A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

November 18, 2017

An Encouraging Word

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

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

November 15, 2017

A New Season of New Assignments

     After attending the Christian Warriors retreat for female military veterans, and spending hours in conversations with new and old friends who have been called to a new understanding of our place and duties in the Kingdom of God, I am coming to a new realization that I think God is about to do something completely different in the Body of Christ.
     I can't explain it, but I have a heightened sense that those of us who are being called out of the traditional model of service to our God are going to be given new assignments that will greatly advance the Kingdom.  First of all, just in my own experience, I have been able to step back and see that how I view my faith is worlds apart from what it was just four years ago.  Then, I was content to accept the doctrines of the denomination I attended without question, and without any real interest to go beyond the surface level of understanding His character, His will, or His nature.  I didn't even understand that He desired to partner with me, or what I could possibly do for Him.  I admit He was somewhat of a distant fatherly figure whom I didn't really know.
     But He changed all that because He had an assignment for me.  Why He felt I was worthy of being called, I couldn't have told you at the time.  But the ensuing years have been nothing less than astounding in regards to how I view our relationship now.  I will tell you that for me, my faith has evolved into one that is completely Christ-centered.  Oh, I knew John 3:16 in my prior Christian life, but I cannot say I knew Jesus.  But now when I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, I mean it and I live it.  He is literally at the center of everything I do.  He has invaded my soul and spirit and nothing is more important than serving Him in obedience.
     When I read the Bible now, I see Him on every page, in both Old and New Testaments -- not just in the red letters of the four Gospels. He is at the center of the Bible; He IS the Word! And although I was introduced four years ago to the concept of Christ's delegated power and authority to all Believers, this concept is now a guiding principle by which I live out my faith.  And it is exciting to see more and more of my brothers and sisters in Christ embracing this same mandate from our Lord.
     Perhaps even more exciting is the acceptance of the supernatural in our faith lives.  I have been saying for the last few years that the Bible is a supernatural Book and we serve a supernatural God. What's more, the Supernatural permeated the lives of Jesus and His Disciples and Apostles. But it seemed to me that the only ones who were willing to accept and espouse the supernatural were those who engaged it from the dark side.  Not anymore!  Christians are coming into their authentic identities as spirit children of a God who is spirit, and we are no longer skeptical or afraid of letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit work through us [and with us] supernaturally.
     And this all results with us being able to identify more with Christ.  After all, the Bible tells us we are being changed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), and we will, in all things, grow up into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  And with our new identity in Christ, we grow into a desire to empower others to come into their true identities.  No longer are we satisfied to just be a part of a group called Christians, but rather, we desire to fulfill our destinies as designed by our Creator from the foundations of the world. We are no longer pleased to just bide our time on earth until God calls us home.  Instead, we want to actively carry out our assignments to advance the Kingdom until Jesus returns.
     Up until now, I believe that Jesus has been training us for these all-important assignments.  I believe that it will soon be revealed what part each of us will play in the Master Plan to defeat the Enemy's evil moves.  I do not think that it is by accident that we have discovered how to release people from the bondage of Satan, or that we have the capabilities to heal and cast out demons, just as Jesus and the first century Church did.  I believe the revelations of these truths that we have been receiving in recent months and years is just the beginning.  Jesus is going to give us the keys to unlock so much more that hinders us from achieving the fullness of God's Kingdom here on earth.
     Things that haven't quite made sense, aren't in alignment, or that seem to be veiled will come into full view, and we will have no hesitation about stepping into our roles as co-heirs with Christ.  In other words, we need to get ready for a major shift in how we operate in this realm as the spirit children of God.  I don't know exactly what that looks like, but my spirit is telling me to get ready.  I already recognize a remnant that is forming into a cohesive group of willing Disciples for the advancement of the Kingdom. We have all independently been transformed and are now coming together under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, being provided with wisdom and knowledge for what will be coming.  I feel it in my spirit; it's a new season for new assignments, and it will all be for the glory of YHWH.  It's an amazing time to be alive!

1 Corinthians 7:17   "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches."

November 12, 2017

Martyrdom: Receiving The Crown of Life

     What I am about to discuss is a sensitive subject.  And to some of you, it will be a difficult subject to contemplate. I want to broach it however, as we, here in Texas, are still mourning the loss of 26 lives from the demonic attack on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.  The state's official count is 25, but because one of the victims was pregnant, God recognizes 26 killed in this evil slaughter of His saints.
     While the media has continued a constant barrage of cameras and reporters who have besieged this small town of 600 souls, causing chaos and confusion, they have failed to accurately report the horrendous actions that took place at the beckoning of Satan, himself.  Based on local and first-hand reports, the massacre was orchestrated straight from hell.  As always, the Sunday morning service was recorded, and when the gunman entered the sanctuary with a semi-automatic carbine, among the first victims were those recording the service.  So the cameras kept rolling.
     I know that the promoted storyline is that the attack was based on a domestic dispute with the gunman's in-laws.  But they were not even present at the church that day, and what occurred at the scene could only have been carried out by a satanically influenced individual.  It is beyond comprehension that if the intended victims were not there, that any person (even a mentally ill one) would empty magazine after magazine into the crowd and then systematically apply an execution-style shot to each victim.

     The world may want to label these innocent church-goers as tragic victims, but I'm willing to say that, in heaven, they are viewed as Christian martyrs.  And I think they deserve to receive that notable title.  As I stated in an earlier blog, the Enemy of all mankind knows his time is short.  And he is very aware that God's remnant is walking in the power and authority Jesus gave us to "trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy".  So he is actually feeling cornered and is ramping up the persecution and martyrdom of God's saints.
    The Apostle Paul warns us of these days in 2 Timothy 3:13, when he writes, "But evil men and seducers will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." No one knows for sure how the gunman became seduced by evil, but it is obvious that he was deceived into thinking he had a right to do what he did.
     It is commonly accepted that we are in the last days before Jesus's return.  The world is in chaos, and our sense of security is being tested.  I mean, if you can't feel safe at church, then you know that evil is on the rise, right?  But it is exactly because this attack was so evil and took place against Christians that we must identify these saints as modern-day martyrs.  Jesus, Himself, said,  "Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake" (Matt. 24:9).
     It is natural that as these kinds of events become more commonplace, that Believers begin to fear for their lives.  But we must face the fact that lawlessness the Bible predicts is indeed increasing, and that the Bible also tells us that we must be prepared to "overcome him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony; and love not our lives unto death."  That is exactly what those 26 innocent saints did one week ago.  They are those who are written about in Revelation 6:9-11 ... "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed".
     That may be a frightening picture for some, if not most, of you.  But we must realize that Death was the price the faithful in Sutherland Springs paid for the testimony of their faith in Christ.  And we can rejoice that as Revelation 2:10 tells us, because they were faithful until death (martyred) they will receive the Crown of Life. the martyr's crown.  And just like Stephen, who was martyred, their spirits were received by Jesus, Himself.  In truth, they have no better testimony than they were hated by the Anti-Christ and his human agent.  We can take some comfort in knowing that they stood in the presence of Jesus immediately upon their martyrdom.
     Did any of these people wake up that morning and think it was going to be the day they would be called to martyrdom?  I seriously doubt it.  But martyrs they are, nonetheless.  And their numbers will rise as we close in on the Day of the Lord. We must not be surprised nor dismayed.  The Holy Bible tells us this will happen.  So how do we prepare for martyrdom should we be called to that fate?
     These are just a few suggestions, but we can begin by confessing all known sin to God and asking for forgiveness.  Next keep the Word of God in your mind and heart as much as possible, staying focused on our Lord instead of fearing the Enemy. Pray for the Lord's Grace to keep you strong in your faith until the end. Pray for our Lord Jesus to be glorified by your death and martyrdom. As difficult as it might be, pray for the murderers.  And above all else, keep looking to Jesus.
     None of us want to think that we will be faced with the possibility of martyrdom for our faith.  But if we can fear God more than we fear evil men or the Enemy who wishes to kill and destroy us, then we can endure what this world brings against us for the sake and purpose of glorifying Him.  And if nothing else, last week's tragic event should tell us that we cannot expect advance notice -- it is time that today's Christian be prepared to confess the Lord Jesus Christ every moment of every day.  Such is the course laid before us.

Revelation 14:13    Then I heard [the distinct words of] a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired) are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes, [blessed indeed],” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest and have relief from their labors, for their deeds do follow them.”

November 10, 2017

Are You A Sinner or A Saint?

     This question really makes you stop and think, doesn't it?  I have to admit that when my husband, Mark, posited it to me, my immediate thought was, "Well, of course, I am a sinner.  There was only one human being who wasn't, and that is Jesus".  But then, I hesitated, and thought, "Wait a minute, but how does my Lord see me?  Isn't that my true identity"?
     If you scour the internet, you will find a wide variety of opinions ... some theologians and Bible teachers will call Christians sinners; while others declare we are all saints; and yet others try to walk the line and call us both saint and sinner.  But I wanted to definitively know in my heart what I believed, and the only resource that mattered to me was the Bible.  So, I began my quest to determine who I am ... sinner or saint.
     In a sense, all human beings, as a category, are sinners because we are born in sin.  So, it is not difficult to think of ourselves as sinners because we know we are capable of sinning. But when we take a look at the word "saint" in the original Greek (hagios) it is used to designate all believers or people set apart for the Lord and His Kingdom.  It is not used to typify those Christians of exceptional holiness, or those who have gone on to be with the Lord in heaven, but rather any and all who are reborn into a new identity.
     And Scripture backs this up in 2 Thessalonians 1:10, which reads, "... when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day [that is, glorified through the changed lives of those who have accepted Him as Savior and have been set apart for His purpose], and to be marveled at among all who have believed...".  
     Now, there will always be those Christians who don't see themselves as this new creation called "saint" and want to cling to their old identity.  They will tell you that if we don't still see ourselves as sinners, then what value does the Cross have to us?  My answer to that is simple: the Cross is the reason that my identity has changed from sinner to saint; it is the catalyst that transformed me. Did not the Apostle Paul say, "If any man is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."
     True, Paul called himself "the foremost of sinners" in 1 Timothy 1:15.  But, as is often the case, we tend to read Scripture out of context. A more careful study shows that he is referring to his former self, i.e., the "old Paul" rather than the new one.  And that may be why he tends to refer to the readers of his letters as "saints" to remind them of who they are, and who they have been called to be.  And that is an important distinction.
     "Saint" is both a description and a calling of the Christian. This is made very clear in Paul's letter to the Corinthians: "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified (set apart, made holy) in Christ Jesus, who are selected and called as saints (God’s people), together with all those who in every place call on and honor the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours...".
     To be a sinner is to be separated from God, with no relationship.  But Scripture tells us in Ephesians 2,  that "through Him we have a [direct] way of approach in one Spirit to the Father".  When we are reborn we enter into a new relationship with our Creator, and we are"fellow citizens with the saints (God’s people), and are [members] of God’s household".  We now identify as a saint!
     But what about the times we hurt others with our sins?  How can we possibly think of ourselves as a saint then?  That is where repentance comes in.  With this act of confession and asking God for forgiveness, we show a new nature that is in relationship with God; a new nature that is growing towards the image of Christ -- and which definitely is not the nature of a sinner.
     So, after all this discussion, and back and forth, how do you view yourself?  Are you a saved sinner, or a sinning saint?  I will tell you how I have determined this question for myself... I know I am a Christian who is growing in holiness, while still struggling with sin in my life.  But that is the old nature that is still trying to control me.  I KNOW I am a new creation.  I KNOW I have been called to a special purpose and called to be holy because God is holy.  And I know Jesus is the ultimate picture of saint.  I also know that when we are saved, we are identified with Christ by grace through faith.  And I believe that my faith in Christ radically changes not only my identity and my walk, but how God sees me.  He no longer sees a broken vessel, but a renewed and restored receptacle of His grace and mercy.  How can that be labeled a sinner?  From now on, I will only answer to the name Saint. So, I ask my original question to you ... Are you a sinner or a saint?

 1 Corinthians 6:11   And such were some of you [before you believed]. But you were washed [by the atoning sacrifice of Christ], you were sanctified [set apart for God, and made holy], you were justified [declared free of guilt] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God [the source of the believer’s new life and changed behavior]. 

November 7, 2017

Triumph and Tragedy

     I write this post today from a position of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, as well as with a heart that is deeply saddened.  We had just ended our four-day retreat for Christian female military veterans and were having an assessment meeting when we got the news of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.  It is difficult to express the sense that the intense victories we had experienced over the Enemy this weekend were tarnished for just a moment by this profound evil.
     You see, that little church is only about 45 minutes from where I live, and Mark and I have visited that church to hear a friend preach. This was too close to home and personal. But it only took a moment for us in Leadership to declare that Evil will never overcome the Light... the Light of Jesus will continue to shine even during the darkest of times.  And I do not want this tragedy to overshadow the life-giving work done by our Savior at the retreat.  So, let me share those thoughts, and I will make a final comment on the tragedy at the end of this post.
     It was such a blessing to have been invited to this retreat, and from the beginning, the devil tried to interfere. Several of the female veterans tried to cancel at the last minute, but with encouragement on our part, and courage on theirs, they took a leap of faith and boarded those planes, coming from California, Arizona, Washington D.C., and North Carolina.  There were some disappointments ... one Seeker had car trouble and missed her flight and decided to return to her home.  We pray that God will arrange another opportunity.  And at first, we fought disillusionment that the number of women we were expecting dropped off by half, to where we only had six women show up. But God knew what He was doing!
     That small number of Seekers allowed us to create an intimate atmosphere in which we were able to minister to them in a more personal and individual way.  Add to this situation the fact that many of the women on the Leadership team (which included female vets, along with four of us who were civilians) were first-time participants in a Christian Warriors Retreat event. It allowed us to weather the storms of a first-time retreat without sacrificing what we wanted to accomplish. In the end, the opportunity to spend 4 days encountering Jesus was a journey for each one of us.
    And as with any first-time event, there were rough patches, but we had the advantage of learning from the nine male veteran retreats that preceded ours.  At first, we fought schedule interruptions, but decided that everything would be on God's timing and under the Holy Spirit's direction. Once we let go of that concern, we were ready to see what God had in store for these women.
     I do not want to betray any confidences, but I will tell you that, as expected, it was a spiritual battle from beginning to end.  The devil tried to throw personality conflicts at us; spirits of rebellion and pride and divisiveness; and an occasional physical trauma.  But we knew our authority and the power of our Lord to overcome any opposition from our spiritual enemies. Every time we were confronted with an obstacle, we fought back by praying against the spirits, praying for God's will to be done in a particular situation, and laying on of hands to correct sudden and severe back pain, bodies that were out of alignment, and lengthening legs where one was shorter than the other.  We were not going to give up ground when Jesus wanted to set these women free!
     And how precious these women were!  Each one had her own particular beauty and strengths. But also, you could see the battle going on inside them.  At the risk of being politically incorrect -- and in no way, is it my intention to insult or condemn the brave service of these women to our country -- but I cannot imagine how women go to war and DO NOT come home with some sort of trauma, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  And some of these women are married to men who are, or were, in the military, too.  So add that combustible element to the mix, and you could see the pain in their eyes.
     But Jesus wanted them free!  Slowly, hour by hour, and day by day, we saw them begin to let down their guard as they trusted us.  The female vets who were on the Leadership Team shared their testimonies, pointing the way to each woman's significance in the Kingdom; the absolute need to forgive; the importance of prayer and how to pray; what Christian action and Discipleship looks like; how we can identify with the Prodigal son; the value of perseverance; and then left them with a Battle Plan to keep the freedom they received during the retreat.
     And let me tell you ... when you hear the life stories of the Leadership, which encompassed abusive husbands, rape, abortion, molestation, promiscuity, adultery, alcoholism, etc., it broke your heart to know that your Sisters in Christ had endured such pain in their lives.  But, oh the redemption! They shared how Jesus freed them from shame, guilt, blame, unforgiveness, feeling lost and without hope, and then set them upon a journey to grow into the clean, purified, blameless, and strong women that stood before us.  Let's just say, a lot of kleenex was handed out during those four days.
     But these veteran Leaders spoke Truth and Hope into the lives of the younger veterans.  They declared that they were washed clean by the power of Jesus's blood and they had new identities and new names ... a child of God; the daughter of the King; and the Bride of Christ.  Slowly, we saw eyes begin to shine, heads held higher, and they began seeing Jesus as the solution to their trauma and their issues. We watched them begin to open up, and through their Leader's testimonies they received evidence that it is ALWAYS Jesus's desire to redeem lives... but you have to seek Him, confess the sins in your life, ask for His forgiveness, and then receive the overflowing abundance of His love and the freedom He offers.
     Women who had arrived with wariness and distrust left with confidence that their demons (both literal and figurative) had been defeated. There were late nights filled with hearing their stories, and afternoons spent in the presence of the Lord, as all those painful wounds were healed. As part of Leadership, I got about 4 hours of sleep each night, as we prayed for the Holy Spirit to reveal the blockage in their spirits, and discussed how to partner with Jesus to see them set free. And always ... always .... the answer was to point them to Jesus to receive their answers and strategy. In the end, with each of those six Seekers, and several of the Leadership team, there was a relationship with Jesus that had been forged through tears, confession, and surrender.  Spirits were lighter and hearts were cleansed.
     To seal everyone's new identity, we were blessed with a special dinner on the last night.  It was kept secret until we entered the dining hall, which had been transformed into a wedding feast.  White linen, china settings, pearls and flowers.  We were Brides!  We were seated and served by the men who served as our retreat "angels" (who spent the entire four days praying for us, interceding for us, and showing us into the presence of Jesus in the "Bridal tent"). We saw ourselves worthy of the King and to be called His Bride.  Oh, how I wish I could describe the radiant looks on their faces as they walked into that beautiful wedding feast.  Words fail me, but it is a memory that will never fade.
     The final day, we had a closing ceremony and the local community came to celebrate with our Seekers.  They were invited to come and answer two questions before the public ... What did you get out of this retreat?  And what are you going to do with it?  Leadership sat there holding their breath.  Were our efforts to encourage a relationship with Jesus enough to make a difference in their lives?  Would anyone feel their experience was so transforming that they wanted to share it with the people in attendance?  And finally, would they keep Jesus to themselves or share Him when they returned home?
     Imagine our surprise when two of the quietest and most shy of the six got up to declare that Jesus had set them free and they were going to go back home and encourage other female vets to come to this retreat. There were tears from the podium, in the audience, and from the Leadership team. Thank you, Jesus! We had grown to love these women and now we were sending them out into the world to resume their lives, and all we could do is pray they keep their freedom.  We had done the best we could to point them to Jesus; we had overcome Satan's fiery darts; and now the inaugural female veteran retreat was over.  The Enemy was defeated!

     That sense of victory was literally maybe 15 minutes old, when we started getting the text messages about Sutherland Springs.  What we initially felt was a safe place was now a target.  i remembered my husband asking me if I was going to take my handgun with me (I am licensed to carry, and highly trained).  I said, "I'm going to a retreat for Christian female veterans at a secluded retreat center. I'll be fine".  I felt there was no threat... until there was.  We would have been a perfect target.  The Director of the retreat and I drove three of the Seekers to Houston to the airport -- a seven hour round trip -- in a church van, and I can tell you, we felt vulnerable.
     But it didn't take me long to declare this attack is because the devil is getting scared.  He sees small pockets of the Remnant becoming stronger in our ability to fight in this spiritual battle, and he must ramp up his opposition.  He is fighting back because we are winning!  This retreat was about bringing the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the forefront of these women's lives, but it was equally a testament to fighting in the spirit, applying the blood of Jesus to strongholds and powers of darkness, and developing spiritual battle plans to overcome the Enemy and take back spiritual territory.
     As extremely sad as the Sutherland Springs tragedy is, we can rejoice that God knew that very morning that those 26 spirits would be returning home.  He has known since the foundation of time.  We can rejoice that Satan and all his demons know they are going to lose this battle!  They see us rising up in spiritual warfare, and they know we are gaining valuable revelation from Heaven as to how to fight in the spiritual realms.  He is angry because we are winning and we are not going to stop!
     So, I ask you to pray for continued revelation; that more people will join us in spiritual warfare; and that the Heavenly host will come down to protect us from any more of these tragic displays of evil.  Bless the spirits of those killed, and the families who must now arrange for 26 funerals.  Father God, give us the strength to mount up for battle, while remaining in Your mercy and grace.  We are ready to follow you into battle, Jehovah Nissi! We know the battle is Yours, and we are neither afraid nor dismayed. We know that You will deliver our enemies into our hands.  Praise You!

2 Corinthians 4:8-9      We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 

November 4, 2017

God Is Changing Names, Identities, and Assignments

     I am writing this blog post on Wednesday night, on the eve of attending the first ever female military veteran Christian Warriors Retreat. In keeping with the mighty power of our God, I pray that as you are reading this, He is doing great things among the 14 women military veterans that I have the privilege of spending this weekend with.  I'm not able to tell you at this moment what, if any, new revelations they will be receiving from this retreat.  But I can tell you that as you are reading this early Saturday morning, they will have heard some of the most moving testimonies I have ever witnessed; declarations of Jesus's mercy in the lives of my fellow Sisters in Christ who share that military background with our Seekers.
     If the transformation in my Sisters' lives is any indication, the Seekers will be shedding their old identities with which the Enemy has labeled them, and receiving new names as they are restored to who God made them to be.  I expect to see new looks in their eyes, and new enthusiasm in their walks. I want them to see the lies they've been believing about who they are.  I hope to be able to say to them, "Stop calling yourself _____, and ask God, 'What do You call me' "? And then I want them to hear His answer ... "I call you blessed, prosperous, healed, whole, friend, beautiful, and Daughter.  I call you my beloved Child". I want them to see themselves as God and Jesus see them, and I want them to hear the Holy Spirit call them by their new names.  And I definitely want them to renounce the names the Accuser has been calling them.
     The other day, I listened to an inspiring podcast by Jennifer LeClaire, the news editor of Charisma Magazine. With a testimony of God's power to turn ashes into beauty, she shares her amazing story with women who need to understand the love and grace of God in a lost and dying world. And from my own life, and the lives that these female veterans have experienced, I know that message can be life-saving. But I also found it most interesting that Ms. LeClaire states she has received revelations from the Lord that we Believers are about to enter a season where we will receive new names, new identities, and new assignments.  That is exactly what I want to speak over our retreat Seekers!
     You see, I believe when God reveals our new names to us through the healing power of Jesus, it is often to let us know we are destined for a new mission in life.  It lets us know we are part of a Divine Plan and that God intends to fulfill His plan through us.  The perfect example is the father of our faith... God changed Abram's  name ("high father") to Abraham, "father of a multitude" (Genesis 17:5); and his wife's name from Sarai, “my princess,” to Sarah, “mother of nations” (Genesis 17:15–16).  Both name changes portray how God planned to use them.  Their names indicated their new identities and their new assignments as God began His plan to establish His Kingdom on earth.
     But what happens to people when they don't know their identity in Christ?  When life's experiences tell us we are a failure; or that others see us as someone to be used and discarded?  When our identity is defined by what others tell us about ourselves (including the devil), then the very foundation of our life can be shaky and unstable.  So think about the identities these female military veterans are carrying.  I'm sure I don't have to spell out the challenges of women co-existing in a warrior atmosphere. What would it be like for them to have an identity formed knowing they are someone whom God loves deeply and fiercely? How would that change the way they think of themselves and live their lives? What if they could see themselves as Ephesians 1 describes them ... "blessed with every spiritual blessing; holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight". What if they could take off those identities that have them wearing -- the "filthy rags" determined by what they've done, or had done to them, and put on a beautiful clean identity of having been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, grace-lavished, and unconditionally loved and accepted. Just think of what it would be like for them to see themselves as pure, blameless and forgiven!
     Then they would be free to walk in the new assignment, and receive the resources, the time, and the anointing (blessing, protection, and empowerment) to carry out their new mission.  Think of the excitement and expectation this would bring to their lives! But let's not limit this new season to just my retreat Seekers. Are you ready for a name change? A new identity and a new assignment? Who among us would not be excited to think God looks at us as worthy of a new identity and deserving of a new calling to serve Him?
     So, while I am looking forward to telling you of the radical changes that will take place in the atmosphere of our retreat, and in the lives of our female veterans, I want to tell you that just like Jennifer LeClaire, I am discerning that God is about to give us all new and more powerful names as we accept our new identities and assignments in the rapidly approaching fulfillment of His Kingdom. I just can't wait for each of us to receive that "white stone with a new name engraved on the stone which no one knows except the one who receives it." (Revelation 2:17).  Some theologians explain that white stones were sometimes used as tickets of admission to public assemblies. Here the white stone may symbolize admission to the Messiah’s banquet. That, to me, is a picture of the Bride!  And that's an identity and assignment that none of us will want to turn down!

Isaiah 62:2   "The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give".

November 1, 2017

An Invitation To Our Military Veterans

     Although Veteran's Day is still more than a week away, it is never too early to be focusing on honoring our nation's Military veterans.  Also, I have a very unique opportunity this coming weekend to serve as Assistant Spiritual Director for a Christian retreat for retired female military veterans.  I will be serving as a part of a team under the auspices of an organization called Christian Warriors Retreat. And I want to call attention to the need for our military to accept an invitation from Jesus to lay their burdens down.
     CWR is the brainchild of Nick "Doc" Lowry, the son of a career Navy man and a Vietnam era Marine grandfather. Not surprisingly, Doc grew up with a passion for the military and became a Marine corpsman. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003, and to Fallujah in 2004 during Operation Phantom Fury.  Like many military veterans, Doc came home with a lack of trust and the inability to relate to civilian life, which resulted in bouts of alcoholism.  It cost him two marriages; he couldn't keep a job, and his diagnosis of PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Disorder) left him feeling he had no hope.
     Long story short, Doc reunited with his best friend in high school, Nikki, who introduced him to Jesus, they married, and in 2008, he gave his life to Christ.  He has rededicated his life to helping other vets heal through a personal relationship with Jesus. That's where the Christian Warriors Retreat comes in.
     Through the 4-day retreat experience and discipleship, CWR initiates and sustains three levels of success for veterans:  They will understand their value in Christ; they will heal and improve vital relationships; and most importantly, they will find God's mission for which they were created.
     What an important mission for our veterans!  As the proud daughter of a WWII Navy veteran, my dad never discussed his experiences as a tailgunner over the Pacific.  But after having the honor of being on the Board of Directors of the Chris Kyle Memorial Foundation, and serving wounded warriors and their families at the Fisher Houses at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, I have seen the devastation to the flesh and spirits of our military veterans.
Doc Lowry
     Doc Lowry also knows firsthand the sacrifice made by his Veteran community.  And he is doing something about starting the healing process by working with Jesus.  But, the average civilian is unaware of some of the startling statistics that surround the veterans.  Let me share just a few of them with you:  Every 65 minutes, a military veteran commits suicide; 22 military veterans commit suicide every day; 31 of these suicides were veterans aged 49 and younger; Every month nearly 1,000 veterans attempt to take their own lives; That's more than one attempt every half hour; About 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives; The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 10% -- this is higher than the national rate of 7.3%; More than 2 million American children have coped with a parent going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; As many as one half million of those children may have become clinically depressed; The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed signs of substance abuse disorder; The divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
      Heard enough facts? Can you see the devil's tactics of "steal, kill, and destroy"? War should not be the natural state of man, if we are made in God's image.  So you can see where all this damage to our veterans is coming from, right?  They may have come home from some battlefield on earth, but there is a spiritual battle going on for their souls.  (I have written several articles on the spiritual war our veterans face, but this one seems particularly fitting considering my subject today).
     With Veteran's Day in another week and a half, I just wanted to put a spotlight on this organization who is trying to help our veterans by focusing on the healing powers of Jesus in their lives.  What a breath of fresh air from government-sponsored programs that do nothing about healing the inner wounds of our servicemen and women.  Only Jesus can do that! And I am anxious to see the new movie, Thank You For Your Service, in which the director, Jason Hall, likens it to a "spiritual sequel to American Sniper", saying, "[It's about] the return home of the warrior -- it's about home coming. It's about the return to self. And the warriors blessed with all the masculine gifts of heroism. And then the warrior has to turn inside. It's finding a way back into the light and that's what this movie is about".  Of course, we and Doc Lowry know how imperative it is that our warriors find their way into the Light of Jesus.  Through His Light they will be restored to a new life in Him. 
     And I am excited about being a part of the very first Female Veterans Retreat.  I think that oftentimes they are overlooked and no one is seeing to their healing.  But I am blessed to be a part of an amazing group of women leaders who will be ministering to these female veterans as they are restored and renewed through our support, and the unconditional love of Jesus.  So, I ask for your prayers beginning tomorrow and through Sunday, when we will see the results of this retreat.  Our goal is to let them meet Jesus and receive His forgiveness, His love, and the cleansing power of His Blood.  They may be arriving as spiritually wounded female veterans, but they will be leaving as healed and renewed Daughters of the King! 
     Give me a couple of days after returning home on Sunday to process all that Jesus will have done in the lives of these remarkable women, and then I will write about the experience. Also, if you make any comments, I won't be responding to them until Sunday night, but I will post them and give you my follow-up comments. I just want to leave you with this ... The very thought of how Jesus will revive the spirits of these women, heal their broken hearts, and redeem their souls fills me with such joy and anticipation!  Praise Him, all who love Him!

This Veteran's Day, let us renew our commitment to our veterans and pledge our efforts to begin a spiritual revival within their ranks.  Please check out www.christianwarriorsretreat and support this important effort to bring spiritual healing to the veterans of our nation. Consider sponsoring a veteran to attend the next retreat. Thank you!  
John 8:12    Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”       

October 29, 2017

Our Relationship With The Holy Spirit

     I've been thinking a lot about this subject for quite awhile now; not only my own personal relationship, but the Church's relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Personally, there has been this deep-down realization that something was missing. I prayed to God and Jesus; talked to them throughout the day; in and out of crisis situations.  I praised Them and tried my best to express my worship of Them in a manner that pleased Them and glorified Them.  And I remember the day that the Holy Spirit whispered, "What about me?"
     That began a journey to seek more of the Holy Spirit, including the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And I know that is a difficult conversation to have with many Christians, because so many denominations don't teach that it is different than the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  But that is a discussion for another day -- a necessary discussion, and I promise to come back to it in a future post.
     I just want to share the hunger that began to grow in me for that most personal of relationships; with the One who resides in my heart and communes with my spirit, and instructs me according to what the Father and the Son desire for and of me.  How could I have ignored Him and turned a deaf ear to Him for so long? And how many of my fellow Christians have done [or are doing] the same thing?
     Let me tell you what I think has been going on in the Western Church... This is just my opinion, mind you, but I would like to share what I have experienced and have seen in the Church.  For those in my close community who only know me as someone who appears to be "anti-Church", and who has endured public battles with Church leadership, and who no longer attends services every Sunday like a good Christian should, I want you to know this:  For over 20 years, Mark and I were loyal members of a church; attending every Sunday (even driving 2 hours each way when we moved to a new home); members of a Sunday School class; and attending church functions, tithing, and serving when called upon.  In fact, we are still close with that Church "family".
     But sometime around 2010, God began working on us.  We no longer felt "fed" by the messages we were receiving from the pulpit of our long-time church.  And, in fact, the questions that we had as we began to dig deeper for God's message in His Word could not be answered by leadership, or in some cases, we were discouraged from even asking them.  It was as if our own relationship with our Creator had to match with church doctrine or we were in error.  In essence, "The Church" became God, and the pastor replaced the Holy Spirit in instructing us what was true and what was not.  We realized something was very wrong.
     If we wanted to explore any deeper truths, we had to make sure we kept the system happy, and keeping the system happy means you follow their rules.  But as we read our Bibles and the way Jesus instructed His disciples to do "greater works than even He did", we were not supposed to be doing the same thing over and over [inside the building].  The system had become a machine that was stuck in one gear.
     We took to heart this admonition from Jesus in John 15:8 ... My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples. Did you get that? It's all about bearing fruit for the Father's Kingdom on earth!  Getting a pat on the back from church leaders or the members of your Sunday School class is not enough! They're not so impressed in Heaven with all the money or time you give to the church.  They don't really care how well you preach or sing every Sunday.  But, if your money, time, and talent produces disciples who glorify God and who go out and make more disciples who glorify God ... now, that's something that will have all Heaven applauding!
     So, like many of you, when we realized that we weren't meeting the criteria of a true disciple of Jesus, we knew we needed to make a change.  Do we go to a different church? Start a Home Church? Or do no church at all, and just go out and do what the early Disciples did?  We realized that we believe in the Holy Spirit, but we weren't really letting Him do anything in our lives.  We had relegated Him to the sidelines as we tried to re-establish our tepid relationships with the Father and the Son.
     But here's the danger in ignoring our relationship with the Holy Spirit... We are supposed to lead Spirit-led lives! And the only way to be led by the Spirit is to be filled with Him. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and [constantly] guided by Him.  When we are actually "filled" with the Holy Spirit, He becomes the controlling influence in every aspect of our life, and He leads us into the righteousness of Jesus and living a truly holy life.
     How many of us can say we have reached that venerated state?  How do you know if you are led by the Spirit?  By "the fruit" that is evident in your life, which Galatians 5:22-23 says are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." I can tell you that by that standard, I need to keep asking for the Holy Spirit to fill me up!  And, please, do not perceive these particular verses in Scripture as some nice, warm and fuzzy words to make yourself feel good about being a Christian.  Jesus said it glorifies the Father when we bear this fruit, and the evidence of this fruit in our lives is what makes us a true Disciple!  It is not about our church attendance, or the success of our Home Church, or our head knowledge of Biblical concepts -- if we are not bearing fruit by the actions of our faith and being led by the Holy Spirit, then none of the rest matters!  We are not glorifying our Father! We are just patting ourselves on the back and having no effect in this world.
I urge you to start conversing with the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him to circumcise your heart with Holy fire.  Ask Him to fill you up with His counsel and His wisdom.  Tell Him you want to bear more fruit from your relationship with Him. Tell Him you want Him to be in control of your life and you want Him to lead from now on. Lately, I have stopped asking God so much for direction, and have begun seeking the Holy Spirit's advice and counsel. After all, He is Jesus's replacement while we are here on earth, and just like the Holy Spirit did for Jesus, the man, He will instruct us in all the Father says to say and do. He is our direct line to the Kingdom of God in Heaven, so why would we not tune in to His every whisper?
     In summary, I want you to consider a revelation my wise husband received regarding the world's relationship with our Creator... in the Old Testament, the world focused on God and ignored the Son. Now, as we live out the New Testament covenant, we seem to have embraced the Son, but are ignoring the Holy Spirit... and we are paying the consequences. We must recognize our need for all three, and embrace the fullness of the Godhead.  Don't waste another day before asking for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
     And I can hear you now [because I had the same question] ... How do I get the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  All I can tell you is to ask for Him ... and keep on asking until you get what you earnestly desire.  I can't tell you why some are filled to capacity with the Spirit almost immediately upon conversion, and why some spend years of asking until they are fully empowered by the Holy Spirit.
     I daresay that the lack of Holy Spirit power in our churches has resulted in an impotent body of saints.  I submit to you that through the centuries, "the Church" has not remained faithful to the sacred trust imparted to her at Pentecost. The Apostles and the new disciples walked in a measure of power that I do not see in this church Age.  We MUST begin to fan the fire of the Holy Spirit within us and keep it fueled with our obedience and desire to bear fruit for the Kingdom.  Let us not be content to be "lukewarm" any longer.  I want ALL that the Holy Spirit offers.  I give Him control of my spirit and my life. Holy Spirit, fill me up!

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


October 26, 2017

Down, But Not Out

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

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



October 23, 2017

Immanuel: "God With Us"

     This weekend Mark and I hosted a mini-conference in which Barbara Bucklin, of Luke 4:18 Ministries, came to speak to a small group of about 30 Christians.  Her focus in the morning session was to educate them regarding Freemasonry and its nefariousness, with all the connotations that word evokes: wicked, evil, sinful, iniquitous, egregious, heinous, atrocious, vile, foul, abominable, odious, depraved, monstrous, fiendish, diabolical, unspeakable, despicable; villainous.  But that is not the focus of this blog post today. (If you disagree or wonder what all the fuss is about over Freemasonry, I urge you to click on these links and read my extensive posts on the subject, here, here, and here).
     But today, I actually want to focus on what the afternoon session of our conference was about.  First, I need to tell you that this congregation of 30 souls covered a wide spectrum of Believers.  Many are struggling to come to terms with their faith because their theology is being rocked by the precepts we have introduced.  These include the Gospel of the Kingdom vs. the Gospel of Salvation; introspection of their religious "sacred cows" and Church doctrine; following man-made traditions and rituals vs. following God's commandments in the Bible; and just what the Great Commission is really commanding us to do.
     Others in this group are cautiously dipping their toe in the water to see how the concepts of Deliverance, Spiritual Warfare, and True Discipleship will affect them in the natural realm.  And still others have whole-heartedly accepted Jesus's invitation to partner with Him and the Holy Spirit in taking back territory from the Enemy and setting the captives free.  But ALL of them were about to get a glimpse of Immanuel!
     I'm sure everyone reading this blog is familiar with the story in Matthew where the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph by an angel who told him that a son would be born who would be called Immanuel - God with us.  That is the only place I am aware of in the New Testament that "Immanuel" is mentioned.  And while, we Christians in the Western World think Matthew 1:23 is announcing Jesus's name, the purpose of this Scripture is to actually show us that the Lord has been gracious and faithful to send the sign that the prophet Isaiah had foretold in the Old Testament.
     If you will recall in Isaiah, Chapter 7, the ruler of Judah, King Ahaz, was facing a formidable battle against the king of Aram (Syria) and the king of Israel, who had become evil allies in their attempt to capture Jerusalem and defeat Judah. The Lord instructs Isaiah to deliver a message to King Ahaz: "Take care and be calm, do not fear and be weak-hearted because their threats will not stand nor shall it happen ...  [But], if you will not believe [and trust in God and His message], be assured that you will not be established."
     Then the Lord speaks to King Ahaz and tells him to ask for any sign he wants; "[one that will convince you that God has spoken and will keep His word]; make your request as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven".  But King Ahaz is afraid to ask, and fears testing the Lord.  So, Isaiah, the prophet, steps in and scolds Ahaz for trying his patience, as well as the patience of God. So God has Isaiah relate the sign that He, Himself, will give ... that His promise to deliver His people can be relied upon; that He will be faithful to deliver Judah out of the hands of the enemy, and the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us). 
     The first thing we need to see is that Immanuel is not merely a name for the baby, Jesus, but is the fulfillment of what God has promised through His prophets ... not only that He will deliver us from the Enemy, but that He will be with us [forever].  And in the literal sense, God certainly was with us on the earth, in the human man, Jesus.  He now remains with us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus's representative.
     What does this have to do with our conference this past weekend?  I saw this varied body of Believers come into the realization that God can truly be with them!  I think our Western minds and culture have nearly erased our ability to fully comprehend this reality in our spirits.  But here is how these Believers were able to connect to the Truth of Immanuel ... Barb led them in an exercise that I am going to share with you.  I want you to grab a sheet of paper and a pen and just get off to a quiet place by yourselves and partake in the presence of the Lord.  Let's get started.
     The goal of this exercise is to start developing a communication with God; one where you speak to Him and you hear His voice; one where you experience the reality of Immanuel (God is with you).
     Step One:  Gratitude.  Write about something for which you are grateful.  You might start by writing, Dear God, I am grateful for .... Now, sit for a moment and tune in to your spirit, and listen for God's response to your gratitude.  Hear what He has to say about what you're grateful for. Write it down.
     Step Two:  He can see me.  Write from God's perspective -- what is He telling you about what He observes in you right now?  It might be the physical sensations He sees you feeling, or where you are located.  Example:  I see you curled up on the couch, pen in hand, and your shoulders are tense.
     Step Three:  He hears me.  Write what God is telling you He hears you saying to yourself.  Example: You are worried that you won't hear from Him, or that you're struggling to hear Him over the noise of all the things you have buzzing around in your head, OR, it could be that you want more of Him and the Holy Spirit.
     Step Four: He understands how big this is for me.  How does God see your dreams, your blessings, the troubles in your life? Write what He is telling you about those events, and your efforts to communicate with Him in all areas of your life.  Example:  [God speaking] I want you to know that I care about what matters to you and what you are facing in life.  I understand why this exercise might be difficult or intimidating to you, but your desire to honor Me brings Me great pleasure... OR, I know this situation [whatever it might be] is feeling overwhelming and all-consuming, as if you are about to sink, but I know what you desire, and it is My desire to give it to you.  Sit quietly for a moment, and listen to what He is telling you about your life circumstances and write it down.
     Step Five:  He is glad to be with me and treat my weaknesses tenderly.  Listen for God's voice and write down what He is telling you about His desires to participate in your life; how He wants to be a part of every area of your life. Example:  I delight in seeing your growth, and I will lovingly correct the areas that need work, so that you come into full relationship with me.
     Step Six:  He can do something about what I'm going through.  Listen for God to tell you how He will help you navigate the situations you are facing.  Example: I will strengthen you in those times you feel week. Just turn to me for rest and refreshing, OR, I give you My peace of knowing you are growing into My image.  I give you patience to enjoy (find joy) in the process.
     The whole point of this exercise is to learn to interact with Immanuel (God with us) in a way that you are in His presence constantly.  This exercise is a meaningful way to renew our minds and hearts to hear the voice of God during the painful experiences of this life.  When we can appreciate God's presence [and hear His voice] in the moments we focus on what we're grateful for, we can then learn to hear His voice in those painful circumstances, and learn not to be stuck in the negativeness of our own voice. We can learn to stay seated at the top of the hill, [in His presence], and not at the bottom of the hill, [in our own head].
     By experiencing Immanuel, we can learn to ask questions of God and actually hear His solutions!  If there are painful memories that need cleansed and purged, the presence of God/Jesus will take the lead and clear a path for you to make the decisions and choices you need to make, or actions you need to take.  The important thing is to learn to interact with God and seek His voice.
     I will tell you that I saw breakthroughs among those 30 precious people who stepped outside of their comfort zones to attend this conference.  Yes, there were those who totally disengaged and shut down, not even attempting to allow God to be with them.  But there were those who were willing to seek Him and experience His presence.  They heard His voice, perhaps for the first time, and it was not unlike this precious deaf baby hearing her mother's voice for the first time. Watch the emotion on her face when she hears those words we all long to hear from the Father, "I love you".
     The conference attendees left that meeting place at the end of the day; some with tears, some with smiles on their faces, and some with a lighter step than when they entered. Seeds were planted that I know the Holy Spirit will water! God was with us, and Immanuel is what He wants to experience with you, too.  It is the intimacy that all mankind desires. Just take that first step, and He will answer. Both He and I promise you that!

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