A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


February 20, 2017

What I Have Learned By Doing Spiritual Warfare -- Part One

     I know that Spiritual Warfare is a relatively new concept within the Modern Church (although the Early Church was well acquainted with it).  And I know that there are many Pastors who will say they don't believe in it; or at least do not want to consider it as part of shepherding their flock.  Furthermore, while I believe that Jesus desires us all to engage in spiritual warfare, [in order to take territory from the Enemy and establish His Kingdom on earth], I do not necessarily think that everyone is equipped to do it.  It takes someone with precise and clear knowledge of their Bible to understand that though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
      It is important to believe that you have been given the Authority to wage spiritual warfare, and then to believe that the Power of Heaven [through your faith in Jesus] is solidly behind you. You must wage this spiritual war for the right reasons -- to perpetuate the works of Jesus: healing, deliverance, and salvation, thereby establishing His Kingdom.  And I will tell you, it's a definite learning experience. As we boldly trust Jesus and the Holy Spirit to guide us, we are progressing and learning new tactics.  That results in God expanding our territory, and giving us harder assignments. But if you know that you have the Power of Jesus in you, who can defeat you?  It truly is a matter of trust and confidence in Him.
     That being said, I thought you might find it interesting if I shared some of the finer points of spiritual warfare that have characterized the experiences of my husband and myself. While they represent a common thread in the lives of people, I assure you that each person's spirit perceives them to be unique to their life and circumstances.  And I'm pretty sure that some of what I'm about to share will sound too fantastic to be true, but it is my honest testimony of the Truths Jesus has shown me.
     Furthermore, it is imperative that you understand that the primary way in which Jesus and the Holy Spirit are able to communicate with a wounded and hurting person is through their imagination... Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26).  Here, Strong's Concordance defines "wisdom" as the Hebrew word CHOKMAH, meaning experience, shrewdness, special abilities. The Concordance further states that "the prerequisite [for wisdom] is a desire to follow and imitate God as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, without self-reliance [and especially not in a spirit of pride]".  All this to point out that we are spirits in physical bodies, and our spirits can supernaturally connect with our Savior through our minds and imaginations.
     And there will likely be those who say they see nothing of this sort in the Bible. But didn't the Pharisees accuse Jesus of consorting with Beelzebub when He healed the blind and dumb man?  And unfortunately, as I pointed out in this post, our English Bibles only have one word for all the miraculous works that the Father did through His Son.  That word is healed and it connotes far more than physical healing.  Just in the single verse of Luke 7:21, Scripture tells us, In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind He bestowed sight. That verse speaks volumes. If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that there there are supernatural inferences in the Bible that we may never understand.  But I fear that this has resulted in man limiting all that Jesus can do when interacting (communicating) with our spirits. He has certainly showed me that nothing is outside His creative ability when it comes to setting a captive free!
     So, for now, I hope that at least you will consider that the word "healed" leaves us with a limited understanding of all that Jesus did.  In fact, Strong's Concordance has shown me that the word "healed", in this instance, is the Greek word Sózó, meaning to save, heal, preserve, rescue, deliver, [set free].  And when you look up the words "Blind" and "Sight" for this particular verse, the Concordance reveals this: Jesus is referring to people who were [metaphorically] "enveloped in the smoke of pride and self-conceit; lifted up with pride" (blind). But Jesus bestowed sight, which is defined as "intense, earnest perception".  And what were they perceiving?  The Source of the Power by which Jesus healed them!
     It is time that the 21st Century Body of Christ perceives the Truth of the Word!  And just as in Luke 7:21, Jesus is raising up a spiritual army of men and women who are being "healed"; people who are throwing off their Doubt and Unbelief and Pride -- the root sins that keep us from allowing Jesus to heal our physical and spiritual wounds, and to receive and use His Power within us. So, in Part One, I'd like to show you the most common responses we've seen to this uncommon ministry.  I want to share how the Holy Spirit has guided us in helping Jesus to set these captives free...
     1)  Why didn't Jesus stop it?  This is perhaps the Number One question, and the biggest hurdle to overcome for anyone who has been oppressed by the Enemy.  And it doesn't matter what the "it" is.  Whether it is child molestation, a parent abandoning them, bullying, infidelity, physical and/or emotional abuse, or any number of methods Satan uses to entrap us -- it all spells P-A-I-N.
      Even if individuals can see in the spirit, and imagine Jesus being with them through the pain, they cannot understand why He allowed it to happen.  The fact that He never left them nor forsook them in their pain is not enough for some people to heal.  They cannot forgive Him for not stopping the act, whatever it might be.
     To be honest, I had difficulty in explaining it to both the person's [and my own] satisfaction.  Explaining that Free Will is a principle instituted by God [and given to us all], and that He cannot violate His principles -- in other words, pick and choose whose free will He is going to void; yours or your perpetrator -- does not ease the pain, nor adequately explain to them why they had to suffer. Their pain is personal and they don't understand why they had to suffer because of someone else's free will decision.
     Like I said, that has been a hard concept to swallow, and hard for me to defend ... UNTIL, in a recent session, the Holy Spirit gave me supernatural understanding into why seeing Jesus with them is so important.  When I point out that God didn't even stop His own Son's crucifixion, and that even Jesus questioned why His Father had forsaken Him, every victim suddenly realizes that Jesus chose to be there with them in their pain.  He is uniquely qualified to know how they feel.  He, too, understands what it is like to wonder why the painful event wasn't stopped. Although He couldn't stop it, He was there with them, to share in their burden.  And they begin to understand that God loves them so much, He allowed His Son to suffer (even though it was within His power to stop the crucifixion) in order that Jesus could identify with our suffering, meet us in our pain, and help us to begin to heal. I have literally seen the shadow of demonic torment be lifted from a person's countenance with this revelation.
     2)  People are often angry with God.  That is only natural, and to be expected at first.  When you are an innocent victim of another person's evil free will, it is understandable to want to blame someone. And if you are a Christian, it can shatter your impression of a loving, caring God.
     But to a Believer, this can also cause confusion and doubt.  We know God loves us.  To some, it seems blasphemous to be angry at our Creator.  To others, it completely changes how they view God, and their anger gets compartmentalized, because it is the only way they can move on and remain a faith-filled Christian. But whenever anger surfaces in someone, I have never sensed that the Holy Spirit judges or condemns.  It is understood that Anger is a spirit introduced by the Enemy and the power of Jesus is greater than any power of a demonic spirit.  It then becomes important to get the inner person, the victim, to be set free from the bondage the devil has imposed on them.
     3)  A victim is unwilling to see or look for Jesus in the event.  It has been extremely illuminating to see the different responses to seeing Jesus in hurtful circumstances. Some see Him right away and rush into His arms; one might see Him, but angrily refuse His open arms, wanting nothing to do with Him; still others are indifferent to Him, almost mocking the thought that He could comfort them.
     We know that Jesus is the One who heals, not my husband or myself, and the victim certainly has not been able to heal themselves, or they wouldn't be suffering the oppression in the first place.  We have discovered that Jesus is the key to healing, and if a victim is reluctant to accept His comfort, or unresponsive to His presence, then the Holy Spirit has given us an alternate route to take.
     My husband is particularly good at listening to the Holy Spirit for cues, and this is what he has been shown... If a victim can't let themselves see Jesus, or wants nothing to do with Him, we can ask them to picture a place that is peaceful and safe.  They may choose a beach or a mountain cabin.  It doesn't matter where it is, as long as it has meaning to them. And you can see their body visibly relax as they picture that place.
     We have then been able to ask them to close their eyes, search their spirit and see if there are any younger versions of themselves that are struggling.  It is amazing!  Everyone has been able to identify at least one or more versions of themselves that are floundering, or not at peace -- and it is usually a vision of themselves at an age that a painful event in their life occurred.
     We can ask them to just envision absorbing that younger self into their spirit, assuring them that they are protected, and taking them to that safe place.  We can ask them to do that for each version of a younger self that feels "out of the loop" with the adult self.  Once they are all comfortable in the safe place, the person is no longer fragmented by feelings of anger or fear or self-rejection.  Sometimes that's enough to heal the confused spirit, or if necessary, it is a good time to re-introduce Jesus to the whole person, who is now able to accept His loving embrace and spiritual healing.
     I'm sure we have all expressed at one time or another ... "I just don't feel like myself".  I would submit to you that the Enemy is exploiting some part of your soul, and keeping you in a state of division within yourself.  If he can get some part of you working against your spirit, who abides in Jesus, then he can lay waste to your peace, and your divided "household will fall".
     By the way, if you have a theological difference, or can't embrace this concept, then feel free to comment, and let's talk about it. We need to have an open discussion on the subject and begin to have an honest conversation, because in the next post, I will be going even deeper.
     In Part Two of What I Have Learned By Doing Spiritual Warfare, I will explain the lengths to which the Enemy has gone to keep people in bondage, and how the Holy Spirit has guided us into more complex ways to help set the captives free. And I'm sure that they are not any more sensational than the works of Jesus in His day.  I simply hope you will be able to see how precious each life and spirit are to God, the Father, and to His Son.

2 Corinthians 3:17     "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom."

February 19, 2017

Ephesians 2:1-10

 And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— 6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

The Miracles of St. Paul at Ephesus, by Jean Restout, 1693
     I don't know whether you have had the opportunity to read the comments posted on my blog titled, God's Power, Paul's Thorn, and Our Authority to Overcome, but two readers posted very different comments, which seemed to be somewhat in disagreement.  One quoted the late Missionary and Evangelist, T. L. Osborn: "You should never ask God to do what he has said He's already done, and you should never ask God to do what he has told you to do." The reader then went on to proclaim that this statement is rooted in the principle that God has given us the means to deal with satan's plans and does not need to handle what has already been dealt with.  The second reader was more concise in his comment, saying simply, "I have always taken it to mean that the gift of Grace trumps everything!" I know that the first comment will make many Christians uncomfortable because it doesn't fit with their Church's doctrine. The second comment probably falls more in line with the Church's traditional theology.  What if both of them are right?
     There is no doubt that God's Grace has saved us from His justified wrath and delivered us from spiritual death unto Life. And God, through His Grace and Mercy, is able to deliver us out of any situation He desires.  And if He doesn't, then the Grace that saves us from hell is surely enough.  But I can't help thinking about what God has already done for us, and what He expects us to do  as a consequence of His Grace in our lives.  And I believe Ephesians 2:1-10 does a pretty good job of identifying this cause and effect concept, and supports both reader's articulate comments.
     What's interesting is that verses 1-9 are filled with all the work God has done on our behalf [exhibiting His Grace], and verse 10 makes it very clear that it has all been done with the anticipation that we will do the good works He expects.  First of all, this passage describes the state we find ourselves in ... separated from Him because we walk in the ways of the world; we are spiritually dead, finding ourselves under the influence of the Prince of the power of the air (Satan).  Furthermore, this prince is a spirit which this translation (New English Translation) says "energizes the sons of disobedience".  
     Now, I want to propose that many of us within the Body of Christ probably understand sons of disobedience to mean unbelievers, or lost souls.  But I submit that verse 2 also includes those unbelieving Christians who fight against the purposes of God.  That is, Believers who are battling a spirit of unbelief, and [in their unbelief] are disobedient to the commands of God.
     And what is God's response to us, "the children of [His] wrath"?  HIS GRACE, WHICH EMPHASIZES HIS WORKS FOR US! And what has He done for us? HE LOVED US!  Love is central to His attributes, and it is not merely an abstract principle.  His love caused Him to act toward us with mercy, and to seek and save all who are lost.  
     In loving us, HE MADE US ALIVE.  We are dead to the old self and are made new creations.  Then God RAISED US UP.  Just as God physically resurrected Jesus, He spiritually resurrects us to a new life.  And it is all because of His Grace and Mercy. Our salvation - our rescue - from spiritual death is God’s work done for the undeserving. And HE SEATED US WITH HIM (CHRIST) IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS. Note that realms is plural.  Although Scripture does not explicitly proclaim which heavenly realm, by including the plural form of the word, might we not interpret it to mean both the second heavenly realm [where Satan and his spirits wage war], as well as the third heavenly realm [where God sits on His throne, with Jesus at His right hand]?
     Verse 7 tells us we are seated with Christ in these heavenly places to demonstrate God's immeasurable Grace towards us, in that we can partake in His ultimate Victory. In the meantime, victories will be won in the spiritual realm as Believers are equipped with Jesus's authority and power to minister to others and to defeat the Enemy -- works, not done by ourselves so that we might boast -- but works that we were created to do in order to display His Kingdom and His Power and His Glory. These are works that He designed us to do as a demonstration of His Presence in us; we are to be active in the good works that He predestined from the moment He created man.
     That's what verse 10 is all about -- it EMPHASIZES OUR WORKS FOR GOD'S KINGDOM!  Jesus, Himself, said, Whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do.  And we believe in Him because of God's Grace towards us. They go hand in hand.  His Grace offers us Faith in Jesus; and Faith in Jesus is supposed to result in being "created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them".  God expects us to do good works, and He has told us what He desires to be done... to heal, to cast out demons, to take care of widows and orphans, to love one another, and to love Him.  As a wise friend showed me, "He doesn't expect us to pray to Him in order to love one another.  He has already told us to do it, and has shown us what that looks like through the servant life of His Son.  He just wants us to do it"! And we are able to do it because of His Grace, which trumps all our fleshly desires and nature.
     So, my final thought is that both readers are correct.  They expressed the Nature of God ... His infinite, all-encompassing, incalculable Nature.  And when He exhibits His Grace and we come to faith, He is glorified by His own actions.  When we do the good works He has prepared for us to do and bear fruit by our faith, then WE glorify Him.  May the Holy Spirit bear witness to all who glorify Him!

February 17, 2017

The Power of The Word

     I recently found myself with a few moments of quiet time, contemplating about what God is doing in my life.  So this post will be a little lighter in content than the last ones, but it's message is what has led me to this blog and the weightier opinions I've shared.  For one, I am amazed at the people He is bringing into my life.  Among them are new people, with whom I have no prior history -- friends of friends, or family members of friends who have heard of our ministry, and are tired of fighting their demons and willing to give our unorthodox calling a try.  My husband and I are always grateful for the opportunity to speak Jesus into someone's life who isn't really familiar with Him.  We are willing to plant the Seed and let the Holy Spirit water it.
     And lately, I have been marveling at the renewal and restoration of old friendships; people that I know God has put in my life for a reason.  These are people who encourage me with their persistent obedience to God.  They are people who, like me, are not perfect, but they have a heart for serving God and are trying to walk that narrow path that leads to God's Kingdom.
     But it hasn't always been that way -- in their lives, or mine. There was a profession of faith, alright, but my mind was not centered on God; my heart followed its own desires; and there was no evidence of consistent fruit in my daily walk.  It's easy to say I believe in Jesus as my Savior.  It's hard to live my life as if I do.  First, you have to want to live a righteous life.  That's been a journey ... as it has been for these old friends.  But we're all making progress.  And how did we come to that decision and start down our individual paths?  It really began with a simple step -- we opened our Bibles.
     I know that sounds corny and simplistic, but it really is the impetus that changes minds, hearts, and spirits. When I challenged myself to read the Bible (the first time) it was basically to familiarize myself with the order of it; with how the events in the Old Testament led to the circumstances in the New Testament. I loved the historical aspects of the Book and was able to see how [and where] concepts I had heard in Church sermons fit into the grand scheme of things.
     When I began to read it the second time, it was then that I was really seeking to know about God and how He wanted to relate to me. I saw Him as a more personal and intimate God, while seeing just how detached I was from Him.  My life, as a so-called Christian, looked no different from an agnostic's, an atheist's, or someone who worshipped Buddha, Allah, or Mother Earth. And I realized that my spirit wasn't happy with the things of this world. I wanted more of Him!
     It was when my husband felt the same longing for more spiritual substance in his life -- and he began immersing himself in the Word -- that the Bible truly began speaking to us. It's hard to explain, and again it will sound like a cliché, but God really does begin revealing Himself to you when you spend time with Him in His Word.  And the by-product of that relationship is this:  You want to be a better "you"; you want to live a life that is pleasing to Him; you want to change the parts of you that aren't Christ-like; and you want to change how you relate to this world, and the impact you will make on it.
     It is this third time through the Bible that is truly revolutionary.  It is as if a veil has been lifted.  Both my husband and myself are seeing God like never before! The Word is alive with new meaning, and we are receiving new impressions on our hearts of just who we are in Christ -- and it is so much more than we've ever been told or imagined!  It has changed how we see ourselves in this world, and it has made us bold in our faith.  And the greatest blessings come when we see the same transformation in our Christian friends; both old and new.
     We are reconnecting with old friends in Idaho and realizing that God is doing the same amazing work in both families -- creating a hunger to be closer to Him, to walk more humbly with Him, and to be fearless in declaring His power in us to do great things for His Kingdom here on earth. We are finding that when we saturate ourselves with the Word, we are able to press into Him and the distractions of our daily lives don't divert us from following in Jesus's footsteps. And we've discovered that distance is no barrier to walking this narrow path together.
     And God is blessing us with new relationships among Christians who aren't afraid to step outside of the "Church box"; these new friends actually believe what the Bible says about how we are to exercise the Authority given to us by Christ [as His disciples], and aren't afraid to do the works He has commissioned us to do, using the Power He has given us.  It strengthens our faith to share this boldness with other followers of Christ; not fearing failure, but continuing in the maturing [of our faith].  We are trusting Jesus and the Father; and we are confident of this, that He who began a good work in us will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  All we have to do is believe what the Word tells us and try.  We won't always succeed, but it is God who has called us to heal, cast out demons, and share the message of His Kingdom.  And what He has begun in us will be refined and purified each time we act out our faith.  And with each step of the way, we are taking back territory from the Enemy!
     But as much as the Word unites us with fellow Christians, it is exciting to introduce the Word to new friends; even those who are not yet saved.  It is amazing how the Bible can speak into someone's life if we will just spend the time studying with someone one-on-one.  It has truly been inspiring [for me] to watch my husband study the Book of Matthew with unchurched people and to hear how they respond.  At least three nights out of the week, he is on the phone introducing these people to Jesus; and they actually experience an encounter with a man who is at the same time, God.  They learn how He wants us to live, and how the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables really speak volumes to them about how He can be real in their lives. Sometimes these people are left weeping at the realization of the time they've lost, but they are well aware that Jesus is ready to receive them now and transform the rest of their lives.  They may have lost time with Him here on earth, but they can spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
     And that's the beauty and the glory and the majesty and the power of the Bible.  It has the supernatural ability to speak to each individual and thoroughly transform lives.  Each time we immerse ourselves in the Word, we get another glimpse of the One who created us; another chance to see ourselves as He sees us, and to serve Him out of an abundance of gratitude.  Let His Word be a lamp to your feet [as you proceed forth, doing all that He commands], and a light to your path [as it guides you in the footsteps of Jesus].

Isaiah 55:11    "So shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it".

February 15, 2017

God's Power, Paul's Thorn & Our Authority To Overcome

     Since my focus over the past few posts has been on Divine Healing, I cannot leave the subject without considering the one question that is always at the forefront ... How are we to think about Paul's "Thorn"?  This question came up in our Home Church meeting on Healing, and continues to be a source of debate between my faithful friends.  What do we understand the thorn to be, and why wasn't Paul healed of it, are at the center of our discussion.
     First, we need to take a look at the Scripture which has drawn our attention:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 
9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

     Right off the bat, I will tell you that it is difficult to discern with any certainty, what Paul's thorn is -- although it is clearly sent by Satan to harass him.  Some have seen it mainly as spiritual harassment. Others have thought it was persecution. Many have suggested it was a physical or mental ailment. Some have said this was Paul’s struggle with lustful and sinful thoughts.  Early Christians, such as Tertullian, thought it was an earache or headache.  I've also heard everything from malaria to a nagging wife.  You can see how easy [and distracting] it is to focus on this mystery.
     And there are those who will point to what they call the "First Mention Principle", which says in order to try to understand the Bible systematically, theologians and philosophers have developed the study of hermeneutics, which deals with the general ways for interpreting Scripture and other written texts.  But it is important to consider that the First Mention Principle is just one of the many hermeneutical techniques that exist in order to interpret the Bible.
     If you want to consider this technique, then you would look at Numbers 33:55, which is the first mention of the word "thorn" in the Bible, and it reads:  But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, then those whom you allow to remain will be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your side, and will cause you trouble in the land where you will be living.  Here, "thorns" refers to the "inhabitants of the land".  Or you can take a look at Joshua 23:13, which reads,  know for certain that the Lord our God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. They will trap and ensnare you; they will be a whip that tears your sides and thorns that blind your eyes until you disappear from this good land the Lord your God gave you.  Again, "thorns" refers to "the nations" or people.
     But I have to be honest -- it doesn't really matter to me what the thorn is. And I think it is rational to surmise that God made the thorn intentionally vague; it was an instrument by which Satan could harass Paul, and God wants us all to be able to put ourselves in Paul's shoes.  We are all going to face harassment by the Enemy at some point in our lives -- especially if we are doing Kingdom work, as Paul was.
     So, I have been trying to figure out the overall view that God wants us to take away from this passage.  In doing so, I have come across another stumbling block that Christians have when trying to understand Paul's position towards Satan's harassment or oppression.  Depending on which version of the Bible you are reading, verse 9 reads either, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, or it reads, I will boast all the more gladly of my infirmities.  This adds to the confusion over what "the thorn" is, and while it is another fly in the ointment, so to speak, if you like to deep dive into the Bible, it is interesting to see where it takes you.
     I will say that most of the versions I have read (ESV, Amplified, New American Standard, New English Translation, for example) use the word weakness.  But the King James, New King James, and Geneva Bible all use infirmities.  But it is interesting that there is a notation in my King James Bible that says "infirmities" means "weakness".  And when you go to Strong's Concordance, you can trace the origin of the word "infirmity" from meaning "lacking strength, weakness, infirmity"(769); back to "strengthless" (772), and all the way back to its roots of "to strengthen or confirm in spiritual knowledge and power" (4599) and "to make to stand" (2476).  Can you see where the confusion comes in?  But I also see where these meanings can also help form our understanding of the passage, as you will see in the ensuing paragraphs.
     But maybe we're missing the forest for the trees.  Maybe we don't really need to worry about what Paul's thorn is, or whether what he is boasting of is a weakness or an infirmity. Maybe the true essence of this passage lies in what God tells Paul in verse 9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  
     I have really been trying to understand what God is telling us all in this oft-quoted Scripture. And I'm pretty sure that how each Christian interprets this verse will depend on their view of God.  I want you to read that last sentence again ... how you view God will determine what 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 means to you.  If you believe that God is in control of everything, then you are probably going to think that God has decided (for whatever reason) to allow Paul to continue to suffer with his thorn.  And verse 9 will mean [to you], that God is saying whenever He doesn't take away your suffering, then His Grace (lovingkindness and mercy) will be enough to get you through.  You might read the rest of that passage to indicate that Paul is accepting his suffering as a testament to his faith in Christ; that he is content to show that by suffering (being weak), yet still holding on to his faith and enduring, he is a picture of Christ strengthening the faithful through diversity.
     There is no doubt about it... Paul is desperate to have this thorn (burden) taken from him.  Three times he pleaded and prayed to God to take it from him.  God obviously did not stop Satan's harassment, so what might His purpose have been?  Once again, if you believe God controls everything, you might understand verse 9 to mean that God would strengthen Paul to bear the burden of Satan's attack; that God would strengthen Paul under it, and God would show His strength through Paul’s apparent weakness. And this is certainly a valid interpretation, based on this particular passage.
     But let me give you an alternative view. What if your view of God is that He is not in control of everything?  What if you look at this passage in the context of the Authority and Power given to us by God?  What if God is saying that each us has a choice [through our free will].  We can accept the attacks (thorns) of Satan and endure them for the sake of our testimony that it has strengthened our faith that Christ has the power to uphold us during our suffering ... in that case His Grace will be sufficient and enough to get us through those events.
     OR, might we have another choice? I present to you [for your consideration] the Greek translation of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ... And He said to me, and His declaration still stands, My grace is enough for you, for power is moment by moment, coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness.  Therefore, most gladly will I rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of the Christ [like the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies of the Tent of Meeting] may take up its residence in me [working within me and giving me help].  Therefore I am well content in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, and in circumstances under which I am subject to extreme pressure on behalf of Christ. for when I am weak, then I am filled with ability and power.
     In full disclosure, my view of God has changed and grown exponentially through the ministry He has called me and husband to do on behalf of His Kingdom.  But I am not saying that my view of this passage is the correct one.  I am merely sharing what my spirit is telling me is a possible interpretation.  Since I definitely believe that we have been given Authority by Christ to use His Power [that comes from God] to heal the afflicted, that authority and power also extends to healing ourselves.  This is where my view of God comes into play.
     What if God is saying this: Paul, you have been given free will to deal with this thorn yourself.  You don't need to keep asking me to remove it for you.  You can endure it for your testimony of the power of Christ to strengthen you through your ordeal.  In that case My grace and mercy will be enough for you.  But, you don't really need to keep asking me to heal you [you've asked three times, and there's a reason I haven't responded] ... I want you to know that you have been given the Authority and Power to command your own healing. I have given you the very power that I showed in the Holy of Holies! And that power is available to you moment by moment, having taken up residence in you, and you can call on it whenever you need it.  So, Paul, when you're feeling harassed, insulted, persecuted or oppressed by the forces of the Enemy -- when you're feeling weak, stop and realize you are filled with ability and power.
     Can you see the difference in the more modern translations of this passage and the translation from the original Greek language?  I am not saying that any of them are the right interpretation or the wrong interpretation.  And we must ALL be careful not to fit Scripture to our theology [and personal view of God].  Instead, we should endeavor to fit our theology [and view of God] to Scripture. But when it is not clear -- when we do not know exactly what the thorn is, and God does not make it clear why He did not heal Paul -- we are left with these mysteries and opportunities for the Enemy to corrupt our understanding -- and it is hard to come to a definitive understanding.
     I am not trying to convince you either way, but I think it is important that we take note of all the interpretations and pray for revelation from God -- seek the mind and counsel of God to strip away our man-made doctrines, our traditions, and our sacred cows so that we might know His Truth in this matter.
     In the end, perhaps this old adage will sum up your conclusion:  A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.  But, at the very least, I hope this discussion will encourage you to do a deep study of the Word.  I think it is no accident that God made this passage somewhat vague and difficult to understand.  Those with a heart willing to be transformed by the supernatural power of God, will hunger to seek more of Him.  We can agree to disagree, and we can debate in love.  In the end, we are seeking Him, and His Kingdom will be blessed.

Ephesians 3:20-21   "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the Glory in His Church, in Yeshua, and throughout all the generations to come".


     

February 13, 2017

HEALING: Understanding The Full Blessing of Jesus

     I cannot tell you how blessed I am by our Home Church!  We are a diverse group of Christians who come together, trying to overcome the limitations of our particular denominational doctrines in order to emerge into the Light of God's genuine Truth.  It hasn't always been easy, and at times one or another of us has had our theology shaken to the core.  As for my husband and myself, we are unafraid of our Bibles, and are willing to believe what the Good Book plainly tells us -- throwing off the conventional teachings of the Church (where needed); especially when it does not correlate to God's inspired Word. Therefore, we are unafraid (and encourage others) to bring forth topics that reveal a bigger picture of the God we serve.
     And so, on this last Sabbath, two men of our faithful group reported to us after attending a Divine Healing Technician Training conference.  I, for one, was eager to hear how Mike and Chris related their experiences [from a Biblical perspective], since spiritual healing plays such an important part in the ministry that God has brought to my husband and myself.  The emphasis on their training was physical healing, but as I hope to show you, this is an important part of the whole healing package that Jesus desires for us.  
     To say that these two men were on fire to follow the example Jesus modeled for us, is to do their enthusiasm an injustice.  And I am unable to relate the full content of their presentation in this short blog post, so I will try to give you the highlights.  But they showed us in Scripture after Scripture that Jesus came to provide a pattern for holy living for Christians, and to reveal what God's Kingdom on earth should look like.  He healed the sick and infirm; cast out demons (another form of healing); and preached the Gospel, or Good News, about the Kingdom.  And He asked us to follow in His footsteps.  
     The Apostles did that, and so did the early disciples of The Way, even after our Lord's death and resurrection.  So why aren't we continuing His example?  Why aren't we walking in His footsteps?  Well, as Mike and Chris informed us, there are three major reasons that modern Christians don't emulate our Lord's actions in healing:  1)  Unbelief;  2)  the Traditions of Men; and 3) Sacred Cows.
     Unbelief  is not new to our current generation.  As I related last week, Jesus reprimanded the disciples who were unable to heal the epileptic boy in Matthew 17:  it was because of their unbelief. Their faith was immature and they did not believe that they had either sufficient authority or enough power to cast out the demon causing the boy's infirmity.  And so they failed.  But today, Christians often don't believe they have ANY authority or power to heal, and so they never even try.  Is that what Jesus taught us in His Word?  Not at all!  He said, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. 
     We just have to believe what the Bible tells us and be willing to step out in faith and do what Jesus did!  Will we be successful each and every time? Probably not.  But is that an excuse not to keep trying?  Is that the measure of a maturing and developing faith?  I don't want to stand in front of Jesus one day, and tell Him I diligently searched His Word, and saw and understood His example of healing, yet decided it didn't apply to me, or worse yet, quit trying when I didn't get satisfactory results.  How can I deny my Bible when it tells me to not just be a hearer of the Word, but a doer of it? 
     The Traditions of Men and Sacred Cows are similar in that they are a belief/doctrine or long-established religious perception that are held down through generations, regardless of whether they align with Biblical Truth or not.  "It is just God's Will" is such a tradition.  Where in the Bible does it say that it is God's will for a follower of Jesus Christ to be sick, ill, infirmed, or oppressed by demons?  And if, like most Christians, you want to point to Job, then I would like you to look at Job's predicament as part of the "big picture" in God's plan.  Christ had not yet come when Satan accused Job. Job's problems are not our problems!  We are covered by the Blood of Jesus and by His stripes we are healed! 
     As Mike and Chris made clear, The Word is our final authority... not our Church doctrines nor our traditions nor our sacred cows.  God's Word is settled in Heaven, and it should be settled here on earth.  Healing is established in Heaven -- there are no tears, mourning, crying or pain -- and therefore if Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven, then Healing is to be established here on earth.  And Jesus came to model that for us as a man.  He did not heal as God, but "emptied" Himself in order to become a Servant to His fellow man; receiving His power from God to heal, as did the Apostles and Disciples.  That same power to heal is available to us -- if we will just believe and do it!  And in doing so, we are partnering with God and following in the footsteps of Jesus to destroy the works of the devil.  It was for this reason that God sent His Only Son to us.
     Jesus had compassion on His fellow man, and He came to heal those who are sick; both physically and spiritually.  He makes it clear to us in Luke 5:31-32, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

     You see, He began by healing the physical sickness of all men, but He knew that their souls and spirits needed healing, too.  And that ultimate healing comes through repentance; which brings salvation and deliverance, which are manifestations of Jesus's full blessing.  Healing is a sign of the full power of God to deliver and rescue men.  
     As a side note, the full capacity of God's healing is evident in the various Hebrew and Greek words that reveal God's compassion and mercy for His creation:  
Rapha (Hebrew): cure; cause to heal; [be a] physician; repair thoroughly; make whole -- Genesis, 20:17 (Literally); Isaiah 19:22 (Figuratively).  
Iaomai (Greek): heal, generally of the physical, sometimes of spiritual or disease; Supernatural healing and bringing attention to the Lord Himself as the Great Physician (used 26 times in the Bible) --  Matthew 8:8, 13; James 5:16.
Therapeuó (Greek): properly heal, reversing a physical condition to restore a person having an illness (disease, infirmity); to relieve of disease; heal, cure, restore in health (used 43 times in the Bible) -- Mark 6:5; Matthew 17:18.
Nathan (Hebrew): to deliver; to give -- 1 Kings 22:6
Aphesis (Greek):  deliverance, pardon, complete forgiveness; to be released from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness or pardon of sins -- Mark 1:4
Sózó (Greek):  To save, heal, preserve, rescue, deliver -- Acts 2:21; John 3:17; John 12:47
     As you can see, God's healing is seen in the concepts of Healing, Salvation, and Deliverance.  Only the word sózó incorporates all three, and only Jesus can do all three.  Have there been those who seek to exploit this ministry?  Absolutely -- just as Simon the Sorcerer attempted to profit from the laying on of hands in Acts, Chapter 8.  But, as Jesus's willing partners, we can follow His righteous example and help people be physically healed.  That's why it is important that we acknowledge the Truth in the Word; that we are to lay hands on people and heal their physical infirmities to show them the power of Jesus in us!  By doing so, we can convey that He can also heal their deep inner wounds and their spirits; that He offers them a rescue from the bondage of sin and can deliver them into Everlasting Life!
     At the end of our Home Church, Mike and Chris put their faith into action, and asked if anyone needed healing.  In my spirit, I could see Jesus smiling as these two faithful men kneeled beside their fellow Christians and prayed for supernatural healing.  Their faithfulness to fulfill the commission given to all of us by our Lord was not only inspirational, but an incentive to make my faith one of action, not just abstract belief.  I have no doubt that there will be those among us who will put their faith into action and grow into this Biblical healing ministry.  I thank God that the Church is awakening to our call to mature into the likeness of Christ -- let there be no more suffering and let all those on earth come to know the full power of Our Savior to heal us body, soul, and spirit!

Psalm 103:2-4    "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy..."

February 12, 2017

Luke 10:19 ... Does "All" Mean All?

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.


     I know that I have referenced this verse many times during my discussion on spiritual warfare.  It is a foundational concept that we modern Christians don't really understand, and frankly, don't know how to incorporate into our walk with Christ. 
     I have discussed our Power and Authority through Christ in several blogs.  And you can refer to my thoughts on this subject by clicking here here and here, among others. But today, I want to explore what the Bible says about the power of Satan, and if Jesus really meant that He was giving us [His] authority over ALL the power of the Enemy.  In effect, I'm asking this question ... does ALL really mean ALL (the complete, total, and entirety of the devil's power), and what does that power consist of?
     First, we must understand who our adversary is, and again, Christians cannot entirely agree on how much he [can] control our lives.  But this we do know:  He is not equal to God.  God is All-powerful, Omnipresent, and Omniscient.  Satan is none of these.  He cannot be present everywhere at once, nor can he know everything, and know it all at once.  And most importantly, he does not have the same degree of power that God has.  BUT we must acknowledge that he does have power -- Jesus states as much in this verse!  But when it comes to this power, how is it conducted against us?  And that's where I believe the difference of opinion among Christians leaves some of us vulnerable to that power.
     It is essential that we come to know our own theology; that we develop a clear Biblical understanding of the nature of God and His cosmic principles, and be able to apply it to our lives in relationship with Him.  There are those Christians who will say that the devil has no power without God's permission -- that he cannot tempt you, cause you physical harm, cannot force you to do anything you don't want to, cannot touch you in any way, does not know the future.  In other words, anything bad that happens to you is because God allowed it.  And, in essence, what they are saying is that all power and authority belong to God, and Satan has no authority over the Believer.  And they can site Scripture after Scripture to back up their position.  
     I would agree that all power and authority ultimately belongs to God, but this particular theological position discounts all the Scripture that acknowledges how our free will plays into the power equation.  You see, when discussing the Enemy's power, we cannot dismiss that he has access to this realm because man's free will in the Garden, which resulted in rebellion against God's authority, has given Satan the titles of  “prince,” “god,” and “ruler” of this world -- all of which denote some degree of power.  And he has not abdicated those positions, nor the power that comes with them.
     Yes, while it is important to recognize that his power is evident on this earth and in the spiritual realm [where his demons reside and should not be underestimated], we know in our spirits that Jesus Christ crushed Satan’s power with His death on the Cross.  Yes,  “The prince of this world now stands condemned” and Jesus will one day destroy Satan’s power completely and purify His creation.  But note: that is one day in the future!  Until then, Satan's power is real and he continues to oppress and attack us.
     But this should not frighten us nor discourage us! Jesus showed us [through his healing miracles of both sicknesses and demonic attacks] that the power of the Father was stronger than any power of the ruler of this world.  And do you think that just because Jesus is absent from this earth, that the Enemy has abandoned the field of battle?  Furthermore, do you think that Jesus would leave us without the ability to fight back; that He would expect us to suffer until the day and the hour that the Father instructs Him to return to judge Evil and destroy it forever?  That simply does not fit the Nature of the God I serve!
     The only area in which Satan's power is completely broken is over Death.  Until the Cross, Satan held the Power of Death and the Fear of Death.  But Jesus's Death destroyed that particular power of the devil, and in this arena, the Victory is complete. 
     But we cannot lose sight that Satan has some measure of power he is still allowed, which means that his power is not yet completely broken ... We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:18). He is still able to afflict our flesh, our emotions, our minds, and influence/tempt our free will.  I never get tired of quoting Dr. Charles Kraft, who says, "Our churches are filled with wonderfully saved people ... who are afflicted by the devil and need healing; both physical and spiritual".  And I can attest to that through the increasing numbers who have found their way to my and my husband's doorstep!  It amazes me that they are not even aware that their physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is in anyway connected to the power of the devil to attack them.
     So, back to my original question ... when Jesus says He has given us authority over ALL the power of the Enemy, do you believe Him?  Or are you too willing to believe Satan's lies that what you are suffering is the will of God; to humble you and bring you closer to Him?  Is that the picture of God that you have --- that He would desire you to suffer infirmities; or the emotional and spiritual pain of all manners of abuse; or leave you in a state of continual self-hatred for things you've done [or were done to you]?  Because that's NOT what Jesus says here, in Luke 10:19!!!  He very clearly tells us that He has given us the authority to overcome every (ALL) power of the Enemy -- the same authority [to use the Divine Power] that God gave Him to defeat evil -- whether they be spirits of Infirmity, Demonic attacks, Physical/Sexual/Emotional Abuse, Self-denial, Unforgiveness, Fear, Anger, Shame, Rejection, Lust, Pride, Rebellion, Unbelief, the Occult ... and the list goes on and on. 
     Jesus came to be our example; we are made in His image, and we are told that it is our mission to become more like Him as we grow to maturity in our faith.  When are we going to believe that we can be like Him, and when are we going to begin acting like Him? 
     I can tell you that as the Holy Spirit begins to show you these Truths, there is a freedom and the burden to live in this world becomes lighter.  Jesus really meant it when He said His yoke was easier and His burden lighter.  I see Him like this ... He came to train us up, like an older, stronger, more experienced Brother who would bear the burden of teaching us spiritual warfare and guide us through learning by His example. 
     Now it's up to us to not only believe Him, but follow in His footsteps ... We have His God-given Authority to deal with Satan's power [and any attack by the Enemy].  We must step out in Faith, knowing that the Power that is in us is greater than the devil's power, and nothing can harm us!
     

February 10, 2017

Is Technology Threatening Our Spirit?

     This post explores the boundaries between our hearts, minds, and Spirit; and whether we are in danger of exceeding those boundaries as set forth by our Creator.  I recently read a very disturbing article in The Sun, stating that FACEBOOK founder Mark Zuckerberg is funding the development of technology with the potential to read humans’ minds. Of course, the Billionaire and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are doing it for the "good of mankind", and they hope to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases in the span of a couple of generations.
     According to The Sun, one of the researchers who will receive funding is Dr. Rikky Muller, CEO and founder of a firm called Cortera. She is purportedly working to develop brain implants that will have the potential to change people’s behavior by altering their “physiological responses” – the term for reactions which take place in response to external stimuli; like allowing paralyzed people to control prosthetic limbs, for instance. These implants would work by monitoring the electrical signals sent within the brain.
     Now, you might be thinking that this doesn't sound any different than the tremendous number of dynamic technological advances that have marked the last 50 years or so. But the more I am becoming aware of living "in the spirit", the more concerned I become about the "advancements in technology" that threaten my connection to God. And by now, I'm sure you're wondering how technology and our spirit can come into conflict.  See if you can follow my train of thought....
     I want to begin by pointing out that this technological research is multi-faceted.  Among the goals stated by these scientists are the ability to interface with the brain for long-term, minimally-invasive neurological recording; monitoring and manipulation of neural circuits; and to develop 3D imaging technology which can probe the “deep structures of the brain” and is “essential for unravelling neural activity”.  Now let's examine how God made our unique souls and spirits to "interface" with Him (if you will allow me to use that technological term).
     In a fascinating article by Andrew Freed, entitled Understanding the Heart and Spirit Realm Connection, Mr. Freed starts off with a bang:  "The heart is the doorway to the supernatural.  Through our heart we have access to the spirit realm, and through the heart the spirit realm has access to us".  This is borne out by the many references to "the heart" we find in the Bible.  And the excellent website, Bible Study Tools, offers an extensive discussion of the heart, in which they identify Scripture that supports Mr. Freed's premise.
     Jesus says that the heart's secrets are betrayed by the mouth, even as a tree's fruit discloses its nature ( Matt 12:33-34 ). "A wise man's heart guides his mouth, " says Solomon ( Prov 16:23 ). Most importantly, the mouth confesses what the heart trusts ( Rom 10:9 ; Deut 30:14 ).  Furthermore,  the heart's reasoning, as well as its feeling, depends on its moral condition. Jesus said that "from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts" ( Mark 7:21 ). Because the human heart is deceitful above all things ( Jer 17:9 ) and folly is found up in the heart of a child ( Prov 22:15 ), the Spirit of God must give humans a new heart ( Jer 31:33 ; Ezek 36:26 ) through faith that purifies it (Eph 3:17). If you take the time to look up all those Scriptures, you will get the idea ... the heart is essential to our relationship with God, and there is a definite relationship between our heart and mind.  But how does technology link to possible threats to those relationships?
     That's where Mr. Freed's article takes an interesting turn.  He writes that decades ago the medical community thought the only communication between the heart and the brain was through nerve endings.  (This is how the brain regulates heart rate).  He says that today we know the heart sends signals to the brain through the unseen realm in the form of electromagnetic waves ... your heart communicates like a transceiver and the mind speaks to the heart through nerve endings, while the heart speaks to the mind through wave endings. Are you starting to get the picture?
     You see, the word "Heart" (Lebab/Leb in Hebrew) occurs over one thousand times in the Bible, and the ancient Israelites understood that there was a connection between our heart and our minds (or brain), and more often than not, there was a battle between the two. There are so many verses that point to this Truth:  I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds (Jeremiah 17:10; Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding [or thoughts from your mind] (Proverbs 3:5); The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience [which comes from the mind] and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).
     So can you discern the danger involved with brain/computer interfaces?  If these technology scientists are interested in interacting with nerve endings to stimulate the brain -- and nerve endings are how the mind speaks to the heart (see above in bold) -- and if the heart is our connection point to the supernatural, and by inference, to God and the Holy Spirit -- then it seems logical to me that technology could interrupt or corrupt our communication with our Creator.
     Technology and their scientists will tell us that they want to change people’s behavior by altering their “physiological responses” to external stimuli and help paralyzed people control prosthetic limbs and walk again, but I honestly fear that Satan could use this research to alter our reactions to the external stimuli of God and the Holy Spirit.
     When you think about it, it is quite cunning of Satan to influence technology in this manner.  While I do not believe that Satan can read our minds, he can influence our thoughts through our hearts.  He certainly did that in Acts, Chapter 5, when his influence on the hearts of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, resulted in their thoughts to deceive the early Church.  That is why part of our spiritual armor from God is a helmet of salvation.  I believe part of that helmet's job is to protect our minds from the attempts of the Enemy to corrupt our hearts through our thoughts.  This idea is further expounded upon by the Word: We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Arguments and opinions come from our mind/brain, while obedience to Christ originates in our hearts.
     So, when the article in The Sun states that Mark Zuckerberg is funding "technology [that] could one day be used to directly record human thoughts and allow artificial intelligence to read our minds", then the Holy Spirit tells me we are on fragile ground.  Scripture tells us that we are to guard our heart, for from it flows the springs of life.  That tells me that my eternal life depends on the state of my heart.  And I am well aware how my thoughts can derail my relationship with Jesus.  Do I really want technology to advance to the point that they can manipulate my brain and try to corrupt [or possibly eliminate] my spiritual connection to my Lord?  It's something to think about.

Psalm 26:2   "Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind".

February 8, 2017

Prayer and Fasting: Powerful Spiritual Weapons

     As I have shared recently, both my husband and I are doing long-distance Bible studies with people who are new to seeking God.  By that, I mean people who have no experience of being introduced to Jesus in a Church; people who have sat in Churches for years, but realize they don't know their Bibles; and even people who thought of themselves as having faith, but now understand they don't really know this God we serve.  And what a blessing it's been!  It has enabled me to spend time in familiar passages, and it has sharpened my abilities to explain what the Word says and means.  It's one thing to be able to recite Scripture; it's quite another to make the meaning of that Scripture clear to someone else and show them how it affects their lives [both now and eternally].
     And it is an awesome responsibility to present God's Truth in the Bible, and not just a religious doctrine or my own interpretation.  Of course all that is part of the discussion, but the ultimate goal is to give each person a foundation of who the Most High God is, His plan for the Ages, the importance of  following His commandments, and the relationship He wants with each of us. And I must admit that I learn more about my Savior and His Kingdom with each venture into the Word. Because there are so many concepts and teachings that we, as Christians, accept without really understanding their significance, I wanted to take the time to explore just one of them.
     I have long been fascinated by the story of the epileptic boy whom Jesus heals in Matthew 17.  As you will recall, Jesus is approached in a crowd by the boy's father who reports that he had taken his ill son to Jesus's Disciples, but they had been unable to heal him.  Jesus shows His exasperation that the Disciples' faith was so ineffective, and has the boy brought to Him, upon which He rebuked the demon causing the epilepsy and the boy was healed.  The Disciples later approach Jesus and ask why they were unable to drive the demon out.  Jesus reveals that due to their unbelief, they were powerless against the demon.  And then He reveals an interesting bit of information ... But this kind of demon does not go out except by prayer and fasting.  And it is the significance of this verse that I wish to discuss.
     But before we approach the substance of this verse (Matthew 17:21), I have to tell you that there are some versions of the Bible in which it does not appear.  However, a more detailed version of this story is rendered in Mark 9:14-29, in which Jesus declares in verse 29 that prayer and fasting are necessary to throw this kind of demon out. It doesn't bother me that this particular instruction appears in one place, but not another, because the Bible, in its entirety, is a complete revelation of God, and it is up to me to seek His Truth on a matter.  That being said, what are we to make of this comparison between faith and prayer/fasting?
     If you have any knowledge of religious doctrine, then you are most likely aware how the Church views the subjects of prayer and fasting.  They are often linked together, and as one of my favorite websites, GotQuestions.org points out, "Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God."  I would agree with that.  Fasting is a way to deny our flesh in order to concentrate on our spiritual connection to God.  But Jesus seems to take it to a new level, doesn't He?  He specifically relates prayer and fasting to casting out a demon!  That's spiritual warfare!
     It is also obvious that there are degrees of evil associated with demons ... This kind requires the extra power of prayer and fasting.  This suggests that there are levels or degrees of demons as well as degrees of how we wage spiritual war, doesn't it?  Some demons might be cast out by our own ability [knowing we have the authority to do it]; some by invoking the Name of Jesus; and some even by praying [even from a minimal amount of faith] -- all methods that had been taught to the Disciples by our Lord.  But ones like this one need more than our Authority, our use of the Divine Name, and our weak prayer.  This particular demon needed a higher intensity of power, and Jesus makes it clear that this power comes from seeking a higher degree of relationship with God through the combination of prayer and fasting.
     Scripture tells us that the Disciples had been previously successful in casting out demons without fasting.  They had apparently been successful until they found themselves in a spiritual battle over the epileptic boy.  So what is it about praying while fasting that can give us that greater faith to receive a greater power and defeat a stronger form of evil?  I would submit to you that fasting denies our body the distraction of food, and leaves us in a state of spiritual hunger for a deeper communion with God.  Combine this state with an intense level of passionate prayer, and it will release a commitment of Divine Power to defeat the Enemy.
     I would suspect that there was a learning curve for the Disciples, and this incident highlights their weak and imperfect faith, while presenting Jesus with an opportunity to add to their education.  In other words, they were developing their spiritual battle plans, and out of this defeat, Jesus had shown them a new strategy. Now, we do not know for sure that they had been previously taught this tactic, but Jesus's exasperation -- He called them an unbelieving and perverted generation, and wondered how long He was going to have to put up with them! -- seems to indicate they had neglected the spiritual preparation to deal with this kind of demon.
     But let me ask you this question ... Are we any different than those Disciples?  Do we even recognize that we are involved in a spiritual battle with demonic entities? (At least they recognized that demons are real)! And have we prepared ourselves spiritually for battle -- let alone applied fervent prayer and fasting to our arsenal?
      When are we going to learn that we must educate ourselves and prepare to fight a spiritual battle in the spirit? When we seek to commune with God, spirit to Spirit, in prayer from our heart -- and we fast, seeking God out of the hunger in our spirit -- it is a powerful combination that produces a spiritual weapon capable of defeating the powers of darkness and taking back territory [from Satan] for the Kingdom of God.
     Can we see that fasting and prayer were powerful weapons throughout the Bible?  Moses fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai.  Hannah fasted and prayed for a son, and God gave her Samuel, one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament.  Nehemiah fasted and prayed when he was preparing to return from the exile to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  Esther fasted and prayed when the Jewish exiles in Persia were threatened with extermination by Haman.  Daniel fasted and prayed throughout his exile in Babylon, and God gave Him great visions about what was to come upon the world.  John the Baptist and his disciples fasted and prayed; and the Christians at Antioch fasted and prayed when they sent Paul and Barnabas off on their mission trip.  And, perhaps as the perfect model for us, Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights to prepare for the ministry God assigned to Him.
     By now it should be apparent that fasting, accompanied by prayer, is a Biblical, intense God-seeking that releases an intense spiritual power. And each and every one of the examples of prayer and fasting [in the previous paragraph] resulted in spiritual power and territory that was taken back for the Kingdom of God. And that is the assignment He has given us!  We are to Seek first the Kingdom of God ... and enter into this spiritual battle using strategies Jesus has given us to conquer the dark forces of evil.  Prayer and fasting sounds so easy, doesn't it?  Yet we are have lost the sense of their power in this modern world.  And, sadly, the Enemy continues to take territory from us....

Isaiah 58:6    "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, To tear to pieces the ropes of the yoke, To let the oppressed go free and break apart every [enslaving] yoke?"

     
   

February 6, 2017

Do We Even Know What It Means To Be "The Church"?

     Yesterday, I expressed my concerns and frustrations regarding the institutionalized "Church", and how my spirit senses that we are stifling the full image of Jesus and His ministry.  That got me to thinking ... What did Jesus expect of the Church?  How did He envision it? And is it what He intended it to be?
     There have been 20 centuries since our Savior walked this earth and the Church came into existence. As we are well into the 21st, I think it's time we take a good hard look at ourselves and determine if we even resemble what He began, and if we are serving His purpose for the Kingdom of God.
     First of all, you can scour the internet and find all kinds of commentaries and discussions on what the Church should be, and more often than not, it seems that it is from man's perspective -- it is what we have decided the Church should look like from hundreds of years of internal deliberation and analysis.  But is that what really matters -- what we have determined? Because, I would venture to say that if you asked ten Christians what Jesus intended The Church to be, you would probably get ten different answers, depending on their denomination and generational biases.  If you had to find the common denominator among those varying opinions, you would probably come up with a checklist describing the Church as something close to the following:  1) a community of prayer based on the Word;  2) we are to worship God;  3) we are to make disciples;  4) we are to be in genuine fellowship with one another; encouraging each other in our walk with Christ; and finally, 5) we are to proclaim the Gospel to the rest of the world.
     All of those are good descriptions; no one could deny their importance.  But do they represent what Jesus conveyed as His charge to those who would follow Him? Consider this ... Did you know that there are only two instances that Jesus even mentions the word church in the four Gospels?  The first is in Matthew 16:15-19, where it is my opinion that Jesus describes the spiritual aspect of what "Church" means to Him.  In this passage, Jesus acknowledges Peter's confession of faith in Him as the Son of the Living God, and tells Peter that on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.  Peter is also told that he will be given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
     I would like to encourage you to read my post on this passage, as it will clear up what I think is a mistaken image of establishing an "organized" church model, with Peter as the head.  Here is a quick synopsis of what I think Jesus meant (and I hope you will read the entire post to get the full context):  Where this talk took place, and what Jesus said, would have made Peter and his fellow disciples very uneasy.  They knew they were standing on the ground where the Fallen Angels landed on their descent to earth (in Genesis 6:1-4), and it is ground that the Nephilim had inhabited.  In Jewish theology, the spirits of these dead warrior-kings were demons.  Jews believed that this area, with its connection to Fallen Angels and temples dedicated to Zeus and Baal worship, was the entryway to the underworld -- the gates of Sheol, which simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.”  (The New Testament Greek equivalent is Hades, or in English, Hell).  In this case, with its history involving Fallen Angels, this was a place of evil departed spirits, or demons.
     Therefore, Peter clearly understood what Jesus was saying -- that when He referred to "the rock" on which He would build His Church, He did not mean either Peter or Himself.  Peter and the other Disciples knew Jesus was talking about the very rock on which they were standing -- the foot of Mount Hermon, the demonic headquarters of the Old Testament and the Greek world. So when Jesus declared His plan to start His Church on that very spot -- on the top of the gates of hell -- He is saying that He would crush both Evil and Death, and bury them!  He is saying that He intends for the power of His Church to be like a huge rock that will smash the rocks upon which the gates of hell rested -- and He intends His Church to take the fight to the Enemy!
     I believe that Jesus is expressing His plan that those who would follow Him in faith (that is the Church; and Peter being the first in time, not authority) would be given the "keys to the Kingdom"; in other words, the power to help establish Heaven on Earth -- which was God's plan from the beginning in the Garden of Eden.  God wants His realm -- His Kingdom -- to be the same on Earth as it is in Heaven.  That means no pain, no illnesses, no demonic attacks, no poverty, no fear, etc.  And that is the primary message Jesus came to deliver!  By healing infirmities, casting out demons, and sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom, He is telling the world that He came to help institute Heaven on Earth -- and to show us what God's Kingdom looks like.
     I believe Jesus meant the Church to be those who would share these same goals.  He gathered around him a group of disciples who participated in His spiritual healing power and teaching.  And I believe He fully intended His disciples to carry on His work together, as the Church.  But He makes it clear that He desires that everyone who would follow Him be on the same page as to His goals for the Kingdom.  And that's where He mentions for the second and last time, the word Church.  
     In Matthew 18:15-20, I believe we get a more accurate picture of how Jesus saw the physical image of what we have come to know as the Church.  He is addressing His disciples on how to handle a community member who has separated himself from the community and refuses to listen. Jesus said, If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector ... Again I say to you, that if two believers on earth agree [that is, are of one mind, in harmony] about anything that they ask [within the will of God], it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name [meeting together as My followers], I am there among them.
     Now this is where I am probably going to lose those who are well entrenched in their mega-church buildings, and those who like their image as part of a particular Christian organization or established religion.  First, we need to acknowledge that the word "Church" is not the word Jesus would have used. Secondly, we have no actual way of knowing what word Jesus used, because He would have spoken in Aramaic, and we have no Aramaic translation of the New Testament.  However, when Matthew made his own personal translation of what Jesus said in Aramaic, he felt that the best translation of what Jesus said in Aramaic was the Greek word, ekklesia, which means "a gathering" or "assembly" in English.
     But note how Jesus describes what our English Bibles call "the church" in Matthew 18 -- He clearly says that where two or three are gathered in His Name, they are meeting together as His followers, and constitute a gathering, an assembly, a congregation [a fellowship], a church of Believers.  So how did we get to this "written in stone" concept of Church as a hierarchy of institutionalized religion and symbolized by an image of a building full of people?
     Perhaps when His Second Coming didn't happen as quickly as the disciples anticipated, they set about establishing some sort of an organization to carry on after their lifetimes.  I believe the early communities of disciples and Believers tried to carry on His physical/spiritual healing and His teachings that centered on establishing God's Heavenly Kingdom here on earth; of binding evil on Earth as it is bound [restricted] in Heaven, and loosing God's healing on Earth as it is loosed [unleashed] in Heaven. But as the apostles and First Century disciples passed from the scene, the message of establishing the heavenly Kingdom on earth began changing to a message of personal salvation, which was a product of faith in Jesus.  "The Church" made Salvation their primary message, and sadly, I cannot dismiss the selfish implications of this thought -- not that Salvation through faith in Jesus isn't important for our eternal destiny, but the message of Salvation is all about us. The Message of the Kingdom of God is all about Jesus and the Father! Jesus clearly told us that He was sent for the primary purpose of preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).  Furthermore, He admonished us to Seek first, the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). 
     So have we done that?  Are we, as "The Church" an embodiment of His teachings and commandments? Have we gathered in small communities and assemblies and promoted the idea that we, as His followers, are to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth -- as it is in Heaven -- by healing the sick; ridding the earth of the influence of Satan and his demons; teaching others what it means to have faith in Jesus and receiving the gift of Salvation and eternal life in return?  Jesus told us, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
     Again, I always feel as if I must tell you that I am not indicting the entire Body of Christ or those that choose to worship Him in fellowship in buildings.  I simply want all of us to look deeper at what Christ has chosen to reveal in His Word.  And I want all of us to consider this question, as posed by the website, The Real Truth:  If Jesus walked the earth today, and had to choose from the myriad of Churches in America, would He choose to attend your Church?  Remember, at the end of His earthly ministry, and just before His ascension into Heaven, He gave a command to the soon-to-be apostles: “Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). 
     So, do our churches observe ALL THINGS as commanded by Jesus?  If He walked into any church in America today, what would He hear, or what would He find?  Isn't it acceptable to think that whatever Christ taught the original apostles, He would expect to find in His Church?  Would He find a Church that taught the foundational principles of His teachings, or one that extolled their own denominational doctrine?  Would He find your church celebrating the Holy Feast Days as commanded by God, or observing man-made holy days called Christmas and Easter, while rationalizing that they commemorate Him? (And then ask yourself this question:  Do you think Christmas and Easter are celebrated in Heaven -- or Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.? ... On Earth as it is in Heaven, remember?).
     Again, if Jesus entered your church, would He find disciples healing the sick (as Peter did) and casting out demons (as the 70 evangelists did)?  Or would He hear condemnation of those acts as heresy?  Would He hear a message from the pulpit saying, "While we are to try to keep the Ten Commandments, it is not necessary [to keep them] to receive eternal life. Jesus did away with those ‘Old Testament Laws’ and nailed them to the Cross".  Do you think He might want to stand up and shout, Remember what I told you in Matthew 19:17: If you would enter life, keep the commandments!
     These are just a few of my thoughts about how Jesus would look upon The Church today.  Are we hearing His voice?  And does He know us?  Are we truly following Him in ALL His ways?  Are we producing any fruit?  And if so, is it fruit that He recognizes -- or is it the world that commends us?  My spirit just keeps bombarding me with all these thoughts because I sense that the Harvest is near. And as the Church, it is incumbent upon us that we ask ourselves if we have prepared the soil (the world) to receive the seed (His message of the Kingdom); if we have cultivated that soil (broken up the plans of the Enemy to deceive the world) so that our King might reap the harvest He left us in charge of.
     You see, I fear that we have concentrated on watering the plants in our own garden (our church buildings) instead of preparing and cultivating the fields in the outside world.  And while I see fruit being borne within the assembly, the world doesn't seem to get to share in savoring the sweet taste of Jesus. With His return eminent, I suspect that Jesus is looking forward to a Great Harvest.  The Church was to play a part in bringing that about, both in the spiritual and physical realms.  How have we stood the test of time, and how will He judge us?

And He said to them,  "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest".