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

September 21, 2018

Beware Of A Spiritual "Normalcy Bias"

     Way back in 2012, I wrote an article titled Our Nation's Achilles Heel, and at the time I was focused on how I viewed this world and what I could see going on "behind the curtain", so to speak. At the time, I was concerned about a particular mindset of Americans called "normalcy bias", and I identified it as this: a tendency (or preference) to view the world around you in its usual, customary state. And like I said, in 2012 I was focused on the geo-political state of the world, so someone's normalcy bias might manifest in a mindset that said, "America will always be a Super Power.  No one is going to take us down"; "I still have a job. Everything's going to be alright"; "I don't need to prepare.  If I just believe in God, He will take care of me." "Nothing's really changed in my life; I still do all the things I've always done. What's the big deal?"
     Perhaps God revealed that carnal aspect of man's make-up so that as He grew me in the path He had designed for me, I would be able to see the correlation of this concept to the spiritual world. By that, I mean that I see a tendency among Christians to retain a "status quo" when it comes to how they view the spiritual side of their lives. Just like the carnal world, when you decide to step outside of your spiritual comfort zone, it's less comfortable, for sure. But a spiritual normalcy bias also means you choose to look upon the spiritual realm(s) as you always have; you convince yourself that nothing's changed in how the Enemy operates, so you see what you want to see -- or ignore the things that don't coincide with your theology or doctrine.
     Let's take a look at these examples: from the time you've been a child, you were taught (and believe) that God is in control of everything ... All you have to do is pray and hope He will answer your prayers ... Suffering is often necessary for a Believer to come closer to God ... Once we're saved, we live out our lives as "good Christians" until the day we die, and then we go to heaven. Do any of these ideas sound familiar to you? I am not condemning anyone who believes these concepts. But I will say that I pray they receive greater revelation from God on these matters. Here's why...
     If the aforementioned concepts define one's belief system, then I wonder how one reconciles the Scripture that tells us to put on the armor of God to stand against the schemes of the devil; or to be sober-minded and watchful because the devil is looking for someone to devour. And then there is the Word that says whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in Heaven. Have you ever asked yourself, "What would need to be bound? Or what would I loose?" I'm pretty sure there are Christians who think that Jesus accomplished the work [while here on earth] to defeat the devil, so what does that have to do with us? After all, they might say, weren't His last words "It is finished"?
     But if I am looking at this spiritual normalcy bias objectively, I would have to say that at the center of this belief system is Christian eschatology, which is concerned with death and the afterlife, Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the Rapture, the Tribulation, Millennialism, the end of the world, the Last Judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth in the world to come. --- in other words what happens to the Believer in the future.
      Here's the thing.... since most Christians see all this as in the future, they are hard-pressed to tell you what they know about any of those Biblical tenets. So they continue to walk in their normalcy bias -- none of this effects me, and I know I'm saved and going to Heaven. I just have to be good until I die. And if you happen to believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, then you're even more convinced that none of these Biblical tenets apply to you.
     But I believe there's a danger in that kind of mindset. Just as those who thought life during Hurricane Florence would be normal, I fear there are Christians who view their spiritual surroundings from a "nothing's going to change" bias. In other words, the study of eschatology has moved the Church's focus to our final destiny, instead of educating and preparing us for what's happening in the spiritual realm(s) in the here and now.
     We must begin to sharpen our spiritual senses and see beyond the veil of this carnal world. Yes, we are co-heirs with Christ in the world to come, but we still have a lot of living to do in this world! And while we're waiting for Jesus to come back so we can go to Heaven, there is a war being waged against our culture, our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Not only have we become lethargic about protecting our Godly institution of marriage, our gender identity, and family values -- but most of the Church is unfamiliar with just what "As it was in the days of Noah" implies for this generation or the next.
     Our normalcy bias causes us to not even consider that Fallen Angels could actually affect our current existence; whether it be through technology, DNA manipulation [as it was in the days of Noah], or setting up false religious, political and economic systems that will ultimately lead to the "Beast System" at the end of this Age. Our normalcy bias would tell us that we will escape any such destruction or deceit. But will we? What does the Bible say?
     I am not advocating that we see the devil or demons around every corner. But it would be wise to to let go of our normalcy bias and see with spiritual eyes.  The battle for mankind doesn't just come at Armageddon. There is a battle going on right now! We might not see it with carnal eyes, but that doesn't mean it isn't being waged in the spirit. Just remember this ... the people in Noah's time were living their lives as if nothing would change, oblivious to the coming Flood. We have been warned by Jesus in the Bible. Can we afford to ignore His warning?
     And let us not forget that the Bible tells us the Restrainer is keeping the lawlessness [that will mark the End Times] at bay. What does that look like? And are you spiritually prepared to endure it, should you be on the earth at that time? It is my prayer that all Christians walk in Spirit and Truth; that they rise above cultural religion and conformist attitudes about the spiritual reality in which we live. Just as a normalcy bias will render you a victim in this carnal world, so will it cause greater suffering in the spiritual. Let us not succumb to a spiritual life that is routine or "business as usual". Let us walk in spiritual awareness and insight, just as our Lord and Savior. Then we will walk as victors and not as victims.

Luke 21:34    Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else.

September 18, 2018

Give Us This Day Our DAILY Bread

     I am sometimes filled with wonder at the deeper and more relevant conversations I have with my Sisters and Brothers in Christ after the Lord has brought Mark and myself out of the confines of the four walls, and directed our path in His narrow way. What I mean by that is this: I feel we are entering into conversations that increase and strengthen our relationship with Christ far greater than ever before. 
     For example, I have a dear Sister whose faith walk has grown by leaps and bounds this past year or so, and we were having a frank and honest conversation about our struggle to maintain a righteous life; of having faced some spiritual issues and personal sins that we were delivered from, yet we continue to battle on those same fronts. She said something to the effect of, "I thought once I was delivered, I would be free from that [sinful area] of my life, going forward".
     My first thought was this... I remembered Paul saying, I discover that even when I want to do good, evil is ready to sabotage me. Truly, deep within my true identity, I love to do what pleases God. But I discern another power operating in my humanity, waging a war against the moral principles of my conscience [mind] and bringing me into captivity as a prisoner to the “law” of sin—this unwelcome intruder in my humanity. This is a principle about which I always caution someone [who has gone through a deliverance session].
     I think everyone of us can identify with those thoughts that we know are wrong, and which in the past, have led us to say or do something that we know displeased God and is not in alignment with our identity as a new creation in Christ. These thoughts are the fiery darts that the Enemy sends to tempt us to do evil. Various translations call them the "flaming arrows" or "blazing arrows" of the Evil one; all designed to return us to captivity by penetrating the protective shield of faith, which is part of our spiritual armor that we are to put on and never take off.
     But here's the thing.... just because you've experienced a spiritual encounter with Jesus whereby He has covered that particular sin in your life; and you have been forgiven; and you have forgiven others and watched Jesus remove that area of bondage from your life [as far as the east is from the west], it doesn't mean the Enemy is going to quit launching those fiery arrows of the devil. Why should he? They have worked for lots of years in your life, and you have responded to that temptation in the past.... so he's going to see if they will work again. And he might continue for awhile before he realizes that you have truly renewed your mind and heart and those fiery darts no longer work on you. And this is where the concept of our DAILY BREAD comes in.

     We are all familiar with the verse in the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus tells the disciples to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. Have you ever wondered why He uses that particular terminology? Well, a study of the hermeneutics of the word "bread" reveals the following: It originates from the Hebrew word nacah, which among it's many meanings are "to pardon; to spare; to undertake the responsibility of the sins of others by substitution or representation". The Greek word airo also defines "bread", as well. It means "to take away what was been attached to anything; to remove", and I can't tell you how many times during the deliverance sessions we have witnessed, the Beloved sees Jesus [in the spirit] remove a spirit of shame, or guilt, or self-rejection -- whatever false identity the Enemy has attached to them that has kept them in bondage. Finally, in the most basic sense, the Greek word artos defines "bread" as the necessity for the sustenance of life. I don't think any of us would argue that Jesus is necessary for eternal Life.
    So, now let's go back and see the big picture Jesus is painting for us here. Because the Enemy is going to continue to launch those fiery arrows of tempting sin at our minds, hearts, and flesh, there will be those inevitable times that our shield of faith is not positioned correctly to deflect them. And we will be able to identify with Paul when he says, For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]  -- those darn fiery darts have found their mark! 
     So the truth of the matter is that we need the provision of deliverance  -- the bread that removes whatever sin has attached itself to us; the sustenance offered by Jesus, and we need it every day -- DAILY -- because we are engaged in a daily war against our minds and hearts. Just because Jesus has delivered us from a lifelong bondage in an area of our life, it doesn't mean we will never encounter another temptation or never sin again. As long as we are in our humanity, we are going to sin. It is up to us to receive that Daily Bread that renews us every day, delivers us from the consequences of our sins, and provides us with the power to fight back.  
     In short, "Daily Bread" is a renewal of God's righteous principles in our life each and every day. We are not strong enough, in our humanity, to resist the temptations of the Enemy to sin again, so Jesus offers Himself as the sustenance [and the power] to withstand the sinful appeals of the devil. If you have been blessed to be delivered from bondage, then you know how sweet is the taste of the renewed life He offers. This bread is not only life-giving, but both a daily preventative and eternal. And here is the benefit of being called His own ... It's a daily offering, and we would do well to never skip our portion of it because what Jesus says in the Lord's Prayer immediately following this request for Daily Bread is the reason we need it ... forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And And rescue us from temptation, and deliver us [set us free]  from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. The Daily Bread is the means by which we can ensure our prayers are answered. Praise Him for His everlasting faithfulness to deliver us!

Proverbs 30:8     Keep deception and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,

September 15, 2018

Fulfilling Our Mandate

     A very dear friend, who walks in obedience to the Lord, asked me an interesting question... Do you think "God's mandate" for your life can change based on your maturity, identity, or revelation in Him? That's a pretty loaded question! But it really made me think, so I'm going to try to unpack it and see where the Holy Spirit takes me.
     The first thought I had was that we need to define what a mandate is. According to the dictionary, "mandate" means "an official order or commission to do something". Another interesting definition in the dictionary is this one: "a written authority enabling someone to carry out transactions on another's bank account". I have heard an interesting parable by Bill Johnson in which he states that Jesus has left us a spiritual credit card; we have His authority to use His Name to accomplish signs and wonders for the Kingdom. In both instances, we have been given authority and a commission in which we can walk out the calling on our lives by our Creator.
     I believe there is both a mandate for all men, and a mandate for each individual, and they are intertwined. The former is the same for all, while the latter may differ depending on what God has purposed for your life. Genesis 1:28 clearly tells us the mandate God has given to all mankind: Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.  Being fruitful and multiplying is far more than just producing offspring to fill the earth, although God did intend for mankind to reproduce and take dominion and authority over His creation. 
          But if we look at what it means to be fruitful, on the most basic level, it is to produce fruit from a seed. God made each of us in His image and planted a seed within us that He expects to bear fruit. But He didn't make us all alike, so I'm thinking that each of our seeds may be different, but all are a divine aspect of the Person of God. Therefore, the fruit we produce is going to be different. These seeds are designed to grow within us due to our relationship with Him, and will result in the particular purpose He has designed for our life. 
     If we look carefully at the original mandate in Genesis, you will see it is full of verbs, which are "action words". We are to take action; we must participate and do something to effectuate the growing of the God-implanted seed! So, I don't think the original mandate on your life changes, but I do believe that your level of spiritual maturity plays an important part in knowing your identity in Christ, your ability to receive revelation, and if you will ever reach the full level [or execution/potential] of the mandate/authority/command on your life. Does that make sense?

     I'm thinking about Moses, for instance. It was God's promise that the Israelites [His chosen people] would be delivered from their bondage in Egypt to a Promised Land of milk and honey. And the Lord chose Moses to be the instrument of His deliverance; Moses was born with that seed inside him. But we can see that Moses did not always walk the shortest path to God's plan and purpose in his life. Yes, Moses guided his people through the Exodus; was entrusted with God's Law; foreshadowed the work of the Messiah, as Jesus attested to in John 13:14-15; was listed among the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11; and was so honored by God that the Father, Himself, buried him.
     Yet, we see that Moses often stalled his destiny and then missed the mark when he didn't fully honor God's holiness at the waters of Meribah. Moses failed to recognize the water-giving rock as the Living Water of Christ. He was to speak to the rock and it would bring forth the much-needed water. Moses made two mistakes... he spoke to the rock, but also struck the rock with his rod of iron, and he did not give the credit for the miracle to God, but absent-mindedly took credit for it himself and with Aaron [must we bring water for you out of this rock?]. God's holiness must never be compromised! And I know it broke God's heart to tell Moses, “Because you did not trust Me enough to demonstrate My holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”
     So, do I think God's mandate or direction for Moses' life changed? No. I do not believe God would ever change an original purpose for our life [which would yield only good for His Kingdom and for us] to a lesser promise or destiny because we missed the mark. It was Moses' lack of revelation [and perhaps a touch of frustration and pride] that God's purpose at Meribah was not fulfilled. 
     It is important that we know and understand our responsibility in being productive and producing fruit from the seed of the Lord that has been planted in each of us. After all, a seed is of little use until it starts yielding fruit. And God has given us the ability to know Him and to be fed and nourished so that we yield an abundant harvest for the Kingdom through the way we live our lives. The importance of fulfilling our mandate is pretty evident in Matthew 21:19, He noticed a lone fig tree by the side of the path and walked over to see if there was any fruit on it, but there was none—he found only leaves. So he spoke to the fig tree and said, "You will be barren and will never bear fruit again!” Instantly the fig tree shriveled up right in front of their eyes!" It was always Jesus's mandate for the tree to produce leaves. His mandate didn't change, but somehow the tree failed to produce. 
     So while God's mandate on our lives might not change, we can certainly stall it, interrupt it, delay it; even sabotage it due to lack of fruit in our spiritual lives; or not fully comprehending who we are in Christ; or by incorrectly interpreting His revelations or simply ignoring them. The beauty of our creation is that God gave us free will to make the right choices, which always glorify Him; but our free will can also be the stumbling block to God receiving the glory He deserves. As we become intent on becoming fruitful, we will grow spiritually, our identity in Christ will be unshakeable, and we will clearly hear Him as He directs our path. His mandate, which was planted in us from the start, will come to pass and we will accomplish what He had planned from the beginning. Nothing will make God more pleased than to see us fulfilling His plan for us.

Ephesians 2:10     We have become His poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny He has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!  

September 12, 2018

What Has Satan Stolen From You?

     The title and thoughts behind today's post come from a conversation I had with a woman whom I have come to greatly admire for the strength of faith that has seen her through the attacks of the Enemy on her life and her destiny. I can't describe how much my spirit rejoices as I see her moving from a defeated child of God to a determined Daughter of the King who is no longer willing to succumb to the bondage of Satan's orchestrated events in her life. She is an Overcomer and I have no doubt she will be victorious in every area of her life.
     Yet, she came to Mark and I with a question she was almost embarrassed to ask. As she looked around at family and friends she wondered what was different about her that she should continue to struggle financially. She knows her Father in Heaven desires to give her all she needs, yet she remains so often in lack. Was there a Biblical principle she was missing?
     I have to admit that this is a question I have asked myself, as I assume many of those who will read this blog have done, as well. So, I made a commitment to find out if God addresses this issue beyond Blessed are the poor [in spirit] for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; or If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! I have no doubt my friend had expressed her need for more provision many times, only to receive no answer. And we both believed that our Father, whose will for us is always perfect, good and acceptable, would not withhold provision from those He loves. So what else could be going on? NOTE: And I want to make it perfectly clear, I am NOT advocating a Prosperity Gospel!

     Instead, let me introduce you to an article on the KOHA website (Kingdom of Heaven Ambassador) by Tiffany Domena about the unrighteous transactions of Satan that not only caused his fall from Heaven but could possibly be affecting our ability to live in the fullness of our provision from God. First of all, we all have the knowledge that Satan came to "steal, kill, and destroy". It's easier to see what he kills and destroys ... our flesh, our marriages, our faith, the things we once had but are now gone. But we may not know what he has stolen from us because we've never experienced it or seen it. But this article by Tiffany is quite revealing and then, when followed up with the Word of the Lord, I think we can start to get some answers.
     The article points to Ezekiel, Chapter 28 where we get an idea of how we've been denied what is due us. In the first 10 verses of Ezekiel 28, the Lord has a word for the "prince of Tyre", a man who is full of pride, controlling the commerce in the regions of the world and amassing great wealth. Some ancient historians [including Josephus] have suggested that this "prince" of Tyre was Ethbaal, the father of Jezebel. He had originally been King of Sidon, who then killed the King of Tyre and assumed the throne. Baal became the god of Tyre, and Ethbaal served as a high priest of both Baal and Astarte (also known as the Queen of Heaven). When his daughter Jezebel married Ahab, the King of Israel, she persuaded him to worship her gods, and so Ahab worshiped Baal and built an altar and a temple in Israel to this false god. The Bible says he "did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him." 
     If Ethbaal is this "princely" leader of Tyre, it is not difficult to discern [from history and Scripture] that he stole the wealth of the land he conquered and sat on his throne, full of pride, thinking of himself as a god. But then there is an interesting shift in Ezekiel 28:11-19, where God has a further [and similar] message for the "king" of Tyre. So why the distinction between prince and king? If you look closely at the Word, the prince of Tyre is clearly assumed to be a man; a human. But let's look closer at how God refers to the king of Tyre. 
     "You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God". Scripture goes on to describe the precious stones that adorned his clothing; all beautifully crafted and set in the finest gold. "They were given to you on the day you were created. I (God) ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian (guardian cherub of My throne). You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire." Scripture then describes this "king" as "blameless until evil was found in him." Just like the prince of Tyre, this king was filled with pride, and his wisdom was corrupted by his "love of splendor". 
     These verses are clearly referring to Lucifer, who became Satan at his fall from Heaven. The prince of Tyre (who was Ethbaal, or a man) walked in the Anti-Christ spirit of Satan, who was the spiritual ruler behind Ethbaal's earthly kingdom. 
     But take a closer look at what's revealed in these verses. Ezekiel 28:16 says that while still a guardian cherub in Heaven, Lucifer's "rich commerce led to violence and he sinned". Furthermore, verse 18 says "he defiled his sanctuaries with his many sins and his dishonest trade". The Amplified Bible says he had an "abundance of commerce" and his "trade was unrighteous." 

     I do not think it is wrong to surmise that there is trading and commerce going on in Heaven! Psalms 135 and Jeremiah, Chapters 10 and 51, speak of God's "storehouses" in Heaven. And I want you to consider Malachi 3:10 which says, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!" It is important to understand that the "food" in this case is the portion of the harvest [which is ultimately provided by God] that would support the priests and their families. In ancient times special storehouses were established in the temple to receive the tithes of the harvest. If the people were not faithful to return a portion of the harvest, the priests could not continue to serve and perform their duties. Apparently there were [and are] storehouses on earth and storehouses in Heaven. Depending on our faithfulness to serve Him, God has blessings in His Heavenly storehouse earmarked for us, and they are so great, we won't have room to take them in. He clearly desires to bless the faithful with more than they will ever need.
     So, now see if you can follow me as I try to connect the dots I think I'm seeing ... God has known us since the foundations of the world and our destinies have been written in His Book of Life. He knows who will be faithful and serve Him, and because we are a Priesthood of Believers, we are due abundant blessings due to our faithfulness. But who was in charge of the commerce and trading in Heaven before his fall? Follow this train of thought ... Could it be that Lucifer, in his pride and arrogance, became greedy, corrupt, and unrighteous; stealing the blessings of wealth that were being stored up by God for us? 
     The Word says he profaned [violated, defiled] the sanctuaries by the great quantity of his sins and the enormity of his guilt, and by the unrighteousness of his trade. That's pretty condemning! And if it is so -- that he stole this part of our inheritance, then we can enter into God's heavenly courts and go before His throne, seeking reparations! We can appear before Him demanding justice and asking that our stolen blessings be repaid. 
     As priestly Believers, the Word tells us that if we first seek the Kingdom of God, all these things will be added to us; all that we need and all that is due us as heirs of the Kingdom. Proverbs 13:22 says "the wealth of the wicked is treasured up for the righteous." All that Lucifer/Satan has stolen from us is our birthright, and that includes wealth, which we are meant to enjoy (Proverbs 13:23).
     So, do not buy into the lie from Satan that we Christians are not to possess money or wealth, and do not think that poverty is the benchmark of a righteous life. It is the love of money that is to be avoided! All the Scriptures that warn about being a rich man are aimed at those with unrighteous hearts. And obviously, seeking to serve the Kingdom should be our first priority. But those with great wealth are never hindered from advancing the Kingdom. And if Satan, through his "dishonest trade" and "rich commerce", has stolen provision that God meant for you, then by all means you can go before the Heavenly courts to obtain a decree or judgment for the return of your stolen provision. We have been granted back all of our inheritance in Christ, and we must not settle for "lack" when God's intentions are always "abundance".  

Psalm 35:27    Let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favor my vindication and want what is right for me; Let them say continually, “Let the Lord be magnified, who delights and takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”

September 9, 2018

We Are Covered By The Blood of The Atonement

     As we contemplate the Fall Feasts of the Lord, I want to consider the Day of Atonement and its significance for us New Testament Christians. There are so many theological theories of what  "the Atonement" is -- it was a "ransom sacrifice" paid for Christ; Jesus suffered crucifixion to satisfy justified wrath against man's transgressions; the purpose and work of Jesus Christ resulted in a moral change in humanity due to the inspiring effect of His teachings, martyrdom and resurrection; Jesus is seen as the new Adam who undoes what the original Adam did, leading humankind to eternal life; and finally, the scapegoat theory that Jesus took on our sins and unfairly suffers the consequences -- all of which touch on what Jesus did to atone for our sins and reconcile us with the Father. But why did God institute the Day of Atonement and how was it to effect and provoke the Israelites and us?
     Both the Spring Feasts and the Fall Feasts are "dress rehearsals" for God's appointed times in His plan of redemption for mankind.
     The Spring Feasts mirror His death, burial and resurrection, along with the giving of the Holy Spirit.  The Fall Feasts mirror His Second Coming.  This week's Feast of Trumpets is a dress rehearsal for His return and the rapture of the Church.  The ancient Israelites celebrated this day as the beginning of their civil new year, and they gathered together to praise God for His renewal.
      The Feast of Trumpets also began 10 days of celebration as the people prepared themselves with fasting and prayer to hear their verdict on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  This ritual trial reached its conclusion when the people finally dropped all their defenses and excuses and threw themselves on the mercy of the heavenly court, yet the same people never lost the conviction that they would be pardoned. This atonement was by divine grace; it was above and beyond the individual's effort or merit.  The Day of Atonement was a gracious day each year when all the Israelites could experience a new beginning by being cleansed from their sins and restored to fellowship with their Maker.  
     The Old Testament significance of this Feast Day is understood by remembering that the Israelites performed daily animal sacrifices in which the animal's blood was brought into the Holy Place for sprinkling against the veil and upon the horns of the altar of incense. This served to symbolically transfer into the sanctuary the sins which had been paid for (by the death of the animal). There the sins remained [for a whole year] until the Day of Atonement, when the sanctuary was cleansed of the accumulated sins of the people.  
     The blood of the sacrificial animals served as a substitute for the Sinner who offended God.  But this blood offered for repenting sinners defiled the sanctuary, because it was used to symbolically carry their sins into the sanctuary where they were kept until the Day of Atonement.  God’s Sanctuary needed to be CLEANSED on the Day of Atonement.  Imagine the smell of all that blood upon the altar for a full year!
     The ten days from Trumpets to the Day of Atonement were known as "the days of awe" and the people considered very carefully what sins would be held against them when GOD settled accounts.    Jewish tradition says that on this future day GOD will enter the righteous in the Book of Life and the wicked in the Book of Death.   For  those in between, the verdict remains open during those 10 days. Will they decide for God or against Him? Will they confess and repent for their sins, or continue in rebellion?
     If we believe these Feasts are to be considered dress rehearsals for Christ’s Second Coming, then after the blast of the last heavenly Trumpet, and Christ first appears, there will be 10 days until the Bema Seat of Judgment where we will stand in God's presence and hear an accounting of how we lived our lives for Him and His Son.  
     The significance of this day (Day of Atonement) for us New Testament believers is that God loves us SO much that He has even given us the day we should fast, pray and seek His face before we have to stand in front of Him, face-to-face.   Yet, like the ancient Israelites, if we belong to Him, we can rest in the knowledge that Christ is the Sacrificial Lamb that paid the price for our sins, and we will be pardoned. 
     This year, the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on September 19th, and ends at sundown on September 20th.  We can come together with other believers (Holy Convocation) for a day of complete fasting (examine our souls). What better time to do this than on the one day each year that our Heavenly Father has instructed His people to do so?  
     It’s also a good time to intercede and appeal for mercy on behalf of ourselves, our family and friends, and our Nation/Community. We see this in the story of Jonah –Jonah was sent by God to Ninevah, a wicked murderous nation to warn them of impending judgment. We see that they humbled themselves (fasted) and turned from their wicked ways and because of that, God spared them. He is so good to provide a warning before judgment!  
    But there is still such a large harvest to bring into God's storehouse! It is our responsibility as representatives of God's Kingdom on earth to not only spend the days between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement to pray and fast for our own lives, but to intercede on behalf of others who are yet to know Christ. I don't want to ever hear someone say, "Nobody told me!" 
     So, Lord Jesus, I thank you for the redeeming work of the Cross and what it means for my life. I look forward to Your return and I commit to spending these next days in humble prayer, examining my life and praying for cleansing, redemption and restoration. I fully expect my name to be written in the Book of Life and I praise you, Father, for Your love and Your faithfulness towards me. I will truly live these next days in awe of all that You have done in my life; all that You are; and all that You will be when I stand before You. I want to live my life as if every day was the Day of Atonement; ever mindful that I have so much to be thankful for.

Leviticus 23:27  Also the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement; it shall be a holy [called] assembly, and you shall afflict yourselves [by fasting in penitence and humility] and present an offering made by fire to the Lord.

September 6, 2018

The Fall Feasts: Why Christians Should Pay Attention

     This Sunday evening at sundown will be the beginning of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana, or the Biblical Feast of Trumpets. Ten days later [on September 19] will be the celebration of Yom Kippur or what the Bible knows as the Day of Atonement, followed five days later [on September 24-30] by Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.
     Several years ago when I began studying the implications of these Biblical feasts, few of my fellow Christians were aware of them or their significance for New Testament followers of Jesus. I am happy to say that this is changing, and more Christians are seeing the relevance of the Lord's Feasts as they pertain to our faith. God established His Feasts as a memorial to His faithfulness throughout history to the nation of Israel as His Chosen People, and to all people who would believe in Him through all the coming generations. That includes us.
     What are known as the Spring Feasts (occurring in March-April of each year) have already been fulfilled; the first two by Jesus Christ on the actual feast days according to the Hebrew calendar. He was sacrificed on Passover, and resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. The third Feast of Unleavened Bread carried great significance in light of His sinless life and His sacrifice, while the fourth Feast, Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks, was again fulfilled on the exact day on what we now call Pentecost. As Christians, these Feasts are a time for us to commemorate what Jesus accomplished at His First Coming.
     But it is these Fall Feasts that have us yearning for their fulfillment with great expectation. The Fall Feasts look forward to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy concerning Yeshua’s End Times’ return when He will come with trumpet blasts to usher in a new age of purified fellowship with Him in His new Kingdom on earth.  And we are now about to enter that sanctified season.  And for that reason, I think it is incumbent upon us to do a quick review of the holy significance of these two weeks in September.
     The Feast of Trumpets is a time of new beginnings.  There is even some speculation by Bible scholars that based on the view that John the Baptist was born in the spring, around Passover, and his birth preceded the birth of Jesus by 6 months (Luke 1:36), it’s possible to place the birth of the Messiah on the Feast of Trumpets.  That would definitely be representative of a new beginning for mankind!
     In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 we read about the great trumpet (Shofar) that will sound in heaven when the dead who are in Yeshua will rise from their graves, and those who are still alive will go to meet Him in the air. This event precedes the return of the Messiah. The Book of Revelation [in Chapters 8-11] also talks about trumpets sounding in heaven as a series of judgments are poured out on the earth. All of this is to prepare the earth for the Messiah’s return. It is a warning—a wake-up call to the earth and the inhabitants therein to get ready!  Does it mean that the Rapture of the Church will take place on this Feast Day?  It is possible, and Scripture hints at it.  But the Bible also says that the Church will be taken up to meet Christ in the air when “the full number of gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25), and "immediately after the tribulation of those days... the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:29-30).  
     Since no one knows the day or hour, I prefer to see the Feast of Trumpets as a time of prayer and expectation; acknowledging not only God’s grace, but His calling by the shofar to get ready for a new beginning in the history of mankind -- the time of Jesus's Second Coming when He will return to administer Justice and rule and dwell on the earth as King.
     Ten days later is Yom Kippur. In the Bible, this is known as the “Day of Atonement,” Yom Kippur was the only time of year the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple to atone for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the entire nation. This was done by sacrificing a bull and a goat and sprinkling the blood of these animals on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Also on this day, two goats were brought before the High Priest. He would lay hands on them and symbolically transfer the sins of the people into them. The first one was the sacrifice—the one that provided atonement for the people’s sins. The second, however, was the scapegoat. This one was released into the wilderness to wander and eventually die, removing sin from the camp. The blood of the first goat brought forgiveness. The second brought sanctification.
     Prophetically, The Day of Atonement will be the day in which God’s judgment will be rendered, the books will be closed and everyone’s fate is sealed.  It will be a solemn day of acknowledging our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy. Therefore, we should spend the 10 days between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement contemplating our lives and service to God, repenting for our sins and proclaiming His faithfulness and grace. Prophetically speaking, I believe that these 10 days will be a time of second chances for those who are still alive on the earth to determine if they will repent and turn their lives over to Jesus Christ; recognizing the price He paid to redeem them.
     We need to understand that the shedding of blood has always been required by God for the forgiveness of sin, and it always will be. That is why the Messiah had to die and shed His blood for us. That is the good news. We have a Redeemer who exchanged His blood for ours. The debt we owe, for both intentional and unintentional sins, was paid by Yeshua through His death on the cross. All we have to do is accept His sacrifice on our behalf.
     The third and final Feast in this month of September is Sukkot, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. Sukkot, which begins five days after Yom Kippur, is a seven-day period during which Jewish People look back into the history of Israel and remember their forty-year period of wandering in the wilderness.  To us Christians, the Feast of Tabernacles represents the Lord’s shelter in the world to come and His great Tabernacle that will exist in Jerusalem in the Kingdom Age.  The Lord will establish His Tabernacle in Jerusalem and the world will come each year to appear before the King and worship Him (Zechariah 14:16-17).  
     But there is another picture that presents itself during this final Feast.  Historically, it was also a  celebration of the fall harvest and the Lord’s bountiful provision.  Prophetically, it is a picture of the harvest of souls that will come at the End of this Age.  Jesus will return, judge the nations, and establish His throne on the earth in Jerusalem. But there is also a sense in which these holy days also reflect the life of every believer. 
     Jesus came to offer us new beginnings (Feast of Trumpets), and to live in our hearts at our new birth.  As He required the shedding of innocent blood to reconcile Himself with Israel (Yom Kippur) so He shed His own Blood to reconcile Himself with us. As He dwelt with the Israelites in the wilderness of Midian (Tabernacles), so He dwells with us in this wilderness of Earth. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matt 28:20).  Even so, we eagerly await the sound of the heavenly trumpet that announces His return! Come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).  And as we celebrate the beginning of the Fall Feasts of the Lord this coming Sunday, you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. Are you ready to receive Him?

Numbers 29:1    On the first day of the seventh month, you shall have a holy [summoned] assembly; you shall do no servile work. It is a day of blowing of trumpets for you [everyone blowing who wishes, proclaiming that the great Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles are now approaching]

September 3, 2018

Receiving and Sharing Our Revelations From God

     I just love it when God's Word is played out for me, right before my eyes and in my everyday circumstances. Let me share how God is revealing what I need to know as I continue to grow in my service to His Kingdom.
     The Lord has been increasing the number of people coming to Mark and I for Inner Healing and deliverance from their bondage to Satan and this carnal world. He is also training us to minister at higher levels, as we encounter more difficult and complex spiritual issues. At times, I sense the Enemy trying to convince me that what I am discerning from the Holy Spirit is not "real" in this world. Nothing could be further from His Truth! And I am no longer deterred by my fellow Christians who are unable [or unwilling] to receive this same wisdom from God. I realize that I have spent too much time trying to convince Believers whose hearts are not prepared for these things. It's not that I do not think they deserve to receive them; it's that I now discern that the field of their heart has not been plowed to receive the divine seeds of spiritual knowledge.
     And guess what? Scripture confirms this understanding, and it is consistent with what I wrote concerning how our spirit and soul interact with our heart. Let's see if I can explain it so that all hear the wisdom of God.... It was while I was reading and studying 1 Corinthians, Chapter Two, that I felt God was showing me how His Word is being demonstrated in today's Christian experience.
     I knew exactly how Paul felt when he wrote that he often felt inadequate when sharing his revelations from God; actually trembling under the sense of the importance of his words -- not to try to sway others to his side of a theological argument, but hoping that he could adequately express the power of the Almighty God.
     When God reveals a Truth about Himself that you have never known, there is a profound responsibility to represent Him in Truth and Spirit -- meaning there is often a never-before-understood concept about Him that He wants this present age to know, understand, and effectuate; or put into force and operate in. Paul was clear in his explanation: these revelations had been hidden until then, but were revealed as part of God's secret plan to let them share in His glory. And nothing has changed! God is still working that same plan, and still revealing His secret agenda so that the sons and daughters of God can display His power in the earth.
     Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 2:9: Things never discovered or heard of before, things beyond our ability to imagine [things that have not entered the heart of man]—these are the many things God has in store for all his lovers [those who wait for Him]. But then Paul delivers one of the most powerful verses that reflects what is happening to those willing to receive it today: But God now unveils these profound realities to us by the Spirit. Alternate translations of the Greek render verse 10 like this: Yet we speak [or we know] what God has revealed to us by the Spirit.
     And here is where it gets difficult for those of us who KNOW we have received a piece of the puzzle of God's divine agenda for the ages. We know because our spirit receives it from the Holy Spirit, and it is lodged in our heart. We did not receive it through our soul -- our human mind, emotions, or free will. It was not filtered through our human faculties, but through the part of us most intimately connected to God, our spirit. This revelation from God then fortifies the belief system in our heart and we are able to explain spiritual realities to spirit-led people.
      Here is where Scripture speaks so profoundly to what we Christians who minister in Deliverance and Inner Healing so often encounter: Someone living on an entirely human level rejects the revelations of God’s Spirit, for they make no sense to him. He can’t understand the revelations of the Spirit because they are only discovered by the illumination of the Spirit (verse 14). Now, some translations describe this type of person as an "unbeliever", but I will tell you that I have found many Christians living at the "human level", which is their soul. 
     When trying to explain how to engage one's spirit to interact in the spirit realm with God, or to renounce the Enemy in the spirit realm, I am often met with comments like, "That kind of makes sense, but I guess I just don't logically see it". There's nothing "logical" about the supernatural way God communicates with us! Logic is reasoning according to strict principles of the human mind. And the human mind is part of our soul. Only those who live spirit-to-Holy Spirit are able to carefully evaluate the things from God, and they are subject to the scrutiny of no one but God.  

    Only Christ knows the mind of God. But because Christ dwells in our heart, we can possess the perceptions of Christ's mind; we can perceive His thoughts and beliefs about what God is revealing [to us] in these days.  
     And in these Last Days, God needs Christians who hear and see and act out of their spirits, rather than relying on their carnal souls to determine what God's will is. He needs us to separate our souls from our spirits, being unafraid to impart to the world what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us. For if our hearts are filled with the knowledge of who we are in the spirit [instead of clouded with human wisdom], then Jesus discerns the intentions of our hearts, [which is to reveal the power of God in our lives], and trusts us to reveal God's divine, supernatural, inscrutable, profound, and heretofore unfathomable ways. It is my prayer that more Christians will humble themselves to become teachable and vulnerable to the Holy Spirit; to respond to the Spirit's promptings -- even when they do not resemble the conventional understandings of this world. God has much to reveal to us, and we must be receptive and unafraid to speak His Truth.

Psalm 71:18     God, now that I’m old and gray, don’t walk away. Give me grace to demonstrate to the next generation all Your mighty miracles and Your excitement, to show them Your magnificent Power!



August 30, 2018

The Interplay Between Our Soul, Spirit, and Heart

     I am almost ashamed to tell you that it has taken me 32 years of my faith life to begin to get a grasp on how my soul and spirit interact with my heart. I'm talking about really knowing how God designed me to work, and understanding how I can frustrate the process of sanctification that He began when I accepted Jesus as my Savior.
     First of all, it hasn't been that long that I have come to realize that my soul and my spirit are two different parts of me. In fact, there are two different words in the Hebrew Bible that represent soul (nephesh) and spirit (ruwach). And I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of Christians who still don't make that distinction. But now I am fully aware that my soul is comprised of my human mind, my human emotions, and my human will. I also have come to know that my spirit is that part of me that is the breath of God in me (Job 32:8) and the part of me that is made in the image of God. When we die, our physical bodies return to the dust of the ground, and our spirit returns to God, who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  Simply put, the soul is the human part of us; the life that we exist in -- and the spirit is the God part of us; the life-force, the "spark" of life at our creation. But they both interact with our heart.
     Now, what about the heart? Well, we all know that our heart is a part of our physical being; it is the organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. But there is a spiritual component to our heart, too. It is actually where our belief system is seated; and how we relate to Jesus is determined by how our soul and spirit [independently] influence our heart. Let me show you how important this understanding is to the Christian life, and why it is paramount that those ministering in Inner Healing and Deliverance comprehend this "spiritual mechanic" in the lives of Christians.
     It is certain, from Scripture, that the state of our hearts is very important to God. We cannot come to faith without the involvement of our heart: For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God] ... (Romans 10:10). 
     Furthermore, whatever we allow in our heart will ultimately create the reality of what we experience in our life: So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life; [the original and bountiful Source of our life] (Proverbs 4:23). And of course, there is the verse that says, For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7)

     Again, I want to consider how this works in the Christian life. Let's look at the heart as a gate between our soul and our spirit. If our soul consists of our mind, will and emotions, what do you think happens to our heart when we have issues of self-rejection or anger? Let's say the thoughts in your mind are always centered around "I'm ugly" or "I'm a failure" -- or you're always feeling anger towards your father who abused you physically or psychologically. Then the soul will infiltrate your heart [through that gateway] with a negative identity of who you are in Christ -- actually dump that negative image into your heart. 
     On the other hand, your spirit also communicates with your heart. And if your spirit has the knowledge that there is a scroll in heaven with your name written on it, and your spirit knows that this scroll details all the wonderful things you are going to do to represent God on the earth, then your heart can be filled [once again, through that gateway that intersects with your spirit] with a sense of your power and authority and your identity as a son or daughter of the King.
    But here's our dilemma as humans. Both the soul and the spirit are capable of feeding information into our heart and developing a belief system that is specific to us. The heart will process all that information and then the question becomes this: Which is stronger? Our soul or our spirit? If the soul [of a Christian who has a negative identity] is stronger than their spirit, then a Christian can still take in massive amounts of Scripture, repeat it without analyzing or comprehending it, and still be locked in that broken thought life. They may also be dealing with anxiety that he/she will be unmasked, often resulting in a religiously rigid believer who has mind knowledge of Jesus, but no heart relationship because the spirit part of them has been silenced. They have broken souls that have not been healed by the finished work of Jesus Christ.
     But if the spirit of a Christian is stronger than their soul, then they are able to hear more clearly from Jesus that those negative thoughts or messages are wrong; that's not who they are in Christ, and they know that their human mind needs to be renewed and those negative thoughts transformed from the lies of the Enemy to the Truth of God. IF our spirits are stronger, then God can reprogram our heart [through our spirit] without the soul being damaged or even involved. 
     So, how does that happen? How does our heart get reprogrammed and hear from Jesus? See if this makes sense. A person hears the Word of God and is convicted that they are in need of a Savior and recognize that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and their personal Savior. We are convicted of our need for Jesus, confess our faith in Him, repent of our sins, and the Holy Spirit is sent to seal the God-sized hole in our heart with Himself. He sits in the Holy of Holies, if you will, [of our heart] where Jesus hopes to dwell. When that happens, our own spirit is strengthened with the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus in our heart.
      But here's the thing ... Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts by faith in order to transform all those lies and negative messages; those messed up belief systems and wrong identities that have filtered into our heart. But we need to realize that this takes a lifetime -- it's a journey involving an ongoing work of sanctification and we have to partner with Jesus to subjugate or surrender our entire heart to Him and His Kingdom. 
    When we realize that our heart is the gateway to our soul and our spirit, then we can see why it is so important to God. Jesus wants to occupy our whole heart as His territory; claim it for His Kingdom. But guess what? Satan wants to lay claim to it for his kingdom, too!
     And here's what we Christians need to come to terms with --- Many of us spend a lifetime believing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and we get that hole in our heart sealed with the Holy Spirit. But we never take the journey throughout our lifetime to subjugate the rest of our heart. Some of us camp out in our religious belief system and never allow God to do the deep work in our heart. Our hearts will still contain the poisonous lies from the devil that produce wrong identities and false belief systems about who Christ is and what He can do in our lives. 
     But the saddest result of the un-surrendered heart? You can never fully comprehend the love of God. If your heart's territory is sharing space with the lies that come from your soul (mind, will, and emotions), then you are unable to receive the full measure of God's love. That's why Jesus says we are "to love the Lord your God with all your heart...". When our soul occupies more territory in our heart than our spirit, then there is less room for Jesus to dwell there and our connection with God is weaker. Your belief system becomes more carnal-based and less Spirit-led. Ultimately, the heart becomes a battleground, and it becomes more difficult to comprehend the very nature of God [and His love]. Even though a Christian has the Holy Spirit living in the Holy of Holies of his/her heart, it's as if the veil in the Old Testament Temple has never been rent, and there is still some form of separation -- that person's heart is not fully occupied by the Shekinah glory of the Father.
     None of us have that perfect "heart relationship" that Jesus enjoyed with the Father. But by becoming aware of the interplay of our soul and spirit with our heart, we can endeavor to come into a right relationship; one in which the overlay of our soul and spirit onto our heart results in a belief system that reflects our original design -- where our mind, will and emotions are focused on Christ's mind, will and emotions; and our spirit is engaged with Heaven and moving from glory to glory. This should be our goal of the highest priority: a lifetime of ongoing work towards sanctification of our heart ... a new heart, a clean heart, a pure heart that leads us into God's Holy Presence.

Psalm 84:5    How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness!


August 27, 2018

Finding the Balance Between Grace and Accountability

     I just read a Facebook post by Steve Harmon, whom I would characterize as a modern-day Disciple of Jesus. He travels the world preaching, healing, and delivering, in the Name of Jesus. He doesn't quite fit the mold of conventional Christianity, but then Jesus wasn't easily categorized either. Anyway, Steve was making a statement about David Hogan, a friend and Pastor and President of Freedom Ministries. If you aren't familiar with David, he's about as unorthodox a Pastor as you will ever meet. To say that he is "rough around the edges" is to put it mildly. He can come across as coarse, crass, crude, and uncultured. His style of preaching can be quite abrasive and caustic. But I don't think I've ever heard a man more passionate about loving Jesus.
     Steve was commenting about David because he said he, himself, was struggling with David's approach to ministry, and found himself criticizing David's delivery. Now, if you are unfamiliar with David Hogan, let me tell you that he doesn't look or sound like any preacher you've ever heard. He's a Cajun from Louisiana and comes from a long line of men who preached the Gospel. But early in his life, David strayed from that path, hating the hypocrisy he found in the Church. So he rebelled and entered a life of hard living, drinking, gangs and violence. But this is how he describes his conversion: "You wanna know how awesome my life is? When you find the lowest, rejected and dejected human, and you can take 'em and pull 'em to you and love 'em... that's what Jesus did to me". His conversion birthed a burning passion for Christ in his heart, but it did not erase his distaste and disgust for hypocrisy in the Church.
     David Hogan is plain-spoken and not prone to sugar-coating his sermons. He will tell it like it is and doesn't care if he offends Christians. Here are some of his more straightforward pronouncements: "People need a Gospel THAT WORKS! ... Stop your unbelief and believe! ... How long is it gonna take? How many seminars for you to know Him? Jesus is King. That's as far as it goes. He is the power of the Gospel ... 'Manifesting' is a devil running into the Holy Spirit ... Heaven is for us. You need people who have the right to break down powers and principalities. You need Pioneers. You quote it [the Bible], and the demon will still beat you. SUCCESS is what WE are after! Who Jesus is, and who He is IN you - get an understanding about that!! ... I know that you have more theology than I do and you know more verses than me. But that's useless. Because it's about who Jesus is to you! ... Discipline, faith and availability can go a long way especially with Holy Ghost powers". You get the idea; not exactly material from the ready-made sermons you can find online.
     But I'm not here to praise or condemn David Hogan. You need to listen to his sermons yourself and determine if he speaks Truth, and if you want to hear more. What I do want to address is the readiness of some Christians to define a message by its level of sensitivity, or who have a "grace standard" that must be met before they discern a fellow Christian's heart.
     Steve Harmon said it best when he revealed his thoughts about David Hogan: "This guy doesn't know love. He sounds mean." Then the Lord told Steve, ""You have no idea how much that man loves, do you?" That is the essence of this post. Is how we love with our words the only measure of how much we love God or others? I will admit it is much easier to accept a word of discipline or rebuke when it is spoken in soft tones and endearing phrases. But don't we need to take it a step further and look at the results of this type of "love delivery"? Did it produce the desired results? Did the recipients of this type of "love language" bear fruit for God and His Kingdom? I know that there are people whose hearts are moved by such words of grace and encouragement, and they are inspired to become effective ambassadors for the Kingdom. That was the word they needed to start walking out their faith!

     But I also know that there are people who are unmoved by the softer touch and who respond to the challenge of looking in the mirror. But should we simply give lip service to "grace" and "love" as the only way we are to address our fellow Christians about our accountability to God? Aren't we to discern if there is fruit from their efforts? Sometimes, I think we are too quick to judge others whose passion and love for God are expressed in strong terms as being "insensitive, hard-hearted, and unkind"; definitely not exhibiting Jesus-like qualities. Perhaps we should look to see if their actions back up their stricter language.
     I have known men of God who fit both descriptions... one man will endeavor to show grace and mercy in all situations, hesitant to speak a word of judgment or analysis; careful to show the compassion and everlasting love of Christ to those in his sphere of influence. Another man equally loves the Lord, but is unafraid to challenge his fellow Christians to walk in the ways of the Lord, at all costs. He is not as concerned about offending someone as he is about influencing the Body of Christ to walk in Jesus's footsteps.
     When I look at the culture of Christianity today, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't be better off if we had a Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield among our prominent clergy. I'm not saying we have to become hyper-religious and abandon all grace and mercy. But if God is going to judge our effectiveness for His Kingdom by the fruit of our actions then the state of the family, our acceptance of abortion as the law of the land, the gender confusion among our children, and the lack of moral standards in our government might suggest that a little stricter approach would be worthy of our consideration.
      Have we let the culture of "political correctness" in our society infiltrate our Church culture? Have we let the "Age of Grace" restrict our ability to be honest and tell the truth? Are we so afraid to offend that we are willing to extend only love ... and not to teach, rebuke, correct and train in love? I like how Steve Harmon closed his conversation about David Hogan's style of preaching ... "Many love with their words, but David loves with his actions. I started thinking how much people give lip service and talk or write about love, but when it comes to actually backing it up with their actions, the numbers drastically wear thin. David gives his everything to help and rescue people and give them Jesus. He puts his life in danger for others regularly [through his missionary field in Mexico], something that most Christians are not ready to do. Love is when you make people more important than yourself by showing it in sacrificial action. Love must cost something of you. It's where you are willing to lose something that you may never get back to benefit another person".
     This fits rather nicely with the words from a sermon by George Whitefield, the most popular preacher of the Evangelical Revival in Great Britain and the Great Awakening in America: "But he is unworthy [of] the name of a minister of the Gospel of Peace, who is unwilling, to have his name cast out as evil, but also to die for the Truth of Jesus Christ" and "It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher".
     I am not advocating that we Christians stop showing the love of Christ through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But sometimes the gentle approach doesn't always move a person to make a decision for Christ. Jesus, Himself, often chastised His Disciples for not getting it! This passage in Luke, Chapter 17, shows the heart of our Lord when it comes to our fellow Believers: So be alert to your brother’s condition, and if you see him going the wrong direction, cry out and correct him. If there is true repentance on his part, forgive him. Here we see the fullness of our love for our fellow Christians.

     On Judgment Day we will have to give an account for every careless word we speak. But it can be just as careless to mollify and placate the Body of Christ with words that don't call them to account, as it can be to chastise and rebuke without love.  So, yes, we are to restore each other in gentleness of spirit, but we are also told in Scripture that "iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another". The last time I looked, there is nothing gentle or soft about iron. In the end, I just want us to be careful about passing judgment on the messenger of God's Word. God can use both the gentle and the sharp man to reconcile us to Himself. Today, the Body of Christ needs both a Bill Johnson and a David Hogan. God's love is both a soothing balm and a fiery energy. As the Lord told Steve Harmon, "You have no idea how much that man loves, do  you?" The truth is, we can't know another man's heart, but we can look at his actions and his fruit ... and then accept all those whom the Lord has called.

Jeremiah 17:10     But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.

August 24, 2018

The Biblical Case For Baptism

     This might seem like an elementary subject to be discussing in the light of the deeper topics I've covered lately, but you might be surprised to know that there is much conflict among the Body of Christ when it comes to discussing this centuries-old Christian tradition.
     As you can imagine, there are quite a few different opinions about the tradition of Baptism across denominational lines. Does it matter if you're sprinkled instead of fully immersed? Is Infant Baptism acceptable to God, or do you have to be of the age of consent to participate? Does it need to be witnessed by the congregation, or can it be done privately, and one still "qualifies" according to Church doctrine? There are a lot of man-made views and judgments regarding Baptism, and I thought it might be a good idea to see what the Bible says about this important tradition. In doing so, I found a very simple 5-minute video on YouTube that laid out what they called "5 Basic Facts About Baptism". And I was pleased to see that the Bible was the source of their information, rather than any particular Church doctrine. So I would like to share those points with you, and then add my own personal perspective of this Biblical tradition.
1. It's God's idea. Matthew 3:13 tells us that Jesus came to the Jordan River "to be baptized by John". Remember, Jesus didn't do anything that His Father in Heaven didn't tell Him to do. So, obviously, it was God's idea that Jesus be baptized. Furthermore, Jesus commands His own disciples, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 
     2. Baptism [by itself] doesn't save anyone. All Christians know that Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ; trusting that what Jesus did on the Cross saves us from the eternal wrath of God that is due us because of our sin. The act of baptism, itself, saves no one. Now, I feel at this point, I need to comment on verses like 1 Peter 3:21, which says, Baptism, which corresponds to this [Noah and family being brought safely through the flood], now saves you... 
     I will say it again -- the act of baptism, itself, doesn't save you. Baptism is a public representation of that which actually saves the believer—one’s personal faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. When it comes to 1 Peter 3:21, it is important that we keep in mind that for the Early Church, the confession of faith in Jesus Christ and baptism were never separated. They generally happened at the same time. The act of water immersion went hand-in-hand with repentance and faith, simultaneously. They didn't wait to be baptized. When Philip shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch as they were going along the road, what was the eunuch's response? “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”" I believe it is important that we consider the teaching of the Bible regarding this verse within the context of the entire passage in 1 Peter 3:18-22, which speaks of Christ's victory. When you read the entire passage you are able to see that the Early Church understood there was a special moment where (faith + repentance + baptism) was the saving moment - not because of the water, but because of how it functioned as an appeal to God through the resurrection of Jesus. It was an all-encompassing act of declaration of faith in Jesus.
     3. Baptism is an act of obedience.  On a very simple level, Jesus commanded it of His disciples, so we should do it. In many ways, it's the first act of obedience we can do as we begin this journey of righteousness with Him. As we progress in our salvation and mature spiritually, there will be more opportunities to obey Him. At the point of our declaration of faith, it is both a practical and personal way to honor Him.
     4. Baptism identifies us with Christ and the Body of Christ (the Church). This is a very important part of the significance of Baptism for me. Because of its importance to the Early Church, all those who have chosen to follow Jesus are now united by this one act. Every person who has ever put their faith in God in the history of the world is a part of this family of Christ. We are also able to identify with Christ by the symbolism of Baptism. In the act of immersion, our old self dies with Him, and we rise with Him to glorify the Father. But there's another important aspect to identifying with Christ in Baptism ... it is a declaration to the spiritual realm which side we're on; that we have chosen Christ over the Enemy; that we belong to Jesus; that we are now in the spiritual army of God. That makes quite an impact in the spiritual realm!
     5.  Baptism is a symbol of new life.  Very simply, when you make the decision for Christ and are baptized, you are leaving your old life of sin behind, and being born into a new life that will be empowered by the Holy Spirit as you grow to resemble Christ. 

     The reason I wanted to expound on not only the Biblical case for Baptism, but its importance in our faith walk, is that Mark and I had the honor of hosting two baptisms this week in the shade of our big oak tree. Together, with other faithful Christians, we have purchased a portable baptism pool so that we all have the ability to follow Jesus's command to "make disciples and baptize". Two families came to our property where we witnessed fathers baptizing their daughters. And I will tell you that there is nothing more moving than to hear a father ask his daughter if she receives Jesus as her Savior, to hear the response, and then to hear that father tell his daughter of his love for her; his desire that she walk with Jesus all her life; to express his pride and joy in her; and of his hopes for her future. As each daughter went down in the water, dying with Christ and rising with Him to a new life, their faces were radiant! And I knew in my spirit that their Heavenly Father was rejoicing over them, just as their earthly father had.
     Somehow, it seemed more intimate and personal than my own baptism. And I loved that these families wanted it that way -- that they didn't feel they had to follow a particular denominational ritual of Baptism. And I know these baptisms were recognized in Heaven as just as valid as if they had been performed in a Church baptistry by a Pastor. In fact, they probably resemble more closely the baptisms Jesus's disciples performed than do our modern versions in Church fonts.
     In the end, Baptism is a personal decision for everyone. Whether you do it in your church building, a bathtub, a swimming pool, or your neighbor's stock tank, it doesn't matter. Jesus didn't command anything about the place... He just said to do it as part of the requirement to enter the Kingdom of God. I think it is apparent that Jesus associated it with a profession of faith, and that's how the Early Church operated. So, pray about it ... look at what the Word of God says about Baptism ... and approach it as an obedient declaration of your new identity in Christ. I promise you, when you come up out of that water, you will never be the same again!

John 3:5     Jesus replied, I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.