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

Showing posts with label God's Grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God's Grace. Show all posts

January 10, 2023

Lessons From The Chosen: Glorify God With A "Sacrifice of Praise"

Before I even begin this blog post, I am aware that there will be differences of opinion on what I'm about to say. My topic today centers around a particular scene in Episode 2, Season 3 of the popular historical/drama series The Chosen. What I have to say is deeply personal; it is how my spirit reacted to the Biblical principle presented in the scene. NOTE: I am not saying that the scene is a word-for-word reenactment of Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible, will you find this scene between Jesus and the Disciple known as James, son of Alpheus, or James the Less [to be distinguished from James the Greater, son of Zebedee, and brother to the Disciple John].

I am also aware that there will be those who discount what I have to say because they have labeled the show and the filmmaker as partners with heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, irreverence, and sacrilegious intentions. So, let me make my statement about where I'm coming from, and then I will move on to my premise. For me, this show is intended to show the heart of Jesus; to represent His love and compassion for the Jews, God's chosen people. Although the filmmaker has made it clear that he is not claiming the interactions between Jesus and the Disciples is factual according to Scripture, he has been faithful to the Bible's truths of salvation; Jesus's identity as the Messiah; His purpose for coming; His incarnation; God's requirements of repentance, forgiveness, faith and love; etc. 

For myself, these are essential tenets that must be portrayed. And because I have spent much time in the Bible, and grown in my spiritual and intimate relationship with my Savior, I am not bothered by what some might call the "sentimental portrayal" of Jesus in His human form. In fact, because we are provided very little details of the human personality of the Lord, I find that this show portrays Jesus, the man, as my spirit perceives He must have been. I find nothing that distracts from the inerrant Word of God, and I believe that this portrayal of Him is a great way to begin a conversation with a nonbeliever or new Christian who have trouble relating to Him in a personal way. You may not agree, and that is okay. That is your opinion. But I would like you to allow me to present my original purpose for this post ... to share why this particular scene in Season 3 so touched my heart.

So, let me set the context of the scene. Jesus is sending the Disciples out in pairs to heal and evangelize to the Jews. The filmmaker imagines how that might have gone as Jesus assigns partners for this mission; we see the different personalities of the Disciples [which we know existed from a few clues in the Bible, such as John 21:20-22 and Mark 10:35-45]. And this is where The Chosen is able to present the important principle of faith in the midst of trials. The filmmaker has James the Less, [or as he is known in the show, Little James, due to a physical affliction that leaves him with a limp and the use of a cane] approach Jesus in private. Little James expresses his concern about his ability to either evangelize or heal. With obvious pain and hesitancy, he says, "I find it difficult to imagine with my condition... which you haven't healed". 

By the look on Jesus's face, He recognizes Little James's feelings of both inadequacy and confusion. He responds, "In the Father's will, I could heal you right now and you'd have a good story to tell, yes? Miracles are a good story. There are already dozens who have that story, and hundreds who can tell that story of [My Father's healing and miracles], with thousands more to come. But think of the story you will have (in this journey to come) if you DON'T get healed"! Jesus then went on to tell Little James that He and the Father had specifically chosen him to show the people one of the most important tenets of our faith... "You will know how to proclaim that you still praise God in spite of your affliction; to know how to focus on all that matters in your faith; [and it's] so much more than the [physical] body... When you find yourself fighting [through strength] because of your weakness, [and you will do great things in My Name in spite of this], the impact will last for generations". Then Jesus stops and smiles warmly at Little James and says, "A man like you healing ... Oh, what a sight!" He turns to walk off and then stops and returns to come close to face Little James. With His own face full of tenderness and love, He says, "You will be healed ... it's just a matter of time". Jesus then walks off, leaving Little James looking heavenward with renewed hope and identity. 

Think of the conversations you have had with Believers who have questioned why they or their loved one has not been healed, and how it has affected their faith. Then think of the conversations you could have now, after seeing this scene where Jesus shows a purpose [in the Father's will] for not being healed. When that can be shown on film, and through genuine human emotion, it can persuade hearts of the truth of God's Scripture: “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.”

So, now if you are a Believer and watching this oftentimes controversial show, you have a decision to make .... do you renounce the principle behind this scene because we have no proof that this exact exchange occurred between James the Less, or that he even had such an affliction? Or do we embrace the way that the filmmaker was able to express what the Bible clearly shows us is Jesus's compassion towards us during our trials; His power in us to work through our weakness to help us do what we cannot accomplish on our own [i.e., His Grace]; and the admonition of the Bible to praise God in all circumstances -- even when our flesh and soul don't feel like it. To me, this scene exemplifies Hebrews 13:15, Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name. 

Another benefit of this scene [for me] is that it shows the audience that we can have the same kind of intimacy with Jesus that Little James experienced. We have permission to come to Him and question without fear of retribution; we can express our thoughts and feelings [and yes, even doubts and confusion], yet still trust in Him and maintain our faith. And the scene invited me to contemplate something I hadn't thought of before it was presented in this context of "a sacrifice of praise" ... it allowed me to see the comparison between Jesus not being "rescued" from his physical torture and pain so that we might live eternally with Him and the Father, with Little James being able to offer that same opportunity to others in spite of not being delivered from his own cross to bear. Just as Jesus cried out from the Cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?, Little James is, in essence, asking the same question of the Messiah ... why was I forsaken in Your healing miracles?

In the end, everyone must make up their own minds [and I would hope you engage with your spirit, too] to decide whether The Chosen is heretical and blasphemous. And if you choose to be strict in your dissection of just "how Biblical" this show is, I would like to suggest that every Easter Pageant, Christmas play, pastor's sermon, and theologian's commentary are based on someone's interpretation and genuine desire to portray the heart of the Bible's message. If we will recall, the Pharisees once accused Jesus of heresy and blasphemy because He did not follow their rigid interpretations of God's will. From my own personal experience, this show has showed a real, compassionate, and sincere Jesus that my unbelieving friends and family are curious to know. And it has opened up opportunities for me to have discussions that point them to the greater glory of God in the Scriptures. And in these End Times, those opportunities must be embraced to reach the lost in this world. May the Holy Spirit move in these dark days and use The Chosen to reach the hungry, blind, and poor in spirit. Amen!

#thechosen #principlesofthebible #lessonsfromthechosen #thepowerofjesus

John 20:21    Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].”

October 26, 2020

"Religion" Is Not What Jesus Modeled!

You would think that we American Christians would be grateful that we still live in a free society where we can practice our faith without overt persecution, and that we would support and encourage each other in the incredible freedoms we enjoy to explore and grow in our relationship with Christ. You would think that, wouldn't you?

But, just as Jesus faced constant challenges from the religious Pharisees, I am still seeing opposition, and even hostility, towards Believers, like myself, who have been called to offer encounters with Jesus that are unconventional and outside the boundaries set by religious traditions. As I have shared many times in past posts, the Inner Healing Ministry [to which the Lord called Mark and I] has been the subject of many attacks by Christians who object to it as "un-Biblical" or "un-Scriptural". But is it? 

In addition, when the Lord showed us that Jesus's primary reason for being sent by the Father was to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, we were accused of disparaging the Gospel of Salvation. It didn't fit the established doctrines of mainstream denominations. Yet that is exactly what Jesus says in Luke 4:43... that's why He was sent. In the Book of Matthew, He talks about the Gospel of the Kingdom 56 times, and never mentions the Gospel of Salvation. Granted, our Lord came to be the Lord of the Jews first. Christians did not exist at that time; those non-Jews who would come to believe in Him as the Son of God were called Gentiles and most often worshiped pagan gods. It wouldn't be until after the Jews rejected Him as their Messiah, He was resurrected, and appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, that Jesus instructed His message be offered to non-Jews. 

And I will say it again ... SALVATION WAS IMPORTANT TO JESUS! He experienced a horrific death on the Cross to give it to us! But the Bible only records Him talking about it once, to Nicodemus in the middle of the night, away from the religious leaders of the Jews. He makes it clear that Salvation is necessary and essential to see [discern or perceive] the Kingdom, and one must be Saved to enter the Kingdom. The religion of Christianity has grasped the concept of Salvation really well, and they have promoted it, preached it, and taught it around the world. But Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come."

So, it is with sadness [and a modicum of frustration] that I am still hearing Christians criticizing each other when one of us presents a different form of His message from a platform that doesn't correspond to what they think should be the prescribed formula. Jesus didn't model the Jewish faith in the system the Pharisees thought was acceptable, either. In fact, to use a modern euphemism, Jesus didn't color inside the lines.  So, when I hear Christians say that a person's Salvation should be the first thing that we "accomplish" in introducing them to Jesus, I want to have a sincere conversation about determining exactly what Jesus modeled for us. The Sinner's Prayer [or the Prayer of Salvation] does not have to be the first or the be-all, end-all of any ministry opportunity. And I don't see Jesus demanding any litmus test to follow Him. He was all about relationship, not rules.

And I should probably, at this point, head off any criticism that I am saying "anything goes" when it comes to presenting God's Word or representing Jesus and the Father. I am not. We must present the Truth of the Bible according to Scripture. But I think the Father has given us unique ways to do that, and we do not have to be religious or uncompromising about the protocol. If Christians would spend some time reading their Bible and verifying what they have been taught, I think they would find that Jesus's modus operandi, if you will, was to show the love and mercy of the Father to those He came in contact with. When the people experienced the power of God in their lives to heal, to forgive, and to extend His grace, they were more likely to listen to His message and teachings about the Kingdom -- which remember, was His purpose. He wasn't so concerned about following any methodology, or repeating a formula or technique. 

When you can invite women to a retreat and witness the sharing of testimonies of how an intimate relationship with Jesus healed a miserable childhood experience; or how different our journeys can be to develop a faith life; or even just that its okay to start right where you are, without fitting any "model" of what your Christian walk should like, then you are showing the heart of God to love us into relationship with Him. That relationship will lead to Salvation, and then we can share the Gospel of the Kingdom. And when someone can come to us because they have nowhere else to turn and are desperate to be rid of the oppression and attacks from an Enemy they don't even know -- and we can help them have an encounter with Jesus, whom they've never known, then you have been blessed to give them that gift. And if they are not saved, this encounter with Him gives rise to the opportunity to share the messages of Salvation and the Kingdom. Both circumstances are just two of many different ways that follow the model Jesus has portrayed for us. He first healed the blind man, and then introduced His Father's Kingdom. He met the woman at the well, revealed Himself to her, and then told her to sin no more. 

Jesus healed the pain first and then said, "Go, and sin no more". These people were more willing to hear His message after they had experienced His heart and received healing. We would do well to remember we are all sinners and treat others the way Jesus did. He didn't judge other sinners. And He didn't give them a free pass. He guided them into a new way of thinking about how to confront sin; He showed them mercy. He didn't condone sin or pardon it. He was clear that the Father's will for our lives should take precedence over our own free will. The simple truth is that He showed the Father's love and will for us through His actions and the only prayer that He suggested was a prayer that revealed the Father's Kingdom and His willingness to deliver us through His power and glory. 

I have nothing against the Sinner's Prayer. It is easily understood and provides a way to help someone repent for their sins and begin a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, as their Savior. But unless that someone is discipled and encouraged and trained in the ways of the Lord, that Sinner's Prayer can become a mechanical gesture. Can we find it in our hearts to accept that there are other ways to lead a person to that relationship and to truly know the One who has Saved them? Can we not demonstrate the self-righteousness of the Pharisaical mindset? God has made each of us unique according to His purpose for His Kingdom on earth. Can we agree that He just might use unique people and unique ways to reach us? Let's try to give our fellow Christians the grace that Jesus showed others who didn't fit the mold. After all, it's the end result the Father is after ... receive Salvation through faith in His Son and then enter Kingdom to spread that Gospel to all the world. I'm pretty sure there are as many ways to do that as there are people. And I think the Father enjoys seeing the creative ways in which we reveal Him and His Truth. That represents the magnitude and vastness of His own creativity. That's how great our God is!

Romans 12:6   Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them accordingly ...






July 9, 2020

Covid and the The Court In Heaven

     Have you considered that we have access to the Courts of Heaven, and can ask for a judgment against this Corona virus that has this nation in bondage to spirits of Fear and Constraint? Perhaps the first question I should ask is Did you know the Courts of Heaven even exist?  Perhaps I should address that first... I would venture to guess that a majority of modern Christians would answer "No" to that question.  Yet the Jews returning to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile knew well the teachings of the prophet Zechariah, among which was this idea of a Heavenly Court.
     In Zechariah, Chapter 3, the prophet receives a vision from a guiding angel of the High Priest, Joshua, standing before God, and Satan stands to his right, as his accuser.  The High Priest Joshua represents disobedient and sinful Israel, who has been brought to the Court of Heaven to receive what Satan thinks will be justified punishment for their sins.  (Remember: He is known as the Accuser). But that isn't what happens!  God rebukes Satan and replaces Joshua's filthy rags with the clean white robes of forgiveness.
     Then it gets even more exciting!  God counsels Joshua, telling him that if he will be faithful and walk in the ways of the Lord, he will be given greater authority to govern God's house and have charge of His earthly courts; and most importantly, Joshua will have free access to the Court in Heaven and to God's presence.  I want you to read that last comment again ... Joshua was promised privileged access into the presence of God. This isn’t a surprising promise for a High Priest, but we have the same promise: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16). And this pandemic of Covid-19 has certainly ushered in a time of great need in our country! So let's consider how we can enter into the presence of God to ask for rulership over it!
     So here is where we start ... when we examine Scripture, there are many references to legal terms in God's relationship with men: judgment, appeals, law, contract, evidence, witnesses, indictment, jurisdiction, debt and debtors, redemption, punishment, condemn, testimony, and verdict.  Starting to get the idea? And we must always keep in mind the admonition of our Lord: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  The judicial system of the ancient Israelites, as well as our own court system, are modeled upon the Courts in Heaven.  Furthermore, the Courts are part of the judicial government of the Kingdom of Heaven, and guess what?  We have access to them as part of His Kingdom here on earth!
     And I want to address, for a moment, the etiquette of entering into our Father's Court. We are to be responsible about entering and maintaining the proper atmosphere of respect, order, authority, and awe. It is an honor to be received into the Father's Court and we should follow protocol. We should be prepared and ready to petition the Court and present our case. We should be dressed appropriately. We stand in respect when The Holy Judge enters the Courtroom. We sit in silence until given permission to speak. We ask for a verdict in our favor, and then we abide by what the Judge rules. So, by now, I hope you are seeing [in the spirit] as we prepare to enter the Court and ask for a judgment regarding this demonic virus.
     But before we can even think about asking for a verdict, we must take note of what the angel spoke to Joshua ... "Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in My ways and keep My charge, then you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here." Based on that requirement, my spirit is grieved; this nation has certainly abandoned many of God's ways, and not kept His laws. And like ancient Israel, I'm sure Satan believes he has a justified argument for punishment with the Corona virus.
     Before we can even consider entering the Court of Heaven, we must repent for all the ungodly activities of this nation -- the abortion industry; sex trafficking; removing God from our schools and the public square; our greed and arrogance; and any area in which we have personally sinned.
     We must approach the Throne of God with reverence and request that we be added to the docket of the Court. We can then ask God to intervene as we seek to present our petition.  Satan believes he has a pretty good case against us; and based on the ungodly sins mentioned above, I can see why he feels justified in bringing the punishment of Corona virus against us. But I like the way the noted theologian Charles Spurgeon voices his interpretation of this scenario: "When Satan accuses, Christ pleads (our case). He does not wait till the case has gone against us and then express His regret, but He is always a very present help in time of trouble. He knows the heart of Satan, (being omniscient God), and long before Satan can accuse, He puts in the demurrer, the blessed plea on our behalf, and stays the action till He gives an answer which silences forever, [the Accuser's] every accusation." I find it interesting that the definition of the word demurrer is "[in Law], an objection that an opponent's point is irrelevant or invalid, while granting the factual basis of the point".  So, the result is that Satan [rightfully] accuses us of greed, abortion, child sex trade, abandoning God, etc. and Jesus never denies our sin, but instead acts as our Mediator. He receives our judgment and His sacrifice on our behalf makes the case against us invalid, and the case is thrown out of the Court of Heaven. We are innocent by the Blood of the Lamb!
     BUT, I also wonder if Jesus isn't waiting for us to stand up in our Power and Authority as Kingdom citizens and make use of our access to the Father's presence and present our own case! Do we want to be like Job? We know that Satan was allowed to appear before the Court of Heaven, and accuse Job before God, The Judge. But in the first 12 chapters, Job does nothing to defend himself!  He laments the attacks against him, but does nothing to defend himself --- until Chapter 13!  Finally, in this chapter he says, NOW I have prepared my case (verse 18).  So, do you think Job might have saved himself and his family a lot of harm and suffering if he had prepared his case earlier? Have we been humbled enough to repent for our national sins and suffered enough losses of our freedoms to now earnestly prepare our case before the Court? If I may, I would like to suggest the following prayer; that all the Body of Christ come together, following the protocols for appearing before our Judge, and join in presenting the following petition before the Court:

In the Name of Jesus, we ask our Savior to forgive this nation for all the ways we have been disobedient. We acknowledge our rebellion against You and ask to be cleansed by the Blood of Jesus and Your Living Water. We have sought righteousness in Your ways, and lament the actions of those who have offended You. We ask corporately, and individually, that our Savior show us any areas in which we have been ungodly so that we might repent of them before joining together to appear before Christ and entering the Holy Court of Heaven….

(IN THE SPIRIT)  Father, we come before Your throne today, in awe and reverence, asking for Your compassion and mercy, and we request that You convene a session of the Heavenly Court. 


Father, the Holy Spirit has shown us that the Adversary has been lying about this Corona Virus, and as the righteous Body of Christ, we ask that Jesus and the Holy Spirit intercede on our behalf before the Court.  As Isaiah 43:26 says, “Let us argue the matter together; state the case for [our] innocence.” So, as the Body of Christ and Kingdom citizens, we are here to state the case for our innocence; the reinstatement of our freedoms; and the release from this demonic virus called Corona. We ask for Your Light and Truth to come into this situation.

We come seeking Your intervention, God, as Judge, and ask that You hear our petition before the Court, and we request a verdict from this Heavenly Court.

Here is our petition: Father, we recognize that the Enemy is lying about Corona having such power over our bodies. We recognize the agreement of powerful men, who are in association with the Enemy to bind and control this nation. Father, we appear before You as righteous citizens of Your Kingdom on earth. And as members of the Ekklesia, we ask that You hear our argument against the deceitful lies and manipulation of the Enemy that would keep us in bondage to this virus. We appear before Your Court in our power and authority as Sons and Daughters of the King and ask for full restoration of all that has been stolen from us, including health, wealth, self-government, and freedom of choice.  

Father, we are asking the Heavenly Court to force the Adversary to reveal his lies about Corona; that it is a lowly virus, subject to the Authority of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. It will bow at the feet of Jesus Christ! It will not keep this nation and its righteous citizens from receiving their inheritance as children of God. We will receive Your Truth as we present the Gospel of the Kingdom – we will receive all that is due us, including Salvation and the Kingdom, so that we might go forth together as a family of God – equally yoked -- in righteous battle to defeat our Enemy.  We petition the Court to bring these lies about Corona under the blood of Jesus and to establish this nation under the rule and reign of Christ.

So, Father God, as You bring the Court into session, we see the books or scrolls being opened, and as the Ancient of Days, God, we know that You see all days and can render judgment to deliver this nation from the consequences of this demonic virus.

Father, on behalf of all people of this nation, we ask that You, as Judge, review the scrolls of every earthly citizen's “Book of Life”—including past generations -- and annul covenants with Plagues and Sickness and any spirits of Pestilence that have given access to demonic powers holding them captive. And we ask that You render a verdict in their favor. Just as in the case of the widow seeking justice from the unjust judge, Father, we ask that you defend this nation and set us free from this virus so that we might worship and praise You.

So, Father, as we rest our case for justice for this nation, we bow in reverence and seek Your face, acknowledging with honor and gratitude our faith in Your vindication, and asking blessings upon this nation, every man, woman, and child.  We thank You, Father, and we will abide by the decision of You and the Court.


NOTE:  I decided to share this prayer with you after receiving a request from a Brother in Christ to show him how to go to the Court for his wife and small son, who are struggling with the symptoms of the Corona virus. My spirit recognized that it is time for us ALL to go to the Court on behalf of this nation. The Enemy has been accusing us for too long. We must present our case, or watch our beloved nation continue to suffer his attacks. Please join me in going to the Court!

Job 13:1-3     "Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God."

September 19, 2019

The Pain Called Suicide

     It is heartbreaking to read of the deaths by suicide of such young pastors like Jarrid Wilson and Andrew Stoecklein. Suicide is such a complex issue and it is hard for the Christian community to understand how such vibrant men of God could take their own lives.
     Both suffered from depression and anxiety, and it is too easy to label these spiritual roots as "mental illness" and "a disease". I want to be sure you understand that I do not speak as a medical or psychological expert. I have no degree that gives me secular authority to speak on the subject. I can only share my experience as a follower of Christ who continues my Lord's commission to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and release the prisoners from their darkness.
     Yes, I believe that suicide is an attack upon the mind of people, both believers and non-believers. But through the ministry that we've been called to, my husband and I know that the mind is a battlefield and the Father of Lies can cause so much pain with his false whispers. And, yes, we've been instructed to keep our helmet of salvation tight upon our heads to protect our minds, but the Bible tells us that the Enemy is cunning; he is a murderer from the beginning, and that he comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I lay suicide at the feet of the one who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
     I will tell you that Mark and I have encountered suicide in our ministry and it nearly devastated us. In respect for this individual and his family, I will not mention his name or details, but I will tell you this... just like Jarrid Wilson and Andrew Stoecklein, this young man deeply loved the Lord. And as I sat with him during a session a couple of months before his death, I was overwhelmed with the spiritual sense of how much Jesus loved him! He was one of the most loving and beautiful human beings I've ever met, and I was only in his physical presence once. But he was believing a lie from the pit of hell.  His pain came from the fear that Jesus would be unable to forgive him, and that spirit of fear led to spirits of anxiety and stress, and perhaps even self-hatred. But I knew Jesus loved him! We tortured ourselves with thoughts that if we could only have been better at helping him to believe that Christ's love was for him, too, maybe he would still be here.
    But we quickly understood that the Enemy was lying to us, as well, and if he could get us to stop trying to set the captives free from his lies, then maybe we would stop our ministry. No way, Satan! If anything, we would pursue freedom for others even harder, in honor of our young friend. Because, I believe the Holy Spirit showed me that Jesus was right there with him, as the Enemy roared in his mind, and our Lord told him it was time for the torment to stop and it was okay to come home. I am not saying that Jesus agreed to his suicide. But I believe that Jesus was there with him when he capitulated to the Enemy's continued torment. And yes, I am one who does not believe that suicide leads to hell. Depression is a physical manifestation of spiritual attacks caused by fear, self-hatred and guilt. 
     One of the things that helped Mark and I to heal from the pain of suicide was the information we gleaned from Dr. Henry Wright's book, A More Excellent Way; Be In Health. Dr. Wright is the Senior Pastor of Hope of the Generations Church in Thomaston, Georgia. Dr. Wright has dedicated his life to God and helping others find the spiritual roots to disease so they can live in wholeness. He holds a doctorate of Christian Therapeutic Counseling from Chesapeake Bible College in Ridgely, Maryland. This is what he writes about Depression:

     "You need to know what the medical community is not telling you ... Your homeostasis (equilibrium in the body with respect to various functions and chemical composition of fluids and tissues) is controlled by the release of various hormones. You are very chemical in your creation. You are very nuclear, you are very sexual, you are very spiritual, but you are also very chemical. You have a number of organs and glands, particularly in the endocrine system, which secrete a particular chemical. It goes like this: a squirt here, a squirt there, here a squirt, there a squirt, squirt, squirt, everywhere a squirt, squirt.
     And your Enemy knows he can control the rate of your squirts by your thoughts and by your soul and by your spirit. Your Enemy knows things like bitterness and guilt and fear, if allowed to remain within your consciousness, can be used to control you. When your spiritual dynamics are compromised by the Enemy in a manner in which he can control your body and your chemistry, then he can put depression or any other psychological or biological malfunction on you when he feels like it.
    He can do this because depression, by definition, is no more and no less than a chemical imbalance in the body induced externally or internally. Your Enemy knows that if he can get you "unspiritual" and he can manipulate you in areas of lack of sanctification, then he can control your very thought process.
     And when Satan can control your thought process, he can also control your chemistry. When you have serotonin deficiencies, you do not feel good about yourself because there is a deficiency of the chemical God created in you to make you feel good chemically. For every thought you have, conscious or unconscious, there is a nerve transmission, a secretion of a hormone or neurotransmitter somewhere in your body to react to it.
     When you start listening to fear, you start listening to self-hatred, you start listening to guilt, you start listening to rejection, and then your body secretes chemicals in response to those spiritual attacks that are counterproductive to your peace. Your Enemy knows this very well. But you do not have to be a victim nor do you have to be ignorant nor do you have to die of a disease and go to heaven to find out why you died."

     This is just a portion of Dr. Wright's book and I would recommend that if you desire to know more about the spiritual roots of many physical illnesses, then this book is for you. Of course, I do not claim to know the personal issues that both of these well-loved young pastors faced. But I believe that Dr. Wright's discernment on the spiritual roots that lead to suicide have a lot of credibility. And I know that Jarrid Wilson's wife is absolutely correct when she says she knows her husband is in HIS Presence! Jesus's death on the Cross pays for all of our sins... all of our sins. So, my heart goes out to anyone who has suffered the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. We don't always get all the answers to what drives someone to that decision, but we can know that our Lord, full of compassion and mercy, cancels all our sins as He reconciles us to God, the Father. This is the beauty of Mercy triumphing over Judgment. 

Romans 8:38-39      So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles,  fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

January 17, 2019

A Testimony: God's Gift Of Grace

     It is not very often that I feel compelled to share a testimony about someone Jesus has brought into our life; someone that Mark and I did not anticipate meeting, nor would have thought could be so gloriously set free. But this is such a story of redemption and hope that I believe everyone needs to hear it.
     Although I doubt that anyone reading this would know this person or his story, I would still like to afford them some privacy and have changed the names of those involved. It is a story of two brothers whose lives have taken decidedly different turns, but who, by the grace of God, are now walking the same path.
     David is the younger brother and had suffered drug addiction to meth for over 35 years. It had cost him much -- marriages, his family, and both self-respect and respect in the community. Sadly his story was far too common in the community in which he lived and grew up. There is a darkness that hangs over the town and, frankly, a principality that controls many such small towns in this nation; and drugs and drug addiction are often what the dark side use to control the inhabitants. David's story is no different than many others who have succumbed to the temptation of drugs.
     Robert is the older brother who had beat his own demons of alcohol in his youth, and had surrendered his life to Jesus, and is happily married to a godly and spirit-filled woman. The two of them, just like Mark and myself, had been called to study and train in deliverance ministry. Robert had been faithfully praying for years for his brother, seeing no improvement, but never giving up. And then one night, the devil came calling.
     Robert received a phone call from David, and he was desperate! A demon was tormenting him in his bed and he was crying out to Robert for help. Robert instructed him to get in his truck and to drive over to his [Robert's] house, praying for him over the phone as David drove. At one point, Robert called Mark and asked if we could come to his house and help him get David free. As anyone who is in Deliverance Ministry knows, it is often more difficult to get family members free than others. We were 45 minutes away but agreed to come. All this while, the demon is attacking David as he is driving, trying to pull his fingers off the steering wheel and battering him about the head.
     By the time we walked into Robert's house, David was sitting there with his head tipped back, nursing a bloody nose. There was a lot of blood on his shirt and it was obvious he had been in both a spiritual and physical battle. Mark asked him how long he had been clean of drugs and he admitted he had used just the previous day. We asked him if he was truly ready to be set free from this addiction, and explained that it was by accepting Jesus and participating with Him and the Holy Spirit that he could be delivered. He said he was just tired of the burden of the addiction and yes, he wanted Jesus to set him free.
     I will tell you that this Deliverance session was not done in our usual mode. We didn't have the time to spend talking to David during our usual "discovery period" to get to know him or try to make him comfortable in the process. We just went right after the legal authority that had given the Enemy the right to tempt him with drugs and keep him in bondage. We led David to remember a couple of happy times in his childhood so that he could see [in the spirit] that Jesus was there with him. Thankfully, he had no problem in seeing or with realizing that Jesus would never leave him nor forsake him. Then, wasting no time, we asked him what was the heaviest thing he was carrying around in his "spiritual backpack". Once we had identified the one event which had opened the door for the Enemy to torment him, we invited Jesus into that memory and David wept as he perceived that Jesus had not abandoned him. He allowed Jesus to walk him out of that realm where his childhood part was being held captive, and he watched Jesus destroy it and cover it with His blood.
     Jesus then, one-by-one, put the spirits of shame, guilt, anger, self-rejection, addiction, etc. under His foot and David saw him send them where Jesus wanted them to go. This probably took 10-15 minutes and you could see the weight coming off David as he wept, continually thanking Jesus for helping him. By that time, we could see that David was exhausted -- both emotionally and physically. So we decided to shut this "emergency session" down for the time being. We bound any other spirits that had been assigned to torment him and poured the blood of Jesus over the victory of that session. We then spent the next 20-30 minutes speaking into David, telling him how much Jesus loved him, and that Jesus had died for him; died to set him free from that 35+ years of addiction to a drug that was destroying the Temple where Jesus wanted to reside -- in David's heart. He wept again, thanking His Savior and surrendering his heart to Him. We then told him how precious he was to Jesus and that it was up to him to continue this journey by walking with Jesus every step of the way. We also encouraged him by stating that his testimony could help others get set free from drug addiction. David declared that he was tired of the drug life and would walk a different path from that day forward.
      It was a beautiful picture to see this man, who an hour before, was bruised and battered by demon's trying to destroy his life, sitting at the table weeping in thankfulness to the Lord and saying he was different now. To be honest, I'm not sure Robert believed that a miracle had taken place because he had prayed for so long for his brother, only to see him promise to stay clean and then slip back into the darkness. So we all watched....
     A week went by and David was still clean. He continued to call Robert, proclaiming his love for Christ and his desire to share what His Deliverer had accomplished in his life. Soon Robert was receiving phone calls from other family members and friends, asking what had happened to David. "He's telling everybody he knows that Jesus set him free"! Two weeks went by and David was still on his "Jesus high", telling anyone who would listen what Jesus had done for him. A month went by, and he asked Robert to do a Bible study with him, and once a week Robert has been discipling David in developing a real relationship with Jesus.
     It has now been over two months and David is still clean, and hungering for more of Jesus. He is still doing a Bible study with Robert each week and regularly reading his Bible. He is telling all of his former drug-user friends that Jesus can set them free and they no longer have to be in bondage. For the first time in his adult life, he has hope that he can make something of himself -- and he wants to share with everyone the Good News of Jesus Christ! In fact, he recently posted this on his Facebook page ... People are placed in your life for a reason. God is working on all of us in many different ways in our life's journey. God chose and prepared my brother [Robert] to be His disciple and to walk in faith. Robert, along with Mark and Pam, destroyed my demons and helped save my soul through Jesus Christ. If your soul is in trouble and your demons are controlling you, I know some people, who know some people, who can help save your soul, too. Trust in Jesus Christ. Amen.  
     I couldn't have said it any better myself. And the best part? I know this isn't the end of David's story. I believe he has a testimony that is destined to change lives! He has defeated the devil in his life -- something no one really believed he could do; maybe not even Robert. BUT, Robert did believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ, so he was faithful in praying for his brother's deliverance, and more than 30 years later, he saw the victory! So, please never give up on your loved one! Because the Enemy is hoping you will. But you should know that the Father will wait out your loved one; wait until he or she is ready to surrender their demons to Him, and then just like David, He will save their soul.
     I am eagerly expecting and anticipating that the hold drugs have held over the small towns in our area will soon be broken, and all because one man continued to pray faithfully for 30 years for his brother. Those prayers resulted in his brother trusting him when he hit bottom and was ready to let Jesus in to heal him. Then that brother, in his thankfulness and gratitude is shining a pinpoint of Light into the darkness in his community. And that's all Jesus needs -- for us to be an instrument of His Light in the dark, and He can work miracles. Just ask David.

1 Peter 5:10   "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."

December 16, 2018

God's Plan For The World

     At this time of year, it's hard not to reflect on God's plan to send a part of Himself to redeem the world. And when I think that He appeared as an innocent baby to "the lost sheep of Israel", and that I have benefited from their inability to recognize Him, I am overcome with gratefulness and thankfulness. Yet I know that He is not done with His chosen people and that one day His mercies will be new upon them when the full number [who will receive Jesus as their Messiah] will be saved; when they once again operate in the full power and character that God has bestowed upon them; and when they enter into their full purpose of leading the world to faith in the One True God.
     I remember the first time that the Word made this clear to me as I read the Book of Romans. I suddenly saw God's plan in its fullness -- His plan for both "the Jews" and "the Gentiles", and my role in that plan. And let me be clear, I know that, as a Christian, I have been grafted into God's plan, and it is His desire that everyone on earth be included. At this time of year, the world needs to remind themselves of how simple God's plan really is. In a nutshell, God created and destined the world to be perfect in His sight, so that everything would reflect His goodness and bring Him glory. There it is, it's that simple!

     Furthermore, when He created you and me, He saw us in our perfect fullness, as He meant us to be. And even now, when I disappoint Him because I fail to walk in my full potential, He still sees someone worth dying for. He still sees me as He meant me to be! That thought should stir the spirits of everyone reading this! And I don't know about you, but it makes me want to be that perfect self I was designed to be. But how do I/we get there?
     The one thing we all need to understand is that to get to the point where we truly reflect His goodness and bring Him glory, it is a reality that [in our human condition] we will experience the ups and downs; successes and disappointments; joys and heartbreaks of this life. And we should never lose sight that Jesus is there with us through it all. If we stay focused on Him, we should grow in our knowledge of who God is, who we are in Him, and in the process, become more and more like who He created us to be. 
     It is God's plan to bring us into our full potential -- not to be who the Enemy or the world tells us we are. When He sent the part of Himself that is Jesus, He personally came to show us how He sees us; where we are falling short of His glory; and to redeem us from everything that separates us from Him... including our uniquely individual human natures, our past, our family iniquities, and the lies of the Enemy to steal, kill, or destroy our God-given identities.
     And I think that Christians really need to know what that word redeemed means -- to gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment. And then we need to understand just how big that payment was! Can we even wrap our human minds around the magnitude of the suffering Jesus endured as He paid the penalty for all the sins of all mankind for all time??? God willingly did that for us! And in the process implemented a way for us to once again reach that full potential of who we really are.
     But here's the thing.... His plan is even bigger than you and me! Throughout the Bible, God's Word tells us of His plan to redeem nations as well as peoples.... I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Just as God created each of us to be perfect in His sight, He had the same plan for nations. Can you imagine what our nation would look like if we were walking in His original plan for us? It may be hard to accept, but God created every nation with a specific calling. Even though our history books explain only the works of man that have resulted in the conditions of nations, God has always been involved. 
     I know it's hard to believe there is a calling on our country when we look at the corruption in our government, the numbers of abortions, the confusion over sexual morals, and the decay of the family. But if God has created this nation (as Christians believe), then He has a calling on it. God has not given up on us. He is working our redemption through the believing remnant in this nation and every nation on earth that calls Jesus King. 
     And that brings us back to this season we know as Christmas. Remember that God came to the "lost sheep of Israel" to redeem them as His chosen people among the nations. But there was a plan, and it is still being played out. And I have never heard it explained any better than these words from Tal Haroni, a Messianic Jew in Israel: "God wanted to have all nations in His Kingdom. He never wanted anyone left out. He wants everyone to see and experience His glory. So first, He showed who He is to Israel, and then at the right time He opened the way for everyone else. But the people of Israel had to be “hardened” in order for each and every nation to discover God. Now, it’s all coming back – the nations, the Gentiles, as they begin to enter into the fullness of their redeemed cultures. As they walk in their God-given fullness, they call the people of Israel back to their God-given calling. When the nations reflect God’s goodness, the people of Israel can be redeemed, too. This is how we will see the world fully redeemed, and walking in its full potential as God intended it to be". 
     In this season, let us give thanks for the plan of God to redeem the world. It began with Israel, and by His grace and mercy, we have received redemption through them. Pray for God's plan to be completed through you and me, as we reflect God's goodness and glory, resulting in God "grafting Israel in again" (Romans 11:23-24). Praise be to our Glorious and Merciful God who loved the world so much that He sent His Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life!

Romans 14:11     Just as it is written: “As surely as I am the Living God, I tell you: ‘Every knee will bow before Me and every tongue will confess the truth and glorify Me!’ ”

October 27, 2018

Jesus Is Truly Our Hope

     I don't know of any better way to express the hope that Jesus represents for mankind than to share testimonies from the Ministry to which He has called me. To begin, I was pretty amazed at how quickly the calls started coming in when we returned from our vacation. It's so easy, when you're distracted with traveling and out of your routine, to become casual about the spiritual battle that is waging in people's lives. And it certainly seemed as if God has broadened our territory while we were gone!
     But these are a couple of stories that remind me that no matter whether you are dealing with people you know, or strangers you've never met, Satan repeats the same lying messages, just using different methods. Let me expand on that premise...
     I will call this man Benny; a middle-aged man who has been lost in the depths of hopelessness that comes with years of drug abuse -- methamphetamines, to be exact. In case you didn't know it, meth use has become an epidemic in this country, destroying the lives of countless individuals and families. It doesn't care what ethnicity you are; if you're rich or poor; young or old. Highly addictive, meth burns up the body’s resources, creating a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug, leading to serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior and potential heart and brain damage.
     It creates a false sense of happiness and well-being; creating counterfeit confidence in a life that has been decimated. Such was the case with Benny. He had mistreated his body for so many years, and nearly lost his family. When we were called to his older brother's home to assist in Benny's deliverance, we met his wife, who is an intelligent woman, very faithful, but firm in her stand that he could not come back into their home [with their two young daughters] until he dealt with his drug problems. Of course, Mark and I knew that at the root of this self-destruction was a spiritual issue from which Benny needed to receive divine healing.
      From the moment we met him, we could see his gentleness and his loving heart. He knew Jesus and believed in Him. But we could also sense the deep torment that was keeping him in bondage to the drugs. He gave us a short recap of what had brought him to this point... Nights of being tormented by a demon who was in his room, sitting on his chest, and then harassing him with taunts and accusations, inches from his face. When he decided to accept his brother's invitation for deliverance, he got in his truck to drive to his brother's residence. On the way, the demon tried to pull his hands off the steering wheel, started beating him about his head, and pulling his hair. By the time we arrived, he was nursing a bloody nose from the beating. His brother and wife were at the table and we let him talk for a few minutes to see if we could determine if he was really ready to let Jesus work in his life to set him free.
     It was obvious that he was suffering and did not want to continue this lifestyle, but the Enemy had such a strong hold on him through this drug. We had to discover what was at the root of it all. So we asked him when his life began spiraling out of control? What was the heaviest thing in his spiritual backpack that he'd been carrying around his whole life? Not surprisingly, he was at first reluctant to share anything that the devil had wrapped up in layers of guilt and shame, and after some prompting, he broke down and admitted he had been sexually molested as a teenager. How Jesus hates this sin! And it is so prevalent in our culture! I'm beginning to think that it is committed against our boys at a greater rate than our girls, and I strongly believe that this horrendous sin is what Jesus is referring to when he says, "If anyone causes one of these little ones [who believe in Me] to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea".
    This sexual molestation was the impetus for Benny's false belief system about himself; that he was worthless, dirty, no good, unworthy of love, condemned. It set the course of his life that led to bad decisions encouraged by the lies of the devil. But when we were able to help Benny forgive his molester and others who had harmed him; to break the ungodly soul and spirit ties with these individuals and the drug dealers who had helped him disguise the pain, then he was ready to hear how precious he was to Jesus. He experienced Jesus coming into that molestation event, walking him out of that memory, and disintegrating where it took place.
     We spoke life into a man who learned that he was so deeply loved by His Heavenly Father that he was worth the sacrifice of His own Son. Benny felt the power of the Holy Spirit when we laid hands on him and prayed. He heard the life-giving words that God had a purpose for his life and that his testimony could help set others free!
     Benny hung his head and wept, repeating "Thank you, Jesus!" several times. He now understood that Jesus died to give him victory over the drugs, and it is time to walk in that freedom and change his life. His wife reiterated that the victory was his and up to him to develop that relationship with Jesus and walk forward in freedom. It has been a week since we ministered to him, but we have received a report that Benny is calling family and friends and telling them, "Jesus set me free!!!" Hallelujah!
     The other story I want to share is of a woman I will call Karen. Karen was referred to us by a good friend; she was despondent and beaten down by her life circumstances. When I initially talked to her, I told her that we were not life counselors, and that we worked with Jesus to help people heal their inner wounds so that they could move forward in fulfilling the purposes of their lives. She was clearly unsaved and stated she wasn't against Jesus, but just wanted to try and get some "clarity about her life".
     I will be honest, I wasn't too sure we were the right people for the stage Karen was at in her life, but I always know that Jesus is the answer for everything, so we were willing to meet with her. We listened to her explain the deterioration of her life, her utter feelings of desolation, loneliness, and abandonment. Then we explained that Jesus wanted to set her free from all that "baggage" she was carrying around, but she had to desire a relationship with Him.
     Karen said she was interested in knowing more about Jesus but the idea of "church" was not inviting because the Christians she had met did not invoke the sense of "community" she was seeking. Mark and I were encouraged when she told us that she had once had a dream when Jesus came to her. She couldn't remember what He said to her, but she remembered the deep feeling of peace! I told her that's the Jesus we serve.  What's more, her story is not unique. Her circumstances describe nearly everyone we see... there are always incidents in people's lives that Satan uses to keep them in bondage to his lies.  Therefore, the advice we offered her is fitting for everyone to follow.
    We explained that our ministry is centered on a relationship with Jesus and He is the answer. We listened to her questions about the validity of other religions and explained that those gods are very real, but are lesser and inferior gods to the Most High God of the Bible; the One True [big "G"] God. We also explained that the spirit realm is very real, and there are real spirits of depression and abandonment that are trying to keep her separated from the love of Jesus [and that peace she felt in the dream]; they want to keep her from seeking the life He offers. We asked if she wanted to begin a relationship with Jesus and she said yes, so we led her in a prayer in which she asked Jesus to forgive her of her sin and to come into her heart to become her Savior. We explained the importance of Forgiveness and we recited the Lord's Prayer together. Karen then forgave those who have hurt and abandoned her, releasing them to Jesus. We prayed over her and she wept, repeating, "Help me, Jesus". I prayed that He would visit her again in a dream and give her new words to remember; that she would be in His Presence and know He is real. I told her this was the first step in her relationship with Him and it is a journey for the rest of her life. When she left our home she said she felt lighter, and that it felt like she had "come home". Nothing represents the calling of Jesus on one's life any better than that!
     I know that both Benny and Karen will be visiting us again. They both have made dramatic changes in their spiritual lives and the Enemy will try to lure them back in to bondage. I explained to both of them that they are a prize in a spiritual battle, and they can expect to encounter some of the same tactics of the devil. But they know Jesus is with them; they know the lies the devil uses and that they must fight to stay free. But, as always, it is a tremendous blessing to begin a session without hope, and then see the Beloved go home full of joy, with a new sense of their worth as a child of God. It is extremely humbling, and an honor and privilege to be considered worthy of being Jesus's ambassador. It is His power and authority, on loan to us, that allows us to hear the Holy Spirit's words of counsel as we guide people, one by one, into the Kingdom of God on earth. Thank you, Jesus! There is no greater work on this earth for me to do. I pray that mine and Mark's obedience and service continues to be pleasing in Your sight!

2 Corinthians 5:20    "We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly through our lips. So we tenderly plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Turn back to God and be reconciled to Him".

August 27, 2018

Finding the Balance Between Grace and Accountability

     I just read a Facebook post by Steve Harmon, whom I would characterize as a modern-day Disciple of Jesus. He travels the world preaching, healing, and delivering, in the Name of Jesus. He doesn't quite fit the mold of conventional Christianity, but then Jesus wasn't easily categorized either. Anyway, Steve was making a statement about David Hogan, a friend and Pastor and President of Freedom Ministries. If you aren't familiar with David, he's about as unorthodox a Pastor as you will ever meet. To say that he is "rough around the edges" is to put it mildly. He can come across as coarse, crass, crude, and uncultured. His style of preaching can be quite abrasive and caustic. But I don't think I've ever heard a man more passionate about loving Jesus.
     Steve was commenting about David because he said he, himself, was struggling with David's approach to ministry, and found himself criticizing David's delivery. Now, if you are unfamiliar with David Hogan, let me tell you that he doesn't look or sound like any preacher you've ever heard. He's a Cajun from Louisiana and comes from a long line of men who preached the Gospel. But early in his life, David strayed from that path, hating the hypocrisy he found in the Church. So he rebelled and entered a life of hard living, drinking, gangs and violence. But this is how he describes his conversion: "You wanna know how awesome my life is? When you find the lowest, rejected and dejected human, and you can take 'em and pull 'em to you and love 'em... that's what Jesus did to me". His conversion birthed a burning passion for Christ in his heart, but it did not erase his distaste and disgust for hypocrisy in the Church.
     David Hogan is plain-spoken and not prone to sugar-coating his sermons. He will tell it like it is and doesn't care if he offends Christians. Here are some of his more straightforward pronouncements: "People need a Gospel THAT WORKS! ... Stop your unbelief and believe! ... How long is it gonna take? How many seminars for you to know Him? Jesus is King. That's as far as it goes. He is the power of the Gospel ... 'Manifesting' is a devil running into the Holy Spirit ... Heaven is for us. You need people who have the right to break down powers and principalities. You need Pioneers. You quote it [the Bible], and the demon will still beat you. SUCCESS is what WE are after! Who Jesus is, and who He is IN you - get an understanding about that!! ... I know that you have more theology than I do and you know more verses than me. But that's useless. Because it's about who Jesus is to you! ... Discipline, faith and availability can go a long way especially with Holy Ghost powers". You get the idea; not exactly material from the ready-made sermons you can find online.
     But I'm not here to praise or condemn David Hogan. You need to listen to his sermons yourself and determine if he speaks Truth, and if you want to hear more. What I do want to address is the readiness of some Christians to define a message by its level of sensitivity, or who have a "grace standard" that must be met before they discern a fellow Christian's heart.
     Steve Harmon said it best when he revealed his thoughts about David Hogan: "This guy doesn't know love. He sounds mean." Then the Lord told Steve, ""You have no idea how much that man loves, do you?" That is the essence of this post. Is how we love with our words the only measure of how much we love God or others? I will admit it is much easier to accept a word of discipline or rebuke when it is spoken in soft tones and endearing phrases. But don't we need to take it a step further and look at the results of this type of "love delivery"? Did it produce the desired results? Did the recipients of this type of "love language" bear fruit for God and His Kingdom? I know that there are people whose hearts are moved by such words of grace and encouragement, and they are inspired to become effective ambassadors for the Kingdom. That was the word they needed to start walking out their faith!

     But I also know that there are people who are unmoved by the softer touch and who respond to the challenge of looking in the mirror. But should we simply give lip service to "grace" and "love" as the only way we are to address our fellow Christians about our accountability to God? Aren't we to discern if there is fruit from their efforts? Sometimes, I think we are too quick to judge others whose passion and love for God are expressed in strong terms as being "insensitive, hard-hearted, and unkind"; definitely not exhibiting Jesus-like qualities. Perhaps we should look to see if their actions back up their stricter language.
     I have known men of God who fit both descriptions... one man will endeavor to show grace and mercy in all situations, hesitant to speak a word of judgment or analysis; careful to show the compassion and everlasting love of Christ to those in his sphere of influence. Another man equally loves the Lord, but is unafraid to challenge his fellow Christians to walk in the ways of the Lord, at all costs. He is not as concerned about offending someone as he is about influencing the Body of Christ to walk in Jesus's footsteps.
     When I look at the culture of Christianity today, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't be better off if we had a Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield among our prominent clergy. I'm not saying we have to become hyper-religious and abandon all grace and mercy. But if God is going to judge our effectiveness for His Kingdom by the fruit of our actions then the state of the family, our acceptance of abortion as the law of the land, the gender confusion among our children, and the lack of moral standards in our government might suggest that a little stricter approach would be worthy of our consideration.
      Have we let the culture of "political correctness" in our society infiltrate our Church culture? Have we let the "Age of Grace" restrict our ability to be honest and tell the truth? Are we so afraid to offend that we are willing to extend only love ... and not to teach, rebuke, correct and train in love? I like how Steve Harmon closed his conversation about David Hogan's style of preaching ... "Many love with their words, but David loves with his actions. I started thinking how much people give lip service and talk or write about love, but when it comes to actually backing it up with their actions, the numbers drastically wear thin. David gives his everything to help and rescue people and give them Jesus. He puts his life in danger for others regularly [through his missionary field in Mexico], something that most Christians are not ready to do. Love is when you make people more important than yourself by showing it in sacrificial action. Love must cost something of you. It's where you are willing to lose something that you may never get back to benefit another person".
     This fits rather nicely with the words from a sermon by George Whitefield, the most popular preacher of the Evangelical Revival in Great Britain and the Great Awakening in America: "But he is unworthy [of] the name of a minister of the Gospel of Peace, who is unwilling, to have his name cast out as evil, but also to die for the Truth of Jesus Christ" and "It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher".
     I am not advocating that we Christians stop showing the love of Christ through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But sometimes the gentle approach doesn't always move a person to make a decision for Christ. Jesus, Himself, often chastised His Disciples for not getting it! This passage in Luke, Chapter 17, shows the heart of our Lord when it comes to our fellow Believers: So be alert to your brother’s condition, and if you see him going the wrong direction, cry out and correct him. If there is true repentance on his part, forgive him. Here we see the fullness of our love for our fellow Christians.

     On Judgment Day we will have to give an account for every careless word we speak. But it can be just as careless to mollify and placate the Body of Christ with words that don't call them to account, as it can be to chastise and rebuke without love.  So, yes, we are to restore each other in gentleness of spirit, but we are also told in Scripture that "iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another". The last time I looked, there is nothing gentle or soft about iron. In the end, I just want us to be careful about passing judgment on the messenger of God's Word. God can use both the gentle and the sharp man to reconcile us to Himself. Today, the Body of Christ needs both a Bill Johnson and a David Hogan. God's love is both a soothing balm and a fiery energy. As the Lord told Steve Harmon, "You have no idea how much that man loves, do  you?" The truth is, we can't know another man's heart, but we can look at his actions and his fruit ... and then accept all those whom the Lord has called.

Jeremiah 17:10     But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.

May 29, 2018

The Kingdom and Grace

     This post is the result of some questions I've been asking myself and, consequently, the search through Scripture for the answers. First of all, I would like to state that I am, in no way, questioning the veracity of the Bible, but my goal has been simply to understand it at a higher level. In seeking those answers, my faith in God's Word is even more secure.  And I believe that is pleasing to God ... It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out (Proverbs 25:2).
     Sooo, here is where my search has led me... as I continue with my constant re-reading of the Bible, I am amazed at the new points of interest and significant considerations that are brought to my mind. For instance, how many times have I read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Yet, each time, a new concept jumps out at me that I had thought I understood, but I find myself gaining new insight that adds to my growing relationship with Jesus. After all, He is the subject of these four different points of view of His earthly ministry.
     In my latest readings of these synoptic Gospels, the Holy Spirit has shined His light on the importance of Jesus's good news that the Kingdom of God has invaded the kingdom of Satan here on earth. Furthermore, these scriptures reveal Jesus as our role model of how to do "kingdom living". He inaugurated the pattern we are to follow, and He made it clear that He if we call ourselves His followers, He expects us to carry on [and establish] the work He did. So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from Him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly (Matthew 6:33).
     But now my reading has taken me past Jesus's death and resurrection; past the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the commencement of the Church, and into the pastoral letters of Paul. I will tell you that I am reading them with new spiritual eyes and am building on my understanding of God's plan of redemption for mankind. But as I stated at the beginning, my study has not come without questions.

     I admit that I initially struggled with the profusion of letters [from Paul] about the Gospel of God's Grace, and the theology and ethics of "Church living". Riding a high of new understanding on what Jesus meant by "Kingdom living", I will admit that I wanted more from Paul on the teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of God and Heaven being near and what that looked like for us. Looking at the Church and the Body of Christ today, I was thinking that we have forgotten Jesus's commandments to love the Father and our neighbors by following His commandments to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers [the spiritually unclean], raise the dead, and preach the good news that the Kingdom was here. 
     We have forgotten His commandments to set the captives free from the bondage the devil has us in. And I can see the results of that lapse in our obedience to Him in the lives of countless Christians and unbelievers. Instead, I am seeing the Church focus on reveling in God's favor and grace [which is certainly a blessing], while seeing so many Christians suffering in silence due to their lack of knowledge of the authority and power Jesus brought to us with His Kingdom gospel. So, I kept coming back to the question of why Paul spends so much time writing about how the Church is to conduct itself, when there is such a need for Christ's message of freedom?
     While that question plagued me, I also knew that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and the Holy Spirit had something to teach me in this moment; some greater truth that I needed to dig for. And I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, that I have uncovered all that He wants to teach me, but I think I have begun to uncover some more of the magnificence of God. 
     I had to step back and look at what God was trying to accomplish on His redemptive timeline when these books of the Bible were written. [I will admit that I sometimes get myopic when reading the Word, thinking that it only applies to me in this narrow span of time that is my life]. Yes, the Word is to speak to all mankind across the course of history, but there was a specific purpose for Paul, and a specific purpose for his writings for that time. And they do not come in conflict with the Gospel of the Kingdom!
     My meditation on these concepts of Kingdom and Grace came to a head, so to speak, when the Holy Spirit revealed the connecting link of RIGHTEOUSNESS. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6 about first seeking the Kingdom [of God]? Well, I bet most Christians are like me and they stop right there. We are stunned that we've never been taught about seeking the benefits and power and authority that Jesus brought with Him when He instituted the Kingdom in this earthly realm. So we focus on getting up to speed on that new Truth. But look more closely at what Jesus said ... Seek first (chase after) God's Kingdom AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT PROCEEDS FROM HIM. 
     Yes, we are to walk in the power and authority delegated to us from our position in Christ -- our spirits are seated in the heavenly realms with Him. But we are to also live righteous lives as modeled by Him. That righteousness is a recurring theme in Paul's letters. His writings reflect his assignment to tie that concept of righteous living with our position in the Kingdom of God. Over and over he makes this point: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).... [Timothy] will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go..I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power (1 Corinthians 4:17-21) .... Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9)?

     And perhaps one of the clearest explanations connecting the Kingdom of God and righteous living is found in Ephesians 5:1-7: Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as His beloved sons and daughters. And continue to walk surrendered to the extravagant love of Christ, for He surrendered His life as a sacrifice for us. His great love for us was pleasing to God, like an aroma of adoration—a sweet healing fragrance. And have nothing to do with sexual immorality, lust, or greed—for you are His holy ones and let no one be able to accuse you of them in any form. Guard your speech. Forsake obscenities and worthless insults; these are nonsensical words that bring disgrace and are unnecessary. Instead, let worship fill your heart and spill out in your words. For it has been made clear to you already that the kingdom of God cannot be accessed by anyone who is guilty of sexual sin, or who is impure or greedy—for greed is the essence of idolatry. How could they expect to have an inheritance in Christ’s kingdom while doing those things?
     As I allowed my spirit to meditate on these letters to the various churches, it became clearer to me. Paul's proliferation of writings on righteous living and conduct within the newly planted churches was meant to uphold and fortify the Kingdom of God that had infiltrated this realm; not to replace the purpose of that kingdom's appearance.
     I firmly believe that Jesus's commands to heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. was an established foundation of each church's duties as Christ-followers. (As my wise husband suggested, "Paul assumed each church already knew the Great Commission as assigned by Christ"). Paul's unique assignment was to teach these new followers to walk in the love and grace that Jesus exhibited, at the same time that they walked in the power of the Kingdom that He brought. We must remember that at this time Paul was involved in new churches being planted among Gentiles; people who were not knowledgeable of Yahweh and His moral laws as the nation of Israel had been. His letters to these churches were constant reminders to live this new way of life or forfeit their inheritance of being a part of the Kingdom of God. And today, it is a reminder to us that we are to live by those same standards.
     For all this to work in concert together, it is important to remember that although the Kingdom of God has been fulfilled on earth [realized and achieved with the First Coming of Jesus], it has not yet been consummated [completed, finished]. That will happen when Jesus returns to judge the righteousness of men [as stated in Acts 17:31]. At the time Paul was writing to these new churches, it was not enough to recognize the power [of the Kingdom] in which Jesus had come. It was also necessary to make men aware that walking in His righteousness was part of the package that guaranteed their inheritance in that Kingdom. Today, we need to be just as cognizant of both -- and walking in both. Somehow, we have lost the first part of that equation and today we only focus on Paul's warnings about how to conduct "church living". The coming of the Age of Grace does not take the place of the coming of the Kingdom and our power and authority. In other words, it does not eliminate our assignment to do "Kingdom living" and all that Jesus modeled in healing and deliverance. I believe it is time to receive the full counsel of God. It is not His Kingdom message versus His message of Grace. Rather, it's a dual concept; they are dependent on one another. And what we inherit in eternity as Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom depends on us doing both. 

Acts 20:24-27    "But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know". [Paul's message to the elders of the church of Ephesus].