When the Israelites had traveled through the wilderness and were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God gave them reminders of their journey, instructions on how to live their lives, and promises for the future. The book of Deuteronomy is filled with these. We can read what God told them about the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:10-12. "The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
Throughout the time that they were moving toward Mt. Sinai God was drawing His people to Himself by revealing who He is and what He had in store for them. He told them, "Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) He wanted a people who were set apart and formed in His identity. One of the concepts that was introduced to the Israelites was that of firstfruits. It required them to be dedicated to celebrating it at the beginning of the grain harvests and was an act of worship. They needed to go into their fields to select the first and best stalk of grain to present to the priests as an offering to the Lord. The firstfruits offerings were brought to the priests during the three primary feasts and at the beginning of each new month. The principle is that the first of everything belongs to the Lord—crops, livestock, and children. By giving the first part of their blessing to God, they were dedicating and sanctifying the rest.
The Israelites learned much as they spent 50 days traveling to Mt. Sinai where God would give them the law and a new identity as a people. On the Jewish calendar they moved during the end of the month of Nisan and the entire month of Iyar. The second month, Iyar, became a time of transition for them as they were led into a new level of relationship with the Lord. He introduced them to His nature. First, God showed them that He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. Then He introduced them to His names Jehovah Jaira, the God who Provides, and Jehovah Nissi, the Lord, my Banner of Victory. As they moved from Passover redemption to the place of praise and giving the Lord a firstfruits offering, they learned about keeping covenant.
God was indeed faithful to His children and eventually demonstrated to them that He was willing to give everything in an act of sacrifice that reverberates through the ages. God gave His Son, Jesus, as an offering of redemption. He was crucified, but resurrected, and became a firstfruits offering Himself. First Corinthians 15:20 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." It is no coincidence that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was resurrected on the day of firstfruits, when the children of Israel would have been presenting their Passover barley sheaf to the priests who lifted it up before God as an offering to Him.
How does this relate to us today? God has given us His very best in the sacrifice of His Son. Just as the children of Israel brought their first and best to God, we can use this time up until Pentecost to present a daily offering to the Lord. A way for counting God's goodness was introduced to the Israelites. We can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-16. From the first day of a firstfruits offering, they were to count 50 days and then present God with another firstfruits offering during Shavuot, called Pentecost by the Church. Today this is called counting the Omer. As they counted, it was important for God’s people to remember the goodness of God. Like the children of Israel, let's be dedicated to giving the Lord a daily thanksgiving for His goodness and love between now and Pentecost.
Greeks came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration according to John 12. They wanted to meet Jesus, however He told His disciples, "Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives." (John 12:23-24 - NLT) Jesus continues: "And I, when lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32) Jesus drew us to Himself through His death and resurrection. His intent is that we are to be a part of His storyline.
At the moment of the death of Jesus, the earth shook, rocks split, and tombs broke open. When the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus saw these events they exclaimed, "Surely He was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54) Indeed, He is and proved His identity through His resurrection on the Jewish celebration called "Firstfruits." This was the traditional day of giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and the giving of the firstfruits of the barley harvest in the spring. Jesus became the firstfruits from the dead. Here is how it is explained in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
Jesus came to the earth to show us how to live. His disciples learned to live like their master. Our identity is likewise in Him. Just as God gave His best for us, we must give our best for others. In this way we honor God, and He reveals to us our own unique destiny. We are part of the storyline of Jesus as we identify with His selflessness and love. We have been called, along with the Body of Christ, to redeem the wrecks of time. Our lives are part of a bigger story and have been united with other Believers in Christ.
As we accept the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, we become part of the family of God by the power of His resurrection. A hard concept to understand is that God has chosen to do His work on the earth in partnership with us. True, each of us has a unique call, however we have also been woven together like a piece of fabric with other Believers so that we can accomplish His divine plans and purposes. That fabric includes not only our present generation, but those who have gone before us and those who will come after us.
Matt Lockett and Will Ford wrote about the connection of the ages in their book The Dream King. Will writes, "In Christ, my stories are your stories, and your stories are mine. Remember, as Christians we share the same heritage. Our collective history is made from a diverse yet unified remnant...Jesus ever lives to make intercession so that you and I, as His family members, can together shape the future with Him...Through Him, a new remnant is both healing history and making history." (Page 32) Matt agrees with Will: "This fabric of our lives and families creates the backdrop for the nations and the times in which we live...God watches over our destinies, watches over our nation, and invites us to shape the future with Him through prayers." (Page 42) Matt calls us "The Stewards of the Storyline," not only of our biological family, but also of our Christian family.
Today is Resurrection Sunday. With gratitude we should allow this day to inspire us to be healing agents of the generations and planters of seed that will bear good fruit for the blessing of the nations. Our Savior showed us the way. Let us follow Him!
Ruth Heflin's book, Glory, is written to help us understand not only what it is but also how to experience it. Her vast service to the Lord took her to the nations where she shared the revelation that God gave to her. She was a song writer and pastor and was known for her ability to lead people into spontaneous worship. She explains that glory is the realm of eternity, the atmosphere of Heaven, and the revelation of the presence of God because He is Glory. Her ministry of praise on Mt. Zion was birthed after God spoke to her in the middle of the night. He said, "You sow to the heavens, and I will sow to the earth." After hearing this word from the Lord, Ruth realized that there is a progression that must take place for us to operate in the glory of God. She says, "Praise until the spirit of worship comes, worship until the glory comes. Then, stand in the glory!"
What does praise look like and what are its benefits? According to Ruth, praise is an instrument of harvest, celebration, warfare, and ascent. Praise to voice thanksgivings to God (Psalm 26:7), to declare triumph (Psalm 47:1), to sing a new song to Him (Psalm 98:1), and to shout with joy for His might (Psalm 118:15). We "enter His gates with thanksgiving and the courts with praise..." (Psalm 100:4) Psalm 45:1 declares that our "...tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." Just as God created the world with His breath, we must use our mouths to release the sound that sows to the heavens so that God sows back to the earth. Hosea talks about God's response to what we sow: "And the earth shall hear the corn, and wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel." (Hosea 2:22 - KJ) Jezreel means "God sows." These three symbols are of revival that leads to harvest. Ruth says, "You can stand in one place and minister to the Lord and affect revival to the ends of the earth."
Praise is a form of celebration. Doesn't the frequent number of festivals on the Jewish calendar indicate God's love for celebration? In addition, our praises change the atmosphere, and they invite the presence of heaven to come down and make it uncomfortable for the enemy. Look at Psalm 8:2. "Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Praise is the best warfare strategy! And then, our praise leads us up. The temple in Jerusalem was built at the highest elevation. The Psalms of ascent were meant to be used as the people of God climbed the hill of the Lord. We must always look up as we praise.
The transition from praise to worship starts when we begin to lose our sense of the surroundings. In this place we only have eyes for the King. We bow to His majesty. Ruth believes that it is the simplicity of the songs we sing that allows us to move into worship. We must focus on who He is, as the King of kings, the King of Majesty, and the One worthy to receive "glory and honor and power." (Revelation 4:11) According to Ruth our worship must begin at His feet and bring His majesty. Our worship experience is for us to know the Lord and to fall in love with Him. The final stage of worship is intimacy where we begin to know Jesus as our Bridegroom. He longs to hear our unique expressions of love. We should get to know Song of Solomon in the Bible as it teaches us how to confess our affections for the Lord.
As we come into the secret place, the glory realm manifests. "If we have vibrant praise, then we'll have deep worship, and we'll have the fullness of the glory of God manifested," according to Ruth. She also says, "In the glory realm we are more conscious of His holiness. This is why the angels cry, 'Holy! Holy!'" All aspects of ministry become easier in the glory realm: prayer, healing, revelation. Once the glory has arrived, we must linger with the Lord, because He wants to fill us with the riches of His Kingdom.
Just writing about the glory gives me a deeper desire to pursue it. We are meant for the glory realm. Let's not give up until we experience the glory that He promised as a result of our praise and worship! "Praise until the spirit of worship comes, worship until the glory comes. Then, stand in the glory!"
Jeremiah the prophet frequently spoke with the Lord and listened to His explanations of the future for Judah. His emotions were conflicting: He was angry that his people lied, committed adultery, and worshiped idols, but at the same time, he had compassion on them. He was truly an advocate for his people. After listing their sins, the Lord posed a question to Jeremiah: "Should I not punish them for this? Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?" (Jeremiah 9:9) The Lord's conclusion is the following: "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins." (Jeremiah 9:11) "It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law, instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts..." (Jeremiah 9:13-14)
At the time when Babylon came to Judah their evil king, Jehoiachin, was only 18 years old and reigned for only three months. Jeremiah had warned the young king that the Lord was not pleased with him and that he would be handed over to King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was the only prophet that told the truth. He was in a constant battle with the false prophets. Just as Jeremiah prophesied, the people of Judah were overcome by the Babylonians, and many were taken into exile to Babylon. Afterward, Jeremiah had a vision of two baskets filled with figs. One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs while the other was filled with rotten ones. The rotten figs represented those people who remained in Jerusalem or who left for Egypt. God made it clear that those in exile would be cared for. "I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly." (Jeremiah 24:6-7 - NLT)
Encouraged by the Lord's words, Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon with instructions to move forward with their lives and to pray for their captors. His letter to the exiles is contained in Jeremiah 29. "This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives He has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.'" (Jeremiah 29:4-7 - NLT)
The Lord continued to give details of the plans He had for His people in captivity. "'You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord. 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.'" (Jeremiah 29:10-14 - NLT)
We cannot allow discouragement or dire circumstances or distressing situations to overcome us. We must move forward knowing that God is with us. "He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Many of us are discouraged by the way our country seems to be headed and about the decisions our government leaders are making. Let's be encouraged (brought to courage) by the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He has plans for our future. The exiles in Babylon were told to pray for the welfare of the nation where they lived. They were instructed to continue living their lives in the way they did in Jerusalem. We need to take these instructions to heart. Let us continue to live our lives in the fear and admonition of the Lord and to pray for those who are leading us at this moment. At the appointed time, the glory of the Lord will cover the earth and revival will spring up. We will see the transformation of our world as many come to know our Savior. The way we live our lives can be a testimony of God's love and peace to those who do not know Him yet. Our prayers will make a difference. The Lord looks for agreement from us for His plans for a hope and a future for us. Let us bring heaven's plans to earth!
Did you ever think that when God placed you on the earth, He may have done so for you to accomplish one specific purpose? He planned the time and place that you would live. (Acts 17:26) He knew the circumstances that would surround you, the battles you would have to fight, and the thoughts that would go through your head. Consider that His divine purpose for you includes plans to elevate you and bring you closer to Him as you pursue victory. Perhaps you are in a battle right now and are facing a giant that seems impossible to defeat. I always say, "The greatness of the call determines the fierceness of the battle." Be conscious of the gifts you use to fight your battle, because through them God will reveal your destiny and will bring you into greater intimacy with Him.
Think of this: One day and one person can change the world and the future. When we tap into our destinies the power of heaven will come to earth to help us accomplish the goal that God has placed before us. It is fitting that we read the story of Esther in this month. It appears to me that she was a person that God sent to earth for one specific purpose: to make the king of Persia happy so that He would join her in saving her people, the Jews. Esther, along with her parents and cousin Mordecai, was part of the company of exiles brought to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar. When Esther's parents died, she was adopted by Mordecai. She was then selected to be part of the harem of King Xerxes of Persia at a time when a Jew hater named Haman, the kings highest official, was plotting to kill all the Jews in the empire. Because of her beauty and sensitivity to the king's desires, Esther was crowned queen. Mordecai asked her to take advantage of her position and beg for the king's mercy for the Jews. He posed this question: "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14 - NLT)
Adar 13 was the date set by Haman to murder all the Jews in the Kingdom. We are presently in the month of Adar, which means strength. It is the last month on the Hebrew calendar and is associated with joy and a time of unexpected reversals. It is a time for uncovering hidden truth. I hope that these Adar characteristics give you hope as they do me. We have a moment in time where we can participate in the transformation of our own nation. God wants us to join in a prayer of unity for justice and righteousness to prevail in it. Never doubt that our presence as Bible-believing, God-loving people who dispense the fruits of the Spirit to those around us can make a difference. I believe that we are here "for such a time as this." We are on assignment to use the gifts within us to carry out God's call on our lives. Adar is the month to develop our war strategies against the enemy. Doing so helps to stop our fears ad gives us the ability to move into the fullness of the next season. The spiritual new year holds blessings for us. Let's be joyful about who God made us to be as we pursue our identities in the Spirit.
We see the attributes of the month of Adar played out in the Feast of Purim that occurs in the middle of the month. The enemy set a date for the destruction of the Jews, but God used a single Jewish girl, walking in her God-given destiny, to save her people and to transform that date into one of great joy and celebration. For three days, Esther stirred up her courage and prepared for her meeting with the king by spending time in fasting and prayer. Mordecai and the Jews of Susa joined her. She demonstrated to the Lord that her relationship with Him was more important than anything else by dedicating these three days to pursuing His direction. And, as she assured herself of God's faithfulness, she was able to prepare to go before King Xerxes without fear, saying, "And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Of course, Esther did not perish! The king extended his golden scepter to her, Haman's evil plan was exposed so that he and his family were destroyed, Mordecai was promoted, and the Jews transformed the focus of sunset on the 13th to sunset on the 15th of Adar to joy and celebration. These days are called Purim because Haman originally set the date for the demise of the Jews by casting dice or "pur." Even today Purim is celebrated by the Jews. They recognize the importance of one day and one person placed on the earth "for such a time as this." What is our holy purpose—the call of God on our lives? Let us pursue Him, our Maker and Creator, and live out our God-given destinies. Let us be the people God created us to be "for such a time as this."
On my dressing table is a picture of two colorful parrots sitting side-by-side. There is an appropriate quote in the background of these two love birds. "Love has nothing to do with what you're expecting to get—only with what you are expecting to give—which is everything!" The quote comes from actress Katherine Hepburn. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us some words for the definition of love: "Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one's achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving...There are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run." (Verses 4-8, 13-14 - TPT)
Today, Valentine's Day celebrates romance and love. However, that is not how it originated. According to Wikipedia, Western Christianity made February 14 a minor yearly feast to honor a Christian martyr named Valentine. He was executed by the Roman emperor on this date during a time when persecution of Christians was common. The story is that he never lost his love during of the trials he endured. Eventually, he gave it all.
As Christians, it is important for us to understand the characteristics of God's love for us so that we can follow His lead. God's love is unconditional and is described by the Greek word "agape." Our focus must be intentionally centered on Jesus Christ because His love for us is the highest form of love and its demonstration will show us how we are to love others. The love of Jesus is faithful and sacrificial. Just as the Lord was willing to give up all His rights before Father God and man, we must be willing to do the same. To know what true love looks like, we must be willing to make the trip on the road to Calvary to see the Lord's sacrifice. Saint Valentine determined to take this walk and ultimately gave up his life for his love of Jesus.
The love that the Lord has for us is so amazing that He became our Substitute, our Scapegoat, on The Cross. He carried our sins in His own body on The Cross so that we might be forgiven. "He took up our pain and bore our suffering...He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5) Romans 8:34 tells us just how far Jesus went for us and how He continues to help us: "...He gave His life for us, and even more than that, He has conquered death and is now risen, exalted, and enthroned by God at His right hand. So how could He possibly condemn us since He is continually praying for our triumph." (TPT) God's complete love for us should give us the desire to completely surrender to Him and His will.
In Isaiah 54:10 the Lord makes a promise to His people. "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will never be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” What are we expecting when we hear the word love? The love of God is calling to us. He gave it all! Can we do likewise? I think so because of what The Word of God tells us: "...The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5 - NKJ)
One small, withered leaf hangs on to a thin, curved branch on the Maple tree outside my door. It will not release and battles as the wind is relentless in shaking it violently. It should have released in the fall to accomplish its intended purpose—to fall and lie at the base of the tree where it would have joined the other leaves and soil to provide compost for the roots. When a leaf decomposes it goes into the ground and provides nutrients that can be taken in by the tree roots. It is meant to give strength and health to the tree so that it can produce new, green leaves when spring arrives—a new season.
Why doesn't the leaf release? Why doesn't it recognize that the season has changed, and that God has a new purpose for it? As for the leaf, God has set times and seasons for us. Every season comes to us with blessings and opportunities to grow in our faith and trust in God. The enemy does not want us to live in the right season or to obtain the Lord's blessings for our lives. We must wait upon the Lord and learn to think the way He thinks. We must let His truth transform us so that we fully release from one season and launch into the new one. Romans 12:2 is an appropriate Scripture to look at concerning our way of thinking. The Passion Translation of this verse ministers to me: "Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God's will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes."
In the book, A Time to Advance, Robert Heidler writes, "Blessing comes to those who align themselves with God's purposes and timing. God's cycles produce change and bring us to the higher level of blessing." We cannot step into blessing without following God's timing. He designed our lives to have seasons. There are set times for us to actively participate in God-given activities; there are times for us to rest, and there are times for us to prepare for a new season. Doing this requires that we trust in our Creator and Sustainer to give us what we need for each season. The leaf will not fulfill its divine purpose until it releases from the branch.
In Isaiah 43:18-19 God says, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." How can we let go? Only by trusting in the Lord and His great love for us. We can expect God's best for us because He already gave His best to us: the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus, so that we can have eternal life with Him. We can trust in the Lord's best for ourselves, the Body of Christ, and our nation. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28)
Daniel 7 speaks of the end times and the evil king who will subdue other rulers. This demonically- possessed king "will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people and try to change the set times and laws." (Verse 25) The enemy will lose his battle to change the set times because God already ordained the hour of his destruction. Galatians 4 also speaks of another set time for us to become children of God and heirs according to His promise. "But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." (Galatians 4:4-5)
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God changes seasons and sets times for all of us. We must trust Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) This requires us to be willing to release from the past season and to inquire of God about His plans for the new season. As it says in Romans 12:2, we will be empowered to discern God's will when we allow and invite the Holy Spirit to reform our way of thinking. Let's release from the old season and walk into the new with the Lord's guidance.
How are you feeling about the atmosphere that permeates the United States right now? Are you disturbed at the injustice, violence, destruction, and conflict? Two of the Old Testament prophets, Habakkuk and Jeremiah freely shared their complaints with the Lord. Habakkuk told the Lord, "The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted."(Habakkuk 1:4) Jeremiah felt persecuted as he carried the word of the Lord. He complained: "So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long." (Jeremiah 20:8)
We feel for these frustrated prophets who brought the word of the Lord and experienced persecution and frustration because they had not yet seen the changes they were hoping for. However, these men left clues for us on how to overcome calamities and shift the atmosphere. God has a blessing for us when we keep our focus on Him instead of on the turmoil. He is drawn to us when we choose to rejoice instead of complaining. Here is how Habakkuk ends his writings: "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Jeremiah shares the word of the Lord to his people: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'" (Jeremiah 31:7)
Many years ago, our pastor, Scott McDermott, shared some pearls of wisdom that I still carry. "Whatever consumes us is what will come out. I am responsible for my reactions and what I carry. The posture of my heart determines the atmosphere in which I live." The bottom line is that our focus needs to be on the Lord and Him alone. We can transform our atmosphere as we look to the Lord and rejoice in who He is for us.
What happened to Paul and Silas as written about in Acts 16 shows us the power of rejoicing and keeping our focus on the Lord. While in Philippi, Paul and Silas were being harassed by a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination in her. One day, Paul was so greatly annoyed at her harassment that he commanded the spirit within her to come out. Her owners were furious with Paul and Silas because they lost their capability to make a profit from her. Many in the city came against them so that the Roman officials stripped them of their clothes, beat them, and took them to prison. The jailer placed them in the innermost cell of the prison and chained their feet.
Imagine the agony they felt and the dark atmosphere of the prison! Here is how they responded: "Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship." (Acts 16:25 - TPT) Here is the power of rejoicing and worshiping: "Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose." (Acts 16:26 - TPT) The jailer and all his family were saved and baptized and "filled with joy in their newfound faith in God." Truly Paul and Silas were atmosphere changers!
"It takes a radical focus (on God) to change the atmosphere." (Another pearl from Scott McDermott) Here are some Scriptures to encourage us and remind us to keep our eyes on the Lord and rejoice in who He is: "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:7-8) "Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous and praise His holy name." (Psalm 97:11-12) The atmosphere of heaven comes to earth as we focus on the Lord and rejoice in who He is. If we all partnered in this endeavor, we could change our corner of the world.
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."
(Psalm 55:22) What a promise for today! Shaking is going on all around us, but those who are rooted and established in the Lord's love will not be shaken and will grow strong and produce fruit. This truth is so appropriate for the Hebrew month we have just entered--Sh'vat--the 11th month on the spiritual calendar. Sh'vat's theme is "His Righteousness is My Foundation." The 15th of Sh'vat is called the "New Year for Trees" or Tu B'Sh’vat. Rabbis use this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. Those who grow fruit trees know the most important part of their job is ensuring that the trees have strong, healthy root systems. Farmers go to great lengths to prepare their land. They improve the soil texture and structure by loosening it and adding organic matter for nutrients. When a seedling is planted the soil around the roots is tamped and watered to eliminate air pockets and secure the plant. The seedlings may be staked to keep them firmly in the soil until their roots are established.
Imagine that you are a fruit tree and could select the place where you will be planted. Wouldn't we all look for a place that is near water and that has rich, well-textured soil? We would look for a place where our roots could grow strong to anchor and keep us stable. Two Scriptures talk about this very thing:
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3) "But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Here is a question we must answer. How we answer it will reveal the strength of our spiritual roots: What are we meditating on, taking in, and following? The above Scriptures make it very clear that we must be consuming God's Word of Truth and trusting in it and His never-ending faithfulness. Though the world around us is shaking, we can be assured that the Lord will hold us fast. A worship team named Selah sings a song titled, "He Will Hold Me Fast." Please Google this and listen to the powerful music, and let the words encourage and lift you up. In the meantime, meditate on the truth of these words that you can read below:
"When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life's fearful path; For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; Justice has been satisfied; He will
hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast, 'Till our faith is turned to sight, when
He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.”
May we take in everything that God has for us so that His love and care keep us stable and secure, producing much fruit.
Even though we are in a new year there is spillover into 2021 from the year 2020. There are obvious challenges for all of us, some more pressing than others. The problems of the world affect the mental and physical wellbeing of many individuals. Lack of understanding, depression, loss and sorrow all contribute to a mindset that does not make for good health in individuals. Here is where our Healing Room and Mashah teams come in. At The Crossing we believe that healing is for today, and it is "By His stripes that we are healed." Physical and mental healing go hand-in-hand. All of our team members minister God's love to those who visit us. We pray that healing will take place and that will receivers will be strengthen and empowered.
Pastor Amy has been scheduling Healing Room and Mashah sessions for us through Zoom sessions. This venue has taken some getting used to but everyone has accepted that this is the only way to minister at this time. We look forward to the day when we can meeting a person again. Please pray that time before then will be accelerated. Pray that the teams will be effective in their ministry. Pray for breakthrough for those who come to us for prayer. Ask the Lord to make His presence known in our meetings.
Healing teams are meeting with people twice a month. Mashah team appointments are scattered throughout each week, however, training occurs twice a month. We have four brand new and several moderately new team members who will be trained in the basics over the next six months. More seasoned team memebers will help with the training. We expect to begin some more advanced training for everyone in a month. So, our teams are busy, and we covet your prayers for encouragement, wisdom and perseverance. Ask the Lord to visit all of us in an intimate way.
I believe we all need to be encouraged about the Lord's faithfulness during this season. I had an experience last week where I listened to a negative report that took me to a place of worry. The Lord spoke to those fears through His Word and then back it up with a fun confirmation. "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you wear..." (Matthew 6:25) "He provides for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever." (Psalm 111:5) "For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5)
As I was reciting these Scriptures, two ravens flew into the Maple tree outside of our sliding glass door. This was an unique experience for me. Since God speaks to me through nature, I looked up the verses on ravens. The two most impactful ones included Luke 12:24 ("And Jesus said, 'Consider the ravens; they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them, and how much more valuable you are than the birds!'") and 1 Kings 17 that is the story of God's care for Elijah during a season of turmoil and one of the worst kings in Israel's history. He is fed by ravens at the Kerith Brook and by a widow at Zarephath. There was never a moment when Elijah was not cared for. I encourage you to read the story in 1 King 17.
Wednesday night, 1/13, Healing Room and Mashah teams will meet on Zoom for a night of worship and asking the Lord for direction for our futures. Please pray along with us. May the Lord direct and guide you, give you provision and peace and rest, and build up your faith in every area of your life.
Joan E. Mathias