Have you ever climbed aboard a submarine? If so, you're familiar with those small but weighty water-tight doors that provide passage from chamber to chamber. They are made of solid steel and weigh several hundred pounds. Once closed, they seal you off from water or gas pressure at depths of up to 10,000 meters. As you might know, it's the Hebrew year 5774, the "Year of the Open Door," and while my boys climbed eagerly in and out of submarine doors on our vacation last week, the Lord began to speak to me about these doors.
Hebrew letters have both numeric and pictorial values, and the number 74 in Hebrew is "Ayin Dalet." Ayin evolves from the picture of an eye, speaking of seeing or vision, while Dalet is used to speak of an open door, specifically a tent door that is tied back. Keep that in mind as I show you how our vacation unfolded!
Since my husband is a submarine buff, we started our trip with a visit to the USS Albacore in Portsmouth, NH. This sub is a 1950's research submarine, the fastest of its kind at the time, and one prophetically named the "Forerunner of the Future." Shaped like a tuna fish, it was made for covert stealth missions and for speed. It carried 50 Navy men who literally stuffed themselves into narrow 6' bunks and crouched through tiny passageways. One hallway was so narrow that my 6-foot 1-inch 13-year-old could not walk through without twisting his broad shoulders!
The only things you see on this sub are steel and machinery. There are no windows to provide a view; only the periscope operator would see the skyline. It's what you hear that's important. The two primary goals of this submarine are to listen and to attack. Using sonar, the crew listens for enemy movement and protects our shores with missle attacks. All this substantial steel and watertight protection sounded pretty impressive to me, until the Lord made the very good point that the doors were open.
I watched my husband and kids playfully crouching down to step through the 700-pound doors and realized : the doors are open - locked open, in fact - open so that no man can shut them. (Rev. 3:7-8). What used to be an impenetrable steel barrier has been bolted open, in this case, forever! What a wonderful picture of Ayin Dalet!
But the Lord wasn't finished with His story yet. A few days later, we traveled to the Wood Island Lighthouse, where we climbed 60 stone and iron steps to the gallery and viewing balcony at the top. (Special thanks to my friend Lisa, who watched the kids for me so I could go up!) Most people are fascinated with the hi-tech lantern and the wonderful views, 71 feet above water. But what I noticed most was the tiny iron door, no taller than 3 feet high, which the lighthouse keeper must crouch down to climb through. Once outside, he can walk all around the balcony and enjoy his newfound perspective. Another small - but open - door. Another call to get low, to humble yourself as you go through the open doors the Lord is giving you in order to gain a new position and a new perspective.
I wondered where all this was leading, of course, but the third piece came only as we concluded our vacation and began the drive home. We love yard sales, and when we stopped at one along the way we were given a small bag containing - guess what - a tent. The kids set it up at home and found it to be a pup tent, in perfect condition, with just one small zippered door. They unzipped it so I could take a picture and suddenly, I saw what God had given me: Ayin Dalet - the tent door! Wow!
It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a submarine engineer) to see that God is serious about opening doors for us this year. That which has limited us in the past is no longer a barrier to our future. In my case, the submarine and the lighthouse speak specifically to my callings (I am both a prayer warrior and a prophetic watchman). What doors is God opening for you this year? I challenge you to ask Him for the specifics. Please share your thoughts with me in the comments. And I pray He will open doors that give you a beautiful new view of your life - from His perspective.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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An often-quoted proverb from Alexander Hamilton says: "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." The saying may be harsh, but it is undeniably true. It begs the question: what do you stand for?
My pastor spoke last week about the life of Elijah the Tishbite. Here was a man who definitely stood for something - or more accurately, someone. Elijah honored God's Words, and God confirmed his authenticity through many miraculous interventions. Only half-listening to the sermon, I began to meditate on Elijah's life, and the Lord began to speak to me about Elijah's posture.
I had never noticed the words Elijah uses when prophesying, but they provide a unique insight into Elijah and ourselves. In his very first appearance before King Ahab, he prophesies: "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years except at my word." (1 Kings 17:1, emphasis mine). He uses the same phrase again in 1 Kings 18:15: "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to (Ahab) today."
Why is his language important? In speaking this way, Elijah is indicating the position of his spirit in the Lord, or his posture. These are the words of a man who is confident that he is at that very moment standing in the Presence of the Lord. He knows he has the full backing of Israel's God and all the resources God has to offer (even hosts of angels, if need be). He may be a small, despised prophet in King Ahab's eyes, but he sees himself as a supernatural joint-heir, standing side by side with the King of the whole earth! That's a great picture of the confidence we, too, are to have as we go through our daily lives. The theme of standing firmly in our faith is continued throughout the New Testament as well.
In fact - as my pastor noted, interrupting my thoughts - Elijah was so accustomed to living in the supernatural that he thought nothing of it when angels or ravens came to feed him. He simply ate and went back to sleep!
Elijah didn't just stand around acting spiritual, though. He also bowed to pray for rain (1 Kings 18:42), stretched himself out on top of a dead boy three times to resurrect him (1 Kings 17:13-14), and ran faster than a chariot in the Spirit when the hand of the Lord came upon him (1 Kings 18:44-46). His departure was marked by the arrival of a whirlwind which took him up into heaven. (2 Kings 2).
There is one interesting twist to the story of Elijah, which you may already know. The Bible mentions that he was a man just like us, and gives us an illustration of his very human weakness: he was afraid of Jezebel. When this woman, a prophet-killer, confronts Elijah, he runs again - only this time he runs for his life. (See 1 Kings 19:1-4). He runs all the way to Beersheba, or the "Well of the Oath," where Abraham and Abimilech had cut a covenant and where Abraham was accustomed to pray. But he doesn't stay there. He goes into the nearby wilderness and prays that he might die.
Does this surprise you? A man of such faith and miraculous provision, praying such an unanswerable prayer? It might surprise you even more to know that even for today's spiritual leaders, this is not uncommon. Surveys done by Barna, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Theological Seminary have shown that 70% of pastors fight depression on a regular basis. In addition, 80% of pastors say they feel unqualified and discouraged in their pastoral roles. And 1500 pastors are leaving the ministry every month because of burnout, strife, or moral failure.*
Elijah's story provides us with a sobering glimpse of reality for a spiritual leader. What caught my eye, however, was that during this time, Elijah's posture changed from standing in the Spirit to running away and ultimately lying down. Exhaustion, fear, and depression took their toll.
Tenderly, as with Jesus' threefold restoration of Peter after his denial, God comes to Elijah twice and says "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." The third time, outside the cave on Mount Horeb, God says, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." (1 Kings 19:11, emphasis mine). There, God meets and talks with Elijah to correct his misconceptions about ministry and to further commission him. He also provides a servant (Elisha), who will eventually replace him. God ministers to Elijah's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs before sending him out again. God wants Elijah to ARISE and resume his position of right-standing with the Lord.
Don't be Double-Minded!
Like Elijah, we are all imperfect and fall sometimes. Instability - a wavering, or faltering, between two choices - is often the reason we fall. Elijah knows the false prophets are on shaky ground when he challenges the Baal-worshipers to a duel of fire on Mount Carmel. Look at his interesting choice of words: "How long will you falter between two opinions? Make a choice - if God is God, follow him but if Baal, follow him." (1 Kings 18:21).
To falter is to "stop being strong or successful; to begin to move or walk in an unsteady way; to begin to fall or weaken." (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary Online). Elijah's plea was for the people of his day to STAND for the Lord, not to fall for Baal.
The story's end is well-known: only the God of Israel sends fire on Elijah's offering. Elijah pursues the humiliated Baal worshipers as far as the Brook Kishon (the same place where Deborah and Barak ensnared Sisera's army years before), and slays them all with his sword. In case you were wondering, the name Kishon means "winding, bent, or crooked."
Is it any coincidence that the book of James speaks explicitly of Elijah's faith? (See James 5:16-18) Dig a little deeper and you find that the faith of Elijah is subtly alluded to in the first chapter of James as well:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally
and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with
no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed
by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-10)
Only in God do we find true stability for our times. Only by choosing to place faith in God's Word can we stand against the storms of fear and doubt. Elijah exemplifies a faith in God that is solid, secure, and successful. Although he did it imperfectly, as we do, Elijah chose to stand for God. What do you stand for?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014; all references NKJV
*Thanks to Barnabas Ministries for compiling these statistics.
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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?
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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.