“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.
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.
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.