"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!
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.
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!
There is no question that America's origins are rooted in a passion to recover and live out the Christianity of the New Testament." So writes Eddie Hyatt in his book, America's Revival Heritage. He continues: "The first generation of immigrants to America were normally vibrant in their faith and passionate in their vision for a revival of New Testament Christianity. Their children and grandchildren, however, while retaining many of the outward forms of worship and doctrine, tended to lose the vitality and vision of their parents and grandparents. As former generations passed from the scene, the original passion for Christian reform and renewal passed away with them, and succeeding generations were left "having a form of godliness but denying its power.'" (2 Timothy 3:5)
As we celebrate the 245th anniversary of the birth of our nation, we can see that the concerns raised by Eddie Hyatt about the vitality of our faith continue. The activity of many of our churches confirms Hyatt's assertion that passion for the Lord and His ways is waning. A segment of our society is attacking anything that interferes with their liberal point of view. Their agenda includes erasing the truth of how our nation was founded. They find faith in Jesus and His Word offensive. They seem to know that if they rewrite history, they can control the future.
Here is the truth: America was founded for the glory of God. Public education was instituted to teach our children the fear of the Lord and the ways of the Word of God. Our mandate from the Lord is to grow in our relationship with Him and our understanding of His ways so that we can spread the Gospel around the world and bring light to the darkness. Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence got their words and ideas from the Bible. This document has impacted human rights around the world according to Mr. Hyatt. We should note that 27 of the 56 founding fathers were trained as ministers. And, the motto of the American Revolution—"No King but King Jesus"—had an obvious spiritual emphasis.
John Adams, one of our founding fathers, left no doubt where the ideas for our Declaration of Independence came from. He said, "The general principles on which the founding fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity." We, as the people of God, must be at the forefront of the movement to protect our history and to acknowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was active in intervening on our behalf. He used Bible-believing people to fight for the independence of our nation and established a godly way of life that would spread the Good News of His love and care for us.
I grew up in the 1960s and remember when prayer and Bible reading were outlawed in public schools. The Church let it happen, and it continued unchallenged. Those who initiated the fight against Christian practice in schools through the Supreme Court were not satisfied with their judicial win. Hyatt writes, "...These radical secularists now seek to remove any vestige of Christian influence from the public square. An undeniable part of their strategy is to rewrite and reinterpret America's past and to disseminate their revisions through a government-run educational system."
Psalm 33:12 tells us this: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose as His inheritance." We must do what we can to be sure that our history is not rewritten and that our future in America is secured through prayers and living godly lives. Here is how Eddie Hyatt summarizes this: "A government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, can only be sustained by a people who are continually revitalized in their faith and in their commitment to moral principles. This means that a nation that was birthed out of Spiritual awakening can only be sustained by a people who are continually awakened and revitalized in their faith...We will either have revival or we will have revolution; we will either have Spiritual awakening or we will have societal chaos. Both history and Scripture teach us that the future of America rests squarely on the shoulders of the professing Christians of this nation." There is no doubt that we are in a battle for the soul of our nation. We must renew our passion for the Lord and cry out for a Spiritual awakening that will transform America back to its intended purpose!
First known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated three years after the end of the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971. An organization of veterans established the day as a time for our nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers and flags. Gradually the holiday evolved into a day of remember and honoring military individuals who died in all the wars. Throughout the United States, parades are held, red poppies are worn in remembrance of fallen soldiers (started during WWI), gatherings with picnics are organized, and trips are taken because of the long weekend.
I read that at times Memorial Day has been used as a day to remember fallen heroes who did not die on a traditional battlefield. So, I would like to use this letter to remember and honor a man who I consider a hero of America. The Reverend Robert Hunt, a clergyman of the Church of England, was appointed as chaplain for 105 men and boys who sailed from England to Cape Henry, Virginia. After 144 days at sea, the crew landed on the southern edge of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The landing spot was named Cape Henry in honor of the Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick.
After landing on April 26, 1607, Rev. Hunt gathered the band of men together to give God glory for their successful trip and to pray to Him as they established a settlement in the New World. Bob Long, of Rally Call Ministries, researched Rev. Hunt's prayer which was an offering of covenant to God. He says of the prayer, "It was heartfelt, deliberate, and offered with appropriate spiritual protocol. The embryonic nation was now in true covenant with God. The wooden cross, planted in the sand beside their kneeling prayer, witnessed their dedication of the land to God and the covenant oath with which they did it."
Here is Rev. Hunt's prayer of Covenant with God: "We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelists to the World. May all who see this Cross remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit, join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled."
What a prayer! What a legacy for us to remember! The Church must make known the foundation upon which our nation was established. We must not allow the agenda of those who want to take hold of our nation for their own agenda to expand any further. It is time for the Church to take a stand to agree with God and the covenant that we made with Him. Bob Long reminds us that God is a covenant-keeping God, He remembers how and why America was established. "The foundational prophetic prayer is actually not well known, but its significance cannot be overstated. God has not forgotten this original covenant entered into with Him! Is He heartbroken with America? Yes. Angry? Perhaps. Is it too late for America to be saved? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Will there be an awakening in the hearts of the American people and a return to our original Covenant with God? YES!"
While prophesizing at a leadership meeting, Bob declared this statement from the Lord: "I have not turned away from the covenant this nation made with Me, but this nation has turned away from it. The cry of a remnant in this generation has been heard, and I am raising up a new wave of prophets to call this nation back to America's original covenant...I am shaking all things. I am raising up more who will join the remnant. I am raising up more who will increase the volume of My call to your nation to return to Covenant. I am raising up more of those who will reveal My Son to the multitudes, that hearts may turn to Me. A remnant shall be strengthened, and a nation shall be shaken, that it may be awakened!"
The Psalmist reminds us that God "remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations." (Psalm 105:8) This should give us comfort. Yet, we must also remember our roots and the covenant our nation made with God in 1607. It is time for us to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in our nation. Revival is beginning and will grow. God wants American to return to our roots and to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. From the beginning, our nation was to be a place for people to worship the one true God, to teach our children and generations to come of the worthiness of the Lord, and to spread the gospel through the world. Let us embrace this worthy call!
Mother's Day is upon us. In honor of it, I want to highlight a woman who decided to mother a nation. She gave up a privileged life to serve the Lord in a country that is considered the poorest one in the world. Together with her husband, Rolland Baker, Heidi embarked on a mission that looked impossible in its scope. However, the Baker's moved forward and began to change the face of a nation in a ramshackle orphanage in Africa. Heidi became known by her children as Mama Heidi. Today, all who know her around the world also affectionately refer to her as Mama Heidi.
The Baker’s web site, Irisglobal.org., describes their call: “The primary mission of Iris Global is to seek the face of God with all our hearts, that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. We proclaim Jesus. He is our salvation, our prize, our reward, our inheritance, our destination, our motivation, our joy, wisdom, and sanctification—and absolutely everything else we need, now and forever."
As a young woman, Mama Heidi heard an audible call from God to go to the mission field with areas in India, England, and Africa being highlighted. Their belief that revival would occur amongst the poorest people on earth brought the Bakers to Mozambique where the government offered them an unsupported orphanage that had been completely neglected. They report that "80 miserable, demon-afflicted orphans in rags" lived there. Heidi and Rolland agreed to take over the orphanage as long as they were permitted to bring the Gospel to the children. The power of God was manifested, and "within months the children were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, weeping while still in rags with gratitude for their salvation.” These young ones were taught how to pray. As they cried out to God night and day, their food was miraculously provided by Jesus. The orphanage grew to 320 children and put Mozambique on the radar screen of many churches who began to support the ministry.
Challenge after challenge faced the Bakers: They were evicted from their original building and had to construct a new orphanage, hit by cyclones and floods that resulted in great famines, and overrun with scared, hungry people rushing from terrorists. The Bakers have written several books about their situation and their experiences with Jesus. Their titles tell the whole story about the miraculous provisions from heaven: There is Always Enough, Expecting Miracles, Compelled by Love, Birthing the Miraculous, and Living from the Presence.
A Scripture that has inspired the Bakers from the beginning of their ministry comes from Romans 5:3-5. "...We also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." The situations that looked hopeless gave them hope as they lived in the power of God. The Bakers story traveled throughout the world, and all who heard it had their hearts touched. Support began to pour into their ministry, and they were able to build dorms for children, schools for the bush pastors, and purchase a bush airplane to spread the Gospel and provide needed supplies for out-lying communities. What started as a small orphanage in Pemba, Mozambique has expanded to churches and schools throughout Africa and around the world. Mission training for those who want to join the ranks of missionaries is available to those who want to make an impact around the world for Jesus.
I have had the privilege of hearing Mama Heidi speak on several occasions. When we look at the Baker's expansive ministry today, it is easy to forget how it all started. Mama Heidi shares her ministry philosophy with everyone she speaks to: "Stop for the One" or "Love the One in Front of You." One by one she and Rolland built a ministry that spans the world. One by one the Bakers changed the world for Jesus. Mama Heidi's love for Jesus and mother heart for the lost and hurting is one we all need to adopt. On this Mother's Day I want to honor Mama Heidi for her love and courage to mother a nation and the world. When we look at what is happening in Africa right now, it seems the challenges that are faced by the Bakers continue to grow. The people of Mozambique are encountering terrorist groups who are destroying their lives. Thousands are pouring into Cabo Delgado where Iris ministries has set up a place to help care for their needs. The stories of their loses are heartbreaking. You can look on their web site to read more about this ministry that has truly captured the heart of God. Perhaps our prayers and gifts can make a difference for one and help this mother, Mama Heidi, to continue spreading the love of the Lord.
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!"
Jeremiah the prophet frequently spoke with the Lord and listened to His explanations of the future for Judah. His emotions were conflicting: He was angry that his people lied, committed adultery, and worshiped idols, but at the same time, he had compassion on them. He was truly an advocate for his people. After listing their sins, the Lord posed a question to Jeremiah: "Should I not punish them for this? Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?" (Jeremiah 9:9) The Lord's conclusion is the following: "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins." (Jeremiah 9:11) "It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law, instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts..." (Jeremiah 9:13-14)
At the time when Babylon came to Judah their evil king, Jehoiachin, was only 18 years old and reigned for only three months. Jeremiah had warned the young king that the Lord was not pleased with him and that he would be handed over to King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was the only prophet that told the truth. He was in a constant battle with the false prophets. Just as Jeremiah prophesied, the people of Judah were overcome by the Babylonians, and many were taken into exile to Babylon. Afterward, Jeremiah had a vision of two baskets filled with figs. One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs while the other was filled with rotten ones. The rotten figs represented those people who remained in Jerusalem or who left for Egypt. God made it clear that those in exile would be cared for. "I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly." (Jeremiah 24:6-7 - NLT)
Encouraged by the Lord's words, Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon with instructions to move forward with their lives and to pray for their captors. His letter to the exiles is contained in Jeremiah 29. "This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives He has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.'" (Jeremiah 29:4-7 - NLT)
The Lord continued to give details of the plans He had for His people in captivity. "'You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord. 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.'" (Jeremiah 29:10-14 - NLT)
We cannot allow discouragement or dire circumstances or distressing situations to overcome us. We must move forward knowing that God is with us. "He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Many of us are discouraged by the way our country seems to be headed and about the decisions our government leaders are making. Let's be encouraged (brought to courage) by the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He has plans for our future. The exiles in Babylon were told to pray for the welfare of the nation where they lived. They were instructed to continue living their lives in the way they did in Jerusalem. We need to take these instructions to heart. Let us continue to live our lives in the fear and admonition of the Lord and to pray for those who are leading us at this moment. At the appointed time, the glory of the Lord will cover the earth and revival will spring up. We will see the transformation of our world as many come to know our Savior. The way we live our lives can be a testimony of God's love and peace to those who do not know Him yet. Our prayers will make a difference. The Lord looks for agreement from us for His plans for a hope and a future for us. Let us bring heaven's plans to earth!
How are you feeling about the atmosphere that permeates the United States right now? Are you disturbed at the injustice, violence, destruction, and conflict? Two of the Old Testament prophets, Habakkuk and Jeremiah freely shared their complaints with the Lord. Habakkuk told the Lord, "The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted."(Habakkuk 1:4) Jeremiah felt persecuted as he carried the word of the Lord. He complained: "So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long." (Jeremiah 20:8)
We feel for these frustrated prophets who brought the word of the Lord and experienced persecution and frustration because they had not yet seen the changes they were hoping for. However, these men left clues for us on how to overcome calamities and shift the atmosphere. God has a blessing for us when we keep our focus on Him instead of on the turmoil. He is drawn to us when we choose to rejoice instead of complaining. Here is how Habakkuk ends his writings: "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Jeremiah shares the word of the Lord to his people: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'" (Jeremiah 31:7)
Many years ago, our pastor, Scott McDermott, shared some pearls of wisdom that I still carry. "Whatever consumes us is what will come out. I am responsible for my reactions and what I carry. The posture of my heart determines the atmosphere in which I live." The bottom line is that our focus needs to be on the Lord and Him alone. We can transform our atmosphere as we look to the Lord and rejoice in who He is for us.
What happened to Paul and Silas as written about in Acts 16 shows us the power of rejoicing and keeping our focus on the Lord. While in Philippi, Paul and Silas were being harassed by a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination in her. One day, Paul was so greatly annoyed at her harassment that he commanded the spirit within her to come out. Her owners were furious with Paul and Silas because they lost their capability to make a profit from her. Many in the city came against them so that the Roman officials stripped them of their clothes, beat them, and took them to prison. The jailer placed them in the innermost cell of the prison and chained their feet.
Imagine the agony they felt and the dark atmosphere of the prison! Here is how they responded: "Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship." (Acts 16:25 - TPT) Here is the power of rejoicing and worshiping: "Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose." (Acts 16:26 - TPT) The jailer and all his family were saved and baptized and "filled with joy in their newfound faith in God." Truly Paul and Silas were atmosphere changers!
"It takes a radical focus (on God) to change the atmosphere." (Another pearl from Scott McDermott) Here are some Scriptures to encourage us and remind us to keep our eyes on the Lord and rejoice in who He is: "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:7-8) "Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous and praise His holy name." (Psalm 97:11-12) The atmosphere of heaven comes to earth as we focus on the Lord and rejoice in who He is. If we all partnered in this endeavor, we could change our corner of the world.
God uses unorthodox ways to demonstrate His nature and purposes. So it was with Hosea the prophet. His name means "Jehovah (The Eternal One) is Salvation or Deliverer," and he lived among God's chosen people during a period when their leadership encouraged a materialistic, immoral, and unjust lifestyle. God watched as His people, chosen to live a godly lifestyle as an example to the entire world, and to be God's bridge of redemption to the pagans, were totally unfaithful to Him. They prostituted themselves to the very ones they were called to bring to the Redeemer.
Imagine how you would feel if God said to you, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." (Hosea 1:2) Hosea's adulterous wife, Gomer (meaning completion), bore him two sons and one daughter who were named by God: Jezreel (God plants or sows), Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), and Lo-Ammi (not my people). Hosea's life was to represent the heart of God in loving the unfaithful.
God found Himself in a position of having to punish the children of Israel for chasing after other gods and abandoning their commitment to Him. Verse 12 of Chapter 4 says, "A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." In his book, Hosea describes some of the detestable behaviors engaged in by the people of God during his day. "They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets." (Hosea 7:1) "They speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts." (Hosea 7:13-14) "Israel has rejected what is good...They set up kings without my consent..." (Hosea 8:3-4) "Israel has forgotten their Maker..." (Hosea 8:14) "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people…” (Hosea 10:13-14)
Does Hosea's description of his times sound familiar? They do to me! We are living in a day that is characterized by our vile behaviors and affections to other gods. The spirit of prostitution appears to be alive and well. From His people Israel, God was looking for a repentant lifestyle. God said, "...Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears...For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:4, 6) While God had some harsh words for Israel, He also had some words of compassion. He remembered the time when they were faithful to Him: “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree..." (Hosea 9:10) Early fruit on a fig tree was considered especially delicious. When God found Israel in the desert He was overtaken by her appearance and taste. He confessed, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel...My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." (Hosea 11:8)
Mitch Glaser, Ph.D., wrote a book titled God's Plan and Purposes for the Jewish People. He makes some interesting points that are worth repeating: "The Scriptures never suggest that Israel's disobedience would outlast God's grace...Instead, when God wants the nation to repent and again receive His blessings, the Lord would do what was necessary to turn the people back to Him. The book of Hosea proclaimed the message to Israel that God was not going to reject them, but would wait for, or even initiate, their repentance." (Page 23)
God's compassions toward Israel have never failed. I believe He has those same compassions toward the United States of America. He is the One who helped establish our country through guiding Christopher Columbus to our shores. He brought the pilgrims to our lands so that they could establish a country with righteous foundations and freedom to worship the One True God. The Lord said of Israel, "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon, he will send down his roots…” (Hosea 14:4-5) God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Let us call out to Him for healing, restoration, and revival that our nation will return to Him and be like the early fruit on a fig tree.
Joan E. Mathias