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

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

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

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

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

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.

Immanuel: “God With Us”

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

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

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

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

Can You Identify?

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

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

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

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

Hear Me, My God!

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

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

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

Even When You Don’t Understand Why …

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

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

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

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


Our Portion In The Glory Realm

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

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

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

Seeing The Garden Of Your Heart

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     If the last post was outside the norm of information you have received in the Western Church, then today’s post will probably seem foreign and maybe even un-Biblical to you.  But I would like to ask you to be open to some spiritual truths that are evident in the Bible, although perhaps not part of the average Christian doctrine in the modern Church.

     I told you that I would like to introduce you to an exercise in which you “see” the garden of your heart.  As I explained, Jesus used many “gardening” terms in describing a Believer’s experience in the Kingdom of God — sowing and reaping, planting vineyards, weeds that choke out the Gospel message, pruning, and harvesting, among others.  Jeremiah talked of “lives like watered gardens”, and Isaiah spoke of righteous fasting, in which “you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail”.  Those are all strong images that describe Believers who walk out their faith with pure hearts.
     So, let me get right to the issue that will cause some people to stumble in doing this exercise… the use of your imagination.  There will be those who will tell you that it is a dangerous practice; that our imaginations can lead us astray and that the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us to use our imaginations in communing with the Lord.  First, let me say, that I agree that it is possible to be led astray by the Enemy when we do not have the renewed mind of Christ.  After all, it is by introducing lies to our minds, that the devil is so often able to corrupt God’s Truth.  But with a renewed mind, we are able to take every thought captive, and use our imaginations to see receive revelations from the Lord.
     I would also submit to you that one of the reasons Jesus taught in parables was because it was easier for people to accept the Kingdom principles He was teaching by imagining the scenarios He presented.  Lastly, I would point you to 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, in which Scripture says, What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him…  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit… And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual… The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned… But we have the mind of Christ.
     This passage clearly speaks of the imagination that comes from the indwelling Spirit, and which gives us understanding that seems folly to our natural man.  But our spirit being sees with the mind of Christ, and we are able to perceive things outside the realm of the natural world.  Even John Piper, the noted Calvinist Baptist preacher, has a message which says that “one of the great duties of the Christian mind is imagination”.  He goes on to say, ” Imagination is the faculty of the mind that God has given us to make the communication of His beauty beautiful… Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. And perhaps the most God-like. It is the closest we get to creation out of nothing…”.
     And when we create something beautiful and “see” it in our mind’s eye, it can be for the supremacy and glory of God in our minds and hearts. It can strengthen our relationship with Jesus by allowing us to imagine the spiritual reality of Ephesians 2:6… For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. It is the creative use of our mind (our imagination) that helps us to transcend the bonds of this natural world and ascend to the heavenly realm where our spirits are united with Jesus.
     So, that is the experience I want to share with you as you explore the garden of your heart.  Ready to begin?  Before you engage your imagination, I want to speak this prayer over you…. Father, in the Name of Jesus, we clean up/tear down any false and evil imaginations. We appropriate the blood of Jesus and pour it over the imagination. We declare any principality that is hindering, resisting, or blocking the imagination to be bound and cast out and sent to the pit of darkness, never to return. We declare and establish true imagination, righteous imagination, Godly imagination, imagination of Holy Spirit, imagination of The LORD. The imagination is vivid, colorful, illustrative, illustrious (glorious), detailed, has all five senses operating in it. We declare the imagination holy unto The LORD and sanctified by the Blood of Jesus. In the Name of Jesus, we confess and repent and renounce any principality that is over our imagination right now.  We allow the Lord Jesus to be Master and Lord over our imagination; so we release the full potential in Holy Spirit into our imagination and we declare our imagination is sanctified. Amen.
     Now, here are the steps to “see” the garden of your heart.  It is usually best to have someone read these steps to you, so you can close your eyes and fully engage your imagination while receiving the blessing of walking in the garden of your heart.

•  [With your eyes closed] walk toward your garden. There is an entry way, doorway, or gateway leading into your garden. What does your entry way look like? What color is it? Describe the entry way. (Is it a doorway, gateway, arch, what does the entry way look like). Open the entry way toward your garden. Take three steps in. View the scenery, take it all in; describe it.

•  There is a pathway ahead of you. A narrow path. Jesus is on the path with His hand stretched out to you. He is your Good Shepherd, your Great Shepherd. He will protect you. You know His voice and He knows yours. He is going to lead you into your garden. Describe Jesus. Approach His out-stretched hand. Go toward Him and take His hand. He is full of love, peace, joy and assurance. 

•  Walk hand in hand with Jesus on the path of your garden. There is a sound of rushing water; that sound will grow louder as you approach the River in your garden. The river in the garden of your heart has living water. The River is connected to the River that flows from God’s Throne in Heaven. The River empties into your “belly;” your innermost being. You have rivers of living water within you. As you walk with Jesus can you describe anything else you see? There is no fear in your garden, no anxiety, no uncertainty, no frustration, no anger, no issues of life. This is your secret place with The LORD. Your place of intimacy. As you and Jesus approach the river in your garden, the sound of living water is very loud now. Jesus is taking you down the river embankment and there is no fear of slipping, no fear of falling; there is no mud, no snakes. You trust Jesus totally to lead you and guide you. Jesus has you by the hand and He is walking on water and you are walking on water. Can you see yourself doing that? Walking on water. De

•  He is taking you to the middle of the river. The living water can be eaten, you can breathe it in, you can bathe in it for cleansing, for healing, for abundance, for joy, whatever you need in life, you can always drink from the living water. You are in the middle of the river with Jesus. Command there to be watery steps, a stairway down to the bottom of the river. Let go of His hand and walk down the stairway and as you walk toward the bottom, describe the water of your river? What color is the water as you go down the steps? Describe what you see, colors, take it all in. What does the bottom of the river look like, the floor of the river? If muddy, you can change it now; if rocky, pick up a rock and turn it over because it is not a rock. What do you see? (we have had people describe a colorful floor for healing, a clear floor which is an extension of the Sea of Glass, jewels and gems which are treasures in Heaven, gold which is the Glory of The LORD etc.) (If Sea of Glass, the beloved can come and trade with The LORD; or if gems, jewels or gold, have the beloved place one of these in their pocket) Return to top of the stairs and go out of the water and grab Jesus’ hand.

•  Jesus will now take you to the other embankment and you are still walking on water. Go up the embankment, look down at the soil. It’s rich, dark and fertile. Give me one testimony of what Jesus has done in your life. Just one, not necessarily the best. Just one testimony. Command In Jesus Name for that testimony to convert to a seed. You now have a seed of your testimony in your hand. Bend down and dig out about 4 inches of that rich fertile soil and place the seed in it and cover it up. Reach over to the river of living water and scoop up water in your hand, and water the planted seed. Command it to grow In Jesus Name. Describe what it looks like (tree with fruit, shrub, stalk, vine, flowers etc.) Pick a fruit off your testimony tree and eat of the fruit, taste the goodness of the Lord. You can always come back into the your garden and pick fruit and eat for you to remember The Goodness of The LORD. You can come back and pick fruit to give to someone else. You can return and plant seeds of testimony, seeds of promises, seeds of expectations, etc. Cultivate your garden daily.

•  Look over to the narrow path and Jesus is there waiting for you with His hand extended out to you. Walk back across the River of Living Water and take Jesus’s hand and He will continue to lead you. Up ahead is a large shaded tree. Go to the large shaded tree in the distance. There is a bench underneath the tree. Describe the bench where you and Jesus can sit and talk. That is your meeting place with Jesus. What is Jesus saying to you right now? What would you say to Him? Have Jesus give you a hug, so He can release His love, joy, peace, comfort, assurance into you. You can now return to your gate, say good-bye [for now] to your LORD and open your eyes. The garden is your secret place for intimacy with The LORD Jesus! Your heart has four chambers, therefore, your garden has four areas that need to be discovered, cultivated and developed with Jesus leading you. 

     This may have been uncomfortable for some of you, while others may have reveled in the experience of “seeing” the garden of their heart.  Do not let anyone tell you this is nonsense or tempting your mind with guided imagery.  The exercise is designed to help you discover and establish intimacy with the Lord.  It will help you to grow your faith through your imagination as you experience Jesus in the garden of  your heart.  It allows your imagination to grow and become more vivid as you acknowledge the Goodness of the Lord in your life.  So visit your garden every day, pruning it and watering it for new growth in the Spirit. Plant additional testimonies, promises, and expectations, and share these with others and let them taste the fruit of all these seeds. The garden of your heart is yours to cultivate and care for, to plant/sow and then reap the harvest of being in the Presence of the Lord.  Visit it daily, experiencing and enjoying Jesus anew, day by day.  And may your garden grow, forever nourished by the Living Water that flows through your heart.

Isaiah 58:11   And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

 

Even The Desert Can Begin To Bloom Again

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     No, I have not picked up the baton to re-enter an exhausting race of scheduled deadlines and compulsory tasks.  I have actually been enjoying the freedom of spending as much time as I want —  any time I want — with God and listening to what He might have to impart to me. I hadn’t realized just how quiet He had been until I stopped my tasks in this physical world to spend time in the spiritual world.  And I can tell you that I don’t like the silence.  But I now know the truth behind His instruction to “Be still”.  How can I know Him if I am not devoting every cell in my body to experience Him?
     I have learned so much in just a few short days.  I learned how lonely it can be to be out of the presence of God… to be in that proverbial desert; thirsty and alone and wandering.  My prayers seemed to hit some invisible wall and bounce back to me, unopened and unanswered.  I searched my heart for some forgotten sin, and even scheduled a subsequent Deliverance Session to see what might be blocking my intimacy with my Father.  That took care of some areas that needed God’s Light shined on them, and I received freedom and restoration.  But I knew that there was still some aspect that I couldn’t identify that was keeping me separated from God.
     I knew it wasn’t a matter of reading my Bible more, or praying more, or bearing more fruit. I had all that covered, but somehow things were different between Him and me. I had forgotten that God didn’t need me to do things FOR Him.  He just desires me to be WITH Him.  I had forgotten that He created me to have a special, intimate relationship with Him; a relationship that none of the rest of His creation enjoys. I had forgotten to include Him in all the work I was doing for Him.  I had gotten quite competent in preparing to teach at our Home Church; I was passionate about what I wanted to share with you in my blog postings; and I was becoming increasingly comfortable with our model of Deliverance, which relies on hearing from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But I had to ask myself if I was still in awe of Their Presence in the lives of the precious people who came to us for inner healing, or if I was taking Jesus and the Holy Spirit for granted?

     Was I still relying on God for every aspect of my service to His Kingdom, or was I thinking I had graduated to the point where I could do it on my own? Why would I ever think I could let go of the Lord’s hand and navigate any of this by myself?  Was I so full of pride that I quit listening for His direction and guidance?  Did I think, “God, just be on stand-by.  If I need you, I’ll call you” …. and then expected Him to be there?!?!
     I honestly don’t know if I am guilty of these things, but they are the self-examining thoughts I’ve had over the last several days, and the fact that I can’t give a resounding “No!” to any of the charges has given me serious pause. And I have to admit that I’m not proud of that doubtfulness.  But I have made some changes in my life, and put God back where He belongs … as the Priority in my life.  In fact, I have let some “worldly” things slide.  My fleshly obligations begin much later in the day, as I make the effort to slow down my pace and try to visit in the spirit with my Heavenly Father each morning.  I’ve got to admit, it was painful the first couple of mornings, because I still felt His absence.  But I pressed in, knowing He was there … maybe just out of my sight and reach, but still there.
     Then this morning, He turned His face towards me! The drought is beginning to lift!  I still have a ways to go, but I am sensing renewal.  In a moment of stillness, I sought Him and He made His presence known!  I could give you a description of the personal images that I saw, but they are unique to me and my life.  But I want you to know that there is a very real realm where God exists and rules, and it is different than what we experience here on earth.
     Colossians 1:16 says that all things are created by Him, both visible and invisible. We see evidence of Him in this physical world … the miracle of childbirth; a spectacular sunset; the stars in the sky, and the order of the seasons.  But I urge you to seek Him in the invisible realm; that place where your spirit resides alongside Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).  You don’t have to settle for just talking to Him in your prayers — your spirit can see Him, and walk with Him, and talk with Him in the Heavenly places.
     And I know this sounds like crazy talk to many of you, because it is a concept that you’ve probably never heard in the traditional Church.  But the God that spoke to Abraham and to Moses and to Noah, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and a host of prophets and people down through the ages is the same God that can [and will] speak to you.  He still inspires and instructs and expresses His love, disappointment, and mercy in the same way as He’s done from the beginning.  He is our Immutable God; the God who never changes.  Never doubt that He wants to interact with you.  And don’t be like me … when you are aware of His silence, don’t waste a minute to put everything else on hold so you can stop and listen for His footstep, or the faint sound of His voice.  And when you hear it, you run towards Him and call out His Name!  Get somewhere quiet, close your eyes and shut out this world.  Then listen for the sound of Him turning towards you, and let your spirit be free to hear His voice and feel what it’s like to rest in the arms of our loving Father.
     This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to write about; to describe what it is like to be, as the Apostle John says in Revelation 4, “Immediately, I was in the spirit”. And I don’t want to diminish its importance by making it sound make-believe, or fantastical.  I just want to leave you with this encouraging thought … if you feel like you’re in the desert or the wilderness — anywhere that God is conspicuously absent — it’s not because He’s abandoned you.  Examine your life and see if you have made time for Him.  If you discover that you have let this world control you, stop in your tracks, and make the necessary changes to make Him the Lord of your life and your primary concern each and every day. Then be prepared for some extraordinary, out-of-this-world experiences as you enjoy a  closeness and familiarity with your Creator and Father.  Our times spent in the desert do not need to become habitations for doubt and detachment from God. Rather experience them, as I am doing, as places for deep spiritual renewal. Meet with Him, and watch your desert begin to bloom.

Isaiah 35:7    The scorched land will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

  

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”.