The legend of King Arthur and the knights of his Round Table is one that has been told in many forms. My favorite is through the musical "Camelot." Arthur had a vision of a land and people who live in peace and harmony. He gathered prominent knights from around the world who swore loyalty to him, agreed to observe a code of chivalry that required them to be brave and courteous, fight injustice and evil, and protect the weak and underprivileged.
The brotherhood of knights sat at a round table to discuss their adventures and make plans for peace. King Arthur's dream for Camelot came to an end as one of his knights, Sir Lancelot, fell in love with the Queen. Arthur's illegitimate son, Mordred, exposed the affair and rose up against the orderly kingdom. In the final scene of Camelot, Arthur is with his battle-ready troops. A small boy named Tom comes and asks to become a knight of the Round Table. He knows well the requirements for the knights and repeats one of their pledges: "Not might makes right, but might for right!" Arthur realizes that his dream has not died because someone from the next generation can inspire others to live it. On the spot, Arthur commissions Tom as an ambassador to spread the story of Camelot. King Arthur's hope for the future is restored.
Doesn't King Arthur's dream remind us of the one that our King has for us? The plans of the Lord are for our salvation through Jesus Christ, our prosperity through living in peace and unity with one another, and our generosity in helping those in need. He sent Jesus to the earth to share the good news. While here, Jesus selected 12 disciples to live with Him, learn about Kingdom living and then demonstrate it to others. Not only were the disciples commissioned, but so are we who are His children.
Look how the prophet Isaiah prophesied to Jerusalem after they endured many calamities. "My people will know my name...How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!’ ...Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." (Isaiah 52:6-10)
In Paul's letter to the Romans, he quotes Isaiah after asking some questions: "...And how can they hear the message of life if there is no one there to proclaim it? And how can the message be proclaimed if messengers have yet to be sent? That is why the Scriptures say: 'How welcoming is the arrival of those proclaiming the joyful news of peace and of good things to come!'" (Romans 10:14-15-TPT) We are like the small boy, Tom, being the sent ones. Jesus told His disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
Dear Ones, we are the sent ones tasked with sharing the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We are citizens of God's heavenly Kingdom. God has "entrusted to us the ministry of opening the door of reconciliation to God. We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly, through our lips..." (2 Corinthians 5:19-20-TPT) The Passion Translation footnote says that "to be ambassadors for Christ means that we are diplomatic agents of the highest rank sent to represent King Jesus and authorized to speak on His behalf. We are the voice of heaven to the earth, invested with royal power through the name of Jesus and authority of His blood." As we share the good news, we are bringing joy to our King and helping to expand His Kingdom. Psalm 78 tells the details of the journey of the Israelites and of God's faithfulness to them. The Psalmist declares that the story must continue to be told: "So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands." (Psalm 78:6-7) Amen! Let's keep the good news alive!
The time frame between the 17th of Tammuz (the 4th month on the Hebrew calendar) and the 9th of Av (the 5th month) is called Bein Hametzarim or "Between the Straits." The term for this three-week period originated in Lamentations 1:3 as written in Hebrew. "Judah has gone into exile because of suffering and harsh toil. She dwelled among the nations but found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her in the narrow straits." It is also called the time of dire straits. On Tuesday night we entered the month of Av—one where we need to be vigilant and agree with the promises of God.
A cycle of destruction during the dire straits that has been harmful to the Jewish people began when the children of Israel decided to believe a negative report about their ability to take the Promised Land. Fear overtook them so that they did not believe God's promises. During a period of 40 years, every person over the age of 19 died in the wilderness, except for Joshua and Caleb, who did go into the Promised Land and settle there. It is lack of repentance by the Israelites that opened the door for the enemy to attack them repeatedly during The Three Weeks. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 AD at the beginning of this period. Both temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av. A Torah scroll was burned by a Roman military leader prior to the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132 AD. Crusades against the Jews led to the killing of thousands of them and has continued throughout the years.
The Jews know that they must be vigilant during the Dire Straits. However, many in the church have not understood their spiritual roots and the Biblical calendar that would give them warning about the dire straits. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) The enemy is still on the prowl against the Jews and Christians. He rears his ugly head during this season to destroy our spiritual temples. He seeks to devour us. We must be "self-controlled and alert."(1 Peter 5:8) We must be awakened to the demonic cycles of destruction so that we can be ready for battle and take a preemptive strike against the enemy in the power and authority given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are definitely in a period of distress right now! A full-on attack has been launched against our health and economic well-being. Battles that pit black against white are taking place in our streets. Our elected officials are placing politics above leading wisely. Godly values are crumbling, and the family unit is being dismantled. Both spiritual and natural warfare are intensifying.
What are we to do? First, I want to bring to your attention Richard Wurmbrand, a Messianic Jew who was imprisoned and tortured by the Communist in Romania for 15 years. He became an expert at dealing with times of distress and developed a "recipe" for a type of "tea" that had seven ingredients or "herbs," as he called it. (1) Contentedness - Be satisfied with what you have. I may shiver in my rags as I gnaw on a crust, but how much worse off I should be if they had thrown me naked into a dungeon with nothing at all to eat! (2) Common sense - Whether I rejoice or worry, I shall still be in prison, so why repine? (3) Remembrance of past sin - Count them, and on the supposition that every sin deserves a day in prison, reckon how many lives you would spend behind bars. You have been let off lightly! (4) The thought of the Cross - If the only man on earth who could choose his fate chose to become sin, what great value He must have seen in it! Suffering redeems. (5) Suffering has been given to us by God as from a father, not to harm us, but to cleanse and sanctify us. - The suffering through which we pass has the purpose of purifying us and preparing us for heaven. (6) No suffering can harm a Believer's life - ...Prison cannot stop me from loving; iron bars cannot exclude faith... (7) Hope - The wheel of life may put the emperor's physician in prison, but it goes on turning. It may put me back into the palace, and even on the throne. Wurmbrand declared upon his release from prison, "I have drunk barrels of this tea, and I can recommend it to you all. It has proved good." He went on to establish an organization that supports Christian who are persecuted called Voice of the Martyrs.
Second, we should be alert to the schemes of the enemy against us. We must stand our ground, being watchful. Let us realign our hearts with the Lord by repenting for our sins so that the enemy has no legal ground or open doors to enter. We must be faithful in prayer for Israel, for the Church, and ourselves. We must be those who worship the Lord in every circumstance because worship chases away the enemy and establishes us in God's camp.
Of this I am sure: It is the Lord's desire to bless us. This is probably the main reason why He instructed the priests ministering to the Israelites to say a special prayer over them. "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26 - NKJ) Several Bible versions use the word "Countenance" when speaking about being in God's presence. It is like being with Him when He looks you in the face. We get more understanding about His appearance through Revelation 1:16. "In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. And His face was shining like the brightness of the blinding sun." (TPT)
Other Scriptures describe the appearance of our Lord as "dazzling like lightning." At the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples who were with Jesus saw Him being transformed. Matthew 17:2 describes the face of Jesus: "A radiant light as bright as the sun poured from His face..." (TPT) Moses had several encounters with the Lord. When he came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the Testimony "his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord." (Exodus 34:29) 2 Corinthians 3:7 (NKJ) records that "the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance..."
One of the definitions of countenance is the expression of one's face. What do you think the Lord is expressing with His dazzling, glowing face? I believe the light that radiates from Him is generated by His powerful love. The Lord's passion for His children is so great that His face explodes with the light of His love. Psalm 84:11, in The Passion Translation, has an interesting way of describing Him. "The Lord God is brighter than the brilliance of a sunrise! Wrapping Himself around me like a shield, He is so generous with His gifts of grace and glory..."
One encounter of looking into the eyes of the Lord's liquid love can transform a person and set them on a course of God's choosing. I would like to share Michele Perry's story of meeting the Lord from her book, Love has a Face. “Even as a child, I was a bit of a romantic. I do not mean mushy sort of romantic, but as a little girl my heart cried out for more than I could see. It longed for a love bigger than I was and more powerful than my fears. One night I met Him. I was seven...I was facing a serious spinal surgery and had overheard that I could die...I was born missing my left hip, leg and kidney. I had a plethora of birth defects that required 23 surgeries by the time I was 13. I used crutches to walk (and still do). But I was never as scared as I was that night."
"All I had was a cry: 'Jesus, if you are who those stories in that book say You are, then I want to know you!' Instantly, supernaturally, normally--as if it had happened a million times before--He was there...He was real. The Man who walked on water walked into my bedroom. It was that simple. The love in His gaze made time stand still...He looked with eyes that saw deep inside of me and loved every part...And the minute He appeared, fear left so quickly that the memory of it varnished as well...I looked into His eyes of liquid love and got lost...I looked into the face of Love...He is the definition of love. He is its substance, its beginning and its end. Love that is true and real looks like what I saw in His eyes. I met the Man who walked on water. He chased away my fear as a little girl. I had that surgery. I recovered. I grew. I learned. My life started that night, and so did my journey to find His heart."
Michele's quest to share the love of Jesus began with the homeless, sick, and brokenhearted. She ministered in the United States first and then went on to Calcutta, India. From there the Lord sent her to care for children in the war-torn country of Sudan. She went with faith in the promises of God and a face that reflected the love of her Savior.
God's Kingdom comes as we pursue relationship with Jesus and soak in His love so that we become an expression of His love and grace to the people He brings to us. God's desire is to make His face shine upon us and lift His countenance upon us. Why else would He want the Aaronic blessing declared over us?
Battles are part of maturing in Christ. The battlefield is our minds. While our spirits were totally revived and renewed on the day of our salvation, our souls (mind, will, emotions) must be transformed. Demons target our minds, planting thoughts in them to catch us off-guard. Anytime we agree with the kingdom of darkness we open a gate for demons to enter and give them permission to operate in our lives. It is important for us to continually evaluate our belief system and the behaviors that accompany it to see if we are building a protected place for them from which they can operate. This is called a stronghold. Any belief that we have that does not agree with God's truth can become a stronghold for the enemy. Consider some of the ways that we may come into agreement with the demonic: sin, fear, anxiety, pride, lying, unbelief, self-condemning thoughts. It is with human agreement that the devil is empowered. By participating with the kingdom of darkness in our thought systems, we are building a stronghold or fortified place for the enemy of our souls to hide and attack us.
The good news is that Jesus came to earth to demonstrate the will of God, which is to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) He instructed us to pray for the Kingdom of heaven to come to earth. (Matthew 6:10) He modeled the essence of Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will." In his book The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane tells us that God made us to be overcomers. The principle for success is this: "Victory begins with the name of Jesus on your lips, but it will not be consummated until the nature of Jesus is in your heart...God's only answer is to become Christlike . As you begin to appropriate not just the name of Jesus, but His nature as well, the adversary will withdraw."
How do we fight this battle? Francis tells us we must "allow the Spirit of Christ full access into our souls." Our goal is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. (Romans 8:29) We must make our minds strongholds for the Lord instead of the enemy by renewing it. Our bodies are temples for the Lord to dwell in and need to come into agreement with heaven. This is confirmed in Scripture: "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
Possessing humility or lack of it can have a major impact on one's life. Should we be accused of wrong-doing or failing, we must humbly repent and confess our sins and then appropriate what Jesus did for us at the Cross. Confess like this: "Jesus is my righteousness and through His blood I am forgiven and cleansed." In doing this, we break down the stronghold of the enemy. Then we can build a stronghold for the Lord by living like Him and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Keeping a record of what God has done for us and others and reviewing it regularly can bring hope and inspiration. Hearing and reading testimonies of God's goodness will stir us to believe that all things are possible with Christ. Along with this, we should use the tool of declaration. "Declare a thing, and it shall be established for you." (Job 22:28 - NKJV)
"The Word of God is living and active. It is sharper than any double-edge sword." (Hebrews 4:12) It also pulls down enemy strongholds and renews our minds. We cannot allow our minds to stray to the thoughts of the enemy but must meditate on God's Word regularly. Past experiences can make us doubt the goodness of God. We must declare God's goodness and faithfulness in the midst of trials. Praise and worship position us in the presence of God. Bill Johnson, lead pastor at Bethel Church, says, "When we worship in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties we build a gate where the King of Glory can invade our situations. Rise above your circumstances and declare the goodness of God."
It is a life-long task—perfecting our souls. Our souls find rest in God alone. (Psalm 62:1) It would be helpful for us to declare Psalm 146:1-2 over ourselves. "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." He is worthy of praise and honor!
America was preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. A 35-year old rector of a small Episcopal church in Brandon, Vermont, thought that the country should have a new national hymn for the occasion. Daniel Crane Roberts introduced the song he wrote to his parishioners on July 4, 1876, and they sang it together at their Brandon village church. Later, there was a National Centennial Observance to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution. Roberts' song was selected as the official hymn for the event. The words remind us of the rich heritage of our country and how God was a part of the foundations. It is called "God of Our Fathers."
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band; of shining worlds in splendor thru the skies, our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past, in this free land by Thee our lot is cast; be thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay; thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence, be Thy strong arm our ever-sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase; Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way. Lead us from night to never ending day; fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
The words of this song are powerful! Can you imagine the delight it gave God when it was first sung? It includes praise, thanksgiving, confession of our need for Him, requests for His presence, and truth. To me, it seems like the perfect song for us to sing today. We have strayed from our country's foundation and are in desperate need of God's continued guidance, defense, and peace. Without the Lord in charge, I believe our nation is doomed.
I found an interesting quote on the Internet from John Mathison of Leadership Ministries. He says, "The first two colonies established in American made it clear that they were being established for 'the glory of God and the propagation of the Christian faith.'" How far we have fallen from their intent! How we need the breath of God to blow upon us and bring us back into His fold!
In Genesis 18:23-25 we read how Abraham spoke to God about saving Sodom on behalf of the righteous. He asked, "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?...Far be it for you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked..." Abraham began to test God, asking Him if He found 50, then 45, then 30, then 20, and finally 10 righteous, would he still destroy Sodom. Each time, the Lord would relent. When Abraham asked about saving the city for only 10 people, here is how God responded: "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." (Genesis 18:32)
How merciful is God that he would have saved all of Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people! We need to join together in a chorus of repentance, humility, and worship to ask for God's mercy on the United States. Perhaps He will have compassion on us and bring our nation back to its intended purpose. Psalm 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance." I believe that God chose our nation, along with Israel, to represent Him on the earth. Join me in interceding for our country. Surely, we have more than 10 righteous in our nation. Let's bow before the God of our fathers to remind Him of our past and plead for our future.
Disturbing reports of chaos and destruction are prevalent in the news media. It seems that mob rule is taking over as those charged with keeping the peace back away and allow the angry mobs to have their way. What is behind this anarchy? The events that occurred during the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar (Tammuz—our current month), give us revelation about the spirit of our day.
When the children of Israel left Egypt there was not one feeble among them and they left laden with silver and gold. (Psalm 105:37) In addition, they were being led by God who took the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their ultimate destination was the Promised Land--"a land flowing with milk and honey." On the way, God led them to Mt. Sinai where they were reminded of how He brought them out of Egypt and provided for them throughout their journey. Moses went to the top of the mountain to receive the Lord's commandments. A blood covenant was made between God and the people. (Exodus 24:8) Then, "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel...They saw God, and they ate and drank." (Exodus 24:9-11) "Then Moses entered the cloud as he went up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18) Before he left, Moses put Aaron and Hur in charge.
No sooner had Aaron returned to the camp then the people schemed to make other gods. How could they? First, they took their eyes off God's promises. Second, they did not remember all the signs and wonders they saw. Third, they wanted immediate comfort and security and were willing to give up their inheritance for it. How tragic!! Aaron joined the mob in building a golden calf from the gold taken out of Egypt. In front of the calf Aaron built an altar and all of Israel sacrificed burnt offerings, ate and drank, and indulged in revelry. (Exodus 32:6) Immediate gratification was the call for the day. The anger of the Lord was so great that He wanted to kill all of them. The Lord relented only after Moses interceded.
Reuben was the first-born son of Jacob and Leah and is associated with this month of Tammuz. As the first-born son, he stood to receive a double portion of his father's inheritance and should have been a leader of the other brothers and their tribes, and a priest of his family. However, he esteemed his birthright lightly and lost it all from lack of self-control and patience. His sin was great against God and his father, Jacob. "Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it." (Genesis 35:22) Reuben's sin resulted in shame and loss for the rest of his life. His behavior had ramifications for generations to come. When it came time to enter the Promised Land, Reuben settled for land east of the Jordan and rejected his portion of the inheritance.
There are lessons for us to learn on how to live during this month of Tammuz and in the future. All of us have received promises from God that should guide us toward our destinies. We must stay focused on those promises and wait with patience for God's perfect timing. As He tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." Destructive behaviors lead to losses in the future. A desire for immediate gratification that results in rash decisions and activities brings an inferior inheritance. We must not settle for less than God's best, and we must agree with His methods and timing to see the manifestation of His promises. We cannot join the angry mobs in building "golden calves"—idols that only give a moment of satisfaction.
This is the time when we should be reviewing the signs that God has given us and focusing on His promises. We cannot be seduced into producing idols that feel good now. Paul gives us excellent advice in Philippians 3:14. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." How should we move forward to our Promised Lands? We must keep our eyes focused on God's promises and persevere with patience. If we are tempted with thoughts of discouragement or desires for building an idol, replace them with extravagant worship to our Lord and King who will guide us to our destinies. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad." Can we give an Amen to this truth written by Anne Geddes? Fathers are so important that there is an organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative whose vision is for every child to grow up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. They tell us this: "Underlying many of society's most pressing challenges is a lack of father involvement in their children's lives." According to the U. S. Census Bureau, one in four children live without a father in their home. There are countless other children who live with a father figure who is physically present but emotionally absent. Their fathers are in their lives but not a part of it so that the relationships are toxic.
Statistics put out by the U. S. Census Bureau on our fatherless generation are extremely concerning. Children in this situation are at a four times greater risk of living in poverty and are two times more likely to drop out of high school. These children are more likely to suffer from abuse and neglect, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to become behavioral problems, to commit a crime and to go to prison. Daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens. Comments from wounded, fatherless individuals found on the Internet are telling. Here are a few of the milder ones: "I tell people I don't know my father, because I am afraid to say that he jumps in and out of my life when he wants...And it hurts." "No matter how old you get, the hole in your heart created by your father's absence still aches—especially on Father's Day." "My father was a Christian, but he had no time for me."
Every person was made for love. A father, as the head of a family, should be displaying unconditional love, understanding, support, protection, encouragement, guidance, and friendship. He should be taking time to listen to his children and to communicate with them. Sons need a role model while daughters need an example of how their future husband should treat them. It seems that absence of a father figure in homes has become a generational issue and breeds children who are angry, fearful, anxious, and unforgiving. This crisis of children with hardened hearts offers the demonic realm a playground from which to operate. Our fatherless generation needs someone to stand in the gap for them. That is why we must point these brokenhearted individuals to their Father in heaven. Here are some of the descriptions of our Heavenly Father from the Bible.
Father God stands ready to save us from our sorrow. "The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion." (Psalm 116:5) When Jesus came to earth, He had the audacity to call God “Father.” The religious leaders of the day did not comprehend that their greatest need was for a father who loved and cared for them. To be good leaders, they needed to be totally dependent upon God. Even in the model prayer that Jesus taught, we are told to begin by saying, "Our Father in heaven." As we come to our Father in heaven, we can rest assured that He will provide for our daily needs.
What part can we play in presenting our heavenly Father to those on earth? We must acknowledge that we are totally dependent on Father God for every need and ask Him to stand in the gap if we have an earthly father who has not demonstrated God's qualities for a father. We must be ready to forgive our earthly fathers where they have fallen. We must pray for inadequate fathers and those who have been wounded by them. For those of us who have or had godly fathers who have blessed us, we should thank them and thank God for them. Let's walk in such a way that our lives reflect Father God's characteristics. Finally, if you are a father, evaluate your relationship with your children and look to Father God to help you to be His representative on earth.
One of my favorite CDs is Paul Wilbur's "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem." It is not unusual for me to replay this CD repeatedly. At the beginning of the week, I was doing this, and lines from various songs began to stand out to me. I started to think that praying these lines would be powerful. Each song contributes to a way that we can pour our hearts out to the Lord. Pouring out our hearts is an important thing to do in this ever-changing season of loss, shock, trauma, and chaos. Many weigh in with possible solutions to solve the problems of our beloved nation. However, we should realize that man cannot legislate righteousness in humankind or change hard hearts; only God can do this!
The people of God frequently strayed from His ways. God, acting as a good parent, disciplined them and then he would bring them back to Himself. He said to Ezekiel, tell my people, "I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone...I will show the holiness of my great name...Then the nations will know that I am the Lord...I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:21-27)
We see how God has the power to change a heart. How we need Him to do this for the heart of our nation! Without God we are helpless. The bad reports coming from our media make me want to hide. This thought is wonderfully expressed as Paul sings "In Your Presence Oh God" by Lynn Deshazo. One of the verses says, "I want to hide where the flood of evil cannot reach me, where I'm covered by the blood. I want to be where the schemes of darkness cannot touch me—In your presence oh God!" We all need to be in the presence of God, especially in this season. It is in these places of intimacy with the Lord where He gives us His heart for the nations and reveals how to pray.
Scripture is clear that we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.' For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you.' For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity." (Psalm 122:6-9) The last verse of Paul's song, "Shalom Jerusalem" portrays God's desire to change the hearts of His people: "Israel, beloved Ephraim my son, How my heart would thrill to hear you say The Messiah has come. Oh, my brother, hear these words; may they pierce your soul. Turn again to worship Adonai, Messiah you will know."
The prophet Habakkuk understood that we must wait for the revelation of the Lord. He promised to look to see what the Lord will say to him. God gives a warning: "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice." (Habakkuk 2:12) Habakkuk cries out to God, "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds. Lord, repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2) We need the truth of God's Kingdom to reign in us. It is time for us to confess and repent for the sin of turning away from God's ways and for rebellion against Him. It is time to invite the Lord to come and take His place on the throne of our hearts.
The song "Even So" was written by Steve Merkel. As Paul sings, we need to join Him in the invitation to our Lord, "You are welcome in this place; be enthroned upon our praises. May our worship rise like incense as we magnify the Son. Mighty God of Israel, Lamb upon the Throne, all blessing, and honor to our God forevermore. We join our hearts together, we come in one accord; the bonds of peace unite us in the Spirit of the Lord...Let the Spirit and the Bride say come...To the Lion and the Lamb, Heaven's King, the Great I Am; Come take your place on Your throne.” Revelation 5:8 tells us that the 24 elders around the Throne of the Lord had harps and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Let us fill those bowls with our prayers of repentance and invitation to the Lord. Let worship of our God arise!
Every person that Jesus prayed for was healed. He demonstrated the works of His Father by healing, delivering, and raising people from the dead. It was His desire that His disciples and all Believers do the works that He did. He said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) The power to do these works comes from the Holy Spirit who was first given to the disciples who waited in Jerusalem. Today Believers are filled with the Holy Spirit when they accept Jesus as Savior. However, the power comes to us through the Holy Spirit as our relationship with Him, Jesus and Father God grows. We become like those we spend time with and develop a reservoir of anointing as we spend quality time with the Lord.
Recently, I was encouraged to research reservoirs. They are defined as basins or receptacles where water is collected and stored for us. The water can be used to supply drinking water, to irrigate land, to enhance recreational opportunities and to generate hydroelectric power. The largest reservoir in our country is called Lake Mead. It was formed by damming the Colorado River, covers 248 sq. miles, and can hold 28.9 million acre-feet of water. (One acre-foot equals 325,000 gallons.) You may know the dam holding back the water as Hoover Dam. The reservoir accomplishes all the uses listed above. However, its most important function is supplying water for the hydroelectric station that generates four billion kilowatt hours of power annually. For the water to be used for its intended purpose, it must be collected and maintained at a certain level. This allows it to be moved through cylindrical gates toward the powerhouse. In the case of Lake Mead, the water falls about 500' to the hydroelectric power plant at the base of Hoover Dam. Power is distributed from the plant to people in four states.
It is my opinion that one of the reasons Jesus was able to heal everyone who came to Him was because He had a huge reservoir of anointing that was collected through His daily intimacy with Father God. The first chapter of the book of Mark tells how Jesus went to Simon and Andrew's house to heal Simon's mother-in-law. In the evening, many people from the local village brought the sick and demon possessed to Jesus for healing. On the next day, before moving to nearby villages to preach, Jesus rose early in the morning, while it was still dark, and "went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Verse 35)
Jesus was a man of prayer. Even at His baptism, "He was praying and heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove..." (Luke 3:21-22) Later, Luke tells us that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16) Before selecting His 12 disciples, "Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." (Luke 6:12) Jesus knew that He would need to be filled with power from God to face crucifixion. That is why "He went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.'" (Matthew 26:36)
We must follow Jesus and the way He prioritized intimacy with His Father. Our job is to go out into the world to preach the gospel, heal the sick and set the oppressed free. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit will we be able to live out the call on our lives. We must build up a reservoir of favor and anointing from the Holy Spirit through our times of intimacy with Him to see the power that Jesus displayed operating in our lives.
For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples truths from the Kingdom of God. Before He ascended into heaven, "Jesus instructed them, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) Two words stand out to me in this passage: wait and baptized. Acts 1:4-5 is saying, "If you wait (remain or tarry), then you will be baptized (immersed or drenched) in the Holy Spirit." The instructions require an action on the part of the hearer. The disciples were required to wait for 10 days after Jesus left them, and before the promise hit. Today we call the time when the Holy Spirit poured out in power Pentecost because it was 50 days from the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Those who waited had no idea how long they would be in the same place. God blessed those who persevered.
Waiting is an action word as explained in Proverbs 8:34-35. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." The disciples were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They had to listen to and obey what Jesus told them. They were also watching for the appearing of His Spirit. This is what waiting looks like.
Jesus wants His disciples to make themselves available to Him. While we wait the Lord awakens our senses and prepares us for what is to come. The more we wait, the more we cultivate a deeper understanding of Him, the Source of Life. This enable the Lord to enlarge our spiritual capacity. He wants to take us from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Psalm 27:14 gives us great encouragement. "...Don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting--for He will never disappoint you!" (TPT)
Because they waited and obeyed what Jesus told them, the reward for the disciples was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you have ever been to a baptism service, you will recall that the person being baptized is completely immersed into the water. Every part of their body is saturated with water. The symbolism of the ceremony is rich. Going under the water is symbolic of dying to the old life and coming up in newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost everyone who had waited in the upper room was transformed. In Acts 2:4 it says, "They were filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned." (TPT) The wind of the Spirit overtook those who waited so that they became more like Jesus—God's intended outcome for this encounter. The writer of Acts describes the new community of Believers: "...Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion, and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the Believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity, they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them." (Acts 2:42-45 - TPT)
The prophetic community of our day has been declaring that this year we will have a Pentecost like none we have experienced before. We have anticipated that God is doing something new. We are being called to arise and awaken. It is time to move from fear to faith. Since today is Pentecost Sunday, the day celebrated by the Church, let's open our hearts to the new thing God wants to do in us. We are beginning to move out from our places of quarantine into the world around us. We must be aware of the opportunities God is giving us to share His Kingdom with others. It will take boldness and courage to move out into new territories. Perhaps we will see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power.
Joan E. Mathias