A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

March 20, 2018

Our Own Passover Celebration

     As promised, I am sharing the particular way that our Home Church celebrates the Lord's Feast of Passover. I could never find any definitive commentary on how a Christian should celebrate this important occasion, so I guess you could say that the way in which we observe Passover is Spirit-led.
     But it is important to note that this is both a solemn observance and a joyous celebration. We are recognizing the tremendous sacrifice the Lord has made on our behalf and celebrating the freedom from sin that His sacrifice has afforded us. We have everyone bring their own lamb and a side dish. You can easily find traditional Jewish side dishes or start your own traditions. Mark and I provide the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs (horseradish) and the wine (or grape juice). 
     We incorporate solemn prayers, borrowed from the Jewish faith, while pointing out the significance to our Christian faith.  In no way, do I maintain that all Christians have to celebrate Passover -- that is a decision that you must make on an individual basis. But I simply offer the following to you as a guideline for your own celebration, should you decide to observe this holy Feast. We begin by making a statement about the significance of this Feast and then proceed to honor the traditions of the Jewish faith, while identifying with the meaning and importance for us, as Christians. And I would love to hear from others how you honor the Lord's Feast in your Christian observances.
     Our Statement of Faith: The Passover Festival is a call to REMEMBER what God has delivered us from; a call of GRATITUDE for the work He is doing in our lives today; and a call to look forward to the HOPE of our Resurrection into Eternal Life.
      The Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits all foreshadow the work God would do through His Son, Jesus Christ. Within these eight days of Passover, Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, and each Feast speaks of Him and His redemptive work on our behalf.
      We are gathered here today to REMEMBER Jesus as our Passover Lamb, sacrificed to deliver us out of the bondage of sin. He is the Unleavened Bread of Life – without Sin; unblemished and spotless – and He is the First Fruit of God’s Harvest of Souls.   
     Today, we will eat a meal of Lamb, Unleavened bread, and Bitter Herbs as God instructed the Israelites to do in Exodus 12:8.  We will share in the cups of wine that Jesus partook of in His last Passover meal. And we will celebrate His Life and His Blood, which were poured out for us.     
     Before the first Passover in Egypt, God told Israel, “Remove the leaven from your homes.”  Leaven is a symbol of sin.  Let us take a moment to remove any leaven that hides in our hearts and minds.  Let us remove any sin that would separate us from God. 

     MOMENT OF SILENCE AS WE CONTEMPLATE.  Pray (Together):  Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any offensive thing in me that needs to be removed, and sweep me clean of leaven.  Lead me in Your way everlasting. Amen. 
     This day, we will drink 4 cups of wine to recall God’s four promises to Israel in Exodus 6:6-7.  Jesus, along with His disciples, drank two cups before their meal.
     (Pour the First Cup):  The Cup of Sanctification I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will free you from their bondage. (Exodus 6:6)
     This first Cup of Wine sanctifies our meal.  Let us LIFT UP the first cup, the Cup of Sanctification and Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine. Thank you for the blood of Yeshua that was shed for us. Amen.
     Now, as we pour the Second Cup, everyone should take a piece of the unleavened bread and a spoonful of horseradish on their plate. We recognize the symbolism: The Lamb is Yeshua, our Passover Lamb; Matza is unleavened bread; pierced for our transgressions; bruised for our iniquities;
Horseradish is the bitterness of our bondage to sin; and Wine is Christ’s blood, shed for us to redeem us.
     (Lift Up The Second Cup) The Cup of Judgment:  I will rescue you with an outstretched arm, and by mighty acts of judgment. (Exodus 6:6)
     Let us raise the Cup of Judgment, and remember that Yeshua delivers us from the slavery of darkness and brings us into the kingdom of Light.
     Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, our Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy. Amen. (DRINK).
     Everyone should now hold up a piece of matza. Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.  Thank you for Yeshua, the Bread of Life, who rose from the earth. And thank you, O Lord, that by His stripes we are healed. Amen.
     The Lord Jesus ate His Passover meal on the night when he was betrayed.  He, who is our Bread of Life, gave thanks, broke the unleavened bread, and said to His disciples, “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (EAT BREAD).

      (Pour Third Cup) The Cup of Redemption.  I will take you to Me for a people. (Exodus 6:7)
      The blood of the Lamb on the doorposts saved Israel. The blood of Yeshua on our hearts saves us, right here and now. As Scripture tells us, God will redeem our life from the grave, and take us to Himself.  No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.  He will write His law on our minds and hearts.  Everyone will know Him, from the least of them to the greatest.
      Lift up the Cup:  At the last Passover Supper, Yeshua took this third cup, the Cup of Redemption, and said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.
 Let us Pray (Together):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.  Thank you for the Blood of Yeshua that was poured out for us. Amen.  (DRINK).
      (Pour Fourth Cup) The Cup of the Future Kingdom.  This will be a kingdom of truth, peace, and freedom… I will be to you a God. (Exodus 6:7)
      During Yeshua’s last Passover Supper, He did not drink this fourth cup.  He said, “I will not drink this cup now until that day when I drink it with you in My Father’s Kingdom.”  As we drink the fourth cup, we look forward to a future kingdom, when we drink this cup with Him.  He will return, and there will be a better feast to come, the Wedding Banquet of the Passover Lamb.
     Have each of the men read one of the words of Gratitude listed below:
    •  In praise of the Lord’s salvation in the past and the future, we raise the Cup of the Kingdom.  O Lord, You redeemed us and brought us to this night.  Bring us also to Your Holy City, the New Jerusalem.
    •  You have put a new song in our hearts, a song of praise and thanksgiving for the redemption of our souls.  Blessed are you, O Lord our God.
    •  Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who gives eternal life.  Eternal life is that we might know You, the one true God, and the Messiah, Yeshua, whom You Sent.
    •  I know that my Redeemer lives.  He will stand on the earth in the latter days, and I will see Him as He is.
    •  Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive glory and honor and praise.  Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
    •  O God who dwells on high, we are free on a day like this.  Raise up Your numberless congregation.  Soon, and with rejoicing, lead us to Zion.  Praise and Glory and Wisdom and Thanks and Honor and Power and Strength be to our God forever and ever.
    •  These are the words of our Lord: Fear not for I am with you.  Be not dismayed for I am Your God.  I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand! 
     Let us all lift up THE CUP OF THE KINGDOM.
     PRAY (TOGETHER):  Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.  Thank you for Your Coming Kingdom.  Amen.  
    When the Lord returns, the survivors from all the nations will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles and God dwelling with us. Let us declare (SAY TOGETHER):  Next year in Jerusalem!  Amen.  (DRINK).

     So, this is just a suggestion of how to observe the Feast of Passover as a Christian. It is by no means a definitive way to celebrate, but as I said earlier, we have tried to be Spirit-led in honoring the redemptive work of our Lord and Savior on our behalf, while honoring the roots of our faith and the Jewish traditions. May you be blessed and encouraged during these holy days, and may your assembly know the pleasure and favor of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:7    So remove every trace of your “leaven” of compromise with sin so that you might become new and pure again. For indeed, you are clean because Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.  





March 17, 2018

Christians Celebrating Passover

     It is extremely exciting for me to see more and more Christians celebrating the Passover Feast. That wasn't the case when my heart was first awakened to the seven appointed feasts of the Lord over five years ago.
     It was then that Mark and I decided to begin a deep study on how Scripture said they applied to us, as Christians. When speaking of the Feasts, the Lord said, "Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as an ordinance forever". It quickly became apparent that all of the seven feasts pointed not only to the historical experiences of the nation of Israel, but to those who called themselves "the children of Abraham". Since Abraham is the father of our faith, too, then these Feasts of the Lord must also have great significance for us.  
     As we approach the first of the Feasts, I would like to share a basic understanding of Passover and why it has such special meaning to both the Jewish and Christian faiths. In Leviticus 23, God commands Moses to tell the children of Israel, "The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts... to be proclaimed at their appointed times... and to be followed by all generations."  Since we have been adopted and grafted into His chosen people, we are also the children of Israel.  I am encouraged that so many Christians are now seeing the picture that these feasts show us of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and are agreeing to approach these sacred times as humble seekers of God's revelations.
     We know that this approaching Passover "season" and the feasts of Pesach, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits have all been incorporated into the celebration of Passover, and reference to Passover means all three of these feasts.  In 2018, Passover will be celebrated from sundown Friday, March 30th, to sundown on Saturday, April 7th. If you are celebrating as a church or a small gathering, I pray that God will recognize your desire to please Him in this effort and that He will bless your assembly.
     We all know the Passover story from the Sixth chapter of Exodus.  We know the story of the Lord sending Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, and we know that Pharaoh refused to let them go.  After sending the nine plagues that did not touch Pharaoh’s heart, the Lord said the firstborn males of every house would die unless the door frame of that house was covered with the blood of a perfect lamb.  That night the Lord “passed over” those homes that were covered with the blood of the lamb, and Pharaoh, losing his own son, let the people of Israel go.  Passover was to be a lasting ordinance (and memorial) for generations to come.
     The Passover Seder meal commemorates the Israelite’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt nearly 3500 years ago..  Jesus honored the Passover while on earth, and I believe that it was at this Seder meal that He spoke the words in today's closing verse.  But what significance does it have for us?  First, we have to understand the significance of what was served at this Seder and why Jesus wanted to experience this meal with His disciples.
     First, there must be served a perfect lamb, without blemish.  It must be sacrificed and served in remembrance of the blood of the lamb that allowed them to leave Egypt.  You may be aware that Egypt has always symbolized bondage and slavery to sin.   During this very Seder meal, Jesus reveals that He is the Sacrificial Lamb that delivers us from the bondage of sin.
     The only type of bread eaten during the eight days of Passover was unleavened bread or Matzah.  It was made with flour and water only, no leaven or yeast, in remembrance of their hasty departure from Egypt.  They had to have a form of sustenance that would last and not spoil.  They were specifically instructed that the bread was to be striped and pierced during baking.  This is a picture that should remind us that Jesus was striped (scourged) and pierced for us; and that He is the "living bread from Heaven."
     Also, in the Jewish Seder, there is a ritual in which the matzah or unleavened bread is broken, hidden, found, bought for a price, and then eaten to end the meal.  This is not only a picture of the Jewish experience during their captivity in Egypt and their Exodus ... read the actions again that are taken with the bread ... but Jesus is also telling His disciples (and us), "I was broken, hidden, found, bought for a price."  When he breaks the unleavened bread in Luke 22:19, and says, "“This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me", He is saying "I did that for you, and I am the only sustenance you need."  
     The Passover meal also included bitter herbs, so that the Jews would remember the harshness and bitterness of slavery, so that their freedom (symbolically, from sin) would taste sweeter.  Jesus wished His disciples (and us) to see that our freedom from sin is sweeter, too.  We no longer have to taste the bitterness of sin because of what He did for us on the cross.  But the presence of the bitter herbs at the Passover meal should be a reminder of the temptation of sin.  It is real and distasteful.
     Finally, the Passover meal always included wine, four cups to be exact, in remembrance of the redemption from Egypt (Exodus 6:6-8) in which God told the Israelites, ""I will lead you forth... I will deliver you... I will ransom you... I will take you to Me....".
     In this particular Passover Seder, Luke 22:20 reveals that "Likewise He also took the cup after supper (The Third Cup), saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you."  This cup of wine was to be drunk in remembrance of that third part of the covenant God made with them when He brought them out of Israel ... I will ransom you.   Jesus is showing them (and us) that yes, God ransomed them from Egypt and the Pharaoh; but now He, Jesus, is the new covenant that ransoms. His blood ransoms us, and He says it right there in the Scripture!
     So the Passover Seder, which had been observed for nearly a century and a half, and religiously observed by Jesus, who was a Jew, is a picture of the Lord's Supper that night in the upper room before His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection a few days later.  The celebration of the Feast of First Fruits completes the picture.
      The Lord instructed the Israelites on how to conduct the Feast of First Fruits: the people offered the first ripe sheaf (their first fruit) of barley to the Lord as an act of dedicating the harvest to Him.  On Passover, a marked sheaf of grain was bundled and left standing in the field.  On the next day, the first day of Unleavened Bread, the sheaf was cut and prepared for the offering on the third day.  
On this third day, which was the actual Feast day, the priest waved the sheaf before the Lord.  They then began counting 50 days until Pentecost, which is the next feast to be celebrated.  
     It is easy to see the picture of Jesus in the Feast of First Fruits.  It is a picture of Jesus’s resurrection, which Christians celebrate as Easter, (with all of its Constantine influences).  His resurrection is the first fruit of God’s redemption of mankind …. and we see a picture of “things to come” … the harvest and promise of the future resurrection of believers.  
     So we now have the historical significance of the Passover Seder.  We have the meaning behind Pesach and the Exodus; we know the significance of the unleavened bread and the first fruits of the harvest.  We see the picture of what God did for the Israelites, and what Christ has done for us, in the Seder Meal and what is eaten.  And we see the picture of His death and resurrection in that somber assembly at the Last (Passover) Supper.  And most importantly, I hope we see that we are called to observe these Feasts by our Lord, in remembrance of what He has done for those He calls His own, both Jewish and Christian.   Jesus may have instituted the Lord's Supper from rituals of the Passover Seder, but neither negates the other.  I believe that it pleases the Lord for us to be obedient to His command to observe the Feasts; to see that they point to Christ; and to worship His Son's death, burial and resurrection as the fulfillment of the promises of these Feasts.  
     In the spirit of praise and worship, I say "Pesach Same'ach (Happy Passover), and I hope you will be blessed by observing the first of the Lord's ordained Feasts!

Next post I will share how our Home Church celebrates this solemn, yet joyous occasion.

Luke 22:14-16      When Jesus arrived at the upper room, He took His place at the table along with all the apostles. Then He told them, “I have longed with passion and desire to eat this Passover lamb with you before I endure my sufferings.  I promise you that the next time we eat this, we will be together in the banquet of God’s kingdom realm.”

March 14, 2018

Does Jesus Know You?

     I only feel confident in asking you this question because I have asked it of myself. And if you are a serious student of Scripture then how you answer the question is a serious matter, and the consequences of your answer can be frightening.  I am, of course, referring to the passage in Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus warns against false prophets and pretenders of the faith. If you have never regarded these verses, I hope you will now...
     Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’

     Is the thought of not entering the Kingdom of Heaven and being banished from the presence of Jesus as upsetting and disturbing to you as it is to me? I don't think we can read this passage and not contemplate whether we are somehow identified with whomever Jesus is speaking. And, at first glance, when considering this passage on its own, it can be confusing. These individuals are apparently prophesying in the Name of Jesus, and casting out demons and doing miracles, all in His Name. Some might ask, "Isn't that what He tells us to do in John 14:13? Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. And what about John 15:16? You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. Then there is John 14:12. “I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father!
     So, again, at first glance it would appear that these people have followed all the rules. They appear to be doing the works of Jesus -- and in His Name. So what is so egregious that Jesus tells them to depart from Him? And why does He describe them as disregarding His commands; or as the various translations label them, lawless rebels, workers of lawlessness, or plain old wicked?  And, if on the surface, they appear to be doing everything He has asked of us, how can we avoid their fate?
     To get the answers to those questions [and to settle our hearts about our own destinies] we must look at the verses before and after this unsettling indictment.  It is important to note that up to now, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God; it's rules and government; the characteristics of the realm in which God resides -- beginning with the Sermon on the Mount. He has warned that entering this Kingdom is by a narrow gate; many will be those who choose the wider and more popular path, and few will be those who even find that narrow gate. 
     Then He warns those who would be His disciples to be on their guard against phony prophets. They appear to be genuine by their actions; pretending to be like the true sheep that hear their Master's voice and obey. But their motives are all wrong, and you can tell they are false and counterfeit by the fruit of their ministries. Yes, they might have used His Name as a sort of lucky charm, or part of a formula, but notice that they asked, "Lord, have we not [done the works]...". Remember, Jesus makes it very clear ... Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. So, likely, the fruit of their ministries was the recognition they gained for themselves, and not for the glory of God. No new disciples were made and the power from Heaven to drive out demons and perform miracles, while not wasted, did not bear fruit for the Kingdom.
     NOTE: I want to give a word of caution at this point. I have heard many Christians leaders and commentators use this explanation to promote their theology that anyone who is doing the miracles Jesus commanded us to do are false prophets and teachers. Just like the Pharisees that accused Jesus of using the power of Beelzebul to heal the demon-possessed man (Matthew 12), these modern religious hypocrites accuse anyone who heals or does deliverance ministry of doing it by the power of Satan. Obviously, if you remember what the Lord has shown me, then you know that I disagree with this position. 
     Jesus, Himself, tells us in Mark 16:15-18, “As you go into all the world, preach openly the wonderful news of the gospel to the entire human race! Whoever believes the good news and is baptized will be saved, and whoever does not believe the good news will be condemned. And these miracle signs will accompany those who believe: They will drive out demons in the power of my name. They will speak in tongues. They will be supernaturally protected from snakes and from drinking anything poisonous. And they will lay hands on the sick and heal them.” and Matthew 28:19-20, Now go in My authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you

     Now, back to my original thesis. I believe that Jesus tells these misguided followers that He doesn't know them because there is no experiential knowledge of Jesus in their hearts. Were they doing the miracles and prophesying? Oh, yes! But, we've looked at the verses preceding Jesus's dire statement. Now, let's look at the verses that immediately follow. 
     Jesus talks about two different groups that have heard His teachings -- those that apply it to their lives, and those who don't. Simply put, those who "take it to heart" and those who don't. See where I'm going? Those who do the works from a heart that seeks to glorify God and His Kingdom are in a heart and spirit-filled relationship with Jesus. They know Him from experience and are on solid ground. Those who are not joined to Him in that heart relationship will still be given the power to do the miracles by God, because they did them in Jesus' Name. But they did it for their own glory and never experienced Him in the process. They are on risky ground.
     But what about those who never attempt to do what He commanded? They got the first half right -- preaching the gospel and baptizing. But they didn't read the next sentence He spoke! He said there would be miracle signs that accompanied those who believe:  they will cast out demons in the power of His name; they will speak in tongues; they will be supernaturally protected from snakes and from drinking anything poisonous; and they will lay hands on the sick and heal them. (Some scholars believe that the sentence about snakes and poison contains two Aramaic idioms. To pick up snakes could be a picture of overcoming one’s enemies (“snakes”), and drinking poison may be speaking of dealing with attacks on one’s character (poisonous words).
     These are the signs and wonders so many in the modern Church deny. But then there is Luke 6:46, which in the Passion Translation says it better than I ever could: What good does it do for you to say I am your Lord and Master if what I teach you is not put into practice? So, here, we get another admonition by Jesus that calling Him Lord comes with great responsibility to not only do His commands, but do them out of a heart that has known and experienced Him, which will rightly give the glory to the Father.
     Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. He wants to be the treasure of our heart. He wants to know us personally, intimately, and experientially. Anything less, is unacceptable to Him. And that should make all of us Christians examine our hearts and our motives. Are we serving Him and doing the works He commanded us to do? And even more importantly, are we doing them from a heart that is joined to His? Or are we pretenders of the true faith? Those are very serious questions to ponder, and ones that we should not take lightly. I can't imagine standing before Him on that day of judgment, and looking into His eyes, realizing that He doesn't even recognize me! Lord, search my heart and find an obedient follower who has placed You securely upon the throne of her heart!

1 John 2:5-6    We can be sure that we’ve truly come to live in intimacy with God not just by saying, “I am intimate with God,” but by walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

March 11, 2018

Searching For The Peace of God

     It was another one of those nights ... I woke up between 3 and 4 in the morning, and couldn't go back to sleep. There wasn't anything big pressing on my soul or spirit, but it was clear that I wasn't going back to sleep soon. I know that this is the time the Enemy likes to sow his lies into my sleepy brain, so I was on guard to take every thought captive. Since this is a regular occurrence for me, and I know that Jesus talks about being prepared in "the night watches" (Luke 12:35-40), I instinctively know that this is a time that God may be calling me to seek Him.
     So, instead of trying harder to go back to sleep, I chose to spend time with Jesus and see what we had to say to each other. Realizing that I was restless and just a little anxious, a spontaneous thought quickly came to my mind in the form of a question ... Did Jesus model for us what "being at peace" looked like? In my natural mind I tried to run that rabbit and see if I could think of any Scripture in the Gospels that spoke of Jesus being at peace or enjoying peaceful respite. I know the Bible talks about the "peace that surpasses all understanding", but did Jesus, Himself, show us what that looks like for us in our Christian walk?
     When I couldn't really think of any example in the Bible, I decided to spend these waking moments visiting with Jesus in the garden of my heart. I got still and quieted my mind. In my spirit, I entered through my garden gate and headed down the path to the bench under the big oak tree where we always meet to sit and talk. But He wasn't there! I had a moment of slight panic, but remembered another time when my soul and spirit were dry and I felt emptied of any divine energy.  At that time, Jesus had instructed me to immerse myself in the river of Living Water, and while floating there, I felt myself getting filled up; the Living Water from the throne of God seeped through my pores and I was restored and ready to serve Him again.
     So, when I didn't find Jesus at our meeting place this time, I immediately thought, "I'll just go to the river of Living Water and see if I can be filled with His peace there". I knelt down by the river and scooped the water up, drinking in its sweet flavor, both physically and spiritually. I couldn't get enough! All of a sudden, I was aware of Jesus sitting on the bank, watching me and smiling. He said, "You've instinctively thirsted for the Living Water, which is the source of your spiritual life. But there's more I want you to understand. You are seeking My peace, but I'm not sure you get the big picture. Let me show you more...".  At that moment, I drifted off to sleep, but in the morning when I woke up, every inch of my flesh and spirit was eager to go to the Word to see if I could find what He wanted to show me.
     I instinctively knew that there was a connection between the peace I was seeking and the Living Waters I had consumed in my garden. So, I started in Galatians, Chapter 5, where I knew peace was mentioned in conjunction with the fruits of the Spirit. It read, But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.
     All of a sudden, the picture was coming into view ... Peace in my life is a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew that, but I was beginning to understand that peace was not something I could get or produce on my own, APART from the Holy Spirit. On the contrary -- the fruit was the evidence of the power producing it. In other words, it was the power of the Holy Spirit in me, bringing me into union with Christ that produces the peace. My peace is always found when I am filled to overflowing with the Living Waters!
     Now, I was eager to see if I could confirm that understanding through Scripture.  First of all, I found conviction [in the Psalms] that I was awakened in the middle of the night so that I might meet with Jesus. Psalm 119:147-148 says, Before the day dawns, I’ll be crying out for help and wrapping Your words into my life. I lie awake every night pondering Your promises to me. Psalm 4:4 says, Tremble in awe before the Lord, and do not sin against Him. Be still upon your bed and search your heart before Him. Pause in His presence. And Psalm 16:7 says, The way You counsel and correct me makes me praise You more, for Your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next.
     Now, could I find the connection between thirsting for the Living Water, it's overflowing from my heart, and the peace that I desired? Romans 15:13 spoke directly to me! Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with hope! There it was! The picture of the Living Water coming directly from God as my source of joy and peace! And that peace comes directly to me by the power of the Holy Spirit to reproduce the character of Christ in me!
     You know, sometimes, it is easy to say we understand the Biblical concepts that we've learned in Church. But to really understand is a heart knowledge, not a head or analytical knowledge. I knew peace came from God. And I knew that the Living Water was the Holy Spirit overflowing from my heart. But when I tried to see Jesus displaying that peace as a man, I was chasing after the peace of God in my flesh. Jesus always talked about the Living Water as a spiritual concept, not something that we could accomplish in the flesh. So, it was important that I understand that I can only know true peace when I am functioning out of the overflow of the Holy Spirit in my life. 
     So, now I understood what had taken place in the garden of my heart. In my search for Jesus' peace, I was led to drink of the Living Waters, flowing from the throne of God. Jesus wasn't at our meeting place under the shade of the big oak tree because I wasn't going to get instructions for peace from how He modeled life as a human man. I could only get the peace He knew by being filled with the overflowing joy and peace coming by way of the Holy Spirit, and straight from the fountain of hope, Himself, which is God, the Father. That's why Jesus was waiting for me on the banks that provided the peace I was looking for!
     In summary, I now understand that true peace is not something I can achieve through earthly measures. I can't do enough, have enough, or know enough [in the flesh] to set my soul or spirit at perfect peace. It is only through the presence and overflowing of the Holy Spirit, that I can know the peace that exists in the Kingdom of God. If I may be so bold, I don't believe you can find real peace in the realm of this earth. The key for us, who are living here until called Home, is the discernment that God's peace only exists in God's Kingdom realm. The only way we can experience His Kingdom while still on this planet is in the realm of the Holy Spirit. It all comes down to this ... Divine Peace exists in the realm where God is. God's realm is available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. The power of the Holy Spirit is experienced as the overflowing of the river of Living Water in our hearts. Divine peace -- God's peace -- comes when we submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to fill us with Himself. Instead of looking for outward manifestations of peace, I will now look inward -- because I know that the peace of God, which surpasses all [human] understanding, will guard my heart and my mind because His realm lives inside me. Hallelujah!

Romans 14:17    Because the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking [as a human does]. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. 


March 8, 2018

Fighting Our Fears

     In the wake of all the Lord has shown me in the past few years, I am seeing a new paradigm rising in the Body of Christ.  It has a couple of different components, but at the foundation, it is rooted in Fear.  I know that's not a new revelation about the Christian life, but follow me as I show you where I want to go with this...
     The spirit of Fear is as old as the Garden of Eden. In fact, my research has discerned that the first mention of fear is in Genesis 3:10, when Adam hides from the Lord after he and Eve have disobeyed His commandment regarding the tree of the knowledge (recognition) of good and evil. In response to God's question of where he was, Adam replies, “I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
     It is important for us to recognize that this fear was not in the sense of reverence for God, or standing in awe of Him, both of which are implied in a healthy fear of God. As long as Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship with their Creator, they knew only this kind of fear, and they exalted Him and recognized His power and position from their blessed state. But once they rebelled and lost that holy relationship, they were separated from Him spiritually, and to be in His Presence generated a deep-seated dread and terror of the Lord. Here, the sense of the word fear takes on a completely different significance.
     And who was there in the garden to exploit that dramatic change in the relationship between man and God? The Father of lies! He witnessed how terror and dread was a by-product of being out of right relationship with God, and it became a most useful tool in keeping man separated from His Creator and from restoring that full relationship. And today's Christians, who are spiritually saved, are easy targets for the Enemy and his spirit of Fear. Along with the spirit of Anger, it is probably the most common attack that Mark and I witness in our ministry. 
     So, how does all this relate to the new paradigm in the Body of Christ that I mentioned in the first paragraph, and the different components of this paradigm? To begin with, Fear keeps the Church from walking in Jesus's commands to help establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Fear then results in the two components within the Body: 1) the Christians who [because of their fear of what they don't know] deny that we are to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead, which gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel; and 2) the Christians who recognize this is our mission, given by Christ, but who are afraid for various reasons to walk in that authority and power. Even if one can convince them that the doctrine of Cessationism is wrong -- that Jesus' commandments were just as much for us as they were for the Apostles -- I have heard all the reasons they convince themselves that it's either not God's will for them to step into that assignment, or that it's too difficult for them to do.  Let me share just a few...
     God is in control of everything.  If they or a loved one are ill, or suffer from depression or anxiety, or any number of attacks from the devil, then God is allowing it. Their suffering is a way to bring them into submission to God's will for their life. Therefore, why would they go against God? After all, isn't that what the Book of Job is all about? But the Bible says that God's will is good, perfect, and acceptable. Did you get that? That is the description of His will -- whether you are giving thanks; doing good; abstaining from sexual immorality; acknowledging that His kingdom has come; doing what is pleasing in His sight; doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with Him; confessing your sins; etc. -- it is all His will [the desire of His heart] and His will is good, and perfect, and acceptable to Him. 
     It is NEVER His will to see His children suffer, just as no good father on earth would desire his child to suffer. Did you ever read in your Bible where Jesus told anyone, "I wish I could heal you, but my Father is telling me that you have to suffer a little in order to improve your relationship with Him"? No! The Bible repeatedly tells us that Jesus healed all who came to Him, or healed all who were ill (Matthew 15:30, 12:15). But the fear of God allowing the devil to torment us to test our faith is a wrong interpretation of Job, while being a very real apprehension for a lot of Christians.
     We must always be careful of being deceived.  Fear of deception by the devil is probably the most voiced argument I hear for not walking in our power and authority.  Peoples' fears are often expressed like this ... If we go outside of our denomination's doctrine, how do we know our interpretation of Scripture is correct?  If hearing something different than the theology I've established for myself makes me uncomfortable, then it can't be from God -- it must be a deception by the Enemy... I don't really trust anything I hear that's not backed up and supported by my Church, my pastor, my Christian friends, the Biblical interpretation I've been taught, or fill in the blank.  
     But all I'm hearing in these arguments is the reliance on human wisdom. Where is the trust in God and the Holy Spirit to reveal their Truth to you? This sounds an awful lot like the religious skeptics in Jesus' day. After all, Jesus invaded comfort zones and challenged religious traditions and ideas 2,000 years ago -- and He hasn't changed! 
     At some point, we must quit being afraid of being deceived and trust that God can still speak to us! We must see a God that is bigger than our concept of a deceiving devil. If we are afraid of letting the power of the Holy Spirit work through us [as He did Jesus] to battle sickness, demons, or to bring people to a decision for salvation, then we give the devil more power than he deserves OR has.
     I'm afraid I'll do it wrong.  This would be a valid argument if you were doing it under your own power.  But you're not!  Take a look at Mark 16:20... It reads, And they [the Disciples] went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. The Disciples were doing what Jesus commanded them [and us] to do... preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, accompanied by the signs and wonders of healing the sick, casting out demons, etc.
     But look at the previous verse in Mark 16:19.  So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  Did you see what the Bible said happened? It was AFTER He ascended that Jesus worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. I'll say it again ... This was after His resurrection! Yet He worked with them (partnered with them) to do the miracles of healing and deliverance after He had risen to heaven! He continued to work with them perfecting their abilities through His power. He is the same today as He was yesterday! He has sent the Holy Spirit to do the same with us. You can't do it wrong, because it's not you doing it -- it's Him! All He needs is willing partners, and your trust and faith in Him. But too many Christians let fear, doubt, and unbelief creep into their minds and hearts, therefore making it impossible for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to work through them.
     You need to be careful playing around with the Dark Side.  Once again, fear is the primary instigator behind this sentiment. Yes, the devil is our adversary, and a formidable one. We must have our spiritual armor on at all times, and be aware of his many schemes and tactics to overcome believing Christians. But the reality of this spiritual war is that we have nothing to be afraid of. A very telling passage of Scripture happens in Luke, Chapter 10, when the 72 Disciples Jesus sent out to minister healing and deliverance [and preach the Gospel] return. Read the following from the Passion Translation:
     When the seventy missionaries returned to Jesus, they were ecstatic with joy, telling him, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we commanded them in your name!” Jesus replied, “While you were ministering, I watched Satan topple until he fell suddenly from heaven like lightning to the ground. Now you understand that I have imparted to you all my authority to trample over his kingdom. You will trample upon every demon before you and overcome every power Satan possesses. Absolutely nothing will be able to harm you as you walk in this authority.  However, your real source of joy isn’t merely that these spirits submit to your authority, but that your names are written in the journals of heaven and that you belong to God’s kingdom. This is the true source of your authority.”
     Jesus makes it pretty clear that we have nothing to fear!  We have been given all His authority, and He makes sure we understand that absolutely nothing can harm us.  And notice what else He says: that while we are carrying out our Lord's commands to continue His work [which is our ministry], it causes Satan to topple from his place in heaven.  Remember: the Bible makes it clear that there are multiple heavens, and at some point, I plan on writing a post on where Satan rules his kingdom from. But for the sake of this article, I don't want to get caught up in all the theological theories on when this happens, but want to concentrate on the fact that Jesus tells us that 1) we have all of His authority, 2) we have nothing to be afraid of, and 3) when we walk in our designated power and authority it causes Satan to "topple" or "fall", as it is stated in the King James version. It is very possible that Jesus is telling us that our willingness to heal and deliver causes Satan to fall into ruin, or fail, and it happens as suddenly as lightning hitting the ground, every time we walk in that authority.  
    And the last argument from those fighting fear is this one:  I believe that you have to be specially anointed in specific spiritual gifts to do this work, and I don't have the gift of healing.  It is my discernment that this argument comes from a lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit. If we are saved by grace for our faith in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit resides in us. And the Holy Spirit has produced all the gifts and has them with Him, with the ability to give any [or all] to us as we need them.  So that gift of healing is already present in you with the presence of the Holy Spirit. You just have to decide to be obedient to Jesus' commands and cooperate with Him and the Spirit to see someone healed.
     If you will take a look at 1 John 2:27, I think you will find an answer to the fear of walking in the gifts. In reference to being deceived by false teachers or doctrines [or even the devil], John instructs believers: But the wonderful anointing you have received from God is so much greater than their deception and now lives in you. There’s no need for anyone to keep teaching you. His anointing teaches you all that you need to know, for it will lead you into truth, not a counterfeit. So just as the anointing has taught you, remain in Him.  
     If we have the Holy Spirit in us, we all have the anointing to do any of the gifts, as needed. The
“anointing” is the Holy Spirit poured into us, bringing life, illumination, wisdom, fruit, and power from the indwelling life of Christ. He covers it all -- everything we need to defeat the works of the devil, just as He did.
     In summary, I don't want to downplay the power that fear has in the lives of Christians. I personally know the all-consuming fear that can separate one from our Father in Heaven. And it is the fiery dart that the Enemy loves to use against me more than any other. But I continue to choose the Truth of the Word and the promises that Jesus has given us: we have authority over all the power of the Enemy and nothing can harm us. So, while not easy, to live freely, without fear, is a choice; a choice to believe -- and when necessary, to repent for giving in to the snare of the devil, and to once again take that step of faith to walk in my true identity as an empowered child of God and co-heir of the Kingdom with Christ. I declare that the spirit of Fear is the real deception of the devil, and I walk in the perfect love of the One who died for me.

Psalm 56:4    What harm could a man bring to me? With God on my side I will not be afraid of what comes. The roaring praises of God fill my heart, and I will always triumph as I trust His promises.