A little learning is a dangerous thing!

What you don’t know will kill you.

    You know?
    What do you know?
    Who do you know?
    How do you know?

Everyday phrases like those seem to abound about knowing something. But what about NOT knowing something?

“If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.” (I Cor. 8:2 NASB)

Knowledge is defined as facts, truth, information, data; skills acquired through experience. Are those things important? Sure. More important than intuition? More essential than gut feelings? Yes and no.

When authentic (God-defined), knowledge has to be the foundation of our faith, set firmly in place before intuition or gut feelings can be depended on. The Holy Spirit can and does inform, lead and guide by what we might call intuition or gut feelings, but his advice relies completely on God’s word.

If you were to look over text books from a few hundred years ago, you’d see that some “facts” aren’t always factual, scientific “truth” isn’t always correct, and certain “data” sets have changed over the years.

Hecataeus of Miletus believed the Earth was flat and surrounded by water. He ridiculed the belief that water encircled the world, yet most classicists agree he still believed the Earth was flat because of his descriptions of literal “ends” or “edges” of the Earth. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth)

Even skills acquired through experience can be changed by further experience. Those funds of knowledge have been adjusted, adapted, even edited over the years.

But God’s word is unchanging. It’s actually alive, dependable, trustworthy and faithful. (I Peter 1:25; Hebrews 4:12)

God places a high value on a certain fund of knowledge: his word. Not just bits and pieces of his word, but the whole, the complete, taken in context, meditated on, digested, lived by. Everything we need to succeed as his children is contained in it. (II Peter 1:2-8)

There’s one problem; assumptions sometimes take the place of actual knowledge of the scriptures. Partial knowledge takes the place of whole understanding. Here’s one example:

I Corinthians 2:9 says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

That verse is often quoted. It sounds really deep, really holy, really true, doesn’t it?

However, verse 10 says, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

Here’s another example:

John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That’s another frequently quoted verse, spoken by Christian and secular people alike. But it’s only the last half of a sentence.

The first half reads, “Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” Without the first half, the last half isn’t really true.

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” And Isaiah 5:13 says, “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…”

That helps explain why many believers live beneath God’s best for them. Something critically important is missing in their life.

Missing with many believers is the knowledge and understanding of who we are in Christ, and the authority we have been given through the indwelling Holy Spirit. If you don’t know you have it, you certainly won’t exercise it.

Then too, believing the wrong thing, trusting on faulty or false knowledge will also lead to not exercising the authority and power God has delegated to us. (That’s especially true in our speech.)

Some critical truths for believers to learn, to know, and to act on:

1. Greater things than Jesus did will we do.
2. As he is in the world, so are we.
3. Prayer is not begging God to do something he has told US to do, he has told us plainly to do certain things. Prayer is finding out what God wants prayed and praying that: his will.
4. Words are destructive or creative, therefore speak creatively. Speak life: command, declare, decree what God wants in the circumstances.
5. If you keep saying what you’ve got, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.
6. You have an enemy stalking you, using stealth weapons. He disguises himself, of course.
7. Those include ignorance, doubt, unbelief, half-truths; believing lies about your identity, your ability, your assignment.

Scripture references:

1. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12 KJV)

2. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17)

3 (a). “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:17)

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” (Col. 1:9)

3 (b). “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:20)

“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)

Note: The Lord can’t confirm something that isn’t preached…

4. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Prov. 18:21)

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

5. See Number 4!

6. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9)

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Cor. 2:11)

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (II Cor. 11:14)

7. “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23)

Are These the Days of Elijah?

“These are the Days of Elijah, declaring the Word of the Lord,” goes the first line of a contemporary Christian song. The song is encouraging and challenging. And thought-provoking — especially thought provoking.

That song ran around in my mind as I read several verses from the Epistle of James recently. James 5:17-18 (KJV) says, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

James was using Elijah as an example after exhorting us to pray effectual, fervent prayers that avail much. In the Wuest New Testament version, James 5:16(b) reads “A prayer of a righteous person is able to do much as it operates.” Hmmm. Do much. Operates. Prayer? Interesting.

I turned to the Old Testament, I Kings chapter 17 and 18, the account of Elijah and the rain. I wanted to see exactly what it was he prayed.

I found Elijah’s spectacular statement about rain in I Kings 17:1, but no prayer. “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” (Ahab was King of Israel and not a good guy. He was married to Jezebel, not a good guy either!)

No prayer about the rain, just that statement. I read on. I found Elijah praying in I Kings 17:20-21, but not about rain. He was praying that God would let a little dead boy’s soul come back to him. God did, of course.

In I Kings 18:36-37, Elijah and 850 fake prophets were having a competition up on Mt. Carmel to see who was the real thing and who wasn’t. All the people of Israel were gathered around the mountainside watching, just like one of our super bowls.

Elijah didn’t actually ask God to do any specific action. He just asked God to make Himself known, and also make it known that Elijah was God’s servant. God did, of course. He sent fire from heaven and burned up Elijah’s water-soaked altar and sacrifice. Then Elijah executed all those fake prophets.

Still, no prayer about rain, just a statement Elijah made to Ahab — get off the mountain, the rain’s coming. He did and it did. I kept on reading I Kings. Maybe there was more about this rain event somewhere else.

I found Elijah praying in I Kings 19:4 — actually more like whining. Jezebel was after him because all her fake prophets were dead and Elijah was having a pity party. “…take away my life…” God didn’t do what Elijah asked this time, he sent an angel to bring him a hot breakfast instead. A 40-days-worth hot breakfast at that.

Other than those verses, I did not find where Elijah prayed for anything, much less rain. He did have conversations with God. God would tell him places to go, people to see, and things to say, and Elijah would obey.

Elijah would say something was going to happen, and it happened. Elijah would command something to happen, and it happened.

I wondered, what was James talking about then, Elijah praying about rain? As far as I could tell Elijah NEVER prayed about rain. He just said something about rain — first, he said it wouldn’t, then he said it would. Both times it happened.

I discovered an interesting thing about the word that Paul used for prayer in James 5:17-18. It’s the Greek word proseuchomai, a word that can also be translated “worship.” I believe what Elijah did was worship, commune, converse with and listen to God. Elijah asked God for something, then God did it? No.

God asked Elijah for something, and then Elijah did it. He said what God told him to say; he spoke God’s word.

Our focus is wrong when we think about prayer. We think of it as our presenting a list of requests to God hoping he’ll stamp Approved, then pestering him until we get it. We plead and we beg, sometimes we pout and we doubt.

What if we worshiped, communed, conversed and listened to God instead? Let him ask us for something, then went out and did it?

Here’s one scenario that may have happened with Elijah and the rain. Elijah is worshiping God. He cries out his adoration and his passion to know God better. He fervently asks God to use him in some way and asks, “How can I be of service to you?” Then instead of saying “Amen” and going away, Elijah listens for God’s reply.

God says, “Okay, here’s what I want you to do. I want to stop it from raining for three and a half years, and stop the dew, too. Go tell Ahab. Go say my words.”

So Elijah went and told Ahab. He spoke God’s words, that there would be no rain or dew for three and a half years. Three and a half years later, Elijah was worshiping and conversing with God again and God says, “I’m going to send rain again now. Go tell Ahab. But first, get rid of all those fake prophets.”

Elijah obeyed, got rid of the fake prophets, spoke God’s words to Ahab again, Rain is coming, and it came!

Many believers ask God to do something, then turn their attention back and forth from God to the problem, waiting for Him to get off his throne and carry out their wishes. Their focus is blurry from all that twisting and turning.

We need Elijah’s focus. It’s not complicated, it’s just different from what we’re used to doing. Focus on God, worship Him, and get his instructions — then focus on the assignment and carry out his instructions.

Go places, see people, speak God’s words into the situation. And get God’s desired results. God’s desired results! Those are the kind of days of Elijah I want.

(First published in 2013.)

Dream Warning: July 2012

Over the years I’ve had a number of remarkable, prophetic dreams, some pleasant, some not so much. Some of them have been posted here on Esther’s Petition. The following is an excerpt from one posted back in July 2012… still appropriate.

I have had another of those remarkable dreams. Not one I want to repeat this time, however. It was the early morning hours of July 7, 2012, before daylight.

Standing in a small meeting room, I was speaking to several men sitting around. They were dressed in business suits and looked sort of like insurance salesmen. Or FBI agents. I was telling them that the signs were there, for people who were looking and listening. Warning signs. The signs were there, as well as information on how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

These signs were scattered around the whole world, on internet sites, blogs, news items and scientific articles, print newspapers and magazines, in many places and from many seemingly unrelated sources. For those who were paying attention, I told them, the signs were obvious and recognizable.

War is coming, and it’s coming to our country, I said.

A couple of the men glanced at each other, as if to say, we know this — but how does she know it? It didn’t seem to worry them that war was coming; it only seemed to puzzle them that I knew it.

I suddenly realized that few people in the general population were paying attention, and although these men knew what was ahead for the country, they weren’t notifying the population. They probably had no plans to do so. That’s when I woke up.

I lay there and thought about it for a few minutes. War is coming, the dream told me. And it may be soon. What kind of war? Invasion? Revolution? Riots? Small pockets of violence? Wide outbreaks? I don’t know, but the warning signs are indeed out there, and the body of Christ needs to pay attention.

Transit / transition

I knew 2019 would be a year of change; something would trigger something else, which would result in still something more.

Thinking in terms of geopolitics in the natural and spiritual realms, I didn’t realize how close-to-home that change would be, back in January.

My January 1st post titled “2019” described several prophetic words the Lord had given me: Flashpoint; critical mass; paradigm shift. My initial understanding of those words was of global events and certainly some of those have occurred. National and international news this very week point to that.

But in my personal life, all have come to pass as well, and continue. Here’s a bit of background…

Off and on for some months my daughter Shelby and I had discussed moving in together. She was living with her three grandchildren and the children’s aunt in a leased house, with an option to purchase the property. She was putting funds aside every month to be used as a down payment some day.

Unfortunately; a number of local companies had declined her request for a mortgage loan. But then one day a local bank agreed to work with her on acquiring a mortgage, provided she could increase her down payment funding somewhat.

We started praying more specifically for wisdom and guidance, and it seemed as though we both heard the same reply: it’s time.

And so I spoke to a realtor friend, listed my condominium for sale, and we began what I thought might be a lengthy process.

But it wasn’t! Within a couple of weeks the condo was sold! Two days before closing, my four cats and I moved in with Shelby and family.

It was obvious that the bank’s mortgage agreement was a sort of flashpoint for us, one that triggered a major change, leading to critical mass and a paradigm shift in both our lives. Nothing will ever be the same.

Within a few more weeks we bought the house together and are now in the process of remodeling. An older house, it needed a fair amount of updating to make it more convenient for all of us.

A more modern kitchen, extra bathroom, new closets, updated flooring, various maintenance projects and minor repairs started two days after I moved in. Can you visualize mess with a capital M? It’s been an adventure living in the house while all this is going on!

Well, my prayer assignment hasn’t changed but it has broadened significantly. Many other people have been added to my usual, normal prayer list. Other situations; more specific needs.

“2019 is going to be an interesting year, I think” is how I ended that January 1st post. It has certainly been that.

Thinking about writing this post, two other words kept coming to mind: transit, and transition. Short explanations: transit is a journey; transition is the result of that journey.

My recent transit changed my physical address; the spiritual transition is ongoing. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else the Holy Spirit has in mind for 2019!

Worship; definition?

It was a mid-week church service, sometime in the early 1980’s.

Who was preaching? I don’t remember. Who was leading the singing? I have no memory of that. Who was playing the pipe organ, the piano, the drums and guitars? I can’t recall that either. Who was present? A few relatives, a few friends, myself and many others whose names I didn’t know. I was only a visitor, not knowing what to expect.

What was happening? That I will never forget.

The main floor and the balcony of the sanctuary was filled that evening. The preliminaries had taken place – greetings, announcements, offering, followed by hymns and praise songs accompanied by enthusiastic clapping. The congregation had taken their seats. But then…

A complete hush fell over the congregation. The silence was so deep you could have heard a pin drop. Literally. It was as if a thick cloud had descended, cutting off every nuance of noise. No foot shuffling could be heard, no throat clearing, no nervous coughing, no nothing. The quality of light subtly changed from that provided by the ordinary church chandeliers to a brilliance I’d never seen before. It was hard to keep your head up or your eyes open.

After only a few moments it was also hard to stay in your seat. Many didn’t. People began to slip off the front pews and platform chairs onto the floor, out of the side pews into the aisle. No-one spoke. Nobody even seemed concerned about it. Everyone was too affected by the manifest presence of God in the room to take notice of their companions.

About half-way back on the left side of the building, my own row was too packed with people for me to move but I couldn’t raise my hands from my lap. I just basked in the soft, cherishing, comforting presence of the Lord.

What was it like? The closest I could describe was like being wrapped in a warm blanket, sitting on my mother’s lap and hugged close.

How long did it last? I never looked at my watch so I don’t know. But gradually the cloud began to lift. The people on the floor were helped back to their seats. The pastor got to his knees, then climbed to his feet holding onto the pulpit, but he couldn’t speak. Maybe he wanted to try to explain what had happened but I don’t think anyone was listening anyway.

Because the entire congregation was worshiping, telling Jesus how much they loved him, how much they adored him, how much they appreciated him. Some stood to their feet with arms raised and tears flowing down their face. Nobody wanted to leave that night and many of us lingered for a time, too awestruck to drive home yet.

As we milled around, we discovered that several miracle healings had occurred throughout the sanctuary. Nobody had laid hands on the sick or offered to pray, but as the presence and power of the Lord engulfed them the sick and hurt were made whole. Pneumonia in an elderly violin-maker – lungs completely cleared. A cracked elbow in my school teacher sister-in-law – bone completely healed.

That was my first experience of worshiping God in spirit and in truth in a church service. I’ve had similar worship experiences since then, in church buildings, convention centers, and the privacy of my own home. God instigated, they are not for his benefit, but for ours.

So, how would I define worship? Falling in love with the most precious, most beautiful, most wonderful, most worthy person that ever existed or ever will exist, knowing that he loves you back, and telling him how you feel.

(Originally published in 2015, reposted in 2017, but worth sharing again, I thought.)

Patience, perseverance and endurance

The following notes are excerpted from “How to Pray Less, Succeed More: Praying the Word of God,” a unit of Principles of Intercessory Prayer taught at Trinity EPC, 2016-18.

Do trials and temptations affect prayer? Short answer – Yes.

What is the purpose of temptations / trials? Think of it like strength training. Spiritual resistance training. Exercising our faith muscles, our trust muscles. Our prayer muscles.

The enemy uses trials and temptations to prevent us from living by faith, or from praying in faith. But God can and does use them to make us stronger, more effective.

Three particular areas of temptation can and do hinder a believer’s effectiveness to pray in faith: Patience, Perseverance, and Endurance.

Although the original Greek words have different meanings, they are sometimes used interchangeably in various translations. Lack or failure of patience, perseverance, and/or endurance can and do hinder effectiveness to pray in faith.

PATIENCE means remaining the same (keeping the same attitude), no matter what. Two main Greek words are translated patience: one means patience with people, the other means patience with circumstances.

  • Patience with people: G3114 makrothyméō, to be long-spirited, meaning to keep your temper; be longsuffering, have long patience, patiently endure mistreatment by other people (without losing your temper or striking back). There’s an interesting origin of this word — it literally means to have “long feathers” like eagles and other birds that fly or soar long distances. It is translated longsuffering in some verses, patient in others.

I Corinthians 13:4, “Charity suffereth long (has patience), and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (KJV)

I Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

  • Patience with circumstances: G5281 hypomonḗ, cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy: patient continuance during unpleasant circumstances (an attribute of God himself, available to us from the indwelling Holy Spirit):

Luke 21:19, Jesus told the disciples, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (KJV) He was referring to persecutions they would face.

Romans 15:5, Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

James 1:4, “But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Perfect here means mature, completed, finished, nothing left undone or lacking.

Hebrews 10:36, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Side notes…

What will of God is he talking about? Whatever God has given YOU to do, which includes his written word and his personal assignment for you. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, or a missionary, or a school teacher, or an electrician, or a computer technician – each believer has his own assignment, God’s will for you.

What is the promise referred to, in this verse? (10:23 and 35 also refer to a promise, as do other verses in Hebrews and other NT books.) Our eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:15, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (NIV)

In Hebrews, this promised eternal inheritance is referred to in several previous verses. The kingdom of heaven / God and all that entails. Eternity. Eternal life. Ruling and reigning with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:16-17 gives us the bedrock answer to this question: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

There are necessary steps to actually receiving the new covenant, our eternal inheritance, the promise: receiving Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit, thus being inhabited by God’s spirit. The “promise of the father” that Jesus spoke of in Luke and Acts refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Several other scriptures to meditate on: 2 Cor. 1:20 and 7:1 (promises, plural); Hebrews 8:6 (better promises); and Hebrews 12:28 (we are receiving the kingdom, present tense.)

PERSEVERANCE means continuing an action, no matter what: G4342, proskartérēsis, persistency:—perseverance. From verb proskartereō, meaning to continue steadfastly. In the New Testament, it always refers to prayer:

Romans 12:12, “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant (persevering) in prayer;”

 Colossians 4:2, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;”

Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

ENDURANCE means remaining in place, no matter what: G5278 hypoménō, remain, undergo, have fortitude, not recede or flee; absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ. This word is sometimes translated longsuffering or patient.

1 Corinthians 13:7, (Love) “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

James 1:12, “Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Note: 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  In this verse, “endure hardship” is one Greek word, G2553 kakopathéō, to undergo hardship, endure afflictions, suffer trouble. It is a combination of two words, kakos meaning evil, and patheo, meaning passions.

REMINDER:  “But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4)

Perfect — mature, completed, finished, nothing left undone or lacking, necessary to Praying Less, Succeeding More.

 

It’s not what you might think

January 25, 2019

“What is going on, Lord?” I asked him very early this morning. I had been praying about the situation in Washington (the shut-down, etc.). His response:

Things are being shaken.
The outer “chaff” is being separated; falling away so the inner core, the heart, can be revealed.

The camouflage, masks, false pretenses are being seen for what they are. They are coming off.
True character, motives and intentions are being revealed.

I am knitting together what should be together.
I am splitting apart what should be apart.
Loyalties are being shifted into proper alignment.

Some who have stood together, not because they wholly agreed but for their own personal agendas, will turn against each other.
Some who have stood apart, not because they wholly disagreed but because of misunderstanding, suspicion or fear, will join forces and strengthen each other.

This battle is not over.