FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: NO ORDINARY APPLE

By Virginia S. Saunders

TRUE BELIEVERS in Jesus Christ were blessed with nine attributes not found among non-believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  These biblical attributes are known as “Fruit of the Holy Spirit”, which helps a believer to walk in righteousness as he draws nearer to Christ.  Neither David nor Solomon, Abraham or Moses, nor the giants of the Old Testament, can lay claim to having had all nine.

These are phenomenal transforming attributes which set apart true Christians. The Fruit of the Spirit were extensions of the supernatural gifts given to the apostles and disciples at Pentecost.  On that fateful morning, the Holy Spirit gave them the praying tongue, gifts of prophecy, gift of  healing, and spiritual fervor to proclaim the message of Jesus.  As they courageously proclaimed the words of Christ, they also manifested the Fruit of the Spirit. True Christians are identified by these fruits, the same attributes of the risen Christ.

Happy is the Christian who has read Galatians 5:18! “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law!  In Galatians 5:22. the Bible said that with the fruit, “against such there is no law”. Having these attributes enable Christians the freedom to serve others.  “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Without the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, one will have to work hard to fulfill the law.

When a person is not filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible said that his flesh will contradict the Spirit. “For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. They oppose each other”. Galatians 5:17.  All the worldly human nature for which the Old Testament law  was written in order to control our evil nature, will be reflected in his actions.

Said Galatians 5:19, “The works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”

Mankind without the Holy Spirit wakes up every morning confronted by these works of the flesh.  It does not take much to push him to commit what is inherently his nature to commit.  Struggling from the knowledge of the Law, he is filled with guilt and condemnation for breaking it at every turn.  As he condemns himself, the more he is inclined to break the law.  Even Paul described this dilemma: “I did not know sin except through the law, and I did not know what it is to covet except that the law said, “You shall not covet”.  But sin, finding an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetousness.  Apart from the law, sin is dead.”

Some of the most heinous crimes against humanity were committed by our ancestors and written in the Old Testament.  It makes one wonder “where is God in all of these?”  It is a relentless battle.  Two thousand years after Jesus Christ, man is still battling against himself. Said Pope Francis, “There are martyrs today and they are many; we are able to say that they are more numerous than in the first centuries.  They are being persecuted, exiled, killed, beheaded for the only reason of being a Christian.”

Look around and see who are those without the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?  They decapitate and persecute those who do not share their belief, national leaders who support them, men and women who divide and devour each other, nations who land grab, officials who rob the public till, college professors whose worldview on pluralism insist all religions are the same, people bursting with religious or racial superiority, and pagans and idolaters.  The list goes on.  And yet, like us, they retire at night with a challenge to do better, only to condemn themselves with guilt because they broke the law.

The Fruit of the Spirit gives us freedom to view and identify the works of the flesh.  Theologian John Piper, founder of desiringGod.org, said in his series “Four Sermons on the Holy Spirit”, “The great problem in contemporary Christian living is not learning the right things to do but how to do the right things.  The problem is not to discover what love looks like but how to love by the Spirit.  For Paul, it is absolutely crucial, that, if we came to life by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit, we learn to walk by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit”.

As today’s world events unfold, the Fruit of the Spirit is compromised if we were to operate under the flesh.  We listen to television commentators decrying Christians for not fighting back when persecuted by ISIS, or urging the Pope to actively lead the 1.2 billion Catholics against persecution of Christians because “prayers are no longer enough.”  Self control? Hogwash! To them an AK47 makes a lot more sense.

But true Christians do not operate under the flesh. Christians believe that governments have the moral responsibility, obligation, and right to respond against provocateurs and military powers which Christians individually can not prevail against.  Here is a letter of an early century Christian who wrote a letter to a Greek named Diognetus:

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them.  Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again.  They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.  For the good they do, they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.”

What are we to do with those Fruit of the Holy Spirit as we watch on television Christians being beheaded by ISIS?  Somehow the dichotomy of fighting evil with love, joy, and peace, kindness, gentleness, and self control seem to put us to the test and expose us to further harm.  Only the Holy Spirit keeps us grounded.  Last week Pope Francis quoted John 16:2:  “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.”

“In a society increasingly marked by secularization and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist.  Today, in Europe, it is more important than ever to emphasize the spiritual and religious dimensions of human life.”

The Fruit of the Spirit are useful in the way we face life in spite of the persecutions we are witnessing. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, all of these are traits that prompt the Christian to kneel in prayer, invoking the power of God’s right arm to rescue the persecuted.

He did say in 2 Chronicles 20:17, “I will fight your battles for you.”

And that kind of Christian submission to God’s power tend to drive non-believers nuts!

Virginia S. Saunders

May 21, 2015

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2015/05/21/fruit-of-the-spirit-no-ordinary-apple/

 

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CHOP CHOP FRIDAY: LET CHRISTIAN HEADS ROLL!

By Virginia S. Saunders

CHRISTIAN HEADS are rolling from the chopping blocks where the Islamic State and the devils rule.  I have stopped counting, my mind and heart have been numbed by the frequency and barbarity of it all.  Nowadays the only Christians I ardently pray for are the overseas Filipino workers who were caught in the Middle East by ISIS and are being forced to renounce their Christian faith, quote the koran, or lose their heads.  Some 12,000 Filipino workers in the Middle East have already been repatriated by the Philippine Government, in an attempt to protect them from this barbaric group.

There is no mercy in the Islamic State’s method of torture and brutality.  Even Syrians and Libyans who joined them and have escaped, tell of the horrors from within, how they were forced to mutilate or behead Christian hostages.  “We thought we joined to propagate Islam”, the escapees said.

Last February we watched the videos of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians being beheaded by ISIS militants on a beach in Libya.  Dressed in orange shirts and pants, the better to show drama, Christians were herded by their masked persecutors, and there on the beach they turned the water bloody red.

This week ISIS released their latest video, which showed them killing 30 Ethiopian Christian men in Libya, 15 beheadings in a Mediterranean beach, and another 15 shot in the head in southern Libya, their bodies tumbling into a common grave.

And now, it is not only ISIS, but other moslems from the religion of peace are getting in the act.  This week, moslem migrants, fleeing from Libya to Italy by ship, threw a dozen Christians off the ship after they witnessed these Christians praying and calling the name of Jesus Christ.  The moslem solution?  Throw these Christians off the ship, make the ship lighter.

It is gruesome, barbaric, neantherthal, and not of God.  And yet, these moslems were killing in the name of their god.  Tell me that is what a real God wants!!

For the last eight years the persecution of Christians have escalated in the Middle East and in Africa as radical moslems impose their own Islamic Sharia law.  An Indonesian moslem friend who was stationed in Saudi Arabia, recalled that Friday was dubbed “Chop Chop Day”, when miscreants were punished in the form of lashing, stoning, beheadings, or their hands cut off.  After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and American troops were prematurely pulled out of Iraq, radical moslems have turned Libya, Iraq, and other African countries into killing fields.  The killings are not only moslems against Christians, but Ethiopian moslems against their fellow Ethiopian Christians, or Libyan moslems against Libyan Christians.  Even the most ancient of Christians, the Coptic Syrians, have almost been decimated.

This has caused so much anguish in the Catholic Church, prompting Pope Francis to proclaim a Holy Year of Mercy.  Last Sunday, every Catholic Church in the world culminated nine days of prayer called “Divine Mercy”, with 1.2 billion Catholics  interceding for the release of Christian hostages, and begging God to change the hearts of moslem terrorists.

The Ethiopian government called for three days of mourning after their Christian citizens were dumped overboard.  The prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, called the boat throwing incident “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate”.  The Italian police apprehended some of the moslem murderers.  Here in United States, Obama mumbled something about “being horrified”, and that was the extent of his reaction, afraid to mention the word “Islamists”, and afraid to condemn his fellow moslems.

There was a time when the United States led the world in strongly voicing its stand against evil and persecution.  Those were the decades when the US government was led by Christian presidents.  It was the first to contain the Nazis against the Jews, when American troops went in to liberate Jewish prisoners from the Nazi extermination camps in Germany and Poland.  It was a time when United States fought with Filipinos against the invasion of Japanese armies in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia.

No longer.  The United States is in moral, morale, and spiritual decline.  Thanks to Obama’s draw down and reclusion from the world, we are seeing another wave of killings, and we hear nothing from the president of the United States except to blame Christians for being Christians and comparing them with ISIS!  In the history of the United States,  it was only during his presidency when God was booed during a Democratic convention.  It has come to a point that the people of Australia has called on the world to pray and fast for seven days for the United States.

This period of prayer and fasting will take place from April 30 to May 6, 2015, as Australia  calls on prayer leaders from other nations to help and pray for the USA.

Said Warwick Marsh, Australian coordinator of the Australian National Day of Prayer:

“April 30 is the 226th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as a devout Christian president, and the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln’s Day of “Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting” held during the devastating times of the Civil War.  The theme for the USA National Day of Prayer on May 6, 2015 is “Lord, Hear Our Cry”.

“It is time to bless the nation of America and pray for healing of the USA through prayer and fasting”, said Alison Jessup, of Australian National Day of Prayer.

How this multi-country prayer intercession will help the United States is anyone’s guess.  Meanwhile, Obama has permitted the building of 2,000 mosques throughout the USA, and will soon welcome Turkey president  Recep Tayyip Erdogan to inaugurate a $100 million mosque being built in Lanham, Maryland.

A spokesman for the Turkish Embassy said that “Moslems face increased challenges across the world due to rising Islamophobia.  Unfortunately Al Qaeda and Daesh terror groups have tarnished the image of Islam as a religion of peace.”  The new mosque was built purportedly to quash Islamophobia.

Meanwhile, Christians fear of another wave of beheadings during Chop Chop Friday, or maybe another incident of Christians being thrown overboard as they pray to Jesus to forgive those who hurt them.

Islamophobia?  It is a descriptive fear of moslems  who kill with impunity.

By Virginia S. Saunders

April 22, 2015

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxppress.com/2015/04/22/chop-chop-friday-let-christian-heads-roll/

 

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JESUS RESURRECTED: WHAT IF HE DIDN’T?

By Virginia S. Saunders

CHRISTIANITY without the Resurrection would not be Christianity.  Resurrection is the basis of this faith, and without Jesus resurrecting, the profound theme of His dying to redeem mankind from their sins would have no credible foundation.  Even deeper than His birth, although Christians rejoice over this delightful story, is the significance of His death.  Jesus is the only baby born to die.  By His death we were ransomed.  By His resurrection He crowned His divinity and His mission on earth.

His resurrection is mentioned in all four gospels, prophesied in Isaiah and Jeremiah, written in beautiful prose and verses that depicted his burial, and the shock that came over the women who visited Him the day after His interment.  In Matthew 28 and in Luke 24, Mary Magdalene and two other women were dismayed to find only the burial cloths inside the tomb.  Where was the body?  The Scripture said that an angel told the women:

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples.  He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.”  Matthew 28:5-7

In a culture that is steep in male domination, where women are sometimes considered even lower than camels, the appearance of angels using women to transmit the message and resurrection of Christ, is both suspect and yet unique.  Where were the disciples?  They were in hiding, in fear for their lives.

There are twelve instances in the Bible accounting the times Jesus immediately and physically appeared after His resurrection.  He appeared to the women, His mother, Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to Timothy, to all the apostles and disciples, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and in 1 Corinthians 15:6, He appeared to 500 men before He was taken up to heaven.  Surely, their accounts are not all unbelievable.

But we have scholars who study the Bible for years to whom personal revelations are never given, and they end up discrediting the validity or historicity of the Resurrection, while validating whatever notion they started with.

I came upon a blog by a “professional historian” named Richard Carrier, “Why I Don’t Buy The Resurrection Story”, written for The Secular Web (A Drop Of Reason In A Pool Of Confusion), who prefaced his argument by pointing out that his was a half-hour lecture given at the request of “Yale College Humanists and Secularists”.

He wrote:  “What I suspect happened is something like this:  Jesus died, was buried, and then in a vision or dream appeared to one or more of his disciples, convincing them he had ascended to heaven, marking the beginning of the fast-approaching End Times as the first to be raised, and then what began in the simple story of Mark as a symbolic allusion to an ascended Christ soon to reveal himself in visions from heaven, in time led some Christians to believe that the resurrection was a physical rising of a corpse.”

He continued:  “Then they heard or came up with increasingly elaborate stories proving themselves right.  Overzealous people often add details and color to a story they’ve been told without even thinking about it, and as the story passed from each to the next, more detail and elaboration was added, securing the notion of a physical resurrection in popular imagination and belief.  It would have been a natural mistake to make at the time, since gods were expected to be able to raise people bodily from the dead, and physical resurrections were actually in vogue in the very first century when Christianity began.”

Whatever.

But what if Jesus did not resurrect?

If He did not, our religions would be entirely different from Christianity. Half of the world would still be observing the Old Testament, the way the Jews and the Moslems do, ascribing to the tenets of the Ten Commandments, and the myriad laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and believing about a God who would punish everyone for every infraction.  The Old Testament warns that even if you followed the law and you died with one transgression, every good thing you did to obey God’s laws will be considered null and void.  This was one belief that Jesus came to correct, and for this, He was villified.

If He did not resurrect, we would probably not have a migration from Europe to United States, the migrations caused by Christian pilgrims who were fleeing religious persecutions of Christians in England, Germany, France, Scotland, and the Netherlands.

If He did not resurrect, Spain and Portugal would not have divided the earth between them to find a direct route for the sources of spices, and claiming each country they discovered on behalf of their monarchies and their religion.

If Jesus did not resurrect, Jerusalem would be under Roman territory, and there would not be a Vatican.  In addition, there would not be a Renaissance period in Europe, nor any artistic or religious depiction in paintings that we so admire today.  There would not be a Bach, or Mozart, or Beethhoven whose music were originally in praise of a Christian God.  There would also not have been the Guttenberg printing press, originally designed to help print multiple Bibles.

Because Christianity is credited for the emancipation of women, think of what their status would be if Christ did not resurrect.  They would still be wearing veils as in the Old Testament, or classified as chattels or even lower than camels.  In fact, that is what they are in many Moslem countries.

In Asia, the Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and animists would have continued to proliferate, practicing religions that are entirely dependent on human obedience to a higher order, depicted as elephants, eagles, monkeys, turtles, or snakes.

In Latin America, human sacrifices inside temples would still be the standard operating procedure, to appease the gods who live in volcanoes, forests, or mountains.

There is no other religion on earth that places salvation of the human race on the death of one man.  Only in Christianity can we find this.  That “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  This is the essence of Jesus’ mission on earth, as written in John 3:16-17. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

What a profound concept!  Yet scholars and philosophers, atheists, agnostics, and liberal leftwingers, continue to scrutinize the Bible to find what is wrong or unbelievable about the Resurrection, and missing the answer by a mile and a lifetime.

What a waste. For Christians, it hurts to watch them go through their self-imposed tragedy.  But that is their pitiful choice.

By Virginia S Saunders

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2015/04/02/jesus-resurrected-what-if-he-didnt/

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DEFENDING ISIS: OBAMA’S MORAL HIGH HORSE

By Virginia S. Saunders

TWO DAYS after the whole world watched ISIS torch to death a Jordanian pilot inside a steel cage, Barack Obama, a closet Moslem, came out in a speech during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, denouncing Christians for riding a moral high horse.  He compared Christians to the barbaric ISIS, saying that barbarity is not a trait of Islamic extremists alone, that Christians killed people during the Crusades and Spanish Inquisitions a thousand years ago, and practiced slavery in United States centuries ago.

I have never prayed for a man to be removed from office, knowing that authority comes from God alone, but on the night I heard him lump Christians with ISIS, I asked this favor in whatever form or method, because this man is twisting the message of Jesus Christ.  It is despicable and irresponsible that he even said this during a day of prayer, excoriating Christians for feeling outraged that ISIS burned a caged man to death.

Who then is on a moral high horse?  Outraged Christians or outraged Obama?

In comparison to Obama’s warped rhetoric against Christians, King Abdullah of Jordan, a fighter jet pilot, took the higher high horse by suiting up in combat uniform and declared retaliation that will shake the ground wherever ISIS stood.  He too watched with horror and anger at how ISIS killed one of his citizens, but he did not go around telling his nation to blame it all on the actions of Christians during the Crusades.  Instead, he sent 20 F-16 fighter jets to rain down fire and damnation on ISIS targets, killing 55 ISIS members and one ISIS leader during a full day of sorties.

The king of Jordan is a Sunni Moslem.  But he had the moral capacity to see barbarity and depravity among radical Moslems, the courage and wisdom to call evil by its name, and exhorting fellow Moslems to follow his lead in the fight against evil radical Islamists.  He called ISIS an evil that must be eradicated, and he set about doing it  Would that other leaders of Moslem countries follow King Abdullah’s lead.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama could not even utter the words “Islamic extremists“, afraid to upset his fellow Moslems by correctly labeling the perpetrators of evil.  On several occasions when ISIS beheaded Americans, Obama chose to play golf, pushing morally outraged Americans to declare that every ISIS decapitation is an invitation to hit the golf course.  And it has proven true.

Why is Obama doing this?

In 2001, President George W. Bush, when responding to the attack in the US by Moslem extremists, decided to call a military strike in Iraq as Operation Infinite Justice.  He was immediately advised to change it to Operation Enduring Freedom, as the finality of the first name might remind Moslems of the historic Crusades a thousand years ago.

This evening at Fox News, one political analyst said that the Islamic extremists view their rampage in the Middle East as a “crusade”  to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Now it is the Moslem extremists doing the crusade, a reverse of the original Crusade when Western European Christians undertook military expeditions between 1095 and 1270. At the behest of the Catholic popes, the crusades were launched to recover Jerusalem and other Palestinian places of pilgrimage from Moslem control.  The origin of the Crusades is rooted in the political upheaval that resulted from the expansion of the Seljuk Turks in the Middle East in the 11th century.

Christians viewed with fear the conquest of Syria and Palestine by aggressive Moslems.  Turkish invaders also penetrated deep into the Christian Byzantine Empires and subjected many Greek, Syrian, and Armenian Christians to Moslem rule.  The Crusades were in part a reaction to these events, as well as serving the ambitions of 11th, 12th, and 13th century popes to extend their political and religious powers.  The Crusaders were, in a sense, the military arm of papal policy.

Another thorn on the side of Barack Obama is his perspective on the Inquisition, when the papacy established in the Middle Ages a board of sorts that would seek out, try, and sentence persons guilty of heresy.  The usual penalty for heresy in the early church of the 4th century was excommunication.  But when Christianity became a state religion imposed by Roman emperors in the 4th century, heretics became considered enemies of the state.

The Inquisition did not come until the 13th century when Pope Gregory IX lessened bishops’ responsibility for orthodoxy.  He placed inquisitions under the special jurisdiction of the papacy, giving authority to Franciscan and Dominican religious orders who the Pope considered to have superior training in theology.  The Pope took this pre-emptive moves fearing that Roman Emperor Frederick will pursue the task himself and turn it into his own political purposes.

Contrary to common misconceptions, the Inquisitors generally had a reputation for justice and mercy.  But it was the Spanish Inquisitions in the 15th century under King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella that became an aberration marked by cruelty.  Within a few years of founding the Inquisition on heresy, the Pope relinquished all supervision of it to the state sovereigns.  Thus it became an instrument of the state and not of the church.  When the state took over, cruelty and human rights abuses proliferated.

It is quite interesting that the Inquisition, like the Crusades, have been turned around. Now it is the Moslem extremists who are using both.  ISIS is doing inquisitions against their fellow Moslems who are suspected of heresy, apostasy, adultery, and not wearing the burka veils.  ISIS metes out severe punishments such as lashing, crucifixion, beheading, stoning, and in the case of homosexuals, dropping them from high rise buildings.

Christianity has evolved from its difficult past a thousand years ago, and it is credited for the advancement of the lives of people everywhere.  Where Christianity is practiced there are hospitals, schools, freedom for women, human rights, established government, and organized development.  Meanwhile, ISIS is pushing Islam back to the stone ages by subjecting its followers to radical teachings and extreme punishments for misdemeanors. Last week, ISIS executed 13 teenagers for watching soccer on television. Yesterday they killed three imams who protested the burning of the Jordanian prisoner.

Thus, for Obama to lump Christians with ISIS is not only an insult to intelligence and faith, but shows his extreme distortion of history and the societal and cultural evolution of Believers.  Obama has two more years in office, but many Christian Americans find this too long to endure.  The newly elected president in 2017 will spend his first four years correcting the disturbance that Obama has inflicted on Americans and the American system of government.  We have regressed because of his toxic worldview as a closet Moslem.

And meanwhile, Americans who have seen and admired the decisive actions of a REAL faithful Moslem like King Abdullah, will continue to cheer on the leader of Jordan in his fight against evil, and wish with all their hearts  that King Abdullah is the current president of the United States.

By Virginia S. Saunders

February 6, 2015

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2015/02/06/defending-isis-obamas-moral-high-horse/

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SAUL’S CONVERSION: BLOOD OVER THE WICKED

By Virginia S. Saunders

CAN THE INCREDIBLE CONVERSION OF SAUL happen today among our persecutors?  The ISIS, Moslem extremists, Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Abu Sayaff, and other blood thirsty demons of the world?  Saul was a killer of Christians, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ called him and anointed him as “this chosen instrument of mine”.  Saul wrote to the synagogue in Damascus boasting that he will bring back in chains to Jerusalem any believer in Christ whom he caught.  He approved and watched the beating, lashing, and stoning to death of the apostle Stephen. (Acts 7:54-60).

Saul was born in the Greek city of Tarsus, Cilicia, with Roman citizenship, with Jewish parents from the tribe of Benjamin.  His original Jewish name is Saul, and his Gentile name is Paul.  He studied the Jewish law under Gamaliel in Jerusalem.  As a devotee to his Jewish faith and as a Pharisee, he stood out in the New Testament as the foremost persecutor of Christians.

Saul’s conversion is detailed in Chapter 9 of the Book of Acts of the Apostles.  It is a mind boggling read about how Saul became a Jesus freak.  On his way to Damascus, Saul had a Jesus encounter.  A flash of lightning hit him and he and his two companions heard the voice of Jesus.

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  He said, “Who are you, Sir?”  The reply came, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.” Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

The two men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing, so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.  For three days he was unable to see and he neither ate nor drank.”

The Bible said that it was through a pray over by a man named Ananias that Saul regained his eyesight.  Ananias was a Christian disciple who was given a vision by Jesus to go to Damascus and pray over a man named Saul.  Ananias protested saying he is aware about Saul’s reign of terror among Christians, and he had no intention of praying over him.  That’s when Jesus ordered Ananias to go.  “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”

And as we know, Saul’s conversion amazed not only his two guards, but also all of Jesus’ apostles and disciples who were initially afraid of him, but gradually accepted him as a Believer. He changed his name to Paul, and went on to preach the Word of God, as well as wrote two thirds of the New Testament.

What are the chances that Jesus would work the same miracle over the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi?  Or the most senior head of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Khalid Abdul Fatah Al Manhaddhani?

We are all shocked by the extent of our enemies’ brutality.  There is no mercy in their hearts, much like Saul before his conversion.  This week ISIS just beheaded 13 teenagers who were caught watching soccer on TV.  And this week they are threatening to behead two Japanese hostages if Japan does not fork out $200 Million in ransom money.  It is clear that satan and his legions have invaded and taken over the souls and minds of Islamic militants.

What I have learned about salvation is that one is not saved unless another prays for someone’s salvation.  Perhaps the disciples prayed for Saul, responding to Jesus’ teaching that disciples should pray for their enemies.  Ephesians 6:12 said “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”

It encouraged us to “hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

Jesus gave us authority to use His name to pray for others.  Everything about Jesus is for our salvation.  During the last supper (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30), when He broke the bread and raised it, He said, “This is my body which will be given to you. Do this in memory of me.”  Then He took the cup and said, “This is the cup of my blood of the New Covenant which will be shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

There, in those encouraging words, is the authority given us by our Lord to use for the salvation of mankind, our loved ones, our enemies.  We have been redeemed by His blood. What would happen if all of us, believers in Jesus Christ, used His precious blood in our prayers to cover from head to toe all followers of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, Taliban, Hezbollah, and Abu Sayaff?  Cover our enemies with the blood of Jesus Christ! Cover Al Baghdadi with the blood of Jesus Christ! Cover Khalid Al Manhadhani with the blood of Jesus Christ! Cover with the blood of Jesus Christ all the ISIS children who are being brainwashed to hate and kill Christians and Jews!  Cover all the hostages with the blood of Jesus Christ!

Like many Christians I know, I have been doing this for a long time and I am beginning to see the conversions on specific groups I have been praying for.  The blood of Jesus Christ is alive.  I actually find this an exciting spiritual endeavour, a sense of empowerment that we can use the blood of Jesus to transform the hearts and minds and souls of our enemies.  Every morning, every night I cover ISIS, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Taliban, Abu Sayaff, and the Bangsamoro in Southern Philippines with the blood of Jesus Christ.  Without their even knowing it, without any physical or spiritual defense on their part, we are transforming enemies’ hard hearts and confused ideology through a spiritual battle of epic proportions.  God said to pray in the Spirit.  Using the blood of Jesus Christ as a prayer weapon is as close to the Spirit as we can get.

Christians must take advantage of this spiritual weapon daily to defeat the enemy, instead of wringing their hands every time a diabolical incident happens, such as the one in Paris concerning the issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine. Twelve editors and staffers as well as five hostages were killed, which brought Paris into a turmoil.  Also last week, Boko Haram torched two thousand people in a village in Nigeria.  That was not only a terroristic act, it was a heinous crime against humanity.  And during those moments, the devil was involved and winning.  I know that Moslems are also praying for the conversion of hearts of their more radical brethren.  But what sets Christian prayers apart is the authority we have received from Jesus Christ.

In Luke 9:1 (The Mission of the Twelve), Jesus summoned the twelve apostles and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.  In Acts 2, He gave them more power by sending the Holy Spirit, who distributed spiritual gifts of healing hands, praying tongues, visions and prophecies.  The Bible said we are co-heirs of Christ, which means that what the Apostles and Disciples received in the early church, we have also received.  All we need to do is be aware of it, and use it.

Saul became Paul and was used by God to evangelize and turn the hearts and minds of people towards Jesus Christ.  Would it not be worth our while if, by the strength of our prayers, by our pleading the blood of Jesus Christ to convert the wicked, that from the ranks of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, Boko Haram, and Abu Sayaff, there would arise thousands of modern day Pauls??

Virginia S. Saunders

January 21, 2015

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2015-01-21/sauls-conversion-blood-over-the-wicked/

 

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NATIVITY: ESSENCE OF THE CRECHE AND CROSS

By Virginia S. Saunders

JESUS WAS THE ONLY BABY BORN TO DIE.  This is the essence of the Nativity.  As the Bible tells it, mankind of the Old Testament had degenerated into abominable depravity that God, our Creator, thought we were deserving punishment, even total annihilation.  But His son, Jesus, offered Himself as recipient of His ire and judgment in order to redeem us.

The Bible is silent about how this God-Son covenant happened in the heavenlies.  I have imagined the following  pre-Nativity scenario dozens of times in my mind:

“God was looking down on humanity, shaking His head.  “Look at these people.  Despicable. When will they stop all these abomination?  Murder, adultery, thievery, idolatry!  I may have made a mistake creating them.  If I could only make them disappear!  And yet, I love them so!”

“Abba, send me.  I’ll save them.  After all, you love your creation. Send me“, Jesus may have said.

God replied, “You will have to become flesh and blood like them, and live with them, know who they are, how they think, and why they do the wrong they do for which they will be punished.”

And Jesus said, “Father, send me.  I’ll take the punishment on their behalf because you love them.”

God said, “It is going to hurt.”

But Jesus insisted, “Father, send me!”

And so, in God’s unusual way,. He sent Jesus Christ to earth to die.  John 1:1-18 gave a very beautiful prologue to his gospel, on how Jesus became flesh.  “In the beginning was the word, and the word was God.  He was in the beginning with God..” it began.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus became incarnate in the womb of Mary, a young woman who knew no other man except Joseph, the carpenter.  Nine months later, as Matthew and Luke tell us, Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.  And thirty three years later, having fulfilled the mission for which He was sent, He was crucified and died on the cross.

In two thousand years, the creche and the cross have become symbols of Jesus’ life and legacy.  No other prophet, martyr, messenger, or earthly deity can put claim to being born to die just to save mankind.  It is why the Bible proclaims that there is no salvation except through Jesus Christ.  And we believers stake our lives, reputation, and future in these symbols  as crucial for our salvation.

But for others, the Nativity is a curiosity itch that must be scratched.  About this time every year, theologians, researchers, non-Christians, and pagan philosophers engage in a running debate on the historicity,  accuracy, and credibility of Jesus’ birth.  Copious notes have been written about how politically motivated were Emperor Constantine and Pope Julius I in 336 AD for declaring December 25 as the birth date of Christ.  He was born on September or October, they claim, calculating the days and the seasons, the summer and winter solstices, the equatorial rising and ebbing of tides, parsing every word and line presented by the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything is revealed, particularly the exact date of Jesus’ birth.  Thus it has been a source of frustration for those looking for historical accuracy.

I came across a paper by Doug Johnson and John Ross Schroeder on the Nativity (“The Real Nativity Story: Surprising Truths You May Not Know”), as the two tried to link together scattered data, bearing away from the usual accusation of linking Christmas with the pagan festival, Saturnalia.  Johnson and Schroeder conjectured that Zacharias’ priestly assignment or “division during the course of Adidjah”, may provide the clue to the exact date of Nativity.

They wrote, “About a thousand years earlier, King David had organized the Levitical priesthood into 24 courses.  Each priest would then serve for a specified week-long term twice during the year, plus the three festival seasons (Deuteronomy 16:16) when all priests would serve.”

Combining the information in Deuteronomy 16 and 1 Chronicles 24:3, 10, and 19, they wrote that Zacharias’ week of service in the temple can be calculated to be the week of June 13-19, when an angel appeared to Zacharias to tell him that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son and he shall name him John.  Luke 1:23-24 said that Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months after Zachariah’s temple course, putting her pregnancy as mid to late November.

Elizabeth was six months pregnant when her cousin Mary, now pregnant with Jesus, came to visit her.  In Luke 1:56, Mary was three months pregnant when she returned  to her home, which would put this at March.  Six months later, Jesus was born, which would then be late September or October.

Referring to the Census that caused the Holy Family to travel to Bethlehem, Johnson and Schroeder also pointed out that “no rational Roman official would have scheduled a census in winter”, quoting Cunningham Geikie’s “Christmas in Bethlehem”:  “Snow is not at all uncommon in Jerusalem in the winter months, and I have known it so deep that people lost their way outside the gates.”

Another pastor, Joseph Prince of New Creation Church in Singapore, posited that Jesus was not laid down on a straw covered manger as depicted in nativity scenes.  He said: “He was laid down on a straw-covered hewn-rock trough.  This was common at the time, as we can see from the stables of Solomon in Meggido.”

The questionable accuracy surrounding Jesus’ birth will remain with us forever, and Christians will be subjected to watching and experiencing insults thrown by atheists and pagans who do not believe or understand the reason for Jesus’ Nativity.  Right now in Michigan, Senator Rick Jones is trying to save the Nativity scene at the lawn of the Landsing statehouse where a satanic display was allowed to stand beside it.  Christians in other states have also been fighting to display nativity scenes as both the current government and non-Christians alike claim the “separation of church and state” to block any reference to God and the Nativity.

Christians do not consider the essence of Nativity as a mystery.  For Christians it is a Truth.  That God loved us so much that He sent His only son to redeem us.  It is in John 3:16 = “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

TDJakes, pastor of Potter’s House Church in Dallas, Texas, told his congregation:  “We don’t care when He was born.  What we do care is He was born.  He did not just come to redeem the world.  He came to a place where He wants to understand human perspective. God loved us first.  You cannot believe in love if you cannot understand what love is.  He came so that He might see what it is to be like us.”

As self righteous, politically correct liberals continue to kick the creche and the cross out of the public square, and radical moslems persecute Christians by killing and destroying everything related to our faith, they will miss the reason for the Nativity by more than a mile.  It will take a direct slap from God for them to understand such a profound thought.

But for those who value the Nativity, the creche and the cross, Pastor Jakes described it:

“We care that when we were suicidal and nobody understood, He came to heal. Somebody understood why I was angry, why I did not get it right.  He came and understood why.  And by His understanding, we were healed and we became whole again.”

Merry Christmas!

By Virginia S. Saunders

December 23, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/12/23/nativity-essence-of-the-creche-and-cross/

By Virginia

 

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DIVINE INTERVENTION: TAMING END TIME ESCHATOLOGY

By Virginia S. Saunders

TWO IMPORTANT WORDS in the study of biblical end time prophecies popped up this Sunday:  the Greek word “parousia“, and a hard to spell word, “eschatology“.  One refers to the second coming or presence of Jesus. The other refers to the study of crises or events that will precede the end of days.

Those who have been studying the book of Revelation, the prophecies of Ezekiel, Daniel, or predicting the Rapture, Second Coming, and the Great Tribulation, are the students of Eschatology, finding the impending signs of doomsday at every lunar eclipse, bloodmoon, earthquake, or tsunami as a validation of their calculations.
There are words in the Bible that predict so, although prophets have been predicting so in the last four thousand years or more.

Jesus did say one never knows the end of days although He gave a description of the Great Tribulation (Mark 13:1-29), exhorting all to be watchful.  He said, “In those days after the great tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

He continued, “And they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

In Matthew 24:3-31, Jesus spoke again about the great tribulation.  Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evil doing, the love of many will grow cold.  He said “False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect.”  The author Matthew repeated His words in Matthew 24:29 that immediately after the tribulation of those days, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

But omniscient as He was, Jesus didn’t know when this will all happen.  He said in Matthew 24:36-44, “The day and the hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  Therefore stay awake for you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”

In 2 Timothy 3:3-4, Jesus said that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lust and saying, when is the promise coming?

At His second coming, Jesus said in Matthew 25:32 that “all the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”  He was quite specific about the sheep. They are the ones who did these acts of mercy:  “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

It seems that in Eschatology, the goats are those who are wreaking havoc on the sheep of the kingdom.  Eschatologists have identified these as ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and all other scums of the earth who are on the war path of destruction.  These also include the machete and hammer wielding terrorists and protesters, rioters, and arsonists at Ferguson, Missouri.  There is no place for the wicked during the second coming, if they just continue to go on their war path.

Eschatologists however continue to be frustrated by the uncertain nature of their study, as they have been frustrated since A.D.1.  I have gone through a long, long list of end of the world (EOTW) predictions made even before the first coming of Christ, and I can not help but guffaw over the fact that we are still here.

In 389 BC, the Romans predicted that the mystical number revealed for Romulus represented the number of days in a year, so they expected Rome to be destroyed around 365 B.C.  Pope Sylvester II predicted EOTW to be January 1, 1000, calling it the Millennium Apocalypse.  In 1284 Pope Innocent III predicted EOTW as 666 years after the rise of Islam.  Between 1346-1351, the Europeans interpreted the Black Plague as the sign of the end of times.  Christopher Columbus claimed that the world was created in 5343 BC and would last 7,000 years, which would put EOTW in  AD 1658.

In the sixties, syndicated astrologer and psychic, Jeane Dixon predicted that planetary alignment on a day in 1962 will bring destruction of the world.  This scared many, and mass prayers were reported in India.  I remember praying at that time to postpone EOTW.  Since 1966, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been publishing articles that Autumn 1975 would be 6,000 years since man’s creation, and that year will be Armaggedon.  Before year 2000, evangelists Pat Robertson, Paul Crouch, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry B. Jenkins, stated that Y2K bug would trigger global economic chaos which the anti-Christ would use to rise to power.  In 2008 pastors John Hagee and Mike Blitz claimed that the four bloodmoons in 2014 and 2015 may represent prophecies in the Bible relating to the second coming of Christ.  A Sunni Moslem, Adnan Oktar, interpreted the Islamic Hadith, and said that EOTW will be in 2120.  The Talmud and Orthodox Judaists claimed that the Messiah will come within 6,000 years and EOTW will be in 3239 AD.  And so on.

And we are still here.  All because of Divine Intervention, which I think the Lord willed to frustrate Eschatologists.

Jesus have given His believers the key to accessing the power of God through prayers, petitions, and intercessions.  It is through prayerful believers, loyal to their mission and trustful of the exceeding love and mercy of God for His people, that Divine Intervention constantly occur.  The Bible is full of stories on how God intervened in the affairs of men.

As believers in Christ, we have been told not to worry anymore, nor exert any unnecessary anxiety in our lives.  “Sufficient for a day is its own evil”, said Matthew 6:34. It seems that doom will be a swift running event, but will also show a day to day series of destruction.  Are we on that roller coaster now?  We have ISIS members gleefully cutting other peoples’ heads and bodies, laying down those sawed off torsos and arms and legs on a hallway for people to look at and photograph for Twitter.  We have mentally deranged terrorists in Ferguson looting and burning businesses, then queueing for food stamps.  Then we have illegal immigrant criminals, ebola stricken carriers, going in and out of the border, asking for drivers licenses, then complaining about the quality of taco shells given them by DHS and ICE!

I am not calling for EOTW, nor disparaging those who make it their life study to predict when it will happen.  But Eschatologists will always be frustrated by God whose Divine Intervention is assured when Christians kneel down and ask for it.  This is exactly what we must do during these perilous times, when Christians, Jews, and believers of other faiths are being persecuted by insane radical Islamists.  The only antidote is to pray for our persecutors.  Proverbs 25:22 said that feeding the enemy when they are hungry, and giving them drink when thirsty will be like “heaping live coals on their heads.” As human beings we are just too ill equipped to handle a great tribulation, knowing men are like dimwits stumbling from one crisis to another.

That is why God sent a Savior through Jesus Christ.

As the year 2014 draws to a close, and I tally the different predictions for EOTW, I am however dumbfounded by some preachers on Trinity Broadcasting Network who squeal with glee about the end times.  “Can’t wait!  Jesus is coming!”  Are all their family members saved, sealed, signed and delivered?  Is their glee (real or not) for their own validation so they can say “I told you so!”?

And if the world actually ends, which the Bible assured will not come from deluvian flooding but in this case, nuclear frying, of what good  will it serve to say “I told you so!” when we are all finally dead?

By Virginia S. Saunders

December 3, 2014

First posted in http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/12/03/divine-intervention-taming-end-time-eschatology/

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THANKSGIVING DAY: A CONVERSION OF HEART

By Virginia S. Saunders

WE ALL KNOW WELL the deliverance from starvation experienced by the English pilgrims in the 1620s when Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts became the edge of hell and salvation for this courageous band of pioneers who fled religious persecution in England and Holland, and found deliverance in a new continent.

We are familiar with how they survived the worst of winter, having lost half of their kins in their tumultuous journey at sea, and struggled through another year of harsh winter in a foreign land.  Only prayers, and a desire to govern themselves that brought about the Mayflower Compact, gave them the fervor to survive the challenges.

After a year of hard work, tilling and cultivating the land with the help of native Indians, they became self sufficient enough to harvest what they planted, and in a moment of gratitude to the Almighty, they proclaimed a thanksgiving feast.  Both pioneers and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day.

But perhaps not many Americans realize what followed in the ensuing centuries.  America’s thanksgiving day would not be what it is today, had not President Abraham Lincoln experienced a conversion of heart.

Walking through the graves of Gettysburg where 60,000 men had been buried after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, Lincoln, a non-Christian, was touched by the Holy Spirit.  He wrote to a friend:

“When I left Springfield to assume the Presidency, I asked the people to pray for me.  I was not a Christian.  When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian.  But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.”

It was in November 1863 when that happened, and after his historic Gettysburg Address, came his November Thanksgiving Proclamation, officially setting the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.  President Lincoln was responding to a one-woman campaign by Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who promoted a just cause for 30 years – calling for a US president to declare an official Thanksgiving Day.

Prior to this, Thanksgiving Day was a moveable feast.  Mrs. Hale wanted a calendared feast.  In 1798  President George Washington declared a day of thanksgiving under its new constitution.  Each state celebrated Thanksgiving Day at different days.  It was only in 1941 when the US Congress permanently declared the fourth Thursday as a national holiday.

There are four other countries in the world that celebrate Thanksgiving Day – Canada, Puerto Rico, Liberia, and Norfolk Island.  During the American Revolution, many who were loyal to England moved to Canada but continued to celebrate Thanksgiving Day there on the second Monday of October.  Puerto Rico, a US territory, celebrates it on the fourth Thursday of November.  Liberia, a country founded by African Americans who believed that former slaves in the United States would be better off living in Africa, also celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the first Thursday of November.  The last one is Norfolk Island, a former British penal colony and now an Australian territory.  Thanksgiving tradition was started by an American trader, Isaac Robinson, who worked for Burns Philp & Co. Ltd., and later became an American consul in Norfolk Island in the 1890s.  Norfolk Island celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the last Wednesday of November.

What happened to President Lincoln was a conversion that can only be traced to the action of the Holy Spirit, for that is His work – spiritual transformation.  He transforms hearts.  It came just in time, because President Lincoln was going through some of the most tumultuous crises in the country’s history, periods that required utmost wisdom.

What are the odds that the Holy Spirit will also transform our current president – a moslem?  If that happens, Thanksgiving Day will no longer be a facetious ritual of pardoning a turkey and giving it a new lease on life, as he did a few days ago, even jokingly making the sign of the cross on a turkey.  Instead, it would be the president himself who will be thanking God for his new lease on life.

Our founding fathers were wise and were given the Grace to give God what He is due – the praise and worship and gratitude for guiding this nation and its leadership through uncharted territories.  Countries are gifts from God who gave leaders the authority to govern it properly.  The Bible said God is the maker and divider of nations.  What makes America unique is that its founding fathers considered subservience to Christ as its moral and spiritual foundation for a constitutional government.  And for more than two hundred years it has been a country moving under that direction, inspite of some individual rebellion.  More than the turkey, more than the pumpkin pies, more than all the accoutrements of a calendared thanksgiving day, this God-centered government is a good reason for thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and your families, as I go cook my turkey now.

By Virginia S. Saunders

November 27, 2014

First posted on http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/11/27/thanksgiving-day-a-conversion-of-heart/

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SPIRITUAL IMPARTATION: THE POWER IN OUR HANDS

By Virginia S. Saunders

SPIRITUAL IMPARTATION happens when you lay hands and pray over someone.  It is the act of transferring with your hands a God-given anointing on someone through intercessory prayers.  It is one of the supernatural gifts from the Holy Spirit given to Christians who have yet to fully understand the phenomenal powers God has showered upon them.  Understood and used by Christian charismatic communities as a normal way of praying, these gifts are pitifully wasted among most church-going Christians who are ignorant of it.  And yet, God wanted all of us to have these gifts.

These supernatural gifts were given to us through the Holy Spirit when He first descended on the apostles and disciples on Pentecost Sunday.  It was revealed in the Book of Acts which is rich in examples of spiritual impartation.  Acts 19:6 tells us about Paul: “When he laid his hands on them (the disciples in Ephesus), the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”

Among the apostles and disciples, Paul received more than a double dose of spiritual impartation.  Acts 19:11 said “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds of God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”  The Bible said that even Paul’s shadow healed the sick.

Spiritual impartation develops the more it is used.  Contrary to theological arguments in some churches that these gifts were only for first century Christians, impartation of healing gifts and the nine gifts from the Holy Spirit, are prevalent and utilized by charismatic communities around the world.  They are used not only for healing, but to encourage and confirm the power and goodness of the Lord.

Paul wanted his disciples and today’s Christians to understand the importance of these gifts.  Reverend Vincent M. Walsh of the Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia, explained in his highly elucidating book, A Key To Charismatic Renewal In The Catholic Church, that Christians reborn were given nine gifts, divided into three major classifications:

The Word Gifts:

a)  The Gift of Tongues – a person gives God’s message in a language unknown to him, for the community present.

b)  The Gift of Interpretation – a person, after the use of the gift of tongues, gives the general meaning of what the person has said, or a response to what has been said.

c)  The Gift of Prophecy – a person gives God’s message in the vernacular for the community or for an individual.

The Sign Gifts (The Power To Do)

a)  The Gift of Faith – enables the person at a given moment to believe, and to call upon God’s power with a certainty that excludes all doubt.

b)  The Gift of Healing – enables the person to be God’s instrument in bringing about the well being of another, on one or more levels, spiritual, psychological or physical.

c)  The Gift of Miracles – enables a person to be God’s instrument in either an instant healing or in some other powerful manifestation of God’s power.

The Intellectual Gifts (The Power To Know)

a) The Word of Wisdom – a person is granted an insight into God’s plan in a given situation and is enabled to put this into words of advice or of direction.

b) The Word of Knowledge – a person is granted an insight into a divine mystery or facet of man’s relation to God, and is enabled to put this into a word that helps others to grasp the mystery.

c)  The Gift of Discernment – a person is enabled to know the source of an inspiration or action, whether it came from the Holy Spirit, his own human spirit, or from the evil spirit.

We are very grateful to Reverend Walsh for writing the most authoritative book on Christian charismatic renewal.

Among these nine gifts, the Sign Gifts of Faith, Healing and Miracles are the most favored and requested by believers when they appeal to God.  Often the recipients of the gift of healing do not even know that they already have received the gift until they lay hands and pray over someone, and phenomenal healing transpires.  God uses their hands to impart the gifts on another person.

In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about my own experiences in healing impartation.  There was one instance when I laid my hands on the forehead of a man and prayed over his lesions.  Three days later he called to say that all the lesions in his body have disappeared after enduring these psoriasis lesions for several decades.

Spiritual impartation is especially useful when praying for the unborn, laying hands on the unborn baby (with the pregnant mother’s permission), and praying for a worry-free, smooth delivery.  It is also common in the charismatic community to lay their hands on pictures of people they are praying for, when the human desire to connect with the object of intercession can only be done through pictures.  It is a blessing that God who hears our prayers knows no distance, time or space.

Spiritual impartation is also powerful when praying for psychological and emotional healing of broken people, whether the object of prayers believe in this charism or not.  God, who is close to the broken hearted, wants us whole, and one of the areas of God’s healing spirit is for man’s emotional well-being.  Whenever I pray for emotional healing of my family who live far from me, I like to lay my hands on their pictures.  I like to cover them in my prayers with the blood of Jesus  Christ, and specifically mention the areas of their lives that need total healing from Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  When praying for spiritual impartation, it is important to be specific about the areas that need to be healed or delivered from.  This could be envy, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, sadness, hardness of heart, anger, or wrong relationships.  This is literally entering into the realm of darkness where we as Believers are sent to bring the light.

Remember that healing gift and miracles are two different things, although both operate under the area of faith.  A charismatic can have an impartation and intercede for someone to get healed.  The healing could happen instantaneously or within a period of time.  But miracles are passing manifestation of God’s power and through His intervention.  Reverend Walsh said that some examples are the instant healing of serious diseases, the sudden conversion of an enemy of the Church, or the movement of physical objects, or sudden arrival of persons under obvious divine influence.

While charismatic believers define every healing as “miracle”, the Catholic Church is very slow in proclaiming the occurrence of miracles.  Many of these healings are the result of intercessory prayers, laying of hands, and combination of medicines and faith prayers.  But miracles are not a product of coincidences, such as the experience of Juan Diego who received red roses in the dead of winter to show the archbishop of Guadalupe the proof of his encounter with the Virgin Mary.

Among the most enthusiastic supporters of spiritual impartation through the charismatic gifts are Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Pope Benedict emphasized that “the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in reminding the Church of the actuality of this gift.”  By this statement, he put to rest the argument that the spiritual charisms died out in the second century.

This year Pope Francis met and prayed with 50,000 members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement who gathered in the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Pope Francis oversaw the charismatic renewal groups in Argentina before he became the Pope.  In 2017 he will again preside at the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Rome, which is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of charismatic believers from around the world who are always craving for the outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

By Virginia S. Saunders

November 6, 2014

First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/11/06/spiritual-impartation-the-power-in-our-hands/

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ISHMAEL AND ISAAC: THE ETERNAL FAMILY FEUD

By Virginia S. Saunders

THIS WEEK’S DECAPITATION of a woman in Oklahoma by an Islamic jihadist has highlighted once again the eternal enmity among Moslems, Jews and Christians.  It did not start with Mohammed.  It has its roots based on the menage a trois among Abraham, Sarai and Hagar, some 1800 centuries before Jesus Christ.  This period was called Patriarch Years, when Abram and his tribe of shepherds led a nomadic life in Mesopotamia at the edge of the desert, cultivating lands in the Syro-Palestine area.

Abram’s wife, Sarai, was barren, a major embarrassment for women of that time who looked to the Creator as the giver of seeds.  She was way past child bearing age, in her seventies.  When will she ever get pregnant?  After all, God told Abram in a dream that he will be the father of many nations.

Unable to wait any longer, Sarai told Abram to sleep with her handmaid, Hagar.  And he did, successfully impregnating her but creating in Sarai a resentment and distaste for her Egyptian slave.  Abram was 86 years old when he fathered the child.  When Hagar’s child was born, they named him Ishmael.

Sarai became pregnant only after Abram was visited by three men who prophesied Sarai would have a child “this time next year”.  In Genesis 17:15, God changed the name of Sarai to Sarah (princess), and Abram to Abraham (Father of Multitudes).  Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 when their baby Isaac was born.

But Sarah was a seething volcano inside. Depending on which Old Testament version one is reading, Genesis 21:8 said that when Isaac was two years old, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac.  Unable to contain her contempt, Sarah pushed Abraham to “cast out the bond woman!”.  In compliance not typical of strong men of that time, Abraham acquiesced to his wife, and told Hagar and Ishmael, now 13, to leave the camp.

Here, the Christian, Jewish, and Moslem versions on which child was the sacrificial child of the Old Testament immediately diverge.  The Moslem version says that Ishmael and Hagar left “long before Isaac was born”, and that the sacrifice of the child was made before Isaac was born, placing Ishmael as the chosen contender for the sacrificial child.

Moslems believe that the Old Testament was corrupted by both Jews and Christians by substituting Ishmael with Isaac, based on how old Ishmael was when Abraham cast out Hagar.  One verse said Ishmael was 12, another said 13, and some readers conjectured 16.  Ishmael and Abraham, now 99 years old, were circumcised together.  Genesis 17:25 said Ishmael was 13.  He could not have left the tribe before the circumcision.

While Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the desert after being cast away, the allegory said that God showed compassion to Hagar and told her that she too will become “father of many nations”.  Moslems said that Hagar and Ishmael settled in Makkah, called Paran in the Bible, which is now Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  One Islamic ritual in Makkah is Zamzam, which commemorate Hagar running seven times between two hills, Safa and Marwa, looking for water.  They also believe that Abraham and Ishmael built the venerated Ka’abah in Makkah. There is also Maqam Ibrahaim, the Station of Abraham, which Moslems believe marks the spot where Abraham prayed and sacrificed Ishmael.

Moslems believe that after Sarah died, Abraham married Hagar, renamed Keturah. Since Abraham was from Chaldea, Moslems believe that he was more Arab than Jew, and was therefore the more likely root of the Moslem tribe who were begat from Kedar, the son of Ishmael.  Moslems also believe that Mohammed, who received his visions and prophecies 500 years after Jesus died, came from the stock of Kedar.

All of the debates on Ishmael as the sacrificial child appear to be a parsing of what is considered an “allegory” by Christians.  Muhammad H. Haykal, in his biography “The Life of Muhammad“, wrote that “the Qu’ran did not mention the name of the sacrificial son, and hence Moslem historians disagree in this regard.“  A respected Islamic historian, Al-Tabari, said this:

“The earliest sages of our Prophet’s nation disagree about which of Abraham’s two sons it was that he was commanded to sacrifice. Some say it was Isaac, while others say it was Ishmael.  Both views are supported by statements related on the authority of the Messenger of God.  If both groups of statements were equally sound, then – since they both came from the Prophet Mohammad, only the Quran could serve as proof that the account naming Isaac is clearly the more truthful of the two.”

Not mentioned in some research materials I have read on this subject is the Bible description of Ishmael.  It said in Genesis 16:12, “He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hands against him.  In opposition to all kin shall he encamp.”  Ishmael was the ancestor of 12 tribes, and from Isaac would come the 12 tribes of the Jewish nation.

Christians do not have a bone to pick with Moslems or Jews when it comes to  Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael.  Christian version of this family feud is more philosophical than genealogical.  Was it Ishmael or Isaac?  It matters not.  What matters to Christians is the symbolism of Hagar and Sarah.  Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 defined Hagar and Sarah as allegorical references to LAW and GRACE.  Hagar is Law, and Sarah is Grace.  Abraham died 400 years before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, and yet Christians, Moslems and Jews hark back to the Patriarch Years of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar on the Levitical and Deuteronomic sources of the law which dominated life in Jewish, Gentile, and Moslem communities.

The Christian version refers to the New Covenant of Grace established by Jesus Christ which has superseded the Old Covenant of laws established by Moses.  These laws include not only the Ten Commandments written in stone, but all the 613 traditional and ceremonial laws written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy which are observed to the letter by the Hebrews of Abraham and Moses’ time.  Thus, when referencing Sarah’s statement “Cast out the bond woman“, Christians are really saying, “Cast out the law!”  The law has been superceded by Grace.

In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about the pillar of the New Covenant as embodied in Hebrews 8:7-13.  In this, the Bible said that “If the first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one.”

But as written in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God found fault with the Old Covenant, and promised to conclude a New Covenant “unlike the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them, says the Lord.”

The Scripture added a very important tenet in the Christian faith: God said, “I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.  I will forgive their evil doing and remember their sins no more.”  This forgiveness of sins was dependent on the covenant God cut with Jesus Christ whose purpose in coming to the world was to absorb all the punishment and judgment for humanity’s sins, past , present, and future, in order for them to be redeemed and gain the righteousness, right standing, with God.

Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the law, I have come to fulfill it“. And by His death, He did.  But the departure by Christians from the Abrahamic and Mosaic laws were misunderstood and considered an affront by those who followed Mohammed, who subscribed to the Old Testament laws, especially in matters of food, veils for women, animal sacrifices, no graven images, and worshipping only the Creator.  Christians were thus considered infidels = unfaithful to the law.

The three religions which came out of the Middle East followed one Creator but had different interpretations of the law.  Christians also claim their inheritance to the patriarch through Romans 9:7 in which Paul said that “it is through Isaac that descendants will bear Abraham’s name as his heirs.”

How do Christians know that they are on the right track?  It is through Acts 2:1-12 which describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost Sunday.  Jesus said that He will not leave us orphans, and told his disciples to wait for the arrival of the Promised One, the Holy Spirit, before they go out to the world to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.  When the Holy Spirit came and revived the spiritual fervor among the frightened apostles and disciples, they went about proclaiming the word of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom and truth.  Christians know that they are speaking the truth and understanding the truth, because to them was revealed the presence of the Holy Spirit, a gift from Jesus Christ.  As the bringer of light and truth, the Holy Spirit indwells believers of Christ.  For that, may God be praised!

By Virginia S. Saunders

September 27, 2014

First posted in http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/09/27/ishmael-and-isaac-the-eternal-family-feud/

 

 

 

 

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