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

Showing posts with label Evangelizing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evangelizing. Show all posts

July 18, 2018

The Reckless Love Of God

     Do you ever have those days where it seems God brings things together and you get that fleeting glimpse of the reality of Heaven on earth? For me, it was the convergence of several things that touched my heart and with which I was familiar, but they all came together in a flood of spirit consciousness of God's Goodness. I know that probably doesn't make much sense, but I honestly don't have the words to give this awareness its due. So let me just tell you how my day went....
     It began with a Sabbath morning of worship. I am able to stream worship music from Bethel and Hillsong on my TV, so I spent the morning cleaning my house (and my soul) to the sounds of worship changing the atmosphere in my home and my heart. And I'm sure most of you are familiar with the award winning song, "The Reckless Love of God" by Cory Asbury. I heard it that morning, and the lyrics washed over me .... Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine...
     For some reason, the tears that always come with that song were even more heart-rending than usual. Why, I wondered? As the day unfolded, it would become apparent. Mark and I were to spend the day with his parents, sister, and our niece -- always something we look forward to. And Mark had it on his heart to share the 2014 Darren Wilson film "Holy Ghost" with our niece, Kaylee, who has such a heart for Jesus (and is even writing her own blog about what faith looks like for a Millennial).
     As we suspected, she was unfamiliar with this innovative -- and let's face it -- risky film. It's not exactly the kind of message that mainstream Christian churches embrace or even seek. Directed by film-maker Darren Wilson, the purpose of the film is unashamedly provocative: to prove the presence of God is real. And we hear Darren proclaim at the beginning of the film, "I wanna take the greatest risk possible as a filmmaker, to make a movie that is completely led by the Holy Spirit… just show up wherever he leads me, find the adventure, and make God famous".
     So, we got our chance to suggest that we sit down, as a family, and watch one segment of the film, hoping to open up a discussion of God's immense ability to love. If you are unfamiliar with the film, there is a portion that focuses on the heavy metal band, Korn, and two of its members, Brian "Head" Welch and Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu. They give their testimonies of years of drugs and anti-God living, and their "lostness". But then they tell of how Jesus chased them down, and changed them forever. The film then goes on to show them accompanying radical evangelist Todd White (a former atheist and 22-year drug abuser, himself) among the crowds of fans to share a simple Gospel message of Jesus loving them and wanting to heal them, both physically and spiritually.
    And here's where we had the opportunity to have a discussion with our family. How did they feel about these band members continuing to sing in the band Korn; singing lyrics that are obviously offensive and vulgar by society's standards? How does it coincide with their faith in Jesus? Can the two exist simultaneously? It was Kaylee's understanding I was most interested in, because she is the next generation to carry the Kingdom message forward. Would she get it?
     She did! She saw that this particular segment of the population needed to hear about Jesus, see the miracles He had done in the lives of the band members, and be presented with a new way to live. Even my seventy-something in-laws recognized that the tattooed, heavy-metal crowd would never be willing to hear about Jesus from us. But, those band members could reach them with the life-giving message of Jesus and they would listen! As I told them, "Do I wish they would change their music, get rid of the f-word and other offensive language, and sing more wholesome songs"? Of course! But then they would lose their influence over the people who come to see them and like that form of music.
     And here's an interesting fact: in 2005, Korn's management announced that after almost 12 years with the band, Brian Welch had left Korn, citing that he had "...chosen the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, and will be dedicating his musical pursuits to that end." In addition, as a single father he did not want to raise his daughter in an environment filled with drugs, sex, and explicit language.  But after nearly eight years apart from the band, Welch says God told him to reunite with the band; he had a mission field he could sow into. He resisted, not wanting to return to the environment that fueled his depraved life. But he knew his victory was in Christ and there was no doubt that this mission field abounded with opportunities to bring lost sheep into the fold. 
     The bottom line is this: Does this style of the Gospel Message of the Kingdom offend mainstream Christianity? You bet it does! But isn't this picture similar to the reaction of the Pharisees, who objected to Jesus's style and message because it didn't align with their image of what religion was supposed to look like? Wasn't Jesus's method of showing the Father to the masses just as radical as using a heavy-metal band to present Him to those who would otherwise never hear of Him? Remember, the Bible tells us we are not to judge a Believer's heart, but we can judge their fruit for the Kingdom. And those band members are producing fruit among those fans that you and I could never reach.
     So, remember how my day started, with the emotion of the song "The Reckless Love of God"? Well, those lyrics haunted me all day, and I found myself singing them over and over in my mind... Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine... Just like the Parable of the Lost Lamb in Luke 15, aren't these heavy metal lovers just like the lost lamb that Jesus would leave the ninety-nine Church-goers to chase down and fight for?
    But let me let Cory Asbury, the writer of "The Reckless Love of God" explain it better than me. In his own words he wrote, "When I used the phrase, 'the reckless love of God,' when we say it, we're not saying that God Himself is reckless, He's not crazy. We are, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. But what I mean is this: He's utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His own actions with regard to His own safety, comfort and well-being. ... He doesn't wonder what He'll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line, He simply puts Himself out there on the off-chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return. His love leaves the ninety nine to find the one every time, and to many practical adults that's a foolish concept. Well, what if He loses the ninety nine in finding the one, right? What if, finding that one lost sheep is and always will be supremely important"?
     Now, let's let Jesus express Himself: “There once was a shepherd with a hundred lambs, but one of his lambs wandered away and was lost. So the shepherd left the ninety-nine lambs out in the open field and searched in the wilderness for that one lost lamb. He didn’t stop until he finally found it. With exuberant joy he raised it up and placed it on his shoulders, carrying it back with cheerful delight! Returning home, he called all his friends and neighbors together and said, ‘Let’s have a party! Come and celebrate with me the return of my lost lamb. It wandered away, but I found it and brought it home.’”
     Jesus continued, “In the same way, there will be a glorious celebration in heaven over the rescue of one lost sinner who repents, comes back home, and returns to the fold—more so than for all the righteous people who never strayed away.”
     Can you see Him celebrating each and every heavy metal fan that turns from the dark side of that music genre to run to His arms? Have they wandered away? Yes. Does He want to work with us to find them and bring them home? Absolutely! And He has a willing partner with Brian Welch. Praise Him for not abandoning them and for sending Welch into their midst. Let us rejoice, for there is a glorious celebration in heaven! 
     So, there it is.... God speaking to me in a day that started with a song, which led to a movie, which led me back to Scripture, which ended up back at the song ... Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine... A perfect circle of His love. He never stops pursuing the one who is lost.
     Father, may I never judge the methods and the ways You use to reach the lost lambs of this world. Instead let me lift up those in the Body of Christ who are reaching souls I could never influence, and may we learn to love our differences as we praise You for bringing us to unity in our shared faith. You've created us to walk in different lanes and paths, but all with the shared goal to reach the world for You. You paid it all for each and every one of us. Was that reckless in that You had no concern for what it would cost You, but were only devoted to what we would gain? Yes! And on behalf of all the "one lambs" You came after, I bow before You!

James 5:19-20   Finally, as members of God’s beloved family, we must go after the one who wanders from the truth and bring him back. For the one who restores the sinning believer back to God from the error of his way, gives back to his soul life from the dead, and covers over countless sins by their demonstration of love!

July 5, 2018

Jesus Said, "Go"!

     I can hardly wait to share the good news of what Jesus did this past Sunday! As you know, I strongly believe that we Christians should be taking the Gospel message out into the world instead of protecting it within the four walls of a church building. Actually, I believe that WE were meant to be the church as we encounter the world and bring the Light, that is Jesus, into the dark kingdom of the Enemy.
     Jesus commissioned His twelve disciples "to preach God’s kingdom realm and to heal the sick to demonstrate that the kingdom had arrived". As He sent them out, He said, "Just go as you are" and "Go in my authority, and teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you". He also said that loving Him empowers us to obey His word. So that is exactly what a small group of us did this last Sunday... we obeyed His commandments, followed His instructions, and answered His call to "Go"!
     We began our assignment by meeting to worship; praying together, ministering to each other, and just soaking in His Presence before we went out. Someone in our group felt He heard the Lord say to look for a woman in a red shirt. The first stop we made was the local park. Although a huge public park, it was relatively uninhabited that afternoon, and we were a little disappointed that we weren't encountering more people. But as we were driving towards the exit, we saw a woman getting out of her car, and she was wearing a red shirt! My husband pulled up alongside her and asked if she needed prayer for anything. She didn't even hesitate. "Yes"! We all got out of the vehicle, surrounded her and asked about her circumstances and why she needed prayer.
     Her story was heartbreaking. Her oldest son, who has a problem with drugs, had been missing for several days. She hadn't known where he was, and had been in church praying that morning for him to return. She had heard from him just an hour or so before, but knew that he continued in his struggles and she didn't know how to help him. So we gathered around her, laying hands on her and each prayed for the drug addiction to be defeated and the family relationship to be restored; and for her son to come home and discover who he is in Jesus. As we prayed, her phone began ringing and as we finished and said our goodbyes, she said it was her son calling! 
     Not only did the Lord show us who we would need to pray for that day, but confirmed that we were hearing from Him and showed us that He could make that vital connection between a mother and her hurting son. Our spirits soared!
     The next stop was the local mall. We hadn't even parked before we saw a woman who seemed to be limping, so we pulled in to the closest empty parking space and approached her. What a compassionate Christian she turned out to be. Although suffering from scoliosis herself, she asked us to pray instead for her friend Kim, who was suffering from cancer, yet continued to take in abandoned children and care for them. She enthusiastically praised her friend's faithfulness and commitment to these children and asked that we pray for her to recover so she could continue showing love and mercy for those precious children. We did so, and then prayed for her back and a release from the spirit of pain. We left her blessing the Name of Jesus and continued on into the mall.
     At that point we split into pairs with the purpose of listening to the Father, just as Jesus had done; willing to minister to anyone who needed prayer and the touch of Jesus in their life. My husband, Mark, paired with Tami, the wife of the other couple, and I joined with the husband, Keith, and we started at opposite ends of the mall. As it turned out, Mark and Tami felt led to pray for people with obvious physical pain. They laid hands on a woman with knee pain, and she reported the pain had greatly subsided. Another woman received prayer for shoulder and sciatic pain, and although she remained skeptical, she did admit to some relief.  Jesus will take that and continue to work in her! Then they approached an Indian man who said he was from the Comanche tribe and suffered from neuropathy in his foot. He was surprised when the condition improved considerably. Mark and Tami then engaged in a conversation about his faith in Jesus. Although he was skeptical that the relief would last, they left him declaring their trust in the Lord to continue His supernatural healing.
     Keith and I found ourselves praying for emotional healing. There was a woman, named Penny, who heeded our question if she needed prayer by saying, "How did you know to stop me"? At it turned out, Penny was a newly saved Christian and was struggling with how to walk in righteousness. She said, "I know Jesus is my Savior, but I don't even think to pray as a solution to this life's issues". She said when it came to solving problems, prayer was about fifth down the list, and we could tell she was really beating herself up for what she saw as weak faith. I asked her if she wanted prayer to be more important in her life, and she teared up. "Yes". So, I told her, "Just ask Jesus for a heart to pray. It's that simple. He hears you and wants to grant the desires of your heart". She left visibly shaken, but touched by our encounter. 
    We then continued our stroll through the mall, again amazed that there were fewer people than we expected. We saw a man sitting on a bench, surrounded by four young children. We approached him asking if he needed prayer, but he declined. My partner, Keith, didn't let that stop him. Keith engaged with each of the children, imparting a ray of Jesus's Light into their midst, proving you can represent Jesus in all manner of ways.
     We continued our walk through the mall. A group of four young men had caught my eye as we first entered the mall, and 30 minutes later, we encountered them entering a sporting goods store. Although I didn't feel any strong prompting from any of them, my gaze kept returning to them, and I finally looked at Keith and said, "I'm going".  I walked into the store and up to two of the young men and said, "I just want to ask you if there is anything we can pray for you"? Well, the tallest of the two looked at me like a deer in the headlights, and just shook his head "no". His friend did the same thing and started to turn away. At that moment, I turned in the opposite direction and came in contact with the third young man of the group, and he asked me, "What did you say"? And I repeated the question, asking if he needed prayer for anything, and he didn't hesitate. "Yes, for my future". 
     I asked him his name (Joe) and said, "What's going on? What about your future do you feel the need for prayer"? And he said he felt stuck, he didn't know what his destiny was; what he was meant to do.  Instantly, my spirit discerned that Joe's spirit was stuck somewhere in a realm and couldn't see or hear the counsel of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. So I asked him to close his eyes, and see if he could see himself stuck someplace where he couldn't get out. And he said, yes, in a room in his house. I asked Joe if he would be willing to let Jesus come into that room and walk him out. He agreed to that, so I asked him if he could see Jesus in that room with him. After a couple of seconds, he nodded his head yes. 
     I then asked the Lord to let Joe see Him walking him out of that room and collapsing that room behind them. Joe nodded his head that he had seen that image. Then I asked Jesus to tell Joe what He wanted to tell him about his future. At that moment, Joe opened his eyes in alarm and jumped back about two feet. He looked at his companions and then at me, and said, "He talked to me! I heard Him!" I asked what Jesus had said, and Joe replied, "I was so startled I didn't let Him finish!" I asked again, "What did you hear"? Joe heard Jesus say, "I am the Way....".  I then took that opportunity to encourage Joe to stay focused on Jesus and let Him lead the way to his future. I shared the story of Peter being able to walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus, at which time he began to sink.
     I told Joe that Jesus has a future planned for him. All Joe has to do is trust Him and stay focused on Him. He (Joe) can meet with Jesus anytime, just like he had moments ago, because Jesus wants to lead him into a life abundant; all Joe has to do is follow His lead. He was so animated and enthusiastic over his encounter with Jesus, and kept telling his friends, "It was real! I saw Him and heard Him"! We hugged Joe and wished him well, turning to leave the store, and praising Jesus for showing up in that young man's life.
     But Jesus wasn't finished. As Keith and I began to exit the store, one of the employees of the sporting goods store approached me. He was actually in the middle of completing a sale and stopped me to say, "I need prayer". His co-worker affirmed his request: "He is really hurting. He truly needs prayer", and she agreed to finish up the sale with the astounded customer, so we could minister to this young man, Lee.
     Lee's heart was broken. He was in love with a girl who, after 3 years together, was rejecting him. You could see it all over his face, and my spirit was struck with an incredible amount of compassion for this young man. I rebuked and bound the spirit of rejection, casting it at the foot of the Cross and covering it in the blood of Jesus. I prayed that Lee would recognize his identity as a son of the King; trusting that at this very moment God was preparing a godly woman who would love him as he desired and deserved to be loved; a woman with whom he would be equally yoked. 
     I instructed him that every time he heard the lie from the Enemy that he was unworthy to be loved, to renounce it out loud and replace it with a truth from Scripture: "God rejoices over me with gladness; He loves me with an everlasting love; that He loves me so much that He has made plans for me -- plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future". I explained that the spiritual realm is all around us and when we declare [with our tongue and our voice] the promises of God, that they hear it and tremble. Then Keith prayed over him, reinforcing his identity in Christ. We hugged him and told him to walk in that truth.
     As we left that store, I was flying high and so were my companions! I now understand why "street evangelists" like Todd White are so enthusiastic about their calling. The simple act of being obedient and going out to share Jesus with the world is life-changing! And it doesn't have to be dramatic, with cameras filming and large audiences in attendance.  And it doesn't take a lot of time. In fact, we each probably spent less than 10 minutes with each person we encountered that day. But they encountered Jesus in those precious moments and He would continue to work on their hearts, if they would agree to receive Him. 
     The truth of the matter is that there were only four of us who went out that day, splitting up into two pairs. We encountered only a few people, got turned down several times, and ended up healing only nine people. But Jesus showed up in the lives of nine people in a matter of a couple of hours, and I'm pretty sure their lives will never be the same. And I'm here to tell you that witnessing His love in their lives is infectious! 
    Yes, it was exciting to be a part of those encounters, but it wasn't about our performance, because I can tell you that on my part, I had no idea what I was going to say, or if I would even be able to discern how to pray for them. I just trusted that Jesus would show up and do something miraculous in the life of each person who accepted our invitation. It was certainly not about us, because we are no one special. We just each know the authority and power of Christ that has been given to us to make a difference in the lives of the hurting and the lost. Anyone can do what we did if you believe that the Kingdom of Heaven has invaded this earth, and that Jesus can work through us as Kingdom ambassadors. But what a rush to partner with Jesus in shining that Kingdom of God into the hearts of those seeking Him, and to heal those who needed to be released from physical pain. 
     I just thank you, Jesus, for being able to use the four of us to invade this realm with the Kingdom of God! We were a ragtag army of four, but we walked with the Sword of the Spirit by our side and the Shield of Faith before us. We showed nine people that You are real and You are alive! I praise You that You protected us as we went out sowing seeds for the Kingdom, and I am thankful that we caused no harm as we introduced Your healing heart and hand into those precious lives. We get it, Lord! It's really that simple, and You're just waiting for obedient servants to raise their hands and say, "Send me".  We can't wait to see where You will take us next, how You will show up, and who will receive Your touch on their life. There's no turning back now!

1 Chronicles 4:10     Jabez called out to the God of Israel: “If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain.” And God granted his request. 

May 17, 2018

Don't Sleep Through The Harvest

     As my body matures with age and my relationship with Jesus matures spiritually, I am less concerned with the trappings of this world. Oh, there was a time that it mattered if my salary was increasing, or how late the model of my car was, or even how many square feet was in my house. I was just as caught up in meeting the world's standards as anyone else.
     But now I'm increasingly content with where I'm at on my life's timeline -- I'm no longer concerned with comparing myself to anyone other than Jesus. I know that makes me sound corny and like a Christian cliché. But I simply mean that outward appearances, or things the world counts as wealth, no longer satisfy me or entice me. And I find myself saddened when people I care about still measure their success in life by the things they've accumulated, or the status symbols they think define them.
     Case in point, we recently enjoyed a visit with a very good friend that we've known for 25 years. There was a time, before Mark and I answered the Lord's invitation, when we were extremely close with him and his wife. We shared a lot of fun times together as well as the same outlook on life... struggling to chase after the "good life"; nice car, nice house, money in the bank, and "a secure future in the world". In fact, we were blessed when they asked us to be godparents to their daughter.
     But then something changed along the way. Mark decided to follow his God-given talent as an artist, which meant trusting God for our security, which led to us seeking to become sincere followers of Jesus Christ, our Savior. All the while, our friends were focused on the things that marked what society called a successful lifestyle -- a second home in the mountains; frequent travels to Europe and around the world; driving luxury cars; and enrolling their daughter in a private religious school. You guessed it; we no longer traveled in the same social circles, and they began to view our pursuit of Jesus as unappealing and restrictive.
     A recent conversation with our goddaughter, who is taking a year off from school to travel the world, revealed just what our image is like to them. As a pre-teen, she struggled with describing how she sees us... "really Christian; going to church; you know ... in the Bible all the time". In other words, not much fun, and certainly incapable of having anything in common with her family's way of living.  Mind you, she had been enrolled in a prestigious private Christian school, but I'm afraid the only affirmation of Scripture she received was when her parents said to call us for an explanation of a particular theological concept. Needless to say, my heart hurt after that conversation.
     And while she and her mother are experiencing the excitement of ancient cities, museums, and cultures, her dad is back home in the States working to make this unique experience possible. And it was the recent visit with him that has brought me to write this post.
     He was explaining how well his company was doing and that he had provided well for his daughter. "Her college is paid for, she is set for life, and will never have to worry about anything". My spirit leaped. Did I dare speak what the Holy Spirit just whispered to me, even at the risk it might offend him? I hesitated for just a moment, before deciding that their eternal souls were on the line, and I had to speak.
     "I'm going to say this because I love you and your family". There was a silence that was palpable. "I know you have taken care of your daughter well, and she has everything this world can offer. But it's what comes after this world that I'm concerned about. This life is temporary; seventy to eighty years, if we're lucky. But eternity is forever. What are you giving her to prepare her for that?"
     There was a long silence. Then his response went something like this ... "I have another friend; the wife of a colleague, who is close to God like you are. She even says she talks to God and he talks to her. But I never hear from God". Ah, my dear friend, do you ever stop pursuing the riches of this world to listen for Him? Because, I promise you, He is trying to engage with you every minute! He then went on to talk about "all" the conflicts in the Bible, yet he could only mention a couple ... the age of the earth and the dinosaurs; and how irrelevant and hard is the Old Testament to understand.
     An attempt to engage in an entry level discussion of Scripture was quickly rebuffed and the topic changed to how he was going to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday by flying four couples to Europe for a week. It was clear that he had no desire to hear any testimony from us on how Jesus has impacted our life. I guess that me, Mark, and Jesus just aren't exciting enough.
     Now, maybe you have friends or family like this -- maybe not as wealthy as this -- but definitely as blind and lost. Have you, like Mark and I, tried for years to reach them about their salvation, and feel like you're failing?  Here's the way I look at it ... I have really become convicted that if I do not take advantage of every opportunity I have to share Jesus, and what He has done in my life and wants to do in theirs, then I cannot expect to see any change in the person. That doesn't mean I am constantly on a religious soap box. But it does mean that when I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak into a person's life, then I must plant the seed so He can water it.
     The times that I have resisted these promptings have resulted in a very clear reminder from my Lord, "But if you publicly deny that you know Me, I will also deny you before My heavenly Father".  I believe that doesn't just include the obvious case of blasphemy, but also encompasses missed opportunities to share our testimonies. You see, I really believe that a spiritual nudge from the Spirit is an opportunity for me to partner with Him in enlarging His Kingdom here on earth. I know without a doubt that God doesn't want anyone to be lost. And I will admit that it is difficult to wrap my head around whether He knows who will [or will not] accept His invitation for eternal salvation before its even offered, but I do not want to stand before Jesus and hear Him say, "I was waiting for you to tell him/her about Me, but the moment was squandered, and the opportunity was lost". What if I was the only one God put in their path? And then there is the thought, Why would I ever hesitate to share with anyone how He called to me and saved me from eternal separation from Him?
     So, if you are like me and despair over your inability to reach family or friends, remember that it is not you who do the saving work. Your job is to sow the seeds, even if they appear to fall on the wayside, or rocky ground, or among thorns. Only the Living Water can nourish them, and you will know that you have served the Kingdom as a worthy ambassador. Instead of worrying about whether the seed took root, or suffering an obvious rejection, keep looking for those circumstances in which you can host the Presence of God. Speak whenever prompted and trust that your efforts will not be in vain. You may not see results this side of heaven, but I savor the thought of surprising reunions in the glorious kingdom of our Father!

Proverbs 10:5   Know the importance of the season you’re in and a wise son you will be. But what a waste when an incompetent son sleeps through his day of opportunity!