How did a colony of mealy bugs end up infesting my orchid plants? This is the question of the week that I had to answer. When I bring a new houseplant into my collection, I check it for bugs. Apparently, when I brought in a new orchid plant for my window shelf, I did not look carefully enough. Attached to the base of the underside of one of the flowers was a white, cottony speck. Since its color matched the flower, it slipped in without my seeing it. Female mealy bugs lay up to 500 eggs in a sac that is attached to the plant. In the case of my orchid, she went to work by embedding her sac of eggs at the juncture of the leaves. One leaf overlays the other in a whorl, and it is easy to tuck a miniscule sac that looks like dust into the leaf juncture so that it is undetected.
All I had to do was allow one bug in with my collection of orchids. They slowly began to travel from plant to plant. I noticed that several of the orchid leaves were looking deformed and that their tissues were beginning to break down. The infestation was so bad that I could not save my plants, and I had to do a complete cleansing of the trays they sat on. It was interesting for me to see that the violets that sit with them were not touched. Violet foliage is very "hairy" and unappealing to the bugs. One of my violets I have had since the early seventies. I am so please that it continues to "stand its ground" and grow.
There is an analogy in this scenario for all of us. We must not let our guards down. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing in the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8-9) I believe that the enemy has targeted the United States for destruction as this nation was founded on godly principles and is meant to be a land where people worship the Lord, grow in His ways, and share their faith with the world. The devil is shrewd. He did not come in full force with guns blazing but slowly infiltrated our lives so that he could eventually take over. Souls of individuals are being invaded, one by one. But we must not be naive about what is at stake. There is a global agenda to remove all traces of Christianity.
I grew up in a time that seems so innocent compared with today. One example is that stores were closed on Sundays (Blue Laws) and families spent time with one another. Sunday was a day dedicated to God. How quickly all that has changed. There has been a war on the very fabric of our nation. Slowly, things have changed until we look around and say, "How did we get here?" The "bug" has laid her eggs and attacked our culture so that it is unrecognizable. The family is broken, abortion is sanctioned, our God-given identities are questioned, lifestyles that permit sexual promiscuity and perversion are celebrated, moral values have been redefined, education of our children has taken a wrong turn as liberal teachers attempt to control their minds, liberalism has permeated the church, and the very foundation upon which our nation was built is being destroyed. We have allowed the enemy's agenda to take over by compromising and being complacent as we watch the fabric of our nation being shredded.
So, what is the bottom line? We cannot allow complacency or compromise. God has fit us for battle. He chose to bring heaven to earth through a people dedicated to Him. Each of us needs to be a light in the darkness. We must take a stand and fight for what is right in God's eyes. We must declare, "Not on my watch!" God calls us to intercessory prayer as we take the authority He has given to us in the name of Jesus. It is time for us to put on our battle gear and follow the ways of Jesus to destroy the works of the devil. We must be like violets standing against the mealy bugs. We must see ourselves as warriors and release the Word of God over our lives, our homes, our country, and the world. Here is the apostle Paul's advice: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this 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." (1 Corinthians 10:3-5) We must be vigilant, prepared to go to battle with the truth of God's word, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The victory is ours if we follow through!
At the sound of a familiar song, we can be transported to a special time and place. That happened to me this week as I listened to Marty Goetz play and sing "This is My Father's World." In my mind I was a 12-year-old girl at summer camp. Camp Sunnybrook was in a beautiful spot in the PA Poconos. Part of the camp program included vespers that would take place on a White Pine tree-covered peninsula that extended out into a small man-made lake. The floor of the peninsula was covered in a bed of aromatic pine needles. When the late afternoon sun was shining on the needles the smell was out of this world.
A group of campers would gather on the peninsula at the end of the day to listen to a devotional and sing songs of praise and worship. As I sat in the heavenly atmosphere, we sang "This is My Father's World.” After vespers were completed and everyone left, I stayed behind, because I was not ready to walk away from a holy moment. With deep gratitude and renewed commitment, I continued to sing the song, knowing the truth that our world was created and sustained and ruled by our Heavenly Father.
Scripture is filled with verses that confirm that God is our Creator, Maker, and Sustainer. He is all that and more! Psalm 8:3-4 asks a question: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" Indeed, how blessed we are that the One who is ruling the world stops to care for us. Let's look at 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 where David praised the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel. "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the Kingdom; You are exalted as head of all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." Amen!
I want to share the words from "This is My Father's World" (Verses 1 and 3) with you, because they are comforting to me, especially when I consider the state of our world today. It is my hope that they also comfort you.
"The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it on the seas and established it on the water. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessings from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty--He is the King of glory."
Let the truth of this Psalm strengthen us and bring us peace. Remember that this is our Father's world!
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.
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.
One of my great joys is watching the sunrise from our east-facing bedroom window. It is always unique and can be counted on to give me an outstanding display of beauty as it rises. The changing eastern sky pulls me in as I watch the deep orange-red line of light close to the horizon change. Next the sky is touched by pinkish-orange, wispy clouds. Eventually, the orange sun rises in the sky to become a golden white, radiant ball ready to send its warm rays to earth. My soul is soothed as I remember the faithfulness of God. He never changes! He is dependable and always shows up at the right time just like the sun.
The Bible is filled with God's promises that bring us assurance of His presence and action on our behalf. A "go-to" Scripture that reminds me of the faithfulness of God gives us these instructions: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6) This is such a word for our season! It is extremely difficult to understand what is happening in our days and easy to get discouraged by the bad reports that come to us daily. But discouragement is not our portion. God told the Israelites, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
It is critical that our trust in the Lord is solid. Look at Psalm 125: "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endure forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore. The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. Lord, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be on Israel!" We must hold on to God's promises. As He has been faithful to Israel, He will be faithful to us. As the sun rises in the eastern sky, the Son rises to our defense. He is trustworthy!
Remember that we are heirs to the promises of God and that the Lord confirmed His promises with an oath. He holds out hope to us so that we may be encouraged. Hebrew 6:19 tells us, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." We are assured by the Lord that "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." (Romans 5:5) Isaiah prophesied to Israel: "...You will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." (Isaiah 49:23) Let the assurance of the rising sun give us hope and remind us of the Son's position on our behalf.
The Lord is known for His faithfulness. The prophet Jeremiah writes during a time of great turmoil and affliction: "...My soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him.'" (Lamentations 3:20-24) We can count on the faithfulness of the Lord just as we count on the rising of the sun each morning.
The bottom line is that we need to let the peace of the Lord fill us. Here is a promise from Isaiah 26:3 that we should grab hold of: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." Later in the book of Isaiah there is another promise of peace: "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)
It is time for us to focus on God's promises rather than the world's problems. Begin the new year by declaring the Lord's promises of trustworthiness and hope. Let's allow His peace to settle on us and our hope to rise just as the sun rises every morning without fail.
My message this week has been inspired by some life cycles. I have been contemplating God's faithfulness and the evidence of His attention to our lives. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, always drawing us closer so that we can see life through His eyes. He uses everything we experience to strengthen our understanding of His amazing love for us and what it means to live in the Kingdom of Light. He loves all of creation and has set times and seasons for each. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Changing seasons are meant to give us unique encounters with different aspects of the Lord's character.
Three years of marriage to my wonderful husband, Jac, is worth celebrating and thanking the Lord for His goodness. We decided to do so by taking a trip to Bushkill Falls in the Poconos. One cannot travel this time of year without being in awe of God's creation. Hillsides full of evergreens and deciduous trees bearing leaves of golden yellow, rust, red and brown are like painted pictures that take your breath away. It was only seven months ago that the trees were beginning to push out their new leaves for the season. Quickly the leaves matured so that they could fulfill their God-given purpose—to supply food for the plants through photosynthesis. Having completed their job, the leaves give us a final gift by going out in a blaze of glory. What a blessing it is to live through these cycles of life!
As my husband and I walked through the forest at Bushkill Falls, we were delighted by a native, multi-stemmed shrub that does things differently than most others. The Common Witch Hazel is native to the moist soil of the PA woodlands and is growing in abundance at the side of the waterfalls. They display their yellow, spider-like flowers in the fall along with their yellow leaves, looking quite beautiful next to the bold, green leaves of the native rhododendron. God surely does have beauty for every season. Listening to the sound of the waterfalls and seeing the clear water splashing down on the rocks reminded us of Psalm 42:7-8. "Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day, the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me--a prayer to the God of my life.”
We came home filled with awe and wonder at the magnificence of God and the precision by which He orders the seasons of the earth. However, we were about to experience the completion of another life cycle. Sixteen years ago, my daughter, Laura, told me about a skinny cat she saw who was eating out of her college dumpster. She begged me to allow her to bring the cat home for adoption. Not wanting the responsibility of caring for an animal, I directly said "No!" God had other plans. That night He gave me a dream in which I was holding a gray cat with gold eyes. I heard Him say, "I want you to adopt the cat." Waking up, I started a conversation with God that went like this: "Why would you ask me to adopt a cat who I do not want?" "Because, through this cat I will show you beauty for ashes. I will take the ashes of your life and transform them into something beautiful." I told Laura that I wanted to see the cat. Of course, she was the cat that God showed me in my dreams. We named her Cinder. After taking her to the vet for de-worming and cleaning, she joined me at my condo and became my constant companion.
I have no regrets. Cinder was faithful to greet me at the top of the stairs every time I came home. In her early years, she would amuse me by doing "calisthenics" on the open staircase. She loved to sleep next to me on the bed until my husband joined us. Jac would joke with me and say, "Beauty has arrived. It is time for ashes to go." Cinder's season of life came to an end on Friday. She had been losing weight and struggling with bad health. I delayed the inevitable. Thursday night God gave me another dream. It was time for Cinder's life to end. Even though the vet told us we were doing the best thing for Cinder, my heart broke. I am grateful for the years I had with her.
Seasons come and go. There is beauty and ashes. And, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (V. 11) An artist by the name of Josh Baldwin recently wrote a song that seems appropriate to repeat. Here is part of it: "All throughout my history, Your faithfulness has walked beside me. The winter storms made way for spring in every season from where I'm standing. I see the evidence of Your goodness, all over my life, all over my life. I see Your promises in fulfillment, all over my life, all over my life." Let us remember that no matter what season we are living in, God is by our sides orchestrating events, changing times and seasons, and drawing us closer to Him. What more could we ask for?
Yearly, an organization called HaYovei (The Jubilee) has been helping farmers with small properties in the regions of Judea and Samaria harvest their grapes. A recent story by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in "Biblical News" told about the organizations faithfulness in bringing more than 3,000 Christian volunteers from 30 countries to Israel for the past 15 years. As they helped pick grapes, these Christians breathed life into the Biblical prophecy in Isaiah 61:5. "Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards."
This year was different from all others. Israel's Health Minister placed travel restrictions on the country so that their borders were closed to all non-citizens. It is reported that about 400 tons of grapes were in danger of rotting on the vines because of the restrictions. The leaders of HaYovei pulled out all the stops to get the Israeli government to relax their regulations. Eventually, 50 volunteers were permitted to enter the country as long as they committed to staying for three months, with the initial two weeks being set aside for quarantine. On September 2, the first group of volunteers began harvesting the grapes. Pickers came from The United States, Canada, and Germany.
When the harvesters are finished, it is expected that approximately 500 tons of grapes from 10 farms in the Biblical heartland will have been picked. Some of the HaYovei volunteers are motivated by the prophecy in Ezekiel 36:36. "Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate..." Although the volunteers may not proselytize, their generosity in assisting with the harvest demonstrates the love of God.
What a blessing it is to be alive during a time when so much Biblical prophecy is coming to life! The grapevine is a symbol of the Jewish people. As the grapes mature, so are the Jewish people as they come to know their Messiah. God told King Hezekiah to look for a sign from Him. "This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year, sow and reap, plant vineyards, and eat fruit. Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 37:30-32) I would imagine that the Jews who own the vineyards in Israel's heartland and the Christians who are helping with the harvest will join together to celebrate and give thanks to God (the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for bringing in the crop.
The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) began on Friday evening. Saturday, September 19, is the first day of the new year and Tishrei, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar. Typically, families gather together in their synagogues and read Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6. They also read the story of Abraham taking Isaac to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him as instructed by the Lord. (Genesis 22) God rewarded Abraham's obedience and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice. It is the ram's horn that is blown on the New Year as a reminder of Father Abraham's obedience to God. Those farmers in Judea and Samaria who have help with harvesting their grapes have another reason to celebrate God's goodness.
The "Grapevines" continue to thrive despite efforts by the enemy to kill them. God is invested in and committed to HIs covenant with the Jewish people. He has made and kept His promises to His people and uses the Christian community to help in their fulfillment. "...New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them." (Amos 9:13-15)
As the Jews celebrate their new year, we as Christians should be praying for their prosperity and taking our places as harvesters for the Kingdom of God. God looks with favor on those who help His chosen ones.
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)
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.
As we pulled into the parking area of the Newtown Township park on Rt. 413, memories of childhood visits to Stone Harbor, New Jersey flooded my mind. A distinctive smell of salt water was present from the marshes along the waterways at the entrance to the resort. The marshes are prime territory for unique types of birds. In particular, I remember seeing red-winged blackbirds flitting between the cattails in the marshes. Our Newtown park has fresh-water marshes that are thick with cattails and the home of a small flock of red-winged blackbirds. To quote a web site on blackbirds: "A cattail marsh is the quintessential red-winged blackbird habitat." We were greeted by several male birds that flew from a small oak tree to a perch at the top of the cattails. When the male sings he expands his wings so that one can see his entire brilliant, red and yellow shoulder area. In this way, he shows off to the females. Females stay out of sight as much as possible, especially during nesting season. Their bodies look somewhat like a sparrow with heavily streaked brown. Their cone-shaped bills have short yellow feathers around them, and above their eyes is a patch of white.
Female red-winged blackbirds try to remain at the base of the vegetation where they can find insects and seeds to feed on and to guard their nests. However, if a larger bird or human comes too close to the marsh, both male and female come to the top of the cattails to protest loudly. The birds' nests are weaved together of grass, reeds, and leaves. After they are completed, the birds attached their nests to standing vegetation. They have two or three broods a season, each with three to four eggs that are incubated by the female. The young stay in the nest for 11 to 14 days while both parents feed them.
Watching the blackbirds in their favorite habitat, I began to think about all the creatures on the earth and the multitude of unique ecosystems that the Lord created. In the seven days of creation written about in Genesis, we read that God made a myriad of land forms, water bodies and vegetation and then filled the earth with a plethora of birds, fish, sea creatures, and animals. It is obvious that God loves diversity and variety and provides a perfect environment for every creature on the earth. A place called the Garden of Eden was created by God for mankind, who was made in His image. "In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) God created man with a mission. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)
Although Adam and Eve had to be taken from the Garden because of their sin, God's plans for mankind moved forward. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:26-28) God has created everyone and everything uniquely for a special purpose and all of this was done out of love. "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
God declares that "His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (Romans 1:20) When we take time to look and see God's handiwork, can there be any doubt that His glory is visible in all creation? In the book of Nehemiah, we are told how the Levites led the Israelites in adoration of the Lord. "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name...You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You." (Nehemiah 9:5-6) Psalm 104 is a declaration of praise to God for all He has created. I want to make the end of this psalm my declaration and hope that you will join me in this. "May God's glorious splendor endure forever! May the Lord take joy and pleasure in all that He has made...I will sing my song to the Lord as long as I live! Every day I will sing my praises to God. May you be pleased with every sweet thought I have about You, for You are the source of my joy and gladness...I will keep on praising You, my Lord, with all that is within me. My joyous, blissful shouts of 'Hallelujah' are all because of You!" (Psalm 104:31-35 - TPT)
Joan E. Mathias