5/20/16

Overcoming Persecution With The Warrior Spirit





But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. Jeremiah 15:11


The words of the prophet Jeremiah remind me of the people of Nepal. I am now in the mountains of Nepal, a country steeped in spirituality and proud in cultural traditions. Nepal is a cross-section of aboriginal Nepali culture, Tibetan Buddhist influence from the north and Indian Hindu influence from the south. Traditionally a Hindu monarchy that persecuted Christians, it has been a multi-party republic since 2008. While open evangelization is illegal, enforcement is very limited. The Church, about 2-3% of the population, is transitioning from persecuted infancy to maturing adulthood. Two of our key on-the-ground Nepali ministers are teachers of teachers, i.e. they are enlarging the understanding and skills of ministry by teaching adults how to teach the Gospel to children. Another on-the-ground ministry leader is Kali, a 70+ year old apostolic pastor. He is a warrior for the Gospel in the land. He was a lone believer in his home village in Gorkha district decades ago. He learned to fight on behalf of the Kingdom of God at an early age and has prevailed. He has been directly influential in birthing over 400 churches during a time of persecution. He is now ‘father’ to many young pastors and ministry leaders throughout the country. His ministry is in rural areas where few western missionary organizations know of him and his work. But I guarantee the Lord of Hosts knows of his work!!

With this as our backdrop, Deborah and I are ministering to about 35 pastors from across the nation gathered in Pokhara. We are conducting a follow-up to our two week pastor/leader school completed by these same pastors in 2014. These pastor/leaders have been hand-picked as a ‘remnant’ that has the noble heart of priests and kings to advance the gospel in this day and hour. After Pokhara I will move to the Gorkha District with Kali where a young prophet from our local church and I will encourage and teach groups of pastors/leaders in three different villages over about eight days. While I am in Gorkha, Deborah will be in Bardiya, the flat lands of western Nepal, teaching for several days to leaders in that District. She and our Asian Director of the Crossfire International Alliance will build up the leaders in that area. This is new territory for us. 

The Gospel of the Kingdom is never stagnant, but always moving and advancing in some way…either overtly through evangelism or covertly through hearts and minds being transformed into maturity of character and leadership.

As I write this I am reminded of the aboriginal peoples of Gorkha who were known far and wide as fierce warriors. They were called the Gurkhas. The men were recruited by the British and Indian armies because they were a warrior class; their DNA and culture endowing them with a warrior mindset. Special Units of Gurkhas are embedded in the Indian, British and Nepali armies today. It is said of them that they greeted hardship with laughter. The former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once stated that "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha." Persecution has not prevailed in Nepal. The Church in Nepal is taking new territory with this perspective. The Lord as a mighty warrior is with them and in them.  Advancing the Kingdom of God requires such an attitude in this day and hour. That is heart of the leaders to whom we have the honor of ministering.

Want some more inspiration on overcoming?  Check out this post from Harvey.

5/9/16

Stop Kicking...

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We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Acts 26:14
I’ve grown accustomed to living life and ministering in a certain way. The Holy Spirit has helped me come into a fuller dimension of expressing His purposes and call in my life.   But in my humanity, I like routine, comfort, and not having to change.  I get comfortable with whatever level I am currently at. The longer we live life the less we like to change, even when change is initiated by the Lord. Why resist change? Because it takes energy, willful purpose, and intentional movement in the mind and heart. There is no cruise control in change. Therefore, we often resist what God desires to do in us in the next season.

Saul was resistant. In his encounter on the Damascus Road the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you persecute me? It is hard to kick against the goads’. One translation says ‘kicking against the pricks’. The Lord had been using a spiritual ‘goad’ on Saul for some time. A goad is a pointed stick used to prod animals such as oxen to respond. It’s often called an ‘oxgoad’ in scripture. Saul’s encounter was the culmination of a long process of goading and prodding by the Spirit to see the reality of Jesus as Messiah. He desired that Saul enter a new season of understanding; to become Paul. But Saul was a zealous, passionate student and disciple of the Law of Moses. The law had been in force for hundreds of years. It was the revelation of Yahweh awaiting fulfillment in a Messiah. Paul believed he was defending the Father even as he was persecuting the Son. Paul kicked against the Spirit of God who was prodding him toward a new level of revelation and knowledge about the Messiah. The old way was only for a season. The new way would bring forth the gospel to the world.

As the Holy Spirit takes us to new heights, depths and maturity, we get accustomed to that height, depth and level of maturity. It’s like a default setting on a computer, always booting up to the same setting. That setting may have been good for a season. It was a good setting. It was a good way. But the Lord is calling for an upgrade within! Today is a different season. Recall Jesus’ words to the teachers of the Law, ‘but can you not discern the signs of the times. (Matt. 16:3)

Paul’s resistance came to a climax on the Damascus Road. He needed a very personal, catalytic encounter to stop kicking against the goads. He got it!  He changed from an opponent to a proponent, from resisting the Messiah to insisting He was the Messiah. Check your life today. Is there a place within you that is kicking against the goads of the Spirit? Stop the kicking. Accept the pricking.

4/18/16

Somewhere It's Snowing...


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~ Gal. 1:3

As I sit at my desk this Sunday, it is still snowing after 36 hours of white stuff falling from the sky. It’s beautiful yet hard to believe that it continues, and continues… In Colorado we are accustomed to short lived snow storms of 12 or 18 hours duration. This two day affair is beyond normal! Will it ever stop?  It reminds me of a song our friend David Stearman sings when ministering at our local church…. ‘Somewhere it’s Snowing’. Yes…it continues snowing right here! 


So it is with grace. Grace continues. It keeps on falling on us!  Much longer than 36 hours, thank the Lord! We, especially in the western world, are not accustomed to durability of concepts, ideas, materials, and even relationships. We live in a touch screen world with software programs, apps, constant upgrades, replacements and appeals for something new to buy…rather than embracing things durable and continually operable. Much of what we own is disposable after only a few months or years of use. It fails to endure. It fails the test of time.


Grace is the durable manifestation of Jesus Christ, continually cleansing us when we don’t even realize it. Grace is the ultimate snow storm….the perfect storm. Grace never stops falling, bringing purification and the water of life with every flake.   God’s manna from heaven fell for 40 years as provision for Israel in the wilderness. It was durable and operable because it was God! Yet grace goes even further than that.


Today we embrace the Father’s durable, continual, operation of grace that purifies and gives life. We embrace the perfect storm authored by our Father in Heaven. But we may have to rename that song to ‘Everywhere it’s Snowing’.


Click here to read another post from Harvey Wittmier on the benefits of the gift of grace.

3/7/16

Feast or Foolishness?


But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14 KJV
Paul authored this scripture to a church that was spiritually challenged; that is, many in Corinth came from a pagan and Greek influenced intellectual culture. People embraced philosophy and multi-theistic beliefs. Paul’s message of one God, represented by one Savior in bodily form, and empowered by one Spirit was so foreign it seemed foolish and incomprehensible. They could not discern things that come from the Spirit of God.
The word ‘discern’ in this scripture is ‘anakrino’ meaning to scrutinize, to investigate, to determine. Paul’s concern was that some were not able to properly scrutinize and determine those things authored by the Holy Spirit versus another spirit.  He follows that assertion by saying they were ‘worldly, mere infants in Christ’ and not ready to consume ‘solid food’ (1 Cor. 3:1, 2a NIV)
Paul was addressing believers in Christ, people in the church, not unbelievers.  The amplified Bible further illuminates ‘natural man’ by translating it ‘the natural, non-spiritual man’. The original Greek simply means one who is ‘natural or sensual’.  Too many in the Corinthian church could not discern things from the Spirit of God because of a natural, sensual perspective. They were not accepting the Holy Spirit’s perspective on things. We could say it was the ‘flesh’ or the ‘old man’, rather than the new man, the new creation. They could NOT discern those things of the Spirit of God. 
I occasionally observe the rather passive response of believers when the Holy Spirit speaks something, does something, or manifests in some way out of the ordinary. The passive response comes from an intellectual, natural perspective.  Some people do understand it and accept it, i.e. they discern what God is doing or saying. Others are glazed over OR simply viewing with an un-renewed mind that cannot accurately interpret spiritual things. They are operating out of their intellect, not their spirit and cannot accept and embrace what God is doing or saying, especially when it is outside the normal.
I was ministering in East Africa a few years ago when a woman began to jerk and convulse as she was loudly speaking in tongues in a prayer line. I initially interpreted that the Holy Spirit was upon her. In some situations that would be an accurate discernment. However, after only a minute or two I discerned that it was demonic. While her spirit was praying in tongues, her body and mind were manifesting a demonic presence in the room. I bound that spirit and silenced it so I could continue with the rest of the prayer line. I then returned to her after praying for others and cast the demon out of her. She then stopped the jerking and all was well with her soul and body. It had to be discerned. Just because one situation is the Spirit of God does not mean the next similar situation manifests the Spirit of God.
In this day and hour we must train ourselves with solid food so we can be discerners. The Holy Spirit then connects with us as deep calls to deep. We become excellent perceivers of the Father’s intentions and manifestations in the Spirit realm. We become the answer to Paul’s prayer that ‘we may be able to discern what is best’ (Phil. 1:10a). Then we respond to each situation, not by a formula but by perceiving what God is doing. We also perceive if the enemy is involved. Can you discern and understand what is best?

2/26/16

Discerning the Things of the Spirit




"We can discern the snow storm coming, but cannot discern the spiritual storm now swirling."
 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret (discern) the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret (discern) the signs of the times. (Matt. 16:1-3)

 Throughout scripture, Spirit inspired writers speak of the importance of ‘discerning’ as a means of distinguishing, understanding, and deciding what is good, right, and just. To discern is to ‘perceive with the eyes of the intellect, to detect, to distinguish; the act of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment’.
 
The words of Jesus in Matthew 16:1-3 portray the Messiah discerning the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees as they demand a sign from heaven. Jesus discerns their motives and their agenda. He understands that no matter what spiritual sign may be given, it will not be discerned and understood because of their heart condition. They can interpret the signs of weather but cannot interpret the signs of the times. So it is today, in our culture of information and data overload, that many do not discern the times. We can discern the snow storm coming but cannot discern the spiritual storm now swirling. This must change.

A prophetic intercessor in Colorado speaks eloquently to this issue in a recent post saying, there is now unfolding ‘the restoration of the anointing of Issachar to discern the times and advance change. It combines shrewd evaluation with prediction, but is ultimately driven by the prophetic. It manifests with the actions of game-changers. (Morris Ruddick’s post on 02.10.16 at www.strategicintercession.org). 

There is an anointing to discern the times. We must embrace it. Without it we are blinded by the tangibles of the culture. To ‘discern’ includes the intangible element of perceiving. To perceive is to see behind the curtain, to sense something with spiritual eyes or ears, to have insight beyond natural understanding. We live in an era where our perceptive antennae must be raised and finely tuned. Proverbs 17:24 (NIV) says ‘The discerning (perceptive in KJV) man keeps wisdom in view but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. Discernment and wisdom are partners in life. They are supernaturally linked. The eyes of many are wandering to and fro looking for a superman or woman to solve the world’s problems. Some are seeking more inclusive doctrine, something that will offend no one but ultimately save no one. But the discerning, perceiving believers keep God’s wisdom in view, knowing that the times compel acuity of hearing and 20-20 insight into things as they really are. The discerning believer will not be deceived in these times. They will distinguish good from evil, truth from lies, right from wrong. They will simplify a seemingly complex world into decisive and wise choices. They become the game-changers.


1/15/16

Keep Christ In Your Compassion






The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11b

Compassion’...a powerful word reflecting deep emotion, sympathy, and a desire to relieve some kind of suffering or injustice.  Believers and non-believers alike feel compassion. The Lord Himself feels compassion. The church often appeals to our compassion to fund humanitarian projects.  Political voices appeal to our compassion to advance humanitarian policies and government programs. Non-profit groups draw upon our emotions to advocate their brand of social justice. So, what does this word mean in the larger context of scripture and how does it balance with other aspects of the character of God?

Paul says in Ephesians 4:32 says ‘be kind and compassionate to one another’; words written in the context of fellow believers in the church.  Jesus experienced and displayed compassion. In Matthew 9:36-10:1, ‘When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’.  During His ministry He saw physical helplessness from disease, oppression from the Pharisees, harassment by the Roman government, poverty, and a leaderless mass of His fellow Jews, all suffering in some way.  

What Jesus’ compassionate response? We see in verse 35 of Matthew 9 that He taught, preached and healed. He healed disease and infirmity; He cast out demons bringing emotional healing and freedom; He preached the good news of the Kingdom; and He delegated and authorized His 12 closest followers to do the same (Matt. 10).  In one case He miraculously fed thousands a single meal because they had a long way to walk home after his preaching. Jesus’ primary response to the feeling of compassion was to teach people about the Kingdom. He taught about a kingdom that, if embraced, would bring life and abundance to every circumstance. He taught about a kingdom that had provision for every circumstance. He taught of a kingdom He would rule and, if they accepted His rule, was open to them. What He did not do was establish man-made systems, programs and policies to solve every form of suffering and neediness.  

We see a similar approach implemented by the Apostles in the early church. They taught, delivered, and healed. And they met the physical needs of a small portion, the widows and orphans who were completely helpless in that culture. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles set up long term programs or policies in response to their feelings of compassion.

Jesus and His apostles knew that the proper response to compassion must include wisdom and discernment. They knew that teaching people how to fish was better than giving them a free fish every day. They knew that empowering them with freedom from evil demonic forces would position them to live in God’s kingdom rather than Satan’s kingdom. They knew that dependency of God’s people must be on His provision and His kingdom principles. Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life.  They knew that Godly wisdom and discernment partnered with compassion would create long term solutions only found in Jesus Christ, His kingdom, and His grace.

People who are driven by the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, but do not keep Christ and His kingdom at the fore-front will always develop man-made systems and programs. Those responses, while making people feel good for a moment; usually make the problem broader and more deeply rooted. And, overtime, the people for whom they have compassion often develop an attitude of entitlement, dependency and even co-dependency toward and with those responses. They will not see God’s Kingdom as the answer.

Consider your ministry and your leadership within the church and within our nation. How should you respond when you feel compassion for someone or for some group of people?

12/16/15

Searching the Depths of All Things God





The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except a man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Cor. 2:10b, 11


As times grow chaotic and the noise of the culture rises to seemingly destructive levels to our spiritual ears, leaders in the Body of Christ must delve deeper into the Kingdom of God.  The scripture says that the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit is the great search engine of all Kingdom truth.  He is the teacher for those who are teachable. 

Searching the depth of all things God is a good thing! Searching the deep things of God is not for bragging rights as to our scriptural prowess. It is not for self-exaltation in knowledge. It is not to create another spiritual fad for the church fashion show. The Word declares this for a greater purpose. 

Searching is for the purpose of revealing. Revealing is for understanding. Understanding is for wisdom. Wisdom is unto stability and maturity. We are called to have the Spirit show us the depths of the Word, the width of His grace, and the magnitude of His kingdom. We, then, gain understanding, grow in wisdom and become stable leaders in a culture of instability.  

When we begin to know what God is thinking, we can walk in His divine will personally and corporately staying abreast of what He desires to do in this day and hour. 

Delving deeper can be intimidating. It can be lonely…few desire to go there.  Deep means deep! I like the Amplified expansion of this scripture, "The Holy Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God (divine counsels and things hidden beyond man’s scrutiny)." Sounding the ‘bottomless things of God’ can be intimidating. They are bottomless!  When I was learning to swim, I was comfortable only when I could touch bottom of the pool. When I entered deeper water up near my neck, fear encroached. But as I learned to swim, I understood it was not the depth that was fear causing, but the water itself. It could drown me! It threatened my safe place! When I learned to swim, depth no longer mattered. Whether water was neck deep or ‘bottomless’, I could stay afloat. I would live and not die.

Do not fear drowning in the depths of His Word and His Kingdom. He is the water of life. His Word is life. God’s thoughts reveal His intentions for this day and hour; His intentions for you; His intentions for the church; His intentions for nations. Go there with the Holy Spirit. You will live, and live more abundantly!