A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

July 27, 2016

The Only "Cover" I Need Is Jesus

     As I related to you in the previous post, my husband and I attended a Deliverance Ministry training session this past weekend, and continue to be encouraged by the Holy Spirit that we are doing the will of God.  We were heartened, motivated, and validated by the team of deliverance ministers from Luke 4:18 Ministries, and enjoyed sharing experiences with other attendees.
     But I have to say that I was surprised by one question that we received.  But first, I must disclose that most of the people in attendance were there to learn on behalf of their churches.  The interesting thing is that it appears to be a common occurrence that the church leadership doesn't necessarily buy into spiritual warfare -- and definitely not deliverance ministry -- but is willing to give their permission for someone within the church to learn what they can about it.  In fact, when I attended Dr. Charles Kraft's Defeating Dark Angels conference last winter I assumed that everyone was there because they had established ministries within their churches, and they were the assigned leader for that ministry.  Imagine my surprise, when one woman sitting at my table informed me, "Oh, honey, we're all here in spite of our churches"!
     My husband and I are always the exception to the rule whenever we gather with church or ministry-led conferences because God has pulled us out of the established Church and we are part of a small home church.  I'm always a little saddened by some of the reactions that news receives, as if somehow we are less qualified to be doing a ministry.  I say "a little" saddened, because my spirit has no doubt that we have been called by God to partner with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help set people free.  What "church people" think about that has no bearing on our service to the Lord.  And that leads me back to the sincere question that we were asked at the recent training session we attended.
     A young woman from Bangladesh approached the table where my husband and I were sitting.  She had been involved with a deliverance ministry under the auspices of her church in her home country, but since moving to the United States, she could find no church that had such a ministry, nor any church leadership that encouraged the pursuit of a deliverance ministry.  So her question to us was, "How are you able to do this deliverance ministry without "the covering" of a church"?  That question struck such a chord with me, because it represents so much of the resistance and opposition that I have felt from the church in recent years.
     In fact, some of the more negative or unfavorable responses I have received in regards to spiritual warfare have come from pastors and church leaders who do not believe it exists!  But God has shown me that so much of the struggles and pain that Christians experience is due to oppression by demonic forces.  But because they hide behind the "Christian culture" in their church -- the culture that has been blinded to the bondage that so many are under -- they will never see, nor admit, that they are hurting.  And sadly, they have discouraged members of their churches from seeking any knowledge or experience on waging spiritual warfare.  Therefore, without "the covering" of their pastor, Christians continue to be unenlightened about defeating the Enemy in their own lives.
     For the life of me, I cannot discover where the idea originated that believers need to be "covered" in order to serve God and minister within Christ's Body.  How many people are living Christian lives under the shadow of this fear that without "covering" you dare not minister, preach, teach, pray, or do a myriad of other things you're called to do by the Spirit of God, because you will somehow be ministering without protection?
     (NOTE:  This same kind of argument is used to discourage women from teaching because they are supposed to "be submissive" or "under the authority" of a man.  Unfortunately, this incorrect understanding has applied Scriptures such as 2 Timothy 2:12, and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, and taken them out of context.  Then the last 1600 years of social and cultural influence have somehow cemented these ideas in the Church.  For a different take on this interpretation of Scripture, check out my blog post here, and the source of my suggestive theory, here.)
     Now back to how I feel about having to be "covered" to do deliverance ministry.  I truly feel that this doctrine places the authority of man over the authority of my God.  If the Holy Spirit convicts me that Deliverance is something He wants me to do -- and that Jesus wants people healed and wants me to facilitate that healing -- then why do I need to seek any further approval from men?  And why would I turn down that calling just because a pastor or church leader does not recognize the need for it? Are we not instructed by Scripture to submit ourselves to God?  As born-again believers, we daily make a choice to submit ourselves to God for the work that the Holy Spirit does in us to "conform us to the image of Christ." That image of Christ is one of servanthood, as He sought to do what God instructed Him to do.  That included healing, and casting out demons, and spreading the Word about God's mercy unto salvation.  Can we have no higher calling than to imitate Christ in this manner?
     Please understand that I am not advocating disrespect or rebellion (out of pride) towards God's Church or the Pastors and Shepherds He has placed in positions of authority.  But when confronted with a choice to follow a clear commission from the Holy Spirit, and the will of my Father, or an opinion from a man (no matter how well-intentioned) then I have no choice.  When my spirit is told that I have been sanctified to do this work for the Kingdom of God, then I know that my "covering" -- my defense, my protection -- will come from the Lord Himself.  I go forth to do this ministry in full confidence because I am covered by the Blood of Jesus!
     1 John 2:20 speaks so strongly to my conviction on this matter:  But you have an anointing from the Holy One [you have been set apart, specially gifted and prepared by the Holy Spirit], and all of you know [the truth because He teaches us, illuminates our minds, and guards us from error].  Just before we were introduced to this concept of spiritual warfare and deliverance, my husband had a recurring dream in which God told him that He wanted us to sanctify our property, our home, and each other with holy oil.  Then, in the dream, there was a clear message that YHWH, Himself, was going to sanctify us.  It took him several days to tell me this, but after consecutive nights of receiving the same divinely-inspired communication, he knew he had affirmation that it was from the Lord, and he shared the message with me.  At the time, we didn't know what that meant, or why He was anointing us and sanctifying us.
     Since then, we know that the anointing was so that He could impart the knowledge of His truth regarding spiritual warfare to us; and we were going to be sanctified, or set apart for God, to do deliverance ministry under the Authority of Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit.  We wanted, so desperately, to share this Good News with the Church and let them know that God wants us to partner with Him in these Last Days ... but they didn't want to hear it.  In effect, we could not, and would not, receive any approval of "covering" from The Church.  And that's when it became crystal clear that we were not to seek it; that God would be our covering -- He will go before us and protect the work that He has assigned us to do.  He will be our shield and our shelter as we continue the work that His Son came to do, namely to set free those who are in bondage to satan and his forces of wickedness.
     I guess, in a way, the Apostle Philip is kind of a model for what happened to us.  He was personally reached by Jesus himself. While Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, and Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, no one brought Philip to Jesus. Instead, Jesus came right to him.  And Philip went where God told him to go, reaching people that would never be drawn to the newly developing church.  And that is our similar experience ... God personally revealed His purpose for our lives and is bringing people in bondage directly to our door; people who do not feel comfortable approaching the Church.  All they know is that they want to be free, and we have the answer ... it's to experience Jesus healing their spiritual wounds!
     So, if you find yourself in a situation similar to the young woman from Bangladesh, and you feel called to a deliverance ministry, but find no support from the establishment of the Body of Christ, then ask the Holy Spirit for confirmation that this is how you are to serve the Kingdom of God.  If this is to be the purpose of your life, then God will open doors for you that men cannot close.  Trust Him to be your "covering", believing that if He is for you, no one can be against you.  The freedom you will feel in setting others free will inspire you, stir your spirit, and clear the way for unprecedented fruit in the lives of others.  Don't be afraid to step out!

Psalm 91:14   Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name.

July 25, 2016

A Legacy For The Kingdom

     For some reason, today my spirit is wishing to share some personal thoughts and revelations... I don't receive a lot of comments or feedback from my blog posts, but that's OK.  I don't need accolades for me; I'd rather read and hear God being praised, but when I do, they are often times humbling and give me more credit that I deserve.  Readers are too quick to praise me for knowledge and inspiration that, quite frankly, I don't feel worthy of.  The truth is, there have been people who have been instrumental in shepherding my foray into spiritual warfare, and who have validated the direction that the Holy Spirit is leading me.
     I am no different than any of you ... My experiences and knowledge can be obtained by anyone wishing to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit and to earnestly serve the Kingdom of God. Perhaps I am just a tad more bold or daring; in fact, I have had other Christians tell me that I should be more cautious and less passionate.   But I have confidence in my discernment, and I am not one to waste time if I hear the Holy Spirit counseling me to step out in faith.  So, today, I'd like to inspire you by introducing you to a woman who has inspired a growing army of spiritual warriors for this Time and Place.
     First, let me say that I have been tremendously blessed to have a husband who has been an aggressive warrior in his own right.  If you've been reading this blog for quite some time, then you know that his first and middle names literally mean "Peace-Loving Warrior", and he exemplifies that strong and commanding image.  Together, the Lord showed us a couple of years ago where He wants us to stand, and the important work He needs done in His Kingdom here on earth.  By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we were led to study the spiritual realm and its influence on Christians.  Through encounters with entities from this realm, we have both been exposed to satan's attempts to discourage the followers of Jesus from claiming their power and authority in the Name of our Savior.  And then, by Divine Appointment we came into contact with the woman who would become our mentor, our advisor, and our trainer in our Deliverance Ministry.
     Her name is Barbara Bucklin, and she is a tireless champion and advocate of Jesus as our Healer, our Deliverer, and our Savior.  She has more energy and passion than people decades younger than herself.  We first met Barb when we attended a conference she arranged, and which was taught by Dr. Charles Kraft, entitled Defeating Dark Angels.  At the time we knew, and were seeing, that Christians were being attacked and oppressed by demonic forces, but knew nothing other than praying for protection as a means of defeating them.  Dr. Kraft changed all that ... He revealed that through his many years of missionary work and the thousands of Christians he had counseled, that most problems are spiritual, resulting in emotional difficulties that keep us from the freedom and intimacy with Christ that we (and He) desire.  And we learned that deep-level healing is the answer.  What exactly is this deep-level healing?  It is a Deliverance ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit that is aimed at bringing healing to the whole person:  spirit, body, mind, emotions, and will.  It is about hearts being set free.  And we, as the servants of Christ, are fully capable (through partnering with Him and the Holy Spirit) of continuing His work to "set the captives free".
     The valuable information I received from a subsequent training season with Dr. Kraft was orchestrated by Barb, and in the months that have followed, she has been there to advise and instruct my husband and me as we enter into this new frontier of Christian spiritual warfare.  In fact, we just returned from a Healing and Deliverance training session with Barb this past weekend.  Thirty-five people signed up to hear Barb share her experiences in seeing hurting, scared, damaged Christians -- people who have been subjected to the wiles and schemes of our Adversary -- but who were transformed by a very real experience with Jesus as their Healer and Deliverer.  She conducted this seminar to encourage and instruct us in Deliverance Ministry; to give us a roadmap in which to work with Jesus to help those being oppressed by the Enemy.
    Now, 35 people may seem like a small number, but it is momentous when you consider that, very likely, each of these individuals represent 35 churches or communities who are in desperate need of receiving evidence that Jesus still heals and delivers His people.  If each of these people are fulfilling their commission to continue the work of Jesus, just think of the numbers they can impact.
     And impact is what Barbara Bucklin is all about.  She is an active supporter and vibrant part of what some call the "Texas Prayer Movement".  She is a fervent believer that through Prayer and Intercession which is led by the Holy Spirit, Christians can chip away at the darkness that envelops the world, and let the Light of God shine through.  She is believing and trusting God for a revival in the Texas capitol city of Austin; that prayerful Christians can provide firm support for what God is working on to accomplish in that city, in its businesses, ministries, families, personal lives, and government. She is believing God that He will transform the City of Austin ... and believe me, you don't want to doubt her.
     She is also the President of Luke 4:18 Minstries.  That verse is the foundation of her belief in Jesus’ mission statement as He picked up that scroll in Isaiah 61 – out of all those other scrolls -- and read it when He went into the temple. He said that the scripture was fulfilled that day. And what exactly was fulfilled?

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; too set at liberty those who are oppressed [downtrodden, bruised, crushed by tragedy]..."

     Her testimony, I believe, is similar to what God is doing throughout His remnant.  He is showing us that, if we are ready to listen, and use the tools He has given us to see people transformed and restored, He has a mission for us.  Barb listened, and beginning in 1999, she set about fulfilling her mission... and just like what has begun happening to my husband and myself, people began showing up at her doorstep.  They were people that could not be reached inside the four walls of a church building, because they were never going to approach the Church for the healing they needed.  They are people, as in the case of Barb's ministry, who were homeless and living under the bridges in Austin; or people the Church had failed to help, because the church was blind to the message of Luke 4:18.  And they were simply people on the margins of society, who were not even in view of the Church, because Church members were focused inward instead of outward towards the lost and hurting ... the very people Jesus came to Save, Heal and Deliver.
     Listen to Barb, and see why she is such an inspiration and motivator for God's spiritual army ... "I believe that as we pray for people and see Jesus set them free, they are able to move into their gifts more fully and our city is being transformed one person at a time.  We see His Body move forward and unite in a different way, because it’s easy to unite when hearts are healed.  It’s difficult to work together when you're suffering from pain, unhealed abuse and other hurts. Wounded people find it difficult to work together. But, once you have healing and joy restored, you have a new resiliency and vision and then you move into a Kingdom perspective and a desire to see His 'Kingdom come and will be done' … [Through our ministry], we want people prepared and equipped in ministry, that is why the gifts have been given to us — to equip the Body for ministry and to advance the Kingdom. We need to be walking in freedom and maturity so we can do the good works prepared for us ... We also need to be alert, having our minds transformed to align with His words, increase our faith, and understand the prophetic nature of these days."
     Perhaps most importantly, this faithful woman of Christ believes that God's restructuring the Church. A while back, she says she got a word that He was rewiring, realigning, restructuring, and then re-anointing His Body.  She admits that this transition of the Church currently involves only a small number of the Body.  Most Christians are satisfied where they are; being comfortable and not liking any sort of challenge.  But she believes that the stirring within the Body towards ministries like hers [and that of my husband and myself] is actually God causing this discomfort; drawing us back to the basics, talking about the Cross and the Blood of Christ.  And she has done all that for me.
     She came into my life at a time when God was continuously trying to show me that He had work for me to do outside the walls of any Church.  Make no mistake, He didn't tell me that the work of those inside the Church was necessarily unproductive -- just that He was anointing me and my husband to do His work in a new "old way", if that makes sense.  And then He pointed me to models that were according to His will ... and that were working!  And that's how I ended up being a part of the Healing and Deliverance Training Session this past weekend. I sat among 35 brave people who have been willing to go where the Lord is leading them, and to be mentored by a willing servant and her team;  all of us followers of Jesus who desire to see our fellow Christians walking in physical and spiritual freedom and restoration.  I am truly blessed to be a part of this faithful group.
     I want to leave you with one final thought ... we all stand on the shoulders of others God puts in our lives.  I have heard from many of you that you are hearing from God, and know that the struggles in your life are spiritual; that you recognize that Jesus is the answer.  I urge you to seek a credible deliverance ministry, and then once you are healed and restored, then please help another person attain the freedom that Jesus has given you!  This is the structure of God's Kingdom that has been shown to me by the Holy Spirit, and modeled so well by men and women like Dr. Charles Kraft and Barbara Bucklin.  There is no need to fear the unknown.
     As we ended our conference this weekend, Barbara circled the classroom, anointing each of the participants with Valor.  Our modern English definition of this word is "bravery, courage, boldness".  But knowing Barb, I'm pretty sure that she anointed us with Valor, under the Hebrew interpretation, which indicates "the physical strength, power, and ability to perform in the battle that is in view".  She knows, and has seen, [as we have] that we are engaged in a spiritual battle for the souls of men, both lost and saved.  She knows that we do not fight alone, but under the Authority of Jesus and through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
     In this one classroom, in one city of the United States, there were 35 people joined in fulfilling the mission we have been given ... the mission that All are invited to partake in.  Just think what we can accomplish for the Kingdom of God, one person at a time; one community at a time; one nation at a time.  Let it begin with you!

Mark 13:34    "For the Son of Man is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper [guardian] to watch."

July 24, 2016

John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. 
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; 
I have overcome the world.

     The world is fast falling into lawlessness.  Just in the past few weeks, the incidents of violence around the globe certainly have all of us on edge.  We sense that evil has influenced the hearts of men and these are dangerous times in which we live.
     I wonder how many Christians are unsettled about these events, but think evil will never touch them.  And how many are unaware that their Bible tells them to expect such chaos and bloodshed.  Of course, the Bible also tells us in Psalm 27 that the Lord is the protector and defender of our lives; and if you read the Good News Translation, "God protects me from all danger.  I will never be afraid."
     But if we are honest with ourselves, we are afraid.  And we know it's not that simple.  Good people -- faithful people who trust Jesus as their Savior -- are victims of evil and violence every day.   And careful inspection of today's verse has Jesus telling us, Himself, that in this world, we will have tribulation. 
     It is interesting to note that these words from our Lord appear to be the last advice He gave to His disciples before going to the Cross.  Therefore, they should have great significance to us.   It is important to discern that, even as Jesus knew that Judas was meeting to betray Him -- He knew the humiliation, torture, and execution that awaited Him -- He was able to offer peace to His disciples ... because He had peace.
     Also, note that Jesus did not promise peace, but He offered it. He said, "you may have peace. " A person can follow Jesus, yet deny themselves that peace.  How do you get that Peace?  It's only available by faith in Jesus.  
     Notice, however, that He promises tribulation ... In the world, you WILL have tribulation.  Peace is offered to us, but tribulation is promised!  So how are we to handle that information?  As Christians, we must not get caught up in the false hope that we will live trouble-free lives.  That leaves us totally defenseless when the devil assigns a spiritual force of wickedness to our life.  And it renders us as deniers of demonic oppression in a Christian's life, and totally unprepared to fight the spiritual battles that will be ours.   Of this, I can assure you:  if we belong to God, times of calmness and serenity will be disrupted by seasons of struggle, because if we are bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, there will always be new territory to conquer for Him.
     To uplift us, Jesus tells us to "take heart" or "be of good cheer" because He has overcome the world.  I wish to share with you commentary about this verse by Bible scholar Leon Morris:  "This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious … He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror. " 
     But now we come to the reason that we can take heart ... Jesus has overcome the world!  It's very important that we understand what that word "overcome" means.  It is translated in the Greek as nikao, and means "to subdue; conquer; prevail; or get the victory".  In effect, Jesus is telling us that, "I am warning you that you will have great troubles while you are here on earth, but I don't want you to give up, and I want you to be encouraged.  I want you to not dread or fear what the world will bring upon you, because you can have the same peace I am experiencing now.  The peace I have now, knowing that I am going to My death, is the same peace that is yours, because the ultimate victory will be Mine.  I am going to conquer Death ... and so will you, if you believe in Me."
     That is the essence of what Jesus is saying in this verse.  But I would like to take it one step further... to get the full picture of what Jesus is trying to communicate here, we must continue reading.  This is the last verse in John, Chapter 16; but in Chapter 17, Jesus shares an intimate conversation with His Father.  The purpose is to let us in on the real purpose of His time on earth, and our subsequent purpose in the Father's Plan.  
     Jesus lets us in on these important facts:  "While I was with them [the Disciples], I was keeping them in Your [the Father's] name which You have given Me ... They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth. Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world. For their sake I sanctify Myself [to do Your will], so that they also may be sanctified [set apart, dedicated, made holy] in [Your] truth."
     Here's what we really need to take away from this entire passage of Scripture:  Yes, Jesus will never leave us, and in fact we are to be at peace during the coming tribulation, knowing that His victory affords us our own victory (eternal life).  BUT, we are not to sit here idly and passively, waiting for the Rapture, safe in the knowledge that this life will soon be over and we will join Him in Heaven.  No!  We have a purpose!  Either until He returns, or until the day we die, we are to spend our remaining time on earth fulfilling the commission that we have been given.  It is the same assignment the Father gave Jesus... to tell the world the Truth of God.
     I fear that too many Christians have selective comprehension of John 16:33.  They read the part about peace, thinking they will have it, instead of correctly understanding that they may receive it.  And secondly, they focus on Jesus's (and our) victory over Death.  They fail to see that we have a commission and a purpose to fulfill in claiming that victory; we need to be committed and devoted and actively in pursuit of accomplishing our goal for God ... we need to be as dedicated as Jesus was about winning souls for our Father's Kingdom!

July 22, 2016

How Seriously Do You Take Your Citizenship?

     I think it's safe to say that every American is aware that we are in the midst of a heated political season.  The upcoming Presidential election is not only one of the most interesting contests we've seen in awhile, but it appears to me, at least, that Americans are taking their citizenship seriously.  But what does it exactly mean to be a United States Citizen?  Besides being a legal inhabitant of our nation, what are our responsibilities and duties?  How do we show our allegiance to our country?  On a simple level, our duties can be separated into two groups:  mandatory responsibilities, such as paying taxes; and duties not demanded by law, such as voting.  On a civil and public level, we are called upon to respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of others — even if we think they're "extreme," "outrageous" or "morally wrong."  We are to stay informed of the issues that affect our community.  We are to serve on a jury if called to do so.  We are to participate in the democratic process.  And, finally, we are to defend our country, if the need arises, both from foreign and domestic enemies.
     That identifies our duties and obligations as citizens of this country.  But are you aware, that if you call yourself a Christian, you are first and foremost, a citizen of Heaven?  But how does that compare and contrast with our citizenship in this country?  First of all, as an earthly citizen, we know that if we are born in the U.S., we legally belong to this country and we have the rights and protection of this country.  But guess what?  When we are born again by faith in Jesus Christ, we are born into the Kingdom of Heaven, and our real citizenship is in Heaven.  We are, in effect, a colony of people living at an outpost of the Kingdom.  We are living at some distance from the residence of our King, and we are a branch of His Kingdom.  So, how do the two "citizenships" differ, and how do they affect each other?  It's really very simple ... how you live your life as a citizen of this country must reflect your citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
     If we are reborn in Christ, we also legally belong to the Kingdom of God, and we have the rights and protection that belong to citizens of that Kingdom.  The problem is that we have to decide how we are going to live while we are temporarily existing in this remote location.  If we are a true citizen of Heaven, then similar to the responsibilities of citizens in this country, we must respect and follow the belief system of our Father; we must stay informed about Scripture and the issues that affect God's Kingdom on earth, represented by us; we must be willing to participate and serve as our King's servant -- even if it generates a hostile environment; and finally, we must defend His kingdom, both from spiritual and human enemies.
     But, we must also admit that every human being is born into the kingdom of this world, in which Satan rules.  And because citizens tend to adopt the culture and practices of the nation or kingdom in which they reside, we too often grow up adopting the culture and the practices and values that characterize satan's kingdom.   (Just look at how easily the Jews, who had a covenant with their God, abandoned their connection to YHWH -- and adopted the culture and values of Babylon -- during the relatively short period of 70 years in captivity).  Like those ancient Jews, we can easily become citizen-slaves to satan and this world, and live by his rules and value system.  
     When God grants us citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, through faith in Jesus, we become “new creatures”.  We no longer desire to be citizens of this world and we become citizens of an eternal kingdom where our Father is the King.  We are given the power and privileges of citizens of that kingdom and we are adopted into the family of God.   Our focus then turns toward eternal things,  storing up treasure in heaven, and receiving our inheritance and rewards.
     Now, I know that those last words -- "inheritance" and "rewards" -- will scare many Christians; mainly because they incorrectly associate them with doing good works to get into heaven.  That's not what Scripture says!  Receiving our inheritance and rewards as citizens in the Kingdom of God is separate from receiving eternal life, and is something above and beyond that gift of amazing grace.
     The website redeeming god.com explains this concept very well:  "Eternal life is a free gift of God to all who simply (and only) believe in Jesus for it. When we believe, we are adopted into God’s family and become His children.  Honor, privilege, and recognition is our Inheritance at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and is reserved for those children who live as Jesus lived and follow God’s will and ways for our lives.  Just as rebellious and unfaithful children are sometimes written out of their parent’s inheritance in this world, so also, (while God will never abandon or forsake His children), we can lose some of our inheritance if we fail to follow Him."
     Rewards, on the other hand, are added bonuses or additional incentives God offers as a way to encourage faithful living and self-sacrificial love for others.  Careful examination of Scripture reveals that there are crowns that will be given as a special token by our Lord to honor and reward all of those who have faithfully served Him in this life – way above and beyond what the average Christian would have considered doing for Him.  These rewards are the 1) the imperishable crown, 2) the crown of rejoicing, 3) the crown of righteousness, 4) the crown of glory, and 5) the crown of life.   These crowns, or rewards, are what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize (reward)? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."  
     But here is the irony of the honor and recognition that will be ours at receiving those rewards ... On that day, when we relinquish our citizenship on this earth, and enter into our eternal citizenship in Heaven, and stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself, all good deeds we have done will pale in comparison.  At that moment, we will lay those crowns at His feet, because we know that despite what we may have done on earth to earn these rewards, only Jesus is truly worthy of glory and honor.
     And that marks the character of someone whose citizenship in Heaven is more valuable to him/her than their citizenship here on earth.  I know that, at the moment, our future seems all tied up in the next election for the Presidency of the United States.  But the reality is that we live for a short time in these physical bodies, and we should be anticipating our future in our real home.  We should consider ourselves as only ambassadors to this earth; our actual citizenship is in Heaven, and we are only here until our Father sends for us and we go home.  Until then, I will endeavor to live my life as a citizen of Heaven, first, and a mere resident in this foreign land I temporarily call "home".

Philippians 1:22-23      "If, however, it is to be life here and I am to go on living, this will mean useful and productive service for me; so I do not know which to choose [if I am given that choice].  But I am hard-pressed between the two.  I have the desire to leave [this world] and be with Christ, for that is far, far better;" 

July 20, 2016

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

     I am currently preparing a study on the Fifth Chapter of Acts, which I will be leading with our Home Church group.  We are a small group of people who have become increasingly "dissatisfied" after years spent in the Church building.   For some of us that means that following the traditional picture of Church life has left us lacking the sustenance necessary to live fruitful lives for the Kingdom of God.
     My husband and I, for instance, aren't satisfied with feeling comfortable in our faith.  By that, I mean that we were beginning to see that too many within the confines of Western Christianity were not being challenged to seek harder after Christ.  Ultimately, we discerned that we were hungering for meat, but weren't even being fed milk -- in effect, we were starving for a morsel of real association with our God.
      And so I find myself jealous of the new Church that I found in the Book of Acts.  In Chapter 4, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit filled and controlled Peter, as he gave a powerful sermon on the Day of Pentecost, bringing 3,000 people to the saving grace of Jesus.  Later, Peter was once again filled with the Spirit as he faced the Sanhedrin and proclaimed his authority through the power of Jesus to heal a man who had been lame for 40 years.  The boldness to stand up to the rulers of the Jewish people could only have come under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit!
     But here is what made me jealous ... after relating that the Sanhedrin had let Peter and John go, (although they could have been arrested and even executed as Jesus had been) ... the members of this new First Century Church all lifted their voices together, with one united mind, and prayed that they, too, might receive the same kind of Spirit-filled courage and confidence.  Then in verse 31 of Acts 4, the Word says, "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom and boldness and courage."
     Do you see that happening in the Churches of America today?  Where is the boldness and the courage to stand up to rulers who would deny the power of Christ to perform miracles through us, just as He did through those who believed in Him in the First Century?  Where is the Church who has been physically shaken by the presence of the Holy Spirit in its midst?  I'm not seeing it, are you?  And don't tell me that God only showed Himself at the establishment of the Church because He needed to make an impact and "get the ball rolling"!  God wants to see us express the same freedom to declare the miracles He has done in our lives; and He wants to fill more "Peters" with the Holy Spirit so that they will be bold in proclaiming that the very power that resurrected Jesus is the same power He can give us to bring about His Kingdom; and last, but not least, He wants to shake our Church buildings with His presence!
     Instead, what do I see?  Churches that embrace some new digital version of the old Pokemon game in order to pathetically attempt to make themselves relevant to an increasingly immoral and corrupt culture.  Obviously, participating Churches don't believe in the sufficiency of Scripture to relate to this sinful world.  Unlike the early Church, which was perceived as weak due to a lack in numbers, a lack of experienced leadership, and being opposed by institutions that had existed for hundreds of years (Sanhedrin, Rome), today's Church should be a strong and formidable opponent to an immoral society.  After all, our mega-Churches seat over 5,000 people every Sunday, and there are Pastors whose names are known world-wide and who have formed lucrative businesses through their ministries --- yet these culture-craving Churches feel the need to partner with Pokemon, on the chance that some might be saved.  And the Church justifies this collaboration by promoting a campaign of "Chase Pokemon and find Jesus".  Somehow they believe that the Word is not enough to save souls; Jesus needs a little help from Pokemon.  Disgusting!
    But I don't know which is more offensive to me ... the Pokemon collusion, or a statement made by Pastor Larry G. Mills of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church at the #LoveOrlando Citywide ecumenical prayer-fest, hosted by Southern Baptist Megachurch, FBC Orlando.  Pastor Mills made reference to a passage in Ephesians, Chapter 2:  Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.…
     But he twisted the Word of God, because you see, Scripture is not quite sufficient to meet the needs of today's diverse and immoral culture.  Here's how he explained the meaning of that verse:  We’re not peculiar because of race or gender or creed. But in Orlando we are peculiar because of E. Pluribus Unum. Out of many come one. We are peculiar because we have leadership that knows how to fight….We are peculiar because we know how to let theological differences and disputes and factions not get in the way of love and Christ. We are peculiar… because we believe in the Word, and what others would have against us, what others would show as a stumbling stone, we’ve elevated to be the head of the corner, and right now, no matter what people might think, that LGBTQ area is the head cornerstone, and we are here to lift up and magnify, and allow them to know, that regardless of people’s opinion, regardless of where we are, love triumphs over evil.
     Anyway you look at it, that's Blasphemy!  So how many pulpits have been turned over to the goats?  How many offer an accomodating, though damnable, counterfeit gospel?  This is nothing less than the trampling of the Word of God!  As Bud Alheim wrote at the Pulpit&Pen website: The New Testament is replete with warnings to protect that Gospel, defend it, contend for it. We are warned that many will come, diabolically motivated, who will twist it, conceal it, augment it, or outright deny it. False messiahs, false teachers, false prophets will be employed by the enemy of our God to keep the masses traveling on the wide path that “leads to destruction".  That my friends is called the Apostasy of the Church.  You may have wondered exactly what that meant or what it would look like.  Well, there it is!  It is a falling away from what the Church was designed to be and do.
     These examples I've given you are just two of the many ways in which the Western Church has veered off the narrow path of Life.   And sadly, it doesn't even come close to matching that First Century Church in the Book of Acts in the scope of their desire to glorify our Lord Jesus.  Instead, these are the churches and the pastors who will one day stand before Him and plead, “Lord, Lord, did we not …?”

Titus 1:15-16     "To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.  They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."

July 18, 2016

Connecting More Dots

     Chaotic events in the world are beginning to happen at breakneck speed; like contractions during a birth.  Dallas ... Nice, France ... Turkey ... Baton Rouge ... all in less than two weeks.  And we are facing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week; God help us!  I fear that the New Living Translation of Matthew 24:8 is playing out: "But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come."  
     Saturday evening into Sunday morning I wrote the following post and think it is important enough to still run it this morning.  But I wanted all to know that I am not impervious to the tragedy that happened in Baton Rouge yesterday.  Sadly, it is a continuation of the rage that I believe is being orchestrated against all of us in the country, regardless of our race.  It is spiritual in nature, and regrettably, there are far too many people with hearts of stone who are only willing to listen to the devil's lies, and those of his collaborators.  If you know nothing else to do, just get on your knees and pray.  (Click here for my suggestion, if you're not sure how to pray). Ask the Creator of all men to change the hearts of wicked men.   Recognize Him as Jehovah Nissi, our banner or battle standard.  He is our forward Guard and our rear Guard.  As long as we are under his banner, our victory is always assured.  If we ever depart from it, our defeat is a certainty.  
     We need to face it --- this Christian life is a picture of warfare.  Just as in ancient battles, we are to obey every command of our King, and run to His banner, which is the Cross, when the fight becomes too much for our flesh.  But we also need to realize that the battle is won in the spiritual realm, and we are to put on our full armor of God and get to the battlefront!  No matter what the news says today, or tomorrow, next week, or next year ... trust in our Lord and Savior!  These birth pangs will soon give way to His justice and righteousness.  We are in the heat of the battle at the moment, and we need to keep drinking the Living Water that is Christ!

     Over the weekend, as I followed the events in Turkey, I couldn't help but discern that God gave me a huge download of knowledge that connected more dots in the evolution of His cosmic chess match with the devil.  I'm still trying to fit all the pieces together, so I hope you'll be patient with me, as I try to write this down as fast as I'm receiving it.  Hopefully, it will make some sense to you, or one of you can expand on what I'm presenting.
     My journey over the last few days began with receiving a book that my Spiritual Warfare mentor suggested I read, called Rulers of Evil, by F. Tupper Saussy.  At the expense of offending faithful Catholics, I must recommend this book as a fascinating book of the history of the Catholic Church and its influence on the world empires, as well as the founding of America.  Moreover, the author gives an intriguing account of the history of Biblical knowledge and how it interacts with the Roman Catholic papacy.  PLEASE, I am not recommending this book under the pretense of Catholic-bashing!  I am a lover of history and the author is able take a vast amount of historical information and present it in a chronological and coherent manner.  I had barely begun reading (page 24 to be exact) when I saw a link between what happened in history to what is unfolding in Turkey and here in the United States.  Let me start with the historical impetus for my "aha" moment....
     As a student of history, I have been aware that the reading of the Bible was largely limited to Kings and Church leaders until the invention of the Guttenberg Press made it accessible to the masses.  The control and domination by these rulers could be undermined if the general population ever learned that they had direct access to the Bible and God's Word.  (That's an over-simplification of all the intrigue that surrounds the maintaining of power among history's ruling class, but it gives you a general view of how things work).
     As I was reading this fascinating book, it was inevitable that the conflict between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church would surface.  In case you're unfamiliar with the background of this story, Luther was a Catholic monk who defied the edict of the Archbishop of Mainz against unauthorized Bible reading, and began reading the first edition of the Greek New Testament, printed by Renaissance theologian Desiderius Erasmus.  That led to Luther's explosive document, Ninety-five Theses Upon Indulgences, which he promptly nailed to the door of the castle church of Wittenburg. (The historic idea of Indulgences was centered upon a grant by the pope of the remission of punishment in purgatory that was still due for sins, even after absolution. The unrestricted sale of indulgences by pardoners was a widespread abuse during the later Middle Ages ... as an example, for the payment of four ducats, one could be forgiven for murdering one's father; or Sorcery was pardoned for six ducats --- you get the picture).  You can see how the ability for the common man to begin reading and understanding the Truth within the pages of the Bible could seriously erode the authority of those who claimed divine power.
     But it was more than these familiar historical facts that I was seeing; I suddenly saw the collusion between Pope Clement VII, Niccolo Machiavelli, the inventor of modern political science, and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Chancellor of England. These men determined that the printing press could now be used to their advantage --- they, themselves, could produce literature that would ultimately confuse, diminish, and marginalize the influence of the Bible. Cardinal Wolsey characterized this project as putting "learning against learning".  (Remember that phrase, because it is going to come back into focus as I connect the dots to what happened this weekend).  The result of this vast amount of printed material was the famed Medici Library-- which opposed the Bible's teaching that man could have eternal life simply by believing in Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf, in favor of Gnostic teachings that man could achieve eternal life by doing good works (Christ-centered learning versus man-centered learning).  So extensive was this Library's philosophical influence, that many scholars today consider it the cradle of Western civilization.
     Martin Luther, discerning that this learning against learning philosophy was the future of Christianity, prophetically wrote in 1520, "Though our children live in the midst of a Christian world, they faint and perish in misery because they lack the Gospel in which we should be training and exercising them all the time.  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount [my emphasis].  Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts.  Every institution where men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt".  (While I also have huge problems with Luther's later opinions regarding the Jewish people, he hit a home run with this school of thought).
     So, now let me make a huge leap, by connecting this dot with one from this weekend.  As I awoke Saturday morning, I was curious to see what had happened in Turkey overnight.  As I often do, I took a look at what foreign news outlets were reporting; often finding them less restrained in their communication of facts.  The UK's Daily Mail was showing astonishing pictures of the citizens who backed President Erdogan confronting and attacking the members of the Turkish military who had dared to try to overthrow the President.  One particular sentence jumped out at me:  "Erdogan has blamed his old scapegoat, Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the uprising. Muslim cleric Gulen, the president's rival who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, as the head of a billion dollar religious movement, has often been blamed for political unrest in Turkey."
     If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you might recognize the name of Fethullah Gulen.  I wrote posts here (2013) and here (earlier in 2016), regarding this imam's influence in our American educational system.  Yes, you read that correctly ... Trained as an imam, Fethullah Gulen gained notice in Turkey some 50 years ago, promoting a philosophy that blended a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.  Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the "officially secular government" from a gated 26-acre compound in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, which has a population of about 1,100. The President of Turkey is now asking for Gulen's extradition, but Secretary of State John Kerry says our government is unlikely to comply.
     Why should the internal politics and history of political rivalry in Turkey be of particular interest to us here in the United States?  Because, as I have made mention in past blog posts, Fethullah Gulen and his Gulen Movement (his liberal Islamic transnational religious and social movement) runs the largest charter school network in our nation - the list is at 146 to be exact, with sad to say, 45 schools in my state of Texas!  How could this be, you ask?  Well, he is very clever ... the name of these influential schools go by different names in each of the states.  In Texas, they are the Harmony Science Academy; in Ohio, the Horizon Science Academy; in California, the Magnolia Science Academy ... you see what he's doing, right?  Appealing to the ever-competitive nature of the American psyche, he promotes his schools as academies of higher learning to help Americans excel in math and science; so that students will get a higher level of education than they do at public schools.  And it is a multi-billion dollar business!
     And students get a higher "level" of learning alright!  While the schools are not overtly teaching Islamic philosophy and religion, I contend that Fethullah Gulen's influence is predicated on eliminating and destroying Christianity's influence among our nation's youth.  That's where the dots are connected!  Remember Luther's concern over learning against learning?  Well, we are seeing it in action before our very eyes, and we are blinded.  I say that because Gulen's influence has not only infiltrated our education system, but his tentacles reach into banks, newspapers, universities, charities, research institutes, and the halls of Congress, where according to an article by Ariel Cohen, and a USA TODAY investigation, over 200 trips for congressmen and congressional staff have been sponsored by G├╝lenist entities.
     All this being said, I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I'm shouting in the wilderness.  I have written several posts now on this man, and pointed to others who have done extensive research on him, and now the name of Fethullah Gulen pops up once again in the attempted coup in Turkey.  If you're tired of me harping on this subject, I apologize, but the chance that I would receive this fascinating book, and read of the anti-Bible reference to learning against learning, at the exact moment that an influential Islamic businessman (deeply ensconced in our educational system) is suggested as influencing the attempted downfall of a sovereign nation ... well, I could not ignore it.
     I will leave you by repeating the words of Martin Luther ...  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.  Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts.  Do you think that the mega-success of the Gulen Schools shows us that man-centered learning is surpassing Christ-centered learning in our culture?  And what happens when the Word of God is eliminated entirely, in favor of Islamic-flavored curriculum?  The fingerprints of satan have been on the knowledge of man from the beginning, and this is just another of his strategies.  We must be diligent in our discernment, and continue to connect the dots!

Colossians 2:8    "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

July 17, 2016

Ezekiel 38:2-3

"Son of man, set your face against Gog of the land of Magog,
 the chief ruler of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
  and say, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against you, 
O Gog, chief ruler of Meshech and Tubal."

     Since, lately, I have been led by the Spirit to focus on the spiritual realm, I thought I would tackle one of the most controversial couple of verses in the Bible.  During this Age in history, many Christians are discerning that we are in what Jesus called "those days", or "the end"; when "the beginning of sorrows" and "great tribulation" shall befall men on the earth.  We commonly accept these days as "The End Times".  
     Historians, eschatologists, scholars, and well-intentioned Christians have searched the Bible for years for prophecies from the Lord; Scripture that will give us a clue as to how to recognize when the Judgment of Christ will bring horrific persecution, death, famine, and ultimately the return of our Lord.  Although we are not to worry about the time or day, it cannot be denied that Ezekiel, Chapter 38 is often cited as one of the most explicitly prophetic Books in the Bible.  
     If you are the least bit interested in eschatology, I'm sure you've heard a variety of explanations for this particular passage.  Here are just a few, which have been well-documented on watchmanbiblestudy.com:
1.  Hashemite Kingdom Theory: The Islamic Nations will come against Israel either by an Iraqi-led, Jordanian led, or Turkish led coalition. The enemy from the north refers to the areas of Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. These Islamic nations make up the lands occupied by Magog, Gomer, Togarmah, Meshech and Tubal.
2.  Caucus Theory: Gog and Magog are the Arab nations in an alliance with the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union. This theory leaves out most of Russia, and includes only the southern part.
3.  All Europe theory: Gog and Magog are the sons of Japeth thus the originators of the European races.  Gog and Magog therefore indicates all of Europe. This is not a widely held theory and I could find little support for it.
4.  Russian Theory: The Hebrew word ‘rosh’ in verse 3 is identified with Russia, ‘Tubal’ with Tiblisi or Tobolsk and ‘Meshech’ with Moscow, therefore Gog and Magog refers to Russia. This is one of the most commonly held views and is based on a different interpretation of the Hebrew word Rosh (used as a noun rather than adjective), similarities in the pronunciation of words, and the Greek translation of Rosh referring to a tribe of people found in what is now Russia. (Given Russia’s obvious involvement in giving arms and technology to Iran and Syria, I believe they will be a big player in the attack if not actively involved in it.)
5.  Indo-European Theory:  Gog and Magog include the nations descending from Japheth: Russia, the Caucasus (Turkey), Iraq, and the Islamic republics of Central Asia. The coalition is an alliance of Arab nations, Muslim republics, Georgia, southern Russia and the Black sea area. 
     It's also possible that you have heard combinations of these different theories, and even heard Russian President Vladimir Putin identified as Gog.  This theory is often proposed because God says in Ezekiel 38:15. And you [Gog] shall come from out of your place in the north parts...".  However, "the north" or "the north parts" has often been understood to be the heavens, and in this case, the second heaven, where satan and his fallen angels and demons live.  But, for centuries, that hasn't stopped people from trying to relate specific humans and geographic locations on the earth, when dissecting Ezekiel 38.  But in taking counsel from the Holy Spirit in regards to the spiritual war in the heavens, I am beginning to see a different picture.  
     What God and the Holy Spirit are showing me can best be explained by what might, at first, appear to be a confusing description of Gog and Magog on Wikipedia:  The first mention of the two names occurs in the Book of Ezekiel, where Gog is the name of an individual and Magog the name of his land; in Genesis, Chapter 10, Magog is a person and no Gog is mentioned; and in Revelation, both Gog and Magog appear together as the hostile nations of the world.
     OK, now I'm going to ask you to follow me and connect the dots; try to consider this possible interpretation... Let's start with Genesis, Chapter 10, in which Magog is listed as a son of Japheth, who, himself, was a son of Noah.  Genesis 10:5 tells us that from these men, "the nations were separated and spread into their lands, every one according to his own language, according to their constituent groups (families), and into their nations"...  so the fact that Magog is usually understood to be a nation or country makes sense; having been named for the descendant of Noah who was given that land.  Just think of Washington, D.C. named for George Washington, or America, named for the explorer Amerigo Vespucci.  Naming a land after a specific person makes sense to me.
     But then who is this Gog that our God is prophesying against?  In Ezekiel 38:3, he is called "the chief ruler of Meschech and Tubal".  In other versions of the Bible, this verse reads "O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal".  Before we try to identify Gog, let's clear up the discrepancy in the use (or lack of) the word Rosh in that verse.  Some versions of the Bible translate the Hebrew word ‘rosh’ in verse 3 as a noun referring to a place in Russia. The least credible support for this view is that Rosh sounds like the modern-day name Russia and Meshech sounds like Moscow. In this translation they treat rosh as a proper name. Other versions of the Bible translate ‘rosh’ as an adjective, a disjunctive form of grammar, that indicates a pause.  So, verse three would read:

“Behold, I am against thee, o Gog, the prince, {pause} chief of Meshech and Tubal”

Rather than:

“Behold, I am against thee, o Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.”

     It is not as important to me to understand where Gog is chief ruler or prince, as it is to know the identity of who Gog is.  I can accept that he rules over the nations of Meshech and Tubal, and I can agree, without any problem, that those nations may comprise parts of modern-day Turkey, southern Russia and Iran.  It is important to know who this Gog is, and why the Lord God is against him.  
     So, now I'm going to finally tell you the understanding that I have come to, after much study and prayer.  I believe that Gog is one of the demonic rulers (or princes) that satan has assigned to particular nations to carry out his evil directives.  Once again, I feel that's why Paul made such an effort in Ephesians, Chapter 6, to spell out for us that we do not fight against flesh and blood!  (Could he have been telling us to not try to identify flesh and blood men as these enemies?) These rulers and princes are the forces of spiritual wickedness that coordinate the game plan and align demonic forces on the battlefield of each nation.  
     And I do not believe they are constrained by time or place.  Gog has obviously been assigned to govern and administer the nations of Meshech and Tubal at a time when they will be unleashing their armies on Israel.  Since I often find that the Bible expresses overlapping and dual prophecies -- a word from the Lord that is specific to an ancient historic event, but that also applies to an End Times scenario.  In this case, the Old Testament prophet Amos says, Thus the Lord showed me, and behold a swarm of locusts were coming, and, behold, one of the young devastating locusts was Gog, the king. 
     Then in the New Testament, in Revelation, Chapter 9, the Apostle John is given a vision of the Fifth trumpet being sounded, the bottomless pit opening, and the power of the locusts descending upon man to torture him.  In verse 11, John says, And [the locusts] had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.  It is well understood in the 21st Century that this king will be the Anti-Christ.  So, it is certainly possible, and it is my opinion, that the "devastating king of the locusts", that the prophet Amos saw is the same king of the locusts that John saw.  "Gog" could just be the designation of his title or position, such as President; and at the End Times he will be known by his proper name, Abaddon.  
     Nonetheless, I think we must consider that Gog is a demonic spiritual king [chief ruler or prince] who isn’t limited in the length of time he lives or functions.  He can rule over many nations at different times; simultaneously or throughout the centuries.  But I think it is clear that he is an agent of the devil; with specific duties to battle against God's plan of reconciliation.  I believe that when God commanded Ezekiel to set his face against Gog and prophesy against him, the prophet was being instructed to battle in the spiritual realm against this demonic ruler, and to tell him the Lord God was against him and would defeat him.  That was in the Old Testament.  In this New Testament Age, I contend that we can do the same thing ... declare to the demonic forces in the spiritual realm, in the Name of Jesus, that God is against them and they are defeated.  
     I'm sure that this may be a new and very difficult concept for you to accept, since it is virtually never discussed in the Church today.  And maybe, you are one of those Christians who doesn't feel it is necessary to understood Old Testament prophecy.  But the God who spoke to, and instructed, Ezekiel is the same God who wants to speak to us today through His Word ... all of His Word!  For me, it is a matter of knowing that His character never changes.  So if God was against the demonic rulers in the spiritual realm in Ezekiel's time, He is against them today.  And if He asked Ezekiel to set his face against that demonic ruler, I believe he wanted the prophet to take a stand, with God by his side, and announce the defeat of the evil entities.  I believe His command and His desire is for us to do the same. 

July 16, 2016

The Rulers Of This Present Darkness

     Once again, the weekend finds me needing to break the pattern of blog posts.  The deaths of innocent people on the French Riviera, along with the martial law and military coup declared in Turkey compel me to make a short statement about how I view these world events.
     First of all, the fact that the Muslim murderer in Nice followed nearly step-by-step instructions posted on an Isis terrorist website, is evidence that this was a terrorist attack.  Secondly, I am writing this on Friday afternoon, and the news regarding the coup in Turkey is fluid; by the time this commentary posts on Saturday morning, more details will be known.  At first glance, it seems that the military is attempting to remove the President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, and reestablish what they are calling "the rule of law and human rights".  Sounds good ... but then late last night the coup was declared "unsuccessful", and this morning's news states that civilians reclaimed Turkey from their own military after President Erdogan urged them to "keep on owning the streets".  We will have to wait to see how this all shakes out.
     Now, those opinions are based on my physical worldview. My Biblical worldview is another thing.  It has become increasingly clearer to me as I make the effort to study the multi-dimensional implications of Biblical history, that the actions of nations and their leaders are really spiritually dictated and determined.
     Take the familiar account in Daniel 10, when a heavenly messenger (likely the angel Gabriel)  explains to the prophet Daniel why he is so late in answering his prayer summons.  Gabriel tells Daniel he was on the way, "But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia."  It is well understood by Biblical scholars that the prince of Persia is a reference to an evil spiritual entity that wielded authority over the ancient kingdom of Persia. And Michael is the archangel in charge of protecting Israel.
     Throughout the Bible we see nations and their leaders affecting what happens to the nation of Israel and God's chosen people.  But the Word also tells us that many times, it is God who is in control and using those leaders and nations as instruments of not only His blessings and discipline, but His severe Judgment.  In Habakkuk, Chapter 1, God relates His intention to raise up Babylon, a “ruthless” and “dreaded” nation, to achieve His purpose.  Keep in mind that God did not create the ruthlessness of Babylon, but He uses it and controls it to bring about His ultimate Glory.  Follow me one more step, and you see in Ezekiel, Chapter 28, an amazing description of satan as the Prince of Tyrus.  Then in Romans 13, we have Paul telling us that " the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."
     Can you begin to see that these world events are not simply the random acts of bad people?  Can you discern that Satan is using his rulers and powers and spirits of wickedness to cause this present darkness we are seeing come upon the world?  We cannot hope to dispel such evil by human means.  We must pray and partner with God to battle the spiritual forces that are behind these nations and leaders.  The Prince of Persia in the Book of Daniel was not a flesh and blood man who was fighting with the angel Michael.  I believe he was one of the angels who fell with Lucifer, and had been given the nation of Persia to rule from the spiritual realm on behalf of satan.
     Without question, I believe that every nation on earth has been given such a ruler by satan, a prince to try and control the destiny of that nation, and move into the "win" column for the devil.  It is up to us to pray and ask God to send His heavenly armies, with angelic leaders like Michael, to thwart the enemy's plans.  As of this morning, the prince of France and the prince of Turkey are gloating over the chaos they are causing.  Let's be like Daniel ... the Bible said that he "mourned" what he was seeing happening in his world, and he began to pray.  It seemed like ages before he got an answer, and it was the angel Gabriel who told him,  "From the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words."
     Don't waste another minute trying to figure all this out yourself ... we need to appeal to God with fervent prayer and ask for Him to respond.  And then have the faith of Daniel, knowing that He will!

Colossians 2:15    "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through the cross."

July 15, 2016

It's All About Our Hearts

     I have been so impressed with some of the interviews I have seen following the horrific events of last week.  The shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas, have rocked this nation.  I am saddened by the continuing vitriol, but I am also very hopeful at what I am beginning to see happening.  I think you will agree, as you read these interviews that each of the conversations came from the heart, which is the part of us where our emotions dwell.  I think we can all agree that as humans, we are flesh, soul, and spirit.  The soul is comprised of our mind, our emotions, and our will.  But while the heart would seem to be a part of the soul (because our emotions and desires dwell there), I actually believe that there is a spiritual component to our hearts.  I want to explore this further, but first, I want to share why the statements by these individuals moved me so much.
     To begin, all three people just happen to be Black.  But it wasn't their skin color that spoke to my spirit; it was what emanated from their hearts.   I think Benjamin Watson, the tight end for the Baltimore Ravens has given one of the most impressive interviews I've seen.  On NFL Access, he stated that the number one issue to tackle in our nation's attempt to heal from racial division is honesty.  "It's about stepping into someone else's shoes... and sometimes it hurts.  There's pain; there's tears that need to be shed; there's repentance that needs to happen, and forgiveness that needs to happen on all sides.  Healing comes when people's hearts are open to the truth; when they are open and honest and willing to get uncomfortable.  Racism is uncomfortable!  It's not easy to sit here and talk about this issue, but if this nation is going to get to a better place, then we have to realize it is a heart issue; something inside us and not necessarily something effecting us from the outside... We have to respect each other, and see people how God would see them."  On Fox News's The Kelly File, Watson said, "[We have to solve our race problem] through Truth, Justice, and Righteousness."  This man gets it!
     The other two interviews were held with Shetamia Taylor, a shooting victim from Dallas, and a surgeon who treated the officers that were killed, Dr. Brian Williams.  I highly urge you to click on both links, and watch them express their experiences that day.  I dare you not to shed a tear!  When discussing the current state of race relations, Ms. Taylor said, "It's disheartening. I'm angry and I'm frustrated because, of course, we want action, but you have to think first before taking that action. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm not going to stop. I want my community to be unified, I want my people to be unified, I want all of us to come together."  Dr. Williams stated, “I understand the anger and the frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem,” he said, his voice choking up. “The problem is open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country. And I think about it every day, that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night. It weighs on my mind constantly.” And then here is the honest and uncomfortable part of the discussion that Benjamin Watson encouraged all of us to have ... Dr. Williams continued, “And I want the Dallas police to also see me, a black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you. That doesn’t mean that I do not fear you. That doesn’t mean if you approach me, I will not immediately have a visceral reaction and start worrying for my personal safety.”
     Can you see the expression of the heart in each of these individuals?  And why is that so important, and what part does it play in spiritual warfare?  The term "heart" refers to the inner person, and it is central and vital to our spiritual existence.  It is very important, in the context of spiritual warfare and our spiritual life, to understand that God is deeply concerned about the inner man or the condition of the heart.  In fact, He make this point clear in 1 Samuel 16:7:  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  Could that pertain any more to our what our nation is experiencing?
     It is obvious from this passage that God searches the heart.  Why?  He plainly tells us that Where your treasure is, there will be your heart, also (Matthew 6:21).  Everything about our lives -- how we act, our works, our desires and pursuits -- stem from our heart.  If our heart is sick with sin, then it produces sickness on the outside.  That's why God promises those who will follow Him that He will give them a new heart, and take away their "heart of stone".
     The website Bible.org sums it up precisely:  Since the heart is so important to what we think, say, and do, we each need to regularly do open heart surgery with the scalpel of the Word under the guiding hand of the great physician, the Lord Jesus. We accomplish this through the teaching, guiding, convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. Like a sharp two-edged sword, the Word divides the inner man asunder to reveal the true condition and needs of our hearts, because this will truly reveal if they belong to Him.
     Do you remember the blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago on the verse Mark 4:13 and the Parable of the Sower?  I invite you to go back and revisit it.  But here is a summary that ties into what we're talking about today:  "Three out of four of the types of ground, or soil, received the seed; they were saved.  But not all experienced the same thing over the long haul.  It had to do with the state of the ground upon which the seed fell.  So what does the ground represent?  Remember, when asked by the disciples what the parable meant, He told them the mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to those who have teachable hearts ...  The Kingdom of God (where God resides and governs from) works with our human hearts (our belief system and depth of our faith).  But when the world challenges us through its problems -- bills that are due, family issues, health threats -- we choose fear instead of faith."
     If those types of ground, or soil, represent the condition of our hearts, and the seed represents the Word sowed into our hearts, can you see the schemes of the devil to keep that seed from being firmly implanted?  Can you see that preparing the soil of our hearts to become fertile ground for the Word of God is an important weapon in our spiritual warfare arsenal?  The Enemy may disrupt your planting season with his lies, or with unfortunate happenstances that destroy the condition of your heart.  Or, as in the case of last week, he might send agents to kill and murder, sending a fiery dart of hate, causing the condition of your heart to be like barren ground.
     When I wrote my commentary on the Parable of the Sower a little over two weeks ago, the challenges brought about by the shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas had not happened.  Can you now apply what the Bible says about the state of the heart to Benjamin Watson's point that how we react to these tragedies is "a heart issue"?  That we need to repent and forgive in our hearts -- possible only through the conviction and presence of the Holy Spirit -- before healing can begin?
     If we allow satan any access to our heart, he will take advantage of our fleshly emotions and desires and sow his rocks, weeds, and thorns; reaping hate, division, and rebellion in our hearts.  That is why part of our spiritual armor is the breastplate of righteousness which protects our hearts and allows the Word to germinate, thrive, and produce much fruit.  That is the righteousness that Benjamin Watson says we must seek as we examine our hearts.  He's right, you know.  Unless we seriously deal with our heart issues -- fertilizing our hearts with the Word and rooting out the weeds that choke the spirit out of us -- and then allowing ourselves to be uncomfortably honest, and seeing each other as Jesus sees us, His healing balm can not mend our broken hearts.
     I may be an eternal optimist, but my faith gives me hope, and I see hope in the conversations these three remarkable people were willing to have.  There was honesty, which leads to Truth and the readiness to begin to forgive ... and those are powerful weapons against an enemy that seeks to enter our hearts and make them "deceitful and desperately wicked".   We would be wise to listen to the following words of Solomon ....

Proverbs 4:23       "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."

July 13, 2016

The Way I Pray For America

     As I told you yesterday, all of us who believe in the power of prayer can have a tremendous impact on the spiritual war being waged against America.  God has increased my knowledge about the roots of the problems that plague our nation; and politics, money, and human power will never solve them.  
     As I have studied spiritual warfare over the past few years, it has become very clear that our country is under demonic opposition and attack.  The deterioration of our society is ample evidence of the Enemy's influence through the assignments given to satan's provocateurs and generals.  However, I have also come to know the importance of Prayer and the Word of God as powerful weapons in our battle to destroy satan's strongholds.  So, I would like to give you an example of how I am praying for our country. 
     I have no formula, and I do not mechanically pray, but when I pray I have a very clear idea of how I want to approach my God and who I am battling.  I will show you how I pray (and why I specifically pray in that manner).  

Heavenly Father,

     I humbly, yet boldly, approach your throne as part of the privilege I have as your child.  Your Word tells me in Hebrews 4:16, that I can "approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that our nation may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [Your amazing] grace to help in this time of our great need.
     Father, I bow down at your throne, and ask that you consider my request as you did the requests of Moses when he pleaded on behalf of the rebellious Israelites.  Over and over again, when they turned their backs on You, You forgave them and restored them to Your favor.  I confess, Father, that we have turned away from You and opened spiritual doors for Evil to transform us in ways that dishonor You and threaten our eternal souls.  So, I repent of the sins of this nation, ask for Your forgiveness, and humbly request that You send Your warring angels on our behalf.

     And now, Father, I specifically ask that You make us into a strong, bold, spiritual army.  I speak Your Word into the spiritual realms:  "We are human, but we don't wage war as humans do.  We use Your mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing You.  We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ". (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
     Father, in the name of Jesus, I renounce the spirit of AntiChrist and the demonic spirits of anger, hatred and murder that have overwhelmed our country in recent days.  I renounce, in the mighty name of Jesus, the demonic spirits of division and discord that feed upon our sins, and I pray that Your heavenly hosts would be put on assignment to place every spirit of disharmony and disunity under Your authority.  I invite you, Lord Jesus, to take the throne of the realm of this nation, and rule over this territory with Your rod of iron.  In Your name, Jesus, I bind all of satan's gatekeepers and I place each and every portal access belonging to him and his followers under Your authority.
     I place the blood of Jesus upon every portal and open door of evil and seal them with the Holy Spirit.  I take the sword of the Spirit and the Word of God, which are the strongest weapons I have, and I cut this nation free from satan's realm and his inheritance.  I appeal to Your Justice, Father, and declare that as a man sows, so shall he reap.  Therefore, I pray that satan and his prince of America would now reap a hundred fold return for all of the evil sown against us individually, and as a nation.
     In the name of Jesus, I take authority over every demon that has been operating under the authority of satan and the rulers assigned to the United States, and I declare that they are discovered, apprehended, bound, pierced through, and thrust off us for judgment.  I declare that these demonic spirits will be sent to where the Lord Jesus sends them. And I place the Cross between them and this nation, so that they may never return.
     Father, in this day, when we mourn the senseless deaths that plague our nation, and when it seems that godless men and godless laws are destroying the very foundation of our lives, Your Word brings courage and strength to us.  You have promised that "whoever listens to Me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil" (Psalm 112).  Father, raise up an army of faithful people who will obey You and overcome the evil that is invading our land.  Protect us as we battle our spiritual enemies, and do not let their evil schemes succeed.
     And now, Father, I put on the armor of God; the complete armor you provide me in these days of battle ... I put on the belt of Truth, which is Your Truth -- not the truth of the world, not my own truth, nor the truth of the Enemy.  It is the truth of Your character and Your promises; it is the truth that is the foundation of my life.  Next, I put on the breastplate of righteousness, which protects my heart, where your laws have been written.  It is a free-will choice that I make to put that breastplate on and to determine to walk in the footsteps of Christ.  And in the midst of heated battle, that breastplate is also a symbol to those in the spiritual realm -- they recognize which I side belong to, and Whom I obey.  I also strap on the sandals of the peace of the Gospel; the Good News that "He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". That brings such peace to my spirit and soul.  I know there is a purpose ordained for my life, and God will see it through to its conclusion.  I also embrace the peace that comes from knowing Jesus is forever with me; He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I then pick up the shield of Faith, which is my trust and confidence in Jesus Christ as my Savior.  It is also the faithfulness of You, Father, in protecting me from the fiery darts of the Enemy.  I praise You for the countless times I have been protected and shielded without even knowing it.  And lastly, I wield the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, who is Jesus, my Savior, and the Lord and Master of my soul.  When I speak the Word of God out loud in this physical realm, it is a mighty weapon to defeat any spirit that might come against me.  When my spirit speaks the Word into the spirit realm, it may not be heard in this world, but it destroys strongholds in the spiritual world.
    So, I now proclaim Psalm 18:2-3:  "The Lord God is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer.  He is my strength, and my God in whom I trust.  He is my Shield, and the power and strength behind my salvation, and He is my tower of refuge.  I will praise the Lord, for He is worthy to be praised, and I will be saved from my enemies".  And I declare Ephesians 3:20-21:  "Now, to Him, whose Power is at work in me; who is able to carry out His purpose (in my life and in the world), and to do it more abundantly than I could ever dare to ask or think; to Him be the Glory in His Church, in Yeshua, my Savior, and to all the generations to come.  So be it!  Amen."
     This is just a sample of the way I pray.  It is always in the name of Jesus, and I claim the power and authority that He has given me to trample on snakes and scorpions (demons and fallen ones), and to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).  He tells me that nothing can harm us.  Mind you, I never overstep my authority... I am bold in battling spiritual enemies, but always partnering with Jesus and the Holy Spirit... never in my own power.  The Bible tells me that my spirit is seated in the heavenly realms with Jesus, so this is not just a battle in this physical realm.  The Holy Spirit helps me to picture my spirit, in complete armor, battling side-by-side with the army of holy angels, striking down strongholds of the enemy.  The Spirit helps me to identify the specific demonic weapons and spirits being used against me and the nation, and enables me to bind them, in the name of Jesus, and render them powerless and ineffective.  I can actually visualize the battle!  
     I know this may seem bizarre to many of you; you've never heard it in the Church.  And that's the problem!  Our prayers are weak and ineffectual because we have lost the sense of our power and authority in the spiritual realm.  Read the Book of Acts!  It is the model for what the Church should be, and how we, as followers of Christ, should be continuing His work on this earth.  For nearly 2000 years, the devil has had a field day, lying to us and counterfeiting the Gospel Message and twisting it into one of tolerance for godless ways, hostility, and love for ourselves, rather than others.  Once we abandoned God, we gave ourselves over to the temptations of the evil one, and opened the doors for demonic oppression and persecution.  We have lost the way to fight back; and we have lost the knowledge that the Apostles taught the First Century Church.  Therefore, we are "tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching [and shifting doctrine]. We are influenced by people who try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth" (Ephesians 4:14).  
     I cannot tell you the fruit I have seen in my life, and the life of others whom I have prayed for after I searched God's Word regarding spiritual warfare.  It's there for us to see ... IF we have the eyes to see it, and the renewed heart to discern it.

Deuteronomy 28:7   "The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways."