How The Announcement Of The Kingdom Impacts The Harvest

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     I have recently joined a group of women for a Bible Study taught by Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I believe that Pastor Johnson walks in an anointing from God to preach to the Body of Christ that God’s Kingdom in Heaven has invaded this earth, and how that should decisively effect our Christian walk.
     The Bible Study is called “God Is Good: He’s Better Than You Think”.  We are only at Week Three, but we are already being presented with some deep questions that have me examining my ambassadorship for the Kingdom of God. Here’s a question that illustrates my point: How does the announcement of God’s Kingdom have a direct impact on the size of the harvest of people who respond to it?
     Note that the question posed is actually multi-faceted. We must not only consider what the direct impact is upon the harvest of souls, but how it effects the size of the harvest.  First of all, it is important to recognize that there is a direct correlation between the announcement of God’s Kingdom and the Gospel of the Kingdom. It should go without saying that both are announcing the “Good News” that God’s Kingdom (the actual realm where He resides) has now made itself known here on earth. This announcement would soon make the Kingdom a reality; becoming apparent by the evidence shown in Jesus’s life.  And Jesus would inaugurate the Kingdom message when He began His ministry, preaching “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.
     The good news of this Gospel Message about the Kingdom coming to earth is that mankind now had a way to be acceptable before God. Prior to Jesus’s appearance, man had lived in a state of hopelessness due to how God viewed sin. The Bible makes His holy opinion easy to understand: The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). But with the emergence of Jesus, mankind now had a Savior who would provide a way out of this eternal death, which was the consequence for our sins against a Holy God.
     All the prophets had foretold of this Savior that would take away the sins of the world and restore man’s relationship with God as it had been in the Garden of Eden. Remember: God’s Kingdom is where God resides; the realm in which He rules. Between the time man fell into sin in the Garden and the time of this announcement, that kingdom realm had existed only in Heaven. Now, here comes John the Baptist foretelling that this Kingdom is near, rapidly followed by Jesus’s appearance and the beginning of His ministry to announce that God’s Kingdom was now here! So it’s not too difficult to see the immense impact that this announcement would have on God’s harvest of souls.
     No longer would man be subject to Laws that were incapable of delivering us from Death. But man would now be able to stand before God in righteousness through believing in the sacrifice He would make of Himself [as His Son, Jesus Christ] on our behalf. By following Jesus’s example of living according to the Father’s will, the impact on the harvest would become nothing short of miraculous and astounding. Those who would accept and respond to His announcement and ministry would begin to change the world. The realm of Satan here on the earth would come into direct conflict with the people who walked in their authority as members of God’s Kingdom on earth. The citizens of Satan’s kingdom would diminish, as the citizens of God’s Kingdom rose. 
     But if we are going to resemble Christ’s image here on earth, then we have to announce more than the deliverance from eternal Death; although, that in itself is worthy of our acclamation and enthusiastic approval. You see, that deliverance isn’t realized until the end of our life. So, while that good news of our salvation from Death is responsible for a magnificent number coming into the harvest, I believe we gain staggering numbers when we reveal ALL of the good news that the announcement of the Kingdom generates.
     Think about it: a person recognizes their need of a Savior and accepts Jesus into their heart, repenting for their sins and asking forgiveness. Is that news worthy of sharing? Absolutely! But if the newly saved Christian takes that message to the person who sees the penalty of sin [and their resulting death] as a far-off event, the message may have no immediate relevance. But let’s say that we add to that message of salvation. Let’s say we share that the reality of the Kingdom of God being present today ALSO gives you access to the power of the Holy Spirit to heal persistent physical/health problems, or to set one free from the bondage of shame, guilt, anger, and unforgiveness, to name just a few of the attacks from the devil. Can you see that we now offer an immediate benefit from our announcement of the Kingdom at hand? Can you perceive that this full Gospel message of the Kingdom might result in a greater number in the harvest — in other words, the impact on the size of the harvest might be more considerable if we share the complete picture of the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. 
     Who doesn’t have a health issue they are dealing with in these perishable bodies? It doesn’t matter if it is a simple headache or stage 4 cancer. We want it to go away! And I defy us to find anyone within the Body of Christ who has not suffered at least one attack or violation from the Enemy on their character, their identity, their relationships with others, or the privacy of their body. We may know Jesus as our Savior and rely on our ultimate deliverance from Death, but who wouldn’t want to be liberated from the oppressive thoughts and emotions that we carry around with us because of these assaults on our spirits and flesh?  What would happen if Christians could praise Jesus for how He healed them from sexual molestation; loss of self-respect and self-esteem; bullying; abusive parents; or promiscuity and drug/alcohol abuse? Do you think more people would identify with those victories, or a victory over their future death? 
     I’m not saying that the good news of our salvation from eternal death is not an important message to share… it’s the ultimate reward! But there is more to Jesus’s victory and what that victory looks like in the here-and-now. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit has revealed to my heart the need of my Savior. I look forward to my glorious resurrection and dwelling forever with the Lord when the new Heaven and new Earth appear. But I am equally grateful that He has set me free NOW to praise Him for delivering me from the bad choices I have made in my life; from the attempts of the devil to kill, steal, and destroy this Kingdom life in the present; and for giving me the opportunity to share this restored life, made in His image. It is my responsibility [and my joy] as the recipient of Jesus’s authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to invite others to partake of God’s goodness to those who believe in Him. When we share all that we have received from Heaven’s invasion of earth, then we can expect to see an impact of righteousness and growing numbers of ambassadors. Let the “Good News of the Kingdom” be realized across the face of this planet, and let all the people shout “Hallelujah!” as our voices join in worship and rejoicing.

Mark 1:15    His message was this: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled Gospel!”
         

From Whom Do We Seek Favor? And Whom Do We Fear?

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     We’ve all experienced it. Our faith is under constant attack by the Enemy, our culture, and even our families and fellow Believers. If our hearts are truly seeking the Lord, and those attacks come, we may begin to question whether we are steady in our walk with Him.  The next thing we know, we find ourselves seeking or desiring the favor of man in our faith lives, which can be a distraction from the fear of the Lord. But why is it so important to be cognizant of this fact; and how does it affect our journey and relationship with the Lord? If I could sum it up in one word, it would be validation. But I’d like to unpack my theory for you and share where my own self-examination has taken me.
     When it comes to our faith, and if we are seeking the favor of man, what is that really telling us? Is our identity in Christ enough for us, or do we need the approval of man to feel like our path is straight? Let’s start with Proverbs 29:25 to see if we can get the answers.  And I’d like to give you several translations so we begin with a clear picture:
  

The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in and puts his confidence in the Lord will be exalted and safe.
(Amplified)
Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
    But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place. (Passion)
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety. (New Living Translation)
   
     Can you see the implications? The fear of man is a snare (a trap) because it holds you back from walking in confidence in your true identity, seated in the high place (the heavenly realms as stated in Ephesians 2:6). When you are seated with Christ, you are united with Him, and there’s no safer or more secure place to be. 
     But what happens to us as we seek to grow our relationship with Christ? The Enemy comes in and lays a trap for us. As we receive wisdom and revelation from the Lord [through the Holy Spirit], we may get opposing views from people, or correction from Leadership. It leaves you with feelings of doubt … did I really hear from the Holy Spirit? And that can be a lonely place to be. We feel separated, not only from our fellow Christians, but maybe even from God, Himself, because now there has been a disruption in that divine communication, and we’ve taken our focus off Him and the favor we’ve received from Him to seek the favor of fellow men. Because, let’s face it everyone wants to be accepted.

     And that’s the real meaning of “favor” — acceptance; the reaction of a perceived superior to an inferior; presence and power. But whose favor do you really want? Whose Presence and Power do you want to walk in? And who do you fear more?  We know what we fear from men — rejection and disapproval. But do we really understand the Fear of the Lord? That it is awe-inspired reverence and worshiping Him? Obedience and submissive wonder?

     When we let man dictate [or influence] our identity, we are going to seek acceptance and approval from this world.  If we’ve been hurt by the Church (and that is a very real problem today), do we find our safety and security with others who have experienced similar hurts — or do we trust and believe that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies; that our identity is secure in Him? Do we meet to lick our wounds (or as my husband says, “commiserate over our bandaids”)? Do we find comfort and validation in our kinship with fellow victims? Or do we look for our approval from the Lord and walk in our kinship with Him?
     I can tell you that I have been guilty of taking my eyes off the commission Christ has given me [and off Him, as my Commissioner]. It’s so natural to want that gratification of knowing someone values you, and let’s face it — the devil will always provide that someone if it means you will step back from seeking more of the Lord, which results in lost momentum in your relationship with Him! 
     I know that I walk in an unconventional assignment from Jesus. And I have experienced negative feedback from fellow Christians when what I was seeing and hearing from God seemed so darn clear! The natural instinct is to seek a carnal affirmation to make your soul feel better [i.e., your emotions and mind]. But whenever I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus and what He was showing me, I’ve gotten stuck in that moment of hurt. The Word says it perfectly … Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.  My spirit grieved because I was fearing man more than I was fearing God; seeking man’s favor instead of praising God for the favor He has given me in my unique assignment.
     Here’s the thing … we all have unique assignments! God didn’t make us cookie cutter images of each other. He made us each in His own image! So, as you look around you, that should give you a pretty good idea of how BIG and AWESOME our God is, and make you realize that seeing the favor of man can be an exhaustive endeavor!
     BUT, you can receive the favor of God when you fear Him! Stated another way, you can receive His approval when you walk in His Presence and Power by obeying Him in the assignment He has given you!
     I want to ask you the question that Job asks in 4:6 …. Is not your fear of God your confidence?  Shouldn’t we all find our validation from seeking His face and Presence, and obeying His commandments through the use of His Power? Shouldn’t that be enough to feel confident about who we are? If like me, you have battled through the fear of man in order to get to your walk in the fear of the Lord, then you know this promise found in Psalm 40:4, Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who makes the Lord his trust. When we can trust the Lord’s opinion over man’s, we can walk in confidence; knowing we are fully approved and secure in our identity. We no longer look from side to side for our validation, but only upwards. And I promise you, you will know His acceptance and approval. His validation is true and eternal!
Psalm 37:5-6    Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.
     

Finding Our Place In The Lord

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     Today, I find myself being particularly introspective. Perhaps it’s because of the experiences I have had with a variety of Believers through our Deliverance Ministry; or what the Holy Spirit is speaking to Mark and I. But I sense a real desire among people committed to Jesus to find their place “in Him”.
    That phrase — to be “in Christ”, or to be “in the Lord” — is such an intrinsic part of the New Testament Gospel, occurring 164 times in the letters of Paul alone. But what does it mean, and how do we get there? Scripture tells us that He abides [dwells, continues, persists] in us, and we, in Him. If I may simplify this concept, I think it means that we have a relationship with the Lord that is so intimate and personal, that we are necessary parts of a whole. We are codependent on Jesus, if that is acceptable to you.
     But, as I go through my own process of uniting with Christ, I am aware that my fellow Believers are each uniquely involved in their own discovery of where they fit “in Him”. As we so often hear these days, Christians are struggling with their identities in Christ. Trying to figure out who you are, and your purpose in life, is a universal effort for everyone as they grown into their maturity. But it is particularly sensitive for Christians because I think we feel we are supposed to automatically be confident in who we are — it comes with the territory the moment we recognize Christ as our Savior, right?
     But as I meet all kinds of people who love the Lord — whether through ministry or friendships — it is becoming apparent that the Holy Spirit is working through individual lives to renew what it means to know your identity in Christ. Let me see if I can make this statement a little clearer … For so long, so many of us have been trained that our identities derive from Church doctrine based primarily on the writings of Paul. But we must remember that Paul had a specific purpose — he was assigned with the task of teaching the early church how to distinguish themselves from the unbelieving cultures [and nations] around them; to move from a self-centered, carnal existence to a unified body of believers that could represent a new governing body on earth: the kingdom of God. It was necessarily a corporate model where believers found uniformity and strength in a unified body.
     Now I am seeing that the Holy Spirit is calling believers to their personal identities! As the time of Jesus’s return nears, it seems as if the Spirit is calling people to personal account; what are we doing for the Kingdom? Because I will tell you that I have been discouraged by the lack of work for the Kingdom on the part of the corporate Church. And I’m not the only one. Individuals are not being fulfilled or fed within the Church walls to bring in the harvest of the Lord. People are no longer satisfied to be identified by a denomination or their “Church family”. The Spirit is awakening a desire within the hearts of believers to walk closer to Jesus and to experience the spiritual gifts that Paul says are the right of every Believer.
     And when you consider how many times Jesus spoke to the hearts of individuals, we see that He does have a purpose for each individual in His Kingdom. He not only spoke to huge crowds, but ministered directly to the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, Jairus, Lazarus, the thief on the cross, and countless others that are not recorded in Scripture. And I think we find it difficult to find that kind of recognition within the corporate model. In fact, I think it is hard to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit if there is no encouragement to find your own path in the Kingdom. After all, we are each uniquely crafted to serve the King, and it would be wonderful if our uniqueness was commended and enthusiastically praised as a significant part of the whole Body. Unfortunately, we often find that if we don’t fit within the “accepted” pattern of our corporate community, we are relegated to the back row, or even more sadly, ignored. 
     That’s why I think we are seeing more individuals moving away from the corporate building in search for their relevance in the Kingdom through their personal experiences with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I see the King validating them in the role He would have them play in advancing His Kingdom; leading them and teaching them to walk in a specific assignment He has given them; THEN uniting them with others who are walking in their own unique Kingdom identities. In this way, each member of the Body of Christ is truly walking in close relationship with Jesus, and validated by Him, while excited to join with others in mutual encouragement and harmony. That is what I think the Church was designed to be!
     So, I want to encourage each and every one of you that you are uniquely and wonderfully made to serve our King, Jesus! He has known you from the foundations of the world and has determined that you were to be here, in this very place and time, connected to Him through His Holy Spirit who is eager to guide you and counsel you on what you bring to the Kingdom. Make HIM your priority in all you do and say. See HIM when you look in the mirror. And listen for HIS voice to tell you who you are. The identity the devil wants to give you is a lie. The identity the world wants to give you is false. And the identity the Church has assigned you may be incomplete. When you can walk in the fullness of your identity as a Child of the Living God; unique in your purpose and assignment, and in peace and harmony with your fellow heirs of the Kingdom, then you will have truly found your place in the Lord. Rest in that!

Romans 8:28     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.

Memorial Day: A New Appreciation

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     This is the long weekend that we Americans mark as a time of remembrance and recognition of military service to our country. We have a long tradition in our nation’s history of honoring those who have fought and died to secure our freedoms. Memorial Day originated in the years after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederation soldiers who died in battle and was known as Decoration Day, when the graves of the dead were decorated with flowers. After World War I, however, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, and graves are now decorated with American flags, and recognition of service is now extended to all our military, both living and deceased.
     I wanted to take the time this year to share my new perspective on this national holiday. As I’ve written before, I am the proud daughter of a World War II veteran, who enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 (with parental consent) after Pearl Harbor. He served in the Pacific as a tail-gunner in the Lockheed PV Ventura, a low-level bomber. He was always proud of his service, though he didn’t share any of his experiences; typical of that generation. I have always viewed Memorial Day as an opportunity to honor him and the men and women who have volunteered to serve in every war since.
    But this past year has brought newfound appreciation for what this day should mean to all of us. You see, this past year I had the honor to serve on a team with extraordinary women veterans as part of a Christian Warriors Retreat. These women included veterans from the Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm) and the ongoing War on Terror (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom). The retreat involved older veterans mentoring younger veterans, and covered all branches of the military. While they shared an identity as combat veterans, these women were seeking a common bond in their identity as Daughters of Christ. And I witnessed both the struggles and the victories of that co-mingling of identities in my Sisters.
     As non-military (I served as a Team Leader and Assistant Spiritual Director), I could not relate to their military experiences, but I could sympathize with them as women. Everything that the Enemy of this world has crafted against women to kill, steal, or destroy the beauty and magnificence of who God created them to be is intensified in the military. I will not share specific testimonies, but I will tell you that although PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has become a term relegated to the military, it is a spiritual attack on anyone who has suffered a traumatic event and is in need of Jesus’s saving healing and deliverance. As one of our female veterans exclaimed, “Pain is pain is pain!” She was making the point that we all suffer from the devil’s attacks on our lives and these women needed to recognize that they had a higher identity than their military service. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be proud of [or acknowledged for] their service, but that whatever their life’s history, inside or outside of the military, their identity as the Bride of Christ was a truer identity.
     I cannot tell you how my enduring relationships with these amazing women has changed my life. As I think about the people across this country celebrating Memorial Day, I honor these brave women who have done extraordinary things for our country, and I am blessed with the richness of their friendships, grounded in a Sisterhood of growing love and obedience to our Savior. And as I contemplate their impact on my life, I am struck by two concepts: the constant use of “remembrance” in the Bible; and the history of women warriors in the Bible that saved the nation of Israel. 
     The Hebrew word for “remembrance” is Zakar.  It means to “remember; think of; mention”.  We see it in the Bible passages in the Old Testament: God remembered Noah…. God remembered Abraham… I (God) have remembered My covenant…. remember the Sabbath Day… remember His marvelous works.  Then there is the Hebrew word for memorial, which is Zikrown; a memorable thing, day, or writing. It should be obvious that remembering and memorials are important to God: for instance, after crossing the River Jordan into the Promised Land, God instructed the Israelites to build a memorial to what He had done for them. 
     Today and this weekend, it is important to remember what God has done in our lives; the people whom He has worked through in our lives; the experiences He has brought us through — when these remembrances are shared among the brethren, it builds our faith, just as God intended those ancient memorials to do. And that is exactly what I have experienced this past year with my Sisterhood of women warriors.
     Just like the Biblical heroine Deborah, these women military veterans are leaders. Although Deborah is most often understood to have been a Judge among the nation of Israel, it didn’t mean the same as it does now. In the Bible, a “judge” was a tribal leader who, in times of peace had the authority to settle disputes. And in times of war, they were the rallying point to gather the tribes and organize resistance. Judges were seen as “God’s people” and their gender was unimportant.
     That is exactly how I see this Sisterhood of veterans. All these women walk in their authority as Disciples of Jesus. They walk as leaders who know their true identities, and they are growing into a viable rallying point in their families and communities to organize resistance against the devil. They know who their real Enemy is, and it is not in some foreign land. They also know whose Army they fight in, and under whose flag they march. Although I have never taken the oath of allegiance to our nation as they have, we have all taken an oath to serve our Mighty King and march behind the flag of Jehovah Nissi, the banner that is our rallying point for the power of God to destroy the Kingdom of darkness.
     So, this Memorial Day, I am reminded of the respect [I have always felt] for those who have fought in our nation’s historical wars. I honor the sacrifices that have been made and I vow to always remember what my freedom in this world has cost the men and women who answered the call to serve. But this Memorial Day is different from last year’s. This year, I have a newfound awareness of what the Biblical and heavenly perspective of this day has for me. I am deeply honored to be in the company of men and women who embody this world’s identification of “soldier”, but more importantly, they manifest the character, discipline, loyalty, and obedience of a spiritual warrior in God’s army. Although I have centered this blog post around my experiences with these amazing female veterans, the founder of Christian Warrior’s Retreat is a man that I greatly admire; he has a heart to serve God and share the restoration that the love of Christ brought to his life. Because of that saving grace of God in his life, I reaped the benefits of serving on the first female veteran retreat.
     So, I want to thank the Lord for creating these Divine appointments in my life. I am blessed and favored beyond description. And I have found a Sisterhood that lifts me, inspires me, supports me, teaches me, and loves me. I thank you all for your service to our nation and to God’s Kingdom! 

To Nick and his wife Nicki; to Valerie, Molly, Cathy, Gloria, Mary, Dona, Sherrae, Louise, LaTisha, Liza, Nalleli, Maricruz, and Alissa; to Wanda, Debbie, Karalyn and Loretta; and to all the “team” — it was a privilege to experience retreat with you and I bless each of you with continued service to our glorious God!

Psalm 103:2   Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness You’ve done for me?

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.

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 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: 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 Hope and Expectations For 2018

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


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

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

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

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

  

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,  

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.

      

An Encouraging Word

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

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

Down, But Not Out

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

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


   

     

Are You Being Called To Be A Forerunner For The Lord?

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     I guess I raise this question because of the growing number of faithful Christians I see being moved by the Holy Spirit to seek a deeper experience of abiding in the Lord. And I don’t mean “abide” in the lukewarm sense of all the Churches I’ve ever attended. By “deeper”, I mean more than acting in accordance with the morals of the Bible, or walking in the ways of the Lord — which are absolutely appropriate and necessary. By “deeper abiding”, I mean recognizing God’s voice; connecting with His heartbeat; and being willing to step outside the accepted boundaries of fellowship with God … to go to greater lengths than you’ve ever known; to be His willing partner in preparing the nations for the return of the Lord.
     I know that sounds rather vague, and is more than likely difficult to accept for those who are happy with where they are in their relationship with God, and with how their Church prescribes that relationship should be.  But for those whose spirits have been transformed by a supernatural encounter with God; or for those whose spirits recognize they are hungry for more than what they’ve been spiritually fed and are willing to seek more sustenance from God, we are finding that God has much more to offer the faithful who are bold and fearless.
     What does that look like, and what exactly is a Forerunner?  Let me answer the latter part of that question first.  Simply put, a forerunner is an advance messenger of a person or thing to come.  In the Bible, we all know that John the Baptist was a forerunner of Jesus Christ.  Luke 1:17 states, of John,  “and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”  I actually prefer the Amplified version of this verse:  It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous [which is to seek and submit to the will of God]—in order to make ready a people [perfectly] prepared [spiritually and morally] for the Lord.”  The role and responsibilities of a forerunner in this generation are quite apparent … to seek the will of God [and to submit to it] in preparing the people of this world for the return of Jesus.
     Isaiah actually prophesied about End-time forerunners who would prepare people by lifting a “banner message” to the ends of the earth that declares the full manifestation of Jesus’ salvation. … Prepare the way for the people…lift up a banner for the peoples [the nations]! Indeed the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the world: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him…’” (Isa. 62:10-11)  We are to proclaim to the world that Jesus is returning and bringing the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God with Him!
     So, let me return to the question of what it looks like to be called by God to be a forerunner, and what and how He is showing us His message for the people of this world.  First, we need to understand that God used forerunners in previous generations when He was about to do a glorious work on the earth. And since He never changes, it should be no surprise that He would have forerunners prior to Jesus’s Second Coming.  After all, there is no event that could be more significant to the future of the earth’s inhabitants. And these forerunners always were witness to God’s supernatural attributes and power.
     Actually, the Bible gives us a history of supernatural generations in which the majority of God’s people witnessed the power of God on a regular basis. We have the generation of Moses, with the supernatural events of the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Crossing of the River Jordan — all leading to the establishment of the Old Covenant.  Nearly 1500 years later, there was a generation that witnessed the supernatural events of Pentecost and the subsequent miracles of the works of the Apostles and the supernatural conversion of Paul — all leading to the establishment of the New Covenant.  Now, here we are, just a little over 2000 years after that last generation, in which many are asking how long until Jesus returns to establish the Millennium Kingdom?
    In each of these generations God dramatically increases the way He moves in power through His people and how He relates to them.  That is quite apparent in the generation of Moses and the Acts 2 generation.  But I am quite confident when I tell you that it is happening in this generation, too.  And God is doing it the same way.  The same Holy Spirit that guided Moses and the Apostles — that gave them wisdom to do God’s will and the power to achieve it — is working in those who are willing to answer His call in this generation.
     Remember, Jesus told us that we, who believe in Him, would do greater works than He did.  And the Bible tells us that if all the works of Jesus were to be written in books, the whole world would not have room for the books.  So why in the world does the modern Church have a hard time accepting that the Holy Spirit can be working in God’s people in new and miraculous ways that might not be mentioned in the Bible?  After all, Jesus didn’t tell us exactly what those “greater things” would be, and if he did so many more works than could be written down, why do our fellow believers doubt us when we say the Holy Spirit is showing us deeper revelations from God?

     Why can the world and the Church not understand that it is possible that we hunger to receive every spiritual insight that God will give the human spirit in this age? That our spiritual hunger is so great that we are willing to alter our lifestyle, to examine our theology, and to step out in boldness if it means God will honor our hungry hearts and spirits, and give us more to do for the Kingdom?  And I can guarantee you it’s not going to look like what the world or the Church has seen up til now.  But neither did it in Moses’s or the Apostle’s generations!
     So, when we speak of healing or casting out demons (which the Bible readily records as acts of Jesus), why are we censored and judged for speaking of “seeing in the spirit” or “warring in the spiritual realm” or allowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to conduct “inner healing” on those kept in bondage to the Enemy?  Isn’t it possible that the Holy Spirit is revealing the “greater works” that God wants done before His Son returns? [And there is so much more being revealed, but I hesitate to share it because of the fear, doubt, and unbelief already exhibited by much of the Body of Christ!]
     The truth of the matter, as I see it, is this:  there is undoubtedly a growing spiritual hunger among the remnant of God. They are preparing themselves by going deeper into their understanding of the Word; by fasting and seeking the spiritual gifts of God; and by ministering to the needs of the lost and enslaved. This remnant is answering the call on their spirits and responding to the hunger of their hearts to perceive the purposes of God’s coming judgments — and to prepare the nations to repent and receive God’s grace and deliverance before those judgments take place.
     When the world sees the greatest manifestation of both God’s and Satan’s power [at the return of Jesus], the forerunners will have a unique focus and understanding of what is happening, and will be prepared to assist the Holy Spirit in the revelation of Jesus and the Father.  Forerunners will answer the call to be co-laborers in God’s Harvest of souls. They will be positioned to answer the confusion, fear, and anger of believers who do not possess a renewed mind (seeing the events from God’s heavenly perspective).  Forerunners will be able to assist the Holy Spirit in giving understanding of events to the End-Times Church, and they will be equipped to partner with Jesus to intercede on behalf of those who will receive Jesus as their Savior.
     So, you see, the position of Forerunner has been Biblically and historically important in compelling God’s Kingdom on earth forward, and it will be no less important in the generation that sees His return.  Is that this generation, or the next?  No one knows for sure.  But I can tell you that I praise the Lord for the knowledge and wisdom and power He is imparting to believers in this generation. I thank Him for allowing me to witness the incredible love He has for all those who will receive Jesus, and for seeing the imaginative and creative ways He manifests His power in their lives.
     And whatever measure of power and authority He gives me; whatever measure of blessings on my heart, circumstances, or ministry; whatever measure of experiencing Him I receive; by whatever measure my hungry spirit is filled  — at the end of my life, it will have been an honor to be a servant of the Lord.  I wish the same for each of you.

Isaiah 40:31   But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.

     
   

Am I Living A Transformed Life?

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     Last week my husband and I attended one of the most interesting and thought-provoking meetings that I believe will change my Christian life.  The speaker was Dr. Jim Wilder, a doctor of clinical psychology and theology who has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and various conferences around the world.
      He calls himself a “neuro-theologian”, which means that he teaches his students to consider that what God tells us about His creation (including us) should affect how we think, act, and live.  In other words, reality as I know it, should be different if I’m going to call myself a Christian.  I should be living a new life, in God’s presence, instead of in a body with a brain that hasn’t caught up to the new spirit within me.
     But as 21st Century Christians, we are a product of our Church’s belief systems, and sadly, churches in the West have stopped expecting anything new in our knowledge of God, and we have just become a thing (or product, or whatever you want to call us) of what we know.  For instance, it is a mantra within the Church (and it is true) that God is love.  But what does that mean to you? And how does it affect how you live your life?  Is that statement just a concept, or an idea — or is it a force?  Has it transformed your life?

     And how much does the culture in which we live play a part in how we live out our faith? Dr. Wilder stated that it is okay if we use our culture to express our Christian views — for instance, writing this blog, in which I am not afraid to state my theology — but we should guard against letting the culture shape those views — for instance, adopting a culture-friendly acceptance of all sexual lifestyles because we don’t want to offend anyone, or we want to “fit in”.  If we are guilty of that, then we have made God smaller than we are. But the reality is that He is smarter and bigger than we are, and He can teach us everything we need to know to live this Christian life.  However, the idea of “growing up” to be something — like a mature Christian, for example — has dropped out of our culture.  The Church in the West has decided that salvation is the ultimate goal, and there’s no need to know or explore God any further.  Now, it’s simply about being in the building every Sunday, and enjoying the other 6 days to the fullest, until we die and go to Heaven.  Shouldn’t our salvation experience transform us more than that?  And how do we train these brains that are lagging behind our “born again” spirits to think and see ourselves as a new kind of people living a new kind of way?
     What is it going to take to raise up leaders in the Church, (and for those of us who are practicing our faith outside the building), to raise up people who live differently — both in our churches, and in our families and communities? Well, Dr. Wilder says there are four habits that exceptional leaders and transformed people have developed, and they are centered around identity and belonging.  Who we are determines what we will do. And when we know who we are, and how people like us (human beings transformed by the Spirit of God in us) are to act, we are able to train our brains to develop these habits and therefore to traverse this life as God’s representatives.  And what are these important habits?
     1. Remain relational.  God created us, first and foremost, to be relational.  He’s a God that loves relationship with those He’s created, and He desires that we relate both to Him, and to others.  The importance of this habit is that as Christians, whether you are a church leader, or an individual practicing your faith, you are going to run into problems — either within your church or within the culture.  In the face of problems, we must remain relational to each other — avoiding isolation, blame, and anger — keeping our relationships bigger than our problems.
     As we live our lives here on earth, behind enemy lines, so to speak, it is important that we make our relationship with God a priority, and live our lives so that our relationships with people reflect Him; showing that relationships are more important than being right or getting results.
     2. Act Like Yourself.  Once you’re a born again Christian, doing whatever you did in the past should not be an option.  You need to ask yourself, Who is the real me, now? What I’ve always been, or what God’s creating in me?  Ephesians 2:10 expresses God’s mindset perfectly (and should reflect ours):  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.  We are “a new work” [spiritually transformed, renewed, and ready to be used], created by God, with Jesus as our model, and designed by God to walk out the path He has set before us.  It’s a whole new way to think of ourselves, but sadly, I don’t think we, as Christians, have really discovered who we are.
     3. Return to Joy.  This is not an emotional concept, as you might expect, but rather a relational one.  This is not joy in the sense of euphoria, but the recognition that “I am not alone in this; Someone is with me in this difficulty”.  It doesn’t mean you are going to be happy in your difficulty, but you can train your brain to understand that God is there with you.  “I am not alone in this evil world”.  And this is perhaps the hardest of the habits to form, because it means that our brains have to learn to overcome anger, sadness, and fear in order to maintain that joy in the midst of our difficulties.  But Jesus was able to do it while living out His life on this earth as a man.
     4.  Endure Hardships After A Return to Joy.  This is all about remaining relational through the hardships in life.  Keeping our relationships bigger than our problems is what it means to live your life as a Christian.  When you think about it, none of us will ever face the burdens and problems that Jesus faced in dying for the world’s sins.  Yet, His relationships with the Father, His Disciples, and the  broken people He healed were His primary focus.  He continued to endure each hardship that confronted Him, knowing that He was not in it alone.  If we can do that, we will live a transformed life.
     In summary, I want to say that Dr. Wilder’s book, Rare Leadership, provides a much more comprehensive look at how Church leaders can transform the lives of their flocks, and how parents can use these concepts to train up their children to live transformed lives in their real identities as children of God.  Whether in our churches or our families, we need to be building communities in which God is an active participant, and so are we.  Remember, the devil is The Accuser, and he is constantly whispering in our ears that what we did wrong (our sin) yesterday is the real us.  We need to know who we are, and see ourselves as the image of what God is creating in us — and see others as what He is creating in them.
     If we believe that God is Love, and we say that we love God, and that love is a force — not just an idea or concept — then we need to be asking ourselves, How is my love for God doing today?  How is my love for others doing today?  Really knowing God, as well as being in relationship with others so that we see what He is creating in them, will truly transform our lives.  We will be in genuine relationship with Him and others.  And perhaps the greatest benefit of being this new kind of people who live a new kind of way is that we will see the transformation in others — from people who need love, into people who give it.  When our relationship with God is experienced with thankfulness and appreciation, we want to share it with others, and the relationship cycle starts all over again.  It’s time we begin to see real transformation in our lives, as we come to know who we really are.

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

   
   

The REAL Power Of Your Testimony

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     I’m not even sure how to begin this conversation with you. My original thought was to share how frustrated I am with all the finger-pointing that various Christian factions are engaging in towards fellow Believers who are different than them. Accusations of heresy and diabolical practices are tossed back and forth, and unity among the Body is far from evident.  The New Reformation movement thinks anyone involved with the Charismatic or Pentecostal branch of Christianity is practicing outside the boundaries of Scriptural doctrine.  And any Christian who even hints that they believe in Healing or Deliverance is accused of being caught up in “Charismania”.
     Have there been self-proclaimed people of God who have been misled, and who are misleading and deceiving Believers?  Yes, on both sides of that spectrum!  Just as in the Bible, men have sought to elevate themselves (rather than God) through signs and wonders — I think of Simon the Sorcerer.  But I can also think of several prominent pastors and teachers who preach against anything supernatural in our relationship with God, keeping Believers bound in theology that restricts the power of God in their lives.  It goes both ways.  And how does any of that benefit the Church?  The bickering and finger-pointing only serves Satan’s purpose, which is to keep us focused on our differences. That contributes to division and takes the focus off the validity of our personal testimonies.
     I think it is safe to say that the world doesn’t want to hear the Doctrines of Men; our creeds, our theology, or our dogma. As Christians, we know that God wants a personal relationship with us.  But why do we think that the world will be drawn into our buildings when the people of the world have made it clear that they reject our message?  We must reach the Lost the same way that Jesus instructed His Disciples:   But you shall receive power of the kind which God has [and exerts] after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.  And you shall be those who testify of what they have seen and experienced, my witnesses, both in Jerusalem and Judea, and in Samaria and to the end of the earth (The Greek Translation of the New Testament).  We must share our testimony of how we have experienced Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives!
     So, now I’m at the heart of what I want to say in this blog post … how our personal testimony can both shine the Light of Christ into the Unsaved and strengthen the faith of our fellow Believers by sharing the power of God in our lives.
     Whenever I’ve got a nugget of knowledge or wisdom that I feel is important for us to consider, but can’t quite flesh it out, I always take it to my husband, Mark, who can usually see it with spiritual eyes and help me get the bigger concept.  This time was no different… he actually became quite passionate about what our testimony should accomplish.
     Using himself as an example, he said most Christians think their testimony is boring … I was raised in a Christian home; attended Church most of my life; and can recall the day I accepted Jesus as my Savior.  I accept that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for my sins, and I have tried to live a life pleasing to God.  He said, “We think how we express our doctrinal beliefs or theology is our testimony.  And if you’re one of the lucky ones, perhaps you have a dramatic conversion experience when you realized you needed to change your life, and you found yourself on your knees, and asked Jesus to come into your heart”.
     But then he went on to say, “Most of us don’t have that. So where is the experience of God’s presence being exercised in our testimony? Does it really speak to the needs of the Lost who are hurting, or to the Believers who need confirmation that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit still interact with us today?
     Just a couple of years ago, the Body of Christ was not even able to consider that God still acts supernaturally in this earthly realm.  They could not conceive that He still wants to heal our physical sicknesses and afflictions, or that He still wants His Disciples to cast demons out of oppressed people.  But that is changing, thank the Lord!  I see Christians beginning to renew their minds about what the Scripture actually says, and they are seeing Jesus’s commands through new revelation. And, in some instances, the word “demon” is even being accepted as part of the Christian experience; some even going so far as to acknowledge that we can defeat them just as Jesus and His Disciples did! [And for those who are still skeptical that demons can oppress Christians, who do you think is responsible for so many Christians suffering from anxiety, depression, unworthiness, bitterness, inadequacy, fear, etc? Since the Church quit believing in Jesus’s command to “do the works” that He did in casting out demons, the devil and his evil spirits have had a heyday with Believers!]

     But there is still a reticence among Christians to share those testimonies with the Church.  Believers who are willing to admit that demons exist are still cautious about sharing their personal, spiritual and supernatural encounters with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in which the demons attacking them have been thoroughly defeated.  Why would we be willing to attribute some of our spiritual attacks to demons, but not be willing to share how Jesus and the Holy Spirit defeated them in our lives?  Isn’t that presenting the problem without sharing the solution?  And when that solution was the presence of God, interacting with us in the spiritual realm, doesn’t that provide the unmistakable power that our testimonies are missing?
     If we could share that Jesus actually showed up [in the spirit] and comforted us as we dealt with the loss of a parent, or a childhood molestation, or a miscarriage, or a time of profound doubt in ourselves — and we felt His embrace and heard Him whisper, “I’m here with you; accept my healing in this situation”, don’t you think that is a more powerful [and persuasive] demonstration of Who we profess to have faith in?  Which do you think the Lost will find it easier to identify with — your personal testimony that speaks of the power of Jesus to heal your (and their) wounds — or a sermon that speaks of a theological point that has no relevance to them or their experiences?
     And if Christians could be healed by sermons, then there would be no hurting souls sitting in the pews.  But you and I know that is not the case.  In the end, I see this as really simple … I just wish the Church would quit denying what our Bible tells us; and quit defining this generation as “too enlightened” to believe in the supernatural character of God.  The truth is that our rational, modern, and self-informed viewpoint has left us impotent when it comes to the attacks of the Enemy.
     As more and more Christians come to believe the literal Word of God regarding our Commission, they will begin to experience the literal power of Jesus in their lives, through healing and deliverance.  And when they can share their personal encounter with the Living Christ, and how He healed the wounds of their lives, then I believe the Lost in the world will be drawn to that message and we will have the opportunity to share the full revelation of God.  (I mean, that’s how Jesus presented the Gospel!) Furthermore, the Church needs to hear that testimony of Power as well.  They, too, need to know they can experience those personal and supernatural encounters in order to come into their full identity as images of Christ.  Then the Church will be operating in the Power of Heaven (instead of their own authority); and the REAL POWER behind the word of their testimony will conquer the devil and his schemes.

Psalm 107:2   “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.”   

Proverbs 25:2

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It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

     I love this Scripture!  I love it because it shows God’s heart and how He wants us to seek Him.  I have heard so many people (both Christians and non-believers) say that the Bible is just too hard for them to understand… that when they read it, it doesn’t make any sense to them.  And unfortunately, too many stop right there, and never make another attempt to know their Creator.  
     Because it is hard, they look for easier ways to discover who He is.  And because He has such holy standards for who He wants us to be, they often look for alternative impressions of His character, using sources outside His Word to define Him. But I assert that we should all be like Solomon, who wrote this proverb out of the wisdom and knowledge that God gave him.
     Remember that King Solomon, when asked by God, what He could give him, did not ask for possessions, wealth, honor, the lives of his enemies, or even for long life.  He asked for “wisdom and knowledge” to rule the people over whom God had given him responsibility. “Wisdom” is the Hebrew word, Chokmah, and it means “the knowledge and ability to make the right choices at the opportune time”.  The consistency of making the right choice is an indication of maturity and development in a person.  The prerequisite for “wisdom” is the fear [awe, reverence] of the Lord.  When a person seeks Chokmah diligently, they will receive understanding.
     The understanding they receive is the “Knowledge” that Solomon asked for.  And knowledge is the Hebrew word, Yada”, which means “to know” God and to have an intimate experiential understanding of Him; that you have a relationship with Him based on experience and observation.  It goes without saying that to “experience or observe” something or Someone, involves action on your part; namely “seeking”. 
     And here is what is essential for us to grasp: the heart plays an important role in getting “to know” God.  When our hearts yearn to seek Him, we grow into fearing Him, trusting Him, and serving Him. So what Solomon is imparting to us in Proverbs 25 is this:  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter … It gives God more glory when He, in essence, “hides” His Truth in Scripture, so that we have to decide just how hungry we are to seek it out. Because you and I need to discern that with the knowledge of God comes responsibility to Him and to others.  We must represent Him in sincerity and truth, while showing others the benefits of seeking Him and a heartfelt relationship with Him — while holding ourselves and them accountable for sharing that knowledge.
     Then there is the other aspect of this Proverb: It is the glory of kings to search out a matter.  Revelation 1:6 tells us that Jesus “formed us into a kingdom [as His subjects], priests to His God and Father”.  We need to realize that we have been given legal access to this knowledge about our Father in Heaven; it is due us as kings and priests of His kingdom. The mysteries of Heaven and God are ours to receive when we diligently seek Him.  Matthew 13:11 tell us this fact: “To you [the Believer] it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [unbelievers] it has not been granted.” 
     That “hidden” knowledge that many complain about is there for the true Believer to discover as part of our inheritance as kings and priests, sons and daughters of God. But it depends on how hungry your heart is. God has given us an appetite for Him; it’s in our DNA. But how many of us will strive — in other words, struggle or make a great effort — to understand Him? What is knowing Him worth to you?  I assure you that it will be credited to us if we hunger and thirst to search out the matters of God; and it will greatly please Him to reveal them to us.  Because in the end, it is all about His glory and power and majesty and dominion … forever and ever. Amen.

Oh, These Perilous Times..

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     I am becoming increasingly aware that our society and culture; our country; and yes, the entire world is in the midst of precarious and uncertain times.  And I find myself asking if these are “the perilous times” of which the Bible talks about.  Certainly, the nature of our political and social consciences couldn’t be more divided.  The demarcation between right and wrong; moral and immoral has been mocked, and relativism rules the day.  Some of the leadership within the Church seem to have lost their way; others are stuck in doctrinal quagmires; and our Youth are abandoning the faith of their ancestors in ever-increasing numbers.  So what does this tell us?
     For me, I am faced with how to become the heart, hands, voice and compassion of Jesus to a progressively secularized world.  I have been honest about the direction God is taking me. He has brought me out of the Church building and given me the task of showing what the Power of a one-on-one relationship with my Savior looks like.  I am listening for His direction and finding that there are just as many self-professed Christians that need to be introduced to that Power, as there are non-Believers.
     And let’s face it… the Church doesn’t have a very good reputation in the world.  It is seen either as too conservative or too liberal; rich in worldly measures and poor in spiritual values; having too much influence in the public square, or no impact on society at all.  If I can give my own evaluation of how God intended the Church to establish His Kingdom on earth, it is this: to share the Gospel Message about the Kingdom; equip and train servant-minded leaders and followers; provide assistance to the poor and the sick; and prepare and educate the next generation to carry on this heavenly commission. Is this the picture we have of the Church today?  Is this the picture we are passing on to the Millennial Generation?  Or is it a portrait of the Laodicean Church which says, ‘I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing?’
     If so, then does this correspond to those perilous times in the last days that Timothy warned about:  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.’
     In case you don’t see it, these verses point to a future time when there is a great moral degeneration in the world; a time when there is a breakdown in the ethical and social values of societies.  We see that happening with all the uprisings, protests, rioting and toppling of governments. All you have to do is think about ISIS; the persecution of Christians that is on the rise; the decimation of the Syrian people; the racial violence in our own country.  We can see the danger of groups realizing the power they have when they unite, and this is a dangerous situation.  And when you add failing economies to the situation, and how it can have worldwide implications, then “perilous times” comes into sharper focus.

     Perilous times are marked by those who love their pleasures more than they love God — and that includes Christians.  We can see that in how much television, movies, music, sporting events, socializing, partying, Facebook and the internet take up in our lives.  How much time do you think the average Christian spends with God?  I can tell you that when it’s time to stand before Jesus, our Judge, that one hour on Sunday in the church building is not enough!  And when I think about the content of the TV shows and movies that are watched by those who are to be Christ’s representatives on earth… well, I’m pretty sure God considers all the sex, occult, and antichrist images to be an abomination.
     Timothy tells us that perilous times will be identified by covetous and proud people.  I would venture to say that a majority of people today are seeking after worldly riches, rather than eternal heavenly treasure. And it saddens me to see that we are teaching our young girls to be coveted after for their looks and the seductive clothing they wear; and then to be proud of it!  Look At Me is the motto of this generation, and the explosion of social media proves it.  Sadly, our pride keeps us from being humble before God, or turning the other cheek to our fellow neighbor.  And our pride keeps us from helping those in need, in case it might cost us too much. When covetousness and pride become the hallmark of a people, we are living in perilous times.
     Other symptoms of these dangerous times are the disrespect that our youth have for the older generation, the police, or anyone who stands in the way of them getting what they want.  People, in general, are unthankful for the blessings they have received in this world, and take what they have been given for granted.  But, as Christians, we must ask ourselves if we are adequately thankful to God for what He’s done in our lives.  If we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our back, and a family that loves each other, do we bother to acknowledge what He has done for us — or do we take credit for it ourselves?  When I hear the testimonies of those who are being persecuted in the Middle East, and have lost everything — homes, family members, even their country — yet still praise the Lord for His presence in their lives, then I am truly humbled and see the ungratefulness in the rest of the world for what it is … a lack of holiness.
     And that leads to another of Timothy’s signs of perilous times — people will be unholy.  We need only to look at the difference in our churches in the last 50 years.  The holy atmosphere of worshipping YHWH has been replaced with venues that look like theaters, concert halls, and social gatherings.  The message has also been perverted. Christians now seem to think that they will be saved IN their sins, rather than Jesus saving them FROM their sins.  Do you ever hear the Ten Commandments preached? Does anyone even understand what it means to live a holy and righteous life unto God — let alone practice such a lifestyle?  Believe me, if we Christians would model what that looks like, we would stand out like a sore thumb — yet that’s what we’ve been called to do and what the world needs to see from us! Instead, it can be said that we Christians are looking more and more like the world.
     It is perilous times when Christians not only do not understand what the Kingdom of God looks like, nor that we are to help men inherit it.  God is clear that there are those who will not share in His inheritance … Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.’  Yet we allow our fellow Christians and their Churches to accept these practices without a thought as to what it will cost them.

     Today, it is quite evident that people have become lovers of themselves and despise those that do good.  We are more interested in our external appearance than the condition of our hearts.  Everything is commercialized and temptation abounds in every area of our lives.  Polls in 2014 said that 71% of Americans identified as “Christian”.  But if they really knew what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then we would not have people starving, or in need of adequate medical care, or living on the streets.  Satan has done a good job deceiving professing Christians into thinking it is okay to spend the money that God has made them stewards of on THEMSELVES, rather than using it to help the sick, the needy, the poor, and furthering God’s Kingdom.  When Christians are blind to their duties as keepers of the faith, then perilous times are upon us.
     Finally, when Christians are living a life that only has “a form of Godliness”, but no evidence of the Power of God in their life experiences, then times are perilous indeed.  God sent His Son to show us the way to live a life that exhibits the image of God.  We are to show the world the Power and Authority of the One True God among all the lesser gods that are vying for man’s attention.  But Christians and the Church are unaware that this is our mission.  “Power” and “Authority”, as descriptors of our Christian walk, are dismissed in favor of “Grace” and “Love”.  And when the Enemy knows that God’s Power and Authority are missing from His Church, then our Adversary has been given an open door to infiltrate our places of worship, our homes, our communities, and our world with his power to deceive and lead astray.  Without God’s emissaries on earth acting in our full mandate and character, the result is perilous times for all humanity.  And we are all aware that will become known as “The End Times”.
      We are already seeing war, famine, natural disasters, incredible and rapid increases in knowledge. Our air and water being poisoned.  Birds of the air and the Fish of the seas are dying in huge numbers. And these are just a few of the Biblical signs of Christ’s eminent return.  I worry about loved ones who still do not know Jesus, and I worry about the Christians whom Jesus will say He does not know.  So, I recognize that we are living in perilous times, and my spirit is crying out for the Body of Christ to fulfill our assignment.  Yes, times are perilous, to be sure … but as long as we have one minute left, it should be our goal  to show one more person the image of Christ in us.  Our time to do so is NOW!

John 9:4   “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work”.
     

The Politics of Fear … And How To Overcome It

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     I know that today will be an important day for the future of our nation.  Today is the day that each state’s electors will cast their votes in the Electoral College that will legally elect the next President of the United States. In our modern history, the casting of electoral votes has been a purely ceremonial event in which the results from voting on Election Day have been rubber-stamped. Not this year!
     The political and spiritual forces have aligned to try to prohibit the legitimization of the Trump Presidency. I am not here to make a case in favor of, or against, Mr. Trump. Whether or not you are happy about his election, it should concern us that our rule of law and political foundation are being threatened.  As is so often noted, “there are consequences in elections; there is a winner and a loser”.  But during this election cycle, electors are being lobbied — and sometimes, intimidated — to “go rogue” and defy the voters’ preferences in their home states, and to vote “their conscience”.  And perhaps, surprisingly, the primary stimulus to make that happen has been FEAR.  Everything from women losing their rights, to deportation of immigrants, to selling out to Russia and the Communists, is being used to encourage electors to defect. But this should not surprise us. Fear is one of the primary spiritual weapons that the Enemy uses to control the destiny of mankind.
     We only have to look back at the Biblical story of Joshua and Caleb, who were part of the contingent of 12 spies sent into the Promised Land to determine if it could be conquered. But ten of the spies came back and reported that they were defeated before they ever began. They were filled with fear and let that fear completely vanquish them.  But it was Caleb who said, “But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God”. 

     That is what we’re seeing today. Those who are unhappy with the direction in which our nation is moving (whether you believe God has a hand in it, or not) are instilling their fears in the general population. But, you see, Caleb was free from fear, and he used his trust in God to try to help the people of Israel overcome their fears. And those of us who are like Caleb, and surrender to the will of God, have something to say to people who are afraid.  Our surrender to God is the only answer to the problem of fear.
    I know it will be difficult to minister and serve others who do not have the same faith we do in YHWH. And it is a disservice to all people to pretend that there will be no difficulties; we cannot and should not persuade others to escape reality.  BUT, we can listen to their fears, remain calm, report the facts, and look for ways to encourage them.  After all, Caleb did not pretend that the giants did not exist. But he was different from most of the men who returned from the Promised Land spreading their fear. He tried to report the good things, too.
     I know this may sound too simplistic or optimistic. There are haters who will never be convinced that any good can exist after January 20, 2017.  But the entire nation would be well-served to remember Caleb’s words. He said, “We are well able”. This does not mean that he had confidence only in himself. Nor did he put undue emphasis on the military strength of Israel, either. No. He was emphasizing where their power really came from. It came from firm confidence in God’s power.
     Sadly, I think that those who have jumped on the “fear bandwagon” after this election, believe only in the power of men.  And if their man, or woman, isn’t declared the winner, then the spirit of defeat joins forces with the spirits of fear, anger, and bitterness to keep them from seeing any possibility of success. But, We are well able! We are able to overcome our differences and work together for the good of the country.  We have incredible resources to help the next generation(s) reach new heights of prosperity. But we must teach them a robust work ethic and the fearlessness to take advantage of the opportunities put before them.  We must also give them a sound and solid moral foundation by which to live their lives; fundamentals by which they will lives that are pleasing to God, as they seek to serve others.  All this is available to every American — regardless of whether your candidate is declared the victor today or not.
     Fear dealt a severe blow to the progress of the Israelites over 3500 years ago. Their growth and progress was stunted, and fear was to blame. Nothing has changed over the centuries. We must not allow fear to take root in our land and diminish the blessings and potential for our future generations. Stay the course … trust in the Lord … and know in your spirit that our giants can be defeated!

Numbers 13:30    But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

It’s Time For ALL Of Us To Wake ALL The Way Up!

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     I would venture to say that more people are becoming aware of the real substance of our lives every day.  To begin, it’s not hard for us to see that we’re being lied to.  I mean, novelists and clever marketers are hired to “create” the narrative of our foreign policy, and it is sold to the American public in 140-or-less characters on Twitter, and that becomes the story.
     Forget that in days gone by, veteran reporters would dig for the truth, and politicians couldn’t escape authentic journalistic scrutiny.  Now, what is dispensed as “on the record”, has been carefully crafted and pre-packaged with “talking points” that will not be denied, and everyone with a computer “reports” them as truth.  The digital age is a willing and convenient accomplice to such deception.
     At the same time, digital technology has allowed us to see behind the curtain, so to speak, and if we are discerning, we can tell that Iran is thumbing their nose at us, and the Iran “Deal” is a sham.  It’s also obvious to us, when our family members and friends have been laid off, and companies are closing their doors and moving to Mexico, that the positive job numbers we’re being sold are false.  Also, how many people are beginning to seriously question the effectiveness of vaccines; the very real existence of chemtrails and what they are doing to our health; and the legitimacy of our election process?  The availability of the internet has allowed us to do our own research and not rely on the media or “experts” to tell us what they want us to know.

     While I think it is a good thing that Americans are starting to think for themselves, there is still a majority, I fear, that are victims of their own normalcy bias (of which I wrote about here in 2012).  And of those who are starting to awaken, it is my opinion that they are still just dealing in surface levels of the truth.   If we are going to survive this forced transformation of our world, then we have to quickly move beyond these first stages of perceiving the truth, and step out in boldness to see “the big picture”.
     I will admit that it’s hard to face those dark truths.  It’s hard to admit that there is collusion between those whom we’ve elected to represent us and the medical/insurance conglomerates who profit off our illnesses and diseases.  It’s difficult to accept that the food industry sells us unhealthy food products.  And it is especially unfathomable that the military/industrial complex could initiate wars and global conflicts in order to profit from the inherent destruction and subsequent rebuilding.  Those are all sinful and evil practices.
     But sometimes that’s as far as people are able to go in their awakening process.  To go further means to contemplate a truly frightening world in which human beings are under the influence of dark forces, and we must admit that our limited human capabilities are unable to defend against them.  Far too many people are willing to remain in a state of ignorance, rather than go there.  If they just don’t look at the evil, they tell themselves, then perhaps it doesn’t really exist.  I’m afraid I’m one of those who, once awakened, doesn’t want to go back to sleep.  Once I’ve seen the curtain pulled back, then I know that in order to survive the forces I see coming against us, I must know the Truth, and all of it… not just enough to try to secure my safety and that of my loved ones; but know the depth of the Truth so I can be victorious against the threat of Evil!
     That’s why people like me can look beyond the corrupt policies of the medical/insurance industries and Big Food conglomerates and see the next layer of Truth … that’s why, as reported on the website, NaturalNews.com, “we begin to understand why glyphosate herbicide is sprayed on wheat crops (that aren’t even GMO) to promote cancer and infertility. [We] come to realize why vaccines in Africa are covertly laced with sterilization chemicals and why high-level virologists openly talk about wanting to genetically engineer viruses that would wipe out humanity.”
     That’s when we start reading between the lines of speeches by Bill Gates, in which he says, “If we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower [global population] by perhaps 10 or 15 percent.”  Suddenly, all the experimentation with Ebola, Bird Flu and biological weapons makes sense, doesn’t it?  And why do you think we are suddenly hearing so much about replacing physical workers with robots?  We’re constantly being told that the world’s food supply is shrinking.  Do you think there’s any suggestion that less food equals less people (due to starvation); and a less-populated planet relieves global warming and pollution?  After all, robots don’t have to be fed, right?

     So, if you’re able to go that far, why not go all the way?  Why not peel back the surface layers and see into the supernatural realm, where all the things we see in this world (the wars, the pharmaceuticals, the transhumanist/robot agenda, etc) are, in reality, the manifestation of the spiritual war between Good and Evil.  If you can begin to see that all the “good” and “bad” things happening in our society and culture are a part of this spiritual war, then perhaps you can begin to see what it is going to take to defeat the forces of our enemy.
     It is time to see that we are living at the beginning of a dark period in which all the forces of Evil are joining together for a final assault, in order to defeat Good (and God) forever.  As difficult as it might be for my fellow Americans (and even my fellow Christians!) to believe, it is imperative that we understand what is going on.  At the highest levels of national and global institutions are people who are being influenced by dark, demonic forces to ultimately destroy this world.  It is as old as the creation of this earth, itself.
     Those of us who believe in YHWH serve a Lord who promises us eternal life and rewards in His coming kingdom.  But we need to understand that those who harvest organs from aborted fetuses and partially-born babies, or those that allow the children of Flint, Michigan to drink poisonous water for almost a year without telling them, also serve a lord that has promised them rewards in this life. We cannot continue to look at these acts as misguided attempts by ignorant or misinformed people.  They have given their souls (their minds, their emotions, and their wills) over to a force intent on ruling (and plunging) this world into darkness.
     It is time to fully awaken to this reality, and to fully engage in the war to defeat this darkness.  If you know Jesus, then ask Him to equip you for the battle, because I promise you, it is coming in our lifetimes.  It’s already here!  We have just been slow in acknowledging it.  And if you don’t know my Lord and Savior, Jesus, then please don’t waste another minute without asking Him to reveal Himself to you.  He is the only way for you to win the battle each and every person will be forced to face.  Take just a moment and step back and look — really see — the world and what is happening in it.  Can you deny that humanity is under attack?  I urge you to please shake off your lethargy and come awake!  Join me in the freedom that comes from knowing the Truth and clearly seeing the Enemy we face; and I promise you, with that comes peace and courage and ultimate victory!

Romans 2:6-8   “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

Don’t Widen The Plate

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I don’t often repeat verbatim an internet story, or any of the countless viral emails that we all get in our inboxes.  But every once in awhile, there appears one that penetrates my heart and soul, and is so insightful, that I feel it is to your benefit to share it.  The post today is just such a jewel.  If you have read it before, then pass it on and share it with someone who needs to be inspired.  Enjoy!

     In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) convention.
     While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

     Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.  In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. In fact, John Scolinos was a Hall of Fame College Baseball Head coach who coached at Pepperdine University from 1948 to 1960 and Cal Poly Pomona University from 1962 to 1991.  He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.
     Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?  After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.
     Then, finally … “You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
     Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer. “That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”
     Another long pause.  “Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach. “That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”  “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
     “You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?” “Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison. “Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?” “Seventeen inches!”
     “RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?” “Seventeen inches!” “SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.
     “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”
     Pause. “Coaches …” Pause.  ” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?
     The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”
     Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”
     Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.  “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”
     I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.
     “If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”
     With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside. “… dark days ahead.”

     Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”  In other words, being accountable, responsible, and living our lives within moral boundaries is absolutely necessary if we are going to survive these dark days. 
     And just think how much further down that road we’ve come since 2009.  These last 7 years have seen us not only widen the plate, but shred it into something quite unrecognizable.  Is it too late? We can feel the forces of evil trying to push us beyond the parameters we have set for ourselves as Americans and Christians.  We see it in our national election process and in the doctrines of our Churches.  Any means is permissible to achieve the end result desired by the Enemy.  It is up to us to hold the line, and we must never, ever agree to widen the plate.

Jeremiah 17:10     “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

2015: A Very Spiritual Year

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     As I reviewed my posts over the last year and took a look back over the top news stories, it became quite clear that in 2015, spiritual matters were front and center.  Whether it was Winter Storm Juno that began the year with a tidal wave of snow and crippling blizzards, or the way we are ending 2015 with a raging storm named Goliath, one has to wonder if these mega-weather events are part of the geo-engineering phenomena or judgments from God. (I find the choice of names curious — a goddess of war and fertility; and a nephilim giant, a descendant of the union between fallen angels and human women.  Nothing in this world is done by accident, so I am left wondering the significance of these selected names).
     The major news headlines definitely speak of the ongoing battle between the spiritual realm and the world in which we live.  Just let your soul feel what comes to light as I recall these events:  the rise of ISIS … Charlie Hebdo … the Charleston, NC church shooting … Paris concert hall shooting … San Bernardino … the European refugee crisis … the Iran nuclear deal … the racial tension and division in Ferguson, Chicago, and Cleveland … the Planned Parenthood scandal … gay marriage and transgenderism …
     Do you see it?  These are a random selection of the top news stories of 2015, yet I assert that each of them is the result of direct influence from what the Apostle Paul refers to as “[the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, [and] the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.”  It is becoming apparent to me, at least, that these forces are causing an increase in man’s natural sin state and contributing to a reprobate mind that has led to all the bloodshed, violence, racial hatred, moral decay and unprincipled deception that we see all around us.
     It is apparent as we see a connection forming between Science and Sin in the development of transhumanism; in the expansion of forced vaccinations; and in the evolution of CERN, who appears to be trying to recreate a “Tower of Babel” scenario and unlock the gate to Heaven.
     And I certainly think we are seeing the implications of the Beast System talked about in the Bible. From the overwhelming amount of data collection, to chip implantation, to companies being run out of business because of their faith, to climate and gun control agendas, to Agenda 21 and 2030, to Global Government in the form of Strong Cities and Sanctuary Cities — they all lead to oppression and the dehumanization of mankind. And it will all be orchestrated through the Deception, Division, Diversion, and Discouragement of Satan and his servants.
     And caught in the cross-hairs will be the followers of Christ.  This year has seen an unprecedented increase in persecutions against Christians; from Niger in Western Africa to the Christian communities in Iraq and Syria, they are being martyred for their faith — and willingly sacrificing their lives to torture, rape, crucifixions, and beheadings, rather than deny their allegiance to Jesus.  To think that we Christians in the West will be spared (or deserve to be!) is not Biblical.  This is the year that has shown us that we better know where we stand with God.
     Which brings me to the topic of the Church.  We have seen the Body of Christ struggle this year with fulfilling its commission.  And I have to ask if it is remaining true to the commandments of God.  Each Christian must answer for himself if his Church represents the Biblical principals laid down by God and if they have answered His mandate, which is to let the Holy Spirit guide the Church into affecting everything around it — from their city, to their country, to their continent, to the rest of the world.  Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that most churches in this nation, at least, rarely affect anyone or anything outside their church building, if that.  And that is why I have seen a growing remnant of God’s people being called out of the confinement of those four walls to listen to and follow the “dunamis” power of the Holy Spirit, which comes by the authority of Christ and strengthens us and gives us the ability to continue His work in the world.
     Which brings me to my final conclusion regarding this year.  As I perused each of my 359 posts for the year, I noticed a decidedly common thread amongst them.  This past year I felt my faith more intensely than ever before.  The worry and anxiety over world events and comparisons with Biblical prophecies sent me into intense periods of testing.  But with this reflection and introspection, I came out on the other side, with my faith strengthened and with a more dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit.  I have personally witnessed His power this year and how He works with Jesus to heal us and free us of our bondage to the Enemy.  That has resulted in a bolder and more daring faith; one that has released me from the “comfort zone” of my Western Christian experience.  And I am discerning that this is where I will need to be in order to persevere and grow in 2016.
     I’m pretty sure that many of you have taken this same journey as I during the last year.  And it is exciting to be expanding my boundaries and territory for the Kingdom of God.  Whatever the next year brings, I am grateful for the news, both good and bad, from this past 12 months.  We have learned much about ourselves and the power of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It will keep us steadfast in our faith as we go forward together; strengthening and encouraging each other for whatever this world throws at us.  So long, 2015 — we are revived and ready for 2016!

 Romans 15:4    “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”