Wolves In The Church

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

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

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

 

The Flesh vs The Kingdom

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

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

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


Searching For The Peace of God

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

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

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

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

 
      
      
    

“Beware Of The Natural Familiarity of Ichabod Churches”

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

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

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

    

Are You Willing To Be Possessed By The Spirit?

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

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

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

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

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

Experiencing The Power of The Holy Spirit

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

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

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


    

Ministering To The Lord

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

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

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

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 Spirit: We Can Have More!

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

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

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

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

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

The Spirit Is Moving!

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

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

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

Our Relationship With The Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

Light Dawns In The Darkness

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    The last few days have been a whirlwind and I realized that I haven’t posted anything in awhile. So I need to explain why… As you all know my state of Texas has been devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Mark and I spent a rocky Friday night, a week ago, as we heard things crashing into the side of our house during 90-100 mph wind gusts.  But as I told you last week, we declared our home and property to be the Land of Goshen, safeguarded and shielded by our Creator.  And it was so. While others in surrounding cities and neighborhoods suffered tremendous damage to their premises, with huge oaks uprooted, and tin roofs peeled away like tin cans, we barely lost minor branches.  We were blessed and fortunate beyond anything we expected.
     And as the reports and pictures started coming in from around the Lone Star state we could not escape the sorrow and empathy we had for the people of Houston who were (and still are) suffering from Biblical-proportion flooding.  But it was the smaller towns along our Southern coast who seemed to get lost in the immensity of the catastrophe.  One such town is Rockport, the first place where Harvey made landful in the early morning hours of August 25th.

     Throughout Mark’s childhood, Rockport was a sleepy little fishing village that would also become a community of second homes for the wealthy and affluent.  Rockport has maintained that dual personality in the years since, but now it’s 10,000+ residents all share the same misery and heartbreak… homes destroyed and lives forever changed.
     Since Mark and I suffered no loss, we were determined to find a way to help those less fortunate.  So we took some of our tithing money, accompanied by the same from a close neighbor and we bought some water, gatorade, peanut butter, tuna, gloves, towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, antibiotic ointment, vitamin C, and other supplies we thought would be important in these first days when people had no power, and little hope.  A group of us Christian women got together and made up relief bags. The next morning Mark and I loaded up our truck with water, and along with our neighbor’s son, Cole, we three set off to offer our help.
     It was unimaginable. The devastation was beyond any sense that I had ever known.  Houses completely demolished. Trailers just a pile of rubble.  And the trees…. they were everywhere they shouldn’t be, and contorted into what seemed like impressionistic sculptures.  The supplies that we had brought suddenly seemed so insignificant. How could we make a difference when these people needed so much, and we had brought so little?
     But then I remembered what my good friend Kim had prayed over us before we left that morning. She said, “I’m praying for warrior angels to surround your truck; to make a clear path through the muck and debris, and to protect your lives as y’all travel today.  I’m praying for ministering angels to go before you and prepare those whom God has in place to be blessed by you today.  And I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to be so evidenced in your lives today, that the spiritual atmosphere of the cities and towns you drive into will be changed… desolation turned to bright futures, despair turned to hope, exhaustion turned to energy, and hatred and anger turned into joy.  May you bring comfort through our Comforter to those who need it desperately!”
     These are the words that I would remember as I stood, holding hands with a woman named Yolanda, and prayed with her.  She lived by herself, and her house was a scene of destruction and desolation.  She had been approved for FEMA housing, but there was nowhere in Rockport that qualified for housing and all the surrounding communities were just as demolished.  She would have to travel several hours to find suitable lodging and she didn’t want to leave her home, abandoned to the elements or looters.  We offered her water, but without ice, the water was hardly refreshing in the steamy heat.  But she was grateful for the relief bag we had brought her, and thanked us for what we were doing. In reality, we felt like we offered little more than what amounted to a drop in the ocean.
     But like everyone we approached with our meager offering, Yolanda left us with a smile and “God bless you”.  But we needed to do more! And what did that look like?  And then we turned a corner and ran into José, who was the obvious leader of a group staging at the Little Lights Learning Center, a daycare facility for children.  He was organized, efficient, and unflustered… everything you need to create calm out of chaos.  When we left that day to return home, I told him I would find a way to do more, and what did he need?  “Cleaning supplies and protein” was his immediate reply.  I was determined to make that happen.

     And as we left the wreckage of Rockport behind us, the Holy Spirit offered His solution. I would tell our story of that day, and show the world the pictures of Rockport, setting up a public fundraiser for this little town that was the first to take a hit from Harvey.  I decided to turn the fundraiser over to Jesus, telling Him, “It’s yours. Make it what You want it to be, and Mark and I (and others of Your faithful followers) will be Your hands and feet. Just tell us where to go”.  So, I came home two days ago, created the website and surrendered it to the Lord.  And I think He wants to do great things with it!  The response has been amazing, and Mark and I, along with my prayer partner, Kim, are headed back to Rockport this morning with two trucks full of provisions — Cleaning supplies and protein, of course! What a blessing to be used by Christ to show His mercy to those in need!
     The last thing I want to stress is that I do not want undue accolades for this work we do for the Lord.  It is no more than what thousands of others are doing as we try to alleviate the misery in the lives of our fellow Texans.  And it is just what we are called to do by the One whom we serve.  The heroes are the people who will put their lives back together, one day at a time, hopefully looking to Jesus for comfort and strength.  And if I can share His presence and His peace with any of them, then that will be an honor.  So please keep Texas in your prayers.  We have a long way to go to recover, and we’re down now, but not out.  Pray that this will be a season of turning to the Lord and great growth in individual’s relationships with Him.  And pray that Mark and I will be effective ambassadors for His Kingdom, showing everyone we come in contact with His mercy, His grace, and His tender heart. And please pray that we never miss an opportunity to speak of His boundless love.

Galatians 6:2    “Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love]”.

How Thirsty Are You?

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     I guess this could be considered a continuation of yesterday’s post; a follow-up question to all who are earnestly seeking God, Are you thirsty for Him, and do you hunger for Him? And how much of Him do you want? I can only answer for myself, and my response is that I want all of Him that I can get!
     But what does that look like, and do I even have a clue of what He’s offering?  Have my thoughts and ideas of my Father in Heaven been so colored by the traditions of men, that I have a limited view of Him?  To be sure, it is difficult for men to fully know God.  In fact, Jesus made it clear in Matthew 11:27 that no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son [deliberately] wills [or chooses] to reveal Him. That should make more than a few of us nervous!  Will I ever get to really know God, and how do I make sure Jesus decides to reveal Him to me?
     Most of us have enough of a Church experience to be familiar with all the ways that we’ve been taught to seek and know God … prayer; true repentance from our hearts; praise and worship; assembling together so that He can be demonstrated in the Body of Christ.  But in this age of explosive communication, we find other opportunities being encouraged.  There are multitudes of pastors, theologians, Christian authors, and self-declared prophets who are willing to tell you how to gain a more intimate knowledge of God through their online teachings, websites, podcasts, books, DVDs, and yes, even blogs.
     I am not saying that there isn’t good, Biblical exegesis (critical explanation or interpretation of Scripture) coming from these sources. But Jesus expounds upon His statement in Matthew 11, by thanking the Father for having “hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children”.  And He further says to “Come to Me… learn from Me”.
     I have never proclaimed to have the answers, and I hope it is well understood that I am expressing my own thoughts and my own journey. But I am here, today, to share that I am exceedingly thirsty for God, the Father; for Jesus; and for the Holy Spirit! I am unsatisfied with the measure I have of them, and I want more!  I want what the Believers in Acts had, and it makes me sad to say this, but I haven’t been able to find that in the 30 years since I asked Him into my heart. And until the past few years or so, I didn’t even know I was missing anything!
     But I believe that Jesus is now deliberately choosing to reveal the Father to me, although in no way do I have a complete picture of the fullness of His nature and character.  I am beginning to see and experience glimpses of Him; and it is making me thirst for more!  And as I read Jesus’s words, I know that my journey is just beginning … Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:6) …. Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37) …. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price [that is free] (Revelation 22:17).

     It is so obvious to me that I am not satisfied; that my spirit is showing me that the gifts the Bible tells me are available to me are not only real, but they can be mine if I will just “Come to Him and drink from His well of living water”.  And I think that means I must come to Him as a child; without the inhibitions and rules and barriers that have constructed a wall between me and Him. I think it means that I don’t have to settle for the little shivers down my spine which give me affirmation that I am in sync with the Holy Spirit, but that it’s okay to want and expect to be actually filled with the Holy Spirit until my thirst is quenched and I become “a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14) and “from my innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38) .  
     Just picture what that looks like … every cell in your body pumping the living water that flows from a heart seeking and thirsting for God — and that water overflowing in your life, to be shared with other Believers and to provide water for the Lost of the world, who are dying from their thirst. 
     I have to admit that it’s a little scary to ask for the fullness of God, because to experience the immensity of His power and love will be something my flesh cannot contain. But it’s even scarier for my soul and spirit to stop desiring and reaching for it. Only He can quench this thirst through an encounter with Him! And I am not content to remain unfilled; to stay where it is comfortable and safe; nor to remain quiet.  I am ready to pursue my God with the boldness that my maturity brings, and with the anticipation and innocence of a trusting child. How long it will take, I cannot say.  But I do know this: I will not hold back in my pursuit of Him, and I am willing to receive all that He has for me. I will not be satisfied until my thirst is quenched and I have met Him at the well!

Psalm 63:1   “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water”.