In All Honesty ….

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     Today I’m struggling. I feel God is bringing Mark and I to a crossroads in our Christian walk. As many of you know, He has been drumming into our hearts and spirits that His harvest is great and He has far too few laborers to bring all the harvest in before He judges the world. He has brought a deliverance/healing ministry to us and clearly shown us that His Kingdom is at hand and He desires us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom.  We have loved every minute of sharing our passion for what the Word and the Spirit have shown us, and the past couple of years have seen our paths cross many people — both Christians and non-Christians. And that is where some of my struggle is coming from.
     Why is it easier to live the Kingdom lifestyle with non-believers than with the very people who read the same Bible I do? How can we Christians have so many different ideas of how we are to live Godly lives? I know a good many of the reasons and have most of the answers to those very questions — denominational doctrines; fear of deception; spiritual immaturity in the Body of Christ; and lack of knowledge of God’s full counsel, are just some of them.

     But why is that Christians don’t like to be challenged to step out of their comfort zones? How is it that they can even think [or expect] that the Christian life is supposed to be comfortable? And you can substitute “peaceful” or “joyful” or “secure”, or any other word that translates as pleasant. Why is it so hard to get them to hear what Jesus preached? I know that the majority of the New Testament is centered around the letters of Paul to the churches. And what Paul has to say is important. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13, which is more than any other writer in the Bible. His writings are to compliment and instruct a fuller picture of what the Gospels reveal about the Son of God. And it is obvious that Jesus appearing to Saul on the road to Damascus was to anoint him for a very important job for the Kingdom.
     Yes, Paul has taught us about how we are to treat each other with grace and love, not cause conflict or division in the Body, and to glorify our Lord and Savior. God inspired Paul to write how He desired followers of Jesus to conduct themselves in relation to each other, and to the world. Ephesians 3:8-9 tells us that Paul was empowered [by God’s grace] to “boldly preach this wonderful message to non-Jewish people, sharing with them the unfading,inexhaustible riches of Christ, which are beyond comprehension”. It was his passion to “enlighten every person to this divine mystery. It was hidden for ages past until now, and kept a secret in the heart of God, the Creator of all”. Just what that “mystery” is, is still being debated among 21st century Christians. 
     Most believe it is that God planned for the Church to spread His Gospel message across the world. In other words, the emphasis today is that “the unfading, inexhaustible riches of Christ, which are beyond comprehension” are all centered on the Church and how it is to be conducted. I believe that is why the practice of Grace, Love, Worship, etc. in the Church have taken priority in our spiritual lives.
     I want to make it very clear that those are indeed central to how God wants His Kingdom to be enacted upon the earth. But why aren’t we considering that the inexhaustible [abundant, everlasting, immeasurable] riches of Christ also include those things He commanded us to do as His followers and disciples? Jesus said in Luke 4:43 that He was sent to preach the hope of an eternal Kingdom breaking into this realm. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. And this was God’s plan from the beginning to reconcile His creation back to Him. It includes all that Jesus preached and all that Paul taught about how to administer it … setting the captives free from sickness, disease, demons, death; the revelation of God’s kingdom realm available to us NOW to change our hearts; which results in Grace and Love and Worship and Glorifying God in a unified Body called the Church.  It is ALL those things! But somehow, we only want to look at the last part of that equation, and definitely don’t want anything to do with the first part.
     And I fully recognize that those characteristics of Grace, Love, Worship, and Peace in the Church are worthy aspects of our Christian experience. But are they to take precedence over what Jesus says are the two greatest commandments? He very specifically tells us to love the Lord our God with “every passion of our heart, with all the energy of our being, and with every thought that is within us [heart, soul, mind, and spirit]. And to love our neighbor as ourselves”. And how does Jesus then say we show Him we love Him? By obeying His commandments! And that is emphasized again in His Great Commission to His 12 Disciples [and to all His disciples who would follow him in the centuries to come]: Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. 

     Here is what is at the heart of my struggle …. we can show grace and love, and experience worship and peace and joy while obeying His commands to go out and make disciples, baptize people, set them free, which is all part of Kingdom living. But if all we want to do is experience the grace and love and worship and peace and joy without doing what He commands us to do, then are we truly obeying Him? Are we living a full Kingdom life?
     I truly and fully understand that not everyone (whether Believer or non-Believer) desires to step out of their comfort zone to do ALL of what Jesus and Paul taught. But how do I continue to walk further on my path without leaving others behind, or offending them because I can no longer limit my experiential relationship with Christ? I know that I can glorify Him in a number of ways — by the love I show others; by my testimony of what He has done in my life; by extending the Grace He has shown me to another who has stumbled; by even using my God-given talent to write for Him. But that is not all He has commanded me to do! And it is my heart’s desire to commit my every act to Him. But my spirit is very clear — I cannot ignore His commandments to go out and do the things that He did — no matter how uncomfortable or scary or “against the grain” of modern Christianity it is to do. 
     And, so I now see my Father in Heaven opening new doors to join with others who are interested in going beyond the normal Christian/Church experience, and who are willing to take the next step. I will never stop loving my fellow Christians, but if what Mark and I have shared over the last two-three years does not link our hearts and spirits and Christian walk together, then perhaps we are not the right people to carry His message to them. I do not want the devil to use our differences to alienate us [which would break my heart] or insinuate condemnation [which would be a lie used to separate us]. 
     I simply want to embody the freedom in Christ that He died to give us all. I want to live a life that is pleasing to God, obeying His commands, and being empowered to make His Kingdom a reality to all whom He is calling. That’s going to look different for me than it is for you — after all we are not all going to be hands or eyes or toes. God didn’t use the same cookie cutter mold to create us all the same. We are not the same — our calling may look different, yet none of us are greater than another. But we can give each other permission to be all that God has designed us to be, with no limitations or conditions on our service to the Kingdom. Finally, it is my heart’s desire that the Body of Christ be encouragers, not discouragers; teaching each other how to grow in a holy and sanctified understanding of God, and not limiting knowledge to doctrinal theology; and finally to walk in the fullness of a true spiritual relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and not just what makes us feel comfortable in our minds or emotions. 
     I celebrate the journey each of us is on, and praise our God for growing us in His timing. It is my desire to respond to His specific invitation on my life, while encouraging others to seek the path He has designed for them. Our paths may intersect and then separate for a time, and that’s okay. In the end, if we stay true to our calling in Christ, we can be confident that we are being joined together [in harmony] to become the dwelling place of God by the Holy Spirit. Let each of us live faithfully to the calling on our lives to follow Jesus, and extend His love and grace to those on a different path. 

1 Corinthians 7:17     May all believers continue to live the wonderful lives God has called them to live, according to what He assigns for each person…

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 12

     I think I’m safe in saying that 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 is one of the most deliberated chapters in the Bible. At the heart of the chapter is the subject of spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul begins his letter to the growing Church in Corinth (scholarly estimates suggest the number of members was between 40 and 150) by telling them he doesn’t want them to be “confused” about spiritual gifts. Other translations say, “I don’t want you to be uninformed [or misunderstand] the gifts”, so obviously the Early Church also struggled with coming to terms with the divine gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit.
     And I have to admit that I have not heard a teaching in the churches I have attended over the years that satisfied all the questions I, myself, had. And, as I am again making my way through the Bible [in chronological order], and I reached this important chapter, I figured it was time to develop my own understanding according to the revelation God would give me as I dug in.
     Let me say this before I begin to share my apprehension of Chapter 12 … this time I am reading from The Passion Translation, and understanding jumped out at me so quickly as I saw the methodical way Paul “unpacked” the knowledge he had received from his own revelations. I no longer saw all the various interpretations different pastors had given this chapter; nor was Scripture tainted with denominational doctrine that obscured its clear meaning. At least this is how 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 was revealed to me. And of course, I urge you to study it yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, free of any man’s bias [including mine]. With that caveat, let me begin to share what I have perceived…
     Paul says he wants to impart to the believers in the Church in Corinth this conviction: It is the power and influence of the Holy Spirit that reveals that Jesus is God, and reveals the understanding of of His Word. Then 1 Corinthians 12:4 says this same Holy Spirit “distributes many different varieties of spiritual gifts”. And the Passion Translation actually says “continues to distribute” these gifts. [Note: none of the other translations give any indication that the spiritual gifts were not for all believers, for all time]. These gifts include: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. I will elaborate more on these in a moment.
     Verse 5 then says that the Lord Yahweh (Jesus who is One with the Father) “apportions to believers different varieties of ministries”. These ministries [apportioned by grace] are the ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Notice that Scripture calls these roles ministries or areas of service, NOT offices in the Church heirarchy. And then it is verse 6 that struck me as so important. I want to give it to you in several different translations so that it is clear that the meaning is consistent. Verse 6 in the Passion Translation reads, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift AND ministry as He energizes and activates them”. The New Living Translation says, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us“.  The Amplified version reads, “And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]”.  And finally, the King James version says, “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
     Then Paul summarizes it all by saying, “Each believer is given continuous revelationby the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”.  First of all, I want to say that I truly believe Scripture is telling us that every believer has the Holy Spirit in us, and since the Holy Spirit possesses all the spiritual gifts, we each have ALL the gifts in us, and they are available to us as the Holy Spirit leads us to use them. Secondly, I also believe that verse 5 makes it clear that those five ministries [of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher] are available for each believer. We should all be walking in the gifts [as distributed by the Holy Spirit] and in a ministry [as apportioned by Jesus]. Not what you’ve been taught in Church? Let’s go back and consider verses 4 through 6 again:

It is the same Holy Spirit who continues to distribute many different varieties of gifts.
The Lord Yahweh is one,and He is the one who apportions to believers different varieties of ministries.
The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them.

     Can you see it now? Each believer has the availability of the spiritual gifts and a ministry. But they are activated and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Unless one is in communion with the Holy Spirit within themselves, I believe these gifts and ministries can be neglected [at the least] and/or misused [at the worst]. What we need to comprehend is that the spiritual gifts Paul talks about in Chapter 12 are the power source for Christians! If we are not walking in that divine power, or ministering to the Body of Christ in one of the five service ministries, then how much influence do you think Christians or the Church are going to have in the world? 
     A very good friend of mine, who is growing and maturing in her faith at an exponential rate, asked me a wise and insightful question…. Couldn’t we operate in more than one gift and more than one ministry? And my first thought was, The Bible doesn’t say we’re restricted to just one, and then my second thought was, Shouldn’t we want to? When you consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts and the ministries, it becomes obvious [to me, at least] that in order for the Kingdom of God on earth to be established, the Body of Christ/Church must step into the identities and gifts to which they’ve been called.
    Consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts: Word of Wisdom: a revelation gift of the Holy Spirit to impart an understanding of strategy and insight that only God can give to unlock the hearts of people and free the corporate body of Christ to move forward under God’s direction. Word of Knowledge: the gift of a revelation message from the Holy Spirit; often through an impression of thought in one’s mind, a vision, an audible voice that gives understanding of a situation that cannot be known by the natural mind. Gift of Faith: faith that comes from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; released in a person’s life to do the [miracle] works of God on earth. Gift of Healing: the power of the Holy Spirit [that raised Jesus from the dead] released in a believer to heal the sick here on earth. Miraculous Works of Power: this is a gift that gives a believer the divine power to do what Jesus did [still a storm, feed thousands, walk on water, cast out demons, turn water into wine, raise the dead, destroy cancer in a body]. Gift of Prophecy: to be given divine revelation from the Holy Spirit to speak the word of God in proclaiming God’s will over a person’s life or a particular situation. Scripture says this is one gift that every believer should desire and never despise [1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20]. Gift of Discernment: the divine ability to recognize the origin of spirits; whether from God or demons; to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. Gifts of Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues: this is the gift of a divine language for the edification of the Body of Christ/Church and its interpretation [not the same as speaking in tongues, a personal prayer language].      
     Paul goes on in the rest of Chapter 12 to impress upon the Corinthian believers that these gifts are for the benefit of maturing the Church into one effective Body for Christ [with many parts]. There should be no competition for status or position within the Body, and he emphasizes over and over that collectively, they are the body of Jesus, “and each of you is a unique and vital part of it”. He then goes on in the final verses to reiterate that God has placed in the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, those with gifts of miracles, gifts of divine healing, gifts of tongues, etc. And his final admonition in the chapter is to say that “not everyone [is these things or has these gifts]”. BUT, my spirit discerns that he is not saying that only a select few receive them, but rather, that the Body is not made up of all apostles, or that only the gift of healing is evident in the Body. In fact, he says in verse 31, You should all constantly boil over with passion in seeking the higher gifts. And I believe those five ministries and the nine spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are the “higher” gifts he is referring to. [Keep in mind there are other “services/ministries” and “gifts” that build up the Body, such as Deacon, Steward, Charity, Hospitality, Helps, etc].  
     Finally, I believe that we can grasp the bigger picture of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians by taking a look at his letter to the Ephesian Church: The ministries given to all believers by the grace of God will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ”. Furthermore, “every member [of the Body] has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love”.
     So, can you see that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in a Church in which every believer constantly and passionately seeks to fill his particular ministry role, using any and all gifts he/she receives from the Holy Spirit to empower Christ’s Body on earth to walk in His image? Can you see how equipped the modern Church would be to battle against the lies and false values the Enemy has instilled in our culture, society, and yes, holy assemblies? I don’t know about you, but I want all that God wants to give me, and I want to give my all to Him! Lord, I answer your call and receive as many of Your divine gifts as You will give me. I thank You for the opportunity to serve You!

Ephesians 4:6     And He is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!

  
     
    

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 12

Click here to view the original post.

     I think I’m safe in saying that 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 is one of the most deliberated chapters in the Bible. At the heart of the chapter is the subject of spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul begins his letter to the growing Church in Corinth (scholarly estimates suggest the number of members was between 40 and 150) by telling them he doesn’t want them to be “confused” about spiritual gifts. Other translations say, “I don’t want you to be uninformed [or misunderstand] the gifts”, so obviously the Early Church also struggled with coming to terms with the divine gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit.
     And I have to admit that I have not heard a teaching in the churches I have attended over the years that satisfied all the questions I, myself, had. And, as I am again making my way through the Bible [in chronological order], and I reached this important chapter, I figured it was time to develop my own understanding according to the revelation God would give me as I dug in.
     Let me say this before I begin to share my apprehension of Chapter 12 … this time I am reading from The Passion Translation, and understanding jumped out at me so quickly as I saw the methodical way Paul “unpacked” the knowledge he had received from his own revelations. I no longer saw all the various interpretations different pastors had given this chapter; nor was Scripture tainted with denominational doctrine that obscured its clear meaning. At least this is how 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 was revealed to me. And of course, I urge you to study it yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, free of any man’s bias [including mine]. With that caveat, let me begin to share what I have perceived…
     Paul says he wants to impart to the believers in the Church in Corinth this conviction: It is the power and influence of the Holy Spirit that reveals that Jesus is God, and reveals the understanding of of His Word. Then 1 Corinthians 12:4 says this same Holy Spirit “distributes many different varieties of spiritual gifts”. And the Passion Translation actually says “continues to distribute” these gifts. [Note: none of the other translations give any indication that the spiritual gifts were not for all believers, for all time]. These gifts include: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. I will elaborate more on these in a moment.
     Verse 5 then says that the Lord Yahweh (Jesus who is One with the Father) “apportions to believers different varieties of ministries”. These ministries [apportioned by grace] are the ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Notice that Scripture calls these roles ministries or areas of service, NOT offices in the Church heirarchy. And then it is verse 6 that struck me as so important. I want to give it to you in several different translations so that it is clear that the meaning is consistent. Verse 6 in the Passion Translation reads, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift AND ministry as He energizes and activates them”. The New Living Translation says, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us“.  The Amplified version reads, “And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]”.  And finally, the King James version says, “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
     Then Paul summarizes it all by saying, “Each believer is given continuous revelationby the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”.  First of all, I want to say that I truly believe Scripture is telling us that every believer has the Holy Spirit in us, and since the Holy Spirit possesses all the spiritual gifts, we each have ALL the gifts in us, and they are available to us as the Holy Spirit leads us to use them. Secondly, I also believe that verse 5 makes it clear that those five ministries [of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher] are available for each believer. We should all be walking in the gifts [as distributed by the Holy Spirit] and in a ministry [as apportioned by Jesus]. Not what you’ve been taught in Church? Let’s go back and consider verses 4 through 6 again:

It is the same Holy Spirit who continues to distribute many different varieties of gifts.
The Lord Yahweh is one,and He is the one who apportions to believers different varieties of ministries.
The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them.

     Can you see it now? Each believer has the availability of the spiritual gifts and a ministry. But they are activated and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Unless one is in communion with the Holy Spirit within themselves, I believe these gifts and ministries can be neglected [at the least] and/or misused [at the worst]. What we need to comprehend is that the spiritual gifts Paul talks about in Chapter 12 are the power source for Christians! If we are not walking in that divine power, or ministering to the Body of Christ in one of the five service ministries, then how much influence do you think Christians or the Church are going to have in the world? 
     A very good friend of mine, who is growing and maturing in her faith at an exponential rate, asked me a wise and insightful question…. Couldn’t we operate in more than one gift and more than one ministry? And my first thought was, The Bible doesn’t say we’re restricted to just one, and then my second thought was, Shouldn’t we want to? When you consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts and the ministries, it becomes obvious [to me, at least] that in order for the Kingdom of God on earth to be established, the Body of Christ/Church must step into the identities and gifts to which they’ve been called.
    Consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts: Word of Wisdom: a revelation gift of the Holy Spirit to impart an understanding of strategy and insight that only God can give to unlock the hearts of people and free the corporate body of Christ to move forward under God’s direction. Word of Knowledge: the gift of a revelation message from the Holy Spirit; often through an impression of thought in one’s mind, a vision, an audible voice that gives understanding of a situation that cannot be known by the natural mind. Gift of Faith: faith that comes from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; released in a person’s life to do the [miracle] works of God on earth. Gift of Healing: the power of the Holy Spirit [that raised Jesus from the dead] released in a believer to heal the sick here on earth. Miraculous Works of Power: this is a gift that gives a believer the divine power to do what Jesus did [still a storm, feed thousands, walk on water, cast out demons, turn water into wine, raise the dead, destroy cancer in a body]. Gift of Prophecy: to be given divine revelation from the Holy Spirit to speak the word of God in proclaiming God’s will over a person’s life or a particular situation. Scripture says this is one gift that every believer should desire and never despise [1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20]. Gift of Discernment: the divine ability to recognize the origin of spirits; whether from God or demons; to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. Gifts of Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues: this is the gift of a divine language for the edification of the Body of Christ/Church and its interpretation [not the same as speaking in tongues, a personal prayer language].      
     Paul goes on in the rest of Chapter 12 to impress upon the Corinthian believers that these gifts are for the benefit of maturing the Church into one effective Body for Christ [with many parts]. There should be no competition for status or position within the Body, and he emphasizes over and over that collectively, they are the body of Jesus, “and each of you is a unique and vital part of it”. He then goes on in the final verses to reiterate that God has placed in the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, those with gifts of miracles, gifts of divine healing, gifts of tongues, etc. And his final admonition in the chapter is to say that “not everyone [is these things or has these gifts]”. BUT, my spirit discerns that he is not saying that only a select few receive them, but rather, that the Body is not made up of all apostles, or that only the gift of healing is evident in the Body. In fact, he says in verse 31, You should all constantly boil over with passion in seeking the higher gifts. And I believe those five ministries and the nine spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are the “higher” gifts he is referring to. [Keep in mind there are other “services/ministries” and “gifts” that build up the Body, such as Deacon, Steward, Charity, Hospitality, Helps, etc].  
     Finally, I believe that we can grasp the bigger picture of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians by taking a look at his letter to the Ephesian Church: The ministries given to all believers by the grace of God will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ”. Furthermore, “every member [of the Body] has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love”.
     So, can you see that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in a Church in which every believer constantly and passionately seeks to fill his particular ministry role, using any and all gifts he/she receives from the Holy Spirit to empower Christ’s Body on earth to walk in His image? Can you see how equipped the modern Church would be to battle against the lies and false values the Enemy has instilled in our culture, society, and yes, holy assemblies? I don’t know about you, but I want all that God wants to give me, and I want to give my all to Him! Lord, I answer your call and receive as many of Your divine gifts as You will give me. I thank You for the opportunity to serve You!

Ephesians 4:6     And He is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!

  
     
    

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 12

     I think I’m safe in saying that 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 is one of the most deliberated chapters in the Bible. At the heart of the chapter is the subject of spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul begins his letter to the growing Church in Corinth (scholarly estimates suggest the number of members was between 40 and 150) by telling them he doesn’t want them to be “confused” about spiritual gifts. Other translations say, “I don’t want you to be uninformed [or misunderstand] the gifts”, so obviously the Early Church also struggled with coming to terms with the divine gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit.
     And I have to admit that I have not heard a teaching in the churches I have attended over the years that satisfied all the questions I, myself, had. And, as I am again making my way through the Bible [in chronological order], and I reached this important chapter, I figured it was time to develop my own understanding according to the revelation God would give me as I dug in.
     Let me say this before I begin to share my apprehension of Chapter 12 … this time I am reading from The Passion Translation, and understanding jumped out at me so quickly as I saw the methodical way Paul “unpacked” the knowledge he had received from his own revelations. I no longer saw all the various interpretations different pastors had given this chapter; nor was Scripture tainted with denominational doctrine that obscured its clear meaning. At least this is how 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 was revealed to me. And of course, I urge you to study it yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, free of any man’s bias [including mine]. With that caveat, let me begin to share what I have perceived…
     Paul says he wants to impart to the believers in the Church in Corinth this conviction: It is the power and influence of the Holy Spirit that reveals that Jesus is God, and reveals the understanding of of His Word. Then 1 Corinthians 12:4 says this same Holy Spirit “distributes many different varieties of spiritual gifts”. And the Passion Translation actually says “continues to distribute” these gifts. [Note: none of the other translations give any indication that the spiritual gifts were not for all believers, for all time]. These gifts include: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. I will elaborate more on these in a moment.
     Verse 5 then says that the Lord Yahweh (Jesus who is One with the Father) “apportions to believers different varieties of ministries”. These ministries [apportioned by grace] are the ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Notice that Scripture calls these roles ministries or areas of service, NOT offices in the Church heirarchy. And then it is verse 6 that struck me as so important. I want to give it to you in several different translations so that it is clear that the meaning is consistent. Verse 6 in the Passion Translation reads, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift AND ministry as He energizes and activates them”. The New Living Translation says, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us“.  The Amplified version reads, “And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]”.  And finally, the King James version says, “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
     Then Paul summarizes it all by saying, “Each believer is given continuous revelationby the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”.  First of all, I want to say that I truly believe Scripture is telling us that every believer has the Holy Spirit in us, and since the Holy Spirit possesses all the spiritual gifts, we each have ALL the gifts in us, and they are available to us as the Holy Spirit leads us to use them. Secondly, I also believe that verse 5 makes it clear that those five ministries [of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher] are available for each believer. We should all be walking in the gifts [as distributed by the Holy Spirit] and in a ministry [as apportioned by Jesus]. Not what you’ve been taught in Church? Let’s go back and consider verses 4 through 6 again:

It is the same Holy Spirit who continues to distribute many different varieties of gifts.
The Lord Yahweh is one,and He is the one who apportions to believers different varieties of ministries.
The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them.

     Can you see it now? Each believer has the availability of the spiritual gifts and a ministry. But they are activated and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Unless one is in communion with the Holy Spirit within themselves, I believe these gifts and ministries can be neglected [at the least] and/or misused [at the worst]. What we need to comprehend is that the spiritual gifts Paul talks about in Chapter 12 are the power source for Christians! If we are not walking in that divine power, or ministering to the Body of Christ in one of the five service ministries, then how much influence do you think Christians or the Church are going to have in the world? 
     A very good friend of mine, who is growing and maturing in her faith at an exponential rate, asked me a wise and insightful question…. Couldn’t we operate in more than one gift and more than one ministry? And my first thought was, The Bible doesn’t say we’re restricted to just one, and then my second thought was, Shouldn’t we want to? When you consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts and the ministries, it becomes obvious [to me, at least] that in order for the Kingdom of God on earth to be established, the Body of Christ/Church must step into the identities and gifts to which they’ve been called.
    Consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts: Word of Wisdom: a revelation gift of the Holy Spirit to impart an understanding of strategy and insight that only God can give to unlock the hearts of people and free the corporate body of Christ to move forward under God’s direction. Word of Knowledge: the gift of a revelation message from the Holy Spirit; often through an impression of thought in one’s mind, a vision, an audible voice that gives understanding of a situation that cannot be known by the natural mind. Gift of Faith: faith that comes from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; released in a person’s life to do the [miracle] works of God on earth. Gift of Healing: the power of the Holy Spirit [that raised Jesus from the dead] released in a believer to heal the sick here on earth. Miraculous Works of Power: this is a gift that gives a believer the divine power to do what Jesus did [still a storm, feed thousands, walk on water, cast out demons, turn water into wine, raise the dead, destroy cancer in a body]. Gift of Prophecy: to be given divine revelation from the Holy Spirit to speak the word of God in proclaiming God’s will over a person’s life or a particular situation. Scripture says this is one gift that every believer should desire and never despise [1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20]. Gift of Discernment: the divine ability to recognize the origin of spirits; whether from God or demons; to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. Gifts of Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues: this is the gift of a divine language for the edification of the Body of Christ/Church and its interpretation [not the same as speaking in tongues, a personal prayer language].      
     Paul goes on in the rest of Chapter 12 to impress upon the Corinthian believers that these gifts are for the benefit of maturing the Church into one effective Body for Christ [with many parts]. There should be no competition for status or position within the Body, and he emphasizes over and over that collectively, they are the body of Jesus, “and each of you is a unique and vital part of it”. He then goes on in the final verses to reiterate that God has placed in the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, those with gifts of miracles, gifts of divine healing, gifts of tongues, etc. And his final admonition in the chapter is to say that “not everyone [is these things or has these gifts]”. BUT, my spirit discerns that he is not saying that only a select few receive them, but rather, that the Body is not made up of all apostles, or that only the gift of healing is evident in the Body. In fact, he says in verse 31, You should all constantly boil over with passion in seeking the higher gifts. And I believe those five ministries and the nine spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are the “higher” gifts he is referring to. [Keep in mind there are other “services/ministries” and “gifts” that build up the Body, such as Deacon, Steward, Charity, Hospitality, Helps, etc].  
     Finally, I believe that we can grasp the bigger picture of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians by taking a look at his letter to the Ephesian Church: The ministries given to all believers by the grace of God will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ”. Furthermore, “every member [of the Body] has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love”.
     So, can you see that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in a Church in which every believer constantly and passionately seeks to fill his particular ministry role, using any and all gifts he/she receives from the Holy Spirit to empower Christ’s Body on earth to walk in His image? Can you see how equipped the modern Church would be to battle against the lies and false values the Enemy has instilled in our culture, society, and yes, holy assemblies? I don’t know about you, but I want all that God wants to give me, and I want to give my all to Him! Lord, I answer your call and receive as many of Your divine gifts as You will give me. I thank You for the opportunity to serve You!

Ephesians 4:6     And He is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!

  
     
    

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 12

     I think I’m safe in saying that 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 is one of the most deliberated chapters in the Bible. At the heart of the chapter is the subject of spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul begins his letter to the growing Church in Corinth (scholarly estimates suggest the number of members was between 40 and 150) by telling them he doesn’t want them to be “confused” about spiritual gifts. Other translations say, “I don’t want you to be uninformed [or misunderstand] the gifts”, so obviously the Early Church also struggled with coming to terms with the divine gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit.
     And I have to admit that I have not heard a teaching in the churches I have attended over the years that satisfied all the questions I, myself, had. And, as I am again making my way through the Bible [in chronological order], and I reached this important chapter, I figured it was time to develop my own understanding according to the revelation God would give me as I dug in.
     Let me say this before I begin to share my apprehension of Chapter 12 … this time I am reading from The Passion Translation, and understanding jumped out at me so quickly as I saw the methodical way Paul “unpacked” the knowledge he had received from his own revelations. I no longer saw all the various interpretations different pastors had given this chapter; nor was Scripture tainted with denominational doctrine that obscured its clear meaning. At least this is how 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 was revealed to me. And of course, I urge you to study it yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, free of any man’s bias [including mine]. With that caveat, let me begin to share what I have perceived…
     Paul says he wants to impart to the believers in the Church in Corinth this conviction: It is the power and influence of the Holy Spirit that reveals that Jesus is God, and reveals the understanding of of His Word. Then 1 Corinthians 12:4 says this same Holy Spirit “distributes many different varieties of spiritual gifts”. And the Passion Translation actually says “continues to distribute” these gifts. [Note: none of the other translations give any indication that the spiritual gifts were not for all believers, for all time]. These gifts include: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. I will elaborate more on these in a moment.
     Verse 5 then says that the Lord Yahweh (Jesus who is One with the Father) “apportions to believers different varieties of ministries”. These ministries [apportioned by grace] are the ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Notice that Scripture calls these roles ministries or areas of service, NOT offices in the Church heirarchy. And then it is verse 6 that struck me as so important. I want to give it to you in several different translations so that it is clear that the meaning is consistent. Verse 6 in the Passion Translation reads, “The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift AND ministry as He energizes and activates them”. The New Living Translation says, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us“.  The Amplified version reads, “And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]”.  And finally, the King James version says, “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
     Then Paul summarizes it all by saying, “Each believer is given continuous revelationby the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all”.  First of all, I want to say that I truly believe Scripture is telling us that every believer has the Holy Spirit in us, and since the Holy Spirit possesses all the spiritual gifts, we each have ALL the gifts in us, and they are available to us as the Holy Spirit leads us to use them. Secondly, I also believe that verse 5 makes it clear that those five ministries [of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher] are available for each believer. We should all be walking in the gifts [as distributed by the Holy Spirit] and in a ministry [as apportioned by Jesus]. Not what you’ve been taught in Church? Let’s go back and consider verses 4 through 6 again:

It is the same Holy Spirit who continues to distribute many different varieties of gifts.
The Lord Yahweh is one,and He is the one who apportions to believers different varieties of ministries.
The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them.

     Can you see it now? Each believer has the availability of the spiritual gifts and a ministry. But they are activated and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Unless one is in communion with the Holy Spirit within themselves, I believe these gifts and ministries can be neglected [at the least] and/or misused [at the worst]. What we need to comprehend is that the spiritual gifts Paul talks about in Chapter 12 are the power source for Christians! If we are not walking in that divine power, or ministering to the Body of Christ in one of the five service ministries, then how much influence do you think Christians or the Church are going to have in the world? 
     A very good friend of mine, who is growing and maturing in her faith at an exponential rate, asked me a wise and insightful question…. Couldn’t we operate in more than one gift and more than one ministry? And my first thought was, The Bible doesn’t say we’re restricted to just one, and then my second thought was, Shouldn’t we want to? When you consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts and the ministries, it becomes obvious [to me, at least] that in order for the Kingdom of God on earth to be established, the Body of Christ/Church must step into the identities and gifts to which they’ve been called.
    Consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts: Word of Wisdom: a revelation gift of the Holy Spirit to impart an understanding of strategy and insight that only God can give to unlock the hearts of people and free the corporate body of Christ to move forward under God’s direction. Word of Knowledge: the gift of a revelation message from the Holy Spirit; often through an impression of thought in one’s mind, a vision, an audible voice that gives understanding of a situation that cannot be known by the natural mind. Gift of Faith: faith that comes from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; released in a person’s life to do the [miracle] works of God on earth. Gift of Healing: the power of the Holy Spirit [that raised Jesus from the dead] released in a believer to heal the sick here on earth. Miraculous Works of Power: this is a gift that gives a believer the divine power to do what Jesus did [still a storm, feed thousands, walk on water, cast out demons, turn water into wine, raise the dead, destroy cancer in a body]. Gift of Prophecy: to be given divine revelation from the Holy Spirit to speak the word of God in proclaiming God’s will over a person’s life or a particular situation. Scripture says this is one gift that every believer should desire and never despise [1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20]. Gift of Discernment: the divine ability to recognize the origin of spirits; whether from God or demons; to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. Gifts of Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues: this is the gift of a divine language for the edification of the Body of Christ/Church and its interpretation [not the same as speaking in tongues, a personal prayer language].      
     Paul goes on in the rest of Chapter 12 to impress upon the Corinthian believers that these gifts are for the benefit of maturing the Church into one effective Body for Christ [with many parts]. There should be no competition for status or position within the Body, and he emphasizes over and over that collectively, they are the body of Jesus, “and each of you is a unique and vital part of it”. He then goes on in the final verses to reiterate that God has placed in the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, those with gifts of miracles, gifts of divine healing, gifts of tongues, etc. And his final admonition in the chapter is to say that “not everyone [is these things or has these gifts]”. BUT, my spirit discerns that he is not saying that only a select few receive them, but rather, that the Body is not made up of all apostles, or that only the gift of healing is evident in the Body. In fact, he says in verse 31, You should all constantly boil over with passion in seeking the higher gifts. And I believe those five ministries and the nine spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are the “higher” gifts he is referring to. [Keep in mind there are other “services/ministries” and “gifts” that build up the Body, such as Deacon, Steward, Charity, Hospitality, Helps, etc].  
     Finally, I believe that we can grasp the bigger picture of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians by taking a look at his letter to the Ephesian Church: The ministries given to all believers by the grace of God will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ”. Furthermore, “every member [of the Body] has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love”.
     So, can you see that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in a Church in which every believer constantly and passionately seeks to fill his particular ministry role, using any and all gifts he/she receives from the Holy Spirit to empower Christ’s Body on earth to walk in His image? Can you see how equipped the modern Church would be to battle against the lies and false values the Enemy has instilled in our culture, society, and yes, holy assemblies? I don’t know about you, but I want all that God wants to give me, and I want to give my all to Him! Lord, I answer your call and receive as many of Your divine gifts as You will give me. I thank You for the opportunity to serve You!

Ephesians 4:6     And He is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!

  
     
    

Don’t Sleep Through The Harvest

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     As my body matures with age and my relationship with Jesus matures spiritually, I am less concerned with the trappings of this world. Oh, there was a time that it mattered if my salary was increasing, or how late the model of my car was, or even how many square feet was in my house. I was just as caught up in meeting the world’s standards as anyone else.
     But now I’m increasingly content with where I’m at on my life’s timeline — I’m no longer concerned with comparing myself to anyone other than Jesus. I know that makes me sound corny and like a Christian cliché. But I simply mean that outward appearances, or things the world counts as wealth, no longer satisfy me or entice me. And I find myself saddened when people I care about still measure their success in life by the things they’ve accumulated, or the status symbols they think define them.
     Case in point, we recently enjoyed a visit with a very good friend that we’ve known for 25 years. There was a time, before Mark and I answered the Lord’s invitation, when we were extremely close with him and his wife. We shared a lot of fun times together as well as the same outlook on life… struggling to chase after the “good life”; nice car, nice house, money in the bank, and “a secure future in the world”. In fact, we were blessed when they asked us to be godparents to their daughter.

     But then something changed along the way. Mark decided to follow his God-given talent as an artist, which meant trusting God for our security, which led to us seeking to become sincere followers of Jesus Christ, our Savior. All the while, our friends were focused on the things that marked what society called a successful lifestyle — a second home in the mountains; frequent travels to Europe and around the world; driving luxury cars; and enrolling their daughter in a private religious school. You guessed it; we no longer traveled in the same social circles, and they began to view our pursuit of Jesus as unappealing and restrictive.
     A recent conversation with our goddaughter, who is taking a year off from school to travel the world, revealed just what our image is like to them. As a pre-teen, she struggled with describing how she sees us… “really Christian; going to church; you know … in the Bible all the time”. In other words, not much fun, and certainly incapable of having anything in common with her family’s way of living.  Mind you, she had been enrolled in a prestigious private Christian school, but I’m afraid the only affirmation of Scripture she received was when her parents said to call us for an explanation of a particular theological concept. Needless to say, my heart hurt after that conversation.
     And while she and her mother are experiencing the excitement of ancient cities, museums, and cultures, her dad is back home in the States working to make this unique experience possible. And it was the recent visit with him that has brought me to write this post.
     He was explaining how well his company was doing and that he had provided well for his daughter. “Her college is paid for, she is set for life, and will never have to worry about anything”. My spirit leaped. Did I dare speak what the Holy Spirit just whispered to me, even at the risk it might offend him? I hesitated for just a moment, before deciding that their eternal souls were on the line, and I had to speak.
     “I’m going to say this because I love you and your family”. There was a silence that was palpable. “I know you have taken care of your daughter well, and she has everything this world can offer. But it’s what comes after this world that I’m concerned about. This life is temporary; seventy to eighty years, if we’re lucky. But eternity is forever. What are you giving her to prepare her for that?”
     There was a long silence. Then his response went something like this … “I have another friend; the wife of a colleague, who is close to God like you are. She even says she talks to God and he talks to her. But I never hear from God”. Ah, my dear friend, do you ever stop pursuing the riches of this world to listen for Him? Because, I promise you, He is trying to engage with you every minute! He then went on to talk about “all” the conflicts in the Bible, yet he could only mention a couple … the age of the earth and the dinosaurs; and how irrelevant and hard is the Old Testament to understand.
     An attempt to engage in an entry level discussion of Scripture was quickly rebuffed and the topic changed to how he was going to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday by flying four couples to Europe for a week. It was clear that he had no desire to hear any testimony from us on how Jesus has impacted our life. I guess that me, Mark, and Jesus just aren’t exciting enough.
     Now, maybe you have friends or family like this — maybe not as wealthy as this — but definitely as blind and lost. Have you, like Mark and I, tried for years to reach them about their salvation, and feel like you’re failing?  Here’s the way I look at it … I have really become convicted that if I do not take advantage of every opportunity I have to share Jesus, and what He has done in my life and wants to do in theirs, then I cannot expect to see any change in the person. That doesn’t mean I am constantly on a religious soap box. But it does mean that when I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak into a person’s life, then I must plant the seed so He can water it.
     The times that I have resisted these promptings have resulted in a very clear reminder from my Lord, “But if you publicly deny that you know Me,I will also deny you before My heavenly Father”.  I believe that doesn’t just include the obvious case of blasphemy, but also encompasses missed opportunities to share our testimonies. You see, I really believe that a spiritual nudge from the Spirit is an opportunity for me to partner with Him in enlarging His Kingdom here on earth. I know without a doubt that God doesn’t want anyone to be lost. And I will admit that it is difficult to wrap my head around whether He knows who will [or will not] accept His invitation for eternal salvation before its even offered, but I do not want to stand before Jesus and hear Him say, “I was waiting for you to tell him/her about Me, but the moment was squandered, and the opportunity was lost”. What if I was the only one God put in their path? And then there is the thought, Why would I ever hesitate to share with anyone how He called to me and saved me from eternal separation from Him?
     So, if you are like me and despair over your inability to reach family or friends, remember that it is not you who do the saving work. Your job is to sow the seeds, even if they appear to fall on the wayside, or rocky ground, or among thorns. Only the Living Water can nourish them, and you will know that you have served the Kingdom as a worthy ambassador. Instead of worrying about whether the seed took root, or suffering an obvious rejection, keep looking for those circumstances in which you can host the Presence of God. Speak whenever prompted and trust that your efforts will not be in vain. You may not see results this side of heaven, but I savor the thought of surprising reunions in the glorious kingdom of our Father!

Proverbs 10:5   Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!

Kingdom Living Is Miracle Territory

     There are some days that I just have to devote to shouting the praises of Jesus! Today is such a day. As I am becoming more and more aware of the demarcation line between me and Christians who do not perceive Kingdom living the same as Mark and I, the greater measure of the Presence of God I find in my life.
     I want to make it clear that I do not see myself as elevated in stature above my fellow believers, by any means! I am being trained to become a co-heir with Christ and I have a lot of carnal issues I need to conquer. And God is making sure I am aware of these areas of the flesh that must be subdued and surrendered, because He is bringing them front and center every day. But with this awareness comes repentance and forgiveness as I discern that I am being prepared to reign with Christ!
     As a Daughter-of-the-King-in-training, I find my daily living becoming more about serving God in the ways of Jesus, than about what makes a successful life in this world. Mark and I are spending less time in meeting the cares of this life, and finding ourselves involved in Kingdom responsibilities. And let me tell you, Kingdom is way more rewarding than the natural world. We find ourselves laughing these days, because it doesn’t do any good for us to plan our week around our business or social life, because it is increasingly becoming monopolized by meeting the demands of the Kingdom. And we couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled!

     And because we are being obedient to every desire of the Father’s heart, we are finding ourselves walking in miracle territory. Let me share…. Several weeks ago we were blessed to be asked to share our understanding of Scripture in regards to the Gospel Message of the Kingdom. We drove three hours to meet with a small group of people who come from different denominational backgrounds, and whom God had brought together through a shared love of dogs. Yes, God can use anything to bring disciples together. This group was headed by a dear friend whose heart has been close to ours in the love of Biblical study. She told us they have been concentrating on prophecy and eschatology, but knew practically nothing about Power and Authority or Kingdom Living. Would we come and share what God had revealed to us? First of all, to be asked to share on those topics is unusual in most Christian circles, so we were excited and willing, but cautious. This wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve tried to present this particular Biblical perspective and been met with doubt and unbelief, if not outright opposition.
     But to our surprise, this group was able to overcome their doctrinal theology and accept Scripture at face value, with no attempts to defend long-held belief systems. They almost approached the truths of healing, casting out demons, and the Gospel of the Kingdom with child-like faith. And that’s the reason I think we were all able to witness the miracle I’m about to reveal.  At the end of the meeting, they expressed their gratitude for the teaching, and we expressed ours for their willingness to see what Scripture said. Then we asked if there was anything anyone needed prayer for. 
     Jeannette asked if we would pray for her granddaughter who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had an appointment in two weeks with doctors to do more scans and determine the plan of surgery, going forward. Jeannette said her granddaughter was a believer, but she worried about the sincerity of her relationship with Jesus. We said that all of us could intercede on her behalf and we began to pray.
     Mark and I prayed that her brain would be restored to how God created it; that there are no brain tumors in heaven and it is God’s will that there be none on earth. We asked that ministering angels of healing come forth from the throne room of Jehovah Rapha to surround the girl and dissolve the brain tumor. And then I said something like, “Lord Jesus, lay your hands on this child’s head and let the power of the Holy Spirit that raised You from the dead, defeat this tumor. (And, in my imagination, I pictured Jesus doing just that). And as a daughter of the King of the Universe, I declare that the doctors will be mystified when the new scans reveal that there is no tumor. We praise you in advance, Jesus, for the work You are about to do. Amen.”  It was that simple and that quick.
     Just three days ago we received a phone call from our friend, the leader of that group. She was talking a mile a minute, and when Mark got her to come up for air, we understood her excitement … after a visit to the surgeon and more scans, Jeannette’s grandaughter’s tumor was gone! Jesus had healed her and the group was praising Him for the miracle of healing! Of course, we were, too!
    And having a few days to digest this amazing news, I have decided that this group’s willingness to be obedient to the Word of God, and to receive it in Truth and Spirit created an atmosphere in which Jesus could defeat the works of the devil. There was no hesitancy on their part to accept that God could do miracles of healing and no hesitation on our part to walk in our power and authority to ask for [and declare] that miracle to take place. God is so good!
     And then just yesterday, we received an unsettling call that Mark’s uncle had fallen and broken a vertabrae in his neck and was being transported to San Antonio for serious surgery. As we were driving there, I began to pray… “Father God, I call all bones and vertabrae in the neck to come into heavenly alignment. I walk in the power and authority as a Daughter of the God of the Universe and I declare that this injury will not be serious, and that the medical staff will be singing Your praises all through the hospital and throughout San Antonio as they testify to the healing miracle of You, the One True God. Father, I release the power of the Holy Spirit into Mark’s uncle and am believing that healing is taking place right now. Amen.” Within two minutes, we got another phone call, telling us that surgery was unnecessary. This break will heal on its own in a matter of a few weeks. Praise God! His answers to prayers are coming quicker and quicker.
     I’m not going to tell you that everything we’ve asked for has come to fruition so quickly or completely. But I strongly believe the battle is Jehovah Nissi’s, and as long as we’re willing to get on the battlefield with Him, He will secure those victories in His own timing.
     We have been seeing some difficult spiritual attacks on people’s lives that tell us the Enemy knows there is a growing remnant who are in training to defeat the darkness; therefore he is more determined than ever to keep the territory and souls that are his. But along with the growing remnant, I see a growing optimism as Believers step out in obedience [willing to endure frustration, ridicule, and defeat], just as long as they can live their lives knowing they’ve done their best to walk in Jesus’s commandments. Future victories are assured, and miracles are happening! We aren’t afraid to walk unconventional paths or step out into unfamiliar territory. We know Who goes before us, Who walks beside us, and Who guides us from our sanctified hearts. Kingdom Living can be a lonely road, but I sense that it’s soon going to become known as the Highway to Freedom. And it’s all for the glory of God!

Psalm 77:14    You are the [awesome] God who works [powerful] wonders; You have demonstrated Your power among the people.

Kingdom Living Is Miracle Territory

Click here to view the original post.

     There are some days that I just have to devote to shouting the praises of Jesus! Today is such a day. As I am becoming more and more aware of the demarcation line between me and Christians who do not perceive Kingdom living the same as Mark and I, the greater measure of the Presence of God I find in my life.
     I want to make it clear that I do not see myself as elevated in stature above my fellow believers, by any means! I am being trained to become a co-heir with Christ and I have a lot of carnal issues I need to conquer. And God is making sure I am aware of these areas of the flesh that must be subdued and surrendered, because He is bringing them front and center every day. But with this awareness comes repentance and forgiveness as I discern that I am being prepared to reign with Christ!
     As a Daughter-of-the-King-in-training, I find my daily living becoming more about serving God in the ways of Jesus, than about what makes a successful life in this world. Mark and I are spending less time in meeting the cares of this life, and finding ourselves involved in Kingdom responsibilities. And let me tell you, Kingdom is way more rewarding than the natural world. We find ourselves laughing these days, because it doesn’t do any good for us to plan our week around our business or social life, because it is increasingly becoming monopolized by meeting the demands of the Kingdom. And we couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled!

     And because we are being obedient to every desire of the Father’s heart, we are finding ourselves walking in miracle territory. Let me share…. Several weeks ago we were blessed to be asked to share our understanding of Scripture in regards to the Gospel Message of the Kingdom. We drove three hours to meet with a small group of people who come from different denominational backgrounds, and whom God had brought together through a shared love of dogs. Yes, God can use anything to bring disciples together. This group was headed by a dear friend whose heart has been close to ours in the love of Biblical study. She told us they have been concentrating on prophecy and eschatology, but knew practically nothing about Power and Authority or Kingdom Living. Would we come and share what God had revealed to us? First of all, to be asked to share on those topics is unusual in most Christian circles, so we were excited and willing, but cautious. This wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve tried to present this particular Biblical perspective and been met with doubt and unbelief, if not outright opposition.
     But to our surprise, this group was able to overcome their doctrinal theology and accept Scripture at face value, with no attempts to defend long-held belief systems. They almost approached the truths of healing, casting out demons, and the Gospel of the Kingdom with child-like faith. And that’s the reason I think we were all able to witness the miracle I’m about to reveal.  At the end of the meeting, they expressed their gratitude for the teaching, and we expressed ours for their willingness to see what Scripture said. Then we asked if there was anything anyone needed prayer for. 
     Jeannette asked if we would pray for her granddaughter who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had an appointment in two weeks with doctors to do more scans and determine the plan of surgery, going forward. Jeannette said her granddaughter was a believer, but she worried about the sincerity of her relationship with Jesus. We said that all of us could intercede on her behalf and we began to pray.
     Mark and I prayed that her brain would be restored to how God created it; that there are no brain tumors in heaven and it is God’s will that there be none on earth. We asked that ministering angels of healing come forth from the throne room of Jehovah Rapha to surround the girl and dissolve the brain tumor. And then I said something like, “Lord Jesus, lay your hands on this child’s head and let the power of the Holy Spirit that raised You from the dead, defeat this tumor. (And, in my imagination, I pictured Jesus doing just that). And as a daughter of the King of the Universe, I declare that the doctors will be mystified when the new scans reveal that there is no tumor. We praise you in advance, Jesus, for the work You are about to do. Amen.”  It was that simple and that quick.
     Just three days ago we received a phone call from our friend, the leader of that group. She was talking a mile a minute, and when Mark got her to come up for air, we understood her excitement … after a visit to the surgeon and more scans, Jeannette’s grandaughter’s tumor was gone! Jesus had healed her and the group was praising Him for the miracle of healing! Of course, we were, too!
    And having a few days to digest this amazing news, I have decided that this group’s willingness to be obedient to the Word of God, and to receive it in Truth and Spirit created an atmosphere in which Jesus could defeat the works of the devil. There was no hesitancy on their part to accept that God could do miracles of healing and no hesitation on our part to walk in our power and authority to ask for [and declare] that miracle to take place. God is so good!
     And then just yesterday, we received an unsettling call that Mark’s uncle had fallen and broken a vertabrae in his neck and was being transported to San Antonio for serious surgery. As we were driving there, I began to pray… “Father God, I call all bones and vertabrae in the neck to come into heavenly alignment. I walk in the power and authority as a Daughter of the God of the Universe and I declare that this injury will not be serious, and that the medical staff will be singing Your praises all through the hospital and throughout San Antonio as they testify to the healing miracle of You, the One True God. Father, I release the power of the Holy Spirit into Mark’s uncle and am believing that healing is taking place right now. Amen.” Within two minutes, we got another phone call, telling us that surgery was unnecessary. This break will heal on its own in a matter of a few weeks. Praise God! His answers to prayers are coming quicker and quicker.
     I’m not going to tell you that everything we’ve asked for has come to fruition so quickly or completely. But I strongly believe the battle is Jehovah Nissi’s, and as long as we’re willing to get on the battlefield with Him, He will secure those victories in His own timing.
     We have been seeing some difficult spiritual attacks on people’s lives that tell us the Enemy knows there is a growing remnant who are in training to defeat the darkness; therefore he is more determined than ever to keep the territory and souls that are his. But along with the growing remnant, I see a growing optimism as Believers step out in obedience [willing to endure frustration, ridicule, and defeat], just as long as they can live their lives knowing they’ve done their best to walk in Jesus’s commandments. Future victories are assured, and miracles are happening! We aren’t afraid to walk unconventional paths or step out into unfamiliar territory. We know Who goes before us, Who walks beside us, and Who guides us from our sanctified hearts. Kingdom Living can be a lonely road, but I sense that it’s soon going to become known as the Highway to Freedom. And it’s all for the glory of God!

Psalm 77:14    You are the [awesome] God who works [powerful] wonders; You have demonstrated Your power among the people.

Wolves In The Church

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     I’m sure you are familiar with Jesus’s Biblical warning in Matthew 7:15 which says, Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Implicit in this warning is that wolves of deceit have snuck into the Church and are ready to devour any true Christian sheep who are gullible enough [or unwise enough] to fall for their wrong teachings.
     And, boy, has the institutional Church used this alarming admonition to squelch any new revelations from God that are outside the established doctrine of any particular denomination. First of all, those who are quick to attack a fellow Christian’s attempt at edifying the Body regarding something God or the Holy Spirit has revealed to them, don’t bother to read Matthew 7:15 in context. Jesus says in the very next verse, You can identify them by the fruit [of their character], that is, by the way they act.  Scripture goes on to say that it’s pretty obvious that you don’t pick sweet grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from a tumbleweed. In other words, if you hear a different interpretation of Scripture, or a different teaching of a Biblical concept, the character of the “bringer” should be taken into account and easily discernible. If their testimony or word is plainly against Scripture, and if they don’t possess a reputation of the fruits of the spirit (joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and they are not displaying the Lordship of the Spirit in their life), then you can rightly discern they are intent on damaging the Church. But if this fellow Christian is of good character, and his heart displays a visible love of the Lord, and his actions bear good fruit, then perhaps he or she should not be so quickly castigated.
     Yet, I have found far too often that the Church members will react in indignation and self-appointed authority in deciding that any new proposed understanding of Scripture that differs from the orthodox teachings is unacceptable, and it borders on either blasphemy or heresy. And that really saddens me, because this is a picture of the Church that is far different from how it began in the aftermath of Christ’s resurrection and ascension.
     From the moment that the Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter preaches the first sermon at Pentecost, the idea of “church” meant “a fellowship of believers”. The Bible clearly teaches that these believers were faithful to follow the teachings of these first apostles or “sent ones”. (Re-read yesterday’s post on my view of what makes an apostle}. They regularly met in devoted believers’ homes, with the express purpose of sharing the Lord’s Supper as a sign of their unity. They prayed, studied Scripture, sang songs, and the focus was always on edifying the body of believers who were present. I think it is important to note the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to these “home churches”, as stated in 1 Corinthians 14:26: Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you. Do you see that in the modern Church?
     Can you see how different this is from what the modern Church has evolved into? First of all, I would like to reiterate and re-evaluate Jesus’s statements in Matthew 7 … He isn’t even talking to a group of Christians gathering in a Church building or denomination as we know it today. He is talking to disciples who are following Him around the countryside, and learning from His teachings. Shouldn’t that describe each of us, regardless of which denomination we claim allegiance to? And doesn’t He make it clear that we should look at both the character and the actions of our fellow believer before condemning their teaching/interpretation as deceptive? There are at least 34 verses in the New Testament that speak of the importance of fruit in the life of a believer, yet we seem too eager to judge based on shared theology.
    And, yes, Scripture is sufficient for us … it contains all there is to know about our God, but as I have quoted from Scripture over and over, 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 (Proverbs 25:2). He reveals Himself through Nature; through our spirits who testify to His existence; through His Son Jesus as presented in the Bible; and finally through His written Word — and through all these ways He gives us knowledge of Himself through our experiences with Him! It is not merely through our denominational doctrines and head knowledge! That is why the Greek translation of the New Testament talks so much about experiential knowledge — knowledge that comes from experience.
     Have we, as the institutional Church, forgotten that God is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him? Why is it so difficult for our fellow Christians to discern that God could reveal Himself to an individual believer today through the Holy Spirit? Why are we so quick to judge a fellow believer’s testimony, just because it expands on accepted doctrinal beliefs? Why can’t we think God might want us to know more about Him? Do we really think our doctrine is all there is to know about God? And for mercy’s sake, why are we ignoring the character and actions of our fellow believers? Do we no longer believe that the Holy Spirit leads and directs us? Before condemning someone for what they are bringing to the Church Body, can we stop for a moment and spiritually assess the heart of the person, and look to see if they have borne fruit for the Kingdom of God?
     In fact, I often wonder just how Church members assess the fruits of their fellow believers. Is it based on the number of times they have been in the pews on Sunday morning, or the number of the Church activities they are involved in? Do they ever stop to think that perhaps there is fruit they don’t see — that this believer’s fruit comes from being obedient to Jesus’s commands when they invite Him to be present as they lay hands on someone who is in need of healing? What about the fruit that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the spirit of unworthiness in a lonely and abandoned young girl, as this believer partners with the Spirit and Jesus to set her free from this torment.  All these experiences are revelations of the Presence of God in a believer’s life and evidence that seeds are being sown and fruit is being produced.

     The Holy Spirit reveals God to our spirits through our experiences. The Holy Spirit reveals God through Bible passages; and through our thoughts, and ideas that He brings to our minds.  He is fluid and flowing; always ready to reveal an aspect of our God that magnifies Him; that amplifies His glory. John 3:8 says, For the Spirit [wind] blows as it chooses. You can hear its sound, but you don’t know where it came from or where it’s going. So it is within the hearts of those who are Spirit-born!” The Holy Spirit is not bound by Church doctrine!
     So, I ask you, how is it that Christians within the Church think they are qualified to decide how the Spirit is leading or directing a fellow believer [who exemplifies good character; whose actions portray a heart diligently seeking after God, and whose deeds bear fruit for the Kingdom]?  Could it be that the Church barely resembles those early gatherings of Spirit-filled believers who encouraged each other to share and edify the body with what the Holy Spirit was showing them?
     I am in no way negating the warning to be on guard against the wolves who bring false teachings. They are real, and I’m pretty sure the Enemy has been infiltrating them into the Church for hundreds of years. I don’t see those early “home churches” being overly concerned with real estate, building programs, staff salaries, utilities, mortgages, pulpits, pews, sermons, elaborate worship programs, or how much money they had in the bank. When did the focus change from “going out” to “protecting our turf”?
     We all agree that wolves are definitely a danger to innocent sheep. And what I’m about to say may offend some, but I have personally witnessed a pack of wolves within the church driving innocent sheep out of the building where their Good Shepherd is waiting to feed them and lead them to springs of living water. It is not my attention to offend, but rather to give us all pause when meeting with our fellow believers, and before judging them.
     So, yes, we need to be persistent in keeping the wolves at bay and safeguarding the purity of Scripture. Lord knows, they are vicious and ravenous and waiting to destroy the Body of Christ. But let’s not limit our oversight to one man’s [or one denomination’s] conditional and designated understanding. Let us give the Holy Spirit the freedom to reveal to a person’s spirit what God would have them know about Himself. And then let us offer love and kindness and a heart that is willing to receive more of God. It just might bring more joy and peace to your spirit and to the entire Body. And that would be pleasing to God.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3     Knowledge [alone] makes [people self-righteously] arrogant, but love [that unselfishly seeks the best for others] builds up and encourages others to grow [in wisdom]. If anyone imagines that he knows and understands anything [of divine matters, without love], he has not yet known as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God [with awe-filled reverence, obedience and gratitude], he is known by Him [as His very own and is greatly loved].

 

Understanding The Five-Fold Ministry

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     I want to ask you to forgive me as I make use of this blog to try to determine a true Scriptural understanding of what, in modern church language, has become known as “the five-fold ministry”. Mind you, I am not disputing its existence, or importance, I simply want to give it a proper significance, as defined by God in His Word, and not rely on how it is defined by the modern Church.
     The reason I am seeking this understanding is because I am seeing a lot of people in the Body of Christ being wounded by its application and by the theological philosophy, if you will, that surrounds it. In this day of technological advancement, it is far too easy to make someone “a superstar”, and I see too many headlines on Christian websites proclaiming this man [or woman] an Apostle or Prophet — and it is difficult to discern if it is warranted. At the same time I have witnessed, even in small churches, that there are those who take their position in the church to mean they are exalted above others. I’m just trying to understand what the Word of God says about it all.

    So, let’s start with the Scripture that is at the center of my ruminations. In its most simple translation, Ephesians 4:11 says, And He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. I believe we can all agree that this is in reference to ways Christ intended for those who would believe and serve Him to be trained in continuing His work. Indeed, the very next verse says, And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.
     This is how Christ intended for His Kingdom Message to be shared, encouraged, and practiced throughout the earth. In fact, the word “apostle”, in the Greek means, literally, “one sent forth”, or “the sent ones”. In Mark 3:14-15, the Passion Translation tells us Jesus’s motivation for naming apostles: He appointedthe Twelve, whom he named apostles.He wanted them to be continually at His side as His friends, and so that He could send them out to preach and have authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons. Doesn’t that describe all of us? Doesn’t Jesus call us all to be His friends? To “go out” preaching [in love] the truth of God’s Word? To use our authority and His power to heal and deliver? 
     Furthermore, Acts 4:13 tells us that the religious leaders of Jesus’s day “were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who never had religious training”. In other words, here were apostles who were ordinary men, but commissioned [“sent ones”] by Jesus to preach, heal, and deliver with authority. Yet, what I see today is that the Church has created this mystique about apostleship; reserving it for those who have been specially “anointed”. Could it be that this is just a by-product of our celebrity culture? 
     Think about it … even Paul battled against being recognized as an apostle, to the point that he says in 2 Corinthians 12:11, For there is nothing I lack compared to these “super-apostles” of yours, even though I am nothing.  Have we created “super apostles” in our day, too? Aren’t true apostles defined as servants to the Body? Isn’t their role to empower everyone to do the ministry of Christ as He has called them? Go back and take another look at the role of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. It clearly says each of those servants is to “nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry”. 
     Now couple this with Jesus’s statement in John 14:12 that The person who follows Me in faith, believing in Me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with My Father.  This implies to me that we are all to be apostles — sent out to do mighty miracles that attest to God’s presence and authority in our lives.  Whether that is laying on of hands to heal sickness, or co-partnering with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be set free from spirits of anger, depression, unworthiness, etc. — it all points to Christ and to the building up of the Body of Christ in truth and spirit! And even if we recognize the position of apostle, most of the denominations deny the obvious fruit of that calling — the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons [the mighty miracles that Jesus did]!
     I have spent far too much time on the ministry of the apostle. But the same goes for the ministry of the prophet. Whether in the Old or New Testament, prophets were, in essence, God’s voice to men on earth. 1 Corinthians 14:3 says, when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up, and to bring them comfort.  Again, in our celebrity culture, a Prophet [with a capital “P”] has come to represent someone who predicts the future. But the Bible tells us it is a gift of grace from God to encourage and edify [instruct, train, guide; enlighten, develop, improve, better] the Body of Christ and help them to mature spiritually. 
     Aren’t we all to do that as we grow and mature in our own spiritual lives? Or, is this grace, or favor, of God to be reserved for a specially “anointed” few? For me, it comes down to this question… Are we following the spirit of the Word of God, or are we submitting to the Nicolaitan model of Church government? In case, you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to a system within the Church when religious leaders rule over others. It is a system run by evangelists, elders, bishops, popes, rabbis, priests and modern day prophets that have forced its people (members) to submit to their dominion (rulership)”. The members have to do what they tell you to do. That is, they have dominion over your faith. They tell you what you need to believe, what instructions to follow, and if you dare step outside those boundaries, you are chastised or rebuked. But where [in that system] is the freedom that the Bible promises? The Word says, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)When speaking to the Churches in the Book of Revelation, Jesus makes His opinion very clear: So you also have those who adhere to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which I hate (Revelation 2:15).
     So, as you can tell, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, deeply committed to rightly discerning the Word of God on this matter. I absolutely recognize that Jesus wants apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers actively involved in His Body on earth. But are we defining those roles properly? Are we restricting them to specific people who are exalted above the remainder of the Body? At the same time, if we are all called to these roles in advancing God’s Kingdom on earth, are you or I taking those appointments seriously, and seeking the Holy Spirit’s counsel as we speak God’s Word? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that there should be no competition for Importance within the Body — we all have our roles to play, and God delights in us when we fulfill the role He has designed for us. We should serve Him with joy in every activity or ministry that we engage in for the sake of His Body.
     Thank you for listening to me as I try to hear God teach me what He would have this Age know and understand about ministering to the Body of Christ — and to the world. I am still developing my theology on this important Scriptural component. My spirit is not content with what the world tells me, and I am struggling with what the Church is showing me. May God, my Father, enlighten my spirit, heart, and mind as I seek to serve Him in His Truth and Spirit. And may each of us be dedicated to nurturing and preparing the Body to do His ministry.

2 Timothy 2:15    Always be eagerto present yourself before God as a perfect and mature minister, without shame, as one who correctly explains the Word of Truth.

 

The Enemy Has Stolen God’s Omnificense!

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     I know what you’re thinking…. she has spelled the word wrong. Doesn’t she mean God’s Omnipotence, or His Omniscience, or perhaps she meant to say His Omnipresence. No, I want to talk about Jehovah God’s Omnificense. You’ve never heard that word, let alone heard it used to describe God? Don’t worry. I hadn’t either until I listened to a teaching by Pastor Henry W. Wright, who is also a Doctor of Christian Therapeutic Counseling. The teaching was on the spiritual roots of Disease and Illnesses, but it was his use of that word Omnificense to describe God’s Nature that intrigued me and has taken me on a path of discovery.

     You see, it is his assertion that this word was once included in Christian doctrine among the familiar characteristics used to describe God — His Holiness (He is separate from all moral defilement and abhors it); His Righteousness (He will not tolerate sin); His Sovereignty (He is supreme above all things); His Eternal Nature (He is infinite and had no beginning; His existence will never end);  His Omniscience (He is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-seeing); His Omnipresence (He is present everywhere); His Omnipotence (He is all-powerful); and His Immutability (He never changes; He is always reliable and trustworthy). And there are many more desciptors of our Father in Heaven: Incomparable, Just, Divine, Faithful…. the list goes on and on.
     But when I discovered the word Omnificense and its meaning, I cannot ignore its implications for our Father in Heaven. It means “creating all things; having unlimited powers of creation”.  Isn’t that an appropriate description of our Creator? And although my research could find no instance of its use in English translation Bibles, I could find reference as it pertains to our God in — of all places — a website discussing the Super Powers of Marvel Comics! And if you’re unaware, the superheroes of Marvel Comics have captured the imaginations of our children with box office megahit movies featuring Spiderman, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, X-Men, Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and antagonists like Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, the Green Goblin, Thanos, and Loki. Furthermore, according to the Super Powers website, these “superheroes” even have their own universe, and the characters that possess Omnificense “can create anything without limits, including concepts, existence, reality, and even the totality itself. They can also create from nothing or even create one thing from another, such as manifesting an image from a comic book, creating life from the dead, and duplicating anything. The user can create basically anything they choose on an unlimited scale”.
     It is astounding to read what this counterfeit image of God as Creator in this counterfeit universe is believed to be able to do: create dimensions; generate energy; create life and matter; create portals, create universes; create weapons. There is even an ability called Omnificense Genesis, which is “the power to create an unlimited amount of anything from the user’s own essence.” By now, you should be seeing that the Enemy has found a way to capture the imaginations of our kids with images of false gods (euphemistically called super-heroes) by imitating the very nature of the One True God.
    And if you think I am taking this way too seriously, let me give you a run-down of the “Users” of Omnificense power in this false reality… at the very top, in the number one position is God, as noted in the Abrahamic Religions! In the number two position is The Dragon, followed by The-One-Above-All, Presence, Michael Demiurgos (in Gnosticism, Demiurge is a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual); God (as represented in Bruce Almighty – a human version); Haruhi Suzumiya (a popular female character in Japanese animation who possesses unconscious god-like abilities to change, destroy, and reshape reality to her desires); Users of the True Word; and the Choushin (a trio of super-dimensional deities responsible for the creation of the multiverse and all of the higher dimensions of existence. They are essentially Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent, only surpassed by Kami Tenchi. The Choushin consist of Washu, Tsunami, and Tokimi — also Japanese animation). I could give you more names such as Demon Lord; Snake of the Festival; Spawn, the Mother of All Things; and Doctor Monty of Call of Duty and Black Ops III. But I think you get the idea.

     Is this giving anyone else the creeps? And can you see the design the Enemy has on our impressionable children? What kid, in this technologically advanced world where everyone is just trying to be seen, doesn’t want to identify with a super-hero? The sad thing is this generation is totally unaware that the only authentic “User” of this super power of Omnificense is actually represented in this false universe — the God of the Abrahamic Religions (Judaism and Christianity) is real. All the others are false. But unfortunately, the One True God has been reduced to just one of a couple dozen false gods. 
     The fact that the Omnificense of YHWH has been lost to our faith, while it has been resurrected in a false universe and reality, should give us all pause — as well as alert us to the danger of this rise in popularity of Movie Superheroes. It shouldn’t surprise us that the devil has found a way to imitate the very essence of YHWH as Supreme Creator, and repackaged Him in a plethora of tempting and exciting superheroes to feed our culture’s addiction to entertainment.  
     Besides the obvious counterfeiting of and fraudulent imitation of YHWH’s unique power, these movie characters are providing a door into the supernatural for those kids (and adults) who are looking for ways to escape their “boring” existence. Little do they know, that is a portal into the demonic realm. So I caution you to be aware of what may seem like a harmless movie or cartoon to stimulate the imagination. We must be ever vigilant to see the transparent schemes of our Enemy, and return the title of OMNIFICENT GOD to its rightful owner.

1 Chronicles 29:11    Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the Kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all.


But Where’s The Application?

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    I love to read inspiring articles and opinions/commentaries. And my heart is always over-joyed when the words I read echo the sound of the Lord’s voice that I hear. There are even times that I feel like I could have written what I’m reading — that’s how close the narrative is to how I would explain a particular Biblical truth or concept.
     But it saddens me when the narrative falls short of telling us how to apply that truth. Of course that is not true when reading the Bible. The Word is very clear how to administer God’s principles. For instance, He holds us accountable and responsible for every word, thought, action, attitude, and motive. He makes it clear how He expects us to respond …. When we offend others, we are to ask forgiveness and make proper restitution [if needed], as declared in Exodus and Leviticus. The application of this principle/concept is evident in the story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, in Luke 19:8-10. Furthermore, the result of the application is confession and salvation, as stated in Romans 10:10. God tells us what He wants us to do, and then He tells us how to do it.

     However, it is not only articles that have left me searching for how to walk out this Christian life. Oftentimes, I have heard brilliant sermons establishing God’s heart on a particular subject matter — for example, taking every thought captive. I have heard how to recognize when we need to take a thought captive; why it is important to do so; the consequences of failing to do it; and even where that captive thought comes from. But I have rarely been given the practical application of how to do it.

     So when I see an article’s headline that shouts The Only Way To Stop The Devil From Stealing, Killing, and Destroying In Your Life, I’m thinking, “This is going to be great! Not only does this article seem to be saying they have the Best method, but the Only method”. And, I have to tell you that I was really impressed with some of the ideas expressed … namely, we don’t have to let our feelings or circumstances control us when we are facing overwhelming situations. In those moments, God wants us to stand still and see His salvation/deliverance/healing.
    And I was in total agreement with the following paragraph: “If we are broken at the beginning of our journey, and we are not keeping our eyes on God, the enemy’s job is to take what is broken and scatter the broken pieces even further apart. The devil’s job is to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Father wants us healed and whole. God is not expecting us to be perfect soldiers. He is looking for the soldiers that will say yes and obey His will. We are to believe and trust in becoming whole from brokenness as we remain in Him during our journey”. I have never heard such a concise implication of Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1. Furthermore, these are the very experiences that I have witnessed in the Deliverance Ministry that my husband and I have been called to by God.
     I was thrilled to read the writer’s words: whether health issues, financial struggles, family issues, or brokenness that results in emotional and mental problems, abandonment, rejection or loneliness, it is always the desire of God’s heart to heal us. “You were created to overcome. You were created to have dominion. You were created for purpose, on purpose“. Amen! I’m in total agreement! But then I realize that I’m at the end of the article. I understand the concept. I understand that “Once we line up with [God’s divinely willed purpose for our lives], there will be no more broken pieces”. Again, I agree! I get that we need to come into agreement with God’s plan for our lives, and we can expect to be made whole. But HOW do we do that???
     It’s not enough to get the concept! If we aren’t told [or discern on our own] how to apply that truth of the concept to our lives, then does anything really change? If I’m unable to put that truth into action, then how do my circumstances change? How do I overcome? Have dominion?
    There is so much well-written encouragement and exhortation in our Christian media and from our pulpits. And I know how difficult it can be to express what your spirit and heart want to convey — I know I have been guilty of falling short of my desired goal many times. So, I am holding myself to the same high standard that I am calling the Christian community to… it’s not enough for me to call your attention to an important principle of Christian life without also presenting how God’s Word expects us to accomplish it. I am doing you a disservice if I’m unable to point you to His instruction in His Word; to encourage you to meditate upon it; and to determine your own belief system (based on Scripture) and be able to support it.
     Sadly, I discern that too many in the Body of Christ are willing to accept a teaching without ever questioning it or applying it. So you have Believers that are blown about by every changing wind of doctrine, or who settle for a diminished definition of the Great Commission because they have never been taught the full application of God’s Word, or seen it modeled. It’s not enough to recite a lot of Scripture, if you don’t know how to apply it. Knowledge is not revelation; and revelation without application does not bear fruit. It is my hope that the Christian community becomes more attuned to equipping the Body of Christ to make true disciples of our Lord; people who know God’s commandments and are able to guide others into the application of His will.

Philippians 4:9    The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the Source] of peace and well-being will be with you.

The Power of Intercessory Prayer

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     Yesterday, Mark and I drove three hours to lead a teaching on the Power and Authority of the Believer and how that intersects with Kingdom living. But it quickly became clear to us that the focus of our day was going to be on intercessory prayer. During that three hour drive, we received three different phone calls in which we heard impassioned pleas for counsel and prayer over situations that are dominating the lives of good and faithful people. As I look back on those conversations, my spirit recognizes what a privilege it is to be able to come together to pray with people who trust our hearts to go with them before God, pleading their case and asking for justice and mercy.
    Each of these three calls were unique and separate in their needs, but all dealt with life-changing circumstances that the Enemy is using to keep these people in states of fear, anger, resentment, and confusion… all spiritual conditions that keep one from experiencing the joy and peace of their relationship with the Lord. And all this took place before we met with the group we were teaching! They also had needs to be prayed for — a serious health condition for a grandchild; a life-long battle over a child’s salvation; pending neck surgery; and a failed business opportunity.  At the end of the day, it was apparent how important intercessory prayer is in the Body of Christ.
     But what is intercessory prayer and what should it look like? Timothy 2:1-2 (in the Amplified Version) urges that petitions (specific requests), prayers, intercessions (prayers for others) and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all people … so that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” For myself, I prefer the Passion Translation of this same verse: Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion… so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts”.  Furthermore, both versions make it very clear that it pleases God when we pray for each other, because it brings us into a relationship with Jesus, and an understanding of Him as our mediator; our intercessor.  And since we are to follow His example, and to “grow up in every way into Him”, this truth should direct us to become powerful intercessors.
      I like that picture of praying with passion, which to me, indicates the release of emotion and energy; an outburst of intense desire. But when you combine prayer with passion, can you conceive a release of God’s power into whatever situation you are praying about? That’s how I see it, but I have to tell you that I have a dilemma when it comes to how we Christians pray in intercession for others. 
     Will God release His power (the Holy Spirit) into our circumstances if we don’t believe that we have the right [as co-heirs with Christ] to ask for the power? Not Can God, but Will God release His power? And how effective are our intercessory prayers if we don’t recognize that His power is in us to see His good, and perfect, and acceptable will done in the situation? Are we praying from a position of power and boldness, or are we imploring God to solve our problems for us? 
     I can’t help but look back to the Church in the Book of Acts. It was small by today’s standards, but look at the power of their prayers! The body of Christians that formed that early Church was feeling the persecution by their own religious leaders, and Peter and John had been arrested and warned not to preach in the name of Jesus again. But that body of believers joined in intercessory prayer for the fledgling Church, that it might grow in faith and influence. 
     So, how did they pray? Firstly, they prayed as one, in unity. Then they prayed boldly, asking God to “empower” them as His servants, to speak His Word freely and courageously. They also asked God to “stretch out His hand of power through them to heal, and to move in signs and wonders by the name of His Holy Son, Jesus”! They didn’t ask God to do it for them. They prayed that He would empower them so they could be courageous enough to declare His will, and to use His power flowing through them to move in miracles, effectively shining His Light into the world’s darkness.
     What was the effect of this powerful intercessory prayer? Acts 4:31 says, At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.  Do we see the same kind of response when we pray as intercessors? Do our prayers cause earthquakes? Shouldn’t they? 
     Remember, the established Church is new at this point in history and although I couldn’t find exact numbers, membership of the entire Church would be in the range of 5,000 or so. And this event could be just a small segment of believers gathering in a building. My point is that whatever the numbers were, it is only a fraction of the number of believers in the Body of Christ in America today. Imagine what it would be like if we all prayed in harmony and unity for God to let His power flow through us to effect change in our communities; in our nation; in the world? There would be no abortion; no drug or sex trafficking; no child molestation; no murder; no poverty; no hunger — the list goes on. 
     But guess what? It isn’t really about the numbers game, either. You or me, praying from our lone position of power and authority, partnering with God, can cause buildings to tremble and the ground to shake. THAT’s caused spiritual warfare! It can be the source of spiritual breakthrough in any situation. Because God will act — whether one person, or tens of thousands are praying; He just needs us to pray from our heart [where the Holy Spirit is guiding our prayer] and to pray persistently, with faith that knows the power comes from God and that He loves the people we are praying for.
     The bottom line is that I believe God wants us to join with each other in prayer AND join with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as they intercede for us. We need to join our spirits together in persistent prayer until, like the persistent friend who shows up at midnight in Luke 11, asking for food, we finally get what we are asking for. Or be like the persistent widow who keeps asking the unjust judge for justice until he finally grants her demand. But we don’t face that same kind of opposition. We are grateful that we serve a loving and merciful God with a Character that desires to give His beloved what they persistently ask for. That is the principle at the heart of intercessory prayer. Let us shake this earth with passionate prayer that sees the power of God unfold before our eyes! May the Spirit of the Church in the Book of Acts invade the Body of Christ once again!

Ephesians 6:18     Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers”.  
    

God Has Equipped Us!

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     I remember when I was a first-year Journalism major at the University of Texas.  Among the first things you’re taught about writing is the five W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. At this very elementary stage, our professor was equipping us to become good news reporters. But my first assignment was to cover a speech given by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the activist and founder of American Atheists who led the movement to ban prayer in American schools. Even though I wasn’t yet saved, there was something so distasteful about her, that I lost the desire for becoming a reporter and decided I only wanted to write about things that interested me.
      Although I didn’t embrace that curriculum, I saw the value in being prepared to carry out the assignment; to be trained for that particular purpose, and to be ready and willing to do what was necessary to finish the task. In other words, how important it is know Whom you serve in this life; What your assignment is; When you are ready to act [and how]; Where you are to serve your God; and Why you’ve been called.            
     It’s been nearly four years since God made it clear to Mark and me that He was going to equip us to serve Him according to His will. That word “equip” means He is going to give us the answers to the Who, What, When, Where and Why of our service.  Hebrews 13:20-21 says that the God of peace will equip you with every good thing to carry out His will, accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight — all through Jesus Christ. The Amplified versions says God will strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be].
     When it comes to equipping us to be servants of the Most High God, it is obvious that Father God is the One who does the assignment of the task, and the strengthening for the accomplishing of that task. It is is not us. It is Christ through us. And the task is not based on who we are or what we can do, because it is certainly not determined by our pedigrees, our influence, or our IQ. It is based on Who He is and What He can do. In addition, What is being equipped is His will– His good and perfect and acceptable will; whatever He needs done to achieve His purpose of reconciliation with mankind. When He equips is a two-part proposition; when He decides we’re ready, and when we surrender to His will. The Why is easy… to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9); to give us everything we need for living a godly life through Him who called us for His own glory (2 Peter 1:3).
     This covers the basic and fundamental theology of God equipping us. But perhaps an even more significant aspect of this truth is How does God equip us? I think the most obvious answer (and the most Biblical one) is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that there are varieties of gifts, but only One [Holy Spirit] who grants them and empowers them individually as He chooses. I want to make it clear that it is my belief that since all the gifts are present in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is present in all believers, then all believers have all the gifts available to them. And since we are to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, I do not find it unreasonable to think that we can ask the Holy Spirit for gifts that we discern we need in a particular situation. It doesn’t matter whether it is faith, or healing, or wisdom, or a word of knowledge, or a miracle, or prophecy, or tongues, or the interpretation of tonguesthey are all gifts available through the Holy Spirit who empowers them. They are given to us. We should use them.
     God also equips us to serve His Kingdom by using our experiences with Him in this world to enable us to share His grace and mercy with others. Nothing encourages another human being more than our testimony of how God helped us through a difficult time in our life, whether it be health-related, soul-shattering, or a spiritual attack. He equips us by giving us a testimony that changes lives. 
    The bottom line is that everything we are able to accomplish for the Kingdom on earth [which is our mandate from our Savior] is not because of our own efforts, but because God has equipped us to carry out His purpose for our life. We are His workmanship — spiritually transformed, renewed, and ready to be used. He has set our paths before us, and we are fully capable of walking in them, if we trust and walk in obedience. He is our storehouse, our source, and our constant supply. We need never fear of being up to any challenge, because He will supply our every need, when we need it. Thank you, Father, for calling me and equipping me. Thank you for encouraging me and strengthening me, and may I never forget that I need You to help me answer Your call. And may my service forever glorify Your magnificent Name!

Philippians 1:6   I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put His finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!


     

The Importance Of Dividing Soul and Spirit

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     I can’t quite explain it, but I am continually amazed at the journey I’m on with Jesus. For some time now, I have been discerning that I am short-changing my spirit, if that makes sense. I am well aware that I am a three-part being — body, soul, and spirit. I have been seeking greater engagement with my own spirit, just as I want to engage at a deeper level with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But I am beginning to realize that too often, my spirit is entangled with my body and soul, making it difficult for my spirit to be free of this earthly domain.

     I think we all understand that our body is our flesh, the physical component of our being. And I want to make it very clear [since I think there are a lot of Christians who are confused on this point] that our soul and our spirit are two different entities. And if you are unfamiliar with exactly what your soul is, and how it is different from your spirit, let me try to simplify it. Our soul consists of our mind, will and emotions (Romans 5:4), while our spirit is that part of us that is most intimately connected to our Creator, who made us in His “image”. Just as the Godhead has three parts (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), we are three parts as well (Body, Soul, and Spirit). All three parts make up the whole person.
     I have actually read different commentaries that say we are not spirit. But I disagree and so does Scripture. Let me share a few verses …. The [Holy] Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16); Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23; For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1 Corinthians 2:11). That should settle that question. 
      We are the creation of God, and before the Fall in the Garden mankind shared in a perfect relationship with his Creator. Our spirit easily communed with God’s Spirit, as when God placed man in the Garden and told him not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There was no impediment between our spirit and His Spirit. But when sin befell man, it was as if a window closed, or a curtain fell, blocking easy access between our spirit and His. It is only when the Holy Spirit is deposited in us that we once again can gain access to the Presence of God.
      Just as in the Old Testament picture of God’s Presence residing in the Temple in the Holy of Holies, it is my opinion that the Holy Spirit is now God’s Presence in us, residing in the temple of our body, specifically in our heart which is representative of the Holy of Holies. If we are truly a new creation in Christ, then the spirit part of our human nature should be intimately engaged with the spirit realm of the Kingdom of God in Heaven. So why are so many Christians still under oppression and not walking in the freedom that Jesus came to deliver to us?
      Here is what we need to realize … We are a spirit being, having a soul, and residing in a physical body. Being that new creation, our spirit should prevail over my soul and my body. But oftentimes, before our conversion, the soul has run the show. We have been governed by our natural minds and emotions, and our free will has been used to doing what makes us feel good. Oftentimes, that soul part of our nature has served as a protector from the world and its hurts. For instance, we develop a controlling personality because we’ve been damaged by people who have taken advantage of us in the past, and that helps us to feel like we’re invincible. So our soul (mind, will, and emotions) develops a protective pattern that has become the way we operate in this world.
     But Jesus came so that we could be free of those emotional wounds, and when we accept Him as our Savior,  the Holy Spirit indwells us. And if the soul has a hard time giving up its supremacy, that situation limits the ability of our spirit to engage with God’s Presence in us.  The soul still tries to control how we live, and we are unable to operate out of the spirit, as God designed us. In other words, the soul is still operating from a “natural man” state. It is important that we keep the soul and spirit separate so the testimony of the Word of God in our spirit can lead our souls to a restful state and into the full knowledge of the Presence of God in us.
      Try to picture it like this …. we are designed to be spirit beings, having access to the spirit realm in Heaven and the Presence of God and Jesus. We have been made a spirit being, yet having a soul and living in a physical body. If the soul is allowed to dominate our “spirit man”, it is like a hard shell of concrete placed over our heart, where our spirit operates out of.  Our spirit is being smothered by our soul and it cannot get free to seek the Light of God. This brings into focus the importance of Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

     When we are born again, our soul and spirit are to be divided and separated, allowing our spirit to function in the capacity God ordained it. The soul must come into submission to our spirit, instead of the other way around. We must be attuned to the state of our soul, and when necessary, determine [in the flesh] to break it apart from our spirit, in order to free the spirit to commune with God. Use your imagination to see something splitting that concrete shell off your spirit, freeing it to function as a spirit being. Take the word of God [which is power!] and drive it between your soul and spirit. The dividing of soul and spirit is mandated by the word of God and is vital to our ability to commune with Him. We were made to function spirit to Spirit, and to engage with God in that spirit realm. Our spirit man is designed to host our body and soul; to be bigger than them in order that we might walk in the full measure of our Sonship. 
     It is not hard to see this Truth when I consider Revelation, Chapter 4. There, the Apostle John tells us that his spirit was free to engage with God in that spirit realm: I saw a heavenly portal open before me,and the same trumpet-voice I heard speaking with me at the beginningbroke the silence and said, “Ascend into this realm!I want to reveal to you what must happen after this.Instantly I was taken into the spirit realm... or as the Amplified version says, At once I was in [special communication with] the Spirit…
     How I want that kind of relationship! And it is not some special dispensation for John alone! Our Father desires that we engage with Him in the spirit realm! I know that is not a commonly held opinion in our modern denominations. But throughout the Bible God and His Spirit have engaged with men, and it is the intimate desire of His heart that this be an integral component of our relationship. When our spirit can function as it should, and we are able to engage with Heaven on that intimate level, then our souls find rest and our natural man operates from a place of peace
     In summary, contemplate what the closing verses in Matthew 11 tell us about how our souls are to operate in a spiritual relationship with our Savior. Jesus asks,  “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden [upon your soul]? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Take My yoke upon you [joining your life with Mine] and learn My ways. You’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” If you can see it, this is a picture of communing with Jesus in a spiritual realm, free of the burdens of our mind and emotions, where our spirit is refreshed and our souls can be at rest…. and we can enjoy the reality of who we are designed to be; soul and spirit, divided and operating in cooperation with God.

Romans 8:6    For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 
     
      
      

More Revelation On My True Identity

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     How many of us Christians have been living our lives, feeling like we’ve got a pretty good handle on who we are, both in the physical and the spiritual? Then, all of a sudden, a situation arises that sends you to your knees, and you feel like you have been knocked off center? It can be a reminder of something from your past, an unjust accusation, or as in my case, a family secret revealed that has you questioning even the people you thought your parents were.
     Whatever the case, it should be no surprise to us that the Enemy will do everything possible to stall this life of Freedom that Christ has brought us to. I have spent the last couple of weeks in a battle with my flesh, and after much spiritual introspection, I believe I have loosed the tethers that the devil used to keep my spirit tied to my flesh and this earthly realm. I hope that what I have discerned can be of value to you.
     In my case, I learned that the circumstances of this life do not define who I am. Yes, in the physical sense, I am a product of my parents and all that has happened to them in their lives. But this physical identity is not my TRUE identity! Whatever lies the Enemy is using to try to tell me who I am is not how Jesus identifies me. It doesn’t matter what my parents might have done, or the mistakes I have made, or the accusations and judgments of others — that is not my real identity. The Word of God says Jesus chose me and joined me to Him before He created the foundations of the world. So He knew me before He combined my mother’s egg with my father’s sperm and knit me in the womb. And since man wasn’t formed into flesh until after the seven days of the creation of the world, it makes sense to me that Jesus knew me as a spirit. And with my rebirth into faith in Him, my spirit is now seated with Him in the Heavenly realm.
     Whether you agree with me or not that Jesus knew me as spirit before I was born into this flesh, it cannot be disputed that He knows my spirit now, which is in communion with the Holy Spirit here, and with Him in Heaven. Again, whatever lies the Enemy whispers to my flesh does not change who I am in the Kingdom realm. At my very core, I am not who this world says I am!
    Jesus declares [on my behalf] that I am a child of God; a Daughter of the King; a fellow heir of the Kingdom with Christ. I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him. I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God. I am God’s workmanship and I am complete in Christ. And more importantly, I am His light in this dark world. In essence, I am all the things the devil in not!!!
     But what does he try to do? The Enemy tries to convince us we are a product of this world — our bloodline; our reputation; our past and present sins; the sins of our forefathers; what others think of us. We are none of those things! Our faith in Jesus has set us free from all that! Not just partially free as long as we can hang on to a sense of freedom — but wonderfully and completely free! And our spirit lives that life of freedom when we are united with the Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t use this spiritual freedom to set up a base of operations in this natural, fleshly realm. We should be living out of the spiritual realm where our new identity is. Remember, when we become joined with Christ, we are a new creation and the old order is gone. Since my flesh didn’t change when I accepted Christ as my Savior, the new “thing” created was my spirit. The old order of living through my flesh was replaced with living in my spirit.

     But, oh how the devil tries to keep me earthbound! He throws up mirrors that reflect the darkness of my old self, or sound and light barriers that block God’s voice and Light to my spirit. If I am not diligent, he will try to keep my spirit restrained within this flesh, unable to be joined with Christ’s Holy Spirit and therefore subject to my human mind. Because here is what I have come to realize: The devil is afraid of us when we walk in our true spiritual identity. He wants us to think and act like a human, so he can remind us of what we were. But when we realize that our true identity is not found in these earthly circumstances, but rather, in who we are in the Kingdom realm, we shift our focus from this world and our spirit becomes engaged with Christ, and we begin to participate in His plan for our life according to the Father’s will.
     The devil wants our lives to be impacted by our flesh; to keep us in this realm where he can influence our minds and hearts. But when we are walking in our true spirit identity, we are joined with Christ in His realm and the devil can’t reach us or touch us. I know this is easier said than done, because I struggle with it often, as do most humans! But I have determined that I will set this goal for myself: to engage with my spirit and to transcend this flesh, being willing and expectant of an encounter with God and Jesus. When my spirit is working with the Holy Spirit, I will not be affected by my circumstances in this world. I will be able to remain joyful, loving, patient, at peace, kind, gentle, good, faithful and my spirit will stand in strength as I wait to engage with the realm where my spirit abides with Christ. This is my hope and my desire, and I believe the desire of my Father’s heart. May it be so for you, too!

Galatians 5:17     For your flesh craves the things that offend the Holy Spirit and hinder Him from living free within you! And the Holy Spirit’s intense cravings hinder your old flesh from dominating you! So then, the two incompatible and conflicting forces within you are your [self-life of the] flesh and the new creation life of the Spirit.
   

The Whole [And Complete] Counsel of God

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     Recently, I have been contemplating all the various theological differences among us Christians. And it saddens me that we can become so separated by our misunderstandings of Scripture. I will admit that I have had to stop and ask myself, “Do I believe ____ because the Bible says so, or because I have heard it preached from the pulpit, or taught by a Sunday School teacher, or because a well-known theologian or scholar has proposed it”?
     It’s amazing how the different translations can influence our understanding of God’s Word, too. But perhaps more than anything else, I am amazed at the number of Christians who don’t really read the Word. And I’m not talking about just following along with the two or three verses your Pastor bases his Sunday morning sermon on. I’m talking about spending hours each day immersing yourself in God’s inspired revelation to us; going back and forth between the Old and New Testament, verifying God’s continual theme of relationship with His creation; studying historical documents to understand the cultural context of what a Biblical writer was referencing.
     I find it quite arrogant for us to think that we, as 21st Century Christians, are the ultimate authorities on what God meant to be revealed through the Biblical writers! How many Westernized Christians give credence to the fact that the Bible’s roots are Hebraic? That Jesus was a Jew, and so were all the Apostles? How is that we try to mold what the Bible clearly says into something that makes sense to our modern minds?
     Today, I want to examine two very common doctrines that seem to increasingly divide the Body of Christ. They will not be new to those of you who read my blog. You will recognize them as a common theme of my writing, but I want to show you just how important it is that we read and examine our Bibles for God’s Truth. When the Word is not our primary Source for Truth, then we prohibit the Holy Spirit from helping us to grow into the image of Christ as exemplified in the Divine revelation. What a clever way for the Enemy to keep us from walking in our true identities!  

     Take for example, the modern doctrine of Replacement Theology. If you’re not familiar with this term, it is essentially a Christian doctrine that teaches that “the Church” has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. In other words, this doctrine purports that with the rejection of Christ as the Jewish Messiah, the Biblical people of Israel are no longer God’s chosen people, and the modern Church now holds that coveted title. Furthermore, adherents believe that not only has the Church replaced Israel in God’s plan [and heart], but all the promises made to Israel are now fulfilled in the Christian Church.
    But this doctrine cannot be substantiated by Scripture! And in order to “prove” the doctrine to be true, the concept of “replacement” has to be interpreted or represented symbolically, or allegorically. Why don’t we just read what the Bible says? I challenge anyone who upholds the doctrine of Replacement Theology to read Romans, Chapter 11. And if they only consent to read one or two verses, then let it be verses 11 and 12. It’s as though God inspired the Apostle Paul to be as clear as possible, speaking down through the centuries, as he declares: So, am I saying that Israel stumbled so badly that they will never get back up? Certainly not! Rather, it was because of their stumble that salvation now extends to all the non-Jewish people, in order to make Israel jealous and desire the very things that God has freely given them. So if all the world is being greatly enriched through their failure, and through their fall great spiritual wealth is given to the non-Jewish people, imagine how much more will Israel’s awakening [full restoration] bring to us all?
     Then, if there is any doubt left at all in the mind of the modern Christian, I would point them to Romans 11:15, For if their temporary rejection released the reconciling power of grace into the world, what will happen when Israel is reinstated and reconciled to God? It will unleash resurrection power throughout the whole earth!
     After reading this passage, how can anyone assert that God is through with Israel, or that we have replaced them? Where do they get the idea that “Israel” can now be understood to be “the Church”? It simply doesn’t exist in Scripture! We should be thankful for God’s mercy towards us, allowing Salvation to become our inheritance; while praying for the restoration of Israel so that Jesus might return and the fullness of the Faithful be resurrected to eternal life!
      This is just one example of the modern Church getting it wrong! It is so important that we know what the Bible says, rather than relying on our denominational interpretation, or even the scholarly opinions of our favorite evangelists or teachers. Everything should be verified by Scripture. And we must be careful not to define our theology based on one verse or passage, but seek to discover God’s whole counsel on the matter. Again, Paul warned that Even some from among our very own ranks will rise up, twisting the truth to seduce people into following them instead of Jesus.
     I have found this to be true when attempting to discuss the concept of our Power and Authority as disciples of Jesus. Rather than reading what the Word (Jesus) says about it, I have encountered many faithful Christians who refuse to consider this truth because it is unfamiliar to them. But instead of seeking the revealed counsel of God through Scripture, they cling to their lack of knowledge [or the teachings of their particular church] as their basis for denial. 
     Even a cursory examination of the Bible should reveal enough affirming Scripture to cause one to seek the full counsel of God on the matter. Matthew 10:1 says, Jesus gathered his twelvedisciples and imparted to them authority to cast out demons and to heal every sicknessand every disease. To “impart” means to “give, confer [on], bestow”.  Later, in verse 8, Jesus tells those same disciples, Freely, you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others”. There is so much here to glean, that it should illuminate our spirits! Scripture tells us that Jesus passed on (imparted) the authority He was given by the Father to the twelve disciples so they could join in doing the work the Father told Him to do. Then He makes it clear that with that authority, they have been given the power to do the work, and that power came directly from the Kingdom of God in Heaven! Furthermore, the power was the same power that worked through Jesus (the man) — the power of the Holy Spirit!
     But remember, this is the first time He is loaning His authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to them. He only has three years to train them up and prepare them to carry on His work and establish the Kingdom power and authority of the Believer [until the time He returns]. They are only apprentices at this point, and they are not ready to receive their full commission. They weren’t ready to walk in their full power yet, so in essence, Jesus lent them His, while He oversaw their education, so to speak. Three years later, they would be instructed to go to Jerusalem and wait for their own mighty power of Heaven to fall upon them. 
     A careful study of Scripture will confirm this revelation: Jesus came not only as the Son of God to redeem us from God’s righteous wrath. But He came as our role model to show us how to live as Sons and Daughters of God on this earth. The following Scriptures verify this truth:  Matthew 10:1, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:19, Matthew 16:19, Luke 4:36, Ephesians 1:19-20, and Colossians 2:9-10.
     Can you see how important it is to know and study the Word — every page, and verse, and word of it! We cannot rely on someone else to teach us. Yes, we have pastors and teachers and prophets and evangelists to enlighten us, but they are to equip and train us to become MATURE Believers — so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves [novel teachings] and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14). We are to experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God and the Father. And that is only revealed when we spend time with Them. I know it sounds trite to implore that you “spend time in the Word”. But it is the one place you will encounter the fullness of God — where you can receive the undefiled and pure revelation of the One who loves us perfectly. Know Him from His Word first, and then let all other authorities measure up to His absolute Truth.  

Psalm 119:130    Break open Your word within me until revelation-light shines out! Those with open hearts are given insight into Your plans. 

Unity In The Midst Of Diversity

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     I am privileged and blessed to walk among a wide range of Believers. And because of the path the Lord is taking me on, I want to appreciate and love them all. And I am finding that one of the easiest ways the devil has to take our focus off the One we proclaim as our Savior is to tempt us to look at our fellow Christians and judge their belief systems regarding the nature of God.
     Mind you, I am not advocating that we accept all the beliefs among our brethren; especially if we discern that they are counter to God’s core principles of loving Him and others. And I do not think that it is necessary to accept a particular doctrine or precept just because we call each other “Christian”. It is up to each Christian to determine his own theology — hopefully based on a sincere and thorough immersion in the Word.
     When I use the word Unity, I am not referring to a “one size fits all” understanding of everything about God. Since I believe that He uses each of us for His own divine purposes, we may each possess a unique understanding of a part of His sovereign character that calls for us to walk a different path than another. That’s where the Diversity part of my title comes in.
     No, what I am talking about is walking that tightrope of maintaining what God has revealed as His Truth to you, while continuing to love and respect another’s different Truth — realizing that both are coming from our Heavenly Father for His purpose, not ours. Speaking to this concept, Paul says in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand”.
     Can you see that we are all servants in the Body of Christ, and He is the Master of us all? We each belong to Him — even if we are different! The problem begins when we judge each other for our opinions on Scripture, or something as mundane as our preferences in how we worship. Paul goes on to say in subsequent verses, “There is nothing wrong with having different personal convictions about such matters”. He tells us that if our fellow Brother or Sister in Christ is doing something different than us, yet doing it to honor the Lord, who are we to judge that? Because when we judge those matters of opinions or preferences, aren’t we taking the role that belongs to Jesus alone?
     As Paul reminds us, we will each have our turn to stand before God’s judgment seat. We are each going to have to give a personal account of our own life before God. And we are going to have to listen to all the times we spoke in dishonor to another of our brethren. And it doesn’t matter if our Sister or Brother sparked the division with a raised voice, or questioned our theology, or accused us of embracing a false message — we are obligated to walk in love and honor the Body of Christ.
     I will tell you that it is not always easy. I’m sure each of us can recall at least one event when a fellow Christian offended us. And it’s easy to only focus on their actions or words that insulted us. But if we can stop and honestly reflect on the bigger picture, we can usually see where they could say the same thing about that event. If we truly have the Holy Spirit in us, then we should be able to see that hurtful words are not spontaneously borne out of a vacuum. That would be the action of a person belonging to the devil. 
     While it has been extremely disheartening to see my fellow Christians judge each other because of their differences, my spirit rejoices when I am in the company of Believers who can honor the value of each other in the Lord’s Kingdom, as they accept the diversity among us.  Have we forgotten that the Bible tells us we can’t all be hands, or feet, or eyes? That there are many differing parts and functions, but one body? 
      And have we stopped to think that perhaps by listening to our brethren, that we might learn of a new aspect of our Father’s Nature and Character? If we limit our understanding of Him to only what we have been taught in our denominational buildings — or even from what has been revealed specifically to us — then is it possible that we are missing out on a valuable component of who God is, and how we might grow our area of service to Him? Is it possible that someone else’s experience with God might show us a perspective of the Godhead that has not been revealed in our history with Him? And why should that be seen as so harmful to the Body? 
     If we are truly Spirit-filled, then why the fear of something that sounds new? Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 2, “Those who live in the Spirit are able to carefully evaluate all things, and [those things] are subject to the scrutiny of no one but God“. In other words, we Christians need to be careful that we are not evaluating our brethren according to our own human wisdom/teachings/knowledge. Who are we to question what has been revealed to another by the Spirit? It is important to understand that True Believers possess the Holy Spirit, who is the presence of Christ in us, and who reveals the thoughts and purposes of Christ to us.  

     It has been true ever since Jesus walked this earth … the revelation of the Kingdom of God [that our Lord preached] has not been understood by men who declare themselves as the arbitrators or judges of truth, but by those who welcome His truth.  So, no man can humanly understand all the mysteries and character of God, without the Holy Spirit. Those who have the Holy Spirit now possess the ability to perceive Christ’s mind [in all its various and different manifestations] and can enact His purposes on the earth.
     So the next time you disagree with a fellow Christian, stop and discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Is there evidence and fruit of the Spirit in their words and actions? Then consider that Christ is using them for a different purpose for the Kingdom. Don’t judge them by human standards, even if those standards carry the Christian label. And if either of you have offended each other, repent to the Lord and ask Him to show you how to love them as He loves them. Even if you are struggling with accepting the journey they are on, love them… simply love them. Don’t assume Jesus’s role as Judge, but join Him in accepting them as part of His Body, then re-focus on His purpose for your life. I truly believe we can be unified in the midst of our diversity — and it will strengthen and increase God’s Kingdom on earth!

Psalm 119:110-112  The ungodly have done their best to throw me off track, but I’ll not deviate from what You’ve told me to do. Everything You speak to me is like joyous treasure, filling my life with gladness. I have determined in my heart to obey whatever you say, fully and forever!



Unity In The Midst Of Diversity

     I am privileged and blessed to walk among a wide range of Believers. And because of the path the Lord is taking me on, I want to appreciate and love them all. And I am finding that one of the easiest ways the devil has to take our focus off the One we proclaim as our Savior is to tempt us to look at our fellow Christians and judge their belief systems regarding the nature of God.
     Mind you, I am not advocating that we accept all the beliefs among our brethren; especially if we discern that they are counter to God’s core principles of loving Him and others. And I do not think that it is necessary to accept a particular doctrine or precept just because we call each other “Christian”. It is up to each Christian to determine his own theology — hopefully based on a sincere and thorough immersion in the Word.
     When I use the word Unity, I am not referring to a “one size fits all” understanding of everything about God. Since I believe that He uses each of us for His own divine purposes, we may each possess a unique understanding of a part of His sovereign character that calls for us to walk a different path than another. That’s where the Diversity part of my title comes in.
     No, what I am talking about is walking that tightrope of maintaining what God has revealed as His Truth to you, while continuing to love and respect another’s different Truth — realizing that both are coming from our Heavenly Father for His purpose, not ours. Speaking to this concept, Paul says in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand”.
     Can you see that we are all servants in the Body of Christ, and He is the Master of us all? We each belong to Him — even if we are different! The problem begins when we judge each other for our opinions on Scripture, or something as mundane as our preferences in how we worship. Paul goes on to say in subsequent verses, “There is nothing wrong with having different personal convictions about such matters”. He tells us that if our fellow Brother or Sister in Christ is doing something different than us, yet doing it to honor the Lord, who are we to judge that? Because when we judge those matters of opinions or preferences, aren’t we taking the role that belongs to Jesus alone?
     As Paul reminds us, we will each have our turn to stand before God’s judgment seat. We are each going to have to give a personal account of our own life before God. And we are going to have to listen to all the times we spoke in dishonor to another of our brethren. And it doesn’t matter if our Sister or Brother sparked the division with a raised voice, or questioned our theology, or accused us of embracing a false message — we are obligated to walk in love and honor the Body of Christ.
     I will tell you that it is not always easy. I’m sure each of us can recall at least one event when a fellow Christian offended us. And it’s easy to only focus on their actions or words that insulted us. But if we can stop and honestly reflect on the bigger picture, we can usually see where they could say the same thing about that event. If we truly have the Holy Spirit in us, then we should be able to see that hurtful words are not spontaneously borne out of a vacuum. That would be the action of a person belonging to the devil. 
     While it has been extremely disheartening to see my fellow Christians judge each other because of their differences, my spirit rejoices when I am in the company of Believers who can honor the value of each other in the Lord’s Kingdom, as they accept the diversity among us.  Have we forgotten that the Bible tells us we can’t all be hands, or feet, or eyes? That there are many differing parts and functions, but one body? 
      And have we stopped to think that perhaps by listening to our brethren, that we might learn of a new aspect of our Father’s Nature and Character? If we limit our understanding of Him to only what we have been taught in our denominational buildings — or even from what has been revealed specifically to us — then is it possible that we are missing out on a valuable component of who God is, and how we might grow our area of service to Him? Is it possible that someone else’s experience with God might show us a perspective of the Godhead that has not been revealed in our history with Him? And why should that be seen as so harmful to the Body? 
     If we are truly Spirit-filled, then why the fear of something that sounds new? Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 2, “Those who live in the Spirit are able to carefully evaluate all things, and [those things] are subject to the scrutiny of no one but God“. In other words, we Christians need to be careful that we are not evaluating our brethren according to our own human wisdom/teachings/knowledge. Who are we to question what has been revealed to another by the Spirit? It is important to understand that True Believers possess the Holy Spirit, who is the presence of Christ in us, and who reveals the thoughts and purposes of Christ to us.  

     It has been true ever since Jesus walked this earth … the revelation of the Kingdom of God [that our Lord preached] has not been understood by men who declare themselves as the arbitrators or judges of truth, but by those who welcome His truth.  So, no man can humanly understand all the mysteries and character of God, without the Holy Spirit. Those who have the Holy Spirit now possess the ability to perceive Christ’s mind [in all its various and different manifestations] and can enact His purposes on the earth.
     So the next time you disagree with a fellow Christian, stop and discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Is there evidence and fruit of the Spirit in their words and actions? Then consider that Christ is using them for a different purpose for the Kingdom. Don’t judge them by human standards, even if those standards carry the Christian label. And if either of you have offended each other, repent to the Lord and ask Him to show you how to love them as He loves them. Even if you are struggling with accepting the journey they are on, love them… simply love them. Don’t assume Jesus’s role as Judge, but join Him in accepting them as part of His Body, then re-focus on His purpose for your life. I truly believe we can be unified in the midst of our diversity — and it will strengthen and increase God’s Kingdom on earth!

Psalm 119:110-112  The ungodly have done their best to throw me off track, but I’ll not deviate from what You’ve told me to do. Everything You speak to me is like joyous treasure, filling my life with gladness. I have determined in my heart to obey whatever you say, fully and forever!



Spiritual Warfare: The Power Of God’s Table

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     The Apostle Paul makes it very clear in Ephesians 6 that spiritual warfare is an important reality of the Christian life. In fact, in the Aramaic translation, he tells us in verse 10 that he has saved the most important truths for last. We are to “be supernaturally infused with strength through our life-union with the Lord Jesus. We are to stand victorious with the force [or weapons] of His explosive power flowing in and through us”.  He tells us that we will be fighting hand-to-hand combat, but not against human foes; rather against “the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. [Furthermore] they are a powerful class of demon-godsand evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage”.

     I think this translation of the familiar “spiritual warfare passage” lends a much stronger warning about who our enemies are, don’t you? And we are all familiar with the subsequent verses that speak of the spiritual armor that we must put on, as we prepare for battle.
      But I recently listened to a teaching by Ian Clayton, an itinerant pastor who travels the globe teaching, ministering, and equipping the saints to become Sons of God. He gave me a completely new paradigm for warring in the spirit, and it isn’t about waging a conventional war. It doesn’t focus on battling in the physical sense that we usually picture. Mind you, I am not negating the importance of our spiritual armor or those times when we must engage the Enemy and his demons from a battlefield stance. But Mr. Clayton presented a whole new approach to warfare that focuses on rest and celebration. Follow along as I describe a new battle plan that is just as effective and powerful…
     I believe you will agree with me that Psalms 23 is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible. It is the ultimate testimony from a young sheep herder, who would become King, that we are not alone in this world and do not have to face the dangers of living behind enemy lines without Someone who provides for us and protects us. The Psalm declares that the Lord is our Best Friend and our Shepherd. His love offers us a resting place and an oasis of peace. This oasis provides a place where my life can be restored and revived; where He opens pathways to the joy of the Lord, which becomes my strength and my pathway to increasing righteousness. [NOTE: It is a common trait for sheep on the hillsides of Israel to circle their way up higher. They eventually form a path that keeps leading them higher. This is what David is referring to here. Each step we take following our Shepherd will lead us higher, even though it may seem we are going in circles].
     Then there is that valley of the shadow of death verse that speaks of fear and deep darkness of soul and spirit. But then David reminds us that we don’t have to fear death or darkness because our Shepherd is right there with us with His rod and staff to give us comfort. It’s all about recognizing that the Shepherd uses His rod to prod us forward [to look at the future of what the Kingdom government will do on the earth], while His staff is used when the sheep lag behind [a picture of us looking back to see what the government of the Kingdom has done in our lives]. The devil wants us to focus on the valley of the shadow of death because it is his ultimate weapon to get us to engage with him at his level (darkness and chaos). 
     But what is God’s counter move? He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies! That’s right! We don’t suit up in our armor and ride forward into battle with an army of warring angels — we sit down at the Lord’s table and feast on the testimony of what His Kingdom has established… and right under the nose of the god of this world! 

     When you feel surrounded with the demonic armies of the devil, and chaos is reigning in your life, instead of gearing up for a strenuous battle, try this instead: ask the Lord to prepare His table for you right in front [and in the midst] of your enemies. Then have a seat at the table and have a celebratory feast of the goodness of God in your life. And the devil can’t do a thing about it! Because when you are seated at God’s Table, you are under His Banner of Love. The Enemy knows that you are seated under a covering of the Government of God and if he touches you, that Government is going to reach out and touch him! 
      One of the most profound elements of this kind of warfare strategy is that the Table of God is not a PLACE of war, but an ACT of war! It’s about the influence and position I have as a Daughter of the King in the midst of Satan’s evil chaos and darkness. As I engage in feasting at the Table [and in the midst of the Enemy’s sphere], he can no longer stand there. I am building a platform to become the footstool for God to step down and manifest His Presence there. I am bringing my testimony of God’s goodness in my life and His Government to the Table. As I feast and celebrate, it cultivates an atmosphere that brings in a different realm; God’s Light begins to permeate the dark. It’s as if a magnetic environment is created, drawing God’s footstool to the Table, so He can step down into my situation. 
     Can you see the difference in this kind of strategy of warfare? My focus is not on the Enemy but on the Table of God. I don’t need to bind demonic spirits in the Name of Jesus, but ask my Heavenly Father to bring His Banquet Table and place it in the midst of that territory where I am being attacked. I need to be cognizant that this is not my table, and it doesn’t need me to protect it. It is God’s Banner that comes over His Table [which is me]. My role is to visit the Table and celebrate at it! If I must do battle, I can engage the Enemy from the Table — after I’ve feasted on God’s goodness!
     The ultimate message of this type of warfare is that we need to return to that Table time and time and time again. We need to engage with the joy and peace of God at His Table. That encounter at the Table changes the atmosphere by changing the frequency of Light in our body, and this along with the harmony we share with God will destroy the darkness of the Enemy. 
     Feasting at God’s Table brings you into alignment with the desires of His heart. He desires that we live in victory over everything in our lives. And when we feast on His Goodness and thank Him for all He’s done in our life and throughout history, we are filled to overflowing with His joy and His peace and His Holy Spirit. And one day, when our days are finished here on this earth, we will return to dine with Him in His House forever. And I can only imagine the banquet hall in Heaven where I will celebrate my victory and feast upon His glorious Presence for all of eternity! 

Thank you to Ian Clayton for his refreshing teaching on rest and feasting as a spiritual weapon.

Psalm 91:15    I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel My Presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast.

Hearing The Voice Of God

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     Contrary to what a certain daytime talk show host declared, it does not mean you are mentally ill if God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit talks to you. In fact, it is a healthy part of our relationship, to be in communication with Them. Throughout the Bible, we are given encouragement to talk to, and to hear from God.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. John 10:27, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 8:47, Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. Acts 13:2, While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
     These are but a few of the examples that show us we can [and should] be hearing from God. And as always, Jesus is our example. He says in John 5:30, I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me. Jesus is making it clear to us that hearing from God is a vital component to living a life that pleases the Father and satisfies ourselves. But how do we do that? And how can we trust that what we are hearing is actually God’s voice and not our own, or even the devil’s?

     I believe that God is always talking to us, but our lives are so busy and hectic that it is difficult to hear Him. We have so many distracting “noises” in our everyday life that they drown out the sound of His voice. I contend that it is important to quiet ourselves in the presence of the Lord. However that looks like to you, it is necessary if you are going to hear Him. Whether it is closeting yourself in your prayer room, or by going to the garden of your heart, or making an appointment with Him in the dark hours of the early morning, you must find a way to meet with God in order to hear what He has to say to you. And I believe that the more you do this, the easier it will be to hear [and recognize] His voice in the midst of your daily noise.
      And I will tell you that I am jealous of those who hear the audible voice of God. There is no mistaking it for your own voice, and of course, there is no doubt as to His will or direction in that moment. I will tell you, that for me, His voice often comes as spontaneous thoughts; or as an idea, a word of knowledge, or a feeling. In other words, if I am in a quiet place, meeting with God about a specific situation, I will suddenly have a spontaneous (unrehearsed, unforced) thought that will give me an answer or a direction. It won’t be something that I have analyzed and dissected beforehand, but will be clear and precise and will sound like my own thoughts, but not analytical or well-organized from prior examination.
     These thoughts will sound like me, but actually be wiser, more loving, more healing and more intentional than my mind’s thoughts, which can randomly wander. I instinctively know where they come from; that it is Jesus flowing through my heart and combining with my mind to present His and the Father’s will.  And more often than not, this sudden spontaneous thought will illicit a reaction in my soul– a sense of excitement at recognizing His voice; a heartfelt conviction that I am hearing His truth; and a sense of awe or peace. And the more I have trained myself to get in that quiet place, the easier it has become to hear Him.
     As I mentioned before, I have learned that if my thoughts run towards the analytical or overly organized and structured, then they are most likely my own thoughts, and I need to re-quiet myself and re-focus on Jesus. And if my thoughts tend towards the negative and line up with the characteristic names of the devil — such as Liar, Accuser, Thief, or Adversary — then they are thoughts that have crept in from demonic influence. If I am hearing God correctly, my thoughts will be positive and spontaneous; corresponding to the characteristic names of the Holy Spirit as my Counselor, my Comforter, and the Spirit of Truth and Wisdom.
     But the key to effectively hearing from God is to focus on Jesus’s heart — to get my heart in alignment with His. And how do I best do that? By fixing my spiritual eyes on His heart. Whatever I am focusing on will effect the accuracy of what I am hearing from God. Let me give you an example: If I am praying about a financial need and asking God for direction or a word of encouragement, and the eyes of my heart are fixated on that need, or the hardship I am suffering, or the fear that accompanies the consequences of that need not being met, then what I hear from God will not be His pure Truth, but will be muddied by my vision of that need. His response will most likely be unclear or confusing, and I will remain in a state of anxiety, while trying to convince myself everything will be OK.
     But if I fix the eyes of my heart solely on Jesus and His heart, present my need, and remain focused on Him, I will hear Him loud and clear — a spontaneous reminder of Jeremiah 29:11 will come to my mind: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I instantly know that came from Him; that I was not trying to remember Scripture or searching my mind for an appropriate verse that I could attribute to Him.
     Let me give you another example. If I am praying for someone’s headache to go away and the eyes of my heart are fixated on the headache and what I am doing, and not focused on Jesus, then I am, in effect, making that headache an idol — I am fixated on it, instead of Jesus. What I should be doing is the following: watching and seeing what Jesus is doing in that moment. Is He laying His hands on the person’s head? Is He rebuking the spirit behind the headache? Is He asking the person to repent of bitterness or anger? What is He doing and saying?
     So, if you are not hearing from God when you are praying to Him, then might I suggest that you examine the way you are praying and where the eyes of your heart are focused? If I am suffering through a season where I do not hear His voice, then I know it’s time to evaluate. When I am praying about a specific situation, am I focusing on the person who is frustrating me, instead of on Jesus? Am I looking at my sin, instead of the One who takes away my sin? Am I centering in on those who have hurt me, rather than He who heals my wounds? If the answer is yes, to any of these questions, then I must repent for having the eyes of my heart fixed on what I’m praying about, rather than the One I’m coming to in prayer.
     When I am seeking the voice of the Lord, I am only to be fixated on His heart! That’s when the spontaneous flow from His heart to my mind occurs and I hear Him! And there isn’t a sweeter, more soothing voice in all the universe than the voice of the One who loves me and desires to answer my call. And it isn’t all that hard to hear Him. It just takes practice and a willingness to spend the time in learning to recognize His voice. As Jesus so often said during His short ministry, He who has an ear, let him hear….

Deuteronomy 4:12     Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

 
      

Life Is In The Blood!

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     Blood is a very important topic in the Bible. From the moment sin entered into the Garden, blood was shed to cover the effects of separation from God. YHWH took the skins of animals that He sacrificed in order to cover the nakedness that Adam and Eve experienced because of the shame and guilt caused by their sin of disobedience. In this sovereign act, God established the principle of blood sacrifice to atone [pay] for sin. One life had to be sacrificed to save another.
     And the Bible makes it clear that in regard to the life of all flesh, its blood is [the same] as its life” (Leviticus 17:14). Furthermore, as part of the Law God established through His covenant with Moses, He stated, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life [which it represents]” (Leviticus 17:11). This principle is further upheld in Hebrews 9:22, which states “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. 
     By now, it should be clear that God required a blood sacrifice in return for the forgiveness of sin. Blood as the means of atonement for sin is then firmly established in the Mosaic Law. Once a year, the priest was to make an offering of the blood of animals on the altar of the temple for the sins of the people. But this was a blood offering that was limited in its effectiveness, which is why it had to be offered again and again. Plus, it was temporary until God could carry out His ultimate plan for the redemption of mankind. These animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the “once for all” sacrifice which Jesus offered on the cross. Once that sacrifice was made, there was no longer a need for the blood of bulls and goats. 

     When Jesus shed His blood on the Cross, He did away with the Old Covenant requirement for the continual sacrifices of animals. Their blood was simply not adequate to cover the sins of the people, except on a temporary basis, because sin against a Holy and Everlasting God requires a Holy and Everlasting sacrifice. The yearly sacrifices by the Priests of Israel served as a “reminder” of the nation’s sins and their need for forgiveness, but they did not remove the sin, nor the consequences of the sin. The precious Blood of Christ removes our sin from before God forever, and once and for all, so that there is no more payment due from us. 
     Christ’s willing sacrifice of Himself for us paid the price required by a Holy God, and gave us eternal redemption. We are not only forgiven of our sins, but we are free from the captivity [and bondage] that sin held us in.  We say that we are “washed by His Blood”, meaning that we have been cleansed of our sinful nature, having received a new nature that is as pure as His. We can say we are “covered by His Blood” because we know that the shedding of Jesus’s blood on the Cross protects us from the death penalty that our sins deserve. In point of fact, Jesus has us “covered”. These are the results [or fruits] of accepting Jesus’s substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf.
     But there is more! Not only does the Bible tell us that the Blood of Christ redeems us [we are free from blame]; it also atones for us [our debts were paid]; justifies us [declares us righteous in the sight of God]; and sanctifies us [sets us apart unto Him]. But Jesus’s Blood also purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God! Remember the shame and guilt that Adam and Eve experienced after they willingly disobeyed God in the Garden? The Blood of Christ takes away the spirits of shame and guilt that plague our consciences from past sin, and cleanses our minds so that those memories can no longer condemn us. We are able to experience renewed minds that think thoughts that are in alignment with God’s will on earth, and which serve His purposes.
     Furthermore, we are conquerors against the Accuser because we can trust in Jesus’s righteousness that His Blood has afforded us. We know that we don’t have to rest on the merits of our own deeds, and that it is the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony that will clear us of any charges the Enemy brings against us. Ponder upon these words by Charles Spurgeon, and the glorious benefits of our Savior’s Blood: I know what the devil will say to you.  He will say to you, ‘You are a sinner!’ Tell him you know you are, but that for all that, you are justified.  He will tell you of the greatness of your sin.  Tell him of the greatness of Christ’s righteousness [which covers your sin].  He will tell you of all your mishaps and your backslidings, of your offenses and your wanderings.  Tell him, and tell your own conscience, that you know all that, but that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that, although your sin be great, Christ is quite able to put it all away. And it was all accomplished by His selfless act of shedding His blood!
    So, I hope in this season of Passover and Easter, you are able to contemplate upon the momentous power and significance of the Cross and the Blood. We should never take them for granted, or lose sight of what they cost our Lord. In this day of Bible apps and “pre-packaged” Sermons, why not spend some time and take note of all that God has to say about these important issues. After all, Christ suffered greatly for us and we received immeasurable benefits from His agony. I, for one, want to honor all that He has done for me and all mankind. Happy Passover and a Blessed Easter!

Ephesians 1:7    Since we are now joined to Christ, we have been given the treasures of redemption by His blood—the total cancellation of our sins—all because of the cascading riches of His grace”.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Cross!

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     This weekend we find Believers celebrating both Passover and Easter. There is so much significance in these holy days. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the most important event in human history, yet I wonder what people really focus on when they contemplate those events?
     For many, I suspect that Easter means their sins are forgiven; or that it is a picture of their own resurrection into eternal life. The Body of Christ certainly celebrates that Christ rose from the dead, making way for us to enter the heavenly realm and presence of God, the Father. And in this present day and age, we are recognizing that His substitutionary death not only paid the debt for our sins, but allowed for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that by His power we could live in victory over the Enemy’s attacks upon our souls.
     More Christians, every day, are living in the power and authority Christ transferred to us, so that His Father’s Kingdom would come on earth, as it is in Heaven. That knowledge of our power and authority has led to redemption and freedom for many Christians locked in spiritual prisons created by the lies and deception of Satan. That’s a good thing. But we must not become so consumed with the “show” of that power if it diminishes the Source of the power, or what it cost our Lord to give it to us.

     So, that’s why, as we get ready to celebrate this weekend, I want to make sure we don’t lose sight of Jesus on the Cross. Remember, Jesus was one of probably tens, if not hundreds, of thousands crucified throughout history. There were 6,000 crucified on a single day in 71 BCE, in the aftermath of Spartacus’ rebellion. So, as horrific as the act was, it is not the crucifixion itself that we should be focused on, but what was accomplished by it.
     The power of the Cross is this: in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God conquered death, hell, and sin! At the Cross, Jesus paid a tremendous price for every person on earth to receive Life and Glory and Freedom. The Cross should be at the center of our faith! Without the Cross, our power and authority would have no spiritual muscle behind it. We would be locked in continuous spiritual battle without any assurance of victory. But at the Cross, Jesus guaranteed our victory!
     The Cross opens the way for us to be reconciled to God, or as the dictionary defines reconciliation, to restore friendly relations. Before the Cross, we were estranged from our Father; separated by a debt we could never pay. But Jesus agreed to pay that debt by going to the Cross; it was the only way to regain our position and status as children of God. 
     I think you would agree that it is difficult to wrap our heads around the concept that Jesus came to earth to die. That was His ultimate goal. Along the way, He proclaimed that His Father’s Kingdom had come to earth; He established the rules and government of that Kingdom; and He displayed the power of the Kingdom through the Holy Spirit. That was part of His mission, too, so that when He accomplished His goal of dying on the Cross, we would have a Kingdom model to live by. 
     But I don’t know how many Believers understand all that the Cross represents. Put very simply, the Cross is the doorway to a life with God. Sadly, it can become overshadowed by other Godly principles such as Grace and Judgment. As important as those concepts are, ultimately, all other foundational truths of our faith rest upon the existence of the Cross. 
     Today, we must be careful of becoming so focused on, and infatuated with, the latest “movement”; the expression of power; or of looking to the future for the next great revival. There’s nothing wrong with looking towards the future and yearning for the glory of the riches in Christ to come. But until that moment, perhaps we should never forget to take a look back at the Cross — all that we need and desire is there! There we will find our redemption; our promise of victory in this life and the next; and the restoration of our relationship with our Father.  
     Jesus’s act of dying on that Cross offers us a way to be transformed into a new nature and a new life; for with His death on the Cross, I have died to this life, yet am fully alive with Him. I am being transformed into learning to trust in the Word of God, seeking a way to live a righteous life, finding joy and peace in the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, and enjoying the entire journey all along the way. 
     When Jesus declared on the Cross, “It is finished!”, He set empowerment in motion for every Believer — empowerment to walk as He did; empowerment to declare victory over the god of this world; empowerment to set the captives free; and empowerment to overcome the obstacles in sharing the Gospel message.  In other words, the Cross is the ignition point where God’s power becomes operative [and real], with the ability to convert, transform, and save [for both ourselves and others]. And that power is available to us because of what Jesus and God achieved at the Cross! So, let us focus on the power and the glory of the Cross this weekend. When we understand what was accomplished for us over 2000 years ago, we will see the magnitude of the glory of God and the greatness of our inheritance. Praise Jesus, the Light of the World!

1 Corinthians 1:18    To preach the message of the Cross seems like sheer nonsense to those who are on their way to destruction, but to us who are on our way to salvation, it is the mighty power of God released within us”. 
     

The Flesh vs The Kingdom

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   This is going to be a very personal blog post. I just want to reveal some truths that I know my Father in Heaven wants each of us, whom He calls His children, to grasp. My testimony today involves what I have been experiencing in these last few days, and what I have seen people whom I am close to experience. Furthermore, I know that so many other followers of Jesus can identify with what I’m about to share…
     To begin with, it has been nearly two weeks since my precious father-in-law began a journey into, and through, a serious health episode. He has been experiencing the increasing ramifications of rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, and various other health conditions.  He has valiantly and bravely endured a loss in the quality of his life, and as hard as that has been to watch, I have witnessed a growth in his spirit and relationship with the Lord that might not have occurred without him experiencing a decline in his health.
     No one wants to face a serious health situation, and our family is facing a very high risk surgery today. The last two weeks have seen an acceleration towards this life event and, as scary as it has been to experience, there have been so many blessings as I watch this man who loves his family and his Lord have supernatural encounters with Jesus all along the way. Jesus has helped him get through an exhausting and painful MRI, counseled him on critical surgical decisions, and calmed him during frightening realizations of the fragility of this human life.
     I have also been a party to the opportunities the Holy Spirit has given my husband, Mark, and I to lead our family from inexperience and indifference about the importance of spiritual warfare into dynamic participation on behalf of our patriarch. So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are His lovers who have been called to fulfill His designed purpose (Romans 8:28). 
     I had once prophesied over my father-in-law, [who questioned why Jesus had not healed him from all his infirmities], that God had a purpose for him. He wanted him to help his daughter grow her relationship with Jesus in the spirit. And here we were, witnessing her praying in the spirit for Jesus and warring angels to protect her dad! 

     So now we wait to see what God’s designed purpose is tomorrow for this life-saving surgery. No matter the outcome, we know that my father-in-law will be in Jesus’s hands — whether he still has time to serve God here on this earth, or he enters into eternity with his Savior. In addition, we now, as a family, are using our power and authority to see our own spirits work in union with the Holy Spirit.
     On top of dealing with the emotional and spiritual aspects of this family event, my husband and I had to attend an art event in the middle of this situation. We always approach this business side of our life with the knowledge that God will provide our needs as He also works His sovereign will. The outcome may not always be as profitable for our fleshly needs, but He has never disappointed when it comes to meeting the needs of His Kingdom. 
     These events are always stressful, because the world tells us to focus on the outcome — paintings sold means bills are paid. And you are in the midst of 60 or more artists whose own anxiety over sales adds to a rather secular and ungodly atmosphere. It can be difficult to take every thought captive and shut out the lies of the Enemy. Plus we were operating under emotional and physical exhaustion from making long trips to the hospital to see Mark’s dad.  But the Holy Spirit woke me up in the early morning hours of the day of the Show and told me that I needed to make sure that I ministered to an artist’s wife who was having to fill in for her husband because he was back home fighting a very serious bone infection after back surgery.
     So when we arrived at the event, I sought her out, but she had not yet arrived. I had hoped to find her before the buying public showed up and the chaos of the night ensued. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I even spoke of this Holy Spirit prompting to Mark and he immediately said, “Go now! Find her and pray with her”. So I left in search of her and this time, I found her. I explained about my early morning prompting and told her I knew this wasn’t a very convenient time, but she stopped me and said, “No, now is the perfect time!” So we stood there in the midst of the crowds swirling around us, holding hands; two women believing that I could lay hands [in the spirit] on her husband’s back while he was receiving treatment back home in Arizona, and that the healing power of Heaven could do a supernatural work in the flesh of her husband. I will tell you that I felt the power of her faith in that moment, and as I finished praying, she ended our time together by declaring that Jesus was Lord and Savior, and “By His stripes, her husband would be healed!” We didn’t notice what the crowd thought about our spiritual warfare, and frankly, we didn’t care. We were just obedient to do what Jesus commanded us.  And I am standing on God’s promise that when two people are in agreement over what they ask for in prayer [in His Name[, that it will be received.
     And previously, Mark had prayed over a Board Member of the Museum, who was incapacitated by herniated discs in his back, and would be having surgery in a few days. As I returned to stand [in the physical sphere before the paintings we were exhibiting], all the anxiety I had been feeling disappeared. I told Mark, “You know what? I don’t think this Art Show is about whether we sell paintings or not. What if the reason we are here tonight is to be the conduit between Heaven and Earth? What if the primary reason we came to the Show was not to seek provision for us, but to pray over those two men and release the power of the Holy Spirit into their situations and see them healed?” Mark just looked at me, and I saw the exhaustion of the last couple of weeks slip away, and the strain of the evening disappear. He said, “I think you’re right. It’s about doing Kingdom work; not about us”.
     And you know something interesting? As soon as we put the Kingdom first, the atmosphere changed, and people began bidding on his work, and the Lord surpassed any expectancy we had about receiving His provision! And the joy at the end of the evening was not about number of dollars, but that we had been willing to hear the Holy Spirit and help Him invade that event with His Presence! 
     But it doesn’t stop there! I have heard testimonies from my Brothers and Sisters in Christ of the opportunities they are receiving — and acting on — to minister to people; to heal them and to share the gospel. We are all discerning that the Holy Spirit is active and zealous for partners to work with. We are sensing He is on the move in the Body of Christ for those who are willing to hear Him and respond! The opportunities to do Kingdom work abound, and I pray that your heart and spirit are sensitive to hear the Lord calling, even as you answer Him, “Send me!”  

Ephesians 3:20     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”.   


Oh, The Glorious Richness Of The Word!

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     For the last few days, I have been meditating on the Word — namely, what does it mean to attain “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”? I have spent many hours reading through different Scriptures, trying to receive the revelation of God and His understanding of what it means to have the fullness of Christ. And here is what I have discerned….
     When it comes to “fullness”, that term refers to completeness, thoroughness, all-inclusiveness. And Colossians 2:9-10 says, For He (Christ) is the complete fullness of deity living in human form. And our own completeness is now found in Him. We are completely filled with God as Christ’s fullness overflows within us. He is the Head of every kingdom and authority in the universe! We have been made complete in our stature as spiritual beings when we overflow with the knowledge of who Christ is.    

      And as I contemplate what “knowing” Christ means and involves, I am cognizant that seeking to know Him more has become a battleground within the Body of Christ. Because I have a hunger to know Jesus as much as I am spiritually able, there are those of my fellow believers who caution against being deceived by false teachings. It’s almost an indictment of my faith if I am not content to be dependent on traditional doctrine, but rather have a heartfelt desire to seek more revelation than the institutional understanding that has come down through the centuries in the Church.
     But when I read what Paul expresses to the body of believers in Ephesus, I am convicted that my hunger is Spirit-led. In Ephesians 1:17-21, Paul writes, I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know Him through your deepening intimacy with him.
18 I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of His calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that He finds in us, His holy ones!
19 I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power 20 that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! 21 And now He is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! He is gloriously enthroned over every name that is ever praised, not only in this age, but in the age that is coming!
     It is clear to me that Paul is hopeful that the body of believers will receive wisdom and revelation from the Holy Spirit in order to know Jesus through a deepening relationship that is growing in intimacy.  In fact, in the Aramaic “revelation” means “discovery”. We are to be active in seeking and discovering knowledge of the Lord we serve! Furthermore, Paul prays that the light of God will illuminate our imagination, which in Aramaic, was understood to be the innermost heart of a person. His prayer is that we will receive a full revelation [or discovery] of all the hope that is in God’s calling on your life.

     So why is the Church so afraid of a desire to be in a more intimate relationship with Jesus; to know Him more? All I ever hear is a fear of being deceived, which usually comes attached with a stigma of being a false teacher if you try to share what the Holy Spirit imparts to you through His wisdom and revelation. I will refer back to my husband’s favorite verse: 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 (Proverbs 25:2). And remember, we have all been made kings and priests because of God’s grace and Christ’s redeeming blood.

     Therefore, we are called to serve the Lord in the Kingdom of God, which Jesus instituted when He was incarnate. We all have a particular calling. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:10-13 that Jesus ascended above the heights of the first and second heavens, to sit enthroned in the third heaven in order to begin the restoration and fulfillment of all things. 11 And He has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors,and some with grace to be teachers. 12 And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ. 13 These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God,and finally we become one perfect manwith the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ.
     When we are obedient to our callings, we have what Paul calls “grace ministries”, and we are to be occupied with “nurturing and preparing all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, enlarging and building up the body of Christ”.  And notice what else Paul says: these grace ministries will exist and function until we ALL experience “the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God!” In the Greek, that means until we have the full knowledge of Jesus. So, the pursuit of knowing more of Jesus, and the teaching or sharing of the revelations about Him from the Holy Spirit, are important to establishing a strong foundation within the body of Christ. 
     God, the Father, wants everyone to be filled with the complete knowledge of His Son, in turn becoming the complete image of His Nature to all we come in contact with. We are to live new lives empowered with the fullness of Jesus in us — As Galatians 2:20 says, And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me—we live in union as one! 
     And that brings me back to my post of several days ago, titled “Does Jesus Know You?” There were disciples who were going around doing the work He asks us to do… prophesying, casting out demons, healing the sick, or as they said, “doing many miracles”; and they did it all in His Name. But what does Jesus say? ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’  In other words, they were not living in union with Him that a new life [in Him] would reveal. They had His power and authority to do the miracles, but it was not from a heart joined to His.
     Can you see how this all ties together? And can you see that seeking to know more about Jesus and to receive wisdom and revelation from the Holy Spirit is not a bad thing? And how can I be deceived if I know — TRULY KNOW — my Lord through the Holy Spirit? And if one thinks I’m being deceived, there is another Scripture that comes into play… Look at the obvious fruit of their lives and ministries, and then you’ll know whether they are true or false.” (Matthew 7:20). 
     In the end, we all must make a decision whether our heart hungers to know more about Jesus than what our traditions have taught us, and whether we trust the Holy Spirit in us to reveal Him to us. And that trust will make us bold witnesses and unafraid of condemnation and skepticism. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in union with my Lord and be joined Spirit-to-spirit with Him!

Ephesians 3:19    “… to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”.

    

Our Own Passover Celebration

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     As promised, I am sharing the particular way that our Home Church celebrates the Lord’s Feast of Passover. I could never find any definitive commentary on how a Christian should celebrate this important occasion, so I guess you could say that the way in which we observe Passover is Spirit-led.
     But it is important to note that this is both a solemn observance and a joyous celebration. We are recognizing the tremendous sacrifice the Lord has made on our behalf and celebrating the freedom from sin that His sacrifice has afforded us. We have everyone bring their own lamb and a side dish. You can easily find traditional Jewish side dishes or start your own traditions. Mark and I provide the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs (horseradish) and the wine (or grape juice). 
     We incorporate solemn prayers, borrowed from the Jewish faith, while pointing out the significance to our Christian faith.  In no way, do I maintain that all Christians have to celebrate Passover — that is a decision that you must make on an individual basis. But I simply offer the following to you as a guideline for your own celebration, should you decide to observe this holy Feast. We begin by making a statement about the significance of this Feast and then proceed to honor the traditions of the Jewish faith, while identifying with the meaning and importance for us, as Christians. And I would love to hear from others how you honor the Lord’s Feast in your Christian observances.
     

     Our Statement of Faith: The Passover Festival is a call to REMEMBER what God has delivered us from; a call of GRATITUDE for the work He is doingin our lives today; and a call to look forward to the HOPE of our Resurrection into Eternal Life.
      The Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits all foreshadow the work God would do through His Son, Jesus Christ. Within these eight days of Passover, Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, and each Feast speaks of Him and His redemptive work on our behalf.
      We are gathered here today to REMEMBER Jesus as our Passover Lamb, sacrificed to deliver us out of the bondage of sin. He is the Unleavened Bread of Life – without Sin; unblemished and spotless – and He is the First Fruit of God’s Harvest of Souls.   
     Today, we will eat a meal of Lamb, Unleavened bread, and Bitter Herbs as God instructed the Israelites to do in Exodus 12:8.  We will share in the cups of wine that Jesus partook of in His last Passover meal. And we will celebrate His Life and His Blood, which were poured out for us.     
     Before the first Passover in Egypt, God told Israel, “Remove the leaven from your homes.”  Leaven is a symbol of sin.  Let us take a moment to remove any leaven that hides in our hearts and minds.  Let us remove any sin that would separate us from God. 
     MOMENT OF SILENCE AS WE CONTEMPLATE.  Pray (Together):  Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any offensive thing in me that needs to be removed, and sweep me clean of leaven.  Lead me in Your way everlasting. Amen. 
     This day, we will drink 4 cups of wine to recall God’s four promises to Israel in Exodus 6:6-7.  Jesus, along with His disciples, drank two cups before their meal.
     (Pour the First Cup):  The Cup of Sanctification I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will free you from their bondage. (Exodus 6:6)
     This first Cup of Wine sanctifies our meal.  Let us LIFT UP the first cup, the Cup of Sanctification and Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. Thank you for the blood of Yeshua that was shed for us. Amen.
 DRINK. 
     Now, as we pour the Second Cup, everyone should take a piece of the unleavened bread and a spoonful of horseradish on their plate. We recognize the symbolism: The Lamb is Yeshua, our Passover Lamb; Matza is unleavened bread; pierced for our transgressions; bruised for our iniquities;
Horseradish is the bitterness of our bondage to sin; and Wine is Christ’s blood, shed for us to redeem us.
     (Lift Up The Second Cup) The Cup of Judgment:  I will rescue you with an outstretched arm, and by mighty acts of judgment. (Exodus 6:6)
     Let us raise the Cup of Judgment, and remember that Yeshua delivers us from the slavery of darkness and brings us into the kingdom of Light.
     Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, our Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy. Amen. (DRINK).
     Everyone should now hold up a piece of matza. Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.  Thank you for Yeshua, the Bread of Life, who rose from the earth. And thank you, O Lord, that by His stripes we are healed. Amen.
     The Lord Jesus ate His Passover meal on the night when he was betrayed.  He, who is our Bread of Life, gave thanks, broke the unleavened bread, and said to His disciples, “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (EAT BREAD).
EVERYONE EATS AND CELEBRATES THE WORK OF THE LORD IN OUR LIVES. Then after the meal …
      (Pour Third Cup) The Cup of Redemption.  I will take you to Me for a people. (Exodus 6:7)
      The blood of the Lamb on the doorposts saved Israel. The blood of Yeshua on our hearts saves us, right here and now. As Scripture tells us, God will redeem our life from the grave, and take us to Himself.  No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.  He will write His law on our minds and hearts.  Everyone will know Him, from the least of them to the greatest.
      Lift up the Cup:  At the last Passover Supper, Yeshua took this third cup, the Cup of Redemption, and said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of thenew covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.
 Let us Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.  Thank you for the Blood of Yeshua that was poured out for us. Amen.  (DRINK).
      (Pour Fourth Cup) The Cup of the Future Kingdom.  This will be a kingdom of truth, peace, and freedom… I will be to you a God. (Exodus 6:7)
      During Yeshua’s last Passover Supper, He did not drink this fourth cup.  He said, “I will not drink this cup now until that day when I drink it with you in My Father’s Kingdom.”  As we drink the fourth cup, we look forward to a future kingdom, when we drink this cup with Him.  He will return, and there will be a better feast to come, the Wedding Banquet of the Passover Lamb.
     Have each of the men read one of the words of Gratitude listed below:
    •  In praise of the Lord’s salvation in the past and the future, we raise the Cup of the Kingdom.  O Lord, You redeemed us and brought us to this night.  Bring us also to Your Holy City, the New Jerusalem.
    •  You have put a new song in our hearts, a song of praise and thanksgiving for the redemption of our souls.  Blessed are you, O Lord our God.
    •  Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who gives eternal life.  Eternal life is that we might know You, the one true God, and the Messiah, Yeshua, whom You Sent.
    •  I know that my Redeemer lives.  He will stand on the earth in the latter days, and I will see Him as He is.
    •  Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive glory and honor and praise.  Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
    •  O God who dwells on high, we are free on a day like this.  Raise up Your numberless congregation.  Soon, and with rejoicing, lead us to Zion.  Praise and Glory and Wisdom and Thanks and Honor and Power and Strength be to our God forever and ever.
    •  These are the words of our Lord: Fear not for I am with you.  Be not dismayed for I am Your God.  I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand! 
   
     Let us all lift up THE CUP OF THE KINGDOM.
     PRAY (TOGETHER):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.  Thank you for Your Coming Kingdom.  Amen.  
    When the Lord returns, the survivors from all the nations will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles and God dwelling with us. Let us declare (SAY TOGETHER):  Next year in Jerusalem!  Amen.  (DRINK).
     So, this is just a suggestion of how to observe the Feast of Passover as a Christian. It is by no means a definitive way to celebrate, but as I said earlier, we have tried to be Spirit-led in honoring the redemptive work of our Lord and Savior on our behalf, while honoring the roots of our faith and the Jewish traditions. May you be blessed and encouraged during these holy days, and may your assembly know the pleasure and favor of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:7    So remove every trace of your “leaven” of compromise with sin so that you might become new and pure again. For indeed, you are clean because Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.  
 

 
  

     

Christians Celebrating Passover

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     It is extremely exciting for me to see more and more Christians celebrating the Passover Feast. That wasn’t the case when my heart was first awakened to the seven appointed feasts of the Lord over five years ago.
     It was then that Mark and I decided to begin a deep study on how Scripture said they applied to us, as Christians. When speaking of the Feasts, the Lord said, Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as an ordinance forever”. It quickly became apparent that all of the seven feasts pointed not only to the historical experiences of the nation of Israel, but to those who called themselves “the children of Abraham”. Since Abraham is the father of our faith, too, then these Feasts of the Lord must also have great significance for us.  
     As we approach the first of the Feasts, I would like to share a basic understanding of Passover and why it has such special meaning to both the Jewish and Christian faiths. In Leviticus 23, God commands Moses to tell the children of Israel, “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts… to be proclaimed at their appointed times… and to be followed by all generations.”  Since we have been adopted and grafted into His chosen people, we are also the children of Israel.  I am encouraged that so many Christians are now seeing the picture that these feasts show us of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and are agreeing to approach these sacred times as humble seekers of God’s revelations.

     We know that this approaching Passover “season” and the feasts of Pesach, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits have all been incorporated into the celebration of Passover, and reference to Passover means all three of these feasts.  In 2018, Passover will be celebrated from sundown Friday, March 30th, to sundown on Saturday, April 7th. If you are celebrating as a church or a small gathering, I pray that God will recognize your desire to please Him in this effort and that He will bless your assembly.

     We all know the Passover story from the Sixth chapter of Exodus.  We know the story of the Lord sending Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, and we know that Pharaoh refused to let them go.  After sending the nine plagues that did not touch Pharaoh’s heart, the Lord said the firstborn males of every house would die unless the door frame of that house was covered with the blood of a perfect lamb.  That night the Lord “passed over” those homes that were covered with the blood of the lamb, and Pharaoh, losing his own son, let the people of Israel go.  Passover was to be a lasting ordinance (and memorial) for generations to come.

     The Passover Seder meal commemorates the Israelite’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt nearly 3500 years ago..  Jesus honored the Passover while on earth, and I believe that it was at this Seder meal that He spoke the words in today’s closing verse.  But what significance does it have for us?  First, we have to understand the significance of what was served at this Seder and why Jesus wanted to experience this meal with His disciples.
     First, there must be served a perfect lamb, without blemish.  It must be sacrificed and served in remembrance of the blood of the lamb that allowed them to leave Egypt.  You may be aware that Egypt has always symbolized bondage and slavery to sin.   During this very Seder meal, Jesus reveals that He is the Sacrificial Lamb that delivers us from the bondage of sin.
     The only type of bread eaten during the eight days of Passover was unleavened bread or Matzah.  It was made with flour and water only, no leaven or yeast, in remembrance of their hasty departure from Egypt.  They had to have a form of sustenance that would last and not spoil.  They were specifically instructed that the bread was to be striped and pierced during baking.  This is a picture that should remind us that Jesus was striped (scourged) and pierced for us; and that He is the “living bread from Heaven.”
     Also, in the Jewish Seder, there is a ritual in which the matzah or unleavened bread is broken, hidden, found, bought for a price, and then eaten to end the meal.  This is not only a picture of the Jewish experience during their captivity in Egypt and their Exodus … read the actions again that are taken with the bread … but Jesus is also telling His disciples (and us), “I was broken, hidden, found, bought for a price.”  When he breaks the unleavened bread in Luke 22:19, and says, ““This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me”, He is saying “I did that for you, and I am the only sustenance you need.”  

     The Passover meal also included bitter herbs, so that the Jews would remember the harshness and bitterness of slavery, so that their freedom (symbolically, from sin) would taste sweeter.  Jesus wished His disciples (and us) to see that our freedom from sin is sweeter, too.  We no longer have to taste the bitterness of sin because of what He did for us on the cross.  But the presence of the bitter herbs at the Passover meal should be a reminder of the temptation of sin.  It is real and distasteful. 

     Finally, the Passover meal always included wine, four cups to be exact, in remembrance of the redemption from Egypt (Exodus 6:6-8) in which God told the Israelites, “”I will lead you forth… I will deliver you… I will ransom you… I will take you to Me….”.  

     In this particular Passover Seder, Luke 22:20 reveals that “Likewise He also took the cup after supper (The Third Cup), saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”  This cup of wine was to be drunk in remembrance of that third part of the covenant God made with them when He brought them out of Israel … I will ransom you.   Jesus is showing them (and us) that yes, God ransomed them from Egypt and the Pharaoh; but now He, Jesus, is the new covenant that ransoms. His blood ransoms us, and He says it right there in the Scripture!
     So the Passover Seder, which had been observed for nearly a century and a half, and religiously observed by Jesus, who was a Jew, is a picture of the Lord’s Supper that night in the upper room before His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection a few days later.  The celebration of the Feast of First Fruits completes the picture.

      The Lord instructed the Israelites on how to conduct the Feast of First Fruits: the people offered the first ripe sheaf (their first fruit) of barley to the Lord as an act of dedicating the harvest to Him.  On Passover, a marked sheaf of grain was bundled and left standing in the field.  On the next day, the first day of Unleavened Bread, the sheaf was cut and prepared for the offering on the third day.  

On this third day, which was the actual Feast day, the priest waved the sheaf before the Lord.  They then began counting 50 days until Pentecost, which is the next feast to be celebrated.  
     It is easy to see the picture of Jesus in the Feast of First Fruits.  It is a picture of Jesus’s resurrection, which Christians celebrate as Easter, (with all of its Constantine influences).  His resurrection is the first fruit of God’s redemption of mankind …. and we see a picture of “things to come” … the harvest and promise of the future resurrection of believers.  
     So we now have the historical significance of the Passover Seder.  We have the meaning behind Pesach and the Exodus; we know the significance of the unleavened bread and the first fruits of the harvest.  We see the picture of what God did for the Israelites, and what Christ has done for us, in the Seder Meal and what is eaten.  And we see the picture of His death and resurrection in that somber assembly at the Last (Passover) Supper.  And most importantly, I hope we see that we are called to observe these Feasts by our Lord, in remembrance of what He has done for those He calls His own, both Jewish and Christian.   Jesus may have instituted the Lord’s Supper from rituals of the Passover Seder, but neither negates the other.  I believe that it pleases the Lord for us to be obedient to His command to observe the Feasts; to see that they point to Christ; and to worship His Son’s death, burial and resurrection as the fulfillment of the promises of these Feasts.  
     In the spirit of praise and worship, I say “Pesach Same’ach (Happy Passover), and I hope you will be blessed by observing the first of the Lord’s ordained Feasts!
 
Next post I will share how our Home Church celebrates this solemn, yet joyous occasion.
Luke 22:14-16      When Jesus arrived at the upper room, He took His place at the table along with all the apostles. Then He told them, “I have longed with passion and desire to eat this Passover lamb with you before I endure my sufferings. I promise you that the next time we eat this, we will be together in the banquet of God’s kingdom realm.”

 

Does Jesus Know You?

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     I only feel confident in asking you this question because I have asked it of myself. And if you are a serious student of Scripture then how you answer the question is a serious matter, and the consequences of your answer can be frightening.  I am, of course, referring to the passage in Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus warns against false prophets and pretenders of the faith. If you have never regarded these verses, I hope you will now…
     Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’

     Is the thought of not entering the Kingdom of Heaven and being banished from the presence of Jesus as upsetting and disturbing to you as it is to me? I don’t think we can read this passage and not contemplate whether we are somehow identified with whomever Jesus is speaking. And, at first glance, when considering this passage on its own, it can be confusing. These individuals are apparently prophesying in the Name of Jesus, and casting out demons and doing miracles, all in His Name. Some might ask, “Isn’t that what He tells us to do in John 14:13? Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. And what about John 15:16? You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. Then there is John 14:12. “I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father!
     So, again, at first glance it would appear that these people have followed all the rules. They appear to be doing the works of Jesus — and in His Name. So what is so egregious that Jesus tells them to depart from Him? And why does He describe them as disregarding His commands; or as the various translations label them, lawless rebels, workers of lawlessness, or plain old wicked?  And, if on the surface, they appear to be doing everything He has asked of us, how can we avoid their fate?
     To get the answers to those questions [and to settle our hearts about our own destinies] we must look at the verses before and after this unsettling indictment.  It is important to note that up to now, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God; it’s rules and government; the characteristics of the realm in which God resides — beginning with the Sermon on the Mount. He has warned that entering this Kingdom is by a narrow gate; many will be those who choose the wider and more popular path, and few will be those who even find that narrow gate. 
     Then He warns those who would be His disciples to be on their guard against phony prophets. They appear to be genuine by their actions; pretending to be like the true sheep that hear their Master’s voice and obey. But their motives are all wrong, and you can tell they are false and counterfeit by the fruit of their ministries. Yes, they might have used His Name as a sort of lucky charm, or part of a formula, but notice that they asked, “Lord, have we not [done the works]…”. Remember, Jesus makes it very clear … Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. So, likely, the fruit of their ministries was the recognition they gained for themselves, and not for the glory of God. No new disciples were made and the power from Heaven to drive out demons and perform miracles, while not wasted, did not bear fruit for the Kingdom.
     NOTE: I want to give a word of caution at this point. I have heard many Christians leaders and commentators use this explanation to promote their theology that anyone who is doing the miracles Jesus commanded us to do are false prophets and teachers. Just like the Pharisees that accused Jesus of using the power of Beelzebul to heal the demon-possessed man (Matthew 12), these modern religious hypocrites accuse anyone who heals or does deliverance ministry of doing it by the power of Satan. Obviously, if you remember what the Lord has shown me, then you know that I disagree with this position. 
     Jesus, Himself, tells us in Mark 16:15-18, “As you go into all the world, preach openly the wonderful news of the gospel to the entire human race! Whoever believes the good news and is baptized will be saved, and whoever does not believe the good news will be condemned. And these miracle signs will accompany those who believe: They will drive out demons in the power of my name. They will speak in tongues. They will be supernaturally protected from snakes and from drinking anything poisonous. And they will lay hands on the sick and heal them.” and Matthew 28:19-20, Now go in My authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you

     Now, back to my original thesis. I believe that Jesus tells these misguided followers that He doesn’t know them because there is no experiential knowledge of Jesus in their hearts. Were they doing the miracles and prophesying? Oh, yes! But, we’ve looked at the verses preceding Jesus’s dire statement. Now, let’s look at the verses that immediately follow. 
     Jesus talks about two different groups that have heard His teachings — those that apply it to their lives, and those who don’t. Simply put, those who “take it to heart” and those who don’t. See where I’m going? Those who do the works from a heart that seeks to glorify God and His Kingdom are in a heart and spirit-filled relationship with Jesus. They know Him from experience and are on solid ground. Those who are not joined to Him in that heart relationship will still be given the power to do the miracles by God, because they did them in Jesus’ Name. But they did it for their own glory and never experienced Him in the process. They are on risky ground.
     But what about those who never attempt to do what He commanded? They got the first half right — preaching the gospel and baptizing. But they didn’t read the next sentence He spoke! He said there would be miracle signs that accompanied those who believe:  they will cast out demons in the power of His name; they will speak in tongues; they will be supernaturally protected from snakes and from drinking anything poisonous; and they will lay hands on the sick and heal them. (Some scholars believe that the sentence about snakes and poison contains two Aramaic idioms. To pick up snakes could be a picture of overcoming one’s enemies (“snakes”), and drinking poison may be speaking of dealing with attacks on one’s character (poisonous words).
     These are the signs and wonders so many in the modern Church deny. But then there is Luke 6:46, which in the Passion Translation says it better than I ever could: What good does it do for you to say I am your Lord and Master if what I teach you is not put into practice? So, here, we get another admonition by Jesus that calling Him Lord comes with great responsibility to not only do His commands, but do them out of a heart that has known and experienced Him, which will rightly give the glory to the Father.
     Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. He wants to be the treasure of our heart. He wants to know us personally, intimately, and experientially. Anything less, is unacceptable to Him. And that should make all of us Christians examine our hearts and our motives. Are we serving Him and doing the works He commanded us to do? And even more importantly, are we doing them from a heart that is joined to His? Or are we pretenders of the true faith? Those are very serious questions to ponder, and ones that we should not take lightly. I can’t imagine standing before Him on that day of judgment, and looking into His eyes, realizing that He doesn’t even recognize me! Lord, search my heart and find an obedient follower who has placed You securely upon the throne of her heart!

1 John 2:5-6    We can be sure that we’ve truly come to live in intimacy with God not just by saying, “I am intimate with God,” but by walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
 
 

Searching For The Peace of God

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     It was another one of those nights … I woke up between 3 and 4 in the morning, and couldn’t go back to sleep. There wasn’t anything big pressing on my soul or spirit, but it was clear that I wasn’t going back to sleep soon. I know that this is the time the Enemy likes to sow his lies into my sleepy brain, so I was on guard to take every thought captive. Since this is a regular occurrence for me, and I know that Jesus talks about being prepared in “the night watches” (Luke 12:35-40), I instinctively know that this is a time that God may be calling me to seek Him.
     So, instead of trying harder to go back to sleep, I chose to spend time with Jesus and see what we had to say to each other. Realizing that I was restless and just a little anxious, a spontaneous thought quickly came to my mind in the form of a question … Did Jesus model for us what “being at peace” looked like? In my natural mind I tried to run that rabbit and see if I could think of any Scripture in the Gospels that spoke of Jesus being at peace or enjoying peaceful respite. I know the Bible talks about the “peace that surpasses all understanding”, but did Jesus, Himself, show us what that looks like for us in our Christian walk?
     When I couldn’t really think of any example in the Bible, I decided to spend these waking moments visiting with Jesus in the garden of my heart. I got still and quieted my mind. In my spirit, I entered through my garden gate and headed down the path to the bench under the big oak tree where we always meet to sit and talk. But He wasn’t there! I had a moment of slight panic, but remembered another time when my soul and spirit were dry and I felt emptied of any divine energy.  At that time, Jesus had instructed me to immerse myself in the river of Living Water, and while floating there, I felt myself getting filled up; the Living Water from the throne of God seeped through my pores and I was restored and ready to serve Him again.
     So, when I didn’t find Jesus at our meeting place this time, I immediately thought, “I’ll just go to the river of Living Water and see if I can be filled with His peace there”. I knelt down by the river and scooped the water up, drinking in its sweet flavor, both physically and spiritually. I couldn’t get enough! All of a sudden, I was aware of Jesus sitting on the bank, watching me and smiling. He said, “You’ve instinctively thirsted for the Living Water, which is the source of your spiritual life. But there’s more I want you to understand. You are seeking My peace, but I’m not sure you get the big picture. Let me show you more…”.  At that moment, I drifted off to sleep, but in the morning when I woke up, every inch of my flesh and spirit was eager to go to the Word to see if I could find what He wanted to show me.

     I instinctively knew that there was a connection between the peace I was seeking and the Living Waters I had consumed in my garden. So, I started in Galatians, Chapter 5, where I knew peace was mentioned in conjunction with the fruits of the Spirit. It read, But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue,faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.

     All of a sudden, the picture was coming into view … Peace in my life is a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew that, but I was beginning to understand that peace was not something I could get or produce on my own, APART from the Holy Spirit. On the contrary — the fruit was the evidence of the power producing it. In other words, it was the power of the Holy Spirit in me, bringing me into union with Christ that produces the peace. My peace is always found when I am filled to overflowing with the Living Waters!
     Now, I was eager to see if I could confirm that understanding through Scripture.  First of all, I found conviction [in the Psalms] that I was awakened in the middle of the night so that I might meet with Jesus. Psalm 119:147-148 says, Before the day dawns, I’ll be crying out for help and wrapping Your words into my life.I lie awake every night pondering Your promises to me. Psalm 4:4 says, Tremble in awe before the Lord, and do not sin against Him. Be still upon your bed and search your heart before Him. Pause in His presence. And Psalm 16:7 says, The way You counsel and correct me makes me praise You more, for Your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.
     Now, could I find the connection between thirsting for the Living Water, it’s overflowing from my heart, and the peace that I desired? Romans 15:13 spoke directly to me! Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with hope! There it was! The picture of the Living Water coming directly from God as my source of joy and peace! And that peace comes directly to me by the power of the Holy Spirit to reproduce the character of Christ in me!
     You know, sometimes, it is easy to say we understand the Biblical concepts that we’ve learned in Church. But to really understand is a heart knowledge, not a head or analytical knowledge. I knew peace came from God. And I knew that the Living Water was the Holy Spirit overflowing from my heart. But when I tried to see Jesus displaying that peace as a man, I was chasing after the peace of God in my flesh. Jesus always talked about the Living Water as a spiritual concept, not something that we could accomplish in the flesh. So, it was important that I understand that I can only know true peace when I am functioning out of the overflow of the Holy Spirit in my life. 
     So, now I understood what had taken place in the garden of my heart. In my search for Jesus’ peace, I was led to drink of the Living Waters, flowing from the throne of God. Jesus wasn’t at our meeting place under the shade of the big oak tree because I wasn’t going to get instructions for peace from how He modeled life as a human man. I could only get the peace He knew by being filled with the overflowing joy and peace coming by way of the Holy Spirit, and straight from the fountain of hope, Himself, which is God, the Father. That’s why Jesus was waiting for me on the banks that provided the peace I was looking for!
     In summary, I now understand that true peace is not something I can achieve through earthly measures. I can’t do enough, have enough, or know enough [in the flesh] to set my soul or spirit at perfect peace. It is only through the presence and overflowing of the Holy Spirit, that I can know the peace that exists in the Kingdom of God. If I may be so bold, I don’t believe you can find real peace in the realm of this earth. The key for us, who are living here until called Home, is the discernment that God’s peace only exists in God’s Kingdom realm. The only way we can experience His Kingdom while still on this planet is in the realm of the Holy Spirit. It all comes down to this … Divine Peace exists in the realm where God is. God’s realm is available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. The power of the Holy Spirit is experienced as the overflowing of the river of Living Water in our hearts. Divine peace — God’s peace — comes when we submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to fill us with Himself. Instead of looking for outward manifestations of peace, I will now look inward — because I know that the peace of God, which surpasses all [human] understanding, will guard my heart and my mind because His realm lives inside me. Hallelujah!

Romans 14:17    Because the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking [as a human does]. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. 
     

 
      
      
    

Searching For The Peace of God

     It was another one of those nights … I woke up between 3 and 4 in the morning, and couldn’t go back to sleep. There wasn’t anything big pressing on my soul or spirit, but it was clear that I wasn’t going back to sleep soon. I know that this is the time the Enemy likes to sow his lies into my sleepy brain, so I was on guard to take every thought captive. Since this is a regular occurrence for me, and I know that Jesus talks about being prepared in “the night watches” (Luke 12:35-40), I instinctively know that this is a time that God may be calling me to seek Him.
     So, instead of trying harder to go back to sleep, I chose to spend time with Jesus and see what we had to say to each other. Realizing that I was restless and just a little anxious, a spontaneous thought quickly came to my mind in the form of a question … Did Jesus model for us what “being at peace” looked like? In my natural mind I tried to run that rabbit and see if I could think of any Scripture in the Gospels that spoke of Jesus being at peace or enjoying peaceful respite. I know the Bible talks about the “peace that surpasses all understanding”, but did Jesus, Himself, show us what that looks like for us in our Christian walk?
     When I couldn’t really think of any example in the Bible, I decided to spend these waking moments visiting with Jesus in the garden of my heart. I got still and quieted my mind. In my spirit, I entered through my garden gate and headed down the path to the bench under the big oak tree where we always meet to sit and talk. But He wasn’t there! I had a moment of slight panic, but remembered another time when my soul and spirit were dry and I felt emptied of any divine energy.  At that time, Jesus had instructed me to immerse myself in the river of Living Water, and while floating there, I felt myself getting filled up; the Living Water from the throne of God seeped through my pores and I was restored and ready to serve Him again.
     So, when I didn’t find Jesus at our meeting place this time, I immediately thought, “I’ll just go to the river of Living Water and see if I can be filled with His peace there”. I knelt down by the river and scooped the water up, drinking in its sweet flavor, both physically and spiritually. I couldn’t get enough! All of a sudden, I was aware of Jesus sitting on the bank, watching me and smiling. He said, “You’ve instinctively thirsted for the Living Water, which is the source of your spiritual life. But there’s more I want you to understand. You are seeking My peace, but I’m not sure you get the big picture. Let me show you more…”.  At that moment, I drifted off to sleep, but in the morning when I woke up, every inch of my flesh and spirit was eager to go to the Word to see if I could find what He wanted to show me.

     I instinctively knew that there was a connection between the peace I was seeking and the Living Waters I had consumed in my garden. So, I started in Galatians, Chapter 5, where I knew peace was mentioned in conjunction with the fruits of the Spirit. It read, But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue,faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.

     All of a sudden, the picture was coming into view … Peace in my life is a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew that, but I was beginning to understand that peace was not something I could get or produce on my own, APART from the Holy Spirit. On the contrary — the fruit was the evidence of the power producing it. In other words, it was the power of the Holy Spirit in me, bringing me into union with Christ that produces the peace. My peace is always found when I am filled to overflowing with the Living Waters!
     Now, I was eager to see if I could confirm that understanding through Scripture.  First of all, I found conviction [in the Psalms] that I was awakened in the middle of the night so that I might meet with Jesus. Psalm 119:147-148 says, Before the day dawns, I’ll be crying out for help and wrapping Your words into my life.I lie awake every night pondering Your promises to me. Psalm 4:4 says, Tremble in awe before the Lord, and do not sin against Him. Be still upon your bed and search your heart before Him. Pause in His presence. And Psalm 16:7 says, The way You counsel and correct me makes me praise You more, for Your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.
     Now, could I find the connection between thirsting for the Living Water, it’s overflowing from my heart, and the peace that I desired? Romans 15:13 spoke directly to me! Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with hope! There it was! The picture of the Living Water coming directly from God as my source of joy and peace! And that peace comes directly to me by the power of the Holy Spirit to reproduce the character of Christ in me!
     You know, sometimes, it is easy to say we understand the Biblical concepts that we’ve learned in Church. But to really understand is a heart knowledge, not a head or analytical knowledge. I knew peace came from God. And I knew that the Living Water was the Holy Spirit overflowing from my heart. But when I tried to see Jesus displaying that peace as a man, I was chasing after the peace of God in my flesh. Jesus always talked about the Living Water as a spiritual concept, not something that we could accomplish in the flesh. So, it was important that I understand that I can only know true peace when I am functioning out of the overflow of the Holy Spirit in my life. 
     So, now I understood what had taken place in the garden of my heart. In my search for Jesus’ peace, I was led to drink of the Living Waters, flowing from the throne of God. Jesus wasn’t at our meeting place under the shade of the big oak tree because I wasn’t going to get instructions for peace from how He modeled life as a human man. I could only get the peace He knew by being filled with the overflowing joy and peace coming by way of the Holy Spirit, and straight from the fountain of hope, Himself, which is God, the Father. That’s why Jesus was waiting for me on the banks that provided the peace I was looking for!
     In summary, I now understand that true peace is not something I can achieve through earthly measures. I can’t do enough, have enough, or know enough [in the flesh] to set my soul or spirit at perfect peace. It is only through the presence and overflowing of the Holy Spirit, that I can know the peace that exists in the Kingdom of God. If I may be so bold, I don’t believe you can find real peace in the realm of this earth. The key for us, who are living here until called Home, is the discernment that God’s peace only exists in God’s Kingdom realm. The only way we can experience His Kingdom while still on this planet is in the realm of the Holy Spirit. It all comes down to this … Divine Peace exists in the realm where God is. God’s realm is available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. The power of the Holy Spirit is experienced as the overflowing of the river of Living Water in our hearts. Divine peace — God’s peace — comes when we submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to fill us with Himself. Instead of looking for outward manifestations of peace, I will now look inward — because I know that the peace of God, which surpasses all [human] understanding, will guard my heart and my mind because His realm lives inside me. Hallelujah!

Romans 14:17    Because the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking [as a human does]. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. 
     

 
      
      
    

Searching For The Peace of God

Click here to view the original post.

     It was another one of those nights … I woke up between 3 and 4 in the morning, and couldn’t go back to sleep. There wasn’t anything big pressing on my soul or spirit, but it was clear that I wasn’t going back to sleep soon. I know that this is the time the Enemy likes to sow his lies into my sleepy brain, so I was on guard to take every thought captive. Since this is a regular occurrence for me, and I know that Jesus talks about being prepared in “the night watches” (Luke 12:35-40), I instinctively know that this is a time that God may be calling me to seek Him.
     So, instead of trying harder to go back to sleep, I chose to spend time with Jesus and see what we had to say to each other. Realizing that I was restless and just a little anxious, a spontaneous thought quickly came to my mind in the form of a question … Did Jesus model for us what “being at peace” looked like? In my natural mind I tried to run that rabbit and see if I could think of any Scripture in the Gospels that spoke of Jesus being at peace or enjoying peaceful respite. I know the Bible talks about the “peace that surpasses all understanding”, but did Jesus, Himself, show us what that looks like for us in our Christian walk?
     When I couldn’t really think of any example in the Bible, I decided to spend these waking moments visiting with Jesus in the garden of my heart. I got still and quieted my mind. In my spirit, I entered through my garden gate and headed down the path to the bench under the big oak tree where we always meet to sit and talk. But He wasn’t there! I had a moment of slight panic, but remembered another time when my soul and spirit were dry and I felt emptied of any divine energy.  At that time, Jesus had instructed me to immerse myself in the river of Living Water, and while floating there, I felt myself getting filled up; the Living Water from the throne of God seeped through my pores and I was restored and ready to serve Him again.
     So, when I didn’t find Jesus at our meeting place this time, I immediately thought, “I’ll just go to the river of Living Water and see if I can be filled with His peace there”. I knelt down by the river and scooped the water up, drinking in its sweet flavor, both physically and spiritually. I couldn’t get enough! All of a sudden, I was aware of Jesus sitting on the bank, watching me and smiling. He said, “You’ve instinctively thirsted for the Living Water, which is the source of your spiritual life. But there’s more I want you to understand. You are seeking My peace, but I’m not sure you get the big picture. Let me show you more…”.  At that moment, I drifted off to sleep, but in the morning when I woke up, every inch of my flesh and spirit was eager to go to the Word to see if I could find what He wanted to show me.

     I instinctively knew that there was a connection between the peace I was seeking and the Living Waters I had consumed in my garden. So, I started in Galatians, Chapter 5, where I knew peace was mentioned in conjunction with the fruits of the Spirit. It read, But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue,faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.

     All of a sudden, the picture was coming into view … Peace in my life is a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew that, but I was beginning to understand that peace was not something I could get or produce on my own, APART from the Holy Spirit. On the contrary — the fruit was the evidence of the power producing it. In other words, it was the power of the Holy Spirit in me, bringing me into union with Christ that produces the peace. My peace is always found when I am filled to overflowing with the Living Waters!
     Now, I was eager to see if I could confirm that understanding through Scripture.  First of all, I found conviction [in the Psalms] that I was awakened in the middle of the night so that I might meet with Jesus. Psalm 119:147-148 says, Before the day dawns, I’ll be crying out for help and wrapping Your words into my life.I lie awake every night pondering Your promises to me. Psalm 4:4 says, Tremble in awe before the Lord, and do not sin against Him. Be still upon your bed and search your heart before Him. Pause in His presence. And Psalm 16:7 says, The way You counsel and correct me makes me praise You more, for Your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.
     Now, could I find the connection between thirsting for the Living Water, it’s overflowing from my heart, and the peace that I desired? Romans 15:13 spoke directly to me! Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with hope! There it was! The picture of the Living Water coming directly from God as my source of joy and peace! And that peace comes directly to me by the power of the Holy Spirit to reproduce the character of Christ in me!
     You know, sometimes, it is easy to say we understand the Biblical concepts that we’ve learned in Church. But to really understand is a heart knowledge, not a head or analytical knowledge. I knew peace came from God. And I knew that the Living Water was the Holy Spirit overflowing from my heart. But when I tried to see Jesus displaying that peace as a man, I was chasing after the peace of God in my flesh. Jesus always talked about the Living Water as a spiritual concept, not something that we could accomplish in the flesh. So, it was important that I understand that I can only know true peace when I am functioning out of the overflow of the Holy Spirit in my life. 
     So, now I understood what had taken place in the garden of my heart. In my search for Jesus’ peace, I was led to drink of the Living Waters, flowing from the throne of God. Jesus wasn’t at our meeting place under the shade of the big oak tree because I wasn’t going to get instructions for peace from how He modeled life as a human man. I could only get the peace He knew by being filled with the overflowing joy and peace coming by way of the Holy Spirit, and straight from the fountain of hope, Himself, which is God, the Father. That’s why Jesus was waiting for me on the banks that provided the peace I was looking for!
     In summary, I now understand that true peace is not something I can achieve through earthly measures. I can’t do enough, have enough, or know enough [in the flesh] to set my soul or spirit at perfect peace. It is only through the presence and overflowing of the Holy Spirit, that I can know the peace that exists in the Kingdom of God. If I may be so bold, I don’t believe you can find real peace in the realm of this earth. The key for us, who are living here until called Home, is the discernment that God’s peace only exists in God’s Kingdom realm. The only way we can experience His Kingdom while still on this planet is in the realm of the Holy Spirit. It all comes down to this … Divine Peace exists in the realm where God is. God’s realm is available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. The power of the Holy Spirit is experienced as the overflowing of the river of Living Water in our hearts. Divine peace — God’s peace — comes when we submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to fill us with Himself. Instead of looking for outward manifestations of peace, I will now look inward — because I know that the peace of God, which surpasses all [human] understanding, will guard my heart and my mind because His realm lives inside me. Hallelujah!

Romans 14:17    Because the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking [as a human does]. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. 
     

 
      
      
    

Fighting Our Fears

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     In the wake of all the Lord has shown me in the past few years, I am seeing a new paradigm rising in the Body of Christ.  It has a couple of different components, but at the foundation, it is rooted in Fear.  I know that’s not a new revelation about the Christian life, but follow me as I show you where I want to go with this…
     The spirit of Fear is as old as the Garden of Eden. In fact, my research has discerned that the first mention of fear is in Genesis 3:10, when Adam hides from the Lord after he and Eve have disobeyed His commandment regarding the tree of the knowledge (recognition) of good and evil. In response to God’s question of where he was, Adam replies, “I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
     It is important for us to recognize that this fear was not in the sense of reverence for God, or standing in awe of Him, both of which are implied in a healthy fear of God. As long as Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship with their Creator, they knew only this kind of fear, and they exalted Him and recognized His power and position from their blessed state. But once they rebelled and lost that holy relationship, they were separated from Him spiritually, and to be in His Presence generated a deep-seated dread and terror of the Lord. Here, the sense of the word fear takes on a completely different significance.
     And who was there in the garden to exploit that dramatic change in the relationship between man and God? The Father of lies! He witnessed how terror and dread was a by-product of being out of right relationship with God, and it became a most useful tool in keeping man separated from His Creator and from restoring that full relationship. And today’s Christians, who are spiritually saved, are easy targets for the Enemy and his spirit of Fear. Along with the spirit of Anger, it is probably the most common attack that Mark and I witness in our ministry. 
     So, how does all this relate to the new paradigm in the Body of Christ that I mentioned in the first paragraph, and the different components of this paradigm? To begin with, Fear keeps the Church from walking in Jesus’s commands to help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Fear then results in the two components within the Body: 1) the Christians who [because of their fear of what they don’t know] deny that we are to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead, which gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel; and 2) the Christians who recognize this is our mission, given by Christ, but who are afraid for various reasons to walk in that authority and power. Even if one can convince them that the doctrine of Cessationism is wrong — that Jesus’ commandments were just as much for us as they were for the Apostles — I have heard all the reasons they convince themselves that it’s either not God’s will for them to step into that assignment, or that it’s too difficult for them to do.  Let me share just a few…
     God is in control of everything.  If they or a loved one are ill, or suffer from depression or anxiety, or any number of attacks from the devil, then God is allowing it. Their suffering is a way to bring them into submission to God’s will for their life. Therefore, why would they go against God? After all, isn’t that what the Book of Job is all about? But the Bible says that God’s will is good, perfect, and acceptable. Did you get that? That is the description of His will — whether you are giving thanks; doing good; abstaining from sexual immorality; acknowledging that His kingdom has come; doing what is pleasing in His sight; doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with Him; confessing your sins; etc. — it is all His will [the desire of His heart] and His will is good, and perfect, and acceptable to Him. 
     It is NEVER His will to see His children suffer, just as no good father on earth would desire his child to suffer. Did you ever read in your Bible where Jesus told anyone, “I wish I could heal you, but my Father is telling me that you have to suffer a little in order to improve your relationship with Him”? No! The Bible repeatedly tells us that Jesus healed all who came to Him, or healed all who were ill (Matthew 15:30, 12:15). But the fear of God allowing the devil to torment us to test our faith is a wrong interpretation of Job, while being a very real apprehension for a lot of Christians.
     We must always be careful of being deceived.  Fear of deception by the devil is probably the most voiced argument I hear for not walking in our power and authority.  Peoples’ fears are often expressed like this … If we go outside of our denomination’s doctrine, how do we know our interpretation of Scripture is correct?  If hearing something different than the theology I’ve established for myself makes me uncomfortable, then it can’t be from God — it must be a deception by the Enemy… I don’t really trust anything I hear that’s not backed up and supported by my Church, my pastor, my Christian friends, the Biblical interpretation I’ve been taught, or fill in the blank.  
     But all I’m hearing in these arguments is the reliance on human wisdom. Where is the trust in God and the Holy Spirit to reveal their Truth to you? This sounds an awful lot like the religious skeptics in Jesus’ day. After all, Jesus invaded comfort zones and challenged religious traditions and ideas 2,000 years ago — and He hasn’t changed! 
     At some point, we must quit being afraid of being deceived and trust that God can still speak to us! We must see a God that is bigger than our concept of a deceiving devil. If we are afraid of letting the power of the Holy Spirit work through us [as He did Jesus] to battle sickness, demons, or to bring people to a decision for salvation, then we give the devil more power than he deserves OR has.
     I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong.  This would be a valid argument if you were doing it under your own power.  But you’re not!  Take a look at Mark 16:20… It reads, And they [the Disciples] went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. The Disciples were doing what Jesus commanded them [and us] to do… preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, accompanied by the signs and wonders of healing the sick, casting out demons, etc.
     But look at the previous verse in Mark 16:19. So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  Did you see what the Bible said happened? It was AFTER He ascended that Jesus worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. I’ll say it again … This was after His resurrection! Yet He worked with them (partnered with them) to do the miracles of healing and deliverance after He had risen to heaven! He continued to work with them perfecting their abilities through His power. He is the same today as He was yesterday! He has sent the Holy Spirit to do the same with us. You can’t do it wrong, because it’s not you doing it — it’s Him! All He needs is willing partners, and your trust and faith in Him. But too many Christians let fear, doubt, and unbelief creep into their minds and hearts, therefore making it impossible for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to work through them.
     You need to be careful playing around with the Dark Side.  Once again, fear is the primary instigator behind this sentiment. Yes, the devil is our adversary, and a formidable one. We must have our spiritual armor on at all times, and be aware of his many schemes and tactics to overcome believing Christians. But the reality of this spiritual war is that we have nothing to be afraid of. A very telling passage of Scripture happens in Luke, Chapter 10, when the 72 Disciples Jesus sent out to minister healing and deliverance [and preach the Gospel] return. Read the following from the Passion Translation:
     When the seventy missionaries returned to Jesus, they were ecstatic with joy, telling him, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we commanded them in your name!”Jesus replied, “While you were ministering, I watched Satan topple until he fell suddenly from heaven like lightning to the ground. Now you understand that I have imparted to you all my authority to trample over his kingdom. You will trample upon every demon before you and overcome every powerSatan possesses. Absolutely nothing will be able to harm you as you walk in this authority. However, your real source of joy isn’t merely that these spirits submit to your authority, but that your names are written in the journals of heaven and that you belong to God’s kingdom. This is the true source of your authority.”
     Jesus makes it pretty clear that we have nothing to fear!  We have been given all His authority, and He makes sure we understand that absolutely nothing can harm us.  And notice what else He says: that while we are carrying out our Lord’s commands to continue His work [which is our ministry], it causes Satan to topple from his place in heaven.  Remember: the Bible makes it clear that there are multiple heavens, and at some point, I plan on writing a post on where Satan rules his kingdom from. But for the sake of this article, I don’t want to get caught up in all the theological theories on when this happens, but want to concentrate on the fact that Jesus tells us that 1) we have all of His authority, 2) we have nothing to be afraid of, and 3) when we walk in our designated power and authority it causes Satan to “topple” or “fall”, as it is stated in the King James version. It is very possible that Jesus is telling us that our willingness to heal and deliver causes Satan to fall into ruin, or fail, and it happens as suddenly as lightning hitting the ground, every time we walk in that authority.  
    And the last argument from those fighting fear is this one:  I believe that you have to be specially anointed in specific spiritual gifts to do this work, and I don’t have the gift of healing.  It is my discernment that this argument comes from a lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit. If we are saved by grace for our faith in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit resides in us. And the Holy Spirit has produced all the gifts and has them with Him, with the ability to give any [or all] to us as we need them.  So that gift of healing is already present in you with the presence of the Holy Spirit. You just have to decide to be obedient to Jesus’ commands and cooperate with Him and the Spirit to see someone healed.
     If you will take a look at 1 John 2:27, I think you will find an answer to the fear of walking in the gifts. In reference to being deceived by false teachers or doctrines [or even the devil], John instructs believers: But the wonderful anointing you have received from God is so much greater than their deception and now lives in you. There’s no need for anyone to keep teaching you. His anointing teaches you all that you need to know, for it will lead you into truth, not a counterfeit. So just as the anointing has taught you, remain in Him.  
     If we have the Holy Spirit in us, we all have the anointing to do any of the gifts, as needed. The
“anointing” is the Holy Spirit poured into us, bringing life, illumination, wisdom, fruit, and power from the indwelling life of Christ. He covers it all — everything we need to defeat the works of the devil, just as He did.
     In summary, I don’t want to downplay the power that fear has in the lives of Christians. I personally know the all-consuming fear that can separate one from our Father in Heaven. And it is the fiery dart that the Enemy loves to use against me more than any other. But I continue to choose the Truth of the Word and the promises that Jesus has given us: we have authority over all the power of the Enemy and nothing can harm us. So, while not easy, to live freely, without fear, is a choice; a choice to believe — and when necessary, to repent for giving in to the snare of the devil, and to once again take that step of faith to walk in my true identity as an empowered child of God and co-heir of the Kingdom with Christ. I declare that the spirit of Fear is the real deception of the devil, and I walk in the perfect love of the One who died for me.

Psalm 56:4    What harm could a man bring to me? With God on my side I will not be afraid of what comes. The roaring praises of God fill my heart, and I will always triumph as I trust His promises.
     



 

    

      

Revelation = Spirit-Revealed Truths

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    I’d like to take one more try at discussing yesterday’s blog post and the idea of revelations from God. Sadly, I don’t think the Church teaches the difference between the Logos Word and the Rhema Word. Both refer to the Word of God, but with different implications. Logos is the revelation that the “Word of God” is Jesus Christ, who is the subject from Genesis to Revelation. When John 1:1 says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, we recognize that, here, the Word is specifically Jesus. And the term “Word” is Logos in the Greek.
     But Rhema is the revealed word of God, as an utterance from God to the heart of the receiver via the Holy Spirit, as in John 14:26: But when the Father sends the Spirit of Holiness, the One like me who sets you free, He will teach you all things in My name. And He will inspire you to remember every word that I’ve told you.  In this case, the term “word” is Rhema in the Greek. 

     To summarize, Logos is a theological term with a clear reference to Jesus as the Word in the Bible. Rhema is a spiritual encounter with the Word, whereby the principles of the Bible are communicated directly to the heart and spirit of the Believer. The problem is that much of the Church doesn’t recognize the Rhema Word or hunger for it. And of course, the Rhema Word must coincide with what is revealed about the Logos in the Bible. I do not believe God or Jesus will speak a word to our hearts or spirits that contradicts His Word in the Bible, but I certainly believe They have a desire to illuminate the Word to those who will receive it.
     I invite you to consider the following passage in the Bible. I think it expresses much better than I can, what I am talking about … For we did not receive the spirit of this world system but the Spirit of God, so that we might come to understand and experience all that grace has lavished upon us. And wearticulate these realities with the words imparted to us by the Spirit and not with the words taught by human wisdom. We join together Spirit-revealed truths with Spirit-revealed words.  Someone living on an entirely human level rejects the revelations of God’s Spirit, for they make no sense to him. He can’t understand the revelations of the Spirit because they are only discovered by the illumination of the Spirit. Those who live in the Spirit are able to carefully evaluate all things, and they are subject to the scrutiny of no one but God (1 Corinthians 2:12-15, The Passion Translation).
     To us in the 21st Century, this should tell us that there is a valid connection between revelation from God (Spirit-revealed truths) and the Bible (Spirit-revealed words). They are meant to work together to bring us into greater intimacy with the Father and to guide us to fulfill our purpose for the Kingdom Jesus came to establish.
     And I absolutely love what Paul tells us in this Second Chapter of 1 Corinthians. He is not shy about proclaiming his reliance on spiritual power that comes from God’s Holy Spirit. He makes it clear that the message he preached was not an attempt to sway them with persuasive arguments [to believe his particular brand of theology], but to prove to them the power of the Holy Spirit in him. We should all meditate on this statement in verse 5: For God intended that our faith not be established on man’s wisdom but by trusting in His almighty power. That means that the basis of our faith should not rest on the persuasive words of humans, but on what He reveals through His Spirit… what Paul calls “wisdom from God”, or what I refer to as God’s “revelation”.
     To bolster this idea of God’s revelation Paul says, However, there is a wisdom that we continually speak of when we are among the spiritually mature.  First of all, it should be clear to us that there is a growth process to our faith, and a wisdom that only comes from growing spiritually — not just from reading the Word or understanding its context and history; but a wisdom that comes from joining together “Spirit-revealed truths with Spirit-revealed words”, as he expressed in verse 13 above. But how many Christians even acknowledge that God’s truth can be Spirit-revealed? If they only rely on their own [or their favorite pastor’s] interpretations of the Word from their human wisdom, aren’t they denying the Spirit of God the opportunity to reveal the mysteries of God? Isn’t this what Paul is implying when he says in verse 7, “Instead, we continually speak of this wonderful wisdom that comes from God, hidden before now in a mystery”?
     Before Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live inside each of us, we were not privy to the revealed wisdom of God. We could understand a certain level according to the capacity of our human mind, but God is bigger than that! I’m going to say it one more time … we can now receive “Spirit-revealed truths” because we have the Holy Spirit in us and a greater capacity for communion with our God.
     I know that I will probably be unable to persuade anyone to see the reality of greater revelation from the Spirit. That has to come from trusting that God wants to reveal more of Himself through His Spirit. And as my husband is fond of quoting, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. And I don’t really want to convince anyone based on my own human argument. I want them to experience an encounter with the almighty power of God’s Holy Spirit and receive the revelations of God because they are illuminated by the Spirit, Himself! Just as Paul says, if we don’t live in the Spirit, then we live on the human level, and none of this will make sense. I praise God that my spirit has been able to evaluate His truth and I am subject to the scrutiny of no one but my God!
    
    

1 Corinthians 2:9    Things never discovered or heard of before, things beyond our ability to imagine—these are the many things God has in store for all His lovers.

 

is the
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Let His Revelation Shine!

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     It is always a privilege to study the Gospels and visit with Jesus. I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading His words and exploring what He shows me about a life lived in righteousness. And it seems as if each time I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, I get a new revelation of what He wants to share with me. And I can think of no greater portion of the Bible to introduce to a new Believer; nor re-acquaint a seasoned Christian. I have come to believe that the Word never stops transforming us — if we will let it.
     And I say that because it is the desire of my heart to continue to grow in my relationship with my Savior. But that means that I must be open to new disclosures of Jesus, beyond the traditional doctrine of any church or denomination. That happens through a renewed mind, made possible by the Holy Spirit. Actually, I like how the Bible presents this concept better: Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total transformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes (Romans 12:2).
     I want to make it clear that I do not believe one human can know all there is about God, or know all His thoughts. And that concept, by itself, can cause friction within the Body of Christ. There are those who subscribe to Sola Scriptura — that Scripture alone is authoritative for the practice of the Christian faith and the self-disclosure of the God we serve; and that the Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. I agree with that principle. But I do not feel limited by it. Let me explain….

     Now, I know this idea of God continuing to reveal Himself has recently caused an uproar in the cultural news. And if you dare say that you hear Jesus [just like He heard the Father], then you run the risk of being called mentally ill. That’s to be expected from someone who doesn’t know Jesus. But it saddens me when the Church imitates the opinions of the culture and also criticizes the Believer who receives a different revelation than they have.
     As Christians, the Bible is the only “manual”, so to speak, of how we are to relate to our Creator and our Savior. The Divine Character, Nature, and Will of our Father in Heaven are revealed throughout the entire Old and New Testaments. And I recognize that there are many Christians who support the concept that God’s full [and complete] revelation can only be found in the Jesus of the Bible. I understand the fears of believing false prophets and teachers who claim to have received revelations beyond Jesus. Hear me when I say that in no way can I endorse any revelation of God apart from His Son.
     But, to say that God no longer needs to [or desires to] reveal Himself beyond what was written about Him during the previous centuries, somehow shortchanges our relationship with Him.  Yes, the Bible is sufficient to represent God — it is His Truth. But, if I may be so bold, I think my God is SO big, that my well-worn Bible cannot contain all of Him. For one thing, we are left with lots of questions [and time-lapses] when we study just the life of Jesus! Did we get the major points we need to know to live a righteous life? Did we get the commandments we are to follow, and our marching orders from our Savior? Yes, we did! 
     But the big concept we cannot forget is that Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as a conduit between Him and us; as a channel of communication, so to speak. And since God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow — and He never changes — when we look at the Bible, we see that from Genesis through Revelation, He revealed Himself to new generations of those who would believe in Him — and oftentimes new aspects . So, if you truly believe in His Immutability (unchanging nature), then you will see His Truth in Psalm 33:11, which reads, The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.  It can’t get much plainer than that. He never stops counseling us, revealing His plans to each new generation and born-again person.
     Taking that one step further, there is Psalm 36:9, which says, For with You is the fountain of life [the fountain of life-giving water]; In Your Light we see light (ESV). This speaks of the Holy Spirit, which should be flowing out of our hearts in rivers of Living Water, bringing new life to our situations and helping us to renew our minds and hearts.         
     But I would like to offer you the Passion Translation of this verse:  To know You is to experience a flowing fountain, drinking in Your life, springing up to satisfy. In the light of Your holiness we receive the light of revelation. Although Jesus is no longer physically present on this Earth to disciple mankind, He made it clear that He was sending the Holy Spirit [the Spirit of God, Himself] to fill in for His absence. The Holy Spirit’s job, as described in John 16:13 is “to unveil the reality of every truth within you. He won’t speak His own message, but only what He hears from the Father, and He will reveal prophetically to you what is to come”.  And it’s important that we understand that “truth” is not another word for “doctrine”. 
     The revelation of God in the Bible is completely true, but I am discerning that it is not His Complete Truth. His Truth cannot be contained, and He has more to be revealed of what is to come in each Believer’s life — if we will be open to receive it as part of a Spirit-led life. As the Psalm said, to know the Father and Jesus is to experience a flowing fountain, meaning we can receive His revelation as part of an active and vibrant and fresh unveiling of His heart. I do not believe He wants our  relationship to be stagnant or limited. The Bible is the gateway to His heart and to knowing Him and experiencing Him. And I treasure each new glimpse I get of Him, verified by His Word and His Spirit in me. I will never stop my quest for more of Him, and I invite you to the same thrilling journey! 

Psalm 119:130        Break open Your Word within me until revelation-light shines out! Those with open hearts are given insight into Your plans.

Why We Must Bear Witness Of The Power Of God

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     I am increasingly aware of the importance of bearing witness of the power of God in my life — to both the Unbeliever and the Believer.  All we have to do is look around us to see the effects of Unbelief on our culture and the world.  It seems that nearly every TV show or movie includes ungodly relationships or the occult. Even a Doritos commercial blatantly displays the symbols of Freemasonry!
     It should be obvious why we need to bear witness of God’s power to the Unbelieving world… it is through our witness [both in our word testimonies and our actions] that the dying world is able to see the power of God on display and His nature is revealed. Right now, they are predominantly seeing the supernatural displayed through the Dark Side — witchcraft and the occult boldly make their presence known. But the supernatural is God’s natural realm and His power is always on display there.  When we partner with Him to bring that power into this realm, it cannot be ignored. The Unbelieving world has a decision to make — either accept or reject the reality of God and His power.
    They will either respond as Pharoah and the Pharisees did — hardening their hearts and resisting His power because it threatens their own power and the desires of their hearts of stone — OR their hearts are changed when that supernatural power is displayed [through me] when I lay hands on them and heal a sore neck or knee; or work with Jesus to heal an emotional wound; and yes, even when, in the Name of Jesus, the spirit of fear or anger is cast at the foot of the Cross.  Either way, these actions testify of God’s love for them by invading this earth with His power, and it demands a decision: belief or unbelief; acceptance or rejection.
     And God always has a foundational purpose in my witness of His power: to change a person’s heart and bring them into relationship with Him, resulting in their true repentance and His forgiveness. But it is also so that they see His power exhibited, hear the “Good News” that the Kingdom of God has invaded the earth, and this power is available to them to bring others into relationship with Him. But I find that it is not only the Unbelievers that can benefit from my witness, but Believers, too.
     The believing Body of Christ is just as guilty of denying God’s power in this realm as the unbelieving world.  Why? Because they do not have their own testimonies. They have access to the power and authority of the Living Christ, but do not acknowledge it or exercise it. They are just like the sons of Ephraim in Psalm 78: Though they were all equipped warriors, each with weapons, when the battle began they retreated and ran away in fear. They didn’t really believe the promises of God;they refused to trust Him and move forward in faith.They forgot His wonderful works and the miracles of the past…

     Because the modern Church has abandoned the prophetic promise Jesus made in Matthew 11, they don’t have testimonies to lean on. What promise was that? In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus gives a prophetic promise and warning:
     Then Jesus began to openly denounce the cities where he had done most of his mighty miracles, because the people failed to turn away from sin and return to God. He said, “How tragic it will be for the city of Chorazin! And how horrible for the city of Bethsaida! For if the powerful miracles that I performed in Korazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have humbled themselves and repented, and turned from their sins. Tyre and Sidon will better off on judgment day than you And Capernaum—do you really think you’ll be exalted because of the great miracles I have done there? No! You’ll be brought down to the depths of hellbecause of your rejection of me. For if the miracles I worked in your streets were done in Sodom, it would still be standing today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom in the day of judgment than it will be for you.”
     Jesus declares that the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum saw more signs and wonders and miracles than all the rest combined. Jesus was limited with what He could do in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58), but these were cities that must have responded to His power and had a measure of faith because He demonstrated God’s power so many times through countless miracles there. He even says that Capernaum is exalted to Heaven because miracles were done and they believed it was the power of God. They had testimonies — but they did not act on them!
     The result? Jesus says to these cities who had seen and believed in the miracles, You’ll be brought down to the depths of hellbecause of your rejection of me. Why the scathing judgment? They believed in the power they had seen, right? They believed in the miracles, but they did not repent. They had seen His power and believed, but it did not change the perspective on their lives – their belief did not make His activities (healing, casting out demons, etc) the focus and ambition of their lives. When we see that kind of power and the revelation that Jesus wants us to continue His work – and we believe, but don’t act upon it – then it’s just religionand we never really change ourselves — or others.
      I have personally seen this myself. Years ago, Mark and I were members of a large congregation who had a successful ministry called Mobile Loaves and Fishes. We would load up vans with food, clothing, and necessities and deliver them to the homeless throughout our big metropolitan city. The Church, and those who volunteered to serve the homeless, were sincere in this ministry that offered mercy and charity; and the homeless people certainly acknowledged the kindness of the Church. But it was not always effective to bring repentance among those we served. In fact, I would say that it was rarely effective. Why? Our little group that approached the homeless were seen as no different than the Red Cross, the Girl or Boy Scouts, the Kiwanis Club, or any other service organization that met their physical needs. We had no testimonies of the power of God in our lives, because we weren’t believing [or useful] vessels that exercised that power, or testified of it. Our hearts were sincere in serving the homeless, but we were powerless in changing their hearts or lives.
     So, can you see the warning Jesus gave? Witnessing miracles and hearing testimonies of the power of God — yet failing to repent and believe in God’s power, and demonstrating that power to effect change in another’s heart, will lead to His judgment. But what about the promise? If the powerful miracles that He demonstrated in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had been taken to Tyre and Sidon, “they would have humbled themselves, and repented, and turned from their sins”. It was the responsibility of those believers in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum to bear witness [in words and action] of the power of God [miracles, signs and wonders] in their lives so that the lives of those in Tyre and Sidon could be changed.

     How is it any different for us today? Unless the Body of Christ comes to believe [and act on] the witness of the Word that God’s signs and wonders are just as relevant for us today as they were when Jesus came to model them for us, then we will have no testimonies to share with the Lost. And what’s even sadder for me, is that those unbelieving Believers within the Body will scarcely be better off than the Lost. We, who have picked up the mantle of the First Century Church, and are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and continuing the work of our Lord to demonstrate the power of Heaven to invade this Earth (the Kingdom of God is at hand) have a tremendous responsibility to share our testimonies.

     It is our witness of this power in us that will change lives and cities; that will change our culture and our nation. It begins with us. We must not be afraid to be ridiculed or judged — by the Body of Christ or the Lost. We must be bold in declaring our witness, no matter the cost. And it will cost us! We will be accused [by the Church] of being deceived; our friends and family will distance themselves; and because you are now boldly representing the Kingdom of God on earth, you can expect the Enemy to try to shut you down with physical and spiritual attacks. 
     But we are no different than those early disciples of Jesus. They believed in the hope and the promises He offered them; responsibly used the authority and power He gave them; and knew that they could expect suffering and tribulation in this life for following Him — yet they were all willing to be used by God to bring His Kingdom into reality on earth. 
     So, in summation, it is important to bear witness of the power of God in our lives for the following reasons:  
• We are commanded to make disciples of all the nations — to help all people learn about Jesus, believe in Him, and obey all His commands. 
• We have been grafted into Jesus, and God has chosen us as branches that will bear fruit, i.e., bring believers into His Kingdom
• If we don’t give our testimonies of what He has done in our lives, how will the Lost hear of their Savior?
• When we bear witness of the power of God in our lives, and introduce someone to His Saving Grace and their Lord and Savior, Jesus, then the Kingdom of darkness loses another captive.
     What monuments of witness are you building for God? Begin today to ask Him for testimonies. Tell Him you are willing to host His Presence and His Power. Show the world who He is by your witness. And God bless you for being obedient to the commands of our Lord!
Psalm 145:11-12   They will tell the world of the lavish splendor of Your kingdom and preach about Your limitless power.They will demonstrate for all to see Your miracles of might and reveal the glorious majesty of Your kingdom.
    
 

 
    

Why We Must Bear Witness Of The Power Of God

     I am increasingly aware of the importance of bearing witness of the power of God in my life — to both the Unbeliever and the Believer.  All we have to do is look around us to see the effects of Unbelief on our culture and the world.  It seems that nearly every TV show or movie includes ungodly relationships or the occult. Even a Doritos commercial blatantly displays the symbols of Freemasonry!
     It should be obvious why we need to bear witness of God’s power to the Unbelieving world… it is through our witness [both in our word testimonies and our actions] that the dying world is able to see the power of God on display and His nature is revealed. Right now, they are predominantly seeing the supernatural displayed through the Dark Side — witchcraft and the occult boldly make their presence known. But the supernatural is God’s natural realm and His power is always on display there.  When we partner with Him to bring that power into this realm, it cannot be ignored. The Unbelieving world has a decision to make — either accept or reject the reality of God and His power.
    They will either respond as Pharoah and the Pharisees did — hardening their hearts and resisting His power because it threatens their own power and the desires of their hearts of stone — OR their hearts are changed when that supernatural power is displayed [through me] when I lay hands on them and heal a sore neck or knee; or work with Jesus to heal an emotional wound; and yes, even when, in the Name of Jesus, the spirit of fear or anger is cast at the foot of the Cross.  Either way, these actions testify of God’s love for them by invading this earth with His power, and it demands a decision: belief or unbelief; acceptance or rejection.
     And God always has a foundational purpose in my witness of His power: to change a person’s heart and bring them into relationship with Him, resulting in their true repentance and His forgiveness. But it is also so that they see His power exhibited, hear the “Good News” that the Kingdom of God has invaded the earth, and this power is available to them to bring others into relationship with Him. But I find that it is not only the Unbelievers that can benefit from my witness, but Believers, too.
     The believing Body of Christ is just as guilty of denying God’s power in this realm as the unbelieving world.  Why? Because they do not have their own testimonies. They have access to the power and authority of the Living Christ, but do not acknowledge it or exercise it. They are just like the sons of Ephraim in Psalm 78: Though they were all equipped warriors, each with weapons, when the battle began they retreated and ran away in fear. They didn’t really believe the promises of God;they refused to trust Him and move forward in faith.They forgot His wonderful works and the miracles of the past…

     Because the modern Church has abandoned the prophetic promise Jesus made in Matthew 11, they don’t have testimonies to lean on. What promise was that? In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus gives a prophetic promise and warning:
     Then Jesus began to openly denounce the cities where he had done most of his mighty miracles, because the people failed to turn away from sin and return to God. He said, “How tragic it will be for the city of Chorazin! And how horrible for the city of Bethsaida! For if the powerful miracles that I performed in Korazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have humbled themselves and repented, and turned from their sins. Tyre and Sidon will better off on judgment day than you And Capernaum—do you really think you’ll be exalted because of the great miracles I have done there? No! You’ll be brought down to the depths of hellbecause of your rejection of me. For if the miracles I worked in your streets were done in Sodom, it would still be standing today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom in the day of judgment than it will be for you.”
     Jesus declares that the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum saw more signs and wonders and miracles than all the rest combined. Jesus was limited with what He could do in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58), but these were cities that must have responded to His power and had a measure of faith because He demonstrated God’s power so many times through countless miracles there. He even says that Capernaum is exalted to Heaven because miracles were done and they believed it was the power of God. They had testimonies — but they did not act on them!
     The result? Jesus says to these cities who had seen and believed in the miracles, You’ll be brought down to the depths of hellbecause of your rejection of me. Why the scathing judgment? They believed in the power they had seen, right? They believed in the miracles, but they did not repent. They had seen His power and believed, but it did not change the perspective on their lives – their belief did not make His activities (healing, casting out demons, etc) the focus and ambition of their lives. When we see that kind of power and the revelation that Jesus wants us to continue His work – and we believe, but don’t act upon it – then it’s just religionand we never really change ourselves — or others.
      I have personally seen this myself. Years ago, Mark and I were members of a large congregation who had a successful ministry called Mobile Loaves and Fishes. We would load up vans with food, clothing, and necessities and deliver them to the homeless throughout our big metropolitan city. The Church, and those who volunteered to serve the homeless, were sincere in this ministry that offered mercy and charity; and the homeless people certainly acknowledged the kindness of the Church. But it was not always effective to bring repentance among those we served. In fact, I would say that it was rarely effective. Why? Our little group that approached the homeless were seen as no different than the Red Cross, the Girl or Boy Scouts, the Kiwanis Club, or any other service organization that met their physical needs. We had no testimonies of the power of God in our lives, because we weren’t believing [or useful] vessels that exercised that power, or testified of it. Our hearts were sincere in serving the homeless, but we were powerless in changing their hearts or lives.
     So, can you see the warning Jesus gave? Witnessing miracles and hearing testimonies of the power of God — yet failing to repent and believe in God’s power, and demonstrating that power to effect change in another’s heart, will lead to His judgment. But what about the promise? If the powerful miracles that He demonstrated in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had been taken to Tyre and Sidon, “they would have humbled themselves, and repented, and turned from their sins”. It was the responsibility of those believers in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum to bear witness [in words and action] of the power of God [miracles, signs and wonders] in their lives so that the lives of those in Tyre and Sidon could be changed.

     How is it any different for us today? Unless the Body of Christ comes to believe [and act on] the witness of the Word that God’s signs and wonders are just as relevant for us today as they were when Jesus came to model them for us, then we will have no testimonies to share with the Lost. And what’s even sadder for me, is that those unbelieving Believers within the Body will scarcely be better off than the Lost. We, who have picked up the mantle of the First Century Church, and are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and continuing the work of our Lord to demonstrate the power of Heaven to invade this Earth (the Kingdom of God is at hand) have a tremendous responsibility to share our testimonies.

     It is our witness of this power in us that will change lives and cities; that will change our culture and our nation. It begins with us. We must not be afraid to be ridiculed or judged — by the Body of Christ or the Lost. We must be bold in declaring our witness, no matter the cost. And it will cost us! We will be accused [by the Church] of being deceived; our friends and family will distance themselves; and because you are now boldly representing the Kingdom of God on earth, you can expect the Enemy to try to shut you down with physical and spiritual attacks. 
     But we are no different than those early disciples of Jesus. They believed in the hope and the promises He offered them; responsibly used the authority and power He gave them; and knew that they could expect suffering and tribulation in this life for following Him — yet they were all willing to be used by God to bring His Kingdom into reality on earth. 
     So, in summation, it is important to bear witness of the power of God in our lives for the following reasons:  
• We are commanded to make disciples of all the nations — to help all people learn about Jesus, believe in Him, and obey all His commands. 
• We have been grafted into Jesus, and God has chosen us as branches that will bear fruit, i.e., bring believers into His Kingdom
• If we don’t give our testimonies of what He has done in our lives, how will the Lost hear of their Savior?
• When we bear witness of the power of God in our lives, and introduce someone to His Saving Grace and their Lord and Savior, Jesus, then the Kingdom of darkness loses another captive.
     What monuments of witness are you building for God? Begin today to ask Him for testimonies. Tell Him you are willing to host His Presence and His Power. Show the world who He is by your witness. And God bless you for being obedient to the commands of our Lord!
Psalm 145:11-12   They will tell the world of the lavish splendor of Your kingdom and preach about Your limitless power.They will demonstrate for all to see Your miracles of might and reveal the glorious majesty of Your kingdom.
    
 

 
    

Why We Must Bear Witness Of The Power Of God

     I am increasingly aware of the importance of bearing witness of the power of God in my life — to both the Unbeliever and the Believer.  All we have to do is look around us to see the effects of Unbelief on our culture and the world.  It seems that nearly every TV show or movie includes ungodly relationships or the occult. Even a Doritos commercial blatantly displays the symbols of Freemasonry!
     It should be obvious why we need to bear witness of God’s power to the Unbelieving world… it is through our witness [both in our word testimonies and our actions] that the dying world is able to see the power of God on display and His nature is revealed. Right now, they are predominantly seeing the supernatural displayed through the Dark Side — witchcraft and the occult boldly make their presence known. But the supernatural is God’s natural realm and His power is always on display there.  When we partner with Him to bring that power into this realm, it cannot be ignored. The Unbelieving world has a decision to make — either accept or reject the reality of God and His power.
    They will either respond as Pharoah and the Pharisees did — hardening their hearts and resisting His power because it threatens their own power and the desires of their hearts of stone — OR their hearts are changed when that supernatural power is displayed [through me] when I lay hands on them and heal a sore neck or knee; or work with Jesus to heal an emotional wound; and yes, even when, in the Name of Jesus, the spirit of fear or anger is cast at the foot of the Cross.  Either way, these actions testify of God’s love for them by invading this earth with His power, and it demands a decision: belief or unbelief; acceptance or rejection.
     And God always has a foundational purpose in my witness of His power: to change a person’s heart and bring them into relationship with Him, resulting in their true repentance and His forgiveness. But it is also so that they see His power exhibited, hear the “Good News” that the Kingdom of God has invaded the earth, and this power is available to them to bring others into relationship with Him. But I find that it is not only the Unbelievers that can benefit from my witness, but Believers, too.
     The believing Body of Christ is just as guilty of denying God’s power in this realm as the unbelieving world.  Why? Because they do not have their own testimonies. They have access to the power and authority of the Living Christ, but do not acknowledge it or exercise it. They are just like the sons of Ephraim in Psalm 78: Though they were all equipped warriors, each with weapons, when the battle began they retreated and ran away in fear. They didn’t really believe the promises of God;they refused to trust Him and move forward in faith.They forgot His wonderful works and the miracles of the past…

     Because the modern Church has abandoned the prophetic promise Jesus made in Matthew 11, they don’t have testimonies to lean on. What promise was that? In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus gives a prophetic promise and warning:
     Then Jesus began to openly denounce the cities where he had done most of his mighty miracles, because the people failed to turn away from sin and return to God. He said, “How tragic it will be for the city of Chorazin! And how horrible for the city of Bethsaida! For if the powerful miracles that I performed in Korazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have humbled themselves and repented, and turned from their sins. Tyre and Sidon will better off on judgment day than you And Capernaum—do you really think you’ll be exalted because of the great miracles I have done there? No! You’ll be brought down to the depths of hellbecause of your rejection of me. For if the miracles I worked in your streets were done in Sodom, it would still be standing today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom in the day of judgment than it will be for you.”
     Jesus declares that the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum saw more signs and wonders and miracles than all the rest combined. Jesus was limited with what He could do in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58), but these were cities that must have responded to His power and had a measure of faith because He demonstrated God’s power so many times through countless miracles there. He even says that Capernaum is exalted to Heaven because miracles were done and they believed it was the power of God. They had testimonies — but they did not act on them!
     The result? Jesus says to these cities who had seen and believed in the miracles, You’ll be brought down to the depths of hellbecause of your rejection of me. Why the scathing judgment? They believed in the power they had seen, right? They believed in the miracles, but they did not repent. They had seen His power and believed, but it did not change the perspective on their lives – their belief did not make His activities (healing, casting out demons, etc) the focus and ambition of their lives. When we see that kind of power and the revelation that Jesus wants us to continue His work – and we believe, but don’t act upon it – then it’s just religionand we never really change ourselves — or others.
      I have personally seen this myself. Years ago, Mark and I were members of a large congregation who had a successful ministry called Mobile Loaves and Fishes. We would load up vans with food, clothing, and necessities and deliver them to the homeless throughout our big metropolitan city. The Church, and those who volunteered to serve the homeless, were sincere in this ministry that offered mercy and charity; and the homeless people certainly acknowledged the kindness of the Church. But it was not always effective to bring repentance among those we served. In fact, I would say that it was rarely effective. Why? Our little group that approached the homeless were seen as no different than the Red Cross, the Girl or Boy Scouts, the Kiwanis Club, or any other service organization that met their physical needs. We had no testimonies of the power of God in our lives, because we weren’t believing [or useful] vessels that exercised that power, or testified of it. Our hearts were sincere in serving the homeless, but we were powerless in changing their hearts or lives.
     So, can you see the warning Jesus gave? Witnessing miracles and hearing testimonies of the power of God — yet failing to repent and believe in God’s power, and demonstrating that power to effect change in another’s heart, will lead to His judgment. But what about the promise? If the powerful miracles that He demonstrated in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had been taken to Tyre and Sidon, “they would have humbled themselves, and repented, and turned from their sins”. It was the responsibility of those believers in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum to bear witness [in words and action] of the power of God [miracles, signs and wonders] in their lives so that the lives of those in Tyre and Sidon could be changed.

     How is it any different for us today? Unless the Body of Christ comes to believe [and act on] the witness of the Word that God’s signs and wonders are just as relevant for us today as they were when Jesus came to model them for us, then we will have no testimonies to share with the Lost. And what’s even sadder for me, is that those unbelieving Believers within the Body will scarcely be better off than the Lost. We, who have picked up the mantle of the First Century Church, and are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and continuing the work of our Lord to demonstrate the power of Heaven to invade this Earth (the Kingdom of God is at hand) have a tremendous responsibility to share our testimonies.

     It is our witness of this power in us that will change lives and cities; that will change our culture and our nation. It begins with us. We must not be afraid to be ridiculed or judged — by the Body of Christ or the Lost. We must be bold in declaring our witness, no matter the cost. And it will cost us! We will be accused [by the Church] of being deceived; our friends and family will distance themselves; and because you are now boldly representing the Kingdom of God on earth, you can expect the Enemy to try to shut you down with physical and spiritual attacks. 
     But we are no different than those early disciples of Jesus. They believed in the hope and the promises He offered them; responsibly used the authority and power He gave them; and knew that they could expect suffering and tribulation in this life for following Him — yet they were all willing to be used by God to bring His Kingdom into reality on earth. 
     So, in summation, it is important to bear witness of the power of God in our lives for the following reasons:  
• We are commanded to make disciples of all the nations — to help all people learn about Jesus, believe in Him, and obey all His commands. 
• We have been grafted into Jesus, and God has chosen us as branches that will bear fruit, i.e., bring believers into His Kingdom
• If we don’t give our testimonies of what He has done in our lives, how will the Lost hear of their Savior?
• When we bear witness of the power of God in our lives, and introduce someone to His Saving Grace and their Lord and Savior, Jesus, then the Kingdom of darkness loses another captive.
     What monuments of witness are you building for God? Begin today to ask Him for testimonies. Tell Him you are willing to host His Presence and His Power. Show the world who He is by your witness. And God bless you for being obedient to the commands of our Lord!
Psalm 145:11-12   They will tell the world of the lavish splendor of Your kingdom and preach about Your limitless power.They will demonstrate for all to see Your miracles of might and reveal the glorious majesty of Your kingdom.
    
 

 
    

How Do I Love Like God Does?

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     This is an introspective post, so bear with me as I invite you into a conversation I’ve been having with myself lately. I don’t know if you are like me, but I have so many thoughts about the love of God. To begin, I am somewhat jealous when I hear people talking about experiencing the Father’s love in their lives. I mean, I know He loves me; I recognize that He sent His Son to die in my place, and He loves all His creation, and I am a child of God [much beloved] for my faith in Jesus Christ. And I have had those moments of being spiritually overwhelmed with the emotion of His love. But it is not a constant experience. And I have to be honest, there are times when the two most important commandments Jesus declares — to love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, and mind; and to love others as myself — is sometimes hard to do. My flesh gets in the way.
     I want to be clear. Loving others is something I am certainly familiar with. I have been blessed with romantic love [Eros Love]. I know the love of family [Storge Love]. I know Philia Love, the powerful emotional bond of deep friendships. And loving God is not hard for me, by any means. But I yearn to love Him like He loves me — without measure, perfectly, unconditionally, sacrificially, and purely. So I often question if I love Him as He deserves.

     I know that I have probably set unrealistic expectations and goals for myself. Yet, it is clear to me from Scripture just how important Love is. Jesus repeatedly tells us, “Love one another”. And the Apostle John’s three epistles (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) were written to take us deeper into loving Jesus, to love the Truth of God and cherish it in our hearts, and to show the love of God and His grace to all people.
     And then there’s First Corinthians, Chapter 13, in which Paul expounds at length on the subject of Love. He writes that it should be the motivation of our lives [to get it perfect] until the moment we stand face-to-face with the Perfection of Love, Himself. When I take all of this into account, I wonder if I am capable of loving as much as God and Jesus desire me to.
     And then I hear other Christians saying everything always comes back to the love of God [I agree] and it is all that matters. They will say instead of disagreeing over doctrine, kingdom work, theology, etc. we just need to love each other. I agree that is the second greatest commandment we’ve been given, but I don’t want to be casual about the other commandments Jesus told us to teach and follow either. In other words, I want to put everything in the right perspective, without sacrificing any of my Lord’s divine instruction. So, I guess my real question is, do these Christians understand [and experience and practice] the depth of God’s love better than I do, and are they able to walk it out in greater degrees and with more confidence than I do? Is Love meant to be as hard as it sometimes seems?
     After pondering this for several days, I think I found my answer in Scripture [which is the obvious place, right?]. And I found it in 2 Peter, Chapter One. There, the Apostle Peter tells me that there is a way for me to share in God’s Divine Nature of Love and to partner with Him to achieve it. It begins with my faith in Jesus Christ.  But to arrive at that pinnacle of loving like the Father does is a process. I cannot expect to just declare it and have it be so. Peter actually outlines the steps to get to that state of Perfect Love [or as perfect as it can be this side of Glory].
     It begins by exercising my faith and then adding virtue [goodness, moral excellence] to my faith. Once I’ve got that step down, then I add knowledge [or insight and understanding[ to virtue. I believe that is the download God will begin to impart to you about Himself as you seek Him. Then you add self-control to that knowledge; the ability to control your emotions and behavior in difficult situations. After you have self-control down, the next step is to add patience and steadfastness [the ability to stand firm and unwavering]. To patience, you add godliness [growing more in the image of Christ]. To godliness, you add mercy [kindness, grace, and charity to others]. And finally, when you have spiritually matured through all these phases, you get to the final step, adding unending love. All these qualities increase in you until you are spiritually mature and able to walk in the Love of God. This passage almost seems like an unfolding climb up the ladder of faith, with loving like God loves being the top rung.
      And I believe Paul’s treatise on Love in 1 Corinthians 13 backs this up. When he says that we now just see a faint reflection of the riddles and mysteries of God and our understanding is incomplete, I can identify! I don’t have to understand or question my capacity to love, I just need to keep progressing up the ladder! One day I will perfectly understand His Perfect Love when I stand before Him. Until then, I have faith and hope, which are temporary. But they both originate in love, so if I have them, I have a portion of the Father’s love, and I can grow it as I mature in my walk with Christ.
     I can now see that if we have Jesus in our heart as our Lord and Savior, His love will naturally emanate from us. I can’t love like Him on my own. And I don’t have to get it perfect now. Growing that love in my daily walk is an ongoing process, and I just need to rest in the knowledge that His love for me will transfer to others as I mature in my spiritual walk. Knowing that, I can find joy in the love I have for the Father [and His for love me] while I love others, expecting all that love to grow until I finally experience His Love in eternity. All I need to know is that I am progressing towards loving like my Savior, and I can love because He first loved me!

1 John 4:16   We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him.

     

How Do I Love Like God Does?

     This is an introspective post, so bear with me as I invite you into a conversation I’ve been having with myself lately. I don’t know if you are like me, but I have so many thoughts about the love of God. To begin, I am somewhat jealous when I hear people talking about experiencing the Father’s love in their lives. I mean, I know He loves me; I recognize that He sent His Son to die in my place, and He loves all His creation, and I am a child of God [much beloved] for my faith in Jesus Christ. And I have had those moments of being spiritually overwhelmed with the emotion of His love. But it is not a constant experience. And I have to be honest, there are times when the two most important commandments Jesus declares — to love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, and mind; and to love others as myself — is sometimes hard to do. My flesh gets in the way.
     I want to be clear. Loving others is something I am certainly familiar with. I have been blessed with romantic love [Eros Love]. I know the love of family [Storge Love]. I know Philia Love, the powerful emotional bond of deep friendships. And loving God is not hard for me, by any means. But I yearn to love Him like He loves me — without measure, perfectly, unconditionally, sacrificially, and purely. So I often question if I love Him as He deserves.

     I know that I have probably set unrealistic expectations and goals for myself. Yet, it is clear to me from Scripture just how important Love is. Jesus repeatedly tells us, “Love one another”. And the Apostle John’s three epistles (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) were written to take us deeper into loving Jesus, to love the Truth of God and cherish it in our hearts, and to show the love of God and His grace to all people.
     And then there’s First Corinthians, Chapter 13, in which Paul expounds at length on the subject of Love. He writes that it should be the motivation of our lives [to get it perfect] until the moment we stand face-to-face with the Perfection of Love, Himself. When I take all of this into account, I wonder if I am capable of loving as much as God and Jesus desire me to.
     And then I hear other Christians saying everything always comes back to the love of God [I agree] and it is all that matters. They will say instead of disagreeing over doctrine, kingdom work, theology, etc. we just need to love each other. I agree that is the second greatest commandment we’ve been given, but I don’t want to be casual about the other commandments Jesus told us to teach and follow either. In other words, I want to put everything in the right perspective, without sacrificing any of my Lord’s divine instruction. So, I guess my real question is, do these Christians understand [and experience and practice] the depth of God’s love better than I do, and are they able to walk it out in greater degrees and with more confidence than I do? Is Love meant to be as hard as it sometimes seems?
     After pondering this for several days, I think I found my answer in Scripture [which is the obvious place, right?]. And I found it in 2 Peter, Chapter One. There, the Apostle Peter tells me that there is a way for me to share in God’s Divine Nature of Love and to partner with Him to achieve it. It begins with my faith in Jesus Christ.  But to arrive at that pinnacle of loving like the Father does is a process. I cannot expect to just declare it and have it be so. Peter actually outlines the steps to get to that state of Perfect Love [or as perfect as it can be this side of Glory].
     It begins by exercising my faith and then adding virtue [goodness, moral excellence] to my faith. Once I’ve got that step down, then I add knowledge [or insight and understanding[ to virtue. I believe that is the download God will begin to impart to you about Himself as you seek Him. Then you add self-control to that knowledge; the ability to control your emotions and behavior in difficult situations. After you have self-control down, the next step is to add patience and steadfastness [the ability to stand firm and unwavering]. To patience, you add godliness [growing more in the image of Christ]. To godliness, you add mercy [kindness, grace, and charity to others]. And finally, when you have spiritually matured through all these phases, you get to the final step, adding unending love. All these qualities increase in you until you are spiritually mature and able to walk in the Love of God. This passage almost seems like an unfolding climb up the ladder of faith, with loving like God loves being the top rung.
      And I believe Paul’s treatise on Love in 1 Corinthians 13 backs this up. When he says that we now just see a faint reflection of the riddles and mysteries of God and our understanding is incomplete, I can identify! I don’t have to understand or question my capacity to love, I just need to keep progressing up the ladder! One day I will perfectly understand His Perfect Love when I stand before Him. Until then, I have faith and hope, which are temporary. But they both originate in love, so if I have them, I have a portion of the Father’s love, and I can grow it as I mature in my walk with Christ.
     I can now see that if we have Jesus in our heart as our Lord and Savior, His love will naturally emanate from us. I can’t love like Him on my own. And I don’t have to get it perfect now. Growing that love in my daily walk is an ongoing process, and I just need to rest in the knowledge that His love for me will transfer to others as I mature in my spiritual walk. Knowing that, I can find joy in the love I have for the Father [and His for love me] while I love others, expecting all that love to grow until I finally experience His Love in eternity. All I need to know is that I am progressing towards loving like my Savior, and I can love because He first loved me!

1 John 4:16   We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him.

     

The Christian Experience: A Time Of Testing

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     This message is very personal to me. As I mentioned in the last post, I am sensing [and seeing] a season of growing spiritual attacks upon Christians who are earnestly seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus, as well as more power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I am not talking about Christians who are sitting on the sidelines (and accepting the poverty of spirit as their daily penitence), but Christians who are [out of obedience] boldly pursuing the calling on their lives to advance God’s Kingdom here on earth.
     I know that many Believers sincerely hold fast to a theology that says, “If I just have enough faith, then I can get through this life without any suffering, or testing, or attacks from Satan that will have me questioning God’s presence”. But all we have to do is look at the Bible to see that is not true. Abraham, who is called the Father of our faith, endured perhaps the most difficult test any Believer in YHWH has ever faced … the command by God to sacrifice his beloved son.
     I think it is safe to say that Abraham’s faith in that situation would be tough for any one of us to imitate. Yet, because he stood firm in his faith and obedience, we have the opportunity to stand firm in ours. And Satan absolutely detests that kind of faith; the kind of faith that threatens his rule of the earth. So when obedient Christians answer the call of our God, we can expect that the Enemy will try to distract us, or forestall that calling by coming against us. But we must also realize that God tests those He calls. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child (The Passion Translation). I much prefer this translation to the more common translations that say God “disciplines those He loves and punishes [chastises, scourges] those He accepts”. I do not believe those are accurate translations because the Aramaic word for “scourge”, which is nagad, can also mean “to attract,” “to draw,” or “tug the heart.” For me, that is a more accurate picture of my Abba, the God I serve. 
      And to take the word analogy one step further, isn’t the result of training always a test to see what you’ve learned? Whether you are a Doctor in your Residency training; or a member of the Military in training at boot camp; or an athlete training for the Olympics or NFL, each one is being trained up in order to pass a test before they advance to the next level of their line of work. Well, as Ambassadors of the Kingdom, I believe that God trains us (and tests us) before He advances us to the next level of our calling.
     So, I would say to any of you that are certain that He has called you into service to the Kingdom, that you can expect times of testing — both from the Enemy who will try to convince you that you aren’t fit for your calling, and by your Father and your King as They train you up to run the race that you are called to. And I can personally say that Mark and I have experienced both this past week.
     Last post, I alluded to the spiritual attacks that were coming against us. My husband, uncharacteristically, was suffering from bouts of anxiety, resulting in rapid heart rate, lack of sleep, etc. Normally, his steadfast faith would identify an attack from the devil and he would bind those spirits, declare the word of God and loose heavenly resources, as is his inheritance as a son of God. But this time was different. None of his usual spiritual battle techniques [in Jesus] worked, and my prayers and battles in the spirit would result in minor victories, but the heaviness continued over us. 
     Mind you, at no time did we every doubt that God was with us or that we would be victorious in Jesus. We spent most of our time trying to figure out the meaning or purpose of what we were experiencing. Our faith was secure; it was just clear it was being tested. I kept asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what was going on in the spiritual realm so that we could take our authority over it and walk in our true identity — our spirit was clear who we were, but the flesh was not cooperating.  Finally, I got a clue … we had scheduled a meeting to disciple a young couple in deliverance ministry, and I discerned that this was perhaps an obstacle set in place to diminish the authority and power we had to minister to them, and to defeat their desire to know about this particular service to God. I was partly correct. 
      We approached our meeting with this couple in the mindset that nothing would stop us from sharing what the Lord has revealed to us. We take seriously the Lord’s admonition that He needs more workers in His harvest fields, and here were two people willing to join us in bringing in that harvest. No matter what the Enemy was throwing at us physically, or the spiritual confusion we were experiencing as to the “whys”, we were determined to glorify all that we had seen Jesus and the Holy Spirit do in the lives of dispirited and oppressed people. 
     What we didn’t account for was that these faithful Seekers would bring a friend with them. And it quickly became clear that this friend was the focus of this Divine Appointment. He revealed that he had been delivered a few months earlier, and he knew the value of it and wanted to know more, but hinted that his healing had not been complete. As we continued to answer questions about our experiences, we shared that it is always the desire of the Father’s heart that those held in captivity by the Enemy be set free. We related that we had seen that most everyone has spiritual wounds that need to be healed [either from sins they have committed, or sins that have been committed against them], and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are looking for obedient sons and daughters to partner with Them to bring that inner healing and freedom to all that need it. We mentioned that a common wound we had seen was child molestation.
     At the mention of this sin, the friend became emotional. He stated that he was getting uncomfortable. I gently asked him if this sin had been committed against him, and he confirmed it. We told him Jesus wanted to heal that wound and if he was willing, we’d like to help make that happen. He agreed to accompany me to a private place where we could invite Jesus in, while Mark remained with the Seekers, who by now were beginning to realize that this visit was planned by God and had a bigger purpose than they had anticipated.
     To make a long story short, from the outset, it was apparent to me that this was going to be a spiritual battle of bigger proportions than we have experienced in the past. But I want to stress that there was no fear on my part as I began the session, knowing full well that the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit were greater than anything we would face from the kingdom of darkness. And this young man loved Jesus with a heart and spirit that was so convicted — but also in great conflict. He admitted to opening doors he knew were wrong and that he had grieved Jesus, and the temptations to sin were overwhelming him. He was literally in a battle for his mind, spirit, and soul. The Enemy had him trapped in the sin of homosexuality and was torturing him! But he wanted free! And as I led him in forgiveness against the man who had sinned against him in childhood, and broke soul ties with whom he had sinned, the Enemy launched a full scale assault.
     I do not want to sensationalize what happened next nor compromise his privacy, so let’s just say that it quickly became a physical battle as well as a spiritual battle. While the wife of the seeker couple prayed separately, it took Mark, myself, and the husband to battle the multitude of spirits that tried to prevent their friend from becoming free. But none of us battled from a spirit of fear or doubt! Rather, we stayed calm, but forcefully proclaimed the Truth that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, and in the Name of Jesus, the Enemy and his demonic spirits were defeated. They must leave! Needless to say this young man had given legal authority for strongholds to take root in his life, and they weren’t leaving easily. But he recognized that, and fought in the spirit, too, and after a long battle, he was victorious in Christ! When we asked Jesus to show him how he appeared to the Lord, through tears, he stated, “I am radiant! Everything looks brighter!” Hallelujah!
     I want to make sure that you understand why I have bothered to relate this episode. It is not to boast about our part in the victory that day, but rather to show you that as you begin to walk in your calling from the Lord, you can expect spiritual attacks such as the one my husband experienced. It may be the Enemy trying to distract you from an assignment, but it may also be God proving to us that our faith is real; that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith. 
     As we mature in our Christian walk [and our calling] it will require us to move outside our comfort zones into a larger territory that needs to be conquered for God’s Kingdom. In order for us to be overcomers and conquerors in this earthly realm, we need to 1) be obedient to our calling, even when we’re under attack; 2) remain patient until a breakthrough occurs, even when it seems as if God is absent; 3) increase our faith when we finally get an answer, and see just how costly [and difficult] the path forward will be in carrying out our calling; and 4) learn to stand firm against the inevitable sin and temptation that the Enemy will use to test our resolve to complete our race and calling.
     When God has a specific call upon your life, you know it. And if you decide to answer that call, you can expect to be tested. The Bible is clear … Psalm 11:5 says, The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, [exposing each heart]. But don’t get discouraged! And don’t let the devil deceive you into thinking you may have messed up that calling or that God is disillusioned with your service. It just may be the exact opposite — you are hitting the target and advancing to the next level of your service. Even Paul said [in 1 Corinthians 16:9], There’s an amazing door of opportunity standing wide open for me to minister here, even though there are many who oppose and stand against me. You can expect those adversaries to be both in the spirit and in the flesh.        
     So, again, do not be discouraged by times of testing. God might just be training you up for a bigger assignment in your Divine destiny with Him. Remain steadfast in your faith — and if you stumble, don’t worry — He has not abandoned you. He just may need to refine you more before you receive your breakthrough. I am discerning [in hindsight] that this is what happened during that period of spiritual confusion in our life. God was preparing us for a breakthrough, and we needed to be purified and refined; continuing to walk in obedience and faith to our calling, even when our flesh was weak. By never doubting our mission, God carried us through those dark days and into an experience of greater power and authority in cooperating with Jesus to set a captive free, and bring another worker into His harvest field. Both the Seeker and the Friend witnessed the power of our Almighty God that afternoon, and both want to help bring in His harvest. Each of us was tested that day … the Seeker and his wife to find out if they were ready to answer this specific call on their lives; the Friend who found out whether he truly desired freedom and a full commitment to his Lord and Savior; and my husband and myself, who were blessed to find that our own faith and commitment are solid and that the Lord is trusting us to take the next step. 
     My final word is this: When you find yourself in trials and times of testing, don’t think you are being punished by God. It may just be that He is bringing you to a higher calling on your life. And with that responsibility comes authority/power in the Name of Jesus… and Joy in being found trustworthy to serve the God of the Universe! And remember: there is nothing to be afraid of…. Jesus has already overcome the world!

Psalm 7:9     Once and for all, end the evil tactics of the wicked! Reward and prosper the cause of the righteous, for You are the righteous God, the soul searcher, who looks deep into every heart to examine the thoughts and motives.


 

    

The Christian Experience: A Time Of Testing

    

     This message is very personal to me. As I mentioned in the last post, I am sensing [and seeing] a season of growing spiritual attacks upon Christians who are earnestly seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus, as well as more power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I am not talking about Christians who are sitting on the sidelines (and accepting the poverty of spirit as their daily penitence), but Christians who are [out of obedience] boldly pursuing the calling on their lives to advance God’s Kingdom here on earth.
     I know that many Believers sincerely hold fast to a theology that says, “If I just have enough faith, then I can get through this life without any suffering, or testing, or attacks from Satan that will have me questioning God’s presence”. But all we have to do is look at the Bible to see that is not true. Abraham, who is called the Father of our faith, endured perhaps the most difficult test any Believer in YHWH has ever faced … the command by God to sacrifice his beloved son.
     I think it is safe to say that Abraham’s faith in that situation would be tough for any one of us to imitate. Yet, because he stood firm in his faith and obedience, we have the opportunity to stand firm in ours. And Satan absolutely detests that kind of faith; the kind of faith that threatens his rule of the earth. So when obedient Christians answer the call of our God, we can expect that the Enemy will try to distract us, or forestall that calling by coming against us. But we must also realize that God tests those He calls. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child (The Passion Translation). I much prefer this translation to the more common translations that say God “disciplines those He loves and punishes [chastises, scourges] those He accepts”. I do not believe those are accurate translations because the Aramaic word for “scourge”, which is nagad, can also mean “to attract,” “to draw,” or “tug the heart.” For me, that is a more accurate picture of my Abba, the God I serve. 
      And to take the word analogy one step further, isn’t the result of training always a test to see what you’ve learned? Whether you are a Doctor in your Residency training; or a member of the Military in training at boot camp; or an athlete training for the Olympics or NFL, each one is being trained up in order to pass a test before they advance to the next level of their line of work. Well, as Ambassadors of the Kingdom, I believe that God trains us (and tests us) before He advances us to the next level of our calling.
     So, I would say to any of you that are certain that He has called you into service to the Kingdom, that you can expect times of testing — both from the Enemy who will try to convince you that you aren’t fit for your calling, and by your Father and your King as They train you up to run the race that you are called to. And I can personally say that Mark and I have experienced both this past week.
     Last post, I alluded to the spiritual attacks that were coming against us. My husband, uncharacteristically, was suffering from bouts of anxiety, resulting in rapid heart rate, lack of sleep, etc. Normally, his steadfast faith would identify an attack from the devil and he would bind those spirits, declare the word of God and loose heavenly resources, as is his inheritance as a son of God. But this time was different. None of his usual spiritual battle techniques [in Jesus] worked, and my prayers and battles in the spirit would result in minor victories, but the heaviness continued over us. 
     Mind you, at no time did we every doubt that God was with us or that we would be victorious in Jesus. We spent most of our time trying to figure out the meaning or purpose of what we were experiencing. Our faith was secure; it was just clear it was being tested. I kept asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what was going on in the spiritual realm so that we could take our authority over it and walk in our true identity — our spirit was clear who we were, but the flesh was not cooperating.  Finally, I got a clue … we had scheduled a meeting to disciple a young couple in deliverance ministry, and I discerned that this was perhaps an obstacle set in place to diminish the authority and power we had to minister to them, and to defeat their desire to know about this particular service to God. I was partly correct. 
      We approached our meeting with this couple in the mindset that nothing would stop us from sharing what the Lord has revealed to us. We take seriously the Lord’s admonition that He needs more workers in His harvest fields, and here were two people willing to join us in bringing in that harvest. No matter what the Enemy was throwing at us physically, or the spiritual confusion we were experiencing as to the “whys”, we were determined to glorify all that we had seen Jesus and the Holy Spirit do in the lives of dispirited and oppressed people. 
     What we didn’t account for was that these faithful Seekers would bring a friend with them. And it quickly became clear that this friend was the focus of this Divine Appointment. He revealed that he had been delivered a few months earlier, and he knew the value of it and wanted to know more, but hinted that his healing had not been complete. As we continued to answer questions about our experiences, we shared that it is always the desire of the Father’s heart that those held in captivity by the Enemy be set free. We related that we had seen that most everyone has spiritual wounds that need to be healed [either from sins they have committed, or sins that have been committed against them], and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are looking for obedient sons and daughters to partner with Them to bring that inner healing and freedom to all that need it. We mentioned that a common wound we had seen was child molestation.
     At the mention of this sin, the friend became emotional. He stated that he was getting uncomfortable. I gently asked him if this sin had been committed against him, and he confirmed it. We told him Jesus wanted to heal that wound and if he was willing, we’d like to help make that happen. He agreed to accompany me to a private place where we could invite Jesus in, while Mark remained with the Seekers, who by now were beginning to realize that this visit was planned by God and had a bigger purpose than they had anticipated.
     To make a long story short, from the outset, it was apparent to me that this was going to be a spiritual battle of bigger proportions than we have experienced in the past. But I want to stress that there was no fear on my part as I began the session, knowing full well that the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit were greater than anything we would face from the kingdom of darkness. And this young man loved Jesus with a heart and spirit that was so convicted — but also in great conflict. He admitted to opening doors he knew were wrong and that he had grieved Jesus, and the temptations to sin were overwhelming him. He was literally in a battle for his mind, spirit, and soul. The Enemy had him trapped in the sin of homosexuality and was torturing him! But he wanted free! And as I led him in forgiveness against the man who had sinned against him in childhood, and broke soul ties with whom he had sinned, the Enemy launched a full scale assault.
     I do not want to sensationalize what happened next nor compromise his privacy, so let’s just say that it quickly became a physical battle as well as a spiritual battle. While the wife of the seeker couple prayed separately, it took Mark, myself, and the husband to battle the multitude of spirits that tried to prevent their friend from becoming free. But none of us battled from a spirit of fear or doubt! Rather, we stayed calm, but forcefully proclaimed the Truth that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, and in the Name of Jesus, the Enemy and his demonic spirits were defeated. They must leave! Needless to say this young man had given legal authority for strongholds to take root in his life, and they weren’t leaving easily. But he recognized that, and fought in the spirit, too, and after a long battle, he was victorious in Christ! When we asked Jesus to show him how he appeared to the Lord, through tears, he stated, “I am radiant! Everything looks brighter!” Hallelujah!
     I want to make sure that you understand why I have bothered to relate this episode. It is not to boast about our part in the victory that day, but rather to show you that as you begin to walk in your calling from the Lord, you can expect spiritual attacks such as the one my husband experienced. It may be the Enemy trying to distract you from an assignment, but it may also be God proving to us that our faith is real; that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith. 
     As we mature in our Christian walk [and our calling] it will require us to move outside our comfort zones into a larger territory that needs to be conquered for God’s Kingdom. In order for us to be overcomers and conquerors in this earthly realm, we need to 1) be obedient to our calling, even when we’re under attack; 2) remain patient until a breakthrough occurs, even when it seems as if God is absent; 3) increase our faith when we finally get an answer, and see just how costly [and difficult] the path forward will be in carrying out our calling; and 4) learn to stand firm against the inevitable sin and temptation that the Enemy will use to test our resolve to complete our race and calling.
     When God has a specific call upon your life, you know it. And if you decide to answer that call, you can expect to be tested. The Bible is clear … Psalm 11:5 says, The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, [exposing each heart]. But don’t get discouraged! And don’t let the devil deceive you into thinking you may have messed up that calling or that God is disillusioned with your service. It just may be the exact opposite — you are hitting the target and advancing to the next level of your service. Even Paul said [in 1 Corinthians 16:9], There’s an amazing door of opportunity standing wide open for me to minister here, even though there are many who oppose and stand against me. You can expect those adversaries to be both in the spirit and in the flesh.        So, again, do not be discouraged by times of testing. God might just be training you up for a bigger assignment in your Divine destiny with Him. Remain steadfast in your faith — and if you stumble, don’t worry — He has not abandoned you. He just may need to refine you more before you receive your breakthrough. I am discerning [in hindsight] that this is what happened during that period of spiritual confusion in our life. God was preparing us for a breakthrough, and we needed to be purified and refined; continuing to walk in obedience and faith to our calling, even when our flesh was weak. By never doubting our mission, God carried us through those dark days and into an experience of greater power and authority in cooperating with Jesus to set a captive free, and bring another worker into His harvest field. Both the Seeker and the Friend witnessed the power of our Almighty God that afternoon, and both want to help bring in His harvest. Each of us was tested that day … the Seeker and his wife to find out if they were ready to answer this specific call on their lives; the Friend who found out whether he truly desired freedom and a full commitment to his Lord and Savior; and my husband and myself, who were blessed to find that our own faith and commitment are solid and that the Lord is trusting us to take the next step. 
     My final word is this: When you find yourself in trials and times of testing, don’t think you are being punished by God. It may just be that He is bringing you to a higher calling on your life. And with that responsibility comes authority/power in the Name of Jesus… and Joy in being found trustworthy to serve the God of the Universe! And remember: there is nothing to be afraid of…. Jesus has already overcome the world!

Psalm 7:9     Once and for all, end the evil tactics of the wicked! Reward and prosper the cause of the righteous, for You are the righteous God, the soul searcher, who looks deep into every heart to examine the thoughts and motives.


 
 
    

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?

     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?

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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.” 

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

Click here to view the original post.

     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 believed 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 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, content, 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 it 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 into 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 imagine 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”

A New Look At The Sermon On The Mount

Click here to view the original post.

     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?

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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”.
     
     
 

          

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”.
     
     
 

          

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

Click here to view the original post.

     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

     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

Click here to view the original post.

     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”!

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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…”
     
    

“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…”
     
    

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…