, and must either renounce their new religion or marry as Christians”.  In other words, this couple would have to renounce Jesus Christ as their Savior and deny any faith in Him as the Son of God in order to have a state-recognized Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel.
     But Messianic Jews are Jews, and faith in Jesus does not change that, although it looks as if the modern-day Sanhedrin wants to change their legal status.  To deny a Jewish couple the rites and observances of a traditional Jewish wedding seems excessive and indefensible. According to the website Judaism 101, “A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism”.  Furthermore, according to the website, “A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism. And a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship”.
     So, let me get this straight.  You can be born to a Jewish mother and be an atheist, and still be a Jew.  But if your mother is Jewish and you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then you are treated as if you are a non-Jew. But here’s what I didn’t know:  ALL marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other faith. This is according to laws handed down under the Ottoman Empire, and retained by the British Mandate when Israel became a nation in 1948.  But it gets even more interesting… according to halacha, which is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah, this Jewish couple would be seen as Jewish, because even Jews who convert to another religion can still be considered Jewish. So, why is this modern-day Sanhedrin so hell-bent on denying them a Jewish wedding, and denying them their rights as Jewish citizens of Israel?
     Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author, is quoted as saying, “In the eyes of most Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews are heretics and idolaters, unworthy of being part of the larger Jewish community, even though they would consider us still Jews,” Brown told WND. “Many of them want to keep us out of Israel entirely, so refusing to grant two Messianic Jews an official rabbinic wedding is in keeping with their hostility toward us.”  Dr. Brown goes on to point out that this ruling is in keeping with the persecution against Jews and believers in Jesus that the Bible tells us will come in the End Times.
     Then there is Messianic Rabbi Zev Porat, who is founder of the Tel Aviv-based Messiah of Israel Ministries. He grew up an Orthodox Jew, and his grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Porat, was a Holocaust survivor who later became one of the heads of the Sanhedrin in Israel.  Rabbi Porat laments this decision because it will deprive people of retirement, medical and other benefits that come with a state-recognized marriage. He said Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are celebrating this move because they have long been “furious” about Jews coming to Jesus Christ.
     Sound familiar?  This is the same anti-Christ spirit that the Bible portrays among the members of the Sanhedrin that sought to kill Jesus.  Before I go any further, I do not want this to be interpreted as hating or blaming the Jews for Jesus’s crucifixion.  On the contrary, I do not blame the Jews in Judah who were blinded by an anti-Christ spirit sent by Satan.  Instead, I agree with Romans 11 which declares that God is not through with Israel, and that the fullness of Israel involves the full number of Jews being Saved by faith in Jesus as their Messiah, so that they will operate in full power and full character as God’s Chosen People, and they will enter into their full purpose of leading the world to Christ.  I celebrate the Jewish roots of my faith, embrace my Messianic brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for the day that all Jews and Christians join together in praising Yeshua as the Son of G-d.
     That being said, I also recognize that the Enemy has sought to keep many peoples of the earth, especially the orthodox among YHWH’s chosen people, blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ.  And now that same Anti-Christ spirit of old is attempting to destroy the identity of Messianic Jews by using the Sanhedrin to declare them no longer Jews, but Christians.
     According to Rabbi Porat, this couple will now be required to leave Israel, get married, return and apply for this certification of marriage to the Ministry of Interior.  “The ministry, of course, will delay the certification and legitimization of their marriage for up to as many as five to seven years,” he noted. “While they are waiting, by design, the Ministry is going to make this process as difficult as possible because the ultimate goal is for the Messianic believers to vacate Israel all together.”
     Can you see how this would serve the purpose of Satan?  If he can get the Israeli government to forbid Jewish believers in Jesus Christ to marry, and ultimately force them to leave the country, then Romans 11 will be more difficult to achieve.  But I am here to tell you that there is an increasing number of Jews coming to faith in Jesus, and that is precisely why this orthodox rabbinic council in Tel Aviv is setting up roadblocks.
     Rabbi Porat puts it all in perspective … ““What is the true motivation behind this new law? Jews to leave, get out of Israel and go preach your Jesus elsewhere,” he said. “They have no problem with all manner of sin including a gay pride parade in the main streets of Israel, which is a total abomination to the word of God. Not one rabbi comes out against this, but yet [they] will do all manner of gymnastics to go after Messianic Jews! God forbid they should be allowed to live in Israel! There is a huge, unreported spiritual revival in Israel that the rabbis are apoplectic over. They deem the rise of believers in Yeshua as a danger to their futures, just as 2,000 years ago. Nothing changes.”
     But there is one more aspect of this situation that I found fascinating.  Lion & Lamb Ministries points out that on October 13, 2004, the Sanhedrin Council of the Jewish nation was reconstituted for the first time in 1,600 years. The ceremony took place in the Israeli town of Tiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the site of the council’s last meeting in the year 425 AD. This incredible development, largely ignored by the press, appears to be one more step toward the construction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, there have been several attempts by Jewish religious leaders to ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where they hoped to pray and investigate clues pertaining to the location of the Second Temple, the one destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Speculation has persisted that these attempts are all in preparation for the building of a Third Temple.
     It is interesting to consider that while the Sadducees of the Bible are believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Pharisees are believed to have changed and become the basis of Rabbinic Judaism today.  Remember, the Pharisees in the Bible adhered to Jewish law and kept away from the Romans and secular authorities. They were the authorities that compiled the Mishnah and Gemorrah (the two parts of the Talmud) and thus they are the direct ancestors of Jewish law and practice today.  So, it appears that the current Orthodox stream of Judaism in Israel and elsewhere, is a continuation of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Judaism.
     If the modern Sanhedrin has the building of a Third Temple in mind, then we know they are still awaiting the Messiah, and would resent the Messianic Jews who believe He has already come!  But “resent” is probably too mild a word.  This latest ruling that declares that the marriage ceremony of two Messianic Jews will not be recognized by the State amounts to nothing less than persecution.  We are reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:  Beware of men [whose nature is to act in opposition to God], for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles … And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name.  Note that these were His Jewish Disciples; and He is warning them that their fellow Jews would persecute them because of their faith in Him.
     All of this amounts to a spirit of fear [sent by God’s Adversary] among the Jewish religious leaders, causing them to come against a sect of “Jesus-Believers” who are upsetting their power base and blaspheming G-d with their words and faith.  Doesn’t sound much different than what happened more than a couple centuries ago, does it?  But this time, the outcome will be different, and I pray that the scales will be removed from the eyes of these religious men, and they will at last recognize their Messiah.  It’s been a long time coming, and I hope He doesn’t tarry too much longer.

John 1:12-13   “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.

A New Look At An Old Story

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     I have often shared with you the astounding new revelations I receive when re-reading familiar Bible passages.  In my ongoing deep dive of the Bible, I have arrived at John, Chapter 6, and the well-known Scripture concerning Jesus walking on water.  I had already read the version of this same story in Matthew, Chapter 14, and in Mark, Chapter 6.  But I was taken aback at the different tone with which John is rendering the facts.
     The preceding verses had just told us about Jesus feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee. Then in verse 15, the Bible says, Then Jesus, knowing that they were going to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountainside by Himself.  Wait a minute!  I don’t remember anything about the crowds forcing Him to be King in Matthew or Mark!  In fact, Matthew just records that He simply “sent the crowds away”, while Mark says only that He “dismissed the crowds”.  So what is John trying to tell us about this event?
     What I quickly realized was that I needed to kind of boomerang between all three narrations to get the full picture of what happened that day prior to Jesus walking on the water.  When you look at all three versions of the feeding of the 5,000 you can see that Jesus spent the entire day healing the sick (Matthew 14:14) and teaching them many things (Mark 6:34).  The day was nearly done and evening was coming on when the Disciples asked Jesus to send the people away so they could go find something to eat. But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!”  But the Disciples were confused and did not know how to accomplish this task, so Jesus looked up to Heaven, giving thanks to the Father, and proceeded to feed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

     So, how do we come to Jesus withdrawing by Himself out of concern that the crowd was going to force Him to become King?  Think about this for a minute … All day the crowd had been witness to miraculous signs of healing and profound teachings that had come to them as though His words were the voice of God.  Now, they see the crowning miracle of the day with the feeding of the 5,000, and they are convinced they are seeing the Messiah [whom the Prophets had spoken of] come into the world.  Surely, if He can do all they have seen that day, and speaks with such authority, He can rid Judea of the hated Romans and deliver Judah and Jerusalem into the Promised Land the Israelites of old had sought.
     Jesus could feel the hopes of the people rising to a fever pitch. They see Him as a different leader than the Jewish priests and rulers, and they are eager to force Him to become who they believe He is, the Messiah and Deliverer of Judah.  Yet, He appears too modest and does not seem inclined to assume His role as King of the Jews.  Even the Disciples agree with the crowd, hoping that the swelling and popular movement to place Him on the throne would at last entice Him to make His move.
     But Jesus discerns what is happening and understands that to preempt His Father’s plan would result in violence and insurrection, and the spiritual work of the Kingdom on earth would be hindered and obstructed.  He must stop this movement in its tracks!  In Mark, Scripture says that Jesus “immediately insisted that His disciples get into the boat and go ahead [of Him] to the other side to Bethsaida, while He was dismissing the crowd. And after He said goodbye to them, He went to the mountain to pray”.  The fact that He had to insist they go ahead of Him seems to imply there may have been some protest on the part of the Disciples.  Perhaps they didn’t want the crowd’s enthusiasm [for Jesus to take the throne] to go to waste, and were reluctant to let this opportunity slip away.  But Jesus spoke with authority [and foreknowledge of how He must play out His assignment] and commanded them to go to the opposite shore.
     So what was Jesus praying about while up on that mountain by Himself?  The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I don’t think it is wrong to think that He might have prayed for the people to recognize the Divine character of His mission; that they could see beyond the earthly ramifications of a crown and a throne.  And I don’t think it’s wrong to imagine that He prayed for His disciples, that they might endure their dashed hopes as they witnessed His crucifixion, instead of His placement on the throne of David. Perhaps He prayed that they would be able to resist the temptations of the Enemy to dismiss all that He had taught them, and that they would embrace the truth that His Kingdom was not of this world, and it was to be their calling to share [with the world] all that He had taught and commanded them.
     And we can only imagine the thoughts of the Disciples as the wind was literally let out of their sails, as they rowed across the Sea of Galilee.  I find it interesting to examine the writings of Ellen White in her book, The Desire of the Ages, “They had left Jesus with dissatisfied hearts, more impatient with Him than ever before since acknowledging Him as their Lord. They murmured because they had not been permitted to proclaim Him king. They blamed themselves for yielding so readily to His command. They reasoned that if they had been more persistent they might have accomplished their purpose… They knew that Jesus was hated by the Pharisees, and they were eager to see Him exalted as they thought He should be. To be united with a teacher who could work mighty miracles, and yet to be reviled as deceivers, was a trial they could ill endure. Were they always to be accounted followers of a false prophet? Would Christ never assert His authority as king? Why did not He, who possessed such power, reveal Himself in His true character, and make their way less painful? Why had He not saved John the Baptist from a violent death? Thus the disciples reasoned until they brought upon themselves great spiritual darkness. They questioned, Could Jesus be an impostor, as the Pharisees asserted”?
     So as they ruminated while they rowed the three-plus miles across the lake, a storm snuck up on them and they were unprepared for it.  All their impatience with Jesus was gone, and they found themselves in a fight to keep the boat from sinking.  In fact, they entered the boat at evening, but Mark 6:48 says they were straining at the oars during the fourth watch of the night (from 3 am to 6 am) when they saw Jesus walking on the water towards them, so they fought the waves and wind for quite awhile.

     They were terrified, and so they could not discern that He had never taken His eyes off of them.  He knew they were to bring His Light to the world, and was not about to let their stubborn hearts or unholy ambition [regarding Him] swamp that boat.  And when He acts like He is going to pass them by, they cry out for His help, and He identifies Himself [as the I AM] and bids them not to be afraid.  Note that only Matthew records the episode of Peter walking on the water. Only Peter has the courage to question Jesus if it is really Him, and says, “If it is really You, command me to come to you on the water”. Jesus says, “Come”, and keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter walks upon the surface of the water! But when he took his eyes off Jesus, and starting looking at the effects of the wind and the waves, he begins to sink, and cries out “Save me”!
     But Jesus immediately reaches out His hand and catches Peter from sinking beneath the waves.  And what does He say to Peter? “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I believe that question is at the heart of so many unfulfilled Christian lives. So now I ask you, how often have you reacted the same as the Disciples? How many times have you predetermined who you wanted Jesus to be, or how you wanted Him to take action in your life — and then been disappointed when it didn’t turn out how you hoped it would?  And how often, when confronted with a frightening episode in your life, you begin [like Peter] with staying focused on Jesus and His promises, and then the effects of the storm in your life draws your attention away from Him, you take your eyes off Him, and the next thing you know, you are drowning in fear and doubt?  And, finally, how often do you dismiss the supernatural in a life that is in relationship with Jesus — or are you even willing to accept His healing or His supernatural provision?
     We can learn a lot from this familiar episode in the life of the Disciples and Jesus.  When we keep our focus on Jesus and are willing to receive the Truth of what He did in John 6 on that mountainside near the Sea of Galillee — His healing, His teachings and His supernatural provision — then He can do the same great things through us.  When you step out in faith (like Peter did upon the water), you will be able to do things you could never do on your own, and your life will be a living testimony of what the Kingdom life is like on earth.  That’s how Jesus intends us to live! Are you willing to trust Him?

Hebrews 10:23   Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; 
     

A Testimony That Will Make You Think

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     The other day I was having a conversation with a good friend whose growth and maturity in her faith has been quite dramatic.  Mark and I began ministering to her regarding deliverance, and her journey has been both inspiring and genuine.  She has not been without her struggles and moments of doubt, but she always returns to seeking Jesus and the Father, and in the process, has come to know Them and trust Them in ways that “established Christians” often don’t experience.
    Our conversation centered around why it is so difficult for Christians to do Kingdom work.  We discussed how familiarity with the traditions inside the Church building provide a sense of security that few Christians are willing to risk or sacrifice.  Add to that a fear that if you don’t walk in lock-step with man-made doctrine, then you are in danger of being deceived.  These two conditions are enough to keep the majority of the Body of Christ from ever seeking more knowledge of God or attempting a Kingdom approach to living. She expressed both her confusion [and her frustration] over why other Christians were unwilling to take a chance, as she had.  So I asked her to write her testimony… that readers are probably tired of hearing it from me, and perhaps a fresh voice would speak to their hearts.  I have agreed to call her “Mary” to protect her privacy, and I hope you will give her testimony serious consideration and feel free to make comments on what she has to say….

     I was raised in the  ____ church. (Fill in the blank, because I don’t think the denomination matters). I spent 18 years attending every Sunday, yet I now realize that I never knew God. I had memorized a bunch of scriptures and songs, but I had no idea what they meant. In my experience “the church” doesn’t do a good job of teaching the significance of Scripture in the Christian life. It was more of a song and dance. To this day I could probably go to that church and recite the entire service from memory. I thought that was all there was to church, so eventually I felt like I was wasting my time. My childhood and early adult life were not good. I did bad things, and bad things were done to me. I had no real understanding of Grace or God’s love, so I never turned to God. I didn’t think He could, or would, help me.
     At the point that I met Mark and Pam I was at my absolute bottom. I was suicidal and I was very resentful towards God for all that had happened to me. They talked to me and tried to help me get through some of it, and after a lot of time and work I was finally free of it all. I think of that time in my life as a starting point. I closed the door on so much bad stuff and would no longer be the victim. I would turn it into good, I just didn’t know what that would look like. I believed that we were all called to do Kingdom work, but I couldn’t see many people actually doing it. Mark and Pam were, and that is probably what saved my life, but I couldn’t imagine myself doing what they were doing. I got involved with another church, but it never felt right. They didn’t talk about Kingdom work and that is what my primary focus had become, so eventually I realized that a modern “church” model probably wouldn’t be a place for me. I was more interested in following scripture than memorizing liturgy.
     I prayed about it, and prayed about it.  I got a new job at a jail. The job by definition was easy enough. I had to ensure inmates were physically healthy enough to be in jail. I passed out Tylenol most days; some days I assisted the doctor with clinic visits. I soon learned that the Kingdom work would happen around my actual job duties.

     One of the first times I knew God worked through me [in a significant way] was when an inmate began having seizures. This inmate had long seizures that came one right after the other. Initially I just wanted to restrain the inmate enough to protect her from injury against the metal beds, posts, and floor. During that episode, when I realized the seizures weren’t stopping and we were waiting for EMS, I prayed in Jesus’s Name, that the Holy Spirit would heal her (through my touch). I didn’t speak loud enough for the other inmates or jailers to hear me. The inmate stopped seizing, and EMS arrived and took the patient to the hospital. Later when the inmate came back to the jail, medically cleared, the person thanked me. During my prayer, with my hands on her, the inmate saw Jesus and knew that it was He who did the healing. That inmate never had another seizure in jail, and was on a new personal journey for a relationship with God.
     The jail would give out Bibles to anyone that asked, and when I started working there it seemed like everyone asked me for a Bible. (I was later told that I had given out more Bibles than anyone else ever had). I would often hand them out, and that would trigger a conversation about beliefs with inmates. Some struggled with overcoming whatever crimes they committed; some struggled with being away from family. One inmate in particular asked me one day if I thought she could be saved. I told her OF COURSE. We discussed Grace, and after a pretty lengthy conversation she got on her knees in that jail and accepted Jesus into her heart. We both sat with tears streaming down our faces.
     One instance a man was beating a wall, and in about two seconds time the sheet rock of the wall was completely gone. I was alone with him and he was drunk, and much bigger and stronger than I. In that short time frame God told me to get between his arm and the wall. I thought, are you kidding? This man is going to kill me if I do that! God told me in a much louder and urgent manner to step between the man and the wall. Somewhat reluctantly I obeyed. That man stopped mid-swing and grabbed me to hug me. He instantly was in tears. He had a lot happen to him that day and lost all hope in people, but he saw me stepping between him and the wall and couldn’t believe I would try to protect him from hurting himself. That gesture that God told me to do helped this man in a huge way. He knew that he was capable of being loved, and after that he felt like his life was worth living. The only thing I did was follow what God told me, and trust that whatever the outcome, God would take care of me, and He did.
     During this time period in my life the Enemy was working overtime to shut me down. Early on in my job, I had to take sensitivity training because I was told, “You can’t go around talking about God”. After that I was a little more careful about who could hear me … but I just kept going. The Enemy worked harder and harder to shut me down. Eventually I had another job offer, and I was hesitant to take it, but I felt that God had given it to me, so I decided to make the most of it. After accepting it I overheard a conversation about how the administration had already been looking to replace me. God put me into that jail, and then when the time was right, He took me out.
     My next job seems like there will be even more opportunity for Kingdom work, but I needed to learn all those things I did while working at the jail to be more effective in my new job. I am stepping out on a limb because the job is something that, while I am qualified for it, I know pretty much nothing about it. I trust that God will help me figure it out as long as I am doing His work along the way.

      Those are just a few examples of what He can do when you let Him work through you! You don’t need to be under a “church” umbrella to be effective. In fact, in most of those inmate’s minds I would have been less effective if I had been under a church. You don’t necessarily have to look for how to do Kingdom work, and you don’t need any special qualifications; if you open your heart to Him and let Him know you are ready to work for Him, He will give you the opportunities. You just have to be willing when they come. Your journey with Kingdom work is as unique as your fingerprint, so don’t try to compare yourself to people who appear super successful. Everyone had to start somewhere.
     If you have further questions as to how to get started, or don’t believe you are capable, please talk to someone about it. It is such a wonderful feeling to serve God, I want to share it with as many people as possible. I am a completely different person than the person I was when I met Mark and Pam. If He can transform me into something He can use, He can change you too!

     I want to make a comment on one aspect of Mary’s story.  She says she couldn’t imagine doing what Mark and I were doing … in our conversation, I reminded her that there is one Body, but it has many parts. No one should compare themselves to another, thinking they are less.  Where God is taking Mark and I, will probably not be where He wants to take you. And what we are doing for the Kingdom is no greater in the Body than what He will assign you. After all, the hand is just as important to the body as the foot; they have different functions, but both are important.  How effective would a body be if it had all feet and no hands, or vice versa?  So I assured Mary, that her journey is just as important to Jesus and the Father, as mine and Mark’s. He certainly led her to do spectacular deeds for the Kingdom that He has not instructed us to do!
     And I know many of you may be asking, “How did Mary get the courage to follow Jesus’s lead?”  Or you may think that there is no way you could ever discern His will [like she did], or even hear His voice.  But the answers to those queries are in Mary’s words … if you open your heart to Him and let Him know you are ready to work for Him, He will give you the opportunities. You just have to be willing when they come.  And I think that is probably the biggest stumbling block for most Christians.  They don’t really want to upset their comfortable life — What if they fail? What if it’s too hard? What if it costs them more than they are willing to sacrifice?  If those are your questions…. as I’m sure they were Mary’s, too … then ask her [in the comments section] how she overcame these stumbling blocks.  As she says, she wants to share how wonderful it is to serve with Jesus.  And we both want you to join us as willing servants of the Living God!

Matthew 5:14-16      “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”.

Our Portion In The Glory Realm

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     I’ve really been thinking a lot lately how adverse circumstances such as those the state of Texas has endured for the last couple of weeks (and which Florida looks like it is going to experience this weekend) present such great opportunities for us Christians to do Kingdom work and exhibit the glory of God.
     Yet what does that really look like to us Americans?  From what I hear in testimonies from those [in other countries] who have received a mandate to teach on the freedom and power of Jesus in our lives, and the command to “release and establish” the sons and daughters of YHWH “to build His house, the hiding place of HIS glory”, I wonder if we here in America are even capable of comprehending the spirit and the truth of this vision.
     It seems to me that we are so entrenched in our own idea of who God is, and what God wants us to be and do, that we don’t even seek His face or listen for His instructions, let alone know Him.  The whole earth was once the exclusive realm and glory of the Father until Adam and Eve relinquished it to the Enemy in a moment of pride and selfish desire.  The devil knew this when he offered it to Jesus in Luke 4:6 … And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this realm and its glory [its power, its renown]; because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.
     Jesus came to reclaim this glory realm for the Kingdom of Heaven, offering us eternal salvation in the process of partnering with Him to take back God’s territory.  And the result? Lamentations 3:24 says it all:  The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,” says my soul; Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.
     But I think it is important to understand two things if we are going to ever experience the fulfillment of this hope: 1) what and how do we encounter the glory realm, and 2) what does it mean, “the Lord is my portion”?  Let’s try to answer proposition number one… God has a purpose for each of our lives, and at the center of that purpose is His desire that it glorify Him.  In whatever manner we are called to serve Him, He wants our efforts to include relationship with Him. But do we Christians even know what that means? How do you have a relationship with the One who created you, yet you don’t really know Him?
     I can tell you that it is more than attending Church every Sunday.  It is more than what you tithe.  It is more than what denomination or doctrine with which you identify.  It is personal.  It is seeking His presence. And it is hearing His voice, and actually being in His presence.  His realm is where He is, and there you will find His glory.  He wants you to look into His eyes and have conversations with Him. He wants you to ask Him questions and to receive His answers.  But here’s the thing … we have to want to do that; to go beyond what our Western Christian culture tells us “relationship” looks like.
   Let me ask you this: the Bible shows us great examples of the relationship we can have with God.  Consider the relationship Abraham had with Him; or Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, John or Paul, among many others. Does yours look like that?  Do you discuss things with Him, even argue with Him? Do you cry out to Him, and expect to hear from Him? And if you do, are you obedient? Or are you content with an impersonal connection through association with a Church body?
     Let me share what God revealed to Heidi Baker, a Christian missionary, and author on Christian spirituality… She once asked the Lord, “I know your Word says that we’re sons and daughters already. So why all the groaning? What are we waiting for?” He responded, “You know those orphaned children you take home with you [to the mission in Mozambique]?” “Yes, Lord.” “They have to want to come. Some want to. Some don’t know the opportunity is available to them. But others, even though they know they’re welcome in the house, prefer to stay outside.”
     Heidi Baker goes on to explain … “As Christians, we’re like those children. We’re all welcome to move in the authority of sons and daughters, living in the realm of glory, seated with Christ in heavenly places. But we must want to come. We must never doubt that there is nothing He can’t or won’t do for those who believe–for those who step into their places as sons and daughters of God.
     Jesus never doubted His Father for a moment. When Jesus took the bread and fish in His hands (Matt. 14:19), He knew, without question, that as He gave thanks to the Father, there would be enough to feed the multitudes.  He didn’t look at the five loaves and the two fish. He looked into the eyes of the hungry, and He looked into His Father’s eyes. He said, “Thank you, Father,” and He proceeded to feed more than 5,000 men, women and children.  God wants us to be like Jesus feeding the five thousand. He wants us to move in the fullness of Christ, fully yielded to Him. He wants us to walk as His sons and daughters in the earth.  He wants us to look into His eyes—and into the eyes of a world that desperately needs His love. The whole creation is waiting for us to step into the realm of supernatural glory He has prepared for us. It needs to see and experience God’s love through us. What are we waiting for”?
     I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone explain what that glory realm on earth would look like better than that!  And if we could ever step into our rightful place in that realm of glory — that place where we meet with God and experience His glory — then the Lord would be our portion, and it would be enough.  And that brings me to my second point … what does it mean to have the Lord as our portion?

     According to Strong’s Concordance, “portion” is usually associated with “territory”, and it can have a variety of meanings, depending on what you have a “portion of”.  If it’s a meal, then your portion is your share of the food.  If it refers to war, then it is your share of the plunder, or your “booty”. If it’s your inheritance, then it refers to what has been allotted to you.  And when the Lord is your portion, it refers to a spiritual “possession” or blessing.
     So, if God’s realm is the territory where He is, and you have that kind of personal relationship in which you commune with Him and enjoy His glory and His presence, then your portion of spiritual territory is God Himself!  No matter what happens in this physical realm, your portion, or territory, is a place that shelters you from everything this world throws at you — whether trial, tragedy, or treachery.
     In fact, we aren’t even to look around this earth to discover our portion of the Lord.  Our portion of Him is not on this earth… we are here for such a short time, and our inheritance from the Lord is far greater than whatever this world has to offer.  So, let the unbelievers and the wicked inherit the riches of this realm called earth.  For me, I will receive my allotment — my share — my inheritance — my portion of Him in the spiritual realm where His glory resides and I get to experience it every time I look into His eyes and see His love.
     I am ready to see this territory called earth proclaimed as His realm of Glory and for every faithful Christian to receive their full portion of inheritance as a son or daughter of the Kingdom.  It is time we truly honor Him and each other as we seek to fill the positions to which He has appointed us.  If you don’t know what that position is, or what your portion is, then it is time to seek His face and take your place in the Body.  Simply filling a space in the pew on Sunday doesn’t establish the True Church; the ones who are called out of the world and who will take the responsibility to see His Kingdom come on earth; the ones who are willing to do the work to reconcile mankind with the Father and return everything that belongs to Him, back to Him.  I guess I’m just ready to see the Body of Christ grow up and into the image of our holy Redeemer.  May His Glory Realm become my full portion!

Psalm 73:26     My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock and strength of my heart and my portion forever.

What I’ve Learned From This Hurricane

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     This has been an event like none other that I have experienced.  I have shared the physical description of what it is like when a Category 4 hits the little Texas coastal town of Rockport. I have showed a couple of pictures and tried to describe the emotional impact it has when you see lives disrupted so violently.
     Now I want to share the spiritual side of it and some of the struggles I’ve had.  I’ve heard beautiful expressions of love and support — and I’ve heard some of the most hate-filled rants about how we Texans deserved it because of our political leanings and/or the refusal of our Senators or Congressmen to support some government funding or another … and now we want the government to come in and rescue us. How can a person be so cold-hearted and callous?  I guess the devil roams the earth looking for ears that will listen to his evil whispers.
     And speaking of the devil, after making several trips with donated supplies, I would return home physically and mentally tired from witnessing the burdens and hardships placed upon these people of modest means. The prospect of dealing with insurance companies, low-interest government loans, and the logistics of all those houses that need to be repaired is mind-shattering.  But what if you don’t live on the beach side of town, or in one of the middle class neighborhoods, where the houses are built more sturdy and repairs are feasible?  What if you live on the poorer side of town, and perhaps don’t even own your small home? What happens if the owners decide not to rebuild, or you are unable to afford your current mortgage plus the government loan needed to make your home habitable?

     Those were the thoughts that would wake me up in the middle of the night, and I felt like I was carrying the weight of all those people who are living in such fear and anxiety.  I recognized that the devil was trying to capture my mind with his negative whispers, and I was struggling to keep my mind focused on the promises of God.  One night I woke up around 3:30 with such dread and despair that I felt like I was buried under blankets of it.  The Enemy kept trying to convince me that this situation was insurmountable; it was too big of a fight.  That some of these families would never be able to overcome the obstacles before them.  I felt defeated.
     Then he tried to add another layer of disquiet to my mind.  There has been a subtle judgment placed upon the Kingdom work we have been called to do in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  People in the damaged community don’t quite know how to take us when they ask what Church we are affiliated with, and we tell them we aren’t with any Church.  It’s almost as if there is an air of suspicion that surrounds us because we don’t possess the legitimacy that a Church group would have, coming in to offer relief.
     Then there are some Church people that also look at us with skeptical hearts, and I’m not sure why.  Do they feel safer participating within the comfortable domain of their Church connections? Or perhaps, are they not comfortable enough in their identities to know that they are to be the image of Christ to everyone they meet, and they don’t need to depend on the Church interrelation to be effective ambassadors of the Kingdom of God? Isn’t there room for us to work side by side in meeting the needs of the poor and afflicted?
      As I laid there, tormented by thoughts of both the overwhelming ruin before us, and the frustration of being judged for our lack of Church affiliation, I felt spiritually oppressed.  But I knew what was happening and I knew it was simply Satan’s way of trying to destroy any hope or faith I had that we were making any difference in advancing the Kingdom in the midst of this catastrophe.  But I stopped and made sure that, in the spirit, my helmet of salvation was securely placed over my mind. Then I told myself, Be still, and know that I am God.  Let me repeat that.  Be still … Be still … and KNOW that I am God.
     And it all came into perspective.  The promises of God are true, and I declared that all of His promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory (2 Corinthians 1:20).  He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, so those people who believe in Him will not have to go through this rebuilding process alone.  And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.  So whatever designs the devil has for using this hurricane to cause evil in the lives of these people, it will eventually become good as they rely on their faith and each other.  There is a purpose to each and every life and this hurricane event is a chance for each person to discover the reason they are on this earth.

     And I think that is why I am beginning to sense a difference in the atmosphere of Rockport.  The streets are beginning to be cleared of debris. Tree branches and limbs are being collected int