A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


January 18, 2017

The Court of Heaven (Part 1): Do You Know You Have Access To It?

     Perhaps the first question I should ask is Did you know the Court of Heaven even exists?  I would venture to guess that a majority of modern Christians would answer "No" to that question.  Yet the Jews returning to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile knew well the teachings of the prophet Zechariah, among which was this idea of a Heavenly Court.
     And when we examine Scripture, there are many references to legal terms in God's relationship with men:  judgment, appeals, law, contract, evidence, witnesses, indictment, jurisdiction, debt and debtors, redemption, punishment, condemn, testimony, and verdict.  Starting to get the idea?  And we must always keep in mind the admonition of our Lord: Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.  The judicial system of the ancient Israelites, as well as our own court system, are modeled upon the Court in Heaven.  Furthermore, the Court is part of the judicial government of the Kingdom of Heaven, and guess what?  We have access to it as part of His Kingdom here on earth!
     First, I want us to understand that there are really two aspects of the Court of Heaven for Believers:  1) Jesus as our legal defender, and 2) our ability to prepare a case for our own defense.  In both instances, we can be present and have access to God in this heavenly Courtroom.
     Let me see if I can paint a picture for you from Scripture... In Zechariah, Chapter 3, the prophet receives a vision from a guiding angel of the High Priest, Joshua, standing before God, and Satan stands to his right, as his accuser.  The High Priest Joshua represents disobedient and sinful Israel, who has been brought to the Court of Heaven to receive what Satan thinks will be justified punishment for their sins.  (Remember: He is known as the Accuser). But that isn't what happens!  God rebukes Satan and replaces Joshua's filthy rags with the clean white robes of forgiveness.
     Then it gets even more exciting!  God counsels Joshua, telling him that if he will be faithful and walk in the ways of the Lord, he will be given greater authority to govern His house and have charge of His earthly courts, and most importantly, Joshua will have free access to the Court in Heaven and to God's presence.  I want you to read that last comment again ... God promised Joshua privileged access into the presence of God. This isn’t a surprising promise for a High Priest, but we have the same promise: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16).
     NOTE:  I am currently seeking revelation from God about whether the Court of Heaven takes place in the Throne Room of God.  At this time, I am seeing Daniel 7:9-10 as confirming this, but I have asked some notable Bible scholars for their opinion, and I will give you their feedback as I receive it.  But for your own discernment and determination, here is the passage in Daniel:  As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before Him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.  I see both the Throne Room and the Court of Judgment pictured in this Scripture, but as to whether they always coincide together, I am not prepared to say.  And perhaps the Court appears in the Throne Room only when God (The Judge) calls the Court into session.  What do you think?  
     But back to the High Priest Joshua ... as Christians, we, too, can appear before God's Throne and the Court of Heaven.  And I really like the way the noted theologian Charles Spurgeon voices his interpretation of this scenario:  "When Satan accuses, Christ pleads (our case). He does not wait till the case has gone against us and then express His regret, but He is always a very present help in time of trouble. He knows the heart of Satan, (being omniscient God), and long before Satan can accuse He puts in the demurrer, the blessed plea on our behalf, and stays the action till He gives an answer which silences forever, [the Accuser's] every accusation."  I found it interesting that the definition of the word demurrer is "[in Law], an objection that an opponent's point is irrelevant or invalid, while granting the factual basis of the point".  So, the result is that Satan accuses us, and Jesus never denies our sin, but instead acts as our Mediator. His sacrifice on our behalf makes the case against us invalid, and the case is thrown out of the Court of Heaven.  We are innocent by the Blood of the Lamb!
     But I don't want us to skip over another very important fact ... God's promise wasn’t just that we can go to the Court of Heaven to petition, making a formal request for a Judicial decision, but if we  will follow God's commandments and live in obedience, then we can oversee the affairs of the Judge  (God), and make the decisions!! That is a realm of authority in the Kingdom Government on earth that is available to all of us! So it’s not just about us being able to appear in Court to plead our case, (it starts there, of course), but we are given the authority to rule and reign and be part of God's justice system in His earthly Kingdom. In that particular responsibility, there is a significant aspect of our position in the Kingdom of God that I'm afraid most Christians don't fully understand... We are Kings and priests of our God, and He intends for us to participate as the government of heaven will increasingly invade the earth.
     There are other obvious views of the Court of Heaven in the Bible.  Perhaps the most familiar one is in the story of Job ... One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan who was his designated Accuser came along with him. We also see that the Court in Heaven is where Satan got permission to curse Job and strike him with severe sores and other misfortune.  It is important for us to understand, as in this case with Job, God does allow Satan to attack and harass His people, but He always strictly regulates what Satan is allowed to do.  And whether we realize it or not, Satan has been going to the Heavenly Courtroom, (just like he did with Job), to get permission to steal from all of our lives. And because we Christians haven't known that we can go into Court and say, "NO, I want to present my case and oppose what the Accuser is saying", we have experienced defeat after defeat! How often have Believers perished for lack of this knowledge?!?
     And I don't want to leave this topic without pointing out one of the strongest visions of the Court of Heaven, which takes place in Revelation 12:10:  Then I heard a strong (loud) voice in heaven, saying, Now it has come—the salvation and the power and the kingdom (the dominion, the reign) of our God, and the power (and the authority) of His Christ (the Messiah); for the Accuser of our brethren, he who keeps bringing before our God charges against them day and night, has been cast out.

     But here's the good news!  We have an Advocate in the Heavenly Courtroom!  This is a legal term describing someone who has received some legal training which allows him or her to represent another in a courtroom; an Advocate is someone who speaks on behalf of someone else.  So we should see a picture of Jesus as our Advocate in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father—[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright and just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].”  We know, from this Scripture, that Jesus is legally trained and knows how to represent us in the Court of Heaven!
     But here's something we must also consider ... in the instance of Job, we know that Satan was allowed to appear before the Court of Heaven, and accuse Job before God, The Judge.  But in the first 12 chapters, Job does nothing to defend himself.  He laments the attacks against him, but does nothing to defend himself --- until Chapter 13!  Finally, in this chapter he says, NOW I have prepared my case (verse 18).  So, do you think Job might have saved himself and his family a lot of harm and suffering if he had prepared his case earlier?  Would he have been able to block Satan's attempt to destroy him and his family in the Court?  No one can say for sure, but Job makes it quite evident that now that he's prepared his case, he knows he will be vindicated!
     Can we perhaps learn a lesson from Job and be prepared to make our own cases in the Court of Heaven against our Accuser? Stay tuned for the next post as I present how the whole Heavenly Court system is rigged on our behalf, and how we can go to the Court on behalf of ourselves and our families, with the knowledge that Jesus stands with us.  It's time we begin to prepare our own defense against the lies and accusations of our Adversary!

Thank you to the notes of Steven McKie, David Herzog, and Terry Spencer of New Horizon Community Church for their helpful insight on this topic.  They pointed me to Scripture on the Court of Heaven, which contributed to my understanding of this Biblical concept.

Psalm 35:1   "Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me".
   

   

January 16, 2017

When The Presence Of God Seems Hidden

     Yesterday I addressed how it feels when you think God doesn't see you or hear you.  Today I want to focus on how we think and feel when it seems as if we can't see or hear God.  I'm talking about the "hiddenness" of God; but not from the aspect of nonbelievers, who will say, if God existed, then God would make His existence more obvious. God is not obvious. Therefore, God does not exist.
     This is not about God deliberately hiding His presence.  It's about those times in our lives when we, who have been in real relationship with Him, can't find Him or hear His voice.  It's about those crises of faith that have us asking why He has seemingly abandoned us, or is at least choosing to not communicate with us.
     If you have been one who has enjoyed an easy and intimate relationship with God -- received answers to your prayers, and seen evidence of His presence during times of trouble -- then the notable lack of His appearance becomes cause for concern.  And if you have advanced to a level of relationship where your spirit can approach His throne room and ask for heavenly power and a call to action -- and then He seems to be absent or silent, it can begin to raise doubts in our spirit. And  if the problem persists, then it can lead to a crisis of faith; or worse, sometimes a collapse of trust in God.
      But if you have experienced an intimate relationship with God in the past, and are now facing a "dry spell" in that partnership, you must not forget that He is the Unchangeable and Ever-Present God. Perhaps He is preparing to do a work in your life and is waiting to see the level of commitment you have to Him.  Maybe He is waiting to see if you are willing to press into Him when the going gets rough and His presence isn't easily discerned.  And just maybe there are places He wants to take you, but you have to be willing to walk by faith, not by sight.
     That is a time-worn motto of the Church ... we walk by faith, not by sight.  But if you are a Christian who has developed a spiritual relationship with God (communing with Him in the spirit and being accustomed to His presence), then the absence of that intimacy might really challenge your faith walk.  But that is the time to "press into God".
     What do I mean by that?  It means to seek God and to keep on seeking Him, even when you have no clear evidence that He is there.  It means to seek to know Him and His righteousness when your world is falling down around you.  It means surrendering yourself and your life to Him because you have nowhere else (and no one) to turn to. And it means trusting that He is there, waiting on you to take a step towards Him, instead of sitting back and expecting Him to come to you.
     I have a very dear friend who is pressing into new depths in her relationship with God. She has met Jesus in her spirit and He has shown her how much He values her and what is possible when she decides to move towards Him.  She has been through some devastating trials in her life, and has just recently learned to seek Jesus in the spirit and press into Him. While He has healed her emotional and spiritual wounds, and is helping her to deal with changes in her life, He is also showing her that her future depends on her making the next move.  He is not there to orchestrate her every step, but is waiting for her to put her faith into action to receive the future He has planned for her.  She doesn't know what that might be, but because she has pressed into Him, even when He doesn't seem to be present, she is excited about stepping out in faith.  The unknown future no longer scares her because she knows He has something spectacular to give her; something He has been preparing for her since He knit her in the womb.  And because she has walked by faith, and not by sight -- and because she has pushed through her trials to be in the very presence of God -- she is excited to receive her inheritance as the daughter of the King!
     Unfortunately, an experience she had with trying to go through the Church to help her deal with her personal trauma and ordeals was met with a legalistic attitude.  She tried to share what God was showing her and the new depths she was reaching with Him, but they wanted to shove her, and God, into a traditional and Pharisaical box. They wanted her to observe the strict external form of religion without regard to the spirit.  As she sat in dismay, her dejected spirit saw angelic soldiers in full spiritual armor shaking their heads in consternation, and she left the Church in tears.  I can only imagine how that grieved God's Holy Spirit.
     But she is determined to seek God on her own and press into Him, despite the Church.  And she is enthusiastic about what God has in store for her. Her greatest joy is found in spending time in God’s presence and contending with God’s Spirit for more of Him. She is learning to love the time she spends with Him, and it is preparing her for any future "dry spells" that are sure to come her way. She has stepped outside the comfort zone of conventional religion and has turned a life that looks destroyed [from the outside] into a spiritual relationship worth celebrating!  Jesus was her last resort, and she didn't let the fact that she couldn't see Him or hear Him [in the wreckage of her life] stop her from reaching out for Him. She accepted His invitation for healing, let Him validate and strengthen her, and is now ready to trust in the authority and power He has given her to walk out her faith.
     Don't get caught up in the Enemy's lie that you need Jesus to hold your hand every minute of every day.  Don't buy into the deception that you're incapable of defeating the devil on your own.  You have been given the very power that God gave Jesus.  His presence is in you and you can have the confidence that you will be a Victor, just as He was. So, if you happen to be in a spiritual desert at the moment, and you can't hear or see God, then wait for Him; pressing into Him and pushing through to a relationship that I promise you will be supernatural and rewarding!

Psalm 2:1-5    "My son, if you will receive My words
and treasure My commandments within you, so that your ear is attentive to [skillful and Godly] wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding [seeking it conscientiously and striving for it eagerly]; yes, if you cry out for insight, and lift up your voice for understanding; if you seek skillful and Godly wisdom as you would silver and search for her as you would hidden treasures; then you will understand the [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] and discover the knowledge of God."
   

January 15, 2017

Genesis 16:13

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees me,”  for she said, “Truly I have seen Him who looks after me.”


     In this passage we see, Hagar, the Egyptian handmade of Sarai, who was given to Abram to bear him a child.  We all know the story. Sarai is unable to conceive, and taking matters into her own hands (rather than trusting YHWH to keep His promise that a son would be borne to her), decides she will manipulate the situation and gain children through her servant. After giving birth to Ishmael, Abram's first son, Hagar suffers the jealousy and wrath of Sarai, and runs off to the wilderness, willing to allow herself and her unborn child to die, rather than suffer anymore abuse.
     But she is visited by Angel of the Lord, who tells her that YHWH has heard and paid attention to her suffering and persecution. And she will give birth to a son, whom she is to name Ishmael (God hears). At that moment she can bear anything, knowing that she has met a God who sees her and hears her.  She is not insignificant, nor is her situation ignored.
     NOTE:  This is the first occurrence of “Angel of the Lord (YHWH)” in Scripture. The Hebrew word for “angel” means “messenger” (an angel of God is a special messenger from God who speaks for and is closely identified with Him). Many Bible scholars believe that this Angel may be a theophany, that is, a physical manifestation of God, in which case the word Angel is capitalized. The Angel of the Lord may, based on context, be the pre-incarnate Christ, the Son of God. Various versions of the Bible either capitalize, or not, the word "angel".  I happen to believe that this is Jesus, and not an unidentifiable messenger from God.
     Moving on, I can't tell you how many people -- especially women -- who have found their way to our ministry because of similar circumstances as Hagar. By that, I mean, they are suffering in their personal lives because they feel that no one is listening to them.  They desperately need to be heard and their lives validated.  They are often living is such spiritual prisons, that they fear no one knows the truth of their lives.  
     But when we can show them that, just like Hagar, Jesus has been listening to their prayers and has seen everything that has gone on in their lives, and is El Roi (the God who sees me), then they can begin to let His Light shine into their darkness.  Knowing that He knows their truth can be such a liberating event.  And, almost without exception, they are surprised to be able to go into the spirit realm and see Him present at each point in their lives when they thought they were suffering alone.
    It is quite natural, and understandable, that they often ask, "If You were there, why didn't You stop the hurtful outcome or change the situation"?  With every person, His answer is different and unique to their circumstances.  As I have proposed in a previous post, God (and Jesus) will not subvert His universal law of free will.  Whether the hurtful period in one's life is caused by our own free will decision to sin, or the free will act of another to harm us, God has given us the option to reach out to Him for repentance, healing, and restoration. That cements a very deep and personal relationship between us and our Savior.  If God just stepped in and stopped the sin and abuse, would we ever make an effort to establish such a holy and sanctified relationship?  Would we ever turn to Him on our own, and why would we ever have to acknowledge His power, if we never needed to be set free?
     In the well-known story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar, God shows us that He is truly El Roi ...  God never sleeps, He sees, He is aware, He is the great Omnipresent God. But I want to take it one step further ... what if in the darkest hour of your torment, you are able to actually connect with Him in your spirit?  What if you can hear Him say, just like Hagar did, "I hear you, and I see you"!  And what if you learned that He is there all the time, and you can visit with Him anytime and as often as you like?  What if your spirit could receive affirmation that He values you and wants you to see yourself as He sees you; as a child of God, as a Princess of the Kingdom? And what if He wants to show you your real Truth -- not what the world has projected on to your mind's screen?
     Can you see that this passage is giving us a precise picture of the healing power of Jesus as we encounter Him in the spirit?  And can you see how much more effective this can be than secular counseling, or even pastoral counseling?  Because I can tell you that if a counselor never invites Jesus in to have a personal encounter with the hurting and wounded, then all the secular psychology or sermons on the characteristics of a Biblical wife will never make the wounded feel they've been heard.  Only a one-on-one meeting between Jesus and the afflicted (as happened in Genesis 16) will begin the healing process.   


January 13, 2017

A Couple of Thoughts On The Future...

     It happens one week from today ... the nation is waiting breathlessly as our country experiences the peaceful transfer of power.  As I watch the circus that has become our political process, I am not sure that anything in this world will change until Jesus returns.  I sense that half of the country is eagerly expecting a new beginning of honesty, authenticity, and trustworthiness among those who govern us; while the other half is anticipating oppression, repression, and suppression.  T
     Those who lean Left, politically, fear the loss of all they've gained in the last 43+ years: their newly acquired right to marry anyone of their choice, regardless of sex; their ability to choose to destroy a fetus; and their newfound freedom to culturally express themselves as any gender on any given day.  Those who lean to the political and religious Right hope to see the demise of all those "freedoms".
     We, here in America, pride ourselves on our bedrock of Freedom and Human Rights.  As I contemplate our future, both here at home and abroad, I am deeply concerned that we are too far down the path of unrighteousness to effect any dramatic turn in direction.
     Take this for instance: the First Amendment to our Bill of Rights protects the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech, right? But for far too long, our Churches have restricted themselves from being able to express their opinions on moral, cultural, or political issues.  
"No one can serve two masters ..."
      We are all familiar with the 501(c)3 tax status, which exempts churches from paying federal income taxes as a non-profit public charity.  But as I look around at the mega-churches and the healthy bank accounts of even small town churches, I hardly consider churches "non-profit".  What I see is this ... in an attempt to benefit from man's laws, the Church has become a privileged government entity, receiving monetary "favors" in exchange for operating under and representing private civil law.  In other words, our churches now operate under man's law instead of the freedom of God's Law, trading the headship of Christ for the mandates of the State.
     Now, along comes Donald Trump, who as our President-Elect, declares that he will remove or repeal the Johnson Amendment, which limits freedom of speech from the pulpits.  This amendment is a change in the U.S. tax code, made in 1954, which prohibited certain tax-exempt organizations (including churches) from endorsing and opposing political candidates.  In this election cycle, Christian citizens received this as a ray of hope that the pastors in our pulpits could return to speaking God's whole Truth without fear of government intervention or retaliation.
     But I wonder if it is really the fear of the government that has silenced our pulpits, or the fear of cultural disapproval?  Haven't we really silenced ourselves in an attempt to appease and pacify the growing cultural objection to our Biblical belief system?  Not only have we kept silent, but we have actually adopted the culture as our guiding model for administering our churches.  Same-sex marriage is not only becoming more acceptable in Christian churches, but abortion as a sin is minimized, and the Bible is increasingly discredited.
     When I consider that more churches will adapt to these kinds of Biblical sin, yet condemn a healing or deliverance ministry as "too controversial" (even though Jesus modeled both for us!), then I know that Satan has infiltrated the Church and the seminaries.  And it saddens me that we, the Body of Christ in our nation's churches, would look towards the repeal of a piece of legislation as our lifeline, rather than the pure, unadulterated, and solid Word of God.  In reality, all the Johnson Amendment did was to limit pastors from endorsing or opposing political candidates.  But what stopped them from speaking out about political corruption (and preaching what God is really saying in Romans 13); or speaking out about LGBT activism, abortion, cohabitation, unwed mothers -- any of which have become celebrated statuses in our culture?
     The truth is that no new administration is going to change our culture overnight, and if we are pinning our hopes on Trump and his gang of "outsiders" to effect any great shift in the direction of our government policies or societal culture, then I'm afraid we are going to find ourselves hugely disappointed. And it is not just our churches that determine whether our Christian principles will be upheld.  Our governmental offices and institutions have the ability to stifle our worldwide Christian outreach as well.
     Take for instance, the nomination of Rex Tillerson as President-Elect Trump’s Secretary of State. Many are excited about his executive management skills and I've read more than a couple of inspiring stories about the righteous character of the man.  But I'm also curious to know about the man; especially when I read that, as head of Exxon, Tillerson oversaw large donations to Planned Parenthood.  Are we to anticipate that this organization's radical abortion agenda will be supported as part of our foreign policy?  Also, Mr. Tillerson served on the Boy Scout national board when that organization extended troop leadership to homosexual males.  As a Christian, those actions give me pause, because as Secretary of State, he will have considerable influence on the global impact of the United States, and I am seriously concerned about what social policies we are exporting to the world.
     For instance, will he continue to uphold the October, 2016 rule for the administration of USAID (The United States Agency for International Development; the government agency which is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid)?  This rule, enacted by President Obama (without Congress) prohibits organizations that contract with USAID from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the administration of aid. In other words, as expressed in an article on Barbwire.com, "authentic Christian principles must be betrayed in order to serve poor, diseased, displaced and suffering people".  Will Christian-affiliated mission groups be barred from service to the disadvantaged of the world unless they endorse the homosexual agenda?  As Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said, "Disaster relief agencies may now be required to open their women’s shower and sleeping facilities to biological males who self-identify as women or be stripped of all funding for alleged ‘gender identity discrimination' ". Is that the message we want to send to the world? And is that truly representative of Jesus's form of social justice?
     So, as much as I hate to say it, I'm not so confident that change is in our future ... that anything like repealing the Johnson Amendment will affect the culture of our churches.  I fear that our churches have become institutions unto themselves, more concerned about perpetuating their existence than discipling followers of Jesus in how to live a Biblically righteous life.  And I am waiting to see if the attitudes and behaviors of elected government officials will reflect a desire to promote Christian values at home and in the world, or if we will see the continued advancement of our culture's immorality.
     To tell you the truth, I am more excited and optimistic when I talk to fellow Christians who, single-handedly, are walking out the Great Commission -- Believers who are being bold and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them to engage with their fellow man and share their faith.  I'm talking about people who, in the course of their day, share Jesus with their physical therapist, the waitress at lunch, the grocery store clerk, or the child in their classroom.  These are Believers who are not ruled by the laws of men; who do not let the opinions of the disbelieving culture inhibit them from shining the Light of the Lord into someone's life.
     I know that will sound like a fantasy dream to some.  But I honestly believe that these simple acts of faith will be honored by God more than all the repealed laws and extraordinary government appointments man can make. Jesus didn't ask us to build massive church buildings and congregations in His Name, or institute powerful governments to represent Him.  He asked us to make disciples of men, baptize them into the Kingdom of God, and teach each man, woman, and child all that He has commanded us.  We do that one person at a time, compromising nothing in our message, and fearing no one but Him.  THAT is the future that I'm ready to witness!  Let it begin with me!

1 Peter 3:15   "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,"


   

January 11, 2017

Do You Think God Is In Control of Everything?

    The answer is either "yes" or "no".  And depending on your answer, it will likely determine whether you believe you have Power and Authority in the Name of Jesus. And it will definitely shape how you respond to life's adversities and spiritual attacks.
     Those who respond "yes" will point to the characteristic of His Sovereignty, saying it means God has supreme power, authority, and control over His creation.  They will cite Scripture they believe points to God's sovereignty over nature and nations. They will quote Bible verses they say validate God's sovereignty over history and the affairs of men.  And, ultimately, they will say that even if something bad happens... It was God's WILL!  God can use everything and everyone for His purpose, and therefore that means that He controls things by His will.  So, I knew I had to determine what the concept of God's sovereignty had to say about whether or not He controls everything.
     But here is an astounding thing that I discovered ... I looked up "Sovereignty" in the Dictionary and got this definition:  jurisdiction, rule, supremacy, dominion, power, ascendancy, domination, authority, control, influence.  I thought, "Okay, that is how the secular world defines sovereignty.  How is it defined in Strong's Concordance?", which is an index to the Bible that lists words, and allows one to compare how that word is used in different passages, and to see different meanings, depending on the context.  Well, guess what?  I went to my well-worn Concordance... and the word sovereign wasn't listed! You know how you try to justify something that doesn't seem possible?
     When the Concordance went from the word, southward to sow, I found myself repeating the alphabet to make sure I wasn't looking in the wrong place.  Surely this couldn't be!  But there it was ... Neither sovereign nor sovereignty were listed in Strong's Concordance.  So, what does that say when a well-trusted reference book doesn't even acknowledge the concept of sovereignty?  This well-respected book provides an independent check against translations, and offers readers of the Bible an opportunity for greater, and more technically accurate understanding of the Scriptural text (from both the Hebrew and Greek perspective) -- yet how could I understand text that didn't exist?
     Now, I'm faced with an even bigger dilemma! One of the primary arguments that God is in control of everything has been the characteristic of His Sovereignty... yet, that word doesn't seem to be used in the Bible?!?!  How can that be?  This quandary demanded more research, and I was actually amazed to find the following information....  The words sovereign and sovereignty do not appear in the 1611 King James Bible at all!  (MY CAVEAT: I am not advocating a "King James only" interpretation. I merely reference it because it is the oldest among the Bible versions in use today).
      I discovered that sovereign and sovereignty appear sporadically in the ESV and Amplified versions (written in 1971 and 1965, respectively).  Sovereignty appears eight times in the New American Standard version (published in 1971), although it refers to the LORD God, only twice. But the word sovereign appears 297 times (I looked it up on biblegateway.com) in the NIV translation, written in 1973, and nearly all usages refer to the title, "Sovereign LORD".
      Now I'm curious as to what appears in the King James instead of this word sovereign.  And what I found was that "Sovereign Lord" in the NIV replaced the use of "LORD God" in the King James.  Apparently, the translators of the 20th Century NIV decided to translate the word LORD as Sovereign.  This word, LORD, was translated in the King James Bible from the Hebrew Adonai (meaning Lord, Master) and Jehovah (meaning Lord).  When I compared the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (and written and completed before Christ was born!), with every occurrence of the NIV's Sovereign LORD, I found the various terms "Master and Lord", "the Lord thy God", "O Lord, King of gods", or simply "Lord".
     So, let me make my position clear ... Every time you read “Sovereign God” in the NIV Bible, it actually should read “Lord God”. The original Hebrew did not mean "sovereign" and that was a translator’s decision.  And while I cannot explain the reasoning behind this recent mis-translation, I can definitely see how assigning the word "Sovereign" has resulted in a faulty doctrine. Let me elaborate...
     Once God was actually called sovereign, then His sovereignty became an established theological characteristic, and is actually listed in Theopedia (a conservative, evangelical, Christian encyclopedia) as an official characteristic of God.  So, man's ignorance of the Hebrew language, along with religious tradition have actually created a false doctrine of God's "Sovereignty", which now translates into His control of everything because of our 21st Century dictionary definition of what "sovereign" means.
     But regardless of whether you are willing to follow the argument I've presented on the historical mis-translation or not, I still want you to understand why I feel it is important you recognize that God is NOT in control of everything. Let me start by asking you a simple question ... If you think God IS in control of everything... how has the world come to be in such bad shape?  And if you truly believe He is All-Powerful, and has the power to prevent the evil, why do we continue to see such evil being perpetrated by humans? Take, for instance, the recent viral video of that 18-year-old mentally handicapped man who was bound and gagged while four young people tortured him for hours.  They have now been charged with a hate crime, and their racial slurs and physical sadism show their evil hearts.  Do you think it was God's will that the young man suffered such torment and agony?  If He is in control of everything, then why didn't He stop that from happening?  And if there is a purpose for His good in that horrible situation, does that fit your impression of God -- that He would let such pain and humiliation be inflicted upon one of His creation to serve His own purpose?
     Now, let me present my thoughts ... Yes, God has infinite Power and can control anything He wants to.  But He used His free will to create us in His image.  Put in very simple terms, if God has free will, then so do we, because we are made in His image.  But it is quite evident that it is our free will that has caused the world to be in such bad shape.  It is the decisions we make to follow either our flesh or the temptations of the Enemy -- instead of following Him -- that result in the pain and misery on this earth.  Could He have made us to be creatures that automatically follow Him in every circumstance?  Absolutely!  But how would that have glorified Him? Ultimately, our free will results in a decision either to be loyal to Him, or to follow a path to rebellion. (And there's another facet to this question of free will -- Satan was created by God as Lucifer, and he used his free will to make a decision to rebel.  And he is trying to convince us to the same).
     What we see on earth is man using his free will to disobey God to serve his own selfish desires. So, think about this --- If everything was "sovereignly" controlled by God, then there would be no need to pray, no need to give financial offerings, no need to even live right — because whatever happened would be what God wanted regardless of our efforts.  In effect, if God controls everything, why even bother to pray?
     Now, you could say, "But God is all-powerful. He is able to intervene in human affairs, and my prayers can help convince Him". Yes, our prayers rising to Heaven can, and do, result in God intervening in our lives.  But God has given us His power, too, through the Holy Spirit, and the authority to use it!  Jesus makes that very clear in Luke 10:19 ... Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 
     Yet we doubting and faithless Christians do not believe this word from our Savior!  Oh, we have no problem believing that God exists -- but all this other stuff about demons, and spiritual attacks, and supernatural forces of evil; well, that's outside the box that we've put God and ourselves in.  But the ancient Jews, to whom Jesus was talking to in Luke 10:19 knew exactly what He was referencing. "Serpent" referred to a deadly, subtle, malicious enemy; and "Scorpion" symbolized torment and wrath.  Yet, we choose to ignore Jesus's gift [to us] of authority over both, and over ALL the power of the enemy!  These terms and symbols are all dealing with the supernatural, spiritual realm.  Jesus has given us authority and power to resist them, and yet we limit ourselves to praying and asking God to handle it for us.
     Can you consider the possibility that He doesn't want to be the "medicine cabinet God" that handles everything for us?  Can you see that the next time we encounter an attack by the enemy, we have the choice to continue to just sit back and ask God to take care of it for us -- OR we can choose to use the power and authority Jesus has given us over ALL the power of the enemy, and handle it ourselves?  Which glorifies Him the most? -- evil forces on the earth continue to torment and attack us over and over because we never stop them; we just wait for God to answer our prayers ... OR, we declare to the spiritual realm that we are using our free will and our authority to call upon the mighty Name of Jesus [and are using His power that abides within us] to wage war as part of His Kingdom servants on this earth.
     My spirit gets a very clear picture --- God doesn't want to be in control of everything!  He wants a partner, not a puppet!  He made us in His image and He wants us to act like it!  He sent His Son into this evil world , and transferred His power to Jesus to establish God's Kingdom on earth.  Then Jesus transferred His power to us, and here we are 2,000 years later, with scarcely an idea that we possess that power, let alone know how to use it.  It is not God's will that the world be in the shape it is in, nor that we suffer in our lives from all the slings and arrows of the enemy.
     Will there be things outside our control, even if we use the power assigned to us?  The answer is yes. The Prince of this world still has his power, too.  But I don't think Jesus wanted us to believe that God would control everything.  Jesus, Himself, was God ... and He could have called down a legion of angels to stop his crucifixion and controlled the whole outcome.  But He came to our realm to show us the way to fight in the spiritual war that started in Heaven and continues to this day on earth.  He used the Power and Authority given to Him by God to heal the sick, bind and cast out demons, and spread the word that the Kingdom of God (God's heavenly government) was here to take back territory.  It's time we use our free will to work with God and take control of our lives!

Romans 14:12   "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

January 9, 2017

The Mysteries of The Kingdom of God

     How many of you have given any thought to the difference between the "Gospel of Jesus" and the "Gospel of the Kingdom"?  I would surmise that many of you are like me; I never gave it much thought, or at the very least, I combined them into one concept, under the heading of "The Good News".
     I would submit to you that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of eternal life in the Kingdom of God through His work on the cross, while the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a call to interface with God in His Kingdom ... the earthly realm and the Heavenly realm. In more precise terms, the Kingdom of God is the realm in which God is King (with the understanding that He resides in all realms and all dimensions).  We also know that a kingdom is a government.  Every kingdom needs a founding document, and God’s Kingdom is founded on the Bible.
     Here's another concept to consider: Every kingdom has an expansion agenda for its growth. The agenda is to expand and take territory for the King so that He might gain more influence in the world. So, from this perspective, God owns Heaven, so to speak, and His goal is to expand His Kingdom in the earth and take territory from Satan. Now, let's take it a step further ... God’s Spiritual Kingdom seeks to invade and expand into our physical realm (“On earth as it is in Heaven”). In this battle to gain new territory for our King, we aren’t trying to hold or maintain ground. We need to war in the Spirit to capture and control new ground. In this way, God’s Kingdom government works by executing His authority over a territory in the same way a 13th Century English King executed his authority over the captured land of other nations.
     God’s Kingdom is made to occupy the territory of your heart, which allows God’s influence to be released from Believers into the world.  But there is a Cosmic Chess Match going on between God and Satan, and it is being fought on the battlefield of men’s hearts.  If God isn’t allowed to occupy the territory of your heart to establish His Kingdom there, Satan will seek to fill this spiritual void, and he can do it through his low level demons of unforgiveness, anger, hate, fear, shame, porn, pharmakeia, occultism (like Freemasonry), and any means necessary.
     As a counter move to Satan, God seeks to program your heart with His belief system.  At this point, it is important to understand the ways in which our hearts can be programmed:
1) REVELATION (Ephesians 1:17): I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  
2)  REPETITION  OF POSITIVE CONFESSIONS:   The repeated positive confessions break down the barrier between the conscious and the unconscious.  (“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”).  That’s why we encourage people after our deliverance sessions to learn affirmative and positive Scriptures to speak out loud when you start hearing Satan whisper his lies in your mind.
3) TRAUMA (Fear/Lies/Repeated Bullying/Torture by demons):  They all create false belief systems that are contrary to God.  (This is called mind control).  It shatters the heart’s belief system into fragments.
     So, you can see that the heart is the battleground where we either let God's Kingdom be established, or we give Satan permission to occupy us as his territory.  And it is absolutely essential that we understand our heart connects directly to our Spirit!  2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, And it is God who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. In essence our heart is a portal (a doorway, an opening, a gateway, an entry way) to our Spirit.
     So because there is a direct link from our heart to our spirit (which is the essence of our eternal being; the physical body being temporary), it is important that we guard our heart.  When you understand this concept, then Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me takes on great significance.  And it becomes necessary that we close any portals that might offer an opening to our heart which gives the Enemy the opportunity to take more ground from God's Kingdom.
     How do we close those portals to our hearts?  First, we need to understand that God, the Father, has cosmic laws that required His Son’s blood in exchange for our eternal life.  Jesus's blood has real power in spiritual warfare, and is capable of defeating demonic beings.  In fact, the blood of Jesus smashes demons, defeats any of Satan’s hierarchy, and seals portals that aren’t from God.
     On the other hand, Satan wants to guard and protect any heart he has been allowed access to; and will assign a controlling demon to this portal entry point.  Satan will assign a strongman or gatekeepers, who will monitor and try to control our hearts. And they will fight back with extreme motivation to maintain the portal in the person.
     Sometimes the authority for the demon's residence in our hearts has been personally granted via sin(s) committed through our own free will.  But in many cases the strongman’s legal authority is veiled or deliberately hidden.  Furthermore, legal authority may extend all the way back to different centuries. Generational curses, Freemasonry, dedications, rituals, or any satanic legal issue that gives Satan authority will yield territory from God's Kingdom.  Through spiritual warfare, the legal authority can be cancelled and the strongman removed.  And once we win that battle, we can seal the portal inside the person with the blood of Jesus.  And that's a way territory can be reclaimed for God's Kingdom.
     And if you are willing, we can go a little further into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  We need to consider that Spirits are both persons and realms.  We are spirits; Satan's emissaries are spirits; and the Holy Spirit resides in us when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  But also consider that we, as Believers, are called to live out of the realm called Jesus and we are to submit our realm to Him, so that He might live IN us. This is to say that our bodies and our hearts are the realms in which Jesus and the Holy Spirit reside.  But as Revelation 6:8 shows us, Death and Hell are both physical realms and beings.  The beings of Death and Hades are actual spiritual beings, bodies, or entities AS WELL AS a realm that exists. And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. 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. Can you see both the [spiritual] person and the [spiritual] realm in this verse?
     I believe it is important for us to understand, at this critical time in history, that as spirit beings, we can engage in battle in the spiritual realm.  Through the power and authority that Jesus has given us, we can protect God's Kingdom and take back territory.  We need to understand that we are operating in two realms -- both heaven and earth! Finding that hard to believe?  Just consider these verses ... Ephesians 2:6:  And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus.  When we first believed, our spirit is seated with Jesus in Heaven, while our physical body remains here on earth.  Our spirit is able to operate in both realms.  Colossians 1:13:  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.  Again, this is telling us our spirits are no longer prisoners here on earth, but have access to the Son of God in His Kingdom, which is in the realm of Heaven. Philippians 3:20: But [we are different, because] our citizenship is in heaven. And from there we eagerly await [the coming of] the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Makes it clear that earth is our temporary home.  As Believers, our spirits are residing in our eternal home, the realm of Heaven.
     So Scripture shows us that we occupy two realms right now (Earth & the Third Heaven) – and with Jesus’s Power and Authority, we can engage in the Second Heaven also, where the demons and spiritual forces that oppress us reside.  But here's the thing I want you to comprehend:  We shouldn’t be afraid of these supernatural aspects God has given to us. To adopt this mindset, requires spiritual maturity in the Church.  Sadly, we haven't grasped these levels of understanding, and the Church is in danger of being locked into rote rituals and doctrine.
     It is imperative we recognize that we were created and designed and empowered to rule with Him right now ... not when we die, not when we become glorified, and not having to wait to be called up as a co-ruler or co-reigner in the Millennial Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is on earth right now, in our hearts, and we are commissioned to take territory for Him this very day!  And I believe that if we desire to seek a position of authority in the Kingdom, we must come of age spiritually, and begin discipling Believers for the work to be done.
     We are heirs with Christ of the Kingdom of God. And heirs to the King are royalty to God.  Everyone believing in Christ and reading this blog is an heir and considered royalty in the Kingdom.  That is why we are often referred to as “ambassadors for Christ”. We can even consider ourselves "viceroy kings" in His kingdom, which means we are rulers exercising Authority in a colony (the realm of earth) on behalf of a sovereign.
     We have been given appointed spheres of Authority to mete out justice to the dark side under Jesus’s Power and Authority.  It is important that we understand that He directs and grants heavenly resources including messengers, ministering and warring angels, and a full set of spiritual armor.  God has armed us with the Sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God, which is Jesus) and He wants us to be a point of agreement in the earth so He can act. By doing so, we tear down Satan’s plans and deliver people from his clutches.
     I want to finish by saying that perhaps this sounds like more than you can take into consideration for now.  But I want to give you a word of encouragement.  I believe God is rejoicing to see the work beginning among a remnant of His Body.  It’s a small beginning, but we are maturing and embracing our positions in the Kingdom of God.  May we continue to grow and expand and take territory for the King!

Matthew 6:10    "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
   



January 8, 2017

Luke 4:43

 But He said, “I must preach [the good news of] the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because I was sent for this purpose.”


Today's blog post is Part One of a two-part teaching my husband and I presented to our Home Church on "The Kingdom of God".  Part One is an overview of why we need to understand and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  Tomorrow, I will present Part Two, which takes a look at what Jesus meant by "The mystery of the Kingdom".     

     I want to present an idea that is clearly explained in the Bible, yet we, as the Body of Christ, don't recognize it.  As elucidated in Luke 4:43, the purpose of Jesus's coming was to announce that the Kingdom of God would be established on earth.  Christians today, however, tend to focus on His message of Salvation, and we rarely proclaim what He taught about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, which are the same thing. Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”(Matthew 6:33).  Salvation was not his primary focus ... the Kingdom of God was.
     Jesus is teaching His disciples the importance of knowing what He meant by the Kingdom of God, and making sure they knew it was His purpose; why He was sent. And when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He spoke in terms of a real government—a structured, organized entity with the very authority of God behind it. (Certain rulers who heard Christ's message recognized the political implications and viewed His words as a threat to their own power. This became a factor in Christ's eventual crucifixion).  
     But God is a God of order.  To Jesus and His disciples, the term "Kingdom of God" meant a government that would be established on earth. They anticipated that its arrival would amount to nothing less than a sweeping, overwhelming change in the world order.
    We also need to recognize that there are two different fulfillments we need to consider when discussing the Kingdom of God:  1) The Bible shows that when the Kingdom comes in the future, the returning Christ will take His place as divine ruler of the earth.  It is a literal Kingdom on earth, with Jesus as the ruler. 2) Since the Kingdom is wherever the King rules, if He is the ruler of your heart, then the spiritual Kingdom of God exists in you HERE AND NOW.  
     It's interesting, in light of these two fulfillments, to contemplate the chapter of Matthew 13, which consists entirely of parables about the Kingdom of Heaven.  The disciples asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Notice that He doesn't say you have been given the knowledge of Salvation ... No! He was teaching them about the significance of the Kingdom of Heaven and why it was important, both in the present and in the future.
     In each of the parables in Matthew 13, Jesus presents an argument that begins with, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like...".  I don't know about you, but I have read those parables so many times, and I never made the connection that they all pointed to the Kingdom of Heaven.  I looked for a lesson in each one, but did not recognize that He was giving us valuable information that pertained to Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Let me give you a short synopsis on each of the parables and why it was important to Jesus that we get this concept. I recommend that you read these parables in Matthew, Chapter 13, with a new spiritual eye towards The Kingdom of God.
The Parable of the Sower:  Each soil represents one of four responses to the teaching of the kingdom.
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Weeds):  There was corruption in the Kingdom, but it will be sorted out at harvest time.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed:  (This was the most fascinating to me!)  This parable accurately describes what the kingdom community became in the decades and centuries after the Christianization of the Roman Empire. In those centuries the Church grew abnormally large in influence and dominion, and was a nest for much corruption.  Close study of birds as symbols in the Old Testament, and especially in the literature of later Judaism, shows that birds regularly symbolize evil and even demons or Satan.
The Parable of the Leaven:  Three measures is far more leaven than is needed to make bread, and represents the addition of corruption and impurity through “paganizing influences” introduced into the Kingdom.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: The man is Jesus and this parable speaks of how highly the King values the people of His kingdom.  The treasure that is so wonderful that Jesus would give all to purchase is the individual believer. This powerfully shows how Jesus gave everything to redeem the whole world to preserve a treasure in it, and the treasure is His people.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value:  Again, Jesus is the buyer and the individual believer is the pearl that He sees as so valuable that He would happily give all to have it forever.  To the ancient peoples that Jesus was speaking to, a pearl was the loveliest of all possessions; Jesus is telling them that the people of His Kingdom are the most valuable thing to Him.
The Parable of the (Drag)Net: Jesus shows that the world will remain divided right up until the end, and the Church will not reform the world.  The King will return, the angels will assist the King in the work of judgment, and He will establish His Kingdom on earth.
     As I studied further about Jesus's teachings on the Kingdom of God, I began to understand how the early Church might have been confused about it's significance, and how that has translated to near ignorance on the part of the modern Church.
     The hope of the early church was that the Lord would return in the clouds to establish a Kingdom of peace and justice.  That is what Jesus preached!  They had yet to learn that the Kingdom was in them! The Disciples believed in the literal return and reign of Christ on earth.  Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”  He goes on to say in verse 32, that He will then judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats. But He also told them in Luke 17:21:  "You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you."  We can see both the future and the present Kingdoms of God presented here.
     So, how have we come to lose the importance of Jesus's message about the Kingdom of God?  It began to change through the centuries as follows: The Church began to limit the idea of the Kingdom of God to just mean the 1,000 year reign of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.  While The Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom aren’t the same, they do overlap. Then theologians began arguing if the Millennial Kingdom was literal or allegorical. The early Church fathers Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian believed in a literal Millennial Kingdom. In the 3rd Century, Origen was the first to present the allegorical theory. Then just a few years later, Augustine changed the theory even more.  He “identified the Church with the Kingdom of God and maintained that the millennial age had already come”.  In his highly influential book The City of God, Augustine wrote: “Therefore the Church, even now, is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven” (Book XX, Chapter 9). In essence, Augustine taught that the Church in this present world is the Kingdom of God, and “the thousand years stand for all the years of the Christian era”. 
     We need to remember that the Hebrew prophets showed that the arrival of God's Kingdom on earth would bring worldwide peace, physical abundance and divine righteousness.  Isaiah 2:4 tells us that He will judge among the nations, and rebuke many people; that people will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and that nations won’t lift their swords against other nations, and man will learn war no more.
     But history shows us that the “Christian era” or “the Church era” that Augustine equated with God's Kingdom has been a time of violence, war, starvation and widespread lawlessness.  We certainly can’t say mankind is no longer learning war!  So the Church, in this "Age of Grace," has obviously not spread Jesus’s Gospel Message about the Kingdom of God! 
     Continuing from the historical perspective, in the 18th Century mankind adopted “the Age of Reason”, and instead of basing all knowledge in Biblical revelation, they tried to build on the foundation of human reason.  Theologians that adopted this concept believed that “Western civilization was establishing Christ's earthly rule”. And they began to teach that Mankind was “improving” and through our human power and ingenuity we could establish a righteous world. (SIDE NOTE:  We’ve left the “righteousness” part of that world equation behind, and now through our human power and ingenuity, we’re going to “improve” through transhumanism).
     Those theologians also taught that as the Church, we should set good examples of Christian living, which would influence society and culture… we haven’t done a very good job of that if you look at our society today. And even though that idea was preached by the theologians of the day, the Church received no commission to politically reform the society by seeking God’s righteousness, and from the Roman Empire on, we have NOT seen the governments of the world conform to what Jesus said the Kingdom of God was: a structured, organized entity with the very authority of God behind it.  And throughout the centuries, the Church has not preached that as a goal!  Instead, church members heard from their leaders that they should hope and pray for God's Kingdom to come, while concentrating on the Salvation message.
     That literal Kingdom on earth WILL COME and Jesus WILL be the Divine Ruler of His Kingdom on earth.  In that sense the Kingdom of God is future and we look forward to our inheritance. BUT the Kingdom of God also refers to the King’s realm into which we may now enter to experience the blessings of His reign in our hearts.  REMEMBER:  the parable of the Sower is all about what is sown in our hearts; that’s the personal realm that Jesus concentrated on and wants to be King of.
     So, in this earthly realm, it is perhaps easier to comprehend that the Kingdom of God exists in our hearts.  Our spirits give us hints that He is there, and our souls (our minds, emotions and will) will show us He is real and there is evidence of Him --- IF WE SEEK THE KINGDOM OF GOD FIRST.  
     As for the literal establishment of God’s Kingdom at the return of Christ, God's timetable may differ from man's. God does not allow man to foresee the chronological details of His plan, but the outcome is certain. God will do what He has promised. 
     Finally, here is the really important concept I hope you will grasp ... After the true biblical teaching of the Kingdom of God was removed, the gospel message was changed from the message about the Kingdom to a message primarily about Jesus Christ.  It would become a message that Christianity would triumph over its enemies in the world. And it was a message that faith in Jesus would yield eternal salvation ... both true, but these were not the "Good News" that Jesus had come to preach, nor the purpose for which He was sent.  (Re-read the Scripture at the top of this page). In other words, Christianity kept the name of Jesus Christ, but abandoned His message.

Tomorrow I will explore the "secrets" or the "mystery" of the Kingdom of God.  


January 6, 2017

Validation By A Vision

     I wrote yesterday's blog post out of a sincere desire to help several close Christian friends overcome their reticence to letting Jesus set them free.  To be honest, I was beginning to feel as if I was failing them and Jesus because I have been unable to convince them of what my spirit is screaming is His Truth!  I have tried using Scripture to validate what has been revealed to me, but more often than not, these dear Christians are so entrenched in the Church interpretation of the Word, that they look at me with doubtful concern: "I can see that possibility, but it's not what I've been taught my whole life."  And the conversation usually ends there.
     Even those who have seen family members healed of their spiritual wounds [and are desperately searching for a way out of their own bondage] just can't bring themselves to step outside the box. Something is holding them back; they are listening to a lie; and I haven't been able to convince them that Jesus is bigger than we've allowed Him to be.
     So, I have, admittedly, been struggling. After expressing myself yesterday, through my writing, as candidly [and as creatively] as I could -- hoping that I could find some way;  any way to help them understand a new insight to this powerful and innovative and unique God we serve -- I found myself on my knees last night... and unable to pray.
     I honestly didn't know what to pray; or how to pray for a breakthrough.  I had tried praying for ministering angels to reveal God's Truth to them, as it had been revealed to me.  I tried praying, in the Name of Jesus, for specific spirits and strongholds to be bound and cast off my friends.  I tried going, in my spirit, to the throne room of God, where I knew [in confidence] that I could ask for mercy and find grace to help in [this] time of need. But all my prayers seemed flat and shallow.  As I climbed into bed, I didn't feel defeated; but certainly deflated.
     Then, as I often do, when my spirit needs to connect with God, I awoke in the early hours of the morning.  Just past 4 a.m., I lay there wide awake, still struggling with how to get my friends delivered from the spiritual darkness they were experiencing.  But I couldn't even focus my mind enough to pray coherently.  I was wide awake, staring at the ceiling, and it was as if my mind was trying to find its way through a foggy maze.  I couldn't form a plan of prayerful attack against the Enemy.  So I just closed my eyes in the dark, and started telling myself, Be still and know that He is God... Be still and know that He is God.  And I tried to picture, in my spirit, the Light of the Glory of God... the Light shining in the darkness.
     I don't know how to explain it in any other way, but the next thing I was cognizant of was that I was part of something like a mini-movie playing in my head.  I knew on some level that it was a dream, and it was like I was watching it; but it was also like I was one of the actors in this scenario.  The story played out like this:  Set in the early 1930s or so, a man and his family are traveling in their old pickup, when it develops engine trouble.  They limp into this small town, where they are greeted with hospitality by a man who seems to be the leader of the town. This leader also says he'll be glad to help get the truck repaired, and invites them to stay a few days while he arranges for the truck to be hauled away to the shop.
     Now in this "dream", I seem to be playing the part of the husband, who gets his wife and two kids settled in, while he strolls about this town, getting a feel for its citizens.  He quickly senses a reserve and restraint about the townspeople; they seem skittish and nervous.  The husband (me) tries to ask a few questions... what do the townspeople do for a living?  Is it a good town to raise a family? One of the men approaches him, looking over his shoulder, as if worried he will be caught doing something forbidden, and reveals that no one is allowed to do anything but what the Leader permits them to do.  No one is free to pursue his or her own interests.  The husband asks, Then why don't you leave?  The townsman looks aghast and frightened at this suggestion!  Oh, that's impossible!  The Leader won't allow it!
     At this point in the "dream", the scene switches to the Leader returning from taking care of the family's truck, and now I'm playing the part of the wife.  I ask him what news he has on our truck, and he replies that he has taken care of the repairs and it will cost us $800.  Well, that was a fortune in the Depression of the 1930s, and I inform him that we don't have that kind of money! And the Leader informs me that we will be unable to leave since he holds this debt over our heads.  I boldly scream at him, My husband will never give in to your demands, while the terrified townspeople look on, unable to believe that I would dare to stand up to the feared Leader.
     At that moment, the husband (me again) appears on the scene, questions us about the uproar, and declares to the Leader that he will not be subject to his dictates.  He gathers his family up, and standing in the town square, declares to all the surrounding townspeople that we are leaving; we will not be bullied or intimidated by this tyrant.  But the townspeople respond with astonishment and consternation... How can you leave? We are all prisoners here, subject to his command! And we don't have the keys to unlock the gates to the town!
     The husband (me) looks at the panic-stricken townsfolk with pity in his eyes and heart.  Folks, you don't need keys... there are no locked gates on this town.  You have been free to leave anytime you wanted to.  This deceitful and wicked man only had you convinced you could never leave.  Your freedom has always been there.  All you had to do was walk away from him and his lies.
     Suddenly I was awake from this strange "dream".  It had been 2 1/2 hours since I had begun telling myself to Be still, and know that He is God.  But I had just "watched" and "participated in" what seemed like a full-length movie, in all its detail, color, and emotion.  It was as clear and visible in my mind as if I had just walked out of a movie theatre. I was baffled as I woke my husband up and told him the strange event I had experienced in my sleep.  It was such a strange little story; like it was perfectly scripted for my personal screening.  But I wondered, why that particular story line... I couldn't really see any purpose to the plot.  
     Then it hit me!  It was an answer to my struggling attempt at prayer the night before!  God was showing me that I couldn't make people see the truth of their bondage, anymore than I could (as the husband in my "dream") make the townspeople see that they didn't have to live by the dictates of the deceitful Leader.  Satan lies to us and convinces us that we can't escape our chains, and that we live in an invisible fortress of bondage.  It's easy to keep us in those chains, too, because he knows that too many of us will never believe that all we have to do is walk away towards the Freedom that Jesus offers.
     I will tell you that I have never had a "dream" like that before!  And I rarely remember every detail and conversation and emotion in sequential order, and in such lucid images.  My husband said, "I think God just gave you a vision".  At first, I didn't want to accept that because that isn't any kind of language (or concept) that we modern and Western Christians embrace with any comfort or agreement.  But I then realized just how similar my experience was to what I have been studying in Acts, Chapter 10.
     Peter, who found himself outside the norm of Jewish tradition and Law, was staying with Simon, the tanner, in Joppa.  For a law-keeping Jew of that time, it was strictly forbidden to associate with anyone who routinely worked with dead animals. And according to Jewish Law, a tanner had to live at least 75 feet outside a village because of his ritual uncleanness.
     But God was laying a groundwork in Peter's heart for a new concept that He needed him to understand, and Peter is less concerned about Jewish traditions and ceremonial notions than he was before.  Boy, can I relate to that!  This whole ministry that God has laid on me and my husband's hearts necessitates that we be willing to look outside the Western Church's traditions and rituals! And it has certainly set us apart from our fellow Christians.
     And what did God do next with Peter?  While he was praying on Simon the tanner's rooftop, the Bible relates what it calls "Peter's Vision".  Scripture actually says he fell "into a trance".  Now this happens to Peter around noon, hence the description of a trance.  I would submit to you that if it had happened in the night or early morning hours, it would have been described as a dream.
     So, Peter's dream is every bit as clear and focused and vivid as mine was.  He even partakes in a conversation with God, and the dream comes to a definitive end.  It is not disjointed or disordered; it is articulated with a precise message.  And Scripture says "Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant".  Like Peter, I searched for meaning and significance.  And, I will tell you that when it is that strong an image in your mind, you know how different it is from other dreams you've had.
     I understand that the traditional Church, [and perhaps many of you] will be unable to accept what I have related.  It will be rejected as my own rationalization or justification, and it is just too far outside the realm of "acceptable" Christian experience.  But I know in my heart and spirit, that it was a clarification from God.  It articulated the struggles and frustrations I have been facing, and validated that I am on the right path.  I was shown that I may not be able to change thoughts and theology in a Christian's mind, but I am to continue declaring what I see as God's Truth.  It is then up to each Christian to decide if they are too afraid to challenge the invisible chains imposed by the Prince of this world -- or if they will take that life-affirming step and walk through the gates toward Freedom.  All I know is that I have been given encouragement and motivation to continue my walk with My Lord, and it was beyond extraordinary -- it was supernatural!

Ephesians 3:20-21   "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

January 4, 2017

We Can't Get You Out Of Jail; But We'll Bring You Some Food

   
     I want to give credit where credit is due... the title of this blog comes from a podcast by Steve Harmon, a fearless messenger from God on the healing power of Jesus.  But it really pertains to my subject today, so I hope he doesn't mind if I borrow it.
     I've been contemplating the annual self-imposed reflection that so many people adopt this time of year in an attempt to better their lives.  It's almost always focused on eating better, exercising more, and improving the outer man.  But what if more people's New Year's resolutions were centered on the health and condition of their spirits, rather than their physical bodies?  But how many are even in touch with, or conscious of their spirits?  We must come to terms that we are spirits living in physical bodies, and make the health of our spirits of primary importance.
     As Christians, we seek guidance from God on how to live a righteous life; one pleasing to God, and one free of the bondage to sin.  But I am concerned that we do not know that it is through our spirit that God enlightens us and leads us into His Light.  After all, Scripture tells us, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14).  And Proverbs 20:27 says, The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts. 
      It has become increasingly clear to my husband and myself that we Christians cannot renew ourselves, nor deliver ourselves, no matter how hard we try.  Too many of us suffer in our souls and flesh because our spirits do not truly know Jesus.  Our physical man is no match for the schemes and plans of the Enemy to separate us from the healing balm of Christ that our spirits so desperately long for.
     Just as we find our resolve weakening when it comes to keeping those New Year's resolutions, our physical man will never be strong enough to endure the attacks of the devil.  Our flesh is weak; and the health of our mind and emotions are in direct relation to the state of our heart.  The heart is where the Holy Spirit abides in us and interfaces with our spirit.
     But if we rely on our physical efforts and think the Enemy will honor our professions of faith and our outward show of righteousness, then we are fooling ourselves.  In keeping with our New Year's analogy, it would be like joining a gym, looking the part by wearing Nikes and Adidas, and talking about how many times we intend to go work out.  But all that doesn't get us healthy and fit.  And we won't be spiritually in shape, either, if we only act the part.
     So we find Christians entrapped in lives that are less than what they expected; some battle insecurity and doubt, while others experience serious bouts of fear and bitterness.  They involve themselves in activities that they hope will relieve their misery ... seeking the help of God through Bible studies, community with other Christians, and asking fervently for prayer on their behalf.  There is nothing wrong with any of these avenues; all will benefit the souls of Christians -- in other words, our minds will tell us we are doing all we can; we will feel supported by our fellow Believers; and we hope that our prayers will be heard by our Father in Heaven.
     But God gave us spiritual armor, not physical armor, because that is where the battle is waged.  What we do in this world is easily defeated by the Enemy who has the advantage because he uses spiritual weapons, with which we have no defense in this world.  When our minds, and our emotions, and our free will are only being exercised in this world, we have left ourselves totally vulnerable in the spirit world.  That can leave our physical bodies and our minds open to attack.
     And that's where the afore-mentioned activities are like bringing food to the jail, but not securing release for the prisoner.  Studying the Word is good -- but faith and knowledge without action won't stop the devil in the spiritual realm.  Community with Believers will give us emotional support in our daily lives -- but it is only when our spirits partner with the Holy Spirit that Heaven's Power is released against satan's spiritual forces of darkness.  And we can pray for each other that God will end the misery -- but God really wants us to reveal who we are to the spirits who are attacking us. We aren't simply humans who are relying on a rescue from our God; we have the spiritual power of our God residing in us, and He has given us the right to use it as His children, made in His image.
     I know that Jesus tells us we will suffer for His Name, but He never told us it was necessary to suffer for our past sins or the sins perpetrated against us.  When we allow the cosmic powers of darkness to discourage us and lie to us, or the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places to keep us from the freedom Jesus offers us, then there's not enough food (Bible studies, community, or prayers on our behalf) that will make our prison sentence (spiritual bondage) bearable.
     If I could say one thing to all my fellow Christians who are suffering, it is this ... Rip off those bandaids you've been applying to your spiritual wounds.  There's a key in the door of that jail cell you've been locked up in for so long, and the key has been on the inside all along.  You only have to reach for it, turn the key, and open that cell door wide.  Let Jesus lead you out of that darkness and let Him expose your wounds to His healing Light.  He wants to show you that you do not have to be a victim; that's a lie designed to keep you from recognizing who you are ... a child of God with access to the hosts of Heaven. Jesus has given you permission to ask for anything in His Name ... and that includes the armies of heavenly angels to war on your behalf.  There is nothing you can't defeat, in the Name of Jesus.  So, leave that jail cell and come into the Light... and feast on the abundance of God's strength, power, and mercy.  Let Him deliver you, and taste the freedom that is yours when you commune with Him ... spirit to Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:17   "But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him."

 
   

January 2, 2017

Israel & The U.S.: Will We Be Blessed or Cursed?

   
     If you have any knowledge of the Bible and how God feels about His inheritance, Israel, then you were as astonished as I was to hear out-going Secretary of State, John Kerry support the UN resolution against Israel: "If the choice is one-state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both and it won't ever live in peace."  How arrogant!  Who are we to counsel another sovereign nation on their faith and their form of government?  Oh, yeah, I forgot ... we seem to have done that quite a bit in the last few decades.  But when it comes to Israel, we are playing with fire; and I mean heavenly fire!
     There is a very real and stark reality that this modern world does not comprehend, and it goes back all the way to the Tower of Babel.  Remember that in Genesis, Chapter 11, God was displeased that the peoples of the earth had come together to build a city and a tower, "with its top in the heavens".  The Bible then tells us, So the Lord dispersed them from there [Babel/Babylon] over the face of all the earth.  But that's not the end of the story!  Deuteronomy 32 gives us a fuller picture:  Remember the days of old .... When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He divided mankind, He fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (elohim, lesser gods).  But the Lord's portion (share) is His people, Jacob (Israel) His allotted heritage.
     Here's the picture we need to see:  God was so angry with His creation, mankind, at the building of the Tower of Babel, that He, in essence, divided them into nations to be ruled by lesser gods.  But He kept a portion for Himself.  That allotment He called Israel -- before the nation of Israel even existed! This is long before He calls Abraham out of the world, and before He establishes Jacob and his offspring as a nation unto themselves.  It has alway been His plan that there would be a nation Israel that He called His own!
     At this point, I want to make it clear that I do not think that the modern state of Israel completely fulfills the description of the people that YHWH plans to restore at the end of this Age.  But they are the Diaspora returned to their original homeland; God's Holy Land that He has determined will be restored to the remnant of Judah.  There are many Believing Jews living in Israel right now, and I do believe Jerusalem is the eternal capital of His chosen people.  I believe the Bible when it says there will be a restoration of Israel and physical and spiritual salvation of God's people. One can learn a lot of how God feels about this nation and this people if only one would read His Word!
     So, that is why I was dumbfounded when I heard Secretary Kerry say Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic.  That's how God established them in the Bible, and that's why they can still be both today.  There is a fascinating book, written by Robert Kimball Shinkoskey, titled Democracy and the Ten Commandments: The Politics of Limited Government in the Bible.  The author does a great job of explaining how God guided Moses to set up a democratic government within the twelve tribes of Israel... "It is telling that God's first commandment to Moses, 'Go and gather the elders of Israel together', later inspired the first commandment given to the entire nation at Sinai (You shall have no other gods before Me).  The priority and content of the first constitutional article was to define and empower a legislative body to rule in Israel.  The God of Israel was the originator and protector of this national legislature.
     Shinkoskey goes on to expound that God essentially receded into the background to let the people begin the work of civic policy-making.  The encouragement of God to Moses to "Go and gather" the elders of Israel essentially meant, "Go and make sure the voices of the people in every tribe, clan, and family are heard".  They would do that by organizing themselves into governing bodies in the tribes and deciding policy for themselves.  The tribes came together from a tremendous variety of religious and political views, and they found a way to govern themselves as a nation.  In effect, they were a democratic confederation -- a society that used locally elected representatives to make the laws for a people, who then agreed to live by them.  And they continued in their covenant faith with YHWH. The ultimate fate of the Biblical nation of Israel was that they would remain democratic AND Jewish.
     Now, I understand that modern secularist politicians probably don't care what the Bible has to say about ancient Israel or any implications that may pertain to the current state of Israel.  But they do that at their own peril -- and ours!  God has made it clear throughout history that those who bless His inheritance, Israel, will be blessed, and those who come against her will be cursed.
      Being at the center of regional conflict is nothing new for Israel.  Throughout her history, the nation of Israel has been the target of its neighbors' hatred for God's chosen people.  This has been Israel's fate from the ancient Canaanite kings, to the Syrian/Egyptian/Greek wars, to Roman occupation, to the Jewish–Roman wars of 66–136 AD, during which the Romans expelled most of the Jews from the area and replaced the nation of Israel with the Roman province of Palestine, beginning the Jewish Diaspora. And along with all of Israel's previous enemies, the Roman Empire was doomed to fail!  And for nearly 1850 years, the Jewish people were separated from their God-designated homeland.
     Was God's Hand involved with the re-establishment of a homeland for the world's Jews in 1948?  The fact that they are back in the land that God established for His people gives us pause to consider how we treat this nation.  Have they, as a nation, confessed "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord"?  Only a minority in the modern state of Israel have made that declaration and see Jesus as their Messiah.  So, in that sense, they are still rebellious in their denial of Christ.
     But the world should not forget that YHWH made this declaration in Ezekiel 28:25-26: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel will again live in their own land, the land I gave my servant Jacob. For I will gather them from the distant lands where I have scattered them. I will reveal to the nations of the world my holiness among my people. They will live safely in Israel and build their homes and plant their vineyards. And when I punish the neighboring nations that treated them with contempt, they will know that I am the Lord their God." 
     So, as soon as I heard the discouraging words coming out of John Kerry's mouth, I said the following prayer:  Please, God, do not judge those of us who love Israel because of the words of our leaders!  Do not hold us accountable for their actions! We recognize that Your Word says You will gather Israel and once again do a work in them that will bring them into their fulness.  We recognize that means the full number of Jews who will see Salvation in Jesus; that they will operate in their full power as a Godly nation; that they will operate in their full character as a righteous people; and that they will enter into their full purpose of world leadership.
     We acknowledge that hasn't happened yet, and that it will occur in your timing, and only after Israel has repented for her sins and rebellion against You.  But, Father, until that glorious day, we stand by Your chosen people, Israel, as we pledge to fulfill our purpose, which is to witness to all the nations.  Lord, forgive our transgressions as a nation, and turn the hearts of our leaders back to Israel. We pledge our loyalty and allegiance to You and Your people.  And we look forward to the day You return to Jerusalem to dwell among men as you did before sin entered this world.  I ask for Your blessing, Father, for this nation of Believers and for those in Israel, who know the risen Christ. Amen.

Psalm 122:6     Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!