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

Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts

March 10, 2022

Now, More Than Ever, We Must Understand The Truth Of The Bible!


I know to many of you, these days look dark. I know you are facing fears that you haven't experienced before. I know, because I see it all around me. One of my dearest friends has received a serious cancer diagnosis; her nephew was killed in a car accident last night; my closest cousin died from a stroke that appears to be vaccine-related; our national and world economy is teetering; war threatens the entire globe; and "the nuclear option" is not just a slogan anymore. Many of you may be enduring far worse situations, or fearing the possibilities that you may soon face. But I am not writing from a position of fomenting fear, or "calling out" anyone's inability to accept what is coming upon the earth.

Instead, what I want to shout to everyone [especially people who proclaim their faith in Jesus] is that "Now is the time to see the truth of God in the world! Now is the time to come out from under the delusion that none of this should be happening! Now is the time to step into the unconquerable faith that we claim to possess!" That means we don't focus on the bad news, but we don't deny it, either. I don't understand why people are confused over troubling and painful events in their lives or the world. I have said it over and over, but people just look at me like it's not computing ... Why do we 21st Century American Christians think we deserve uncomplicated and trouble-free lives? Why are we convinced that somehow God has blessed us above all other nations, and that good fortune and security are our national and personal destiny?  

I find myself thinking of those favored by the Father and the Son in the Bible ... the Israelites, who were the apple of God's eye, yet found themselves being subjected to slavery in Egypt; of Moses, whom God used to deliver them from their bondage, yet was denied entrance to the Promised Land; of David and Abraham, who were both highly favored by God, yet experienced suffering in their personal lives, found themselves fighting in wars, and saw their sons become embittered foes. And can you imagine what it must have been like for the Disciples? These were men hand-picked by Jesus, Himself, and tasked with traveling to places like Turkey and India to spread the news that the Son of the Most High God, [whom these foreign people didn't even know] had come to earth to save them from eternal death. And they were willing to go, even though Jesus pretty much assured them they would endure tribulation and trials, and be killed by those who hated Him. Why would we think that we could [or should] make it through this world unscathed and untouched?

People throughout the world and throughout history have understood that we live in a fallen world, and suffering [in all its forms] is "normal". But somehow, we, who find ourselves modern citizens of the Western culture and mindset, have somehow come to expect a life of ease, convenience and constant safety. How many times have I heard people say, "That would never happen here"! We seem to have forgotten Paul's exhortation to the young church in Thessalonica "not to become unsettled by difficulties", for he had warned them in advance that they were going to experience persecution, and sure enough, it had come to pass. It was to be expected! Yet, when we look upon the tremendous suffering that is happening in our world today -- from disease, violence and crime, war, the trading of human souls, and the consequences of our individual sin -- we still cry out, "How could this be happening to me? I've been a good Christian [or at least a good person]"!

But God's Word never promises a guaranteed escape plan from the suffering in the world. In fact, Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12, Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith]. He couldn't have said it any plainer. But it is also apparent that God has given much favor to those of us born in the United States. No other nation has been created with personal liberty and freedom such as we've been blessed with. And up until now, we have been able to pursue our faith, free from persecution. Although faith in Jesus in other countries around the world can be met with loss of employment, estrangement from family, imprisonment, beatings, or even death, we in America have so far been allowed to experience [and share] our faith without such repercussions. What would you do if that suddenly changes? Would you pick up your cross and follow Jesus, being willing to suffer for Him? Even unto death? Others have. 

Perhaps it's time to accept the truth of the Bible; that suffering is a natural part of the Christian life. Jesus tells us it is so. Just because we haven't experienced it here yet, doesn't mean we won't. It's time we examine our hearts and rid them of any form of entitlement or "right to be exempt". We must come to the realization that knowing Christ surpasses all else in this world -- including personal security, safety, prosperity, and health. We must recognize the cost of discipleship and offer nothing less to those we share the Gospel with. We must present the whole picture of the Christians life! Yes, we have our reunion with Jesus to look forward to, and to see His glory as He comes to redeem all who believe in Him. But we must be prepared to endure and persevere through tribulation until that glorious moment! Until that moment, we are to offer Jesus to others, and all that comes with that choice -- not just a cozy, easy life. 

A 2017 article by Zane Pratt provides wisdom about how to approach the subject of the trials, tribulations, and sufferings of the Christian life. I'd like to share that knowledge, with a bit of personal insight added... We should not be caught off-guard or surprised by the realities of the world; suffering is a given. We can experience and endure through suffering without losing our integrity [and moral righteousness]. As hard as it may be to do, we are to love our persecutors and pray for them. We are not to seek revenge; that is the Lord's prerogative. As faithful Christians, we must trust in God through the midst of our suffering and look for opportunities to do good for others. We can identify with others who are suffering, and can therefore offer encouragement. We must stay focused on Jesus. And this is always a difficult thing to understand, but we can rejoice when we suffer because our hearts find Him so worthy to be identified with. We must believe and know that our suffering will be temporary and cannot compare to the glory and joy that we will find in the Presence of the Father and Son!

So, my final thought is this ... If you are finding the chaos in the world to be frighteningly unsettling, and you haven't been prepared for it by the Church, or you are unfamiliar with what the Bible reveals as Truth, then I want you to know this ... The story of Jesus is more than the joy of the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection of the Savior of the World. Our faith is founded upon more than our culture's celebrations of Christmas and Easter. There are a lot of pages before and after those stories [in the Bible] that speak of the heart-break that accompanies our faith; of the cost of following Jesus; and of His power in us to endure against the Anti-Christ spirit that has invaded the earth. The story and evidence of our lives as Christians must be our ability to stand strong, established in a faith so deep in Christ that no amount of suffering or persecution can uproot us. We will sing of our love for Jesus in the midst of both trials and triumph! And at the end of our journey on this earth, we will celebrate IT ALL as a dedicated offering of our unshakeable faith in the One who redeemed us!

2 Corinthians 6:4-10   We commend ourselves in every way as servants of God: in great endurance, in sufferings, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in sleepless nights, in hunger, in purity and sincerity, in knowledge and spiritual insight, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in [speaking] the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand [like holding the sword to attack] and for the left [like holding the shield to defend], amid glory and dishonor; by evil report and good report; branded as deceivers and yet [vindicated as] truthful; as unknown [to the world], yet well-known [by God and His people]; as dying, yet we live; as punished, yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet bestowing riches on many; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.


October 21, 2018

What The World Needs From Us

     I am officially back from my vacation and I have to tell you that being removed from my normal environment has given me a new perspective on the role of us Christians in the world. You see, Mark and I were in the company of a group of nearly 20 people, most of them years younger than us, and only one woman who was a fellow Christian. We had some good, long talks with her about our faith experiences, and it was interesting to find that she was pretty well versed on spiritual warfare, baptism of the Holy Spirit, and walking in spiritual gifts. The concept of Inner Healing and Deliverance, however, was unfamiliar territory, but she was not adverse to seeing their significance in spiritual healing.
     But other than this one encounter, everyone else wasn't too keen on revealing what they felt about a relationship with Jesus; shying away from any religious discussion. But, as always, when your goal is to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God, Jesus will give you the opportunity to sow a seed or two. And there was a particular conversation that Mark took part in that captured the interest of several thirty-something's one night at dinner. Let me share the gist of it ...
     First of all, you need to understand that my husband has a keen interest in understanding the historic religions of the world and how they relate to Christianity. It is important to have a knowledge of what came before Christ so that one can intelligently [and accurately] represent how our God is superior to the gods of other religions. In doing his research, he has become quite well-informed about these lesser gods, knowing their names and becoming aware of their existence and influence upon the people of today. Therefore, he has no hesitancy in engaging in a discussion with the Millennial generation, who proudly display these gods upon their bodies in the form of tattoos. In fact, it never surprises me when he asks these younger people about their tattoos, because he has a genuine interest in knowing if they are aware of the spiritual doors they are opening.
     One such discussion took place with Mike, a videographer that was quite an interesting young man. In his mid-thirties, he had come out of the snow-boarding culture, and had developed a successful business in film and video. That night at dinner, Mark noticed that he had quite a prominent tattoo on his left forearm, and asked Mike about it. "Why do you have Ahura Mazda on your arm?" Mike was amazed that someone would actually know who this entity was, and in case you are unfamiliar with this god, let me give you some insight.
     Ahura Mazda, whose name means "wise lord," was the most important god in ancient Persian mythology. When the religion known as Zoroastrianism became widespread in Persia around 600 B.C., Ahura Mazda became its supreme deity. This religion was founded by the religious leader, Zoroaster, who taught that Ahura Mazda was an omniscient god and creator of the universe. Zoroaster also taught the existence of angels, demons and saviors, ideas that can also be found in Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- all religions that came later.
     But back to Mike, and how this ancient god came to be permanently etched on his arm. Mike admitted to doing psychedelic mushrooms in his younger days and said that he did them for about a year, without any unusual affects... until the night that an entity appeared to him, attacked him, and frightened him nearly to death! That began Mike's search into the spiritual realm, various religions and gods. Instinctively, he knew there was a supreme being, but could get no answers from Christian pastors about the entity that attacked him or what god it might be serving.
     So he began an investigation into the oldest god there was, which led him to the Sumerian texts. Sumer was the southernmost region of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait) which is generally considered the cradle of civilization. The name comes from Akkadian, the language of the north of Mesopotamia, and means “land of the civilized kings”. The Sumerians invented one of the first writing systems, developing Sumerian cuneiform writing (impressed on clay tablets) by about the 30th century BC. The earliest literary texts appear from about the 27th century BC. 
     As far as their religious belief system, the Sumerians believed there were four creator deities, and under them were the seven gods who "decree the fates." These were An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna. These were followed by the 50 "great gods" or Annunaki, the children of An. Sumerians believed that their role in the universe was to serve these gods. 
     So, in his search for answers about a god to serve, Mike ended up tattooing Ahura Mazda and Enki on his arm, determining that if they were among the first gods to be worshipped, they had supremacy. And when my husband could intelligently discuss these gods with him, without condemning him, Mike was willing to listen to what Mark had to say about the "Most High God".  Mike's question was, "Where do I go to find out about him"? And when Mark's answer was, "He's the God of the Bible", Mike shared his distrust of what Christians had presented to him in the past, because it was always dictatorial, rigid, and repressive -- and they were always unwilling to accept that there were other gods.
The Most High God amid His Divine Counsel
     When Mark was able to point him to Psalm 82, which places the Most High God in His Divine Council, in the midst of the [little "g"] gods, where He proclaims, "You are gods, sons of the Most High", and then takes him to Deuteronomy 32:8, where the Bible tells us that the Most High God divided mankind, fixed the territories [nations] according to these "sons of God", appointing them over the nations while He took Israel as His people, then Mike became interested in knowing more about this Most High God. He was no longer the tyrannical God that religious Christians had demanded he must accept. Mike's sense of curiosity and very real desire to understand the origins of mankind and the spirit world made it easier for Mark to introduce the character and sovereignty of the God we Christians serve.

     It was a small, first step in getting Mike to reconsider the Bible as a credible source of information about God. There was no need to press him for more; it was not yet the time to explore fallen angels, satan, or Jesus as his personal savior. That could come after he was able to receive and accept Jehovah, Father God. But he no longer viewed the Bible as a negative, restrictive book, nor the God of the Bible as a tyrant. And he had certainly never met a Christian like Mark. 
     And in this exchange, it suddenly became clearer to me why Jesus chose to teach in parables. He was trying to overcome the religious rules and legalism of the Pharisees, who were so restrictive in their interpretation, and appeal to human instincts and spirits as He introduced the Kingdom of God. Mike had made it clear that "Church people" weren't accepting of him or his questions, and Mark laughingly told him they weren't always receptive of his ideas either. But he made it clear that the god on Mike's arm was no match for the God we serve. And when Mike heard that our God helped deliver people, just like him, who were being attacked by these entities from the spiritual realm, he was even more interested. And so were the five or six other Millennials at the table, some of whom had experienced similar attacks.
     You see, this generation has been raised on the internet where anything that can be imagined is possible. So, they are bombarded with fantasy worlds, demons, artificial intelligence, and all the spiritual doors those avenues have opened. When, we as Christians, try to present God as we've made Him within our Church walls, they can't identify. We must speak to them in their own terms and from their areas of interest. Just like Jesus's parables, we have to show them a God that relates to their experiences. The unbelieving world doesn't need our sermons and certainly doesn't want to hear "The Word says". They first have to know who "the Word" is before what He says can mean anything to them. We must relate to them at where they are, instead of demanding that they relate to us in all our religious ways. We must engage with them, looking for ways to introduce them to a God that is interested in them. From there, Jesus will give us the opportunities to take the next step, and the next... always bringing heavenly purpose into their earthly circumstances. 
     It's my prayer that Mark can keep in touch with Mike and answer the questions that will inevitably come. It's a long distance between Texas and Utah, but we serve a God that arranged that divine appointment in Montana. Let's see what what He orchestrates next.

1 Timothy 2:3-4   This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

July 4, 2017

Am I Living A Transformed Life?

     Last week my husband and I attended one of the most interesting and thought-provoking meetings that I believe will change my Christian life.  The speaker was Dr. Jim Wilder, a doctor of clinical psychology and theology who has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and various conferences around the world.
      He calls himself a "neuro-theologian", which means that he teaches his students to consider that what God tells us about His creation (including us) should affect how we think, act, and live.  In other words, reality as I know it, should be different if I'm going to call myself a Christian.  I should be living a new life, in God's presence, instead of in a body with a brain that hasn't caught up to the new spirit within me.
     But as 21st Century Christians, we are a product of our Church's belief systems, and sadly, churches in the West have stopped expecting anything new in our knowledge of God, and we have just become a thing (or product, or whatever you want to call us) of what we know.  For instance, it is a mantra within the Church (and it is true) that God is love.  But what does that mean to you? And how does it affect how you live your life?  Is that statement just a concept, or an idea -- or is it a force?  Has it transformed your life?
     And how much does the culture in which we live play a part in how we live out our faith? Dr. Wilder stated that it is okay if we use our culture to express our Christian views -- for instance, writing this blog, in which I am not afraid to state my theology -- but we should guard against letting the culture shape those views -- for instance, adopting a culture-friendly acceptance of all sexual lifestyles because we don't want to offend anyone, or we want to "fit in".  If we are guilty of that, then we have made God smaller than we are. But the reality is that He is smarter and bigger than we are, and He can teach us everything we need to know to live this Christian life.  However, the idea of "growing up" to be something -- like a mature Christian, for example -- has dropped out of our culture.  The Church in the West has decided that salvation is the ultimate goal, and there's no need to know or explore God any further.  Now, it's simply about being in the building every Sunday, and enjoying the other 6 days to the fullest, until we die and go to Heaven.  Shouldn't our salvation experience transform us more than that?  And how do we train these brains that are lagging behind our "born again" spirits to think and see ourselves as a new kind of people living a new kind of way?
     What is it going to take to raise up leaders in the Church, (and for those of us who are practicing our faith outside the building), to raise up people who live differently -- both in our churches, and in our families and communities? Well, Dr. Wilder says there are four habits that exceptional leaders and transformed people have developed, and they are centered around identity and belonging.  Who we are determines what we will do. And when we know who we are, and how people like us (human beings transformed by the Spirit of God in us) are to act, we are able to train our brains to develop these habits and therefore to traverse this life as God's representatives.  And what are these important habits?
     1. Remain relational.  God created us, first and foremost, to be relational.  He's a God that loves relationship with those He's created, and He desires that we relate both to Him, and to others.  The importance of this habit is that as Christians, whether you are a church leader, or an individual practicing your faith, you are going to run into problems -- either within your church or within the culture.  In the face of problems, we must remain relational to each other -- avoiding isolation, blame, and anger -- keeping our relationships bigger than our problems.
     As we live our lives here on earth, behind enemy lines, so to speak, it is important that we make our relationship with God a priority, and live our lives so that our relationships with people reflect Him; showing that relationships are more important than being right or getting results.
     2. Act Like Yourself.  Once you're a born again Christian, doing whatever you did in the past should not be an option.  You need to ask yourself, Who is the real me, now? What I've always been, or what God's creating in me?  Ephesians 2:10 expresses God's mindset perfectly (and should reflect ours):  "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them".  We are "a new work" [spiritually transformed, renewed, and ready to be used], created by God, with Jesus as our model, and designed by God to walk out the path He has set before us.  It's a whole new way to think of ourselves, but sadly, I don't think we, as Christians, have really discovered who we are.
     3. Return to Joy.  This is not an emotional concept, as you might expect, but rather a relational one.  This is not joy in the sense of euphoria, but the recognition that "I am not alone in this; Someone is with me in this difficulty".  It doesn't mean you are going to be happy in your difficulty, but you can train your brain to understand that God is there with you.  "I am not alone in this evil world".  And this is perhaps the hardest of the habits to form, because it means that our brains have to learn to overcome anger, sadness, and fear in order to maintain that joy in the midst of our difficulties.  But Jesus was able to do it while living out His life on this earth as a man.
     4.  Endure Hardships After A Return to Joy.  This is all about remaining relational through the hardships in life.  Keeping our relationships bigger than our problems is what it means to live your life as a Christian.  When you think about it, none of us will ever face the burdens and problems that Jesus faced in dying for the world's sins.  Yet, His relationships with the Father, His Disciples, and the  broken people He healed were His primary focus.  He continued to endure each hardship that confronted Him, knowing that He was not in it alone.  If we can do that, we will live a transformed life.
     In summary, I want to say that Dr. Wilder's book, Rare Leadership, provides a much more comprehensive look at how Church leaders can transform the lives of their flocks, and how parents can use these concepts to train up their children to live transformed lives in their real identities as children of God.  Whether in our churches or our families, we need to be building communities in which God is an active participant, and so are we.  Remember, the devil is The Accuser, and he is constantly whispering in our ears that what we did wrong (our sin) yesterday is the real us.  We need to know who we are, and see ourselves as the image of what God is creating in us -- and see others as what He is creating in them.
     If we believe that God is Love, and we say that we love God, and that love is a force -- not just an idea or concept -- then we need to be asking ourselves, How is my love for God doing today?  How is my love for others doing today?  Really knowing God, as well as being in relationship with others so that we see what He is creating in them, will truly transform our lives.  We will be in genuine relationship with Him and others.  And perhaps the greatest benefit of being this new kind of people who live a new kind of way is that we will see the transformation in others -- from people who need love, into people who give it.  When our relationship with God is experienced with thankfulness and appreciation, we want to share it with others, and the relationship cycle starts all over again.  It's time we begin to see real transformation in our lives, as we come to know who we really are.

2 Corinthians 3:18     "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit".


December 5, 2016

Facing Darkness: A Story For The Ages

Like my review on the new movie, Hacksaw Ridge, I feel compelled to point you to another inspiring true story... this one more recent.  And again, it is being portrayed on film, and is worthy of our attention; especially considering the largely perverted and exploitative entertainment industry. I will continue to praise and encourage the efforts of film-makers who accurately, and appropriately, promote our faith.    

      Even though Americans are now focused on the upcoming holidays, the news around the world reminds us that we are still in a physical and spiritual battle.  Fires rage in Israel; the Middle East is still in turmoil; mass graves are uncovered in Mexico; earthquakes in Japan and Central America remind us that the earth "trembles"; and our nation remains divided, as tens of thousands take to the street in protest. But even in the midst of these disheartening headlines, there is a story that will lift you up and inspire you.  While it is another story ripped from the headlines, it speaks to all of mankind through history.
     I'm sure none of you have forgotten the fear that struck the world in late summer of 2014 when the Ebola virus broke out in West Africa.  And I'm sure you still recall the image of Dr. Kent Brantley -- the first person infected with the deadly virus on U.S. soil -- being walked into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, after being flown from Africa in a desperate move to save his life.
     His story, and that of his wife Amber, is a moving tribute to their faith in God while in the heart of darkness.  And now, there is a gripping documentary, titled Facing Darkness, from Franklin Graham and Samaritan's Purse.  The film has not only won the Accolade Global Film Competition’s Award of Excellence, but has also received the Best Feature Documentary Premiere Award at the 2016 Heartland Film Festival.  The film festival celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and featured more than 130 independent films out of 250 entrants. It is not affiliated with Christian nor conservative organizations, and is an independent nonprofit arts organization, with a mission to "inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film." Heartland selects films that "inspire and uplift, educate and inform, or have the ability to shift audience's perspectives on the world."
     And with its powerful message of faith, we can only hope that Facing Darkness will have such an impact upon the world audience.  In a statement to the press, the festival's director of programming and marketing said the film was "a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of conviction and hope in the face of despair."  Isn't that the real story of the human race?  Aren't we all in a battle to find hope in a world that is doomed to judgment and destruction unless we surrender to the power that is faith in Jesus? And isn't our mission here on earth to serve others in the likeness of our Savior; even to the point of death, if that's where it leads?
     That is the story of Dr. Kent Brantley and hygienist, Nancy Writebol, both missionaries working for Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work.  The organization is run by Dr. Franklin Graham, who serves as President and CEO.
     The film was shot in Liberia and the U.S. where the events took place. The story highlights the lives of heroes who risked their own health and life in an effort to stop one of the deadliest epidemics this century. Ebola infected more than 28,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and 11,000 lives succumbed to the disease. Think how easy it would have been for Dr. Brantley, and the others who worked with him, to simply ask to be evacuated, leaving the problem of Ebola to the people and authorities in Africa.  But that's not who they were. They put others before themselves, in a true example of Christian concern for the sufferings of others.  "Samaritan's Purse workers were holding the last line of defense in a crisis the world was largely ignoring," said Graham. "Hundreds were dying and it was only growing worse. When the disease struck Kent and Nancy, we knew we had to get them home for treatment. It was their only chance, yet it was something no one had ever done."
     But the film is about more than the advances in science and medicine that made their eventual cure possible.  It is about facing the fear and the darkness of despair and the absence of hope.  "Faith is not something that makes you safe," Dr. Brantly is quoted as saying when describing his decision to stay in the country and fight the disease. "You had to face death in the eye and decide, 'Who am I going to be today?'" And when you think about it, that is a decision we each have to make -- every minute of every day. But do we make that decision consciously and deliberately, or do we go about our day only responding to those things that affect us? Are we aware of who or what image we are displaying to the world? Do we act like Christ lives in us, or do we react from our own fleshly desires?  Those may sound like pointless and existential questions, but isn't that precisely what God asks of us?
     Dr. Kent Brantley took those questions seriously.  And his testimony is a reminder to us, that if we proclaim to be a Christian, we have a responsibility to the One who saved us: "Even when I was facing death, I remained full of faith. I did not want to be faithful to God all the way up to serving in Liberia for ten months, only to give up at the end because I was sick... We have to choose compassion over fear. We cannot let fear be the motivating force for the decisions we make in life, for the way we treat other people," he said. "There are a lot of big things going on in our world right now and in our country. I think this story can help us navigate those other experiences as well, as we wrestle with the challenge of choosing compassion over fear, and treating other people out of a sense of respect and love, and not out of a sense of fear and self-preservation". Sounds a lot like how Christ lived His life, doesn't it?
     To further emphasize this point, Franklin Graham says, "I think when there's a crisis, God wants us to be there. He doesn't want us to run away. God put us there [in Liberia] for a reason, and He expected us to do something about it." This is the same story of Jesus's three years as God in the flesh. The existence of God's chosen people, the Jews, had come to a crisis. And God wanted to be there, in the flesh, to convict them and to cause a change in how they viewed Him. God chose to do something about the state of those He had chosen, and ultimately, all whom He has created. So He came in the flesh, as His Son, Jesus; fully man.  And as that man, He did not run away.  He did not ask to be "evacuated", even though, like Dr. Brantley, He could have asked to be rescued from His impending death. Instead, He stayed and served.
     There are other similarities between Kent Brantley's story and our commission to serve as Jesus did.  Brantly’s decision to stay was particularly heroic, especially considering the fact that escalating native opposition added to his perils. “Complicating the situation – after years of civil war – the people of Liberia deeply distrusted any authority and went so far as to blame the aid workers for spreading the disease,” the documentary’s release explained. “Hospitals and people were attacked. Yet the Samaritan's Purse team continued to serve.” In His day, Jesus's message was controversial, too, and eventually, those He came to serve began to blame Him for the increasing pressure from their own Jewish officials and the Roman authorities.  Yet He continued to offer hope and to attend to those He came to serve.
     So this inspirational story brings me to this conclusion:  What is the crisis in your life -- whether large or small -- the crossroads where you get to choose how you are going to act towards another person? Do you automatically weigh how your decision will affect you -- or do you selflessly consider only how you can make another person's life better? Dr. Brantley faced true darkness ... despair in the face of an agonizing death.  Like our Savior, He was willing to sacrifice himself, in the desire to show compassion to another human being, while offering the possibility to save a life.  While Kent Brantley only offered life in this world, Jesus offers it for eternity.  And all He asks is that we love our God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourself ... whether that neighbor is next door, or a world away. And no matter how big or small our neighbor's crisis may be... that we simply answer the call and choose compassion over fear in service to others. In doing so, we will be facing our own darkness, and triumphing in the spirit of Christ!

Facing Darkness will be released on March 30, 2017 in select theaters around the country.  You can watch the trailer here.  Thanks to The Christian Post and One News Now websites for their reporting on this inspirational story.  

Isaiah 41:10   ‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’



October 14, 2016

Is It Time To Remove The Bell?

     One of the many blessings of writing this blog is that I have joined a community of normal, everyday people who feel called to use their talent for writing to honor our Lord.  And every once in awhile, I hear directly from them, commenting on something I've written, and asking if they can share it with their readers.  Today, I want to return the compliment.  
     Dennis Rowan is the heart and soul behind a blog called "Homestead Shepherd", and his blog is just what it sounds like... relating the practical experience of shepherding sheep to our spiritual Christian walk with Christ, who is our Shepherd.  
     Dennis contacted me a few days ago, and told me he was going to write an article about an unusual experience he had with a bellwether in his flock.  In case you don't know (and I didn't), a bellwether is a male sheep that leads the flock, usually wearing a bell.  It can also mean a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry.  Dennis thought of my pen name, Belle Ringer, and the posts I have written about my church experiences, and hinted that I might find his article interesting.  
     Not only did I find it interesting, but of primary importance when regarding the state of the modern Church and its leaders.  Let me emphatically state that this is not a blanket assertion about all church shepherds, but an expression of profound concern.  So, with his kind permission, I would like to share Dennis's perspective and concern about the Church's "lead sheep".

     Last week I removed the bell from a lead sheep.  It was a bit sobering as I thought about it;  I removed the bell because the sheep was no longer qualified to be a lead sheep… he was no longer useful.
     As I removed the bell from the sheep, my thoughts went to Christian leaders… perhaps it is time to remove the bell.  What do I mean by that?  First, I am primarily referring to most pastors who supposedly lead local congregations.  If they are not leading correctly, then it is time to remove the bell.

Burnout, PKs, and High Expectations of Pastors
     For most of my 75 years I have listened to people talk about how so many pastors tend to feel lonely because of the demands made on [their lives].  Some of this is self-inflicted, and some are demands by the very people who pay their salary.  Pastor burnout is something I have heard many times.  Then there are the PKs, or preacher’s kids, who seem to be in a class by themselves; as people who have special behavioral problems.  Personally, I have not seen this in excess among PKs, but I had an unusual encounter with one of my students, a PK, about 40 years ago at the college where I taught.  A young lady in my class was a PK, and she told me in private that her pastor dad kept so busy that she and her brother had to make appointments with him if they wanted to visit him at work.
     Sometime during the past 25 years, I came to the conclusion that the high stress on pastors, the super busy schedules, and subsequent burnout (by some) occurs because the position as pastor, as we know it in America, is NOT biblical.  In my mind, God would not put that responsibility on one man.

     Church Government
     I once asked a pastor to define church government, because I really wanted to know.  This was a relaxed informal setting, so he was under no pressure.  He talked for 10-15 minutes, and said NOTHING, or at the very least, I learned nothing.  That was a big red flag for me, and I began a relatively long journey of searching the Scriptures to learn for myself some things about church government… after many years I concluded that traditional church, as most Americans know it, is NOT biblical… there I said it!

The Lead Sheep
     I mentioned my relatively long journey of searching the Scriptures.  Here is a link to something I wrote 23 years ago called The Lead Sheep.  There is much in that article, written more than two decades ago, that complements what you are reading here, but my criticism of the system, and subsequent conclusions are much more harsh now, as you will see at the end of this piece.  I beg the Christian reader to beware of the, “But we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. ”  (BWADITW).   We need to understand that BWADITW is not a synonym for “truth.”
     Below is a quote from a book about biblical church by Terry Stanley:  We cannot be adequately fed from only one man, for only one hour, on only one day of the week. No matter how good of a man he may be. The church of Jesus does not need money to run. Nor does it need a denomination (division) to be affiliated with. We do not need a building, a board of directors, an agenda, or a marketing plan in order to survive. But rather the Spirit of God, the power of the gospel, the love of the brethren and the authority of the scriptures are to drive our very existence.
     Amen, and Amen!  I encourage the interested reader to check the free online book at the link above. For any who wish to study and exercise a bit of discernment, they should realize that church congregations in America have some serious problems, and the lack of proper Christian training of our young children is at the top of my list of those serious problems.  I don’t particularly like to put in these words (shown in bold), but I will because that is the first thing that came to my mind; pastors should be ashamed to show their face in public knowing that most of the children in their congregation attend a government run school where Jesus Christ is not welcome.

The Choice for Christians – Comfort or Correct
     Yes, I think it is time to remove the bell from those who lead non-biblical organizations that are supposed to be Christ-centered, but instead, have been instituted, shaped and corrupted by men.  I don’t doubt the salvation and sincerity of all who participate in institutional churches, but the system, on average, needs an overhaul.  Do a search and learn where in the world Christianity has the fastest rate of growth (hint: they are underground house churches).  Most of the traditional church institutions and their leaders in America should gradually step out of the way, and let the home churches and home-schooled people begin to turn things around with a true focus on the Chief Shepherd, absent of all the frivolous baggage man has attached to what he calls “church.”  It will be a very difficult and slow process to change from such an established system, but we also should decide which we prefer, comfort with the old, or accept the challenge of being correct.  Focus on this Scripture:  But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. ( Matthew 19:26)

     The question of whether we, as Christians, should remove "the bell from the lead sheep" is a difficult and controversial one.  I am sure that Dennis Rowan's commentary will offend some; those who think that their church does not fit this harsh criticism.  But let me ask you this question ... If the Church (Body of Christ) is doing the job Jesus left us to do, and doing it Biblically, according to God's purpose, would our society and culture be in the mess it's in?  Isn't it the Church's job to influence society in the ways of God?  And would so many Christians be oppressed by demonic spirits, and/or leading secret and sinful lives?  
     Granted, the responsibilities of a Shepherd of God's flock are monumental.  But are we holding the Shepherds accountable?  Are they fulfilling their duties as expressed in the Bible ... handling accurately the Word of Truth; ready to preach the Word in and out of season; exhorting, reproving, rebuking, with great patience and instruction; are they constantly studying the Word in order to gain greater knowledge of God, and as an example for their flock; are they able to teach the Word; would he be willing to lay down his life for his flock?
     All these are attributes of a Pastor, or Shepherd of God's flock, as described in the Bible.  Do we take them seriously, and are they being fulfilled?  Shepherd is an important role, one of the most important in the Bible ... that's why God sent His Son, so our pastors could imitate Him.  Neither I nor Dennis Rowan wish to cast aspersions upon any man who takes his position as Shepherd solemnly and earnestly.  But, by the condition of our country and our world, I think it's time we face the truth ... perhaps some of those who fill the role of Lead Sheep are no longer suitable to wear their bell.

Jeremiah 50:6    "My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside [to the seductive places of idolatry] on the mountains.  They have gone along [from one sin to another] from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their [own] resting place."

September 28, 2016

What Are We So Afraid Of?

     Fear is a crippling emotion.  It can kill our hopes, our dreams; even to the point of diminishing the person God made us to be.  I will admit that there are many things in this world that are fearful.  Those feelings of fear regarding our health, our family's safety, our financial stability, the future of our nation -- they are very real emotions about very real circumstances that affect us all.  It seems as if all human beings, at one time or another, experience this unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  And in these days, the prince of this world is showing us lots of areas in which he would like us to feel fear.
     Yet, if we call ourselves Christians, we know that we are made in the image of God, and there is no part of Him that includes fear.  In fact, His Word very plainly tells us "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control] (2 Timothy 1:7).  So what do Christians have to fear?  Just what do we think that spirit of power refers to?  It is the power of Christ in us, right?!?
     So, if we have Christi's spirit in us when we come to faith in Him, and that spirit includes His power, His love, His sound judgment, and His obedience to our Father -- then why do we still see so much evil in the world?  Why aren't Christians using that power -- which is above all other power -- to defeat the wickedness that threatens our families, our communities, and our churches?  I mean, the Bible makes it pretty darn clear.  Ephesians 1:21 says Jesus is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else--not only in this world but also in the world to come.  So why do we act as if we don't have access to that power?  Why do we stop short of confronting wickedness and evil; why do we let them have their way?  Is it because we don't really believe what God is telling us?  Because we don't really trust His promises?
     I want you to consider this.  The Bible tells us that immediately after His baptism, Jesus was taken to the wilderness, where He was put to the test for 40 relentless days, opposing the evil that the devil brought against Him.  It is my opinion that during those 40 days, Jesus, the man, was being trained to stand in opposition to evil; He was strengthening Himself for all the trials to come.  And I believe that the Holy Spirit wants us to do the same!  I think we are called to stand up for God, and to speak up for Jesus.  But the thought of standing up to evil scares too many Christians.  And I understand the reticence.. we don't want to step into territory that we haven't been instructed to; nor do we want to falsely accuse.  But we also must be careful not to accommodate wickedness, when we know it exists.  There is no diplomatic way to manage evil.  And if there is a question if wickedness exists, shouldn't we get the answer?  To do otherwise, leaves the door open for evil to strengthen and grow.  And I have deliberately not named any specific evil, because I do not want to place a limitation on which evil or wickedness we confront.  God hates all wickedness, and so should we!
     But anytime that we do not speak out against the sin or evil we see, then we are defeated by the powers of hell who want us to keep our mouths shut.  Why do we do that, when we have the "power above all powers" within us?  We have been given the authority to use that power in the Name of Jesus, yet somehow the Enemy is able to send his spirit of fear into our hearts and minds.
     Let's go back to that time that Jesus spent in the wilderness.  He was driven there to be tempted by the devil, which really means to confront evil.  Matthew 10:25 tells us,  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher.  Jesus was called to obedience to confront evil.  Our calling is no less.  And that means confronting the evil in ourselves, in our homes, in our friendships, in our businesses, in our communities, in our churches, and in our world.  But have we done that -- or have we merely accommodated it, out of concern (fear) that it might somehow harm our relationships or bonds with those we are in relationship with in the world?
     I absolutely understand the desire to make sure that what we see as evil is identified in truth; that it is truly displeasing to the Lord.  But, if we are honest with ourselves, do we trust the Holy Spirit to reveal that -- or do we seek validation from men?  Are we worried about answering to a higher authority?  But isn't Jesus our ultimate Authority?
     It greatly concerns me that Christians are unwilling to expose or confront evil.  I know it is hard when it exists in yourself, or your family, and especially when it is in our churches.  But we cannot become so comfortable in our accommodation that we leave evil alone, and allow the devil to keep his territory. It should make us mad!
     If we call ourselves Bible-believing Christians, then how are we ever going to confront that demonic evil coming out of the pit of hell, if we can't stand up to the evil practices of people around us?  Shouldn't we be strengthening ourselves in the power of Jesus for those evil days?  Are we Christians ever going to train ourselves to confront the evil that exists in this world?
     What is our silence costing us?  For one thing, it is costing saved lives!  That loved one, or that admired leader will not escape the judgment of God if they are allowed to continue in their sin and evil ways -- no matter how much they pretend at righteousness.  And I know we don't go into any battle on our own.  In fact, the battle against evil is the Lord's battle and He will go before us every time.  He could smite the evildoers at any moment without our help; but He wants to work with us, within our realm, to glorify Himself and reveal His power within us.  He just wants someone to step out in obedience and to be in agreement with Him!
     In the end, each person must search his or her spirit and soul to determine the way in which they will walk.  And we must ask ourselves if our decision is based on obedience to God, or on fear.  It can be a lonely decision, and I do not doubt that earnest Christians are truly seeking to serve the Lord. But I wish to remind all of us that the only fear that should ever concern a Christian is the fear of the Lord; a reverence for His power and glory; a proper respect for His anger and wrath, and hatred of evil.  Seek Him and acknowledge His authority over you and the way in which you should go.  The fear of the Lord is opposite of the fear that comes from the world; in Him we have security and a place of safety.  Nothing and no one can harm us.  Exposing evil is nothing to fear.  Ephesians 5:11-12 tells us, Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret.  
     I pray that we Christians can come together in a spirit of boldness and confidence, knowing that our God is waiting for us to work with Him, and in the same spirit that the early disciples confronted evil.  We don't need to allow evil to go on, protected and safe from denunciation.  We need to recognize it for what it is and expose it.  We need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Psalm 94:16    "Who will stand up for me against the evildoers?
Who will take a stand for me against those who do wickedness?" 

September 26, 2016

Can God Heal Our Land?

     The first and obvious answer is, Yes, He is able to.  He is God.  But what I'm really asking is, what are the requirements for Him to do so?  What is our part?  I know that my God is full of Mercy, but He is also a God of Judgment and Righteousness.  Are we justified in reciting 2 Chronicles 7:14, if my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land?  Do we even stop to realize that we are quoting Scripture in the middle of a sentence; or that we should take the whole context of this passage into account?
     As Christians, we know that the Bible is a living document, written to speak to all generations.  But we have to be very careful to not cherry-pick portions to soothe our sinful souls.  Is our nation in extreme need of healing?  The answer is obvious as my heart aches over the growing racial divide in our cities; the sins of our past (slavery and the Civil War); the murder of millions upon millions of God's babies; and the moral corruption in every facet of our nation.
     But can our restoration be as simple as every Christian praying that the United States "return" to God and pray, and then He will be glad to forgive all of our national sins and "heal" the land?  Shouldn't we first recognize that the bigger context within which this one small verse is pulled out?  We should be mindful that the "My people, who are called by My Name" is not specifying American Christians., or the United States.  God is talking to the nation of Israel, and is responding to a prayer that Solomon had spoken at the dedication of the recently completed Temple.  In that prayer, Solomon reminded God that He had promised his father, David, that He would not fail to have a man sit on the throne of Israel, provided the nation was careful to walk in His law as David had walked before Him.
     Solomon then continued his prayer, asking God to hear the prayers of the people, as they prayed towards the Temple, and forgive them their sins.  He mentions the ramifications of their sins:  being required to take an oath before the altar for sinning against a neighbor; being defeated in battle because they have sinned against the Lord; drought, famine, and pestilence because of their sins.  Time and time again, throughout the lengthy prayer, Solomon asks God to hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and requests, and maintain their cause and do justice and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.
     God's response?  It is within the context of Solomon's Dedication Prayer, and the complete sentence He delivers is this:   If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
     So, the first thing we need to realize is that this is a specific response to a specific prayer, and it pertains to the nation of Israel.  NOW, does this mean that God, in His Sovereignty and His Mercy will not extend the same offer to us, those who have accepted the invitation of His Son?  One of the greatest truths of Scripture is that God loves us.  We are His creation and His people — those whom He will take with Himself into eternal glory!
     But God is also a Righteous God, and He requires repentance for forgiveness.  We are to pray to the Spirit so that Jesus will be worshipped and known throughout the world. We obey the Spirit so that we can have intimacy and communion with God. But we don't pray because we believe that doing so will fix our country or provide us with some sort of special national blessing, and return us to a land of prosperity and power.
     And it's not enough to ask for forgiveness of our sins if we don't change our sinful ways.  God will not hear us praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 if we continue to hate, based on the color of our skin.  He will not hear our prayers if we continue to take advantage of the downtrodden to secure a political vote.  He will not hear our prayers if we continue to worship pluralism and relativism.  There is only one Authority and one Absolute God, and that is YHWH.  He will not hear our prayers if we numb our hearts and minds to the needs of others in our desperate need to fulfill ourselves.  And, it is not enough to deplore and pray against the abhorrent practice of abortion if we allow it to continue to exist.
     I do not doubt that millions of Christians are praying across this land, and asking God to heal our nation.  But until we truly repent and change our lives -- seek His face and turn from our wicked ways -- then I do not believe He will answer.  We cannot expect God to change our circumstances as long as our government rules in darkness; crime and violence dominate our cities; we wage war across the globe; and we violate His moral statues.
     Furthermore, we tend to assume the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 refer to Christian believers, to the elect.  But if all true believers were to do all that the verse requires, God would hear from heaven, forgive our sin, but still not heal our land.  Why?  Because if God healed the land today, it would be defiled tomorrow by the blood of the innocents flowing seven days a week from the abortion mills.
     Yet, we know that by Jesus's stripes we are healed.  He died for our sins and transgressions.  But it requires effort on our part.  It requires national repentance; that turning in a new direction.  And it requires genuine humility; a fasting of the heart and calling on God in thanksgiving, supplication and intercession; knowing we can only be healed by Him.  Until we do the necessary work of changing our sinful ways, fall on our face in humility, and putting ourselves under His Authority, I'm afraid that God cannot and will not heal our land.  He cannot act in opposition to His own Character and Righteousness.  So, Can God heal our land? Yes!  Will He?  That depends on how we respond to Him.  I believe that He wants nothing more than to heal this nation, but it's up to us to show Him we are the people He desires us to be.  Right now, we're not even close...

Hosea 10:12      Sow with a view to righteousness [that righteousness, like seed, may germinate]; Reap in accordance with mercy and lovingkindness. Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the Lord [and to long for His blessing] Until He comes to rain righteousness and His gift of salvation on you.

September 23, 2016

Taking Another Look At "The Veils" Of Our Existence

     Nearly three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a post titled The Veils Of Our Existence.  It was based on a theory proposed by the late Don Harkin, former Editor of The Idaho Observer.  Mr. Harkin suggested the existence of a world system of Power-Elites that the masses don't comprehend because these Power-Elites have cleverly developed a virtual pasture so green that few people seldom, if ever, bother to look up from where they are grazing to notice that they are being led over the cliff.
     Three-and-a-half years ago, my level of understanding of these "veils" did not include the spiritual battle that was being waged at each stage.  I still think each of these stages exists and is valid, and in order to progress to a higher understanding of just how we are to maneuver through this existence called life, we must be able to pierce each successive veil and move to the next level.  It is part of our human journey on this earth... only now, I see this journey with the added benefit of spiritual eyes. So I would like to revisit this interesting speculation, and add a new spiritual perspective to Mr. Harkins' conjecture.  I'm interested to know how many of you have grown in your understanding, as well.
       The First Veil = Politics. There are over 7 billion+ people on the planet.  Most of them will live and die without seriously thinking about anything other than what it takes to live and breathe for one more day.  That means that 90% of all humanity will live behind this first veil and never pierce it.  That leaves 10% of us who will vote, be active in our societies and have an opinion.  Our opinions are often shaped by government officials, MSM or other "experts" who claim to be voices of authority.  But of those with an opinion, 90% will never really think for themselves and will adopt the opinion of others, while 10% will pierce the second veil and move forward in their thinking.
     My New Perspective:  All this remains true, but now I see that there are spiritual forces behind those involved in the government, Mainstream Media, and "experts", or voices of authority.  Of those of us within the 10% who form their own opinion, how many understand that politics is not the answer -- that our power will not come from our affiliation with whomever wins elections, but from Jesus Christ?  And what small percentage of that 10% realizes that our time on this earth should not be spent supporting man-made power structures, but using our power from Christ to "do the things He has done, only greater"? (John 14:12).
     The Second Veil = History.  There will be 10% of us who will explore the world of history, the relationship between man and government, which will lead to the meaning of self-government through constitutional and common law.  Ninety percent of this group will live and die without going on to pierce the third veil.
     My New Perspective:  The Constitution is no longer my route to real freedom.  Man's laws and self-government will only get me so far.  My true freedom lies in letting Jesus heal my spiritual wounds, and recognizing that I don't have to suffer the "fiery darts" of the Enemy.  The history that consumes me now are the experiences of those -- both from the ancient world, and the modern -- who have learned what it means to transcend the tyranny and oppression from the spiritual realm to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is true freedom.
     The Third Veil = Resources of the World.  Of the group that pierces this veil, 10% of us will come to realize that the masses are controlled by extremely wealthy and powerful families whose old world assets have been manipulated to become the foundation upon which the world's economy is currently indebted.  (Think Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, the Royal Monarchs).  But sadly, 90% of this group will never pierce the fourth veil.
     My New Perspective:  Yes, the masses are controlled by these extremely wealthy and powerful families; and behind them are the spiritual forces of wickedness and evil.  I believe that they have sold their souls for earthly wealth and power that will prove false when the Day of Judgment comes.
 The Fourth Veil = The Illuminati, Freemasonry and other secret societies.  There are 10% of us that recognize these societies use symbols and perform ceremonies that transfer mysterious knowledge that is used to keep us ordinary people in political, economic and spiritual bondage to the oldest bloodlines on earth.  This has been seen frequently at Super Bowl halftime shows (Beyonce flashing "the Rockefeller" sign; Madonna sporting symbols of the occult) and during the Grammy's (Nikki Minaj's ode to "Roman", the demon whom she says possesses her).  Just check out the Youtube videos for each of these demonstrations!  But once again, 90% of those who have reached this level of understanding will never pierce the fifth veil.
     My New Perspective:  Boy, has my understanding of this grown in the last few years!  The Lord has shown me just how much devastation has been sown on families steeped in these secret societies.  The oaths and curses taken during secret ritual ceremonies have resulted in great oppression among many Christians, who don't even know these secret societies have permeated their families or their Churches!  And the evidence that these societies have infiltrated our entertainment industry is overwhelming.  I am literally seeing the signs and symbols everywhere I look throughout our culture.  Sadly, I believe that our country is steeped in the occult mysticism associated with these groups, and they are influencing every area of our lives.
     The Fifth Veil = Technological advances by these Secret Societies. I may lose some of you at this point, but I urge you to do your own research and study the Bible in depth.  There are hints of the knowledge behind this fifth veil, but you have to be willing to connect the dots.  There are 10% who make it this far in their understanding who learn that the secret societies are so far advanced technologically that they are able to do things that were considered science fiction just decades ago.  The inventions of Ray Kurzweil and his prediction of "man's singularity with computers" is an example of such advanced technology.  But what's interesting is that this technology is actually ancient, and compares to what Nimrod was trying to accomplish at the Tower of Babel; namely to become like God.    Are we getting dangerously close to that concept again?  Nearly 90% will never get beyond this understanding to the sixth veil.
     My New Perspective:  To say that technology has surpassed science fiction is putting it mildly.  Human-animal hybrids are being created in Great Britain, and a surgeon plans to reanimate human corpses.  Books are being written that tell us immortality is accessible to everyone, outside of any religious worldview.  Inventors and artists openly admit that they are "channeling" spiritual sources of knowledge.  All this is being downloaded from entities in the spiritual realm to control and deceive the human race.  We better understand who we're dealing with.
       The Sixth Veil = Aliens and Monsters may be real.  It is going to take a huge leap for the 10% who get to this level of understanding.  But if you study your Bible closely, you will see mention of fallen angels mating with earthly women to give birth to Nephalim (Giants) (Genesis 6:4 and 2 Samuel 21:20, for example).  There are many modern-day Biblical scholars who are prepared to say that the minotaurs of old and the UFO and alien sightings of today are evidence of these fallen angels.
     My New Perspective:  My how far we've come in these last three-and-a-half years!  The growth of the remnant of the Church who understands the truth of Genesis 6 has been astounding!  I know that there are "spiritual monsters" and they are called demons.  I have encountered them in deliverance sessions, and seen them stare out of the eyes of people who had no idea they were being oppressed by them.  Savage and brutal and bizarre attacks upon people are increasing and are evidence that the Enemy is bringing the spiritual battle to our physical world.  Although, yes, these demons are real, we should have no fear because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.
     If you have made it this far and can conceive of the concepts behind the sixth veil, then perhaps you can see that what waits for us behind The Seventh Veil = Peace of the Lord.  It's hard to imagine, but I can foresee a small group of people whose soul is so evolved that they can exist on this earth, yet be unafraid of the evil that abounds in this realm.  The only way I can describe it is to have such peace from God that you are unafraid of death.
     My New Perspective:  Actually, my perspective has moved in a new direction on this veil.  It's not such a small group that sees the evil ascending on the earth from the second heaven, or spiritual realm.  These last few years has seen an amazing growth in this knowledge within the Body of Christ.  It's as if the Holy Spirit has done a massive data dump upon Christians!  We not only know that and discern this spiritual warfare, but we also have been given the knowledge that we have the Authority of Jesus to fight [in this war] through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  And that's where our Peace comes from... knowing that we can rebuke the devil and he will flee; knowing that the Lord is our banner in this fight and goes before us; and we know that Jesus will not only never leave us nor forsake us, but He who began a good work in us will complete it.  That is called Peace!
     That brings us to Harkins' Eighth veil, which can only be the pure energy, authority and life force that is God.  We can only hope to tap into that Power, and I think the closest we can come to that is to seek a personal, intimate relationship with the One True God, the Ruler of the Universe and abide in Him.
     My New Perspective:  Yes, a personal, intimate relationship is necessary to tap into that Power, but it is incumbent upon each of us to know that it is available to us.  We are not to be mindless robots, sitting idly by waiting for God to win this war all by Himself.  We are created in His image, exhorted to imitate Christ, and called to an inheritance in Christ.  He dwells in us!  That energy, authority and life force are not to be squandered, but used to gain ground in defeating the Enemy in our lives!
     So, as you can see, with each veil of understanding that is pierced, the number of people "who see" gets exponentially smaller.  When I first wrote this blog post over three years ago, I saw mainly through "worldly" eyes.  I was focused on "the low information voter", and the gullible citizens who I saw as useful idiots and tools of the state.  I actually thought my vote really mattered and changing the politics of the nation would solve the world's problems.  I didn't see the spiritual component.
     I can honestly say that I believe I am at that Eighth veil, and I so grateful to my Lord and the Holy Spirit for helping me to see through the murkiness of the veils and how they obscured my vision of God's Truth.  I see that my existence here on earth is more than just this physical realm, and my victory in this life depends on my readiness to work with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do battle with the spiritual realm.  I now truly know that I do not battle against flesh and blood, but have the Authority and Power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to free myself of spiritual bondage.
     I will admit that it's a long road to progress through these veils, and if you are just beginning to awaken to their reality, then I hope you can see that living, breathing and thinking are just the beginning to greater understanding.  And there is nothing to fear... we know that victory is ours in the next life.  Until then, it an honor to stand for our Lord and represent Him to all we come in contact with, and to help others to push through the veils.  As we teach them the meaning of each obstruction, and show them how to move to the next stage, it will be one less obstacle between them and God.  That is a goal worthy of effort by every Christian.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17      "Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

July 18, 2016

Connecting More Dots

     Chaotic events in the world are beginning to happen at breakneck speed; like contractions during a birth.  Dallas ... Nice, France ... Turkey ... Baton Rouge ... all in less than two weeks.  And we are facing the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week; God help us!  I fear that the New Living Translation of Matthew 24:8 is playing out: "But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come."  
     Saturday evening into Sunday morning I wrote the following post and think it is important enough to still run it this morning.  But I wanted all to know that I am not impervious to the tragedy that happened in Baton Rouge yesterday.  Sadly, it is a continuation of the rage that I believe is being orchestrated against all of us in the country, regardless of our race.  It is spiritual in nature, and regrettably, there are far too many people with hearts of stone who are only willing to listen to the devil's lies, and those of his collaborators.  If you know nothing else to do, just get on your knees and pray.  (Click here for my suggestion, if you're not sure how to pray). Ask the Creator of all men to change the hearts of wicked men.   Recognize Him as Jehovah Nissi, our banner or battle standard.  He is our forward Guard and our rear Guard.  As long as we are under his banner, our victory is always assured.  If we ever depart from it, our defeat is a certainty.  
     We need to face it --- this Christian life is a picture of warfare.  Just as in ancient battles, we are to obey every command of our King, and run to His banner, which is the Cross, when the fight becomes too much for our flesh.  But we also need to realize that the battle is won in the spiritual realm, and we are to put on our full armor of God and get to the battlefront!  No matter what the news says today, or tomorrow, next week, or next year ... trust in our Lord and Savior!  These birth pangs will soon give way to His justice and righteousness.  We are in the heat of the battle at the moment, and we need to keep drinking the Living Water that is Christ!

     Over the weekend, as I followed the events in Turkey, I couldn't help but discern that God gave me a huge download of knowledge that connected more dots in the evolution of His cosmic chess match with the devil.  I'm still trying to fit all the pieces together, so I hope you'll be patient with me, as I try to write this down as fast as I'm receiving it.  Hopefully, it will make some sense to you, or one of you can expand on what I'm presenting.
     My journey over the last few days began with receiving a book that my Spiritual Warfare mentor suggested I read, called Rulers of Evil, by F. Tupper Saussy.  At the expense of offending faithful Catholics, I must recommend this book as a fascinating book of the history of the Catholic Church and its influence on the world empires, as well as the founding of America.  Moreover, the author gives an intriguing account of the history of Biblical knowledge and how it interacts with the Roman Catholic papacy.  PLEASE, I am not recommending this book under the pretense of Catholic-bashing!  I am a lover of history and the author is able take a vast amount of historical information and present it in a chronological and coherent manner.  I had barely begun reading (page 24 to be exact) when I saw a link between what happened in history to what is unfolding in Turkey and here in the United States.  Let me start with the historical impetus for my "aha" moment....
     As a student of history, I have been aware that the reading of the Bible was largely limited to Kings and Church leaders until the invention of the Guttenberg Press made it accessible to the masses.  The control and domination by these rulers could be undermined if the general population ever learned that they had direct access to the Bible and God's Word.  (That's an over-simplification of all the intrigue that surrounds the maintaining of power among history's ruling class, but it gives you a general view of how things work).
     As I was reading this fascinating book, it was inevitable that the conflict between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church would surface.  In case you're unfamiliar with the background of this story, Luther was a Catholic monk who defied the edict of the Archbishop of Mainz against unauthorized Bible reading, and began reading the first edition of the Greek New Testament, printed by Renaissance theologian Desiderius Erasmus.  That led to Luther's explosive document, Ninety-five Theses Upon Indulgences, which he promptly nailed to the door of the castle church of Wittenburg. (The historic idea of Indulgences was centered upon a grant by the pope of the remission of punishment in purgatory that was still due for sins, even after absolution. The unrestricted sale of indulgences by pardoners was a widespread abuse during the later Middle Ages ... as an example, for the payment of four ducats, one could be forgiven for murdering one's father; or Sorcery was pardoned for six ducats --- you get the picture).  You can see how the ability for the common man to begin reading and understanding the Truth within the pages of the Bible could seriously erode the authority of those who claimed divine power.
     But it was more than these familiar historical facts that I was seeing; I suddenly saw the collusion between Pope Clement VII, Niccolo Machiavelli, the inventor of modern political science, and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Chancellor of England. These men determined that the printing press could now be used to their advantage --- they, themselves, could produce literature that would ultimately confuse, diminish, and marginalize the influence of the Bible. Cardinal Wolsey characterized this project as putting "learning against learning".  (Remember that phrase, because it is going to come back into focus as I connect the dots to what happened this weekend).  The result of this vast amount of printed material was the famed Medici Library-- which opposed the Bible's teaching that man could have eternal life simply by believing in Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf, in favor of Gnostic teachings that man could achieve eternal life by doing good works (Christ-centered learning versus man-centered learning).  So extensive was this Library's philosophical influence, that many scholars today consider it the cradle of Western civilization.
     Martin Luther, discerning that this learning against learning philosophy was the future of Christianity, prophetically wrote in 1520, "Though our children live in the midst of a Christian world, they faint and perish in misery because they lack the Gospel in which we should be training and exercising them all the time.  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount [my emphasis].  Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts.  Every institution where men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt".  (While I also have huge problems with Luther's later opinions regarding the Jewish people, he hit a home run with this school of thought).
     So, now let me make a huge leap, by connecting this dot with one from this weekend.  As I awoke Saturday morning, I was curious to see what had happened in Turkey overnight.  As I often do, I took a look at what foreign news outlets were reporting; often finding them less restrained in their communication of facts.  The UK's Daily Mail was showing astonishing pictures of the citizens who backed President Erdogan confronting and attacking the members of the Turkish military who had dared to try to overthrow the President.  One particular sentence jumped out at me:  "Erdogan has blamed his old scapegoat, Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the uprising. Muslim cleric Gulen, the president's rival who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, as the head of a billion dollar religious movement, has often been blamed for political unrest in Turkey."
     If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you might recognize the name of Fethullah Gulen.  I wrote posts here (2013) and here (earlier in 2016), regarding this imam's influence in our American educational system.  Yes, you read that correctly ... Trained as an imam, Fethullah Gulen gained notice in Turkey some 50 years ago, promoting a philosophy that blended a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.  Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the "officially secular government" from a gated 26-acre compound in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, which has a population of about 1,100. The President of Turkey is now asking for Gulen's extradition, but Secretary of State John Kerry says our government is unlikely to comply.
     Why should the internal politics and history of political rivalry in Turkey be of particular interest to us here in the United States?  Because, as I have made mention in past blog posts, Fethullah Gulen and his Gulen Movement (his liberal Islamic transnational religious and social movement) runs the largest charter school network in our nation - the list is at 146 to be exact, with sad to say, 45 schools in my state of Texas!  How could this be, you ask?  Well, he is very clever ... the name of these influential schools go by different names in each of the states.  In Texas, they are the Harmony Science Academy; in Ohio, the Horizon Science Academy; in California, the Magnolia Science Academy ... you see what he's doing, right?  Appealing to the ever-competitive nature of the American psyche, he promotes his schools as academies of higher learning to help Americans excel in math and science; so that students will get a higher level of education than they do at public schools.  And it is a multi-billion dollar business!
     And students get a higher "level" of learning alright!  While the schools are not overtly teaching Islamic philosophy and religion, I contend that Fethullah Gulen's influence is predicated on eliminating and destroying Christianity's influence among our nation's youth.  That's where the dots are connected!  Remember Luther's concern over learning against learning?  Well, we are seeing it in action before our very eyes, and we are blinded.  I say that because Gulen's influence has not only infiltrated our education system, but his tentacles reach into banks, newspapers, universities, charities, research institutes, and the halls of Congress, where according to an article by Ariel Cohen, and a USA TODAY investigation, over 200 trips for congressmen and congressional staff have been sponsored by G├╝lenist entities.
     All this being said, I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I'm shouting in the wilderness.  I have written several posts now on this man, and pointed to others who have done extensive research on him, and now the name of Fethullah Gulen pops up once again in the attempted coup in Turkey.  If you're tired of me harping on this subject, I apologize, but the chance that I would receive this fascinating book, and read of the anti-Bible reference to learning against learning, at the exact moment that an influential Islamic businessman (deeply ensconced in our educational system) is suggested as influencing the attempted downfall of a sovereign nation ... well, I could not ignore it.
     I will leave you by repeating the words of Martin Luther ...  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.  Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts.  Do you think that the mega-success of the Gulen Schools shows us that man-centered learning is surpassing Christ-centered learning in our culture?  And what happens when the Word of God is eliminated entirely, in favor of Islamic-flavored curriculum?  The fingerprints of satan have been on the knowledge of man from the beginning, and this is just another of his strategies.  We must be diligent in our discernment, and continue to connect the dots!

Colossians 2:8    "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."