Posts Tagged 'Faith'

Discounted Citizenship

Did you know that as Christians our true citizenship is in heaven?  Philippians 3:20-21, states “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” What, exactly, does this mean? And do we act like we really believe it? How should we act if we really believe it? I think it goes to our allegiance.

The Lord keeps putting this notion in my mind as a reminder that my true allegiance is first and foremost eternal, to heaven and my King and Lord, and not to the USA, England, China or any other earthly nation, power, or human. It’s not that these other things can’t get and keep my attention; it’s just that when it comes to all things, my first thought needs to be, “How does this play out in the Kingdom of God?” That is my true heritage, and so I must always try to keep it intact.

Nevertheless, when followers of Jesus put other things – like their “patriotism” – ahead of heaven, they discount their true heritage and citizenship and they dishonor their Lord. This also happens when they mix up their true heritage with other worldly things, like notions that are part of “Christian nationalism” or politics.

Indeed, as followers of Jesus, our eternal citizenship is far more powerful than any earthly citizenship. That’s because we’re not only citizens of heaven, we’re literal heirs to God’s Kingdom. Paul wrote this often, such as to the Galatians (3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”), and to the Romans (8:16-17, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”).  If you were an actual heir to an earthly kingdom, such as Great Britain, would you even consider being citizen of some other worldly place? No way! Being an heir is far more powerful than simply having citizenship. So, if we know and believe we are also heirs to the Kingdom of God, why would we align or put our allegiance anywhere else? Well, we wouldn’t. And we shouldn’t.

Still, during this past year I’ve seen a rise in the United States of what many people are calling “Christian nationalism” – or, as Tim and I call it, “political Christians,” meaning people who identify a particular political party with Christianity or who have generally allowed politics to get all mixed up in their theology. In short, they’re putting their allegiance somewhere beside the place of their true citizenship – the Kingdom of God.

We’ve written about this dangerous way of thinking before, and it appears to be uniquely American. Only in our country do some of us believe that WE, the people, have to vote a certain way and pray the right man into leadership, and that if he doesn’t win it is a “stolen election,” against God’s will, and driven by Satan. This isn’t only dangerous to the democracy in the USA, it’s also discounting the Truth of the Word of God. As Tim and I have often written before, if you think God is so weak that He needs you to vote a particular way for Him to achieve his ends, then – at the very least – you don’t believe in the complete sovereignty of God, which is a central tenet of what we all proclaim to believe as Christians. Noted Christian apologist, R.C. Sproul, was fairly harsh on this matter; to him, if someone didn’t believe in God’s sovereignty in all things, he was likely to call them an atheist. Now, this was mostly an outrageous statement designed to get people’s attention. But, to Sproul, questions about God’s sovereignty didn’t distinguish between, say, Christians and Muslims or between one Christian denomination with another. They distinguished between theists and atheists. Ouch.

Of course, all this leads to a more refined discussion on free will, prayer, and other complicated notions like determinism, but that’s left for another day. My point on this day is that whenever you discount something as fundamental as the sovereignty of God, you also discount your own citizenship in His Kingdom, which should have led you to trust in God all along. You do so especially when you show an allegiance to some other entity or philosophy vying for your “citizenship,” such as a political party. Our true citizenship is eternal and heavenly, and in that realm (and, indeed, in this, His created realm) God needs no help whatsoever. Knowing that, why would you ever shift your allegiance?

But I see people mixing their citizenships and shifting allegiances all the time. Recently, I had an encounter with a neighbor while I was gardening in front of my house. Usually, when I meet someone, I always try to test the Spiritual waters of that person, and so I often mention God, Jesus, or Christianity in passing. This time, the person actually said, “Oh good, you’re a Christian. There are a bunch of us at the end of the block and we’re all Republicans, too.” Stop! Did you notice that? A complete mixing of theology and politics.

I was immediately disturbed. First, I was disturbed for her to associate a particular political party to Christianity – indeed, to the exclusion of other people (parties) like Democrats and Independents. Jesus was Not political and, indeed, his apolitical ways were one reason why the religious leaders of his day wanted to arrest him as he appeared a clear threat to their own political power and way of life. But, second, I was disturbed because I think it signaled that she had discounted her heavenly citizenship. She was shifting her allegiance right before my eyes.  

The fact is that having an eternal, heavenly citizenship is bound to lead to being a bit of an outcast to everyone else in the world. If you truly believe you are an heir to God’s Kingdom, then you’ll probably be both disappointed and encouraged (and thus, likely be both correcting and praising) various aspects and positions of all political parties. If those positions don’t line up with the Bible, then they simply aren’t a part of the place to which you enjoy citizenship and, indeed, are an heir.

You may recall that Jesus admonished and rebuked the religious leaders of his time, the Pharisees and Sadducees, for taking Gods’ word and applying it in an overly-humanistic and religious manner, while forgetting what the intention of the word was in the first place.  Specifically, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for parading themselves in ostentatious clothing, demanding to be addressed by titles, and requiring the best seats at banquets. He called them out for hypocrisy and lying. Sound familiar? How many of our “Christian” leaders are just searching for recognition, forever trying to be photographed with some important person, and hoping to find a platform where many people can see them (and, of course, pay them). The Sadducees, on the other hand, were the political religious leaders. Aligned with Rome, they had a tremendous amount of political power that they used to accommodate the Romans in maintaining the status quo. They had their hands in everything going on in the temple, and they displayed alarm at Jesus’ ministry. Sound familiar? How many of our “Christian” leaders are overtly political, bound up in the workings of government? How many issue prophesies over elections? Indeed, how many would be alarmed at a ministry like that of Jesus were it to surface today?

It may be that these earlier groups didn’t really understand why Jesus rebuked them. They likely thought they were doing everything right by following their own notions of Jewish law and the realities of Roman rule. But they’d never seen anything like Jesus. He was like some sort of alien. His citizenship was eternal. His allegiance was to the Kingdom.   

My question to us today is, where is our true citizenship?  Where do our hearts reside?  We’re either 100% Christian and citizens of heaven or we’re not. Accordingly, we must remember our allegiance, and must never discount our true citizenship by even one percent.

Fear or Faith?

I’ve watched the news reports on the Coronavirus over the past several weeks, and I’ve watched the fear growing in our communities and the world. I think it’s great that we have highly educated, highly intelligent people at the World Health Organization and our own Center for Disease Control working on containment and a cure. It’s also great that there are so many resources out on the Internet giving us information about how to prevent getting it ourselves. But I don’t see very much Spiritual information to keep us healthy, so let’s explore that in this blog titled, “Fear and Faith.”

Okay, at its most basic level, faith is complete trust, belief, or confidence. Fear, on the other hand, is the emotion caused when you think something is dangerous. Theoretically, you could have complete faith in something really bad, such as the possibility that a virus will attack you, and then it would be compatible with fear. But when I talk about faith, I’m talking about faith in God. And when I talk about faith in God, then I just don’t think we can operate out of faith and fear at the same time. That’d be like saying that it’s day and night at the same time (it just doesn’t happen, and don’t be trying to argue about eclipses and whatnot). Trust in God means that we fear nothing except being apart from God.

Fear

While God certainly created the emotion of fear, it’s used most often as a tool of the enemy to distract our focus from our worship of our Lord. I lump ordinary worry into this toolbox, too, because fearfulness causes us to worry about what might happen. Once I read where someone said that FEAR means, “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and that’s a pretty good way to look at it. Usually, once we’ve had time to reflect, we can see that what we feared is actually false. But for some reason, we have a tendency to at least initially believe and fear the false evidence. God knows this, which is why In the Bible, virtually every time an angel of the Lord appears to someone (like when the angel appeared to Mary) the first thing the angel says is “do not be afraid.” God knows how powerful fear can be if it’s not used for its proper purpose, and so He wants us to keep it in perspective.

There are several verses in scripture telling us not to fear. Most of us have heard the familiar 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me.” Similarly, Psalm 46:1-2 states, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give away and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 91:4-5 states that with trust in God, “you will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Isaiah 41:10 states not to fear simply because God is with us, and in Romans 8:15, Paul writes that as believers we didn’t receive a spirit that makes us “slaves” to fear.

The Bible speaks of the “fear of the Lord,” but don’t take that the wrong way. As Pope Francis correctly stated, “The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us,…[It] is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace.” It’s a reverential respect for our Lord and a fear of displeasing Him so that we strive to walk more intentionally in obedience and repentance.

Faith

Like fear, the Bible has a lot to say about faith and belief – with hundreds of references to both terms. By the way, as a rule of thumb in the Bible (and in life), if something is important enough to mention more than a few times in must be really important. That’s certainly true of faith and belief.

Our entire relationship with our Lord is birthed out of faith and belief and grows from these foundations. If the enemy wants to get us off track, all he really needs to do is to plant a bit of fear, doubt, or unbelief, and that automatically starts to erode our faith. He did it in the garden with Eve when he said, “You will not surely die.” Just a little bit of doubt, and suddenly everything changes. Fear is especially potent because it’s such a strong emotion. “Sure, I believe in God,” one might say, “but I’m really afraid that I might lose my job (or house, or health).” That sentence, and others exactly like it, requires a “but” in the middle of it simply because deep down we know that the two things – fear and faith – are foundationally incompatible.

So, how do we combat fear? Through our recognition of faith. And there are lots of ways to do that. I know from personal experience that the only way I can have a measure of peace in this tumultuous world is to constantly feed my faith through the Word of God. I’m routinely assaulted by outside influences, so I have to remind myself of God’s Word, and I have to be in the Word daily. Reading the Bible strengthens my faith, just as playing a lot of video games might strengthen my thumbs. It’s just a natural byproduct of the action.

But there are other ways to recognize and build faith. My husband spends a lot of time looking up answers to thorny theological/philosophical questions. The more he knows, he says, the stronger his faith becomes. You don’t have to start with such complex topics, though; you can build your faith intellectually by reading other authors’ books, articles, and blogs about faith or their stories of how they built their faith. Other, more “spirit walking” ways include prayer, meditating on the attributes of God, and talking with other followers of Jesus. That fact is – as I wrote before in my book – the more you go looking for God, the more you’ll see God at work. And seeing God at work automatically increases your faith. These days, I look at a car driving down the street and marvel at God’s creation.

Paul talks about faith being a shield (Eph. 6:14) that can deflect all of the arrows of satan, so it’s defensive in the sense that it blocks the lies and fear thrown at us daily to take us out of alignment with God. But faith can also be offensive, giving us the foundation to confidently wield the sword of the Word and spirit-filled prayer. That’s why Jesus said if we have faith even as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20) It’s faith that heals, faith that raises the dead, and faith that protects.

And that’s why our faith in God should cause us to look at this virus – or any virus – differently. Remember, saints, that although we are in the world, we are not of the world, and we are indwelled with the Spirit of the God who created the universe. So, bottom line, is that our faith should erase any fear of disease. Now here’s the hard part: that doesn’t mean that we won’t get a disease. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t die from a disease. It means that we shouldn’t fear it.

Throughout my book, I talk about understanding the supernatural world, but not forgetting to do the natural world things. So, yes, wash your hands! Cover your cough! Don’t sneeze on your friend! Sure, go ahead and buy supplies – you ought to do this anyway, by the way – and try to limit your exposure to places and things that can give you an illness. Do all this “world” stuff. But don’t worry, because your life in this world is only a prelude to the eternal.

Last week our pastor said that he had zero fear of the coronavirus, simply because if he got it, he’d either come through it on this side, surrounded by nurses giving credit to doctors and drugs, or the other side, surrounded by the angels of heaven singing praises to God. Either way, fear simply shouldn’t enter into it.

Faith Not Fear

This isn’t the first big virus, and it won’t be the last. And yes, one day it will be this or something else that takes you home. My personal belief is that God keeps us alive so long as we are completing our calling – the thing that God wanted us to do to grow the Kingdom. I call this a sort-of “spiritual immunity,” and it keeps me constantly working, making sure that when I do get called home I haven’t been called because I gave up. There’s really no time for fear in a life like that.

So, continue using your own spiritual immunity by helping others to see what a follower of Jesus looks like when he or she presented with something people think is fearful. Show them a life without fear. A life with faith. A life walking in the Spirit of God.

Romans 10:17 states, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” And the word of Christ, in this instance, is saying “do not fear.”

The Power of Words: Do they Dictate Your Path?

I thought I was finished, at least for the moment, talking about the power of our words, but the Lord has been impressing on me the extreme importance of this topic. I’m always looking for confirmation in things I dream, hear, or that are put on my heart to research or blog, and, once again, this topic popped up. This week I was given confirmation when the topic kept coming up in a discussion group with whom I meet, which is made up of developmental believers anointed as prophets. After that I heard a teaching by Glen Berteau on this topic as well. Glen taught a new dimension that I hadn’t thought of when it comes to our words, so I want to share this with you today.

Glen taught from James 3, which likens the tongue to the bit of a horse bridle or ship rudder.

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers [and sisters], this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers [and sisters], can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Using the bridle as an example, Glen mentioned how a 2,000-pound Clydesdale horse can be guided from right to left simply by attaching a tiny bit that weighs ounces into the horse’s mouth. Clearly, our tongues act much like this bit and bridle. Unlike the horse, however, we don’t always have the careful guidance of the rider to move us from place to place. Instead, we move ourselves by our words, and those words move us directly toward the thing of which they speak. This means, for example, that we can move toward positive (blessings) or negative (curses) positions based on those words.

For example, let’s say you get a medical diagnosis, and let’s say it’s bad, like cancer. You can move toward the cancer by constantly talking about it, how bad it is, how unfortunate you are, how your family genetics likely caused it, etc. Or you can move away from it by using words of healing and thanks to God for a long and healthy life.

As another example, we may find ourselves constantly talking about something or someone that simply isn’t in the will of God for our lives. As a theological concept, free will means that you can speak those words and move toward that thing or person. But don’t be surprised when you ultimately recognize that the thing or person wasn’t the best thing for you and something you likely could have known by holding it up to the Word.

It’s like driving on the highway. You tend to veer slightly toward the thing upon which your eyes focus. So, it’s not just a spiritual law; the notion that you’ll move ever closer to the things you think, say, and repeat is also true in the natural world. What makes it different is that in the natural world people don’t necessarily have the grounding needed to focus and make this law work for them.

People with a natural worldview might say that there is “power” in positive thinking, or that the “universe” somehow moves to bring things about when spoken in the right way. With a biblical worldview, we remember a few important truths. First, what comes from the tongue indicates what is in your heart – “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34) – but you can dramatically change your heart through your words, starting with words that confirm Jesus as God and asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) Second, God moves when people are expectant of his power: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24). Third, the Bible actually tells us what we should focus upon: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8-9) By the way, if you haven’t figured it out already, these things are somewhat circular. The more you speak in faith, the more your faith grows; the more positive your words, the more expectant of blessings you become.

Where is your tongue leading you – to life or to death? To blessings or to curses? To the spiritual best for you or to secular notions of success? Once again, I ask you to take your words and thoughts captive and to pay attention to what you’re thinking and what you’re speaking. Even if your situation does not bear witness to the blessing at the moment (for example, prayers for healing often find immediate purchase in the spiritual realm but take time to manifest in the natural) continue to thank our Lord for his work on the situation and for His continued blessing and protection for you and your family.

Palm Sunday! Palm Sunday!

palm

Every Palm Sunday I’m reminded at how quickly things can change. Just five days after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he was crucified. But just two days after that, he rose from the grave to bring salvation to the world for all time.

Your life might take a bad turn, and it might take that turn fairly quickly. But remember that God is there to turn you back around even quicker. All you have to do is call on Him.

Happy Palm Sunday, everyone, and my God bless you all!

It’s True. All of it.

Denise took me to Star Wars the other day, and all I can say is, WOW! We decided not only to see the movie, but to see it in HD, 3D, IMAX, etc., and it was truly amazing. I swear there was one point in the movie when some starship looked like it was literally sitting in the seat next to me. And at another point, a guy from a few rows down went out for drink or something, and I thought he was a Stormtrooper dashing across the screen. For a brief moment, life and art were one. The whole thing was almost worth the price of the popcorn, for which Denise and I had to take out a short-term loan.

kylo-ren-rey-s-connection-revealed-in-new-star-wars-episode-7-photos-rey-and-finn-pre-710348

Anyway, the reason that little excursion makes it into a blog about the supernatural is because the movie itself kind of overflows with a good and evil, God and Satan sort of tale. I knew that going into it, and then Harrison Ford summed everything up. When Rey was asking Harrison’s character, Han Solo, about all the stories she had heard over the years, Han replied, “It’s true. All of it. The dark side. The Jedi. They’re real.”

It reminded me of what might happen today if someone was able to meet up with one of Jesus’ apostles, like maybe John. That person might ask, “Hey, I’ve heard all kinds of crazy stories in the Bible, and a lot of people think they’re fairy tales. What’s the deal?” At that point, I’m sure John would say, “It’s true. All of it. God. Satan. Jesus. The supernatural. They’re real.”

But all of that begs the question, which has been posed most forcefully by Del Tackett from the Truth Project series. During that series, Del often asked, “Do you believe that what you believe is really real? Because if you really believe that what you believe is real, then Christians will change the world.” He’s right. If we acted as if we really believed everything in the Bible, our actions would look radically different not only to the rest of the world, but likely even to us.

What if we really believed that we were created in God’s image, that Jesus is God come in the flesh, and that by having faith in Jesus Christ we are able to live as eternal beings with God? And if we really believed that Jesus Christ is God, wouldn’t we strive every single day to act in ways pleasing to Him? We believe in the laws of the natural world, and we act accordingly. So what would our lives look like when we really believe in the supernatural?

I’ve spent many years studying various aspects of different worldviews and I’ve come to believe that there is universal truth, which points directly to Jesus and the Bible. That, in turn, has dramatically changed how I live my life. I don’t worry so much anymore. I walk in the supernatural. I fight demons. I talk to God. I talk to other people about God. I follow His will even when those in the natural world think I’m nuts. I know I’m about as far from perfect as someone can be, but I understand the concept of perfection and where to go to learn more about it so I can get better. If you don’t feel as confident as I sound, keep searching. Because if you go looking for truth – or, as Denise calls it, “Truth with a capital T” – you’re going to run smack into Jesus.

You aren’t going to have John the apostle or even Harrison Ford show up in person to tell you that everything is “really real,” but Jesus knew that. He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)  You can strengthen your beliefs and come to know Jesus better through a variety of other sources – most importantly through the Bible – because you’re hard wired to recognize Truth. Start looking, and I’m sure you’ll come to believe that God, Satan, Jesus, and the supernatural are true. It’s really real. All of it.

May the Force . . . er, I mean, may God be with you!


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


%d bloggers like this: