God’s Process in Reformation

images“See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  (Jeremiah 1:10)

A word the Lord has been speaking to me over the past few months is reformation. I kept hearing this in my spirit before I read that October 31st, this year, will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. To reform, in it’s most basic sense, means to form again. This brings to mind God’s words to His chosen people, Israel, as given through Jeremiah, the prophet. “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you My message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, Israel.” (Jer. 18:2-6)

Our God is in the reformation business. The point of His reforms is to restore that which is fallen to its original state. However, He goes above and beyond even that, promising that the latter state will be more glorious than the former. (See Job 42:12; Hag. 2:9; Is. 65:17; Ezek. 36:11, etc.) The new heavens and earth will be far more glorious than the Garden of Eden. The last Adam, Christ, was far above the first one. The New Testament far exceeded the Old, in terms of the revelation of God. He restores, reforms, and remakes, not because the first was a mistake or incorrect, but because the first one had fulfilled its purpose. The first served His plan in its season, but the new season required something higher and greater.

God’s commission to His servant Jeremiah was to bring reformation to nations and kingdoms. His instructions give us much needed insight into the process required for such a God-sized task. The first step required four forms of destruction: to uproot, as in pulling something up by the roots; to pluck out, and expel; to root out. To tear down, as in to be pulled or broken down, cast down, and to be broken. To destroy, meaning, to die, to perish, do away with, and to blot out. And to overthrow, which means, to throw down, to break through, to break down, to be destroyed. After this process was complete, it was time to rebuild. This was a two-step process: first, to build, meaning, to rebuild, establish, cause to continue, with the idea of permanence. And finally, to plant, such as in a garden; to fix, to establish and fasten. It is interesting and worth noting that the destruction took twice as long, and was twice as hard, as the rebuilding.

I believe this is what God is doing in our nation, and in the American Church. Events are rapidly taking place that many believe to be destructive, not realizing, perhaps, that this is just the beginning of the process of reformation. We still have a long way to go before the rebuilding can begin. In the meantime, we must keep our eyes fixed on the One who loves to make things better than they were to begin with. We must trust that He sees and knows all; nothing is hidden from Him. He always knows what is best. He knows exactly what He is doing. We must pray for our leaders, and continue to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done in our nation, in the Church, and throughout this world, as it is in heaven. This is all a part of His plan, as He has said, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Two Battles We Face in Life

saint-georgeLast week, I wrote about the basic truths, or keys, of spiritual warfare. If you didn’t see it, you can read it here. Today I want to expand upon these truths so that we can learn not only how to get free, but also, how to stay free. These are the two battles we must deal with throughout our lives – getting free from bondage, and staying free. Then we can walk in victory and the abundant life Jesus died to give us. Both battles require several things: 1) we must first recognize our need, 2) we must be willing to get help from trusted friends and/or leaders, 3) we must realize that we have to do things differently than we did before, and 4) we must be determined to persevere and not give up. Getting and staying free requires work, but if we are willing to do our part, God will always be faithful to help us in our weakness.

In my twenty plus years of ministering to people in bondage, I have often seen those who come for ministry expecting a quick fix. Our human nature, or flesh, wants to get out of pain as quickly and easily as possible. Unfortunately, God didn’t set it up to work that way. He works through process, and we must learn what that process looks like and how to cooperate with Him in it. The whole point of the process is to conform us into the image of Christ. That is always His will for everyone. This is why it’s impossible to by pass or cut short the process; He simply won’t allow it. He is fully committed to completing the good work He began in us. Therefore, it would be to our benefit to learn to cooperate with Him.

The greatest challenge in these battles, I have found, both in my own life, and in the lives of those I’ve ministered to, is changing the way we think. If we don’t learn to do this, we will never get free. Jesus’ predominant message when He walked the earth was “Repent!” To repent means, to change the way we think. Most, if not all of our problems, stem from this one issue. We do not think the way that God thinks. (Is. 55:8-9) We are not even close! To truly repent, we must learn to renew our minds.

There are three areas we need to renew our minds in – 1) our thoughts about God, 2) our thoughts about ourselves, and 3) our thoughts about others. This goes along with our ability, (by God’s grace), to fulfill the greatest commandment – to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. When we renew our minds to the truth of who God is, we will see ourselves as He sees us, and we will see others as He sees them. This must happen before we can love anyone. To know God is to love Him; to love God, is to love ourselves the way that He does, which then enables us to love others as He does.

Think about how different the Church would be if we all had our minds renewed! This is precisely why the enemy’s greatest weapon against us is deception. For when our thinking is distorted by lies, we are unable to love God, ourselves, or anyone else. Love is our greatest weapon;  without love, as Paul said, we are nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) Having an unrenewed mind is like looking through a window that is severely cracked. Everything on the outside looks skewed and awry; we cannot see anything clearly. This is our hardest and most important battle, and God won’t do it for us. If we are willing to put forth the effort, He will certainly help us!

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to renew the mind is simple, but it does require time, effort, and patience. First, we must recognize and break agreement with the lies that we have believed, and receive the truth, as God reveals them to us. We must meditate on the truths every day for 30 – 60 days, until they become real in our heart, not just in our head. Head knowledge will never change us; it must be experiential, revelation knowledge that Holy Spirit reveals to our spirit. This comes from daily meditation. Meditation is simply thinking about, pondering, contemplating, “chewing on,” praying over, repeating the truths until they become second nature to us. It is similar to a cow chewing on its cud. The cow eats, regurgitates, and chews its food several times before finally digesting it. We must do this mentally, which requires disciplining and training our minds, literally.

We can do this as part of our quiet time each day, picking a Scripture verse, and journaling our thoughts and what God reveals to us. I won’t go into detail here about how to do that, but if you want to know more, you can read an article I wrote about this here. Learning to renew our minds is one part of the battle to get free. It is also a life-long habit we must practice to win the battle to stay free. It is God’s command to us (Rom. 12:2), and He never commands us to do anything He doesn’t give us the grace to do. We can do all things through His strength!

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Testing

722ef7429d5bef55b02631684d622cdcA while back, I wrote an article about the different seasons of life. If you didn’t read it, you can here. This morning, my thoughts led me to ponder these seasons a little more deeply. One in particular seemed fitting for the particular season I have been in – the season of testing. As is often the case, a conversation with a friend I haven’t talked to in a while provided the inspiration and hence, this article. After recounting the various trials I’ve been through in the past several months – having major surgery to remove my left hip and the long, painful road to recovery, learning to deal with the difficulties of being in a wheelchair most of the time, losing my dad suddenly and unexpectedly, plus the loss of my husband’s job – she asked me, “How is your faith holding up?”

There is no greater test of our faith than when we are in the midst of the fire. In fact, I have come to believe that you don’t really know where your faith level is at UNTIL it is being tested. Anyone can have faith when things are going smoothly, according to our plans. However, God wants much more from us than being comfortable, while claiming to have great faith. When God was commending Job to the devil, even the devil understood this when he said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have You not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:9-11) And we all know what happened next; Job was put to the test. 

So is God mean, or angry, does He enjoy watching us suffer? Every saint mentioned in the Bible underwent some form of testing, some more severe than others. It’s understandable why many who don’t believe use this as an excuse. “If God is good, then why do innocent people suffer?” they ask. I admit to wondering this at times, too. Especially when it comes to children. It is true that much suffering is a result of living in a fallen world, or because of our poor choices. But that’s not the point of this article. Why does God allow His beloved children, His chosen ones to go through such trials and testings, even when they have faithfully served Him? I have wrestled with this question for many years.

To understand God’s ways in our seasons of testing requires that we step back from the moment and take a good, hard look at the big picture. In other words, we must have an eternal perspective. As finite humans, we get confused when we focus in on our little world with all of its difficulties – the things that get in the way of us having or doing what we want. Financial lack, sickness, job losses, relational issues, etc., often consume us and turn our focus inward. We seek the quickest, easiest way to get out of the pain. When that doesn’t work, we cry, moan, and groan. We are not unlike the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness.

But God in His wisdom, allows what He could easily prevent in His power. He does this because He sees and knows the big picture, and what He is trying to accomplish in us. James had this revelation when he wrote, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the TESTING OF YOUR FAITH produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, emphasis mine) There it is – the testing of your faith. Faith must be tested. Testing produces perseverance, endurance, patience. These characteristics, found within the nature of God, will bring us to maturity and perfection. In other words, God’s purpose in allowing seasons of testing is to make us more like Him. If we fail to understand that and resist the process, we only prolong the trials and suffering. Israel’s eleven day journey became forty years of wandering. 

God is not mean, angry, or vengeful. He does not enjoy seeing His people suffer. But like a good parent, He knows that we don’t know what is best for us. He understands how to raise us up into mature sons and daughters. Granted, it’s a painful process, as any parent would testify. It often hurts to discipline our children because we feel their pain. Even more so, does our heavenly Father. Though it may seem harsh at times, His goodness is seen as He walks with us through the fire, and doesn’t prolong it beyond what is absolutely necessary to accomplish His perfect will in us. Instead of praying to get out of the test, may He give us grace to cooperate with Him so we may pass the tests and move on to maturity!

 

The Dilemma of Unanswered Prayer

If you’ve been a believer in Jesus for very long, no doubt you’ve experienced thewoman-praying dilemma of unanswered prayer. I believe no one is exempt from it. Yet many turn away from God because of it. In my daily conversations with Him, the topic often comes up. I’m always the one that brings it up, of course. I have been walking through a season of unanswered prayer that has lasted many years. Those of you who know me, know I have had ongoing health issues for over twenty years. I have had more people pray for me than I can possibly remember – even people that are well known for their healing anointing on an international level.

As an intercessor, I strongly believe in the power of prayer. I direct a healing ministry that has seen many, many healings and miracles over the past eight years. I have personally prayed for people and seen them get healed. I even pray over myself every day. I believe it is God’s will for everyone to be healed (1 Peter 2:24), just as it is His will for everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But everyone doesn’t get saved, and likewise, not everyone gets healed. There are many reasons for this, too many to mention in this short article.

So how do we respond in the face of unanswered prayers? Here is how I choose to respond:

1. I believe God’s Word is true and He cannot lie. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. I refuse to give up believing and pressing in for my healing.

2. I believe God promises to work all things together for my good. (Rom. 8:28) Though the enemy is the one who brings sickness and infirmity, God’s plans for me are bigger and greater than any plans the enemy may have. He has already brought much good through this trial – I am growing in my faith; I have greater compassion for the sick and suffering; I have drawn closer to God because of my great need for Him; I am growing in patience; and these are just a few!

3. When other believers say or imply things like, “You don’t have enough faith,” or, “You must have sin in your life,” (which are things we are often taught and can, at times, be true) I have had the opportunity to exercise grace and forgiveness, and to go before the Lord to see if what they are saying is true. Twenty years gives one abundant time to do a lot of soul searching!

4. I am learning the art of waiting on God. For more on what this means, see my article, The Crucible of Waiting Upon God. God’s ways and timing are not like ours. He is more interested in the process than in the final destination. For Him, it is always about relationship, not our personal comfort. He is always good, so when He allows pain to touch our lives, His purposes for doing so are always redemptive. When we don’t understand His ways, we can always trust His nature and character.

5. While I am in this season of waiting, I am learning the importance of taking better care of my body. It’s sad, but so often true, that we take our good health for granted, until we lose it. I am finding natural alternatives to help heal and restore my body that have helped tremendously. I am also learning to eat healthier. There is so much sickness that can be prevented just by changing our diets.

6. I continue to pray for others to be healed. It doesn’t make sense that He wouldn’t want us to have what He has already paid for. As I see many of these prayers answered, it stirs my faith anew to continue to stand firm and believe for my own.

7. I often think about the testimony I will be able to share when my healing is complete. I believe that testimony will encourage and empower many others who have been waiting for years to receive their own healing. What a glorious day that will be!

If you’re walking through a season of unanswered prayer, how are you choosing to respond?

A Matter of Perspective

Perspective is everything. It is the lens through which you see and interpret life. Thoughtree it is greatly shaped by your unique upbringing, it is possible to change, and usually does change in many ways as you grow older. It has the power to dictate, to a large degree, the outcome of your life. In spite of its ability to influence your choices (often unknowingly), you are capable of determining what your perspective will be.

Here’s a simple example: do you remember visiting someone’s house as a child and thinking the house was really big, only to re-visit the same house as an adult, and being surprised to find it was much smaller than you remembered? The house didn’t change, it is exactly the same. You changed physically, from a small child to an adult, and therefore, your perspective (of the house) changed completely. Some people see a glass filled halfway with liquid as half-full, while others see it as half-empty. Both are a matter of perspective.

Most of us, when faced with adversity, would see it as a problem. But what if instead, we saw it as an opportunity? Instead of stressing out, worrying, getting angry, etc., we looked to see how God was going to show up for us, meet our need, or even change our heart? Rather than our first thought being, “Oh no! Now what am I going to do?” it was, “Oh wow! I can’t wait to see how God is going to turn this around for good!” I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately…why do we almost always see things from a negative perspective rather than a positive one? I often catch myself doing this more often than I’d like to admit, and it has been bothering me for some time now.

It seems when God is pointing His finger at something that needs changing in you, you start seeing it in almost everyone around you first. And it really gets on your nerves. Have you ever noticed that, or is it just me? I believe those of us who are Jesus followers should be the most hopeful, joyful, people on the planet because He is Hope, and He is Joy. And more than anything, I want to be like Him. The older I get, the more I realize how desperately I need Him to change me – and my perspective. I’m so very thankful that He not only is able, but willing, because that is His desire as well. He wants children that are a reflection of His nature, and He absolutely LOVES taking us through the process! And, I never thought I would say this, but I’m learning to love it, too!

In what ways has God changed your perspective? In what ways would you like Him to? I would love to hear your comments!

Insights from Song of Solomon – The Kisses of God’s Word

Studying Song of Solomon gives tremendous insight into God’s ways and the process He listening eartakes us through to bring us to maturity. Understanding the process can help us to cooperate with Him, rather than resist as Israel did during their forty year wilderness wanderings. By His grace, we can embrace the process and accelerate our growth rather than prolong it, and who doesn’t want that?

The first thing we see is the maiden’s heart, awakened to her need and desire for more of God’s love. A hunger has stirred within her to hear His Word, His voice, and her response is to ask – “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” (1:2) Jesus said that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matt. 12:34) God’s heart is full of love, so His mouth speaks words of love and affirmation to His beloved children. His words are powerful, able to create something from nothing, and have the power to transform our hearts and lives.

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Isaiah spoke God’s words saying, “Give ear and come to Me; listen, that you may live.” We were created in such a way that we MUST hear the voice of God. Our lives depend on it! Jesus said His sheep knew His voice and didn’t listen to the voice of a stranger. (John 10:27) In order to hear Him, we must make time and be willing to listen.

God created us for a love relationship, which includes sharing the deepest things of the heart. Any relationship requires communication in order to work – who would want to be involved with someone who only talked all the time and never listened? He has given us everything we need in order to communicate with Him, even though we can’t see Him – He put His Spirit within us to help us, to remind us of what He has said, and to guide us into all truth. (John 14:16, 26) We all have the same amount of time every day, and we always make time for the things that are important to us. Like the Shulamite maiden, we too can ask Him to speak to us, as long as we are willing to listen.

What is your greatest struggle in listening to God? Comment below.