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

Showing posts with label Relationship with God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Relationship with God. Show all posts

January 10, 2022

What Does It Mean To "Rest In The Lord"?

It is not difficult to understand the emotions that many people are encountering in these confusing times. It is natural to feel uneasiness and trepidation when we are faced with so many threats of drastic change in our lives. But, as Christians, we know that there is no room for fear or anxiety in our relationship with the Lord. In fact, there are approximately 192 references in the Old Testament to "resting in the Lord" during times of turmoil; with approximately 48 references in the New Testament. But just what does "resting in the Lord" look like? We think that's a principle that we should easily understand, right? But how many of us actually do it, or can explain to another how to rest in the Lord?

I will tell you that, personally, I have been waking up around 3:30 each morning with varying thoughts that I can only describe as "unsettling". I recognize that many times they are a word of knowledge for someone I am to intercede for before a ministry session. At other times, I know it is an attempt by the Enemy to torment me and force my attention away from both my purpose for the Lord, and my peace in Him. So, last night as I once again found myself awakened in the Fourth Watch of the Night, I chose to ask God what He wanted me to know in these early morning hours. I heard in my spirit, "Learn what it means to rest in Me". 

So, I got quiet and committed my spirit to hear His voice; to listen to the direction He would have me go in discerning what His rest would mean for me. In those hours before dawn, I got the outline that would lead me to deeper study. On a very fundamental level, I received the understanding that resting in the Lord is a function of all three parts of my Being. "Rest" in my body can result in restoration, rejuvenation, or repair. "Rest" in my soul occurs in my mind, my emotions, and my will  -- where the idea is to surrender and let God's presence "settle in" to those three components of my soul; to feel comfortable and confident in His company. "Rest" in my spirit is best described as being absent from my body and soul, giving me the opportunity to recharge and plug into my Source. 

I think the best overall picture that encompasses the fullness of rest in all that I am is exemplified in that moment in the spectacular show "The Chosen", when Jesus returns to his tent after spending a long, exhausting day healing everyone who came to Him. He is in desperate need of rejuvenation and repair to a body that is in pain; nothing is left but surrendering to the companionship of the Father; and in His depletion, He plugs into His Source of strength and energy. That image is a comprehensive display of the fullness of Rest. 

After receiving that early morning instruction, and upon arising, I spent the next few hours studying the different interpretations of "resting in the Lord" by exploring the various definitions in the Bible -- 23 different words in Hebrew and 15 in Greek, to be exact. [The richness of the Hebrew and Greek versus our one English word, "rest", astounds me!] So, if you will allow me, I'd like to share some of these distinct, yet complimentary, connotations of what it means to "rest in the Lord"...

Exodus 33:14 says,  The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” Here, the word "rest" is the Hebrew word nuwach, meaning rest, remain, be quiet; a physical settling down at some particular place. Sometimes it means a complete envelopment and permeation, as in the spirit of Elijah resting on Elisha. Here, we can comprehend the support of the Lord in the meaning of rest.

Psalm 37:7 says, Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. "Rest" is the Hebrew word damam, meaning to be dumbfounded, astonished, brought to silence. The New Living Translation, interprets this passage to read, Be still in the presence of the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act. This gives us a sense that "rest in the Lord" is a state that amazes and astounds us as we wait in His presence. 

Isaiah 30:15 gives us the importance of resting in the Lord, and the consequences of refusing it. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence in your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, 'No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle. But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you! "Resting" is the Hebrew word nachath, intimating quiet and quietness; to be set on. There is rescue and salvation in allowing oneself to be set upon by the Lord. Refusal of that, or choosing another path, results in unfavorable punishment.

Matthew 11:28 reads, Then Jesus said, "Come to Me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Here, "Rest" is the Greek word, anapausis, meaning refreshment, or to refresh so as to recover strength. Again, that scene in "The Chosen" comes to mind; when we abide in the rest offered by the Lord, we regain the strength we need to carry out our purpose.

Hebrews 4:9 says, So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. In this instance, "Rest" is the Greek word sabbatismos. This speaks of the joy in a perpetual sabbath to be enjoyed uninterruptedly by Believers in their fellowship with Father and Son! It is not the same as the commandment to keep the Sabbath according to the Law. It is the rest of God, Himself! It's full fruition is in the future, but Believers can enter into it now in whatever way they enjoy their indissoluble relationship with God. The idea of this kind of rest is amplified in the next verse...

Hebrews 4:10: For all who have entered into God's rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. Here, we have a different word for "rest"; it is the Greek word kutapausis. It accentuates the basis upon which a Believer can enter God's rest. We can enter that divine state when we are confidently assured within our full Being of our position in Christ, and outwardly when we live peaceably in an assurance of God's daily provision for all our needs. 

As you can see, there's a lot to consider when contemplating what it means to rest in the Lord. There appears to be limited, intermittent times of rest when we need to replenish our strength. There is also that timeless, permanent, endless, and constant rest that comes when we enter into God's continuous provision and presence in our lives. There we find the optimal rest that the world cannot take away from us. So whether the world continues to descend into chaos and lawlessness, or we are miraculously delivered into a new age of revival, we are assured of our "special rest"; a full, complete, and everlasting state that we abide in. It is a place of quiet confidence, and peaceful, untroubled strength from which we collaborate with the Lord during our time on this earth. It is worth seeking and maintaining, and it is my prayer that each member of the Body of Christ discovers this blessed state of rest, in body, soul and spirit.

Hebrews 4:1-3  God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter His rest.

December 18, 2021

How To Receive Your Power In Prayer -- It's All About Relationship!

I've got a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head and they're coming fast and strong, so I hope I'm able to adequately share what Holy Spirit is counseling me. The Bible tells us to "Pray without ceasing", and "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working". And Jesus gave us a very specific prayer to pray ... "Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be your name.Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". Obviously, prayer is something that is valuable [and consequential] in the life of a Christian.

But there is an aspect to the practice of Prayer that I want to address today. Actually, it has become more evident to me since the Lord brought the ministry of Inner Healing to my husband and me. Let me begin by saying that it is always such a blessing to partner with Jesus and Holy Spirit to assist someone to receive Freedom from the bondage of sin in their lives -- whether the bondage originated from their sin, or the sins of others against them. It is more than I could ever express to witness the moment of realization when a Beloved understands [and sometimes for the very first time] just how much Jesus loves them; enough that He suffered the most brutal of deaths to free them from their wounds so that they could fulfill the purpose for which He sent their spirit to earth. When they are able to hear Him speak in the spirit [to their spirit] and know that they can have a real relationship with Him -- one greater than any they've ever experienced -- it's like watching the wonder that a newborn baby experiences when he or she recognizes the voice of their father for the first time! It's an emotional and spiritual connection and association that is unmatched by any other.

That relationship is at the core of our Father in Heaven's desire for us. Through a healthy and intimate relationship with Jesus, we can know the Father, and also build a relationship with the Holy Spirit who teaches us and guides us in all Their ways. And when we finish an Inner Healing Session, we always tell the Beloved that the freedom they have received has become their responsibility to maintain and continue. In other words, Jesus has shown them the truth of why they were in bondage and led them through the ways He wanted to set them free [such as forgiveness, healing in the memories, battling in the spirit, and many other spiritual tools He has shown us]. We encourage them to become proficient in those ways because they will most likely encounter the snares and traps of the Enemy again; the methods of bondage that brought them to our ministry in the first place. But they must now recognize those fiery darts and learn to not only break the habits that ensnared them, but how to bind, rebuke and renounce the lies that Jesus has revealed so that those doors are never opened again. Their freedom must not be taken for granted -- as if they can now live the rest of their lives in a magic bubble, impervious and unaffected by Satan, whom Jesus calls "the dark ruler of this world". 

In fact, we encourage each and every person who comes for Freedom to take the opportunity to expand that experience of hearing and seeing Jesus in the spirit to grow their relationship with Him. The event of their session is not meant to be a one-time, get-out-of-jail-free card. We invited Jesus and Holy Spirit to be present, not only to break the bonds of sin in their life, but for the purpose of beginning to build a powerful relationship that will bless their earthly lives on into their eternal life. That involves what I call "intentional participation" on the part of the Beloved. And the building process must include maintaining the divine connection initiated in the session; continuous interaction with Jesus to discover their purpose on earth and to hear [and see] how to overcome any obstacles; absolute trust in Jesus for all things in their journey; and finally, collaboration with Jesus, which is when the relationship is so strong that they can act without fear as they hear His voice and carry out their assignment for His Kingdom. It is at that point that the Beloved truly understands the Grace of Christ as being more than unmerited favor; it is the power of Jesus in them to do what they cannot do on their own -- which is a collaboration that can defeat any strategy of the Enemy!

And prayer is a very important part of that process. Prayer, in its simplest and most genuine form, is simply having a conversation with Jesus and our Father. And good communication is the best way to develop a healthy and productive relationship. So prayer is always encouraged as a method to continue the freedom that is received. That is the instruction that we leave with the newly freed disciple of Jesus, along with written tools they can rely on as they begin their journey to wholeness and maturity in Christ. But here is where I want to give a word of caution. The journey really is all about consistency and intentionality. We always make ourselves available whenever anyone has a question or needs further guidance or assistance. But, too often, when I receive a phone call that someone feels like the attacks are returning, they usually express something along the lines of, "I feel like I'm losing my freedom". With just a little bit of investigation, invariably they have not made a consistent effort to maintain their relationship with Jesus. It's easy to get caught up in the world again, as one is released from the chains of bondage to past sin. But that is on them! Jesus did the work on the Cross to set them free and then brought His presence into an Inner Healing Session to show them the ways the Enemy tried to block their purpose, and then gives them words of affirmation for how He sees them and resets the clock, so to speak, so they can move forward in a new identity.

Further investigation into the loss of freedom very often reveals what I believe is at the heart of many Christians becoming stalled in their journey. When I ask, "What have you done about it? Have you incorporated [and been consistent] in using the spiritual tools Jesus gave you"?, the answer I often get is, "Well, I have prayed and asked Jesus to a) help me, b) take it away, or c) show me what I'm supposed to do". Or I will get an email or text asking me to pray for deliverance from a specific attack. Once again, I want to stress that prayer is necessary and an effective tool. BUT when prayer becomes the convenient fallback plan, rather than consistent and intentional collaboration with Jesus to become an overcomer, then prayer has become a substitution for stepping into the power of a relationship with Jesus. It is not stepping into that new identity of our freedom in Christ and declaring the power of the Throne of God in our lives! 

Too often we ask others to intercede for us, when Jesus might want to see us use the power and authority He gave us to establish His Kingdom here on earth. There is nothing wrong with joining together in powerful prayer with an intercessor to see the Enemy defeated, but if we do it because we doubt Jesus will answer us, or we think we don't have the right level of faith, then there is something lacking in our relationship with Him. Prayer is not something that is to be done separate from our relationship with Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. It is the intimate communication IN those relationships, and carries the power that comes with that intimacy. We must be careful -- and intentional -- to not let Prayer become a diversion to doing the work of seeking real relationship with the One who set us free. We have been taught since children to pray to God for help in our time of need, but what would it look like if we understood that our prayers are actually extensions of the power we have been given to collaborate with Heaven to bring God's government to our lives and to the earth? That can only happen when there is a heart connection, continuity in purpose, trust, and cooperative efforts between us and our Rock, our Savior, our Deliverer. Prayer is a vital element in our relationship with Jesus. It needs to be more than methodical, routine, and lacking in the power of real communication. Prayer is all about the relationship of your heart with Jesus. It should exemplify your spiritual union with Him, and be evidence of the spiritual relationship you share. So continue to pray without ceasing, building on the continued communication between your hearts, and reaping all the benefits of that divine and powerful connection. You will not only maintain your freedom, but walk in spiritual power to overcome the world!

I Chronicles 16:11    Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!

September 26, 2021

Moving From Religion to Faith to Relationship

I am often amazed at the Christians I come in contact with who are still unable to extricate themselves from a religious mindset, which keeps them bound in doubt and unbelief. That might sound like a vague or ill-defined statement, so let me try to clarify my thoughts. What I'm trying to convey is the message that oftentimes Christians view what they call their "faith" from a system of religious principles, tenets,  dictates, or decrees; as if there is a specific "order" of how to believe in God. But that can lead to associating God as a strict task-master, with rules or practices intended to regulate behavior or thought. Stray from the application of those prescribed rules, and God will punish you for "not doing it right".

Believers become so consumed with not breaking the rules, that they begin to doubt their worthiness to receive salvation. They become so worried about coloring inside the lines of religion, that the focus becomes about them and not about the One they profess to worship. That is the picture we see portrayed by the Pharisees in the Bible. Just like those ancient religious leaders, Christians today may recite all the commandments, but not practice them; profess holiness, but continue to act unrighteously; spout mercy and grace, but sow injustice. And believe me, I am well aware that we have an Enemy who tempts us to sin. That is our human nature, and I am in no position to cast the first stone!

This same religious mindset can come perilously close to Gnosticism which plagued the Early Church and is still alive and well in the 21st Century. Gnosticism makes God out to be distant and uninterested in the day-to-day experiences of life, and thereby leads to human interpretation (put forth as knowledge) of God's will.  So I grieve for my Brothers and Sisters in Christ who only know Jesus through religion. They will equate it with "faith", saying they have faith, but there is a world of difference between religion and faith. Religion tends to be expressed in outward acts or deeds and self-made wisdom; resulting in the performance of rituals and traditions.  Religion is often experienced in the physical world. Faith, on the other hand, is defined as assurance of things hoped for [and divinely guaranteed], and the evidence of things [unlike religion] that are not seen.

Religion will say, "I've done everything right ... I've followed all the rules ...". Faith will say, "God is my strength, and I trust in Him." People with faith [versus religion] do not define their relationship with God by how many of the rules they follow. That only got the Pharisees accused of hypocrisy by Jesus. The acts of people of faith are done to please God, not men. Faithful people are obedient to His expressed will; knowing [and expecting], and eagerly looking forward to their promised inheritance. Religion is focused on the here and now. Faith knows we are strangers and exiles on the earth, sustained by the promise of a return to our heavenly home. Chapter 11 in Hebrews is known as the "Hall of Faith", and there is not one person listed in that chapter that is lauded for their religion; they are all men and women of faith. They are examples of how to move from religion to faith and Godly relationships with our Father in Heaven.

And that leads me to the importance of relationship with God. It is difficult to have an authentic relationship with God if we see Him as only a distant taskmaster with rules that must be followed to please Him. There is no room for intimacy in that relationship. And faith, alone, without intimacy in a relationship with God, will be empty of the familiarity and friendship that are hallmarks of a real partnership. For you see, that is what God is looking for... someone to partner with on the earth. And I wish I had discovered that truth earlier in life.

But the reality, in my life, is that I first came to know my God, and my Lord and Savior, through Religion. I found a Pastor that introduced me to all the doctrines of the Church and the precepts and principles of the Bible, but I was never taught that these principles were level one; that my Father wanted obedience and intimacy, and I would never find my way to those concepts by limiting myself to Sunday attendance, Church offices, or denominational affiliation. As strange as it may sound, I was never really encouraged to get to know Him through a personal study of His Word. There was always someone else responsible for telling me what I was to know ... a Sunday School teacher, the Pastor in his 20-minute sermon each week, or an "elder" whom I automatically assumed should know more than me.

It wasn't until I began to study and read the Bible on my own, and went to these people with my questions, that I realized a lot of them had no answers from a faith standpoint ... they were just repeating man-made doctrine, and were responding from religion, not faith. Some were even uneasy with questioning these formulaic answers, possibly thinking it was blasphemous to God to challenge what the leaders of religion had unquestionably accepted as "God's Truth". But I found that as I dared to trust in God [more than men] for my answers, that He responded with amazing revelations that left me in awe of His character and nature. I began to believe EVERYTHING about Him in the Bible -- especially the supernatural aspects, which the modern world declares He no longer displays. 

And that has led me to real relationship with ALL of who He is ... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; merciful, gracious, loving, and just. I know Him in all His individual capacities, and how He works for my good. I know how to hear from God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit -- individually and together. I have learned how to spend time in the spirit with them and receive rest, peace, power, and strategies. And I know that if the Body of Christ is unable [or unwilling] to move beyond Religion into Faith, and then grow their Faith into a real Relationship, then the season we are about to move into is going to be difficult for most to traverse. We must be focused on Christ as our way forward and through the crises that are coming upon us. We must be able to transcend the limitations of this earth and ascend in the spirit to sit in the presence of our Savior. Religion cannot become our sanctuary in this season. Faith and Relationship will be the weapons that the Enemy cannot destroy or defeat. He has no answer for them! There is nothing in his arsenal that is comparable to them! Thank you, Jesus, that you continue to pursue us; that you answer our questions and doubts with your convincing and infallible truth; and that you never leave us nor abandon us when we fail you! Strengthen us through your power in us, far beyond anything we dare to ask or think! Glory be to you in all the generations that come after us! Amen!

1 Corinthians 1:30-31     But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin],  so then, as it is written [in Scripture], “He who boasts and glories, let him boast and glory in the Lord.”

February 4, 2021

Learning To Trust My Human Spirit's Connection to God's Spirit

I was recently asked to participate in an 8-week exploration of the relationship between my human spirit and God's Spirit. I know, to many of you, that might be an unfamiliar [or even uncomfortable] turn of phrase. If, in your history of being born as a new creation in Christ, you were not taught that we are a three-part being (body, soul, and spirit), then you might be unaware that you even possess a human spirit. I know I did not have that knowledge for many years in my relationship with Christ. In fact, without that knowledge, I would submit to you that it is difficult to have a real relationship with the One who saved us. 

You might have been raised in a church that didn't differentiate between soul or spirit; and you might even believe that they are the same. But Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "May your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here, Scripture makes it clear that they are separate parts of us. And we know that God says we are made in His image, and the actual form of His Being is Spirit. So there is a component of our design that is spirit, and was made to resemble Him. But what does that look like for us? How does that figure into our relationship with our Father in Heaven? And what is the purpose and reason for our human spirit? 

Well, I will tell you that it should be the desire of all humankind to mature and develop in their human spirit so that we can think and act righteously on behalf of our Creator and our Savior. But we can't do it on our own! I'm not a theologian, so excuse my simple explanation, but I believe that when we are conceived in the flesh, there is a spark at conception in which God's Divine Spirit (with a capital "S") is transferred to our mother's fertilized egg and our human spirit becomes part of our DNA and is present as we are born into the world. But because we are born into sin, we don't have any experience or relationship with our human spirit because it is separated from God's Divine Spirit. 

But when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, our human spirit is regenerated/revived/renewed as it mingles with God's Spirit. That is when we are literally "reborn" as a true spirit being, with the potential to grow into an intimate relationship with God as we mature in our faith. Now we are able to hear from Him and experience Him in ways that those who don't have that connection will never know! I want you to take Romans 8:16 to heart and experience how your spirit responds when you read, For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as He whispers into our innermost being [spirit], “You are God’s beloved child!” That should encourage and embolden us as we come to the knowledge that we are no longer separated from our Heavenly Father but are now joined to the Lord as one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17)! 

For me, the revelation that my spirit is now connected to and resides with Jesus's Spirit [as one], comes with the realization that I am not to become lazy, if you will, in my spirit; but I am to exercise it and use it to stay joined to Him in all things. This is a very simplistic way to describe this truth, but it's like exercising our physical muscles. If we don't use them, then we lose our flexibility and our ability to move in our environment with ease and strength; our physical health suffers. If we don't exercise our spirit's union with God's Spirit, then we lose that connection with Him in the spiritual realm, and our power and authority [in being one with Him] becomes weaker and less able to battle against the devil's spiritual attacks. But just like physical exercise, it must become a habit -- such a natural part of our everyday existence that we don't feel alive if we aren't experiencing it.  

I will also tell you that for a long time I tried to compare the experiences of my spirit with the Lord's Spirit to the experiences of other Christians. Please do not fall pray to that temptation from the devil! Somehow, I had believed the lie that the connection between my spirit and the Lord's had to be dramatic and physically impactful and powerfully exhibited. Now, it most certainly can be, but it doesn't have to meet any particular standard or follow a specific pattern. Remember, Jesus is our model, and the Bible never tells us that when Jesus's human spirit was connected to the Father's Spirit, that it was always earth-shattering. In fact, I believe that Jesus simply came to know the Father's heart and was able to communicate, spirit to Spirit, in simple and uncomplicated ways. In fact, it was such a natural part of their relationship, that I believe it became indistinguishable from the simple act of breathing or drinking or eating -- we need it to survive! His Spirit is life-giving to our spirit!

So, once I came to the truth that I simply need to give my spirit permission to experience a connection that can be as easy as calling out His Name, I was able to experience Him responding to my cry and learn to trust that He was always available. And it changed the way I related to Him! He was no longer that somewhat remote, towering, superhuman, unapproachable hero that I felt unworthy to be bothering with my human troubles. He was my brother, my confidante, my protector, my friend, my rescuer, my Savior and my King! He is all I need in this life and eternally.  Whether my spirit prays in my personal time with Him, or I praise Him in a corporate gathering; whether I'm reading His Word out loud as I exalt Him, or singing and dancing in response to the joy my spirit is experiencing in His presence; and whether I'm thanking Him for all He's done in my life, or crying out for more of Him ... I have learned to trust that His Spirit is connected to mine -- even when I don't get an immediate [or any] response. It's simply the knowing that there is a secure and certain connection between my spirit and His Spirit that defines who I am and whose I am. 

So, if you don't think you have that trusted connection, do what I did. Ask for it! Ask to experience what it's like to connect your human spirit with our Lord's Spirit. And the beautiful thing is you get three-for-one! You have access to the Father's Spirit and His Holy Spirit, and you are one with all of them, as they are one with each other. You don't have to go through what the world is experiencing, feeling disconnected and adrift; at the whim of the devil's strategies to keep you separated from the most incredibly Divine relationship that any human being could ever desire. Learn to trust your spirit. The connection was made when you accepted Christ as your Savior. Now experience all that this connection has to offer you! 

Galatians 6:18   Finally my beloved ones—may the wonderful grace of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, be flowing in your spirit. So shall it be! 


December 5, 2020

The Fruit Of God's Training

I love the quiet times of reflection with my husband. We often look back over our unscripted lives together and see all the paths God led us down -- even when we were unaware He was lighting the way. Because I can tell you that left to ourselves, we would not have ended up where we are. And so I am thankful that we both were willing to let our spirits be shepherded. There were critical points along the way at which a crucial decision had to be made that would have far-reaching consequences. I am grateful that we didn't stumble in making those decisions. 

And here is something that I believe with all my heart: God's purpose for each of us here on earth is written next to our names in the Book of Life. But that doesn't mean we always adhere to God's will for us, and both Mark and I can be stubborn and rebellious. So, I'm here to testify of the goodness of God in our lives; to use both His rod and His staff to guide us.

There have been many pivotal crossroads in our history, but I think the one that has yielded the most benefit to us [and fruit for God], was when we took the leap of faith to trust that we could make a living by means of Mark's God-given artistic talent. It has been just over 25 years since we made that momentous decision to trust in the Lord to provide for us in everything we needed in this world. We decided that we were tired of the rat race and the focus our lives had on our jobs and how society defined success. But this blog post isn't about just financial provision. I want to be clear -- we are not rich, never have been, and there are still month's when we are on our knees reminding God that He said if we were faithful to Him, He would be faithful to us. It's been about believing in that promise.

And I know there are not many of our friends or family who understand how rich that has made us. We don't take lavish vacations; have never been to Europe [which astounds some of our contemporaries]; we work through the holidays; don't dine at fancy restaurants, and don't indulge in lavish gifts at Christmas, birthdays, or anniversaries. But, as so many Americans are awakening to the possibility that our future [and prosperity] as a nation is in jeopardy, we are blessed with a sense of calm because God has trained us up for "a time such as this".

For 25 years, we have not had "company benefits".  There has been no company-provided health insurance or 401k to ease us into retirement. In fact, we have laughingly stated that we've been retired for 25 years! The fact that the safety nets which the world offers have not been part of our experience, has given us the opportunity to learn to rely solely on God. I can't tell you how many times that we stared hardship and lack square in the face, and had no where to turn but God. And He never let us down! We've learned to live on a fraction of what most households do. And as we've gotten older, we've observed that people who climb the corporate ladder, or pursue high-paying careers, have not enjoyed the free, easy, and contented life we have. Don't get me wrong, we work more hours in the day than we ever did in our "before" life. But it is so much more satisfying at the end of the day than the stress of those jobs and careers. 

Maybe you identify with us, and remember those years that you felt a prompting to store a little extra food, or you spent the time to learn how to defend yourself in the case of a national crisis. Maybe you, too, were looked upon as "conspiracy nuts" or suffered those smirks and rolled eyes. You were told that your concerns were unnecessary because "nothing can happen; we're the United States of America and the greatest country on earth". Or, maybe like us, your Christian friends kept trying to convince you that the faithful didn't have to worry -- Jesus has already won the victory, and where was our trust in Him that He would never leave us nor abandon us. But let me ask you this ... are those same friends (both believers and non-believers) now coming to you and asking, "How do I ____?", or "Where can I get ____?" or "Do you think Jesus is coming back soon?"

It's not that we were prophets or anyone special. It was just part of the journey that God was taking us on. In fact, my logical-thinking husband recently told me that he has realized that God has been training us up for this very time. Our Father knows the beginning from the end, and knew that we would one day face the very real possibility of a collapsing economy, with a shrinking dollar, food shortages, loss of jobs, a pandemic, etc. etc. He knew the people who would be trainable and willing to consider preparing by learning to plant a garden, store a little extra food, learn how to can, and learn how to live without. 

For those who struggled with accepting or pursuing those considerations, life went on as usual. But you can see what our American lifestyle has done to the souls of so many. Broken marriages, children who feel ignored, and health issues abound in our populace. People have been so busy living "the American dream", that they are frightened at the prospect that that dream may disappear. I'm not trying to be a doomsday prophet, but I don't believe anyone has an excuse for not seeing the warnings that we have discerned along our journey.

And now it is time for us to lift our fellow Americans up and encourage them, because what we see happening applies to all of us, both believer and non-believer alike. The Christian community is looking for God to rescue them because He's already won the victory, right? And those who don't know Jesus are going to come to the realization that what they've achieved in their comfortable lives is not giving them the security they thought it would provide. Both groups are going to need encouragement to rely on Him; only Him. They are going to need to hear from those of us who have experience and a history of being trained up by God for this very time in our history. 

We must be honest about the earthly difficulties we face, and share our wealth of practical knowledge and skills. But most importantly, we must approach them as servants of the Kingdom of God. We must share the fruit of God's training in our lives; how we've learned to endure, persevere, and trust in Jesus; and how our relationship with Jesus has taken on a depth that we never would have encountered if we had not decided to be "trainable" and open to submitting our will to His. There is so much fruit to be had! And it's found in a freedom from societal norms, a deeper understanding of our purpose on earth, a supernatural connection to the Holy Spirit and being aligned with our own spirit [which is seated in Heaven with Jesus] -- it has all led to an indescribable partnership with our Creator and a life that is full beyond anything the world would measure it by.

So, if our journey mirrors yours, then join us in being prepared to share it with all those who will need to know they can make it through whatever is coming our way. And if you are among my fellow human beings who are just not willing to stare reality in the face, let me give you hope ... you have been created to thrive in this season of your life. You are made in the image of God, and if you don't know Him, then I urge you to ask Him to come into your life. He's waiting to respond to your request. Your life will never be the same again, and I promise you that He is exactly what you are going to need as we face an uncertain future. Let my story become yours. I have overcome the fear and the worries that the world tried to convince me were mine, and I walk in the strength and power and security of belonging to the Lord -- no matter what comes! And it is my hopeful prayer that each of you can know the magnitude of His presence in your life. Let His fruit abound in you! Bless you and God bless America!

Isaiah 40:31    But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

August 18, 2020

How Social Media Undermines God and Our True Identities


     I don't know how you feel about Social Media, but for me, I can sum it up with the condensed version of Genesis 50:20... "What Satan meant for evil, God can use for His good". I may sound unsophisticated but, for all intents and purposes, I think the developers of Social Media platforms have been deceived by the devil and ultimately serve his agenda. Yet, I will allow that I have the opportunity to use those digital creations to write this blog to you. And I thank the Lord for that!

    So, let me explain what I'm seeing in this digital/technological age and why I'm concerned that it is effecting not only our relationships with each other, but with our connection to our Creator. First of all, Social Media allows people to hide behind an invisible wall of respectability and often gives them a fake sense of courage and invincibility. People will express their opinions on everything from politics to religion to devil worship; writing from a safe distance where they feel confident to forego civility and respect and good manners, in favor of being right and projecting a position of moral superiority. 

     But nothing replaces that personal face-to-face conversation to achieve real truth and integrity. I don't think I've ever seen such ugliness, anger and vitriol. But the devil has convinced those with wounded and hard hearts that no one can see them so they can say what they want without any fear. And then when you try to engage with them, they are suddenly offended that you dare to disagree or question them. Somehow, we've lost that personal interaction and the experience of really knowing each other.

     And all I can think of is how much God is concerned about how Social Media is influencing the way we communicate with each other and how we practice our faith. Before the Covid nightmare began, more and more people chose to stay in the comfort of their home and watch sermons and Church services online and at their leisure. There was no human interaction with like-minded Believers; you tuned into God whenever it was convenient. After all, the internet is full of archived podcasts, sermons, and videos. And since March, when our nation entered a new reality of masks and isolation, it has become difficult to even make those alternative forms of faith available. So, now people just go to their favorite Religious app and get their God moment there. 

     So, I have a question ... if we are moving farther away from real human contact to having "virtual friends" that we may never look in the eye, shake their hand, or experience a hug from --- how "real" can those relationships be? And if there is no authentic relationship between humans on the same planet, how much farther will we move from a genuine experiential relationship with God? And, in the end, how does it affect us in relating to each other as the children of God?

     Here are some of what I think are very real concerns... Through Social Media the Anti-Christ spirit (which is any spirit that denies or does not confess Jesus in their life) attempts to divide and conquer us through our perceptions of who people are by the way they communicate online. It is very easy for the devil to manipulate people in his subtle and crafty ways to see people only as labels. 

     Take the issues of wearing masks or taking a vaccine. If you are a Christian, your spirit should be sensitive to these two tools to manipulate the masses and move them closer to a Mark of the Beast scenario. But if you're a humanist, or just the average Joe who gets his identity on Facebook or Twitter, then you can be manipulated in any number of ways. The Enemy whispers messages of Personal or Economic freedom and people post messages in support of those ideals. They will look something like this: Covid-19 is limiting our freedom (and so is the government), so by working together to get enough people vaccinated, we, as a society can preserve those freedoms. Or, it can sound something like this: People are out of work and financially hurting. We just all need to get vaccinated and we can go back to work. There are other reasons to get vaccinated: they will try to instill guilt; if you don't get vaccinated, you are endangering others. And they can take it one step further: those who refuse to agree with mandatory vaccinations of the population are putting the health of their community at risk. Then you become the enemy, responsible for the deaths of others. Get the picture?

     And whether you comment or disagree, it is very easy to get labeled as Selfish, Traitorous, Uncaring, or downright Evil -- all without ever actually meeting a person! That is not God's design for the human race! We are made in His image and He is all about relationship and wants us to love each other as He loves us. We are worth something to Him because His Son chose to die for us. In fact, that is one of His commandments ... Love one another as I have loved you. But, sadly, I see how Social Media is destroying that message.

     But don't count Satan out just yet! He still has some tricks up his sleeve. I ran across an article entitled 25 Reasons Why Twitter is Spiritual. Are you ready for some of them? Here goes: Twitter prompts us to focus on the present moment and in doing so we realize all we need is right here, right now. Twitter prods us to find the divine energy of joy in our daily lives and to share it with others. Twitter draws out our playfulness and celebrates, in a variety of ways, the holiness of savoring pleasure and the lightness of being. (Can you believe that one?) Twitter shows us why we need to cherish all parts of creation from ants to wolves to the Grand Canyon. Twitter elicits our wonder as we see the world moving toward us with a deluge of epiphanies. And here's my favorite: Twitter allows us to probe on a daily basis the significance of what we are feeling and thinking: it makes meaning makers of us all. In other words, it's all about us!

     I'm sorry, but using words like "divine energy of joy", "holiness and lightness" and "epiphanies" does not make this Social Media platform spiritual. Being spiritual is connecting to the Spirit of God; the Holy Spirit. It's having a personal relationship with all of whom God is... not concentrating on making ourselves the happiest we can be in our Godless lives. 

     In summary, I don't see Social Media going away anytime soon, and I only see it as further perverting God's intentions for His children. I celebrate the ways in which I can represent Him through this blog, but I know that Enemy is very aware that me, and others like me, who do not advance his agenda to separate us from each other and the Most High God. I will do my part to represent my Lord and King for as long as I can, and as long as you're willing to read what I'm inspired to write. Use me, Lord, for Your Good, and lead us not into the temptations of Social Media, but deliver us from its evil ways. Amen!

Galatians 1:10    For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.





December 3, 2018

Understanding The Wife of God and The Bride of Christ (Part 2)

     In the previous post, I have presented Biblical evidence that God considered Himself betrothed and wed to the nation of Israel -- that is, until they continued in their idolatrous adultery by pursuing other gods. Then He, being a Holy God, served Israel a bill of divorce until some future date when they will be redeemed and once again become His wife. The book of Hosea gives us a good picture of marriage as a metaphor of the covenant between God and Israel. Gomer, the wife of the prophet Hosea, is a picture of Israel as the "promiscuous woman and harlot" who abandons her marriage covenant and "goes whoring". As it is a comparison to God's relationship with Israel, the Book of Hosea is a story of promise and restoration unto the Lord.
     I hope I made it clear in Part 1 that when referring to God's wife, the Bible is always talking about the nation Israel, and "wife" does not apply to us. When it comes to identifying who "the Bride of Christ" is, we must dig a little deeper because the Bible applies this term across a spectrum of people. And I will be honest in telling you that my search for understanding on this topic has led to as many questions as it has answers. I will also tell you that, using Scripture as my source, I have received answers that, at times, seem in conflict with each other. So, I will present the matter as I have seen it in the Bible, and encourage you to do your own study and develop your own theology. What I present here today is simply my journey as it stands today. And I am trusting God to reveal more as I continue seeking Him.
     The first thing that struck me as I began to research the Bible about who to identify as the "Bride of Christ" is that the very term does not exist in the Bible! How can that be? It is readily understood by most of Western Christians that the Church is the Body of Christ. Yet, nowhere does the Bible make that claim clear. So, what does the Word make clear concerning the Bride?  To be honest, not much. What did become evident is that there are lots of what are called "figures of speech" applied in the Bible to God's relationship with people. And they tend to confuse, rather than make clear, the answer to the question Who is the Bride?

     What I discovered is that God uses a lot of different terminology, or figures of speech, to tell us how He feels about the people with whom He is in relationship. We certainly see that in His references to Israel as "wife". We also see God referring to various people or groups as "daughter", "virgin daughter", "virgin", "sister", "espoused" or "bride", "wife", or "mother". But He also calls people "sons", "a vine", "a wild donkey", "sheep", "goats", "a camel". It should be becoming clear that these terms refer to ways God sees people, and may not mean a literal interpretation. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is there a group of people who are specifically and clearly identified as the "literal" Bride. 
     So how did modern Christianity get the idea that the Church is the Bride? What I discovered was a very important quote from Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger, who wrote in 1899, “Commentators and interpreters, from inattention to the figures of speech, have been led astray from the real meaning of many important passages of God’s Word; while ignorance of them has been the fruitful parent of error and false doctrine” (p. xvi). When realizing that the Bible employs such figures of speech as similes (a comparison by resemblance); metaphors (a comparison by representation); hypocatastasis (a comparison by implication); and personification (things represented as people).
     We can see the difference in the first three figures of speech by considering the statements, "You act like a beast" (simile); "You are a beast" (metaphor); and "Beast!" (hypocatastasis). Personification is portrayed when Wisdom is seen as a woman crying out for people to listen to her; or the blood of Abel is seen as a person crying out from the ground [after he is killed by Cain]. You can also see how an error in recognizing the differences can result in different understandings and doctrines about the statement that Jesus made at the Passover Meal when He held up the bread and said, "This is my body". Some statements are not meant to be taken literal, yet the Church has established doctrine on these kinds of misunderstandings.
     What is becoming clearer to me is that we must take each instance of an identifying figure of speech and determine what God is trying to express about how He feels about people in that particular passage. In other words, each reference to a people -- whether it be Israel, the Church, a nation, or any other group -- is a figure of speech and we need to figure out whether God is making the comparison based on if that group resembles, represents, or is implied to be that term whatever it may be (wife, bride, vine, lion, etc). I think it's wrong to try to build a timeline or doctrine that says God is building a case to give people a specific identity. Instead, I'm not too sure that we aren't supposed to look at each verse and try to determine what the context of that term is in that text alone.
     So, have we made the mistake of trying to make "the Bride of Christ" the Church based on stringing a group of verses together into a doctrine, rather than looking at what God was trying to say in that passage alone? I believe that there are two primary passages that Christians use to back up their theology that the Church is the Bride. The first is 2 Corinthians 11:2, You need to know that God’s passion is burning inside me for you, because, like a loving father, I have pledged your hand in marriage to Christ, your true bridegroom. I’ve also promised that I would present his fiancĂ©e to him as a pure virgin bride (The Passion Translation)The second is Ephesians 5:25-27, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In each of these passages, Scripture is personifying the Church as a Bride as a way to help us understand how Jesus feels about us, and how we are to feel about Him -- offering love and fidelity as a wife or bride would to her husband. This personification of the Church as a Bride is an effective means of communicating what Jesus has done for us; what He expects in return; and does it with a "word picture" we can understand and which has significant impact.
     But again, it is representing the Church "as" or "like" a Bride. It does not definitively identify the Church OR Israel as the Bride. You see, the only passage that can claim that it defines the Bride is Revelation 21:9-11, Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven final plagues (afflictions, calamities) came and spoke to me. He said, Come with me! I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. Then in the Spirit He conveyed me away to a vast and lofty mountain and exhibited to me the holy (hallowed, consecrated) city of Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, clothed in God’s glory [in all its splendor and radiance]. The luster of it resembled a rare and most precious jewel, like jasper, shining clear as crystal.
     Here is the only text that says who the Bride is ... the Holy city of Jerusalem, God's dwelling place. The context of Revelation 21 is the revealing of the New Heaven and New Earth, when God will dwell among people who have accepted Him as their God. All others [revealed as cowards; unbelieving and faithless; depraved and defiled with abominations; murderers; adulterers; practicers of magic arts; and all liars] will find their place in the lake of fire and sulphur. To me, the Word is saying that the city of Jerusalem will be filled with every saved person at the end of this Age. So, instead of trying to determine if the Bride is Israel, or the Church, or some specific group within the Body of Christ, perhaps we need to study this passage in Revelation to see how God wraps up His various references to "the Bride". After giving us comparisons from the Old Testament right through to the last book of the Bible, it seems to me that [in Revelation 21:11] He finally gives us His hope for what a people wholly devoted and in love with Him looks like... Clothed in God’s glory [in all its splendor and radiance].... Just like a beautiful Bride!
     In conclusion, you must each do your own research. Read the Bible and look up all the references to "Bride" in the Bible, and see what they say in context. Then read commentaries and the opinions of Biblical scholars and go back to the Bible and read them again ... in context. Then make up your mind. But I guess I want all this to come back to my original comment on the previous post ... I believe it is premature to say that Jesus [or the Father] is our Husband. It is not until Revelation 19 that the Bible reveals Let us rejoice and shout for joy [exulting and triumphant]! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor, for the marriage of the Lamb [at last] has come, and His bride has prepared herself.  She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white—for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God’s holy people). This is a picture of a FUTURE event. Note that Scripture says the Bride has prepared herself. I believe we are still in that process of preparation.
     Yes, we are seen as holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. That is a picture of us at our moment of salvation, and how Jesus, as the Head of the Church, sees us. But Revelation 19 is different. It is a picture of the consummation of our journey with Christ. As of yet, we are still on that road toward purity and chasteness. Speaking for myself, I cannot say that I live a pure, sinless life; it is why I continue to confess, repent and ask for forgiveness. And I certainly do not see the Church fitting that definition. I think we need to understand that Jesus is looking for ALL those who have come to salvation to be chaste and pure and clothed in white at the culmination of His Father's plan for the redemption of mankind. That will include Christians, restored and saved Israel, and a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. And we will all be residing in the New Jerusalem with our Bridegroom and Husband! What a beautiful day that will be!

Thanks to the website, Truth Or Tradition? (Helping You To Understand The Word of God, Free From the Traditions of Men) for helping me to understand how figures of speech contribute to our understanding of the Word.

John 14:3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.



June 13, 2018

From Whom Do We Seek Favor? And Whom Do We Fear?

     We've all experienced it. Our faith is under constant attack by the Enemy, our culture, and even our families and fellow Believers. If our hearts are truly seeking the Lord, and those attacks come, we may begin to question whether we are steady in our walk with Him.  The next thing we know, we find ourselves seeking or desiring the favor of man in our faith lives, which can be a distraction from the fear of the Lord. But why is it so important to be cognizant of this fact; and how does it affect our journey and relationship with the Lord? If I could sum it up in one word, it would be validation. But I'd like to unpack my theory for you and share where my own self-examination has taken me.
     When it comes to our faith, and if we are seeking the favor of man, what is that really telling us? Is our identity in Christ enough for us, or do we need the approval of man to feel like our path is straight? Let's start with Proverbs 29:25 to see if we can get the answers.  And I'd like to give you several translations so we begin with a clear picture:
The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in and puts his confidence in the Lord will be exalted and safe.

Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
    But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place. (Passion)

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety. (New Living Translation)
     Can you see the implications? The fear of man is a snare (a trap) because it holds you back from walking in confidence in your true identity, seated in the high place (the heavenly realms as stated in Ephesians 2:6). When you are seated with Christ, you are united with Him, and there's no safer or more secure place to be. 
     But what happens to us as we seek to grow our relationship with Christ? The Enemy comes in and lays a trap for us. As we receive wisdom and revelation from the Lord [through the Holy Spirit], we may get opposing views from people, or correction from Leadership. It leaves you with feelings of doubt ... did I really hear from the Holy Spirit? And that can be a lonely place to be. We feel separated, not only from our fellow Christians, but maybe even from God, Himself, because now there has been a disruption in that divine communication, and we've taken our focus off Him and the favor we've received from Him to seek the favor of fellow men. Because, let's face it everyone wants to be accepted.
     And that's the real meaning of "favor" -- acceptance; the reaction of a perceived superior to an inferior; presence and power. But whose favor do you really want? Whose Presence and Power do you want to walk in? And who do you fear more?  We know what we fear from men -- rejection and disapproval. But do we really understand the Fear of the Lord? That it is awe-inspired reverence and worshiping Him? Obedience and submissive wonder?
     When we let man dictate [or influence] our identity, we are going to seek acceptance and approval from this world.  If we've been hurt by the Church (and that is a very real problem today), do we find our safety and security with others who have experienced similar hurts -- or do we trust and believe that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies; that our identity is secure in Him? Do we meet to lick our wounds (or as my husband says, "commiserate over our bandaids")? Do we find comfort and validation in our kinship with fellow victims? Or do we look for our approval from the Lord and walk in our kinship with Him?
     I can tell you that I have been guilty of taking my eyes off the commission Christ has given me [and off Him, as my Commissioner]. It's so natural to want that gratification of knowing someone values you, and let's face it --- the devil will always provide that someone if it means you will step back from seeking more of the Lord, which results in lost momentum in your relationship with Him! 
     I know that I walk in an unconventional assignment from Jesus. And I have experienced negative feedback from fellow Christians when what I was seeing and hearing from God seemed so darn clear! The natural instinct is to seek a carnal affirmation to make your soul feel better [i.e., your emotions and mind]. But whenever I've taken my eyes off Jesus and what He was showing me, I've gotten stuck in that moment of hurt. The Word says it perfectly ... Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.  My spirit grieved because I was fearing man more than I was fearing God; seeking man's favor instead of praising God for the favor He has given me in my unique assignment.
     Here's the thing ... we all have unique assignments! God didn't make us cookie cutter images of each other. He made us each in His own image! So, as you look around you, that should give you a pretty good idea of how BIG and AWESOME our God is, and make you realize that seeing the favor of man can be an exhaustive endeavor!
     BUT, you can receive the favor of God when you fear Him! Stated another way, you can receive His approval when you walk in His Presence and Power by obeying Him in the assignment He has given you!
     I want to ask you the question that Job asks in 4:6 .... Is not your fear of God your confidence?  Shouldn't we all find our validation from seeking His face and Presence, and obeying His commandments through the use of His Power? Shouldn't that be enough to feel confident about who we are? If like me, you have battled through the fear of man in order to get to your walk in the fear of the Lord, then you know this promise found in Psalm 40:4, Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who makes the Lord his trust. When we can trust the Lord's opinion over man's, we can walk in confidence; knowing we are fully approved and secure in our identity. We no longer look from side to side for our validation, but only upwards. And I promise you, you will know His acceptance and approval. His validation is true and eternal!

Psalm 37:5-6    Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.

January 4, 2018

Ministering To The Lord

     As you know, I've been settling in to the Book of Acts for some time now. My spirit is inspired by the boldness and determination of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus to establish a believing Body that could walk out the teachings and commandments of the Lord. We tend to think that they had it all "together" on that Day of Pentecost; that they knew exactly how to advance this new "Kingdom" to which Jesus was calling them. But they were relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them into this new realm and new life, just as Jesus had. They ministered to the people, to each other, and to the Lord.
     As I was reading in the 13th Chapter of Acts, it was just prior to Paul's first missionary trip. Scripture tells us that "While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them' ” (Acts 13:2). I was struck by those words ... the believers were ministering to the Lord.  What did that mean, and what did it look like? Other translations read "serving the Lord" or "worshipping the Lord". But I sense that "ministering to the Lord" is more accurate, with a deeper significance for us. As the modern Church, or Body of Christ, we are certainly aware of the need to minister to people. Their needs are so obvious.  And the Lord certainly doesn't need us in order to be God; after all, He is self-sufficient, right? 

     Further study revealed that this idea of ministering to the Lord is apparent throughout the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 10:8 tell us that after giving the Torah at Mount Sinai, God set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.  And the whole design of the early Tabernacle, and later the Temple built by Solomon, was intended for ministering to the Lord; to minister to His Presence in the Holy of Holies. 
    What did this ministry to the Lord look like? We get an idea in 2 Chronicles 31:2 ... And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the Lord and to give thanks and praise. Here, ministering to the Lord involves the giving of thanks and praise.
     But then there is the ministering to the Lord in Joel, chapters One and Two ... Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God ... Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, Lord." Here, the meaning is obviously about interceding on behalf of the people of the Lord.
     Ultimately, I think that ministering to the Lord is centered on ministering to His heart.  As modern-day priests, we come before the Lord giving Him the praise and thanksgiving He is due for His abundant Goodness, as well as fasting and interceding on behalf of His people from our broken and burdened hearts. Both facets of ministering to Him touch His heart. 
     However, the more I studied all the examples in the Word of ministering to the Lord, the more I became convinced that there is another important component to this concept -- that ministering to the Lord should take precedence over ministering to the people. In other words, we must be careful not to get so caught up in doing the work of ministering to the people, that the work becomes our focus.  We must never forget that it is the power of our Lord that allows us to do the work. 
     I don't want you to misunderstand me -- I believe God honors our desire and obedience to minister to people's broken hearts. But I think He desires something deeper between us and Him.  We must not become consumed with the excitement that comes with ministering in this realm. We must never lose sight that God desires that we minister to Him in His realm; through our praise and intercession, revealing our trust, confidence, and dependence on Him. 
    So, I find myself more aware of how I perceive this ministry that God has called my husband and I to.  Have we made it all about the work we do for the Lord, or are we mindful that our priority is to attend to our Lord? To exalt and glorify Him, seeking to be in touch with His heart? It is through these efforts to minister to Him that our ministry to others will bear more fruit. And that is why my prayer has become, "Father God, I want to enter into Your Presence, connecting my heart to Your heart. I want to make You my priority; praising you and giving you all the glory for my Kingdom work. I want my ministry to You to overshadow my earthly ministry. I want to be ever mindful of pleasing You first, and of being worthy to be set apart to do Your work. Lord, help me, Your humble servant, to be a blessing to You and others". For me, that is what ministering means. 

Revelation 1:6   To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to [minister to] His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

November 21, 2017

How Religious Spirits Keep Christians From An Intimacy With The Lord

      Have you ever encountered a religious spirit in a fellow Christian?  I daresay if you are walking in your delegated power and authority from Christ, and know who you are in Him, then you most likely have met a fellow Christian with a religious spirit.  How will you know and what effect does this spirit have upon the Body of Christ?
     First of all, a Believer with a religious spirit will be critical of any revelations you might have received from God that are outside of his or her mainstream doctrinal training.  Just think Pharisees, and you will get a good picture of men with religious spirits. They might accuse you of being deceived, or constantly challenge you to show where that particular spiritual truth is found in the Bible. But I'm not writing this post in defense of those of us who have found ourselves at odds with our fellow Christians, nor to condemn those who don't see eye-to-eye with us, but rather in the hopes of highlighting the detrimental effects this spirit can have upon the relationship of our fellow Christians with our Savior.  Let me repeat that ... THIS POST IS NOT CONDEMNING CHRISTIANS, BUT RATHER EXPOSING THE SPIRIT THAT KEEPS THEM FROM A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. You see, I want all Christians to enjoy the intimacy that I have with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and I want them to step into the freedom that can come when this spirit is expelled from their lives.
     So, what exactly is a religious spirit?  This may shock many in the Body of Christ but it is actually a spirit that comes from the Enemy to wage war against an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus in a Believer's life.  And I want to take a moment to point out a fact that escapes so many people who say they believe in God .... we are made in His image, and the Bible says, God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  So, if we are made in His image, then we are spirits, too, correct? But here is what too many people miss when considering how they live out their faith in God .... we are created as spirits who are living through a temporary physical experience.  We came from Heaven where we were spirits, and after a very short life span here on earth, we will return to Heaven (which we call "home", right?) as a spirit. We are not primarily physical beings created to stumble upon an occasional spiritual experience, even though I'm afraid that this is how most Christians see themselves. When the Bible says those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth, that is the truth we must embrace as we seek to relate to Him as spirits in a spiritual realm outside of this physical world. 
     But back to the purpose of a religious spirit, which is in all reality, a spirit sent by the Enemy against Christians to keep them feeling distant from God and to ensure that they never meet Jesus in the spirit.  This spirit can severely limit a Christian's intimacy with their Lord and Savior, and result in a life lived in virtual isolation from the One who created them and Who longs for a heart/spirit relationship.
      I heard an excellent Youtube video by Ryan LeStrange, the founder of Impact International Ministries. Ryan gives a very short and concise description of what a religious spirit is and how it affects a Christian's life.  He describes the religious spirit as "a demon power that uses religious structures to entangle people in bondage; to prevent transformation; and to enforce the spiritual status quo".  In other words, the spirit entraps the religious person into religious systems and traditions that result in little or no growth in their understanding of how they are to relate and work with Jesus, which essentially results in no fruit.
     LeStrange goes on to say, "The religious spirit fights [against] revelation; it defies prophetic insight; it hates apostolic authority; and it uses tradition to build structures of limitation".  All that is just another way to say that it builds a chasm between the Believer and a spiritual intimacy with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.
     If you have spent time with God in His Word, then you know that it is His heart's desire to lead us into new and fresh revelations of His nature and His plans for invading earth with the Kingdom of Heaven.  It only makes sense that Satan would do everything he could to keep that from happening.  As long as the devil can keep us entangled in our limited human reasoning, and uninterested in pursuing the spiritual realm and encountering Jesus there, then he can keep us impotent and ineffective.
     You see, God wants us to be in sync with Him; to be aware of what He is saying, what He is doing, and what He is releasing in the earth -- just as Jesus was when He walked among us.  We can only do that if we are tuned in to the Spirit through our own spirit.  We must be aware of His presence, and the only way to do that is in the spirit!  It is the devil's express desire to keep us from being transformed from our physical limitations into a spiritual awareness where we can commune and work with Jesus to bring about God's will on earth.
     Satan loves it when we, as Christians, are stuck in a paradigm that is unable to experience the presence of Jesus in our lives.  When we are stuck with our religious ideas and traditions, we are not able to partner with Him to bring about prophetic change on the earth.  The religious spirit works to block people's minds from becoming renewed and seeing and hearing in the spirit, which is our birthright -- it is what we are created to do!
     You see, God wants to reveal the deep and hidden mysteries of His Kingdom to us, so that we can help bring about the times and seasons of His plan for mankind.  But the Religious spirit develops blockades that keep men from seeking those new revelations. So, as a Body of Christ, we must pray for freedom from this spirit; we must pray to break the opposition that comes against us as we share these truths with Believers; and we must pray that our Brothers and Sisters in Christ are transformed with new hearts and minds that can resist this hindering spirit and come into alignment with us and our Father in Heaven, to bring about His plans for these times. It is now time to defeat and remove this spirit's stranglehold on the Church, so that we might enter into our inheritance!

1 Corinthians 2:14   The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him [absurd and illogical], and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters].

October 23, 2017

Immanuel: "God With Us"

     This weekend Mark and I hosted a mini-conference in which Barbara Bucklin, of Luke 4:18 Ministries, came to speak to a small group of about 30 Christians.  Her focus in the morning session was to educate them regarding Freemasonry and its nefariousness, with all the connotations that word evokes: wicked, evil, sinful, iniquitous, egregious, heinous, atrocious, vile, foul, abominable, odious, depraved, monstrous, fiendish, diabolical, unspeakable, despicable; villainous.  But that is not the focus of this blog post today. (If you disagree or wonder what all the fuss is about over Freemasonry, I urge you to click on these links and read my extensive posts on the subject, here, here, and here).
     But today, I actually want to focus on what the afternoon session of our conference was about.  First, I need to tell you that this congregation of 30 souls covered a wide spectrum of Believers.  Many are struggling to come to terms with their faith because their theology is being rocked by the precepts we have introduced.  These include the Gospel of the Kingdom vs. the Gospel of Salvation; introspection of their religious "sacred cows" and Church doctrine; following man-made traditions and rituals vs. following God's commandments in the Bible; and just what the Great Commission is really commanding us to do.
     Others in this group are cautiously dipping their toe in the water to see how the concepts of Deliverance, Spiritual Warfare, and True Discipleship will affect them in the natural realm.  And still others have whole-heartedly accepted Jesus's invitation to partner with Him and the Holy Spirit in taking back territory from the Enemy and setting the captives free.  But ALL of them were about to get a glimpse of Immanuel!
     I'm sure everyone reading this blog is familiar with the story in Matthew where the conception of Jesus was announced to Joseph by an angel who told him that a son would be born who would be called Immanuel - God with us.  That is the only place I am aware of in the New Testament that "Immanuel" is mentioned.  And while, we Christians in the Western World think Matthew 1:23 is announcing Jesus's name, the purpose of this Scripture is to actually show us that the Lord has been gracious and faithful to send the sign that the prophet Isaiah had foretold in the Old Testament.
     If you will recall in Isaiah, Chapter 7, the ruler of Judah, King Ahaz, was facing a formidable battle against the king of Aram (Syria) and the king of Israel, who had become evil allies in their attempt to capture Jerusalem and defeat Judah. The Lord instructs Isaiah to deliver a message to King Ahaz: "Take care and be calm, do not fear and be weak-hearted because their threats will not stand nor shall it happen ...  [But], if you will not believe [and trust in God and His message], be assured that you will not be established."
     Then the Lord speaks to King Ahaz and tells him to ask for any sign he wants; "[one that will convince you that God has spoken and will keep His word]; make your request as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven".  But King Ahaz is afraid to ask, and fears testing the Lord.  So, Isaiah, the prophet, steps in and scolds Ahaz for trying his patience, as well as the patience of God. So God has Isaiah relate the sign that He, Himself, will give ... that His promise to deliver His people can be relied upon; that He will be faithful to deliver Judah out of the hands of the enemy, and the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us). 
     The first thing we need to see is that Immanuel is not merely a name for the baby, Jesus, but is the fulfillment of what God has promised through His prophets ... not only that He will deliver us from the Enemy, but that He will be with us [forever].  And in the literal sense, God certainly was with us on the earth, in the human man, Jesus.  He now remains with us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus's representative.
     What does this have to do with our conference this past weekend?  I saw this varied body of Believers come into the realization that God can truly be with them!  I think our Western minds and culture have nearly erased our ability to fully comprehend this reality in our spirits.  But here is how these Believers were able to connect to the Truth of Immanuel ... Barb led them in an exercise that I am going to share with you.  I want you to grab a sheet of paper and a pen and just get off to a quiet place by yourselves and partake in the presence of the Lord.  Let's get started.
     The goal of this exercise is to start developing a communication with God; one where you speak to Him and you hear His voice; one where you experience the reality of Immanuel (God is with you).
     Step One:  Gratitude.  Write about something for which you are grateful.  You might start by writing, Dear God, I am grateful for .... Now, sit for a moment and tune in to your spirit, and listen for God's response to your gratitude.  Hear what He has to say about what you're grateful for. Write it down.
     Step Two:  He can see me.  Write from God's perspective -- what is He telling you about what He observes in you right now?  It might be the physical sensations He sees you feeling, or where you are located.  Example:  I see you curled up on the couch, pen in hand, and your shoulders are tense.
     Step Three:  He hears me.  Write what God is telling you He hears you saying to yourself.  Example: You are worried that you won't hear from Him, or that you're struggling to hear Him over the noise of all the things you have buzzing around in your head, OR, it could be that you want more of Him and the Holy Spirit.
     Step Four: He understands how big this is for me.  How does God see your dreams, your blessings, the troubles in your life? Write what He is telling you about those events, and your efforts to communicate with Him in all areas of your life.  Example:  [God speaking] I want you to know that I care about what matters to you and what you are facing in life.  I understand why this exercise might be difficult or intimidating to you, but your desire to honor Me brings Me great pleasure... OR, I know this situation [whatever it might be] is feeling overwhelming and all-consuming, as if you are about to sink, but I know what you desire, and it is My desire to give it to you.  Sit quietly for a moment, and listen to what He is telling you about your life circumstances and write it down.
     Step Five:  He is glad to be with me and treat my weaknesses tenderly.  Listen for God's voice and write down what He is telling you about His desires to participate in your life; how He wants to be a part of every area of your life. Example:  I delight in seeing your growth, and I will lovingly correct the areas that need work, so that you come into full relationship with me.
     Step Six:  He can do something about what I'm going through.  Listen for God to tell you how He will help you navigate the situations you are facing.  Example: I will strengthen you in those times you feel week. Just turn to me for rest and refreshing, OR, I give you My peace of knowing you are growing into My image.  I give you patience to enjoy (find joy) in the process.
     The whole point of this exercise is to learn to interact with Immanuel (God with us) in a way that you are in His presence constantly.  This exercise is a meaningful way to renew our minds and hearts to hear the voice of God during the painful experiences of this life.  When we can appreciate God's presence [and hear His voice] in the moments we focus on what we're grateful for, we can then learn to hear His voice in those painful circumstances, and learn not to be stuck in the negativeness of our own voice. We can learn to stay seated at the top of the hill, [in His presence], and not at the bottom of the hill, [in our own head].
     By experiencing Immanuel, we can learn to ask questions of God and actually hear His solutions!  If there are painful memories that need cleansed and purged, the presence of God/Jesus will take the lead and clear a path for you to make the decisions and choices you need to make, or actions you need to take.  The important thing is to learn to interact with God and seek His voice.
     I will tell you that I saw breakthroughs among those 30 precious people who stepped outside of their comfort zones to attend this conference.  Yes, there were those who totally disengaged and shut down, not even attempting to allow God to be with them.  But there were those who were willing to seek Him and experience His presence.  They heard His voice, perhaps for the first time, and it was not unlike this precious deaf baby hearing her mother's voice for the first time. Watch the emotion on her face when she hears those words we all long to hear from the Father, "I love you".
     The conference attendees left that meeting place at the end of the day; some with tears, some with smiles on their faces, and some with a lighter step than when they entered. Seeds were planted that I know the Holy Spirit will water! God was with us, and Immanuel is what He wants to experience with you, too.  It is the intimacy that all mankind desires. Just take that first step, and He will answer. Both He and I promise you that!

Zephaniah 3:17    "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing."