What do you need right now in order to fulfill the call of God on your life?
I asked my friends on social media this question. Here are some of the answers I received:
The kids grow up and leave home.
Healing from a physical ailment.
A life partner.
An audience to preach to.
All of these are good things, of course, helpful to anyone in ministry. Partnership and support are essential, while time and physical stamina enable us to do what God has called us to do.
Yet the Bible gives a very different answer to this question.
Jesus tells us there is just ONE THING we must have in order to do the kinds of works He does, and it encompasses all of the above.
At the beginning of this week, my husband departed on a three-day business trip to Maine. Immediately as he stepped out the door, another powerful Presence stepped in and filled my home. The spiritual atmosphere around me shifted and the glory of God suddenly became manifest and tangible. I must say that I was not seeking this!
I was sitting at my dining room table studying the Word when the Spirit of God entered. The air around me seemed to come alive with His glory. Then a deep stillness settled around me like a blanket, and I retreated to my bedroom to seek Him.
One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.
Holiness is not a popular teaching in the church today. Our ears itch for powerful promises, personal prophecies, and protection from anything that would add to our already stressful lives!
To be holy - well, that seems almost impossible, doesn’t it? Since we live in a New Covenant age of grace, why focus on holiness at all? Isn’t holiness just the doctrine of legalism and works in disguise? We want to think about nicer things than dealing with sin: lovely and beautiful things, like Paul describes in Philippians 4:8!
What is holiness, and why do we need it at all?
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
I am writing to you this week from about 35,000 feet - roughly 7 miles up - in the air.
Two of my children and I are returning from a visit to North Carolina with my sister and her family. My younger boys have never flown before, and one of the most wonderful parts of our journey is showing them what it is like to soar above the clouds, in a place where bright daylight is radiant no matter what the weather below. We took off in a fog; we now soar in a luminescent sky with pillow-like clouds that beg us to somehow step out and walk upon them!
The contrast is amazing. My boys have loved every minute of their flights to and fro, with the change in perspective they bring. To be "above and not beneath" (Deuteronomy 28:13) is a blessing indeed, and it started with a simple choice to shift our focus.
Have you ever taken a personality test?
People around the world have used personality profiles to understand each other better. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses has become a trend, especially in Christian circles. The information can be a helpful tool for teambuilding and for leaders, to know how best to motivate the people who serve them.
I have taken many of these tests over the years and emerged with a series of “labels” designed to define me. I’m sure you have, too!
I know, for example, that I am equally balanced between introversion and extroversion (although my husband might question the “balanced” part!). I love a good party, love connecting with people, but recharge alone and need some time to “regroup” after a series of social events.
I am a researcher, a teacher/trainer, a high achiever, a creative, a prophet with a pastoral bent, an intuitive “feeler” and a very passionate person. I have been called melancholic, choleric, a leader, a judge, a mystic and - help me Jesus - a "Beaver!"
What are you?
More importantly, who does God say you are? How does God define you?
Here is what I believe God is saying to us today: “I want to develop personality in you - not YOURS but MINE!”
God knows who we are. He knows what labels we’ve been given. He’ll even use our strengths and weaknesses for His glory. Yet ultimately, He wants to infuse us with HIMSELF, filling us with His Divine Personality.
On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, followers of Jesus were gathered together in Jerusalem to pray. They had no idea what to expect; they only knew what Jesus had told them: “Wait until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
That first church prayer meeting resulted in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit so great that it enabled every person present to hear, see, and experience personally the power of God! That day alone, 3,000 people were saved.
Our tendency as modern-day believers is to leave the Pentecost story in the history books. After all, we think, God was just beginning to establish His church; He had to do something amazing like that!
Too many years of powerful encounters and answers to prayer have convinced me: that kind of thinking is nothing more than a cop-out. God’s power is alive and well, and the only reason we don’t see more of it is that we don’t pray for it!
My life has been powerfully impacted by prayer. The prayers I pray and the prayers others pray for me bear amazing fruit. There are countless stories I could share of God’s faithfulness to answer prayer, but I want to remind you, instead, of God’s stories.
No one was more skeptical of the supernatural than I. Raised in a world governed by the intellect, I was trained from an early age to focus on learning and self-development while rejecting emotionalism and spiritual “fanaticism.” Truth was limited to what could be discerned through science or the five physical senses alone.
In fact, when I finally discovered the Holy Spirit, the very first “label” my family put on me was that of a “fanatic.” Never mind that I hadn’t actually done anything worthy of that label yet; my confession of faith in the third person of the Trinity was enough to worry them!
There is power in prayer, but we don't want to stop at just receiving God's power for ourselves. God's power has a purpose. We can know for certain that we are praying effectively when we partner with that power!
The Lord once said to me, “I am a Speaking Spirit.” To define Himself in this way is to emphasize His desire for communication with His creation. Although He is Spirit, and seems very different at first from our own flesh and blood, we must remember that we, too, are spiritual beings who have the capacity to hear what the Spirit is saying:
“Draw near to listen to My “Speaking Spirit,” and you will be rewarded with a deeper understanding of who I am and what motivates Me!”
These are His words for us in this season. How do we get to know this “Speaking Spirit?” We return to one of God’s introductions of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:
“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him [Jesus], the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” ~Isaiah 11:2
Too often we want God to agree with us in prayer, when the real work of prayer is to agree with God! We see in scripture that we are to pray with “all kind of prayers and supplications,” and jump joyfully into prayer, asking God to agree with our human assessments of life’s difficult situations. Then we wonder why our prayers didn’t work. I know. I’ve done it!
Here are just a few of my not-so-fruitful prayers: “God, would you take that difficult person out of my life?” Or, “Can you please (I even said please!) get me out of this trial?” Or even better: “Make my children (wife, husband, etc) obey you!”
I’ve found that God is not interested in agreeing with my flesh. My human nature. Nor will he override someone’s free will to get them saved! While praying through our emotions can be cathartic (David did it in the Psalms), it’s not the most fruitful way to pray. So what really works?
Here is an encouraging word I received from the Lord this month for "Kingdom Creatives" - those who sing, write, dance, craft, paint, build, and worship creatively in the Kingdom of God, especially those who are venturing into new artistic endeavors. For a second, related word on creativity, click here.
I took a walk down to a local pond last week to rest and pray. The stillness of water relaxes me, and I sat for a while enjoying the warm sun and the beautiful scenery. Psalm 19 tells us that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge." (Psalm 19:1-2, NKJV)
The Lord told me once that the "ancients" - our fathers in the faith - used to meditate far more often than we do, and as a result, they were rewarded with far more wisdom. I sought rest, not wisdom, yet God gifted me with both.
He reminded me that water in Scripture is sometimes used to symbolize the Word (see Ephesians 5:26). And wind ("pneuma", or "breath," in the Greek), often represents the Holy Spirit. When wind blows upon the water, creating ripples or waves, suddenly the direction of the wind, normally invisible, can be seen. Asking the Holy Spirit to breathe upon the Word as we read it will help us to discern more clearly His direction for our lives. The Bible comes alive. The movement of the Spirit is seen.
In the same way, a topical look at the water of the Word gives a certain amount of peace. But when we choose to immerse ourselves in water, rather than just look at the surface of it, we find that deep within that water is life. All kinds of living creatures abide there, things we would never see if we did not immerse ourselves. Tides, or perhaps the directional pull towards a waterfall, can now be felt. In the water, it is easier to sense the direction that water is taking, and we can allow ourselves to be carried along to where the water - or rather, the Word - wants us to go.
Living water! Isn't that what Jesus was talking about? We came to the Word seeking peace and rest, and yet as we immersed ourselves in it, studying it, we began to gain wisdom from God. We now know the direction He is taking us, and with the wind at our back and the swell of the waves, we float effortlessly to our destination.
Christians have a ritual of immersion called baptism. My youngest son is obeying Christ's command to be baptized this weekend. He is choosing to believe that his interaction with the water will yield new life in the Kingdom of God. I pray that as he grows, he will continue to immerse himself in the water of the Word, which has the power to guide and direct him all the days of his life.
Isn't it interesting that following Jesus begins with a command to be baptized in water and ends with a command to abide in the water of the Word?
To help you study the relationship between the water of the Word and the wind of the Spirit, I am including a link to a teaching I delivered recently at Indian Lake Community Church in Worcester, MA. I believe it will bless you and challenge you to take the plunge: to dive into the Word daily and to enjoy the feel of the wind on your face as you follow Him.
*Please note: Because this is a live recording, there is some background noise. I encourage you to press in and discover all that God wants to say to you through this teaching.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Would you go to church naked? No?
Maybe you're shocked that I asked such a question. It's not the type of topic Christians usually write about, is it?
Well, I have a good reason for asking the question. Many people DO go to church in the buff. Spiritually, that is. They sit next to you in the pew, vulnerable and unclothed. Surprised?
You shouldn't be. You've seen them: believers dressed in their "Sunday best" suits and stilettos, with a look that is designed to lead you to one conclusion: they really have it all together. The truth is, not all of them are as dressed up as they think they are!
Sound - the very idea of it - has always fascinated me. I grew up not knowing there were certain sounds, like the sound of birds, or machines, or the tick-tock of a clock. I heard only in part, because of deafness. Childhood nerve damage to my ears left me hearing only the loudest of noises, or those closest in proximity to me. I did not know that some sounds even existed until, in fourth grade, I was given hearing aids.
The shock of sound alarmed me beyond belief. The moment an audiologist turned up the volume for me, I screamed. Suddenly, there was sound, and a lot of it! An air conditioner outside the window, humming noisily, made me jump out of the chair I was sitting in. I remember thinking it was the hum of an aircraft invasion! Refrigerators make noise - did you know that? And birds, mice, all of God's creation has something to say - if you can hear it.
Heaven is like this, too. Not to alarm us, of course, but heaven is a noisy place! John gives us amazing descriptions of the sounds of heaven in Revelation. As one deeply intimate with the Lord, John was given access to sights and sounds that most humans will never see or hear. And it all started with sound.
Look at the first Pentecost. The disciples (including John) were gathered in an upper room, waiting for a promised encounter with God. Acts 2 says that "Suddenly, there came a SOUND from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2). I am certain that the noise of this whirlwind made at least some of the disciples jump out of their seats, as I did when I could first hear! These believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak "as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) What a powerful initiation to hearing the sounds of heaven!
Sound Begets Speech
From the moment the Holy Spirit opened the ears of the disciples, He also inspired them to speak the gospel. The Holy Spirit, whose job it is to amplify the sounds of heaven in our ears, filled the first believers with language, not just hearing, so that thousands of others heard about God in their own languages and became believers themselves. The amplification of the sounds of heaven brought the multiplication of men into the Kingdom of God.
And so it still is with us today. If you are listening, you will also be speaking. And speaking - telling others the Good News of the Gospel - is the primary call and commission of every believer. (See Matthew 28:18).
But the reverse is also true: if we are NOT listening, we will not be hearing either. If we do not hear the Words of God, we will not be saved. If believers do not listen daily for the sounds of heaven, those specific and personal instructions He wants to give us, we will not be led by the Spirit. And if we don't know where we are supposed to be or what He wants us to be doing, we will not be living and sharing the testimonies He wants to give us, which will lead others to hear more about Him.
How then shall they believe in Him of whom
What does heaven sound like? John's experience with the incredible sounds and sights of heaven began with the sound of a trumpet: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying: I am the Alpha and the Omega...write what you see in a book and send it to the churches..." (Revelation 1:10-11) This would be the first of over 20 times John would hear loud voices, thunderings, earthquakes, music, loud cries of angels, harps, and worship.
In contrast, only once are we told (in Revelation 8) that "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1). This coincided with the opening of the seventh seal. (Seven is the number biblically connected with rest and sabbaths).
The noises and voices John hears take him successively higher in the heavenly realm, until at last he is able to see the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem, the final destiny of all believers. Yet even in his first glimpse of the throne of God, John writes that "...from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings and voices." (Rev 4:5) The seven Spirits of God were burning like lamps before the throne. He also sees living creatures and elders worshiping day and night, speaking of the holiness of God. Their praise never ceases; they do not rest.
What can we gain from this? The knowledge that the closer we get to the throne of God, the more constant our speaking will be. The Spirit of God mysteriously abides both within us and near to the throne. What He hears, He speaks to us. What we hear, we then speak, preach, prophesy, and sing. As we draw as near to God as we can, we will be compelled, as these elders are, to speak of Him constantly, to worship Him 24/7, and to yield to the inspiration of the Spirit within us.
Jesus cried aloud when He gave up His Spirit and when He summoned Lazarus from the tomb. Angels cry loudly and trumpet the proclamations of God. Man cries out in his prayers of distress or decree. All are normal responses to the pneuma, or the breath, of the Spirit of God in us. Hearing from God compels us to speak. Sharing what we hear will cause others to hear Him also.
Hearing and speech are intricately linked in both the natural and spiritual realms. Don't let a deaf and dumb spirit silence you. Listen for the loud sounds of heaven, and then speak in such a way that you'll compel others to hear heaven, too.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes
Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
~ Isaiah 62:7
Have you ever wished there were some kind of "litmus test" to tell you if a prophet is for real? Or to discern whether a prophecy you've received is true? I have. In this noisy world full of voices, it's probably a good idea to have a "back pocket" checklist of some sort to help us sort things out! Will this make us faithless Christians or doubting Thomases? Actually, no. It will help us tune in much more accurately to what God is saying. Here's why.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 summarizes the essence of a biblical approach to prophecy. It says: "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast to what is good." Likewise, the apostle Paul, discussing prophecy (1 Corinthians 14), says he desires that all should prophesy. He elevates prophecy to be among the highest of the gifts. He also encourages believers to judge prophetic words. (Notice that he wants us to judge the words, not the people giving them!)
The New Testament clearly favors the idea of God speaking to us today via the prophetic. It also gives us clear guidelines for how prophets should operate and how we can know if their words are true. Taking a look at five of these will give us greater confidence as we give and receive prophetic words.
What makes one person thrive while another barely survives? Why do some people seem to live almost effortlessly, while others go through life hanging on by their fingernails? Even Christians are not exempt. We cling to the Gospel's wonderful hope of heaven. But is that all there is? What about the problems in this present life? What do I do between now and eternity?
I believe there is a key difference between survivors and those who thrive in life. Or for Christians, between the survivors and the revivers! It's not just a difference between rich and poor. It's actually a different state of mind.
To describe this, let's look at the law of the jungle.
There's a big lie that the devil has promoted among God's people since the beginning of time. It is so big, and so successful, that his strategy really has not changed much over the years. From Genesis to Revelation and right into the present day, Satan and his minions have invested untold amounts of time and energy into marketing this lie. Do you know what it is?
It is this: "Did God really say...?"
Early one morning the Lord woke me, saying: "Treat obstacles not as occasions for worry but as opportunities in the Spirit." It was an encouraging word He wanted me to share with a friend who was about to experience several days of new obstacles. I shared the word, thinking it was a catchy little phrase! Not long after that, though, He showed me a picture of the rapids.
The image of a river is powerful in Scripture; Psalm 46:4 speaks of a river "whose streams make glad the city of God," and Ezekiel prophesies about a river in God's temple whose waters will increase until they become too deep to cross. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, a popular expression in the Charismatic renewal of the 1990's was: "Jump in the river!" (Meaning, jump into the flow of the Spirit!).
But rivers, especially the rapids, contain obstacles. Some are small and easily floated over. Some are so deep they are virtually unseen. It is the larger ones that tend to cause us difficulties in our faith-walk. The ones that seem to block our way or hold us back from going to where we want to be. The ones that are too big for us to move.
We are not meant to get stuck behind obstacles, but to continue flowing in the river of the Spirit as we journey along. In order to do this, we must know what kind of obstacle we are bumping into. It is here that the wisdom of God is indispensable.
Two Types of Obstacles
Here's what I felt the Lord was saying. Obstacles along the side of a river - usually rocks, soil, or branches - comprise the boundaries of the river. They are there as protection, as an obvious division for us between the Spirit and the flesh. If we are bumping into these it often means we have drifted to the edges of the movement of God in our lives. Staying here can mean stagnancy, like being caught in the circular undulations of an eddy. We haven't abandoned God or gotten out of the river to walk on our own, but we may not be making any progress. Fear of the rapids may have caused us to return to safer ground. We may be fascinated with those outside of the river, who seem to skip along so cheerfully in the greener grass. Perhaps we are snagged on a painful outcropping that just won't seem to let us go.
Whatever the reason, we recognize that our pace has slowed, but with a little effort, we can return to the flow of the river. God has not abandoned us, and our momentary collision with the banks of the river only teaches us to run more consistently down the central channels of His grace.
Rocks or boulders inside the river, however, pose a different challenge. In most cases, these obstacles are meant to redirect us as we flow in the Spirit. These are obstacles whose roots are so deep or whose surface so great that we cannot float over them. They must be recognized for what they are and confronted with God's strategy so that we can move beyond them. What is that strategy?
Water flows over and around the rocks in a river. Rarely are rocks are dislodged to make water's passage easier! God might choose sometimes to supernaturally remove a boulder that is blocking us, but more often than not, God expects His river to flow around and beyond the things that would try to block the water's flow. We are not meant to hold on to these obstacles or become stuck when they arise.
In short, too often, our prayers focus on asking God to remove things that are meant to redirect us. We are never called to grow stagnant in the Spirit, whining and complaining about the impassable boulders we face. Life in the Holy Spirit is a life of constant movement and change, just like the life of a river. A better prayer might be, "Lord, help me to see this obstacle for what it is and to navigate around it so that it doesn't stop me from going on with You."
Returning to my time with the Lord early that morning, I realized: the key to navigating obstacles of any kind was right there in the word He gave me initially: obstacles are nothing more than opportunities for us to stay in the Spirit.
Let the Source of the river set your direction. Let the flow of the river keep you within His boundaries. And let the strength of His current propel you over and around every obstacle you might encounter.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God.
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What is happening right now in Boston is amazingly prophetic. Just two days ago, I was writing about revival after visiting John Adams' rare books collection at the Boston Public Library. (To see that post, entitled "Step Into Your New World", click here). What I did not know was that the same day I was publishing my article, archivist Pam Hatchfield was prying open a 220-year-old time capsule at the MFA, one that had been embedded in the State House's cornerstone by Sam Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. On July 4, 1795, fifteen white horses - one for each state of our union - had pulled this cornerstone and time capsule through the streets of Boston for the dedication ceremony.
Inside the box (which took nearly 7 hours to open), were artifacts from the dedication of the Massachusetts State House on the 20th anniversary of our independence. A silver plate, probably crafted by Paul Revere, displays an inscription for the building's dedication and names Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and Revolutionary War Colonel William Scollay. (See photo above). 23 coins, including one in a half-penny denomination, and a medal of George Washington are also part of the capsule.
It's time to give the devil a one-two punch! You're familiar with the term, of course: a boxer throws a left-handed jab immediately followed by a right cross punch. The same technique is also used in fencing. It's a fast combination of two actions designed to give an athlete the upper hand. If you're a believer, you should be using a "one-two punch" strategy today. Here's why.
Current events are unfolding at an alarming pace. The war on terror is expanding, reaching many nations. Most of us lack the political influence we might feel we need to effect change. In light of this, the enemy wants us to feel hopeless. He knows that powerlessness can lead to fear. Luke 21:26 confirms that in the end times, men's hearts will fail them "from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming in the earth."
Preemptive Prayer & Compassionate Provision
The Bible offers hope, though, in the form of a one-two punch. The first punch is prayer, and the second is provision.
The Bible says that our prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16). They work because we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places, where all things are subject to Him (Ephesians 1:20-22). As joint-heirs with Christ, we receive the blessing of being "above only and not beneath" (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This means that as we pray, no matter how impotent we may be in the natural, we rise to become agents of transformation in the Spirit. We partner with Jesus in His ministry of intercession. By tapping into the unlimited reach and resources of the Holy Spirit, we now pray and effect change at every level of government, business, education, religion and any other man-made institution.
Joseph as Prototype
The eleventh son of Jacob is a prophetic prototype for us here. After being sold into slavery and betrayed several times, Joseph was transformed from reject to ruler. He left the dungeon of the enemy and was promoted to second-in-command of Pharaoh's kingdom (Genesis 37-50). Like Jesus, he used his prayers of faith to enter in to a place of provision. Having overcome his own adversity through prayer, he then helped others to overcome, through practical provisions for a worldwide famine.
I believe we have a similar purpose. Rather than succumbing to fear, we can throw the first "punch" of prayer and follow it up with a second "punch" of provision for the disasters that do occur. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, we are wise to prepare our families in advance for whatever the "winter" season may bring, so that we are safe and can serve others in time of need. We can be "angels with skin on," ministering servants empowered by the voice of the Lord and serving humanity with practical assistance or spiritual gifts.
No More Shadowboxing
We are created to be strong spiritual athletes: to fight the good fight of the faith and to fear nothing. Paul says we are not called to be shadowboxers, Christians who throw ineffective punches at the air (See 1 Corinthians 9:26). Our faith is the antidote to fear, and our faith gives us a specific strategy for a Kingdom "win." What will you do with your spiritual authority in these dark days?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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I was reading the parable of the ten talents last week and I noticed something I hadn’t before. It is fear that causes man to hide. It is love that causes God to seek. There is no fear in love. But it is a choice to believe the love.
Fear causes us to hide ourselves and our talents so that God cannot use either. Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in Matthew 25 as a Kingdom whose Lord entrusts his servants with gifts, goods, or talents. Then he leaves. Those who use and multiply the talents are rewarded; those who do not, lose even what they had. There are several great principles in here, not least of which is the law of diminishing returns. In other words, you use it or you lose it.
I believe this is true in the area of prayer as well. But what causes a person to lose it? Even the wicked servant, who hid God’s talent in the ground, acknowledged that the talent belonged to God: “Look, there you have what is yours.” But just before this, he said, “I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.” (Mt. 25:25)
Fear doubts the character of God. This servant wrongly perceived God as a hard and unfair man, reaping where He did not sow. Although the seed actually belonged to his Lord, this servant resented, perhaps, the labor he must invest to grow that seed. He decided instead to hide it.
Adam and Eve responded similarly in Genesis chapter 3. As a result of their sin, shame and fear entered their minds, and verse 9 says “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the Presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.” When the Lord called to Adam, asking where he was, Adam responded: “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And of whom have you been afraid, or feared,
that you have lied and not remembered,
nor taken it to your heart?
~ Isaiah 57:11
We know that throughout the Bible, God commands us NOT to fear. Fear is not an option for the child of a loving Father. 1 John 4:18-19 says that he who fears is not made perfect in love. Why? Because fear has to do with punishment. The only one who wants us to be punished is the devil.
The love that causes God to seek us out when we sin is the same love that provides clothing as a covering for our nakedness. It is the same love that causes His Son to bear the punishment for our failings so that we don’t have to. (See Genesis 3:21 & Isaiah 53:5).
Compare Genesis 3:7 with Psalm 27. Fear induces us not only to hide ourselves, but also to provide for ourselves, usurping something that our loving Father planned to do. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together in order to make themselves a covering. But it was God’s intention to provide our covering Himself: “He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)
Hiding and providing are God’s prerogative, not ours.
It is in the absence of God’s Presence that the enemy tempts us to sin. Therefore, our best defense against the spirit of fear is to stay in the Presence of God as much as possible. “Pray unceasingly,” we read in a letter to the Thessalonians. How can we do this? Aren’t we busy enough? To pray nonstop, engaging our minds and our mouths, would be nearly impossible!
Strategically, God has given believers one unique gift (or “talent”) to help us in this area: the gift of tongues. As we pray unceasingly in tongues, our spirits remain active in the Kingdom realm while our bodies are able to continue with whatever work we are doing in the natural realm. I believe that this particular talent is grossly underused, and has been even hidden by the church out of – you guessed it - fear. We fear the denominational division that comes from this kind of spirit-to-Spirit prayer, and yet it is indisputably one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal.
I have said often that the believer’s “secret weapon” is hearing God. Speaking in tongues enables us to communicate with God directly and to establish a “secure connection” in the Spirit which the enemy cannot penetrate. Think of it as Kingdom WiFi that is password-protected. Once we connect to this power source, we have access to all the wonderful wisdom of God, downloaded to our minds through our spirit.
God has reversed the curse that came from Adam’s original sin. The shame of eating from the tree of knowledge has been replaced with privileged access to all wisdom and knowledge through the gift of the Holy Spirit. In this Jewish month of Elul, the traditional season for the King to visit His fields, our Beloved is searching for His Bride. He is walking through His Kingdom garden even now. When He asks where you are, will you be hiding?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All citations NKJV unless otherwise noted.
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Sometimes, God reminds me of simple, familiar phrases and uses them to reveal spiritual truths. He did that again this morning. I'd been studying Proverbs yesterday: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7-8). I obviously hadn't gotten enough understanding yet, since He startled me awake today with another familiar saying.
"Hold on for dear life!" He said as I awoke, bleary-eyed and not quite coherent. Truthfully, I was more interested in holding on to my pillow at that point than having a theological discussion. But once I had grabbed a mug of hot tea and my Bible, His words began to make more sense.
Proverbs 4 commands us to "get wisdom" and "get understanding," and more specifically, to "Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life." (Proverbs 4: 13). It was this emphasis on "taking hold" that the Lord wanted me to see. Here's what He showed me.
Jesus is wisdom, and so the Old Testament command to get wisdom mirrors the New Testament call to take hold of Jesus and all that He has called us to do. 1 Corinthians 1:24 tells us that Jesus is the wisdom of God, and we know from Isaiah 11:1 that the 7-fold Holy Spirit is the spirit of wisdom, counsel, understanding, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord, the Bible says, is the beginning of all wisdom. In other words, accepting Jesus is the wisest decision anyone will ever make, since Christ is the author and source of all wisdom. Embracing wisdom brings protection and honor to our lives.
For wisdom is protection just as money is protection,
but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom
preserves the lives of its possessors.
~Ecclesiastes 7:12, NASB
So: get wisdom, hold on to Jesus, gain your life. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, from the time of the prophets until the time Jesus came to earth, His leaders hadn't held on to wisdom at all. In contrast, they had hypocritically laid aside God's commands in order to keep their own traditions. (See Jeremiah 8:5 and Mark 7:8-9). Like Joab taking hold of the horns of the altar, they appeared to be doing the right thing on the outside but were devoid of truth internally. (See 1 Kings 1-2 for the story of Joab and Solomon). Their loose grip on the truth cost them their lives. It was, quite symbolically, the wisdom of Solomon that struck Joab down.
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.
but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
all those who hate me love death.
Holding on to instruction requires an attitude of humility: an innate awareness of one's need for wisdom, and a willingness to gain understanding by listening to His teachings daily. We are exhorted in 2 Timothy 1:13 to "Hold fast the pattern of sound words." Jesus, in three of His seven addresses to the churches in Revelation, asks us to "Hold fast to what you have until I come." (Letters to Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia). Holding on to wisdom is achieved by letting go of things that hold our attention elsewhere: children, family problems, job pressures, hobbies that steal our time. It is costly in that we must die to our own ideas of what should be done moment by moment in order to take hold of His plans for our lives.
Life is like riding a roller coaster. You gotta "hold on for dear life" to Jesus, the source of all wisdom, if you're going to survive the ride. His wisdom is life-giving, life sustaining. Had I held on to my pillow instead this morning, I would have missed the wonderful conversation I had with the Lord and the way He opened up my understanding of His Word. Our ability to hold on to Jesus may be as critical to our life one day as staying strapped in on a roller coaster ride. Without His protection, we risk it all.
Prayer: Jesus, please show me what I am holding on to. Are self-reliance, religious rituals or everyday routines replacing my search for revealed wisdom? Help me to make wisdom the principal thing as I press on to take hold of you!
Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already arrived at my goal,
but I press on to take hold
of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet
to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do:
forgetting what is behind and straining toward
what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3: 12-14, NIV
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All references NKJV unless otherwise noted.
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In the beginning, God commanded man to “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28).
From the garden of Eden to the global marketplace, God has been actively teaching people what might be called “supernatural math.” The basic curriculum introduces the natural laws of procreation, growth and prosperity, such as sowing and reaping, which are easily understood. Yet for the New Testament believer, there’s what you might call an “AP” course. Just for fun, let's expand this analogy a bit further and imagine the Christian as a "student" of the Word.
A new believer quickly realizes that God’s standard curriculum will only get him so far. He can apply all the basic biblical rules of sowing and reaping, giving and doing good works, and find a measure of success. Then Christ comes and raises the bar, saying he can do “greater things” than the Lord Himself did on earth! How is that possible? There is no way that one man, in his own strength, can be as “fruitful” as Christ without wearing himself out!
So God leads His student to an “advanced” principle, found in John 15:1-10: “without Me you can do nothing.” Abiding in Christ - in other words, living a life led by the Holy Spirit - causes him to bear much more fruit than trying to live life on his own. Relying on the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and listening to an omniscient teacher’s insights causes him to increase beyond what is humanly possible. A supernatural law takes effect, with God’s power exponentially multiplying all that the man does.
Suddenly, the Christian’s efforts at home and in the marketplace are immensely successful. He now knows that he is fulfilling the original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” but realizes that this goes far beyond siring children or planting vegetables! He has a new understanding of God’s methods and purposes, to bring in a spiritual harvest. Supernatural mathematics have taken effect.
However, the believer’s work will next be tested. As he meditates on Christ’s example in the Gospels, and follows the apostles through the book of Acts, he will see a second law at work, one upon which the law of multiplication sometimes depends. It is the law of division.
The first example God gives him is of Christ on the cross. Here is God’s most faithful "student," both disciple and son, being persecuted and broken. To the natural mind, it makes no sense. Even Christ’s disciples did not see, after three years, why their Master and King must die; it would seem to end his fruitful reign. (Division). Prior to the resurrection, they did not have a grasp of supernatural division. But the Lord knew it would be better for Him to be broken, so that all, not just a few, would experience the power of the indwelling Spirit. (Multiplication).
Their only previous point of reference was the feeding of the 5,000, found in all four Gospels. Christ had “tested” Phillip, his disciple and student at the time, to see how 5,000 men could be fed with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. (John 6:5-6) The disciples’ sole solution was to try and buy more food, something they could not afford. The Lord’s answer was to multiply by dividing first. (Taking the bread, he blessed it... broke it... distributed it…) As He divided and distributed, the food multiplied. There was such an increase that everyone ate as much as they wanted, and afterwards, there were still 12 baskets full!
As our Christian continues to study, he realizes that there is a biblical pattern of division leading to multiplication. A young boy’s loaves were divided and then multiplied. Christ, the bread of life, was broken, resulting in Pentecost and the multiplication of the Spirit. And in Acts, more supernatural math occured: persecution arose against the church through Herod, scattering the believers, and they were divided from Jerusalem and each other. But the Word of God multiplied and was distributed “everywhere” (Acts 8:4), ultimately reaching the Gentiles and the ends of the earth. Phillip himself became a faithful distributor of the Word, preaching the Gospel and doing miracles himself! Amazing!
A final lesson for our student is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul writes to his student, Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” What an interesting choice of words! Here's Timothy, a young disciple of Christ, learning division. He is being trained to “rightly divide” (or interpret and distribute) the Word for his audience, providing accurate teaching. Right understanding and distribution of the Word would directly counter the “unprofitable strivings” and deceptions that could hinder the gospel’s multiplication. (2 Tim. 2:14).
“Supernatural math” students realize that division is sometimes necessary in order for multiplication to occur. A fruitful branch undergoes pruning in order to increase still more. (John 15:2). There are times when God allows us to be divided, even persecuted, and yet His Kingdom continues to grow. The underground church in China is a good illustration of this.
Is God applying supernatural math principles to your life right now? After experiencing a time of fruitfulness, are you now wondering why there is division? Has abiding in Christ brought unanticipated separation or persecution? Sometimes what we perceive as negative attacks on our faith are necessary divisions or pruning designed to make us more productive. In those times, our teacher, the Holy Spirit, can show us how to pray until we reach the place of fruitfulness again.
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014; All references NKJV
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There are so many wonderful gifts that God gives us as we follow Him! I wrote earlier about the gift of the Word, which Jesus both brought to us (speaking the Words of the Father) and became for us (obeying and embodying the Word completely). This Word is precious: so much so, that the apostles in Acts later gave themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word," saying it would be "undesirable to leave the Word of God." (Acts 6:4).
We are challenged in 1 Peter 2:2 to "desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby." 2 Peter says to "be mindful" of the Word, since by the Word the heavens and earth were created and are preserved. (2 Peter 3:2, 5, & 7). We know that when the Word is preached, the Gospel multiplies exponentially. (see Acts 8:4) Today, I'd like to look at the Word as it relates to prayer, and share with you a fun, real-life story to illustrate its power.
Some of you know that our family is believing God for a home with more land, specifically to raise livestock. We have been "frustrated farmers" for a while, having a vision for a farm and slowly working toward the fulfillment of that dream. Two months ago, by a small miracle, we obtained both a coop and fencing, along with feeding and watering supplies, for a mere $10. We began to pray that God would also give us chickens for our coop. Within 24 hours, we had a small flock of four chicks called "Easter Eggers," known for the colorful eggs they lay in shades of blue and green. We were amazed at God's quick provision!
The boys have needed no reminders to care for their new "pets" daily, feeding and watering them, and our oldest son has taken on quite a fatherly role towards these birds, repairing the fencing as needed and becoming sweetly protective of the flock. Interestingly, our family devotional reading around this time was on the biblical book of Jonah, which ends by mentioning God's concern for both people and livestock (see Jonah 4:11).
Memorial Day has come and gone, and I am looking forward to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” which will soon arrive. With summer comes the wonderful anticipation of REST: that warm and delicious, lounging-on-the-beach kind of rest that I love! This year, though, "summer" started earlier for me.
My husband and I spent Memorial Day in a little cottage on the Rhode Island coast. Only two blocks from the ocean, our tiny haven afforded us an opportunity to rest, relax, and refocus as we celebrated our 15th anniversary. Despite the still-chilly air in New England, and only a brief, obligatory appearance by the sun, we walked on the beach, dipped our toes in the water, and watched as hardier souls than we dared to submerge themselves in the icy ocean waters.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.