Category Archives: The Holy Spirit

Defeating Strongholds

Do not be afraid of them for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.  You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire. Joshua 11:6

And Joshua did just as the Lord said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.  Joshua 11:9

Judah captured Gaza with its territory…And the Lord was with Judah, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.  Judges 1:18-19

When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.  Judges 1:28

The people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help because Sisera had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for 20 years.  Judges 4:3

† If you followed the progression of these verses, the Israelites started out being able to defeat the northern Canaanites who had chariots of iron.  The Israelites didn’t have chariots, so it had to be intimidating. They must have been afraid, because God told them, “Do not be afraid.” In other words God was telling them, “If you trust in Me, I’ll drive them out for you.”  And they did trust in Him and it worked! He drove them out.

But not too many years later, after Joshua died, Judah could not drive out the inhabitantschariots-of-iron.jpg of the plain.  It doesn’t say because they lacked faith or because they didn’t rely on God. We didn’t get God’s commentary on this situation.  It just reports that they couldn’t drive them out. As a result, the people that they were supposed to drive out stayed in the Promised Land.  God told them in Judges 2:3, They shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.

You might not think that this is a big deal, but in Joshua 1:3-6 God promised, Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life…I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

So we move from God defeating the Canaanites with iron chariots for the Israelites, to the Israelites not being able to drive them out because of their iron chariots.  Then the Israelites didn’t drive out the Canaanites completely, as they were commanded to do. Instead, they compromised and just put them to forced labor. Funny, later on the shoe was on the other foot and the Israelites were the ones put to forced labor.

Then in Judges 4:3 we see that Sisera had 900 chariots of iron.  My take on that is the number of iron chariots grew. They didn’t defeat them when the number of chariots were small in number and now they are great in number.  And Sisera oppressed them cruelly for 20 years. The consequence of not driving out the Canaanites as God commanded bore fruit. They had become thorns and snares.

The reason I point all of this out is because this is exactly the nature of strongholds in our own lives.  Strongholds are structures or fortresses that demons hide behind in our spirit man. It’s like when you decide to have a big snowball fight and you build a snow fort or wall to hide behind first.  That snow wall is the stronghold. Demons operate best in secret, because if you knew they were there you would call them out and get rid of them.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us, For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

† Just like with the Israelites, we can drive out the strongholds in our lives with faith in God.  He has given us the same promises that He gave Joshua, that every place our foot touches is ours, that He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.  If we have faith in God, He can and will drive out all of the things in our life that are “iron chariots.”

Those things can be abuse from your childhood, addictions, sin traps that you fell into that still hang on, patterns of negative thinking that need to be renounced and replaced, a rebellious spirit, bitterness from rejection, hurts and failures, and other faulty ways of dealing with life.  

God tells us to stay away from things in the form of commandments.  We don’t do it, disobeying, thinking “I can do it, it won’t hurt me.”  Or we think, “I’ll repent of it later.” God warns us that the same thing will happen–those things we played with will become thorns in our sides and snares.  Guess what? What we sow, we reap. We have to now get rid of the residual effects of our rebellion, cleaning spiritual house.

† This is not easy and takes determination, bold obedience and humility to renounce and to repent of things that have maybe been a part of your life for years.  I have heard people say for years that it is like peeling an onion, that it comes in layers. I kind of rolled my eyes inside at that, but now I’m beginning to understand it.  That is most likely because I have been experiencing it. You would think that I am old enough to have driven out all of my “chariots of iron.” But maybe we never are.

Over the last few months God, in His mercy, has revealed several new chariots to me that have been expelled.  I have been humbled through a series of medical issues and a car accident that was not fun. This has caused me to seek God’s face in a different way for healing and emotional health.  In the process, He has given me some dreams that have led me to breaking free of some demonic harassment that has been there since my childhood.

A couple of resources that have been helpful have been Youtube teachings by Derek Prince.  He is dead now, but there are many of his sermons on deliverance, strongholds and hearing the voice of God.  They are Scriptural and well laid out. Another guy that is on Youtube is a man named John Ramirez. He was a Satanist and teaches how to uproot and cast out strongholds.  

His book Armed and Dangerous has many good warfare prayers to break any ties that Satan may have.  As John puts it, if Satan knows that he owns property in our life, he will come and collect.  He will strip and rob us any chance he can get. He teaches how to cut the rope. This teaching on spiritual warfare is valuable and is a tool for the Holy Spirit to reveal doorways that need to get cut off for Satan to no longer be able to cruelly oppress as Sisera did to the Israelites.

Galatians 5:1 declares, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Are you ready to be free?  

 

*Image from Ryan Boyer/Google Images

 


Be the Change in Me

Claiming to be wise, they became fools (because they didn’t glorify God or give thanks to Him, vs 21) so they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts… Romans 1:21-24

I used to think that it was just pagans, people who are totally separate from God and living in rebellion to Him, who Paul was writing about in these verses.  Of course they would be the ones that suppress the truth through their unrighteousness.  Not me.  Last year I studied the book by Brad Bigney, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  I learned that Christians are just as guilty as anyone else.

idols.jpgAfter getting through the book I realized my big idol is self.  Self gets in the way of a lot of things.  I want to do what suits me and will do whatever doesn’t get in the way of ME.  But Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.”

It is so easy to exchange other things for God’s glory.  We do it all the time and not even notice it–until God brings it to our attention.  But then there is verse 24 of chapter 1.  It says, “God gave them up to the lusts of their heart.”  That means that when we choose to say, “I would rather have all of these other things rather than Jesus,” God lets us have our way.

God lets things run their course in our lives so we see what it is like without Him.  He doesn’t tear down our idols for us.  We have to do it ourselves.  The process is kind of a two fold thing at work between our choices and God’s intervening grace.  James 4:5 reads, He yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to live in us (2 Corinthians 6:16 We are the sanctuary of the Living God).  vs. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

In other words, God’s Holy Spirit is inside of us and God doesn’t take that lightly that His Spirit lives in us.  God is watching jealously over Him.  So He is going to call us out, or make us miserable, or chasten us when we have other gods besides Him.  But God also bids us to draw near to Him and then He will tell us what has to go.  He will search us and try us and show us what is amuck, according to Psalm 139:24.

But God waits for us to ask Him.  And we have choices to make to rid ourselves of the idols in our lives and to draw near to God so He can speak to us.  If we don’t do that, He gives us over to the lusts of our hearts, whatever they may be.

****Check out the lyrics to this Casting Crowns song, The Change in Me (song from YouTube linked–it is powerful):

Your Spirit is a gentleman, standing at my hidden doors within; where You wait for me to let You in, so You can set me free.  Your Spirit is a wrecking ball, tearing through my rebel walls.  And one by one I watch them fall, ’til You are all I see.

Whoa-oh, You’re the life in me; Whoa-oh, You’re the change in me

Your Spirit is a whispering, when all the lies are deafening. Speak to the very heart of me, and fear cannot remain.  Your Spirit is a light ahead, calling me to the depths.  And daring me to take the step, and let You lead the way.

Your Spirit is a holy flame, burning all the harm away.  Here I am Lord, have Your way, ’til all that’s left is You, all that’s left is You.  Your Spirit is my constant friend.  You’re with me ’til the very end.  I’ll never be alone again, You’re the change in me.

Whoa-oh, You’re the life; Whoa-oh, You’re the change in me!

****One of the things I thought of for my application was to spend time at the beginning of this new year to ask myself some questions:

  • What do I really love more than Him?
  • What do I spend most of my spare time, energy and money on?
  • What if I fasted from something for a month that might be consuming more time and devotion than it ought to?
  • What if I spent thirty minutes (minimum) more a day in prayer, in the Word, or on a ‘mission’ from God (with people or putting something into practice)?

I guess it’s my New Years’ challenge.  I’m a few days into it.  I don’t want to exchange God’s glory for anything else, and I want Him to show up in fresh and exciting ways this year.  Oh, how I need Him to be the change in me!

 


Experiencing God More Deeply

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  James 5:17

I’ve pretty much quit watching TV, with the exception of a football game once in awhile, and Jeopardy (one day I’ll be a contestant on there–really).  So I watch a lot of Youtube videos of sermons and get news from current event things from there.

Lately I’ve been blessed by Francis Chan videos.  They have fed my soul during some tough times.  He has encouraged me to stick to the core truths of the Gospel even when it’s tempting to water them down.  And he has given me a renewed passion for Jesus and for the Bible.  

If you’re looking for a good one to start with, here is a link to the one I’m referring to today, “Experiencing God Deeper 2018.”

If you’re like me, I always mean to get back to the link that someone shares, but it either takes me a long time, or I never do.  So I’m going to share some of his points and add some of my own (artistic license).

You experience God when you’re put in front of authorities and God gives you words when you don’t have them.  Francis gave the example of the 23 South Koreans who were missionaries in Afghanistan and were taken by the Taliban.  That was in 2007.  They were held for about two months.  The leaders of the group actually argued over who was going to get killed first: “Kill me, I’m the pastor.”  A second guy stood up, “No, I’m a pastor too and I’m older–so kill me.”  A third man stood up, “No, I’m ordained, so you have to kill me first.”  The third man was actually one of two killed, the rest were released.  

Years later, Francis met with one of the guys who was a captive and he said that he wished he was still back there because of the intimacy he had with Jesus.  Others in the group expressed the same thing.  We fear something like this, but yet we experience God in closer and more sure ways when we are put on the spot, like Elijah.  We grow.  We are no different than Elijah.  He was a man just like us.  We feel more peace when we are in danger, yet we resist danger at all costs.  

We try not to have show downs like Elijah had, but if we want to experience God more deeply, we need to know this: Do not put your trust in money or freedom.  We have Christ and He alone is sufficient.  We don’t need to go out and try to suffer, but we should stop trying to avoid it.  

Not only is Elijah a man just like us, but God is still the same God that made the altar start on fire (1 Kings 18) even after Elijah doused it with water.  

You experience God when you get comfort when you need it–not when you’re comfortable.  When we do something that scares us, we experience God more deeply, like when Peter stepped out of the boat.  

If you find yourself saying, “Remember when I did this…” a lot, then it’s time to change it to the present tense.  I did a lot of faith adventures in my youth.  But I want to be like Caleb in the book of Joshua.  In chapter 14 he went to Joshua at the age of 85 and reminded Joshua of his inheritance promise and then said, I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then…So now give me this hill country!

When God called Moses and Jeremiah, they both had excuses about what they couldn’t do.  Isn’t that our tendency–to tell God what we can’t do when called?  “I can’t speak,” or “I’m too young.”  But instead of looking at what we can’t do, we need to look at what God is calling us to.  First of all, God is the one who is calling us, and that call has been from before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4; Eph. 2:10).  

So instead of reciting what you can’t do, know that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13) and 1 Thessalonians 5:24: He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

Whoever abides in Him ought to walk as Jesus walked.  1 John 2:6

In our rock star driven culture, we have Christian leaders who don’t necessarily walk as Jesus walked.  Maybe they are just good communicators or good singers.  Francis Chan talked about how we need to play, “Follow the Leader.”  Our leader is Jesus.  We shouldn’t just memorize Bible verses about telling others about Jesus, crossing cultural boundaries to do so, or helping those in need, or obeying Him, getting rid of unforgiveness, etc.  We just need to do it.

We need to change our definition of success.  If I know Jesus, I should just be like Him.  I’ll walk like Him, love like Him, and others will know that they’ve been touched because being around me might be a little like being with Jesus.  I don’t know if that’s the case always.

This has challenged me to read through 1 John over and over for a month.  I hope it sinks into my pours enough that it changes me to the core.  I want to not say “I love Jesus” but to “Just do it.”  This has produced some change in me already.  I wrote in my last blog how it triggered a chain of events (giving money and an unfortunate car accident on the way to do so) that was a whirlwind.  But it has also unearthed some unforgiveness in my heart that God has pointed out.  May He do much more in the weeks to come!

May you experience God more deeply as you head into the new year.  

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love  him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.  John 14:23


The ecstasy and the agony…

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You. When my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.  Psalm 61:1-2

So the last time I wrote, I was buried under a slew of  physical problems that just would not let up.  Starting a couple of weeks ago, I was reduced to sleeping about three hours at a shot, then every two hours, then one, then down to waking up every forty five minutes.  That alone is not good for sanity, let alone all of the other stuff that was going along with it.

Just over a week ago, I had a dream that seemed to go on a long time, but in real time it probably wasn’t all that long.  In my dream a multitude of people gathered around me and just kept praying what seemed to be most of the night.  I didn’t recognize them.  Before they would break, a gray haired man would lay his hand on my head and speak over me.  I didn’t know what he said–it didn’t matter.  Then they would circle me again and pray.  This same pattern repeated several times.

It wasn’t the next morning, but the morning after that I was getting up from yet another miserable night of non-sleep and pain.  This whole nightmare of physical problems had been going on for over a month.  My husband had left for the day and I was on my way out of bed, when suddenly–no bells or whistles, no angel songs or harps–my pain just went away.  Better put, God just took my pain away.  It was gone.  That awful pain that hurt when I walked, made my brain hurt and sent shock waves down my neck, shoulder and back–was gone!

That’s that ecstasy.  Here comes the agony, I guess…

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3:16-18

That night I still only slept for 45 minutes at a shot, so I stayed home from work to just rest and gather myself for a day.  I hadn’t been out of the house for two full days and wasn’t planning on leaving for another day.  I was in my sweats having my quiet time, reading 1 John out loud (for concentration’s sake) all of the way through.  And I was texting a Native American friend from jail back and forth intermittently.

She was telling me how she was going to try to take her car back that was a lemon from a place that ripped her off.  She has no credit and he took advantage of her plight.  He told her she could exchange it for a different vehicle but she would need more money and she didn’t have it.  I was literally reading the above verses out loud when she said she didn’t have more money and didn’t know what to do.

So I asked if I could give her the money.  After some back and forth, the question was how she could get it.  We arranged a meeting place and time not too far from my house.  She called earlier than the arranged time, a bit lost.  So I redirected her and said that I would be there in five minutes.  I threw on a sweatshirt and a pair of boots and jumped in my vehicle for a ten minute errand–at least that’s what I thought.

On my way across the highway to meet her, suddenly I was hit by a truck that obviously I did not see coming–all I knew was that my airbags exploded, my Equinox spun around and I was plowed into the parking lot.  Next thing I know I’m in an ambulance headed to the hospital with a whiplash collar.  That was all a precaution, but suffice it to say, it was a grand mess, of which I am still wading my way through.

The upshot is that I got into it because I was seeking to obey God by putting action to my words.  All week I had to coach my friend into not being angry at God at what happened because she saw it all take place.  Her faith is all so new.  I told her that is what Satan would want, but God’s got this.  I have to trust that as I sort out the insurance, the financial loss and all of the fallout.

Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty I guess.  Isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Jesus got His hands so dirty He got nails pounded through them.  That’s mushing Christmas and Easter together, so I’m speeding ahead.  So that’s what the Gospel is all about, not just Christmas.  So it is the ecstasy and the agony.

But I’m ready for a calmer week.


There is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb!

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for all sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12,14

It has been awhile since I have posted.  It has been because life has been moving at the speed of sound.  God has been moving in and amongst things, much like He was with Elijah when he took on the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel, and then he took off and ran, depleted and alone.  And then God came to  Elijah in a cave and he heard God speak in a still, small voice.  God told him he wasn’t the only prophet left and God had him get up and go anoint Jehu to be the next king over Israel.

When I read 1 Kings 18-19, it makes my head spin for Elijah because of the great showdown at the Mt. Carmel corral and then his emotional turmoil that followed–and then for me because I can so relate.  I too have been in the midst of many such spiritual showdown’s and roller coasters lately.  I would like to cry out with Micah 7:7-8 this battle cry: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

For the sake of brevity, maybe I’ll get to those in another post…But for now, I will get to my verse for today.  At jail ministry this last Sunday night, where God ministers to my heart just as much or more than He does to the women, I was blessed to share with three  women.  Two were Native American, one Caucasian, if that means anything.  Two of the three have been changed by the Gospel in visible ways over the last months of being in the Bible studies while being incarcerated.  Praise God for new life!

I started the study with the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s along the lines of continuing the same sin patterns and wondering why they end up in jail again and again.  That’s opposed to allowing Jesus to break the chains of rebellion–doing things now God’s way instead of our way–taking the narrow path and not the broad path, from Matthew 7:13-14.

No one talks about the narrow path–not on TV, not in books, not on Jimmy Fallon or Oprah, or Ellen.  I remember a time on “The View” where they censored a gal who said she lost 15 pounds on her diet and said, “Praise Jesus,” and they bleeped out Jesus.  But later in the show someone else used the name of Jesus in a profane way and they didn’t censor it out.  That’s the broad path.  Everyone is on it, and everyone talks about it.  Not the narrow path.  They shut you down.  So you have to go to jail to learn about the narrow path.  What an irony.

Then the Holy Spirit got all warmed up and fell on us.  I began to share about how much God loved them and quoted Psalm 103:8-13 about how God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how He does not treat us as our sins deserve and He does not accuse and does not harbor His anger forever.  As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.

I went on to say that the enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill and destroy; BUT God knows the plans He has for them and they are for a future and a hope and not calamity and despair.  One of the gals talked about how she keeps feeling shame and guilt for her past and she can’t get past that.

That’s when I began talking about the blood of Jesus–hence today’s verses.  This is when the power really kicked in.  We went to the verses in 1 John 1:7 and 9 and 1 John 2:1-2 about how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to please us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 2:1-2 talks about if we sin, we have an advocate, a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one who is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the covering, for our sin.

In the English Standard Version, the language seems to be more graphic.  I like that.  Like in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit comes upon Saul, David, Samson and Gideon, it says that He rushed upon them.  I really love that picture.  Well in Leviticus 3:1-2, I really love this picture:  If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.  And he (the priest) shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Oh God, throw Jesus’ blood against wherever it is You throw it to cover me from all unrighteousness!  We prayed on Sunday night that God would throw His blood to cover the ladies’ sins and wounds and scars and to bring healing and freedom.  It was Susan Powers from the 90’s that used to yell “Stop the insanity!”  I yell “Stop the insanity in Jesus’ name!”  All because of the blood of Jesus!  Throw His blood against the altar to cover those of us who are being sanctified.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

*Image from ‘The Bleeding Temple”


Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


A stripped down, boring Jesus

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.  1 Corinthians 4:20

I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.  Psalm 78:4

I have been bothered for several months now by a question that has been tumbling around in my mind.  It has to do with the local church that I go to.  I’ve been noticing that the a large majority of the families’ children grow up and don’t end up walking with the Lord into their adult years.  It is something that I have been praying about and quietly analyzing in my brain, wondering what is really missing in our spiritual DNA.

I finally got an “Aha” about it over the last few days.  I’ve been talking with a friend BoredGirland fellow church goer who has an eight year old daughter.  She is concerned that her daughter is “bored” at church and Sunday school and we’ve been talking and praying about how to see change in her spiritual attitude.  I was telling this friend about this Youtube video that I watched when it hit me.

It was a video from Skywatch TV where Josh Peck and Steve Bancarz were giving their testimonies about how they grew up in church, but then went into New Age practices in their teen-aged years.  They got heavily involved for years and then God got a hold of them and they recommitted their lives and are now speaking out about how the New Age practices are infiltrated into the church.

Josh Peck said something that peaked my attention.  He said, “I quit going to church when I was 12.  I was bored.  I had heard all of the stories by then and thought I knew it all.  I didn’t, but I thought I did.”  Josh told of how he found supernatural power in New Age practices and got involved in astral projecting and other things.

That’s where I really got to pondering.  Could it be that others are the same way?  They are bored because they are we are giving them a stripped down version of the Bible–what I mean is this:  We are teaching the Bible hermeneutically correctly (not violating the principles of interpreting Scripture).  But when you don’t include the power and work of the Holy Spirit as a regular, every day, real life experience, you have a ‘boring’ stripped down version of the Christian life.

It is no wonder that when our kids are 18 (or younger) they look else where for ‘real fun,’ like partying, sleeping around, materialism and other thrill chasing.  It is because they haven’t found it in Jesus because we haven’t given it them!

This is tragic!!!  I have been a self-confessed Holy Spirit chasing, Jesus freak stuck in a Baptist body for decades.  It’s kind of an anomaly.  Now a-days it’s okay to raise your hands, but if I start talking about how God has spoken to me in a dream, people start edging for the door and saying, “Oh, look at the time,” or saying, “Oh, another one of your dreams.”  They don’t take it seriously, like they should maybe hearing from God.

Or when I start a sentence with, “God spoke this to my heart the other day, and I know I need to do —,” it’s as if it’s an alien language.  Or even to find more people than a small handful that join our weekly all-church prayer meeting–and then respond to any subtle or less than subtle invitations to join.  There are pockets of people that have enjoyed digging deeper into the Word and talking about what God is doing in their lives, but it is difficult to do it as a church body corporately.

And the outcome is…as 2 Timothy 3:5 states, Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Now that is a scary description.  That is supposed to be for the pagans.  No, I don’t think they would have an appearance of godliness.  That would be for us!

(I do want to say that my husband and I are blessed with a small group Bible study  of about eight or so believers that are from all over.  Together we are enjoying practicing the gifts of the Spirit and sharing how God is at work in our daily lives.  We have seen the power of God in healings, we talk about how God has spoken to us in dreams, etc. and we pray together for boldness to impact the people we are connected with.)

What is the anecdote?  How do we avoid making church and Jesus boring?  How do we not have an appearance of godliness but deny its power? Here is a start:

  • We pray corporately for specific things and then celebrate when those things are answered, so young and old alike can see that God is real, that He cares about us and our daily lives, and that He answers prayer.
  • We have more corporate testimonies of how God is at work in our lives, how he has answered prayers, how He is using us, how He has spoken to us–whether it is in prayer, promptings, dreams, or even visions.
  • We get out of our comfort zones and go minister in Jesus’ name together.  If kids think that they have heard all of the stories before, nothing brings them alive better than telling someone who has never heard them before.  That’s where the kingdom of God is not just about words, it is about action.  Let’s put our faith into action!
  • We start inviting the Holy Spirit into our church in an active way.  We don’t just sing songs like, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here.”  We must really start teaching about His function and work, and then put those teachings into regular practice.  It doesn’t need to be hokey or undoctrinal, just apply Scripture.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:31

Oh God, may that be our church and the church across America.  May we not have a stripped down version of You so that others find you boring.  May we shake up our church buildings and gathering places because we are filled with the Holy Spirit and with boldness.  Fill our hearts with passion–fill my heart with the overflowing joy, peace in believing and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).  Don’t let me be boring or bored with You and may it catch like fire.

 

 


Real Change

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates.  I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there.  I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming.  But God knows.

Change was on my heart.  Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need.  If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse.  I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.

I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again.  Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.

Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart.  I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23  That’s the sin condition.  That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us.  We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before.  David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan.  Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.  

When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s  day of reckoning.

But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life.  No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.

¤ That’s exactly what God does for us.  We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy.  Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table.  It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.

¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin.  Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned.  And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10).  So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.

Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  We get them washed away.  And then the Holy Spirit renews us.  Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time.  That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again.  It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.         

¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth.  Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.                 Image result for Titus 3:3-7

The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!

¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday.  Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me.  Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.

 


What do you want Me to do for you? I want to be healed

The blind beggar called out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me blind man.jpgrecover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:48-52

Have you had weeks and months that just kind of blur together and not much big goes on, and then ‘Boom!’ big stuff happens?  Well, this last week was one of those weeks.  Let me back up.  For about the last four or five months, my left shoulder has been hurting, like bad. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even open up my car door without extreme pain kicking in.  I suppose it was a pinched nerve or a herniated disc.  For most of the last two or three weeks my arm was numb and cold when I woke up in the morning.

I began going to the chiropractor in June two to three times a week.  I knew I should have attended to it sooner, just too busy.  In early July the chiro said, “I can’t do anything more.  You’ve got to go to the doctor.  You’ve probably got to get an MRI.”  I nodded, but thought: “No way.  I’m not going to get an MRI.  I’m not going through all of that.”

Second strand of the story:  Over the last year, my husband and I have gotten to know a Christian brother better.  He’s the kind of guy that’s full of Holy Spirit energy.  He’s into dreams and interpreting them, so we like to talk about how God speaks to us.  He went on a missions trip to Haiti about a year and a half ago.  While there, whoever was leading the group told Brian to take charge of a line of locals who were there for healing. He was to pray for them to be healed.  Brian was thrown into just doing it, and God met him.  By the end of the day, almost all of the people were healed that he had prayed for.

He came back home thinking, “If God could work through me in Haiti, why can’t he work through me here to pray for people and see them healed?”  So he began to pray for people to be healed and things began to happen.  Brian began a small group Bible study in our area.  He has been inviting us to join us, but it hasn’t been until the last month or so that we have begun to go.

Another guy has been at the small group who also has the gift of healing, Barry.  And I sit there with a shoulder that hurts so much I can’t open my car door…I’ve been reading through the Gospels and ‘faith’ seems to be the thing that just keeps jumping out over and over.  So after the chiropractor said, “Yup, your shoulder is messed up,” I guess I knew it was time to actually apply faith and open my mouth.

So I did.  At the end of the small group, when it was time to pray, Brian asked if anyone needed any prayer.  Someone else said something first.  And then  I finally said, “My shoulder has been really bad lately.  I need prayer for it.”  So Brian said, “Okay, let’s pray for it.”  He prayed for God to heal it, then asked me to move it around.  “Nothing.”  He prayed for it again.  Still nothing.  Then another gal said, “Stand up.”  Then she had me raise my right arm.    She said, “I can feel and see the knot.  It’s huge.”

He prayed again.  Then he said, “Move it around.”  The loudest snap and crack sounded and the gal standing to my right yelled, “The knot is moving!  It’s gone!”  I moved my arm, and the knot and pinching and pain was gone.  That was five days ago.  It’s still gone.

There’s more to the story.  My husband struggles with anxiety a lot.  Like my shoulder pain, it has become more and more distinct and debilitating.  He has resisted going to the small group because he’s anxious about having to go to work the next day.  My reply is that we all have to go to work the next day, but that doesn’t change anything.  He wasn’t going to go this week because of it.

There were guest missionaries there from Albania.  They had become Christians through Barry.  As Brian was praying for me, the missionary wife was singing quietly over the whole while.  I thought it was pretty, but didn’t make much of it.  Wayne left as soon as prayer was over.  We drove separately so he could do that, our compromise.  When I got home, he said:  “I wished everyone would have stopped talking when that lady sang.  It was like a wave of peace washed over me.  I wanted her to sing over me for my anxiety.”

I asked why he didn’t stay then, but his anxiety had gotten the best of him.  But he called Barry’s the next day, in an act of faith, and asked if he could come and have them pray for his anxiety.  This was even bigger than my shoulder!  This anxiety has gripped him all of his life.

So Wayne went, and Barry and his wife and the missionaries prayed over him.  The wife sang.  Another miracle happened this week.  When Wayne left, it was like a load was taken off of him.  Peace that he hasn’t known swept over him.

I am not saying that this is a once and for all deal, because fear keeps knocking.  As we processed that freedom, we talked about how Jesus is the way and the truth–Satan is a liar.  Jesus is all about faith–Satan is all about fear.  James 4:7 says to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  I say he must flee from us when we take authority in Jesus’ name.  I rebuke you fear and anxiety in Jesus’ name.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


What in the world is going on?

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Thus, Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  Acts 4:32-37

binoculars-1209011__340.jpgYou don’t have to watch the current events on the news long to realize that we are on the brink of something.  If you dig deeper, you will see people predicting that our financial bubble is soon to burst.  In fact, this time it won’t be a downturn in just the United States, but a global meltdown.  I have heard the ‘Chicken Littles’ come and go, but now there are so many of them from so many directions that it is getting hard to ignore.  Read Ron Edwards’ blog to get his stats about many current related topics: Living Eternal Now

This is a quote about world-drought from Hackett Financial Advisors,

“Things are happening that haven’t happened in a long time,” said Hackett. “It’s just the beginning.  We have data that goes back to the 1600s and 1800s from ice core samples, tree rings, and from actually written testimony of the kind of problems that they had,” said Hackett.  “We are not doomist and gloomist, that’s not our modus operandi,” he said. “But the world we are heading into is a world of food scarcity and local famines.  “It’s not going to be pleasant. It’s going to be a very difficult time. We’re going to have to come up with new ways of growing food in this more difficult environment.”

And then there is the political climate of hate, coming from both sides.  It is like a pressure cooker that is soon to pop the lid off.  I am old enough to remember pre-Watergate years when things were not divisive and there could be a sense of unity regardless of who had the majority in the House.

All of this is to say what echoes in the back of many peoples’ minds, including my own: “Are we headed into the End Times?”  This is a very real question.  Like, what would you do if there was a global financial collapse and money wasn’t any good anymore?  Further, all of your savings that you banked on for retirement and security suddenly vanished?  Or, what if drought really began to take over and food resources become so scarce that grocery stores didn’t have shelves of food anymore?  And hyper inflation took over, driving prices through the roof?

My husband and I have made some new friends recently that are real life ‘Dooms Day Preppers.’  This other couple are not Christians, so they aren’t operating from the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.  We have to remind ourselves of the promises of Scripture, like in Matthew 6:31-32 where it says, Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

We have had many good opportunities to share about Jesus with them.  I believe that they are in our lives for a specific reason.  They are challenging us to get ready for a coming physical crisis by storing up food and supplies.  We are wanting to communicate what it means to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust does not corrupt and where thieves do not steal.  My prayer is that one day soon they will join the family.

As my husband and I look at what is going on currently, we can’t blow off our prepper friends.  Their take is that if the economy collapses and our money is no good, then stored up food and dry goods are worth more than a whole bunch of paper bills.  They foresee that the drought will cause issues with the non drought areas because people will migrate here and take over our resources.  They are also convinced that an EMP is a credible threat (electro magnetic pulse that would wipe out all computers and electronic devices).  We know that nothing that will happen that doesn’t come in and out of God’s hands.

However, that doesn’t negate Acts 4 and the kind of community that we may have to become.  My view of the End Times is a PreWrath Framework.  That means that I don’t believe that believers will be raptured up before any specific tribulation will come.  I take Scripture at face value, which means that in Matthew 24 for instance, when Jesus gave a  timeline, He was telling us something.  That timeline includes wars, famines and earthquakes, tribulation and false prophets, lawlessness increasing, and the love of many growing cold.  That’s just the beginning of the birth pangs.

But then there is the specific chronology of events starting in vs. 15: The Abomination of Desolation (in the Temple in Jerusalem), THEN the Great Tribulation (Satan’s wrath cf Rev. 6:12), and then the return of Christ in the clouds, along with the gathering of His elect from the four winds.

I have written a novel that puts a story line to this framework, The Gathering.  The link is there.  It is on Lulu.com, just in case you want a little summer reading.  My conclusion is that we must live in a community of believers much like the Acts believers did.  In order to do that, we must have things to share–hard goods.  My admonishment is this: you might want to ask yourself the same question: What in the world is going on?  And then do something.  Pray and ask God to tell you what you need to prepare.  It might be radical.

What we are doing is kind of radical.  We aren’t spending our money on a summer vacation.  It’s going into canning and other resources that will we will use in the future if the cost of things spiral out of control.  We have an eye on how this can be used to share with others.