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Does God still speak to individuals today?

With all the mess in this world, deep in our hearts, we desire to know some answers, to have confidence that God is really in control and that He will come through for us.

Many people don’t yet know that God still speaks to them individually.  I did not know this several years ago either.  But, since I discovered that God does speak to me personally…I have been asking Him to help me show others that they can have personal, intimate conversations with God.  God wants to be loved by His creation.  And that means having conversation, open communication, intimacy.  Do not all of these attributes require TWO beings?

While I was having a conversation with God the other day, He prompted some thoughts.  “Do people believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the writings of the Bible?”  Yes, Lord, many do, many do not.  “Do people believe that they need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to understand the Bible?”  Yes, Lord, some do and some do not.  “How does the Holy Spirit guide people if I am silent and not speaking to individuals today?”  Good questions.

So, I pondered them in my heart.  How, then?  Listen with your hearts, friends.  Abandon all rules and regulations and doctrines made by mankind.  God wants to talk to you.  Perhaps you are not hearing Him.  There are some reasons that your hearing is blocked.  It may be that your ears are dull of hearing.  Or it may be that something is separating you from God.  Or, it may be that no one has ever told you that God is still speaking intimately to each of us.  You have been deceived.  Of course, our enemy does not want us to have an intimacy with God.  He knows that if we do, we’ll start changing lives, families, nations, the world!

How do you learn to hear from God?  Start by asking Him that question.  And then, listen.  Not with your physical ears, but with your heart.  Deep down inside where only you and God know what’s going on…He will show you.

Are you being bullied?

I remember when our sons were in elementary school and had to face a bully.  You know what I’m speaking about.  While the details are irrelevant, my husband and I were aware that if the bully was not confronted, then the bullying would persist.  Right?  Can you recall a bullying situation in your own life?  Our sons quickly learned how to confront and the bullying stopped.

Bullying is actually a spirit of intimidation.  The purpose of this spirit is manifold, but for believers in Christ Jesus, this spirit comes against us to stop the work of God in our lives and to cause the gifts of God inside of us to be dormant.  Jesus faced bullying in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The battle was over His will or the Father’s will.  Thank God that Jesus never sinned and accomplished the purpose for which He came!  Hallelujah!  However, in the Garden, for the “first time, we see the will of the Father and the will of the Son in conflict in the life of Jesus….It exposed the only thing that could hold Him back-choosing to fulfill the will of the Father another way and thereby saving Himself” (Bevere, 1997, p. 118).

After three hours of prayer, Jesus won this battle and was ready and fully equipped to fulfill His purpose – to defeat the works of the devil.  What works?  Why the works that occurred in another garden – the Garden of Eden.  The devil deceived Eve and she ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.   She handed the fruit to her husband, who was standing beside her, and Adam dishonored God and his wife and chose his will above God’s will.  He was self-centered which led to disobedience.  He gave the authority that God had given to him, which was to have dominion over all the earth, to the devil.  The devil now had a legal right to use his stolen authority against all of God’s creation.

Jesus defeated the devil 4,000 years later.  Jesus gained His rightful authority on earth back (legally) in order for His purpose to be accomplished through His beloved Church.  In fact, He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).  Once again, mankind and God are able to walk together in agreement and God’s will on earth can be done as it is in Heaven.  A born-again believer has full authority to accomplish God’s will.

So, why are Christians being bullied and still giving their authority over to the bully over and over and over and over?  Why are we not reigning and ruling on this earth as God originally planned?  Intimidation is one of the main reasons.  And, for the most part, many believers are completely blind to this spirit and until recently, I was one of them.

A few days ago, I went to visit a very kind neighbor for the first time.  We had small talk over tea and I asked her what type of work she did.  She told me that she has several homes around the world that she founded where she houses hundreds of young girls and boys who come from abuse of all kinds.  WOW!  How awesome, I thought and told her so.  But, a little bit of jealousy was stirring in me.  I didn’t tell her.  As I listened to her describe how she left her position as a CFO after hearing a “call” on her life, I grew even more envious of her accomplishments.

Her life was free and she was serving her divine purpose.  Sometime during the conversation, I made a comment to that effect; that she was blessed to be walking in her call from God.  She quickly said that she liked to think about God as a creative force…and went on.  I was shell-shocked from the bomb that she had just dropped.  How can anyone think of my beloved God as a “creative force”?  I replied in a rather feeble voice that God is real, He’s not a creative force and He desires a personal relationship with us.  I think that I said that we were created in His image and we are not creative forces.  Did I detect a roll of the eyes?

She changed the subject and went on to talk more about her works, which are admirable by the world’s standards.  But, the atmosphere had changed and I felt uncomfortable.  I wanted to talk about God and share my love for Him with her.  But I did not.  I did not want to offend her, for after all, I just sat down with her for the first time so that we could get to know one another.  If I offended her, I may not get a chance to show her God’s love and help her see that God is quite real and desires intimacy with us.  I felt embarrassed that I was not walking in the things that God put in my heart for many years and was intimidated into silence.  I did not understand the magnitude of that afternoon and how God would use it to transform me even more into His image.

I came home and spoke to my husband about our meeting, but did not reveal the embarrassment that I felt about my “pitiful life”.  After all, I did not want to make my husband feel bad about the course of our lives together.  But, I was miserable.  I asked God why this woman, who calls Him a “creative force” and has no love for Him in her heart was being blessed to do “great things” and yet I was struggling in every area of life.  And while we’re at it, why do so many people in the world who could care less about You seem to have all the blessings and favor while your Church is struggling and suffering?  I don’t get it, I cried out.  What is wrong, Father?  God was listening and He was answering me….

The next day, I had lunch with another friend who is a godly woman.  I told her my experience the day before.  To my surprise, I revealed that I felt intimidated.  My friend asked me why I felt that way.  I responded that I did not know why and she said that she would bring me a book to read that would help me understand intimidation.  The book, “Breaking Intimidation – How to Overcome Fear and Release the Gifts of God in Your Life” by John Bevere, was in my hands in two days.  Okay, Father, this is great and I began reading.

As the Holy Spirit began to speak clearly to my heart, many scenes from my life passed through my mind.  I began to see what had been happening to me over the years as God exposed the spirit of intimidation that had been operating in my life.  I was once again shell-shocked…but this time, it was God dropping His truth into the territory that the enemy had taken possession of inside of me.

Back to Jesus and the Garden…

Jesus deliberated for three hours in that Garden “until He knew His battle was won.  His will was totally one with the Father’s.  He was now ready to face the intimidation of the enemy at the hands of the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers” (Bevere, 1997, p. 118).

“And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.  Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’  But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly” (Matthew 27:12-14).

“Boldness is not how loudly or how much we talk.  It is also found in silence – silence while false accusations are thrown in your face.  Jesus stayed in His authority by not reacting.  He knew they had no power over Him.  To react would indicate they did.  They attempted to control Jesus with their accusations, threats and powerful positions.  To answer them would be folly, for they had no concern for the truth.  Jesus knew they couldn’t take His life because He had already given it to the Father!” (Bevere, 1997, p. 118-119).  The silence that Jesus had was not the same as the silence that I had experienced that afternoon a few days ago.  A spirit of intimidation had silenced me.

“The root of fear and intimidation is the love of self.  Perfect love casts out fear and gives us boldness.  Boldness born of love breaks the grip of intimidation.  Imperfect love, or self-love opens the door to intimidation….Jesus said, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life…’ (John 15:13).  When we truly lay down our lives out of love for Jesus, we will no longer care what happens to us because we know we are committed into His care.  Then we are dead and hidden in Him….He purchased us; therefore, whatever happens to us is His concern only.  We just love and obey.  Fear should no longer torment us because a dead person can’t be tormented.  You can point a gun at a man in a casket and threaten him, but he won’t even blink” (Bevere, 1997 p. 119-120).

Today, as the spirit of intimidation in my life is exposed and defeated, I pray the same for you.  I highly recommend the book that I referenced here.  Christians must understand our authority, our position and the tactics that the enemy uses against us so that we can go forward in the plan that God has for each one of us.  There is nothing that can compare to a life that has been laid down and given to Jesus.  Being hidden in Him is the safest place in the universe.  Therefore, we have boldness to do all that He has given us to do.  May you be filled with the Spirit of Boldness from God, whether in speaking or in silence.

References

Bevere, John.  Breaking Intimidation: How to Overcome Fear and Release the Gifts of God in Your Life. Creation House.  Lake Mary, FL.  1997

Thoughts of Thankfulness

Today, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., many people will gather with family and friends and feast.  I love every day, but I especially love Thanksgiving as it marks the beginning of a season of celebration.  I love snow-bound days.  I love Sundays.  I love Christmas Day.  What do these days have in common?  They cause us to rest from our everyday drudgery and toil.  God loves for us to rest, to be restored, to spend time with Him and with our loved ones.  Thanksgiving gives me a glimpse of life in the Millennial Kingdom, when Jesus reigns and all the world is at peace.  In our homes, we have a glimpse of the joy, peace, celebration and perfect rest that is our inheritance on this day.  But it’s not that way for many people.

There are those who don’t view Thanksgiving as anything but a reminder of the pain in their lives.  Homeless.  Hungry.  Foreclosed.  Job lost.  Health and hope gone.  Relationships severed.  There is no warm home with loved ones for many; just empty, bitter, angry hearts that have turned cold and stony.  And worse, hearts that don’t know God or hearts that blame God for their miserable lives.

If we turn on the news (and I rarely do), we see suffering, pain, hatred, bitterness, corruption, and evil in massive doses. Throughout the world, the weight of the sins of mankind are becoming heavier and heavier.  Sometimes, as I listen to the news, I see a black cloud over the entire earth, oppressing the whole world.  But, sadly, people have become so used to the cloud that they don’t care anymore about anything but seeking after pleasure and personal gain.

When Jesus viewed this state of affairs of human degradation and ignorance when He walked on earth, He wept.  He wanted to gather His beloved Jerusalem under His wing as a hen gathers her peeps and protect them from the elements and the predators.  But, they would not come to Him.  It is the same today.  I weep for the world… lost, groping in the dark and cursing and blaming God.  God’s heart is aching for us.  He longs to spend time with us and to give us His rest.  Too busy?  Really?

It’s early morning as I write this post.  God and I have an agreement.  Whenever He wakes me up at 1:11 a.m., 2:22 a.m., 3:33 a.m., 4:44 a.m. or 5:55 a.m., He wants to talk to me and it’s urgent.  This morning, at 3:33 a.m., He called  me.  As we spent time together, He reminded me that people’s hearts are so far from Him.  He weeps for us and wants us to have shalom (peace with nothing missing and nothing lacking).  So, how are you spending your Thanksgiving Day?  In peace and rest, rejoicing with Christ?  Is there time in the day for Him?  Or is He limited to a few short seconds before your feast?  Today, God is calling you.  He wants to share time with you.  He wants intimacy.  He wants to be included in every aspect of your life.  He won’t force Himself into your life, He’ll just knock at the door of your heart.  Only you can answer the knock.

These are serious and  holy times, precious ones.  God is calling and calling and knocking and knocking.  The time is very near for Him to come once again to visit mankind, but this won’t be like the first time.  Very shortly, He will sound the trumpet and call His beloved Church away from the earth.  We will then be celebrating at the most spectacular event to ever take place in the Universe – the marriage of the Bride and the Bridegroom!  The Bride is being prepared now.  The Bridegroom is anxiously awaiting the Father’s voice as He says, “Go and get Your Bride!”  Then, it will be too late.  The knocking and the calling will cease.  And those left behind will still have stony hearts that will grow colder and curse God more.

Today, as we do whatever we do, whether alone or with family, full or hungry, cold or warm, having plenty or lacking, there is one thing that we can all do,  no matter what the outward circumstances.  Give God time.  Be with Him.  Love and adore Him.  Share Him with others.  Ask Him what He wants you to do today.  What is His plan for you?  How can you be a part of what God is doing in your area?  Separate yourselves today and go boldly before the Throne of Grace and receive rest, joy, peace and pleasure in His presence.  Let Him love you and love Him back.  Remember, He suffered for you to have the right to come to Him.  It is His desire for you.

“Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush Him [Jesus] with pain.  The plan was that He give Himself as an offering for sin so that He’d see life come from it-life, life, and more life.  And God’s plan will deeply prosper through Him” (Isaiah 53:10 Message).

Amen.  Shalom.  Be blessed and at peace.

By my 40th wedding anniversary, I learned about sacrificial love.

Always on our anniversary, we remember our wedding day.  And we celebrate another year of our love together.  I love to celebrate with my husband, Skip, and simply enjoy him.  This day marks our 40th celebration as husband and wife.  We lavish each other with gifts of kindness, attention, sweetness and well, love.  My heart is full of him all the time, but it simply bubbles over on such an occasion as this.  Sometimes, however, my heart has not always bubbled over for him because I have misjudged his motives and mine.  These were times when I had not yet learned to “die” to my own selfishness.

My desire is for my earthly husband.  God gives wives that desire.  But another desire exists…for my heavenly Husband.  God says that He is the Only One who knows the motives of our heart.  He is the Only One who will transform those motives to line up with His perfect motives.  Sometimes, my motives are not pure toward my husband, whether it be my husband of 40 years or my eternal Husband.  And, over the years, others have judged my husband with incorrect motives and have spoken unkind things about him.  But God says that He is the Only One who knows the motives of our heart.  He is the Only One who will transform those motives to line up with His.  God loves to show us about loving with His love – empty of our selfish desires; especially toward the ones that we love the deepest and most intimately.

My husband is a quiet, humble man of God who loves me and I believe that he would die for me.  He loves God and is saddened by the lies spoken against Him. He loves his country and is saddened by those who try to destroy it.  He loves his family and is saddened by anyone who wants to destroy them.  He loves God’s creation – all of it and it pains him to see destruction of God’s beauty.

God blessed us with four wonderful children who are now having children of their own.  Throughout the years as we raised our children, my husband had to demonstrate tough love on rebellion – at least to the extent that he understood how to be tough.  Sometimes our beloved children judged his toughness incorrectly and that hurt.  But, don’t we do the same thing with God?  We judge Him incorrectly because we don’t know His heart.  That saddens God.

In the past several years, I been seeking God’s heart as I desire to know Him and fall more deeply in love with Him.  I have been given the time to examine many areas of my life and my character as the Holy Spirit leads me.  I thought about my beloved husband of 40 years.  The trials have made us stronger.  Jesus is the Center of our marriage today.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Back Where You Belong by Jack Vittriano

Sometimes, we misjudged each other’s hearts.  We blamed each other for our failures.  But, because of grace and mercy, we began to ask God to examine our hearts, and they were not empty words.   Not only did we want to know each other’s hearts…I mean, really know, but we wanted to know our own hearts.  And we wanted to know our spiritual Husband’s heart…I mean, really know it.  As I discovered, neither husband is a hard taskmaster…at least not toward His beloved family.  And each  husband has the responsibility of helping his wife be all that she was created to be.

When we are born into the family of God, He looks at us in a new way.  God is always for us and He always loves us.  It’s just like when my husband and I were married, we looked at each other in a new way.  Sure, we understood our passionate love for each other at first but as we celebrated another and yet another anniversary, our love grew to include a deep companionship and deeper, more sacrificial love.

We are for each other and we love each other – as completely as we can understand.   Jesus loves us so much that He died so that “we” could be one with Him and enter into a sacred covenant with Him.  In the same way, my husband and I were joined together in a sacred covenant ordained by  God.  In that covenant, we have learned that we are to stop judging each other and love each other the same way that Christ loves us.  That’s supernatural – for without God’s hand in our marriage and in our lives, we would have perished.  We continue to lay down our own lives and die to our selfish desires – little by little – the same way that we lay down our lives for our spiritual Husband – little by little – until we are so entwined with Him that His will becomes ours and we become the fullness of each other in the sacred covenant.

It saddens me that so few couples are enjoying what we have been blessed to have.  People misjudge others.  People misjudge God.  People don’t forgive themselves or else blame God for stuff that the devil has done to them.  Immaturity – blindness – selfishness – sin.  All the attributes of the fallen sin nature of humanity.  Why do human beings reject the love of God towards them?  God says because the devil has blinded them.  Is God a hard taskmaster?  Some think so.  I did, for many years.  But, God already exhibited His tough love toward us – through His Son, Jesus, Whom He sacrificed for us.  Can love get any tougher than that?

As I consider my life and this occasion, my heart grieves for the deception of the people in the world who blame and misjudge our beloved Heavenly Father and Husband.

Father, use me to show others how wonderful You are.  Bring Your Bride’s heart into alignment with Your heart that we may be one.  Thank you for giving my husband and I forty years together to learn about love and You.

Letters from home…

Many years ago, during my basic training days in the United States Air Force, I looked forward to mail call just like every new recruit.  When I left for basic training, my husband, Skip, was my boyfriend.  He faithfully wrote to me every day.  Mail call always meant a letter from home.  I anticipated a letter from him and could hardly wait to open it when I got back to my room.  I clung to every word that he wrote, reading and re-reading each letter.  I cherished them and pondered them in my heart and thought about  him all day long.  What do you imagine the outcome would have been if I had thrown away all of those letters?  Or what if I would have simply tied them with a pretty ribbon and stacked them neatly in my drawer?  What a silly thought, you say, and I agree.

About half-way through “basic” (that’s military lingo), we were permitted to make a phone call (pre-cell phone days).  I greatly anticipated hearing Skip’s voice on the phone.  While talking to him, he asked me to marry him!  I accepted his proposal and a few days later, my engagement ring arrived during mail call.  Some of the other young women in the barracks shared in my excitement and said that I was so “lucky” to have such a loving, romantic fiance.  But some warned me about trusting him and that he may not mean what he said and “be careful that I don’t get hurt”.

Which voices did I choose to believe?  Of course, I believed the voice of my future husband and no one could persuade me otherwise.  Now, I began receiving two or three letters a day.  I was on his mind 24-7!  I was (and still am) his beloved.  I cannot even explain in words how my heart felt the day that I stepped off the plane once I finished “basic” and saw my husband face-to-face as he wrapped his loving arms around me.

Fast forward 40 years.  Last night, our pastor spoke about our hearts toward God and His heart toward us as He revealed deeper revelation from His Letter.  As I walked out of worship service with my husband, the Lord instilled a deeper love in my heart for Him and His letter to us: the Bible – His Letter from Home to every one of His beloved.

We are engaged to Christ for eternity.  I was pondering what had just been spoken to us through God’s Love Letter as God used His servant to impart the words to those who wanted to hear.  I considered the similarities and the differences between my earthly husband and my Heavenly Husband.  Why would I believe my imperfect earthly husband’s words and not believe my perfect Heavenly Husband’s words?  Should I put any less “weight” on the Love Letter from God than I did on those love letters from Skip?

God lovingly reminded me of my anticipation of Skip’s letters, of the promise of marriage and of the fact that I believed and clung to every word that my earthly husband spoke to me through his letters and through that one phone call.  Did I doubt anything that my future husband said to me?  Did I doubt his love for me?  Of course not!  Then, why is it that I sometimes doubt any word that God has written to me?  Why do I sometimes believe the voices of those who want me to doubt my future Husband’s love and plan for me?

Last night, I determined in my heart to read and re-read the Love Letter from Home with the same committed heart that I had as a young bride-to-be over 40 years ago.  My anticipation to hurry to my room and read His words to me has heightened.

Fellow “basic trainers”, our Husband-to-be is returning for His Bride one day soon.  Don’t be deceived by the voices of the enemy.  Read and re-read the Love Letter and cling to every Word that is written.  If your Beloved wakes you up at 3 a.m., get up and go spend a some time with Him.  He wants to talk to you.  We can trust Him to fulfill every Word that He wrote.  We can rest assured that God’s promises are true, that He is not a liar and this His thoughts toward us are good.  God loves and adores His betrothed and we are on His mind 24-7  – and even greater than that  – we are on His mind for eternity.  Just like I received my engagement ring – the promise of future marriage from my earthly husband, God sent His Holy Spirit to us until we see our Beloved.  Precious Bride of Christ, arise, for the world will soon know of God’s love for you as we draw near to the time when “basic” is over and we will see Him face-to-face.