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

Showing posts with label Our Theology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Our Theology. Show all posts

August 19, 2022

Balancing Compassion and Frustration For The Sinful World

In the midst of this world's troubles, my goal is to make my faith the focus of my existence. It is what keeps me centered. And maybe it's just a consequence of the aging process, but I am just no longer interested in how the world perceives me; although I know that how I appear to others reflects who the Lord is to me ... I represent Him, and I try to be always conscious of that. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it grieves me to see how so many people [both followers of Christ and unbelievers] are seeking identities that are validated by the world. The number of "likes" and followers on social media seems to increasingly determine how people feel about themselves, and their efforts to see those numbers climb consumes their waking hours. 

As a human, and in my own sinful nature, I find myself being both compassionate and frustrated. I know there is so much tumult in the world that people are shaken to their core; I know because our Inner Healing Ministry is receiving an ever growing number of calls. I understand the desire to escape the anxiety and worry into anything that takes their eyes and minds off the world. And that evokes compassion in me because I so desperately want them to know who they are -- not only IN Christ, but TO Christ! 

We, in the Body of Christ, are familiar with proclaiming that we are "in Christ", but do we really know all that this encompasses? Let me share my perspective. To be in Christ, means we are placed by God in our position to walk out God's purpose for us. Our life consists of dwelling in that place where Christ is. We "live in Him!" That means we have access to all the spiritual blessings, the power and authority, and the heavenly inheritance that He possesses. 

When I contemplate who we are "to Christ", I see how much we mean to Him; how He feels about us! We are the passion of His heart; His joy in this world is complete in us because He created us. He desires that everyone of us be where He is. He prays for us and roots for us; interceding on our behalf when the world tries to defeat us. I once read an article that said if Jesus has a refrigerator in Heaven, our picture is on it. If He carries a wallet, our picture is in it. He is nothing less than crazy about us! 

And that's where my compassion rises up. I want everyone to understand the fullness of those two concepts regarding our relationship with Christ -- both those who proclaim they know Him, and those who still reject or run away from Him. In our ministry, we see many people who come to us to learn about how Jesus can set them free from their torment, but who have no understanding of all He has for them, or how much He really loves them. Many have experienced years of Church doctrine and rituals, and still are unable to accept the Truth of who they are in and to Christ. And so they remain locked away in regions of captivity that Satan controls. It is out of our compassion and mercy for each precious soul that our spirit seeks the counsel of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to open those prison doors and free them from the sin that has enslaved them.

But there are also times that my spirit experiences frustration. I know that frustration is a human response, and while I recognize it, I always try to discern the root of it and how would Jesus like me to deal with it. And it helps to know that Jesus also encountered frustration while on earth. I mean, it could not have been easy to spend day after day for three years, modeling God's grace and miracles, while teaching God's spiritual truths to the masses and His closest Disciples, only to have them question Him again or display doubt and unbelief. There are plenty of examples of Jesus showing exasperation, anger, frustration and disappointment in people. Most of his anger seems to be directed at the overly religious and/or phony practitioners of their so-called "faith"; or for the ungodly who clearly dishonored His Father. So, I am honest with myself when I feel frustration, and then quickly turn to Jesus before it progresses into something that opens a door for the devil to exploit it, thereby defeating my purpose for God.

My main motivation to bring this to you today is because this world is full of reasons to experience both compassion and frustration. Sinfulness and lawlessness abound, and we must remain focused on Jesus in the midst of it and seek Him for appropriate responses. Whenever Jesus responded in compassion or frustration, it was an action that produced positive results. Our compassion must never result in making excuses for ungodly behavior, but rather provide guidance and counsel to walk a righteous path. Likewise, our frustrations must never be designed to punish, but to seek answers from Jesus to instruct us how to correct wrong theology, to forgive, and to eliminate hypocrisy. I'm not saying it will be easy; our flesh is always tempted to react from the soul (our own mind, will, and emotions). But it is the Spirit that will lead us into all Truth and action. It's a balancing act ... but when you are centered with Christ, He will show you how to walk that spiritual tightrope. 

John 17:20-21    I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in Me because of them and their witness about Me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in Me and I in You, so they might be one heart and mind with Us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent Me.



November 20, 2020

To The Ekklesia: We Must Fight To Keep Our Faith From Being Redefined!

Dr. George Barna fills an important role in our Christian culture. In 1984 he founded the Barna Research Group and helped it become a leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture [before selling it in 2009]. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, which recently published the results of their survey in its American Worldview Inventory 2020 (AWVI 2020). Sadly, it is not encouraging news. The following is a report by the Cultural Research Center (CRC) on what this survey revealed.

No surprise, the report stated that "American Christianity is undergoing a post-Christian Reformation -- with the nation's major Christian groups rapidly replacing traditional theological beliefs with the culture's secular values." The CRC took a look at Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics, mainline Protestants, and Catholics and found that they are all "creating new worldviews that are only loosely tied to the Biblical teachings that have traditionally defined them." Instead of the Church influencing the culture, it is as I have stated many times before, the culture influencing the Church. And to state the obvious ... that's not how it should be! The survey revealed some disturbing trends among these faith groups and here is a simplified view of how it breaks down: 

Evangelicals: More than half (52%) reject absolute moral truth; 61% do not read the Bible on a daily basis; 75% believe that people are basically good. The study found that between one-third and one-half embrace beliefs and behaviors that are counter to Biblical teaching and long-standing Evangelical beliefs. My Note: I think we should take a harder look at that statistic, because they could be people like me, who don't necessarily agree with the man-made doctrines which have been corrupted from the original teachings of the Bible. In other words, what are those long-standing beliefs?

Pentecostals and Charismatics take secularism a step further: Two-thirds (69%) reject absolute moral truth; 54% are unwilling to define human life as sacred, with half claiming that the Bible is ambiguous in its teaching on abortion; and 69% say they prefer socialism to capitalism. A full 45% did not qualify as born-again Christians.  My Note: I would like to understand if we are all in agreement on what "born-again Christian" means. Does that mean those surveyed don't believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and do not accept Him as their Savior? Or that He died, was buried and rose again? I would like a little more information on what their "qualifications" for born-again are.

Mainline Christians were the most secular of the four faith groups: 60% of this group's beliefs directly conflict with Biblical teaching. The CRC found that three key values define this group: truth and morality are relative; life has no inherent value or purpose, so individuals should pursue personal happiness or satisfaction; and traditional religious practices are no longer seen as central or essential to their Christian faith. Only 41% of Mainline Protestants are born-again.

Catholics are increasingly secular and permissive. This group's beliefs align sharply with Mainline Protestants, but differ substantially from Evangelicals and Pentecostal/Charismatics. They are most likely to believe in salvation through works (or living a good life), and least likely (28%) to be born-again. They are more permissive than the other groups, being most likely to accept sexual relations outside of marriage, and seeing lying, speeding, and refusal to repay a loan as morally acceptable behaviors. 

It is time that we American Christians face the reality that "the modern Church" has done a poor job of safeguarding and protecting the legacy of the First Century Church. I can look back over my lifetime and see the moral decay that is rotting the foundation of what was established in the Book of Acts. Instead of our Christian churches educating an unbelieving citizenry about morality, values, meaning and purpose, we let the unbelievers influence and impact our worldview so that it is no longer Biblical. We now look like the world, instead of influencing the world to look like Jesus. 

It makes me cringe when I hear this phenomenon called a "Post-Christian Reformation". That title tells me that the impact of Christians in the culture is in the past, and this "reformation" looks nothing like Martin Luther's, which was motivated by a desire to restore Biblical truth and purity to the Church. Our Churches seem to have shifted from focusing on the redemptive and supernatural work of Jesus Christ to a focus on personal efforts and how to be a "good" Christian, instead of an authentic follower of Christ. And in case you think I am over-stating the seriousness of the Church's failings to impact the world, consider some of these statistics from the survey:

• 48% believe a person who is good enough or does enough good works can earn salvation

• 44% do not believe history is the unfolding narrative of God's reality

• 44% claim the Bible is ambiguous on its teaching about abortion

• 43% maintain that when Jesus was on the earth, He sinned

• 43% do not believe our purpose is to know, love and serve Him who created us

• 42% seek moral guidance from sources other than the Bible

• 42% do not identify or confess their sins on a daily basis

• 40% do not believe that human life is sacred

• 40% believe that lying is morally acceptable if it advances personal interests or protects reputation

• 39% identify the people they always respect as having the same beliefs as they do

• 36% prefer socialism to capitalism

• 36% fail to seek God's will and purpose for their life every day

• 34% reject the idea of legitimate marriage being between one man and one woman

• 34% say that abortion is morally acceptable if it spares a mother from financial or emotional hardship

• 32% do not thank or worship God every day

Shocking, isn't it? So, in conclusion, I want to once again, exhort the Ekklesia to rise up and change the direction of our nation and the Body of Christ. We need to lead the Church away from secularization and stand for Biblical relevancy in our culture. Do not compromise and do not fear the rebuke of those who do not agree with you. It is quite apparent that we are a society who has strayed far from Biblical truth and it will be our destruction if we don't return to the righteous path of our Savior. Let us show the culture how powerful the faithful remnant can be!

2 Timothy 4:3-4     For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.




August 9, 2017

"There Is Therefore Now No Condemnation For Those In Jesus Christ"

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post decrying the condemnation coming against popular Bible teacher Beth Moore.  At the time, I wrote that it wasn't quite clear why the fundamentalist, conservative website Pulpit and Pen was coming after Moore so hard.  Their complaints were shrouded in unsubstantiated grievances, and it took a lot of research to uncover the somewhat lukewarm objections that she was a woman who taught before men (which they say violates Paul's command for women to be silent in the church), and she claimed to "hear the voice of God".  But, I instinctively knew there was a deeper objection that infected this angry segment of the Body of Christ.  Now it has come out into the open....  

     Author J. Lee Grady wrote an article on Charisma News applauding the appearance of Beth Moore as a speaker at a Conference of Pentecostal associations and churches.  Grady wrote that Moore's speech was "so convicting and so saturated in the Holy Spirit .... that people wept, prayed, and sobbed uncontrollably".  Grady stated that Moore based her message on Jeremiah 12:5: "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?"  He wrote that "Moore lamented the powerless state of the modern church and called us back to the raw authenticity of New Testament faith".
     And then came the statement that has [not surprisingly] set the angry tongues wagging at Pulpit and Pen... "We are settling for woefully less than what Jesus promised us," said Moore. "I read my New Testament over and over. I'm not seeing what He promised. I'm unsettled and unsatisfied." She added: "I want holy fire!" Amen, Sister!   

     Now, it has become clear to me why there is such an ongoing and aggressive attack upon Beth Moore.  She has stepped outside the Church's rigid box of acceptable doctrine concerning the supernatural effects of the Holy Spirit, and is being accused of not following in lock-step with the man-made teachings of the Biblical text.  As she says, when you read the New Testament "over and over" with a mind and heart that seeks God's perspective on what and why He inspired the writings, you get a Kingdom mandate that is different from the stereotypical and formulaic variety of teaching and preaching the Word.  You see that Jesus wants more from us than regular Church attendance and a narrow view of our responsibilities as Christians.  He wants bold and courageous followers who [like the Apostles] dare to walk in His radical footsteps.  He wants a Church walking in His power! And that scares the majority of comfortable Christians.
     Moore is calling for renewed minds that are in step with Jesus and His promises; for Christians who have had the Light of God shine upon His Word so that they see what our Lord has called us to do in living out our faith -- Christians that see with unveiled eyes and understand with pure hearts that God is a consuming fire -- and Believers who desperately seek His Presence and that Holy fire in their own lives!  Beth Moore wants "holy fire", and so do I!
     In the Old Testament, God, Himself, lit the fire on the altar of burnt offering, and charged His priests to keep it continually lit.  As New Testament believers in YHWH, our bodies are living sacrifices upon the altar of God, and His Holy Spirit is to engulf our hearts and remain inextinguishable.  That holy fire within us exhibits God's Presence, His passion for His children and His Kingdom, and His desire to purify us for good works for that Kingdom.
     All of that is our right as Sons and Daughters of God! But that "right" comes with some conditions ... we should be crying out for, embracing, and receiving that Holy Spirit fire.  We must trust in, and rely on, the power of Jesus's Name to continue the works He did for the Father [including healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead]. We must be spiritually transformed, with renewed minds, and sanctified to do these works for the glory of God alone.  But do we see that happening in the Body of Christ today?  That is what Beth Moore is calling our attention to, and those who are satisfied and settled in their complacency are made uncomfortable by that calling.  And, so they condemn and criticize and censure.
     But how many of you can identify with Beth Moore and Jeremiah 12:5? How many of you lament the powerless teachings of the modern Church? There are so many promises given to us in the Bible; promises that we have a right to expect as Sons and Daughters of God.  But, as Beth Moore explicitly states, we are settling for less than the inheritance due us.
     Among those stated promises is this: we have been given authority to trample on demonic spirits, and are able to exercise that authority over all the power of the enemy, with no harm coming to us. We have been promised that whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Jesus gave us the promise that if we have only the faith of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to us.  We have been given the promise of treasure in heaven. We have been promised persecution -- but it will give us the blessed opportunity to testify of our Lord before the world.  We are promised a kingdom and a place at Jesus's table in His Kingdom.  We are promised that He will do whatever we ask in His Name, so that our Father will be glorified by His Son.  We are promised that He will abide in us and we will bear much fruit.  We are promised that our joy will be full, and we will not stumble.  We are promised that we will be made holy and set apart by God's Truth.  We are promised power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us; and signs will accompany us in that power.
     These are just a few of the more than 200 promises in the New Testament, and these are only the promises we can expect in this present age.  There are many more promises to be fulfilled in the future Kingdom!  But all these promises are due the Children of God who believe them and trust in Him who pledged them -- and who are willing to act out their faith.  Beth Moore and so many others are simply willing to step out in faith and receive those promises, seeking the fire and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to do Christ's bidding.
     But here's how the Enemy blinds the hearts and minds of the Body of Christ ... with headlines that scream, Beth Moore is Unsatisfied With Christ.  They are so twisted in their minds that they cannot see that it is the modern Church that is unsatisfactory to her, not Jesus!  Why are they so afraid to seek after the promises Jesus offers those who trust Him?  How do their unregenerated hearts hear the false whispers of the Enemy who translates her words into conflicting statements such as this:  Jesus promised eternal life to those who would repent and believe in Him. Is she denying that this promise is being fulfilled? Is there something more than this that she wants? Who could make such a claim? Of course, this is one of the deceptive errors of Pentecostalism and charismaticism–that God owes us anything and that His Son Jesus is not enough. And there, we also see their fear of any supernatural relationship with Jesus or the Father. That is why so many of us have also become wearied by the "footmen" of the Church.
     Can you see how Satan has blinded them and twisted her words?  Can you now understand why so many Christians are living powerless and fearful lives?  For those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see, it is not difficult to discern the schemes of the devil and the presence of a religious spirit.  But there is a remnant in this generation that is following Jesus's command to seek the Kingdom first.  We will not be intimidated nor pressured into standing down from our Lord's invitation to walk in His footsteps. I, for one, am thankful that Beth Moore is letting the Light of God guide her as she boldly and confidently walks that narrow path towards Heaven's gates. As long as she faithfully represents Jesus's Kingdom message, I will stand with her.  But it is no wonder that those who choose the easier and more frequently traveled route think themselves the wiser. I'm afraid they will find themselves put to shame by their arrogance and rejection of the Word of the Lord. It is much easier to condemn than to diligently seek the Truth.

Please feel free to click on the following links and read the article by J. Lee Grady on Charisma News, and the opposing viewpoint on Pulpit and Pen.  Then I welcome your prayerful discernment and comments. 

Matthew 15:14   "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit". 

May 24, 2017

How Do You Understand God?

     I think we would probably be amazed if we asked a roomful of Christians what their impression of God was like.  Of course, you would need to do it privately, or you wouldn't get honest answers.  But I imagine that the responses would sound something like this:  "God is my Daddy figure.  I can go to Him with anything"; "God loved me enough to send His Son as a sacrifice for my sins, and I owe Him for that"; "God is in control of everything in my life -- if He didn't cause something bad to happen, He at least allowed it"; and "God is a powerful, yet distant Ruler.  I don't know if He even knows I exist. I've never felt His presence".
     As you can see, there is quite a wide range of perspectives when it comes to how Christians perceive the God they profess to worship -- and this only covers a small fraction of our perception of Him. But I would think that, at the very least, Christians could agree that God is Good, right?  After all, I think we've all grown up with the cartoon images of God in a white robe and the devil in a red jumpsuit with horns and pitchfork... with the idea that God represents Good and the Devil is the purveyor of Evil.
     But man's traditions aside, Scripture tells us in Psalm 100, Give thanks to Him, bless His name, For the Lord is good. And David speaks of God's "goodness and mercy" that will follow him all the days of his life in Psalm 23.  Then there is Titus 3:4-5, which states, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.  God's goodness is well-established in the Bible -- throughout both the Old and New Testament; by His acts and those of His Son, Jesus.
     Yet, to paraphrase A.W. Tozer, how we think about God can affect our relationship with Him, and is one of the most important things in our Christian walk.  It is amazing to me how many Christians have a problem with seeing God as Good. And I have met some who are even offended by that statement! Typically, someone they have loved has suffered from cancer, died from a prolonged disease, or were the victim of some tragedy.  And they are simply unable to see God as good, loving, or merciful in that situation.
     Somehow, they have convinced themselves that if God were truly Good, then those events wouldn't have happened.  They don't want to come right out and blame God for the adversity in their life, and if you ask them, "Do you think God caused that, or made that happen?", they are likely to answer with indignation, "Well, I don't really know ... BUT...". If they can't go so far as to say God was the source of the bad situation in their life, they will say that He allowed it.  And then the next sentence is usually ... "Just like He did with Job".  But we aren't in the same situation as Job was. He didn't have Jesus, who is our Mediator, and who has taught us how to defeat the works of the Enemy.
     Furthermore, God is not the source of evil or bad things... the Devil is.  And he has been the source of evil from the beginning. Those who are confused about God's goodness will often use the argument that God causes or allows evil/bad things to happen so He can display His mercy.  But think how twisted that is!  Would a Good Father break a child's arm (or watch His enemy break it) just so He could comfort him (show him mercy) and then use His ability to reset the broken bone so it could be said of Him that He restored His child's health?
     If I may, I'd like to quote Pastor Bill Johnson: "Today a large part of the Body of Christ believes God either sends sickness, or allows it, to make us better people by building character and teaching us the value of suffering [like Jesus]. But, if God allows sickness, can we still call the devil a thief? After all, if the thief has permission to steal, it is no longer called stealing.  Yet Acts 10:38 tells us God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him... Remember, healing is not just something God does.  It is who He is.  His name is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. To deny this, is to deny the nature of God, who never changes".
     Our takeaway from this statement should be that it is not God's desire that anyone be sick. We must see that Cancer does not represent Life in the body; it represents Death, which lies in the realm of Satan. Sickness and Disease were not part of God's design for our bodies when He created us.  Both became a part of man's experience after Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden.  Child molestation, rape, murder, tragic car accidents -- none of these are the will of God for us.  But Satan hates God and hates His creation....us!  He wants to hurt God by hurting God's creation. So when anyone convinces themselves that God caused or allowed any of these tragedies, they are blaming God for Satan's evil plans and schemes against us.  John 10:10 should clear up any idea that God is behind the bad things that happen in our lives:  The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. 
     Jesus came as God Incarnate; as an exact representation of God, the Father -- to give Life, and give it abundantly. God is Life. Satan is Death and Destruction.  It's really that simple.  Cancer, Sickness, Child Abuse, Sexual Molestation, Murder, and every evil thing on earth is a manifestation of Satan, and they exist because the Enemy uses them to separate us from God and to steal, kill, and destroy our relationship with Him.
     How we understand God and that relationship has huge stakes for our lives and for this world.  It is imperative that we understand that we were hand-crafted by Jesus with the capability of being conformed into His very likeness. Can we be perfect Goodness, as He was?  Sadly, no, due to our sin nature.  But although that level of Goodness may be difficult for us to comprehend, we still have the ability to experience it personally... but we have to be willing to see His Goodness in every experience of our lives.  God is either Good all the time, or He isn't.  His character attribute of Immutability demands that we acknowledge that.
     But if we are going to blame Him in any form or fashion for the Cancer, or Sickness, or Abuse that were part of Satan's plan, we are robbing ourselves of that fullness of God and the abundance of His love for us, and His desire for intimate relationship.  How we understand God is perhaps the most important thing we will ever decide in our lives.  If I had to offer one piece of advice, it would be this: If it is good, it is from God. Jesus, Himself, said in Mark 10:18, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. So let's understand this ... Anything that brings sorrow or loss or death is from the Devil.  Do not color God's incomparable and perfect character with Satan's wickedness and evil.  God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  When your heart can embrace that Truth, the schemes of the Devil to harm your soul will have no effect.

James 1:17    Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]. 

March 10, 2017

What Is Your Theology?

     Think about that for a moment. Can you explain your personal theology? According to Webster's Dictionary, Theology is "The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, His laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. . . the science of Christian faith and life."  That's kind of a long-winded definition to say that theology is what you believe about God; how you define His character and nature; and how you relate to Him. But your theology should be defined by more than that. His "laws and government" should speak to your understanding of the Kingdom of God/Heaven and how it pertains to you.  The doctrines you believe need to be carefully examined -- are their origins found in the Word of God; or do your set of beliefs come from a man's teaching, a denomination's rules, or simply what makes you feel better about your life's circumstances (with a little bit of all of the above thrown in to make it meet the "religious" test)?
     Furthermore, where do your practices and traditions come from?  Again, are they taken directly from the Bible, or are you having a hard time knowing exactly why you do the things you do, and believe the things you do.  As a Christian, can you explain your understanding of God and the foundations of your faith --- and back it up? If not, I'd like to suggest that you have developed a theology that serves yourself and not God.  I don't say that to offend anyone!  In fact, my goal is that it will cause you to examine your belief system so that you can discover where you differ with God's Word and renew your mind and heart so that you are walking with Him in Truth.
     I have come to believe that the 21st Century Church is not walking in the same power and authority that the First Century Church did because we do not truly trust or believe what Jesus tells us in the Bible about Himself, or who we are in Him, and how He wants us to live our lives.  We have reduced His message down to a goal of being Saved or "born again".  But let me ask you this -- how many of you, once you made a profession of faith, were actually discipled? Do you even know what it means to be discipled? You're probably familiar with the noun form of that word -- to be "a Disciple", or follower of Jesus.  But what does the verb form -- to disciple -- mean?  Well, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave a commandment to all His disciples (including us):  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 
     We got the part about making them disciples; about getting them Saved so that they can be known as a follower of Jesus.  And we sorta got the baptism part down, although some Christians have lessened its significance by saying it's not an essential part of your Christian walk. But we have dropped the ball on teaching them to observe [comply with; keep; obey] all of Jesus's commandments.  I would add that we don't even teach them what His commandments are let alone that we are to obey them! And therefore, I would submit to you that we are no better than the Gentiles Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:  "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart."
     If a Christian is ignorant of Jesus's commands, then of what benefit is it to be "born again"?  As He explained to Nicodemus in John 3, we have to throw off our old nature [our flesh] and accept a new Spirit.  When that happens, we are told to "to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God" (Ephesians 4). The renewal of our minds combined with transforming our lives by following the commandments of Jesus projects the Kingdom of God.
     But what happens when we are ignorant of His commands, and who He says He is, and who He says we are to become by transforming our lives?  We end up developing our own religious traditions and theologies to explain the state of our lives.  For instance, consider the Scripture 1 John 1:5:  This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  So if you have experienced a tragedy in your life such as a devastating illness or the unexplained loss of a loved one, do you tend to explain it as "the will of God" because you have no answers?  But how can it be God's will if He is only Light, and no darkness exists in Him?  Because I think we can all agree that sickness, disease, and death are all from the Enemy, and they are Darkness. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy, remember? That's why Jesus healed people and raised them from the dead -- to destroy the works of the devil and because He only did what the Father told Him to do (John 5:19).
     So can you see that this is an example of how the Church has compromised the Word of God to fit their own theology?  Another similar tradition is that God is in control of everything. So if a tragedy has occurred in your life, or your life is just a mess, then it must be because God is testing our faith or trying to teach us a lesson.  Show me in the Bible where it says that!
     Kent Owen, at BibleBro.net explains the fallacy of this tradition so well:  "God created the world and gave dominion to Man (Gen 1:26).  Man sinned and became a slave to sin (John 8:34).  Satan is the father of disobedience (Eph 2:2) which is lawlessness, and all lawlessness is sin [death] (1Jn 3:4).  Simply put, sinners belong to Satan.  God does not own the earth again until He takes it back at the end of this age.  Until God takes back the earth, He has empowered His children so that they can “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11).  What bad thing does God cause or allow in your life ... unless you ask Him through prayer?"
       And who is going to pray for something bad to happen to them? If anything bad happens in your life, it’s either because you allowed it by not using your God-given authority, OR you are inexplicably, and tragically, the victim of the devil.  Remember, God [and Jesus] are Life; the devil is Death. And he prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  When it is your loved one, it can be hard to comprehend.  During our suffering, it can be difficult to grasp that Satan was the one behind the tragedy.  Perhaps you can see how we try to explain God to ourselves by developing traditions and theology that make it acceptable to our vision of God.  But we do Him a disservice when we fail to give the Enemy credit for His works of lawlessness, sin, and death!
     If we're earnest in seeking God through His Word, we would discern that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the real Truth of God:  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  God does not tempt (test) you by bringing tragedy into your life!  Scripture very plainly calls Satan the Tempter in Matthew 4.  It was he who tempted our Lord.
     So if your theology tells you that a tragic death or illness is "God's will" for some unknown reason; a reason that the Bible never proclaims, then how is it any different than a “Christian” with multiple fatal diseases who believes that God caused or allowed his illness sharing his faith with an unsaved man?  Wouldn't that message he is delivering say to that unsaved man, “If you become a child of God like me, God may also give you what He gave me; this horrible disease”?
     Can I explain everything bad or tragic that happens in someone's life according to my image of God?  No, because I do not know all the schemes of the Enemy; only that it is his desire to destroy our relationship with God anyway he can. I know that not everyone gets healed or delivered from the devil's attacks, but I do not want to change the Truth of the Bible [and my theology] to create a false image of Jesus or the Father. And I know that my eternal salvation does not rely on who I am, but on Who He is.  Therefore I must be diligent in seeing Him in the Light of His Truth, not through the traditions and skewed theology of man which misrepresents the God of the Bible.  When that happens, we have a distorted relationship with Him, and an inaccurate image of ourselves.
     My purpose for writing this post today is to ask you to seriously consider your belief system.  I do not write it to be condemning, but to exhort you to try to throw off all inessential and flawed doctrine, man-made philosophy, or self-defined tenets of religion.  Go to the Word and find out who God is and who you are.  See what Jesus says about Himself and the Father, and how He wants us to live out our faith in Him.  And then don't let your theology come between you and God. You need to be settled in your understanding of the God we serve, so that the Enemy cannot mislead you or keep you in bondage to his lies. God's Truth, as He reveals in His Word, is all we need ... and it alone should be enough to form our theology.

Mark 7:8,13     "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men ... thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."

February 15, 2017

God's Power, Paul's Thorn & Our Authority To Overcome

     Since my focus over the past few posts has been on Divine Healing, I cannot leave the subject without considering the one question that is always at the forefront ... How are we to think about Paul's "Thorn"?  This question came up in our Home Church meeting on Healing, and continues to be a source of debate between my faithful friends.  What do we understand the thorn to be, and why wasn't Paul healed of it, are at the center of our discussion.
     First, we need to take a look at the Scripture which has drawn our attention:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 
9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

     Right off the bat, I will tell you that it is difficult to discern with any certainty, what Paul's thorn is -- although it is clearly sent by Satan to harass him.  Some have seen it mainly as spiritual harassment. Others have thought it was persecution. Many have suggested it was a physical or mental ailment. Some have said this was Paul’s struggle with lustful and sinful thoughts.  Early Christians, such as Tertullian, thought it was an earache or headache.  I've also heard everything from malaria to a nagging wife.  You can see how easy [and distracting] it is to focus on this mystery.
     And there are those who will point to what they call the "First Mention Principle", which says in order to try to understand the Bible systematically, theologians and philosophers have developed the study of hermeneutics, which deals with the general ways for interpreting Scripture and other written texts.  But it is important to consider that the First Mention Principle is just one of the many hermeneutical techniques that exist in order to interpret the Bible.
     If you want to consider this technique, then you would look at Numbers 33:55, which is the first mention of the word "thorn" in the Bible, and it reads:  But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, then those whom you allow to remain will be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your side, and will cause you trouble in the land where you will be living.  Here, "thorns" refers to the "inhabitants of the land".  Or you can take a look at Joshua 23:13, which reads,  know for certain that the Lord our God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. They will trap and ensnare you; they will be a whip that tears your sides and thorns that blind your eyes until you disappear from this good land the Lord your God gave you.  Again, "thorns" refers to "the nations" or people.
     But I have to be honest -- it doesn't really matter to me what the thorn is. And I think it is rational to surmise that God made the thorn intentionally vague; it was an instrument by which Satan could harass Paul, and God wants us all to be able to put ourselves in Paul's shoes.  We are all going to face harassment by the Enemy at some point in our lives -- especially if we are doing Kingdom work, as Paul was.
     So, I have been trying to figure out the overall view that God wants us to take away from this passage.  In doing so, I have come across another stumbling block that Christians have when trying to understand Paul's position towards Satan's harassment or oppression.  Depending on which version of the Bible you are reading, verse 9 reads either, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, or it reads, I will boast all the more gladly of my infirmities.  This adds to the confusion over what "the thorn" is, and while it is another fly in the ointment, so to speak, if you like to deep dive into the Bible, it is interesting to see where it takes you.
     I will say that most of the versions I have read (ESV, Amplified, New American Standard, New English Translation, for example) use the word weakness.  But the King James, New King James, and Geneva Bible all use infirmities.  But it is interesting that there is a notation in my King James Bible that says "infirmities" means "weakness".  And when you go to Strong's Concordance, you can trace the origin of the word "infirmity" from meaning "lacking strength, weakness, infirmity"(769); back to "strengthless" (772), and all the way back to its roots of "to strengthen or confirm in spiritual knowledge and power" (4599) and "to make to stand" (2476).  Can you see where the confusion comes in?  But I also see where these meanings can also help form our understanding of the passage, as you will see in the ensuing paragraphs.
     But maybe we're missing the forest for the trees.  Maybe we don't really need to worry about what Paul's thorn is, or whether what he is boasting of is a weakness or an infirmity. Maybe the true essence of this passage lies in what God tells Paul in verse 9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  
     I have really been trying to understand what God is telling us all in this oft-quoted Scripture. And I'm pretty sure that how each Christian interprets this verse will depend on their view of God.  I want you to read that last sentence again ... how you view God will determine what 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 means to you.  If you believe that God is in control of everything, then you are probably going to think that God has decided (for whatever reason) to allow Paul to continue to suffer with his thorn.  And verse 9 will mean [to you], that God is saying whenever He doesn't take away your suffering, then His Grace (lovingkindness and mercy) will be enough to get you through.  You might read the rest of that passage to indicate that Paul is accepting his suffering as a testament to his faith in Christ; that he is content to show that by suffering (being weak), yet still holding on to his faith and enduring, he is a picture of Christ strengthening the faithful through diversity.
     There is no doubt about it... Paul is desperate to have this thorn (burden) taken from him.  Three times he pleaded and prayed to God to take it from him.  God obviously did not stop Satan's harassment, so what might His purpose have been?  Once again, if you believe God controls everything, you might understand verse 9 to mean that God would strengthen Paul to bear the burden of Satan's attack; that God would strengthen Paul under it, and God would show His strength through Paul’s apparent weakness. And this is certainly a valid interpretation, based on this particular passage.
     But let me give you an alternative view. What if your view of God is that He is not in control of everything?  What if you look at this passage in the context of the Authority and Power given to us by God?  What if God is saying that each us has a choice [through our free will].  We can accept the attacks (thorns) of Satan and endure them for the sake of our testimony that it has strengthened our faith that Christ has the power to uphold us during our suffering ... in that case His Grace will be sufficient and enough to get us through those events.
     OR, might we have another choice? I present to you [for your consideration] the Greek translation of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ... And He said to me, and His declaration still stands, My grace is enough for you, for power is moment by moment, coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness.  Therefore, most gladly will I rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of the Christ [like the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies of the Tent of Meeting] may take up its residence in me [working within me and giving me help].  Therefore I am well content in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, and in circumstances under which I am subject to extreme pressure on behalf of Christ. for when I am weak, then I am filled with ability and power.
     In full disclosure, my view of God has changed and grown exponentially through the ministry He has called me and husband to do on behalf of His Kingdom.  But I am not saying that my view of this passage is the correct one.  I am merely sharing what my spirit is telling me is a possible interpretation.  Since I definitely believe that we have been given Authority by Christ to use His Power [that comes from God] to heal the afflicted, that authority and power also extends to healing ourselves.  This is where my view of God comes into play.
     What if God is saying this: Paul, you have been given free will to deal with this thorn yourself.  You don't need to keep asking me to remove it for you.  You can endure it for your testimony of the power of Christ to strengthen you through your ordeal.  In that case My grace and mercy will be enough for you.  But, you don't really need to keep asking me to heal you [you've asked three times, and there's a reason I haven't responded] ... I want you to know that you have been given the Authority and Power to command your own healing. I have given you the very power that I showed in the Holy of Holies! And that power is available to you moment by moment, having taken up residence in you, and you can call on it whenever you need it.  So, Paul, when you're feeling harassed, insulted, persecuted or oppressed by the forces of the Enemy -- when you're feeling weak, stop and realize you are filled with ability and power.
     Can you see the difference in the more modern translations of this passage and the translation from the original Greek language?  I am not saying that any of them are the right interpretation or the wrong interpretation.  And we must ALL be careful not to fit Scripture to our theology [and personal view of God].  Instead, we should endeavor to fit our theology [and view of God] to Scripture. But when it is not clear -- when we do not know exactly what the thorn is, and God does not make it clear why He did not heal Paul -- we are left with these mysteries and opportunities for the Enemy to corrupt our understanding -- and it is hard to come to a definitive understanding.
     I am not trying to convince you either way, but I think it is important that we take note of all the interpretations and pray for revelation from God -- seek the mind and counsel of God to strip away our man-made doctrines, our traditions, and our sacred cows so that we might know His Truth in this matter.
     In the end, perhaps this old adage will sum up your conclusion:  A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.  But, at the very least, I hope this discussion will encourage you to do a deep study of the Word.  I think it is no accident that God made this passage somewhat vague and difficult to understand.  Those with a heart willing to be transformed by the supernatural power of God, will hunger to seek more of Him.  We can agree to disagree, and we can debate in love.  In the end, we are seeking Him, and His Kingdom will be blessed.

Ephesians 3:20-21   "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the Glory in His Church, in Yeshua, and throughout all the generations to come".