A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


August 24, 2016

A Time To Reflect; A Time to Revive and Restore

     It slipped right past me.  I'm not much for celebrating milestones, and Lord knows, I don't need or seek accolades for myself.  But today I have occasion to be greatly humbled.  Since I began this blog nearly five years ago, over 1 million people have taken the time to consider what I have to say.  That totally blows me away!  Considering that I am not at the same place that I started -- in my thoughts, my goals, or my faith -- I find it astounding that so many have taken this journey with me.
     Perhaps you began where I did.  In December of 2011, I was three years into realizing that profound changes were coming upon my country.  At the same time that my conscience was telling me that our society and culture and national experience were deteriorating, my spirit was telling me that I would not find the answers or solutions I needed in this world.  I was hearing "PREPARE" in the recesses of my mind and my soul, and after seeking the Lord on the matter, my spirit validated the message.  So I began a two-fold approach to dealing with whatever was coming our way.  I joined the ranks of people known as "preppers", and learned new sustainable skills and tried to become as independent of the "system" as I could.  But I had a second component; one that ultimately taught me the true path I needed to be on.  I added the Bible as the primary element of my readiness plan, and soon realized that I needed to prepare for more than what this world was going to throw at me.  Yes, there were enemies, foreign and domestic, that I needed to be aware of; but there were spiritual enemies, as well -- and these adversaries would, in the end, influence everything and everyone I might need to face in the future.  But I also learned that I could face this uncertain and frightening future because there was a greater purpose to my life than my personal safety and security.
     I was to speak out loudly and forcibly about what my Lord wished to do with those who believed in Him.  There is work to be done in preparation for His return, and it involves each and every one of us getting ourselves in fighting shape for the battle to come.  That doesn't mean that we abandon His message of love and tolerance and salvation and caring for others.  That message has been well covered by the Church.  But it is absolutely necessary that we go beyond those themes and minister to the spiritual needs of His people; ready them for the troubles and sorrows and suffering that He warned would come before His return.  That assignment has woefully been ignored by the Church.
     So, now you find people like me, whom the Church sees as misfits, mavericks, or nonconformists trying desperately to share what the Holy Spirit is urging us to communicate.  You can believe that our spirits are truly being pricked by the Spirit ... or not ... but if we are right -- can you afford to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye?  Our Lord, Himself, said, "Do you have eyes, and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear?"  I'm just saying'...
     So, now I find myself not only reflecting on where I started, but where I need to go!  So I want to give a quick synopsis of my understanding of this world and begin to develop the next phase of this journey upon which God is taking me (us).  I feel it's time to stop and get our ducks in a row; revive the mission of all Believers and restore the apostolic characteristics of our commission.  So, here's the way I see it...
     From the beginning of the Bible, it is established that spirits play an important part in this world.  God is Spirit, and we are made in His image.  In fact, we are embodied spirits; spirit beings housed in human bodies.  There are disembodied spirits called demons, who are Satan's agents and representatives on earth.  They are spirits seeking human bodies to use to control the world, spread sin and establish the Kingdom of Darkness. They use human bodies to perform the work assigned to them, and to carry out Satan's instructions. Their sole purpose is to carry out Satan's will, which puts them in total opposition to the Believers in Christ.  They follow Satan's instructions by trying to destroy mankind through every imaginable natural or supernatural device. All violence, anger, hate, horror, war, death, and destructive influences against man can be attributed to demonic influence, and it all comes from Satan.
     At this point, I need to reiterate something I believe very strongly ... Christians cannot be possessed by a demon, but they can be oppressed.  When a person receives Christ as their Savior, the human spirit is regenerated and the Holy Spirit lives there, so nothing else can take possession of our spirit.  Christians can, however, have demons that attack their minds, their emotions, their free will, and their bodies -- that is called demonic oppression. So, how does that work, exactly?
     It is my opinion that just because a person experiences salvation (which I also believe is the starting point of our journey towards eternal life), it doesn't mean that he is no longer without sin.  There is only one man who has walked the earth that was without sin.  But, as our Master has told us, we can confess our sin, repent of it, and ask forgiveness, and we greatly reduce the effects of innate sin upon our lives.  But here's the thing ... sin is what Satan thrives on!  And our particular sins -- or those perpetrated against us! -- are what makes us vulnerable to the assignments the devil gives his demons when they attack us.
     I want to make it clear that not all our sin is demon-driven.  Our free will can open us up to the temptations that satan offers.  Pride, Self-interest and Unbelief are just a few of the sins with which he can manipulate us.  But once he knows we are vulnerable in that area, he can assign a spirit to us and keep us in perpetual conflict between our faith and our sin.  Discernment is required to determine the root cause of all our sin.  Is it our own free will, demonic, the result of someone else's sin carried out against us ... or a combination?
      Deliverance Ministry can help you determine the root cause and allow a Christian to connect his spirit with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, in order for the cleansing and healing to be accomplished.  BUT, I want to stress that sin must be confessed and repented of, and forgiveness is essential!  Yes, Jesus wants to set you free, but He wants us to approach Him with an honest, truthful, and sincere spirit.  It is essential that we take responsibility for our sins, and forgive others, as we desire to be forgiven.  
     So, how is it that so many Christians today seem to be miserable in their state of salvation?  Why do we see so many Christians experiencing physical illnesses characterized by multiple and conflicting diagnoses; weird personality disorders that never leave; odd nightmares; repetitive bad dreams;  depression; chronic addictions (food, drugs, porn, medications, gambling, sex, etc.); uncontrolled periods of rage; lust and cursing; chronic dysfunctional families; arrogance and pride; phobias and illogical stress conditions; spiritual apathy; chronic broken relationships; and frequent unemployment, and perhaps the biggest problem of all ...  SO MUCH FEAR? 
     This is not what Jesus died for!  He sacrificed Himself so that we would not die in our sin(s).  Yet, far too many Christians live under the oppressions I listed above.  No wonder the secular world has no interest in our message!  They don't see us authentically living what we preach!  They aren't being drawn to us, even though the Bible says when we walk with God, "through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere".  The sad truth is that the Church offers neither fragrance nor fascination to the world.  In fact, our aroma is either non-existence or unpleasant.
     So Who is the fragrance that spreads through us and the Church?  Who dwells in us, seals us, works truth in us, testifies about Jesus, and helps us to produce "fruit"?  It is the Holy Spirit, and I oftentimes wonder if He hasn't left the Church building.  Have we traded the Holy Ghost for theology; exchanged His power for powerless academic teaching; reduced His Authority in favor of attracting "the world" with more tolerant standards?
     As I am studying the Book of Acts and the New Testament Church, I am seeing the presence and the influence of the Holy Spirit everywhere!  I see Him supernaturally changing the hearts of the Twelve Apostles and 3,000 new believers.  I see Him supernaturally effecting the preaching of Peter and Stephen.  I see Him influencing Philip, the Evangelist, and the hearts of Simon, the Sorcerer, and the Ethiopian eunuch... and all in the first eight chapters!  Ultimately, I see the POWER and AUTHORITY of Him on display for all to see ... and nowhere more powerfully than in the life of Paul!  He is evident in all His Might for the Church to witness.
     But in today's Church, we talk about Him, then leave little or no time for Him to perform His Mighty Miracles in our services because of fear, confusion and the threat of doctrines of demons.  We are afraid of Holy Spirit manifestations like those that happened in the First Century Church, because when you invite the Holy Spirit to be present, there will be inevitable opposition from the Prince of this world, and the simple truth is that the Church does not know how to be Holy Spirit warriors.  When we become "seeker friendly" congregations, and life-coaches and counsellors, instead of spiritual, armor-clad soldiers for Christ, we are left with scared and confused Christians who are ineffective against Satan's army.
     But here is why we should not be fearful of engaging in spiritual warfare ... the spirits or demons that Satan assigns to us fear the Holy Spirit more than anyone else in the universe!  Why?  Because He has as His weapons the Blood of Jesus, the Name of Jesus, the Cross of Christ, and the Word of God!  And because He indwells us, we, too, have access to those spiritual weapons!  
     And the knowledge of this Truth is where I'm at in this point of my journey with the Holy Spirit.  I am optimistic that the Holy Spirit is waking up the remnant within the Body of Christ, and the testimonies of those set free from demonic influence will embolden the Church to return to its roots.  It is the success of Believers delivered from oppression and bondage that will convince authentic Christians that spiritual warfare is a reality and a necessity.  I am praying that Spiritual Warriors, in league with the Holy Spirit, will have an extraordinary and undeniable impact upon both Christians and Secularists; and will defeat the forces of evil that have gone unchallenged for far too long.
     I also am trusting in the Holy Spirit to infuse Christians with their purpose; to be genuine examples of the power and authority of Jesus, as given to us by our Father; and to realize that we have been commissioned by God.  We each have been given a definite task and specific assignments to advance the Kingdom of God.  What are yours?  Preaching the Gospel Message is part of our commission, but we are also Ambassadors for Christ, and we are not powerless servants.  We are to exhibit the power in our relationship with Jesus ... the same power that raised Him from the dead and commanded a legion of demons to come out of a man.
     We will need His power in the future.  And it is ours for the asking.  The question is, when the real pressure from this world comes to bear, will we stand firm and steadfast?  Are we prepared, both in our human form, and in our spirit, to declare ourselves competent for the task at hand?  We can be ... if we recognize that our power comes from God; that He is sufficient to go before us in battle, and we can be confident that our victory will come through Christ!
    Yes, it's okay to reflect where we've been in our Christian walk.  But it is imperative that we revive and restore our faith to become authentic Christians; reveling in the power of the Holy Spirit to embolden the Church so that it has the impact it was meant to have upon a sinful world.  It's not too late ... but time is running out.  I don't know how much further we have to go in our journey, but I am determined to serve the Kingdom in His Power and Truth.  Join me!

1 Corinthians 2:4  "And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom [using clever rhetoric], but [they were delivered] in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit [operating through me] and of [His] power [stirring the minds of the listeners and persuading them]..."

August 22, 2016

Demonic Deluge on Display

     Today's post is not for the faint-hearted.  But we can no longer ignore the forecast of evil that is before our eyes.  The Enemy is no longer content with whispering his lies to the world.  He no longer is satisfied to sneak or slink around, [which the Bible calls "prowling" for victims] in secret.  Yes, he is still happy to whisper his lies to try to convince people to shoot themselves, or saw off their leg with a chainsaw (actual testimonies from Christians we've ministered to).  But he is now coming out of the shadows, feeling emboldened by the Church's denial of spiritual warfare, and daring us to deny the existence of his earthly followers and his demons.
Michelle and John Stevens
     Take the story, for instance, of Michelle and John Stevens of Miami, Florida.  In case you haven't heard what happened when this couple crossed paths with pure evil, I hope you will acknowledge that the dark prince of this world is actively (and openly) pursuing his hostility towards the creation of God.  As The Miami Herald stated in their opening sentence, "Something made a young man go mad."  The article continues ... "He viciously stabbed a married couple twice his age, plus a neighbor who tried to intervene, deputies said. They found him crouched over the bleeding body of the man, biting chunks of his face off ... Officers shot their stun guns at the 19-year-old Florida State University fraternity member multiple times to no avail. Even a police dog couldn’t get the man to release his victim ... Finally, three to four cops were able to wrench the suspect off the dead man. The man was 'making animal noises,' and 'grunting and growling' as officers yanked him away."  Another article paints a picture of a normal young man turned suddenly and inexplicably evil.
     I am not repeating this gruesome account for the mere sake of sensationalism.  And there may be those who are willing to chalk this episode up to mental illness, or to the use of a variety of synthetic drugs that are on the streets of Miami.  I am not willing to discount either of these theories for this simple reason ... either one can be the result of demonization (which would be mental illness), or the gateway (as in drugs).  But, whether we ever know the reason or not, this is the work of a demon-possessed individual.
     I could go into a lengthy discussion of hermeneutics (interpretation of the meaning of words in the Bible) and take you on an exciting journey that connects the description of this young man (grunting and growling; making animal noises) to the "wild beasts" mentioned in Revelation 6:8, And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
     It is easy for us to identify that Death has come upon the earth by sword (ISIS, war in general); famine (East Africa); and pestilence (ebola; zika virus, cancers of all kinds).  Could this 2016 case of the couple in Miami, and the same kind of story revolving around the "zombie-like" killing of a homeless man in Miami a couple of years ago, be a picture of these "wild beasts of the earth"?  Certainly Jesus spoke of "unclean spirits coming out of men, roaming through dry, arid places, looking for rest" (Matthew 12:43).  Since we are all made in the image of God (who is Spirit), this indicates a man who possesses an unclean (impure and wicked) spirit -- and he is the personification of the "they" who will be given authority by satan to kill like wild beasts.
Austin Harrouff, demonized attacker
     Yes, I will agree with The Miami Herald.... something made that young man go mad... and it was the demonic influence of the devil, himself.  What, in his young life, did he do to open himself up to the influence of the devil?  It will be interesting to see if any such evidence surfaces in the coming weeks, or if we will, once again, turn a blind eye to the reasons such obvious demonic acts are happening.
      But we also need to understand that the Enemy doesn't limit himself to such gory displays.  He also displays his opposition and evil intentions towards God's creation in other ways; ever more demonstrative and in-your-face.
     Take the "black mass" ritual that was recently held in Oklahoma City.  Adam Daniels is the leader of a satanic group devoted to the Ahrimanist cult (the worship of a powerful spiritual being, called "Ahriman", or "Satan", who will incarnate in a human body.  They worship "Ahriman" as the inspirer of materialistic science and commercialism, and believe he permeates modern culture with deadening forces.)
   Daniels' celebration of The Consumption of Mary incorporated a mix of occult practices designed to corrupt and desanctify a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the ritual, the corrupted Mary statue is placed into the center of a Solomonic triangle, which “entraps” her.    Celebrants dance counter-clockwise around the statue before a spirit severs the statue’s head, unleashing a hellmouth, or opening to hell.  Inside the statue is an actual pig’s heart, Daniels said. After the statue has been smashed, a  priestess pulls the heart out of the rubble and eats it, thus “consuming” Mary and ending the ritual.
     Daniels said, “We’re trying to show people how chaotic we are in nature and how chaotic our religion is. It’s all based on chaos.”   In the same breath, he wants everyone to know there is nothing to be frightened of.  Daniels said, "Some satanic magic and rituals traditionally call for animal sacrifices and eating human flesh, but the Church of Ahriman (Satan) finds alternatives. For example, his congregation uses human menstrual fluid instead of animal blood."
     This is the depth to which God's Adversary will go to demean God's creation.  And he's not afraid to use our culture of tolerance and equality against the believers of YHWH, the One True God.  Church of Ahriman members say their teachings offer them true enlightenment in a city and state caught in a Christian bubble. Daniels said these practices helped him find a fulfillment that had eluded him most of his life.  “There’s a certain element of truth, there’s a certain element of beauty in the darkness that you don’t find in the light,” he said. “It’s cold and stark; it’s right up in your face, and if you can’t deal with it psychologically, you’re going to have repercussions. But that doesn’t mean there’s still not a stark beauty in the darkness.”
     You see, there's our challenge as Christians ... he stated it right out in the open!  We, as Christians,  must deal psychologically with the evidence of evil in our midst -- we must be able to consciously perceive the spiritual battle, or we will have repercussions.  This is satan's realm and he is showing us exactly how he intends to rule.  And he is unleashing his demonic followers to bring as many as he can under his domination and control -- either by violence and bloodshed, as in the case of Austin Harrouff; or by crafty and compelling persuasion, as he accomplished with Adam Daniels, who is as evil and perverted as they come.  In an article on ABCNews.com, he clearly states he is using "charged items" in his church, and is seeking "creation through destruction".   Satan couldn't say it any better himself.  And do not dismiss him as some kind of crazy devil worshipper who has no influence.  Satan is freely using him and working his plan, without any seeming resistance by Christians.  The devil is publicly displaying his power and authority; why isn't he seeing ours?
     Bottom line ... here is what we need to realize:  These two cases are sensational and read like some horror film.  But, because of modern technology, the whole world is able to see and read about these demonic displays.  They are becoming more numerous and out in the open.  The problem is that they are so 'in your face' that few actually ‘see’ it. There is such a technological saturation of evil – from entertainment mediums to virtual fantasy porn – that a ‘normalcy bias’ kicks in and most people (even Christians) don't see it as the Biblically prophesied increase in wickedness, murder, crime, and belief in the occult.  It’s kind of like in the days of Noah.  Everyone just "ate and drank", even though their judgment was staring them in the face.  And just as  Jesus warned, we are going about our business, not knowing or understanding, and it will soon be too late.  In the events of our day, the Lion of Judah is roaring His prophecy. I wonder if anyone actually hears it?

Micah 2:1    "Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand."













August 21, 2016

Revelation 22:12

Consider this.  I am coming soon.  And my reward is with Me, 
to render to each one according to his work.


     This is a verse that has become somewhat controversial within mainstream Christianity.  It is accepted teaching that our salvation is by God's grace, alone, and there is nothing we can do -- no works -- that can earn us eternal life in Heaven.  It is true that Salvation is a gift from God, period, in return for our belief and trust that He sent His Son to die as payment for our sins.  Therefore, this Scripture that, in Jesus's own words, tells us that we can expect rewards "according to our works", is often confusing to Christians. 
     So here is what we need to understand ... Salvation is the means by which we enter into eternal life.  And while our works here on earth have nothing to do with our entry to heaven, they have everything to do with our rewards once we get there.  
     And before I get to the meat of this observation about our rewards, I don't want to leave the subject of Salvation until I make this comment ... Too many Christians rely on their salvation from eternal damnation as the ultimate goal of their Christian experience.  There is far more Scriptural evidence that it is just the beginning; that what we do in this life for the Kingdom of God on earth -- after receiving this unmerited gift from God  -- matters to Jesus!  Put in simple terms ... Salvation is not the result of our works here on earth, but rewards in Heaven are. Therefore, Salvation and Rewards are not the same, but our Rewards rely on what we do for the Kingdom of God after we have received Salvation.
     I know that there will still be Christians who are uncomfortable with the idea that we should seek rewards, perhaps feeling that this is self-serving and glorifying ourselves rather than Jesus.  Granted, we are told not to practice our righteousness before other people to be seen by them; in other words, we are not to boast of our good deeds for Christ.  But, the Bible makes it very clear that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body [his rewards], whether good or evil".  Obviously, we want to be commended for our work for God's kingdom, and that comes in the form of Crowns.  (See this post and this post for descriptions of what those crowns are, and why they are awarded).  
    Before I continue, I feel I must address another concept that I believe is not supported by Scripture, and that is the idea that all saints will experience Heaven equally.  True, everyone will receive the best gift of all [eternal life] in equal measure.  But Jesus talks a lot about those who will receive their reward "in full", or those whose reward will be "greater"; indicating degrees of reward -- which has nothing to do with their salvation.  He also says that those who will be first (greatest) will be last (the least), and vice versa -- all pointing to rankings, or levels; pointing to something being given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement.
    And there is even Scripture that points to the possibility of losing "a portion" of your reward.  In fact, the Apostle John warns, "Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward", indicating that it is possible to receive less than the maximum reward; or to lose a portion of your reward.  And Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Talents that we will also earn greater responsibilities as the result of our efforts here on earth (“I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master”).   In this story, each servant is entrusted with a certain number of talents, each according to his ability. In the end, each is rewarded by the master on the basis of how he has invested the talents. In the same way, each of us will be rewarded on the basis of how we used the gift of salvation to advance the kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.  So, it appears God enjoys rewarding His Children with increased and valuable roles of responsibility as a reward for our faithfulness as servants in this life.
      So, in conclusion, all who trust in Jesus as their Savior will spend eternity in Heaven with Him.  We will experience the joy of His presence and for some that is enough reward.  But I can't help but discern that as we stand before His judgment seat in Heaven, we will want Him to say to us, those He left in charge to take possession of and care for His Kingdom on earth, "Well done, good and faithful Servant.  You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little [of what I left you]; I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master."  I want to rule and reign with Him, and I don't want to have any regrets!  
     Although most Christians probably feel they are honoring the Lord in their lives, each of us will probably look back on our earthly lives and wish we had done more to advance the Kingdom of God. We will simply realize that we could have done more for Him... not to glorify ourselves with more rewards than others, but because we will realize that the rewards He gives us amount to just a fraction of what could have been done in His Name.  He is coming soon, as His Word proclaims ... His reward for each of us is with Him.  He has told us that when He returns He "will reap [the harvest] where He did not sow and gather where He did not scatter seed."  The sowing and scattering is our job!  What kind of harvest will He gather from the work we have done for His kingdom?  Will He even notice?  I pray that my life has given abundant glory to Jesus; that the harvest of my efforts is pleasing to Him.  And I will happily receive whatever rewards He deems fitting! 
     
     
      



August 19, 2016

The Person of Jesus Over Doctrine

     For the last few days I have been concentrating on studying and doing research for the Book of Acts study I am leading with our Home Church group.  I can honestly say that my time spent in this pursuit is the best part of my whole day... if I could only spend all day, every day gleaning all the extra information that is available from Scripture, ancient writings, and commentaries, I would be content and blessed beyond measure.
     But there is a concept that pricked my spirit during this preparation time and I want to share it with you.  I had finished my notes on Acts, Chapters 6 and 7, which includes the supernaturally-powered speech that Stephen brings before the Sanhedrin, which directly leads to his martyr's death.  It is a magnificent picture of the Holy Spirit, who filled Stephen [and led him] in presenting approximately 2034 years of history – from the call of Abraham to the Crucifixion -- and to represent a case for God’s deliverance of Israel and the glorification of Jesus ... all in less than 5 minutes! 
     But because the religious leaders of the Jews were so steeped in their structure of institutional religion and its customs, they were blinded to the supernatural power that was affecting Stephen.  Add to that, the fact that they had made an idol out of the Temple, which they accused him of blaspheming against.  Do you see anything here that resembles the state of our modern Church?  
     During my research, I came across a quote from the acclaimed preacher, Charles Spurgeon.  He wrote, "Beloved friends, I delight to preach to you all the doctrines which I find in God's Word; but I desire ALWAYS to preach the person of Christ above the doctrine; the doctrine is but the chair in which Christ sits as a Prophet to instruct us."  Well, my dear friends, that struck me like lightning! I'm afraid that, like the Sanhedrin, the modern Church has developed its own institutional religion that elevates its doctrine and tenets above the sharing of the Person of Christ. 
     We have so many customs, and rules, and rituals, that the message of WHO Christ is, and THE MIRACLES He did, and THE WORDS He spoke from His Father have become lost amidst a convoluted set of beliefs that keep us ineffective, focused inward, and without authority in this sinful world.  Instead of proclaiming the POWER and AUTHORITY of Jesus, the Person, we have made powerless idols out of Him and the Church Building and our denominational laws and traditions.
     There are times I want to scream the accusation Stephen shouted to his religious leaders:  You are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit!  When we deny or ignore the Power that was exhibited in the man, Jesus, and His Authority that came directly from God, then we are limiting the Kingdom work that can be done by the Church.  By teaching that the Holy Spirit comes to live in us at our conversion, and that's it --- nothing about evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to do the things Jesus did [heal the sick, cast out demons, defeat the schemes of the devil]  -- how do we ever expect to distinguish ourselves from the outside, unsaved world???
     We have lost the wonder that the Samaritans must have felt when the Evangelist, Philip, came to share the news of who this man Jesus was.  Remember, the Samaritans were the descendants of pagans who had intermarried with the lowest classes of Jews after the Assyrians had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and carried off the wealthy and middle-class citizens.  They were considered half-breeds and there was a deep-seated prejudice between them and those Jews who considered themselves religious.  They would not have particularly been interested to hear what this man from Jerusalem, who worshipped in the Temple, had to say.  And today, there is nothing that the Church has to offer that the secular unbeliever wants to hear.  
     Yet Philip's message not only conveyed the modern Church's representation of Jesus as the Son of God, but this evangelist was led by the Holy Spirit to do miracles; Philip showed them the Power of the Holy Spirit and his authority to act on behalf of Jesus to heal the paralyzed and the lame; and as the Bible says, "unclean spirits (demons), shouting loudly, were coming out of many who were possessed".  I have no doubt that the people of Samaria received the wonder of the Person of Christ without being burdened by all the external doctrine of the established religion.  In fact, Scripture says these acts of power and authority by Philip validated his message.  The Holy Spirit, acting through Philip, had confirmed and authenticated the message of salvation.   Is it any wonder that the unsaved world -- in this age of technological marvels and spectacles -- finds no validity in the repetitive message of "Jesus loves you"?   
    And that is what I strongly feel is missing in the Church today.  God and His Holy Spirit cannot be limited to residing in houses made by human hands.  We do not need to be making idols of structures built by men, or relying on creeds and traditions to portray our image of Christ.  The Bible says that those who heard Philip share his testimony of the Person of Christ were constantly amazed.  Do we Christians, housed in our buildings dedicated to God, project amazement to those outside the Body of Christ?  Do we create in them a yearning to be like Christ?  Do they see any evidence of His Power and Authority in our lives?  Do we carry that message to far-off places, like Philip, or challenge the status quo, like Stephen?
     Besides the fact that God-fearing people are leaving the Church building in search of the Person and the Power of Christ, I am concerned that the Body of Christ is sorely unprepared for the encroaching Evil that IS evident in the world.  THAT power is making itself known and felt and experienced.  If we, as believers and followers of Jesus, don't begin to exercise the greater power of the Holy Spirit, as did Stephen and Philip [who were men like us], then we can expect to be overcome.  If we only have the Apostles Creed and the Communion Service to take into battle against the Enemy, we can expect to be defeated.  And, my friends, Jesus didn't go to the Cross so that we would be left defenseless.  The early Christians knew that, and they called upon the Power He had clearly assigned to them, and they used their Authority as His witnesses, to declare the message of salvation and eternal life to all those who would follow this Person, called Jesus.  Yes, the message was important, but the evidence of Power and Authority sealed the deal.  
     Today, there are segments of the Body of Christ who are becoming disillusioned with the tired old rhetoric.  They don't want the building anymore ... they want more of who Jesus was and what He promised; they want evidence of the work and power of the Holy Spirit!  How I wish that everyone could have the faith of my friend, Steve, who when diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, called my husband and me and asked for prayer.  Of course, we prayed with and for him, but because he lived in the city where our Deliverance Ministry mentor lived, we also suggested that he visit with her and let the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit heal his afflictions and cleanse him of his sins.  Now, several months later, after surgery and what the doctors thought would be a life-long regimen of chemo, his cat scan shows that there is no trace of cancer in his body.  When his physician told him, "I just can't explain it," Steve replied, " I can! It is the Power of the Almighty Living God; the Great I AM!"  Hallelujah, and I thank you, Jesus, for that powerful testimony!  I also pray that many more will come to experience this amazing power in their lives... and live [spend one's life] to tell about it!!!

1 Corinthians 4:20    "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power."
     

August 17, 2016

How Easily Satan Fascinates and Captivates Us

     I know there will be some who will dismiss the topic of my blog today as unworthy of their time or attention.  But this subject has come up in conversations with fellow Christians and across my news feeds a number of times, so I guess the Holy Spirit wants me to talk about it.  At the very least, I want to give a personal warning in case this deceptive distraction has entered your physical or spiritual territory.
     I am talking about Pokemon, the role-playing card game that has recently gained new popularity among kids and adults.  I know that there will be those who say it is an innocent game; we have nothing to fear from it, and the new version of Pokemon GO is nothing more than a creative mobile app designed as "a location-based and augmented reality game; that it promotes physical activity and helps local businesses grow."  Are you kidding me?  First of all, if you are willing to accept that description without looking into it any further, then I'm more than a little worried about your ability to discern the schemes of the Enemy in this technological world.

Harmless little creatures that inhabit a virtual world? Or something far more ominous in nature?
     I will also say that the intricacies of the game are too far-reaching and complicated to present them in their entirety on this post.  Suffice it to say, that I want you to get an idea of just how satan can work within this game and its alternate universe in order to get us to mimic his strategies and schemes, and to walk outside the path God would have us follow.
     First of all, Pokemon is a shortened version of the Japanese name "Pocket Monster", and Pokemon are supposed to be "monsters" that have special powers and share the world with humans.  Did that get your attention?  If not, here is a very simple explanation [by promoters] of how the game works:  "Pokemon are creatures inspired by plants, animals and various other things. Each one has different attributes, skills and quirks; they also can evolve into newer, stronger Pokemon with some training. In Pokemon GO, the ultimate goal is to capture them — all 151 of them — to add to your personal collection.  Doing so makes you a Pokemon master."  Here's how I interpret that explanation ... Pokemon are inspired by spirits, demons or gods (all false), and among their various "quirks" or "abilities" listed are scorching, stomping, poison, mimicry, stealth, use of claws and biting, reading minds, teleportation, inducing headaches, high intelligence, consumes people's dreams, hypnosis, confusion... oh, yeah, they also evolve into more powerful entities, too.  
     In short, the idea of the game is to have players learn how to collect as many Pokemon as possible, train them, and use them against other people's Pokemon by invoking the various abilities of each Pokemon creature.  Does that sound eerily familiar to the assignments that the devil gives to his demons?  And now that the game has developed a mobile app, it is playing into this world's obsession with technology.  After establishing a game account, the player creates an avatar by selecting a hair, skin, and eye color; style; and outfit.  Isn't that just a little bit creepy?   You are in essence, creating an alter of yourself, and it is outside the realm in which you were created by God.  Actually, you have now become the Creator of yourself, so to speak; your own god.  (Sounds like the temptation in the Garden of Eden, doesn't it?) So now you have millions who are preoccupied with their alternative self (avatars), and who are forever trying to gain more power.  Yes, it is a subtle implication, but does not the Bible say, Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made  (Genesis 3:1).
     And here is another aspect that should concern you:  When a player encounters a Pokemon, they may view it on their phone either in augmented reality (AR) mode or with a live rendered, generic background.  AR mode uses the camera and gyroscope on the player's mobile device to display an image of a Pokemon as though it were in the real world.  Think this might be acclimating people to interact with spirits in this physical world?
     BUT, unlike other installments in the Pokemon series, players in Pokemon GO do not battle wild Pokemon (any Pokemon that are not currently owned by a Pokemon Trainer) to capture them. During an encounter with a wild Pokemon, the player may throw a Poke Ball at it by flicking it from the bottom of the screen up toward the Pokemon. If the Pokemon is successfully caught, it will come under the ownership of the player.  That certainly suggests bondage and domination to me.  I could go and on about the rules and the innuendos of the game, but I hope you're starting to get the picture.
     If not, let me give you one more piece of information before sharing some of the consequences of playing the game.  Pokemon GO was developed by Niantic Inc. and is funded by Nintendo. However, the original Pokemon franchise was developed by Wizards of the Coast, who gave the world the occult games, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and MAGIC THE GATHERING. Pokemon comes from a long line of anti-Christian, occult, and evolutionary development. I know there will still be those (and that includes the Christians who are advertising their Churches as Pokemon locations) who will say that "it is only a game".  But it is a role-playing game and involves fantasy and elements of magic and potions.  That is definitely something the Bible warns us against!
     Besides that, look at the thousands of hours people are spending on their phones playing Pokemon GO; (the app has been downloaded over 15,000,000 times in its first week in the U.S.).  The word "idolatry" comes to mind.  And here we are in the Last Days running around trying to capture mythical and virtual demons, when we should be focusing on our mission to save souls.  Who do you think we're pleasing -- God or satan?
     Finally, there are the stories of men walking off cliffs while playing the game; crashing cars into trees; armed robbers luring victims to isolated locations; and perverts and pedophiles preying upon inattentive targets.  But perhaps the most disturbing story I have heard is of a Russian woman in Moscow who claims that a giant Pokemon raped her after she fell asleep while playing the game.  Police and her husband dismissed her complaint, suggesting she see a psychiatrist.  But the woman insisted that the Pokemon GO app on her phone could still detect the same virtual character's presence on her bed, and that there are too many Pokemon at her place and even the dog can sense them. She says the dog barks whenever she plays Pokemon GO.  (Any of you who have dogs will likely be able to attest to their extra sensory perception).
     So, now you've read the entire spectrum of how Pokemon GO influences one's life --- from a harmless mobile app that helps you get some exercise; to testing your ability to capture and train virtual "creatures" (spirits?) with occult powers; to these monsters allegedly raping a player.  Think it's all too ridiculous to be true, or that I'm stretching the truth?  Yes, it seems like I'm describing something "out of this world".  Guess what?  IT IS!  Throughout mankind's history, satan has found a way to infiltrate our world by tempting our impressionable minds and flesh with his ideas and his supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, and phenomena.
     Pokemon GO just a harmless mobile app?  Do you not think that satan can draw us away from God by working through technology and with humans who develop occult-influenced games?  If those game designers are not as focused on the Lord and His truth (as we all should be), satan, through his demon hosts, can somehow raise thoughts and questions in our minds that lead to creating things that honor him instead of the True God of the Universe.  Then from that designer's human mind to ours, the Enemy uses external temptations (a mobile app) by which he seeks to control or influence our minds through what we see, read, hear... and play.  This is simply how he works through this world system over which he rules.  So you can dismiss my assessment of this game if you like, but I am willing to say that it is just one more spiritual weapon that the god of this world is using to deceive us and lead us away from God.  Consider this:  Doesn't the game of Pokemon Go sound a whole like the Bible verse that says, Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour?

Acts 13:10            "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you never stop perverting [making crooked] the straight paths of the Lord?" 




August 15, 2016

The Prayer of Jabez Revisited

     Remember about 20 years ago when the Prayer of Jabez took Christianity in the United States by storm?  It was like this one small verse was newly discovered to offer powerful insight and encouragement to the modern Believer.  It was a small book, written by Bruce Wilkinson, and for some reason the Holy Spirit has been bringing it to my mind over the last few days.  It actually took me a little while to recall the exact message that I took away from the book.
     And then I remembered ... like most people at the dawn of the new millennium in the year 2000, I was focused on my own well-being and my future.  Although, I had been a Christian for over 12 years, I was still struggling to find how Jesus fit into my worldview and how I was supposed to incorporate Him into my everyday life.  After all, my husband was trying to establish his art career, and I had all the worries and insecurities that came from managing on one paycheck.  Trusting Jesus was something I knew I was supposed to do, but how was I supposed to accomplish that when I couldn't see Him in the midst of my doubt and unbelief?  Then that little book with it's promising title appeared on the scene ... The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life!
     The Christian world gobbled up the idea that by saying a simple prayer, God would give you what you asked for and bless your life.  First Chronicles 4:10 became the most memorized Bible verse that year:   Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my territory, and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” And God granted his request.   (Some versions of this prayer have Jabez asking God, "keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain."  That is not the substance of the prayer in most translations, or in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.  In my opinion, promoting the idea that Jabez is asking for blessings and enlarged territory, while praying that he not harm others, doesn't make sense in the context of the prayer, and is a distortion of Scripture).  
     So, the point of the book seemed to be that heartfelt prayer, in devout communication with God, does make a difference in your life; that praying continuously and consistently will yield results.  It seemed to point out that Jabez was a man who wanted -- and was not afraid to ask God for -- extraordinary blessings in his life.  And apparently that did not offend God, because the previous verse tells us that "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers".  But critics of the book claimed that it promoted the "prosperity gospel"; that it is impious and ungodly to seek God's blessings for oneself.  But when the author, himself, stated that he had been praying this prayer every day for over 30 years and, as a result, he experienced many blessings in his life, then the critics were no longer heard.  The Christianity community flocked to this positive message about blessings and success, and the book was received with open arms.
     But how come we never hear about it anymore?  Did the message prove false, or at the very least, disappointing?  And did American believers abandon their quest for blessings, and move on to other variations of the prosperity gospel?  I'm not really sure what happened to its popularity, but when the Holy Spirit continued to bring it to my mind, I felt I was supposed to see if somehow, it was still relevant these 16 years later.
     Needless to say, I am not in the same place I was in the year 2000.  So I figure, maybe, I am to look at this simple prayer with new spiritual eyes and see what it is about it that the Holy Spirit wants me to discern.  And there it was!  I found that it was still relevant, but in a whole different way!  I now see it within the context of spiritual warfare --- instead of as a self-serving method to receive personal blessings.
     Just as yesterday, in my post on the Gadarene madman, the concept of "regions" or "territory" has surfaced.  This has several implications.  It is not just about physical territory, or actual real estate in this world, as many interpreted it in 2000 -- although that could certainly be part of the big picture.  But I am of the opinion that the perspective we should consider here is our "spiritual territory".  You see, I believe that every believer has a spiritual territory entrusted to us; a sphere of influence which is ours to govern -- some permanent, some temporary.  Just as Adam was given the Garden of Eden "to cultivate it and keep it", I believe that God has ordained territories of dominion for us to develop in the spiritual world.
    In his prayer, Jabez is asking to be blessed with more territory -- not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of serving God's Kingdom on earth.  Since Scripture deems him as "more honorable" than his brothers, perhaps he has proven himself a faithful steward of all God has given him, and he desires to develop more of the Kingdom for God's glory.  And in the context of spiritual warfare, Jabez knows that this is an invitation for the Enemy to come against him.  The more he accomplishes for the Lord's Kingdom, and the stronger he gets in battling in the spiritual realm, the stronger is his opposition.  So the next part of his prayer is to ask that God's hand be with him, to keep evil from harming him.
     He knows where his protection comes from ... and he knows that Jehovah Nissi will proceed him in the battle; will go before him to clear his way. When you engage in spiritual warfare, you can expect that the Enemy will throw his full force against you.  But this obviously doesn't scare Jabez off -- my spirit discerns that what he is saying to God is this:  "I have conquered the allotted spiritual territory you have given me, Lord, and it was an honor to serve and glorify You.  But I am not content to stay in this place of accomplishment. Please bless me with the honor of claiming more territory for You!  All I ask is that you not abandon me, and deliver me from any evil that is brought to bear against me."
     Now, I'm pretty sure that this perspective would never have flown with the believing community back in the year 2000.  And perhaps it has been brought to my mind again for the specific purpose of pointing out a new viewpoint in this season of our Christian experience.  All I know is that my spirit can no longer recognize it as a prayer for prosperity; instead it speaks clearly to my heart and mind and spirit as a prayer asking for more opportunity and authority to go forth into unchartered territory to conquer it for the Lord.  It is a prayer that is unselfish in motive; courageous, yet wise enough not to enter new territory unprotected.  Jabez is wise and confident enough to ask for the hand of the Lord to be upon him.
     In being honest, I have no way of knowing if this was the intention of Jabez's prayer.  The Bible is unclear as to why this single verse is stuck in the midst of a long list of the descendants of Judah.  But I know that the Bible is a living document, and it speaks to every generation as God wills.  Perhaps this verse has been brought to mind at this time to encourage us in pursuing the truth about spiritual warfare -- to encourage us and to bless us with the hope that we so desperately need in these times of great spiritual assault and apostasy.  God is waiting to bless us if we will work with Him!  Most people live in fear of ever venturing outside their comfort zones.  It is time we become like Jabez -- asking for more territory, and never fearing that we fight the battle alone; resting assured that His hand will always be with us.  It is a prayer worth praying, and your rewards will supersede any prosperity here on earth.  And that only leads to more blessing and more glory for God!

Psalm 18:36      "You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip."

  


August 14, 2016

Mark 5:1-13

They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, 3 and the man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with chains. 4 For he had often been bound with shackles [for the feet] and with chains, and he tore apart the chains and broke the shackles into pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue and tame him. 5 Night and day he was constantly screaming and shrieking among the tombs and on the mountains, and cutting himself with [sharp] stones. 6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him [in homage]; 7 and screaming with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have in common with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God [swear to me], do not torment me!” 8 For Jesus had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began begging Him repeatedly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now there was a large herd of pigs grazing there on the mountain. 12 And the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the pigs so that we may go into them!” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out [of the man] and entered the pigs. The herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea; and they were drowned [one after the other] in the sea.



     I have chosen to feature the entire episode of the madman from Gerasene, and how Jesus deals with his demonic possession.  Actually, I prefer the title that the English Standard Version gives to this passage... Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon.  This is such a simple phrase, but it accurately describes what happens when we work with Him in delivering those who are being attacked by demons.
     [At this point, I think it is necessary to explain why I used the word demonic possession, rather than demonic oppression.  What I have learned through my training and experience in spiritual deep healing is that those who believe in Jesus have the Holy Spirit residing within them; their spirit belongs to Jesus and demons cannot take up residence there.  BUT satan and his demons can attack their minds, their emotions, their free will, and their flesh  -- causing emotional and physical pain, and bouts of anxiety, fear, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and any other sin that robs us of our peace in Jesus.  That is called demonic oppression.  On the other hand, an unbeliever's spirit is not occupied by the Holy Spirit, and a demon or demons can inhabit that person's spirit; and devoid of any semblance of Jesus, that person can be possessed by the demonic spirits and under their full control.]
     I also wanted to use the entire story of this healing to show you the principles of spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry that are contained within it.  And while it is such a familiar story among Christians, I am convinced that the true impact of it has been lost among this modern society.  So, we'll just start at the beginning...
     Verses one through five give us a classic picture of the effects of being demonically possessed.  (In fact, the version in Luke actually says he was "possessed by demons" in the Amplified version.)  Again, the picture of this man is that he was filled with unclean spirits (marking him as ungodly); had been possessed for a long time; he wore no clothes and acted like a wild animal;  he lived in the tombs among the decaying and dead, which was contrary to Jewish law and against human instinct; he had supernatural strength; and he was tormented and self-destructive, given to cutting himself with stones.  Any of these attributes would indicate a troubled man in need of emotional and spiritual healing, but he hit the jackpot with all these characteristics, and there is no question that he is possessed by demons.
     Some commentaries suggest that this madman plays a very special role in the community and he is the scapegoat for the entire community, bearing the demons of everyone, which explains why he has so many (a Legion, which by Roman military standards, could be as high as 5-6,000).  Scripture does not make this clear, but we do know that he has a great many demons who inhabit him.  
     In verse 6, it is made clear that the demons recognize Jesus for who He is, and bow down in homage.  It is Biblical Truth that all spiritual powers are subject to Jesus Christ who has supreme authority, and demons are powerless before Him.  We have certainly found that to be true in the ministry sessions we have done.  I want to make it clear that not everyone who is invited to our table to meet with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to let Them set them free has demons who inhabit them.  Sometimes Jesus can just show them He was present during the hurtful times in their lives, which helps them to forgive those who hurt them, and the wounds are healed.  But if a person is hanging on to any spirit of anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, pain, etc., then they have given legal authority for that spirit to take up residence in their soul (mind, emotions, and free will) and they have to be kicked out.  
     All Jesus had to do (in verse 8) was tell the demon to come out of the man.  And when we do deliverance/deep healing with someone, the Holy Spirit actually guides us to ask the demons to submit to Jesus's authority and they have no choice -- they are subject to His authority and powerless before Him.  All that may seem simplistic and too easy; but if you believe that Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us, then why is it so difficult to believe that He can be present with us here and now, demand that the demon leave a person, and send them where He wants to... just like He did here in Mark, Chapter 5?  
     There is another principle that I want to point out in verse 10.  Notice that the demons begged Jesus not to send them "out of the region".  It is my viewpoint that satan assigns areas to his cosmic powers and entities.  Whether it be a city, a state, a nation, or a continent, I believe that satan dedicates specific ground to his rulers.  In this case, a group have been assigned the region of Gerasene.  It is possible that the demons did not want to give up their power and requested to be sent into the pigs so that they might remain in that region.  But the region consisted of the Country of the Gerasenes, and extended only as far as the land extended to the water's edge.  So when they asked to go into the pigs, Jesus gave them permission.  And if you're wondering why I think that the pigs then rushed headlong into the sea and drowned, I believe it was because all things are under the authority of Jesus, and He willed it as the manner of destruction for the demons.
     There are many other opinions about this particular passage -- among them, that Zeus (or Jupiter) worship was the religion of this area, and pigs were the choice sacrificial animal. By being allowed to enter the pigs, and running them off the cliff, the demon spirits accomplish a blood sacrifice to Jupiter, the god of the sea.  OR, this could have been a two-fold event from Jesus's perspective -- free the demon-possessed man, and disrupt the Zeus/Jupiter worship by drowning the ritually-used swine.   
     The truth is that we don't really know all the hidden answers to this Biblical puzzle.  But we DO know that it was only by the power of Jesus that the man was able to be set free.  The circumstances under which he was restored can be repeated the same way today ... When Jesus is present, and we call upon Him and His Holy Spirit within us, the demons are rendered impotent and defenseless.  They MUST obey His commands, and leave.  If no demons are present, the power of the Holy Spirit shows one that Jesus is present in the moment, and conveys the truth that He was present at the time of the wounding.  He leads us to the knowledge that we need not be subject to the lies of the Enemy; He leads us to the knowledge that the freedom Jesus promises is real; and He leads us to the knowledge of that we don't have to live in defeat.  Like the madman from Gerasene, Jesus will be there when you need Him most... you must never give up or resign yourself to defeat.  No matter how many demons have plagued you in your life, they are ALL subject to their Creator ... the same One who created you to live in the freedom He bought and paid for.  That is His Truth, and believe me, it will set you free!  And our obligation?  To spread the word as He asked:  "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you" (Mark 5:17-20).  It is my privilege to have witnessed such grace and mercy, and to have partnered with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to bring such blessed freedom to those in bondage.  May the Church awake to this knowledge and understanding!

     

August 12, 2016

Head Knowledge versus the Power of God

     My spirit senses it; and my flesh is beginning to see it.  There is an awakening within the modern Body of Believers towards an understanding that Deliverance through the Power of Jesus is possible. That does not mean that it is universally accepted, or perceived, or practiced in the same manner -- if at all -- by those who are convinced of this truth.  In fact, one must be careful to discern if the work of Deliverance and the power behind it is really from Jesus; if it is according to the will of God and if it is validated and confirmed by Scripture.  It is a relatively new concept for today's Christian and we differ on so many levels of our theology, that it's no wonder we cannot come to a consensus on whether Deliverance is possible or needed.
     Think about it ... the modern Church covers a broad spectrum when it comes to how we conduct our faith.  Pentecostals are on one end of that spectrum; they represent the "event" character of the Church, desiring to display the power of God, and the experience of the Spirit within us.  They actually gather with the express purpose of expressing the Church in action.   Then you have the mainstream, structured, Conservative denominations who are more interested in head knowledge and doctrine.  They are conscious of themselves as representing a Body dedicated to proclaiming the Word, and worshipping God, with community and fellowship in unity as their guideposts.  But if we are to follow Jesus's example, then we need to embrace both knowledge and power to set the captives free.  So, it seems to me that this "either/or" dynamic has greatly diminished the modern Church's ability to do the works of Jesus, and to do them even greater, as He said we would (John 14:12).
     That got me to thinking ... the First Century Church was the closest to experiencing the works of Jesus.  They either saw Him in action themselves, or heard testimony of those who did. The power of God was evident in the miracles, signs, and wonders that Jesus performed.  They saw Him heal a blind man, and a deaf and dumb man.  He turned water into wine and He raised Lazarus from the dead, among other deeds.  Plus, He spent a great deal of His time disseminating knowledge, both from the ancient scrolls of the prophets and in parables He taught.
     Then add this immediate encounter with Jesus to the rich history of the nation of Israel.  The Jews present during the years Jesus was on earth knew very well the acts of power shown their forefathers -- the parting of the Red Sea; the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai; the ten plagues of Egypt; God's presence in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night; His power to stop the moon and sun in Joshua, Chapter 10; the widow's son that was raised from the dead in 1 Kings 17, and many more.  The power of God was part of their heritage, both in historical knowledge and actual experience.
    But take our 21st Century Church.   We are told that the purpose of miracles in the Bible were to authenticate the performer of the miracles; to show that they had authority from God -- therefore,  miracles are no longer necessary, as the message of Jesus and His apostles has already been attested to and accurately recorded in the Scriptures.  I have to disagree, in the sense that I believe the purpose of the miracles was to attest to the power of God and as evidence of His presence.  Jesus made it very clear that He was doing the Father's will in the performance of each miracle, and that it was important that we pray for His will to be done.
     So, if the Church no longer believes in miracles, what good is knowing God’s will, if we don’t exercise the power to perform it?  As Nancy Missler at Koinonia House explains so well, it is His power that enables us to do what His Word demands.  So it is necessary to have both the knowledge of God's will and the power to carry it out! We must apply both to be effective servants in His Kingdom here on earth.
     It's time that the 21st Century Church comes out of its comfortable doctrine-infused state and begins practicing what it is to be a Christian!  We feel safe and secure in our salvation, and we don't bother to recall the times the power of God has delivered us from evil.  We have no heart and spirit appreciation for all His acts of rescue or His miracles in our lives; our intimate history with Him may be remembered today, but it's gone tomorrow.  Therefore our knowledge of Him is not experience-based as it was in the Early Church or ancient Israel.  It's head knowledge -- what we've managed to memorize in our catechism/sunday school classes or whatever our doctrine/vision/purpose statement is for our particular denomination.
God's Power is as real today as it was 2000 years ago!
     It's one thing to KNOW that God is the Source of all Power.  It's another thing to EXPERIENCE that Power working through you!  It's time we come to the full revelation of God's plan for us ... Christ is our example of God's power working in a man.  He lived His entire life depending upon this power.  The Holy Spirit empowered Him to do all His miraculous acts and, of course, the Resurrection was the supreme display of that power.  The purpose of Christ’s incarnation was to nullify the power of the devil -- and by utilizing God's power -- to free those held in bondage.
     The Lord first passed along this Resurrection Power to His disciples in order that they might accomplish the work He called them to do.  Then, on the Day of Pentecost, He passed this same life-giving power on to all who would believe in Him.  He intended for God's power to be present in His disciples until He returns; to be present to nullify the power of the devil... and He intended for us to use it!  The state of our culture and the world today is ample evidence that we have decided that being born again is enough to be a disciple of Christ -- that the knowledge of Christ is all we need.  But a true Disciple of our Lord is one who participates with the Holy Spirit, recognizes the power of God within them, and uses it to overcome the schemes of the Enemy.  The power of God is meant to be active -- to be used, shared, and partaken of.  Let's move beyond our head knowledge of God and start building our own history of the power of God in our lives!

Ephesians 1:18-19   "And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people), and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength..."



   

August 10, 2016

The Complex Concept of Unity in the Church

     The idea of unity may seem easy to define:  a coalition; harmony, a consensus, solidarity, oneness. And certainly, we get the idea of unity in the Church as a good thing; a concept that is expressed numerous times in the Bible ... Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8);  I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10); and Knowing their thoughts, He said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand (Matthew 12:25).
     From this sample of verses, we know that unity among the brethren is desired by God.  But from where I stand, there seems to be a growing disharmony and imbalance in the overall picture of the Church -- especially if you try to bring any new understanding to a church that is bound by traditional doctrine. Try bringing any concept of the supernatural, for instance, to a mainstream denomination, and I'm willing to bet that you will be labeled "extremist" or "radical", or at the very least misguided, misinformed and believing in false teachings.  I think it's safe to say that your opinion will not be readily accepted.
     Then try to show that God is bigger than your church's set-in-stone doctrine; that the Bible tells us, For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  Try reinforcing what this verse tells us -- we are all part of one body; one Spirit binds us together in Jesus; and because God is so big, He may be revealing to different members [of this Body of Christ] different aspects of Himself because He needs us serving different purposes to get His will accomplished.  You may not be familiar with, or comfortable with, someone else's purpose, but who are we to dismiss the assignments God makes?  Again, I would be willing to bet that most churches (or Christians) are unable to imagine God outside the box they have put Him in.
     So, I have to ask myself, "Does God always want unity in the Church"?  I guess it depends on if that unified position honors Him and His Word, doesn't it?  Certainly, a church in the 1960's united in denying attendance to Black people would not be blessed by God.  And today, a unified church that performs same-sex marriages would not be honoring God's Word.  So, can we agree that there are times that unity within the church can stifle or limit the Kingdom of God on earth?
      Just consider that God used Martin Luther to break a Church that had become unified in practices of corruption which suggested that "works" could achieve one's salvation on par with "faith by grace".  Had the Reformation not happened -- and the unity of corruption been challenged -- the dishonesty and greed that marked the Church at that time would have kept the world in the Dark Ages.  That being said, I know that division within the Church is not the will of God.  Yet I do believe that God sometimes encourages (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) divinely orchestrated conflict so that new forms of Christian witness can be spoken which will expand the knowledge of Himself and increase the effectiveness of the Church.
     I also think that sometimes unity within the Body of Christ can result in stagnation.  By that, I mean that the effectiveness of a Church, rigid in its theology, can cease to develop; can become inactive or dull, or just "stuck" and not advancing the revelation of God.   I believe that it is sometimes advantageous for God to raise up someone who challenges the conventional practices and belief systems in order to reveal more of Himself.  That is what happened during the Reformation, and I do not think God acts any differently today.
     For instance, God has begun revealing to me the pervasive influence of Freemasonry within the Church. (See this post).  But since this false religion has been shrouded in a veil of "charity" and "good works", the majority of the Church is blinded to its unholy influence within their congregations.  Simply said, if there is a member of good standing in the congregation, who also happens to be a Mason, then the members of a Church often choose to ignore it because they don't want to upset the apple cart, so to speak, or cause any disharmony or division.  So, are we to accept, without question, Freemasonry and its associations with witchcraft just so the Church can stay unified?
     And let's consider the question of our Power and Authority.  If unity within the Church is disrupted due to different opinions about Cessationism -- the doctrine that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing (both physical and spiritual), ceased with the original twelve apostles -- is that a good or bad thing for the Church?
"On earth as it is in heaven"
Try to follow me as my mind tries to zero in on what the Holy Spirit wants me to express ... If Jesus taught us to pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven", then it is imperative that we understand what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  Can we accept that the briefest and most comprehensive way to explain it is that Heaven is a region in the universe where the will of God is at present being perfectly and universally done?  That God is King of this region called Heaven, and therefore Heaven is His Kingdom? So, we are to pray that his good and perfect and universal will should be accomplished here on earth, just as it is in Heaven, resulting in a corresponding Kingdom where God is King.
     But what is His perfect and all-embracing will?  I believe that He sent His Son to show us, in human form, what His will is; what pleases Him -- that all people would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  His perfect will was enacted by Jesus, who made it very clear that "the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" ... that is an expression of "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven".  So whatever Jesus did on earth was what the Father wanted accomplished.  And we are emphatically told in the Bible that Jesus is our example, and we must follow in His footsteps.
     So now, I will attempt to close my argument ... if we are to do as Jesus did, which was the perfect will of the Father, then preaching the gospel to the lost; healing the sick; casting out demons; and miracles, signs, and wonders should be part of our Christian experience.  If this is what God wants us to do (and it was certainly what He wanted Jesus to do), then might it be a good thing that the Church is engaging in this kind of disparate discussion?  Might we not emerge from this conflict between our theologies with a broader mandate from God as to how to carry out our Commission? Do any of us really want to limit what God can still do among and through the people of the world (both lost and saved)?
     I will agree wholeheartedly that a unified Body of Christ can be a powerful arm of the Lord.  But I also never want to put a limit on what I think God wants to teach us.  I would never be so arrogant as to assume that we had reached the pinnacle of how God wants us to serve Him or each other.  The fact that this earth is far from being "as it is in Heaven" should be apparent to everyone.  So, obviously, we still have work to do to achieve God's perfect will.  So, we cannot let unity be our goal, at the expense of a greater knowledge of God's Truth.  And if it takes some conflict within the Body of Christ to reveal another facet of God's will, then we must explore it, test it by the Spirit, and make sure that it ultimately glorifies Him.  If it does, then the true believers will come together in a spirit of unity, and we will be one step closer to furthering Heaven on earth.
     So, to sum it all up, unity within the Body of Christ is desired as an expression of our commitment to seeing God's will done.  But unity must not supersede Divine revelation; it must not become a stumbling block to a greater knowledge of what God's will is, or an obstacle to our growth towards God's Kingdom, Power and Glory on earth.  We must not mistake uniformity for unity ... nor let disagreement become division.  After, all isn't a little discomfort worth the deeper dive into God's Word?  Jesus challenged the theological traditions of His day to reveal the true nature of God ... it's not a bad thing to follow His example.

Ephesians 4:15-16    "But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ. From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in [unselfish] love." 
     

August 8, 2016

Christianity Is a 2-Step Process: Salvation To Freedom

     I have seen profound evidence of this truth in the past week.  The recognition that spiritual warfare is not only real, but necessary, has set my husband and myself on a path that has ultimately estranged us from the traditional Church, yet given us the opportunity to testify to the fullness of our Christian faith.
     Christians don't like that word "process" because it means "a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end".  You see, it is my opinion that we've kind of gotten the purpose and method of Christianity out of order and all mixed up.  I'm not too sure we haven't lost some of what Jesus intended for us, His followers, to do until His return.
     When the Apostles met the resurrected Jesus in Galilee and they received their/our commission, what did Jesus tell them to do?  He told them in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."  There is a lot going on in those instructions, but somehow, the Church has reduced it all to a message about salvation.  
     The primary message that I think people in our culture receive ... and people in the pews ... is how important it is that we are SAVED.  They perceive that the central point of the Good News of Jesus is that through God's grace, we have received the gift of salvation, which translates into eternal life; we have escaped the wrath of God because Jesus paid the debt for our sins by experiencing the death that is due all of us.  GRACE and SALVATION become the focal point of what Jesus is all about, and we miss the broader implications of His ministry and purpose.  To them, Salvation is the ultimate goal ... "got it ... done!"
     Let me be clear, I am by no means denying the significance of Salvation!  It is a desired result of a very real relationship with the Son of God.  But it is just one component of that relationship, and we do a disservice, as His disciples, to concentrate on that message alone.  We have forgotten just how extraordinary it was when, at the beginning of His public ministry, He stood up in the synagogue, and when reading from the ancient scrolls, chose to read Isaiah 61:1-2:  "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, To proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord..."
     In effect, Jesus is stating His job assignment, and it all leads to Freedom -- the binding of wounds; the release from confinement and condemnation; freedom to the prisoners of sin and the physical and spiritual captives [of the devil].  That is what He has been sent to do, and receiving Salvation (the "good news" He states at the beginning) is just the beginning of the process that will lead to Freedom in this world, and Eternal Life in the next.
     The Church has been good about teaching the beginning of the process -- the Salvation message.  But if we only receive Salvation and don't continue on to Freedom, then we have our faith in Jesus (that He died for our sins, was buried and resurrected to bear witness to God's victory over Death, and to bear witness to the same Power that will save us from eternal Hell), but we have only gone half-way towards benefitting from the rest of Jesus's assignment.
     Knowing and recognizing that He died for our sins does not, by itself, release us from the bondage and condemnation of the Enemy.  Our physical and spiritual captivity is not automatically voided by the Prince of this world.  Did you know that the Early Church believed that everyone who received Salvation (and was converted out of this world) was still full of demons?  They believed that a person could receive Jesus as their Savior from eternal damnation, but still have unclean spirits that affected their lives.  You see, they were well aware of the symptoms of demonization, and there were people within the Church who had either witnessed Jesus "setting the captives free", or had seen His Apostles and disciples continuing His work in binding up the spiritual wounds caused by demonic attacks.
     Sadly, today we have lost that sense of recognition.  We have all kinds of titles we put on demonic oppression .... mental illness; schizophrenia; personality disorders, bipolarism, and on and on.  In God's Truth, and in reality, these conditions are caused by spiritual attacks by the Enemy.  Granted, these are extreme cases of demonic oppression, but this realization does not dismiss that Christians, who are wonderfully Saved, are still in bondage to demonic persuasions.
     Over the past week, my husband and I have ministered to people who love the Lord without question, who have accepted Him as their Savior and believe in the redemptive work He did on the Cross.  Yet, they are plagued with Guilt and Shame and Doubt and Unworthiness and Pain and Anger ... just to name a few.  These are people who know that the Bible tells us that God forgives and forgets our sins.  They know the Scriptures that tell us "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more"; " I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more"; and "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us". 
      They know these Scriptures and they hear them time and time again, but they don't really believe it.  That's because they are still in bondage to the lies of the devil, who whispers in their minds that they don't deserve the forgiveness; that they are unworthy of Jesus's sacrifice; that they are still dirty and unclean in His eyes.
     But here's what they miss, and what I believe the Church fails to hammer home in their teaching and preaching:  It is the very important message contained in Hebrews 10:14 ...  For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  I think most Christians can get the concept that when they receive Salvation, Jesus's forgiveness is a done deal (even if they don't quite believe it for themselves).  But they have not been taught that this begins the process toward being the person that Jesus created them to be; the Scripture says they "are being sanctified".  Other translations say they "are being made holy".  Do you see the verb tense?  It is Present Progressive, indicating an ongoing activity.  It's right there in the description!  It's about "Progress"!  First ... Salvation, which begins the process; and then taking the steps to make progress towards Freedom!
     Let's finish by going back to that Early Church belief that converted Christians still had demons.  Why would we think we are any different?  Do we look back on them as backwards and uncivilized, and see ourselves as more enlightened and informed?  Remember, they were a whole lot closer to receiving Jesus's "Good News" than we are, thousands of years later.  They took to heart his proclamation in that synagogue ... that this was the favorable year of the Lord because He was being anointed and commissioned to bind up and heal spiritual and physical wounds; to release people from condemnation; and to free the prisoners that the devil was keeping in captivity.
    And before He left this world, He told those of us who believe in Him that we would do the things He had done, and even greater.  And now we are waking from a long slumber of deception, lack of knowledge, and inexperience to continue that work.
     In the Great Commission in Matthew 28, Jesus instructs us to make disciples of all nations, and to "[teach] them to observe all that I commanded you".  That word "observe", in the Greek, means to guard or preserve.  But what should we, as the Body of Christ, be guarding and preserving?  The Gospel of Jesus, for sure ... that Salvation is available to all that believe in His redemptive work.  But after He is resurrected, and before He ascends into Heaven, He makes it very clear that the Apostles are to wait for the Power of God (which would come in the form of the Holy Spirit).  This is the same Power that the Father had given Him to heal the brokenhearted, cast out demons and set people free from the oppression of satan.  And with that Power they were to continue these same works that He had done, and to teach those who were becoming followers of Jesus that they, too, received that Power at their conversion.  And they were to use it!
    I began this post by saying that I had seen this two-step process of Salvation to Freedom this past week.  People were able to see Jesus in the midst of their sinful lives and to experience His love and forgiveness.  They left that encounter feeling "different; lighter; as if a burden had been lifted".  But most importantly, they left knowing that Jesus is ever-present and He wants them set free from the prison they've been locked in.  And it is a glorious thing to witness!
     It is such a blessing to be involved in Deliverance Ministry ... to see the Power of the Holy Spirit speak into people's lives so they can see the Truth of Jesus's forgiveness and their path out of the hurts and oppression they have been suffering under.  When Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the Truth shall set you free", I'm here to give witness that He means it!  I have assisted Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help people see Him in the midst of the hardest times in their lives; times that satan used to give them a spirit of brokenness, or anger, or shame.  And, the Holy Spirit shows them that Jesus was actually there with them through that painful experience, and they hear His truth, instead of satan's lie ... that He loves them; He has always loved them; He forgives them when they ask for forgiveness; and He washes them clean with His blood.  It is to the Glory of God that I can assist Jesus in making Himself real to those who love Him!  Now it is my prayer that other Christians will recognize that their Salvation is just the starting point; that they will begin the process towards Freedom, letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit work in them to release them from the spiritual bondage that is hindering them from bearing fruit in their lives and for God's Kingdom.  That's the second step that Jesus died for!

Psalm 118:5    "Out of my distress I called on the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me free."