Can we really expect Jesus to protect us?

Recently as I stood worshiping in church, the Lord showed me a vision. I saw a large crowd of people standing to the right in my vision and they were raising their hands high in worship, singing to the Lord and praising Him. At the front of this crowd several people held a banner high. I knew that these people were standing their ground but I wondered why they were not moving. No sooner had I thought this, when He expanded my vision and I saw the hordes of hell on my left, and they were shooting flaming arrows at the people praising God. Then something amazing happened; the arrows hit an invisible barrier, like a force field, and fell to the ground. The people of God were protected.

The next morning as I sat reading the Bible, I starting reading Psalm 47 and I realized that the whole psalm literally described what I had seen in the vision. The psalm is only 9 verses long so I highly recommend that you read the whole thing yourself, but let me give you just a small sample of what I read. Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth…God has gone up with a shout, The Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!…The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted. Psalm 47:1,2,5,6, and 9. What really caught my eye in this psalm is the word “shields” in verse 9. This word in the Hebrew literally means defense, a protector, a small shield or buckler. God is indeed our shield of protection.

When I look around me however, I see very little evidence of this. I see fear in the news, fear in sermons, fear in conversations, and I see a lot of people who do not believe that God is protecting them. There is a great deal of fear over what is coming onto this earth in these end times. There is so much fear, that at times, we could easily be led to believe that the enemy is stronger than God; that the enemy is in control, not God, and that God is simply reacting to the enemy’s power and strength. It is a constant battle of the mind, to take God at His word and trust Him that He will protect those that are His. So how do we overcome this battle? How do we walk in His protection, and how do we overcome this fear?

If you look up the word shield as used in this psalm, you’ll notice that it is used 60 times in the Old Testament, and in over 20 of those references, it is talking about God being our shield. As I read through each of the more than twenty verses, I began to see a pattern and I thought I would share that pattern with you.

God is a shield to those who walk uprightly, and have an upright heart. (Proverbs 2:7, Psalm 7:10 and Psalm 84:9-12)

God is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm115:9-11, Psalm 18:2 and Psalm 28:7)

God is a shield to those who hope in His Word, and trust in His promises. (Psalm 119:114)

God is a shield to those who allow Him to train them and believe that He is their refuge. (Psalm 144:1-2)

God is a shield to those who believe that He saves them. (Psalm 18:35)

God is a shield to those who wait for the Lord. (Psalm 33:20)

God is a shield to those who allow Him to comfort them. (Psalm 3:3)

God is a shield to those who walk in the light of His countenance and who rejoice in His name. (Psalm 89:15-18)

If we go to the New Testament Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:11-17 to put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. But he also tells us to take up the whole armor (vs 13). What he is saying here is that you can’t just put it on, you have to actually use it! So let’s break it down into something manageable and easier to understand.

The first weapon is truth. He tells us to wrap truth like a belt around our waist. The belt holds things up. Who is the truth? Jesus! We are to wrap Jesus around ourselves like a shield of protection. He will hold everything up for us, and He will keep everything together for us.

The second weapon is the breastplate of righteousness.  Who is our righteousness?  Again, Jesus! His blood covers our sins and pays the price for our iniquities and trespasses. Have you repented and trusted that you are covered and protected with His righteousness, not your own?

Next, put on your feet the preparation and the knowledge that God wants to be at peace with His children, through Christ. He wants to be reconciled to us. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) We must believe that God loves us and wants to be reconciled not just with us, but with those around us.

The shield of faith is next. The interesting thing about this word shield is that although the word shield which I used earlier from the Old Testament is a small one, or a buckler, the shield that Paul talks about in this verse is a large one. It comes from the root word door. It is a large, door shaped shield. Full body protection!  When we put our trust, our faith in Jesus, He is like a shield of protection for us. We can hide behind His blood. He is our righteousness. He is our truth. He is our peace. He is our salvation. But we must have understanding about this. David tells us in Psalm 47:7 that we are to sing praises to God with understanding! God does not cover our sins, He washes our sins in the Blood of Jesus through our repentance.

Finally, Paul tells us to put on the helmet of salvation. A helmet protects our head, our brain. It is our mind that the enemy loves to attack. There is good reason why Paul tells us that the only way we can be transformed is through renovation of our mind. (Romans 12:2) Yes, I said renovation. The word renewing comes from the Greek word renovation. We have to tear down the old beliefs, the old strongholds that the enemy has used to put us into bondage before we came to Christ, and renew our thinking. Our trust must be in Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

I couldn’t help but notice that the armor of God in Ephesians and all those verses about God being our shield of protection in the Old Testament, are talking about the same thing. Nothing has changed except this: we now have the knowledge of Christ our Righteousness, which they did not have. But it is still our faith in God, our trust that Jesus died for our sins on the cross, and then rose from the dead, and our obedience to His word, that prompts Him to be our shield of protection. Psalm 91:1-2 tells us that “He who dwells (remains or sits down) in the secret place of the Most High shall abide (stay or live) under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust”. This Psalm goes on and on about God’s protection. Truly, nothing has changed.

Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:20,  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.”

What door is Jesus standing at? He is talking in this verse to the lukewarm church of Laodicea. This is a church that thinks it is rich and wealthy, and needs nothing. Yet Jesus is ready to spew them out of his mouth because He thinks they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (vs. 17) Why is Jesus standing at the door of a church? What door are they using to protect themselves? What is their shield of protection? It certainly cannot be Jesus, or He wouldn’t be knocking at their door and telling them this.

Jesus tells us in John 10 that He is the door of the sheep. He is the door to heaven. He is the door for our salvation. He is the door of protection. So if He is the door, then I ask again, what door of protection is He standing at and knocking?

Is it their money? Pride? Denial that He will judge us? A mental graven image of who they think He is? A belief system that has worked for them in the past? Denominational glasses? Jesus is standing in front of that door they are using to protect themselves with, and He is knocking.

What are you using to protect yourself with in this life? Is He standing at your door and knocking? Will you open up and let Him become your shield of protection?

Why becoming aware of your 5 spiritual senses is so important.

I’m an early riser and my favorite part of the day is the time before dawn, when the world is still quiet and it’s just me and the Lord. I got up this morning and it seemed like any other day, except this morning I was distracted. I couldn’t seem to focus on what I was reading in the Bible, and when it came time to just talk to the Lord and listen for what He wanted to tell me, I couldn’t hear a thing. Nothing. Now you might think that I’m not alone in this problem and I’m sure I’m not. But what I would like to share with you is how I overcome these kind of mornings. What exactly do I do, to push through the darkness, the distractions, the worries, and the cares of life?

Let me ask you a question first of all and you’ll understand why in a moment. What would your life be like, if you did not have any physical senses? How about if you were just missing one of those senses, like for example, your ability to see? Or how about your ability to hear? How about taste, or touch or smell? Which one would you be willing to give up? I think that most of us would answer quite readily, none of them. And why would that be? Because our physical senses connect us to the world around us. They allow us to interact with other people, to enjoy creation, to read a good book, listen to music, or enjoy a good meal.  The list of things that we do with our senses is endless. Life would literally not be the same if we were missing even one of them. But how about all of them? What would your life be like, if you had no physical senses? None? Think about that for a minute.

With that thought still fresh in your mind, I want to show you a verse in Hebrews that you might have missed, or never really thought about. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Did you catch the word senses? Now I know that whoever wrote this book did not mean our physical senses. He’s referring to the spirit realm when he talks about discerning both good and evil. Paul tells us quite plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:44 “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body“. Jesus Himself tells us in several of the gospels “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, Fear Him!”  Luke 12:4-5. So what exactly is cast into hell? The spiritual body. The eternal body that each of us have.

Now let’s go back to Hebrews 5, where we are told that in order for us to become spiritually mature, we must learn to use our spiritual senses. The word used is exercise. It means exactly that. Just like you get better at biking or jogging by doing it over and over, you must exercise your spiritual senses. In other words, you must use them regularly, in order to get better at using them.

I remember when I first learned this, I was a little overwhelmed. Wait, I have a spiritual body? Ok, technically I knew that. After all I knew that this part of me, my spiritual body, would spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. But no one, and I mean no one had taught me that I was to somehow use that body here on earth. I thought, or maybe I didn’t really think, that it was just something for the future. Something that somehow came alive when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, but then sat there dormant. I’m not sure what I thought. Perhaps my spirit man was just hanging out, loitering around in my physical body, doing nothing. Waiting for eternity. I mean, come on, be honest, unless you’ve had any teaching on this, what else would you think?

But what if I was actually supposed to utilize this spirit man? What if I am actually told to protect this spirit man? Yes, I said protect. Why else would Paul tell us in Ephesians 6:11-16 to put on the whole armor of God? Now if you read this passage, it becomes quite clear that He’s not telling us to put on physical armor. No, he tells us quite plainly that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So which body am I supposed to put this armor on? It has to be my spiritual body! But how can I put armor on a body that I’m not even aware of? And that is the problem, isn’t it? We are not aware of our spirit man, we have not learned to exercise our spiritual senses, and we have left our spirit man unprotected. I will not lie, but confess openly, that this passage in Ephesians has always puzzled me. I could never really figure out how I was to put this armor on.

Remember all those physical senses and how much they help us to communicate with the world around us? Now imagine if you were aware of your spirit man, and your spiritual senses were functioning as they should? Imagine how different your spiritual walk would be?

My mother died 14 years ago this past Spring. I remember the night before she died, as I was driving away from the hospital, I asked the Lord why He hadn’t taken her home yet. She was suffering greatly, and I couldn’t understand why she had to linger on. I will never forget what He said to me during that dark evening. He told me that when He had finished all the work on the cross that needed to be finished, the Father allowed Him to die. See John 19:30. He then proceeded to tell me that when my mother finished all the work that she needed to do, she too could die. Although I was perplexed, I trusted Him. The next day my brother who had been estranged from my mom for years came to her hospital room and they were reconciled. Within one hour of his leaving, she died. Her work was finished. Why am I sharing this? Because it was the ability to hear His voice and feel His comfort that got me through that dark time in my life. I could have been angry at the fact that she lingered, angry at God, but instead I was able to hear His voice so clearly that I felt His comforting presence and saw what He did in her and in my brother’s life.

I’ll give you another story, this time from the Bible that also speaks of our spirit man. In 2 Kings 6:8-23 we read about Elisha the prophet and his conversation with a fearful servant. They are surrounded by the Syrian army, and the servant asks Elisha what they should do. Elisha says to his servant “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha then prayed and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Which eyes did God open in the servant? It certainly was not his physical eyes, because he had already seen the physical Syrian army. God opened his spiritual eyes! And I’m sure that the comfort he felt when he saws those horses and chariots of fire was amazing. Why did Elisha have such confidence in God? Because he could see in the spirit realm.

And that takes me back full circle to those mornings when I am distracted and find it hard to focus on the Lord. What if I am aware of the spirit realm around me? What if I knew, because I have exercised my spiritual senses, that Jesus is right there beside me? Would I still be bored with prayer? What if I knew there were angels all around me, protecting me, would I still be afraid? What if I knew that God has already won the battle, because I saw Him for who He really is, the Almighty! What if, when I walk into church on Sunday morning, because my sense of touch is functioning properly, I could feel His presence? What if my spiritual sense of taste was awake and when I read His word, it becomes alive in my mouth and I taste and see that the Lord is good? Oh my goodness.  I think our Christian walk would be so different if we could walk in the spirit, and not in the flesh.

But I want you to think about this for a moment. If you were missing even one of your physical senses, would life not be less enjoyable, even harder? Take that thought and apply it to your spiritual senses. If you can’t hear Him, see Him, feel Him, taste Him, or smell Him, is it any wonder that you are bored with prayer, looking at the time during worship, and thinking about lunch during the sermon?

So what do you do, now that you are aware that you have these senses, but you realize that you aren’t using them? First and foremost, if you have not received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you must repent and ask Him to forgive you for your sins. You do not want to activate your spiritual senses without being a Christian because there are many evil spirits out there who will be more than happy to lead you astray.

Once you are sure that you belong to the Lord, ask Him to activate your senses. Ask Him to open your spiritual eyes so that you can see into the spirit realm. Ask Him to give you ears that hear so that you can begin to hear His voice. Tell Him that you want to feel His presence when He is near; that you want Him to let you smell His sweet fragrance. Let Him know that you want to taste and see that His word is good. Once you have asked, realize that using your spiritual senses is not a logical, or left brain activity. It is a right brain activity. You must have faith that you have these senses and that He wants you to use them, and that He wants to reveal Himself to you through them. Faith is not a logical activity. It makes no sense. Your spiritual senses might not make sense to you either. But in order for you to grow up, to become mature, you must learn to exercise them. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

For me personally, becoming aware that I had them, was huge. I knew I had spiritual ears and that was probably my most developed sense. But it changed my life when I begin to see in the spirit and started using the other senses as well.  It was definitely a leap of faith for me. The enemy loves to come in and tell you that this is silly. That it is all just your imagination. But if you are still reading this, then I know you want more of God. Ask Him. He wants to give you more of Himself. But He is spirit and we must worship Him, and experience Him, in spirit and in truth. (See John 4:23-24)

 

 

Are you praying for a prodigal?

I love the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Why do I love it? Because the son comes home, every single time. I have never once read the story and not had the son come home. You’re probably thinking well that’s kind of silly! Of course he always comes home. It’s the same story. Exactly! The son always comes home.  There is no other story that Jesus told about a son that did not come home to the Father. But notice the word son. He’s not talking about people who have never accepted Jesus. He’s not talking about the heathen, although a prodigal will no doubt behave like a heathen at times. He’s talking about a son! And according to Jesus, sons always come home. Let me explain why I believe this.

I grew up not knowing the name of Jesus. My parents went to church while I was young, but I have no memory of ever being taught that Jesus loved me or who He is. When I was 6 years old my parents moved to a new country with a new language and they stopped going to church. I was a very lonely child, the youngest of three with two brothers 10 and 14 years older. Perhaps because of this, I would pray at night. The funny thing is that I had no idea who God was and I certainly didn’t know He had a Son named Jesus. So I would pray to the unknown God. I loved the name Charlie and being a kid, I decided to call God that. So each night I would go to bed and pray to Charlie. I know this sounds almost sacrilege but I believe that God wants children to come to Him. I think He even mentions this a time or two in the Bible. Anyway, one day when I was about 9 years old, I happened to watch a Billy Graham crusade. They were very popular in the 1960’s. Dr. Graham was having  regular crusades and the TV networks would always carry them. So I watched one and I couldn’t believe my ears. God had a name and it was Jesus! I was thrilled and immediately that night I prayed the sinners prayer that I had been taught on TV and accepted Jesus into my heart. But then I decided the next day to share my story with my father. I told him what I had done. His response leaves me speechless to this day. He told me that there was no God!

You can imagine what happened next. I was a child and I believed my father. Never again did I pray to God. Not once. It reminds me of the parable of the sower as told in Luke 8:5-15. “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture”. That was me right there. The seed that Dr. Graham sowed  into my heart that night sprang up but immediately withered, because no one watered it. Actually, I have often wondered if the seed got stolen by the birds.

When we pray and accept Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, I believe that we actually create a covenant with God the Father. Let me explain. The word covenant, which is used in both the old and new testaments, means to enter into an agreement, to create a contract, a treaty or a deal. It is considered a legal contract. Did I break my part of the contract that day when I believed my father more than I believed God? Absolutely. I walked away from my covenant. But I don’t believe that God walked away from me. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 18:12-14 that if a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away, he will leave the 99 and go find that one.

I think that even though I lost whatever tiny bit of faith I had to pray that prayer, God honored it. I might have wandered off, but God went after me. I entered my teen years as a true prodigal! The word prodigal means “riotous” in the Greek. I looked up what riotous means and yup, that was me. Riotous: characterized by wild and uncontrolled behavior. Synonyms are unruly, loud, out of control, ungovernable, unmanageable, etc.  Yet here I am, years later, writing a blog about Jesus! So what happened?

God began to send people into my life who would talk to me about Jesus. I rejected them. He also sent people unbeknownst to me that prayed for me, sometimes for years. And when I hit rock bottom at 17, wanting to take my own life, He gave me someone who shared the gospel with me. He gave me the grace to take another look at this Jesus and this time, I repented. He turned my life around in days. I was set free from all that prodigal living in a heartbeat. Literally.

Why did God do that for me, even after I had rejected Him? Let me lead you on a little Bible journey that I believe answers this question. In Matthew 13:31 Jesus tells His disciples that “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…which indeed is the least (or smallest) of all the seeds”. He then goes on to tell them in Matthew 17:20 that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they could move a mountain from one place to another place.

Now let’s go back to the parable of the sower that I mentioned earlier, in Luke 8:5-15 where Jesus talks about the word of God being a seed that is sown into our hearts. He describes 4 kinds of soils which the seed lands on. The first is hard ground, the wayside that people walk on as they are working their garden or going somewhere. When seed lands on this  ground, it is trampled on and the birds of the air immediately come and eat it. This type of soil is interesting if you do a word study. The Greek word trample means to treat with rudeness and insult. In other words, the seed that lands on this kind of heart is immediately rejected by the person. They want nothing to do with it. Clearly, the seed that Dr. Graham sowed into my heart that night did not get trampled on. No, I actually received it with gladness and rejoiced that I finally knew His name.

The second kind of soil that is described in the parable of the sower is rocky ground. If you’ve ever worked a garden you will know that seed does not grow on rocks, at least not for long. This is exactly what Jesus said to the disciples when He described this kind of soil or heart condition. “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away”. If you look at the story, you will notice that there are two other kinds of soils, the third being filled with thorns, which choke the seedlings, and finally the good ground, which allow the seed to spring up and yield a good harvest.

It is the second soil that I want to focus on for this post; the rocky soil. I think that it is significant that the kingdom of heaven, the word of God and our faith, are all compared to seeds, two of them to mustard seeds. Now as I mentioned earlier, the mustard seed is the smallest of the seeds. It is quite tiny. Could it be that when God sows His seed into our hearts as children, knowing that a time of temptation would come as we grow up, he in fact hides some of his mustard seed in the crevices of the rock? Interesting you might say. But what about the fact that seed can’t grow on rocks? Good question.

Remember when Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 17:20 that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can say to a mountain “Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you”?  You and I have authority to move mountains! I would like to point out a detail you might have missed in all of this. The rocky soil that His seed often lands on is filled with rocks, not mountains. It says this: “Some fell on rock;  (Luke 8:6) They were rocks. Just rocks. Why is this so important? Because my faith might be tiny, too tiny to move a mountain, but I think I can move a rock.

King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:5 that there is “A time to cast away stones”. I’ve never connected this verse in Ecclesiastes to the story of the sower who went out to sow. Until now.

Think about this. There is a time to cast away stones! If you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you can speak to a mountain, or even a stone or a rock and command it to go somewhere else.  When we pray in the name of Jesus, we have authority to move rocks and stones and mountains. Mountains move at the mention of His name. Why? Because He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Almighty God. His name has power!

Now let me ask you a question. Are you a Christian? Do you have faith as small as a mustard seed? Surely you must have or you would not have accepted Christ into your heart for the forgiveness of your sins. Did your children accept Christ into their hearts when they were young? Did they receive the message with joy? Even if your faith is that tiny, as small as a mustard seed, you have authority through the name of Jesus to say to those rocks in their lives, “MOVE“! It’s not a mountain. It’s just a rock! Command those rocks to move and be cast out of their hearts, so that the seed you sowed into their lives all those years ago, will be on good ground and will spring up, and grow into a good harvest of salvation.

And that is what happened to me. God brought people into my life, strangers who prayed for me. They had faith to keep praying even when they looked at my life and things appeared to be getting worse, not better. But they kept praying. They kept moving rocks. And when I hit rock bottom, things changed in an instant.

Remember the Father in the story of the prodigal? He was watching and waiting for his son to return home.  “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him“(Luke 15:20)  The father could not have seen him while he was still a great way off, unless he had been watching and waiting. I want to encourage you to keep praying. Keep watching and keep waiting. Your prodigal will come to himself and remember. And they will come home. They always do!