A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


October 23, 2017

Immanuel: "God With Us"

     This weekend Mark and I hosted a mini-conference in which Barbara Bucklin, of Luke 4:18 Ministries, came to speak to a small group of about 30 Christians.  Her focus in the morning session was to educate them regarding Freemasonry and its nefariousness, with all the connotations that word evokes: wicked, evil, sinful, iniquitous, egregious, heinous, atrocious, vile, foul, abominable, odious, depraved, monstrous, fiendish, diabolical, unspeakable, despicable; villainous.  But that is not the focus of this blog post today. (If you disagree or wonder what all the fuss is about over Freemasonry, I urge you to click on these links and read my extensive posts on the subject, here, here, and here).
     But today, I actually want to focus on what the afternoon session of our conference was about.  First, I need to tell you that this congregation of 30 souls covered a wide spectrum of Believers.  Many are struggling to come to terms with their faith because their theology is being rocked by the precepts we have introduced.  These include the Gospel of the Kingdom vs. the Gospel of Salvation; introspection of their religious "sacred cows" and Church doctrine; following man-made traditions and rituals vs. following God's commandments in the Bible; and just what the Great Commission is really commanding us to do.
     Others in this group are cautiously dipping their toe in the water to see how the concepts of Deliverance, Spiritual Warfare, and True Discipleship will affect them in the natural realm.  And still others have whole-heartedly accepted Jesus's invitation to partner with Him and the Holy Spirit in taking back territory from the Enemy and setting the captives free.  But ALL of them were about to get a glimpse of Immanuel!
     I'm sure everyone reading this blog is familiar with the story in Matthew where the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph by an angel who told him that a son would be born who would be called Immanuel - God with us.  That is the only place I am aware of in the New Testament that "Immanuel" is mentioned.  And while, we Christians in the Western World think Matthew 1:23 is announcing Jesus's name, the purpose of this Scripture is to actually show us that the Lord has been gracious and faithful to send the sign that the prophet Isaiah had foretold in the Old Testament.
     If you will recall in Isaiah, Chapter 7, the ruler of Judah, King Ahaz, was facing a formidable battle against the king of Aram (Syria) and the king of Israel, who had become evil allies in their attempt to capture Jerusalem and defeat Judah. The Lord instructs Isaiah to deliver a message to King Ahaz: "Take care and be calm, do not fear and be weak-hearted because their threats will not stand nor shall it happen ...  [But], if you will not believe [and trust in God and His message], be assured that you will not be established."
     Then the Lord speaks to King Ahaz and tells him to ask for any sign he wants; "[one that will convince you that God has spoken and will keep His word]; make your request as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven".  But King Ahaz is afraid to ask, and fears testing the Lord.  So, Isaiah, the prophet, steps in and scolds Ahaz for trying his patience, as well as the patience of God. So God has Isaiah relate the sign that He, Himself, will give ... that His promise to deliver His people can be relied upon; that He will be faithful to deliver Judah out of the hands of the enemy, and the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us). 
     The first thing we need to see is that Immanuel is not merely a name for the baby, Jesus, but is the fulfillment of what God has promised through His prophets ... not only that He will deliver us from the Enemy, but that He will be with us [forever].  And in the literal sense, God certainly was with us on the earth, in the human man, Jesus.  He now remains with us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus's representative.
     What does this have to do with our conference this past weekend?  I saw this varied body of Believers come into the realization that God can truly be with them!  I think our Western minds and culture have nearly erased our ability to fully comprehend this reality in our spirits.  But here is how these Believers were able to connect to the Truth of Immanuel ... Barb led them in an exercise that I am going to share with you.  I want you to grab a sheet of paper and a pen and just get off to a quiet place by yourselves and partake in the presence of the Lord.  Let's get started.
     The goal of this exercise is to start developing a communication with God; one where you speak to Him and you hear His voice; one where you experience the reality of Immanuel (God is with you).
     Step One:  Gratitude.  Write about something for which you are grateful.  You might start by writing, Dear God, I am grateful for .... Now, sit for a moment and tune in to your spirit, and listen for God's response to your gratitude.  Hear what He has to say about what you're grateful for. Write it down.
     Step Two:  He can see me.  Write from God's perspective -- what is He telling you about what He observes in you right now?  It might be the physical sensations He sees you feeling, or where you are located.  Example:  I see you curled up on the couch, pen in hand, and your shoulders are tense.
     Step Three:  He hears me.  Write what God is telling you He hears you saying to yourself.  Example: You are worried that you won't hear from Him, or that you're struggling to hear Him over the noise of all the things you have buzzing around in your head, OR, it could be that you want more of Him and the Holy Spirit.
     Step Four: He understands how big this is for me.  How does God see your dreams, your blessings, the troubles in your life? Write what He is telling you about those events, and your efforts to communicate with Him in all areas of your life.  Example:  [God speaking] I want you to know that I care about what matters to you and what you are facing in life.  I understand why this exercise might be difficult or intimidating to you, but your desire to honor Me brings Me great pleasure... OR, I know this situation [whatever it might be] is feeling overwhelming and all-consuming, as if you are about to sink, but I know what you desire, and it is My desire to give it to you.  Sit quietly for a moment, and listen to what He is telling you about your life circumstances and write it down.
     Step Five:  He is glad to be with me and treat my weaknesses tenderly.  Listen for God's voice and write down what He is telling you about His desires to participate in your life; how He wants to be a part of every area of your life. Example:  I delight in seeing your growth, and I will lovingly correct the areas that need work, so that you come into full relationship with me.
     Step Six:  He can do something about what I'm going through.  Listen for God to tell you how He will help you navigate the situations you are facing.  Example: I will strengthen you in those times you feel week. Just turn to me for rest and refreshing, OR, I give you My peace of knowing you are growing into My image.  I give you patience to enjoy (find joy) in the process.
     The whole point of this exercise is to learn to interact with Immanuel (God with us) in a way that you are in His presence constantly.  This exercise is a meaningful way to renew our minds and hearts to hear the voice of God during the painful experiences of this life.  When we can appreciate God's presence [and hear His voice] in the moments we focus on what we're grateful for, we can then learn to hear His voice in those painful circumstances, and learn not to be stuck in the negativeness of our own voice. We can learn to stay seated at the top of the hill, [in His presence], and not at the bottom of the hill, [in our own head].
     By experiencing Immanuel, we can learn to ask questions of God and actually hear His solutions!  If there are painful memories that need cleansed and purged, the presence of God/Jesus will take the lead and clear a path for you to make the decisions and choices you need to make, or actions you need to take.  The important thing is to learn to interact with God and seek His voice.
     I will tell you that I saw breakthroughs among those 30 precious people who stepped outside of their comfort zones to attend this conference.  Yes, there were those who totally disengaged and shut down, not even attempting to allow God to be with them.  But there were those who were willing to seek Him and experience His presence.  They heard His voice, perhaps for the first time, and it was not unlike this precious baby hearing her mother's voice for the first time. Watch the emotion on her face when she hears those words we all long to hear from the Father, "I love you".
     The conference attendees left that meeting place at the end of the day; some with tears, some with smiles on their faces, and some with a lighter step than when they entered. Seeds were planted that I know the Holy Spirit will water! God was with us, and Immanuel is what He wants to experience with you, too.  It is the intimacy that all mankind desires. Just take that first step, and He will answer. Both He and I promise you that!

Zephaniah 3:17    "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing."
   
   

October 20, 2017

The Doctrine of Christ

     Yesterday, I walked in on a theological discussion between my husband and our neighbor’s son. First of all, I just love that this young man is as interested in Scripture and figuring out how to live holy lives according to it, as much as we older adults are.  And anytime I’m invited to participate in a conversation about the Bible, you’ll never see me turning it down.
     The discussion they were having centered on Hebrews 6:1-3, and it is, I believe, a much over-looked passage.  Yet it is vital to a Christian’s life, and I daresay, most of our churches don’t teach of its significance and the part it plays in a Believer’s growth and maturity.  So, let’s dive right in, shall we?  Scripture says, “Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ, the Messiah, advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belongs to spiritual maturity.  Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works, and of the faith [by which you turned to God, with teachings about purifying [washings], the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment. [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware long, long ago. If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advanced teaching]”.
     I want to stop there, and avoid the oft-disputed verses that follow and have become a breeding ground for theological conflict between Calvinists and Arminians as to whether one can lose their salvation. So, I want to stay focused on the importance of these three beginning verses.
    First of all, were you even aware that Christ had a “doctrine”? And did you know the substance of it?  The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that there is such a doctrine, and practicing it is the elementary stage of our salvation process. Secondly, did you notice the six precepts of Christ’s doctrine?  They are 1) repentance from dead works;  2) faith in God;  3) the purification by washing;  4) the laying on of hands;  5) resurrection from the dead; and 6) eternal judgment and punishment.
     Before we examine each of these and see if we, as the Western Church, understand them fully and have accomplished them, perhaps we need to take a look at what the purpose of a doctrine actually is.  It is my understanding that a doctrine is to set forth a body of teachings according to a specific plan or system.  In this case, Christ has declared that these six precepts are the foundation of reaching a goal of spiritual maturity in Him. Not only are they the introductory stage of our salvation process, but they are to be accomplished in this order before we can go on to “advanced teaching”.
     Have you ever had this explained to you in your Church? I certainly never did, but as I have stepped outside the “box” and let the Holy Spirit lead me, I am seeing these elements of Christ's doctrine in new and stronger terms.  They are no longer the watered down versions that 2,000 years of man’s manipulative interpretation has wrought!  And I will tell you, that I am humbled by my lack of understanding and I will never again regard them in anything less than the holy reverence they deserve.
     Why has this new discovery [for me, at least] moved me so much?  It is because I now see the power of God in each of these doctrinal precepts that Jesus laid down as our foundation.  They are more than rituals to be marked off our Christian checklist.  They are life to a new Believer and should propel us to greater heights in our Christian walk.  And here is why … true repentance should bring us to our knees, weeping for the offences we have rendered against our holy God.  When we realize how easily we commit the works of our flesh that bring us spiritual death, just saying “I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again” is not enough.  When we can see that, without true repentance, Anger can lead us to Unforgiveness, and Bitterness easily turns to Rage, we see how easily a shallow repentance keeps us in bondage to those spirits that separate us from a holy and righteous life. That’s what Jesus has called us to.  It’s unacceptable to God that we simply “try” to live a righteous life, thinking that He knows we’re human and He expects us to slip up now and then.  No!  A real, life-changing repentance is required to take the next step.
     If you can accomplish a soul-searching, heart-searing repentance, then you can fully appreciate faith in God. You know what it is to trust Him -- truly trust Him! -- because you know it is only by His power that you can turn away from that sin you just repented for.  You can believe in His promises, and can count on His faithfulness to you.  To live the life that Christ has called us to, it is necessary to have faith in God.  If we claim we trust Him and His power to render us born again, yet continue to sin, then we are being hypocritical, because God is holy.  And if we try to turn away from sin on our own, without trusting Him, then we either fail or become puffed up in pride.  Real faith is an essential part of the foundation of our spiritual journey.
     The concept of "purification by washing" encompasses several things, and it is by the power of God that they are all accomplished.  First, we understand that baptismal immersion is the initial purification, or cleansing, when one comes to faith.  We are washed of our sins; dying to self and rising to Christ, receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Then with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, we receive the power to carry out the Great Commission -- healing, casting out demons, raising the dead. But we are also cleansed "with the washing of water by the Word." The Word of God contains power to cleanse our minds and our hearts.  And working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, the Word cleanses us with a purifying fire that results in a new nature, ready to grow in spiritual maturity.
     The laying on of hands exemplifies both the power of God to heal through us and our touch, and the power He gives to those who have been prayed for and elected to serve Him in the administration of His Kingdom.  And one cannot consider the resurrection of the dead without seeing the power of God in that act.  A Believer's life becomes pointless without that reality.  If there is no resurrection, then there is no point in living an obedient life.  And the very power that raises one from the dead lives in us, and gives us the ability to defeat the Enemy.  Finally, the resurrection shows us that God is just, and there is an eternal reward for living a righteous and holy life; and there is eternal punishment for rejecting the life God offers.
     In the end, it is the power of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes all of these fundamental principles possible.  And the writer of Hebrews says that these are the "elementary" stages in the teachings of Christ's doctrines.  In other words, they are the basic, introductory steps in pursing the process of salvation.  He says let us not have to continually return to this "milk" that all Believer's should have consumed by now.  It's time to move on to the "advanced" phases of Christ's doctrine, which would be His high priesthood and His sacrifice.
     Believer's should understand the power of God in His Kingdom on earth and be approaching the completeness and perfection of walking in the image of Christ.  But how many Christians today truly understand those elementary steps?  How many understand the display of God's power in repentance? In baptism? How His power can manifest through our faith? Or that He wants to see His power displayed in us raising the dead? And how many truly understand the power that will be evident in His wrath on Judgment Day? These might have been basic steps for Baby Christians in the days of the writer of Hebrews, but I'm afraid we might not past the writer's test today.  When it comes to the state of our spiritual maturity, I'm afraid we're a long way off from complete and perfect.

Ephesians 1:19    "and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength"  

October 18, 2017

Knowing God

     I have often expressed that I want to hear your experiences and journeys with God.  So, I was delighted when I was asked to consider posting the following thoughts of one of my readers. Like many of us, her relationship with God has been a complicated one, and I'm not sure any of us ever get it right until the moment we are face-to-face with Jesus.  But I love to hear the things God is teaching you -- your new perspectives on old precepts.  By sharing our journeys, we may impart a new jewel of knowledge, or reinforce a word from God that we have let slip away.  So, take a moment, and read this reader's story, and see if you can identify.       
   
     I recently received a revelation while reading 1st Chronicles, Chapter 28. It is where King David is passing his Kingdom on to his son, Solomon. The passage starts out telling us that King David had gathered, in Jerusalem, "all the officials of Israel, the officials of the tribes, the officers of the divisions that served the king, the commanders of thousands, the commanders of hundreds, the stewards of all the property and livestock of the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty men and all the seasoned warriors".  Obviously, this is going to be a very big event! Everyone who was somebody had gathered, along with all the people. and I am sure King David had prayed about the speech he would give for a long time.
     He had to know it would be important to Solomon, as the soon-to-be King, as well as all the people who were present. The first thing King David says in his speech to Solomon is "know God". Until recently, I had never realized how important those two words were. That is what King David deemed most important for Solomon to do, and the same advice applies to us, as it does to Solomon.
     Notice the words weren't "know about God". I know many of us have been brought up knowing the Bible stories and having an idea of what God is about, but at what point do we begin to actually KNOW God?
     King David goes on to say "If you seek Him, He will be found by you". This implies that it will take work on our part to actually get to know God. I guess like anything else some may find Him quite easily, but for me it was somewhat of a process. I had to learn to talk to Him in ways that I find uncomfortable when talking to people. It took some persistence and lots of knocking [for that door to be opened] and to find a real relationship with my Father. Now, after lots of work, there are days when He and I are completely in sync. We have a constant banter, if you will, running throughout the day. He gives me instructions and I follow them even when I think He's crazy.
     I am starting to learn that if I follow His instructions I will be okay. Sometimes I hesitate to step out to do what He is guiding me to do, and His voice in my head gets a little louder and more stern, so then I listen and do whatever I'm supposed to do. He has not failed me yet! I also still have days where I feel so very far from His presence. I know that has nothing to do with Him and everything to do with me. I can see Him saddened when I put distance in our relationship, and I know it is something I need to work on.
    Any relationship takes work, but this one is the most worthy of your time. It took me longer than it should have to get to know God, but the important thing is that He was waiting there for me the moment I surrendered to Him. Take the advice of King David ... when you know God, you can't help but serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind. And that results in a relationship beyond all earthly treasure!

     Did you see yourself in this testimony?  I will agree that actually KNOWING God is one of the most difficult tasks in a Christian's life.  But it starts with doing what she did ... keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking ... and God will respond to your persistence.  Secondly, did you notice the over-riding theme of her story?  Did you see that it took persistence AND obedience until that door was finally opened and she experienced the intimacy with the Father that all of us [and He] desire? 
     But also notice that there are days when He feels far away from her.  I know that happens to all of us, too.  It certainly is part of my journey. But she rightly lays the blame at her own feet, and knows she still has work to do to tear down those walls of aloofness that keep distance between her and the One who loves her like no other.
     Her final admonition is right on target -- it takes work!  And we do well to remember King David's final words to his son in Chapter 28 ... "Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished".  YOU are the unfinished work!  YOU have been designed to serve the house of the Lord, and He will not quit on you until the day Jesus Christ returns!  So, rejoice in this relationship and work at it like your life depends on it ... because it does!

Philippians 1:6      "I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]".

October 15, 2017

Can You Identify?

     If you've been a long-time reader of this blog, then you understand the journey the Lord has taken me on. You have seen the new seasons and paths to which He has directed me and Mark, and I've tried to be as honest as I could about my questions, as well as my convictions.  As you know, we are entering a new season of learning what it means to be a True Disciple of Christ and to be a member of what I will term, "the True Church".
     What has been perhaps the most surprising part of this journey is just how simple [to understand] Jesus's commandments to us, yet how difficult they are to carry out because we've never been encouraged to do them ... Throughout my church experience I heard references to "the Great Commission", but never once was it elaborated on, beyond the message to "Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor". And that's not even what Jesus categorized as His Commission!  Until you read, word for word, His precise explanation [in Mark 16 and Matthew 28], I doubt you will even know what we are called to do.  And I imagine if you have watched the movie I recommended, The Last Reformation, then your world has been rocked.
     I know I have been enthusiastic in urging you to understand His missive ... to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, baptize in His Name, and spread the Gospel of the Kingdom ... but how many of you are thinking, right now, "I could never do that!  That is for people who are far more spiritually experienced and knowledgeable than me? The Lord may have called Mark and Pam to do this work, but I am not equipped to represent Him in this exalted way!"
     Well, I'm here to tell you that I am no different than you!  And guess what?  Neither were the Twelve Apostles!  Jesus called ordinary men to follow Him to show us that it is possible for all of us!  And if you have made the mistake of elevating Peter, John, Matthew, James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Simon, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Philip, Thomas, and Judas Iscariot as extraordinary, exceptional men at the time they were called to follow Jesus, then I assure you that they only became extraordinary when they were baptized by the Holy Spirit [into the power of God] to carry out the Great Commission.  And if you are having a hard time accepting their "ordinariness", then I will let Jesus prove it.
     As I am slowly progressing through the Bible [again], I saw something that I had skimmed over the other times I read it, but which now leaped out at me.  Shortly after the Passover meal in which Jesus announces that "one of you shall betray me", He proceeds to tell the Disciples that He will only be with them a little while longer (John 13:33) ...  Little children, I am with you [only] a little longer. You will look for Me and, as I told the Jewish religious leaders, so I tell you now, ‘Where I am going, you are not able to come.’
     So, I want you to notice how He addresses the disciples ... the same men who have been with Him for three-and-a-half years; who have watched Him do the miracles; and who have sat at His feet receiving the teachings that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; who have heard Him say that He only does what the Father tells Him to do, or what He sees the Father doing.  He calls them Little children! 
     I am going to borrow from a sermon I heard Bill Johnson give once ... although the Twelve had been with Him for several years and seen His works, they still did not understand!  We don't read about very many successes they had in imitating Him, and He gets frustrated with them at times, calling them an "unbelieving and perverse generation" (Luke 9:41), and calls out their lack of faith, asking, them, "Why can't you understand?" (Matthew 7:7-11). So, the whole time they were with Him, they didn't really get it!
     Here's what I see in that verse:  By calling them "Little Children", Jesus is telling us that they are just infants in their faith, Baby Christians, if you will.  They have yet to grow into a spiritually mature believer who is advanced enough to represent the Kingdom of God.  But He offered them His grace, and He knew they would grow through obedience.  Did He decide they were unworthy to carry forth His message and works, and then dismiss them?  No!  He opened their minds to understand Scripture and told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them with power, and then they would be able to carry His Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
     Why didn't He open their minds to understand Scripture at the beginning of the three-and-a-half years?  Wouldn't the journey have been easier for them all? The Bible doesn't tell us, but perhaps God knew that if they didn't walk out that training, they probably would have credited themselves for the work they did do.  Plus, if they had been given to understand all of Scripture at the beginning, there would have been no growth and maturity in their walk. I think we can all agree that with experience and maturity, comes wisdom and the ability to persevere.  Jesus knew they would be tested and would need to remember the lessons He taught them along the way. So He took them on a three-and-a-half year apprenticeship, knowing they needed training and guidance.
     So, I submit to you, that you are no different than those twelve ordinary men who made a decision to follow Jesus. They had moments of doubt and fear. They made mistakes. There were many times they didn't understand what God was doing in their lives; and I'm sure there were days they wondered if they were doing His will or fulfilling their purpose. They didn't suddenly and miraculously become Pillars of the Faith.  But they knew Jesus offered something they couldn't live without. And so they trusted Him in their lives, remaining obedient to their calling.
     I will agree that it is more difficult for us because they could touch Him and hear His voice, and actually watch Him do what He calls us to; and we are separated by a distance of over 2,000 years and a couple of heavens.  But the calling is the same... His is the Way to follow [with all that He did]; He is the Truth that overcomes the Enemy's lies about who we are; He offers a Life that transcends these earthly bonds; and He is the Light that shatters the darkness that threatens to overcome us.  And He has shown us that He wants to use ordinary men and women -- fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers -- to reveal the power of God's goodness over the evil of the prince of this world.  He has shown us that ordinary people can defeat Satan by healing the sick, and casting out his henchmen, the demons, and taking back territory among the souls of men. He has shown us that the Power and the Love of Heaven can invade this earth, and it can come through us!
     All you have to do is be willing to say, "Yes, Lord!" And I will tell you, it is absolutely a journey; and for some it may take longer than the three-and-a-half years it took the Twelve, but just as with them, Jesus will be with you every step of the way -- teaching you, correcting you, encouraging you, and bestowing His Power and Authority, that you might become a conqueror, just as He was.
     So, never think that you don't match the qualifications of those early saints.  Each of us, on acceptance of Him as our Savior, have the opportunity to receive the power and authority from Heaven, and to do the works Jesus and His Apostles did. I will tell you that there was something inside me that responded to the first time I realized what the Great Commission really was. And the first time I listened to the experiences of others who were being obedient to this calling on all of us, I never looked back. The Holy Spirit communed with my spirit and I knew it was right! So, I urge you to trust Him and just be ready to obey. He will answer your willingness with His Love, give you His Authority and Power, and you can walk in the shoes of a Son or Daughter of the Most High God.  Just take that first step of your journey ... tell Him your heart longs to walk in His footsteps, and that you want to learn how to be a true Disciple. Then watch your identity change as you enter into one of the most glorious seasons of your life on this earth!
     Jesus, Himself, says, By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  What better way to love another than to set them free of sickness and demonic oppression, and then share the Gospel of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, baptizing them in Jesus's Name and setting them free from their sin?  After all, that's exactly what Jesus did, and taught His first disciple to do, isn't it? And the Bible tells us that whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

2 Peter 3:18    But grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

October 12, 2017

Am I Following the Lord's Commandments ... Or Tradition?

   
     Yesterday, I made a couple of statements that have set me on a path of much contemplation. I'm pretty sure that there are many of you who have struggled with this same concept, so let's just have an honest discussion, OK?  What I'm about to talk about has been a challenge to me in my Christian walk, and I simply want the Body of Christ to grow together in love and understanding over this issue.  So, here it is ... I wrote that there are Christians becoming dissatisfied with being "in the box", but not yet comfortable enough to let go of their traditions.  I also said that Jesus did not come promoting man's religious traditions.  And I have to tell you that there is one tradition that has never settled well in my soul or spirit, and I just want to share what I think Scripture is revealing to me.  It is the tradition that Christians are to be in a church setting every Sunday, or they are failing a Scriptural mandate.
     Regardless of the fact that Sunday worship was never part of the early Church, and it's origins are derived from Emperor Constantine's worship of the Sun god, I can tell you that I have felt frustrated while sitting in Christian circles and hearing comments like "Well, at least they were in Church on Sunday" -- as if that one act fulfilled some Christian checklist of what makes a righteous person. And never mind how they behaved the rest of the week!  Plus, where did the every Sunday come from? Shouldn't our greater consideration be whether that person was fulfilling the Commission Jesus gave every Christian in Mark 16 and Matthew 28?  And didn't Jesus say, "You will recognize them by their fruits"? Nowhere do I see Him saying that His followers will be recognized by their Church attendance, or that Church attendance guaranteed a saved soul.
     I would like us to consider that perhaps this is a man-made tradition and not a commandment from Jesus or the Father. Yet there are many Believers who cling to this tradition, and they always go to a corrupted use of a partial verse in Hebrews 10 as the foundation of their argument ... they will quote it as follows, "Let us not forsake the gathering together as is the habit of some".  So I decided to take a good look at this Scriptural reference. FIRST OF ALL, there is a whole important segment of that verse between "Let us" and the "not forsake gathering together" part.  SECOND OF ALL, I believe we need to consider the context of the entire chapter of Hebrews 10.  Let me try to summarize my understanding of it as concisely and accurately as I can.
     In Chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews is juxtaposing the religious system of the Old Covenant with the freedom from sin [offered by faith in Jesus] in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was characterized by ceremonies and traditions that could never completely deliver one from sin.  The New Covenant completes the atonement of sin [through Jesus's sacrifice] and cleanses those who are being sanctified and brought to spiritual completion and maturity. Righteousness comes by faith in Christ, not any Law. Yet how many Christians don't think they can live a righteous life if they are not involved in some kind of structured, organized religious practice?  [For the sake of argument, we are just considering Sunday Church attendance, but I'm sure you are thinking of other rituals that have taken on un-Scriptural significance]. 
    The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that there is a new and Living way to live life; and we can receive a full assurance of faith by believing [with a true and convicted heart] the promises made by Jesus.  THEN comes Hebrews 10:24-25, from which the fragment of Scripture is used to validate man's tradition ... And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  
     Now, I know I'm probably not going to convince someone who may be struggling with their religious traditions, but I ask all to seriously study these two verses. One cannot simply extract the middle of that sentence [to prove their argument] and ignore the significance of the entire precept.  The idea of not neglecting to meet together is for the purpose of stirring up one another to love and good works. It is not about Church attendance!  It's about loving our fellow man and doing good works!  And what are those "good works"? I would propose to you that Jesus came as our model of how to do "good works".  He says in Matthew 5:16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  He says in John 14:12Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
     I contend that the "good works" are the works that Jesus did; His ministry to the sick, those dying in their sin, Deliverance and Healing [both physical and spiritual]. So the Scripture actually says don't neglect to meet together to stir each other up to do these works, and then goes on to say that meeting together is to encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day of the Lord drawing near.  The other part of doing the good works of Jesus is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom; and to go out and make Disciples of others to spread the Word so that no man may be dead in his sins -- because the rest of the Chapter goes on to say that there will be a Divine Judgment and It is a fearful and terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God [incurring His judgment and wrath]. And that's why we don't need to neglect to meet together -- to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus; teach them about Kingdom living; and then send them out as Disciples to teach others.  That is what the "encouraging one another, and all the more" is about!
     So, I can't help it.  When these two verses are reduced to an argument for Sunday Church attendance, with no regard to the exhortation to do the good works that Jesus commanded us to do -- which by the way, does not get accomplished sitting in a pew -- then I can't help feeling that we have just exchanged the Religious System of the Old Testament for a new System that is just as ineffective for saving souls and advancing the Kingdom!  In both systems, it is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who accomplishes the cancellation of our sins -- not the traditions of the systems! I can't help recalling Mark 7:13 ... "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."  We need to honestly ask ourselves if our traditions really confirm and advocate for the Word.  Or are they part of our own standards for worship?
     Back to Hebrews 10 ... I am NOT saying that you have to separate doing the good works and loving your fellow man and encouraging Disciples from Sunday church attendance.  And I am not saying that there aren't Church congregations, both large and small, who are bearing much fruit for the Kingdom! God bless you if that is your mission! But if you are one who needs that tradition of structured gathering, honestly ask yourself this question ... Do I see my Church/Home Church doing the good works, saving souls, and making Disciples? Or are we telling ourselves that's what we're doing as we meet together, listen to a sermon, teach a Sunday School class, have a meal together?  Are we encouraging each other to go out into the world [as Jesus and His Disciples did] to display the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives? Or are we content to gather together and "talk" about partnering with Jesus and the Spirit?  Are we substituting the study of Jesus's model for actually doing what He did for the glory of His Father?
     I will admit that these are questions that Mark and I are asking ourselves.  We feel as though God is finishing up a season of downloading His knowledge about His Kingdom and the part we play in it, and He's about to take us into a new season ... one that demands we walk out what He's taught us.  And I will also admit it's hard to make these transitions in our service to Him and our fellow man.  It's much easier to study and discuss -- and, yes, to "meet together" and declare these new revelations -- and it's harder to put them into daily practice.  So, I empathize with you, if what I've presented is difficult for you to swallow.  And if you disagree, then can I, in love, challenge you?  Can you at least accept that there is no clear Scriptural mandate that Sunday Church service is obligatory to serving God and His Kingdom? I am not condemning those who do.  I simply ask that you do not judge or condemn others who see a different calling upon their lives as to how they worship and walk out their faith. The important thing is that our lives serve as a light to shine upon the glory of God - every day! 

Colossians 1:9-12    And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.        

October 9, 2017

We Are The New Wine!

    Well, hopefully you have had a chance to watch Torben Sondergaard's The Last Reformation. And I would really love to hear your comments about what you thought.  I suspect there were some that were freaked out. After all, this is nothing like what you experience in your Church. And I'm sure there were others who were excited ... "This is what I've been looking for!"  No matter which end of the spectrum you are on, I sincerely hope the movie created a genuine introspection on your part.
     As Christians, we can no longer avoid the uncomfortable conversation ... there is a growing schism among the Western Church.  People who five years ago were comfortable "in the box" suddenly find themselves at odds with what they are coming to realize is a powerless Church.  And they also find themselves in conflict with people [who are quite content where they are]; people who they've worshipped beside for decades.  So more and more Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo of the Western Church.  And I would suspect that there are more than a few who are caught between those two paradigms ... out of the box, but not yet comfortable to let go of their traditions.
     The number of Home Churches are growing, and Christians are struggling with what that's supposed to look like.  I saw this struggle materialize in the comments posted on Torben's Pioneer School website (an online course structured to help Christians break free of man-made traditions, and study the Bible in order to live the Holy Spirit-led life as exhibited in the Book of Acts). One particular commenter stated it perfectly, "We all seem to have our "pet" issues. For the Sabbath Keepers it's what day we worship. For the Catholic, it's what source of authority we listen to. For the "In Jesus's Name folks" it's what words are spoken over you when you get water baptized. For the Church of Christ it's how you conduct worship services (sans music). For each of us, there is a grid or a system that we relate to. Everybody says that by following their steps, you can know God better, you can be happier, you can...(insert claim here)".  I would add, for the Baptists, it's "Once Saved Always Saved" and the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture".  For the Lutherans, it's that the Communion Sacrament of eating Christ's Body and Drinking His Blood is literal. By now, you're getting the idea...
     Everyone's faith comes with attachments.  And those attachments differ, depending on which religious traditions you embrace.  But here is what we need to understand: Jesus wasn't promoting man's traditions.  He came representing the Father, with a clear message to His Disciples of how His Father wanted the Gospel of the Kingdom advanced.  The Disciples were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then baptize people in both water and the Spirit; healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and spreading the Good Word that all this is possible because our Father in Heaven wants to partner with us to bring Heaven to Earth. All that -- the works and the Gospel Message -- is all about POWER.
     The problem is that the Western Church has preached the Gospel [without the Power component] for so long, they are freaked out when they see it!  The Western Church proclaims they have the correct knowledge of the Bible (in all their variations), but what we need is the obedience the Bible calls for.  The Church has become a system.  We even take tests to see what "gift" we have, or what "office" we should occupy. But if we look for a model, or instructions, on how Jesus told the Disciples to "do Church", it is the Church that sprang up in the Book of Acts.  It is the only Book of the Bible that clearly shows the Disciples doing all that Jesus taught them while He was on earth.
     But how many of your fellow Christians do you see healing a sick person, then baptizing them in water, and then urging the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to come upon them as it did in the Book of Acts?  Right now, some of you may be thinking, "But I'm not a Pastor. I don't have the authority in the Church to baptize someone". But we are called by Jesus to do it! Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
     Our traditions have reduced millions of Christians to sitting in a pew, or a class.  They get taught and receive knowledge, but unless you go out to do "all that Jesus commanded us to do", you are not going to bear fruit or advance the Kingdom. So how much is that knowledge really worth in the Kingdom of God? Since we are not just supposed to be "hearers of the Word", how much does that model result in "doers of the Word"?
     So, the reality is that more and more Christians are awakening to the fact that Church as we know it is no longer satisfying to their soul and spirit.  They are recognizing the Truth about what the Great Commission really is -- that it's more than sharing the Message of Salvation; more than Jesus dying to cover our sins. He died to remove our sins and to create in us a new man or woman -- one that bears fruit for the Kingdom by doing the things the Church in the Book of Acts modeled for us. And so they are leaving the traditional Church model and seeking ways to observe all that Jesus commanded those Twelve Disciples.
     But here is a warning that I want to give... Yes, Christians are breaking free of the powerless Western Church, but there's one thing we must guard against.  The challenge when we leave "the box" is not to create the same thing we just left! How does it advance the Kingdom if we teach the same way and act the same way?  If we never actually become that new wine that can't be contained in the old wineskin? How can we expect to get new results by continuing our old behaviors? As one commenter posted, "House Churches can be just as dead as those who gather in "the box" ".
     As we get closer to Jesus's return, we are going to see a split in the Western Church.  One side thinks we have evolved beyond the actions of the Disciples in that First Century.  They think that laying on hands to heal the sick, delivering a Christian from demonic torment, or baptizing in the Spirit is not for today. We are to submit to the authority of the Pastor and the Church system. The other side has been awakened to the power of the Holy Spirit in the Believer [to bear much fruit for the Kingdom] and they want to see the Body of Christ become the Church Jesus intended it to be.
     The bottom line is this .... I don't care if a Christian goes to a 5,000 member mega-Church, or is part of 20 devoted Believers who meet in a home.  If there is no fruit being produced by either group, then the Holy Spirit is not present.  And when the Holy Spirit is absent, there is no power to fight the spiritual battle against the sinful nature of this world. And that is not what Jesus had in mind for His Church.  Yes, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  But I want the Fire of the Holy Spirit. Remember that John the Baptist said He baptized with water, but "He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire".  It was that fire that changed the world; that needs to change the world today.
     God poured out His Holy Spirit with fire and signs, healings, and spiritual gifts on the Church of the Book of Acts. He knew if the Early Church was going to survive the horrific attacks that would come against it, Believers would need the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit to counter those attacks and advance His Kingdom on earth.  He has awakened us in the 21st Century Church to the same truth.  We need the joy of being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to counter the ambivalent, compromising, and weak institutionalized Church.  As we begin to walk out the power that the Book of Acts Church modeled for us, we will see God renewing us; restoring us; and equipping us to do the works Jesus did, and even greater works -- all with the advancement of the Kingdom on earth in mind.
     This is an exciting time to be a Christian ... let us walk in the footsteps of those Early Disciples and see the True Church established in power and obedience to Jesus's commands upon our lives. Let us be like the new wine ... so alive with our conversion from the powerless Church that we can no longer be contained in the old vessel. There is reformation and revival brewing in the Church.  That is the legacy left to us by the Church in the Book of Acts. It's time we picked up the mantle!

Jeremiah 6:16  Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
     

October 6, 2017

The Power Of The Holy Spirit In Our Battle With A Compromising World

    In a previous post, I asked a question ... How did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?  The "it" I'm talking about is the power of the Early Church in representing the Kingdom of God and carrying on Jesus's works from the Father, and the spreading of the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  God has brought so many revelations to me in recent days, and I hope I can organize them into something that makes sense for all of us and shows us the path He wants us to walk.
     I will begin by asking you to consider the doctrine I pointed out that every Church embraces ... Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.  We all believe that, right? And we believe that He  has gone to prepare a place for us and will come back for us soon. But what else are we told to believe and embrace?  Throughout John, Chapters 14 and 16, Jesus says over and over again, that when He is gone, the Father will send a Helper, a Counselor, a Strengthener in Jesus's Name, and He will "teach you all things, and help you remember everything that I have told you".  Of course, we know that Person to be the Holy Spirit.  But here's what I want us to get...
     By sending the Holy Spirit in Jesus's Name, that means the Holy Spirit comes in Jesus's place; to represent Jesus in all matters; and to act as Jesus would act in all circumstances.  Why?  Because both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are sent by the Father to invade the earth and the hearts of men with the very power of God.  So... if Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, doesn't it make sense that the Holy Spirit is, too? Which brings me to the big question, If we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, why aren't we seeing the power of a Holy Spirit-led Church as we do in the Book of Acts? Is there any reason on earth that what we see happening in Acts in the lives of the disciples of Jesus [and the Early Church] should not be happening today and into tomorrow and the future? 
     As I've told you before, I have been earnestly seeking more of God and Jesus, but I have especially wanted more of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who lives inside me and I have often found myself talking to God, the Father, and Jesus [in Heaven] in my prayers, but not recognizing that I have both of Them inside me in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who can express my prayers better than I can! And that's when I really began examining my prayers and how Jesus prayed, and realized I wasn't doing as He commanded regarding prayer.  And in my persistent and continual prayer for more of Them, God sent me a movie that literally wrecked me.
     I want to recommend that you watch this movie, called The Last Reformation: The Beginning.  Director Torben Sondergaard and filmmaker Lebo Akatio, not only asked those questions that were on my heart, but they answered them and showed me that it is possible for the world to return to those Holy Spirit-infused days of power in the Body of Christ! But why does the Church not believe this?  Why do we think that Holy Spirit-filled Believers can no longer lay hands on the sick and heal them; or command demons to come out of a body and they will go; or for a person to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that they are "baptized" with fire and the power of God to see His Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven?
     This movie gave a concise, and what I believe to be an accurate, synopsis of how the Church was compromised down through the centuries... It is a fact that the Church in the Book of Acts was a living body of Holy Spirit-led Believers; a Disciples Movement, if you will.  But when Christianity came to Greece, the Enemy whispered to men, and it became a Philosophy.  When Christianity came to Italy, men compromised and it became an Institution.  When it came to Europe, the devil convinced men it was a Culture.  And when Christianity came to America, it became a Business.  And the filmmakers asked this heart-piercing question:  If you take a body and make a business out that body, is that not prostitution?
     Watching this movie, my heart and soul were raised to new heights of passion for the power of God in my life.  I saw a raw, visual, and moving image of what the Church is supposed to look like -- what I'm supposed to look like as a follower of Jesus!  And I wept from pure joy and hunger from knowing it is still possible and what God wants for every Believer! I know that I have taken the first steps down this path, but I want more!  I want the people around me to see the power of God the Father through me, just as the Disciples saw it in Jesus -- and then the world saw it as the Disciples displayed that power as they took it to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth! It wasn't supposed to stop! We can still display that power as representatives of the Kingdom of God!
     .... And then I received a close-up view of just how compromised men have become in this corrupted and prostituted world. I saw an interview with Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code and other anti-religion books. My heart was actually quite moved by the depths of his "lost-ness", if I can use that word.  When discussing his books, here are a few of his quotes ... "Religion does an enormous amount of good in the world. But at the same time, there are factions in every religion that take the metaphors and the myth of Scripture, and they hold them up as literal fact.  That is the danger of any philosophy or religion."  (Right there, we see validation of the movie -- Dan Brown sees Religion as a Philosophy, and has no sense of Faith). Then when talking about his new book, Origins, he said this: "Traditionally, all the gods fall.  Are we so naive today to believe that all the gods of today won't receive the same fate? Our planet would be fine without religion and we are evolving in that direction".
    What an explosive contrast to the The Last Reformation!  But can you see exactly what Torben Sondergaard was saying? Religion has become a philosophy and, for Dan Brown, a business.  There is no power in it --- unless we return to being the Church of the First Century, then we our families, our communities, our nation, and the world will go the way that Dan Brown envisions.  BUT we have men like Torben Sondergaard, and Todd White, and Steve Harmon, and David Hogan who are on the front lines to declare that this will never happen!
     I truly believe that there is a movement of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ today -- a movement that actually wrecks the souls and spirits of men and women who are hungry for more of God; who hunger to experience what the Disciples of the Early Church did, when the power of the Holy Spirit literally touched them. And I'm not just talking about the Twelve.  There were hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of disciples and followers of Jesus, who received the power of the Holy Spirit to do the works of God on earth -- to do the supernatural miracles and signs of the Kingdom, and to preach and teach the Gospel of God's Kingdom on earth. It is our legacy to join them in that same walk. The Spirit within me won't settle for anything less -- and I have surrendered all to His power.

Acts 1:8   "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses..."

October 3, 2017

Halloween: The Satanic Connection

    I was going to continue yesterday's blog on Prayer with a post on how the Holy Spirit has recently moved in my life. But a text message from a concerned Christian friend has me taking a slight detour. I will continue with my testimony on Friday, but I wanted to address this question, because it is of primary consideration over the next few weeks.  So, here is the question: Is "trunk or treat" a God-honoring alternative to Halloween? Here is my answer and some important facts you need to know...

     One can go online to search out whether Halloween is an acceptable holiday for Christians, or if it is really an evil day, celebrated by Satanists and occultists.  For each site you visit, I suspect you will find a different answer.
      There will be those sites who declare it to be a benign evening of "tricks and treats" for the youngsters, while others will warn of its demonic undertones.  There will be attempts to "Christianize" the holiday by offering Trunk-or-Treat events (popular among churches) to bring Halloween to parking lots where kids go from car to car and get candy.  There will be countless Fall Festivals innocently celebrated, and there will be people who simply don't care, accurately saying that all holidays have pagan roots and it is what you make of it today that matters.
     And that's exactly why we should care about this controversial holiday.  Whether a devout Christian or a non-religious secularist, most people believe that Halloween is a night of candy and costumes and autumn celebrations/festivals that ALL people can share.  But what about the satanists and witches?  Shouldn't we care what it is to them?
     Known as "Samhein" to this latter group, Halloween is a transitional time, and an initial stage of a process in which the veil between life and death grows thin.  I found a Christian website (Logos Resource Pages) that featured an article by Pastor David Phillips that seemed to offer some straightforward information on the holiday.  Consider what the following self-declared witches had to say about the holiday... "Halloween is one of the four Great Sabbats of the witches that everyone has heard about. To witches, Halloween is a serious occasion, however merrily celebrated. It is the old Celtic Eve of Samhain. With the coming of Christianity, the Church tried to Christianize the old festival by naming November 1st as All Saints Day, or All Hallows as the old term was. Thus Samhain Eve became All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. But attempts to discourage the pagan celebrations were so unavailing that the festival was eventually banned from the Church calendar. It was not until 1928 that the Church of England formally restored All Hallows to its calendar, on the assumption that the old pagan associations of Halloween were at last really dead and forgotten; a supposition that was certainly premature."
     Another witch's testimony:  "All the Great Festivals of Paganism, wherever they may be found, correspond in common with the Solstices, Equinoxes, and other natural annual cycles of life. Most of these remain with us today, in more or less disguised form, as the so-called Christian holidays of Christmas (Yule), Easter (Ostara), May Day (Beltane), Thanksgiving (Harvest Home), Halloween (Samhain) and even Groundhogs day (Oimelc)."
     Still, another confirmation of Halloween's importance to occultists:  "Salem (Massachusetts) is a mecca, especially around Samhain. It is our holiday, our new year, and a lot of witches come here from all over the world".
     And if that's not enough confirmation for you that everyone should avoid the celebration of Halloween, let me give you the cold hard facts of their official "holy days":
December 21st (Yule, or the Winter Solstice);
February 1st (Candlemas, also Groundhog's Day; a Illuminati Human Sacrifice night);
March 21st (homage to goddess Ostara; Human Sacrifice Night);
May 1st (Beltaine Festival, also called Walpurgis Night. This is the highest day on the Druidic Witch's Calendar. May 1st is the Illuminati's second most sacred holiday. Human sacrifice is required);
June 21st (Summer Solstice; Litha is one of the Illuminati's Human Sacrifice Nights);
August 1st (Lughnasa, Great Sabbat Festival; One of the Illuminati's Human Sacrifice Nights); September 24th (Autumn Equinox); and
October 31st, which is the highest and holiest night of sacrifice for the secret society of the Illuminati.
      For the discerning Christian, it should be easy to see the connection between ancient paganism and the modern customs and costumes of Halloween. Perhaps the most relevant is the goddess Hecate, the Titan Earth mother of the wizards and witches, who illustrates perhaps better than any other ancient goddess the connection between Wicca, the Celtic Halloween traditions, and the realm of evil supernaturalism.
     Hecate's followers sincerely believed in and feared her magic, and her presence was legendary. This was primarily due to her role as the sorceress of the afterlife.  But true believers also feared Hecate's ability to afflict the mind with madness, as well as her influence over night creatures. She was thought to govern haunted places where evil or murderous activity had occurred. Such areas where violence or lechery had a history were believed to be magnets of malevolent spirits, something like "haunted houses," and if one wanted to get along with the resident apparitions they needed to make oblations to the ruler of the darkness—Hecate.
     But here's what we need to know: the Hecatian myths adopted by Celtic occultists continue in today's pop culture, symbolism and tradition in the following ways:
•  People visiting neighborhood homes on Halloween night represent the dead in search of food (the treat).
•  Masks of devils and hobgoblins represent evil spirits seeking mischief (the trick).
•  Those who pass out candy represent the homes visited by the dead, or may also represent worried individuals seeking to appease Hecate and other nighttime terrors.
•  The Jack-O-Lantern (will-o-the-wisp, fox fire, fairy fire, etc.) is, according to some histories, a wandering soul stuck between heaven and hell. Others claim the Druids left Jack-O-Lanterns on doorsteps to ward off evil spirits. Another legend concerns a drunk named Jack who made a deal with the devil. Each claims to be the true origin of the Jack-O-Lantern myth.
     And in case you think this is all just a bunch of harmless folklore, I want you to consider this .... not long ago some 300 exorcists flocked to Poland for a week-long congress to examine the current fashion for Halloween-themed monsters like werewolves and vampires the world-over, and the apparent connection between this fascination and a surge in demonic possession. Is it possible that  the world is experiencing an explosion of ancient occultism combined with wicked fascination for ghosts and all things paranormal?  Those who monitor social trends now say that Halloween is the second most popular holiday, surpassed only by Christmas; itself full of pagan symbolism.
     I know there are some secularists, and even Christians within the Church who will dismiss all this information as an imagination run wild.  But it is imperative that we understand that the Mass Media, including the Internet, television, film, radio, and other communications systems, have traded Bela-Lugosi-like vampires of former years and silly Abbott and Costello's Frankensteins and Mummies, (which could be vanquished with Christian symbols), for monsters of profound demonic character depicted as impervious to Christ's power. As a result, today's youth have exchanged yesterday's pigtails and pop-guns for pentagrams and blood covenants aligned with forces far stronger than former generations could have imagined.... and forces that they are ill-informed to withstand.
     I think it is dangerous to dismiss these warnings that I've presented. I think that we do that at the risk of our children.  The celebration of Halloween can be an effective tool to lure them into the occult and/or to become victims of satanic rituals.  Current headlines have certainly shown us that evil and wickedness are on the rise; with more and more lurid stories of bizarre and sadistic rituals happening almost every day.  It will be interesting to see what the headlines reveal in the coming days, as to the unholy celebrations that will be taking place at the end of this month.
     Obviously, it is up to you to decide what you think about this commonly accepted holiday.  But for me, I know the power that the Enemy wishes to use against us, and I will not only be on guard tonight, but will be praying for protection and authority to thwart his attacks against innocent children.  Let me leave you with these frightening words from a high priestess of the Church of Satan:  "As a child drawn to darker passions from birth, I always delighted in the fear and fantasies of Halloween. It gives even the most mundane people the opportunity to taste wickedness for one night. They have a chance to dance with the Devil, either stumbling, tittering and nervous in the arms of the Black Prince, or boldly, ravenously sharing in the sensual excesses and fright of others on this magical, unholy night. Now, birth and death have, for me, become inextricably interwoven into this day."  Parents beware!

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12   "And with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

September 30, 2017

Hear Me, My God!

     The last several days God has gotten ahold of me and literally shook me out of a stupor.  I have been asking for more of Him... desperately wanting to encounter Him as Jesus did.  I've been wanting to see evidence of Him in miracles like the Disciples saw; to see a burning in the hearts of my fellow Christians like what happened in Acts, Chapter Two. I KNOW that, as today's Body of Christ, we are missing so much of what Jesus told us we would experience after He sent His Spirit to us!  I KNOW we are to be having a greater effect on the world; to be seeing a greater intimacy with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I KNOW so much is lacking ... in my prayer life; in how I communicate Jesus to a lost world; in how I communicate the power of a Christian life to fellow Believers. I want more of God in my life, and in my community, my state, and my nation! And I'm SO weary of living in a compromised world -- I just don't want to settle for any less than what the Early Church experienced. So how did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?
     I'm going to try to relate in this post and the one following, just what God is showing me, and just what He has done in me.  Let me start by asking, how many of our churches preach the message that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow -- essentially Forever? If He is truly the same, then everything about Him is the same -- what He wants for us and what He intended for us to do after He went to the Father. And He gave us a clear model to follow ... Himself! He even gave us a model Prayer to pray, yet I'm not sure we haven't lost the essence of that because it has become almost a mechanical prayer for so many of us.
     I have spent the last week studying and listening to different teachings on Prayer because I want that intimacy that Jesus had with the Father. He knew that whatever He asked for in prayer would be answered because He talked with God and heard [and saw] His Father's heart. And He did that as a man! It is available to us, too, because Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  So why don't we believe it? Why isn't our prayer life the source of our power, as it was for Jesus?
     Could it be that we are too wrapped up in ourselves when we pray -- that we are only conscious of the need(s) we are asking for, instead of focusing on Who we're praying to?  I think Jesus believed His prayers would be answered, because He really knew the One He was praying to, and that the model for answered prayer is always Heaven -- Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
     But perhaps the biggest failure in our prayer life [and it certainly has been in mine] is the lack of persistence.  I'm sure you've heard the teaching on Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you ... that the tense of those verbs is really "keep on asking", "keep on knocking".  But what have we come to believe?  If our prayer isn't answered right away, then "it must not be God's will". But I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible that Jesus said to someone who came to him [in prayer] for healing or deliverance, "I can't help you because it is God's will for you to suffer".
     Can you discern that His parables of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) and The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) are about showing us what our Father is not like? Unlike the Friend, our Father wants to give us everything we ask for. Jesus says, For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives. And unlike the Unjust Judge, our Father won't delay in giving us justice, if we pray and not give up and lose heart. Here is the question on Jesus's heart as He told this parable: When the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?
      So, we must ask ourselves, do we pray once or twice and then give up? Or do we knock until our knuckles are bruised, and ask .. no, shout! ... until our voices are hoarse? Are we prepared to never give up until we get the answer we've prayed for, crying out to God, "Father, YOU SAID, in Your Word that if I asked in Jesus's Name, I would receive! We have made a covenant, God! I am trusting in You to respond! And I know, Father, that no answer doesn't mean this is Your will. You are not like the Unjust Judge or the Friend who doesn't want to help.  I'm going to pray [like Jesus did], until I see Your Presence in this situation and something happens!"
     But, I fear that we put no more effort into prayer than we do studying our Bible. We have become too casual about our prayer life, instead of depending on prayer the way the Disciples did.  Do you recall that they returned to Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and prayed for days in the Upper Room, with one accord, while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit?  They gave themselves "continually to prayer" (Acts 6:4), and after Herod had James killed, and Peter was arrested, "fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church" (Acts 12:5).
     And why were they so persistent in prayer, and why did Jesus stress that persistence was so important?  Could it be that persistence in prayer changes us?  That God wants to develop and change our hearts so that we will be better suited to "rule and reign" as kings and priests?  Think about it! When that time comes on earth, He is going to need Saints who will be able to persevere and declare His Word into the storms of life; Faithful who won't give up because they know their authority.
     The bottom line is this ... our prayers don't have to be lengthy and religious, like those of the Pharisees. We just need to be persistent, and don't stop! But here's what I want to make sure we all understand ... Jesus points out [at the end of the parable about the Friend] that the real reason we should pray persistently is this:  If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
     When we persist in prayer and seek the Father's answer until He gives it, we will receive more of Him, namely an outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  Yes, I have been fervently praying for healing, and for miracles, and for His provision -- but what I've really hungered for is more of Him.  I want to be made more full of God! I want that intimacy with Him that only the Holy Spirit can give me. Because I have come to realize that when my prayers are answered, it is the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, by persisting in prayer, my heart is changed and that moves the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit is involved in both.
     All of this has brought me to this point ... I am changing the way I pray.  I am praying boldly; I am knocking loudly and often; I am going to ask until He can no longer ignore me; and I'm going to pray, expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit ... because I know it His good pleasure to answer my prayers and to see how much I'm willing to seek Him. Prayer is an important part of strengthening my relationship with my Father, and it is teaching me to grow my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it is that process that has become an answer to my most fervent prayers.  More on that in an upcoming post...

Thank you to the teachings on Prayer by Bill Johnson, who helped me to recognize the longings of my heart, and how my prayer life effects my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:23-24    In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

September 28, 2017

It's A Page Out Of Satan's Playbook

     I know this will be a controversial subject, but how many of you are tired of hearing about the battle between the President and the NFL?  I am not here to judge the pros and cons, or the decisions of those who chose to kneel, or to stand with their hand on their heart, or to lock arms, or to stay off the field all together.  We live in a country where freedom of speech and expression are still a birthright. But those in the midst of this controversy [who profess to be Christian] need to recognize that their birthright as Sons of God takes precedence over their identities as members of a football team.
     I don't even really see this as a matter of supporting the troops or racial inequality or police brutality or crime in black communities.  All I see is Satan spreading deception, discord, and chaos. Are all those issues a reality in our culture?  Yes, they are. Are they insurmountable? Not if we quit listening to the lies of the Father of Lies. As I see it, this entire situation has been orchestrated by the devil.  Does he have his human partners in this state of affairs? Absolutely! But it is time Christians take the lead in these circumstances and shut down the Enemy's scheme to use man's pride as his tool to sow evil.
     It is the devil's delight to destroy ... whether it be your peace, your marriage, your health, or our national dialogue.  He loves to kill relationships, and cause anger and conflict.  And his signature is all over this NFL controversy.  He started it with a snide comment and tweet, and then he escalated it with wounded pride, and whispers in the ears of both sides, "You don't have to take it!  Who does he/they think they are? Strike back! I'll show them! We need to stand for what is right!"  And then he caps off his scheme by stealing the camaraderie and joy between the players and the fans, which in turn, causes another layer of discord and disharmony.
     I wish just one faithful person would stand up and say, "Guys, look at what Satan is doing to us!"  I mean these players are trained to size up their opponent's strategy and be ready to adjust their game plan when they find themselves losing.  And there is nothing about this situation that says anyone is winning.  I see the devil's strategy as plain as day ... As I wrote a couple of years ago in a post titled The Four D's Of The Enemy's Battle Plan, I am seeing that this battle between the President and the NFL is shaping up to be a tactical salvo in the devil's spiritual war against this nation.
     The devil is using Deception to convince both sides that they can win this argument. Whatever immediate satisfaction they might gain from making their point will be lost in the escalated animosity that will spill over into all of our society.  He is promising that righteous indignation will win the day, but dramatization and exaggeration will diminish the message.  And if that's not enough to destroy any goodwill that might be left, the Enemy will employ the news and social media and the world of entertainment to fan the flames and sow more seeds of deception through bitter and malicious comments.
     Division is the next tool Satan is using to implement his scheme ... division between races, between players and fans, between political and social agendas, and between those who play a game for millions of dollars and those who die on the battlefield to defend their right to say and do what their conscience tells them.  He uses man's arrogance, pride, resentments, fear, and misunderstandings  to keep us from finding a better way to communicate our differences and experiences.  He seeks to divide us among ourselves, so that we do not recognize him as our common Enemy who is out to kill and destroy us all.
     And it seems so clear to me that this whole mess is nothing but a Diversion that keeps us from looking at our real problems ... a lack of relationship with Jesus Christ, first and foremost; lack of love and respect for our fellow man; and lack of personal responsibility for the ills of this nation.  Is this controversy really worthy of such national conflict?  Whether one stands for the National Anthem is a statement on how we feel about our citizenship in this country.  But where is our statement about our superior citizenship in Heaven (Philippians 3:20)? Satan has us so caught up in this lesser dispute, that we have abdicated our identities as ambassadors of our Father's Kingdom.
     And lastly, the devil is using a strategy of Discouragement to make us feel that we will never achieve unity in this nation or world. Whether it is the NFL or North Korea, he is painting a bleak picture of our future.  He convinces us that we are headed down a path of no return, and that we will never settle our differences.  We find ourselves tired and apathetic that change will ever be accomplished, and so we don't turn to the One who could be the instrument of our revival.
     There are voices of reason and faith among members of the NFL, but their voices are small in number.  Let us pray that more Christians among them will walk out their faith in leadership roles, pointing to a higher calling in these circumstances.  And let each of us pray that men of principle will recognize the devil's strategy and refuse to play by his rules.  Nothing is impossible when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, and lock arms in unity with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. That is where we are all equal in our worth to the Father. Let it be on earth, as it is in Heaven...

2 Corinthians 2:10-11   ".... if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes".