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


March 29, 2020

Thoughts To Consider....

     There are a couple of thoughts that have been rattling around in my head for the last week or so, and I'd like to share the first of them today... If we have the ability to be honest with ourselves, how many times have we complained that the distractions of the world keep us from deepening our relationship with God? I know that I have written many times that I see how our jobs, our activities, our social life, the internet, etc. are all ways that rob us of our time to spend with the Father. In fact, I would be willing to say that all these can potentially be used by the Enemy to steal the growth and maturity of our faith life.
     So, what's our excuse now? Many of us across the globe are quarantined or sheltering in place. We have lots of time to spend in worship, or prayer, or reading the Word. It should now be obvious to us if we really have a heart to know our Lord.
     And how often have we quoted Psalm 46:10 ... "Be still and know that I am God?" Well, we're being forced to be still. Are we making the effort to know God? Are we being wise with this newfound time we have? Or are we wasting this opportunity to listen for the voice of God? I see this season in our history as such a great opportunity for the Body of Christ to transform itself; to abandon the ways of the world and enter into the destinies written for us on our scrolls in Heaven -- to truly seek the Mind of Christ.
     It will take wisdom to let go of what the world tells us is important. And that might mean the loss of jobs, aspects of our health and wealth, and yes, even letting go of the internet which has become even more of a robber of our time since the spread of COVID-19. Yes, it will take wisdom -- but not the wisdom the world offers. Rather, God's Wisdom; the Spirit of Wisdom which imparts God's thoughts and His Word in our hearts. If we have ears to hear, we can discern now, more than ever, that it is the time to take advantage of God's Word and His Wisdom. 
     Take a moment and read Proverbs 1:20-33, and see if you don't recognize the current state of our nation and the world:


20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
23 Will you turn away at my reproof?
Behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

     There is so much in this proverb that I see mirrored in our world ... the Spirit of God's Wisdom has tried crying out to us in the marketplace, but we've been too focused on our jobs and accumulating wealth. She cries out in the streets, but we are too interested in being offended and condemning others. The city gates are our seats of government, and we know she hasn't been heard there!
      And God asks how long will we be content with an absence of Godly wisdom and delight in mocking Him and glorifying our own simple wisdom? And He clearly warns ... because He has called to us and no one listened; and we ignored His counsel and did not heed His offer when He stretched out His hand, He will laugh at our calamity -- even when it escalates to a whirlwind and distress and anguish come upon us. Many are feeling that today!
      It's not as if there have not been prior warnings and danger signs. So much of our moral fabric and connection to God has disintegrated in my lifetime alone. And I believe it is because we dis-invited Him from our schools, our halls of justice, our centers of government, our marriages, and our public square. What did we expect? That we could hate His knowledge, reject the fear of the Lord, and refuse His counsel, and there would be no aftereffects?
      He tells us in this powerful proverb that we will "eat the fruit of our way and have our fill of our own devices". Our rebellion and rejection, coupled with our complacency has the potential to destroy us. BUT, remember ... Jesus has redeemed us ... IF we will turn from our ways and listen to God's Spirit of Wisdom.
      There is still time for the people on the earth to repent for the iniquity that we have plowed, which reaped so much injustice. We have stuffed ourselves on the fruit of our lies because we trusted in our own ways. Those are not my words, friends, but were spoken by the prophet Hosea 2700 years ago. Yet, they are just as true today.
      So, please, I pray that mankind will heed the Spirit of Wisdom who is speaking to us today, telling us that we are now in the midst of a season where it is actually possible to hear the voice of God calling to us. Our marketplaces and businesses have been shuttered and our noisy streets are quieted. The gates of our government are in perpetual turmoil, but we can become unified and rise above their scoffing and scorn. We can respond to the sound of our Father in Heaven, calling us to choose His ways. We can come out of our complacency and smug self-pride and believe in the promise that we can once again dwell securely, without fear of further disaster.
      Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away. We've all got a lot of time on our hands right now. It seems that things are breaking down all around us. But you were born for this time. What will you choose to build up, keep, cast away? This is a time for great reflection on the rest of your life.

Hosea 10:12    Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.   

March 26, 2020

The Oppportunity We Have To Disciple The Next Generation

    
     I will admit that this is going to be a rather broad topic, as so many thoughts are running through my mind. I want to begin by defining what "Discipling" means to me. Whether the term is applied secularly or theologically, I interpret it to mean equipping and training; preparing minds and hearts for a specific purpose; and even going so far as teaching/instructing in specific skills.
     It goes without saying that my mind gravitates to our Lord's command to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Discipleship is obviously a priority for Jesus. And it is a theme that I continue to stress to everyone who comes to us for Inner Healing. Yes, Freedom in Christ is the goal for each person who needs to be healed from the wounds in their life, but without taking the time to disciple them in how to keep that freedom, we would be doing them a disservice. The problem is, in those first moments of glorious freedom, they often don't listen or remember those instructions as the days progress. So, we make ourselves available for continued discipling as the Beloved matures in their freedom.
     But, the need for discipling runs beyond our ministry. In fact, I am often disheartened at the lack of it that I see in our churches and our families. And there is a cost to the failure to disciple. I want to share a post that is making the rounds on Facebook. Maybe you've seen it. And whether it is a true account or not, I think it highlights the toll we've paid in our generations for not properly discipling... 

     The post reads like this: "I talked with an 80+ year-old man today and asked if there was anything I could get him while this Corona virus scare was gripping America. He simply smiled, looked away and said: 'Let me tell you what I need! I need to believe that it is safe to hand this country that my generation fought for over to this current generation! I need to know that this generation will quit being a bunch of sissies... that they respect what they've been given... that they've earned what others sacrificed for.' "
     He continued, "You know, I was a little boy during WWII. Those were scary days. We didn't know if we were going to be speaking English, German, or Japanese at the end of the war. There was no certainty, no guarantees. And no home went without sacrifice or loss. Every house, up and down every street, had someone in harm's way. Sometimes it was the whole damn family -- fathers, sons, uncles -- they all went to war. Having someone you love sent off to war wasn't less frightening than it is today. It was scary as hell! If anything, it was more frightening. We didn't have battle front news. We didn't have email or cell phones. You sent them away and you hoped and prayed. You may not hear from them for months, if ever. Sometimes a mother was getting her son's letters the same day that Dad was comforting her over that child's death. 
     And we sacrificed. You couldn't buy things. Everything was rationed. You were only allowed so much milk per month; only so much bread; so much toilet paper. EVERYTHING was restricted for the war effort. And what you weren't using, what you didn't need, things you threw away, they were saved and sorted for the war effort. My generation was the original recycling movement in America.
     And we had viruses back then, too... serious viruses. Things like polio, measles, and such. It was nothing to walk to school and pass a house or two that was quarantined. We didn't shut down our schools. We didn't shut down our cities. We carried on, without masks, without hand sanitizer. And do you know what? We persevered. We overcame. We didn't attack our President, we came together. Thick or thin, we were in it to win. And we would lose more boys in an hour than we lose in entire wars today. 
     Today's kids don't know sacrifice. They think a sacrifice is not having coverage on their phone while they freely drive across the country. Today's kids are selfish and spoiled. In my generation, we looked out for our elders. We helped out with single moms who's husbands were either at war or dead from war. Today's kids rush to the store, buying everything they can ... no concern for anyone but themselves. It's shameful the way Americans behave these days. None of them deserve the sacrifices their granddads made.
     So, no I don't need anything. I appreciate your offer, but I know I've been through worse things than this virus. But maybe I should be asking you, what can I do to help you? Do you have enough pop to get through this, enough steak? Will you be able to survive with 113 channels on your TV?"
      I was humbled by an 80+ year-old man today. I will never understand the sacrifices, or do enough to earn them. But maybe we should work harder to learn from men like him, and to respect what they have to teach us.

     Kind of struck a nerve, didn't it? And it begs the question ... have we properly equipped and trained and instructed this next generation to walk not only in humility and self-sacrifice, but to observe all the ways that Jesus commands? Have our churches done their job to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love?" 
     Or, like the generation the old man talked about, are our churches focused on self-aggrandizement -- increasing their numbers, their wealth, and their status? Have we really prepared the next generation of Christians for what it means to be overcomers? Have we taught them that Jesus says we will have tribulation in the world? Have we equipped them to move from milk to meat? Will they be able to stand, and then be able to do everything possible, so that they can remain standing? 
     Lest you think we are the only generations to have dropped the ball in discipling the next one, the Bible is full of examples of generations who did not learn from the previous; either because they rejected the ways of their forefathers, or were not properly trained up. A new generation of Egyptians forgot that the God of Israel had saved them from starvation through the foresight of Joseph, and they enslaved the Israelites living among them. And Judges 2:10-15 records, "another generation arose who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord ... and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them." Even the great warrior Joshua did not prepare the next generation to properly lead Israel after his death. Israel's leaders compromised with their enemies, and evil influences crept in, leading to worship of false gods.
     We have such a huge opportunity to disciple this next generation! Let's not get so preoccupied with our fears and our struggles during this Corona virus outbreak that we fail to equip and train the younger generation to see what God has called them to do; that they have a higher purpose than the latest version of iPhone, and how many followers they have on the internet. Let us instruct them that they have a destiny written on a scroll in Heaven and encourage them to go after that destiny. We need to equip and train them to grow in their spiritual gifts, and we need to invest more of ourselves in their lives.
     I do not think it is a coincidence that the generations are having to rely on each other more during this time of "social distancing". Families may find themselves coming together to survive physically, economically, and most importantly, spiritually. Do not let these opportunities go to waste! Church doors are closed, so fathers can step into their proper role and lead their families closer to God. It's a time to step away from our selfish desires and see to the needs of others, especially our elders. There is much to learn from them about our family histories. And lastly, let us take the opportunity to return to a recognition that we need God. This Corona virus threatens our basic needs. We know we can't survive without water to drink or food to eat. But we need not worry about our sustenance because our Father in Heaven generously offers the Bread of Life and Living Water. He will meet all our needs if we just realize we need Him and not the temptations of the world. Step into His Kingdom way of living; take the time to teach and equip and train the next generation during this time of slow-down. It is a responsibility that in due season, will bear great fruit.

Psalm 145:3-4    Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.  

March 23, 2020

Our God Is A God of Restoration!


     As we begin a new week, there is much uncertainty in our lives. I sense the first waves of panic subsiding [a little] as people have come to terms that change is on the way. But there is also a  heightened sense of wary anticipation as we await just what that change is going to be. Isolation brings a modicum of hope, but also a consciousness of detachment and a lack of connection. We humans are created for relationship, and that word quarantine doesn't bode well for our souls.
     I am not a prophet and the Lord has not given me any specifics about what it looks like going forward. But I believe that I sense His heartbeat, and I long to be in harmony and rhythm with Him. I know Him as my loving Father, in ways that demonstrate His exalted nature and mercy towards me, one who is so undeserving of such deep love and compassion.
     I know how much the human race has disappointed Him and that He would have every legal right to bring judgment upon the world. But while judgment against Evil will be His ultimate act, He measures His verdict against His children through loving discipline. And then He always restores those who respond to Him in repentance and obedience.
     So, I believe hard times are forthcoming. But I refuse to become a doomsday forecaster. I do not lay this virus, our economic woes, or the state of the world at the feet of God. It is time to be sober and vigilant, because our adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. And we must own up to the part we have played in this mess, and then humbly seek His face and His will for our lives from this moment on. God has not abandoned us! And I choose to focus on His promises of RESTORATION.
     Therefore, I have spent the morning combing through Scripture, noting all the ways that God has brought restoration in the lives of people in the Bible. And since He never changes, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and just as He will be tomorrow, we can expect that it is Their will to restore us, as well.
     First, there are numerous accounts of God restoring flesh and lives. As the fear of coronavirus sweeps the land, we can rest in the knowledge that just as God exhibited His power to restore Moses' hand in Exodus 4:7, He can restore our bodies back to health from this virus. In fact, we can take much comfort from Psalm 41:3, When they are sick, God will restore them, lying upon their bed of suffering. He will raise them up again and restore them back to health. And here is a prayer to declare over yourself and loved ones: Lord, it is because of these things [Your kindness, mercy, acts of love, goodness of God], that life is given. It is in You that my spirit lives. Now restore my health and give me life again! And let us not forget that Jesus restored the lame, the blind, and the mute. Plus Peter was able to restore the lives of Aeneas, who was paralyzed, and the disciple Dorcas, who had died. It is inevitable that sickness and death will visit this nation and some of our homes. But we do not have to sit back and give in to their threats. We are sons and daughters of the King and citizens of the Kingdom. We can use our power and authority to bring the Light into this darkness and demonstrate the power of God to defeat the tactics of Satan and restore our health.  
     We have also watched the wild fluctuations of the stock market over the last couple of weeks, and  millions of Americans are worried about their finances. Restaurants are closed down, small businesses are suffering, and untold numbers of Americans are out of work. But the Word tells us that God restores fortunes.  Job stands out among those who lost much in the Bible. Scripture tells us "he was the greatest of all the people of the east". Then Satan decided to test the hedge of protection around Job, and it cost this righteous man his wealth and his family, and he is ridiculed by his friends for not renouncing God for his losses. And when Job questions the justice of all that has happened to him, God reminds him of His majesty and His greatness; and then He rebukes Job's friends for misrepresenting Him and blaming Him for the works of the devil. Job confesses that he uttered what he did not understand and repents for blaming God. And the Bible says, And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).
     We must not fall into the trap Job did, of listening to the temptations of Satan to blame God for what befalls us. And we would do well to believe in the promise of the Lord to the captives in Babylon, given through the prophet Jeremiah: For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not harm you; plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
     We know that God restores land and nations and cities and thrones. Throughout the Bible He continued to restore Israel to their homeland, and we are still seeing that coming to fruition today in the Middle East. God is good to give us a picture of the restoration of righteousness in the New Jerusalem, as in Isaiah 1:26: I will restore deliverers [righteous judges] as in former times and your wise counselors as at the beginning. Only then will you be called the Righteous City and the Faithful City! And I rejoice in the hope provided in Acts 15:16, that the true Church will rise up in the knowledge that soon, Jesus will return, and He will rebuild the tabernacle of David that has fallen; He will rebuild its ruins, and He will restore it... that we will experience the intimacy and the trust and the relationship that David experienced with the Father; that we will come out of these difficult circumstances and identify as David, " a man after God's own heart". I want to be real with God, just as David was; feeling free to express my worries and my disappointments; and shouting His praises as He surprises me with miracles in the midst of darkness.
     And there is perhaps no other verse that speaks to my spirit more than Psalm 23:3 ... He restores my soul. I need and want a reset of my soul -- my mind, my free will, and my emotions. I pray that this time of separation from the world will result in a repair and renewal of any wrong thinking on my part. Like Job, I want to believe in my mind and my heart that God can do all things and no purpose of His can be thwarted. I want to question Him, and have Him make His counsel known to me. I don't just want to hear Him; I want to see Him. And I want my will to always reflect His, and my feelings to align with His. 
     So, here's what I do know as we head into this unknown territory ... God restores all things and all things are made new in Him. He showed me that this last Friday, during what will probably be the last "in-person" Inner Healing session Mark and I will do until we get on the other side of this quarantine. A beautiful couple came to us in the midst of the pain from adultery. Both were reeling from the betrayal and breach of trust, and it looked dismal for any chance of reconciliation. As always, we explained that we are not marriage counselors. Our purpose was to show them what Jesus desired. I will tell you it didn't look good when they first sat down. But throughout the session Jesus made His presence and His desire for them known; and when they heard His voice declare that "restoration was already beginning", He showered them with Living Water, washing away all the guilt and condemnation. They left with a vision of a renewed marriage; beginning again and casting away all efforts of the Enemy to destroy what Jesus pronounced as "clean". Mark and I spent the rest of the night praising Him for building something new and beautiful out of the ashes of loss and failure.
     I believe He can do that on a much bigger scale with millions of people in the world. This virus is designed to defeat us. But Jesus and the Father have declared victory and success over us! Believe in Them and trust Them! Talk to the Holy Spirit; know that He and Jesus are interceding for you every day! We are going to face some difficult times ahead, and no one knows for how long. We can choose to curl up in a ball out of fear and despair. Or we can walk as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, ministering to others in need, and interceding in prayer for all those suffering on the earth. And above all else, we can walk in confidence in our identity in Christ and believe that RESTORATION is in our future! 

1 Peter 5:10   And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

March 20, 2020

"Who Knows If You Have Not Come To The Kingdom For Such A Time As This"

    
     The title of today's post are the immortal words of Mordecai, the Jew, to his adopted daughter, Esther, the queen. According to the Bible, Esther's husband was King Ahasuerus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. According to the history books, he was the Achaemenian king Darius I, ruler over what is now Iran. 
     Mordecai has gotten wind that there is a plot to kill all the Jews in the kingdom, and while Esther, herself, is a Jew, it's been kept secret from her husband, the king. Mordecai implores Esther to go before the king and plead his favor, asking him to spare her people. But Esther reminds Mordecai that it is the law of the land that if anyone goes before the king unbidden, death is the penalty. Mordecai then tells his daughter that, as a Jew, she cannot expect to escape the destruction coming against all Jews, and that if she chooses to not help, that God will send His relief and deliverance from another source, and her father's house will perish. Then he speaks the words that I believe apply to us in this generation ... "Who knows if you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther's response ... to gather all the Jews together and ask them to fast on her behalf as she approaches the king, even though it is against the law. "If I perish, I perish" are her words that echo across the centuries.
     As the fears that accompany the spread of COVID-19 cross our land, we must contemplate if we are facing destruction of Biblical proportions. I will admit to you that it is hard to know what to believe. Can we believe the media reports that this is a true pandemic? Is the whole situation politically motivated to bring down the President's economy? Are all the shutdowns of businesses that result in loss of paychecks and jobs really necessary? Is the vaccine safe? I'm not sure we will ever know the unvarnished truth about these concerns, but no one can deny the effects this virus has had on our nation and the world. Frankly, I'm not sure we have seen such fear and panic over the future since the Great Depression and WWII. 
     But if you are a Kingdom-believing Christian, where does all this leave you? Can we truly live in a "Kingdom mindset", not letting the affairs of the world shake our faith and trust in our Father and King? I can't explain it, but I actually find myself calmer than I have been in other "near collapses" in our recent past. It's as if my spirit has been waiting for "the big one", and it's actually a relief. 
     You see, I can understand that God has been preparing me for such a time as this -- a time in which nothing of this world is secure. Money to pay bills, buy food, or take care of loved ones is not  guaranteed. Our health is at stake. For most of us, our homes and possessions may well be threatened as our economy teeters on the brink of crashing. We have never faced a more uncertain future in our lifetimes. And that uncertainty can breed doubt and fear. Where is God in all this? Is He hearing our prayers?
     I can assure you that our Father in Heaven hears our voices. And He is not absent in this situation. But as we face increased isolation in our society, we Christians have to decide what our response is going to be. I cannot answer for others, but I can tell you that I have always felt that there would one day be a tremendous trial come upon the world, and I would have the opportunity to not only experience it, but stand for the Lord. Notice, I did not say that I would be tested. That infers that God has given His approval for the trials the world is experiencing. 
     Instead, I recognize that much of the panic and hysteria that people are encountering comes from their lack of relationship with God, and their misplaced worship of the conveniences that the world offers them. Many Christians are guilty of this! We have fallen into step with society and the culture and worship our status, our wealth, our power, and our comfort. Many of us spend more time with our Facebook friends than we do with our Father in Heaven. We have not sought His will in how we should live our lives, but instead have chased after our own desires and yearnings. We have not fed on the Word of God, but have indulged in our appetites of unrighteousness and greed. 
     And now that may all come to a halt. There is talk of mandatory shutdown of the nation for an undetermined amount of time in the hopes that the spread of COVID-19 can be curbed. Everything in our world will change. There will be people who cannot afford food if they aren't receiving a paycheck. Our medical system, transportation system, banking system, food distribution system, utilities system, political system, and yes, even our religious system will be challenged -- especially our religious system.
     Will people blame God? Will they curse Him in the midst of their despair? Will they try to bargain with Him? Or will they fast for strength and wisdom, and then humble themselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways? Will the Church rise up and see this for the opportunity it is? For this is a time when not only can the world reset, and begin to look more like it was created to be, but Believers can begin to walk in their true Kingdom identities and take back Kingdom authority over those worldly systems that have gone so far astray.
     This is the time to reclaim the earth for the Kingdom of God! It is a time, in the words of the late Dr. Myles Munroe, to "establish the governing influence of our King over the territory called Earth, impacting it with His will, His purpose, and His intent, producing a citizenship of people who reflect the King's culture, nature, values, and morals". Doesn't the world need that? Doesn't our nation? And don't you want to be a part of that? 
     I am watching people expressing their fears over what the future holds while I am calm and filled with anticipation and expectation. I believe the Lord is about to do a great work in the lives of millions of people. And as always, everyone has a free will choice how they will receive His invitation. Satan has had his way for far too long and is, even now, trying to wield his power as ruler of this dark world to destroy peoples and nations with this virus and ruined economies. The battle over mankind is intensifying. But what the devil means for evil, God will use for His good. We can see ourselves as being born for this time and join with God to glorify Him in the midst of the coming trials. This is an amazing time to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom and to see God sow into the hearts of people. 
     It is an exciting time to be on the earth. It is a favorable time to be a worker in the Kingdom. It is also a dangerous time. The rulers in the spiritual realms, along with the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places are all going to fight back against the Kingdom of God. We can expect to be embattled and we must prepare for casualties; yes, even martyrdom. I know that's not an idea that brings comfort, but just like Queen Esther, we must stand firm, declaring, "If I perish, I perish". Nothing is secure in this new world we find ourselves -- not even our lives. But there is one thing we can count on for sure... Jesus has paid for our victory! And just as Mordecai exhorted Esther, we can choose to be a part of that victory or not, but we can be assured that if it is not you or me, "God will send His relief and deliverance from another source". I want to be part of that source! I was born for such a time as this, and you are, too! Our Father in Heaven, use me to help bring Your Kingdom to earth and heal our land!

Isaiah 43:18-19    "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 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."

 

March 17, 2020

What I Learned From Steve Harmon

    
     In the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty that is the Coronavirus event, the Body of Christ (and the world) is in need of a voice of clarity and purpose. Steve Harmon was that voice for me and Mark this past weekend. Maybe you haven't heard of him, but I encourage you to find his videos on YouTube and join his Facebook page. He is unlike any other voice for Jesus that I've heard. And Mark and I had the privilege of hosting him in our home for four days and then introducing him to a new audience of Christians in our area who needed to hear his message.
     Steve is part Inner Healing and Deliverance Minister, part Equipper and Trainer for the Kingdom, and part champion for those people who suffer from Satanic Ritual Abuse (known as SRAs). Just like Hannah dedicated her son, Samuel, to the Lord, Steve's mom prayed for a son to be born and she would consecrate him for a life of service to his God. After a few wayward years, Steve fulfilled his mother's promise, and completely lives his life for the Lord.
     He has no fear of man, and isn't afraid to break all the rules of "Churchianity" in America as he  challenges our theology. He educates us on the purpose of the Church, which he declares is plainly stated in Ephesians 4:11-15, And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.
     Spending time with this Godly man and hearing his teachings, I witnessed someone who truly walks out his faith selflessly and without reservations. He believes in complete healing as a process in the Christian life of communicating the Truth of Jesus in order to be set free. And what does that look like? I hear lots of people say they are free in Christ, and many have received a measure of freedom through Inner Healing and Deliverance. But if we were completely free, we would not get offended; we would walk in the Spirit without measure; we wouldn't get sick; and our bodies wouldn't be decaying and dying. How many of us meet those qualifications?
     So, it was refreshing to hear someone who wasn't afraid to challenge us as individuals, or to challenge the Church for not fulfilling their purpose; and to challenge our group of Christians to find their ministry to do what Jesus did. "Love, power, and truth is what Jesus operated in everywhere He went"... Loving people out of their woundedness; walking in our power and authority to defeat the demons who want to destroy our image of God, our image of ourselves, and how we see the world around us; and speaking the Truth that goes beyond our church doctrines and the limiting doctrine of "Where is it in the Bible?" 
     Steve stressed that the point of the Bible is to be in right relationship with the Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit's job to show us what God can do. The Holy Spirit is not limited to what John or Paul or Peter or any other man wrote in the Bible. And neither is Jesus limited by what people wrote about Him in Scripture! This coincides with something I tell everyone who is skeptical about our Inner Healing/Deliverance ministry -- everything written in the Bible is about Jesus. BUT everything about Jesus is not written in the Bible. Read that again and ponder it in your heart.  
     I know Steve's teaching stretched the faith of those people in that room this weekend, but if they were like me, I want to be stretched; I don't want a stagnant and static faith. I want to grow and mature into the fullness of Christ. And one of the biggest challenges Steve brings to any audience is his teaching that God is not in total control. But what about His Sovereignty, they always ask? "Sovereignty" is a fairly new term that has been applied to God's nature and means that He has the right to act within the limitations He has set upon Himself, And that limitation centers around the fact that He has offered us Free Will. And that will is a gift from our God that allows us to choose the way we will live our lives. Our gift to Him is choosing and doing His will which gives Him His authority back. 
     And that Free Will either harms or benefits the lives of every person on the earth. It is a key component in the healing process of our ministry. It is the basis of understanding either the joy Christians walk in or the woundedness that destroys lives; that result in fractured souls and whether those souls walk in Jesus's Light or the devil's darkness. 
     I was largely familiar with all the elements of Steve's teachings on Inner Healing and Deliverance and found so much confirmation and validation that Mark and I are on the right track in working with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But perhaps the greatest benefit I found in these four blessed days was his encouragement to expand our ministry beyond the immediate benefit of Inner Healing and Freedom for the Beloveds, and to include life coaching, discipling, and counseling to our model. And this inducement comes directly from Steve's heart.
     This is a man who is giving his entire life to setting people free and loving them into wholeness. He reflects the Father's heart for His children and it has cost him everything that the average man reveres so highly. His "family" are the precious individuals that he ministers to; the most severely wounded and damaged people who are victims of satanic rituals; whose lives have been shattered into an overwhelming number of fragments. It is his life's mission to rescue them from their tormentors and to restore them to their rightful identity as a child of God. And that has meant dedicating years of his life to the healing of one person; to very real physical and spiritual battles with powerful demons; and to relying completely on the Lord for his every need in life. He demonstrates so beautifully what the sacrificial life looks like. 
     So, as we head into more uncertainty and disquiet in the coming days, I am thankful for these few days spent with a man who personifies the perseverance and risk that is called faith. Steve Harmon, thank you for blessing our lives; for encouraging us to reach farther in our efforts to represent the Kingdom of God and earth; and for inspiring us to love deeper and live our lives in complete surrender to the Lord. May God protect you as you battle to bring His Light into the world!

Philippians 2:3-4     Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
        

March 14, 2020

Which Is Most Important - Our View of God or His View of Us?

     In yesterday's post, I made the following comment: "I believe that one of the most important decisions a Believer can make is what they think about God". I'd like to revisit that statement based on an article by Justin Taylor on the Gospel Coalition website. In the article, Mr. Taylor presented opposing positions by two of our most revered Twentieth Century theologians; A.Z. Tozer and C.S. Lewis. They were contemporaries of each other; Tozer was an American pastor and author; Lewis was a British writer and lay theologian.
     In his article, titled "Tozer vs. Lewis: What's the Most Important Thing About Us?", Justin Taylor let's the two men speak for themselves. In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer writes: "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base, as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
     For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.
     We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God."
     And in his book, The Weight of Glory, Lewis writes this: "I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us.
     It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is."
     Far be it from me to suppose that my opinion can compare to the thoughts of these godly men! And it would be easy to walk the middle of the road and say that I agree with both of them -- which I do. But I find this juxtaposition fascinating and must work it out in my mind to its end conclusion for me.
     Although I am open to more persuasion, here is where I land on comparing the two ... Lewis appears to make the Judgment Seat of God the foundation of His argument. By that, I mean that He supposes, in that dynamic moment of our lives, we will care about nothing else except that we "survive that examination" and experience the incredible and unimaginable approval and delight of God.
     He acknowledges Salvation and the work of the Cross as the measure by which we are judged. But I'm left to wonder if He recognizes that Jesus also came to establish His Father's Kingdom on the earth. So won't God's measure of approval also depend on how we lived our lives; what we did as an ambassador of His Kingdom; whether we walked in our power and authority and helped destroy the works of the devil and his kingdom?
     What about Tozer's assertion that it doesn't really matter about what a man might say or do, but what he conceives God to be like in the deepest part of his heart? Our heart is where Jesus desires to be enthroned, and the condition of our heart will determine if we live our lives pleasing to God. It is out of our heart that we let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). And the Bible says if our hearts are pure, then we shall see God (Matthew 5:8). But what if your heart isn't pure? Can you still be Saved and have a portion of your heart unpure? I believe so! That is why forgiveness is such an important tenet of our faith. And I also believe that if any part of our heart is struggling, it definitely affects our vision of God.
     In the end, both arguments are credible. And that's because they point to a relationship -- there is a connection; an interdependence between us and our Father in Heaven. If our heart is blinded, then we will be unable to see Him, and how we view Him will be determined by our circumstances and what happens to us in the world. If we take the eyes of our heart off Him and define Him by who the world says He is, that will color how we represent Him to the world. Ultimately, our choices then become paramount in how He sees us. There is no separating our view of God from His view of us. One affects the other, and it is the design of our Creator that we acknowledge Him, seek Him, and know Him -- not because He needs us to! But because we choose to!
     He made a free will choice to create us in His image. So, when He looks upon us, I would expect that He anticipates seeing a reflection of Himself. That would have been so if Adam and Eve had not rebelled and been banished from the Garden and their relationship with God was terminated. So until Jesus comes into your life to re-establish that relationship with your Creator and reconnect you to Heaven, you look in the mirror and don't know who you are. Without Jesus, we never see the Father in us.
     That leaves me with asking these questions .... If we don't know God and can't see Him, does that negate His love for us? My answer is "no".. His invitation for relationship is always there. So, His view of us (out of His boundless love) will be the most important thing in our life.  In this case, C.S. Lewis is correct.
     The next question is this .... If we do know the Lord, and are seeking more of Him, is it important that we know His true character and nature? Will that help us to make wise free will choices that please Him? If we rightly view the Father and the Son, won't that guide us individually and corporately [as the Church]? I believe that we can discern a person's opinion of God by their actions; what they think is pleasing to Him. The same thing can be said about a Church. And what they do in the Name of Jesus either glorifies Him or misrepresents Him -- all depending on how they view Him. In that case, Tozer is right.
     In the end, neither Tozer nor Lewis will be the decider of what I think about God or what He thinks about me. I will rely on the revelations of the Holy Spirit, through the logos and rhema Word, and the dreams, visions, prophecies, and narratives He brings me. And one day I will stand before Him at that Judgment Seat and it will be a glorious day! Of that, I have no doubt!

Ephesians 4:24      Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in His perfect righteousness, and you now belong to Him in the realm of true holiness.
    

March 11, 2020

Good and Evil

    
      I'm going to be chasing Scripture today in search of an answer to a question that has intrigued me for quite some time. Are you ready to join me in the pursuit? As I have stated before, I believe that one of the most important decisions a Believer can make is what they think about God. I say that because our perception of God and His Nature will influence our relationship with Him, and will ultimately affect how we regard ourselves.
     If our "picture" of God is a stern, judgmental Father, then we are not likely to seek or experience intimacy with Him. Conversely, if we see Him as only Loving and full of Grace and Mercy, then we probably aren't willing to conceive of His Wrath and Judgment. And both views of Him are Biblically correct ... Love, Mercy, Grace, Wrath and Judgment are all parts of His Nature. But conflict over the full and complete Nature of God can lead to confusion and, frankly, to an incorrect understanding of who He is. Our denominational doctrines and personal theologies and Biblical worldviews also add to our flawed understanding.
     One of the biggest issues we run into during an Inner Healing session [or discussion on the Kingdom of God] is the matter of "God's control". People either believe God is in control of everything or He is not. And I want to differentiate "control" from "sovereignty". There is no question that God is Sovereign, and I define His Sovereignty as His authority to govern Himself and His creation; His ability to set the rules of His government [on earth and in Heaven]; "His absolute right to do all things according to His own good pleasure" (Easton Bible Dictionary).
     But control is another matter and certainly affects how we view God and how we feel about Him. If we believe that God controls everything in our lives, then when an innocent child dies, or we get fired from our job, or find ourselves physically violated, our automatic response is, "God, why did You allow this to happen?", and God can be seen as distant, detached, or unsympathetic. On the other hand, if we believe that the devil's goal is to kill, steal, and destroy our relationship with our Father, then we may see his handiwork in these events in our life, and need to come to the truth of Scripture that says it is inevitable that we will face trials and troubles in this life, but we can trust that our Lord will be there to walk with us and comfort us through them.
     As I have contemplated how to approach this conflict in our Christian belief systems, there is a deeper question that has piqued my interest. It is most likely one that many of you have asked yourselves, but may have been reticent to bring into a conversation without having an adequate answer. So, I'm going to take a leap of faith and ask it on behalf of all of us and then share the path I am following [in Scripture] to try to find my answer. Here's the question: Did God create Evil? If so, Why? First of all, what is your belief on that supposition? Do you believe He is the creator of Evil... or not?
     I began my quest for an answer in Genesis 2:9, For out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree pleasant to the sight, and good for meat: the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and of evil.  From this verse, it appears that God created two trees: one of life, which is received from God, and one of the knowledge of good and evil. Why, if we know that God is good [and Jesus states that "No one is good except God alone" in Mark 10:18], would He create a tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden that offered knowledge of both good and evil?
     But don't we have to consider God's timeline in all of His creation? And do we really understand it from His perspective? Genesis, Chapter One records the creation of the heavens and the earth, and verse 31 tells us that on the Sixth Day, "God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good." Some versions actually say, "And it was all good". It goes on to tell us at the beginning of Chapter Two that He rested on the Seventh Day "from all His work which He had created and made". 
     But God doesn't create man until Genesis 2:7 and these trees in the Garden until verse 9.  And if the serpent [or Satan, if you will] was in the Garden of Eden, then he had already rebelled against God and been kicked out of Heaven, correct? Now, then the serpent appears in verse one of Genesis, Chapter Three. So, do we really know the span of time that existed between the Sixth Day and Seventh Day of Creation until the creation of man? And from the creation of Adam and Eve until their temptation to rebel against God in the Garden? No! The Bible doesn't make it clear, but how many of us have assumed these events followed each other in a rapid manner just because they appear sequentially and in order in the Bible? Remember, the original Scriptures did not have Chapter and verse breaks. Scribes added them for the sake of convenience, but they can lead to problems in our understanding. 
     Obviously, Satan is in the Garden of Eden. So, how do we reconcile that with "everything God had made was good"? Here's how I settle that question .... God created Lucifer, who was originally good, but he rebelled against God because of his pride and was expelled from Heaven. In fact, a website called harvest.org explains it as I understand it ... "When God created the world, we are told that God examined it and declared that it was good (Genesis 1:31). This means that even the angelic world did not have evil angels or demons in it at that time. But by the time of Genesis chapter three, we find that Satan, in the form of a serpent, was tempting Eve to sin. Therefore, sometime between the events of Genesis chapter one and Genesis chapter three, there must have been a rebellion in the angelic world, with many angels turning against God and becoming evil. This rebellion was led by Satan himself."  So, in my mind, this makes it clear that God did not create Evil, but it was a consequence of rebellion against Him, otherwise known as Sin. Can we agree that this is at least a possibility?
     But there still remains the question ... Why create a tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Surely, He knew what a great risk that was! And in Genesis 3:22, when He discovers that Adam and Eve have disobeyed Him, He says,  “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”. It was imperative that God protect the way to the tree of life, so He banished Adam and Eve from the Garden [which served to separate them from the intimate relationship they had with God. They no longer had direct access to Him, nor were able to be in His presence]. 
     So, now I'm faced with two frames of reference --- not only do I see that God didn't control the situation [by stepping into His sovereignty and stopping Adam and Eve], but now there is the knowledge of good and evil in the world. What good could possibly come from these two facts? I think I have found one possible answer in Isaiah, Chapter Seven. And, not surprisingly, the Lord shows us the way.
     The prophet Isaiah is sent by the Lord to speak to King Ahaz, the king of Judah, who is besieged by his enemies. God gives him a sign of the deliverance of the House of David: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted" (Isaiah 7:14-16).
     Of course, this is a prophecy of the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, who comes to model how we are to live our lives in obedience to our Father. It is evident that God's principle of Free Will is at play here. As a child, Jesus has the option to refuse the evil and choose the good. And throughout His life, He chooses to do the Father's will, even to the point of choosing to go to the Cross. That choice to do good is something at which Lucifer and Adam and Eve failed. And what was the result of the Son of God's crucifixion? It glorified the Father! Jesus expresses this in His humanity in John 12:27-31, Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 
     Here we see both the promise of God's glory and His judgment. Jesus, knowing what His fate would be, could have, at any time, chosen to abandon His purpose. But He chose to offer His life to the Father so that the Father might be glorified in His coming Resurrection. God didn't control the situation. Jesus chose to be obedient, bringing judgment upon all those who choose to follow the Evil One and his ways. You see, Free Will is at the heart of people choosing to know evil. There can't be a judgment against Evil [by God] if He controls everything and causes it to happen. There has to be a choice made .... whether to know [and do] good, or to choose to know [and do] evil.
    So, at this point in my search of Scripture, here's where I stand: I do not believe God created Evil. But I also do not believe He controls everything and "allows" Evil to exist. I believe that one of the principles of God's creation is the choice of His created ones to choose Him. He didn't create us to be robots, with no capacity to decide for ourselves that we would follow Him. Wouldn't that be God glorifying Himself? Instead, I believe that He made us to be in relationship with Him, while giving us the choice to show our love by being obedient and sharing in His goodness -- or reaping the misery of a life lived in disobedience and rebellion. When we choose Him, that is what glorifies Him, exalts Him, pleases Him, and honors Him. 
     Do I think that my conclusion is the only correct one? Absolutely not! But I hope the questions I've pondered will lead you to search out your own answers and bring you into a greater intimacy with the One who has all the answers! Whether we end up agreeing on these questions is not my goal. It's my hope that your journey will bring you into a greater intimacy and knowledge of He who loved you enough to send His Son as a sacrifice for you. That relationship is what matters and what will ultimately defeat Evil and return the earth to its original state.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20     I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him,




 

March 8, 2020

The Bible and Knowing The Lord

     I write today's post out of more than a little frustration, along with a desire to speak honestly and candidly to my fellow Christians. When the Lord first starting bringing people to our table for an encounter with Jesus to receive Inner Healing from the Lord, they resembled the people Jesus ministered to .... people who either did not know Him or had wandered away from Him. They were people who were desperate to change the circumstances of their lives; they had reached a place where they were willing to take a chance on the advice of someone to come see us. And just like with Jesus, their encounter with the Lord healed them of their bondage and torment from the devil, and they were willing to seek Him and the Father.
     But these were people who did not feel welcome in the Church; did not feel comfortable sharing their wounds with those who might look down upon the secrets they had been careful to keep hidden all their lives. After Jesus set them free, they were eager to be discipled and learn more about Jesus. We emphasized getting to know Him through His Word and weekly Bible studies in the Book of Matthew showed them a whole new way to live, and the Word spoke Truth and Hope into lives that were ready to receive them.
      Time has progressed, and a reputation we did not seek began to bring more "churched" people to our table. And as we have said over and over, people in the Church are as much in need of Freedom in Christ as the un-churched. Many are wonderfully Saved, but tormented in soul and spirit from the wounds that have kept them from walking in their full purpose and identity in Christ. And rest assured, we make no distinction between any person that finds their way to us for healing with Jesus. He died to take away everyone's pain, and we are only too happy to be obedient and provide a way for them to receive Him. But here is where my frustration comes in...
     We end every session with reminding the Beloved that although they have received blessed freedom from the wounds of their past, the Enemy will try to use the same tactics to bring them back into bondage. They must be prepared to recognize those lies and schemes; they are the same tactics that have worked all these years. And when they discern them, they need to identify the lie that's being whispered ("you're worthless", " you will fail again", "you're not worth loving"; whatever it is) and verbally renounce it and declare the truth from the Word of God ("He loved me enough to send His Son that I might have eternal life", "I am God's Temple, and His Holy Spirit lives in me", "I am a son or daughter, and an heir through Jesus Christ", "I was wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of my God"). We teach them that the Devil is a liar and the Father of all the lies they've been hearing their entire lives about who they are, and that's why it is important to take every thought captive, as the Bible tells us to do; especially those lies.
     These are very simple instructions, backed by the Bible, and we emphasize them as an effective way to keep the freedom one receives from an encounter with the Lord. But, sadly, we are finding that so many Christians leave our session and do not follow what we've advised. And I'm beginning to think it's because they don't read their Bibles, and therefore the advice is not recognized as valid or needed. After all, they are flying high after being freed from painful wounds in their past, and they saw or heard Jesus take away their shame, guilt, anger, rejection, abandonment, pride and other sin-caused torments. Surely, nothing could take that away, right?
     Yet, the first time the Enemy throws that familiar fiery dart, it strikes home. The old thoughts return; the lies that tell them they're a fake, or unworthy of the freedom they received. And they do not take those thoughts captive and declare that Jesus removed all that garbage and washed them in His Blood and Living Water. And just as Jesus warns us in Matthew 12, "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” But wait, they either don't read their Bible or don't take what it says to heart! In fact, I would venture that when the spiritual attacks renew, the last place the Beloved goes is to the Bible! They are confused. They know they were free. What happened? Why are they under attack again? It's as if our admonition to them fell on deaf ears.
     Mind you, these are "good Christians"! They are at their Church every time the doors are open. They involve themselves in community projects; are on at least one committee; hold a title at the Church; and even declare, "The Lord told me...". Some even see and hear in the Spirit and have received giftings from the Lord, but don't really know what He expects of them -- because they haven't read their Bible to know what He commands. It makes them feel good about what they're doing; that they're working for the Lord in the Kingdom (without knowing what Kingdom Living is really all about, because they don't know what the Lord reveals through His Word and the Holy Spirit). But doesn't that make it all about them and not the people they are supposed to be ministering to and discipling?
     I am reminded that Jesus teaches that there is a narrow gate and a wide gate. The wide gate is the easy route and many will enter through it. Is that a picture of the majority of the Church? Do they not understand that Jesus also spoke about another gate; one that is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few? And here is something else, that frankly should terrify every Believer... it is what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 
     These were people who thought they knew the Lord because they knew the Law, followed the rules they established for themselves and others, and had listened to Him teach. They probably had followed Him around Galilee, saw the miracles, and thought they were following His example. Is that any different from those today who listen to teachers and preachers and prophets and podcasts; who read books by best-selling Christian authors? Just as with the people Jesus spoke to, the act of using the Name of the Lord in the work you do for the Church does not necessarily mean you know the Father's will or His heart. He is revealed to us through the Word! 
     As you read and study the Bible, the Holy Spirit brings revelation. Yes, you can learn much from those teachers and preachers and prophets and books and podcasts. But the best way to know the Lord is by reading God's Word. And knowing Him means we continually seek Him, and we don't get comfortable with what someone else has told us about Him. We actually meet Him personally in His Word. That's when the real relationship happens. And it is not a relationship founded on religion or doctrine. The Bible is the key to understanding and knowing the Lord. Pure and simple. It's time Christians make the effort to read it.

Mark 7:6    And He said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me;' "
 
     
       

March 5, 2020

Is God's Inspired Revelation Limited To The Bible?



     I have no doubt that what I am going to say today will be found controversial, at best. It was generated by a conversation that Mark and I had during our morning study time. I was cross-referencing Scripture about the judgment by Christ at His Second Coming, when I came across the familiar passage in Jude 14-15, It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
     Our conversation began with my understanding that the "these" Enoch is prophesying about are "the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling" that Jude mentions in verse 6. Remembering that Jude is the younger half-brother of Jesus, I could imagine the conversations and questions that he might have had growing up and listening to Jesus's teachings. And then that lead to my comment about verses 14-15 being a direct quotation from 1 Enoch 1:9, a passage from a section of the apocryphal Book of Enoch called The Book of the Watchers. And since the Book of Enoch is not included in the canon, this resulted in Mark's response: "I wonder if we have the Bible God intended us to have?"
     So let me be perfectly clear about my position on this before I go any further ... Both Mark and I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God --- no matter how many translations and versions it has undergone. And there have been many! [I urge you to read a very informative article on the history of the Bible at greatsite.com.] I have come to the conclusion that even though our English Bible has survived the various interpretations and agendas of its human apologists, and it may not be perfect in representing God's original revelatory language, it is the Holy Spirit that is still able to convey the authentic and genuine divine disclosure that God intended for mankind. In other words, God still reveals what He desires us to know about Him in the book we call the Bible. It's up to us to pursue that relationship and be open to receiving the message, even if it is different than we've been taught. One of the most erstwhile pursuits a Christian can aim for is to develop your own theology based on serious time in the Bible.
     But I also understand that before the Bible appeared in its completed written form, there was a span of approximately 1500 years from the time Moses wrote Genesis in about 1400 BC, and the Book of Revelation was written around 90 AD. And in between there were only oral versions of what we know as Scripture. No one was writing down the Sermon on the Mount or the various parables Jesus spoke. Men memorized them and passed them down orally. We need to remember that the culture of ancient Israel was primarily hearing oriented and not written oriented. That's why Jesus is quoted so many times as saying, You have heard that it was said... He is repeating a teaching, or religious idea that was accepted as truth because it was passed down from generation to generation, and believed to contain God's message as disclosed in the ideas and narratives of the Old Testament.
     It is generally accepted that the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written down by eye-witnesses [or at least derived from the testimony of eye-witnesses to Jesus's teachings] and it happened over the next century after His death and resurrection. So you can see what a miracle it is that we have God's inspired Word to guide us.
     But I also want to state that I am a firm believer in Proverbs 25:2, It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. And that brings me back to a consideration of this passage in Jude that is a direct quote from the Book of Enoch. How does that affect your opinion of whether we are to restrict our knowledge of God to Solo Scriptura (a theological doctrine held by some Protestant Christian denominations that the Bible [as we know it] is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice)?
     The reason I ask is because of the first Book of Enoch, [or 1 Enoch as it is known -- to distinguish it from 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch, later versions plagued with manuscript variations and  Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah writings.] While there is no evidence that the Holy Spirit inspired men to include this book in the authoritative canon -- and I am not claiming that it should be considered canon -- is it possible that the Spirit included a section of it in the Book of Jude because it offers us the opportunity to study the history, and spiritual and doctrinal influence it had on the early Church?
     A website called bereanbiblechurch.org quotes 1 Enoch translator E. Isaac, who writes, "1 Enoch played a significant role in the early Church; it was used by the authors of the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and a number of apologetic works. Many Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria, either knew 1 Enoch or were inspired by it. Among those who were familiar with 1 Enoch, Tertullian had an exceptionally high regard for it.... There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism. No wonder, therefore, that the book was highly regarded by many of the earliest apostolic and Church Fathers." " [E. Isaac, A New Translation and Introduction,in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1].
     Once again, I am not maintaining that 1 Enoch should be included in our Bible. But I also find it interesting that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine didn't exist in the American theological psyche until just 111 years ago when the Scofield Bible was printed; or that King James authorized a new translation of the Bible in 1611 for clear political motives, and he directed that the language was to reflect his ideas of church government; or that the NIV Bible, published in 1973 has gone through several revisions in which the Deity of Jesus is removed. An example of this is Acts 8:37, which reads, And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest [be baptized]. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The NIV, New Living Translation and some of the latest versions of the Bible do not include this verse.
     So, why wouldn't the writings credited to the same Enoch who is revealed in the Bible in Genesis 5:21-24, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, and Jude 14-15 be given some authority in further understanding the beliefs of the Early Church? While 1 Enoch is only part of the Bible in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it has been invaluable in shaping Christian doctrine since the writers of the Bible first began recording the inspired Word of God. And shouldn't it be taken into consideration that 1 Enoch is believed to have been written from 100-300 years prior to the Bible, yet portions of it are consistent with not only the ancient prophets, but the writers of the New Testament? Here are some examples:

     1 Enoch 1:6-7The high mountains will be shaken, and the high hills brought low, melting like wax in the flame. 
     Micah 1:4, And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.
     2 Peter 3:10,12: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed... waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

     1 Enoch 91:16a, The first heaven shall pass away, and a new heaven shall appear. 
     2 Peter 3:13, But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
      
     1 Enoch 48:6–7a For this (reason) he was chosen and hidden in his presence, before the world was created and forever. And the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits has revealed him to the holy and the righteous; for he has preserved the lot of the righteous.
     1 Peter 1:20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.

     1 Enoch 69:27 And he sat on the throne of his glory, and the whole judgment was given to the Son of Man, and he will make sinners vanish and perish from the face of the earth.
     1 Peter 4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

     So I present all this to you, not in an effort to convince you that you should consider the Book of Enoch as equal to the Bible, or even that you should read it. But I do subscribe to the ideation of Mr. Isaacs, the translator of 1 Enoch, in that it bears similarities to Scripture, and might possibly "have been influential in molding New Testament doctrine."
     And in accordance with this thought, I do not find it heretical to read it (as I have been accused). Rather, I believe that God may have concealed more background information in this apocryphal book that might be beneficial in understanding Scripture. And I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal whether what is written there is divine truth or not. If God has concealed it, then my searching it out glorifies Him. If He had nothing to do with the writing of the Book of Enoch, then I trust the Holy Spirit to show me that, too, and I will consider it just an interesting read of apocryphal writing. And I trust and rely on my relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus enough that I do not fear being deceived.
     So, now you know a little bit about how my mind works and why I love to go deeper in trying to understand all I can about God and His Word. As I've said so many times to Christians [who look at me like I'm being blasphemous], "Everything in our Bible is about Jesus Christ and the Father... but everything about Jesus and God is not in the Bible". They cannot be contained in something as finite as a bound book of 1547 pages. They are supernatural, and multi-dimensional, and worth every second that I am searching them out. Holy Spirit, show me more!

Psalm 14:2   The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.