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

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."     

June 13, 2018

From Whom Do We Seek Favor? And Whom Do We Fear?

     We've all experienced it. Our faith is under constant attack by the Enemy, our culture, and even our families and fellow Believers. If our hearts are truly seeking the Lord, and those attacks come, we may begin to question whether we are steady in our walk with Him.  The next thing we know, we find ourselves seeking or desiring the favor of man in our faith lives, which can be a distraction from the fear of the Lord. But why is it so important to be cognizant of this fact; and how does it affect our journey and relationship with the Lord? If I could sum it up in one word, it would be validation. But I'd like to unpack my theory for you and share where my own self-examination has taken me.
     When it comes to our faith, and if we are seeking the favor of man, what is that really telling us? Is our identity in Christ enough for us, or do we need the approval of man to feel like our path is straight? Let's start with Proverbs 29:25 to see if we can get the answers.  And I'd like to give you several translations so we begin with a clear picture:
The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in and puts his confidence in the Lord will be exalted and safe.

Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
    But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place. (Passion)

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety. (New Living Translation)
     Can you see the implications? The fear of man is a snare (a trap) because it holds you back from walking in confidence in your true identity, seated in the high place (the heavenly realms as stated in Ephesians 2:6). When you are seated with Christ, you are united with Him, and there's no safer or more secure place to be. 
     But what happens to us as we seek to grow our relationship with Christ? The Enemy comes in and lays a trap for us. As we receive wisdom and revelation from the Lord [through the Holy Spirit], we may get opposing views from people, or correction from Leadership. It leaves you with feelings of doubt ... did I really hear from the Holy Spirit? And that can be a lonely place to be. We feel separated, not only from our fellow Christians, but maybe even from God, Himself, because now there has been a disruption in that divine communication, and we've taken our focus off Him and the favor we've received from Him to seek the favor of fellow men. Because, let's face it everyone wants to be accepted.
     And that's the real meaning of "favor" -- acceptance; the reaction of a perceived superior to an inferior; presence and power. But whose favor do you really want? Whose Presence and Power do you want to walk in? And who do you fear more?  We know what we fear from men -- rejection and disapproval. But do we really understand the Fear of the Lord? That it is awe-inspired reverence and worshiping Him? Obedience and submissive wonder?
     When we let man dictate [or influence] our identity, we are going to seek acceptance and approval from this world.  If we've been hurt by the Church (and that is a very real problem today), do we find our safety and security with others who have experienced similar hurts -- or do we trust and believe that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies; that our identity is secure in Him? Do we meet to lick our wounds (or as my husband says, "commiserate over our bandaids")? Do we find comfort and validation in our kinship with fellow victims? Or do we look for our approval from the Lord and walk in our kinship with Him?
     I can tell you that I have been guilty of taking my eyes off the commission Christ has given me [and off Him, as my Commissioner]. It's so natural to want that gratification of knowing someone values you, and let's face it --- the devil will always provide that someone if it means you will step back from seeking more of the Lord, which results in lost momentum in your relationship with Him! 
     I know that I walk in an unconventional assignment from Jesus. And I have experienced negative feedback from fellow Christians when what I was seeing and hearing from God seemed so darn clear! The natural instinct is to seek a carnal affirmation to make your soul feel better [i.e., your emotions and mind]. But whenever I've taken my eyes off Jesus and what He was showing me, I've gotten stuck in that moment of hurt. The Word says it perfectly ... Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.  My spirit grieved because I was fearing man more than I was fearing God; seeking man's favor instead of praising God for the favor He has given me in my unique assignment.
     Here's the thing ... we all have unique assignments! God didn't make us cookie cutter images of each other. He made us each in His own image! So, as you look around you, that should give you a pretty good idea of how BIG and AWESOME our God is, and make you realize that seeing the favor of man can be an exhaustive endeavor!
     BUT, you can receive the favor of God when you fear Him! Stated another way, you can receive His approval when you walk in His Presence and Power by obeying Him in the assignment He has given you!
     I want to ask you the question that Job asks in 4:6 .... Is not your fear of God your confidence?  Shouldn't we all find our validation from seeking His face and Presence, and obeying His commandments through the use of His Power? Shouldn't that be enough to feel confident about who we are? If like me, you have battled through the fear of man in order to get to your walk in the fear of the Lord, then you know this promise found in Psalm 40:4, Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who makes the Lord his trust. When we can trust the Lord's opinion over man's, we can walk in confidence; knowing we are fully approved and secure in our identity. We no longer look from side to side for our validation, but only upwards. And I promise you, you will know His acceptance and approval. His validation is true and eternal!

Psalm 37:5-6    Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.

June 10, 2018

What Counts As Knowledge of the Lord?

     It was a normal Sunday afternoon, and Mark and I were invited to gather together with some fellow Christians for a different kind of "church". The place where we gathered had no walls, no stage, no podium or microphone, no pews. We were small in number -- six adults and two children, in fact. We gathered around a picnic table in the shade; in our lawn chairs and sitting on Yetti coolers. We shared a meal together; an agape dinner; a love feast -- a true communion.
     Because like the Last Supper and the early Church gatherings, worshiping God and our Lord was always centered around a meal -- and more than bread and wine. We put some meditative worship music on in the background and shared our experiences in Christ, our questions and interpretations of Scripture, and what the Holy Spirit was showing us -- all as we partook of the bounty of food before us. Yes, we opened our Bibles, and found the glory of the Lord revealed in its pages, but our primary objective was to enjoy the company of fellow Believers in the Presence of God.
     But as I sat and listened and observed our small group, I saw a dynamic forming that made me pause and examine myself. Among us adults were those who could expound intelligently (and with godly passion) on what Scripture had shown them. It was obvious that quality "heart" time had been spent with the Father in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of Him and His Nature. It was a joy to partake in a conversation that was free of religious doctrine and strict creeds. Concepts of God and His "spiritual mechanics" [which would be ridiculed inside the four walls of physical churches] were received with the respect [for God] that they were presented. The boundaries for "acceptable" ideas of God's sovereignty and majesty were extended to allow for a greater picture of just how big our God really is.
     But then the Spirit pricked my heart. One of our small group was quiet; a man that I had come to greatly admire and honor for his heart; a heart that had been purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit. I knew this man to be truly "born again" -- out of the ashes of a defeated soul was birthed a worthy temple for the Lord's Holy Spirit to reside. He is a natural leader, and people are drawn to his heart connection to Jesus. You just want what he has with the Lord!
     But he sat quietly during the energized and passionate discussions; actually choosing to wander off and enjoy the park where we had gathered. When he wandered back into the group, I made it a point to draw him into the conversation. After all, he had experienced healing a demoniac woman in a terminal ward of a hospital, and reunited her with a family that had been frightened of her and estranged from her. I wanted to know about that! And he has a heart to reach people in prisons, and to change the lives of those in bondage to alcohol, drugs, and trauma in their lives. I could see his eyes light up and his countenance change as he talked about his desire to see those people freed from their afflictions, just as he had been. I wanted to hear about that!
     Then he made the telling statement; and I'm not sure if anyone else heard him ... "Most of what you're discussing is over my head, but I know we are supposed to be doing what Jesus did ... and even greater things". I think I literally stopped breathing for a moment as it struck me. While everyone continued in agreement that Scripture commanded that we continue Jesus's work in healing and deliverance ministries, and spreading the Gospel of Heaven's Kingdom come to earth, I once again was reminded how easy it is to become enamored with gaining knowledge of God and His Word, but never being Spirit-led to actually do it!
     I want to be very clear -- all the others in attendance were blessed with a personal and intimate knowledge of God's Word AND walked it out. But here was a man who was honest [and authentic] enough to admit he didn't have the level of "Good Book" knowledge that the rest of us possessed. Yet I think we would all say that we recognize the heart of Jesus in this man and he inspires us to follow him in pursuit of the Kingdom.
     And here's what I took away from this situation in which God shined His light... I absolutely know the truth of this Scripture in my heart: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out. It glorifies God when we seek to know Him more. When we're not satisfied with "the picture" of Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit that our dogmas and traditions have taught us, but instead spend intimate and deep time with His Word, our relationship grows and matures; we begin a closer walk with Them, and I believe, our service is elevated and more fruitful. After all, Scripture says, My people perish for lack of knowledge. Knowledge is a good thing, when it results in action and service.
     BUT, God's Word also says, For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  I believe intimacy with the Father comes not only from intimate knowledge of Him through His Word, but there is an intimacy that comes from a regenerated heart that knows what is is to defeat the power of the Enemy in a shattered life, and has experienced being resurrected to a new life powered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If you will, it is a life that exhibits personal holiness apart from spiritual knowledge.
     I don't know if I've been able to accurately describe the discernment I received that day. All I know is that it suddenly became clear to me how multi-faceted it is to "know the Lord". And it became quite clear that we must not elevate one above the other. Just because someone can't partake in a spirited debate over the Word, does not mean that they are not walking with Christ. It's our flesh that demands that kind of performance. To know the Lord [through every avenue possible] should result in taking action for Him and His Kingdom. The Pharisees and the Sadducees studied and possessed great knowledge concerning the Torah and the writings of the prophets, but they didn't walk out their knowledge. The Disciples were considered uneducated men, yet they walked according to the knowledge revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.
     I guess I would summarize my thoughts like this ... God wants us to know Him fully and completely. There may be some whose journey is now taking them towards gaining intimacy and knowledge of Him through study and contemplating His Word. The journey of others has been more experiential, as they have received their knowledge through personal intervention and contact with the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, God wants us to seek both during the process of our rebirth. As the C.S. Lewis Institute says it, "The larger concern is to show us how to live joyful, obedient lives that produce the beauty of holiness and glorify God". And I saw that joyful image in both examples of Believers in the park that day.
     So, I just want to leave you with this final thought ... we should not elevate or glorify one kind of knowledge over another. Rather, we should embrace and seek both for the benefit of being fruitful for the Kingdom. Let us receive ALL that God has promised us in this holy relationship!

Jeremiah 33:3    Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you [and even show you] great and mighty things...


June 7, 2018

Finding Our Place In The Lord

     Today, I find myself being particularly introspective. Perhaps it's because of the experiences I have had with a variety of Believers through our Deliverance Ministry; or what the Holy Spirit is speaking to Mark and I. But I sense a real desire among people committed to Jesus to find their place "in Him".
    That phrase -- to be "in Christ", or to be "in the Lord" -- is such an intrinsic part of the New Testament Gospel, occurring 164 times in the letters of Paul alone. But what does it mean, and how do we get there? Scripture tells us that He abides [dwells, continues, persists] in us, and we, in Him. If I may simplify this concept, I think it means that we have a relationship with the Lord that is so intimate and personal, that we are necessary parts of a whole. We are codependent on Jesus, if that is acceptable to you.
     But, as I go through my own process of uniting with Christ, I am aware that my fellow Believers are each uniquely involved in their own discovery of where they fit "in Him". As we so often hear these days, Christians are struggling with their identities in Christ. Trying to figure out who you are, and your purpose in life, is a universal effort for everyone as they grow into their maturity. But it is particularly sensitive for Christians because I think we feel we are supposed to automatically be confident in who we are -- it comes with the territory the moment we recognize Christ as our Savior, right?
     But as I meet all kinds of people who love the Lord -- whether through ministry or friendships -- it is becoming apparent that the Holy Spirit is working through individual lives to renew what it means to know your identity in Christ. Let me see if I can make this statement a little clearer ... For so long, so many of us have been trained that our identities derive from Church doctrine based primarily on the writings of Paul. But we must remember that Paul had a specific purpose -- he was assigned with the task of teaching the early church how to distinguish themselves from the unbelieving cultures [and nations] around them; to move from a self-centered, carnal existence to a unified body of believers that could represent a new governing body on earth: the kingdom of God. It was necessarily a corporate model where believers found uniformity and strength in a unified body.
     Now I am seeing that the Holy Spirit is calling believers to their personal identities! As the time of Jesus's return nears, it seems as if the Spirit is calling people to personal account; what are we doing for the Kingdom? Because I will tell you that I have been discouraged by the lack of work for the Kingdom on the part of the corporate Church. And I'm not the only one. Individuals are not being fulfilled or fed within the Church walls to bring in the harvest of the Lord. People are no longer satisfied to be identified by a denomination or their "Church family". The Spirit is awakening a desire within the hearts of believers to walk closer to Jesus and to experience the spiritual gifts that Paul says are the right of every Believer.
     And when you consider how many times Jesus spoke to the hearts of individuals, we see that He does have a purpose for each individual in His Kingdom. He not only spoke to huge crowds, but ministered directly to the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, Jairus, Lazarus, the thief on the cross, and countless others that are not recorded in Scripture. And I think we find it difficult to find that kind of recognition within the corporate model. In fact, I think it is hard to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit if there is no encouragement to find your own path in the Kingdom. After all, we are each uniquely crafted to serve the King, and it would be wonderful if our uniqueness was commended and enthusiastically praised as a significant part of the whole Body. Unfortunately, we often find that if we don't fit within the "accepted" pattern of our corporate community, we are relegated to the back row, or even more sadly, ignored.
     That's why I think we are seeing more individuals moving away from the corporate building in search for their relevance in the Kingdom through their personal experiences with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I see the King validating them in the role He would have them play in advancing His Kingdom; leading them and teaching them to walk in a specific assignment He has given them; THEN uniting them with others who are walking in their own unique Kingdom identities. In this way, each member of the Body of Christ is truly walking in close relationship with Jesus, and validated by Him, while excited to join with others in mutual encouragement and harmony. That is what I think the Church was designed to be!
     So, I want to encourage each and every one of you that you are uniquely and wonderfully made to serve our King, Jesus! He has known you from the foundations of the world and has determined that you were to be here, in this very place and time, connected to Him through His Holy Spirit who is eager to guide you and counsel you on what you bring to the Kingdom. Make HIM your priority in all you do and say. See HIM when you look in the mirror. And listen for HIS voice to tell you who you are. The identity the devil wants to give you is a lie. The identity the world wants to give you is false. And the identity the Church has assigned you may be incomplete. When you can walk in the fullness of your identity as a Child of the Living God; unique in your purpose and assignment, and in peace and harmony with your fellow heirs of the Kingdom, then you will have truly found your place in the Lord. Rest in that!

Romans 8:28     So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are His lovers who have been called to fulfill His designed purpose.

June 4, 2018

Uncleanness, Regeneration, & "The Internet of Things"

    I'm going to tell you, right off the bat, that I'm not sure why the Holy Spirit is connecting these seemingly disparate concepts, but I'm going to just go where He is leading me, and pray that it makes some kind of sense at the end of this post.... and that you don't think I've gone completely off the deep end!
     You know when a thought or idea comes from out of nowhere and you're not sure why it is suddenly being brought into focus? Well, that happened to me when a dear reader began an email conversation about taking another look at Genesis 6:1-5. These few verses have caused perhaps more confusion and misinformation among the Body of Christ than any other Scripture -- yet they are at the foundation of so much of what Jesus prophecies and what we see happening on the earth today.
    This reader was expressing her consternation that the Body of Christ overwhelmingly ignores these verses, and very often just skips over them without seeking to understand their meaning. As I was contemplating her thoughts and reviewing the implications of this Genesis passage, I recalled Jesus's words regarding "unclean spirits". In Matthew 12, He says, Now when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through waterless (dry, arid) places in search of rest, but it does not find it. Then in Mark, Chapter 5, Scripture tells us the story of the Gerasene demoniac [or as he is more commonly known, the Gadarene madman]. The Word specifically says, When Jesus got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. 
     Various translations of the Bible use "demon" or "evil spirit" in place of "unclean spirit". But my mind began connecting the dots as I discerned that what Jesus was seeing and speaking about was connected back to Genesis 6. Let me show you how I got there.... and for the sake of keeping this post focused on my original topic, I am not going to give my complete explanation of Genesis 6. And for the purpose of staying on track with this post, let me just say that based on the Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew), Genesis 6:2-4 reads, "that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and desirable; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose and desired ...  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them."  Here, "sons of God" are not earthly men, but as translated from Hebrew (Bene Ha Elohim), it means "angels of God". Therefore, I do not subscribe to the "Sethite theory" that this verse is referring to the offspring of Adam's son Seth, who procreated with earthly women and bore the giants called the Nephilim. No! Scripture means what it says ... "angels of God" (fallen angels) saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, mated with them and created a hybrid race of angel/human beings that were not what God designed or planned. [For a more detailed debate on the Fallen Angel vs. Sethite theories, read my blog post from 2014 by clicking here.] Furthermore, how does a normal human man and woman produce children that become "men of renown" (demi-gods)? And the extra-Biblical Book of Enoch [which is referenced in Jude, 2 Peter and John) states And the women became pregnant, and they bare large giants, whose height was three hundred cubits (450 feet tall)!
     Moving on ... the Nephilim were the subsequent offspring of fallen angels and human women. Since these creatures were not made in the image of God, when they died they could not return to the Father [who is pure]; but rather their spirits were left to wander the earth in the form of demons, or evil spirits, or "unclean" spirits. The Holy Spirit made this so abundantly clear to me when I understood the meaning of unclean according to the Hebrew and Greek. "Unclean" in Hebrew means to be contaminated, polluted, foul, opposite of pure. In the Greek, it is interpreted as being filthy or impure. These same spirits are still upon the earth and present today; polluted and corrupted [impure hybrids] -- perfect tools to be used by the Enemy to torment the true children of God.
      But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, what happens to us, as humans, when we accept Christ as our Savior? We are regenerated, just as Titus 3:5 says: He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but because of His own compassion and mercy, by the cleansing of the new birth (spiritual transformation, regeneration) and renewing by the Holy Spirit.  In essence, we are "re-gened", if that makes sense. We are restored to the divine image of our Father; there is a new birth that takes place. And Christian scientists are now seeing changes in the DNA of people who have gone from Sinner to Redeemed! 
     Let's continue ... how are Uncleanness and Regeneration connected to this term, "The Internet of Things"? First of all, you might want to take a look at a post I wrote in 2015, titled "The Terasem Movement, Second Life, & The Rise of the New Nephilim". I know, I know ... it all sounds like a bad science fiction movie title --- but it is all too real and being played out before our very eyes! And I do not write this to exploit radical conspiracy theories. On the contrary, I believe our God is greater than any of Satan's diabolical plans. Rather, I am being prompted by the Holy Spirit to remind Christians not to take their eyes off these schemes, even as we grow in our knowledge and practice of Kingdom living. We must be aware of all the fronts we face in our spiritual battles.

     So.... just what is "The Internet of Things"? It is defined as follows: The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Sounds like a bunch of geeky technology language, right? But my spirit discerns that it is just the progression of Ray Kurzweil's theory of "Singularity", which is the point at which machines, intelligence, humans (and yes, animals) would merge -- i.e., Transhumanism -- or when machines, animals, and humans will have the ability to interface or interact (merge).  
     Does anyone else see the danger in that? Or can you hear the warnings of this present danger mirrored in the following Scriptures? In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus says, " For it will be exactly like it was in the days of Noah when the Son of Man appears. Before the flood, people lived their lives eating, drinking, marrying, and having children. They didn’t realize the end was near until Noah entered the ark, and then suddenly, the flood came and took them all away in judgment. It will happen the same way when the Son of Man appears".  Also, in Revelation 18, John reports hearing an angel thunder from Heaven, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a demonic dwelling place, a prison for every unclean spirit, unclean bird, and every unclean, detestable beast. All the nations have drunk of the wine of her immoral passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and merchants of the earth have grown wealthy because of her power and luxury.
     Both passages speak of the polluted, impure, foul, and unclean state of mankind in the Last Days. Jesus warns that the same activities that took place in the days of Noah before the flood will occur again before He returns. Heaven, itself, warns in the last Book of the Bible that mankind will become drunk with their power and wealth from the ability to create unclean hybrids. If you pay close attention to the news, they are already mixing animal genes in our vaccines, merging man and machine in Artificial Intelligence, and even exploring implantable smartphones and uploading our brains to the Cloud. None of this preserves us as being made in the image of God!
     So, while I do not advocate turning our attention away from our Commission of advancing the Kingdom, I clearly discern that the Holy Spirit does not want us to ignore these warning signals of "the days of Noah". The direction the world is taking will surely affect the next generations and we must not abdicate our responsibility to war in the spirit for them.  So make sure you have your spiritual armor in place and ask the Holy Spirit for supernatural discernment of what is coming against us in the coming years. It has been several years since these "unclean" technological developments have captured the headlines, but do not be lulled into complacency. Yes, we are being directed to advance the Kingdom, but we have not been told to stand down from guarding against the unholy machinations and inventions of men. 
     I apologize if this topic seems out of character from my normal message. I do not feel called to make this a priority, but I will always listen to the Holy Spirit's prompting and speak from my heart. So, just receive this warning and continue to listen to the Spirit in your own lives. He will not lead us astray. As the song from the Christian band, Mercy Me, says, "Lead me through the darkness. Lead me through the unknown. Oh, Lead me, Holy Ghost"! Blessings to you all, in the Mighty Name of Jesus! Amen!

Luke 21:28    And at last, when you see how the Son of Man comes—surrounded with a cloud, with great power and miracles, in the radiance of his splendor, and with great glory and praises—it will make you jump for joy! For the day of your full transformation has arrived.

June 1, 2018

A Fresh Look At The Church And Deliverance

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free [deliver] all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.  (Hebrews 2:14-15) 

      I've made it no secret that I see Jesus's ministry on earth as the role model [and evidence] for the ministry of Deliverance and Inner Healing. As He stated [and I have reiterated countless times], He "came to set the captives free". And what did He set us free from? Ultimately, Death and the fear of dying, as the verses in Hebrews state. And why are we subject to Death? It's the debt we owe God for our sinful nature; paid for by the blood of Christ on the Cross.
     But there are other aspects of the "sin slavery" that He delivers us from, too. We see that in the four Gospels: He is able to deliver us from sickness -- sickness that invades the body, the soul, and the spirit. We can be delivered of physical illnesses, demonic torments to our minds and emotions, and wounds to our spirits [caused by our own sins, or those who have sinned against us].
     The Early Church recognized the full spectrum of what Jesus came to do and pay for. But down through the centuries, that message has been diluted and reduced to "being saved from eternal death". Maybe it's time we take another [closer] look at what the Bible has to say, and the factors that hinder our belief in the validity of Deliverance today.
     Let me start by saying that I love it when I stumble across the writings or a podcast from another Christ-follower whose revelation from Scripture supports what God has put on my heart. And when that person is unafraid of being criticized for standing up for what he or she believes is God's Truth [and can back it up with Scripture], then I am willing to listen. So I was excited when I heard a recent show by New York Pastor Alexander Pagani. He is, to say the least, unconventional in his history -- born in the Bronx and Saved in prison -- just the kind of "misfit" that Jesus found to be so useful in sharing His message. But the Pastor presented a very insightful argument for why the Modern Church has such a problem with Deliverance. And because I have experienced some of the same resistance, I wanted to take another look at our combined experiences and share some of my additional thoughts on the subject.
    Let me be clear, there are many reasons that modern day Christian leaders and their congregations do not embrace Deliverance.  And one of the most insidious hindrances to the freedom that Deliverance brings is Legalism.  I suppose this shouldn't be such a surprise when one considers that the language of the Bible centers a lot around legal terms --- debt; judgment; redemption (The act of freeing someone by paying a purchase price); justification (a legal term that describes a spiritual transaction where God [the JUDGE] declares those who trust in Christ and what He has done for them on the Cross to be acceptable before Him); and of course, "The Law", which is most purposefully expressed through "the Law of Moses" (the Ten Commandments and includes the many rules of religious observance given in the first five books of the Old Testament).
     But, when considered Biblically, the Law of Moses is quite strict and comes with consequences; it didn't center around the love of God, from the standpoint that He had to institute some strict boundaries to cleanse the Israelites from the idolatry and paganism they experienced during 430 years in Egypt.  It was a system of religious responses based on human actions. Think, "An eye for an eye". Deliverance, on the other hand, is a legal exchange, not a religious experience. Today, in the 21st Century, and due to God's immense love for us, our debt for sin was paid for on the Cross, and our rescue, or deliverance, or redemption are all legal transactions where Jesus trades His Blood for our freedom.  
     But here's what modern legalism in the Church gets us: we still tend to blame the flesh when it could be a demon contributing to our sin. And here's how the devil uses that mindset to deceive the Church: he either convinces the Church that he doesn't exist; or convinces the Church that demons don't exist. An argument I often hear is that those who believe in Deliverance see a demon around every corner. But I agree with Pastor Pagani, who says, "That warning is misdirected. We don't blame the devil or demons enough!"
    Once again legalism in the church is a tool that the Enemy uses to corrupt the real legal aspect of our Deliverance. If we accept that "legal ground" is the permission to act, then we Christians need to be cognizant of the grounds by which we legally give the devil the right to act in our lives -- among the most prominent are overt SIN; participation in the OCCULT; UNFORGIVENESS; and the LIES we believe from the Enemy. 
     Depression, Doubt, Guilt, Fear, Anger, Shame, Unbelief, Lust, Pornography, Addiction, etc., etc. are all manifestations of legal ground given to the devil. If we want to remove these spiritual strongholds from our lives, then we have to remove the legal ground they claim. How do you do that? By confessing your sins, forgiving debts, renouncing the lies the Enemy whispers, and cancelling those claims in the Name of Jesus and by His Blood. Legalism in the Church will see those defeated seasons in your life as "suffering" for Christ-- you must work harder at overcoming your sinful state. But Deliverance, in the true model of Christ, sees Jesus doing the work because of the love of the Father. 
     There is another element in the Church that is closely tied to Legalism when it comes to the role of Deliverance in the Church. It's called Tradition. I often wonder.... is the Church willing to receive a "fresh wind of revelation"? I am always amazed at the willingness of some Christians to cling to some denominational doctrine that does not speak to the season and age in which we live. Why is it so difficult to consider that God's revelation has been progressing through the ages? That He reveals more and more of Himself as He blows fresh winds of revelation into our modern circumstances?
     Let me ask you a question ... Has how we respond to the common cold progressed or evolved through the years? Do we still prescribe to Ben Franklin's theory of sleeping naked with the windows open to remove "the putrid air of a closed room" as the way to avoid a cold? Or have we progressed to the use of decongestants, cough suppressants, antihistamines, washing our hands, and doses of Vitamin C as viable solutions? The point I'm trying to make is that if some methods of relieving the common cold are in need of being updated, can we at least agree that our Church models for relieving the effects of sin in our lives may need to be updated, too? 
     Now, let's go another step or two with this concept. Look how technology has advanced in just our lifetimes. The rapid expansion of technology reaching into our lives has skyrocketed. From the rotary phone of my childhood to the Smartphone that is a mini-computer in your hand, the human race has progressed in their knowledge and abilities. Don't you think that Satan, who is a counterfeiter, has been able to evolve his methods of spiritual attack to match the speed with which we are learning how to war in the spirit through Deliverance? My point here being that just as we have updated our medical protocols, perhaps we should be paying attention to updating our models of Deliverance, too -- that is, if our Church is even doing Deliverance!

     I will tell you that since the Lord brought this ministry to Mark and I a short four years ago, we have seen the discovery of ever more sinister ways in which the devil and his demons have contrived to keep people in bondage. Simply rebuking a demon and casting it out may not be enough anymore to stop the devil's torment. Just as mankind is exploring genetic manipulation, so is the Enemy. Just as our wireless devices connect at different frequencies, the devil has found a way to corrupt those frequencies for his evil purposes. I know this may all sound like nothing you've read in the Bible, but that's where we have to make sure that we don't let the religious mindset of Tradition and traditional understanding leave us unguarded and unprepared to battle in the spirit.
    As Pastor Pagani said in his thick Bronx accent, "Tradition makes us get stuck on the Black letters on the white pages [in the Bible]. The white is the essence of the Bible!" In other words, don't just cling to the outward appearance of Scripture, but seek to understand the substance; the heart of the passage; the essence! Remember, that when accused of breaking the traditions of the Sabbath by healing a man on that holy day, Jesus's response was, Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. 
     We are living in an ever-changing world. And the devil is matching us step for step. He is never going to quit trying to kill, steal, or destroy our lives in Christ. So that means his methods of torment and devouring are advancing as rapidly as our existence. We must be ever mindful to not give up legal ground, or get stuck in outdated traditions that give the Enemy of God the opportunity to take our freedom [in Christ] that our Lord paid for.  It's not too late to get updated on how to bring in the Lord's harvest. We laborers can use the help!

Galatians 5:1     "Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past".


May 29, 2018

The Kingdom and Grace

     This post is the result of some questions I've been asking myself and, consequently, the search through Scripture for the answers. First of all, I would like to state that I am, in no way, questioning the veracity of the Bible, but my goal has been simply to understand it at a higher level. In seeking those answers, my faith in God's Word is even more secure.  And I believe that is pleasing to God ... It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out (Proverbs 25:2).
     Sooo, here is where my search has led me... as I continue with my constant re-reading of the Bible, I am amazed at the new points of interest and significant considerations that are brought to my mind. For instance, how many times have I read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Yet, each time, a new concept jumps out at me that I had thought I understood, but I find myself gaining new insight that adds to my growing relationship with Jesus. After all, He is the subject of these four different points of view of His earthly ministry.
     In my latest readings of these synoptic Gospels, the Holy Spirit has shined His light on the importance of Jesus's good news that the Kingdom of God has invaded the kingdom of Satan here on earth. Furthermore, these scriptures reveal Jesus as our role model of how to do "kingdom living". He inaugurated the pattern we are to follow, and He made it clear that He if we call ourselves His followers, He expects us to carry on [and establish] the work He did. So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from Him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly (Matthew 6:33).
     But now my reading has taken me past Jesus's death and resurrection; past the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the commencement of the Church, and into the pastoral letters of Paul. I will tell you that I am reading them with new spiritual eyes and am building on my understanding of God's plan of redemption for mankind. But as I stated at the beginning, my study has not come without questions.

     I admit that I initially struggled with the profusion of letters [from Paul] about the Gospel of God's Grace, and the theology and ethics of "Church living". Riding a high of new understanding on what Jesus meant by "Kingdom living", I will admit that I wanted more from Paul on the teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of God and Heaven being near and what that looked like for us. Looking at the Church and the Body of Christ today, I was thinking that we have forgotten Jesus's commandments to love the Father and our neighbors by following His commandments to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers [the spiritually unclean], raise the dead, and preach the good news that the Kingdom was here. 
     We have forgotten His commandments to set the captives free from the bondage the devil has us in. And I can see the results of that lapse in our obedience to Him in the lives of countless Christians and unbelievers. Instead, I am seeing the Church focus on reveling in God's favor and grace [which is certainly a blessing], while seeing so many Christians suffering in silence due to their lack of knowledge of the authority and power Jesus brought to us with His Kingdom gospel. So, I kept coming back to the question of why Paul spends so much time writing about how the Church is to conduct itself, when there is such a need for Christ's message of freedom?
     While that question plagued me, I also knew that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and the Holy Spirit had something to teach me in this moment; some greater truth that I needed to dig for. And I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, that I have uncovered all that He wants to teach me, but I think I have begun to uncover some more of the magnificence of God. 
     I had to step back and look at what God was trying to accomplish on His redemptive timeline when these books of the Bible were written. [I will admit that I sometimes get myopic when reading the Word, thinking that it only applies to me in this narrow span of time that is my life]. Yes, the Word is to speak to all mankind across the course of history, but there was a specific purpose for Paul, and a specific purpose for his writings for that time. And they do not come in conflict with the Gospel of the Kingdom!
     My meditation on these concepts of Kingdom and Grace came to a head, so to speak, when the Holy Spirit revealed the connecting link of RIGHTEOUSNESS. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6 about first seeking the Kingdom [of God]? Well, I bet most Christians are like me and they stop right there. We are stunned that we've never been taught about seeking the benefits and power and authority that Jesus brought with Him when He instituted the Kingdom in this earthly realm. So we focus on getting up to speed on that new Truth. But look more closely at what Jesus said ... Seek first (chase after) God's Kingdom AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT PROCEEDS FROM HIM. 
     Yes, we are to walk in the power and authority delegated to us from our position in Christ -- our spirits are seated in the heavenly realms with Him. But we are to also live righteous lives as modeled by Him. That righteousness is a recurring theme in Paul's letters. His writings reflect his assignment to tie that concept of righteous living with our position in the Kingdom of God. Over and over he makes this point: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).... [Timothy] will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go..I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power (1 Corinthians 4:17-21) .... Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9)?

     And perhaps one of the clearest explanations connecting the Kingdom of God and righteous living is found in Ephesians 5:1-7: Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as His beloved sons and daughters. And continue to walk surrendered to the extravagant love of Christ, for He surrendered His life as a sacrifice for us. His great love for us was pleasing to God, like an aroma of adoration—a sweet healing fragrance. And have nothing to do with sexual immorality, lust, or greed—for you are His holy ones and let no one be able to accuse you of them in any form. Guard your speech. Forsake obscenities and worthless insults; these are nonsensical words that bring disgrace and are unnecessary. Instead, let worship fill your heart and spill out in your words. For it has been made clear to you already that the kingdom of God cannot be accessed by anyone who is guilty of sexual sin, or who is impure or greedy—for greed is the essence of idolatry. How could they expect to have an inheritance in Christ’s kingdom while doing those things?
     As I allowed my spirit to meditate on these letters to the various churches, it became clearer to me. Paul's proliferation of writings on righteous living and conduct within the newly planted churches was meant to uphold and fortify the Kingdom of God that had infiltrated this realm; not to replace the purpose of that kingdom's appearance.
     I firmly believe that Jesus's commands to heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. was an established foundation of each church's duties as Christ-followers. (As my wise husband suggested, "Paul assumed each church already knew the Great Commission as assigned by Christ"). Paul's unique assignment was to teach these new followers to walk in the love and grace that Jesus exhibited, at the same time that they walked in the power of the Kingdom that He brought. We must remember that at this time Paul was involved in new churches being planted among Gentiles; people who were not knowledgeable of Yahweh and His moral laws as the nation of Israel had been. His letters to these churches were constant reminders to live this new way of life or forfeit their inheritance of being a part of the Kingdom of God. And today, it is a reminder to us that we are to live by those same standards.
     For all this to work in concert together, it is important to remember that although the Kingdom of God has been fulfilled on earth [realized and achieved with the First Coming of Jesus], it has not yet been consummated [completed, finished]. That will happen when Jesus returns to judge the righteousness of men [as stated in Acts 17:31]. At the time Paul was writing to these new churches, it was not enough to recognize the power [of the Kingdom] in which Jesus had come. It was also necessary to make men aware that walking in His righteousness was part of the package that guaranteed their inheritance in that Kingdom. Today, we need to be just as cognizant of both -- and walking in both. Somehow, we have lost the first part of that equation and today we only focus on Paul's warnings about how to conduct "church living". The coming of the Age of Grace does not take the place of the coming of the Kingdom and our power and authority. In other words, it does not eliminate our assignment to do "Kingdom living" and all that Jesus modeled in healing and deliverance. I believe it is time to receive the full counsel of God. It is not His Kingdom message versus His message of Grace. Rather, it's a dual concept; they are dependent on one another. And what we inherit in eternity as Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom depends on us doing both. 

Acts 20:24-27    "But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know". [Paul's message to the elders of the church of Ephesus]. 



May 26, 2018

Memorial Day: A New Appreciation

     This is the long weekend that we Americans mark as a time of remembrance and recognition of military service to our country. We have a long tradition in our nation's history of honoring those who have fought and died to secure our freedoms. Memorial Day originated in the years after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in battle and was known as Decoration Day, when the graves of the dead were decorated with flowers. After World War I, however, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, and graves are now decorated with American flags, and recognition of service is now extended to all our military, both living and deceased.
     I wanted to take the time this year to share my new perspective on this national holiday. As I've written before, I am the proud daughter of a World War II veteran, who enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 (with parental consent) after Pearl Harbor. He served in the Pacific as a tail-gunner in the Lockheed PV Ventura, a low-level bomber. He was always proud of his service, though he didn't share any of his experiences; typical of that generation. I have always viewed Memorial Day as an opportunity to honor him and the men and women who have volunteered to serve in every war since.
    But this past year has brought newfound appreciation for what this day should mean to all of us. You see, this past year I had the honor to serve on a team with extraordinary women veterans as part of a Christian Warriors Retreat. These women included veterans from the Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm) and the ongoing War on Terror (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom). The retreat involved older veterans mentoring younger veterans, and covered all branches of the military. While they shared an identity as combat veterans, these women were seeking a common bond in their identity as Daughters of Christ. And I witnessed both the struggles and the victories of that co-mingling of identities in my Sisters.
     As non-military (I served as a Team Leader and Assistant Spiritual Director), I could not relate to their military experiences, but I could sympathize with them as women. Everything that the Enemy of this world has crafted against women to kill, steal, or destroy the beauty and magnificence of who God created them to be is intensified in the military. I will not share specific testimonies, but I will tell you that although PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has become a term relegated to the military, it is a spiritual attack on anyone who has suffered a traumatic event and is in need of Jesus's saving healing and deliverance. As one of our female veterans exclaimed, "Pain is pain is pain!" She was making the point that we all suffer from the devil's attacks on our lives and these women needed to recognize that they had a higher identity than their military service. That's not to say that they shouldn't be proud of [or acknowledged for] their service, but that whatever their life's history, inside or outside of the military, their identity as the Bride of Christ was a truer identity.
     I cannot tell you how my enduring relationships with these amazing women has changed my life. As I think about the people across this country celebrating Memorial Day, I honor these brave women who have done extraordinary things for our country, and I am blessed with the richness of their friendships, grounded in a Sisterhood of growing love and obedience to our Savior. And as I contemplate their impact on my life, I am struck by two concepts: the constant use of "remembrance" in the Bible; and the history of women warriors in the Bible that saved the nation of Israel. 
     The Hebrew word for "remembrance" is Zakar.  It means to "remember; think of; mention".  We see it in the Bible passages in the Old Testament: God remembered Noah.... God remembered Abraham... I (God) have remembered My covenant.... remember the Sabbath Day... remember His marvelous works.  Then there is the Hebrew word for memorial, which is Zikrown; a memorable thing, day, or writing. It should be obvious that remembering and memorials are important to God: for instance, after crossing the River Jordan into the Promised Land, God instructed the Israelites to build a memorial to what He had done for them. 
     Today and this weekend, it is important to remember what God has done in our lives; the people whom He has worked through in our lives; the experiences He has brought us through --- when these remembrances are shared among the brethren, it builds our faith, just as God intended those ancient memorials to do. And that is exactly what I have experienced this past year with my Sisterhood of women warriors.
     Just like the Biblical heroine Deborah, these women military veterans are leaders. Although Deborah is most often understood to have been a Judge among the nation of Israel, it didn't mean the same as it does now. In the Bible, a "judge" was a tribal leader who, in times of peace had the authority to settle disputes. And in times of war, they were the rallying point to gather the tribes and organize resistance. Judges were seen as "God's people" and their gender was unimportant.
     That is exactly how I see this Sisterhood of veterans. All these women walk in their authority as Disciples of Jesus. They walk as leaders who know their true identities, and they are growing into a viable rallying point in their families and communities to organize resistance against the devil. They know who their real Enemy is, and it is not in some foreign land. They also know whose Army they fight in, and under whose flag they march. Although I have never taken the oath of allegiance to our nation as they have, we have all taken an oath to serve our Mighty King and march behind the flag of Jehovah Nissi, the banner that is our rallying point for the power of God to destroy the Kingdom of darkness.
     So, this Memorial Day, I am reminded of the respect [I have always felt] for those who have fought in our nation's historical wars. I honor the sacrifices that have been made and I vow to always remember what my freedom in this world has cost the men and women who answered the call to serve. But this Memorial Day is different from last year's. This year, I have a newfound awareness of what the Biblical and heavenly perspective of this day has for me. I am deeply honored to be in the company of men and women who embody this world's identification of "soldier", but more importantly, they manifest the character, discipline, loyalty, and obedience of a spiritual warrior in God's army. Although I have centered this blog post around my experiences with these amazing female veterans, the founder of Christian Warrior's Retreat is a man that I greatly admire; he has a heart to serve God and share the restoration that the love of Christ brought to his life. Because of that saving grace of God in his life, I reaped the benefits of serving on the first female veteran retreat.
     So, I want to thank the Lord for creating these Divine appointments in my life. I am blessed and favored beyond description. And I have found a Sisterhood that lifts me, inspires me, supports me, teaches me, and loves me. I thank you all for your service to our nation and to God's Kingdom! 

To Nick and his wife Nicki; to Valerie, Molly, Cathy, Gloria, Mary, Dona, Sherrae, Louise, LaTisha, Liza, Nalleli, Maricruz, and Alissa; to Wanda, Debbie, Karalyn and Loretta; and to all the "team" -- it was a privilege to experience retreat with you and I bless each of you with continued service to our glorious God!

Psalm 103:2   Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness You’ve done for me?