A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

May 24, 2017

How Do You Understand God?

     I think we would probably be amazed if we asked a roomful of Christians what their impression of God was like.  Of course, you would need to do it privately, or you wouldn't get honest answers.  But I imagine that the responses would sound something like this:  "God is my Daddy figure.  I can go to Him with anything"; "God loved me enough to send His Son as a sacrifice for my sins, and I owe Him for that"; "God is in control of everything in my life -- if He didn't cause something bad to happen, He at least allowed it"; and "God is a powerful, yet distant Ruler.  I don't know if He even knows I exist. I've never felt His presence".
     As you can see, there is quite a wide range of perspectives when it comes to how Christians perceive the God they profess to worship -- and this only covers a small fraction of our perception of Him. But I would think that, at the very least, Christians could agree that God is Good, right?  After all, I think we've all grown up with the cartoon images of God in a white robe and the devil in a red jumpsuit with horns and pitchfork... with the idea that God represents Good and the Devil is the purveyor of Evil.
     But man's traditions aside, Scripture tells us in Psalm 100, Give thanks to Him, bless His name, For the Lord is good. And David speaks of God's "goodness and mercy" that will follow him all the days of his life in Psalm 23.  Then there is Titus 3:4-5, which states, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.  God's goodness is well-established in the Bible -- throughout both the Old and New Testament; by His acts and those of His Son, Jesus.
     Yet, to paraphrase A.W. Tozer, how we think about God can affect our relationship with Him, and is one of the most important things in our Christian walk.  It is amazing to me how many Christians have a problem with seeing God as Good. And I have met some who are even offended by that statement! Typically, someone they have loved has suffered from cancer, died from a prolonged disease, or were the victim of some tragedy.  And they are simply unable to see God as good, loving, or merciful in that situation.
     Somehow, they have convinced themselves that if God were truly Good, then those events wouldn't have happened.  They don't want to come right out and blame God for the adversity in their life, and if you ask them, "Do you think God caused that, or made that happen?", they are likely to answer with indignation, "Well, I don't really know ... BUT...". If they can't go so far as to say God was the source of the bad situation in their life, they will say that He allowed it.  And then the next sentence is usually ... "Just like He did with Job".  But we aren't in the same situation as Job was. He didn't have Jesus, who is our Mediator, and who has taught us how to defeat the works of the Enemy.
     Furthermore, God is not the source of evil or bad things... the Devil is.  And he has been the source of evil from the beginning. Those who are confused about God's goodness will often use the argument that God causes or allows evil/bad things to happen so He can display His mercy.  But think how twisted that is!  Would a Good Father break a child's arm (or watch His enemy break it) just so He could comfort him (show him mercy) and then use His ability to reset the broken bone so it could be said of Him that He restored His child's health?
     If I may, I'd like to quote Pastor Bill Johnson: "Today a large part of the Body of Christ believes God either sends sickness, or allows it, to make us better people by building character and teaching us the value of suffering [like Jesus]. But, if God allows sickness, can we still call the devil a thief? After all, if the thief has permission to steal, it is no longer called stealing.  Yet Acts 10:38 tells us God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him... Remember, healing is not just something God does.  It is who He is.  His name is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. To deny this, is to deny the nature of God, who never changes".
     Our takeaway from this statement should be that it is not God's desire that anyone be sick. We must see that Cancer does not represent Life in the body; it represents Death, which lies in the realm of Satan. Sickness and Disease were not part of God's design for our bodies when He created us.  Both became a part of man's experience after Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden.  Child molestation, rape, murder, tragic car accidents -- none of these are the will of God for us.  But Satan hates God and hates His creation....us!  He wants to hurt God by hurting God's creation. So when anyone convinces themselves that God caused or allowed any of these tragedies, they are blaming God for Satan's evil plans and schemes against us.  John 10:10 should clear up any idea that God is behind the bad things that happen in our lives:  The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. 
     Jesus came as God Incarnate; as an exact representation of God, the Father -- to give Life, and give it abundantly. God is Life. Satan is Death and Destruction.  It's really that simple.  Cancer, Sickness, Child Abuse, Sexual Molestation, Murder, and every evil thing on earth is a manifestation of Satan, and they exist because the Enemy uses them to separate us from God and to steal, kill, and destroy our relationship with Him.
     How we understand God and that relationship has huge stakes for our lives and for this world.  It is imperative that we understand that we were hand-crafted by Jesus with the capability of being conformed into His very likeness. Can we be perfect Goodness, as He was?  Sadly, no, due to our sin nature.  But although that level of Goodness may be difficult for us to comprehend, we still have the ability to experience it personally... but we have to be willing to see His Goodness in every experience of our lives.  God is either Good all the time, or He isn't.  His character attribute of Immutability demands that we acknowledge that.
     But if we are going to blame Him in any form or fashion for the Cancer, or Sickness, or Abuse that were part of Satan's plan, we are robbing ourselves of that fullness of God and the abundance of His love for us, and His desire for intimate relationship.  How we understand God is perhaps the most important thing we will ever decide in our lives.  If I had to offer one piece of advice, it would be this: If it is good, it is from God. Jesus, Himself, said in Mark 10:18, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. So let's understand this ... Anything that brings sorrow or loss or death is from the Devil.  Do not color God's incomparable and perfect character with Satan's wickedness and evil.  God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  When your heart can embrace that Truth, the schemes of the Devil to harm your soul will have no effect.

James 1:17    Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]. 

May 22, 2017

You're In A Real War!

     This is a topic that I think needs to be addressed as more Christians are coming to the realization that there is a very real Spiritual War between the Kingdom of Light and the Powers of Darkness in this world.  And that topic is the truth that we can expect to be attacked by the Enemy when we enter this war.
     I know this is a scary proposition for most Christians, and the spirit of fear is a darn good tactic of the devil that keeps many Believers from getting into the battle, let alone staying in the fight. But it is important for us to know that this Enemy is not going away, and as we get closer to the day and hour that Jesus returns, it is a certainty that we will encounter the forces of evil.  So don't you think we should be preparing ourselves to endure and to overcome?
     Paul clearly tells us in Ephesians 6 that we can't escape the schemes of the devil.  And he tells us that our struggle will not be with mere men (flesh and blood), but with powers, and forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness -- all of whom are rulers over spiritual armies of evil. We are engaged in a real war with the spiritual realm, whether we can wrap our heads around it or not; whether we can see it or not.  This conflict with Satan is spiritual, and therefore no physical, earthly weapons will be effective against him and his minions.
     And the interesting thing is, my experience has been that those who are unchurched are able to grasp this truth easier than those who are regular church attendees.  In both instances, I am talking about people who believe and have faith in Jesus.  It's just that the unchurched group doesn't have the "sacred cows of Religion" that tells them Christians can't be demonized (a term that I use to refer to people who are oppressed or tormented by demonic spirits). And they are more willing to see the demonic attacks in their lives for what they are -- attempts by the devil to kill their physical body or spiritual influence; to steal their hope in a meaningful future; or destroy their faith in God.
     Some of the most formidable spiritual warriors I know are people who have, through personal experience, come to know that they have access to Jesus's power to defeat Satan's forces in this world, and in their lives.  After struggling to fight the Enemy on their own (and failing), they have met Jesus in a personal encounter and know that He is with them always; and they have seen that His power is always available to those who surrender the battle to Him.  And they have seen the devil and his spirits vanquished, and know that they never have to submit to the Enemy again!
     But I also have to caution those who think that once you have beat the devil, he's going to leave you alone.  Many people are surprised that the attacks continue, or in some cases, actually escalate.  But think about it ... Satan's no pushover.  What worked before to enslave you, just might work again.  He's at least going to try the tactics that worked in the first place.  He wouldn't be the Prince of this world if he gave up so easily.  So I always tell people to keep your guard up, and your armor on.  In fact, that spiritual armor that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6 should never come off.  It's called the Armor of God, and He gave it to you to equip you for the battle that He knows will be a reality in every Believer's life.  But the parts of the armor are only useful if you put it on and keep it on!
     For those who want to win that first battle with the help of Christ, and then retire from the battlefield, it doesn't work that way!  You have engaged with the Enemy of God and he must try to diminish your prowess on the battlefield.  He can't have you winning other campaigns or skirmishes in the Name of Jesus!  I mean, you just might convince other Believer's that they don't have to succumb to his schemes and strategies!  And why would you want to bow out of God's army?
     But here's the good news!  You don't have to keep getting attacked!  Once you know you have that Power and Authority and continue to exercise it, the Enemy will realize that you are not going to cower from him again, and he won't waste his resources on you! He's got plenty of people that will submit to his threats and do his bidding, or at least be threatened enough to abandon their work for the Kingdom. And here's the way I look at the period when you are working towards your steady empowerment ... If the devil is attacking you, then that's a sign that you are taking back territory for the Kingdom of God; that he sees you as a capable and proficient foe.  For awhile at least, he will try to stop the success you are having in defeating his forces.  When he figures out that he can't overpower you, he will recognize the full measure of Jesus's power that is working in your life, and he will move on to more vulnerable targets.
     Actually, I think we should consider it a privilege to fight in His Name because of what He did for us.  And we should be grateful that He trusts us with increasing amounts of power as we take back valuable territory (and lives!) from the Enemy.  To call yourself a Disciple of Christ is to declare war against the kingdom of the devil and all his works in our lives and in our communities. We have a decision to make -- either fight or be defeated.  Too many Christians are living defeated lives because they either don't know they can win, or have decided to just give up.
     But the Christian who knows that he has been given the authority to wage war on the Enemy for the Kingdom of God -- and the power of Jesus to back it up -- will live a victorious life.  Through prayer, in the Spirit, we call upon the powers of Heaven and the armies of the devil must acquiesce and yield to the orders we receive from God.  (That being said, it is important to never begin a campaign without clear direction from God that this is a battle He wants you in.  God is always the Commander of this spiritual war, and the Holy Spirit will let you know when it's your time to fight. Remember, Jesus said that as the Son, He could do nothing by Himself; He only did what He saw His Father doing).  That being said, we should always be ready to battle with the Lord!
     And I am so pleased to share this testimony from a faithful "warrior".  This is a woman who just a couple of years ago was under a demonic assignment by the devil; under complete oppression.  But when she hit bottom, she reached up to take the hand of Jesus and has become a faithful fighter for the Kingdom.  It hasn't been all roses ... the Enemy still tries to take a shot or two at her to obstruct her walk with Jesus and re-route her journey.  She gets knocked down and gets right back up, desiring to make an impact for the Kingdom of God.  She is currently working in a prison -- not exactly a breeding ground for evangelism.  But after seeing tremendous fruit in Haiti, she asked God for an assignment to work for Him, and this is where she landed.
     I will tell you that it's been tough, and there were days she wanted to give up.  She was upset and frustrated that she wasn't seeing victory for the Kingdom, but my wise husband told her to take that to God. He told her to tell God that this jail thing just wasn't going to work for her if she couldn't see results. (Remember, we are to have a real relationship with our Father -- the kind of relationship that we can go to Him with our frustrations and tell Him what we want). And then three days later, we received this email:
     This is too exciting not to share... Today one of my female inmates put in a request to talk to me. She is somebody who hasn't really been on my radar, but I know she's been struggling. Anyway, I pulled her [into] my office and she asked me if I believed in God. I told her of course! She proceeded to ask about forgiveness and grace; she thought it was too late for her to be saved. We talked for about 20 minutes and it ended with her accepting Jesus into her heart. She gave everything up to Him in my office while we both sat with tears streaming down our faces! It was seriously the most beautiful thing I've seen in my life! She made herself so vulnerable to Him and I got to witness it, I'm so blessed!
      I have been focusing more on healing and deliverance, I never thought that He would work through me to get people saved. It just goes to show that He knew exactly what I needed and He provided it!  It amazes me how He can work in the setting I'm in. There we were, literally surrounded by murderers, and I saw the most beautiful thing in my life!
     So the next time you get discouraged, or the devil has knocked you around a bit, get back up and get back in the fight.  God wants us in the fight with the devil and his demons! He hasn't given us those weapons of warfare in Ephesians 6, so we can "play soldier"—only to run away when the war starts, or gets tough. He has given us those weapons so we can fight and win. He expects us to win, because it is His power that can always defeat the Enemy.  So, I want to exhort you to not be afraid to get in the battle.  And like our friend, don't be afraid to take your frustrations to Him and ask for victories!
     God has called and equipped us to be soldiers for Christ.  He has given us everything we need to win; spiritual armor and His power. He has assured us of victory, and that those who overcome shall reign with Jesus forever. No one wants a war, but this one is worth fighting. We must answer the call, fight in His power, and be willing to continue to fight until the Enemy is defeated. It's been a real war since the Garden of Eden, and it will continue until Jesus returns.  Let us commit to taking the field of battle and never wavering.  Never give up! The victories will come!

Isaiah 54:17    "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me," declares the Lord."

May 21, 2017

Mark 12:33-34

"... To love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices". 
When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

     Let me set the context of this passage up for you... Jesus has made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, setting the stage for His eventual trial and crucifixion.  He has already thrown the money-changers out of His Father's House, and then the chief priests, scribes, and elders begin questioning His authority to "do these things".  When they cannot answer His question about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, He refuses to tell them under Whose authority He acts.
     So, now in Mark Chapter 12, we find both the Pharisees and the Herodians (Hellenistic Jews who were more Greek than Hebrew) trying to trap Him in their questions about loyalty to Caesar versus loyalty to God.  We then find the Sadducees trying to ambush Him about the afterlife (in which they don't even believe).  
     But there's one scribe who has been watching all the arguing and subterfuge, and realizes that Jesus's answers are accurate.  And then He asks a question that shows His heart ... Which commandment is the most important one of all? He is not interested in maintaining his own power or prestige, or in trying to diminish Jesus's authority.  It is in his heart to be obedient to the commands of God and he wants to find out the answer that this man, Jesus, has to this important question.
     Jesus gives a two-part answer to the question:  "The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second [part] is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
     The Scribe recognizes that Jesus has captured the entire substance of the Ten Commandments [given to Moses] in this one answer.  But he goes further... He shows his understanding of Jesus's Truth by declaring that following God's command to love Him and his neighbor is worth more to God than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices established by the Law.  And Jesus's answer to him?  You are not far from the Kingdom of God.
     I want to expound on what I see happening in this extraordinary exchange between Jesus and the Scribe.  What is happening here is what needs to happen in the Body of Christ!  Let me try to explain what I mean... This Scribe has discerned that the laws and rituals of the sacrifices are less than God's commandments to love Him and others.  And as a good Scribe, he would have been familiar with God's exhortation in Deuteronomy 10: Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?  (If you love me, you will obey my commands!)
     Furthermore, although this Scribe may not have come to the full realization that Jesus is the Son of God, he has connected the dots that are leading him to the doorstep of the Kingdom of God.  He has correctly discerned the underlying principles of the Ten Commandments. The first five point to God as the One True God, and that we are to love and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  The last five commandments exhort us to love our neighbors as we would wish to be loved.  
      Then the Scribe realized that these two commandments were greater in God's eyes than any of the rituals or sacrifices that had been instituted when Israel came out of bondage to Egypt.  Those rituals were established to separate the Israelites from 400 years of being immersed in a false god system.  They were meant to be temporary, and God now expected them to have grasped what He wanted to accomplish with them through His covenant.  
     The next dot the Scribe connected was understanding that God desires that we show our love for Him by obeying His commands. What he doesn't know is the next dot that Jesus is getting ready to put before him.  When Jesus tells him that he is not far from the Kingdom of God, our Lord is hinting that there will be more commands coming; that if the Scribe will be faithful to obey these commands [and thereby show his love for God], his obedience will usher in the Kingdom of God.  
     Those commands are encompassed in the Great Commission ... 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. (Matthew 28:19-20) ... Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel [of the Kingdom] to the whole creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18).
     In both of these Scriptures recounting the Great Commission, Jesus begins by giving them a command ... GO! Do the things I showed you and commanded you to do, and disciple others to do these same things.  And by now, you should know what those things are:  baptizing in His Name; healing the sick; casting out demons; and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (which includes salvation).
     But the two big points I want to make are these:  1) When Jesus tells the Scribe that he is not far from the Kingdom, He is making the point that it is correct to show your love for God by obeying His commands. And there will be commands, soon to be given to Believers (in the Great Commission), to show the Love of God (by healing both physical and spiritual issues) for all those who have faith in Jesus.  The Kingdom of God will truly be at hand!  2) Sometimes there are truths in the Bible that have to be discerned by connecting the dots.  There is not always a one sentence verse that reveals an easy-to-memorize revelation of God's character or commands. 
     Remember, Scripture says it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out (Proverbs 25:2).  The dots that this wise Scribe connected are these:  God commands us to love Him and others ... we show our love for Him by following His commands ... Jesus commands us (in the Great Commission) to do the things He did (healing, casting out demons, preaching the gospel) ... and it brings the Kingdom of God to earth!  
     The question we must all answer is this:  How close am I to the Kingdom of God? 

May 19, 2017

Come, And Receive "The Children's Bread"!

     It is quite encouraging that there are segments of the Body of Christ who are accepting the Word of God regarding Healing and Deliverance.  I want to make it clear that I acknowledge the difference in these two terms; recognizing healing as it pertains to physical sickness and disease, while deliverance relates to spiritual healing [including the casting out of demons]. And as I have explained in past blog posts, our English translation Bibles use different words that all have the connotation of healing; some of these words are salvation, delivered, forgiveness of sin, and of course, healed. Additionally it is interesting to note that the original Greek language of the Bible also used multiple words for the concept of physical or spiritual restoration.
     As an example, here are some of those words --- Iaomai: heal, generally of the physical, sometimes of spiritual disease (Matthew 8:8,13 and 26 times in the Bible). Therapeuó:  properly heal, reversing a physical condition to restore a person having an illness (disease, infirmity); to relieve of disease; heal, cure, restore in health (Mark 6:6, Matthew 17:18 and used 43 times in the Bible). Soteria:  rescue or safety (physically or morally): — deliver, health, salvation, save, saving. God's rescue which delivers believers out of destruction and into His safety.  (John 4:22-23 and used 44 times in Scripture). Aphesisdeliverance, pardon, complete forgiveness; to be released from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness or pardon of sins (Mark 1:4). SózóTo Save, Heal, Preserve, Rescue; Deliver – the compilation of all facets of healing; JESUS’S FULL BLESSING (Luke 17:19).
     Whether physical or spiritual, or a combination of both, there is plenty of evidence in the Bible that it was God's will that Jesus provide healing to all who desired it. And that is why the passage about the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 is so profound.  Here is a woman who is outside the Covenant of God, and whose people are referred to as "dogs" by the Jews. Yet she is so desperate for the release of her daughter from demon possession, that she is willing to go against all the social conventions to approach this Man from Galilee that she has heard so much about.
     Her religious leaders and the pagan doctors have not been able to relieve her daughter's suffering, and her only hope is Jesus. So believing He can heal her child, she dares to confront Him as the crowds swirl around Him. But Jesus's response is stunning! He's always been compassionate before, but this time He tells her that His healing is only for the lost sheep of Israel.  But He is her only hope, and she believes in His power and authority to deliver her daughter from the clutches of the demon, and she falls down, worshipping Him. But Jesus persists, saying, It is not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. 
     Yet this woman, even in recognition of her unrighteousness, is not willing to let go of what she knows is the truth ... Jesus has the power to heal! So, in meek and humble response, she says,  “Yes, Lord; for even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus is immediately moved by her faith and belief in Him, and the Bible says, And her daughter was healed from that hour.  

     So, the first point I want to make is that this passage clearly states that deliverance from demons is part of Jesus's ministry of healing. As the Church, it is important that we not reduce his healing miracles to just those of a physical nature.  Secondly, we should take a closer look at what is being conveyed by the term "the children's bread". What do you think Jesus meant by it?  Specifically, in this case, it refers to deliverance from demonic possession.  But I am not willing to limit it to just this one aspect of healing.
     It is easy to understand that "bread" is sustenance and nourishment.  Jesus is our "Bread of Life"; our source of strength; the One who enables us to endure this life; the One who feeds our souls.  But we should also recognize the implication that it is the children's bread that Jesus is protective of.  Who are "these children"? It is imperative that we understand that Jesus is referring to the children of God, and that the bread is the healing that is their right; that is to be expected; that is the normal sustenance of those He calls His Own.  Put another way, Healing [in all its manifestations] is our inheritance; our portion and our provision as children of the Most High; something we can claim as our birthright.
      Yet, for far too many years, the Church has cast doubt and uncertainty and confusion about whether we have a right to expect healing.  And in regards to healing as it pertains to deliverance from demons, the Church hasn't even considered it might be necessary!  But as children of God, we need to be confident of the ground we stand on in the whole sphere of healing, and know the Truth of the Bible --- that Jesus is not only able to heal today, but is willing to, and waiting for us to act upon that Truth in faith!
     The last thing I want to point out is that the Canaanite woman did not focus on just the healing she needed for her daughter.  Even when Jesus refused her at first, she did not abandon her belief in Him. She bowed down and worshipped Him, continuing to seek the Healer, even though the healing had been denied.  We must follow her example.  I cannot tell you that we will be successful every time in getting healing for ourselves, or in bestowing healing on others.  I do not know why healing is not automatically accomplished.  But I know that those who pursue it and don't quit eventually receive it. We are entitled to receive healing as a child of God.  It is our bread. It is our entitlement to receive it, and our privilege to give it.  Healing is evidence that the Kingdom of God is present. We have been commissioned to exercise this gift. And healing is one of the signs that is to accompany those who believe. Seek The Healer and He will answer!

Psalm 107:20   "He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction". 

May 17, 2017

The REAL Power Of Your Testimony

     I'm not even sure how to begin this conversation with you. My original thought was to share how frustrated I am with all the finger-pointing that various Christian factions are engaging in towards fellow Believers who are different than them. Accusations of heresy and diabolical practices are tossed back and forth, and unity among the Body is far from evident.  The New Reformation movement thinks anyone involved with the Charismatic or Pentecostal branch of Christianity is practicing outside the boundaries of Scriptural doctrine.  And any Christian who even hints that they believe in Healing or Deliverance is accused of being caught up in "Charismania".
     Have there been self-proclaimed people of God who have been misled, and who are misleading and deceiving Believers?  Yes, on both sides of that spectrum!  Just as in the Bible, men have sought to elevate themselves (rather than God) through signs and wonders -- I think of Simon the Sorcerer.  But I can also think of several prominent pastors and teachers who preach against anything supernatural in our relationship with God, keeping Believers bound in theology that restricts the power of God in their lives.  It goes both ways.  And how does any of that benefit the Church?  The bickering and finger-pointing only serves Satan's purpose, which is to keep us focused on our differences. That contributes to division and takes the focus off the validity of our personal testimonies.
     I think it is safe to say that the world doesn't want to hear the Doctrines of Men; our creeds, our theology, or our dogma. As Christians, we know that God wants a personal relationship with us.  But why do we think that the world will be drawn into our buildings when the people of the world have made it clear that they reject our message?  We must reach the Lost the same way that Jesus instructed His Disciples:   But you shall receive power of the kind which God has [and exerts] after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.  And you shall be those who testify of what they have seen and experienced, my witnesses, both in Jerusalem and Judea, and in Samaria and to the end of the earth (The Greek Translation of the New Testament).  We must share our testimony of how we have experienced Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives!
     So, now I'm at the heart of what I want to say in this blog post ... how our personal testimony can both shine the Light of Christ into the Unsaved and strengthen the faith of our fellow Believers by sharing the power of God in our lives.
     Whenever I've got a nugget of knowledge or wisdom that I feel is important for us to consider, but can't quite flesh it out, I always take it to my husband, Mark, who can usually see it with spiritual eyes and help me get the bigger concept.  This time was no different... he actually became quite passionate about what our testimony should accomplish.
     Using himself as an example, he said most Christians think their testimony is boring ... I was raised in a Christian home; attended Church most of my life; and can recall the day I accepted Jesus as my Savior.  I accept that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for my sins, and I have tried to live a life pleasing to God.  He said, "We think how we express our doctrinal beliefs or theology is our testimony.  And if you're one of the lucky ones, perhaps you have a dramatic conversion experience when you realized you needed to change your life, and you found yourself on your knees, and asked Jesus to come into your heart".
     But then he went on to say, "Most of us don't have that. So where is the experience of God's presence being exercised in our testimony? Does it really speak to the needs of the Lost who are hurting, or to the Believers who need confirmation that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit still interact with us today?
     Just a couple of years ago, the Body of Christ was not even able to consider that God still acts supernaturally in this earthly realm.  They could not conceive that He still wants to heal our physical sicknesses and afflictions, or that He still wants His Disciples to cast demons out of oppressed people.  But that is changing, thank the Lord!  I see Christians beginning to renew their minds about what the Scripture actually says, and they are seeing Jesus's commands through new revelation. And, in some instances, the word "demon" is even being accepted as part of the Christian experience; some even going so far as to acknowledge that we can defeat them just as Jesus and His Disciples did! [And for those who are still skeptical that demons can oppress Christians, who do you think is responsible for so many Christians suffering from anxiety, depression, unworthiness, bitterness, inadequacy, fear, etc? Since the Church quit believing in Jesus's command to "do the works" that He did in casting out demons, the devil and his evil spirits have had a heyday with Believers!]
     But there is still a reticence among Christians to share those testimonies with the Church.  Believers who are willing to admit that demons exist are still cautious about sharing their personal, spiritual and supernatural encounters with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in which the demons attacking them have been thoroughly defeated.  Why would we be willing to attribute some of our spiritual attacks to demons, but not be willing to share how Jesus and the Holy Spirit defeated them in our lives?  Isn't that presenting the problem without sharing the solution?  And when that solution was the presence of God, interacting with us in the spiritual realm, doesn't that provide the unmistakable power that our testimonies are missing?
     If we could share that Jesus actually showed up [in the spirit] and comforted us as we dealt with the loss of a parent, or a childhood molestation, or a miscarriage, or a time of profound doubt in ourselves -- and we felt His embrace and heard Him whisper, "I'm here with you; accept my healing in this situation", don't you think that is a more powerful [and persuasive] demonstration of Who we profess to have faith in?  Which do you think the Lost will find it easier to identify with --- your personal testimony that speaks of the power of Jesus to heal your (and their) wounds -- or a sermon that speaks of a theological point that has no relevance to them or their experiences?
     And if Christians could be healed by sermons, then there would be no hurting souls sitting in the pews.  But you and I know that is not the case.  In the end, I see this as really simple ... I just wish the Church would quit denying what our Bible tells us; and quit defining this generation as "too enlightened" to believe in the supernatural character of God.  The truth is that our rational, modern, and self-informed viewpoint has left us impotent when it comes to the attacks of the Enemy.
     As more and more Christians come to believe the literal Word of God regarding our Commission, they will begin to experience the literal power of Jesus in their lives, through healing and deliverance.  And when they can share their personal encounter with the Living Christ, and how He healed the wounds of their lives, then I believe the Lost in the world will be drawn to that message and we will have the opportunity to share the full revelation of God.  (I mean, that's how Jesus presented the Gospel!) Furthermore, the Church needs to hear that testimony of Power as well.  They, too, need to know they can experience those personal and supernatural encounters in order to come into their full identity as images of Christ.  Then the Church will be operating in the Power of Heaven (instead of their own authority); and the REAL POWER behind the word of their testimony will conquer the devil and his schemes.

Psalm 107:2   "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary."   

May 15, 2017

How The Church Got Off-Track

     This is a topic that has been rattling around in my head and pricking my heart for several weeks now, and I'm not sure that I can adequately unpack it all to my own satisfaction, let alone yours.  But I'm going to try...
     I've been researching just how Jesus's Church went from promoting Healing as a primary component of the Kingdom message in the first few centuries to such a state of denial in our commission to heal in the present century.  Why are we unable to take effective action in healing, which results in a helpless, powerless, and nearly impotent Body of Christ?
     Historically, we can see that members of early Christianity held a warfare worldview... they still held tightly to Jesus's teachings that forces of evil would come against Him and His Church.  During His entire time on earth, the Bible records the efforts of Satan to tempt Jesus, to send lying and deceiving spirits to sabotage His Message, and to defeat the ultimate plan of God to deliver Believers out of the hands of the Enemy.
     Christians, at that time, knew that this spiritual war between Jesus and the devil was at the heart of the sicknesses and demonic bondage that people were experiencing. They understood that Believers were to fight against sickness, disease and demonic oppression through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which provide historical documentation of countless healings done by Jesus, proving that He came to set the captives free.  Jesus was just doing what He saw His Father do when YHWH proclaimed in Exodus 15:26 that "I am the LORD who heals you." So what happened, and why doesn't Jesus's Church believe that today?
     It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment that things changed and the Church got off track, but many theologians point to the writings of Augustine which eventually moved the Church to a different worldview -- one in which the Church came to believe that everything in life happens due to the predetermined will of God.  In fact, it is largely accepted that Augustine was a primary influence on the Reformation and the theologies of Luther and Calvin. (Interested in exploring more about this connection?  Read here and here). I am not interested in dishonoring these important figures of the Reformation, but we need to understand how the Church got from a warfare worldview to what some call a blueprint worldview.  I think you can see how this new idea of God negated the part Satan plays, and would cause a shift in the thinking of the Church regarding healing.
     Augustine's writings (along with the Reformers) began to move the Church in a new direction. Instead of believing that sickness might be brought on by the devil (who the early Church knew should be resisted), people were to believe that God brought on sickness and personal trials for a person's spiritual sanctification.  Put in simple terms, God allowed sickness to purify a Believer, or in other words to prune them for greater faith.  This thinking then led to a belief system that to pray against an illness was to resist God's work He was trying to accomplish in you.  So, instead of praying for healing, the Body of Christ would pray for discernment about why God might have brought sickness or disease into someone's life.  And the truly remarkable aspect of this deception is that it removed Satan's guilt in our suffering, and placed all the blame at God's feet!
     And I can tell you that I have talked to many good Christian friends who see seasons in their life where they have dealt with sickness [or depression or adversity] as proof that God was trying to bring them to their knees in subjection to His will in their life; that somehow they were enduring a purifying fire to rid themselves of some aspect of sin.  I agree that God disciplines those He loves, but if Jesus is truly our model and a picture of how our God loves us, can you find an instance in Scripture where He allowed sickness to sanctify a Believer? Did He ever use sickness as a method to promote His Father's Kingdom? No! He used the miracles of healing to demonstrate what His Father's Kingdom was like and to illustrate the goodness of God!  God is not the author of pain and suffering in a Believer's life!  He is Life and Mercy and Grace!
     For too long, the Church has seen suffering [in its various forms, whether sickness or demonic oppression] as "carrying our cross" and an opportunity to glorify Jesus in our suffering-- almost as a badge of honor to prove that we are approved and acceptable to be called "Christian". But this is just a scheme of the Devil to turn us away from believing in healing and miracles for today! And it has all led to a Church full of people operating in Doubt and Unbelief, which renders the Body powerless to effect the unbelieving world outside the Church doors.
     We have lost the Truth of what Jesus meant when He said, The Kingdom is at hand.  By using the Power that the Father gave Him to perform miracles, healings, signs and wonders, Jesus was able to grab the attention of the people to share the Good News that God's Kingdom [as it is in Heaven] had begun on earth and would continue until it was fully achieved at Christ's Second Coming.  He taught that Truth to His Apostles and to the Disciples that He commissioned to continue His works. They were to persist in miracles of healing and deliverance [from demons] through the ever-present power of the Holy Spirit.
     But along the way, the Enemy seduced men like Augustine to diminish the supernatural character of God, and convince Church leaders of the impossibility of His working through Believers to heal and deliver and work miracles today.  Therefore we have not been equipped to carry on Jesus's work. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, which believe in the restoration of miracles, healing and deliverance [as part of the Church's ministry] has been reviled, and any talk of spiritual warfare in these areas is quickly squelched among many mainline denominations.
     But I hope you can see the devil's hand in man's reshaping of the Church.  For me, it is easy to see how the continued work of Jesus could transform our communities, our country, and the world.  Just look around you and see how many people could use the release of Jesus's healing power in their lives -- whether their pain is physical or spiritual.  And do not believe Satan's lie that these miracles are meant only for Believers.  It is my opinion that we have been given this Power [through the Holy Spirit in us] to show the healing power of God which gives us an opportunity to share a message about the Father's love for us and what Jesus did for us.  It's all in accordance to what Jesus did Himself.  For those with Faith, it confirms the power of God.  For those who are Lost, it can be the impetus to become born again.
     It is time that we, the modern Church, become partners with the Divine; and Healing becomes a tool in which we can resist the devil's evil plans and make this world a little more like Heaven.  By partnering with God, we release His purposes into the earth, and the Church begins to be restored to its own purpose. Let's change the Church from a powerless direction to one that is active, formidable,  and on fire with the power of the Holy Spirit!  It happened in that first Century, and God can do it again!

Thanks to the writings and ministry of Randy Clark for challenging me to ask the hard questions and to determine my own theology after searching the Scripture.

Luke 9:2    "And He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal".

May 14, 2017

Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...

     In Romans, Chapter 1, Paul is speaking of the exalted power of the Gospel, and when properly understood, I believe it speaks to an even bigger concept than the Church has realized up til now.  We have all been taught that Jesus came to die for our sins, so that we might escape the wrath of God by receiving Him as our Savior.  The benefit of that decision is exchanging a life of sin that leads to Death and the eternal absence of God for a life lived in Jesus's imputed righteousness and the gift of spending eternity in Heaven with the Father and Son. Does that do a pretty good job of what the Body of Christ is believing?  It is all correct, without a doubt -- but there's so much more!
     For those of us who are willing to hear and see what the Word of God is actually saying, that picture takes on new dimensions and significance.  If you read the first few verses of Romans 1, you see Paul laying out the foundation of our faith ... the Gospel of God prophesied [through the prophets] that the Son of God would be born as a descendant of David in the flesh; that Jesus Christ was declared the Son of God [as a result of] power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Holy Spirit; that we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all people for His name’s sake.
     I'm afraid we might have reduced the real magnitude of these verses to a simplified "salvation message".  And I believe that is borne out by our limited understanding of verse 16, in which we don't see the big picture of what "the power of God for salvation" really means.  Let me see if I can explain ...
     Are we guilty of reading this verse from the standpoint of the Reformation, which preached God's mercy to bring us into freedom from sin and His wrath?  In other words, are we interpreting this word "salvation" as strictly meaning the escape from eternal damnation in the Day of Judgment, and only seeing the work of the Holy Spirit as He relates to conversion?  
     If you are seeing with newly opened spiritual eyes, I hope that you are discerning salvation in the larger scope of its purposes for the Kingdom.  As I have continually written, it is my opinion that the Church has lost the sense of God's Power in us, and doesn't have a very good sense that Jesus came to preach the Good News about the influence of that power [through us] in this dimension called earth.  Furthermore, we don't have a clear grasp that those Kingdom purposes are about forgiveness, and about having the ability and the authority to communicate with God (as Jesus did) so that we can actually be in communication with God's enabled power to heal the sick, for instance.  We don't understand that He desires to use us by releasing His power through us to cast out demons, and even raise people from the dead, if He tells us that is His will.  
     We have not been taught that the Holy Spirit [in us] enables us to see in the spirit, and hear in the spirit so that we can implement our Father's plans and will -- just as Jesus did in His incarnate state.  He showed us that is possible!  And this is the fullest sense of that word SALVATION which includes forgiveness, healing, deliverance and the redemption of "the poor in spirit."
     For too long, we have believed that the power of God worked independently from us, and we saw Him as some distant Benefactor or Judge [depending on our circumstances]. Remember, God identifies Himself as the "I AM". He is not the "I WAS" or the "I WILL BE".  The same actions of healing and deliverance from demons that He exhibited through the Apostles are to be acted out in faith and obedience by us. 
     When we proclaim the Gospel Message, are we making sure that we know the full extent of that Good News?  That it is not limited to eternal life in Heaven, but extends to daily healing and deliverance in the here and now?  We are called to proclaim that Gospel to the ends of the earth and until Jesus returns. But can we truly say we are fully proclaiming that Gospel if it does not include the signs and miracles that Jesus modeled during His preaching?  
     I know that this is probably outside the purview of mainstream Christianity, but it is precisely because this message has been neglected that the Church is powerless today against the forces coming against our families, the culture, and our government.  It is time that the Body of Christ quit trying to come to terms with the Enemy and go back to the fundamentals of Jesus's message... He clearly tells us that He came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him.  All we have to do is read the Scripture through spiritual eyes and see what He did.  That is the true Gospel and the full sense of how the Father views salvation.  That is the power Paul is talking about; it is the length and width and height and depth of God's power and love to deliver us all from every kind of evil. That is the picture of His Kingdom and Power and Glory that He wants us to see and to do!

May 12, 2017

Now, Let's Get Started!

     If you've been following the last few blog posts then you know where I'm going.  Hopefully, you have dived into the Word and really studied all that Jesus had to say about what the Kingdom of God looks like on this earth. And if you truly believe that the Power of the Father resides in you, and that you are a Son or Daughter, Prince or Princess of the Kingdom, then all the deceiving lies of the Enemy will be eliminated. These are the lies he has told you to make you afraid, and caused you to deny your position in the Kingdom.
     So, if you can step out from behind the wall that Satan built between you and the Power and Authority you have been given, you should be asking, What's the next step?  All I can do is tell you the path that God took me down.  Your path may look a little different, but we should all end up at the same destination ... being bold in declaring ourselves as witnesses of another world; in other words, demonstrating what it looks like when the power of Heaven invades this earth through us, the ambassadors of the King!
     There are many modern-day pastors and leaders who are rock solid in their Biblical understanding of our relationship with God, and our commission from Jesus to do the works He did.  I have no problem in recommending studies by Curry Blake or Bill Johnson on how to follow Jesus's instructions regarding our Commission and His model for destroying the works of the devil. Others such as Dr. Charles Kraft and Dr. Kurt Payne offer exceptional models for Deliverance.  Taken together, it all adds up to HEALING, a word that encompasses all that Jesus did to alleviate the human condition: Preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people; and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them (Matthew 4:23-24)   
     Search those names on YouTube and watch every video you can of their teachings on both physical and inner (spiritual) healing. Scripture is the foundation of their teachings and they will help you overcome any of your "religious sacred cows" that are blocking you from stepping out in faith. Once you have spiritually discerned that all this is God's Truth, then I would recommend that you make an appointment to get delivered.  You don't want anything between you and God that the Enemy can exploit. THEN, just start!  Begin with your family and friends.  I guarantee that there is someone you know who is physically in pain. Ask them if you can pray for them and lay hands on them to release the power of Heaven into their pain.  Just step out in faith and obedience and watch the Father work.  If nothing happens, do it again.  It is your Faith that will make their healing a reality.  If you believe that what the Father did for Jesus, He is also willing to do for you, then the power will be released.  God wants to work with us and through us!
     If you have a family member struggling with a spiritual issue, both Dr. Kraft and Dr. Payne offer easy-to-follow models for Inner Healing and Deliverance.  As long as you step out in obedience, knowing that it is the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who are doing the work in the person (not you) and that you are Their instrument to see the person spiritually healed, then God will guide you to success.  He wants to use you (just as He used Jesus, and then the Disciples) to see people healed. He will not give you more power than you can handle, and if you will listen for His voice and His instruction, He will give you more authority and more power as you proceed.
     The bottom line is that in pursuing our Biblical Commission, we are really seeking more of our God.  At some point, we have to let go of our fears of deception and our personal safety and chase after Him with abandon, willing to lose ourselves in order to gain Him.  As Bill Johnson says, "We must believe that our God is big enough to keep us safe in our quest for more of Him.  Practically speaking, many Christian's devil is bigger than their God... It's an issue of trust. Our hearts must be turned completely towards the One who is able to keep us from falling". 
     And I know that recommending watching YouTube videos or reading books other than the Bible may not be the normal route for growing our faith and obedience, but I think we learn best from people who are actually doing the works Jesus did and bearing fruit from their labor.  I mean, what have we really learned from the theories of classroom Christians who never walk out their faith?  If you are convinced (and I hope you are!) that we should be doing what Jesus did, then it only makes sense to study how those who have had success in these areas are doing it.
     I don't know about you, but I want to work in the Father's miracle realm like Jesus, and experience what He experienced.  I want those personal encounters with God and the Holy Spirit! I want to see the lame walk, and the blind see, and the dead raised!  And I want the power that can make that happen flowing through me!  I want to see in the Spirit the way the Apostle John did, and I want Paul's "Damascus Road" moment in my life.  I want the deepest intimacy I can get with my Father, and I want to share it with others and see their lives impacted in the same way, so that they can go out and share it with more people.  I want to see Earth overlaid with the fragrant atmosphere and scent of Heaven. I believe that was what Jesus was walking out during His short time in this world.  And look what He started!  Now it's our time and our turn!  Are you willing to follow His clear Biblical instructions? Then, what are you waiting for?

Psalm 119:10    "With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!"

May 10, 2017

"But This Scares Me"!

     That is probably the most common response I get when I suggest that we, as the Body of Christ, should be doing the things that Jesus commanded His Disciples to do to advance the Kingdom of God.  I realize that the idea of stepping out and laying hands on someone to heal them, or having the confidence that we could stand up to a demon and command it to leave a person are unfamiliar concepts to most of this generation of Christians.  Those activities are usually assigned to "charismatic" movements, which the more traditional (and dare I say) "powerless" denominations oftentimes want to label as being on the fringe of Protestantism.  Combine those deeds with speaking in tongues and, well, the conversation is over.
     And there are lots of reasons to be uncomfortable [or afraid] that seem legitimate to our human minds ...  the fear of being ridiculed or judged; no one wants to look stupid, and we certainly don't want to find ourselves at odds with the generally accepted practices of our fellow Church members.  And then there is the fear of failure -- even if I am bold enough to believe and DO what Jesus commanded, what if I do it wrong? What are the consequences of making mistakes?  But probably the biggest cause for fear is the possibility that we will have to engage the Dark Side.  That's a huge unknown and we don't really know what to expect, or even if we have the courage to find out.  Never mind that it speaks volumes of how we may be elevating Satan's power over the Power of God.
     Believe me, all of these arguments are ones that I have had myself.  But the more that I studied exactly what Jesus said, I could not deny His instructions to us to do "the works that I do" (John 14:12). And a study of that word "works" reveals that it is the Greek word ergon, which means "act or deed".  And if that wasn't enough confirmation that I could move forward [without fear] in healing the sick and setting people free from demonic torment, there is the actual Greek translation of John 14:10-12 ... Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?  The words which I am speaking to you, not from myself as a source am I speaking.  But the Father who in me is abiding. He is doing the works.  Be believing me, that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me.  But if not, because of the works (acts and deeds) themselves be believing.  Most assuredly, I am saying to you, he who believes in me, the works (acts and deeds) which I am constantly doing, also that one shall do. This Scripture has so convicted my heart, that I can confidently put forth several Biblical premises for you to consider:
     1.  I don't have to be afraid, just obedient as Jesus was.  I don't have to fear doing it wrong, because it's not me doing the works, it is God in me who uses His Power deposited in me when the Holy Spirit came into my heart.  Will we feel awkward at first? Yes, but when we love Jesus and follow His commands, the Bible says that a "doer of the Word" will be "blessed in his doing".  Obedience is the first step.
     2.  There is assurance in the fact that Jesus states all Authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18) and He has given us authority to overcome all the power of the enemy, and nothing will harm us (Luke 10:19).  I have given lots of long, hard thought to the big picture that I think Jesus is conveying here.  And it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  God gave mankind (made in His image) dominion over the earth and the authority to subdue it (Genesis 1:26-28). Adam and Eve were tricked into giving over that authority to Satan when they disobeyed God and gave into temptation. Satan actually boasts of this transfer of authority when he tempts Jesus in the wilderness: And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish (Luke 4:5-6).
     But the joke is on the devil!  Jesus defeats him at the Cross and after His resurrection, He appears to the Disciples and tells them, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. He has taken the Authority back, and then tells them "now I am giving you the Authority [back] to overcome all the power of the enemy".  That promise extends to us!  But there is a responsibility that comes with regaining that Authority ... we must teach and do all the works that He commanded the Disciples to do.  So, there should be no fear or doubt that this is what we are to be doing!
     3.  The Bible says that the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the Devil.  If we stick with God's plan from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, we can see that there was no sickness, no death, no demonic torment or oppression.  But ever since Man's Fall, the works (acts and deeds) of the devil have been to cause sickness and pain, death, and destruction of our souls -- all with the purpose to separate us from a relationship with the Father.  He comes to kill, steal, and destroy that relationship. But Jesus came to destroy the works of the Enemy by doing the works of the Father ... healing the sick, casting out demons, and securing the ultimate victory over Death.
     We were never designed to have cancer or Alzheimer's; or to be tormented in our souls and flesh.  I mean, we were never even supposed to die! But our spiritual parents were tempted and disobedient, and sin entered the Garden. There has been a spiritual battle ever since between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness.  Satan's authority has included sickness and disease and spiritual torment.  Until Jesus came, he also ruled over death.  But Jesus conquered Death, and when He returns, He will wipe out all the remaining works of the devil.  Until then, we are to continue in the spiritual battle, and take back territory with our Authority to heal and deliver.  And since Jesus has given us the opportunity to overcome the greatest fear of all (Death and eternal separation from God), then we can proceed in our duties as Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom, and continue to defeat the works of the devil.
     4.  The works of Jesus [which we are to do] amount to spiritual warfare, and that's why we have been given spiritual armor.  Pain, sickness, disease, and demonic torment come from the devil, and are his weapons in the battle to keep people from a relationship with Christ. Therefore, Jesus's works of healing our minds and bodies, and delivering us into freedom from spiritual bondage and oppression are His weapons in this spiritual war.  And if we follow Jesus's model, our source of power is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  He used both to fight the Enemy.
      Prayer plugs us into the power source, connecting us to God and allowing His power to flow to us [through the Holy Spirit] for any battle we may be facing.  It is easy to think that we are battling natural forces or enemies.  But behind these natural enemies are spiritual forces that are opposed to the Kingdom of God. And besides the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, Jesus has given us spiritual weapons that include Prayer (plugging us into the power source); Fasting (helps to break the power of pride and rebellion, and humbles the soul); Authority (given by Him to tread on the power of the Enemy); Binding and Loosing in the Spirit (with legal authority, as spoken in Matthew 18:18); Praise and Worship (which connects us to the presence of God); Prophetic Anointing and Words of Knowledge in the Spirit (which break down strongholds established by the Enemy).
     If you carefully study the Word, you will find that Jesus used all these weapons in His destruction of the spiritual works of the devil.  And we must not forget the Spiritual Armor that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6.  This is armor that God gives us to protect us in the fight we will most certainly be engaged in.  It is my sincere belief that this armor is given to us precisely so we will get on the battlefield.  I do not think it is given to us with the idea that we are to sit safe and secure in our bunkers, while the battle rages on all around us. Jesus engaged on the front lines of the battle and so should we!
     By now, I'm sure that you have a pretty clear idea that I wish to encourage every Believer to renew their mind in the matter of the Power of the Church.  When Jesus makes the statement in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, it is important that we understand [in the culture of His day] that the importance and strength of "gates" made them viewed as synonymous with power; in this case, figuratively as the power of hell. It is pretty clear to me that He is saying there will be a power struggle on earth between the power of hell and the power of Heaven as exemplified through the Church .  But in order for hell's power not to prevail (win), then we need to strap on our armor, secure our weapons, and get in the fight.  Just wearing the armor for our protection [with no action on our part] will not win the war.
     Now, I know there are those who will quote Scripture that says the Battle is the Lord's; it is not yours.  That was so in the Old Testament and before Jesus came and transferred the Father's Power and Authority from Himself to us.  We are now commanded to continue His works against the devil.
     So, can I tell you that Jesus has called us to a life of comfort, peace, and joy? And that there is nothing to fear? That is certainly what He desires for us. But we have an Enemy who wants to kill, steal, and destroy our lives and that means we need to plug into our Power Source, strap on our armor, and be prepared to battle for our King and His domain here on earth!
     When God came to earth as His Son, Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven collided with the Kingdom of Darkness here on earth -- and mankind experienced a real encounter with God, Himself. That encounter exhibited the power of God in signs and wonders through Jesus Christ.  That power was never designed to fade away.  We have access to it [through the Holy Spirit] to invade the nations and demonstrate what an encounter with God looks like.  With more encounters, comes more Heavenly power, with the result that the works of the devil will be destroyed ... and the powers of hell will not win against The True Church of our Lord!

2 Corinthians 10:4    "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have Divine Power to destroy strongholds".


May 8, 2017

The Powerless Church

     I guess I could characterize this post as a continuation of Friday's, which was titled It's Not Enough!  Because I think I know the people who tune into read my humble thoughts, I'm pretty sure that there are many of you who are wondering just what it looks like to exhibit the Power of the Kingdom in your lives.  And I feel as though I need to further explain what I mean by my frustration with The Church.  I know that this offends some of my Christian brethren because "The Church" belongs to Jesus, and my statements are often construed as divisive and negative towards what Jesus calls "My Church".  Let me first, dispel those false impressions, and then I will try to be more specific about what I would recommend for living a "Kingdom life".
     When I talk about the Church, I am referring to the Body of Christ -- those individuals who have been "called" from their life of sin, and "chosen" to separate themselves from the world and walk in the righteous way of Jesus; who with one purpose, one mind, and one heart follow and do the teachings of Jesus.  Now, for the last several hundred years, that Body has been assembled in congregations who have determined that "it is through the Church that God manifests His highest purposes, and the Church must be the most glorious of all His works".
     Modern Charismatic and Evangelistic movements point to the so-called fivefold ministry in Ephesians 4 as the primary custodians of today's Church -- the offices of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (or "shepherds") and teachers. It seems to me that their mission is built upon the foundation of the holy Scriptures and upheld by the pillars of the Gospel of Salvation, Grace,  Love, and Glory of the Lord.  They will say that it is their goal to replicate the model that Jesus showed us and to see their congregants reach the neighborhoods and the nations with the Gospel.
     That is a noble mission, and nothing wrong with that.  But I don't see the most obvious component of Jesus's model ... the Power of His Father that was exhibited through Him and the works He did.  And if I am going to hold to Jesus's model of the Church, I find no specific instructions from Him to "associate yourselves into particular societies or churches" as one popular Reformation preacher prescribes.  And I do not believe that if, as a Christian, you "are not walking with a local congregation of believers, then you are not walking with God".  I must say that statements like that offend me
     Were the Twelve Apostles part of a local congregation or synagogue?  No, they walked with Jesus.   And what did Jesus do? He manifested the Glory, and Mercy, and Love, and POWER of God, did He not?  He did what He heard the Father tell Him to do, and what He saw the Father doing in Heaven.  So, I think it is safe to surmise that His Gospel message of the Kingdom of Heaven was the Good News of what the Father was doing, and desired to be done by His Son to show the Father's Glory.  
     When Jesus announced that the "Kingdom of Heaven was at hand", He was saying, I am going to show you what it is like in Heaven by my actions.  Watch what I do by the Power given to me by My Father.  And when you have understood that it is for His Glory, then I will give you the Authority to use that same Power to make the Kingdom of God a reality here on earth.  
     But do you notice the characteristics that our religious organizations choose to use to magnify The Father?  His Gospel, His Grace, His Love, and His Glory.  Now, I don't want you to misunderstand me -- those aren't wrong!! They are just incomplete!  Religion today teaches us we are to imitate Jesus and the Father by manifesting Their Grace and Their Glory -- and I agree.  But where is the promotion of the Power that Jesus exhibited as a picture of His Father in Heaven? It has been all but eliminated from "The Church".
     So, I want to be very clear that when I say I am frustrated by The Church, and that what we, as the Body of Christ, are accomplishing "is not enough", I am talking about the "Powerless Church" who concentrates on the Gospel of Salvation, instead of the Gospel of the Kingdom, which Jesus said was the purpose for which He was sent (Luke 4:43).  And that "Good News" of the Kingdom was to be preached everywhere and revealed in signs and wonders  --- healing the sick, delivering people from the torment of the Enemy, and even raising people from death -- all so there could be no mistaking God's Love, His Grace, and HIS POWER! All that adds up to His Greatness, or His Glory.
     So, now to address what that looks like for me and you.  Believe me, I know that all this sounds like it is going to involve us getting uncomfortable with our status quo.  And that's exactly what Jesus demands of us!  Can you imagine how the Apostles felt?  They were taken from their ordinary lives, and found themselves working with strangers (and even people they despised, as in the case of Levi, the tax collector).  They were accustomed to being innocuous members of their synagogues, akin to sitting quietly in a pew in the back row of some church today.  They were used to following the rituals and traditions of that synagogue, and their personal relationship with God [who had chosen them as a people to glorify Him] was more habitual and routine than intimate.
     But what did Jesus tell them they would do? "You will receive Power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".  They didn't stay in their synagogues and minister within the buildings.  They were sent out into the world to make a difference!  Just look at the places the Apostles went to with the message  that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" ... Spain, Greece, Iran, Ethiopia, India, even Great Britain!  And  we can't even get the message (let alone the works) out of the building to the prostitute on the corner, or the local drug dealer!  Where is the power in that?  
     But why are so many of our Churches (and us) powerless today?  What are we afraid of?  Perhaps we are frightened of being deceived by charlatans.  But doesn't that express Doubt in the Holy Spirit to counsel us and guide us?  Or does it go deeper than that, and actually show Unbelief in the Power of God to act through us today?  We must have a call to action to touch the individual lives of people in our own cities, neighborhoods, and communities. First and foremost, that requires teaching people what the Kingdom of God means and how Jesus manifested that on earth.  And if we are afraid of poking the devil, then aren't we saying that we believe his power is greater than our God's power to protect us?
      If we are going to transform the culture, the culture needs to know what the Kingdom of God looks like.  If we are following Jesus and His commands then it should look like this ... recognizing the needs of both our fellow Believers and the Lost.  It looks like us asking them if they need prayer for issues in their life, and if the answer is healing, then we do as Jesus did and lay hands on them, calling on the Power of the Father in us (which is the Holy Spirit) to heal their affliction. We are to believe that God can use us to see them healed on earth, as it is in Heaven.  
     If they are being attacked by entities in their sleep, or tormented by voices in their head, then we are to do what Jesus showed the Apostles, and in His Name, bind and cast out those demons.  Anything that we saw Jesus do, we also have the power to do because He sent His power when the Holy Spirit came to reside in us.  And just like the Apostles and the Disciples after them, we are to be His witnesses unto the ends of the earth.
     We live in a hurting world, just as it was in the days that Jesus walked this earth. And yes, it's good to hear sermons in our Churches that we are to "live a life of joy in the midst of brokenness" and to "not love the things that God hates", but where is the call to action that should be going along with that message?  How does that transform the lives of people who need to see the works of God manifested by the Body of Christ? 
    We are called to be Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom.  And Jesus has given us the perfect model to invade the culture with God's Kingdom.  I invite you to read the Four Gospels and take notes of the works that Jesus did, and His instructions to His followers.  Everywhere He went, He taught about what the Kingdom of God was, and then He did the works that would bring this earth into alignment with His Father's Kingdom.  
     Will we be uncomfortable doing them?  Certainly. But no more than the Twelve were when He commanded them to do the same works.  And will the culture and our religious institutions criticize, censure, and revile us? Again, just like they did when Jesus showed the First Century Believers how to walk with God.  But does Jesus need laborers in the field, and witnesses to spread the Good News?  Every bit as much as He needed it in 30 A.D.  Are you willing to be a member of His True Church; the Son or Daughter of the Kingdom that is willing to leave the life you have known for a road that will be difficult to travel, and without many rewards this side of Heaven? I will grant you that it is a scary proposition, but as a very dear friend of mine said, the only answer we ought to give is, "Yes, Master"!

1 Peter 2:21    "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps".