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How To Have Fun Reading the Bible

July 25, 2013

I can just hear you now, “How in the world can anyone have fun reading the Bible? Lady, you need to get out more if you think reading the Bible is fun!”

Okay, I get it. Just let me explain.

Many years ago, a few of us gathered every morning for prayer. After prayer, we would choose a block of scripture and sit in a circle. The first person would begin reading, and when the scripture mentioned someone’s name, we would substitute it with our name. For example, Acts 1:5 says, “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,…”

If I were reading, I would say, “And in those days Jackie stood up in the midst of the disciples, etc.” We were amazed at how real the scriptures became, and it was fun!

Instead of reading rows of black ink on white paper, each verse contained real people living in real circumstances with whom we could identify. I might replace Peter’s name with mine and then we would discuss how it felt to be Peter. Sometimes the discussion was about how Peter, himself, felt in the circumstances. Each verse is different and brings a different challenge to look a little deeper.

Let’s try this using Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road in Acts 9:2-19, in the Amplified Bible. The major benefit of the Amplified Bible is that the scholars do the Hebrew and Greek word searches for you and put the translation in parenthesis. If you prefer the King James, or any other translation, I recommend the use of the Amplified, at least, as a reference during your time of study.

First, let’s invite the Holy Spirit into our holy imaginations to guide us as we step into each scripture and feel the emotion, as you become the one having the experience. This is an amazing way to study the Scriptures. Are you ready? Let’s go!

The first two verses in Acts 9 give us the context and Saul’s mindset prior to his conversion. Remember, from this point on, you are Saul.

Acts 9:1,2 Meanwhile Saul, still drawing his breath hard from threatening and murderous desire against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 And requested of him letters to the synagogues at Damascus [authorizing him], so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way [of life as determined by faith in Jesus Christ], he might bring them bound [with chains] to Jerusalem.

When you enter the chambers of the high priest, you’re at a ten on your 1-10 emotional Richter scale. You are seething over these disciples who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. Can you feel his hate?

You are about to request letters authorizing you to bind and chain anyone who confesses this Christ as Lord and Savior in the city of Damascus, to which you are about to travel. I’m the high priest. As you begin talking, I feel your emotion, as a very persuasive Saul presents his case. I feel your intensity and even admire the courage of your conviction. As high priest, you are convincing me to grant your request. I believe you, because you believe you. You are a very determined Saul.

Let’s discuss it. Some things come to mind as I consider this scripture. Do you know any unbelievers as determined as Saul? Have you wondered how in the world they will ever get saved? Take a moment and feel the strength of Saul’s determination. At this point, I think it’s fair to say the only thing that will change Saul’s mind is a miracle. Are you relating with some of the people you know? See how this works! Let’s get back into the scriptures.

Vss. 3 and 4 begin the miracle.

Acts 9:3,4 Now as he traveled on, he came near to Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, 4 And he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me [harassing, troubling, and molesting Me]?

You, Saul, are walking along and suddenly you see a flash of light all around you. I’m there, too, as one of the men with you, and I see you fall to the ground. I’m stunned as I see you lying there, not moving a muscle. It occurs to me that maybe you’re dead!

Acts 9:5 And Saul said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance].

Suddenly, there’s a voice but where is it coming from? No one is there. It’s just a voice. I’m terrified, and I can only imagine what you are feeling since the voice is directed at you. You began to speak and I was both relieved, that you were alive, and shocked, that you had the courage to respond.

Acts 9:6 Trembling and astonished he asked, Lord, what do You desire me to do? The Lord said to him, But arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.

You were trembling, yet I expected you to ask what was going on, but you didn’t. You responded with the attitude of a servant in total submission and obedience to his Master. Wow! This is not the Saul I know! This was a completely different Saul. He didn’t act the same, talk the same, or even look the same. I watched as you rose to your feet ready to obey His command.

Acts 9:7 The men who were accompanying him were unable to speak [for terror], hearing the voice but seeing no one.

I’m one of the men, and we are all in shock. None of us could speak. In my mind, I’m asking, Did what just happened, happen? Did the sound of a voice come out of nowhere and speak? I’m not sure any of us can answer that question. We didn’t see anyone. We just heard this sound. But, something happened, because the once strong and determined Saul in vss. 1 & 2 is now a compliant, willing servant ready to carry out his Master’s orders. What happened here?

Let’s step out of the scriptures for a bit of instruction. Acts 9:7 needs to be clarified. In this verse, it says the men heard the voice of the Lord, but in Acts 22:9, where Paul recounts his experience, he says those who were with him did not hear the voice of the Lord, which appears to be a contradiction. The Amplified Bible clears it up by defining the Greek words in the original manuscripts, Acts 22:9 Now the men who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear [the sound of the uttered words of] the voice of the One Who was speaking to me [so that they could understand it].” So, the men with Saul heard a sound like a voice, but could not understand the words. This is a good lesson in bible study. The bible never contradicts itself, which is why I like the Amplified. Most of the other translations don’t give as much detail, and in this case, leave you wondering why there’s a contradiction. Go ahead, look it up for yourself. Always let the bible interpret the bible, as we have just done.

Let’s rejoin the men on the road in vs. 8. Are you having fun yet?

Acts 9:8 Then Saul got up from the ground, but though his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

We watched you get up from the ground and realize that you were blind. You didn’t act a bit fearful, but there had to be some fear present. Why didn’t you run the other way? There HAD to be a part of you that wanted to run and hide, rather than be obedient to the Man who just blinded you. Where was the fear? Where was the confusion? All I feel is peace. Hey, wait a minute! You’re not the only one who’s acting strange. Look at us. We are actually walking hand-in-hand leading you to Damascus. What happened to us?

The Word doesn’t definitively record the fate of Saul’s companions, but there are some clues. His companions became obedient, too. Obviously, Saul had to tell them what the Lord said, and he must have asked them to escort him to Damascus. Instead of reacting in fear by running away, they led Saul straight to Damascus. Why didn’t they run? I think they were saved, too. Is it possible they were feeling the same peace Saul was feeling? Don’t be too quick to regard their heightened emotions as a lack of peace. I’m sure all of them were sitting at 10 on their emotional Richter scales, but underneath that emotion, there had to be a deep KNOWING that leading Saul to Damascus was the right thing to do. Otherwise, they would have run like scared rabbits! Do you agree? It’s worth thinking about.

By now, my guy is gone, but this little exercise can still continue because I can step into Saul with you. Remember, the scriptures are alive to anyone who wants to live them!

Acts 9:9 And he was unable to see for three days, and he neither ate nor drank [anything].

As I step into Saul, I feel him evaluating the situation with his inner dialog. The only thing I know is that I’m in the city of Damascus, I’m in a strange person’s house, my companions are gone, I’m alone, and I’M BLIND! I feel as vulnerable as a newborn. I’m unable to perform the most basic of human needs. I can’t feed myself, nor can I find a drink of water. I’m completely helpless! The only thing I can do is wait…, and pray… . Where are you Jesus? Will You really do what You said You would do? Will You show up? What’s happened to me? What’s taking You so long?

Can you relate?

Acts 9:10 Now there was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he answered, Here am I, Lord.

Hum, another willing servant to step into. Let’s see how this one feels...

Acts 9:11-14 And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying [there]. 12 And he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias enter and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. 13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard many people tell about this man, especially how much evil and what great suffering he has brought on Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 Now he is here and has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call upon Your name.

This servant feels much different from Saul. I’m overpowered by his fear. I didn’t feel fear in Saul’s emotion. I understood Saul’s emotion differently than this guy. It was as though Ananias didn’t even hear the part about the vision. That should have calmed him down, but it didn’t.

My holy imagination can imagine his feelings screaming, I’m terrified that this Saul is going to capture me, and my fellow believers, and You’re asking me to go find him. How could you, Lord?”

Acts 9:15-17 But the Lord said to him, Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the descendants of Israel; 16 For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake. 17 So Ananias left and went into the house. And he laid his hands on Saul and said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you along the way by which you came here, has sent me that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Look at how patient the Lord is with this guy. Here he was a moment ago, murmuring and complaining, giving the Lord a laundry list of why He should reconsider HIS request. In a sense, Ananias was blind, too. He was so focused on the ways of the world and its authority, he was blind to the fact that the Creator of the Universe, the Name above every other Name, the Ultimate Authority, was talking to him. God patiently explains, even though He doesn’t have to, the reason for His request, and not only that, He gives him additional information that had nothing to do with His request.

That seemed to do the trick, because Ananias instantly became compliant after the Lord finished telling him about all the pain and suffering Saul would have to bear.

I’m feeling some of his thoughts. Well, as long as he’s going to get some payback for all the misery he caused the believers, I don’t mind doing this.

I’m not saying that was his motivation but, after all, he’s human. That thought could have crossed his mind, and, if it did, he might have taken it captive, and gotten rid of it. It’s possible. I guess we’ll never know, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine. The good news is that Ananias was obedient to the Lord.

Can you see how alive the Scriptures can be if you invade them with your imagination? If you are bothered by the word imagination, perhaps you like the word, meditate, better. The Word does tell us to meditate on the Word, day and night. (Ps. 1:2) In the final analysis, the Scripture is always the basis of interpretation, but you may understand more, if you become one. Besides, it’s fun! Let’s get the rest of the story.

Acts 9:18,19 And instantly something like scales fell from [Saul’s] eyes, and he recovered his sight. Then he arose and was baptized, 19 And after he took some food, he was strengthened. For several days [afterward] he remained with the disciples at Damascus.

I’m Saul again. Holy cow! What just fell out of my eyes? Wait a minute, I can see, I can see, I CAN SEE AGAIN!! Can’t you just see Saul embracing Ananias and swinging him around in pure joy? You know Ananias was feeling the joy of the moment, too!

When Ananias felt the sincerity of Saul’s joy, I think it supercharged Ananias’ trust in Saul. The next verse gives us some indication of this trust. The first thing Saul does is get baptized, and then, he ate (I would have eaten first). Then it says he hung around for several days with other disciples. Who do you think baptized Saul, and prepared his food? It had to be Ananias. If Saul hung around with other disciples, Ananias must have introduced him to his friends. I wonder how willing Ananias would have been to include Saul, had they not shared such a powerful moment.

Can you see that by putting a little humanity in the Scriptures, it changes the whole dynamic? They come alive. This little exercise brings up many more questions. I want to know what was happening inside Saul during those three days of destitution. Don’t you? Friend, if your answer is, yes, then you just had fun reading the Bible!

I feel certain that if you give this a try, you will begin to look forward to reading the Word. It won’t be a daily chore that you never get done. You will close the door of guilt that the devil has used to convince you the Word is soooooo booooorrrring! Guilt is a trap of the enemy, and one we fall into all too often. You can beat the devil at his own game. And, to be perfectly honest, that’s the part I like the best!

Give it a try. Then, Friend me on my Facebook page, Empty Vessels for Christ, and post your comments.

Have some fun with the Word as you “seek ye first the Kingdom of God…,” and watch your prayers get answered!

To God be all the Glory!

 

Birth Determines Identity

February 5, 2013

Nearly 25 years ago, God gave me a life-changing impartation through a powerfully anointed man of God named, Dr. Bill Gillham, about the old nature vs. the new nature, and our true identity in Christ.  I still carry this revelation with me today, and, by God’s Grace, I hope to pass it on to you.   

Birth determines identity.  In the natural realm, we were born human from our human parents.  We didn’t have to grow up to become a human being.  We were human the second we were born.  Your identity was human.   So it is in the spiritual realm. When we were born, we were born from our spiritual parent, Adam.  That means we were born with his sin nature. In other words, we were born with a human spirit that was alive to the world but dead to God; a/k/a, a dead spirit.  When we were born from above, or born-again, our old Adamic nature DIED (the old man), and God became our spiritual parent.  We received His divine nature, in the form of God, the Holy Spirit, the instant we were birthed into the spiritual realm.  Our identity became exactly like the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!!! 

The battle within us is not between the old nature and the new nature, i.e., the old me vs. the new me.  If that were true, we would be a house divided against itself (Luke 11:17), and, of course, we know that God cannot fall.  The old man (sin nature) is dead, and incapable of coming back to life.  Jesus Christ is the only one Who has resurrection power; and, as born-again believers in Christ, we have it, too. (Rom. 8:11)   It’s part of our new nature. (Rom. 6:4-6; Gal. 2:20)   The battle we fight is the same battle Paul fought in Romans 7.  The bible calls it the power of sin (Rom. 7:20) that resides in our members (our unsaved flesh), (Rom. 7:23).  Temptation comes through our old habit and thinking patterns that still remain in our brains.  Remember, the brain is simply a body organ that will die when we die.  It’s flesh.  The temptation is NOT THE SAME OLD YOU that was unworthy to be in the presence of the Lord.  God killed that guy when you were born-again! He’s history! 

You might argue that it's just semantics, and what difference does it make how it’s said as long as people know what you mean.  The bible has a lot to say about the power of our words.  I have discovered that at the depth of this understanding lies BIBLICAL SELF-ESTEEM (our true identity in Christ) and freedom from the self-condemnation we feel. 

As believers, so many of us struggle with the issue of self-esteem.  I did.  The bible says that at salvation we were SEALED with the Holy Spirit of promise. (Eph. 1:13)  When we received Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit and our dead human spirit became one; the life of Jesus Christ was born in us (the only life we have, now-Gal. 2:20) and that union was sealed.  We are a SEALED UNIT with God, the Holy Spirit!  It’s very much like the canning jars your grandmother used when she made jelly.  The jars were sealed SO THE GOOD STAYED PURE AND NO CONTAMINATION FROM THE OUTSIDE COULD GET IN!  Meditate on that for a moment.  Once I understood who the REAL me was (my spirit), God further solidified this revelation by reminding me that nothing unclean can go before Him, (Rev. 21:27), therefore; this HAS to be true. 

Dear sisters and brothers, this is why you have free access to His throne room, and why you can run into His arms anytime you desire!  In a nutshell, YOU ARE A PERFECT TEN!  God sees His children as perfect tens!  You are one-third perfect.  I am a spirit being made in the image of God; I possess a soul; and I live in a house called a body. (1 Thes. 5:23-24).  I am NOT a body with a spirit and soul. I am a spirit being with a soul and a body.  My body is not the real me.  My spirit is the real me!  There's a huge difference.  Your spirit is what got saved and is fully redeemed right now.  Your soul is in the process of being redeemed, and your flesh will be redeemed when Jesus returns. The temptations come through the old habit and thinking patterns (not the old you) burned into our brains, and we can fight them with the resurrection power already in us.  Everything we need to live a victorious Christian life is in our SEALED UNIT!  You've already got it!

This miracle happened at the Cross, but so many in the body of Christ don't have a clear understanding of the amazing things Jesus accomplished at the Cross.  They suffer defeat because of their lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)!  When I share this with the believers God puts before me, I have yet to see it fail.  They are instantly changed.  Their human self-esteem is changed to BIBLICAL self-esteem, and the victory of their true identity comes. 

By the way, when the soul lines up with the Word of God in our sealed units, it gets in on all this “good stuff”, too.  The soul and body is another whole teaching in itself.  

I urge you to take this before the Lord and let Him reveal it to you.   He wants to show you so His Son will be glorified through your renewed mind and new behaviors.  That’s the desire of HIS HEART.  Think of it this way.  We’ve always gone to Him asking for the desire of our heart, but have you ever thought that YOU could give Him the desire of HIS HEART?  You can. 

If you want to bless your heavenly Father, then give Him the opportunity to glorify His Son through you and touch the hurting people of this world!  To God be all the glory.           

 

From A Mother's Pain Follow-up

May 21, 2012
It's only been a few days since I posted my last article, From A Mother's Pain.  God has moved powerfully in these last few days and I felt compelled to share it with you.  After I posted the article, I received an email from my niece, who has a doctorate in Christian family counseling.  She wanted me to know that she had read the article and wanted to share her thoughts.  She said I vividly portrayed my struggle and pain over my daughter's salvation, and understood that as a mother I wanted nothing more than to know my daughter is safe and in the arms of God.  She said that as she read on, she was hoping and anticipating a confirmation of this but I ended at the same place I started - not knowing.  Frankly, I hadn't thought of it that way, and since my instruction from the Lord was to write about that specific topic and post it for others as a source of comfort, I thought I should follow-up with "the rest of the story" just in case you, too, were left hanging.  I want to thank my niece for her part in my healing journey.  She's very special to me.

The next day I was praying in my prayer journal asking God about another matter, when the topic abruptly changed.  I found myself talking about my daughter's salvation again.  I heard the Lord say, "Go to Luke 15 to know Me as Jesus knew Me."  It was the parable of the lost child who went to the far country only to return in total defeat.  It was vs.20  that got me, " So he got up and came to his (own) father. But while he was still a long way off, (my emphasis) his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness (for him); and he ran and embraced him and kissed him fervently."  Man or woman of God, it is my prayer that what I'm about to tell you will take you to a place of peace that passes all human understanding. 

When I read, still a long way off, I realized that my daughter had not reached the point where she could reveal her feelings outwardly and she was still a long way off from being able to, but God saw it in her, and HE was moved with pity and tenderness, and HE ran and embraced her and kissed her fervently.  I have read that Scripture many times since her death and always thought it was me doing the pitying, and embracing, and kissing, but this time I realized it was God!

Please hear me, the devil was taking the precious Word of God that was nestled in my heart, and preaching it back to me like the law, and I believed it.   I was in so much pain that I didn't even perceive the lack of grace.

Your circumstances may be different than mine but we share the same pain.  If you can relate to anything I have said, please take it to your heavenly Father and let Him reveal the truth of what you are going through.   He is so loving and faithful.  He does not want you to suffer anymore.   If you need prayer, I have a website at www.emptyvesselsforchrist.com, where you can leave a prayer request.  If you would like to talk, that can be arranged.  Leave your information and I will get back to you as soon as possible. 

I don't even know you, but I feel very connected to you.  Please don't carry this burden alone.  God wants you to cast your burden on Him and He uses empty vessels like us who have poured out everything so God can fill us with His comfort for you.  Please reach out and God will touch you.

To God be all the glory! 


 

From A Mother's Pain

May 19, 2012

If you lose a child while still wondering about their salvation; the wondering becomes worse than the loss itself.

If you can relate to this comment, then you are in the right place. One day, out of shear desperation, I found myself searching the internet for an article such as this, and found very little. I found several comforting websites but nothing specific to this kind of torment. I am very familiar with your pain, and I wrote this article for you.

I am a born-again believer. I seek God, I believe His Word, and every day, I try my very best to live according to His will for my life. About 16 months ago, I lost my 35 year old daughter, Kara.

I was in my 40’s when I came to the Lord, and I had three children that didn’t have a clue what being born again meant. They were teenagers when I began “training them up.” Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” My husband, at this point, was not saved but didn’t stand in my way as I began to make changes. Kara was 13, and my youngest, when I began my walk with God. Our background was Catholic. We went to church and the kids went to Catholic schools but when we left church on Sunday, we left our faith there. The kids knew about God and church but it wasn’t openly discussed in our home. It was something we did on Sunday to fulfill an obligation. I actually remember saying, “Let’s go to church early so we can get it over with.” There’s something wrong with that!

The first thing I did after being saved was to find a church that taught the Word of God, and then I put the kids in schools that supported my born-again experience. We all had a lot to learn but I diligently tried to teach them what I was learning. It was some years later before my husband received the Lord, so I became the spiritual head of my home and assumed the responsibility of exposing my children to proper teaching about God. When Kara was around 15, we shared some significant moments that made me believe she was born-again, and as she progressed in her high school years, I had no reason to think otherwise.

Kara was my overachiever. She went on to college, and then to law school, and on to earn an MBA in business. She had traveled all over the world, lived in China for a while, and even learned their language. Kara was now a student of the world with, literally, a world-wide view.

To the natural eye, she had everything going for her when tragedy struck. Through a series of 3 very debilitating events in her life, she was struck down and eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from which she never recovered. Towards the end, she became a different person. She was living with me but I couldn’t reach her. I have never seen such a tormented soul in all my life. Our family tried to get help but she refused. I do remember the day she came to me and said she envied what I had, and referenced the movie, Angels and Demons, by quoting a line that said, “Faith is a gift that I have yet to receive.” I have played that conversation over so many times in my mind asking God, “Is that enough to be saved, Lord?”

She wanted it but the world and uncontrollable events in her life had blinded her to the faith she once had. Will a loving and merciful God allow her to be lost to such deception? How could He? I kept going back to these scriptures, “God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us” (Acts 15:8). “For the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Isn’t it possible that underneath all the decay of the world lay a pure heart crying out from her subconscious mind?

I even had a word from the Lord through a giant of a godly man in my life, reminding me that I didn’t know if she cried out to God in her torment. I believed that, yet I was still living a life of torment over the condition and location of her spirit and soul. When the scriptures tell us to cry out to God, does crying out with the subconscious mind count? After seeing her suffer so much, I couldn’t bear to think of her suffering for all eternity. I would fight the devil but he always came back trying to present these unthinkable images. My self-talk was - I know the Word and what it says about salvation. I know we must repent of our sin, believe in our heart, and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and we will be saved. That’s what I did! I also know what Kara said and it wasn’t anything like that. "Oh, God, is it enough to just want it, even if it’s in our subconscious mind?” The problem was that I knew too much Word to just sweep this under the rug, so every day I struggled between the scriptures of the heart and what I knew consciously. It was eating me alive. There are so many things I don’t know; was Kara really saved in her early years?  Did she once have faith to believe God?  Did she cry out in her time of need? These are things I will never know on this side of heaven. “God, what is the solution?”

It was last Sunday morning during praise and worship. The day before, I had my usual battle with the enemy, so before church, I went to my secret place to discuss it with the Lord. I journal my prayers, and as I was writing, God began speaking to me. He began asking me questions like, “Jackie, do you really trust Me? Am I really first in your life? Do you really believe My Word?” I was amazed at what I realized. In a nutshell, I had a Jacob moment; I wrestled with God.* It all boiled down to facing myself with what I actually believed, and the depths at which I was willing to go to proclaim my faith and belief in God. Would I place Him and His Word above even the death of my precious daughter?

The following is a quote from my journal:

“I suspect this is as close to torture for the sake of Your Name as one can get without actually going through the physical torturous acts.” Somehow, I was relating to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as He sweat great drops of blood!  Finally, I relented and said, “I choose You, Father.”

Then I went to church. It was during praise and worship that God gave me the quote that drew you into this article. He said He would take me to a place of peace so I can help others who are being tormented with the same pain.

Man or woman of God, as much as I’d like to, I cannot give you the definitive answer you are looking for, but maybe if you go to God, much like I did, and have a simple discussion, He will show you some amazing things, too. Perhaps it’s time for your Jacob moment.

Like Jacob, He touched the hollow of my thigh. For the rest of my life, I will limp with the pain of the loss of my child, but at the same time, I will be walking with my all-knowing, loving Father, in Whom I trust. Perhaps He will take you to the same place of peace where, together, we can believe we will once again see our children. (Philippians 4:7)

 

*Read Jacob’s story: Gen. 32:24-28 (I suggest the Amplified Bible for a clearer understanding)

 

 

The Prophetic Word of God

September 20, 2010
The following testimony is from a lady who has profoundly affected my life.  Her commitment to prayer sets the bar for those of us who call Empty Vessels home.  Be blessed in the Name of the Lord.


The Prophetic Word of God
by Debbie Jean Dodson
September 18, 2010

If we could just take a step back and look at where we once were and where we are now we could see the Prophetic Word of God as it has happened in our life.  We may not always feel like doing what God has called us to do, but do you realize that every good and every bad thing we have faced in the past was necessary to mold us so we could accomplish His calling in our life.
 
My life has been pretty much filled up with helping other people and taking care of them.  It started out when my sister, Donna was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 2 years.  Hot tub baths, 8 aspirin every 4 hours, therapy for range of motion was a daily thing.  I had to help with that.  At 12 yrs. of age I was the one responsible to get her up, dressed and off to school, then clean the house before I went to school.  Then along came my niece, Michelle, who is now 33 yrs. of age and lives in Milestone, a residential home for the disabled.  From birth to about 5 yrs. old, I helped take care of her, sometimes taking her for her daily therapy.  My mom and dad were both diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was Gods choice to take them home to their reward.  I helped take care of my dad who was bedridden, then had to pretty much take care of my mom as she got worse.  After my mom passed away, I took on helping my sister, Donna, when she needed it.  As she has gotten older, she faces multiple health issues and is needing a PA to help her in several areas.  I have said all that to say this; I was working 40 hrs a week, then coming home and helping her.  Pretty much burned out.  Not from helping her, just tired.
 
I went to a Women's conference and was called out by a Woman of God.  She said, "Are you a nurse?" When I said no she gave me a confused look then she said, "Well you have a nursing spirit.  Sometimes you ask God, "Why do I have to do this?" She then said, "God said You are the only one able to do it and you are willing to do it."  It was a year later that another woman of God called me out at the same Women's Conference.  She said, "You have lived a life of sacrifice for others." Then she said, "God said that now He is going to pay you back for all that you have done." At this time I was working long hours, not getting home till 7 pm then helping my sister.  I was making 8.82 an hr. and pinching pennies.

LISTEN TO THIS!  Less than a month later, they finally approved me as a PA for my sister. I had flexible hours and I was getting paid for what I already did.  I went from $8.82/hr. to $11.20/hr.  If I had not gone through all that I went through; if I had not learned at an early age how to put others first, I would have not been able to be there for my sister. Yeah, sometimes I want a different path, but the thing is, I would not trade my family for anything and I am at peace and comfortable with what I do. God is good, all the time, and all the time God is good.




 

Who Am I - Really? How God Showed Me My True Identity in Christ

September 9, 2010
Have you ever stumbled across a phrase or sentence, or even a movie (Finding Nemo was a huge one for me), that finally took what you were carrying around in your head, sometimes for years, and placed it directly into your heart? That’s exactly what happened to me about a year ago. I was reading a book about how we died in Christ and became a new creation, and stumbled upon a simple phrase in the form of a question that changed my life. I love when that happens. Actually, I don’t even remember the name of the book. 

I became a Christian in August 1988.  As a baby Christian, I was fortunate to find a ministry called, Lifetime Guarantee, whose founders, Bill and Anabel Gillham, were gifted in explaining who we are in Christ, and how to live the victorious Christian life. Their use of humor and practical examples made it simple and easy to understand. I attended their basic seminar and bought the corresponding set of tapes containing six cassettes. I was eager to get this teaching inside me, so I continued studying and listening, and managed to wear out two sets of the same tapes.  I then purchased the advanced seminar set containing the same number of tapes and continued on with the same gusto.  From that effort as a new Christian, God placed within me, a good understanding of who I was in Christ and how to live the victorious Christian life.  I knew I had a solid foundation upon which to build.  Remember, this was twenty-two years ago.  Little did I know that much of what I had learned still remained in my head.   

You may be asking, “Why is she telling me all this?”  Well, here’s why. This one little question that I read in a book, the name of which I can’t even remember, changed my life forever, and I’m hoping it will change yours, too.

Here’s the rest of the story!  It was around September 2009 when I read this book. It was about dying in Christ at the cross and rising in Him as a new creation.  Much to my surprise, in between the dying and raising up a new creation appeared this life-changing question:
 
WHICH ONE OF YOU DOWN IN THIS GRAVE HAS RESURRECTION POWER?

I had to think about it a while to get the full implication.  Here’s the mental process that started me on that proverbial 18” journey from my head to my heart. In order to personalize and own this supernatural phenomenon, I had to see it as something God did just for me. No one else was there, just Jesus and me.  I suggest you do the same. 

My inward dialog went something like this, “Since Jesus is the only one of us Who has resurrection power, I’m a dead goose; I’m stuck down here; I can’t get out in my own strength. Now, what am I going to do?” 

Part of my early teaching imparted a clear (or clear as is humanly possible) understanding of how God operates outside the time dimension, and I knew He did a whole bunch of stuff, like choosing me in Christ, before He ever said, “Let there be light.”  Check it out.

Eph. 1:4 NLT. (Scripture in bold text)
4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ [underline-my emphasis] to be holy and without fault in his eyes. [My comment:  Since I was in Christ before God made the world, that means when Christ showed up on planet earth, I was in Him.  It also means that when He began His ministry, I was in Him; when He raised Lazarus from the dead, I was in Him, and when He willingly crawled up on that cross, I was in Him.

Here’s what happened next:

Gal. 2:20 NLT. (Scripture in bold text)
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. [My comment:  I was in Him on the cross, and when He died, I died, and so did the power of sin in my life (the “old man”, or who I used to be in Adam, is dead), and I don’t have to sin anymore (Col 1:13 CEV).  So, when He was buried, I was buried, but wait a minute, since he’s the only one Who has resurrection power, how am I going to get out of this grave? 

Here’s how: 

Like a father saving his child from a burning building, Jesus grabbed me, and as we began to move, I saw Him reach deeply into His chest and pull out His heart that contained His mind, thoughts, feelings and will for my life (1 Cor. 2:16), and place it within me. With power greater than a rocket ship taking off for outer space (His Resurrection power), we shot up out of that grave, and I instantly became a new creation in Christ Jesus. [1 Pet.1:3]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, [My comment:  I live by faith, believing that Jesus’ life is in me] who loved me and gave himself for me.  And that’s when I BECAME Galatians 2:20.

I believe by faith that I can’t even “tie my shoes”* without Christ doing it through me.  In a nutshell, there’s only one person Who can live the Christian life, and that’s Jesus Christ.* He wants to use my unique personality through my specially formed body to express His life through me to a hurting and dying world.  That’s the only life I have* - His life - and that’s the only life you have, too.  I urge you to make this personal.  He would have gone to the cross if you were the only one in this world.  That’s how much He loves you. Step out in faith, today, and begin the most exciting journey of your life - the 18 inches from your head to your heart. To God be all the glory! 

*Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee quotes


 

Praise and Worship Your Way to Joy

September 2, 2010
This prayer was birthed from a mother’s pain after a failed attempt to help her child.  In an attempt to understand what happened, she went to her prayer journal to pour out her heart to God.  As she wrote, God began revealing what He was doing in both their lives.  When she came to the end of her journal entry, she realized God had replaced her pain with the peace and joy that surpasses all human understanding.  In my opinion, there is no purer condition of the human heart (Psa. 24:3-5) on this side of heaven than a mother’s (father’s) plea for her child.  God rewarded her with words of praise she otherwise was completely incapable of uttering.  Here is what came forth.  What a mighty God we serve!


I came to You with the heaviest of hearts;
Broken and bruised.
You listened.

In my pain, I pleaded,
“Please make sense of this horror.”
Your tender hand reached down and
Cleared away the invasion of tears that
Filled and blinded my heart. 
You lifted me on high
And began to explain.

If I can understand, I will praise You,
But, if I do not, I will still praise You.
Father, my love and praise is not
Subject to Your performance!
My love and praise for You exists solely
Because of what Jesus did for me at the Cross.

I am Your devoted servant and designed
To praise and worship You now and for
All eternity.  I was made for Your good
Pleasure and I submit to that role and to
You. (Rev. 4:11 KJV; Eph. 1:9)
At times, my flesh may “kick” at this,
But my spirit understands.

One day, I will not only worship You
But I will fully understand the reason You
Created the one and only me.

Today, I see through a glass darkly (faith),
Someday, there will be an exchange. 
I will turn in my faith and You will
Replace it with Your presence and the
Face of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor.13:12)

Then, I will understand.
I can hardly wait!

In Your Name I pray, Amen.











 

Rocky II (Like You've Never Seen Before)

April 8, 2010
Don’t you just love God’s creative ways when talking to us?  He talks to me through movies.  One that comes to mind is Rocky II.

He started with the scene where Rocky asks Adrian to marry him, then He went to the wedding scene, and the walk home. I loved that Rocky carried Adrian the entire way home.  Whata guy!  The next scene was their marriage bed, where he kissed her lips so tenderly (Men, hang in there to the end; it gets better, I promise!).  It was at this point, He began to speak to me with thoughts in the form of a conversation.  He asked, “Jackie, what do you see?“  I responded, “Father, I see Rocky treating Adrian like a beautiful, tender flower that he treasures more than anything in his life.  His eyes reveal the special place in his heart where she can be safe & protected from harm.  Rocky loves her exactly as she is; he loves her unconditionally, and Adrian knows she is free to express herself just as You made her - for him.  She can trust Rocky with every area of her life.  I could tell, at that moment, they believed they were the only two people on earth.  I also see that under Rocky’s beautiful tenderness was a fierce contender ready to strike out at the slightest threat against her.”  Then He said, “Jackie, what does this tell you?’’  I said, “Father, it’s clear that I’m describing our great love affair - You, the Triune God, and me. The remarkable part is that You make me feel like Your one and only, yet I know there are many, many others who have this beautiful relationship with You, too.”  He said, “Continue watching, child.”  I responded, “Yes, Sir.”

I came to the scene where Rocky and Adrian were having a disagreement.  Remember?  Rocky tells Adrian that he was meant to be a fighter, not a television personality doing commercials.  But, she objects.  I noticed how, even when they disagreed, his tenderness was still front and center.  I loved the line, “Adrian, I never asked you to stop being a woman.  Please, please, don’t ask me to stop being a man.” “Please.”  I said, “Lord, this reminds me of the gentleness of Your Holy Spirit when He corrects me, and how I still feel loved, even when He points out my mistakes.”  He responded, “Exactly.” 

Then, I came to the scene where Adrian is in a coma and Rocky is crying over her bed.  I heard the Holy Spirit say, “This is how your Father grieves when sin creeps into your life or you stray away from Him.  He’s always there waiting for you to wake up, cheering you on, encouraging you, speaking His Word, and telling you to keep listening.  And, when you finally wake up (realize), the first thing you notice is the joy of the Lord welcoming you back.”

Adrian wakes up, and Rocky tells her that if she wants him to call off the fight with Apollo Creed, he will.  Remember what she says?  She tells him  there’s only one thing she wants him to do - WIN!  Unity, at last, and Rocky is propelled to a place where he knows his dream will come true.  Then I heard my Father say, “Child, see how happy I am when your thoughts become agreeable to My Will, and how I will bless you by causing your plans to be established and succeed - you will win the prize!”  (Phil. 3:14; 1 Cor. 9:24; Prov. 16:3) I said, “Yes, I do see, Father.  Thank You.”

The fight scenes were next. By this time, God had opened my eyes so widely that the fight became a vivid illustration of what I would have faced, both here, and eternally, had I not received Christ into my heart as Lord and Savior, and, subsequently, fallen in love with Him.  Did you catch that word, subsequently?  That means I made the commitment first, and then came the love affair.  The enemy wants you to believe it must be the other way around.  In other words, he wants you to believe that if you don’t feel love for Jesus, then you cannot ask Him into your heart.  That’s a lie!  Don’t let him fool you.  And, finally, the victory - the prize.  This tells me how sweet it can be, here, and will be, eternally, in heaven. 

Men, I asked you to hang in there to the end.  I hope you did.  This is a powerful illustration of how to love your wife as Christ loved the church.  He is tender, loving, encouraging, and steadfast; He is our Protector, and Provider; He is in us and we are in Him - we (the church) are one with Him, and we needed performance out of the God-man.*  Think about where we would be if all Jesus had was a “fuzzy” feeling for us.*  I shutter to think!  Your wife needs to see you performing/doing these acts of love.  It isn’t just something “nice” to do.  To her, it’s as necessary as air to breath, and without it, inside, she withers and dies (it‘s called depression).  Let me point out to you, wife, that you have to do your part, too, but we’ll have to save the details for another time. 

I struggled with the title of this article.  At first, I wanted to title it, A Peak Into the Secret Place, because that’s exactly what it is - a modified excerpt from my prayer journal and intimate time with my Father.  He will give me thoughts in the form of an intimate conversation with Him.  That explains the quotes.  It’s just one of the many blessings He’s given me as I have chased Him over the years.

My final comment is for the men. This illustration is focused on the women, but God is just as capable in meeting the needs of a man.  Don’t let the enemy confuse you with his lies.  He will try and tell you that this stuff is just for women and you don’t need all that sappy stuff.  Listen, you can go to Him with whatever needs and concerns you have, and He will communicate with you -  perfectly.  He made you.  He knows exactly what to say and how to say it.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  Trust Him!  Chase Him!  He wants to be caught.  He will reveal amazing things like the Secret Place, and you’ve just had a peak into mine.  I pray that you will find yours.  To Him be all the glory!

 

*Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee