For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples truths from the Kingdom of God. Before He ascended into heaven, "Jesus instructed them, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) Two words stand out to me in this passage: wait and baptized. Acts 1:4-5 is saying, "If you wait (remain or tarry), then you will be baptized (immersed or drenched) in the Holy Spirit." The instructions require an action on the part of the hearer. The disciples were required to wait for 10 days after Jesus left them, and before the promise hit. Today we call the time when the Holy Spirit poured out in power Pentecost because it was 50 days from the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Those who waited had no idea how long they would be in the same place. God blessed those who persevered.
Waiting is an action word as explained in Proverbs 8:34-35. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." The disciples were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They had to listen to and obey what Jesus told them. They were also watching for the appearing of His Spirit. This is what waiting looks like.
Jesus wants His disciples to make themselves available to Him. While we wait the Lord awakens our senses and prepares us for what is to come. The more we wait, the more we cultivate a deeper understanding of Him, the Source of Life. This enable the Lord to enlarge our spiritual capacity. He wants to take us from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Psalm 27:14 gives us great encouragement. "...Don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting--for He will never disappoint you!" (TPT)
Because they waited and obeyed what Jesus told them, the reward for the disciples was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you have ever been to a baptism service, you will recall that the person being baptized is completely immersed into the water. Every part of their body is saturated with water. The symbolism of the ceremony is rich. Going under the water is symbolic of dying to the old life and coming up in newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost everyone who had waited in the upper room was transformed. In Acts 2:4 it says, "They were filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned." (TPT) The wind of the Spirit overtook those who waited so that they became more like Jesus—God's intended outcome for this encounter. The writer of Acts describes the new community of Believers: "...Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion, and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the Believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity, they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them." (Acts 2:42-45 - TPT)
The prophetic community of our day has been declaring that this year we will have a Pentecost like none we have experienced before. We have anticipated that God is doing something new. We are being called to arise and awaken. It is time to move from fear to faith. Since today is Pentecost Sunday, the day celebrated by the Church, let's open our hearts to the new thing God wants to do in us. We are beginning to move out from our places of quarantine into the world around us. We must be aware of the opportunities God is giving us to share His Kingdom with others. It will take boldness and courage to move out into new territories. Perhaps we will see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power.
As we pulled into the parking area of the Newtown Township park on Rt. 413, memories of childhood visits to Stone Harbor, New Jersey flooded my mind. A distinctive smell of salt water was present from the marshes along the waterways at the entrance to the resort. The marshes are prime territory for unique types of birds. In particular, I remember seeing red-winged blackbirds flitting between the cattails in the marshes. Our Newtown park has fresh-water marshes that are thick with cattails and the home of a small flock of red-winged blackbirds. To quote a web site on blackbirds: "A cattail marsh is the quintessential red-winged blackbird habitat." We were greeted by several male birds that flew from a small oak tree to a perch at the top of the cattails. When the male sings he expands his wings so that one can see his entire brilliant, red and yellow shoulder area. In this way, he shows off to the females. Females stay out of sight as much as possible, especially during nesting season. Their bodies look somewhat like a sparrow with heavily streaked brown. Their cone-shaped bills have short yellow feathers around them, and above their eyes is a patch of white.
Female red-winged blackbirds try to remain at the base of the vegetation where they can find insects and seeds to feed on and to guard their nests. However, if a larger bird or human comes too close to the marsh, both male and female come to the top of the cattails to protest loudly. The birds' nests are weaved together of grass, reeds, and leaves. After they are completed, the birds attached their nests to standing vegetation. They have two or three broods a season, each with three to four eggs that are incubated by the female. The young stay in the nest for 11 to 14 days while both parents feed them.
Watching the blackbirds in their favorite habitat, I began to think about all the creatures on the earth and the multitude of unique ecosystems that the Lord created. In the seven days of creation written about in Genesis, we read that God made a myriad of land forms, water bodies and vegetation and then filled the earth with a plethora of birds, fish, sea creatures, and animals. It is obvious that God loves diversity and variety and provides a perfect environment for every creature on the earth. A place called the Garden of Eden was created by God for mankind, who was made in His image. "In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) God created man with a mission. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)
Although Adam and Eve had to be taken from the Garden because of their sin, God's plans for mankind moved forward. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:26-28) God has created everyone and everything uniquely for a special purpose and all of this was done out of love. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
God declares that "His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Romans 1:20) When we take time to look and see God's handiwork, can there be any doubt that His glory is visible in all creation? In the book of Nehemiah, we are told how the Levites led the Israelites in adoration of the Lord. "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name...You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You." (Nehemiah 9:5-6) Psalm 104 is a declaration of praise to God for all He has created. I want to make the end of this psalm my declaration and hope that you will join me in this. "May God's glorious splendor endure forever! May the Lord take joy and pleasure in all that He has made...I will sing my song to the Lord as long as I live! Every day I will sing my praises to God. May you be pleased with every sweet thought I have about You, for You are the source of my joy and gladness...I will keep on praising You, my Lord, with all that is within me. My joyous, blissful shouts of 'Hallelujah' are all because of You!" (Psalm 104:31-35 - TPT)
Did you ever wonder why the second month on the Hebrew calendar is linked with light—light that signifies revelation? If we look back to the journey the Israelites made from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, we can see that God was teaching them His names and nature by physical manifestations of healing, provision of water and food, and victory in battle. He wanted them to learn to trust Him.
The revelations that came were a part of a covenant that God was making with them. He promised to help them when they did their part. "He said, 'If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, then...'" (Exodus 15:26) From the mountain of Sinai, God gave Moses more details to the covenant: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 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 19:4-6) When we look at Deuteronomy 29:29 we see how important this revelation was to our ancestors and is to us. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."
During the same period we are in now (the 2nd month), Jesus walked the earth and gave more revelation. "After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 1:4-5 - TPT)
For 40 days after the resurrection Jesus would appear to His disciples. Paul records, "He also appeared to more than 500 of His followers at the same time, most of whom are still alive as I write this, though a few have passed away. Then He appeared to Jacob and to all the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:6-7 - TPT) He met two of the disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The Bible says, "He carefully unveiled to them the revelation of Himself throughout the Scripture. He started at the beginning...and revealed the truth about Himself." (Luke 24:27 - TPT) The men did not recognize Jesus until He sat at the table with them and "took bread and blessed it and broke it, and then gave it to them." (V. 30) After Jesus vanished, they said of Him, "He unveiled for us such profound revelation from Scripture." (Luke 24:32 - TPT) Jesus commissioned His disciples before He returned to heaven to be seated at the right hand of Father God. "All authority of the universe has been given to me. Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you, and never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age." (Matthew 28:18-20 - TPT)
With all the revelation that Jesus gave to His disciples during His lifetime and the 40-day period after His resurrection, there was still more for them to receive. Luke 24:49 tells what Jesus said about this: "And I will send the fulfillment of the Father's promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you." (TPT) He was talking about the Holy Spirit who is still the one who gives us wisdom and revelation.
Our time set apart from the rest of the world comes during the anniversary of the 40 days that Jesus taught the disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven before He ascended to His Father. This is the perfect time for us to seek the Holy Spirit for increasing understanding of the secrets of heaven and revelation of our part in bringing the gospel and the love of Jesus to the world around us. This is Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus. "I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know Him through your deepening intimacy with Him." (Ephesians 1:17 - TPT) We must pray this prayer over ourselves as we pursue more intimacy with the Lord
A partnership was forged with God and man/woman at God's behest. It seems that when the Lord wants something to happen, He looks for agreement with His plan from someone on earth. Consequently, prayer was birthed. Knowing that the people of the world would sin and that His holiness demands that sin be punished, He set up a channel through which His mercy could be poured out in place of judgment. What pushes the flow of God's mercy is intercession that agrees with and prevails upon His heart of love.
It is my contention that the Lord desires to bring transformation and revival to the United States of America. The revivals that have already manifest throughout the world were birthed by prayer movements. In recognition of the power of prayer for our nation, President Harry Truman signed legislation on April 17, 1952, establishing the National Day of Prayer into the law of the United States. Each year, on the first Thursday of May, we are encouraged "to turn to God in prayer and meditation." Our country is in desperate need of prayer right now. Our National Day of Prayer occurred this past Thursday and gave us the opportunity to join with others to stop and listen to the heart of God for our nation so that we could pray in agreement with Him.
As I consider what part I can play in joining the prayer movement and in crying out for God to revive our nation, I remember some of the powerful prayer warriors that I know and respect. My most admired and loved warrior is my mother. We have a saying in our family when someone needs powerful prayer: "Call Grandmom!" My mother has been a faithful intercessor for as long as I can remember. She has seen many of her prayers answered by the Living God. I believe this is because she hears His heartbeat and prays in harmony with it. At the age of 97, she still prays without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17)
Several of my friends tell me that their mothers are or were also prayer warriors. Francis Frangipane shares an interesting insight about the Charismatic movement. The Lord told him that this was birthed from the "cries of a million praying mothers--women who refused to surrender their children to drugs and the devil." Mothers have been at the forefront of the battle for their children and for our nation. Their persistent prayers have birthed blessings for all of us.
In the Bible we see a powerful example of how life was birthed through the prayers of Esther. She led her people in three days of prayer and fasting so that she could go before the king to plead for mercy. In so doing, an edict calling for the annihilation of the Jews was changed and life prevailed. Eve was made by God as a helpmate for Adam. Her name means "mother of all the living." (Genesis 3:20) Women were made to bring forth life--life in many forms. A woman with the heart of a mother, who dedicates herself to prayer, can release God's life into the world. New beginnings for families, the church, and our nation can be brought about through intercessors with a oneness with Christ.
Women have a special place in God's heart. He delights in partnering with them as they intercede in agreement with the mercy and love He carries in His heart. Their persistence in prayer prevails upon God's love and births His plans to release blessings and revival on the earth. If you are a prayer warrior sitting at the feet of Jesus, I bless you. I also encourage everyone to join in the intercession to birth new life and revival.
Look outside and observe the beautiful display that nature is showing us! It emerges from its winter rest with strength and vitality to produce flowers, leaves and fruit. This is a season that can produce hope for the future if we allow God to speak to us through creation. It is His desire for us to walk in blessings because of His love for us. He also wants us to demonstrate His Kingdom to others. To accomplish the pouring out of these benefits, the Lord set up cycles of blessings and rest that are meant to lead us to our destinies. True rest, brought about through trusting in the Lord, will propel us into our futures like an arrow released from a bow. It is interesting that the prophet Isaiah compares the children of Israel to an arrow. "...He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver.’ He said to me, ‘You are my servant Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.'" (Isaiah 49:2-3)
God's Word explains His cycles of blessing. The weekly cycle is patterned after the seven days of creation. The seventh day of the week is for rest where we celebrate Him, meditate on His blessings, and become strengthened physically and spiritually. (Genesis 2:2-3) The monthly cycle, Rosh Chodesh or the New Moon Festival, is a "firstfruits celebration." It falls on the first day of each month on the Hebrew calendar and is a time of joyful celebration when God's people gather together to gain revelation for the month ahead. It is also a time to present the Lord with a firstfruits gift to honor Him by giving Him the first and best of all He has given to us. (Numbers 28:11-15) As we participate in this festival, we honor God with the first of our time and receive a day of rest somewhat like the Sabbath. The third cycle of blessing is yearly and includes three key appointed times to set aside our routines and meet Him. (Exodus 23:14-17) The three feasts are Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot). God chose them as a time to reveal Himself to us and to demonstrate His greatest works. These feasts align our lives with God's timing. Passover is a time to remember God's redemption, Pentecost His physical provision and power through the outpouring of His Spirit, and Tabernacles to receive joy by dwelling in God's presence and celebrating His glory.
Since rest is an integral part of all God's blessings, let's look at what it includes and why it is critical for a healthy life. Moses said to the Lord, "'If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you...' The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" That promise of rest was key to receiving God's blessings and is meant for all of God's children. Under the leadership of Joshua, the promise to Moses was fulfilled. "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their ancestors..." (Joshua 21:44) The writer of Psalm 91 explains how important it is to dwell in the presence of the Lord. "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
The core of rest is trust in the Lord! The writer of Hebrews explains this in Chapter 4. Those with unbelieving hearts have not entered faith's rest. "For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest!" (Hebrews 4:3 - TPT) The whole world is in a season of rest now. As all of us are quarantined to protect us from the virus, we are in a season of waiting, and we have more time to reflect on our lives. We are being prepared for the season of breakout. If the truth be admitted, our lives before the virus were too busy, and seasons of rest were ignored. This gift of time has allowed us to refocus on what is important. Rest and relaxation lead to refreshing, rejuvenation and renewal.
Have you ever wondered why an archer unstrings his bow? Before the archer shoots, he tightens the strings, creating tension. When the shot is released some of this tension is released but not all of it. The tension on the limbs of the bow weakens them over time and produces what is called fatigue. Unstringing the bow releases the tension, prolongs the bows longevity, and gives it power to propel an arrow to hit its target.
We must use this season of rest to unstring our bows. We are in a time of preparation for the next season. Rest comes by trusting the Lord to accomplish all that He intends for us. As we wait on Him and allow Him to transform us, we become more like Him and will break forth in beauty and power. Read the word of the Psalmist and let it inspire you: "I cried out to the Lord. 'God, come and save me!'...He answered me and came to my rescue! Now I can say to myself and to all, 'Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards those who simply trust in Him.'" (Psalm 116:4, 6-7 - TPT)
Joan E. Mathias