When the Israelites had traveled through the wilderness and were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God gave them reminders of their journey, instructions on how to live their lives, and promises for the future. The book of Deuteronomy is filled with these. We can read what God told them about the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:10-12. "The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
Throughout the time that they were moving toward Mt. Sinai God was drawing His people to Himself by revealing who He is and what He had in store for them. He told them, "Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) He wanted a people who were set apart and formed in His identity. One of the concepts that was introduced to the Israelites was that of firstfruits. It required them to be dedicated to celebrating it at the beginning of the grain harvests and was an act of worship. They needed to go into their fields to select the first and best stalk of grain to present to the priests as an offering to the Lord. The firstfruits offerings were brought to the priests during the three primary feasts and at the beginning of each new month. The principle is that the first of everything belongs to the Lord—crops, livestock, and children. By giving the first part of their blessing to God, they were dedicating and sanctifying the rest.
The Israelites learned much as they spent 50 days traveling to Mt. Sinai where God would give them the law and a new identity as a people. On the Jewish calendar they moved during the end of the month of Nisan and the entire month of Iyar. The second month, Iyar, became a time of transition for them as they were led into a new level of relationship with the Lord. He introduced them to His nature. First, God showed them that He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. Then He introduced them to His names Jehovah Jaira, the God who Provides, and Jehovah Nissi, the Lord, my Banner of Victory. As they moved from Passover redemption to the place of praise and giving the Lord a firstfruits offering, they learned about keeping covenant.
God was indeed faithful to His children and eventually demonstrated to them that He was willing to give everything in an act of sacrifice that reverberates through the ages. God gave His Son, Jesus, as an offering of redemption. He was crucified, but resurrected, and became a firstfruits offering Himself. First Corinthians 15:20 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." It is no coincidence that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was resurrected on the day of firstfruits, when the children of Israel would have been presenting their Passover barley sheaf to the priests who lifted it up before God as an offering to Him.
How does this relate to us today? God has given us His very best in the sacrifice of His Son. Just as the children of Israel brought their first and best to God, we can use this time up until Pentecost to present a daily offering to the Lord. A way for counting God's goodness was introduced to the Israelites. We can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-16. From the first day of a firstfruits offering, they were to count 50 days and then present God with another firstfruits offering during Shavuot, called Pentecost by the Church. Today this is called counting the Omer. As they counted, it was important for God’s people to remember the goodness of God. Like the children of Israel, let's be dedicated to giving the Lord a daily thanksgiving for His goodness and love between now and Pentecost.
Greeks came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration according to John 12. They wanted to meet Jesus, however He told His disciples, "Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives." (John 12:23-24 - NLT) Jesus continues: "And I, when lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32) Jesus drew us to Himself through His death and resurrection. His intent is that we are to be a part of His storyline.
At the moment of the death of Jesus, the earth shook, rocks split, and tombs broke open. When the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus saw these events they exclaimed, "Surely He was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54) Indeed, He is and proved His identity through His resurrection on the Jewish celebration called "Firstfruits." This was the traditional day of giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and the giving of the firstfruits of the barley harvest in the spring. Jesus became the firstfruits from the dead. Here is how it is explained in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
Jesus came to the earth to show us how to live. His disciples learned to live like their master. Our identity is likewise in Him. Just as God gave His best for us, we must give our best for others. In this way we honor God, and He reveals to us our own unique destiny. We are part of the storyline of Jesus as we identify with His selflessness and love. We have been called, along with the Body of Christ, to redeem the wrecks of time. Our lives are part of a bigger story and have been united with other Believers in Christ.
As we accept the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, we become part of the family of God by the power of His resurrection. A hard concept to understand is that God has chosen to do His work on the earth in partnership with us. True, each of us has a unique call, however we have also been woven together like a piece of fabric with other Believers so that we can accomplish His divine plans and purposes. That fabric includes not only our present generation, but those who have gone before us and those who will come after us.
Matt Lockett and Will Ford wrote about the connection of the ages in their book The Dream King. Will writes, "In Christ, my stories are your stories, and your stories are mine. Remember, as Christians we share the same heritage. Our collective history is made from a diverse yet unified remnant...Jesus ever lives to make intercession so that you and I, as His family members, can together shape the future with Him...Through Him, a new remnant is both healing history and making history." (Page 32) Matt agrees with Will: "This fabric of our lives and families creates the backdrop for the nations and the times in which we live...God watches over our destinies, watches over our nation, and invites us to shape the future with Him through prayers." (Page 42) Matt calls us "The Stewards of the Storyline," not only of our biological family, but also of our Christian family.
Today is Resurrection Sunday. With gratitude we should allow this day to inspire us to be healing agents of the generations and planters of seed that will bear good fruit for the blessing of the nations. Our Savior showed us the way. Let us follow Him!
A question is posed at the beginning of the song "Wonderful, Merciful Savior." "Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?" But that is what was done by the Lamb of God! We see foreshadows of the Lamb of God throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned. By eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and "they realized that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7) Another way to say this is that they experienced shame, so much so that they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. But man could not cover his own sin. God had to provide them with "garments of skin." (Genesis 3:21)
Specific instructions were given to the Israelites in Egypt when God was going to deliver them from bondage and death. "...On the 10th day of the month each man is to take a lamb for his family...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect...Take care of them until the 14th day of the month when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs." (Genesis 12:3, 5-7) The blood of the lamb was the covering that was needed to protect the children of Israel from the plague of death.
It was on Mt. Moriah that Abraham took his son, his only son, whom he loved, and offered him as a burnt offering at the request of God. (Genesis 22:2) At the moment he was about to slay him, God provided a ram for the sacrifice. The binding of Isaac is called "the Akedah" in Hebrew and the story is retold in synagogues across the world on Rosh Hashanah.
In Isaiah 53 we read the foretelling of the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. Verse 7 compares him to the sacrificial lamb: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
When asked by the priests and Levites who he was, John the Baptist told them, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus and identified Him so that all the world would know the call of God on His life. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Those who practiced animal sacrifice so that those who violated the Mosaic law could approach God must have been shocked by the statement of John the Baptist. How could John compare Jesus to the sacrificial lambs?
The Passover season is upon us. The Jewish people will be remembering how each Israelite household in Egypt brought a perfect lamb into their homes from Nisan 10 to 14. Imagine how each family must have become attached to their lamb as they lived with him, only to turn around and kill him as a sacrifice to protect them. Christians are remembering the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem this weekend. To fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, He entered riding on a colt of a donkey. Crowds followed Jesus shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:9) Afterward, Jesus entered the temple where He would be questioned and scrutinized. For four days, "The Lamb of God" was examined. He was then chosen as the Sacrificial Lamb.
It is the love of God that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was the sacrifice that purchased our souls. He is our Redemption. The Lamb of God is described in Revelation 5:6, 9-10. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." We are those that Jesus purchased for Father God. We are part of God's Kingdom and priests to serve Him. It is ordained that we shall reign in victory. How can we not praise Him?
Yearly the Jews commemorate the time when God freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. They tell the story at a Passover Seder which means "order." Today's Seder has changed from the original Passover meal. As families and friends gather together, they use a guide called the Haggadah which means "The Telling." To help us remember the events of the children of Israel in Egypt and on their way to cross into the Promised Land, the Seder uses symbols.
Many Christians do not realize that when Jesus broke bread and shared it and the wine with the disciples at the Last Supper, he used the same elements shared at the Passover feast. There is an interesting mystery concerning the matzah (bread with no leaven) that is used in the service. At the beginning of the Seder, the leader lifts up three pieces of matzah. Why three? Could it be that they represent the Trinity? (Father, Son and Holy Ghost)
The matzah itself is striped and pierced like Jesus at the crucifixion. Think about this interesting part of the ceremony: The middle piece of matzah is removed and lifted up to be broken in half. This piece is called the "Afikomen," a Greek word meaning, "that which comes after." The larger piece of broken matzah is wrapped in a white linen napkin and hidden. So too, the body of Jesus was wrapped in white linen and hidden away in a tomb.
At the end of the Seder the young ones search for the hidden matzah so they can bring it back to those at the table. The Seder cannot be completed without the Afikomen. When it is found it is unwrapped and passed around so that all may partake of it. Can we assume that the Afikomen represents Jesus? I think so! The Messiah, Jesus, is the One who must still come to His people. He comes to everyone. He is the one who who led His disciples in the Passover feast at the last supper before His death. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' He said to them. " (Mark 14:22-24)
Romans 11:25-26 gives us insight into God's plan to reveal Himself to all mankind. "...Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written, 'The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'"
None of us can be complete without our Messiah, Jesus. He is revealing Himself to many through signs, wonders, and miracles. Let us pray for the eyes of the Jewish people to be opened as they celebrate their Passover Seders next week. The Lord is not willing for anyone to perish. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
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!"
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!
Did you ever think that when God placed you on the earth, He may have done so for you to accomplish one specific purpose? He planned the time and place that you would live. (Acts 17:26) He knew the circumstances that would surround you, the battles you would have to fight, and the thoughts that would go through your head. Consider that His divine purpose for you includes plans to elevate you and bring you closer to Him as you pursue victory. Perhaps you are in a battle right now and are facing a giant that seems impossible to defeat. I always say, "The greatness of the call determines the fierceness of the battle." Be conscious of the gifts you use to fight your battle, because through them God will reveal your destiny and will bring you into greater intimacy with Him.
Think of this: One day and one person can change the world and the future. When we tap into our destinies the power of heaven will come to earth to help us accomplish the goal that God has placed before us. It is fitting that we read the story of Esther in this month. It appears to me that she was a person that God sent to earth for one specific purpose: to make the king of Persia happy so that He would join her in saving her people, the Jews. Esther, along with her parents and cousin Mordecai, was part of the company of exiles brought to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar. When Esther's parents died, she was adopted by Mordecai. She was then selected to be part of the harem of King Xerxes of Persia at a time when a Jew hater named Haman, the kings highest official, was plotting to kill all the Jews in the empire. Because of her beauty and sensitivity to the king's desires, Esther was crowned queen. Mordecai asked her to take advantage of her position and beg for the king's mercy for the Jews. He posed this question: "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14 - NLT)
Adar 13 was the date set by Haman to murder all the Jews in the Kingdom. We are presently in the month of Adar, which means strength. It is the last month on the Hebrew calendar and is associated with joy and a time of unexpected reversals. It is a time for uncovering hidden truth. I hope that these Adar characteristics give you hope as they do me. We have a moment in time where we can participate in the transformation of our own nation. God wants us to join in a prayer of unity for justice and righteousness to prevail in it. Never doubt that our presence as Bible-believing, God-loving people who dispense the fruits of the Spirit to those around us can make a difference. I believe that we are here "for such a time as this." We are on assignment to use the gifts within us to carry out God's call on our lives. Adar is the month to develop our war strategies against the enemy. Doing so helps to stop our fears ad gives us the ability to move into the fullness of the next season. The spiritual new year holds blessings for us. Let's be joyful about who God made us to be as we pursue our identities in the Spirit.
We see the attributes of the month of Adar played out in the Feast of Purim that occurs in the middle of the month. The enemy set a date for the destruction of the Jews, but God used a single Jewish girl, walking in her God-given destiny, to save her people and to transform that date into one of great joy and celebration. For three days, Esther stirred up her courage and prepared for her meeting with the king by spending time in fasting and prayer. Mordecai and the Jews of Susa joined her. She demonstrated to the Lord that her relationship with Him was more important than anything else by dedicating these three days to pursuing His direction. And, as she assured herself of God's faithfulness, she was able to prepare to go before King Xerxes without fear, saying, "And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Of course, Esther did not perish! The king extended his golden scepter to her, Haman's evil plan was exposed so that he and his family were destroyed, Mordecai was promoted, and the Jews transformed the focus of sunset on the 13th to sunset on the 15th of Adar to joy and celebration. These days are called Purim because Haman originally set the date for the demise of the Jews by casting dice or "pur." Even today Purim is celebrated by the Jews. They recognize the importance of one day and one person placed on the earth "for such a time as this." What is our holy purpose—the call of God on our lives? Let us pursue Him, our Maker and Creator, and live out our God-given destinies. Let us be the people God created us to be "for such a time as this."
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)
One small, withered leaf hangs on to a thin, curved branch on the Maple tree outside my door. It will not release and battles as the wind is relentless in shaking it violently. It should have released in the fall to accomplish its intended purpose—to fall and lie at the base of the tree where it would have joined the other leaves and soil to provide compost for the roots. When a leaf decomposes it goes into the ground and provides nutrients that can be taken in by the tree roots. It is meant to give strength and health to the tree so that it can produce new, green leaves when spring arrives—a new season.
Why doesn't the leaf release? Why doesn't it recognize that the season has changed, and that God has a new purpose for it? As for the leaf, God has set times and seasons for us. Every season comes to us with blessings and opportunities to grow in our faith and trust in God. The enemy does not want us to live in the right season or to obtain the Lord's blessings for our lives. We must wait upon the Lord and learn to think the way He thinks. We must let His truth transform us so that we fully release from one season and launch into the new one. Romans 12:2 is an appropriate Scripture to look at concerning our way of thinking. The Passion Translation of this verse ministers to me: "Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God's will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes."
In the book, A Time to Advance, Robert Heidler writes, "Blessing comes to those who align themselves with God's purposes and timing. God's cycles produce change and bring us to the higher level of blessing." We cannot step into blessing without following God's timing. He designed our lives to have seasons. There are set times for us to actively participate in God-given activities; there are times for us to rest, and there are times for us to prepare for a new season. Doing this requires that we trust in our Creator and Sustainer to give us what we need for each season. The leaf will not fulfill its divine purpose until it releases from the branch.
In Isaiah 43:18-19 God says, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." How can we let go? Only by trusting in the Lord and His great love for us. We can expect God's best for us because He already gave His best to us: the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus, so that we can have eternal life with Him. We can trust in the Lord's best for ourselves, the Body of Christ, and our nation. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28)
Daniel 7 speaks of the end times and the evil king who will subdue other rulers. This demonically- possessed king "will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people and try to change the set times and laws." (Verse 25) The enemy will lose his battle to change the set times because God already ordained the hour of his destruction. Galatians 4 also speaks of another set time for us to become children of God and heirs according to His promise. "But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." (Galatians 4:4-5)
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God changes seasons and sets times for all of us. We must trust Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) This requires us to be willing to release from the past season and to inquire of God about His plans for the new season. As it says in Romans 12:2, we will be empowered to discern God's will when we allow and invite the Holy Spirit to reform our way of thinking. Let's release from the old season and walk into the new with the Lord's guidance.
Joan E. Mathias