How are you feeling about the atmosphere that permeates the United States right now? Are you disturbed at the injustice, violence, destruction, and conflict? Two of the Old Testament prophets, Habakkuk and Jeremiah freely shared their complaints with the Lord. Habakkuk told the Lord, "The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted."(Habakkuk 1:4) Jeremiah felt persecuted as he carried the word of the Lord. He complained: "So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long." (Jeremiah 20:8)
We feel for these frustrated prophets who brought the word of the Lord and experienced persecution and frustration because they had not yet seen the changes they were hoping for. However, these men left clues for us on how to overcome calamities and shift the atmosphere. God has a blessing for us when we keep our focus on Him instead of on the turmoil. He is drawn to us when we choose to rejoice instead of complaining. Here is how Habakkuk ends his writings: "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Jeremiah shares the word of the Lord to his people: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'" (Jeremiah 31:7)
Many years ago, our pastor, Scott McDermott, shared some pearls of wisdom that I still carry. "Whatever consumes us is what will come out. I am responsible for my reactions and what I carry. The posture of my heart determines the atmosphere in which I live." The bottom line is that our focus needs to be on the Lord and Him alone. We can transform our atmosphere as we look to the Lord and rejoice in who He is for us.
What happened to Paul and Silas as written about in Acts 16 shows us the power of rejoicing and keeping our focus on the Lord. While in Philippi, Paul and Silas were being harassed by a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination in her. One day, Paul was so greatly annoyed at her harassment that he commanded the spirit within her to come out. Her owners were furious with Paul and Silas because they lost their capability to make a profit from her. Many in the city came against them so that the Roman officials stripped them of their clothes, beat them, and took them to prison. The jailer placed them in the innermost cell of the prison and chained their feet.
Imagine the agony they felt and the dark atmosphere of the prison! Here is how they responded: "Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship." (Acts 16:25 - TPT) Here is the power of rejoicing and worshiping: "Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose." (Acts 16:26 - TPT) The jailer and all his family were saved and baptized and "filled with joy in their newfound faith in God." Truly Paul and Silas were atmosphere changers!
"It takes a radical focus (on God) to change the atmosphere." (Another pearl from Scott McDermott) Here are some Scriptures to encourage us and remind us to keep our eyes on the Lord and rejoice in who He is: "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:7-8) "Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous and praise His holy name." (Psalm 97:11-12) The atmosphere of heaven comes to earth as we focus on the Lord and rejoice in who He is. If we all partnered in this endeavor, we could change our corner of the world.
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."
(Psalm 55:22) What a promise for today! Shaking is going on all around us, but those who are rooted and established in the Lord's love will not be shaken and will grow strong and produce fruit. This truth is so appropriate for the Hebrew month we have just entered--Sh'vat--the 11th month on the spiritual calendar. Sh'vat's theme is "His Righteousness is My Foundation." The 15th of Sh'vat is called the "New Year for Trees" or Tu B'Sh’vat. Rabbis use this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. Those who grow fruit trees know the most important part of their job is ensuring that the trees have strong, healthy root systems. Farmers go to great lengths to prepare their land. They improve the soil texture and structure by loosening it and adding organic matter for nutrients. When a seedling is planted the soil around the roots is tamped and watered to eliminate air pockets and secure the plant. The seedlings may be staked to keep them firmly in the soil until their roots are established.
Imagine that you are a fruit tree and could select the place where you will be planted. Wouldn't we all look for a place that is near water and that has rich, well-textured soil? We would look for a place where our roots could grow strong to anchor and keep us stable. Two Scriptures talk about this very thing:
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3) "But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Here is a question we must answer. How we answer it will reveal the strength of our spiritual roots: What are we meditating on, taking in, and following? The above Scriptures make it very clear that we must be consuming God's Word of Truth and trusting in it and His never-ending faithfulness. Though the world around us is shaking, we can be assured that the Lord will hold us fast. A worship team named Selah sings a song titled, "He Will Hold Me Fast." Please Google this and listen to the powerful music, and let the words encourage and lift you up. In the meantime, meditate on the truth of these words that you can read below:
"When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life's fearful path; For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; Justice has been satisfied; He will
hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast, 'Till our faith is turned to sight, when
He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.”
May we take in everything that God has for us so that His love and care keep us stable and secure, producing much fruit.
When the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians, he expresses his gratitude for them because of their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all of God's people. He writes, The faith and love that springs from the hope stored up for you in heaven..." (Colossians 1:5) Isn't it great to be reminded that we have hope stored up for us in heaven? How we need hope right now!
I feel compelled to share a wonderful testimony from Paul Wilbur, Messianic worship leader. He shared his epiphany of hope at Glory of Zion's Shabbat Service at the beginning of the year. During a difficult season in his life, he was inspired by a Scripture that has been one of my "war Scriptures." In Zechariah, Chapter 9, Verses 11 and 12, the Lord encourages Israel: "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." What an exciting promise!
Let us look at how this Zechariah Scripture undergirded Paul Wilbur. He and his pastor led 72 pastors to Auschwitz during Purim at the end of February 2020. The group sang and declared God's truth to reverse the curse in that part of Poland and in the crematorium where over a million were killed. They returned to the United States just before the borders were closed because of the Covid breakout. When Paul got home, he discovered that he had lost his voice. The doctors told him that his vocal cords were burned and blistered. The burning was so severe that he could barely talk. March was the first of several months that Paul could not speak, and discouragement and doubt set in.
Paul Wilbur was inspired to research the words of Zechariah 9:11-12, especially the word hope. We must look at all the phrases in these verses, starting with "because of the blood covenant with you." The first time we see God make a blood covenant is in Genesis 15. He instructs Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and pigeon. All were cut in half and arranged by halves opposite each other. The Lord passed through those animals and told Abram what to expect in an unbreakable blood covenant. He and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Through his blood, Jesus made a better covenant with us, one where we receive His promised eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
Because of the blood covenant, God promises to release us from the "waterless pit." During Bible times, dry cisterns or pits were used as places of bondage or imprisonment. Remember how Joseph was placed in one of these cisterns? (Genesis 37:22) I imagine it would be easy to lose hope in one of these dry, hot places unless you trusted the Word of the Lord from Zechariah: "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope." The song "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" tells us He is a "bulwark never failing." Here is how the Psalmist sees it: "He alone is my rock, and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:2)
If we follow God's lead, we will be rescued, and what was stolen from us will be returned two-fold. As we trust in the Word of the Lord, His blood covenant and His faithfulness, our belief in God's promises will be rewarded. Paul Wilbur was encouraged by the story of Rahab when the spies from Israel paid her a visit. The spies promised to save her and her family from the pit on two conditions: (1) They could not leave the building. (2) A scarlet rope had to be tied to the window. Paul was reminded of a Scripture that comes from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that says, "A chord of three strands is not quickly broken." Perhaps Rahab's rope had three strands. Paul asked the Lord the significance of each strand. Here is what he senses: Strand 1 represents the Promise or blood covenant. Strand 2 represents the patience that we must have while we wait for the promise. Strand 3 represents the appointed time. We must trust in the promise and remember that patience must have her appointed time. Paul says, "Do not let the rope slip out of your hands!"
Wilbur's voice did return. While he waited in his waterless pit, he wrote new songs as he played his guitar. One that really touched my heart was inspired by 2 Chronicles 20 when it looked like all hope for the Israelites was gone. But the Lord prevailed when the praisers went out ahead of the army. Here are a few lines from the song: "I will dance in the midst of the fire. I will sing in the eye of the storm. I will shout you are faithful forever. The victory is mine 'cause the battle is yours." Remember that we have hope stored up for us in heaven. Make it yours, and do not let go!
Even though we are in a new year there is spillover into 2021 from the year 2020. There are obvious challenges for all of us, some more pressing than others. The problems of the world affect the mental and physical wellbeing of many individuals. Lack of understanding, depression, loss and sorrow all contribute to a mindset that does not make for good health in individuals. Here is where our Healing Room and Mashah teams come in. At The Crossing we believe that healing is for today, and it is "By His stripes that we are healed." Physical and mental healing go hand-in-hand. All of our team members minister God's love to those who visit us. We pray that healing will take place and that will receivers will be strengthen and empowered.
Pastor Amy has been scheduling Healing Room and Mashah sessions for us through Zoom sessions. This venue has taken some getting used to but everyone has accepted that this is the only way to minister at this time. We look forward to the day when we can meeting a person again. Please pray that time before then will be accelerated. Pray that the teams will be effective in their ministry. Pray for breakthrough for those who come to us for prayer. Ask the Lord to make His presence known in our meetings.
Healing teams are meeting with people twice a month. Mashah team appointments are scattered throughout each week, however, training occurs twice a month. We have four brand new and several moderately new team members who will be trained in the basics over the next six months. More seasoned team memebers will help with the training. We expect to begin some more advanced training for everyone in a month. So, our teams are busy, and we covet your prayers for encouragement, wisdom and perseverance. Ask the Lord to visit all of us in an intimate way.
I believe we all need to be encouraged about the Lord's faithfulness during this season. I had an experience last week where I listened to a negative report that took me to a place of worry. The Lord spoke to those fears through His Word and then back it up with a fun confirmation. "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you wear..." (Matthew 6:25) "He provides for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever." (Psalm 111:5) "For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5)
As I was reciting these Scriptures, two ravens flew into the Maple tree outside of our sliding glass door. This was an unique experience for me. Since God speaks to me through nature, I looked up the verses on ravens. The two most impactful ones included Luke 12:24 ("And Jesus said, 'Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them, and how much more valuable you are than the birds!'") and 1 Kings 17 that is the story of God's care for Elijah during a season of turmoil and one of the worst kings in Israel's history. He is fed by ravens at the Kerith Brook and by a widow at Zarephath. There was never a moment when Elijah was not cared for. I encourage you to read the story in 1 King 17.
Wednesday night, 1/13, Healing Room and Mashah teams will meet on Zoom for a night of worship and asking the Lord for direction for our futures. Please pray along with us. May the Lord direct and guide you, give you provision and peace and rest, and build up your faith in every area of your life.
One of my great joys is watching the sunrise from our east-facing bedroom window. It is always unique and can be counted on to give me an outstanding display of beauty as it rises. The changing eastern sky pulls me in as I watch the deep orange-red line of light close to the horizon change. Next the sky is touched by pinkish-orange, wispy clouds. Eventually, the orange sun rises in the sky to become a golden white, radiant ball ready to send its warm rays to earth. My soul is soothed as I remember the faithfulness of God. He never changes! He is dependable and always shows up at the right time just like the sun.
The Bible is filled with God's promises that bring us assurance of His presence and action on our behalf. A "go-to" Scripture that reminds me of the faithfulness of God gives us these instructions: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6) This is such a word for our season! It is extremely difficult to understand what is happening in our days and easy to get discouraged by the bad reports that come to us daily. But discouragement is not our portion. God told the Israelites, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
It is critical that our trust in the Lord is solid. Look at Psalm 125: "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endure forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore. The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. Lord, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be on Israel!" We must hold on to God's promises. As He has been faithful to Israel, He will be faithful to us. As the sun rises in the eastern sky, the Son rises to our defense. He is trustworthy!
Remember that we are heirs to the promises of God and that the Lord confirmed His promises with an oath. He holds out hope to us so that we may be encouraged. Hebrew 6:19 tells us, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." We are assured by the Lord that "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." (Romans 5:5) Isaiah prophesied to Israel: "...You will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." (Isaiah 49:23) Let the assurance of the rising sun give us hope and remind us of the Son's position on our behalf.
The Lord is known for His faithfulness. The prophet Jeremiah writes during a time of great turmoil and affliction: "...My soul is downcast within me. 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. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him.'" (Lamentations 3:20-24) We can count on the faithfulness of the Lord just as we count on the rising of the sun each morning.
The bottom line is that we need to let the peace of the Lord fill us. Here is a promise from Isaiah 26:3 that we should grab hold of: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." Later in the book of Isaiah there is another promise of peace: "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)
It is time for us to focus on God's promises rather than the world's problems. Begin the new year by declaring the Lord's promises of trustworthiness and hope. Let's allow His peace to settle on us and our hope to rise just as the sun rises every morning without fail.
Joan E. Mathias