Fierce winds blew in our region last weekend. They removed anything that was not
securely attached and moved everything that was loose in the same direction. As I was driving about I noticed that the fields of dried corn stalks were being impacted in the same way. All of the stalks and their tassels were leaning in the same direction. Like a great army, these rows of corn stalks looked like they were marching together in unity.
The Holy Spirit reminded me of Ezekiel 37 where the prophet was taken to a valley of dry bones and asked a question. "Son of man, can these bones live?" (Ezekiel 37:3) Ezekiel was instructed to prophesy to the bones as the Lord revealed His plans for them: "I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord." (Verse 6) So Ezekiel prophesied and "breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army." (Verse 10) The Lord continued to tell Ezekiel His intentions: "I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it." (Verse 14)
Aren't these two pictures a vision of what the Lord wants to do with His Church? I feel the winds of the Holy Spirit blowing on the Church to revive her and establish her as a mighty army flowing in the same direction so that she can accomplish her mandate. The Church abdicated to the ways of the world, but I hear the Lord saying that it is time for her to retake the ground that has been lost. We are called to be set apart as holy, as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:17) We are called to live our lives in reverent fear of the Lord. (1 Peter 1:17) We are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds. (Matthew 22:37) We are called to be salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-16)
The things that unite the Body of Christ are greater than those that separate us. In order for us to regroup and be that mighty army that the Lord desires we must humble ourselves, repent (change direction) and return to our first love, Jesus. We are living in turbulent yet exciting times. In the midst of the shakings the Lord comes with grace and empowerment for us to join Him in the new things that He is doing on the earth. (Isaiah 43:18-19) We are part of the family of God, sons and daughters of the Most High God, who must walk in our identity. This is what must be done to retake what has been stolen, plunder the enemy camp and occupy until He returns. (Luke 19:13)
I am reminded of a song written by Martin Smith, lead singer of Delirious. The words of this song, "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?" are powerful! The second verse of the song speaks to the movement of God through His people:
"Did you feel the darkness tremble when all the saints join in one song; and all the streams flow as one river to wash away our brokenness? And we can see that God You're moving; a time of Jubilee is coming, when young and old will turn to Jesus. Fling wide you heavenly gates; prepare the way of the risen Lord.
Open up the doors and let the music play. Let the streets resound with singing. Songs that bring your hope, songs that bring your joy, dancers who dance upon injustice."
These words ring true today. The Lord is blowing on the Body of Christ to revive us and bring us together as one mighty river to flow together through the nations. Arise, O children of God! Our time is at hand!
Adding to Praise
"Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." Praise and thanks are consistently linked together in Scripture. They are somewhat similar and yet unique. When we give thanks we are expressing gratitude and appreciation. When we praise we are expressing admiration and approval. As we celebrate our annual day of gratitude (called Thanksgiving) here in the United States I want to look at the results of adding praise to our thanks.
1 Chronicles 16:4 and 23:28-30 tell us that King David appointed Levites to give thanks and praise to the Lord every morning and evening. Hezekiah also assigned priests and Levites to "give thanks and to sing praises..." (2 Chronicles 20:21) Nehemiah set up singers at the gates of the wall around Jerusalem to sing "songs of praise and thanksgiving to God." (Nehemiah 12:4) Psalm 100:4 tells us that we are to "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise."
A Psalm that has been significant in my life is Psalm 71. Several of the verses describe my experience with the Lord. (Verses 5 & 6) "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you." (Verses 14-16) "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord, I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone." (Verse 18) "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." (Verses 23-24) "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame."
Let's look at Psalm 71, Verse 14, in the Young's Literal Translation. It attempts to translate, literally, each word and phrase from the original language. Verse 14 is translated like this: "But I will continually wait with hope and will add to all your praise." When we look at this entire Psalm, it is apparent that the Psalmist has experienced distress in his life, and yet there is something inside of him that leads him to wait with hope and add to his praise of the Lord.
Verse 15 and 16 show us how to start the process of having hope and of increasing praise. It is when we declare His righteousness and salvation and proclaim His mighty acts. It has been my experience that no matter how difficult life is I can always find a multitude of reasons to praise Him and give Him thanks. He has shown me His strength and wisdom and love again and again. He has confirmed that He is near, even in the dark night of the soul.
One of the devotional books that has blessed me is written by Kevin Geoffrey. His book is called Messianic Daily Devotional. An entry in his book is written about Psalm 71:14-16. Here is what he says about hope and praise: "We do not endure by simply crying out to God--anyone can do that, and they often do. The difference lies in having the fortitude to praise God even in the worst circumstances...and to keep adding to that praise...The key is to let praise build hope, and then to respond to the hope we have by praising Him some more."
When you are thanking God this week, add praise to it. Then add to your praise and watch as your hope builds. May God bless you and your loved ones abundantly.
Parable of the Key
Jesus frequently spoke to the crowds of people that followed Him through a parable or allegory. These stories in which people, things or events have a symbolic meaning are meant to draw the listener into a spiritual encounter with God. Last Sunday God used a situation with a lost car key as an allegory to help me understand the way we should live in this period of time.
As I was getting ready to drive to church I went to pick up my car key. It was not in the place where I usually keep it. I searched the pockets of the clothes that I wore the day before. I emptied my pocket book. I look at the ground around my car and at the front door. Ultimately, I had to get the spare key which I have not used in the 11 years that I have owned my car.
When I got home from church I re-checked all the places I had previously checked and looked at a few new places. Eventually I saw it. Saturday was the day that we needed to turn back our clocks from daylight savings time. I had decided to do that in the afternoon when I walked by the alarm clock. I laid my key beside the clock to accomplish this task and then moved onto something else. Immediately I said to the Lord, "I know you must have something to teach me through this set of circumstances." And so He did...
We live in difficult and chaotic times. There are days when I want to turn back the hands of time. Our nation was established with godly principles, and our founding fathers wanted these treasures to reign. The treasures of life like wisdom, peace, righteousness and justice seemed to be much more available in days past. God reminded me that He decided when each of us would walk on the earth. He wanted us to be alive today and has placed gifts in each of us to bless those around us for such a time as this. He has not forgotten us. He said, "Lay aside the old key for I have a new one for you." His desire is for us to pursue Him. He will show us how to unlock the treasure chest in heaven to bring its contents to earth.
The Lord's desire is expressed in several Psalms. These writings make it clear that His throne was established in righteousness and justice and that He is a refuge for those who come to Him. (Psalm 9:8-10, 33:4-6, 89:14-16 and 97:1-2) The prophet Isaiah hits the nail on the head with his word from the Lord in Chapter 33:5-6. "The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation (stability-KJV) for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." Reverence/fear of the Lord arises in us as we draw closer to Him.
I believe the Lord is telling us through this parable of the key that He has already put into place everything we need to live in this time. Isaiah 11:3-4 talks about how God planned to bring Jesus to earth as a model of how to live in His ways of peace and strength and wisdom. "And He will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears, but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth..."
The Lord loves His Church--those who are called by His name. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) He wants us to have abundant life. (John 10:10) We must fully embrace the fear/reverence of the Lord for it is the key that opens up the storehouses of heaven. Let us declare the faithfulness, goodness and mercy of our God. As the Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah: "'But let him who boasts boast about this: That he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:24)
We have entered the eighth month--Cheshvan. Eight is the number of new beginnings and eternal revelation. It is associated with the Hebrew letter NUN, symbolizing the Messiah. Consequently, Cheshvan is called the month of Messiah. This month aligns with the tribe of Manasseh (meaning one who causes to forget). Manasseh was Joseph's son, born during a time of abundance. Joseph was thanking God for helping him forget many years of pain and loss in his life through the naming of his first-born son.
Manasseh would become one of the 12 tribes that camped around the Ark of the Covenant and marched to war. This next-generation tribe, along with Ephraim, was included as one of the 12 tribes so that they gained experience for the future battles they would need to fight. The tribe of Manasseh was learning what was holy and how to guard and defend it. This was their job when Israel went to war.
We are studying about Gideon during our Sunday morning meetings at Church. This is timely since we are in the eighth month and Gideon was a member of the tribe of Manasseh. Sadly, this man whose very name means warrior and feller, forgot the lessons of his tribe. His identity was in the weakness of his tribe. Because he had his eyes on his mistaken identity he lived in fear and suppressed the very person he was born to be.
God had eternal revelation for Gideon and called him out by the name that was given to him before the foundations of the earth were laid. In essence, the Lord told Gideon that it was time for a new beginning. Here is the declaration made from heaven: "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior...Go in the strength (meaning capacity) you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" (Judges 6:12, 14)
Gideon's tendency was to look back but the Lord was calling him into his prophetic destiny. The Israelites were being attacked and suppressed by the Midianites. The root of the name Midian is strife and contention, and, indeed, Midian was creating conflict and struggle amongst God's chosen people. Gideon had to shed the erroneous image he had of himself and clothe himself with the Spirit of the Lord. (Judges 6:34) It was time for him to embrace his identity in Christ.
As Gideon stepped into his identity and walked out the call on his life he would help all of Israel walk into theirs. The false idols in his life had to be destroyed before he moved forward in victory. Along with ten of his servants, Gideon demolished the altar to Baal, cut down the Asherah pole, and built a stone altar to God upon which he sacrificed a bull from his father's herd. (Judges 6:28) The Lord was with Gideon so that he and only 300 Israelites defeated the Midianites. (Judges 7)
Cheshvan is the month to deal with your root issues and take in new revelation from the Spirit of God. The Israelites would have seen the constellation Scorpio in the night sky during the eighth month. It is a sign that God has given His people power and authority in His name to "tread on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy..." (Luke 10:19) We will also overcome the enemy as we cast down the idols in our lives and focus our eyes on Jesus.
Like Gideon, the Lord has anointed us to preach good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recover of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19) This is the time for us to step into our destinies by cooperating with our Messiah as He leads us into a lifestyle that will transform us into His image.
Joan E. Mathias