A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

January 19, 2018

A New Look At The Sermon On The Mount

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

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

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

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

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

January 16, 2018

How We Christians Judge

     I'm going to talk about what will be a debatable subject among Believers ... our capacity to judge others -- especially our fellow Christians. This topic has surfaced after watching a new series of videos by Darren Wilson called Questions With God, where he asks hard, often thorny questions about God and faith.  Yes, it is that Darren Wilson who produced the highly controversial Holy Ghost series of films, where he took viewers to locations around the world to see if the Holy Spirit could truly lead a film. [In full disclosure, I loved the Holy Ghost series].
     I am also interested in this subject matter due to a recent question posed to me by one of the members of our Home Church.  Claire is an intelligent and passionate seeker after the Lord, and she was asking mine and Mark's opinion on an article she had seen regarding Bethel Church and "Destiny Cards".  In short, there was a barrage of articles appearing across Christian websites condemning Bethel Church for promoting occultic practices at a New Age festival.  It involved the use of "Destiny Cards", which were likened to Tarot Cards. 
     I read several of the articles, and knowing the sources were ultra-Conservative sites and not prone to "coloring outside the lines", I decided to write to Bethel and see if I could get them to clarify. [NOTE: It goes without question, that I do not approve of anything resembling Tarot Card readings or what could be classified as fortune-telling.  But I have seen too many instances of deliberate distortion against fellow Christians on some of these sites to believe their condemnation without further research].
     I reached out to Bethel by sending them an email which read, "We are a small Home Church in South Texas who is teaching from Bill Johnson's book, When Heaven Invades Earth.  One of our members is concerned after reading an article on The Christian Post's website that Bethel is confirming the use of Destiny Cards.  Could you please explain to me if this is true --- and if so, explain your reasoning for approving this method of providing a prophetic word to believers. We have been encouraging our group, who are coming out of strict legalistic doctrines and battling spirits of religion ... Stories like this make it difficult to keep them from sliding backwards.  Thank you for your time".
     I was pleased to receive a reply within a few days.  It read: "Thank you for reaching out to us to ask about this issue directly. We appreciate your effort to know the truth and value the opportunity to bring clarification to this recent conversation. We’ve compiled our thoughts and perspectives in a statement on [the ministry known as] Christalignment and the supposed “Christian tarot cards,” as well as points of clarification that we feel are necessary from our leadership". 
     They went on to include an official statement from Bethel concerning the subject of "Christian Tarot Cards", and Christalignment, the ministry that was under attack.  Bethel made it very clear that Christalignment was not affiliated with Bethel, although the son of the ministry's founders is involved with Bethel. The leaders at Bethel reached out to the ministry to make sure they understood what they were doing, and what they have been accused of doing.  And they made it clear that Christalignment stated that they stand in agreement with the Scriptures that all occult practices (like tarot cards) have no place in the Kingdom and should not be used.
    The long and the short of it can be explained in this section of Bethel's response to me: "Reaching people where they are with the truth and love of God is our job as believers. Many people will not come to our churches, yet they are in great need of a personal encounter with Jesus. The leaders of Christalignment feel called to share the Gospel with a people group that most of us would feel unsure of how to approach. We value their efforts to minister to unbelievers in the ways they can more easily receive it and in the places they are going, like New Age festivals... This ministry is a form of outreach meant to share Jesus with those who have never met Him, or think they hate Him, or worse, that God hates them. This practice is not what the ministry leaders do in their church, in their devotional lives and Bible study, when making major life decisions, or when discipling people. It is not taught as the next great way of maturity, a secret new thing for young Christians, or an easy syncretism. This ministry is a way of getting people to stop and engage with fellow humans so that they might encounter the love of the Father and the truth of His Son Jesus Christ. If one of our sons or daughters was away from the Lord and looking for truth at a festival, we would be praying for them to meet believers like this ministry, who know the love and truth of God".
     I have to tell you, that I value the honesty and the sincerity with which this response from Bethel was presented.  They didn't give me a canned [or short] answer.  They provided a well-thought-out statement, addressing what they had discovered when they took the time to research the issue and talk to those involved.  I wish we could all follow that example! Which brings me back to Darren Wilson's Questions with God series.  I was particularly struck by some statements presented by Chad Norris, the lead pastor at Bridgeway Church in Greenville, NC. 
     He said that it had been his experience, early in his Southern Baptist faith background, that his Christianity was defined by the 5 or 10 things he couldn't/didn't do.  When it came to having discussions with other Christians about debatable topics it was often characterized by "seeking to understand without listening".  In other words, his mind was always going through his mental roladex looking for ways to dispute what his Brother or Sister in Christ was trying to explain... which always lead to misconceptions about their faith practices or beliefs.
     He said his paradigm looked like this ... You are either in or you're out [in eternity], based on what you believe. And if you happen to believe incorrectly, then everything is at stake.  So ... [please get this, because I believe this is the crux of why so many Christians are terrified of considering any new concept of God] ... Pastor Norris says the pursuit of his life became having the perfect theology, and if anyone [or any theology] threatened that, it threatened his eternal security. Heaven and hell are on the line, here, and we're going to fight! Because if I'm wrong, I can lose it all! 
     How many of our fellow Christians can identify with this thought pattern?  How many would be honest enough with themselves to admit that this is their belief system?  And sadly, Christians who fall into this category will absolutely condemn anyone who strays outside the "acceptable pattern" of what gets you into eternity with God. 
    But for me, it comes down to this... are we not all called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world?  How are you going to do that if you're not going out into the world, including all the ugly and unholy places?  That includes New Age festivals and Heavy Metal concerts, and means consorting with prostitutes and drug dealers and gang members on their terms! They're not going to listen to you, if you don't.  
    Do I always approve of the methods or the language or the actions of my fellow Christians who approach sharing Jesus in these unorthodox manners? No. But if the love of Jesus is their baseline, and there is fruit on that tree they've planted, then I believe they are doing God's work and those other matters are between them and God.  
     There was another portion of Bethel's response to me that I think fits this subject.  They wrote, "At times, some of the efforts of a particular ministry may not be wise risks or best practices, and may need to be addressed. If someone is doing something a fellow believer is concerned about, that believer should go to them directly and privately share their concerns, seeing if they can build mutual trust and value for one another. Perhaps, an explanation will bring understanding, or they can adjust to protect their connection in Christ. But even if they must ultimately disagree about the validity of the belief or practice, they have built a bridge for ongoing dialogue and possible change. One might end up saying, “I don’t appreciate the way they are doing such and such and think there are dangers, but I value their priorities and look with generous eyes to see what they are trying to accomplish.” 
     Isn't that where our hearts should be aimed?  Shouldn't we be encouraging those who are being obedient to the assignments God has given them -- even if they fall outside of the mainstream Christian activities, or are something we would never consider? Isn't that what Jesus did?  He, too, upset the religious boundaries of His day, and was condemned for "not following the rules". 
     As for the Christalignment ministry team, here in their own words is how God has told them to share His Kingdom through "Destiny Cards": "Our aim at Christalignment is to attract tarot reading clients, people who are fully into new age practices, psychics, and witches. All of these people can immediately recognize that our cards are not tarot once they sit down at our tables. Card sets, including cards we made named “Psalm cards” with scriptures on them, address the gifting in a person’s life. The color God is showing the person in a prayer encounter will speak to the person through the prophetic image on the front or meaning on the back. It’s the same as when we give someone a prophetic painting, just much smaller. They are all non-predictive, but we call them Destiny Cards, as we believe that giftings and callings given by God for people are certainly part of their destiny. All cards contain beautiful paintings by four different world renown prophetic artists and these paintings alone have deep meanings that have led to salvation and healing for many clients.
     The team is trained not only to be able to release deep encounters with the Spirit of Truth to clients but to also release words of knowledge and healing. For clients to see Jesus standing before them in an encounter is not uncommon, and many of them get born again.  The prophetic word given over us four years ago was that we would see hundreds of witches come into the kingdom, thousands of people turn from darkness, and that tarot cards would be disabled. Praise God this is happening!! As a deliverance ministry, we are able to stop clients ever going to a psychic again and this is our aim".
     This ministry will not be for everyone. And I will be honest with you, it's outside my comfort zone. And that's okay. They are filling a need to reach the New Age community in this lost world; and they are instrumental in implementing encounters with Jesus. So, where are you being called to serve a lost world? Because if you're not in the world and you are limiting yourselves to serving fellow Christians, you may be sharing the love of Christ, but how much fruit are you producing for the Kingdom? May all of us be led to serve and focus on the assignment the Lord has for us to preach and live the Gospel, make disciples of nations, and build the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. 

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

January 13, 2018

What Kind Of Faith Will Jesus Find When He Returns?

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

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

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


January 10, 2018

The Power Of Morning Prayers

     How many of us, as children, remember praying "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take"? It is customary for us to pray before we go to sleep, isn't it?  Perhaps it is the fear that comes with the nighttime, which we equate with evil and satan's power of darkness.  We feel defenseless while we sleep, and let's be honest ... how many of us are attacked during the night and early morning hours with fearful thoughts and doubts, and sometimes much worse?
     But why do we protect ourselves [in prayer] so diligently at the end of the day, and tend to ignore the beginning of our day?  How many of you pray as steadfastly and fervently in the morning as you do at night?  This matter has come to my attention after listening to a teaching by Dan Duval of Bride Ministries. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Mr. Duval's because of his boldness in going after a higher understanding of how the Enemy has afflicted both believers and non-believers alike.
     He has truly sought after God's heart in revealing all the strategies of the devil and his demons; specializing in areas that the everyday Christian doesn't even know exist, and would be hard-pressed to accept. He has achieved tremendous breakthroughs in the lives of people suffering everything from mind control programs; satanic ritual abuse; ancestral and bloodline bondage; regions of captivity in evil realms; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts; to the "average" issues of grief, PTSD, broken hearts --- and everything in between.
      Dan Duval's teachings are probably not for everyone.  I say that because he is fearless in uncovering and identifying all the ways that satan can attack the children of God. But I believe that God has entrusted him with supernatural knowledge of the programs, strategies, and mechanics that enslave us, and the means by which we can partner with Jesus to get set free.
     And one of the most natural, but often overlooked, ways to fight the Enemy is to start each day with prayer. This should not be so surprising to us! If we are Spirit-led Christians, then we know that "the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour". We also know he comes "to kill, steal, and destroy". Why would we think that we could begin each day and not be a target?  You see, the problem for most Christians is that they don't know they can operate in the authority and power of Jesus, and they try to control whatever the Enemy throws at them from their human abilities and strength. They don't even know that we have been given spiritual armor to protect ourselves, let alone think to put it on and never take it off!
     First of all, Scripture tells us how important praying in the morning is to living a successful life behind enemy lines.  The Psalms give us several examples of morning prayer: At each and every sunrise You will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to You.  Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart (Psalm 5:3); But as for me, Your strength shall be my song of joy. At each and every sunrise, my lyrics of Your love will fill the air! For You have been my glory-fortress; a stronghold in my day of distress (Psalm 59:16); Lord, You know my prayer before I even whisper it. At each and every sunrise You will continue to hear my cry until You answer (Psalm 88:13). Let the sunrise of Your love end our dark night. Break through our clouded dawn again! Only You can satisfy our hearts, filling us with songs of joy to the end of our days (Psalm 90:14).
     As if the endorsement of morning prayer by King David in the Psalms is not enough, we have an explicit example from our King and Savior in Mark 1:35, The next morning, Jesus got up long before daylight, left the house while it was dark, and made His way to a secluded place to give Himself to prayer. He did this in preparation for delivering His Gospel Message, and knowing that He would be confronted by satan's demons and those who listened to their lies.  Should we be any less prepared?
     So, it was with great interest that I listened to Dan Duval's teaching on how he has constructed a morning prayer to introduce Jesus to his whole day. What I am about to share is a synopsis of his suggestions for morning prayers. As you will see, he covers a lot of ground and a lot of ways to pray against the Enemy's tactics. This may seem excessive to you, but if you had the knowledge of all the ways satan plots to destroy us, wouldn't you want to cover them in prayer? Here is just a sample of how you might proceed ....
     To start, I would begin my morning prayer in the Mighty Name of Jesus, praising God for His greatness, and boldly approaching His throne for mercy and compassion in my time of need. I would express myself with boldness and confidence, declaring that I am putting up smokescreens in the spirit that act as sight and sound barriers against intruders, trespassers, satanic agents, and evil spirits.
     I declare that I start each day washed by the blood of Jesus and cleansed from all filthiness of the world and its sin.  I am cleansed of all unrighteousness and washed by the water of Your Word, God. I declare that any evil word spoken over me during the night, or in my dreams will be devoured by the locusts of God so that no fruit may come from such evil deeds. I declare that any unholy bondages attempted against me are being consumed by the Holy Fire of Jesus Christ. I renounce and declare destruction against all evil altars set up bearing my name or image in every timeline, age, realm, or dimension. I renounce and break the power of all sacrifices or rituals performed on these altars, declaring they will have no impact on me or anyone else.
     I repent for and renounce every act of agreement with evil agendas and assignments taking place during my sleep, including the reception of evil spirits and counterfeit gifts and callings, mandates, judgments, technologies, revelations and assignments.
     I declare that the blood of Jesus covers not only me, but my house, cars, bank accounts and everything under my stewardship, in Jesus's Name. I declare that my body, soul, and spirit are blessed, in Jesus's Name. I call for the oil of anointing to be poured over every component of my person, anointing me for service, establishing my heart in joy, and awakening the strength of Jesus Christ in my members.
     Angels, bless the Lord and praise His holy Name. Excel in strength and perform His Word and hearken unto the voice of His Word. You are made ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. As an heir of that salvation, I speak to you that your ministry to me is the execution of your assignments. Angels of finance, you are loosed to bring to me what has been appointed to my storehouse. Establish me in the provision of the Lord and cause the abundance of the blessings of the Lord to overtake me. Angels of opportunity, you are loosed to bind and secure opportunities and to establish an environment of favor around me.
     Angels of healing, you are loosed to insure that attacks against my health are derailed. You are loosed to block the transmission of infectious diseases; to prevent food poisoning; to interrupt accidents that would cause harm to my body, and to heal issues in my flesh, soul, and spirit.
     Angels of warfare, you are loosed to conquer the enemies of God that oppose me, my assignments, mandates, and callings. I declare that the warhorses of heaven are loosed against the strongholds, strategic positions, war rooms, and laboratories of darkness that have been erected against my life. I bombard the Enemy with hailstones, bowls of fire, tsunamis of living water, instruments of war, and the armies of heaven. I cover the Enemy with clouds of confusion and smite evil with plagues of destruction and disaster, in the mighty Name of Jesus.
     I declare that the sun, moon, stars, and planets are created to praise the Lord. The earnest expectation of the Creation eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God because the Creation, itself, will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
     Therefore, I declare that all evil and demonic agents of darkness are being excised by the Sword of the Lord. I declare that these evil assignments are being replaced by the Word of the Lord, which says, Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. 
     And I declare that all the stars in the heavens will be employed in exploits against the enemies of Jesus Christ; fighting alongside the children of Light to expand the influence of the government of God in the earth. I declare that the Creation is re-oriented at the outset of this day to serve the Lord, so that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.  I declare that the whirlwinds of the Lord surround me. They draw all resources that are expedient to my calling, and destroy the snares of the Enemy from before my face.
     Lord Jesus, You are my shield, my buckler, and my rear guard. I take this opportunity to put on my spiritual armor... my belt of truth, my breastplate of righteous, helmet of salvation, shoes for the preparation of the Gospel of Peace, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit [which is the Word of God], the garments of vengeance, and the cloak of zeal. I will not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrows that fly by day, nor the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor the destruction that lays waste at noonday. I will trust in my Lord completely and without hesitation.
    And I declare that I dedicate this day to the service of the Lord and the advancement of His Kingdom on earth. I thank you, Father, and Lord Jesus for loving me, and I seek the counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit as I walk through this day, honoring and glorifying You. I come before you in reverence and humility, and ask that you hear my prayer and receive it, as I declare my allegiance and love for You in the Holy Name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.
     Now.... how do you think you would approach each day if you began it with a prayer as powerful as this one?  Do you think you would feel defeated by encroaching deadlines, financial difficulties, health issues, and the fear of possible calamity -- or would you walk in an attitude of victory and gratitude that becomes a child of God?
     Mr. Duval has given us an exceptional model to follow in executing our morning prayer. In fact, he has provided many resources for prayer on his website. I often share them with people who come to us for ministry. And I would also recommend that you consider purchasing his new book, Prayers That Shake Heaven and Earth, which can be pre-ordered here. I have found his prayers to be very effective in fighting the wiles of the Enemy, and I can't think of a better way to start our day than to come before the Lord, declaring His Greatness and Majesty; declaring protection over our callings, health, and resources; and declaring our power and authority over all the schemes of the Enemy. Prayer is a powerful tool in the hands and spirits of those called by the Lord.  Let us not take another breath in the morning without devoting our day to our Creator and our service to Him. What a privilege it is to pray before the Lord!

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

January 7, 2018

Revealing God's Heart In His Word

     It is true that the language of the Bible, as we know it, is subject to man's interpretation of God's Divine inspiration.  That does not mean that we should view the Word of God with a skeptical eye, but be aware that the various versions throughout the centuries are influenced by how God communicates His word to the stewards who reproduce the Bible.
     For instance, I was aware that the Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. But I was amazed to find out that, as of October 2017, the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1521 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1121 other languages. Add to my astonishment the fact that there have been 107 full versions of the Bible, dating from 1388 (Wycliffe's Bible) to 2017 (the Christian Standard Bible, a major revision of the 2009 Holman Christian Standard Bible).
     Each of these versions attempts to bring a modern relevance to God's ancient Word; and with it the gift of new meaning for each generation that will give rise to a new source of revelation and revival. And Mark and I were blessed by our spiritual mentor, Barbara Bucklin of Luke 4:18 Ministries, with such a gift. Barb had shared with us that she had discovered a new translation of the Bible that she thought would inspire us, and we were pleased to receive it at the beginning of this New Year.    
     It is called The Passion Translation, and rather than try to describe it myself, I will share the statement of the Publisher: "The message of God's Word is timeless; the Word of God doesn't change. But the methods by which that story is communicated should be timely; the vessels that steward God's Word can, and should, change. One of those timely methods is Bible translation.  Bible translations are both a gift and a problem. They give us the words God spoke through His servants, but words can be poor containers of revelation because they leak! The meanings of words change from one generation to the next. Meaning is influenced by culture, background, and many other details. Just imagine how the Hebrew authors saw the world three thousand years ago from the way we see it today!
     ... The purpose of The Passion Translation is to reintroduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader. It doesn't merely convey the literal meaning of the words [from the Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic manuscripts]. It expresses God's passion for people and His world by translating the original, life-changing message of God's Word for modern readers ... God longs to have His Word in every language in a way that would unlock the passion of His heart ... [The Passion Translation] is a heart-level translation, from the passion of God's heart to the passion of your heart".
     That is what I feel is often lacking in our modern translations. Various versions have struggled to provide us with the literal meaning and context of ancient manuscripts, but have often fallen short in giving us the passion behind the inspiration for the divine message. In other words, we get an accurate transcription, but the intensity of God's heart for us is lost. 
     I want to recommend that you consider purchasing this new translation, which includes Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs with the New Testament.  At the same time, I recognize that there will be those who are averse to change, and the strict translations of your youth will somehow be the only versions you are able to accept.  But I would encourage you to not let a spirit of religion keep you from experiencing what I believe is God's heart revealed in this new translation.  I do not see anywhere in this Bible that the truth of God's Word has been sacrificed for the revelation of His passionate Nature. 
     And I would like to share with you some of my favorite verses in the Bible and compare them to this new Passion translation.  For instance, Proverbs 25:2 reads like this in the English Standard Version (ESV): It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Here's how it reads in the Passion Translation: God conceals the revelation of His Word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says. This is exactly how Mark and I have tried to explain what this verse means to our fellow modern Christians, but the old sentence structure and abstract nuance made it difficult for some people to accept the full truth of our interpretation.
     Now consider this comparison ... Ephesians 3:20-21 in the ESV reads, Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 
      Here it is in the new Passion Translation: Never doubt God's mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you. Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ -- and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!
     And just look how the simple verse of Philippians 4:13 comes alive!  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (ESV) becomes the following in the Passion Translation: And I find that the strength of Christ's explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.  
     I believe that we modern Christians sometimes get so caught up in our denominational doctrine that we quote Scripture without really understanding how it reveals God's heart, or His purpose and plan for us.  Take for instance this well known foundational doctrine of the Christian faith: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads like this in the ESV, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 
      But see if your heart doesn't respond differently when you read the Passion Translation of this verse: Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness. Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to fulfill any assignment God gives you. Isn't it a more personal and heartfelt message to your spirit?
     As one last example, I would like you to examine Philippians 2:10-11 which says, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (ESV). Now consider it in this new translation: The authority of the name of Jesus causes every knee to bow in reverence! Everything and everyone will one day submit to this name—in the heavenly realm, in the earthly realm, and in the demonic realm. And every tongue will proclaim in every language: “Jesus Christ is Lord Yahweh,” bringing glory and honor to God, his Father! Can you receive the fuller revelation that the Passion Translation provides?
     And in case you haven't picked up on the underlying message of this new unveiling of God's Word, it is that this Bible exalts the power and authority of the name of Jesus; the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in our lives; and the power and the authority of the believer! No longer is the Bible speaking to us in mere literal translations, but from the very passion and heart of God for each of us who seeks Him through His Word! I pray that this latest version of God's Word will ignite a fiery passion in your heart to do more than just memorize or study the Bible.  I pray that it will create a desire for Him that will connect your heart to His. May this be a season like no other; both in your life and your relationship with the Father. May it be all about the heart! 

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

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

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

January 4, 2018

Ministering To The Lord

     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 blood and made us a kingdom, priests to [minister to] His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

January 2, 2018

Looking Forward To New Beginnings

     I recall so many New Year's sermons from the pulpit titled "You Can Begin Again", all preaching the truth that we serve a God of new beginnings.  And I don't want to repeat this message in a trite manner but rather, the purpose of this post is to exhort us all to step into new identities in 2018.
     As Bill Johnson says, the new year is really "the nature of the Christian life.  We are born again; given a new beginning". We are all familiar with God's nature of Grace, giving us second chances when we repent and turn towards Him. But how many of us are stuck in our pasts and can't move forward into that new beginning and new identity?
     That is what I hope to address today.  Because, you see, the one thing that I really want you to understand is the truth of Lamentations 3:22-23, which says,  It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses [mercies] that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness. This is the word of God telling us that each morning is a new day with Him; a new start and a new beginning to make progress towards a life that abides wholly in Him. 
     It is important for us to understand that "abiding in God" gives us, not only a promise of restoration from captivity by the Enemy, but of remaining in the presence of God, Himself.  That means that we must stop looking back at past failures and past disappointments. We must have faith that God can help us develop new attitudes, new goals, and new hearts. But that means we must believe it is possible to begin again, and become a new person in Christ.
     I know that there are many people who are beginning 2018 with a lot of pain.  Whether it be failing health, failing marriages, or failing hope, it just seems that others [or God] have let them down. And there are those of you who are disappointed in yourselves, thinking that there is no future or way to move forward in your goals, including your relationship with God.  But that is NOT what the Word says!
     The Bible says in Lamentations that we have access to the Lord's mercy and compassion and faithfulness towards us. Whose fault is it if we don't take advantage of that, or walk in faith towards that truth?  I will admit that we fight a spiritual battle against an enemy that seeks to steal, kill, or destroy our hope, joy, and faith. But we have been given spiritual armor to effectively fight that battle. And as I've heard more than one pastor point out, there's not a piece of that armor that is positioned on our back -- it is all for our forward progress!  Looking back at our past mistakes and failures only serves to keep us from the new beginning and identity God wants to give us!
     The Reverend Tony Cooke writes on his website about historical men who serve as our example for moving forward from past mistakes and failures.  Let me share a few...
     Abraham Lincoln's mother died when he was nine years of age. At 23, he invested in a small store. Three years later his business partner died, leaving him in debt for years to come. At 37, on his third try, he was finally elected to Congress. He ran again two years later but wasn’t re-elected. Two years later he was rejected for Land Officer. At 45, he ran for Senate and lost. Two years later, he lost the nomination for vice president. At 49, he ran for Senate again…and lost again. At 51 he was finally elected president of the United States, but with only 40 percent of the popular vote. Yet I believe God used him to keep our nation from destroying itself.
     Moses' initial try to convince his brethren that God would deliver them from Egyptian bondage failed, and he spent 40 years in exile before he believed more in God's new offer of mercy [and guidance] than in his own past mistakes. He was willing to believe that God's compassion for the Israelites would never fail, and that a new day of freedom was available and waiting for them.
     There is no one in the Bible that I can think of who had more reason to regret his past mistakes than Peter.  He professed his eternal allegiance to Jesus, yet rejected Him three times in His hour of need.  But we must not forget that Jesus knew Peter would fail Him, but He loved Peter; saved him; and called him to His service anyway.  Do you not think that He will do the same for you?
     These are only a few examples of men who rose above their past mistakes to walk in new beginnings. They didn't let their failures in life keep them stuck in place, or focused on the past, or hinder them from walking into a new identity.  Abraham Lincoln could have embraced an identify of failed businessman and politician. Moses could have hidden out in Midian, having lost his exalted title and position in Egypt, and never have been heard from again. Peter could have spent the rest of his years in disgrace and shame and guilt for having abandoned his Master.  But each of these men answered a call upon their lives and were renewed, restored, and regenerated.  They were each given a new and higher spiritual nature and identity.
     That is what God wants for you!  I urge you to look upon this new year with expectation and a desire for a new and greater identity. Stop listening to the lies that the Enemy is telling you, and start this new year by declaring that you are a new creation; that God is doing a new thing in you; that you have a renewed spirit, mind, and heart; that you are forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus... and finally, that our God is a god of Creation, not of destruction or disappointment. This new year is full of opportunities for you! Reach for them, accept them, and walk in them. And trust in God's faithfulness to grow you! Happy New Year!

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


December 30, 2017

The Hope and Expectations For 2018

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

     We sold everything (our cars, furniture and home) in 2016 and moved our family of five into a motor home to travel the entire United States in 2017 on a tour we called the Trail Of Fire. This week, we arrived back where we started. We covered 50,000 miles, visited 47 states and connected with 80 amazing ministries.

     This past month, the question I have been asked the most is "What is your biggest takeaway?" Curious?  

     One thing this year has done for us is this: it has given us a national perspective. We didn't just pass through a city or state, we lived there. We didn't just minister in the church. We walked their streets, bought groceries in their supermarkets, sat in their homes and around their tables. We spent time getting to know them and listening to their stories. Our lives have been greatly enriched because so many were willing to share their own lives with us. 
     It's been a blessing! We set out in January of 2017 dreaming about the impact we could make on the nation; however, we never considered the impact the nation would make on us. We have truly been changed by this year for the better!
     Ultimately, we found a great remnant across the land that also carries the same burden for national awakening. These churches, ministries, revival hubs and houses of prayer are strategically positioned across America. They are a faithful battalion of believers that have made seeking a greater awakening for their city a priority.
     This year has greatly encouraged me about the possibilities for national awakening. I believe that true nationwide revival is not just a distant dream, but an imminent reality if we will pay the price. I assure you that though the full breakthrough we've prayed for may tarry, we ourselves are not tarrying in vain!
     So, what was my biggest takeaway from 2017?
     Just as I am encouraged at all we saw and experienced, I also see a tremendous need. I believe the church, as a whole, has lost its eternal perspective. So much of what occupies our present time is making little eternal impact. This must change if we have any hope of true revival.
     This week I came across the following in a book called In Light of Eternity. It is the biography of the late great revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill. At the end of the book the biographer writes the following account. He asked Ravenhill in the last year of his life if he had any regrets. This was his response:
     "If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man."
     Stop and read that again! "If I had spent more time alone with God rather than preaching and planning how I was going to change the world, I would be a very different man." I pray it hits you like it did me!
     Ravenhill was a man with a colossal prayer life. He would often spend entire days locked away in his study in prayer. I've heard unbelievable stories about the prayer meetings he hosted. The man was a giant in prayer, yet here he was, at the end of his mortal life, with eternity in view and his response was, if only I had prayed more and preached and planned less.
     If such a man could say this, how much more should we!
     That quote only reinforced what I had been feeling over the past few months—that so much of what the church world is doing right now is missing eternal intentionality. Let's be honest, we could all say, "If we spent more time alone with God this year, rather than—(preparing that sermon series, watching television, golfing, on Facebook), I would be a different person right now."  
     Interestingly, here we are back where we started, and I find myself confronted with a truth I wrote about one year ago in my book, Trail of Fire. Fifty thousand miles traveled, only to arrive right where we began. I am convinced the Lord gave us this assignment to give us His perspective on a serious need within the American church. This is the key to unlocking national awakening—we must bring eternity into view.
     I said above that much of what the church occupies its time with carries very little eternal significance. Most of what we call "ministry" is really day-to-day maintenance. Granted, this daily maintenance is necessary, and when done properly, it allows us to actually do ministry. However, let's not confuse the two as being the same thing.
     This is true for individuals and churches. Whether it is working a 9-5 just to make one more paycheck so you can make one more payment or if it's one more Sunday so we have one more offering just to keep the wheels spinning one more week, the effects are temporal, not eternal.
     I think back to all the meetings, the plans, the series, the programs, the budgets, the tasks that I let dominate my time and realize much of it could have been eliminated or done more efficiently, allowing more time to pray and truly love others. At one time, I called all of it ministry and was proud of my busy ministry life. Looking back through the lens of eternity, I see so much of that was arrogance. It is only the things that impact eternity that can truly be called ministry.
     This year, I stood by a man and watched as he was born again. What a moment to witness and share with him. I've seen this so many times this year. There is nothing like seeing eternal life come into what was once a broken soul. That moment changed eternity, not just for him, but for his family as well. I think about the orphans in Uganda we were able to help through our giving. Yes, it was a simple thing that simply met a temporary need. However, it also enabled a local church to show the love of Christ to them as well. That moment impacted eternity. This was ministry! We should have, could have done more!
     The key to true eternal impact is found in learning to minimize the maintenance so we can maximize the ministry. This shift is made simple by adopting an eternal perspective.
    Jonathan Edwards often prayed, "Oh God, stamp eternity upon my eyeballs."  He endeavored to live each day with eternity firmly fixed in view. The result was America's First Great Awakening. Ravenhill wrote that were we to be so bold to pray such a prayer, we would likely change everything we do.
     Now, there's a thought. Ravenhill went on further to say, "Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more, wept more, grieved more, loved and prayed more, and given more."  Oh, my friend, if that statement is true, then a great deal must change. If we truly desire to see more in the coming year then we need to start living with eternal intentionality today.
     So what do we do?  Let's start here. Take a moment to evaluate 2017 in light of eternity. What things have you done that will make a difference 10 years, 100 years or even 1,000 years from now? Take a look at your checking account. How much money went into temporary things and how much went into things that will last?  How much more could have been moved toward eternal purposes?  Look at your calendar. How much time was wasted in frivolous activities and how much was sown into eternity?
     I admit, this is a sobering exercise, but it is necessary. Too often, we treat time as if it is something that can be wasted. However, eternity leaves no time wasted. Each second is precious and must be invested wisely.
     Here are three eternal priority shifts we must make this year:
1) Prioritize the Secret Place. Rather than letting that place of prayer and devotion be the last place you run to, let it be the first place. We must tackle each day and every problem from the same starting point. There is no getting around this. Prayer must be paramount.
2) Prioritize the Word. God's Word is eternal, powerful and life-changing, but it does you no good as long as the words sit unread on the shelf. The American church is becoming increasingly and biblically illiterate. If you're a pastor, I encourage you to minimize the trivial sermon series that offer a few verses and take your congregation into actual study of biblical texts. Let's preach the Word and let the Word transform them. Don't just give your people verses, give them the Word. For the rest of us, let me encourage you to adopt a daily reading plan. Get the Word in you!
3) Prioritize Eternity in your Present. Every day is pregnant with eternal possibilities. Most go unnoticed and unrealized. Make it a daily goal to look for one eternal moment in each day. You'll be surprised how many there are.
Eternal intentionality is the key to making 2018 more significant. Eternal intentionality is the key to getting the church on track toward awakening. Eternal intentionality is the key we've been missing. It's time we find it.

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

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