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!
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.
When the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians, he expresses his gratitude for them because of their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all of God's people. He writes, The faith and love that springs from the hope stored up for you in heaven..." (Colossians 1:5) Isn't it great to be reminded that we have hope stored up for us in heaven? How we need hope right now!
I feel compelled to share a wonderful testimony from Paul Wilbur, Messianic worship leader. He shared his epiphany of hope at Glory of Zion's Shabbat Service at the beginning of the year. During a difficult season in his life, he was inspired by a Scripture that has been one of my "war Scriptures." In Zechariah, Chapter 9, Verses 11 and 12, the Lord encourages Israel: "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." What an exciting promise!
Let us look at how this Zechariah Scripture undergirded Paul Wilbur. He and his pastor led 72 pastors to Auschwitz during Purim at the end of February 2020. The group sang and declared God's truth to reverse the curse in that part of Poland and in the crematorium where over a million were killed. They returned to the United States just before the borders were closed because of the Covid breakout. When Paul got home, he discovered that he had lost his voice. The doctors told him that his vocal cords were burned and blistered. The burning was so severe that he could barely talk. March was the first of several months that Paul could not speak, and discouragement and doubt set in.
Paul Wilbur was inspired to research the words of Zechariah 9:11-12, especially the word hope. We must look at all the phrases in these verses, starting with "because of the blood covenant with you." The first time we see God make a blood covenant is in Genesis 15. He instructs Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and pigeon. All were cut in half and arranged by halves opposite each other. The Lord passed through those animals and told Abram what to expect in an unbreakable blood covenant. He and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Through his blood, Jesus made a better covenant with us, one where we receive His promised eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
Because of the blood covenant, God promises to release us from the "waterless pit." During Bible times, dry cisterns or pits were used as places of bondage or imprisonment. Remember how Joseph was placed in one of these cisterns? (Genesis 37:22) I imagine it would be easy to lose hope in one of these dry, hot places unless you trusted the Word of the Lord from Zechariah: "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope." The song "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" tells us He is a "bulwark never failing." Here is how the Psalmist sees it: "He alone is my rock, and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:2)
If we follow God's lead, we will be rescued, and what was stolen from us will be returned two-fold. As we trust in the Word of the Lord, His blood covenant and His faithfulness, our belief in God's promises will be rewarded. Paul Wilbur was encouraged by the story of Rahab when the spies from Israel paid her a visit. The spies promised to save her and her family from the pit on two conditions: (1) They could not leave the building. (2) A scarlet rope had to be tied to the window. Paul was reminded of a Scripture that comes from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that says, "A chord of three strands is not quickly broken." Perhaps Rahab's rope had three strands. Paul asked the Lord the significance of each strand. Here is what he senses: Strand 1 represents the Promise or blood covenant. Strand 2 represents the patience that we must have while we wait for the promise. Strand 3 represents the appointed time. We must trust in the promise and remember that patience must have her appointed time. Paul says, "Do not let the rope slip out of your hands!"
Wilbur's voice did return. While he waited in his waterless pit, he wrote new songs as he played his guitar. One that really touched my heart was inspired by 2 Chronicles 20 when it looked like all hope for the Israelites was gone. But the Lord prevailed when the praisers went out ahead of the army. Here are a few lines from the song: "I will dance in the midst of the fire. I will sing in the eye of the storm. I will shout you are faithful forever. The victory is mine 'cause the battle is yours." Remember that we have hope stored up for us in heaven. Make it yours, and do not let go!
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.
Long ago the prophet Isaiah told of one who would be the hope of all humanity: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
We move from Isaiah's description of our God in the Old Testament to Peter's explanation in the New Testament of why we should have hope. The author of The Passion Translation Bible titles the book of 1 Peter as "Triumphant Hope." That hope is described in Verse 3 of Chapter 1: "Celebrate with praises the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has shown us His extravagant mercy. For His fountain of mercy has given us a new life--we are reborn to experience a living, energetic hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
O how glorious! We are not forgotten. Our merciful God knew that we would need a Savior who would bring us hope through His multiple offerings. He comes as a Wonderful Counselor to help transform our fallen world by His saving grace. As a Counselor, the Holy Spirit guides and advocates for us. The Psalmist asks, "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you." (Psalm 89:8) We can take comfort in the truth written in Zephaniah 3:17. "The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Let us take in what Psalm 90:2 tells us about our Lord: "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." He is our God for eternity! Only through the Lord Jesus, our Prince of Peace, can we receive the true tranquility we so desire. Through every aspect of His being, He carries us on His shoulders and encourages us with hope.
I would imagine that throughout the ages people have thought that the times they lived in were more difficult than any other and that they had a greater need of hope than any other generation. Isn't that how we are thinking today? Chaos, sickness, death, persecution of Christians, financial need, and insecurity about the future all converge in our day to make us wonder if we can have hope for our future. The answer is a resounding Yes!
We just celebrated the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) We have a new year upon us. How will we walk into it? Hebrews 6 has words of great encouragement for us: "And now we have run into His heart to hide ourselves in His faithfulness. This is where we find His strength and comfort, for He empowers us to seize what has already been establish ahead of time--an unshakeable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God Himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold and where Jesus, our forerunner has gone in before us..." (Verses 18-20-TPT)
Let us walk into the new year with our heads held high and our confidence in the Lord secure. He is still sitting on the throne. He is still Almighty and All Powerful. He is inside us, encouraging us and reminding us that He is the God of Living Hope.
It was not until God breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam that he became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) Acts 17:24-25 explains, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."
I have contemplated the importance of the breath of God as I sing the song, "Great Are You Lord" by James Ingram. Think about these words: "You give life. You are love; You bring light to the darkness. You give hope, You restore every heart that is broken. And great are You Lord! It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise. It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only."
Job has much to say about the breath of God. "In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10) "The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life." (Job 33:4) "If it were His intension and He withdrew His Spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together, and mankind would return to dust." (Job 34:14-15) Likewise, the Psalmist recognizes how the Word of the Lord and His breath created the world we live in. "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth." (Psalm 33:6) "...Each man's life is but a breath. Selah.” (Psalm 39:5)
We were made in God's image. (Genesis 1:26, 9:6) His intent was and is that His children partner with Him in creating. How do we do this? We co-create by our breath, speaking life into the world around us. God wants us to bring heaven to earth through our spoken words. God also realizes that the enemy of our souls will do anything possible to stop our agreement with the Kingdom of Light. So, we are in the middle of a ferocious battle to stop us from speaking or even breathing. Covid 19 literally takes away our breath!
God explains His provision for us in the area of battling against the powers of darkness in Ephesians 6. There are five defensive weapons in our toolbelt: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith. However, the Lord has given us two offensive weapons: the sword of the Spirit and prayer in the Spirit. Both weapons require us to use our breath and speak out truth. Jesus demonstrated how to use the sword when the devil came after Him in the desert. As Jesus spoke out the truth of the Word, the devil had to flee from Him. In his book, Spiritual Warfare, Joseph Prince says, "It is not enough to just know God's Word in your heart. You have to speak it out. That is when latent power becomes actual power...God's Word in your mouth is like God speaking." (Page 83-84) "When you declare the Scripture aloud, the Word of God fights for you. The devil has no defense against the Word of God." (Page 86)
We must not allow the enemy of our souls to keep us from declaring the truth and the praises of God Most High. Remember that Jesus brought the breath of His Father to earth. When He was getting ready to return to His Father in Heaven, He breathed on His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21) The breath of God is in us to bring about life. Much territory has been stolen from us during this past year. We have been equipped with weapons for warfare. God wants us to use them so that we not only recover what has been stolen from us, but we also take plunder from the enemy camp. Start taking plunder, dear ones. That is our inheritance!
The harvest feast shared between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621 may have been one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in our country. The second Thanksgiving celebration occurred in 1623 at the end of a season of drought. It started with a religious fast called for because the drought had been so long. It was during the Civil War, in 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the United States should celebrate an annual Thanksgiving in November. Lincoln entreated all Americans to ask God to "commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to "heal the wounds of the nation."
As we sat at our Thanksgiving tables this year, I wonder how many of us remembered to ask God to care for the mourners and sufferers and to heal the wounds of our nation. What we have lived through in the year 2020 has brought much suffering and loss. We certainly do need to lift to the Lord our fellow men and women for God's tender mercies to be poured upon them. Between the plagues, election intrigues, economic instability, and the necessity for people to quarantine from one another, the stress is over the top.
Let us remember that one of the best ways to deal with stress is to give God thanks! There is always something that we can give thanks for. The Old and New Testaments are filled with admonitions to give thanks. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34) "I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 9:1) "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15) "And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God's perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - TPT) When we give thanks to the Lord, we activate His action.
I recently listened to Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International speak on what happens when we come before the Lord with grateful hearts. Let's look at 2 Kings 4:8-37. Here is the story of a well-to-do woman from Shunem. (Shunem means two resting places.) The woman invited Elisha to stay at her home for a meal. Realizing what a blessing Elisha was, the woman and her elderly husband decided that they would build a small room on their roof for Elisha with a bed, table, chair, and lamp. This was the woman's way of honoring Elisha and thanking God for his presence. Elisha desired to show the Shunammite woman his gratitude and prophesied that she would have a son the following year. This happened just as it was said.
The boy grew until one day he experienced an awful headache and died. His mother carried him up to the prophets room and "laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out." (Verse 21) She saddled a donkey and rode him to Mount Carmel (fruitful field) to talk with the man of God. Elisha returned to Shunem and found the boy "lying dead" on his bed. Twice Elisha stretched out on top of the boy laying "mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, and hands to hands." (Verse 34) The boy awoke and was returned to his mother.
In her acts of kindness, the Shunammite woman not only prepared a place for Elisha to rest but also "prepared the way for the Lord." Elisha's bed was built because the woman had a heart of gratitude. She wanted to bless the man of God. Chuck Pierce tells us that we must be like her in preparing a bed of thankfulness to the Lord. Not only will this bed glorify the Lord, but it also gives us a place to lay all our distress. Lay all your distresses on your bed of thankfulness and watch as the Lord breathes life back into them.
The prophet Ezekiel watched as the Lord brought new life into the dry bones of Israel. God told Ezekiel, "...I will put breath in you, and you will come to life, then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:6) It is time for us to prepare our beds of thankfulness. Let's join the Psalmist in declaring, "You turn my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." (Psalm 30:11-12)
Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International says we are in a season of "RE." God is resetting, re-firing, and renewing His Church. If you follow the Hebrew calendar, you know that we moved into the ninth month called Kislev, meaning trust, rest, and security. It is associated with the letter "SAMEKH" which is a picture of a circle. This month we come full circle from last year and can have a second chance at missed opportunities. In addition, we should be on guard so that we break out of any old cycles that are unproductive.
The constellation Sagittarius (the archer) is in the night sky and reminds us that it is time to fight against empires and cultures that are not in agreement with the Kingdom of Light. Here is a celestial reminder that Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son and the only one born in the Promised Land, was a gifted archer. Although this is a month for rest and hope, we must develop our war strategies. These will come through prophetic revelation, dreams, and experiences that guide us into our call.
Observing the battles presently being fought in our country, we could be easily discouraged. According to the news media, Covid 19 cases are increasing and fighting, caused by political differences, abounds. But whose report do you believe? (Isaiah 53:1) The month of Kislev points us in the right direction. As we develop war strategies to take down our enemies, we take an offensive position so that we can maintain peace amid conflict.
One way that God encourages us is through dreams. Reading through the Torah portions for this month (Genesis 28-44), we see that two major dreamers are highlighted: Joseph and Jacob. Dreams are not always easy to understand. God's desire is that we pursue Him for revelation. Daniel 2:28 tells us, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Just like He revealed Jacob's true identity as Israel through a dream so that he would birth a nation, He will reveal our identities and the purpose for our lives as part of the Body of Christ. ("Show us, O Lord, how to make a difference in this world for the glory of Your Kingdom during this season.")
I wonder! Could this be the season God is using to redeem His Church to bring her back into full agreement with Him? Is He rekindling our desire for prayer and worship that brings us into greater intimacy with Him and puts us into His army to transform our nation? All of us must shine the light of the Lord brightly so that we dispel the darkness. We are part of a mighty army to re-establish justice and righteousness.
Ephesians 6:10-18 describes how we are to prepare for spiritual warfare. Here are these verses in The Passion Translation: "...Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of His explosive power flowing in and through you. Put on God's complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you're protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious. Put on the truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. Stand on your feet alert, then you'll be ready to share the blessings of peace. In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One! Embrace the power of salvation's full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God. Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers." May the message of this passage become a reality in our lives.
Joan E. Mathias