A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

September 26, 2016

Can God Heal Our Land?

     The first and obvious answer is, Yes, He is able to.  He is God.  But what I'm really asking is, what are the requirements for Him to do so?  What is our part?  I know that my God is full of Mercy, but He is also a God of Judgment and Righteousness.  Are we justified in reciting 2 Chronicles 7:14, if my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land?  Do we even stop to realize that we are quoting Scripture in the middle of a sentence; or that we should take the whole context of this passage into account?
     As Christians, we know that the Bible is a living document, written to speak to all generations.  But we have to be very careful to not cherry-pick portions to soothe our sinful souls.  Is our nation in extreme need of healing?  The answer is obvious as my heart aches over the growing racial divide in our cities; the sins of our past (slavery and the Civil War); the murder of millions upon millions of God's babies; and the moral corruption in every facet of our nation.
     But can our restoration be as simple as every Christian praying that the United States "return" to God and pray, and then He will be glad to forgive all of our national sins and "heal" the land?  Shouldn't we first recognize that the bigger context within which this one small verse is pulled out?  We should be mindful that the "My people, who are called by My Name" is not specifying American Christians., or the United States.  God is talking to the nation of Israel, and is responding to a prayer that Solomon had spoken at the dedication of the recently completed Temple.  In that prayer, Solomon reminded God that He had promised his father, David, that He would not fail to have a man sit on the throne of Israel, provided the nation was careful to walk in His law as David had walked before Him.
     Solomon then continued his prayer, asking God to hear the prayers of the people, as they prayed towards the Temple, and forgive them their sins.  He mentions the ramifications of their sins:  being required to take an oath before the altar for sinning against a neighbor; being defeated in battle because they have sinned against the Lord; drought, famine, and pestilence because of their sins.  Time and time again, throughout the lengthy prayer, Solomon asks God to hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and requests, and maintain their cause and do justice and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.
     God's response?  It is within the context of Solomon's Dedication Prayer, and the complete sentence He delivers is this:   If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
     So, the first thing we need to realize is that this is a specific response to a specific prayer, and it pertains to the nation of Israel.  NOW, does this mean that God, in His Sovereignty and His Mercy will not extend the same offer to us, those who have accepted the invitation of His Son?  One of the greatest truths of Scripture is that God loves us.  We are His creation and His people — those whom He will take with Himself into eternal glory!
     But God is also a Righteous God, and He requires repentance for forgiveness.  We are to pray to the Spirit so that Jesus will be worshipped and known throughout the world. We obey the Spirit so that we can have intimacy and communion with God. But we don't pray because we believe that doing so will fix our country or provide us with some sort of special national blessing, and return us to a land of prosperity and power.
     And it's not enough to ask for forgiveness of our sins if we don't change our sinful ways.  God will not hear us praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 if we continue to hate, based on the color of our skin.  He will not hear our prayers if we continue to take advantage of the downtrodden to secure a political vote.  He will not hear our prayers if we continue to worship pluralism and relativism.  There is only one Authority and one Absolute God, and that is YHWH.  He will not hear our prayers if we numb our hearts and minds to the needs of others in our desperate need to fulfill ourselves.  And, it is not enough to deplore and pray against the abhorrent practice of abortion if we allow it to continue to exist.
     I do not doubt that millions of Christians are praying across this land, and asking God to heal our nation.  But until we truly repent and change our lives -- seek His face and turn from our wicked ways -- then I do not believe He will answer.  We cannot expect God to change our circumstances as long as our government rules in darkness; crime and violence dominate our cities; we wage war across the globe; and we violate His moral statues.
     Furthermore, we tend to assume the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 refer to Christian believers, to the elect.  But if all true believers were to do all that the verse requires, God would hear from heaven, forgive our sin, but still not heal our land.  Why?  Because if God healed the land today, it would be defiled tomorrow by the blood of the innocents flowing seven days a week from the abortion mills.
     Yet, we know that by Jesus's stripes we are healed.  He died for our sins and transgressions.  But it requires effort on our part.  It requires national repentance; that turning in a new direction.  And it requires genuine humility; a fasting of the heart and calling on God in thanksgiving, supplication and intercession; knowing we can only be healed by Him.  Until we do the necessary work of changing our sinful ways, fall on our face in humility, and putting ourselves under His Authority, I'm afraid that God cannot and will not heal our land.  He cannot act in opposition to His own Character and Righteousness.  So, Can God heal our land? Yes!  Will He?  That depends on how we respond to Him.  I believe that He wants nothing more than to heal this nation, but it's up to us to show Him we are the people He desires us to be.  Right now, we're not even close...

Hosea 10:12      Sow with a view to righteousness [that righteousness, like seed, may germinate]; Reap in accordance with mercy and lovingkindness. Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the Lord [and to long for His blessing] Until He comes to rain righteousness and His gift of salvation on you.

September 25, 2016

Matthew 16:18

 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ].

    This is a very well known, and powerful Bible verse.  In fact, I have written on it before, but from a completely different perspective.  But because I believe that one Scripture can speak to us on multiple levels, I have no problem accepting both viewpoints.  
     First, let's establish the context in which Jesus is speaking.  He has just asked one of His Disciples, Simon, son of Jonah, who men claim Jesus to be, and Simon bar-Jonah has answered that some say He is John the Baptist, while others say He is Elijah, Jeremiah, or another of God's prophets.  But, Christ wants to know who Simon bar-Jonah says He is, and Simon answers truthfully, and correctly, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 
     Simon then receives Jesus's blessing because he had received that knowledge directly from the Father, Himself, rather than man.  And then Jesus bestows upon Simon bar-Jonah a worthy designation ... calling him Peter, which in Greek, was Petros, meaning a specific, detached large fragment of rock.  It is my opinion, that by bestowing that appellation on Peter, Jesus is signifying that Peter will be a solid, substantial disciple, fixed and stayed, and one that can be counted on for strength and stability in the face of opposition that will come concerning Him.
     This statement is followed by a comma, which in grammar is used for separating parts of a sentence such as clauses, and items in lists, particularly when there are three or more items listed.  Well we have three items listed here:  1) proclaiming Peter as a rock, or Petros (masculine form of the word),  2) on this rock, or Petra (feminine form of the word, meaning "a massive rock; a high rocky peak) Jesus will build His Church, and 3) the gates of Hades will not overpower it.  Besides the difference, in Greek, between Petros and Petra, this is the first indication that the second mention of "the rock" is different than the first.
     For as long as I can remember, the Church has taught that Jesus was declaring that He was building His Church upon Peter's leadership  (whose name meant "rock").  In fact, the Roman Catholic Church sees Peter as the first pope upon whom God had chosen to build His church, and that Peter had supremacy over the other apostles.  I'm sorry, but I do not see that in Scripture.
     Rather, it makes more sense to me that Jesus is praising Peter for his steadfastness and his faith, and then announces that He, Himself, will be the bedrock or cornerstone of His Church.  I can now read this simple sentence in a new light, and picture what it is portraying ... Jesus with His hand on Peter's shoulder, saying "Yes, you are a rock".  Then, pointing to Himself, says, "And it is on this rock that I will build My church".  Perhaps he laid his hand on his breast, as he did in John 2:19, Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
     Peter, himself, identifies Jesus as "the chief cornerstone" in 1 Peter 2, and refers to all believers as "living stones".  There is no other rock upon which the Church stands.  It is imperative that we understand that Christ is both the Founder and the Foundation of the Church.  It just seems logical to me that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him, and was introducing His work of building the church upon Himself.
     And then because it is His Church, and He is the cornerstone and foundation upon which it is built, He goes on to declare that the forces of death and darkness can't prevail against or conquer the Church. I like how the Greek New Testament states this truth:  And the councils of the unseen world cannot overpower it.  That certainly speaks to my understanding of the principalities, authorities, and rulers of wickedness in the spiritual realm that Paul refers to in Ephesians 6. 
     Another way to look at what Jesus is saying is that this is a declaration that neither the plots, strategies, nor strength of Satan and his angels, will ever destroy the sacred truths of the Gospel Message; that Jesus is the Son of God, He died to pay for our sins, and He was resurrected by the power of God. 
     We get the sense that Jesus is promising to preserve and secure His Church -- that while the world still exists, Christ will have a Church in it, in spite of all the opposition of the powers of darkness... They shall not prevail against it.  
     This is the philosophical and psychological explanation of this profound Scripture.  But as I mentioned at the beginning, there is a different perspective.  And it happens to be the historical perspective, which sees this verse in the context of where they were standing when Jesus was speaking.  At the time that I wrote that post, I was convinced that the historical perspective was the correct one.  But I now believe that both perspectives have validity and have no problem accepting both positions as Truth, because neither invalidates the supremacy of Christ or His Church.  I believe that the Truth of the Bible is big enough to accommodate several levels of understanding.  That is what makes it such an amazing testament of our God!

September 23, 2016

Taking Another Look At "The Veils" Of Our Existence

     Nearly three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a post titled The Veils Of Our Existence.  It was based on a theory proposed by the late Don Harkin, former Editor of The Idaho Observer.  Mr. Harkin suggested the existence of a world system of Power-Elites that the masses don't comprehend because these Power-Elites have cleverly developed a virtual pasture so green that few people seldom, if ever, bother to look up from where they are grazing to notice that they are being led over the cliff.
     Three-and-a-half years ago, my level of understanding of these "veils" did not include the spiritual battle that was being waged at each stage.  I still think each of these stages exists and is valid, and in order to progress to a higher understanding of just how we are to maneuver through this existence called life, we must be able to pierce each successive veil and move to the next level.  It is part of our human journey on this earth... only now, I see this journey with the added benefit of spiritual eyes. So I would like to revisit this interesting speculation, and add a new spiritual perspective to Mr. Harkins' conjecture.  I'm interested to know how many of you have grown in your understanding, as well.
       The First Veil = Politics. There are over 7 billion+ people on the planet.  Most of them will live and die without seriously thinking about anything other than what it takes to live and breathe for one more day.  That means that 90% of all humanity will live behind this first veil and never pierce it.  That leaves 10% of us who will vote, be active in our societies and have an opinion.  Our opinions are often shaped by government officials, MSM or other "experts" who claim to be voices of authority.  But of those with an opinion, 90% will never really think for themselves and will adopt the opinion of others, while 10% will pierce the second veil and move forward in their thinking.
     My New Perspective:  All this remains true, but now I see that there are spiritual forces behind those involved in the government, Mainstream Media, and "experts", or voices of authority.  Of those of us within the 10% who form their own opinion, how many understand that politics is not the answer -- that our power will not come from our affiliation with whomever wins elections, but from Jesus Christ?  And what small percentage of that 10% realizes that our time on this earth should not be spent supporting man-made power structures, but using our power from Christ to "do the things He has done, only greater"? (John 14:12).
     The Second Veil = History.  There will be 10% of us who will explore the world of history, the relationship between man and government, which will lead to the meaning of self-government through constitutional and common law.  Ninety percent of this group will live and die without going on to pierce the third veil.
     My New Perspective:  The Constitution is no longer my route to real freedom.  Man's laws and self-government will only get me so far.  My true freedom lies in letting Jesus heal my spiritual wounds, and recognizing that I don't have to suffer the "fiery darts" of the Enemy.  The history that consumes me now are the experiences of those -- both from the ancient world, and the modern -- who have learned what it means to transcend the tyranny and oppression from the spiritual realm to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is true freedom.
     The Third Veil = Resources of the World.  Of the group that pierces this veil, 10% of us will come to realize that the masses are controlled by extremely wealthy and powerful families whose old world assets have been manipulated to become the foundation upon which the world's economy is currently indebted.  (Think Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, the Royal Monarchs).  But sadly, 90% of this group will never pierce the fourth veil.
     My New Perspective:  Yes, the masses are controlled by these extremely wealthy and powerful families; and behind them are the spiritual forces of wickedness and evil.  I believe that they have sold their souls for earthly wealth and power that will prove false when the Day of Judgment comes.
 The Fourth Veil = The Illuminati, Freemasonry and other secret societies.  There are 10% of us that recognize these societies use symbols and perform ceremonies that transfer mysterious knowledge that is used to keep us ordinary people in political, economic and spiritual bondage to the oldest bloodlines on earth.  This has been seen frequently at Super Bowl halftime shows (Beyonce flashing "the Rockefeller" sign; Madonna sporting symbols of the occult) and during the Grammy's (Nikki Minaj's ode to "Roman", the demon whom she says possesses her).  Just check out the Youtube videos for each of these demonstrations!  But once again, 90% of those who have reached this level of understanding will never pierce the fifth veil.
     My New Perspective:  Boy, has my understanding of this grown in the last few years!  The Lord has shown me just how much devastation has been sown on families steeped in these secret societies.  The oaths and curses taken during secret ritual ceremonies have resulted in great oppression among many Christians, who don't even know these secret societies have permeated their families or their Churches!  And the evidence that these societies have infiltrated our entertainment industry is overwhelming.  I am literally seeing the signs and symbols everywhere I look throughout our culture.  Sadly, I believe that our country is steeped in the occult mysticism associated with these groups, and they are influencing every area of our lives.
     The Fifth Veil = Technological advances by these Secret Societies. I may lose some of you at this point, but I urge you to do your own research and study the Bible in depth.  There are hints of the knowledge behind this fifth veil, but you have to be willing to connect the dots.  There are 10% who make it this far in their understanding who learn that the secret societies are so far advanced technologically that they are able to do things that were considered science fiction just decades ago.  The inventions of Ray Kurzweil and his prediction of "man's singularity with computers" is an example of such advanced technology.  But what's interesting is that this technology is actually ancient, and compares to what Nimrod was trying to accomplish at the Tower of Babel; namely to become like God.    Are we getting dangerously close to that concept again?  Nearly 90% will never get beyond this understanding to the sixth veil.
     My New Perspective:  To say that technology has surpassed science fiction is putting it mildly.  Human-animal hybrids are being created in Great Britain, and a surgeon plans to reanimate human corpses.  Books are being written that tell us immortality is accessible to everyone, outside of any religious worldview.  Inventors and artists openly admit that they are "channeling" spiritual sources of knowledge.  All this is being downloaded from entities in the spiritual realm to control and deceive the human race.  We better understand who we're dealing with.
       The Sixth Veil = Aliens and Monsters may be real.  It is going to take a huge leap for the 10% who get to this level of understanding.  But if you study your Bible closely, you will see mention of fallen angels mating with earthly women to give birth to Nephalim (Giants) (Genesis 6:4 and 2 Samuel 21:20, for example).  There are many modern-day Biblical scholars who are prepared to say that the minotaurs of old and the UFO and alien sightings of today are evidence of these fallen angels.
     My New Perspective:  My how far we've come in these last three-and-a-half years!  The growth of the remnant of the Church who understands the truth of Genesis 6 has been astounding!  I know that there are "spiritual monsters" and they are called demons.  I have encountered them in deliverance sessions, and seen them stare out of the eyes of people who had no idea they were being oppressed by them.  Savage and brutal and bizarre attacks upon people are increasing and are evidence that the Enemy is bringing the spiritual battle to our physical world.  Although, yes, these demons are real, we should have no fear because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
     If you have made it this far and can conceive of the concepts behind the sixth veil, then perhaps you can see that what waits for us behind The Seventh Veil = Peace of the Lord.  It's hard to imagine, but I can foresee a small group of people whose soul is so evolved that they can exist on this earth, yet be unafraid of the evil that abounds in this realm.  The only way I can describe it is to have such peace from God that you are unafraid of death.
     My New Perspective:  Actually, my perspective has moved in a new direction on this veil.  It's not such a small group that sees the evil ascending on the earth from the second heaven, or spiritual realm.  These last few years has seen an amazing growth in this knowledge within the Body of Christ.  It's as if the Holy Spirit has done a massive data dump upon Christians!  We not only know that and discern this spiritual warfare, but we also have been given the knowledge that we have the Authority of Jesus to fight [in this war] through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  And that's where our Peace comes from... knowing that we can rebuke the devil and he will flee; knowing that the Lord is our banner in this fight and goes before us; and we know that Jesus will not only never leave us nor forsake us, but He who began a good work in us will complete it.  That is called Peace!
     That brings us to Harkins' Eighth veil, which can only be the pure energy, authority and life force that is God.  We can only hope to tap into that Power, and I think the closest we can come to that is to seek a personal, intimate relationship with the One True God, the Ruler of the Universe and abide in Him.
     My New Perspective:  Yes, a personal, intimate relationship is necessary to tap into that Power, but it is incumbent upon each of us to know that it is available to us.  We are not to be mindless robots, sitting idly by waiting for God to win this war all by Himself.  We are created in His image, exhorted to imitate Christ, and called to an inheritance in Christ.  He dwells in us!  That energy, authority and life force are not to be squandered, but used to gain ground in defeating the Enemy in our lives!
     So, as you can see, with each veil of understanding that is pierced, the number of people "who see" gets exponentially smaller.  When I first wrote this blog post over three years ago, I saw mainly through "worldly" eyes.  I was focused on "the low information voter", and the gullible citizens who I saw as useful idiots and tools of the state.  I actually thought my vote really mattered and changing the politics of the nation would solve the world's problems.  I didn't see the spiritual component.
     I can honestly say that I believe I am at that Eighth veil, and I so grateful to my Lord and the Holy Spirit for helping me to see through the murkiness of the veils and how they obscured my vision of God's Truth.  I see that my existence here on earth is more than just this physical realm, and my victory in this life depends on my readiness to work with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do battle with the spiritual realm.  I now truly know that I do not battle against flesh and blood, but have the Authority and Power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to free myself of spiritual bondage.
     I will admit that it's a long road to progress through these veils, and if you are just beginning to awaken to their reality, then I hope you can see that living, breathing and thinking are just the beginning to greater understanding.  And there is nothing to fear... we know that victory is ours in the next life.  Until then, it an honor to stand for our Lord and represent Him to all we come in contact with, and to help others to push through the veils.  As we teach them the meaning of each obstruction, and show them how to move to the next stage, it will be one less obstacle between them and God.  That is a goal worthy of effort by every Christian.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17      "Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

September 21, 2016

The Never-Changing Game Plan of Satan

     I love studying history.  I am fascinated how we have arrived at this point in time; and that includes us, as Americans and citizens of the world, as well as us, as followers of Jesus Christ.  What are the means that contributed to our success, and what have been the forces that have opposed us?  Has anything changed in the last two thousand years, and do the actions against the Church differ than those against the world?  In other words, does the Enemy have two different plans of attack to accomplish his goal of supremacy of this planet and its inhabitants?  These are the kinds of questions that swirl around in my head.
     And while preparing for our home church's continuing study on the Book of Acts, an answer began to form in the back of my mind ... see what you think.  By the time we get to the eighth chapter in this important epistle from the pen of Luke, we're starting to get a picture of the schemes of the devil, and the counter moves from our God -- just a little more of that cosmic chess match I've referenced before.
     At the birth of the Church, we see the religious and civil opposition of the Sanhedrin against those of "The Way".  The Jewish Counsel didn't approve of the focus on Jesus and his teachings, and at the same time, they were concerned that His followers were going to upset the nice little relationship they had with the ruling Roman government.  "Compromise" was the motto of the day.  Don't upset the status quo, and for heaven's sake, don't try to make this Jesus the only way to eternal life.
     Is it any different today?  And does it matter whether you are in the Church or out of it?  Certainly, the Church began to suffer religious persecution in the First Century, and the True Church today is being harassed if they hold to true Biblical principles -- even by others who claim they represent God's real purpose for establishing the Church.
Satan is always on the field,
ready to make his next play
    The civil opposition against faith is apparent -- prayer is no longer allowed in schools; it is coming under fire at your local city council meeting; and the world doesn't want to hear that Jesus is the only way.  "Compromise" is not only the slogan among some elements of the Body of Christ, but among our civil and political institutions, too.  The 501(c)3 has become an idol with which the federal government tempts the Church to become part of the Beast System.
     But just as the Holy Spirit inspired the small group of Apostles and new disciples of Christ to stand for His Truth, there is a remnant today who are standing steadfast, and refusing to weaken or accept anything less than what He commanded.  Compromise with unrighteous religious leaders or a corrupt and wicked civil government will not deter the mission and purpose of our calling.
     Back to that First Century Church ... Satan then introduced the sin of Pride into the Church by sowing thoughts of good standing and reputation in the hearts of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira.  In an effort to corrupt the motivations of Believers through self-promotion and aggrandizement, satan sought to diminish the true goal of the Body of Christ: to spread the good news of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.  He is certainly working that same game plan, as evidenced by all the mega-churches and the increase in power, status, and wealth among some of the Church's leaders.The Gospel Message has become lost in the gospels of prosperity, inclusion, and universalism.
     But the sin of Pride is not the exclusive property of the Church.  Our Enemy uses it in the secular world, too.  Pride corrupts even the best intentions of worldly men.  Just look at our political scene, and the world of business, and the entertainment industry.  Pride is a favorite tool of the devil to draw the world away from their Savior.  But we know how God feels about Pride, don't we?  And, in case you're unsure, just look how quickly He countered satan's move to instill it in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira... they were dead in seconds!  So, whether one is part of the Body of Christ, or the world, Pride as a motivator for your own reward is a sure-fire sign that the devil is working on you.
     Next, satan tried to use disputes and conflicts among different groups to disrupt God's plan for reconciliation with mankind.  There arose a quarrel and controversy between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Hebrew Jews, as to the social justice issue of taking care of the widows among the new and growing Church.  If the devil could cause strife between different groups of people, then the message of Grace, Love, and Mercy could not flow from the Church.  God solved that evil plan by inspiring the appointment of a group, headed by the disciple Stephen, to share the administration of the duties in order to serve the interests of all.  The first deacons of the Church were ordained, and the Church survived.
     But we still see similar disagreements and quarrels among the different denominations within today's Church; and between the traditionalists and the New Agers; and how many church splits has the Body of Christ endured in the last century alone?  But we also see our Enemy using this same ploy outside the Church, don't we?  The racial tension between the black community and the white community is a result of satan's influence, pitting one group against another.  Foreign refugees and native inhabitants of countries are victims of the devil's subversion.  Muslim versus Christian; Gay versus Straight; Republican versus Democrat... it's all the same game plan ... divide and conquer; I guess the devil believes that to the victor belongs the spoils.
     Finally, when all else failed in those first important years of the establishment of the Church, satan employed jealousy, rivalry, false accusations and distortion of the message to try to defeat God's plan.  He might have thought he had won that chess match when he whispered to corruptible men to spread lies about Stephen, who was becoming a bold and effective disciple, willing to stand against the Establishment (which was the Sanhedrin). Satan's move resulted in the stoning death of Stephen, but the Enemy was not the victor.  Stephen became the first martyr of the infant Church, and his blood was the impetus for the Gospel Message to begin spreading across the land.
     All we have to do today is look no further than the next 60-second political ad to see the same jealousy, rivalry, false accusations and distortion of a message.  Then there are the recent terror attacks, where the lies and distortions are so apparent as to be laughable... only it is the devil who is laughing.  Although this form of corruption centers around secular and earthly affairs, it results in the same confusion and chaos that it does in the Church.  Satan is able to distract us from our real purpose and path, and keep us fighting amongst ourselves.  And rather than going to battle with the Lord against the Enemy, all this controversy keeps us in the devil's tangled web of deceit.
     My intention for pointing out the similarities of satan's game plan is to help us see that he tries to influence all aspects of our lives.  He is not only working in the world, as the prince of this world, but he has never stopped working in the Church.  From the beginning, we have seen him bring strife, conflict, pride, lies, jealousy, and even the power of the Church, itself, to bear against God's creation. Now. it is more apparent than ever that we must be aware, and watch for his schemes and plots to undermine humanity and wreak devastation and destruction.  I truly feel he is putting his final battle plan into motion, and bringing his devastation to fruition.
     At the point I am in the Book of Acts, the Bible says that the Church began to be "ravaged by persecution".  That is such an ominous word and one that I am afraid will soon apply to us.  But it is not only the followers of Christ who will be shattered, but the very foundations of civilization.  Thank God, that the Righteousness and Judgment of our Lord will prevail and the game plan of our Adversary will be destroyed.  The victory has already been won, and the spoils are our inheritance in heaven.  Come, Lord, Jesus, Come!

Job 1:7     The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”


September 19, 2016

What Is Kingdom Now Theology?

     I don't think any of us can deny that The Church has struggled over the past few decades with trying to remain relevant to the culture and to the world.  Of course, I question if that should ever be a goal or not, but it is becoming evident that the masses have rejected the fundamental doctrine of the Bible in favor of serving themselves and their own thoughts and counsel.
     Some within the Body of Christ have attempted to reach the marginalized in society; those who they feel are being excluded by [what they see as] the rigidity of God's morality as expressed in the Bible.  That has led to a skepticism of God's Truth as spoken in the Word, and an attempt to explain the inerrant Word as allegorical, symbolic, metaphorical, or figurative.  Such is the new trend of theology in what is known as the Emerging Church, which follows a postmodern, "new paradigm" in today's Church.  
I guess I'm just "old school" and "old paradigm"
     As I had it explained to me in a Sunday School class one day, I am of the "old paradigm" if I believe that every word of the Bible is true, or that it was divinely inspired.  I am of the "old paradigm" if I believe in the "stories" of the Virgin Birth, the Star over the manger in Bethlehem, or that Jesus knew He was the Son of God before He found Himself hanging on the cross.  I was informed that this old Biblical worldview was too exclusive, and I needed to adopt the "new paradigm" of The Church that believes God has no problem with homosexuality or that "the social justice" Jesus preached mirrors the modern secular and political definition.  I was told that collective salvation is the goal of the Gospel Message, rather than individual salvation; and end-times theology or prophecy has no relevance for us.  And to emphasize our need to shed The Church of its traditional and conventional doctrine, we began studying books by Emerging Church leaders such as Marcus Borg and Rob Bell, rather than the Bible.  Needless to say, that was when I truly became aware that satan had influenced The Church.
     But the point I want to make is this:  such postmodern, self-absorbed ideas about our roles as Christians have translated into new theologies about just what The Kingdom of God looks like, and what our role is in it.  I have written several blogs on this subject, and I have found one more reason to further discuss this idea of The Kingdom of God.  It has recently come to my attention that there is a movement based on what is known as Kingdom Now theology, and it appears to be coming from this branch called The Emerging Church.  Just like I mentioned a couple of days ago, it is important for us to understand what we believe and why; to be a good Berean, receiving the Word with readiness and searching the Scripture to make sure it is true.  The bottom line for me is that I read, test, check and examine my understanding for Biblical veracity and accuracy.  While that has often led to a bigger picture of my God than the traditional Church has held, I am always careful to make sure I don't elevate myself beyond what Scripture tells me is my significance.  (That being said, I have also discovered, through Scripture, that I am more significant to my Lord than The Church had taught me, but that is a different blog post for a different day).
     So, just what is Kingdom Now theology?  According to one Christian website, "Kingdom Now proponents believe that God lost control over the world to Satan when Adam and Eve sinned. Since then, the theology goes, God has been trying to reestablish control over the world by seeking a special group of believers—known variously as "covenant people," "overcomers," or "Joel's army"—and that through these people, social institutions (including governments and laws) would be brought under God's authority."
     First of all, don't you think if God wanted to do something like take back His control [if He ever lost it, in the first place], that He could do it all on His own?  Don't you think He could bring about what they call "The Kingdom Age" without needing the help of us broken and sinful people?  But it appears that this movement sees Believers as inheriting Jesus's divine nature when the Holy Spirit indwells us at our salvation experience.  In fact, this same website says that, "Kingdom Now theology sees the Second Coming of Jesus in two stages: first through the flesh of the believers (and in particular the flesh of today's apostles and prophets-- (this is where it resembles the New Apostolic Reformation movement), and then in person to take over the kingdom handed to Him by those who have been victorious (the "overcomers"). Prior to the second coming, overcomers must purge the earth of all evil influences. Kingdom Now claims that Jesus cannot return until all His enemies have been put under the feet of the church (including death, presumably)."
     I guess my biggest question for movements like these is, "Can you show me, where in the Bible, this is written"?  It is apparent how easy it is to take the idea of "overcoming" -- which the Bible does say that we do when we are born again in Christ and believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5) -- and expand upon that idea to make it all about us.  The Kingdom of God is the place, or the location, where the King resides, right?  And if we can all agree that Jesus is our King, then He resides in our hearts when we accept Him as our Savior and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  The location of the Kingdom is spiritual!  We, as human beings, cannot establish an earthly Kingdom for Him and then hand the keys over to Him ... nowhere is that expressed in the Bible!
      The Second Coming of Christ will be when He, not men, defeats His enemies and puts all things under His feet. The description of the Second Coming in Revelation 19 is the description of a mighty warrior who comes to put all things to right; not of one who comes to an earth already cleaned up and ready for Him to rule.  That scenario totally negates the reason for Jesus to "tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty".  If the earth has been “purged of all evil influences" by the overcomers, as the Kingdom Now-ers believe, why does Christ need a sharp sword to strike the nations, and why does the anger and wrath of God still exist against them when He returns?
     I guess the thing that grieves me the most about these New Age interpretations of Scripture is that they really don't regard Scripture very well.  They seem to be philosophies that emerge from the imaginations of men to 1) bend the Bible to their own self-interests [and sins], and 2) to bring God down to the level of our human characteristics, while attempting to elevate our human nature to near deity status.
     I can't say it any plainer than this ... nowhere in the Bible do I see a physical Kingdom of God on earth before the return of Jesus.  His realm exists now in our hearts and our spirits.  To proclaim [or imagine] anything beyond that is treading dangerous Biblical ground.

Luke 17:21   "nor will people say, ‘Look! Here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For the kingdom of God is among you [because of My presence]."


September 18, 2016

Romans 16:21-24

 Timothy, my coworker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my fellow countrymen, greet you.

 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus greet you.

 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

    I don't know about you, but I'm always fascinated to know about the names of the people who have the distinction of being mentioned in the Bible.  It is by no accident that we are introduced to them, and, here at the end of the Book of Romans, Paul makes the special effort to let the Roman Christians know that he and his fellow workers (who are at the Church in Corinth) send them their thoughts and prayers.  Remember, the Christians of Rome were unpopular; reputed to be "enemies of the human race" and credited with such vices as incest and cannibalism.  So to be remembered by other Christians would give them strength to continue in their faith.
    So, who were these men who Paul mentioned by name?  We are all familiar with Timothy, his “beloved son” in the faith, but I bet you didn't know that Lucius, Jason and Sosipator were Paul’s relatives.  He mentions Tertius, the man to whom Paul dictated the letter, and Gaius, in whose home the Church in Corinth met.  Also meeting with them is a prominent politician, Erastus, the city treasurer, and their brother Quartus.  
     It is important to notice that Tertius, which means “Third”, and Quartus, which means “Fourth” were most likely slaves, who were not given names when they were born, but often given the number that corresponded to their birth order.  Tertius and Quartus were likely brothers who were educated slaves and had become Christians. They can read and write, and are part of this group in Corinth.
     Lucius appears to be the same one who comes from Cyrene, mentioned in Chapter 13 of Acts as one of the teachers in the city of Antioch. Jason was evidently Paul's host when the apostle went to the city of Thessalonica, in Macedonia. Paul stayed in Jason's home when a riot broke out in the city. Sosipater may be the man from Beroea, mentioned in Acts 20 as "Sopater." Paul met him in Macedonia and may have accompanied him to Jerusalem with the offering to the churches there.  
     I think we can agree that all these mentioned by Paul were noted for their steady, tested commitment, and their faithfulness to the gospel.  Today we Christians give in so easily to the world's philosophy of life -- live for your own pleasure, focus on retiring at the end of your life and discontinuing your work. The early Christians did not believe that.  They worked tirelessly their entire lives to spread the Gospel message.  So what can we learn from how they lived their lives in Christ?
     1)  They were not their own; they belonged to Christ.  God had called them out of their lives in the world and He would direct their paths.  Do we think like that, or do we fit God in whenever we have a few spare minutes in our selfish lives?
     2)  They believed that this life in Christ was a battle to the death.  They were engaged in warfare that never ended until they left this life, so they kept on fighting.  Do we live our lives battling for the Lord, or are we fighting for our own comforts and security?
     3)  They believed in rest and leisure only as a means to restore themselves to get back in the battle.  There was no thought of “retirement” or taking a vacation; this was their life’s work until their last breath.  How do we view our life’s work, and could we devote every day until the end to working for the Lord?
     4)  Finally, they understood that the gifts of the Holy Spirit  -- that they each one possessed to some degree -- opened up a ministry for every single believer.  No Christian was without a ministry.  Some of these dear people could not teach or preach, but they had the gift of helps, and they did that, right to the end.  What excuse do we have?  Do we even try to understand what gift we have and how we can use it to serve the Lord and the community of Believers?  Or are we focused on how to enjoy our life in this world?
     I think this passage reminds us that God has called us all to a ministry, and we all have to give an account for what we have done with both our natural gifts and our spiritual gifts. We had better find out what they are and go to work for Him, because God has not called us to a picnic or a party. He has called us to serve Him with our hearts, mind, soul, and strength.  


September 16, 2016

My Perspective On The New Apostolic Reformation Movement

     The direction of today's Church follows many paths.  I am literally astounded at the leniency of some church leaders who would be willing to see the "spiritualism" of an event like Burning Man on par with the experience of The Early Church at Pentecost.  But then again, I am equally amazed at those who refuse to consider what the Bible has to stay about the supernatural in our Christian experience.  That presents a wide spectrum in the observance of our faith.  But I also truly believe that, at this time, there is an increase in the desire for knowledge about God among the Body of Christ and The Church; within that reality, it is also a time to be cautious when seeking new understanding.
     In my own quest, Scripture has been my center of focus as I am trying to discern what it means to be a follower of Christ, according to the Bible.  I am trying to know The Most High God in a deeper and personal way, and seek His Truth about who He is and who I am, in Him.  That being said, it has become apparent to me that while other Christians are doing the same thing, there have grown new ideas of what that looks like, and new movements that have risen out of that pursuit for knowledge.  Differing interpretations of the Bible have given rise to new theologies and new movements, with the result being that we must be very careful in forming our own understanding of what God's Word is saying to those of us called by His Name.  And, we need to be careful to approach each other in love, when discussing our differences.
     To be honest, I have tried to listen exclusively to the Holy Spirit to guide me to the truth of the Word.  In that process, I have discovered that it has been necessary to discern which doctrines of the traditional Church still ring true to the commands of Jesus, and which are man-made rules that do not serve Him according to His Word.  In the same manner, I see that these new movements and theologies require the same examination.  And, once again being honest, I have been unaware of the "official" names of these groups and their guiding principles, because it has been my desire to quit following the ways of man, and follow the Biblical path towards Jesus.  So, I am reluctant to follow any stringent rules or guidelines in order to identify with particular "movements".   But I feel it is important to know what these groups believe in order to know where they stand, Biblically, and to be able to defend my own theology.
     So, today, I wish to introduce you to the New Apostolic Reformation Movement and explain it as I understand it.  I do not wish to disparage this movement's desire for Truth, but I think it is inherent that each of us pray for guidance and discernment so that we are not led astray.  I am fully aware that I do not have the secret counsel of God, nor have I cornered the market on wisdom -- none of us have all the answers, and while we may find agreement on various principles, we are probably not going to agree on every aspect of each other's belief systems.  I also believe the Bible when it says that we are one body, with many parts; and that God may reveal, through His Spirit, one aspect of Himself, while revealing an additional facet of His Character to another.  But it is very important to do your homework, and to know exactly what groups and movements and theological camps believe ... and then to compare it to Scripture.  The Bible tells us that the Church will become "apostate" in the latter days, and it is incumbent upon each of us to be wise and discerning, so that we do not fall away from God's Truth.
     So, let's get down to the basics ... the New Apostolic Reformation Movement (NAR) appears to be a loose collection of non-denominational and independent churches rallying around a particular set of biblical interpretations.  Primary to their belief system seems to be the idea that God is raising up a new order of apostles and prophets who have been commissioned by Him to affect our culture and society.  Furthermore, the NAR movement teaches that because God’s intended form of church governance is apostles and prophets, their leadership status is over evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Only now, as the church is properly guided by these appropriate spiritual leaders, can it fulfill its commission from Jesus. This commission is seen as more than spiritual, as it includes cultural and political control.
     If my research is correct, they believe as the church unifies behind the apostles, these leaders will develop greater and greater supernatural powers. Eventually, this will include the ability to perform mass healings and suspend the laws of physics. Prophets in the New Apostolic Reformation are almost as important as apostles. These people have been empowered to receive “new” revelations from God that will aid the church in establishing dominion. (According to the New Apostolic Reformation, only prophets, and occasionally apostles, can obtain new revelations. Evangelists, pastors, and teachers cannot). The prophets’ new revelations are crucial to overcoming the world, and the success of the church depends on the apostles following through on the information prophets provide.
     On the surface, this movement might not seem too dangerous.  For sure, prophecy played an important part in the Old Testament, and those prophecies have been accurately fulfilled.  And, I will agree that far too many pastors ignore the Bible prophecy that exists in the New Testament; specifically Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation.  In fact we are told there are those pastors like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren who don't "feel called" to preach on the the End Times prophecies because "it frightens people and keeps them from living a victorious life right now" (Osteen); and "those who focus on Bible prophecy are not fit for the Kingdom of God" (Warren).
     Here is where I stand ... Prophecy is important, and God gave us the prophecy He wants us to have and understand in Scripture (in both the Old and New Testaments).  On more careful examination and discernment, I don't see Scripture telling me that God will give us new prophets in these days.  And the NAR seems [to me] to put too much emphasis on man's sovereignty in bringing about the return of Jesus.  It's as if they are saying our commission from Jesus is to control every sphere of influence on earth, so we can bring about a sort of Utopia that they define as the Kingdom of God on earth.
     But is that really what Jesus commanded us to do in what is called The Great Commission?  In my opinion that commandment was explicitly expressed in Acts 1:8, when Jesus tells His disciples, you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth, and when He reiterates His command in Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you.  
     According to New Apostolic thinking, mankind lost its dominion over earth as part of the fall of Adam. So Jesus’ First Coming and His sacrifice on the cross not only resolved our sin debt, but it empowered mankind—specifically, Christians—to retake control of the earth. The New Apostolic Reformation sees seven areas in which believers are supposedly empowered and expected to dominate: government, arts, finances, education, religion, family, and media. Of these, the New Apostolic Reformation sees government as the most important because of its ability to influence all of the other facets of life. As a result, the New Apostolic Reformation overtly encourages Christian control over politics, culture, and business.
     While I cannot dispute that if we modeled our lives on the way Jesus lived His, we would naturally influence these spheres, I do not see the Great Commission as a commandment to dominate these physical sectors of our society.  I interpret both passages in Acts and Matthew as Jesus giving us a spiritual mission to reach the hearts and minds of people; not an earthly mission to control our culture.  Notice that the power comes from the Holy Spirit, not from man ... it is a spiritual mission!  That is what the Bible says.
     The Bible tells us that the Kingdom of God is not based on talk, put on power (1 Corinthians 4:20); it is not brought about by man's efforts, but exists in spiritual power.  Jesus, Himself, said in Mark 7:6-7, "These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men".  And again, Paul tells us, "for the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [what one likes], but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It's spiritual!  We are not to involve ourselves with the affairs of the world, but to win souls (hearts, minds, emotions) for Christ!  Didn't the Early Church of Acts disengage from the affairs of their world and turn to spiritual power to win the hearts and minds of unbelievers?
     Who among us is not concerned about the economy and the upcoming election and the effects they will have on our physical lives and those of coming generations?  And I have been hearing more talk about Pastors who have decided to challenge the "separation of church and state" that has been followed for several decades, and engage their congregations with their "moral duty" to vote "their conscience".  But I have to ask you this:  Is that part of our commission from our Lord?  Does who is President really matter to your mission to win souls for Christ?  Does your power and authority come from whoever is President ... or from Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  If we are be to like Jesus, whose business must we be occupied with?  This world's, or God's?
     Did God give Jesus power and influence to affect the political scene in Judea and Jerusalem; did He attempt to change the educational system in the synagogues; did He engage with those responsible for the financial system among the Jews?  The Bible tells us to imitate Christ, whom "God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with great power; [so that] He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him." (1 Corinthians 11:1).  THAT IS OUR MISSION!
     I want to wrap up my discussion with the hope that I have not misrepresented this movement, because I know how a word here or there can totally distort what one believes; I have been misinterpreted and misunderstood numerous times.  And I sincerely believe that Christians who count themselves as adherents to the NAR movement believe they are interpreting Scripture correctly.  And do I think it will affect their salvation or eternity in Heaven with our Lord?  No.  But, in the end, I am concerned with putting too much emphasis on changing physical situations in the world.  After all, it is not the physical condition of the world that is a sign of the Kingdom of God.  It is the spiritual condition of those who will receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  And it is that spiritual condition of all mankind that we should be seeking to change.

John 18:36    Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

September 14, 2016

You Can Never Hear It Enough: We Are Called to Freedom

     Once again, someone who has been freed from their spiritual bondage has asked if they could share their testimony.  I will never turn down an opportunity for anyone to hear of the Power and Authority of Jesus over the darkness of slavery to our Adversary.  There is hope in this testament of personal struggle, and affirmation that you can be delivered from the deception, schemes, lies, and outright attacks designed to rob you of who you were made to be.  People who have experienced the freedom that Jesus offers can say it better than I ever can.  So, read these wise and authentic words and let your spirit respond to them.  It is for this kind of freedom, that Jesus came to die for us.

     I am at a place where I can look back on all the terrible events of my life and not feel pain. I gave my pain to Jesus and stopped looking back. I would like to share some of my story, because I couldn’t ever find anyone who could understand what was going on inside me. My goal in sharing is to help others see that it is possible to get free, and stay free. Please know you are not alone.
     A little background ... I was raised in a church. I attended youth groups and went through confirmation. I had perfect attendance at Sunday school most years. I even taught Sunday school when I was old enough. Sadly, I never had any kind of relationship with God. Looking back, I’m not sure many people there did. I think we were all just part of a church, and we did what was expected by our family and community. I never heard anything about demons, that’s for sure!
     From the outside looking in, my family looked just as normal as anyone else’s. We went to church every Sunday, participated in community events, and we were pretty well known because one of my parents worked at the school. Nobody knew what my life was like, and for a long time I had no idea there was anything wrong with it.
     My parents were alcoholics. I lived in fear of the next time that they would drink so much that they would become violent with each other, or worse, me. My father turned a blind eye to his friends sexually abusing me for years. My mom turned a blind eye to my brother physically abusing me as well. When I was still pretty young my father died, and my mother began bringing home any man she could find at the bar. When I told her one of them was being inappropriate she didn’t believe me. I saw rejection everywhere I turned.
     The feelings I had led to my own self-destructive behavior. I started cutting when I was about 12. I would sit in my room for hours carving away at my flesh. It was the only thing I knew to do to numb the pain I felt. Then I started drinking. My parents provided alcohol to me and any of my friends that wanted it. I was able to numb my pain that way for a while. The problem with cutting and drinking was the pain always came back, and usually worse.
     My next attempt to numb my pain was sex. A married teacher of mine offered to have sex with me and I took him up on it. I thought if I could find someone that cared about me I would feel better. Obviously, a married man 20+ years older than me did not care about me at all, but I couldn’t see it at the time. I did whatever he wanted seeking his approval, but of course I never got it. It just made me feel worse and worse about myself.
     The first time I was raped, it was by a guy that I had gone on a date with. After the date we went to the place he was staying to make out, and he didn’t stop. I blamed myself for letting it go too far before telling him no. He told me it was my fault. I fought him, and when he was strangling me I realized that if I continued to fight he would probably kill me. For a year I kept that to myself, festering like a sore, until I just couldn’t keep it contained anymore. I wanted to hear that it wasn’t my fault.
     Statistics show that after someone is raped it is highly likely they will be raped again. Well that held true for me. I was raped by a group of 3 men at work. As a result, I got pregnant. It was the most horrific thing I could imagine. I hated who I was. I hated the thoughts that I had. I wanted to die.
     Throughout all these things I began to dislike God more and more. I couldn’t understand why he was letting these terrible things happen to me over and over again. I didn’t know what I did to deserve the things that were happening to me. I couldn’t talk about any of it, so nobody understood. I tried to lock it all away, but it would all come back like a flood and there was nothing I could do to control any of it. I tried to read scripture but I literally couldn’t make myself open the Bible.
     A good friend introduced me to Belle and her husband, and I thought they were all crazy. I had never heard of these demons they talked about and I didn’t want to do the work they seemed to think was necessary for me to be free. I was afraid to scare them away if I told them how truly bad it was. I gave them little snippets, hoping to not run them off. In retrospect I think they understood what was going on better than I did. I told them that I had a switch inside me that I couldn’t control. When the switch flipped I wouldn’t want help anymore. That happened several times. I would just completely shut down and get very defensive with them. I knew they were only trying to help, but I just couldn’t prevent that switch from flipping. I also knew without a doubt that I wanted help, but I didn’t know how to make them understand that. One day as I was leaving, after basically wasting everyone’s time, I got to my car and realized I just couldn’t leave. I sat in the dirt and stared at the chickens for a very long time. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Leaving felt like giving up on myself, but staying wasn’t an option either.
     A few months later I had a near death experience, and realized that I couldn’t die like I was living. I didn’t want to spend eternity in hell. It was time to get free, no matter what it took.
     I called and talked to Belle’s husband, who seemingly has the patience of a saint. I cried and begged him for one more chance, and for some reason they gave it to me. Walking in the door that day I knew I was going to come out a different person. They walked me through some of the exercises. The biggest for me was replaying those terrible events from my past and seeing Jesus physically present at each one. In some scenes he would be sitting in the corner, sometimes standing right beside me, but always weeping. He couldn’t make those terrible things stop, but seeing Him cry for me changed everything. He loves me the way I always wanted to be loved. I never got that love from my parents, or the men that I slept with. I finally could stop seeking that, because now I knew what unconditional love was. I was finally at peace with the things that had happened to me. I was able to forgive those people that had hurt me, even the ones that never asked for it. I got free that day, and I will never go back to that old me!
     Today, my life is so much different. I sleep at night. I don’t stress over things I can’t control. I give my problems to God. I have the most amazing relationship with Him. Most importantly, I cannot wait to see Him in the throne room because I know I am saved.

     I know that this may have been hard for some of you to read... it is raw, sometimes brutal, and very emotional.  But it is not uncommon.  It makes me sad that so many Christians are suffering pain and spiritual wounds because they have not been taught that satan can use not only your sins, but the sins of others that have been committed against you, to keep you in spiritual bondage.  Could Jesus intervene and stop the abuse?  Absolutely!  But one of God's sovereign characteristics is that He does not interfere with the free will of those He has created -- even if it means we might be damaged in the process.  To do otherwise, would not glorify Him when we allow Him to show us that He was present during our pain.  And in the process, He helps us to forgive those who have sinned against us, just as we want to be forgiven our own sins.  And we come out the other side of Deliverance a changed person; a transformed person; a free person.  Praise God for His Sovereignty and His Abounding Love!

Ephesians 2:8         “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”

September 12, 2016

Burning Man 2016: Can A Christian Find God At A Pagan Celebration?

"DaVinci's Workshop"
Burning Man 2016 Theme
    Once again, the images coming out of the festival called Burning Man remind me of a New Age Woodstock; or as one attendee described it, "It's kind of like the Star Wars bar scene in a Mad Max movie". It is variably called, "a counter-culture phenomenon"; "the largest pagan celebration in the world"; and "an experience of spiritual connection".  But connection to what, or whom?
    Larry Harvey, the founder of the Burning Man Festival on the Summer Solstice in 1986 says, "I've never believed in a Supreme Being, but I do believe that Being is Supreme.  That's a subtle distinction; but a spiritual notion".  Really?!?!  Harvey, in case you haven't guessed, is a self-professed atheist, and his statement has about as much substance as "the nothingness" in which he believes.
     But an interesting fact about Burning Man appears to be that more and more Christians are attending, and I was curious to see how the event was represented, both from a cultural perspective and a spiritual viewpoint.  This year's theme was Da Vinci's Workshop, and the symbol of this year's festival was DaVinci's Vitruvian Man.
     The Burning Man website described the 2016 festival as "inspired by the Italian Renaissance, when an historic convergence of inspired artistry, technical innovation and enlightened patronage launched Europe out of medievalism and into modernity. Our story will focus on ... humanist ideals, a rediscovery of science, and funding from a newly moneyed class of entrepreneurs [which will fund] a revolutionary cultural movement that [will] redefine Western civilization. Five centuries later, we will attempt to recreate this potent social alchemy by combining Burning Man art, maker culture and creative philanthropy to make Black Rock City the epicenter of a new renaissance."  I think I can sum up that high-sounding characterization in a few words ... Man as Creator; creating a bridge between science and spirituality.
     DaVinci himself called his symbol "The Magical Proportions of Man", and explained it like this:  "The outstretched arms and legs of a man form a square and a circle: the square symbolizes the solid physical world and the circle the spiritual and eternal. Man bridges the gap between these two worlds."   So ... I wanted to know how it was possible to seek true spirituality while attending a festival that is described as "notoriously hedonistic. There are naked people, and a lot of sex, drugs, alcohol, and all-night raves. But for many, Burning Man is also a spiritual pursuit."
     I read over a half-dozen accounts (and watched a documented film version) of people claiming to be Christian, who have attended the Festival over the last few years, and I guess I wasn't surprised to find a wide difference of opinion.   Here is what George Otis Jr., president of The Sentinel Group (a Christian research agency), wrote of his experience in the year 2000:  "On Saturday night, the hell-themed [festival] reached its crescendo in the form of a drama....These people were literally celebrating the fact that one day they would enter hell. To simulate their journey, the camp’s center stage was transformed into the "Vestibule of Hell." The guest of honor was none other than "Papa Satan."....As the lecherous Papa Satan bowed in mock chains before a placard reading "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," a group called "Idiot Flesh," [supposedly Christians] dressed as hooded executioners, began to play a discordant dirge accompanied by flashing strobes. When the crowd started its torchlight procession toward the Gates of Hell and an eerie, sculpted castle called The City of Dis, I sensed an unmistakable chill in the air. Our march had been joined by unseen, malevolent guests....nudist and a moving sea of devil banners [also] moved around us....At the tri-tower City of Dis, our descent into the Inferno reached a demonic sanctuary....While massive loudspeakers pumped out a hellish bass tone accompanied by tormented screams....people dressed as demonic insects celebrated by copulating with other captured souls. It was a scene that looked as if it had been plucked from a horrific nightmare. Mesmerized by the evocative music, the performers began to chant, "Devil’s delight, fire tonight!" Wood piles inside the towers of Dis were ignited, causing orange flames to belch forth from the eyes and mouths of demonic gargoyles built onto the turrets. As the heat became more intense, the entourage danced around the towers. Satan had defeated the church."
     Then in 2015, the website Christianity Today, featured an article written by Dr. Rick Richardson, an Anglican priest, and Associate Professor of Evangelicalism at Wheaton College, a Christian Liberal Arts college.  Dr. Richardson attended the festival at the invitation of his son, who did not connect with the organized church.  At first he saw the gathering as one big party, which he concedes it was, but soon found himself praying for a young woman whom he sensed had a broken heart.  I will let him finish telling you about his encounter:  "I prayed for the presence and power of God to heal her heart and fill her and use her in the lives of others. At the end of the prayer time, she wept and expressed that she had come 1000 miles to hear that word from God. I told her about Jesus’ love for her and she responded over the next several days, becoming open to Jesus for the first time in her life."  
A worshipper praying to her pagan god, Osiris,
at Burning Man 2013
     Dr. Richardson continued, "Here is one thing I have already discovered. Many of the people driving the rise of these new spiritualities that mix Buddhist, Hindu, Native American, and New Age ideas, come from the church. That’s right. They are the formerly churched. And they are not hostile to their background. Not at all. It just never captured them ... but [they] are still hungry for spiritual connection and meaning. Nature abhors a vacuum, and these new spiritualities are filling the spiritual vacuum left by unsatisfactory church connections."
     But what spirits are they connecting to?  Just because you're having a spiritual encounter, you can't assume it is with YHWH! Or maybe that doesn't really matter to the attendees!
     Then there was an interview on the documentary video I watched with a woman pastor in a tent called "The Freedom Lounge".  The film admitted that this was the "charismatic" flavor of the presence of the Church at Burning Man.  She said, "We invite [the people] to have an encounter with the One who made them.  When they meet the Holy Spirit, which we call the Spirit of Truth, they are rocked!  Personally, I am a follower of Jesus, and that's where my power comes from.  But I am seeing that there is a lot of anger here about the structure we put around the Church.  When we show them they can have a personal encounter, and feel the presence of that Love, and get filled up with it, then they have a spiritual connection that is very real".
     Okay, so that leaves me with a couple of questions ... Is the move from pure self-indulgence in 2000, towards spirituality in the last couple of years, centered in ecumenicalism?  In reality, isn't humanism what's really being worshipped?
     In my research, I had no problem finding quotes from attendees who expressed that they listened for the voice of "the Spirit", and had a spiritual encounter.  Remember the Anglican priest from Wheaton College, the Christian college?  He also said that many of the values of Burning Man are "worthy of Scripture, including radical inclusion (what Christians call grace!), community effort, civic responsibility, and leaving no trace on the environment. Burners also practice a culture of gifting (everyone brings a gift to the community, reminiscent of the Body of Christ) ....  If we can learn from spiritually diverse Burners why they have embraced new and alternative spiritualities, and if we can learn from Christian groups who are reaching them, maybe we could see a new Jesus movement in this decade, not unlike what happened in the 60s".
     But the question, for me, becomes who is influencing whom?  Because there is no room for compromise when it comes to the One True God.  So, is this just another attempt by "the Church" to appear accommodating to alternative spiritual paths?  And then there are the stories and images of attendees seeking portals; worshipping idols and false gods; making sacrifices to honor the earth ... all things that God detests.  Yes, we are to engage with the world by taking the message of Christ to them.  But I think we flirt with danger when our priority changes from speaking God's unyielding Truths to trying to understand and appeal to alternative spiritualities.
     Unfortunately, this approach is very appealing to our youth, the unchurched, and those recently disillusioned with religion.  But here's what it looks like to me:  Combining mysticism, rationalism, and humanism with an alternative form of Christianity in order to create a new definition of "church", "faith", or "spirituality" still looks like paganism to me.  And, in the end, I just have to ask, Does this please The Most High God?

Ezekiel 20:7    Then said I unto them, Cast away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

September 11, 2016

Daniel 3:4-6

Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “You are commanded, 
O peoples, nations, and speakers of every language, 
that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, 
pipe, lyre, trigon (four-stringed harp), dulcimer, bagpipe, 
and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not 
fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”

     I love it when I am reading my Bible and I discern a new layer being revealed.  Such was the case while reading the prophetic book of Daniel, Chapter 3.  There is so much in this mighty book that is difficult to comprehend, and each time I read it, I pray for more understanding.  
     I'm sure you recognize this passage as the beginning of the saga of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace.  It is a well-known story if you've grown up in the church, and is usually presented as displaying the courage of these men, who stood firm in their faith and were saved by the supernatural appearance of Jesus Christ in the midst of the furnace, proving that He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  That is an accurate representation, but it's only part of the story, and I love it when I can share something a little deeper.
     As I studied this familiar story, for the first time I noticed something that was different; something that had escaped me in all the other times I had read this account ... At the beginning of the chapter, we find King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon erecting a giant statue, and summoning all the governing agents of his Empire to a celebration of this structure.  As I read this ancient story, something told me there was more to the celebration than I had previously understood.  
     Notice in Chapter 3, verse 5 that when the government officials are all assembled that they are commanded, "at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon (four-stringed harp), dulcimer, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up."  That phrase of listing all the musical instruments is specifically repeated three more times within the next 10 verses.  For the first time, it struck me ... What was so important about the music?  And why was it mentioned so many times?
     After a little bit of research, I discovered that some Bible scholars believe that Lucifer was the highest of all angels, and since the angels never cease worshiping God (Revelation 4:8), he may have been the leader of that worship.  Scripture is not definitive; nowhere does it clearly state that Lucifer was in charge of the musical worship in heaven.  But, in reference to Lucifer, Isaiah 14:11 says, ‘Your pomp and magnificence have been brought down to Sheol, Along with the music of your harps [viols]; The maggots [which prey on the dead] are spread out under you [as a bed] And worms are your covering [Babylonian rulers].  This verse is speaking of his fall from heaven, and how all of the glory he had, and the gifts he had fell with him. "The noise of your viols" seems to indicats the stringed instruments he had charge over.
     Then we have Ezekiel 38:13, which says, “You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and your sockets,[translated as timbrels and pipes, or tambourines] was in you. They were prepared on the day that you were created.  Could this be suggesting that Lucifer was, basically, a walking, talking musical instrument?  Could it be possible that Lucifer contained something akin to musical instruments – the tambourine, the flute, and the harp all within the confines of his own body? Since Lucifer is a created being, I guess he could have been created with instruments to provide beautiful music for none other than the glorification of God. And being the most authoritative and superior angel that he was might also have been the angel of music.  All this is speculation, of course.  Scripture is unclear, but this idea has bearing upon the rest of what happens in Chapter 3.  
     I think we can all agree that the fallen angel Lucifer, who becomes satan, the prince of this world, seeks to have humanity follow and worship him rather than the One True God, the Most High God.  And with this understanding, we often see him influencing earthly rulers such as Antiochus Epiphanes, or Hitler, or Stalin.  If we see him as a powerful spiritual influence behind King Nebuchadnezzar, then can you see him moving through Nebuchadnezzar to honor himself?  Can you accept the possibility that this giant statue, which everyone is forced to bow down to and worship, accompanied by this lavish orchestration of music, is satan's attempt to glorify himself through the commands of a man he has control over?  Wouldn't this have been the way he would have liked to be worshiped if he had usurped God's throne in heaven?
      Then consider the rest of the story ... in verses 8-12, there is repetition of the command for a great display of musical worship, and those who do not bow down will be "cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace".  As I read this, I wondered if this wasn't satan mocking God -- or at least imitating Him in reverse.  Instead of those who reject and rebel against YHWH being thrown into "the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 21:8), the devil is declaring that those who do not bow down and worship the idol that represents him will die in the midst of a fiery furnace.  It all points to a counterfeit worship and punishment  scenario.  
    But the attempt to use Nebuchadezzar to glorify satan fails.  The God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego protects them in the fiery furnace.  In fact, the three men declare that their God is able to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace, and out of the hand of their enemy.  And that is just what He does, as a fourth figure is seen in the furnace with them; a figure like the Son of God, walking in the midst of the fire, and no one is harmed.  And that is just what our Savior does ... meets us in the midst of our struggles and delivers us from the fires of hell! 
     And how does this Chapter end?  Nebuchadnezzar sees that the fire had no power upon the bodies of the men; nor was any hair on their heads singed, and no scent of smoke or fire lingered on them or their clothes.  And what does the mighty King of Babylon declare?  "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, who has sent His Angel and delivered His servants that trusted in Him.  He saw that these faithful men did not yield their faith to any man, and would not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.  King Nebuchadnezzar then decreed that no one could speak a negative word against the God of these faithful Jewish men, because there is no other God that can deliver like this.  
     The end of the story is that Nebuchadnezzar no longer sounds like a man dominated by satan, but a man who has seen the evidence of the One True God.  And that is the power of the Living God... to make His presence and His power and His authority known in the midst of the darkness of this world.  No matter how hard he tries, satan will never topple His Kingdom -- on earth or in heaven!