Category Archives: Christian life

Becoming the Ark of His Covenant

Ark of the Covenant replicaRecently I spent some time meditating on the Ark of the Covenant and its significance to New Testament believers. It is also referred to as the Ark of Promise, the Ark of Agreement, the Ark of His Presence, and the Ark of Testimony.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Ark, it was the symbol and manifestation of God’s Presence among His people Israel in Old Testament times. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to apply blood from an animal sacrifice to the mercy seat which covered the Ark, thereby covering the sins of the people from God’s sight by that blood for another year (Exodus 25:10-22 and Leviticus 16).

The tabernacle (later, the temple) and the Ark of the Covenant within it were earthly patterns of a temple which exists in heaven. Hebrews 9:1-10:22 tells us that Jesus, the High Priest of the New Covenant, entered the Holy of Holies in the heavenly temple and sprinkled His own blood upon the mercy seat there, so that our sins are forever atoned for and never need another sacrifice made for them.

Today, we who believe on Jesus are living temples of His Presence, fully washed in Jesus’ blood, with the Holy Spirit continually abiding in us, as God’s Presence once abode, via the Ark, in the physical tabernacle / temple of old.

As I thought on these things, I prayed, “Lord, make me an ark of Your covenant, an ark of Your Presence. Let the covenant provisions, which I have with You through Jesus’ blood, be visible to others, so that I am also an ark of testimony to Your goodness.”

I realized that when we petition God for healing or any other provision of our covenant with Him, it’s not about getting Him to agree with us for it. No, we are to agree with HIM for what He has already said He will do for us.

The shift in how we pray and believe is tremendous. When we feel we must get Him to agree with us, we try to twist His arm to do what we want, and we’re never quite sure we’ll succeed in persuading Him. But when we say, “Lord, I agree with You for the healing (or other provision) You have already promised to me in Your covenant,” we are coming into unity with Him. We don’t have to convince Him; He’s already there waiting for us to ask.

What has God given us as part of our New Testament covenant with Him? Any promise God made in His Word is included. Salvation, deliverance, healing, protection, financial provision, peace, joy, and wisdom are just a few. It’s time we inform ourselves of what is in the contract! Partaking of the covenant provisions is honoring to the Lord. When they become our daily reality, we are a living testimony of His goodness to the unsaved people around us.

So Lord, give me ever-increasing understanding of how to live as an ark of Your covenant. Make me an ark of agreement with You, a living ark of Your Presence, and an ark of testimony to the world around me, so that they will be drawn to You.

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman's Guide to the Nature of God

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God
by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Strange Alliances

While in prayer recently, I received a warning for the Church:

Beware of strange alliances.

Typically, this is how strange alliances play out:

You become disgruntled about something happening in your local church — perhaps a policy the leadership puts in place. Suddenly, people whom you never quite liked or trusted before start looking pretty good. It’s not because you have developed a new, Christ-like love for them or they have dramatically changed. No, it’s because they are unhappy about the same things you are. You start to form friendships with them, based upon your common ground of disagreement with church leadership. The qualms you had about them are suddenly wiped away, but for the wrong reason: you have become allied in division.

I am not talking about disagreement over core doctrines. It’s usually about procedures, preferences, or approaches. To the person not caught up in the controversy, the concern over the issue seems trivial or illogical; yet it seems entirely logical and vastly important to those falling into the trap. It is the stuff of which church splits are made.

If someone mentions a gripe they have about how things are done, and it is the same thing troubling you, do not be deceived into believing it is “confirmation.” Whether the complaint is valid or not, it is the devil’s snare — the spirit of division attempting to draw you into an unholy alliance in order to tear apart what God desires to hold together.

What should we do if we are tempted with such a situation?

1.) If people start approaching you to confide their unhappiness about whoever and whatever is already your own area of discontent, run! The devil deliberately brings people across our paths to ensnare us into taking part in dividing the Body of Christ. Don’t fall for it.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Now I implore you, brethren, take notice of those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). While Paul was speaking particularly of doctrinal divisions, it’s a good principle to apply on lesser issues as well. Proverbs 6:12-19 speaks of behavior which God hates. Twice, those verses mention sowing discord as one such abomination.

2.) If you have a gripe, don’t talk about it with others. Do not be the enemy’s instrument of division. Proverbs 26:20 observes, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out: so, where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.”

3.) Instead, take the matter to God and pray it through until the circumstances you are concerned about change (if they even need to), or until you change. If you harbor little love for the ones you disagree with, the most important change which needs to happen is in you.

It goes beyond the church.

Forming unholy alliances is not limited to the local church, of course. Intrigues and power plays go on in all circles of life, large and small, from the workplace or family right up to national and international alliances. As believers, we must avoid them wherever they arise.

Joining with nonbelievers in social justice causes is one area to be wary of. While some seem noble on the surface, they can end up being perverted due to the flawed motives or beliefs of those involved.

When considering whether to invest our energies in working side by side in these causes with those who do not know Jesus, it is wise to keep in mind the apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial [the spirit of rebelliousness and lawlessness]? Or what part has he who believes with an infidel?”

While this does not mean that we can never work together with secular-minded people for a common good, it does mean we should proceed with caution, our spiritual ears sensitive to warnings from the Holy Spirit.

In summary, any alliances which would produce discord and strife, or would compromise our agreement with God and His principles, should be avoided. Such alliances raise red flags by how unlikely they would normally be, if we were to examine them objectively. Whether in our church relationships or in other arenas of life, we must stay spiritually attuned to the Holy Spirit, so that we can discern the tug of these attractions quickly and flee from them.

 

 

Yes, You CAN Be an Intercessor! (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

The Merciful Discerner

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. — Matthew 5:7

For those of us who are keen in discernment, there is a weakness we particularly struggle with: criticalness. Show me a person who is gifted in discernment, and I’ll show you a person prone to being critical.

Why is this the case? Criticalness is the soulish side of discernment. When God made mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26), He made us perfect, like unto His nature. Each human being since Adam and Eve has been uniquely crafted by the Lord, with particular personality and ability strengths which reflect a small piece of Who He is. And what a wonderful variety we are, all intended to complement and balance each other.

But, due to man’s fall into sin back in the Garden of Eden, the image of God in each of us was marred. The good news for believers is, through Jesus our Redeemer, God is progressively bringing us back into His own image. Still, in the process, sometimes we exhibit the old marred nature, and thus it is with criticalness and discernment.

The difference between discernment and criticalness does not rest in what we see: it’s in what we do with it. We must learn to divide between being aware of the faults of others (which is not wrong in itself) and where our minds go with that information. A critical person tends to be frequently suspicious of the motives of others, thinking that he or she is receiving discernment from the Lord. Criticalness makes unholy assumptions and judgments, often based on one’s own faults or inner hurts.

One of the areas where criticalness often rears its head is in the realm of doctrinal beliefs. Those who are well-grounded in the Bible are the most prone to this. We may feel very solid in our understanding of certain theological points, and when we come into contact with people who have a different viewpoint, or a blind spot, we then think poorly of them, perhaps writing them off entirely.

Most of the time, what is such an important issue to us is not a core doctrine of the faith. It’s just a small piece of how we’re working out our Christian walk — but we make it into a very big deal. For instance, my husband and I have encountered a few people who had such narrow views of how healing ministry should be done that they would no longer fellowship with people who did not believe exactly as they did or who were not as strong in their faith.

The apostle Paul talked about criticalness over minor theological matters in Romans 14:1-4. He was speaking into a controversy about whether to eat meat or not, because there was a possibility it had been sacrificed to false gods before showing up in the public meat market. But the principle can be applied broadly by us today:

Accept him who is weak in the faith, but not to arguing over opinions. For one believes that he may eat all things. Another, who is weak, eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat. And he who does not eat should not judge him who eats, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.

Can we trust God to work maturity in our brothers and sisters, and let Him decide when and how to work on their foibles — even their beliefs which don’t line up with ours to a tee? “Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.”

As we mature in the things of the Spirit, we should find that our discernment is increasingly coupled with compassion, mercy, and patience. That is the heart of God evidencing in us. We must guard ourselves against pride, for Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up, but charitable love builds up. And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). He also said, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).

We’ve all got a long journey ahead of us before we reach perfection. Let’s give each other a break.

I’ve written another article on criticalness versus discernment, which contains a list of questions to help us determine whether we are operating in discernment from the Spirit or merely criticalness of the soul. I hope you will find that post helpful.

When Distractions Ruin Prayer

Sometimes prayer flows like a river. We float along on its current and let the Lord lead us where He wills. However, that’s not always the way it is. In fact, it might not even be how things go the majority of the time. Often, our prayer life is more like a battleground. I’m not even talking about actively going against the gates of hell and prevailing against them, as Matthew 16:18 puts it. I’m talking about just the battle to keep praying!

A few months ago, I went through an extended season where my prayer life seemed like a disaster. It was hard to focus, hard to keep a heavenly perspective, hard to get past a swirl of thoughts. Hard, hard, hard! I even struggled to continue praying in tongues at length, which is not at all normal for me. At times, I asked myself, “What did I just do for the last hour or two? My intent has been to pray, but I feel like I have accomplished little.”

In the midst of being concerned about this, the Lord spoke encouragingly to me: “Persevere, My child. Just persevere.” It is in the persevering that we take ground, even when we don’t think we are getting anywhere.

Prayer is not always as perfect as we could wish. The enemy distracts us in various ways. Our own soul distracts us. Sometimes, even good and noble thoughts or causes distract us.

We know what we’re supposed to do: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). But it gets exhausting when we have to do it a couple of dozen (or more) times in any given prayer session, just so we can carry on a coherent, consistent communication with the Lord!

When we run into a battle such as this, we don’t need to get down on ourselves for being weak in prayer. God encourages us to keep pressing on in spite of the struggle. Even when our prayer efforts are imperfect, puny, and even downright messy, all He asks is that we get up and do it again … and again … and again, until we get through the season of distraction. As we do that, we really do continue to make progress, even though we can’t always see it.

The process of persevering through embattlement against our thoughts is something God allows, so that we become stronger. Psalm 18:34 says it this way: “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.” Perseverance through the warfare of distractions is a tool God uses to make seasoned warriors of us.

If you are struggling to stay at prayer in a focused way, I encourage you to keep at it. You are not a prayer dud. It’s just another form of spiritual warfare. In persevering, you will be doing what the Lord said in Ephesians 6:13“Having done all, stand.”

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

Adapting to God in Prayer

Many years ago, I was taught an expected form of how my personal prayer time was supposed to unfold:

A — Adoration
C — Contrition
T — Thanksgiving
S — Supplication

In other words, we had to worship first, then repent of every sin we could remember committing since the last prayer time, then spend some time thanking, and finally, ask God for all the things we wanted. We were encouraged to spend an allotted amount of time on each — fifteen minutes apiece, for example, to achieve an hour of prayer. We were supposed to worship (adoration) first, so that God would be willing to listen when we asked for His forgiveness.

But then, a different prayer expert came along and said, “No, no! You must repent first, so that God will receive your worship!” — which left us with

C
A
T
S

— not ACTS.

It all sounds so silly now, yet this was how many people were taught thirty-plus years ago. No wonder prayer was a drudge which few people stayed with!

Fortunately, some of us quietly rebelled, and learned to connect with God through the heart, rather than in a dry form. We worshiped often, because Jesus made our hearts continually glad, repented as the Lord revealed our issues, gave thanks throughout the day, and presented our petitions somewhere in between all the rest. AND, we communed with the Lord for Who He is.

Even when we have not conformed ourselves to somebody else’s plan for how prayer ought to be done, many of us still unconsciously settle into our own little rut. We get comfortable with an idea of how prayer must go, and if we don’t live up to it, we tend to feel guilty, as if we have not really prayed. However, from time to time, the Holy Spirit Himself may wish to lead us into a different mode of prayer. We need to listen to Him, and let Him lead. It is all right if we don’t keep doing it the way we have always done.

For instance, maybe you have a habit of starting prayer with a time of worship. From there, you might meditate on a portion of Scripture, then listen a little for the Lord’s leading, then intercede for the needs on your mind. But what if the Spirit were to put a desire in you to spend your whole prayer time in worship? Or conversation with the Lord? Or tongues? Or thinking about one Bible verse? Or (gasp!) just sitting with Him — while He doesn’t even say anything! Would you feel guilty for not interceding that day? Would you think you were not doing your job as a prayer warrior?

Frankly, I have struggled (sometimes still struggle) with these things. I like to accomplish receiving many answers through intercession. I like to feel I have “done” something, because I see the needs around me, and they are great. However, I am learning that if the Holy Spirit wants to disrupt my routine and focus exclusively on a certain aspect of prayer for a while, it’s OK. If He wants to make my entire prayer time into a conversational session, or a listening time, He’ll take care of the intercession part somehow — perhaps through one- or two-sentence petitions while I’m doing other tasks during the day. Maybe He will have someone else intercede for those concerns. It’s not all up to me anyway.

I’ve tried persevering through and doing prayer the way I’ve always done (because I don’t always “get it” immediately, or because I can be a little mule-headed), and I can tell you, if what I am trying to achieve in prayer is not Spirit-powered, it does not work.

So, if the way you have done prayer for quite some time just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or if you don’t feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit on it like you once did, step back and ask Him how He would like to change it for a while. “Father, how would You like to do prayer today? Do You have a favorite song You would like me to sing to You? What’s on Your heart?” You might be surprised at where He will take you. And it will be good.

 

The Intercessor Manual

Things I Look for in a Prophet

Deception is certainly on the rise — not only in the secular world, but in the Church. Truly, we need the discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) more than ever. I am personally asking the Lord to increase this essential gift in me.

While ultimately it is by the Holy Spirit that we discern prophecy and those who claim to be prophets, there are practical steps we can take in our discernment process. Living by the direction of the Spirit does not mean we never use common sense. The Lord is the Giver of sense in the first place!

So, from a practical standpoint, I got to thinking about what I personally look for in prophets who are publicly releasing their words, dreams, and visions. Here’s my list:

1.) Is their focus primarily on Jesus, or is it only on giving spectacular words about future events?

Seeing into the future is part of the prophetic function for some prophets, but not for all. The main purpose of all prophecy is to point to Jesus. Revelation 19:10 tells us, “… The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” That might include a call to repentance or prayer; strengthening, comfort, and encouragement (see 1 Corinthians 14:3); or seeing into the future. But the underlying focus is always Jesus.

2.) If they have a website with a statement of faith, does it line up with the core beliefs of Christianity?

This is one of the first things I check, if their “word” seems to be OK. Then I look through their list of articles to see if there is anything odd showing up.

One man, whose teaching on prophecy initially seemed to be very good, had written an article encouraging people to pursue being possessed by angels. Say what? Is being indwelt and guided by the Holy Spirit not enough? I didn’t look into his teachings any further.

3.) Are their prophetic words or visions in agreement with God’s Word?

If not, no further discernment is needed: just throw the revelation out. We all make some theological mistakes while we’re maturing, but if there is gross or continuous error, I wouldn’t bother paying attention to that prophet anymore.

4.) Do they urge people to seek the Lord, or to put confidence in man?

Psalm 146:3 tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”

Every time we have a presidential election, there are prophets who are so enamored with a particular candidate that you would think by their prophecies that their man is the savior of the nation. God doesn’t give saviorhood to anyone but Jesus. He can use an elected official hugely, but He still wants our trust solidly and completely placed in Him. Anything else is idolatry.

Pay attention to the emphasis of the words being released. Even if the prophet is correct about the candidate winning, if he or she is encouraging you to put your hope in a human being, the message is off-kilter. Don’t swallow that hook.

5.) Do they accept the discerning of their words by others?

God has set up safety factors for the Church. The discerning of prophetic words is not left up to the prophets who give them. (See 1 Corinthians 14:29 and 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21.)

6.) Do they have connections with (accountability to) honorable men and women of faith? Or are they out there on their own?

7.) Do they love and honor people who differ with them, or do they get angry, lash out, or accuse those who disagree with them?

This is pride, and a really red flag that all is not well in prophet-land.

8.) Do they lead the sheep, or do they drive them? Do they treat God’s people kindly, or threaten and browbeat them?

“You have to believe what I’m telling you. It’s the word of the Lord! If it doesn’t witness to you, you are just not listening to God!” Seriously?

9.) Are they accurate? Are they consistent over time?

Genuine prophets can make mistakes, but what if their prophecies were measured in percentage points? Would they get a passing grade, or an F?

10.) Are they humble? Is it about their reputation and recognition, or is it about God receiving glory?

11.) Do they admit their mistakes and ask the Church’s forgiveness? Or do they make excuses and blame others for their words not coming true?

The prophet who can humble himself to repent and take responsibility for his errors can be trusted in the long run. God can work with a flawed, yet humble, prophet. Sadly, admitting publicly to error is rare in the prophetic arena.

12.) Do they demand allegiance to their revelation, or do they leave the results to Jesus?

Years ago, a young prophetic person told those of us who were under his leadership that we must pray diligently for his “word” to come to pass. He said if it didn’t happen, it would be our fault. Ahem.

13.) Does my spirit feel uneasy while I’m listening to the prophet?

Uneasiness is an important tool by which the Holy Spirit helps us discern. It can mean something is off. Take a little time to weigh your lack of peace, in case it is simply your flesh resisting. But most likely your sense is correct.

Even if you can’t put your finger on it, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust the Holy Spirit to help you discern this. There have been times I have sensed the spirit of fear attached to the words of certain prophets. At other times, the sense was indefinable, and yet I knew something was wrong.

Some time back, I watched a video of a popular prophet. It just didn’t set well. Several months later, he was exposed for borrowing the predictions of a psychic and mouthing them as his own prophetic revelation. Ick. My sense of uneasiness bore out to be valid.

14.) Do their prophetic words come across as a curse? Do they only prophesy catastrophes?

God does speak stern warnings to His people at times, but He always has a redemptive purpose in warning us. He does not enjoy the prospect of calamity. A prophet who seems to relish prophesying destruction is not of a right spirit.

15.) What kind of fruit are they bearing?

Are their personal lives an absolute mess? Are they living in sin? Are the people they minister to ending up wounded?

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits you shall know them.”  — Matthew 7:15-20

Asking questions such as these can help us grow in accurate discerning of what is truly from God and what is only of the flesh (or worse). If we use them as guidelines, the Holy Spirit will step in and fine-tune our discerning of spirits, so that we are not fooled by those whom God is not truly sending.

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Guidelines for Good Prophecy (Part 3)

Under the New Covenant in Christ, we don’t stone prophets who prophesy inaccurately (although sometimes I see harsh comments from people who would like to!). Instead, God has given us safeguard measures to be used within the Church to protect us from false or inaccurate prophecy.

He has now made the ability to prophesy available to all believers. “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:31). A key phrase in that verse is, “that all may learn.” In making prophecy available to every believer, the Lord has also allowed for us to learn how to do it right over a period of time. Learning to hear God accurately is a process. So is learning to prophesy accurately.

Many of the modern-day prophets who are now known for getting their words right did not start out hitting the bullseye every time. They made mistakes. But they submitted themselves to mentors who patiently taught them, picked them up and dusted them off when they fell on their noses, and then sent them back out to try again. Thank God for shepherds like that!

Each of us who wish to prophesy must be willing to submit to a mentoring process as well. Not being open to learning from others indicates pride. Most of us start out prideful to some extent, but if we are ever to be a blessing to the body of Christ, we’re going to have to be teachable and let God refine us. God shaves away our pride through correction, making embarrassing mistakes, and bearing the brunt of criticism or ridicule, as well as other forms of painful refinement. God needs broken, crucified people to speak for Him. If we’re not broken, we end up speaking only for our own egos — and, spiritually speaking, that smells really bad.

Besides mentors, God guards the body of believers, as well as the person who prophesies, from inaccurate or even utterly false prophecy through allowing corporate discernment of whatever prophetic words are given. Discerning can be done by prophetic mentors and pastors, but others in the church may also fill the discerning role. Let’s look at a couple of verses which talk about this:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and [then] let the others judge [discern; weigh].1 Corinthians 14:29

Do not despise prophesying. Prove [judge; discern; weigh] all things; hold fast that which is good.1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21

If we’re going to prophesy, we should already have done some weighing of what we’re about to say before we speak. But once it is said, it is out of our hands. Others in the church now have the responsibility to discern what we’ve spoken. We don’t exclusively judge our own words, because we are not a law unto ourselves. We are members of a body, and the other members assist us with their discernment — for the entire congregation’s protection as well as ours. This is really risky to our pride, but if the family of God is functioning properly, there will be grace given, and we will benefit in the long run.

What if the church family isn’t functioning well? Truthfully, this is the case a lot of the time. Too many prophetic people have ended up in the boneyard because of it. But God will use even the horrible experiences to shape us and bring us into a greater depth of accuracy in the prophetic, if we will lean into Him and let Him heal our hurts, rather than becoming angry and bitter.

If you can, find a group of Christians, whether a church congregation or a home fellowship group, where you feel safe in making mistakes as you learn. This may be a group which is in addition to your church family. If you don’t know of one, ask the Lord to lead you to one. He is very good at setting up circumstances so that we come in contact with the people we need in our lives.

And don’t give up on using the gifts which God has planted in you because of some bad experiences. God hasn’t given up on you. Besides, we’ve all had some pretty bad experiences. It goes with the territory of taking a risk and stepping out into the spiritual gifts.

Next time, I will give you some criteria I use in discerning all those prophecies we see out there on the Internet.

Previous — Part 2
Next — Things I Look for in a Prophet

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy