Increasing darkness characterizes the season we are currently in as we see the light of the sun slipping away early in the evening. The ninth month on the Hebrew calendar, Kislev, began on Thanksgiving night. Though this is the month of increasing darkness, the meaning of the word Kislev confronts the darkness. It means to trust, rest, or have security. How can we do these things when the darkness expands? This increase not only has a physical manifestation, but also a spiritual one. The deeds of darkness are growing. We read and hear about them in the news. Were it not for the light of Christ, we would be hopeless. Two events crash into the darkness during this season. The center of the Hanukkah celebration is the lighting of the Menorah candles in remembrance of how the Maccabees, against all odds, restored the Temple. This year, Christmas eve occurs on the last day of Kislev. Yeshua, "The Light of the World," (John 8:12) came from heaven, full of glory.
You may be asking, "How can we have rest and security during a time when darkness seems to be overtaking us?" It appears that evil agendas plotted in the darkness are prevailing. We might join the prophet Habakkuk in asking the Lord questions that seem to have no answers and in declaring the circumstances we live in that look hopeless on the surface. He asked God, "Why do you make me look at injustice...The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Habakkuk 1:3,4) "...Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Habakkuk 1:13)
God is not unaware of evil deeds. He tells Habakkuk: "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!" (2:6) "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain..." (2:9) "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!" (2:12) "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor..." (2:15) "Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' or to a lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'" (2:19)
Dark deeds will not prevail! How can I write this? Jesus, Yeshua, came as The Light of the World. In the book of John we read, "In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5) Jesus testified about who He is when speaking to the those who followed Him: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believers in me should stay in darkness." (John 12:46)
Here is the word of truth coming to us from the Son of God, sent to earth to bring light and truth. John 1:5 is a verse that we should stand on: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." Jesus told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Rest and security come in this season as we trust in the truth of God's word. We must receive and believe in this truth!
After complaining to God about the deeds of darkness that were occurring during his lifetime, Habakkuk comes to a conclusion that brings him peace. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Adopting this philosophy for us can also bring us peace and rest.
"Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give, and don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, 'They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.' (Psalm 112:9) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 - NLT)
The Lord rejoices in those who are generous! And generosity flows from the heart of one who loves the Lord and is thankful for all He has done. Psalm 112, in the Passion Translation is titled "The Triumph of Faith." Let us look at some of the verses in this Psalm that describe a person of faith who loves the Lord with his entire heart: "Shout in celebration of praise to the Lord! Everyone who loves the Lord and delights in Him will cherish His words and be blessed beyond expectation. Their descendants will be prosperous and influential. Every generation of His godly lovers will experience His favor." (Verses 1-2)
"Life is good for one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth. Their circumstances will never shake them, and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, every secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe until they go down in defeat. Never stingy and always generous to those in need, their lives of influence and honor will never be forgotten, for they are full of good deeds." (Verses 5-9)
Our country has set aside an entire day to be thankful. Our forefathers did not want a year to go by without a time for thankfulness to God for His generosity to us. When God began to pour out His riches upon the people of the United States it was because He trusted them to use these resources wisely to invest them for Him. The "seeds" He poured out were to be planted in fertile soil and cultivated to produce more seeds. The world was to be the seedbed for the Lord.
In 1 Chronicles 29 we read about the preparation for the building of the Temple. King David was going to task his son Solomon with overseeing the building of a “palatial structure" for the Lord. All of David's resources (seeds) were given to construct this "holy temple." 1 Chronicles 29:9 says, "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord." David asks a question and implores the Lord to help them: "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?" (Verse 14) "Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building You a temple for Your Holy Name comes from Your hand and all of it belongs to You...And now I have seen with joy how willing Your people who are here have given to You...Keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of Your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to You." (Verses 16-18)
King David wrote a prayer to honor the Lord and give Him thanks: "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are ruler of all things. In Your hand are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name." (2 Chronicles 29:10-13) May we all use our resources to the glory of God and adopt David's prayer as our prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.
The Feast of Tabernacles, which begins tonight, is a time of remembering God's faithfulness to the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness. Yet this celebration is also for remembering how the Lord brought them into the Promised Land. The sukkah (a temporary dwelling made of broken branches) represents their wilderness journey. However, fruit is present in the branches to represent what was to come in the Promised Land. We could look at this time as one that joins together the wilderness with the Promised Land. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn says that the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is a joining together of the wilderness with the Promised Land. We, as children of God, could say heaven and earth are being joined together. How appropriate that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
For God to have more intimacy with us (His greatest desire) there needs to be a connection between heaven and earth. That is one of the reasons that the Lord set up times and seasons for special meetings with Him. All of His feasts come to a culmination during the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. The name of this feast should draw us back to the first time God spoke to Moses and instructed him and the Israelites to construct a tabernacle for Him where He would dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8) The Hebrew word "Shakan" means to dwell. The first time this word appears in Scripture is in Genesis 3:22-24. God had to bar Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after their sin, so He placed cherubim at the entrance. They were to dwell at the entrance to guard the way to the Tree of Life. In this case, the dwelling of the cherubim was an act of kindness.
The desire of God to dwell with His people is shown in many places in the Bible. Exodus 29:45-46 says, "Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them..." God calls the place where He abides with His people the "dwelling for His Name." (Deuteronomy 12:11) The prophet Joel ends his book with a statement that tells us where God will dwell with His people on earth: "The Lord dwells in Zion!" (Joel 3:21) The tabernacle was the temporary structure where God dwelt with His people. Once Israel settled in the Promised Land, they build a permanent structure called the Temple. This edifice was built by Solomon, and God instructed Israel to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments so that He could live among them. He said, "And I will live (dwell) among the Israelites and will not abandon my people, Israel." (1 Kings 6:13)
As explained by Psalm 74:7, the Lord's instructions were not followed. "They defiled the dwelling place of Your name." This did not stop the Lord's pursuit of His people. He is compelled to draw near to us. Look at Zechariah 8:3. "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem..." The prophets consistently declare that God will dwell among His people. Isaiah 7:14 explains the great lengths that God goes to for intimacy. "Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel," meaning God with us. The gospel of John brings clarity to this: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." The Feast of Tabernacles is our reminder of God's great desire to dwell with us. Jesus/Yeshua is the tabernacle of God among us. He desires to tabernacle with us. He encourages us to use this season as one to sit in His presence and dine from His table of delights. John 14:23 takes us back to what God said to His children in the wilderness. "...Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home (dwelling place) with them."
Not only are we meant to dwell with the Lord, but we are a dwelling place for His Holy Spirit. Let us use this week called The Feast of Tabernacles to connect with the Lord by setting aside time to contemplate His goodness, listening for His words of affirmation, and celebrating that He is, indeed, God with us, "Immanuel."
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.
In early 1776 Thomas Paine brought the idea of independence from Great Britain to the forefront of the colonists in America through his document called "Common Sense." Its two main points were independence from England and creation of a democratic republic. By July 2, our Founding Fathers decided to declare that independence and on July 4, 1776, America was born. The Declaration of Independence declared that a separation from England was justified to secure our "God-given rights." Later, John Adams said, "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity."
Indeed, Christianity had a profound influence on our Founding Fathers. Many of them recognized that for democracy to be successful the nation's people would have to be educated in the morals and values of Christianity and that the Bible would be the text from which they should learn these. Because of this, many schools were established to teach the principles of the Bible and to encourage faith in God in the country's young people.
The American landscape is full of churches that were planted to worship God and help grow up generations of individuals with strong faith. I believe that without a powerful base of citizens with a strong faith in God America would have failed. It was the faith of the generations that came before us that helped them endure hardships and gave them the willingness to sacrifice for a better tomorrow.
Attacking the faith of the Christian community has been, and continues to be, a strategy of the evil one. It is amazing that we have been able to prevail. Some might take exception with this idea, but I believe that it is the faith of the Christian community that will save the nation of the United States from destruction. There is a remnant of Believers that has taken a stand to defy the attacks of evil. There will continue to be challenges to our Christian activities in the future, but our stand on the foundation of righteousness and justice will be the key to our success.
How should a Christian mark Independence Day this year? May I suggest that we bind together in prayer. Let us repent for the sins of our nation. We must ask God to forgive us for not putting Him first and following His ways. We must acknowledge that we have turned away from the Lord's commandments and justified the sin in our lives. Those who serve our country in government or military need our prayers for protection and blessing. They also need to understand the truth, for it is the truth that will set them free. (John 8:32) For those who are deceived, we must pray for them to be awakened and that salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ would be theirs. It is imperative that we call on the mercies of God to shield and protect the Church in this hour and that she would be strong in shining God's light and love brightly. Expressing our thanksgiving is a must! Let us ask God to awaken and revive our nation so that we will be leaders in proclaiming the goodness of God to the world. We should remember God's promises to us through His Word, especially the one that tells us He will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:8) Here is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ." (Verse 6)
Harvests are linked with God's feasts. In ancient Israel, before the yearly summer wheat harvest began, the people of God would gather in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). It marks the beginning of the great wheat harvest. Before the harvest actually took place, the Jews would go out into their fields and pick the best of the crop to bring as an offering to the Lord at the Temple. They used their initial harvest to make two loaves of bread that would be used as a first fruits offering or Bikoreem. Obviously, these loaves contained leaven, signifying sin. It is thought that two loaves could represent the two houses of God (Judah and Ephraim) who both fall short of the glory of the Lord. They could also stand for Jew and Gentile or the Old and New Testament. Either way, they were used as a wave offering at the Temple.
Shavuot also became a celebration of the giving of Torah. It was during this period that the children of Israel would have been at Mt. Sinai where Moses received the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments and other laws. God had commanded the Jews to count seven full weeks from the second day of Passover to determine the exact day when they would bring Him an offering of first fruits (the new grain). (Leviticus 23:15-21) After celebrating, all the people would go out to the fields and reap their great summer harvest.
Is it any wonder that God chose this festival as the time when he would pour out His Spirit on the disciples and those gathered with them in the Upper Room? The church calls this day Pentecost (meaning 50 days). At the Pentecost celebration 2,000 years ago, God was offering the first fruits of the harvest to come. He was giving a demonstration of the spiritual empowerment for those who became part of the Kingdom of God. Three thousand souls were added to the ranks of Christianity that day. It was a mighty beginning! In some circles, this day is designated as the day that the Church became the Bride of Christ. Hebrew tradition encourages the groom to bring a gift to the bride. On this day, our bridegroom, Jesus, gave to His bride, the Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Spirit-filled Believer that is able to go out and fulfill the commission they are given to bring life to the lost.
Here are some interesting facts to consider that make this year's celebration of Pentecost particularly exciting. In Song of Solomon 8:4 the bride says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." I learned from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn that the word "charge" in Hebrew is "shaba." Shavuot comes from the root word shaba. Therefore, Pentecost could be called "the day of charging." We are charged to live a life of commitment to God by His Spirit. He gave us the power and authority to live an anointed life of joy, praise, and victory that impacts everyone around us.
I believe that the glory of God is magnified during times of the feasts when communities gather to glorify Him and remember what He has done. There are seasonal portals opened to the heavens where the supernatural activity of God is increased. We are called to recognize God's special seasons by setting ourselves apart to worship Him and to advance His Kingdom. I am anticipating a breakthrough. Every seven years God commands His people to rest and watch Him pour out provision and revelation in abundance. This is called the Shmita year, and we are currently in that year. In addition, both Shavuot and Pentecost fall on the same day. This rarely happens—usually only every ten years. Also, look at the year we are in. It is 2022! Two is the number of agreement, one accord, and union (as in marriage). This is a year of the double portion. Let us not miss our appointment to meet with the Lord. These "kairos" or opportune moments are opportunities to bring heaven to earth. This is our time to advance the harvest as we welcome revival to the earth.
Tomorrow, we celebrate a day called "Memorial Day." The end of the Civil War, in 1865, was the impetus for the establishment of the country's first national cemetery. Also, John A. Logan, who was the leader of the Northern Civil War Veterans called for a day to commemorate the sacrifices of the veterans of the Civil War. This holiday evolved as one to remember all American service people who died in any military conflict. Originally known as Decoration Day, it became an official federal holiday in 1971.
It is because we want to honor, respect, and recognize our soldiers that we remember them. Because of their sacrifices we live in a land of freedom. We cannot take these freedoms for granted. We must recall the reasons for their sacrifices and live God-honoring lives. Our history is rich with stories of how God established our ancestors to be shining lights for Him. He knows how important it is for us to recount the times when He showed His mighty hand on our behalf. Over 200 times the Bible uses the word "remember." The Lord does not want us to forget the way He cared for our forefathers or the covenant that He made with them. Generations later God still keeps His covenant and tells us to remember.
In Exodus 6:5 God assures the Israelites that He remembers the covenant He made with them. This remembrance brought Him to lead the Israelites out of bondage. They saw many signs and wonders including the opening of the Red Sea so that they could walk to the other side, the drowning of the Egyptians who pursued them, and the provision of water, bread, and quail in the wilderness. It was so important to God that the Israelites and subsequent generations remember what God did for them and the covenant He made with them that he designated a time at the beginning of each year to retell the story of His faithfulness. We call this remembrance Passover. God told His people, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you..." (Deuteronomy 15:15) "...for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt." (Deuteronomy 16:3) "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you." (Deuteronomy 32:7)
The stories of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness were to be shared regularly; one generation was to tell the next generation, and they in turn would tell the next one. "Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles and the judgments He pronounced..." (1 Chronicles 16:12) It is not only important to tell of what God did, but to teach His commands to the next generation. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commands that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
Like the soldiers we honor on Memorial Day, let us give honor to God for all the victories He has given to our ancestors and to us. We want to learn the lessons our ancestors learned so that we do not repeat any mistakes that they made. We want to remember the faithfulness of God. God's willingness to send us a Savior and a Redeemer point to His commitment to our futures. The events of the past are meant to give us hope for the future. Through respecting the Lord, remembering His covenant, and making a commitment to live a life that honors Him, we set into place a future rich in the abundant blessings of the Lord. Let us remember His love and faithfulness.
"So, God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) On this Mother's Day let us remember that God included special aspects of His personality in women. The characteristics of a "noble wife" are written about in Proverbs 31. These are to be demonstrated to a women's entire family. I would like to highlight a few to show the valuable contribution a wife and mother can make to the Kingdom of God.
A noble woman is "Clothed with strength and dignity....She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs in her household and does not eat the bread of idleness...a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Verses 25-27, 30) Mothers play countless roles for their families that require sacrifice on their part. Since they are first to connect with their children, they frequently have a stronger bond with them. They organize the day, including establishing routines, responsibilities, and disciplines. A mother's special role in the development of her children cannot be denied. Since she usually spends more time with the kids, it is easier for her to have an influence on them. By listening, teaching, and demonstrating her love for her children and husband she will impact their behavioral development.
One of the key roles of a Christian mother, in my opinion, is to point her children toward Christ. She plays that role in teaching godly truths and giving the family a spiritual heritage. The apostle Paul pointed this out to his "dear son" Timothy: "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5) In a sense, mothers are spiritual gatekeepers of the family faith.
On April 15, 2022, Tom and JoAnn Doyle wrote an extremely interesting article for "All Arab News" entitled, "Why are so many Muslims celebrating Easter this year?" They started their article by writing, "Did you know that one of the major threats to the religion of Islam today is the number of women who are committing their lives to Christ and leaving Islam?" They tell us that Jesus has not forgotten the women of Islam. He is appearing to them as "the man in the white robe" and identifying Himself as Jesus. He tells them that he has died for their sins and that He loves them. The love that Jesus imparts to these women compels them to pledge their allegiance to Him. When this happens, the entire family is impacted.
As an example, the Doyles tell a story about a woman named Maha. (Cover name) She shared, "I could not wait to go to bed at night! I never felt this kind of love from my own father or from anyone else in my entire life." Maha has boldly embraced faith in Jesus despite the fact that her brother is a senior leader in Islamic State and has vowed to kill her. She has recently led seven of her family members to Christ and was baptized with them. The Doyles wrote that a women's "spiritual influence is a natural overflow of who God created them to be in the first place. The man may be called to lead the family, but a mother's influence is what marks a family." Because of these Christian women, the Doyles report the following: "Islam is in crisis. Whole families are jumping ship to follow Jesus."
Let us praise God for these courageous women who have "become super spreaders of Jesus' message of love and forgiveness in the Muslim World." I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Lord for giving me a mother who, along with my dad, oversaw my growth in the Christian faith. She will be turning 99 on May 18 and still carries the fragrance of Christ. May we all pray for our mothers and mothers around the world and ask God to help them display the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman. Also, let us pray that the Muslim mothers who are boldly taking a stand for Jesus will be protected and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In the center of the Garden of Eden there were two trees called the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When God placed Adam in the Garden, He warned him not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9, 17) Because Adam and Eve ate from this tree their close relationship with God changed. God made a covering for them from animal skins. Then an interesting conversation took place in heaven: "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.' So, the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken." (Genesis 3:22-23)
It is not until the book of Revelation that we read again about the tree of life. The Lord sent a message to the church at Ephesus that said, "To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:4) Adam and Eve were barred from eating of the tree of life because of their sin. They tried to hide from Him, but God, in His mercy, kept them from eating of the tree of life so that they would not have to spend eternity hiding from Him. God cannot be in the presence of evil and so He had to make a way to redeem what had happened in the Garden of Eden.
Another tree was brought into the picture. The "seed" of this tree was planted before time began on earth. God makes refences to its shape throughout the Old Testament—the shape of a cross. The pattern of the cross was shown to His people in the construction of the tabernacle, in the bronze snake on the pole, and in the pattern that the Israelites camped. Jesus spoke about it to those who followed Him. When He was explaining to His disciples that He would be killed and raised from the dead on the third day, He spoke about the cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) Every one of us has a cross to bear. However, as we die to self, we come alive; as we surrender, we win.
Jesus knew that the cross He was to die on would be a tree of life for all of us. By partaking of this Cross, we are partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, which includes new and everlasting life with Him. The fruit of the covering of the blood of Jesus over our sin is what allows us to partake of eternal life with Him.
The final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, describes the tree of life in heaven. A river flows from the throne of God. "...On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse..." (Verses 2-3) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Verse 14) The tree of life waits for those who have been made righteous through the blood of the Cross of Jesus. In essence, this Cross is the Tree of Life.
We are celebrating what Jesus did for us in going to the Cross. We are in awe of the power of God to raise Jesus from the dead. What else can we do but worship and praise Him for the Tree of Life waiting for us in heaven?
Joan E. Mathias