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

July 15, 2018

The Significance of God's Mantle Upon A Believer

     "The mantle of God" is one of those theological terms that I am only able to discern from its symbolic application in the Bible. Nowhere have I been able to find Scripture that says "this is what a mantle is, or means" in the Bible. In its very simplest application, it is understood to be a cloak, or outer garment; a covering. Strong's Concordance gives it no more significance than that. But when we read the Biblical accounts of Samuel, Joshua, Joseph, Elijah and Elisha, our spirits tell us there is a spiritual connotation to the mantles they wore. And that is what I wish to discover today.
     I think you will agree that the Biblical account of Elisha picking up the mantle that fell from Elijah is the most concrete example we have of the mantle's significance. First of all, we know that Elijah, the Tishbite, would prove to be a very important Prophet for the God of Israel. His name is derived from the Hebrew name Eliyahu, meaning "my God is YAHWEH", with the elements ('el) and (yah), both referring to the Hebrew God. Elijah was a Hebrew prophet and miracle worker, as told in the two Books of Kings in the Old Testament. His impact on the nation of Israel is great; he is given a specific anointing and ministry by God, and he is faithful to that calling -- even to challenging Baal, the Canaanite god responsible for rain, thunder, lightning, and dew. Elijah not only challenges Baal on behalf of God Himself, but he also challenges Jezebel, her priests, Ahab and the people of Israel.
     Elijah's service to God was so exceptional that he is just one of two men who were not subject to death before being taken to Heaven (Enoch is the other). And because Elijah's anointing was so important to the future of Israel, it was important that his work continue. And that is where we see the symbolism of that appointment being passed on to Elisha in the form of Elijah's mantle/cloak. 
     Elisha was the attendant and disciple of Elijah. He was with Elijah as the Lord prepared to take him up to heaven in a whirlwind. They approached the River Jordan, where 50 Israelite prophets stood watching them from a distance. And Elijah took his mantle (cloak) and rolled it up and struck the waters, and they were divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And when they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” ... As they continued along and talked, behold, a chariot of fire with horses of fire [appeared suddenly and] separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” And he no longer saw Elijah. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces [in grief]. He picked up the mantle of Elijah that fell off him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he too had struck the waters, they divided this way and that, and Elisha crossed over (2 Kings 2:8-14).
     From this Scripture, we can understand that Elijah's mantle was a symbol of his ministry and an indication of his authority and responsibility as God’s chosen spokesman. We also see that this ministry and authority was passed on to Elisha through the taking up of the mantle. 
     So, do you think that you, too, can receive a mantle upon your life for God? I believe at the center of receiving a mantle from God is a servant's heart. I also believe that we don't self-appoint mantles [or ministries] for ourselves, but rather receive our calling from the Holy Spirit. 
      At the beginning of this post I listed several men of the Bible who clearly picked up the mantles God had for them. I just love the account given in 1 Samuel, Chapter 3, of the calling on Samuel's life. As we know, his mother Hannah prayed for a son, promising to dedicate him to the service of YHWH. The child served the Lord under the guidance of Eli, the priest. And the Bible is clear in noting that Samuel was faithful to answer every time God called him. Now Samuel grew; and the Lord was with him and He let none of his words fall to the ground [fail to be fulfilled]. And all Israel from Dan [in the north] to Beersheba [in the south] knew that Samuel was appointed as a prophet of the LordAnd the Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord. But it is the first sentence in Chapter 4 that shows the result of Samuel's faithful service: And the word of [the Lord through] Samuel came to all Israel. He carried the mantle of the Lord.
     The same could be said of Joshua and Joseph. Their mantles of authority and influence flowed out of their relationships; both with God and their mentors. Joshua learned at the feet of Moses, who had that special anointing from God. Joshua was able to recognize where his victories came from and how Moses' leadership was guided by his mantle of anointing. Although, as a child, Joseph received prophetic dreams of his future leadership, he grew into his mantle through relationships with his father, Jacob; Potiphar, the Egyptian captain of Pharaoh's guard; a prison warden; and even Pharaoh, himself. This example shows us that God will use those in authority over us to grow us and position us to wear the mantle He has assigned us. 

     This idea of a mantle from God was brought home to me when I discovered the meaning of my maiden name. It is Ellison, which has been translated "son of Elias". According to a site which traces the origins of surnames, the origin of the name Elias is that it is a borrowing from the Greek; Elias being a cognate of the Hebrew Eliyahu, which is derived from 'ēlīyāhū (Jehovah is God). The name is a variant of Elijah, the same prophet of Israel [referenced above] who carried an anointing (a consecration) of the Spirit of God.
     That weighed heavy on my own spirit as I recognized that this important mantle had been laid down in my family in recent generations. I knew in the deepest part of my heart that God was preparing me to pick up my family's mantle. I could look back and see the people of spiritual authority God had put in my life, and the path He had laid out before me. I knew it would be a long journey for me; that I had much to learn, but I never doubted and have committed myself to the mission I've been given. 
     Make no mistake, I do not say this to place myself above anyone else in the Body of Christ. I do not aspire to titles or offices. I only want to be as humble as Samuel and be as obedient as he was when he answered the Lord: "Here I am, for you called me. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening". So, are you ready to receive your mantle? Are you willing to invest in relationships with men and women who have true spiritual authority, and learn from them? Are you ready to wrap yourself in the protective mantle of God's ultimate authority? Let the Holy Spirit empower you to do God's work. Let His mantle fall on you and prepare for supernatural ability to complete your unique assignment. 

Romans 11:29   For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [for He does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call].   

July 12, 2018

Why Did God Create Angels?

First of all, it is important to realize that angels exist and that they are an integral part of our Bible. Through a cursory examination of my own, I found at least 100 references to angels, and one source (Quora.com) reports that angels are mentioned 296 times throughout the Old and New Testaments.
     And I want to make it very clear from the beginning of this post that just because I am looking into the subject of angels and how God sees them, DOES NOT mean that I am worshiping them! I also discern a form of legalism whenever a term is developed to describe a belief that more rigid Christians do not want to consider, and in this case the term is "angelology". I know that this is a very common concern among many Christians, but I assure you that there are many of us who have the maturity of faith to look at a theme within the Bible and not be deceived.
    I also want to preface this post with the fact that I have recently attended a one-day conference with internationally recognized and ordained minister of the gospel, Joshua Mills. Joshua walks in the glory realm of God and his supernatural praise of God testifies of the unfathomable greatness of our Father in Heaven. This particular session was about angels and I was amazed at the information that is available to us in Scripture; information that is present to help us develop not only personal, but accurate and trustworthy beliefs about angels.
    To begin with, I want to establish a few DON'TS we can all agree on: we are not to worship Angels. We worship God, who is the Creator of Angels. Scripture makes this very clear: Let no one defraud you of your prize [your freedom in Christ and your salvation] by insisting on mock humility and the worship of angels, going into detail about visions [he claims] he has seen [to justify his authority], puffed up [in conceit] by his unspiritual mind (Colossians 2:18). The point here is not to discount visions one might have, but to ignore any encouragement to worship angels.
     We do not pray to the Angels. Revelation 8:3 tells us that Angels collect our prayers as they are directed to God and present them at the altar before His Throne: Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. Again, we do not pray to Angels, but pray to God to release them to do the assignments He gives them to serve us. And before anyone disputes this statement, please read the next paragraph.
     And lastly, we do not serve the Angels. They serve us as Hebrews 1:14 declares: What role then, do the angels have? The angels are spirit-messengers sent by God to serve those who are going to be saved. The Aramaic translates this verse as “The angels are spirit-winds-of-ministry sent to minister to those destined to receive salvation.” The angels are glad to minister to us, for they see us “in Christ.” 
     Hopefully, this will reduce any doubts that I am pushing an agenda to worship angels. But just as I have shown you what we are not to do, I would now like to show what Scripture tells us about how we can relate to Angels. First, it is important to note that Angels 1) obey God and 2) obey His Word ... Bless the Lord, you His angels, You mighty ones who do His commandments, Obeying the voice of His word! (Psalm 103:20). So that should tell us that not only do Angels obey God's voice when He commands them, but when our voices [in prayer] invoke the Word of God, and Jesus's name, God releases them to fulfill our petition. Remember, they are sent to minister to us, the heirs of salvation.
     So read what Jesus says: I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels (Luke 12:8). If we declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He endorses us in the midst of Heaven's angels. And how many angels are there in Heaven? The prophet Daniel had a vision of a thousand thousands attending God, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before Him (Daniel 7:10). That's over 100 million angels! John heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the Throne (Revelation 5:11). And Luke reports that a multitude of the heavenly host (an angelic army) appeared at Christ's birth (Luke 2:13-14). I think it's safe to say that we Believers are known to untold numbers of angels in Heaven! 
     From just this small amount of information from Scripture, it should be clear that our prayers and our voicing the Word of God enable Angels to come to our assistance. Remember that our God is Immutable; He never changes His ways or character. He has set an order to His Creation, and the Angels are part of that orderly system. We only have to look at what the Angel told Daniel: "Since the first day that you set  your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them." And that wasn't the only time Daniel's life was affected by an angel... He had a powerful testimony before King Darius: My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in His sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty. The same holds true for us! Our prayers release Angels to do the assignments they were created for -- to serve us and protect us.
     We must give voice to God's Word through prayer and declaration! Remember, Hebrews 1:14 says that Angels are spirits sent by God to minister to us -- and they are activated by our prayers and declarations, in the Name of Jesus. So in what spheres of our personal lives can we expect to engage with angels? Like any good father, our Father in Heaven desires to protect us; deliver us from harm; and give us joy, peace, and prosperity.  Psalm 91:11-12 tells us that God will command His angels to protect and defend and guard us in all our ways; rescuing us from Satan's traps so that we don't stumble. There is even a hint that we each have guardian angels... Jesus says, in Matthew 18:10, See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 
     My mother-in-law praises God for saving my husband when he was a child. She was in a car line to pick him up from kindergarten and she saw Mark running towards her, excited to show her a paper in his hand. But the wind blew it out of his hand as he stepped behind a car, and he bent down to retrieve it.  The next thing she saw was the rear back-up lights of that vehicle, whose driver was unable to see Mark bent over. She said she screamed but nothing came out of her mouth, and she began to cry and pray because she knew he didn't have time to get out of the way. But through her tears, she said she saw something miraculous. It was like an invisible force lifted him up and placed him on the curb, out of harm's way. To this day, the only explanation that makes sense to her is that an angel protected him.
     Then there is the case of the Angels assigned to the various churches in the Book of Revelation. It is clear in Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3, that each church and ministry is assigned Angelic helpers to labor in their end-time work for God's Kingdom. I have heard some teachings that "angels of the churches" is referring to Pastors, but every translation I have read explains "angel" to mean "messenger/divine messenger". It makes perfect sense to me that God would assign His Angels as support-workers and helpers to accomplish His inspired visions and goals for a church. And we even see God sending an Angel to give holy revelations and directions, as when He sent an Angel to the evangelist, Philip. Instead of returning to Jerusalem with Peter and John, the Angel told Philip, Get up and go south to the road that runs from Jerusalem down to Gaza, where God had arranged for him to meet with the Ethiopian eunuch and preach Jesus. 
     I know this is a short and imprecise expository on the existence of angels and the roles they play in our lives. So, if I had to summarize this concept it would read like this: God loves us so much that He has commanded His created beings, the Angels, to minister to us; to protect us, to guide us, to comfort us -- to meet our every need according to what the Word says God desires for us. The sole duty of Angels is to follow the commands of God, and God loves to answer our prayers. They are an important part of His creative order and are valuable in the lives of God's children. 
     And remember the verse where Jesus stated that the little children had angels that protected them? Well in the parable of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus, in Luke 16, it gives me great comfort to read that when Lazarus dies, it is angels that carry his spirit to Abraham's bosom (Paradise). So, it appears to me that angels attend to us throughout our lives here on earth. And, yes, we do not worship them, but instead worship our Father who has appointed them to minister to us. 
     The truth is, we modern Christians don't really know much about the spiritual realm where Angels reside. Because they are spirits rather than physical beings, we may well be unaware of their presence. But Scripture makes it very clear that they are real and they exist to serve us at the command of the Father. Our challenge is to learn how to activate their ministries through our prayers. Our faith in the Word of God -- spoken and declared -- can actively release the Angelic realm into our lives. All we have to do is believe what the Bible tells us. They are just waiting to minister to us! 

Psalm 103:19-22  The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word. Praise the LORD, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will. Praise the LORD, all His works. Everywhere in His dominion. Praise the LORD, my soul.


July 9, 2018

The Seven Spirits of God

     I am constantly amazed at how much there is to learn about my God. Once I became willing to open my heart fully to the presence of Jesus, He has been taking me on a wild ride of revelation; unveiling Scripture and introducing me to newer and higher concepts of just who He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are. I look back at where I was when He first called me to this astounding relationship some 30 years ago, and where I am now, and I am so thankful that I was willing to listen and respond to the invitations.
     I say "invitations" in the plural, because there have been so many disclosures of the Character, Blessings, Favor, Commandments, and Manifestations of the Father that it is difficult to wrap my head around them all and compress them into one finite impression. And I think that is the point ... it is impossible to limit Him based on His immeasurable Nature. The only limits that can be put on God are those that we create ourselves, through our free will and unbelief.
     I can't quite explain how I have been blessed to be open to these revelations, while others have not. All I know is that I hunger for more. I want the fullness of all that God purposes for my life, and all that He is willing to reveal of Himself. And I know that my desire these last couple of years to engage the Holy Spirit in a deepening relationship has resulted in more spiritual growth than the preceding 20-odd years combined. All this has led to an increased consciousness of the Holy Spirit in my life, and more manifestations of His Presence. That being said, I am fully aware that I have a long way to go to receive all that Jesus and the Father offer through the Holy Spirit. And what exactly does that "fullness" look like, and is it possible for Believers to have it all?
     As I've often said, and utterly believe, Jesus Christ is our model. He lived His life as a man, not God. He came to show us what is possible in this life; what to ask for and how to walk it out. Ultimately, He walked with the fullness of God's Spirit upon Him, and I believe we can, too. And that is my desire for myself and all Believers. But how do we get there? First, we have to look at where it all started ... Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."  But then, in Genesis 1:2, something changed: "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." What happened between verse 1 and verse 2 is a blog post for another day (hint: perhaps it was the rebellion by Satan and his angels which resulted in God's judgment upon the earth causing it to become a place of darkness). But verse 2 makes it clear that the Spirit of God was "hovering" or "moving" over the earth -- it did not settle upon the earth.
    But it is not until verse 26 that God says, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us." From that statement alone, we know that mankind was created perfectly, beautifully, and without blemish, just like God, the Father; Jesus; and the Holy Spirit. We were created as a three-part being -- body, soul (mind, will and emotions), and spirit; with the spirit being the deepest part of man, where he could commune with God. But, as we all know, man's beautiful state did not last. He fell prey to Satan's temptation, and his spirit became dark. Man, who had been created by God and made alive by the very "breath of God" (Spirit of God) was incapable of hosting the Holy Spirit of God because of his sin. So the Spirit of God continued to move over the earth, unable to rest -- until God sent His Son to redeem us.
     Isaiah 11:1-2 tells us when the Spirit of God would finally be able to rest upon the earth ... Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot -- yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him -- the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
     Here, we see the fullness of all that the Spirit of God is. It is His Holiness, His wisdom, His understanding, His counsel, His might (strength; power); His knowledge, and His fear (awesome reverence) of the Lord. SIDE NOTE: I'm not quite sure how to refer to these seven designations of the Spirit that came to rest upon Jesus, the man. They are more than characteristics or descriptions; they are more like the many different ways He operated in Jesus ... and therefore, how He is able to operate in us, too. How was that to come about?
     After disclosing that the Spirit of God would come to rest upon the descendant of David, Isaiah 11 goes on to allude to the future: "In that day, the heir to David's throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world". From the Old Testament prophecy to the New Testament, we read in Revelation 5 that John saw "the heir to David's throne", the Lamb who "had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the seven-fold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth".
     So, the Book of Matthew tells us that the Spirit of God hovered over the earth, unable to rest upon it until Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan: And as Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavenly realm opened up over Him and he saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the heavens and rest upon Him in the form of a dove.  From Isaiah, we see that the Spirit of God is seven-fold, including all the ways He operates, and that He will be sent out to all the earth. How do we connect the dots to us, and why can we believe that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is available to us, just as it was to Jesus? Remember what Jesus said to the Disciples before His ascension into Heaven? "You will receive power [and ability] when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [messengers], both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth." And then on the day of Pentecost, we read in Acts 2 that the Holy Spirit came in tongues of fire to "rest upon them".
     The Apostles were the first of a long line of Believers (down to us) who become filled with the Holy Spirit -- who are the depository of the seven-fold operation of the Holy Spirit -- who carry His Presence everywhere we go! Just as Jesus stated that the Disciples would be sent out to the ends of the earth to declare His Name, we are to do the same. And my desire is to carry and demonstrate that fullness of the Spirit, just as Jesus and the Apostles did! But how many of us Christians think we just house the Holiness of the Spirit -- that the holiness and righteousness of Christ, as realized in the Holy Spirit, is all we have at our disposal to reach the world? I want all of Him! In addition to the Holy Spirit, I want the Spirit of Wisdom to make the right choices at the right time, as endorsed by my Father. I want the Spirit of Understanding; to be able to discern and perceive from the Father's perspective. I desire to accommodate the Spirit of Counsel; to seek and receive the advice of God's heavenly guidance. I want to join my spirit with the Spirit of Might, as God's strength, power, and mighty acts are displayed through me to bring victory to the souls of men. I need the Spirit of Knowledge that comes from a personal and intimate relationship with God that results in divine revelation. And lastly, my spirit cries out for the Spirit of the fear of the Lord; a reverence so awe-inspiring that my spirit trembles in the midst of its longing.
     My descriptions of the operations of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness are by no means comprehensive. In truth, they are inadequate to explain the depth and breadth of how the Spirit of God can operate in us. Because God is so big as to be incomprehensible in His fullness, so is the Spirit of God. But it is enough for me to know that the Spirit wants to operate in me and rest upon me. It is only through Him that I am able to receive my marching orders from God and carry them out. So, Father, it is my prayer and request that the fullness of the Holy Spirit be activated in my life, and in the lives of all Believers. May we find increase in the Power and Presence of Your Spirit  in all our endeavors for the Kingdom. As for me, I welcome all seven of the Spirits of God as I sanctify myself for the work set before me. And I pray that each of you will receive higher levels of God's Spirit as He rests upon your lives, making you effective ambassadors of the Kingdom of God on earth.

John 16:14    "He will glorify and honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you."

July 5, 2018

Jesus Said, "Go"!

     I can hardly wait to share the good news of what Jesus did this past Sunday! As you know, I strongly believe that we Christians should be taking the Gospel message out into the world instead of protecting it within the four walls of a church building. Actually, I believe that WE were meant to be the church as we encounter the world and bring the Light, that is Jesus, into the dark kingdom of the Enemy.
     Jesus commissioned His twelve disciples "to preach God’s kingdom realm and to heal the sick to demonstrate that the kingdom had arrived". As He sent them out, He said, "Just go as you are" and "Go in my authority, and teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you". He also said that loving Him empowers us to obey His word. So that is exactly what a small group of us did this last Sunday... we obeyed His commandments, followed His instructions, and answered His call to "Go"!
     We began our assignment by meeting to worship; praying together, ministering to each other, and just soaking in His Presence before we went out. Someone in our group felt He heard the Lord say to look for a woman in a red shirt. The first stop we made was the local park. Although a huge public park, it was relatively uninhabited that afternoon, and we were a little disappointed that we weren't encountering more people. But as we were driving towards the exit, we saw a woman getting out of her car, and she was wearing a red shirt! My husband pulled up alongside her and asked if she needed prayer for anything. She didn't even hesitate. "Yes"! We all got out of the vehicle, surrounded her and asked about her circumstances and why she needed prayer.
     Her story was heartbreaking. Her oldest son, who has a problem with drugs, had been missing for several days. She hadn't known where he was, and had been in church praying that morning for him to return. She had heard from him just an hour or so before, but knew that he continued in his struggles and she didn't know how to help him. So we gathered around her, laying hands on her and each prayed for the drug addiction to be defeated and the family relationship to be restored; and for her son to come home and discover who he is in Jesus. As we prayed, her phone began ringing and as we finished and said our goodbyes, she said it was her son calling! 
     Not only did the Lord show us who we would need to pray for that day, but confirmed that we were hearing from Him and showed us that He could make that vital connection between a mother and her hurting son. Our spirits soared!
     The next stop was the local mall. We hadn't even parked before we saw a woman who seemed to be limping, so we pulled in to the closest empty parking space and approached her. What a compassionate Christian she turned out to be. Although suffering from scoliosis herself, she asked us to pray instead for her friend Kim, who was suffering from cancer, yet continued to take in abandoned children and care for them. She enthusiastically praised her friend's faithfulness and commitment to these children and asked that we pray for her to recover so she could continue showing love and mercy for those precious children. We did so, and then prayed for her back and a release from the spirit of pain. We left her blessing the Name of Jesus and continued on into the mall.
     At that point we split into pairs with the purpose of listening to the Father, just as Jesus had done; willing to minister to anyone who needed prayer and the touch of Jesus in their life. My husband, Mark, paired with Tami, the wife of the other couple, and I joined with the husband, Keith, and we started at opposite ends of the mall. As it turned out, Mark and Tami felt led to pray for people with obvious physical pain. They laid hands on a woman with knee pain, and she reported the pain had greatly subsided. Another woman received prayer for shoulder and sciatic pain, and although she remained skeptical, she did admit to some relief.  Jesus will take that and continue to work in her! Then they approached an Indian man who said he was from the Comanche tribe and suffered from neuropathy in his foot. He was surprised when the condition improved considerably. Mark and Tami then engaged in a conversation about his faith in Jesus. Although he was skeptical that the relief would last, they left him declaring their trust in the Lord to continue His supernatural healing.
     Keith and I found ourselves praying for emotional healing. There was a woman, named Penny, who heeded our question if she needed prayer by saying, "How did you know to stop me"? At it turned out, Penny was a newly saved Christian and was struggling with how to walk in righteousness. She said, "I know Jesus is my Savior, but I don't even think to pray as a solution to this life's issues". She said when it came to solving problems, prayer was about fifth down the list, and we could tell she was really beating herself up for what she saw as weak faith. I asked her if she wanted prayer to be more important in her life, and she teared up. "Yes". So, I told her, "Just ask Jesus for a heart to pray. It's that simple. He hears you and wants to grant the desires of your heart". She left visibly shaken, but touched by our encounter. 
    We then continued our stroll through the mall, again amazed that there were fewer people than we expected. We saw a man sitting on a bench, surrounded by four young children. We approached him asking if he needed prayer, but he declined. My partner, Keith, didn't let that stop him. Keith engaged with each of the children, imparting a ray of Jesus's Light into their midst, proving you can represent Jesus in all manner of ways.
     We continued our walk through the mall. A group of four young men had caught my eye as we first entered the mall, and 30 minutes later, we encountered them entering a sporting goods store. Although I didn't feel any strong prompting from any of them, my gaze kept returning to them, and I finally looked at Keith and said, "I'm going".  I walked into the store and up to two of the young men and said, "I just want to ask you if there is anything we can pray for you"? Well, the tallest of the two looked at me like a deer in the headlights, and just shook his head "no". His friend did the same thing and started to turn away. At that moment, I turned in the opposite direction and came in contact with the third young man of the group, and he asked me, "What did you say"? And I repeated the question, asking if he needed prayer for anything, and he didn't hesitate. "Yes, for my future". 
     I asked him his name (Joe) and said, "What's going on? What about your future do you feel the need for prayer"? And he said he felt stuck, he didn't know what his destiny was; what he was meant to do.  Instantly, my spirit discerned that Joe's spirit was stuck somewhere in a realm and couldn't see or hear the counsel of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. So I asked him to close his eyes, and see if he could see himself stuck someplace where he couldn't get out. And he said, yes, in a room in his house. I asked Joe if he would be willing to let Jesus come into that room and walk him out. He agreed to that, so I asked him if he could see Jesus in that room with him. After a couple of seconds, he nodded his head yes. 
     I then asked the Lord to let Joe see Him walking him out of that room and collapsing that room behind them. Joe nodded his head that he had seen that image. Then I asked Jesus to tell Joe what He wanted to tell him about his future. At that moment, Joe opened his eyes in alarm and jumped back about two feet. He looked at his companions and then at me, and said, "He talked to me! I heard Him!" I asked what Jesus had said, and Joe replied, "I was so startled I didn't let Him finish!" I asked again, "What did you hear"? Joe heard Jesus say, "I am the Way....".  I then took that opportunity to encourage Joe to stay focused on Jesus and let Him lead the way to his future. I shared the story of Peter being able to walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus, at which time he began to sink.
     I told Joe that Jesus has a future planned for him. All Joe has to do is trust Him and stay focused on Him. He (Joe) can meet with Jesus anytime, just like he had moments ago, because Jesus wants to lead him into a life abundant; all Joe has to do is follow His lead. He was so animated and enthusiastic over his encounter with Jesus, and kept telling his friends, "It was real! I saw Him and heard Him"! We hugged Joe and wished him well, turning to leave the store, and praising Jesus for showing up in that young man's life.
     But Jesus wasn't finished. As Keith and I began to exit the store, one of the employees of the sporting goods store approached me. He was actually in the middle of completing a sale and stopped me to say, "I need prayer". His co-worker affirmed his request: "He is really hurting. He truly needs prayer", and she agreed to finish up the sale with the astounded customer, so we could minister to this young man, Lee.
     Lee's heart was broken. He was in love with a girl who, after 3 years together, was rejecting him. You could see it all over his face, and my spirit was struck with an incredible amount of compassion for this young man. I rebuked and bound the spirit of rejection, casting it at the foot of the Cross and covering it in the blood of Jesus. I prayed that Lee would recognize his identity as a son of the King; trusting that at this very moment God was preparing a godly woman who would love him as he desired and deserved to be loved; a woman with whom he would be equally yoked. 
     I instructed him that every time he heard the lie from the Enemy that he was unworthy to be loved, to renounce it out loud and replace it with a truth from Scripture: "God rejoices over me with gladness; He loves me with an everlasting love; that He loves me so much that He has made plans for me -- plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future". I explained that the spiritual realm is all around us and when we declare [with our tongue and our voice] the promises of God, that they hear it and tremble. Then Keith prayed over him, reinforcing his identity in Christ. We hugged him and told him to walk in that truth.
     As we left that store, I was flying high and so were my companions! I now understand why "street evangelists" like Todd White are so enthusiastic about their calling. The simple act of being obedient and going out to share Jesus with the world is life-changing! And it doesn't have to be dramatic, with cameras filming and large audiences in attendance.  And it doesn't take a lot of time. In fact, we each probably spent less than 10 minutes with each person we encountered that day. But they encountered Jesus in those precious moments and He would continue to work on their hearts, if they would agree to receive Him. 
     The truth of the matter is that there were only four of us who went out that day, splitting up into two pairs. We encountered only a few people, got turned down several times, and ended up healing only nine people. But Jesus showed up in the lives of nine people in a matter of a couple of hours, and I'm pretty sure their lives will never be the same. And I'm here to tell you that witnessing His love in their lives is infectious! 
    Yes, it was exciting to be a part of those encounters, but it wasn't about our performance, because I can tell you that on my part, I had no idea what I was going to say, or if I would even be able to discern how to pray for them. I just trusted that Jesus would show up and do something miraculous in the life of each person who accepted our invitation. It was certainly not about us, because we are no one special. We just each know the authority and power of Christ that has been given to us to make a difference in the lives of the hurting and the lost. Anyone can do what we did if you believe that the Kingdom of Heaven has invaded this earth, and that Jesus can work through us as Kingdom ambassadors. But what a rush to partner with Jesus in shining that Kingdom of God into the hearts of those seeking Him, and to heal those who needed to be released from physical pain. 
     I just thank you, Jesus, for being able to use the four of us to invade this realm with the Kingdom of God! We were a ragtag army of four, but we walked with the Sword of the Spirit by our side and the Shield of Faith before us. We showed nine people that You are real and You are alive! I praise You that You protected us as we went out sowing seeds for the Kingdom, and I am thankful that we caused no harm as we introduced Your healing heart and hand into those precious lives. We get it, Lord! It's really that simple, and You're just waiting for obedient servants to raise their hands and say, "Send me".  We can't wait to see where You will take us next, how You will show up, and who will receive Your touch on their life. There's no turning back now!

1 Chronicles 4:10     Jabez called out to the God of Israel: “If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain.” And God granted his request. 

July 2, 2018

Her Children Rise Up And Call Her Blessed

    Today, I just want to give a testimony about a beautiful thing I have been privileged to witness in the Body of Christ. Among Christian women, I am seeing a turning away from all that the secular world has tempted us with in the last 50 years or more. This is not going to be a rant against "feminism", but rather, a word of support and appreciation for women who are embracing their Biblical roles as Mothers and Wives.
     Yes, it is good that around the turn of the 20th Century, women were given the right to vote and the ability to own property. Any restrictions in those areas in the Bible seem to be more about the historical Middle Eastern culture than God specifically forbidding it. But, I daresay that within my lifetime the battle for sexual and reproductive rights, and equal opportunity in education and the workplace, have resulted in millions of babies being denied the life that God created, and millions more who have been denied the nurturing presence of their mothers during their formative years.
     I am not trying to repudiate the working mother. I know it is a tough decision to make in these economic times. But child psychologists have noted the positive results [in children] when mothers have sacrificed their personal goals to be present in their child's early years. The bond between a mother and child in those first years will influence the emotional stability of the adult. A mother is the best example of trust and security, sensitivity, and how to be kind and loving that a child will ever receive. Of course, these are all important attributes of a healthy child growing into a healthy adult. But what more does a Christian mother bring to the table in raising a thriving child?
     I can tell you that I am extremely encouraged by what I have been witnessing within my circle of mothers with young children. Mind you, I am able to witness and discern the advantages these children will have from a "seasoned" perspective. I come from the Baby Boomer generation -- the generation who was tempted to abandon the traditional roles of mother and wife. The women I have observed are representative of Generations X, Y, and Z, and for the most part, have swum against the tide when it comes to rearing their children.
     The results?  I am seeing children who are happy and creative; children who are allowed to develop their own unique personalities [instead of having to suppress their individuality in the rigid settings of daycare centers or after-school programs]. But even more, I am seeing small children being taught to hear from God through their imaginations, and children who know how to apply Scripture to specific situations -- not because they have been taught to memorize the Bible or are pretending to communicate with God, but because they actually believe that prayer works. These are children, who in the innocence of their faith, simply believe that God wants to talk to them because He loves them, and so it is easy for them to hear Him! These are children, whose mothers model what it is to sing praises to the Lord.... who pray openly in their "special prayer language", encouraging their children to develop their own ....  mothers who take their children to the bedsides of sick relatives to lay hands on them and pray for healing ... who never miss an opportunity to model Kingdom living in this fallen world.
     I have to tell you that there is a Light in these children that is noticeable. It is a Light that I pray will never be extinguished by the Spirits of Doubt or Unbelief that have smothered so many adult Christians. What would it be like if we could raise a generation of children who simply trusted God and His Word, without question? Children who walked in a supernatural identity? Who weren't swayed by the desire of material possessions, or defeated by their "lack", and instead knew they possessed the "riches" of the grace of God and the "riches" of their inheritance in His glory?
      What if we raised children who, when asked where they'd like to meet with God, could answer, "The Eiffel Tower" and actually understood that to be a real possibility for their spirit? Or kids, when asked what God had shown them in the spirit, answered "An open door, with a bright light shining through"? What effect would that have on the Kingdom of Darkness? Do you think Satan would find that generation to be easily tormented or afflicted? Do you think they could mount up on eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint? Do you think they would expect miracles rather than disasters? See possibility where others see hopelessness? Assume their position of Authority and exercise the Power of God?
     Just think what the world would look like if it was populated with children raised in that kind of atmosphere! As they grow into adulthood, we actually might see the end of drug addiction, child pornography, sex trafficking, and all of the Enemy's weapons to kill, steal, and destroy our bodies, souls, and spirits. I truly believe there is an army of children being raised to do spiritual battle for the Kingdom of God, and I see it before my eyes. It's my prayer that these faithful mothers, who have been transformed by the power of God in their own lives, will be fortified and strengthened to equip their amazing children to walk as giants of faith. I thank You, Father, for allowing me to witness the rise of Spirit-filled children.  And I praise You, Father, for Your mighty work in their devoted mothers!

Proverbs 31:25-29          Bold power and glorious majesty are wrapped around her as she laughs with joy over the latter days. Her teachings are filled with wisdom and kindness as loving instruction pours from her lips. She watches over the ways of her household and meets every need they have. Her sons and daughters arise in one accord to extol her virtues, and her husband arises to speak of her in glowing terms. “There are many valiant and noble ones, but you have ascended above them all!”

June 29, 2018

Sins, Iniquities and Transgressions

     As Mark and I began to progress in our Deliverance Ministry, it didn't take long to see that the Lord was taking us to ever higher levels of training in getting His people set free. Of course, there has always been one constant at the root of everyone's bondage ... Sin; whether their own or sin that was committed against them.
     Forgiveness is always the vital first step to freedom, but as we've obediently opened our doors to all those whom the Lord has directed to us, it has become clear that calling everything "sin" hasn't always led to immediate freedom. If it was that easy, then there would be a formula that worked for every pain or wound the devil inflicted. But the Lord has surprised us with new revelations of His spiritual mechanics in every deliverance session we have partnered with Him.
    So how has this changed how we look upon the sins of man? Well, first of all, Mark made a fascinating discovery during our morning Bible Study. In Psalm 32:5, King David says, I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. 
     Within that simple and familiar verse we see three different kinds of "sins". We have sin, iniquity and transgressions. Granted they are all expressions of evil and lawlessness against God. And granted, God will judge all three. But it's important to know if there is any difference between these "types" of sin. And are all sins equal in God's eyes?
     I'd first like to make some general statements about sin that we can all agree upon.  When it comes to our eternal salvation, we can look upon the consequences of all sin as the same: separation from God. And, yes, Jesus died for all our sins. But the Bible is also clear [in 1 John 5:16-17] that there is sin that "does not lead straight to death" (from which effective prayer is able to rescue the sinner), and sin that "does lead straight to death" (these are called mortal sins, and prayer will not bring redemption). All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death. 
     Then there is the sin of "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" for which there is no forgiveness. This is an eternal sin. And in Jesus's appearance before Pilate, He tells the Roman governor, "The one who handed Me over to you has greater sin", giving further evidence that there are levels of sin in the eyes of God. So, now let's return to these enigmatic terms of sins, iniquities and transgressions. Although the teachings of the conventional Church may lump them all in the same category, a careful study of the origins of these words will dispute that assumption.
SIN: It comes from the Hebrew word chattaah, meaning "an offense and its penalty". According to Strong's Concordance, the basic nuance of this word is "sin" conceived as missing the road or mark, and for the most part represents a sin against God. In response to our recognition of sin, men are to re-turn [turn again, or turn away] from sin, which is a path, a life-style, or act deviating from that which God has marked out.
     INIQUITY:  It is the Hebrew word avon, meaning a moral evil with an attached level of perversity; to be crooked or bent with perversity; wicked or offensive due to a perverse or mischievous act. Iniquity insinuates a perversion of intent (a bending of righteousness and virtue, or of moral goodness into willful disobedience). It is an offense towards God's law and His Holiness, enacted with deliberate purpose.
     TRANSGRESSION: This is the Hebrew word pesha, which means a revolt or rebellion (either national, moral, or religious in nature) from a Right and Just authority; to offend, rebel, or revolt. Once again, according to Strong's Concordance, this word signifies willful deviation from, and therefore rebellion against, the path of godly living. In general, it points to one's relationship with God -- to rebel against God's authority with a specific goal of independence in mind -- or in a more radical sense, it is the state of rebellion in which there is no end of the rebellion in view; it is no longer goal-oriented, but indicates an apostate life. 
     So, can you see the progression here? Sin, if left unchecked, leads to a progression of [and to] continual sin, ultimately reaching a point called a "reprobate mind". This is dangerous ground upon which to tread. Once the human mind [conscience] reaches the debased state of a reprobate mind, Scripture likens it to being "seared with a hot iron". I always struggled with the connotation of that phrase, but now it makes perfect sense in this context: when an object is seared with a hot iron, it is rendered insensitive; no feeling. When a person reaches this stage, their sin has dulled the sense of moral right or wrong. They have become numb to the warnings of the Holy Spirit and have reached an unrepentant state.
     So, why is it important to differentiate between these various states of sin? I believe it's important because it points to the character and mind of God, in that the Bible makes it clear that some commands of God are more important [and weightier] to Him than others. Therefore, it stands to reason that some offenses/sins/violations hold more weight with Him, as well. Those who have sunk from sin into deliberate and perverse transgressions are in serious doubt of being led by the Holy Spirit. It is a continual walk with the Spirit and in the Light of Christ that bespeaks a life transformed by the Blood of the Cross.
     If we have a Brother or Sister in Christ whom we see worshiping money or influence as an idol, versus a professed Christian whom we know is involved with secret societies, child porn, or sex trafficking, don't you think our approach to their freedom is going to be different with each one? This understanding certainly guides the way we partner with Jesus in a Deliverance session. And I believe knowing the differences can be a check in each of our individual spirits -- when you are aware of the differences in depravity, it is easier to recognize and evaluate our own need for cleansing and purification. This information is just one more piece of knowledge that helps us to grow into the image of Christ. If nothing else, this information underscores the substance of Proverbs 1:7... The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

Isaiah 59:12     For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities

June 25, 2018

Another Look At Repentance: Receiving God's Grace

     REPENTANCE: That's a word that is used extensively throughout the Bible. And I would venture that a majority of us define it as a confession of sin that results in sorrow and regret, causing us to make a strong turning away from sin towards God. I would not disagree with that.
     But perhaps we need to have a deeper discussion about such an important part of our faith. Let's start here: how do you think we, as fallen human beings, are even able to come to that point where we recognize our sin, let alone feel any sorrow, or be able to take the steps to change our direction? Do we really think that we can do any part of that on our own?
     The Apostle Paul speaks for all of us when he says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh [my sinful nature]. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out". Before I can even begin to make that turn to carry out righteous behavior, don't I have to discern what is right? Come to some kind of knowledge that what I'm doing is wrong and displeasing to God? Doesn't this process of repentance start in my mind?

     What if the process begins with God's invitation to begin thinking like Him? Follow this train of thought ... I believe God is always speaking to His creation with an invitation to return to their relationship in the Garden. And I believe there is an inherent longing in our nature [even when fallen] to have that connection restored. When we accept God's invitation [by grace] to a new birth, our heart and minds are filled with sorrow over our sin, and we not only desire to change our actions, but the way we think about our actions. In other words, when our minds are renewed, we have the opportunity to begin thinking about things from God's perspective. His Spirit counsels our spirit, and we become one with Christ; with His thoughts, with His heart, and in His obedience.
     Once our minds and thoughts come into alignment with the Father's, our actions become instinctive. We think like Him, recognizing our sin, and we desire forgiveness. And once we are free from the condemnation of sin, it becomes natural to start acting like Him. His will is our heart's desire, and repentance is the key to modeling Jesus in our lives. 
     But it's also important to realize that repentance is a gift from God. When we accept His invitation to faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the power from God [in the form of the Holy Spirit] to do more than be sorry for our sins; we receive the power to begin thinking like Him, which leads to the ability to make the necessary changes. Here's another way to look at it: We can't do repentance on our own. It's a gift of the power of God that enables us to change the way we think about our sin. Otherwise, we are just going through the motions of saying we're sorry and following religious gestures, thinking we now know all about Him.
     But until we are able to look beyond the consequences of our sin, and understand sin from God's perspective; what it cost Him and how it grieves Him, then our repentance may be shallow and trivial. We need to understand that there is a face-to-face intimacy at stake when we truly repent. And we must not neglect to see that repentance in the Old Testament was a call to a nation to turn back to God. In the New Testament, the invitation is personal -- to change our actions and way of thinking to live for and in relationship with the Father. And it's all done by the power of His grace, which allows us to respond in complete and wholehearted obedience. 
     And it is our job to fully comprehend all that repentance is. We are appointed to seize the grace God offers us to return to Him; to get our hands on this gift; to grasp it and take hold of it. I believe there is a purpose in this gift beyond the forgiveness of our sins. I believe repentance is the power of God [in our lives] that offers us the ability to share in His mental and spiritual attitude. That's what Jesus experienced while on earth, and I think the process called "repentance" is one of the most beautiful pictures of relationship we will ever experience on this earth. We must not fail to appreciate all it offers us.

Luke 15:10     "In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents".

June 22, 2018

Preach The Word Without Compromise

     Exactly what does it mean to "preach the Word without compromise"? I have often heard that phrase, but could not find that exact wording in Scripture. But what I did find were several verses of counsel to consider when preaching the Word. [And for the sake of this post, I am referring to all Believers as "preachers" of the Word when we share it with the lost].
     2 Timothy 2:15 says, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth. It is obvious that there is a "right way" to interpret and preach the Bible, is there not? And are we any less guilty of Paul's warning to the Galatians to not turn to a different gospel, nor to distort it?
     As we look upon our religious culture in the 21st Century, it is becoming quite apparent that there are diverse "messages" out there, all proclaiming to represent the rightly divided Word of God. But they can't all be correct, since there are contrasting views within "the Church" on God's acceptance of homosexuality; on the relevance of spiritual warfare; on the definition of the Great Commission; and even on His acceptance of worshiping other gods.
     So, do all these varying religious opinions meet the approval of God by the standards He sets in His Word? Which of these messages come from human wisdom, and which are revealed through the Spirit of Truth in the Bible? Which messages rest in the wisdom of men, and which in the power of God?
     These may seem like elementary questions, but I think we need to be very aware of the Enemy's tactics in these Last Days. I am seeing everything from a powerless Gospel being preached, to a dangerous message of unity that is not Biblical. The Word is the power of God to save us from eternal hell. But that Word must not be weakened, watered down, or compromised. The very definition of the word compromise is this: a middle state between conflicting opinions or actions reached by mutual concession or modification; an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions; the acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable. Do any of those definitions sound like they define the Nature of our God? Does He make concessions or allowances for His laws and commandments -- or ever lower His standards?
     But sadly, compromise has been welcomed into the Church, and the Word of God is sacrificed on the Altar of Unity. The Bible clearly states that there are to be no other gods before Jehovah, the Most High God. Yet, in 2016, the Vatican produced a video in which the Pope endorses a unified Religion of various gods. The video opens with the statement, "Most of the planet's inhabitants declare themselves believers [showing religious leaders from Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity]. This should lead to dialogue among religions. We should not stop praying for it and collaborating with those who think differently". Sounds like COMPROMISE to me! Then each religious leader makes a statement: "I have confidence in the Buddha. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God, Allah." Then the Pope says, "Many feel differently, think differently; seeking God or meeting God in different ways. In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: we are all children of God". WRONG! 
     John 1:12 clearly tells us, "But those who embraced Him and took hold of His name were given authority to become the children of God"! That means that only those who believe in all that Jesus represents and put into practice what He taught [in the power of His Name] are the only ones who have the right to be called children of God. Just because one proclaims that he or she "believes in love", as each of the religious leaders says on film, does not qualify one to be a child of the Most High God. 
     It may sound like "love your neighbor as yourself" when the Pope asks you to share his prayer request that "sincere dialogue between men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice",  but it does not mean that it is pleasing or acceptable to YHWH. We see the lines being blurred between unity and diversity, to where [as stated in another video] "It is better to be less perfect in unity, than it is to be the most perfect in diversity". In other words, we've come to the point that people are willing to have less of God's Truth in exchange for more harmony with the religions of lesser gods. For it cannot be said any clearer than this: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. That verse cannot be conflated; it cannot be mixed and blended with other belief systems and still be representative of the uncompromised Word of God.
     Yet, increasingly, we see evangelical Christian leaders joining hands with the Pope and other religious leaders in their call for religious unity. And the various denominations have undermined the Word of God when they embrace cultural lifestyles that do not conform to the commandments of the God they pray to. There is no "happy medium" where God is willing to adapt His Glory, Majesty, or Sovereignty to fit our ideas of justice and mercy. It is by His Grace that we have been saved from the damnation we deserve for man's disobedience to our Creator. How dare any man attempt to equate another god to the Most High God, or tarnish His Name that is above all names! It is time that we, the true Believers in the One True God, declare our unyielding and unshakeable faith in the accurate Word of God. It's time to step into our authority to preach the Word as laid out in 2 Timothy 4:2, "proclaim the Word of God and stand upon it no matter what! Rise to the occasion and preach when it is convenient and when it is not. Preach in the full expression of the Holy Spirit —with wisdom and patience as you instruct and teach the people". No more compromise!

John 5:44    How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?


June 19, 2018

How The Announcement Of The Kingdom Impacts The Harvest

     I have recently joined a group of women for a Bible Study taught by Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I believe that Pastor Johnson walks in an anointing from God to preach to the Body of Christ that God's Kingdom in Heaven has invaded this earth, and how that should decisively effect our Christian walk.
     The Bible Study is called "God Is Good: He's Better Than You Think".  We are only at Week Three, but we are already being presented with some deep questions that have me examining my ambassadorship for the Kingdom of God. Here's a question that illustrates my point: How does the announcement of God's Kingdom have a direct impact on the size of the harvest of people who respond to it?
     Note that the question posed is actually multi-faceted. We must not only consider what the direct impact is upon the harvest of souls, but how it effects the size of the harvest.  First of all, it is important to recognize that there is a direct correlation between the announcement of God's Kingdom and the Gospel of the Kingdom. It should go without saying that both are announcing the "Good News" that God's Kingdom (the actual realm where He resides) has now made itself known here on earth. This announcement would soon make the Kingdom a reality; becoming apparent by the evidence shown in Jesus's life.  And Jesus would inaugurate the Kingdom message when He began His ministry, preaching "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand".
     The good news of this Gospel Message about the Kingdom coming to earth is that mankind now had a way to be acceptable before God. Prior to Jesus's appearance, man had lived in a state of hopelessness due to how God viewed sin. The Bible makes His holy opinion easy to understand: The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). But with the emergence of Jesus, mankind now had a Savior who would provide a way out of this eternal death, which was the consequence for our sins against a Holy God.
     All the prophets had foretold of this Savior that would take away the sins of the world and restore man's relationship with God as it had been in the Garden of Eden. Remember: God's Kingdom is where God resides; the realm in which He rules. Between the time man fell into sin in the Garden and the time of this announcement, that kingdom realm had existed only in Heaven. Now, here comes John the Baptist foretelling that this Kingdom is near, rapidly followed by Jesus's appearance and the beginning of His ministry to announce that God's Kingdom was now here! So it's not too difficult to see the immense impact that this announcement would have on God's harvest of souls.
     No longer would man be subject to Laws that were incapable of delivering us from Death. But man would now be able to stand before God in righteousness through believing in the sacrifice He would make of Himself [as His Son, Jesus Christ] on our behalf. By following Jesus's example of living according to the Father's will, the impact on the harvest would become nothing short of miraculous and astounding. Those who would accept and respond to His announcement and ministry would begin to change the world. The realm of Satan here on the earth would come into direct conflict with the people who walked in their authority as members of God's Kingdom on earth. The citizens of Satan's kingdom would diminish, as the citizens of God's Kingdom rose. 
     But if we are going to resemble Christ's image here on earth, then we have to announce more than the deliverance from eternal Death; although, that in itself is worthy of our acclamation and enthusiastic approval. You see, that deliverance isn't realized until the end of our life. So, while that good news of our salvation from Death is responsible for a magnificent number coming into the harvest, I believe we gain staggering numbers when we reveal ALL of the good news that the announcement of the Kingdom generates.
     Think about it: a person recognizes their need of a Savior and accepts Jesus into their heart, repenting for their sins and asking forgiveness. Is that news worthy of sharing? Absolutely! But if the newly saved Christian takes that message to the person who sees the penalty of sin [and their resulting death] as a far-off event, the message may have no immediate relevance. But let's say that we add to that message of salvation. Let's say we share that the reality of the Kingdom of God being present today ALSO gives you access to the power of the Holy Spirit to heal persistent physical/health problems, or to set one free from the bondage of shame, guilt, anger, and unforgiveness, to name just a few of the attacks from the devil. Can you see that we now offer an immediate benefit from our announcement of the Kingdom at hand? Can you perceive that this full Gospel message of the Kingdom might result in a greater number in the harvest -- in other words, the impact on the size of the harvest might be more considerable if we share the complete picture of the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. 
     Who doesn't have a health issue they are dealing with in these perishable bodies? It doesn't matter if it is a simple headache or stage 4 cancer. We want it to go away! And I defy us to find anyone within the Body of Christ who has not suffered at least one attack or violation from the Enemy on their character, their identity, their relationships with others, or the privacy of their body. We may know Jesus as our Savior and rely on our ultimate deliverance from Death, but who wouldn't want to be liberated from the oppressive thoughts and emotions that we carry around with us because of these assaults on our spirits and flesh?  What would happen if Christians could praise Jesus for how He healed them from sexual molestation; loss of self-respect and self-esteem; bullying; abusive parents; or promiscuity and drug/alcohol abuse? Do you think more people would identify with those victories, or a victory over their future death? 
     I'm not saying that the good news of our salvation from eternal death is not an important message to share... it's the ultimate reward! But there is more to Jesus's victory and what that victory looks like in the here-and-now. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit has revealed to my heart the need of my Savior. I look forward to my glorious resurrection and dwelling forever with the Lord when the new Heaven and new Earth appear. But I am equally grateful that He has set me free NOW to praise Him for delivering me from the bad choices I have made in my life; from the attempts of the devil to kill, steal, and destroy this Kingdom life in the present; and for giving me the opportunity to share this restored life, made in His image. It is my responsibility [and my joy] as the recipient of Jesus's authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to invite others to partake of God's goodness to those who believe in Him. When we share all that we have received from Heaven's invasion of earth, then we can expect to see an impact of righteousness and growing numbers of ambassadors. Let the "Good News of the Kingdom" be realized across the face of this planet, and let all the people shout "Hallelujah!" as our voices join in worship and rejoicing.

Mark 1:15    His message was this: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled Gospel!”

June 16, 2018

Not Taught By Human Wisdom

     Today I'm going to invite you to come along for a wild ride. And I just want to warn you -- what I'm about to share comes from my own thoughts, and my thoughts only. It would have been easy to jump over to Google and seek the opinions of theologians and Bible scholars far wiser than I. But I wanted to listen to God and see if I could receive affirmation for what was no less than a thunderbolt to my spirit.
     I want to begin by saying that I recognize that I am in a particular season of my life where I have been blessed with the time to consider the Word at length. Therefore, please do not think that I consider myself superior to those of you who do not have this luxury. Some of the most Godly men and women I know are at the stage in their lives where raising children and putting food on the table takes an exorbitant amount of their time and energy. Yet they know "the Word" which, as we all recognize is Jesus, because God reveals Him through the Holy Spirit in their hearts, through their fellowship and worship with other righteous people, and yes, through whatever time they can find to study the Bible. Just because I may have been given this lifestyle at a later stage in my life, does not make me more knowledgeable or what I'm about to share more accurate. I want to make it perfectly clear --- this forthcoming opinion is simply something that I am considering a possibility; a revelation for which I am continuing to seek God's approval. So, just bear with me, and if need be, humor me a bit...
     Do you have a particular "mystery" of the Bible that you haven't quite been able to solve? Oh, there have been plenty of attempts by Church leaders and teachers to explain it, but there has never been any conclusive agreement that God has given us the answer. For me, among the most perplexing passages in the Bible have been those that give an account of Melchizedek, the king of Salem.
     We first encounter him in Genesis 14, where we get just a small picture of him blessing Abram after Abram rescues Lot, who chose to neighbor with Sodom and has found himself outside God's protection and in the midst of a war between these kings of pagan nations. Melchizedek is merely mentioned as the king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of the Most High God, who blesses Abram and blesses God for delivering Abram from his enemies. So that's our first clue that Melchizedek is probably a "higher" being since he is aware of the Most High God even before the nation of Israel has been formed, or the Hebrew faith established.
     The most familiar mention of Melchizedek happens in Hebrews, Chapter 7.  It is proclaimed that his name means "king of righteousness, and that he was the King of Peace, because the name of the city he ruled as king was Salem, which means "peace". Again, we are told that he is a priest of the Most High God, and he blessed Abraham after the latter defeated many kings in battle, and afterwards Abraham gave him a tithe of a tenth of all his spoils.
     But then comes the part that has confused many a Christian down through the centuries: This Melchizedek has no father or mother, and no record of any of his ancestors. He was never born and he never died, but his life is like a picture of the Son of God, a King-Priest forever!  How many of you have been taught [and continue to believe] that this is telling us that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnation of Jesus? If you answered, "Yes", then we have a similar history of understanding this passage. But what if I told you that as I continued to read the short portrayal of who Melchizedek might have been, that my spirit shouted, "He was the HOLY SPIRIT"!
    Now, this might be an understanding that you have embraced and you are way ahead of me. Or this might be totally out of the context of any teaching you have received in the Church, and let me tell you that this has been my experience. I've never been taught this, and once this possibility surfaced in my spirit and mind, I was determined to use only the Word of God to try to understand if my inclination has any merit. And I will tell you that the following explanation is far from conclusive, and I am not prepared to declare it as God's Truth. It's just a check I got in my spirit, and I thought it would be interesting to present to you and possibly get your feedback. We can do no wrong if we search the Bible for answers from a pure heart, and I promise you, God delights in us when we seek more understanding of His Word.
     First of all, it is obvious from the text, that this Melchizedek must have some connection to God's divine nature, since "he was never born and he never died". Only God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are characterized by that definition. The next thing that niggled at my spirit was his designation as "King of Peace", with peace being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Important? I don't really know, but I found it a possible connection. 
     Next, Scripture says that Melchizedek's life "is like a picture of the Son of God, a King-Priest forever". It doesn't say his life is the picture of Jesus, but rather it is like the life of Jesus, which to me, signifies that his life resembled the life of Jesus. It is not difficult for me to view this as being a description of the Holy Spirit, because God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are One; both Jesus and the Holy Spirit reveal the nature of God. 
     The next clue that Melchizedek might be an incarnation of the Holy Spirit is that Scripture tells us he was not a Jewish priest. In fact, it goes on to say that "Melchizedek was not Abraham's Jewish relative" (Passion Translation). But guess what? Jesus was! So it doesn't make sense to me that Melchizedek could have been a pre-incarnation of Jesus. The Bible also says that Melchizedek had the power to impart a blessing to Abraham [from God]. Throughout the Old Testament it is the Holy Spirit of God who empowered men to do what they could not accomplish on their own. And in the New Testament, Jesus, our Savior, promises that the Holy Spirit will indwell us as the representation and fulfillment of God's power in us. Nothing says that clearer to me than Ephesians 3:20: Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to [His] power at work within us...  
    Continuing with my train of thought -- Hebrews 7:11 says,  If any of the Levitical priests who served under the law had the power to bring us into perfection, then why did God send Christ as Priest after the likeness of Melchizedek? He should have said, “After the likeness of Aaron.” First of all, I'm thinking, "It's not Aaron, at all. It's the Holy Spirit"! And secondly, does this sound like God recognizes Christ and Melchizedek as the same entity? Not to me!
     But perhaps the most convincing verses that suggests my theory might be a possibility are verses 15 through 17: And all this is made even clearer if there was another King-Priest raised up with the rank of Melchizedek. This King-Priest did not arise because of a genealogical right under the law to be a priest, but by the power of an indestructible, [resurrection] life! For it says in the Psalms, You are like Melchizedek, a King-Priest forever!
     So, here's where I ended up ...  The Passion Translation gives this commentary on these verses: The word indestructible comes from a word that means, “tied together in unity,” that is, “a united life” (or “union with God”). Resurrection life is implied, for the priestly ministry of Jesus began after he was raised from the dead. The Aramaic can be translated “He has life-giving power that has no beginning.” Jesus’ ministry of Prophet, Priest, and King flows from his unlimited life of resurrection power!
    First of all, I think we can agree that Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are "tied together in unity", right? And Who was the power in Jesus's resurrection and will be in ours? The Holy Spirit! And this passage goes on to say that this resurrection power makes Jesus, our King-Priest like Melchizedek, only now this divine King-Priest [and His power] will be forever! Remember, God sent His Holy Spirit with His power to men in the Old Testament, but the power was temporary and at the behest of God when they needed it; He was the Decider of when it was imparted and to whom. NOW, the Holy Spirit resides in us [who believe] as a permanent impartation from God and Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of what Melchizedek started.
     I don't know if any of this makes any sense to you, or even if your spirit can recognize any truth in my reasoning. I am asking for more revelation from God, but for the moment, I am willing to consider that Melchizedek might have been an incarnation of the Holy Spirit, come as the first picture of what a King-Priest looked like; conveying blessings upon Abraham by the power given to him from God. I know for certain that Jesus comes as our final-and-forever King-Priest; incorporating the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit in His new covenant with us. 
     This is a sketchy argument at best; I know that. But I love sharing the sparks of revelation that I receive from reading Scripture. Does understanding this have any long-term affects on my inheritance in Heaven? Not that I can see at this time. But I truly believe God delights in our curiosity about His Word and our willingness to examine and analyze it in the hopes of discovering something new about Him. I do not foresee that this will consume much more of my time -- only if God wants it to, I guess. But this enigma caused a bright light to shine [for just a moment] upon a possible and new characteristic of my Father in heaven. And I can't even describe the joy and excitement that transformed what might have been a "normal" time in study. And for that reason alone, it is always worth the consideration.

1 Corinthians 2:11    "After all, who can really see into a person’s heart and know his hidden impulses except for that person’s spirit? So it is with God. His thoughts and secrets are only fully understood by His Spirit, the Spirit of God."