Monday, July 6, 2015

I didn't know I could update this blog.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How I first learned about Grace

I learned about grace 2 years ago. There are many other people who had the same experience. I hope this blesses and encourages you.

I was struggling really badly financially. God had led in a seemingly unwise and impractical direction and I had been resisting for more than a year. Instead, I did everything I thought I should do. I never conciously decided to "work" for my wealth. It just kinda kicked in. I kept tithing, I gave, fasted, prayed, served more diligently at church, sought counsel fro leaders and trusted friends, faithfully attended church, got on a budget, etc.

A year poorer, sader, tired-er, worn out-er, and later I cried out to God basically saying, "I've been doing all these things! What do you demand?!" From that moment, I felt something in my heart that I could only translate as "All that work is the problem. Finances are actually free." God didn't say those words. It was just a feeling. At the time I didn't know it was called "grace", but my heart started sniffing around for it.

In true untrusting fashion, I told God that if this "free" feeling I had had any validity, my pastor would have to preach on it. And would you guess what! My pastor at the time, who didn't teach grace, said something that made my heart leap: "We don't need to be on a treadmill of performance with God when he blesses us freely. Someone in here is going to get a hold of this and turn this world upside down!" Little did I know, he was talking about me.

I was a huge fan of Andrew Wommack so I searched his website for any teaching about what I called "free blessing", and I found "The Power of the Gospel". After hearing the first teaching, it took me an hour to pick my jaw up off the floor. "Oh my God oh my god on my god" was all I could say. The next day, I asked a friend if he had any books on grace. He gave me "Destined to Reign". The rest is history (and drama, suspense, and victory:). I only wish it hadn't taken me another year to learn about Bertie Brits and Major Ian Thomas, who are my favorite teachers.

One word to the wise: Flee mixture teaching as fast as your legs can carry you. If God has already tried speaking to you about it, let this be confirmation. Run like hell!! Forget about the relationships. You'll make new and better ones. Forget about what your leaders will think. Remember, they are just church leaders, not police officers. You can do whatever you feel led to do. Don't wait for your mind to catch up, just follow peace. If this is confirmation, RUN!

The Pearl Story

A friend asked me to share this story her Facebook wall. It touched me so much I thought I'd make it into a note. I don't think I realized how personal or pivotal this experience was for me until I shared it.

There was a young girl that had a faux pearl necklace that she adored. She wore it everywhere and with everything. B/c it wasn't real, the paint began to chip away but she didn't care. One night, as her dad was putting her to bed, he asked her for her beloved necklace. She frowned, clutched her pearls around her neck and pleaded, "No daddy, I can't give you my pearls. I love my pearls. Anything but these." "OK honey. Sleep well. Daddy loves you", he said with a kiss.

The same thing happened the next night. And still the girl would not give up her treasured pearls. "Daddy loves you. Rest well sweetheart." On the third night, her father asked her again. And with tears in her eyes she removed her pearls and gave them to her father. He said, "Thank you honey. I have something for you." He pulled out a navy blue, flat, square, velvet box and gave it to her. Inside was a beautiful, brand new string of real pearls.

God reminded me of this story one night a few months ago. I was talking to the Lord about death to self and he said, "You know, it really is like that pearl story." And I said, "So you're saying that when I die to what I want and what I think I need, when I place it at your feet to do whatever you wish...", he finished " get everything you wanted and more."

That was a powerful night. A definite mark of new direction and growth for me. I'd been focusing on death and it was needful and good, but he was having trouble shifting my thinking towards the next step, resurrection. Wow. That brought tears to my eyes all over again. God is so amazingly good and generous. Who is like him?

Matt 7:11 AMPIf you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who ask Him!

Who is like the Lord?

Part 2 – True Rest (MIT)

Part 2 – True Rest
Chapter 29 from Major Ian Thomas' book "The Indwelling Life of Christ"

Christian rest is not inactivity. Christian rest is rest because He carries the load.

Some people imagine if you bow yourself out and bow Jesus in, if you die to self-effort and let god do it, that is passivity. Well, it is passivity only if you consider God to be passive, and only if you consider the Lord Jesus to be a weakling and incapable of running His own kingdom as King, and that of course is blasphemous.

If I think that by stepping aside and letting God handle it, nothing is going to happen, this only indicates that I do not really believe in God or in the competence of Jesus Christ. I am assuming that if it were not for folks like me doing the work and keeping God in business, He would be in bad shape. That is the only logical conclusion we can draw when anyone assumes, “If I let Jesus do it, nothing will happen.”

When you are truly relaxed in the Lord, stripped of self-effort, and experiencing His true rest, that rest will nearly always involve more activity than we would otherwise ever know. That is because Christ is in action, and you in your humanity are simply the clothes of His divine activity.

This is the rest of faith. You relax, almost like a spectator, except that it is your hands with which He is at work, your lips with which He is speaking, your eyes with which He sees the need, your ears with which He hears the cry, and your heart with which He loves the lost.

To “let go and let God” is not inactivity, although it may appear that way as you grow out of self-effort. It is Christ-activity – God in action accomplishing divine purposes through human personality. This never reduces our status or worth, but exalts us to the stature of a king: “Thos who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

This is not some kind of automatic sinless perfection. For it is only your faith and your obedience (to the Holy Spirit promptings) which allow Christ to be in you now what He was then (perfect!), and you will be what He was then only to the degree in which you allow Him to be in you what He is now (perfect!)

Part 1: How He Gives Us Rest (MIT)

Part 1 - How He Gives Us Rest
Chapter 28 from Major Ian Thomas' book "The Indwelling Life of Christ"

Suppose you were digging a hole, and I offered to give you a rest. How would I do it?

While you continued shoveling, I could call down a suggestion to you such as, “Try tossing the dirt over your left shoulder instead of your right.” I could sing a song about digging, or discuss all the philosophical thinking that might relate to it.

Would any of that give you rest? No, it would more likely give you a heart attack! Yet, those approaches are very much like what today’s Christianity tries to do to bring rest to struggling believers, all in vain.

How could I truly give you rest if you were in that hole digging? Obviously, there is only one way: You must get out and let me get in. You must drop the spade and let me pick it up. You must quit and let me take over. You must vacate the hole in the ground so I can occupy it.

This is the way the Lord Jesus wants to give you and me rest. “Come to Me”, He says, “all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is His offer. He is saying to us, “Get out, and let Me get in. Vacate, and let Me occupy. Drop the spade and let Me dig!”This is what happens when you take Christ at His word, when you come to Him and say, “Lord Jesus, I want the kind of rest that only You can give me.” You bow yourself out and bow Him in. In true repentance you say, “Lord Jesus, I cannot, and You never said I could. You never expected me to do this on my own. All You have expected of me, apart from you sharing your life with me, is the failure that I have been on my own.

“It is true: I cannot – but in genuine confidence I acknowledge that you can! Therefore I will translate what I know and believe into faith, and I will let You do it. I will get out of this hole and let You get in. I will vacate so You can occupy. I will drop the spade so that You can pick it up."

Knowing this, and doing it (through Him working in you), is such a relief!

What happens next? As you vacate, incredibly enough the Lord does occupy. He surprises you beyond your wildest dreams. You discover at last that God is big enough for the job. Your heart is filled with joy, and this experience of His adequacy undergirds your faith for the next situation that arises when you recognize your need for Him, your need for His rest, and for relief from your own ineffective self-effort.

Then when the next time of difficulty comes and you begin to feel weary and burdened once again, you can say, “Lord Jesus, thanks for what you did the last time. It was fantastic. I had been baffled and could not see any possible solution to the problem I faced, but You came through magnificently. However, the situation I’m facing now is ten times worse, but that is exciting, Lord Jesus, because this gives you ten times more opportunity to demonstrate that , as God, You are never less than big enough! So, I thank You, for I am vacating and you are occupying.”

To your amazement, magnificently He handles the situation in His own way and in Him own time (which if you knew that you would agree completely). You have learned to walk by faith, and every new experience of his adequacy undergirds your confidence as you receive more and more of His grace.

This is how we learn to grow in grace.

And since Jesus is the one digging the hole, there’s not much left for you to do but sit in the shade and drink margaritas! So, don’t be surprised if there doesn’t always seem to be a lot of activity that the Lord leads you to. Remember, you’re not the one digging. You’re not needed right now. So go do something you want to do. Which brings me to Part 2: True Rest

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Jesus said (and did) about Family - Part 2

(This is a continuation of the previous note.)

God designed the church to rest on the finished work of the Cross. You see, satan has no problem with praising, dancing, fiery preaching, bible reading, nice buildings, conferences, building funds, fasting, tithing, or even regular church attendance. In fact, he’s sitting in the front row in most churches shouting the loudest “Amen!” He’s fine with a powerful youth ministry, with great choir, a thriving outreach ministry, and a well staffed volunteer organization. Why not open a few blind eyes and heal a few tumors while you’re at it. Satan is OK as long as no one gets up and says, “The work for your deliverance has already been completed! The price for your holiness has already been paid! Jesus is the end of the law for everyone who believes! Your inheritance is free!” That’s when he starts to sense any real danger. But as long as there’s a grace/law mixture being preached, he’s as cool as a cucumber. The body of Christ simply does not have overtaking capabilities without the teaching of the pure, the real Gospel.

In ministries today, we are trying have to the “power of God that brings salvation” with no power. That’s ridiculous when you think about it. The power to rescue people from hell, the grave, poverty, sickness, and all other lack is in the Gospel, which is righteousness and blessing by faith. (Rom 1:16-17) With even the slightest departure from that message our foundation is cracked and the structure is unfit. That’s just the black and white truth. In fact, Paul pronounced a double curse on anyone who taught anything different from that message in Galatians 1. The first 5 chapters of Galatians is a strong rebuke of the church for being legalistic. He said things like, “Even if an angel from heaven comes teaching another gospel than what I’ve shared, let him be cursed!” (Gal. 1:8) He later said, “Are you so stupid that you began your life with Christ by the Spirit, and now you’re trying to walk with him by your own effort?” (Gal. 3:3) Then, he added in chapter 5 verse 2, “For anyone trying to be righteous or get anything from God by his effort, Christ profits you nothing.” You might as well not even be saved. Wow. It’s not to condemn anyone, but to shed light. Plus, I realize that by now I’ve already lost anyone who this wasn’t for anyway.

I think preachers believe that too much grace will cause more people to sin. The opposite is true. The strength of sin is the law (2 Cor. 15:56, also see Gal. 2:19-21 NLT). The more rules or laws are set up around holiness or blessing, the more that holiness and blessing will elude people’s grasp. Doesn’t God seem so backwards sometimes? Here are some benefits to teaching pure grace:

1. People become instantly able to recognize the leading of the Lord. (See my earlier note “How to be Spirit-led…An Experiment”)

2. Evangelizing will improve and increase.

3. People won’t be able to get enough teaching on grace. They will be able to sit through the exact same sermon week after week and still want more.

4. The Holy Spirit will begin directing traffic and people will get into their proper place.

5. Church productivity and efficiency will sky-rocket.

6. Church income will dramatically increase.

7. The church will always know the peace of being in the direction and the will of God.

8. There will be more movement of the Holy Spirit during services.

9. Each church will be unique.

10. More leaders will emerge.

I think the only downside is that all the religious people will immediately leave. The people depending on their service/giving/holiness/whatever to bless them will be terribly offended and leave the church. That’s OK. Jesus called those kinds of people vipers (Matt. 3:7) Now, I just don’t see the benefit of having snakes crawling around while people are trying to worship :)

To conclude, Jesus was a very secure man. He didn’t take his family’s lack of support personally. He also trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit to rescue his family. They’d spent enough time with him for the seed of salvation to be planted in their hearts. Ideally, the same family he grew up with would be the same family who was born of God. But, when forced to choose because his purpose and calling were at stake, he departed trusting that the Holy Spirit could handle it the job. He created distance. This is what I’m doing as well. No, it’s not easy but what other choice do I really have. I can’t not follow the Lord. I’d wilt not being and doing what I’m meant to. And, I rely on his power to help me with each step. He’s so patient and gentle. Plus, he has sent people into my life who share his opinion about me and celebrate me. Only God can do that.

Your “distance” may not look like mine. And don’t put anything on from the outside. Allow these changes to flow from the inside out. Let the Holy Spirit lead you through your heart. That way you won’t be vacillating. He’ll let you know how much explanation is necessary. He'll strengthen you to act even when you can't articulate or put your finger on the problem. He’ll harden you to the seemingly good intentions or the expressions of abandonment from others. He will help you take a stand. He knows when to be tender and when to be tough. Again, let him lead. Don’t forget that he didn’t come to being peace.

If this note has pricked your heart, then respond by just saying “OK” in your heart. Have a frank conversation with the Lord and allow him to guide you. He knows your sensitive areas and he will strengthen them. Remember, God knows the wrinkles of your heart far better than you do. He knows our motives and fears better than we do. And he will bring them to your attention with the intent to heal them. Well, I hope this has encouraged you. I certainly enjoyed writing it. Be blessed!

PS – I know what you’re thinking. “How did she go from discussing family to talking about grace?” Don’t you know me by now? We could be talking about barbeque chicken and I’d say, “Speaking of barbeque chicken, did you know that the work for your life with God has already been done?” LOL

Your questions, comments, insights, and revelations are always welcome. Or, if you'd feel more comfortable, feel free to send me an email.

What Jesus said (and did) about Family – Part 1

Family is a very sensitive subject. So, I will try to be delicate in addressing what I believe is God’s idea of family. I believe this is going to set somebody free.

Almost 2 years ago, I tearfully told the Lord how hurt I was and how hopeless I felt in a particular relationship with a family member. So right there, while sitting on my air mattress in the living room that had become my home, He led me to Matthew 10:34-39 and began to gently reveal to me his thoughts on family. Let’s read that.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

These were pretty powerful words. What the Lord was saying to me was that Christians will rock the boat and cause tension even in their own families. But if I continue to choose to honor their opinions of me or of the Lord above God’s opinion of me and of himself, I was not worthy of being with him. In fact, I need to have the same attitude that God apparently has: Don’t just put up with me. Don’t be ashamed of me. If you are, you can leave. I don’t need or want anybody on board who won’t stand with and for me. He was also sharing that if I will lose my life, lose my relationships, be willing to walk alone, I won’t be walking alone for very long. He will save me. He will make divine connections with other people who will proudly stand for and with me.

After imparting that, he began to remind me of the different interactions Jesus had with his family. The one I think most people are familiar with is recorded in Mark and Luke. Jesus was teaching to a crowd of people and someone told him that his mother and brothers were outside and wanted to see him. He responded, “My mother and brothers are these who hear the Word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:20-21) But, then he led me to the book of John where I read about the two other interactions that Jesus had with his family. Let’s look at those and uncover Jesus’ uncommon view of family.

1. John 7:1-5 “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”

2. John 19:27 “Then He said to the disciple (John), “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

From here, God revealed some life-changing truths, even though at the time I wasn’t able to embrace them.

First, we see Jesus’ brothers who did not believe in Jesus. Notice that the bible did not say they didn’t like him. No, they just didn’t believe in him. This is NOT a small thing. When I’m around people who don’t believe that I have anything valuable to offer, I wilt like a flower. Conversely, when I’m around people who encourage me, see something special in me, and are emotionally secure enough to point it out, I blossom like a rose. That’s not just a weakness that’s unique to me. Beloved, when you are around people who don’t believe in you, it causes you to doubt your worth in your own mind. That leads to you doubting God’s influence in your life. Now he has to take extra time to reassure and console you. It would have been much better and easier for you had you never exposed your heart to that bad seed. We have to guard our hearts with ALL diligence because it produces whatever is put in it (Prov. 4:23) Jesus understood that his brothers were not personally attacking him. But, because of the exposure of his heart, they threatened his confidence and ultimately the call of God on his life…which would have been a very bad thing.

Because the first four books of the New Testament are just four different accounts of the same events, for the purpose of this note, I’m treating them as one book capturing one space of time. The second time you see Jesus dealing with his family is the incident I mentioned earlier. He basically rejects them and their request to see him. Notice that he did not say, “My mother and brothers are those who repent from their sins and are saved.” No, he qualified it. He said those who “hear the Word and do it” (Luke 8:21). That’s a different story. Everyone in my immediate family and nearly everyone in my extended family is a Christian. But Jesus did not define family as just all the Christians. I’ll discuss this more very shortly.

The third and final interaction that Jesus has with his family is when he was hanging on the cross. He put John in charge of the care his mother. This tells me that Jesus did not neglect his family’s material needs. He saw to it that they were taken care of. Clearly, he did not have a hard heart toward them, nor was he harboring any feelings of resentment. It seems he was just doing what he had to do by separating himself. Expect for Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine in John 2:1-11, these are the only three times that Jesus was in contact with his family after he started his ministry.

Here are a few things the Lord showed me after he put these puzzle pieces together for me:

a. He cut his family off emotionally and separated himself geographically. He didn’t mess around with their lack of belief. He created some distance between them and himself.

b. He didn’t allow them to endanger the will of God for his life. It wasn’t personal.

c. He was able to leave them and reject them because he trusted the seed he’d sown into their hearts. After growing up with him, Jesus knew his family had enough information for the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts and bring them to repentance. He knew he wasn’t the Convincer. He basically said, “This is a job for the Holy Ghost! I sow the seed and he will give the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:6-7)

d. Based on what’s written, Jesus didn’t send a disciple or even a water boy to make sure his family received the message of salvation. After John 7, he made no effort to personally witness to them at all. Nothing. Again, he trusted the stirring, convincing, and effective abilities of the Holy Spirit. He knew he could not force anyone into repentance. (Yet, it can be implied in Acts 1:14 that his entire household did end up believing in him because they were praying with the disciples. Jesus' brothers went from not believing in him (John 7:5) to praying and fasting with the disciples WITHOUT Jesus "witnessing" to them. He stayed in the flow of the Holy Spirit and trusted him to do the work. Again we sow as led, and God gives the increase. (1 Cor. 3:6-7))

e. Jesus defined family as the people who “hear and do”. I don’t think he was condemning disobedient Christians here, and neither am I. I believe he was saying that real family consists of people who are led by the Spirit of God. Those people who go with the flow of the Holy Ghost. (These are also the kind of people who will agree with God about you.) Today, that’s a condemning statement. But in Jesus’ day it was almost like common knowledge because the message he preached was VERY different from what is preached today. Jesus’ message was literally irresistible to nearly everyone who heard it (expect religious people). His message makes hearing and following the leading of the Holy Spirit accessible to everyone. His message makes it easy for a 2-week old Christian to be a master at recognizing and following the leading of the Lord. More on that later.

f. Jesus idea of family was very fluid. He wasn’t bound to the idea of natural blood the way we are. To God, Jesus’ blood is what connects us. And his blood is more real to God than the blood of our ancestors.

g. God needed to get YOU into the earth. He used your parents to produce your body, but you are not your body. You’re also not your mind. Christian or not, you are a spirit. Spiritual truths are more real to God than natural ones.

I’m not making this up. These are Jesus’ own words and experiences. Some of my initial thoughts were, “Well, who will take care of me when I need help? My friends can’t do that. Who raised me? Who knows me better than anybody? My family right? I know some Christians who would sooner cut me that bless me!” The truth is, and I have to be blunt, the body of Christ does not rest on the foundation that God designed. Did you know that if a builder where to build a home with a cracked foundation, the local government will condemn the building? It’s a hazardous area, unfit for life. It doesn’t matter how beautiful it is, its unsound structure threatens human life. And no matter how many beautiful churches are built, how much people smile, how “blessed” people become, no matter how wise we get in our own eyes, if the foundation is missing or cracked, the building is condemned. It’s a hazardous area, not fit for life.

OK, here’s a good place to pause. The rest is continued in “What Jesus said (and did) about Family– Part 2”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Follow-up to Tithing article

To my shock, I got a lot of emails and FB messages regarding the note I wrote last week about tithing. Some good, some…well…you know. One person respectfully disagreed, but asked some very good questions. I thought I’d share the email thread in case anyone was interested.

WARNING: It was a long conversation so you may wanna take a break half-way through:) Be blessed!

FRIEND:Won't our works be judged? What do you think Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 3:12-15 where our work is judged by fire, and 2 Cor 5:9,10 where we make it our goal to please him in the body because what we do in the body will be judged?

ME:OK. This is a question, among others, that I needed an answer to when I first understood grace and righteousness by faith in Dec 2007. The Lord gave me this as a starting point: Since Paul is the apostle of grace, and my Word is true, nothing he says in a scripture will contradict what you've already seen in many other scriptures. So whatever the answer is to this question, it will not change, but strengthen what you already understand about the Good News. Sigh of relief.

In 2 Cor 5:9, 10 Paul was referring to his need to be faithful to do what God has called him to do, which is also a source of immense pleasure for him. 1 Cor 3:12-15 is saying the same thing. We all have a part to play and will be judged on how well or diligently we played it (which ties into purpose). In making both of these points he stresses the importance of good works. And will our works be judged? Of course. But, and here is the vital part, the kind of good works that survive the fire have one and only one source: the flow/leading of the Spirit of God.

One of Paul's points in Romans 7:1-6 is that there are two different types of fruit, or works. And it's only when we realize we are dead to the law, and slowly allow the HS to peel away our legalistic thinking (that you have no idea is there until he shows you) are we free to serve God by the promptings of the Spirit (v 6 AMP). The NLT says it best, "Because you died to its (the law) a result you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. Now we can really serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law (which kills), but in the new way by the Spirit." Notice that Paul calls being led by the Spirit of God into good works “really” serving God.

I really believe deadness to the law is what opens the door to be led by the Spirit of God. As we peel back the legalistic thinking by removing ALL motivation to act and save ourselves, all that’s left are the desires of our spirit. Which are God working in us giving us the desires and ability to do his good pleasure (Phill 2:13) As you recline, the spirit of God in you rises. And his leadings become glow-in-the-dark. Isn’t that awesome?!

His promptings may look silly at times but that's just so no flesh can glory. I think this is one of the reasons Galatians is structured the way it is. It's a strong rebuke for going from grace back to law, then instruction about how to be led by the Spirit, then a warning about sowing and reaping. It's a wonderful cycle! If we get the grace part in order, you'll flow in the Spirit, and you don't have to concern yourself with sowing and reaping. The flow of the Spirit will guarantee that you "sow" in the right ways and places. I’ve witnessed this in my own life and in the lives of other people who learn what I learned. I believe when we put our works on Jesus, he rests us (Matt 11:28-30) And all that comes out is the desire and ability to do his good pleasure.

For Christians, God has written his instructions on our inner most thoughts (Heb 8:10 AMP). From my own experience I can't begin to express how the leading of the Lord got soooo much clearer and sharper as I soaked in radical and pure grace. And I'm not nearly as aware of my performance as I used to be. Isn't that what relationships are supposed to be like? I literally had to ask God how I was doing b/c I didn't know! But it's obvious to anyone who looks that there is fruit growing on my tree that were barren for years and years. And I don't worry about missing it, but I am very watchful of the "shoulds" and other laws to make sure I stay in the flow of the Spirit. I think it’s very difficult to clearly discern the will of God by just using our senses and a list of basic guidelines for life. Even in scripture, many of God’s instructions seemed so foolish yet his glory was seen. Trusting the flow w/o some sort of measure was uncomfortable at first, like jello fresh out of the mold. But it eventually took shape, became second nature, and made me wonder what the heck I’d been doing all my Christian life!

Oh gosh! I'll stop there. I know it's more than you asked for but I could go on forever about this.

FRIEND (edited to preserve identity):OK. Here are some more questions. Why do you think Paul is the apostle of grace? Are you saying we don’t have to obey the bible? Isn’t being led subjective? (I know plenty of people who would use that as an excuse.) Are you saying the law is bad? The law is concrete and grounding. The bible says that the law is our school master.

ME:Given just 2 things Paul said "I've resolved to know nothing among you except JC and him crucified" in 1 Cor 2:2 and "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, righteousness by faith, for it is the power of God unto salvation" in Rom 1:16-17, I'm inclined to believe that grace is the focus of Paul’s writings. And I definitely think Good News it is the main focus of the entire bible. With all the types and shadows, all of Paul’s opening greetings (which are taken way too lightly), and other things, I would definitely call Paul the first Grace Preacher. But even if he’s not and if grace was not his focus, I just can't seem to shake it. I've been bitten by the grace bug and after a year, it's only gotten worse. I'll move on when I'm led out of it.

Yes we still obey, but indirectly through and trusting in the Spirit instead of directly trying to keep a commandment. When we flow in the Spirit, he flows us into obedience, we’re just unaware of it. Slightly different, but crucial.

Also, notice how Gal 5:19-23 KJV distinguishes between the "works" of the flesh and the "fruit" of the Spirit. One is a work and one is a fruit. Fruit = by-product = will automatically happen without effort or conscious thought. Doesn't that sound too good to be true? (Doesn't God seem like that type of God?)

The law is no longer our school master (Gal 3:24-25) And “that’s the way it was with us until Christ came” Gal 4:3 NLT. We don’t need it to direct us when we have the HS.

Being led by the Spirit is only subjective to a revelation of the grace of God. After that, it's not subjective to ANYTHING else. That's a myth in the body of Christ that God hates b/c it hurts us so much. Being led is a very finite, absolute, accurate, fool-proof way of living your life. We just don't know how to do it. But we can’t through the baby out with the bath water. Do you really think God would give us his Spirit, tell us to follow it, and then say "Oh wait guys. Be careful and still use the law b/c my Spirit is subjective." And do you think he'd create a system w/o first calculating human error, and design something that could overpower it? (This is the focus of my note “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Erna) Come on now. He's God. He knows how to speak in a way that we understand exactly what he's saying. And grace is the thing that highlights what he's saying in a "paragraph" of other fleshly/human/non-God thoughts and desires.

Law is not grounding. It kills (2 Cor 3:6). The Spirit inside is the most concrete grounding there is, along with the written word of God. It’s always right. We can always trust it. That takes faith, which is scary but required. Anyone can use their senses to relate to a list of written instructions, that are extremely VAGUE if you've noticed. (For example, the bible won't tell you where to live or what to give, etc.) As you know, the word and HS don’t clash. But the HS had way more to say than what’s written in the bible. As Christians, we can’t put more faith in the written word of God than the spoken word of God. Also, it takes no faith at all to follow a list of instructions. The just are to live by faith, not just visit every once and while.

Also, Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 is the struggle of a person who hasn’t yet realized Romans 8. That’s why the word “therefore” is used in Romans 8:1. It’s a continuation.

Of course the law isn't bad. It served its purpose to reveal sin in our lives so we would see our need for a Savior (Rom 7:7-13). That’s why it's called the ministry of death (2 Cor3:7) And Paul takes it further by saying that the strength of sin is the law (1 Cor 15:56). You know your sin through the law, which produces more sin and therefore more death. So basically, "If you guys wanna keep missing your next step, keep dishonoring God, just keep trying to keep the standard of the law." Not to mention that anyone who tries to keep the law is cursed b/c they can't keep it all (Gal 3:9-11, also see James 2:10). And if a person gets a revelation of grace, they will see God's love. B/c only Love could leave himself so vulnerable, could give so much without a guarantee of receiving. And as PD teaches from 1 John 4:18, we love him as we know he loves us. A person who truly knows God's love as demonstrated by his grace is more obedient by accident than they ever were on purpose. You know what I’m saying?

How to be Spirit-led...An Experiment

The Experiment
By December 2007, I was in the midst of what had been a very painful crisis. I’d tried everything I could to get out of it with no success. It was then that I learned about the grace of God and righteousness by faith. According to Andrew Wommack and the scriptures he gave, I was right before God AND blessed by Him independent of my performance. That sounded too good to be true, so I decided to test it.

“OK God. If you’re telling me that the way to receive blessing is by faith in Jesus’ completed work, then I’m not going to read my bible anymore. I’m not going to pray or worship or spend any time with you until I want to. Since you don’t need my work with Jesus’ work, I’m just going to take a break.” I’d never felt this way before. For most of my Christian life, I was in love with the Lord, feelings and everything. But by now my heart was beyond tired. And grace sounded so good, I had to try it. Little did I know, God was setting me up to learn some things that had been a mystery my entire Christian life.

One day went by. I was fine. In fact, I was skipping because I felt so free. Two days go by. I started feeling a little hungry for him. On the morning of the third day, I drew to the Lord out of pure desire and entered into a level of intimacy with him like never before. I stopped asking him what I should read in the bible. Instead, the thought came to me ask, “What do I want to read today Lord?” I’d feel a desire for a certain book, study there, and receive revelation from heaven. I’d ask “Do I want to pray in tongues, or worship, or what Lord?” Then I’d desire to worship to a slow song and be transformed. Our time together is Spirit-led. He knows where my answers are at that time. If I desire to talk with him but I sing instead, there’s no anointing. Needless to say, it’s only gotten sweeter.

How to be Led According to God’s Spoken and Written
Why did I share this? To show off how spiritual I was? No. Months later God connected the dots for me regarding the key to being led accurately and confidently by the Holy Spirit. In the past, I tried to be led by God by listening to my inner voice. I’d pray and then leave a silent time for Him to speak. Nothing. I’d ask a question hoping for an answer. Nada. This was very frustrating especially when the bible says “You [God] have given me the capacity to hear and obey” (Psalm 40:6) In August 2008, he reminded me of my little experiment and said that it was a perfect example of being led. He shared something like this, which I will also show you through scripture:

“Erna, the key to being led by me is to peel back the law. As you do that, all that’s left in you are the desires from me that lead to my good pleasure and purpose. I am always at work in you giving you the desire and ability to do my will (Phil. 2:13). And in every decision, you can either be led by law OR the Spirit of God in you (Gal 5:18). But as long as you think of your inheritance as a wage, you cannot discern my will. ”

That was PROFOUND to me! But I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. Divine instruction is your birthright and God designed it to be way simpler than I ever thought. OK, so here are some scriptures I found to confirm what God said:

1. Check out Galatians 2:19-21 in the New Living Translation. Paul tells us that when he tried to please God by his actions, he failed. But when he gave up and started trusting in Jesus’ actions, he was able to please God. He says, “I died to the law that I may live for God” (v. 19) It seems dying to the law is the key to living for God. He also says that as he died, Christ began to live through him (v. 20). As you rest from your works, Christ begins to work through you. Then he puts it into context by declaring that he will not take God’s grace for granted by putting himself on the cross through his good works. He says Christ died for nothing if our inheritance could be obtained by working for it (v.21).

2. Later in the book of Hebrews, Paul tells us the major difference between the old and new testaments regarding God’s method of leading us. He states that before Jesus, he wrote his instructions on tablets of stone. But today God says he will imprint his instructions on “our minds and upon our innermost thoughts and understanding”, and upon our hearts (Heb. 8:10 AMP, also see 10:6 AMP) His directions will now appear to us as our own thoughts and desires through our understanding. Amen!! That is so much easier than trying to listen for a voice. Sometimes I do hear words, not audibly, but in my spirit. But most of the time, I just feel a prompting or a leading in my belly area.

3. Solomon prophesies that as we roll our works upon him (Jesus), he will cause our thoughts to be agreeable with his will (Prov. 16:3 AMP).

4. Lastly, Galatians is a very strong rebuke from Paul to the Galatian church because they had gone from believing in God’s grace back to legalism. He said that could not have happened without some demonic help (Gal. 3:1). Notice the structure of the book of Galatians. It starts as a strong rebuke for going from grace back to law (1:1-5:12), then instruction is given about how to be led by the Spirit (5:13-5:26), then teaching about sowing and reaping (6:1-10) before Paul concludes his letter. It's a wonderful cycle! If we get the grace part in order, you'll flow in the Spirit, and you don't have to even think about sowing and reaping. The flow of the Spirit will guarantee that you "sow" in the right ways and places. This seems kinda shaky, but I’ve witnessed this in my own life and in the lives of other people who’ve learned what I learned. I believe when we put our works on Jesus, he rests us (Matt. 11:28-30) And all that comes out is the desire and ability to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)

Anybody Can Do This
Being Spirit-led is a natural by-product of grace. I encourage you to look at these scriptures for yourself. See if you have peace about them. Peter tells us that some of Paul’s teachings are “hard to be understood”, and that we should grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:16-18). There were times when my mind was uncomfortable believing grace, but my heart had already said “Amen”. Jesus said that his burden for us is easy because we basically only do what we want (Matt. 11:28-30). God set it up that way! (“Hmm. How can I make sure that my kids will do what I tell them even if they don’t think it’s a good idea? I know! I’ll create this thing called desire!) And you know you’ve gotten off-track if what you’re doing feels hard, or frustrated, or you find yourself praying for grace to be on it (Prov. 13:15). God speaks directly to us in a language we can understand and he expects us to grow into these things. Even when getting godly counsel, you are still responsible for making sure what you’re told agrees with what you already have inside of you before you obey it. NO ONE takes the seat of the Holy Spirit in directing your life. (Read a good example of this in 1 Kings 13:11-32) If you have peace about these scriptures then follow the curiosity in your heart to learn more about grace. It doesn’t take long to understand it and is very exciting. I’m experiencing the thrills of learning about the Gospel along with several friends.

I’ve heard that Christians can be led by their desires, but never knew that it was based on removing our legalistic thinking. If a believer were to try to be led without first understanding the Gospel, things won’t go well. Grace makes God’s instructions glow in the dark. No kidding. It’s the most remarkable thing! Who knew this treasure was wrapped in an understanding of grace? Beloved, you are saved through faith in God’s grace, not by faith and works. (“Saved” and “salvation” in the Greek means saved from hell, healing, prosperity, protection, and much more. Basically it’s anything you need saving from.) Mixing faith and law has a very damaging outcome (Gal. 3:9-10; 5:1-8). So, you have to protect the Word of God in your heart and not get back into what I call the “should’s”. It is very easy to confuse diligence with the self-effort. Go after grace. And enjoy as God electrifies your relationship with him and answers questions you’ve had for years. I highly recommend reading "Destined to Reign" by Joseph Prince. That book is like Grace 101. I'd also recommend "The Power of the Gospel" from one of Andrew Wommack's series: Be blessed.

PS – The word “Gospel” is loosely translated “nearly too good to be true news”. His grace certainly is that!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tithing...Another View

I wrote this at my own risk and am not expecting a whole lot of “Amen”. It took 6 months to tell my close friends, but now I’m very happy to share my heart on this subject.

My parents taught me to tithe before I could count. As a result, I’ve been tithing for 23 of my 27 years. That’s 15 years before I actually became a Christian. Well, in late 2007 I started asking the Lord about tithing because I felt so stale doing it. It had become an obligatory tax given mechanically instead of with a heart of love. I tried giving from a heart of honor, and then giving expecting to receive, and every other motive I was told was right. They all wore off quickly and I was back to what I call “dry giving”. I knew something wasn’t right so I asked God about it.

He started to open the scriptures to me in an uncomfortable way. I started seeing things in the bible that I’d never heard preached but brought so much peace when I read them. The things I was understanding were SO different that I asked the Lord if anyone had ever taught it and where I could get it. The links at the end of this note are where he led me. Now, I am very happy to proclaim that, after 23 years, I am no longer a tither. In February 2008, I became a cheerful giver.

I think the easiest way to do this is in list format. Please bear with me!

1. Tithing is an Old Testament law and as Christians, Jesus has fulfilled the entire law on our behalf (Lev. 27:30, Matt. 5:17). This is the simplest explanation. But even after seeing it in the bible, I needed further proof because I’d believed in tithing for so long.

2. A law is any standard you hold yourself to before you can receive something. It’s the measure imposed on you to qualify you for something, rejecting the fact that Jesus’ work alone has qualified you. (Col 1:12 AMP) The exception is faith. Requiring faith before receiving isn’t a law. It’s just the way things work and it’s a lot easier than we think.

3. Tithing existed before the law was given. Abram gave the first tithe in Genesis 14. Moses, led by God, made it a law more than 500 years later. So if Abram gave the first tithe, yet there was no law telling him to do so, why did he do it? For the blessing of the high priest? No. The high priest blessed Abram before he tithed. Was is so God would open the windows of heaven and pour him out a blessing he wouldn’t have room enough to receive? No. God took care of that in chapter 13. You know why Abram gave a tenth of all he had to the Lord? For starters, he considered the grace and generosity of his God in making him so very rich even though he had not lived a perfect life. (See 2 Cor. 8:9) God had kept his promise to Abram in spite of his less-than-perfect performance. Abram was extremely rich, he had 300+ servants, God had caused him to have a huge military battle over four kings, and the high priest pronounced a blessing over his life. THEN Abram gave a tithe in v. 20. Because of all this Abram had a willing mind and he gave according as he decided in his heart. (See 2 Cor. 8:12 and 9:8) There was no one to tell him how much to give. He literally picked a number that seemed right to him. This is what sold me, but I had block out everything I’d ever heard on the subject to become fully convinced of the scriptures.

4. Malachi 3 doesn’t apply to Christians, or people with a covenant with God through Jesus. God has already given us one grace after another, blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift. (John 1:16 AMP) He has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3, also see Eph. 1:3) Everything God had to give us has already been given to us through Jesus. Therefore, he has already opened the windows of heaven and dumped out everything. Also, God’s not rebuking the devourer anymore. Before Jesus, Christians didn’t have authority over satan. Now, he’s just a loud-mouth bully with no actual power. And if you don’t rebuke him, he won’t be rebuked. For that matter, how could my actions change God's promise 2000+ years after he fulfilled that promise? If we don’t perform well, isn’t he kinda bound by his covenant? It’s strange to think that way, but it’s in the bible.

5. If blessing could be gained by tithing then financial prosperity would be a wage, not a gift. To the man who works the payment is not considered a gift but a debt. (Romans 4:4) And if there was something you had to do for God to bless you then the words “heir” and “inheritance” have been improperly translated in the bible. According to Galatians 4, there were rules and standards set up for the children of God (the law) before Jesus came. Now, we are heirs and everything he has belongs to us freely. That makes perfect sense in theory. But, why don’t we see more prosperity in the church? Because the minute we try to earn a gift from God, you are cut off from it. The minute you try to keep a standard to be blessed, you are placed under the curse. That’s because if you try to keep one law, you switch systems completely and are now being judged according to your work and not Jesus’ work. And since you can’t keep the entire law, you are cursed. That’s called grace, and is a whole other subject. (See Gal 3:10, Gal. 5:1-5, Romans 11:6 , and James 2:10)

This is why people were selling their homes to give to the gospel in the early churches. They heard the message of pure, radical grace which always produces more fruit than the law. The message has been changed a little. I could go on for hours about how different it is to live by grace than to live by the law. But, after more than a year of soaking in the grace of God and righteousness by faith, I am convinced that a person has to either be in a crisis or be a new Christian to receive the message of grace. I was in a crisis and had exhausted myself when I learned about the gospel which is of grace. Others are just super-hungry for the things of God. Some are just in need of change and don’t have the luxury of an ego. There’s a reason Jesus said on 3 occasions that the poor need to hear the gospel preached, which to them is: you were born rich when you believed in me, so shake of that condemnation, quit trying to earn your inheritance, and freely receive.

So now when I get increase, I say something like, “Lord you’ve been so good. Thank you for making me rich before I had a chance to earn it. Only Love would do something like that. How much do I want to give you?” He gives me a dollar amount and I give it. The first time, it was under 10% and I freaked out. But disobedience would’ve crossed over into the works of my flesh. Now, I love giving from my heart! It’s so freeing! It puts the cheer back in giving to God. I never worry about giving too much because I couldn’t possibly deplete my supply! If I were to look at my actions on paper, I might see that I’ve sown and reaped but I never think about that. Plus, I couldn’t possibly sow enough seed to reap my own inheritance. Abiding in the flow of the Spirit through grace ensures that you give what God wants you to give.

For more on this subject feel free to check out my other note “Prospering by Grace”. But, there are ministers who have a far superior revelation on the subject of grace than I do. Check them out too. I love that other people have labored to understand things for 10 or 20 years, then preach or write about it so I can understand it in a few days. God’s good! Be blessed!

* I feel obligated to say that living by grace doesn’t produce recklessness. A person who lives by grace is significantly more obedient and holy than if they lived by the law. They just aren’t conscious of it.