Monday, May 31, 2010

What do You See for the Future? by Barbie Breathitt

Slide 1

What do you see for your future? Do you see hope or despair, faith or fear? Joel 2:25–27 gives us a promise of restoration, "I'll make up for the years of the locust, the great locust devastation — Locusts savage, locusts deadly, fierce locusts, locusts of doom, That great locust invasion I sent your way. You'll eat your fill of good food. You'll be full of praises to your God, The God who has set you back on your heels in wonder. Never again will my people be despised. You'll know without question that I'm in the thick of life with Israel, That I'm your God, yes, your God, the one and only real God. Never again will my people be despised.”  

Are you tired of the enemy stealing from you and plundering your hope and dreams? Isaiah 42:22–23, “But this is a people pillaged and plundered, all trapped in holes and sequestered in prisons. They are there to be plundered, with no one to rescue them; there to be pillaged, and no one says, “Return them!” Which of you will listen to this? Who will hear and give heed in the times to come? CJB
God is calling us to repent once again and listen to his voice of deliverance and salvation. He wants to give us understanding in everything as we prepare our minds for service, exercising self-control, and placing our hope in the grace of Jesus Christ. 

We are not to pattern ourselves after the people of this world, but let God change us from the inside out so we have a new way of thinking. Then we will be able to decide and accept what God wants for us. We will be able to know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.
We must be made new in our hearts and in our thinking, becoming that new person who was made to be like God, truly good and pleasing to him. There is no way we can hide what we are thinking from God because God already knows our deepest thoughts. He understands what the Holy Spirit is saying, because the Holy Spirit speaks to people in the way that agrees with what God wants.  We are called to think of ourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 

He has good news that will set the captives free and open the prison doors. God is gathering the prodigals, healing the broken hearted, restoring hope, and planting vision in the heart of his bride. 

Isaiah 43:1–5, Jacob, the Lord created you. Israel, the Lord made you, and now he says, "Don't be afraid. I saved you. I named you. You are mine.  When you have troubles, I am with you. When you cross rivers, you will not be hurt. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not hurt you. That's because I, the Lord, am your God. I, the Holy One of Israel, am your Savior. I gave Egypt to pay for you. I gave Ethiopia and Seba to make you mine.  You are precious to me, and I have given you a special place of honor. I love you. That's why I am willing to trade others, to give up whole nations, to save your life. "So don't be afraid, because I am with you. I will gather your children and bring them to you.
Friends it is essential that our focus returns to, and remains on God so we are encouraged in the midst of change, transition, and the shaking of the earth. God has a divine plan for our successful future Jeremiah 29:11. To leave the past and all its failures and disappointments, and enter into our future there must be steps taken to enter into the new. We are leaving an old season and advancing into a new season. Recently, I had a dream in response to my asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand where we are in the time table of transition and change. I dreamt of a yellow car full of people. The vehicle represented people’s lives, their careers, churches, businesses, and decisions that they are in the middle of the process of making in regards to changes. The car was yellow because everyone was used to using their minds, their intelligence, and powers of reasoning, to make decisions. No one was seeking God or asking how to make the transition successfully. The car was at the half way point on a big major highway. It had come to rest in the middle of a crossroad or intersection. As the on coming traffic would pass back and forth on either side of the car I could feel the force of the wind from the oncoming vehicles shaking the car. It was not possible to continue forward because the windshield was fogged over, it was not cleared enough to see where to go next, or how to turn. It was too risky to go in reverse. I knew that would mean we would be loosing ground. The Holy Spirit said, “We need to wait on him and the leading of His Spirit for our next move, or our next step, no matter how scary, and uncomfortable it feels right now.” He said, “He is going to give new vision, and lead us in a new way. He wanted us to be totally dependent upon his voice, his vision, and his leading.”
Isaiah 43:18–21says, "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will honor Me, The jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise. NKJV
God is giving us prophetic insight to see our new season but, we must wait until our eyes are given vision and our ears hear his voice saying, “This is the way walk ye in it!” Isaiah 30:19–22, O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver, and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure thing, and say to them, "Be gone!" NASU
The Lord revealed the next steps Jeremiah was to take to enter into his new season to achieve his future. At first Jeremiah was not able to see his future clearly, his boldness, and clarity didn’t come until God removed his fear, doubt, and excuses. We are always so eager to point out our sin, weaknesses, and lack of training, skill, and failures. We are full of reasons why we can’t do something, or why we are not the right person for an assignment. We offer excuses when God comes to send us forth in our calling. God was establishing Jeremiah as a prophet. Jeremiah could only focus on his past weaknesses because he couldn’t see his bright future. 
Jeremiah 1:4–10 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Alas, Lord God Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth." But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." NASU
God’s loving persistence with Jeremiah gave him skill and understanding to develop his prophetic eyes to see vision and his ears to hear the word of the Lord. Jeremiah 1:11–12, The word of the Lord came to me saying, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "I see a rod of an almond tree." Then the Lord said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it." NASU God continued to articulate Jeremiah's potential and refused to allow Jeremiah to focus on his excuses, fears, or failures.
God also speaks to the positives of what we are, and what we can become, rather than emphasizing the negatives. For example, God does not speak to our sickness and disease; he speaks to our health. He does not speak to our poverty or lack; he speaks to our wealth and abundance. He does not speak to our failure or mistakes; he speaks to our success. He does not focus on the past; he speaks to the now and to the future. God speaks the language of hope to encourage each of us to succeed. We do not like to be left in the dark so God brings us into the light. He wants us to know the wonderful plans he has for our futures as much as we want him to reveal them to us. 

When we capture a picture of light and God’s goodness for our lives in the midst of the dark place of our existence, we have “vision.” Vision releases hope. Hope enables us to change. Change releases destiny. Destiny drives us out of the now and propels us into the future. Once we catch a glimpse of who we are in the future we are able to bring it into the reality of today. This is one of the major ways God is able to accelerate good in our lives through dreams and visions. The more we can see and believe, the more we can become. We must see it to be it! God births dreams and visions in us in order to bring revelation, illumination, and inspiration. Revelation is the discovery of truth. Illumination is spiritual or intellectual enlightenment. Inspiration is communicating the understood, discovered truth to others. To inspire means to inhale, or breathe in the Spirit to stimulate the mind, to create or to activate the emotions to a higher level of feeling. To spiritually inspire is to guide, affect, or arouse by the divine influence of the Holy Spirit. Through revelation, illumination, and inspiration, the Spirit of the Lord is calling to the Holy Spirit within us as he leads us into the deep things, secrets, and mysteries of God. The DNA within each of us sings a different song.

Psalm 42:7–8 reads: Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life (NIV).
God has been speaking to me that “It’s time to widen” and advance, to receive his promotion and increase. But, if I focus on the difficulties of my past season instead of the potential of my promising future, fear will stop me from making the necessary changes to step into the new. Isaiah 54:2–8, Make your tent bigger. Open your doors wide. Don't think small! Make your tent large and strong, because you will grow in all directions. Your children will take over many nations and live in the cities that were destroyed. Don't be afraid! You will not be disappointed .People will not say bad things against you. You will not be embarrassed. When you were young, you felt shame. But you will forget that shame now. You will not remember the shame you felt when you lost your husband. Your real husband is the one who made you. His name is the Lord All-Powerful. The Holy One of Israel is your Protector, and he is the God of all the earth! You were like a woman whose husband had left her. You were very sad in your spirit, when the Lord called you to be his. You were like a woman who married young, and then her husband left her when God called you to be his. God says, "I left you, but only for a short time. But with all my love, I will bring you back to me again. I became angry and turned away from you for a short time. But I will comfort you with kindness forever." The Lord your Savior said this. The past is over; it cannot dictate your potential, expectations or hope unless you give it permission to rule your present and future. God has promised to remove the shame, embarrassment, and the reproach that cause fear. God is calling you back to your first love with all of his love.
Deuteronomy 30:11–14, tells us success is in our mouth! “For this commandment which I command you this day is not too difficult for you, nor is it far off. It is not a secret laid up in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it? But the word is very near you, in your mouth, and in your mind and in your heart, so that you can do it.” AMP God wants us to decree his word to release favor, breakthrough, strategic alignment, and prosperity. When we decide the past is over, and it is time to step into a new day, in a new way, God’s light will shine brightly on the new path. Job 22:28–30, “You shall also decide and decree a thing, and it shall be established for you; and the light of God’s favor shall shine upon your ways. When they make you low, you will say, there is a lifting up; and the humble person He lifts up and saves. He will even deliver the one for whom you intercede who is not innocent; yes, he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” AMP
       The fire of God touched the mouths of Isaiah and Jeremiah with a supernatural bestowment of grace so they would speak forth his words of life concerning the future. God is placing his powerful words within the mouth of his anointed bride. She will confess God’s Kingdom has come and that his will be done on earth, in each earthen vessel, as it is in heaven. The Lord desires that we have the God kind of faith—which is faith like God! It is time to have the faith of God manifesting in our lives! His supernatural empowerment is opening double doors to our future as he goes before his bride to keep the gates open. He is making the crooked places straight, and revealing the treasures that have been hidden in secret places of darkness Isaiah 45:1–3. To move forward into our new season will require that we develop faith for more of His grace. God is imparting grace to remove and overcome our every weakness empowering us to move forward. Jeremiah told God that his lack of maturity and eloquence of speech would prohibit him from speaking for God. Therefore, by touching Jeremiah's weak areas, God imparted a divine grace which overrode Jeremiah's weakness. God believes in us. He promises that if we will have faith in God and in His divine empowerment, God will provide what is needed for us to fulfill our future. 2 Peter 1:2–4, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” NKJV We are not alone in our lives journey. God promises to go before us and defeat our enemies. He lives largely within us, and He daily walks beside us—constantly encouraging. Each new day is fresh and we receive fresh grace and mercy. Satan’s lies scream you are not called, equipped, nor anointed; if we listen to, or agree with his lies we won’t believe that God’s grace can take the place of our greatest weakness.
Every night the Holy Spirit comes to hover over us with his loving embrace to overshadow us with dreams and visions so we will conceive our potential. Mary was overshadowed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and she conceived Jesus, the Son of the living God. When Gabriel announced that she was to birth the Son of God, she said, "Be it unto me according to Thy word." (Luke 1:38). God’s touch resolved any questions, or fear Mary was struggling with. In Mary’s moment of belief and faith God imparted a supernatural grace to empower her to envision and receive her future.
The Holy Spirit guides and teaches us as we step into every new season. God’s promises are true. The word He speaks to us prepares us to see our future. Jeremiah 1:12, “Then said the Lord to me, You have seen well, for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.” AMP God fulfilled his promises to Jeremiah and he will faithfully fulfill his promises to you, his bride too! The word watch, shaqad, means "to be alert, i.e. sleepless; the awakening one; hence to be on the lookout (whether for good or ill) to hasten, remain awake, to keep watch of, watch for, and be wakeful over." The same word can be translated into almond-shaped, to make like (unto, after the fashion of almonds), ‘Almond blossoms.’
Once the Lord had placed His words in Jeremiah's mouth, He inquired once more, Jeremiah, "What do you see?" This time Jeremiah did not answer with another defense, reason, or justification, for his lack or weakness, but Jeremiah responded properly as prophetic vision was given to him, “I see a branch or shoot of an almond tree the emblem of alertness and activity, blossoming in late winter.”
The almond tree is the first to bud forth, or awaken in a new season with blossom cups that are shaped like almonds. On my nutrition and plants and flowers  dream symbol cards the almond also represents  virginity; hope; watchfulness and fruitfulness; health; gifts, authority, happiness, offering your best, Gen 43:11, diligence and hard work will result in increased production harvest, and profits resulting in wealth, God’s choice, success and financial gain. Num 17:8 God’s faithfulness awakening Jer. 1:11–12.
When Jeremiah received God’s grace his eyes were opened to see from God’s perspective. God’s vision enabled Jeremiah to overcome his weakness and boldly step into his destiny and near future. When we receive God’s great grace in this season of transition in our lives our eyes will also be opened to see from God’s perspective concerning our destiny. The prophet Jeremiah was ‘awakened’ to see his new season and future. He received grace to fulfill his divine destiny call. Each morning we awake from a new dream, it is a new day, a new beginning, a new awakening; we open our eyes to see by the dawns early light. God is pouring out fresh grace, enlightenment, and spiritual dreams that will awaken us to our new season. Heaven is drawing near to empower us to fulfill our destiny. The Lord sends his angels to watch over, guide, and protect each of us, to ensure his word comes to pass in our lives. God is a protector and a defender of the weak so He continues to speak to our potential. God is the only one who knows the future! It is time to draw close to God so we can see our divine destiny and future.
The windows of heaven are open and a call has been issued for us to come up higher to see the Valley of Dry bones from a heavenly perspective. As we speak prophetic words of salvation and life to those who are spiritually dead or sleeping, we will raise souls from the dead, and draw them to God’s eternal life and truth. It is a decisive time for many who are waiting to enter into the Kingdom life. Prophesy to their dry, dead bones. By faith, command God’s breathe to enter this scattered disjointed army so that they will rise up and live. God’s anointed word will not return void, simply be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 37:1–9 The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD." So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'"

Barbie Breathitt dream interpretation website
972 -253- 6653

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What On Earth Is God Doing? by David Orton

"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12:32

The global financial system totters. Whole nations declare bankruptcy. Panic strikes the world markets. Political leaders meet late into the night searching for answers that don't exist. Militant Islam invades through immigration and population growth. Secularism dominates the public square. And the church pursues cultural appeasement.

The nations are dismayed and men's hearts fail them for fear.

Where is God, and what on earth is he doing? Are there no answers for the nations? Does not God have a plan?

In the face of the economic and societal upheaval of the last one hundred years the Spirit of God cries out that he is the omnipotent One, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and the sustainer of all that is. The 20th century outpouring of the Holy Spirit is testimony to the fact that God is powerfully at work in the earth. On the one hand we have seen an increase of the kingdom in powerful outpourings and revivals, but on the other an increase of world wars, economic dislocation, societal turmoil, and natural disasters.

More going on than meets the eye

Even so, how do we understand these contradictions? Are we being flushed down the toilet as some defeatist end-time theories would have us believe? Or is something more going on than meets the eye?

Paul, facing off with the wisdom of man, declares that,

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" 1 Cor 2:9

Human wisdom, fed by the five senses and natural reasoning, cannot see the things that God has destined for the heirs of salvation. But fortunately they are revealed to us by the Spirit (see v10). And so, something more than meets the eye is occurring.

Without a revelation of God and his kingdom our hearts will fear when he shakes the nations. This is why Paul prayed that the Ephesians, surrounded by an occult and pagan world, would receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation. Through seeing the ascended Christ by the Spirit, and apprehending his fullness, as his body, they would rule over principalities and powers.i He had declared to them "the whole plan of God",ii causing the entire region of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) to hear the word in a two-year period.iii Whatever this whole plan was, clearly the modern church has lost it. Instead we have been fed a 'part', a truncated gospel, focusing either on personal salvation and holiness, or the baptism and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The whole plan of God

Prophetically speaking, the church has celebrated the feasts of Passover and Pentecost. In some measure, justification by faith and holiness (Passover) were restored as truths during the 16th to 19th centuries and the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) in the 20th century, but the spiritual realities of the Feast of Tabernacles are yet to be celebrated. With her decline and Constantinian fall the church lost her grasp on the whole plan of God. However, this is now being progressively restored, as the wisdom writer so aptly declared, "The path of the just is like a shining light, shining brighter and brighter until the full day" (Prov 4:18). Over the last five hundred years God has been increasingly restoring light and truth to his people, setting them free from their Babylonian captivity.

And so, what is the whole plan of God? The feasts of Passover and Pentecost, we understand and experience in some measure, but what is the significance of the feast of Tabernacles? Much can be unpacked from the typology of the feasts.iv Nevertheless, we will resist this temptation and focus on only several salient points. Passover was initially celebrated in Egypt on the eve of Israel's deliverance, Pentecost in the wilderness at Sinai, but Tabernacles was first celebrated in the Land as a celebration of realized destiny and a remembrance of the wilderness journey. As the feast of the Promised Land, celebrating Israel's final realization of the covenant promises, Tabernacles foreshadows the church finally entering the fullness of the kingdom on earth, despite her lengthy wilderness wanderings. Like Israel, the church has delayed its entrance into the fullness of the Land despite its celebration of Passover and Pentecost.

Even though she has enjoyed the recovery of both feasts over the last several centuries, she still languishes in the wilderness through unbelief. She too has come to her Kadesh-Barnea.v With her nose up against the store window, looking into a land of milk and honey, of God's kingdom coming to earth in miraculous power, she has pulled back in unbelief. Rather than occupying the land as a holy nation of king-priests and filling the whole earth with his glory she has been seduced by "doctrines of devils", gullibly believing every defeatist and escapist end-time teaching, conveniently relieving her of the kingdom mandate to disciple On seeing the giants of the land, the principalities and powers that rule cities and nations, she has found solace in escapist 'rapture' theories that wisp the church out of the world, rather than occupying until he comes.vii

The gospel of the kingdom of God

We have lost the gospel of the kingdom of God.viii The gospel of personal salvation we understand, the message of the Holy Spirit's ministry, we value; but the message of the kingdom, as proclaimed by Christ and his apostles is all but forgotten. This was the 'whole plan of God' that Paul proclaimed to the Ephesians:

8And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.

9But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.

10And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 19:8-10

So, what is the gospel of the kingdom of God? It is the good news of a new creation - a new order of God's government - one of righteousness and justice, bringing peace to all peoples and nations.ix For many, it is a shock that this has already begun in the person of God's Son. Through becoming man, living his sinless life, learning obedience through suffering, and finally through his death, resurrection and ascension to the Father, the kingdom has come definitively to this planet. With God becoming man, a permanent shift of cosmic proportions has occurred.x Restored to the image of God, man has been reinstated to the rulership of the universexi, and the new creation has begun.xii

Consequently, we do not look to the second coming (nor to a future kingdom age), to achieve what God has already accomplished in the first coming. The kingdom of God came definitively in Christ when he rose from the grave as the firstfruits of all those who believe.xiii Ascending, as the son of man,xiv to the right hand of the Father he now rules the universe. From this position, he pours forth the promised Holy Spirit, imparting his perfected humanityxv and sonshipxvi to his body, and progressively extending his rule through itxvii until all his enemies are subdued under his feet.xviii Christ is, therefore, in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father until every enemy is defeated.xix He will not return until this occurs. Every pretender to the throne, every idol, and false ideology - every rebellious human system will fall before Jesus returns. God is shaking the heavens and the earth until only the unshakeable remains - the everlasting kingdom of God.xx And when he does return only one enemy will remain - the last enemy, death. And this will be conquered through the final resurrection.xxi The gospel of the kingdom of God is the good news that the universe is now being renovated - that the creator-redeemer God has invaded time and history, exorcising every demonic force, infusing the world with his glorious presence.

End-time scenarios

Therefore, any end-time scenario, which robs the body of Christ of its mandate to exemplify and extend Christ's victory in the world must, at least, be seriously questioned, if not viewed as a diabolical lie. Likewise, any view that relegates the gospel to personal faith only, castrating its power to transform creation must be rejected. Every sphere of human endeavour and creativity, including nature itself, is transfigured by Christ becoming man. Christ will be satisfied with the reward of his suffering,xxii returning not only for a bride without blemish (xxiii) but also a planet leavened and liberated by the kingdom.(xxiv)The kingdom has come definitively through God in Christ, is coming progressively through the obedience of faith, and will come consumatively at the second coming.

Our Christology, (xxv) therefore, must inform our eschatology.(xxvi) Our revelation of Christ, as the incarnate Son of God (i.e. God in a human body in this world), and as the Son of Man (i.e. Man perfected in this world) determines our understanding of end-things. As the God-Man, he is the full stop, the climax of history, and the fullness of the Father in a time-space world.xxvii This is the promised kingdom age. The old heavens and earth, the old covenant age has passed and the new has come - the new Jerusalem has arrived in the person of the Son.xxviii This will 'fuss' with many eschatological sacred cows - with escapist rapture theories, millennial schemes, and not to mention the role of Israel, the church, and the kingdom. Any deferment of the kingdom to another age, or abrogation of it to an old covenant ethnic identity is dismantled.xxix Christ and his body, the new Israel, in which there is neither Jew nor Greek,xxx is the climax of history - the fulfilment of the Edenic promise that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent's head,xxxi and thus also, of all the covenants and promises through the fathers.xxxii

Father's purpose

God's government in his Son was conceived in the heart of the Father before time began.xxxiii This has implications in how we approach God and our mission in the world.xxiv If God's purpose begins in the Fall of man, man and his dysfunction is the centre point. The purpose of the gospel is then man's rescue and recovery, resulting in an image of God as saviour and healer, in modern parlance, a therapist. This is surely the case in the contemporary western church. Our half-baked theology has hopped into bed with the west's cult of psychology and produced a monster - a church system geared to the therapy of self. With God portrayed as a 'Dr Feelgood' the shelves of Christian bookstores groan with titles promoting a life of maximised living - of emotional, relational, financial and sexual health. However, if God's purpose begins in himself, the centre and circumference is found in him, in relationship rather than recovery. Paradoxically, when he is in the centre recovery occurs, for God is revealed as the 'Father of compassion and God of all comfort' (2 Cor 1:3-4). As a Father his purpose is discovered in the desire for mature sons.xxxv While, in compassion, he provides for our every need during our infancy, he is focussed on bringing us to maturity, so as to share in the family business.xxxvi

Recovery from the dysfunction of sin is necessary in this maturation process. He will not leave his sons in an eternal state of infancy.xxxvii And yet, this is where we want to remain, cooing and burbling in the playpen of personal salvation with our charismatic toys, but refusing the Father's call toward spiritual adulthood. This then is the gospel of the kingdom of God - a call to mature sonship, so as to share with the Father in the governance of the universe. This is why it is 'the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom' (Lk 12:32). God the Father has purposed to rule the universe through mature sons.

Father's DNA

Jesus is, therefore, the firstborn among many brothers.xxxviii The Father and God of us all has purposed to bring all his sons to glory, not just the firstborn. We all have the Father's DNA.xxxix As Peter declares, we 'have been made participators in the divine nature' (2 Pet 1:4). With the Father's supernatural genes planted within us, family likeness is inevitable.xl As some have said about my own kids, "The apple sure doesn't fall far from the tree!" In fact, the power of genetic continuity is downright scary. More often than I care to admit, I hear an eerie echo of my parents or even grandparents in my words or behaviour.

And so, in this climax of history, God the Father will have a corporate Son in whom he delights. Having reached the full stature of Christ, as a fellow-heir with him, it will inherit the Father''s business. Having received the keys of the kingdom, a redeemed humanity will exercise dominion over the earth.

Therefore, there is no room for fear - the Father will give us the kingdom.

iEph 1:17-23

iiActs 20:27

iiiActs 19:10

ivAn OT type is a prophetic symbol foreshadowing a spiritual reality fulfilled in Christ and his church. OT Israel and her various institutions, as types (priesthood, sacrifice, tabernacle, temple, & feasts), all have their fulfilment in the spiritual realities of the new covenant (see 1 Cor 10:6, 11; Heb 8:2; 9:23, 24). All Israel were to gather in Jerusalem, three times a year, to celebrate the feasts of Passover (including Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or Weeks), and Tabernacles. See Lev 23 for an outline of the Feasts. It is a common failure to so miss the symbolic and therefore spiritual significance of the feasts that keeping the natural and literal is mistakenly pursued. The principle is "first the natural, then the spiritual".

vKadesh-Barnea was where Israel refused to go into the Promised Land because of unbelief (Num 32:8ff; Deu 1:19-38; Jsh 14:6-12).
viGen 1:26; Mat 28:18-20
viiLuk 19:13
viiiMat 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Lk 9:2, 60; 16:16; Acts 1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31
ixIsa 2:1-4; 9:1-7; Lk 2:11-14; 4:17-19; Rom 14:17; Rev 11:15; Psa 110; Psa 2
xRom 5:12-20; 8:18-22
xiPsa 8:4-6; Gen 1:26; Heb 2:5-8; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 15:27; Rom 8:17-21
xii2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Isa 65:17; 66:22; Rev 21:1-5
xiii1 Cor 15:20-23; Col 1:18;
xivDan 7:13-14; Mat 12:40; 16:28; 17:9; 19:28; 25:31-33; 26:24; Rev 1:13; 14:14
xv2 Pet 1:3-4; Heb 2:10-11; 5:8-9; Rom 8:1-4; Col 1:1-5;
xviRom 8:15-16; Gal 4:6
xviiEph 3:10; 1:18-23; Mat 28:18-20; Isa 9:7; Pro 4:18; Eph 4:13
xviiiSee Psalms 2 and 110 as the two most quoted Psalms in the New Testament. They show Christ the Son ascending to the right hand of the Father and ruling until every enemy has been subdued.

For Psalm 2, see Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; John 1:49; Acts 4:25-26; 13:33; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 1:2,5; 5:5; Rev. 2:26-27; 11:18; 12:5; 19:15, 19.

For Psalm 110, see Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69; John 12:34; Acts 2:34-35; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:3, 17, 21; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2.

xixActs 3:21; Psa 110
xxHeb 12:25-27; Dan 2:44; 7:13-14
xxi1 Ths 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:20-26
xxiiIsa 53:11-12
xxiiiEph 5:27
xxivMat 13:33; Rom 8:18-25
xxvDoctrine of Christ and his work
xxviDoctrine of final things
xxviiHeb 1:1-3; Eph 1:10
xxviiiRev 21:1-3
xxixRom 2:28; 4:10-13; 9:6-8; Gal 6:15; Rev 2:9; Jn 1:47; 8:37-39
xxxRom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11; Eph 2:11-22
xxxiGen 3:15
xxxiiEph 2:12; 3:6; Rom 11:17; 15:8-12; Gal 3:16; Heb 1:1-3
xxxiiiEph 1:4-12 ; 3:8-11; Rom 8:29; 1 Pet 1:19-20; Jn 3:35; 16:28; 17:5; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:1-14
xxxivSee chapter 3, 'Snakes in the Temple: Unmasking Idolatry in Today's Church' by David Orton (Sovereign World: Tonbridge Wells, 2003)
xxxvHeb 1:1-14; 2:10; 2 Cor 6:18; 2 Sam 7:14. Please note that the reference to "sons" in scripture is gender neutral, it includes both sexes.
xxxviLk 2:49; Gal 4:1-7
xxxviiHeb 12:5-12; 2:10; Eph 4:13-14
xxxviiiRom 8:29; Col 1:15, 18; Heb 1:6; 2:10-12; Rev 1:5
xxxixJn 1:12-13; 1 Pet 1:3, 23; 1 Jn 3:9; 5:4, 18
xl2 Pet 1:3-9; Rom 8:29

REPRINT AGREEMENT: Duplication and re-transmission of this writing is permitted provided that complete source and website information for Lifemessenger is included.
Thank you.
Copyright David Orton 2010
Lifemessenger Inc.
PO Box 777
Mount Eliza VIC 3930

Visionary Advancement Strategies Newsletter May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Secret Place of the Most High by James Ryle

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

There were many games we played as children: Dodge Ball, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Simon Says (now known as “American Idol”), Red Rover, Hopscotch, and many others. Of them all, Hide n’ Go Seek remains one of the universal favorites to this day. There is just something special about finding the perfect hiding place; a place where you can see, but not be seen; a place no one would ever even think to look. A place that always causes you to emerge as the winner.

We have just such a hiding place in God!

“You are my hiding place,” wrote David. “You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyous songs of salvation.” (Psa 32:7). The imagery of this recurrent theme fills much of his writings. Elsewhere David said, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock” (Psa 27:5).

David gives a proven word of promise for all those who fear the Lord, who trust in Him before the eyes of a disbelieving world — “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” (Psa 31:20).

He knew this from his own personal experience when he fled for his life from insane Saul, and found God’s presence in the cave – “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusts in You: yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” (Psa 57:1).

In the darkness of the mountain cave, David found the nearness of God’s presence. Could it be that the darkness you feel surrounding you even now may in fact be the very shadow of His wings. It is the perfect hiding place!

Why not make this your confession today – “How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. (Psa 36:7, and Psa 61:3-4).

In the Garden Again by Dudley Hall

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.John 18:1 (ESV)

As Jesus finishes the last discourse with his followers, he proceeds to do what is necessary to prepare the place in the Father that he had promised (John 14:1-4). As the final Adam, he goes to a garden. It was in a garden that the first Adam made the choice that thrust all his descendants into alienation from God the Father. Now the last Adam and perfect Son of God will win the battle for all who will come to the Father through him.

The first garden is the picture of God's intention. He provides the perfect environment for sons and the Father to partner in making creation productive. Adam, however, released curses by his sin. Now the Son of God would take the curses upon himself so that blessings would be released upon undeserving rebels. The garden also supplies joyful work. It presented the potential of progressive management. If Adam and Eve had stayed true to God's word they would have seen their garden grow until they and their descendants covered the earth. Now a Son was entering the garden to redeem what Adam had destroyed and he would create a people who would again be given the mission of going into the whole earth with the good news that reconciliation was available.

In his apocalyptic treatise, John shows a final garden as the last scene in redemptive history. He paints a picture of a garden growing with fruit for every month. There is a river in the midst with trees laden with leaves that bring healing for the nations. And there is the tree of life (Revelation 22:1-5). What is John saying? He is telling us that what was lost in the first garden is found in the last garden. But before that eternal garden arrives, there had to be the garden in the Kidron Valley. There had to be a great transaction completed by the Son of Man. This time there was no failure when the tempter threw his best shot at Jesus. On the same field where the first son lost the confrontation, the last Son won it.

As we watch through the eyes of John we can see the glory of Jesus. He is fearless. Instead of hiding like Adam, he speaks up and confronts those looking for him. Instead of cowering in shame, he confronts them, and they fall to the ground without him even touching them. This was going to be a great battle and with all the forces of evil arrayed against him, Jesus the last Adam won...but not without pain.

Later Jesus sent his followers forth into the earth. He still sends his followers out. They are to begin with the garden they are standing in and then continue to the ends of the earth with the gospel that restores creation and reconciles man to God. You and I have a garden to till. We can get the job done because Jesus has won the battle for us. It won't be painless, but it will be victorious.  

You Are Called to Choose Destiny by JoAnn McFatter

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."—Jeremiah 1:4-5

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.—Psalm 139:16

As with Jeremiah and David whose call came before entering into their mother's womb, so it is with every man and woman born. However, through the provision of free will, God has left it to each one's choosing as to whether or not that call will be lived out. Jesus said it Himself:
For many are called, but few are chosen.—Matthew 22:14

The choosing comes by the decisions we make along the way as to whether or not we are able to be a resting place for the fullness of His glory. He will not put on us that which we are not prepared to carry, lest it destroy us. Destiny calls each one of us, and it is the exercising of our free will that determines the outcome of that calling. As our hearts continually respond to the voice of our Creator, "I choose You! Above all else, I choose You!" we navigate our way through our destiny.

Our Destiny is Not the End Product, But Rather the Journey to that End
He is our origin and He is our destiny. We were in Him before the world began and we return to reside in Him, and are even now residing, as we partake of His grace by way of accepting and receiving the benefit of the shedding of His Blood.

It is the journey from here to there as we "run the race" that plays out the days written in His book ordained for each one of us. It happens one day at a time, one decision at a time to choose Him above all else. In this living out of our lives, turning toward Him at every juncture and, once again, consciously making a decision to "choose Him," we find ourselves in the middle of our destiny, for it will only be found in Him.

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, "For we are also His offspring."—Acts 17:26-28

In our western mindset we have made our destiny to be an end to a means, a job or a title that we attain to. It is a form that we desire to create for ourselves, a position to be held such as a singer, a pastor, or perhaps a banker. I'm not sure that is what God had in mind at all. For many of us it might just be the reason that our destiny seems to elude us as the years wear away on our hopes of stepping into what we perceive as our destiny. We try to create a form within which we will function. Form first, and then function comes as a result of our Greek reasoning that has so enamored our culture.

Our true destiny is hidden in the function of "living out" the days He fashioned for us, not a title or job description. It's not about being a prophet but rather the process of learning how to hear His voice and prophecy in love with the heart of the Father. In that functioning as a prophet we truly find our destiny, which is to become like Him. It's the same for every job and/or ministry title you can come up with. Though we all have different days written out for us in His book, still the process of learning how to function in it is the walking out of our destiny—to be like Him, to be one with Him.

Our destiny is not the end product but rather "the journey" to that end—our days lived out as God Himself has written them in His book. Our life lived in Him day by day is our true destiny as we become more like Him; the form in which that takes place, whether it be, as I said, as a teacher, evangelist, or a baker is secondary to the function of walking out that process. I'm afraid we lose the joy of that journey because we are waiting to attain a position or name or whatever. It's the days that we have lived up to this point with all of the mistakes and all of the failures and even successes that make up our destiny.

Destiny is a Verb—Destiny is a Person
I believe we get misled by regarding destiny as a noun, when, in God, it really is as much a verb as it is a noun. It is probably even more accurate to say it is a Person—the process of becoming one with the personhood of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the job, the process is the same. The functioning of our calling and the process that brings us to maturity concerning it is our real destiny. It is the same for all of us.

So we are exhorted to "not despise the day of small beginnings" and to "count it all joy" as we maneuver through life, through the good, the bad and the ugly, through the gory and the glory of it all. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are IN your destiny right now. All of our days are the summation of who we become in Him. The ones lived out behind the scenes are just as, if not more, important than the ones in front of people in that perceived place of successfully functioning in our calling. I find that very encouraging, knowing that this is ALL working toward the fulfillment of our destiny.

It's about the choices we make in those days of disappointment, heartache and being betrayed that bring us to the place of love and unity with God. We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves, or to complain about where we are at and how long we are there, or the seemingly bad break, which actually probably kept us from going through a door that would have led us in the wrong direction. Our other option is to look into His eyes and say, "I choose You! Whatever that looks like and however long that takes, above self and all else, I choose You!"

It is also about how we handle promotion, favor and prosperity. The point is not that we receive those things, it is about how we rule and reign in that position. Do we take advantage of it for ourselves or do we use it to pour out on others? Do we use our favor to strengthen and lift others in their calling, even above ourselves? In the midst of all the advantage it affords us, is there still an automatic cry that comes from within, "Lord, I choose You! You are my portion, You are my destiny!"? Song of Solomon says it well:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.—Song Of Solomon 8:6-7

He Is Our Destiny!
The questions asked when we pass from this life are more like, "Do we look like Him?" "Did we learn to love?" "Did we die daily to ourselves so that it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me?" Our true destiny is IN Him, to become like Him, regardless of our calling. That puts us all on the same level before Him no matter what our job description or calling is. As the Bride of Christ we are to take on the very nature of our Bridegroom and move through life as He did. To look like Him, to act like Him, to respond like Him, to be one in Him is our destiny, regardless of the form. He IS our Destiny!
...that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven and which are on the earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.—Ephesians 1:10-11

As we approach this "fullness of the times" there is a gathering together of those who function with this understanding. We are to be those who love as He loves, to the extent that we become walking love and would be willing to lay down our very lives, preferring others before ourselves. That is our destiny in this hour. Regardless of what form our life takes, the purpose is to function in that kind of selfless love as we become one with Him in His likeness. That level of maturity, death to self, will draw His Presence.

We are called to be the Bride of Christ, fully functioning in our Destiny as we live, move, and have our being in Him. It is only out of this place that He can trust us with the never before seen authority and creative word that is about to be released through those with the cry of, "We choose You! Above all others and all else, we choose You!" We have walked out our destiny as we have made Him and Him alone our boundaries and borders, a city whose walls are made of His fire; His jealousy, His authority, His very presence upon us as we become His resting place.

"For I", says the Lord, "will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst."—Zechariah 2:5

JoAnn McFatter

Do You Remember Me? by David VanCronkhite

It was a brisk, spring morning with the sun beginning its path across the mountain town I was driving through. The post office was bustling with people inside and out. At the local breakfast spot, people sat in chairs outside chatting. Kids ran in the lawns of the houses along the little two-lane road going through this scenic view.

Then it hit me. I couldn't remember when I last "saw" people. I felt like I had just been reinserted into a real world. I suddenly saw people greeting each other, laughing with one another, telling stories, stopping to talk along the way about the day's journey just beginning to unfold. I slowed down until I was barely moving, then gazing, staring in disbelief of these people I had just rediscovered.

I laughed one of those curious what's-going-on kind of laughs. I even looked into the mirror to see what expression I had on my face. It was a look that said I'd like to stop and be part of this; to have a neighbor to talk with, laugh with, cry with, to tell real stories about real lives. The strangest part was that I even wanted to listen to their stories. I longed to re-enter the real world of real people living real lives.

Later that day I arrived at my destination to meet with a dear and wise friend who was helping me along the journey of discovering agape. I was still overwhelmed with what I had experienced that morning. "I've never seen anything like it," I told him. He responded with a liberating truth. "You've broken through. You've spent all these years seeing souls, but today you saw people becoming what God intended. You are seeing people, not souls."

My gift of evangelism was, and still is, amazingly strong. I always wanted to be an evangelist. Thirty years ago I read a book about the life of George Whitefield and it changed my life. He became my hero and I wanted to be like him. So the journey to "win souls" was on.

But over time the gift began to possess me. Everything became about winning souls and not much about the people themselves. Had I met you in those years you might have noticed that I didn't much care about your story. Didn't have much time to stay around and listen. I had to go save more souls for heaven. My value and identity became attached with the answer to "How many souls did you win today?" And the answer would have been about a number, not a name or someone's life story.

Numbers or names?

Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with winning souls. The Book says that he who wins souls is wise. But something's not right when life becomes about souls to win for heaven, and not about people wanting to be known now on earth; when numbers become more important than names.

Just last week another man showed up unannounced at our Sunday morning "Waffles and Grace" home gathering. I found out later he had been trying to reconnect with Blood n Fire for several years. When he stepped on to the porch and saw me after all those years, his very first words were "Pastor, do you remember me?" It's the same question I hear every time I meet someone who came through the Warehouse doors when we were housing hundreds of homeless each night in downtown Atlanta.

Before I could even answer, he thanked me and Blood n Fire for giving him back his life. He told how he had quit smoking and drinking, gave up the women and drugs. But then he asked that question again, the real one burning in his heart. "Pastor, do you remember me?

I used to lie when people asked me that, saying I did but, sorry, I just couldn't remember the name. Giving great grace, they would never let on to the disappointment of not being remembered. The homeless probably understood better than most that if I didn't remember their name, I probably didn't care about or remember their story.

See, I learned early on how to meet and greet and move on. Next, please. Don't have too much time. Too many souls to win, causes to promote, visions to walk out. Don't need to learn names. That's why we have name tags. At least with a name stuck on the front of a shirt we can give the impression that we know one another without actually having to.

Today I think it is easier to confess that I don't remember their names and explain that it had nothing to do with them. My gift, my calling, my cause drove me so hard that I was too busy to deeply care about anybody apart from how it served me and my seemingly good ministry agenda. But now, this thing of agape, of supernatural love, overrides all and compels me to offer my time--not just my gift--and truly meet them, know them and their story.

I am finding that everyone I meet has time to tell their story, but they have found so few who want to listen. I'm talking about listening without an agenda of winning a soul, or selling a product, or enlisting in a cause. Yet, how can any of us say we know someone if we don't know his or her story?

It may take time for our neighbors to trust us enough to tell the real story of their journey and see how we will respond to it. Will we treat them as another soul to win for heaven or a number to add to our church growth program?

I believe something different is starting to happen. Something that happens supernaturally. It's about a love, a caring for a neighbor who is so unlike who we are. It's about a heart change, a transformation so that we have no purpose or motivation other than wanting to do our neighbor good. And it ends up doing us both good: our neighbor finds voice and we become instruments of His agape love, the only thing, I believe, that still shocks the world.

Without the real story no one will ever know the real God, the One who is always faithful. Always, no matter what! Without telling our failures, the dark nights, the joys of the new morning, how we misused our success, and how we betrayed and were betrayed, we will never know how much God loves. We will miss His heart of compassion and graciousness, His being slow to anger, and His mercy, truth and forgiveness.

I believe for me my days of soul winning are over. They were good years for my ministry and me personally, but I am left with a lot of numbers and few real people living real life. I have spent over sixty years learning about the journey with God. Now I want to learn about journeying with people, my neighbors and experience life with them.

Yeah, it's hard. The old keeps calling, "David, there's a soul to be won." But change is inevitable, and He is changing me from a soul winner to a man who loves his God and loves his neighbor.

David VanCronkhite

Transition from Sheriff to Gardner by Bob Mumford

Slide 1
He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes.
And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.[1]

I made my transition from a sheriff to a gardener when I learned that Father, Himself, is a Gardener, not a sheriff.  Father reserves the pruning for Himself; He does not let anyone else prune. The Greek word for vinedresser is georgos meaning a farmer or husbandman who tills the ground. Our Father is the Farmer and He knows something about cultivating and drawing out the seed. If we could surrender our sheriff’s badge and turn in our ankle holsters for gardener’s cultivating tools, we could effectively love those who are hurting.  With God’s help, we can learn to be farmers rather than sheriffs because our confidence is in the Seed of the Kingdom. 

We are capable of being cultivated and Father seeks to cultivate us so that we can be fruitful. If we have fruit, He seeks more fruit. We also have the capacity to do the cultivating; it is our personal commission. Our job as farmers is to cultivate and bring forth fruit in ourselves and in others and do so with truth and grace. If we attempt this as a sheriff with assumed authority, we make irrational judgments and cut people off. The bottom line question: Is the Bible an ammo pouch or a seed bag?

Luke gives us a powerful parable of the importance of cultivation. The vineyard owner had a fig tree and for three years looked for fruit on it, but did not find any. He said, “Why does it even use up the ground? Cut it down!” But the vineyard-keeper said, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”[2] If we approach this scenario as a sheriff, we would write down the names of the more challenging members of our church and transfer their membership to another state. God gives us some people to practice on and as farmers we should say, “Oh, please don’t cut it down yet. I know they have missed it. I also know they really do seek to follow Christ. Allow me to fertilize and water and give them another year to bear fruit.”  I appeal to you—dig around the tree and cultivate the seed rather than cut it down. Pray and intercede for others. With God’s grace, fruit will emerge when our confidence is in the Eternal Seed.

God expects us to develop the capacity to bless, nourish, guard, and cultivate the Seed. He gives us the nine tools of the Gardner for cultivating Kingdom fruit:
1.     Scriptures: God’s love letter to His own Bride
2.     Prayer: Returning God’s affection in as pure a form as possible
3.     Church: Mutual encouragement, breaking individuality, producing community
4.     Lord’s Table: Giving and receiving the Bread of God and the wine of forgiveness
5.     Deliverance: Release from cyclical behavior and ungoverned desires
6.     Worship: Declaring our love privately and corporately
7.     Forgiveness: Freely receiving and giving unlimited forgiveness
8.     Fasting: Humbling our soul by governing food, talk, and activity
9.     Abiding: Resting in faith and keeping ourselves in the Agape of God

Thoughts & Questions

v  Explain why Father is a Gardner rather than a sheriff.
v  Why is it necessary to turn in our sheriff’s badges for gardening tools?
v  In what ways has your Gardner cultivated fruit in your life?

[1] John 15:2 MSG
[2] Luke 13:6-9

Destiny's Irritation by Victoria Boyson

All Hannah wanted was a son, but God wanted a prophet for His people and a friend for Himself.

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah...He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none (1 Samuel 1:1-2). And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her (1 Samuel 1:6).

The story of these two women is not an uncommon one. God often uses irritating people to draw us closer to Him and to push us toward our destiny. God will put people in our lives that have what we want (and are willing to torture us with it) in order that we might seek Him for the fulfillment of the promise He has made to us.

Peninnah became increasingly smug over the fact that she had been given children and Hannah had not. And she used her children as a weapon to grieve Hannah. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat (1 Samuel 1:7).

Moved to Desperation

God desired to do something great for Hannah, but first He would need to prepare her for it. God used Peninnah's deplorable behavior to provoke Hannah and irritate her. That is right, it is true that God needed to irritate Hannah. He needed to bring Hannah to the point of desperation, so much so that she would be willing to give Samuel to Him (see 1 Samuel 1:11).

Hannah's pain and disgrace must have been great or she never would have prayed such a prayer. Her desire for a child must have been agonizing, and now she had promised to give that child away? She had no guarantee of ever having more than one child at this point, but her mind was made up. The child would be given to the Lord.

To be without children during that time in history was a great humiliation for a woman. Women of this region were considered children, until they had children. Only as a mother would she be given the respect and authority due an adult. As Hannah got older her disgrace became greater, and she could not escape Peninnah's irritating remarks. This went on for years, until Hannah was so desperate to remove her disgrace that she made a promise to God: if He gave her a son, she would give the boy back to Him.

In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant, but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."—1 Samuel 1:10-11

A Promise is Born

Hannah, at the very lowest point of her life, prayed her most desperate prayer. She pleaded with God to take away her barrenness and bless her with a son. "Don't forget me!" she cried. She saw everyone around her receiving blessings from God and getting the desires of their hearts, yet she remained barren. She reached the greatest point of misery she had ever known, and laid out her heart before God. Hannah vowed to make the greatest sacrifice any woman could be asked to make. Her sorrow was so great it turned her soul bitter. Out of this bitter sorrow, a promise was born.

Hannah's heart was open before God and her tears were never more sincere. Into this precious scene blundered Eli, but he did not see Hannah for what she truly was. She was a woman after God, but Eli mistook the most sincere and heart wrenching moment of her life for that of drunkenness.

Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."—1 Samuel 11:13-14

Perhaps, at times, you have had similar experiences to Hannah's. Your heart was outstretched and open before God, but people around you didn't recognize it as anything out of the ordinary or special. To some you may even seem sinful, but they have judged you incorrectly. The very people we think should recognize our potential are the ones that accuse us of being unspiritual or lacking what it takes to fulfill our potential. Not only did Eli miss the importance of what Hannah was going through, but he also completely misinterpreted her actions toward God.

The Avenue of Offense

At this moment Hannah could have walked away offended, but her need was much too great. She was desperate and wanted what only God could give her, no matter what she had to endure to get it. Some of our greatest blessings come to us through the avenue of offense. Hannah could have walked away, humiliated and discouraged, but she did not. She explained herself to Eli. When he realized how greatly he had misjudged her, he felt so badly that he blessed her instead.

"Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him."—1 Samuel 1:17

She received a blessing from Eli that she may not have had he not offended her. She received his blessing as being from God and she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast (verse 18). She was confident that God had blessed her through Eli even though he had misjudged her. She may never have received what she needed from God, except that her longsuffering brought her the answer to her heart's cry. Hannah was not only a godly woman, but her son would eventually take Eli's place in the temple and restore to Israel everything that Eli's sons had lost.

A Growing Promise

Hannah had already conceived Samuel in her heart before she ever conceived him physically. The dream of him had already been growing inside her. She was pregnant in the Spirit with the promise of God. No one, not even Eli, could see the transformation taking place in her heart. It was between her and God alone. She had a secret, a hope, and a dream. When she was referred to as "barren" by others seeking to injure her, she clung to the hope of God's enduring faithfulness.

Similarly, when a woman is first pregnant, no one knows she is pregnant except her. No one else can see what is happening inside her. It is her secret. We, too, carry the promises of God secretly inside us. Others can't see anything special in us because God has hidden it from them. They may even misinterpret our desire for God to be something that is sinful or worldly. No matter how spiritual people are, they cannot see what God has hidden from them.

Just like a baby hidden in the womb, so are the promises God has given to us. He speaks to us of our future as if to impregnate us with His will and purpose for our lives.

We want to tell the whole world what God has spoken to us. But the promises that the Lord has given to us should be treasured in our hearts and not shared with others who may not be able to see that which God has hidden from them.

Destiny's Irritation

God desires to do great things for us as well. But, like with Hannah, He must drive us to desperation so great that we are willing to give to Him the very thing we are asking Him for.

God uses people like Peninnah, to irritate us (see 1 Samuel 1:6) and provoke us until we are willing to do whatever it takes to receive our destiny in Him. The closer we are to the fulfillment of our destiny, the greater the irritation becomes, until we give up our claims to our destiny. We give up our dreams in exchange for His will; our ambitions for His plan.

In return, we not only receive what we were hoping for, but more than we have even dreamt of. Hannah not only got the son she desired, but her family line was established, through Samuel, as priests to the Lord forever. In addition to Samuel, she was also blessed with five other children.

God desires to do much more through us than we think is possible, but it must be done His way. Through His mercy, He keeps us from accepting less than all He has for us. All Hannah wanted was a son, but God wanted a prophet for His people and a friend for Himself.

Promise Through the Pain

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord—1 Samuel 1:10

I have heard people say that God would not do anything to them that would cause them to suffer. They say, "God wants to bless me!" and I say, Yes, God does want to bless us, but some of our greatest blessings come out of our greatest pain. If we do not experience the pain, it is more difficult for us to appreciate the blessings we are given. It did not please God to cause Hannah such misery, but He could see the future and He needed Samuel. The only way He could get the promise to her was through the pain.

God does see your struggle and your pain; He hurts with you and weeps with you. He is begging you not to give up, because He can see your future and it is great! "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Lord's presence remained with all of Israel through Samuel, because Hannah chose not to give up on the dream she had in her heart. She chose to believe that God loved her and saw her as special even when others did not.

If the Lord has given you a dream or a promise of something so wonderful that others cannot receive it, keep it hidden in your heart as a secret treasure, until the moment of its birth. Some things should be kept between you and the Lord. He is jealous for your heart and wants you to Himself. Do not look for acceptance from anyone but Him; hold onto the God who loves you. His will will be done!

Pray this with me: Dear Father, Keep alive in me all that You have promised me. Cause all the circumstances that I must walk through to turn me toward You, not away from You. Help me to seek You and Your approval, and not the approval of others.

Victoria Boyson
Speaking Life Ministries