Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Fire of His Presence

This past week has been an awesome week.  From seeing God move in the people around me, to experiencing my own encounter with The Most High God, I have been exceedingly blessed to be a part of what God is doing!
Sunday, November 10th, while praying in the prayer room of my church, God began to show me Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  Now, when I opened up to Daniel 3, the first thing I thought was, “I have read this story at least 50 times.  What is there that I haven’t seen before?”  But of course, the Holy Spirit gives us great understanding and as I read on, I began to see some new things.  However, it wasn’t until Wednesday evening at the last night of our fall encounter that God revealed the entirety of the vision.  If you would like to follow along, I will be using The New King James Version throughout this post.

Daniel 3 Summary

Daniel 3:1 begins the story with king Nebuchadnezzar making an image of gold.  The size was approximately 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide (according to translation from cubits to feet).  As we continue the story, we see the king send word to bring everyone together to the dedication of the statue and once they were all gathered, he decreed that everyone, when they hear “the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image… and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” (v. 5-6)

So the people heard the music and they bowed down.  However some people came up to the king and pointed out the children of God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who did not bow to worship the image.  They went further to goad the king by saying, “they don’t even serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.” (v. 12) In essence, they were saying, they don’t give a rip about you or the things you care about!  The king is upset and calls them over asking if it is true and even gives them another chance to worship warning them if they do not they will be thrown into the furnace.

At this point we see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answer, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (v. 16-18) 
King Nebuchadnezzar was now enraged and commands the furnace be turned up 7 times hotter than before.  Then he commanded that the strongest men come and bind up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  They were bound on top of all the layers of garments they wore and cast into the furnace.  Because of the king’s decree to heat up the furnace 7 times hotter, the flames killed the men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  

After seeing the three men go in, king Nebuchadnezzar was shocked to look up and see four people in the furnace.  At the sight, he said, “Look!  I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (v. 25)

He proceeded to call them out of the furnace and examined them, seeing that all of their garments were not singed or even smelled of smoke.  The only thing gone was the bindings.  He then decreed that everyone begin to worship their God and if anyone speaks against their God, they would be cut to pieces and their property burned.  Then he promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.

 The Message of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego 

In the beginning we see the king making an image of himself.  This image is a representation of his “flesh”.  First we see that he makes the image of gold.  This is representative of trying to make ourselves worth more or more valuable than we truly are.  See, God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).  In fact, we see that Jesus said that the “first shall be last” (Matt. 19:30) and to be great we must be a “servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  When we exalt ourselves, it is defiant and arrogant to God.  However, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t stop there.  He also made it bigger.  The idol was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide.  This shows a magnification of the flesh!  Magnify means to enlarge or make bigger.  Psalm 34:3 says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  Magnifying the Lord means to take one small aspect of Him (since there are so many, it’s hard to pick just one) and make it bigger so you can study all the details of it and worship Him for it!  SO, imagine how offended God is getting right now that the king is exalting and magnifying himself.  He builds this idol on the plain of Dura which is in Babylon.  Babylon itself is representative of defiance and rebellion against God.  Throughout the Bible we see Babylon continually rebelling against and defying God in all things.  So, in defiance, king Nebuchadnezzar exalted, magnified, and glorified, his flesh.  All of that by itself, God could have ignored, because there are so many who do that in their lives.  But, then he continues his offence by ordering music to be played and all of the people to bow before the idol.

I want to begin this part by showing how Lucifer was created.  He was the brightest and sweetest sounding angel, before his defiance.  The Bible says in Ezekiel 28 that he was created with music in him!  The praise music continually flowed from him on the mountain of God.  Then his pride, his glorification and magnification of himself caused him to fall.  With his fall, he took God’s praise.  God, when he made man, gave us the position Lucifer once held.  The honor of praising and worshiping God!  We have vocal chords (stringed instrument) to sing, hands (percussion) to clap, lungs that support the voice (wind instruments), all created within us to praise and glorify God!  When Nebuchadnezzar began to play the music with all the instruments, and then command all the people, including God’s people, to bow, he was stealing God’s praise.  I believe at this point, God could not remain silent any longer.  He was fed up and determined to make an example of the king just as he had with Lucifer.

The perfect open door was when God’s own children stood against Nebuchadnezzar.  In the beginning, they were part of the group who fasted with Daniel, gaining the kings favor when they excelled in everything they did through their obedience.  The declined the kings best so that they could merit The King’s best!  So they had favor with king Nebuchadnezzar for their abilities!  This is why I believe he was lenient with them at first in giving them another opportunity to bow.  After refusing a second time though, the king’s heart was hardened.  At this point I believe God intervened similar to the way he had intervened in pharaoh’s heart towards Moses in Exodus 9:12.  God took control!  He had to be made an example of to all who would defy God and steal the praises of His people!

In his hardened heart, he ordered the furnace turned up 7 times.  When I read this, it puzzled me.  Why seven times?  Why not doubled or tripled?  Why exactly seven times?  God’s answer was, because first this is to show that God Himself was in control.  He chose the number of amplification!  And the number He chose symbolized completion.  It was the act that opened the door for Him to step into the furnace and meet His steadfast children!

At this time we see the men bound in all their clothes.  They didn’t even stop to steal their possessions and give them away.  The king bound them and had his strongest men escort them to the furnace.  Do you know that Satan will try to bind you, even with your “armor of God” covering you, he will try to make you think you are bound.  However, your bondage may be just the thing that tests you and leads you to your encounter!  Stand firm, as Ephesians 6 says!  

See, when they stepped up to the furnace, everyone who was present encountered God.  God’s glory is described in Exodus 24:17 as a “consuming fire.”  However, in Zechariah 13:9 and Revelation 3:18, it is described as a refining fire!  I believe that God’s presence is both but that it affects each one differently. 
First, we see the guards.  They were the strongest and the best!  I’m sure they were the pride of the king’s personal guard.  They probably were well cared for, given multiple privileges and honored for being the strongest and the best.  However, their status in the community did them little good when standing before the fire of God’s presence!  Devoid of purity and righteousness, the fire consumed all impurities until there was nothing left. They died in their self-righteousness and pride.

Second, we see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego!  They stood firm and trusted God.  At that point I can just see God canceling Michael or Gabriel’s trip and saying “No, boys.  You’re not going to visit humanity today.  Their absolute loyalty and trust demands that I go myself!”  I think God couldn’t stand it any longer.  The defiance, the theft, the rebellion were one thing, but the desperation, the boldness, the audacity and the unadulterated passion they had for reserving their praise for The Most High God, the KING of kings and LORD of lords was the shot heard across the heavens!  Seven times hotter as the dead men walked into the furnace, the impurities of flesh consumed and they were left pure in God’s sight, just as Isaiah was in Isaiah 6!  They entered in the fire of God’s presence and were the only ones to see God’s face in the Old Testament!  Even Moses could only see God’s backside!  Tommy Tenney states, in the book The God Chasers, “Dead Men See His Face” as he describes how repentance brings about God’s presence.  It is only when flesh dies that God can come close to us.1

The final piece of this message is the fire itself.  As it refines and purifies us, we see that the greater the fire, the greater the encounter.  God showed up and all the nations saw Him.  There was no question about it!  They could not doubt what God had done!

If we can turn our backs on flesh and let go of ourselves and refuse to bow to the demands of this world, we will enter into a greater encounter of His presence.  And with that, the provision, and favor that follows!
I challenge you to examine the fires around you.  Are they refining you?  Do you trust God to be with you in the midst of them?  God will provide a way out or a way through, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego told the king.  He will deliver you from the grasp of the enemy and bring you to a place in Him!  Trust Him and seek His face.

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (emphasis added by author)  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not love their lives to the death and stood firm in their testimony of who their God was and they were delivered!

God bless you as you seek and serve Him!

1.  The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenney:  Chapter 4, "Dead Men See His Face"
This is the book we are studying right now in Ladies Bible Study -
I strongly recommend this book to ANYONE who is seeking a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.  It will challenge you and stretch you and if you allow God to show you who He is, He truly will!  This has been an amazing journey and I can't wait to see what else God is going to do through this study!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Encounter

Written by Kahaita Collins
(used with permission)

I remember the night that God presented Himself so clearly. Although I never expected what happened that night, God showed up and I remember thinking how much I didn't want that moment to pass. I did not do much that summer, but that was a moment I will never forget.

            Earlier that Friday evening my friend Jaylen came to visit me in Fort Wayne. That day the sun was setting, but peaking just barely over the top of the trees. The sky was a beautiful bright orange and the temperature was just right. He took me to a restaurant called Smokey Bones. I remember before we entered the restaurant, the smell of barbecue smacked me in the face. We walked in and our waitress took us to our table that was located directly in the center of the dining room. I was never one who enjoyed being the center of attention, so being in that restaurant made me feel slightly uncomfortable.

    As we sat at the table waiting for our dinner, we talked about about our summer break. When we shared our stories, it felt as though we had not conversed in a while. While Jaylen told me all about his break, my eyes began to wonder. There was a couple that sat at the table next to us and they were dressed like they had come from a wedding ceremony. The woman had on a nice black dress with perfect makeup and the man had on a black suite with a purple vest. On the other side of  our table was the bar where no more than ten people sat. There were several kinds of alcoholic beverages there and they covered the entire counter top. The bar tender poured one drink after another, at times, barely looking to see what she was doing. I could tell she had been working there for a while and I was surely amazed at her skill. The customers, sitting at the bar, earnestly waited for their drinks, mouths watering like a child waiting thirstily for her mom to bring her a sippy cup after a full meal. Finally we were done eating.

    When we got up to leave, I could feel the stares of the people as I walked past, so I was refreshed when we walked out of the dining area. After we left Smokey bones, we got into Jaylen's gold-ish brown, 1998 Honda civic to head to Bible study. By the time we left the parking lot, the sun had already disappeared and I could see the moon beginning to come out as I looked up to the sky. As we drove through the streets of Fort Wayne, contemporary Christian music played loudly on the radio. All of the windows in the car were down and the wind came rushing through undoing my ponytail. There was a long road that led to our destination; off to the side of that long road, were fields that were pitched black and I could only see the silhouettes of the trees. That night was the last Bible study I could attend before it was time for me to go back to college for the semester, so I was excited to spend some time with my brothers and sisters of the group.

    We then pulled into the apartment complex and Mary, the teacher of my Bible study, watched out of the window waiting for us to arrive. She invited us in but as I tried to walk into her house, I could barely get in the door because I found three little children attacking my legs screaming, “Hi Kaycee!”  The aroma of freshly baked bread was all I could smell. At her kitchen table was the rest of the group, waiting for the food to get done so we could go through our regular routine of eating and talking about our struggles and successes of the week. I sat at the table, right in between two of Mary’s children as they used the spoons and forks to fight as super heroes and bad guys. Mary was in the kitchen in the process of making pizza for the group. She is a Caucasian woman, about five feet nine inches tall, with short light brown hair that only falls to the back of her neck. I love her. She lit up the room with her great big smile. Having a spirit sweet enough to cause a cavity, she was one of the first women God put in my life to provide a spiritual covering over me. She prayed for me, gave me advice, and a place to stay when I needed it. Mary even introduced me to the Gospel and explained it in a way I had never heard it before.

            The food was finally ready and we all made our plates. I wasn’t really hungry because Jaylen and I had eaten at Smokey bones. I remember it being my turn to talk about my struggles and successes of that week. The struggle for me that week was that I needed direction and guidance on what God wanted of me. My success was that my school was paid for and I was all ready to start my semester off without any financial problems. Once everyone was finished eating and sharing how their week went, Mary started the message.

            Seeking God’s presence was the main topic of the night. The way Mary spoke about what God had showed her convicted my heart. She fought so hard to hold back the tears, but one drop at a time, they fell from her face. She felt so passionately about wanting God more than her next breath. She took us to the scripture in the Old Testament in reference of how the priests would go through a long process of getting themselves equipped before they could go beyond the veil to the Holy of Holies in God’s presence. That process is called the anointing. She talked about how God showed her that the churches today rely so much on the anointing, getting dressed and smelling good for the Lord, but not going beyond the veil. Then she began sobbing. That moment was the start of something I would never forget. I could tell God was present in that place because emotions were high and some people were crying while others looked as if they were in deep thought. I knew that God's word had to cut into her before she could teach it to us. From that moment on my life was transformed from those few, but very deep words.

            God instructed us to pray. Mary asked the group if anyone needed prayer and if we did, now was the time to make the request known. I asked for prayer first. My heart raced and I started to get sick to my stomach. It literally felt like someone had taken my stomach and stepped on it. I had no idea what was about to happen that night but it was as if I felt it coming; I didn’t know what but it was something. I saw Mary go to her kitchen to get her bottle of praying oil and a red sheet. I remember asking, “What is that for?” Mary told me that the red sheet symbolized Jesus’ blood covering me. So she covered me with the sheet and the group encircled me with their hands as Mary put oil on my head. She started praying in a language I couldn’t understand. I got even more nervous when she placed her hand on my stomach asking God to give me more. For some reason, I was always scared of what God would do. I always thought if I ever experienced God’s presence I would probably start speaking in tongues or falling out. No, not that night. God was so manifest that night that I started to get more relaxed as Mary prayed for me. I wanted God and whatever He desired to do in my life.  Then it happened! I tried to hold it back as much as I could. His spirit fell and my stomach started burning. I always describe it as doing sit-ups for a long enough time that one could feel the burning sensation of the muscles being put to work. I closed my mouth tightly, yet pushing out air. I tried to hold back but God wouldn’t let me. I opened my mouth and laughed. I was overwhelmed with the joy of the Lord. I sat on the floor laughing for about five whole minutes. The others in the group had already started praying for someone else, and left me there. That was something so unexplainable; no words can describe what I felt that night but it was amazing.

            From that day on, seeking God’s face became the motto for my life. After having a little taste of what it is like, I craved more of Him. I couldn’t just stop at that point in my life, I needed more of him. No other summer could compare to this, as this was the best I had ever had. I remember when we were done praying, I left Mary’s house that night in a hurry to get back home so I could immediately get back into prayer. I thanked God so much that night, for giving me something that I had always wanted, Him. That was the moment I would never forget.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

There Will Be Battles!

“Some people have the notion that we are supposed to have ceaseless strings of victories, but there’s no such thing as a victory without a battle.  There is no such thing as a battle without casualties.”
~ Pastor Jack Hayford in his book E-Quake ~

Over the past few months I have been praying over my health and our family’s finances as well as the long list of prayer requests that seems to grow each day.  I have seen the people around me and those that are in the group that I lead come under serious circumstances and attacks from the enemy.  In the midst of it all I have heard others and even asked myself, “We’re children of God!  Why are we dealing with such difficult challenges and heavy attacks?  We are supposed to be “overcomers” and be able to say to the mountain “move” and it moves.  So why are we facing so many problems?” 

I’ve heard the comments (and for those of you who have commented, I love you dearly but please hear my heart), “I’m tired of seeing God’s people under attack” and “When will it end?”  The answer is, it won’t.  The attacks will not stop.  The challenges will continue to rise, and the obstacles will continue to lay before us, until the end of this life.

I was talking with a close friend yesterday afternoon about all the challenges, struggles, frustrations, and battles.  I shared some of mine and she shared some of hers.  Then God reminded me of the very thing He’s been teaching me the past few months, in fact, YEARS!

Psalms 91:1-2 (NKJV) “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
The picture God gave me was brief but so clear.  It’s like a large target laid out on the ground and the center is an island, a shelter.  The secret place is the center or the island.  We can dwell in the secret place through our whole life as His children.  However, when the winds blow and howl, or something enticing calls, or our emotions sway, do we move from that center, that island?  Do we step out of the shadow of the Almighty and into the chaos of the mind?

God is not saying that in this secret place, there are not challenges or struggles!  However, if I abide (which also means live, dwell, or reside) in the secret place, then I have to be sure that no matter what, I don't move or give up my residence! If I stay there, I can rest assured that God is my refuge and fortress during those difficult times and I can trust Him because I dwell in the secret place.  As I dwell in the secret place, every good and perfect thing from above is at my disposal!  

James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  Here is where our gifts and blessings lay.  The Shadow of the Almighty doesn’t move and all the blessings from the Father is here!  When we dwell in Him, we have everything we need and don’t have to worry about the circumstances we face.  

The Bible even takes it a step further in 1 Peter 4:12-14 (ISV), where it says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, because you are participating in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that you may be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God is resting on you.”

We’re even told DO NOT be surprised when we are attacked, go through challenges, face persecution, and go through situations or anything else hard!  Why are we so down and upset or surprised and taken off guard when things happen?  We know that Satan will try to attack us.  In fact, the Bible says in Ephesians 6 that we are supposed to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  This means that we will be attacked.  We will go through some tough stuff.  

A lot of Christians quote Isaiah 54:17, which says, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper…”  Then they wholeheartedly believe that no weapon can touch them!  Can I just say now, this is a very dangerous way of thinking because when the weapons do come against them and touch them, they wonder why God let that happen, they get discouraged and even open the door to depression and heaviness!  Let me tell you, right now, God did not say that we would not go through anything!  He tells us over and over in His word that we WILL face adversity but then He tells us how to overcome it!  Revelation 12:11 says, "And they overcame him [the accuser, a.k.a. Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." (Emphasis added by author)  The blood of the Lamb is the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for salvation, for healing, and for deliverance!  The word of our testimony is telling the story of what God IS doing in your life!

I love how the Children of Israel of Israel would sing the story of what God was doing in their lives.  Every time God did something, a new song would be sung.  That’s why David sang in Psalms to “sing a new song”, because God is always doing something great and we can’t ever forget what He is done or fail to acknowledge what He is doing right now.

So, when we go through attacks of the enemy or challenges of life, we can stay, dwelling in the secret place and abiding in the shadow of the Almighty, in His peace, His joy, His comfort, His strength, His blessings, and His love, knowing that we can take refuge there and trust Him to see us through it to victory.
The bottom line is this”

1.      Don’t be surprised when bad things happen.  I’m not trying to minimize bad things.  I just had surgery last week, then an infection, and a lot of medical issues.  I know people facing a lot MORE than me too, like cancer, infertility, joblessness, and financial distress.  However, I know, without a doubt, that God is going to meet every need because I dwell in the secret place and abide in the shadow of the Almighty!  When they happen, and I feel the anxiety begin to well up within me, I stop and remain in the center because I cannot allow my emotions or circumstances to move me from the secret place!
2.    Trust in God.  Trusting is so much more than thinking.  It is a peace like no other.  A knowing, with every fiber of your being that God is in control, He has an answer, and even if NOTHING happens as I thought it would, that it is all part of His plan and He will carry me through to the end!  Like Ester said, when she faced the king, “…and if I perish [die], I perish”  (emphasis added, Ester 4:16, NKJV)  Ester was dwelled in the shadow and trusted God so much that she was able to say, if it all goes south and I even lose my life, I will trust in God!  That is a peace that no one and nothing else can give!  That is the place I want to be!  Job was the same way.  He had everything and then when devastation struck, he stood firm.  Yes he mourned, and yes he hurt.  But, Job 2 says that He would not curse God and in verse 10 he is quoted in saying “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”  He trusted God in the good times and He trusted God in the worst times!
3.    Seek His Face.  Here it is (for those who know me)!  2 Chronicles 7 is God telling Solomon, as he begins his reign as king after his father, David died, how Solomon is supposed to lead his people and what they should do when bad things happen as well as what God will do when they obey His instructions!  We are to seek God’s face and stay humble before Him, trusting Him and resting in Him!  He then gives us more of Himself which is everything we need!
o    2 Chronicles 7:12-14 (NKJV)
“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  (Bold print added by author)

I know so many of you are going through tough challenges and situations.  I pray that God’s word will be the “lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path” (Ps. 119:105) as you continue to seek Him in all you do!  I pray that His peace will comfort you and that you rest in “the shadow of His wings” (Ps. 57:1).
God bless you as you seek and serve Him!