*S.A.D.D. (Part 2)

*Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder

Copyright July 23, 2013 by Sarah G. Pemberton

In recent years, I have observed many Christians, who in the name of repenting of self-righteousness and of Pharisaism, (which definitely has been a need in the church) have become so focused upon making their churches and ministries “seeker-friendly” that they become like a bride who gets so caught up in making guests feel welcome at her reception, that she forgets why she got married, and never leaves for her honeymoon, abandoning her frustrated groom, standing at the car door!  It is important to make guests feel welcome in our churches.  But just as one’s home does not exist for the guests, but for the family who lives there, we mustn’t revolve our church families around those who are only peripherally interested in meeting our Daddy.  Jesus presented a gospel that was never sugar-coated, but required our very lives for Him.

We must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Mt. 10:16), lest some unbelievers with ill motives (or sometimes even professing believers), who are present in our churches, become a source of division, strife, and harm to the church because of their negative or self-driven focus.  (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 4:14)   I’m not advocating judgmentalism, nor paranoia, for “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”  (II Tim. 1:7)  Yet again, we must learn to spiritually see and hear, so that we only do what the Lord is doing, not being led by our mere intellect, emotions, or good intentions.  (Jn. 9:39-10:5)  But it is a historic fact that many “wolves in sheep’s clothing” have destroyed many good churches, (Acts 20:29) because they were made more welcome than the Holy Spirit was.

So how do we practically apply this, avoiding the ditch on either side of the road?  First, we make our church or ministry a place where welcoming the Manifest Presence of God’s glory in our worship is the number one priority; where waiting together upon the Lord’s clear direction in worship, prayer, personal ministry, teaching and preaching, prophesying, etc. is the main focus.  (That in itself is sufficient topic for an entire book.)  We must be open to allowing God to redirect in the midst of whatever we are doing, as He wills.  The saints of old ministered to the Lord, rather than gathering merely for Him to minister to them.  (I Sam 2:11; I Chron. 6:32) When we minister to the Lord’s heart, He will minister to ours more effectively than if we sought our own needs first. (Ezek. 44:10-16)

Secondly, we must welcome newcomers without apology for who we are, but merely explaining to people what they may expect and why things are done the way they are.  This means being loving, gracious and respectful, even to those who do not stay, if our unique expression of “Christ in us the Hope of Glory” isn’t what they were looking for.  We mustn’t be smug or offended with others whose expressions are different from our own, because we never know when God may bring them back to us later on down the road.

Thirdly, we must ask Holy Spirit for His standards of love and grace, along with His definitions of holiness and church discipline, without sacrificing one for the other, as is historically common.  If we make either end of the spectrum into a lukewarm formula of rules, (Rev. 3:14-22; Rom. 5:20; 6:1) we have just missed it.  If, in the name of freedom and grace, we tolerate behaviors or attitudes which God calls intolerable, we have just missed it.  If in the name of church discipline, we are harsh with those who are already repentant, who are asking for help, we have just broken the Lord’s heart.  If we spend more time in criticism of those whom we suspect of being in sin, than we do in praying for them, we are hypocrites.  If we laugh at sin, in order to make sinners feel comfortable in our midst, we have insulted Jesus’ Cross and the reason He laid down His Life for us.

I’m not saying to reject people, but that we must ask Holy Spirit to set the boundaries and priorities for how we love Him, and how we love people in ministry, in that order.  It’s like on the airplane, when they are showing emergency procedures, they instruct parents to put the oxygen mask over oneself first, then over one’s child, because someone who passes out can’t help anyone else.  So we must attend to the needs of the Lord first in worship and listening for His Voice, and of the sheep, second — the baptized believers — before we attend to the felt needs of the merely curious.  True worship will empower us to love the seekers to the point of revelation and discovery of God’s grace for themselves, but we can’t give them what we don’t have.

So let us not be distracted, nor led astray by the devil’s schemes and tricks.  (II Cor. 2:11)  Let us not confuse the voice of what sounds good, with the True Voice of God (Jn. 10:27).  Let us not confuse our mission (sharing the good news of Christ with the lost) with our purpose for existence (holy intimacy with the Lord Himself).  Let us worship the Creator, not the gifts He gave us.

Wedding get-away

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*S.A.D.D. (Part 1)

*Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder

(Not to be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder or Students Against Drunk Driving!)

Copyright July 23, 2013 by Sarah G. Pemberton

IMG old Jetta, new Jetta_0007

When my daughter was very young, I discovered an excellent safety video program called “Yello Dyno” [www.yellodyno.com].  It taught kids to be safe from predators and child abusers with the use of songs, videos, and coloring books.  Instead of instilling fear, it instilled wisdom and discernment.  It referred to such dangerous persons as “tricky people,” instead of “strangers,” giving characteristics of which to be wary, so that in an emergency, a child would have a reasonable estimate of whom he might trust to help him, and which people might be higher risk to trust.

A major tactic of “tricky people” is to distract children from focusing upon their responsibilities of the moment, so that they are unaware that they are being lured into a trap.  The distraction may appeal to the child’s sense of compassion, (“Please help me find my lost puppy!”), his sense of justice (“Someone is in danger! I need your help!”), loyalty to family (“Your mother sent me to get you! Your dad’s in the emergency room!”), or ego (“Come with me, and I’ll make you a movie star!”).  If the parent has clarified ahead of time legitimate signals for the child to know if something is genuine or fake, the child’s life can be spared, by knowing the True Voice of the parent, even speaking through representatives in the parent’s name.

For anyone, adult or child, distraction can also become a lifestyle, which hinders daily efficiency, when anxiety becomes a ruling force in our hearts.  When people suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, they don’t know which voice to listen to first, or not at all.  They can run into trouble by missing essential details of immediate responsibility, because of the distraction of worrying about irrelevant issues, or because of backtracking with old neglected responsibilities, which interfere with the current one.  They are too anxious about missing something important to know how to prioritize activities in an orderly fashion.  Medications help some, but getting to the spiritual roots of the anxieties will work far better in the long-run.  People with ADD or ADHD are usually very creative people, who simply need clear parameters to keep them on task.  This has been a large part of my life’s lessons.

So, tying these two concepts together, I’d like to address a common spiritual malady, which I have dubbed, Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder, or SADD.  This is where Satan tries to distract us with activities which sound good, look holy, just, or righteous, but which actually distract us from our primary focus of intimacy with the Lord, out of which all true ministry is conceived and is birthed in due season.  Being a Christian whose God is outside, knocking on the door of His own Church, is SADD, indeed.  (Rev. 3:20-21)

Satan was The Original Tricky Person.  The suggestion, “Indeed, hath God said…?” (Gen. 3:1ff.) caused the woman to take a second look at the one thing God had withheld from her, to distrust God’s motives in doing so.  The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil sounded like something she really needed.  When the word “good” describes something, isn’t that a logical assumption?  Furthermore, her husband remained strangely silent during this entire conversation, which is why he was held equally culpable.  Passivity in the face of temptation is still guilt by default, because he neglected his responsibility to love and protect his wife.  But the Tree of Knowledge turns out to reveal a “wisdom” of only shame and fear, not what either one was led to believe.  The moral of the story has been lived painfully by the entire human race ever since.

Adam and Eve were enjoying the best executive jobs on the planet, with the world’s best fringe benefits, until they allowed themselves to be distracted by something which sounded “good,” but which turned out to be a trick of their Worst Enemy – over whom they were created to rule, not to be ruled by him.

Christians have little trouble getting the point of this story intellectually; and many have genuinely had a revelation of this truth in the past.  But still many of us get distracted every day by attempting through self-effort what can only be properly accomplished in intimate partnership with God.  (This is the whole point of the entire book of Galatians.)  One can hear over a lifetime that Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, and said only what He heard the Father saying, (Jn. 5:30), yet not recognize when we slide subtly from doing what the Lord is immediately showing us to do, to doing what worked last year or in the last move of God, when the Lord showed us to do that particular thing then. (Jn. 9:33-41)  But that is Tree of Knowledge, not Tree of Life.

Or perhaps, we learn a powerful concept, like friendship evangelism, which is great.  But if we try to turn it into a cookie-cutter method or formula, we may get distracted from the intimate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit which puts real love and power behind any ministry expression.  Lukewarm formulas are for babies whose mothers cannot properly nurse them, but intimate close relationship was God’s ideal for true nurturing from the beginning – both naturally and spiritually.

We can become so caught up in friendship with the people whom we are seeking to bring to God, that we forget intimacy with the God to Whom we are desiring to introduce them.  Without that foundation of intimacy with Him, we are dry wells with nothing to offer to the lost.  We may even find ourselves justifying “little” sins to “fit in” with the lost, in the name of “grace” and “not being religious,” which are actually just overcorrecting Phariseeism to the opposite extreme of lawlessness, or even just doing something because it is “trendy,” not because God told us to.  (I Cor. 5:1-13)  The salt has lost its flavor.  (Mt. 5;13-16)  If Satan can’t intimidate you out of being willing to minister for God’s Kingdom, he’ll try to distract you from loving and listening to the King Himself.  He’ll try to seduce you into making the people your focus, which may end up becoming an idol in your life instead.  (I Sam. 13; 15:10-15)

This is eventually doomed to create burn-out amongst those who are seeking to bring in the lost, because intimacy with the Lord for ourselves is the fuel which empowers true evangelism.  It can also cause spiritual stagnation amongst more mature members of a congregation, to have the focus of Sunday worship revolve around the comfort of outsiders, instead of revolving around feeding the sheep.  When we study the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4:1-42) Jesus did not make her feel judged, but He didn’t seek to make her feel “comfortable,” either.  He zeroed in on her need for true, life-changing worship, which empowered deep healing and repentance, and which brought many others to salvation as well.

The Secret to Rooting New Life (Part 2)

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Copyright 2013 by Sarah G. Pemberton

Allow me to unpack this for you in more detail, looking up the Scriptural significance of “cut branches,” “wounding,” “honey,” and “soil”:

[1] Cut branches and fruitful growth:
15 Jesus: I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. My Father examines every branch in Me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit. He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them so that they will bear more fruit; already you are clean because you have heard My voice. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me.

I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is like a branch that is tossed out and shrivels up and is later gathered to be tossed into the fire to burn. If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you, anything you ask will come to pass for you. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory to the Father. ~ The Voice (VOICE) Bible (Jn. 15: 1-8)

Many Christians I know have experienced difficult seasons in which they felt “cut off” from the rest of the Church.  Sometimes, they have cut themselves off because they got hurt in church, and didn’t know how to let God heal those wounds of abuse, neglect, or rejection.  Others were pressured into leaving churches because they had a vision for ministry which was not well-received in that particular congregation or denomination.  God wants all believers to find their true place where they fit in the Body of Christ, so that their gifts will be celebrated, not just tolerated.

Joseph (Genesis 37:2-45:28) was a perfect example of one who had every right to feel rejected and offended, as he kept suffering injustice after injustice, not seeing his dreams from God coming true.  Yet because he served both God and people faithfully everywhere he went, without manipulation as his motive, God promoted him into the very thing he dreamed of, from the least likely prospect he could imagine – a slave condemned to a dungeon.

I also know a few Christians who got kicked out of some churches because of sins in their lives of which they were either unwilling to repent, or some cut themselves off because they had no idea how to find victory over a chronic struggle with sin, though they desperately wanted it.  (I Cor. 5:1-13; II Cor. 2:4-11)  God always wants us to experience the Death of Sin in the Cross and the Life of Christ in us; (Gal. 2:20) but some simply have not had anyone with experience in overcoming the same sins to show them the path of victory.  Many get stuck in legalism and striving through self-effort to change (which never works) because they do not understand the power of supernatural grace.  (Paul’s epistle to the Galatians addresses this.) This is like being told to drive a car with no gasoline. 

Others swallow the lie that forgiveness is the only goal of grace, that they may keep sinning, thinking it is OK as long as they “confess it and ask forgiveness.” (Rom. 6:1-18)  This is like taking a car to the mechanic to replace a bad part, but then smashing the new part as soon as you get the car out of the mechanic’s garage, and taking it right back in, to ask him to replace it again.  Eventually you’ll go broke on the repairs, and you’ll have never gone anywhere in that car.

[2]  Wounding:

There are four types of wounds in life:  [a] the wound experienced by an accident; [b] the wound experienced by one’s own or by someone else’s deliberate malice; [c] the wound experienced by surgery in order to heal and cure a deeper and more devastating issue; [d] the wound of a punishment for a wrong committed.  God is the Healer of the first two, for all who come to Him; and He is the Author of the third.  He Himself took the fourth on the Cross, so that we would not have to be destroyed by and for our sins.

Job pleaded for God to heal the wound of what felt like an unjust punishment, not knowing that God had never punished him at all, but merely given Satan permission to test Job’s faith and his trust in the ultimate goodness and faithfulness of God to bless him more than ever, if Job did not give up.  David felt unjustly wounded by his friend and king, to whom he always remained faithful, even as King Saul persecuted him unjustly.  David passed God’s test of grace and forgiveness toward his enemies, and of not seizing by self-effort what God had promised him; thus David was promised a lasting dynasty, through which the very Savior of the World would one day come.  Jesus was willing to be “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53) in order to trust God to raise Him from the dead, conquering for all time Sin, Sickness, Death, Hell, and The Grave.  (Rev. 20:10-14)  Paul was wounded by such persecution – both by his fellow Jews, as well as by the pagan Gentiles, everywhere he went – to the point that he called this constant battle of opposition his *“thorn in his flesh.”  (I Cor. 12:1-10)

*[(Gen. 3:18)  “Thorns” are sent to curse the ground the man works upon, implying that thorns symbolize a hindrance to fruitful work efforts.  Persecution hindered Paul’s work, because of the long-term effects of his own past persecution of Christians.  This hindrance was not a punishment, since he was saved by grace, but merely a personal challenge to keep him humble, in appreciating the sufferings of others gone before him, (Php. 2:17) lest Paul think God was successfully using him because of his impressive pedigree, education, and prophetic visions.  (Php. 3:3-14) Numbers 33:55 and many other Old Testament passages makes it clear that thorn in the flesh” is a Hebrew metaphor used to refer to negative consequences of our own mistakes, usually referring to irritations from other people, particularly our enemies – never referring to physical ailments, as many scholars interpret Paul’s “thorn.”  “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. (I Cor. 12:1-10, King James Version) ]

[3] Honey:  In I Samuel 14, Saul and his armies are pursuing the Philistines, and become exhausted from the battle.  Jonathan and his armor bearer had just experienced a miraculous victory over about twenty Philistine soldiers, by themselves, but had gotten separated from the rest of the army, not knowing his father’s foolish vow:


24 Saul did something really foolish that day. He addressed the army: “A curse on the man who eats anything before evening, before I’ve wreaked vengeance on my enemies!” None of them ate a thing all day.

25-27 There were honeycombs here and there in the fields. But no one so much as put his finger in the honey to taste it, for the soldiers to a man feared the curse. But Jonathan hadn’t heard his father put the army under oath. He stuck the tip of his staff into some honey and ate it. Refreshed, his eyes lit up with renewed vigor.

28 A soldier spoke up, “Your father has put the army under solemn oath, saying, ‘A curse on the man who eats anything before evening!’ No wonder the soldiers are drooping!”

29-30 Jonathan said, “My father has imperiled the country.  Just look how quickly my energy has returned since I ate a little of this honey! It would have been a lot better, believe me, if the soldiers had eaten their fill of whatever they took from the enemy. Who knows how much worse we could have whipped them!”  (I Sam. 14:24-30, The Message Bible)

Jonathan was only spared from the death penalty because the people pleaded with the king because of Jonathan’s heroic victory.

But the main spiritual symbolism from this story is that many intercessors can wear themselves out, praying diligently, but focused on the Enemy and the need for victory, instead of focusing on the Lord in worship and meditation upon Scripture, which produces heavenly revelation, which gives quick strength and insight for a much swifter and easier victory.  Revelation brightens the spiritual eyes, and honey was part of the diet of John the Baptist, symbolizing his only receiving what the Lord had produced from the Seed of His Word as the strength of his message.

[4]  Good soil:  In Matthew 13:23, the Lord explains in the Parable of The Sower that the soil represents the condition of one’s heart, that the good soil is: [a] that which has not been walked all over by others, due to a lack of healthy, protective personal boundaries, to a point of hardness of heart, in which nothing of freeing truth can sink into one’s spiritual understanding; [b] that which is free of offense, which hinders deep rooting, when pressures or persecutions come; [c] that which is free from worry, anxiety, greed, or other worldly obsessions, which choke out true faith.  In the good soil of trusting faith, enduring hope, and reception of God’s love, the seed of God’s Word can grow deep roots, able to withstand tough seasons, and still be fruitful.

So back to Joseph as our example:  He did not allow offenses to burn him out; he didn’t allow worry to choke him out; he didn’t allow being walked all over to harden his heart against hearing God’s Word accurately, because he was willing to humbly serve, instead of seeing himself as a “victim.”  He kept his heart pure and open, even when his miserable plight seemed to go from bad to worse.  He stayed open-hearted and let God teach him, making him wise, creative, and resourceful in the worst possible conditions.  In other words, when he was cut off from his family, and felt cut off from his destiny, Joseph allowed God to wound him in such a way as to strongly root his spirit in the revelation of what he knew to be Truth, no matter how barren his circumstance felt.  This caused him to put down roots in this foreign place, without losing the true spiritual DNA of who he was.

So, putting all this together:  how many of you feel like cuttings which just haven’t made it well, so far, in the vase of water you’ve been stuck in?  How many feel like pruned, fruitless branches which have been thrown away?  First, ask Holy Spirit to wound you in the very place where you felt cut off – the wound of the Surgeon who knows how to heal you by planting you with a new heart, free of the hindrances of the past.  That wound may look like honoring someone in authority who doesn’t appear to deserve it;  it may look like not defending yourself against false accusation.  It will include forgiving people who hurt you.  L

Secondly, look for Him to feed you and sooth that wound with the honey of fresh divine revelation, especially in the midst of exhausting spiritual warfare.  Soak up the sweetness of Who He is, no matter what your circumstance.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8)  Don’t let anyone tell you that you have no right to receive that refreshing truth of Revelation until after the battle is won “their way.”  God’s revelation will give you His strategy for victory, and the people of faith to help you win that battle.

Then let Him plant you by faith, even if the place He plants you first feels like it is far from the promise you have hoped for.  (Ps. 1:1-3; 23:1-6)  As you let those new roots grow down, let love, forgiveness, humility, grace, patience, service with your gifts, and never losing sight of who you are in Christ, keep your heart pure and free of those old rocks and weeds of offenses and obsessions.  And even if family or old friends betray you, keep the sweetness of what God said surrounding that old wound, so no one can pluck you away from your promise.

Then, as you serve the great and the humble with the same love, watch expectantly for the loved ones you never thought you’d see again.  The very wagons of your own gifts will ultimately bring back to you all that you thought you’d lost when you were cut away.

The Secret to Rooting New Life (Part 1)

Mary V. and Gail's Flowers_0046

Copyright 2013 by Sarah G. Pemberton

(Thanks to several preacher/teacher friends, whose recent teachings added detail to the previous personal inspiration for this article.)

Sometimes God speaks to us profoundly through the most ordinary everyday experiences.  This past week, I had such an experience.

A neighbor recently asked me for cuttings of my best rosebush.   It never occurred to me that one might root roses that way, although my best hydrangea was given to me by a neighbor of my in-laws years ago, who rooted it very simply in a bucket of sand, which he kept watered.  But I had never known most cuttings from shrubs, especially, to root this easily for me.  My father-in-law had told me years ago of some product which enables one to root cuttings of plants, but I never can seem to find anything like it at Wal-Mart.  My neighbor who asked for the rose cutting said she used the same, and got it from Home Depot, or some such place.  Some plant cuttings will root profusely just by being kept in a vase with water with plant food.  But others seem to require a little more TLC.  I finally decided this week to check out a YouTube video to see how the experts do it.

What I found was not only simple, but contained a profound spiritual lesson.

In the video, an English gentleman demonstrated how cuttings can be easily rooted without the rooting powder my father-in-law and neighbor had suggested.  He said, “It’s quite simple.  You take the cutting, and you wound the cut end a little; then you dip it in a little bit of honey around the wound, and stick it in a pot of good soil, keep it watered regularly, and it will form new roots.”

Wow!  The picture was suddenly so clear to me what God was highlighting:  When we feel lonely and cut off from others, the very healing we need to revive our lives may feel at first like a worse wound than what led to our isolation to begin with.  But what resurrects Christ’s life in us, is wounding mixed with the sweet revelation of Him in us, rooting us deeply into the true hope for which we were designed to be planted, or established in our faith.  Only then, will we grow to be fruitful for His Kingdom.  But if we reject that wounding and stay isolated, we will die.

“Every Place You Shall Set Your Foot…”

the long road

Copyright 5/28/13 by Sarah G. Pemberton

Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours…”  (Deut. 11:24)

As I was praying today, God began to show me an amazing and deeply personal thing, yet with a principle which is biblically true for all believers who will have the faith to reach out and grasp it.  As I worshipped and prayed, the power of His Grace and Presence with me was overwhelming.  As you read and pray over this blog post, I pray that Holy Spirit will download into your spirit a similar revelation about your own life, which mere information alone cannot begin to communicate.

This revelation was triggered by looking, the other night, at an old friend’s online photo album on Facebook.  It was of a city where I had made my first-ever mission trip in 1981.  Her album contained photos from her 2010 trip back to her husband’s country, and it prompted me to look at some of my own old photos from there, some of which I had likewise posted in an online album a few years ago.  So many memories came flooding back as I looked at the places still existing there today!  Many of the faces in my friend’s album were familiar.  Other faces whose names I could no longer recall came back to mind – children and teenagers who are now probably in their forties; young parents who are now grandparents; young missionaries who are now middle-aged (like me!); middle-aged missionaries, many of whom are now elderly and retired.

So today, with their faces in my mind, as freshly as if I had seen them yesterday, I found myself praying over each and every one.

Thirty-plus years ago, I had been young, often self-absorbed, immature, sincerely zealous for the Lord, yet lacking the wisdom or the healing in my own life to be very effective in any sort of true ministry.  Yet I know the call of God on my life was real.  I spent several years seeking to prepare for a career as a foreign missionary, graduating from a Christian college, and from a one-year seminary program, taking short-term mission trips to several Latin-American countries between 1981 and 1986.  But I ended up resigning from my mission society in mid-1986, after an internship in another state, for which I was sent to minister with a family planting a church with migrant farm workers.  Instead of heading to a lifetime ministry of planting churches in South America, I arrived back home in February of 1987, defeated, discouraged, confused about my calling, and feeling like a complete failure.

God has done so many mighty works of grace in my life since then, that I cannot enumerate them all here.  But today’s experience in prayer was a journey in spirit of seeing the Timeless Grace, Mercy, and Power of our Eternal God, Who already exists in what for us is the future, and Who still is Sovereign over what for us are the mistakes and regrets of the past, as well as His faithfully guiding our present.

I began to see in my spirit the faces of all the people whom I remembered from that first mission trip, and began to pray for them fiercely.  I began to prophetically declare their salvation, their deliverance from every demonic lie which has ever held their souls captive, or hijacked their destiny in Christ.  I began to envision and declare healings and miracles for those who were lame, blind, or deaf; victory for those addicted to substances or enslaved by domestic violence or poverty.  I began to ask the Father to send His angel armies to each and every place where my foot had trod in the past.  I could see these angels in my spirit, joyfully carrying the power of the Timeless Mustard Seeds of Faith – past, present, and future – for every need of every person whose life I had ever touched, however poorly I may have done so at the time.

I saw beyond that mission trip alone.  I saw every cabbie, bus driver, airline pilot, fellow passenger upon each drive or flight.  I saw waiters, waitresses, cashiers and sales clerks, hotel maids and desk clerks.  I saw people from my life all the way back to kindergarten teachers, classmates, doctors, nurses, neighbors.  Did you ever hear someone who has had a near-death experience seeing his whole life flashing before his eyes?  This was my experience today in my prayer time.  I was seeing the infinite value, in God’s Kingdom economy, of the simplest, most ordinary experiences of our lives, when they are offered in timeless faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and intercession to the Lord Who gave us His Son, so great was His love for us, that He might redeem this world for Himself.  I saw His redemptive grace, even with those people in my life with whom I had made the worst possible mistakes and committed the worst sins.  I saw Him sending His holy angels, carrying the Blood of Jesus’ redemptive power to each and every place and situation which cried out for Him.

In short, I had an emotionally overwhelming experience of how great is the Grace of my God compared with the most gargantuan, hurtful, shameful, or embarrassing problems or failures imaginable in this earthly lifetime.

Now, I have walked with the Lord Jesus Christ for 44 years, and I have had many intense “Ah-hah!” moments of revelation of His grace and mercy.  But I began today to get a vision of just how effective we can be, despite ourselves, despite our limitations, when we offer our mustard seeds of faith to the God Who waters those seeds with His Word and causes all growth to be harvested in due season for His Kingdom purposes.  His timelessness, His lack of spatial limitations, is able to network the grace in our lives, in an eternal tapestry, along with His grace and faith in the lives of others, that together, we may see just how enormous is “Christ in us the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)

It is easy to keep our focus of tunnel-vision limited to our feeble selves, and fail to recognize that the anointing of the Holy Spirit corporately in all who seek His Face, in every generation, over all time, increases exponentially, as each life influences so many others, which touch so many others, which eventually all connects back to Jesus’ prophetic Words, “Make them one, even as You and I are one,” (Jn. 17:11 & 21), and “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30).

As you meditate on the powerful words of God, “Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours…”  (Deut. 11:24), may you begin to see, literally, every place in your life where you have gone, every life you have ever touched, and every word you have ever spoken as a potential vehicle for intercessory prayer to bring the timeless power of the Cross to those who do not know the Lord, and to bring the healing power of His grace to deepen the spiritual walk of each person you have ever known who already loved Him.  He, in you, really is that amazing!  For a timeless God, it is not too late to pray even for those already dead; for God can hear even then the prayers you offer in confident faith even now, which you didn’t know yet how to pray at that time.  You may not know until you reach heaven the power of such prayers to transform a life, over which others gave up long ago.

Father, I thank You that Your grace is timeless, and that You waste nothing in my life.  May each reader be carried by Your holy angels on a journey which reveals that grace in every moment of every life that is offered by faith unto You; in Jesus’ Mighty Name.  AMEN.

 

 

A Prophet’s Reward

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Copyright 6/28/13 by Sarah G. Pemberton

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me.  He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.”  (Matt. 10:40-42)

Recently, a friend said something which she intended to be just an everyday observation, as she marveled at a particular sudden, unexpected natural blessing in her life.  I immediately saw this situation in the spirit and suggested that she had just been given a prophetic sign from the Lord of this particular type of spiritual blessing coming to her life, which would reflect the natural blessing.  Sadly, she pooh-poohed the idea.

In no way am I merely condemning my friend.  There was a time when I completely dismissed an entire movement of the Holy Spirit as “false.”  Thankfully, I had the good sense to pray, “Lord, if this teaching is true, please show me from Your Word.”  I prayerfully studied the teachings of that movement for years, as well as looking at the lives of those who displayed good fruit from that teaching, and where some went off-track to display bad fruit from the distortion of that teaching.

Nevertheless, I knew that it wasn’t likely that I would persuade my friend in this situation to open her spiritual eyes to see what I was seeing; but I know that if she rejects that particular blessing, then biblically, it belongs to the one who has the faith to recognize it.  So I fully expect to receive that blessing, which she has dismissed, whether or not she ever chooses to.

Am I being selfish?  Is this unfair of me to claim her blessing?  Read the parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30).  God is not fair by man’s standards, but He is always just, generous, and righteous by His Own Holiness and Honor.

We live in a society which demonstrates very little honor anymore, especially spiritual honor.  We also live in a society in which most people live between the extremes of either Western Rationalism (intellectualism – even in the Church – secular humanism, atheism, etc.) or of turning toward neo-paganism (New Age, Wicca, Satanism, etc.)  There is a strong emphasis in Western culture upon individual opinion, rather than upon universal Truth and Reality.  Why?  Because few people experience the combination of God’s supernatural power, with others’ love and acceptance of who they are, in most churches anymore.

Similarly, few people know many Christians who have actually, successfully, overcome sin and demonstrated maturity of character since becoming believers.  Too many are content with the “fire insurance” of just not burning in hell and of being merely forgiven, whenever they sin.  So it is no surprise that few Christians pay attention to, let alone comprehend, the meaning of this passage.

If we do not understand the Biblical definition of “righteousness,” and acknowledge Scripture’s authority over all humanity, we will fail to recognize a righteous person as being righteous – as having integrity worth trusting and character worth emulating by all.  Then, in our lack of recognition, we devalue that person’s choices and behavior as “just being his personality” or “that’s just because she’s religious.”  Therefore, we divorce ourselves from moral accountability to make similar choices.  This will cause us to miss “the reward of a righteous man,” which is the fulfillment of every promise of blessing and prosperity God has in His Word.  Biblical righteousness is defined as believing God’s Word, (Gal. 3:6) no matter how challenging our circumstances may appear to the contrary.  This belief is not the mere mental “liking” of ideas about God, nor the mere acknowledgment of His existence, nor even of enjoying going to a great church full of nice people; but “believing in God” is a deep, growing, abiding, unshakeable trust in Him, in His Character, in His love, and in His Faithfulness, which refuses to make a decision without consulting Him 24/7.

Likewise, as in my experience with my friend, the only way we will receive a prophet’s reward is to first honor the prophetic Voice of God coming to us, both directly, and through other ordinary human beings, whose only claim to fame is time spent in humble worship and meditating upon God’s Word, until His Voice is reflected in the very essence of who they have become.  Prophecy is simply the sensitivity to learn to listen and to communicate the heart, mind, and will of God in such a way that He confirms that truth, to encourage, to bless, to strengthen someone’s relationship with Him, and to equip that person to more fully do His will.

So what is “a prophet’s reward”?  It is simply the fulfillment of what God promised through the prophet, and sharing in that blessing.  Fulfillment does not happen “accidentally,” nor automatically, but it comes to those who aggressively press into God in faith, hope, love, worship, patience, and trust in His Faithfulness.  Every prophecy will go through a testing period: 

[1] Does it measure up with the whole of Scripture, either literally, or in principle? 

[2] Has the recipient demonstrated the test of godly character which will enable him to handle the fulfillment of the Word, without pride destroying him? 

[3] Are there necessary conditions of obedience required for the fulfillment of the prophecy? 

A false prophet is not one whose word appears to have failed on your timetable, nor failed to look like what you thought it should.  The Old Testment prophets were often martyred because the word was not fulfilled on some people’s timetable.  Jesus was called “false” because He did not look like what His people thought the Messiah should look like; yet he fulfilled hundreds of Old Covenant prophecies in just 33 years.  A false prophet is one who prophesies personal flattery, which does not require going through the fire of God’s testing – the testing of character, the testing of obedience, the testing of patience for God’s timing, or the testing of desiring intimacy with the Lord more than we want the fulfillment of what was prophesied, yet without disdaining the promise.

If we wish to receive a prophet’s reward, we must first acknowledge that God often speaks extraordinary things to us through ordinary situations.  As a wise preacher recently told me, “Not everything means something; but some things mean everything.”  When we are in love with Jesus, we look for Him everywhere, and He promises that if we “seek, we shall find.”  When we look in eager love and joy for Jesus, we see Him and hear His Voice in all sorts of signs and wonders all around us, spontaneously every day, and He gives us wisdom with peace to know what to do with those signs.  But when we look in pride, anxiety, worry, insecurity, or fear of missing something, thinking, “Oh, could this or that be God?  If so, what could it possibly mean?” then we are not in faith, but in fear, which is the basis for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  But most people who dismiss the legitimate prophetic revelations of God are so fearful of being seen as fools that they become the ultimate fools – they become the Foolish Virgins who miss the hour of their visitation, because they did not value the oil of His anointing to light their path.

Lastly, “whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.”  Although this verse is often taught as a basis for loving and being kind to children, especially to orphans (which is definitely a good biblical principle, as well), I would like to suggest that contextually, this passage is far more about honoring the Holy Spirit’s gifts in children, or in anyone whose humble status might cause us to fail to acknowledge his or her spiritual gifts.  If we “give a cup of cold water” to a child, just because we are honoring that child as a disciple of Jesus, as much as we would honor Peter, James, and John, then we are getting Jesus’ message.  Children will not minister with the same approach as adults, and they do need adult guidance and accountability to help them mature, as they minister; but they are just as capable, with the same Holy Spirit, of healing the sick, raising the dead, prophesying, casting out demons, etc.  (Mk. 16:15-20)  In fact, because they do not have God “stuck between their ears,” they often minister with greater faith and purity than adults, who can get a little jaded after a while.

So where might be an area of your life in which you realize you may have missed a blessing because of not honoring the Lord in His humble Vessels, His Servants?  Did you dismiss someone because he “looked odd,” or because she had bad breath, or because he used poor grammar, or because she had an obnoxious personality?  Or did you dismiss someone speaking a word from the Lord to you simply because you have known that person so long, you no longer see him or her as God does?  After all, Nazareth got offended with Jesus, because they had known Him all His life – yet never really knew Him.  If so, it’s not too late to repent!  Just ask Holy Spirit to show you how to recognize His saints for how He sees them, and repent for not listening to them.  Then watch the rewards begin to come in, like an incoming high tide…

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

April tornado sign

Copyright 6/26/13 by Sarah G. Pemberton

I’ve been going through a period of my life where God is speaking to me through tons of little things — signs all around me that jump out toward me with a personal message from Holy Spirit, to guide me through a rough season, and give me hope for my future.  So when I got my new eyeglasses last Thursday, I was excited that my up-close vision was excellent, but disappointed that distance vision was worse than without my glasses!  The old glasses were also useless for any distance anymore.   I have been driving with the glasses off, so I can see down the road slightly better, but still blurry.  I tried to tell the optometrist at the time, but he said, “Just try these for a couple of days and see if you adjust to them.  I’ve bought enough progressive lens glasses to know that if they’re wrong, they’re wrong.  Wobbly for a day or two, I can adjust to.  Blurry, I cannot.

I went back to the eye doctor Tuesday, and told the staff that the prescription is definitely wrong.  The farther anything gets away from me, the blurrier it is.  I can see about 20 feet, if the glasses are down to the tip of my nose; and I can see my hand in front of my face clearly, if the glasses are perched up where they normally belong.  Beyond that, everything is useless with the new glasses.  Fortunately, the advantage of being middle-aged is that far-sightedness has improved my overall distance vision where I’m at least safe to drive around town, though I can’t read unfamiliar street signs.

The technician lady checks a bunch of things and notices that when I’m looking at the chart, my vision shifts from split-second-blur-to-clear-to-blur whenever I blink.  I might have a split second of clarity when I open my eyes extra wide, or squint.

She tells me that I have all the symptoms of “dry eye,” and explains they can’t correct the Rx until the dry eye is treated with a couple of lubrication applications for a couple of weeks and the irritation to my cornea is cleared up, so they know what Rx I really need that will work.  I have to use drops four times a day or so.  I have to use an ointment in my eyes at night, while I sleep, and increase its impact by placing hot, wet compresses on my eyes after applying the ointment, before I go to sleep.  She warned that the ointment will temporarily make things blurrier, which is why that is only for bedtime.

(Interestingly, our little Dachshund is also being treated for dry eye, related to another eye condition from which she suffers.  She’s doing much better already.  Now it’s my turn.)

As the tech leaves the exam room to show her findings to confirm the diagnosis with the ophthalmologist, do you know what song is playing on the PA?  “Hold on for One More Day!” by Wilson-Philips.  (You can find it on YouTube, if you like, but I think linking is against the rules on Word Press.)

I’m sharing all this because some of you may find the prophetic, symbolic message here fitting your own lives as well.  So, for those of you left-brainers who struggle to interpret prophetic signs:

[1]  If the efforts of usual spiritual care and wisdom for your life are not successfully correcting your fuzzy, old, spiritual vision, don’t give up and call it hopeless!  Hold on for a little longer to trust and see what God can do, if you shift your usual approach to how this is done!

[2]  Check for “dryness” – a need to soak for a season in the Presence of the Holy Spirit to heal the irritations that have slowly built up, which hinder your clarity of spiritual vision.  (Acts 1-2)

[3]  Don’t get angry at the spiritual authorities God has put in your life for personal correction, just because what they first recommend doesn’t seem to be working.  Soak in worship, prayer, and meditation on the Lord’s Word until your spirit is able to stabilize into a state of God’s peace.  Then, you can maintain your focus on what will help you to cooperate for the right correction, so you can see the big picture down the road of where God is taking you.

[4]  Until you have your accurate correction, trust God for sufficient clarity to see where you’re immediately going, even if the details aren’t clear.  Don’t try to go too far outside your familiar turf, until you have the distance-range vision to clearly do so.

So, I’ll keep you posted on how things are when the “new” new glasses come in.  Meanwhile, I’ve got some soaking to do…