Flocks of robins are in Bucks County right now. They were roosting in the Maple tree by my deck before our big snow storm. Once the snow covered the ground their feeding options became limited. I read that robins move according to food supply. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that robins prefer worms in the morning and fruit in the afternoon:) Fruit is the primary source of a robin's winter food but they switch to earthworms as soon as the ground thaws.
There is a 4-5" strip of exposed soil that is not frozen between my sidewalk and the mounds of snow. Every morning this week, as I walked out my front door, I could see the handiwork of the robins. They have been relentlessly pecking for their favorite food--earthworms. Each morning my sidewalk has been covered in soil and mulch that was left behind by the robins in their quest to eat what they consider to be gourmet fare.
As I was getting in my car to go to work one morning I heard that gentle voice of the Holy Spirit pointing out that these birds were on a relentless pursuit to satisfy their hunger. Then I heard the cry of God's heart: "Oh that my children would be like the robins--stopping at nothing, leaving nothing in the way in their pursuit of me, the One True God, who alone can satisfy their hunger for the Bread of Life!"
To pursue means to seek, hound, search out, chase after and persevere. Relentless means not letting up, persistent, unstoppable. How hungry are we? What gets in the way of our pursuit of the Lord? What are the challenges to a life that puts seeking and loving the Lord with all our hearts, souls and minds? Many of the Psalms that David wrote convey his deep desire to know the Lord intimately. Read the verses that he penned and ask yourself if you have the same burning desire to know the Lord as David did:
Psalm 27:4 - "One thing I ask of the Lord; this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple."
Psalm 42:1-2 - "As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"
Psalm 63:1,3-5 - "O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water...because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You...My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You."
Can you sense the desperation in the cry of David's heart? How desperate are we? Jesus said, "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:33, 35) Our part in being filled is setting aside time to receive the Bread. Just as the robins pursue their food daily, we must make this pursuit of the Bread of Life our number one priority. Isaiah 55:6 tells us, "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near."
The Lover of our souls is calling to us. How will we respond? Will we take the time to feast at His table? He has prepared a place for us. As we take time to sit with Him He will feed us and awaken our desire for more of Him. I am partial to the King James Bible’s Version of Proverbs 8:17. "I love them that love me; and those who seek me early shall find me." Early conveys prompt obedience to the Lord when He calls to us. Is seeking the Lord our highest desire, the one that has top priority? Let us ask the Lord to increase our spiritual hunger so that we will be relentless in our pursuit of Him--the only One who can satisfy!
A monster snow storm blew into the east coast over the weekend. It has been given the name "Jonas." Like the name Jonah, it means "dove." The root of this name takes divergent paths: (1) "to be weak; gentle" (2) " to oppress; to destroy" I must assume the second meaning was understood when the name was selected, as this storm has been destructive. The snow is 12-24" deep, depending on where you live. The coast has had severe flooding. As I sit on my sofa I look out on my small deck and see a large snow drift up against my door. I am literally snowed in. The high winds combined with the heavy snow have transformed the landscape and will change life's priorities for some time to come.
Like physical storms, the storms of life bring confusion, difficulties, loss, sorrow and pain. In our attempts to understand them it is common for us to return to our default question - "Why?" The Bible addresses this question through a man named Job. His name means "one ever returning to God;" its Hebrew root is "to persecute." This man, described as blameless, upright and God-fearing, (Job 1:1) was struck with one disaster after another. All he owned was taken from him, his children were killed and his health destroyed. His friends tried to tell him that he was being punished for sin in his life, although Job maintained his innocence.
Job cries out, “If only someone would listen to me!...Let the Almighty answer me..." (Job 31:35 - NLT)
God hears him and responds. The NIV Bible tells us this: "Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm." (Job 38:1) Other versions of Scripture say "whirlwind." The prophet Nahum gives us some insight on why Job was answered this way. "He displays His power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath His feet." (Nahum 1:3 - NLT)
The storms of our lives cannot compare to the power and majesty of a Sovereign God. He challenges Job with a series of questions meant to give Job a picture of the Lord's power and wisdom and might. One particular question seems appropriate for the storm of this weekend. "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?" (Job 38:36) Another question asks, "Who endowed the heart of wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?" (Job 38:36) God's questions leave Job speechless: "I am unworthy--How can I reply to You?" (Job 40:41) God continues with more questions. In the end Job does reply: "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted...My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen." (Job 42:2, 5)
God entered into Job's life through the storm--a way that gave Job a fresh revelation of Him. God never did answer the "Why" question. Job realized that it is better to know God than to know the answer to his question. "My eyes have seen" has a deeper meaning: My spirit has been enlightened. When we meet the Lord in the midst of the storm nothing else is important. God is still in control and sent His Son Jesus as a Redeemer. Nahum 1:7 nails it: "The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him" (NLT)
In her book, A Path Through Suffering, respected author Elisabeth Elliot, who had her own Job experience, gives us this revelation: "We are not given explanations, but to hearts open to receive it, a more precious revelation of the heart of our loving Lord." "We must view our circumstances through His love." Never stop asking the Lord to reveal His deep love for you. It brings peace to the storm.
Two Psalms declare that righteousness and justice are the foundation of the Lord's throne--Psalm 89:14 and 97:2. This is good to remember as we begin the 11th month of Shevat. The month (that began on Monday) is linked with the Hebrew letter TZADIK which symbolizes the "righteous one." We need to firmly establish ourselves on the Lord's foundation. In your prayer time declare that the Lord is Jehovah Tzidkenu (Lord God our Righteousness).
Righteousness from God comes when we profess faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-22) Its primary component is being in right standing with God. Jesus restored the relationship of humankind to God through His life, death and resurrection. Matthew 5:6 says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." We must pray that the Lord will make us hungry and thirsty for righteousness.
I love the way the tribe, Asher, the letter, righteous one, and the constellation, Aquarius (the water carrier) are so interconnected during this 11th month. Righteousness is essential for our happiness, and the name Asher means happiness, pleasure and fatness. Their inheritance was rich and included wheat, corn, wine, bread, oil and new wine. Their land was rich in iron, bronze and copper. The tribe of Asher was able to export their bounty to the other tribes of Israel. Asher's inheritance included Cana, were Jesus did his first miracle of turning water into wine. This area is also where Jesus revealed Himself as the "Bread of Life." (A Time to Advance, Chuck Pierce)
Asher was also blessed with many children and their tribe became one of the largest. He seems to have been favored by the Lord with many blessings. Anna, the prophetess, was from the tribe of Asher. She recognized Jesus as the Messiah when His parents brought Him to the temple as she had devoted herself to prayer there for 84 years.
In order for crops to prosper they need water. Isn't it fitting that the constellation aligned with Shevat is Aquarius? We, like trees, need to be rooted by streams of living water in order to produce fruit. That living water comes from the Word of God. We must meditate on it day and night. (Psalm 1)
God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to declare that Jesus would be a righteous Branch. We are grafted into the "olive tree" and are dependent upon the life that comes to us from the roots. Trees are representative of people. We need to be asking ourselves if we are ready to bear fruit. Shevat is actually called the month of "The New Year of Trees." During this month there is a day set aside on the Hebrew calendar (Shevat 15) to celebrate this holiday. It celebrates the time when the fruit trees in Israel start their fruit-bearing cycle, and is particularly significant because in Deuteronomy 20:19 man is compared to fruit trees. God's people produce fruit by cultivating strong roots of faith.
If you are not already positioned to be well watered, do so this month. Re-look at the way you are eating and consume what will bring health and nourishment to your body. This is true for both the physical and spiritual realm. Eat the Word of God for good health and proper alignment with Him. You might want to read the book of Daniel where we see an example of a righteous man who only put healthy foods into his body and who was faithful to connect with God three times a day. God protected him and gave him wisdom and understanding because of his faithfulness.
This is a time to consider what you are doing to bless the next generation. God does not want the next generation to have to re-take the ground that has already been taken. He is drawing each generation closer and closer to Himself. As we are blessed, we can hand down our blessings to the next generation. Chuck Pierce says that the key for this month is to shout, "My blessings are on the way!” Amen! Declare it, dear ones, as you praise God for His righteousness.
We have two sets of eyes--natural and spiritual. There are times when we can see in both realms at the same time. I believe that our spiritual sight is most important in giving us guidance. As I was reading the story of John the Baptist this week, God was highlighting how he saw and then took action. As a result of his testimony, Jesus was identified and then received two of his disciples.
The story starts in John 1, Verse 19. John was God's chosen vessel to "prepare the way" for the coming of the Messiah. The day before Jesus appeared, Pharisees who had been sent from Jerusalem came to question John's right to baptize. He told them, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) John's baptisms symbolized repentance in preparation for God's people to meet their Savior who would forgive their sins.
Probably the priests and Levites who came to "check John out" were still in the crowd when Jesus walked onto the scene. "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.'" (John 1:29-31)
What John sees with his eyes draws him into a process that results in a testimony. Seeing should lead us into evaluating what we have seen. The mind is the place where we process what we have seen so that we can determine what to do next. That is why 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." The process goes like this: Seeing - thoughtful consideration - decision - action.
When Jesus walked toward John at the Jordan River in Bethany, John was about to realize the fulfillment of his life's call. Imagine what might have been going on in John's mind after he saw Jesus! John could not keep silent. "Then John gave this testimony: 'I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.'" (John 1:32-34)
Because of John's faithfulness to testify about the Son of God some of his disciples joined Jesus. "The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!' When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus." (John 1:35-37) The results of John’s testimony speak for themselves. Many followed Jesus.
Obviously, the things that we see can impact our lives and the lives of others. Many verses in the Bible begin with the command, "See." For example, look at Revelation 3:8. "...See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut..." or Isaiah 49:16, "See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand..." We must be well connected to the Holy Spirit and be aware of the times when He is saying, "See." Our sight, both physical and spiritual, should lead us into the process of evaluation and testimony.
When we see the beauty of God’s creation or watch the manifestation of healing in someone or receive a prophetic vision for the future our testimony should be, "I cannot keep silent!" Praise the Lord for the sight He has given us and declare His goodness and majesty to whoever will listen. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is worthy of all praise and honor and glory!
What are the foundational truths upon which you base your life? How do you find hope when the storms of life erupt? An international leader in the Christian faith and founder of Encounters Network, James Goll, recently posted an encouraging synopsis of his book Finding Hope - Rediscovering Life After Tragedy. Mr. Goll knows what it is like to be on the battle front. For nine years he fought aggressive cancer. In the midst of his battle his wife of 32 years lost her own battle with cancer and "graduated to Heaven."
How do we keep going when the dark clouds seem to overwhelm us? There is a key truth that we must settle in our minds in order to move forward with hope. This is what James Goll says: "No matter what comes, God is good. He doesn't stop being good when my life falls apart...I had to settle a major issue in my journey. God is good, period! Each one of us needs to ask the Holy Spirit to graft that truth into our souls."
To help remember the truth of God's goodness, James would regularly pray the prayer from Ephesians 1:18. "I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened, so that I will know the hope of Your calling." It is only through the eyes of our hearts that we can see things from God's perspective, and see with hope. The Word of God is filled with promises that are meant to give us His perspective and fill us with hope. Let's look at three of them:
Isaiah 42:3 - "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice." The verses in Isaiah 42 that precede and follow this one are about God's chosen Servant, Jesus, who was brought to earth to demonstrate God's love and righteousness. Just as the sun is behind every cloud ready to break out into glorious light so is our Savior ready to help and redeem.
Lamentations 3:21-23 - "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Jeremiah saw a ray of hope in all the darkness that surrounded him. The Life Application Study Bible (NLT) says it this way: "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease." The Psalmist puts it like this: "Surely goodness and mercy/love shall follow me all the days of my life..." (Psalm 23:6) God has a plan; nothing catches Him off guard. He will restore and bless.
Psalm 46:1-7 - "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her in the break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah."
God is our eternal refuge in the midst of darkness, chaos and destruction. He is among us providing for our needs, ready to help us when we come to Him. God's Holy Spirit flows like a river, guiding us and infusing us with hope. We are beginning a new year. If we look at what is happening around us with natural eyes we may feel insecure. Use your spiritual eyes. Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your heart.
Bring hope to the forefront by declaring the foundational truth that God is good all the time. Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior, breaks through the storms of life offering hope for the future. He is the Servant of God, the Lord of Compassion, our Strength, Refuge and Fortress. May God's love and blessings overtake you in 2016.
Joan E. Mathias