After Covid 19 hit our country, my church decided to hold services outside. The worship team and pastor minister under a large, 2-story front entrance porch. The congregation sits facing the front of the building either in a tent on the parking lot or on the lawn. As my husband and I worshiped together on the lawn, we have a great view of the building and the steeple that rises to the sky above. The history of the architecture of American churches goes back to when our nation was settled. One of the first buildings the pioneers constructed in their villages was the church. It was the center of all activities. Worshiping God was their chief priority. Most of the churches built had a steeple that was topped with a spire. It symbolized the church's heavenly aspirations.
When I sit at one of our services and look at the front of our church, my eyes are instantly drawn to the steeple. Recently, I noticed that hornets have been very busy over the summer, because there is a huge hornet's nest at the juncture of the steeple and the spire. The hornets chew wood to build their paper-like structures. The teardrop-shaped nest only has one opening for the hornets to enter and leave. Fortunately, the nest attached to our church steeple is so high that we do not have to be concerned about an attack by the hornets. In addition, fall and cooler temperatures are approaching. The nest will deteriorate over the winter. I began to wonder how a hornet determines where it will build its nest. My research shows that they look for a location that has cracks in it so they can firmly attach their nest. It is recommended that homeowners caulk and seal any cracks in the sides of their buildings so that hornets will not attempt to build their unwanted structure.
As I looked at the nest on our church steeple, I felt like God was telling me that there is prophetic significance to this picture. There is a battle going on between good and evil in our world today. Sadly, much of the Church has compromised their position and allowed the enemy to have his way. We are warned about this in Ephesians 4:27: "...Do not give the devil a foothold." Just as the hornets built their nest in the cracks of our steeple, the devil found cracks in the foundation of our churches and has built a nest so that he can operate inside the life of the church to influence her decisions for evil. Our country has bought into the lies of the enemy and has made decisions that are directly opposite of the commandments in Scripture and the foundations upon which our nation was formed. The Church cannot continue to compromise! The soul of our nation is at stake, and the country needs the prayers and actions of the saints to bring it back into alignment with the intentions of our founding fathers. This could be the Church's greatest hour of achievement or failure for the Kingdom of God.
The enemy is attacking the Church's foundation. For seven months our lives have been severely restricted through government regulations meant to protect us from Covid 19. At this point they have been softened somewhat; however, it appears as though they will continue through the rest of the year. They hit at the heart of the Church--worship and fellowship! In addition, fear has struck many—not only fear of sickness, but fear of violence that is ravaging our cities. Rage and anarchy have been unleashed by those who want to control our nation in an unholy agenda.
I praise God for the churches that are standing their ground! They found the cracks in their foundations and are filling them. They are leading their congregations in repentance and return to lives of purity and love. They see that God has given us a period of grace. But I wonder how long this grace will last. Peter gives us good advice for this season: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your bothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Paul gives us solid advice in Colossians 4:2-6. "Be faithful to pray as intercessors who are fully alert and give thanks to God...Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make Him known. Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith." (TPT)
The number 40 is significant to God. The first time we see it in the Bible is in Genesis 7:4 when God tells Noah, "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." After escaping from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Exodus 16:35 says, "The Israelites ate manna 40 years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they left the border of Canaan." When Moses was talking with God, "he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18, 34:28) After Gideon and his tribe subdued the Midianites, "the land enjoyed peace 40 years." (Judges 8:28) When the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord they were delivered "into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1) David reigned as king of Israel for 40 years. (2 Samuel 5:4) Likewise, his son, Solomon, reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel 40 years. (1 Kings 11:42)
Joash reigned as king of Israel for 40 years and used this time to repair the temple. (2 Kings 12:1) Through Jonah, God told the Ninevites that they had to repent within 40 days or Nineveh would be destroyed. (Jonah 3:4) Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. (Matthew 4:2) Satan tempted Him during that 40-day period. (Luke 4:2) After His death and resurrection, "Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) As we can see from the Scriptures above, 40 is the number of probation and testing that ends in victory or defeat.
The Jewish people have established a 40-day period between Elul 1 and Tishrei 10 (Yom Kippur) as a time for repentance. It is a time to turn from evil and turn towards good. It takes its name from the Hebrew root word "shoov" which means return. These days are called The Teshuvah--the days of turning, fasting, and repentance. The 40 days are meant as a time of preparation for the upcoming new year that begins at sundown on September 18. It is in this season of turning from sin that one moves toward the Lord. The key word here is return. Throughout the Scriptures, prophets and apostles called to God's people to repent and return. Let's look at some of them:
"'Return (Teshuvah) backsliding Israel,' says Adonai. 'I will no longer frown on you, for I am merciful,' says Adonai...'Return (Teshuvah), O backsliding children,' declares Adonai..." (Jeremiah 3:12, 14)
"Yet even now, turn (Teshuvah) to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and lamenting. Rend your heart, not your garments, and turn (Teshuvah) to Adonai, your God..." (Joel 2:12-13)
"Come, let us return (Teshuvah) to Adonai. He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)
"Return to Me (Teshuvah) and I will return to you." (God's Teshuvah) (Zechariah 1:3)
Turn away (Teshuvah) from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)
"Repent (Teshuvah), therefore, and return (Teshuvah)--so your sins might be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) ("Teshuvah" Scriptures taken from the Messianic Jewish Bible—Tree of Life Version)
This is the season when we should be inviting the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to change in our lives. We need to be mindful of the decisions we make and the actions we take. I find it fitting that two giants in the faith, Franklin Graham and Jonathan Cahn, have selected September 26 as a day of national repentance (Teshuvah) in Washington, D. C. The event is called "The Return" and is meant to be a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance. It falls the day before Yom Kippur. Jonathan Cahn explains that America is in a pivotal moment in time. We have turned away from our foundations and call good evil and evil good. The Biblical template shows us that after a nation is warned by God, it has a window of time to repent. September 26 has been designated as a day of prayer, fasting, and repentance for ourselves and the nation. It happens to be the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on the shores of America and 40 days before the presidential election. Let us join Christians in our nation in humbly coming before the Lord and crying out for His mercy.
As the summer draws to a close the flowers planted in the spring are pushing out their last blossoms before the frost does them in. One of my favorite annuals, growing on my deck, is a Mandevilla vine. Its oblong leaves are shiny green, and its trumpet-shaped flowers have 5 pure white petals with a pale pink blush at their base and a yellow throat. The vine grows aggressively from many different shoots, with the new growth frequently intertwining. Yesterday I found three of the shoots circling an oblong flower bud ready to break open. This would not have been possible had I not freed the bud from the restricting tendrils. I must be vigilant in keeping the new grow from choking the flowers.
The enemy of our souls acts somewhat like these choking vines. He targets anything new and beautiful in our lives, attempting to choke it out. With restrictions binding us, we are unable to bless others, because we are fighting for our own lives. Just as new flower buds on the Mandevilla vine break open daily to swell and reveal their lovely pristine petals and calyx, God gives us new possibilities to reflect His beauty daily. We must push against the enemy attacks to share the Lord's beauty in our lives.
I discovered this summer that squirrels love to eat the Mandevilla leaves and flowers. One evening I came home to find a squirrel sitting on my deck chair with an entire shoot in its paws. He was eating one leaf at a time and saved the flower buds for dessert. Ugh!! I will not allow this enemy of my beautiful vine to destroy it. There is a yardstick by my door that I use to chase the squirrels. My persistence has helped in keeping them away.
What have I learned from my experience with this vine? A Christian receives attacks from within and without just like the Mandevilla vine. Vigilance is mandatory! The enemy attacks when we are unaware. He may come upon our physical or our emotional wellbeing. He attempts to incapacitate us through the frequency and nature of his attacks. His strategy is to wear us down. Along with vigilance, we must have persistence. This will stop the enemy of our souls from developing strongholds. If we give him an inch, he will take a mile. Cutting him off before he gets rooted into our souls will benefit us in our battle.
The wonderful news is that we do not fight our battles alone. The Gardner of our souls is vigilant and persistent—always ready to come to our aid. He teaches us how to fight the fight. Paul gave Timothy this advice: "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confessions in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12) Paul also gives us advice in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Jesus wants us to capture the hearts of the people of this world through our beauty that reflects Him. He is ready to fight with us in the battle against the enemy of our souls. Let us join Him in being vigilant and persistent so that we overcome the enemy and spread the Good News.
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.
Lake Winnipesaukee sits at the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The spring-fed lake is 72 sq. miles. Winnipesaukee is an Indian name meaning "The Smile of the Great Spirit." (In my opinion, God‘s smile was placed upon this outstandingly beautiful lake. He must have put extra attention into creating it.) It is the largest lake in New Hampshire and the third largest in New England. There are six main bays on the Lake and approximately 264 islands. The large central portion of the Lake is known as "The Broads." It runs from the northwest to the southeast, is relatively free from islands, and is very deep.
High winds are common on Lake Winnipesaukee. The shape and location of the Lake makes it vulnerable to the southeast winds that come inland. It is not unusual for hurricane winds to hit the Lake. The "personality" of Winnipesaukee can change quickly if the winds arise, particularly in the open area of The Broads. A boater may embark on a trip across the Lake with calm waters only to find that an hour later the winds have increased significantly, making the surface of the water choppy with high waves and white caps. The trip home for this boater will be uncomfortable as the boat will pound across the water. This is particularly true if the boat is moving against the wind. My family and I experienced the fury of the recent hurricane at Lake Winnipesaukee last week. Trees were bending over from the strength of the wind, and the surface of the water became rough and chaotic. Boaters who were on the Lake quickly set a course for home.
Watching this storm, I remembered that Jesus stilled a storm for the disciples who were trying to get across the Sea of Galilee. They left the spot where Jesus had been teaching and headed toward the Gerasene region. Scripture says, "Suddenly, as they were crossing the Lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on cushion. So they shook Him awake, saying, 'Teacher, don't you even care that we are all about to die!' Fully awake, He rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, 'Hush! Calm down!' All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm.
Then He turned to His disciples and said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Haven't you learned to trust yet?' But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, 'Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey Him?'" (Mark 4:37-41 - TPT)
Do you understand what happened here? The disciples lost sight of the fact that Jesus was in the boat with them! Yes, they were in a ferocious storm, but the One who commands the wind and water to do His bidding (Psalm 148:7-8) was with them. Yes, He was sleeping, but peace was all around Him. When the disciples woke Him up it only took a word from Jesus to calm the water and waves. "Hush! Calm down!"
We are also in a season of storms of many different kinds. We are in uncharted territory without knowing what to do. However, every Believer has the answers on how to survive the storms. Look to Jesus, the One who is in our boat with us. "...He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes the winds His messengers, flames of fire His servants." (Psalm 104:3-4) Look to Jesus and receive His peace.
The legend of King Arthur and the knights of his Round Table is one that has been told in many forms. My favorite is through the musical "Camelot." Arthur had a vision of a land and people who live in peace and harmony. He gathered prominent knights from around the world who swore loyalty to him, agreed to observe a code of chivalry that required them to be brave and courteous, fight injustice and evil, and protect the weak and underprivileged.
The brotherhood of knights sat at a round table to discuss their adventures and make plans for peace. King Arthur's dream for Camelot came to an end as one of his knights, Sir Lancelot, fell in love with the Queen. Arthur's illegitimate son, Mordred, exposed the affair and rose up against the orderly kingdom. In the final scene of Camelot, Arthur is with his battle-ready troops. A small boy named Tom comes and asks to become a knight of the Round Table. He knows well the requirements for the knights and repeats one of their pledges: "Not might makes right, but might for right!" Arthur realizes that his dream has not died because someone from the next generation can inspire others to live it. On the spot, Arthur commissions Tom as an ambassador to spread the story of Camelot. King Arthur's hope for the future is restored.
Doesn't King Arthur's dream remind us of the one that our King has for us? The plans of the Lord are for our salvation through Jesus Christ, our prosperity through living in peace and unity with one another, and our generosity in helping those in need. He sent Jesus to the earth to share the good news. While here, Jesus selected 12 disciples to live with Him, learn about Kingdom living and then demonstrate it to others. Not only were the disciples commissioned, but so are we who are His children.
Look how the prophet Isaiah prophesied to Jerusalem after they endured many calamities. "My people will know my name...How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!’ ...Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God." (Isaiah 52:6-10)
In Paul's letter to the Romans, he quotes Isaiah after asking some questions: "...And how can they hear the message of life if there is no one there to proclaim it? And how can the message be proclaimed if messengers have yet to be sent? That is why the Scriptures say: 'How welcoming is the arrival of those proclaiming the joyful news of peace and of good things to come!'" (Romans 10:14-15-TPT) We are like the small boy, Tom, being the sent ones. Jesus told His disciples, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
Dear Ones, we are the sent ones tasked with sharing the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We are citizens of God's heavenly Kingdom. God has "entrusted to us the ministry of opening the door of reconciliation to God. We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly, through our lips..." (2 Corinthians 5:19-20-TPT) The Passion Translation footnote says that "to be ambassadors for Christ means that we are diplomatic agents of the highest rank sent to represent King Jesus and authorized to speak on His behalf. We are the voice of heaven to the earth, invested with royal power through the name of Jesus and authority of His blood." As we share the good news, we are bringing joy to our King and helping to expand His Kingdom. Psalm 78 tells the details of the journey of the Israelites and of God's faithfulness to them. The Psalmist declares that the story must continue to be told: "So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands." (Psalm 78:6-7) Amen! Let's keep the good news alive!
The time frame between the 17th of Tammuz (the 4th month on the Hebrew calendar) and the 9th of Av (the 5th month) is called Bein Hametzarim or "Between the Straits." The term for this three-week period originated in Lamentations 1:3 as written in Hebrew. "Judah has gone into exile because of suffering and harsh toil. She dwelled among the nations but found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her in the narrow straits." It is also called the time of dire straits. On Tuesday night we entered the month of Av—one where we need to be vigilant and agree with the promises of God.
A cycle of destruction during the dire straits that has been harmful to the Jewish people began when the children of Israel decided to believe a negative report about their ability to take the Promised Land. Fear overtook them so that they did not believe God's promises. During a period of 40 years, every person over the age of 19 died in the wilderness, except for Joshua and Caleb, who did go into the Promised Land and settle there. It is lack of repentance by the Israelites that opened the door for the enemy to attack them repeatedly during The Three Weeks. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 AD at the beginning of this period. Both temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av. A Torah scroll was burned by a Roman military leader prior to the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132 AD. Crusades against the Jews led to the killing of thousands of them and has continued throughout the years.
The Jews know that they must be vigilant during the Dire Straits. However, many in the church have not understood their spiritual roots and the Biblical calendar that would give them warning about the dire straits. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) The enemy is still on the prowl against the Jews and Christians. He rears his ugly head during this season to destroy our spiritual temples. He seeks to devour us. We must be "self-controlled and alert."(1 Peter 5:8) We must be awakened to the demonic cycles of destruction so that we can be ready for battle and take a preemptive strike against the enemy in the power and authority given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are definitely in a period of distress right now! A full-on attack has been launched against our health and economic well-being. Battles that pit black against white are taking place in our streets. Our elected officials are placing politics above leading wisely. Godly values are crumbling, and the family unit is being dismantled. Both spiritual and natural warfare are intensifying.
What are we to do? First, I want to bring to your attention Richard Wurmbrand, a Messianic Jew who was imprisoned and tortured by the Communist in Romania for 15 years. He became an expert at dealing with times of distress and developed a "recipe" for a type of "tea" that had seven ingredients or "herbs," as he called it. (1) Contentedness - Be satisfied with what you have. I may shiver in my rags as I gnaw on a crust, but how much worse off I should be if they had thrown me naked into a dungeon with nothing at all to eat! (2) Common sense - Whether I rejoice or worry, I shall still be in prison, so why repine? (3) Remembrance of past sin - Count them, and on the supposition that every sin deserves a day in prison, reckon how many lives you would spend behind bars. You have been let off lightly! (4) The thought of the Cross - If the only man on earth who could choose his fate chose to become sin, what great value He must have seen in it! Suffering redeems. (5) Suffering has been given to us by God as from a father, not to harm us, but to cleanse and sanctify us. - The suffering through which we pass has the purpose of purifying us and preparing us for heaven. (6) No suffering can harm a Believer's life - ...Prison cannot stop me from loving; iron bars cannot exclude faith... (7) Hope - The wheel of life may put the emperor's physician in prison, but it goes on turning. It may put me back into the palace, and even on the throne. Wurmbrand declared upon his release from prison, "I have drunk barrels of this tea, and I can recommend it to you all. It has proved good." He went on to establish an organization that supports Christian who are persecuted called Voice of the Martyrs.
Second, we should be alert to the schemes of the enemy against us. We must stand our ground, being watchful. Let us realign our hearts with the Lord by repenting for our sins so that the enemy has no legal ground or open doors to enter. We must be faithful in prayer for Israel, for the Church, and ourselves. We must be those who worship the Lord in every circumstance because worship chases away the enemy and establishes us in God's camp.
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?
Battles are part of maturing in Christ. The battlefield is our minds. While our spirits were totally revived and renewed on the day of our salvation, our souls (mind, will, emotions) must be transformed. Demons target our minds, planting thoughts in them to catch us off-guard. Anytime we agree with the kingdom of darkness we open a gate for demons to enter and give them permission to operate in our lives. It is important for us to continually evaluate our belief system and the behaviors that accompany it to see if we are building a protected place for them from which they can operate. This is called a stronghold. Any belief that we have that does not agree with God's truth can become a stronghold for the enemy. Consider some of the ways that we may come into agreement with the demonic: sin, fear, anxiety, pride, lying, unbelief, self-condemning thoughts. It is with human agreement that the devil is empowered. By participating with the kingdom of darkness in our thought systems, we are building a stronghold or fortified place for the enemy of our souls to hide and attack us.
The good news is that Jesus came to earth to demonstrate the will of God, which is to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) He instructed us to pray for the Kingdom of heaven to come to earth. (Matthew 6:10) He modeled the essence of Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will." In his book The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane tells us that God made us to be overcomers. The principle for success is this: "Victory begins with the name of Jesus on your lips, but it will not be consummated until the nature of Jesus is in your heart...God's only answer is to become Christlike . As you begin to appropriate not just the name of Jesus, but His nature as well, the adversary will withdraw."
How do we fight this battle? Francis tells us we must "allow the Spirit of Christ full access into our souls." Our goal is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. (Romans 8:29) We must make our minds strongholds for the Lord instead of the enemy by renewing it. Our bodies are temples for the Lord to dwell in and need to come into agreement with heaven. This is confirmed in Scripture: "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
Possessing humility or lack of it can have a major impact on one's life. Should we be accused of wrong-doing or failing, we must humbly repent and confess our sins and then appropriate what Jesus did for us at the Cross. Confess like this: "Jesus is my righteousness and through His blood I am forgiven and cleansed." In doing this, we break down the stronghold of the enemy. Then we can build a stronghold for the Lord by living like Him and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Keeping a record of what God has done for us and others and reviewing it regularly can bring hope and inspiration. Hearing and reading testimonies of God's goodness will stir us to believe that all things are possible with Christ. Along with this, we should use the tool of declaration. "Declare a thing, and it shall be established for you." (Job 22:28 - NKJV)
"The Word of God is living and active. It is sharper than any double-edge sword." (Hebrews 4:12) It also pulls down enemy strongholds and renews our minds. We cannot allow our minds to stray to the thoughts of the enemy but must meditate on God's Word regularly. Past experiences can make us doubt the goodness of God. We must declare God's goodness and faithfulness in the midst of trials. Praise and worship position us in the presence of God. Bill Johnson, lead pastor at Bethel Church, says, "When we worship in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties we build a gate where the King of Glory can invade our situations. Rise above your circumstances and declare the goodness of God."
It is a life-long task—perfecting our souls. Our souls find rest in God alone. (Psalm 62:1) It would be helpful for us to declare Psalm 146:1-2 over ourselves. "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." He is worthy of praise and honor!
Joan E. Mathias