Sunday, October 28, 2012

America's Current Civil War

I had a revelation that others likely also have come into, that the United States really is in a civil war right now. That regardless of who wins the election, the country is bitterly divided and is at the tipping point. In the 1800's, civil war broke out in the physical sense primarily because one faction of the country said, "We will no longer submit to the rule that has formerly been in place." One of the key components of their rebellion was the insistence on being allowed to operate in the business of slavery. 

Today, a growing faction of Americans are saying, "How dare anyone tell us we must submit to a Higher Authority. We won't even regard the higher law and uniform code of morality that has kept order in civilizations for centuries. We're going to continue in doing what we want, whenever we want." And the outcome is again slavery. Except this time, it is they themselves that are unwittingly insisting upon their own bondage. 

May we as the church awake to the gravity and depravity of our day, and step into our designated regiments to take up all the spiritual arms in our arsenal - love, righteousness, faith-infused prayer, worship, and truth (speaking it without fear of being labeled a hater or judgmental, because it's guaranteed to happen). Unless we realize and begin to act out of our place of God-given authority, we have no future in this nation.

Monday, October 15, 2012

At the White House

Saturday afternoon after two-and-a-half hours in the car, we made our way down Constitution Ave, past street vendors selling various Obama 2012 tee-shirts and trendy moms pushing equally trendy babies in trendy strollers. A prime parking spot had opened up almost immediately after we'd prayed for one. We were on the White House Ellipse - and we were worshiping!

A friend of a friend told me about David's Tent DC, and that is how I came to discover that a group from Texas had a vision to worship for 40 days and 40 nights in the nation's capital - worship without ceasing in the manner of David bringing back the Ark of the Covenant - leading up to the election. It was only after they resolved to do this that they found out that the first day of worship coincided with Yom Kippur.

As they began to put the details of doing this into place, they pondered "How cool would it be to get the White House Ellipse as a venue for worship?" But, being a Christian organization they figured they'd likely be regulated to somewhere outside the District of Columbia. When Parks and Recreation issued them their permit, without even being asked, it was for the White House Ellipse!

The band was phenomenal but the number of worshipers was sparse compared to what I'd expected for a beautiful Saturday. Probably only about a hundred people sat in and around the tents, although new ones kept coming in while others left. It struck me that the multitudes were thronging the fence in the distance, snapping shots of the White House, while we were thronging the White Throne. And while our numbers were significantly smaller, the passage from 2 Kings sprang to mind, when Elisha prayed over his servant, "O LORD, open his eyes that he may see!" and suddenly the servant saw that the place was full of horses and chariots of fire all around him. I was very conscious of Heaven taking note of our sacrifice, and of the angels and saints in chorus with us.

With the stark sense of our forefathers all around, it was very special to be there - offering up praise to the Holy One of Israel, with a direct view (if we opened our eyes) to the Executive Mansion. Worship is warfare. I'm inspired to continue it now that I'm back at home, day and night!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why do the Nations Rage?

We've been stirred to host prayer for the nation in our home Sunday evenings, every week at least through the election.  We held the first meeting last Sunday, September 8 - only days before hell broke loose throughout parts of the earth.  What God said to us and how He led us surprised us a bit. That is, it wasn’t our agenda, our most comfortable requests that we left holding in our hands. Several of us were convicted of bitterness towards the current administration, and were reminded that we are Obama’s and Romney’s priests (1 Peter 2:9). That we are to pray for them, and that God desires to see them both in fellowship and true knowledge of Him.

One dear brother, as he was praying, began to pray passionately and prophetically in the spirit. He said, “Why do the nations rage, against the LORD and His Anointed? Why do the people devise a vain thing?” (Psalm 2). And he prayed out in response to this, “The people will tolerate violence, they’ll tolerate Islam, and they will even tolerate broken families and destitution…just don’t try to say that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, that He is the Only Way to God. ‘We will not tolerate that!’” 

This was sobering, because this is the current state of the nation. Or at least, the vocal majority. And yet there is a response in Psalm 2, and this same brother picked it up and answered. “But He who is enthroned in Heaven laughs at them.”  This laugh of God’s is not out of humor or pleasantry; it is a laugh that mocks and discredits His enemy - the enemy at work in the minds of men, enticing them to stubborn refusal to stop clinging to hatred, unbelief, and rebellion and think that we can override His will, His timeline, and most of all, His lovingkindness. 

Personally, I have fallen into the trap many times of donning the armor of the flesh and fighting the battle we're entrenched in with weapons of the world: anger, protests, boycotts, and political activism. But these weapons ultimately don't take down strongholds - they merely rearrange the problems. I'm once again heartened to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) and remember that we can do something about the desperate times in which we live - and even shape history.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Getting stoned

No, this blog has nothing to do with the Doobie Brothers or any illicit inhaling. My title instead refers to Acts chapter 7 and Stephen's defense before the Council, after false accusations were brought against him of blasphemy.

Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr, and a man described as "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" and also "full of grace."  He was performing signs and wonders, scripture says. He wasn't a troublemaker, nor was he a criminal. Rather, he was this really decent guy assigned to help take care of society's vulnerable and overlooked (Acts 6); he was walking in the Spirit and demonstrating the supernatural as he brought God's kingdom to earth.

For this, Stephen becomes Target Numero Uno for the kingdom of darkness.  Under false accusations, he's dragged before the Council.  Asked to testify, Stephen offers a lucid, thorough recant of their own history and presents a reasonable argument for Jesus as the Messiah for which the world had waited.  He also points out that their stubbornness has prevented them from seeing what is in their own scriptures.

Ouch. Getting a bunch of these thrown at you would be 
a pretty lousy way to go.
The reaction of the Council is uncontrollable rage.  When Stephen testifies that He sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, the group literally covers their ears and rushes him, gnashing their teeth.  They drive him out of the city and stone him to death.

This vivid illustration in Acts of the Council stuffing their ears, gnashing their teeth, and rushing at Stephen with stones is such a picture to me of our current spiritual climate in the United States.  The stones until now have been largely figurative and have been thrown where opinions are offered that are not in compliance with the world and the way it thinks, as dictated by the Ruler of the World (John 12:31).  Personally, I have been "stoned" on many a forum in which a simple, gentle observation was given that contained a Christian worldview, even if Christ wasn't mentioned.  It is amazing the outburst of unrestricted rage and profanity that an innocent remark can draw when it is has a root in Biblical truth.

Non-Christians who go against the philosophy of this world, however, are also finding themselves under persecution.  Remember what happened when someone affiliated with the Smithsonian dared to mention the words "intelligent design in an article? Perhaps you've read of the backlash churning on blogs towards the steadily growing number of scientists who have formed the group "Dissent from Darwin."  (More likely, you've never heard of this group before today because it's simply not being reported).

The message of the cross 
draws and it repels.  
No one is wholly 
indifferent to it.
The truth is charged.  Christ is a polarizing figure. It's amazing how all the other comments immediately flock to respond to the Christian one, like ferrous little pieces drawn irresistibly to a magnet. Personally, I do not at all equate what I have been subjected to in the form of abusive language to what our brothers and sisters in most of the rest of the world have had to undergo.  For to me, this is simple testing, and an opportunity to bear scorn for the sake of Christ - what a blessing!

The reminder to myself is to follow the example of Stephen in the rest of his conduct. To be at rest and in a state of calm when denounced and falsely accused.  To be able even to smile, knowing that those who are lashing out are subject to Christ as King. Stephen, according to Acts 6:15, had a "face like an angel" according to those who saw him.  When the Council turned on him in rage, he didn't look back at them, but rather gazed intently into Heaven (v. 55) .  And when these children of wrath were in the very act of murdering Stephen, Stephen cried out to Christ not to hold their sins against them (v. 60).

Stephen is such an example, because Stephen imitated Christ himself.  In no way do I want to be riled or dismayed by attacks made on me and my character over communication, nor do I want to take the bait in social media when non-Christian loved ones and acquaintances post ideas that are preposterous or passive aggressive.  I want always to be reminded that it is my privilege to pray for them, and that I am co-heirs with Christ.  In this, we rule in the midst of our enemies (Ps 110:2)!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shades of Gray

At the park, one of the moms in our group suggested that we give ourselves a break from talking about our husbands and kids all the time and instead read a book and then discuss it.  Her book suggestion was the monstrously bestselling series that, as she explained to another woman unfamiliar with it, is essentially "porn for housewives."

The mom who proposed this is involved with the local youth group at her church and is a professing Christian.

Her remark brought to mind the temple precincts and its outer court, where Gentiles (non-Jews) were allowed to go.  They could walk within this outer court so long as they showed deference,  but were permitted to go no further.  Under threat of death by a sign that was posted in Latin and in Greek, any non-Jew who sought to go beyond this would have himself to blame for his execution.  Beyond the outer court was the Court of the Women, then the Court of the Israelites, and finally the Holy of Holies.

The boundaries between these courts were significant because they distinguished God's people as set apart.  (It was for the alleged crime of bringing Gentiles into the temple that Paul was nearly beaten to death in  Acts 21:27-32).  Paul states to the church in Ephesus that Christ's death "brought down the dividing wall" between the Jews and Gentiles, bringing near those who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise" (Ephesians 2:12,14).

The temple setup is a picture to me of so many Christians who go no further than the Outer Court.  Because they are not set apart in their own minds and in their actions, they do not know real fellowship with Christ.  They prefer to stay on the outskirts, mixing with the world and simultaneously enjoying only the fringe knowledge of Him, never accessing the Holy of Holies for which His blood paid such a price.

There are choices one must make that are not always defined by scripture as sin.  Yet neither are they holy. One could say that these "shades of gray" are worldliness.  Worldliness prevents believers from going further with Him and keeps them from deriving true satisfaction.  The deadliness of worldly behavior is that it's not always immediately recognizable as transgressing, but rather somewhere along the way a line has been blurred.

In actuality, there are no gray areas for a believer.  As the first letter of John says it, "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him" (1 John 2:27).

So the question for the choices of life for Christians, including what to read, what to watch, what to wear, is not whether it is permissible, but whether it will keep us shuffling around in the Outer Court, separated from the surpassing splendor of the Holy of Holies.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My people perish from lack of knowledge

As mentioned in my last blog, roughly a year ago marks the date when I was healed of insomnia - instantly, miraculously.  All I knew at the time was that a woman who had a gut-wrenching testimony and apparently a gift of healing had prayed over me; then there was a sensation like a physical release, and she said "there it is."  I never saw or spoke with Marlene Klepees again, but I left that little chapel, first and only time I was there, with the realization that I was going to sleep beautifully that night.  And for the first time in months, I did, and without a prescription sleep aid.

At that time, I knew almost nothing about healing, about the supernatural works of God, nor was I even familiar with the term "deliverance" as anything other than a Burt Reynolds movie.  But I was hungry for the things of God, and the LORD sent Bible teachers into my life at exactly the right time.  For the first time ever, it was pointed out to me by one Bible teacher that Jesus spent His time on earth doing four primary things: preaching, teaching, healing, and delivering people.  This same teacher pointed out that Jesus spent as much time casting out demons and healing as he did teaching and preaching - but when was the last time your church  taught on deliverance or miraculous healing?  When was the last time you witnessed someone being set free from an evil spirit, or watched a leg suddenly grow two inches longer and thereby correct a back problem?

Personally, I'd never seen or so much as heard a message on either of these subjects - comprising no less than half the ministry of Jesus - in all my years of church, retreats, prayer meetings, camps, and Bible studies.  At first I was a little wary.  However, the teaching of the Bible teachers God sent me was solid in every other area, and the one pastor was a close friend of our youth pastor.  As far as I knew, neither were in the business of peddling snake oil or swinging from the chandeliers, and both were men of deep integrity.

Understanding that the Greek word translated by most versions of the Bible as "demon-possessed" actually is better translated "demonized" was the first step in realizing that a Christian can be demonized.  That is, a Christian can suffer depression and oppression caused by evil spirits, although a believer cannot be possessed by a demon. Christians are inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

Further learning that we human beings, Christians included, can open doors to the spirit realm, intentionally or not, and thereby give the enemy legal access to areas of our lives (Eph. 4:26), was another key to realizing what had happened to me.  My insomnia had started not from anything that a physician could cure or explain, but by lying in bed, fearful.  We are instructed to be anxious for nothing, and I had taken on anxiety. Repeatedly doing this opened up a door for a "spirit of fear," which in turn meant that I was harassed mercilessly for several months, going entire nights without ever falling asleep.

I could go on at length about all that I have since learned about healing, demonization, and deliverance, but I will summarize by sharing that most of the church, like me, "is perishing for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6).  Knowledge in this area especially.  For whatever reasons pastors, priests, and Bible teachers fail to teach on this subject and administer in it, the church continues to walk around hobbled.  Depression, mental illness, and so many other forms of sickness are works of the enemy that the church should realize are under His feet (Eph. 1:22).  I am not at all against the use of counselors, physicians, and medication.  However, the church needs to start "fixing our eyes on what is unseen" (2 Cor. 4:18) and realize that many of these ailments that rock our lives have spiritual roots, and only Christ can set us free from them.  We should not be walking around in this handicapped state of perpetual incompleteness!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Celebrating a year of sleep

It was one year ago this week that I was delivered from the horror of insomnia.  The insomnia had begun in February 2011 when I began to fear that I wouldn't get a good night's sleep in the evenings when I went to bed.  My second child had just been born, and my first was only 16 months old and waking up in the middle of the night with teething and ear pain.  The combination of having a newborn plus a toddler waking up throughout the night made for a rough several weeks of it.  Even though they weren't making any noise, I'd like awake at night listening - expecting - to hear something, and I'd be paralyzed with tension, imagining it'd be another awful night.

The sleeplessness was such that I'd have trouble falling asleep, but even when I'd eventually drift off, I'd wake up suddenly.  This would happen over and over and over, so that entire nights I'd never sleep at all.  Or, I might sleep for two hours, only to be wide awake again.  It was like someone was jabbing at me again and again.

I read every article imaginable on insomnia and on sleep, consulted two physicians, and tried every remedy out there.  Whether melatonin, tylenol pm, eating a banana, not eating anything, exercise, relaxation techniques, over the counter sleep aids, herbal name it, I tried it.  Nothing worked.  I would have one horrendous night after another, then face a whole day of caring for two babies under the age of two.

Finally, as loathe as I was to do it, in May 2011 I realized that I had to go on a prescription sleeping pill.  While it didn't work perfectly, the sleep medication certainly helped to knock me out at night.  At the beach last year, my dad expressed his concern with the prescription.

"The longer you're on it, the harder it will be to get off," he'd warned.

"I know.  But I have to sleep," I'd said.

Each time I'd tried to forego taking the sleeping pill, not only did I have a disastrous night of insomnia, I'd also get a severe migraine headache the next day.  The prognosis was bleak.

In June of last year, the wife of one of my husband's employees out of the blue invited me to an evening service that her church was hosting to hear a guest speaker, Marlene Klepees, talk of her incredible life of being born with cerebral palsy, orphaned, then paralyzed after a series of seizures damaged her spinal cord.  This was not the end of the story, though  - God gave her a vision of herself riding a bicycle and told her the date she'd be healed - and she was.  Now, she walks and talks as well as anyone else.

Listening to Marlene testify of God's faithfulness and goodness left me a puddle of tears the entire time.  After she was finished, she gave an altar call.  I was up there in a flash.

When Marlene prayed for me, she prophetically named how the sleeplessness began as a cycle several months before, and when she ministered to me, there was a sensation like a release - or a tremor - over my body.

That night, I knew I was healed.  Standing in my bathroom, debating whether or not to throw away the whole bottle of sleeping pills as an act of faith, I heard the LORD speak.  "That was the spirit of fear that left you," He said.  It was the clearest that I had ever heard the voice of God.

Since that night, one year ago, I have been free of insomnia.  I have slept better than I have since I was a little kid.  I fall asleep more quickly and am able to go to bed earlier, which is an added blessing.  What a joy it was when I went to see my doctor for a follow-up visit with a testimony that I no longer needed the sleeping medication!  Now, I no longer take sleep for granted, but realize that it is a sweet gift of God.  Praise the LORD for His goodness and for His miraculous healing!