This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘the Body of Christ’

“They Shall Rise Up In The Land”

KKK robe
Have you ever had a nightmare or a scary experience while you sleep? I believe some things that happen in the night are simply the result of too many tacos before bed. However, there are other experiences that are direct attacks from the enemy (satan and his demonic henchmen) who try to hit us under cover of darkness when we are in our most vulnerable state. THAT is the kind of attack I am about to relate to you……

The year was 1999. I have no memory of what went on that long-ago day or that evening before bed. My first recollections begin when I was engulfed in the following dream……

I was in my den during the daytime, pacing the floor, troubled by something. My dear friend, Vicki, was sitting in the floor with her back against the couch, flipping through a book on the coffee table. All of a sudden, I gasped and cried out, “I remember what I dreamed last night!”

Vicki stiffened and abruptly quit turning pages. “You don’t even have to tell me!” she said, in mournful tones. “You dreamed of a man made of ice.” Terror gripped me as she indeed had revealed exactly what I had dreamed; somehow the “Iceman” seemed absolutely and insidiously evil.

Immediately upon Vicki saying that, I woke up (or so I thought). It truly was nighttime, and I was in my bed. Suddenly I heard Vicki prophesying loudly as she walked up and down in my narrow hallway, “They shall rise up in the land! They shall rise up in the land!”—over and over again repeating that phrase.

I remember thinking, “If she doesn’t hold it down, she’s going to wake my babies!” My daughter Abigail was still in her crib, with my son Elijah in a toddler bed at the foot of her crib.

Then came the horror. Into my bedroom—not from the bathroom door, but from the door that opened up into the hall where Vicki was prophesying—walked a hooded figure in a white KKK robe. The pure evil he exuded began to stifle me. He walked by the foot of the bed, ignoring my husband on the closer side of the bed to the door, and approached me. As he did, I became more and more panicked and suddenly realized I was paralyzed.

I had had that feeling of paralysis during sleep before; you try as hard as you can to utter even a word, but you struggle and can only speak in slow motion, if at all. The only times I have experienced this, though, are when I am dreaming of a demonic attack against me……same thing in this case.

As the Klansman rounded the corner of the bed and came closer to me, I began to try to pray aloud. I strained against the paralysis, only able to moan rather than speak clearly what I wanted to: “JESUS! IN THE NAME OF JESUS!” Still, I kept struggling to get out those words, knowing that the name of Jesus was the power that would make this demon flee.

The evil apparition stopped directly beside me and simply looked down at me. I don’t remember the look of his eyes through the slits in the pointed hood. I just remember the hatred that oozed out of him toward me. Without words from him, I could absolutely sense that he was spewing out a caustic and total hatred and desire for vengeance toward me. He wanted to harm me, he wanted to destroy me…..but he knew he was not allowed to, which made him even more furious.

It was then that I saw my husband rise up to lean on his left elbow and stare down at me. He just kept looking at my face, while I wondered why he didn’t do something. Inside I was crying out, “Don’t just lie there! Wake me up! Pray against this demon standing beside me!”

After a while, he finally nudged me and said, “Leslie, Leslie, wake up!” It was only then that I could move and speak. Immediately the Klansman disappeared.

“Why did you wait so long to wake me up?!!” I cried.

His face looked surprised as he asked, “How did you know I waited?”

“I SAW you just leaning there, looking at me!”

“How did you see that? Your eyes were closed.”

I shook my head, puzzled. “I don’t know how I saw it, but I did. I was awake in another dimension and could see everything going on—even you staring at me, trying to decide what was wrong with me.”

“What on earth was going on?” he asked.

Terror still sending chills up and down my body, I shook my head again. “I can’t talk about it now. I’ll tell you in the morning.”

When morning’s light indeed came and I told him what had happened, he gasped and interjected: “I had a dream last night of several of us looking at a map or some kind of paper in critical times, and we heard a voice say, ‘You’ll know the enemy when you see him. His name rhymes with ‘Iceman.'”

Well, as you can imagine, that’s all it took to nearly make my hair stand on end!

For the next year, I’d periodically think about “Iceman” or “a man made of ice,” and I’d wonder about the connection with “They shall rise up in the land!” and the KKK demon visitor. My instinct was that “They shall rise up in the land” had to do with civil unrest somehow—stemming from issues involving race. But at that time, there were no major news stories dealing with racial issues, despite the ever-present specter of racism.

That was the very year—1999—that I finally began hosting prayer meetings in my den for revival in my hometown of Walnut Cove, N.C. I knew the dreams and visions of local revival that God had given me since early 1996 were calling me to intercede for my town. One dream, in particular, that stood out was of an incomplete circle of people standing at what seemed to be my old junior high (now Southeastern Stokes Middle School). The people were primarily black, but there were a few white people scattered here and there. I was directed of God to walk down a hill and join hands with those people. When I did, the circle was complete, and a steeple began to rise into the air in the middle of our circle.

I remember thinking, “What’s up with this? Am I supposed to go witness to all of my junior high friends? What does this mean?” I didn’t know, but I knew the racial contrast in the dream was key.

So people—black and white—began to meet in my den every week, praying/interceding for revival in Walnut Cove. And I heard God direct me to hold a community tent revival in the downtown area.

The story of how He worked out that tent revival in the year 2000 is an amazing one, but not the subject of this blog. The pertinent story began on the day we began to raise the huge tent on a vacant lot beside East Stokes Outreach Ministry in downtown Walnut Cove. As the men labored in the August sun to erect the massive cover, an older black man named Henry Gibson—known locally as “PeeWee”—came limping across the property, on his way back from the store.

Suddenly, PeeWee stopped, leaning on his cane, staring solemnly at the workers. I approached him to say hi and then noticed the tears welling up in his eyes. “Are you okay?” I asked with concern for this man that I liked so much.

“Yes, ma’am,” he kindly replied. Then he shook his head as if in disbelief and continued to speak quietly, “But I just can’t believe it! Black men and white men working together here to put up this tent!”

I was puzzled. “Yes, sir. The church I go to in Winston-Salem is multiracial.” I didn’t see why that was such a big deal in the 21st century.

I guess my voice relayed my questioning, because PeeWee suddenly turned his eyes from the tent workers to focus intently on me. “But, Miss Leslie, don’t you understand what that means on this land? On THIS property?”

I shook my head, “What’s so special about this property?”

He asked in amazement, “You don’t know?” As I again shook my head, he continued, “This is the vacant lot where the KKK used to burn their crosses to keep us black folk in line…..back when I was very young.”

His eyes took on a faraway look, and I knew he was not with me anymore. He was in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. “Yep,” he sighed. “This was the place those crosses burned. It wasn’t often—just every now and then when they wanted to make sure we knew our place.”

Then his eyes rejoined the present as he turned again to the tent workers. “So this means something, Miss Leslie. Seeing black and white men work together on THIS land to put up this tent to bring revival—it MEANS something!” His tears spilled out of his eyes onto his cheeks, and my own eyes were suspiciously moist as well.

racial reconciliation

PeeWee’s story—one I had never heard—stayed at the forefront of my mind for the rest of that steamy summer morning. As I drove home in the late afternoon to rest, I still pondered the divine justice of how God had worked it out to let that vacant lot be the only one we could find for the tent revival that was designed to bring glory to God by uniting all races and cultures in our little Southern town.

When I arrived at home, my answering machine was blinking. I pressed the button and heard an unfamiliar female voice. She sounded angry—almost threatening—as she insisted I call her back. I did not recognize her name, but her tone let me know I better check to see what was going on.

So I returned her call, noting that the last four digits of her number were the exact same as those of my dear friend Tracey in Winston-Salem. This lady’s number, however, started with “591” rather than Tracey’s “784.” (I still remember the final digits but won’t repeat them, in case the lady is still at that number. I still have her name written down as well—16 years later.)

She answered the phone and was immediately belligerent, demanding to know why I had called her house earlier in the afternoon. Startled, I began to protest, “Ma’am, I have been gone all day. I certainly did not call your house from this number or any number!”

“Yes, you did!” she nearly screamed. “It showed up on my caller ID!”

“But I couldn’t have called you when I wasn’t home! The only thing I can figure is that perhaps my husband was calling our friends in Winston-Salem who have the same exact number except for the first three digits. And he probably just forgot and automatically dialed our local ‘591’ first,” I kept telling her, wondering why she was so irate. I soon found out.

“Well, when I saw your address was ‘Pine Hall Road,’ I began to be afraid,” she finally confessed, beginning to calm down. “You see, my ex-boyfriend lives on Pine Hall Road, and I don’t want anything to do with him.”

“Oh!” I replied, finally comprehending. “I see—you thought maybe he was calling you from a neighbor’s or something.”

“Yeah,” she shared, her anger dissipating. “And to be honest, I am scared of him. He is stalking me, and he can be dangerous. You just don’t mess with Iceman.”

My blood felt as though it lost several degrees of warmth as goosebumps rose up on my arms. “Did you say Iceman?”

“Yeah, you ever heard of him? That’s my boyfriend. He was the first to bring crystal meth into Walnut Cove, so they started calling him Iceman. He’s a drug dealer.”

In my astonishment, it was all I could do to finish talking to this lady, but as I did, I was furiously writing down what she was telling me about Iceman—what kind of car he drove, his real name, and more. I had never heard of him, but I didn’t think it was an accident that all of this had happened on the very same day I was told of long-ago KKK activity in Walnut Cove. My mind was racing back to the year before—when I had dreamed of “Iceman,” followed by a demonic Klansman tormenting me in the night.

I never spoke with that lady again, but I never forgot the “too-much-to-be-coincidence” quality of that August day.

That was 16 years ago, and only periodically does the subject of my dream and demonic encounter come up—primarily just between my children and me. But it resurfaced this past Wednesday night, July 6, 2016, as a deep prayer session ended at the church I now pastor in Walnut Cove—”The Well.” The only three people left praying were my two adult daughters and me.

I had heard God tell me of a demonic stronghold in Walnut Cove that was like a fungus—something that grows sometimes inconspicuously, but as it takes hold, it has one goal—to decompose anything it touches. It was revealed to me that such a fungal-type evil force has been allowed to spread unchecked through our town, decomposing even the very buildings that are allowed to sit and decay. (He revealed specifics about this to me, but I must protect the privacy of some individuals.)

As I told my girls what God had shown me, my daughter Meghann began to research fungi on her iPhone. She suddenly spoke out, “Scientist found two types of fungi on Otzi the Iceman!”

When she said, “Iceman,” my senses were alerted. My other daughter Chelsea cried out, “Remember when I felt led to study Otzi the Iceman a few years ago because I kept feeling something about Mom’s ‘Iceman’ dream that was never resolved?!”

I did indeed remember. Otzi is a 5,300-year-old mummy found frozen in the Austrian Alps; literally, he has nothing to do with anything we are praying about. Figuratively, he does—even if it is just in the timing of when a mention of him “pops up.” That the mention of “Iceman” would surface again on this night of deep intercessory prayer when God had just revealed a major cause of the prior decomposition of Walnut Cove was uncanny……especially when this entire week had been dedicated to a special service we were holding on Friday night, July 8. The guest speaker for that service was my childhood friend, Peggy Adams, a former Stokes County girl now living in Tennessee, who is a powerful intercessor in the Kingdom of God.

When Peggy came for the first time in April 2016, she told us that God had given her three words for our direction/mission in Walnut Cove: reconciliation, redemption, restoration. She said reconciliation primarily means reconciling the races in our town—that some sort of reconciliatory healing needs to take place. I nodded in agreement because I have known since the circle dream long ago that one of my primary callings in Walnut Cove is to help with that racial reconciliation.

racial reconciliation 2

That is why the devil would like to torment me. That is why a demonic Klansman stood over my bed and hated me—wanted to destroy me. But the enemy cannot have his way with God’s people; nor can he stop God’s plan for racial reconciliation to take place in Walnut Cove.

Our nation is in turmoil today. Videos of black men being shot and killed by white police officers are making the rounds online. News bulletins are flying through cyberspace and across TV screens, telling the latest in the deadly, retaliatory murders of police officers in Dallas, TX. Facebook and other forms of social media are alight with hurt, anger, outrage and often even hatred.

Yes, I hate injustice and am saddened/shocked/angered by these murders. But I also recognize the enemy’s tactics to divide us as a nation right now, in particular. And I urge Christians everywhere not to be a part of this division. Yes, stand up for what is right—absolutely! I am standing in agreement with you for that! Wrong is wrong and should be justly punished.

praying at crossBut even so, we Christians are called to do everything we do—even protesting and crying out for justice—with God’s grace. And we need to recognize that rather than getting embroiled in the multitudes of arguments out there, the most helpful and powerful thing we can do right now is pray—and not just some quick “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer either, but rather a deep prayer for our country and its people. Couple that prayer with fasting, as Jesus said, and you will more easily be able to tear down the demonic strongholds of racism, prejudice, injustice and hatred.

“They shall rise up in the land!” Yes, that is happening even as I type. But when the enemy’s minions rise up to divide and conquer, and when we allow our hurt and emotions to make us rise up in bitterness and hatred, let’s remember how to turn this thing around. That will happen when God’s warriors RISE UP in the Spirit and in truth and say, “No more! God, send us a fresh outpouring of Your Spirit across this country! Lord, baptize us anew with the Holy Ghost AND with FIRE!!! We rise up, Jesus, in Your name to demand that satan and his demons back down before Your righteous and holy presence!”

He is looking for a people who will pray with that kind of authority and in the love of God.

“Who will go?” the Lord said.

Like the prophet Isaiah, may you and I join together to cry out, “Here am I, Lord! SEND ME!!”

here am i

Crazy Faith

All things r possibleCrazy Faith. Radical faith even. World-changing faith. That is what I want.

Is it more important that I be loving? Yes. I Cor. 13 teaches me that love is the most important Christian trait of all. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also want the other good things the Bible tells us are possible to obtain.

For many years, I had faith in God–that He existed, that He was faithful, that He was amazing. But there are levels of faith I wasn’t exposed to until many years after my salvation experience.

When I became deathly sick in 2000 with a mysterious ailment that doctors couldn’t even diagnose, I learned a new level of faith. I had believed that God COULD heal, that God SOMETIMES healed–IF it was His will. But through those dark years of sickness, I came to believe that it is absolutely His will to heal–no question or doubt in my mind.

knowing God will

I can’t find one example of someone Jesus refused to heal in the Bible. If He took the stripes for our healing, then it was for all Christians, because the Word says He is no respecter of persons. WILL everyone be healed? No. In the same vein of thinking, WILL everybody be saved? No. Yet the Bible tells us it IS His will that none perish and that all be saved (II Peter 3:9 and I Timothy 2:3-4). Is healing a Heaven or Hell issue? Goodness, no. You can enter those pearly gates just as easily having died of cancer as if you simply died of old age.

But let’s don’t go there. That’s a whole different subject. Let’s talk about crazy faith.

faith--seeing light

You see, I am radical. I believe the Word when it says: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” (Mark 9:23) Do you know what “all” means in the Greek? ALL! (My good buddy Revonda reminds me of that a lot!) I take Him at His Word when I read Luke 1:37: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Now, the scholars will chime in to say that we must ask according to God’s will. I agree. James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” So when I ask something that I know by the Word is God’s will, then I believe that I receive, that it won’t be impossible, that it WILL come to pass.

I can find very few people who will stand with me in this kind of faith. I’m talking about the Luke 11:5-10 kind of “knocking in importunity” faith that doesn’t give up, the Luke 18:1-8 faith that faints not and continually cries for manifestation to take place. If we only believe when we see results, then is that faith at all?

faith--Voltaire

Last night my water pipes froze in this record-breaking Arctic blast we’re experiencing, despite my dripping water faucet that I left on all night and despite my heated house and well-house. At first, the water seemed to be running okay. The hubster had just gotten into the shower after coming home at 8:30 a.m. from his third-shift job and had just soaped up his face when the water suddenly stopped flowing. I suppose the little water that came out at first was what was in the pipes already before the freeze stopped the flow closer to the well-house.

So like many others, there we were without water, with the danger of ruptured pipes and with a forecasted high of 22 in the cities south of us, which meant down in my shaded valley of Danbury, it might hit 19 degrees as tops. Not much chance of thawing out.

The poor hubster–already tired from working overtime through the weekend–ended up downstairs in our freezing cold basement, using a hairdryer on the pipes unsuccessfully, using a space heater on them to no avail. He finally gave up and turned the little heater off. We put our EdenPure heater downstairs in the early afternoon and hoped it would help a bit.

All morning and into the afternoon, I waited to hear the drip of water begin from the turned-on faucets in the kitchen and nearby bathroom. But not a sound nor a drip came forth.

The frustrated hubster said to me, “Well, it’ll probably be tomorrow before it thaws out.”

I felt something rise up inside me. “I refuse to believe that,” I replied.

“Well, it is what it is, Leslie,” he answered in a very negative voice.

“Well, I believe we can lay hands on those pipes and command that water to flow,” I declared.

“Then do it,” he challenged me.

I sat there a minute and realized I was rather angered by his pessimistic attitude and approach. I knew I didn’t need to go lay hands on the pipes in my present state of mind. (Or rather, my wrong state of HEART!) “I will shortly. And you’ll see a miracle,” I said, not arrogantly but confidently.

Then I softened and began to worry about his unusually downcast mood. “Do we walk by faith or by sight?” I asked him. “Do we believe God can do anything or don’t we? Why are you so depressed when you have lately been so convicted by God to study faith and healing?”

He confessed ruefully, “Because when I soaped up my face this morning in the shower, I began to praise God for His favor in protecting our water pipes. As soon as the words left my mouth, the water quit.”

I began to feel more sympathetic toward him, but at the same time, my faith rose up, and I began to preach. Yes, preach. I preached by the Spirit with tears, power and anointing for over half an hour, maybe much longer. I spoke the Word from II Cor. 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight” and from all over that Bible, including the Scriptures I mentioned above.

I testified of how radical faith makes us look crazy to the world–daring to say we are healed when we still manifest symptoms of sickness, stepping out to proclaim no lack even when the bills are past due. Why? Because His Word says that He wants His people whole, that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can even ask or think, that He came to give us life and life more abundantly, that it is a Godly desire to prosper and be in health even as our souls prosper.

life more abundantly

“Am I speaking ‘name it, claim it’ faith, like laying hands on a Cadillac or some such stuff as I’ve seen abused on TV?” I cried out. “NO! I don’t believe that lustful junk. I’m simply saying that our God wants us to have the things that we need and that are part of His will for our lives, and lack isn’t a part of that.”

I told the hubster, who was attentively and hungrily listening to my “sermon,” how Habakkuk 3:17-19 had been strong upon my heart lately:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. . .”

“Well, it’s pretty hard to rejoice and have faith when you ain’t got a sheep in the stall or a crop in the fields,” the hubster remarked drily.

“Of course it is,” I replied. “But TRUE faith comes forth in tough times. We are like gold being refined in the heat of the fire; when it is heated up, the impurities rise to the surface. When we go through trials and hard times, what’s really deep within us will surface, and it often ain’t pretty. It’s all fine and dandy to rejoice when things go well, but can we keep the faith and joy of the Lord when darkness falls?”

I told him that when tough times come, we don’t have to pretend to like it. But it is then that we say to the Lord, “Father, I don’t like what is going on. I don’t understand why it is happening. This is threatening to take me under. But I KNOW that You are faithful and wise, so I am going to trust that You are going to work a miracle from this tragedy or calamity or obstacle, in order that Your glory will shine forth!”

beat darkness--thank God

Finally, the hubster melted and came over to kiss me. “Then pray for my unbelief. I want to have the kind of faith you’re talking about.”

I melted, too, and smiled at him, “I don’t have the level of faith that I want either. So we’re on that journey together, aren’t we? The Bible says that ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ I have just preached the Word of God for quite a while now. You have heard it, and your faith will therefore be increased. I am believing for a miracle with this water situation. It IS God’s will that we have water–a necessity–and it is NOT His will that suffer lack by having hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of repairs if the pipes burst. We have the authority to command the water to flow freely in our house–even above the laws of nature which say it is frozen. We believe for the ‘SUPERNATURAL’ which means ‘OVER AND ABOVE THE NATURAL.'”

That humble man of God hugged me and walked out the door to go up the street to get us a hearty meal–our occasional Tuesday treat. I got up from the couch to use the toilet, not even minding the thought that it hadn’t been flushed in many hours of use. As I walked into the bathroom where there still wasn’t even the faintest drip of water from the open faucet, I realized that I was now totally at peace. The frustration/semi-anger that so often blocks faith and healing prayers was gone.

I looked into the mirror and smiled delightedly at myself as the unexpected thought hit me, “Lord, now I can pray with a clear conscience, can’t I?” I had gone in there simply to use the toilet, but instead I pointed to the faucet and spoke in full confidence and with great boldness, “In the name of Jesus, I take authority over the ice in the pipes and declare that it is God’s will that His children have water, and I command the water in MY house to flow freely RIGHT NOW!”

AS SOON AS I SAID THE LAST WORD, water burst forth from the faucet like lava erupting from a volcano, like a fountain springing up in the desert. It didn’t begin with a drip or a trickle; it was an immediate stream of water flowing forth! And I’m not talking about a five-second delay, like on television. I’M TALKING TO-THE-SECOND IMMEDIACY! The last word left my mouth, and in the same second, the water gushed out in obedience.

I screamed in joy and began to praise God loudly! With shaking hands, I grabbed the phone and called the hubster. He didn’t answer. Within a few minutes, he pulled in, and I ran to throw open the door–cold air and all!

“Alan!” I cried. “We’ve had a miracle! Come see!” His eyes wide, he hurried in and saw the kitchen faucet running, with fresh, pure water coming forth. Before I could even tell him the story, his eyes filled with tears.

“Tell me exactly how it happened!” he urged me, following me into the bathroom so that I could reenact the story. He listened and cried, wiped his eyes and listened again, then he began to praise God with me, tears streaming down his face.

“I could almost believe that He let the water freeze to build my faith and reassure me that He can do ANYTHING,” Alan speculated.

“Perhaps,” I replied. “Who knows? He works in mysterious ways indeed.”

faith sees the invisible

Our rejoicing went on throughout the afternoon. The scoffers will say that it was the heating of the day (yeah, it was up to a blistering 15 degrees at that point) or the EdenPure heater that did the trick. Maybe they helped. But you’ll never convince me that the water literally GUSHING FORTH at the EXACT SECOND that I commanded it to was a coincidence. I choose to give all of the glory to God who can do ANYTHING according to His will.

I hate the term “Bible-thumper” that is used derogatorily against Christians today, but I will admit that I did pat the Word emphatically a few times during my preaching today to stress that if the Bible says it, then it’s true–no matter what circumstances may imply or what negative symptoms are being manifested. I refuse to back down on the veracity of His Word. I will believe that healing is His will, no matter how many times we battle sickness around our house, no matter how many times my prayers seem of no effect.

His Word cannot lie. WE are imperfect and can fail or fall into unbelief, but HIS WORD IS TRUE NONETHELESS.

Radical faith. Crazy faith. Faith that the lost world mocks you for, that even some Christians scoff at you for, that many whisper about you behind your back for. That’s the faith I want. Faith to raise the dead, see blind eyes opened, have food multiplied in times of lack, walk on water if need be. Yep, that’s the faith I want.

If the world is gonna call us crazy anyway, we might as well be crazy indeed–CRAZY ABOUT JESUS!

God we serve--miracles

Expanding horizon

I had looked forward to an intercessory prayer service at our sister church, Word of Faith Divine Worship Center in the Walnut Tree community of Walnut Cove, ever since I had been invited a month or so ago. I knew deep down it would be something I could not miss, should not miss, WOULD not miss.

And so I went, although at the last minute I had misgivings (isn’t that the way it always is?). I was tired and had battled a headache for the past two days. My hubster was going to get up a bit early to spend time with me before work. It was my daughter’s birthday. I had been running the whole afternoon and wanted to rest.

But we push through the flesh when we know that the Spirit beckons. We maneuver through the mess when the message says, “Go.”

And so I went.

One look at my spiritual sisters’ faces–first Rebecca and Amanda, then Sha and next Lydia–let me know I was in the right place at the right time. Just the five of us–the number of God’s grace–like fingers on a spiritual hand, desiring to see things done.

Our hands joined, we began in prayer in the eternal form of a circle with the Eternal One surrounding us. And thus, we began to enter in. . .into His presence, into realms of prayer that lie beyond a “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

The time came to break the circle, but not the spiritual connection–time to find a prayer corner and intercede for our brothers and sisters, our community, our town.

I could feel that precious anointing as I knelt–hands uplifted sometimes, head down on the pew other times. His presence enveloped me as music by “Shekinah Glory” flowed throughout the room. Oh, how we worshiped! Oh, how we praised! And oh, how He met us there.

I was taken into a realm of the Spirit that I hadn’t seen in a while–a place where the outside world ceases to exist for a time. In the Spirit, I saw the people of God walking down an aisle, although we were not in a building. We were walking freely, not bound, but we could only move forward, backward or to each side about three feet either way (unless we left the path).

The path was lovely. (I know our physical path may be full of trials and tribulations, but remember this was our spiritual path.) Although there were barriers to each side, these boundaries of the aisle were beautiful. I saw golden posts lining the path. And the barriers were not fences to keep us in. There were wide spaces between every golden post that we could simply walk through at any time that we wanted to leave the path. No bondage.

Yet the golden posts were there as markers to show us when we were moving too much to the left or to the right. This illustrated for me that God’s way of guiding us is beautiful and non-constricting. We have free will to go anywhere we like, although He always shows us where He would rather us go.

It seemed to be early evening as we moved confidently forward. And up ahead–oh, up ahead! The aisle opened into a wide place, a spacious area. It was as if you were walking up the aisle at a large church and reached the altar area where there is suddenly room to maneuver.

Except this was much bigger than an altar area, and as I said before, it was not in an enclosed space. The wide-open space was full of light, but I could still tell it was late in the day. There was even a purplish tinge to the entire picture. I could see no end to the vista, and the word “horizon” kept coming to me.

I knew He was letting me know that although God’s people have had freedom to move (remember it was not overly constricted in the aisle), soon we are coming to a place of expansion, a spacious place with a far-reaching horizon. I could imagine the feeling that a baby must experience when he/she reaches the end of the birth canal and is out into the open air at last with no restrictions. Or conversely, the feeling that a mother feels when the baby emerges and the pressure releases.

God’s people are coming into a spacious place. We have walked in designated paths for a long time, but the day is approaching that we will be released into a larger plane. Some restrictions are getting ready to be loosed.

A place of freedom to do as we please? God forbid. A place where moral restrictions do not apply? Absolutely not. Rather a place where God’s people will be free to move into expanded areas of ministry. Be ready to be used in ways you may not have anticipated.

As I lay with my head on the wooden pew, the feeling of peace that accompanied the beautiful picture God showed me was overwhelming. I knew that the fleshly world we inhabit might be getting ready to undergo some birth pangs, some shaking, some destruction–but that the spiritual world God’s people move in will consequently expand.

God’s ways have always been the opposite of what the world expects. We give and therefore receive. We bless those that curse us. Things that seem backward in the world’s perspective fit perfectly into God’s plan as the spirit runs the opposite course of the flesh.

Therefore, in the vision that God gave me, as the physical world seems to contract with trouble, the spiritual world we operate in will conversely expand. And remember that the day was fading as we approached our expanded territory–time is short.

When the time came to rise from our prayer corners and rejoin the circle, I pondered whether to say anything about what I saw. Sometimes you don’t blab out everything you know right away. I felt that if He wanted me to speak, He would give the confirmation in an undeniable way.

Sure enough, as my precious sister Sha to my right began to pray aloud, I had this sudden urge to lay my hand on her and speak the vision I had seen, to encourage her that God was bringing her down some narrow paths into a spacious place, with a far-reaching horizon. Before I could make a move, Sha suddenly cried out, “Expand our horizon, Lord!” And when she did, I was stunned enough to open my eyes and jerk my head toward her in amazement.

When Sha spoke out that word with force, I knew that I knew that I knew that He was confirming His Word to me. And I knew that I should share it with my sisters, and so I did eventually.

Keep moving confidently forward on the path He has placed you. Your true brothers and sisters in Christ are moving right along with you. Very soon, we will emerge into that spacious arena with the expanded horizon. And though the world roar around us, we will do His work with a freedom and power we have long dreamed of.

This is what I saw, and this is what I believe. We serve a mighty God!

(As we prayed, this prophetic message played from a Shekinah Glory CD. It is entitled simply “Prophetic Release.” I could only find it on YouTube as a video posted by a church whose mime group performed to it. The mime routine is powerful; it begins after a Scripture reading by a church leader, so hang on and wait for it.)

Journey into Judaism–Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits!

My last post detailed my journey into Judaism while yet remaining a Christian. I am particularly aware of that journey today–the quiet, peaceful Sabbath before we celebrate Resurrection Day tomorrow. I live in two worlds today: the Christian world of observing this day as the day my Savior had been crucified and buried and was preparing to rise again tomorrow and the Jewish world of the first full day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits tomorrow.

For many years, I felt alone in my interest of merging these two worlds into a fuller Christian experience. My mother’s sister, Aunt Darlene, had begun to walk this path long before I did, and what an encouragement she was to me when everyone else thought I was crazy!

One thing that was a disadvantage to me when I began to study Judaism was the fact that some people who had been loyal members of our very large church began studying it independently of me. They went so far as to say that we must keep all of the feasts, men must be circumcised, the Torah must be strictly adhered to. These people that I loved ended up leaving our church and striking out on their own.

Naturally, that made the leadership at my church look on me with suspicion whenever my studies were mentioned. It was a tough row to hoe for a while, but I never stopped, because I WAS CALLED OF GOD TO DO IT.

Thankfully, when we began our own church in my hometown, we were free to teach on these things, and the church members were hungry for the knowledge. We introduced them to the great Hebrew teacher and scholar of Christianity and Judaism, Dr. Karl Coke, who had been introduced to me by Aunt Darlene, and he began holding monthly teaching sessions at our church. What a blessing he was to us!

I am no longer with that church, nor are any of the original members, but they have almost all gone on even further into studying Jewish culture, Hebrew, Torah and the Feasts of the Lord. What began as a seemingly small thing keeps being multiplied and spreading farther and farther abroad!

The danger with studying these Jewish things (or rather, things of the Lord) is that the enemy of our souls would like to pervert the focus. If he sees that he can’t stop a Christian from studying holy things, then his next best tactic is to subtly slide in with less visible trickery. He will try to bring Christians back into legalism. If we were just going to continue to observe the Old Testament law as our means of salvation, then why did we need Jesus (Yahushua)?

Yes, He preached Torah and he fulfilled Torah. But the apostle Paul rightly interpreted the Messiah’s approach to law vs. grace. Paul was firm when he taught the early churches that Gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised or follow the Jewish dietary laws.

“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” he asked the Galatians.

So I believe satan has two main tactics when it comes to the modern-day church studying the Feasts of the Lord, Torah, etc.: either make them think it’s something they shouldn’t mess with at all or make them think they have to become legalistic and abide back under the law.

There is a beautiful middle ground where we still live by grace yet we are blessed by a greater understanding of the Feasts of the Lord and a study of Jewish culture and heritage. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), but He didn’t do anything about the blessing. If we observe the Feasts, there is a great blessing in that. If we keep Jewish dietary regulations, we are blessed as well (and healthier).

But let’s don’t put heavy burdens on the Gentile church for them to bear. However, let’s quit denying the fact that our Messiah was a Jew and that we are grafted into that heritage. I can see in the Spirit how God is attempting to bring this last day church into a purer state–showing us the old paths once more, opening up old knowledge that has too long been ignored.

Whether we like it or not (I personally love it), Israel plays a very real role in our Christian lives. One day all nations will go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Shouldn’t we start practicing now?

Here is a teaching I did Thursday night, April 5, 2012 at the Walnut Cove Public Library. We finished up our studies of Passover that we had started last week (video posted in last blog post) and moved on to the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits. Beneath the YouTube video link is the information I disseminated in handout form to the class. If you need the Passover handout info, go back to my last WordPress post and see the end of it.

Hope you enjoy learning the symbolism in our Easter weekend as seen through the lens of the Feasts of the Lord!

FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

What are the characteristics of the feast? (**outlined in Exodus 12)
Celebrated in the first Jewish month for 7 days: Abib 15-21
–comes on the heels of Passover which is Abib 14
–v. 18: “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.”
Only unleavened bread could be eaten for the entire week
–v. 15: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread. . .”
First and last days were to be sabbaths
–v. 16: “And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there  shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”
Commemorates the leaving of Egypt (bondage) for the Promised Land (freedom)
–v. 17: “And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.”
–had to leave so quickly there was no time for bread to rise
–v. 34: “And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.”
–v. 39: “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.”
All leaven must be removed from Jewish homes
–v. 19: “Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.”

How does the feast parallel our salvation?
Once lamb’s blood had been put on the door of the home, no leaven could be found or eaten
–Once Jesus’ blood is applied to our hearts, no sin can be left within
–I Cor. 5:7-8: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are  unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the  feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Leaven: agent that makes bread rise: even a tiny bit left will affect the bread
–compares to sin which inflates us with pride and hot air
–I Cor. 5:6: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”
–even a little sin is harmful to us
–Jesus said that a woman hid some leaven in 3 measures of meal (@7 gallons) and it leavened the whole thing! (Matt. 13:33, Luke 13:21)
–Jesus compared leaven to faulty or arrogant doctrine
–Matt. 16:6, 12: “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. . .Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and. . .Sadducees.”
–some people cannot receive a healing (physical or mental)
–they have kept sin in their lives (blocks healing)
–right after He told us we could have what we ask, He says we must forgive–Mark 11:25– “And when ye stand praying, forgive. . .”
Jesus IS the 3 things that must be eaten at the feast
–lamb: He was our Passover lamb that was slain
–unleavened bread: John 6:35– “Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.”
–Matt. 26:26: “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”
–He had no sin (leaven): I Pet. 2:22– “Who did no sin”
–bitter herbs: representative of His suffering and death (we, too, must die to ourselves)
Unleavened bread: used for 5 purposes in the OT
–consecration of priests (Ex. 29:1-2)
–we are priests unto Him (I Pet. 2:9)
–vows of separation (Num. 6:1-19)
–we must vow a vow to separate from the world–NO LEAVEN!
–priestly anointing (Lev. 2:4-5)
–we need the anointing of God to minister in power
–call to service, as when Gideon was chosen (Judges 6:19-21)
–when we are called to service, we must evaluate our lives
–representation of freedom from bondage (Ex. 12:17)
–sin is a bondage that we MUST leave behind to be free
Jewish fathers lead the entire family to search for remaining leaven before Passover meal
–Paul said to examine our lives similarly before taking part in communion (I Cor. 11:28)
If leaven was found in a home, it must be burned
–we must be purged which literally meant “to set on fire and destroy”
–we are tried by fire to get rid of sin (Zech. 13:9)
Leaven is the key ingredient in bread
–puffed-up pride is the base of every sin
–Satan used pride as the first recorded temptation (Gen. 3:5)
Jewish custom at the seder has 3 pieces of unleavened bread (matzah) on the table
–middle piece is broken, put in a white linen napkin and hidden; child that finds it gets a special
prize
–called the afikomen: “that which comes after; He came”
–represents Jesus who was broken for us, wrapped in graveclothes and hidden in a tomb; He was resurrected that we may find Him and receive gifts of Him
–Eph. 4:8: “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS

What are the characteristics of the Feast? **(per Lev. 23:9-14)
Called Reishit Katzir (beginning of the harvest)
–the barley harvest (first one of the year)
Considered, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as part of Passover
Commanded by God to be celebrated when Israel entered the Promised Land
–Lev. 23:9-10: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you and shall reap the harvest thereof. . .”
Consisted of bringing a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest to the priest
–Lev. 23:10: “. . .then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest”
The priest then waved the sheaf before the Lord
–Lev. 23:11: “And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you. . .”
This was to be done on the morning after the sabbath during Passover
–Lev. 23:11: “. . .on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
A first-year lamb with no blemish must be offered the same day as a burnt offering
–Lev. 23:12: “And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.”
Additional offerings included wine, plus fine flour mixed with oil
–Lev. 23:13: “And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.”
No harvest food could be eaten until the firstfruits were eaten
–Lev. 23:14: “And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God. . .”
Keeping the Feast of Firstfruits was a commandment forever
–Lev. 23:14: “it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”
After the offering, Jews began counting 50 days, leading up to Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, Pentecost)
–Lev. 23:15-16: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.”

How does the Feast parallel our salvation?
It is part 3 of our salvation process
–PART 1: Passover–the Lamb’s blood is applied to our hearts as we leave Egypt (the world) to head to the Promised Land (freedom and blessings in Christ)
–PART 2: Unleavened Bread–we repent (getting rid of sin = leaven, as in eating unleavened bread), we eat the Lamb (as in taking in all of Jesus) and we die to ourselves (we eat bitter herbs to represent suffering).
–PART 3: Firstfruits–upon entering the Promised Land (life with Christ), we bring our firstfruits before the Lord and wave in worship
–We are risen with Christ, to give Him the first and holiest parts of our lives as we worship Him

What are other types and shadows related to Firstfruits?
As part of Passover, firstfruits were offered the day after the sabbath
–I Cor. 15:20, 23: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. . .Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
–Jesus rose from the dead to become our firstfruits on the day after the sabbath during the 7-day feast of Passover–the EXACT day the sheaf was to be waved!
A “sheaf”: a stalk of grain representing a person
–Gen. 37:5-8: Joseph’s dream of sheaves bowing down to his sheaf (his brothers bowing to him)
–Psalm 126:6: putting out seed and then bringing in the sheaves
–seed, in the NT, represented the Gospel, which we spread to bring in souls (sheaves)
There has always been a biblical principle of offering firstfruits followed by blessing
–Even Cain and Abel offered firstfruits
–Deut. 18:4: Israelites commanded to give firstfruits of corn, wine, oil, etc. to the priests in the Temple as a tithe unto the Lord and to support the priests
–Deut. 26:1-11: tells us how to offer firstfruits (beautiful)
–Prov. 3:9-10: “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
–Jer. 2:3: Israel was called the firstfruits of the Lord–His chosen people
–Ezek. 44:30: “And the first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest’s: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.”
–Rom. 8:23: we have been given the firstfruits of the Spirit
–Rom. 11:16: “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy. . .”
–Rom. 16:5, I Cor. 16:15: first converts in Asia called firstfruits
–James 1:18: we who are saved are called the firstfruits of His creation
No one could touch the harvest until firstfruits had been offered
–John 20:17: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father. . .”
–we could have nothing to eat spiritually until the resurrection was accomplished
The counting of the omer: counting 50 days from offering of firstfruits until Pentecost
–for OT Jews, this was a time of waiting until the law was given on Mt. Sinai
–for NT Jews, Jesus rose as the firstfruits and stayed 40 days on Earth
–then the 120 tarried for 10 days (40 + 10 = 50) until the Holy Ghost came on Pentecost (law given again–this time to our hearts!)

We all need somebody to lean on

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:5)

In my longing for Him, more and more I want to be aware of the Body of Christ worldwide. I have a physical sister in Walnut Cove, but a spiritual sister in Uganda. I have a blood-kin brother in Dry Hollow, but a blood-bought brother in Colombia.

I don’t know what they look like in the flesh, but when we all get to Heaven, I KNOW that I will recognize them in the spirit. I have never met them, but I love them. They may not have the blood of Tom and Judy Bray flowing through their physical veins, but they have my Father’s blood coursing through their spiritual arteries.

Have you ever awakened in the night feeling the need to intercede, yet you have no idea whom to pray for? For all you know, you are making intercession for an anonymous believer on the other side of the world or maybe even in your own town.

What a comfort to know that the favor may often be returned! When you are going through a tough time and feel all alone, rest assured that your Father has someone praying for you. A little old man in India may be working in the field and suddenly feel the need to pray in the Spirit–things that he doesn’t understand in the natural. But that prayer may be for you, and you will never know it.

But God knows it. And that prayer of obedience does not go forth void.

In this workaday world, we get so wrapped up in our own lives, our own needs, our own troubles, that it is easy to forget to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ–the other members of our very own Body. I have felt the Lord dealing with me more and more, when I am in need of prayer, to stop and pray for others–when I feel that I need attention, to show attention to someone else–when I wish someone would care about me, to reach out to care for someone else.

This was burned into my soul more than ever last Sunday morning at Times of Refreshing. The Lord led us straight into the Word without any singing or organized prayer. But after I exhorted my sisters and brothers about the need for Him to be increased in our lives, I felt the need for a time of worship before we went our separate ways.

As we sang and worshiped to “O Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns, I could feel the presence of the Lord so sweetly. I wanted to give Him every part of me, so I attempted to lift the right arm that has been hindered for over six months. In the past two weeks, I had been unable to lift it at all.

That may seem like no big deal to you, but you have to know me: I am a girl who goes all out if I’m going to do something. I don’t want to lift just one hand; I want them both up in the air in praise. No matter how hard I strained, the right arm was too weak and the pain too excruciating for me to be able to raise it. So I ceased trying.

Until the next song.

As Chris Tomlin began to sing, “How Great Is Our God,” I entered into such a state of worship that before I knew it, I had done something almost unconsciously. I used my left arm to raise my weakened right arm into the air. Once I got it up and held it there with the left hand for a minute, it stayed up there on its own with no pain. I was ecstatic as I praised the Lord with both hands lifted high.

And then it hit me: this is what God wants us to do in the Body of Christ. When we see a member who is weakened, who is in pain–it is our Christian duty to lift them up. They are part of our Body, just as my right arm–though seemingly useless–is part of my body. My stronger left arm stepped in to lift it up where it then found strength to stay for a time. Once the right arm was down and again too weak to move, my left arm could intercede once more. . .and again and again. . .as long as was needed for the right hand to regain its own strength.

Tears of joy began to flow down my face as the reality of this powerful lesson hit me. The stronger members of the Body of Christ MUST step in to support other members of the Body who are weakened through trial and tribulation. My right hand was once my stronger hand, but right now it needs help. We may be standing strong today, but there will most certainly come a time when we need other saints of God to provide support for us.

Do you know someone who is hurting? Can you think of a fellow believer who is not standing strong right now? Ask God what you can do to support them. Maybe it’s a handwritten card of appreciation, perhaps it’s a phone call just to say you are thinking of them; it could be a hug and a whispered, “I love you and am praying for you.” Most of all, lift them up in prayer to the Lord.

Because ole Bill Withers knew what he was talking about when he sang: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on, For it won’t be long, ’til I’m gonna need, somebody to lean on.”

“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (I Corinthians 12:25-26)

(Click on the link below to hear the old classic, “Lean On Me,” by Bill Withers. Great song!)

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