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


April 23, 2019

Another Look At Eschatology - Part 1

     

     About a month ago, I wrote a post about taking the Bible out of context and asked a couple of important questions ... Are we willing to read the Bible from the context of the New Testament writers? Or are we only willing to accept the doctrines we've been taught in our denominations or by modern-day writers and theologians? Because I have to tell you that I recently had to re-think my understanding when I decided to take another look at the eschatology of Matthew 24. 
     First, we need to come to an agreement on the term eschatology. The term comes from two Greek words meaning "last" (ἔσχατος) and "study" (-λογία). In short, it is the study of "end things". Webster's dictionary says eschatology means "the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind." The study of "end times" by the Christian community goes all the way back to the teachings of the Christian apologists, Justin Martyr (c. 100–165), Tertullian (c. 160–225), and Origen (c. 185–254). The Puritans in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with German scholars in the 20th century, brought us various theological belief systems regarding the Second Appearance of Christ on the earth. But I think it is safe to say that Matthew 24 has caught the attention of most Christians as the primary source for their interpretation of when the "End Times" occurs and what it will look like. But is the interpretation correct?
     I, for one, accepted the prominent theory that all of this chapter in Matthew foretells the signs we should be looking for; signs that will indicate that Jesus is about to return. But I was encouraged to read it again and take from it only the context within which Jesus is speaking. When I paid close attention to the actual verbiage and the grammatical tense of His Words, I realized that there were actually two timelines that Jesus discusses.
     The first happens in Matthew 24:1-14. The second timeline is from verse 15 to the end of the chapter. As I came to that understanding, I realized that much of what I had understood as the characteristics of the End Times was, if not flawed, at least only partially true. The Bible didn't support what I had been taught in Church; or what I had heard others speak; and especially what I, myself, tried to make it mean. Let me show you what I'm talking about....
     At the end of Chapter 23, Jesus is berating the religious leaders in Jerusalem, calling them a brood of vipers for what they will do to prophets and wise men He sends them. He curses them with the pronouncement that all the righteous blood shed upon the earth will come upon them. He asks how they will escape being sentenced to hell, and then makes the declaration that "all these things will come upon this generation".
     Now, if you are a 21st century Believer interested in eschatology and the End Times, I know you've been taught that "this generation" is a future proclamation for us. But that's not what Jesus is saying! In fact, His disciples came to Him on the Mount of Olives and ask Him, "When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
     We need to stop right here and get a couple of things clear. First, note that Scripture says end of the age! Many versions of the Bible (King James, Geneva Bible, Douay-Rheims) say "What will be the sign of the end of the world." That has led to a huge misconception of what Jesus is going to talk about and to whom He is speaking! Remember, the disciples have been with Him for nearly three years. He has told them of His coming death and resurrection, and He has also told them that there are some of them standing with Him "who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28). Remember ... what has been His primary message? "The Kingdom of God has arrived!" and "I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent." The Disciples may not yet understand its full implication, but they are well immersed in His Kingdom message. And they have seen the Pharisees demand signs from heaven [in Matthew 16:1] and heard Jesus tell them, "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah". And we know that sign was given to them [in that generation] with the Lord's three days in the grave.
     So, let's return to Chapter 23 where Jesus berates the Pharisees. Among the seven "Woes!" that Jesus pronounces against them, He makes it clear that they will be judged for shutting the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For they neither enter themselves nor allow those who would enter to go in (Matthew 23:13). Jesus has been preaching the Kingdom of God for three years and they still don't get it! What they don't understand is that the old religious system is ending and the Age of the Kingdom is here! And, furthermore, all these things will come upon this generation ... not our generation or some future generation -- but the generation to whom He is talking!
     So, what does He actually tell the Disciples is coming? Their house will be left to them desolate ... there will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down ... many will come in His name, saying, 'I am the Christ', and will lead many astray ... wars and rumors of wars ...nation will rise against nation ... kingdom against kingdom ... famines and earthquakes in various places ...
     I, for one, have mistakenly interpreted that to be a dual prophecy. Here's how my thinking went: Obviously, the statement made to the Pharisees that their house would be left desolate, combined with Jesus's declaration to the Disciples that not one stone would be left upon another, refers to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the destruction of the old religious order.
     But Jesus actually says in 24:8, [about those things just mentioned] ... This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin!” He is speaking of the new age of the Kingdom that He has brought with Him! And, in fact, these were signs that did occur in that generation. I did some research and found this article that lists the revolts and rebellions that happened in the First Century, and during the lives of the Disciples. The wars and rumors of wars prophecy came true! There were 50,000 slain in Mesopotamia; 20,000 butchered in Caesarea; 10,000 in 50 AD during Passover; 50,000 killed in Alexandria in 66 AD; 20,000 died in Syria; and within one-and-a-half years, four Roman emperors were killed. 
     Jesus's prophecies of famines and earthquakes in that generation is supported by Scripture. Acts 11:28 tells us that a prophet named Agabus "stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius)." This famine actually took place in Syria between 46 and 47 AD. Again, it happened in that generation. Of course, there is the earthquake that took place at Jesus's crucifixion, as well as the earthquake in 62 AD that destroyed the city of Pompeii, and may have been a contributing factor to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
     But look what else He says will be coming in that generation... In Matthew 24:9-13, Jesus says,  "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."
     Well, we certainly know that the Disciples [in that generation] suffered persecution and all but John were put to death for their faith in Jesus. They did endure to the end of their lives and their salvation is assured. And most of us are familiar with the story in Acts 8:9-11 which tells us of Simon, a great magician, who astounded the people of Samaria with his astonishing displays of magic arts. I don't know for sure, but I imagine they closely resembled the acts of Jesus (healing the sick and casting out demons). The Bible tells us, "Everyone, from the least to the greatest among them, was dazzled by his sorcery, saying, 'This man is the greatest wizard of all! The divine power of God walks among us!' "
     But Simon wasn't the only one. Acts 5:36-37 also tell us of a man named Theudas "who rose up claiming to be somebody", and of another man who rose up, Judas the Galilean, "who got people to follow him in a revolt". History also records the names of Simon Bar Giora and Simon Bar Kochba as self-declared Messiahs. But when we let Scripture interpret Scripture, we see that the Bible attests to Jesus's prophecies of "the things" that would come upon that generation.
     As I re-read and studied the Bible, I saw what was right in front of my eyes all these years but I was too blind to see it. The English Standard Version actually tells us that Matthew 24:3-14 are Signs of the End of the Age. But all my previous understanding had come from teachings that said it was the "end of the world". And so I interpreted the signs of false prophets, wars, famines, earthquakes etc. to be something that those in the generation of Jesus's return would recognize. But that is not reading the Bible in context! Jesus clearly was talking to the Disciples and their generation!
    But I do not want to end this Part 1 without mentioning the last sign Jesus gives. This sign leads us into Part 2 of my Eschatology theory. In verse 14, Jesus says, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
     Here Jesus is still talking about the end of the religious system. But, folks, we still have the religious system with us. Our present-day religious system doesn't recognize that the Kingdom of God is on earth. It doesn't embrace healing and casting out demons as assignments for followers of Jesus. It doesn't acknowledge our power and authority to take back dominion of the earth. It elevates the Gospel of Salvation above the Gospel of the Kingdom. I want you to consider this ... Jesus's mission wasn't to get you to Heaven. It was to get you to bring Heaven down to earth! It was to establish territory for the Kingdom of God and to leave us as ambassadors representing our King.
     Once the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, then the centuries-old religious system will end and the Everlasting Age of the Kingdom will endure! In the rest of Chapter 24, Jesus begins to speak of how that will come about with the Coming of the Son of Man. So, stay tuned for the rest of the story!

 Isaiah 29:13    These people honor me with their words while their hearts run far away from me! Their worship is nothing more than a charade! For they continue to insist that their man-made traditions are equal to the instructions of God.
    
     

    
    

April 21, 2019

Luke 22:15-16

Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God."


     As most of the Christian world celebrates Easter today, it is extremely exciting for me to see more and more Christians celebrating the Passover Feasts. That wasn't the case when my heart was first awakened to the seven appointed feasts of the Lord over six years ago.  It was then that Mark and I decided to begin a deep study on how Scripture said they applied to us, as Christians. And now, six years later, the Lord is pointing us to the Passover as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
     The 2019 Festival of Passover began on the evening of Friday, April 19th and will conclude at evening on Saturday, April 27.  Within these Holy days, God ordained the Feast of Pesach, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Fruitfruits -- all in commemoration of what He did in delivering the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt AND as a foreshadowing of the work He would do through His Son, Jesus Christ, in delivering us out of a life of bondage to sin. Within these eight days of Passover, Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, and each Feast speaks of Him and His redemptive work on our behalf.
     And yes, God ordained these Feast Days, and they are His Holy Days, not just Jewish holidays, as the Church has mistakenly believed. In Leviticus 23, God proclaimed them as My Feasts and that they would be a perpetual statute among all your generations in all your dwelling places.  And because we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham, these Feasts not only have meaning to us, but I believe that we are to celebrate them, too.  After all, Abraham is the "father" of our faith, and as Galatians 3:29 says, If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
     As the body of Believers has grown in understanding the significance of Passover, it has been interesting to see the conflict within the Church. Should Christians celebrate Easter or Passover? Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate Passover? Is Easter really Biblical? These are all questions you must answer for yourselves. In doing so, I would recommend that you study what the Word has to say and also do some historical research. I think you will find that our religious celebrations have taken on new meaning down through the centuries.
     The eight days that make up the Festival of Passover are actually recorded in Exodus, Chapter 12. Here we find three separate Feasts, all under the umbrella of "the Feast of Passover". The first day of the Festival, and the first of the Feasts, is called Pesach, which means "spare" or "exempt" in Hebrew, and which our English Bibles translate as "pass over".  Therefore, it has become known as the Feast of Passover in our time.
     It is the foundation of all three Feasts, and commemorates the Lord's direction to the Israelites to sacrifice an unblemished and spotless lamb, applying it's blood to the side doorposts and top lentil of each home. [It is important to note, that this application made the motion of the Cross]. The Lord promised to pass over homes where the blood of the lamb had been applied.  The lambs were the substitutes for the people, sparing them [and saving them] from death and judgment by the Lord. Each house marked by the blood of the lamb would be a haven of salvation, a place safe from the judgment that was about to come upon Egypt. Those Egyptian homes, where there was no application of the blood, would suffer the judgment of the Angel of Death at Midnight. NOTE: The Lord has recently shown me that those homes marked by the blood were more than just safe havens of salvation, but were under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of God. The Egyptians' homes, which remained unmarked by the blood of a sacrificial lamb, belonged to the kingdom of the world in which satan was god. 
     We know the rest of this story... the Israelites were spared, while the first born in every Egyptian home died that night, causing Pharaoh to issue a decree that the Israelites be released and allowed to leave.  For the Jewish people, the focus of the Passover observance is remembering YHWH's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. "Remember" -- that is the key word for this celebration.
     For us Christians, who are Abraham's seed of the New Covenant, the Feast of Passover is a call to remember the Redemption we have received through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.  He is our Passover who takes away the sin of the world.  We are redeemed with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. Just as the first Passover proved to be the Power of God to release the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, Jesus is the Power of God to release us from the penalty of our sin into Repentance, His love, Life, Freedom, Liberty, AND into the Kingdom of God as Kingdom citizens. Jesus IS the manifestation of the Passover Lamb, and He was crucified on the Feast of Passover. 
     The second feast of the Passover Festival is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasts seven days.  Historically, it is a call to remember the quick exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites were instructed to make bread without leaven (yeast) because they didn't have time to wait for it to rise. In addition, yeast, or leaven, in the Bible always referred to any corrupting influence in the nation of Israel.  In this instance, God was telling them to leave behind the unholy influences of Egypt -- the worship of false Egyptian gods, and the rituals and traditions that had corrupted Israel's relationship with their God during their 430 years of captivity. They were to spend that week in worship and reflection for what God had done for them, and for their relationship with Him that they were privileged to experience. They were to remove any leaven [or sin] that was corrupting their present  relationship; it was to be a time of absolute separation from leaven in any form.
     For today's Christian, this time is a Call to Purity, to an "Unleavened" life.  Jesus knew no sin, nor was any deceit found in Him.  He was unblemished and spotless.  He was made sin for us so that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him.  For us, it is a time to call to mind what God has done in each of our lives.  We should each have a personal testimony of God's salvation and our relationship to Him.  As we reflect on how He has delivered us from sin, we can ask His help in removing any leaven from our life that is separating us from Him.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a time of renewal and revival in our daily lives. And I will tell you that, for me, it is becoming a time for the renewal of my mind to see God's Kingdom come into its full influence on the earth. He is delivering me from wrong religious thinking and into a new mindset of my purpose as an ambassador of my King and His Kingdom. It is not a denial of Jesus's work on the Cross, but a greater realization of His whole purpose -- reconnecting us back to our original relationship with God!
     The third feast of this Holy Festival is the Feast of Firstfruits.  This feast occurs during the week of Unleavened Bread on the Sabbath after Passover.  In the Old Covenant, it acknowledged the Lord as the giver of the harvest, and commemorated Adam's son, Abel, bringing the first of his flock as an offering to the Lord. This Feast speaks volumes of Christ as the first of God's Harvest of souls and is a shadow of what Christ has done and the promises He has yet to do. 
     The Feast of Firstfruits points to Christ and His redemptive work. First of all, Jesus's resurrection occurred on the very day of the celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits.  He is the offering presented to the Heavenly Father as the first fruit of the harvest.  But just as important, He is the guarantee that more resurrections will follow.  In His first fruits offering, we see the blessing and the setting apart [or sanctifying] of the entire harvest to the Father, and a preview of what the resurrection will be like for every Believer.  Because He overcame death and lives today, every born-again follower of Christ is connected to Him and His power.
     Furthermore, that connection is real! God sent His Son to establish a Kingdom [and a family of sons] to rule His Kingdom for Him! Jesus didn't die and return to Heaven so that we would wait to join Him there. He came to restore to us our leadership authority that God gave us in Genesis 1 [dominion over the earth]. There is a fullness and expectancy of the Kingdom of God coming to earth that accompanies the celebration of the Festival of Passover.  It is Biblical and it is holy.  It is a remembrance of things God has already accomplished for us and a hope of what we can accomplish for the Kingdom. 
     Ultimately, this season of Passover is a celebration and a remembrance; an acknowledgment of God's desire to restore us to our original design and the earth to His original purpose. Yes, Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb, but He is our King, who came to establish His Father's rulership and authority over the earth He created. In the Passover celebration God shows us His plan for the redemption of mankind. But we can't stop there. We weren't redeemed to continue to let the kingdom of satan influence the earth. Fifty days after the feasts of Passover, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us to help us walk out our authority as ambassadors of the Kingdom. Jesus's assignment is now our assignment!
     So this Passover season, be thankful for your victory in Yeshua -- for the cancellation of your sins, and for your hope of resurrection. Then seek the Kingdom and a renewal of your mind as to your position as an Ambassador for the King of the Universe! Reconnect to that original relationship and authority and power you were made for. Yes, we have a rich heritage in the Feasts of the Lord, but our portion of the Lord goes back further than the Exodus story. It goes all the way back to Genesis 1 when God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over all the earth. I thank my God for renewing my mind to that truth. And in the spirit of praise and worship of my King and His Kingdom, I say "Pesach Same'ach (Happy Passover)!



     
 

April 19, 2019

Are God's Love and Holiness Compatible?

    
     I ask this question because it has been on my heart as I discern the influence of the Enemy trying to divide the Body of Christ on this issue. I am beginning to see two distinct camps of Christians, and perhaps we need to dig deep and know, not only what Scripture says about Love and Holiness, but know what we believe about these characteristics of God.
     I want to begin by saying that this is my opinion as I see it at this moment in my sanctification process. I am still growing in all that God is revealing, and I know that I do not have the definitive answer to all the questions that will surely arise from this blog post. Nor do I profess to be the ultimate authority. I simply wish to present some thoughts that I hope make each of you seek the Father's heart on the matter. And, if you find yourself in one camp or the other, perhaps this discussion will lead to more understanding among our fellow Christians.
     I think it goes without saying that we all know how important love is to God. In the 21st Century Church, love is highly prized. I bet most Christians can recite the most popular Scriptures on love ... For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life ... God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him ... Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love ... We love because He first loved us ... You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I could go on and on. The Bible has much to say on God's love and how important it is to Him.
     But the Word also has a lot to say on God's Holiness: There is none holy like the Lord ... Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! ... Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord ... But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” ... Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy ... You yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
     So, are God's Love and His Holiness mutually exclusive? Is one more important than the other? If they are both characteristics of His nature, how do they intersect? Again, I ask these questions because I fear that we Christians can become out of balance if we lean too far to either side. By that, I mean that if we love others, yet ignore God's call to holiness, it can lead to a compromised culture where immorality, perversion, and rebellion to God's moral laws are tolerated. We see this in the number of fatherless children, confusion over sexual identity, the willingness to ignore unrighteousness for the sake of extending mercy to another, and corruption at all levels of society. On the other hand, if we, as Christians, attempt holiness without love and mercy, we can become legalistic and religious -- intolerant of meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those who need to know Jesus the most. It is incumbent upon us, if we are going to represent Christ [growing into His image] that we embrace both Love and Holiness in their proper proportion. But what does that look like?  I'd like to present some thoughts for your consideration.
     First let's consider what God's "Love" is. Love is part of God's essential nature as expressed in Psalm 86:15: But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Love is the attitude of God expressed not only toward His Son, and to believers in Jesus, but towards the race of human beings He created. Jesus expresses this concept in John 17:26, "I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved me may be in them, and I in them." And it is God's will that His children's attitude towards each other be one of Love.  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." Furthermore, as Christians, God is the primary object of our love and it is to be expressed in total obedience to His commandments. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
     So, now let's consider God's "Holiness".  This concept of Holiness is a little harder to describe because there is so much depth to it. And, I believe that "holiness" has a bad reputation; even becoming culturally irrelevant in this Age of Grace. So, let's agree that God is Holy in the sense that He is morally and spiritually separated from sin, therefore being the only absolute "Holy One", as expressed in His purity, His majesty, and His glory. To take it a step further, the glory of God is the goodness, the fullness, the splendor, and the awareness of His presence manifested in us. So, when Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:15, But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, there is an implication that we are to cleanse ourselves from all defilement, living a holy manner of life, and experiencing fellowship with God in His Holiness. 
     But we also can't ignore our citizenship in the Kingdom of God during this discussion. Loving God, which should be our top priority, means keeping His commandments. Yes, He tells us to love others as we love ourselves, but first we are to love the Father with everything we have! And that means obeying His commands to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the spiritually unclean, raise the dead, and spread the Gospel that Jesus came to preach -- the Gospel of the Kingdom. And we are to do all this with love in our heart. In fact, I don't believe you could do these commands without love. It is the love of the Father in us that moves us to act, but it is His Holiness in us that gives us the power and authority to overcome and defeat every enemy of God. 
     I believe Jesus draws us to Himself through His love, mercy, and kindness towards us. He wants us to display that same love to others. But He doesn't leave us there. He begins a work in us to transform us into His image, which is holy. His love in us provides a way for us to approach the throne of God, but it is His holiness that gives us access to God's glory -- His presence in us that will propel us to rule and reign with Him in the Kingdom. 
     If Holiness is the likeness of God, and we are called to holiness, then we are called to live a life that is set apart from this world; to live in accord with our King and His Kingdom. That means not compromising the standards of God -- any of them! Yet, a new study by the Barna Group reports that half of American pastors worry about preaching on hot-button social issues—like abortion and LGBTQ issues—worried they might offend someone.  These pastors revealed that they felt pressured from both inside the church and the culture of our society to simply "love others as you love yourself". But that does not take into account the whole counsel of God!
     We live in the Kingdom realm of our King Jesus, whether all Christians recognize that or not. As Kingdom citizens we have to decide if we are going to obey God or please people. It can be a tough line to walk. As Bible-believing followers of Christ we are to love everyone, even our enemies. Yet, we are always to walk in obedience to the Word, and sometimes love does not always appear in a warm, fuzzy manner. Sometimes love is speaking the truth without fear. And as strange as it may seem, a holy love can divide.  Because when we stop speaking and teaching God's truth because we're afraid it will offend, then we are pleasing man instead of God. We need to embrace that Grace and Truth, Love and Holiness are all sides of God's Nature. We must be careful to have a Biblical concept of God, and not one based on our own mind, will, and emotions.
     We can neither elevate Love at the expense of Holiness, nor deny that His love is present in His Holiness. Author Bert Farias explains it much better than I do: "Just as water flows through a pipe, the love of God flows through His holiness. Moreover, it is God's love that keeps Him from overlooking His holiness. After all, it was His holiness which made the atonement necessary. His holiness demanded the cost of God's own Son, for He cannot excuse, acquit or clear the guilty (Ex 34:7). And what His holiness demanded, His love provided on the cross of Calvary."
     While I am still working out the codependency between Love and Holiness, I have come to this conclusion ... They are not in opposition to each other. Love is not separated from Holiness; a better way to say this might be that Love is curbed or reined in by Holiness. Love that is not defined by God's Holiness will lead to compromise and a perversion of God's Word along with a loss of the Power and Presence that God's Holiness manifests. And Holiness that fails to be motivated by Love does not represent a true image of the Father. If the Body of Christ is going to be involved with establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, then we must walk in both Love and Holiness; finding a balance as we seek to both walk in [and demonstrate] the Light of the Lord.

Psalm 5:7    But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house. I will bow down toward Your holy temple in the fear of You.

    
    
      
     

April 16, 2019

Welcoming the Wilderness

     I've spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of God; learning how to operate in the Kingdom as we grow in understanding our Kingdom assignments. But today I want to give you a personal testimony of how Jesus can throw you a curve ball, especially when you think you have it all figured out.
     For the last month or so, He has been pushing me to stop and focus on how I was accomplishing my assignment. I know that my assignment [along with my husband, Mark] is to continue His work in setting "the captives free" [from spiritual bondage] through our Inner Healing Ministry. I also know that He has revealed to my husband that we will begin to teach small groups of Christians who want to know more about Kingdom Living. That assignment has already begun and I can see that "Kingdom" is at the heart of what He has called me/us to.
     But my spirit began to be troubled because I could also see that other ministries were pulling on my heart and, while I am in full support of their calling and purpose, it wasn't given to me as my assignment, and I wasn't fully vested in where Jesus wanted to take me. He had more for me to do within my "lane" and I wasn't hearing Him! So, I struggled with saying "No" to this other ministry [for a season, at least], and waited to hear from the Lord about what is next in His agenda for me.
     Almost immediately, He showed me new opportunities within my "Kingdom lane" -- an invitation for Mark and I to come speak to a new group on Kingdom; the possibility of a women's retreat on Kingdom Living and Freedom; as well as encouragement to write a book on the Kingdom of God and Kingdom Living -- all within the span of several hours! This last assignment had actually been given to me as a word of knowledge two years ago, and I had not acted on it, even though it was constantly on my mind. Then in the same afternoon that these other two opportunities surfaced, I was speaking to a woman I consider my mentor about being spiritually attacked after hammering home the Kingdom on my blog, and she said, "So, are you are going to write a book on the Kingdom?" Confirmation of the word spoken over me two years prior! There it all was! Jesus was making it pretty clear that I was to be concentrating on my Kingdom assignment; it was to be front and center!
     So, what do I do? I get all excited and my spirit is fired up! In about 45 minutes I write an outline of what a women's retreat would like -- talk about a fast download! I'm looking at our schedule to plan our talk to the group near Houston, and I'm figuring out how I can rearrange my daily schedule to commit a dedicated amount of hours to begin writing the book.
     And guess what Jesus does? In a small group that meets to discuss our Inner Healing Ministries, Theresa (one of the women I've come to cherish for her heart and her spirit), looks right at me and says, "WILDERNESS"! At first, I didn't realize that the word was meant for me... I thought she was just speaking it into the group. She said, "No, Jesus is telling me you need to hear "Wilderness". Ok, so now I'm a little confused, because I'm thinking "I think I just came out of a wandering season and I'm back on track, focused on my assignment and excited about the future opportunities Jesus is showing me". So, I'm a little deflated in my excitement about what Jesus has in store for me. After all, the word wilderness doesn't exactly have a positive connotation in the Bible.
     You see, at first I'm equating wilderness with the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years and I said, "I don't understand why He would point me to wilderness". Her response was, "He says to just trust the process". So, now I know I need to go home that night and have a talk with Jesus to discover what He means, and why "Wilderness" is something I need to meditate on and pray about. At that moment, it certainly didn't sound like an encouraging word.
     But this morning, it is a different story! Last night I prayed for Him to reveal the fullness of what "trusting the process in the Wilderness" meant for me. Today, He began to reveal it layer by layer. First, the "Wilderness" wasn't connected to the Israelites' wanderings. Instead, He pointed me to His own time in the wilderness after His baptism in the Spirit. Matthew, Chapter 4, gives us an account of that experience ... Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.  The passage goes on to focus on the ways that the devil tests Jesus to get him to sin, and the way in which the Lord defeats the Enemy's tactics with the Word of God.
     However, I believe our English translations put the wrong emphasis on what happened there in the wilderness. I prefer the Aramaic translation which reads, Afterward, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the lonely wilderness in order to reveal His strength against the accuser by going through the ordeal of testing. And after fasting for forty days, Jesus was extremely weak and famished.... As I began to ask Jesus questions about His Word of "wilderness" to me, He began to show me that although it was important to recognize that Scripture is an effective weapon against the attacks of the devil, He wanted me to focus on His fasting experience in the wilderness. The primary purpose of Him fasting was to draw near to the Father for the strength and knowledge and power He would need to begin His ministry; for the signs and wonders that were to come, and for the authority of the Gospel of the Kingdom! 
     Yes, Jesus has a new exciting season ahead for me [and for Mark]. And I believe He will take us to new levels of power and authority. But first, I must spend my time in the wilderness with the Father -- fasting and praying; receiving new revelations about my assignment(s); being prepared for the testing that will inevitably come in this new season. Like Jesus, I need to trust this process in the wilderness. I need to spend time fasting as a spiritual investment to draw upon in those times that I will need God's help. Jesus, Himself, taught His disciples that some of their Kingdom assignments could not be completed without the power that came from prayer and fasting.
     Fasting will also help me strengthen my intimacy with the Father as He reveals His power and strength in my assignment and in my battles against the Enemy. And most importantly, I believe that spending time in the wilderness with my Heavenly Father will help me to pray and hear from Him as Jesus did. And I hope it will reveal any hidden sins that the devil could use to hinder my assignment. I want to leave the wilderness with a heart like Jesus. I want to be able to leave the wilderness empowered with the complete knowledge of my mission and empowered to walk it out, just as Jesus did His!
     So, while my initial response to the word of knowledge Theresa received was luke-warm, the Holy Spirit and Jesus have now shown me the truth of that word. WILDERNESS is not to be denounced, but rather, it is to be welcomed! I gladly enter into the wilderness my God has prepared for me, because I know I will meet Him there. I will be humbled there. I will receive spiritual knowledge and authority there. And I will be empowered to walk in new levels of Kingdom and to share the glorious news with those who are seeking the Kingdom first. My wilderness will glorify my God!

Isaiah 43:19    Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 
     
    

April 13, 2019

What I've Learned About My Kingdom Assignment

    

     If you are following Jesus's command to "Seek the Kingdom first", and you are committed to Kingdom living, then sooner or later, you can expect to hear from the Lord and be given a Kingdom "assignment". That word assignment has lots of connotations ... task, appointment, mission, an anointing. And it can take on grandiose implications, or it can hint at a more modest significance. In other words, our assignments might range from a lifetime as an apostle equipping thousands of saints, to being called to pray one afternoon for a single person. In other words, assignments come in all sizes.
     But I will also tell you this ... that in order to receive your assignment, I believe you must renew your mind to understand that the Kingdom of God is exclusive. By that, I mean nothing can come before the Kingdom of God in your life. It must be your priority over everything this world can give you. And that includes your family, the religious Church, and the marketplace. And here's a truth that is hard for many Christians to accept: The Kingdom will cost you something! Salvation is free; it doesn't cost us a thing. The price was paid by Jesus on the Cross. But walking in the Kingdom is costly. You will have to cut the cord to this world to inherit the Kingdom!
     In fact, Jesus was pretty clear about that when people [who came to hear Him preach on the Kingdom] proclaimed they were ready to follow Him. In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus doesn't hold back when telling them what it will cost them: As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  To another He said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 
     Jesus makes it clear that Kingdom living will cost you the comforts of this life [including everything from a place to sleep, to a home, itself]. He makes it clear that the Kingdom of God must come before your family -- you must be willing to have an exclusive relationship with Jesus and God the Father, which means being willing to cut all ties to other relationships; including all family members, both the living and the dead.  And He shows us that if any part of us longs for that "old life" with its human/family attachments, we are not prepared to serve the Kingdom and will not be given Kingdom assignments. Just as for the men in the Bible, I believe that cost is too high for many Christians.
     I've learned that Kingdom Living has nothing to do with my personal priorities -- and everything to do with God's Kingdom taking precedence in my life. Once I was able to recognize that the Kingdom of God [and all it encompasses] was to be my primary objective in serving the Lord, my assignments have become clear.
     It began with a dream [or vision] that Mark had from God, telling him to sanctify ourselves and our property to His purpose. He was given very specific instructions as to what that sanctification process was to look like, and although we did not yet know to what "purpose" we were being called, the Lord led us to specific people (Dr. Charles Kraft and Barbara Bucklin) who spoke into us and activated our assignment to participate with Jesus and Holy Spirit in an Inner Healing Ministry, and then to teach others as we also preached the Gospel of the Kingdom.
      Because I can now see my assignments so clearly, I am careful to guard them. Because you see, the Enemy would like nothing better than to distract me from my Kingdom mission. And I will tell you that as Mark and I have continued to pursue Kingdom, the spiritual warfare has escalated. The devil does not want us to educate and equip others to seek the Kingdom first!
     Since receiving our assignment as Kingdom ambassadors and Inner Healing Ministers, Mark and I have noticed an increase in spiritual attacks. And when I decide to hammer home the Kingdom message in successive posts, the Enemy lets me know he notices it. Therefore, it is important that Mark and I recognize it is inevitable that our Kingdom assignment will come into conflict with the worldview and ideologies that control the political, economic and social systems of this world. The purpose of a Kingdom worldview is to focus people's hearts and minds on a system from God's perspective. Therefore, everything of this world will be challenged, and since satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), he's never happy when we point people [especially Christians] away from religion and towards Kingdom. He knows we can actually change the culture, not only of the Church, but of all mankind in general! So I've learned that it is important to be effective in my prayer life; to have powerful intercessors praying for us; and to recognize that spiritual warfare is now at a higher level.
     All that being said, I also know that my Kingdom message must be centered on Jesus; my ministry and assignment must reflect His love and the principles He taught in His ministry. If we seek first His Kingdom, and focus on Jesus being the center of our lives and ministries, then He will lead us to do the things [in our assignments] that will glorify God and bless the lives of those we come in contact with.
     I have also learned that my Kingdom assignment not only effects me, but my husband, so I am extremely blessed that we are on the same page. In fact, I am seeing God bringing couples into covenant partnerships as they receive their "team" assignments. And as you come into a mutual alignment with the Father, I have learned that it is important to stay "mission-focused". It can be easy for one or the other of you to get pulled into other obligations to serve the Lord [out of a desire to be obedient] by serving the needs of others. But it is important to be able to discern if every new opportunity aligns with your original assignment. If not, as hard as it may be, there will be times you just need to say "No". Time taken away from your primary assignment can result in a failure to fulfill or carry out God's plans. And that will lead to a dissatisfied spirit and frustration.
     I think one of the most important things I have learned is how vital it is to have people in my life who understand and partner with Mark and I in our Kingdom assignment. I believe it is important to be connected to a body of believers that walks in a Biblical model of discipleship. If you are blessed to belong to a Church that actively equips and releases the saints for the work of the Kingdom ministry, then count yourself fortunate, and take advantage of that connection. Sadly, I do not believe many Churches can meet that criteria. Therefore, it has been important for Mark and I to be connected to small Home Church groups who share in this ministry assignment and are willing to run the Kingdom marathon with us.
     Finally, one of the most important things I've learned about accepting my Kingdom assignment is the need to find a balance between my work for the Kingdom and a time of rest and restoration. It is important to do things that strengthen me spiritually, such as prayer time, Bible study, community with like-minded Believers. But I also need to have some "me time" to do the things that feed my soul (reading, writing, music). It is essential that Mark and I spend time together apart from our ministry to get revived and just enjoy the simple things Jesus has created. It is equally important that we have down time with friends who understand our hearts as well as make us laugh. We are there to support each other in our Kingdom assignments and adventures. Jesus called His disciples His friends, so even though the Bible doesn't focus on it, I believe there were times they laughed and sang and enjoyed life as they traveled the countryside preaching the Good News of the Kingdom. We must do the same. Remember, relationship is the key to God's heart.
     In summary, my journey in my Kingdom assignment is relatively new, and the Lord is unfolding new layers and revelation each day. I know that my citizenship in the Kingdom is more important than my citizenship in the world. I know my assignment and I am dedicated to fulfilling it. I know that accepting my Kingdom assignment will paint a target on my back -- and satan, the world system, and even the religious will be aiming for me. But I know who I am in the Kingdom, and I know the purpose of my assignment, and I will not waver. It is a privilege to be called to serve the Kingdom of my Lord, and He will be my strength and my refuge. I will be victorious in my assignment!

1 John 2:27    But the wonderful anointing you have received from God is so much greater than their deception and now lives in you. There’s no need for anyone to keep teaching you [the false doctrines of men]. His anointing teaches you all that you need to know, for it will lead you into truth, not a counterfeit. So just as the anointing has taught you, remain in Him.  

April 10, 2019

Today's Ancient Sign of Rebellion

     As happens more and more today, my husband strikes up a conversation with an individual about a tattoo.  In fact, Mark has garnered a reputation for noticing anyone with interesting tattoos, and asking them what their ink means and why they picked that particular symbol to put on their body.  It actually became a joke between me and my nephew, who has tattoos himself (depicting Bible verses and various associations to his faith; and one for his mom, of course!) -- whenever we were all together and ran into a waitress or waiter, or someone out in public, we would look at each other, waiting expectantly for that question ... "So, what does your tattoo mean"?
Satanic Pentagram with Baphomet  
     But this particular day, Mark didn't need to ask the couple behind us in the checkout line.  The man had a huge encircled pentagram on his bicep, among other occultic symbols, and the woman had creepy bats flying up the length of her arm.  We didn't need to wonder what kind of statement they were trying to make; it was obvious.
     Now, I know that tattoos are the rage today among anyone below the age of 35, and you may think they are just a fad, or this generation's nod to distinguishing themselves from their parents -- kind of like long hair, miniskirts, tie-dye T-shirts, and love beads were to my generation.  But I think it goes beyond that... for the most part, tattoos are permanent statements that people are willing to make for the rest of their lives.  And I would venture that most of them are designed as a method of rebelling against authority and control in their lives; or at least of going against conventional society.  (The problem is, so many are doing it today, that in an effort to distinguish themselves from others, they are beginning to all look alike).
     But, perhaps at the heart of this trend, it's a way of saying, "I don't feel like I can control a lot in my life at the moment, but I can control how I feel; and express who or what I am willing to give authority to by the indelible design I put on my body.  It's a way I can make a statement of who I am and how I want the world to see me".
     I am not making a statement that all tattoos are done out of a sense of insubordination, disobedience, or defiance.  In fact, we have heard heartwarming stories, such as when a waitress shared the reason behind a small tattoo on her wrist -- it was a personal reminder of her grandmother who had taught her about Jesus.  Or the young man who had the date of his twin brother's death in a car crash tattooed on his forearm. We often hear stories that honor our humanity and the love that can exist between people.
     I found it quite interesting when I ran across the Top Ten reasons people get tattooed in Inked Magazine:  In memory of someone; some really love the pain; it's addictive; to express creativity; to feel whole; to overcome or represent obstacles they've faced in their lives; they simply love the art; to spread a specific message; it's trendy; to be spontaneous.  Some of these reasons seem innocuous; others are a little more disturbing.
     But sadly, there are an abundance of kids who carry permanent symbols of pagan gods, anti-christ icons, and undisguised associations with the devil.  The man with the huge pentagram knew exactly what he was doing when he had that mark put on his body.  In fact, some of the kids my husband has approached with his innocent question have boldly told him, "It means I am a satanist".  The pride with which that statement was made both saddened and alarmed us.
     So, as with anything, when pride and rebellion are combined, we see the influence of the original Rebellious One, himself ... Lucifer.  And, in case you haven't noticed, the symbol of the encircled pentagram is becoming a popular emblem; appearing in movies, TV, tattoos, jewelry, music videos,  horror films, thrillers, and crime dramas ... all reinforcing the symbol’s association with neo-paganism, black magic, and occultism.
     Of course, those who see nothing wrong with this ancient symbol will tell you that each of the five points on the star just represent an element: earth, air, fire, and water; with the upward point of the star representative of the spirit.  They will tell you, "All these things contribute to life and are a part of each of us".  That may be a modern interpretation, but it is always important to know the origins of words, signs, and symbols to see how the Prince of this world may be distorting or counterfeiting them.  So, let's step back into history...
     As explained on GotQuestions.org, a Christian website, the pentagram has been used as a religious symbol throughout the world from the beginning of recorded history. The most basic pentagram is simply a five-point star drawn with one continuous line broken into five line segments and with one point of the star facing up. The pentagram was used in ancient Chinese and Japanese religions to symbolize the five elements of life. In Japanese culture the symbol was also considered magical. Ancient Babylonian culture was also using the pentagram to represent various gods and religious beliefs of their own.
     But would it surprise you to know that the pentagram was also a part of early Christian symbology?  The basic pentagram (without a circle) was originally used to represent the five wounds of Jesus Christ. It was soon supplanted by the symbol of the cross, but the pentagram was still recognizable as a Christian symbol for a few hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection. Some say that the continuous line was also considered symbolic of the Alpha and Omega. Plus, it is important to note that, during the European Age of Enlightenment, the ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras’ interest in the pentagram was re-discovered. Pythagoras’ study went beyond mathematics, though, as he assigned the five ancient elements to the five points of the star: earth, water, air, and fire on the four lower points; and spirit on the topmost point. Depending on the mythology, this arrangement usually indicated the correct ordering of the world, with material things subject to spirit. The popularity of this ancient symbol has continued down through the centuries with the Freemasons (who glorify Baphomet) and the Eastern Star Organization also using this Pythagorean pentagram, often adding their own symbols as well.  And now, in this modern era, it's relevancy ranges from being a fashion statement to a symbol of rebellion against the authority of Jesus ... and everything in-between.
     There is another angle that I want to explore, too.  It is my opinion that Lucifer, being perfect in his beauty and ways "since the day he was created" (Ezekiel 28:15), and being puffed up with pride at his station and importance in the Kingdom of Heaven, simply could not stand being Number Two to God/Jesus.  His wisdom became corrupted by his free will, and out of selfish ambition and pride, he decided to rebel and issued his five "I will's", which I think are represented by the five-pointed star of the pentagram:  ""I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:12-14).
     The fact that the pentagram has been incorporated into the symbolism of modern "religions" such as Wicca, Witchcraft, and The Church of Satan are evidence (in my opinion) that Lucifer, as Prince and controller of this world, is making sure that his ancient declarations remain in play, whether the followers of these religions realize they are mimicking his rebellion against God, or not.  These religions will tell you that they make a distinction between whether the pentagram is inverted or upright -- distinguishing between good and evil intent -- but make no mistake; this symbol represents the god of this world and his fingerprints are all over the pentagram, no matter which way it is pointed.
     So, when someone sports a circled pentagram tattoo and tells you that it is a passive form "implying spiritual containment of the magic circle, in keeping with the traditional secrecy of witchcraft, and the personal, individual nature of the pagan religious path, and of its non-proselytizing character" ... you can bet that satan is using it to send a subliminal and spiritual message to everyone who wears it or looks upon it ... I still believe that I will be like the most High!
The Wiccan Pentagram 
     Although, as a Christian, you may think that this symbol will never become acceptable to believers of Jesus Christ, but I found numerous websites -- even the Christian GotQuestions.org -- who say there is nothing to fear.  They say, "Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a star, and the pentagram itself contains no inherent power. It has been used in many ways by many different cultures, including Christianity. It should not be feared in and of itself, although we should be aware of what other people are communicating through it."
     I would like to dispute that claim!  It does contain power!  The power of demonic suggestions and lies; coming down through centuries of use by those in rebellion to the One True God.  And we are seeing that today ... Wicca is America's fastest growing religion, and it is anticipated by some Christian religious experts that it will become the third largest religion in the United State in this century, behind only Christianity and Islam.  And the pentagram (or pentacle) plays a major role in the symbolism of this pagan religion.
     Finally, the deception of satan is clearly understood in the following statement from the paganspath.com website:  "As society becomes more informed and misconceptions become corrected, all pagans hope these old stereotypes will fall by the wayside and acceptance will be granted to everyone regardless of their beliefs."  That just sounds like the Church will be pressured to compromise, and to accept the concept of "universalism" (acceptance and unity among all the world's religions). We are already well on the way to this compromise!
     I guess I just don't get it ... no one wants to give any credence to the ancient meanings and significance of religious symbols and traditions.  It's all about "what it means to me today" -- yet all these new religions are willing to accept and assign spiritual power to their "new" philosophies, without recognizing that the same ancient spiritual associations are bound to those symbols and are now being perpetuated in their rituals.  
     So don't be surprised when you see someone wearing a pentagram necklace or a small tattoo on their wrist, and they have no idea that they are communicating and representing the ongoing rebellion of the enemy of God.  This is why it is so important for us to stay informed and cognizant of the devil's schemes and strategies ... to stay on guard against his deceptive messages.  It is not OK to overlook the Luciferian connotations of the pentagram; and it is not OK for Christians to dismiss the implications of satan's power, or to be ignorant of his devices and schemes.  As the Word of God says, "we are to give no opportunity to the devil". And it has never more important to recognize that God's people "perish for the lack of knowledge".  Our next generations are being tempted by our complacency and indifference.... let us not fail them!


John 8:44   "You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths."

April 8, 2019

We've Been Given The Keys of the Kingdom of God -- What Now?

    In the last couple of posts I have zeroed in on expanding our understanding of the Kingdom of God. This may be a new concept for some, and for others, you might be aware that Jesus commanded us to "seek the Kingdom first", but are not quite sure what that looks like.
     I can remember when I concentrated on studying the Book of Matthew, which I found full of the revelation that Jesus is King of a heavenly kingdom realm that was being established on earth with His birth. With that divine disclosure to the human world, it makes "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" a much more powerful statement.
     I cannot go forward without addressing the difference of opinion as to whether the Kingdom of God on earth is a future event [at the return of Christ] or whether it is present today. I can only share what my spirit is telling me, and each of you have to study the Word and come to your own theological understanding.
     If I had to give you a concise statement as to my belief, it would be this .... Both John the Baptist and Jesus warned those who would hear them to "Repent!" .... John, saying "for the Kingdom of God is near", and Jesus telling them, "for the Kingdom of God is at hand". It is my belief that both John and Jesus were announcing that God's representative from Heaven (Jesus) had come to plant Heaven's flag, so to speak, in the earth, staking territory for the Kingdom of God; in effect, inaugurating [or beginning] the heavenly Kingdom system of government on the earth. So, in that sense, the Kingdom is present now, or "in your midst" (Luke 17:21), but is not yet complete. The Kingdom is here in a partial sense as we Christians continue to take territory from the devil and take back dominion of the earth until the Day of the Lord, when Jesus will return, bringing His Justice and destroying the evil and corruption in the world, while establishing the good and perfect Kingdom realm on earth that God had planned from the beginning.
     And one of the reasons that I love the Book of Matthew so much is that it focuses on Jesus's teachings about how people are to behave as citizens of that Kingdom realm on earth, with Jesus as their loving King. Which takes me to the born again experience that Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about in John, Chapter 3. Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." To me, this says that we come into the Kingdom as a citizen through being born again -- [reborn from above by the Holy Spirit—spiritually transformed, renewed, and sanctified]. 
     When we are born again into the Kingdom, with Jesus as our King, we use a key to enter into that Kingdom. Jesus is the door and that key. Romans 10:9-10 tells us, "For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation." To sum it up, when you are born again and confess your faith in Jesus, you are saved and become a citizen of the Kingdom. And with that citizenship come keys.
     We see this confession/citizenship/keys relationship in Matthew 16:13-20. Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (Anointed One from God), is given keys of the kingdom of heaven, and now has the authority "to forbid [bind, stop] on earth that which is forbidden in heaven, and to release [loose, permit] on earth that which is released in heaven." Those rights are only conveyed to one who is a citizen of the Kingdom of God/Heaven! And that is the purpose of the keys of the Kingdom -- to transform this earth, as it is in heaven! 
     I also want to point out that it is my belief that there is a false narrative that this passage is establishing Peter as the head of the Church; which is a corruption of Scripture promulgated by Constantine. I believe, truth be told, that the keys to the Kingdom are principles given to all who are born again into the Kingdom as citizens; principles to rule and reign until the return of our King. These keys represent our authority and provide access to the Kingdom of Heaven. And that access is initiated through Scripture. It's not enough to just know Scripture ... we must DO Scripture! You see, God is moved by His Word, not our tears. Hebrews 6:17 says, "in His desire to show to the heirs of the Promise the unchangeable nature of His purpose, [God] intervened and guaranteed it with an oath" -- in other words, He says He is bound by His Word. So when we DO His Word, He will move in our lives and in this world; we will see results.
     But here's something to think about .... to have a key to the Kingdom and never use it, is no different than never having a key at all. If you don't know the principles or purpose of the keys to the Kingdom then you will likely have no effect [fruit] for the Kingdom.  And something else we need to understand is that the keys are also unique and specific. You can't take one Kingdom key (principle) and think it's going to necessarily work in another place. For instance, I can't Praise a demon and expect to throw him out. And I think Jesus exemplifies this when He tells the disciples, "But this kind of demon does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Here, we have two more principles of the Kingdom.
     We must realize that there is no Master Key of the Kingdom, and it is inherent upon us to know what the keys are; to understand and employ them to their fullest effect. If not, "my people perish for lack of knowledge", comes to mind. We also need to remember what our Lord tells us in Luke 12:32: "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom". We are to remember that we are citizens of the Kingdom; "sons of Light", and we are to be operating in the Kingdom system, not the system of the world. 
     So, here's a truth we need to be aware of ... If we are born again and Saved, we are citizens of the Kingdom. But which system are we operating in? We can be considered citizens of the Kingdom, but still be operating in the world system. I believe we are all guilty of that at one time or another in our lives. For instance, if we get offended by someone [which is one of Satan's favorite schemes] do we withdraw and sulk, or do we work in the Kingdom government system and handle it with a Kingdom principle; for instance praying for those who curse you? We must recognize that the system of this world is not our system! Our system is Kingdom government!
     The bottom line is this: we must know that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Yes, we wait for the fulfillment [completion] of the Kingdom on earth. But we serve our Lord, who is King of that Kingdom, and He has entrusted us to continue His work in establishing the Kingdom He came to inaugurate. Just because He has not yet returned, it doesn't mean we are to remain idle until that glorious Day. When He returns, we will give an account of the fruit we have borne for the Kingdom. I can imagine Him embracing us as Saved Christians; welcoming us as citizens of the Kingdom of God. And then I can hear Him ask, "What did you do with the keys of the Kingdom that I gave you? Did you read my Word? If so, did you seek to understand and experience it? Did you DO My Word?" 
     It is my prayer that each of us know that the Kingdom in us is greater than the kingdom of this world. Let us use the keys He has given us in His Word to lock and secure our hearts in His Kingdom system. Let the reality of God's Kingdom be apparent in the present through the abundant and prosperous fruit we bear, in the Name of Jesus.

Luke 17:21      "The Kingdom is not discovered in one place or another, for God’s Kingdom realm is already expanding within some of you."

April 5, 2019

When the Idolatry of Religion Meets the Kingdom of God

     Continuing with the subject of the Kingdom of God, it is the desire of my heart that Christians seek it first, as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 6:33. But, in the Bible, we are also told to seek Him with our whole heart [in Psalm 119:2 and Jeremiah 29:13]. So, I hope to show you that our heart is not only important in establishing our faith and relationship with God and Jesus, but it is important in the matter of receiving the Kingdom of God.
     In the Old Testament, the hearts of the Israelites were often in conflict; their hearts being divided between idolatry and their allegiance to YHWH. [For the sake of this article, I will define idolatry as anything that we build an altar to in our heart, or that sits on the throne of our heart.] And through careful study, it has become clear to me that God will speak to us according to what sits on that throne.
     Just take a look at what God says to the idolatrous elders of Israel [through the prophet Ezekiel]: "these men have set up [and honored] their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the [vile] stumbling block of their wickedness and guilt; should I [permit Myself to] be consulted by them at all? Therefore speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Any man of the house of Israel who takes his idols [of rebellion] into his heart, and puts the [vile] stumbling block of his wickedness and guilt [images of silver and gold] before his face, and yet comes to the prophet [to ask of him], I the Lord will answer him, [but I will answer him] in accordance with the number of his idols in order that I may take hold of the heart (mind) of the house of Israel who are all estranged from Me because of their idols" (Ezekiel 14:3-5). 
     It is clear to me that God may not always speak His Truth to us, if our hearts aren't right with Him, but will speak according to what we are idolizing in our heart. Therefore, we have a responsibility to safeguard our hearts from any form of idolatry. Furthermore, God warns against receiving a false prophetic word in verses 9-11: "But if the prophet [who speaks without My authority] is enticed to speak a word [of his own], it is I the Lord who have caused that prophet [to speak falsely to please the inquirer, thus allowing himself to be a party to the inquirer’s sin], and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel.  They [both] will bear the punishment of their wickedness; the sin of the [counterfeit] prophet will be the same as the sin of the [hypocritical] inquirer,  so that the house of Israel may no longer drift away from Me and no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions, but they will be My people, and I will be their God,”’ says the Lord God.” [NOTE: I hope it is clear to you that it is always God's desire that people recognize their sin, and return to Him].
     Further evidence that God will speak according to what sits on the throne of our heart is found in 1 Kings 22. This is the account of King Ahab and the false prophets. Ahab's heart had turned from God to wickedness and he idolized all that his status as king had provided him. When he seeks an answer from his prophets as to whether he should go to battle against the Syrians, God gives permission to a lying spirit to speak to the prophets of Jezebel to deceive Ahab because God knows the king will receive their prophecy according to the idolatrous state of his heart. 
     Just as Ahab found out, because God has given free will to mankind, there are consequences to having an idolatrous heart! And those consequences don't apply just in the Old Testament. We New Testament Believers are just as susceptible to idolatry [in our hearts] and its consequences. If our hearts aren't right with God, the word we think we are receiving may not be right, either. It is imperative that our hearts be pure and that we submit to the righteous Word of God, and then we will hear and receive His truth! 
     In addition, it is vitally important that we guard our hearts against all idolatry, because Proverbs 4:23 tells us everything we do flows from it. And sometimes I think we Christians get careless about idolatry in our hearts. We tend to think it is the obvious things of the world, like wealth or power or material things that can become idols in our heart. We think as long as we are Saved, there is no one but Jesus that occupies the throne of our heart. 
     But Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, not just the Gospel of Salvation. He says that is why He was sent (Luke 4:43). And that Good News of the Kingdom of God didn't sit very well with the religious leaders of Israel, the very people He came to deliver. Why? Because Religion always responds according to the idolatry of the heart. Even today, in the 21st Century, try to speak to some Christians about the rule and reign of God's Kingdom government on earth, and what it looks like, and you will meet the same kind of opposition Jesus did. 
     Religion idolizes its own traditions, rituals, denominational teachings, movements, and self-righteousness. They can all influence our heart. Kingdom is what Jesus did... setting people free; impacting everything and everyone on earth with the power and authority and love of God until it becomes "as it is in heaven". Just because we know the grace of God in our salvation, it does not mean our hearts are pure and free of idolatry. It does not mean that we have received the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus stressed throughout His ministry, nor that He alone sits on the throne of our heart.
       The New Testament tells us in Ephesians 3:14-19, that through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, Christ can dwell in your heart. Furthermore, as the Word, Jesus is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our heart (Hebrews 4:12). Other translations say He "exposes and judges the very intentions and thoughts of our heart", or that He "interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts". In other words the hidden aspects of our hearts are known by Him and any idolatry is uncovered.
      We can see a picture of this concept in Jesus's exchange with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the council of religious rulers in Israel.  In John 2:23-3:5, Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. He has seen the signs of the Kingdom of God that Jesus has performed, but his religious heart is still skeptical. But notice what Scripture says just before Nicodemus speaks. ... Many people identified with Jesus because they had seen the miracles, but Jesus didn't trust them because He knew how fickle human hearts can be, and because He knew what was in each man's heart -- exactly what Hebrews 4:12 says.
     But also notice this ... when Nicodemus says to Jesus, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him", Scripture says, "Jesus answered him, 'I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.'" Wait a minute! Nicodemus didn't ask a question, yet Jesus answered him according to what was in his heart and what he needed!
     You see, Nicodemus is seeking truth but he is still steeped in religion as a member of the Sanhedrin, so he doesn't even know what to ask. The same holds true today -- Religion doesn't know the question nor the answer! But Jesus answers Nicodemus according to what Nicodemus needs -- the Kingdom Gospel! And the Kingdom will always answer the questions of your heart according to your need and not your idolatry
     Think about it -- Jesus never offered a Sinner's prayer to anyone -- that's Religion! He offered all who came to Him what they needed ... physical healing, spiritual healing through casting out of demons, and the hope of transformation and rebirth into a heavenly system; not a man-made system of religion. And it's important that we recognize that Jesus did not pray, heal, or cast out demons for everyone -- He knew who wanted Kingdom because He could discern the state of their heart and the presence of idolatry, if it was there. 
     Jesus's ministry of the Kingdom on earth began as a small mustard seed in the backwaters of the Roman Empire, but it was planned and designed [from Heaven] to expand across the earth. And whether a person's heart is free of the idolatry of wealth, status, power -- and yes, even religion -- and is ready to receive the Kingdom is exemplified in the Parable of the Sower ... "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart". 
     I can tell you that I have often seen this in my ministry. I have to be careful to discern who really wants Kingdom and who wants Religion, because the Kingdom message does not mix with any other belief system, nor will it compromise.  Those who try to divide the throne of their heart between Kingdom and Religion will find themselves indecisive, unstable in their thoughts, and wavering between different opinions and actions. To truly experience the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish, the Kingdom must occupy the throne of one's heart, along with one possessing a desire to align one's life with the government of God on earth -- a Kingdom where there is no sickness and no poverty; where one is ready to consider God's perspective in all we say and do; to "Kingdom-ize" everything!!!
     So, I did not write this post to condemn anyone or to question anyone's faith. My only objective was to point out that the Word of God shows us the dangers of idolatry in our heart, and how it can distort our own discernment. And as the parable of the Sower indicates ... if, as followers of Christ, we are not preaching "the word of the Kingdom", we are not providing good seed to be sown in the hearts of men. It's one thing to not understand it; it's another to never have heard it. May we all purge our hearts of idolatry of every kind and share what Jesus preached -- the Gospel of the Kingdom!

Luke 9:2    "And He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal."