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


August 18, 2018

Our Authority, Free Will, and Faith

     I praise God that more and more Christians are coming to the knowledge of the Power and Authority given to us by Jesus Christ. But as we in modern Christianity tend to do, we take a Biblical concept and mold it to our Western way of thinking. And especially, here in America, we have a streak of self-determination and independence running through our DNA. Unfortunately, that tends to bleed over into how we walk out our Biblical authority.
     First, let us establish that Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Next, we should understand that He gave His power and authority to all who believe (Mark 13:34). Then we need to clearly see that Jesus modeled for the Body of Christ how we are to walk in that authority. He only did what He saw the Father doing in Heaven (John 5:19); and He only said what the Father told Him to say (John 12:49-50).  How many of us Christians can say we are obedient to Christ's model?  Do we even understand the consequences if we are disobedient?
     Well, let me tell you, that walking outside of our authority is a sure-fire way to run into spiritual trouble. Because besides our authority to exercise the power of God, our Father has given us another important little gift ... our free will. And when our will takes precedence over His Will, we are headed down a dangerous path.
     I do not write this to scare anyone from being bold for the Lord. There are times our authority will take us into some risky territory. But if we follow Jesus's model, we will be walking where our Father has laid out our path, and we will only be proclaiming what His Spirit communicates to our spirit. Any deviation from that, and we're asking for trouble.
     I can confidently say that, because I have acted out of my own free will and regretted it. I have seen a direction the Lord wanted me to go, but I got out ahead of Him and let my soul overtake my spirit, expressing what my mind was dictating and allowing my emotions to take charge, instead of listening for the Lord's clear instructions.  But I have also "ministered to people who took on assignments they determined would glorify the Lord. The problem was, He didn't tell them to go there or to strike the first blow. Those self-appointed assignments led to a season of paranoia and fear for one; and serious health threats for another -- until they realized that they had not received those marching orders from the Lord, and they repented for their disobedience and moved back into alignment with God's calling on their lives.
     "We must remember that "the battle is the Lord's -- not ours! Without God's specific authority to do something, we can find that we hurt ourselves more than advance His Kingdom. Probably the most familiar instance of not exercising our authority properly is the story of the seven sons of Sceva found in Acts 19:13-16, Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”  Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. The seven sons of the priest, Sceva, were sincere in their desire to do the work of the Lord. Problem was, He hadn't given them instructions to take on that assignment.
     Perhaps the clearest picture of someone in the Bible who understood how Christ's authority worked and how to exercise it was the Centurion in Matthew, Chapter 8: But the Roman officer interjected, “Lord, who am I to have you come into my house? I understand your authority, for I too am a man who walks under authority [and have authority over soldiers who serve under me]. I can tell one to go and he’ll go, and another to come and he’ll come. I order my servants and they’ll do whatever I ask. So I know that all you need to do is to stand here and command healing over my servant and he will be instantly healed.” The Centurion understood that Jesus walked under the authority of His Father. He also knew that he was capable of authority, but in this instance recognized that it was Jesus's authority that would heal his servant. And his faith that Jesus's authority [from Heaven] was so great that Jesus could heal from afar, earned instant healing for the servant. This was a man who understood the Heavenly Source and foundational principles of how Jesus's authority worked!
     So here is another fundamental truth in the Bible: our spiritual authority is accessed through our faith; and the level of our faith determines how much authority we carry. Consider this .... In Mark 9 and Matthew 17 we have the account of the boy with seizures who was not healed by the Disciples. The father of the boy said the Disciples were not strong enough. Strong enough in what? Their faith. In fact, when Jesus hears this, He calls them a "faithless people [generation]". The father then tells Jesus, " if you’re able to do something, anything—have compassion on us and help us!” Jesus responds, "What do you mean IF?" and goes on to explain that if one believes, anything is possible. The father declares that he believes but asks Jesus to help his "little faith". Jesus heals the boy, and His Disciples ask Him why they were unable to cast out the demon, and Jesus tells them that it is because of their lack of faith -- this demon requires prayer and fasting, which in the principles of Heavenly authority, requires a greater degree of faith.
     Now, let's fast forward to the Book of Acts. Christ has ascended into Heaven, and full authority has been bestowed upon the Disciples at Pentecost. Through their journey with Christ, they have advanced from using His authority as He trained them up, to now walking in their own authority as their faith has increased... The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade.  But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them.  Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.  As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by.  Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:12-16)
     Their faith had increased and now they were operating at such a high level of authority that Peter didn't even have to touch someone for them to be healed -- his shadow released the power of the healing from the Holy Spirit! And notice that when the crowds brought the sick and those possessed by evil spirits to the apostles, they were all healed.... evidence of great faith and authority.
     So, I hope that I've shown how important it is to listen to the Spirit when operating in our authority. We MUST follow Jesus's example and only take on the assignments we receive directly from the Father. When we are obedient to this principle, we have nothing to fear and the power of Heaven is behind us. Step out on our own, without clearance from God, and that free will decision is outside the Father's will. Secondly, as our faith grows, so will the measure of authority we walk in. Jesus has placed us in a position of authority, but the power of Heaven comes when our faith is indisputable.  It is so important that we walk in our  spiritual identity and power, with our spiritual eyes and ears firmly focused on Jesus .... being ever mindful of what He's telling us to say and do. If we can follow His model, just think of the impact we would have on the world!

Matthew 17:20     He told them, "It was because of your lack of faith. I promise you, if you have faith inside of you no bigger than the size of a small mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move away from here and go over there,’ and you will see it move! There is nothing you couldn’t do!"
     

     
    

August 15, 2018

Is Inner Healing Biblical?

     I've decided to take on this question because I have recently come to the conclusion that some in the Body of Christ may be confused regarding this issue. In our Deliverance Ministry, which involves inner healing by Jesus and Holy Spirit, I am beginning to run across devoted Christians who do not believe that Inner Healing is Biblical. I hear arguments that it has its roots in the occult, is part of New Age mysticism, and is an Anti-Christ doctrine.
     I am constantly amazed at how Christians view revelation from the Holy Spirit. Just because the words "inner healing" do not appear in Scripture, or you can't give Christians chapter and verse where Jesus says, "I want you to do Inner Healing as part of the Great Commission", then it is dismissed as deception and false teaching. But I would challenge those religious people to show me where "Trinity" is mentioned in Scripture; or "Sunday School". What about "Lent", or "the Rapture"?
     Arguments can certainly be made that the Bible reveals that God is three Persons in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But how is this concept derived? The title or words "Trinity" do not appear in our Bibles. Yet we are capable of understanding the concept of Trinity by taking the whole counsel of Scripture and receiving revelation of this Truth by filling our minds with God's Word and meditating upon it; having a heart willing to understand and obey. Yet mention "Inner Healing", and all kinds of labels are applied to you -- by other Christians!
     I have seen it written on popular Christian websites that God wants to free us from sins of the past, but He doesn't need "visualization techniques" or "prolonged emphasis on the past to do so".  This website then goes on to say, "As we abide in Him (John 15:5) He transforms our hearts and heals us. But the key is to focus on the Lord, not focus on ourselves." I would like to offer the following Scriptures to show that God actually does use our imaginations to transform and heal us:

I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination ["innermost" heart], flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of His calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, His holy ones! (Ephesians 1:18)

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord: I will imprint My laws upon their minds [even upon their innermost thoughts and understanding], And engrave them upon their hearts [effecting their regeneration]. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people. (Hebrews 8:10)

     I will agree that God does not want us to dwell on the pain of our sins, or the sins committed against us. But I would like to point out that, first, the word "minds" in Hebrews 8:10 is the Greek word dianoia, which means "the exercise of using your mind for deep thoughts; imagination". Proceeding from there, if "the eyes of your imagination" is centered in the innermost part of your heart, as Ephesians 1:8 says, then Scripture is making a connection between our minds and our hearts, where "regeneration" takes place; where we are renewed and restored --- and our imaginations play a part in the renewing of our mind and heart.
     But I want to move on from here and establish that Inner Healing is actually modeled in the Bible by Jesus, and that He actually participates in each and every Deliverance session that we are involved in. Whenever Christians try to convince me that they do not see this concept in Scripture, I will point them to John 21, where Jesus heals Peter's broken heart.
     Remember that Peter had boasted that he loved Jesus more than any of the other Disciples and that he would never leave Jesus. Yet, within hours of making that claim, Peter [sitting by a fire outside the Temple walls] would deny he knew Jesus three times. Here, in John 21, the resurrected Christ appears to Peter, who is seated by a fire, and asks him three times if he loved Him. In essence, Jesus knew how to bring healing to Peter and remove the pain of his denial. Three times Peter denied Jesus, but three times he makes his confession of his deep love for Christ. By the third time, the “crowing rooster” inside Peter had been silenced, and now he was ready to be a shepherd for Jesus’ flock. He was regenerated, restored, and healed.
      Again, in John 4 we see Jesus interacting with the Samaritan woman at the well, and engaging in conversation with her, where He gently heals her from her past sins of multiple marriages, and most likely adultery. She has been shunned by her community and lives in shame and guilt, finding it necessary to come to the well in the heat of the day when she will not have to mingle with the rest of "polite society". But Jesus meets her where she's at, speaks to her about her sin, and tells her that what she's looking for [the Anointed One] is right there with her, and she can drink from His Living Water and never thirst [for acceptance] again. He then tells her, "From here on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit, and He longs to have sincere worshipers who worship and adore Him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.” Did you see that? He wants people to engage Him in the spirit realm! And this woman was healed of her shame and guilt as she shared the Good News of the Messiah with her city. God was faithful to use her to reach others because she was honest to tell others that Jesus knew everything she'd ever done and still loved her.
     But Jesus has ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, so we who are in the 21st Century don't have the blessing of having Him appear to us in the manner He did with Peter and the Samaritan woman. Yet, He does appear to each and every person who comes for ministry at our table! He is invited to be in our midst and He comes to them to heal and restore them, and He comes when they use the eyes of their innermost heart, their imagination. And He is real in that moment! He's every bit as real as when He appeared to Peter and the woman at the well!
    But the spirits of Doubt and Unbelief are alive and well in the Christian community. My fellow Believers are too willing to dismiss even these Biblical accounts of inner healing, because they have developed wrong theology about the impact of sin on the human experience -- the marks left on souls, hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies. They have developed wrong theology about suffering, the supernatural, and Biblical spirituality. In essence, they have developed a belief system that denies that Jesus can still heal today as He did in the Bible. But what hope does that kind of "religion" offer those who suffer from rage, anger, bitterness, self-loathing, shame, guilt, or any of a number of ways the Enemy attacks us? And I'm talking about both Believers and Unbelievers!
      So often in our Deliverance sessions, Unforgiveness is the root of wounded and shattered hearts, souls, and relationships. We see in Genesis 50, that the power of forgiveness can mend broken relationships as Joseph forgives his brothers for selling him into slavery, and extends the grace of God. Jesus establishes the need for forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer, and we have seen the miraculous effects of Him renewing the spirit of a person who has been bound in spiritual chains to Unforgivenss when the person is able to speak forgiveness over someone who has hurt them and release them to Jesus to be cleansed by His blood. 
     I believe that there is no better example of the need for Inner Healing in the Body of Christ than the story of Tamar. As you will recall in 2 Samuel 13, Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon, and then victimized a second time by her brother Absalom, who tells her to keep silent about it and "Do not take this to heart". Then the Bible says she remained secluded in her brother Absalom's house and "lived as a desolate woman".  Does the modern Church do the same thing -- expecting Christians to swallow their hurt and pain, and deny it? What does that do to people who carry these emotional and mental wounds? Do you think they might be living in desolation [misery and despair] even though they are saved?  And doesn't it do an injustice to our claims that we Christians walk in freedom? 
     In Isaiah 61, the prophet proclaims, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, To proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives, and freedom to prisoners". This is Old Testament prophecy of the ministry of Jesus to come. It is important we see that the Hebrew word for "broken-hearted" is shabar, which means "earthen vessels shattered in pieces"; and the Hebrew word for "bind" is chabash, meaning "to wrap firmly; to rule, to stop".
     Now take a Luke at what Jesus says in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,...". Here, the word for "brokenhearted" is the Greek word suntribo, meaning "harm inflicted by a quick blow [to an earthen vessel]"; and "heal" is the Greek word iaomai, meaning "spiritual healing, to make whole". He does more than "bind", He heals!
     I think it goes without saying that there are many among us who are earthen vessels who have been shattered to pieces by sin -- our own sin (as in Peter and the Samaritan woman) and sin that has been committed against us (as in the stories of Joseph and Tamar). But the important question becomes this:  Does Jesus want us to live in desolation or self-hatred or unforgiveness? Didn't He die to set us free from those bondages? And isn't it time we take a good look at our theology to see if we are denying Christ the opportunity to come to us and set us free? Take another look at those Scriptures in Ephesians and Hebrews. I believe that you will see that it is Biblical to use our imaginations to effect regenerated hearts, and it is all done by inviting Jesus and Holy Spirit to be present in our midst to help set us free. Jesus modeled it for us. It's time we recognize Inner Healing as Biblical, and walk in wholeness and complete freedom.

Matthew 11:28      Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life,  for I am your oasis.



    

August 12, 2018

Our Journey To Redemption

     If you have been following my blog over the last couple of weeks, you can probably tell that the Holy Spirit is guiding me to an expanded belief system. Having been led to a Deliverance Ministry by God, I have been challenged to see the human condition from His perspective, and to see the absolute necessity for Christians to understand the "spiritual mechanics" of how the Kingdom of Darkness tries to hinder our interface with the Kingdom of Light. But anyone whom the Lord has commissioned to get involved with Deliverance Ministry knows the inevitable arguments that come from the Body of Christ ... Christians can't have a demon; We have the Holy Spirit in us, and a demon can't occupy the same territory; Deliverance ministry is not for today. Jesus trained the disciples to do it, but that all ended when they died ... or any of a number of variations of these rationalizations.
     For a long time, I felt that I could adequately explain why I know that Mark and I have been called to this ministry, and my testimony went something like this: Yes, I agree that once we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and He cannot be defiled, so our spirit cannot be possessed by a demon, but both our body and our soul can be oppressed by a demon. I would then ask the following questions to the Doubter: How many saved Christians suffer from a sudden migraine headache, or herniated disks, or cancer? The answer I get is invariably some form of the following, "God is being glorified through that Christian’s infirmity and He wants to humble them so that they come closer to Him in their affliction. These suffering Christians just need more faith and prayer. God will fix them if it's His will".  I would then explain that God doesn't choose to hurt us so He can love us. These are examples of demonic powers oppressing the body.
     I would then ask how many saved Christians suffer from addiction to pornography, alcohol, or drugs? How many are involved in adulterous affairs or choose to engage in unethical business practices? How many saved Christians suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, or emotions that are out of control? Again the response I usually get is, "They just need to draw nearer to God and He will draw nearer to them" or the easier way out of this dilemma, "Then they probably weren't saved in the first place". It's as if they want to see the Father as a medicine cabinet God with a magic pill called Faith that makes all our hurts go away. So I would try to show them that these are examples of our soul -- our mind, our will, and our emotions -- being tormented by demonic forces. I was satisfied with the fact that our spirits couldn't be touched.
     Now before I go on, I want everyone to understand that these situations DO NOT mean that a Christian is not saved! But it does point to the very real possibility that their bodies and souls and spirits may be in torment, and guess what? That is not how God designed us to be! He wants us to draw waters of joy from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). It is never His desire or will that we be in pain, whether physical or spiritual! If at this point, anyone remains unmoved in their theological position, I would just ask them to consider the following: Do you believe the Bible when it says Jesus cast out demons? If the answer is yes, my next question is, "Do you think that when Jesus ascended to Heaven, that the demons said, 'Well, we might as well leave, too' "? If their answer is no, then my final inquiry is, "Then, do you think our Savior would leave us here for the last 2,000 years subject to these demons, without any way to fight back?" That train of thought almost always gives a Christian pause, and they will give Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance at least a modicum of consideration.
     In the past, I have always assured them their spirits were immune to any kind of defilement because, yes, our hearts were owned by the Holy Spirit. But God has been showing me that there is more to this spirit part of the equation. I am still holding onto the position that a true, born-again Christian cannot be possessed by a demon, but I believe God is showing me that our body, soul, AND spirit can be tormented, corrupted, and yes, even defiled by Satan's workers in the spirit realm.
     Now, before everyone goes screaming from the room, I want to be clear AGAIN that this does not mean that salvation has been lost. Let me say that in another way ... The Holy Spirit resides in us and will never leave us as He continually bears with us while we remain in our sinful ways. That's just where we are in the redemptive timeline of our journey. We continue to be cleansed by the Living Water of Christ [in us] as we continue to live in this foul world which inevitably soils us.
     Ephesians 4:30 tells us that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, some Christians take this to mean that our spirits cannot be defiled in our present state. But I like the way the Passion Translation gives us God's Truth: The Holy Spirit of God has sealed you in Jesus Christ until you experience your full salvation. So never grieve the Spirit of God or take for granted his holy influence in your life. God is Holy and cannot, Himself, be invested in our sin. But in His wisdom and love for us, He first has Christ bear our sin on the Cross, and then deposits the Holy Spirit in us to continue bearing with us until the day we are fully redeemed and saved at Christ's reappearance. It is that second sentence that we need to fully digest ... So never grieve the Spirit of God or take for granted his holy influence in your life. If we have been sealed [and therefore unable to be defiled], how is it possible to grieve the Holy Spirit after being sealed?
     I say all this because it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that we Christians can be defiled (contaminated; polluted; poisoned) in our daily lives as Satan attempts to steal, kill, and destroy parts of our bodies, ours souls and our spirits. Any part of us can become broken, even when the Holy Spirit resides in us. That is why Jesus sent Him; to counsel us, comfort us, advocate for us, intercede for us, and strengthen us -- to come alongside us and help us in those times we are being tormented by the Enemy. As I stated in my previous blog, Jesus longs to occupy the throne of our heart, having complete dominion over it, sharing it with no one else. And He places the Holy Spirit in the "Holy of Holies" portion of our heart, where we cannot be defiled. BUT, if Jesus does not own our whole heart, it becomes a battleground. The heart is the place where the Holy Spirit and our spirit commune in this earthly realm. If any part of our heart is not fully surrendered to Jesus, our spirit can be influenced in wrong ways.
     I do not think it is too difficult for Christians to understand that our hearts can be broken and shattered, as well as our bodies. But how many of us recognize that our spirits can be broken, too? I believe Psalm 51 shows the extent to which we can be broken in body, soul, and spirit. It is the cry of David to the Lord after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. I urge you to take the time to click on the link I have provided and read it. David asks for his soul and body to be restored: Make me hear joy and gladness and be satisfied; Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Then he pleads for his spirit: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me... Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit... My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.  
     Hopefully, I have made the case that the condition of our heart affects the health of our spirit. There is a connection between our heart and spirit as exemplified in Ezekiel 36:26, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you; and in Psalm 34:18, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. If the heart is broken or defiled, it crushes the human spirit. The only sacrifice that is acceptable to God is a broken spirit and a contrite heart, with the desire to be renewed and restored to a right standing with Him through surrender to Christ. That is our righteousness.
    So, I just want to leave you with this thought.... Do not doubt your salvation if you find your soul, body, or spirit shattered. It is not a question of your faith in the work of the Cross. I am just sharing what the Lord is showing me... the Holy Spirit residing in my heart is the guarantee of my salvation. But remember, our salvation is a progressive journey. I don't think I have ever heard it expressed better than on the website called Mainsail Ministries: The Holy Spirit is a permanent resident within us until Jesus comes again. We are sealed as if inserted into a Holy-Spirit-envelope that is addressed to Jesus. When He comes again to finish the work of redemption, we will no longer need this sealing. Why not? Because we will have Jesus Himself…again. 
     Why do we think that Jesus and the Holy Spirit continue to intercede for us, if it is not because we are transitioning into the image of Christ in our ongoing journey to reach the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness]. Until then, we are going to stumble and fall prey to the tactics of the Enemy to steal, kill and destroy our bodies, souls, and spirits. I believe that the Body of Christ needs to come into a fuller relationship with their human spirits. We tend to live out of our body and soul, while ignoring the spirit part of us, which is how Jesus and Holy Spirit commune with us! How can we ever expect to be free from the torments of the Enemy if our spirits are not encountering and experiencing Jesus from a clean heart? This redemptive journey is not an easy one from the flesh/soul standpoint; but if we can get in touch with our spirits the road is easier as we learn to walk in the path Jesus modeled; spirit to Spirit.

1 Peter 5:8-9    Be well balanced and always alert, because your enemy, the devil, roams around incessantly, like a roaring lion looking for its prey to devour. Take a decisive stand against him and resist his every attack with strong, vigorous faith. For you know that your believing brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing the same kinds of troubles you endure.

August 9, 2018

Keeping Our Mind(s) Focused On Christ

     In the last post, I introduced the concept that we actually have multiple minds. At first glance, that might not seem like such a good thing since the Bible clearly states that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). But what if I told you that we actually have three distinct minds because we are three-part beings? Furthermore, that this verse will make much more sense at the end of this post?
     We have to start with the truth that God designed us with three distinct parts: body, soul, and spirit. There are many verses in the Bible that establish this fact, but 1 Thessalonians 5:23 makes it irrefutable ... may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The body is obviously our flesh or physical structure; bones, marrow, and all our organs, including the most important one [from Jesus's standpoint], our heart. The soul is our mind, will and emotions; or put another way, our emotional and intellectual capacity coupled with our behavior. And of course, our spirit is made in the image of God, "according to His likeness" (Genesis 1:26); it is the actual breath of the Almighty in us and we have a spiritual personality with its own mind. In fact, our body has a mind, with which we are all quite familiar; and our soul has its own unique mind, too.   
     If all this is new and foreign-sounding to you, don't worry -- most Christians are unaware of this truth even though the Bible shows us that our soul, heart, and spirit have minds in addition to our physical mind. We are all aware that we have a conscious mind, which enables us to be aware of the world and our experiences in it. This conscious mind operates as an element of our soul (mind, will and emotions), working with our human brain (physical mind) to develop thoughts based on information we process. But can you see how that might cause us problems if these thoughts [from our soul] don't align with God's will for our lives? That's why Paul warns us not to operate out of our soul's mind in Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. When the worldly mind of our soul is renewed  -- focused anew on the mind and will of God -- then we can truly become transformed into His likeness, thinking from His mind's perspective.

     Now, let's consider the mind of our heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our heart because "out of it flow the springs of life". The heart is of utmost importance to our Savior. He longs to occupy the throne of our heart, having complete dominion over it, sharing it with no one else. And He places the Holy Spirit in the "Holy of Holies" portion of our heart, where we cannot be defiled. BUT, if Jesus does not own our whole heart, it becomes a battleground. The Spirit of God feeds spiritual insight into the heart, and the soul feeds carnal information into the heart. Then the subconscious mind of our heart processes that information and determines our reality and our identity. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he".  We are not even conscious of our heart's mind, but if we let those thoughts of our heart determine our behavior and assign who we are, that reality comes in direct conflict with Christ occupying all of your heart.
     Christ wants to dwell in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17) so that we might comprehend the nature of God and His love. But if there is any part of our heart not surrendered to Him, then the subconscious mind of our heart can be influenced by deception, sin, and ideologies/theology that undermine the power and authority of God in our lives.
     Then there is the totally new concept that I am digesting and coming to understand ... the mind of the human spirit is independent and autonomous of the mind of our soul. Remember, when we are saved our spirit is seated together in Heaven with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).  The ideal goal is to get our soul's mind to be continually aware of [and sensitive to] the mind of our spirit so that we can become more like Jesus. How does that work, you ask? Remember, that Jesus only acted out of His humanity while on earth. So when He was able to hear what the Father was telling Him, and see what the Father was doing, His soul's mind was in tune with His human spirit's mind. He was able to receive understanding of God's desires and Heaven's perspective. So can we!! That is what is called revelation. 
     Because our human spirit has a mind, it acts as a Super-conscious mind. It works from the Heavenly perspective, and it knows what our soul is thinking and what our heart is thinking. If we could find a way to be in touch with our spirit's mind, it would solve a lot of the problems that we struggle with, but have no reference point to understand. It would give us the answers to all the areas in which we are broken; all the different levels of how God designed us. 
    We only have to look to Scripture to see that we can be broken on so many levels: How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? (Job 19:2). The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing their pain and comforting their sorrow] (Psalm 147:3). Can you see the broken souls, hearts and spirits? And can you see the part that our conscious, subconscious, and super-conscious minds play in whether we are broken or whole? It is Christ who heals us and binds up our wounds and restores all the broken parts. But we must focus all of our minds on Him! If we can program our souls and hearts to be submissive to our spirit, we would be able to interface with Christ in Heaven and come into alignment with God's Kingdom and walk in wholeness, because in Him all things hold together. And isn't that what we all yearn for ... to be fully restored and complete in holiness and righteousness?

Thank you to the teachings of Daniel Duval of Bride Ministries, who pointed me to Scripture, which was illuminated by the Holy Spirit. I am grateful to God for expanding my knowledge and for the journey I am on to be and think and act more like Jesus. Give me more, Father!

1 Thessalonians 5:23     Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged—consecrated to Him—set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

August 6, 2018

The Word of God: The Light Switch Just Came On!

     Have you ever read over a familiar group of verses, thinking you knew and understood their meaning and significance -- only to read them one more time and it was like the Holy Spirit suddenly flooded your mind with a bright light and you didn't just see the surface of the words, but now you could see the depth and width and height of the Word? And you suddenly understood how we, as the Church and the Body of Christ, have had trouble seeing and embracing the scope of what the Word is trying to reveal.
     That's what happened as I read 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12. If you've been in the Word for awhile, then you know that this has become a very difficult and contentious chapter for the family of God. It's the chapter [along with Chapter 14] that has caused quite a lot of division and questions among various Christian denominations in the current theological climate we find ourselves. The chapter concerns Spiritual Gifts, and Believers want to debate this subject from whatever doctrinal viewpoint has been established by church leadership.
     But since the Holy Spirit has shown me that I can trust the Word itself for understanding, I do not want to shortchange God by always adopting the "acceptable" interpretation. I will also admit that it has been difficult to turn off the indoctrination voice in my mind and try to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He teaches my spirit and reveals the depths of God's Word. That is why I return to this chapter over and over. And just yesterday, the Spirit turned on another light switch!
     It is actually a very simple message given in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, which gives us a complete picture of how God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus work with us to expand the kingdom of God on earth. But as usual, our conscious mind (our brain working with our soul) takes dominance over our subconscious mind (the mind of our spirit), and we get stuck on verse 4 about the distribution of the spiritual gifts and never see God's whole agenda. [NOTE: if the concept that your spirit has a mind and can work independently of your body/soul mind is new, I will discuss how that keeps us from operating in full cooperation with God in the next post].
     For now, let's just realize that getting preoccupied with which spiritual gift(s) we have. or how we are to operate out of them, can keep us from walking in the full revelation of how God manifests His kingdom in the earthly realm.
     So, let's take a look at the full context of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. And we're going to exegete them from the Passion Translation because I believe it explains the interface and connection between the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Father in using His people to influence the earth. Here is what those verses say:
It is the same Holy Spirit who continues to distribute many different varieties of gifts.
The Lord Yahweh is one, and He is the one who apportions to believers different varieties of ministries.
The same God distributes different kinds of miracles that accomplish different results through each believer’s gift and ministry as He energizes and activates them.
     First, it is very important to recognize that these verses establish that the Holy Spirit, Jesus (referred to as Lord Yahweh), and God are One; they are three distinct "personalities", if you will, of the One True God. I think the Book of John, establishes this quite well .... In John 10:30, Jesus says quite clearly,  I and the Father are One.  Then, He goes on in Chapter 14 to elaborate: To know Me is to know My Father (verse 6), --- and I will ask the Father and He will give you another Savior, the Holy Spirit of Truth, who will be to you a friend just like me—and He will never leave you. The world won’t receive Him because they can’t see Him or know Him. But you will know Him intimately, because He will make His home in you and will live inside you.... So when that day comes, you will know that I am living in the Father and that you are one with me, for I will be living in you (verses 16-20).
     Now, let's go back and look at 1 Corinthians 12, and see how simply God lays out His plan to work through us to expand His Kingdom on earth. Verse 4 says that God, as the Holy Spirit, distributes the many different varieties of spiritual gifts (which are the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of faith, healing, power to work miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues). 
     Then verse 5 says that Jesus, as Lord Yahweh (God) allocates certain ministries to certain people [by His grace] and those ministries are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Then verse 6 says that this same God (the same as Holy Spirit and Jesus) distributes different kinds of miracles [or empowerment] that accomplish different results [the results He wants] through our gifts and ministries, as He energizes and activates them. And how does He do that? By the same Holy Spirit that Jesus says lives in us and is Him.
     Isn't that a most excellent picture of both a symbiotic and beautiful relationship? The Holy Spirit; Jesus, our Savior; and God our Heavenly Father interact in a mutually beneficial relationship that both benefits Them and us! And it couldn't be laid out any plainer or simpler.... The Holy Spirit gives the spiritual gifts; Jesus assigns ministries; and then God equips those gifts and ministries with His power [miracles] to accomplish His will.
     Yet, what do we do? We try to make it more difficult than it was designed to be. We argue over whether speaking in tongues is Scriptural for our age or not. We fight among ourselves over the calling of a fellow Christian because his ministry doesn't look like ours. We don't even believe God does miracles anymore because we don't see them. And why is that? Either because we don't believe God can empower us, or we believe in our own power more. 
     But all of this antagonism and conflict serve only to distract us from what Scripture clearly says. God shows us how He has planned for the Church to walk in His power and authority to take back dominion of the earth. But the Church only moves forward in expanding God's Kingdom when we align ourselves with Him and His agenda. Why don't we let God enable us to become fully equipped [as He has shown us in these three important verses] as we operate in our gifts and ministries by the wise use of His power? It's time we get out of His way and the Church gets over itself. It delights the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit to give us these gifts; to see us use the power of Heaven to take back dominion of the earth. Until we fully commit to represent Them on the earth, follow Their agenda, and serve God in our assignments with joy and cooperation, I'm afraid our efforts to build up the Church will continue to fall short. Pray for Spirit-led understanding and obedience!

Proverbs 19:21     "A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life, but only the designs of His purpose will succeed in the end".
 
    

August 2, 2018

What Does Your Personal Exodus Look Like?

     I know that we live in an age where Faith is measured by New Testament standards; namely, trust in what Jesus accomplished at the Cross to secure our eternal salvation. But sometimes I have asked myself if, in never taking my eyes off Him, have I forgotten that Satan remains the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and still exhibits influence over the affairs of men? Not that I should focus on the Enemy, nor give him undue credit. And ultimately, I know his strategies do not threaten the Kingdom of God on earth. But as an ambassador for that Kingdom, I think it is important that I am aware the devil has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the Light of the Good News of the glory of God in Jesus Christ. In addition, I want to make sure that His Light shines in me as a testimony for those unbelievers. I want my personal faith to be as evident as it was in the Old Testament story of the Exodus from Egypt. Does my life reflect a full transformation from the Kingdom of Darkness [in which I once lived] to the Kingdom of Light?
     I ask this question because I know it is possible for our spirits to have hope in the Lord's promises while our flesh still hears the whispers of the Enemy -- the same compromises Pharaoh offered God for the continued enslavement of the Israelites. So I want us to take a look at the ways Pharaoh negotiated with God, so that we can see how the devil still works to control man and how we can work with God to expose these lies to His Truth and Light.
     It is important to recognize that from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, it has been Satan's plan to entrap man to worship him, rather than God. As long as Adam and Eve obeyed God and trusted Him, they were a threat to Satan's plan to steal the dominion of the earth. It is the same plan the devil was running in Egypt. Pharaoh was no fool. Although the Israelites had been enslaved for 400 years, they had never abandoned their worship of God. And Pharaoh knew what a powerful force that worship was in the midst of their slavery, and understood [just like the serpent in the Garden] that this faith/worship was a threat to his kingdom.
     So, the actions taken by Pharaoh show us just how Satan still works today in keeping both unbelievers AND believers from walking in total freedom. But knowing that God is the same today as He was yesterday, I can look at Satan's agenda and apply the Bible's unerring Truth to defeat those tactics in the same way God defeated them in the Exodus story. So, let's look at the compromises Pharaoh offered and see if we can recognize the devil's same strategy in the world today.
     Remember, that Moses, as God's ambassador had continually asked Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go so they could serve and worship Him. With each of Pharaoh's emphatic "No's", God sent signs and wonders to show His unrelenting love for His people. After a series of supernatural plagues, Pharaoh offers up a solution: “Go, sacrifice to your God [here] in the land [of Egypt].” Do you see the deal Pharaoh was offering? He was willing to let the Israelites worship their God as long as they remained in his land, where there would be no change in their circumstances. The devil is willing to offer us the same deal today -- we can do acts of worship as long as we still live "in the land" of his influences. Unless we dedicate every portion of our life to God, the devil still has legal access to influence our service to the Lord.
     When that offer didn't work, and Moses rejected the terms, Pharaoh tried another tactic: “I will let you go, so that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Plead [with your God] for me.” Here, we have a picture of Satan's temptation for us to offer half-hearted worship and dedication to God... perhaps we can have it both ways? Pharaoh will allow for some change, but not complete freedom; and it still gives him the means to control God's people. The same holds true for us today. We cannot say we worship God in Truth and Spirit, and still try to hold on to some aspect of the world. Full surrender of our lives to God may seem too extreme -- even to professed Believers. But I maintain that this is the minimum God desires. It is only through our willingness to serve and worship Him in the extreme that we can expect to be fully transformed and attain freedom.

     After more plagues from the God of the Universe, the next offer from Pharaoh struck a legitimate chord with me: “The Lord be with you [to help you], if I ever let you go with your children [because you will never return]! Look [be forewarned], you have an evil plan in mind. No! Go now, you who are men, [without your families] and serve the Lord, if that is what you want.”  Pharaoh was offering the men of Israel their freedom if they would be willing to leave and abandon their children and families. Can't you see how that strategy has worked in today's culture? Whether it is unbelievers trapped in the welfare system, or believers who are chasing financial comfort, the family unit has been sacrificed for what the world likes to call "freedom". [And this doesn't even begin to cover how we have neglected to keep watch over technology and the internet and how it is enslaved our children, resulting in the breakdown in communication and identity]. But God's plan is the same today as it was in ancient Egypt: to keep families together to build generations of faithful people to honor and glorify Him. The question is this: Are we partnering [and parenting] with Him to see that happen? Or do the members of our families each go their own way, often outside of relationship with the Father?
      And now we see Pharaoh's final attempt to keep God's people in compromised slavery: “Go, serve the Lord; only your flocks and your herds must be left behind. Even your children may go with you.” In the ancient system God had set up, it was these flocks and herds of animals the Israelites needed for sacrifice to show their worship of God. If Pharaoh could convince them to give up their means of sacrifice, their worship would be meaningless. Nothing has changed. Today, we face the same test. Are we ready to dedicate all our resources to the worship of our Lord? Or are we governed by our fear that we might not have enough if we give it all? If we operate out of that fear, then the Enemy has been given legal permission to influence our minds, our emotions, and our will to fulfill our purpose for the Kingdom. This is Satan's greatest fear... families who are willing to worship God with all they have; willing to go to the extreme to please and serve Him. Nothing will be denied these kinds of people and the devil knows it. They are capable of defeating his every move and they are a real threat to his earthly realm. 
     In the end, the fate of the Israelites didn't depend on Pharaoh capitulating to God's demands to let His people go. Their fate depended on their willingness to trust Him when He told them to cover their doorposts with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. If they had not decided to "go all in" with God, they would have suffered the same consequences from the Angel of Death that the Egyptians experienced. Because they were obedient out of their faith, they received their freedom. God rewards us the same way today. We are called out of our captivity into the glorious Light of a life in Christ. When we are willing to be uncompromised -- to go to extremes to worship Him in fullness and trust -- then the Enemy has no hold on us; and we discover the purpose of our deliverance into freedom. We are brought out of our slavery in the Kingdom of Darkness and into the Kingdom of Light in our Promised Land. And no matter how long our Exodus journey is, it is worth every obstacle we face; every rejection from this world, because we are covered by that same blood of The Sacrificial Lamb and consecrated to Him alone; worshiping Him alone. We have been delivered out of our captivity into freedom, and we will sing His praises, for He is worthy to be praised!

Ephesians 5:8    Once your life was full of sin’s darkness, but now you have the very light of our Lord shining through you because of your union with him. Your mission is to live as children flooded with his revelation-light!

 

July 30, 2018

Venom Within The Church: They Should Be Ashamed!

     The news of the wildfires in California are capturing headlines across the internet and news outlets, and the conflagration known as the Carr Wildfire has devastated northern California, targeting the town of Redding, where Bethel Church is located. If you are not familiar with Bethel and the Lead Pastor, Bill Johnson, I think it is safe to say that mainstream and religious Christianity do not quite welcome them into the Family of God with open arms.
     Those who do not believe that the signs and wonders, and the miracle healings that accompanied the First Century Church are for today do not subscribe to the belief system that defines Bethel Church. There is something about proclaiming the promises of Jesus [that those who believe in Him will do the same things He did and even greater] that does not set well with the Pharisees of today.
     You see, Bethel believes in the full healing properties of Jesus's ministry. They believe that when we receive the promise that "by His stripes we are healed", it is in the full sense of that word healed; namely, we are saved, delivered, healed, rescued, and made whole. And they aren't afraid to walk out what Jesus modeled for us, or to obey Jesus's commission to His disciples: to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers (the spiritually and physically unclean), and raise the dead; all-the-while sharing the good news that Jesus has brought heaven's power to earth.
     But just as in Jesus's day, the hyper-religious are threatened by this freedom and power to walk as Jesus walked. I have become increasingly saddened -- and yes, even alarmed -- at the vitriol and hatred that comes from the Pulpit & Pen crowd. And, in case you are unfamiliar with them, according to the definition on their own website, Pulpit and Pen (heretofore, to be referred to as P&P) are "Baptists, [who] most – but not all – hold to the five points of Calvinism. All contributors hold other similar convictions, including a belief in the Scripture’s inerrancy, young-Earth creationism, Biblical manhood and womanhood, and a general detestation of skinny jeans". Right off the bat, you get a taste of their sarcastic judgmentalism.
     Their campaign against Beth Moore and other evangelists they deem "too liberal" caused me to quit going to their site over a year ago. But when googling information of the Carr Fire and the effects on the town of Redding and Bethel Church, I came across an article that I felt needed to be addressed. The sarcasm -- and I hate to say it -- the downright glee with which this website saw the fire as God's justice due against Bethel Church disturbs me.
     Is the Body of Christ a family or not? Do our differences in theology and doctrine give us license to gloat over the misfortune of our fellow heirs of salvation? Some of the, frankly, unloving points made in this article were shocking. P&P goes way beyond their usual method of calling Bethel a "charimastic cult", and resorts to such cheap shots as the following: "Bethel’s Facebook page asks for prayer to save Redding. In it, the group acknowledges that God is sovereign and in control over the rain and the weather (this seems to contradict Johnson’s message that God has surrendered his authority on the Earth to his people). Ironically, Bethel Church has been praying for “the fire” to fall on them for many years, a charismatic expression that is biblically linked to judgment far more than blessings". Sounds like wishful thinking on the staff of Pen & Pulpit to me. Can they not simply do what Bethel asks, and offer up prayer for the town of Redding, without excoriating the Pastor?
     First of all, let me say this.... I listened to the snippet of Bill Johnson's sermon on YouTube (available here) from which P&P make their erroneous charge that Johnson declared God had surrendered His authority on Earth to His people. Here's what Johnson actually said: "God has created a system where humanity gets to live, and through partnership we get to demonstrate and manifest the dominion of God in the earth. He comes at our invitation because He has released the dominion to us. That's why prayer is so essential".
     If you're able to use your discernment, I'm hoping that you realize the difference between "surrendering God's authority" and "releasing the dominion of God". A simple exegesis of those two words reveal that surrender means "give up, yield, relinquish", while release means "make available, put at someone's disposal, set free". Bill Johnson did not say God gave up His authority on Earth to man; but, rather, said God put His government on Earth at the disposal of man through partnership in prayer. That is a different, yet Scripturally valid theology that P&P just can't seem to understand. But when you practice your theology like a Pharisee, then it's easy to make a value judgment against someone else's belief system, based on one’s own assumed secure position.
     I want to be clear. I do not disagree with everything that the writers at Pulpit & Pen put forth on their website. As fellow Christians and members of the Body of Christ, there is much we agree on.... that there is One True God; a Holy Trinity; Jesus Christ is God, the Living Word, Who became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth; the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ to sit at the right hand of the throne of God; salvation is received through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior --- all of which are the foundations of the Christian faith. They are my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and I will never denounce their faith. I may disagree with aspects of their theology, but I will never question their love of the Lord, nor accuse them of heresy.
     But I have a problem when one group of Christians appears determined to destroy another; when theological differences become grounds for insults, slander, and outright distortion and misrepresentation. That is exactly what the religious Pharisees did to Jesus. And, interestingly enough, the two main issues they had with Jesus are the same issues the hyper-religious of today have with those who seek to resemble Jesus in their walk: 1) the Pharisees objected to Jesus aligning Himself with God. Today's hyper-religious Christians object to a kind of relationship with the Father that believes that the supernatural God who empowered Jesus desires the same supernatural relationship with us, and 2) the Pharisees objected to Jesus's relationship with men and His willingness to love the unaccepted of society. Today's Pharisees object to our desire to love all men, even sinners who practice what God detests. It does not mean that we approve of their sin, but that through a partnership with God and the Holy Spirit, we can heal them with the love of the Father; physically and spiritually -- just like Jesus did.
     I actually feel sad for these people who love Jesus, but are unable [and unwilling] to see how much God wants to work with His people to see all men experience His love. I think it is their inability to see Jesus, Holy Spirit and the Father at work in churches and believers like Bethel that keeps them blinded to how big our God is. And when that blindness leads to accusations of blasphemy, heresy, and anti-Christ behavior, then it borders on the denial of God's power in the world today.
Tweet by Kris Valloton, Senior Associate Leader at Bethel
     But the saddest and most egregious aspect of P&P's conduct is their lack of compassion and love for fellow Christians who are hurting. To stoop to mocking and ridiculing Bethel and their Pastor and presenting false accusations that Bethel is only interested in their self-preservation, rather than offering prayer and support to strengthen their Brothers and Sisters in Christ, is not the image of Christ that I seek to model. In fact, no word of support was offered to the Bethel community. The website also offered a link to a satirical article, claiming Bill Johnson accepted full responsibility for the fire because of his theology. That is hate, not love, and I find myself asking, "Is this representative of the state of their "Christian" hearts"?
     The last line of the article read, "In the meantime, the people of Riverside and Shasta Counties need our prayers and support", followed by tips pointing to Red Cross for evacuation and donation information.  Apparently that request for prayer excludes Bethel and their people. But perhaps the height of hypocrisy for this super-religious group of Christians was that the author of the article on Bethel and the Carr fire didn't even have the courage to sign his name. It is written under the authorship of "the News Division". That is cowardly.
     In summation, I do not expect that my words will count for anything to those who are determined to follow their own reasoning in this matter. And whether you agree or disagree with Bethel Church and its theology, I would hope that, as sons and daughters of a God who loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us, we could offer the same grace, mercy and compassion that has been given to us by the same God we all profess to love, follow, and obey. Pulpit & Pen's actions should not be how we treat fellow believers. And oh, how it must grieve our Father. So, forgive them, Father, and I pray for them to receive renewed minds and hearts that reflect You. Let us love one another and not persecute each other. And for God's sake, let us be willing to offer words of comfort and strength in time of need! Amen!

Psalm 140:3         They are known for their sharp rhetoric of poisonous, hateful words. Pause in His presence.

July 27, 2018

Is The Five-Fold Ministry For Everyone?

     I know that I am treading on treacherous ground here, but I'm also going to tell you that this is a question I have been struggling with for quite awhile now. And I've been hesitant to write about my concerns until I had studied the Word and prayed about it, because in today's Christian culture, I am pretty sure I am going to offend some people and that is definitely not my intention. I will also preface this post with the statement that I do not declare my opinion to be right, and those who do not agree with me to be wrong. There is no condemnation in my thoughts, just the desire to develop an understanding according to God's Word. So, let's just dive into the discussion...
     Perhaps God has placed Mark and I on these 2.97 acres in the middle of nowhere so that He could train us up while we were not distracted by what is going on in the world -- both in the secular and religious worlds. He has pulled us out of the Church building and established a growing ministry that is centered on Jesus's commission to His disciples to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom. For us, that has included physical healing, inner healing, deliverance from spiritual torment, evangelizing, teaching, and simply being obedient towards every opportunity to share the love of God through Jesus. In many ways, it began as a narrow calling, but as we trusted God more and He saw the fruit being produced, our assignments have expanded, along with our territory. And I would say we have been blessed with a growing community of Believers who are each walking in their own calling and obedience.
     But that is also where I have some growing concerns; both in what I see on the large stage of the Christian experience and closer to home. Perhaps we have been secluded enough that we were not aware of this "movement", if I may call it that. But as our mission field and interaction with the Body of Christ has grown beyond our immediate community, I am seeing a profusion of Christians referring to themselves with one of the titles of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The modern Church refers to these ministries as "offices" within the Body of Christ, and maintains their importance in building up the Body of Christ in unity and maturity. On that we can agree!
     And so that we know what the Bible says, here are the verses that are the foundation of the Five-fold Ministry: "And He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [pastors], and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16, English Standard Version). 
     Here is my concern... I have become increasingly aware of a Christian belief system that implies that each and every Christian is to walk in one of these "titles"; that each and every Christian has been called to be either an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher. But that is not what I see Scripture saying! In fact, if you read various translations, I believe you will get a more accurate sense of what the Word is saying ... The New Living Translation says these offices were the gifts Jesus gave to the Church. The Amplified Versions says His gifts were varied and Jesus, Himself, appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors, and some as teachers. The Passion Translation takes it a step further and says Jesus appointed some with grace to these offices.
     And the purpose of these appointments or callings? To equip the saints for the work of ministry; to build up the body of Christ in unity of faith, in knowledge of Jesus, to spiritual maturity so that we might grow into the very image of Christ, which is love. 
     Nowhere do I discern in that passage that each and every Christian is to walk in one of those offices or carry one of those titles. Yet there are websites that proclaim that "within each of the saints, we find the various manifestations of the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher within the Body of Christ. Each person is given a gift, a role, and a part of the Body to continue the work of Christ". That certainly appears to me to be stretching the truth of the Word. And these websites even offer tests to find out which office you are! And there are websites that will actually confer a certificate that you can hang on your wall to validate your "office".
     I am in no way disputing that these offices have been assigned by Christ to build up the Body of Christ [and for the reasons I have stated above]. The Five-fold Ministry is absolutely validated by Scripture. But these are assignments given by Christ to SOME [with grace/favor]. Simply put, there must be men and women whom Christ trusts with the important calling/commission to equip the saints (who are believers sanctified -- or set apart -- unto God) to grow into a unified Body that imitates Him. These verses make it very clear that these five callings are to equip the saints -- perfecting them, preparing them to walk in the fullness of Christ's image on earth. So, it's obvious [to me, at least] that not everyone can be called to one of these offices.... because there would be no saints left to equip!
     And I do not think that we should dismiss the part that bearing fruit for the Kingdom plays in the execution of these offices. Fruit should be evident in the life of one who calls himself an Apostle or Prophet or Evangelist or Pastor or Teacher. We all know people in the faith who walk at high levels of obedience. We see the fruit in their lives; the unselfish commitment to the Kingdom of God in all that they do. I think it is safe to say that their fruit is the real certification of whether they deserve a title within the Five-fold Ministry. 
     I believe it is very important to understand that although we may not all receive the gift of a commission from Christ to walk in one of these offices, it does not mean that we cannot commit to do the work as we grow in our spiritual maturity into the fullness of Christ. Put another way, Christ may not have called me to be an Apostle, but I can take the message of the Kingdom of God to people in need of it. I may not walk in the office of Prophet, but I can prophesy of God's heart to those who are hurting. I may not be commissioned by Christ to be an Evangelist, but I can be a carrier of God's goodness and love to the unsaved. I may not carry the title of Pastor, but I can bring healing and restoration to the souls and spirits of the broken-hearted through my deliverance ministry. And I may not have been assigned the role of Teacher, but I can share God's Truth and show how it applies to a person's life.
     In other words, we can all be ambassadors for Christ; we can all prophesy; we can all evangelize; we can all pastor, and we can all teach. We don't need official titles, or certificates, or tests to determine our roles. We are all meant to grow into the image of Christ. And, yes, there are those who will receive unique assignments to lead and equip us saints to minister as they do. But let's not get caught up in the need of a title to validate our position in Christ or give us permission to do the work we've all been called to do. We are each valuable in the Kingdom of God!

2 Corinthians 4:5    For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 
  

July 24, 2018

Spiritual Maturity and Understanding Deeper Truths

     I have to be honest ... I am reveling in this season of comprehending a greater meaning in Scripture, and how it is impacting my relationship with God.  I will admit, that in the past, I have been guilty of being rather one-dimensional in my understanding of Scripture, especially my favorite verses and those that have been the foundation of modern Christianity. Perhaps I have agreed to receive the explanation given to me by faithful Sunday School teachers or Pastors, without seeking to know more on my own. But I have no one to blame except for myself -- it is the responsibility of each Believer to grow in understanding; to become spiritually mature. That is made quite clear in a number of Scriptures:

2 Peter 3:18: But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and knowledge with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May He receive all the glory both now and until the day eternity begins. Amen! As the Passion Translation explains, "Spiritual growth is yielding to the grace of God and having passion to know Jesus Christ intimately. In time, we grow into His beautiful image". And the glory/recognition for this growth goes to Christ, Himself.

1 Corinthians 3:1-2: Brothers and sisters, when I was with you I found it impossible to speak to you as those who are spiritually mature people, for you are still dominated by the mind-set of the flesh. And because you are immature infants in Christ, I had to nurse you and feed you with “milk,” not with the solid food of more advanced teachings, because you weren’t ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready to be fed solid food. This “milk” is understood to be the basic teachings of our faith. (See Scripture below for definition of "basic teachings"). The more advanced teachings Paul describes are spiritual “solid food”—something we can “sink our teeth into” and look for deeper meaning in.
 
 Hebrews 6:1-3: Now is the time for us to progress beyond the basic message of Christ and advance into perfection. The foundation has already been laid for us to build upon: turning away from our dead works to embrace faith in God, teaching about different baptisms, impartation by the laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. So with God’s enablement we will move on to deeper truths. 

     These three verses in Hebrews, by themselves, have such deep connotations for the spiritually mature. Here, Paul is saying that it's time to move on from foundational concepts of Scripture and build on what you [should] already know. For instance, we all know that "dead works" are attempts by people to please God through man-made traditions and religious "acts". There is only one "work" that brings righteousness and eternal life to all, and that was the work of Christ on the Cross. We are to embrace that work in faith.
     Paul says we should also understand the different "washings", or baptisms. Did you know there are seven such baptisms listed in the Bible? They are the baptism of fire, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of suffering (Jesus on the Cross), the baptism into the cloud, the baptism into Moses, the baptism of repentance, and the water baptism. To count ourselves ready to be spiritually mature, Paul says we should know these and understand them.
     How many of us understand that "impartation" should be a foundation of our maturity in the faith? Impartation by the laying on of hands is supported in both the Old and New Testaments as a means to heal, to bless others, to impart [bestow] the Holy Spirit and His gifts, to identify with a person (or sacrifice), and importantly, to release others to their calling and ministry.  Do we aspire to this today? Do we even see the importance and significance of this powerful act? Is it a foundation of your faith?
      It goes without saying that an understanding of the resurrection of the dead and the certainty of eternal judgment should be a foundation of our personal faith. I know that our resurrection to glorified bodies should be the hope of every Christian, but I daresay few understand what that will look like, or even care to contemplate it! And the possibility of eternal judgment is a subject that some Christians refuse to even contemplate, yet Paul says it should be an established conviction of the mature Believer.
     So, how are we stacking up according to Paul's standard of a spiritually mature follower of Christ, ready for advanced teachings? I don't know about you, but these three verses made me realize that I desire to know ALL that God will entrust to me. But it means that I have to hunger for it -- not being satisfied to be spoon-fed "milk", but earnestly desiring and seeking the "solid food" of advanced teachings. And while we may not have the advantage of being taught by Paul, we have an even greater teacher available to us -- the Holy Spirit, whose "anointing teaches me about all things; is true and is not a lie" (1 John 2:27). 

     So, I have to ask myself if I am moving beyond the basics of Christian faith, and how motivated am I to advance in my faith and spiritual maturity? Because there is no question that the Teacher (the Holy Spirit) is qualified to impart the advanced knowledge. How receptive am I in taking delivery of His message(s)? 
     And here's another aspect that I consider ... God isn't interested in me remaining at a status quo level. Either I'm growing in Him, or [by default] I'm shrinking if I'm standing still and not increasing my knowledge of Him as my life progresses. Let me be clear -- it is important to me to understand sound doctrine as revealed in Scripture, and it is equally important that I grow in my understanding and relationship with the Father as that knowledge of Him from the Holy Spirit [through Scripture] increases. I am made to know Him, in mind and heart!
     So, to wrap this up, what does Paul mean by "deeper truths"? It is taking the foundational revelations of God as revealed in Scripture and building on them to gain greater relationship with Him through experiencing that knowledge. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to take you beyond the foundational doctrine you've received and being willing to receive the intimacy and power of God, which results in more knowledge of Him. 
     And be prepared to have these deeper revelations questioned by Believers who are interested in maintaining their spiritual status quo, as if they already have all the answers they will ever need. Is God's Grace sufficient for us? Yes, but that doesn't mean we are to remain stationary. The rest of that verse states His Grace is sufficient because it allows for an exhibition of His power in our weaknesses. He wants to teach us something about Himself in the difficult situations of life! That is experiencing Him! 
     So, let's not forget the first verse I quoted, 2 Peter 3:18 ... "But continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". Peter, like Paul, is continuing to encourage Believers to GROW ... not stay on autopilot, nor be lax about reading our Bibles or praying. Those deeper truths come only from an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, with Jesus, and with the Father. I've been tired of "milk" for quite awhile now. I want to feast on the greater and deeper knowledge of my God. And I can tell you that there's nothing that tastes as sweet to my spirit as the "solid food" that comes from a growth in knowledge and intimacy in His Presence. That's my wish for you, too.

Ephesians 1:17   I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation [discovery] to know Him through your deepening intimacy with Him.