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

December 10, 2018

God's Promises In The Midst of Spiritual Warfare

     About a year ago I found a research paper that detailed over 200 promises that Jesus made about this life and our life to come. It was a carefully compiled list of promises that were categorized into the following classifications: 1) Promises Jesus made regarding the Future when He returns in glory; 2) Promises relating to His follower's lives in the Present; 3) the Unconditional Promises based only on faith in Jesus; 4) the Conditional Promises bases on conditions such as obedience, prayer, and humility; 5) the General Promises that are made to all who believe them and fulfill their conditions; and lastly 6) the Promises that were made to particular Individuals or Groups. The researchers poured over the four Gospels, listing every promise made, and omitting none. As you can imagine, it is an exhaustive and comprehensive list.
     For instance, in John 4:14, we find a General promise that is for the Present and carries with it a condition ... whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. That is a promise that belongs to every Believer [in every age], with the condition that one partakes of the Living Water offered by Jesus. Then there is the promise found in John 10:9-11, I am the Gateway. To enter through me is to experience life, freedom, and satisfaction. A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow! I am the Good Shepherd who lays down my life as a sacrifice for the sheep. This is also a promise for the present; for us Believers -- the abundance of this promise is available to all who have faith in Jesus as their Savior; their Deliverer. 

     I could go on and list the more than 200 promises that are ours in Jesus, but you can study them yourselves by following this link. The point I want to make is how we are to consider these promises in the light that we still have need of Deliverance after coming to faith in Jesus; and if these promises are true, why is there the continual reality of spiritual warfare? These are questions that I think every Christian grapples with. We are told that we are seen as righteous in the eyes of the Father; not to argue or complain so that we "may become blameless and pure". In fact, Paul tells us in Colossians 1:21-23, Once you were alienated from God and were hostile in your minds because of your evil deeds. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence— if indeed you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope of the gospel you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.…
     Did you catch the emphasis I made in bold? Christ's death on the Cross accomplished what God planned. It reconciled us to Him and we are seen as holy and blameless and clean and righteous ... IF we are able to hold firm to what Jesus said about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and avoid the attempts of the devil to steal, slaughter and destroy our hope. But how many of us can say we do not lose hope at times when we suffer the slings and arrows of those fiery darts our Enemy is so good at launching right into our minds and hearts? Are we free of doubt and fear and self-rejection and anger and bitterness and unforgiveness? Can we truly say we are satisfied on every level with our life and walk in Truth and Spirit, filled to overflowing with the abundance of life that Jesus died to give us? If you're like me, I have moments when I experience that abundant life in its fullness. And I truly try to keep my mind renewed and joined to the mind of Christ; as well as abiding in Him [living my life in union with Him]. But the truth is, I am behind enemy lines here on earth and I am on a journey of spiritual maturity until the day I am face-to-face with my Deliverer. 
     The truth is, it is a supernatural transformation that takes place in us to grow us into the image of Christ. It is also true that we will face trials after coming to faith in Jesus. This does not negate the promises of Jesus. Instead it allows us to experience the Grace of God, which is more than unmerited favor, but is the power of the Holy Spirit in us to help us get through and endure those trials. And from that power of God's Grace in those circumstances, we are being trained up to experience the fruit of the Spirit's presence in those trials: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control/discipline. 
     It is a reality of the Believer's life that we receive Jesus's promises of eternal life, inheritance and rewards, forgiveness of sins; power and authority; bread of life and living water; rest; provision; words and wisdom; justice; a place He has prepared for us; and so much more. But it is also a reality that we are likely to experience intense struggles; fiery darts of anger, lust, or rejection; physical illnesses or infirmities; ridicule and rejection from both inside and outside the Body of Christ; persecution and oppression because of our faith; worry and stress from worldly responsibilities; inner wounds and disappointments; and pressure to give in to the world's temptations and sins. It is at these times that the Believer must recognize that while his or her salvation is never at stake, unless they have achieved the epitome of spiritual maturity, it is likely that they will continue to be engaged in spiritual warfare for the remainder of their life.
     Jesus made that clear [at least to me] when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Remember Jesus fasted for the 40 days He was in the wilderness, so the devil knew He was hungry, and tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. But Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”. This is one of the most effective tools of spiritual warfare that I try to encourage all who come to Mark and me for Inner Healing and Deliverance ... Renounce the lie spoken by the devil and proclaim the truth of the Word of God. But I love the fact that Jesus uses "bread" as a symbol of that full life He promises. In John 6:33, He says, For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. For me, that fullness of life is real when I proclaim Psalm 18:2: "The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; He is my strength; God in whom I trust. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety."
     The truth is that Jesus delivers me daily as I turn to Him in those moments when my spirit or body or mind are under attack. You see, I get it that I am a threat to the Enemy who doesn't want me sharing the good news of how Jesus has saved me, delivered me, and is providing me with both physical and spiritual "bread" -- that full life that can only be found in partnership with Him and Holy Spirit. That is why I believe He tells us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. He's inviting us to be in union with Him; to allow Him to empower us to defeat the works of the devil and to do the things He did -- all the while offering Himself as our Deliverer and Savior. 

     That's why I believe it is important, as we disciple Believers and equip the saints, to make it clear that Scripture never promises a trouble-free life in Christ -- not in this world, at least. What we are given are promises of hope and forgiveness and power and authority and answered prayer in this day, with a future that offers eternal life and rewards/inheritance and a place in God's Kingdom that will never end. But we are also told we will be Overcomers and Conquerors in this life. If Jesus has paid the price for our sins (which He most certainly has), and you interpret that to mean "no more sorrow, no more pain" in this life, then why would Jesus tell us in John 16:33, In the world you will have tribulation? I submit to you that Scripture gives us the answer ... When we are born again, Christ lives in us. And while He tells us we will have tribulation, He also tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world. Furthermore, the Bible tells us "everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith".
     So, here's the bottom line.... our faith in Jesus gives us hope in the promises of God for this present life and our ability to endure the struggles and trials and tribulation while we are in the world. It is a fact that there is opposition in this world to the Light of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. For those of us who represent God's Kingdom on earth, we can expect resistance as we go forth in this hostile environment. But we are assured that we will be conquerors and overcome the evil strategies and power of the spirit forces of wickedness that come against us. And how do we do that? By partnering with Jesus and the Holy Spirit [whose powers are in us] to break the strongholds of bondage coming against us -- and that is called spiritual warfare. 
     I will close by saying that Hope and War may seem like polar opposites in a relationship with our Savior/Deliverer. But we find the reality of both as we derive our hope from our faith [Christ in us], and the ability to endure and overcome anything that comes against us by the same means -- Christ in us empowers us to be victorious over our Enemy. Though there be times of trouble in this world, we can celebrate the hope of a bright and eternal future.

Psalm 50:15    And call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor and glorify Me.

December 6, 2018

Hanukkah: Celebrating The Light Of The World

     This year, the celebration of Hanukkah occurs from sundown, December 2nd to sundown, December 10th. I am especially blessed that this Jewish holiday occurs before Christmas because it emphasizes the true spirit of Christ coming into the world as the Light into the Darkness. Furthermore, for me, there is real history to this holiday rather than the man-made traditions and commercialization that have come to represent so much of our Christmas celebrations. Never mind the fact that historians believe Jesus may have been born in the fall, and that this December 25th date coincides with the pagan festival of Saturnalia. (For one perspective, see link). While some Biblical commentators will say this connection isn't important because it only matters what the celebrants think of what they are doing, I would like to suggest that it matters more what God thinks of it. But that is a different discussion for a different time. Today, I wish us to consider the historical celebration of Hanukkah and its implications for our Christian faith.
     In the Jewish faith, the eight days of this celebration represent the miracles of God in the centuries since their faith was founded... beginning with the miraculous birth of Isaac, through their deliverance out of Egypt, through the continuity of the Jewish people throughout numerous defeats by world empires and subsequent captivities (including the Holocaust of the 20th Century); all the way to the miracle of the rebirth of the State of Israel, including their eternal capital, Jerusalem.
     Although the ultimate miracle of scales being lifted [so that they recognize Jesus as their Messiah] has not been completely fulfilled yet, there are tens of thousands of the Jewish faith who have received this miracle in a personal way. And the celebration of Hanukkah holds both an historic and future significance for them.  And since, as Christians, we are grafted into the Jewish faith, the celebration of Hanukkah has great meaning for us, as we look to the Light of the World.
     But, let's take a look back at the history of this inspirational holiday and see how it speaks to us today.  In Exodus, Chapter 25, God gave Moses instructions for building the accessories and furniture for the Tabernacle.  Among them were the Ark of the Covenant, a table for the bread of the Presence [of God], and the Golden Lampstand.  This lampstand was to be built out of pure gold and included seven bowls in which only pure, fresh olive oil of the highest quality would be used to sanctify the priests, the tabernacle, and all of its furnishings and sacred vessels.  This lampstand, or Menorah, was a seven-branched candelabra beaten out of a solid piece of gold.  Later, it stood in the southern part of the Temple and was lit every day by the High Priest. In fact, Exodus 27:21 tells us, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.
     You see, olive oil can be a picture of the Holy Spirit, the One who sanctifies us, fills us, readies us to see [and become like] Christ, and brings us light, joy, and spiritual health. And, as David Guzik tells us in his commentary, "God never wanted the lamps to lose their fire. Only a continual supply of oil and trimming of the wicks could keep them burning. We can only continue to be on fire for God if we are continually supplied with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and are 'trimmed' by God to bear more light".
     That is a symbolic understanding of the Menorah and its significance.  But there is a real life story of God's miracle in keeping His Light burning... It occurs during that time period when the Roman Empire is ascending and flexing its muscles against the fading Greek Empire. The small nation of Israel finds itself caught in the middle of the battle for power among the Syrians, the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Romans.  The Jews, in Israel, eventually find themselves under the rule of the Greek leader Antiochus Epiphanies, who came to power with flattering offers of peace.
     At the time, the Jewish High Priest was Onias lll, and he was considered the prince of the covenant.  His brother Jason, was corrupt, and wanted to bring Greek culture to Israel.  So Antiochus had Onias murdered and replaced him with Jason, as High Priest. This High Priest (Jason) is soon replaced by another priest (Menelaus) who offers to pay Antiochus huge bribe money to hold this prestigious office.  Jason has heard false rumors that Antiochus has been killed in battle and leads a small army against Jerusalem to get his office back.  This, of course, angers Antiochus and he unleashes his hatred of the Jews in a fury, killing many Jews, selling many of them into slavery, and plundering the treasures of the Temple.
     In the meantime, Menelaus is forcing a false worship system on the Jews and making them accept the Greek culture and worship the Greek idols. Antiochus sends his general Apollonius to occupy Jerusalem and they sacrifice pigs on the Temple altar. The Jews were made to take part in drunken orgies in honor of the god of wine, Bacchus. Jews are also forbidden on penalty of death from practicing any form of Judaism including circumcision or observing the Sabbath.
     Furthermore, Antiochus had ordered the Jewish Scriptures to be destroyed, and he and his soldiers brought prostitutes into the Temple and there had sex with them in order to defile the Temple. The final outrage for the pious Jews of the land came when Antiochus sacked the Temple and erected an altar there to the pagan god Zeus. Then, on December 25, 168 BC, Antiochus offered a pig to Zeus on the altar of God. (This is a picture of the "abomination of desolation" that Daniel mentions, and which Jesus references as coming again, right before His return).
     The apostate Jews listened to the flatteries of Antiochus and left the worship of YHWH.  But God always has a remnant that remain faithful to Him despite persecution.  That was the Maccabee family.  Mattathias Maccabee is angered when he witnesses a priest about to take part in these blasphemies in the Temple and kills him on the altar.
      This is the Maccabean Revolt that we read about in the Book of Maccabees. The Jewish Encyclopedia gives the following account which began the Maccebean revolt in 166 B.C. that threw off Syrian/Greek rule:  "Mattathias was already old when the religious persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes broke out. The king's soldiers under Apelles, who is mentioned by Josephus but not in the Book of Maccabees, came to Modin, a small city in Judea. They set up an altar to the heathen god, and ordered Mattathias, as the most influential citizen, whose example would be followed, to sacrifice in accordance with the king's command. But Mattathias said: "Though all the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, . . . yet will I, and my sons, and my brethren, walk in the covenant of our fathers" (I Macc. ii. 19-20). And when a certain Jew was about to obey the command, Mattathias, who was filled with holy wrath, killed the offender and destroyed the altar, while his sons cut down the king's officer. Thereupon Mattathias called out: "Whoever is zealous for the Law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me." His countrymen, abandoning all their possessions, followed him and hid in the mountains and desert places. Others, who had hidden themselves before, joined them. . . . From his hiding-place he scoured the neighboring districts of Judea, drove out small bands of the king's troops, punished the renegade Jews, destroyed the heathen temples and altars, and brought children, who through fear had not been circumcised, into the covenant of Abraham."
     When Daniel says, in Chapter 11, verse 32, but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits, it is a direct refererence to the Maccabees.  REMEMBER:  This time period occurs in the Silent Years between Malachi and Matthew.  These events took place in the period after the Old Testament was completed with the writings in Malachi. It was a hard time for the faithful Jews and a period of extreme persecution. It was a time of mixed loyalties among the Jews. Some believed God, and were faithful even unto death. Others rejected Him, believing the lies of Antiochus.  IT WILL BE THE SAME IN THE END TIMES, AT THE TIME OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
     At this time in history (just as it will be at the end of history), Antiochus was determined to exterminate the Jewish people. He sent Lysias, the commander-in-chief of the Seleucid army, along with 60,000 infantrymen and 5000 cavalry, to utterly destroy the Jews. This powerful army finally encountered Judas Maccabee, who had a force of only 3000 poorly equipped rebels, in the town of Emmaus, which was just over 7 miles from Jerusalem. Judas managed to gather together another 7000 rebels, but was still terribly outnumbered. He prayed to God for strength and deliverance (1 Maccabees 4:30-33), and God answered! They won a huge victory over the Seleucid army!
     Judas then determined to enter Jerusalem and liberate the city, and also to purify the Temple and rededicate it to God. When they entered the holy city, the extent of the destruction which they beheld caused them to be overwhelmed by grief (1 Maccabees 4:36-40). Their grief, however, soon turned to determination and action. They set about the task of driving the enemy out of the city, and also of cleaning up the Temple. On December 25, 165 BC (exactly three years after Antiochus had defiled the altar of God by offering a pig upon it), the Temple of God was rededicated to Him with rejoicing and sacrifices. The celebration continued for eight days. This is the famous "Feast of Lights" (Hanukkah) which is still celebrated by the Jews to this day.
     In fact, there are two miracles associated with this religious holiday.  The first is that the small band of Jewish rebels were able to defeat the massive and superior Syrian-Greek army.  The second miracle is that during the re-dedication of the Temple, and upon the priests’ return to light the menorah, they discovered there was only one vial of oil, which should have lasted no more than a day.  But YHWH miraculously replenished the oil so that it sufficed for eight days.
  A year later, the holiday of Hanukkah was established and celebrated to commemorate the  eight days God replenished the oil; a celebration of the weak, threatened with annihilation, yet overcoming the mighty, with God's intervention. Clearly, the holiday of Hanukkah celebrates those miracles that occurred over 2000 years ago.  But it is a reminder today [to those who have faith in Jesus Christ] of the miracle that established Him as the Light of the World.  It is a time to remember that He is our unparalleled hope, and to look for spiritual renewal and re-dedication to our faith.  It is a time to be thankful that His Light shines into the darkness of this world, and that the darkness is receding and will eventually be totally defeated.
It is a time to recognize the miracle of the State of Israel existing in its homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem.  We need to see that Israel continues as a nation that is bringing light unto the world in a neighborhood of darkness and turmoil. As a Christian, I see the original story of Hanukkah being played out in today's headlines.  And I believe that Hanukkah has great significance to my faith. It speaks of strength from God in times of extreme persecution. In addition, Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Dedication, and it is about the darkness of persecution and the light of God that leads His people through the darkness of those figurative nights with a promise of joy in the morning. Yes, it is a celebration of, and for, the Jewish people.  But in the "Festival of Lights", I believe I can see God's presence and faithfulness as the Light of the World to all who call Him their God.
     Just let your spirit rejoice in this Hanukkah prayer:  We kindle these lights because of the wondrous deliverance You performed for our ancestors. During these eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred; we are not to use them but only to behold them, so that their glow may rouse us to give thanks for Your wondrous acts of deliverance.
     The miracles that occurred 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem give my spirit courage and comfort in this dark world.  I am grafted into that covenant between God and Israel, and Hanukkah is recognition of the miracle [of deliverance from sin] that God has given all of us in our lives.  Let us never forget that the Light came to shine on each of us, and from each of us.  Happy Hanukkah!

Ephesians 5:8    For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.


December 3, 2018

Understanding The Wife of God and The Bride of Christ (Part 2)

     In the previous post, I have presented Biblical evidence that God considered Himself betrothed and wed to the nation of Israel -- that is, until they continued in their idolatrous adultery by pursuing other gods. Then He, being a Holy God, served Israel a bill of divorce until some future date when they will be redeemed and once again become His wife. The book of Hosea gives us a good picture of marriage as a metaphor of the covenant between God and Israel. Gomer, the wife of the prophet Hosea, is a picture of Israel as the "promiscuous woman and harlot" who abandons her marriage covenant and "goes whoring". As it is a comparison to God's relationship with Israel, the Book of Hosea is a story of promise and restoration unto the Lord.
     I hope I made it clear in Part 1 that when referring to God's wife, the Bible is always talking about the nation Israel, and "wife" does not apply to us. When it comes to identifying who "the Bride of Christ" is, we must dig a little deeper because the Bible applies this term across a spectrum of people. And I will be honest in telling you that my search for understanding on this topic has led to as many questions as it has answers. I will also tell you that, using Scripture as my source, I have received answers that, at times, seem in conflict with each other. So, I will present the matter as I have seen it in the Bible, and encourage you to do your own study and develop your own theology. What I present here today is simply my journey as it stands today. And I am trusting God to reveal more as I continue seeking Him.
     The first thing that struck me as I began to research the Bible about who to identify as the "Bride of Christ" is that the very term does not exist in the Bible! How can that be? It is readily understood by most of Western Christians that the Church is the Body of Christ. Yet, nowhere does the Bible make that claim clear. So, what does the Word make clear concerning the Bride?  To be honest, not much. What did become evident is that there are lots of what are called "figures of speech" applied in the Bible to God's relationship with people. And they tend to confuse, rather than make clear, the answer to the question Who is the Bride?

     What I discovered is that God uses a lot of different terminology, or figures of speech, to tell us how He feels about the people with whom He is in relationship. We certainly see that in His references to Israel as "wife". We also see God referring to various people or groups as "daughter", "virgin daughter", "virgin", "sister", "espoused" or "bride", "wife", or "mother". But He also calls people "sons", "a vine", "a wild donkey", "sheep", "goats", "a camel". It should be becoming clear that these terms refer to ways God sees people, and may not mean a literal interpretation. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is there a group of people who are specifically and clearly identified as the "literal" Bride. 
     So how did modern Christianity get the idea that the Church is the Bride? What I discovered was a very important quote from Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger, who wrote in 1899, “Commentators and interpreters, from inattention to the figures of speech, have been led astray from the real meaning of many important passages of God’s Word; while ignorance of them has been the fruitful parent of error and false doctrine” (p. xvi). When realizing that the Bible employs such figures of speech as similes (a comparison by resemblance); metaphors (a comparison by representation); hypocatastasis (a comparison by implication); and personification (things represented as people).
     We can see the difference in the first three figures of speech by considering the statements, "You act like a beast" (simile); "You are a beast" (metaphor); and "Beast!" (hypocatastasis). Personification is portrayed when Wisdom is seen as a woman crying out for people to listen to her; or the blood of Abel is seen as a person crying out from the ground [after he is killed by Cain]. You can also see how an error in recognizing the differences can result in different understandings and doctrines about the statement that Jesus made at the Passover Meal when He held up the bread and said, "This is my body". Some statements are not meant to be taken literal, yet the Church has established doctrine on these kinds of misunderstandings.
     What is becoming clearer to me is that we must take each instance of an identifying figure of speech and determine what God is trying to express about how He feels about people in that particular passage. In other words, each reference to a people -- whether it be Israel, the Church, a nation, or any other group -- is a figure of speech and we need to figure out whether God is making the comparison based on if that group resembles, represents, or is implied to be that term whatever it may be (wife, bride, vine, lion, etc). I think it's wrong to try to build a timeline or doctrine that says God is building a case to give people a specific identity. Instead, I'm not too sure that we aren't supposed to look at each verse and try to determine what the context of that term is in that text alone.
     So, have we made the mistake of trying to make "the Bride of Christ" the Church based on stringing a group of verses together into a doctrine, rather than looking at what God was trying to say in that passage alone? I believe that there are two primary passages that Christians use to back up their theology that the Church is the Bride. The first is 2 Corinthians 11:2, You need to know that God’s passion is burning inside me for you, because, like a loving father, I have pledged your hand in marriage to Christ, your true bridegroom. I’ve also promised that I would present his fiancĂ©e to him as a pure virgin bride (The Passion Translation)The second is Ephesians 5:25-27, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In each of these passages, Scripture is personifying the Church as a Bride as a way to help us understand how Jesus feels about us, and how we are to feel about Him -- offering love and fidelity as a wife or bride would to her husband. This personification of the Church as a Bride is an effective means of communicating what Jesus has done for us; what He expects in return; and does it with a "word picture" we can understand and which has significant impact.
     But again, it is representing the Church "as" or "like" a Bride. It does not definitively identify the Church OR Israel as the Bride. You see, the only passage that can claim that it defines the Bride is Revelation 21:9-11, Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven final plagues (afflictions, calamities) came and spoke to me. He said, Come with me! I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. Then in the Spirit He conveyed me away to a vast and lofty mountain and exhibited to me the holy (hallowed, consecrated) city of Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, clothed in God’s glory [in all its splendor and radiance]. The luster of it resembled a rare and most precious jewel, like jasper, shining clear as crystal.
     Here is the only text that says who the Bride is ... the Holy city of Jerusalem, God's dwelling place. The context of Revelation 21 is the revealing of the New Heaven and New Earth, when God will dwell among people who have accepted Him as their God. All others [revealed as cowards; unbelieving and faithless; depraved and defiled with abominations; murderers; adulterers; practicers of magic arts; and all liars] will find their place in the lake of fire and sulphur. To me, the Word is saying that the city of Jerusalem will be filled with every saved person at the end of this Age. So, instead of trying to determine if the Bride is Israel, or the Church, or some specific group within the Body of Christ, perhaps we need to study this passage in Revelation to see how God wraps up His various references to "the Bride". After giving us comparisons from the Old Testament right through to the last book of the Bible, it seems to me that [in Revelation 21:11] He finally gives us His hope for what a people wholly devoted and in love with Him looks like... Clothed in God’s glory [in all its splendor and radiance].... Just like a beautiful Bride!
     In conclusion, you must each do your own research. Read the Bible and look up all the references to "Bride" in the Bible, and see what they say in context. Then read commentaries and the opinions of Biblical scholars and go back to the Bible and read them again ... in context. Then make up your mind. But I guess I want all this to come back to my original comment on the previous post ... I believe it is premature to say that Jesus [or the Father] is our Husband. It is not until Revelation 19 that the Bible reveals Let us rejoice and shout for joy [exulting and triumphant]! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor, for the marriage of the Lamb [at last] has come, and His bride has prepared herself.  She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white—for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God’s holy people). This is a picture of a FUTURE event. Note that Scripture says the Bride has prepared herself. I believe we are still in that process of preparation.
     Yes, we are seen as holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. That is a picture of us at our moment of salvation, and how Jesus, as the Head of the Church, sees us. But Revelation 19 is different. It is a picture of the consummation of our journey with Christ. As of yet, we are still on that road toward purity and chasteness. Speaking for myself, I cannot say that I live a pure, sinless life; it is why I continue to confess, repent and ask for forgiveness. And I certainly do not see the Church fitting that definition. I think we need to understand that Jesus is looking for ALL those who have come to salvation to be chaste and pure and clothed in white at the culmination of His Father's plan for the redemption of mankind. That will include Christians, restored and saved Israel, and a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. And we will all be residing in the New Jerusalem with our Bridegroom and Husband! What a beautiful day that will be!

Thanks to the website, Truth Or Tradition? (Helping You To Understand The Word of God, Free From the Traditions of Men) for helping me to understand how figures of speech contribute to our understanding of the Word.

John 14:3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.



November 29, 2018

Understanding the Wife of God and the Bride of Christ (Part 1)

     I'm about to tackle a very difficult subject that, frankly, I haven't quite figured out myself. I will tell you this ... I am increasingly hearing Christian women refer to Christ as "my Husband" [which I think is Biblically incorrect]. Furthermore, I have never heard a teaching on this subject matter anywhere in the Church. And since this topic has risen in more than one conversation I've had in the last few months, I think perhaps it's time that I explore what the Bible has to say so that I can respond in a responsible manner in the future. So, thank you for indulging my journey to discover what the Word has to say on these important issues.
     First of all, I have to admit that I never gave much thought to the difference in these identities, or what impact understanding them might have on how I walked out my faith. But as I dug in to see what the Word reveals on the matter, I was actually astonished at how some of our modern theology has disregarded [as well as distorted] the true identification of both the Wife of Yahweh and the Bride of the Messiah. As I said, I'm still figuring all this out myself, but this is what I've come to understand so far...
     I've always been blessed by the extreme love that God has had for His people Israel. And the relationship He has had with them since He entered covenant with them resembles that of a marriage. In Exodus 19, His declaration to them reads like a wedding vow: Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people... And when the people responded, All that the Lord has spoken, we will do, it was their vow to be faithful to that wedding covenant.
     True, the word "wife" is not mentioned in this particular passage, but as one looks upon the history of Israel's relationship with Yahweh, there are Scriptures that make it clear as to her relationship with Him. We are all familiar with how quickly Israel abandoned her covenant with God to be holy and faithful as a virgin bride, and began worshiping false idols and chasing after other lovers. Both Jeremiah 3:14 and Isaiah 54:5 make it clear that God considered Himself married to Israel ... Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you (Jeremiah), and For your Maker is your Husband—the Lord of hosts is His name—and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called (Isaiah).
     God loved Israel so much that He sent prophets and judges to try to convince the unfaithful people to return to the marriage covenant He had established with them. Time and again, they would go astray and backslide. Finally, running out of patience, God declares, "And I saw, even though [Judah knew] that for this very cause of committing adultery (idolatry) I [the Lord] had put faithless Israel away and given her a bill of divorce; yet her faithless and treacherous sister Judah was not afraid, but she also went and played the harlot [following after idols]" (Jeremiah 3:8). It was at this time in history that the northern kingdom of Israel [including 10 of the twelve tribes] was taken into captivity by the Assyrians and dispersed throughout the known world. It would be a little over 100 years later that the Southern Kingdom of Judah would be taken into exile in Babylon. But it is clear from these passages that God considered the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel as His wife.
     In a nutshell, this is how the course of events took place: The Marriage Contract. The entire format of the Book of Deuteronomy is that of both an ancient treaty and an ancient marriage contract. In this book, Moses took all the various facets of the three earlier books and presented them in the form of an ancient marriage contract. In this book we find the marriage contract signed between Israel and God whereby Israel becomes the Wife of Jehovah. The Acts of Adultery. In Jeremiah, Chapter 3, Israel is compared to a wife who has turned away from her husband, and in verse 20, the Bible says, Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, says Jehovah. The Separation. God spent nearly 100 years, [as the Book of Isaiah shows us], sending judgments against Israel, in the hopes that she would return to covenant. The Divorce. When judgment and separation failed to produce repentance, God had no choice but to serve a bill of divorce to His beloved nation. The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.  She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore (Jeremiah 3:6-8).

      But make no mistake about this ... although Israel was served a bill of divorcement, God has not abandoned them and the Bible makes it clear that there will be future restoration and a new marriage contract between Israel, Judah, and God. It couldn't be more plainly stated than in Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” This is the glorious hope of a future reconciliation between God's treasured people and the One who has loved them with an undying love. 
     By now, I hope you can at least reflect on the idea that God considers Israel as His wife, and He as her husband. I think there is a mistaken theology in the modern Church that says we Christians, as the Bride of Christ, are married to Jesus and He is our husband. In the next post, I would like to take a look at who is the Bride of Christ; what is the significance of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; and how is the Wedding Feast different? I think it is incumbent upon us as serious students of the Bible, and the redeemed children of God, to understand these distinctions and their significance for us in the Kingdom of God. We need to know who we are!

Hosea 2:16      And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 


November 26, 2018

"Jesus Is Real"

     Perhaps you've seen the story on Facebook. Two older ladies had to make a choice between paying for Christmas presents for their grandchildren on layaway at Walmart, or paying for their medicine. They decided they would return when they didn't have to purchase prescriptions. Then, a woman steps up and pays for the layaway in full. When the two ladies cried and told her they couldn't repay her, she replied, "You don't owe me anything. I'm just trying to live a life that shows people Jesus is alive, and He is real."
     Could there be a more definitive message as we head into the Christmas Season? As you know, if you are a faithful reader of this blog, I choose to concentrate on the message of Christ rather than on the commercialization of this holiday. I don't condemn anyone who celebrates Christmas in the traditional manner -- [I love the sentimentality, the carols, and the memories, too] -- but I have come to be blessed by concentrating on the miracle of Christ's birth and its significance for the eternal state of man. And in order to do that, it's important that I share the same truth of the generous young woman in Walmart ... He is Alive and He is Real!
     And my spirit rejoices as I see more and more people becoming emboldened to share Him with strangers in everyday circumstances. The very first time that Jesus made Himself known [in my presence] to a deeply wounded Beloved at our Inner Healing table, it changed my life forever. And I had those exact thoughts ... He IS Alive, and this encounter IS Real!
     And the beauty of it all is that we don't have to carry titles in the Church, or be anyone walking in a special anointing -- we just have to be obedient and He can use us. As my creative husband is fond of saying, "Jesus can work with a pair of twos". In other words, we don't need to be the Ace, King, Queen, or Jack to be part of a winning hand for Jesus. If we are willing to say, "Here I am. Send me", He will combine your humble service with His authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. And that spells VICTORY over the darkness any day of the week!
     It has been extremely exciting for me to witness His appearance in the most unexpected ways and times. I have seen Him touch the hearts of young men in a mall; invite a daughter of God [in a Walmart parking lot] to return to her first love; set a young man free in a training class that he had tried desperately to get out of; physically rest on the back of a dear friend as He led her to forgiveness and freedom; at the very moment of my mother's death as I sensed her spirit accompanying Him home.
     I know the theme of this post may seem simplistic and may not have much meaning for you if you do not know Jesus as Alive and Real. But I honestly can't think of a better gift to give someone this holiday season than to make yourself available to Jesus. Ask the Lord to show you someone who needs to know He exists; someone for whom this season is difficult and lonely. Ask Him to tell you how to approach that person and what to say. I promise, He will show up! And remember, it's not about shining the light on yourself, but making it possible for His Light to shine into anothers life.
     Here is a question posed by Oswald Chambers, the early twentieth-century teacher and evangelist: Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted— not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?  I would add to that question this thought: Are you willing to make this holiday season more about helping Jesus touch souls than about more gifts?
     And I would like to point out that this decision needs to be an act of your free will -- your obedience -- and not your emotions.  There is a place for emotions as your soul recognizes what your spirit knows -- Jesus is present in this day and age, and He desires to have an encounter with everyone who will receive Him. But He likes to work with us to reveal Himself, and He wants it be our choice to do so. He doesn't want robots who accept Him because He can force a choice. It pleases Him when we follow His commandment to GO! We see it all over the Bible .... He said, "Go and make disciples; Go and baptize; Go deeper; Go into all the world and preach the gospel of the Kingdom; Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." Well, sometimes the message of this Life [in Him] must be spoken in the middle of a Walmart, or in a parking lot.
      It doesn't matter where it is. It only matters that you know He is Alive and He is Real and you are willing to share it with those who need to hear it. So, it is my prayer that as we approach the chaos and upheaval of the Christmas holiday, that you will be willing to sacrifice your time and yourself to introduce the Living Christ to someone who desperately needs Him!

Matthew 10:27     What I say to you in the dark (privately), tell in the light (publicly); and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops [to many people].

November 23, 2018

What It Means To Be Biblically "Tender"

     I am blessed to be inspired through an organization in Israel that promotes the revival and restoration of God's chosen people, according to prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments of our Bible. This organization's newsletter declares that there is a change in the spiritual climate in Israel as more of that nation [which is largely secular or Orthodox Jewish] are becoming both tender and hungry for Yeshua's return.
    There has always been a huge [and bitter] divide in Israel between those who recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and those who deny faith [the secularists] as well as those who vehemently deny His identity as the Anointed One of Israel [the religious orthodox Jews]. Sadly, I see bitterness and division raising its ugly head in our own country, too. So, a statement in the latest newsletter I received from Israel has me searching my heart and seeking the Lord. The statement read, It's so tough to stay tender in this harsh world. My immediate response was, "I agree! This world seems to have become increasingly harsh".
     But the harshness is not just relegated to those who are different from us. Even within the Christian community, I see growing harshness and unmerciful conduct towards one another. Sadly, I find that too many of us have become callous and mean-spirited in our interactions. I believe it's time that we asked ourselves what it means to "stay [Biblically] tender" amidst the severe and intolerant cultural, political, and religious climates in the world. So, I'd like to invite you to come with me on a journey through the Bible to see what our God has to say about being tender, and tender-hearted.
     As I dived into my Bible in an effort to discern how God defines "tender", I saw that word used to describe various things ... people, grass of the field, branches of fig trees, the mercy of God, and the one my spirit leaped at, our hearts. Interestingly enough, when I researched the dictionary definition of tender, I saw many references to the heart ... warmhearted, kindhearted, softhearted; all evoking demonstrations of sympathy, compassion, and caring. Then, I consulted Strong's Concordance and discovered that "tender" is translated from the Hebrew word lebab, which as a noun, means "heart; mind; midst".  
     I readily discerned that tender was a condition of the heart. As I meditated on Luke 1:78 and Zechariah's prophecy over his son, John the Baptist, I saw the condition of God's heart: "And you, child ... because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  It was on God's heart to rescue His people from the darkness of their souls and spirits and bring them into His Light. When we walk in His peace, we exhibit tenderness to the world. The condition of the heart is also apparent in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you".
     It also became clear to me that being tender is a process that comes from the "inner man", rather than outward appearances. The Bible tells us that "as we think in our heart, so are we" (Proverbs 23:7). So, if we are to be tender (or compassionate, caring, kind, gentle) in a harsh world, then the condition of our heart determines our ability to think, desire, speak, and act in tenderness. What is sown in our heart will be apparent in our thoughts, words and actions. If the love of Christ is seated firmly in our heart, then we will manifest tenderness for all to see.
     But Strong's Concordance also revealed that the Hebrew word lebab may also refer to the seat of rebellion and pride that sits in the heart of man ... God said, "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21). This results in a hard heart, rather than a tender one. And if the "natural inclination" of our heart is towards evil, then our only hope to be tenderhearted is found in God's promise to replace our heart of stone with a new heart. So, we pray, "Create in me a clean heart, Oh God" (Psalm 51:10), and cry out, "Direct my heart to fear Your name [with awe-inspired reverence and submissive wonder]" (Psalm 86:11). 
     Whatever is in the midst of our heart will effect our thoughts, and our thoughts will effect our words and our actions. Because the Enemy is intent on obstructing that flow of Christ from our inner man to our outer behavior, we must be on alert to establish Jesus as Lord of our hearts. Our very lives flow from our heart, and the devil seeks to kill, steal, and destroy that relationship at the very seat of our being. 
     While I agree with the statement that it is tough to stay tender in this harsh world, I know that it is possible when I let the love of Jesus rule everything in my life. So, let us enter this holiday season with Jesus's love guiding us and leading us. Begin to practice tenderness and watch how fast Jesus and the Holy Spirit will help you to continually possess it. I bless you with rivers of living water flowing from grateful and tender hearts! May Jesus rule forever on the throne of your heart!

1 Peter 3:8   "Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit..."

November 20, 2018

This Is No Time For Fear

    It has been nearly seven years since I began writing this blog, and I am beginning to sense the same spiritual unease among people that I experienced then. True, there is a disparity in how the economy of our nation was functioning compared to today; people seem more confident in their economic future. But the civil unrest and disrespect towards our fellow man, although beginning to rear its ugly head in 2011, is now on full display. Then there is the uncertainty of the corruption/hostility within our government, the overwhelming numbers of people trying to cross our borders, and the raging fires and devastating hurricanes -- and it all translates to both anxiety and confusion about the future. In Biblical terms, people are beginning to experience fear.
     That word "fear" means more than just being afraid or scared. It has connotations of sorrow and grief and dread ... concerning people, things, and events. But it is exactly at these times, when everything around us screams "End Times" that we must remain clear about the overall message of the Word .... we can be assured of God's final victory over the Anti-Christ forces in the world, and His faithfulness to see us be overcomers of this ungodly system. In these times of difficulties, there's a truth that we can cling to. In Isaiah 43, God declares that He is the Savior of Israel, to whom we have been grafted into. His words to His beloved people are true for us, too: Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you [from captivity]. I have called you by name; you are Mine!  
     Throughout the Bible, God tells us to "fear not" because He knows the Enemy uses fear to decrease hope and limit our victories in Him. But we must never forget that we are a child of an all-powerful, all-knowing, never-changing Father who cares deeply about our life and wants us to walk in the victory His Son died to give us. Remember, He has redeemed us; He knows our name; and He declares to the universe that we are His! Does that mean we won't face trials from an Enemy who wants to defeat us? No. Even Jesus expressed great sorrow and grief and dread as He prayed three times for the cup of agony to be removed, if it was the Father's will. His emotional condition was so severe our Lord sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. But in that moment, as the gospel of Luke, Chapter 22, tell us, Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.
     In that moment of grief and dread -- and yes, we call it fear -- Jesus felt the powerful presence of God with Him. There was a purpose for Jesus's life and it extended far beyond what was about to happen in this world. It was the power of God's love and presence that transcended what was about to happen in the physical. And it allowed Jesus to endure the evil perpetrated against Him. We must follow in His footsteps.
     There are incontrovertible truths that we can adhere to that will help us endure our own times of sorrow, grief, dread, and fear. First of all, we know that we are chosen and nothing can separate us from God. We are covered by the blood of Jesus and wrapped in the Grace of God, which empowers us to overcome all that is from Satan. Jesus is our Good Shepherd and will not allow us to endure more than we can stand. We are being prepared to rule with Him in the age to come.
     If you are suffering the torment of Satan's fiery dart of fear, then you must remind yourself that God's judgments against the world are ultimately to wipe out evil, not harm the saints. Just as He did in the wilderness of Egypt, God will supernaturally protect and provide for us. Our faith demands that we trust Him in this! When the difficulties in this world increase, so will God's guidance and leadership. And should this world result in our physical death, there is no greater joy than knowing that the very next instant we will be in His glorious presence forever!
     But perhaps you still cannot defeat those demons of fear that have crept into your life. Let me give you some advice that will help you rise above the lies the Enemy is whispering to you. You need to understand that you have a choice ... you can give in to those lies, cowering in fear and powerlessness -- or you can stand and declare that you are walking in your inheritance as a co-heir with Christ, and you are covered by the authority of God who has made Jesus "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And He put all things [in every realm] in subjection under Christ’s feet, and appointed Him as [supreme and authoritative] head over all things in the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills and completes all things in all [believers]". We are quite able and capable of rising to our spiritual potential and strength!
     When we know what we believe about God and ourselves, then we have the confidence and faith to stand firm and follow Jesus's model of dignity and strength in our hour of need. We will not be afraid to voice our allegiance to Him or to choose to follow Him, no matter the cost. Here's the thing, Jesus never taught on "feelings"; He always commanded obedience. We must truly believe He is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Deliverer; that He is our Strength, our God in whom we can trust. He is our Shield, and our horn (Power) of Salvation. He is our Stronghold and we must praise His Name, for He is worthy to be praised. And we will be saved from our enemies! This is a passage from Psalm 18, and it is a Scripture that is never far from my heart or my lips. I believe these words with all that is in me!
     So, I encourage you to face your fears and begin to declare the Truth of Scripture -- and believe it! Jesus tells us that we are not given a spirit of fear, but we have the Holy Spirit, who gives us mighty power, love [of God] and self-control. When we recognize the power that is in us, we do not fear anything [or anyone] else. And we have the ability to control our carnal emotions and fleshly behavior, as we walk in our spiritual identity. Fear has no place in the life of a Believer. Trust in God's power inside you and watch Him deliver you of all sorrow, grief, dread, and fear. Then declare that you are ready to walk in the glory of God for the remaining days of your life.

It is my prayer that this Thanksgiving, you will find increased faith in the power of our Lord to deliver you from the concerns of this world. Give thanks to our ever-faithful God who never takes His eyes off you. Praise Him for His enduring love!

Psalm 34:4   I sought the Lord [on the authority of His word], and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.


November 17, 2018

Do You Know Your Measure In The Kingdom of God?

     I ask that question because it was what I asked myself as I was studying 2 Corinthians, Chapter 10. The latter part of this chapter concerns Paul discussing his mandate [or assignment] from the Lord. Apparently, within the Church at Corinth, the believers were preoccupied with setting standards of their own regarding the efficacy [value or benefit] of another's ministry. Various opinions, theories, and religious philosophies were discussed and then either copied or compared, resulting in human evaluations that left people either prideful or discouraged, depending on the consensus of the church.
     But it was Paul's statement regarding this human evaluation that got me to thinking. Paul's response was this: But we are those who choose to limit our boasting to only the measure of the work to which God has appointed us...
     You see, I've always had a problem with the Church deciding they were the arbiter of God's commission on my life. It has always seemed to me that if I didn't follow the prescribed "rules" of what ministry was supposed to look like, it was made clear that I was outside God's domain. But once I received the revelation that Christ passed His authority on to us, I began to realize that God was the administrator of where and how I would serve Him.
     Furthermore, I came to realize that God has designed each of us in a unique manner that serves Him best. We have been given the gifts and spiritual authority that are necessary to continue Christ's dominion on this earth. In other words, there is a unique job for each of us, and my job may look different than yours, but we both have the same objective -- to see God's Kingdom expanded upon the earth.
     Let's refer back to Paul's statement. There is a "measure of work to which God has appointed us". The Passion Translation of 2 Corinthians 10:13 says that this word "work" comes from the Greek word metron, which was the length of a race course, and it was used to define the boundaries of a Greek stadium. This should make us think of the references to "running the race" that Paul makes throughout his letters to the various churches:  "let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1), and "if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24), for instance. This tells me that we have each been given a sphere of influence that will be suited to our gifts and the level of authority we have been given.
     But there is more to this concept of "running in our lane" [which is the boundaries of our ministry from God]. There is the idea of the expansion of those boundaries to benefit the Kingdom of God. I believe it was in the 1990's when The Prayer of Jabez was so popular. The verses in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 read, There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.
     The Christian culture was captivated by what they discerned was a quick prayer to increase their material well-being. I will agree... we serve a God of Increase and Enlargement. But our material well-being is a by-product of how well we administer the territory [or sphere of influence] and the gifts we have been given by the Father. Just as Jesus prophesied that the Apostles would be His witnesses first in Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth, we have each been given the same potential to expand our territories of influence for His Kingdom. 
     If we are obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to His promptings, and to His instructions, we can expect the measure of our ministerial influence to expand. It goes without saying that our primary purpose is to expand the Kingdom of God and not our personal empire. But it is also true that we can expect God's blessings when we use our authority to widen God's influence in the world. As we fulfill our potential within the boundaries God has established for our ministry, He will push those boundaries back, giving us room to grow and widen our sphere of influence for Him.
     And I hope that everyone realizes that we each DO have a ministry; a purpose for our life to serve others as we serve our Lord. If you aren't aware of what yours is, ask Jesus to show you. You may start out small, but as you are faithful to your calling, and you desire to expand your territory in a spirit of humbleness and love for the Lord, the Father will do as He did for Jabez, and grant your request. 
     So, I come back to my original question ... Do you know your measure in the Kingdom of God? Do you know what your purpose and your assignment or mandate is? Can you identify your sphere of influence and perceive the boundaries of your spiritual territory? If not, then pursue those answers. Your life will be eternally richer for it. And if, like Paul, you know the course of the race set before you, do not be satisfied with limits on your boundaries. Ask God to expand your territory so that you can expand His Kingdom. You, too, will find eternal rewards beyond anything you desire. 

Isaiah 54:2    "Enlarge the site of your tent [to make room for more children]; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not spare them; Lengthen your tent ropes and make your pegs (stakes) firm [in the ground]".    

November 14, 2018

The Power Of The Spoken Word To Bring Inner Healing

     I have to share the amazing works of my Lord Jesus! First of all, He never ceases to surprise me with how He makes His presence known in ways I'm not expecting. In addition, He will bring forth concepts from those encounters that I had never before considered. And He did all that this weekend.
     Mark and I were blessed to be invited to speak before a small group of Evangelical Millennials who were interested in learning more about our Inner Healing and Deliverance Ministry.  All I knew was that they were involved in something similar to "Street Ministry" in which they canvassed their neighborhoods and apartment buildings, sharing the Gospel Message. I assumed they wanted to know how to incorporate Deliverance into that short amount of time they would have the opportunity to speak to people on the street.
     So, as in our more formal sessions of Deliverance, we always begin with the issue of Forgiveness. We explained to the group that unforgiveness is the single most powerful weapon the Enemy has to keep us in bondage. In fact, when people come to our Table of Healing, we often find they can't explain the feelings of depression or heaviness that keeps them from feeling the joy of the Lord. The first question we ask is, "Who are you angry at", followed by "What do you need to forgive them for"?
     We then employ an exercise that has profound effects on breaking those chains of bondage that keep people tied up in anger and unforgiveness. We have them recite [out loud] the following: Father God, I forgive ________ for _________.  It made me feel _________. Father, I release him/her/them to You, covered by the blood of the Lamb. It may sound too simple but we explain that the act of saying this out loud and releasing the person(s) who have wounded their soul and/or spirit has a profound effect in the spiritual realms. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that words have the power to give death or life, and the person who speaks will bear the fruit of those words, whether good or bad. When we are able to forgive someone who has deeply wounded us, and state the act and how it affected us, the power of that wound is mitigated because it is no longer held in secret for the Enemy to use against us. Both the Beloved and the Enemy sees the persecutor released to God [covered by the blood of Jesus]. Then the wound can no longer fester in darkness, but has been exposed to the Light of Jesus, which heals all things.
     So I introduced that simple exercise as a "quick and easy" way to bring healing to someone they were evangelizing to, at the same time stressing that it is extremely effective and profitable for the Beloved. I soon realized that this group wanted and needed more information on the whole process of Deliverance and its Biblical foundation. So Mark and I expanded our testimony and training to the group. What we didn't know was that one of the young people had quietly got up and left the room. The spiritual leader of the group got up to minister to him, and actually used the Forgiveness exercise. When they rejoined the group, they gave their own testimony of what happened... At first, the young person didn't want to say the words out loud. The wound was so deep that they just wanted to write the name of the person and the hurtful acts -- not speak them out loud. But the leader encouraged the spoken word and it was truly liberating! He testified [with a face that beamed pure joy] that Jesus had truly set him free!
     And that's really the point I want to make with this blog post. Being able to confess the name of someone who has hurt you, what happened to you, and how it made you feel takes away the power of the Enemy to continue to lie to you about who you are. Releasing all that pain to the Lord cuts those bonds to sins of anger and unforgiveness, and Jesus takes it all away and covers it with His blood.
     As I meditated upon the grace of Jesus to allow this group to witness the power of forgiveness in their midst, the Lord broadened my understanding of why the spoken words of Forgiveness are so important. He showed me that when we are able to speak Forgiveness out loud, it is recorded in our Book of Life in Heaven. So when the Accuser comes before the Court of Heaven to accuse us of unrighteousness and unforgiveness (which we walked in [in silence] all the years we harbored it), there is evidence before the Lord that our Accuser is giving false witness.
     Now, I may not be able to show you Chapter and Verse where the Bible states this concept in precise terms, but I can tell you that I see enough of the shadow of this theory in Scripture to call it real. In Daniel 7:9-10, the prophet is given a vision and he tells us that he saw thrones put in place in Heaven, and the Ancient One sat down to judge. Millions of angels ministered to Him, and millions stood to attend to Him. Then the court began its session, and the books were opened. There is little in Scripture to tell us exactly what was written in those books, but perhaps we can see a parallel "on earth as it is in heaven". Consider the books of I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles. There we find the acts and deeds recorded [both good and bad] of the Kings of Judah and Israel. In fact, 1 Kings 11:41 says, "The rest of the events in Solomon’s reign, including all his deeds and his wisdom, are recorded in The Book of the Acts of Solomon".
     But there is a particular verse in Malachi that I discern gives credence to what the Lord recently showed me. Verse 3:16 reads, "Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name".  When we participate with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a Deliverance/Inner Healing session, we are most certainly people who fear the Lord and we are speaking with one another, confessing forgiveness and reconciliation, and being healed in the process. And I know that the Lord pays attention and hears us, because I have witnessed the consequences of those actions, and it is called spiritual freedom! And I do believe that our faith and reverence for the power of Jesus "to forgive our trespasses and to forgive those who trespass against us" is recorded in Heaven as witness to our esteem for His name, and as a challenge to Satan's charges against us. 
     Our obedience to forgive, and then announce it so that the spirit realm hears, causes our testimony to be recorded and preserved in the books of heaven, whether it be the Book of Remembrance in Malachi or the Lamb's Book of Life in Revelation. In the end, I cannot really explain the spiritual mechanics of why it works ... I just know it does! 

2 Corinthians 4:13   Yet we have the same spirit of faith as he had, who wrote in Scripture, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” We also believe, therefore we also speak.." 

November 11, 2018

God's Love and His Justice: Are They In Conflict?

     Mark and I are so blessed to have friends with whom we can deliberate our theological views. We don't always agree and that's okay. I still think one of the most astounding verses in the Bible is Proverbs 25:2, God conceals the revelation of His word in the hiding place of His glory.  But the honor of kings is revealed by how they thoroughly search out the deeper meaning of all that God says.  
     Since we have been made kings and priests(1 Peter 2:9), royal lovers of God because of God’s grace and Christ’s redeeming blood, I can imagine how much it pleases our Father when we spend our lives trying to know Him more intimately. Our love and desire for more of Him does not require that we are in agreement on every theological question. So, I would like to present a question [or quandary] that one of our friends has been wrestling with; one that I know is difficult to reconcile for many other Believers, as well ... If God is love, as the Bible so clearly says in 1 John 4:8, then why all the Old Testament scriptures about destruction and judgment of the enemies of God? 
     Let me start by saying I do not claim to have the definitive answer to this question. In fact, as I meditated upon it, I found myself with as many questions as answers. So, this blog post is based on my own personal ruminations. I am not asking you to subscribe to my thoughts, but hopefully, it will inspire you to "thoroughly search out" what the Bible says about this subject, and in the process, you will find more of our Father's glory. So here goes...
     I guess the first thing that I have come to understand is that both Love and Justice are equal aspects of God's Nature. All of the attributes of God work in harmony to express the magnitude of His character and nature. I think, perhaps, that we Christians tend to look at Love and Justice as separate parts of God's essence; as polar opposites of who He is, so to speak. We tend to identify Him as the God of Judgment in the Old Testament and the God of Love in the New Testament. But does not the Word say that God never changes? That He is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Perhaps we need to come to an understanding that His Justice comes out of His Love for His creation; that they are intertwined. 
     So, consider this ... God loves us, His creation. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Adam and Eve experienced that covenant and love in the Garden of Eden ... and then they sinned. Sin came into the world and caused pain and suffering to all that God loved. He could not allow it to run rampant and continue to destroy the covenant He made with His creation. So, as an act of love, He renders His justice. Both love and justice are essential to God's purposes in the world -- to reconcile mankind back to Him. 
     Justice and Love meet in this world when wrongs are righted and human beings are healed through God's loving discipline. We see the ultimate culmination of that process on the Cross. Jesus paid the price required by a Just God in the most loving act of all time. New Testament Christians have no problem seeing that picture of Justice and Love combined. But they still continue to struggle with the concept that Jesus says we are to love our enemies, yet they see God in the Old Testament destroy people and nations in His judgment. 
     I think it is incumbent upon us to consider that the Bible is a history of God's relationship with mankind. In the Old Testament, His covenant with man was designed that we live in wholeness and fullness with Him; in an environment of peace. He then had to establish strict moral law to encourage man to keep covenant with Him. But man continued to rebel in his sin, and because God is Holy, He cannot excuse sin, and His integrity as a God of covenant and of steadfast, enduring Love requires that He destroy evil and restore good. 
     I think we make a mistake when we look upon His justice in the Garden of Eden, Sodom and Gomorrah, in the ten plagues of Egypt; in His judgment of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Nadab and Abihu as separate acts from His love. God was not acting out of an inflexible set of rules and punishing laws. There was a bigger purpose in play. We are deserving of death because of our sins, and most often, we do not receive the punishment that our sins deserve. What may look like the actions of an unloving God is actually the Father pursing His Justice in the context of grace -- His covenant is one of a commitment to care and honor the ones He loves; and unable to abide by the destruction of that covenant, God's Justice is an act of offering redemption to come back into covenant.
     We must also keep in mind that much of the destruction of peoples and nations in the Old Testament is against those not in covenant with God; those intent on destroying God's covenantal [yet rebellious] people, Israel. Out of His love to redeem Israel through the perfect seed line that would lead to Jesus, God's justice required that He destroy the nations who were corrupted with Satan's seed in order that He might keep the lineage to Jesus pure. 
     Then there is the struggle Christians have with "God hardening Pharaoh's heart". Some see that as a conflict with the concept of God as Love. But again, we must look at it within the context of His covenantal relationship with Israel. But let me ask you this... How did God harden Pharaoh's heart? God revealed His love for His people Israel and His hatred of sin through the signs and wonders of the ten plagues. Can you perceive that this revelation of God's power and supremacy and enduring love for Israel were the catalysts for Pharaoh to harden his own heart? [The Bible even says  in Exodus 8:32 that Pharaoh hardened his heart, not God]. His heart was so filled with hatred of Israel (SIN!) that he suppressed the revelation of God and refused to believe and receive God's grace. That is unrighteousness and resulted in God's righteous judgment.

     The incident involving Nadab and Abihu is a bit more difficult to understand, but I will offer my opinion.You might wonder what grievous sin of these sons of Aaron caused the fire of the presence of God to devour them. Scripture says in Leviticus 10:1 that Nadab and Abihu "took their respective [ceremonial] censers, put fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange (unauthorized, unacceptable) fire before the Lord, [an act] which He had not commanded them to do".  At this point, you have to decide if this judgment seems too extreme for the sin that was committed. But further verses in the chapter shed more light on this example of God's justice. 
     This is what I see .... the fire of the presence of God is the Holy Spirit. Apparently, Nadab and Abihu offered the holy God an unholy fire. In fact, Moses says to Aaron, his brother and the [I'm sure] distraught father of Nadab and Abihu, "This is what the Lord said: ‘I will be treated as holy by those who approach Me, and before all the people I will be honored.’” God commanded that the bodies of the boys be taken outside the camp, and further instructed Aaron and his younger sons to exhibit no mourning before the congregation, lest they, too, experience the wrath and anger of God and die.  You see, God IS Holy (morally and spiritually excellent) and He is to be honored as separate from everything evil, having not even a trace of evil [sin] in His character. It is what makes Him worthy to be "The God Most High". Incorporating any [unauthorized or strange] fire, other than Holy Spirit fire, would have been blasphemous to God, who made it clear He was to be treated as holy by those who approached Him. Furthermore, He was to be honored as separate from sin (Holy) before all the people. This explains why Aaron and the brothers of Nadab and Abihu were not allowed to mourn -- that would have been seen as a gesture of agreement with their dishonor of God. 
     In addition, we get what may be another clue to the magnitude of the sin committed against God in this situation. In verse 8, the Lord spoke to Aaron and told him and his sons not to drink wine or any intoxicating drink before they entered the Tent of Meeting, in order "to make a distinction and recognize a difference between the holy (sacred) and the common (profane), and between the [ceremonially] unclean and the clean". Perhaps in addition to the unholy fire, Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated before the Lord.God intends that those He is in covenant with will recognize His holiness and treat Him as such. Anything less devalues Him and results in death, the only justice worthy of His covenant and steadfast love.
     That is how God revealed Himself as He established His character and nature in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus offered Himself to satisfy God's justice. Jesus [as God, Himself] came to show us how to express God's love for His creation, and His Goodness is evident to all. And at this point, I want to say that the modern Church is in danger of diminishing the role and power of God's justice in favor of a message that God is ONLY love. Nothing could be further from the truth! God has not changed! Rather, He expects us, as inheritors of His grace and love, to represent His holiness to the rest of humankind to bring about redemption [for all who will receive it]. Unlike Nadab and Abihu, we are to reflect God's holiness and show the difference between the sacred holiness of our Father and the common profane nature of Satan. We are to offer His divine nature to the world, and for those who accept it, it will be Life. For those who reject His offer of redemption from their evil ways, His justice will prevail at the end of the age -- because darkness cannot survive in the Light. 
     In my final analysis, God's holiness requires that there be justice and a penalty for sin. But God's steadfast and enduring love desires that all humans be reconciled in relationship with Him. Ultimately, like Adam and Eve, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh, and Nadab and Abihu, each of us must make a decision to recognize that God is holy, and worthy to be treated as such. The refusal to do so [as acts of rebellion] will result in consequences that reveal His justice. It is His divine nature and who are we to question it?

Psalm 37:28    The Lord loves it when He sees us walking in his justice. He will never desert His devoted lovers; they will be kept forever in His faithful care. But the descendants of the wicked will be banished.