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)
Our heavenly Father is a gardener. From the beginning of Scripture, we see that He placed the first human in a garden and charged them with caring for the plants. Throughout the rest of the Bible, God's creation is described in terms that would be particularly familiar with those who garden. The prophet Isaiah tells us, "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." (Isaiah 61:11) God's desires for us to reap a harvest that ultimately points to His goodness and generosity. This is expressed in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. "This generous God who supplies abundant seed for the farmer, which becomes bread for our meals, is even more extravagant toward you. First, He supplies every need, plus more. Then He multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow, you will be abundantly enriched in every way as you give generously on every occasion, for when we take your gifts to those in need, it causes many to give thanks to God." (TPT)
All of this I have been contemplating as I have watched the local sod farmer readying his fields for grass seed. The preparation of a "bed" for seed is detailed and time consuming if the farmer wants a high quality and valuable sod harvest. Initially, any weeds that are growing in the soil must be killed and raked up. The soil bed is smoothed and leveled before lime and fertilizer are added to it. Proper acidity or pH should be 6 to 7.5. Since the soil in our area tends to be acid in nature, lime brings it back to the right range for healthy seed germination. The soil is then disked or plowed three or four times to a depth of four to eight inches. Our local field is composed of well drained, silty loam, ideal for growing seed. Before the seed is planted, the field is smoothed out with a roller. Ideal planting time is late summer or early fall, as the temperatures are cooling down and natural rains are more frequent. A combination of Kentucky bluegrass and fescue are planted because there is increased strength in the mix, and it is more disease resistant.
The ideal way to apply seed is in two different directions so that the farmer avoids empty spots. These days a biodegradable netting may be placed on the top of the seed to keep the young shoots from being dislodged. As the seed germinates, the farmer may fertilize again and will water it according to its need. It usually takes six months to one year for sod to mature. All during the growing season, the farmer will mow the turf regularly to keep it dense. When it is mature, the sod will be harvested by a machine that not only cuts it into layable pieces but places it in rolls on pallets.
The Bible explains that we are God's seed and also His seed bed. God plants His seed to produce a harvest that gives Him glory. He tends to us, adding whatever we need to grow an ideal crop that will feed the nations. I love how Peter expresses this: "For through the eternal and living Word of God you have been born again. And this 'seed' that He planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever...The Word of the Lord endures forever!" (1 Peter 1:23,25 - TPT)
Remember that we are the field for God's seed and the seed of God that grows forever. How do we become a field that is abundant for the glory of the Lord and that produces valuable seed? We must remove the weeds that are ever present, trying to take over the good seed. We must fertilize ourselves with the eternal Word of God that lives forever. We must allow Him to sow His will into our wills. Then, get ready to produce a harvest.
They are called the clowns of the sea according to the Audubon Society Field Guide because of their "short dumpty figure, red-rimmed gleaming yellow eyes, gaudy triangular bill and a habit of waddling around, jumping from rock to rock." My husband and I decided to take a tour boat to Eastern Egg Rock Island in Muscongus Bay, six miles east of New Harbor, Maine, to see these clowns in person. You may know them better by the name "Puffin." There is a colony of them on this island where they nest. Unfortunately, all but one had left the island for the winter. Puffins mature at sea. The young ones do not return to their nesting ground for three to five years.
Our disappointment that we could not see these birds turned to fascination as we heard the story of the colony from Eastern Egg Rock Island. In the late 1800s, humans began to go to the island and collect their eggs and trap the birds for their meat and feathers. The puffin population was greatly diminished and eventually disappeared. 100 years later an ornithologist named Dr. Stephen Kress wanted to reestablish a colony of these very social birds on the island. In 1973, with the help of his associates, Dr. Kress moved puffin eggs in soup cans from Newfoundland to Eastern Egg Rock Island. They were placed in nooks of the large granite rocks that surround the island and in handmade burrows close by. Once the eggs hatched, the chicks were hand fed and protected until they could fledge.
The hope was that the chicks would return to Egg Island. However, this was not the case. Realizing how social these birds are, they put up decoys of puffins so that the bird would think there was a community on the island. The birds were too smart for the scientists. The second trick to help make the puffins feel like there was a real community on the island was to bring in puffin sounds and mirrors that would reflect the decoys and the real puffins. This did the trick. More eggs were brought to the island. In 1977 one banded puffin returned. However, it took until 1981 for the birds to nest in groups. By the late 1990s there were 50 pairs of nesting puffins.
We must give the puffins credit for their astuteness. They could recognize the decoy and did not set up camp until they were assured there would be a community to live with. Puffins prosper only when they live in a colony with other birds. Did you ever think that Christian families also look for a church community where they will be fed spiritually and physically? We need that kind of fellowship. We were made for love. Here is what Hebrews 10:24-25 says in The Passion Translation: "Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day is dawning."
Just like the coals of a fire need to be tightly packed together to burn, we need to be closely associated with other members of a congregation. As my husband says, "There are no lone rangers in the body of Christ." We need one another! There is a spiritual atmosphere when we gather that does not come when we are alone. My encouragement is that all of us need to belong to and participate with a church family.
rWithout the proper amount of water, a newly planted tree will not be rooted in its new location. The amount of water needed is determined by the caliper of the tree trunk. For example, a one-inch caliper tree needs about one to one and one-half gallons of water each time it is irrigated, whereas a four-inch caliper tree needs about four to six gallons. It is the roots of a tree that need the water so that they can grow to provide the nutrients for supporting the branches and leaves of the tree. Water needs to be applied directly to the root ball and to the backfilled soil so that the roots expand beyond the ball. The root establishment time for a tree increases with its caliper size. It takes about one and one-half years for a one-inch caliper tree to establish its root system; a four-inch caliper tree takes about six years.
Two effective methods are recommended for watering transplanted trees. In the first, a reservoir is created to hold the water. This can be done by making a circular mound of earth three to four inches high around the plant's root ball. The reservoir should be filled with a slow trickle of water that will infiltrate the root ball. Another option is to place a plastic bag called a "Treegator" at the base of the trunk. The bag is filled with water and will slowly release the water into the root ball through small holes in the bottom of the bag. This means that any turf or grass must be removed from the area so that the tree does not have to compete with the surrounding groundcover for moisture. When two to three inches of mulch is applied on top of the root ball it decreases water evaporation, helps control weed growth, insulates the soil, and improves soil health.
Insufficient water harms all plants, and the effects of it can be seen at the top of the plant. The northeastern United States has been struggling with a drought this summer. Grass is brown, the leaves of corn plants are rolled up, tree leaves are turning brown and falling, and new bud growth is diminished or not occurring. All these signs show us that the plant roots are not receiving sufficient water.
What are the spiritual applications of this principle? In the Bible rains represent blessing while droughts represent cursing. Deuteronomy 28 talks about the ramifications of following or not following God's commandments. For those who follow His commandments God says, "The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and bless all the work of your hands..." (Deuteronomy 28:12) For disobedience God says, "The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew.” (Deuteronomy 28:22)
God desires that we be well rooted and established in His love. (Ephesians 3:17) When this happens, Ephesians tells us, we will have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep His love is, and "to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Verses 18-19) This requires us to be filled with a reservoir of His spiritual rains in our hearts. In Jeremiah 31:12, the Lord tells His people that they will be "like a well-watered garden..." I think the best promise of all, however, comes from Jesus as He met the Samaritan woman at the town well: "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them like a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
When we root ourselves in God's garden and follow His ways, we can be assured that "we will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails." (Isaiah 58:11) We will be like the trees of the Lord talked about in Psalm 104:16. "The trees of the Lord are well watered." And well-watered trees bare good fruit.
As part of an inner healing team at my church, I see many ways in which the devil and his demons try to trick people into coming into agreement with the kingdom of darkness. I am reminded of a line in Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress." The first verse declares that God is our mighty fortress who helps us against the enemy. However, our enemy never stops trying to trick us. "For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe—His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal."
One of the devil's primary weapons is that he plants seeds of doubt in our minds. We can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden to see the first time he used this trick to destroy the lives of Adam and Eve. The Bible describes his aptitude for deception: "Now the snake (serpent) was the most cunning of all living beings that Yahweh-God had made. He deviously asked the woman, 'Did God really tell you, 'You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?'' But the woman interrupted: 'We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree in the center of the garden. God told us, 'Don't eat its fruit, or even touch it, or you'll die.'' But the snake said to hear, 'You certainly won't die.'" (Genesis 3:1-4 - TPT)
We all know the result of Eve's doubt—She ate the forbidden fruit along with her husband. Why? It was because of doubt and unbelief. Scriptures are filled with stories of individuals who discounted God's promises and doubted the veracity of His word. The Israelites made the month of Av, our current month, the lowest point on the Hebrew calendar through their unbelief. God's intent was that this would be the month to celebrate His goodness. The Israelites stood at the border of the Promised Land, the place where God wanted them to live and demonstrated to the rest of the world His loving kindness and faithfulness. Spies sent into Canaan brought back the amazing fruit of the land. Grapes were so huge that they were carried back to the tribes on a pole between two men. Yet, there were two voices amongst the twelve men who spied out the land. Caleb and Joshua declared the voice of faith while the other ten men declared a voice of unbelief. God's promise to the tribes of Israel was undeniable. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." (Exodus 14:14) The Israelites had a choice to make. Would they partner with God or with doubt and unbelief? The fear they took on made them embrace unbelief. On the 9th of Av, they made a wrong decision and a negative confession that placed them under a curse. As they partnered with doubt and unbelief, the promises of God were delayed. The manifestation of the curse went on year after year and continues today. The cycle of destruction can be seen in the events that have occurred on the 9th of Av. Here is a short list: Babylon destroyed the first temple, Rome destroyed the second temple, Hitler began deporting Jews to death camps, Jews were expelled from England, Spain, Portugal, and Gaza, all in different years.
You may ask why this cycle of destruction has continued. Hebrews 4:1-3 explains what happened. "Now God has offered to us the same promises of entering into His realm of resting in confident faith. So, we must be extremely careful to ensure that we all embrace the fullness of that promise and not fail to experience it. For we have heard the good news of deliverance just as they did, yet they didn't join their faith with the Word. Instead, what they heard didn't affect them deeply, for they doubted. For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest..."(TPT) The children of Israel never repented for their sin of unbelief which allows the enemy to continue on his path of destruction. The sin was repeated when Jesus, the Messiah, came to earth. He told the Jews He is the Son of God, demonstrated His Kingdom through miracles, and gave them words of life. The promises Jesus brought were not received, and they embraced unbelief.
We must be the generation that redeems the sin of unbelief. It might seem like an impossible task, but the Lord has shown us how to do it. The steps follow: Confess the sin of believing a lie; Forgive those who contributed to the way we formed the ungodly belief; Ask for and receive God's forgiveness; Renounce and break any agreement with the powers of darkness; Choose to accept, believe, and receive God's truth. Verse 3 of "A Mighty Fortress" says it all: "And tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed, His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure; for lo his doom is sure—One little word shall fell him." Let's choose to believe God's promises and enter His blessing!
Have you ever thought of the verb "steward" in the context of pain, suffering, and sorrow? Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, taught me about this concept. In a recent sermon he preached after the death of his beloved wife, Beni, Bill spoke about the mystery of life and death and how it impacts our relationship with God. He made it clear that we cannot reevaluate what God is like because of loss.
Mark 10:15 quotes Jesus: "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Jesus affirmed child-like faith to His disciples. Bill explains living with mystery in relationship to childlikeness. "The inability to live with mystery is your resistance to childlikeness. It is childlikeness that gives us access to dimensions and realms of the Kingdom that you can't get any other way. Childlike faith trusts no matter what."
Pain and loss, Bill says, presents us with an opportunity. "We only have one opportunity to steward a moment of pain." This word steward really caught my attention. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the verb steward with the following words: manage, supervise, direct, handle, oversee, tend. I believe Bill is suggesting that we redeem our pain by directing it into a time of worship. He explains that the best way to mourn is through hope. Those of us who know Jesus understand that with Him there is always hope. He is the Redeemer! Let's look at Romans 5:2b-5. "And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirt, who has been given to us."
God gave us His first and best gift—His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice so that we could have everlasting life with Him. This poured out love is never ending. The best way for us to connect with His love is through worship. Worship expressed in difficulties and sorrow and during times of inexpressible pain is what puts us into His Presence. Bill says, "Answers don't fix the problem; Presence does." True worship presents the Lord with an offering that costs us something.
Didn't Jesus model this for us? His pain and suffering on the Cross were unimaginable! He experienced separation from God and yet He trusted Him. His last words were, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) Jesus knew that His Father is always good and would use the seed of His death for a great harvest. We must follow HIs example by stewarding our moments of pain when they present themselves to us. We must embrace childlike faith and trust the Lord to redeem our pain. Remember, in heaven we will not be able to worship in pain. Bill says this "privilege" only comes on earth. He continues: "Worship is expressing joy in loss and celebration in pain. I must honor Him as the Healer that I know He is even when I do not see it. He does not owe me an explanation. I must give Him an offering that costs me."
Job 13:15 begins, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him..." We have a reason to embrace hope, as Bill explains. "Every loss and disappointment can become a seed that brings increase. God uses our crisis's to help us grow. Jesus takes our pain and loss and gives them to God. He will plant them and will be glorified by the blessing." Bill prayed a prayer for all of us: "May you be blessed with courage to lean into mystery and experience who He is as an unfailing, unchanging Father who is always good!" Amen!
Those who were in the twin towers on 9/11/2001 and lived through it were forever changed. Such is the case for Leslie Haskin, who put her experience into words in her book Between Heaven and Ground Zero. The horror she endured left her with PTSD. Making her way down 36 floors amidst collapsed walls and stairs, shell-shocked people, and dead bodies imprinted her mind with confusion, pain, and fear.
Here is some of what Leslie wrote about her life after 9/11: "I rode an elevator 36 floors and got off in the middle of a lunatic's delusion of justice. The terrorist attacks of September 11 shattered my life and left me with nothing to rebuild...I had flashbacks that caused me to react. They felt as real as being there all over again. I could smell the building. I could hear the bells. I was drawn to roadkill...I was anxious all the time and afraid of my own backyard, convinced that the Taliban was hiding inside my shed...My future was hopeless...I had panic attacks when left alone and anxiety attacks when too many people were around. Sleep was impossible without sleeping pills, which only worked for a few hours." (Pages 122 - 123)
Leslie felt the tug of God on her heart as she went through her healing journey. Psalm 13 became significant to her. It starts with questions: "How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? (Verse 1 - KJV) The Psalm ends with an acknowledgment of God's faithfulness. "But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord because He hath dealt bountifully with me." (Verses 5-6 - KJV) As she healed, the Lord began to speak to Leslie about forgiveness. On one of her morning walks she heard it. "This morning, through the open heart of a CD, there is an insistent yet gentle call. 'Forgiveness is absolute.'"
God's timing is perfect. He knows what we are capable of and when we can do what He desires. Leslie records what happened on her walk: "For the first time, I cried with my whole heart and soul—with abandon—like there was no one else in the world but me, and Islam. I fell to the ground and my knees scraped against gravel. Tears poured down my face. I was weak and divided and I remembered… Everything that I couldn't forget. I remembered what they did. I remembered all that they did—the massacre, the horror, and all the intent. Then...I let go. You see, I knew in my heart that there was no turning back. Because when it is time to leave a place, it is impossible to stay. I was moving on. Forgiveness is not conditional. 'And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.'" (Pages 142 - 144)
Leslie calls the chapter on forgiveness "Light of the World - Into the Heart of Islam." She begins by re-writing a note found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravens Bruck Concentration Camp. Here is what it said: "O Lord, Remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead, remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness."
This brings me to tears. I am sure that our Savior, Jesus Christ, must have a seat of honor for this person in Heaven. What maturity! What insight! What compassion! What love! Whoever this person is, they truly understood what the Lord did for them on the Cross. We should think in a similar way!
A significant date on the Hebrew calendar is Tammuz 17 (July 16 on our calendar for 2022). On this date, Moses returned from his visit with God bringing the Ten Commandments on a set of tablets. He was horrified to find that the Israelites were sinning by worshiping the golden calf they made while he was on Mount Sinai. They were sacrificing to their hand-made idol and "indulging in revelry." (Exodus 32:6) Scripture tells us that the anger of Moses "burned, and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain." (Exodus 32:19)
When the Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land, they sent 12 leaders (one from each tribe) to investigate the land of Canaan. They spent much of the month of Tammuz, the fourth month, in this Promised Land forming opinions that they would report to the rest of the tribes. The spies returned on the 9th of Av, the fifth month. All but two of the twelve gave a bad report and led the rest of the camp into making a bad decision, a decision based on fear, that would keep an entire generation out of the Promised Land.
The three-week period between Tammuz 17 and Av 9 is now one that is named "The Dire Straits." Looking back in history, we see that this period of time has repeatedly been a tumultuous one where evil agendas prospered. The name for this three-week period came from Lamentations 1:3. "Judah has gone into captivity; under affliction and hard servitude. She dwells among the nations; She finds no rest. All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits." (NKJ) In Hebrew it is "Bein Hametzarim" and can be translated "narrow straights." The Jewish people mark this day with a fast and remember that it was also the date when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 AD.
Over the years, the three weeks in The Dire Straits have been a time of crisis and destruction. The enemy of our souls has this time frame marked on his calendar so that year after year he attempts to destroy the Jews, the Church, and all Believers in Yeshua. The enemy wants to destroy our spiritual temples and our walk with God. How should we deal with the next three weeks? First, we should take the advice that Peter gives us in 1 Peter 5:8-9. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." Next, we must remember the tumultuous seasons of the past and prepare for the battle. Hosea warns the children of Israel: "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." (Hosea 3:6)
Chuck Pierce, leader of Glory of Zion in Texas, calls Tammuz the "filmstrip" month. He encourages us to look back at each frame of the "strip" to review our progression of life and stop to make adjustments so that we stay on the Lord's path. The Israelites failed because they did not remember the ways in which God had cared for them time and time again as they traveled through the wilderness. They did not recall the faithfulness of God in keeping HIs promises.
Satan's demons will be working overtime during this month as they attempt to entice us into building idols instead of directing our eyes and hearts toward our Lord. We should use the next three weeks to repent of our sins and destroy any legal right the kingdom of darkness has because of it. Also, we must not build any idols. John Wesley calls an idol "anything or anyone that we love more than God." Then, we must "guard our hearts, for everything we do flows through it." (Proverbs 4:23) Finally, let's make this time one of extravagant worship to the Lord. He is worthy of all our praise and honor and worship.
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)
How could I not share with you the wonderful insight Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gave to his readers in his June newsletter? Frequently this man blesses me with the revelation God imparts to him. Jonathan wrote about a major persecutor of the first Believers in Christ. Herod Agrippa, it says in Acts 12:1, caused "great harm to the Believers." (TPT) He oversaw the region of Judea but after unsuccessfully attempting to kill Simon Peter, spent some time in Caesarea. During his stay there, Herod "delivered a stirring public address to the people." (Acts 12:21) The people of Caesarea gave him high praises. His attitude angered God. Acts 12:23 tells us, "An angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, an infestation of worms, because he accepted the people's worship and didn't give the glory to God, and he died." (TPT) "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
Rabbi Cahn points this out: "The worms were just doing what worms naturally do—eating. Yet as they were eating, they were fulfilling God's will and purpose...They were on divine assignment. They were bringing judgment to a tyrant. They were even being used to save the apostles and the first Believers. The worms brought about the end of that persecution...One of the most powerful and dynamic of rulers is struck down and rendered powerless. Yet one of the most powerless of creatures, the worm, proves to be of greater power than the king, even to the point of changing history."
There is a message for us in this dramatic example of a simple worm changing the course of history. We may not believe that our simple lives have much of an impact on the world around us. However, all we need to do to touch the lives of others is do what we were made to do. The worms did what God made them to do—eat. God set each of us in a specific time and place in history and filled us with specific gifts and plans and purposes. All we need to do is follow the Lord's directions and use the gifts He has given to us.
As Jonathan says, "You may not see how your life is making a difference in this world. You will never know how many lives will be changed by the simple acts of righteousness that you have done in the Lord." He reminds us that "The apostles seemed to be of little influence; they had little money or fame or world influence and evil men such as Caligula, Nero, and Herod appeared to have all the power. Yet God showed the power of His hands by using the weakest of creatures to bring down the Kingdom."
It is my observation that many of us are discouraged by the direction that our country is taking. It seems that a liberal agenda is gaining momentum, and we feel powerless to bring about any change. Let us remember the example of the worm. One step in the direction God calls us to can change our families, our churches, our communities, our nation, or even our world. We must keep our ears tuned to the Lord and our eyes fixed on Him so that we can do what He calls us to do. As Jonathan says, "Even the smallest of worms, in the Kingdom of God, is more powerful than the greatest of kings. God has called you to be even more powerful than those most influential worms."
Joan E. Mathias