Perseverance for Promises
Disturbing reports of chaos and destruction are prevalent in the news media. It seems that mob rule is taking over as those charged with keeping the peace back away and allow the angry mobs to have their way. What is behind this anarchy? The events that occurred during the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar (Tammuz—our current month), give us revelation about the spirit of our day.
When the children of Israel left Egypt there was not one feeble among them and they left laden with silver and gold. (Psalm 105:37) In addition, they were being led by God who took the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their ultimate destination was the Promised Land--"a land flowing with milk and honey." On the way, God led them to Mt. Sinai where they were reminded of how He brought them out of Egypt and provided for them throughout their journey. Moses went to the top of the mountain to receive the Lord's commandments. A blood covenant was made between God and the people. (Exodus 24:8) Then, "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel...They saw God, and they ate and drank." (Exodus 24:9-11) "Then Moses entered the cloud as he went up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18) Before he left, Moses put Aaron and Hur in charge.
No sooner had Aaron returned to the camp then the people schemed to make other gods. How could they? First, they took their eyes off God's promises. Second, they did not remember all the signs and wonders they saw. Third, they wanted immediate comfort and security and were willing to give up their inheritance for it. How tragic!! Aaron joined the mob in building a golden calf from the gold taken out of Egypt. In front of the calf Aaron built an altar and all of Israel sacrificed burnt offerings, ate and drank, and indulged in revelry. (Exodus 32:6) Immediate gratification was the call for the day. The anger of the Lord was so great that He wanted to kill all of them. The Lord relented only after Moses interceded.
Reuben was the first-born son of Jacob and Leah and is associated with this month of Tammuz. As the first-born son, he stood to receive a double portion of his father's inheritance and should have been a leader of the other brothers and their tribes, and a priest of his family. However, he esteemed his birthright lightly and lost it all from lack of self-control and patience. His sin was great against God and his father, Jacob. "Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it." (Genesis 35:22) Reuben's sin resulted in shame and loss for the rest of his life. His behavior had ramifications for generations to come. When it came time to enter the Promised Land, Reuben settled for land east of the Jordan and rejected his portion of the inheritance.
There are lessons for us to learn on how to live during this month of Tammuz and in the future. All of us have received promises from God that should guide us toward our destinies. We must stay focused on those promises and wait with patience for God's perfect timing. As He tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." Destructive behaviors lead to losses in the future. A desire for immediate gratification that results in rash decisions and activities brings an inferior inheritance. We must not settle for less than God's best, and we must agree with His methods and timing to see the manifestation of His promises. We cannot join the angry mobs in building "golden calves"—idols that only give a moment of satisfaction.
This is the time when we should be reviewing the signs that God has given us and focusing on His promises. We cannot be seduced into producing idols that feel good now. Paul gives us excellent advice in Philippians 3:14. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." How should we move forward to our Promised Lands? We must keep our eyes focused on God's promises and persevere with patience. If we are tempted with thoughts of discouragement or desires for building an idol, replace them with extravagant worship to our Lord and King who will guide us to our destinies. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
The Father Crisis
"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad." Can we give an Amen to this truth written by Anne Geddes? Fathers are so important that there is an organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative whose vision is for every child to grow up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. They tell us this: "Underlying many of society's most pressing challenges is a lack of father involvement in their children's lives." According to the U. S. Census Bureau, one in four children live without a father in their home. There are countless other children who live with a father figure who is physically present but emotionally absent. Their fathers are in their lives but not a part of it so that the relationships are toxic.
Statistics put out by the U. S. Census Bureau on our fatherless generation are extremely concerning. Children in this situation are at a four times greater risk of living in poverty and are two times more likely to drop out of high school. These children are more likely to suffer from abuse and neglect, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to become behavioral problems, to commit a crime and to go to prison. Daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens. Comments from wounded, fatherless individuals found on the Internet are telling. Here are a few of the milder ones: "I tell people I don't know my father, because I am afraid to say that he jumps in and out of my life when he wants...And it hurts." "No matter how old you get, the hole in your heart created by your father's absence still aches—especially on Father's Day." "My father was a Christian, but he had no time for me."
Every person was made for love. A father, as the head of a family, should be displaying unconditional love, understanding, support, protection, encouragement, guidance, and friendship. He should be taking time to listen to his children and to communicate with them. Sons need a role model while daughters need an example of how their future husband should treat them. It seems that absence of a father figure in homes has become a generational issue and breeds children who are angry, fearful, anxious, and unforgiving. This crisis of children with hardened hearts offers the demonic realm a playground from which to operate. Our fatherless generation needs someone to stand in the gap for them. That is why we must point these brokenhearted individuals to their Father in heaven. Here are some of the descriptions of our Heavenly Father from the Bible.
Father God stands ready to save us from our sorrow. "The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion." (Psalm 116:5) When Jesus came to earth, He had the audacity to call God “Father.” The religious leaders of the day did not comprehend that their greatest need was for a father who loved and cared for them. To be good leaders, they needed to be totally dependent upon God. Even in the model prayer that Jesus taught, we are told to begin by saying, "Our Father in heaven." As we come to our Father in heaven, we can rest assured that He will provide for our daily needs.
What part can we play in presenting our heavenly Father to those on earth? We must acknowledge that we are totally dependent on Father God for every need and ask Him to stand in the gap if we have an earthly father who has not demonstrated God's qualities for a father. We must be ready to forgive our earthly fathers where they have fallen. We must pray for inadequate fathers and those who have been wounded by them. For those of us who have or had godly fathers who have blessed us, we should thank them and thank God for them. Let's walk in such a way that our lives reflect Father God's characteristics. Finally, if you are a father, evaluate your relationship with your children and look to Father God to help you to be His representative on earth.
Prayers to Change Hearts
One of my favorite CDs is Paul Wilbur's "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem." It is not unusual for me to replay this CD repeatedly. At the beginning of the week, I was doing this, and lines from various songs began to stand out to me. I started to think that praying these lines would be powerful. Each song contributes to a way that we can pour our hearts out to the Lord. Pouring out our hearts is an important thing to do in this ever-changing season of loss, shock, trauma, and chaos. Many weigh in with possible solutions to solve the problems of our beloved nation. However, we should realize that man cannot legislate righteousness in humankind or change hard hearts; only God can do this!
The people of God frequently strayed from His ways. God, acting as a good parent, disciplined them and then he would bring them back to Himself. He said to Ezekiel, tell my people, "I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone...I will show the holiness of my great name...Then the nations will know that I am the Lord...I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:21-27)
We see how God has the power to change a heart. How we need Him to do this for the heart of our nation! Without God we are helpless. The bad reports coming from our media make me want to hide. This thought is wonderfully expressed as Paul sings "In Your Presence Oh God" by Lynn Deshazo. One of the verses says, "I want to hide where the flood of evil cannot reach me, where I'm covered by the blood. I want to be where the schemes of darkness cannot touch me—In your presence oh God!" We all need to be in the presence of God, especially in this season. It is in these places of intimacy with the Lord where He gives us His heart for the nations and reveals how to pray.
Scripture is clear that we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.' For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you.' For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity." (Psalm 122:6-9) The last verse of Paul's song, "Shalom Jerusalem" portrays God's desire to change the hearts of His people: "Israel, beloved Ephraim my son, How my heart would thrill to hear you say The Messiah has come. Oh, my brother, hear these words; may they pierce your soul. Turn again to worship Adonai, Messiah you will know."
The prophet Habakkuk understood that we must wait for the revelation of the Lord. He promised to look to see what the Lord will say to him. God gives a warning: "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice." (Habakkuk 2:12) Habakkuk cries out to God, "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds. Lord, repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2) We need the truth of God's Kingdom to reign in us. It is time for us to confess and repent for the sin of turning away from God's ways and for rebellion against Him. It is time to invite the Lord to come and take His place on the throne of our hearts.
The song "Even So" was written by Steve Merkel. As Paul sings, we need to join Him in the invitation to our Lord, "You are welcome in this place; be enthroned upon our praises. May our worship rise like incense as we magnify the Son. Mighty God of Israel, Lamb upon the Throne, all blessing, and honor to our God forevermore. We join our hearts together, we come in one accord; the bonds of peace unite us in the Spirit of the Lord...Let the Spirit and the Bride say come...To the Lion and the Lamb, Heaven's King, the Great I Am; Come take your place on Your throne.” Revelation 5:8 tells us that the 24 elders around the Throne of the Lord had harps and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Let us fill those bowls with our prayers of repentance and invitation to the Lord. Let worship of our God arise!
Building a Reservoir
Every person that Jesus prayed for was healed. He demonstrated the works of His Father by healing, delivering, and raising people from the dead. It was His desire that His disciples and all Believers do the works that He did. He said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) The power to do these works comes from the Holy Spirit who was first given to the disciples who waited in Jerusalem. Today Believers are filled with the Holy Spirit when they accept Jesus as Savior. However, the power comes to us through the Holy Spirit as our relationship with Him, Jesus and Father God grows. We become like those we spend time with and develop a reservoir of anointing as we spend quality time with the Lord.
Recently, I was encouraged to research reservoirs. They are defined as basins or receptacles where water is collected and stored for us. The water can be used to supply drinking water, to irrigate land, to enhance recreational opportunities and to generate hydroelectric power. The largest reservoir in our country is called Lake Mead. It was formed by damming the Colorado River, covers 248 sq. miles, and can hold 28.9 million acre-feet of water. (One acre-foot equals 325,000 gallons.) You may know the dam holding back the water as Hoover Dam. The reservoir accomplishes all the uses listed above. However, its most important function is supplying water for the hydroelectric station that generates four billion kilowatt hours of power annually. For the water to be used for its intended purpose, it must be collected and maintained at a certain level. This allows it to be moved through cylindrical gates toward the powerhouse. In the case of Lake Mead, the water falls about 500' to the hydroelectric power plant at the base of Hoover Dam. Power is distributed from the plant to people in four states.
It is my opinion that one of the reasons Jesus was able to heal everyone who came to Him was because He had a huge reservoir of anointing that was collected through His daily intimacy with Father God. The first chapter of the book of Mark tells how Jesus went to Simon and Andrew's house to heal Simon's mother-in-law. In the evening, many people from the local village brought the sick and demon possessed to Jesus for healing. On the next day, before moving to nearby villages to preach, Jesus rose early in the morning, while it was still dark, and "went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Verse 35)
Jesus was a man of prayer. Even at His baptism, "He was praying and heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove..." (Luke 3:21-22) Later, Luke tells us that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16) Before selecting His 12 disciples, "Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." (Luke 6:12) Jesus knew that He would need to be filled with power from God to face crucifixion. That is why "He went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.'" (Matthew 26:36)
We must follow Jesus and the way He prioritized intimacy with His Father. Our job is to go out into the world to preach the gospel, heal the sick and set the oppressed free. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit will we be able to live out the call on our lives. We must build up a reservoir of favor and anointing from the Holy Spirit through our times of intimacy with Him to see the power that Jesus displayed operating in our lives.
Joan E. Mathias