Troubled Times

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:1)

The questions that people were struggling with in Jesus’ day were in many ways just like the big issues we deal with today – oppression, poverty, inequality, rioting and lawlessness, making ends meet, the future, how to live uprightly – let alone how to stay alive at all.

Israel was under the heel of the Roman Empire – a regime of unsurpassed cruelty, foreseen by the prophet Daniel in one of his night visions as “a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7)

Roman rule of its subject nations was harsh and uncompromising. The presence of its military must have been a continual cloud of oppression on the people – made even worse by by the alien religious beliefs of Rome, and a coinage that displayed the emperor as a god.

Any form of protest or rebellion was stamped out mercilessly, and it was this aspect of Roman rule that the Jewish religious authorities appealed to in persuading Pilate to crucify Jesus.

Roman taxes were levied on a populace already obliged to pay a tax to the synagogue.  Under this double burden, many people struggled to eke out a living.    In addition, small farms and horticulture were being swallowed up or outmaneuvered by rich landowners who could afford to buy or hire workers. Chicanery and double-dealing were rife in the market-place – neither Rome nor the synagogue elders were even remotely interested in fixing THAT problem.

The Jewish people hoped the Messiah would come on a white horse and lead them in battle to conquer their enemies, like Joshua and Gideon of old.   Instead, the Messiah came preaching that change must take place from within the heart.

“Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and mastery; they echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion” (Wikipedia).

To many of His hearers, the style of Jesus’ ministry came as a total shock.  Indeed, some followers started to fall away when He began to reveal the hard truths of his coming death.  You can almost hear ‘the worldly’ saying, “What good is a Messiah who is going to be put to death?”

Yet, in the 2000 years since Jesus proclaimed His message, some of the world’s greatest and most influential humanitarian thinkers and activists have adopted and followed His teachings – Ghandi, Tolstoy, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela. 

Their examples, great as they were, have not been enough.

We need to return to the basic tenet of Jesus’ message – change must begin in the heart of every single one of us.  It is our individual responsibility – not someone else’s.

Blessings,

Patricia

Pentecost 2020

A lot has happened in the world since I last posted – COVID-19 being the obvious front-runner that has affected all of us.

Here in NZ we came into full lock-down on 25 March, continuing until mid May.  We are still at Level 2, with limited public meetings and travel.  I have carried on shopping for myself, was very relieved that up here we are away from the main centers, and have been intrigued and thankful for how God has brought a whole new life to the Church out of what the enemy intended for disaster.

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Having been online since 1996, and ‘attended church’ online (one way or another) since 2008, I have long felt it was high time churches got away from holding meetings closed up in their precious buildings, and realized the very real opportunities afforded by the outdoors and the Internet.

Well Hallelujah, that is happening at last.

True, some churches videoed their services and put them up on the net, but it was just a token and certainly not the whole story.  The Body of Christ was still very inwards-focused.   Now at last overseas congregation members are being recognized alongside the ‘on-campus’ church, more outreach is being offered, and a new sense of worldwide fellowship is arising.

This was always meant to be – look how the disciples spread the faith across the then known world, without Church buildings or technology – purely by the power of that initial Holy Spirit igniting!

“…the sanctuary had to be emptied before this change could happen…”

Pastors are no longer speaking just to those in the sanctuary (and let’s face it, the sanctuary had to be emptied before this change could happen).   As of this Pentecost weekend, some churches are planning outdoor ‘on campus’ services, streamed worldwide.   Innovation – it can only get better.

Pentecost 2020 may go down as the most unusual Pentecost since 30 AD, with the whole of Jerusalem set alight by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.   We are in a similar lock-down to the disciples of old, following the epic events in Jerusalem at Passover, 50 days prior.

What will happen this Pentecost? Most certainly some churches intend to meet (while observing protocol). There are online events coming up also.  Will Pentecost 2020 prove to be another memorable occasion?

Most assuredly.    Mighty changes have already taken place, and we can expect more yet.  The Holy Spirit is still working, and while US churchgoers may have noticed only their loss of cozy fellowship, to those watching from the outside the changes so far have been salutary and long overdue.

Though God did not inflict Covid-19 upon the world, He will use it to bring about a whole new way of operation for the Church (see Paul, Romans 8:28).  I predict it will be a breath of fresh air.

So, Church – do not bemoan change, just grab this opportunity and run with it!    Remember: “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

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Blessings this Pentecost!

Patricia

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2020 – Write The Vision

“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

And the Lord answered me, and said, ‘Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and it will not lie: though it delay, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not fail.’” (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Have you a vision for 2020? Have you a vision for yourself, your family, your city, your country, or for the world?

More importantly – have you asked the Father what vision He has for 2020? For “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1)

I am sure all of us, looking back over our lives, see a litany of undertakings that failed, or failed to reach their full potential, because we stepped out without consulting the All-Knowing One. The writer of Proverbs said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

So this year, this great new decade that begins with 2020, there are 2 things that will be useful by way of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’: first, to write down our own visions for the future; to keep the record (“make it plain upon tablets”), look at it often, and be prepared to change it as necessary. Second, to seek the Lord to find out what His will is – not only in the longer term future and the big world picture, but also in the everyday happenings in our lives. Again, we must keep a record and not expect instantaneous answers or instantaneous results. The Lord does not work that way. He is committed to ‘process’, because process is what refines and develops us and our faith.

We need to ask the question, press in with it, and stay alert for the coming of His answer – “at the end it shall speak, and it will not lie: though it delay, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not fail.”

We constantly thwart His process because we ask and when we don’t get a fast answer we give up, stop listening, and go our own way. Don’t do that – keep pressing in and paying attention. Wait upon the Lord!

I can think of one occasion when I had a week to make a pretty important decision.  All week, I continued to ask the question, “Lord, what am I to decide about this issue?”.  Gradually my thoughts about the situation began to settle and clarify, and by the end of the week, I knew quite clearly what my answer had to be.  Looking back, I am glad I did not run with my first ‘take’ on the matter.

When His answer comes, then run with it. He gives us the answer with the intention “that he may run that reads it.”   If we know it is His will, we must step out in faith, That means taking the first steps, even if you do not know how things will turn out, or how the vision will be achieved – THAT is what living by faith is about.

“Behold, he whose soul is lifted up [proud] is not upright in Him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

One step at a time.

Digital – assembled in Macromedia Fireworks MX.   Inkwell from the Scriptorium of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Khirbet Qumran, before 68AD.

Patricia
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Ask – Seek – Knock

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

One of the reasons Jesus was a disappointment to the worldly folk among those He ministered to, was their expectation that the Messiah would bring worldly success and earthly treasures – conquest over their enemies and wealth as a nation and individually.

Most of Jesus’ messages and parables on the other hand – and indeed the whole purpose of His life – were aimed at giving His followers something far more important: security in the eternity to come.

The importance of pressing into the REAL directive of this quotation cannot be given too much emphasis.  The quote expresses the supreme importance of seeking after TRUTH, as the main purpose of this life.

It is not the offer of a heavenly vending machine that will spit out the goodies of life on demand, as some modern churches are trying to have us believe. The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is one of those highly dangerous end-time deceptions referred to in Matthew 24, the Lord’s final words of warning before He went to His death.

Indeed, it is one of the most wicked deceptions ever perpetrated by the enemy, all the more so because it is being offered from within the church.

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many  …  But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:11, 13)

Beloved, let us not be deceived.

Patricia
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He Who Comes

“All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and he who comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:37-39)

The day after Jesus had fed the crowd that followed Him, they followed Him again in boats across Lake Galilee, seeking to learn what God wanted them to do. This is the crowd that stirred His heart because they were like lost sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36) – a fair comment on the religious leaders of the day.

Speaking this time in the synagogue at Capernaum, He was critical: “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (6:26)    I have a firm personal belief that the Lord has a great sense of humor. I think this comment was made in that vein, to get the attention of those listening and focus it on what He was about to say about motives.

He went on to explain the distinction between earthly and heavenly treasures: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (6:27)

He wound up His message by giving them the assurance quoted here.

But as always, there was dissension in the crowd and some of them objected to Him calling Himself the bread of heaven. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they said.

Always, those who waver, the skeptics, and those who disagree. The seed falls on all types of ground, and much of it may perish.

But the promise of this scripture remains true for all those who believe and follow Him.

So many people today are talking about, and suffering, rejection.  In our modern, technological age the modes of rejection have increased.  Especially among young people, rejection and abandonment bite deeply at a time when the enemy is deliberately breaking the all-important supportive bonds that should come from family.

Take heart – there is One who cares, and will always care.  He has promised – and His promises are “yes, and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Remember, there is a great Old Testament passage, which affirms a mighty truth about Jehovah:  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall he not make it good?”  (Numbers 23:19, KJV)

Digital – vector in Macromedia Fireworks MX.  For more information about the art, click on the image.

Patricia
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Absolute Truth

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32)

Jesus made this statement in the Temple courtyards of Jerusalem, in the middle of a discussion He was having with ‘the Jews’ (a term used by John for the religious elders of the day), who were beginning to show their hand openly in their attempts to trap and destroy Him.

This episode is especially applicable in today’s world.  We are at a point now in the history of mankind when there is a serious attack going on against the concept of Truth – not only in the ivory towers of philosophic discussion: this attack is impinging on crucial aspects of real life.

The Sadducees of the present day – the so-called ‘intellectuals’ – are bent on denying the concept of absolute truth. By their standards, the idea of absolute truth is old-fashioned and outmoded, and has already been relegated to the trash.   It appears this new thinking is impacting seriously on education, where students are now encouraged to give whatever answer to a question they think fit – and it seems that all answers will be marked ‘correct’.

Likewise generally, one man’s idea is treated as being as good as another man’s – on any subject: a trend fostered even further by the entrenched Internet rituals of ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’ on anything and everything on facebook, blogs and websites and, apparently even the education process.    The ultimate outcome of all this can only be a complete erosion of standards and values.

Frankly, I view this as an attempt by the enemy to tear down the foundations of our society – and I use that word in an all-encompassing sense of societies in general.    It is also, of course, a direct attack on God, who is Truth, and His word.

We are certainly coming close to the end times.   Jesus foresaw these events clearly:

“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” (Matthew 24:11-12)

We live in a world that is governed by pretty strict rules of causality, set up by the Father to enable us to function in a predictable manner. I rather doubt those intellectual prophetic ‘brains’ have thought of the logical outcome of the course they are steering in trying to nullify absolute truth.

If they were to plant cannabis seeds and come up with a crop of marigolds, they might be somewhat put out: even more so if their own offspring turned out to be a bunch of jackal whelps.

They cannot have it both ways. Either there is an identifiable absolute truth, or else all is chaos. Jesus’ words and sayings throughout the New Testament are consistent with the importance of understanding this truth – and His behavior throughout His life was an impeccable testimony to His words.

Digital typography.  For further details, click on the image.

Patricia

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Tribe Of The Lion of Judah – Part 1

In Defence of the Prophets.

But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5)

The title of this post is a deliberate misquote. We all acknowledge that one of the Lord’s titles is ‘The Lion of the Tribe of Judah‘. What I am talking about here is the new tribe that belongs to the Lion of Judah – a tribe of present-day apostles, prophets, priests, teachers, warriors and followers that are being raised up in these times to put on the Full Armor of God and follow the Lion of Judah wherever He may lead them. Note: this word ‘tribe’ is not synonymous with ‘church’ or ‘churches’ – far from it.

Many will argue that this concept is ‘unscriptural’, that apostles and prophets no longer exist. I say to you that ‘scriptural’ is a sliding scale in many people’s hands: but most certainly it is wrong to deny the latest moves of God on this ground. He is the author of scripture. In this age, He is talking directly to His flock, and in some cases using scripture to illustrate and explain what His next moves will be.

Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”

When Jesus walked this earth, His message was very simple, and He had no time for the leaders of the church of the day. His message was so discomfiting for them, so alien to their beliefs and their entrenched status, that they killed Him.

The story has not changed. Those who are entrenched in religiosity and doctrinal beliefs are still with us. They are still the biggest detractors from what The Father is doing in the present time, and unfortunately since they are largely represented in the established church, their views tend to ‘carry weight’. They are not killing Jesus, but they most definitely ARE killing His message. We have gone from ‘The Law’ of Jesus’ day to a new kind of ‘legalistic’ bondage.

We hear fairy tales like, “There are no miracles today” … “God no longer speaks through Prophets” … “While miracles may have had their value for the early Christians, they have no value for us, for our experience is different from theirs”   et cetera  ….  et cetera.

So… does God no longer speak? Has He gone silent? What are we to make of the testimonies of people who are hearing from Him today? What are we to make of the plain words Jesus spoke when He walked the earth?

Quite clearly, there are people who are happy to count themselves saved by the Lord, but all they want to do is sit in their ‘saved’ bubble, carry on with life as usual, believe what their pastor tells them to believe and wait for the Lord to call them home. “Don’t talk to me, Jesus – I don’t want to hear.”

That is not what it’s about, people – the Lord is still speaking, and He expects us to listen up, take responsibility and act accordingly. How else are we to be transformed “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18)?

You will say, “by applying scripture to our lives”. OK – HOLD IT THERE.

If this is true, then what are we to make of the passages in scripture that clearly point beyond the immediate times of Jesus’ life? What are we to make of even the following two examples from the Word:

Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18-20)

“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:23-24)

So – you say, “This was Jesus talking to His disciples and does not apply in the present day.”   Has it not occurred to you that most people subscribe to the application of scripture to our lives so completely that sermons in the present-day church are invariably built around the application of passages of scripture to the lives of the flock? What then are you going to make of the word ‘whoever’ in the above passage – and what are you going to make of this:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

And this:

Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the Age.” Matthew 28:20.

Both of these passages foretell Jesus’ continued connection with His followers, even after His passing from this earth.

Like it or not, God is still speaking. Like it or not, He is in this day raising up apostles and prophets to alert His people to the upcoming moves He is going to make.

Many people waste time taking it upon themselves to second guess Him. How much speculation have you read about when, if and how the rapture will take place (for example)?   How many reams of paper, how many cyber-pages, how many ‘comments’ and forum posts have been taken up with this one issue, when Jesus has already told us that even He does not know the answer to this? (Matthew 24:36) What an exercise in futility! What a waste of time!

It is all further confusion instigated by the enemy to take people’s attention away from the REAL ISSUES of the day.

We need to be preparing to march forth in the Lord’s name and start taking ground for Him and His Kingdom (in our own lives to start with), not wasting time haggling over doctrine.

More to come,

Patricia

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