Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Authority - Part Four

John 8:28-29 says, “Jesus added, When you have lifted up the Son of Man [on the cross], you will realize (know, understand) that I am He [for Whom you look] and that I do nothing of Myself (of My own accord or on My own authority), but I say [exactly] what My Father has taught Me. And He Who sent Me is ever with Me; My Father has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” If Jesus needed the Father’s authority to fulfill His role on the earth, how much more do we need to walk in God’s authority? In order to move in His authority we must relinquish our own will and take up His will as our own. As we do this we will gain greater freedom than we could ever discover under our own power. I know that it seems counter intuitive, but the surrendered life is the life for which we were created. We can only find true power and fulfillment in our lives as we submit them to His will and His love. How is this done? By letting Him love us and loving Him in return. As we grow closer to Him our desire for Him grows and we find ourselves eager to please and obey Him and lay down our own selfish desires. If you’re not sure about this, just try it. What could it hurt?

When we make knowing God our primary goal and spend sufficient time with Him in the pursuit of His heart, we will find ourselves overcoming the sin in our lives without striving. As we spend time with Him we become more like Him. We take on His personality. He is righteous and victorious. So shall we be as we draw ever closer to Him. When we overcome in any area of our lives we are given authority in that area. We can then minister to others who struggle with the same sins that once had us bound. Boldly confident in the freedom in which we now partake, we can show them the way to freedom for their lives. The fact that we struggled and overcame gives us a credibility that can only be gained in the overcoming.

I want to talk some more about the protection His authority provides. Mark 1:27 says, “And they were all so amazed and almost terrified that they kept questioning and demanding one of another, saying, What is this? What new (fresh) teaching! With authority He gives orders even to the unclean spirits and they obey Him!” When we move in God’s authority, even our biggest enemies must obey, but when we come against them in our own strength we will most certainly lose the battle. We cannot overcome spirits with human might, but only with spiritual might. We aren’t fighting a physical battle, but a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:10-12). In Acts 19 when the seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out evil spirits in their own power they were beaten up and ran away naked and terrified. But when we rely on God’s authority we will see Psalm 91 fulfilled in our lives. Luke 10:19 says, “Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.” When we move in His authority and protection we will do amazing things for God’s glory!

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Authority - Part Three

I was thinking more about the necessity of knowing and receiving God’s Word. The military has a code through which every other message they receive is filtered. It is the standard against which all other messages are measured to determine their validity. The same is true for God’s Word. It is the standard by which we must measure all other messages that life sends our way so that we can determine their validity. External messages must be placed in the filter of God’s Word. If they don’t measure up to the standard of the Word, then they must be rejected. God’s Word is also our battle manual – it gives us our battle strategy, our battle plan. If we receive messages that go against the strategy laid out in the Word, then we do not entertain them. This is one of the ways we can ensure that we are hearing God’s voice and moving in the authority of His will.

In Matthew 8:8-9, the Roman centurion understood that if Jesus just gave the order his son would be healed because He understood how authority works – if someone in authority gives a command it will be done. Just as a soldier in the US Army is not allowed to question the orders he is given, it is not up to us to question God’s commands to us, only to follow them. Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 says, “Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. Don't worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You're serving his pleasure, not yours. The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ Carrying out orders won't hurt you a bit; the wise person obeys promptly and accurately” (MSG).

We say “God is in control.” Well, that’s true, especially in terms of the big picture. But He created us with free will. He is in control of our lives only so far as we allow God’s authority to be in control. We can hinder His authority by not trusting Him and not submitting to His will. When Jesus went to minister in Nazareth in Matthew 13:54-58, the people rejected His authority therefore hindering what He was able to do. Think of all the blessings they missed out on as a result.

Remember that in “Authority - Part One” I talked about the consequences of a US soldier in Iraq acting outside of his orders. When we question God’s orders and refuse to submit to His will for our lives, then any actions we take are no longer under the protection of His authority. In those circumstances we cease to act under His authority and we are acting under our own authority; the consequences are far-reaching, indeed. When we act in our own authority, God cannot protect us from the consequences of our actions. We will reap what we sow. We are left vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and to the curse of sin. We miss out on the blessings God wants to give us when we are not submitted to His will.

When we act outside of God’s orders under our own authority, the people of the world still see us as representatives of God. That’s why it’s such big news when a well-known pastor is caught in sin. After something like this takes place the people of the world then assume that Christians are no different than other people and our God cannot really help them. The rest of us are left doing damage control. Of course, just because you become a Christian does not mean you suddenly stop struggling with sin. So it is imperative that we stay close to God’s heart so that we can walk in His strength and His authority and be then enabled to avoid sin.

Now, what would happen if a US citizen, a civilian, dressed in battle fatigues and carrying a big gun, were to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, kill him, and then proclaim that he did it in the name of freedom for the United States of America? Would his actions be overlooked just because he looked the part or because he accomplished his goal? No! Because his actions were not authorized by the United States government they are not sanctioned. He would be arrested, tried, and most likely convicted on several charges, including murder, and then sentenced. Even though we may attempt great feats for the Kingdom of God, and we may even be successful on some level, if we are acting outside of what God has said to do, then we are not protected by His authority. We cannot do things just because they seem like a good idea. Such things are futile, will be considered wood, hay, or stubble, and will be burned up in the day of Christ (I Corinthians 3:11-15). God cannot protect or reward us for any action which He did not authorize. It's imperative that we test everything against the standard of the Word. The enemy would love to trick us into wasting time on something that God has not authrized so that we are not actually participating in furthering God's Kingdom on the earth.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Authority - Part Two

So, carrying Christ's authority in our lives and the world, what does that mean for us? Well, like those troops in Iraq, we are representatives of the Kingdom of God in the earth. We are authorized to be in this world to do battle and rescue people from the kingdom of darkness and restore them to the Kingdom of Light. We are not here for our pleasure, but for God’s purpose. And as such, God has given us power and authority to accomplish His will in the world. We carry God to the people of the world. As we take time to know God and recognize His voice, He will give us orders to carry out. Not only will He give us orders, but the authority and power to perform them. The actions we need to take to fulfill His orders are sanctioned as long as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to be afraid of appearing foolish or offending people, because as long as we do things God’s way, we are operating under His authority and the protection His authority provides.

The higher up in rank a person goes in the military, the more freedom he has, but he also carries more responsibility. Rank is not automatic based on the amount of time a person is in the military. To achieve a new rank, a soldier must perform certain tasks, and/or undergo certain training. The more a person matures in Christ, the more he understands the freedom he carries because of the salvation he has received from God. Yet, the closer we get to God’s heart, the more He expects of us. This is not automatic because we have attended church or called ourselves “Christian” for many years. This is fully based on the relationship we have with God, and the amount of influence we have given Him in our lives. There are several conduits through which God delivers His authority to us: salvation, praise and worship, knowing and receiving His Word, prayer, and obedience (this is not necessarily an exhaustive list). We’ve already discussed salvation. Praise and worship position our hearts in such a way that we are lessened and He is glorified in our lives. It gives us a posture of humility and allows us to see ourselves in the proper perspective in relation to Him. It allows us to do battle in the spiritual realm in an amazingly powerful way. “[B]y praise and worship, great dynamos of power are set in motion…” (Frances J. Roberts in Come Away My Beloved). Certain Old Testament battles were won simply through praise and worship without the warriors so much as brandishing a sword. Knowing and receiving God’s Word is vital for the person that wants to know God and understand His heart. Only knowing what the Bible says is not enough. Many people know what the Bible says but it has no power in their lives. Even Satan himself knows what the Bible says. It is imperative to also receive it into your heart and life – to take its message to heart and apply it to your life. Prayer is essential for every Christian to grow in godliness and receive instruction from His heart. Prayer is simply having conversation with Him. It is through prayer that we receive God’s commands. But we cannot stop with just receiving His commands. We must act on them through obedience. We cannot act with His authority until we move in obedience to His orders. When it comes down to it, all of these conduits are essentially about Him, not us. As we prioritize our lives to make these an essential part of each day, we are seeking His Kingdom first. Through these things we lose ourselves only to find our life in Him and His Kingdom. We discover for what we have been created and He adds to us everything we need for life and godliness

Friday, October 17, 2008

Authority -- Part One

I've been in the process of writing this post for over a week. Usually when I write, I can knock it out in an hour or less at one sitting, but I've had a hard time with this one. There is so much in my heart that I want to say, yet it's been difficult to get it out. My time to sit and write has been limited, and when I would get a little bit written my head would feel like it was going to explode and I couldn't think clearly anymore, and then I've had computer issues, too. It's interesting that the computer issues began the day I got this part written. So I've had this much written since Tuesday, but have been unable to post it until today. Somehow I doubt that is a coincidence. So, here is the first part of what God has been showing me about authority lately.

John 14:10
– Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? What I am telling you I do not say on My own authority and of My own accord; but the Father Who lives continually in Me does the (His) works (His own miracles, deeds of power). (AMP)

John 10:14-18 – 14I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me – 15Even as [truly as] the Father knows Me and I also know the Father--and I am giving My [very own] life and laying it down on behalf of the sheep…. 17For this [reason] the Father loves Me, because I lay down My [own] life – to take it back again. 18No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily. [I put it from Myself.] I am authorized and have power to lay it down (to resign it) and I am authorized and have power to take it back again. These are the instructions (orders) which I have received [as My charge] from My Father. (AMP)

Jesus was able to say and do everything He did while on earth, including His death and resurrection, because He was following the orders He received from the Father. Those orders from the Father gave Christ the authority He needed to fulfill His mission on the earth. The same is true for us. When God gives you orders, or instructs you to do something, He will give you the authority needed to fulfill the task.

One of the best analogies for this I can think of is the US military. The US troops who are stationed in Iraq are there under the authority of the US government. That means that, as long as they follow proper protocol and obey the orders they have been given, they are representatives acting on behalf of the US government in Iraq. They are present in Iraq with the approval of the US government and, again, as long as they follow proper protocol, the actions they need to take to fulfill their orders are sanctioned. As far as the people of Iraq are concerned, those troops are the United States of America. (No matter your political stance concerning the war, these are the current facts about the situation.)

However, if a soldier acts outside of the orders he has been given, he ceases to act on behalf of the US government. His actions are no longer sanctioned. He is no longer acting under the authority of the US government. He is now acting under his own authority. Once his actions are discovered, legally he will be punished. The authority of the US government no longer protects him. Instead, he is subject to retribution according to US law, no excuses, no exceptions (theoretically – unfortunately, in this imperfect world that does not always happen as it should).

An unfortunate consequence of a soldier acting under his own authority is that he still wears a US military issued uniform, and carries a US military issued weapon. While his actions may not have been sanctioned by the US government, to the people of Iraq it still appears that his actions were representative of the US government. His fellow troops are then left to perform damage control, and have to work that much harder to convince the people of Iraq (and, unfortunately, even some people back home) that the United States does not desire to harm them.

Jesus said that He knows His own the same way that He is known by the Father. We are joint-heirs with Christ. The same authority that was given to Him has been given to us. Jesus knows whom He has chosen and He trusts us with His authority. Still not convinced? Consider John 1:12, “But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name” (AMP). Don’t question if you have authority. Don’t be unsure. If you have received and welcomed Christ into your life, you carry His authority in your life and in the world.

(To be continued...)

Friday, October 3, 2008

God’s Amazing Provision

I woke up at 2:30 this morning to Sadey’s cries. After a minute or two she drifted back to sleep while I drifted more and more awake. Well, needless to say, it took me a while to fall back to sleep. So, somewhere in the milieu of thoughts in the wee morning hours, I started thinking about some of the amazing things God has done for us lately. A month or so ago, I told you in "A Testimony" about how God instructed me to pass my birthday gift cards on to other people. Well, I did follow through within a couple of weeks after writing that post. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive. The ladies I gave the gift cards to were so blessed. They both said that the timing of receiving the gift cards helped to get them out of a bind. I’m so grateful that God allowed me to be His conduit of provision for them. I love helping people, and it’s not often that I can help people financially (I declare that is changing in Jesus name! I see my family being a conduit of finances to vast numbers of people as God leads!).

Not long after I gave the ladies the gift cards, my pastor told a story of how he had received a couple of generous honorariums for a couple of his speaking engagements. When he first received them, he was rejoicing, thinking that the gifts were harvest for things he had sown in the past. However, God spoke to his heart and told him that the gifts were, in fact, seed money, so he gave it all away (still rejoicing). That’s exactly how I felt about the gift cards. At first I thought they were harvest, but God showed me they were really seeds. If a farmer eats his seed, he will have nothing to plant during the next planting season and his provision will dry up. If I had disobeyed God and kept the seed for myself, that vein of provision would have dried up. Instead I was obedient, and now I’m seeing areas of new provision open up in our lives.

One of the first things that happened, about a week after I gave away the gift cards, is I was asked to be the official, unofficial personal assistant to my Worship Pastor (that just means I am now his unpaid go-to person). I now have the opportunity to help my Worship Pastor and learn so much from him. It’s a privilege for which I am so very grateful. I am thankful and humbled that God would choose to use me in this way to help lead our congregation into worship to Him. It is an unexpected blessing which I feel is a direct result of my obedience. Passing on the gift cards was not only a financial act, but also an act of faith. God has rewarded my faith with a new opportunity.

Another way I've seen God's provision is that this month we have actually had money left over at the end of the month. This is the first time that I can remember this happening in quite a long time! I believe that God has made our money stretch farther, even in these tough economic times. The thing is, no matter what is going on in the economy, God is our source. An unstable economy doesn't cause God to scramble trying to figure out how He will provide for us. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is God, and He is in control of our lives when we give Him room to work and be in charge.

Of course, I’ve already shared with you in the last couple of posts how God is providing for us to get the help Todd needs for his speech development (another thing that has taken place since I chose to obey). But, in the last couple of days something else has developed. Some of you know that last year Shawn applied for a promotion at work that he didn’t receive. There was a good amount of red tape that he had to get through in order to be awarded the promotion. He struggled and fought in his own strength in an attempt to get promoted without success. Earlier this year God showed me that He wants to provide for us in totally unexpected ways that we cannot acquire on our own. Red tape has always been a part of receiving the promotion that Shawn applied for last year. And kudos to Shawn, because he has been working hard to improve his performance at work in these past several months. However God used some current circumstances in the executive level of the ATF to move on men’s hearts to remove the red tape. After Shawn’s next evaluation (sometime this month), he will be given the promotion without a struggle! To me this is just another example that when we try to force blessing to come in our own strength we will come up short, but when we allow God to have His way in our circumstances, and we do things His way, we will succeed!

Thank You, God for Your amazing provision! Thank You that You are not unaware of our needs and You are faithful to provide! Thank You that Your provision is not only a blessing for us, but for others as well! Thank You for allowing us to be conduits for Your provision to ourselves and others! Thank You for Your unexpected blessing and for moving on our behalf! Thank You for new opportunities that allow us to be a blessing to You and those around us! Thank You that You are using us to help make Your Name known throughout the earth! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Todd’s Restoration

Todd was always a very easy-going, laid back baby. He was always cooperative and fairly easy to deal with. Well, when he started having a lot of tantrums, sometimes pretty long and drawn out, I felt sometimes like I was losing him. It got to the point that sometimes he would not cooperate with anything we were doing (other than eating). I know some of this was his age, but it was such a switch from the way he had been that I felt there was more to it than just age. I knew it was also related to the frustration of not being able to communicate what he wanted, but I never gave into him and tried to correct him, yet the tantrums continued.

In the midst of all this I had a very vivid dream one night in which we were at a wedding reception on a bay like Ft. Lauderdale. The room opened up onto a dock. Looking across the dock I could see Todd in dress clothes with a girl who was helping us take care of him. They were getting onto a boat. She looked away and Todd ran off in the other direction, down the dock and around a corner. Shawn and I couldn’t see him anymore. Immediately we started looking for him while someone else took care of the girls for us, but he was nowhere to be found. We were afraid he had fallen into the water. We traveled up and down the bay in a boat for hours crying, calling, and searching, but we could not find him. Exhausted we went back to the place where we were staying in tears. When we walked into the room Todd was curled up on the floor asleep, dressed in his pajamas. There was no way Todd could have gotten there on his own. And he certainly wasn’t able to change his clothes without help. When we saw him we rushed into the room. Shawn scooped him up and we gave him a big, tight hug. Todd has beautiful big blue eyes and this amazing smile that can move the world. At the very end of the dream, Shawn lifted Todd up into the air. Todd looked down at us with those eyes and that beautiful smile. I was exhilarated! That’s when I woke up. (The emotions were so tangible in the dream that I’m crying as I write this.)

After I woke up, I laid there a few seconds with that picture of Todd smiling down at us in my mind. At that moment God said to me, “That which was lost will be restored.” Immediately all the details of the dream rushed back at me, and I began crying. A couple of weeks later was Todd’s initial evaluation that I described yesterday. After the evaluation I realized that God had used the dream in part to prepare me for what I’ve been going through with Todd in the last couple of months. The dream also reminds me that God is not unaware of what Todd is facing. Todd is not really mine. He is God’s. God has given him to me for a time to care for him and bring him up. God cares for him more than I ever can, which is so hard for me to fathom. He knows what Todd is facing and will use this situation for His glory. He is giving us the grace, wisdom, and power to overcome this challenge.

The thing is, God has a remarkable plan for Todd’s life (as He does for all of us). Satan does not want Todd’s destiny to be fulfilled, so where is he going to attack Todd? He’ll try to thwart Todd at the point of his destiny – in the area where God has designed him to function. I was praying over Todd one morning in early July and God gave me this prophecy for him: “I will loosen Todd’s tongue to speak My words and deliver words of life. People will be moved for Me by the words he speaks. His love and compassion for people will enable him to prophecy without harshness. He will be known as a loyal friend and companion, and a loyal servant of God.” And to that I say, “Amen!” I’m bursting with anticipation to see how God will work out His plan in Todd’s life!