A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

October 19, 2016

The Great Deception: Will It Be Coming In The Cloud?

     For those of us who sense that the Day of the Lord is near, we are aware that He prophesied about all the deception that would come upon the world.  In fact, He said many people would be deceived, and great miracles will be performed to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. And then He adds, Behold! I have told you ahead of time.
     This is what theologians and the faithful throughout the Church Age have come to know as "The Great Deception".  Now, deception is nothing new... it has plagued mankind since the beginning.  And the reason is because man has loved sin; and deception always works in harmony with man’s desire for unrighteousness. Jesus tells us that before His Second Coming, many people will be so in love with the temptations of sin.  And the deception will be declared so miraculous that it will be hard to resist it.  The only ones who will not be deceived are those who have trusted the Lord with all their heart, rather than trusting in the false and extraordinary (probably, even supernatural) promises of the Deceiver.
     For centuries, theologians and the The Church have debated the mystery of what the Great Deception could be.  As I look at the rapid progress in technology, and the immoral and unethical prospects proscribed by the scientific and post-human movements, I am beginning to see the outline of a plan that might bring this ungodly Deception into view.  Give me a few minutes of your time to present a possible theory...
     The fact that Jesus says The Great Deception will be so astounding that it might even convince the elect (if it were possible) tells me two things:  1)  It won't fool those whose names are written in the Book of Life; their hearts and spirits will be steadfast, but 2) Is it possible that the Deception will try to incorporate some facet of the Bible that will make it seem acceptable to those who claim a knowledge and faith in Jesus, but are not truly redeemed?  Follow this train of thought...
     How often throughout the Scriptures is the presence of God or Jesus mentioned as being associated with a cloud?  Let me give you just a few examples:  "Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne"  (Psalm 97:2). "Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, The thundering of His pavilion"? (Job 36:29).  "The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way... He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day [from before the people]" (Exodus 13:21-22).  "Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was One like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand" (Revelation 14:14).  And then there is perhaps the most familiar verse:  "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
     So, it's pretty obvious that clouds are an important indicator of the presence of God or His Son.  But in today's modern world, we are also quite familiar with another concept we fondly refer to as "the Cloud".  But I would be willing to bet that a majority of the people who use it can't even explain what it precisely is.  Here's the most common definition:  "The Cloud" is an online storage service; a place to keep all your files and access them from across all your various computer devices.  But when asked where this storage service is located, most people will just say "in the Cloud", which in computer slang means "out there", somewhere in the nebulous universe of the Internet.  The imagery that accompanies "the Cloud" is that of some invisible destination in the sky where your files are organized and kept for easy access.  Somehow, we are led to believe they are safe and secure out there in space; just sitting in "the Cloud".
     When one contemplates how quickly this idea has moved in the world of technology, it is staggering.  I must admit that I do not understand the intricacies of cloud storage, or "cloud computing", as it is now popularly known.  But I do know that this concept is advancing in a direction that could possibly be an indicator of The Great Deception.  Let me explain... Cloud computing has progressed from storing small personal files; to capabilities of storing large amounts of computer data for corporations; to incorporating our Smartphones in a combination of mobile and storage services; to the future, which some say will be the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud.
     This is not a new concept within my blog.  In August of 2013, I posted an article on Ray Kurzweil (the computer scientist, inventor, and futurist), and paraphrased him: "At the rapid rate technology is growing, we will be able to combine the abilities of a computer with God's created human brain, and basically usurp man's natural state and produce a machine that we were never meant to be.  We will no longer be made in the image of God, but in the likeness of a machine-driven computer."   So, there is the artificial intelligence (AI) component of the Deception.
     But if our brain becomes a computer, with the capability of creating millions of files, won't all those files need to be stored someplace safe and secure?  Someplace, like "the Cloud", for instance? In fact, Kurzweil went on to explain, "We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more. In fact the non-biological part - the machine part - will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part. So even if that biological part went away it wouldn't make any difference."
     But that's not all!  Kurzweil then expounded upon the promise of virtual reality, saying, "We'll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body in something like Second Life, but it's just a picture on the screen.   In the future it's not going to be a little picture in a virtual environment you're looking at. It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality."
     That was three years ago, folks.  Then I ran across this recent article on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) website.  The title of the article was Second Life:  The Christian and Virtual Reality.  What is this Second Life, that Ray Kurzweil mentioned and now CBN is referencing?  It is a three-dimensional imaginary world built and populated by seven million real people. Since it opened on the Internet in 2003, it has grown explosively to become a vast digital continent on which people buy and sell property, carry out business, and pursue similar leisure activities to those in real life. 
     I believe you will be flabbergasted to know that there are people who actually call themselves Christians, who are attempting to combine this technology (in which residents of Second Life are "avatars") with their faith in Jesus Christ.  Here's what they are attempting to do: create a church community in the Cloud.  The vision is to create an awe-inspiring church that stands out for its brilliance and beauty, and to establish a Christian ministry within Second Life which will include support and care programs as well as evangelism initiatives.
     Naturally questions arise, such as how does one do pastoral care in a virtual environment? What is sin in Second Life? How does the cathedral service offer the Eucharist?
     But if the numbers are correct, and 7,000,000 people have signed up to "live" in Second Life, which doesn't really exist, except in a virtual reality context in the Cloud, are you beginning to see deception on the horizon?  Because, people, it's already here!  If not, let me throw this at you ... the founders of Second Life say their  ultimate aim is to share Jesus Christ in Second Life, through the services.  Now, can you see it?
      That means Jesus would be an avatar, too, right?  Let me take you a step further... I find it interesting that an avatar in the computing world is an icon or figure representing a particular person in computer games, Internet forums, etc.  But the word "avatar" has significance in Hinduism as "a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher."  But which will this Jesus be?  Just a virtual reality representation of Jesus, the Son of the Living God?  Or the very real manifestation of a deity in the virtual reality of Second Life?  If you're one of those 7 million living a virtual life, will it seem miraculous if Jesus, the iconic avatar became a physical, incarnate deity?  Will all those 7 million virtual Christians fall for meeting that Jesus in the air?  After all, they are already caught up in the cloud, right?
     Is Satan planning his Great Deception to coincide with the explosion of technology, cloud computing, and virtual reality?  I have no problem seeing many so-called Christians going down that path to destruction after passing through the wide gate of technological temptations.  And here's a question for you... What if technology figures out a way that you no longer have to be an avatar in the Second Life community, but you can actually upload yourself there whenever you want?  (Remember:  Ray Kurzweil said, back in 2013, that "It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality."
     And what if you happen to be in the Cloud when the real Jesus returns to Earth?  The Bible says He will return to the same place and in the same manner that He left us.  That means He is returning to earth.  Do you think it is possible that Satan could so deceive earth's inhabitants that they would desire to escape to another place, rather than wait on His blessed return, and expecting that Jesus will re-route His travel plans?  Or that professing Christians will be only too willing to accept that version of Jesus because it fits their new reality?
     I don't know if this makes any sense to you or not, and to be honest, I haven't fully digested where all this could lead.  It sounds so far-fetched and like a Ray Bradbury novel.  But there are enough hints that we are headed in that direction, and when some group like Second Life offers Jesus as part of the bargain, I fear far too many, who consider themselves faithful, will not discern the danger, and will choose to bypass the narrow gate which offers salvation.  Clouds have always indicated the presence of God in the Bible, but we must be careful to seek Him in the cloud as the Bible relates it, and not fall for some deceptive avatar out of the desire for our own style of immortality.

Nahum 1:3   "The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.  The LORD has His way in whirlwind and storm, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet."

October 17, 2016

Warning: Transhumanists Are Embracing False Spirituality

     Let's face reality.  To many people, our smartphones, our iPads, Twitter, and microchips have become this world's gods.  We bow down to technology in our culture, and we have lost sight of the One who created us.  We trust in ourselves and our digital false identities and no longer trust that there is a Higher Being who will one day judge us.  Instead, we judge ourselves against what technology tells us we should be, and become self-proclaimed deities, as prescribed by every advertisement that appears on that touchscreen.
     The question becomes, Is there room for spirituality in that virtual world?  Now, I understand that the word "spirituality" covers a broad spectrum of understanding, but for the purpose of this blog post, I wish to proceed on the premise that it means a belief in something bigger than ourselves; in my case, a connection and relationship with the One True God and His Son, my Savior.  To others, I understand that it might be nothing more than a search for the meaning of one's life; a search that looks to a higher power for guidance and direction.  In either case, spirituality points to a belief system that places emphasis on relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul.
     Since technology governs our world, it only seems natural that it will progress to the point that it governs our lives -- even beyond what it does now.  Technology is trending towards extending and governing our lifespans, surpassing the biological limitations of our existence.  In other words, technology may soon convince us that we can be more than what we are (made in the image of God).  But wouldn't that eliminate any "spiritual relationship" I might have with the One who created me, Jesus?
     Not necessarily, says Max More, the British philosopher, who is largely credited with articulating the principles of transhumanism as a futurist philosophy in 1990.  So we are all on the same page, let's agree with the Wikipedia definition of transhumanism, which is "an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.  The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings."  In simpler terms, transhumanism encourages the use of artificial enhancements to push mankind towards something “more than” human.  What do you think God thinks about that???
     Well, I can tell you that Max More, and other transhumanists like him, think they can keep all the benefits of religion, do away with some of its drawbacks, and leave out the supernatural.  (I would assume that some of the "drawbacks" would include that part about "Jesus is the only way to eternal life).  But here's the thing... all humanists, whether they are "trans" or "modern" or "philosophical" always use Reason as their foundation.  They cannot comprehend that God is real, because they have no reasonable or rational proof.  Therefore, they diminish our faith to a simplistic idea that "This world is kind of grimy, and unpleasant and nasty, and it’s really something we should just wait to get past, and get to the real, nice place, which is heaven."
     They see no value in putting our hope in the Lord and renewing our strength, or fixing our eyes on what is unseen and eternal.  They believe that we should work on improving what is temporary and seen.  Listen to how Max More describes the transhumanist philosophy:  "Transhumanism can be a way of looking beyond our meat bodies, and the particular form we have, recognizing our relationships with other species, different possibilities for our cells; and realizing that, what color our skin is, or where we come from, or what our religious beliefs are, isn’t really that important.  By acknowledging our fundamental, natural limitations, and looking beyond ourselves for ways to overcome these limitations, transhumanists pursue enlightenment ... It’d be nice if we could overcome [those limitations] by reprogramming our genes. Carefully, because there are reasons why that evolved. But conditions have changed."  Oh yeah?  Who are you, or any human for that matter, to suggest that what God created needs to be changed?
     What's more, this philosopher dares to suggest that he has found "spirituality" in the future of transhumanist efforts.  He gets "a sense of meaning in life, a sense of purpose, and a different way of looking at things that I think is actually quite fulfilling and inspiring" ... far more [he thinks] than those who believe in a God with ridiculous, arbitrary rules.  
     But at the core of transhumanism is the belief that mankind needs biological improvements, or an upgrade, if you will.  Take for example, Zoltan Istvan, an actual third-party presidential candidate who travels across the country in a coffin-shaped bus campaigning for infinite life extension, and Neil Harbisson, a colorblind “cyborg activist,” who has a device implanted into his skull that allows him to hear color.  They may be on the fringe of the transhumanist movement, but they are actually beginning to form alliances with groups like the Christian Transhumanist Association, who describe their purpose as "participating with God in the redemption, reconciliation, and renewal of the world".
     But here is what you need to understand: They believe that "God’s mission involves the transformation and renewal of creation, including humanity, and that we are called by Christ to participate in that mission: working against illness, hunger, oppression, injustice, and death."  They take the Scripture, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself, and distort it.  They say that when it comes to the application of those commands, they see three deep things: 1) They focus on that which is transcendent.  2) They pursue greater coherence of mentality, physicality, spirituality.  3) They seek the betterment of the world.  They will tell you that these vague concepts are at the heart of Jesus's Gospel.
     Listen to Micah Redding, executive director of the Christian Transhumanist Association:  "We wear glasses, we wear contacts, we get heart implants, we get dental implants, all of these things have been going on for generations, and none of these technologies have ever been considered to be at odds with Christianity. Why, then, should we treat smart blood — which promises to improve our physiological abilities — or a computer chip — which could improve our intelligence — any differently?"  Furthermore, Redding argues that extending life is a Biblical mandate, commanded by the call to imitate a God that believes life is good. “Just as God creates and cultivates life, he wants us to create and cultivate life,” Redding says.
     And they all want us to believe that this equals spirituality.  It's just another example in a long line of Satan's deceptions.  See how easily the devil gets mankind to switch from the concept of being made in the image of God, to thinking we can be like God?  That is the same lie he has told since the Garden of Eden!  His methods have varied, but the message has always been the same; and the latest "apple" he is dangling before our eyes is enhanced humanity; the road to overcoming our biological limitations and a way to gain eternal life ... and all without acknowledging the saving power and grace of Jesus Christ.
     Yes, get ready to start seeing the promotions for "spiritual and biological enhancement".   Get ready to be sold the lie that we can be God-fearing and longevity-embracing, all at the same time.  I will leave you with these prophetic words from Max More, the self-identified Father of Transhumanism:  "[Spirituality] can really just mean your highest values, deepest motivations, your big worldview.  And in that sense, I think you can definitely have a transhumanist spirituality."  The word chilling does not begin to describe how I feel about that statement.

Job 38:2    "Who is this that darkens counsel [questioning My authority and wisdom] by words without knowledge?" 


October 16, 2016

1 Samuel 15:23

For rebellion is as [serious as] the sin of witchcraft,
And disobedience is as [serious as] false religion and idolatry.

     The circumstances of this rebuke by the Prophet Samuel to Israel's first king, Saul, should be a reminder to us of the consequences of our own rebellion.  This particular passage stems from Saul's disobedience to the Lord's command to destroy all of the Amalekites.  The Amalekites had committed a terrible sin against Israel nearly 400 years before. When the nation was weak and vulnerable the Amalekites attacked the weakest and most vulnerable of the nation (Deuteronomy 25:18). They did this for no reasons except violence and greed. God hates it when the strong take cruel advantage over the weak, especially when the weak are His people.
     God still held this sin against the Amalekites because time does not erase sin before God. Among men, time should erase sin and the years should make us more forgiving to one another. But before God, time cannot atone for sin. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can erase sin, not time. In fact, it was time that the Amalekites were mercifully given as an opportunity to repent, but they did not do so. The hundreds of years of hardened unrepentant hearts made them more guilty, not less guilty.
     Now, God good have just smote the Amalekites as He did Sodom and Gomorrah, but it was His desire that His command to destroy them would be a test of obedience for Saul and all of Israel. And how did Saul perform?  He attacked the Amalekites as instructed by the Lord, but it was a selective, incomplete obedience. First, Saul took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. God commanded Saul to bring His judgment on all the people, including the king.
     Saul and the people then went on to spare "Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them:"  In other words, they kept the spoils of the war for themselves.  It is important to note that Scripture says, "Everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed."  Now, in a normal war in the ancient world, armies were freely permitted to plunder their conquered foes. This was often how the army was paid. But it was wrong for anyone in Israel to benefit from the war against the Amalekites, because it was an appointed judgment from God. 
     One commentary I read had this to say about the ramifications of disobeying God:  [The tracking of the spoils of war] was perhaps worst of all, because Israel did not show God's heart in His judgment. When the Israelites came home happy and excited because of what they gained from the battle, they implied there was something joyful or happy about God's judgment. This dishonored God, who brings His judgment reluctantly and without pleasure, longing that men would repent instead.
     We must acknowledge that in this case, and all cases of disobedience, partial obedience is complete disobedience.  And since King Agag and the Amalekites were considered the epitome of sin to God, to spare them was like sparing some part of evil, some self-indulgence, some favorite sin.
     And then the Lord informed the prophet Samuel of Saul's disobedience, and of His grief over the king's sin.  Now, the Prophet must discipline the king because he had set us a monument to himself on the way home from the battle.  Saul wasn't grieved over his sin at all.  In fact, Saul was quite pleased with himself! There is not the slightest bit of shame or guilt in Saul, even though he directly disobeyed the LORD.
     (In coming chapters, God will raise up another man to replace Saul as king. David, in contrast to Saul, was known as a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Even though David would also disobey God, the difference between him and Saul was great. David felt the guilt and shame one should feel when they sin. Saul didn't feel it. His conscience was dead to shame and his heart was dead to God. Saul's heart was so dead he could directly disobey God and still set up a monument for himself on the occasion).
     Saul then tries to excuse his sin to Samuel, by claiming that they spared the best of the sheep, oxen, and lambs as a sacrifice to the Lord.  But Samuel tells him to be quiet and listen to the judgment God would bestow on Saul for his disobedience.  Samuel goes on to ask the following question:  "Is the Lord as delighted is burnt offerings and sacrifices as He is to [our] obedience to His voice?  Let me tell you, to obey Him is better than [any] sacrifice, and to take to heart His commandment is better than the fat of any ram".  In other words,  Religious observance and traditions, without obedience, is empty before God. The best sacrifice we can bring to God is a repentant heart (Psalm 51:16-17) and our bodies surrendered to His service for obedience (Romans 12:1).
     It's as simple as this:  We could offer to make 1,000 sacrifices to God, or work ten thousand hours in service to Him, or give a million dollars to His work... But all these mean little if there is not a surrendered heart to God, shown by simple obedience.  Do what He tells you to do; Go where He tells you to go; and do it all with a willing and repentant heart.  That's what honors Him!
     Then Samuel concludes with our selected Scripture today:  For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and disobedience is like a false religion and idolatry: A rebellious, disobedient heart rejects God just as certainly as someone rejects God by occult practices or idolatry.  In fact, when Saul consciously disobeyed God, he was following his own self-will, and in essence placing his desires above God's.  Following such self-delusion is, in in effect, a false religion... a worship of self, as god.  Saul rejected God's supremacy, and the result was that God rejected Saul as king.  
     What is the lesson we can take from this tragic story?  There are many, but perhaps the most relevant has to do with how the future leader of this nation will obey the commandments of God, and if it will result in God's pleasure or rejection.  Because, make no mistake.  God still judges the nations, just as He did the Amalekites.  Throughout the history of the world the nations have been standing before Christ's bar and have been judged.  Nineveh stood there, Babylon stood there, Greece and Rome stood there, Spain and France stood there, Nazi Germany stood there. One after another has heard the solemn word - Depart, and they have passed into destruction.  How will the present nations fare?  How will the United States of America?  If we can take one lesson from King Saul's destructive path, it should be this ... God does not tolerate disobedience.  There will be a price to be paid.  And He makes it clear that He views our failure or refusal to obey Him very seriously.  Let us pray that our next leader has a repentant heart and a desire to obey His every command.

October 14, 2016

Is It Time To Remove The Bell?

     One of the many blessings of writing this blog is that I have joined a community of normal, everyday people who feel called to use their talent for writing to honor our Lord.  And every once in awhile, I hear directly from them, commenting on something I've written, and asking if they can share it with their readers.  Today, I want to return the compliment.  
     Dennis Rowan is the heart and soul behind a blog called "Homestead Shepherd", and his blog is just what it sounds like... relating the practical experience of shepherding sheep to our spiritual Christian walk with Christ, who is our Shepherd.  
     Dennis contacted me a few days ago, and told me he was going to write an article about an unusual experience he had with a bellwether in his flock.  In case you don't know (and I didn't), a bellwether is a male sheep that leads the flock, usually wearing a bell.  It can also mean a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry.  Dennis thought of my pen name, Belle Ringer, and the posts I have written about my church experiences, and hinted that I might find his article interesting.  
     Not only did I find it interesting, but of primary importance when regarding the state of the modern Church and its leaders.  Let me emphatically state that this is not a blanket assertion about all church shepherds, but an expression of profound concern.  So, with his kind permission, I would like to share Dennis's perspective and concern about the Church's "lead sheep".

     Last week I removed the bell from a lead sheep.  It was a bit sobering as I thought about it;  I removed the bell because the sheep was no longer qualified to be a lead sheep… he was no longer useful.
     As I removed the bell from the sheep, my thoughts went to Christian leaders… perhaps it is time to remove the bell.  What do I mean by that?  First, I am primarily referring to most pastors who supposedly lead local congregations.  If they are not leading correctly, then it is time to remove the bell.

Burnout, PKs, and High Expectations of Pastors
     For most of my 75 years I have listened to people talk about how so many pastors tend to feel lonely because of the demands made on [their lives].  Some of this is self-inflicted, and some are demands by the very people who pay their salary.  Pastor burnout is something I have heard many times.  Then there are the PKs, or preacher’s kids, who seem to be in a class by themselves; as people who have special behavioral problems.  Personally, I have not seen this in excess among PKs, but I had an unusual encounter with one of my students, a PK, about 40 years ago at the college where I taught.  A young lady in my class was a PK, and she told me in private that her pastor dad kept so busy that she and her brother had to make appointments with him if they wanted to visit him at work.
     Sometime during the past 25 years, I came to the conclusion that the high stress on pastors, the super busy schedules, and subsequent burnout (by some) occurs because the position as pastor, as we know it in America, is NOT biblical.  In my mind, God would not put that responsibility on one man.

     Church Government
     I once asked a pastor to define church government, because I really wanted to know.  This was a relaxed informal setting, so he was under no pressure.  He talked for 10-15 minutes, and said NOTHING, or at the very least, I learned nothing.  That was a big red flag for me, and I began a relatively long journey of searching the Scriptures to learn for myself some things about church government… after many years I concluded that traditional church, as most Americans know it, is NOT biblical… there I said it!

The Lead Sheep
     I mentioned my relatively long journey of searching the Scriptures.  Here is a link to something I wrote 23 years ago called The Lead Sheep.  There is much in that article, written more than two decades ago, that complements what you are reading here, but my criticism of the system, and subsequent conclusions are much more harsh now, as you will see at the end of this piece.  I beg the Christian reader to beware of the, “But we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. ”  (BWADITW).   We need to understand that BWADITW is not a synonym for “truth.”
     Below is a quote from a book about biblical church by Terry Stanley:  We cannot be adequately fed from only one man, for only one hour, on only one day of the week. No matter how good of a man he may be. The church of Jesus does not need money to run. Nor does it need a denomination (division) to be affiliated with. We do not need a building, a board of directors, an agenda, or a marketing plan in order to survive. But rather the Spirit of God, the power of the gospel, the love of the brethren and the authority of the scriptures are to drive our very existence.
     Amen, and Amen!  I encourage the interested reader to check the free online book at the link above. For any who wish to study and exercise a bit of discernment, they should realize that church congregations in America have some serious problems, and the lack of proper Christian training of our young children is at the top of my list of those serious problems.  I don’t particularly like to put in these words (shown in bold), but I will because that is the first thing that came to my mind; pastors should be ashamed to show their face in public knowing that most of the children in their congregation attend a government run school where Jesus Christ is not welcome.

The Choice for Christians – Comfort or Correct
     Yes, I think it is time to remove the bell from those who lead non-biblical organizations that are supposed to be Christ-centered, but instead, have been instituted, shaped and corrupted by men.  I don’t doubt the salvation and sincerity of all who participate in institutional churches, but the system, on average, needs an overhaul.  Do a search and learn where in the world Christianity has the fastest rate of growth (hint: they are underground house churches).  Most of the traditional church institutions and their leaders in America should gradually step out of the way, and let the home churches and home-schooled people begin to turn things around with a true focus on the Chief Shepherd, absent of all the frivolous baggage man has attached to what he calls “church.”  It will be a very difficult and slow process to change from such an established system, but we also should decide which we prefer, comfort with the old, or accept the challenge of being correct.  Focus on this Scripture:  But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. ( Matthew 19:26)

     The question of whether we, as Christians, should remove "the bell from the lead sheep" is a difficult and controversial one.  I am sure that Dennis Rowan's commentary will offend some; those who think that their church does not fit this harsh criticism.  But let me ask you this question ... If the Church (Body of Christ) is doing the job Jesus left us to do, and doing it Biblically, according to God's purpose, would our society and culture be in the mess it's in?  Isn't it the Church's job to influence society in the ways of God?  And would so many Christians be oppressed by demonic spirits, and/or leading secret and sinful lives?  
     Granted, the responsibilities of a Shepherd of God's flock are monumental.  But are we holding the Shepherds accountable?  Are they fulfilling their duties as expressed in the Bible ... handling accurately the Word of Truth; ready to preach the Word in and out of season; exhorting, reproving, rebuking, with great patience and instruction; are they constantly studying the Word in order to gain greater knowledge of God, and as an example for their flock; are they able to teach the Word; would he be willing to lay down his life for his flock?
     All these are attributes of a Pastor, or Shepherd of God's flock, as described in the Bible.  Do we take them seriously, and are they being fulfilled?  Shepherd is an important role, one of the most important in the Bible ... that's why God sent His Son, so our pastors could imitate Him.  Neither I nor Dennis Rowan wish to cast aspersions upon any man who takes his position as Shepherd solemnly and earnestly.  But, by the condition of our country and our world, I think it's time we face the truth ... perhaps some of those who fill the role of Lead Sheep are no longer suitable to wear their bell.

Jeremiah 50:6    "My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside [to the seductive places of idolatry] on the mountains.  They have gone along [from one sin to another] from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their [own] resting place."

October 12, 2016

The Body of Christ And Our Religious Spirits

     What exactly is a "religious spirit", you might be asking?  "I thought being religious is a good thing. Doesn't it mean believing in God"?  The first thing we need to come to terms with is that we are made in the image of God, who is Spirit.  In fact, this flesh we call our body is just the temporary covering for our individual spirits.  Spirit is at the heart of who we are in God's eyes.
     The next thing to realize is that not all spirits are pleasing to God.  For instance, if we possess a spirit of pride, or unbelief, or doubt, we are not being effective for the Kingdom of God, of which we are citizens if we are saved through faith in Jesus.
     And what does it mean to be "religious", or what is "religion"?  Among other things, Religion is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, world views, sacred texts, holy places, and ethics.  Religious practices may include rituals, traditions, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of God or deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, meditation, prayer, music, public service, or other aspects of human culture.  In short, it is any man-made attempt to reach God through external works or practices.  And various religions have their own cultural histories and narratives.  By now, you should be getting a picture that Religion has a lot to do with how man connects with, or associates with his God (or god).
     One of the few times that both the words religious and religion actually appear in the Bible is in James 1-26-27:  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  I think we can clearly see that our Father in Heaven doesn't require or ask for a lot of the man-made or human ceremonies, traditions, or rituals that have become a part of our religious expression.  He doesn't want our external exhibitions or displays of worship; He wants us to act from a heart whereon He has written His Law, and to remain untainted by the world's values and its impression of religious expression.
     But here's the thing ... the devil is always trying to deceive our heart and whisper the lies that inspire loyalty to religious concepts and practices in such a way as to oppose and [possibly to] counterfeit the true work of the Holy Spirit that is within us.  Satan knows it is in our human nature to act "religious" -- to attempt to declare our awe of God by outward displays.  In other words, it is his goal to pervert our instincts about worshipping our Creator by sending deceptive spirits to deceive our hearts and minds.
     I'm going to just cut to the chase ... A religious spirit is a demon that wages war against the grace of God in our lives and tries to destroy a true intimate relationship with our Father in Heaven.  Think that's going a little too far?  Just consider some of the religious spirits that can affect the Body of Christ: judgmentalism, self-righteousness, religious pride, criticism, legalism, perfectionism, division, error (doctrinal falsehood), unbelief, doubt, confusion, argumentism, false holiness, salvation by works, guilt, condemnation, fear of losing salvation, fear of God (unhealthy, scared feeling), and intolerance.  Any, or all, of these are afflictions that can oppress Christians within the churches of our land, and which attempt to stifle the influence of the Holy Spirit.
     Jesus made it clear that it was His desire for the unity of the church to reflect the unity of the Godhead ...  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  Yet, consider for a moment the theological disagreements and bad relationships which exist between churches, and also within individual local churches.  How many call themselves Christians, seeing themselves as holy, righteous, and favored by God, while looking down upon others who profess different understandings of Scripture?  There is a spiritual power behind these kinds of confrontations and attitudes, and it is instigated and encouraged by religious spirits.
     One of the ways in which I am discerning that these false religious spirits are working satan's plan is in the realization that men and women full of the mercy of God, their authority from Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit are coming under attack from within the Church itself.  When these faithful people begin to challenge religious people in churches with a different interpretation of the traditional concept of God's Truth, the devil likes to get his demons stirred up, and if possible will provoke all kinds of unreasonable and malicious attacks on such servants of God.  If their ministries are outside the realm of the man-made traditions and religious teachings of the Church, they are automatically  looked upon as cults, or cliques, or heretical.
     Let me be clear --- We must absolutely measure every word and teaching against Scripture, but I believe that God is pulling the scales off the eyes of His remnant and revealing the deception that satan has perpetrated upon the Body of Christ.  Our God is bigger and more personal than we've been taught; He desires our participation in His Kingdom; and He wants us to be who He made us to be, co-heirs with Christ!  We are beginning to see the power and authority that is ours in the Name of Jesus, and in the last days it will not only become more and more common to exercise it... but absolutely necessary!

     I want us to consider perhaps the most striking example of the religious spirit in the Bible; that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus showed us His deep sorrow and anguish against these men, whose carnal religious spirits were in direct opposition to the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, Jesus expressed eight "woes" against these hypocritical religious men.  The word “woe” is the Greek word ouai, which is a deeply felt expression of grief. The word is also used to refer to those religious spirits that cause Misery, Affliction, Trouble, and Frustration, in addition to Great Sorrow and Grief.  I think it would do us well to take a look at each of these eight woes, and see how these religious spirits in religious people were opposing the Gospel of Jesus.     
     The first woe:  They shut up the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 23:13).   Shutting up the Kingdom of heaven against men is a very common activity of religious people.  They neither advance nor increase in the things of God, or allow anyone else to, either. They stand as demonic guards and buffet the things of the Spirit of God – all in the name of religious duty. The religious spirits hinder and threaten those who are entering into a deeper Spirit-led relationship with the Lord by taking away the key of knowledge and a more accurate perception of Jesus.  The religious spirit then uses threat as a weapon to argue, complain, debate, and otherwise frustrate the plans of God for the Church through its own apathy.  All this shuts up the Kingdom of heaven.
     The second woe:  Religious spirits put on a show (Matthew 23:14).   We all know those professed Christians who like to put on a false demonstration by praying long and loud, but you never feel it is sincere.  And how many times have you seen people pray before a meal when they know others are watching, but you know it is not something they feel called to do when in private?  And then there are those who pray to impress others, but aren't really speaking to God.  Jesus is not pleased with polished showmanship or the false pretense of the religious deceiver whose motive is the show.
     The third woe:  False disciples and spiritual sons (Matthew 23:15).  Jesus declares that the Pharisees are hypocrites that do everything possible to raise up religious sons just as legalistic as themselves.  The whole world is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19). People with religious spirits, however, are not interested in the development of true sons of God. They work on duplicating others after their own religious images, rather than sons of God who are conformed into His image. The religious spirit will scour the church looking for that perfect candidate for its religious indoctrination program.  This is a strategy of the religious spirit – to isolate its prey from true spiritual covering with false mentoring that creates unhealthy soul ties. The ultimate goal, of course, is to create false sons.
     The fourth woe:  Blind guides and fools (Matthew 23:16-22).  In this instance, Jesus zeros in on the Pharisees’ inability to lead the righteous. He labels them as blind guides and fools that have no spiritual understanding of the Word of God. A religious spirit can never lead people into a greater walk with Jesus because one cannot take someone to a place that one has not already been. Religious spirits may know the current religious buzzwords and Christian lingo and all the convenient snippets of Scripture, but they are faultfinders that put down those with true spiritual discernment while they live a life directed by man-made religion.  Their hearts are not focused on God, but on perpetuating man's traditions regarding God.
     The fifth woe:  Legalistic hypocrites (Matthew 23:23-24). 
 Once again, Jesus exposes the true nature of a religious spirit – a hypocrite.  This fifth woe pictures the Pharisees again with their emphasis on externals. This is a picture of the average church today that is busy making the outside of the cup look clean by religious works but never deals with matters of the heart. They go through all the ceremonies, have the best sound equipment, chairs, buildings, etc. But all of the external ceremonies cannot clean up the corruption of the inner man; cannot set the captive free from the satanic bondage of his or her spiritual wounds.  This is a picture of a religious leader who is in the front row of the pews on Sunday, but allows his children to watch R-rated horror films, and yells at his wife in fits of anger.  Legalism binds the captives of religious spirits and keeps them from being set free by Jesus.
     The sixth woe:  Extortion and Excess (Matthew 23:25-26).  Extortion is the act of plundering, robbery and stealing.  Extortion is a predetermined plan of action with the intent to steal from someone. Jesus said the Pharisees were so full of excess that they had lost the ability to control their lust for more. Today we have modern religious merchandisers who steal from the people of God so they can lavish themselves with excess.  Have you ever attended a church that was clean and well-kept on the outside but inside there was no spiritual life?  That can occur in a small country church as well as in a palatial church with stadium seating that seats 5000.  The religious spirit will demand that the inhabitants of that church stick to the letter of the religious law in an effort to amass more authority for their outward appearance.  But that spirit neglects and starves the heart.
      The seventh woe:  A pretty tomb (Matthew 23:27-28).  It was commonly believed that if anyone could get into heaven, if anyone were righteous, surely it would have to be the Pharisees. Why? Because people were looking at their supposed pious and religious works. But Jesus called them dead, full of hypocrisy and iniquity. He then went on to say that they were full of uncleanness, which means they were full of impure motives and lust. One can only imagine the impact of such statements that Jesus made. No wonder they wanted to kill him.  White-washed grave markers are just pretty tombs.  They look nice but are nothing more than a house for the dead.  Let me ask you a question ... Have you met the person that respects the great revivalist of history (like Calvin or Luther), but disrespects those who have the same revivalist spirit today?  Or what about a person who went to a theological seminary, but couldn't find Jesus there?  Unfortunately, those scenarios represent the presence and impact of religious spirits.
     The eighth woe:  A murdering spirit (Matthew 23: 29-34).   This woe reveals to us the shocking murderous heart of a religious spirit, and is Jesus’ final and most stern declaration.  These same religious leaders that were honoring the prophets of the past were soon to crucify the very Son of God who was speaking to them.  How many modern Christians have been symbolically crucified for daring to bring a new understanding to Scripture?  Serving Jesus is more than being indoctrinated in Christian philosophy or religious theology; it is an active heartfelt love for our Savior and King, and a willingness to look beyond the boundaries of prescribed religiosity.  A murdering religious spirit quenches the Holy Spirit and denies the supremacy of Spirit-led life over a religious one.  These eight woes, as expressed by Jesus, make it clear that He hates any and all religious spirits.
     I wrote this post today to try and express my frustration against the presence of religious spirits in the modern Body of Christ.  These spirits are more prevalent among the faithful than I think we would like to acknowledge, and they are more interested in justice and punishment than mercy and forgiveness.  They are an instrument of the devil and only serve to make you feel distant from God, and to set you up for spiritual disaster through pride and self-righteousness.  Through their introduction in your life or your church, it is satan's goal to nullify the work of Christ in your life, and keep you in bondage to man-made traditions, legalism, and division.  Being set free from religious spirits can bring major spiritual freedom and an enormous breakthrough in your relationship with God!  Religious spirits are just as destructive in the life of a Christian as any of satan's other deceptive spirits.  They can keep you in bondage to man-made philosophies and traditions, while you are missing out on what Jesus wants to show you.  It's time the Body of Christ shakes off the shackles that keep us tied to religion and come into the true Light of Christ.

 Colossians 2:8   "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."   

October 10, 2016

Are You Ready To Talk About "Portals"?

     Now, there is a topic that will send many Christians screaming for the hills!  Just the very word, portal, makes you think of scary, science-fiction phenomenon, doesn't it?  Or, perhaps, it is reminiscent of something that you might see on an old re-run of "The X-Files", right?  Certainly, it has nothing to do with the Bible ... or does it?  Actually, the word portal is nothing more than an opening, or a doorway, or a gate, between dimensions.  And the Bible is full of instances where portals are in evidence.
     I can hear the skeptics among you, murmuring, "I need a little more information".  Okay, let's look at it this way... Portals are points of access, which are unobstructed by demonic interference, in which angels travel from heaven and back again in which God's provision and revelation are given to man.  Consider the angel who appeared before Daniel in answer to his prayer in Chapter 10.  In Daniel 10:10-16 this angel has a conversation with the prophet Daniel, in which he mentions several times that "I have now been sent to you"; "Your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words"; and "Now I have come to make you understand"....  So, let me ask you a simple question.  How do you think that angel was able to appear before Daniel?  Do you accept the rather obscure explanation of "He just appeared"?  Or can you comprehend that he came through a portal -- an opening between either the second or third heaven and our physical dimension here on earth.
     Then there is the Biblical account of Jacob's ladder.  In the book of Genesis, chapter 28, verses 10-17, the story of Jacob’s dream is recorded. “He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).  Again, I ask the question... If the ladder extended from the earth until it reached heaven, how were the angels able to leave heaven to descend to earth?
     And again, in 1 Kings, Chapter 19, Elijah was instructed to leave from sitting under a juniper tree to Mt. Horeb to see and hear what God had to show him.  Scripture tells us that God said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.  And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; {but} the LORD {was} not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, {but} the LORD {was} not in the earthquake.”
     Can you see that in each of these instances, God and His angels used an opening, or a doorway, or a gate to act inter-dimensionally?  Does it help to know that Proverbs 8:34 teaches that a man will be blessed who sits, and waits, and listens at the Lord’s gate?  Or that Psalm 24:7 reads, "“Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in"?
     I've always loved this verse in Psalms ... "Though He had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven, man did eat angels’ food: He sent them meat to the full.”  That's a pretty clear picture ... the doors of heaven were opened.  They were fed manna from heaven through a portal!  Are you starting to get the picture?
     And perhaps some of my favorite pictures of Biblical portals are found in the Book of Revelation.  "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.” (Rev. 11:12 ).  "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it [is] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war."  (Rev. 19:11).  I think we can all agree that the Apostle John saw openings, or portals, in Heaven that inspired these verses.
     But one of the primary verses that has relevance for us Christians is Hebrews 4:16... "Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time."  It is my opinion that this verse is to be taken literally.  I truly believe that since we are spirit, made in the image of God, that our spirits can approach His throne of grace and receive His mercy.
     But here is something that Christians also need to realize:  The dark side is also trying to gain access to earth from the second heaven.  The evil angels are just as able to come through portals or openings as the good ones.  My husband believes his first experience with a spiritual attack took him through an opening between our physical dimension and into the spiritual dimension, or second heaven, if you will.  He fought and struggled against an entity that he felt was smothering him.  He said he literally thrashed and flailed until he was able to get the name "Jesus" out, when the entity vanished.  During his entire fierce struggle, he said he watched me sleeping; I continued to sleep soundly and never moved.  And I'm a light sleeper!  He is of the opinion that somehow his spirit entered this battle through a portal.
     And I have heard testimonies of others who have described their experiences in similar language to Paul, who said in 2 Corinthians 12:3:  "And I know that such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, [only] God knows—".  They will tell me, "I don't know if I was in my body, or my spirit had left my body and that was what I was seeing".  I think I need to go no further to defend the idea that portals are Biblical.
     And I have to admit that my belief that portals are real has naturally led to the UFO conspiracy, and the like.  Add to that the never-ending desire of the human race for more "other-worldly" knowledge and I cannot dismiss the thought that the ungodly Elite might be seeking to open up portals to gain access to the supernatural in a bid to out-God God, Himself.  Re-read my 2014 post on Tesla, or my 2015 one on CERN, and see if the idea of portals doesn't gain some traction.
     All I'm saying with this unorthodox post is that spiritual activity is on the increase.  More people are revealing "dream-type experiences" in which they are battling spiritual phenomenon that they have never encountered in the past.  And it is no secret that men of science have attempted to add to our understanding of dimensions and sought to explore them and how they interact.  But are we in danger of these scientists inadvertently opening a portal or a door not to another dimension, but into the spiritual realm, perhaps even to the Bottomless Pit or the Abyss itself?  I, for one, cannot discount this theory.
     In the end, I do not see anything good coming from man's obsession with the universe, whether it be from the aspect of obtaining ancient knowledge, or reaching for new supernatural frontiers.  Just look at our entertainment industry.  Movies, music, and TV all have a fixation on exploring the spiritual realms.  There is a problem with that though, and it is this:  We are becoming so desensitized to it, that we don't realize how dangerous it can be.  God created the veils between the heavens for a reason.  He has instituted his Cosmic Law of separation and who are we to violate that?  He is a God of order and I am convinced that any attempt to interfere with His Creation will not be tolerated.
     So, I think that we can see that portals are real, and God has used them to communicate with us in the earthly realm, by sending His messengers through dimensions.  But Lucifer and his angels will take advantage of those points of access to harass and attack us.  Add mankind's selfish compulsion to  rip open the veil separating this world from other worlds or dimensions, and you get the ridiculous statement by CERN's own Director General and its Director of Research, Rolf Heuer:  "…When we open the door, something might come through it into our reality! Or, we might send something through it into their reality!"  Be careful, General Heuer.  You just might get what you wish for.

Proverbs 8:1-5    "Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. ..."

October 9, 2016

Isaiah 12:3

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

     We are in the midst of the Fall Feasts of the Lord.  The beginning of this week was Rosh Hahsanah, or the Feast of Trumpets.  October 11-12 is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, and the following week (October 16-23) is Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.  As I have continued to point out, the Lord's Feasts have great significance for both God's Chosen People, the Jews, and us Christians, follows of Yeshua, the coming Messiah.  God established His Feasts as a memorial to His faithfulness throughout history to the nation of Israel as His Chosen People, and to all people who would believe in Him through all the coming generations.  
     The first four feasts have already been fulfilled, the first two by Jesus Christ on the actual feast days according to the Hebrew calendar. He was sacrificed on Passover, and resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. The third Feast of Unleavened Bread carried great significance in light of His sinless life and His sacrifice, while the fourth Feast, Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks, was again fulfilled on the exact day on what we now call Pentecost.
     The Fall Feasts look forward to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy concerning Yeshua’s End Times’ return when He will come with trumpet blasts to usher in a new age of purified fellowship with Him in His new kingdom on earth.  And we are now in the midst of that sanctified season.  And for that reason, I think it is incumbent upon us to do a quick review of the holy significance of these two weeks in October.
     The Feast of Trumpets is a time of new beginnings.  There is even some speculation by Bible scholars that based on the view that John the Baptist was born in the spring, around Passover, and his birth preceded the birth of Jesus by 6 months (Luke 1:36), it’s possible to place the birth of the Messiah on the Feast of Trumpets.  That would definitely be representative of a new beginning for mankind!
     In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 we read about the great trumpet (Shofar) that will sound in heaven when the dead who are in Yeshua will rise from their graves, and those who are still alive will go to meet Him in the air. This event precedes the return of the Messiah. The book of Revelation also talks about trumpets sounding in heaven as a series of judgments are poured out on the earth. All of this is to prepare the earth for the Messiah’s return. It is a warning—a wakeup to the earth and the inhabitants therein to get ready!  Does it mean that the Rapture of the Church will take place on this Feast Day?  It is possible, and Scripture hints at it.  But the Bible also says that the Church will be raptured when “the full number of gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).  If so, the rapture of the Church could happen on any given day, although Acts 15:13-18 makes it clear that the rapture will have to precede the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week.  Since no one knows the day or hour, I prefer to see the Feast of Trumpets as a time of prayer and repentance and acknowledging not only God’s grace, but His calling by the shofar to get ready for a new beginning in the history of mankind.
     Ten days later is Yom Kippur. Translated into English as the “Day of Atonement,” Yom Kippur was the only time of year the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple to atone for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the entire nation. This was done by sacrificing a bull and a goat and sprinkling the blood of these animals on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Also on this day, two goats were brought before the High Priest. He would lay hands on them and symbolically transfer the sins of the people into them. The first one was the sacrifice—the one that provided atonement for the people’s sins. The second, however, was the scapegoat. This one was released into the wilderness to wander and eventually die, removing sin from the camp. The blood of the first goat brought forgiveness. The second brought sanctification.
     Prophetically, The Day of Atonement will be the day in which God’s judgment will be rendered, the books will be closed and everyone’s fate is sealed.  It will be a solemn day of acknowledging our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy.  
     We need to understand that the shedding of blood has always been required for the forgiveness of sin, and it always will be. That is why the Messiah had to die and shed His blood for us. That is the good news. We have a Redeemer who exchanged His blood for ours. The debt we owe, for both intentional and unintentional sins, was paid by Yeshua through His death on the cross. All we have to do is accept His sacrifice on our behalf.
     The third and final Feast in this month of October is Sukkot, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. Sukkot, which begins five days after Yom Kippur, is a seven-day period during which Jewish People look back into the history of Israel and remember their forty-year period of wandering in the wilderness.  To us Christians, the Feast of Tabernacles represents the Lord’s shelter in the world to come and His great Tabernacle that will exist in Jerusalem in the Kingdom Age.  The Lord will establish His Tabernacle in Jerusalem and the world will come each year to appear before the King and worship Him (Zechariah 14:14-17).  
     But there is another picture that presents itself during this final Feast.  Historically, it was also a  celebration of the fall harvest and the Lord’s bountiful provision.  Prophetically, it is a picture of the harvest of souls that will come at the End of this Age.  It should be easy to see that events that were external and physical in the Old Testament are often internal and spiritual in the New Testament.  There is a sense in which these holy days also reflect the life of every believer. 
     Jesus came to offer us new beginnings (Feast of Trumpets), and to live in our hearts at our new birth.  As He required the shedding of innocent blood to reconcile Himself with Israel (Yom Kippur) so He shed His own Blood to reconcile Himself with us. As He dwelt with the Israelites in the wilderness of Midian (Tabernacles), so He dwells with us in the wilderness of Earth. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” He promised (Matt 28:20).  Even so, Come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).  As we celebrate these Fall Feats of the Lord, you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 

October 7, 2016

What Do Job and Hurricane Matthew Have In Common?

     I find this to be an intriguing question.  And before we can even consider it, I think we need to determine what Christians believe about God and judgment.  We must come to agreement that God is a God of Justice.  It is one of His attributes and He is deeply concerned with making wrongs right.  He lets no sinner off the hook without a fitting punishment, or a fitting substitutionary atonement.
     I recognize that this is a hard concept for some Christians, who do not believe God sends judgment upon people or nations since He is a loving and merciful God.  They will also point out that God expressing wrath against people was part of the Old Testament covenant, citing Paul saying in Romans 4:15, "The law brings wrath"; the law here being the Law of Moses or the Torah. They will argue that law and justice are tied to covenant in the Old Testament, and we are set free from God's wrath in the New Testament by the blood of Jesus, as Romans 5:9 states:  “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”
     But a few years ago, God showed me that His Bible is not divided into two separate covenants, or a "before" and "after" timeline.  The Bible is one continuing covenant, extending from the covenant He instituted with Abraham [and all those who would share His belief in YHWH],  through the "renewal" of that same covenant in the life of Jesus Christ. So God is just, and His attributes remain the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
As reported by major news outlets,
a Weather Channel meteorologist spotted
an eerie face in an untouched satellite
image of Hurricane Matthew.  
     Yes, the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  And I do not believe that the Spirit-filled, blood-washed Church of Jesus Christ will suffer God's wrath.  But remember those churches that Jesus speaks about in the Book of Revelation?  We would do well to go back and read His warnings.  And let's not forget Paul's own warnings in Romans 2:5-8, But because of your hard and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.  I am not so foolish to think that just because one claims to be a Christian, that they will get an automatic free pass from experiencing God's wrath.
     Okay, I'm pretty sure that we are all not going to agree on this matter of God's wrath in the last days, so let's consider the question that I posed in the title of this blog.  The underlying debate in this issue is if weather events such as Hurricane Matthew can be a tool of a God who judges individuals and nations for wickedness?  There are plenty of Scriptures that tell us that God is Sovereign and He has the power to save and to destroy at His will.  And if you look at some recent weather disasters in our history, you have to be blind to not draw some conclusions from our national actions.  (See this post for a list of our indiscretions against the nation of Israel, and some interesting correlations).
     And if you doubt God uses weather to judge people and nations, just take a look at these unambiguous verses in Job, Chapter 37:

9 The stormy wind comes from its chamber,
and the driving winds bring the cold.
10 God's breath sends the ice,
freezing wide expanses of water.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture,
and they flash with his lightning.
12 The clouds churn about at his direction.
They do whatever he commands throughout the earth.
13 He makes these things happen either to punish people
or to show his unfailing love.
14 "Pay attention to this, Job.
Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!

     The Hebrew word for "stormy wind" is cawphah and means a hurricane.  And keeping verse 13 in mind, let's not forget that America is far from being a righteous and virtuous nation!  We lead the world in porn production - Yes, lead the world with our filth. One of the major criticisms of Islam against America is our penchant for nudity, porn, and homosexuality, and it is criticism well deserved.  Add to that our involvement in the sex slave trade, pedophilia, and abortion.  And our nation, as a whole, has abandoned God nearly as fast as the Israelites built their golden calf.  Did you know that there are surveys that show an alarming number of the population, especially our youth, do not believe they are born sinners, or for that matter that they even sin?  Instead, sin has become just a mistake and not part of human nature. Our society has lost the knowledge that we are in need of a Savior from our inherent sins, and this has resulted in absolutely no fear of God. But the warnings given to Job, make it clear that God controls the weather and He can use it "either to punish people or to show His unfailing love."
     Yes, I know that the Book of Job is about Satan being given authority to test Job, and No, I do not believe that Satan or his demon angels can control the weather or affect natural disasters.  But, IF Satan could impact the weather, it would only be by God's permission, and restrained, as in the case of Job. Remember, Satan was allowed by God to torment Job in order to test him, and this included "the fire of God" (possibly lightning) which "fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants" (Job 1:16). This was followed by a "mighty wind" (maybe a tornado) that destroyed his home and killed his children (vv. 18-19). So even if the fire from heaven and the tornado were somehow caused by Satan, they were still under the ultimate control of God for His purposes.
     Ultimately, we know that God is in control of all things, including the weather. Through His providence, God provides for and protects His children, but He also ordains or permits Satan, demons, and mankind to exercise their free will to commit acts of sin, evil, and wickedness. These same beings are fully responsible for any and all man-made disasters and tragedies they cause.
     We know that God has ordained whatever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36), and therefore His invisible hand is in our pain, even though He cannot sin or be the perpetrator of evil (James 1:13-17).  So is Hurricane Matthew judgment from God?  I am not privy to His counsel.  There are enough reasons to suggest that it might be, even though there are still righteous and repentant people in the nation, and we are not appointed to His wrath.  Unfortunately, just like Job, we do not always escape the judgment that comes from and against our fellow countrymen.  There will be good people who will most likely suffer from the flooding and destructive winds of Hurricane Matthew; perhaps even losing their lives.  But they will not be alone.  Jesus will be beside them, extending His peace and mercy and delivering them through this impending tragedy.  Until we leave this earth, there is no guarantee that we will leave it unscathed. But whatever the aftermath of this powerful storm might bring, let us pray that we see God's mercy on the righteous, and the repentance that saves coming forth from the wicked.

Matthew 5:45    "For he makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

October 5, 2016

Let His Light Shine!

     When the Lord decides to reveal Himself, there are no words to describe it.  In fact, I'm not even sure I can relate the very real existence of Him in terms that won't sound overly dramatic or fabricated for effect.  So, I'm just going to let the words roll and I trust that you will hear the Truth.  
     It seems that the next few weeks of my life are nearly impossibly full.  My husband and I will be burning up the highway meeting new clients; taking advantage of business opportunities that are developing; enjoying my nephew's senior year of college football; and looking forward, with excitement, to spending every moment I can with long-distance family members who will be in and out for that afore-mentioned football season.  And, oh, yes, I mustn't forget a Deliverance Ministry training session with Dr. Charles Kraft thrown in the mix.
     It's easy, with all the distraction this world offers, to forget that Jesus wants to interact with us and use us -- that we must never get so busy that we neglect serving Him.  And when we are obedient ... what a reward it is to see Him made real in someone's life!  I have received such a blessing as this over the last few days.
     As my husband and I, whom I affectionately refer to as PLW (for Peace-Loving Warrior -- the meaning of his first and middle name), began our busy weekend with a two-hour drive to my nephew's game, I received a cell phone call from a dear friend.  I do not want to reveal any details that will compromise her identity, and it is my hope that others will recognize themselves in her story and be as brave as she was.  I can tell you that I have known her for over ten years and am familiar with some of the issues of her life and have known of her struggles.  We don't talk that often, but the connection is always there and our friendship is never in question.  So when I saw the caller ID, I knew this would be an important call.  And it was.  She was calling to ask if there was time in the next two or three days that PLW and I could maybe Skype with her.  She had a small window of opportunity in which she would be alone and was ready, actually desperate, to turn to Jesus for help.  
     The problem was, we were on the road, and not only would we be occupied with a football game that day, but the next morning we would be traveling to meet with a new client several hundred miles in the opposite direction and wouldn't be home until late on Sunday.  To make it nearly impossible, PLW was leaving at 5:30 the morning after that for a three-day business event and her window of opportunity would be shut.  But I knew that we had to make time; somehow, some way.  When she mentioned that suicidal thoughts were present, there was no other option... she needed Jesus, and the hope that lies in Him, and we had to make it work.  I told her we would try to rearrange our schedule to be home as early as possible on Sunday, trusting Jesus and the Holy Spirit to work it all out so that she could receive the healing and restoration she urgently needed.  With that small thread of hope, she hung up and hung on.
     Let me first tell you that by the time Sunday night arrived, PLW and I were exhausted.  Between the hustle and bustle of college football, and meeting a new client, every hour was frantic.  Fortunately, the client agreed to meet us earlier than we had scheduled, and after driving nearly two hours home, we scrambled to get my husband packed and ready to leave early the next morning.  We wanted to move all hindrances out of the way so we could concentrate on helping our friend.  Somehow, we received supernatural strength and energy for the task ahead; the tiredness vanished and we prepared to make the call.  
     But the Enemy tried every which way to interrupt our plans.  She had notified me earlier in the day that her internet service went down, which meant that the questionnaire I had sent her months earlier (when she had expressed interest in a possible deliverance session) would have to be transferred to us in a different manner.  So she had snapped photos of each page and texted me the images, and PLW and I had discussed them during our drive home.  As the time came near to contact her, we hoped that the internet service had resumed so we could Skype or FaceTime... no such luck.  We would just have to work with her through a simple 3-way phone call.  But we had no doubt that God can work through the phone lines ... He just needs servants willing to be obedient.  So with our hand-held land-line phones in hand (this is one reason we are not a mobile-only household), we made the phone call.    
     It is hard to describe what I would call a miracle.  How can Jesus work with two people sitting on their couch in Texas; using us to reveal Himself to a woman several states away?  How can He and the Holy Spirit make her see Him in every painful situation in her life?  How can I describe my own sense of awe (and my threatening tears) as she described, sobbing and with astonishment in her voice, "He was right there beside me the whole time!"  How do I convey the solace one receives when you feel Jesus hugging you?  How can I describe the sense of feeling the destruction the devil had caused in her life through the free will of others, and what it had done to her identity... the feelings of unworthiness, abandonment, self-rejection, confusion, doubt, unbelief, and the never-ending lie that God didn't hear her cries for help?  
     But I'm here to tell you that I also heard, over those phone lines, the Truth that destroyed those lies.  The enemy spirits whispered so many thoughts to her --- fear of being alone; anger towards family members who made her feel abandoned and rejected; how could she ever overcome the hurtful  actions of her husband; that all the death and destruction that followed her family might soon claim her.  In fact, a spirit who identified itself as Destruction, said he wanted her dead.  He invaded her thoughts and emotions with ideas of suicide, but he admitted that he could not get to her spirit because "Jesus is there".  
     I  know this sounds absolutely crazy and impossible, but as the Holy Spirit introduced each of those dark entities to the light and power and authority of Jesus, they were defeated and she actually saw them all bound and Jesus throwing them, in her words, "into the pit of destruction".  She couldn't stop exclaiming, "It's amazing!  I'm so amazed at seeing Him there the whole time!"  For the first time in months, maybe even in years, she could see clearly.  It was as if she had been looking through a dirty windshield and Jesus sent a cleansing rain to wash away all the filth and grime.  She could see the lies for what they were ... attempts to cloud her thoughts and feelings so she couldn't see that Jesus was right beside her.  She allowed the Holy Spirit to show her that those lies did not determine who she was; that she could step into the embrace of Jesus and all the pain was absorbed by His overpowering love.  And I heard the joy and the hope in her voice ... and I heard her laugh; and it was the sound of freedom.   
     I'm not going to tell you that the Enemy will give up on my friend.  He will try to reclaim his territory, but she now knows that he only offers lies.  She has seen and felt and heard and tasted and been touched by the healing power of Jesus, and she will recognize the fiery darts of the devil.  I am giving her tools for her spiritual battle ... how to reject each lie he whispers, while affirming (out loud) the truth of the Word.  The next time he tries to whisper that God doesn't hear her, she will shout, "I reject the lie that God has abandoned me.  And I proclaim and embrace this Truth in the Name of Jesus:  (Romans 8:26): Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for, as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."  
     There is victory in the Word!  And I hope that I have adequately reflected the glory of our Lord in this situation.  Not only did I want to relate His supernatural power to heal our spiritual wounds and show you that the Holy Spirit is our powerful advocate and ally, but I wanted to emphasize that we must never let the affairs of this world get in the way of our servanthood.  We must remain ever ready to be obedient; to put our selfish desires aside in order to become willing participants in showing God and His Son to the world.  To me, that is such a picture of  Jesus's command to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself."  
     It would have been so easy to tell my friend that there was just no time to meet her request for help, and I will admit that the devil tried to convince me of that lie.  But I knew the Truth; I knew that Jesus wanted to work through PLW and myself to destroy the devil's lies and show our friend how much He loves her.  We just had to be obedient and put aside our selfish concerns and be willing to seek the best for her.  All we had to do was say, "Yes".  And what a privilege it was to see Him glorified and the Light invade the Darkness!  So, if Jesus is your Savior, and you profess that you love Him, how will you respond the next time you hear a cry for help?  How would you want Him to respond to you?  I pray that you will answer the call on your life, and imitate Christ.  Nothing in this world is worth turning Him down or denying His presence in the life of another.  Just say, "Yes, Lord".

1 John 4:12    "No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us."