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

May 23, 2018

In All Honesty ....

     Today I'm struggling. I feel God is bringing Mark and I to a crossroads in our Christian walk. As many of you know, He has been drumming into our hearts and spirits that His harvest is great and He has far too few laborers to bring all the harvest in before He judges the world. He has brought a deliverance/healing ministry to us and clearly shown us that His Kingdom is at hand and He desires us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom.  We have loved every minute of sharing our passion for what the Word and the Spirit have shown us, and the past couple of years have seen our paths cross many people -- both Christians and non-Christians. And that is where some of my struggle is coming from.
     Why is it easier to live the Kingdom lifestyle with non-believers than with the very people who read the same Bible I do? How can we Christians have so many different ideas of how we are to live Godly lives? I know a good many of the reasons and have most of the answers to those very questions -- denominational doctrines; fear of deception; spiritual immaturity in the Body of Christ; and lack of knowledge of God's full counsel, are just some of them.
     But why is that Christians don't like to be challenged to step out of their comfort zones? How is it that they can even think [or expect] that the Christian life is supposed to be comfortable? And you can substitute "peaceful" or "joyful" or "secure", or any other word that translates as pleasant. Why is it so hard to get them to hear what Jesus preached? I know that the majority of the New Testament is centered around the letters of Paul to the churches. And what Paul has to say is important. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13, which is more than any other writer in the Bible. His writings are to compliment and instruct a fuller picture of what the Gospels reveal about the Son of God. And it is obvious that Jesus appearing to Saul on the road to Damascus was to anoint him for a very important job for the Kingdom.
     Yes, Paul has taught us about how we are to treat each other with grace and love, not cause conflict or division in the Body, and to glorify our Lord and Savior. God inspired Paul to write how He desired followers of Jesus to conduct themselves in relation to each other, and to the world. Ephesians 3:8-9 tells us that Paul was empowered [by God's grace] to "boldly preach this wonderful message to non-Jewish people, sharing with them the unfading, inexhaustible riches of Christ, which are beyond comprehension". It was his passion to "enlighten every person to this divine mystery. It was hidden for ages past until now, and kept a secret in the heart of God, the Creator of all". Just what that "mystery" is, is still being debated among 21st century Christians. 
     Most believe it is that God planned for the Church to spread His Gospel message across the world. In other words, the emphasis today is that "the unfading, inexhaustible riches of Christ, which are beyond comprehension" are all centered on the Church and how it is to be conducted. I believe that is why the practice of Grace, Love, Worship, etc. in the Church have taken priority in our spiritual lives.
     I want to make it very clear that those are indeed central to how God wants His Kingdom to be enacted upon the earth. But why aren't we considering that the inexhaustible [abundant, everlasting, immeasurable] riches of Christ also include those things He commanded us to do as His followers and disciples? Jesus said in Luke 4:43 that He was sent to preach the hope of an eternal Kingdom breaking into this realm. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand". And this was God's plan from the beginning to reconcile His creation back to Him. It includes all that Jesus preached and all that Paul taught about how to administer it ... setting the captives free from sickness, disease, demons, death; the revelation of God's kingdom realm available to us NOW to change our hearts; which results in Grace and Love and Worship and Glorifying God in a unified Body called the Church.  It is ALL those things! But somehow, we only want to look at the last part of that equation, and definitely don't want anything to do with the first part.
     And I fully recognize that those characteristics of Grace, Love, Worship, and Peace in the Church are worthy aspects of our Christian experience. But are they to take precedence over what Jesus says are the two greatest commandments? He very specifically tells us to love the Lord our God with "every passion of our heart, with all the energy of our being, and with every thought that is within us [heart, soul, mind, and spirit]. And to love our neighbor as ourselves". And how does Jesus then say we show Him we love Him? By obeying His commandments! And that is emphasized again in His Great Commission to His 12 Disciples [and to all His disciples who would follow him in the centuries to come]: Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. 
     Here is what is at the heart of my struggle .... we can show grace and love, and experience worship and peace and joy while obeying His commands to go out and make disciples, baptize people, set them free, which is all part of Kingdom living. But if all we want to do is experience the grace and love and worship and peace and joy without doing what He commands us to do, then are we truly obeying Him? Are we living a full Kingdom life?
     I truly and fully understand that not everyone (whether Believer or non-Believer) desires to step out of their comfort zone to do ALL of what Jesus and Paul taught. But how do I continue to walk further on my path without leaving others behind, or offending them because I can no longer limit my experiential relationship with Christ? I know that I can glorify Him in a number of ways -- by the love I show others; by my testimony of what He has done in my life; by extending the Grace He has shown me to another who has stumbled; by even using my God-given talent to write for Him. But that is not all He has commanded me to do! And it is my heart's desire to commit my every act to Him. But my spirit is very clear -- I cannot ignore His commandments to go out and do the things that He did -- no matter how uncomfortable or scary or "against the grain" of modern Christianity it is to do. 
     And, so I now see my Father in Heaven opening new doors to join with others who are interested in going beyond the normal Christian/Church experience, and who are willing to take the next step. I will never stop loving my fellow Christians, but if what Mark and I have shared over the last two-three years does not link our hearts and spirits and Christian walk together, then perhaps we are not the right people to carry His message to them. I do not want the devil to use our differences to alienate us [which would break my heart] or insinuate condemnation [which would be a lie used to separate us]. 
     I simply want to embody the freedom in Christ that He died to give us all. I want to live a life that is pleasing to God, obeying His commands, and being empowered to make His Kingdom a reality to all whom He is calling. That's going to look different for me than it is for you --- after all we are not all going to be hands or eyes or toes. God didn't use the same cookie cutter mold to create us all the same. We are not the same -- our calling may look different, yet none of us are greater than another. But we can give each other permission to be all that God has designed us to be, with no limitations or conditions on our service to the Kingdom. Finally, it is my heart's desire that the Body of Christ be encouragers, not discouragers; teaching each other how to grow in a holy and sanctified understanding of God, and not limiting knowledge to doctrinal theology; and finally to walk in the fullness of a true spiritual relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and not just what makes us feel comfortable in our minds or emotions. 
     I celebrate the journey each of us is on, and praise our God for growing us in His timing. It is my desire to respond to His specific invitation on my life, while encouraging others to seek the path He has designed for them. Our paths may intersect and then separate for a time, and that's okay. In the end, if we stay true to our calling in Christ, we can be confident that we are being joined together [in harmony] to become the dwelling place of God by the Holy Spirit. Let each of us live faithfully to the calling on our lives to follow Jesus, and extend His love and grace to those on a different path. 

1 Corinthians 7:17     May all believers continue to live the wonderful lives God has called them to live, according to what He assigns for each person...

May 20, 2018

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 12

     I think I'm safe in saying that 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 is one of the most deliberated chapters in the Bible. At the heart of the chapter is the subject of spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul begins his letter to the growing Church in Corinth (scholarly estimates suggest the number of members was between 40 and 150) by telling them he doesn't want them to be "confused" about spiritual gifts. Other translations say, "I don't want you to be uninformed [or misunderstand] the gifts", so obviously the Early Church also struggled with coming to terms with the divine gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit.
     And I have to admit that I have not heard a teaching in the churches I have attended over the years that satisfied all the questions I, myself, had. And, as I am again making my way through the Bible [in chronological order], and I reached this important chapter, I figured it was time to develop my own understanding according to the revelation God would give me as I dug in.
     Let me say this before I begin to share my apprehension of Chapter 12 ... this time I am reading from The Passion Translation, and understanding jumped out at me so quickly as I saw the methodical way Paul "unpacked" the knowledge he had received from his own revelations. I no longer saw all the various interpretations different pastors had given this chapter; nor was Scripture tainted with denominational doctrine that obscured its clear meaning. At least this is how 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 was revealed to me. And of course, I urge you to study it yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit, free of any man's bias [including mine]. With that caveat, let me begin to share what I have perceived...
     Paul says he wants to impart to the believers in the Church in Corinth this conviction: It is the power and influence of the Holy Spirit that reveals that Jesus is God, and reveals the understanding of of His Word. Then 1 Corinthians 12:4 says this same Holy Spirit "distributes many different varieties of spiritual gifts". And the Passion Translation actually says "continues to distribute" these gifts. [Note: none of the other translations give any indication that the spiritual gifts were not for all believers, for all time]. These gifts include: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. I will elaborate more on these in a moment.
     Verse 5 then says that the Lord Yahweh (Jesus who is One with the Father) "apportions to believers different varieties of ministries". These ministries [apportioned by grace] are the ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Notice that Scripture calls these roles ministries or areas of service, NOT offices in the Church heirarchy. And then it is verse 6 that struck me as so important. I want to give it to you in several different translations so that it is clear that the meaning is consistent. Verse 6 in the Passion Translation reads, "The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift AND ministry as He energizes and activates them". The New Living Translation says, "God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us".  The Amplified version reads, "And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]".  And finally, the King James version says, "And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."
     Then Paul summarizes it all by saying, "Each believer is given continuous revelation by the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all".  First of all, I want to say that I truly believe Scripture is telling us that every believer has the Holy Spirit in us, and since the Holy Spirit possesses all the spiritual gifts, we each have ALL the gifts in us, and they are available to us as the Holy Spirit leads us to use them. Secondly, I also believe that verse 5 makes it clear that those five ministries [of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher] are available for each believer. We should all be walking in the gifts [as distributed by the Holy Spirit] and in a ministry [as apportioned by Jesus]. Not what you've been taught in Church? Let's go back and consider verses 4 through 6 again:

It is the same Holy Spirit who continues to distribute many different varieties of gifts.
The Lord Yahweh is one, and He is the one who apportions to believers different varieties of ministries.
The same God distributes different kinds of powers that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them.

     Can you see it now? Each believer has the availability of the spiritual gifts and a ministry. But they are activated and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Unless one is in communion with the Holy Spirit within themselves, I believe these gifts and ministries can be neglected [at the least] and/or misused [at the worst]. What we need to comprehend is that the spiritual gifts Paul talks about in Chapter 12 are the power source for Christians! If we are not walking in that divine power, or ministering to the Body of Christ in one of the five service ministries, then how much influence do you think Christians or the Church are going to have in the world? 
     A very good friend of mine, who is growing and maturing in her faith at an exponential rate, asked me a wise and insightful question.... Couldn't we operate in more than one gift and more than one ministry? And my first thought was, The Bible doesn't say we're restricted to just one, and then my second thought was, Shouldn't we want to? When you consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts and the ministries, it becomes obvious [to me, at least] that in order for the Kingdom of God on earth to be established, the Body of Christ/Church must step into the identities and gifts to which they've been called.
    Consider the purpose of the spiritual gifts: Word of Wisdom: a revelation gift of the Holy Spirit to impart an understanding of strategy and insight that only God can give to unlock the hearts of people and free the corporate body of Christ to move forward under God's direction. Word of Knowledge: the gift of a revelation message from the Holy Spirit; often through an impression of thought in one's mind, a vision, an audible voice that gives understanding of a situation that cannot be known by the natural mind. Gift of Faith: faith that comes from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; released in a person's life to do the [miracle] works of God on earth. Gift of Healing: the power of the Holy Spirit [that raised Jesus from the dead] released in a believer to heal the sick here on earth. Miraculous Works of Power: this is a gift that gives a believer the divine power to do what Jesus did [still a storm, feed thousands, walk on water, cast out demons, turn water into wine, raise the dead, destroy cancer in a body]. Gift of Prophecy: to be given divine revelation from the Holy Spirit to speak the word of God in proclaiming God's will over a person's life or a particular situation. Scripture says this is one gift that every believer should desire and never despise [1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20]. Gift of Discernment: the divine ability to recognize the origin of spirits; whether from God or demons; to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. Gifts of Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues: this is the gift of a divine language for the edification of the Body of Christ/Church and its interpretation [not the same as speaking in tongues, a personal prayer language].      
     Paul goes on in the rest of Chapter 12 to impress upon the Corinthian believers that these gifts are for the benefit of maturing the Church into one effective Body for Christ [with many parts]. There should be no competition for status or position within the Body, and he emphasizes over and over that collectively, they are the body of Jesus, "and each of you is a unique and vital part of it". He then goes on in the final verses to reiterate that God has placed in the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, those with gifts of miracles, gifts of divine healing, gifts of tongues, etc. And his final admonition in the chapter is to say that "not everyone [is these things or has these gifts]". BUT, my spirit discerns that he is not saying that only a select few receive them, but rather, that the Body is not made up of all apostles, or that only the gift of healing is evident in the Body. In fact, he says in verse 31, You should all constantly boil over with passion in seeking the higher gifts. And I believe those five ministries and the nine spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are the "higher" gifts he is referring to. [Keep in mind there are other "services/ministries" and "gifts" that build up the Body, such as Deacon, Steward, Charity, Hospitality, Helps, etc].  
     Finally, I believe that we can grasp the bigger picture of Paul's message in 1 Corinthians by taking a look at his letter to the Ephesian Church: The ministries given to all believers by the grace of God "will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ". Furthermore, "every member [of the Body] has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love".
     So, can you see that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit delight in a Church in which every believer constantly and passionately seeks to fill his particular ministry role, using any and all gifts he/she receives from the Holy Spirit to empower Christ's Body on earth to walk in His image? Can you see how equipped the modern Church would be to battle against the lies and false values the Enemy has instilled in our culture, society, and yes, holy assemblies? I don't know about you, but I want all that God wants to give me, and I want to give my all to Him! Lord, I answer your call and receive as many of Your divine gifts as You will give me. I thank You for the opportunity to serve You!

Ephesians 4:6     And He is the perfect Father who leads us all, works through us all, and lives in us all!


May 17, 2018

Don't Sleep Through The Harvest

     As my body matures with age and my relationship with Jesus matures spiritually, I am less concerned with the trappings of this world. Oh, there was a time that it mattered if my salary was increasing, or how late the model of my car was, or even how many square feet was in my house. I was just as caught up in meeting the world's standards as anyone else.
     But now I'm increasingly content with where I'm at on my life's timeline -- I'm no longer concerned with comparing myself to anyone other than Jesus. I know that makes me sound corny and like a Christian cliché. But I simply mean that outward appearances, or things the world counts as wealth, no longer satisfy me or entice me. And I find myself saddened when people I care about still measure their success in life by the things they've accumulated, or the status symbols they think define them.
     Case in point, we recently enjoyed a visit with a very good friend that we've known for 25 years. There was a time, before Mark and I answered the Lord's invitation, when we were extremely close with him and his wife. We shared a lot of fun times together as well as the same outlook on life... struggling to chase after the "good life"; nice car, nice house, money in the bank, and "a secure future in the world". In fact, we were blessed when they asked us to be godparents to their daughter.
     But then something changed along the way. Mark decided to follow his God-given talent as an artist, which meant trusting God for our security, which led to us seeking to become sincere followers of Jesus Christ, our Savior. All the while, our friends were focused on the things that marked what society called a successful lifestyle -- a second home in the mountains; frequent travels to Europe and around the world; driving luxury cars; and enrolling their daughter in a private religious school. You guessed it; we no longer traveled in the same social circles, and they began to view our pursuit of Jesus as unappealing and restrictive.
     A recent conversation with our goddaughter, who is taking a year off from school to travel the world, revealed just what our image is like to them. As a pre-teen, she struggled with describing how she sees us... "really Christian; going to church; you know ... in the Bible all the time". In other words, not much fun, and certainly incapable of having anything in common with her family's way of living.  Mind you, she had been enrolled in a prestigious private Christian school, but I'm afraid the only affirmation of Scripture she received was when her parents said to call us for an explanation of a particular theological concept. Needless to say, my heart hurt after that conversation.
     And while she and her mother are experiencing the excitement of ancient cities, museums, and cultures, her dad is back home in the States working to make this unique experience possible. And it was the recent visit with him that has brought me to write this post.
     He was explaining how well his company was doing and that he had provided well for his daughter. "Her college is paid for, she is set for life, and will never have to worry about anything". My spirit leaped. Did I dare speak what the Holy Spirit just whispered to me, even at the risk it might offend him? I hesitated for just a moment, before deciding that their eternal souls were on the line, and I had to speak.
     "I'm going to say this because I love you and your family". There was a silence that was palpable. "I know you have taken care of your daughter well, and she has everything this world can offer. But it's what comes after this world that I'm concerned about. This life is temporary; seventy to eighty years, if we're lucky. But eternity is forever. What are you giving her to prepare her for that?"
     There was a long silence. Then his response went something like this ... "I have another friend; the wife of a colleague, who is close to God like you are. She even says she talks to God and he talks to her. But I never hear from God". Ah, my dear friend, do you ever stop pursuing the riches of this world to listen for Him? Because, I promise you, He is trying to engage with you every minute! He then went on to talk about "all" the conflicts in the Bible, yet he could only mention a couple ... the age of the earth and the dinosaurs; and how irrelevant and hard is the Old Testament to understand.
     An attempt to engage in an entry level discussion of Scripture was quickly rebuffed and the topic changed to how he was going to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday by flying four couples to Europe for a week. It was clear that he had no desire to hear any testimony from us on how Jesus has impacted our life. I guess that me, Mark, and Jesus just aren't exciting enough.
     Now, maybe you have friends or family like this -- maybe not as wealthy as this -- but definitely as blind and lost. Have you, like Mark and I, tried for years to reach them about their salvation, and feel like you're failing?  Here's the way I look at it ... I have really become convicted that if I do not take advantage of every opportunity I have to share Jesus, and what He has done in my life and wants to do in theirs, then I cannot expect to see any change in the person. That doesn't mean I am constantly on a religious soap box. But it does mean that when I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak into a person's life, then I must plant the seed so He can water it.
     The times that I have resisted these promptings have resulted in a very clear reminder from my Lord, "But if you publicly deny that you know Me, I will also deny you before My heavenly Father".  I believe that doesn't just include the obvious case of blasphemy, but also encompasses missed opportunities to share our testimonies. You see, I really believe that a spiritual nudge from the Spirit is an opportunity for me to partner with Him in enlarging His Kingdom here on earth. I know without a doubt that God doesn't want anyone to be lost. And I will admit that it is difficult to wrap my head around whether He knows who will [or will not] accept His invitation for eternal salvation before its even offered, but I do not want to stand before Jesus and hear Him say, "I was waiting for you to tell him/her about Me, but the moment was squandered, and the opportunity was lost". What if I was the only one God put in their path? And then there is the thought, Why would I ever hesitate to share with anyone how He called to me and saved me from eternal separation from Him?
     So, if you are like me and despair over your inability to reach family or friends, remember that it is not you who do the saving work. Your job is to sow the seeds, even if they appear to fall on the wayside, or rocky ground, or among thorns. Only the Living Water can nourish them, and you will know that you have served the Kingdom as a worthy ambassador. Instead of worrying about whether the seed took root, or suffering an obvious rejection, keep looking for those circumstances in which you can host the Presence of God. Speak whenever prompted and trust that your efforts will not be in vain. You may not see results this side of heaven, but I savor the thought of surprising reunions in the glorious kingdom of our Father!

Proverbs 10:5   Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!

May 14, 2018

Kingdom Living Is Miracle Territory

     There are some days that I just have to devote to shouting the praises of Jesus! Today is such a day. As I am becoming more and more aware of the demarcation line between me and Christians who do not perceive Kingdom living the same as Mark and I, the greater measure of the Presence of God I find in my life.
     I want to make it clear that I do not see myself as elevated in stature above my fellow believers, by any means! I am being trained to become a co-heir with Christ and I have a lot of carnal issues I need to conquer. And God is making sure I am aware of these areas of the flesh that must be subdued and surrendered, because He is bringing them front and center every day. But with this awareness comes repentance and forgiveness as I discern that I am being prepared to reign with Christ!
     As a Daughter-of-the-King-in-training, I find my daily living becoming more about serving God in the ways of Jesus, than about what makes a successful life in this world. Mark and I are spending less time in meeting the cares of this life, and finding ourselves involved in Kingdom responsibilities. And let me tell you, Kingdom is way more rewarding than the natural world. We find ourselves laughing these days, because it doesn't do any good for us to plan our week around our business or social life, because it is increasingly becoming monopolized by meeting the demands of the Kingdom. And we couldn't be happier or more fulfilled!
     And because we are being obedient to every desire of the Father's heart, we are finding ourselves walking in miracle territory. Let me share.... Several weeks ago we were blessed to be asked to share our understanding of Scripture in regards to the Gospel Message of the Kingdom. We drove three hours to meet with a small group of people who come from different denominational backgrounds, and whom God had brought together through a shared love of dogs. Yes, God can use anything to bring disciples together. This group was headed by a dear friend whose heart has been close to ours in the love of Biblical study. She told us they have been concentrating on prophecy and eschatology, but knew practically nothing about Power and Authority or Kingdom Living. Would we come and share what God had revealed to us? First of all, to be asked to share on those topics is unusual in most Christian circles, so we were excited and willing, but cautious. This wouldn't be the first time that we've tried to present this particular Biblical perspective and been met with doubt and unbelief, if not outright opposition.
     But to our surprise, this group was able to overcome their doctrinal theology and accept Scripture at face value, with no attempts to defend long-held belief systems. They almost approached the truths of healing, casting out demons, and the Gospel of the Kingdom with child-like faith. And that's the reason I think we were all able to witness the miracle I'm about to reveal.  At the end of the meeting, they expressed their gratitude for the teaching, and we expressed ours for their willingness to see what Scripture said. Then we asked if there was anything anyone needed prayer for. 
     Jeannette asked if we would pray for her granddaughter who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had an appointment in two weeks with doctors to do more scans and determine the plan of surgery, going forward. Jeannette said her granddaughter was a believer, but she worried about the sincerity of her relationship with Jesus. We said that all of us could intercede on her behalf and we began to pray.
     Mark and I prayed that her brain would be restored to how God created it; that there are no brain tumors in heaven and it is God's will that there be none on earth. We asked that ministering angels of healing come forth from the throne room of Jehovah Rapha to surround the girl and dissolve the brain tumor. And then I said something like, "Lord Jesus, lay your hands on this child's head and let the power of the Holy Spirit that raised You from the dead, defeat this tumor. (And, in my imagination, I pictured Jesus doing just that). And as a daughter of the King of the Universe, I declare that the doctors will be mystified when the new scans reveal that there is no tumor. We praise you in advance, Jesus, for the work You are about to do. Amen."  It was that simple and that quick.
     Just three days ago we received a phone call from our friend, the leader of that group. She was talking a mile a minute, and when Mark got her to come up for air, we understood her excitement ... after a visit to the surgeon and more scans, Jeannette's grandaughter's tumor was gone! Jesus had healed her and the group was praising Him for the miracle of healing! Of course, we were, too!
    And having a few days to digest this amazing news, I have decided that this group's willingness to be obedient to the Word of God, and to receive it in Truth and Spirit created an atmosphere in which Jesus could defeat the works of the devil. There was no hesitancy on their part to accept that God could do miracles of healing and no hesitation on our part to walk in our power and authority to ask for [and declare] that miracle to take place. God is so good!
     And then just yesterday, we received an unsettling call that Mark's uncle had fallen and broken a vertabrae in his neck and was being transported to San Antonio for serious surgery. As we were driving there, I began to pray... "Father God, I call all bones and vertabrae in the neck to come into heavenly alignment. I walk in the power and authority as a Daughter of the God of the Universe and I declare that this injury will not be serious, and that the medical staff will be singing Your praises all through the hospital and throughout San Antonio as they testify to the healing miracle of You, the One True God. Father, I release the power of the Holy Spirit into Mark's uncle and am believing that healing is taking place right now. Amen." Within two minutes, we got another phone call, telling us that surgery was unnecessary. This break will heal on its own in a matter of a few weeks. Praise God! His answers to prayers are coming quicker and quicker.
     I'm not going to tell you that everything we've asked for has come to fruition so quickly or completely. But I strongly believe the battle is Jehovah Nissi's, and as long as we're willing to get on the battlefield with Him, He will secure those victories in His own timing.
     We have been seeing some difficult spiritual attacks on people's lives that tell us the Enemy knows there is a growing remnant who are in training to defeat the darkness; therefore he is more determined than ever to keep the territory and souls that are his. But along with the growing remnant, I see a growing optimism as Believers step out in obedience [willing to endure frustration, ridicule, and defeat], just as long as they can live their lives knowing they've done their best to walk in Jesus's commandments. Future victories are assured, and miracles are happening! We aren't afraid to walk unconventional paths or step out into unfamiliar territory. We know Who goes before us, Who walks beside us, and Who guides us from our sanctified hearts. Kingdom Living can be a lonely road, but I sense that it's soon going to become known as the Highway to Freedom. And it's all for the glory of God!

Psalm 77:14    You are the [awesome] God who works [powerful] wonders; You have demonstrated Your power among the people.

May 10, 2018

Wolves In The Church

     I'm sure you are familiar with Jesus's Biblical warning in Matthew 7:15 which says, Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Implicit in this warning is that wolves of deceit have snuck into the Church and are ready to devour any true Christian sheep who are gullible enough [or unwise enough] to fall for their wrong teachings.
     And, boy, has the institutional Church used this alarming admonition to squelch any new revelations from God that are outside the established doctrine of any particular denomination. First of all, those who are quick to attack a fellow Christian's attempt at edifying the Body regarding something God or the Holy Spirit has revealed to them, don't bother to read Matthew 7:15 in context. Jesus says in the very next verse, You can identify them by the fruit [of their character], that is, by the way they act.  Scripture goes on to say that it's pretty obvious that you don't pick sweet grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from a tumbleweed. In other words, if you hear a different interpretation of Scripture, or a different teaching of a Biblical concept, the character of the "bringer" should be taken into account and easily discernible. If their testimony or word is plainly against Scripture, and if they don't possess a reputation of the fruits of the spirit (joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and they are not displaying the Lordship of the Spirit in their life), then you can rightly discern they are intent on damaging the Church. But if this fellow Christian is of good character, and his heart displays a visible love of the Lord, and his actions bear good fruit, then perhaps he or she should not be so quickly castigated.
     Yet, I have found far too often that the Church members will react in indignation and self-appointed authority in deciding that any new proposed understanding of Scripture that differs from the orthodox teachings is unacceptable, and it borders on either blasphemy or heresy. And that really saddens me, because this is a picture of the Church that is far different from how it began in the aftermath of Christ's resurrection and ascension.
     From the moment that the Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter preaches the first sermon at Pentecost, the idea of "church" meant "a fellowship of believers". The Bible clearly teaches that these believers were faithful to follow the teachings of these first apostles or "sent ones". (Re-read yesterday's post on my view of what makes an apostle}. They regularly met in devoted believers' homes, with the express purpose of sharing the Lord's Supper as a sign of their unity. They prayed, studied Scripture, sang songs, and the focus was always on edifying the body of believers who were present. I think it is important to note the Apostle Paul's exhortation to these "home churches", as stated in 1 Corinthians 14:26: Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you. Do you see that in the modern Church?
     Can you see how different this is from what the modern Church has evolved into? First of all, I would like to reiterate and re-evaluate Jesus's statements in Matthew 7 ... He isn't even talking to a group of Christians gathering in a Church building or denomination as we know it today. He is talking to disciples who are following Him around the countryside, and learning from His teachings. Shouldn't that describe each of us, regardless of which denomination we claim allegiance to? And doesn't He make it clear that we should look at both the character and the actions of our fellow believer before condemning their teaching/interpretation as deceptive? There are at least 34 verses in the New Testament that speak of the importance of fruit in the life of a believer, yet we seem too eager to judge based on shared theology.
    And, yes, Scripture is sufficient for us ... it contains all there is to know about our God, but as I have quoted from Scripture over and over, God conceals the revelation of His word in the hiding place of His glory. But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says (Proverbs 25:2). He reveals Himself through Nature; through our spirits who testify to His existence; through His Son Jesus as presented in the Bible; and finally through His written Word -- and through all these ways He gives us knowledge of Himself through our experiences with Him! It is not merely through our denominational doctrines and head knowledge! That is why the Greek translation of the New Testament talks so much about experiential knowledge -- knowledge that comes from experience.
     Have we, as the institutional Church, forgotten that God is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him? Why is it so difficult for our fellow Christians to discern that God could reveal Himself to an individual believer today through the Holy Spirit? Why are we so quick to judge a fellow believer's testimony, just because it expands on accepted doctrinal beliefs? Why can't we think God might want us to know more about Him? Do we really think our doctrine is all there is to know about God? And for mercy's sake, why are we ignoring the character and actions of our fellow believers? Do we no longer believe that the Holy Spirit leads and directs us? Before condemning someone for what they are bringing to the Church Body, can we stop for a moment and spiritually assess the heart of the person, and look to see if they have borne fruit for the Kingdom of God?
     In fact, I often wonder just how Church members assess the fruits of their fellow believers. Is it based on the number of times they have been in the pews on Sunday morning, or the number of the Church activities they are involved in? Do they ever stop to think that perhaps there is fruit they don't see -- that this believer's fruit comes from being obedient to Jesus's commands when they invite Him to be present as they lay hands on someone who is in need of healing? What about the fruit that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the spirit of unworthiness in a lonely and abandoned young girl, as this believer partners with the Spirit and Jesus to set her free from this torment.  All these experiences are revelations of the Presence of God in a believer's life and evidence that seeds are being sown and fruit is being produced.
     The Holy Spirit reveals God to our spirits through our experiences. The Holy Spirit reveals God through Bible passages; and through our thoughts, and ideas that He brings to our minds.  He is fluid and flowing; always ready to reveal an aspect of our God that magnifies Him; that amplifies His glory. John 3:8 says, For the Spirit [wind] blows as it chooses. You can hear its sound, but you don’t know where it came from or where it’s going. So it is within the hearts of those who are Spirit-born!” The Holy Spirit is not bound by Church doctrine!
     So, I ask you, how is it that Christians within the Church think they are qualified to decide how the Spirit is leading or directing a fellow believer [who exemplifies good character; whose actions portray a heart diligently seeking after God, and whose deeds bear fruit for the Kingdom]?  Could it be that the Church barely resembles those early gatherings of Spirit-filled believers who encouraged each other to share and edify the body with what the Holy Spirit was showing them?
     I am in no way negating the warning to be on guard against the wolves who bring false teachings. They are real, and I'm pretty sure the Enemy has been infiltrating them into the Church for hundreds of years. I don't see those early "home churches" being overly concerned with real estate, building programs, staff salaries, utilities, mortgages, pulpits, pews, sermons, elaborate worship programs, or how much money they had in the bank. When did the focus change from "going out" to "protecting our turf"?
     We all agree that wolves are definitely a danger to innocent sheep. And what I'm about to say may offend some, but I have personally witnessed a pack of wolves within the church driving innocent sheep out of the building where their Good Shepherd is waiting to feed them and lead them to springs of living water. It is not my attention to offend, but rather to give us all pause when meeting with our fellow believers, and before judging them.
     So, yes, we need to be persistent in keeping the wolves at bay and safeguarding the purity of Scripture. Lord knows, they are vicious and ravenous and waiting to destroy the Body of Christ. But let's not limit our oversight to one man's [or one denomination's] conditional and designated understanding. Let us give the Holy Spirit the freedom to reveal to a person's spirit what God would have them know about Himself. And then let us offer love and kindness and a heart that is willing to receive more of God. It just might bring more joy and peace to your spirit and to the entire Body. And that would be pleasing to God.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3     Knowledge [alone] makes [people self-righteously] arrogant, but love [that unselfishly seeks the best for others] builds up and encourages others to grow [in wisdom].  If anyone imagines that he knows and understands anything [of divine matters, without love], he has not yet known as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God [with awe-filled reverence, obedience and gratitude], he is known by Him [as His very own and is greatly loved].


May 7, 2018

Understanding The Five-Fold Ministry

     I want to ask you to forgive me as I make use of this blog to try to determine a true Scriptural understanding of what, in modern church language, has become known as "the five-fold ministry". Mind you, I am not disputing its existence, or importance, I simply want to give it a proper significance, as defined by God in His Word, and not rely on how it is defined by the modern Church.
     The reason I am seeking this understanding is because I am seeing a lot of people in the Body of Christ being wounded by its application and by the theological philosophy, if you will, that surrounds it. In this day of technological advancement, it is far too easy to make someone "a superstar", and I see too many headlines on Christian websites proclaiming this man [or woman] an Apostle or Prophet -- and it is difficult to discern if it is warranted. At the same time I have witnessed, even in small churches, that there are those who take their position in the church to mean they are exalted above others. I'm just trying to understand what the Word of God says about it all.
    So, let's start with the Scripture that is at the center of my ruminations. In its most simple translation, Ephesians 4:11 says, And He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. I believe we can all agree that this is in reference to ways Christ intended for those who would believe and serve Him to be trained in continuing His work. Indeed, the very next verse says, And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.
     This is how Christ intended for His Kingdom Message to be shared, encouraged, and practiced throughout the earth. In fact, the word "apostle", in the Greek means, literally, "one sent forth", or "the sent ones". In Mark 3:14-15, the Passion Translation tells us Jesus's motivation for naming apostles: He appointed the Twelve, whom he named apostles. He wanted them to be continually at His side as His friends, and so that He could send them out to preach and have authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons. Doesn't that describe all of us? Doesn't Jesus call us all to be His friends? To "go out" preaching [in love] the truth of God's Word? To use our authority and His power to heal and deliver? 
     Furthermore, Acts 4:13 tells us that the religious leaders of Jesus's day "were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who never had religious training". In other words, here were apostles who were ordinary men, but commissioned ["sent ones"] by Jesus to preach, heal, and deliver with authority. Yet, what I see today is that the Church has created this mystique about apostleship; reserving it for those who have been specially "anointed". Could it be that this is just a by-product of our celebrity culture? 
     Think about it ... even Paul battled against being recognized as an apostle, to the point that he says in 2 Corinthians 12:11, For there is nothing I lack compared to these “super-apostles” of yours, even though I am nothing.  Have we created "super apostles" in our day, too? Aren't true apostles defined as servants to the Body? Isn't their role to empower everyone to do the ministry of Christ as He has called them? Go back and take another look at the role of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. It clearly says each of those servants is to "nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry". 
     Now couple this with Jesus's statement in John 14:12 that The person who follows Me in faith, believing in Me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with My Father.  This implies to me that we are all to be apostles -- sent out to do mighty miracles that attest to God's presence and authority in our lives.  Whether that is laying on of hands to heal sickness, or co-partnering with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be set free from spirits of anger, depression, unworthiness, etc. --- it all points to Christ and to the building up of the Body of Christ in truth and spirit! And even if we recognize the position of apostle, most of the denominations deny the obvious fruit of that calling -- the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons [the mighty miracles that Jesus did]!
     I have spent far too much time on the ministry of the apostle. But the same goes for the ministry of the prophet. Whether in the Old or New Testament, prophets were, in essence, God's voice to men on earth. 1 Corinthians 14:3 says, when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up, and to bring them comfort.  Again, in our celebrity culture, a Prophet [with a capital "P"] has come to represent someone who predicts the future. But the Bible tells us it is a gift of grace from God to encourage and edify [instruct, train, guide; enlighten, develop, improve, better] the Body of Christ and help them to mature spiritually. 
     Aren't we all to do that as we grow and mature in our own spiritual lives? Or, is this grace, or favor, of God to be reserved for a specially "anointed" few? For me, it comes down to this question... Are we following the spirit of the Word of God, or are we submitting to the Nicolaitan model of Church government? In case, you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to a system within the Church when religious leaders rule over others. It is a system run by evangelists, elders, bishops, popes, rabbis, priests and modern day prophets that have forced its people (members) to submit to their dominion (rulership)”. The members have to do what they tell you to do. That is, they have dominion over your faith. They tell you what you need to believe, what instructions to follow, and if you dare step outside those boundaries, you are chastised or rebuked. But where [in that system] is the freedom that the Bible promises? The Word says, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)When speaking to the Churches in the Book of Revelation, Jesus makes His opinion very clear: So you also have those who adhere to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which I hate (Revelation 2:15).
     So, as you can tell, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, deeply committed to rightly discerning the Word of God on this matter. I absolutely recognize that Jesus wants apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers actively involved in His Body on earth. But are we defining those roles properly? Are we restricting them to specific people who are exalted above the remainder of the Body? At the same time, if we are all called to these roles in advancing God's Kingdom on earth, are you or I taking those appointments seriously, and seeking the Holy Spirit's counsel as we speak God's Word? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that there should be no competition for Importance within the Body -- we all have our roles to play, and God delights in us when we fulfill the role He has designed for us. We should serve Him with joy in every activity or ministry that we engage in for the sake of His Body.
     Thank you for listening to me as I try to hear God teach me what He would have this Age know and understand about ministering to the Body of Christ -- and to the world. I am still developing my theology on this important Scriptural component. My spirit is not content with what the world tells me, and I am struggling with what the Church is showing me. May God, my Father, enlighten my spirit, heart, and mind as I seek to serve Him in His Truth and Spirit. And may each of us be dedicated to nurturing and preparing the Body to do His ministry.

2 Timothy 2:15    Always be eager to present yourself before God as a perfect and mature minister, without shame, as one who correctly explains the Word of Truth.


May 4, 2018

The Enemy Has Stolen God's Omnificense!

     I know what you're thinking.... she has spelled the word wrong. Doesn't she mean God's Omnipotence, or His Omniscience, or perhaps she meant to say His Omnipresence. No, I want to talk about Jehovah God's Omnificense. You've never heard that word, let alone heard it used to describe God? Don't worry. I hadn't either until I listened to a teaching by Pastor Henry W. Wright, who is also a Doctor of Christian Therapeutic Counseling. The teaching was on the spiritual roots of Disease and Illnesses, but it was his use of that word Omnificense to describe God's Nature that intrigued me and has taken me on a path of discovery.
     You see, it is his assertion that this word was once included in Christian doctrine among the familiar characteristics used to describe God -- His Holiness (He is separate from all moral defilement and abhors it); His Righteousness (He will not tolerate sin); His Sovereignty (He is supreme above all things); His Eternal Nature (He is infinite and had no beginning; His existence will never end);  His Omniscience (He is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-seeing); His Omnipresence (He is present everywhere); His Omnipotence (He is all-powerful); and His Immutability (He never changes; He is always reliable and trustworthy). And there are many more desciptors of our Father in Heaven: Incomparable, Just, Divine, Faithful.... the list goes on and on.
     But when I discovered the word Omnificense and its meaning, I cannot ignore its implications for our Father in Heaven. It means "creating all things; having unlimited powers of creation".  Isn't that an appropriate description of our Creator? And although my research could find no instance of its use in English translation Bibles, I could find reference as it pertains to our God in -- of all places -- a website discussing the Super Powers of Marvel Comics! And if you're unaware, the superheroes of Marvel Comics have captured the imaginations of our children with box office megahit movies featuring Spiderman, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, X-Men, Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and antagonists like Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, the Green Goblin, Thanos, and Loki. Furthermore, according to the Super Powers website, these "superheroes" even have their own universe, and the characters that possess Omnificense "can create anything without limits, including concepts, existence, reality, and even the totality itself. They can also create from nothing or even create one thing from another, such as manifesting an image from a comic book, creating life from the dead, and duplicating anything. The user can create basically anything they choose on an unlimited scale".
     It is astounding to read what this counterfeit image of God as Creator in this counterfeit universe is believed to be able to do: create dimensions; generate energy; create life and matter; create portals, create universes; create weapons. There is even an ability called Omnificense Genesis, which is "the power to create an unlimited amount of anything from the user's own essence." By now, you should be seeing that the Enemy has found a way to capture the imaginations of our kids with images of false gods (euphemistically called super-heroes) by imitating the very nature of the One True God.
    And if you think I am taking this way too seriously, let me give you a run-down of the "Users" of Omnificense power in this false reality... at the very top, in the number one position is God, as noted in the Abrahamic Religions! In the number two position is The Dragon, followed by The-One-Above-All, Presence, Michael Demiurgos (in Gnosticism, Demiurge is a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual); God (as represented in Bruce Almighty - a human version); Haruhi Suzumiya (a popular female character in Japanese animation who possesses unconscious god-like abilities to change, destroy, and reshape reality to her desires); Users of the True Word; and the Choushin (a trio of super-dimensional deities responsible for the creation of the multiverse and all of the higher dimensions of existence. They are essentially Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent, only surpassed by Kami Tenchi. The Choushin consist of Washu, Tsunami, and Tokimi -- also Japanese animation). I could give you more names such as Demon Lord; Snake of the Festival; Spawn, the Mother of All Things; and Doctor Monty of Call of Duty and Black Ops III. But I think you get the idea.

     Is this giving anyone else the creeps? And can you see the design the Enemy has on our impressionable children? What kid, in this technologically advanced world where everyone is just trying to be seen, doesn't want to identify with a super-hero? The sad thing is this generation is totally unaware that the only authentic "User" of this super power of Omnificense is actually represented in this false universe -- the God of the Abrahamic Religions (Judaism and Christianity) is real. All the others are false. But unfortunately, the One True God has been reduced to just one of a couple dozen false gods. 
     The fact that the Omnificense of YHWH has been lost to our faith, while it has been resurrected in a false universe and reality, should give us all pause -- as well as alert us to the danger of this rise in popularity of Movie Superheroes. It shouldn't surprise us that the devil has found a way to imitate the very essence of YHWH as Supreme Creator, and repackaged Him in a plethora of tempting and exciting superheroes to feed our culture's addiction to entertainment.  
     Besides the obvious counterfeiting of and fraudulent imitation of YHWH's unique power, these movie characters are providing a door into the supernatural for those kids (and adults) who are looking for ways to escape their "boring" existence. Little do they know, that is a portal into the demonic realm. So I caution you to be aware of what may seem like a harmless movie or cartoon to stimulate the imagination. We must be ever vigilant to see the transparent schemes of our Enemy, and return the title of OMNIFICENT GOD to its rightful owner.

1 Chronicles 29:11    Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the Kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all.

May 1, 2018

But Where's The Application?

    I love to read inspiring articles and opinions/commentaries. And my heart is always over-joyed when the words I read echo the sound of the Lord's voice that I hear. There are even times that I feel like I could have written what I'm reading -- that's how close the narrative is to how I would explain a particular Biblical truth or concept.
     But it saddens me when the narrative falls short of telling us how to apply that truth. Of course that is not true when reading the Bible. The Word is very clear how to administer God's principles. For instance, He holds us accountable and responsible for every word, thought, action, attitude, and motive. He makes it clear how He expects us to respond .... When we offend others, we are to ask forgiveness and make proper restitution [if needed], as declared in Exodus and Leviticus. The application of this principle/concept is evident in the story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, in Luke 19:8-10. Furthermore, the result of the application is confession and salvation, as stated in Romans 10:10. God tells us what He wants us to do, and then He tells us how to do it.
     However, it is not only articles that have left me searching for how to walk out this Christian life. Oftentimes, I have heard brilliant sermons establishing God's heart on a particular subject matter -- for example, taking every thought captive. I have heard how to recognize when we need to take a thought captive; why it is important to do so; the consequences of failing to do it; and even where that captive thought comes from. But I have rarely been given the practical application of how to do it.

     So when I see an article's headline that shouts The Only Way To Stop The Devil From Stealing, Killing, and Destroying In Your Life, I'm thinking, "This is going to be great! Not only does this article seem to be saying they have the Best method, but the Only method". And, I have to tell you that I was really impressed with some of the ideas expressed ... namely, we don't have to let our feelings or circumstances control us when we are facing overwhelming situations. In those moments, God wants us to stand still and see His salvation/deliverance/healing.
    And I was in total agreement with the following paragraph: "If we are broken at the beginning of our journey, and we are not keeping our eyes on God, the enemy's job is to take what is broken and scatter the broken pieces even further apart. The devil's job is to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Father wants us healed and whole. God is not expecting us to be perfect soldiers. He is looking for the soldiers that will say yes and obey His will. We are to believe and trust in becoming whole from brokenness as we remain in Him during our journey". I have never heard such a concise implication of Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1. Furthermore, these are the very experiences that I have witnessed in the Deliverance Ministry that my husband and I have been called to by God.
     I was thrilled to read the writer's words: whether health issues, financial struggles, family issues, or brokenness that results in emotional and mental problems, abandonment, rejection or loneliness, it is always the desire of God's heart to heal us. "You were created to overcome. You were created to have dominion. You were created for purpose, on purpose". Amen! I'm in total agreement! But then I realize that I'm at the end of the article. I understand the concept. I understand that "Once we line up with [God's divinely willed purpose for our lives], there will be no more broken pieces". Again, I agree! I get that we need to come into agreement with God's plan for our lives, and we can expect to be made whole. But HOW do we do that???
     It's not enough to get the concept! If we aren't told [or discern on our own] how to apply that truth of the concept to our lives, then does anything really change? If I'm unable to put that truth into action, then how do my circumstances change? How do I overcome? Have dominion?
    There is so much well-written encouragement and exhortation in our Christian media and from our pulpits. And I know how difficult it can be to express what your spirit and heart want to convey -- I know I have been guilty of falling short of my desired goal many times. So, I am holding myself to the same high standard that I am calling the Christian community to... it's not enough for me to call your attention to an important principle of Christian life without also presenting how God's Word expects us to accomplish it. I am doing you a disservice if I'm unable to point you to His instruction in His Word; to encourage you to meditate upon it; and to determine your own belief system (based on Scripture) and be able to support it.
     Sadly, I discern that too many in the Body of Christ are willing to accept a teaching without ever questioning it or applying it. So you have Believers that are blown about by every changing wind of doctrine, or who settle for a diminished definition of the Great Commission because they have never been taught the full application of God's Word, or seen it modeled. It's not enough to recite a lot of Scripture, if you don't know how to apply it. Knowledge is not revelation; and revelation without application does not bear fruit. It is my hope that the Christian community becomes more attuned to equipping the Body of Christ to make true disciples of our Lord; people who know God's commandments and are able to guide others into the application of His will.

Philippians 4:9    The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the Source] of peace and well-being will be with you.

April 27, 2018

The Power of Intercessory Prayer

     Yesterday, Mark and I drove three hours to lead a teaching on the Power and Authority of the Believer and how that intersects with Kingdom living. But it quickly became clear to us that the focus of our day was going to be on intercessory prayer. During that three hour drive, we received three different phone calls in which we heard impassioned pleas for counsel and prayer over situations that are dominating the lives of good and faithful people. As I look back on those conversations, my spirit recognizes what a privilege it is to be able to come together to pray with people who trust our hearts to go with them before God, pleading their case and asking for justice and mercy.
    Each of these three calls were unique and separate in their needs, but all dealt with life-changing circumstances that the Enemy is using to keep these people in states of fear, anger, resentment, and confusion... all spiritual conditions that keep one from experiencing the joy and peace of their relationship with the Lord. And all this took place before we met with the group we were teaching! They also had needs to be prayed for -- a serious health condition for a grandchild; a life-long battle over a child's salvation; pending neck surgery; and a failed business opportunity.  At the end of the day, it was apparent how important intercessory prayer is in the Body of Christ.
     But what is intercessory prayer and what should it look like? Timothy 2:1-2 (in the Amplified Version) urges that "petitions (specific requests), prayers, intercessions (prayers for others) and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all people ... so that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." For myself, I prefer the Passion Translation of this same verse: "Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion... so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts".  Furthermore, both versions make it very clear that it pleases God when we pray for each other, because it brings us into a relationship with Jesus, and an understanding of Him as our mediator; our intercessor.  And since we are to follow His example, and to "grow up in every way into Him", this truth should direct us to become powerful intercessors.
      I like that picture of praying with passion, which to me, indicates the release of emotion and energy; an outburst of intense desire. But when you combine prayer with passion, can you conceive a release of God's power into whatever situation you are praying about? That's how I see it, but I have to tell you that I have a dilemma when it comes to how we Christians pray in intercession for others. 
     Will God release His power (the Holy Spirit) into our circumstances if we don't believe that we have the right [as co-heirs with Christ] to ask for the power? Not Can God, but Will God release His power? And how effective are our intercessory prayers if we don't recognize that His power is in us to see His good, and perfect, and acceptable will done in the situation? Are we praying from a position of power and boldness, or are we imploring God to solve our problems for us? 
     I can't help but look back to the Church in the Book of Acts. It was small by today's standards, but look at the power of their prayers! The body of Christians that formed that early Church was feeling the persecution by their own religious leaders, and Peter and John had been arrested and warned not to preach in the name of Jesus again. But that body of believers joined in intercessory prayer for the fledgling Church, that it might grow in faith and influence. 
     So, how did they pray? Firstly, they prayed as one, in unity. Then they prayed boldly, asking God to "empower" them as His servants, to speak His Word freely and courageously. They also asked God to "stretch out His hand of power through them to heal, and to move in signs and wonders by the name of His Holy Son, Jesus"! They didn't ask God to do it for them. They prayed that He would empower them so they could be courageous enough to declare His will, and to use His power flowing through them to move in miracles, effectively shining His Light into the world's darkness.
     What was the effect of this powerful intercessory prayer? Acts 4:31 says, At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.  Do we see the same kind of response when we pray as intercessors? Do our prayers cause earthquakes? Shouldn't they? 
     Remember, the established Church is new at this point in history and although I couldn't find exact numbers, membership of the entire Church would be in the range of 5,000 or so. And this event could be just a small segment of believers gathering in a building. My point is that whatever the numbers were, it is only a fraction of the number of believers in the Body of Christ in America today. Imagine what it would be like if we all prayed in harmony and unity for God to let His power flow through us to effect change in our communities; in our nation; in the world? There would be no abortion; no drug or sex trafficking; no child molestation; no murder; no poverty; no hunger --- the list goes on. 
     But guess what? It isn't really about the numbers game, either. You or me, praying from our lone position of power and authority, partnering with God, can cause buildings to tremble and the ground to shake. THAT's called spiritual warfare! It can be the source of spiritual breakthrough in any situation. Because God will act -- whether one person, or tens of thousands are praying; He just needs us to pray from our heart [where the Holy Spirit is guiding our prayer] and to pray persistently, with faith that knows the power comes from God and that He loves the people we are praying for.
     The bottom line is that I believe God wants us to join with each other in prayer AND join with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as they intercede for us. We need to join our spirits together in persistent prayer until, like the persistent friend who shows up at midnight in Luke 11, asking for food, we finally get what we are asking for. Or be like the persistent widow who keeps asking the unjust judge for justice until he finally grants her demand. But we don't face that same kind of opposition. We are grateful that we serve a loving and merciful God with a Character that desires to give His beloved what they persistently ask for. That is the principle at the heart of intercessory prayer. Let us shake this earth with passionate prayer that sees the power of God unfold before our eyes! May the Spirit of the Church in the Book of Acts invade the Body of Christ once again!

Ephesians 6:18     "Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers".  

April 24, 2018

God Has Equipped Us!

     I remember when I was a first-year Journalism major at the University of Texas.  Among the first things you're taught about writing is the five W's: Who, What, When, Where and Why. At this very elementary stage, our professor was equipping us to become good news reporters. But my first assignment was to cover a speech given by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the activist and founder of American Atheists who led the movement to ban prayer in American schools. Even though I wasn't yet saved, there was something so distasteful about her, that I lost the desire for becoming a reporter and decided I only wanted to write about things that interested me.
      Although I didn't embrace that curriculum, I saw the value in being prepared to carry out the assignment; to be trained for that particular purpose, and to be ready and willing to do what was necessary to finish the task. In other words, how important it is know Whom you serve in this life; What your assignment is; When you are ready to act [and how]; Where you are to serve your God; and Why you've been called.            
     It's been nearly four years since God made it clear to Mark and me that He was going to equip us to serve Him according to His will. That word "equip" means He is going to give us the answers to the Who, What, When, Where and Why of our service.  Hebrews 13:20-21 says that the God of peace will equip you with every good thing to carry out His will, accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight -- all through Jesus Christ. The Amplified versions says God will strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be].
     When it comes to equipping us to be servants of the Most High God, it is obvious that Father God is the One who does the assignment of the task, and the strengthening for the accomplishing of that task. It is is not us. It is Christ through us. And the task is not based on who we are or what we can do, because it is certainly not determined by our pedigrees, our influence, or our IQ. It is based on Who He is and What He can do. In addition, What is being equipped is His will-- His good and perfect and acceptable will; whatever He needs done to achieve His purpose of reconciliation with mankind. When He equips is a two-part proposition; when He decides we're ready, and when we surrender to His will. The Why is easy... to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9); to give us everything we need for living a godly life through Him who called us for His own glory (2 Peter 1:3).
     This covers the basic and fundamental theology of God equipping us. But perhaps an even more significant aspect of this truth is How does God equip us? I think the most obvious answer (and the most Biblical one) is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that there are varieties of gifts, but only One [Holy Spirit] who grants them and empowers them individually as He chooses. I want to make it clear that it is my belief that since all the gifts are present in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is present in all believers, then all believers have all the gifts available to them. And since we are to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, I do not find it unreasonable to think that we can ask the Holy Spirit for gifts that we discern we need in a particular situation. It doesn't matter whether it is faith, or healing, or wisdom, or a word of knowledge, or a miracle, or prophecy, or tongues, or the interpretation of tongues -- they are all gifts available through the Holy Spirit who empowers them. They are given to us. We should use them.
     God also equips us to serve His Kingdom by using our experiences with Him in this world to enable us to share His grace and mercy with others. Nothing encourages another human being more than our testimony of how God helped us through a difficult time in our life, whether it be health-related, soul-shattering, or a spiritual attack. He equips us by giving us a testimony that changes lives. 
    The bottom line is that everything we are able to accomplish for the Kingdom on earth [which is our mandate from our Savior] is not because of our own efforts, but because God has equipped us to carry out His purpose for our life. We are His workmanship -- spiritually transformed, renewed, and ready to be used. He has set our paths before us, and we are fully capable of walking in them, if we trust and walk in obedience. He is our storehouse, our source, and our constant supply. We need never fear of being up to any challenge, because He will supply our every need, when we need it. Thank you, Father, for calling me and equipping me. Thank you for encouraging me and strengthening me, and may I never forget that I need You to help me answer Your call. And may my service forever glorify Your magnificent Name!

Philippians 1:6   I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put His finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!