Freedom From Self

imagesIf you’re a believer and have been in church for very long, you’ve probably heard quite a few messages over the years on sin and how Jesus came to set us free from it. You’ve no doubt heard a lot about repentance and how we should turn from our sin. And you’ve likely been taught certain “rules” whether stated directly or indirectly, that good Christians don’t do certain things. These days, in our politically correct culture, these messages may not be as popular as they once were, but they are still out there, nonetheless. While parts of these messages are true, I believe they are missing the point entirely.

The older I get, the more I have seen in myself and others, and in the world in general, the more I am convinced that what Jesus came to set us free from was ourselves. It is not so much the things we do that are wrong, as far as God is concerned. What matters more to Him are the reasons we do those things. The motives of our heart. If we are really honest with ourselves, we would all readily admit we are selfish; I know I am. We may do good to, and for, others, but deep down in our innermost being, we usually put ourselves and our needs first. Some, who are constantly doing for others to the point of neglecting their own legitimate needs, should put themselves first sometimes. That’s not the situation I’m referring to here, however.

Not only are we selfish when it comes to what we want, but we’re also very opinionated, thinking our way is always right. Our ideas are the best. Our assessments (judgments) of others are always correct. Our interpretation of Scripture is always accurate. What we do is more important than what anyone else does. This even manifests in the Church. If we’re a missionary in the field, we think everyone is called to that. If we are an evangelist, we try to coerce others to do the same. If we work with kids, we think everyone should work with kids. I’m sure you get my point. We even try to shame others into feeling that their calling isn’t as holy, or anointed, or sacred, or whatever… I’m not pointing any fingers here, I know I’ve done the same.

Jesus wants to free us from self. From always looking out for ourselves, defending ourselves, justifying ourselves, taking more than we give, thinking more of ourselves than we do others. Living that way, I’m discovering, is the worst kind of bondage because we tend to be much harder on ourselves than even the enemy is. Can anyone relate, or is it just me? He wants us to see things through His eyes, not our own narrow-mindedness or petty, shallow thinking. Too often we choose our opinion over His, our rationale over His wisdom, our political persuasion over His Lordship, our beliefs over His Word. We magnify the devil by choosing fear over faith, worry over contentment, anger over peace.

This is why Paul said, “I die daily.” (1 Cor. 15:31) Freedom from self means making different choices every day than those we are used to making, by His grace. It means giving Him room to lead us in our thoughts, words, and actions. It really all boils down to one thing – loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; loving Him more than we love ourselves. Of course, we can’t do this apart from His grace, but we have His Spirit within, continually supplying all that we need.

Healing Ministry 2.0

garden-waterfall-designWhen the Lord called me out of full-time ministry into starting a full-time home based business last year, I have to admit, I had LOTS of questions. I prayed for months, seeking His wisdom, guidance, and direction before stepping out into another totally new venture (first time I started a ministry over 10 years ago, now first time starting a business). Over those months, He began to show me that what I am now doing, sharing my love of Young Living essential oils and products is just another facet of the healing ministry I had been doing the past 10+ years. I call it Healing Ministry 2.0.

During Jesus’ short earthly ministry, He never healed anyone the exact same way twice. This makes perfect sense if you consider that everyone is different, everyone’s background and current issues are unique, and everyone responds in various ways. This was true in ministry, and it is true in the ministry/business I am now doing. God obviously loves variety, just take a look at human beings, animals, and everything else He made! In this new journey over the past two years, I have discovered more of the amazing wonder of our God through His creation, specifically, plant life.

Just one aspect of this is seen in the symbiotic relationship between plants and humans. To make it simple to understand, plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen; humans take in oxygen and emit carbon dioxide. Plant life is vital to sustaining human life, and vice versa. God created plants and trees and made a Garden for Adam and Eve to live in. In two places Scripture says, “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Ezek. 47:12; Rev. 22:2) Essential oils are the life-blood of plants, trees, flowers, seeds, etc. Just as our blood carries nutrients, oxygen, and all the life-giving substances our bodies need to thrive, so plants do the same through the oils found within them. The various properties and chemical constituents that benefit plant life can often do the same for us. This is the reason essential oils, in their purest form, are very powerful for supporting every system and organ of our bodies.

As I continued to learn about the potency and benefits of using essential oils as opposed to synthetic drugs, supplements, and other medications, and experienced their effects for myself and my family, I was more convinced that this was the direction in which God was leading me. He continued to give me one confirmation after another until I was finally at peace. My excitement began to grow as I started helping others discover the life-changing differences me and my family have enjoyed. In addition, I’ve been learning about the serious health dangers caused by the many toxin and chemical laden products we typically use every day – things like laundry detergent, fabric softener, bath, body, hair, and personal care products, make-up, scented candles and air fresheners, household cleaning products, not to mention the pesticides found on our produce, and chemical, artificial ingredients in processed foods.

Should we realistically expect God to heal us physically when we use products that have been proven to cause disease, disorders, and other potentially life-threatening health issues? It is our responsibility to properly care for our bodies, as temples of the Holy Spirit. Our country is already largely overweight due to poor eating habits and passive lifestyles. I’m not condemning anyone, but just stating the facts. Although we are one of the most medically and scientifically advanced nations, yet we continue to get sicker and it is not just affecting adults, but children, and even babies, as well. We must realize that something is terribly wrong with this picture. When a television ad goes on and on about the potential side-effects of a drug more than they list the benefits, it should get our attention. (I’m not advocating that we totally ditch traditional medicine nor the help of doctors or other health care professionals.) We may not be able to get rid of all the toxins and chemicals we consume, but we can get rid of more than we may realize.

I have reached a point where I am no longer willing to live a life of passivity where my health and the health of my family is concerned. I have suffered many health issues over the years, and enough is enough. If you feel the same way, I would love to hear from you, and would love even more to share with you some better options, and what has worked for us. Begin the journey to the abundant life Jesus died to give us. Healing is His will for all of us, but we must do our part; He has already paid the price.

Truth is a Refuge

He will rescue you from the trap of the hunter and from the plague of calamities; He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge: His truth is a shield and protection. – Psalm 91:3-4

Psalm 91 is a favorite psalm of many believers. In it, God has given us a powerful picture oftruth the protection that is ours when we take refuge in Him. This doesn’t mean we are exempt from suffering, however. More important than just physical safety, God is able to keep our soul from eternal destruction. Nothing can snatch us from His hand. Nothing can separate us from His love. He will deliver us from the schemes of the enemy when we put our trust in Him.

The enemy, who prowls around hunting for his next victim, cannot find me when I am hidden in the secret place of the Most High. I am also safe from the plague of calamities – circumstances that test, hinder, and try to defeat me; that steal my peace and joy. I am oblivious to them when I am hidden in Him, for He is all I see and am aware of. When trials come, keeping my eyes fixed on Him instead of my problems will enable me to stay at peace.

He will rescue me though it may often appear as if I will be overtaken. He will come and snatch me out before I am overcome. He is my God, in whom I trust. I must trust Him no matter what is going on around me or how things may appear. He will rescue me, for that is His promise and He cannot lie.

Pinion is another word for wing or feather. His wings and feathers cover me. His truth is a shield and protection; a covering and refuge. His truth is His Word, His name, His nature, and His character, for He is the truth. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus. Truth is my covering, my shield and protection; it is my refuge where I am safe. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are kept safe.

When I live, walk, and speak truth I have nothing to fear from God or from man, for the truth sets me free. The enemy has no place in me when I walk in agreement with God, so I don’t fear what he could do to me either. Truth is the belt that holds all the other parts of the armor of God in place. To live in truth is to live in Him, and to live in Him is to live in truth. There is no darkness or deception in Him.

 

The Intentionality of God

Charlene S Hughes

Sunbeams in forestGod is intentional in all that He does or allows. According to the dictionary, intention means, “an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result; the end or object intended; purpose.” In other words, nothing is ever accidental with God. He has specific purposes in mind for His children. He made this clear in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  He always intends to accomplish His plans.

As a Father, His intentions toward us are always in our very best interest. His greatest purpose for each one of us is to conform us into the image of His Son. Everything that He does or allows to touch us is unto that end. What’s more is that He is totally committed to…

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3 Reforms Needed in the Church

2944813f856f876da02e15e0a5f5083bIn these tumultuous days in which we live, it seems the importance of having good character is becoming a thing of the past. Character is defined as, “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing; qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.” Integrity adds another nuance to character: “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” Perhaps the reason character seems to be lacking is because there are fewer people who are whole. It’s pretty obvious that our culture is broken in many ways; families and relationships are broken because people are broken. Brokenness is the result of sin in our lives.

Those of us who are Jesus followers should be the most whole people on the planet. After all, the unblemished, unbroken One lives within us. But even within the Church, many are broken as well. Something is missing. After over 2,000 years of Church history, we aren’t really much different from the rest of the world. There’s too many things to list in this short article that are still rampant in the Church. Sexual immorality, addictions, deception, abuse, divorce, rebellion, depression are just the tip of the iceberg. Why is this? What are we doing wrong? Undoubtedly, books could be written on this topic, but a few things seem obvious.

  1. Wounded leaders produce wounded followers. This is a big one. You reproduce what’s inside you. Too many leaders have unhealed issues and are ministering out of their woundedness. Education and training are not enough to lead God’s people well. Leaders must be committed to wholeness, first in themselves. Then they can minister more effectively to their congregations, leading them into wholeness.
  2. Church structure is unbiblical. Another big one. When one or two people are the main leaders everyone suffers. The leaders burn out; the leaders and people become codependent. Immaturity is fostered in the body. People are not taught, equipped or challenged to grow up apart from a balanced leadership team of five-fold ministers. Leaders should be raised up continually so the body expands, matures, and unifies, to further spread the kingdom, not the Church. This means going out into the culture to reform it according to kingdom principles. Many churches focus on their own needs, their own issues and ministering continually to one another. This is not what Jesus taught or modeled with His disciples.
  3. Incomplete theology. I would venture to say that the majority of teaching in the Church is based on head knowledge, not experiential knowledge. Those who have been taught “about God” rather than led into experiencing Him personally, are easily dissuaded when faced with objections, opposition, or persecution. By contrast, those who have had genuine God encounters will generally stand firm and immovable in their faith when shakings occur. Rather than learning the art and discipline of meditating in the Word, wrestling in prayer, and waiting on God, most believers are spoon fed each week, relying on their pastors to “hear from God.” Instead of persevering in prayer, many give up and decide it must not have been “God’s will,” or that God has abandoned or is angry with them. In our instantaneous gratification society, we often take matters into our own hands rather than waiting for God to move.

There are undoubtedly many other reasons for our current condition. But these three keys, I believe, are vital to reforming the Church so that we can do what Jesus commanded us – to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19-20) It is time for a new wineskin, a new perspective. The old ways have not and are not working. It is time for the body to become whole; to reflect the true nature and character of Christ. It is time to be the salt and light, transformational elements in our culture. This is what it truly means when we pray, “…on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Our Destiny, God’s Purpose

heaven-on-earthGod is intentional. All that He does and all He has created has great purpose, beyond our ability to understand unless He reveals it to us. He leaves nothing to chance. Nothing is incidental, accidental, or coincidental when it comes to His ways. It is so important that we know His intentions beyond the earthly, temporal realm in which we live and relate to. His ways are manifold, or multi-faceted. He spoke to Isaiah, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Take humanity, for example. God created us for many reasons. He wanted a family. He desired relationship with us. He made us to have dominion over the earth and all the creatures. He wanted us to fill the earth with His glory, the glory we were clothed in before sin came in. We were to rule and reign as His sons and daughters over the planet. We know that the authority He had given us, we gave over to the enemy when we listened to and believed his lies. The devil mistakenly thought he had thwarted God’s purposes. Yet He still had a plan. He would come in the form of a man and win back what we had given up. He restored us to our rightful place as His governing representatives over all the world, the world He would one day return to, to set up His eternal kingdom. This was the reason for His charge to “make disciples of all nations…, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20)

His first purpose for creating us was for family and relationship. Out of that identity, His second purpose was that we would rule alongside Him. Sons and daughters ruling beside their Father, and a bride ruling with her Bridegroom. In unbroken unity, we would be working for the family business, so to speak. In order to facilitate the family business, He created the ekklesia. We usually translate this word as “church” but the two words are not synonymous. (The word church was not a Greek or Roman word, it actually came from a German word.) According to the culture of Jesus’ day, the ekklesia was a gathering, or assembly who sat at the city gates for the purpose of legislating and deciding judicial matters. It was a governing body. The ekklesia was the body of people that were given authority to rule and reign. Jesus declared that to Peter when He said, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My ekklesia and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19) 

The ekklesia was given the keys of the kingdom, the authority to decide and declare what would or would not be allowed on the earth, according to what was or was not allowed in heaven. We are to prepare the earth and the people for the King’s return to set up His kingdom here, as it is in heaven. That was the main thrust of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. That is one purpose the ekklesia was created for, but there is more. Paul told us, His intent was that now, through the ekklesia, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11) We who make up His family and governing body are to show forth His glory to all other rulers, both angels and demons, and leaders of men. 

We exercise this God-given authority mainly through prayer, agreeing with God’s plans and purposes to come forth on earth as it already is in heaven. When we pray in agreement with His will, we are assured our prayers are heard and answered. (1 John 5:14-15) We demonstrate His unparalleled, manifold wisdom by transforming our culture through our involvement and godly influence. Transformed people will transform families, cities, and nations. This is our destiny, our purpose and calling. May the Lord help us to be about our Father’s business.

 

 

Are You a Pioneer or a Settler?

Cumberland Gap 10-09 059There are basically two types of people in the Church, and in the world. Both are needed and vital to whatever sphere they operate in. The first group are pioneers; the second are settlers. Pioneers tend to be visionaries, always looking ahead, wanting to explore what is unseen and unknown. They are willing to step out, take risks, and challenge the status quo. Easily bored when not moving forward, they become restless and discontent without regular challenges. They actually thrive on challenge, the harder, the better and more exhilarating. That which seems impossible to most, thrills them and pushes them ever onward, seeking to take new territory no matter what the cost.

Pioneers are forerunners. They blaze new trails, conquer obstacles that stand in the way, and make a path for those who come behind them. They are unafraid of the unknown, totally confident in the One who is leading the way. Possessed by a passion for what could be, they are undaunted by the enemy’s attempts to stop them. Without pioneers, the Church, or whatever field they work in, would never grow or become a significant influence in the world around them. It is because of a group of bold, courageous pioneers that our nation came to be. Inventions are created, cures are discovered, and breakthroughs occur when pioneers are at the helm. They are catalysts for change, which often causes upheavals in business as usual. They will not sit back and observe as society crumbles around them. They must be at the forefront, leading the way to bring something new and fresh to that which as become stagnant and stale. Often they are misunderstood, believed to be rebellious or strong-willed because of their seeming lack of concern for tradition and the opposition from small-minded, fearful people. Others may see them as unpredictable, flighty, or even fickle.

Settlers, on the other hand, have a need to remain in one place. They see the potential around them and want to get involved to make a difference. They build and establish and are steadfast and hardworking. They will not quit until the job is done. Rather than pursuing adventure, they long to put down roots and bloom where they are planted. They are committed to the task at hand and remain faithful to see it through to the end. Because of their desire to settle down in one place, they become adept at building long-term relationships and are usually trustworthy. Keenly aware of their surroundings and the needs of those they see regularly, they continually look for ways to improve the local culture. Thus, they are great at gathering resources and manpower to make the necessary changes to benefit their local community. The dedication they possess enables them to create places where everyone thrives, dreams are realized, and generations are blessed. Like pioneers, they too, are often misunderstood. Others may see them as unwilling to change, boring, or passive. They may be labelled as fearful of taking risks, set in their ways, or immovable.

Both of these personality types are necessary and invaluable to whatever area they are involved in, be it the Church, the business arena, the government, etc. Differing perspectives are critical to the success of any endeavor. Whichever type we may be, we need to see the other as complimentary to our task, not oppositional. No one person or group has all the insight, understanding, or knowledge to complete our individual, much less corporate assignments. God designed us to need one another, learn from each other, and value what He has placed in others, that we would succeed in being and doing that which He has called us to do. May we learn to do our own part and give freedom and grace to others to do theirs that we all may benefit.