God Bless America
They came to the lawn by the U.S. Capitol Building to be part of a Memorial Day celebration. They came to remember and pay tribute to their comrades. They came to honor the fallen. The came to be honored and inspired. Those who came are the men and women who served or are currently serving our country. They came with their families and friends to an event called The National Memorial Day Concert. The mission of the Concert is "to unite the country in remembrance and appreciation of the fallen and to serve those who are grieving." The methods used by the organizers of the Concert include musical performances, documentary clips and readings of stories of heroes of service.
There is something about this event that draws one in. Perhaps it is the spirit of unity and encouragement that is obvious. Even more likely is that the stories shared and the songs that are played and sung remind us that our country had a godly foundation. This year retired General Colin Powell was asked to speak. He reminded his listeners that we have an obligation to help those who have gone to battle for our freedoms. He pointed us toward Scripture and repeated some of the verses of Isaiah 61--the same verses that described the call on the life of Jesus. "Heal the brokenhearted...provide for those who grieve...bestow the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
The entire evening began with the orchestra playing the chords to "God Bless America." Everyone was treated to a medley of "America the Beautiful" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The words of these songs are worth reading: "O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America, America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."
"Battle Hymn of the Republic:" "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on." "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free! While God is marching on."
Everyone was invited to join the choirs in singing "God Bless America:" "God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home."
It is our faith in God that becomes the underpinning of our lives, especially when we are shaken by the tragedy of war and grieved by our losses. Who but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--the Great I Am--can heal and restore and bless? No one. The writers of these songs knew this when they were inspired to write them. And as these songs are sung, the words bring us back to who we are meant to be--a people of God.
The founders of the United States of America intended for us to honor God and to follow Him. Many have gotten off track. However, we worship a God of mercy and compassion who excels in grace. The last line of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" says, "God is marching on." He remembers His plans and purposes. He marches on, with the help of His Church, to establish His Kingdom here on earth. Let us thank and praise Him for His unfailing love and mercy.
How exhilarating it is for me to drive past the fields of maturing winter wheat! For as far as the eye can see, the thin, blue-green stalks of wheat fill the fields. The heads of the wheat have formed and together they sway in the breeze, making patterns as they move in unity. Looking at the landscape, you can see a purple haze at the tops of the stalks. Gorgeous!
Winter wheat is planted in the fall and is harvested from mid-May to mid-July. The color of the stalks will change from blue-green to yellow to brown. When the heads tip toward the earth the farmer will test the grain. A firm, crunchy grain indicates that it is time for harvest.
As I drove past a field of wheat this morning I sensed God telling me that He wants the Body of Christ to be like that wheat--growing, moving in unity and displaying His glory. I have learned some interesting facts about wheat that have helped me make this analogy.
There are different kinds of wheat. The kind that is planted depends upon what it will be used for. Hard wheat has the highest gluten content and is used for making bread. Soft wheat has a lower gluten content and is used to make pastries and crackers. Durum wheat is used to make pasta. Like wheat, we in the Body of Christ have been given different gifts according to the destiny God has for us. "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All of these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines." (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
Apparently, the return from planting a kernel of wheat is huge! The February/March issue of "Mother Earth News" tells of a gardener in Vermont who planted 30 pounds of winter wheat and harvested 250 pounds. That is quite a return on the investment! That is also what God wants from us. He has invested in us and makes available to us the resources of heaven. We are to put our talents and resources to work for the Lord just like the men written about in Matthew 25:14-30. In Jesus' parable the master entrusted talents to his servants and was well pleased with those who were able to multiply those talents for him.
Wheat is a staple for feeding the people of the nations. In the May 5, 2016 issue of "About Money," Andrew Hecht tells us that the Arab Spring started in 2010 as a direct result of bread riots in Tunisia and Egypt. He says, "Hungry people that depend on bread can cause dramatic change in society and governments, and that is why wheat plays such an important role in the world."
The people of this world need spiritual food. I believe their lack of connection with the One True God is the cause of the turmoil in our world today. Thankfully, many of the refugees from the Middle East and people groups from other nations around the world are being introduced to Jesus through the love and generosity of members of the Body of Christ.
Like the wheat in the field, we have been planted and cared for by the Master Farmer. He has filled us up with everything we need for "life and godliness." (2 Peter 1:3) We are being sent out to feed a hungry world with the Bread of Life--the Good News of Jesus Christ. As we operate in love and unity we will make beautiful patterns on the world’s landscape and the glory of the Lord will rise above us. (Isaiah 60:1)
Have you ever wished that you were able to understand the times so that you could make good decisions for the future and live the way God intended? I have, and see that we have a model for this in Leah's 5th son with Jacob. Issachar is his name, and it means "to be a reward or wage." He was a man who understood the times and was a hard worker. Before Jacob died he spoke a prophetic word to Issachar that recognized his son's strong work ethic and willingness to do whatever it takes to secure a pleasant resting place. When the tribes marched, Issachar went second after Judah and before Zebulun. These three tribes camped together on the east side of the tabernacle.
1 Chronicles 12:32 tells us how the tribe of Issachar joined David in battle and "understood the times and knew what Israel should do." It is no wonder that they marched after Judah. I think that this tribe's understanding of the times helped to lead them into prosperity. Here is what Moses said to Issachar: "They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand." (Deuteronomy 33:19)
Monday was the day that we moved from the month of Nissan to the month of Iyar. Iyar is also called Ziv, which means “radiance.” VAV is the Hebrew letter associated with this month and means "connection or linking." Indeed, Iyar is the connecting month between Nissan (Passover) and Sivan (Pentecost) just as Issachar is the tribe that links Judah (praise) to Zebulun (dwelling/habitation). (Remember that the place where we dwell will always be connected to our praise of God.) This is our month to receive increased revelation (light) and pursue new levels of relationship with the Lord.
During the month of Iyar the children of Israel were learning about their God. He showed them that He is "The God Who Heals"--Yahweh Rapha--by healing the bitter waters and revealing that He also heals people. He showed them that He is "The Lord Who Provides"--Yahweh Jaira--by providing quail and manna. He also revealed that He is "The Lord, My Banner of Victory"--Yahweh Nissi--when He helped the Israelites win the battle against the Amalekites.
The secrets of God's covenant with His people were revealed to them in the month of Iyar. Just as Issachar was blessed with revelation and understanding, those who seek Him may have these gifts. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) Jesus told His disciples, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you..." (Matthew 13:11) Prophet and prophetic dream interpreter, Doug Addison, says, "Every year, the weeks following Passover bring about a lot of changes, as God is still parting seas and giving us prophetic strategies to get through things that have been holding us back."
This is the month when God wants to strengthen us for the coming months in this year. Isn't it appropriate that it is connected with the constellation Taurus (the bull)? Here is what Psalm 84 says: "Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage...They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion." (Verses 5 and 7)
This is the time for us to seek the Lord and ask Him to activate our prophetic voices. For those who pursue Him, God has established this month as a time to reveal the secrets of heaven and to prepare us to receive the increase of His Spirit next month. 1 Kings 6:37 tells us that the foundation for the temple was laid during Ziv (Iyar). This is also the time for us to lay the foundation of God in our lives so that His temple can be built in us. Call upon the Lord, dear ones. Pursue Him with everything that is within you and pay attention as He imparts revelation and understanding from heaven.
The Shadow of El Shaddai
One of my favorite songs on Paul Wilbur's latest CD is called "The Shadow of El Shaddai." It is based on Psalm 91 with an emphasis on verse 1: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
When we know the meaning of this name of God it gives us context for the entire song. El Shaddai means God Almighty, All-Sufficient One, and Many Breasted One. In other words, nothing is impossible for our God. Think about the deeper significance of this combination of meanings! He is the one who nurtures and blesses us, like a mother, protects and empowers us, because He is our father, and fulfills every promise He has made.
The first time this name appears in Scripture is in Genesis 17. God said to 99-year old Abram, "I am God Almighty (El Shaddai), walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." (Verses 1-2) God goes on to tell Abram that He is making a covenant with him. He changes his name to Abraham and tells him he will be a father of many nations. El Shaddai was telling Abraham that He would do the impossible for him--what he could not do for himself. He continued to tell Abraham that He was giving him and his descendants an "everlasting possession" of the whole land of Canaan.
Another translation of El Shaddai is "God, The Mountain One." Mountains convey strength; they are immovable. We know that God is the creator of the earth and He made the very mountains that portray His strength and unchanging nature.
The Psalmist, in Psalm 91, is pointing out that El Shaddai cares for every individual who abides in Him. Even though the Lord is Almighty God, the one who is so powerful that He created the universe and commands the entire host of heaven, He knows each of us personally. Psalm 91 is an invitation for us to know Him as El Shaddai, the one who is our shelter and refuge and fortress. We want to dwell in His shelter where we will experience protection, safety, deliverance and intimacy with Him. The chorus of Paul Wilbur's song says it this way:
"El Shaddai, El Shaddai--Our mighty sustainer, the God who provides.
Elohai, Lord of life--The One who delivers our faithful Defender,
A shelter for all who abide, in the shadow of El Shaddai."
Verses 14-15 of Psalm 91 say this: "'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.'" When you call upon the Lord, use His name, El Shaddai, and watch as He does amazing things just for you.
We were privileged to hear Dr. Mike Hutchings preach at The Crossing this morning. He expresses his excitement in living during this time and season because the Holy Spirit is being poured out in a powerful way, and we get to join the Lord in what He is doing on the earth. We live in a strategic time!
God is very intentional and specific with everything He does, and He looks for people who will partner with Him. He found a good listener and willing servant in Lou Engle who put together Azusa Now. On April 9, different streams of Christianity (about 65,000 people) came together in unity for a time of worship, prayer, repentance and reconciliation.
I have been reading the feedback from people who attended Azusa Now. Have no doubt that God has specific plans for each day. Read what happened on April 9 of this year and April 9 of previous years. I believe God selected this date for Azusa Now because it is in the year of Jubilee--the 40th Jubilee since Jesus walked the earth and the 70th Jubilee since the Israelites crossed the Jordan River. This day was also Rosh Chodesh (New Moon Festival) and Nissan 1. During the month of Nissan, God led His people out of bondage and miraculously parted the Red Sea and set them on a course for the future in The Promised Land.
This date was the 110th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival. International speaker and author of The Seven Mountain Prophecy, Johnny Enlow, read in the Talmud that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died on the same day--Nissan 1. At the same time that Azusa Now was being held in Los Angeles, the City of Angels, there were 30,000 pastors crying out to God in Washington D.C. On this date in 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House. In 1866 the Civil Rights bill passed over President Andrew Johnson's veto. In 1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who took a stand against the Nazis, was hung, and in 1968 Martin Luther King was buried in Atlanta. Think about the prophetic pictures that these significant events have in relation to this date and what happened on it this year!
Lou Engle cried out for the rains from heaven, and drought-stricken LA was drenched in a miracle rain. Managing Editor of the Elijah List, Julie Smith, reported that there was a rainbow over the U.S. flag at the stadium just before dusk. There was also a strong wind blowing in the afternoon. Jennifer LeClaire, News Editor at Charisma Media, feels that something shifted in the spirit on that Saturday. She acknowledged that there is a battle going on in the heavenlies but feels we're now winning that war.
CheAnn, pastor of The Rock Church in California, says we are currently in the greatest global revival in history. Dr. Peter Wagner reports that globally about 180,000 people a day are being saved. Lana Vawser, preacher and prophet from Australia, calls what happened on April 9 "a picture of unity." "He is birthing reconciliation, redemption and revival from a place of unity." Johnny Enlow believes the Holy Spirit is releasing a fresh wind for reformation that will lead us into a renaissance that brings new knowledge of God filling the earth as the waters cover the sea. He says, "Any time you get this kind of unity and agreement in the spirit, it is going to release something greater."
God is doing a new thing! The Kingdom is being released on earth. God has heard us as we pray His prayer: "Let your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Look for heaven to pour out on the earth in a mighty way. God is empowering us to live a Kingdom lifestyle in this strategic time. Catch the wind of the Spirit. We want to be a part of what God is doing in this season.
Joan E. Mathias