A Foundation Specie
The Poconos, an upland region of the Allegheny Plateau, was named by the Munsee Indians, a subtribe of the Lenape Indians. Its original name was “Pokawahne,” which means "Creek Between Two Hills," referring to the Delaware River. The land is an optimum habitat for Hemlock trees who thrive in moist soil, shaded areas, and steep gorges and ravines. Cornell University scientists call the Eastern Hemlock the "foundation specie" of the Poconos forest. It grows along with mixed hardwoods like maple and black birch and is considered the cornerstone of the hardwood forests. Because of this, the Hemlock tree is the PA state tree. The dominant Hemlock exerts a major influence on all other living things that share its environment, including plants, animals, birds, and fish. One can smell the fresh, clean air when they are in a forest dominated by this tree. The unique soil and water conditions make a home for native rhododendron, spicebush, viburnum varies, ferns, Mayflower, and the evergreen groundcover called Partridgeberry. Those who study ecosystems in the USA note the many benefits of the Hemlock tree:
1. Giver of aesthetic beauty
2. Contributor to good air quality (Hemlocks filter pollutants by capturing and storing large amounts of
CO2 and releasing O2 into the environment.)
3. Provider of food and habitats for birds and animals
4. Improver of water quality (Shallow roots filter runoff and keep water clean by preventing sedimentation and filtering pollutants. Decomposition of acidic needles changes the makeup of soil and water.)
5. Provider of shade for the streams and aquatic life (Shade keeps the water cooler and more
oxygenated and keeps snow from melting until later in the spring, maintaining cooler temperatures.)
6. Source of shade for native plants
Sadly, our Pennsylvania native tree is under attack from a small, aphid-like insect brought into our country from Asia. The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) was discovered in the United States in 1951. By 2002 the HWA had infested Hemlock trees from Georgia to New Hampshire. In 2002 the Hemlocks in the Poconos were showing signs of decline from the HWA infestation. The insects suck the sugar from the veins of the trees so that they are unable to produce new growth. The foliage becomes pale and grey in appearance and eventually dies. Researchers have found that the decline of the Hemlocks cause decomposition of the forest floor. In addition, water temperatures are increasing, allowing algae to grow in the streams. This negatively affects the trout that need clear, cool, unpolluted water to survive.
Last week, as my husband and I walked through the Pocono Mountain area called Dingmans Ferry, God began to show me an analogy between the Church and the Hemlock tree. Just as the Hemlock is the foundation specie of the Pocono forest, the Church should remain the foundation or cornerstone of our nation. That is how the Church was positioned when The United States was established. The roots of the Church are planted in the love of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:17) and must remain here. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that our foundation comes from the Spirit of the Lord that rises from the stump of Jesse. "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord...In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:2, 10)
Like the HWA attacks the Hemlock to keep it from growing, we have an enemy who is attacking the Church to keep Her from growing. The Psalmist asks a question: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3) It is true that those with a liberal agenda scheme to destroy the moral foundation of our nation. However, our God is aware of what is happening. He loves justice. He longs "to be gracious to us and to be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress...He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:2, 6) The future of our world is dependent on us (The Church) being salt and light. Our prayers make a difference! As children of God, we should be transforming the environment around us so that we exert a major influence on those who live around us. We are the Foundation for our nation!
From the time that fruit-producing crops are planted, farmers look forward to the harvest. Their desire is to prepare an environment that is ideal for optimum fruit production. This refers to the size, quality, and quantity of the harvest. Honestly, the best farmers do everything they can on earth to prepare the growing area and then look to God in heaven for His blessing on their crops. Our Divine Farmer planted each of us in the environment that is most beneficial to produce fruit. Jesus explains this in John 15. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (Verses 1 and 2)
Remember when the 12 men, one from each tribe of the children of Israel, were sent into the Promised Land? They were to explore Canaan to determine the kind of land that the people lived in. They were to investigate the type of soil that was there--whether fertile or poor. Their final instruction from Moses was this: "Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." (Numbers 13:20) Chapter 13 of Numbers describes what the explorers discovered. "When they reached the Valley of Eshkol (meaning cluster), they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs." (Verse 23) Can you imagine the size and quality of the fruit?
What is the Lord looking for from us? He wants a fruitful harvest. Let's look at our position in relationship to Father God and Jesus. Go back to John 15 and see that Jesus is the vine and Father is the vinedresser or tender of the grape vines. We are branches. Grapevine branches are tied to trellises or propped up with sticks in the natural world. The vine branches need a maximum amount of sunshine and good air circulation to produce the maximum amount of fruit. Like the branches on the vine, Jesus props us up when we are having difficulties and sets us in a place where we can take in the maximum amount of Holy Spirit.
What is the fruit that God is looking for and where does it grow? The Lord's fruit grows in our character, and it consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Notice the first fruit on the list. This is key! Without love we are nothing! (1 Corinthians 13:2) As Jesus was talking to His disciples He said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34-35) Notice that the grapes come in a cluster. Isaiah 65:8 has something to say about this: "As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, 'Don't destroy it; there is still a blessing in it'..." Wine is made from multiple clusters of grapes. We need to be connected to one another for successful ministry to the world. It is the new wine that is produced for the harvest of nations.
Here is a key to remember about the fruit harvest. Harvest happens every year. After one harvest there will be another. God looks for many seasons of fruitfulness in our lives. The fruit in our lives is ripened through our relationship with Jesus. As we become more like Him, our fruit gets larger and sweeter and juicier. God uses every season in our lives to increase our fruitfulness. I pray that we "may live a life worthy of the Lord and bless Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:10)
Securing the Lord's Boundaries
New World Order--term that makes me shutter! This plan for repressive measures to eliminate any dissent from a socialist/liberal point of view moves forward to disarm and conquer anyone who disagrees with a globalist agenda. Some say that there is an elite group of people working behind the scenes to orchestrate a series of crises to devastate the population so that they can achieve world domination. Wealth and power seem to be their goal. The alleged conspirators plot to create a New World Order through a one-world government. There are a multitude of theories about secret societies plotting to take over governments to control the future. I take solace in the truth that God (The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is in control. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. He knows all, sees all, and already has a plan for our future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
The wise writer of Ecclesiastes writes, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (1:9) All we need to do is to look back in history to see a similar plan by the people on the earth in the days of the Old Testament. They all spoke the same language. "Then they said, 'Come, let's build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world." (Genesis 11:4 - NLT) God was not happy with their agenda and said, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand each other. (Genesis 11:7) "That is why it was called Babel--because the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:9)
How do you think the Lord is responding to the behind-the-scenes agenda of those pushing a New World Order? Proverbs 28:22 has something to say about this: "The previous generation has set boundaries in place. Don't you dare move them just to benefit yourself." (TPT) Boundaries were part of God's plans. When the children of Israel were entering the promised land, He gave them specific directions on where their boundaries would be established. (Numbers 34, Deuteronomy 32:8-9)
Christians are told to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) We cannot do this without a firm understanding of our identity--who we are in Christ. The demonically inspired Tower of Babel was meant to keep us from knowing our identity. God made each of us uniquely, and He marked out our appointed times in history and the boundaries of our lands. (Acts 17:26) Author and pastor Rick Joyner wrote, "You can't have true unity without distinctions. God wants us to understand and honor the uniqueness we have. We have to be free to be who we are and how God made us and honor other's heritages and how He made them." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gives more clarity to the meaning of boundaries through the Hebrew interpretation. "In Hebrews, the word for landmark or boundary is the word "Gebul." It means border or limit, line and parameter. The word for ancient is "Olam." But it doesn't only mean ancient, it also means continuous, everlasting, and eternal. So, the verse could be translated as, 'Do not move the eternal boundaries, the everlasting parameters.' Man is trying to move God's eternal boundaries...We see attempts to redefine the parameters of gender, motherhood, fatherhood, manhood, womanhood, childhood, morality, ethics, right and wrong, the nature of humanity, and the sanctity of life. The Scripture warns that people and civilizations who seek to alter the Lord's everlasting parameters will suffer repercussions."
As Believers in Jesus Christ, we must protect the Lord's boundary lines. It is our responsibility to uphold the standards set forth for us in Scripture. We cannot allow the government or society or our education system to dictate the boundaries for what is right and wrong. We are answerable to the Lord and to keep His standards and truth. We must live as people of God, each with our own assignment to spread the love and truth of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is our call! This is our mandate! We have a sphere of influence where we can take a stand for truth and justice and fight for the preservation of the boundary lines put in place by our Lord. We must see ourselves as soldiers on the battlefield. Let us be encouraged by 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. "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 the 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."
Judgment or Grace in Cheshvan
Two messages from God are brought to light during the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar, Cheshvan. We see them through the story of Noah and the great flood. Cheshvan can be a month of judging or a month of grace. God demonstrated both, and He gives us a choice.
From the time of creation until the days of Noah, God observed the behaviors of mankind. He was so grieved by the wickedness of humanity that He expressed regret for making human beings. "So, the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:7-8 - NKJ) From these verses we can glean both themes for the month of Cheshvan.
The Bible explains in Psalm 89:14 that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God's throne. Psalm 47:8 tells us that "God reigns over the nations; God is seated on His holy throne." Isaiah 5:16 prophesies, "But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by His righteous acts." How could a holy God who builds His foundation on righteousness and justice endure the evil of the people of Noah's day? He could not! "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9) This being the case, God gave Noah directions on building an ark to protect him and his family.
While a time of judgment was placed upon the earth, Noah experienced the grace of God. The Lord told him, "I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you." (Genesis 6:17-19) On the 17th of Cheshvan Noah and his family entered the ark and the floodgates of heaven were opened, "And rain fell on the earth 40 days and 40 nights." (Genesis 7:12) One year and 10 days later, on the 27th of Cheshvan, God instructed Noah to come out of the ark.
The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma of a burnt offering that Noah prepared for Him and established a covenant with him. A promise was made by the Lord: "Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood..." (Genesis 9:11) A sign was given: I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures of every kind." (Genesis 9:13-14) Since Cheshvan is the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar, isn't it interesting that this number represents new beginnings.
Judgment led to grace—grace that endures to the present day. This month is a reminder that God's grace is never-ending. "Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:16-17) God's love for us is so great that He nailed His Son to a cross so that His blood was shed for the remission of our sins. "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:9-10) In view of God's sacrificial love for us, should we not follow His call on our lives to be holy as He is holy? We have a choice. Let us choose grace.
Divinely Planted Seed
"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to plant and a time to uproot." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) Where plants and seeds are concerned, fall is the ideal time to put them into the ground. There are several reasons for this: moderating temperatures, lower humidity, moisture availability, and more time for roots to get established before summer heat causes stress and weeds try to take over. The best way to ensure that grass, shrubs, or trees prosper is to help them build a sturdy and extensive root system. Strong roots enable plants to endure during stressful seasons.
A procedure for helping grass seed to grow healthy root systems is called aeration. In this process, thousands of small plugs of turf and soil are removed from the lawn. If there is a buildup of thatch (a layer of organic debris that accumulates where the stem and root meet) it becomes a barrier to the benefits for a healthy lawn. Aeration reduces thatch and creates a path for water and nutrients. It goes together with over-seeding (the seeding of existing turf areas). The holes in the lawn give seed a place to settle in and protect it from winds that might blow it away or water that might wash it away. It is amazing how lawns are transformed into lush, thick, green carpets after this process is applied.
Galatians 3:29 refers to Believers in Christ Jesus as Abraham's seed. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." As Abraham's seed, we are assured that God will plant us in ideal conditions for our growth and prosperity. He wants us rooted and established in His love. (Ephesians 3:17) Let us look back at God's original plan. Mankind was created with the dust of the ground and the breath of God. (Genesis 2:7) It was in the Garden of Eden that He placed Adam and Eve so that they would have the perfect place to live and grow and prosper in their relationship with the Lord. However, sin entered the picture, and He was forced to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden. As time went on, Scripture tells us that "The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain." (Genesis 6:6) God decided to destroy all of life except for Noah and his family, who were found righteous, and the animals that he gathered. A flood was sent that eradicated every living person, animal, and plant that was not protected in the ark. After the waters receded, a new covenant was made between Noah and God, and Noah was given these instructions: "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth." (Genesis 9:1)
From Noah's son Shem came Abram (Genesis 11:10) who would be called Abraham. His line would be the one through which God would make an eternal covenant. God told Abraham, "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." (Genesis 22:17-KJV) Nothing would stop the growth of this seed and the manifestation of the promises of God from generation to generation! From Abraham's seed came the Davidic line—the line of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah the prophet declared that God would make an everlasting covenant with His people and that "Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." (Isaiah 61:9 - KJV)
We are the seed of God, blessed to be planted by the Divine Gardener in an environment where we can root and grow in His love. Let us praise Him for the way He nurtures us. May we grow to glorify Him.
Joan E. Mathias