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

Showing posts with label Bearing Fruit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bearing Fruit. Show all posts

January 3, 2021

Psalm 62:11-12 ... So Much Revealed About The God We Serve

God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.

Also to You, O Lord, belong lovingkindness and compassion,
For You compensate every man according to 
his work.


I have been making it a practice to read the Psalms in the morning, limiting myself to five at a time so that I am conscientious in listening to the Spirit as I pursue understanding. And I am always delighted when a specific passage or verse catches my spiritual eye. I can ruminate on it for hours or an entire day. This time it was the above verses in Psalm 62.

Most of the Psalms were written by David and express just how much he relied on the Lord to guide him through his trials. The common themes are waiting on the Lord, seeking protection from the Lord, and praising God for being his salvation, rock, and fortress. But the underlying message of each sacred song is the existing power of God to supply all David's needs.

As I contemplate the dawning of a new year, I am under no illusion that turning a page on the calendar is going to guarantee that our personal or national trials are going to be relegated to history and everything will return to "normal". If anything, the pressure is building and even more trials and adversity are headed our way. 

A recently prepared report by the Secular Democrats of America Political Action Committee (PAC) for the incoming presidential administration, proposed a plan "to advance a secular agenda at all levels of government ... and disentangle entrenched religious interests from federal policy". Furthermore, the report warned that "the rise of white Christian nationalism is a national security threat". In my mind that kind of deliberate language intends to undermine the freedom of religious expression that is guaranteed in our First Amendment rights, as well as denounce the Christian heritage and history of this nation. Ultimately, the aim of instituting secularism through government policy amounts to authoritarianism that denies the existence of God. 

And that, my friends, is the very goal of Satan: to put believers of the Most High God under totalitarian control of the Pharaohs and Hitlers of the world; men who have been deceived into accepting the promise of the Enemy's power as their own. But YHWH's love for His creation is steadfast and enduring and He always finds men [and women] who are willing to partner with Him and His power to overcome Satan's diabolical plots to control the world. And that's what Psalm 62, verses 11 and 12 reveal to me...

Once God has spoken, and twice I have heard this ... So immutable and so unchanging is God's word that it is established forever. Once He speaks it, it is set in stone [as in the Ten Commandments. Although the first set were smashed, the commandments were established forever and are eternal]. As the esteemed theologian Charles Spurgeon explained, "God speaks once and utters eternal verities. All our speaking may yet end in sound; but He speaks, and it is done; He commands, and it stands fast". And in my opinion, our ability to hear twice references our natural ears and our spiritual ears; if we have a true spiritual relationship with God, then we hear both in the physical and in our hearts. Perhaps that is why Jesus so often repeats, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" -- let him not only hear Jesus's voice, but hear the Father's voice in his heart and through that spiritual connection.

And what are we to hear? That power belongs to God. This is the understanding we all need to have for this day and time. Our way of life in this nation is clearly threatened, and now we are beginning to see [through the aforementioned report] that our faith may soon come under attack. Remember, Jesus prophesied that those who believe in Him will be hated by all nations because of His Name. And if we call ourselves Christians, what have we heard? That power belongs to God! The power to overcome any situation rests with God's decision to share HIS power! 

In the Old Testament, God chose who to lend His power to; it was not freely available to all. We see this concept in the experiences of the following Biblical heroes: Noah built an ark; Abraham left his ancestral lands for a land promised to his descendants; Moses answered the call of God to deliver the Israelites out of bondage; Joshua led the people in bringing down the walls of Jericho; Rahab helped the Israelite spies to escape; Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego entered a fiery furnace. They all received power from God to work on His behalf!  In these Old Testament examples, it was God taking action to work on behalf of His people by sending His Holy Spirit to specific people to accomplish His purpose. And He did it out of His steadfast love for them.

And that steadfast love continues to us, as expressed in Psalm 62, verse 12: And that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. Because that love has endured since the beginning of the Creation, God so loved the world that He sent His love through His Son to save us all from eternal punishment. And with that shared love from the Father, the Son also received His Father's power.  Jesus clearly states this in Matthew 28:18, "All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me". And what is the Father's ultimate plan? To have His power transferred through Jesus to us! In Luke 10:19, Jesus tell us, "Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you". And after His crucifixion and resurrection, the Lord appears to His disciples in the upper room, and secures His covenant with faithful followers: "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high".

That "power from on high" is the same Holy Spirit that gave Jesus access to the Father's power, and now grants us the ability to use that power also. Whether, as in the Old Testament, God appointed His power to individuals, or under the New Testament covenant, all those who believe on the Name of Jesus, the Messiah [Yeshua Ha Mashiach] can use their free will to gain access to it, God will render to a man according to his work (Psalm 62:12). And that is vitally important that we members of Christ's Ekklesia understand that!

How will we use that divine power that is in us to overcome what we will face in 2021 and beyond? We must be witnesses of the power of God [in us] to defeat the schemes of the devil to dominate the earth. God is a jealous god who greatly values His power that has been deposited in us, and He expects us to use it wisely and judiciously. It is not to be wasted, nor is it to be inactive. As in the Parable of the Talents, He expects a return on His investment. When we exercise His divine power to overcome the kingdom of darkness in the world, He tells us if we have been faithful with a little, He will give us more... For to everyone who has, will more be given, and he will have an abundance... God will render to a man according to his work.

So, as the Ekklesia of the Lord, we have much work to do in the coming months and years, and whatever time we have left on this earth. The darkness appears to be growing, but we, who have faith in the power from on high that exists in us, know that we have all we need to defeat it and its master. Trust in the power of God that is in you! And believe that Jesus intended for God's power to be present in His disciples until He returns; to be present to nullify the power of the devil... and He intended for us to use it! 

December 17, 2020

From Fruitless Faith to Miraculous Manifestations

During 2020, I've done a lot of thinking and praying about the future of our nation. For many people, it has been difficult to be a witness to the division and the disparity among our fellow Americans. And it has been troublesome to see the loss of hope and peace in the lives of so many. It has been a battle for Christians to stay focused on fighting in the spirit when they see so much defeat in the physical world. Our younger generation is fearful that the "American Dream" is going to be gone before they have a chance to experience it, while our older generation mourns the loss of their "golden years". We tell ourselves that this can't be happening; that this is not what America is all about; and surely the Lord will deliver us from this assault upon our Christian nation.

The truth is that we are not the first prosperous nation in the history of the world [who has built an empire for itself] to then find itself sliding into decline and destruction. I discovered a 2010 article, titled The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, written by Alfred W. McCoy, an American historian and educator who specializes in the history of the Philippines, foreign policy of the United States, European colonization of Southeast Asia, illegal drug trade, and Central Intelligence Agency covert operations. 

Mr. McCoy knows whereof he writes, and this particular article was so prophetic in nature, I wanted to share its premise with you. Here is some of what Mr. McCoy wrote: "Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003. Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America’s downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare."

I won't go any further into Mr. McCoy's prognostications for the future of America, because to be frank, it's predictions are dismal and disheartening. He saw it coming 10 years ago, and it appears to be unraveling before our eyes. Instead, I would rather address what Jesus has to say about how our faith could be the key to avoiding our inevitable decline. You will find His advice in Matthew 21:18-22. In this passage, Jesus happens upon a fig tree by the wayside. Scripture says He went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And He said to it, May no fruit ever come from you again! And the fig tree withered at once. 

It was common knowledge in Jesus's time that if you saw leaves on a fig tree, you could expect fruit, unless the tree was barren. The evidence of leaves tells us that the fig tree should have been bearing fruit. As the Creator of the fig tree, Jesus expected it to be producing fruit. And as its Creator, He was justified in condemning it and cursing it to never bear fruit again. This was not only a declaration against the fig tree, but also against the Jews, who had become spiritually barren before the Lord. Just as the tree should have been bearing fruit, so should the people be bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God. The tree had the form of a fig tree, but not the reality -- it bore no figs! So it was with the Jews. They had the form of religion, but not the reality of faith. They knew the right words to say, but their hearts were far from God and they bore no fruit for Him.

The disciples are astounded! How could the tree wither so quickly and at once? But instead of answering that question, Jesus points them to the matter of their faith. He tells them if they have faith, and do not doubt, they will not only be able to do what He did to the fig tree, but they could tell a mountain to be moved and thrown into the sea, and it would happen. You see, they did not remember that God had once given man dominion over the earth and everything on it, in it, and under it, and that Adam and Eve had surrendered it to Satan. But now Jesus was there to reclaim it and restore it to His creation called man. They were to rule His creation according to His governing principles and to rule in His absence. In essence, He was telling them that if they had true faith, they could pray and receive the mind and thoughts of God [to do to the fig tree what Jesus did, as well as tell the mountain to move, and it would]. That means they were to have no doubt that by praying and submitting to God's will, they would hear His desires and receive the means [and the power] to achieve it. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

So, I ask you ... do you have that kind of faith? Or do you doubt? Do you believe that when Jesus came to earth He took back the dominion of the earth from Satan and handed it over to us? Because it's going to take that kind of faith to overcome the predicament we find ourselves in today! I believe that like the fig tree, for a long time we Americans -- and that includes Christians -- have practiced a fruitless faith. We have portrayed the form of a righteous nation and a religious people, but we have not borne the fruit of true faith. We have not believed in our power and authority to represent God's Kingdom government in our nation. So, we have stood by and watched as fig trees full of leaves grew among us, and did not demand that they bear fruit or be cut down. We did not have the faith to believe that we could have the mind of God and do anything about it. Even when we discerned our Enemy's plan to destroy us, I'm not sure we even believed our faith could guarantee us a victory.

But true faith knows how to win because it is borne in the mind of God and transferred to us when we pray. True faith has never lost a battle, because we discern God's strategy to defeat the devil and we follow that plan in obedience. Moses and the nation of Israel faced the Red Sea with the Egyptian army at their back. David, on the run, defeated Saul's plan to defeat him and take his life. Daniel faced a pride of lions in their den and didn't back down. And they were all able to be victorious in their battles because they walked in true faith and believed that their prayers could manifest the divine purpose of God. 

It now appears to the world that our precious nation is on the precipice of defeat. Many of you may feel it looks hopeless. But don't listen to the lies of the devil that tell us we can't overcome these obstacles. Our faith is more than just a formula to get what we want. It must become active in believing that we are who Jesus says we are ... citizens of Heaven placed here in this place and this time to manifest God's divine purpose for this nation. Our God is the same God that divided the Red Sea; the same God that delivered David from the long arm of Saul; and the same God that rescued Daniel from the jaws of the lions. He is the same God who won our infant nation's victory against the British Empire and who is returning the Jews to the Holy Land. And in all these examples, victory was won through persistent prayers of faith -- faith in God alone to see His sovereign will be done. That kind of faith is not limited to history. It is real and it is possible for us today. That kind of faith will fight for you because it is in divine relationship with God. Let us overcome our faith-killing doubt and pray sincerely, fervently, and persistently as we await the miraculous manifestations of deliverance that I truly believe is God's will for our nation!

1 John 5:14-15     This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him. 

September 6, 2019

What's Keeping God From Using You In His Kingdom?

     I was intrigued by an article I saw on the Charisma Magazine website, entitled "There Are Some Types of Christians God Can't Use", written by J. Lee Grady. Since I know that God loves the Body of Christ, I wanted to see what qualities these Christians are exhibiting; and to make sure that I correct any characteristics I might share with them. Here is the insight I received from this thoughtful article...
     One of the most powerful verses in Scripture [for me] is Matthew 7:21, which quotes Jesus: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. And Jesus was the perfect example of what that looks like. We must be intentional in interacting with God -- hearing His voice above our own; always seeking His purpose and desire in any situation; and then taking action to accomplish His will.
     We know, from John 3:1-5, that to enter the Kingdom of God [or Heaven] we must be Saved [born again]. But, it sounds to me [according to Matthew 7:21] like Salvation alone is not enough to be used by the Father. And we all want to be used by God, don't we? Don't you want to hear Him say, "You have done well, and proven yourself to be my loyal and trustworthy servant. Because you have been a faithful steward to manage a small sum, now I will put you in charge of much, much more. You will experience the delight of your master, who will say to you, 'Come celebrate with me!' "? So, let's consider what might keep us from being useful to God.
     The first thing the author mentioned was Driver's seat Christians. These are Believers who, without question, are Saved, but find it difficult to yield control of their lives to Christ. We call Jesus our Lord, yet do we understand what that word means? He is our Master, our Ruler, and He has full authority over all things on the earth. Yet, there may be times when we find ourselves unable to surrender to His leadership and mastery of our lives. We want what we want, and often find ourselves justifying our actions according to our own desires, rather than the will of the Father -- which is expressly un-Biblical! If you are someone who finds it difficult to submit to the Lord's authority, then He will be unable to trust you in administering His kingdom here on earth. 
     Then there are the Christians we call Armchair Critics.  I find it interesting as I seek God's kingdom before anything else, that those who can't see it, or refuse to see it, are the ones speaking the loudest against my pursuit of it.  Because I know what it feels like to be unjustly criticized, I fervently try to judge another's walk with Christ by the fruit they bear. Their walk may not look or sound like mine, but if there is observable fruit for the Kingdom, then I know it is honoring God. The Holy Spirit does not counsel me to judge or accuse out of anger or pride or a religious spirit. If I want Him to use me, then I will concentrate on His assignment for me, knowing that He is perfectly capable of giving differing assignments to other Christians.
     We all know Christians who are Glass half-empty pessimists, right? They are always engrossed in the headlines, focused on what the news is forecasting, and aligning it all with End Times prophecies. Or when the blessings of the Lord come, they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But, I have to ask ... who is God more likely to use in service to His kingdom here on earth? The one who doesn't quite trust Him to secure their good fortune, or the Believer who knows the consequences of following the Lord and is willing to go forth anyway? Who will bear the most fruit for the Kingdom? The Bible tells us that the presence of fruit in your life is evidence that you are a disciple of Christ. He will recognize us by our fruit ... and those whose focus is on a half empty glass will be unable to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and bear a fruitful harvest.
     Perhaps the thing that grieves me the most in the Body of Christ is the Carnally minded Christian. These are the folks who have chosen to compromise with the world and lower [or alter] their standards of moral character and lifestyle. They intentionally blur the lines between what the Bible calls sin and what the world calls acceptable behavior. But God's Word does not change! And His charge to live sanctified lives has not been abolished. The Biblical meaning of Sanctification is still His standard -- to be declared holy and set apart; to be purified and seen as morally acceptable in His eyes. God cannot and will not use us in service to His kingdom if we are approving of the world's sins. We may receive rewards from the world for our compromise, but our works will be unfruitful for the Kingdom.
     There was one description in the article of Christian's that God won't use that I wish to comment on and clarify. The author singled out Church dropouts, and stated that "God does not use people who have turned away from the church." I believe it is important to qualify that statement. I agree with the subsequent statement that it is popular among some to bash the Church out of a bitterness and out of woundedness by the Church. I stand in agreement that God will not be able to use anyone who hangs on to unforgiveness. But there are those of us who have decided to be the Ekklesia, rather than the Church, and we love the Body of Christ. We do not bash "the Church", but rather find that [in its present state] it no longer feeds our spirits and desires to be obedient Kingdom citizens. So we have returned to the spiritual roots of the Early Church and walk together [as an Ekklesia] in a Kingdom model and a Kingdom mindset of service and worship of our Lord. And believe me, I see much fruit in this Godly community!
     Then there are the Christians the author calls Timid Cowards.  God will not be able to use Believers who suffer from a fear to be bold. As the author states, "All those who surrender to the call of God must bravely open their mouths, defend the faith, risk their reputation and suffer rejection—and possible persecution". That can be a huge barrier for a Christian who is afraid of the consequences of such bold action. But Christ calls us to boldness, without fear of the ramifications. Each of the Disciples were willing to suffer martyrdom to expand God's kingdom on earth. We are called by our Lord, Himself, to do nothing less. Just consider the fruit of those obedient lives!
     The last classification is called Lazy Spectators. It's easy in this fast-paced world to get distracted by technology, the demands on our lives, and our busy calendars. Sometimes it seems that we can only give a half-hearted response to the call on our life. But a life that can be used by God makes Him and His righteous Kingdom their priority. It's not easy to be all-in for the Lord. There is much that we give up when we make that commitment. But the rewards are so worth it! When you see that the fruit of your efforts lead to a transformed life in your neighbor, then it makes the sacrifices worthwhile.
     Take it from me. There will be sacrifices made when you answer God's call. God cannot use you if the desire of your heart is for the wealth of this world. So you need to be satisfied and content with just what you need, and what the Lord provides. As you become more obedient in your calling, your time will not be your own. You will find that bearing fruit results in more opportunities to bear fruit -- if that makes sense. But you can't say No to God! You will come to realize that you have a very short time to make a difference in the earth and people's lives. You will want to rest, but find that there is little time to rest. There is always more to do for the Kingdom. You will find that the care of your home suffers, and all the outward appearances of your life no longer matter. You have said, "Yes, Lord! Use me!" and He will take you at your word.
     But I can also tell you this ... once you have surrendered your will to the will of the God of the Universe, and answered His call on your life, there is no way you're going to want to turn back. You will find that the wealth of this world does not compare to the riches in your work for the Kingdom. You will enter into a new Remnant Community of people; people whose commitment and dedication to expanding the Kingdom on earth will unite your spirits and your purposes in this life. You will not get caught up in the distractions of politics, religion, or popular culture -- your mind has been renewed to a higher purpose and you are focused on what God is showing you. 
     But let me also make it clear that there is so much joy in doing the Lord's work. Yes, you will be tired from your efforts, but you will also experience a lightness and elation that transcends your physical senses. You will rejoice in the victories won for the Kingdom; and you will find immeasurable joy in expressing your gratitude for being used by God. There's nothing like experiencing the power of the Lord in His grace on your life. Just say, "YES!"

Matthew 7:16    You can spot them by their actions, for the fruits of their character will be obvious. You won’t find sweet grapes hanging on a thorn bush, and you’ll never pick good fruit from a tumbleweed.

February 13, 2019

A Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

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

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

February 7, 2019

What Do You Make Of Your Christian Influence?

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

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

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

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

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


October 15, 2018

Mark 11:13-14

He noticed a leafy fig tree in the distance, so He walked over to see if there was any fruit on it, but there was none—only leaves (for it wasn’t yet the season for bearing figs). Jesus spoke to the fig tree, saying, 
“No one will ever eat fruit from you again!” 
And the disciples overheard Him.

     There are two accounts of Jesus "cursing" the fig tree in the Bible, although I would point out that Scripture says Jesus "spoke" to it, not cursed it. Somehow, I think our Church tradition has interpreted that what He spoke was a curse. So let's take a look at both accounts, and see if we can discern what is really going on.
     The account in Matthew has a different context than this one in Mark.  Just as in Mark, the Matthew 21:18-22 version has Jesus declaring that the fig tree will not be productive for eating fruit ever again, and then it withers before Him.  But when asked by His disciples how the fig tree could wither so quickly, Jesus gives them a lesson on faith; that faith is an act of one's will with persistence and perseverance ... "If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen".  He is showing them that faith is being steadfast (or unwavering) in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
     But here in Mark, the story of the fig tree has a different meaning.  Here Jesus sees a fig tree in the distance, and being hungry, He goes to see if He can find anything on it. But when He arrives at the tree, all He finds are leaves -- no fruit.  The Bible tells us it's because it is not the season for figs. And then Jesus speaks to the fig tree with a declaration that no one would ever eat fruit from it again.
     So what's up with this fig tree?  And why did it's absence of fruit result in such condemnation from Jesus?  First of all, we need to take a look at the significance of figs and fig trees in the Bible.  Remember, God doesn't do anything without a purpose.  Figs are actually throughout Scripture, beginning in the Garden of Eden, where fig leaves covered the shame of Adam and Eve when they discovered they were naked.  Throughout the Bible, the plant becomes a symbol of prosperity, well-being, and security. Along with the vine, to sit under the plentiful shade of your own fig tree is the epitome of safety, peace and good fortune in many Biblical passages. Specifically, Micah 4:4 says, Each of them will sit under his vine, and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
     These plants don’t grow overnight, and it takes time to culture and nurture them – their maturity indicates that the gardener has been continuously and steadfastly there, tending to their growth over the years. And since Jesus states in John 15:1 that He is the True Vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser (Gardener), the point of these verses in Mark comes into focus.  Actually, I believe there is a dual significance to Jesus's word to the fig tree.  
     First of all, the fig tree points to the nation of Israel, which had been planted by God and nurtured for so long as His chosen people.  He had remained steadfastly beside them, tending to their growth down through the centuries.  The fact that this fig tree did not have any fruit on it at all, despite the fact that it wasn't the season for figs, showed Jesus's [and the Father's] disappointment and frustration.  After all the tender-loving care the Father had put into the nation of Israel, there should have been some evidence of fruit remaining on the tree.  Since Jesus only said or did what He heard from the Father, we can surmise that God was nearing the time when Israel would be blinded and ineffective in spreading the Gospel.
     But there is a second aspect in view ... If we look at these verses from the context that the fig tree represents Believers, Jesus has the right to demand and expect fruit from us at all times -- both in and out of season.  And when we recall that there is actually a Fig Tree Generation spoken of in Revelation 6:13 -- that generation that is alive when the Sixth Seal is torn open and terror reigns on the earth -- it is important that we be bearing fruit in this season, regardless of whether it is time to harvest or not. We should be doing the miraculous works of Jesus at all times, not just when it is practical and in season. 
     To be honest, the meaning behind the "cursing" of the fig tree can only be surmised, and must be looked at through a supernatural lens. But there is much symbolism attached to the fig tree throughout Scripture, and anytime Jesus is looking at the fruit being produced, we know it has significance for us.  May we all seek to be fruitful and prosperous for the Kingdom, so that when our Lord measures what we have yielded for Him, we will not be found lacking, and be the cause of His disappointment. 

Current Note: Much and too little has changed since I posted this in May, 2017. I am so pleased that I am seeing fellow Christians come alongside me and Mark to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. At the same time, there are other Believers who cannot overcome their hesitancy to partake in the richness of the Kingdom, no matter how much we share our joy. And honestly, we are not responsible for their actions; we are only accountable for sharing the Good News of the works that Jesus did and to which He has called us. We've done our part and pray that their hearts will be made alive with the desire to please the Lord.