"One of the greatest lies of Satan is that we don't have enough time to pray. However, all of us have enough time to sleep, eat, and breathe. As soon as we realize that praying is as important as sleeping, eating, and breathing, we will be amazed at how much time will be available to us for prayer." (p. xix) This is a quote from David Yonggi Cho's book, Prayer That Brings Revival. I could not let the passing of this man of prayer go by without looking at his life and extracting some of the gems he left to guide us in our walk with the Lord. Cho died on September 14, 2021, at the age of 85, after spending since July 2020, in the hospital because he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
Raised a Buddhist in South Korea in a poverty-stricken family, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 19 and given four months to live. It seems God had other plans and sent a high school girl to visit him daily while he was sick so that she could tell him about Jesus. Cho watched as she prayed for him and saw tears streaming down her cheeks. Her act of compassion touched him so much that he agreed to read the Bible. Jesus met him during his sickness, and he rose from his deathbed within six months. Convinced that Jesus is the only true God, Cho attended the Assemblies of God Bible School and graduated in 1958.
It was Pastor Cho's desire to build the largest church in Korea. He started small with just a few people. With no building, he obtained an old American service tent, pitched it next to a dump, and began to pray. As he specifically verbalized his needs to God, what he described began to come to him. By 1980 there was a physical building, 150,000 church members, and 10,000 home groups. His church eventually became the largest church in the world. On page 113 of his book he writes, "Everyone who is willing to wait upon the Lord can be qualified to carry out the great task before them because the source of their strength is not natural but spiritual." Indeed, prayer was the foundation of his ministry. He devoted hours of each day in prayer to the Lord.
Since the foundation of his church was prayer, Pastor Cho felt the need to develop a place near the church strictly for prayer and fasting. Established in 1973, it became known as Prayer Mountain and can accommodate up to 10,000 people. The site is close to the border of North Korea. Each year about 100,000 Christians visit Prayer Mountain to pray and fast. There are 214 individual prayer grottos carved out of the mountainside. Each grotto is meant for one person and contains only bare essentials—a light and fan. In addition to the grottos, there are outdoor spaces on the hilltops and chapels where groups of people can pray inside. The constant sound of prayer can be heard all around Prayer Mountain. Pastor Cho, when asked about the secret to the success of his church exclaimed, "I pray, and I obey.” Amen! My husband is one of the thousands of Christians who spent time in prayer in one of the grottos. Not only this, but he also had a personal visit with Pastor Cho who prayed for him. This humble man has inspired millions of people to devote themselves to prayer.
As I read Pastor Cho's story about starting his church in a tent, I thought about Moses, who used to pitch a tent outside the Israelite camp. (Exodus 33:7) It was called "The Tent of Meeting" because the Lord met Moses there "face-to-face." Then, I remembered how Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray and meet with Father God at the end of the day or before ministering. (Matthew 14:23) Perhaps Pastor Cho was inspired by these stories in the Bible. He certainly has drawn the multitudes to Jesus. Another quote from his book, Prayer That Brings Revival, gives Cho's perspective on prayer. "Prayer creates a personal change in your life. Nothing you can do will benefit you more than prayer. Through prayer you create an account balance in your favor in God's spiritual bank. Through prayer, you will benefit spiritually, mentally, and physically." (p. 34) Pastor Cho wrote from experience!
We should take heed of Pastor Cho's words of wisdom. He says, "As air is the breath of life, so prayer is the breath of faith." We must build our faith through our dedication to prayer. It is life changing!
Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) is considered the holiest day on God's calendar and begins this year on the eve of September 15. It is called a Mo'edim or divine appointment with God. There is no day like it, and it is celebrated by the Jewish people with fasting and prayer. On the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) on the Hebrew calendar, the shofar is blown to signify the beginning of the new year and the "Ten Days of Awe," a time of remembrance, contemplation, and repentance that culminates on Yom Kippur.
God initiated this special day to be one like no other. It was the only day when He allowed the High Priest of Israel to enter the Most Holy Place in the Temple by rending the veil. It was on Mt. Sinai that God gave Moses instruction on how to live by giving him the ten commandments, the laws concerning servants, personal injuries, property protection, justice and mercy, the Sabbath, and the annual festivals. After a covenant was made between God and the Israelites, He gave them instructions on how to make a sanctuary for Him. The Ark of the Covenant was to be placed in the Most Holy Place and was protected from everyone with a barrier or thick veil. It was constructed of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. Two cherubim were made with hammered gold and connected to the cover of the ark at either end. The wings of the cherubim spread upward so that they overshadowed the cover. (Exodus 25:10-22)
Leviticus 23:26-28 gives instructions on how to live on Yom Kippur. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Be careful to celebrate the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the same month—nine days after the Festival of Trumpets. You must observe it as an official day for holy assembly, a day to deny yourselves and present special gifts to the Lord. Do not work during the entire day because it is the Day of Atonement, when offerings of purification are made for you, making you right with the Lord your God.’” (NLT) The Lord made it clear to Moses that his brother, Aaron the high priest, could not go into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain at any time or he would die. He could only enter once a year, and first he had to bring a sin and burnt offering. He had to bathe with water before putting on his garments made of pure linen. He had to take with him a censer of burning coals from the altar, two handfuls of finely ground, fragrant incense, and blood from the sacrificial bull and goat to sprinkle on the front of the atonement cover. The blood was to cleanse the Israelites from their sin. (See Leviticus 16)
Did you ever wonder how this blood sacrifice on the mercy seat between the wings of the cherubim came about? We must look back to original sin that came from Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:24 tells us this: "After He drove them out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." The cherubim of the ark were patterned after those placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden. God would not be content to leave things this way, however. He has always desired face-to-face communion with all His children. God had a plan to remove the veil or barrier between us and Him. It was the shed blood of Jesus that permanently overcame the barrier.
Today we look at the blood of our Messiah as the sacrifice that makes the way for us to go behind the veil. His sacrifice gives us permission to go there anytime and as often as we desire. Hebrews 10:19-22 confirms our position of favor. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings..." On Yom Kippur let us remember the invitation that God gives to us all year long through the blood of His Son. Let us honor the sacrifice that has been made for us by pursuing a relationship with the Lord.
Can you imagine asking God to give you a son year after year? That is what Abraham and Sarah did. And it was not until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old that their desires were fulfilled. What a test of faith and perseverance they endured! But God had a plan and a perfect time for the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah would know for sure that only God's power and love brought about the birth of their son Isaac. As God was announcing His plans, He said, "But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17:21)
Now imagine how much Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac and how they protected him from difficulties and controversies because he was their only child. Is it possible that Abraham loved Isaac more than he loved God? We do not know, but we do know that God tested Abraham's faith. "Take your son, your only son—Yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you." (Genesis 22:2 - NLT) Scripture tells us that Abraham got up early the next morning to prepare for the journey in immediate obedience to God. The trip from Beersheba to Moriah was about 50-60 miles and took three days. When they arrived, Abraham instructed his servants to remain a distance from their final destination. He said, "I will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5) Abraham placed the wood on his son while he carried the fire and knife.
At their destination, Abraham built an altar, tied his son, and laid him on the wood. As Abraham lifted his knife to kill Isaac, an angel of the Lord called to him and told him to stop because He could see Abraham feared God. God had provided the ram in the thicket. It was caught by its horns. The ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac, and Abraham called the place, "The Lord Will Provide," (Jehovah Jireh). Genesis 22:14 tells us, "And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'"
The story is of particular interest to the Jews at the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashanah). Genesis 22, called the Akedah in Hebrew, or the "Binding of Isaac," is read. They link the blowing of the ram's horn to the ram that was provided to Abraham for sacrifice in place of Isaac. As the shofar is blown, it reminds them of Abraham's obedience. The Jews believe that Abraham's descendants are pardoned based on his merit.
God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would come through Isaac may have helped Abraham go through with the binding of Isaac and raising of his knife to kill him. Hebrews 1:19 suggests this: "Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death." In any event, the story of Isaac reminds us of God's mercy, grace, and provision for sin. We see continuity between the Old and New Testament. Father Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to Father God, and Father God was willing to sacrifice His only son Jesus to redeem us from our sins. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is a prophetic picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
May I suggest that we reread the story of the Binding of Isaac in Genesis 22 during the Jewish New Year. As we do, let us remember how the Lord taught Abraham that forgiveness of sin does not come through our sacrifice but through that of the Lord, Yeshua, Jesus. Let us also repent for our sins, bless the Lord for His provision, and pray that the Jewish people will come to know the truth of their Messiah in this New Year.
During the five years that my friend lived in Afghanistan she heard many heart-wrenching stories about how hard it was to live in a country that followed Sharia law. Yet she was there to share the truth of the love of Jesus and the hope that He brings for them. Currently, we are looking at what seems like a hopeless situation in Afghanistan. The people of this country find themselves in the clutches of a terrorist organization with no respect for human dignity or freedom. They are watching the destruction of their lives and are horrified by the possibilities for the future. Please let this letter encourage you to pray.
In a recent post from "All Israel News," Joel Rosenberg wrote about the history of Afghanistan. It was not until 1747 that Afghanistan became a nation-state. Before that the region was ruled by kings. The country was largely ignored by the world until 1979 when the Soviets invaded. With the help of American aid in the early 1980s (money and weapons), the Afghans were able to chase the Soviets out of the country. Had the United State continued to help the Afghans with humanitarian relief, perhaps the picture of this country would be different today. Without resources to help the many refugees who live in country, The Afghan leadership fell. Mohammed Omar, who Rosenberg calls "a ferocious and fanatical mujadeen commander," created the Taliban, an extreme jihadist organization. The Taliban took over the Afghan government and decided to thank Allah for their victory by establishing an Islamic country governed by Sharia law. Later Osama bin Laden would join with the Taliban forces to plot the 9/11 attacks on the United States. In the meantime, terror was unleashed on the Afghan people. They lived in fear! Here is Rosenberg’s description of Afghan lives just before 9/11: "Their children were being recruited for jihad or forced to do unspeakable things in the name of Allah. Hope was fading quickly. Depression was rising; drug use was rampant. The country was becoming the world's No. 1 source of opium and heroin, and there seemed no way out." Here is what women faced: They were treated with total lack of respect and were expected to live in forced marriages as slaves. With Taliban ruling, women were publicly punished for working or not wearing a burqa by stonings, whippings, and hangings.
After the 9/11 attack on the United States, life for the Afghan people changed again. As the US poured troops and bombs into the country and set up a new government, the freedoms for the Afghans began to return. It was during this time that my friend was able to go into the country to live among the people and share the Good News. New lifestyles were established throughout Afghanistan. The US government set up a military network to train Afghan soldiers to fight and protect the land and people. For 20 years there was a US presence that gave the Afghans a sense of security. As we have seen, however, all this ended abruptly a few weeks ago with the pullout of US troops. The Afghan military collapsed as a Wall Street Journal article describes: "In the week of President Biden's withdrawal, the US pulled its air support, intelligence, and contractors servicing Afghan's planes and helicopters. That meant that Afghan military simply couldn't operate anymore." With the Taliban fully in control, chaos, fear, and terror reign over the Afghans who helped the American military, those who profess to be Christian, and others who understand the ramifications of being ruled by a terrorist organization.
Sadly, terrorist organizations throughout the world are feeling empowered to start their own terror campaigns as they observe the destruction of America's credibility. The Americans have opened a door for evil to enter with no fear of reprisal. In his second letter to the Church in Thessaloniki, Paul wrote, "And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one...May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." (2 Thessalonians 3:2-5) Let us pray this and a prayer written by Joel Rosenberg that is below. Please pray for the Afghans in any way that The Spirit leads you.
"We must pray that they (Afghan Christians) will be lights in the darkness, that in both their conduct and their speech they will be witnesses of the true and glorious hope, redemption, transformation, and eternal salvation they have experienced by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we must pray that Afghan Muslims who are terrified of being enslaved or slaughtered by the Taliban will see the hope in their Christian neighbors, and ask why their neighbors have hope amid such horror, and that the Christians will be brave enough to explain the good news of Christ's great love and mercy with clarity, simplicity and trusting in the power of the Word of God—not their own wisdom or cleverness—to convince and persuade." We must not be silent! Light will prevail over darkness as we battle in the Spirit!
God's three main feasts--Passover Pentecost, and Tabernacles--are shadows of Messiah. The Fall Feasts prophecy the Lord's second coming and paint a picture of Christ's return to bring His Bride unto Himself. Each feast has a specific spiritual transaction for us that draws us closer to God. Passover brought redemption, Pentecost brought the Holy Spirit, and Tabernacles looks forward to the second coming of the Lord.
The cycles ordained by God are for rest and refreshment and increasing intimacy with the Lord. All of them are wrapped around the number seven and occur weekly, monthly, and yearly. As we align ourselves with God's cycles of life, His blessings are poured out upon us. When we keep God's divine appointments we will walk in a blessed lifestyle. Let us keep in mind that God's intent is for His church to celebrate His feasts forever. Leviticus 23:37 talks about the fall feasts and says, "This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live." Sadly, many Christian churches today have moved far away from God's appointed times of rest and celebration except for the weekly one. Is it not time for us to change our mindset? Paul gives us advice in Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."
Just as the Church has Advent, a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Messiah, the high holy days of the Fall Feasts begin in the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar, called Elul. From the beginning of Elul until the 10th day (Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement) in the seventh month called Tishrei, there is a time of preparation for meeting the King. Preparation includes repentance, forgiveness, and submission to the Lord. The first day of Tishrei begins the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) or "The Head of the Year." At the beginning of this New Year the shofar will be blown to announce the year 5782 and the beginning of the Sabbatical year called The Shemitah.
The importance of the number seven in God's world is demonstrated by the times of rest that He appoints for His people. Like our rest on the seventh day of the week, we are also to rest and celebrate during the Fall Feasts in the seventh month of the year. Once every seven years a Sabbatical year occurs where God directs His people and their land to rest. There is a dual purpose in this year to improve the condition of the land and to increase the faith of those who follow God. It is so appropriate that the meaning of the seventh year of rest, Shemitah, is release. Here are some of the benefits of releasing the land and our care to the Lord: When the farmer "fallows" (leaves bare) his field, he is setting it up to produce a healthier and larger crop in the season to come by increasing the nutrients in the soil, increasing moisture in the sub-soil, and disrupting the life cycle of pathogens. As we follow God's directions in Scripture by resting at His designated times, we also set ourselves up for an increase in faith and trust in the Lord. I find it interesting that Genesis 22, the story of Abraham's obedience to God when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is read at the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. This story introduces us to the concept of substitutionary atonement for those who trust in God to provide for every need.
The Jews will be celebrating the New Year 5782 beginning at sunset on September 6. They will rest from their daily work to celebrate the faithfulness of God in their lives and in the lives of their ancestors. Their time will be spent in contemplation, repentance, and prayer. Through the grace of God, Gentiles have been grafted into "The Vine," God's family. Romans 11:17 confirms this: "...Though a wild olive shoot, you have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root…” Joining in this celebration could only be a blessing for us. If we position ourselves before the Lord to follow HIs times and seasons listed in the Old Testament, there will be an increase in intimacy with Him, and He will help us determine a direction for the year to come.
God still calls us to remember what He has already done through His Son, Jesus, and to rehearse for what is yet promised. We have an opportunity to prepare for the Jewish New Year and pray for the fulfillment of God's promises that all Israel will be saved, and that the world will come to know our Messiah as Savior.
God speaks to me through His creation. Such was the case this past weekend when we went to visit the Delaware Bay and learned about what is considered one of the top 10 environmental phenomena on the planet. We found an abundance of horseshoe crab shells on a narrow beach at the edge of the Delaware Bay. As I began to research the reason for this, I was treated to information that confirms my faith in a God who cares for every creature He created. "The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountain from His upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of His works. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth...All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time...I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him as I rejoice in the Lord." (Psalm 104:12-14, 27, 34)
Horseshoe crabs, I read, are older than dinosaurs and one of nature's oldest creatures. Millions of horseshoe crabs migrate from the ocean to the Delaware Bay in the spring. The warm sand that surrounds the shallow waters of the Bay is perfect for incubating the eggs of the females. They come to shore when the moon is full, making the tides high. The males attach themselves to the back of the females who drag them ashore to fertilize the eggs. During each tide cycle the female may lay four to five clutches of eggs or about 100,000 eggs. When the sands are disturbed by the females' repeated trips to the shores, the clutches of eggs are split apart, and millions of eggs are washed into the water. This is the reason for another phenomena at the Delaware Bay.
There is an ecological connection between the horseshoe crabs and migratory shore birds. From the first week of May through the second week of June shorebirds migrate to the Delaware Bay. The Bay is a critical habitat to more than 400 species of birds, and it is estimated that between 425,000 to one million of them converge on this sanctuary yearly. A yearly migration takes place between different regions of South America and the Artic territories where millions of birds breed. The birds only make one major stop to refuel during the middle of their 8,000-mile trip. Their flight burns many calories, so there is a need for them to rebuild their fat reserves. In order to complete their migration, they need to double their weight. Horseshoe crab eggs provide just what the birds need to rebuild their fat reserves. In one day, the eggs help the birds regain four to nine percent of their body weight. It is common to see a huge congregation of birds pecking at the shorelines of the Bay during the full moon when the high waters are awash with horseshoe crab eggs. (Check out this web site for pictures and additional information: Delmph.org/shorebirds)
Isn't it magnificent to know that God cares for every creature on the earth and establishes within them patterns of behavior and cycles of life that bring them the provision they need? The Psalmist describes this in Psalm 145:15-16. "The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Jesus teaches us not to worry about our lives in Matthew 6:25-27. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" We should be inspired by the yearly migration of the horseshoe crabs and birds. Let us remember the words of Jesus during times of difficulty. We are more valuable to Him than the birds and provision is waiting for us.
We start Elul, the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar, at sunset tonight. The name Elul is a Hebrew acronym, "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li, meaning "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3) This being the sixth month, we should look at the picture that represents the Hebrew letter for six or Vav. Vav is a picture of a tent peg or nail used to make something secure. Indeed, God wants us to be secure in our relationship with Him and did something spectacular to show us how much He loves us and desires to be in our company.
What did God do that is so amazing? Luke 1:26-27, 30-31, gives us the answer. "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.'" The angel went on to give more details of this immaculate conception and God's intent for His life. “…So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Could Mary's pregnancy that begins in the month of Elul be why the Jews say, "The King is in the field?" I believe God appointed this time for us to connect with Him in such an intimate way that we will never doubt His great love for us. To confirm this in the heavens, He placed the constellation Virgo (The virgin) in the night sky. Elul is a month of nurturing or mothering. I think it is no accident that Rebekah gave birth to her twins, Jacob and Esau, during Elul.
Contemplate with me what a woman does when she learns she is pregnant. A time of preparation begins so that the baby can be welcomed and cared for in the best way possible. Since this is the season when "The King is in the field" should we not be prepared to meet Him? He welcomes our approach. He demonstrated His love for His people during this month by allowing Moses to return to Mount Sinai for a second set of tablets. He truly is a God of mercy! Elul precedes the month of Tishrei, when the fall feasts are held. An invitation is given to all of us to join the Lord for these feasts.
The manifest presence of the Lord is described perfectly in John 1:14. "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." Dwelling is a name for tent or tabernacle. He tabernacled among us. Imagine the King of all creation leaving HIs perfect heavenly throne to be with us! Such love! "This is love: Not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10) It is time for us to remember the nail that secured our King to us. Isn't it significant that the Lord was nailed to the Cross? He was attached and secured to the Cross because of His amazing love for us. That love should lead us to repentance, which leads to God's mercy and fruitfulness for our lives. What an awesome God we serve!
The Olympics originated in Olympia, Greece about 3,000 years ago. They started as a religious festival honoring Zeus in the 8th century BC and continued until the 4th century AD. In 393 AD, Christian Emperor Theodosius The First banned "pagan" festivals, which ended the Olympics for almost 12 centuries. The first modern Olympics took place in 1896 in Athens with 12 participating nations. Fire became part of the ceremony during the 1928 Summer Olympics. Inspired by the ancient Greek drawings and writings of Plutarch, Dr. Carl Diem of Germany introduced the Torch Relay. It was not until 1938 that the flame also became part of the Winter Olympics.
The flame was meant to emphasize the link between the ancient and modern games. In the ancient ceremonies, the flame was kindled using a type of crucible positioned to face the sun so that its rays concentrated on one spot and set fire to dry grass. Today there is a ceremony in Olympia, Greece where a parabolic mirror catches the sun's rays to ignite a flame. Several months before the games a flame is lit, and a torch relay begins where runners move from region to region until the torch reaches its destination of the host country. This Torch Relay is meant to express the handing down of the fire from generation to generation.
In the Body of Christ there is a remnant of Believers in Jesus who understand the importance of keeping the flame of the Lord burning. The first covenant made by God with man came through the Father of our Faith, Abraham, or Abram. In this unilateral covenant, God gave Abram a dream where a smoking pot and flaming torch passed between animals cut in half as a sacrifice. A smoking pot was a small clay container shaped like a beehive, 2' to 3' in diameter, and called a "tannur" in Hebrew. The flaming torch signified the holy presence of the Lord moving among HIs people. "Lapped" is the Hebrew word for the flashing light.
It is thought that the passing of these two objects between the two halves of a sacrifice represent the manifestation of God and confirm the covenant that He was making with Abram and all of Israel. God showed Abram that his descendants would go through suffering before He would give them an inheritance of the Promised Land. Here is how Genesis 15:17-18 describes what took place: "When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates—'"
After the Israelites spent 400 years in slavery to the Egyptians, God prepared a deliverer to lead them out of bondage. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses "in flames of fire from within a bush." (Exodus 3:2) While traveling through the wilderness, the children of Israel constructed a tabernacle that became the center of their lives. "So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels." (Exodus 40:38) God made it clear to Aaron the priest that burnt sacrifices were to be offered to Him daily. He was told, "The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out...The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out." (Leviticus 6:12-13)
Believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been handed the mandate to keep the flame of God burning. Today that flame represents our unabandoned worship of the Lord—a lifestyle of sacrificial love of God and those around us. Just as the flame of the Olympics symbolizes the link between the ancient and modern games, the flame of God has been a consistent symbol of our priestly duty to keep the flame of worship alive. In addition, just as the flaming torch is handed down from one person to another until it reaches its destination, we must keep the flame shining brightly and pass it from one generation to the next. Let us think back on the introduction of the flaming torch to Abraham, remember how fire has been used by God to refine and define His people, and recommit and choose to select a lifestyle of sacrificial worship that pleases God and draws Him closer to us.
What a wonderful gift I received this week! My partner in a weekly Bible study gave me a bouquet of lime-green hydrangeas cut from her garden. Hydrangeas are nostalgic flowers for me as they remind me of my grandmother's garden and a picture of me as a girl holding a bouquet of pink and blue hydrangeas.
I noticed that my friend cut the stems of the flowers at a 45-degree angle. This is one of the "tricks of the trade" that florists use to assure that the flower stem has maximum surface area to absorb water. Once a flower cutting is taken from the main plant, it will eventually die. The objective is to make the cut flower last as long as possible. Jesus told His disciples, "If you do not remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown away and withers...If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:6-7) We, like a cut flower, will die if we disconnect from Jesus.
Who doesn't enjoy having a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers in their home? Let's look at some of the other ways in which we can prolong the life of a cut flower, and how our lives in Christ Jesus can be refreshed and sustained. The right tool must be used to cut the stem of a flower. Regular scissors pinch the water channel of the stalk. A sharp knife or pruning shears should be the tool of choice. Also, cutting flowers under a steady flow of water keeps air pockets, that prevent water absorption, from forming. Stems should be plunged into a vase of clear, tepid water immediately after cutting according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He met at Jacob's well that He is "living water." He said, "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) We must be sure to drench ourselves in living water daily.
To maintain longevity of cut flowers we must strip all leaves from the bottom part of the stem that would be under the water. Rotten plant material destroys the quality of the water. If the water becomes cloudy it means that bacteria is growing and can clog the stems. A splash of bleach in the water reduces the amount of bacteria in the water. It is also important to avoid placing a vase of flowers near fruit or vegetables since they give off ethylene gas which shortens the life of cut flowers. We too must not give the enemy of our souls access to our lives. We must say with the Psalmist, "But I trust in You, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." (Psalm 31:14-16)
It is helpful to place a small amount of sugar in the water as it feeds the flowers. It is also wise to change and refresh the water every few days. In addition, it is recommended that about one inch of the stem bottom be removed every three or four days. This assures that the water continues to penetrate the stem. Let us remember what it says in Psalm 104:27. "All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time." God is faithful to give us what we need when we need it. The Psalmist said to the Lord, "Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love, and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness." (Psalm 26:2-3)
We must remember that "The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in HIs unfailing love." (Psalm 147:11) In Psalm 91:16 He says of the one who loves Him, "With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." The Lord is the one who leads us beside quiet waters and refreshes our souls. (Psalm 23:2-3) When I look at a vase of freshly cut flowers, I think of our God who created them and how they are a testimony to His love and care. Psalm 119:175 comes to mind: “Let me live that I may praise You, and may Your laws sustain me."
Most of the Church is unaware of the history of this time-period and how it can affect them. Last week we entered the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar. Today is the 9th of Av, a date that is so significant for the Jewish people that many will spend the day fasting and mourning. This date has proved to be consistently difficult throughout the years. It all began when the 12 spies (one from each tribe of Israel) went in to scout out the promised land. The men went in fully knowing God's promises to them. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.'" (Numbers 13:1) When the group returned it was during the month of Av. Ten of the 12 spies gave a negative report, claiming that the Nephilim that they saw were too strong for the Israelites to overcome. Fear fell on the entire camp. Joshua and Caleb tried to quell their fears by telling the people that the protection of the giants is gone, "but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid." (Number 14:9)
Moses became an advocate for God's chosen people, reminding God of His character. "The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the 3rd and 4th generation" (Numbers 14:18) The Lord forgave them, however there were ramifications for their sin of unbelief. "...As sure as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me 10 times--not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." (Numbers 14:21-23) God let them know that the curse they declared over themselves would manifest: "...I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In the wilderness your bodies will fall--every one of you 20 years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me...Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home...Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. For 40 years--one year for each of the 40 days you explored the land--you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you." (Numbers 14:28-34) The 10 men who came back from the Promised Land with a bad report were struck down and died of a plague.
Here is what the Church needs to understand: The camp of Israelites committed the sins of unbelief, dishonoring God, disobedience, and unfaithfulness. Their sins set in motion years of consequences for God's people because they spoke curses over themselves that agreed with the kingdom of darkness and gave the demonic permission to operate in their lives. Repentance for these sins has not taken place and so destruction continues to take place to this day. The negative history of the days past tries to repeat itself during this season. As Hosea 4:6 tells us, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." With the string of disasters occurring during this same time frame you would think that the "light bulb" would go on. Some of the major disasters included destruction of the 1st and 2nd temples, destruction of Jerusalem, crusades against the Jews--killing many, expulsion from England, Spain, and Portugal, the beginning of WWI, deportation of the Jews to the Treblinka concentration camp, and expulsion from Gaza.
We are committing the same sins as the Jews in the wilderness committed. The enemy of our souls wants to defile and devour us. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8-9) The Church must be aware of the pattern of destruction that exists and be intentional in aligning Herself with the truth of God's Word. We, as members of the Church, must be on-guard against the attack of the enemy and not allow him to destroy our spiritual temples or our trust in the Lord. We must come into agreement with the promises of God over our lives, stirring our faith to believe in them. God has given us power and authority in His name. We are under the blood of Jesus. Let's be awakened to these truths.
May I also suggest that we make this time one in which we pray for an awakening in our hearts and those of our Jewish brothers and sisters. We should be praying for the peace of Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:6) Let's also examine ourselves to be sure that we are walking in love and honoring the Body of Christ. Let us break any agreement we have made with the powers of darkness by confessing and renouncing the sin of cursing ourselves. Our repentance will surely open the door for God to pour out His blessings upon us. Let us stir our faith to declare and believe in the promises the Lord has given to us.
Joan E. Mathias