How far would you travel and how much difficulty would you endure if you were really hungry and knew you could receive bread from a certain place? Our nation is living through hard times caused by the plague called Covid. Many are sick and finding themselves living in poverty from the ramifications of this virus. On the nightly news we see people in cars lined up for hours as they wait for a bag of groceries.
Through the centuries many populations have gone through times of hunger—both physical and spiritual. The prophet Amos talked about a day when "a famine of hearing the words of the Lord" would come. (Amos 8:11) When people find themselves without something they are used to or need they begin searching for a way to obtain it. Scripture is full of stories of individuals who were set on going to a place whose name means "House of Bread" or Bethlehem. Their journeys were directly connected to the life of Jesus--"The Living Word," "The Bread of Life," "The Redeemer." The prophet Micah prophesied about the significance of Bethlehem: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
The tribe of Judah received Bethlehem in their inheritance from the Promised Land. After they became established in this territory, there was a time of famine. The family of Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem and moved to Moab so that they could get food. Their sons married Moabite women while there. After 10 years in Moab, all the men died, leaving their women as widows. Naomi's daughter-in-law, Ruth, insisted on staying by her mother-in-law's side even though Naomi was returning to Bethlehem. Ruth told her, "Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16) They arrived in Bethlehem during the barley harvest.
Because Ruth was willing to make the journey, there was a new life waiting for her, filled with promise. She was noticed by Boaz from the clan of Elimelech as she gleaned in his field. Boaz became her husband, and she became part of the genealogy of Jesus by bearing a son named Obed (Servant of Worship) to Boaz. He became the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. When God decided to appoint a new king to replace Saul, the prophet Samuel was instructed by God to go to the city of Bethlehem to anoint David as the king of Israel. David went from tending sheep to tending God's people.
From David, 14 generations passed to King Jeconiah, meaning "Established of the Lord." During his reign, the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, after which 14 more generations were birthed. (See Matthew 1) At the end of that run of 14 generations Jesus was born of the virgin Mary from Nazareth. His earthly father, Joseph, was a descendant of David. When Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census would be taken of the entire Roman empire, Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem exactly at the time when Mary gave birth to Jesus. Because there was no guest room for Joseph and Mary, Mary gave birth in a room meant for animals. She wrapped the Son of God in cloths and laid Him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
Shepherds who were tending their flocks in the fields nearby were told about the birth of a Savior in Bethlehem by an angel of the Lord. They made the trip to Bethlehem and were filled with praise and glory for God after seeing the baby laying in a manger. Magi from the east also took a long journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. After seeing His rising star in the sky, they followed that star to the place where Jesus was. Being overwhelmed with worship, they gave him their treasures.
Much fruit came from every trip that was taken to Bethlehem. In fact, the region of Bethlehem is called Ephrathah, meaning fruitful. The trips required sacrifice however, all were rewarded. "The House of Bread" fed every visitor. During this season, I believe that we are being called to make a spiritual journey to Bethlehem. Our year has been difficult. A "famine," so to speak, has overtaken us. However, God wants to prepare us for a new season—one of blessing where we will be filled with the Bread of Life that revives us and brings us into a time of greater intimacy with the Lord. We can visit The House of Bread by calling out to the Lord and asking Him to nourish and sustain us with the Bread of His Holy Presence. We must tell Jesus we are hungry for more of Him. He is the answer to every difficulty and the source of eternal life.
My message this week has been inspired by some life cycles. I have been contemplating God's faithfulness and the evidence of His attention to our lives. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, always drawing us closer so that we can see life through His eyes. He uses everything we experience to strengthen our understanding of His amazing love for us and what it means to live in the Kingdom of Light. He loves all of creation and has set times and seasons for each. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Changing seasons are meant to give us unique encounters with different aspects of the Lord's character.
Three years of marriage to my wonderful husband, Jac, is worth celebrating and thanking the Lord for His goodness. We decided to do so by taking a trip to Bushkill Falls in the Poconos. One cannot travel this time of year without being in awe of God's creation. Hillsides full of evergreens and deciduous trees bearing leaves of golden yellow, rust, red and brown are like painted pictures that take your breath away. It was only seven months ago that the trees were beginning to push out their new leaves for the season. Quickly the leaves matured so that they could fulfill their God-given purpose—to supply food for the plants through photosynthesis. Having completed their job, the leaves give us a final gift by going out in a blaze of glory. What a blessing it is to live through these cycles of life!
As my husband and I walked through the forest at Bushkill Falls, we were delighted by a native, multi-stemmed shrub that does things differently than most others. The Common Witch Hazel is native to the moist soil of the PA woodlands and is growing in abundance at the side of the waterfalls. They display their yellow, spider-like flowers in the fall along with their yellow leaves, looking quite beautiful next to the bold, green leaves of the native rhododendron. God surely does have beauty for every season. Listening to the sound of the waterfalls and seeing the clear water splashing down on the rocks reminded us of Psalm 42:7-8. "Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day, the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me--a prayer to the God of my life.”
We came home filled with awe and wonder at the magnificence of God and the precision by which He orders the seasons of the earth. However, we were about to experience the completion of another life cycle. Sixteen years ago, my daughter, Laura, told me about a skinny cat she saw who was eating out of her college dumpster. She begged me to allow her to bring the cat home for adoption. Not wanting the responsibility of caring for an animal, I directly said "No!" God had other plans. That night He gave me a dream in which I was holding a gray cat with gold eyes. I heard Him say, "I want you to adopt the cat." Waking up, I started a conversation with God that went like this: "Why would you ask me to adopt a cat who I do not want?" "Because, through this cat I will show you beauty for ashes. I will take the ashes of your life and transform them into something beautiful." I told Laura that I wanted to see the cat. Of course, she was the cat that God showed me in my dreams. We named her Cinder. After taking her to the vet for de-worming and cleaning, she joined me at my condo and became my constant companion.
I have no regrets. Cinder was faithful to greet me at the top of the stairs every time I came home. In her early years, she would amuse me by doing "calisthenics" on the open staircase. She loved to sleep next to me on the bed until my husband joined us. Jac would joke with me and say, "Beauty has arrived. It is time for ashes to go." Cinder's season of life came to an end on Friday. She had been losing weight and struggling with bad health. I delayed the inevitable. Thursday night God gave me another dream. It was time for Cinder's life to end. Even though the vet told us we were doing the best thing for Cinder, my heart broke. I am grateful for the years I had with her.
Seasons come and go. There is beauty and ashes. And, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (V. 11) An artist by the name of Josh Baldwin recently wrote a song that seems appropriate to repeat. Here is part of it: "All throughout my history, Your faithfulness has walked beside me. The winter storms made way for spring in every season from where I'm standing. I see the evidence of Your goodness, all over my life, all over my life. I see Your promises in fulfillment, all over my life, all over my life." Let us remember that no matter what season we are living in, God is by our sides orchestrating events, changing times and seasons, and drawing us closer to Him. What more could we ask for?
During the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles the Israelites cut branches from three different trees--the palm, the myrtle, and the willow. The branches were an integral part of their celebration that included remembering their wilderness journey. According to Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, the people were reminded of the desert plains by the palms, the desert mountains by the myrtle, and the desert brooks that gave them water by the willow. Yearly, the Jews celebrate the journey of life as they remember the wilderness times that led them to the Promised Land.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of the harvest and a time of remembering God's provision and protection in the wilderness. It is referred to as "The Feast" because it is the culmination of all the Biblical holy days and is a time to meet with God. It actually points toward the culmination of God's redemptive plan and represents the final stage of His plan of salvation. The Feast is a fore-shadow of the millennial kingdom. The prophet Zechariah tells us that "The Feast" or Sukkot, will be celebrated in the millennial kingdom: "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, The Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the people of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague He inflicts on the nations that do not celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16-18)
The feasts of the Lord were appointed by God before Jesus was born. We can read how they were celebrated in the Old Testament. However, they would have lacked authority because they were not celebrated under the authority of the name of Jesus. Now, we can see Jesus revealed in the feasts. We must look forward to that day when He returns as a triumphant King on a white horse. (Revelation 19:11) Believers from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will worship Him, waving palm branches before Him.
Do not miss the significance of the week of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles; it is rich in symbolism. Contemplating these times appointed by God can bring us into a deeper communion with Him. We must celebrate our journey of life. The wilderness is a symbol for our life on earth now, and the Promised Land is a symbol of heaven. That is our goal! Rabbi Cahn says, "Remember, in heaven, you will give thanks for the heavenly road you're walking on right now, on your way to the Promised Land."
Why not pause and reflect on your journey during this season? Life is full of struggles, sorrows, and disappointments along with times of joy, fruit bearing, and harvest. God's plan for us is written about in John 15:8. "This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit..." The journey is meant to strengthen us and point us in the direction of our ultimate destination—Heaven! Let us meet with the Lord during this kairos (opportune or strategic) time at the table He sets for us. It is time to feast with Him as we look for His victorious return!
The sixth month of the Spiritual year on the Hebrew calendar is also the 12th month of the physical or civil year. Six is represented by the Hebrew letter Vav which is a tent peg or nail used to connect or make something secure. The Hebrew letters Yod or Bet are for 12 and represent leadership and government. I find the conjunction of these two letters interesting, especially when we consider the times and seasons we are in. We truly need our government and leadership to be secured or pegged to the King of kings.
We have just entered the month of Elul when it is said, "The King is in the field." God is especially accessible to us during this time before the high holy days of the seventh month of Tishrei. Elul is when He offers us special access so we can meet Him face to face. How we need an encounter with the Lord! Elul could be called "a haven in time." It is when we should look back to assess what has happened and prepare for the holy days ahead. During Elul, it is said that the holy visitation of God comes in the mist of our daily lives.
Picture yourself working in a field. How would you feel if the King of your nation came into your field? Wouldn't you feel a change in the atmosphere around you? At the same time, we would be honored that the King came into our environment on our terms, so to speak. Let this remind us that every effort we make should be directed toward bringing God's presence into what we do. Every realm of our existence should have a goal of transforming each aspect of life, so it becomes a dwelling place for our king. Ordinary life is meant to be intertwined with godliness so that it brings honor to the King.
Elul should remind us that our world is God's dwelling place. As the King's kids, this is our season to refine our relationship with Him. Daily repentance would accelerate this process. The prophet Isaiah encourages us this way: "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near." (Isaiah 55:6) The month of Elul is when one is to assess the year gone by and prepare for the high holy days of Tishrei. (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot) It is said that God relates to us in a more tangible way during Elul. Therefore, we should evaluate our past, repent for our sins, and prepare for the future. Take advantage of the fact that we can approach the King in our own fields, because He comes to encourage us. It is said that here "the holy meets the mundane." I believe it is meant to be a season when the King spurs us on to do good works and to get to know Him more intimately through prayer and Bible study.
The story of the King in the field should remind Christians of how Jesus left the comforts of heaven and came to earth to demonstrate His love and die for our sins. The shepherd boy David was a prototype of this. He went from his father's house into the field to tend the sheep. He became a worshiper of God, playing his harp and singing songs to the Lord as he tended the sheep. It would be from his line, the tribe of Judah, that our Messiah would come. Jesus was indeed a King who left his throne to become the Passover Lamb and "The King of the Jews." (Matthew 27:37)
King Jesus, Yeshua, is our Messiah. He came so that those who seek Him would find Him. (Matthew 7:8) He came into our field for 33 years, taught us the lessons of heaven, and gave us a picture of life in heaven with Him and Father God. Before dying for our sins, He let us know that there is a table prepared for us in heaven, and that we can have life everlasting with the King of kings and Lord of lords. This King invites us to come into His presence as He draws very close to us. Jesus presents us with this haven in time as we get ready for the high holy days of Tishrei. God wants to meet us in the everyday affairs of our lives. He wants intimacy with us. The letters of Elul actually form an acronym for the words of Song of Solomon 6:3. "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." Look for the King in your lives during this month, and rejoice that He delights in being with us.
China is in the forefront of the news today. There is no portion of the world that has not been negatively impacted by the tentacles of the Covid virus that has its origins in Wuhan, China. Leaders of China have been uncooperative in helping to get the pandemic under control. Their focus in this season seems to be on persecuting Christians and stopping the amazing growth of their community. Believers in Jesus are being thrown into prison while their churches are being destroyed. The latest scheme from the Chinese government is to offer money to anyone who will lead them to an underground home fellowship. The Chinese people are aware that when they take a step of faith and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they may face great difficulties. However, they gladly commit their lives to love and serve Jesus. Missionaries from the west, who came to China in the early 1800s, demonstrated the love of Jesus and the persistence needed to sustain their faith. Chinese Christians are dedicated to their faith, at all costs.
Among the individuals who were called to share the good news of Jesus in China were two British women willing to take a step of faith into the unknown. Knowing that God had called them to the far east, they traveled to China without knowing their final destinations. Since no missionary society would back Gladys Aylward as a missionary, she worked as a parlor maid to raise money to take the Trans-Siberian Railway to China in 1930. At the age 26, Gladys planned to join another self-supporting Scottish missionary named Jeannie Lawson in Yangcheng in central China. Her trip was not for the faint of heart. After the train reached the end of the line, she continued her travels by sailing, taking a bus ride, and finally riding on a mule. She came to the broken-down inn that Jeannie had purchased. The two women fixed it up as a place to accommodate mule drivers who came through the City. They provided the men with meals, a clean place to sleep and stories of Jesus. Gladys was famous for taking in orphan children, some of whom she adopted. After Jeannie's death, the Mandarin leader of Shansi Province appointed her to be a foot inspector in surrounding villages. As Gladys enforced the prohibition against the ancient custom of binding infant girl's feet, she shared the stories of Jesus. In the spring of 1938, the Japanese attacked China. Gladys led 100 children to an orphanage in Sian where they would be safe. She and the children walked for 100 miles over mountains to Sian. During the trip they saw the miraculous provision of God as He fed them when they ran out of food and provided a boat to cross over the Yellow River.
At the age of five, Jackie Pullinger made a commitment to become a missionary. In her teenage years, she learned to play the piano and did so for her youth group meetings. Jackie wanted to be faithful in the call of God on her life but did not know where it was that God was calling her. At one of the meetings she heard from God: "Go. Trust me, and I will lead you. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go; I will guide you with my eye." (Psalm 32:8) Willing to go but frustrated that she still did not know where to go, Jackie confided in Parish Minister Richard Thompson. He advised her to trust God and gave this recommendation: "If I were you, I would go out and buy a ticket for a boat going on the longest journey you can find and pray to know where to get off." This is exactly what she did. Jackie found peace when the ship reached Hong Kong and began her ministry at age 22.
The people of the Walled City, whose name in Chinese--Hak Nam--means darkness, would become her life-long mission. The narrow walkways of this City, covered with slim, excrement, rotten food, and rubbish, would become the paths that Jackie walked regularly as she ministered to the drug dealers and addicts, prostitutes, and pornography peddlers. During her time of ministry, she founded the St. Stephen's Society where she could help those in need. She became a trusted, well-respected friend of the people in the region and was known by the heroin addicts as one who would help them withdraw from addiction without pain. Jackie would lead them to Christ; then they would receive a prayer language. Complete freedom from addiction came as they spoke in tongues for a prolonged period.
Both Gladys and Jackie had challenges that kept them totally connected to God. His intervention on their behalf led them to trust in Him unconditionally, and they looked to Him for every step of faith. They were like Father Abraham. "By faith, 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." (Hebrews 11:8) These women inspire me to trust God for help in today's difficulties and in life in the future. Are we willing to take a step of faith? He may not be calling us to go to a foreign land, but He is calling us to live a life of trust and obedience to Him.
Of this I am sure: It is the Lord's desire to bless us. This is probably the main reason why He instructed the priests ministering to the Israelites to say a special prayer over them. "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26 - NKJ) Several Bible versions use the word "Countenance" when speaking about being in God's presence. It is like being with Him when He looks you in the face. We get more understanding about His appearance through Revelation 1:16. "In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. And His face was shining like the brightness of the blinding sun." (TPT)
Other Scriptures describe the appearance of our Lord as "dazzling like lightning." At the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples who were with Jesus saw Him being transformed. Matthew 17:2 describes the face of Jesus: "A radiant light as bright as the sun poured from His face..." (TPT) Moses had several encounters with the Lord. When he came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the Testimony "his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord." (Exodus 34:29) 2 Corinthians 3:7 (NKJ) records that "the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance..."
One of the definitions of countenance is the expression of one's face. What do you think the Lord is expressing with His dazzling, glowing face? I believe the light that radiates from Him is generated by His powerful love. The Lord's passion for His children is so great that His face explodes with the light of His love. Psalm 84:11, in The Passion Translation, has an interesting way of describing Him. "The Lord God is brighter than the brilliance of a sunrise! Wrapping Himself around me like a shield, He is so generous with His gifts of grace and glory..."
One encounter of looking into the eyes of the Lord's liquid love can transform a person and set them on a course of God's choosing. I would like to share Michele Perry's story of meeting the Lord from her book, Love has a Face. “Even as a child, I was a bit of a romantic. I do not mean mushy sort of romantic, but as a little girl my heart cried out for more than I could see. It longed for a love bigger than I was and more powerful than my fears. One night I met Him. I was seven...I was facing a serious spinal surgery and had overheard that I could die...I was born missing my left hip, leg and kidney. I had a plethora of birth defects that required 23 surgeries by the time I was 13. I used crutches to walk (and still do). But I was never as scared as I was that night."
"All I had was a cry: 'Jesus, if you are who those stories in that book say You are, then I want to know you!' Instantly, supernaturally, normally--as if it had happened a million times before--He was there...He was real. The Man who walked on water walked into my bedroom. It was that simple. The love in His gaze made time stand still...He looked with eyes that saw deep inside of me and loved every part...And the minute He appeared, fear left so quickly that the memory of it varnished as well...I looked into His eyes of liquid love and got lost...I looked into the face of Love...He is the definition of love. He is its substance, its beginning and its end. Love that is true and real looks like what I saw in His eyes. I met the Man who walked on water. He chased away my fear as a little girl. I had that surgery. I recovered. I grew. I learned. My life started that night, and so did my journey to find His heart."
Michele's quest to share the love of Jesus began with the homeless, sick, and brokenhearted. She ministered in the United States first and then went on to Calcutta, India. From there the Lord sent her to care for children in the war-torn country of Sudan. She went with faith in the promises of God and a face that reflected the love of her Savior.
God's Kingdom comes as we pursue relationship with Jesus and soak in His love so that we become an expression of His love and grace to the people He brings to us. God's desire is to make His face shine upon us and lift His countenance upon us. Why else would He want the Aaronic blessing declared over us?
"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad." Can we give an Amen to this truth written by Anne Geddes? Fathers are so important that there is an organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative whose vision is for every child to grow up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. They tell us this: "Underlying many of society's most pressing challenges is a lack of father involvement in their children's lives." According to the U. S. Census Bureau, one in four children live without a father in their home. There are countless other children who live with a father figure who is physically present but emotionally absent. Their fathers are in their lives but not a part of it so that the relationships are toxic.
Statistics put out by the U. S. Census Bureau on our fatherless generation are extremely concerning. Children in this situation are at a four times greater risk of living in poverty and are two times more likely to drop out of high school. These children are more likely to suffer from abuse and neglect, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to become behavioral problems, to commit a crime and to go to prison. Daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens. Comments from wounded, fatherless individuals found on the Internet are telling. Here are a few of the milder ones: "I tell people I don't know my father, because I am afraid to say that he jumps in and out of my life when he wants...And it hurts." "No matter how old you get, the hole in your heart created by your father's absence still aches—especially on Father's Day." "My father was a Christian, but he had no time for me."
Every person was made for love. A father, as the head of a family, should be displaying unconditional love, understanding, support, protection, encouragement, guidance, and friendship. He should be taking time to listen to his children and to communicate with them. Sons need a role model while daughters need an example of how their future husband should treat them. It seems that absence of a father figure in homes has become a generational issue and breeds children who are angry, fearful, anxious, and unforgiving. This crisis of children with hardened hearts offers the demonic realm a playground from which to operate. Our fatherless generation needs someone to stand in the gap for them. That is why we must point these brokenhearted individuals to their Father in heaven. Here are some of the descriptions of our Heavenly Father from the Bible.
Father God stands ready to save us from our sorrow. "The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion." (Psalm 116:5) When Jesus came to earth, He had the audacity to call God “Father.” The religious leaders of the day did not comprehend that their greatest need was for a father who loved and cared for them. To be good leaders, they needed to be totally dependent upon God. Even in the model prayer that Jesus taught, we are told to begin by saying, "Our Father in heaven." As we come to our Father in heaven, we can rest assured that He will provide for our daily needs.
What part can we play in presenting our heavenly Father to those on earth? We must acknowledge that we are totally dependent on Father God for every need and ask Him to stand in the gap if we have an earthly father who has not demonstrated God's qualities for a father. We must be ready to forgive our earthly fathers where they have fallen. We must pray for inadequate fathers and those who have been wounded by them. For those of us who have or had godly fathers who have blessed us, we should thank them and thank God for them. Let's walk in such a way that our lives reflect Father God's characteristics. Finally, if you are a father, evaluate your relationship with your children and look to Father God to help you to be His representative on earth.
Every person that Jesus prayed for was healed. He demonstrated the works of His Father by healing, delivering, and raising people from the dead. It was His desire that His disciples and all Believers do the works that He did. He said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) The power to do these works comes from the Holy Spirit who was first given to the disciples who waited in Jerusalem. Today Believers are filled with the Holy Spirit when they accept Jesus as Savior. However, the power comes to us through the Holy Spirit as our relationship with Him, Jesus and Father God grows. We become like those we spend time with and develop a reservoir of anointing as we spend quality time with the Lord.
Recently, I was encouraged to research reservoirs. They are defined as basins or receptacles where water is collected and stored for us. The water can be used to supply drinking water, to irrigate land, to enhance recreational opportunities and to generate hydroelectric power. The largest reservoir in our country is called Lake Mead. It was formed by damming the Colorado River, covers 248 sq. miles, and can hold 28.9 million acre-feet of water. (One acre-foot equals 325,000 gallons.) You may know the dam holding back the water as Hoover Dam. The reservoir accomplishes all the uses listed above. However, its most important function is supplying water for the hydroelectric station that generates four billion kilowatt hours of power annually. For the water to be used for its intended purpose, it must be collected and maintained at a certain level. This allows it to be moved through cylindrical gates toward the powerhouse. In the case of Lake Mead, the water falls about 500' to the hydroelectric power plant at the base of Hoover Dam. Power is distributed from the plant to people in four states.
It is my opinion that one of the reasons Jesus was able to heal everyone who came to Him was because He had a huge reservoir of anointing that was collected through His daily intimacy with Father God. The first chapter of the book of Mark tells how Jesus went to Simon and Andrew's house to heal Simon's mother-in-law. In the evening, many people from the local village brought the sick and demon possessed to Jesus for healing. On the next day, before moving to nearby villages to preach, Jesus rose early in the morning, while it was still dark, and "went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Verse 35)
Jesus was a man of prayer. Even at His baptism, "He was praying and heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove..." (Luke 3:21-22) Later, Luke tells us that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16) Before selecting His 12 disciples, "Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." (Luke 6:12) Jesus knew that He would need to be filled with power from God to face crucifixion. That is why "He went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.'" (Matthew 26:36)
We must follow Jesus and the way He prioritized intimacy with His Father. Our job is to go out into the world to preach the gospel, heal the sick and set the oppressed free. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit will we be able to live out the call on our lives. We must build up a reservoir of favor and anointing from the Holy Spirit through our times of intimacy with Him to see the power that Jesus displayed operating in our lives.
For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples truths from the Kingdom of God. Before He ascended into heaven, "Jesus instructed them, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) Two words stand out to me in this passage: wait and baptized. Acts 1:4-5 is saying, "If you wait (remain or tarry), then you will be baptized (immersed or drenched) in the Holy Spirit." The instructions require an action on the part of the hearer. The disciples were required to wait for 10 days after Jesus left them, and before the promise hit. Today we call the time when the Holy Spirit poured out in power Pentecost because it was 50 days from the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Those who waited had no idea how long they would be in the same place. God blessed those who persevered.
Waiting is an action word as explained in Proverbs 8:34-35. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." The disciples were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They had to listen to and obey what Jesus told them. They were also watching for the appearing of His Spirit. This is what waiting looks like.
Jesus wants His disciples to make themselves available to Him. While we wait the Lord awakens our senses and prepares us for what is to come. The more we wait, the more we cultivate a deeper understanding of Him, the Source of Life. This enable the Lord to enlarge our spiritual capacity. He wants to take us from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Psalm 27:14 gives us great encouragement. "...Don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting--for He will never disappoint you!" (TPT)
Because they waited and obeyed what Jesus told them, the reward for the disciples was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you have ever been to a baptism service, you will recall that the person being baptized is completely immersed into the water. Every part of their body is saturated with water. The symbolism of the ceremony is rich. Going under the water is symbolic of dying to the old life and coming up in newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost everyone who had waited in the upper room was transformed. In Acts 2:4 it says, "They were filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned." (TPT) The wind of the Spirit overtook those who waited so that they became more like Jesus—God's intended outcome for this encounter. The writer of Acts describes the new community of Believers: "...Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion, and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the Believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity, they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them." (Acts 2:42-45 - TPT)
The prophetic community of our day has been declaring that this year we will have a Pentecost like none we have experienced before. We have anticipated that God is doing something new. We are being called to arise and awaken. It is time to move from fear to faith. Since today is Pentecost Sunday, the day celebrated by the Church, let's open our hearts to the new thing God wants to do in us. We are beginning to move out from our places of quarantine into the world around us. We must be aware of the opportunities God is giving us to share His Kingdom with others. It will take boldness and courage to move out into new territories. Perhaps we will see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power.
As we pulled into the parking area of the Newtown Township park on Rt. 413, memories of childhood visits to Stone Harbor, New Jersey flooded my mind. A distinctive smell of salt water was present from the marshes along the waterways at the entrance to the resort. The marshes are prime territory for unique types of birds. In particular, I remember seeing red-winged blackbirds flitting between the cattails in the marshes. Our Newtown park has fresh-water marshes that are thick with cattails and the home of a small flock of red-winged blackbirds. To quote a web site on blackbirds: "A cattail marsh is the quintessential red-winged blackbird habitat." We were greeted by several male birds that flew from a small oak tree to a perch at the top of the cattails. When the male sings he expands his wings so that one can see his entire brilliant, red and yellow shoulder area. In this way, he shows off to the females. Females stay out of sight as much as possible, especially during nesting season. Their bodies look somewhat like a sparrow with heavily streaked brown. Their cone-shaped bills have short yellow feathers around them, and above their eyes is a patch of white.
Female red-winged blackbirds try to remain at the base of the vegetation where they can find insects and seeds to feed on and to guard their nests. However, if a larger bird or human comes too close to the marsh, both male and female come to the top of the cattails to protest loudly. The birds' nests are weaved together of grass, reeds, and leaves. After they are completed, the birds attached their nests to standing vegetation. They have two or three broods a season, each with three to four eggs that are incubated by the female. The young stay in the nest for 11 to 14 days while both parents feed them.
Watching the blackbirds in their favorite habitat, I began to think about all the creatures on the earth and the multitude of unique ecosystems that the Lord created. In the seven days of creation written about in Genesis, we read that God made a myriad of land forms, water bodies and vegetation and then filled the earth with a plethora of birds, fish, sea creatures, and animals. It is obvious that God loves diversity and variety and provides a perfect environment for every creature on the earth. A place called the Garden of Eden was created by God for mankind, who was made in His image. "In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) God created man with a mission. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)
Although Adam and Eve had to be taken from the Garden because of their sin, God's plans for mankind moved forward. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:26-28) God has created everyone and everything uniquely for a special purpose and all of this was done out of love. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
God declares that "His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Romans 1:20) When we take time to look and see God's handiwork, can there be any doubt that His glory is visible in all creation? In the book of Nehemiah, we are told how the Levites led the Israelites in adoration of the Lord. "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name...You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You." (Nehemiah 9:5-6) Psalm 104 is a declaration of praise to God for all He has created. I want to make the end of this psalm my declaration and hope that you will join me in this. "May God's glorious splendor endure forever! May the Lord take joy and pleasure in all that He has made...I will sing my song to the Lord as long as I live! Every day I will sing my praises to God. May you be pleased with every sweet thought I have about You, for You are the source of my joy and gladness...I will keep on praising You, my Lord, with all that is within me. My joyous, blissful shouts of 'Hallelujah' are all because of You!" (Psalm 104:31-35 - TPT)
Joan E. Mathias