A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


August 22, 2017

Is Eliminating Our Past A Good Idea?

     I spoke to a friend the other day who had just returned from a trip to Ireland, and he was enthusiastic about his experience.  Like me, he is a lover of history, and he went and on about the historic sites he saw.  He was effusive about the castles, museums, and tours he went on that featured the struggles of ancient Ireland, the invasion of the Emerald Isle by the English, and the Crown policy of "plantation", by which English and Scottish Protestant settlers displaced the Irish Catholic landowners.  That hostility and animosity is still a part of Ireland's national character today.
     Likewise, my youngest sister has been visiting Prague, Czechoslovakia and the country of Poland this past week. She is sharing photos and her thoughts as she visits awe-inspiring 13th century churches and synagogues, the Jewish Quarter (ghetto), and the concentration camps where so many Jews were exterminated by men with evil hearts. 
     The hearts and minds of both my friend and my sister were moved and educated by seeing the rich history of these European countries.  The tour guides provided lots of insight about the historic events that took place among the ruins and majestic places they visited.  Monuments related the historic events that helped shape the current and modern country.  And the native inhabitants are eager to tell the stories of where they came from [historically], and which define who they are now.
     So, now I am forced to take a look at my own countrymen who seem unable to see the value in our history -- both the good and the bad -- and I wonder if we truly know who we are, and are we interested in being proud of who we've become.  I don't usually like to engage in current political discussions on this blog, but I am deeply conflicted when I see our younger generations calling for the removal of our Confederate memorials and statues.  It is not because I am a racist, or I condone slavery -- that would be a ludicrous accusation.  I simply do not understand how they think that destroying our memorials will 1) erase our history,  2) insure that it will never be repeated, or 3) change current attitudes, opinions or hostilities.  When they look upon these historical statues, do they really feel the memorials speak for continuing racist policies?
     First of all, they are showing their incredible lack of knowledge when they claim that every Southern general endorsed slavery; that the entire reason for the Civil War was to maintain the wicked, reprehensible, and immoral institution of slavery.  Perhaps they need to revisit the history books of decades ago [since I suspect the revisionist history being taught today is possibly in error].  But I do not want to wander into the weeds of debating what was in the hearts and minds of Southerners a century-and-a-half ago -- anymore than I want to debate the reasons why today's Southerners honor these memorials and statues. We can debate states rights, Southern pride, and white supremacy ad nauseam and never agree.
     I simply want to point out that the Irish and the Czechs and the Poles in Europe aren't pulling down their statues or destroying their memorials -- even though they could employ the same moral argument that some of the memorials are evidence of a shameful part of their past.  What's the difference in our mindset?  Perhaps the Europeans recognize, somewhere in their souls, a principle that God voices in the Bible... we should remember our past sins, but not focus on them; that our past (both good and bad) has led us to where we are today.  But it does not have to identify who we have become.
      In fact, I believe it is important to understand that our past does not have to have an influence on our present behavior.  When we can recognize our sin, repent for it, and receive forgiveness, we can look at the past without any fear of repeating it.  And we don't need to destroy the cultural memory of those sins as a safeguard against backsliding.  That doesn't mean we ignore the ugliness of our past history. It just means we don't have to hang on to it and let it continue to reinfect us.  It is important that we recognize we have evolved into a new identity... we must not forget where we came from, but instead, rejoice in who we've become.
     Do those who wish to destroy every shred of evidence of the dark days of slavery in our historical memory somehow think that it changes our history? Out of sight, out of reality, if you will?  If at the end of that awful war -- which resulted in 620,000 deaths; nearly half of the 1.26 million Americans who have died in the nation's wars -- reconciliation could take place and Christ-like forgiveness offered between our countrymen, why is there so much hate and vitriol today over the past?
     Why can we not look upon the aftermath of the Civil War and see that we, as a nation, did not suffer decades of guerrilla wars as some nations have endured after their own civil wars?  Why can we not see that the nation moved forward, despite ongoing racial struggles, and we have much to be proud of? It has been a long and difficult struggle, but there has been progress. Is there still racial prejudice and dark souls among men?  Yes, and there always will be until Jesus comes back and removes the instigator of such evil.
     But just because a statue of Robert E. Lee exists somewhere on a town square, it does not mean we are at the same place in our national character as we were 156 years ago.  That statue honors a man torn by a national debate that nearly destroyed our nation, yet he could say at the end of the Civil War, “I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.”  Did he own slaves?  Disturbingly, the answer is yes. And there is no amount of rationalization that can justify that fact. There are many men throughout the world from that time who will have to stand before the Lord on Judgment Day and account for that sin.
     And removing his statue will not erase the dark shadow that hung over this nation for four long and bloody years. Only the blood of Jesus can do that.  And I pray that the same evil influence that whispered hate and enmity in the ears of our ancestors, will not find minds willing to embark on another civil war.  I guess we will find out... more statues and memorials are coming down by the day.  The question to be answered is this ... when the last statue comes down, the last street name is changed, and the last reminder of the injustice perpetrated against our fellow man is totally eradicated from our cultural conscience and memory, will we all then be able to live in harmony and peace?
     Will the absence of stone and iron memorials change the hearts of those who are intent on hate? Will we at last, as a nation, be free of the temptations of the Enemy and love our neighbor as ourself? I contend that it will be the renewing our minds [to be like Christ] that will ultimately eliminate the poison that is spreading through our national discourse.  Perhaps then we can begin to listen to each other and live in true harmony.
     I wish it was as easy as pulling down a monument.  I denounce our national sin of slavery, and any attempt to limit a man from becoming all that God intended him to be ... just as I decry our current national dialogue that seems intent on destroying our unity.  We don't have to let our past failures continue to divide us. Let us look towards building new memorials and testaments to a unified future.  There is a bigger picture here... looking at all that God has delivered us from and looking forward to all He wants to do in this amazing nation!  Let it begin today!

Colossians 3:12-14   "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity".


      
   
      

August 19, 2017

How Do You Worship The Lord?

     This may seem like a rather vague question, or even one that seems obvious to most Christians who are active in their Church.  But I don't want you to answer it based on the customs and traditions practiced in your denomination.  You see, that is corporate worship, and I'm more concerned about how you worship Him individually.  Because, it is my opinion that God is more interested in how you worship Him and His Son on the personal level.
     As with so many principles of our faith, Worship can become ritualized and defined by a set of man-made traditions.  How many of you had this thought when you first considered my question ... "Worship should include corporate song and a time where our voices are lifted to the Lord in praise and thanksgiving"?  Nothing wrong with that answer, at all.  But do you limit the concept of worship to that idea, or is it your viewpoint that worship must [or should] always include a corporate display in song?  I know that this is a common impression of what "worship" is in the modern Church.  
     But let's take a look at how worship is displayed in the Bible.  Both the Old Testament Hebrew word (shâchâch) and the New Testament Greek word (proskuneo) for worship define it as "a gesture of obeisance (respect, homage, adoration, reverence, veneration, honor, submission, deference) towards God".  This gesture was often displayed by bowing down in homage to God as a superior ruler.  But, as we know, worshipping God is so much more than this singular act of acknowledgment and recognition.
     To me, worship is the result of the state of your spirit.  It originates internally, in response to your spirit's relationship with the Father.  It is an individual and personal act of recognition of our Creator; an expression of our awareness of our identity as a son or daughter of God. And it is that individuality of our worship that I think has been somewhat lost by modern Christians.  We tend to define worship by corporate standards, and even though our church services have set aside a time for the Body of Christ to sing and lift their voices to God in worship, it is the individual hearts that He is listening to.  External actions are of less importance to Him.
     So, the attitude of our hearts and spirit is the origination point of our worship, which is then acted out in some form of reverence, praise, and honor.  It doesn't have to fit a specific model or be the same for everyone.  I love how, in 2 Samuel Chapter 6, the Bible says that "David was dancing before the Lord with all his might".  Now that is worship; it shows the attitude, or position, of his heart.  And you know he was dancing in his spirit, too!  David's form of worship was total and unrestrained -- completely unself-conscious, and personal.  He didn't care what others thought, nor followed a prescribed format.  In fact, Michal, King Saul's daughter, and David's wife, scorned David for wearing a linen ephod, which is a priest's upper garment, while he danced before the Lord.
     From the research I've done, the condemnation came because this garment was form-fitting.  He wasn't dressed the way Michal thought he should be, and apparently she didn't think his actions were befitting a king.  I would agree -- David acted out of a child-like love for the Lord, with no inhibition, and pure joy. And all that Michal could see was that it didn't fit the structure of established worship.  Are you more like David or Michal?
     I think in order to answer that question, we must ask ourselves if we care about what people think -- are we trying to please God, or other Christians?  I have to admit that I have seen a great change in my husband as he worships with God-centered people who follow no set agenda for what worship should look like.  For years, he simply didn't enjoy singing hymns in a church service, and it just didn't move his spirit.  But, I have seen him in more relaxed settings, with a guitar player singing original songs that praise our Lord, and people even dancing in the aisles, hands raised high.  Unconventional? Absolutely! But I suspect that this is closer to how King David worshipped in his personal style.
     Does that mean that hymns sung in church services constitute less meaningful worship?  Of course not.  I have heard beautiful hymns sung by choirs, and soloists that have moved me to tears as my spirit responded.  I am in no way declaring that one style of worship is better than another.  I can only speak for myself and I never want my worship to become regimented or stale.  I want the expression of my worship to grow and expand, and I never want to become so self-conscious that I opt for playing it safe.  I want my worship to be heartfelt and spirit-led; reverent, yet abandoned to new heights of adoration.
     So, I come back to my original question ... How do you worship the Lord?  If it is confined to corporate worship in a specified format, I pray that your individual heart and spirit are sending praise soaring to the throne room of God.  And if you find yourself dancing with all your might before the Lord because your spirit cannot be confined in your expression of homage to our Lord, then that's okay, too.  And if the Holy Spirit leads you to spend time in silence with Jesus, meditating on all He has done for you, then that is worship, too.  Do not let anyone limit you as to what form of Godly worship is acceptable.  Worship is individual and it is personal. The Lord recognizes all worship that is centered on Him and His glory.  However you worship Him, just do it with great enthusiasm, as is befitting His Majesty.

Psalm 71:8    "My mouth is filled with Your praise, and with Your glory all the day."
   
   

August 16, 2017

Answering The Skeptics...

     I would venture that there are many of you who have read the last couple of my posts who have had serious doubt as to their plausibility or veracity.  You have questioned if my presentations have aligned with Scripture, and have perhaps struggled with accepting them as valid for Christians.  That is to be expected in the 21st Century, and is most likely the normal reaction from most Believers.
     In fact, my friends and fellow Christians who have partook in this spiritual exercise have had varied reactions and experiences.  And to be honest, it didn't surprise me, since we are products of the 18th Century Enlightenment and Age of Reason, which was an intellectual movement that emphasized reason (logical justification for an event), rational thought, and skepticism while challenging the traditional religious views of the prior centuries.  Those earlier views readily accepted the supernatural when it came to faith; of experiencing miracles and a spiritual relationship with God. But here we are, with nearly 400 years separating us from the ability to conceive of supernaturally experiencing Jesus and God, and we find it so difficult to do what God made possible ... to be brought near by the blood of Christ.
     So, I'm going to present some of the skepticism and doubt, along with the questions that arose from those who have participated in experiencing the garden of their heart.  I will begin by saying that desiring [or hungering] for intimacy with Jesus is a necessary component for being able to see "the garden" or submitting to any spiritual experience with Him.  And it is not unusual for someone who has been raised up in a rigid religious denomination to find it difficult to "let go" of this carnal world in order to experience the spiritual realm.  Paul explained this dilemma in Romans 8:5-9, For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit... You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
     That is perhaps the most difficult thing for some Christians to accept -- God created us to abide in Him in the spirit; spirit-to-Spirit, so to speak.  That's why He gave us our imaginations -- so that we can experience Him beyond the physical restraints of this earthly realm; experience Him where He resides, in the heavenly realm.  And that may be hard for other Christians to perceive because they don't truly believe their Scripture that says we can now come boldly and confidently before the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16), or that we are now seated in the heavenly realms with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6).  We can only do that in our spirit, since our sinful flesh is still delegated to this earth.
     But so much of the teaching of the modern Church [to the Body of Christ] has not emphasized that we are three-part beings: body, soul (mind/emotions/will), and spirit.  Our bodies [or flesh] are limited to this realm. Our souls are subject to our relationship with Jesus. And our spirits have the ability to commune with Him supernaturally.  That last part has been all but purged from our Christian understanding, and the Church only emphasizes our sinful flesh and minds that are subject to temptation.
     Much of the skepticism and doubt about supernaturally interacting with Jesus and God comes from the fear of being deceived.  It is common for Christians to ask, "But can't the devil invade our imaginations, or read our minds? So how can we trust that what we are seeing in the garden of our heart is actually coming from Jesus?"  Here's my answer to that: Satan is not omniscient. He cannot read our minds. Only God is all-knowing of everything, including our thoughts.  If you are able to [in your imagination] go to your garden, that intimate place of meeting with Jesus, and you experience His overwhelming love, joy, and peace; and you hear Him say something that moves you to tears, how in the world could you ever say that was from Satan?  What purpose would Satan have for allowing you to come away from that experience with such an image of a loving Christ?
     Now, what Satan will do is this: He will send a spirit of doubt, or a spirt of unbelief against you so that, out of your own free will, you start discounting or disbelieving what you experienced. And he's always ready to use a spirit of religion to shut down any opportunity for a Believer to come into greater relationship with their Lord.  We have a perfect Biblical model for that in Matthew 23:13, when Jesus says to the religious leaders, But woe (judgment is coming) to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow those who are [in the process of] entering to do so. 
     That same spirit of religion that was evident in the Pharisees is alive and active in the Body of Christ today.  The rigid religious doctrine that the Pharisees used to stifle and suppress a spirit-to-Spirit relationship among the ancient people of God is still used today to shut down a Believer's access to that heavenly realm where their spirit resides. They are simply unable to conceive of themselves as anything other than flesh and blood.
     But I also wish to remind you that if you are Saved and Redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you are a new creation, wholly sanctified, with a renewed mind.  Satan is going to do everything he can to tempt you to use your free will to corrupt the new you. Can you be deceived?  Only if you come into agreement with the devil.  If you set your heart and your mind upon the things of God, and learn to recognize His voice and see Him in all circumstances, you have nothing to fear.  You will be able to judge the fruit of that tree in your heart's garden and know whether it is a good tree, placed there by the Goodness of God.
     Now, I don't expect that the arguments I have presented here will persuade anyone that has made up their mind that we are not able to supernaturally experience Jesus.  But I would hope that they would search their Bibles and meditate upon the Word day and night (Joshua 1:8) and meditate upon the Lord's precepts and thoughtfully regard His ways (Psalm 119:15).  Because, while on earth, Jesus only acted as a man ... seeing and hearing the Father; in other words communing with Him supernaturally.  He has left us with that model for how the Father wishes to relate with us, too.
     In closing, I would like to say that among the participants of our Home Church who attempted to establish the garden of their heart, the majority of these wonderful people were able to experience some aspect of experiencing Jesus in the garden.  Some openly wept at what He showed them, and what He spoke to them.  Others, who were visiting their garden for a second time, found themselves more open to experiencing it, since their spirits had discerned His presence was real.  They ran and played with Him.  Still others were going to need a little time to process what they had "seen".  It was a new, and frankly, foreign experience for them.  And perhaps you recognize yourself among their varied responses.  That's okay.  I would just like to encourage you to ask God to show you how to have an intimate encounter with Him.  He wants to visit those who seek Him and desire Him. Let Him show you the way.

Update on Molly:  You will recall my post on Molly, the young mother who was in a coma after being in a car accident with her husband and young daughter.  She was unresponsive for weeks, and members of our community have visited the hospital in Austin and laid hands on her for healing.  She is now in Houston in an intensive rehab facility.  Her family has been traveling back and forth to be with her.  Last week, her father walked into her room, and said, "Hey, baby girl, how ya doing today?" She responded, "I love you, Daddy". She is healing! Praise you, Jesus, for You are worthy to be praised!

Jeremiah 33:3   Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. 

August 14, 2017

Seeing The Garden Of Your Heart

     If the last post was outside the norm of information you have received in the Western Church, then today's post will probably seem foreign and maybe even un-Biblical to you.  But I would like to ask you to be open to some spiritual truths that are evident in the Bible, although perhaps not part of the average Christian doctrine in the modern Church.
     I told you that I would like to introduce you to an exercise in which you "see" the garden of your heart.  As I explained, Jesus used many "gardening" terms in describing a Believer's experience in the Kingdom of God -- sowing and reaping, planting vineyards, weeds that choke out the Gospel message, pruning, and harvesting, among others.  Jeremiah talked of "lives like watered gardens", and Isaiah spoke of righteous fasting, in which "you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail".  Those are all strong images that describe Believers who walk out their faith with pure hearts.
     So, let me get right to the issue that will cause some people to stumble in doing this exercise... the use of your imagination.  There will be those who will tell you that it is a dangerous practice; that our imaginations can lead us astray and that the Bible doesn't specifically tell us to use our imaginations in communing with the Lord.  First, let me say, that I agree that it is possible to be led astray by the Enemy when we do not have the renewed mind of Christ.  After all, it is by introducing lies to our minds, that the devil is so often able to corrupt God's Truth.  But with a renewed mind, we are able to take every thought captive, and use our imaginations to see receive revelations from the Lord.
     I would also submit to you that one of the reasons Jesus taught in parables was because it was easier for people to accept the Kingdom principles He was teaching by imagining the scenarios He presented.  Lastly, I would point you to 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, in which Scripture says, What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him...  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit... And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual... The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned... But we have the mind of Christ.
     This passage clearly speaks of the imagination that comes from the indwelling Spirit, and which gives us understanding that seems folly to our natural man.  But our spirit being sees with the mind of Christ, and we are able to perceive things outside the realm of the natural world.  Even John Piper, the noted Calvinist Baptist preacher, has a message which says that "one of the great duties of the Christian mind is imagination".  He goes on to say, " Imagination is the faculty of the mind that God has given us to make the communication of His beauty beautiful... Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. And perhaps the most God-like. It is the closest we get to creation out of nothing...".
     And when we create something beautiful and "see" it in our mind's eye, it can be for the supremacy and glory of God in our minds and hearts. It can strengthen our relationship with Jesus by allowing us to imagine the spiritual reality of Ephesians 2:6... For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. It is the creative use of our mind (our imagination) that helps us to transcend the bonds of this natural world and ascend to the heavenly realm where our spirits are united with Jesus.
     So, that is the experience I want to share with you as you explore the garden of your heart.  Ready to begin?  Before you engage your imagination, I want to speak this prayer over you.... Father, in the Name of Jesus, we clean up/tear down any false and evil imaginations. We appropriate the blood of Jesus and pour it over the imagination. We declare any principality that is hindering, resisting, or blocking the imagination to be bound and cast out and sent to the pit of darkness, never to return. We declare and establish true imagination, righteous imagination, Godly imagination, imagination of Holy Spirit, imagination of The LORD. The imagination is vivid, colorful, illustrative, illustrious (glorious), detailed, has all five senses operating in it. We declare the imagination holy unto The LORD and sanctified by the Blood of Jesus. In the Name of Jesus, we confess and repent and renounce any principality that is over our imagination right now.  We allow the Lord Jesus to be Master and Lord over our imagination; so we release the full potential in Holy Spirit into our imagination and we declare our imagination is sanctified. Amen.
     Now, here are the steps to "see" the garden of your heart.  It is usually best to have someone read these steps to you, so you can close your eyes and fully engage your imagination while receiving the blessing of walking in the garden of your heart.
•  [With your eyes closed] walk toward your garden. There is an entry way, doorway, or gateway leading into your garden. What does your entry way look like? What color is it? Describe the entry way. (Is it a doorway, gateway, arch, what does the entry way look like). Open the entry way toward your garden. Take three steps in. View the scenery, take it all in; describe it.
•  There is a pathway ahead of you. A narrow path. Jesus is on the path with His hand stretched out to you. He is your Good Shepherd, your Great Shepherd. He will protect you. You know His voice and He knows yours. He is going to lead you into your garden. Describe Jesus. Approach His out-stretched hand. Go toward Him and take His hand. He is full of love, peace, joy and assurance. 
•  Walk hand in hand with Jesus on the path of your garden. There is a sound of rushing water; that sound will grow louder as you approach the River in your garden. The river in the garden of your heart has living water. The River is connected to the River that flows from God’s Throne in Heaven. The River empties into your “belly;” your innermost being. You have rivers of living water within you. As you walk with Jesus can you describe anything else you see? There is no fear in your garden, no anxiety, no uncertainty, no frustration, no anger, no issues of life. This is your secret place with The LORD. Your place of intimacy. As you and Jesus approach the river in your garden, the sound of living water is very loud now. Jesus is taking you down the river embankment and there is no fear of slipping, no fear of falling; there is no mud, no snakes. You trust Jesus totally to lead you and guide you. Jesus has you by the hand and He is walking on water and you are walking on water. Can you see yourself doing that? Walking on water. De
•  He is taking you to the middle of the river. The living water can be eaten, you can breathe it in, you can bathe in it for cleansing, for healing, for abundance, for joy, whatever you need in life, you can always drink from the living water. You are in the middle of the river with Jesus. Command there to be watery steps, a stairway down to the bottom of the river. Let go of His hand and walk down the stairway and as you walk toward the bottom, describe the water of your river? What color is the water as you go down the steps? Describe what you see, colors, take it all in. What does the bottom of the river look like, the floor of the river? If muddy, you can change it now; if rocky, pick up a rock and turn it over because it is not a rock. What do you see? (we have had people describe a colorful floor for healing, a clear floor which is an extension of the Sea of Glass, jewels and gems which are treasures in Heaven, gold which is the Glory of The LORD etc.) (If Sea of Glass, the beloved can come and trade with The LORD; or if gems, jewels or gold, have the beloved place one of these in their pocket) Return to top of the stairs and go out of the water and grab Jesus’ hand.
•  Jesus will now take you to the other embankment and you are still walking on water. Go up the embankment, look down at the soil. It’s rich, dark and fertile. Give me one testimony of what Jesus has done in your life. Just one, not necessarily the best. Just one testimony. Command In Jesus Name for that testimony to convert to a seed. You now have a seed of your testimony in your hand. Bend down and dig out about 4 inches of that rich fertile soil and place the seed in it and cover it up. Reach over to the river of living water and scoop up water in your hand, and water the planted seed. Command it to grow In Jesus Name. Describe what it looks like (tree with fruit, shrub, stalk, vine, flowers etc.) Pick a fruit off your testimony tree and eat of the fruit, taste the goodness of the Lord. You can always come back into the your garden and pick fruit and eat for you to remember The Goodness of The LORD. You can come back and pick fruit to give to someone else. You can return and plant seeds of testimony, seeds of promises, seeds of expectations, etc. Cultivate your garden daily.
•  Look over to the narrow path and Jesus is there waiting for you with His hand extended out to you. Walk back across the River of Living Water and take Jesus's hand and He will continue to lead you. Up ahead is a large shaded tree. Go to the large shaded tree in the distance. There is a bench underneath the tree. Describe the bench where you and Jesus can sit and talk. That is your meeting place with Jesus. What is Jesus saying to you right now? What would you say to Him? Have Jesus give you a hug, so He can release His love, joy, peace, comfort, assurance into you. You can now return to your gate, say good-bye [for now] to your LORD and open your eyes. The garden is your secret place for intimacy with The LORD Jesus! Your heart has four chambers, therefore, your garden has four areas that need to be discovered, cultivated and developed with Jesus leading you. 
     This may have been uncomfortable for some of you, while others may have reveled in the experience of "seeing" the garden of their heart.  Do not let anyone tell you this is nonsense or tempting your mind with guided imagery.  The exercise is designed to help you discover and establish intimacy with the Lord.  It will help you to grow your faith through your imagination as you experience Jesus in the garden of  your heart.  It allows your imagination to grow and become more vivid as you acknowledge the Goodness of the Lord in your life.  So visit your garden every day, pruning it and watering it for new growth in the Spirit. Plant additional testimonies, promises, and expectations, and share these with others and let them taste the fruit of all these seeds. The garden of your heart is yours to cultivate and care for, to plant/sow and then reap the harvest of being in the Presence of the Lord.  Visit it daily, experiencing and enjoying Jesus anew, day by day.  And may your garden grow, forever nourished by the Living Water that flows through your heart.

Isaiah 58:11   And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.


August 12, 2017

An Invitation To Visit The Garden Of Your Heart

     If you have taken any serious amount of time to study the Bible, then you know how important our hearts are to God.  There are countless verses which tell us that the state of our heart is the key to our relationship with our Father in Heaven.  I would remind you of just a few of these verses, so we are clear that we must cultivate a heart for God...
Psalm 51:10  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Psalm 9:1  I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. 
Matthew 5:8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Psalm 19:14   May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Proverbs 4:23  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
 Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Romans 10:10  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 
1 Thessalonians 2:4  But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
     Are you getting the picture?  I could go on and on with Biblical references, but I wanted to make the point that we need to understand our hearts from a Kingdom perspective, not a carnal one.  We know that our physical hearts are made up of four chambers -- the right and left ventricles, and right and left atriums -- and we all learned in Science class how each chamber works in cooperation with the others to supply the body with oxygen and remove harmful carbon dioxide.  The miracle of this process speaks to the supernatural and intelligent mind of God, who created us.
     So, we know that the physical heart works in a designed method to keep our carnal bodies alive.  But it is the spiritual properties of our hearts that we need to understand in order for our hearts to beat in rhythm with the Lord's.  Remember, we are made in His image, so it is natural to think that He desires that our hearts resemble His so that we experience true intimacy with Him.
     And if you are able to see with spiritual eyes, you will discern that Jesus referred to our hearts in "gardening terms" ... the Parable of the Sower speaks of sowing seed, weeds that choke out the seed, and the bearing and yielding of fruit. In His teachings, Jesus also speaks of preparing the soil, sowing and reaping, watering, weeding, pruning and harvesting.  When the Word of God takes root in us, and His Spirit dwells within us, our hearts can produce beautiful “fruit” such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control -- all attributes of Believers who live from a Kingdom perspective.
    So, if, as Jeremiah says, our lives "will be like a watered garden" when they know the Lord, what does the garden of our spiritual heart look like?  Do we keep it cultivated and watered each day with the Presence of the Lord? Does our spiritual heart have four different chambers as well, from which the blood of Jesus flows in and out of?  Let's consider what the Word of God has to say about our spiritual hearts...
     Bryan Hodge has written a Scripturally-documented blog post on the chambers of our spiritual heart, and I would like to share some of his premises with you -- thoughts that coincide with what I am being shown through revelation from the Holy Spirit, and from other godly men and women who are seeking greater intimacy with God's heart.
      The Bible tells us that the spiritual heart thinks (Hebrews 4:12); meditates (Psalm 19:14); understands (Proverbs 2:1-2); and believes (Mark 11:23).  This chamber could be considered the "mind of our heart", or as Bryan Hodge calls it, "the Intellectual Chamber".  So what is the state of this chamber of your heart?  Are you mindful of God in your heart all the time?  Or do you need to purge some of the "sinful thoughts" that invade our hearts and result in unholy thoughts, practices and deeds?
     The second chamber of our spiritual heart speaks to its tenderness towards standards of right and wrong, or what we might call "the conscience of our heart".  Scripture tells us that our hearts can be "pricked" and "cut". Acts 2:37 says, Now when they heard this [the testimony of Jesus's sacrifice and resurrection] they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?  This speaks of people whose hearts are made tender to receive the message of the Kingdom.  But the Bible also tells us in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith .... speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.  In this case, sin has hardened the spiritual heart and their consciences are no longer concerned or worried about the consequences of sin.  This is a heart with no conscience.
     The third chamber houses "the will" of the spiritual heart. This is a heart that seeks to do the will of God to advance the Kingdom on earth.  God's desire and will are the intentional objective of a heart that seeks after God's own heart.  It is the purpose of that heart to discover the will of God and to be obedient in all ways.
     The fourth, and last, chamber of the spiritual heart deals with "the emotions" of the heart. The Bible speaks of the "afflictions and anguish" of the heart (2 Corinthians 2:4); the "desires" of the heart (Romans 10:1); and the "love" of the heart, for others and for God (1 Peter 1:22, Mark 12:30). A person who desires to be intimate with God must have a heart able to exhibit emotion.
     So, it is vitally important that we all inspect our spiritual hearts and see if we are firing on all cylinders, so to speak.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it very clear ... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And I know that the modern Church interprets that as a prophecy for the future.  But I would like to submit to you that Jesus was seeking people who were willing to purify and cultivate and water and weed the gardens of their hearts so that they could see the Kingdom of God that very moment.  And He still desires it from us today!
    He tells us in John 3:3,  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. That ability to see the Kingdom of God is available to us the moment we accept Him as our Savior and are born again into our true identities as spirit beings, created in the image of God.  That's why He continually says throughout Scripture, Though you have eyes, do you not see? And though you have ears, do you not hear and listen? Remember, Jesus lived His life on this earth as a human being; as a model of how we can live in relationship with our Father in Heaven.  He only did what He saw the Father doing, or what He heard the Father telling Him.  As a flesh-and-blood man, He was able "to see" God, because He had a pure heart.
     And let's not forget how He dressed down the Pharisees: But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. The religious leaders not only failed to teach that those who believed in YHWH could "see" into God's heavenly realm, but they prohibited those who were in the process of receiving that sight. They knew it was available  -- note that Jesus accused them of not entering, which implies that they knew they could -- but they did not encourage others to experience the Kingdom relationship that God desires.
    So, I know this is a rather big concept for our Western minds to grasp. We have a physical heart that God wants to transform into a spiritual heart; a heart that is like a garden -- a heart whose mind is always on God; a heart that is conscious of right and wrong; a heart whose will is intent on doing the will of God; and a heart that responds with genuine emotion toward the One who created it.  Above all else, the garden of our heart is a place we can water, tend to, and grow into a heart that bears much fruit for God's Kingdom.  What's more, with the mind that God has given us, we can "see" the spiritual garden that grows from a pure heart, and we can plant all the things we need to grow hearts that will harvest an intimate relationship with our Lord.  In the next post, I would like to introduce you to a way to experience your heart's garden with Jesus.  It will require you to "see" God and His Kingdom, both of which Jesus promises us is possible.  So get ready to tap into your spirit and watch your heart's garden grow!

2 Corinthians 3:18     "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit".

  

August 9, 2017

"There Is Therefore Now No Condemnation For Those In Jesus Christ"

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post decrying the condemnation coming against popular Bible teacher Beth Moore.  At the time, I wrote that it wasn't quite clear why the fundamentalist, conservative website Pulpit and Pen was coming after Moore so hard.  Their complaints were shrouded in unsubstantiated grievances, and it took a lot of research to uncover the somewhat lukewarm objections that she was a woman who taught before men (which they say violates Paul's command for women to be silent in the church), and she claimed to "hear the voice of God".  But, I instinctively knew there was a deeper objection that infected this angry segment of the Body of Christ.  Now it has come out into the open....  

     Author J. Lee Grady wrote an article on Charisma News applauding the appearance of Beth Moore as a speaker at a Conference of Pentecostal associations and churches.  Grady wrote that Moore's speech was "so convicting and so saturated in the Holy Spirit .... that people wept, prayed, and sobbed uncontrollably".  Grady stated that Moore based her message on Jeremiah 12:5: "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?"  He wrote that "Moore lamented the powerless state of the modern church and called us back to the raw authenticity of New Testament faith".
     And then came the statement that has [not surprisingly] set the angry tongues wagging at Pulpit and Pen... "We are settling for woefully less than what Jesus promised us," said Moore. "I read my New Testament over and over. I'm not seeing what He promised. I'm unsettled and unsatisfied." She added: "I want holy fire!" Amen, Sister!   

     Now, it has become clear to me why there is such an ongoing and aggressive attack upon Beth Moore.  She has stepped outside the Church's rigid box of acceptable doctrine concerning the supernatural effects of the Holy Spirit, and is being accused of not following in lock-step with the man-made teachings of the Biblical text.  As she says, when you read the New Testament "over and over" with a mind and heart that seeks God's perspective on what and why He inspired the writings, you get a Kingdom mandate that is different from the stereotypical and formulaic variety of teaching and preaching the Word.  You see that Jesus wants more from us than regular Church attendance and a narrow view of our responsibilities as Christians.  He wants bold and courageous followers who [like the Apostles] dare to walk in His radical footsteps.  He wants a Church walking in His power! And that scares the majority of comfortable Christians.
     Moore is calling for renewed minds that are in step with Jesus and His promises; for Christians who have had the Light of God shine upon His Word so that they see what our Lord has called us to do in living out our faith -- Christians that see with unveiled eyes and understand with pure hearts that God is a consuming fire -- and Believers who desperately seek His Presence and that Holy fire in their own lives!  Beth Moore wants "holy fire", and so do I!
     In the Old Testament, God, Himself, lit the fire on the altar of burnt offering, and charged His priests to keep it continually lit.  As New Testament believers in YHWH, our bodies are living sacrifices upon the altar of God, and His Holy Spirit is to engulf our hearts and remain inextinguishable.  That holy fire within us exhibits God's Presence, His passion for His children and His Kingdom, and His desire to purify us for good works for that Kingdom.
     All of that is our right as Sons and Daughters of God! But that "right" comes with some conditions ... we should be crying out for, embracing, and receiving that Holy Spirit fire.  We must trust in, and rely on, the power of Jesus's Name to continue the works He did for the Father [including healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead]. We must be spiritually transformed, with renewed minds, and sanctified to do these works for the glory of God alone.  But do we see that happening in the Body of Christ today?  That is what Beth Moore is calling our attention to, and those who are satisfied and settled in their complacency are made uncomfortable by that calling.  And, so they condemn and criticize and censure.
     But how many of you can identify with Beth Moore and Jeremiah 12:5? How many of you lament the powerless teachings of the modern Church? There are so many promises given to us in the Bible; promises that we have a right to expect as Sons and Daughters of God.  But, as Beth Moore explicitly states, we are settling for less than the inheritance due us.
     Among those stated promises is this: we have been given authority to trample on demonic spirits, and are able to exercise that authority over all the power of the enemy, with no harm coming to us. We have been promised that whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Jesus gave us the promise that if we have only the faith of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to us.  We have been given the promise of treasure in heaven. We have been promised persecution -- but it will give us the blessed opportunity to testify of our Lord before the world.  We are promised a kingdom and a place at Jesus's table in His Kingdom.  We are promised that He will do whatever we ask in His Name, so that our Father will be glorified by His Son.  We are promised that He will abide in us and we will bear much fruit.  We are promised that our joy will be full, and we will not stumble.  We are promised that we will be made holy and set apart by God's Truth.  We are promised power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us; and signs will accompany us in that power.
     These are just a few of the more than 200 promises in the New Testament, and these are only the promises we can expect in this present age.  There are many more promises to be fulfilled in the future Kingdom!  But all these promises are due the Children of God who believe them and trust in Him who pledged them -- and who are willing to act out their faith.  Beth Moore and so many others are simply willing to step out in faith and receive those promises, seeking the fire and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to do Christ's bidding.
     But here's how the Enemy blinds the hearts and minds of the Body of Christ ... with headlines that scream, Beth Moore is Unsatisfied With Christ.  They are so twisted in their minds that they cannot see that it is the modern Church that is unsatisfactory to her, not Jesus!  Why are they so afraid to seek after the promises Jesus offers those who trust Him?  How do their unregenerated hearts hear the false whispers of the Enemy who translates her words into conflicting statements such as this:  Jesus promised eternal life to those who would repent and believe in Him. Is she denying that this promise is being fulfilled? Is there something more than this that she wants? Who could make such a claim? Of course, this is one of the deceptive errors of Pentecostalism and charismaticism–that God owes us anything and that His Son Jesus is not enough. And there, we also see their fear of any supernatural relationship with Jesus or the Father. That is why so many of us have also become wearied by the "footmen" of the Church.
     Can you see how Satan has blinded them and twisted her words?  Can you now understand why so many Christians are living powerless and fearful lives?  For those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see, it is not difficult to discern the schemes of the devil and the presence of a religious spirit.  But there is a remnant in this generation that is following Jesus's command to seek the Kingdom first.  We will not be intimidated nor pressured into standing down from our Lord's invitation to walk in His footsteps. I, for one, am thankful that Beth Moore is letting the Light of God guide her as she boldly and confidently walks that narrow path towards Heaven's gates. As long as she faithfully represents Jesus's Kingdom message, I will stand with her.  But it is no wonder that those who choose the easier and more frequently traveled route think themselves the wiser. I'm afraid they will find themselves put to shame by their arrogance and rejection of the Word of the Lord. It is much easier to condemn than to diligently seek the Truth.

Please feel free to click on the following links and read the article by J. Lee Grady on Charisma News, and the opposing viewpoint on Pulpit and Pen.  Then I welcome your prayerful discernment and comments. 

Matthew 15:14   "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit". 
     

August 6, 2017

Are You Being Called To Be A Forerunner For The Lord?

     I guess I raise this question because of the growing number of faithful Christians I see being moved by the Holy Spirit to seek a deeper experience of abiding in the Lord. And I don't mean "abide" in the lukewarm sense of all the Churches I've ever attended. By "deeper", I mean more than acting in accordance with the morals of the Bible, or walking in the ways of the Lord -- which are absolutely appropriate and necessary. By "deeper abiding", I mean recognizing God's voice; connecting with His heartbeat; and being willing to step outside the accepted boundaries of fellowship with God ... to go to greater lengths than you've ever known; to be His willing partner in preparing the nations for the return of the Lord.
     I know that sounds rather vague, and is more than likely difficult to accept for those who are happy with where they are in their relationship with God, and with how their Church prescribes that relationship should be.  But for those whose spirits have been transformed by a supernatural encounter with God; or for those whose spirits recognize they are hungry for more than what they've been spiritually fed and are willing to seek more sustenance from God, we are finding that God has much more to offer the faithful who are bold and fearless.
     What does that look like, and what exactly is a Forerunner?  Let me answer the latter part of that question first.  Simply put, a forerunner is an advance messenger of a person or thing to come.  In the Bible, we all know that John the Baptist was a forerunner of Jesus Christ.  Luke 1:17 states, of John,  "and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”  I actually prefer the Amplified version of this verse:  It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous [which is to seek and submit to the will of God]—in order to make ready a people [perfectly] prepared [spiritually and morally] for the Lord.”  The role and responsibilities of a forerunner in this generation are quite apparent ... to seek the will of God [and to submit to it] in preparing the people of this world for the return of Jesus.
     Isaiah actually prophesied about End-time forerunners who would prepare people by lifting a “banner message” to the ends of the earth that declares the full manifestation of Jesus’ salvation. ... Prepare the way for the people…lift up a banner for the peoples [the nations]! Indeed the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the world: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him…’” (Isa. 62:10-11)  We are to proclaim to the world that Jesus is returning and bringing the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God with Him!
     So, let me return to the question of what it looks like to be called by God to be a forerunner, and what and how He is showing us His message for the people of this world.  First, we need to understand that God used forerunners in previous generations when He was about to do a glorious work on the earth. And since He never changes, it should be no surprise that He would have forerunners prior to Jesus's Second Coming.  After all, there is no event that could be more significant to the future of the earth's inhabitants. And these forerunners always were witness to God's supernatural attributes and power.
     Actually, the Bible gives us a history of supernatural generations in which the majority of God’s people witnessed the power of God on a regular basis. We have the generation of Moses, with the supernatural events of the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Crossing of the River Jordan --- all leading to the establishment of the Old Covenant.  Nearly 1500 years later, there was a generation that witnessed the supernatural events of Pentecost and the subsequent miracles of the works of the Apostles and the supernatural conversion of Paul -- all leading to the establishment of the New Covenant.  Now, here we are, just a little over 2000 years after that last generation, in which many are asking how long until Jesus returns to establish the Millennium Kingdom?
    In each of these generations God dramatically increases the way He moves in power through His people and how He relates to them.  That is quite apparent in the generation of Moses and the Acts 2 generation.  But I am quite confident when I tell you that it is happening in this generation, too.  And God is doing it the same way.  The same Holy Spirit that guided Moses and the Apostles -- that gave them wisdom to do God's will and the power to achieve it -- is working in those who are willing to answer His call in this generation.
     Remember, Jesus told us that we, who believe in Him, would do greater works than He did.  And the Bible tells us that if all the works of Jesus were to be written in books, the whole world would not have room for the books.  So why in the world does the modern Church have a hard time accepting that the Holy Spirit can be working in God's people in new and miraculous ways that might not be mentioned in the Bible?  After all, Jesus didn't tell us exactly what those "greater things" would be, and if he did so many more works than could be written down, why do our fellow believers doubt us when we say the Holy Spirit is showing us deeper revelations from God?
     Why can the world and the Church not understand that it is possible that we hunger to receive every spiritual insight that God will give the human spirit in this age? That our spiritual hunger is so great that we are willing to alter our lifestyle, to examine our theology, and to step out in boldness if it means God will honor our hungry hearts and spirits, and give us more to do for the Kingdom?  And I can guarantee you it's not going to look like what the world or the Church has seen up til now.  But neither did it in Moses's or the Apostle's generations!
     So, when we speak of healing or casting out demons (which the Bible readily records as acts of Jesus), why are we censored and judged for speaking of "seeing in the spirit" or "warring in the spiritual realm" or allowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to conduct "inner healing" on those kept in bondage to the Enemy?  Isn't it possible that the Holy Spirit is revealing the "greater works" that God wants done before His Son returns? [And there is so much more being revealed, but I hesitate to share it because of the fear, doubt, and unbelief already exhibited by much of the Body of Christ!]
     The truth of the matter, as I see it, is this:  there is undoubtedly a growing spiritual hunger among the remnant of God. They are preparing themselves by going deeper into their understanding of the Word; by fasting and seeking the spiritual gifts of God; and by ministering to the needs of the lost and enslaved. This remnant is answering the call on their spirits and responding to the hunger of their hearts to perceive the purposes of God's coming judgments -- and to prepare the nations to repent and receive God's grace and deliverance before those judgments take place.
     When the world sees the greatest manifestation of both God's and Satan's power [at the return of Jesus], the forerunners will have a unique focus and understanding of what is happening, and will be prepared to assist the Holy Spirit in the revelation of Jesus and the Father.  Forerunners will answer the call to be co-laborers in God's Harvest of souls. They will be positioned to answer the confusion, fear, and anger of believers who do not possess a renewed mind (seeing the events from God's heavenly perspective).  Forerunners will be able to assist the Holy Spirit in giving understanding of events to the End-Times Church, and they will be equipped to partner with Jesus to intercede on behalf of those who will receive Jesus as their Savior.
     So, you see, the position of Forerunner has been Biblically and historically important in compelling God's Kingdom on earth forward, and it will be no less important in the generation that sees His return.  Is that this generation, or the next?  No one knows for sure.  But I can tell you that I praise the Lord for the knowledge and wisdom and power He is imparting to believers in this generation. I thank Him for allowing me to witness the incredible love He has for all those who will receive Jesus, and for seeing the imaginative and creative ways He manifests His power in their lives.
     And whatever measure of power and authority He gives me; whatever measure of blessings on my heart, circumstances, or ministry; whatever measure of experiencing Him I receive; by whatever measure my hungry spirit is filled  -- at the end of my life, it will have been an honor to be a servant of the Lord.  I wish the same for each of you.

Isaiah 40:31   But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.


     
   

August 4, 2017

Framework vs Formula In Ministry

     I'm actually hesitant to begin this topic, because I'm sure that I will leave out some principle that I believe about following Jesus's models, so I run the risk of being mis-interpreted.  But this topic has come up in a number of conversations I have had with other Christians about the ministry the Lord has brought to Mark and me, so I think it bears discussion.
     These conversations have centered on the method, for lack of a better word, of how we approach each deliverance session of our ministry. There has been concern raised about whether we use a "formula" and if that is consistent with Scripture and Jesus's healing/deliverance ministry.  Let me begin to answer those concerns by saying that the word formula has a decidedly negative connotation, suggesting a set procedure or blueprint that we follow.  And I agree that there is no "one-size-fits-all" plan that is a failsafe path to setting the captives free.  Jesus treated each person's situation individually and was led by the Spirit to do what needed to be done to end their physical sickness or spiritual torment.
    But that being said, there are common denominators in what ails people.  The unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, child molestation, rejection, abandonment, blindness, paralysis, demonic oppression, and many more physical and spiritual afflictions that Jesus healed are the same ones that we see burdening people today. The difference is that when Jesus walked the earth, those people experienced His physical presence during their deliverance.  Today, He appears to them from the spiritual realm as we partner with Him in their deliverance.
     So, do we use a particular formula when we co-labor with Jesus in a deliverance session?  While there are common issues that are addressed in every deliverance -- such as events in their lives that were possible openings for demonic oppression; or spiritual roots that must be explored in regards to particular illnesses -- we listen for the Holy Spirit's guidance as to the direction Jesus wants to take the individual in helping them to see that He was always there with them and He desires to set them free from whatever is keeping them in bondage.  So, rather than "formula", which implies a fixed recipe that is never adjusted, I prefer to say Jesus has shown us a "framework" from which to work out of; a flexible shell that can be modified and customized to fit that person's spiritual identity -- we start with the model He has brought to us (inviting the Kingdom of Heaven into the situation) and then let Him and the Holy Spirit mold it to fit that person's needs.  We just do what Jesus tells us, or what we see in the spirit that He wants done ... the exact same principle that He followed with the Father.
     It is important to understand that the details, if you will, of the deliverance might change ... we see Jesus healing by instructing the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam; in another case, He spit on the eyes of a blind man; He healed the Centurion's servant from afar; and the woman with the issue of blood was healed by touching His robe.  We see in the Bible that Peter's shadow was used by God to heal the sick in the streets; and that handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul had touched manifested healing.  The point I am trying to make is that there was no set method, yet there were various [and consistent] configurations of healing that seemed to apply ... the spoken word; the laying on of hands; and, sometimes a combination of these practices or customs that God used to heal.  In other words, there was a foundation upon which God and the Holy Spirit based their instructions to Jesus, and later to the Apostles and Disciples of Jesus.
     It is no different today.  In regards to those with whom I am acquainted [who are obedient to God's calling to a deliverance ministry], I would be willing to say that no two deliverance sessions would look exactly alike.  How could they?  What needs to be healed is going to be different in each case!  But I would also stand on the statement that there is a basic framework that is common to all and adhered to by everyone who seeks to heal and deliver from a Kingdom perspective ... that framework begins with being led by the Spirit to heal that person the way God desires them to be healed -- because He knows what they need.
     You see, it is God, Himself, who lays the path a deliverance or healing will take.  That's why you see the variety of physical healings and spiritual deliverances throughout the Bible.  Whether it was Jesus, or those that came after Him, all have listened to the Father and the Spirit for guidance.  And if we see some repetition in that Spirit-led instruction, who are we to say that God doesn't know which of His divine principles for healing work better than others? And we might begin our ministries with a limited set of instructions, but as we become more proficient with the work God has given us to do, we invariably find that those instructions evolve, and new, higher level instructions are imparted.  God has set no limitations on what He can share with us to set His people free.
     So while God has particular principles that serve Him well, He is not bound by any formula, and neither are His deliverance ministers.  However, we operate within a framework that the Spirit leads and has shown us works! But we always do whatever the Holy Spirit directs. Just as God uses creative methods to bring people into the Kingdom, He does the same when He heals and delivers. Those creative methods might look conspicuously like a formula to those on the outside, but every move is orchestrated by the Father and conveyed by the Spirit.  It is our humble desire to always have Jesus abiding in us, and to walk as He walked.  

John 14:10    Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you I do not say on My own initiative or authority, but the Father, abiding continually in Me, does His works [His attesting miracles and acts of power].  

August 1, 2017

Remembering All That God Has Done

     Last post, I focused on that situation in Mark, Chapter 8, where the Disciples are concerned that they only have one loaf of bread between them for lunch -- this after witnessing the supernatural power from Heaven that multiplied five loaves to feed 5,000; and seven loaves to feed 4,000!  Jesus must have been frustrated with them!  He asks them,  “Why are you discussing [the fact] that you have no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Though you have eyes, do you not see? And though you have ears, do you not hear and listen [to what I have said]? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?”  
     In other words, Jesus must have been thinking, Can't you see? Can't you hear? And, can't you remember all that God has done for you? Why are you worrying about what you will have for lunch when you've witnessed over 9,000 people fed with a few loaves of bread?  Actually, the message to focus on God's supernatural works has been a recurring theme in the Bible, beginning in Deuteronomy 6.  The Word says God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites to hear His commandments and to keep them; to keep His statutes (which are His values), and to teach them to their children so that [your generations] "do not forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery"... See, hear, and remember.
     And it is my opinion that our remembrances, which are kept alive in our testimonies, are the record/history of God's supernatural activities in our lives, and they are the lenses through which we should see everything else around us in this world. But, here's what often happens ... once we get some time and space between that moment when we receive God's invitation to let Jesus become the Lord and Savior of our life, we begin losing some of the awe of that momentous and supernatural occasion.  First, we quit talking about our transformation.  Then we quit expecting more supernatural experiences.  And then, pretty soon, if we're not careful, we are no longer seeing or hearing evidence of Him in our daily lives.  It's not too long before we are engaging with a religious form of God -- we still profess faith in Him; go to Church and go through the motions, but there is no power in our Christian walk, no life, no encounters, and no real relationship with our supernatural God. Our connection with God can become so sterile that we can begin to even question whether He is real.  And people will eventually abandon what they perceive to be fake or artificial.
     You see, Christianity has all the distinctive characteristics of a God who passionately and supernaturally walks with the children He loves: He provided manna from Heaven every day while they were in the wilderness; when they were desperate for water, He provided it out of a rock; He secured their passage through the Red Sea and the flooding waters of the River Jordan. And I do not doubt that God still desires to work supernaturally in each of our lives.  In fact, I'm sure many of us could share our own stories of the wondrous and miraculous things He has done for us.
     Now, you will recall that after the nation of Israel had passed over the Jordan, that the Lord instructed Joshua to have one man from each of the twelve tribes place a stone on the banks of the River as a sign and a call to remembrance for all generations for the people of Israel.  When future generations saw and looked upon this memorial, it would cause them to remember all that the Lord had done for them in bringing them into the Promised Land. And that is a lesson that we should sincerely take to heart, as well.
     For when we lose the memories of God's supernatural works in our lives, we can lose the courage to do the hard stuff, and the strength to get through the hard times.  When trials come our way, it is so important to have those memory touchstones to return to... to be able to recall how God supernaturally delivered us, or provided for us.  And when what seems like an impossible situation arises, and we are called to radical obedience, it is paramount that we rely on our memories of all God has done for us so that we do not become cowardly in the conflict.
     One thing we need to realize... by not remembering the displays of His power in our past, we limit Him and restrict what He wants to do.  Remember, He wants us to co-labor with Him to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. But He needs our cooperation and our involvement. When we stop living our lives conscious of the God who invaded this realm, and accomplished the impossible -- healed the sick, cast out demons; freed the oppressed and tormented; and raised the dead -- we begin to reduce the ministry He wants us to do on behalf of the Kingdom.  When we forget what He has done, then it becomes all about our gifts and what we have done.
     I never want to reduce the possibilities of Him supernaturally conquering this world!  I want to live with an ever-present awareness that God can invade every situation in my life. And I want the history of my life to be a reflection of His Presence, and I want to remember every detail to share with whomever will listen.  It is vital for the Body of Christ to never lose their memories of God's supernatural activity in their lives.
     Like those stones on the banks of the River Jordan, we need to leave a lasting testimony that not only preserves the memories of God's Greatness and Provision, but prophecies of His future acts of Righteousness and Justice.  Nothing has changed since those long-ago days in the Bible. We are serving a God that deserves to be praised and lauded for all He has done.  It is important that both we and our future generations never forget. Joshua said it so well ... Testify to the [supernatural] works of the Lord, our God, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is Mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.

Psalm 78:4     We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that He has done.

July 29, 2017

The Multiple Sides of "Leaven"

   
     If you are like me, I was always taught in Sunday School or Bible Study classes that "leaven" equaled sin.  This idea is carried out in the Exodus story, when in preparation for Moses leading the tribes of Israel out of the land of Egypt, God instituted the Lord's Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This Feast followed the Passover Day, and lasted 7 days.  During the first day of this week, they were commanded to remove all leaven from their houses. In addition, they were not to eat any bread which contained leaven for the whole week.  This symbolized that God was about to do a mighty work in the nation of Israel by removing all the sinful influence (leaven) of 400 years of bondage in Egypt and the pagan worship of false gods.  Furthermore, because leaven is equated with sin throughout the Bible, the "unleavened bread" was a picture of bread without sin in it, i.e. Jesus, as the Bread of Life.
     But are you aware that Jesus talked about leaven in broader terms?  And in one instance, He even referred to leaven as a good thing? I'm always fascinated by what God shows me; that no matter how much I think I know about Him and His Character and Nature, and the teachings of Jesus, there is always something new that He wants revealed.  So, it was with great interest that I discovered these different facets of leaven.
     My interest was first piqued as I ran across a reference to leaven in Mark, Chapter 8.  This is the second time that Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the multitudes from a few loaves of bread.  You will remember that we have the account in Matthew 14 of Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.  At a later date, in Mark 8, He feeds a gathering of 4,000 with seven loaves and a few small fish.  After getting into a boat with His disciples and going to a different district, Scripture tells us He encounters the Pharisees, who "began to argue [contentiously and debate] with Him, demanding from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him [because of their unbelief]. He groaned and sighed deeply in His spirit and said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you and most solemnly say to you, no sign will be given to this generation!" Leaving them, He again boarded the boat and left for the other side".
     And here is where the subject of leaven comes up ... The Disciples had forgotten to bring any bread with them, and only had one loaf between them.  Jesus says, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” So, what did He mean by that?  And why is this His response to the fact that they are discussing their lack of bread?  First of all, remember that these men had already seen Jesus multiply five loaves of bread in order to feed 5,000; and just witnessed Him doing the same thing with seven loaves that fed 4,000!  And they are seriously questioning how they are going to make one loaf feed the 12 of them? Have they forgotten that quickly, Who they are with, and the supernatural works He has done?  But they relate His admonishment about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod to simply be about the subject of bread, and their lack of it.
     But Jesus wanted them to understand so much more.... here He wanted them to understand leaven as the concept of an impure and pervasive influence that modifies something and spoils it.  In the case of the leaven of the Pharisees, it is the leaven of Religion -- their man-made traditions and hypocrisy have pervaded the Jewish Religion, which will result in preventing the nation of Israel from accepting the Messiah.  Luke 12:1 explains it concisely:  In the meantime, after so many thousands of the people had gathered that they were stepping on one another, Jesus began speaking first of all to His disciples, “Be continually on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees [that is, their pervasive, corrupting influence and teaching], which is hypocrisy [producing self-righteousness]". The leaven of the Pharisees will cost the nation of Israel their redemption for centuries.
     A second aspect of leaven is the leaven of Herod [Antipas], which is political. His father, Herod the Great, was an Edomite who converted to Judaism, but was not a religious man.  He was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, and his son, who succeeded him, was also a Jew in name only.  In fact, Herod Antipas was involved in a great deal of lying in his political wheeling and dealing, abusing the power of his office. So the leaven of Herod represents the corrupting influence of politics in the nation of Israel.
     But there is a third leaven that Jesus mentions in both Matthew 13 and Luke 13....  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and worked into three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” This is the first mention of leaven in the New Testament, and it's significance is quite different from the concept of leaven in the Old Testament, and its later reference, in comparison to the Pharisees and Herod.  Here, Jesus intends leaven to mean something different.  The Hebrew word for leaven, seor, refers specifically to the leavening agent (the Kingdom of Heaven/God coming to earth) as opposed to the dough containing it (the nation of Israel/the world).  Rather than symbolizing impurity and corruption, Jesus is using the illustration of leaven’s ability to permeate a mass of dough many times its own size as a picture of the spread of the Kingdom of heaven throughout the entire earth -- spilling over and impacting all mankind. In this instance, leaven as an influence is a very good thing, indeed.
     To be honest with you, it is only very recently that I have understood and seen the positive side in Jesus's parable about the leaven.  And I believe that I was blinded to the fact that He equated it to the Kingdom of Heaven... all I saw was that word leaven, and I only understood it to be sin.  But I think this points to the bigger realization that I, along with much of the Body of Christ, have been ignorant about how much Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God.  In reality, it was His favorite subject matter and what He focused on more than anything else!
     So, I am grateful for God's new revelations, day by day, as I glean more of His truth in His Word.  And this broader understanding of leaven is not the only thing I derived from Mark, Chapter 8.  In my next post, I want to share the bigger issue Jesus discussed when admonishing His Disciples about their concern over the lack of bread.  He warned them to not be influenced by hypocritical religion or religious politics, but He also chided them with three questions:  Don't you see? Don't you hear? Don't you remember?  Those are questions we need to ask ourselves. Stay tuned....

Luke 13:18    [ Parables of Mustard Seed and Leaven ] So this led Him to say, What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?