A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

September 21, 2017

Who Do You Listen To?

     I've done a lot of thinking lately about the different responses we Christians have when it comes to trials in our lives.  Why do some seem so able to hear from the Father or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and walk out their circumstances in confidence and trust ... while others seem to strive and struggle under a mantle of oppression?  Both sets of Christians love the Lord without question and earnestly seek Him; yet only one overcomes their trials in victory.  What is the difference?  Is one's faith stronger or bigger or more mature? Perhaps. But Jesus says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can do the impossible (such as telling a mountain to move).
     Before I go on, I would like to say this [about that] ... depending on which version of the Bible you read, that verse can be rendered, "faith like a mustard seed", which implies a different connotation than referring to the size (small) of the mustard seed.  Jesus might have been suggesting that if your faith [acts] like a mustard seed, it will grow from a small seed into a bush 4 feet tall, or a tree 10-15 tall (which are actual sizes of various mustard seed plants), putting the emphasis on the active growth of your faith, [rather than the size], which enables you to move mountains. But back to my original issue...
     Ultimately, I think my question is this:  why do some Christians seem to go from anxiety to anxiety, while others go from glory to glory?  You may be familiar with 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit (Amplified Bible).  Now, I have heard this verse interpreted like this ... The first “glory” is that of the Old Covenant—the Law of Moses—while the second is that of the New Covenant, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The interpretation goes on to say that it is two different kinds of glory, and the transformation is from the glory of the Law to the glory of faith in Jesus Christ.  The conclusion is that each "glory" refers to something different.  I disagree with this interpretation.
     The word "glory" is from the Greek word dôxa and Strong's Concordance tells us it refers to "what God essentially is and does, as exhibited in whatever way He reveals Himself; the character and ways of God as exhibited through Jesus and through Believers". So, in the case of 2 Corinthians 3:18, those who move from "glory to glory" progressively grow into being like Jesus in every circumstance in their life; revealing the very character of God while walking in the ways of God's own glory.  It isn't a question of two kinds of glory, but rather a measure of growth [through our faith] in becoming more like Jesus in how we respond to trials.
     And that word "respond" correlates to Jesus's model for us.  Jesus always responded to the Father (staying focused on hearing or seeing what the Father communicated), rather than reacting to the dark side.  That allowed Him to walk out God's glory (character and ways) instead of being distracted and turned aside by the temptations of the dark side.  Here lies the difference between those who react to spirits of anxiety [which are the temptations] and those who respond to God's glory.
     Both sets of Christians are new creations when they receive Jesus as their Savior.  They have new foundations from which to occupy this earth.  Those Christians who live in anxiety and oppression have allowed that foundation to become weakened by listening to two eternal temptations that the Enemy presents to them:  1)  The first is what he whispered to Adam and Eve in the Garden ... Can it really be that God has said ....? Today, he asks the anxiety-ridden Christian, Is that really what God said [in His promises over your life]? Can you really trust Him to deliver on those promises?  2)  The second temptation was delivered to Jesus in the wilderness:  IF you are the Son of God ... Today, the same Enemy whispers to the anxious Christian, Are you sure you are a Child of God? Are you confident in who you are?  
     Can you see that if we truly believe the promises of God which are contained in the Bible, and if we are certain of our true identity as a Child of God and Co-Heir with Jesus, then the trials and fiery darts the Enemy throws at us can be defeated by our faith because we stand on a strong foundation of God's glory (His character and ways) as exhibited through Jesus, in whose image we are being transformed.  When you listen to the Holy Spirit, instead of the Enemy, your journey through this life will be from one glory [experience and encounter] to another.
     But if you do not take captive those tempting and persuasive thoughts that the Enemy tosses your way, you will listen to his seductive whispers that cause cracks in your foundation, and you begin to doubt the promises of God and who you are.  I am not saying it is easy!  And I am not condemning those who struggle with these battles of faith.  The Bible says the devil is cunning and intelligent and deceptive.  He prowls around looking for someone who has doubts about God, or who doesn't fully believe the character and ways of God. BUT he is no match for the Christian who recognizes those snares and traps, and who is ready to declare that they are joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17).
     I know from our deliverance ministry how difficult it can be to stop listening to the devil, especially when you have a history of sinning or being sinned against -- and we all have that to varying degrees. But when you accept Jesus as your Savior, you become sealed with the Holy Spirit who will help you to start to renew your mind, so that those old thoughts now come against a mind that is being transformed to the mind of Christ, who resisted those tempting thoughts.  You will be able to fight the way He fought those temptations; each and every one was defeated with the Word of God.
     Believers must come to realize that just because you have been Saved, it does not mean that the devil will quit trying to talk to you.  Salvation does not guarantee a devil-free life.  You are not transported into the magic Kingdom of God, where the devil has no access.  On the contrary, you are now behind enemy lines, because "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).  In fact, you can expect that you have become an even bigger target for him, and he will use all the tricks and schemes that worked before you accepted Christ to cause a crack in that new foundation.
     So, let us become convicted that we will no longer listen to the devil when he comes knocking on the door to our mind.  We will do what Jesus did ... speak the Word of God as the Holy Spirit inspired His thoughts.  Remember, the Bible says in Matthew 4:1 that "Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil".  Matthew 10:19-20 tells us that when we are handed over to our enemies, we don't need to worry about what to say, "for what you are to say will be given you within that [very] hour; for it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you".  That's what happened in the wilderness, and is our model when our thoughts do not conform to the mind of Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit gave the Word to Jesus to speak to the devil in response to the temptations in the wilderness, so should we seek the Word from the Spirit when that same enemy comes against us.
     Once you begin listening only to the Holy Spirit, and consciously and persistently stop listening to the devil, you will find that the whispers of those spirits of anxiety, doubt, and unbelief will be harder to hear. You will recognize them for who they are, and the Spirit will give you the words to resist them.  Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear ...

Luke 8:18   "Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away."


September 19, 2017

Even When You Don't Understand Why ...

     There are times I think the best blog posts are when you share your experiences, and others can identify with your walk with Jesus.  I received the following email, and was struck with the courage and the obedience that this reader exhibited.  I have received permission to share the following experience, and I hope the story inspires you, too.

     This morning I really struggled with going to a "church", and strongly felt like God guided me to this particular one. [But when] I walked in, it was like a club. Disco lights, fog machine, the drummer was in one of those platform cages that dancers are in at clubs. I struggled the entire time with the desire to get up and leave. 
     There was a clock on the back wall that was a countdown until the service was over. Do you think God wants a countdown clock at His Church?? The sermon was against what I believe, and if I did believe it, I would be in a very bad place. Basically, they believe that when you are at your breaking point you should just wait and eventually Jesus will find you and rescue you. 
     I disagree! Jesus never has to find you, and that's not His job. You should seek Him out! If I had waited for Him at my breaking point I would probably still be waiting. He's always there, you just have to find Him. The point is this was a BAD experience.
     So, at the end there was an altar call. By this point, I was just ready to leave. God spoke to me and told me to go pray over one of the prayer leaders. My response, "But God, this is not comfortable. I don't know her situation and she looks pretty confident up there. How am I supposed to just walk up there and pray for her?!" 
     But I got up, walked down there, and grabbed her hands. I told her, "God told me you needed prayer", and I prayed with her, as He guided me. I have no idea what I said, but after a few minutes she was bawling and I felt like He was done, so I left. 
     I have NO idea what her life is like and I will never know, but God used me to intervene. I think that is why I was sent to this terrible "church" and why He wouldn't let me leave. It's funny how you just never know why you're in a situation. I feel like most of my steps these days are for a purpose I will never understand. But it was pretty exciting to feel like He used me like He did. I feel like my relationship with Him is strengthening more and more every day.

     How many of you identify with this person?  How many struggle with attending Church because you are not being fed?  How many think you have to leave the Church to do His work?  I can tell you that these are questions that I have asked myself, and I want to make sure you understand that I think the answers and solutions to these questions are different for every person, and the key to getting your answer is to listen to the Holy Spirit.
     For me and my husband, we clearly saw the Spirit leading us in a specific direction of spiritual warfare and deliverance.  We wanted to share these revelations with the Church, but they weren't interested. So we were instructed to just go do these acts of service for the Kingdom, and He would bring people to us who needed Him.
     In the case of this person, they were instructed to go into the Church and stay for that one hour, with a specific purpose of reaching that one prayer leader.  Then they were released to leave.  Another person might hear they are to stay for years.  My point is, God has a specific purpose for each of us, and can use us in many different ways -- and in many different places -- to spread His Gospel of the Kingdom.  He has different roles for us to play in the administration of His purposes, and different deeds He wants us to perform.
     We will each have different responsibilities and duties in our walk with Him. And what He has planned for me is probably not going to look like what He has in mind for you.  But the one thing we should all have in common is the willingness to say, "Yes, Lord!" when we are called.  It is fruitless to compare ourselves to each other and how He is using us -- and I mean that word "fruitless" in its most pure spiritual sense.  We do not bare fruit for the Kingdom when we are too busy judging others whose journey with Christ doesn't look like the way we think it should -- which usually means it doesn't mirror our own walk.
     As far as I can tell, once Jesus had finished training up the Twelve Disciples and left them to carry on His work, they each walked a different path from the other Eleven. Yes, they had the advantage of seeing all the various ways that Jesus modeled how the Father wants us to administer His Kingdom on earth, so they weren't trying to conform to a "one-size-fits-all" framework.  But isn't it time that we step outside of the cookie-cutter mold of what "a Christian walk" should look like, and celebrate the unique and extraordinary ways He can use each of us?
     I'd like to finish my commentary by saying that whatever situation we find ourselves in -- whether in the Church building; in a Home Church; in the line at the grocery story -- they are all opportunities to listen for the Holy Spirit's instruction, and then to be willing to act on it.  We were commissioned to go out into the world, with no restrictions on where the Spirit might take us, or how He might use us.  I pray that Christians will be more sensitive to experiencing the unexpected, the uncommon, and the unfamiliar.  You might find it difficult to comprehend ... but Jesus is there, too.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9   "He who plants and he who waters are one [in importance and esteem, working toward the same purpose]; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building".

September 16, 2017

The Anti-Christ Spirit in Israel Targets Jewish Messianic Believers

   The other day I read, with much astonishment, an article at World Net Daily which shouted the headline, Sanhedrin Bans All Messianic Jewish Marriages in Israel.  I knew that Orthodox Jews were unfriendly towards Messianic Jews, reviling them for their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  And I knew that the court system in Israel was becoming increasingly hostile to Messianic Jews, but I wanted to understand why this latest assault against the Messianic faith was taking place.
     According to the article, Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level. "A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country".
     First of all, this brings up thoughts of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus; and secondly, I wondered what purpose it serves this religious court to ban these marriages.  The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported the same understanding of the new ruling ... "Judges say the couple are not Jews but converts to Christianity, and must either renounce their new religion or marry as Christians".  In other words, this couple would have to renounce Jesus Christ as their Savior and deny any faith in Him as the Son of God in order to have a state-recognized Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel.
     But Messianic Jews are Jews, and faith in Jesus does not change that, although it looks as if the modern-day Sanhedrin wants to change their legal status.  To deny a Jewish couple the rites and observances of a traditional Jewish wedding seems excessive and indefensible. According to the website Judaism 101, "A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism".  Furthermore, according to the website, "A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism. And a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox. In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions, and being Jewish is like a citizenship".
     So, let me get this straight.  You can be born to a Jewish mother and be an atheist, and still be a Jew.  But if your mother is Jewish and you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then you are treated as if you are a non-Jew. But here's what I didn't know:  ALL marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other faith. This is according to laws handed down under the Ottoman Empire, and retained by the British Mandate when Israel became a nation in 1948.  But it gets even more interesting... according to halacha, which is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah, this Jewish couple would be seen as Jewish, because even Jews who convert to another religion can still be considered Jewish. So, why is this modern-day Sanhedrin so hell-bent on denying them a Jewish wedding, and denying them their rights as Jewish citizens of Israel?
     Dr. Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author, is quoted as saying, "In the eyes of most Orthodox Jews, Messianic Jews are heretics and idolaters, unworthy of being part of the larger Jewish community, even though they would consider us still Jews,” Brown told WND. “Many of them want to keep us out of Israel entirely, so refusing to grant two Messianic Jews an official rabbinic wedding is in keeping with their hostility toward us.”  Dr. Brown goes on to point out that this ruling is in keeping with the persecution against Jews and believers in Jesus that the Bible tells us will come in the End Times.
     Then there is Messianic Rabbi Zev Porat, who is founder of the Tel Aviv-based Messiah of Israel Ministries. He grew up an Orthodox Jew, and his grandfather, Rabbi Pinchas Porat, was a Holocaust survivor who later became one of the heads of the Sanhedrin in Israel.  Rabbi Porat laments this decision because it will deprive people of retirement, medical and other benefits that come with a state-recognized marriage. He said Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are celebrating this move because they have long been “furious” about Jews coming to Jesus Christ.
     Sound familiar?  This is the same anti-Christ spirit that the Bible portrays among the members of the Sanhedrin that sought to kill Jesus.  Before I go any further, I do not want this to be interpreted as hating or blaming the Jews for Jesus's crucifixion.  On the contrary, I do not blame the Jews in Judah who were blinded by an anti-Christ spirit sent by Satan.  Instead, I agree with Romans 11 which declares that God is not through with Israel, and that the fullness of Israel involves the full number of Jews being Saved by faith in Jesus as their Messiah, so that they will operate in full power and full character as God's Chosen People, and they will enter into their full purpose of leading the world to Christ.  I celebrate the Jewish roots of my faith, embrace my Messianic brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray for the day that all Jews and Christians join together in praising Yeshua as the Son of G-d.
     That being said, I also recognize that the Enemy has sought to keep many peoples of the earth, especially the orthodox among YHWH's chosen people, blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ.  And now that same Anti-Christ spirit of old is attempting to destroy the identity of Messianic Jews by using the Sanhedrin to declare them no longer Jews, but Christians.
     According to Rabbi Porat, this couple will now be required to leave Israel, get married, return and apply for this certification of marriage to the Ministry of Interior.  “The ministry, of course, will delay the certification and legitimization of their marriage for up to as many as five to seven years,” he noted. “While they are waiting, by design, the Ministry is going to make this process as difficult as possible because the ultimate goal is for the Messianic believers to vacate Israel all together.”
     Can you see how this would serve the purpose of Satan?  If he can get the Israeli government to forbid Jewish believers in Jesus Christ to marry, and ultimately force them to leave the country, then Romans 11 will be more difficult to achieve.  But I am here to tell you that there is an increasing number of Jews coming to faith in Jesus, and that is precisely why this orthodox rabbinic council in Tel Aviv is setting up roadblocks.
     Rabbi Porat puts it all in perspective ... "“What is the true motivation behind this new law? Jews to leave, get out of Israel and go preach your Jesus elsewhere,” he said. “They have no problem with all manner of sin including a gay pride parade in the main streets of Israel, which is a total abomination to the word of God. Not one rabbi comes out against this, but yet [they] will do all manner of gymnastics to go after Messianic Jews! God forbid they should be allowed to live in Israel! There is a huge, unreported spiritual revival in Israel that the rabbis are apoplectic over. They deem the rise of believers in Yeshua as a danger to their futures, just as 2,000 years ago. Nothing changes.”
     But there is one more aspect of this situation that I found fascinating.  Lion & Lamb Ministries points out that on October 13, 2004, the Sanhedrin Council of the Jewish nation was reconstituted for the first time in 1,600 years. The ceremony took place in the Israeli town of Tiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the site of the council’s last meeting in the year 425 AD. This incredible development, largely ignored by the press, appears to be one more step toward the construction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Since that time, there have been several attempts by Jewish religious leaders to ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where they hoped to pray and investigate clues pertaining to the location of the Second Temple, the one destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Speculation has persisted that these attempts are all in preparation for the building of a Third Temple.
     It is interesting to consider that while the Sadducees of the Bible are believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Pharisees are believed to have changed and become the basis of Rabbinic Judaism today.  Remember, the Pharisees in the Bible adhered to Jewish law and kept away from the Romans and secular authorities. They were the authorities that compiled the Mishnah and Gemorrah (the two parts of the Talmud) and thus they are the direct ancestors of Jewish law and practice today.  So, it appears that the current Orthodox stream of Judaism in Israel and elsewhere, is a continuation of the Pharisees’ interpretation of Judaism.
     If the modern Sanhedrin has the building of a Third Temple in mind, then we know they are still awaiting the Messiah, and would resent the Messianic Jews who believe He has already come!  But "resent" is probably too mild a word.  This latest ruling that declares that the marriage ceremony of two Messianic Jews will not be recognized by the State amounts to nothing less than persecution.  We are reminded of Jesus's words in Matthew 10:  Beware of men [whose nature is to act in opposition to God], for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles ... And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name.  Note that these were His Jewish Disciples; and He is warning them that their fellow Jews would persecute them because of their faith in Him.
     All of this amounts to a spirit of fear [sent by God's Adversary] among the Jewish religious leaders, causing them to come against a sect of "Jesus-Believers" who are upsetting their power base and blaspheming G-d with their words and faith.  Doesn't sound much different than what happened more than a couple centuries ago, does it?  But this time, the outcome will be different, and I pray that the scales will be removed from the eyes of these religious men, and they will at last recognize their Messiah.  It's been a long time coming, and I hope He doesn't tarry too much longer.

John 1:12-13   "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".

September 13, 2017

A New Look At An Old Story

     I have often shared with you the astounding new revelations I receive when re-reading familiar Bible passages.  In my ongoing deep dive of the Bible, I have arrived at John, Chapter 6, and the well-known Scripture concerning Jesus walking on water.  I had already read the version of this same story in Matthew, Chapter 14, and in Mark, Chapter 6.  But I was taken aback at the different tone with which John is rendering the facts.
     The preceding verses had just told us about Jesus feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee. Then in verse 15, the Bible says, Then Jesus, knowing that they were going to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountainside by Himself.  Wait a minute!  I don't remember anything about the crowds forcing Him to be King in Matthew or Mark!  In fact, Matthew just records that He simply "sent the crowds away", while Mark says only that He "dismissed the crowds".  So what is John trying to tell us about this event?
     What I quickly realized was that I needed to kind of boomerang between all three narrations to get the full picture of what happened that day prior to Jesus walking on the water.  When you look at all three versions of the feeding of the 5,000 you can see that Jesus spent the entire day healing the sick (Matthew 14:14) and teaching them many things (Mark 6:34).  The day was nearly done and evening was coming on when the Disciples asked Jesus to send the people away so they could go find something to eat. But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!”  But the Disciples were confused and did not know how to accomplish this task, so Jesus looked up to Heaven, giving thanks to the Father, and proceeded to feed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.
     So, how do we come to Jesus withdrawing by Himself out of concern that the crowd was going to force Him to become King?  Think about this for a minute ... All day the crowd had been witness to miraculous signs of healing and profound teachings that had come to them as though His words were the voice of God.  Now, they see the crowning miracle of the day with the feeding of the 5,000, and they are convinced they are seeing the Messiah [whom the Prophets had spoken of] come into the world.  Surely, if He can do all they have seen that day, and speaks with such authority, He can rid Judea of the hated Romans and deliver Judah and Jerusalem into the Promised Land the Israelites of old had sought.
     Jesus could feel the hopes of the people rising to a fever pitch. They see Him as a different leader than the Jewish priests and rulers, and they are eager to force Him to become who they believe He is, the Messiah and Deliverer of Judah.  Yet, He appears too modest and does not seem inclined to assume His role as King of the Jews.  Even the Disciples agree with the crowd, hoping that the swelling and popular movement to place Him on the throne would at last entice Him to make His move.
     But Jesus discerns what is happening and understands that to preempt His Father's plan would result in violence and insurrection, and the spiritual work of the Kingdom on earth would be hindered and obstructed.  He must stop this movement in its tracks!  In Mark, Scripture says that Jesus "immediately insisted that His disciples get into the boat and go ahead [of Him] to the other side to Bethsaida, while He was dismissing the crowd. And after He said goodbye to them, He went to the mountain to pray".  The fact that He had to insist they go ahead of Him seems to imply there may have been some protest on the part of the Disciples.  Perhaps they didn't want the crowd's enthusiasm [for Jesus to take the throne] to go to waste, and were reluctant to let this opportunity slip away.  But Jesus spoke with authority [and foreknowledge of how He must play out His assignment] and commanded them to go to the opposite shore.
     So what was Jesus praying about while up on that mountain by Himself?  The Bible doesn't tell us, but I don't think it is wrong to think that He might have prayed for the people to recognize the Divine character of His mission; that they could see beyond the earthly ramifications of a crown and a throne.  And I don't think it's wrong to imagine that He prayed for His disciples, that they might endure their dashed hopes as they witnessed His crucifixion, instead of His placement on the throne of David. Perhaps He prayed that they would be able to resist the temptations of the Enemy to dismiss all that He had taught them, and that they would embrace the truth that His Kingdom was not of this world, and it was to be their calling to share [with the world] all that He had taught and commanded them.
     And we can only imagine the thoughts of the Disciples as the wind was literally let out of their sails, as they rowed across the Sea of Galilee.  I find it interesting to examine the writings of Ellen White in her book, The Desire of the Ages, "They had left Jesus with dissatisfied hearts, more impatient with Him than ever before since acknowledging Him as their Lord. They murmured because they had not been permitted to proclaim Him king. They blamed themselves for yielding so readily to His command. They reasoned that if they had been more persistent they might have accomplished their purpose... They knew that Jesus was hated by the Pharisees, and they were eager to see Him exalted as they thought He should be. To be united with a teacher who could work mighty miracles, and yet to be reviled as deceivers, was a trial they could ill endure. Were they always to be accounted followers of a false prophet? Would Christ never assert His authority as king? Why did not He, who possessed such power, reveal Himself in His true character, and make their way less painful? Why had He not saved John the Baptist from a violent death? Thus the disciples reasoned until they brought upon themselves great spiritual darkness. They questioned, Could Jesus be an impostor, as the Pharisees asserted"?
     So as they ruminated while they rowed the three-plus miles across the lake, a storm snuck up on them and they were unprepared for it.  All their impatience with Jesus was gone, and they found themselves in a fight to keep the boat from sinking.  In fact, they entered the boat at evening, but Mark 6:48 says they were straining at the oars during the fourth watch of the night (from 3 am to 6 am) when they saw Jesus walking on the water towards them, so they fought the waves and wind for quite awhile.
     They were terrified, and so they could not discern that He had never taken His eyes off of them.  He knew they were to bring His Light to the world, and was not about to let their stubborn hearts or unholy ambition [regarding Him] swamp that boat.  And when He acts like He is going to pass them by, they cry out for His help, and He identifies Himself [as the I AM] and bids them not to be afraid.  Note that only Matthew records the episode of Peter walking on the water. Only Peter has the courage to question Jesus if it is really Him, and says, "If it is really You, command me to come to you on the water". Jesus says, "Come", and keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter walks upon the surface of the water! But when he took his eyes off Jesus, and starting looking at the effects of the wind and the waves, he begins to sink, and cries out "Save me"!
     But Jesus immediately reaches out His hand and catches Peter from sinking beneath the waves.  And what does He say to Peter? "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I believe that question is at the heart of so many unfulfilled Christian lives. So now I ask you, how often have you reacted the same as the Disciples? How many times have you predetermined who you wanted Jesus to be, or how you wanted Him to take action in your life -- and then been disappointed when it didn't turn out how you hoped it would?  And how often, when confronted with a frightening episode in your life, you begin [like Peter] with staying focused on Jesus and His promises, and then the effects of the storm in your life draws your attention away from Him, you take your eyes off Him, and the next thing you know, you are drowning in fear and doubt?  And, finally, how often do you dismiss the supernatural in a life that is in relationship with Jesus -- or are you even willing to accept His healing or His supernatural provision?
     We can learn a lot from this familiar episode in the life of the Disciples and Jesus.  When we keep our focus on Jesus and are willing to receive the Truth of what He did in John 6 on that mountainside near the Sea of Galillee -- His healing, His teachings and His supernatural provision -- then He can do the same great things through us.  When you step out in faith (like Peter did upon the water), you will be able to do things you could never do on your own, and your life will be a living testimony of what the Kingdom life is like on earth.  That's how Jesus intends us to live! Are you willing to trust Him?

Hebrews 10:23   Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; 

September 10, 2017

A Testimony That Will Make You Think

     The other day I was having a conversation with a good friend whose growth and maturity in her faith has been quite dramatic.  Mark and I began ministering to her regarding deliverance, and her journey has been both inspiring and genuine.  She has not been without her struggles and moments of doubt, but she always returns to seeking Jesus and the Father, and in the process, has come to know Them and trust Them in ways that "established Christians" often don't experience.
    Our conversation centered around why it is so difficult for Christians to do Kingdom work.  We discussed how familiarity with the traditions inside the Church building provide a sense of security that few Christians are willing to risk or sacrifice.  Add to that a fear that if you don't walk in lock-step with man-made doctrine, then you are in danger of being deceived.  These two conditions are enough to keep the majority of the Body of Christ from ever seeking more knowledge of God or attempting a Kingdom approach to living. She expressed both her confusion [and her frustration] over why other Christians were unwilling to take a chance, as she had.  So I asked her to write her testimony... that readers are probably tired of hearing it from me, and perhaps a fresh voice would speak to their hearts.  I have agreed to call her "Mary" to protect her privacy, and I hope you will give her testimony serious consideration and feel free to make comments on what she has to say....

     I was raised in the  ____ church. (Fill in the blank, because I don't think the denomination matters). I spent 18 years attending every Sunday, yet I now realize that I never knew God. I had memorized a bunch of scriptures and songs, but I had no idea what they meant. In my experience “the church” doesn’t do a good job of teaching the significance of Scripture in the Christian life. It was more of a song and dance. To this day I could probably go to that church and recite the entire service from memory. I thought that was all there was to church, so eventually I felt like I was wasting my time. My childhood and early adult life were not good. I did bad things, and bad things were done to me. I had no real understanding of Grace or God’s love, so I never turned to God. I didn’t think He could, or would, help me.
     At the point that I met Mark and Pam I was at my absolute bottom. I was suicidal and I was very resentful towards God for all that had happened to me. They talked to me and tried to help me get through some of it, and after a lot of time and work I was finally free of it all. I think of that time in my life as a starting point. I closed the door on so much bad stuff and would no longer be the victim. I would turn it into good, I just didn’t know what that would look like. I believed that we were all called to do Kingdom work, but I couldn’t see many people actually doing it. Mark and Pam were, and that is probably what saved my life, but I couldn’t imagine myself doing what they were doing. I got involved with another church, but it never felt right. They didn’t talk about Kingdom work and that is what my primary focus had become, so eventually I realized that a modern “church” model probably wouldn’t be a place for me. I was more interested in following scripture than memorizing liturgy.
     I prayed about it, and prayed about it.  I got a new job at a jail. The job by definition was easy enough. I had to ensure inmates were physically healthy enough to be in jail. I passed out Tylenol most days; some days I assisted the doctor with clinic visits. I soon learned that the Kingdom work would happen around my actual job duties.
     One of the first times I knew God worked through me [in a significant way] was when an inmate began having seizures. This inmate had long seizures that came one right after the other. Initially I just wanted to restrain the inmate enough to protect her from injury against the metal beds, posts, and floor. During that episode, when I realized the seizures weren’t stopping and we were waiting for EMS, I prayed in Jesus's Name, that the Holy Spirit would heal her (through my touch). I didn’t speak loud enough for the other inmates or jailers to hear me. The inmate stopped seizing, and EMS arrived and took the patient to the hospital. Later when the inmate came back to the jail, medically cleared, the person thanked me. During my prayer, with my hands on her, the inmate saw Jesus and knew that it was He who did the healing. That inmate never had another seizure in jail, and was on a new personal journey for a relationship with God.
     The jail would give out Bibles to anyone that asked, and when I started working there it seemed like everyone asked me for a Bible. (I was later told that I had given out more Bibles than anyone else ever had). I would often hand them out, and that would trigger a conversation about beliefs with inmates. Some struggled with overcoming whatever crimes they committed; some struggled with being away from family. One inmate in particular asked me one day if I thought she could be saved. I told her OF COURSE. We discussed Grace, and after a pretty lengthy conversation she got on her knees in that jail and accepted Jesus into her heart. We both sat with tears streaming down our faces.
     One instance a man was beating a wall, and in about two seconds time the sheet rock of the wall was completely gone. I was alone with him and he was drunk, and much bigger and stronger than I. In that short time frame God told me to get between his arm and the wall. I thought, are you kidding? This man is going to kill me if I do that! God told me in a much louder and urgent manner to step between the man and the wall. Somewhat reluctantly I obeyed. That man stopped mid-swing and grabbed me to hug me. He instantly was in tears. He had a lot happen to him that day and lost all hope in people, but he saw me stepping between him and the wall and couldn’t believe I would try to protect him from hurting himself. That gesture that God told me to do helped this man in a huge way. He knew that he was capable of being loved, and after that he felt like his life was worth living. The only thing I did was follow what God told me, and trust that whatever the outcome, God would take care of me, and He did.
     During this time period in my life the Enemy was working overtime to shut me down. Early on in my job, I had to take sensitivity training because I was told, "You can’t go around talking about God". After that I was a little more careful about who could hear me ... but I just kept going. The Enemy worked harder and harder to shut me down. Eventually I had another job offer, and I was hesitant to take it, but I felt that God had given it to me, so I decided to make the most of it. After accepting it I overheard a conversation about how the administration had already been looking to replace me. God put me into that jail, and then when the time was right, He took me out.
     My next job seems like there will be even more opportunity for Kingdom work, but I needed to learn all those things I did while working at the jail to be more effective in my new job. I am stepping out on a limb because the job is something that, while I am qualified for it, I know pretty much nothing about it. I trust that God will help me figure it out as long as I am doing His work along the way.
      Those are just a few examples of what He can do when you let Him work through you! You don’t need to be under a “church” umbrella to be effective. In fact, in most of those inmate’s minds I would have been less effective if I had been under a church. You don’t necessarily have to look for how to do Kingdom work, and you don’t need any special qualifications; if you open your heart to Him and let Him know you are ready to work for Him, He will give you the opportunities. You just have to be willing when they come. Your journey with Kingdom work is as unique as your fingerprint, so don’t try to compare yourself to people who appear super successful. Everyone had to start somewhere.
     If you have further questions as to how to get started, or don’t believe you are capable, please talk to someone about it. It is such a wonderful feeling to serve God, I want to share it with as many people as possible. I am a completely different person than the person I was when I met Mark and Pam. If He can transform me into something He can use, He can change you too!

     I want to make a comment on one aspect of Mary's story.  She says she couldn't imagine doing what Mark and I were doing ... in our conversation, I reminded her that there is one Body, but it has many parts. No one should compare themselves to another, thinking they are less.  Where God is taking Mark and I, will probably not be where He wants to take you. And what we are doing for the Kingdom is no greater in the Body than what He will assign you. After all, the hand is just as important to the body as the foot; they have different functions, but both are important.  How effective would a body be if it had all feet and no hands, or vice versa?  So I assured Mary, that her journey is just as important to Jesus and the Father, as mine and Mark's. He certainly led her to do spectacular deeds for the Kingdom that He has not instructed us to do!
     And I know many of you may be asking, "How did Mary get the courage to follow Jesus's lead?"  Or you may think that there is no way you could ever discern His will [like she did], or even hear His voice.  But the answers to those queries are in Mary's words ... if you open your heart to Him and let Him know you are ready to work for Him, He will give you the opportunities. You just have to be willing when they come.  And I think that is probably the biggest stumbling block for most Christians.  They don't really want to upset their comfortable life -- What if they fail? What if it's too hard? What if it costs them more than they are willing to sacrifice?  If those are your questions.... as I'm sure they were Mary's, too ... then ask her [in the comments section] how she overcame these stumbling blocks.  As she says, she wants to share how wonderful it is to serve with Jesus.  And we both want you to join us as willing servants of the Living God!

Matthew 5:14-16      "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven".

September 8, 2017

Our Portion In The Glory Realm

     I've really been thinking a lot lately how adverse circumstances such as those the state of Texas has endured for the last couple of weeks (and which Florida looks like it is going to experience this weekend) present such great opportunities for us Christians to do Kingdom work and exhibit the glory of God.
     Yet what does that really look like to us Americans?  From what I hear in testimonies from those [in other countries] who have received a mandate to teach on the freedom and power of Jesus in our lives, and the command to "release and establish" the sons and daughters of YHWH "to build His house, the hiding place of HIS glory", I wonder if we here in America are even capable of comprehending the spirit and the truth of this vision.
     It seems to me that we are so entrenched in our own idea of who God is, and what God wants us to be and do, that we don't even seek His face or listen for His instructions, let alone know Him.  The whole earth was once the exclusive realm and glory of the Father until Adam and Eve relinquished it to the Enemy in a moment of pride and selfish desire.  The devil knew this when he offered it to Jesus in Luke 4:6 ... And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this realm and its glory [its power, its renown]; because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.
     Jesus came to reclaim this glory realm for the Kingdom of Heaven, offering us eternal salvation in the process of partnering with Him to take back God's territory.  And the result? Lamentations 3:24 says it all:  The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,” says my soul; Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.
     But I think it is important to understand two things if we are going to ever experience the fulfillment of this hope: 1) what and how do we encounter the glory realm, and 2) what does it mean, "the Lord is my portion"?  Let's try to answer proposition number one... God has a purpose for each of our lives, and at the center of that purpose is His desire that it glorify Him.  In whatever manner we are called to serve Him, He wants our efforts to include relationship with Him. But do we Christians even know what that means? How do you have a relationship with the One who created you, yet you don't really know Him?
     I can tell you that it is more than attending Church every Sunday.  It is more than what you tithe.  It is more than what denomination or doctrine with which you identify.  It is personal.  It is seeking His presence. And it is hearing His voice, and actually being in His presence.  His realm is where He is, and there you will find His glory.  He wants you to look into His eyes and have conversations with Him. He wants you to ask Him questions and to receive His answers.  But here's the thing ... we have to want to do that; to go beyond what our Western Christian culture tells us "relationship" looks like.
   Let me ask you this: the Bible shows us great examples of the relationship we can have with God.  Consider the relationship Abraham had with Him; or Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, John or Paul, among many others. Does yours look like that?  Do you discuss things with Him, even argue with Him? Do you cry out to Him, and expect to hear from Him? And if you do, are you obedient? Or are you content with an impersonal connection through association with a Church body?
     Let me share what God revealed to Heidi Baker, a Christian missionary, and author on Christian spirituality... She once asked the Lord, "I know your Word says that we're sons and daughters already. So why all the groaning? What are we waiting for?" He responded, "You know those orphaned children you take home with you [to the mission in Mozambique]?" "Yes, Lord." "They have to want to come. Some want to. Some don't know the opportunity is available to them. But others, even though they know they're welcome in the house, prefer to stay outside."
     Heidi Baker goes on to explain ... "As Christians, we're like those children. We're all welcome to move in the authority of sons and daughters, living in the realm of glory, seated with Christ in heavenly places. But we must want to come. We must never doubt that there is nothing He can't or won't do for those who believe--for those who step into their places as sons and daughters of God.
     Jesus never doubted His Father for a moment. When Jesus took the bread and fish in His hands (Matt. 14:19), He knew, without question, that as He gave thanks to the Father, there would be enough to feed the multitudes.  He didn't look at the five loaves and the two fish. He looked into the eyes of the hungry, and He looked into His Father's eyes. He said, "Thank you, Father," and He proceeded to feed more than 5,000 men, women and children.  God wants us to be like Jesus feeding the five thousand. He wants us to move in the fullness of Christ, fully yielded to Him. He wants us to walk as His sons and daughters in the earth.  He wants us to look into His eyes—and into the eyes of a world that desperately needs His love. The whole creation is waiting for us to step into the realm of supernatural glory He has prepared for us. It needs to see and experience God's love through us. What are we waiting for"?
     I don't think I've ever heard anyone explain what that glory realm on earth would look like better than that!  And if we could ever step into our rightful place in that realm of glory -- that place where we meet with God and experience His glory -- then the Lord would be our portion, and it would be enough.  And that brings me to my second point ... what does it mean to have the Lord as our portion?
     According to Strong's Concordance, "portion" is usually associated with "territory", and it can have a variety of meanings, depending on what you have a "portion of".  If it's a meal, then your portion is your share of the food.  If it refers to war, then it is your share of the plunder, or your "booty". If it's your inheritance, then it refers to what has been allotted to you.  And when the Lord is your portion, it refers to a spiritual "possession" or blessing.
     So, if God's realm is the territory where He is, and you have that kind of personal relationship in which you commune with Him and enjoy His glory and His presence, then your portion of spiritual territory is God Himself!  No matter what happens in this physical realm, your portion, or territory, is a place that shelters you from everything this world throws at you -- whether trial, tragedy, or treachery.
     In fact, we aren't even to look around this earth to discover our portion of the Lord.  Our portion of Him is not on this earth... we are here for such a short time, and our inheritance from the Lord is far greater than whatever this world has to offer.  So, let the unbelievers and the wicked inherit the riches of this realm called earth.  For me, I will receive my allotment -- my share -- my inheritance -- my portion of Him in the spiritual realm where His glory resides and I get to experience it every time I look into His eyes and see His love.
     I am ready to see this territory called earth proclaimed as His realm of Glory and for every faithful Christian to receive their full portion of inheritance as a son or daughter of the Kingdom.  It is time we truly honor Him and each other as we seek to fill the positions to which He has appointed us.  If you don't know what that position is, or what your portion is, then it is time to seek His face and take your place in the Body.  Simply filling a space in the pew on Sunday doesn't establish the True Church; the ones who are called out of the world and who will take the responsibility to see His Kingdom come on earth; the ones who are willing to do the work to reconcile mankind with the Father and return everything that belongs to Him, back to Him.  I guess I'm just ready to see the Body of Christ grow up and into the image of our holy Redeemer.  May His Glory Realm become my full portion!

Psalm 73:26     My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock and strength of my heart and my portion forever.

September 5, 2017

What I've Learned From This Hurricane

     This has been an event like none other that I have experienced.  I have shared the physical description of what it is like when a Category 4 hits the little Texas coastal town of Rockport. I have showed a couple of pictures and tried to describe the emotional impact it has when you see lives disrupted so violently.
     Now I want to share the spiritual side of it and some of the struggles I've had.  I've heard beautiful expressions of love and support -- and I've heard some of the most hate-filled rants about how we Texans deserved it because of our political leanings and/or the refusal of our Senators or Congressmen to support some government funding or another ... and now we want the government to come in and rescue us. How can a person be so cold-hearted and callous?  I guess the devil roams the earth looking for ears that will listen to his evil whispers.
     And speaking of the devil, after making several trips with donated supplies, I would return home physically and mentally tired from witnessing the burdens and hardships placed upon these people of modest means. The prospect of dealing with insurance companies, low-interest government loans, and the logistics of all those houses that need to be repaired is mind-shattering.  But what if you don't live on the beach side of town, or in one of the middle class neighborhoods, where the houses are built more sturdy and repairs are feasible?  What if you live on the poorer side of town, and perhaps don't even own your small home? What happens if the owners decide not to rebuild, or you are unable to afford your current mortgage plus the government loan needed to make your home habitable?
     Those were the thoughts that would wake me up in the middle of the night, and I felt like I was carrying the weight of all those people who are living in such fear and anxiety.  I recognized that the devil was trying to capture my mind with his negative whispers, and I was struggling to keep my mind focused on the promises of God.  One night I woke up around 3:30 with such dread and despair that I felt like I was buried under blankets of it.  The Enemy kept trying to convince me that this situation was insurmountable; it was too big of a fight.  That some of these families would never be able to overcome the obstacles before them.  I felt defeated.
     Then he tried to add another layer of disquiet to my mind.  There has been a subtle judgment placed upon the Kingdom work we have been called to do in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  People in the damaged community don't quite know how to take us when they ask what Church we are affiliated with, and we tell them we aren't with any Church.  It's almost as if there is an air of suspicion that surrounds us because we don't possess the legitimacy that a Church group would have, coming in to offer relief.
     Then there are some Church people that also look at us with skeptical hearts, and I'm not sure why.  Do they feel safer participating within the comfortable domain of their Church connections? Or perhaps, are they not comfortable enough in their identities to know that they are to be the image of Christ to everyone they meet, and they don't need to depend on the Church interrelation to be effective ambassadors of the Kingdom of God? Isn't there room for us to work side by side in meeting the needs of the poor and afflicted?
      As I laid there, tormented by thoughts of both the overwhelming ruin before us, and the frustration of being judged for our lack of Church affiliation, I felt spiritually oppressed.  But I knew what was happening and I knew it was simply Satan's way of trying to destroy any hope or faith I had that we were making any difference in advancing the Kingdom in the midst of this catastrophe.  But I stopped and made sure that, in the spirit, my helmet of salvation was securely placed over my mind. Then I told myself, Be still, and know that I am God.  Let me repeat that.  Be still ... Be still ... and KNOW that I am God.
     And it all came into perspective.  The promises of God are true, and I declared that all of His promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory (2 Corinthians 1:20).  He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, so those people who believe in Him will not have to go through this rebuilding process alone.  And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them.  So whatever designs the devil has for using this hurricane to cause evil in the lives of these people, it will eventually become good as they rely on their faith and each other.  There is a purpose to each and every life and this hurricane event is a chance for each person to discover the reason they are on this earth.
     And I think that is why I am beginning to sense a difference in the atmosphere of Rockport.  The streets are beginning to be cleared of debris. Tree branches and limbs are being collected into piles. The Relief Center sponsored by New Beginnings Ministries is feeling like it's getting its sea legs, and the pervasive smell of panic is being replaced with an atmosphere of ordered chaos.  And I don't say that cynically.  There will be chaos for some time to come in Rockport, TX -- until power is fully restored; street lights are working properly; the debris is collected and removed -- but order is now being established to the day, and there is a direction in their lives.  An outsider might not see it, but if you are looking with spiritual eyes, you can discern the small and subtle change, and it smells and feels like victory... and we who love Him, know there is victory in the Lord.
     So, ultimately, what I've learned is this -- there is no catastrophe big enough to defeat God's people. I know that this life is full of trials, tribulations, and tragedies. And I can expect the devil to tempt me to doubt God's presence in the midst of them.  But if I can get still, and look for Him, I will find Him ... every time!  This won't be the last time the Enemy sends a fiery dart to test my mind.  And it won't be the last time my lack of Church partnership will be scrutinized and judged.  But none of that will deter me from walking my particular [and singular] path in the footsteps of my Savior. We have been called to be servants, and that can sometimes seem a lonely and disparaging road.  But it's not about us... it's about those we serve, and pleasing God. And there is nothing the devil can do to stop my resolve to do both.

1 John 3:17-18   "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth".


September 2, 2017

Light Dawns In The Darkness

    The last few days have been a whirlwind and I realized that I haven't posted anything in awhile. So I need to explain why... As you all know my state of Texas has been devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Mark and I spent a rocky Friday night, a week ago, as we heard things crashing into the side of our house during 90-100 mph wind gusts.  But as I told you last week, we declared our home and property to be the Land of Goshen, safeguarded and shielded by our Creator.  And it was so. While others in surrounding cities and neighborhoods suffered tremendous damage to their premises, with huge oaks uprooted, and tin roofs peeled away like tin cans, we barely lost minor branches.  We were blessed and fortunate beyond anything we expected.
     And as the reports and pictures started coming in from around the Lone Star state we could not escape the sorrow and empathy we had for the people of Houston who were (and still are) suffering from Biblical-proportion flooding.  But it was the smaller towns along our Southern coast who seemed to get lost in the immensity of the catastrophe.  One such town is Rockport, the first place where Harvey made landful in the early morning hours of August 25th.
     Throughout Mark's childhood, Rockport was a sleepy little fishing village that would also become a community of second homes for the wealthy and affluent.  Rockport has maintained that dual personality in the years since, but now it's 10,000+ residents all share the same misery and heartbreak... homes destroyed and lives forever changed.
     Since Mark and I suffered no loss, we were determined to find a way to help those less fortunate.  So we took some of our tithing money, accompanied by the same from a close neighbor and we bought some water, gatorade, peanut butter, tuna, gloves, towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, antibiotic ointment, vitamin C, and other supplies we thought would be important in these first days when people had no power, and little hope.  A group of us Christian women got together and made up relief bags. The next morning Mark and I loaded up our truck with water, and along with our neighbor's son, Cole, we three set off to offer our help.
     It was unimaginable. The devastation was beyond any sense that I had ever known.  Houses completely demolished. Trailers just a pile of rubble.  And the trees.... they were everywhere they shouldn't be, and contorted into what seemed like impressionistic sculptures.  The supplies that we had brought suddenly seemed so insignificant. How could we make a difference when these people needed so much, and we had brought so little?
     But then I remembered what my good friend Kim had prayed over us before we left that morning. She said, "I'm praying for warrior angels to surround your truck; to make a clear path through the muck and debris, and to protect your lives as y'all travel today.  I'm praying for ministering angels to go before you and prepare those whom God has in place to be blessed by you today.  And I'm praying for the Holy Spirit to be so evidenced in your lives today, that the spiritual atmosphere of the cities and towns you drive into will be changed... desolation turned to bright futures, despair turned to hope, exhaustion turned to energy, and hatred and anger turned into joy.  May you bring comfort through our Comforter to those who need it desperately!"
     These are the words that I would remember as I stood, holding hands with a woman named Yolanda, and prayed with her.  She lived by herself, and her house was a scene of destruction and desolation.  She had been approved for FEMA housing, but there was nowhere in Rockport that qualified for housing and all the surrounding communities were just as demolished.  She would have to travel several hours to find suitable lodging and she didn't want to leave her home, abandoned to the elements or looters.  We offered her water, but without ice, the water was hardly refreshing in the steamy heat.  But she was grateful for the relief bag we had brought her, and thanked us for what we were doing. In reality, we felt like we offered little more than what amounted to a drop in the ocean.
     But like everyone we approached with our meager offering, Yolanda left us with a smile and "God bless you".  But we needed to do more! And what did that look like?  And then we turned a corner and ran into José, who was the obvious leader of a group staging at the Little Lights Learning Center, a daycare facility for children.  He was organized, efficient, and unflustered... everything you need to create calm out of chaos.  When we left that day to return home, I told him I would find a way to do more, and what did he need?  "Cleaning supplies and protein" was his immediate reply.  I was determined to make that happen.
     And as we left the wreckage of Rockport behind us, the Holy Spirit offered His solution. I would tell our story of that day, and show the world the pictures of Rockport, setting up a public fundraiser for this little town that was the first to take a hit from Harvey.  I decided to turn the fundraiser over to Jesus, telling Him, "It's yours. Make it what You want it to be, and Mark and I (and others of Your faithful followers) will be Your hands and feet. Just tell us where to go".  So, I came home two days ago, created the website "Relief 4 Rockport" and surrendered it to the Lord.  And I think He wants to do great things with it!  The response has been amazing, and Mark and I, along with my prayer partner, Kim, are headed back to Rockport this morning with two trucks full of provisions -- Cleaning supplies and protein, of course! What a blessing to be used by Christ to show His mercy to those in need!
     The last thing I want to stress is that I do not want undue accolades for this work we do for the Lord.  It is no more than what thousands of others are doing as we try to alleviate the misery in the lives of our fellow Texans.  And it is just what we are called to do by the One whom we serve.  The heroes are the people who will put their lives back together, one day at a time, hopefully looking to Jesus for comfort and strength.  And if I can share His presence and His peace with any of them, then that will be an honor.  So please keep Texas in your prayers.  We have a long way to go to recover, and we're down now, but not out.  Pray that this will be a season of turning to the Lord and great growth in individual's relationships with Him.  And pray that Mark and I will be effective ambassadors for His Kingdom, showing everyone we come in contact with His mercy, His grace, and His tender heart. And please pray that we never miss an opportunity to speak of His boundless love.

Galatians 6:2    "Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love]".

August 29, 2017

"It Is Finished!"

     These are the last recorded words of Jesus as He died on the Cross.  They only appear in the Gospel of John, yet any Christian who is well-schooled in the Bible is familiar with these poignant words.  But do we, as the Body of Christ, know what Jesus was referring to?  In other words, as my husband has been asking of our Christian brethren lately, What does "IT" mean? What is the "IT" that Jesus has finished? And what does it have to do with us?
     I have seen very intelligent and knowledgable sources say that the word "finished" comes from the Greek word tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.” They will explain that when Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the "IT" to be the debt owed to His Father, which He wiped away completely and forever. Not that Jesus wiped away any debt that He owed to the Father; rather, Jesus eliminated the debt owed by mankind—the debt of sin.
     Now, I will agree that Jesus did all that -- He certainly paid the price we all owe the Father for our sins.  But, I'm not sure that is what He was referring to as being "finished".  I guess I'm trying to say that I think the "It" He finished was something else.  Let me tell you exactly what I think...
    As I am progressing through an in-depth study of my Bible, I came across a verse in John that didn't stick out to me the first couple of times I made my way through Scripture. It happens in John, Chapter 5, when Jesus is bearing witness that everything John the Baptist said about Him is true.  But then He says, in verse 36, But the testimony which I have is far greater than the testimony of John; for the works that the Father has given Me to finish—the very same works [that is, the miracles and proofs of My deity] that I am [now] doing—testify about Me, [by providing evidence] that the Father has sent Me.  

     It is clear to me that Jesus is saying, "The Father has given me works to do and finish.  These works testify that I have been sent by the Father".  In other words, all the works He was doing -- healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven had invaded earth in the person of Him -- have the ultimate purpose of glorifying the Father; the works of Jesus are proof that the Father sent Him.
     And so, here's where I disagree with the accepted version of what Jesus meant when He said It is finished. True, the Greek word for "finished" can mean a levy or toll that is paid in full.  But, according to Strong's Concordance, that is the secondary meaning of the word.  The primary definition of the root word, tello, is "an end of a defined purpose; the conclusion of an ultimate or prophetic act". Jesus says in John 5:36 that the Father has given Him works to finish, and that those works revolve around the miracles and proofs of His deity, which will ultimately result in the glorification of the Father.  So, when He says It is finished with His dying breath, I contend that He is saying "I have finished all the works You assigned Me to do to bring Your Kingdom to Earth and to glorify You, Father".  Jesus says in verse 36 that these works are the greater testimony about Who He is, and Why He came.
    The reason I think the modern Church doesn't see this is because it would require that we acknowledge not only the significance of "the works" He did, but that He wants us to continue those works.  That's why, within the same Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as saying, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  I contend that Jesus was finished with the works the Father had assigned to Him.  He had displayed His Deity through the works of signs and wonders, [healing and deliverance], and then given all who believe on Him the authority to continue those works [in John 14:12].  Furthermore, in both Matthew 28 and Mark 16, Jesus emphasizes that He wants believers to be taught to do all that He has commanded; and as they do the works He has done, it will be a sign to others to believe that the Father sent Him and that He is working through them.
     But the modern Church is uncomfortable when it comes to us performing supernatural acts of healing and deliverance, which are the works Jesus did.  It is more logical to the human mind to think that It is finished is simply referring to what Jesus did for us [in paying our "sin debt"], rather than to accept that He had finished His assignment of "works" for the Kingdom, and the mantle has been handed to us to continue them.  Can you see that the former explanation puts the responsibility on Jesus, while the latter interpretation makes us accountable for continuing His work?
     If the "IT" is simply a paid debt, it makes it easier to live the Christian life when you think that Jesus has done the work for you, rather than realizing that we are supposed to carry on the works [that glorify the Father], in His stead.  And this results in a Body of Christ that is stagnant and powerless to battle the schemes of the Adversary.  Think how much leeway we have given the devil when we only consider that the debt for our sin has been paid.  Don't get me wrong -- what a glorious gift of Grace that is!  But when you consider that there are so many people who need physical healing and demonic oppression eliminated from their lives, then the "IT" Jesus left us to do has been far from finished in our lives.  There have been so few of us who recognize our charge from the Lord, that the "IT" has barely even begun!
     Yes, Jesus finished His part.  He did exactly what the Father commanded Him to do.  But a huge part of His assignment was to model for us the work that the Father wants us to continue until Jesus returns.  As He hung in agony on the Cross, Jesus was declaring to the Father that He had ushered in the Kingdom on earth, and He had left the Father's work to be continued by those who believe in Him.  That stage of the Father's plan was surely finished. It's time we make up for all the lost opportunities to show His glory and the manifestation of His Kingdom here on the earth.  Our part of the Father's plan won't be finished until the last person accepts Christ as His Savior.  Until then, we need to use every tool He left us to accomplish that goal, and that includes the supernatural works that He did.  By neglecting them, we are not being obedient to all that He commanded us to do.  I'm not finished; are you?

Matthew 5:16     "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven".

August 27, 2017

"Calm The Storms, Father!"

     If there is one positive side effect from the forces of nature, it is that it shows both the best and worst of humanity.  But since the best of us comes from God, and the worst from the Enemy, I refuse to glorify our adversary's deeds. Instead, I want to share the wonderful presence of the Lord that I have witnessed, as we here in South Texas face a devastating hurricane.
     I love it that all the walls we put up between us come down when we face a mutually challenging and terrifying situation.  As Mark and I stood in long lines at the grocery store for water and nonperishable food, and at Lowe's where people were buying generators, batteries, and plywood, I was encouraged by the courtesies displayed and genuine concern shown for each other.  "Stay safe" was spoken to complete strangers, and people were willing to help each other and offer advice. Perhaps we each identified with our common mortality and just wanted to make a connection when confronted with our vulnerability. Whatever, the reason, I loved seeing the compassion and mercy.
     But it was the connections between my Brothers and Sisters in Christ that has been so inspiring. Mark and I have received so many texts and phone calls [from all across the country] letting us know that people are praying for us. And we have met privately with other families to spend time in prayer, revealing our requests and needs to our loving Father.  For me, I find great strength in His promises ... the Name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe.  In the spirit, I picture each of our families snug and warm inside of a stone tower, sitting by a warm fire with Jesus, oblivious to the storm that rages outside.
     I also declare that my community is the Land of Goshen, which is the segment of land that Joseph bequeathed to the Israelites during his reign in Egypt.  They lived in the land of Goshen until the time of Moses, when Pharaoh refused to let them go so they could worship God freely.  So God sent ten plagues of destruction, darkness, chaos and death. But these plagues did not occur in Goshen.  God protected the Israelites in the land of Goshen through the blood of the Lamb over their doorposts, as a mark of faith.
     So I appropriate the same blood of Jesus over this community of believers, of which we are a part. I declare that our lives, families, and households are protected, and we live in the land of Goshen where no destruction, darkness, chaos or death will occur, in Jesus's Name.
     I also declare the promises of Psalm 91 which says if we abide in God and dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we will remain secure and safe, and rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He will be our refuge and no disaster will come near our tents, for He will command His angels in regard to us, protecting and defending and guarding us.  He will set us on high because we know His Name and we have set our love upon Him, trusting and relying on Him, knowing He will never abandon us.
And I find great confidence in knowing God and Jesus are the Creator of the winds, and the rain, and the seas.  Just as Jesus calmed the Sea of Galilee, He can do the same in regards to Harvey.  We have asked God to use the storm to water our drought-stricken land, which testifies to His goodness. But we cancel any assignment by the Enemy to corrupt what God has created or to send devastating  storms against us.
     In the end, we only have each other and God to rely on.  After we come out on the other side of this, I have a feeling we won't be concerned about all our "stuff", but will be praising Him for His faithfulness and trustworthiness; for His never-ending covenant with us and His steadfast love. This storm, too, shall pass, but His Word will never pass away.  And so, we cling to Him in the midst of uncertainty and the force of nature.  But I am left with this final promise ... My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. So, I face this storm with unswerving faith, knowing Who has me in His hand.  And there is no room for fear.

NOTE:  Again, I have no idea if we will lose power, or when I will be able to post again.  If I can, I will let you know how we are progressing through the duration of Hurricane Harvey.  Any and all prayers are appreciated!

UPDATE:  We survived the first night of Hurricane Harvey with gusts up to 85-90 mph

Jeremiah 10:13     When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the clouds and the mist to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His treasuries and from His storehouses.