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


February 19, 2019

Is It Time For a Spiritual Pruning In The Church?

     Different parts of the country have different seasons for pruning trees and flowering bushes and plants. And I found the reasons for pruning to be both interesting and Biblical: Some pruning is done to change or train a plant's growing pattern or to restrict growth. And the pruning of fruit trees is a necessary chore that improves penetration of the sun and increases air movement through the tree. Maybe I've just got an unusual way of seeing things, but I couldn't help but relate these descriptions to our spiritual pruning -- changing or training us for growth or constraint; and receiving more of the penetration of the Son and an increase in the movement of the Holy Spirit through us [being the air/breath of God].
     The principle verses in the Bible that refer to pruning are the ones we all know, John 15:1-2, I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit]. 
     Although the purpose of this blog post is to address the Body of Christ, it is necessary you understand that while these verses in John are applicable to us Christians, they are clearly addressed to Israel. If you take in the whole counsel of God in His Word, you will see that in both Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5, the nation of Israel is called the vine, and God is the vinedresser ... You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land (Psalm 80:8-9); For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel... (Isaiah 5:7).
     So when Jesus calls Himself "the true Vine", He is identifying with Israel. According to American theologian and pastor, R.C. Sproul, Jesus is saying that He is the embodiment of all that Israel should be. “Should be” because, as is well known, Israel did not faithfully execute her mission as God’s representative. Her sins and lack of repentance prevented her from being a faithful witness.  And that's where Romans 11:17-24 brings us Christians into view. We were grafted into the vine, and now share in its nourishing root. But, lest we become arrogant, Scripture tells us that we, too, can be cut off if we become proud or lose our fear of the Lord.  
     I have to tell you that as we entered into this new year of 2019, I have been overwhelmed with the number of Christian websites that are prophesying of great turmoil and transition this year. Believe me I am not diminishing the ability of the anointed to prophesy, but perhaps I am feeling inundated with the number of self-proclaimed prophets. There are times I sense that "to prophesy" has become an idol among the Body of Christ; that it is "the gifting of the hour", if you will.
     But are we possibly seeking after giftings more than fruit? I mean, Jesus makes it pretty clear in John 15 that every branch in Him must bear fruit, or it is pruned. Are we clear that "to prophesy" is to speak under divine inspiration, or to share the counsel from God that we have received? Or have we, as the Body of Christ, become arrogant in believing that our own counsel is worth proclaiming as God's? We are to abide in Him, which results in bearing fruit. But if we just attach ourselves to Him, without truly abiding in faith, then we are just dead wood, not a thriving fruit-producing branch of the vine. And we will be "cut off" -- please see that distinction ... not pruned, but cut off! 
     To be pruned means that all the branches that are fruit-bearing will will be trimmed to increase fruitfulness and growth. Remember that pruning includes changing or training a branch's growth pattern. We, as the Church, should expect to be pruned to increase our yield of souls for the Kingdom so that the harvest of the Lord will be abundant.  Before we embrace every prophetic warning that is being spoken, perhaps we should wait to see if the Lord is about to prune to bring forth a truer word. Every prophecy spoken is not necessarily coming from the Lord; and my spirit is beginning to sense a competition among the "prophetic voices" to gain loyal followings. 
     I do not want to be so cynical, but I think of Jesus, standing before the Sanhedrin. They beat on Him, and taunted Him, saying, "Prophesy to us!" But He stayed silent. He didn't need to speak to hear Himself heard. At that moment He was silent and surrendered -- not working in His giftings of prophecy or miracles, but surrendered to His flesh and waiting for the Father to reveal His counsel. Through the hardship of His trial, the discipline to wait for His Father's counsel, and the suffering of the Cross, Jesus bore far greater and sweeter fruit than Israel, the original vine of the Lord of Hosts.
     I think it is imperative to the Church today to remember that Israel did not faithfully execute her mission as God’s representative. And for that she is temporarily cut off the vine. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that true faith - real, authentic faith that abides in Christ -- is affirmed by the fruit of good works. We must examine our faith and determine if, by acting in our gifts -- whether it be prophecy or any other -- we are producing good fruit for the Kingdom, or serving ourselves. Let us examine ourselves to see what the world sees more of in us --- our giftings or our fruit.  Do we need to be pruned because we are growing the wrong way? Are we sprouting branches out of our flesh, or from the true vine? Are we willing to be pruned so that the Son can penetrate our branches and the breath of God move in us? Let us be willing to have every unholy branch be pruned by our loving Father so that we are effective representatives of the Kingdom, and we produce blooms of faith ... healthy, vibrant and beautiful blooms that grow into an abundant harvest of fruit. And let us thank God that He loves us enough to prune us!

John 15:4    "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."
      
     

February 16, 2019

Who God Is In His Judgment, Holiness, and Love

      His Judgment - For awhile now, I've been hearing a misguided cliché spoken by people in the Church. It goes something like this: "We don't need to worry about God's judgment against America. If God were really going to judge us, He would have to apologize to Jesus." What?!?
     The skewed reasoning behind this ludicrous statement relies on a false understanding of the gospel -- that Jesus bore our sins on the Cross, and therefore our judgment is nailed there, too. God will not judge us because, after all [they say], doesn't the Bible tell us that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? This misunderstanding is a prime example of one of the Body of Christ's most egregious shortcomings, which is not taking into account the whole counsel of God.
     And on this matter of God's judgment, I hate to say it, but .... in the current Church culture there is almost an ignorance of what the Word reveals on the subject. The failure to study and understand God's judgment -- and dare I say it, His wrath -- has led to a lack of holy fear in a lot of Christians. Many think that we don't need to worry about God's judgment or wrath because that doesn't happen until the End Times. They think that until then, we are covered by the blood of Jesus, forgiven of our sins, and righteousness has been imputed to us by our faith. No need to worry, right?
     Well, when you take a look at what is becoming the norm and acceptable in our nation -- in our culture and our laws, and yes, even in our churches -- I believe you will see we are being judged even now. How so? Consider Romans 1:18, which says For God in heaven unveils his holy anger breaking forth against every form of sin, both toward ungodliness that lives in hearts and evil actions. For the wickedness of humanity deliberately smothers the truth and keeps people from acknowledging the truth about God (TPT).

     When I consider what has happened in this nation since I came of age in the early 70s, it is astounding. I have seen the acceptance of casual sex through an immoral sexual revolution; the institution of full-term abortion in the laws of our land; the acceptance and promotion of same-sex relations and marriages; gender manipulation and elimination; and much more. And it is not just unbelievers who have taken part in these actions, but those who profess to love God! But what does God's Word tell us in Romans 1:18? What God sees as the"wickedness of humanity" will result in his holy anger because people refuse to acknowledge the truth about God -- that He is a righteous God who cannot tolerate unrepentance and continued sin. That chapter in Romans goes on to say that because people exchange the truth about God for a lie, He gives them up to their sins. Isn't that what we're seeing today in our society? That is judgment in itself, and should give anyone pause. 
     But it is verse 32 that I see so clearly in our nation today -- from the home to the boardroom; from the halls of Congress to our Church buildings ... Although they are fully aware of God’s laws and proper order, and knowing that those who do all of these things deserve to die, yet they still go headlong into darkness, encouraging others to do the same and applauding them when they do! 
     His Holiness -  If you mention "holiness" in today's society, it's almost an irrelevant term -- looked upon as outdated and insignificant. But I believe that the moral confusion we see in our culture is a result of a lack of understanding about holiness. In regards to each of us, holiness is being dedicated and committed to living a pure life; consecrated to God in our word, thoughts, actions. In other words, we do not conform to the world's standards, but rather to God's.
     As holiness relates to God, one of the best definitions I've ever heard is the following: "Holy refers to life burning with an intense purity that transforms everything it touches into itself". Only God is perfect in goodness and righteousness, therefore He is worthy to be exalted and worshiped. But where is the acknowledgment and reverence for His holy nature? To be holy means that all we are and all we have belongs to God, not ourselves, and is set apart for His purposes.
     Yet, I sense a frightening silence about God's Holiness in the Church -- the meaning of it and our responsibility to it; the necessity of it in our decaying moral structure; and yes, even the endorsement of it from the pulpit. It's as if somehow, the Church is afraid to offend the world with an idea that we should be holy like our God. The lack [or ignorance] of holiness in the masses leads to a distorted and limited view of the true God. When we do not uphold God's standards of holiness, we are short-changing His expression of love. And that brings me to the final attribute...
     The True Love of God - God's love is not a permissive love. He has set Divine standards for the purposes of our lives, and He does not capitulate based on man's fleshly desires. His is not a sentimental love based on our emotions, but rather a Holy love designed to bring us into righteous relationship with Him.
     For example, we can consider homosexuality, and the ordaining of gay clergy in some Church denominations. This practice has been adopted, all in the name of love. Should we continue to love our homosexual friends and family members? Absolutely! But that does not mean that we change God's Word to match the way we feel.
     No man was more loving than Jesus Christ. Yet His love for all men did not prevent Him from disapproving of lifestyles and motives. Sometimes His love even made people angry. But it was a love that could not deny His Father's Holiness, and it was His desire that this holy love transform people into the image of God.
     In fact, Jesus mixed God's love with His truth and His holiness to give us a clear Biblical blueprint by which to live our lives. But we want to ignore certain verses, or even alter their meaning to make it more palatable to our lifestyles.  Some have even gone so far as to disregard and nullify any attempt to shine a light on God's judgment [or wrath], His holiness, or the truth that hell actually exists! The result is that God's love is watered down and corrupted to simply an emotional feeling.
     I fear that the Body of Christ is not doing justice to the full nature of God. When we want to make Him in our image, we diminish the power of the Gospel to effect the world. He IS a God of Judgment, and yes, even wrath. At the end of this Age, we who have been faithful will not be subject to that wrath, but it doesn't mean that the world won't experience it. He IS a Holy God; one who is perfect and separate from man's corrupted state, with sacrosanct values that are not to be interfered with. And He IS a loving God who isn't afraid to use discipline when it is necessary to correct disobedience and establish His truth. It's time we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, take a good hard look in the mirror at how we are manifesting His glory. We are all praying for an awakening in the souls of men, but the stirring must start with us.

Proverbs 11:31    If the righteous are barely saved, what’s in store for all the wicked?

February 13, 2019

A Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

     The last few posts have been pretty heavy; theologically weighty, if you will. So I thought I would take a break and present a topic to hearten our spirits. It may seem like a trivial subject but it actually has great consequences not only here on earth, but in heaven and in the spiritual realm, too. So, today I'd like to address acts of kindness.
     The Bible tells us that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). When we break these two verses down, it looks like this ... the word fruit is the Greek word karpos and is loosely translated as "harvest". Digging in deeper, Strong's Concordance tells us the word means the fruit that is produced by the inherent energy of a living organism; the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly, and the character of the power producing it. So, ultimately, the "fruit of the Spirit" suggests the unity of the character of the Lord as reproduced in us [through the presence of the Holy Spirit]. You might want to meditate on that for a moment. Simply put, yes, it is a harvest, but it is a complex concept.
    So, now let's take a look at kindness. It is the Greek word chrestotes, and Strong's says it signifies not merely goodness as a quality, but it is goodness in action, goodness expressing itself in deeds, showing grace and tenderness and compassion.
     That's an academic and somewhat impersonal description of kindness as a fruit of the Spirit. So what does it look like in reality? Well, I'm going to give you a personal example, and one that I am very proud of.  My niece and God-daughter, Kaylee, has a sweet and tender heart and sincerely loves the Lord. She is somewhat of an anomaly in this Millennial generation. She decided that she was spending too much time on Instagram (a social media platform) and canceled her profile. She is passionately pursuing a relationship with Jesus, and writes a blog about how her experiences and dedication to a righteous life sometimes leaves her walking a lonely path.
     But don't feel sorry for her! She is a beautiful and vibrant young woman who has a witty sense of humor and will one day make an amazing wife for the man she is waiting for the Lord to bring into her life. And she will soon be starting her career as an elementary school teacher and will bless the lives of the children who are placed in her path. But this is a blog post about kindness. And I want you to hear how Kaylee epitomizes this fruit of the Spirit.
     I wish you could hear her tell the story, because she is much more entertaining than my words on this screen, but I will do my best. She had just received her paycheck and decided she needed to go to the pet store to buy her beloved puppy some dog food. The weather was bad and she was carefully making her way to Pet Smart when, on the side of the road, she passed a homeless man and his little dog. You have to understand the members of our family -- we are all fervent dog lovers and the multiple pets we own are loved by all of us; literally members of the extended family. So Kaylee's heart was instantly touched by the sight of the little dog in the cold, nasty weather.
     As she passed the man and his pet, she decided that since she was going to buy food for her own dog, she would get some for the homeless dog and return to deliver it. When she got to the pet store, she purchased food, a couple of toys, a blanket and some dog chews. As she often does, she struck up a conversation with the clerk, explaining that she was buying these for a dog who was on the street in the inclement weather. The clerk told her that he would help, too, and gave her a discount. [Kindness is addictive].
     So she drove back to the corner where the man and dog had been, praying that she would hit a red light when she reached them because there was no place to pull off to distribute the goods. The Lord  heard her prayer and the light turned red just as she approached them. She rolled her window down and gave the man what she had purchased for his dog. He was so thankful and couldn't believe that she had made the effort to come back -- it would have been so easy to keep driving and never think about them again.
     But Kaylee's act of kindness was not finished. Before the light turned green and she had to drive off, she said her heart was pricked with the idea that she should bless the man, too. She said she had heard the advice to not give the homeless money because they often bought alcohol or drugs with it, but that's all she had to give him, so she reached into her wallet and gave him the cash she had.
     Now, Kaylee didn't relate this story to receive accolades or praise. Her story was really more about her feelings for the little dog and the funny narrative of maneuvering through the traffic to secure the  perfect timing of reaching them. But I know better. I know that it was the power of the Holy Spirit to produce the heart of Jesus in her, in that moment. She didn't hesitate, she didn't make excuses why it was too much trouble or that she would be late to work. She just displayed the goodness of her nature, and acted with grace and tenderness and compassion.
     This may not be a story of great import or impact. But you know what? God doesn't require blockbuster deeds. Simple acts of kindness such as this can change a person's life. This is the divine love of God expressed by a young woman who belongs to Jesus Christ. Not only did she touch the life of the homeless man and his little dog, but Heaven took notice, too. When she stands before Jesus one day, she will receive her crowns and rewards for living a life that pointed others to the love of Christ. To the world her actions may look insignificant. But to God, on that rainy, icy day she was the visible expression of the power of His love. And who knows what her actions might inspire in others? I know her life will be a bountiful harvest!

Luke 6:38    Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

February 10, 2019

The Seven Mountains of Influence ... Biblical or Not?

     I guess I am still puzzled by faithful Christians who deeply love the Lord, but struggle with seeing the inestimable and immeasurable depth of His Word. As I continuously exhort to all who will listen, everything in the Bible is about God. But everything about God is not in the Bible. By that I mean that there are an infinite number of concepts of the greatness of our God and they cannot all be contained in one book. And He delights in us gaining new understanding and revelation [by the Holy Spirit] of how we can partner with Him to bring knowledge of Him to the world -- to the unbelievers who don't know Him, and let me be frank -- to my fellow believers who could benefit the world from getting to know Him more.
    So, today, I want to tackle a concept that can be construed as controversial within the Body of Christ -- the Seven Mountains of Influence. I say controversial because there are many Christians who will dismiss an aspect of God's authority and character if they are unable to find a concept mentioned in the Bible that is word-for-word, chapter and verse. But if you've read the last few days of this blog, you will be able to see just how important our Christian influence is to be. Ultimately, it will affect our very survival in the Tribulation to come. But let's take a look at why this particular concept is such a lightning rod in the Christian community.
     Just what does the Seven Mountains of Influence mean? Very simply, it is an understanding that in order for the Church to impact the world for Jesus Christ, it would be necessary for the Body of Christ to influence the Seven Mountains of society. What are those seven mountains? They are Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, Arts/Entertainment, and the Media. Here's where the controversy begins ... there are those who have taken this simple concept and declared that those who are in agreement with it see it is a Mandate from God; that before Jesus will return, the Church must take control of these seven spheres of influence. I will be honest with you; from everything I have read, the original proposal of this concept was not presented as a prerequisite for Christ's Second Coming. And perhaps there are denominations who have corrupted the idea and declared it is as mandatory from God. And then, on the other side of the controversy, perhaps there are those who unable to accept any idea that is not listed Chapter and Verse [in the Bible] and, therefore, declare such concepts anti-Biblical.
     Those among the Body of Christ who tend towards legalism or a religious spirit don't like terminology like "occupying" the mountains, "invading" the culture, or "transforming" society. They will also state that those who see the value in influencing these seven mountains perceive a duty of all Christians to create a worldwide kingdom for the glory of Christ. They will tie the theory of the seven mountains of influence to what they label as "dominion theology" or [taking back the dominion of the earth that was ceded to Satan by Adam and Eve in the Garden]. They will then take it a step further and declare that the principal goal of dominion theology and the seven mountains mandate is political and religious domination of the world through the implementation of the moral laws—and subsequent punishments—of the Old Testament. Whew! That's quite a stretch from the original presentation.
     I'm sorry, but to me, this is just an example of a religious mindset! It reminds me of the Pharisees who were only able to conceive of God by a narrow set of standards derived from Rabbinic laws and teachings. Jesus comes with a new and broader understanding of the will and sovereignty of God and is declared to be blasphemous! The difference is that Jesus had a spiritual mind; the Pharisees had a literal mind. Jesus was opening a gate to a new perception of the Kingdom of God, but the Pharisees refused to move off their familiar track of tradition in the world. 
     Does Jesus or the Bible ever say, "As followers of Christ, you are to have influence over these seven mountains of the world"? Of course not! But we are called to be "salt and light"; distinctive roles in the world. We are to be salt, as in preserving the world from the evil that is inherent in a society controlled by ungodly and unredeemed men steeped in their sin. And we are to be salt, as in a flavor enhancer; standing out from the crowd and increasing the taste for a world living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to Christ. We are to be light, as in letting our good works for the Lord shine forth as a "city set on a hill"; and letting our "light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven". I don't know about you, but that sounds like influencing the world, doesn't it?
     Furthermore, in addressing the criticism of "occupying" the spheres of Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, Arts/Entertainment, and the Media, doesn't Jesus tell us in Luke 19:13 to "Occupy til I come"? Another translations reads, "There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, ‘Operate with this until I return.’" Still another translation instructs us to "do business with this until I return". It is clear to me that we are to "occupy" and continue the business that Jesus clearly came to do for the Father ... establish the Father's claim to this world and establish His Kingdom on earth; reclaim, if you will, dominion of the earth from Satan ... "Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish". You can label that "dominion theology" if you want, but the Bible clearly says that Satan acknowledged he had authority over all the kingdoms of the world. And the last time I checked, the Bible said that God gave dominion over the world to Adam. So when Jesus says, "The Kingdom of God is at hand, [or is near]", He is announcing that the government of Heaven will be implemented upon the earth and that people should repent, believe the good news that He brought and put that message into action, changing their lives to reflect their belief and commitment, and thereby change their communities, cultures, and countries.
     That's why I don't agree with the critics who have a problem with terminology like "invading the culture". Just consider Romans 8:37, "Yet even in the midst of all these things, we triumph over them all, for God has made us to be more than conquerors, and His demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything!" I think we can agree if we invade the culture of Arts, Entertainment and the Media, we can conquer the seeds of sin. The success of Christian-oriented movies such as "I Can Only Imagine" and the PureFlix Film company are just a couple of examples. Think of the influence for Christ we can have when we invade the movie industry and the media.
      And when it comes to "transforming society", the Bible is quite clear as to how we Christians are to live: "Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes". And what do you think happens when we are transformed? We become that salt and light that influences those around us! 
     So, can we please try to look beyond our Church traditions and doctrines and understand that the Holy Spirit can bring us "divine concepts" that may not be word-for-word Biblical translations? Demanding literal accountability to the Bible is no different than the Pharisees inability to understand Jesus's statement, " I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again." They totally missed the boat, so to speak! When they responded, "How can a man be born when he is old? … Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!" it showed their unwillingness to accept anything other than their entrenched traditional thinking. 
     Remember, Jesus used parables, metaphors and veiled meanings that did not correspond to the "letter of the Law" that the religious leaders demanded. Do we not think that we Christians can present the foundation of Jesus's teachings in a new dialogue, yet with a synonymous message? I have no problem with saying that, as a follower of Christ, and an ambassador of God's Kingdom ["on earth, as it is in Heaven"], that I am committed to influencing those around me in the spheres of education, my faith, my family, our business, in the government of my country, in the movies/tv/books/internet that I choose to endorse, and in how I participate on social media -- all for the sake and glory of God! 
     So, can we agree to un-harden our hearts, take off the veils of tradition that diminish our spiritual sight, and discover the hidden glory of God? And then let's go out and influence the world for Jesus and the Kingdom of God! Future generations of believers will profit from your faithfulness to influence whatever "mountain" you are called to. For that influence will reverberate throughout the days of persecution. Know that you are a royal priest of the Kingdom and you have been given the authority to administer the Kingdom wherever you go. Praise God for His faithfulness!

1 Peter 3:16    "Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."

February 7, 2019

What Do You Make Of Your Christian Influence?

     In the last two posts I proposed an interpretation of Matthew 25:31-46, in which I identified the "sheep nations" as unbelieving people groups (or nations) who helped the saints during the Tribulation [by feeding them, clothing them, visiting them in prison, etc]; in other words, supporting "the agenda of the Brethren". They fed persecuted Christians, sheltered them, cared for them when they were sick, and ministered to them when the forces of the Anti-Christ imprisoned them. Their actions have been credited to them [imputed] as righteousness by God and Jesus, and they are allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom as citizens who will be under the rule and reign of Christ and Christian saints. 

     As I said previously, this is my understanding at this particular season of my walk with Christ in His Word. You may have a different interpretation, and that's okay. But even if we differ on our rendering of this particular Scripture, I think we can agree that our influence upon the unredeemed will have profound effects when the persecution begins -- and the Bible clearly states, Christians will be persecuted. That is why I ended yesterday's post with the statement, "And that, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, is why it is so important for us to be influencing communities, cultures, and countries for Christ. There is a time when the world will be at war with Christ and Christians, and how we impact nations and peoples now will bring the Church into its final destination. It is exciting and a profoundly significant responsibility for the Body of Christ. Are you ready and willing?"
     And that brings me to the question I have asked in the title of today's blog ... What do you make of your Christian influence? First of all, do you even think you have any? Influence, that is. Perhaps you think you have to hold a religious office, or be a well-known Christian author or philosopher. Perhaps you think only Pastors or teachers have any real influence. Do you think you have nothing to offer, and look at others impacting or transforming people for Jesus, and try to pattern your life after theirs?  
     If any of these thoughts ring true for you, I want you to stop and think about this... Bronnie Ware is an Australian author, songwriter and motivational speaker best-known for her writings about the top deathbed regrets she had heard during her time as a palliative care-giver for the terminally ill. In an article she wrote in 2009, Ms. Ware revealed that the top regret for those who were dying was this: "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me". In other words they weren't their truest self; the person Jesus designed them to be, and they felt they didn't fulfill the purpose for which they had been born. 
     Here's the thing ... we are each individually created and designed for the glory of God. And when our unique design is impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have been equipped to influence the world! Listen to the beautiful poem King David wrote to describe God's design of every person:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day. 
(Psalm 139:13-16)

    You were created and designed to be exactly as you are! There was a purpose for your life written "before you'd even lived one day". You were born to have influence in the lives of those who do not know your Creator. Yet, you may be chasing after someone else's gifts and talents because you are believing Satan's lies that yours aren't good enough! Here's what you need to understand and believe -- there is a calling and a purpose on your life that is as distinctive and individual as you are, and it can only be fully reached through your uniqueness. You were made by God for God. You were made to influence others for His Kingdom. 
     And whether or not we are destined to be among the persecuted Christians that are ministered to by the "sheep nations" at Jesus's return, it doesn't change our responsibility or privilege to influence those in our communities, cultures or countries now. By doing so, we could be creating an environment that will result in a legacy of future Christians who will touch the hearts of those sheep nations in Matthew 25. 
     You were created with a distinct purpose in mind; to have life-giving influence in whatever situations you have been placed; to impart the life-giving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world -- and your influence is connected to who you were designed to be. Embrace and accept yourself as He made you. You have the capacity and the power to shape and influence someone's life for Christ. You truly do! We all do! When you know this Truth, it becomes important how you steward that influence in impacting the lives and faith of others.  Your own faith journey will take on new significance and you will be among the men and women God is raising up in this generation to impact the world for His Kingdom. You will find that your life and faith and purpose and influence are all for Him!

Ephesians 2:10    For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.

      
       

February 4, 2019

Final Judgment of Sheep and Goats - Part 2

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? 39 And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” -- Matthew 25:31-46  

     First, I'd like to say that if you haven't read the previous post, I suggest you do, so that what I'm about to say will be understood in its full context. Here is what has been established so far ... Jesus is sitting upon His throne, in all His glory, and judging the "sheep" and "goats". The sheep have been judged righteous, and it has been pronounced that they will "inherit the kingdom". The goats, on the other hand, have been judged cursed, and have been sentenced to the "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels". These are very serious pronouncements, and it is important that we grasp their meaning and understand them correctly.
     As I postulated yesterday, it is apparent that ministering to the hungry, thirsty, strangers among us, and the imprisoned is important to Jesus. In fact, He makes a point of calling these unfortunate souls His "Brethren". In the past, I have assumed Jesus was making a statement from His carnal position, regarding the treatment of all mankind. But as I have spent more time contemplating this important passage, I have begun to see just who He is addressing.
     In verse 32, the Bible says Jesus has gathered "all the nations" before Him, and separated them as "a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats". We've also established that sheep represent obedience, while goats represent rebellion. But notice this: Jesus has gathered nations. Now, some translations go on to say that He "will separate people one from another", while other translations say, "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [implying nations] one from another".  I submit that those translations that use the word "people" are referring to ethnic groups [peoples] or speaking of a group of citizens, collectively, of a nation.
     And here is where we get to the decisive and most important points of Matthew 25:31-46. Because Jesus is sitting on His throne on the earth, and all the angels are with Him, I see that the bowls of wrath have been poured out, the battle with the Anti-Christ and his followers at Armageddon has taken place, and this is the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom. This scenario is about more than people ministering to the unfortunate of the world, however important that is to our King. This is a picture of Jesus seated on His Judgment Throne.
     More importantly, it is critical that we understand that [at this point in Matthew 25] there has been a transition from the Church Age to the Millennial Kingdom. Admittedly, I am no Bible scholar. But I know that all of the Bible has been given to us so that we might seek to understand our God and participate in His redemptive plan for His creation. While it is true that Jesus tells us that no man knows the day nor the hour of His return, He also tells us to "Stay awake!" and be on guard for the events to come.  
     I will also admit that the Bible is a mystery as to how these events unfold. And I am still trying to make all the puzzle pieces of Daniel's 70th week, Joel 2, Ezekiel 38, Zechariah 14, the Book of Revelation and Jesus's warnings in the Gospels into a cohesive picture so that I will not be caught unaware and surprised by the "thief in the night". 
     So, if we look at the verses just prior to the separation of the sheep and goat nations at the Judgment seat, we will find that Jesus has delivered His parable of the Talents. This is a picture of the first phase of Jesus's judgment in which the saints (raptured Believers) will be rewarded according to the fruit they bore for the Kingdom. In 25:23, Jesus says to these saints, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord." This is confirmation of Timothy 2:12 and Revelation 20:4, that we will rule and reign with Christ in the Millennial  Kingdom. 
     The Parable of the Talents is immediately followed by verses 31-46, which show us the second phase of Jesus's judgment from the Throne. This judgment is directed, not at the saints (Believers) but at the unregenerate nations that survive the coming of Christ and Armageddon. Remember, these are unredeemed nations that are standing before Jesus, and they will be judged as to whether they are allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom.
     So, now the obvious question is, why are some of the nations judged as sheep, and some as goats? I believe that Jesus is designating the sheep nations as those nations, ethnic groups, or peoples that cooperated with the brethren of Christ in resisting the Anti-Christ during the Tribulation. These sheep nations may not have been Believers in Christ, but they assisted Christians by housing them, feeding them, and ministering to them in prison during the persecution of Christians by the Anti-Christ. That's why the sheep nations ask Jesus, when did we do all these things? And He answers, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.   
     NOTE: I have an additional question about Jesus's answer, that I have not solved yet. Who is Jesus referring to as His brothers? Are Christians the only people qualified to be called His brothers? Could He also be referring to the 144,000 Jews who are sealed with His Father's name on their foreheads? After all, Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and these 144,000 are mentioned along with the multitudes that appear before His throne in Revelation 7. I don't know if Scripture identifies these two groups "collectively", as Jesus's brothers. At this point in my journey, I cannot definitively say. But I am willing to say that that He identifies these "brothers" as members of His Father's Kingdom who have been protected by the sheep nations. 
     I will also tell you that I had to take off my rose-colored glasses to dig into these verses. I had read them so many times and just accepted the "easy answer" that Jesus was commending Christians for being, well ... good Christians. But then there was verse 41 and He is cursing people and condemning them to "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels". That just didn't make sense if He was addressing Christians. And I had to remind myself that when the Holy Spirit inspired the original writers of the Bible, the Holy Book wasn't broken into neat little sections with titles. Yet, here, one of my Bible translations (KJV) tells me that verses 31-46 are about the judgment of the Gentile nations. How many times have I just skipped over that because it didn't fit my current understanding of the Bible, and I couldn't see the connection between the Parable of the Talents and the judgment of the sheep and goats?
     But there was still something that I had to work through. How could Jesus call these unbelieving sheep nations "blessed by My Father" (verse 34) and "righteous" (verse 37)? And how could they be allowed into the Millennial Kingdom if they hadn't believed in Him during the Church Age? Here is how I understand it now (until the Holy Spirit reveals more) ... They could be the unsaved people who survived the Tribulation and return of Christ to be facing Him at His Judgment Seat, and because they helped the saints during the Tribulation [by feeding them, clothing them, visiting them in prison, etc]; in other words, supporting "the agenda of the Brethren", their actions have been credited to them [imputed] as righteousness, and they are allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom as citizens who will be under the rule and reign of Christ and Christian saints. Meanwhile those goat nations continued in their rebelliousness towards God and sided with the Anti-Christ, persecuting the Brethren. Their "reward" will be punishment in the eternal fires of hell.
     So, in conclusion, once again I have discovered that I cannot take verses of the Bible out of context. I must read it with a discerning spirit and see the whole picture. The Return of Jesus is at the center of Matthew 25 -- all of the chapter.  And we are given a view of the Judgment Seat of Christ. We saints will be judged to determine what kind of reward we are to receive, based on the fruit we bore for the Kingdom of God. It is not about salvation! It is about the work we did for the Kingdom. Then Jesus will judge the nations according to their works -- the sheep nations will be rewarded for cooperating with the agenda of the Kingdom and allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom ... I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. But the goat nations will also be judged for their works with the Anti-Christ. It is clear to me that the destiny of nations at the commencement of the Millennial Kingdom will be determined on the basis of their partnership with the Kingdom of Heaven on earth during the Tribulation. 
     And that, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, is why it is so important for us to be influencing communities, cultures, and countries for Christ. There is a time when the world will be at war with Christ and Christians, and how we impact nations and peoples now will bring the Church into its final destination. It is exciting and a profoundly significant responsibility for the Body of Christ. Are you ready and willing?

Matthew 24:14    Yet through it all, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God. And after this the end of this age will arrive.
      
      

February 1, 2019

The Final Judgment of Sheep and Goats - Part 1

     I am deeply immersed in the Gospel Book of Matthew. For me, the four Gospels have so much to offer in revealing my Lord and Savior -- His mission on earth; His "Good News" of Salvation to individuals; our need to "repent and believe"; His message about the Kingdom of God influencing the earth; our assignments as ambassadors of that Kingdom ... and so much more. While I value every sacred book of the Bible [for they reveal the Father and His love for those created in His image], it is the Gospels that touch my heart and spirit the most, and none more than Matthew. This particular Book makes it clear that Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and we see the Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in His life, death, and resurrection.
    I love the parables and Jesus's forthright instructions on how to live a life that is pleasing to the Father. I esteem the prophecies of the future "End Times" and the "Age To Come". Certainly, the Book of Matthew challenges my knowledge of the Lord like no other Book of the Bible, and through meditation on the Word, I have come to know Jesus more deeply and intimately, and to begin to understand the Father's plan for redemption of the world. That being said, much is still being revealed to me [and it will be so until my last breath], and I have to tell you that there is a passage in Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 31-46, that is complex and enlightening, yet at the same time, alarming. I would like to take the next couple of posts to try to share what I think is being revealed to me -- how my understanding has changed, and how it is developing at this time.
     So, let's take a look at the passage: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
     There is so much to glean from these verses, but let me share some of the basic premises presented, which must be understood to grasp the bigger meaning of the passage. First, let's consider the sheep and goats. What does Jesus mean by these designations? I would submit to you that sheep are gentle animals, yielding to the Shepherd's commands; while goats are known to be independent, destructive and defiant when trying to be led. To put it in Scriptural terms, sheep are obedient, while goats are rebellious. 
     Secondly, what is the significance of putting the sheep at the right hand of Jesus on His throne, and the goats on His left? Throughout the Bible, the right hand is known as a place of honor and authority -- Jesus sits at the right hand of God. He states that He is the Truth, the Way, and the Life [Everlasting}. God's right hand also represents His strength and His righteousness -- "I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). But God has two hands. In Psalm 111:7, King David wrote, "The works of His hands are truth and [absolute] justice".  If Jesus is Truth, and He sits at the right hand of God, then the work of God's left hand (as stated in Psalm 111) is justice. 
     Now, let's make note that in Matthew 25, Jesus has come in His glory, and is seated on His glorious throne. He is seated, and displaying both Truth and Justice. This is a time of Judgment. I will tell you that my understanding of the time and place of this scene is based on my theological worldview. This is a difficult theological mystery that the Body of Christ is very much divided on; namely the chronological events that take place at the Second Coming of Christ. There are many things that happen, and it is difficult to come to a conclusive picture of how it all unfolds. I will be honest and say that I am still formulating my theology, but at this point in my journey, here is a [very] brief summary of where I stand as it pertains to Matthew 25... It is my view that Jesus returns after the Great Tribulation and raptures first, the dead in Christ, and then the Body of Christ [the Church], taking us to Heaven while the bowls of wrath are being poured out on the wicked of the world. The Church will then fulfill her purpose as the literal army of God, fighting with Jesus in many battles. This war will climax with the battle of Armageddon. (I look to the following Scriptures for my understanding of this scenario: prophecies made in Jude 14-15, Isaiah 13:1-5, and Joel 2:1-11, among others). It is after Armageddon, that this scene of Jesus on His throne, in Matthew 25, takes place. This is where judgment will take place of the "sheep and goats".
     [NOTE:  I do not say that you must agree with my interpretation of this eschatological timeline in order to understand what Jesus is trying to tell us in this passage. We must each spend time in the Word and with the Holy Spirit to receive revelation. And I fully expect that my interpretation of all the events of the Day of the Lord will continue to evolve as I spend more time studying and searching what the Lord would have me know. I think you will find that it is not necessary to agree on the timeline; rather it is more important to understand what is happening at this moment. And at the moment, we see Jesus, seated on His throne, which has become His Judgment Seat.]
     At this time, I want to present my initial interpretation of what verses 31-46 were telling me. It was very sobering to see how much it means to Jesus that we minister to the needs of our fellow man. For as we minister to people, we are ministering to Jesus! To meet the needs of hunger, thirst, isolation, nakedness, sickness, and imprisonment is the desire of the Father's heart and when we are obedient to do so, we are allowing Heaven to invade earth. That's why Jesus instructs us to pray, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
     And here is the frightening part .... verses 41-46 seem to imply that failure to do so results in eternal punishment in the fires of Hell! I have spent many a session with my Bible trying to determine if that is what the Word really says. I have read every version of the Bible I can find (and believe me I have a multitude of translations in my library). None of them varied from this text. Is Jesus really saying that the "goats" on his left hand will go to hell for refusing [or at the very least, failing] to feed the poor or minister to those who are sick or in prison? And who are these people who are designated as sheep and goats? Is it as simple as the sheep are Believers and the goats are Unbelievers? Can we justify that interpretation from the Scripture? Or is there more to this important passage? 
     I will let you ruminate on that for the next couple of days.... and then come back for Part Two. I think your understanding of the Word will be illuminated as we dive deeper into this important passage. Shalom!

 John 5:27    "The Father has transferred to the Son the authority to judge, because He is the Son of Man".


  

January 29, 2019

Jesus Wept

     Jesus wept. This is the shortest verse in the Bible and it occurs in John, Chapter 11 as Jesus approaches the tomb of Lazarus, His friend who had died. I think He probably wept for so many reasons -- chief among them, His compassion for those who suffer. But I also think He wept over the damage and distress and destruction that Death causes, knowing that the wages of sin are Death, and Death was what Satan claims as his victory. I can imagine that Jesus felt all that as He stood at the tomb and comforted Lazarus's family.
     But I am also willing to declare that Jesus wept on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. That is the day that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the inaccurately named Reproductive Health Act (RPA) into law. There is nothing "healthy" about it for the unborn. In a nutshell, the law allows third trimester abortions "when the health of the mother is in danger", and it removes abortion from the state’s criminal code. This would protect doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution. The law also allows medical professionals who are not doctors (such as nurse practitioners, physican's assistants, and nurse midwives) to perform abortions in New York. Additionally, the law states that abortions can be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable, [or when necessary] to protect the life of the mother. These "exceptions" are rather broad, indicating that age, economic, social and emotional factors are reason enough. And perhaps the most egregious part of the bill is that it defines a "person" as "a human being who has been born and is alive".
     How do you think Jesus, the Creator of that person, feels? The Bible tells us He knew that fetus before He formed it in the mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Psalm 139:13-16 tells us that He knitted that fetus in the mother's womb and that the baby is "fearfully and wonderfully made"; never hidden from its Creator. And if that is not enough to dissuade those who favor abortion, let them read Exodus, Chapter 21, where God considers penalties for personal injuries, and then take a good, hard look at verses 22-25, which state, If men fight with each other and injure a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely [and the baby lives], yet there is no further injury, the one who hurt her must be punished with a fine [paid] to the woman’s husband, as much as the judges decide.  But if there is any further injury, then you shall require [as a penalty] life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. It should be clear from this passage that God considers a baby in the womb to be as human as a full-grown adult, with all the accompanying privileges to life and law. Abortion is a matter of life or death to a human being made in God's image. 
     I know all the arguments made in favor of abortion ... what about the cases of rape or incest? When the mother's health is in jeopardy? And I will grant those are tragic and difficult circumstances. But life comes from our God, and Death is the penalty for our sinful nature. I would ask those who consider abortion in these situations to consider the words of the Lord in Isaiah 45:10-11, Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”  Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? All children are a blessing from God and made by Him. It is the folly of men to think they can decide if that child [created by God] should be born or not, and the purpose Jesus had planned for that child.
     Yet that is exactly what the New York Reproductive Health Act states: “Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental [basic, essential] right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion". 
     I believe Jesus is weeping as he witnesses the pride of man in this law, which states, “Third-trimester abortion will be allowed under the new law when a pre-born child is diagnosed with a condition that will cause him or her to die at or shortly after birth”. Where is the fear of the Lord; that recognition of His ability to perform miracles and to heal? But the arrogance becomes even more pronounced. The bill also states that the new law removes protections for babies born alive after an abortion, repealing the requirement for a second physician to be on hand in case an attempted abortion past 20 weeks yields a live infant. 
     And in case you doubt that Satan is laughing in delight, the New York law sets a precedence preventing "the enforcement of laws or regulations that are not in furtherance of a legitimate state interest in protecting a woman’s health that burden abortion access". In other words, the New York Reproductive Health Act would be immune to any laws set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court. Adding insult to injury, Governor Cuomo gave Sarah Weddington, the attorney in the Roe v. Wade case, a special seat next to him as he signed the bill into law. What arrogance!
     I believe Jesus is weeping because He sees man choosing Death over Life; Satan's victory over Christ's victory. And He is weeping over 880,000+ of His creations being destroyed every year in the United States. The Word tells us that Satan comes to "kill, steal, and destroy" and he accomplishes all those goals in the practice of abortion -- murdering the unborn; stealing the life from an innocent person; and destroying what Jesus created. And He is weeping that those who have been appointed to govern us do not know Him. If they did, they could not legislate as they do. And He is weeping that men and women are willing to follow such ungodly and unrighteous laws because their hearts have been so defiled. 
     I usually do not comment on so-called "political" issues, but this is an issue of morality and a flagrant act of rebellion by mankind towards our Holy God. Who are we to determine that a life begun in the womb [by the hand of God] should [or can] be terminated? Yes, you can find facts that the number of abortions have decreased by a couple of thousand in the last couple of years. But Satan could not let this go unchallenged, so now, in cooperation with rebellious men, he is broadening his attack upon the unborn, stealing and destroying life, even after birth! And it is all in the name of "reproductive rights". 
     Pure and simple, it is man choosing to defy God ... and on January 22, 2019, I believe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all wept. And I ask that all of you reading this get on your knees and pray for our leaders and our nation. Pray in repentance and ask forgiveness for this egregious sin! I cannot ignore the warning in Ezekiel 33:25; a warning given to the arrogant and wicked ... Thus saith the Lord God; Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land?  Pray that the hearts of our citizens will turn away from the Billion Dollar industry that is fed by the blood of innocent children. Pray that our nation will be cleansed of its false worship of Self. Our God is a God of Love and Redemption, but He is also a God of Judgment against the unrighteous and the wicked. And they will not be spared unless they repent and turn from their evil ways. 

Proverbs 8:1-7   Can't you hear the voice of Wisdom? .... I’m calling to you, sons of Adam, yes, and to you daughters as well. Listen to Me and you will be prudent and wise. For even the foolish and feeble can receive an understanding heart that will change their inner being. The meaning of My words will release within you revelation for you to reign in life. My lyrics will empower you to live by what is right. For everything I say is unquestionably true, and I refuse to endure the lies of lawlessness—