Friday, July 3, 2015

God's Plan for our Supernatural Life

God created the world. Then He created man. He created a woman to compliment the man. He gave these humans free-will to choose to love and worship Him on their own. The humans chose to rebel against God and left us all in a big messy broken world. (Side Note: We could have had it all, but we chose to fall…story of much human history, unfortunately). In concert with this, God created angels in heaven and to minister to people on earth. One angel, Lucifer, got a little greedy and wanted God's job. God threw him and some other rebellious demons out of heaven. Lucifer is also known as Satan and he and his demons create havoc in our world of confused humans, chaos and sin. God gave them permission to do so until He puts an end to it all. Oh what a tangled web we have woven in this fallen world. Sin separates us from God…but He did….and still does….have a Plan to redeem us. That Plan of redemption can translate into pure LOVE.

So, the only way to atone for the sin of the world and its rebellious people was for God to present a sinless sacrifice to pay for the sins of humans. Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, is God's redemption plan. Jesus is one of God's trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three, yet One. It's complicated, but its a Genius plan to bring about the Divine Supernatural in a limited natural world. Jesus came as the Messiah. He taught the love, grace and truth of God and invited disciples to follow Him. Jesus is the Catalyst for every good change in the world because it is only through Him that we can truly know the Father and be forgiven for our sins. He taught His disciples to follow Him so the world would still know about Him after He left the earth. As part of God's redemption plan, Jesus was crucified as a sacrifice for our sins. He rose again in 3 days and proceeded to rally His disciples to be world changers. To help them effect this change, Jesus spent a short time with the disciples and then ascended up into heaven to be with the Father. But He promises to return some day and bring us all to heaven with Him. That is our Hope and Promise. But, God did not leave us alone to figure out how to navigate this fallen world. He left His Word so we could know His heart and His ways and He placed His Holy Spirit within the lives and persons of the disciples and every other person who chooses to put their trust in Jesus Christ and be forgiven for their sins. Again, complicated in a natural sense, but brilliant in a Supernatural sense!

Now, before God sent Jesus to this earth, He used many humans to bring about His plans. God is still in the business of using people to bring about His plans. We read about great heroes of the faith, but we can also be used by God to be great disciples and heroes of the faith. The requirement is saying "Yes" to God, agreeing with Him and following His Son, Jesus Christ. The bonus factor is that His Holy Spirit is still our gift for those who trust Jesus and invite Him to be our LORD and Savior. We are not alone when we become adopted into the family of God. We have the same power within us that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. We have the power of the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and help us in every way. We are born as part of the natural world, but we are adopted into the Supernatural world of the life of Christ when we choose to live a new life in the forgiveness and power of Christ. Do you think a second birth or being born again is unnatural. Again, it is complicated. It is God's Supernatural way of making us His children. We were children of the world, separated from the life and love of Christ, but He made a Supernatural way for us to be reconciled to Christ and to Himself. Just Brilliant!

One of the great heroes of faith was Moses. In the Old Testament, God recruited this 80 year old man who had floundered his way into the desert of life to be a World Changer. God's people, the Israelites, had been taken into slavery by the cruel Egyptians. Moses was overwhelmed at the prospect of the calling God had on his life. He thought He couldn't do what God was asking, but God gave Him His power to complete the task. It was a hairy ride, but Moses ended up leading the Israelites out of captivity. They were headed to the promised land that God had promised them, but human nature overtook the memories of all the Supernatural miracles that God had demonstrated by delivering His people from bondage. People began to forget the awesomeness of God and look to their own human efforts or to place hope in little false gods to help them on their way. Because of their lack of faith and rebellious attitudes, sin - in short, they wandered around aimlessly in the desert to 40 years. We humans have always made it harder on ourselves than we need to, but we do it because we think we have better ideas than God on how we can get where we need to go. The inner Israelite is alive and well in all of us, still today.

We are bent on thinking we know better than God. Remember that evil little trouble-maker, Satan, and his bothersome little demons? They were the original minions, but not quite as lovable, by any means. Yeah, they are very instrumental in biting at our heels, infecting our minds and influencing our hearts with false dreams and lies. We fall for it all, just like the Israelites did. Because of it, we are in bondage and we keep running around in circles, stuck in our own sin. You would think we could take a history lesson and spiritual inventory to get us on the right track. We could, if we invited the Holy Spirit to have His way in our minds, hearts and lives. Ah yes, that is the rub. We have to surrender our thinking and living into the hands of an Almighty God if we want to be free of sin and reach our promised land. God's people eventually reached their promised land, but Moses messed up and had to turn over the mantle and, consequently and very sadly, never got to see the Promised Land for himself. God used another willing servant to lead His people. Only a few were willing to be led by God. They enacted the promises of God. They chose the Supernatural over the natural. Then, they realized the promises of God.

There are so many other stories in the bible of God using people, all imperfect people, to carry out His plans. Please delve into the pages of life and learn about the goodness of God. Love does win when it is a love that is redeemed through the grace and truth of God. Sometimes it doesn't seem natural, it is difficult to understand and follow, but that is because we are not meant to follow the natural. We are meant to follow the Supernatural.

I leave you with one of my very favorite passages from the bible. Many people quote Jeremiah 29:11 and talk about God's great plan for their lives. They grasp it with both hands and declare that God has a plan for their lives. It is true. God does have a plan for the life of every single person on this earth. That plan is for them to realize the beauty of knowing Him and living their lives for Him. The subsequent verses of Jeremiah 29:12-14 hold the key to the Plan. I love that the Holy Spirit revealed this plan to me. He told me that my own plan did not resemble His plan for me. I think it's safe to say that His plan for us may look way different than our plans for ourselves. Yet, His Plan is a Perfect Plan. His plan is one that brings us out of the bondage of our sin and into beautiful communion with Him. His Plan is that we know Him and walk with Him. His Plan is that we experience the true Joy of the LORD, by surrendering to His Plan and letting Him lead us into the promised land of blessings. There will be sufferings along the way. That is life. But His Plan always includes His Presence. That is more than enough for me. It is also more than enough for you. I pray that we can embrace His Plan and walk in true love and freedom in the wonderful Supernatural life He has for us.

Jeremiah 29:11-14New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Looking at Pride

As a human, I struggle with pride. Truth be told, so do you. Pride is the thing that got Satan thrown out of heaven. It was a pride that led to jealousy and greed. Satan wanted God's power. He wanted to be the boss. He wanted to be God. He failed. He never will be God, but he continues to deceive our human minds and hearts because he knows we have that tendency to do just as he did; he knows we also want to be our own boss and play God. We can try, but we will always fail, just as Satan did.

So what is this inherent struggle with pride? It is a spiritual battle that is bigger than we could ever imagine. It is a daily battle. A healthy dose of pride in things that are good and right can quickly turn into an overdose of entitlement. We can choose to follow our feelings, our intellect and the world, and soon be embedded into the fabric of every emotion that tells us we should be proud to have autonomy in any area of our life that we perceive to make us or others happy. What may have initially been innocent can turn into a power struggle and we want to win at all costs.

In short, pride that is used in the wrong way is like a twin sister to following our own selfish desires, regardless of what God says about the matter. Pride tells us we can make our own rules, because, after all, aren't we the boss of our own life? We do make our own choices, but we have to live out the consequences of those choices. Happiness is not always at the end of this fallacious rainbow that we have concocted. There is seldom a pot of gold in our future as consequences play out in the lives of those of us who try to play God. As a matter of fact, playing God can never end well. It will likely get us thrown out of that which was good and leave us suffering the consequences of our pride. Satan roams the earth looking for those whom he can devour. I can often identify with feeling like I've been his main course for many a meal. It could have been avoided if I had not let pride be my guide. Indeed, my way is often a result of being tempted and devoured by Satan.

In contrast, the bible teaches us that we should boast only in that which glorifies the Lord Jesus. Whatever we do that is good can only be attributed to His grace and the power we have through His Holy Spirit. Daily surrender and dying to our selfish desires means that we can wave the banner of Jesus with the right motives, but we cannot take any credit for what He does in and through us. There is a fine line sometimes, as our human nature struggles with the need to be significant and accepted. We can easily start to feel "accomplished", when we should be careful to put on the armor of God daily, lest we become swallowed up in our own accomplishments. Putting on God's armor, our intentional act of arming ourselves daily with His truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and Word, and utilizing prayer to help us resist the temptations of Satan, is key to helping us fight the daily spiritual battle and become victorious in living a life that glorifies Christ.

I am aware that this type of talk sounds mysterious to so many. It is mysterious because it is foreign to those who do not know God or study His Word. I don't say that as a condemnation. I say that as an awareness that God provides wonderful resources and tools for us to resist the temptations of Satan, for us to resist pride and choose humility, for us to die daily to our flesh and put on Christ. That translates into living a life that honors Christ and obeys His teachings, a life that "gets to" follow God - not one that "has to" follow some legalistic rules. It is in that truth that we can learn to resist the lies and temptations that bombard us. We can appropriately utilize pride to boast in Jesus, to be bold in and for Him.

And that leads me to another thing that has been happening to Bill and I for years in ministry. To many onlookers, especially if they don't take time to talk to or know an individual, boldness can be mistaken as pride. My husband will be the first to tell you that he struggles with pride, but he will also be the first to boast only in Jesus and continually pray that God helps him surrender to humility. But, is he bold? You bet your sweet bippy he is! He is a New York Italian - not an excuse, but definitely a revelation! Every place we have been in ministry, we have experienced judgment of his bold personality. If they could only see his family and fellow New Yorkers, they may begin to understand that he is a bit like a church mouse compared to them…lol. Anyway, all that to say that he has been severely mis-characterized for his boldness. It just happened again recently and it was extremely vicious this time. It's not new to us, but it is hurtful. We can only view it as spiritual warfare. He was accused of being prideful, among other serious accusations, but I have watched my husband respond, yet again, with great humility in the face of criticism. Honestly, I wanted to respond in a way that would make my Hatfield ancestors proud of their spirited descendant - but I quickly realized my fleshly reaction was a bit prideful and would be just what the enemy wanted. I resisted the temptation to respond and put this guy in his place. I resisted the temptation to set the matter straight. I surrendered it to God, just as my husband already had, and trust that He will fight for us. Bill took the proper steps to meet with this individual and allow him to direct his criticisms to him in person and aim for reconciliation. That, by the way, is the biblical way to deal with conflict. I don't know what this person's motives were to do and say what he did, but he made sure he did it in a very public way and he has never even talked directly to Bill. I do know one thing. Once anyone takes the time to talk to and know the person who is behind my husband's boldness, they will see Jesus in him, because he boasts about Jesus all day long and starts afresh with each new day. There, I got that off my chest!

I know this has been lengthy, but that's no surprise to anyone who reads what I write and listens to me "talk out loud" through my writings. God put this subject on my heart today and I just wanted to share it. Pride seems to be all over the news these days. Let's make sure it is used appropriately. When Jesus and the disciples went to the Mount of Olives, before Jesus was seized for crucifixion, He gave the disciples an instruction to "Pray that you will not fall into temptation". What did they do? They fell asleep. I think Jesus is urging us today to also, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation".  I don't want to fall asleep and be oblivious that Jesus wants us to be bold for Him. I don't want to take pride in anything but Jesus Christ. I don't want to be tempted by Satan to follow the crowd. I want to do exactly what Jesus wants me to do. I want to pray and resist temptation. He will show me how to do the rest. He will show us all if we can surrender our own pride and put on the armor of God.