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

February 24, 2018

How Do I Love Like God Does?

     This is an introspective post, so bear with me as I invite you into a conversation I've been having with myself lately. I don't know if you are like me, but I have so many thoughts about the love of God. To begin, I am somewhat jealous when I hear people talking about experiencing the Father's love in their lives. I mean, I know He loves me; I recognize that He sent His Son to die in my place, and He loves all His creation, and I am a child of God [much beloved] for my faith in Jesus Christ. And I have had those moments of being spiritually overwhelmed with the emotion of His love. But it is not a constant experience. And I have to be honest, there are times when the two most important commandments Jesus declares -- to love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, and mind; and to love others as myself -- is sometimes hard to do. My flesh gets in the way.
     I want to be clear. Loving others is something I am certainly familiar with. I have been blessed with romantic love [Eros Love]. I know the love of family [Storge Love]. I know Philia Love, the powerful emotional bond of deep friendships. And loving God is not hard for me, by any means. But I yearn to love Him like He loves me -- without measure, perfectly, unconditionally, sacrificially, and purely. So I often question if I love Him as He deserves.
     I know that I have probably set unrealistic expectations and goals for myself. Yet, it is clear to me from Scripture just how important Love is. Jesus repeatedly tells us, "Love one another". And the Apostle John's three epistles (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) were written to take us deeper into loving Jesus, to love the Truth of God and cherish it in our hearts, and to show the love of God and His grace to all people.
     And then there's First Corinthians, Chapter 13, in which Paul expounds at length on the subject of Love. He writes that it should be the motivation of our lives [to get it perfect] until the moment we stand face-to-face with the Perfection of Love, Himself. When I take all of this into account, I wonder if I am capable of loving as much as God and Jesus desire me to.
     And then I hear other Christians saying everything always comes back to the love of God [I agree] and it is all that matters. They will say instead of disagreeing over doctrine, kingdom work, theology, etc. we just need to love each other. I agree that is the second greatest commandment we've been given, but I don't want to be casual about the other commandments Jesus told us to teach and follow either. In other words, I want to put everything in the right perspective, without sacrificing any of my Lord's divine instruction. So, I guess my real question is, do these Christians understand [and experience and practice] the depth of God's love better than I do, and are they able to walk it out in greater degrees and with more confidence than I do? Is Love meant to be as hard as it sometimes seems?
     After pondering this for several days, I think I found my answer in Scripture [which is the obvious place, right?]. And I found it in 2 Peter, Chapter One. There, the Apostle Peter tells me that there is a way for me to share in God's Divine Nature of Love and to partner with Him to achieve it. It begins with my faith in Jesus Christ.  But to arrive at that pinnacle of loving like the Father does is a process. I cannot expect to just declare it and have it be so. Peter actually outlines the steps to get to that state of Perfect Love [or as perfect as it can be this side of Glory].
     It begins by exercising my faith and then adding virtue [goodness, moral excellence] to my faith. Once I've got that step down, then I add knowledge [or insight and understanding[ to virtue. I believe that is the download God will begin to impart to you about Himself as you seek Him. Then you add self-control to that knowledge; the ability to control your emotions and behavior in difficult situations. After you have self-control down, the next step is to add patience and steadfastness [the ability to stand firm and unwavering]. To patience, you add godliness [growing more in the image of Christ]. To godliness, you add mercy [kindness, grace, and charity to others]. And finally, when you have spiritually matured through all these phases, you get to the final step, adding unending love. All these qualities increase in you until you are spiritually mature and able to walk in the Love of God. This passage almost seems like an unfolding climb up the ladder of faith, with loving like God loves being the top rung.
      And I believe Paul's treatise on Love in 1 Corinthians 13 backs this up. When he says that we now just see a faint reflection of the riddles and mysteries of God and our understanding is incomplete, I can identify! I don't have to understand or question my capacity to love, I just need to keep progressing up the ladder! One day I will perfectly understand His Perfect Love when I stand before Him. Until then, I have faith and hope, which are temporary. But they both originate in love, so if I have them, I have a portion of the Father's love, and I can grow it as I mature in my walk with Christ.
     I can now see that if we have Jesus in our heart as our Lord and Savior, His love will naturally emanate from us. I can't love like Him on my own. And I don't have to get it perfect now. Growing that love in my daily walk is an ongoing process, and I just need to rest in the knowledge that His love for me will transfer to others as I mature in my spiritual walk. Knowing that, I can find joy in the love I have for the Father [and His for love me] while I love others, expecting all that love to grow until I finally experience His Love in eternity. All I need to know is that I am progressing towards loving like my Savior, and I can love because He first loved me!

1 John 4:16   We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him.


February 21, 2018

The Christian Experience: A Time Of Testing

     This message is very personal to me. As I mentioned in the last post, I am sensing [and seeing] a season of growing spiritual attacks upon Christians who are earnestly seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus, as well as more power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I am not talking about Christians who are sitting on the sidelines (and accepting the poverty of spirit as their daily penitence), but Christians who are [out of obedience] boldly pursuing the calling on their lives to advance God's Kingdom here on earth.
     I know that many Believers sincerely hold fast to a theology that says, "If I just have enough faith, then I can get through this life without any suffering, or testing, or attacks from Satan that will have me questioning God's presence". But all we have to do is look at the Bible to see that is not true. Abraham, who is called the Father of our faith, endured perhaps the most difficult test any Believer in YHWH has ever faced ... the command by God to sacrifice his beloved son.
     I think it is safe to say that Abraham's faith in that situation would be tough for any one of us to imitate. Yet, because he stood firm in his faith and obedience, we have the opportunity to stand firm in ours. And Satan absolutely detests that kind of faith; the kind of faith that threatens his rule of the earth. So when obedient Christians answer the call of our God, we can expect that the Enemy will try to distract us, or forestall that calling by coming against us. But we must also realize that God tests those He calls. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child (The Passion Translation). I much prefer this translation to the more common translations that say God "disciplines those He loves and punishes [chastises, scourges] those He accepts". I do not believe those are accurate translations because the Aramaic word for "scourge", which is nagad, can also mean "to attract,” “to draw,” or “tug the heart.” For me, that is a more accurate picture of my Abba, the God I serve. 
      And to take the word analogy one step further, isn't the result of training always a test to see what you've learned? Whether you are a Doctor in your Residency training; or a member of the Military in training at boot camp; or an athlete training for the Olympics or NFL, each one is being trained up in order to pass a test before they advance to the next level of their line of work. Well, as Ambassadors of the Kingdom, I believe that God trains us (and tests us) before He advances us to the next level of our calling.
     So, I would say to any of you that are certain that He has called you into service to the Kingdom, that you can expect times of testing -- both from the Enemy who will try to convince you that you aren't fit for your calling, and by your Father and your King as They train you up to run the race that you are called to. And I can personally say that Mark and I have experienced both this past week.
     Last post, I alluded to the spiritual attacks that were coming against us. My husband, uncharacteristically, was suffering from bouts of anxiety, resulting in rapid heart rate, lack of sleep, etc. Normally, his steadfast faith would identify an attack from the devil and he would bind those spirits, declare the word of God and loose heavenly resources, as is his inheritance as a son of God. But this time was different. None of his usual spiritual battle techniques [in Jesus] worked, and my prayers and battles in the spirit would result in minor victories, but the heaviness continued over us. 
     Mind you, at no time did we every doubt that God was with us or that we would be victorious in Jesus. We spent most of our time trying to figure out the meaning or purpose of what we were experiencing. Our faith was secure; it was just clear it was being tested. I kept asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what was going on in the spiritual realm so that we could take our authority over it and walk in our true identity -- our spirit was clear who we were, but the flesh was not cooperating.  Finally, I got a clue ... we had scheduled a meeting to disciple a young couple in deliverance ministry, and I discerned that this was perhaps an obstacle set in place to diminish the authority and power we had to minister to them, and to defeat their desire to know about this particular service to God. I was partly correct. 
      We approached our meeting with this couple in the mindset that nothing would stop us from sharing what the Lord has revealed to us. We take seriously the Lord's admonition that He needs more workers in His harvest fields, and here were two people willing to join us in bringing in that harvest. No matter what the Enemy was throwing at us physically, or the spiritual confusion we were experiencing as to the "whys", we were determined to glorify all that we had seen Jesus and the Holy Spirit do in the lives of dispirited and oppressed people. 
     What we didn't account for was that these faithful Seekers would bring a friend with them. And it quickly became clear that this friend was the focus of this Divine Appointment. He revealed that he had been delivered a few months earlier, and he knew the value of it and wanted to know more, but hinted that his healing had not been complete. As we continued to answer questions about our experiences, we shared that it is always the desire of the Father's heart that those held in captivity by the Enemy be set free. We related that we had seen that most everyone has spiritual wounds that need to be healed [either from sins they have committed, or sins that have been committed against them], and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are looking for obedient sons and daughters to partner with Them to bring that inner healing and freedom to all that need it. We mentioned that a common wound we had seen was child molestation.
     At the mention of this sin, the friend became emotional. He stated that he was getting uncomfortable. I gently asked him if this sin had been committed against him, and he confirmed it. We told him Jesus wanted to heal that wound and if he was willing, we'd like to help make that happen. He agreed to accompany me to a private place where we could invite Jesus in, while Mark remained with the Seekers, who by now were beginning to realize that this visit was planned by God and had a bigger purpose than they had anticipated.
     To make a long story short, from the outset, it was apparent to me that this was going to be a spiritual battle of bigger proportions than we have experienced in the past. But I want to stress that there was no fear on my part as I began the session, knowing full well that the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit were greater than anything we would face from the kingdom of darkness. And this young man loved Jesus with a heart and spirit that was so convicted -- but also in great conflict. He admitted to opening doors he knew were wrong and that he had grieved Jesus, and the temptations to sin were overwhelming him. He was literally in a battle for his mind, spirit, and soul. The Enemy had him trapped in the sin of homosexuality and was torturing him! But he wanted free! And as I led him in forgiveness against the man who had sinned against him in childhood, and broke soul ties with whom he had sinned, the Enemy launched a full scale assault.
     I do not want to sensationalize what happened next nor compromise his privacy, so let's just say that it quickly became a physical battle as well as a spiritual battle. While the wife of the seeker couple prayed separately, it took Mark, myself, and the husband to battle the multitude of spirits that tried to prevent their friend from becoming free. But none of us battled from a spirit of fear or doubt! Rather, we stayed calm, but forcefully proclaimed the Truth that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, and in the Name of Jesus, the Enemy and his demonic spirits were defeated. They must leave! Needless to say this young man had given legal authority for strongholds to take root in his life, and they weren't leaving easily. But he recognized that, and fought in the spirit, too, and after a long battle, he was victorious in Christ! When we asked Jesus to show him how he appeared to the Lord, through tears, he stated, "I am radiant! Everything looks brighter!" Hallelujah!
     I want to make sure that you understand why I have bothered to relate this episode. It is not to boast about our part in the victory that day, but rather to show you that as you begin to walk in your calling from the Lord, you can expect spiritual attacks such as the one my husband experienced. It may be the Enemy trying to distract you from an assignment, but it may also be God proving to us that our faith is real; that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith. 
     As we mature in our Christian walk [and our calling] it will require us to move outside our comfort zones into a larger territory that needs to be conquered for God's Kingdom. In order for us to be overcomers and conquerors in this earthly realm, we need to 1) be obedient to our calling, even when we're under attack; 2) remain patient until a breakthrough occurs, even when it seems as if God is absent; 3) increase our faith when we finally get an answer, and see just how costly [and difficult] the path forward will be in carrying out our calling; and 4) learn to stand firm against the inevitable sin and temptation that the Enemy will use to test our resolve to complete our race and calling.
     When God has a specific call upon your life, you know it. And if you decide to answer that call, you can expect to be tested. The Bible is clear ... Psalm 11:5 says, The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, [exposing each heart]. But don't get discouraged! And don't let the devil deceive you into thinking you may have messed up that calling or that God is disillusioned with your service. It just may be the exact opposite -- you are hitting the target and advancing to the next level of your service. Even Paul said [in 1 Corinthians 16:9], There’s an amazing door of opportunity standing wide open for me to minister here, even though there are many who oppose and stand against me. You can expect those adversaries to be both in the spirit and in the flesh.        
     So, again, do not be discouraged by times of testing. God might just be training you up for a bigger assignment in your Divine destiny with Him. Remain steadfast in your faith --- and if you stumble, don't worry -- He has not abandoned you. He just may need to refine you more before you receive your breakthrough. I am discerning [in hindsight] that this is what happened during that period of spiritual confusion in our life. God was preparing us for a breakthrough, and we needed to be purified and refined; continuing to walk in obedience and faith to our calling, even when our flesh was weak. By never doubting our mission, God carried us through those dark days and into an experience of greater power and authority in cooperating with Jesus to set a captive free, and bring another worker into His harvest field. Both the Seeker and the Friend witnessed the power of our Almighty God that afternoon, and both want to help bring in His harvest. Each of us was tested that day ... the Seeker and his wife to find out if they were ready to answer this specific call on their lives; the Friend who found out whether he truly desired freedom and a full commitment to his Lord and Savior; and my husband and myself, who were blessed to find that our own faith and commitment are solid and that the Lord is trusting us to take the next step. 
     My final word is this: When you find yourself in trials and times of testing, don't think you are being punished by God. It may just be that He is bringing you to a higher calling on your life. And with that responsibility comes authority/power in the Name of Jesus... and Joy in being found trustworthy to serve the God of the Universe! And remember: there is nothing to be afraid of.... Jesus has already overcome the world!

Psalm 7:9     Once and for all, end the evil tactics of the wicked! Reward and prosper the cause of the righteous, for You are the righteous God, the soul searcher, who looks deep into every heart to examine the thoughts and motives.



February 18, 2018

The Christian Experience: To Give and Receive Encouragement

     Yesterday's blog post dealt with a reality of our Christian experience that can make us feel like we are walking alone. While our journey towards righteousness will inevitably offend someone, and we often find ourselves offended when another Believer doesn't agree with us, the antidote to such discouraging seasons is to find encouragement; in the Word and in the Father's love for us.
     But I also want to focus this message on the importance of giving encouragement and receiving it. This is a message that is heavy on my heart today because my spirit is sensing that we are in a season of growing spiritual attack against the Body of Christ.  Just this morning, my phone exploded with text messages asking for prayer for several strong Believers. And even my own husband was under attack.  All the attacks centered around worry and anxiety over the care and protection of family and loved ones. Christians who are on the front lines of spiritual battle suddenly find themselves with concerns and fears and, yes, even doubts, that they are up to their assignments.
     When this happens, it is up to the rest of us to rise up and lift them up. Encouragement is going to be an important weapon in this season of our Christian walk and in the seasons to come. The Enemy sees our hearts and spirits growing stronger in the knowledge and mysteries of the Lord, and he knows his time is short. So we can expect his attacks to grow stronger, too. But we don't need to suffer them!
     In John 16:33, Jesus says, And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in Me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in Me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous,  for I have conquered the world! That should be our greatest encouragement! But there are times we need to come alongside our Brothers and Sisters in Christ and confirm that Word from our Lord. And there are times we need it to be confirmed to us. 
     The Bible speaks to us of the many forms of encouragement: building one another up; stirring one another up to love and good works; meeting together; giving grace to each other; bearing one another's burdens; standing with others and Christ on behalf of another; gently encouraging those who feel themselves inadequate; encouraging others by teaching the Word and admonishing one another in all wisdom; singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; strengthening each other to endure; helping each other to renew our minds in Christ; teaching and exhorting and equipping each other to do the works of ministry; urging each other to stand on our faith; promoting God's Truth that He will carry our burdens and anxieties because He cares for us; and reminding each other that the favor of God is upon all those He calls His children.
     Encouragement is such an explicit part of our walk with the Lord. In this carnal world, if we lack encouragement we will feel unloved, unimportant, worthless, and abandoned. And if we don't receive encouragement from soaking in the Word, our spirits will be dry, unproductive, and powerless.  Either way, we are vulnerable to the attacks of the Enemy. Encouragement is vital! And God knows we need to not only give it, but receive it, as well.  
     But if you are like me, there are times I just don't feel up to the task. I don't have the right words or my spirit is struggling itself.  That's when I have to set aside my self-interests and ask the Holy Spirit to counsel me exactly how the person needs to be blessed with encouragement. Most of the time I have a sincere and convicted heart of the promises the Lord has given us, but just can't seem to convey them in my own words.  That's when I have to be still and let the Holy Spirit take over. My words don't need to be long or lofty; I just listen to the prompting of the Spirit and He will share the riches of God's grace with me.
     But what about the times that we need encouragement? Is it hard for you to receive it? That's exactly what the Enemy wants -- to convince you that either you have to handle your battle by yourself; or that you are unworthy of asking for help. That is a lie! First of all, our Lord and Savior promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. But the Enemy will try to convince us that He, too, will let us down, like so many others in our lives. That isolation is one of the most debilitating tactics of the devil. When he can keep you secluded from Jesus and fellow Believers -- especially if it is your spouse or family -- then he is free to whisper his lies as you struggle to keep from drowning in self-condemnation. Stay focused on Jesus and reach out for encouragement!  There is not one of us who has not suffered an attack from the Father of Lies. Even Peter, who was perhaps the most outspoken when it came to declaring Jesus's promises, took his eyes off His Savior as he walked on water, and the result was he began to sink! 
     I want to point us back to John 16:33.  Jesus tells us it is inevitable that we will undergo troubles and sorrows in this world. But it is important that we retain our Identity. We are the Sons and Daughters of Him that conquered this world! In view of our eternal life with Jesus, these short-lived troubles are platforms to come together for our mutual enrichment. Whether we are the one giving encouragement, or the one receiving it, it allows for God's marvelous grace to spread among more and more people, resulting in an even greater increase of praise towards God, and bringing Him even more glory! So, whether we are the Encourager or the Encouraged, let us focus our attention not on what is seen or the lies whispered in our ear, but focus on what is unseen; in the promises of our Lord to be with us through this temporary life. Remember, whatever is seen before your carnal eyes is also temporary. The promises of Jesus are eternal. He has taken away the power this world has to defeat us, and has conquered it for us. Let us be encouraged in the Peace He offers us, and encourage others to rest in His victory! 

1 Thessalonians 5:11      Because [Jesus gave His life for us], encourage the hearts of your fellow believers and support one another, just as you have already been doing.

February 15, 2018

The Christian Experience: Offending and Being Offended

     I want to be clear: I am not going to talk about offending the world.  As Christians, the lives we live before the unbelieving world should offend them. Instead, the concept for this post comes from a passage in a Bill Johnson book, titled When Heaven Invades Earth.  In regards to the title of this post, Johnson, the senior pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California is no stranger to offending Christians. His walk with the Lord can safely be called "outside the norm" of most Christians. He believes that the mysteries of God reveal the power of the Christian life, and it is the hunger of our hearts to seek them out and understand them. This quote from Johnson sums up my own Christian journey: "The walk of faith is to live according to the revelation we have received, in the midst of the mysteries we can’t explain".
     But what I have discovered is that the mysteries I see [and can't explain] tend to offend some of my fellow Christians ... And oftentimes, even the revelations I do understand cause offense. Let me be clear ... I am not talking about offending in the sense of being a stumbling block that causes another to sin. I am talking about being offensive in terms of declaring an unpopular Biblical viewpoint -- like our authority to heal and cast out demons; or the gospel of the Kingdom being Jesus's priority. But where does that offense come from? It has been my experience that when a Believer hears a testimony that is outside their own experience, or what they've been taught, their response is to be offended personally -- or even to be offended on behalf of God! Or, as I have heard it expressed ... "if it makes me uncomfortable, it can't be from God". The responses vary -- feelings of displeasure, annoyance, even anger. Sadly, it is often our family that is the most easily offended. But Jesus can identify with that. His own family disregarded His revelations from the Father. 
     Furthermore, in this age of technology and social media, when you throw in the email or text factors, our words can take on whole new meanings not intended by the sender. Mix that with different levels of maturity and knowledge in our faith, and you have a recipe for misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and a big ol' dose of OFFENSE.
     I know for sure that I have offended. But I can honestly say that it has never been my goal to intentionally offend. The passion I have to understand how big my God is -- and to share what has been revealed to me -- is not always received with the excitement that I present it. But what frustrates me -- and yes, offends me, is that another Christian is unwilling to let me present my findings, let alone even consider that they might have some merit.  And I have struggled with just being silent; not causing any controversy or friction. But is that what glorifies God? If I limit my Christian conversation to what is "acceptable" to an audience, am I being obedient to His call on my life?
     I am not saying that everyone has to agree with everyone else.  There are those who understand mysteries of God that I cannot even fathom. But I try really hard not to subject their message to my own understanding, but listen to them, follow up with their Scriptural references and ask God to reveal His truth. I do not understand everything in the Bible, but I don't want my lack of knowledge to limit the truth of what God is revealing to another.  And I'm okay with not understanding it all yet.  I take to heart 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face". That being said, I also don't want to restrict the possibility that I might see more than what I understand at this moment.
     And I will admit that I don't like to think that my belief system might offend another Christian. Offending another Believer is looked down upon by the Church -- in all instances. But is it ever acceptable in God's eyes? I only have to look at my Savior to see that offending others who share your faith is going to be part of your walk with God.  Even at the young age of 12, Jesus did not seem to be concerned that he might have offended Mary and Joseph when He stayed behind at Passover to discuss the Scriptures with the religious leaders in the temple in Jerusalem.  When Mary scolded Him, He didn't apologize, He didn't make any excuses, He only said, "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"  It's very clear that His priorities were different than everyone else's.
     Jesus also did not shy away from offending those who were religious; whether leaders like the Pharisees or those who turned away from His teachings in Galilee. And let it be clearly understood ... they were offended merely because God's instructions to Jesus did not coincide with their personal beliefs! Was the offense they took at His words justified? Looking back, as Believers, the answer is unmistakably No! And did He shy away from sharing what had been revealed to Him by the Father? No!  Again, His priorities were simply different than everyone else's.

     I think it is important that we all understand that we are maturing in our faith at our own pace; our levels of understanding are never going to be the same at any given time. But we should not stop growing! Also, I wish we could embrace the concept that because God is SO big, He might reveal one piece of the puzzle [that is Him] to me, while revealing a completely different piece to you, and they won't look like they fit together at all. But if we can come together out of a desire to know His heart and take these revelations to Scripture, we might find they are both true and we just have to wait for Him to reveal the piece that connects us. 
     We must not allow the Enemy to develop a culture of automatic unbelief just because we are uncomfortable with a concept, or it doesn't harmonize with our current belief system. It is the great privilege of a Christian to be able to go to our God with our questions. To limit your beliefs to only what you currently understand is controlling the greater things God wants to reveal to you. And believe me, He will honor that free will decision and wait for you to grow hungry before He reveals more of Himself. 
     But I want to develop a heart that is willing to embrace a new concept of God without being offended [always confirming it with Scripture and the Holy Spirit]. I'm really trying hard not to be so quick to judge because a new idea is unfamiliar to me. And I will admit that sometimes my spirit recognizes a new Truth before my mind can comprehend it.  That's when I have to seek a renewed mind so that I am in complete alignment with the  Father. And it is sometimes a struggle ... the Enemy wants me thinking out of my carnal mind because then I am a Christian in my thoughts and body, but without the power of the Spirit in my spirit. Make sense?
     I truly believe that it is so important for us to develop the ability to hear God's voice and recognize His presence in us. It is the only way that we will quit being paranoid about becoming deceived, and quit being so offended by new Biblically-sound revelations. It is then that we can trust what our spirits are telling us because we know, without a doubt, the Author of those thoughts or words [because we recognize His voice].
     I guess, in the end, there are always going to be Christians who are satisfied [and feel safe] with what they already know, and Christians who long to know more of the mysteries of God and are willing to seek them out.  And with that deliberate decision will come the inevitable result of offending another Believer. I think God knows who will obey the Truths they seek and find, and who would be unable [or unwilling] to obey. That's why Proverbs 25:2 speaks so strongly, and consistently, to me: God conceals the revelation of his word in the hiding place of his glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says.
     So, let me apologize right now to everyone I have ever [and will] offend. As a king and member of the royal priesthood of God's Kingdom, I have legal access to the mysteries of God's realm. He has placed things there for me to discover, and I will spend the rest of my life seeking to know Him more through these hidden mysteries. They are my right and my inheritance as His child.  It is not my desire to offend you, or to harm you, but the priorities of my life are to walk as Christ did, and that means knowing my Father to the fullest extent I can. I will try not to be offended by your rebuttals or rejection, and I pray that what I share from my heart will not offend you, but instead, touch your heart, renew your mind, and provoke your own search for God's hidden Truths. He is waiting for you to discover Him!

Matthew 13:11    Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”

February 12, 2018

"Beware Of The Natural Familiarity of Ichabod Churches"

     Are you as intrigued by that statement as I am? It certainly captured my attention when reading an article written by John Burton for Charisma Magazine. But, what exactly is an "Ichabod Church"? To understand this reference, one must go to the Old Testament and the Book of 1 Samuel. There the Israelite Judge Eli (who helped raise the prophet Samuel) and his family were judged disrepectful of the Lord, despising the sacrifices and offerings made to Him, and taking the choice parts of meat and fat for themselves.
     The result was that the Israelites were defeated in battle by the Philistines; Eli's sons were killed in battle; and Eli, himself, dies upon hearing the news that the Ark of the Covenant has fallen into the hands of the Philistines. But it is his daughter-in-law, who before dying in child-birth, learns of the deaths of her husband and father-in-law and the capture of the ark, then names her son Ichabod, and proclaims, "The glory has left Israel, for the ark of God has been taken.”
     So, in essence, what John Burton is alluding to is the fact that the glory of God has left our churches today. At the heart of his article is this statement: "Most every day, in one venue or another, I'm hearing from disillusioned, frustrated people who cannot find a church that has been overtaken by the Holy Spirit. No extreme revival atmospheres can be found for many. The Upper Room experience that innumerable desperate people are searching for are nowhere to be seen, in some instances, within 500 miles of where they live. They complain of short, ordered, controlled services that, according to them, aren't worth their time. There's a measure of spirituality, but they don't even come close to the explosive, supernatural experiences they are craving".
     Now, when I read this my heart was pricked, and my mind became super-charged, and I felt as if God was down-loading thoughts faster than I could comprehend them and tie them all together!  First of all, we know that the Ark of the Covenant was the presence of God with the Israelites. So, if the ark is gone, then the glory [and His presence] of God is gone. But how do we define the glory of God? What is it? It is certainly true that, in history, God's glory has been externally manifested not only in the Ark, but in the plagues; the pillars of cloud [by day] and fire [by night]; in His appearance on Mount Sinai; in the fire initiating the sacrificial system; and in Solomon's Temple. His glory certainly became a reality at the birth of Christ and will be evident in the restored Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, in the future.
     But what should His glory look like for us today? And if Mr. Burton likens our modern Churches to a condition similar to the circumstances surrounding the birth of Ichabod, what is he really saying? Let me see if I can connect the dots between his article and what the Lord is showing me.  I have heard it preached and spoken by today's pastors that "God’s glory can be seen in things such as love, music, heroism and so forth—things belonging to God that we are carrying “in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are the vessels which “contain” His glory. I can't disagree with that, but if we are the vessels that contain His glory, what about those vessels in the Upper Room on Pentecost? Why have we, in the modern Church, dismissed the glory that they contained? Why do we dismiss the signs and wonders and the power of the Holy Spirit that was evidence of God's glory in them? 
     In his article, Mr. Burton likens the state of our churches to the Wise and Foolish Virgins in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In this well-known parable, half of the Virgins have their lamps full of oil (which is representative of the Holy Spirit in the Bible). The wise Virgins had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil (Holy Spirit), whereas the foolish Virgins had apparently procrastinated. Engaging frequently with the dispenser of the oil [the Holy Spirit], the wise had an adequate supply of oil to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper when the bridegroom finally arrived. They were prepared! But the foolish Virgins think they can just borrow some of the oil from their wiser counterparts.  But that's not how the Holy Spirit works!
      And this gets to the crux of Mr. Burton's premise: "Churches are filled with people the Bible would call foolish—those who are not spiritually vibrant, personally disciplined, and deeply intimate with Jesus. Their lamps are empty... If a church is ablaze with the spirit of prayer and alive as the Holy Spirit blows and burns through everyone there, those who are asleep and without any oil will definitely not feel comfortable. There is no way they can integrate in such a place without feeling the pressure to fill their lamps". Then he asks, why are we so willing to share our oil; to dilute the glory of God in the presence of the Holy Spirit in order to make those people feel comfortable? Why is the Church of today so willing "to integrate nicely with others who are equally resistant to the deeper things of the Spirit? They are [all] spiritually interested, but not spiritually invested. They have not paid the price and have not bought their own oil".
     Here's the thing ... the oil (Holy Spirit) cannot be borrowed. And it cannot be passed from one person to another.  Each person must determine just how much of the Holy Spirit he or she wants.
     This principle reminds me of those 120 who were present in the Upper Room at Pentecost. But do you recall that after He was resurrected, Jesus appeared first to Peter, then to the 12 Apostles, and then to more than 500 of His followers? Acts 1:3 says, "He presented himself alive to them after His suffering [on the Cross] by many proofs [signs and wonders], appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God".
     The Bible tells us in Acts 1:2, that just before He ascended into Heaven, He left instructions for ALL of those followers and apostles [which means "sent ones"; not restricted to the Twelve]. He told them all to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit; that which had been promised by the Father [in Joel 2].  So there were at least 512 people who had seen the resurrected Christ and been told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Why were there only 120 who received Him? Did the others get tired of waiting? Did they think they had lots of time and weren't diligent about being prepared? Or did they think that the gift of the Holy Spirit wasn't for them or worth their while? Do you see the similarities with the Foolish Virgins? With the modern Church?
     If we think that we're on solid ground, or good enough, with being saved and having the Holy Spirit indwell us, and thus being content with a moderate level of the Holy Spirit in us... aren't our lamps only half full? Don't we want the full measure of Him, which means we are willing to pay the price to seek Him on our own? Do we really want to be like those 200 or more people who missed out on the Upper Room experience because they weren't willing to pay the price to wait for the Father's gift of the Holy Spirit? As Mr. Burton writes, "Those who had their lamps full, those who responded to the command of Jesus to wait and pray, were ready when the wind and the fire came!"
     So, I believe the underlying message to the Ichabod Churches and to the foolish Virgins is this: Don't quench the desire of the Holy Spirit to manifest among you in the supernatural power of Heaven. Don't restrict His Presence because some are uncomfortable, or lazy, or fearful. Don't limit His Presence to the lowest common denominator. The glory of God is to make His Presence known; to pour out His Spirit on all mankind.  What He did in the Upper Room at Pentecost is His desire for you and me. We must not let His glory depart on our watch!

Exodus 24:17    "Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel".


February 9, 2018

Are You Willing To Be Possessed By The Spirit?

     By now it should be pretty obvious that I am captivated by the Holy Spirit -- or at least, it is my heart's desire to be His possession. I want every thought, every word I speak, every cell in my body to be His. He is increasingly drawing me into His Presence, and I desperately want to experience the fullness of His living water flowing from my heart. But I also recognize that I need His purifying fire to cleanse me and make my spirit holy like His.  So, if like me, you have recently discovered a hunger to be filled with the Holy Spirit -- or even if this is your present reality -- I invite you to consider these thoughts....

     Do we understand who and what the Holy Spirit is? First we must understand what we mean by "spirit". Spirit is a specific and identifiable substance; as real as matter, but different.  In our physical bodies we are matter. We have weight; we yield to gravitational pull; we have dimension and shape, and are extended into space. Matter bumps against other matter and stops.  But Spirit is different in that it has the ability to penetrate. In fact, Spirit can penetrate everything. For instance, your body is made of matter, and yet your spirit has penetrated your body completely. And Spirit can penetrate spirit.
     But what is the Holy Spirit?  The answer is that He is a Being dwelling in another mode of existence. He doesn't have weight; can't be measured or sized; doesn't have color, or extend into space. But He nevertheless exists as surely as you and I do. He is a Person, with all the qualities and powers of a personality.
     We often think of Him as being the literal breath, or wind, of God. If that's how you see Him, then you think of Him as nonpersonal and nonindividual. But the Holy Spirit has will and intelligence and feeling and knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think and hear and speak and desire the same as any person has.
     [I would venture to say that] many of us have grown up on the theology that accepts the Holy Spirit as a Person, and even as a divine Person, but for some reason it hasn't done us any good.  We are as empty as ever; we are as joyless as ever; we are as far from peace as ever; we are as weak as ever. Why?
     Historically, the Church has recognized the Holy Spirit as God. I mean, how many of us grew up on the Nicene Creed: "we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified". We say we believe this, just as we believe the Scripture: "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Yet, if you would go to most churches and ask the preacher, "Do you believe that the Lord answers prayer and heals the sick?" he would reply, "Sure, I do!" He believes it, but he doesn't teach it, and what you don't believe strongly enough to teach won't be evident in your life.
     It is the same with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Christianity believes it, but few experience it. Instead, this truth has been buried under mounds of inactivity and inattention, although the Lord Jesus made it clear this was His intention for Believers. Jesus spoke of the "promise of His Father" in Luke 24:49, which was a reference to the promised Holy Spirit in Joel 2:28-29, It shall come about after this that I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

     This promise was realized when the Father poured out His Spirit at Pentecost. He wanted to take religion out of the external and make it internal and put it on the same level as life itself, so that a man knows he knows God the same as he knows he is alive and not dead. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit can do that. The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from books [and rituals and traditions] into the human heart. The problem is that we too often try to confirm the truth of our Christianity [or faith] by appealing to external evidence. But the proof lies in an invisible, powerful, but unseen energy that visits the human soul and spirit when the authentic Gospel is preached. 
     Jesus came to do away with a religion that depended on external evidence, and gave us the promised Holy Spirit that brings a bright, emotional quality to our faith. What's more, we have inherited what He gave the Apostles -- direct spiritual authority that removes our fears, our questions, our apologies, and our doubts; an authority founded upon life in the Holy Spirit. 
     But, I want to explore a thought, here ... If you believe that the spiritual grace and power which was given to the First-Century Christians was only for them, or that it is unnecessary for us to desire it individually because it was given to "the Church", once and for all, then I have a question for you. Does each Christian need to individually be "born again" for his faith to be valid? Can you get born again by proxy? The fact that those first 120 at Pentecost were born again, does that mean that we don't have to be? 
     I'm assuming your answer was "no". In that case, is the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which those first Christians received, enough for us? Does it cover you and me? If not, [and if we have yet to experience the fullness of the Spirit] is our state a satisfactory fulfillment of the expectations of the Father and Christ? Didn't Jesus express that there were certain high expectations of what the Father was going to do for His redeemed people?  Didn't He raise an expectation that was simply beyond words [and our ability to comprehend]; something so wonderful and beautiful and thrilling that it is hard for us to imagine? He gave us so much more than words can express, and the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment.
     But look around us ... are we living up to that expectation for His people? Are we possessed by the Holy Spirit, and does our life reflect it? Is our life evidence of His internal presence flowing out of us in immeasurable fruit? Here is what I believe is an unmistakable truth: Satan has opposed the doctrine of a Spirit-filled life about as strongly as any other doctrine there is.  He has confused it, challenged it, and surrounded it with false beliefs and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought inheritance. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth -- that there is now, for every child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit. 
     But here's the rest of that truth: You must believe that this is nothing added or extra to the Christian experience. The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part of the total plan of God for His people. It is not abnormal -- perhaps unusual, because we see so few people who walk in the light of it. We must believe that the Holy Spirit is the essence of Jesus imparted to Believers, and we have a right to a full, Spirit-filled life, purchased by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.
     But here's the catch ... Before you can be filled with the Spirit, you must desire to be filled. I think, for too many people, there is fear or doubt when it comes to being possessed by a spirit other than their own. [They don't want to give up control]. And here is the kicker ... that Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your life! If we're honest, we will admit we want His benefits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control/discipline). But do we truly want to be possessed by Him? Because He will not tolerate self-confidence, self-love, self-righteousness, self-magnification, or self-pity. Through God's holy Nature and Authority, He forbids these characteristics and He cannot send His mighty Spirit to possess the heart where these characteristics reside. 
     So we must decide if we are willing to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, and if we are willing to advance from our early stages of salvation to cultivate His presence, so that He might illuminate and bless and lift and purify and direct our lives. We must decide if we are willing to give up all so that we might have the All. And it is time to answer the hard questions ... Are we ready to give up our social concept of religion for the greater truth of the spiritual? Have we watered down the New Testament until it has no strength or taste in it? Are we more influenced by the world, and others' opinions, so that much of what passes for the Gospel Message today is little more than orthodox religion grafted on to a heart that is sold out to the world and its pleasures, tastes, and ambitions?
     We must cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit if we desire to be possessed by Him. We must dedicate ourselves to the glory of Jesus, honoring Him by doing the things He told us to do, trusting Him as our All, following His voice as our Shepherd, and obeying Him fully. When we honor Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit will become the aggressor and seek to know us, and raise us to new heights of faith, enlighten us spiritually, fill us, and bless us!
     I have just one more point: Cultivate the art of recognizing the presence of the Spirit everywhere. Begin by opening your Bible, getting on your knees, and saying, "Father, here I am. Begin to teach me". 

     FULL DISCLOSURE: While I am in full agreement with these thoughts ... they are not mine. What I have presented to you is a compilation of a series of sermons by one of the most preeminent theologians of the last century, A.W. Tozer. These are his words -- all of them -- they are not mine. This self-taught theologian lived from 1897-1963 and committed his life to the ministry of God's Word.  
     I ran across his tiny little 64-page book, titled "How To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit" and read it in one sitting. While a man's thoughts are never a substitute for God's, I found Tozer's words to be written in the spirit of the Scriptures, and I was only slightly surprised to find that those thoughts mirrored my own. Although I'm not as bold as he, to declare that modern Christianity in the Church is a "pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh", I do recognize that, too often, the power of the Holy Spirit has left the building and been replaced by a weakened Gospel that leaves Christians influenced by man-made traditions and teachings, and suffering oppression from the devil. [I am reminded of the Disciples in John, Chapter 6, who were offended by Jesus's teachings, and turned away from Him, forfeiting all that He had to offer them].
     So, I applaud A.W. Tozer for his straight-forward representation of the Holy Spirit. It saddens me to think that the weakness he saw in the Church three-quarters of a century ago is still prevalent, and I urge you to heed his instruction. Talk to the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is a Person! He desires relationship! And He wants you to become His sanctuary. He brings great power and revelation with Him, and if we surrender to Him, the most simple and menial task becomes a ministry to the glory of God. Search the Scriptures to see what is revealed about the Holy Spirit. Then, as Tozer says, "pray and yield; obey and believe". See if ALL of what the Lord gave us is what you desire. And then ask Him to fill you and possess you!

John 6:63    “The Holy Spirit is the One who gives life, that which is of the natural realm is of no help. The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.” 

February 6, 2018

The Power Of Our Testimony - Part Two

     I want to finish out my discussion on how our testimonies can encourage others to step out in the power and authority Christ has given us to effect change on the earth. I'm speaking of change in the sense of changed lives; lives that need to receive the message of what the Kingdom of God on earth looks like. And this "change" involves the power of the Holy Spirit to bring a pardon and forgiveness of sins to those who have been held captive by the lies of the Enemy [who whispers they don't deserve it]. It involves the power of the Holy Spirit to bring sight to the blind -- both those with physical blindness, as well as spiritual blindness to the truth of the Kingdom Gospel. This "change" also includes the power of the Holy Spirit to free those who have been oppressed by sins committed against them; those wounded by tragedy; and those who walk in false identities given to them by the devil. And finally, change can be effected when we share the good news of the acceptable year of the Lord (the day when salvation and the favor of God will abound upon all the earth for those who accept Jesus as their Redeemer).  This is the change prophesied by Isaiah and spoken of by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.
     I want to make it perfectly clear that all this comes about by the power of the Holy Spirit -- whether one receives the power of these truths through their own unwavering faith; through an independent move of the Holy Spirit; or by us acting in our authority to represent the Kingdom... all allow the Holy Spirit to exhibit His power through us. Furthermore, it is our testimonies of that power that encourages others to seek the Divine Power in their lives... all of which transforms this earth for the glory of God.
     In the previous post, I presented Jeremy's testimony; one of hearing the Holy Spirit and responding in obedience to take a message of the redemptive love of Jesus to heal a hurting family. As I said in that post, it is clear to me that we have to find the balance between battling in spiritual warfare and proclaiming Christ's healing love.  They are really two sides of the same coin, and when you are doing one, you are doing the other, and both reflect the power of the Holy Spirit to change a person's life.
     Today, I want to share my dear friend, Terah's testimony.  First, I want to say that when it comes to being steadfast and committed in battling the Enemy and his schemes, I want Terah by my side. She has been unflinching in battling for her marriage and her family; always relying on her identity as a Daughter of the King. Even when the devil has landed a well-placed fiery dart, she quickly recovers, and returns to her true identity.  I think the secret to Terah's strong faith is that she was willing to examine her theology, and was willing to be discipled through a Bible study, where the Holy Spirit revealed God's truth. Then she was willing to accept those truths and walk out her salvation [in fear and trembling]. Now, together with her husband, Greg, [who is undergoing his own amazing redemptive transformation], Terah is growing in her spiritual maturity.  As we all should do, this couple was willing to undergo some critical self-evaluation and then commit themselves to advancing the Kingdom that Scripture has revealed.
     But before I let Terah tell you her story, I want to say that it is always amazing to me when I see the opportunities [to share the Kingdom Gospel] that God puts in front of us when we are willing to be obedient. Somehow, supernaturally, our hearts and spirits become both softened and more alert to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is what has happened in Terah's life. And I ask her forgiveness if I have the timeline of her testimony wrong, but I am sure that her heart and her commitment to serve others through the power of the Holy Spirit in her life will come through.  Here's her story...
      "I have been praying for awhile for an acquaintance of mine who had been in a long-term relationship, and had finally broken it off.  My opportunities to minister to her just happened kind of organically. I was coming into contact with her through a series of meetings the residents of our county were convening regarding some concerns over government policies.  I could tell that she was upset and having a difficult time, so I made sure she knew we were there to support her.  But she remained heavy on my heart.
     Shortly after one of these meetings, I received a prompting from the Holy Spirit and texted her that Jesus loved her and wanted her heart to be whole.  She responded that she was struggling, and then she began to open up.  I prayed over her, encouraging her to turn to Jesus and reminding her that her comfort would be found in Him.  I then sent her a copy of The Full Armor of God: Defending Your Life From Satan's Schemes by Dr. Larry Richards". [My Note: This book has played a very important part in Terah's own spiritual transformation, and it is a book I highly recommend].
     Terah continues: "This girl was doubting her own self-worth, and I wanted her to know that each of us has an important role to play in God's plan for mankind and the earth. So, I quoted her a sentence from the book that had spoken to my heart.  I wanted her to know that she was important to God ... And through you, God will reveal something of Himself that will never be seen through anyone else. I then shared with her that one of Satan's primary schemes is to block our spiritual development by convincing us that we are worthless.  And then I told her, 'You aren't! You were worth the death of God, Himself!' 
     I told her I knew how she felt! God wants to hold a full-length mirror in front of us to show us in all of our created and beloved beauty. But what is Satan's counter-move in this spiritual battle? To hold up a magnifying mirror to show some slight defect, and then we become distracted from the full-length redeemed image God provides. The devil's battle plan then proceeds to make us appear ugly to ourselves; to feel bad about ourselves; and to keep us from becoming all that God designed us [and assigned us] to be. I encouraged her to pray with all her might, pressing into Him, and I promised her that Greg and I would be with her every step of the way.
     And then by the power of God and the Holy Spirit's ability to set up Divine appointments, within a few days, we passed her unloading hay on the highway. Both Greg and I felt the prompting to stop and pray over her, invoking her identity as a child of God, and the Daughter of the King. We pressed into Jesus on her behalf, trusting Him to renew her mind as to her new identity. 
     I have to say that I am amazed at these opportunities that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are presenting to Greg and me! And I see us both growing in our own identity, and our power and authority. It's as if the Holy Spirit is bringing people to us so that we can share our own testimonies of what He has done in our lives. For instance, a friend from college called Greg out of the blue to discuss his marital problems. Considering that our own marital issues are being healed by the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, it is a blessing to let Them work through us to heal another! I can only imagine the impact in the spiritual realm when my husband prayed a warfare prayer over this man's marriage, with authority!
     And within this same time-frame, an acquaintance from these political meetings in our county called us in a panic. After feeling threatened for her participation, Greg was able to talk her off the ledge by walking her through an emotional healing with Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit she was able to imagine Jesus healing her emotions and fears, and letting Him speak into her. In the spirit, she could see herself kneeling at the feet of Jesus while He ministered to her, and then she responded out of her gratitude by washing His feet. What a beautiful picture of spiritual healing! Then Greg showed her how to put on her spiritual armor to stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceptions of the devil. This woman has no need to fear the tactics of men when God is for her! It is such a privilege to share [with another] the power of the Holy Spirit, when we are willing to put on our armor and walk in the authority [given to us by Jesus] to overcome all the power of Satan. That's such a tremendous testimony of God's love for us!"
     I hope you can see the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, as represented by these two very different posts. Jeremy's testimony shows how just sharing a word of God's love, received from the Spirit, can begin the process of healing, while Terah and Greg's testimony exhibits our power and authority to battle Satan's schemes to intimidate and defeat us. But it is essential that we recognize both are anchored in the Father's love for each one of us.
     And we need to embrace the truth that the word of God (Jesus) is living inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit; He is active and full of power -- whether to reveal a word from the heart of God to our heart, or to ask us to partner with Him in defeating a spiritual attack upon our souls and spirits. Whether we experience that power as Love or Warfare, it all serves the same purpose... to remind us that we belong to the Father, and that we are representatives of His Heavenly Kingdom while we are here on earth, commissioned to help set people free from the Kingdom of the god of this world. As heirs of that heavenly kingdom, we are to walk in obedience to our King!
     When we realize that each Person of the Godhead committed Himself to seeing that we receive eternal life, and dedicated Himself to helping us walk in freedom while behind enemy lines, then it is critical that we testify to the Power that can change lives for eternity! But for our testimony to be convincing and persuasive, it must involve more than recitation of Scripture and adherence to rituals and tradition. We must walk in the Power of God that resides in us. Our presence in any circumstance must convey an atmosphere that is charged with His Presence and Power. We must be the conduit between Heaven and Earth, using our testimonies to transmit God's love to a hurting world. 
     I don't need to remind you that God doesn't need us to exhibit His power and love -- He could just whack any of us in the heart and change us if He wanted. And it is surely not our own clever abilities which allow us to minister to others, but the empowering Presence of the Holy Spirit within us who guides us and counsels us whether to give a word from the Father, or to employ a tactic on the spiritual battlefield. Either way, we will have a testimony to share from our hearts; hearts that have been transformed by the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit within us. If you have personally been changed, and know the love of the Father, ask the Holy Spirit to use you and your testimony to change the life of another human being. Let God be glorified through our obedience to Christ and the Holy Spirit!

Psalms 107:2-3   So, go ahead -- let everyone know [Jesus' faithful love never ends]! Tell the world how He broke through and delivered you from the power of darkness and has gathered us together from all over the world. He has set us free to be His very own! (Passion Translation)


February 3, 2018

The Power of Our Testimony -- Part One

     This is a very personal post. It is personal because it speaks to new places the Lord is guiding my spirit; and personal because it involves the testimonies of people who are dear to me and walking in obedience, which has become the essential part of my own faith walk.
     If you have been reading me for awhile, then you know that the Lord has taken me on a journey towards Kingdom living and all that that term encompasses.  I have been given new revelation through His Word about the Kingdom of God invading this earthly realm in the person of Jesus. And what that means is that the control the Enemy has enjoyed over mankind since the fall in the Garden has been broken, and Jesus came with authority and power from His (our) Father to destroy the works of the devil and set people free from their bondage to sin.
     But you also know that I believe the Word when Jesus tells us that He has transferred that authority and power from Heaven to those who believe in Him, so that we can continue to destroy the Enemy's control over our fellow man.  It is really a very simple plan that God set in motion to re-establish His Kingdom on earth as it was in the Garden -- He sent a part of Himself, as His begotten Son, [and thereby bringing Himself into the world] in order to give us a model by which we could destroy Satan's goal of setting up his own permanent kingdom here on earth.
      Jesus defeated the power of Death over mankind by providing a way for us to live forever in the possession of our Creator and Father God. He paid the price and the debt that we all owe God for our sinful ways, AND THEN Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell us, which means we can receive the same instructions and spiritual sight that Jesus received SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO DEFEAT THE ENEMY AND GROW GOD'S KINGDOM!
     And how do we do that? By walking as He did, using that authority and power from Heaven to take action and speak into peoples' lives. I want us to consider [this concept] when He stepped into the power He received through the Holy Spirit to heal the blind man and the lame man; when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well of His desire to give her a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, flooding her with endless life; when He rescued the adulteress woman from the mob of hypocritical accusers, and told her to "Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin"; when He cast the demons out of the Gadarene demoniac and set the man free --- all these instances, and so many more, testified to the power of the love of God in their lives. But we need to see the divine purpose of those stories. And it can be summed up by what Jesus told the Gadarene madman when he begged to stay with Jesus: "Return to your home and your family, and tell them all the wonderful things God has done for you".
     You see, part of God's divine plan is to exhibit His power [to heal] through us and to use our testimonies to lead others to the freedom that knowing and experiencing His love can provide in our lives. And that is why I was so blessed this week to hear the testimonies of some of my beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ. They inspired me with their obedience to the voice of God and how they made themselves vessels of His love for another.  Just the other day, I received a long text from my spiritual son, Jeremy. Let me share .... Jeremy found himself in a coffee shop when the Holy Spirit gave him a prompting to speak to a woman who walked in on crutches.  She wasn't suffering from something as normal as a broken leg; she had a club foot in which the lower portion of her right leg was so twisted that her right foot was pointing to her left ankle. From here, I will let Jeremy tell you his testimony in his own words:
    "I immediately knew I was going to have to pray for her. She came in and sat to the far left of me and my business partner, Doc. We were talking over elements of our new business, and the nudging [from the Holy Spirit] just got stronger and stronger.  I see her get up to leave, so I felt let off the hook for a minute.  But she moved over to the table right in front of us and sat facing me... so, now my palms start to sweat and I begin getting knots in my stomach.  I mean, this is not a headache I'm praying to heal here, but a very difficult healing, that frankly, I don't have the faith for. Plus, we are surrounded by serious businessmen, dressed in suits, and I am out of my comfort zone. I finally tell Doc that I have to pray for her before we leave, and I am real nervous.  
    I stand up to walk over to her and immediately Holy Spirit says 'You are not to pray for her leg, but to tell her how much I love her, and I want you to pray for her heart.'  Suddenly, I know I can do this, because I have the confidence to proclaim this, and I know I have the authority to declare it. So I go over and introduce myself and Doc, and then ask her if I can pray for her.  She gets very defensive and says, 'What, you came over here because you saw my crutches?' She said lots of Christians have prayed for her leg and she's not interested if that's why we came over to her. I told her, 'Actually, I feel like I am supposed to pray for your heart'. 
     Immediately, she relaxes, still very perplexed by the whole thing, and says, 'Sure, sit down'.  I told her that Jesus loves her very much and that He wants her to know He is protecting her heart. Then I asked her if I could pray for anything specific, and she proceeds to tell us that her marriage is falling apart and she didn't know if they were going to be able to reconcile. [In fact, her husband had left that morning]. 
     I almost lost it when she said that... so I proceed to give her the short version of the struggles my wife Mary, and I, faced in our marriage. At this point she is getting emotional.  She says that she and her husband are Christian, but her husband has stopped going to church because of his struggles with sin. I shared with her that the devil has him convinced that he's not worthy of forgiveness (porn) and all the guilt and shame that comes with that. I was also able to show her compassion because I understand what Mary went through during our marriage, and I was able to speak the LIFE we had received into their situation.  I was then able to pray with her, and she asked if she might be able to connect with Mary. 
     It was the scariest thing [like that] I have ever done, but by the end of our conversation, we were all very moved by God's goodness and love.  And we agreed that it was a Divine appointment, because the reason she was there alone was because she was supposed to meet a friend who forgot they were getting together, and she was going to leave when we got up and walked to her table. As I look back on this event, I am overcome with the Father's Goodness and Faithfulness".
     Jeremy's testimony doesn't end there. He also shared with me a text message he received from the woman: "Jeremy, thank you for chatting with me and praying for me and my husband, William, today. I excitedly called him right after you left, and shared with him our 'divine appointment'. He was encouraged and thanks you, too, for praying for us! I've attached a photo of our family. Our daughters are Taylor (oldest) and sweet Olivia Grace, our youngest. Wishing you many of God's blessings, Jennifer".  Furthermore, Jeremy has invited Jennifer and her husband to visit with him and Mary in the future, and he fully believes that more healing will be accomplished in this family -- including the finished work of healing her leg!
     This testimony was such a blessing to me! It speaks to the certainty I have in my heart and spirit that this is what we are supposed to be doing as part of our commission from Christ.  And let me be perfectly clear, this is not about walking in our own power, but about being obedient to the calling upon our lives to speak and act in the lives of those who need to know the love of Christ and the Father. 
     During a subsequent conversation I had with Jeremy, it became so clear to me that we have to find the balance between battling in spiritual warfare and proclaiming the redemptive love of Jesus.  There are times that demons need to be cast out to the foot of the Cross, because a stronghold has been established in a person's life. But it always has to point back to the love of Jesus that fills that void the enemy just vacated.  That's why it is so important to show Jesus in those painful memories and let people feel His embrace and love as He heals their wounds. Those voices of despair, abandonment, rejection, pain, fear, anger, etc. are all defeated by showing a person that they are qualified to receive Jesus' love, because He died on the Cross for them!

     As I finish this testimony, I hope it is clear that God arranged the steps of each of the participants in this story. By Jeremy being obedient to the Holy Spirit, the atmosphere was changed in that coffee shop. Jeremy honored the voice of Holy Spirit by hosting His presence, which allowed the power of the love of Jesus for Jennifer and her husband to begin their healing.  And Jeremy will be the first to tell you that it was Holy Spirit who did the talking, because he can't remember what he prayed. 
     Finally, I am in total agreement with his advice to our fellow Christians who find themselves in a similar situation ... Just have courage and step out in obedience. The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say and the authority to say them. He will not put you in a situation in which you have no authority to speak. Because Jeremy's marriage is being healed, he had the authority to speak Jesus's love and grace into Jennifer's marriage.  And Jeremy found the whole experience encouraging. He said that speaking the Holy Spirit's message of life and hope [and giving his personal testimony to Jennifer] created an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit could begin to work in Jennifer and her family. Because of the positive result of this experience, it will be easier for Jeremy to trust his authority the next time he receives a prompting. The result has been an increase in his faith to simply be obedient, and he knows that he can be a willing vessel to show the love of Christ to those who desperately need to receive it.  
     I would like to add that I also believe Jeremy and Mary will continue to receive blessings in their own marriage because he was willing to speak the message of healing into another's marriage. In the end, I hope Jeremy's testimony will encourage you to listen to those promptings when you hear the Holy Spirit, and to act on them. Jeremy thought he was in that coffee shop to discuss his business plans. But God had another plan to use him for Kingdom work -- to invade that coffee shop with the presence of the Holy Spirit to effect the life of a hurting family -- to invade that coffee shop with the atmosphere of Heaven on earth ... all because He loves each of the people involved with a love that defies our human understanding. How Great is our God!!
Proverbs 16:9     A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.

January 31, 2018

Understanding Satan's Role In The World

     Mark and I recently had the opportunity to visit with a Christian couple whom we dearly love, and with whom we identify as faithful Believers. We don't get to see them very often so when we get together, and after we have caught up on the superficial affairs of our lives, we always end up spending most of our time in deep discussion about the theological premises that guide our faith. We don't agree on everything and that is okay. We recognize that each other loves the Lord and all of our hearts are focused on relationship with Jesus.
     That being said, our foundation of Kingdom living is a new concept for most Christians we come in contact with. The truth that the dominion God gave man over the earth was given away to Satan [by Adam and Eve in the Garden] -- and the consequences of that fatal mistake -- often go unrecognized by modern-day Christians. Understandably, in this fast-paced world we live in, with all of its distractions, the ramifications of that long-ago sin often get lost in the faith identity we construct for ourselves. We Christians tend to identify more with God's nature of love, mercy, grace, and peace. But there is more to His nature, and we should be aware of how we are called to walk in a greater identity.
     For instance, during our discussion with this couple, the wife was clearly disturbed when I made the comment that because our dominion was sacrificed for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, "Satan is god of this world".  Her response was, "How can you say that?" (clearly feeling as if I was demoting God. I could tell my statement was offensive to her). My response was, "Because the Bible tells us so". Our discussion continued with the citation of Scripture that pointed out this truth (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the additional one that calls him "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31). It was important that she understood these titles were in reference to unbelievers. Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior recognize the One True God. BUT, it is important for Christians to recognize the fact that the devil is the god of this world, and it made me question how many Christians don't recognize the major influence that he has in the everyday lives of the world's population?
      His influence can be see in political opinions and policies (abortion; gay marriage; government-instituted welfare); education (teaching of ungodly sexual lifestyles; prayer in schools banned; acceptance of other religions while limiting Christian values); our goals and ideals (getting rich and living like Hollywood/Rock stars versus seeking to live a righteous life according to God's standards) ... everything from our thoughts to our entertainment to what we value as human beings are influenced by the devil's lies and deception.  He rules over what is presented and promoted in this world, and it is up to each human being if they wish to follow him, or accept the invitation of their Creator.
     But there is an extra component to the devil's ability to rule that we need to contemplate.  Satan may be "the god of this world; the ruler of this world, and the prince of the power of the air", but he does not completely rule the world.  There is the factor of God's sovereignty.  And this is another concept in which I probably differ from most Christians. God's "sovereignty" is His dominion, His rule over what He has created.  I do not believe that it means He controls everything He has created.
     God is a god of order, and He has set rules and boundaries for His creation. And remember God created Satan, too. So within His Sovereignty and Dominion, He allows Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries He has set. If it makes it easier to understand, then picture, if you can, that God has Satan on a leash; there are boundaries beyond which he cannot act. And those boundaries extend only to unbelievers in Satan's Kingdom of Darkness on earth. But when, as inhabitants of this earth, we accept Christ, we are given a new nature; are seated with Him in the heavenly realms; and we now operate under the rules of God's Kingdom of Light, which Jesus inaugurated and brought with Him when He walked this earth. We are no longer under the rule of Satan, but until Jesus returns and defeats evil, Satan still rules the rest of the world and we are behind enemy lines.
     This does not mean that we concede God's authority to Satan while we still live here. But it does mean that as sons and daughters of God and representatives of His Kingdom on earth, it is our responsibility to spread the truth of that Kingdom and work with the Holy Spirit [in us] to help set captives free from this domain of darkness and take back dominion of the earth for God. This dominion cannot and will not be completely restored until Jesus comes back to defeat the Enemy once and for all. But we must come to the conclusion that there is more to our duties as Christians than to speak only of God's Love and Grace.  YES, they are part of His nature and we are to extend that to all people.  Jesus showed us that!  But He showed us so much more in this battle we are engaged in with the god of this world. 

     He showed us that disease, deceptive and demonic spirits, and death are all weapons of our adversary. And He showed us that with our new nature [empowered by the Holy Spirit] we can defeat the Enemy [just like He did] by using that Heaven-sent power to heal those the devil has afflicted; bind the deceptive voices of demons and cast them at the foot of the Cross for Jesus to deal with; and, as impossible as it sounds, even bring someone back to life whom the devil has conquered through death.  It is all part of God's sovereign rule that He transfers the same power He gave to Jesus to us, so that He can continue His battle plan to restore dominion of the earth to His Kingdom.
     God wanted to work with Adam and Eve to establish His Kingdom here on earth when He handed over all that He had created to them.  And He wants to work with us [who have pledged our allegiance to Him] to reclaim that dominion and once again establish His Kingdom "on earth as it is in Heaven". Until Jesus returns it is important for us Christians to take our blinders off and see this world as it truly is ... under the rule of Satan, the earth's king of Darkness. And we must see the role we are to play, beyond telling others of God's amazing Love, Mercy and Grace. That's a start -- showing unbelievers Who it is that we serve and obey.  
     But we have another role, too, and that is as warriors. There is a spiritual battle to be won, and we must see our role as God sees it -- to begin to use the power He has given us to defeat the wiles of the devil (sickness, demons, death).  Until we can do that, there are too many people still suffering and in captivity to these very schemes that keep them in darkness. Why not go that extra step? After telling someone about how much God and Jesus love them, why not show them the power of that love by healing them, or setting them free from the spirit of fear or anger? That's what Jesus did -- and because He did, we now believe. 
     It was the testimony of those He healed and set free, and the testimonies of those His followers healed and set free, that brought freedom to people around the world, and Christianity flourished. I just don't understand how we, as 21st-Century Christians, can say we believe the Bible and believe those accounts, but because we haven't been taught them or practice them, they no longer have any validity.  How can we say we know better than the Early Church disciples [who learned directly from Jesus]? It just seems to me this is another lie and deception from Satan, and it serves his purposes. As long as we deny our power and that role, he will continue to keep people in bondage -- even Christians.  We must step into our true and complete identity. We are to be images of Christ; ALL that He was -- a representative of God's Love as well as Satan's major opponent in the battle for men's souls. Love and Conquer is our motto!

2 Corinthians 10:3-4   For although we live in the natural realm, we don't wage a military campaign employing human weapons. Instead, our [spiritual] weapons are energized with divine power to effectively dismantle [demonic] strongholds.