I am without words to describe last week's despicable violence and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on innocent Israeli citizens. The depravity of this group whose goal is to destroy Israel is beyond comprehension. Hamas leaders and the leaders of nations that align with them are praising their savagery and gleefully exhibiting the horrors of their behaviors. We have no moral equivalence to their acts of brutality.
How do we process the emotions that rise within us? I was drawn to read the Scriptures that talk about Gaza. Let us begin with the definition of Gaza-"Stronghold." This is the oldest city of the Philistines. The Old Testament is filled with stories of how the Israelites had to battle this ungodly people group. We are all familiar with the story of David as he fought the Philistine champion named Goliath. But, why did David have to fight the Philistine?
When God gave the Israelites the Promised Land, He instructed them to drive out every inhabitant of the land. Then He gave them this warning: "If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live, and then I will do to you what I plan to do to them." (Numbers 33:55-56) We see in Joshua 11:22 what transpired when Israel fought their battles. "No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod did any survive." God's warning was not heeded, and the disobedience of the Israelites has come back to haunt the people of Israel.
Let us also look at what has been happening in the spiritual realm. At one time, Satan was the chief praiser of God. It was his position, along with legions of angels, to worship the Lord. However, his pride got in the way and he, along with one-third of the angels, was expelled from heaven. War between Satan and God has been taking place ever since. Whatever God blesses, Satan curses. When God chose the Israelites to be His treasured possession, Satan began a rampage to destroy them. When God gave the Promised Land to His people, Satan started a campaign to eliminate the Israelites from this land. Remember that it was the tribe of Judah that received Gaza as their inheritance. This is the very tribe of Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Jesus already defeated Satan in His death and resurrection, but the battle to destroy the Apple of God's eye continues.
A combination of the above factors has kept the Jews in a constant battle with the forces of evil. There was a time when the Philistines, who occupied Gaza, captured the ark of God. God sent plagues and tumors to those people for seven months until they returned the ark. God is aware of the evil that is trying to consume His people—Christians and Jews. The prophet Amos has somethings interesting to say about Gaza. "For three sins of Gaza, even four, I will not relent. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom, I will send fires on the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses." (Amos 1:6, 7) Do you think we may be seeing this prophecy being played out?
Our modern-day Philistines, Hamas, have great hatred for our Prince of Peace. Their brutality extends to the Palestinians who are living under their thumb. Hamas terrorists hide behind civilians and shoot their rockets into Israel from schools, hospitals, and private homes. Unfortunately, many in the younger generation have bought into the lies that Hamas has spread around the world. Their false ideologies and anti-Israel rhetoric have seeped into our institutions of higher learning, the halls of governments, and the United Nations. We must educate our children and grandchildren on the truth of Scripture and the history of Israel. We must teach them that they will find their refuge in God alone.
How do we battle? "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. (Gaza) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6. Use the sword of the Spirit (The Word of God) and pray.
Below you will find some prayer suggestions:
I was undone this week as I listened to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir so beautifully sing "The Song of Moses." The words come from Revelation 15:3-4. "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You. For Your judgments have been manifested." (NKJV) The key question here is, "Who shall not fear You?" The word "fear" as used in the Bible has several meanings. Fear of the Lord contains a mixed feeling of dread and reverence, awe and wonder. The Hebrew word is "Yirah." It is directly connected to trembling. It happens when we encounter something beyond our understanding and should lead us into worship.
A warning is issued to the leaders of nations in Psalm 2. I like the way it is expressed in The Passion Translation. "How dare the nations plan a rebellion. Their foolish plots are futile! Look at how the power brokers of the world rise up to hold their summit as the rulers scheme and confer together against Yahweh and His Anointed King...Listen to me, all you rebel-kings and all you upstart judges of the earth. Learn your lesson while there is still time. Serve and worship the awe-inspiring God. Recognize His greatness and bow before Him, trembling with reverence in His presence." (Verses 1-2, 10-11)
By not putting God first in their lives, the rulers of nations, the leaders of churches, and the masses are forfeiting amazing blessings from the Lord. At the forefront is wisdom. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10) Job comprehended the ramifications of the fear of the Lord for his life. "The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding." (Job 28:28) Scripture is filled with verses describing the benefits of the fear of the Lord. "He whose walk is upright fears the Lord, but he whose ways are devious despises Him." (Proverbs 14:2) It seems that fearing the Lord brings great benefits to families. "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." (Proverbs 14:26) Here is one we should remember: "Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil." (Proverbs 16:6)
Verses 8 through 11 in Psalm 33 make clear the power of the Lord. "Let the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, and the purposes of His heart through all generations." When David wrote Psalm 86, he knew the importance of having an undivided heart. "Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may praise You, O Lord my God. With all my heart, I will glorify Your name forever." (Verses 11-12) God gives us undivided hearts when we give Him permission to search us and know our hearts. (Psalm 139) With the fear of the Lord comes a generational promise as written in Psalm 103:17. "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children." Psalm 147:11 tells us, "The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love."
Let's look at what the prophet Isaiah says about fear of the Lord. I believe Isaiah 33:5-6 is one Scripture that encourages and directs us for such a time as this. "The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be a 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 11 describes the Spirit gifts that Jesus carried: "And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him--The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power (might), the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD." These verses should be encouraging to us as we are made in the image of God. We must pursue and embrace the fear of the Lord and pray that our leaders will do the same. Why don't you listen to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing "The Song of Moses"? As you do, ask the Lord how to renew your fear of the Lord and contemplate these words as written by Jeremiah the prophet: "'Should you not fear me?' declares the Lord. 'Should you not tremble in my presence...'" (Jeremiah 5:22)
We are told in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith." (NKJV) The Passion Translation says it this way: "We fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith's perfection." It is faith that enables us to endure life on earth because we believe God's Word for something more. The introduction of the book of Hebrews in The Passion Translation explains faith. "Biblical faith claims a confidence beyond our own because it rests in the character of God, the foundation of our faith. Part of practicing faith is persevering in it."
To truly understand what faith is we must look at the Biblical definition of it and to the language in which it was written—Greek. Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (NKJV) Understanding the meaning of substance is our key to interpreting this passage correctly. Substance is the translation of the Greek word "hypostasis." Hypostasis is made up of two different Greek words: "Hupo" means under, and "histemi" means to stand. So, substance is not the object we hope for but that which stands under us and supports our faith. We may ask, "What is this foundation that stands and supports us and gives us assurance?" It is the Word of God. The Word of God is the evidence that we need to believe God.
If we look at chapter 11 of Hebrews, we find reminders of our fathers and mothers of faith who lived their lives in obedience to God because they believed His words. The words "By faith" are used in the verses that introduce us to the actions of everyone called out in Hebrews 11. Let us look at some of these verses and substitute the phrase "Believing God" where the words "By faith" are used.
Hebrews 11:4 - "By faith (Believing God) we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." In other words, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.
Hebrews 11:7 - "By faith (Believing God) Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family." Remember that Noah spent 120 years building an ark because he believed God.
Hebrews 11:8 - "By faith (Believing God) Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."
At times, God uses tests to develop our faith. This was the case when Peter walked on water. In Chapter 14 of John Wright Follette's book, Broken Bread, he explains how this happened in Peter's life. The disciples were in a boat on the sea of Galilee when a severe storm arose. At the fourth watch, Jesus came to them walking on the waves. Peter asked for a word confirming the presence of Jesus. "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus responded, "Come." (Matthew 14: 28-29) Follette says that Peter "walked upon 'Come.'" This word was Peter's word that he could stand upon. As long as his focus was on the evidence, he could walk on water. When fear and unbelief came in Peter began to sink.
"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.” (John 1:1-3) God has given us the foundation to stand on. He also makes it known that "Without faith (Believing God) it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6 - NKJV) Let us believe God for our promises. Persevere and be confident because faith rests on God, the foundation of our faith!
Did you know that there is an entire month on the Hebrew calendar that focuses on righteousness? It is the month we are in now. Its name, Shevat, is symbolized by the Hebrew alphabetic letter TZADIK that symbolizes "the Righteous One." This is the month to make righteousness your foundation. Why is this so important? The Bible is filled with verses about righteousness, however, just reading the book of Proverbs and learning what it says about the fruit of righteousness should be enough to make us want to pursue it. I have selected a few of these Scriptures to share with you.
Proverbs 10:6 - "Blessings crown the head of the righteous..."
Proverbs 10:16 - "The wages of the righteous are life..."
Proverbs 10:21 - "The lips of the righteous nourish many..."
Proverbs 10:24 - "...what the righteous desire will be granted..."
Proverbs 11:8 - "The righteous person is rescued from trouble..."
Proverbs 12:3 - "...the righteous cannot be uprooted."
Proverbs 12:7 - "...the house of the righteous stands firm."
Proverbs 13:21 - "...the righteous are rewarded with good things."
Proverbs 14:34 - "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people."
Righteousness means to be in "right standing" with God. Matthew 5:6 tells us, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Because righteousness involves being in right relationship with God and allowing ourselves to be conformed to His image, it is the key to our happiness and well-being. Yet, this righteousness is impossible for us to achieve as it is a gift from God that comes only through faith in His Son. Perhaps this is why one of God's names is Yahweh Tsidkenu--"the Lord Our Righteousness." "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6) Jesus came to the earth as The Righteous One to live, die, and be resurrected. As Paul says in Romans 3:21-22, "But now apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
What a gift! You may ask, "How does this happen?" God made us three-part beings with bodies, souls, and spirits. The righteousness of Jesus comes into our spirits after we accept and believe what Jesus did for us on the Cross. This is called being "born again," where God makes a divine exchange with us. "God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) Here is what is absolutely amazing! When we sin or start a carnal lifestyle, we are still called righteous because it is the soul that transgresses. Our spirits remain ever righteous because the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) dwells forever in our spirits. As if to confirm this truth, God calls Lot, who was living an ungodly lifestyle in Sodom, a "righteous man" in 2 Peter 2:7-8.
So, in this month of righteousness let us pray that our spirits will prevail over our bodies and souls. We can encourage the righteousness that lives in our spirits to manifest as we focus on the goodness of God and meditate on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable...anything excellent or praiseworthy." (Philippians 4:8) Let us rededicate our lives to Jesus and depend on Holy Spirit to live it out. Let us pray for our nation and the reestablishment of its righteous foundation. And let us sink our roots deep into the soil of righteousness so that we cannot be moved. Embrace this month of righteousness, dear ones, for it is the key to our future.
"O come to my heart, Lord Jesus—there is room in my heart for Thee!" This refrain from the song "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne" (written by Emily Elliott for her father's church, St. Mark's Anglican Church of Brighton, England) gives one the opportunity to personalize their commitment to Jesus. The verses tell the story of the birth, life, death, and victorious return of our Savior. The first four verses use the word "but" to contrast the differences between heaven's actions and earth's response. The final verse rejoices at Christ's return to bring us to His side. He makes room for us at His side as we make room for Him in our hearts.
Below are the words to the song. As you read them, pay attention to what comes after the "but."
"Though didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when Thou camest to earth for me; but in Bethlehem's home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.*
Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal degree; but of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.*
The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest in the shade of the forest tree; but Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, in the deserts of Galilee.*
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word that should set Thy people free; but with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn they bore Thee to Calvary.*
When the heav'ns shall ring and the angels sing at Thy coming to victory, let Thy voice call me home, saying, 'Yet there is room—there is room at My side for thee,' My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, when thou comest and callest for me!"*
* "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus—there is room in my heart for Thee!"
The world found no room for the Christ child who came in great humility even though He is a king and a priest. He was crucified wearing a crown of thorns, but death could not keep Him down. All of heaven proclaims that one day our Lord will return in victory.
Here is what we must consider: Do we have room for our Savior in our hearts? Last year prophet Shawn Bolz put a beautiful new year prayer on Instagram. The first few sentences are the best, in my opinion. "God, I give you my most precious commodity you have given me this side of eternity. I give you space to create more of Yourself in me. I commit to daily time with you to develop our deep connection. I open my heart to you and listen with hungry ears. I will look for you in my days."
As we welcome in the New Year, let's make it our goal to invite the Holy Spirit of Jesus to take more space in our hearts so that we become more like Him. Paul explains how Jesus emptied Himself of His glory in obedience to Father God. "He existed in the form of God, yet He gave no thought to seizing equality with God as His supreme prize. Instead, He emptied Himself of His outward glory by reducing Himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human." (Philippians 2:6-7 - TPT) Consider what Jesus told the Jews who were questioning Him about His testimony. "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for My Word." (John 8:35-37)
The Word is filled with truth, wisdom, and power. The Word is our Lord. What better way to make room in our hearts for Jesus than through spending time in the Word. Jesus is ready to create more of Himself in us when we give Him room to do so. May 2022 be the year when we make more room in our hearts for the Lord!
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."
During the five years that my friend lived in Afghanistan she heard many heart-wrenching stories about how hard it was to live in a country that followed Sharia law. Yet she was there to share the truth of the love of Jesus and the hope that He brings for them. Currently, we are looking at what seems like a hopeless situation in Afghanistan. The people of this country find themselves in the clutches of a terrorist organization with no respect for human dignity or freedom. They are watching the destruction of their lives and are horrified by the possibilities for the future. Please let this letter encourage you to pray.
In a recent post from "All Israel News," Joel Rosenberg wrote about the history of Afghanistan. It was not until 1747 that Afghanistan became a nation-state. Before that the region was ruled by kings. The country was largely ignored by the world until 1979 when the Soviets invaded. With the help of American aid in the early 1980s (money and weapons), the Afghans were able to chase the Soviets out of the country. Had the United State continued to help the Afghans with humanitarian relief, perhaps the picture of this country would be different today. Without resources to help the many refugees who live in country, The Afghan leadership fell. Mohammed Omar, who Rosenberg calls "a ferocious and fanatical mujadeen commander," created the Taliban, an extreme jihadist organization. The Taliban took over the Afghan government and decided to thank Allah for their victory by establishing an Islamic country governed by Sharia law. Later Osama bin Laden would join with the Taliban forces to plot the 9/11 attacks on the United States. In the meantime, terror was unleashed on the Afghan people. They lived in fear! Here is Rosenberg’s description of Afghan lives just before 9/11: "Their children were being recruited for jihad or forced to do unspeakable things in the name of Allah. Hope was fading quickly. Depression was rising; drug use was rampant. The country was becoming the world's No. 1 source of opium and heroin, and there seemed no way out." Here is what women faced: They were treated with total lack of respect and were expected to live in forced marriages as slaves. With Taliban ruling, women were publicly punished for working or not wearing a burqa by stonings, whippings, and hangings.
After the 9/11 attack on the United States, life for the Afghan people changed again. As the US poured troops and bombs into the country and set up a new government, the freedoms for the Afghans began to return. It was during this time that my friend was able to go into the country to live among the people and share the Good News. New lifestyles were established throughout Afghanistan. The US government set up a military network to train Afghan soldiers to fight and protect the land and people. For 20 years there was a US presence that gave the Afghans a sense of security. As we have seen, however, all this ended abruptly a few weeks ago with the pullout of US troops. The Afghan military collapsed as a Wall Street Journal article describes: "In the week of President Biden's withdrawal, the US pulled its air support, intelligence, and contractors servicing Afghan's planes and helicopters. That meant that Afghan military simply couldn't operate anymore." With the Taliban fully in control, chaos, fear, and terror reign over the Afghans who helped the American military, those who profess to be Christian, and others who understand the ramifications of being ruled by a terrorist organization.
Sadly, terrorist organizations throughout the world are feeling empowered to start their own terror campaigns as they observe the destruction of America's credibility. The Americans have opened a door for evil to enter with no fear of reprisal. In his second letter to the Church in Thessaloniki, Paul wrote, "And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one...May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." (2 Thessalonians 3:2-5) Let us pray this and a prayer written by Joel Rosenberg that is below. Please pray for the Afghans in any way that The Spirit leads you.
"We must pray that they (Afghan Christians) will be lights in the darkness, that in both their conduct and their speech they will be witnesses of the true and glorious hope, redemption, transformation, and eternal salvation they have experienced by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we must pray that Afghan Muslims who are terrified of being enslaved or slaughtered by the Taliban will see the hope in their Christian neighbors, and ask why their neighbors have hope amid such horror, and that the Christians will be brave enough to explain the good news of Christ's great love and mercy with clarity, simplicity and trusting in the power of the Word of God—not their own wisdom or cleverness—to convince and persuade." We must not be silent! Light will prevail over darkness as we battle in the Spirit!
Greeks came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration according to John 12. They wanted to meet Jesus, however He told His disciples, "Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives." (John 12:23-24 - NLT) Jesus continues: "And I, when lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32) Jesus drew us to Himself through His death and resurrection. His intent is that we are to be a part of His storyline.
At the moment of the death of Jesus, the earth shook, rocks split, and tombs broke open. When the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus saw these events they exclaimed, "Surely He was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54) Indeed, He is and proved His identity through His resurrection on the Jewish celebration called "Firstfruits." This was the traditional day of giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and the giving of the firstfruits of the barley harvest in the spring. Jesus became the firstfruits from the dead. Here is how it is explained in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
Jesus came to the earth to show us how to live. His disciples learned to live like their master. Our identity is likewise in Him. Just as God gave His best for us, we must give our best for others. In this way we honor God, and He reveals to us our own unique destiny. We are part of the storyline of Jesus as we identify with His selflessness and love. We have been called, along with the Body of Christ, to redeem the wrecks of time. Our lives are part of a bigger story and have been united with other Believers in Christ.
As we accept the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, we become part of the family of God by the power of His resurrection. A hard concept to understand is that God has chosen to do His work on the earth in partnership with us. True, each of us has a unique call, however we have also been woven together like a piece of fabric with other Believers so that we can accomplish His divine plans and purposes. That fabric includes not only our present generation, but those who have gone before us and those who will come after us.
Matt Lockett and Will Ford wrote about the connection of the ages in their book The Dream King. Will writes, "In Christ, my stories are your stories, and your stories are mine. Remember, as Christians we share the same heritage. Our collective history is made from a diverse yet unified remnant...Jesus ever lives to make intercession so that you and I, as His family members, can together shape the future with Him...Through Him, a new remnant is both healing history and making history." (Page 32) Matt agrees with Will: "This fabric of our lives and families creates the backdrop for the nations and the times in which we live...God watches over our destinies, watches over our nation, and invites us to shape the future with Him through prayers." (Page 42) Matt calls us "The Stewards of the Storyline," not only of our biological family, but also of our Christian family.
Today is Resurrection Sunday. With gratitude we should allow this day to inspire us to be healing agents of the generations and planters of seed that will bear good fruit for the blessing of the nations. Our Savior showed us the way. Let us follow Him!
Lake Winnipesaukee sits at the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The spring-fed lake is 72 sq. miles. Winnipesaukee is an Indian name meaning "The Smile of the Great Spirit." (In my opinion, God‘s smile was placed upon this outstandingly beautiful lake. He must have put extra attention into creating it.) It is the largest lake in New Hampshire and the third largest in New England. There are six main bays on the Lake and approximately 264 islands. The large central portion of the Lake is known as "The Broads." It runs from the northwest to the southeast, is relatively free from islands, and is very deep.
High winds are common on Lake Winnipesaukee. The shape and location of the Lake makes it vulnerable to the southeast winds that come inland. It is not unusual for hurricane winds to hit the Lake. The "personality" of Winnipesaukee can change quickly if the winds arise, particularly in the open area of The Broads. A boater may embark on a trip across the Lake with calm waters only to find that an hour later the winds have increased significantly, making the surface of the water choppy with high waves and white caps. The trip home for this boater will be uncomfortable as the boat will pound across the water. This is particularly true if the boat is moving against the wind. My family and I experienced the fury of the recent hurricane at Lake Winnipesaukee last week. Trees were bending over from the strength of the wind, and the surface of the water became rough and chaotic. Boaters who were on the Lake quickly set a course for home.
Watching this storm, I remembered that Jesus stilled a storm for the disciples who were trying to get across the Sea of Galilee. They left the spot where Jesus had been teaching and headed toward the Gerasene region. Scripture says, "Suddenly, as they were crossing the Lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on cushion. So they shook Him awake, saying, 'Teacher, don't you even care that we are all about to die!' Fully awake, He rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, 'Hush! Calm down!' All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm.
Then He turned to His disciples and said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Haven't you learned to trust yet?' But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, 'Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey Him?'" (Mark 4:37-41 - TPT)
Do you understand what happened here? The disciples lost sight of the fact that Jesus was in the boat with them! Yes, they were in a ferocious storm, but the One who commands the wind and water to do His bidding (Psalm 148:7-8) was with them. Yes, He was sleeping, but peace was all around Him. When the disciples woke Him up it only took a word from Jesus to calm the water and waves. "Hush! Calm down!"
We are also in a season of storms of many different kinds. We are in uncharted territory without knowing what to do. However, every Believer has the answers on how to survive the storms. Look to Jesus, the One who is in our boat with us. "...He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes the winds His messengers, flames of fire His servants." (Psalm 104:3-4) Look to Jesus and receive His peace.
Battles are part of maturing in Christ. The battlefield is our minds. While our spirits were totally revived and renewed on the day of our salvation, our souls (mind, will, emotions) must be transformed. Demons target our minds, planting thoughts in them to catch us off-guard. Anytime we agree with the kingdom of darkness we open a gate for demons to enter and give them permission to operate in our lives. It is important for us to continually evaluate our belief system and the behaviors that accompany it to see if we are building a protected place for them from which they can operate. This is called a stronghold. Any belief that we have that does not agree with God's truth can become a stronghold for the enemy. Consider some of the ways that we may come into agreement with the demonic: sin, fear, anxiety, pride, lying, unbelief, self-condemning thoughts. It is with human agreement that the devil is empowered. By participating with the kingdom of darkness in our thought systems, we are building a stronghold or fortified place for the enemy of our souls to hide and attack us.
The good news is that Jesus came to earth to demonstrate the will of God, which is to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) He instructed us to pray for the Kingdom of heaven to come to earth. (Matthew 6:10) He modeled the essence of Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will." In his book The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane tells us that God made us to be overcomers. The principle for success is this: "Victory begins with the name of Jesus on your lips, but it will not be consummated until the nature of Jesus is in your heart...God's only answer is to become Christlike . As you begin to appropriate not just the name of Jesus, but His nature as well, the adversary will withdraw."
How do we fight this battle? Francis tells us we must "allow the Spirit of Christ full access into our souls." Our goal is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. (Romans 8:29) We must make our minds strongholds for the Lord instead of the enemy by renewing it. Our bodies are temples for the Lord to dwell in and need to come into agreement with heaven. This is confirmed in Scripture: "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
Possessing humility or lack of it can have a major impact on one's life. Should we be accused of wrong-doing or failing, we must humbly repent and confess our sins and then appropriate what Jesus did for us at the Cross. Confess like this: "Jesus is my righteousness and through His blood I am forgiven and cleansed." In doing this, we break down the stronghold of the enemy. Then we can build a stronghold for the Lord by living like Him and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Keeping a record of what God has done for us and others and reviewing it regularly can bring hope and inspiration. Hearing and reading testimonies of God's goodness will stir us to believe that all things are possible with Christ. Along with this, we should use the tool of declaration. "Declare a thing, and it shall be established for you." (Job 22:28 - NKJV)
"The Word of God is living and active. It is sharper than any double-edge sword." (Hebrews 4:12) It also pulls down enemy strongholds and renews our minds. We cannot allow our minds to stray to the thoughts of the enemy but must meditate on God's Word regularly. Past experiences can make us doubt the goodness of God. We must declare God's goodness and faithfulness in the midst of trials. Praise and worship position us in the presence of God. Bill Johnson, lead pastor at Bethel Church, says, "When we worship in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties we build a gate where the King of Glory can invade our situations. Rise above your circumstances and declare the goodness of God."
It is a life-long task—perfecting our souls. Our souls find rest in God alone. (Psalm 62:1) It would be helpful for us to declare Psalm 146:1-2 over ourselves. "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." He is worthy of praise and honor!
Joan E. Mathias