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2/3/2021 God’s Response to Your Depression, Part 2

 

IF YOU HAVE NOT READ PART ONE, STOP. GO BACK.😊

Picking up from yesterday, when depression hits, and it hits hard! Depression is:

An emotion nurtured by the enemy that lowers our spirits, discouraging us, making us feel hopeless and inadequate to the point that we disdain ourselves and question our value in God’s eyes, thereby decreasing and weakening our force and effectiveness in the Kingdom of God.

Depression does not play fair. It toys with you until you are tired of the mental game and give in to it. BUT PRAISE THE LORD, God is coming to saturate your life! Let me remind you of His precious promise to you from Isaiah 41:17-20.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst,

I the LORD will hear them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys:

I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle,

And the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together,

That the word of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.”

God has come to replenish you and plant those trees, and what amazing trees they are! Psalms 1 tells us that the righteous are like trees planted by the rivers of water that bring forth fruit in the right season. Not just one righteous tree, but many trees of righteousness. Elijah got depressed, thinking he was the only one left, and God reminded him that there were seven thousand who had not bowed to Baal. There are more than one tree and more than one type. In this case, God is planting seven specific trees in your desert place.

First, God is going to plant the cedar. The cedar is known for the firmness and tenacity of its roots. When you walk through the desert, God is going to give you a tenaciousness as you remain connected to Him and others. He will strengthen what is already a part of you. Interestingly, the giant redwood tree does not withstand storms because it has deep roots, but roots that interlock with those of another. It is essential not to remain isolated when you feel depressed. Often, the first thing people do when they feel down is to retreat from their friends, family, church, and sometimes God Himself. However, if we stay connected and allow our lives to intertwine with others in our community, it will help us withstand when depression and other storms hit.

Secondly, He is planting the shittah, also known as the acacia, tree. This tree’s wood was used to build the ark of the covenant and does not deteriorate easily. That, dear one, is the beauty of our covenant with the Great I AM. He has cut a covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ with us. If you are a believer, that covenant has staying power! God has not given up on you! He also has placed you in covenant with other believers. Again, do not withdraw, but come and be encouraged by your fellow believers. You are NOT alone in this. If you are experiencing depression and do not know Christ as Lord and Savior, repent and believe! He is waiting to enter a covenant relationship with you. He’s already paid the price and presented Himself as the gift, you have but to repent and receive. Jesus hung on a tree and your depression along with Him. He wants you to move into His resurrection life!

Another tree God plants in the wilderness for the poor and needy is the myrtle tree, known for its versatility. This heat-loving tree can withstand many environments and seasons. It’s energy-efficient, not wasting anything. God has planted around you those people who will stand with you and help you overcome the winter of your depression. These are people who have proverbially been there, done that, and come through on the other side. The aromatic oil that comes forth from this tree is both cleansing and uplifting. The anointing of God is upon these people to help you to flexibly weather this storm and curb the self-defeating feelings in you. God is for you, and your life is a sweet-smelling fragrance to Him!

The oil tree, or olive tree, is indicative of a voluntary thanksgiving offering. There are people around you that are thanking God for your presence in their lives. You are a gift, and as these people surround you, the oil of their friendship soothes the cracked parts of your life, bringing clarity and wholeness once again. These trees remind us to be thankful for ourselves. Thankfulness can be a powerful weapon against depression. By it, we are lifted out of despair, and our mourning turned to dancing.

God is also planting a fir tree. Some translations may say Cyprus, which was used in the making of musical instruments. When you become an instrument of praise and worship in the hands of Almighty God, instead of being pushed down, you are elevated into His presence. God rejoices over you with singing, and He places people in your path to do the same. No matter how hard it may seem at times, put on a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness!

In addition to all that He has already planted, He adds the pine tree. These are our enduring and lasting relationships, our families, spouses, and dear friends. Often these are the people who have known you and your heart intimately. They desire to see God’s best for you and refuse to let you go. These are the ones who see a well from which to bring refreshing and remind us that He is the God Who Sees.

The final tree that God plants in your wilderness is the box tree. It, too, is cedar but is specifically known for its erectness. Often when we are depressed, we are awash with shame and our heads hang low. However, shame also was nailed to the cross of Christ, and you can stand tall, head erect without avoiding people or diverting your eyes. You are a child of the Most High, the apple of His eye!

What a beautiful, gracious, wonderful gift God has given to us poor and needy people – the gift of Himself and others! When we are attacked with depression, God not only saturates our spirits, but He plants alongside us. When we won’t or can’t make a move because we’re immobilized by depression, God meets us where we are and ensures we have everything we need: a tenacious spirit, covenant relationship with Him, friendships that help us weather the storm, a spirit of thankfulness and worship, a family who refuse to allow us to camp in our wilderness, and a release from all shame related to depression! What an incredible God! He does not lay a greater burden upon us in our neediness but comes and pours out His presence and encourages us through others.

Remember, the only condition is that the poor and needy be seeking. I know that the enemy can make it seem that this is the most difficult thing to do when you are depressed but call out to Christ. He promises to hear and act. He does not say “I might,” but “I will!”

A word of warning: sometimes, when the enemy has us in the grips of depression, he will produce an ax with which we can lash out and harm others. Instead of swinging with the ax, run to the shade of the trees God is planting in your wilderness. Allow Him to saturate you with His Word. Allow safe people to protect you in your fragility. If you cannot read the Word for yourself, many audio files of the Bible exist on youtube.com. The same is true for worship music. Listen and allow yourself to come into agreement with what God is saying, and then verbalize it. Confide in someone – a pastor, friend, or family member. Allow your roots to interlock with those of others who will pray and encourage you. Whatever you do, do not withdraw. We all need and were designed for community.

A last thought – only a few verses earlier in Isaiah 41:10, God tells you, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold onto you with My righteous right hand.” God will not let you go. You are infinitely valuable to Him, and God has an incredible plan for your life. One in which you stand tall yourself, a tree of righteousness planted by the Lord. You will come out on the other side; you will be fruitful again. Below I have included some Scriptures for you to begin to meditate on, and remember, you are loved immensely, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!

Scripture Swords to Use Against Depression

Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

2 Samuel 22:17-22 – He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from my God.

2 Samuel 22:29 – You are my lamp O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

Ecclesiastes 9:4 – Anyone who is among the living has hope.

Psalms 9:9 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 27:14 – Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Psalm 31:22,24 – You heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help… Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 34:18, 19 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Psalm 37:23-24 – If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 43:5 – Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.

Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 62:5 – Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

Psalm 126:5 – Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

Psalm 143:7-8 – Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I will lift up my soul.

Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 145:14 – The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Proverbs 12:25 – Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.

Isaiah 26:3-4, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusts in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.

Isaiah 35:10 – And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 40:31, But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 53:4 – Surely, he took up our sicknesses and carried our sorrows.

Mark 9:23 – Everything is possible for him who believes.

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

2 Peter 2:9 – The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.

1 Peter 4:12-13 – Dear Friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

2/2/21 God’s Response to Your Depression, Part 1

Life has not been easy for anyone, particularly the past year with Covid-19 and the lockdown, not to mention the election. Anxiety, worry, fear – dare we say – depression. Yes, we are in the midst of a battle, and war is tiring. Sometimes we find ourselves wondering where God is; does He see? Does He hear? Well, the nation of Judah found itself in a similar position.

The nation of Judah was about to be judged, and things were not going so well for those who worshipped the true God. Isaiah, chapter 39, recounts how the Lord spared the life of Hezekiah, king of Judah. In response, the King of Babylon sent emissaries to “rejoice” with Hezekiah. While they were there, King Hezekiah, in his pride, foolishly showed these ambassadors all the treasures of the kingdom, including the Lord’s temple. The Lord pronounces judgment upon the nation for its pride and sin while also sparing Hezekiah. His response: “Good is the word of the LORD which thou has spoken…for there shall be peach and truth in my days.” In so doing, he threw the next generation under the bus, including his son, who would be considered the evilest of kings and who would subsequently murder Isaiah, the prophet. There was no repentance in Hezekiah; he was ok with it all, as long as it did not affect him.

The clock was counting down. Hezekiah would not live long, and the idea of God’s judgment brought anxiety, worry, fear, and, yes, depression. Wonderfully, God did not stop at pronouncing judgment. At the same time, He released a word of comfort to His people, and not just once. He comforts them first with the promise of the coming Messiah and a reminder of His own greatness (Is. 40). When depression comes knocking, first, remember that Jesus is on His way. His return is imminent! We serve a majestic and mighty God! In this we can take comfort. But what about while we are waiting for His return, and the spiritual atmosphere around us grows darker and more menacing?

I encourage you to read the entirety of Isaiah, chapters 40 and 41 – and do so aloud. Faith comes by hearing! Throughout chapter 41, God reiterates that they are His people, and they are not to fear. I, however, want to focus on specifically verses 17-20.

 

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst,

I the LORD will hear them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys:

I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle,

And the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, the pine, and the box tree together.

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together,

That the word of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.”

Before we explore the implication of these verses, let’s first define what depression precisely is. After all, I would say the vast majority of us would probably admit we have felt it, even if we could not define it. To depress means to press, pull, or push down, lower in value or suppress; to decrease the force or activity of, and discourage, sadden, and weaken. Webster’s dictionary tells us that it is “an emotional condition characterized by hopelessness and inadequacy.” When I found myself in such a state, the Lord gave me the following definition of depression:

An emotion nurtured by the enemy that lowers our spirits, discouraging us, making us feel hopeless and inadequate to the point that we disdain ourselves and question our value In God’s eyes, thereby decreasing and weakening our force and effectiveness in the Kingdom of God.

Let me first tell you that God created us as emotional beings, and emotions in and of themselves are not sinful. So, DO NOT RECEIVE CONDEMNATION! However, sometimes the enemy exploits these emotions to paralyze us, and as a result, we are prevented from walking in the power and joy God has granted us as His children. That said, let’s look at this beautiful promise God has given to us as His people.

First, this passage is about those who are poor and needy. Before you think that you do not fall into this category, let’s do a short word study. The word for poor here has the connotation of being depressed in mind and circumstances. It also suggests those who are walking in condemnation or guilt. Because people review it over and over in their minds, they chasten and deal harshly with themselves. The word needy is a sense of being destitute and hopeless, knowing there is a sense of want and neediness, but feeling entirely on your own. So, let me ask, how are you feeling about being in this category of a poor and needy person? I have certainly been there! If you are there now, then this is a wonderful word specifically for you! The only prerequisite to receiving this promise is that the poor and needy be seeking, searching Him out, really wanting to find water. We know from Scripture that water has several implications, but mainly the water of God’s Word. When you feel inferior and needy, and God seems silent, and you seek a word, to the point that your tongue fails for thirst, the Lord promises to hear you, refusing to forsake you!

When you are depressed, it feels as though words don’t suffice for the deep hurt, rejection, sense of self-loathing, and sadness you are experiencing. I know. I suffered severe postpartum depression with our oldest son (now nineteen), and depression will make you think about things that would never gain access to your mind when it is at rest and sound. Sometimes, if it lasts long enough, words can become your worst enemy as you give mental assent to the enemy’s lies, and you find those lies coming out of your mouth. My dear friend, God hears you amid your despair. He is near and has something extraordinary He is speaking over you! Choose to come into agreement with what He is saying.

When we are depressed, we often feel that God is judging us, and we begin to recount every horrible thing that has happened in our lives that could justify God allowing this to happen. The enemy makes us feel unworthy to approach the Lord about our emotions. Interestingly, God tells us that He will open rivers in high places. What does that mean? High places mean the place where Yah has judged. God promises to release His healing word – the word that reminds us that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ. He is opening rivers in the place where you feel condemned, and it’s not just any water He’s releasing, but glistening water! He is pronouncing a word that sparkles like the sheen of a running stream with cheerfulness and light-heartedness – a word of delight!

He also promises to open fountains in valleys, providing a source of satisfaction from which you can drink. This water will fill in the gaps of what has broken and split apart in your life. In the wilderness, He will create a pool of water. In your desert place, when your tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth when words will not come, when your spirit is parched and dehydrated, in the place of your barrenness, that solitary place, where you are isolated and alone with the tormenting thoughts of what was, or is, or what might come, God breaks through as the One WHO was, and is, and is to come – the Eternal Reality crushing every lie and revealing Himself to you! He is not bringing just a little refreshment, but all of Himself into your situation!

In Scripture, water can also have the connotation of semen – that which creates life and reproduces. God is coming into your circumstance as the God who is not only keeping you alive but the God in whom you live and move and have your being. The God who causes you to thrive to the point that growth and productivity can once again occur not only promises to pour out streams of His presence in your life, but He is also bringing a shovel with Him, intent on planting something in you. And what is He planting? Trees. Seven to be exact – the number of completion. His desire is that you not only return from the brink of despair but return to a garden of rest and nourishment.

Part Two Tomorrow

I Have Called You to Shine!

I have called you to be light. I have called you to shine! As the wise men were led to the place of My presence by a star, so your light is meant to lead people to Me. Your light should illuminate, bringing sight and attention to what I have done in and through you so that those in darkness may see, and My Father glorified. Did I not say to set it upon a lampstand, yet many are in hiding. What good is a light hidden under a basket? What good is a bulb unconnected to its power source? What good is salt that has lost its flavor? What good is a lighthouse that does not shine, leaving ships floundering upon the stormy sea and wrecking upon the rocks? What good is a soldier who refuses to war except to be discharged without honor? You are to shine like stars in the sky, and yet as I step out to battle (yes, it is of Me), many have run and hidden, seeking to preserve their own reputations and kingdoms, while making My Name and My Word of no consequence. I have not retreated! For those who have stood their ground, there will be advancement. Yes, My honor and favor will rest on those who have endured and understood My Word stands supreme in the heavenlies, unshaken. For those who have been absent without leave or refused to enter the fray, I am calling forth a heavenly court-martial. Repent and reconnect. I will no longer tolerate the apathetic. I have called you to light, therefore shine!

Phil. 2:12-19a, “So, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed when I was with you, it is even more important for you to obey now when I am away from you; keep working out your own deliverance with fear and trembling, for God is the one working among you both the willing and the working for what pleases Him. Do everything without kvetching [whining or complaining] or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure children of God, without defect in the midst of a twisted and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the sky, as you hold on to the Word of Life.” CJB;  Matt. 5:11-16, “How blessed you are when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of vicious lies about you because you follow Me! Rejoice, be glad, because your reward in heaven is great – they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. You are salt for the Land. But if salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except being thrown out for people to trample on. You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” CJB

10/19/20 Praying for Your Family & Kids

Several weeks ago, the Lord laid it on my heart that the church needed to be interceding for its children. Within four weeks of warning me about this, two of our boys were nearly killed in different incidents, we had outbursts of anger in our homes, and a brief stint with fear. The verse He showed me was Jeremiah 9:21:

“For death has come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces,

To cut off the children from without,

And the young men from the streets.”

Death has come through our windows. Interestingly, this reference to death has the connotation of the personality of death. It is a spiritual entity that is preying on our children, and it has snuck in through places that we left open in the fortresses and citadels of our homes and churches. Where have we given the enemy access? Children being cut off also has the connotation of being severed from the covenant, while the young men are being prevented from entering a wide-open place. The wide-open place throughout Scripture is a place of rescue. Death’s goal is to keep our children from the covenant with God, their families, and church and put them in areas where they become desperate and cannot be rescued.

Psalm 78 speaks of the great necessity and role of parents, guardians, and people to discourse with the children and young people about the things they have heard, known, and what has been told to them about the works and personality of God. We are not to hide them, but sing the praises of the LORD, His strength, and His wonderful works. Why? Because God established it as a testimony and law. We are OBLIGATED to this. We do this that future generations may know them. This Hebrew word is “yada,” meaning to have experiential knowledge and wisdom of them. There are four reasons why we are required to do this:

  1. So they WILL learn to set their hope in God;
  2. So they WILL NOT forget the works of God;
  3. So they WILL keep His commandments;
  4. So they WILL NOT BE like their fathers, who are a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts are not set aright and spirit was not steadfast.
  5. 78:10-11, vs. 32, vs. 37: They were not covenant keepers.

Why? Ps. 127:3 states that children are God’s heritage. We are meant to steward them and protect them. So we ask that every church and follower of Christ intercede for our children, from newborns to our college-age kids.

 

Prayer Points for Your Family & Children

  1. Repent of any open doors you have allowed open into your home. Movies, books, technology – anything ungodly that has had entry to your home, especially in the lock-downs that have prevented the free movement of the Holy Spirit in your home. I Chron. 7:14
  2. Thank the Lord that He has already defeated the spirit of death and that death has no place in your home or in the lives of your children. Declare that Christ alone has the keys over death and the grave, and your family is under the blood and authority of Christ. Rev. 1:18
  3. Declare that you are a family of covenant-keepers! Josh. 24:15b
  4. Declare that your family has a future and a hope because you are a family of God-seekers. He hears and answers you! Jer. 29:11- 13
  5. Declare that Jesus became a curse for you, so you do not receive any curses unto your family, but only accept the promises of the Spirit and the blessings of Abraham. Gal. 3:13-14
  6. Declare that your children know the Holy Scriptures that can make them wise to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Also, because they know the Word, they know who to trust and discern between the godly teacher and the ungodly. 2 Tim. 3:14-15
  7. Declare that your family does not have a spirit of fear, but of love and a sound mind. 2 Tim. 1:7
  8. Declare that the Lord is bringing your family and children out into a wide-open place; that He has delivered you because He delights in you. Ps. 18:19
  9. Declare that the Lord has written His law on the hearts of your family; that He will be your God, and you, His people. Declare your family knows the LORD. Jer. 31:33
  10. Thank the Lord that your children have ready access to Him and that their angels stand before God to rush on their behalf. Luke 18:16-17, Matt. 18:10
  11. Ask the Lord to grant you wisdom in all your dealings with your children and that the fruit of the Spirit will be made manifest to them through your life. Prov. 3:6, Gal. 5:22-23
  12. Ask the Spirit of God to help you not provoke your children. Eph. 6:4
  13. Thank the Lord that all of their days are written in His book. Pray that not one jot or tittle of the words written in their book will fall to the ground, but that every one would be fulfilled. Ps. 139:16
  14. Declare that only the thoughts of God would permeate their minds. Declare that the lies of the enemy will fall and not alight. Ps. 139:17
  15. Declare that your entire family are more than conquerors through Christ who loved you and gave His life for you! Rom. 8:37

Practical Ideas to Help You Protect Your Children:

  • Constantly reaffirm God’s love and plan for their lives while visibly expressing it to them through hugs, kisses, and encouragement.
  • Get them OUTSIDE.
  • Make sure the last things they’re hearing at night are God’s thoughts and works. We are currently reading stories of different missionaries and how God used them and the miracles God wrought on their behalf. It will boost their faith to hear of God’s works, and you will be following Ps. 78 Scripture.
  • Don’t allow them to continually retreat into their rooms. Get them out and playing games. Give them something to conquer – even if it’s you!
  • Have them share a testimony of something good from that day or something for which they are grateful.
  • Make sure you are making yourself accessible to them in every way for every care and concern.

8/26/20 Granted Power

I have granted you power to trample down the works of the enemy. I have seated you in heavenly places with Me. Oh, that My people would pray and exercise that which is rightfully theirs in Me! Wield My Word, allowing it to do what it has done throughout eternity – creating and miraculously moving according to My will and My desires. Come into agreement with My Word and watch as impossibilities dissolve before your very eyes and situations and circumstances are brought into alignment with My love and desires for you. Do not despair, My people! You serve a God who rides upon the clouds and comes speedily to redeem you from every plot of the enemy. Let My love be a mantle, surrounding and embracing you as you move forward in Me, taking up the positions I have ordained for you from the beginning. Eph. 2:6-7, “God raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with Him in heaven, in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is His grace, how great is His kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.” CJB

The Almond Blossom

The almond. What on earth could a nut have to do with Israel, and can America learn anything from it? Many biblical scholars believe the almond is representative of resurrection or, due to its outer skin, representative of our spirits encased in flesh. Some, of the nation of Israel itself. However, I would like to propose something different. I believe it is indicative of God’s remembered word.

In Scripture, there is a place often overlooked. Its name was changed, and it would be of incredible importance to the nation of Israel. That city is Luz – better known as Bethel. Interestingly, the name Luz means “almond tree,” and it is at this location that Abraham sets up an altar to God and is the sight of Jacob’s ladder where God reaffirms His covenant with Jacob, who changes its name to Bethel, “House of God.”

Bethel will play an intricate part in the developing nation, and so will the almond. In Exodus 25, we find that God instructs that the bowls of the golden lampstand in the tabernacle be fashioned as almonds. In Numbers 17, God solidified Aaron’s role as High Priest when God caused Aaron’s rod to bud and yield almonds.

Approximately one thousand years after Jacob, Jeroboam would become king over the nation of Israel, after its split from Judah. In I Kings 12, we’re told that Jeroboam, in his insecurity and pride, would place a golden calf at Bethel for the Israelites to worship rather than have them return to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. Within a couple of centuries, Hosea would use Bethaven, “House of Vanity,” Bethel’s neighboring city about Bethel itself because its idolatry was before God’s face. Of it, Hosea would declare that the children of Israel were playing the harlot and shouldn’t bother to approach God in that place.

And yet over a century later just before the nation was sent into captivity, we find something that speaks to the awe-inspiring character and nature of God. God has called Jeremiah the prophet, and one of the first things God asks Jeremiah is, “What do you see?” Jeremiah’s response is, “I see a rod of an almond blossom.” God tells Jeremiah that he has seen well because God watches over His Word to perform it (Jer. 1:11).

Here’s the thing: at the place of the almond tree (Luz), Abraham built his altar to the Lord in recognition of their covenant (Gen. 12:8-9). Remember, Jacob was the one who changed its name to Bethel. God honors this covenant by causing Aaron’s rod to blossom with almonds, and then God fashions the lampstand of the tabernacle, His light, as the almond. By doing this, God was placing Israel and Himself in remembrance of His word to and covenant with Abraham. And years later, even amid the Israelites’ idolatry, God looks back with the prophet Jeremiah and says that He is yet watching over His Word to hasten it. Luz, aka Bethel, the House of God, had become like Bethaven, full of vanity and idolatry, and what is God thinking of even as He is preparing to send them into captivity? His covenant. I stand in awe of God’s character and nature. His love for His people. He is not writing them off. He is reassuring this weeping prophet that His word and covenant will be fulfilled in the lives of His people – those who like their father Israel will meet with God face to face yet be preserved, though marked forever in the meeting.

It should be noted that we, as Americans, have done the same thing. We came here, not faultless by any stretch of the imagination, but with a desire to worship and be as a city set on a hill. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are a reflection of our Biblical values and freedom in Christ, and our nation’s birth was nothing short of miraculous. Yet centuries later, we have become a nation steeped in idolatry, offering our children up for abortion in the name of convenience, worshipping ourselves, and in doing so, giving the enemy a foothold to bring about destruction. Yet God is still watching over His Word to us as Americans, as He did for the Israelites.

There remains a remnant. There remain a people of God who choose to worship in spirit and truth. There are yet those who refuse to bow their knee to any other. There are yet those who meet with the Lord and live in His presence, forever changed and marked by the cross and resurrection of Christ, awaiting His soon return. To these, I remind you that all of God’s promises are yes and amen to those in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

To those who have turned their backs, I say, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, but there must be a return. Both Abraham and Jacob returned to Bethel (Luz) before stepping into the promises of God. The question is, will you? 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us that “If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

God makes it abundantly clear that we must recognize that we have been called by His Name. In a country where our identity is continuously called into question, can we return to the fundamental premise that we are called by His name? Can we humble ourselves and pray, seeking Him alone and turn? We needn’t look far to see the wickedness consuming our land. If we will but have the courage to return to our roots and take the necessary steps back to Him, He promises to hear, forgive, and heal. If ever we needed such, it is now.

For those who are hidden in the hand of God, diligently seeking Him, yet weary of all that is transpiring around you, let me encourage you from Psalm 33:18-22, which states:

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy.

To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waiteth on the LORD: He is our help and our shield.

For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.

Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.”

God hasn’t forgotten. Even now He remembers us. Even now, like the almond of Israel, He is recalling to mind His promises. He is a faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy with a thousand generations (Deut. 7:9).

7/2/2020 Breakthrough to My Much More

When you breakthrough, the other side is not going to look like what you imagined. Keep moving forward, prepared for change at every moment. I am realigning people to walk new avenues that I have created for this time – unique and previously unseen. I am repositioning My people for Kingdom productivity. The path may look unfamiliar, but I have gone before You and My Spirit dwells within you. The fleshly urge is to stop at the point of breakthrough, but I say, keep going! There is a “much more” for My people – a much more of grace and glory. The breakthrough is to complete victory, not only to defend and hold your ground. Your breakthrough is the offensive move of heaven. There will be more than one breakthrough and with every one greater resistance. Keep moving forward! For those who do so, I am preparing delights on the way. Yes, even things that you could not imagine during a time of battle that bring great delight! Where the enemy has shown you your defeat, I have declared victory! Tune your ear to the rhythm of heaven’s army, so that you can breakthrough and move forward into My much more! Is. 43:19, “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” HCSB

6/29/2020 Wield Your Sword

Yesterday, I saw a giant angel with a huge sword ascend above and hover over the church. He stood there as though securing a perimeter, though he did not move. Then I saw swords appearing in the hands of God’s people, and as we began to walk away from the center of where we were gathered, we began to wield our swords together. It was not haphazardly done; rather, it was unified and fluid. It appeared to be choreographed – beautiful, intentional, and dangerous at the same time. We moved as one, and as we moved, we were joined by warring angels from heaven who moved in time with us, and wherever we tread, the blood of Christ was applied, and victory was secured.

I believe it is time for the church to stop seeing the Word of God as a book they pick up solely for use at church, but as a weapon, mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds. It is time to apply the Word of God to what is taking place in our homes, communities, and nation. We must learn how to wield it as one for the goal of taking ground for the Kingdom of God. Let’s begin to declare God’s Word over our cities and move forward in the strength of His might, knowing there is power in His Word, in His blood, and our testimony!

2 Cor. 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”

Eph. 6:12-19, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Rev. 12:11, “And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

6/2/2020 The Danger of Unholy Alliances

Jehoshaphat. His name means, “Jehovah has judged,” and he was one of the best, most blessed, and devout kings of Judah. For my purpose, I shall affectionately refer to him as “J.” In 2 Chronicles 17, we are told he walked in the ways of David and God’s commands rather than Israel’s, and because of it, the Lord established his kingdom. “His mind rejoiced in the LORD’s ways” (vs. 6). He was a reformer, educating the people in the ways of God, and he had amassed a mighty army. He also knew how to call on the Lord. His prayer was most powerful when the Ammonites and Moabites came against Judah. It begins:

“Lord God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven,

And do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations?

Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You” (2 Chron. 20: 6-7)

As we know, J. sent out the worshippers, and God wrought a mighty deliverance for Judah that day, without them ever having to lift a sword. Amid their praise, in their worship, God did something miraculous that was undeniable, all because J. led his people in intercession and fasting, and this is often used in the pulpit as an example of God taking up the cause of His people when they humble themselves before Him.

However, there are bookends to this event that had severe consequences for Judah, and it’s not a pretty picture. This beloved leader and man of God made some decisions that would send Judah into a tailspin for generations even though I don’t believe he intended to do so. Before the deliverance God wrought for the worshippers and people, J. entered into what I call an “unholy alliance.”

In 2 Chronicles 18:1, we are told that J. had riches and honor in abundance due to the blessing of the Lord and yet he chose to ally with King Ahab of Israel. Yes, that Ahab – the guy married to Jezebel. J. married his heir to their daughter, and in a visit to Israel, J. would be convinced by Ahab to enter into battle. What’s interesting is that J. insisted on asking a true prophet of God if this would succeed (18:6), and even when Micaiah said that Ahab would not return safely, J. still chose to go into battle and even adorned like a king, while Ahab would be in disguise (18:29). When the enemy pursued J., he did have enough sense to cry out to the Lord, and God did deliver him. Ahab was not so blessed – He died as the prophet had foretold.

Even though God delivered J. from his grievous error, that would not be the end of it. In chapter 19, verse 2, Jehu the prophet confronted J. saying, “Do you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the LORD’s wrath is on you. However, some good is found in you, for you have removed the Asherah poles from the land and decided to seek God.” Note, God’s wrath was still upon J. for this unholy alliance of both marriage and war with the enemy of God. God spared J. in this battle and delivered Judah from the Ammonites in a powerful way, despite this unholy alliance because J. sought Him, but the next generation, well, that’s another story.

After their victory in the place of worship, it says that God gave J. rest on every side (20:30). Even though their worship and intercession moved the hand of God, in verse 33 of chapter 20, it says, “However, the high places were not taken away; the people had not yet determined in their hearts to worship the God of their ancestors.” What? God had just proven Himself in a mighty way in response to their worship, and yet they were still indecisive and double-minded? Even J. did not learn the lesson, for he would once again enter into an unholy alliance.

God had granted peace to J., and in that foolishly chose to make another alliance, this time with Ahab’s heir, King Ahaziah (20:35). J. entered into a contractual agreement with him to make ships for economic gain. This time, God was not so lenient with J. Eliezer prophesied against J. saying, “Because you formed an alliance with Ahaziah, the LORD has broken up what you have made” (20:37). J. lost all of his ships. The work and resources he had put into this project birthed of an unholy alliance were destroyed by the same God who had rescued him in battle. But that’s not all lost because of these unholy alliances.

When J. died, the kingdom of Judah passed to his eldest son, Jehoram, whom because of J.’s unholy alliance with Ahab, was married to Jezebel’s daughter. Though J. made provisions for his other sons throughout the kingdom, Jehoram killed all of his brothers and others, as well. He would prove such an ungodly leader that Elijah the prophet via a letter would condemn him by the Spirit of God. A horrible illness would strike his people, his wives, and his sons. Jehoram would be struck in his intestines and die a horrible death and live in pain the rest of his days. It would say of Jehoram that he “died to no one’s regret” (21:20).

How did things disintegrate so quickly for the nation of Judah? Rehoboam had lost the kingdom, but his son Asa followed the Lord, as did Jehoshaphat, and in one generation all was lost. Why? I believe it was because of the unholy alliances made by J. while he was walking in the blessing of God – and this greatly concerns me because the church is in this same danger.

The church of America has been greatly blessed. We’ve been blessed with funds to send the gospel worldwide, we’ve gone to battle on behalf of our nation with times of worship and intercession, such as this last month preceding Pentecost, but have our hearts been convinced to truly worship the God of our ancestors to the point of true repentance? The repentance that breaks our hearts and turns our hearts toward God?

You see J. compromised. He did what worldly kings did and married his heir to the world’s system that had infiltrated the nation of Israel at that time. Have we, while revelling in the blessing of God, married our heirs, the next generation of the church, to the world? What have we allowed to enter our house that is not of God and hates Him? Have we for the sake of our own economy aligned ourselves with the world’s tax-exempt status to enlarge our coffers, and lost our children?

Lest you think that I am exaggerating, in 2019, Barna reported that the drop-out rate for young people when they enter their college years and twenties is at a staggering 64%. In 2018, Barna reported that 59% of Gen Z don’t’ feel that the church is relevant to them personally. Would you hand over seven to the enemy for the sake of maintaining unholy alliances? Are we losing the next generation because we married ourselves to the world’s ways and methods, choosing the mass-production of converts over making disciples, as Jesus commanded? As a mother of four Gen Z boys, I am more than concerned. While there is hope for resilience, when will we move past the momentary excitement of seeing the Lord bring mighty deliverances and still not set our hearts to worship and serve him?

There is hope that we will not be the Jehoshaphat generation. We can repent, we can turn from our wicked ways, we can still call upon the Lord. You see, our future as people who love and follow the Lord is secure, but what of the next generation who has watched as we have compromised, only to call upon the Lord when trouble strikes, and then turn around and compromise yet again? What about my kids and your grandkids who have seen us make unholy alliances rather than trust in the power of God? What about the “None” generation who feel they have no affiliation with God or His church at all? It is a certainty they are watching, and we can’t get out of it with the proverbial, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

In his book, Grow Together, Jeff Myers shares that, “Failure to pass on godly principles in one generation always leads to bloodshed in the next” (42). We are seeing this firsthand today, and it was certainly true in the Old Testament. King Jehoshaphat may have been a good king, but he was a lousy father to Jehoram. Has our generation been the “good church,” seeing many come to God even while we compromised and failed to father the next generation? Are there unholy alliances that we need to break free of for the sake of our children and purposefully choose a return to holiness for their sakes? You see, J. wasn’t the one to pay the price. No, God was exceptionally gracious to him, but in his compromise, he passed the bill for his wayward ways, and it was his children and kingdom left with the debt of his unholy alliance. And it wasn’t just the next generation. This trend would lead to a usurper – Athalia – taking control of the kingdom until it was restored to its proper ruler. Let’s not let the enemy take our children there! May the victory of this past Pentecost endure – reviving us, changing us and restoring us to holiness. May we not be the Jehoshaphat generation that God must judge, and break our unholy alliances, refusing to lose the next generation!

 

Prayer: Father, You are our Creator, our Healer, and our only source of hope. Forgive us for building our own kingdoms rather than Yours and for making unholy alliances within the church that have pushed our children away rather than drawing them to you. Lord, we choose to break and rescind all unholy alliances and purpose with Your leading to reclaim the next generations for You and Your glory. We commit to being holy, even as You are holy (I Pt. 1:16), and to fathering as You father. We choose to make disciples, not just converts; world-changers, not pew-sitters. Holy Spirit, keep us on task, and cause us to remain true to Your heart for the coming generations that we will pass on a legacy of righteousness and fortitude – that our children would be resilient and strong in You and the power of Your might (Eph. 6:10). Teach us to teach them in the way they should go, so they will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). We want to diligently impress upon them what it means to be a bearer of Your Name, recalling joyfully Your miraculous work in our own lives (Deut. 6:7). Help us to be instruments of restoration to those that have left, so that they will return to You and change the trend of ungodliness. Help us to be firm and unshakeable, abounding always in Your work with a confidence that our labor is not in vain (I Cor. 15:58). May we boldly cross generational divides with sensitivity and wisdom to see Your will done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). In the precious, most powerful Name of Yeshua, amen!

5/14/2020 Ace of Spades is Trumped

They tried to make their play, but I have called their bluff. They attempted to keep Me out of the game, and in their delusion, misread their hand. They thought they held the ace of spades, never realizing I already had them trumped. Now I will expose the fraud they have perpetrated against My people. Now I will put the truth before the people and allow them to choose between the truth and a lie, life or death. For I saw what was done in the dark, and now, because of their unrepentant hearts, I will expose them to the light. Watch and see if by the end of the summer they are not squirming like a gambler that’s been too sure of himself, realizing he’s lost the game. For I am God, and there is no other! I am God, and I judge the intentions of every heart. I am God, and no one and nothing shall usurp the place of My kingdom. For Mine is a Kingdom of Overcomers, Mine is a Kingdom advancing! An army is rising up who have girded themselves with truth, their minds redeemed and righteous before Me. They preach My Gospel of Peace, and war, wielding My Word as a sword, their faith is their defense. These are those who know their God. Yes, these are those for whom mighty exploits are reserved!