A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


June 25, 2017

John 20:21-23 ... The Authority To Forgive Sins

Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives]. And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven [because of their faith]; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained [and remain unforgiven because of their unbelief].


     This is an interesting passage, whereby the risen Jesus is appearing to the Apostles, who are hiding out in an undisclosed room in Jerusalem, fearing retribution from the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government because of their association with the crucified Christ.  Although they had spent nearly three years with Him, and Jesus had tried to prepare them for this time, you can imagine their confusion, dashed hopes, and fear of what the future might mean for them.
     But in these verses, Jesus appears to them to calm them, bring them peace, and remind them of their mission to co-labor with Him on behalf of the Kingdom of God.  He then breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and gave them a very important and precious gift: the authority to forgive sins.
     I know that is a foreign idea to us 21st Century Christians, and it certainly is not taught in the Church as a matter of our authority.  And I can hear the naysayers now ... Where do you get the idea that we have the authority to forgive sins? Isn't God the only One who can forgive us our sins? That second question sounds exactly like the Pharisees in Mark, Chapter 2, who, upon hearing Jesus tell the paralytic that his sins were forgiven, asked, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” I am sure there are some within the Body of Christ who would assign the same doubt to my statement that we can forgive sins. But let me see if I can explain my understanding of these verses in John...
     It is very important that we have a clear understanding when it comes to the dynamics of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and us.  Over and over, Jesus declares in the Bible. I only do what the Father tells Me ... I only do what pleases the Father ... I only do what I see the Father doing ... I only say what I hear the Father saying ... If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father.  Therefore, Jesus is an exact representation of the Father.  And here, in John 20, He is telling the apostles, Now, you're MY representatives; meaning by extension, they are representing the Father, too, just as Jesus did.  Furthermore, Jesus tells the Apostles that all authority on Heaven and earth has been given to Him and their Commission is now to teach all the nations what He has taught and commanded them to do -- i.e., we now represent Jesus!
     But there is another aspect of our relationship with Christ and how we represent Him.  In 1 Peter 2:9, the Bible calls us a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and power] of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Remember, God instituted the priesthood in the Old Testament as the means by which His chosen people could be forgiven their sins.  The priests served a particularly important function in the sacrificial system that brought the sins of the Israelites before God to be forgiven.  But in the New Testament, Jesus became our High Priest and the ultimate, once-for-all sacrifice, so that system is no longer needed.  However, as it is revealed in 1 Peter 2 and Revelation 5,  we are to still serve God as priests of His Kingdom, bringing people "out of darkness and into His marvelous Light (Jesus)".
     That is what I believe Jesus is telling us here in John 20... He is our High Priest, and as His representatives here on earth, we serve the Father's Kingdom as His priests.  So how does that work, and what are our duties as priests?  Have you ever known someone who has given their life to Christ, and declared Him their Savior, yet cannot seem to receive His forgiveness of their sins, even after they have confessed and repented?  Even though their salvation is certain, there is some area of their life that satan still holds in bondage, and they are mired in self-condemnation? 
     Even though the Bible tells us that Jesus has forgotten their sins, as far as the east is from the west, they still feel He is distant and they don't feel forgiven.  I believe John 20:23 declares our position as the royal priesthood and Jesus is giving us permission to declare to that tortured Christian that if they have faith, their sins are forgiven.  On the other hand, we must take our holy priesthood very seriously (as the representative of Christ), and when it is clear that a sinful lifestyle has not been confessed or repented for, and Jesus has been rejected, then we have no authority or duty to forgive anyone's sin.  Very simply, for me, John 20:21-23 is Jesus defining a priestly duty, and since we are called to be a royal priesthood of God's Kingdom on earth, it is part of our allegiance to our High Priest.  
     But, here's the thing ... the powerless Church, today, is all too eager to call themselves priests of the Kingdom, but only in the sense of a noun, and not as a verb -- meaning there is an obligation to act out our identities as priests, (and representatives of our High Priest) and to be willing to take the sins of a fellow Christian and wash them in the blood of Jesus, pronouncing those sins forgiven.  If that sounds anti-Biblical, think on this.... Are we not in Christ, and Christ in us?  Did He not take all sin upon Himself, and by His Blood we are forgiven and healed?  If Christ is in us, we can take those sins and present them to Him, being confident of His mercy and grace upon all who believe in Him.
     Personally, in our deliverance ministry, my husband and I have often reminded someone being oppressed by spirits of unworthiness, inadequacy, self-condemnation, shame, or guilt that their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and their confession of their sins allows us, as His representative, to speak Jesus's forgiveness into their life.  In that, we serve both our God and our fellow man.  That's why God sent Jesus, and that's why He sends us.  

June 23, 2017

That Which Has Been Is That Which Will Be

     Solomon was correct when he made that statement in Ecclesiastes 1:9.  He's better known for the last sentence in that verse ... So nothing is new under the sun ... and I found that out as I did some personal research into the history of my family's faith.  I hope you will indulge me as I share my discoveries, because I was surprised at how much I recognized in their experiences. What I found out in the life of the Church in my great-great-great grandfather's time is being mirrored in today's Body of Christ.
     I have long been interested in trying to figure out my family's disparate modes of faith.  Unlike many families who can look back on a long line of ancestors whose love of the Lord was passed down through the generations, there was no unified profession of faith in my childhood home. My mother was a Believer and from an early age, I knew about Jesus, as she somehow found a way to introduce Him to me and then send me and my siblings to Vacation Bible School programs.  She was a stay-at-home mom with no car and five young children to care for, so I'm not sure how we were transported, but she got us there.  My father was not a Believer, although he supported our exposure to Church, and, as the oldest of the five, he instructed me to watch out for my brother and sister as he dropped us off at Sunday School.  My Mom stayed home with the babies... not exactly a "family experience".
     My maternal grandmother was a strong and faithful woman, but she lived three states away, so the most influence she could have was giving me a Bible at the age of 12 (which I still have today).  I know she prayed for us. and I'm sure it was those prayers that finally bore fruit when I accepted Jesus as my Savior as an adult.  So, I knew my mother's side was certain of their faith.  But what about my father's side of the family?  And it is that research that led me to my interesting conclusion that Solomon was right.
      You see, my father loved searching our family's genealogy, and before his death, he sent me a copy of a microfiched 1870 article on my four times great-grandfather and his six sons.  The patriarch of the family was a man named John Dodgson, whom the article said "came over in a ship from England with a gang of boys in 1821" to settle on a farm in Illinois.  The article also said "If there is anything peculiar to the Dodgson family than another, it was their uniform piety and strong adherence to churches".  It was John's first son Thomas who would be my direct ancestor; Thomas's daughter Mary would marry a man from whom I received my maiden last name.  But it seems that Mary Dodgson's faith in God did not translate to her new husband's family, nor down the generations to my father.
     So I read, with fascination, about the consistency of faith in John Dodgson's family, and I marveled at the level of their devotion to God.  John was quoted as saying [regarding his conversion experience], "If the house in Old England were yet standing, he could still go and point within six inches of where the Lord, for Christ's sake, pardoned his sins!"  And it was "his great care and prayer" that all six of his sons would come to know and love the Lord as he had. He lived to see those prayers answered. But, it makes me sad that down through the generations, that family devoutness was diminished, and my father, John's great-great-great-grandson, was neither schooled nor encouraged to know Jesus.
     But what was as equally fascinating as my ancestors' piety, was the description of their faith.  Throughout the article there were references to "warm times in Wesleyan Methodism", and after some investigation, I discovered that warm referred to dramatic experiences of conversion, including what today is referred to as "being slain in the Spirit", or instances of fainting as the Holy Spirit comes upon a person.  And not surprisingly, there developed a schism within the Methodist Church, between those who believed this reaction was Biblical and those who accused them of being led astray.
     As I read further in the article that chronicled the faith of the Dodgson family, it was revealed that the religious differences within the local community resulted in a debate between Church leaders, the Rev. J.M. Peck and the Rev. Peter Hobson. Peck took a stance that "a little learning is a dangerous thing" and referred to the Believers who agreed with Hobson as infidels, and he feared that "a great many would be shaken in their faith and never find their way back".
     By the way, my ancestors concurred with Rev. Hobson, whom the article went on to call "a Boston Investigator" man in religion.  What did that mean?  Here's what I found out ... "In religion, it [a Boston Investigator[ is the fearless advocate of open and fair investigation, opposed to every species of coercion for the dissemination of opinions, and rejecting all theories as erroneous, that will not bear the test of reasonable examination, however strongly they may have entrenched themselves under the barriers of antiquated formulas, tributary customs, or a pretended divine revelation . . . . Our object is to call the attention of the public from the visionary dreams of superstition and fanaticism, which has too long infested the moral world, to things of known realities, or facts that may be known, which tend to promote the happiness of man in his present state of being, the only state of which we have any knowledge. We wish to not interfere with religion by any coercive means, or any legal enactments: but to leave it entirely to support itself, and to stand or fall upon its own foundation. Its kingdom is professedly not of this world then it should have nothing to do with worldly affairs; but let it be supported wholly by spiritual means, by argument, by persuasion, and not by law".
     Maybe, I'm misunderstanding what this is telling me, but it seems as if we are seeing the same old struggle in the Church here ... on one side is the group who oppose Believers seeking a greater knowledge of God and who prefer to hold to man's traditions and doctrines over any new revealed understanding of God through His Word -- and on the other side is the group who support the freedom to reasonably examine Scripture by being a good Berean (rejecting anything not backed up by Scripture); and seeking spiritual guidance from the Holy Spirit as to God's revealed Truth.
     Furthermore, my research revealed there was another major division between these two groups: Peck took a stance in favor of strict predestination doctrine, while Hobson believed in God's gift of free will to accept or reject Him.  And it looks like for the better part of a century, my family fully and enthusiastically sought and accepted God. And within the next century, that faith had deteriorated to a rejection based on apathy.
     I don't know what all contributed to the lack of faith in the next three generations of my family.  But I think it is clear that one of satan's favorite schemes is to get the Church involved in endless debates over man's traditions and doctrines instead of truly seeking God.  He gets Christians to focus on each other, rather than our Savior, and encourages us to find fault; each thinking they have found the true path to Heaven's gates. None of that persuades the Unsaved to seek out the Church or to find hope in Jesus.
     I am just thankful and grateful that God never stopped pursuing me.  And it shows me that God can overcome generations of indifference and denial; that there exists in the heart of every man or woman the desire to know our Creator.  My great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Dodgson, didn't accept Jesus until he was 40 years old in 1837, and exactly 150 years later, my faith was established as an adult, too. What is ironic is that the schisms that were occurring in the Church prior to the Civil War are the same ones that the Church is experiencing today.  Satan's playbook never changes.  But he also has not achieved the complete victory he is seeking.  There will always be those in every generation who reject the devil's temptations and answer Jesus's knock at the door.
     But as Solomon expressed in his wisdom, the generations don't seem to remember what has occurred before them, and so are destined to repeat the futility of their struggles.  I thank God that He is patient and compassionate, and willing to wait on those of us who come to Him late. I am also grateful to have this history of my family's faith because it shows me that God truly desires to lose no one ... I am the evidence of that.

Psalm 71:18    "So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come".

June 20, 2017

Why Is It Wrong To Seek More Of Our God?

     I am becoming increasingly aware of Satan's scheme to divide and separate us from fellow Christians.  As I hinted at in an earlier post, it is far too easy to cast aspersions on other Believers, and throw around the label of "false teacher".  It seems that if you can get 5 or 6 people to agree with you against the theology of another Christian, then you are warranted in calling their interpretation of Scripture "false".
     But today I want to narrow my scope of discussion as to why so many in the Body of Christ find fault with a Christian who desires to seek more knowledge, understanding, and wisdom about God.  In fact, if anyone in the Body attempts to go beyond the accepted level of understanding in the group, then the level of fear increases also -- the fear that any new interpretation or revelation from Scripture might lead the entire group into deception.  So more often than not, the discussion is shut down and the seeker is cautioned to "play it safe" by not bringing up any controversial ideas or -- heaven forbid -- a bigger picture of God and His Nature.  Satan wins as the group's level of knowledge and understanding is kept at the lowest common denominator.
     I can only speak for myself, but I believe that my hunger to know more about God and my desire to seek more of Him comes from the Holy Spirit.  I do not believe my flesh has any instinct to seek God, nor do I think that the devil would be encouraging me to do so, either.  That being said, I am fully aware that whatever new knowledge or understanding I discern must be compared to Scripture and be stamped with the Holy Spirit's seal of approval... something that, if you have developed a relationship with Him, you easily recognize. We should never let our pride think the devil won't try to distort any revelation we might receive from God, but if you know and trust the Lord's presence in your life, there is no reason to fear being deceived.
     But here is what I would like to ask my fellow Christians to consider: in the Bible there is a difference between knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  Proverbs 2 gives us a sound Biblical explanation of these three terms ... My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If YOU SEEK her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.
     I would first like to make the comment that [to me] it appears that we are encouraged to seek wisdom and understanding, for there we will discover the knowledge of God.  That word "discover" implies finding something in the course of a search.  We are to seek and search for knowledge and understanding of who our God is, and when we grow that relationship, He will impart His wisdom to us, instructing us in His ways.
     If I may, here's one way that I think we can discern the differences in all these terms:  
1) KNOWLEDGE is the facts as stated in the Bible; for example, Jesus's statement, "These signs [attesting miracles] will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).  Jesus plainly states the facts that describe those who have believed [and will believe] in Him.
2)  UNDERSTANDING is the ability to translate meaning from the facts.  Now consider that after Jesus had risen, He exhorts His Disciples, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” After studying and comparing Scripture, I am able to understand that we, as disciples of Christ, are to observe [and do] all that He commanded we would do as Believers -- cast out demons, speak with new tongues, heal the sick, etc. Furthermore, we need not be afraid of the Enemy -- even if we drank deadly poison, the power of God can protect us. And ALL Believers can hold on to this promise, because that power will be with us until He returns at the end of the age.
3) WISDOM is knowing what to do next, given an understanding of the facts and circumstances.  Acts 5:16 is a perfect example of the wisdom of the Apostles after Jesus's ascension.  They were performing those "signs" that Jesus said would accompany those who believed and followed Him: "Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed". They knew what to do next after receiving Jesus's commandment and understanding its implications for the Kingdom of God.  And since God doesn't change (neither His Principles, Nature, or Character), we should be continuing these "signs" as Believers.
     But here is what I have seen and experienced amongst the Body of Christ ... there are many in the Church who can recite facts and quote Scripture.  But, it is possible to have knowledge, and lack understanding and wisdom. Someone might have the facts, but not know what they mean, be able to connect the dots, or know what to do next.  And I honestly think there are far too many Christians who don't trust their relationship with God and are unable to move from Knowledge to Understanding.  They are so afraid of being deceived that they need a Chapter and Verse, word-for-word declaration of God's concepts and principles, or they are unable to discern His Truth.
     I tend to agree with Charles Spurgeon, who once wrote, "Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not [necessarily] to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom".  Even the Bible says, A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding (Proverbs 14:6).  To move from Knowledge to Understanding greatly expands a Christian's Faith.  Then to discern and trust this Understanding to be the Truth of God, will cause Him to impart His Wisdom. 
     I guess I just find it discouraging when fellow Christians -- whether it be pastors, teachers, or a person who sits in a Bible study class -- tell me that I am not to seek "hidden knowledge" because the "Canon has been closed" and there is no new knowledge to be found.  I will agree that God has not inspired any men in the 21st Century to write additional Books of the Bible, and we should neither add nor take away from what has been written.  But, nowhere in the Bible do I see God telling me that I am to no longer seek new understanding of Him. Like Paul's letter to the Colossians, I wish for our hearts to be encouraged, being knit together in love, [so that we can] reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are to REACH the "full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery", which tells me we aren't there yet. We are to stretch out and extend ourselves toward that wisdom and knowledge, out of a hunger and desire to receive the full measure of Christ.
     Indeed, Paul expresses this same concept in his letter to the Ephesians:  And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
     But what are we to do when the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and the teachers are not equipping us to do the work Jesus commanded us to do?  What are we to do when they discourage our hunger "to attain the knowledge of the Son of God"?  The Scripture says UNTIL ... telling me that it is a process that we are to pursue until we reach maturity and grow up IN EVERY WAY into Christ. 
     And, yes, we are not to be "tossed to and fro" by every kind of doctrine, by human deception and misunderstanding, or by deceitful schemes or methods.  But notice that this caution is given to people described as "children" in their understanding.  We are "to grow into mature manhood"... and how do you do that?  By increasing your knowledge and understanding!  By seeking to know more of our God!
     It is my sincere prayer that the Body of Christ will throw off the fear that our Enemy is more powerful to deceive us than our God is faithful to reveal Himself if we seek Him.  And I also pray that we quit attacking each other because our levels of understanding and wisdom may be different.  Why can't we celebrate that there are those among us who are seeking Him and wish to share Him with the Body? Until we begin to move from childhood to maturity in our knowledge and understanding, the Enemy has us right where he wants us .... alienated from a fuller life with God.  With our whole hearts, let us seek Him!

Psalm 53:2    "God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God".
     

June 17, 2017

Connecting The Dots: There Is Power In God's Grace

     I have been receiving a huge download from the Holy Spirit as I seek more understanding of God and His Nature and Character.  I admit that the thoughts are coming at such an accelerated speed that I find myself flipping from Scripture to Scripture to determine if what I am understanding is confirmed by God's Word.  And I want to make it perfectly clear ... what I am about to share with you is from my own study of God's Word.  This is my opinion, and by no means, should you accept what I say without doing your own study.  But I am also declaring to you that I believe it is inherent upon [and necessary for] every Believer to search out God for themselves.  He has given us His Word as a revelation of His Character and His Divine Nature, and far too many of us rely on our pastors, popular ministers, and online articles to define God for us.
       I have been convicted in my heart that there is so much of the basic foundation of God's qualities and character that we really haven't figured out for ourselves.  Oh, we know all the words and probably use them often in our attempts to explain our theology: Sanctification, Justification, Redemption, Salvation, Faith, Grace.  But, do we really know what they mean from God's perspective?  Or put another way, do we search the Scriptures to understand how they are to be applied to our relationship with Him; that they are not just doctrines, but real dispensations from God to be applied in growing towards Him?
     For instance, I can say that I am saved by the Grace of God.  But do I fully understand the implications of God's Grace?  If you are like me, you've always understood the accepted definition of Grace as God's unmerited favor.  Grace has been defined as the following: We have received forgiveness of our sins through Christ's death on the Cross, and there was nothing we did to deserve it.  Grace has been given to us out of God's love and mercy; it's a gift.  And that's usually as far as most Christians go with their understanding of Grace... it's a gift... and if you will allow me to apply a grammatical attribute, it's a noun.
     And here is the astounding revelation I received as I did a deeper study on the Hebrew (Old Testament) understanding of the word Grace, and the Greek (or New Testament) interpretation.  In the Old Testament, the word for Grace is the Hebrew word chên.  And, indeed, it is a noun, and it does mean a favor; whatever is pleasant and agreeable.  What's more, there is no alternative word for Grace in the Old Testament --- everywhere it is used, it has the same meaning.
     In the Old Testament, Grace is usually applied in terms of "give favor" -- But the Lord was with Joseph, and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer (Genesis 39:21); "obtain favor" --  I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; (Exodus 3:21), or "find favor" -- And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. (Genesis 6:8).
     The Hebrew word chên comes from the word chânan, which includes the meaning to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior. Strong's Concordance also says, "Generally, this word [grace] implies the extending of "favor", often when it is neither expected nor deserved".  So, this seems to tell me that the modern Church's understanding of Grace is in line with the Old Testament perception.
     But when I looked at how God applies the concept of Grace in the New Testament, I saw a dramatic change.  Grace becomes a verb! And just like in the Old Testament, there is no alternative word or meaning for God's Grace -- everywhere it is used it means the same thing.  And the Greek word for God's Grace is charis.  At its root it indicates an act of favor on the part of the giver, and thanks on the part of the receiver.  Charis is related to sins and the attribute of God's Grace that they evoke.  It is God's Mercy (the free gift of forgiveness of sins) and compassion that recognizes the misery that our sin brings us.  It is God's tender sense of our misery that displays itself in His efforts [Grace] to lessen and entirely remove our misery.  God's Grace is applied; it is bestowed; it is His power to equip us for ministry.  This is what is shown us in Hebrews 4:16 ... Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  God's grace is a weapon in our spiritual war with the devil.  It is help in time of need, which implies [to me] that God's power is behind it.
     And it is imperative [in our understanding of Grace] that we recognize it to be a way that we live our lives.  And we must agree that God has an ability we do not have -- to resist sin.  Therefore, living a righteous life is not from our own ability to resist sin, but God's ability to do a work in our heart that helps us to say no to the temptation.  Grace empowers us through our relationship with God.  Put simply, when we pray for God's Grace to never commit a particular sin again, it is His ability NOT to do it that invades our heart and enables and empowers us to stop the sin.
     What about our free will? When God activates His Grace in our heart (His ability to not commit the sin), our will has a choice --- continue in our pursuit of that sin, OR come into agreement with God and let His ability (power to resist the sin) become our motivation.  This is the true understanding of that oft-quoted Scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:9 ... but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. When God's Grace is activated in New Testament Believers, there you will find the power of Christ.
     Grace is the manifestation of God's ability in any situation!  When the Apostle Paul wrote, By the Grace of God, I am what I am, I believe he was saying that Grace was the Ability of God surging through his veins and empowering him to do the work he did.  Paul was plugged into God's Grace all the time. That's how he lived! And we can live that way, too!  Every time we come to a challenge, we should ask ourselves, "Do I want to tackle this with my own ability [my own strength, wisdom, power], or with Jesus's?"
     I find it interesting that the first and last use of the word Grace in the New Testament involve our Lord Jesus Christ: And the child continued to grow, and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40); and The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (Revelation 22:21). In both instances, it is the power and ability of the Almighty God [exhibited through Jesus Christ] that is being manifested.  Let me be clear -- I accept the truth of God's unmerited favor in my life.  But I don't want to settle for only that portion of His Grace.  It want it all!  I want His ability to resist sin to invade my heart, and I want His power to be manifested in all the works I do for His Kingdom.  I recognize my own weakness and come into full agreement with Him; calling upon His Grace to be applied, to be bestowed, and to empower me to live a righteous life that pleases Him. That is what Jesus did, and He is Grace personified.

Acts 20:24   "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God".
   

June 14, 2017

"I Will Break The Pride Of Your Power"

     This is the warning that God gave the ancient nation of Israel should they be rebellious and reject His statutes and commandments, and break His covenant.  This would be the penalty if they turned away from Him to follow after leaders who led them to worship pagan idols; and leaders who abandoned God to increase their own wealth and power; or leaders who neglected God's moral laws to serve their own lusts and flesh.
     You know, I've had good reason to take my eyes off the world stage for the last year or so.  And it was never made clearer than what I've witnessed happening in our own nation in the past couple of months.  The leaders of our country seem to have lost all sense of decorum and legitimacy.  There is no respect for the duly elected President of the United States -- and whether you like him or not, the idea that it is entertainment to promote his beheading or assassination should be repugnant to every law-abiding citizen and person of faith.  The fact that this repulsive image is welcomed by both media and politicians should tell you the rate of the decline of our republic.
     History is said to be a great predictor of the future.  And as a Christian, I am appalled at the state of my nation.  But I also see a clear parallel in the history of ancient Israel and Judah.  The success and well-being of a nation and its citizens is greatly impacted by what kind of men are in leadership roles.  Today, our leaders are more focused on secularism, consumerism, and moral relativism than Jesus's teachings and living by the principles established by God.
     What I am seeing in my country today is no different than what the prophet Isaiah saw during Israel's prosperous reign.  He could just as easily have been speaking to us when he warned, "O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths" (Isaiah 3:12). And isn't his admonishment of  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20) just as appropriate for today?
     Leaders make a difference in the continued survival of their nations, and the Bible records that even the nations favored by God lived or died by the influence and actions of their leaders.  Both Israel and Judah had every advantage from being in close relationship with YHWH, yet their leaders ultimately led them to adopt pagan ways, to worship false gods, and to reject God's commandments.  When looking at a rating chart of the Kings of Israel, it is astonishing to see that from Jeroboam to Hoshea, a matter of 207 years, they were all rated as some degree of Bad.
     The Kings of Judah didn't fare much better.  Although Judah existed for 344 years, the reigns of its kings, from Rehoboam to Zedekiah were rated Bad, Devilish, Worst and Wicked; although six kings attempted to reform the nation and return it to God's ways, receiving a rating of Good.  But, ultimately, the nations of Israel and Judah were both taken into captivity -- with the ten tribes of Israel vanishing into history.  The nation of Judah was resurrected by King Cyrus and it is generally accepted that the descendants of that ancient nation are among the inhabitants of the modern nation of Israel.
     As I look upon the utter chaos that seems to be at the heart of governing leaders today, I want to thunder like Jeremiah, and shout at our misguided and hateful Congress. These are the leaders "who try to make My people forget My name… and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness".  Yes, I know that this nation is a melting pot and we are to respect and help all people try to achieve the "American Dream".  But what I'm seeing now is more like a nightmare! And the fact that everything Christian is excoriated, and the ways of God are ridiculed, warns my spirit that this nation will also pay a penalty for its disobedience to the God who so richly blessed it at its founding.
     I confess that I am embarrassed and ashamed of how the leaders of my country are acting.  It's as if all common sense and decency have left our shores.  The Bible makes it very clear that the nations who obey God will be blessed.  I'm afraid that our leaders have been deceived into thinking it is by their own power and abilities that we have become a prosperous nation. I'm afraid they have forgotten the statutes and commandments of our God who judges between the nations, and either raises them up or destroys them.
     I would advise our leaders to read Leviticus, Chapter 26 and hearken to what God says He will do to a nation that walks contrary to Him.  If He was willing to execute His wrath on His beloved nations of Israel and Judah, what makes our leaders think this nation will be immune?  And, yes, Leviticus is an ancient book of the Old Covenant, but for those of us who know the God of Leviticus to be the same God as today, we regard Him with Awe, Reverence, and an expectation of His Righteous Judgment.  There is a definite spirit of Unrighteous Pride in our nation's capitol and I pray that corrupted minds and hearts will be renewed, so that men's pride in their own power will be broken by contrite and repentant hearts, and this land can once again walk erect with our God.  I know the following Scripture is in vogue these days, but it has never been more true. Please seek His face!

UPDATE:  As evidenced by the violence in Alexandria, VA against members of Congress this morning (June 14), this nation is reaping what it has sowed.  Among our many sins, men have become lovers of self, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, fierce, despisers of those that are good, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. May God have mercy on us and hear our prayers for Godly and righteous leaders!

2 Chronicles 7:14    "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land".   

June 11, 2017

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

     This may seem like a trivial matter to some of you, but for the last couple of months I have been noticing a targeted campaign against Biblical teachers such as Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer.  To be specific, the website Pulpit and Pen, whom I have always found to be passionate about defending our faith, has seemed to put a big old bulls-eye on the forehead of Beth Moore.  For the longest time, I just ignored it as not worthy of my time in reading about some Christian inner-circle spat.  I just wasn't interested in hearsay or theological differences within the Church.  I was much more focused on what the Lord was trying to tell me (or as of late, about pursuing Him because I wasn't hearing from Him). But when the anti-Moore articles began to irritatingly dominate the website, I discerned that maybe this was something I needed to pay attention to.  As it turns out, all the venom directed at Moore, Shirer, and other teachers, coincidentally points a finger at me, too!
     To begin with, it quickly became clear that Pulpit and Pen were actively requesting testimonies from women who had "broken free from Beth Moore".  When looking through several pages of the website (both current and in the recent archives), it was disturbing to find at least one, and sometimes two, such testimonies per page, with the repetitive headline," _____ Breaks Free of Beth Moore: A Testimony".  The site solicited and printed testimonies by Jill, Elizabeth, Pastor Steve, A Pastor's Wife, and many more names that filled in the blank ... all stating that they were breaking free from Beth Moore, and calling her "a false teacher", and sometimes even labeling her a "heretic".
     Since I have encountered several of Moore's studies in various Ladies Bible Study groups that I have been a part of, I was curious about what these people were breaking free from.  The interesting thing was that in most of the testimonies, there were no specifics stated; just a repetition of a mantra-like statement like, "I am finally free of Beth Moore and her dangerous teachings".  In testimony after testimony, I was left asking, Please, tell me what she is teaching that is so false and dangerous?  Is it not spurious to make sure a claim without providing evidence?
     So, I continued with my research, reading more testimonies on Pulpit and Pen, and searching the internet for some clues as to what Beth Moore has done that is causing such an uproar.  And then I found it; it was buried within one long testimony against Beth, which was interwoven with the cruel abuse one woman received at the hands of her mother.  It was verified by a second article on a blog post titled, Two Reasons Why We Do Not Recommend Beth Moore.  Are you ready?
     Reason No. 1:  Beth Moore does not follow the New Testament command for women to be silent in the church.   Reason No. 2:  Beth Moore claims to have extra-Biblical revelations from God.  That is the exact wording of the complaints against this teacher of the Bible.  This second reason was also worded as, "Beth Moore was claiming that God was speaking directly to her outside of the Bible".  All I can say is, I am flabbergasted!  As a woman who takes her service to the Lord very seriously, I am offended that modern-day Christians still think women should be silent in the Church.  I agree with The Christian Bible Reference website, which states: Some of the great leaders and prophets of Israel were women, so God could not have intended to exclude women from spiritual and political leadership. Paul's proclamation of equality and Jesus' willingness to defy convention and accept women into his larger circle of disciples should be the guiding principles rather than the customs of the Roman Empire in the first century. Women took as large a role in the early Church leadership as was allowed by the conventions of that society. 
     By the way, Paul's statement of equality comes from Galatians 3:26-29 ... You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.  We have to look no further than the dynamic spiritual duo of Aquila and Priscilla who, together, "expounded unto him [Apollos] the way of God more accurately".  Her knowledge was equal to that of her husband, and she was not prohibited from presenting Scripture to the young disciple.
     And, of course, we have Phoebe, whom Paul trusts to deliver his epistle to the Roman Church, and  of whom, he writes in Romans 16:1, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a ministrant [servant; deaconess] of the church in Cenchreae". It is obvious that she is no second-class member of the Church. I guess I am more than a little surprised that this argument is being used against Beth Moore by my fellow Christians.
     As to the second reason for which Beth Moore is being excoriated, I guess I am guilty of this "heresy", too.  I understand that the Body of Christ wants to be careful about someone who says they "hear from God".  Instantly, you might be leery of anything they say without checking to see if it lines up with God's Word.  But Moore's critics aren't lodging any specific attacks.  They just don't think God reveals Himself outside the Bible; that the only revelation a Believer can receive is through reading the Word.
     So, then how do they explain the following Scriptures?  John 10:27:  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me ... Job 33:14:  For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it ... Jeremiah 33:3:  Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known ...  John 16:13:  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  Whether Old or New Testament, God's character and nature do not change. He speaks to His creation, and we can hear Him if we have that close, personal relationship with Him.
     The Truth is that God speaks to us in many ways .... yes, most assuredly through His Word; but also through prayer, through others, through the Holy Spirit, and through that "still, small voice" that Elijah heard during his darkest hour.  To condemn Beth Moore because she says she has heard "God's voice" is like the Pharisees telling Jesus that He was casting out demons by Satan.  Show me where Beth Moore has taught an un-Biblical Jesus; where she has denied His Deity or distorted His Message.
     Perhaps my fellow Christians who are so ready to condemn her are so scared of being deceived that they don't know how to recognize God's voice.  Perhaps they see God as distant and removed, not wanting to interact with us and only visible through His Word.  That is not the God I have experienced.
     But I think the most tragic aspect of this character assassination of teachers like Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer is that it seems the perfect ploy by Satan to divide the Body of Christ.  When Christians are so willing to attack each other over things that are not central to the Kingdom Message of Jesus Christ (repentance for forgiveness of sins; Jesus's atoning death at the Cross; our Commission to bring Heaven to Earth), then all we're doing is winning the devil's battle plan for him.
     In an article he wrote, Christian writer Jack Wellman said, "By doing this in full view of non-believers, we shame the reputation of Christ.  We are redeemed, but many times we don’t live like the redeemed and we don’t reflect the Redeemer.  Gandhi once said that 'I love your Christ…it is your Christians that I don’t like very much.' ".  Sadly, at times like these, I agree with him.
     Jesus said that a house divided cannot stand…and Christians are sometimes divided over issues that are not central to the Kingdom and the Cross.  The Body of Christ should not be divided against itself, yet many times we are attacking each other over beliefs, or any belief, that differs from ours.  Remember, we are a "Body" ... the toes differ from the fingers, and have different assignments; the arms and the legs are given different responsibilities -- different tasks but all working together for the good of the body.
     The bottom line is this ... this kind of vitriol and attack is not representative of God's love indwelling the Believer.  We were given the Armor of God to fight off the Enemy -- not each other.  Righteousness and the Word should not become weapons to be used against our fellow Christians.  And the way I see it, this accusation of "false teacher" is so weak that Satan is laughing at how easy it was to get us to start throwing his fiery darts at each other. May the Body of Christ quit listening to the lies of the Enemy, stand in unity, and go forth to battle the real enemy!

Romans 14:10    “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”

Romans 15:7          “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”






June 8, 2017

Even The Desert Can Begin To Bloom Again

     No, I have not picked up the baton to re-enter an exhausting race of scheduled deadlines and compulsory tasks.  I have actually been enjoying the freedom of spending as much time as I want --  any time I want -- with God and listening to what He might have to impart to me. I hadn't realized just how quiet He had been until I stopped my tasks in this physical world to spend time in the spiritual world.  And I can tell you that I don't like the silence.  But I now know the truth behind His instruction to "Be still".  How can I know Him if I am not devoting every cell in my body to experience Him?
     I have learned so much in just a few short days.  I learned how lonely it can be to be out of the presence of God... to be in that proverbial desert; thirsty and alone and wandering.  My prayers seemed to hit some invisible wall and bounce back to me, unopened and unanswered.  I searched my heart for some forgotten sin, and even scheduled a subsequent Deliverance Session to see what might be blocking my intimacy with my Father.  That took care of some areas that needed God's Light shined on them, and I received freedom and restoration.  But I knew that there was still some aspect that I couldn't identify that was keeping me separated from God.
     I knew it wasn't a matter of reading my Bible more, or praying more, or bearing more fruit. I had all that covered, but somehow things were different between Him and me. I had forgotten that God didn't need me to do things FOR Him.  He just desires me to be WITH Him.  I had forgotten that He created me to have a special, intimate relationship with Him; a relationship that none of the rest of His creation enjoys. I had forgotten to include Him in all the work I was doing for Him.  I had gotten quite competent in preparing to teach at our Home Church; I was passionate about what I wanted to share with you in my blog postings; and I was becoming increasingly comfortable with our model of Deliverance, which relies on hearing from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But I had to ask myself if I was still in awe of Their Presence in the lives of the precious people who came to us for inner healing, or if I was taking Jesus and the Holy Spirit for granted?
     Was I still relying on God for every aspect of my service to His Kingdom, or was I thinking I had graduated to the point where I could do it on my own? Why would I ever think I could let go of the Lord's hand and navigate any of this by myself?  Was I so full of pride that I quit listening for His direction and guidance?  Did I think, "God, just be on stand-by.  If I need you, I'll call you" .... and then expected Him to be there?!?!
     I honestly don't know if I am guilty of these things, but they are the self-examining thoughts I've had over the last several days, and the fact that I can't give a resounding "No!" to any of the charges has given me serious pause. And I have to admit that I'm not proud of that doubtfulness.  But I have made some changes in my life, and put God back where He belongs ... as the Priority in my life.  In fact, I have let some "worldly" things slide.  My fleshly obligations begin much later in the day, as I make the effort to slow down my pace and try to visit in the spirit with my Heavenly Father each morning.  I've got to admit, it was painful the first couple of mornings, because I still felt His absence.  But I pressed in, knowing He was there ... maybe just out of my sight and reach, but still there.
     Then this morning, He turned His face towards me! The drought is beginning to lift!  I still have a ways to go, but I am sensing renewal.  In a moment of stillness, I sought Him and He made His presence known!  I could give you a description of the personal images that I saw, but they are unique to me and my life.  But I want you to know that there is a very real realm where God exists and rules, and it is different than what we experience here on earth.
     Colossians 1:16 says that all things are created by Him, both visible and invisible. We see evidence of Him in this physical world ... the miracle of childbirth; a spectacular sunset; the stars in the sky, and the order of the seasons.  But I urge you to seek Him in the invisible realm; that place where your spirit resides alongside Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).  You don't have to settle for just talking to Him in your prayers -- your spirit can see Him, and walk with Him, and talk with Him in the Heavenly places.
     And I know this sounds like crazy talk to many of you, because it is a concept that you've probably never heard in the traditional Church.  But the God that spoke to Abraham and to Moses and to Noah, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and a host of prophets and people down through the ages is the same God that can [and will] speak to you.  He still inspires and instructs and expresses His love, disappointment, and mercy in the same way as He's done from the beginning.  He is our Immutable God; the God who never changes.  Never doubt that He wants to interact with you.  And don't be like me ... when you are aware of His silence, don't waste a minute to put everything else on hold so you can stop and listen for His footstep, or the faint sound of His voice.  And when you hear it, you run towards Him and call out His Name!  Get somewhere quiet, close your eyes and shut out this world.  Then listen for the sound of Him turning towards you, and let your spirit be free to hear His voice and feel what it's like to rest in the arms of our loving Father.
     This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to write about; to describe what it is like to be, as the Apostle John says in Revelation 4, "Immediately, I was in the spirit". And I don't want to diminish its importance by making it sound make-believe, or fantastical.  I just want to leave you with this encouraging thought ... if you feel like you're in the desert or the wilderness -- anywhere that God is conspicuously absent -- it's not because He's abandoned you.  Examine your life and see if you have made time for Him.  If you discover that you have let this world control you, stop in your tracks, and make the necessary changes to make Him the Lord of your life and your primary concern each and every day. Then be prepared for some extraordinary, out-of-this-world experiences as you enjoy a  closeness and familiarity with your Creator and Father.  Our times spent in the desert do not need to become habitations for doubt and detachment from God. Rather experience them, as I am doing, as places for deep spiritual renewal. Meet with Him, and watch your desert begin to bloom.

Isaiah 35:7    The scorched land will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes.



  

June 5, 2017

He Makes Me Lie Down....

     I can no longer ignore the signs that I have to make some changes... and it is has been difficult to decide exactly where those changes need to be made.  The long and short of it is that my health has begun to suffer from the stress of trying to meet all the obligations I feel that I must do to be effective in my service to the Lord. Please... I am not complaining!  It is a blessing to be given the opportunity to reach people for the Kingdom of God, and I can think of no higher calling upon my life.
     But I am being forced to admit that between writing this blog, the increasing demands for deliverance, the discipling/Bible studies with individuals, our Home Church, and being involved with a committed group of Believers who are dedicated to living out the Great Commission in ALL of its aspects (and changing our community).... that something's gotta give.
     I have fought a growing sense of being stretched too thin ... and was successful for awhile.  My first assignment from the Lord was this blog, and I have enjoyed hearing from Jesus and the Holy Spirit and then sharing the journey they are taking me on.  Then God brought our Deliverance Ministry to me and Mark, and there is nothing that feeds my spirit more than to see people receive freedom from the Enemy's bondage.  And that has led to continued discipling throughout each week of those who have been blessedly set free.
     Our Home Church only meets once a month, but these people are so precious to me. When I see how far we have come together in renewing our minds; and the progress that individuals have made in determining their own theology -- and then acting on it -- both Mark and I are inspired to continue growing with this amazing group of people.  The time spent on preparation [and in fellowship] fills my spirit with hope and joy.
     And now God has called us to a new endeavor; to actually live out the Great Commission: beginning with healing the sick, as Jesus repeatedly modeled for us and commanded us to do in Matthew 28 and Mark 16.  This involves an in-depth weekly study and association with a small core group who seek to be true disciples of our Lord, in the hopes that we can change our community, and then spread the Gospel Message of the Kingdom in ever-widening spheres.
      But I can no longer disregard that all this work for the Lord is taking its toll.  And needless to say, there is a considerable amount of guilt that comes with a decision of what to curtail, and to what extent I must reduce an activity.  And it should go without saying that my time spent meeting the needs of my husband is a priority, along with wanting to help him with his business.  But how do you say "No", to the Lord?  But then my wise husband pointed out that I am always trying to meet some timeframe or deadline, and I need to ask the Lord what to do.  That's when I came across the following Scripture: (Mark 6:31) He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.  (That describes my life more than I want to admit).
     I instantly felt a burden being released ... it's okay to step back and admit that you can't do it all; that you need a period of rest so that you can still do your best and enjoy it. It doesn't mean you are failing Him.  Even Jesus needed to dial it back once in awhile so He didn't burn Himself out. If we pay close attention to the Scriptures, we can see Him going to the wilderness or up on a mountain for some quiet time with the Father and some time away from the turmoil of His life.
     So, it's okay to admit that, at the moment, I feel pulled in too many directions and my spirit is feeling undernourished.  It does the Kingdom no good if my strength is diminished, or I'm too busy to hear God's still, quiet voice.  And lately, I've been feeling too much like Martha, who was worried and upset about meeting her obligations, that she didn't take the time [like her sister, Mary] to rest at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He had to say to her.
     I realize that I have been missing those glimpses of Jesus that I used to have [and make time for].  My spirit is hungry to regain those intimate moments of rest with Him.  So I have to intentionally make the time, and like I said ... something's gotta give.  This blog was the first stepping stone in my walk with Jesus, and it is not time to leave this path. BUT, I believe it is time to re-allocate some of the deadlines associated with it to another of the tasks He has assigned to me.  I will still maintain and write for this blog, but it may only be once or twice a week -- or whenever the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear.  I simply need to remove the stress that comes with meeting self-determined deadlines.
     And, maybe, Jesus is trying to tell me that I've said enough about Deliverance, Discipling, Healing, and advancing the Kingdom... and now I need to put my time and effort into DOING IT.  Then again, wouldn't it make the devil extremely happy if I just shut up about it all?  I don't think Jesus wants that, either.  So, for now, I am going to let Him be my True Shepherd... I'm going to let Him make me lie down in green pastures, lead me beside still waters, and restore my soul.
     I know He still has things He will want me to share with you as I continue my life's journey with Him. But I will let Him name the deadline and follow His lead.  I hope you will continue to check in on this blog, and I hope you will be both surprised and pleased when I have something new to say.  Thank you for remaining loyal, for understanding, and for taking this blessed pilgrimage with me.  We aren't done, and this relationship isn't over, by far -- when Jesus reveals something new about Himself, or the Holy Spirit whispers a message from Heaven, you'll be the first to know.  God bless you, and I remain in His Power and Love!

Matthew 11:28    "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest". 

June 4, 2017

John 21:25

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were recorded one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.


     I find it very interesting that so many of both historical and contemporary commentaries wish to label this verse a hyperbole.  Why is it so difficult to assume that this statement by the Apostle John is literal and true, rather than an exaggeration or embellishment? There was no need for John to further magnify the things Jesus did... John had already testified to Jesus being Deity; turning water into wine; healing the man at the Pool of Bethsaida; the resurrection of Lazarus; and the Empty Tomb, among many other miracles.  These all established John's claim that Jesus was who He said He was: the Son of God, and the Messiah.
     And it is the point that this verse refers to the Lord's miracles that I want to address in today's blog.  John is not talking about Jesus's doctrines and discourses, His sermons and prayers, His parables, or all the conversations He had with His disciples. John is specifically referring to the signs, and wonders, and attesting miracles done by Jesus that have not been recorded in the writings of the Apostles or by any other witnesses of Jesus's works.
     I can say that because John 21:25 is affirming what John said in the last verses of Chapter 20: There are also many other signs (attesting miracles) that Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book... John then gives the purpose for why he wrote this Gospel: but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name. 
     I understand the point John wanted to make; the signs, wonders, and miracles that were written were proof enough that Jesus was who He said He was.  The prophets had long ago prophesied that the Messiah "would open the eyes of the blind; that the ears of the deaf would be unstopped; the lame would leap like deer; and the tongue of the mute would shout for joy" (Isaiah 35:5-6).  Jesus's miracles mentioned in the Bible fulfill those promises.
    But John is going even further than that!  He is stating that there were so many MORE miracles that Jesus did, that the world couldn't take them all in.  Have you considered that John was also implying that there would not be enough Scribes in the world to write them? Or that there would be so many miracles to be written that the world would be overloaded with them, and men could never read them all? Instead, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God has decided to reveal enough of these miracles to certify Jesus's Incarnation, His obedience as the Son of God, His suffering, death and resurrection, followed by His ascension to sit at the right hand of God, the Father.
     So, let me present the quandary I find myself in .... the Western Church accepts that Jesus came as God in the flesh, suffered and died on the Cross, rose and ascended to Heaven as our Mediator, right? And they believe the Bible when it says that Abraham's descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore; but they are not willing to accept that He performed so many miracles every day that it would be impossible to record them all.  
     Not only does the cynical 21st Century Western mind find it difficult to embrace so many miracles, they are unable to see the bigger Truth: the amount of miracles that were recorded should be sufficient enough to direct our faith, and regulate our practice of them, ourselves.  How can we ignore Jesus telling us to "believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do." 
     His doctrines, prayers, and suffering do not qualify as His "works".  Jesus is talking about the miracles of laying hands on people and healing them; using the power of God through the Holy Spirit to cast out demons; and He is even talking about raising the dead, just as He did! 
     The modern world discounts these miracles as being for today.  They reject them, and despise them as the foolishness and deception of false teachers,  Jesus did so many of them that we can't even imagine the number. Then He told us to do them for the same reason He did; to attest to the power of God [in the Believer] to affect this world for the Kingdom.  Why is the Church so willing to accept that everything else is possible that Jesus commanded us to do ... love God with all our heart; love our neighbor as ourself; feed the poor; etc ... but think that His commandments to heal and deliver people from bondage is impossible?  Everything that Jesus did should embody our belief system! His life is the perfect model for our theology! 
     It's really very simple ... each member of the Body of Christ needs to determine [for themselves] whether they are going to completely believe Him and follow Him.  God's Word is His Truth.  You either believe it or you don't ... and that means all of it.  It is not necessary to know of the multitudes of miracles Jesus performed. The Bible makes it very clear what He did and that He commanded us to do the same.  Now all we have to do is rid ourselves of our sacred cows, our false theology, our doctrinal biases, the misguidance of the Church .... seek the Lord and His Kingdom and obey Him. 

June 2, 2017

Why Are We Fighting Each Other?

     There are times when I think that I should just turn this blog over to you readers -- the comments you make are so intelligent, inspired, and perceptive that I wonder if you are getting a download straight from Heaven.  And it becomes obvious that what I am seeing and experiencing within the Body of Christ -- and the renewing of my mind as I discern new understanding in the Bible -- is a shared occurrence with many of you.
      Yet, as I rejoice over this common spiritual direction, I have also offended some who find my mentioning teachers and leaders outside their comfort zone as grounds to quit reading this blog.  That is certainly their choice and we all have to decide for ourselves what we think the Bible is teaching us.  Not every voice out there is going to be 100% accepted by all. In fact, our theology can be both an encouragement and a stumbling block in relating to our fellow Christians.
     On that note, I find it disheartening that our disagreements on theology tend to divide us.  Why should that be so?  It's as if we Christians are forming a circular firing squad and shooting at each other, not realizing that the only one who wins that battle is the devil.  It's as if everybody is trying to prove that their doctrine is the correct one; judging the one who thinks differently as coloring outside the lines.  I get it!  Everybody is trying to defend the Church -- but nobody is looking to see who is bearing fruit for the Kingdom! And it's beginning to look [to me, at least] as if those who have stepped outside those colored lines are the ones producing the most fruit; the ones who are willing to follow the radical commandments of Jesus just the way He taught them -- and not according to the way they have been redefined according to man's traditions.
     And so, I want to share a couple of comments from readers who are expressing this even better than I can.  I don't get too many comments on what I write, so most of you may not even bother to read them, but these were articulated so well, I think you will benefit from their insight ....
     One reader wrote:  This one should ring true for anyone trying to claw their way from organized, weak and mainstream Christianity. I've noticed that there is a very interesting paradigm that happens when someone wishes to push on the boundaries of the box. First, those with common theological views will align quickly against those wanting to search out a matter. Secondly, those from that theological group will not only lose all aspects of "loving Christianity", but they will not stop until you are physically gone or removed! This is scary stuff, because we are warned of brother turning against brother by Jesus, Himself. His reference is to the thing He's ushering in called "Christianity".
     These so called "Believers", acting as they do, seem to me to be something other than Christians. If it walks like persecution [and talks like persecution]... maybe its persecution! We've been conditioned for so long to look for persecution from outside the Church that we aren't ready as Believers when it comes calling from the nice soccer mom or dad whose superficial and basic understanding of the Scriptures is "enough" for them and should be all you need based on their theological views. In their little Christian tribe, your view is deception and eventual damnation! Got it! The frustating part is all this will end up in the Leadership's lap and the primary motivation will be to shut all the disharmony down as quickly as possible. 
     Those with intentions of deep diving or digging in to really find out what kind of God this is we serve are always going to be a problem for the doctrinally weak-minded. I've been wounded by leadership so many times that I'm immune to their venom! Maybe that's what Jesus meant when He said "we will pick up serpents and no poison will harm us".  I say we better start to thicken our skin with these smaller thinkers and learn to hold our ground. Maybe defending the faith is more than meets the eye. Who would have thought we would need to contend for the faith against a tribe of Believers? I, for one, am done being bullied by church believers who are scared of digging into a concept that is a bit beyond the seminary canned view!!
     Another wrote:  On the ride to work this morning, I told my neighbor about my experience over the last few days listening through the Divine Healing Training (DHT) videos from Curry Blake (which I finished last night). I described wrestling through the subject of divine healing [that] I grapple with every few years, and how "a friend" suggested I watch the videos. I described my willingness to rely on the Holy Spirit inside me to guide me through the subject and that I don't need to be afraid of the sacred cows you mentioned. 
     He didn't have much to say except, "My dad is in that camp." Sometimes the Church's camps baffle me, but then I realize our fleshly nature[is] to surround ourselves with other like-minded believers. They can be helpful as we learn to digest new milk, but crippling when we neglect a balanced diet.
     The Church "IS ONE," something I often forget when not looking through spiritual eyes. For those who take on the calling we've all been commanded to do – to go make disciples – it's pure eternal joy to see the spiritual and doctrinal scales fall off believers as their paradigms shift from old to new.
     I'm grateful for teachers like Chuck Missler who've challenged me to be a Berean and a king who seeks out a matter. Thank YOU for your exhortation and encouragement... and the inspiration to move from milk (the study of doctrine) to meat (the doing of our doctrine). May God continue to heal spiritual infirmities through you.
     Just for the record, I am no one special; no different from any other Christian who realizes that there is more of our God than we know, and we want all of Him.  I am just willing to air the questions I have had, and share the struggles in my journey -- they are no different than others' walks with the Lord, as evidenced by the aforementioned comments.  And there is nothing I enjoy more than "iron sharpening iron" when it comes to "searching out a matter" that pertains to our King!  But I do not understand why we constantly fight each other, when we could join forces to fight our common enemy! Can't we see his scheme of trying to convince each of us that the other is deceived?  We get so focused on winning that we get caught in the vortex of that circular (spinning) firing squad that we don't even notice that no one is advancing in the Kingdom! We're only digging a circular grave of wounded Christians!
     Of course, if someone is trying to teach unbiblical doctrine, then we must lovingly reprove them and show them (in Scripture) where they are mistaken.  But if it is a difference in Biblical interpretation of Scripture (and not revision of God's Truth), can we just agree to disagree?  After all,  Peter and Paul had their differences but they ultimately came to agreement so that the Body of Christ could grow and flourish in Truth and Action.  Let us quit condemning each other over doctrine, and seek to understand each others' hearts.  May the Holy Spirit move in the Church as He did in the First Century!

Galatians 5:15   "But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another".