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.
Early one morning the Lord woke me, saying: "Treat obstacles not as occasions for worry but as opportunities in the Spirit." It was an encouraging word He wanted me to share with a friend who was about to experience several days of new obstacles. I shared the word, thinking it was a catchy little phrase! Not long after that, though, He showed me a picture of the rapids.
The image of a river is powerful in Scripture; Psalm 46:4 speaks of a river "whose streams make glad the city of God," and Ezekiel prophesies about a river in God's temple whose waters will increase until they become too deep to cross. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, a popular expression in the Charismatic renewal of the 1990's was: "Jump in the river!" (Meaning, jump into the flow of the Spirit!).
But rivers, especially the rapids, contain obstacles. Some are small and easily floated over. Some are so deep they are virtually unseen. It is the larger ones that tend to cause us difficulties in our faith-walk. The ones that seem to block our way or hold us back from going to where we want to be. The ones that are too big for us to move.
We are not meant to get stuck behind obstacles, but to continue flowing in the river of the Spirit as we journey along. In order to do this, we must know what kind of obstacle we are bumping into. It is here that the wisdom of God is indispensable.
Two Types of Obstacles
Here's what I felt the Lord was saying. Obstacles along the side of a river - usually rocks, soil, or branches - comprise the boundaries of the river. They are there as protection, as an obvious division for us between the Spirit and the flesh. If we are bumping into these it often means we have drifted to the edges of the movement of God in our lives. Staying here can mean stagnancy, like being caught in the circular undulations of an eddy. We haven't abandoned God or gotten out of the river to walk on our own, but we may not be making any progress. Fear of the rapids may have caused us to return to safer ground. We may be fascinated with those outside of the river, who seem to skip along so cheerfully in the greener grass. Perhaps we are snagged on a painful outcropping that just won't seem to let us go.
Whatever the reason, we recognize that our pace has slowed, but with a little effort, we can return to the flow of the river. God has not abandoned us, and our momentary collision with the banks of the river only teaches us to run more consistently down the central channels of His grace.
Rocks or boulders inside the river, however, pose a different challenge. In most cases, these obstacles are meant to redirect us as we flow in the Spirit. These are obstacles whose roots are so deep or whose surface so great that we cannot float over them. They must be recognized for what they are and confronted with God's strategy so that we can move beyond them. What is that strategy?
Water flows over and around the rocks in a river. Rarely are rocks are dislodged to make water's passage easier! God might choose sometimes to supernaturally remove a boulder that is blocking us, but more often than not, God expects His river to flow around and beyond the things that would try to block the water's flow. We are not meant to hold on to these obstacles or become stuck when they arise.
In short, too often, our prayers focus on asking God to remove things that are meant to redirect us. We are never called to grow stagnant in the Spirit, whining and complaining about the impassable boulders we face. Life in the Holy Spirit is a life of constant movement and change, just like the life of a river. A better prayer might be, "Lord, help me to see this obstacle for what it is and to navigate around it so that it doesn't stop me from going on with You."
Returning to my time with the Lord early that morning, I realized: the key to navigating obstacles of any kind was right there in the word He gave me initially: obstacles are nothing more than opportunities for us to stay in the Spirit.
Let the Source of the river set your direction. Let the flow of the river keep you within His boundaries. And let the strength of His current propel you over and around every obstacle you might encounter.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God.
She writes about Knowing God and Hearing His Voice at
His Inscriptions.com. Follow her on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins,
or Facebook as HisInscriptions.
What is happening right now in Boston is amazingly prophetic. Just two days ago, I was writing about revival after visiting John Adams' rare books collection at the Boston Public Library. (To see that post, entitled "Step Into Your New World", click here). What I did not know was that the same day I was publishing my article, archivist Pam Hatchfield was prying open a 220-year-old time capsule at the MFA, one that had been embedded in the State House's cornerstone by Sam Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. On July 4, 1795, fifteen white horses - one for each state of our union - had pulled this cornerstone and time capsule through the streets of Boston for the dedication ceremony.
Inside the box (which took nearly 7 hours to open), were artifacts from the dedication of the Massachusetts State House on the 20th anniversary of our independence. A silver plate, probably crafted by Paul Revere, displays an inscription for the building's dedication and names Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and Revolutionary War Colonel William Scollay. (See photo above). 23 coins, including one in a half-penny denomination, and a medal of George Washington are also part of the capsule.
During winter vacation, my oldest son and I had the opportunity to visit the Boston Public Library. 3.7 million people visit this library every year to enjoy roughly 23 million items. But it's not just about the books. The BPL is a historic landmark with stunning Renaissance architecture, a marble staircase guarded by two stone lion sculptures, and gorgeous paintings by Sargent, Chavannes, and Abbey covering walls and ceilings throughout. I wanted my son to appreciate this Boston landmark, but I also had a secondary mission: to locate the John Adams collection.
John Adams, the second US President and a founding father of our nation, was a Massachusetts-born, Harvard-educated lawyer who called himself a collector of books. In 1894, a portion of his collection - over 3500 volumes in 8 languages - was donated to the Boston Public Library. Thousands more are housed at Peacefield, the family's Quincy estate. His collection is said to be one of the largest personal libraries held in America during his lifetime (1735-1826).*
My son and I ascended to the top floor of the library, bypassing the common rooms full of tourists and students. When we stepped into the Rare Books room, it was like entering another world.
The room is dimly lit, small and very hushed. These historic tomes are kept behind glass, illuminated by soft spotlights. As we looked around, a sense of reverence enveloped us. Here were volumes of wisdom from every aspect of life: literature, law, religion, economics, politics, and education. Select a book from the shelf and you are likely to find Adams' own handwritten, dated notes in the margin, revealing his intense desires both to interact with history and to formulate plans for our newly-birthed nation.
What a treasure! What a privilege to be able to see, through the eyes of a father and statesman, the birth of America!
A New World Order
It is unlikely that John Adams or any of the founding fathers knew exactly what our nation would become. They knew only that the old way of life could no longer continue, and that a new order must arise. "People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity," Adams said. It is hard to miss the comparison to the Christian life.
I believe, as do others, that at this moment in time, God is interested in doing something so new, so unimaginably good, that we simply have no framework or constitution for it yet. We are living in times of great adversity. Our nation's present course is unsustainable. But God is not finished with us yet!
As believers, we know from searching the Bible that things DO go from bad to worse for the world. (See Matthew 24 or the prophecies in Revelation for confirmation.) Many believers stop there, adopting a doomsday perspective and failing to see the opportunity that presents itself. For just as the first Constitutional Congress drew upon all the wisdom available to them at the time, stepping into their new destiny and creating a revolutionary national framework, so we in Christ are being presented with the opportunity to step into a new spiritual world.
It is time to dig deeper into God's extensive library. It is time to look back at the spiritual revolutionaries of our history - the Finneys, the Wigglesworths, the Montgomeries - and allow God to give shape to new spiritual concepts not yet unveiled.
When we look at history, we see both men and women being used to initiate healing revivals. We see renewals that came into every sphere of civilization, including politics. We see the ancient paths of prayer, fasting, and worship as being paved by these pioneers and ready again for our use. Those who have gone before us are quite literally God's volumes, His very own "rare manuscripts," which are still readable today and contain vast resources for us in the Spirit. Look at how Paul describes them:
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry,
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corintians 3:3, NIV
Like Adams, this generation is called by the Holy Spirit to be the founder of God's new order in the earth. We must press in to find out what the Spirit is saying to the churches today - and not just the charismatic churches, either! Revival is all-encompassing, all-inclusive. It touches believer and unbeliever alike. It restores balance, builds relationships, and offers hope.
We have heard for many years now that revival is coming. Will you be the ones who prayerfully step through God's open door and find out how to bring the newness of heaven to earth? Will you ask Him to show you how to write the new, spiritual constitution for this time?
Let's find out together what this looks like! Let's study the Bible, the source of all wisdom, with pen in hand and ears open to the voice of God. Let's be bold enough to step into the new world that God has given us in the Spirit, so that generations after us can enjoy all of its benefits. Let's allow the finger of God to write His impressions upon the tablets of our hearts, so that we, too, become rare and living manuscripts, testimonies to His glory and treasures upon His shelves.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.com. You can also follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins.
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.