A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

April 23, 2017

Mark 7:9, 13

He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition ... making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. Many such things you do".

     The context in which this Scripture is written concerns certain of the Pharisees and Scribes finding fault with Jesus's disciples because they did not observe the tradition of hand-washing before eating. Furthermore, Scripture tells us that this tradition of external washing carried over to the washing of cups, pots, tables, and anything that the Jews felt could defile them.
     Jesus takes this opportunity to reprove them for worshipping Him with their lips, but not with their hearts. But this kind of worship is in vain [producing no fruit], and He admonishes them for teaching the commandments of men as doctrine.  He then tells them that it is apparent that they are willing to lay aside the commandments of God -- to disregard and neglect them -- in order that they might cling faithfully to their man-made traditions (Mark 7:8).  In verse 9, He then takes it one step further and bluntly tells them they are experts at the outright rejection and nullifying of God's word in favor of their traditions! Our Lord then sums it up in verse 13 by declaring that they are making the word of God have no effect through the traditions they have handed down. In other words, He accuses them of canceling the authority of the word of God in favor of their own traditions and doctrines.  
    My question to Believers today is this ... Aren't we just as guilty?  Haven't we gotten so caught up in ritual and traditions and doctrines that we have disregarded and neglected the word of God?  How much of our "faith" is centered around oral traditions that have been passed down in our denominations, yet there is no Scriptural support for them?  How many Christians will passionately defend their belief systems of Cessationism, Calvinism, and Replacement Theology -- yet use the words or writings of men as their primary source to re-interpret the Bible? I am not saying that these writings are worthless or that we should not consider them, but when they become the foundation of our theology, rather than the Bible, then aren't we diminishing the power and effectiveness of the Word of God?
     How many Christians cling faithfully to following the traditions of Christmas and Easter, when there is no mention of either in the Bible?  What about the doctrine of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture? Why are Christians so willing to accept the postulations of men instead of searching the Bible for what God actually says or commands?
     Those are the "heavy" doctrines of men, but we are just as guilty of creating our own worship rituals that are as vain as the external washing practiced by the Pharisees.  Where in the Bible do you find God commanding us to establish Church buildings, a structured order of worship services, Sunday School, Sermons from a head Pastor or Preacher, or Church Boards or Councils?  Think very hard before you answer that question ... I am not denigrating the purpose of these institutions, just asking if they were initiated by man or God?
     I understand that it is difficult to admit that man has created his own rituals and called them "from God".  We need to come to the truth and reality that rituals like Sunday School is a very recent man-made concept to “classroom-ize” that which Jesus and the Apostles purposely brought out of the classroom mentality of the Jews and the Greeks! Pastors and Preachers come from Luther's Protestant version of Sunday Mass. And steeples, bells, altars, Mission Boards, and structured Worship Services did not characterize Christianity in the First Century, showing us that the Apostles did not receive instruction from Jesus to establish them. 
     Instead we find these external symbols, along with weightier doctrines, to be the doctrines of men in the churches of men.  I believe, as was written on a website called jesuslifetogether.com, that Jesus intended for His Church to be a church that is not bound by time and place, but “daily in public, and from house to house.” She’ll be “joined and knit together by every supporting ligament,” everyone members of one-another,” “confessing sins one to another,” “admonishing one another daily so that none are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” always loving and serving and “bearing one-another’s burdens” in joy and thanksgiving. And a few tears. Her corporate gatherings will only be the overflow of what is happening on the streets and in the homes of all of her people. “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own.”
     Does this describe The Church today?  Or are Christians limited by the traditions established in their particular denominations and in their singular buildings?  Are our churches "seeking first The Kingdom of God"? Or are we too pre-occupied with our own conceptions of what God wants?  
     Sadly, I think that we have chosen to disregard Jesus's commandments about the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.  That was the purpose for which He was sent.  Yes, our salvation is a by-product of the Kingdom, and we should earnestly seek it through faith in Jesus as our Savior.  But how have we come to refuse the authority of His Word as spoken in Mark 16:15-18 ... And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
     Our Lord's commandment couldn't be any clearer, yet have we heard this message presented as Biblical doctrine in our churches?  Or are we too busy trying to justify man's doctrines, by either ignoring Scripture or re-interpreting it?  Which do you think is better -- man's version of our Commission, or God's?  Seems to me, that we have our proof in the sad state of our culture and the world. Where is the verifiable fruit of worshipping God in our own way?  
     The Prophet Isaiah declared that the Word of God would “not return void.” But we have seen that Jesus elaborated further and with powerful implications. Our Lord taught us that there was yet ONE thing that could make null and void the Word of God in your life: “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that”.  This a sobering thought and one that I hope every Christian takes to heart.

April 21, 2017

The Loss Of Faith In This Generation

     Those of us, who are of a certain age, remember the famous statement by Ronald Reagan: Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction... The same can be said of Faith, which is its own kind of freedom, wouldn't you say?  And while I do not agree with Christian Apologist Ken Ham on his "Young Earth Creationist" theory, I am in full agreement with what he wrote on his website, Answers in Genesis.  Mr. Ham said, "Every generation has the same decision to make: Will I serve the God of the Bible or a false god? The “god of this world” may shift his seductions slightly from generation to generation, but the basic challenge is always the same. So, Christians must be ever vigilant. Every newborn must be taught the truth from scratch or else that soul could be completely lost. While statistics indicate that churches and Christian homes are failing to reach kids, God has given us all the resources we need to turn the tide!"     
     Sadly, I believe this generation of young adults is on the verge of succumbing to a most clever seduction of the Enemy.  Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., who serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, supports this theory by explaining, "When Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers, they found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."  
     Exactly what are the foundations of such a belief system?  1) A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.  2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.  3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one's self.  4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.  5) Good people go to heaven when they die.
     As you can see, this is a belief system based on the premise that "the self" is primary, and God is an appendage to the lives we live.  He's there, but only when we need Him; like a "Medicine Cabinet God".  And you can see touches of Gnosticism in these beliefs too: the goal is to be happy, and pleased with yourself; Faith is subjective (personal, individual, emotional, instinctive, intuitive); there is no recognition of God's superiority or Jesus's sacrifice for our sins -- all we have to do is "be Good". 
      In other words, this is very close to the same lies and seduction that Satan offered Adam and Even in the Garden: That the Word (Bible) is not reliable (allowing for doubt and distortion); That God doesn't have our best interests in mind, (if I follow His rules, I won't have any fun in this life!); and That your sin isn't all that bad (God knows I'm a good person overall and that's what counts).  In essence, our latest generation is believing the lie that Satan told Eve:  Be your own God!
      After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the University of North Carolina researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and “whatever.” As the researchers explained, “For most teens [and I would surmise young adults], nobody has to do anything in life, including anything to do with religion. ‘Whatever’ is just fine, if that’s what a person wants.”
     It's abundantly obvious -- most Millennials can tell you more details than you want to know about the lives of favorite musicians and television/movie stars, or about what it takes to get into a good college, but most are not very clear on who Moses and Jesus were.  And with this conclusion, it is equally obvious that our culture has not followed God's commandment to "train up" the next generation.  He says it over and over in the Bible ... when God miraculously enabled Joshua to lead the people through the Jordan River, the first thing He told Joshua to do was to take twelve stones from the riverbed to build a memorial. But what was the memorial for? God wanted Joshua to explain, "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know . . . the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over . . . that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:21–24).  The stones were to remind the parents to make sure they taught the next generation about the true God. They were instructed to pass on the knowledge and fear of God to their children.
     But, as a nation and a culture, I'm afraid we have failed to do this.  When we took God, the Bible, and prayer out of our public schools, [and failed to establish them in our homes], we are left with generations of kids who have no foundational knowledge of God and His Word, and once in college and living on their own, they are likely to abandon Him altogether.  What's even more sad to me is that both these kids and their parents have not been taught apologetics ((how to give a reasoned defense of the Christian faith) in their homes or churches, so they don’t believe it themselves and certainly can’t defend it to others. 
     In effect, this theory of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism boils down to a couple of ideas ... It's all about individualism (let's not be judgmental, and everything is relative to the individual); and just "being nice" is central to living a good and happy life and being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible, at work on self-improvement, taking care of one’s health, and doing one’s best to be successful.  Just like Satan taught:  Be your own god!
     As the researchers explained, “This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of sovereign divinity, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, et cetera. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. [young adults] is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.”
     But that's not what God commanded us to teach the next generation!  In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, He tells us, "These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." Instead, we have allowed ourselves to be seduced by Satan:  Don't listen to God! He just wants it to be all about Him!  I'm offering you an easier, more pleasant faith that is way more tolerant and undemanding. Instead of doctrines of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, and heaven and hell, I am offering you a life on this earth [now] centered on happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward (but that's later, you don't have to worry about it now). 
    By now, it should be obvious that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a faith in "self", not Faith in God.  We tend to treat spiritual problems with a medicinal treatment plan.  Sin, and the Wrath and Justice of God, are terms that don't fit in well with our modern language and goal of self-actualization (the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities). 
     So how do we reach a generation that is falling away from Faith in Jehovah God, as well as a nation that largely considers itself Christian, yet has very little knowledge or experience in Biblical Christianity?  It is apparent that we need to return to the directives God has given us in His Word... We must be earnest and persistent in teaching our children what the Bible says about God, so that they know WHAT they believe, WHY they believe it, and HOW to defend the Faith against the attacks of today's secular culture.  Then we have a generation that can proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with AUTHORITY, because they believe by Whose Authority it stands.  
     They must be taught what "Faith in Christ" means... to know what it means to "Be Saved" and to "Walk with God", and all from a Biblical perspective, using God's own words!  We must answer their hard questions about sin in our culture and what happens when you die without knowing Jesus as your Savior.  We cannot give them more tolerant and permissive answers.  They must be taught Truth as God presents it in His Word -- not what the popular opinion is.  Once they accept the Bible as true, and the Authority of the One who inspired it to be written, then the world, with all its challenges, will begin to make sense to them. They need to see the reality of sin, and know God's Grace and Mercy, as well as His Judgment.  
     Once this generation knows [and believes] the Gospel Message that Christ died for us, was buried, and rose again with a promise of salvation to all those who have faith in Him, they will know that the power of that Gospel to save sinners rests on the authority of God's Word.  They will then need to be encouraged to boldly proclaim that Gospel to a lost world -- something that we have failed to do for several generations, and our society and nation are suffering for it.  But it is not too late!  We must replace the religion of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism with a genuine Faith in Jesus Christ by committing to instructing our children and grandchildren as God, the Father commanded us.  If we plant the seeds of the knowledge and authority of God through His Word, our Father and the Holy Spirit will be faithful to water them. It may take only one generation to lose Faith, but we can begin today to raise up the next one in Truth and Commitment to God and for the salvation of the world.  With God and His Word instructing us and them, how can we fail?

Judges 2:10-12  All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.  Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger.  


April 19, 2017

Freemasonry And The God-Shaped Hole: A Personal Testimony

     I very rarely reprint another's writing verbatim, but because of what I believe is the destructive power of Freemasonry in a person's life, I embrace this personal testimony as worthy of your consideration.  
     I have ministered to people who have Freemasonry in their family line and seen the devastation it can cause; even unto death. And I have personally witnessed the freedom that comes when those blood oaths are removed and grown women soar in their new identities as Daughters of God; when the light comes into a young child's eyes, and what was once a nearly non-verbal state is transformed into vitality and boyish energy; and when men who have suffered from inferior [and worthless] self-identities their whole lives discover that the Son of God truly loves and cherishes them.
     I will be honest -- my stance on Freemasonry has cost me in the Church.  Christians whose much-beloved fathers or grandfathers were Freemasons don't exactly want to hear about the dark side of this organization.  They don't want to believe that their relatives' activities could be seen as rejecting God. And granted, there are some lower members of the organization that probably have no idea of what the higher levels of the Order engage in, but no Christian [at any level] should be ignorant of the fact that other deities are acceptable in Freemason Lodges.  As a Christian, one cannot [by word or deed] dispute that Jesus is the only Way!
     So, it is with gratitude, that I present the testimony of Christian and former Freemason Jay Lloyd. When I felt it necessary, you will find my commentary in italics.

     I grew up attending a Southern Baptist Church.  Like many of my peers, I could quote scripture and I thought I knew all about Christianity.  However, looking back, I can see that my faith really fell into the category of moralistic therapeutic deism (PK's explanation: God is a principled God who makes me feel good about myself -- a topic I will discuss on Friday).  I was not a Christian nor was I spiritually satisfied.  I was a teenager in the seventies and one of the big questions of that period was “What’s it all about, man?”  I thought there was something bigger in life than religion and that all religions were basically the same, kind of like ice cream – just pick your flavor.  As I came into adulthood, I was searching for something that was transcendent, something that had a weightier meaning and a greater purpose than what I encountered in my mundane workday life.  I came to believe that I could find fulfillment in the Masonic Order.
     I come from a long line of Masons.  All of my uncles (on both sides), one grandfather, one great grandfather, and one great- great- grandfather were Freemasons.  (PK: Mason membership is actively sought throughout family lines). Since my family members were so involved and since I was searching spiritually, the Craft appealed to me.  I had been taught that masons looked after each other in business and personal affairs. That kind of brotherhood was attractive.  So, at the age of 24, I asked a friend from work who was a Freemason how I could become one. He submitted my application and I was voted into the Order in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  It was there that I completed my Entered Apprentice Degree.  Before I could progress further, I moved.  My Fellowcraft, and Master Mason degrees were conferred upon me in Jacksonville, Florida at Mandarin Lodge no. 343.
     In order to be initiated into the degrees of Blue Lodge, I had to swear to keep secret the tenets and rituals of Freemasonry.  I swore blood oaths to do so.  (PK: Oaths and vows in the Bible are associated with offerings and sacrifices. And the Bible states that the life of a creature is in the blood.  But who are these oaths dedicated to; upon whose altar are you offering yourself; and which "god" are you offering your blood to?) The swearing of these blood oaths was required.  I remember in particular that one oath involved my being hung by the neck where the tide ebbed and flowed twice in 24 hours, my throat being slit from ear to ear, and my body being hung for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air to devour so there might be no more remembrance of me whatsoever should I divulge the secrets of Freemasonry.  I was instructed and given secret words and handshakes at each level. The placement of the thumb moved from the first knuckle to the second and finally the third through each degree. The only secret word I remember was the Master Mason word which was “Ma-Ha-Bone.”
     The whole order is built around the legend of an ancient extra-biblical character named Hiram Abiff [who was allegedly involved in] the building of Solomon’s temple. This supposedly biblical legend gives Masonry a perception of legitimacy to religious men.   I remember going through the degrees and thinking and hoping that the next degree would be the one that would finally satisfy the longing I had to find some kind of real meaning. Disappointment came when I was “raised” from figurative death to the degree of Master Mason.  (PK: Do you see the counterfeit substitution for our resurrection in Christ)? It was really a big letdown. I was encouraged to go further into the higher degrees of Masonry, through the Shriners, but these degrees were considered more honorary and I was disillusioned by this point anyway. (PK: More "honorary" degrees is what the Masons may represent the Shriners as, but when they take an oath to the false god Allah, as the god of their fathers, then "dishonorable" and "disgraceful" is a more apt description). 
     Within two years of joining the Order, my wife gave birth to our second child and my dad died. I remember going fishing with a friend of my dad’s on the day after his funeral.  While we were fishing he said, “Hey all that stuff about Heaven and Hell, it don’t matter.  It’s how you live your life, that’s what matters.”  I agreed with my mouth, but my heart and mind were screaming, “All that matters is heaven and hell!”  When my daughter was 6 weeks old, my in-laws came to town and it was time to go to church. I had agreed to raise my family in the church and they held me to my promise. We visited a local church.  The congregation sang a song of greeting:
“Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh how He loves you and me. He gave his life, what more could he give?
Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.
Jesus to Calvary did go, His love for sinners to show.  What He did there brought hope from despair".
      Everyone was smiling and greeting one another while I just wanted to cry. That Sunday the preacher preached on the Prodigal Son. I didn’t know if I was prodigal or if I even believed but I knew I needed to; I came to Christ in that service.  From that day my life changed.  The way I saw things changed.  Masonry no longer drew me.  About six months after I came to Christ, the Worshipful Master Mandarin Lodge no. 343 came to me and asked me why I hadn’t paid my Masonic dues.  I told him that I had become a Christian and had found the real meaning of life. He said there was nothing contrary to this in Freemasonry. I said, “Great, I will be at the next meeting and get up and share with all present what had happened to me and the good news of salvation through Christ and Christ alone.”  He told me that I would not be allowed to do that.  (PK:  Any Mason may bring a book dedicated to his deity before the meeting and to the podium, but a Christian cannot declare that salvation is through Jesus alone.  In effect, Jesus is seen as just another god; equal on every level to any other god a Mason may worship, and to every false god in the universe). So, I told him that when I could I would gladly come and pay my dues. That was thirty-two years ago and I haven’t heard from him or them since.
     When a person gets his meaning and purpose from any source other than Jesus, it is just another form of [sic] works righteousness. Freemasonry involves rituals and secrets that give it a pseudo spirituality and meaning which can further harden an unregenerate person’s heart. Many of the people that are Freemasons -- in fact I would venture to say a majority -- see their affiliation with the Order as giving them merit before their fellow man and, most disturbingly, before God.
     My conclusion on the matter of Freemasonry comes from Ephesians 5:3-13 ... But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you".
     To any man that claims the name of Jesus and is involved with this cult, I encourage you to separate yourself and repent. I am not judging you; I am judging an activity that I know to be heretical and anti-Christian.  It is a false righteousness that is leading many to a sinners Hell because of a reliance on something other than Christ and His sacrifice for you to be right with God.   Like all cults, it is full of sincere “good” people. They are sincerely wrong.
     I pray my experience will serve to help others to leave the cult and give Christians ammunition to dialogue with friends and loved ones who are trapped in Freemasonry.

In Christ,


     I am extremely thankful to Mr. Jay Lloyd for his personal testimony and to Seth Dunn at the website "Pulpit and Pen" for publishing this exposé.  Sadly, Freemasonry has infiltrated the Church and led many good Christian men and women astray (women are encouraged to join the Eastern Star appendant body to the Free Mason Lodge). Freemasonry is a secret organization and members hide their identities within the Church, often serving on Finance Committees and positions of leadership within the Church.  It is just one more way that the Enemy has penetrated God's House.  
     I'm sure that both Mr. Lloyd's testimony and my opinion will offend Christians who have no real idea of the truth. But I'm willing to take that chance, if it will wake one person up to seek the freedom that Jesus offers. If your family has been involved in Freemasonry, I would ask you to take a good hard look at the spiritual health of your family.  See any problems? Any secrets lurking in the shadows, or unspoken darkness that needs the Light of Jesus shined upon it?  There are often family secrets that are buried and never spoken about, but you know they are there ... incest, molestation, suicide, murder ... the list goes on.  Mr. Lloyd's testimony barely scratches the surface of the insidious bond between Freemasonry and the Dark Side.  I hope it will cause some serious introspection and a heartfelt desire to receive Jesus's Truth on this subject.

John 18:20:   Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret". 

April 17, 2017

Resurrection and Rebirth

     You might notice something different about my blog today... the Holy Spirit has been showing me that it is time to be my authentic self and reveal my real name.  Back when I began writing this blog in December of 2011 (it's hard to imagine that it's been that long ago!) I was writing from a different spiritual perspective.  Although I have always written for God, then my focus was on the experiences of this world and how my faith in God affected my interpretation of my worldview. Therefore, at the time, I thought it best to write under a pen name that invoked my self-proclaimed purpose [to awaken the sleeping masses and "ring the bell"] to get their attention. After all, who would be drawn to read a blog by a no-name woman, with no credibility. Thus, I came up with a name that described what I was trying to accomplish, and Belle Ringer was born.
    Now, more than five years later, my focus is on the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and my higher calling to be a true Child of God.  What happens in this world is secondary; although it still very much influences how I serve my God and fellow man -- I am in this world to reflect the image of Christ and to continue His works; but I am not of this world. It is time to speak in truth and genuineness... and therefore, time to be my real self ... Pam Kohler.  Granted, to the world my name still holds no credibility.  But to my God, who has known me since before the foundation of the world, it is who I honestly am; and I am not ashamed to proclaim Him to this world, using my legal name.
     But I also wanted to honor all the people who have trusted me and my husband, Mark -- people who have come to us in their true identities as hurting souls; people with spirits so low and tormented that we were often their last hope of getting free.  Make no mistake --- these people came to us not because they thought we could save them; but because somehow they knew our faith could support them until they could find Jesus on their own.  And we always made it clear that it is Jesus and the Holy Spirit who do the redemptive work -- not us!
     We are no different than anyone else. We have our own stories of sin-filled lives and emotional traumas. We still have to fight to keep from believing the lies that the Father of Lies would like to dump on us.  But God took us from our ordinary, worldly lives into an extraordinary spiritual relationship with Him, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  It has been a step-by-step process of seeing Them unpeeled like an onion; layer after layer bringing us into newfound freedoms from the bondage of the devil. And it is work that needs to be done in the lives of everyone Jesus created.
     It is rewarding work, yet at times exhaustive. We have seen people rise from the depths of torment to live new, resurrected lives of joy in the Lord.  We have also seen people slide back into torment when they don't take responsibility for keeping their freedom.  We have seen Unsaved people grab hold of Jesus, weep at the presence of the Holy Spirit, and soar like an eagle with their newfound faith.  At the same time, it has been our experience that lifelong Christians are the toughest ones to let Jesus heal their inner wounds.  The years of Church doctrine, man-made traditions, and flawed theology must all be broken down before the Saved are willing to let their spirits meet with Jesus. And we have, sadly, lost a young man who loved Jesus so deeply, accepted Jesus's forgiveness, yet could not forgive himself because he believed the devil's lie that he was unworthy of the Lord's sacrifice for him. We just ran out of time to help him. That day, Jesus wept, and so did we.
     The Enemy may think he scored a victory, and that we will be convinced that we are waging a losing [spiritual] war --- that we can't get to enough people to introduce them to the healing power of Jesus -- that the numbers of hurting souls are too great, and the scales are balanced in his favor.  But it is in honor of that young man, who trusted us enough to reveal his true self and allow us to help him pour out his pain to Jesus, that we will continue to battle the Darkness until our last breath.
     Because with every one of the people God has brought into our lives, we know without a doubt that Satan is real and spiritual attacks are genuine.  Whether you are Saved, Unsaved, or Ambivalent you are a target of the roaring lion who is looking for someone to devour.  But you only have to receive Jesus, the Son of the Living God, into your heart, believing that His death on the Cross paid for your sins, and you can have the hope of a resurrected life, just as He was resurrected to sit on the right hand of the throne of God.  There is no sin that cannot be covered by His blood!
     So, it is with extreme humbleness that I offer my authentic self to you, the readers, and I thank you for sticking by someone whom you did not really know through all these years.  I pledge to you that I will continue to reveal the Truth as my Lord and the Holy Spirit reveal it to me, and that I will always be here for those who need a listening ear and a willing heart. The [Spiritual] Harvest is plentiful, and the Lord can count on me and my husband to be faithful workers in the field of souls ... right to the very end.  God Bless You All!

Colossians 1:29    "For in this I also labor and fight with the help of the Power that is given to me". (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

April 16, 2017

1 Corinthians 15:19-20

If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

Ascension (John Singleton Copley, 1775)
     Today, I decided to take a look back at what I've written over the past 5-6 years about this momentous Day, and to compose an anthology [of sorts] of the important points I have wanted to make about the Resurrection of Christ.  Combined, this provides an overview of my theology and my faith. Here's to our hope of being raised in the imperishable image of our Lord!

     Today is the holiest day in Christianity. Known as Easter, it has come to mean the celebration of the resurrection of Christ three days after His crucifixion. It is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year because of what Christ did for us.  His willingness to pay the debt owed by all mankind throughout history, for the sins we have committed, culminates at the Cross.  He endured God's wrath [that we deserve] so that we could be forgiven our sins and reconciled with God, our Father in Heaven.  Christ's crucifixion and resurrection constitutes the single most important event upon which Christianity is based.
     All Christians should acknowledge that this day is in celebration of the restoration of our relationship with God.  Christ's resurrection represents so much:  He had finished the work His Father sent him to do; His death on the Cross completed His task, namely establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, and seeking and saving those who are lost.  Through these acts, Jesus provided atonement for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him (Romans 3:23-25).  None other than God in the flesh could accomplish such a task.
     But there's more!  Also completed was the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies, symbols, and foreshadowings of the coming Messiah. From Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of the Anointed One, all fulfilled by Jesus. From the “seed” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, to the prediction of the “messenger” of the Lord (John the Baptist) who would “prepare the way” for the Messiah --- all prophecies of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death were fulfilled and finished at the Cross.
     While I believe that all of Christianity worships this holiday in sincere faith, I am also convinced they do so influenced by Satan's deception.  Let me explain:  I have searched the Bible for any mention of a holiday called Easter ... I can find none.  But in 325 AD, Emperor Constantine, at the Nicean Council, ordered all Churches to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on "Easter Sunday".  The early Church had celebrated the Resurrection during the Passover, beginning on the 14th day of the Hebrew month called Nisan, which could fall on any day of the week.  But the Churches near Rome had abandoned the practice because they hated the Jews, blaming them for the death of Jesus, so they fixed the date to the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring, which coincided with the ancient Roman celebration called ‘Easter’, after the pagan goddess of Spring, Eostre. 
     It is important to note that during the first couple hundred years of the Early Church, believers followed the Jewish traditions of the Lord's Feasts.  But Constantine's Satan-induced hatred of the Jews caused the Jewish influence (in the form of the Feasts) to be erased from the Church.  Here is a direct quote from Constantine himself:   “And truly, in the first place, it seems to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should follow the customs of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches! having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds. It is fit, therefore, that rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first day of our "Lord's" passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews.” (Council of Nicea, pg. 52.)
     The consequences of this hostility towards the Jews has meant that nearly 2000 years after its establishment, the Church has lost the truth about God's commandments as to how we are to celebrate His Son's resurrection. And with this deception, we pay no attention to the Biblical connections.
     I understand that there are many Evangelical leaders who do not see the pagan influences in our celebration of Easter. And I want to make it clear ... I rejoice with my Christian brothers and sisters when they celebrate the reason for Easter.. that Christ died on the Cross for us, so that our sin debt would be paid and we can be found acceptable in the sight of our Holy God... and that He was resurrected as the first among us who believe in God's power to do so.  His resurrection is a mirror of what we will one day experience!  Hallelujah!
     I simply choose to see more in this celebration than what the Church has traditionally taught.  I have been blessed to have the Holy Spirit reveal that God's Feasts show His plan for mankind's redemption, and that the Feast of Firstfruits was God's instituted "rehearsal" for the harvest of Jesus's soul and His resurrection, and the promise that we will one day be a part of God's end-time harvest.
      This recognition in no way undermines the faith of those who want to celebrate Easter.  For me, I just see no Scriptural reference to a holy day celebration called "Easter" in Scripture; but I do see references to the Feast of Firstfruits and its implications of Christ's [and all Christians'] resurrection in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Romans, 1 Corinthians, James, and Revelation.
      The regulations for Firstfruits were outlined by God in Leviticus 23.  I would venture to say that most Christians skip this chapter of the Bible, labeling it as laws that pertained [only] to the ancient Israelites; too restrictive; too discriminatory; or just plain unnecessary for the modern Believer.
     But if you do a deep study of the Word, you will find so much significance for this season of worship.  Firstfruits was essentially the beginning of the grain harvest in Israel, and on this particular day a specific sheaf of barley, which had been marked for this occasion, was to be brought to the priest at the Temple, who would wave it (or exhibit it) before the Lord for acceptance. (Can you see Jesus hanging on the Cross?)  It was representative of the barley harvest as a whole and served as a pledge or guarantee that the remainder of the harvest would be realized in the days that followed.
     Accompanying this time of worship were other offerings to the Lord ... an unblemished male lamb, a drink offering of wine, and a meal offering of the barley flour mixed with olive oil (an unleavened bread).  Are you starting to get the picture?  During this holy season of worship, Jesus, our High Priest, can be seen in all the pictures of the Passover week ... as the sacrificial lamb; in the wine offering which represents His blood spilled for us; in the unleavened bread (leaven represents sin in the Bible and Jesus was without "leaven"); and as the climactic event, He is the First to be raised from the dead.  He is representative of the harvest of Believers as a whole, and His resurrection serves as a guarantee that all those who believe and trust on Him will be harvested to resurrected glory as well.  He is the beginning (Firstfruit) of God's final harvest of all mankind. 
     And for those who still struggle with the prophetic meaning of this holy day, consider this: after his death and burial, Christ rose again on the third day of the Passover season, on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits.  Do you think that this was coincidental?  I am just overwhelmed with "the picture" of His salvation plan that God has given us through His Feast Days.  If we truly meditate upon them, we will realize that they are more than just ancient rituals.  They point to Christ at every turn!
     In the final analysis, I am eternally grateful for Jesus's sacrifice for me; I eagerly look forward to the Father's reaping of souls and I thank Him for showing us the picture of what that harvest will look like through the resurrection of His Son ... the Firstfruit of all who will follow Him.  And this is what I wish for everyone who believes.... that on this holy day, we will know that Jesus's triumphant and glorious victory over death is ours, as well.  We can count on it!  Just as He was resurrected to new life, so shall we be.  And that certainty will give us hope so that we might endure suffering, persecution, and danger.  Just as He did.  We are living in perilous times, and our faith will be tested.  Do not fear!  We know our destination! When Jesus rose from the dead, He showed us that God has the power to resurrect us, too!  No matter what God has in store for us, we can lay claim to His promise.  On this day, we celebrate the blessed guarantee that those who believe in Christ will be victorious over Death and will be resurrected unto Eternal Life.  It is with a humble and grateful heart, that I proclaim, He Is Risen!

April 14, 2017

The Biblical Model For Inner Healing

     In the ministry that the Lord has brought to me and my husband, the hardest thing for us to convince Christians of is that Jesus can heal their emotional wounds. The Bible tells us that we are body, soul, and spirit. In fact, we are primarily spirit living in this temporary shell called our flesh, or body.  Our soul consists of our mind, will, and emotions.
     Living Stream Ministry gives us the Biblical proof of this last statement. Proverbs 2:10 gives us the spiritual ground to prove that the mind is a part of the soul. This verse says, “Wisdom will enter your heart, / And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” Because knowledge is a matter of the mind, this proves that the mind is a part of the soul.
     The second part of the soul is the will. Job 7:15 says, “My soul would choose,” and 6:7 says, “My soul refuses.” To choose and to refuse are both decisions and functions of our free will. These passages prove that the will must be a part of the soul.
     Emotion comprises many things, including love, hatred, joy, and grief. Psalm 119:28 says, "My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word." and Song of Solomon says, "Tell me, O you whom my soul loves...", both proving that emotions are also part of the soul.
     When we allow Jesus into our heart, and confess that He is our Savior, our spirit is sealed with the promises of the Holy Spirit. Our spirt cannot be possessed by anyone other than God. But our soul -- the thoughts in our mind; the decisions we make; and the emotions we feel and express -- can be influenced by the Enemy and often result in oppression and bondage.  But Jesus says, in Luke 4:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord".  He came to set the captives free ... those who are oppressed in their minds, wills, emotions, and flesh by demonic spirits. He came to heal those areas and experiences in our lives that the Enemy exploits in order to keep us from the peace of God in our relationship with Him.
     That is what the ministry that the Lord has brought to me and my husband is all about -- partnering with the Holy Spirit to let individuals see Jesus (in those hurtful memories) and allow His love for them to heal the wounds that have affected their lives.  You see, if you think salvation alone makes you immune from the Enemy's attacks, just walk into any Church and look behind the masks of those who come to the building each Sunday seeking relief from self-esteem issues and thoughts of self-rejection or abandonment; from decisions they have made in their past that still haunt them; from feelings of jealousy or hatred; and from chronic ailments that keep their flesh in torment.  Do you think they possess the peace that "transcends all understanding"?
     And even if this makes logical sense to some Christians, and they can begin to believe that Jesus not only wants to heal their inner wounds, but actually can heal them, they need to see it in Scripture to fully accept this Truth.  Well, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, who showed a Biblical model to my husband, I can now present that proof to you...
     We all know the Scripture that tells us of Peter's denial of Christ.  Between Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, we get a clear picture of Peter denying his association with Jesus three distinct times; first with a simple denial, and then with an oath, and lastly by cursing and swearing.  And the last sentence in that chapter tells us of the deep remorse and self-condemnation he must have felt ...  And he [Peter] went out and wept bitterly. Can you imagine how that must have weighed upon Peter in those ensuing days?  How many times he went over in his mind the prediction that Jesus made, that he would deny the Lord, and how he had claimed he would never fall away? I can only assume the guilt and the shame he must have felt .... and the legal authority that those three denials gave the Enemy to torment him.
     But something must have happened in order that Peter could become the effective Kingdom spokesman and evangelizer we see in the Book of Acts.  Those condemning thoughts, those fateful decisions he made to deny Christ, and the extreme feelings of remorse (his mind, will, and emotions; his soul) had to be healed. Jesus did exactly that, and we have the Biblical proof in John, Chapter 21.
     After Jesus is resurrected, he appears before His disciples after they've spent a night fishing. When they discover Jesus standing on the shore, Peter is overcome with emotion and "threw himself into the sea".  He was in such need of being healed and forgiven that he couldn't wait to be in the presence of his Lord.  And what does Jesus do?  He builds a fire on the beach, feeds them a breakfast of fish and bread, and then begins to minister to Peter's wounded soul.
     In John 21:15-17, we see Jesus resetting the scene that has caused Peter so much torment and oppression -- even right down to the fire which was present at his denials.  Just as Peter was asked three times if he knew the Lord, Jesus now brings healing to Peter by getting him to voice his love for the Lord to the spirit world and break the oaths and curses he took.  Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him -- the first two times, using the Greek word agape, meaning the "love" that values and esteems; an unselfish love, ready to serve.  But Peter answers, that he loves Jesus, using the Greek word, phileo, meaning that he cherishes Jesus above all else; that his love his constant and from the heart. So that by the time Jesus asks Peter the third time if he loves Him, using the more heartfelt word, phileo, Peter's answer in the affirmative [for the third time] has cleansed his wounded soul.
     Remember, Jesus is appearing to Peter in the Spirit, just as He does in our inner healing sessions.  Individuals are able to see Jesus in the spirit, and Jesus then expresses His presence with them [just as He was with Peter] and helps them to "reset the scenes" of their wounding experiences, accepting His love and forgiveness, and displaying to the spiritual realm that the person's tormented soul is no longer in bondage to the lies of Satan. They have met with Jesus and been released from the lies and captivity of the Enemy.
     It couldn't be any clearer.  Jesus speaks into the hurtful experiences that allows the Enemy to send spirits of shame, guilt, anger, self-rejection, etc. to keep Believers from a complete and whole and healthy relationship with the Lord.  Just as with Peter, Jesus desires us to be free of the torment so that we can become the effective ambassadors of His Kingdom that His sacrifice won for us. When we are free of all the lies and garbage the Enemy tries to inflict upon our souls, we can all become like Peter, fearless and bold for the Lord!

Hebrews 12:1-2   "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God".


April 12, 2017

Unpacking Jesus's Work For God

     I love it when, during our morning study time with the Lord, my husband challenges me to follow a trail through Scripture, unpacking a word from Jesus to reveal a bigger picture of our relationship with the Father.  The other day, it all started with John 17:4 ... I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You gave Me to do.
     So, naturally, I was curious to know what the Bible defined as the exact nature of the work Jesus did, and what was God's objective in sending Him to do this work? What did God intend for Jesus to accomplish? These may seem like uncomplicated questions, and that every Christian should know the answers.  But I didn't want to just accept Church doctrine -- I wanted to discover the full revelation of God's plan.  And I discerned that it is really a two-fold answer.
     The word "work" in Greek is ergon, and it's definition is "to toil (as an effort or occupation); an act or deed; labor". While on earth, the accumulated deeds [Jesus did] were His work.  But the second aspect of His "work" is the accomplishment of the Father's purpose in the commandment to do those deeds.  The glorification of God, the Father, comes from both the work (deeds) themselves, AND the accomplishment of the work. Make sense?
     The next step I took in unpacking the Word, was to go to John, Chapter 4, verses 32-34, where the disciples urge Jesus to eat after His discourse with the Samarian woman at the well.  Jesus tells them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about ... My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work". In other words, He is saying that He has no need of physical food, but He is spiritually fed by doing the work of His Father; the work He has seen the Father do. Here again, we see the double purpose of 1) doing the work and 2) accomplishing it; seeing it completely done.  But what is the work?  Jesus says it is the will of the Father.  But what does that mean; what is the will of God?
     Jesus tells us in John 6:39-40: This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.  So, here, we see "the will" of the Father -- what God has determined shall be done through Christ.  In other words, it is God's will (His desire and choice) that the works Jesus does will result in belief that He is the Son of God; and because of that faith, Believers will receive the blessing that God wishes to bestow upon them, namely, eternal life (or salvation).  

     But the Father is fully aware that mankind is not going to believe Jesus just because He says He is the Son of God.  God has already sent so many prophets who foretold of Christ's Coming, and of the works He would do, and yet not even the religious leaders recognized Him. For centuries, the descendants of Abraham had been looking for the Messiah as described by Isaiah 35:4-6:  that God would come with a vengeance to pay back all the ungodly and save His people; He would do mighty miracles of opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, healing the lame and mute; and His teaching and preaching would bring living water to those who thirst for righteousness.
     And those are the very "works" that Jesus did during His ministry -- all to accomplish the will of His Father, that those who would believe in Him would receive eternal life.  But there is an aspect of this Truth that we in the Modern Church miss.  Oh, we get the part about salvation and eternal life.  But we miss what Jesus did to get those in the First Century to accept Him as the Son of God and their Savior.  We are so scared of Ephesians 2:9 that tells us that faith is by grace; a gift from God, and not of works, that we only preach the message of salvation.
    But that's not all that Jesus did!  Yes, He preached and He taught, but His message was accompanied by the works that God commanded Him to do -- healing the sick and casting out demons was part of the Father's will!  Jesus explicitly says that He only does the things that are pleasing to the Father (John 8:28-29); and that He only does what He sees the Father doing in Heaven (John 5:19-20). ALL OF IT -- casting out demons, healing the sick, and preaching that the Father wanted His will to be done, on earth as it is in His Heavenly Kingdom -- were what the works of Jesus was all about.  And it was ALL the will of God for Jesus to accomplish.  And guess what, it is what God wishes to be done by us, too!
     For the life of me, I do not know how you can interpret John 14:12 any other way!  I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father.  And I think the logical extension of Jesus's words is that He is going to the Father because His work is accomplished -- now it is our turn to carry on His work!
     Like I said, we preach the message of salvation, but we don't have the works that accompany the message [which are God's will for us to do]; therefore the message [by itself] doesn't hold enough weight to convince ungodly men to believe in Christ.  They see nothing in our actions or attitudes that convinces them we serve a mighty God. The state of the world is evidence of that!
     But I can tell you that when you do what Jesus did, by the power that comes from the Father [just as it did to Him] and you lay hands on someone and they are healed; or you are able to cast out the demonic voices they are hearing in their heads and they have peace for the first time in years; or you help them to see [in the spirit] that Jesus was with them during a tragic time in their life -- then you are accomplishing the will of the Father.  The Lost have the opportunity to know and believe in Jesus, and the previously Saved will get their theology rocked and their minds renewed; they can let go of their "sacred religious cows" that have not brought them the freedom Jesus and God desire for them.  It is only when they see the full picture of ALL the works of Jesus that they "will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" that accomplishes His plan and purpose.
     In the final analysis, it became clear to me as I followed the bread crumbs through Scripture and landed on John 19:30.  When Jesus, with His last breath, says, It is finished!, I believe He means His supernatural works, and His accomplishment of the Father's will and purpose. The Way to eternal life  has been instituted.  We have been shown by Jesus that His works are the same works the Father does, and the same works the Father wishes us to accomplish.  These works are not done so that we may boast, but to draw men to the saving message of Jesus Christ. It is clear -- it is the Father's will that all be saved -- but we are missing a vital part of Jesus's work to accomplish that -- the work that is clearly God's will for us to do.

Ephesians 5:15-17   "Therefore see that you walk carefully, not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil. Therefore do not be foolish and thoughtless, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is".

April 10, 2017

Pray for the Persecuted this Holy Week

     Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holiest week for our faith.  This week is sacred; not only to Christians, but to Jews, and especially to God.  To the over 2.2 Billion Christians in the world, we are leading up to Easter, the celebration of Christ's resurrection.  To the over 15 million Jews in the world, this is the week of Passover. But to God, is a foreshadowing of the relationship He would like to have with all of the nearly 8 Billion people on planet Earth.  Through the Feasts He has instituted to be observed this week (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits), He is showing us the redemptive work of Christ as our Passover Lamb, as sinless and unblemished, and as the first of the resurrected into God's Heavenly Kingdom.
     So, it is with great sadness that we are witnessing the persecution of the followers of Jesus Christ during this most holy week on our calendar.  The Syrian Civil War began six years ago, and Antoine Audo, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo reports that during this time of war, the Christian population in Syria has been reduced by two thirds, from 1.5 million to only 500,000 today --- from 160,000 to just 40,000 in Aleppo, alone.
     The persecution of Christians by Isis extremists has been horrendous; and the latest chemical attacks are a reminder of just how much evil is in the world.  And as hard as it might be for us comfortable Americans to understand, Bishop Audo says the Assad government is not the source of Christian persecution.  But Christians are caught in the middle of the battle between Assad and the anti-government rebels; between Al Qaeda and Isis; between the Russia/Iran partnership and the U.S.-led Western coalition.
     And it is all happening in Syria, who along with its neighbor Iraq, is deemed the cradle of human civilization and the region where Christianity began 2,000 years ago. It was on the road to Damascus that the Apostle Paul experienced his conversion to Christianity, and Syria remains one of the few sacred locales where the language of Aramaic – the language of Jesus – can still be heard.
     But Syria and Iraq are not the only places persecution is happening this Holy week.  Bombings at Coptic Christian cathedrals in Egypt targeted Christians who celebrated Palm Sunday, the day of our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem to observe the Passover Festival.  It was the day that the crowds shouted their recognition of Him as Messiah, when they shouted, "Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest". Hosanna means "Save, we pray", and in essence, they were shouting, "Please save (deliver) us, Son of David".
     I have no doubt that satan and his spiritual horde cringed at this tribute bestowed upon Jesus. They are aware of the prophecies in the Bible that predict that the Savior of man will come from the line of David. And just as the devil tempted the people and the religious officials to reject Jesus and His Deity during that Holy Week of approximately 33 AD, the Prince of this world is still trying to kill and destroy the influence of the Son of God, one thousand nine hundred and eighty-four years later.
     But here is what the enemies of Christ and His people will never understand... there is truth in the Biblical words, "To live is Christ, to die is gain".  And here is what we comfortable Christians in America need to understand about the context in which those words were spoken by the Apostle Paul... he is in prison in the city of Rome, facing trial, knowing he's going to be executed for his faith in Christ. I'm going to say it again ... this is a man facing execution and death for his belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of the One True God.  And yet he says, to die for Christ will be his gain.  Are you prepared to say that?  Would you still proclaim that if you had just watched your children die the horrendous death of chemical poisoning?  Would you deny Him if a sword is held at the throat of your wife or husband?
     Because here is what satan and those who follow him do not understand about us Christians.  Our faith is different.  When asked, What is the difference between Life and Death, Buddhism says, "To live is to achieve good Karma, and to die is to hope for a better reincarnation." Islam teaches, "To live is to obey Allah, and if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, death is to achieve a personal paradise." Silicon Valley answers the question this way: "To live is self, and to die is loss." To all these other religions, Life is all about the self. And to die is to lose everything.
     But that's not what we Christians believe -- or should believe, if you are calling yourself a Christian.  To live is to obey Christ and do what He did: serve others; show them the principles of His Father's Kingdom and how to live by those moral standards; and ultimately to sacrifice His own life  for the sake of offering eternal life to those who would believe in Him and follow Him.  Our faith is not about self! And if we are to die for the sake of Christ or another, then we have the hope of gaining eternity, and that is worth giving up self! It is important to grasp this point --- Even if we die in this life, we have the hope of eternity!
     So, I would like to ask for prayer this holy week for our fellow Christians; those who have already felt the pain of persecution; and for those who face the possibility during these remaining days leading up to the commemoration of Christ's resurrection.  Pray for the Believers who are still in Syria and the Egyptian Coptic Christian communities, refusing to let the Enemy defeat them. Pray that they would be used as strong witnesses of Christ’s love to their fellow Syrians and Egyptians.  Pray for the justice of Christ to draw the oppressed people of Syria and Egypt to Him. And pray for the relief of suffering for the persecuted Christians in North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, and the remaining countries that make the World Watchlist of most persecuted countries.
     Father, Your Word tells us that persecution is part of our future, and we know that our time is coming. But, Father, right now, at this very moment, I pray for strength, and courage, and endurance as my fellow Christians around the world are demonstrating their genuine faith in my Lord and Savior.  Deliver them into a supernatural protection by Your Power and Might. Let their spirits feel the power of our prayers, and let them know we stand with them in our shared faith.  Father, this week shows Your amazing love for us, that You sacrificed Your Son so that we, who believe in Him, might not know the sting of death.  I am trusting you, Father, that those who have suffered persecution because of His Name, will be rewarded in Heaven for their faithfulness, just as You are faithful in delivering them from the dominion of darkness on this earth into the Kingdom of Your beloved Son.  And it is in His holy, powerful, and compassionate Name I pray. Amen.

Hebrews 13:3    "Remember those who are in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body [and subject to physical suffering]".

April 9, 2017

John 15:1-5

"I am the true vine, ... I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing".

     These are the opening words of John 15, a chapter that is very likely familiar to most Christians.  It speaks of Jesus as the vine, and our Father as the vinedresser; of branches -- both those that bear fruit, and those who don't.  It presents the image of pruned branches that grow to produce more fruit, and branches that dry up and are cast into the fire where they are burned. And throughout it all, Jesus talks about abiding ... He in the Father; us in Him, and He in us.  Yes, we are familiar with this Chapter, but do we know what He was really saying, and why He picked this particular imagery?
     First of all, I wonder how many discern that this metaphor of the vine, vinedresser, and branches is part of the discussion Jesus has with His disciples during His last Passover supper?  And that ultimately, He is disclosing to them the desired relationship of Believers to Himself and the Father?
     When I researched the attributes and the actions of a Vinedresser, it began to be clearer to me why He used these symbols. A vinedresser is more than a mere farmer. Grapes are more than an annual crop. The vinedresser's grape vines remain with him for decades. He comes to know each one in a personal way, much like a shepherd with his sheep. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year and which ones are more productive or vigorous than others. He knows what they respond to and what special care certain one's need. Every vine has its own personality. And the vinedresser comes to know it over the years. The vinedresser cares for each vine and nurtures it, pruning it the appropriate amount at the appropriate times, fertilizing it, lifting its branches from the ground and propping them or tying them to the trellis, and taking measures to protect them from insects and disease.
     But it becomes even more interesting when we note that the nation of Israel is often symbolized as "a vine" in the Old Testament.  Psalm 80:7-19 pictures Israel as the vine "God brought out of Egypt"; depicting the Father as the gardener, and picturing Israel in a state of judgment and destruction, calling to God to be restored. Isaiah's "Song of the Vineyard", in Chapter 5, verses 1-7 clearly identifies the house of Israel as "the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts", and the "men of Judah as His delightful plant". Once again, Israel is depicted with great optimism and potential, but ultimately judged because of moral and spiritual failure. 
     Moreover, being in Jerusalem during the Festival of Passover, Jesus and His disciples would have observed the unmistakable imagery of the vine when they visited the Temple. I found it interesting that Josephus, the First Century Jewish scholar, wrote of this great golden vine that hung over the entrance to the Jerusalem temple. Josephus describes it: “The gate opening into the building was, as I say, completely overlaid with gold, as was the whole wall around it. It had, moreover, above it those golden vines, from which depended grape-clusters as tall as a man."
     Further evidence in the Old Testament of this imagery can be found in Hosea 10:1-2, where Israel is depicted as "an empty vine"; throughout Ezekiel (Chapters 15, 17, and 19) as a rebellious vine, whose root was plucked up, and fruit devoured; and in Jeremiah 2:21, as a once "choice" or "noble" vine, which has turned into a wild, degenerate, and foreign vine. So, when Jesus refers to Himself as the "true" vine, His meaning would have been unmistakeable to these original hearers. 
     They would have been very familiar with the idea of the house of Israel as the "choicest" or "chosen" vine of God. But they also would have caught a specific use of grammar that escapes our 21st Century understanding.  To begin with, He uses the definite article to describe Himself. (The definite article, in grammar, is used to refer to a particular member of a group or class. It may be something that the speaker has already mentioned or it may be something uniquely specified). Thereby, Jesus is saying, "I am the vine, not a vine".
     Jesus's use of "true" to describe Himself as "the vine" God cares for, is pointing to the nation's failure, but also to the fact of His own good and authentic, genuine relationship with God. Where the nation failed God, Jesus was the complete embodiment of everything they were supposed to be. This same concept is evident in the first chapters of Matthew. There, Matthew describes Jesus' early life and experiences before beginning His ministry as a parallel to Israel's history ... Israel came out of Egypt to the Promised Land; so did Jesus. Israel was tempted for forty years in the wilderness, and failed. Jesus was tempted for forty days, and did not fail. He was clearly proclaiming His Messianic identity.
     But we cannot fail to understand the rest of this parable of the vine and the vinedresser, and how it pertains to us.  While the Old Testament passages I have noted tie the image of the vine to the nation of Israel, Jesus changes the perspective. He doesn't focus on the nation of Israel and what it should have been; on the nation's sins and responsibility. Instead, He shifts the focus to His disciples bearing fruit.  He wants to emphasize the relationship Believers have with the Father and the resulting fruitfulness that brings. Thus, His real focus is on the nature of the vine. 
     And since He is the vine, what is His nature? I believe the most concise description that Jesus gives us of His nature, is found in Matthew 28:18 ... All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  That word "power" is the Greek word exousia and is defined as "in the sense of ability, and privilege; force, capacity, competency, freedom, mastery, superhuman, delegated influence; the power of authority". That is what the Father gave to Jesus, so that He might be endued (empowered) to accomplish His Father's work here on earth. 
     And since we are the branches that are supposed to grow and produce fruit from that vine, what is our nature to be?  Jesus tells us in this analogy of the vine ... He abides in us; He and His nature are present in us.  We abide in Him; we press into Him until we become His nature. And the result? We bear much fruit!  But let us not get too full of pride. He makes it very clear that this exousia power and authority is only available through Him.  Apart from Him, we are unable to accomplish anything. But by acknowledging and exercising His nature within us, we have the power and authority to help grow the vine by producing more fruit -- "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
     We can do that because He is "with us always"; abiding in us. We are the branches that grow from the vine; branches that the Vinedresser nurtures, cares for, and prunes, and protects. We can perpetuate "The Vine" and His nature by demonstrating His nature that is in us -- doing the things He did and accomplishing the works He achieved for the Father's Kingdom. This important passage in the Bible is more than an interesting allegory.  It is showing us who we are to be!


April 7, 2017

Have We Lost Our Way?

     I was intrigued with a recent article on the Charisma News website.  It quoted a prophetic statement made by Dr. Elton Trueblood, the former chaplain for Stanford and Harvard universities in the early 1900s. He was once asked what the church in America would look like in the last half of the 20th century. Dr. Trueblood stated, "By the year 2000, Christians in America will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism."  Well, we are nearly two decades past his prognostication, and I daresay that not only is the Body of Christ surrounded by paganism, but we are becoming increasingly comfortable with compromising with the pagan world.
    I feel confident in saying that because I see too much evidence that the Church and Christians are willing to let the "leaven" of the world infiltrate our professed faith in God.  Remember, in our discussion of God's Feasts yesterday that He warned the Israelites about sweeping the corrupting influence of Egypt out of their lives. Yet, I'm afraid that I see the world and its corrupting values permeating the sanctity of our Church buildings and our faith.
     I'm pretty sure that some of what I'm about to say will be viewed as legalistic, rigid, and uncompromising.  But I would like to propose the idea that it is precisely because of our compromise and lack of obedience to God's Word that the world is in the mess it's in. Because the Church has presented only a picture of a Loving and Merciful God, there is no fear of Him or His Judgment.  In addition, we have let the ideology of "tolerance" overshadow the areas in which Jesus was intolerant. As followers of Christ, we have become tolerant about divorce; about what constitutes the Biblical concept of marriage; about wickedness in high places; about immorality, as evidenced by the existence of rampant pornography, sex trafficking, and pedophilia; and crime and godlessness have become accepted norms in society, with nary a peep out of the Church.
     We have forgotten that Jesus warned us to enter by the narrow gate. He said, narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. This is perfectly illustrated by the Billy Graham Association, which wrote, "If you should ask a man the directions to New York City and he said, 'Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead to New York,' you would question both his sanity and his truthfulness.  Nevertheless, we have somehow gotten it into our minds that 'all roads lead to Heaven.' " Yet, even Billy Graham, himself, whose faith in Jesus is without question, when asked whether those who belong to religions that reject Christ as Savior (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) and secularists will be saved, responded, “Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there [in heaven] and who won’t. … I don’t want to speculate about that.” I guess he's forgotten the Word of God!
    In fact, there was a time when no professed Christian would have dared to entertain the thought that other gods offer a path to eternal life. What was once solid doctrine has slowly eroded into the acceptance of multiple paths to eternity. And with that sliding scale of righteousness, we are becoming the makers of our own moral values. The consequences of Biblical sin are diminished, while standards of Divine morality or Divine revelation go unspoken.  How convenient is that? When God's standards are ridiculed or non-existent, then no one's moral values can be judged wrong. And when there is no Divine revelation, then we become our own god; the world operates by the religion of man and his politics, and we will be saved by secular values.... the path is wide that leads to destruction. That is why the modern Church is in danger of operating more on man's traditions and thought than God's Word.
     Sadly, we have removed the profound sense of mystery that is God and His supernatural characteristics, and reduced Him to just a slightly larger image of ourselves.  And we have allowed occultism, mysticism, magic, and the mysteries and worship of other gods to grow and replace YHWH's once exalted position. We are embracing Christian yoga, for goodness sake!
     And because we Christians have not stood firm in the Word as our guiding principle, we have seen the breakdown of the family; our youth abandoning their faith in God, as well as confusion over their God-given sexual identities; and the shocking increase of perversion in our culture.  I fear that we are headed for a showdown -- a confrontation between true Believers and those who profess a faith that has no foundation in Jesus.  This confrontation is already apparent in our society and it will soon split our Churches.  Greed, idolatry, and adultery with the culture is permeating the Body of Christ, and Jesus will no more allow His Church to succumb to such wickedness as He allowed the moneychangers to defile His Father's House.
     It's time the Church and the Body take a good hard look in the mirror. We have not been about our Father's business and we are now in a battle for hearts and minds, and the destiny of millions of souls hangs in the balance. I sense that we will soon hear a voice from Heaven announce, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." I believe the Body of Christ in America is in for a big transition.  Will we become the kind of Bride Jesus is looking for? I, for one, will not be in agreement with the world; nor will I compromise with those in the Church who insist on taking the wide path. I'm ready for the battle that is to come, and I will not hide the Light that is in me under a bushel basket. I will expose the lies of satan and the unfruitful works of his darkness and death. And I will tell the Lost of the abundant Life available when we are in fellowship with Jesus. Let us join together to find our way once again; to recover our path to Jesus, and return this world to the Lord!

Proverbs 25:26   "Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked".