The Battle of Good vs. Evil
Jeremiah had the unenviable task of trying to keep Israel off the path of evil and on the path of good. God met him at the Potter's house to demonstrate that Israel is in His hands like clay in the potter's hands. God said, "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it." (Jeremiah 18:7-10) Because of their idols, God's people had forgotten Him, and God was grieved. Jeremiah was frustrated with the people of Israel, not only for their unfaithfulness to the Lord, but also for the way they accused him falsely: "Should good be repaid with evil? Yet, they have dug a pit for me..." (Jeremiah 18:20)
As in the days of the Bible, so are the days of our times. We have fallen into a pit of destruction and are believing lies spoken by the enemy of our souls. Like Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah also had to speak to God's people about their disrespect for the Lord. In chapter 5 of Isaiah's book, we find the "woes and judgments" against Israel. Look at Verse 20: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn writes about Isaiah 5:20 in his April mailing called "Sapphires." He says, "A culture, a civilization, or a nation that deems evil to be good, will deem good to be evil. And so, America's fall from God began with the toleration of evil, calling evil good. But that was only the first stage. In the second stage, the viewing of good as evil becomes more prominent. We are now there! We are now witnessing an increasing progression towards censorship, silencing, and attempted abolition of anything and anyone that stands in the way of the new morality--namely traditional values, biblical values, Christians, ministries, the word of God." He goes on to tell us how he experienced this silencing himself. Jonathan was led to record a message to Joe Biden at the time of his inauguration. In two days, it had a million views, and then it disappeared. Google "deemed the message too dangerous" because of its spiritual and moral content. Through his writing, Jonathan taught me a new term called "Shadow Banning." This means a message will be banned in a way that one is completely unaware that it is being done. He explains that "forces are manipulating systems in what amounts to covert persecution."
Just as God watched over the nation of Israel and brought them prophets to speak the truth, He watches over us. "From His dwelling place He watches all who live on the earth." (Psalm 33:14) "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction." (Psalm 1:6) There is a day of reckoning coming as it says in Romans 1: 18-20. I like The Passion Translation: "For God in heaven unveils His holy anger breaking forth against every form of sin, both toward ungodliness that lives in hearts and evil actions. For the wickedness of humanity deliberately smothers the truth and keeps people from acknowledging the truth about God. In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God's nature have been made visible, such as His eternal power and transcendence. He has made His wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse."
How can we partner with God to win the battle of good over evil? It is time for us to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. We must be rooted and grounded in His love, built up in Him, and strengthened in our faith. (Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 2:7) We must soak in His presence so that we are filled with His Spirit. We must not allow fear of evil to have a place in our lives. Jesus warned us about the evil that would beset us. The Psalmist wrote, "...I will fear no evil, for You are with me...(Psalm 23:4) We must remember that God placed us on earth for such a time as this. We are part of His mighty army. We must be aligning our lives with His plans and purposes, interceding for our nation, pleading for God's mercy, calling forth revival, and declaring the truth. We must keep our eyes on the goal, "being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light." (Colossians 1:11-12) We have our marching orders; let us put on our battle gear!
Lessons from Mealy Bugs
How did a colony of mealy bugs end up infesting my orchid plants? This is the question of the week that I had to answer. When I bring a new houseplant into my collection, I check it for bugs. Apparently, when I brought in a new orchid plant for my window shelf, I did not look carefully enough. Attached to the base of the underside of one of the flowers was a white, cottony speck. Since its color matched the flower, it slipped in without my seeing it. Female mealy bugs lay up to 500 eggs in a sac that is attached to the plant. In the case of my orchid, she went to work by embedding her sac of eggs at the juncture of the leaves. One leaf overlays the other in a whorl, and it is easy to tuck a miniscule sac that looks like dust into the leaf juncture so that it is undetected.
All I had to do was allow one bug in with my collection of orchids. They slowly began to travel from plant to plant. I noticed that several of the orchid leaves were looking deformed and that their tissues were beginning to break down. The infestation was so bad that I could not save my plants, and I had to do a complete cleansing of the trays they sat on. It was interesting for me to see that the violets that sit with them were not touched. Violet foliage is very "hairy" and unappealing to the bugs. One of my violets I have had since the early seventies. I am so please that it continues to "stand its ground" and grow.
There is an analogy in this scenario for all of us. We must not let our guards down. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing in the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8-9) I believe that the enemy has targeted the United States for destruction as this nation was founded on godly principles and is meant to be a land where people worship the Lord, grow in His ways, and share their faith with the world. The devil is shrewd. He did not come in full force with guns blazing but slowly infiltrated our lives so that he could eventually take over. Souls of individuals are being invaded, one by one. But we must not be naive about what is at stake. There is a global agenda to remove all traces of Christianity.
I grew up in a time that seems so innocent compared with today. One example is that stores were closed on Sundays (Blue Laws) and families spent time with one another. Sunday was a day dedicated to God. How quickly all that has changed. There has been a war on the very fabric of our nation. Slowly, things have changed until we look around and say, "How did we get here?" The "bug" has laid her eggs and attacked our culture so that it is unrecognizable. The family is broken, abortion is sanctioned, our God-given identities are questioned, lifestyles that permit sexual promiscuity and perversion are celebrated, moral values have been redefined, education of our children has taken a wrong turn as liberal teachers attempt to control their minds, liberalism has permeated the church, and the very foundation upon which our nation was built is being destroyed. We have allowed the enemy's agenda to take over by compromising and being complacent as we watch the fabric of our nation being shredded.
So, what is the bottom line? We cannot allow complacency or compromise. God has fit us for battle. He chose to bring heaven to earth through a people dedicated to Him. Each of us needs to be a light in the darkness. We must take a stand and fight for what is right in God's eyes. We must declare, "Not on my watch!" God calls us to intercessory prayer as we take the authority He has given to us in the name of Jesus. It is time for us to put on our battle gear and follow the ways of Jesus to destroy the works of the devil. We must be like violets standing against the mealy bugs. We must see ourselves as warriors and release the Word of God over our lives, our homes, our country, and the world. Here is the apostle Paul's advice: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:3-5) We must be vigilant, prepared to go to battle with the truth of God's word, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The victory is ours if we follow through!
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.
Stewards of the Storyline
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!
Joan E. Mathias