A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

March 22, 2017

What's Your Real Security?

     As I wrote this post, AT&T cell coverage for nearly the entire state of Texas and major cities on the East Coast (including New York City and Washington, D.C.), the middle of the country (Cleveland, Detroit, rural Missouri), Southeast (Atlanta), and West Coast (San Francisco), was nonexistent for about 5 hours.  Not only were cell phones useless, but banks were unable to conduct business; grocery stores could not sell their goods; and businesses, in general, came to a grinding halt.  Those people and companies who rely on wireless cell coverage for their internet access were suddenly left unconnected with the worldwide web. I heard rumors that other major wireless carriers were also encountering problems.
     Fortunately for me, my internet access comes from a local cooperative, and I was able to write this post and see what was going on across the world. When checking AT&T's website, there were over 16,000 comments reporting that outages were either occurring now, or in some cases, had been reported for over 3 days. Funny thing is, there was no media outlet reporting this phenomenon! No crawlers running across news station feeds; no reports on major social media sites; not even a mention on the conspiracy sites.  On top of that, the Stock Market took a pretty steep dive (supposedly because of doubts that the Congressional House will pass a new health care bill) -- but was that the real reason? Regardless of all that, in interacting with people in my local area, there was a sense of underlying alarm ... what did this mean?  I witnessed people withdrawing money from their banks (those transactions being done the old-fashioned way, by hand; and gassing up their cars). I will admit that I took those same precautions; primarily because I needed to fill up my car anyway and didn't want to get in a long gas line (I still remember those of the 1980's).
     Without appearing to be a fearmonger, it was not out of the question to suggest that this could be a nefarious act -- someone (or nation) attempting to disrupt the business and/or economy of this nation; or at the very least, causing confusion, an interruption in day-to-day activities, and an unsettling sense of anxiety.  So, now comes the crux of what I want to say in this post ... how secure would all this make you feel?  Are your first thoughts for your physical safety, or like me, would you have a calmness in your spirit, knowing that you are not of this world? That no matter what chaos ensues, I am secure in my spiritual safety.  I seek the shelter of Almighty God and picture myself running into a strong tower where I am protected from the disorder and pandemonium swirling outside.
     I ask these questions because we are living in an increasingly unsafe world.  Terrorism, nuclear weapons, and radical ideologies are the modern weapons of this world; weapons that man is far too familiar with.  But there is a growing wickedness and evil that are dangerous spiritual weapons against us, too.  Believe me, I am seeing that in the people God is bringing to us through our ministry.  And I will tell you that ten years ago, I never would have believed that I would be hearing from people who have experienced demons trying to convince them to end their lives; or demons identifying themselves as Lucifer during a healing/deliverance session; or heard the soul-searing pain that so many have suffered in their childhoods.
     But I have also witnessed women who have seen Jesus, in their spirits, change their filthy rags into a gown of white. And I have witnessed the Holy Spirit help a hurting heart forgive the one who transgressed against them so long ago, and experienced with them, the joy of a life-long weight being lifted from their soul. I have seen soul ties broken; oaths meant to keep generations in bondage be renounced; and childhood experiences integrated into the identity of the adult, all under the compassionate authority and guardianship of Jesus.
     And that is why I can approach the uncertain and unknown [that is a reality in our world today] with complete confidence and with peace in my spirit. I am aware of the dangers in this world -- those that are possible, and those that are inevitable. I read my Bible and Jesus makes it clear that if we follow Him, we will not leave this life unscathed. But if the gates of hell were opened tomorrow, I know that He is the rock upon which I would stand, making my steps secure.  My spirit will find rest in Him, knowing my faith in Him is my shield, behind which I can abide in total confidence and trust. And I feel safe, knowing His faithfulness [to me] will protect me from the fiery darts of the Enemy. His Word promises that He will fight for me, because I am precious to Him; bought with His blood! What in this world can offer any greater security?
     So, the "wireless crisis" passed after several hours, with no apparent explanation. And I do not doubt that when the "time of difficulty" comes upon the earth, the chaos will cause widespread panic and fear.  That is the time that we Christians need to know where our real security lies. We need to know the Authority and the Power we will have to wield over the forces of evil, while being prepared to lay down our lives for our friends. The coming destruction will be sudden, and that's why we need to be settled in our spirits this very moment. Know that if Jesus is your Savior, you are not condemned to God's Wrath on the Day of the Lord. Jesus is your Rock, your Fortress, and your Deliverer. There is no need to fear because His Arms are everlasting, and He is a refuge and strength, and abundantly available to help in times of trouble. Any security that this world has to offer is inadequate and insufficient.

Psalm 16:8   "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken".


March 20, 2017

Power and Authority; Signs and Wonders

     A couple of days ago, I was deep in my Bible, studying all the places that Jesus talked about Power and Authority -- His and the Father's, and ours.  As usual, I always end up back at Luke 10:19, one of the most compelling verses in the New Testament ... Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you (NASB).
     Depending on the version of the Bible you use, you might read, Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you. (Amplified), OR, Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you (KJV). See the differences? The NASB and Amplified versions tell us that Jesus has given us authority over the power of the Enemy.  The KJV version says He gives us power over the power of the Enemy.
     Since I want to understand Jesus's Truth, and the implications it has for me in acting out my Faith, I needed to determine what words were used in the original manuscripts and what their meanings were at the time the Word was first translated.  As I followed the word trail, I received some surprising revelations.  Let me share...
     My first question was, are our English translations equating authority and power? Are they the same? When determining what the Bible is telling us, it is not enough to read our modern translations. We must discern the meaning and context at the time it was written.  In this case, I wanted to know why "authority" and "power" seemed interchangeable [among the versions] when it came to our rule over the serpents and scorpions; but all versions were in agreement that the rule of the enemy was always called "power". Since there is so much doubt and unbelief in the Body of Christ as to what our spiritual abilities are, it seems important to me to understand the original intent.
     Since the King James version, along with the 1599 Geneva Bible, and the Douay-Rheims Bible (1582) are the versions that use the word "power" in referring to the abilities Jesus gave us over the rule of the devil -- and they are the oldest -- I wanted to find out if there was any difference between our power to tread on serpents and scorpion, and the power of the enemy.  Here's what I discovered...
     The power to tread on serpents and scorpions is the Greek word, exousia. It's meaning (not surprisingly) is "authority"... but there's more.  That "authority" includes: having been given leave or permission; the ability or strength with which one has been endued (endowed or provided with an ability); the power of authority; the right to exercise power.  So this explains why some versions use the word "authority" when it comes to treading on serpents and scorpions, and some use "power". It appears that they are interchangeable.
     But there is more to this word exousia.  It is the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others; the power of rule or government (as in a Kingdom).  When used, it implies that which is the subject of the authority or rule -- in this case, the serpents and scorpions. It also conveys the impression of one who possesses authority; a ruler. (In a sense, we can compare the power of our U.S. Ambassadors to represent the authority of our nation, to our power as representatives of God's Kingdom to use the Heavenly power bestowed upon us).
     So this is what we need to grasp from this particular use of the word "power" as it pertains to us.  Jesus has given us His authority -- the same authority given to Him by the Father -- to command the serpents and scorpions to be subject to us.  The Greek New Testament tells us as much in Luke 10:20.  After telling us we have the authority/power, Jesus goes on to say, "Nevertheless, do not continue to rejoice, namely, because the spirits marshall themselves in subjection under your orders...".  Nothing could be clearer!  They must do as we command [because we wield the power of Heaven]!     

    And just what was meant by "serpents" and "scorpions"?  Here's what was understood by those who heard Jesus's words:  Serpents referred to the characteristics of evil, concentrated in the arch-adversary of God and man, the Devil. It was understood that his characteristics included not only his evil, but his treachery, his venom, his murderous proclivities; the origin, hatefulness and deadly effect of Sin.  Those hearing Jesus speak understood that Scorpions produced a venomous sting and pain.  The fact that Jesus declared these two to be under our jurisdiction conveyed the thought of our victory [through Him] over spiritually antagonistic forces; the powers and forces of darkness.
     The Disciples understood what Jesus was telling them!  The power and authority was Jesus's, given to the Disciples! The 70 that Jesus sent out even declared it themselves in Luke 10:17 ...  “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” How frustrating it must be to Jesus to see that His 21st Century Disciples have lost this knowledge... and with it, the power and authority He has given to all who believe in Him [to subdue the spiritual forces coming against them]! But it is important for us, in this Age, to realize that the demons were subject to those early followers of Christ because the Disciples believed! It is not enough for us to try to command the dark spirits to leave if we are just using our human authority as part of our spiritual "medicine cabinet". We must believe that we have the very power of Jesus in us! If doubt and unbelief exist anywhere in your spirit, then your authority or power will have no effect!
     Now, let's look at the original meaning and context when it comes to our authority/power over the "power" that is the enemy's.  Not surprising, this is not the same Greek word, exousia.  In this instance, "power" is the Greek word, dunamis. The meaning of this word points to new and higher forces that have entered (and are working) in this lower world of ours; namely, supernatural power.  The Holy Spirit possesses dunamis power, and His power is in us. We see that picture in Luke 24:49, And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” We also see the this dunamis (supernatural) power in Luke 22:69, But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  This is the supernatural power of Heaven that enabled Jesus to perform signs and wonders. And to no surprise of mine, dunamis is one of the Greek words used to describe "wonders".  In fact, "signs and wonders" is defined as "indicating dunamis (supernatural) power".
     But guess what?  Satan possesses "dunamis" power, too. Because the Greek word dunamis also connotes power, strength, and violence, we see the exercise of the devil's "dunamis power" in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.  Yes, his miracles will be false, but they are supernatural signs and wonders, nonetheless. But we should not fear!  Jesus, Himself, tells us very clearly in Luke 10:19 ... With the supernatural power (dunamis) that He has given us, and the authority (exousia) to use it, we can command [in His Name] that the powers and forces of Satan's darkness (the serpents and scorpions) leave us alone; and furthermore, that power [in us] defeats all the supernatural power that Satan commands!  He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world!
     So can you see how important it is that the modern Church come to the full knowledge and counsel of Jesus and the Father? The Bible tells us that darker days are ahead, and it should be clear, by now, that we cannot defeat the forces of evil under our own power.  We must believe that we have been given the abilities and strength of Heaven and the right (authority) to exercise that exousia power by His Name!  But that's not all!  Our exousia power will defeat Satan's dunamis power because his power is inferior to the dunamis power of Heaven that backs us up.
     I don't know how many of you have made it this far in reading my post -- you may have quit due to boredom or lack of interest. And to some, this may all seem like a useless exercise in semantics, but until we unpack the original meaning and context of the First Century in which this Scripture was spoken and written, we remain ineffective in our Twenty-First Century doctrine and theology. We will continue in our captivity to Satan's lies, and in our fears and self-doubt. And by not exercising our authority over the power of the Enemy, the Kingdom suffers -- we bear little fruit, we are unable to help Jesus set other captives free, we do not reflect God's glory and power in the midst of all the nations, and we are not readying the earth for His triumphal return.
     Jesus's words in Luke 10:19 were not only for those 70 Disciples who returned, declaring their victories over Satan's demons.  They were meant to inspire all generations that followed.  His words were meant for us -- to believe them and to live them! It's time the modern Church began proclaiming its own victories in the Name of Jesus!

Matthew 9:8   When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God and praised Him, who had given such authority and power to men. 

March 19, 2017

Mark 7:24-28

But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

     This is an often misunderstood verse, with implications far beyond it's surface interpretation. The backdrop of Jesus's words is that He has retired to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These were important Canaanite cities, and Tyre was actually mentioned as the western border of the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:29), while Sidon was included as part of the inheritance of Asher on its northern boundary (Joshua 19:28).  While Joshua included it as part of the Promised Land of Israel (Joshua 13:6), the tribe of Asher failed to conquer the land as God commanded (Judges 1:31).  
     I know this is a lot of history about the Biblical Israelites, but it is important to understand that this region where Jesus met this woman was not Israelite by population, but Gentile, and pagan according to their religious practice.  And it is logical to wonder why Jesus went there if He, as He stated, was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  Although it is not specifically stated, I wonder if there were times in Jesus's short three years of ministry that He was exhausted by His increasingly contentious encounters with the Jewish religious leaders. And we can only imagine how draining it must have been to engage with the crowds who were growing and following Him everywhere.  If he needed some time away from "the fray", so to speak, then this region might offer Him some respite.  That being said, this is only conjecture on my part.
     So, I would like to suggest that Jesus is saying, My primary mission is to Israel (the Jews), and to step in where the experts in the Law have failed, and guide and transform the people into once again, fulfilling their mission of being God's Chosen.  He is attempting to reveal God's Light to Israel, hoping to heal both their spiritual and physical blindness.  
     Jesus knew, as do we, that the covenant was between God and Israel, but "true Israel", so to speak, is composed of Abraham's children within the Jewish AND the Gentile groups. All who are identified as having faith in Jesus are "Abraham's seed".  Ministry to the Gentiles will come as a result of His rejection by Jewish believers. As the disbelief increases on the Jewish side, the door to the Gentiles increasingly widens. All this, of course, was part of God's plan.
     The Bible says in verses just prior to Mark 7:24 that Jesus's fame had preceded Him, and this Syro-Phoenician woman bowed down at His feet, seeking healing for her daughter who was demon-possessed. But what does Jesus say?  It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. It is important to recognize that this woman was asking for healing for her daughter.  She is asking, on behalf of her daughter, for Deliverance, and she believes that Jesus has the authority to do it. Therefore, we must understand that Deliverance by the authority of Yeshua is referred to here as "the children's bread". He has come to bestow Life-giving bread upon the children of Abraham; the kind of bread that should be part of our spiritual diet; the kind of bread in which every Believer has a right to partake.
     Jesus, is in effect, telling the woman that it is not His specific mission to bestow this bread upon anyone other than Abraham's children. But her faith is actually stronger than many of the Israelites, who reject the Bread Jesus is offering.  She is willing to accept crumbs of Jesus's Life-saving Bread, if that is all He will offer her. Ultimately, her faith is expressed in her confidence that God will help her and her daughter; that healing and deliverance will take place. 
     I would like to suggest that Jesus may not have intended to grant this woman what she asked for, but He may have discerned that her faith came from a genuine confidence in His Father, and since He continually stated that He only did what the Father told Him, might He have received, at that moment, a communication from His Father to deliver healing? That would make sense why He at first refused her request. Remember, He was fully man and fully God, so He must have been continually listening for the Father's guidance on how to fulfill His mission. 
     But I want to go beyond the implications that this woman was seeking the Bread Jesus offered, which afforded Deliverance and Healing for her daughter.  As I stated earlier, the Life-giving Bread should be part of our spiritual diet. And we know that Jesus has been given Authority to offer it to us, so that we might be fed.  To reject Jesus's Bread, is in effect, living in spiritual malnutrition; and to reject His Healing and Deliverance. After all, His Bread is not a food to be eaten occasionally or leisurely, but is rather, a necessity to sustain spiritual Life.  
     But when it comes to the Church, they don't recognize the full implications of  "shepherding the flock"; that it includes guiding, guarding, keeping them in the fold, and feeding them (providing pasture). Ezekiel says, in Chapter 34, "The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them".
     See that "strengthening the weak, healing the sick, and bandaging the injured (wounded)"?  That's called Deliverance!  That's what Jesus did as the Good Shepherd!  And if you need to see it in the New Testament, Acts 20:28 says it, too:  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care (feed/Deliver) for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood.  Yet, the Church doesn't recognize Deliverance as part of their commitment to the flock.  But the saddest portion of this whole scenario is that the Church can't bring Deliverance to the world, without first being Delivered themselves, and they don't even realize it.
     The Syro-Phoenician woman was willing to accept the crumbs of the Life-giving Bread Jesus offered, knowing it would provide Deliverance and Healing for her daughter.  Today, too many Christians in the Body of Christ are in need of a few of those Life-giving crumbs themselves; their need for spiritual healing is that great.  But the shepherds of the flock aren't feeding them what they need, and they continue in their weakness, their sickness, and their wounds. No one is discipling the flock or looking for those who have strayed or who are lost. We are too interested in feeding ourselves with bread that has no spiritually nutritious value.  No matter how many of those crumbs we consume, they will never make us well.  It's time for the Church to seek true spiritual nourishment and true and complete healing.


March 17, 2017

My Passion For The Bible

     Want to get an idea of what typically happens when I sit down to write a blog post?  I receive ideas from several sources -- whether it be a podcast, an article I've read, or a discussion with fellow Christians -- but they all drive me to the Bible to see what God has to say on any given subject.  Such was the case, yesterday, when I found myself in a discussion with my husband about the importance of Luke 10:19, and how it pertains to our Kingdom work.
     As you can see, if you click on this link, different versions of the Bible give us different text and slightly different interpretations. (NOTE: the use of the word "authority" in the ESV and NASB Bibles when referring to what Jesus has given us to tread on serpents and scorpions, versus the use of the word "power" in the King James Bible). I will be writing on this important verse (and its consequences for us) in an upcoming blog, but for today, I want to share where my study took me.
     When I began to research the different words used and their meanings in the original context of the Biblical writers, I went to my trusty Strong's Concordance. And that's when my focus took a different direction.  I was fascinated with what I found and how it affected my theology, but I was also curious about why the different versions of the Bible used such different words to express the context of the verse. Consequently, it was important to know what version of the Bible my Strong's Concordance is based on, since it did not reference the use of the word "authority" for Luke 10:19, but rather, "power".  Since I now know that Strong's Concordance is an index of every word in the King James version of the Bible, it was interesting to discover new insights to Luke 10:19, and how the use of "power" instead of "authority" affects my theology.
     Let me start by saying that it is important that we understand what was said to the original audience; and what was the original, intended meaning of the text.  When you read the Bible, the question you should be asking yourself is, What is the point of the original author? That is called exegesis, a term I'm sure you have heard before.  Another word you've probably heard is hermeneutics, which is the study of the contemporary relevance of the ancient texts.  But here is where it gets dangerous ... while we all want to know what the Bible means for us today, we cannot make it mean whatever we want it to mean, and then claim it was the original intent, revealed by the Holy Spirit.  As Dr. Gordon D. Fee, a Christian theologian and Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Regent College in Canada explains: A text cannot mean what it could never have meant for its original readers/hearers…the true meaning of the Biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken or written. 
     I hope you're not getting bored!  I promise you this is going to get fascinating real quick!  Because I am always focused on authentic nterpretation of the Bible, I began to research history to find out just how the ancient manuscripts were first interpreted; how we ended up with our modern versions of the Bible; and just how reliable are they? Come along for the ride!
     Over 3400 years ago (1400 B.C.), the first Word of God was written by God, Himself.  He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and delivered them to Moses. It would be 900 years later (500 B.C.) that all the original Hebrew manuscripts of the 39 Books of the Old Testament were completed.  In 200 B.C., as the Greek Empire is being eclipsed by the emerging Roman Empire, the Old Testament (along with 14 Books of the Apochrypha) are translated into the Greek Septuagint (meaning "70" for the number of scholars who translated the Hebrew into Greek). It wouldn't be until the 1st Century A.D. that all the original Greek manuscripts that make up the 27 Books of the New Testament would be completed.
     In 315 A.D. the Bishop of Alexandria recognized the 27 Books of the New Testament which are today's Canon of Scripture.  Sixty-seven years later, in 382 A.D., Jerome produced his Latin Vulgate manuscripts, which are actually quite controversial for his paraphrastic style (meaning he translated in the vernacular, rather than a more critical translation of the Hebrew text. For the next 1,000 years of the Dark & Middle Ages, the Word was trapped in only Latin.
John Wycliffe
     Then, in 1384, along came John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe was well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teaching of the organized Church, which he believed to be contrary to the Bible. With the help of his followers and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the Scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!
     One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman Church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire.
     But it was the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the 1450's that would eventually allow the Bible [and other books] to be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This would become essential to the success of the Reformation.
     In the 1490’s another Oxford professor, and the personal physician to King Henry the 7th and 8th, Thomas Linacre, decided to learn Greek. After reading the Gospels in Greek, and comparing it to the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, “Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel… or we are not Christians.” The Latin had become so corrupt that it no longer even preserved the message of the Gospel… yet the Church still threatened to kill anyone who read the scripture in any language other than Latin… though Latin was not an original language of the scriptures.
     Other faithful men like Oxford professor John Colet (1496) and the great scholar Erasmus (1516) translated the Bible from the more accurate and reliable Greek and published new versions of the Bible in English (Colet) and a Greek-Latin parallel Bible (Erasmus). The 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus further focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and use the original Greek (New Testament) and original Hebrew (Old Testament) languages to maintain accuracy… and to translate them faithfully into the languages of the common people, whether that be English, German, or any other language.
     As history progresses, we see men like William Tyndale, who was the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language; and Martin Luther, who published a German Pentateuch in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529. In the 1530’s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German. Tyndale had been forced to flee England because of the wide-spread rumor that his English New Testament project was underway, causing inquisitors and bounty hunters to be constantly on Tyndale's trail to arrest him and prevent his project. God foiled their plans, and in 1525-1526 the Tyndale New Testament became the first printed edition of the scripture in the English language.
     While the Tyndale Bibles were burned as soon as the Bishop could confiscate them, copies trickled through, and actually ended up in the bedroom of King Henry VIII. The more the King and Bishop resisted its distribution, the more fascinated the public at large became. The church declared it contained thousands of errors as they torched hundreds of New Testaments confiscated by the clergy, while in fact, they burned them because they could find no errors at all. One risked death by burning if caught in mere possession of Tyndale's forbidden books.
William Tynedale
     Today, there are only two known copies left of Tyndale’s 1525-26 First Edition. Any copies printed prior to 1570 are extremely valuable. Tyndale's flight was an inspiration to freedom-loving Englishmen who drew courage from the 11 years that he was hunted. In the end, Tyndale was caught: betrayed by an Englishman that he had befriended. Tyndale was incarcerated for 500 days before he was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. Tyndale’s last words were, "Oh Lord, open the King of England’s eyes". This prayer would be answered just three years later in 1539, when King Henry VIII finally allowed, and even funded, the printing of an English Bible known as the “Great Bible”. But before that could happen…
     In 1535, Myles Coverdale printed the first complete Bible in the English language, making use of Luther's German text and the Latin as sources. Thus, the first complete English Bible was printed on October 4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible. But the English Bible wasn't out of danger yet.  History would see the reigns of King Henry VIII and the establishment of the Anglican Church, along with the reign of Queen “Bloody” Mary, who was the next obstacle to the printing of the Bible in English. She was possessed in her quest to return England to the Roman Church. In 1555, John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers (a disciple of Tyndales's) and Thomas Cranmer  (the Archbishop of Canterbury) were both burned at the stake. Mary went on to burn Reformers at the stake by the hundreds for the "crime" of being a Protestant.
     The Protestant exiles would congregate in Geneva, Switzerland under the protection of John Calvin and John Knox, both leaders of the Protestant Reformation.  It was there that the Church of Geneva determined to produce a Bible that would educate their families while they continued in exile.  The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to add numbered verses to the chapters, so that referencing specific passages would be easier. Every chapter was also accompanied by extensive marginal notes and references so thorough and complete that the Geneva Bible is also considered the first English "Study Bible".
     By the 1580's, the Roman Catholic Church saw that it had lost the battle to suppress the will of God: that His Holy Word be available in the English language. In 1582, the Church of Rome surrendered their fight for "Latin only" and decided that if the Bible was to be available in English, they would at least have an official Roman Catholic English translation. And so, using the corrupt and inaccurate Latin Vulgate as the only source text, they went on to publish an English Bible with all the distortions and corruptions that Erasmus had revealed and warned of 75 years earlier. Because it was translated at the Roman Catholic College in the city of Rheims, it was known as the Rheims New TestamentThe Douay Old Testament was translated by the Church of Rome in 1609 at the College in the city of Douay. The combined product is commonly referred to as the "Douay/Rheims" Version.
     In the early 16oo's, the "translation to end all translations" (for a while at least) was the result of the combined effort of about fifty scholars. They took into consideration: The Tyndale New Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The great revision of the Bishop's Bible had begun. From 1605 to 1606 the scholars engaged in private research. From 1607 to 1609 the work was assembled. In 1610 the work went to press, and in 1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit folios known today as "The 1611 King James Bible" came off the printing press.
The 1611 King James Bible
     The King James Bible turned out to be an excellent and accurate translation, and it became the most printed book in the history of the world, and the only book with one billion copies in print. In fact, for over 250 years...until the appearance of the English Revised Version of 1881-1885, the King James Version reigned without much of a rival. The King James Bible has the distinction of being the first English language Bible to be printed in America.
     But here is another fascinating set of facts ... Up until the 1880’s every Protestant Bible (not just Catholic Bibles) had 80 books, not 66! The inter-testamental books written hundreds of years before Christ called “The Apocrypha” were part of virtually every printing of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until their removal in the 1880’s! The original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James threatened anyone who dared to print the Bible without the Apocrypha with heavy fines and a year in jail. Only for the last 120 years has the Protestant Church rejected these books, and removed them from their Bibles. This has left most modern-day Christians believing the popular myth that there is something “Roman Catholic” about the Apocrypha. There is, however, no truth in that myth, and no widely-accepted reason for the removal of the Apocrypha in the 1880’s has ever been officially issued by a mainline Protestant denomination.
     The 20th Century finds several new versions of the Bible coming into print -- the American Standard Version in 1901; and it wasn't until 1971 that it underwent a revision to become the New American Standard Version. This NASB version is considered by nearly all evangelical Christian scholars and translators today, to be the most accurate, word-for-word translation of the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures into the modern English language that has ever been produced. It remains the most popular version among theologians, professors, scholars, and seminary students today. Some, however, have taken issue with it because it is so direct and literal a translation (focused on accuracy), that it does not flow as easily in conversational English. (For me, the accuracy issue is the most fundamental; I don't demand that my Bible be an "easy read").
     The answer to the NASB Bible was the New International Version (NIV) which was designed not for “word-for-word” accuracy, but rather, for “phrase-for-phrase” accuracy, and ease of reading even at a Junior High-School reading level. It was meant to appeal to a broader (and in some instances less-educated) cross-section of the general public. But here is my problem with the NIV: there are several instances when the deity of Jesus is removed; for instance 1 Corinthians 15:47 reads, the second man is The Lord from heaven. The NIV reads, the second man is from heaven.  The NIV lowers Christ from being God’s SON and CHILD, to merely God’s SERVANT. (All believers are God’s servants).  This is evident in Acts 3:13 ... hath glorified His Son Jesus (KJV) versus has glorified his servant Jesus (NIV).  Also, the fact that Scriptures such as Matthew 18:11 and Luke 9:56 are eliminated in order to remove the statement that "the Son of Man is come to save those who are lost" is deeply troubling. There are many more changes that concern me, and believe me, I was firmly in the NIV camp for years, it being the first Bible that I seriously studied... but no more.  And I caution you about the latest version of the NIV, called Today's New International Version (TNIV), which seeks to remove all gender-specific references in the Bible whenever possible!
      As we look at the modern translations, the last few years have seen the advent of Study Bibles, some better than others.  But here is what I want us all to concentrate on ... As Christians, it is important for us to make wise decisions on which versions of the Bible that we depend upon to receive the best translation of God's Word.  And, yes, our critics will no doubt point to the various translation errors and say that is why we cannot trust the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God.  But the Word of God as revealed to man has remained unchanged from generation to generation, no matter how hard the Enemy has tried to corrupt it.  History shows us that God has always used men who were willing to die to see that His Word stayed true and authentic.  He has preserved His Word as a means to know Him and to worship Him. And just as He inspired the original writers to represent Him accurately, He can inspire us, who are sincerely seeking Him, to receive His true revelation.  No matter what version of the Bible you are reading, I recommend that you compare and contrast versions in your never-ending journey to know the God we serve.  The journey His Word has taken to get to us in the 21st Century is nothing less than miraculous.  It has survived for over 3400 years, and neither man nor devil has been able to destroy it.  May it forever be a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path!

Thank you to Greatsite.com for providing the historical facts of the Bible's timeline.  You can read a more detailed history of the facts I've given you, by clicking this link

If you are interested to know what versions of the Bible I consult in my personal study, I refer to the King James Bible, the Greek New Testament (by Kenneth Wuest), the Septuagint, the Complete Jewish Bible, the English Standard Version, the Geneva Bible, and the New American Standard Version. I am by no means stating that other versions are in error; these are just the versions that I find most useful for me.

Isaiah 40:8   "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever."


March 15, 2017

Is Your Faith A Verb Or A Noun?

     That's really a very important question if you are going to be effective in God's Kingdom on earth. Is your faith inactive or passive; something you say you "have"?  Or, is your faith a working, functioning part of who you are; something you "do"?
      I think first, we must come to an understanding of what "Faith" is, which involves unpacking the definition until we get to the very core or root of its meaning.  So bear with me for a moment, while I open up this gift of Faith from God and see what it's made of.
     I'm pretty sure that all Christians can agree that Faith involves trust, belief, and confidence in God [that He exists; is our Creator; is the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ; and that Jesus defeated the power of the devil at the Cross]. And "Belief" and "Faith" are often interchangeable in regard to our opinion of God. So, what does it mean "to believe"? I will submit to you that to believe something, one must be persuaded that it is true.  It is this persuasion of the truth that results in faith -- we believe because we are persuaded that God is real; that He sent His Son to pay the debt we owe; and our reward for being obedient to Christ is our eternal salvation.  But there's more!
     The Bible has a lot to say about Faith... Faith comes from what is heard [what is told], and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.  This verse illustrates what I meant by "persuasion that comes from the Truth" (God's Word). The Bible also says Without faith it is impossible to please Him. That implies obedience, doesn't it?  In other words, obedience is produced by our faith, and is an observable act or manner of conduct that is a result of having faith.
     Put in very simple terms, Faith is one way for God to recognize us [who belong to Him] apart from those who don't. And how is He able to do that?  By our actions! Yes, He is able to see into our hearts, but when we take action and obey God, it is visible evidence [to others] that we believe Him; that we trust Him.  Even more importantly, if we have true Faith in God, He has promised that we will receive His Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). And with the Holy Spirit comes the power of God. And that power is not to sit idle!
     Let me present a series of thoughts around which we "ran a rabbit" at our Home Church this past Saturday... Can you agree with me that we receive the full measure of the Holy Spirit at the time that we come to Faith; in other words, that we get the full measure of His power when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior? By that, I mean that God doesn't give us just a little bit of Himself to see if we can tolerate the power; or to say, "As your faith grows, I'll deposit more of my Power in you".  No, He gave each of us the identical amount, and we are completely filled with the Holy Spirit. If your faith is growing, you are trusting more to call upon the Power within you.
     Now, let's consider how we use that Power; or if I may -- if how we apply it is, in any way, in relation to how much we trust and believe [or exercise our faith] in God.  We know by the examples of Hebrews, Chapter 11, and other stories in the Bible, that there are people who by their faith, do great things for the Kingdom of God... Abel offered a greater sacrifice than Cain; Enoch was taken to Eternity; Noah built an ark; Abraham left his ancestral lands for a land promised to his descendants; Moses answered the call of God to deliver the Israelites out of bondage; the Israelites celebrated the Lord's Feasts; Joshua led the people in bringing down the walls of Jericho; Rahab helped the Israelite spies to escape; Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego entered a fiery furnace; the Apostles were persecuted and martyred; and the early Christians went to their deaths in the Roman Coliseum.
     What do each of these people have in common? They received power from God to work on His behalf!  In the Old Testament examples, it was God taking action to work on behalf of His people by sending His Holy Spirit to accomplish His purpose. Now that we are part of a new covenant with God, He has put His power IN us that we might use it to accomplish His purpose on behalf of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish.  God took back the power that man gave to Satan in the Garden, and Jesus returned it to us through the Holy Spirit, so that by our faith we could keep the devil in defeat.
     So let me ask you this ... are you using that power that Jesus deposited in you?  Can you see that the measure by which you use that [full] power might be a measure of your faith?  Do you remember that Jesus said, if you have faith and do not doubt ... you [could] say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ [and] it will happen. Do you think you could do that by your own power? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit has enough power to do it? If you believe you have the full measure of the Holy Spirit in you, is it conceivable that you could accomplish this seemingly impossible command? But, if you doubt, then you will fail.
     Now consider the Apostles who we know received the full measure of power from Jesus. It was their faith that carried them through their trials and persecution, and through their horrendous deaths.  We must remember that they would not have been able to endure the suffering if not for the power of their faith, which was manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit in them.
     Paul told us this:  My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. It is very clear from this passage that our faith and God's power are connected through the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I would be willing to say that a primary aim of Paul's ministry was to point to Faith in [and by] the Power of God.
     So, can you see why it is so important that I keep hammering home the concept of our Power and Authority [given to us by Jesus Christ]?  We have His authority to use the Power of the Holy Spirit [in us] to continue the work He began.  And that can only happen if we have Faith in who He said He was, and who He said we are.  If you are having a difficult time believing this concept, then chances are your Faith is a noun.  You pray to God and wait for Him to do something.  But if your Faith is a verb, then you are likely exerting your Authority to call on the Power of the Holy Spirit to heal people, defeat their demons, and take the message of God's Kingdom [on earth, as it is in Heaven] to disbelievers. You know that God is glorified when you put your faith in action.
     But here's what often happens ... People of active (working) Faith scare and offend those who are stationary or ineffective in their Faith. They are threatened by us, because they are suspicious of our claims of Divine Power and Authority; and they are too frightened that the devil might defeat them if they try to use theirs.  If they could just understand that until Jesus returns, we are God's ambassadors; and He has given us the gift of Faith to use His Power to challenge the power of the Enemy!
     The last thing I want to leave you with, is this ... I promise you that it is just as Jesus told us: if we have even the faith of a mustard seed, nothing is impossible for us.  Even the smallest amount of faith has the power of the Holy Spirit attached to it.  But you have to do something with it!  You have to use it! A person with little faith has as much of the Holy Spirit as a person who has great faith.  The difference is that the one who displays greater faith has done the works that Jesus did ... anyone who believes in Me will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach].  
    We believe because we have been persuaded by the Truth of God's Word.  And that believing results in Faith; and with Faith we receive the Holy Spirit and His Power. And with that faith and power we are to demonstrate God's Power.  It's all about action; all about doing something to achieve a goal -- to stand against the wiles of the devil, thereby glorifying our God who gives us eternal life.  Here's the reality -- Faith is the bold, committed act of your will; your determination [and single-mindedness] to act on behalf of God and His Kingdom. Faith requires us to take action. Let your faith be a verb!

Romans 4:20   "But he did not doubt or waver in unbelief concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and empowered by faith, giving glory to God"

March 13, 2017

Treading On Dangerous Ground

     It's not hard to see that there is much confusion in the modern Church.  You can find different portions of the Body of Christ suffering from compromise with the world; entertaining adultery and idolatry in their lack of spiritual and moral boundaries; committing works that are dead; or acting in conceit, pride, and arrogance.
    Sounds an awful lot like the indictments that Christ delivered to the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation concerning the First Century Churches, doesn't it?  It's as if the Holy Spirit has left those Church buildings; that Jesus has been moved away from being the central focus, and we are on the verge of no longer seeing Him as the Bible describes Him in these Last Days.
     I have felt for quite awhile now that the Church is out of balance between the Grace of God and the Wrath of God. By compromising with the world and the culture, the message of Grace has eclipsed any notion that we serve a God of Wrath.  In fact, oftentimes, only the message of Grace is taught, and God's only emotion in the New Testament is Love.  To be sure, God IS Love, and that is His holy and righteous nature.  But it is not His only prerogative when it comes to what He hates most: Sin.
Jesus, as Love and Grace
     But in our desire to be conciliatory or placating -- and let's face it, our desire to let ourselves off the hook by diminishing our sins -- we'd rather only see God as Grace and Love.  It helps us to sleep better at night.  Because we live in such a prosperous and self-centered culture, we are not satisfied with simple Grace.  We now have churches and Christians practicing what is called Hyper-Grace.
     So, your definition of Hyper-Grace may differ from mine, but here is what I mean when I use that term:  Hyper-Grace is a doctrine that stresses God's Mercy and Grace, while omitting the truth of His righteous Judgment and Wrath. The message that we receive is that the God of the Old Testament was a God of Wrath, but Jesus died on the Cross to bring us to confession and repentance of our sins so we can receive salvation by Grace.  But here's a logical question ... what do we need to be saved from?  Answer: God's Justice and His Wrath.
     We rightfully preach that our salvation is available only by the Grace of God. We certainly don't deserve His Grace and Mercy, or our Salvation. We are due Death! But the message of Hyper-Grace tells us God won't judge us, because He is limited by His Character and the nature of His Love. But how do you explain away Romans 2:5, which says, But because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are [deliberately] storing up wrath for yourself on the Day of Wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed? Obviously, there is some future day when God is planning on punishing those who do not accept His gift of Grace and reject faith in Jesus Christ.
     Now, you might present the position that the Day of Wrath does not apply to Christians; that this is actually God's promise that we will be spared that horrific Day -- and I would agree with you.  But Hyper-Grace goes a step further and says that God would never exact eternal judgment upon those who reject Him, or send anyone to torment in hell. But that's not what the Bible says!  Jesus, Himself, tells us in Matthew 10:28:  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Seems pretty clear to me that our God has set some standards by which we must all live. In fact, in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus emphasizes that there will be a Day of Judgment when all the nations will stand before Him and He will separate them into two groups ... some to go away to eternal punishment, and some [the righteous] to eternal life.  It is important that all men know that they must choose between Death and Life; Hell and Heaven.
     Churches that do not teach those Truths of the Bible do their congregations a great disservice.  I find it interesting that the German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on the eve of Hitler's destruction of the Church in Germany, visited America and found our churches full of "cheap grace".  By that, he meant, as he wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, "Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves [rather than a gift given to us by our Merciful God]. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate".
     I believe that adequately describes too many of America's churches today.  Far too many of our prosperous Church leaders preach a non-Biblical view of Sin.  Oh, they preach about the forgiveness of sin in Christ, but that's all about what Jesus does for us.  When was the last time you heard about your responsibility to take a stand against sin for Him? And if you dare to suggest that we are to take a closer look at the world and call out sin, then you are labeled as "legalistic" or called "a Pharisee". (Just try pointing out the sins involved with Freemasonry and find out how quickly people don't want to look at it or consider how it offends God).
Jesus, as Righteous Judge
     Then what about those churches who allow people to be in leadership positions who are living immoral lives? I cannot tell you how many times in our deliverance ministry we have run across sad stories of people being sexually exploited by ungodly and immoral pastors or teachers.  There is no accountability for such perverse actions and God's Grace literally becomes a "Get out of Jail Free card".
      Churches that practice Hyper-Grace will often relegate members who believe in balancing the traditional teachings of God's Grace [with the truth of His Judgment and Wrath] as part of the "Old Paradigm" of Believers; claiming that a "New Paradigm" is emerging -- one that replaces the strict standards of the Old Testament with a message that Grace comes with neither cost on our part, nor responsibility.
     Finally, another aspect of Hyper-Grace Churches is the continual message that God is only about wanting the best for you. His Grace will afford you health, wealth, prosperity, forgiveness of sin, and success in life. While these feel-good messages fill church auditoriums and coffee bars, they don't teach the "whole counsel of God" -- which, yes, includes Grace, but also Judgment and Hell. So, if a church's "mission statement" only focuses on God's Grace and the belief that God will eventually save all people, regardless of whether a person accepts or rejects Jesus as their Savior, then it is in clear violation of the Word of God.
     In fact, it finds any Scripture that alludes to God's Righteous Judgment or Wrath as offensive, and you will most likely never hear it mentioned from the pulpit. And by doing that, Churches that espouse Hyper-Grace are misrepresenting the Bible and treading on dangerous ground. Romans 1:18 makes it very clear: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the Truth. 
     There you have it: Hyper-Grace is not Biblical, nor, in the long run, beneficial for men's souls. I encourage you to know what the Bible says about both Grace and Wrath.  You don't want to be deceived, nor to deceive others. Within God's Character is His ability to grant Grace OR Judgment and Wrath. Be sure you know that the Bible affirms this. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, God's Grace cost Him the life of His Son. And what it cost God should not be treated as cheap by us. Remember, Jesus bore God's Wrath for us, and there will come a day when He returns to judge all the wicked and evil of the earth.  God says, "Vengeance is Mine", and make no mistake ... there will be vengeance and His Wrath will be evident upon the earth. But Jesus will spare us [who believed in Him] on the Day of Wrath; showing His righteous indignation and making known His power to those who rejected Him. And the world will mourn.

John 3:36   "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the Wrath of God remains on him". 


March 12, 2017

Proverbs 25:2

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

     I love this Scripture!  I love it because it shows God's heart and how He wants us to seek Him.  I have heard so many people (both Christians and non-believers) say that the Bible is just too hard for them to understand... that when they read it, it doesn't make any sense to them.  And unfortunately, too many stop right there, and never make another attempt to know their Creator.  
     Because it is hard, they look for easier ways to discover who He is.  And because He has such holy standards for who He wants us to be, they often look for alternative impressions of His character, using sources outside His Word to define Him. But I assert that we should all be like Solomon, who wrote this proverb out of the wisdom and knowledge that God gave him.
     Remember that King Solomon, when asked by God, what He could give him, did not ask for possessions, wealth, honor, the lives of his enemies, or even for long life.  He asked for "wisdom and knowledge" to rule the people over whom God had given him responsibility. "Wisdom" is the Hebrew word, Chokmah, and it means "the knowledge and ability to make the right choices at the opportune time".  The consistency of making the right choice is an indication of maturity and development in a person.  The prerequisite for "wisdom" is the fear [awe, reverence] of the Lord.  When a person seeks Chokmah diligently, they will receive understanding.
     The understanding they receive is the "Knowledge" that Solomon asked for.  And knowledge is the Hebrew word, Yada", which means "to know" God and to have an intimate experiential understanding of Him; that you have a relationship with Him based on experience and observation.  It goes without saying that to "experience or observe" something or Someone, involves action on your part; namely "seeking". 
     And here is what is essential for us to grasp: the heart plays an important role in getting "to know" God.  When our hearts yearn to seek Him, we grow into fearing Him, trusting Him, and serving Him. So what Solomon is imparting to us in Proverbs 25 is this:  It is the glory of God to conceal a matter ... It gives God more glory when He, in essence, "hides" His Truth in Scripture, so that we have to decide just how hungry we are to seek it out. Because you and I need to discern that with the knowledge of God comes responsibility to Him and to others.  We must represent Him in sincerity and truth, while showing others the benefits of seeking Him and a heartfelt relationship with Him -- while holding ourselves and them accountable for sharing that knowledge.
     Then there is the other aspect of this Proverb: It is the glory of kings to search out a matter.  Revelation 1:6 tells us that Jesus "formed us into a kingdom [as His subjects], priests to His God and Father".  We need to realize that we have been given legal access to this knowledge about our Father in Heaven; it is due us as kings and priests of His kingdom. The mysteries of Heaven and God are ours to receive when we diligently seek Him.  Matthew 13:11 tell us this fact: "To you [the Believer] it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [unbelievers] it has not been granted." 
     That "hidden" knowledge that many complain about is there for the true Believer to discover as part of our inheritance as kings and priests, sons and daughters of God. But it depends on how hungry your heart is. God has given us an appetite for Him; it's in our DNA. But how many of us will strive -- in other words, struggle or make a great effort -- to understand Him? What is knowing Him worth to you?  I assure you that it will be credited to us if we hunger and thirst to search out the matters of God; and it will greatly please Him to reveal them to us.  Because in the end, it is all about His glory and power and majesty and dominion ... forever and ever. Amen.

March 10, 2017

What Is Your Theology?

     Think about that for a moment. Can you explain your personal theology? According to Webster's Dictionary, Theology is "The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, His laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. . . the science of Christian faith and life."  That's kind of a long-winded definition to say that theology is what you believe about God; how you define His character and nature; and how you relate to Him. But your theology should be defined by more than that. His "laws and government" should speak to your understanding of the Kingdom of God/Heaven and how it pertains to you.  The doctrines you believe need to be carefully examined -- are their origins found in the Word of God; or do your set of beliefs come from a man's teaching, a denomination's rules, or simply what makes you feel better about your life's circumstances (with a little bit of all of the above thrown in to make it meet the "religious" test)?
     Furthermore, where do your practices and traditions come from?  Again, are they taken directly from the Bible, or are you having a hard time knowing exactly why you do the things you do, and believe the things you do.  As a Christian, can you explain your understanding of God and the foundations of your faith --- and back it up? If not, I'd like to suggest that you have developed a theology that serves yourself and not God.  I don't say that to offend anyone!  In fact, my goal is that it will cause you to examine your belief system so that you can discover where you differ with God's Word and renew your mind and heart so that you are walking with Him in Truth.
     I have come to believe that the 21st Century Church is not walking in the same power and authority that the First Century Church did because we do not truly trust or believe what Jesus tells us in the Bible about Himself, or who we are in Him, and how He wants us to live our lives.  We have reduced His message down to a goal of being Saved or "born again".  But let me ask you this -- how many of you, once you made a profession of faith, were actually discipled? Do you even know what it means to be discipled? You're probably familiar with the noun form of that word -- to be "a Disciple", or follower of Jesus.  But what does the verb form -- to disciple -- mean?  Well, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave a commandment to all His disciples (including us):  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. 
     We got the part about making them disciples; about getting them Saved so that they can be known as a follower of Jesus.  And we sorta got the baptism part down, although some Christians have lessened its significance by saying it's not an essential part of your Christian walk. But we have dropped the ball on teaching them to observe [comply with; keep; obey] all of Jesus's commandments.  I would add that we don't even teach them what His commandments are let alone that we are to obey them! And therefore, I would submit to you that we are no better than the Gentiles Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:  "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart."
     If a Christian is ignorant of Jesus's commands, then of what benefit is it to be "born again"?  As He explained to Nicodemus in John 3, we have to throw off our old nature [our flesh] and accept a new Spirit.  When that happens, we are told to "to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God" (Ephesians 4). The renewal of our minds combined with transforming our lives by following the commandments of Jesus projects the Kingdom of God.
     But what happens when we are ignorant of His commands, and who He says He is, and who He says we are to become by transforming our lives?  We end up developing our own religious traditions and theologies to explain the state of our lives.  For instance, consider the Scripture 1 John 1:5:  This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  So if you have experienced a tragedy in your life such as a devastating illness or the unexplained loss of a loved one, do you tend to explain it as "the will of God" because you have no answers?  But how can it be God's will if He is only Light, and no darkness exists in Him?  Because I think we can all agree that sickness, disease, and death are all from the Enemy, and they are Darkness. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy, remember? That's why Jesus healed people and raised them from the dead -- to destroy the works of the devil and because He only did what the Father told Him to do (John 5:19).
     So can you see that this is an example of how the Church has compromised the Word of God to fit their own theology?  Another similar tradition is that God is in control of everything. So if a tragedy has occurred in your life, or your life is just a mess, then it must be because God is testing our faith or trying to teach us a lesson.  Show me in the Bible where it says that!
     Kent Owen, at BibleBro.net explains the fallacy of this tradition so well:  "God created the world and gave dominion to Man (Gen 1:26).  Man sinned and became a slave to sin (John 8:34).  Satan is the father of disobedience (Eph 2:2) which is lawlessness, and all lawlessness is sin [death] (1Jn 3:4).  Simply put, sinners belong to Satan.  God does not own the earth again until He takes it back at the end of this age.  Until God takes back the earth, He has empowered His children so that they can “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11).  What bad thing does God cause or allow in your life ... unless you ask Him through prayer?"
       And who is going to pray for something bad to happen to them? If anything bad happens in your life, it’s either because you allowed it by not using your God-given authority, OR you are inexplicably, and tragically, the victim of the devil.  Remember, God [and Jesus] are Life; the devil is Death. And he prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  When it is your loved one, it can be hard to comprehend.  During our suffering, it can be difficult to grasp that Satan was the one behind the tragedy.  Perhaps you can see how we try to explain God to ourselves by developing traditions and theology that make it acceptable to our vision of God.  But we do Him a disservice when we fail to give the Enemy credit for His works of lawlessness, sin, and death!
     If we're earnest in seeking God through His Word, we would discern that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the real Truth of God:  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  God does not tempt (test) you by bringing tragedy into your life!  Scripture very plainly calls Satan the Tempter in Matthew 4.  It was he who tempted our Lord.
     So if your theology tells you that a tragic death or illness is "God's will" for some unknown reason; a reason that the Bible never proclaims, then how is it any different than a “Christian” with multiple fatal diseases who believes that God caused or allowed his illness sharing his faith with an unsaved man?  Wouldn't that message he is delivering say to that unsaved man, “If you become a child of God like me, God may also give you what He gave me; this horrible disease”?
     Can I explain everything bad or tragic that happens in someone's life according to my image of God?  No, because I do not know all the schemes of the Enemy; only that it is his desire to destroy our relationship with God anyway he can. I know that not everyone gets healed or delivered from the devil's attacks, but I do not want to change the Truth of the Bible [and my theology] to create a false image of Jesus or the Father. And I know that my eternal salvation does not rely on who I am, but on Who He is.  Therefore I must be diligent in seeing Him in the Light of His Truth, not through the traditions and skewed theology of man which misrepresents the God of the Bible.  When that happens, we have a distorted relationship with Him, and an inaccurate image of ourselves.
     My purpose for writing this post today is to ask you to seriously consider your belief system.  I do not write it to be condemning, but to exhort you to try to throw off all inessential and flawed doctrine, man-made philosophy, or self-defined tenets of religion.  Go to the Word and find out who God is and who you are.  See what Jesus says about Himself and the Father, and how He wants us to live out our faith in Him.  And then don't let your theology come between you and God. You need to be settled in your understanding of the God we serve, so that the Enemy cannot mislead you or keep you in bondage to his lies. God's Truth, as He reveals in His Word, is all we need ... and it alone should be enough to form our theology.

Mark 7:8,13     "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men ... thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."

March 8, 2017

Women Warriors Unite!

     Yesterday, I shared what the heart and soul of men who are Spiritual Warriors looks like. They are the front line of God's army of mortal saints, determined to help establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. They are our husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers who love us, protect us, provide for us, teach us, and encourage us.  At the basic level, it is part of the Warrior make-up to fight for what is righteous and good, and defeat what is evil. And men who are Spiritual Warriors display the strength, courage, determination, and relationship with God that makes them so valuable to the Kingdom and a formidable foe to the Enemy.
     And that is why I am beginning to see all the ways that Satan is attacking the stature of our men in order to diminish their power and authority, and shatter any chance of the Kingdom of Heaven being established on this earth.  The Enemy knows the importance and significance that God has placed on His male creation. If Satan can destroy the reputation -- and, more importantly -- the position and identity of men in this world, then he can greatly decrease their spiritual power on this earthly battlefield.  He knows his time is short to win souls, and I'm certain that he recognizes there is a new generation [and renewed force] of spiritual warriors being raised against him.  That means he is determined to defeat them in anyway possible. And that's why I see the need for us women to get in the fight!
     Now, before you think this is going to be a post on women becoming co-equal to men in their roles as physical and spiritual warriors, I'd like to show you what the Holy Spirit is revealing to me. As I listened to the three men with whom I spent precious time with this last week, I gave thanks to God that they had won their battles against the Enemy; that they had defeated the works of the devil to keep them from their victory in Christ. But the Holy Spirit whispered to me that the attacks of Satan have done tremendous damage to men in our society, and that we women need to get in the fight to spiritually protect our men!
     I realize that God designed our half of His creation to be the helpmate and nurturer, but He has given us His authority to use His power, too. And when it comes to defeating the spiritual battles that our men face, then we need to put our armor on and battle beside them.
     I received that message loud and clear from the Holy Spirit, and then He began downloading all the tactics that Satan has used to remove our men from their God-given place in the Kingdom.  Here are just a few that immediately came to mind:  Pornography, Radical Feminism, Pedophilia, Sexual Molestation, and the Welfare System. Think about it ... each of these practices has undermined who God made men to be. Each constricts their identity as Godly men and weakens their relationship with God.  They are all effective schemes by Satan to remove men from the spiritual battlefield.
     Pornography leads to sexual immorality which disgusts God.  It becomes an obsession for men, thereby taking their focus off being holy and changing how they see themselves. Whether they see themselves as unworthy of God [or] above His moral laws; either way they aren't interested in getting on the battlefield.
     Pedophilia and Sexual Molestation are among the most wicked of the devil's schemes. I believe that both practices are designed to destroy the spirit of both men and women.  But Satan uses it most cruelly among men, attacking their sense of power, control, and confidence -- all of which are needed to be effective Kingdom warriors. And I remember well, the singular voice of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who in the early 1990's waged a media war against NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) who lobbied the public on the notion that children (boys) were sexual beings who should be given rights to have consensual sex with adults. My spirit tells me that when Jesus says, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea".  That is how strongly Jesus hates these works of the devil.
     I also believe the Welfare System is the handiwork of our Enemy, too.  It's not hard to see how the last 50 years have destroyed the place of men within the family unit. Coupled with radical feminism, the devil has whispered to women that they don't need men.  The Government has replaced the husband and father as the Provider of the family; Science has replaced men as the sperm donor; and the Medical field can even help them get rid of the product of an actual sexual liaison. And all you have to is look at advertising to see how men are celebrated in our culture today.  They are being feminized; and the rugged, strong, muscular man has been replaced by the thin, skinny-jean wearing, soft, wimpy guy who likes to watch chick flicks.
     SIDE NOTE: Would it interest you to know that in Matthew 4:23 and 9:35, that the Bible speaks to this very perception?  The Bible says, Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
     When recently researching all the Scriptures about the healings done by Jesus, I wondered why there were several instances where "sickness" and "disease" were listed as if they were different entities.  Weren't they the same, I asked myself?  But a quick look at my Strong's Concordance revealed that "sickness" referred to a malady; an infirmity; while "disease" was defined as softness; bodily weakness; and came from a root word which meant effeminate; not simply of a male who practices forms of lewdness, but persons in general, who are guilty of addiction to sins of the flesh; voluptuous.  Interesting, isn't it?
     But, now that I have laid out all these methods of the devil to deprive a man of his male role and identity (especially those men who are destined to become spiritual warriors), I am inviting us women to wake up and come to the defense of our men!  It is their inherent nature to be warriors, not weakened, ineffective men.  We wives and mothers must become warriors in our own right; guarding our sons from predators and social temptations, and fighting in the spiritual realm when our husbands are attacked by the Enemy -- when Satan tries to kill that Warrior Spirit by whispering a lie about who he is. Because when men see themselves through these dirty veils, then they don't see the Light of Jesus in themselves.
     As the women in their lives, we can go to battle against these lies and break years-old cycles of bondage in our men; we can let our men know that we are not only a spiritual refuge for them, but we know their true identity, and we are willing to put on our armor and go to battle for them.  We can be just like Deborah, the only woman Judge of ancient Israel. She was a simple homemaker; a woman of simple faith, and her role was that of a keeper of the tabernacle lamps.  When Israel suffered 20 years under evil King Jabin of Canaan, the men were oppressed by weariness and fear.  Deborah burned with indignation at the abuse and injustice heaped upon the men of her nation. She refused to concede to King Jabin and through the authority given to her by God, she waged a military campaign that resulted in 40 years of peace for her nation.
     And here is what we modern women need to apply from Deborah's example: Like Deborah, we need to recognize that we are in a spiritual battle for our men.  We need to trust God and obey the insight He gives us about the exact struggles and bondage that our men may be experiencing.  We need to focus on God as our strength; and we need to exercise the authority and power He has given to us to wage this spiritual battle -- Focus on Him; do not give the Enemy any credibility.  Do not be intimidated by the Enemy's tactics and do not compromise with him.  Declare in a loud voice that you will not cede ground to him ... that your loved one belongs to Jesus Christ and he (the devil) can't have him! Shout that the enemy has no power over your loved one and that they are sealed by the Holy Spirit with the promise of eternal life! Picture yourself in full armor battling the demons that threaten your son, brother, father, or husband. See yourself tearing down the wall, brick-by-brick, that Satan has erected around them to keep them in captivity. And know that the battle is the Lord's; Jesus is beside you and you have nothing to fear! And last, but not least, we need to tell our men that we see them as Jesus sees them, and nothing less than that. We celebrate their Warrior spirit and have full confidence and trust in them; that there is nothing the devil can do to change who they are in Christ, or in our eyes and hearts.
     In summary, Deborah is not unique in her leadership role in the Bible.  We have plenty of examples of women who displayed courage and a willingness to serve the Kingdom of God.  From Mary, the mother of Jesus; to Mary Magdalene, who was given the honor of being the first person to see the risen Christ; to Jael; Judith; Phoebe; Priscilla; Junia; Euodia and Syntyche; the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah in 2 Samuel 20; King Lemuel's mother, whose oracle in Proverbs 31 guided her son; the Shunamite woman in 2 Kings 4; the prophetess Hulda in 2 Chronicles 34; and many more named and unnamed women.
     I believe that God has made us women extra-sensitive to the spiritual realm, and that He has given us the strength, courage, and endurance to wage the spiritual battles necessary to support our men and help them to reclaim their identities. I know without a doubt, that I have the authority, and God's Power, to go to battle for the men in my life.  I pledge to serve them - and God's Kingdom -- believing and trusting that I can partner with Jesus [in the spiritual realm]. And armed with the strength of God, I will be successful in defeating any oppression coming from Satan. Will you join me in the spiritual war before us, and partner with Jesus to deliver our men from evil? All we have to do is be willing and obedient, and Jesus's victory is ours!

Ezra 10:4   "Stand up, for it is your duty, and we will be with you. Be brave and act."