Monday, December 7, 2009

Communion with the Holy Spirit.

This blog entry is about a teaching that is changing my life. It is about hearing the voice of the Lord speaking to me personally, and on a consistent basis. Now I'm aware that some of you don't even believe that this is possible. Bear with me, and ask the Lord to show you the truth. He will, if you sincerely seek Him.

The teaching I'm referring to is about communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14). I heard it first from Mike Bickle, though others talk about it as well. It is really simple. God the Holy Spirit dwells inside you; learn to talk to Him on a regular basis, and He will start talking back to you. That's when the excitement starts - God Himself talking to you by His Holy Spirit.

Mike suggested taking time in prayer
  1. Thanking the Holy Spirit, telling Him (with pauses, slowly) that you love Him. Or talk to Jesus that way - you don't have to sort out which part of the trinity you're addressing.
  2. Revelation - "show me more".
  3. Use me - "here I am"
  4. Strengthen me - in my speech, my inner man, self-discipline, my relationships, etc.
  5. Teach me. This is my personal favorite. He is my Teacher in everything on how to manage money, to help in working, etc.

These can be remembered under the acronym T-R-U-S-T. (For Mike's complete teaching notes, go to IHOP under Free Resources and find the teaching with that acronym in the title. You can also buy the audio - it's well worth it!)

So I've been starting to implement this. It probably helps that I'm listening to the webstream of the IHOP awakening every chance I get, but I've become so sensitive to the presence of the Holy Spirit in me that it is becoming normal for me to turn to Him many times daily to see what He's saying (because He's reminding me, and I asked Him to). I'm beginning to see that this is what Christian life is supposed to be like - a life lived in the power and initiative of the Holy Spirit. So much of my previous life has been dead religious works because I, and not the Lord, have initated them, and at the Judgment Seat they will burn up like so much wood, hay, and stubble. I want to live the rest of my days here on earth in the power and in dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit is only possible if we talk to Him - yet like so many Christians I never talked to Him. Indeed, I had believed the lie that I wasn't supposed to talk to Him because He's somehow this shadowy, self-effacing servant who doesn't speak up. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is God, the glorious third Person of the Trinity, in no way inferior to the Father or the Son. And He lives right inside the born-again believer, as close as our heart beat.

But, being the gentleman He is, He waits for us to initiate a friendship, and that's why most of us miss it. When you start talking to Him, He'll start talking back to you. He is eager to talk to you; He has so many things to say! So why don't you start right now and ask for His help in putting this teaching into practice?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Awakening at IHOP - Testimony Part 1

The past three weeks or so I've been tuning into the awakening webstream at almost daily. It's been a life-changing experience, to say the least.
If there is one movement that I consider solidly based on the Word of God (while giving the Holy Spirit full freedom to move), it's the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. I've been sitting under their teaching for years, and have even translated some texts of theirs into German.
How can I summarize all the Lord has been doing? People have been healed, delivered, set free from all sorts of addictions, saved, etc. There are many testimonies, and prayers for specific things the Lord wants to do. To date more than 120 people have been water-baptized, some of them spontaneously. Through the webstream you can tune in live, or else go to the archives, which are equally powerful. It seems that each day the anointing gets a little bit stronger.

Perhaps you, like me, don't experience much at first. Don't give up, press in. Strike the ground not just once or twice, but again and again, until you receive. Talk to the Lord about your frustrations if you have trouble receiving. He will show you what's been holding up the blessing and give you your heart's desire.

For years and years I longed to feel the love of God in my heart, but I had come to believe the lies of the enemy that this was not to be for me. It finally dawned on me that God never is satisfied with head knowledge (of His love or anything else) but wants us to experience Him in our hearts. Therefore the problem was one of my not being able to receive. I had put up barriers out of self-protection against hurt that I was trapped in; I had shut myself into a prison from which I couldn't escape. But Jesus could, and did, set me free when I repented and asked Him to set me free. Then, during a time of Holy Spirit ministry, I felt the love of God burning in my heart, and I heard Him say that He is pleased with me - something I never heard from my earthly father.

Even now, 36 hours later, I continue to feel His love on and in my heart. There are other things that I believe Him to do; this breakthrough was just the beginning. I will continue to contend for more and more and more and more ...

All Glory be to God and to the Lamb that was slain!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bringing good out of evil

Our God is able to bring good even out of great tragedies. As I mentioned in my other blog, last week the pastor of our small church resigned because of extramarital infidelity. A greater shock is hardly imaginable, especially for those who have been with the church much longer than I.

The thought that dismayed me the most was having to start searching for another church all over again (since the church is too small to be viable long term). Yet the Lord, within a few days, not only showed me the church He wants me to go to but also seems to have answered a prayer of mine that I've been praying literally for years.

The new church is Harvest Outreach Ministries in Mills River, which is about the same size as my previous church in Iowa, with room to grow (yeah!). Part of the church is a fledging House of Prayer patterned after IHOP in Kansas City - something I've wanted to be part of for years. All of a sudden I am practically falling over it! Of all the 150 churches in the county, not to mention all the churches in surrounding counties, the Lord seamlessly led me to the one place which has the prayer ministry I desired for so long. Now I'm praying about how to transition and keep cultivating the friendships I've built in the small church.

God is good!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dealing with forgiveness

Last night I had a sleepless night.
Just a few hours before our beloved pastor had resigned because of unspecified moral failures. From the context I gathered he has broken his marriage covenant, though the church and godly pastors are committed to working with them towards full healing and restoration.
Many emotions came up in me: anger, feelings of betrayal, worry about the future of the small church, feelings of abandonment. Being new in town, I don't know many people yet, and I've grown close especially to the women of the church in a short time. What will happen to these friendships now? Will I have to look for one of those mega churches?
In the midst of my sleeplessness I heard the Lord speak to me very clearly. "I have fully forgiven him," He said, reminding me of 1 John 1:9. "Furthermore, I have completely forgotten the sin and will not bring it up (at the Judgment Seat)." All of a sudden all my anger was gone, and it was very easy for me to forgive him - for who am I to withhold forgiveness when the Lord Himself has forgiven him? Furthermore, I marvelled how serious the Lord is about 1 John 1:9 even in the face of serious sins, despite our flippantly quoting this verse all the time without realizing its impact. This morning I was able to write an encouraging e-mail to the pastor, expressing my forgiveness and my encounter with the Lord.
Of course, the future is up in the air. I've been through more breakups of churches than I care to count. More than ever I'm learning that there is only one solid Rock: Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Resurrected and Reigning One. The church will always fail us because it is made up of fallible humans. Nevertheless, we dare not give up on one another because Jesus has commanded us to love one another, and it is only a matter of time until we need grace of others. Therefore I will follow the Lord one day at a time however He may lead next. (Prayers are very much appreciated, however!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Paul's unceasing prayer for the Colossians

Have you ever wondered WHAT we are to pray when we pray without ceasing? Here's one jewel I found in the middle of a sleepless night. It is Col. 1:9. Personalized it reads, "Lord, I ask that I may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The first part of the verse clarifies that Paul was asking this continually for the Colossians.

This verse struck me particularly because prior to that I had just read 2 Chron. 7, 12 - 22, where God appeared to Solomon in the night after the dedication of the temple and said to him, in effect, "If you keep My statues and ordinances, I will bless you, but if you turn away and serve other gods, I will uproot you from the land and destroy the temple." In the Old Testament, God's will was very clear - keep His statues and ordinances, and you will live. Break His law, and there is punishment.

In the New Testament, however, there seems to be a shift. To be sure, the moral law and the Ten Commandments never change, but as for knowing the rest of the will of God, matters are not so clear-cut for the Christian. We are living in a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior now, and it is in the context of that close relationship that God wants to fill us with the knowledge of His will. What He wills for me He doesn't necessarily will for you, and vice versa. Furthermore, He wants to give us "all spiritual wisdom and understanding." In the OT God simply told His people what to do, but not why. In the NT He wants to give us insight into what He is doing because we are His friends, His kids, and not mere servants. Jesus alluded to the same idea in John 15:15, when He elevated the status of the disciples from servants to friends.

To the luke-warm, carnal or immature Christian the will of God can be a mysterious, baffling matter. Sometimes - often? - it seems He is hiding the revelation of His will to us or makes it hard to find it. That turns the prayer of Colossians 1:9 into such a gem. Since it's scriptural, we know God will answer, and since Paul prayed it again and again for the Colossians, we can pray it over and over for ourselves and for others.

If the idea of being filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding isn't thrilling enough to your heart, consider the results of being filled in this way:
  1. You will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (the world will notice a difference!)
  2. You will please Your Father in all respects (He'll be tickled pink with you!)
  3. You will bear fruit in every good work (without trying hard!)
  4. You will increase in the knowledge of God (more intimacy - that alone is worth the effort of praying this prayer!)
  5. Your will be strengthened with all power so that you will become steadfast and patient (don't we all need it?)
  6. You will joyously give thanks to the Father (instead of grumbling and complaining).
So I've started to pray this prayer daily, even at odd moments. Sometimes just verse 9, sometimes adding a phrase from the list of benefits, such as: 'Father, fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that I may bear fruit in every good work.' I then fully expect that He will show me which good works to pursue and which ones to let go.

If you'd like me to pray this prayer with and for you on a regular basis for a while, let me know. I'm interested in seeing how it makes a difference in your life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Focusing Your Spiritual Life

Have you ever wondered why we aren't growing more spiritually, even though we are exposed to great sermons in more ways than any other generation in history? There is not only the sermon in church on Sunday, but numerous opportunities to hear famous preachers on TV or through the Internet. Christian books abound, and many people have the opportunity to attend one or several Christian conferences a year. Spiritual food is everywhere, but we seem to be unchanged and even starving in spite of the spiritual buffet.

It's not that we aren't trying. Most of us want to implement the truths we hear. The problem is that they come at us too rapidly and in too great numbers. Who can learn to love their spouse in their love language, start a disciplined Bible study program, spend more time in prayer, implement the three points of Sunday's sermon, apply what they've read in the latest Christian books they've read in their spare time - all in the span of a single week while they are taking care of a hundred other details in the rat race called life? Little wonder that the Bible truths we hear seem to have so little impact on us. They simply become one more thing on the to-do list of our busy lives.

Little did I realize, when I surrendered my devotional life to the Lord, that He would want to break that cycle. For years I've been trying to grow in many different directions, but He wants me to focus on one thing at a time. For me, right now, it is learning to abide in Him - thinking like Him, having His passions, seeing with His eyes. And I will stay focussed on this until He shows me the next step.

What does it mean in a practical way? In a way, it simplifies life, for I can tune out what doesn't fit with what the Lord is doing right now. I don't have to listen to all these sermons - but I do have to learn to commune with Him. His goal is nothing less than teaching me to abide in Him continually. Everything else will flow of it eventually.

What is the Lord emphasizing in your life? How might He want you to focus on that?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Abiding in Christ

I mentioned before my great "experiment" ten day ago of giving over control over my quiet times to the Lord. He continues to surprise me.

This morning I felt led to go John 15: 1-8 (At first I wanted to start reading at John 13, but then thought better of it.) The passage is very familiar, and full of details. I will leave it to the Holy Spirit to speak to you about being a branch, bearing fruit, being helpless without Jesus, etc.

What stopped me short was verse 4, "Abide in Me, and I in you." Clearly this is a command with a promise. If I abide in Him, He will abide in me. The question is, how do I abide in Him? What does this mean? How do I do this, 24/7?

I'm not the only one asking this, of course. I remember reading an autobiography of Hudson Taylor where he describes wrestling with this question. He kept wondering how to "get into" Christ, until a brother in Christ pointed out that God had already done it, and he only needed to accept it. But just reading what worked for Hudson never worked for me. Typically my hang-up is that I try to understand, thinking that if I understand I can implement the solution. But I'm beginning to see that it doesn't work that way.

After going round and round a few times with this question on how to abide, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I was trying too hard. "Simply ask and believe that I have heard you." So I wrote this simple prayer into my journal: "Lord, I ask that I may abide in You. Thank You for hearing me. I'm eager to see what this will look like!"

"Continue to draw close to Me during the day. You are only abiding in snatches right now. I was in constant communion with the Father when I walked the earth as the Son of man to show you that it could be done. (Why else would I have cried out 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' when I was dying at the cross, unless my continual communion with Him was interrupted?)

My response, "Lord, I ask that I may be in constant communion with You through the Holy Spirit."

It's been an interesting morning so far. I find the Holy Spirit saying no to things I want to do, and I have to decide whether to yield to Him and abide in communion with Jesus, or give in to the flesh and live according to the old man. And that while I'm on vacation!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Give me your eyes, Lord!

A couple of Sundays ago a phrase in my pastor's sermon struck me. He was talking about John 4:35, where the fields were already ripe for the harvest, although they thought the harvest was still four months out. "Jesus sees from the other side of faith," he said. Hm, that is true a lot, I thought. Jesus saw redemption where the world saw prostitutes and tax collectors. He saw provision where the disciples could only see that they had forgotten to take bread (Mk. 8,16). He sees the heart, we see the outside. The list is endless.

The only remedy seems to begin seeing like Jesus, and the only way to do that is simply by asking in faith. It's like that song, "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord," only on a more permanent basis. When I prayed this prayer, "Give me your eyes, Lord," I sensed the Lord asking, "Do you really want this?", and when I said yes, He reminded me of 1 John 5,14-15 and I had faith that He heard me and is answering that prayer.

At first I thought He would give me deep insights into the needs of people I met (and He might well do that at some point) or enable me to have a positive attitude of faith about everything. Alas, I'm still as blind to the spiritual needs of those around me and how I could meet them, and only occasionally do I seem to have a bit more faith. (But then, it's been only nine days since my prayer.)

Have you ever wrestled with a Scripture or a passage, wondering what on earth it means, and the harder you try the less you seem to understand it? For years, Romans 6 with its insistence that I had died with Christ was such a passage for me. No matter how hard I tried, I didn't feel dead, and besides, when would that have happened? How could it have happened at the cross, when I wasn't even born yet?

This morning the Holy Spirit has been showing me that I've been going about it all wrong. I've been trying to understand with my mind first and then engage the heart. But it is the heart that needs to understand first (another word for "believing with the heart"), and then the mind will catch on.

And then He just about blew me away when He opened my eyes to John 3:5, and I saw it with the eyes of Jesus: "... unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This familiar verse has been interpreted in various ways when it talks about being "born of water." It hit me that both parts, the birth of the Spirit and the birth of water, are spiritual events. Jesus is talking of water baptism here, something He always stressed as being necessary for being saved (Mk. 16, 16). (The fact that there are exceptions to the rule, like the thief on the cross, doesn't mean it's not mandatory for believers.) Moreover, Romans 6:3-4 tells us that through our baptism we were baptized into Christ's death and buried with Him, so that we could walk in newness of life. Our baptism is the point of contact where our old self dies with Christ on the cross and we no longer live (Gal. 2,20). We are born again and enter the Kingdom of God.

I've been baptized as a believer more than 30 years ago, but I believe this is true even if I wasn't aware of it at the time. God has been faithful to do His part to join me ito Christ's death and bury the old self. Now He's beginning to open my eyes to this powerful truth, and I understand why Paul can exhort us to put off the old self like filthy rags and put on the garments of the new self which is being made to be like Christ. I wonder what this will mean on a daily basis...? I'm excited to find out more about it as I'm seeing a little more with the eyes of Jesus each day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Revolutionary Thought

The other day, when I was in prayer, I had a revolutionary thought - so revolutionary that it must have been the Lord, because I never thought of it before in over 30 years of daily devotions.

First, the Lord reminded me that He, too, was looking forward to our daily time together. Though this wasn't a new idea, it warmed my heart. But then, a little later, as I was praying, I heard Him saying, "Why don't you give Me control over our time together?"

This really shocked me. As a young Christian I had learned about the necessity of daily Bible reading and prayer, and I had stuck to it fairly faithfully throughout the years. Since my strength is studying the Bible, I actually spent most of my time in Bible study, and comparatively little in prayer. Lately, I'd become so dissatisfied with my personal prayer life that I kept crying out to the Lord, "Teach me to pray!"

At first I hesitated. What would happen? Would I have to stop following my Bible reading plan which worked some days but not others? What if nothing happened? What would be my part? I did get the impression that my part was to continue showing up daily, faithfully, seeking Him with all my heart. But He wanted me to let go of my religious rituals and let Him take over.

The more I thought about His request to have control over our time together, the more it made sense. He is just as interested in our time together, and of the two of us He clearly is the senior partner, the One with more experience. He loved me, and I could trust Him. When I thought about Jesus meeting with the Father, I just couldn't picture Him spending all of His time talking and none listening.

Anyway, anytime the Lord asks you a direct question like this, you say yes. I did, excited to see what would happen.

Well, this has been a week ago. The main change so far has been that I'm spending a lot more time in prayer, even if I spend less time reading Jeremiah or Ezekiel. During some of my early-morning prayer time I'm reading a book by Lynne Hammand on spirit-led prayer called, "The Master Is Calling", which is exactly what I need right now. All of a sudden, since the Lord (Jesus, the Holy Spirit?) took over control over my quiet time, I'm spending time in real communion with Him, and prayer seems to flow out of it.

I'd like to invite you to consider giving over control of your time with the Lord to Him. It's an act of faith, a step of trust that He will not let you down. It doesn't mean you never get to talk again - in fact, one of the first things He said to me was, "Be honest with Me." Scripture confirms that we are to pour out our hearts to Him. I can't tell you what will happen if you take this step of surrender - it will be different for each of you. I only know it will be good.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On loving other Christians

Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit starting to dig in a new area in your life, and suddenly you realize that he's opening a whole can of worms where you thought everything was pretty much in order?

Well, he's been convicting me about something by dropping little thoughts here and there. I must confess that there are some - shall I say many - Christians I don't really like. With some it's their political view, with others their theology, with still others the fact that they are on TV and I'm not. Which is, most likely, envy on my part.

Yet Jesus told his disciples, "Love one another, as I have loved you." This little bomb shell has more power than the largest atom bomb. First, it is a commandment, not an option. If you want a commentary on this commandment, read 1 John. It makes you shudder. Second, how does Jesus love us? Unconditionally, even when we blow it, even when he has to correct us because we are wrong. Ouch! Third, it is meant for us, not just for the original apostles (see Mt. 28). I'm convinced, if we Christians took it seriously, our churches would be radically different.

So I'm embarking on a journey to love my fellow Christians. Keep tuned!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Putting on the spiritual armor (Part 3)

Okay, so I was wrong.

I've been rereading Ephesians 6, and the more I do, the more I see the emphasis the WORD of GOD puts upon our spiritual armor. That word picture wasn't just Paul's idea, but God's. Oops, sorry, Lord! I definitely don't want to get into trouble with You!

Nevertheless, I still believe that God wants us to take up all seven of the spiritual weapons mentioned, besides all the others like humility, the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, etc. (Please send me additions to that list, it would be fun to have a list of our arsenal.)

Last time I looked at truth as an indispensable weapon. The second one is righteousness. Most people automatically think of the imputed righteousness we have in Christ, and that's certainly the most important aspect. But I wonder how this really differs from weapon Nr. 5, salvation.

I want to suggest that there is another aspect to righteousness: living right. It means having a heart that is committed to obeying the Lord fully. If we are consciously disobeying and living in sin, we're vulnerable to the enemy, no matter how much we believe in Christ's death for us. All of us are still immature in many ways, and we fall short, but God looks at the sincerity of our hearts. Stumbling out of immaturity is a far cry from rebellion, though they may look the same on the outside. (Thank you, Mike Bickle, for that insight!) I believe the goal of the Holy Spirit working within us is to make us more and more righteous in our actual righteousness, though on this side of eternity it will never match Christ's perfect righteousness that has been imputed to us.

The third spiritual weapon is a tongue twister, especially for a non-native speaker like me. What on earth does "having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" mean? At the risk of oversimplification I want to suggest that it is simply the declaration of the good news. When we share the gospel with someone, we are extending the kingdom of God and taking away territory from the enemy. No wonder most Christians never open their mouths to witness! It is a spiritual weapon the enemy fears greatly, and he does everything he can to shut it down. Sadly, I haven't overcome his intimidation in this area yet either.

The fourth weapon is faith. As a weapon I believe it can be used both defensively and offensively. Defensively, when we are remembering what the Lord has spoken to us personally through a rhema word at some time. Offensively, when we decide to "live by faith and not by sight" in a given situation, i. e. to trust the Lord and not our circumstances, simply on the basis of his word.

The fifth weapon is salvation - see above. I'd be grateful for any insights on the differences between salvation and righteousness.

The sixth weapon is the word of God, which Scripture calls the "sword of the Spirit." Jesus used it in the tempation in the wilderness in order to defeat Satan. How much more do we need to learn to use it!

The seventh weapon mentioned here is prayer in all its forms. It's prayer in the Spirit, not the flesh or our own imagination, that is effective and powerful. I'm not even going to begin to try to say more about it!

Now, go, take up your armor - and don't take it off when you go to bed, either!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Intercession for North Korea

A few months ago the Lord gave me a heavy burden to pray for North Korea through a dream, in which the dictator of that country was assuming control over the whole world. This had been the first time He called me to pray for such a large subject in such a way. Last night I had another dream, which in many ways was a repeat of the first one.

In the interim I have been reading up some on North Korea and following the latest news developments on the Internet. NK is quite possibly the most oppressive country in the world. Millions of people have starved to death, millions languish in labor camps. Only the elite lives well. Christianity is outlawed, of course, and unspeakable things are done to those who are caught and refuse to worship the leader.

Now it seems NK is on a direct collision course with the United States. Did you notice that they detonated their atomic bomb on Memorial Day? No coincidence, I believe. Their missiles can reach Alaska, including the oil fields. The latest threat is the firing of a missile towards Hawaii on July 4th, a threat that the US is taking seriously enough to deploy a missile interceptor system to protect Hawaii. Why haven't we heard this in the news? It's in newspapers on the West coast, where NK can reach within 3-4 years. By the way, they also have a large arsenal of biological and chemical weapons and a huge standing army.

Please join me in praying -- our seventh spiritual weapon. Pray in the spirit above all, and let me know if the Lord shows you more concrete ways to pray.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Putting on the spiritual armor (Part 2)

In Part 1 I suggested that the apostle Paul may have intended the image of the spiritual armor primarily as a memory aid to help us remember six important spiritual weapons in our warfare against the enemy: truth, righteousness, proclamation of the gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God. In fact, immediately following, in Eph. 6, 18, he lists a seventh weapon: continual prayer in the Spirit. This is reminiscent of other biblical lists like the one in Prov. 6,16-18 or Prov. 30, 15-16. According to Zondervan's NIV Bible Commentary, such literary devices are known as "numerical ladders," which are quite common in Hebrew literature; they are meant to tell us that the present enumeration does not exhaust the list. In my opinion the apostle Paul, who was a Hebrew scholar per excellence, uses such a literary device here to tell us, among other things, that the list of our spiritual weapons is not confined to those seven, although they are extremely important.

Once we get our emphasis off the parts of the armor and onto the weapons themselves, we can see that they are not all defensive, as it usually suggested. In fact, some of them are very powerful in making inroads into the kingdom of darkness.

Let us take a brief look at the first of these weapons: Truth.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Paul mentions this weapon first. It's fundamental in our fight against the enemy. Jesus called the devil the "father of lies." (John 8:44) Everything in Satan's kingdom is built on lies. What is deception but believing a lie? And what breaks through deception faster than the truth? In fact, Scripture identifies both Jesus and the Word of God with Truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (Jn 14:6), and also, "Your word is truth" (Jn 17:17). Whenever we are speaking the truth, we are siding with the kingdom of God, and whenever we are lying, we are giving Satan room in our lives. It's the truth that brings down strongholds and sets us free (John 8:12). That doesn't sound very defensive to me!

Time doesn't allow me to continue today, but I would like to encourage you to begin to meditate on what I'm sharing. Ask the Lord to show you more. Seek Him for how it applies in your life as a spiritual weapon. The more you meditate about the truth, seek the Lord about it, and then apply it to your life, the more it will benefit you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Putting on the spiritual armor (Part 1)

I don't know about you, but I've never quite known how to put on my spiritual armor according to Ephesians 6:11. What I mean is, getting out of bed and rattling through the dressing ritual in a mechanical way never struck me as very practical: "I gird my loins with truth ... I put on the breastplate of righteousness ... etc." So I never really bothered with it.

The other day, though, a better way to look at the armor occurred to me. Perhaps it will help you as well.

Perhaps Paul intended the picture of the armor as a mnemonic - a memory aid of our weapons in spiritual warfare. Just like we might choose a key word J-O-Y to help us to remember that putting Jesus first, then others, then yourself spells JOY, so he may have used the metaphor of the armor to help us walk with all our weapons. In other words, it's not so much the part of the armor that is significant but what it reminds us of: TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, FAITH, SALVATION, THE WORD OF GOD.

Next time I will take a closer look at these weapons and how they help us in our warfare.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Jesus considered great faith

Recently during my quiet time I came across the Canaanite woman in Mt. 15, 21 - 28 again. As you may remember, she approached Jesus because her daughter was desperately afflicted by a demon. Jesus insisted that he had only been sent to the Jews, and that it wasn't right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. Undeterred, she humbled herself, comparing herself to a little dog in the household that is feeding on the crumbs. Jesus marveled at her great faith and granted her wish.

Why was her faith so great? First of all, she believed that just a tiny amount of Jesus' power would suffice - a crumb, "just a dab will do ya." Second, she wasn't afraid to humble herself. Far from bristling at Jesus' comparing her with a dog, she agreed with him and pleaded for mercy. Therefore she, the outsider who wasn't even supposed to have the good news preached to her at this time, received what she asked for.

A similar combination of deep humility, plus great faith that just a tiny amount of Jesus' power is sufficient, can be seen in two other Gospel characters - incidentally, both of them outsiders as well. There was the centurion, one of the hated Roman occupiers, coming to Jesus with the request to heal his servant. (Mt. 8:5-13) But he, too, humbled himself, calling himself not worthy to have Jesus visit him at home. Instead, he believed that a simple word would heal his servant.
Jesus commended his great faith and said it was greater than that of anyone in Israel (v. 10).

Finally, there was the woman with the blood flow. (Mk. 5, 25 - 34) She, too, was so humble that she didn't even dare approach Jesus directly but snuck up on him from behind. Although she was the only Jew among the three, she had been unclean all these years because of her illness, and technically she was contaminating the Rabbi. Like the others, she believed that just a touch was needed to heal her. She believed that she only needed to touch the hem of his garment to be healed. And it was so.

How much do I believe that "just a dab of his power will do me?"
And am I as humble in heart as those whom Jesus loved?