Where will you be in 500 years?

Esther's Petition

Sometimes I’m taken aback by the reaction of Christians to the death of another believer.  I don’t mean the normal sense of loss, grief, sadness and sympathy for the family and friends –  those things I understand very, very well.

Those reactions are part of our human nature.  We lose our mother, father, husband, child, friend, and we feel the dreadfully empty hole where they used to be.

No, what I’m talking about is the other regret they sometimes express, that now that person won’t have a chance to see another beautiful sunset, or see their grandchildren all grown up and successful, or experience the grandeur of a vacation in some spectacular place, even spiritual ones in a place like Israel.

As if those things are the very best God ever created and now those opportunities are gone forever.

As if death was the end of our lives.

If we…

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Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

Are you called to be an Intercessor?

I’m praying that the Lord will call more and more believers to be Intercessors in these times… if you’re one of those, how will you know it?

Esther's Petition

Several weeks ago I asked our Intercessory Prayer Sunday School class, How many of you feel called to be an Intercessor? Some raised their hands, some didn’t.

One member said, I don’t have that gift, and I said, It’s not a gift, it’s a calling. I didn’t expand on that statement then but I’d like to do it now, with another question:

How do you know if you’re called to be an Intercessor?

In the beginning of my adventures with Jesus (1972) and the Holy Spirit (1974) I didn’t start out to be an Intercessor, or even much of a pray-er. I started out to be just a student of the Bible. And then to be a teacher of the Bible. And then to be a better student, and a better teacher.

Along the way I began to make prayer lists. After all, I figured that was what every good…

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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)

I have all sufficiency

“I’ve decided. Today I accept it. Today I believe what he said, and today I choose to live it.”

Esther's Petition

Abundance“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:8 NKJV)

That is my confession.

  • God – the creator and sustainer of me and everything else that exists
  • is able – He has the power, present-tense (and He’s not just able, He is willing)
  • to make all grace – not just a little but all favor, every sort of gift you can imagine
  • abound – extend his favor to the very fullest of full, way more than needed
  • toward me – toward my self, mind, body, soul and spirit, whatever concerns me
  • that I – in order that, with the purpose, direction, goal, aim, end result
  • always – every moment of every day and night, 24/7, 365
  • having – actually possessing here and now, not someday in heaven but…

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What Paul did while weak

“The Lord can’t confirm what isn’t being preached.”

Esther's Petition

When you’re weak, then are you strong like Paul was?

To authenticate his ministry, Paul laid out his credentials in a letter to the Corinthians. In doing so, he reported an event that had happened 14 years earlier, when he was being harassed by a messenger (angel) of Satan. He had asked the Lord three times to get rid of it for him.

In II Cor. 12 (Kenneth S. Wuest Expanded New Testament) Paul writes:

“He said, My grace is enough for you, for power is moment by moment coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness. Therefore, most gladly will I the rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of the Christ [like the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies of the Tent of Meeting] may take up its residence in me [working within me and giving me help].

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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.)