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.)

Already an interesting year

Some new readers may have missed the following post, originally published on December 25, 2015:

2016 – what will it be like?

Praying before sleep one night last week, I asked the Lord about next year. “What will it be like? Worse than 2015? More disasters, chaos, tragedies? More wars?”

“Appointments met,” he said. “Promises kept. Prophecies fulfilled. A year of kairos moments.”

Kairos – the appointed time, in due season, the fullness of time, at a fixed and definite time, for a certain time only.

It’s going to be an interesting year.

—————————————————————-

2016 has already been an interesting year. I’ve met many new people online, read many interesting articles and blog posts, had the privilege of praying with many people in person, on the phone or online, and seeing God at work everywhere. Almost every day…

Thinking about that, the Lord reminded me of an occasion some weeks ago that was way MORE than just interesting.

A routine appointment with my cardiologist was scheduled for 1:30 on a Friday afternoon. As usual, I arrived a few minutes early and checked in with the receptionist. She looked a little “frowny,” so I asked how she was doing.

“Not too good,” she said. “I have a terrible stomach ache. I couldn’t even eat my lunch.”

So, I reached my hand across the counter, she took it, and looking straight into her eyes I smiled and said, “Stomach, be healed in Jesus’ name.”

She thanked me and I turned into the waiting room, found an empty chair and sat down. The only other patient nearby looked over at me and spoke hello with a big smile on his face. He had seen my interaction with the ailing receptionist.

Dropping my purse onto the floor, I leaned back to get comfortable when I heard my name called. I’d been there five minutes! That never happens… usually there is a lengthy wait time.

In a little room off the main hall, a very overweight medical technician took my weight and checked my blood pressure, pronouncing both of them excellent.

“Wish I could say that,” she commented. “I can’t seem to lose weight and I know my blood pressure’s too high.”

“Would you like to know how I do that?” I asked her. “Sure,” she said.

And so I told her about the power of the Holy Spirit to stick with a healthier lifestyle. She said she and her husband were both Christians and he was doing okay, but she had a hard time eating right.

“Would you like me to pray for you?” When she said yes I held out my hand and she took it. With a smile I simply prayed, “Father, please give my sister the desire and the ability to take better care of her health, especially with what she eats, in Jesus’ name.”

Thanking me, she walked me straight to an examining room – which never happens! Usually patients go into an intermediate waiting room first, but this time we skipped right past it.

The young cardiologist and his physician’s assistant came in within a very few minutes – which never happens either! He read through my chart, listened to my heart and lungs and said, “You’re doing fine, just keep doing what you’re doing and come back in six months or so.”

As he prepared to leave the room, I asked him, “Can I pray for you?” (I already knew he was a believer from previous appointments.)

“Oh yes, I’d love for you to pray for me,” he answered, then put his arm around my shoulder and bowed his head.

I asked the Lord to bless him, to meet every need for him, his family, his staff and his practice, and especially to bless his relationship with the Lord. He hugged me, thanked me and turned to leave the room.

His physician’s assistant still stood there. She looked a bit glum, so I asked, “Would you like me to pray for you too?”

She teared up and began to cry. “Oh yes, please,” she said. “I’ve been having a really hard time lately and I need somebody to pray for me.”

I didn’t ask her for any details. I just took her hand, she bowed her head, and I asked the Lord to touch her life, to make Himself very present to her, and to let her know how very much God loves her and wants to help her.

I have no idea what words I said specifically. I just let the Holy Spirit use me to speak directly to her heart. She hugged me and thanked me, I got dressed and went back out to the receptionist’s desk.

The receptionist was smiling and cheerful as I asked, “How’s your stomach?”

“It quit hurting the second you prayed!” she exclaimed. She told me how much she appreciated the fact that I cared enough to pray for her. I smiled and said “Be blessed!”

Walking to my car, I glanced at my watch. I had been in the doctor’s office for about thirty minutes – that never happens!

Since that afternoon, I’ve had multiple opportunities to lay hands on the sick and see the Lord heal them – including laryngitis that instantly vanished, and a broken foot that was instantly healed, confirmed the next day with x-rays.

There have been many chances to see the Lord at work, to pray with and for people with a wide variety of problems, some serious – like the young father of four whose truck and his wife’s car both broke down at the same time. The Lord marvelously provided a replacement vehicle and truck repairs at very little cost.

Some of those chances have been at church, some in grocery stores, some in other businesses, and some online. Jesus went about doing good. He told us to do what he had been doing. A disciple isn’t just someone who reads about another person – his master – and tries to do what they did. A disciple is someone in training to be LIKE his master.

In our case, that’s Jesus. Being his disciple is doing what he did, how he did it. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what he says, with the dunamis power he provides to do it. If we’re not doing what Jesus did, how are we to do the “greater works than these?”

2016 is indeed going to be an interesting year. It already has been!

Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”

John 14:12, “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.”

Who killed… ?

SpeakTheWordOnlyThe idea that God uses Satan as his lap-dog – or hit man – is an old and persistent idea. But it ignores Jesus’s plain commands, his delegating his own creative authority to the disciples and his command for them to pass that message on. (Matthew 28:18-20)

That idea prevents people from praying in faith. More believers, faithful church-goers, are getting sick and staying sick. More will die. And more will leave their church, seeking a gospel of power that actually works. Do I have to become one of those? Some folks probably hope that I do, because what I say below doesn’t jive with their experience.

If you don’t know what God’s will is, you can’t pray specifically in accordance with I John 5:14-15.  Such as, healing is the children’s bread. The stripes on Jesus’ back were for our healing. Jehovah God named himself, I am the Lord that heals you. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy – Jesus came to give life – life to the full!

Jesus commanded the disciples to obey, and to teach us to obey (Matthew 28:18-20), whatever he had commanded them. He did it, and he showed them how to do it. And he commanded them – and us – to heal the sick.

When did he rescind that? Where did he add “except for John Doe, or Jane Doe” ? When did he add, “except in Florence, SC” ?

To obey His wishes, more is needed than just knowing what God’s will is – it requires speaking out, declaring, commanding God’s wishes just as Jesus would do.

Not wondering in doubt, not hoping in fear, because those prayers are double-minded (maybe he will, maybe he won’t) and they get nothing. They dishonor God.

Instead, it requires speaking in faith, knowing that the power that created the universe inhabits you. The Word of God inhabits you, your heart, your mind, and your mouth. Jesus needs your mouth, your tongue, to speak out his creative power today.

Sadly, Jesus himself couldn’t do miracles in his home town of Nazareth because of people’s unbelief. Today, ignorance or unbelief in what God’s wishes / will are, coupled with unbelief in the authority that was delegated from Him to us, will stop the power of God from accomplishing what He plainly desires –what he paid a very high price for.

How did Jesus combat that? By teaching, and teaching. And more teaching.

Many miracles are happening in the world today, people healed from deadly diseases, the dead raised, even missing eyes or limbs restored. Why? Because ignorance and/or unbelief aren’t putting up an automatic barricade.

Here’s a helpful teaching article from Andrew Wommack Ministries:

Our Authority Releases God’s Power

There are a number of keys to seeing the miraculous power of God manifest on a consistent basis. One of the least understood, and therefore seldom practiced, is the fact that healing is under the authority of the believer. God has already provided His healing power and placed it on the inside of every born-again believer. It is up to us to release it. Understanding and using our authority is the key to seeing miracles happen.

Look at how Peter and John ministered healing to the lame man in Acts 3:1-8:

“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

Notice that Peter didn’t pray for this man. He also didn’t ask God to heal him. He said, “Such as I have give I thee.” This didn’t mean that Peter was the source of this healing. Notice what Peter said in Acts 3:12,

“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?”

It was God’s power that healed this man, but that power was under Peter’s authority. Peter went on to say in verse 16 that it was faith in the name of Jesus that had wrought this miracle. But Peter didn’t ask God to heal this man. He believed the Lord had already done His part and had placed that power within him. Now it was Peter’s responsibility to release that power, and that’s just what he did.

The Lord never told us to pray for the sick in the sense that we ask Him to heal them. He told us to heal the sick. There is a BIG difference between the two. It has to do with operating in the authority He has already given us. Look at these commands the Lord gave His disciples.

“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.”(Luke 9:1-2)

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” (Matt. 10:1)

“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:7-8)

Jesus told us to heal the sick not pray for the sick. What a radical statement! This will get you kicked out of most churches today, but these are the exact words of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is precisely why more people don’t see the miraculous results they’re praying for. They aren’t taking their authority and commanding God’s power; they’re passively asking God to do what He told them to do.

I know this goes contrary to popular Christian doctrine. We’re constantly told that it’s not us but God who is the Healer, and I agree with that totally. But, I also believe that God has placed His healing power under our authority, and it is up to us to release it. If we don’t take our authority and become commanders instead of beggars, God’s power will not be released. There needs to be a radical renewing of our thinking on this issue.

A good friend of mine, Dave Duell, held a meeting in Africa many years ago. It was one of his first times he saw miracles such as the blind and deaf healed. The people were so excited that they were mobbing him as he walked through the streets, trying to touch him so they could be healed. His first thought was influenced by this religious thinking I’m trying to change. He thought, They shouldn’t be looking to me. I’m not the healer; it is Jesus.

He was about to stop them when the Lord spoke to him. The Lord said, “Dave, do you remember when I rode that donkey into Jerusalem, and all the people put their garments and palm branches in the way and cried, ‘Hosanna’? What would you have thought if the donkey had spoken up and said, ‘It’s not me! It’s not me’? That would only have revealed the donkey’s arrogance. No one was praising the donkey; they were praising the One that was riding the donkey.”

When Dave recognized the people weren’t trying to touch him but the One he was carrying, he let them touch him all they wanted and people were healed. This is exactly what happened with the first-century disciples. Peter had people line the streets so that if only his shadow would touch them, they would be healed (Acts. 5:15).

Look at an amazing passage of Scripture in Isaiah 45:11.

“Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.”

What a powerful scripture! What does the Lord mean when He tells us to command Him? Well, He certainly doesn’t mean we are mightier and more powerful than Him and can order Him around. He means, concerning the things He has already done, He wants us to take our authority and command His power.

It’s like electricity. The power company generates the power and delivers it to your house. It’s not your power, but it’s under your control. You don’t call the power company and ask them to turn the lights on. No! They won’t do that. They generate the power, but it’s under your command. You simply flip the switch on the wall and command the power to work.

Does this mean you are the power source? Certainly not! You can put a light bulb in your mouth, and it will never come on. You aren’t the power source, but you are the one in control of what that power does. You can plead with the power company all you want, but they won’t flip the switch for you. You have to assume your authority and acknowledge the power is under your command.

That’s what the Lord was speaking of. He has already healed everyone who will ever be healed. He did it two thousand years ago when He bore our stripes on His back. Then He deposited His resurrection power inside every believer (Eph. 1:19-20). He’s done His part, and now it is up to us to do ours.

We need to take the authority He has given us and become commanders instead of beggars. This is a powerful truth that works, and it’s the reason we see so many miraculous healings. We aren’t just praying for the sick; we are healing them in Jesus’ name.

http://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/authority_releases/
Also see:
Killing Sacred Cows
http://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/sacred_cows/
How to Receive a Miracle – Part 2
http://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/receive_miracle2/

Walking on water – what was the point?

jesus-walking-on-water-benjamin-mcphersonConsidering the assignment God gave to Peter and the other apostles, it was imperative that they know and understand some things. First and foremost: Who is Jesus?

Background, Matthew 14

When Jesus heard about the death of John the Baptist he went across the Sea of Galilee, headed to a private place. However, the needy crowds went ahead of him by foot and met him when he landed. Moved with compassion, he healed their sick and multiplied food to feed over 5000 of them.

Key event: Walking on the water

Later in the day Jesus compelled the disciples to head back across the lake while he dismissed the crowd. Afterwards he finally went up into the mountain alone to pray. Rowing against the wind and buffeted by unruly waves, the disciples had gone some distance when Jesus walked out to them on the lake. When the disciples saw him they were afraid, fearing it was a ghost.

Jesus told the frightened men “Take courage, don’t be afraid, It is I.” Peter called out, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Now that strikes me as a strange thing to say. Suppose it wasn’t Jesus? Suppose some other entity (maybe the ghost they were afraid of) had said, Come. Would Peter have still stepped out of the boat? Obviously he didn’t automatically recognize that it was Jesus, either by sight or by the sound of his voice…

In any case, Jesus said Come and Peter stepped out of the boat. Walking on the waves he headed to Jesus – until he saw what the wind was doing to the waves. Even more afraid, he began to sink, although with boisterous waves he was probably beginning to sink from the very first step. Up, and down, rising and sinking. Rising and sinking.

“Lord, save me!” He screamed, so Jesus grabbed his hand and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Once they were inside the boat, the wind died down. Hmmm. That would have been even more frightening than seeing a ghost. Storm one moment, no storm the next – and those in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Key question: Who do you say that I am?

Up until that time, who exactly did they think Jesus was? With everything Jesus had done, including just feeding that crowd of over 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, who did they think he was?

Even before that he had healed a man’s withered hand. He had healed the paralyzed man. He had cast out demons and healed everyone who was sick. He had spent a lot of time teaching them, explaining the parables, describing what was going to happen next.

He had performed miracles in their own towns. He had sent them out to do the same things he had been doing, and they did (see Chapter. 10). By now they should have known full well who he was, shouldn’t they? But they didn’t.

In Matthew 16 (and Mark 8) Jesus asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” They answered, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.

“But who do YOU say that I am?” Jesus asked them. Peter answered the question, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

What did “the Christ” mean to Peter? According to Jewish tradition and teachings, it meant a natural human being, a man chosen and anointed by God to be the final king of Israel, one who would fulfill the prophesies about the coming Messiah. (See Judaism 01: Mashiach The Messiah http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)

But if that man didn’t fulfill every one of those prophesies, that proved he wasn’t the true Messiah. The Christ would overthrow Rome, ruling and reigning on his own throne as the Son of David. He would be a warrior king, victorious in battle, majestic head of the kingdom of God on earth. “Messiah” did NOT mean a supernatural human being, God himself come in the flesh.

Peter was certain Jesus was the Christ, as he understood the Christ to be. After all, Jesus had been doing the same things prophets Elijah and Elisha had done, so he must surely be the Messiah. He was God’s son, like David was God’s son. Like many mighty warriors and prophets of old, all sons of the Living God.

But then Jesus began to explain about having to be killed and resurrected from the dead. That was NOT in the traditions. NOT in the definitions, the descriptions, the actions of the prophesied Messiah. The real Messiah would certainly not be killed, he would conquer and reign here and now – not die and have to be resurrected from the dead.

No wonder Peter rebuked Jesus. Despite Jesus’ teachings that the kingdom of God would be spiritual and not physical, Peter didn’t understand. The disciples still didn’t know exactly who Jesus was. And so Jesus sharply corrected Peter in front of everyone else. That must have made an indelible impression.

Key event:  The Transfiguration

Soon afterward Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain. His appearance was completely changed, transfigured right in front of them as Moses and Elijah stepped out of heaven to talk with Jesus about his coming death (see Luke Chapter 9).

Peter, James and John were terrified. Not surprising at all! But Peter had to interrupt that conversation – “Let’s make booths for you, and Moses, and Elijah!” he exclaimed.

This time, Jesus didn’t correct Peter; God the Father himself spoke. He made it absolutely clear to them who Jesus is. “This is my beloved Son,” he explained. “Hear him!” (Mark 9:7) Not a suggestion, that was a command. HEAR him. Pay attention to him. Perceive the meaning of what he says. Believe him.

Surely now they realized exactly who Jesus was. Surely now they understood about the kingdom. Right?

Perhaps not. If they had, Peter wouldn’t have attempted a rescue mission. (See  https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/peter-fishing-industry-businessman/

The rest of them wouldn’t have fled for their lives and hidden from Roman soldiers and the Sanhedrin. They wouldn’t have doubted the women who first saw the risen Jesus.

They didn’t truly comprehend until after they saw him for themselves, after the Holy Spirit was poured out and they themselves were inhabited by Creator God.

Sometimes I think the church at large today is too much like the pre-resurrection Peter. Still needing more proof. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is more than willing to provide it.

Portals are opening

PortholeSpaceWhile I was watching a DVD one morning several years ago, the Lord spoke to me. “What is a portal?” He said. I began to think about that. Portal. Hmmm. I first visualized a porthole on a ship.

On board the Logos 2 I had a cabin in the bow of the ship, quayside. No porthole, though; it had a window to the deck. Well, the window was a portal. I continued to think.

A portal is an opening. Perhaps just a crack. I once lived in an old plantation house where you could see the ground through cracks in the floor. Those cracks were portals.

A portal could be a doorway between similar environments. Like from the dining room into the kitchen. It could be a doorway between slightly dissimilar environments, like from a hot New York street into an air-conditioned office building.

Or a doorway between completely different environments, like the hatch on the space shuttle leading to outer space. It could be a doorway between the natural and supernatural…

Jacob saw such a portal. Tired from traveling, he chose a place out in the open to sleep. In the night he had a remarkable dream. He saw angels ascending and descending through an open portal. And he recognized it! “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” God spoke to him and gave him a tremendous promise. (Genesis 28:10-17)

Peter, James and John also saw a supernatural portal. Jesus took them with him into a high mountain. Suddenly they saw Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah, brilliant in appearance and looking quite different from normal humans! The disciples were terrified. Then God spoke directly to them out of a cloud, “This is my beloved Son; hear him.” (Mark 9:1-9)

The apostle John saw a supernatural portal. The entire book of Revelation describes what he saw! I have sometimes wondered if heaven and earth don’t actually occupy the same space, just on different wavelengths. Then when God wants humans to see something supernatural, he just alters the physics of existence at that place. Well, it’s a theory.

I had gotten that far in my thinking about portals when the Lord spoke again. “I am opening many portals in the world.” Oh, God! That hit me like a jolt of electricity. I couldn’t think any more. I couldn’t even pray. Write it, He said. So I wrote it. That was July 9, 2013…

Since that day I have been on watch for indications of those portals, reading and viewing news stories from around the world. Looking for peculiarly unexplainable, unprecedented occurrences.

Observing signs and symptoms of portals through which some things are trickling, some things are drifting, some things are pouring – supernatural influences for good and for evil. I see more, and more, and more of them every week.

Whose example are you following?

ExamplePowerOfGodJesus told the disciples to follow him, do what he had been doing, and teach others to do the same things. They did.

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20 NIV)

The apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers (imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (I Cor. 11:1 KJV)

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (I Cor. 2:4-5 NIV)

“… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Rom. 15:19 NIV)

Demonstration of God’s power = signs and miracles. Without that, the gospel has not been fully proclaimed. You may be following the wrong example.

What I believe and why

(Reprinted from March 6, 2011.)

John 10:10. Jesus said it.

I made a decision many years ago to believe the Bible, accept it as God’s truth, and base my existence on its veracity and dependability. I accepted Jesus as savior and manager (Lord) of my life, studied what he did here on earth and how he did it. What he said, to whom, and on what occasions. Instructions he gave.

These days I am re-studying the Gospel of John. It’s a fascinating book. Recently I read a statement made by someone that Jesus never claimed to be God so why did Christians think he was? That person obviously never read John’s gospel where Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, declaring it to followers and detractors alike.

I take Jesus at his word, and these days especially John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Who is they? Verse 9 tells us. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Saved is from the Greek word “sozo,” meaning healed, rescued, kept safe, made whole… a very positive word.

Jesus said he was the gate for the sheep. The sheep are “they.” I’m one of his sheep so I’m included in “they.”

I know full well that human beings have a vicious enemy. He hates all humans but especially believers. After all, if he can wipe out one Christian, he can potentially wipe out many others who might have come to Christ through their testimony.

His specific goals are listed by Jesus in this verse:

(1) Steal — your belongings. Home, car, money or peace of mind. Marriage, children. Health. Reputation. Job, savings or retirement plan. He will use economic depression, natural disaster, fire, flood, earthquake, whatever he can.

(2) Kill — you, your family and friends. With whatever weapon he can use. Cancer. Heart disease. Accidents. War. Famine. Murder. Suicide.

(3) Destroy — anything he couldn’t steal or kill. Especially your faith. Listening to his doubt and fear, gossip, rumors and uncertainty, erodes your self-confidence. He’ll try to nullify your testimony. It’s hard to witness when your mind is full of fear.

The rest of verse 10 tells us that Jesus is proactive. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Not just life, but full life. God-life. Not depressed, not defeated. Overflowing! Abundant!

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus didn’t warn us about the enemy so we could worry when he attacks or blame God for the attacks, but so we could stomp the enemy in Jesus’ name. Defeat him. Destroy his works as Jesus did. (See Acts 10:38). Believe Jesus. Worship Jesus. Obey Jesus. Quote Jesus!

John 14: 12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these, because I am going to the father.” Well, what had Jesus been doing?

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11) Miracles, is what he had been doing. Healing the sick.

Some well-meaning Christians think those particular verses don’t apply today or at least don’t apply to everyone today. If that was true, salvation – from the same Greek word, sozo – isn’t available today, either. But it does, and they do.

 

Real revival takes guts

This week I have been re-watching some Bay of the Holy Spirit revival videos. In this one from February 2011, Nathan Morris is at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, preaching about revival and the fire of the Holy Spirit, praying for students and others.

As I watch, I realize that many American Christians are spiritual cowards (including some in my own church). They claim they want revival. But what they really want is a nice, tidy, respectable, pretty meeting. They don’t really want revival God’s way.

When God demonstrates his power, your preconceived ideas about revival will need revising. Watch this video and then answer the question — Want Revival? Bay of the Holy Spirit revival at Christ for the Nations, Dallas, TX

Author of faith

StaircaseStoneI was praying before going to sleep one night, and complaining a little too. I want to see answers, not just questions, I was saying to the Lord. Not just prayer requests. Answers to all the prayers. Prayers from my heart that I really thought were put in my heart by you to start with.

After a moment or two along those lines, I apologized and asked forgiveness. Patience is not my “long suit,” although I am better at it now than in days past.

So I prayed for a few familiar things, like many similar prayers over the past months. And I prayed for myself, too, that I would have more opportunities to share Jesus and his word, his power and healing with somebody.

Are you finished? I heard the Lord say. Okay, I replied, please talk to me.

I am taking you to a new level, he said. And suddenly I saw a staircase, narrow with steep steps. It had no handrails, no bannisters, but I wasn’t afraid of climbing those stairs. It didn’t seem to go very high, but I really couldn’t see the top very well.

You will have an arm to lean on, to assist you in climbing the steps, the Lord said. You have an angel, remember him? Actually you have more than one, but you know about that one particular angel. He will offer his arm for you to hold as you ascend the stairs. You won’t feel unbalanced or have a sensation of falling, but he will be there to assist you anyway.

Wow, Lord. I thought to myself. A new level? What does that mean? But he didn’t explain it. I could almost see him smiling, sitting back with his arms crossed, waiting for me to think it out.

I looked at those stairs in my mind, recalling the fact that for many years I had a fear of heights. I wouldn’t even stand on a chair to get something off a kitchen shelf. Wouldn’t use a step-stool or a ladder. I felt unbalanced, as though I would fall, if I wasn’t standing on the ground.

I remembered the time I was riding in a car up in the mountains with my grandparents. I got down on the floorboards of the back seat, my face down and my eyes squeezed shut to avoid seeing the mountains. Just the sight of the edge of the highway made me feel as though I would fall right over, or even want to throw myself off! It was terrifying. I was maybe ten years old then.

The Lord showed me that my fear of heights wasn’t always there. As a younger child I didn’t have that fear. In the summers when Harold and I stayed with my grandparents on their farm, I could climb the chinaberry trees where we strung tobacco twine and tin cans for “telephones.” I  climbed a tall ladder to the cotton seed house, clambered to the top of the sawdust pile. None of that gave me a twinge.

One year my family went to a conference at the Blue Ridge campground where everything was up hill or down. One activity was climbing a nearby “mountain,” really a hill but to us kids it seemed pretty mountainous. I had no fear then, either. I climbed up and got good and muddy, right along with everybody else.

So what happened? Whatever caused the fear that arrived by my teenage years, I have no memory of it. The Lord said, a spirit attached itself to you. You don’t remember it but it came and from that point you had a fear of heights.

That horrible fear tormented me until the year my husband ridiculed my fear, asking how I planned to get to heaven — that hit me like a ton of bricks. I begged the Lord to deliver me from it. He did, instantly.

And last night, as I gazed at those steep stairs, there was no fear at all. I was grateful for the mini-vision, grateful for the announcement, grateful for the deliverance, grateful for the angel’s assistance, and eager to reach a higher level in the Lord’s presence.

This morning as I have been meditating about all that, several scripture passages come to mind.

Elisha was surrounded by the Syrian army, come to capture him. Elisha’s young servant was afraid but Elisha wasn’t worried. He saw the army of God surrounding him. “Fear not, they who are with us are more than they who are with them.” The servant couldn’t see God’s horses and chariots of fire until Elisha asked God to open his eyes. The mountains were full of them, God’s army right there with them, ready for battle if needed. See II Kings 6 for the whole story.

I have often felt that heaven isn’t far off, it’s all around us. Just invisible, unless God enables us to see into it as he did Elisha. The point of remembering this passage? The warriors of heaven are at hand, ready to protect, provide, do war, whatever is needed. Assist me to climb a flight of steep stairs, even.

Another scripture that came to mind is the gospel of Matthew. Matthew is the key, God told me some weeks ago. What in Matthew? I asked. Jesus used the disciples to work miracles, he said, but they didn’t recognize the significance of what they were doing. They fed the crowds. (Matthew chapters 14 and 15.) The key to miracles is obedience, the Lord said.

Jesus himself didn’t multiply loaves and fishes and then hand them out. Jesus blessed that little bit of food, then handed it to the disciples to serve the crowd. And they obeyed Jesus. Each disciple took his small supply of food and whether it seemed ridiculous to him or not, whether it would make him look foolish to the crowd or not, he obeyed. He started offering the bread and fish to hungry people. And the supply never ran out. Twelve baskets were full when they finished, maybe more than when they started. The disciples themselves did the miracle, through their obedience.

In John’s gospel (chapter 2), Jesus and the disciples attended a wedding in Cana, just a few miles from Nazareth. Jesus’ mother Mary was there, obviously a friend of that family, which may be why Jesus and the disciples were invited in the first place. Mary knew full well who Jesus was and what he was capable of. He was still under her covering, so to speak – under the protection of his physical family, his biological mother, the one who knew about his mission on earth better than anyone else.

Mary was familiar to the servants. After all, it was to her they brought news of the wine shortage. She in turn reported the news to Jesus, then gave the waiting servants a command — which was simply, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” The servants trusted Mary, thus they trusted her son. And they obeyed him. All he said to them was, fill up the pots with water. And they did, to the brim. Not partial obedience, complete obedience. Then he said, draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. And again they did. By the time it got to the master’s mouth, it was wine. The result of their obedience wasn’t just more wine (and better wine) – it was belief. The disciples believed in Jesus because of what they saw happen. Which may have been the reason for the whole event in the first place.

The key to those miracles was obedience. “Whatever he says to you, do it.” Good advice.

By the way – it wasn’t their faith that produced these miracles. The disciples didn’t expect to multiply food, they had no faith for that. The servants didn’t expect to create wine. They had no faith for that. But they were in the presence of the author and finisher of faith, whose word they obeyed.

What Paul did while weak

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].

“Wherefore I am well content in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, and in circumstances under which I am subject to extreme pressure on behalf of Christ, for when I am weak, than I am filled with ability and power.”

He had been asking God to do something God had enabled him to do for himself.

Was Paul weak? He said that he was, in his own strength. Yet in this weak condition, he was able to do “miracles of a startling, imposing, amazement-wakening character, and miracles that demonstrate God’s power.” (II Cor. 12:12, Wuest)

Phil. 4:13 (Amplified): “I (Paul) have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].”

Rom. 15:19: “… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (NIV)

Paul said he had preached the word fully, and the Lord confirmed the word preached by miracles, just as He had done for the disciples.

Mark 16:20: “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (NIV)

Here is some of what Paul and Christ’s sufficient grace accomplished, in his weak condition:

Acts 13:11 – caused the sorcerer to go blind
Acts 14:3 – miraculous signs and wonders – the Lord confirmed message by miracles
Acts 14:9-10 – healed the man lame from birth
Acts 14:19-20 – he himself was raised from the dead (presumably) after being stoned
Acts 15:12 – miracles, signs and wonders
Acts 16:19 – cast demon out of slave girl
Acts 19:11-12 – extraordinary miracles, healing by handkerchiefs and aprons, evil spirits cast out
Acts 20:9-12 – raised young man from the dead
Acts 28:8-9 – on Malta, father of Publius healed, then all the rest of the sick on the island healed
Romans 15:19 – signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit
Saw many, many people come to faith in Christ.

All this, while being opposed by many kinds of trouble:

II Cor. 11:23-29:
Worked much harder than anyone else
In prison more frequently
Flogged more severely
40 lashes minus 1, five times received from the Jews
Beaten with rods three times
Stoned once
Shipwrecked three times, a night and a day in the open sea
Danger from rivers
Danger from bandits
Danger from his own countrymen
Danger from Gentiles
Danger in the city, country and sea
Danger from false brethren
Labored and toiled without sleep
Hungry and thirsty, often without food
Cold and naked
Concern for the churches daily
Temptation to sin

Paul believed – and obeyed – what Jesus had said:

John 14:11-12: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Remember Mark 16:20? “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (NIV)

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