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

Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts

October 12, 2022

The Call Of A Disciple


If you profess to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, how do you describe yourself to others? Do you identify as a Christian? And what does that name mean within your relationship with the Godhead? For awhile now, I have referred to myself as an obedient follower of Christ; with the confession that being "obedient" can sometimes be a struggle in my flesh. But is that the term Jesus uses to describe those who will ultimately believe and follow Him? It seems to me that, in the Bible, it is the term Disciple that best describes those who will champion His cause. [And a side note of interest, the word Christian is what the enemies of the new faith in Jesus called His followers].

I find it interesting that Jesus defines what makes a Disciple only a handful of times, and He is very specific as to what it entails. But there's no mistaking that if you choose to use that term yourself, you better understand the cost. And here is something that the Lord has recently revealed as I continue on my journey to get closer to Him ... I don't get to voluntarily decide that I am going to be a Disciple. He calls me. It is He that makes the decision, just as He did in the Bible when He approached Peter, John, Andrew, Matthew and each of His Disciples. He calls us individually according to His will, AND it is His choice, not ours. It is only if we are willing to pay the cost, that we can truly be counted as His Disciple. And that cost is steep; more expensive and costly than the majority of Christians can even contemplate. That is why not many qualify to be called His true Disciples. 

That might be an offensive statement to those who identify as Christians. But have you ever sat down and seriously read the description that Jesus gives of what it takes to be His Disciple? He lays it out pretty clearly in Luke 14:26-33: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, He cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." Who among us could easily say, "Yes, Lord, I'm willing to do that! I will despise and separate myself from all those I love, and who love me, and live a life totally dedicated to You! And I declare that I will sacrifice all I have and all I am, including my life, to follow You! I am willing to break ties with everyone and everything in my life to focus solely on serving You!"? Those are difficult promises to make! Yet, He demands exactly that if you are going to call yourself His Disciple. But how many of us loosely apply that term to ourselves?

I think Jesus was referring to most self-described Disciples in the middle of that passage [in verses 28-32] when He says ... "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace." If we're honest, there aren't many of us who would answer Jesus's call to be His Disciple without hesitation, not taking the time to first measure what it's going to cost us. We would have to make sure we had all we needed to pull it off, because we sure wouldn't want to be embarrassed if we said, yes, and then realized we hadn't measured all it would cost and what we would need. And like the king in Jesus's example, we wouldn't want to agree to be His Disciple and then realize that the forces coming against us are going to be greater in power than we have the ability to defend ourselves; we only want to commit if we are assured of winning our battle. And like the rich young ruler in Mark 10, we might decide to wait until the lifestyle of a Disciple is more convenient for us.

You see, the call of Jesus to be His Disciple is costly, indeed. And I don't think there are many who understand that it is, first and foremost, a life lived in separation and isolation from the world and all that we hold dear in it ... our families; our status in society [and yes, in the Church]; our jobs and careers; our very lives. And here is an astounding realization that is new to my understanding of true Discipleship ... IF it is Jesus's will to call us, and IF we accept His will, it is because He determined that it would be so! There was no way that Peter, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, James [son of Zebedee], Jude, Matthew, James [son of Alpheus], Philip, Simon the Zealot, Thomas, or even Judas were going to be able to say No! Jesus had now come into the midst of their lives, and their relationships with their immediate world had been infringed upon; He now stood in opposition to all they clung to. And once we accept His call, all those relationships are forever and profoundly changed.

Our relationships are no longer the result of our direct contact with our loved ones or people in the world. Christ stands between us and them, and what we perceived before Him was just an illusion. Everything and everyone is now a redefined reality through Him. He separates us from the world and we must come to Him as an individual and alone, allowing Him to reconstitute and restore those relationships through His preeminence in our lives. And the good news is that while Jesus separates us from the world and it's natural relationships, He also establishes new fellowship between us and others. He makes a way for us to connect through Him; a way that began in solitude and separation, but now unites in shared love and purpose to glorify the One who called us. 

I wish I could truly imagine all the thoughts and emotions those first Disciples experienced as they answered Jesus's call. We know for certain that Peter was married, because Jesus healed his mother-in-law. And according to Clement, Bishop of Rome in the late 1st Century, "Peter and Philip begat children, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage". So the first Disciples sacrificed families and gave up their material things to live a life of solitude as they followed Christ to the Cross, and then took His message to the world. And lest we forget, Jesus made it clear that to be His Disciple meant that the persecution He suffered would come to them as well. Nothing has changed in this 21st Century. We don't get to escape the cost!  

Everything that has made our lives easier and more prosperous doesn't eliminate the price we will pay to be His Disciple. Are we willing to make the ultimate sacrifice? If we are called to be Disciples, it is a very real possibility. The persecution He endured came to every one of His faithful Twelve, accept for John. It will be a part of our walk with Him. too. But we can celebrate that He also told them that by their love for each other and the fruit they bore, they would be proven to be His Disciples. Oh, what a glorious calling! And I believe that it is Jesus's will that each one of us be His true Disciple! 

Be separate from the world, but united in Him! Cast off all the world has to offer and cling to what we have in our relationship with our Master! The road He has called us to is fraught with extraordinary change, and that frightens some people. But we are assured that everything we have surrendered will be returned to us a hundredfold! There is no greater honor than to be called as a true Disciple of Jesus... are you ready to answer Him without hesitation? The world needs you!

#discipleofjesus #discipleship #jesusdisciple #calledtobeadisciple

Luke 14:26-27   If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.


September 13, 2022

Being a Disciple of Christ In Difficult Times


I am attempting to write this post in transparency and humility, in the hopes that some of you can identify with my struggles. I truly want to be an honest follower of Christ, and for me that means no deceit or deception -- with Jesus; my fellow Christians; or with myself. This is about trying to be genuinely righteous and humble. So, let me get right to the point...

I know that being a true Christian in these times is difficult. The culture and the world are not on our side, and the Enemy appears to be winning on so many fronts. Having lived in relative comfort and ease for so long, we have taken the blessings of our faith for granted. We have been able to declare ourselves Christians without any real challenge to live the Christian life. We have been able to wear the title of Christian, and it has cost us nothing in this land of freedom and prosperity, and [in Church terms} "easy, cheap grace". But, as times are getting harder, and the future isn't as guaranteed as we've become accustomed to, we find our "faith muscles" weak and we react in ways and words that don't support what we tell the world and each other -- that we are obedient followers of Christ.

Believe me, I am not excluding myself from this scrutiny because I believe it is so important that we all take a good hard look in the spiritual mirror. Am I genuine in my faith? Or am I a hypocrite, or a "poser"? Do I wear a "Christian mask" when in the company of my fellow Church members, and then would be unrecognizable as such in my own home or at work? Of late, I have been humbling myself before the Lord because I am saddened at the number of Christians whom I see [and truly love] who are so desperate to appear dedicated to God, yet behind the scenes of their everyday lives, there is bitterness, loneliness, self-criticism and secrets that hinder their identity in Christ. And I come before the Lord in humbleness because I do not want to hold myself above any other. Repentance is a constant in my life as I battle against my sinful nature like any other Christian. I want to walk in this world as a genuine disciple of my Lord. The time is coming when true disciples will be needed to show the way to unbelievers and believers, alike.

It is obvious to me that there is a tension building in the nation and among the faithful. For those who cling to the world and not to Christ [and sadly, that includes some self-professed Christians], a spirit of fear is beginning to take hold. All the foundations of the world [which we have come to rely on] are unsteady and no one knows whether they will withstand the pressure. But when we call ourselves Christians, do we not rely on our faith in Jesus and His promises to be the foundation of our lives? Is He not to be our strength and our deliverance when the world turns upside down? That is when we will know if we have what it takes to be called a disciple of Christ. 

Jesus and the Bible make it clear that there is a cost to becoming a disciple. He clearly tells us that we must be willing to take up our cross and give up everything to follow Him. It isn't an option. It's a requirement. We must be willing to give up all our worldly goods, our homes, our families and relationships, and even our lives. "Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life". Those are the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor of the Confessing Church during Hitler's demonic reign in Germany, and he should know. He was hung for daring to come in opposition to the diabolical Third Reich. He also said, "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." This backs up Jesus's statement to a large crowd who had come to hear Him teach, "So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple".

As the world hurtles toward the return of our Righteous King, I pray that I will have the strength and heart to bear my cross, whatever it may look like. I pray that I can be a source of encouragement for my fellow Christians as we stand together as true disciples of Christ -- not to appear more holy than others, but in pure motivation to glorify the Name of Jesus. I understand that I can do nothing to accomplish this on my own, but I put my trust in the Holy Spirit to guide me and counsel me in all my ways and for all my days. Lord, whether you come back tomorrow, next year, or a thousand years from now, I need your help to walk in righteousness and humility. Help all of us to turn away from the world and follow the examples of the 12 disciples who willingly left their lives behind and simply obeyed when you said, "Follow Me". Help us all to drop our masks, and live authentic lives as Your true disciples --- repenting when we sin, picking up our cross each day, pursuing God's righteous character, and pointing the way to eternal life and the Kingdom through our words and deeds, boasting only of the Glory of God in our lives.

#Discipleship #Costofdiscipleship #DiscipleofChrist

Philippians 3:12   Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. 

July 5, 2022

Obedience, Faith and Discipleship: The Road To Jesus


I have really been endeavoring to seek the wisdom and counsel of the Holy Spirit in how to walk closer with Jesus. I don't say that out of a desire to be more "religious" or to meet any kind of standard that the organized Church might put on me; but out of a heart that discerns what shape the world is in, and a longing to more fully follow Him in this season. To that end, I have been studying a particular passage in the Bible, as well as diving into a deeply powerful book, called The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dietrich was the martyred Lutheran pastor who defied Hitler and the Third Reich while attempting to expose the mass murder of Jews in his homeland. He was hanged as a spy mere days before the Allies arrived in Germany to liberate the concentration camps, and although he did not live to see that evil empire defeated, what he wrote about following Jesus is especially poignant and instructive for today.

In light of all this history, here's where my head and my heart are ... What does it mean to be a true disciple of Jesus? How do we get there? What is the cost? First of all, we must all understand that what Jesus taught about discipleship over 2000 years ago still holds true today. We are not any more enlightened, or sophisticated in our faith than the first disciples who answered His call to follow Him. If anything, we are more involved in the world and our selfish ambitions. 

So, what is the significance of Obedience when considering Discipleship? Mark 2:14 gives us a clue ... As Jesus was passing by, He saw Levi (Matthew) the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax collector’s booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he got up and followed Him. Notice that it was Jesus who initiated the call to Matthew. And the call was responded to immediately with obedience. There is no evidence that Matthew had any prior knowledge or relationship with Jesus, the Christ. And I want you to understand that Matthew didn't respond out of faith, because as of yet, he had none. 

It is as simple as this: Jesus called and Matthew responded out of obedience. There were no promises of wealth or status if Matthew followed Him. In fact, by being obedient, Matthew left his life of relative security for a life the world would categorize as absolute insecurity. Yet, in reality, there is no life more secure and safe than one spent in fellowship with God's Anointed One! We leave a life that is bound in rules, parameters and legalism for a life that has infinite possibilities when we bind ourselves to Jesus. Nothing else in this world matters but following Him! Matthew's story is a testimony of a man whom Jesus summoned, and the response was one of obedience; forsaking all else to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

Keep this in mind as we take a good look at Luke 9:57-62 and hearken unto the words of the Messiah... As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” He said to another, “Follow Me [accepting Me as Master and Teacher].” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the [spiritually] dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and spread the news about the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Notice that Jesus is addressing three different people here, all who profess to want to follow Him. How do our 21st Century responses compare to the 1st Century responses to the call of Jesus? First of all, the first man offers to follow Jesus without waiting to be called. But Jesus gives the man a warning -- He shows the would-be disciple that life following Him will not be easy nor comfortable. Even foxes and birds have places they call home, but His life is one of never knowing where He will sleep that night. In fact, Jesus knows He's on the way to the cross and suffering is His fate. Today, how many times do we see our fellow Christians declare that they are ready to be a follower of Christ, yet there is no evidence they've been called by Jesus nor that they have considered the cost or consequences of following Him in this fallen world? They know nothing of the suffering or what life with Him will require. Jesus's lesson to this would-be disciple is that no man can voluntarily call himself to such a destiny. To be genuine, the call must come from Jesus and the response must come from obedience alone; from a change of heart that instinctively knows the life to which they are being called.

Next we see Jesus actually initiating the call to the second candidate for discipleship who asks to be allowed to go and bury his father first before he answers Jesus's call on his life. This man is conscious of the Jewish laws that burial of the dead must be the same day. Yet there is no information that the man's father has even died yet. Perhaps he is like his 21st Century Christian counterparts whose hearts like the idea of following Jesus, but want to set their affairs in order before making that commitment. Jesus responds with a command to follow Him and to let the spiritually dead bury their own. Because this man is not ready to submit to the call on his life, there is a barrier erected against authentic obedience. If this man's father has truly died ... does he follow the Jewish law regarding burial, or does he answer the call of Jesus? There are times the call of Jesus will look as if it goes against every standard "the Church" has mandated for men. But the true disciple will know that nothing on earth can keep him from accepting that call because it is irresistable.

The third would-be disciple is somewhat like the first; he thinks he can set his own terms when it comes to following Jesus. He earnestly desires to follow Jesus but is beset by the rules of the world, which he feels must be met before he can be allowed to accept the offer. His response seems to indicate that he thinks he must satisfy the order in which his calling will be rendered legitimate. How many times do we Christians today submit to man's understanding about what our calling is to look like? Do we assign a list of objectives to meet before we can call ourselves a follower or disciple? Do we ascribe more value to the title than to our obedience? If we cannot simply surrender to Jesus's call on our life, then we may find ourselves in conflict with both Jesus's desire for us and our own sincere desire to be a disciple. If our response to the call on our life is, "Yes, Jesus, but first ....", then we are not going to act out of pure obedience. That response proves that one is not willing to pay the cost of genuine discipleship. 

As you can see, to follow Jesus in obedience means leaving the old behind for a new life that Jesus is calling you to; this is where faith becomes possible. If we refuse Jesus's invitation and stay in our safe and secure situation, then we never learn to believe out of faith. It is a scary place to be, but the rewards are so great! When we are able to respond out of obedience, then we have the opportunity to learn to trust in Jesus as we enter into true dependence [on] and in relationship with Him. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes so well, "Had Levi (Matthew) stayed at his customs booth, Jesus might have been his present help in trouble, but He would not have been the Lord of Levi's whole life. In other words, Levi would never have learned to believe. And Peter had to leave the ship and risk his life on the sea, in order to learn both his own weakness and the almighty power of his Lord". Both men left an old reality for a new, unknown one, and all for the sake of obeying the Voice that called them.

We must also discern that it is the obedience to the call on our lives that ultimately makes true faith possible, they are interdependent. Again, Bonhoeffer explains it much better than I can: "Faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience". This is what I know ... we must take that definitive step [out of faith] into obedience, and as faith grows, we become "teachable" and the Lord's passion for mankind becomes ours. That includes both Christ's suffering and his rejection. His heart is for those He desperately loves and it is His willingness to suffer at the hands of men and to die despised and rejected by men which are at the center of His going to the Cross. Jesus makes it clear that to be a disciple of His, we must be willing to become like Him, in both the good and the bad of His incarnate existence. 

But have you thought about the fact that Jesus gives us a choice ... IF any man would come after Me....". We have the choice to become like Jesus; we have the choice whether we will follow Him in obedience and faith and deny ourselves in order to become His "disciples" by abiding in Him. But it comes at a cost; one that Jesus was willing to pay and if we are to become His disciples, then we must be willing to follow Him in all His ways. And that word "to abide" means to endure, persist, survive, conform to, to remain [in], and to suffer. So as we grow in obedience and faith and become teachable by the Spirit of the Lord, we grow into discipleship -- moving from being a pupil to being an imitator of Christ. True Discipleship is fearless; being willing to go where you cannot comprehend the road you will be asked to take; yet you are willing to go only where Jesus leads you. You are willing to pay the price of the irresistible call on your life to follow Your Master. My final word is this: True Discipleship is not for the fragile, the fearful, or the doubter. It is not an easy road ... but, oh, my friends, the rewards will be extraordinary when you meet Jesus face-to-face! Do you have what it takes, and are you willing to pay the cost to be called "Disciple" of the Living Christ?

John 15:8    My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.




January 14, 2022

What Does Your Faith Look Like?


I have never walked [nor appeared] conventional in the eyes of the world. I know that from a very early age, I saw life through a different lens. It was like I could see things, events, and people in their "real light", rather than the false image that were projected. In fact, when I was eight-years-old, my Third Grade teacher asked us to write about how we saw our personality. I made it very clear that I did not like "fake" people. Now, that doesn't sound very friendly, kind, or pleasant, does it? It wasn't that I called anyone out; it just meant that I chose to be very discriminating as to whom I wanted to associate with. And I use that word "discriminating", not in the sense of today's cancel culture, but meaning that I could perceive the difference between genuineness and superficiality.

As I grew into my teens and early adulthood, I continued to look at things differently than my peers. At the time, I could not have explained my inner thoughts, but I now see that I had a gift of discernment that allowed me to interact with people of all natures, regardless of what social labels they were attached to. I usually felt like I was outside looking in, but also found myself accepting [and being accepted] by those who society elevated to the "popular" crowd, while also identifying and connecting with those who out on the margins. But I always felt "separate". Not in a bad way. I wasn't interested in judging people; I simply knew I was different. Our society likes to put us in a category, and I think my peers found it difficult to figure out exactly where I fit. I had no idea how that would play into my walk with Jesus.

From the beginning of my faith journey, it didn't look like the mainstream or customary "salvation experience". Unlike many, I did not grow up in a "church-going" family, nor did I make a decision to give my life to Christ as a child. I was in college, [when through my own free will, and some would say, bad choices,] I found myself voluntarily leaving college, on my own, with no job and no source of income. My father was extremely disappointed in my choices, and being unwilling to admit I had failed by making those choices, I declared that I intended to go back to school and finish my degree [which I did, a year later]. But that situation found me crying out to Jesus. I knew about Him from my believing mother and grandmother, but I did not know Him. Yet, through His grace and mercy, and His unceasing pursuit of me, He rescued me from that lonely and scary time. So, I was now acquainted with Jesus, but not yet inclined to surrender my life to Him.

That would take another 13 years of living in the world, seeking to feel comfortable in my unconventional skin, while knowing there was more to this life than I was experiencing -- still feeling I was on the outside looking in; like I was waiting for that "something" that would ultimately define me. It would come in the form of a serious auto accident, with me once again crying out for God as my car flipped 5 times. I emerged from the car, needing only 6 stitches in my head, and a moment of clarity that it was time to ask Jesus into my heart. There was no physical reaction; no instantaneous altering of my mind or spirit -- or at least none that I was aware of. All I know is that my faith journey began that day in 1986 and has continued to change me as I have allowed Jesus to grow me into who He designed me to be, and into a closer image of Him. And in doing so, I have often not resembled other Christians.

But, as I contemplate my faith journey through the experiences of my life, I see that I have always looked through different eyes, and have always been a risk-taker. That does not fit the mold of a conventional Christian. Often times, in modern Christianity, we are convinced that there is "a model" to follow in our faith, and that stepping outside those lines can lead to a radical faith that does not serve the Body of Christ. So, is there room within that structure for those of us who were made to walk the unconventional path?

I love the series called The Chosen, which follows the journey of the disciples of Christ as He called them from their diverse lives into an unprecedented manifestation of faith. Some seemed like ordinary fishermen; others were from all strata of society -- tax collector to "woman of the night". They all had different personalities and traits, but all were chosen for those specific attributes which would be needed to withstand the world's ridicule and objections. All were capable of walking out a radical faith. Are you? Because that is what it is going to take to traverse what is coming upon the earth.

Those Disciples were willing to walk with Jesus into an uncertain future. Are we not faced with the same challenge? But they trusted Him. We must do the same. He is the Creator of the Universe, who personally created each of us to do His will on earth. He never promised the journey would be smooth or safe. Yet those Disciples were men and women who were willing to take a risk in following Him and believing Him; right up to that moment of His last breath on the Cross. But they showed us that their faith did not dissolve in their confusion or fears at finding themselves without His physical presence. Like us, they soon had His Holy Spirit to guide them and counsel them as they continued to risk everything to carry His message of Salvation and the Kingdom to the rest of the dying world.

We have that same opportunity to take those same risks; to be radical in our exhaustive and extensive efforts to reach those who do not know the Lord we serve. It is time to be bold in our testimonies and to let go of our fear of man. It does not matter what people think of us; only what Jesus thinks! I do not want to stand before Him and have Him show me that my unwillingness to embarrass myself before strangers, or to step out in an unfamiliar crowd -- or Heaven forbid, speak His truth that the traditional Church scoffs at -- meant that one of His stray sheep lost the opportunity to receive encouragement to turn towards His steadfast voice and outstretched arms.

It is not easy to step out in faith. I get it! No one wants to be singled out as "different" or "radical". But Jesus is our model. Those Disciples are our model. Jesus showed us that a human being can have faith in God to lead us through our darkest times. There will be nights of sleeplessness; struggles with forces in this world and the spiritual realms; ostracism from the world and religious authorities; separation from family; and even times of uncertainty and questioning -- all experienced by Jesus and His followers. But our God never changes! What He did for Jesus and that dissimilar band of followers, He can and will do for us! 

I want to leave you with this final thought ... I do not dismiss that God can stir a spirit of revival in the hearts of men, and that we could see a reversal of Satan's plans for the world. God would love nothing better than to see a renewal and regeneration of the earth and its systems. We would all love to see that victory! But should we continue on the current path, I will still count it victory, because our faith will grow stronger and more effective! We will walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before us in declaring the power of God and Yeshua! Just let me finish my race as Jesus and each of those radical believers did ... worshiping my Father in Heaven; declaring His glorious Kingdom; and praising Him for His power in my life to help me accomplish His will. That's how I want my faith to look ... right up to my final breath.  

Matthew 21:21     Jesus replied, “Listen to the truth. If you do not doubt God’s power and speak out of faith’s fullness, you can also speak to a tree and it will wither away. Even more than that, you could say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and be thrown into the sea’ and it will be done.


November 20, 2021

Moral Neutrality Is Not An Option In The Midst of Societal Chaos

The title of this post is something that my spirit has become increasingly troubled with in the last couple of years. I sense Christian Americans wrestling with how to respond in the midst of personal and national crises, especially from a moral standpoint. Of course, at a Kingdom level, it should be obvious .. Micah 6:8 asks the following questions, and then gives us God's answer: What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Goodness ... righteousness ... virtue ... they are all words that describe Biblical morality; and all are essential qualities in the exercise of faith. In other words, as Christians, moral neutrality in the midst of societal chaos cannot be up for discussion. We must remain committed to godliness and fruitfulness in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in recent years -- actually, in recent decades -- we have seen our religious communities falter in this commitment, and I am reminded of what the Prophet Isaiah says in Chapter 59, verse 9: Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We can't just "hope" for the light of God to permeate our country; we must overtake the darkness with our moral and just decisions. We cannot just sit on the sidelines and wait for God to make things right.

At the foundational level, this conflict is simply a question of Good vs Evil. It is as old as time; ever since the Garden of Eden, God has made His desire known for our obedience to His ideals and principles. Yet, centuries later, men and women, cultures and societies, still struggle to do what is right in the midst of upheaval and lawlessness. But why? Certainly, we can't expect to believe that "good Christians" were confused as to whether Good or Evil was occurring, can we? I refuse to believe that our consciousness has deteriorated so far that we are unable to distinguish the moral choice. But, yet, Christians looked the other way in WW II, as their Jewish neighbors disappeared. Through our silence, abortion laws were passed in 1973 that have resulted in the deaths of over 62 million babies. According to the website, liberatechildren.org, human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms, and is expected to surpass the sale of drugs in the coming years -- and in 2018, over half (51.6%) of the criminal human trafficking cases in the U.S. involved only children! And on a more individual level, just a few weeks ago, there was a story in the news of a woman raped on a subway in Philadelphia while onlookers reportedly recorded the rape with their cellphones, while no one called 911, or tried to intervene. As is quite obvious, the consequences of taking a neutral stance in any of these events resulted in horrific costs to humanity. 

Why is it so important to acknowledge this phenomena in our societal disintegration? If you will allow me to give you a rather simple analogy, consider this: in the operation of a vehicle, NEUTRAL is a disengaged position of gears in which the engine is disconnected from the driven parts. Let's translate that to our spiritual relationship with our Creator... If we, as God's Heavenly Kingdom representatives on earth, remain neutral in situations or questions of morality, we are [in effect] disengaging ourselves from our positions as His children and co-heirs [of His Kingdom] with Christ. If we are disconnected from God, who is the engine [or power] that drives us to do good works for His sake, then the result is a society that morally disintegrates into chaos and lawlessness. 

I know this is nothing new in the history of man, but it is deeply disturbing to me in the history of my lifetime. I fervently believe in the goodness that is inherent in every human being, but my spirit also knows that Evil is looking for any open door that allows it to influence another human's heart. Have we become so conditioned to questioning our own moral meters, for fear of being criticized as biased, prejudiced, or exclusive? We must have the courage to stand up for Godly principles and moral laws! God is not impartial when it comes to fence-sitters! Remember, Jesus says in Revelation 3, that He would prefer Christians to be either hot or cold; lukewarm is not a state that gains us favor! 

So, I applaud my fellow Christians for having the courage to stand for justice and good and what's right in the eyes of God -- despite the criticism from those who bow down to political, social, or peer pressure. If we call ourselves Christians, then it is incumbent upon each of us to stand against immoral tyranny. For any form of tyranny is not conducive to the moral integrity God demands of a just society. Parents have a right to be involved in their children's education; truly righteous people need to stand against lawless mobs; and our children [and unborn] need to be protected from those who would prey upon their innocence -- all accomplished within the laws of this great land, of course. If the laws are no longer moral or righteous, then it is up to us to change them in a righteous, moral, and legal manner. I am heartened as I see the Body of Christ coming together in recognition that now is our time to consecrate ourselves to God's purposes on this earth; to be imitators of His holiness and righteousness, no matter the cost. 

Remaining neutral is no longer an option. As moral Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in our actions. Refusal to make a choice, or choosing to sit on the sidelines in the midst of a moral conflict, IS a choice that is not desired by the Lord. When it comes to morality, we MUST be biased in favor of pleasing the Lord. Anything less is moral compromise, and we can no longer afford to be lukewarm. In the words of German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man I greatly admire, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, "The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the Word and sacraments wholesale; we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving ... But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard". Jesus followed a narrow, moral, disciplined, and righteous path in the midst of societal chaos. He never took a neutral position. May we imitate His life in the way we live ours; and may we defeat hate, darkness, in His Mighty Name!

Isaiah 59:21   And as for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the Lord: "My Spirit that is upon you, and My words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring," says the Lord, "from this time forth and forevermore."



July 19, 2020

The Cost of Discipleship

      If you have followed this blog for any length of time, then you know the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If not, then I hope you will find the courage and wisdom of this Pastor to be a beacon of hope and encouragement during this season of our nation's history. Let me share a little bit about him...
      I know we are not to have idols in this world, or lift any man above another.  But there are times when we must look to the example of righteous men, in order to know the path we are to follow. My friends, that time is now.  Our culture and nation are rapidly disintegrating into immoral chaos. Destruction begets more destruction; death begets more death. We see the moral fabric of this nation being stretched in so many directions that we wonder how long before it's ripped to shreds? People are listening to false prophets and teachers who promote lawlessness in the name of justice. How far are the citizens of this nation willing to go to achieve their idea of "social equality"? Do we, as a nation, still revere our individual freedoms, or will we blindly follow the voices of deception? Are we, as Christians, willing to stand for uncompromising Christian principles?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
     Eighty years ago, a pastor in Nazi Germany asked himself those same questions and took his stand. Dietrich Bonhoeffer acted responsibly in his faith during one of the most evil times in history. He was a deeply religious Lutheran pastor and he found himself in a dilemma ... when informed of the evil that was Adolph Hitler, and the plan to exterminate the Jews, he had to make a decision ... how far is "too far" in order to stop that evil?  When confronted with something so offensive to God, is there ever an excuse for Christians to compromise, capitulate, or raise the white flag?
     Bonhoeffer didn't think so, and it cost him his life.  At the beginning of the Nazi regime, many members of the [Protestant] churches did not reject National Socialism on principle.  Suffering from the effects of their loss in WWI, many Germans were drawn to the German National People's Party and their idealization of the past.
     But a small group of pastors, including Bonhoeffer, became unified in what would be called "the Confessing Church" and arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church. They objected to the Nazis on moral and theological principles: they could not reconcile the Nazi state's claim to total control over the person with the ultimate sovereignty that, in Christian orthodoxy, must belong only to God.  It was their stated objective to resist state manipulation of religious affairs. They tried to stay out of the political fray, and hoped to convince the Church to recognize the contradictions of being a Christian and a Nazi.
     But as the evil that was Hitler and his regime grew, pastors could no longer stay on the sidelines.  They had to choose between inaction, which was, in essence, condoning the atrocities towards the Jews; or becoming involved with plots to stop the madness -- even if it meant being part of assassination attempts on the Evil Mastermind, himself.  Many chose the safe route that included tolerance and turning a blind eye. A few did not; with some being sent to concentration camps, where they survived the war -- or in the case of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose fate was to be hanged for his opposition to Hitler and his obedience to his faith.
     I can only imagine the spiritual struggle involved in making that kind of decision. As a Christian, willingly killing someone is never something that we want to consider. But as our Second Amendment rights are threatened, and as the soaring gun sales across this nation exhibit, people are sensing that evil is on the rise and there may come a time when they must make a decision to defend their own life by taking the life of another. God forbid! Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced that decision on behalf of his entire nation. 
     Therefore, I have not been surprised at the efforts of the anti-Christ spirit in unbelievers to tear down the memory of martyrs like Bonhoeffer.  They must not let us see or hear the writings of such a man who struggled with how to respond within his religious principles (and God's will) to a rapidly deteriorating national culture -- and who was not only unafraid to live for what he believed in, but was not afraid to die for it.
     I can only imagine the struggle within his spirit as he confronted the likely consequences of his actions. One day he would have to stand before God and explain how, as a Christian, he could be complicit in murdering Hitler.  He finally decided that he would have to rely on God's mercy to understand that he had to stop Evil at any cost, even if it meant he lost his soul. But it wasn't just his own soul he was concerned about.  Writing to his co-conspirators in 1943, he said,  "The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live."
     In his masterful book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, author Eric Metaxas tells us of the challenges Bonhoeffer faced in reconciling his faith, his moral ethics, and the politics of the day, which were quite diabolical in Nazi Germany. How does a committed Christian deal with the prospect of conflict with the Enemy on the battlefield? 
Desmond Doss
     In comparison to Bonhoeffer's story, I'd like to present Desmond Doss, an Army Medic and real-life hero of WWII, who vowed to serve both his country and his God, no matter the cost.  As he told a military tribunal who tried to court martial him for his refusal to carry a weapon, "With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don't [sic] seem like such a bad thing to me to put a little bit of it back together." Doss determined that he would serve his fellow man by putting him first; willing to endanger, and even sacrifice, his own life in order to save another's.  He would save lives, rather than take them, choosing to live out, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
     Bonhoeffer, however, was faced with how to stop the demonic actions of Adolph Hitler, the anti-Christ of his times. Like Doss, Dietrich knew the 6th Commandment, Thou shalt not kill.  But he faced the moral dilemma of doing nothing to stop the murder of 6,000,000 Jews.  He finally came to the conclusion that he trusted God to understand his motives in becoming involved in an assassination attempt on Hitler. To Bonhoeffer, it had come down to God's admonition to Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Both men exercised their freedom of conscience, and they took their accountability to God not only seriously, but solemnly.
     So, are we all capable of being as heroic as Doss or Bonhoeffer?  We have yet to find ourselves in the midst of a gruesome battlefield, although our streets are rapidly becoming a war zone. One thing is clear -- as Christians, we are all in a battle with our culture, and the increasingly compromising positions of our Churches and governmental officials. And like Doss and Bonhoeffer, we must decide how we are to act, as we find ourselves inside the collective drama.  While we are in this world, we are not of it. So, we cannot, and must not, separate ourselves from the world. But it is going to take courage to be and maintain the image of Christ, while all around us, the darkest impulses of the human will try to overwhelm and defeat us.
     If we are true to our faith, we know where our citizenship lies. We are the sons and daughters of the King and citizens of the Kingdom of God. In fact, we are already there with Jesus, in spirit.  We just have to conform our mind, emotions, will, and these temporary bodies to the heavenly conviction of our spirit, and then let our actions show who we are.  It is not enough to pray... although we should not abandon sending our petitions heavenward.  We must be totally committed to our Biblical morals and completely loyal to God; acting on our faith, not just believing.
     And it will cost us. Discipleship in the Name of Jesus will not be a road easily traveled.  We can look at the lives of all the Apostles and see what it cost them. And in the cases of Doss and Bonhoeffer, we can see how loyalty to their God resulted in very different outcomes -- one's actions led to a hero's medal; the other to execution by hanging. I know that there will be those who say that Bonhoeffer's path was wrong and can never be accepted nor forgiven by God.  But my thoughts turn to King David, and his actions in having Uriah killed so that he could lie with Bathsheba.
     As theologian and Hebrew scholar, Michael Heiser, so eloquently writes in his fantastic book, The Unseen Realm, "King David was guilty of the worst of crimes against humanity in the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite.  He was clearly in violation of the law and deserving of death.  Nevertheless, his belief in who Yahweh was among all the gods never wavered.  God was merciful to him, sparing him from death, though his sin had consequences the rest of his life."  The lesson here, is that personal failure, even the worst kind, as exhibited by Bonhoeffer, will not separate you from God's mercy. Although Bonhoeffer was not spared from death [as King David was], he never disavowed his loyalty to God, nor doubted YHWH's loyalty to him.
     In the final minutes of his life, before being led to the gallows, he led a short service for fellow prisoners, praying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Then he asked that a message be delivered to Bishop Bell [a supporter of the German resistance to Nazism) in London; the message reading that "this was the end, but for him also the beginning of life, and that the ultimate victory of their cause – a universal Christian brotherhood rising above all national interest – was certain".
     The prison doctor, who witnessed the execution recorded this impression: "Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God".
     Again, I look to Bonhoeffer's story for signs of what might be coming to our land. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a handful of pastors stood alone in the German Church. He came to America in 1939, hoping to escape the fall of his Church, gain strength from the American Church, and return to Germany to rebuild the Church from the ashes of war.  But he soon became disillusioned with the American Church, writing:  "I now wonder whether it is true that America is the country without a reformation? ... There hardly ever seem to be "encounters" [with God] in this great country.  But where there is no encounter, where liberty is the only unifying factor, one naturally knows nothing of the community which is created through encounter."
     While attending an American church in June of 1939, Bonhoeffer wrote of the sermon, "Lively and original, but too much analysis and too little Gospel."  What would he say today??  And again in June of 1939, he wrote about America:  "The separation of church and state does not result in the church continuing to apply itself to its own task; it is no guarantee against secularism.  Nowhere is the church more secularized than where it is separated in principle, as it does here.  This very separation can create an opposition, so that the church engages much more strongly in political and secular things."
     Sad to say, I find many Churches and fellow Christians looking to politics and elections to solve our issues. They look to bring their Christianity into the political arena in order to influence it. Do we really think changing our politicians or passing legislation will accomplish our commission from the Lord? Do we really think the ballot box will provide us with an escape from what the Bible tells us is coming?
     So, how will we, as modern day Christians, exhibit our loyalty and discipleship to our Lord?  We have seen in the examples of Desmond Doss and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the very picture of heroism -- two entirely different men, but both committed to acting out their faith. Neither set out to become a hero, and I wage that neither welcomed the mantle.
     Ultimately, what does Dietrich Bonhoeffer's story have to tell us? Consider what he had to say in his own words ... "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  All Christians, whether in leadership roles or not, should take heed of Bonhoeffer's words and pay attention to history. The German Church ignored the growing persecution of Jews across Europe.  They turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to it, and they did it at their own peril.  In the end, the German Church was taken over by Nazi ideology and the blood of millions of Jews was upon their hands. The American Church is flirting with following the same path.  Pastors must throw off the chains of government and speak out about the wave of persecution streaming towards Christianity.
     We must open our eyes and see that the tide of torment in the streets is beginning to turn its attention to our faith. First it was the tearing down of statues that honored the history of our nation's Civil War. Now, I'm beginning to see the defacement of Christian statues and cries to tear dow Jesus. Evil is growing into a tsunami and history has shown us what can happen when such evil is allowed to foment unchecked.
       In the words of Spanish philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the end, we are responsible for our faith and our actions. I pray for hearts that are set on being obedient to the will of God. That's not a simple thing to do in this world. I pray that we all will have the courage of Desmond Doss and Dietrich Bonhoeffer... to be a bright light in the midst of this dark time in our nation's history; to be that unwilling hero to someone in need of the image of Christ in their life. And I know in my spirit that God will honor our actions on His behalf. He's just looking for willing participants.

I have written a series of posts on Dietrich Bonhoeffer from 2012-2016. This post is a compilation, along with added and relevant insight to current events.

Isaiah 50:7-8:  "But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near..."

March 26, 2020

The Oppportunity We Have To Disciple The Next Generation

     I will admit that this is going to be a rather broad topic, as so many thoughts are running through my mind. I want to begin by defining what "Discipling" means to me. Whether the term is applied secularly or theologically, I interpret it to mean equipping and training; preparing minds and hearts for a specific purpose; and even going so far as teaching/instructing in specific skills.
     It goes without saying that my mind gravitates to our Lord's command to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Discipleship is obviously a priority for Jesus. And it is a theme that I continue to stress to everyone who comes to us for Inner Healing. Yes, Freedom in Christ is the goal for each person who needs to be healed from the wounds in their life, but without taking the time to disciple them in how to keep that freedom, we would be doing them a disservice. The problem is, in those first moments of glorious freedom, they often don't listen or remember those instructions as the days progress. So, we make ourselves available for continued discipling as the Beloved matures in their freedom.
     But, the need for discipling runs beyond our ministry. In fact, I am often disheartened at the lack of it that I see in our churches and our families. And there is a cost to the failure to disciple. I want to share a post that is making the rounds on Facebook. Maybe you've seen it. And whether it is a true account or not, I think it highlights the toll we've paid in our generations for not properly discipling... 

     The post reads like this: "I talked with an 80+ year-old man today and asked if there was anything I could get him while this Corona virus scare was gripping America. He simply smiled, looked away and said: 'Let me tell you what I need! I need to believe that it is safe to hand this country that my generation fought for over to this current generation! I need to know that this generation will quit being a bunch of sissies... that they respect what they've been given... that they've earned what others sacrificed for.' "
     He continued, "You know, I was a little boy during WWII. Those were scary days. We didn't know if we were going to be speaking English, German, or Japanese at the end of the war. There was no certainty, no guarantees. And no home went without sacrifice or loss. Every house, up and down every street, had someone in harm's way. Sometimes it was the whole damn family -- fathers, sons, uncles -- they all went to war. Having someone you love sent off to war wasn't less frightening than it is today. It was scary as hell! If anything, it was more frightening. We didn't have battle front news. We didn't have email or cell phones. You sent them away and you hoped and prayed. You may not hear from them for months, if ever. Sometimes a mother was getting her son's letters the same day that Dad was comforting her over that child's death. 
     And we sacrificed. You couldn't buy things. Everything was rationed. You were only allowed so much milk per month; only so much bread; so much toilet paper. EVERYTHING was restricted for the war effort. And what you weren't using, what you didn't need, things you threw away, they were saved and sorted for the war effort. My generation was the original recycling movement in America.
     And we had viruses back then, too... serious viruses. Things like polio, measles, and such. It was nothing to walk to school and pass a house or two that was quarantined. We didn't shut down our schools. We didn't shut down our cities. We carried on, without masks, without hand sanitizer. And do you know what? We persevered. We overcame. We didn't attack our President, we came together. Thick or thin, we were in it to win. And we would lose more boys in an hour than we lose in entire wars today. 
     Today's kids don't know sacrifice. They think a sacrifice is not having coverage on their phone while they freely drive across the country. Today's kids are selfish and spoiled. In my generation, we looked out for our elders. We helped out with single moms who's husbands were either at war or dead from war. Today's kids rush to the store, buying everything they can ... no concern for anyone but themselves. It's shameful the way Americans behave these days. None of them deserve the sacrifices their granddads made.
     So, no I don't need anything. I appreciate your offer, but I know I've been through worse things than this virus. But maybe I should be asking you, what can I do to help you? Do you have enough pop to get through this, enough steak? Will you be able to survive with 113 channels on your TV?"
      I was humbled by an 80+ year-old man today. I will never understand the sacrifices, or do enough to earn them. But maybe we should work harder to learn from men like him, and to respect what they have to teach us.

     Kind of struck a nerve, didn't it? And it begs the question ... have we properly equipped and trained and instructed this next generation to walk not only in humility and self-sacrifice, but to observe all the ways that Jesus commands? Have our churches done their job to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love?" 
     Or, like the generation the old man talked about, are our churches focused on self-aggrandizement -- increasing their numbers, their wealth, and their status? Have we really prepared the next generation of Christians for what it means to be overcomers? Have we taught them that Jesus says we will have tribulation in the world? Have we equipped them to move from milk to meat? Will they be able to stand, and then be able to do everything possible, so that they can remain standing? 
     Lest you think we are the only generations to have dropped the ball in discipling the next one, the Bible is full of examples of generations who did not learn from the previous; either because they rejected the ways of their forefathers, or were not properly trained up. A new generation of Egyptians forgot that the God of Israel had saved them from starvation through the foresight of Joseph, and they enslaved the Israelites living among them. And Judges 2:10-15 records, "another generation arose who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord ... and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them." Even the great warrior Joshua did not prepare the next generation to properly lead Israel after his death. Israel's leaders compromised with their enemies, and evil influences crept in, leading to worship of false gods.
     We have such a huge opportunity to disciple this next generation! Let's not get so preoccupied with our fears and our struggles during this Corona virus outbreak that we fail to equip and train the younger generation to see what God has called them to do; that they have a higher purpose than the latest version of iPhone, and how many followers they have on the internet. Let us instruct them that they have a destiny written on a scroll in Heaven and encourage them to go after that destiny. We need to equip and train them to grow in their spiritual gifts, and we need to invest more of ourselves in their lives.
     I do not think it is a coincidence that the generations are having to rely on each other more during this time of "social distancing". Families may find themselves coming together to survive physically, economically, and most importantly, spiritually. Do not let these opportunities go to waste! Church doors are closed, so fathers can step into their proper role and lead their families closer to God. It's a time to step away from our selfish desires and see to the needs of others, especially our elders. There is much to learn from them about our family histories. And lastly, let us take the opportunity to return to a recognition that we need God. This Corona virus threatens our basic needs. We know we can't survive without water to drink or food to eat. But we need not worry about our sustenance because our Father in Heaven generously offers the Bread of Life and Living Water. He will meet all our needs if we just realize we need Him and not the temptations of the world. Step into His Kingdom way of living; take the time to teach and equip and train the next generation during this time of slow-down. It is a responsibility that in due season, will bear great fruit.

Psalm 145:3-4    Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.  

November 23, 2019

"The Veils" Of Our Existence

     Since I began this blog, I have periodically run this post that I originally wrote in 2012, shortly after I launched this site. The post 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. It was Mr. Harkin's conjecture that there were at least 8 veils of understanding that a person needed to penetrate in order to see the real purpose of our existence.
     From that first posting in 2012 to the second posting in 2016, my understanding that each level of these "veils" included spiritual battles had increased exponentially, and I added a "new perspective" to my original perception. 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, now that we are approaching 2020, it's time to revisit this interesting speculation, and see if we grasp any new revelations that we can add to Mr. Harkins' original conjecture.  If this is not the first time you've read this post on my blog, I'm also interested to know how many of you have grown in your understanding, as well.
     The First Veil (2012) = 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, the Mainstream Media, 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 2016 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).
     My 2020 Perspective: In the last four years I have grown from an understanding that I have spiritual power and authority transferred from my Savior, Jesus Christ, to a revelation that I am a citizen of Heaven and an Ambassador for the Kingdom of God and His government here on earth. I am to be a member of Christ's Ecclesia (governing body of Christians who implement God's laws/government in our culture and nation). I now understand that our 21st Century model of a Church building full of Christians has not accomplished what Christ intended when He trained and equipped His disciples to go into the world and heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the spiritually unclean, raise the dead, and spread the Gospel of the Kingdom.

    The Second Veil (2012) = History.  Once we've pierced the first veil, there will be 10% of us who will explore the world of history, the relationship between man and government, which will then 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 2016 Perspective:  T
he 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.
     My 2020 Perspective: The Constitution is being undermined and usurped as Evil begins to come out from behind the veil and boldly reveal itself. Man-made laws that have governed in times past are ignored and I now understand that if we Christians do not stand up and govern as an Ecclesia, then someone else will write our laws. We can see that in the Colorado law that does not require gender specification on a birth certificate. We are in new [and increasingly terrifying] territory when it comes to what history has shown to be traditional forms of law and government. The gloves are coming off.

     The Third Veil (2012) = 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 2016 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.
     My 2020 Perspective: Those that have held this control are feeling threatened as Jesus's Remnant is awakening to the truth of their power and is fighting back spiritually. Therefore, the Wicked are accelerating their evil through sex trafficking, child sacrifice, and sex rituals, as well as reallocating resources of rare earth minerals to their advantage.
     The Fourth Veil (2012) = 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 2016 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.
     My 2020 Perspecrtive:  These last years have seen Mark and I grow in our ministry of Inner Healing and we certainly have seen an increase in the iniquity in family lines that demonstrate the characteristics of demonic oppression. And it is so much more in the open! People are now willing to reveal the torment they are under and are desperate for a solution. So many people are suffering that it is almost becoming mainstream among our society. So, now we are no longer able to ignore the evil permeating our homes and families. What are we going to do about it? Is the Church willing to finally get on board with the knowledge that evil exists, spiritual warfare is real, and we have to fight back?

     The Fifth Veil (2012) = 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 2016 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.
     My 2020 Perspective: It's just more of the same and at a faster pace. Pedophilia and child pornography rings use technology to spread their evil; people are so intrigued with getting their technology "fix" quicker and easier, that we have gone from cell phones to watches and implants can't be far behind. There is still talk of moving our brains to "the Cloud", and Siri and Alexa know everything we say and do. How long until we're dealing with the real-life scenario portrayed in 1984's Terminator movie?

     The Sixth Veil (2012) = 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 2016 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.
     My 2020 Perspective: I think perhaps the most surprising new revelation I have received in the last nearly four years is the cooperation between evil men and Satan's demonic forces. TV shows like Stranger Things may appear to be a form of conspiracy entertainment, but it is based on real-life government experiments in the so-called Montauk Project, involving space, time, and opening portals into other dimensions -- which, naturally leads to the question of what is coming through those portals and are Christians awake and prepared to do battle in these spiritual realms?

     The Seventh Veil (2012) = Peace of the Lord.  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.  It's hard to imagine, but I can foresee a small group of people whose soul and spirit 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 2016 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 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!
     My 2020 Perspective: This knowledge of supernatural peace has only grown! Once again, I am seeing panic among the general public, and even among some of the "religious" Christians, as they once again sense that the noose is tightening around our comfortable way of life. But those of us who pierced the previous six veils have journeyed for awhile now in the peace that only comes from understanding [and accepting] that evil will increase before Jesus comes back to administer His swift justice. In what might be perceived as an unorthodox mindset, we actually receive the certainty of advancing evil as a sign that our Lord is near to returning. We are ready and both physically and spiritually prepared. We are no longer restive in the midst of the anticipation of evil, but are serene and calm in the certainty of our victory.

     That brings us to Harkin's Eighth veil (2012), 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 2016 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!
     My 2020 Perspective: The knowledge that we are to have a personal, intimate relationship with Christ is now seen through an entirely new lens. He is our King, and we serve Him in His kingdom here on earth. He is our model, and we are to hear and see His directives on managing this earth, just as He followed everything the Father showed and told Him. This picture of citizenship in the Kingdom of God on earth still includes love, compassion, mercy, and grace ... but it has expanded to taking back territory from the kingdom of darkness in people's lives. Mankind was given dominion over the earth at our creation, and it is time we step into that mandate and take up our mantle of authority, using the power of Heaven through the Holy Spirit. who resides in us.

     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 7 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.
     When I reassessed my understanding three-and-a-half years ago, I can honestly say that I believed I was at that Eighth veil, and I was 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 saw that my existence here on earth was more than just this physical realm, and my victory in this life depended on my readiness to work with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do battle with the spiritual realm.  I truly knew that I did not battle against flesh and blood, but had the Authority and Power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to free myself of spiritual bondage.
    Now, with an additional three-and-a-half years under my belt, I realize that my comprehension of that eighth veil was rudimentary. Yes, it was important to know the true intent of Jesus's Great Commission for us Believers. And, yes, it is not only our privilege, but our responsibility to work with Him and the Holy Spirit to "set the captives free" from their demonic bondage to Satan's lies. But we aren't to stop there. Once we are free, we are to use that energy, authority, and life force that is "God in us" to continue the purpose that Jesus came for -- to re-establish this earth and its inhabitants under the governmental authority of the Kingdom of God.
     Jesus says in Luke 4:43, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose. And then He says, in Matthew 24:14, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. I now clearly see that part of my responsibility as a citizen of the Kingdom of God is to speak into people so that they achieve the entry point into the Kingdom -- which is Salvation. Then I must work with Jesus to get them free from the lies of the Enemy. And then I am to equip and train them to do the same for others, educating them about what it means to be a citizen of Heaven on earth. That is the entire Gospel of the Kingdom! And then the end of Satan's kingdom will come when the Lord returns with His righteous judgment!
    The largest part of "the Church" has stopped at Salvation! Until we can spread the good news of the Kingdom, Christ will not return. And unless you're free from Satan's lies, you cannot comprehend the Kingdom concept and your role as a citizen. Can you see it? First comes Salvation, then Freedom, then your position and responsibility in the Kingdom! 
     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 as Kingdom citizens 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, and Christ's return.  That is a goal worthy of effort by every Christian.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17   But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.