“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” Galatians 5:22, NJKV
Jesus came to earth looking for a Bride. He is as interested today in a pure, spotless Bride as He was when He walked the earth. As any marriage counselor will tell you, the preparation of a bride’s heart is far more important to the marriage relationship than her preparations for an elaborate wedding ceremony.
Spiritually, our wedding with Christ has yet to take place. (See Revelation 21.) The central question for us during this time of “engagement” is: Are we busier with our religious activities than with preparing our hearts for Him? Are we focusing on religious ceremonies, but neglecting the Kingdom of God within us? Are we living a life of peace and joy, rooted in intimacy with the Bridegroom?
Summertime and the living is… NOT always easy! If you’re a parent with kids, you know how *challenging* summers can be! Between long work hours for my hubby and an increasingly busy schedule feeding and caring for my family (think weekly sleepovers, the constant geographical shuttling of children to and fro, doctor’s appointments, and - oh – did I mention we are scraping AND painting the house ourselves in this heat wave?!), I was distracted from my usual routine and beginning to feel exhausted. And there’s still another month until the kids go back to school!
Thankfully, through the generosity of a friend, the children and I escaped to the mountains for a few days this week, bringing one of their friends along. Here, they could swim and play with less supervision on my part, and I could relax and perhaps write. The words of David in Psalm 119 came alive to me: “Revive me, Oh Lord!”
The famous comedian, Woody Allen, quips that "eighty percent of success is showing up." I'm not sure about the numbers, but I do think there's some truth in this. Ask any pastor and you will find that one of their primary concerns is how to keep people coming back to church, week after week, when most people simply crave "down time" on the weekends. We are tired, world-weary, and longing for rest. How do we find the energy to "show up" when we feel like there is nothing left to give?
Matthew's gospel reads:
I have prayed for people in some difficult situations lately. I’ve talked with people who are struggling with significant changes in their lives that leave them wondering, ‘What now? Did I do something wrong?’ Life suddenly threw them a curve ball; something unexpected sent them spinning, wide-eyed, into what felt like a dusty, dry, desert season.
I took a walk down to a local pond last week to rest and pray. The stillness of water relaxes me, and I sat for a while enjoying the warm sun and the beautiful scenery. Psalm 19 tells us that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge." (Psalm 19:1-2, NKJV)
The Lord told me once that the "ancients" - our fathers in the faith - used to meditate far more often than we do, and as a result, they were rewarded with far more wisdom. I sought rest, not wisdom, yet God gifted me with both.
He reminded me that water in Scripture is sometimes used to symbolize the Word (see Ephesians 5:26). And wind ("pneuma", or "breath," in the Greek), often represents the Holy Spirit. When wind blows upon the water, creating ripples or waves, suddenly the direction of the wind, normally invisible, can be seen. Asking the Holy Spirit to breathe upon the Word as we read it will help us to discern more clearly His direction for our lives. The Bible comes alive. The movement of the Spirit is seen.
In the same way, a topical look at the water of the Word gives a certain amount of peace. But when we choose to immerse ourselves in water, rather than just look at the surface of it, we find that deep within that water is life. All kinds of living creatures abide there, things we would never see if we did not immerse ourselves. Tides, or perhaps the directional pull towards a waterfall, can now be felt. In the water, it is easier to sense the direction that water is taking, and we can allow ourselves to be carried along to where the water - or rather, the Word - wants us to go.
Living water! Isn't that what Jesus was talking about? We came to the Word seeking peace and rest, and yet as we immersed ourselves in it, studying it, we began to gain wisdom from God. We now know the direction He is taking us, and with the wind at our back and the swell of the waves, we float effortlessly to our destination.
Christians have a ritual of immersion called baptism. My youngest son is obeying Christ's command to be baptized this weekend. He is choosing to believe that his interaction with the water will yield new life in the Kingdom of God. I pray that as he grows, he will continue to immerse himself in the water of the Word, which has the power to guide and direct him all the days of his life.
Isn't it interesting that following Jesus begins with a command to be baptized in water and ends with a command to abide in the water of the Word?
To help you study the relationship between the water of the Word and the wind of the Spirit, I am including a link to a teaching I delivered recently at Indian Lake Community Church in Worcester, MA. I believe it will bless you and challenge you to take the plunge: to dive into the Word daily and to enjoy the feel of the wind on your face as you follow Him.
*Please note: Because this is a live recording, there is some background noise. I encourage you to press in and discover all that God wants to say to you through this teaching.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
One of the reasons why I began writing His Inscriptions was to strengthen believers - especially Christian leaders - who are weary and exhausted for various reasons. You may be feeling that way today. It is not uncommon, in an increasingly hostile world, to feel tired or discouraged. Once we are weary, it becomes harder than ever to maintain the good habits we have of connecting with God. Self-discipline eludes us and our communication with God ebbs at the time we need it most.
The Bible addresses weariness, and in its simplest form, we know that a weary body needs rest and nourishment, just as a weary spirit does. There are numerous examples in Scripture of exhausted believers seeking bread and water - both natural and spiritual - to sustain them. They serve as examples to us of how to overcome our own exhaustion. As is so often the case, one way leads to the bread of adversity and the water of affliction (see Isaiah 30:15-21, especially v. 20), and the other leads to the bread of life and to living water.
Causes of Exhaustion
Exhaustion itself is not a sin. God has a special place in His heart for those who are weary, and He does not "break a bruised reed." (Isaiah 42:3). In other words, He is all about lifting up those who are oppressed and giving rest to those who are tired. His ways are along paths of stillness and refreshment (Psalm 23). It is the enemy who is the taskmaster, the driven one who pushes us beyond our limits. In Old Testament stories, this enemy often shows up as an Amalekite. The Amalekites symbolize the first cause of exhaustion: warfare.
The Amalekites were the "valley-dwellers," as their name implies. They are the ones who attacked Israel's weaker, rear flanks at Rephidim when Moses led Israel out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 25). They attacked Israel again at Ziklag, kidnapping defenseless women and children and burning the city. (1 Samuel 30). They aligned themselves with the Midianites (whom Gideon fought) against Israel. And it is widely believed that Haman was a descendant of Amalek as well.
The Amalekites liked to hit Israel when they were down. They didn't play fair. For this, they earned God's eternal displeasure, voiced in Balaam's fourth oracle: "Amalek was first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction." (Numbers 24:20). Despite the command for Israel to blot the Amalekites out completely, God indicates that He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
The second cause of exhaustion is sorrow or grief. When the Amalekites destroyed Ziklag, carrying off Israel's wives and children, David's men "lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep." David was "greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters." (1 Samuel 30:4-6).
In fact, when David went up to recapture the women and children, 200 of his 600 men stayed behind, because they "were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor." (1 Samuel 30:10).
The name Besor may derive from the Hebrew "basar," which means "cheerful," or "cool." They were undoubtedly in need of some cheering up.
Now, I don't know how wide this brook was at the time, but it is not mentioned as a "raging river" or a great "Red Sea," which should give you an idea of just how tired these men were from their grieving. It shouldn't be terribly difficult to cross a "brook" - unless you are truly exhausted.
Jesus' disciples faced a similar type of exhaustion. After being told that their superhuman leader was about to die, they could not even pray with Him at Gethsemane. The reason? A crisis of faith that found them "sleeping from sorrow." (Luke 22:45).
A third type of exhaustion is that which results from intense spiritual activity. Daniel fell sick and faint after a significant encounter with an angel in Daniel 8. Elijah ended up in a cave after a long journey and a massive victory against 400 prophets of Baal. Moses needed support to hold his hands up in a prayer-battle, and counsel from his father-in-law to delegate his responsibilities.
Jesus often told the disciples to "come away and rest" after times of ministry. Sometimes, successes lead to exhaustion, too. No one is exempt.
Seeking a Solution
We know, of course, that we are exhausted. We feel it deep within our bones. We want to sleep, to stop all the motion and commotion. We crave peace and nourishment but it doesn't come. If we haven't crashed by our own "Brook Besor" yet, we begin looking for help, creating solutions we think will solve the problem. Unfortunately, they don't always work.
Gideon's starving army was denied bread twice, first by the men of Succoth (meaning "tents/tabernacles"), and then by the men of Penuel (which means, "the face of God.") How symbolic; they were seeking bread that only God could supply; man's help turned out to be useless! Elijah had to be fed bread and water by an angel to regain his strength. The disciples slept until Jesus wakened them and told them to "arise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." (Luke 22:46). Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup because he was so weary. He regretted it later.
Only David did the prudent thing by seeking the face of the Lord in his weariness. In the midst of a burning, desolate city when his men were blaming him entirely for their losses, David sought the priest's ephod and inquired of God as to what should be done. Not surprisingly, God said "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." (1 Samuel 30:8) Remember, God wants us to have a decisive victory over the Amalekites! But the ones who defeat this particular enemy are those who, like David and Moses, work their strategies in partnership with God.
There is no remedy for physical exhaustion except rest and nourishment. What these Bible stories illustrate is that the remedy for soul-exhaustion can only be found in Jesus. He is the Bread of Life, and His Word is the Living Water that refreshes from within. "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29).
Immediately after David prayed at Ziklag, a famished Egyptian man was found in a nearby field. He was an Amalekite servant who had not eaten for three days. Why? Because true to form, when the servant fell sick, his Amalekite master left him behind. The calling-card of an Amalekite is a sick and weary servant!
It was the previously-weary David, now fresh from prayer and full of the compassion of the Lord, who gave this Egyptian the bread of life and the water that restored him. That same servant then led David to the Amalekite troops, where David's men recaptured all that had been stolen.
Jesus guarantees that we will recapture our strength as we enter into His Presence. It does seem contradictory to stop and locate that place of stillness with Him daily, when there is so much that needs to be done! Won't we lose our battles if we stop fighting? Aren't we becoming lazy, or too "soft," when we choose intimacy over activity?
No, because the moment we raise our hands in prayer, as Moses and David did, the Lord releases heavenly armies to fight victoriously for us. He is still "Jehovah-Nissi," the Lord our Banner, who defeated a wearying enemy for Moses and David centuries ago. (Exodus 17:14-16)
It's an enigma. No matter how exhausted we feel, WE are told to arise and blot out the Amalekites who weary us. Yet it is GOD who promises to wage war against them from generation to generation. The solution to this enigma is partnership. Allow me to rephrase God's words to David as our answer for today: "Pursue ME, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all."
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015. All references NKJV.
What do you think of when someone mentions the word "shelter?" Where is your "safe place?" Do you think of your home, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood? Are you reminded of the steel roof of an underground bunker, bomb-proof and secure? Perhaps you are in the arms of a loved one stronger and wiser than you, who protects you or with whom you have built an implicit trust?
Shelter, for me, conjures up many different images. When I was a little girl, there was a willow tree out in back of our house, with a child-sized picnic table underneath. For the first six years of my life, this was my favorite place to be. Here was a secret hiding place where I held court with my dolls, served tea to imaginary dignitaries, and peeked secretly out at the world through draping, sun-kissed branches. Sometimes, my best neighbor-friend, Wendy, would come visit me there, slipping through the stand of trees that divided our backyards. It was the perfect escape for a little girl!
My old willow tree now shelters other children, and as the years have passed I have known many other forms of shelter: new homes, private retreats, loving relationships, just as I'm sure you have. But the most powerful image in my mind is that of a shelter that protects my life, not just my body or my soul. (See Ecclesiastes 7:12). It is the shelter found in the Name of God.
The Blessing is in the Name
When we become believers, a divine transference takes place. Through adoption, we receive the Name of God as our own. This doesn't just mean we call ourselves "Christians" from now on; it means that the essence of God - the manifestation of His Spirit, nature, and Presence - is imparted, or "rubbed on," as an anointing. Hebrews speaks of God engraving His nature on our hearts and minds. Numbers describes the priests "putting My Name on the people of Israel, so that I will bless them." (See Hebrews 8:10; Numbers 6:24-26).
So how does His Name become a shelter? Deuteronomy clarifies this for us:
All the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the
Name (or the Presence) of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.
Deut. 28:10, AMP
Think briefly of Israel's journey through the wilderness. We often attribute the pillars of fire and cloud only as easy-to-follow "road signs" out of Egypt, when in truth, these manifestations of the Presence of God were for shelter and protection as well. The cloud sheltered them from oppressive desert heat. It darkened the path behind them. And no enemy would dare approach a traveling caravan protected by a supernatural column of scorching fire!
Exodus 14:19 connects the movement of the Angel of God to the movement of the pillars of cloud and fire. When the cloud moved, it literally "came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel...so that the one did not come near the other all that night." (Ex. 14:20, NKJV). In this way, the Name, or essence of God manifested over His people, sheltered and delivered them from Egypt.
David also knew this kind of protection, writing of it often in his Psalms. Psalm 31:20 reads, "You hide them in the shelter of Your Presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in Your Presence, far from accusing tongues." (NLT; for more examples, see Psalms 27, 91 & 138). Because of our relationship with God, we are able to run in to our Father's arms and find safety from physical or verbal threats (Proverbs 18:10).
Why is all of this important? Because the days to come will be more challenging than ever before.
This morning's headlines included yet another Asian plane crash, a commuter train wreck in New York, more Syrian executions, and record-breaking snowstorms in New England. We need the kind of shelter that only the anointing and Presence of God can provide for these times. Fortunately, Isaiah gives us a promise of what this looks like for a redeemed people:
... then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion,
and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining
of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.
And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat,
for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain."
Isaiah 4:5-6, NKJV
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are living under the covering of His anointing. Anything that touches you must pass through the fire of His Presence first! You are shielded and sheltered under His wonderful Name, the Name that is above every other Name! (Philippians 2:9-11). He is "tabernacling" with you daily, overshadowing you with His glory. He is both leading and protecting you. Glory to His Name!
But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever.
May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You.
Psalm 5:11, HCSB
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting people with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. To subscribe to her blog, click here.
The idea of taking a Sabbath day off to rest is not a new one. Up until recent times, it was unthinkable to find stores open on Sundays or employers demanding that workers put in a 7-day workweek. But materialism and secular humanism have changed our culture dramatically, and what used to be unreasonable is now the norm.
What we sow, we reap, and a recent New York Times bestseller, The Mystery of the Shemitah, has paired this truth with an urgent warning. Author Jonathan Cahn skillfully links many of the nation's ills with our failure to honor God. He shows historically that God is not mocked. He also warns that according to the Bible's seven-year timetable called "Shemitah," we will reap judgment again, just as we have many times before.
What is Shemitah? It is, to put it in simplistic terms, an extension of the law of the Sabbath. Just as Israel was commanded to rest every seventh day (a pattern modeled and initiated by God in Genesis, during creation); so the land must be given a rest every seven years to enjoy her Sabbaths. (See Leviticus 25). It requires Israel to rekindle her trust in God as Provider by taking an extended "vacation," of sorts, from sowing and reaping.
For an agricultural economy, this principle is understandable. Fields lie fallow, and what grows on its own is shared and eaten by everyone. Debts are forgiven. Even today's sophisticated studies of farming confirm the benefits of rotating crops or allowing the ground to lie fallow for a period of time, to restore the soil's nutrients. It makes economic sense.
It makes spiritual sense, too. Any farmer will tell you how refreshing a year of rest from hard labor is for himself! The extra time the Israelites gain when they cease sowing and harvesting is intended to be time spent with God. It is almost like a fast: an implicit acknowledgement that Israel relies wholly upon Him.
What doesn't make sense, perhaps, is how to practice this in modern times. In an economy that is no longer agriculturally-based, how does one stop working? Today's industries demand nonstop investment. One cannot simply abandon his job and hope that somehow there will be enough food to go around - can he? Is this really what God wants?
Under Old Testament law, it would seem so. The biblical penalty for failing to keep these seven-year cycles of Sabbaths was exile to Babylon. For seventy years, the land of Israel enjoyed the full number of Sabbaths she had missed. (See Leviticus 26:34 & Jeremiah 29). Her economy was devastated and her enemies defeated her.
The Mystery of the Shemitah advocates that we as a nation must return to God, lest we incur His judgment. Jeremiah 29:11, a favorite "blessing promise" verse, was conditional: it would come to pass only after the Sabbaths had been fulfilled. (See Jeremiah 29:10-14 for the context). 2 Chronicles 7:14, another favorite verse for the healing of the land, is also conditional. Our very lives depend on our seeking God. (See also Amos 5:4, Matthew 6:33).
What Does This Mean for Us?
God is serious about His people returning regularly to a place of wholehearted trust in Him. Believers know that Christ is the fulfillment of every law. Now living in the doctrine of grace, we can honor God's heart for the Shemitah just as we honor the Sabbath. Not with a legalistic adherence to a year of rest, but with an attitude that demonstrates trust and a desire to seek Him more fervently. How do we do that?
Proverbs 3:4-5 reads,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (NKJV)
Here's an illustration the Lord gave me in prayer: normally, our everyday lives involve applying ourselves steadily to our work, as if we are pushing on a wall, hoping for breakthrough. We are told this work will pay off, and so we try to force our way through the barriers. Our reward for applying this constant pressure comes in the form of a paycheck, a promotion, or (if we are farming!) a harvest.
The Shemitah principle reminds us that there are times when we would do better to turn around and apply pressure on the opposite side, where there is a door: heaven's door! It seems counter-intuitive, at first, to turn away from what we think is the location of our natural provision, but turning renews our focus on God, our true Source. Heaven's door yields more easily and our breakthroughs reveal hidden treasures, both natural and spiritual, which we could not otherwise access.
In other words, we don't stop sowing, but we do start sowing to the Spirit instead of to the flesh. I like the way this translation puts it:
If you plant in [the soil of] your corrupt nature, you will harvest destruction.
But if you plant in [the soil of] your spiritual nature,
you will harvest everlasting life.
-God's Word Translation
Sabbaths and Shemitahs remind us time after time that God is still trustworthy. The inscription on our money reads: In God We Trust. This Shemitah year, I pray that every time we handle money, we'll be reminded that it is God who gives us the power to get wealth, as a sign of His loving covenant with us.* I pray that in seeking Him, we'll find that our time is never wasted and our harvests are multiplied.
*Deuteronomy 8:18. For a Jewish testimony about God's provision during a Shemitah year, click here.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
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Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others to connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.com. Follow her on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins or Facebook at HisInscriptions. To subscribe to her blog, click here.
This morning as I prayed, the Lord asked me to share with you a short prophetic word He had given me a few weeks ago. It has helped me to steer clear of what I call "unsanctified works;" things I jump into automatically without checking in with the Holy Spirit first. These things might be urgent matters, regular relationships, or just routine tasks. I believe the enemy is busy today using the deception of false obligation to keep us out of the will of God. Let me know if this resonates with you, too.
"Deception is a common tactic of the enemy today. Satan seduces based on your weakness. This is why it's important to seek counsel from the Lord in ALL THINGS: because you are weak and have blind spots, but God is strong and sees all. Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed.
Even your sense of duty and responsibility can be a weakness, exploited by the enemy to draw you into situations I have not called you into. Your love for certain things can be a weakness, exploited again by the enemy to draw you out of My Presence. It is more vital than you know to stay connected to Me at ALL TIMES. Those who do not abide in Me will be chopped off and burned in the fire. (John 15:2) It is the work of the enemy to destroy you, not to rebuild you. I am for you, not against you. Come to Me... and you will find rest."
Praying for each one of you, my readers, that you will know and love Him more and more!
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping people connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or to read more of her blog, click here.
As I worshiped this morning, the Lord surprised me by speaking through the words of a classic hymn. I was singing William Bradbury's familiar song, "Solid Rock," penned in the 1800's and recently revamped by Hillsongs as "Cornerstone." Here are the words:
Memorial Day has come and gone, and I am looking forward to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” which will soon arrive. With summer comes the wonderful anticipation of REST: that warm and delicious, lounging-on-the-beach kind of rest that I love! This year, though, "summer" started earlier for me.
My husband and I spent Memorial Day in a little cottage on the Rhode Island coast. Only two blocks from the ocean, our tiny haven afforded us an opportunity to rest, relax, and refocus as we celebrated our 15th anniversary. Despite the still-chilly air in New England, and only a brief, obligatory appearance by the sun, we walked on the beach, dipped our toes in the water, and watched as hardier souls than we dared to submerge themselves in the icy ocean waters.
It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. As I have continued to meditate on the Psalms this week, I believe that is true, but with a qualification. I have noticed that our strategies for life are often far too wearying for us because we end up on the offensive lines when we shouldn’t be. We become tired and overwhelmed, trudging after the Lord reluctantly. We excuse or eliminate ourselves from His battles because we have already been expended fighting when we were not called to fight. In short, we miss the rest and refreshment He has provided for us along the way.
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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.