I had an interesting dream the other night. Dreams are not unusual for me; they are just one of the biblical ways God speaks to me, clarifying things or bringing direction and insight. This dream was more like a parable, and it illustrated exactly what I have wanted to write about: Psalm 91.
Psalm 91 speaks of abiding and dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, of trusting in God and making Him our refuge. This Psalm rivals Psalm 23 in its popularity; just about anyone who has been to a church service, or read even snippets of the Bible, will be familiar with it. We send Psalm 91 to our troops on the field as a promise of God’s protection, and we quote it to comfort those in hard circumstances.
I have often wondered how to “dwell” and “abide” better; it seems like such a slippery task sometimes, given the demands we feel to be anything but still! Just making eye contact and listening to someone for more than a moment requires such discipline sometimes! (My husband can confirm this…)
Yet the reward God promises for abiding in Him is extraordinary – deliverance from a multitude of dangers. Here is a summary:
God also promises:
Well, I do, but like you, I don’t always succeed at this. So the Lord gave me a dream to illustrate the idea, and I hope it will be meaningful to you, too.
In the dream, I was with a couple of others who were invited to attend an outdoor training by a ministry leader known for walking in the Spirit. It was a brief but powerful lesson. In front of us was a bare concrete slab, and the goal of the lesson was to learn – you guessed it – to walk in the Spirit! (God sure does make these things easy for me to understand!)
Suddenly, wet footprints appeared on the slab, one by one, as an invisible being walked across the concrete. We knew the prints were made by the Lord. The Lord was not visible to us, but His footprints were. We were instructed to follow closely in those footprints, just like you might set your feet in someone else’s prints in the sand or snow.
Since it was a sunny day, we knew we had to move quickly and stay close, because the wet prints would soon dry and would no longer be visible. If we couldn’t see them, it would be impossible to “walk in the Spirit,” since we would have no idea where the Spirit went!
It was a powerful analogy, and it brought to life the scriptures in Psalm 91. Abiding in the Lord means walking closely enough to converse with Him (v.15). We need to literally be under the shadow of His wings (v.4). My friends and I had to quickly place our feet in His footprints, not allowing Him to move so far ahead that His wet prints faded away.
By “dwelling,” or walking, this closely with God, not only did we know where He was going and have the opportunity to go with Him, but we also benefited from His protection. By placing ourselves near Him, He became a shield to us, like a shield-bearer of old.
Abiding in God’s Word means that our faith causes His shields go up all around us to protect us from the myriad dangers we might otherwise encounter. This is confirmed in Ephesians 6:16, which says that the shield of faith is what quenches all the fiery darts of the evil one.
HE IS our shield, as Psalm 115 declares in triplicate: “HE IS our help and our shield.” (Psalm 115, 9-11; emphasis mine). “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence…In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:17-19).
I want to make it my lifetime goal to always follow the imprints of His Presence, to be close enough to hear His comforting whispers, and to be shielded and protected as His wings overshadow me. How about you?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting people with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To subscribe to her blog, click here.
The most powerful inscriptions ever made happened at Christ's resurrection. It was so important to our Savior that we understand the significance of what happened, that He returned even to "doubting Thomas" and asked him to place his fingers in the imprints of the nails on His hands, and the spear in His side. The inscriptions on His body are the conclusive proof of His great love for us.
In the midst of life's trials, we often forget what this means for us. When people fail us, it is easy to forget that we are loved. Celebrations - even of "Resurrection Sunday" - can be tough when we are gathering with difficult relatives or maybe feeling left out completely. In Christ, however, we have received an invitation that is too good to refuse! We are loved by Someone who never forgets us and always delivers us.
God Never Forgets Us
We are not the first people to worry about neglect or abandonment. Israel was doing the same thing long ago, under the Babylonian captivity. The temptation in affliction is to doubt God's goodness. God’s solution was to inscribe a personal invitation for them to be with Him – forever:
“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” ~Isaiah 49:14
God (through Isaiah) uses imagery that all of us can relate to, describing the strongest bond known to man. It would be unthinkable for a mother to forget her own child. Yet even if this happened, God would never forget you. This isn’t the only time God uses such language. Take a look at an earlier scripture:
“Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” ~Isaiah 46:4
God promises, in decidedly feminine language, to bear with us through thick and thin: He made us, He will bear us, He carries us and He delivers us. The language He uses is all related to childbearing and pregnancy.
To give you a frame of reference, I have made, borne, carried, and delivered three children, each one bigger and heavier than the last. Morning sickness was really all-day sickness for me, lasting not just three months but all nine. When my third child was delivered, at a whopping 10 pounds, 2 ounces, I decided that was all the experience I needed with childbearing and pregnancy! I do adore my children, and it was worth it, but I am very glad not to be carrying them anymore!
I'm sure it is at least as difficult for God to bear my sins as it was for me to bear my babies. Yet even so, God still chooses to put up with me. Why? Because He made me, it’s worth it, and I belong to Him:
"I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” ~Isaiah 44:21b-22
Just as I would not have abandoned the process of carrying my children to term or willfully failed to deliver them at the appropriate time, so God does not abandon His commitment to bear with me in love or to redeem and deliver me. No matter how difficult the situation, He is in it for the long haul. He completes what He begins.
God Delivers Us
Knowing that our deliverance comes through Christ, let’s look a little more closely at the imagery used to describe that redemption in Philippians and Exodus.
Christ “…made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bond-servant and
coming in the likeness of men…
He humbled Himself and became obedient
to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Paul writes, not by accident, that Christ became a bond-servant, someone committed to the will of his master. The Israelite law for Hebrew servants described a specific ritual for the servant who chose to remain with his master forever:
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing... But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” ~Exodus 21:2-6
A faithful servant who wished to remain with his master was required to have his ear pierced with an awl on the doorpost – the same place the Israelites were commanded to put the blood of the Passover lamb - as a sign of deliverance:
“For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever.” ~Exodus 12:23
Hallelujah! Jesus Christ, God’s suffering servant, allowed Himself to be pierced for me. His death on the cross was His statement of intent to serve His Master forever. As ruler of His Master’s household, He has become my Lord and Savior. The nail marks on His palms are His inscriptions of love for me, as a true servant of Israel. His blood delivers me from the destroyer and all the claims he might make over my life. God has given me my own personal “Passover!”
The beauty of this resurrection season is that I now know that I am never alone, never forgotten by the One person who matters most. Not only that, but I am also promised deliverance from whatever afflictions trouble me. Whenever I feel abandoned or neglected, I have only to look at the inscriptions in His hands to know that He will never leave me or forsake me. There is no greater comfort than that.
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you,
He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.
Are there times when you feel neglected by people you expect to love and care for you? Could God be challenging you to transfer those expectations over to Him - the One who never fails you?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All Bible references, NKJV
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To follow her blog, click here.
This week is a special one for Jews and Christians alike. Religious communities everywhere are celebrating Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter - all within a 7-day span! Even scientists and new-age psychics are paying attention to this week's appearance of a "blood moon," an extremely rare occurrence that - interestingly - always seems tied to significant events in Israel. In remembrance of our Jewish roots, I would like to clarify just what I believe our relationship is to the Jewish people, and challenge you to think deeply about your response.
As believers who are growing and maturing in Christ, we will eventually reach the point where we feel a new love for the Jewish nation and for Israel. In studying the book of Romans, we will come to realize that it is God’s desire to call the Jewish nation, who initially rejected Christ, back to Him. We will begin to understand that it will be the Gentile church whom God uses in these last days to provoke Israel - through jealousy - to return to faith in God.
When we first realize all of this, however, we must be careful to make one distinction: Our focus should not be on calling the Jews to something, but to Someone. Our mission is not to call them to be members of our Christian church, but to return to their faith in a covenant-keeping (and very Jewish) God. Historically, as in the Crusades, we can see that Christians may be tempted to take pride in Christianity and seek to make converts to religion, not to God. As Romans 11:24 explains, it is not the Jews who were grafted in to the cultivated olive tree, but the Gentiles, who are like “wild olive branches.” We were estranged from Israel’s communal life – until we came to faith in Messiah. As David Stern writes in the Jewish New Testament Commentary, “Israel constitutes the norm and center of gravity, not the Gentiles." (JNT Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992; p. 582).
And again, in Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul urges us to remember that we were Gentiles by birth, alienated from both Christ and the nation of Israel. We have now been brought near by the blood of our Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to pray for, watch, and bless Israel, not only because she plays a central role in worldwide political and end-time events, but also because she is God’s chosen nation, through whom all of His moral laws and covenants have come.
While we are not bound to the legalistic requirements of Mosaic law when we turn to Christ, we do gain access into all the wonderful covenants and promises given to the Jewish nation. In Christ, there is no longer any spiritual distinction between Jew and Gentile; the dividing wall has been abolished and we are members of one Body. Christ fulfilled all the legal requirements for us so that we could partake of the blessings and inheritances promised to our forefathers. In Christ, all God’s promises are “Yes and Amen!” (2 Corinthians. 1:20)
One of the most touching stories I have ever heard about reaching the Jews is the story of Richard Wurmbrand. You may know him as the Christian founder of the Voice of the Martyrs ministry (visit the Friends page of this website for more), but before that, he was persecuted as an anti-communist, Romanian Jew.*
In 1938, he was converted to Christianity by a Romanian carpenter named Christian Wolfkes. An unknown man of prayer, Christian lived in a remote mountain area which no one ever visited. Yet he longed for God to send him a Jew with whom he could share the gospel. By a miracle, Wurmbrand arrived on his doorstep one day and was converted, along with his wife Sabina. It would not be the end of Wurmbrand's persecutions, but his life would become a seed that would awaken thousands to the issue of Jewish and Christian persecution worldwide.
One man of prayer. One heart for the Jews. One Jewish conversion in a nameless mountain village. All of which led to a lifetime of impact for the Kingdom of God. How much more relevant is it now, in this end-time, to ask Him to give us a heart for the Jews!
The most exciting promise of all is that Israel will once again turn to her Maker and acknowledge Him as Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, her Messiah and Redeemer. This Passover, ask the Lord to give you a heart for His chosen people. Pray for Jerusalem. Pray for your own outreach to the people He loves so dearly. Pray that He sends you the one that only you can reach, in your own way, with the Love of your Jewish Father who has made Himself one with you!
I wish all of my Jewish and Messianic Jewish friends a very Happy Passover! May your celebrations and Seders lead you deeper into the knowledge of One who gave His life in fulfillment of all the promises of the Bible. Chag Pesach Sameach!
*Richard Wurmbrand's life story is available through Voice of the Martyrs.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Question: Have you ever read or studied Ephesians 2:11-22? What are your thoughts about our Christian response to the Jewish nation?
Feel free to share your comments below.
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)
During a church service one morning, I noticed a baby in our congregation. The baby, not yet a year old, was being held by her mother during worship and was happily examining her mother’s face, babbling contentedly about what she was seeing. She was reaching out and touching hair, skin, and eyes, all in wondrous amazement. At that moment, the worship team was singing, “We are lovers of Your Presence…” and I realized that the baby was the best example of this.
The baby lived completely in the moment, having no memory of what happened even minutes ago. She was unhindered by reminders of her past failures or mistakes, and was perfectly at peace. She enjoyed feeling secure arms around her, learning about the characteristics of her parent, and exploring her new world. True, she had no awareness of danger, but she trusted her mother to protect her.
That night, the Lord reminded me that one of the hideous strategies of the enemy is to use our memories against us. Satan reminds us of our past mistakes or abuse in order to hinder our free access into relationship with the Father. Accusing us of unworthiness, he will even condemn us about things for which we‘ve already asked forgiveness!
Satan divides our relationship with God by creating a feeling of false humility. He makes us doubt that the Father would enjoy holding us in His arms as much as the mother and baby I had seen. It was easy for the baby to enjoy relating to her parent, because she had no memory of past sins and believed she was adored! Nothing could separate her from the knowledge that she was the apple of her mother’s eye.
The Lord’s message in that moment was clear: we must be like children who forget their own weaknesses. He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103). Do not allow the enemy to conjure up unfounded reasons for your separation. Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you. Enter the Kingdom of God freely and be a lover of His Presence!
c. 2014 Deborah Perkins
~ Question: What hinders you from talking freely, face to face, with God? You can leave comments below.
Recently, the Lord gave me a prophetic word through a very personal analogy. He showed me that when the church doesn’t allow Him to speak, we develop a profound spiritual hearing loss, similar to what I have dealt with in the natural for most of my life. Let me explain by sharing what it means not to hear, and then give you a vision for what it would be to hear Him more clearly.
What Did You Say?
I have about a 70% hearing loss in both ears. It is a nerve loss that man cannot cure. (It's no problem for God, though!) This means that for nearly half a century (yes, I’m that young!), I have struggled on a daily basis to discern what people are saying to me, piecing together parts of conversations, reading lips and studying body postures if necessary, to add to my understanding. It is one of the reasons why I much prefer a book to a conversation, because then I know I will comprehend the whole thing, not just pieces of it!
I have always felt that the most precious gift I could give you is to listen to you, and to hear you. To this end, I have spent countless hours ministering to people in crisis, listening, counseling, and praying. And I haven’t heard every word, but I have listened, and I have loved, and I have tried to show you that you are valued and heard, because God did the same for me. By God’s grace, the land of my need has become the land of my anointing.
The problem, obviously, is that the struggle just to hear can be highly stressful. When we married, my husband gave me the gift of being a stay-at-home mom. I used this time to develop greater intimacy with God. I had always loved prayer, but the freedom not to work gave me the time I needed to listen to God more regularly and get to know His voice.
His Sheep Hear His Voice
The beautiful thing about God’s voice is that everyone can hear it! (John 10:27). Even someone who is deaf can still hear the promptings of the Spirit. Our ability to hear in the natural has no bearing on our ability to hear in the Spirit. In fact, God chastises His people through Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jesus for having ears but not hearing, and eyes but not seeing. (See Jeremiah5:21, Ezekiel 12:2, and Matthew 13:13)
When I spend time listening to the One whose voice I can hear, He releases me from the stress and anxieties that come from not being able to rest- the striving that comes from trying to hear voices that always seem too soft.
The Church’s Hearing Loss
The analogy for the church is this: just as my stress level increases when I cannot hear people; in the same way, the church is stressed when the noise of our serving hinders the ease of our listening. While God is certainly capable of thundering from heaven, He tends to speak in quieter whispers. It is rare to find a church whose Sunday services allow time for God to speak; we are moving at an astonishing pace, and the noise is deafening. Our relentless programs and agendas prohibit us from developing the intimacy and relationship we need with our King. The devil knows that intimacy is the very place where healing and rest occur.
We need the healing that comes from hearing. The church becomes sick, tired, and broken down when we are so busy serving Him that we do not make it a priority – corporately or individually - to hear from Him. “Come to Me,” He says in Matthew 11:28, “all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I am saddened by our tendency to drown out the voice of God with the noise of our own agendas. If our service means that we have no time to seek God and hear His instructions, then our ministries will soon fail. Our preoccupation with our to-do lists and agendas is in vain because it is ultimately only the wishes of the King that matter. This can be a hard concept for people in democratic nations to grasp. We don’t understand the weight or the priority of a king’s word.
Hearing and Healing
In over 30 years of ministry in various denominations, I have been the most blessed by people and churches who have shown true respect for the voice of the King. I’m not just talking about the difference between those who allow prophecy and those who do not. I’m noticing that there are those who have chosen to make a listening to God a priority.
I am thinking of one pastor I know who does not venture an opinion or do any ministry, without first listening to you - and listening for God's instructions. I know of one church that worships its way into the Presence of God and then waits silently until He has finished speaking before beginning their planned sermons and programs. I know from talking with many stressed-out, unfocused Christians that they long to hear and do what God has created them to do, not just what man has asked them to participate in. They simply aren’t sure how to do it or where to start.
I believe that our Sovereign King, the One who holds in His hands the blueprints for how to build the church, may be wondering what it is we think we are building without Him. He may be waiting for us to wait on Him, to embrace Him closely enough to hear His heartbeat. He may be speaking to us ever so softly, asking, “Are You Listening?”
*Share your comments below ~ Do you have a hard time hearing God in the midst of a busy life? How do you overcome that challenge?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Free Link to the Subscriber Resource Library when you join His Inscriptions!
A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.