Romans 15:4 says, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." One of the distinct qualities of God's people is that they have hope. God sent His Word to plant that in us. The Bible is more than a book, as it tells us in John 1:1-5. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
You may ask, "What is the purpose of the Bible?" I believe that one of the main purposes is to give us revelation of God's nature and character and His desire for relationship with us. His desire for intimacy with us is so great that He used the beginning of the Book to show us our sinful condition and His plans for redemption. Our need for a Savior is why He sent His perfect Son to redeem us. He assures us of His ability to enact His plan of salvation through the stories in the Bible that tell of His loving care and power to overcome the schemes of the enemy, and to set us on the right path for eternal life.
A song written by Elevation Worship has inspired me and affirmed my hope in the Lord. It tells us how the world will never satisfy us but that His love overcomes our weaknesses and failures. While it is true that HIs love gives us hope, it is also true that His power is supernatural and changes our surroundings to give us access to God's Kingdom. Let's look at the words to the song, "Graves into Gardens."
"I searched the world, but it couldn't fill me. Man's empty praise and treasures that fade are never enough. Then You came along and put me back together, and every desire is now satisfied, here in Your love.
Chorus: Oh, there's nothing better than You. There's nothing better than You. Lord there's nothing, nothing is better than You.
I'm not afraid to show You my weakness. My failures and flaws, Lord You've seen them all, and You still call me friend. 'Cause the God of the mountain is the God of the valley. There's not a place Your mercy and grace won't find me again.
Bridge 1: You turn mourning to dancing. You give beauty for ashes.
You turn shame into glory. You're the only one who can.
Bridge 2: You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies.
You turn seas into highways. You're the only one who can. You're the only one who can.”
God's love for us and its accompanying power operate together to transform our lives. Declaring HIs power and love will change our atmosphere and bring about hope for the present and the future.
How could I not share with you the wonderful insight Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gave to his readers in his June newsletter? Frequently this man blesses me with the revelation God imparts to him. Jonathan wrote about a major persecutor of the first Believers in Christ. Herod Agrippa, it says in Acts 12:1, caused "great harm to the Believers." (TPT) He oversaw the region of Judea but after unsuccessfully attempting to kill Simon Peter, spent some time in Caesarea. During his stay there, Herod "delivered a stirring public address to the people." (Acts 12:21) The people of Caesarea gave him high praises. His attitude angered God. Acts 12:23 tells us, "An angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, an infestation of worms, because he accepted the people's worship and didn't give the glory to God, and he died." (TPT) "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
Rabbi Cahn points this out: "The worms were just doing what worms naturally do—eating. Yet as they were eating, they were fulfilling God's will and purpose...They were on divine assignment. They were bringing judgment to a tyrant. They were even being used to save the apostles and the first Believers. The worms brought about the end of that persecution...One of the most powerful and dynamic of rulers is struck down and rendered powerless. Yet one of the most powerless of creatures, the worm, proves to be of greater power than the king, even to the point of changing history."
There is a message for us in this dramatic example of a simple worm changing the course of history. We may not believe that our simple lives have much of an impact on the world around us. However, all we need to do to touch the lives of others is do what we were made to do. The worms did what God made them to do—eat. God set each of us in a specific time and place in history and filled us with specific gifts and plans and purposes. All we need to do is follow the Lord's directions and use the gifts He has given to us.
As Jonathan says, "You may not see how your life is making a difference in this world. You will never know how many lives will be changed by the simple acts of righteousness that you have done in the Lord." He reminds us that "The apostles seemed to be of little influence; they had little money or fame or world influence and evil men such as Caligula, Nero, and Herod appeared to have all the power. Yet God showed the power of His hands by using the weakest of creatures to bring down the Kingdom."
It is my observation that many of us are discouraged by the direction that our country is taking. It seems that a liberal agenda is gaining momentum, and we feel powerless to bring about any change. Let us remember the example of the worm. One step in the direction God calls us to can change our families, our churches, our communities, our nation, or even our world. We must keep our ears tuned to the Lord and our eyes fixed on Him so that we can do what He calls us to do. As Jonathan says, "Even the smallest of worms, in the Kingdom of God, is more powerful than the greatest of kings. God has called you to be even more powerful than those most influential worms."
June is a spectacular month in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Perhaps God spent extra time in this area as He created the rich soil, plants, and creatures. I am grateful to be able to take it all in! Contemplating God's creation gives me peace in knowing that He is in the details of my life just as He is in nature. It is such a treat to listen to the sounds of the birds singing and realize that each one has a unique song. My husband and I like taking an evening walk in our neighborhood. Our walks provide a banquet for our senses. The sweet-smelling honeysuckle draws us to it. We pick the blossoms to pull out the bead of nectar stored inside. By pinching off the tiny green bottom of the flower (calyx), one can slide the white string attached to it down the center of the flower until the nectar appears at its base. My dad taught me this trick. As I engage in this activity it always brings back wonderful memories. Along with the honeysuckle, we can see and smell the wild roses growing at the edge of the woods.
One evening we met a young deer at the neighborhood stream. He turned away but gave us an even more exciting view of him as he strolled down our parking lot in the cool of the evening. We determined that our young deer is a buck who has not yet developed his horns. His color for the season is a light sienna brown. So beautiful! It makes quite a contrast to his dark brown eyes. All of this and more make me want to break out in praise to our Creator. But it was our trip to Tyler State Park in Bucks County that brought me to tears. All the fields in the Park are planted in wheat. The golden color of every shoot shows us that the fields are ripe for harvest. The distinctive heads of grain swaying in the breeze against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and several green trees got me taking pictures. Could I capture this God-sent moment? I took several photographs.
I was emotionally moved to sing "America the Beautiful." It was the phrase "for amber waves of grain" that came to my mind first. This hymn of gratitude was written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, a teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. It expresses her gratitude for the endowment God gave us. The first verse is about the grandeur of our nation: "O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plan! America, America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."
God is in the details of every part of creation. He is extravagant in the way He has blessed us. I believe it is telling that the first man and woman were placed in a garden. We are meant to be appreciative of life around us and to help care for creation. The psalmist knew it and expressed his wonder of God's care in Psalm 8:3-4. "When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers—the moon and stars you have set into place—what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us?" ((NLT)
Yes, God is in the details of everything and everyone that lives. Today I unite with the psalmist in calling on you to join us in thanksgiving for the Lord's amazing creation and for the way He cares for us. "Everyone everywhere, lift up your joyful shout to God! Sing your songs turned to His glory! Tell the world how wonderful He is. For He's the awe-inspiring God, great and glorious in power! We've never seen anything like Him...All the earth will bow down to worship; all the earth will sing Your glories forever!” (Psalm 66:1-3a, 4 - TPT) Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Harvests are linked with God's feasts. In ancient Israel, before the yearly summer wheat harvest began, the people of God would gather in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). It marks the beginning of the great wheat harvest. Before the harvest actually took place, the Jews would go out into their fields and pick the best of the crop to bring as an offering to the Lord at the Temple. They used their initial harvest to make two loaves of bread that would be used as a first fruits offering or Bikoreem. Obviously, these loaves contained leaven, signifying sin. It is thought that two loaves could represent the two houses of God (Judah and Ephraim) who both fall short of the glory of the Lord. They could also stand for Jew and Gentile or the Old and New Testament. Either way, they were used as a wave offering at the Temple.
Shavuot also became a celebration of the giving of Torah. It was during this period that the children of Israel would have been at Mt. Sinai where Moses received the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments and other laws. God had commanded the Jews to count seven full weeks from the second day of Passover to determine the exact day when they would bring Him an offering of first fruits (the new grain). (Leviticus 23:15-21) After celebrating, all the people would go out to the fields and reap their great summer harvest.
Is it any wonder that God chose this festival as the time when he would pour out His Spirit on the disciples and those gathered with them in the Upper Room? The church calls this day Pentecost (meaning 50 days). At the Pentecost celebration 2,000 years ago, God was offering the first fruits of the harvest to come. He was giving a demonstration of the spiritual empowerment for those who became part of the Kingdom of God. Three thousand souls were added to the ranks of Christianity that day. It was a mighty beginning! In some circles, this day is designated as the day that the Church became the Bride of Christ. Hebrew tradition encourages the groom to bring a gift to the bride. On this day, our bridegroom, Jesus, gave to His bride, the Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Spirit-filled Believer that is able to go out and fulfill the commission they are given to bring life to the lost.
Here are some interesting facts to consider that make this year's celebration of Pentecost particularly exciting. In Song of Solomon 8:4 the bride says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." I learned from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn that the word "charge" in Hebrew is "shaba." Shavuot comes from the root word shaba. Therefore, Pentecost could be called "the day of charging." We are charged to live a life of commitment to God by His Spirit. He gave us the power and authority to live an anointed life of joy, praise, and victory that impacts everyone around us.
I believe that the glory of God is magnified during times of the feasts when communities gather to glorify Him and remember what He has done. There are seasonal portals opened to the heavens where the supernatural activity of God is increased. We are called to recognize God's special seasons by setting ourselves apart to worship Him and to advance His Kingdom. I am anticipating a breakthrough. Every seven years God commands His people to rest and watch Him pour out provision and revelation in abundance. This is called the Shmita year, and we are currently in that year. In addition, both Shavuot and Pentecost fall on the same day. This rarely happens—usually only every ten years. Also, look at the year we are in. It is 2022! Two is the number of agreement, one accord, and union (as in marriage). This is a year of the double portion. Let us not miss our appointment to meet with the Lord. These "kairos" or opportune moments are opportunities to bring heaven to earth. This is our time to advance the harvest as we welcome revival to the earth.
Joan E. Mathias