Life's circumstances have completely changed how I am writing to you tonight. My intention was to bring the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) before you since it takes place on Wednesday. This holiest day on the Hebrew calendar is meant for reconciliation with God. In Biblical days, the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies to present God with an offering to cover the sins of the people. Today Yom Kippur is a day of remembering, fasting, and praying so that the new year (5783) starts properly. Of course, those who believe that Yeshua/Jesus is our Savior know that He took our sins upon His body once and for all. He is the Atonement!
What I want to focus on is what has happened in the southern part of the United States and Cuba. Unimaginable destruction and devastation took place when Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, barreled through the region with monumental winds and water and created surges that completely destroyed entire communities, bringing death and major loss of property. The infrastructures that supported communities are also gone. It is interesting to note that the hurricane is named Ian. What it did as it blew through our country is incongruent with its name. Ian is of Scottish Gaelic origin and is the Scottish version of John or Yohanan in Hebrew. The name means, "God is gracious" or "Gift from God." How do we put this together? It seems like the kingdom of darkness has throne us a curve ball.
I too was thrown a curve ball at the same time. While all this is going on, I was mourning the loss of a friend from church, Linda, who is one of our "Dear Ones." It was at her funeral that I began to feel sick and dizzy. The next day I found myself in ER. The medical staff discovered that I had a small stroke. Praise God there are no lasting effects, and I am home to write this letter. There are still many in hospitals, battling sickness and disease and many whose lives have been pulled apart by the overwhelming losses created by the forces of nature.
The human part of us wants to ask God the question, "Why?" Very rarely have I gotten the answer to any of my why questions. Here is what I do know: God breaks our hearts with the things that break His. We are His ambassadors on earth. We are on earth to glorify Him. He can use our smallest offering to help others, and He will multiply our efforts. God is not the author of pain and suffering, but He will use it to draw us closer to Him. He is with us as we rebuild our lives and will send others to help us.
Remember the Scripture in Zechariah 4:10? Zerubbabel's hands had just laid the foundation for the rebuilding of the temple, and God reminds Zechariah the importance of the first step. "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." (NLT) In circumstances that look impossible, let us remember that God is the Lord of the impossible. We must take the first step. Join the Psalmist in declaring, "...I will hope in Your name, for Your name is good." (Psalm 52:9) Remember Psalm 54:4. "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." We must release the turmoil within us to the Lord: "Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:8) The Lord stands by to help us with our greatest needs. He desires for us to rest in Him and to be assured that He is our rock and salvation. "He is my fortress. I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:2)
The Hebrew calendar is one to encourage the culture of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. It brings to our attention weekly, monthly, and yearly seasons of rest and times to connect with the Lord. These times are meant to bring us closer to Him. To do this, we must set priorities and need to ask ourselves, "What is my highest priority?" How intentional are we at setting aside special times to seek greater intimacy with the Lord? We have an opportunity this evening at sundown to join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the celebration of the New Year 5783. After all, we have a common history with them. In Leviticus 23 we find a list of the Feasts of the Lord, and we are told in verse 4, "These are the Lord's appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times." We also see throughout the New Testament that Jesus kept these feasts.
The spring feasts are a reflection of the Messiah's appearance on earth and His death and resurrection. The late spring feast demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit as He poured it out on those who were gathered in Jerusalem. The fall feasts are thought to be the time when Messiah will return to earth to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. He will come for the pure and spotless bride called The Church and take her to heaven for eternal fellowship.
Rosh Hashanah means "Head of the Year" and is also referred to as the Feast of Blowing (Yom Teru’ah) or Trumpets. It begins on the first day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar called Tishri. For two days sacred assemblies take place, and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown 100 times each day. It is thought to be the day that God created the world and announces the beginning of the fall feasts and what is called "The Ten Days of Awe." These days are meant for self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting. From Biblical times, these ten days have been set apart as a time for preparation of Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement. The Israelites would gather as their High Priest went into the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the Temple. Here he would present sacrifices and prayers to the Lord on their behalf. During the final celebration, the harvest of the fields is brought in, booths are built for families to live in for seven days so that they are reminded of God's care for their ancestors in the desert, time is set aside to rest and fellowship, and offerings of thanksgiving are brought to the Lord.
In the book The Messianic Church Arising by Robert Heidler, the yearly feasts are called a "Cycle of Blessing." Robert writes, "The fall feasts provide the pattern for revival for any individual or nation. The fall feasts were given to create a pathway into God's glory." Here is what each feast is meant to do:
The Feast of Trumpets: A wake-up call
The Days of Awe: A time for seeking Him
The Day of Atonement: A day to be restored
The Feast of Tabernacles: A week to experience glory
Robert continues. "...I believe Tabernacles is the key feast for the church today. We live in a day when God wants to draw us into His presence in a unique way. It is a time for His power and blessing to be poured out. He wants us to experience His glory."
Our wake-up call comes this evening. We are being called into a new season. We are being called to awaken. God is ready to meet us. Are we ready to meet Him? We can join our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Spirit by remembering our blessings, confessing and repenting of our sins, and bringing the Lord a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This will set us on a path of blessing for the new year.
Our heavenly Father is a gardener. From the beginning of Scripture, we see that He placed the first human in a garden and charged them with caring for the plants. Throughout the rest of the Bible, God's creation is described in terms that would be particularly familiar with those who garden. The prophet Isaiah tells us, "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." (Isaiah 61:11) God's desires for us to reap a harvest that ultimately points to His goodness and generosity. This is expressed in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. "This generous God who supplies abundant seed for the farmer, which becomes bread for our meals, is even more extravagant toward you. First, He supplies every need, plus more. Then He multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow, you will be abundantly enriched in every way as you give generously on every occasion, for when we take your gifts to those in need, it causes many to give thanks to God." (TPT)
All of this I have been contemplating as I have watched the local sod farmer readying his fields for grass seed. The preparation of a "bed" for seed is detailed and time consuming if the farmer wants a high quality and valuable sod harvest. Initially, any weeds that are growing in the soil must be killed and raked up. The soil bed is smoothed and leveled before lime and fertilizer are added to it. Proper acidity or pH should be 6 to 7.5. Since the soil in our area tends to be acid in nature, lime brings it back to the right range for healthy seed germination. The soil is then disked or plowed three or four times to a depth of four to eight inches. Our local field is composed of well drained, silty loam, ideal for growing seed. Before the seed is planted, the field is smoothed out with a roller. Ideal planting time is late summer or early fall, as the temperatures are cooling down and natural rains are more frequent. A combination of Kentucky bluegrass and fescue are planted because there is increased strength in the mix, and it is more disease resistant.
The ideal way to apply seed is in two different directions so that the farmer avoids empty spots. These days a biodegradable netting may be placed on the top of the seed to keep the young shoots from being dislodged. As the seed germinates, the farmer may fertilize again and will water it according to its need. It usually takes six months to one year for sod to mature. All during the growing season, the farmer will mow the turf regularly to keep it dense. When it is mature, the sod will be harvested by a machine that not only cuts it into layable pieces but places it in rolls on pallets.
The Bible explains that we are God's seed and also His seed bed. God plants His seed to produce a harvest that gives Him glory. He tends to us, adding whatever we need to grow an ideal crop that will feed the nations. I love how Peter expresses this: "For through the eternal and living Word of God you have been born again. And this 'seed' that He planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever...The Word of the Lord endures forever!" (1 Peter 1:23,25 - TPT)
Remember that we are the field for God's seed and the seed of God that grows forever. How do we become a field that is abundant for the glory of the Lord and that produces valuable seed? We must remove the weeds that are ever present, trying to take over the good seed. We must fertilize ourselves with the eternal Word of God that lives forever. We must allow Him to sow His will into our wills. Then, get ready to produce a harvest.
The word "kadosh" in Hebrew is holy. Its meaning is sacred, devout, pure, spotless, and untainted. To be holy requires one to be set apart and separated from the typical pattern of life. From the beginning, it was God's desire to have a special people that were separated unto Him. He began to implement His plan through Abram. (Later Abraham) In a divine encounter, Abram was instructed to "Leave it all behind.” and "Follow me." (Genesis 12:1-2 - TPT) God gave him a promise if he would follow Him. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3)
Later, a covenant was made between God and Abraham as the meaning of being separated from the other nations became clearer. The covenant required that every male be circumcised. This would be a physical sign of separation. The people God called to be separated from other nations became known as the Israelites. After they were rescued from slavery in Egypt, God gave them commandments and told their leader, Moses, "...Though the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) God set before the children of Israel commandments and laws to follow and put in place a tribe of people who would be consecrated to serve Him. In Israel there were twelve tribes. The tribe of Levi was separated out from the others. They owned no property, and dressed differently, and their daily provisions were supplied by the other tribes.
The name Levi means joined or attached. Indeed, he and his tribe were joined to God and had the privilege of ministering in the tabernacle. Out of this tribe God called the priests (Cohanim) who were the sons of Aaron. Priests from this order would minister to the Lord and were the only ones chosen to minister in the Most Holy Place. We see levels of ministry or separation being formed. Each separation came with a cost. The people of Israel were taught how to live and knew they could not participate in the ways of the world. The cost for the tribe of Levi was that they had no inheritance and no land. They were expected to depend entirely on the Lord. Priests had additional requirements and instructions to abide by. When Rabbi Jonathan Cahn writes about these restrictions, here is what he says: "The greater the calling, the greater the separation. The greater the separation, the greater the limitations. But the greater the limitations and requirements, the greater the ministry, and the greater the blessing."
Christians are called priests unto the Lord. Each of us is called to fulfill a unique purpose of God and His Kingdom. That means our separation to walk in our calling requires us to be distinctly different. We must separate ourselves from sin, the ways of the world, and the flesh. How do we view ourselves? We have been sanctified and consecrated to the purposes of the Lord. We have a different standard than the rest of the world. As members of His church, we are called the ecclesia, which means "called out ones." The only way for us to fulfill our callings is to separate ourselves from the expectations of the world. We must let God set the standard for our lives, a standard that requires holiness.
They are called the clowns of the sea according to the Audubon Society Field Guide because of their "short dumpty figure, red-rimmed gleaming yellow eyes, gaudy triangular bill and a habit of waddling around, jumping from rock to rock." My husband and I decided to take a tour boat to Eastern Egg Rock Island in Muscongus Bay, six miles east of New Harbor, Maine, to see these clowns in person. You may know them better by the name "Puffin." There is a colony of them on this island where they nest. Unfortunately, all but one had left the island for the winter. Puffins mature at sea. The young ones do not return to their nesting ground for three to five years.
Our disappointment that we could not see these birds turned to fascination as we heard the story of the colony from Eastern Egg Rock Island. In the late 1800s, humans began to go to the island and collect their eggs and trap the birds for their meat and feathers. The puffin population was greatly diminished and eventually disappeared. 100 years later an ornithologist named Dr. Stephen Kress wanted to reestablish a colony of these very social birds on the island. In 1973, with the help of his associates, Dr. Kress moved puffin eggs in soup cans from Newfoundland to Eastern Egg Rock Island. They were placed in nooks of the large granite rocks that surround the island and in handmade burrows close by. Once the eggs hatched, the chicks were hand fed and protected until they could fledge.
The hope was that the chicks would return to Egg Island. However, this was not the case. Realizing how social these birds are, they put up decoys of puffins so that the bird would think there was a community on the island. The birds were too smart for the scientists. The second trick to help make the puffins feel like there was a real community on the island was to bring in puffin sounds and mirrors that would reflect the decoys and the real puffins. This did the trick. More eggs were brought to the island. In 1977 one banded puffin returned. However, it took until 1981 for the birds to nest in groups. By the late 1990s there were 50 pairs of nesting puffins.
We must give the puffins credit for their astuteness. They could recognize the decoy and did not set up camp until they were assured there would be a community to live with. Puffins prosper only when they live in a colony with other birds. Did you ever think that Christian families also look for a church community where they will be fed spiritually and physically? We need that kind of fellowship. We were made for love. Here is what Hebrews 10:24-25 says in The Passion Translation: "Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day is dawning."
Just like the coals of a fire need to be tightly packed together to burn, we need to be closely associated with other members of a congregation. As my husband says, "There are no lone rangers in the body of Christ." We need one another! There is a spiritual atmosphere when we gather that does not come when we are alone. My encouragement is that all of us need to belong to and participate with a church family.
Why would the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar be referred to as "a haven in time"? To answer this question, we must look back at the last two months, Tammuz and Av. The fourth month, Tammuz, is remembered as the time when the Israelites sinned by building the golden calf and worshiping it. Av, the fifth month, is known as the low point on the Hebrew calendar. It was during this month that the children of Israel decided to receive a negative report from the ten spies who searched out the Promised Land. Their sin of unbelief and negative confession put them under a curse. This has allowed Israel's enemies to destroy what they are attempting to build.
Now comes the sixth month—Elul. God is so in love with His children that it is painful for Him to be separated from them. Hence, Elul has been designated as the month of repentance, mercy, and forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father gives us an opportunity to repent for past sins so that He can extend mercy and forgiveness. And, He has decided to do this in a very personal way! He wants us to prepare ourselves for a face-to-face meeting with Him.
The Jewish people say that this is the month that "The King is in the field." Most of the year the King lives in a palace, separated from his people. But during this one month the King left His palace to be with His people. He selected this time to set up His tent in the field of His people so that He could make Himself accessible to us. His heart is set on tabernacling with us, and, as a sign of this passion for intimacy, the Hebrew letter for the sixth month is Vav, which pictures a tent peg or nail.
Let us take God's eagerness for connection with us a little further. His yearning for intimacy is the reason He sent Jesus to earth. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:1 and 14) The word dwelling is the word for tent or tabernacle. Jesus left His throne to live in our fields. For 33 years the King lived in the fields on the earth. He lived in a tent of mortal flesh during that time so that we could relate to Him more closely. He came to extend mercy and forgiveness and to show everyone what love looks like. Jesus did that by dying on the Cross, by allowing the nails to attach Him to that Cross and making a way for us to spend eternity with Him. That way is through repentance of our sins and acceptance of His offering to be Lord over our lives. We become His dwelling place forever as we receive Him into our hearts.
The King's delight to walk in the fields with us is so strong and beautifully expressed in several passages in the book Song of Solomon. He calls to us as expressed in Song of Solomon 2:14. "...Show me your face, let me hear your voice." Song of Solomon 6:3 is actually a Hebrew acronym for "Elul." "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine..."
It is time for us to pursue the King as He comes to walk in our fields. We must open our ears to hear what He has to share about our fields as He guides us with wisdom and kindness. He wants to provide for every one of our needs. As it says in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." The Lord is here to remind us of His love and desire for us. We must respond with open arms that welcome Him. This is truly "a haven in time."
rWithout the proper amount of water, a newly planted tree will not be rooted in its new location. The amount of water needed is determined by the caliper of the tree trunk. For example, a one-inch caliper tree needs about one to one and one-half gallons of water each time it is irrigated, whereas a four-inch caliper tree needs about four to six gallons. It is the roots of a tree that need the water so that they can grow to provide the nutrients for supporting the branches and leaves of the tree. Water needs to be applied directly to the root ball and to the backfilled soil so that the roots expand beyond the ball. The root establishment time for a tree increases with its caliper size. It takes about one and one-half years for a one-inch caliper tree to establish its root system; a four-inch caliper tree takes about six years.
Two effective methods are recommended for watering transplanted trees. In the first, a reservoir is created to hold the water. This can be done by making a circular mound of earth three to four inches high around the plant's root ball. The reservoir should be filled with a slow trickle of water that will infiltrate the root ball. Another option is to place a plastic bag called a "Treegator" at the base of the trunk. The bag is filled with water and will slowly release the water into the root ball through small holes in the bottom of the bag. This means that any turf or grass must be removed from the area so that the tree does not have to compete with the surrounding groundcover for moisture. When two to three inches of mulch is applied on top of the root ball it decreases water evaporation, helps control weed growth, insulates the soil, and improves soil health.
Insufficient water harms all plants, and the effects of it can be seen at the top of the plant. The northeastern United States has been struggling with a drought this summer. Grass is brown, the leaves of corn plants are rolled up, tree leaves are turning brown and falling, and new bud growth is diminished or not occurring. All these signs show us that the plant roots are not receiving sufficient water.
What are the spiritual applications of this principle? In the Bible rains represent blessing while droughts represent cursing. Deuteronomy 28 talks about the ramifications of following or not following God's commandments. For those who follow His commandments God says, "The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and bless all the work of your hands..." (Deuteronomy 28:12) For disobedience God says, "The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew.” (Deuteronomy 28:22)
God desires that we be well rooted and established in His love. (Ephesians 3:17) When this happens, Ephesians tells us, we will have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep His love is, and "to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Verses 18-19) This requires us to be filled with a reservoir of His spiritual rains in our hearts. In Jeremiah 31:12, the Lord tells His people that they will be "like a well-watered garden..." I think the best promise of all, however, comes from Jesus as He met the Samaritan woman at the town well: "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them like a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
When we root ourselves in God's garden and follow His ways, we can be assured that "we will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails." (Isaiah 58:11) We will be like the trees of the Lord talked about in Psalm 104:16. "The trees of the Lord are well watered." And well-watered trees bare good fruit.
As a part of Israel's remembrance of the 9th of Av, the Israel Antiquities Authority made public their findings of a research project that investigated the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD. They report that one of the primary weapons used to destroy the temple was an instrument called a ballista. This is an ancient missile launcher with wooden frames and a central band of twisted ropes made into a sling. On 8/8/22 All Israel News reported the discovery of a stockpile of chiseled stones, what the Romans called "ballista stones." Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote about them being used to penetrate the northwest side of the wall in Jerusalem.
I find it fascinating that it was catapulted stones that destroyed the Temple. It also interesting that the prescribed way to punish many crimes in Israel during Biblical days was through execution by stoning. Here are the crimes that required stoning, as taken from the Old Testament: Idolatry (Leviticus 20:2-5), Sorcery (Leviticus 20:27), Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14-16), Picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:31-36), Inciting others to apostasy (Deuteronomy 13:6-10), Worship of false gods (Deuteronomy 17:2-7), Rebellion against parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), Sexual immorality by an unwed woman (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), Sexual relations with a betrothed woman (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). This method of execution required community participation and became a strong deterrent for the listed crimes.
Stones can be reminders of death and destruction as we see above, but also of the faithfulness of God. He opened a path through the Jordan River so that the Israelites could cross over into the Promised Land. "When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 'Choose 12 men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing; and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight...These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.'" (Joshua 4:1-3, 7) These stones would be called "stones of remembrance." When David was going to battle against the giant Philistine his weapon of choice was a sling shot and five smooth stones. 1 Samuel 17:50 tells us that "David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone..." and the Philistine army ran in fear.
For me, the most encouraging Scripture in the Bible about stones comes from 1 Peter 2:4-10. Jesus Christ is described as a living cornerstone of God's temple. Though He was rejected by many people, He is God's chosen Son. Those who follow Christ are called "living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple." Here is the assurance that we receive from God. "I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced." We are reminded that "The stone that the builder's rejected has now become the cornerstone." (V. 7 - NLT)
We, being living stones, have spirits that cannot be destroyed by stones. The promise of God is that we will spend eternity with Him when we embrace the Cornerstone of His Temple, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As part of an inner healing team at my church, I see many ways in which the devil and his demons try to trick people into coming into agreement with the kingdom of darkness. I am reminded of a line in Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress." The first verse declares that God is our mighty fortress who helps us against the enemy. However, our enemy never stops trying to trick us. "For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe—His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal."
One of the devil's primary weapons is that he plants seeds of doubt in our minds. We can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden to see the first time he used this trick to destroy the lives of Adam and Eve. The Bible describes his aptitude for deception: "Now the snake (serpent) was the most cunning of all living beings that Yahweh-God had made. He deviously asked the woman, 'Did God really tell you, 'You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?'' But the woman interrupted: 'We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree in the center of the garden. God told us, 'Don't eat its fruit, or even touch it, or you'll die.'' But the snake said to hear, 'You certainly won't die.'" (Genesis 3:1-4 - TPT)
We all know the result of Eve's doubt—She ate the forbidden fruit along with her husband. Why? It was because of doubt and unbelief. Scriptures are filled with stories of individuals who discounted God's promises and doubted the veracity of His word. The Israelites made the month of Av, our current month, the lowest point on the Hebrew calendar through their unbelief. God's intent was that this would be the month to celebrate His goodness. The Israelites stood at the border of the Promised Land, the place where God wanted them to live and demonstrated to the rest of the world His loving kindness and faithfulness. Spies sent into Canaan brought back the amazing fruit of the land. Grapes were so huge that they were carried back to the tribes on a pole between two men. Yet, there were two voices amongst the twelve men who spied out the land. Caleb and Joshua declared the voice of faith while the other ten men declared a voice of unbelief. God's promise to the tribes of Israel was undeniable. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." (Exodus 14:14) The Israelites had a choice to make. Would they partner with God or with doubt and unbelief? The fear they took on made them embrace unbelief. On the 9th of Av, they made a wrong decision and a negative confession that placed them under a curse. As they partnered with doubt and unbelief, the promises of God were delayed. The manifestation of the curse went on year after year and continues today. The cycle of destruction can be seen in the events that have occurred on the 9th of Av. Here is a short list: Babylon destroyed the first temple, Rome destroyed the second temple, Hitler began deporting Jews to death camps, Jews were expelled from England, Spain, Portugal, and Gaza, all in different years.
You may ask why this cycle of destruction has continued. Hebrews 4:1-3 explains what happened. "Now God has offered to us the same promises of entering into His realm of resting in confident faith. So, we must be extremely careful to ensure that we all embrace the fullness of that promise and not fail to experience it. For we have heard the good news of deliverance just as they did, yet they didn't join their faith with the Word. Instead, what they heard didn't affect them deeply, for they doubted. For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest..."(TPT) The children of Israel never repented for their sin of unbelief which allows the enemy to continue on his path of destruction. The sin was repeated when Jesus, the Messiah, came to earth. He told the Jews He is the Son of God, demonstrated His Kingdom through miracles, and gave them words of life. The promises Jesus brought were not received, and they embraced unbelief.
We must be the generation that redeems the sin of unbelief. It might seem like an impossible task, but the Lord has shown us how to do it. The steps follow: Confess the sin of believing a lie; Forgive those who contributed to the way we formed the ungodly belief; Ask for and receive God's forgiveness; Renounce and break any agreement with the powers of darkness; Choose to accept, believe, and receive God's truth. Verse 3 of "A Mighty Fortress" says it all: "And tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed, His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure; for lo his doom is sure—One little word shall fell him." Let's choose to believe God's promises and enter His blessing!
Have you ever thought of the verb "steward" in the context of pain, suffering, and sorrow? Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, taught me about this concept. In a recent sermon he preached after the death of his beloved wife, Beni, Bill spoke about the mystery of life and death and how it impacts our relationship with God. He made it clear that we cannot reevaluate what God is like because of loss.
Mark 10:15 quotes Jesus: "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Jesus affirmed child-like faith to His disciples. Bill explains living with mystery in relationship to childlikeness. "The inability to live with mystery is your resistance to childlikeness. It is childlikeness that gives us access to dimensions and realms of the Kingdom that you can't get any other way. Childlike faith trusts no matter what."
Pain and loss, Bill says, presents us with an opportunity. "We only have one opportunity to steward a moment of pain." This word steward really caught my attention. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the verb steward with the following words: manage, supervise, direct, handle, oversee, tend. I believe Bill is suggesting that we redeem our pain by directing it into a time of worship. He explains that the best way to mourn is through hope. Those of us who know Jesus understand that with Him there is always hope. He is the Redeemer! Let's look at Romans 5:2b-5. "And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirt, who has been given to us."
God gave us His first and best gift—His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice so that we could have everlasting life with Him. This poured out love is never ending. The best way for us to connect with His love is through worship. Worship expressed in difficulties and sorrow and during times of inexpressible pain is what puts us into His Presence. Bill says, "Answers don't fix the problem; Presence does." True worship presents the Lord with an offering that costs us something.
Didn't Jesus model this for us? His pain and suffering on the Cross were unimaginable! He experienced separation from God and yet He trusted Him. His last words were, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) Jesus knew that His Father is always good and would use the seed of His death for a great harvest. We must follow HIs example by stewarding our moments of pain when they present themselves to us. We must embrace childlike faith and trust the Lord to redeem our pain. Remember, in heaven we will not be able to worship in pain. Bill says this "privilege" only comes on earth. He continues: "Worship is expressing joy in loss and celebration in pain. I must honor Him as the Healer that I know He is even when I do not see it. He does not owe me an explanation. I must give Him an offering that costs me."
Job 13:15 begins, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him..." We have a reason to embrace hope, as Bill explains. "Every loss and disappointment can become a seed that brings increase. God uses our crisis's to help us grow. Jesus takes our pain and loss and gives them to God. He will plant them and will be glorified by the blessing." Bill prayed a prayer for all of us: "May you be blessed with courage to lean into mystery and experience who He is as an unfailing, unchanging Father who is always good!" Amen!
Joan E. Mathias