"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!
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!
Water seeks the lowest level and the path of least resistance. Those who drill wells know this as they evaluate an area to drill a hole for the extraction of water. Those who drill artesian wells (one where water flows up like a fountain from internal pressure) place a bit on a long shaft. They select their bit according to the type of ground formation to be drilled into. The driller will be looking for the underground aquifer that will supply the greatest amount of water. The well must be cased from the surface down to the place where the hole becomes smaller to protect the water from contamination. A cap is placed on top of the well to prevent insects and small animals from accessing the well. Water is brought up from the aquifer to ground level by a pump.
In Biblical days wells had to be dug by hand. Genesis 26 tells us about the land of Gerar where Abraham dug wells. Afterward, his son Isaac sowed into the land that was his father's. God blessed Isaac so abundantly that the Philistines were jealous of him and stopped up the wells dug by Abraham. Isaac had his herdsmen dig new wells in the valley so there was sufficient water for everyone.
Well water gushing from the ground below has been used to represent the Holy Spirit bubbling up and drenching us with God's blessing of revival. Currently, many are praying that God will uncap the wells of revival in our country and around the world. Since the Church is to be the Bride of Christ, what better place to reopen the wells where revival once flowed? The forward of a book called Revival Fire by Wesley Duewel reminds us that God has not forgotten His covenant with the Church. "When the tide of evil threatens to overwhelm the church, 'The Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against the enemy.' (Isaiah 59:19-KJV) and spiritual recovery and revival ensue." I believe prayers for revival are being collected in the bowls of heaven. (Revelation 5:8) We must continue to pray for the uncapping of the wells of revival for the saving of our churches and nation.
1994 was a special year for my church, The Crossing in Washington Crossing, PA. A well of revival was opened as we had an encounter with Holy Spirit. For several years, the sweet presence of the Lord came upon us and stayed with us. In a physical confirmation of the presence of His Spirit, a dove came and nested on a ledge at the back of the church. It stayed for months! That time was such a blessing for us!
In an interesting post on "Give Him 15" by Dutch Sheets, he tells how his friend Gina Gholston had a dream that a well-drilling rig was parked at the Red River Meeting House where revival took place in 1800. As it began to drill, it hit a gusher and water moved upward in massive quantities. This dream was interpreted to mean that God has plans to initiate another move of His Spirit that will be even more magnificent than the first one. This dream has a special significance for my church, The Crossing. I worked for the builder who drilled the well for our property. To get an adequate flow of water, the bit had to go below 800 feet. Even though that well would have passed inspection, our builder felt that the water would not be sufficient for the number of people who would come to be part of our congregation. So, he drilled a second well! Again, the driller had to go very deep, but, Praise God, the bit hit an aquifer that runs under the property, and the water gushed forth like "Old Faithful." It is my opinion that The Crossing is in store for another revival, more powerful than the first one, and that the wells on our property represent the size of the outpourings.
We cannot allow ourselves to be weary in praying. Our prayers are opening a way for the Spirit of God to re-open the wells of revival. We must bow low and remove from our lives anything that might interfere with the Lord's plans. The enemy of our souls would like to stop up our wells, just like the Philistines did for Isaac. We, as warriors of prayer, can defeat the enemy. I believe that the Lord is not only opening old wells, but also drilling new ones. Together these wells of revival will blanket our nation and the world. We used to sing a song called "Take us to the River," by Robin Mark. It portrays my heart for this season. The chorus declares, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon us. This is the year of the Lord." As our prayers open the wells of revival, they will converge to make a river of revival that touches the world. Hallelujah!
What do you do when your world falls apart and there is no way to put it back together again? Is there a way to redeem what has been lost? These questions come up during times of extreme loss, and I recall that healing comes through Father God alone, the only One who can identify with our losses. He demonstrated what love looks like—redemptive love—through His Son, Jesus. Words cannot answer our questions; the answer is Jesus, The Word!
Jesus relates to us in the lowest places of our lives. He sits with us in our pain; He suffers as we suffer. The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of this in chapter 53 of his book. "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces; He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3-5) For the love of God, Jesus endured the Cross. Why? Love makes a way for us to have relationship with Him and for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
The Lord came to earth to demonstrate the love of God and to experience what it was like to live like a man. He told us that our lives would be like His and that we are to live like He lived. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 1:5. "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." Jesus Himself told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b) Remember that God has not left us without promises. I am greatly touched by the promise He made to Israel (and us as His children) through the prophet Isaiah. "...Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Graham Cooke has an interesting perspective on the difficult seasons of our lives. This prophet of the Lord says, "Every circumstance is an opportunity to experience new levels of favor and faith in relationship with God. Our circumstances are not the problem. Our perception of our circumstances is the problem. Ask, 'What is God's truth in this situation?'" The Lord ordains victory for us in every situation. In Isaiah 42:3-4 and Matthew 12:20-21 we read this: "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out till He has brought justice through to victory. In His name the nations will put their hope."
As we go through trials and tribulations, sorrows and difficulties, sickness and death, we have an advocate who leads us in mercy and truth. Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth..." (John 14:16-17) We must learn to trust in the unfailing love of the Lord to pull us through our difficult seasons. Make peace with the truth that we may never have our questions answered with words but know that The Word will be with us to comfort, strengthen, and love us. It is love that makes a way where there seems to be no way.
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." (2 Chronicles 16:9a) We were placed on earth for purposes that God determined before we were born. Our commitment to the pursuit of a relationship with Him and His plans and purposes for us show the depth of our devotion to Him. As we all know, however, we battle against "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12) who want to wear us down so that we are not successful in glorifying the Lord.
When we are in the middle of a long and difficult battle it is easy to want to give up. During these times we must remind ourselves that every battle presents us with earthly opportunities to glorify God and collect crowns to lay at the feet of Jesus. Once in heaven, we will never be able to do the things we do on earth that bless the Lord. Could we go so far as to say that our time here on earth is a gift from God? I think this is why the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 these encouraging words: "Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God's perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus." (TPT) The foot note in The Passion Translation Bible says that these three virtues (joy, prayer, and giving thanks) combine to form a wonderful expression of Christ's life within us.
Let's consider some of the opportunities we have on earth to bless God. The first one that comes to my mind is the privilege we have to give Him the sacrifice of praise and worship in the middle of pain, sickness, sorrow, and trials. When we chose to tell of His goodness and praise Him for His never-ending love, heaven is drawn to earth. God cannot resist drawing near to those who rise above difficulties to declare His faithfulness and love. I have seen this displayed by family members and friends. When my dad was dying, he asked me to bring my guitar to the nursing home where he lived so that we could sing "It is Well with my Soul" together. Recently, my heart was touched by a friend who is in the middle of a battle with cancer. HIs prayer request was this: "Please pray that I am strong enough to be able to play on the worship team at our church." Can you feel the Lord's great delight in these sacrifices that place Him first?
How about when we live by faith? When we go to heaven faith will become sight, and we will see what we believed. Earth is the only place where we can demonstrate faith. We have the gift of being able to stand with God even though it may cost us something. Such a sacrifice is a delight to the Lord! Don't you think that the Lord's heart must burst with pride when we turn away from temptation and sin? Or think about when we share the Gospel with an unsaved person and lead them to Jesus? These are gifts to the Lord.
In heaven, we will not be able to help someone in need and, in turn, bless God by doing so. Remember those times when you have won victory in a battle. Battles are over in heaven. Earth is the place where we can overcome. God ordained that we do so. There are quite a few books that have been written by people who have had "near-death" experiences. These people have been able to see their lives on earth from a heavenly perspective and were given the gift of a second chance. James 1:17 tells us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights..." Our time on earth is preparing us for the time when we will go to heaven. We have divine opportunities to demonstrate our love for the Lord while here on earth. Perhaps we should change our perspective during times of difficulties. It is our time to bless the Lord and earn crowns.
At the sound of a familiar song, we can be transported to a special time and place. That happened to me this week as I listened to Marty Goetz play and sing "This is My Father's World." In my mind I was a 12-year-old girl at summer camp. Camp Sunnybrook was in a beautiful spot in the PA Poconos. Part of the camp program included vespers that would take place on a White Pine tree-covered peninsula that extended out into a small man-made lake. The floor of the peninsula was covered in a bed of aromatic pine needles. When the late afternoon sun was shining on the needles the smell was out of this world.
A group of campers would gather on the peninsula at the end of the day to listen to a devotional and sing songs of praise and worship. As I sat in the heavenly atmosphere, we sang "This is My Father's World.” After vespers were completed and everyone left, I stayed behind, because I was not ready to walk away from a holy moment. With deep gratitude and renewed commitment, I continued to sing the song, knowing the truth that our world was created and sustained and ruled by our Heavenly Father.
Scripture is filled with verses that confirm that God is our Creator, Maker, and Sustainer. He is all that and more! Psalm 8:3-4 asks a question: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" Indeed, how blessed we are that the One who is ruling the world stops to care for us. Let's look at 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 where David praised the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel. "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the Kingdom; You are exalted as head of all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." Amen!
I want to share the words from "This is My Father's World" (Verses 1 and 3) with you, because they are comforting to me, especially when I consider the state of our world today. It is my hope that they also comfort you.
"The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it on the seas and established it on the water. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessings from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty--He is the King of glory."
Let the truth of this Psalm strengthen us and bring us peace. Remember that this is our Father's world!
Ruth Heflin's book, Glory, is written to help us understand not only what it is but also how to experience it. Her vast service to the Lord took her to the nations where she shared the revelation that God gave to her. She was a song writer and pastor and was known for her ability to lead people into spontaneous worship. She explains that glory is the realm of eternity, the atmosphere of Heaven, and the revelation of the presence of God because He is Glory. Her ministry of praise on Mt. Zion was birthed after God spoke to her in the middle of the night. He said, "You sow to the heavens, and I will sow to the earth." After hearing this word from the Lord, Ruth realized that there is a progression that must take place for us to operate in the glory of God. She says, "Praise until the spirit of worship comes, worship until the glory comes. Then, stand in the glory!"
What does praise look like and what are its benefits? According to Ruth, praise is an instrument of harvest, celebration, warfare, and ascent. Praise to voice thanksgivings to God (Psalm 26:7), to declare triumph (Psalm 47:1), to sing a new song to Him (Psalm 98:1), and to shout with joy for His might (Psalm 118:15). We "enter His gates with thanksgiving and the courts with praise..." (Psalm 100:4) Psalm 45:1 declares that our "...tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." Just as God created the world with His breath, we must use our mouths to release the sound that sows to the heavens so that God sows back to the earth. Hosea talks about God's response to what we sow: "And the earth shall hear the corn, and wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel." (Hosea 2:22 - KJ) Jezreel means "God sows." These three symbols are of revival that leads to harvest. Ruth says, "You can stand in one place and minister to the Lord and affect revival to the ends of the earth."
Praise is a form of celebration. Doesn't the frequent number of festivals on the Jewish calendar indicate God's love for celebration? In addition, our praises change the atmosphere, and they invite the presence of heaven to come down and make it uncomfortable for the enemy. Look at Psalm 8:2. "Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Praise is the best warfare strategy! And then, our praise leads us up. The temple in Jerusalem was built at the highest elevation. The Psalms of ascent were meant to be used as the people of God climbed the hill of the Lord. We must always look up as we praise.
The transition from praise to worship starts when we begin to lose our sense of the surroundings. In this place we only have eyes for the King. We bow to His majesty. Ruth believes that it is the simplicity of the songs we sing that allows us to move into worship. We must focus on who He is, as the King of kings, the King of Majesty, and the One worthy to receive "glory and honor and power." (Revelation 4:11) According to Ruth our worship must begin at His feet and bring His majesty. Our worship experience is for us to know the Lord and to fall in love with Him. The final stage of worship is intimacy where we begin to know Jesus as our Bridegroom. He longs to hear our unique expressions of love. We should get to know Song of Solomon in the Bible as it teaches us how to confess our affections for the Lord.
As we come into the secret place, the glory realm manifests. "If we have vibrant praise, then we'll have deep worship, and we'll have the fullness of the glory of God manifested," according to Ruth. She also says, "In the glory realm we are more conscious of His holiness. This is why the angels cry, 'Holy! Holy!'" All aspects of ministry become easier in the glory realm: prayer, healing, revelation. Once the glory has arrived, we must linger with the Lord, because He wants to fill us with the riches of His Kingdom.
Just writing about the glory gives me a deeper desire to pursue it. We are meant for the glory realm. Let's not give up until we experience the glory that He promised as a result of our praise and worship! "Praise until the spirit of worship comes, worship until the glory comes. Then, stand in the glory!"
On my dressing table is a picture of two colorful parrots sitting side-by-side. There is an appropriate quote in the background of these two love birds. "Love has nothing to do with what you're expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything!" The quote comes from actress Katherine Hepburn. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us some words for the definition of love: "Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one's achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving...There are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run." (Verses 4-8, 13-14 - TPT)
Today, Valentine's Day celebrates romance and love. However, that is not how it originated. According to Wikipedia, Western Christianity made February 14 a minor yearly feast to honor a Christian martyr named Valentine. He was executed by the Roman emperor on this date during a time when persecution of Christians was common. The story is that he never lost his love during of the trials he endured. Eventually, he gave it all.
As Christians, it is important for us to understand the characteristics of God's love for us so that we can follow His lead. God's love is unconditional and is described by the Greek word "agape." Our focus must be intentionally centered on Jesus Christ because His love for us is the highest form of love and its demonstration will show us how we are to love others. The love of Jesus is faithful and sacrificial. Just as the Lord was willing to give up all His rights before Father God and man, we must be willing to do the same. To know what true love looks like, we must be willing to make the trip on the road to Calvary to see the Lord's sacrifice. Saint Valentine determined to take this walk and ultimately gave up his life for his love of Jesus.
The love that the Lord has for us is so amazing that He became our Substitute, our Scapegoat, on The Cross. He carried our sins in His own body on The Cross so that we might be forgiven. "He took up our pain and bore our suffering...He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5) Romans 8:34 tells us just how far Jesus went for us and how He continues to help us: "...He gave His life for us, and even more than that, He has conquered death and is now risen, exalted, and enthroned by God at His right hand. So how could He possibly condemn us since He is continually praying for our triumph." (TPT) God's complete love for us should give us the desire to completely surrender to Him and His will.
In Isaiah 54:10 the Lord makes a promise to His people. "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will never be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” What are we expecting when we hear the word love? The love of God is calling to us. He gave it all! Can we do likewise? I think so because of what The Word of God tells us: "...The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5 - NKJ)
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."
(Psalm 55:22) What a promise for today! Shaking is going on all around us, but those who are rooted and established in the Lord's love will not be shaken and will grow strong and produce fruit. This truth is so appropriate for the Hebrew month we have just entered--Sh'vat--the 11th month on the spiritual calendar. Sh'vat's theme is "His Righteousness is My Foundation." The 15th of Sh'vat is called the "New Year for Trees" or Tu B'Sh’vat. Rabbis use this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. Those who grow fruit trees know the most important part of their job is ensuring that the trees have strong, healthy root systems. Farmers go to great lengths to prepare their land. They improve the soil texture and structure by loosening it and adding organic matter for nutrients. When a seedling is planted the soil around the roots is tamped and watered to eliminate air pockets and secure the plant. The seedlings may be staked to keep them firmly in the soil until their roots are established.
Imagine that you are a fruit tree and could select the place where you will be planted. Wouldn't we all look for a place that is near water and that has rich, well-textured soil? We would look for a place where our roots could grow strong to anchor and keep us stable. Two Scriptures talk about this very thing:
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3) "But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Here is a question we must answer. How we answer it will reveal the strength of our spiritual roots: What are we meditating on, taking in, and following? The above Scriptures make it very clear that we must be consuming God's Word of Truth and trusting in it and His never-ending faithfulness. Though the world around us is shaking, we can be assured that the Lord will hold us fast. A worship team named Selah sings a song titled, "He Will Hold Me Fast." Please Google this and listen to the powerful music, and let the words encourage and lift you up. In the meantime, meditate on the truth of these words that you can read below:
"When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life's fearful path; For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; Justice has been satisfied; He will
hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast, 'Till our faith is turned to sight, when
He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.”
May we take in everything that God has for us so that His love and care keep us stable and secure, producing much fruit.
How far would you travel and how much difficulty would you endure if you were really hungry and knew you could receive bread from a certain place? Our nation is living through hard times caused by the plague called Covid. Many are sick and finding themselves living in poverty from the ramifications of this virus. On the nightly news we see people in cars lined up for hours as they wait for a bag of groceries.
Through the centuries many populations have gone through times of hunger—both physical and spiritual. The prophet Amos talked about a day when "a famine of hearing the words of the Lord" would come. (Amos 8:11) When people find themselves without something they are used to or need they begin searching for a way to obtain it. Scripture is full of stories of individuals who were set on going to a place whose name means "House of Bread" or Bethlehem. Their journeys were directly connected to the life of Jesus--"The Living Word," "The Bread of Life," "The Redeemer." The prophet Micah prophesied about the significance of Bethlehem: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
The tribe of Judah received Bethlehem in their inheritance from the Promised Land. After they became established in this territory, there was a time of famine. The family of Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem and moved to Moab so that they could get food. Their sons married Moabite women while there. After 10 years in Moab, all the men died, leaving their women as widows. Naomi's daughter-in-law, Ruth, insisted on staying by her mother-in-law's side even though Naomi was returning to Bethlehem. Ruth told her, "Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16) They arrived in Bethlehem during the barley harvest.
Because Ruth was willing to make the journey, there was a new life waiting for her, filled with promise. She was noticed by Boaz from the clan of Elimelech as she gleaned in his field. Boaz became her husband, and she became part of the genealogy of Jesus by bearing a son named Obed (Servant of Worship) to Boaz. He became the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. When God decided to appoint a new king to replace Saul, the prophet Samuel was instructed by God to go to the city of Bethlehem to anoint David as the king of Israel. David went from tending sheep to tending God's people.
From David, 14 generations passed to King Jeconiah, meaning "Established of the Lord." During his reign, the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, after which 14 more generations were birthed. (See Matthew 1) At the end of that run of 14 generations Jesus was born of the virgin Mary from Nazareth. His earthly father, Joseph, was a descendant of David. When Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census would be taken of the entire Roman empire, Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem exactly at the time when Mary gave birth to Jesus. Because there was no guest room for Joseph and Mary, Mary gave birth in a room meant for animals. She wrapped the Son of God in cloths and laid Him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
Shepherds who were tending their flocks in the fields nearby were told about the birth of a Savior in Bethlehem by an angel of the Lord. They made the trip to Bethlehem and were filled with praise and glory for God after seeing the baby laying in a manger. Magi from the east also took a long journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. After seeing His rising star in the sky, they followed that star to the place where Jesus was. Being overwhelmed with worship, they gave him their treasures.
Much fruit came from every trip that was taken to Bethlehem. In fact, the region of Bethlehem is called Ephrathah, meaning fruitful. The trips required sacrifice however, all were rewarded. "The House of Bread" fed every visitor. During this season, I believe that we are being called to make a spiritual journey to Bethlehem. Our year has been difficult. A "famine," so to speak, has overtaken us. However, God wants to prepare us for a new season—one of blessing where we will be filled with the Bread of Life that revives us and brings us into a time of greater intimacy with the Lord. We can visit The House of Bread by calling out to the Lord and asking Him to nourish and sustain us with the Bread of His Holy Presence. We must tell Jesus we are hungry for more of Him. He is the answer to every difficulty and the source of eternal life.
Joan E. Mathias