Well, we are now in the midst of one of the busiest seasons of the year. How are you doing? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Ahead of Schedule? Under the gun? Sick, Fatigued, Over it? Is your schedule crammed with so many events that you find it hard to find time to breathe. Perhaps there are other emotions that you are dealing with that make the season a difficult one, like loss or feeling discouraged.
Even though it is already the 11th of December, it doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the frenzy of the season. Getting major priorities as major priorities in place is vital to do if we are wanting to ourselves at a certain place come January 1st.
At our last Lampstand meeting in November, we discussed the necessity of this for the upcoming season. I used an illustration that was repeated to me in my college years and now I see even more and more importance of it. It is a simple example but really makes a great point. Imagine there is a jar of small stones and you are challenged to get in some bigger rocks. Of course you cannot because the jar is already full. Then you have an empty jar and instructed to put in large stone first. Then small stones fill the empty space, then you can even add pebbles and sand. Even then you can add water to totally have the jar full. The example shows us in order to have the major priorities in our lives, we have to get the big rocks in first. For Julie and me we are constantly reminding ourselves to get the big rocks in first.
Now, as believers we know that the 1st and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:38). The Gospel of Luke adds to that to love Him with all our strength, too. This is to be our highest priority and of most importance. The FIRST and GREATEST commandment. So if I want this first in my life in December and want to be more in love with Jesus and have greater devotion to Him come January 1, it needs to be the big rock in my jar. Then I put in the other “priorities in my jar” as He leads. I could go through December strung out and overwhelmed but if I am consistent in making Him first then He will help me with the rest and I CAN HAVE SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL FUEL, EVEN PHYSICAL FUEL in my life as priorities are set in place after the big rocks. Connection with Him is the best fuel we can have for our hearts to stay encouraged, strengthened, motivated, peaceful, and content.
So I have not done the best at this priority thing so far in December but I can say it would be worse if we didn’t try. This week, I am experiencing more joy and peace because I feel these priorities are a little more concrete. How did they get more solid? We’ve taken time to talk and pray about our schedule. We are saying no to some things, and we are saying yes to others. We are asking the Lord to direct us in what things we need to do and when and how we need to rest. Keeping things in right priority is not easy, but we are intent on having fuel in December and in beginning the New Year so it is worth it! Keeping our lives in right priority will always be a challenge but we have been given the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to help us! (I’ve been reading John 15 and 16 this morning). I am banking on the fact if we seek first His kingdom and righteousness, He will add what we need. (Matthew 6:33).
In this Christmas season, I pray that you would be filled with the fuel of encouragement and strength from intentional connection with Jesus. May you have the peace He brings. May your focus and desire be first for Him. O, COME LET US ADORE HIM!
During the recent 40 Days campaign (CLICK HERE for more info on 40 Days for Life), I met a pastor who travels about an hour to stand with his wife in front of the Bristol abortion clinic every Monday morning as a positive pro-life witness. I felt led to join him on Monday mornings. So, since the Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign, I have stood on Monday mornings down in front of the abortion clinic in Bristol and continued to pray and also to be a pro-life witness for a few hours.
I have had the opportunity to pray but also to have some short conversations with those going in and out of the clinic. I think the most impacting conversation so far has been a simple, short conversation but it has spoken volumes to me. The conversation went something like this…
Me: Can I speak to you a second, ma’am?
Woman: No, no, I am only here for an exam.
Me: Do you know they do abortions here?
Woman: Yes, I am aware of that. That is why I go here.
It is one thing to reach out to a woman who may be considering an abortion and offer a better way, communicate that there is a real baby in her womb, and that there are other, better options than the decision to have an abortion. It is a whole other thing to know that women are frequenting this clinic to support the killing of the unborn. Undoubtedly, they would say they are for the woman’s choice and she alone can make the decision about her body. It’s a whole mindset, philosophy, and ideology.
Fundamental to this mindset is that God is not the center but the woman is, her rights, her choices, her decision. The fact of the matter is that more and more pro-choice individuals are believing that a fetus IS life in the womb. The main argument for abortion has changed from “it isn’t even a life.” It is now more accurately stated that it is more important that a woman has the choice to kill that life rather than the value for life itself. It’s disheartening to see that the life that God values and created is not valued. If He were at the center of the mindset, there would be serious consideration of what HE thinks about aborting a baby. (Psalm 139, Psalm 106:38).
So, my short conversation illustrated for me the problem of a faulty mindset that is a factor in someone having an abortion, but also it is that mindset that fuels and supports the whole abortion industry.
Oh, that God would be our center again and not what we feel is right in our own eyes.
*We want to make a special note that we realize there are very difficult situations surrounding a woman considering abortion. We always want to express compassion for women in these circumstances and emphasize that abortion harms women (and men and families) as well. We also always want to point to Jesus and the forgiveness and healing that He extends to those who turn to Him who have chosen abortion.
15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
The context of this passage in the book of Jeremiah is a prophecy to the nation of Israel in the midst of the Lord’s beckoning message to Israel to return to Him. It was a message of encouragement to Israel that God was going to raise up shepherds who reflect His heart in contrast to some of the unfaithful shepherds that they had experienced.
It is a great encouragement to me that God will not only literally do this with Israel but He is raising up more and more shepherds who fit this description in Jeremiah 3:15 in the church worldwide.
This description is very similar to the description we have of King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), who was called to be Israel’s “Shepherd King” (2 Samuel 5:2). God prepared David to be a shepherd to His people by being a literal shepherd where he learned to shepherd them “according to the integrity of His heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”
The “according to My heart” described in Jeremiah 3:15 describes shepherds who are after the Lord’s heart, diligently seeking Him. They are those whose hearts are corresponding with the Lord’s heart, conforming to His heart, and in agreement with His heart; not only His emotions, passions, and desires but His thoughts and His ways.
These shepherds will feed others, caring for them by leading them to the knowledge of God. This is more than just an informational knowing of Bible facts but a “knowing God,” intimate with Him, familiar with His personality, attributes, etc (Jeremiah 9:23). This kind of knowledge is what brings stability to us (Isaiah 33:6). It is not a window shopping type of knowledge but a partaking of every aspect of who He is. The understanding of Jeremiah 3:15 describes insight into, consideration of, and comprehension of the Lord, who He is, what He is like, and why He does the things He does.
In contrast to the descriptions of other shepherds in Jeremiah, these ones the Lord is raising up will be those who don’t “destroy and scatter the sheep,” those who attend to the needs of the sheep, who have stood in the counsel of the Lord causing God’s people to hear His words (Jeremiah 23). We also get other descriptions of unfaithful, irresponsible, and absent shepherds out of passages like Ezekiel 34, Zechariah 10, and other places in Scripture.
We also have prophesies about God himself being a shepherd in Ezekiel 24 & 37, Zechariah 13, and Jeremiah 31. We know the ultimate example of a shepherd of God’s people is Jesus. He had compassion on people because they “were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9: 36). He is the Good Shepherd described in John 10, modeling wonderfully what His shepherds will look like.
So, God is raising up shepherds. They will be after His heart and according to His heart. They will fill others on knowledge and understanding, yet they will not be just in the “pastor of a church” role. They are those who will carry His heart into the workplace and lead like Jesus leads. They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers, older sisters who will influence others in their family according to the heart of God. They are mentors and teacher who will tend to others with right understanding of who God is and what He does. Two questions each of us can consider are: where are we serving as shepherds and what kind of shepherds are we?
The most important lesson for shepherds is knowing THE SHEPHERD. How else can we truly impart His heart and truth to others? Shepherds must themselves feed on knowledge and understanding from the Good Shepherd before they can effectively lead others.
Lord, you are raising up shepherds like King David who are after your heart. You are preparing them to tend your people. Prepare us in whatever role of shepherding you would call us to. Feed us. Tend to us. Help us to grow in knowledge and understanding of You. And then use us to feed and care for others, effectively leading others in Your paths. Amen.
Wow! It is hard to believe that the fall 40 Days for Life campaign is upon us. It begins on September 27th and goes through November 5th! For those of you who don’t know, here’s a brief summary of what this ministry is about from their website: “40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion.” To read more about the campaign in the Tri-Cities, CLICK HERE. To learn more about the international ministry of 40 Days for Life, visit the website www.40daysforlife.com.
This past Sunday afternoon, we had a rally preceding the campaign. Instead of gathering in Johnson City (as we have done in years past), we gathered across from the Bristol Regional Women’s Center, the abortion clinic we pray in front of for the ending of abortion during the campaign.
Linda, our fearless leader, had asked me to share about the subject of solemn assemblies in regard to 40 Days for Life and this fall campaign, even calling those gathered there to the solemn assembly gathering that the 40 Days for Life Rally in Bristol is. A solemn assembly is a time of serious gathering for God’s people, to humble themselves and cry out to the Lord to have mercy in the face of His judgments. A clear picture of this is in the book of Joel. In Joel, the people of God have turned from the Lord and are under His judgments. They are experiencing great economic crisis and are under the threat of an invading army. The instruction God gives His people through the prophet is to blow the trumpet, sound the alarm, gather the people, return to the Lord, rending their hearts and not their garments. It is a call to repent and seek the Lord. If they respond, then there is hope God will restore the land and protection.
We as a nation are in great crisis. Abortion alone has claimed the lives of over 60 million innocent babies. We have embraced and celebrated immorality. We have issues of hatred and racism. We have gone against God’s purposes for Israel. We have turned to greed, self-reliance, pride, compromise and covetousness. We have abandoned God for idols of pleasure, entertainment, comfort, possessions and money.
We have stepped out from under God’s protection and we have turned from God. Because of that we have faced current race riots, natural disasters of hurricanes and flooding, wildfires ravishing the west, not to mention the effects of the sins we have committed.
Many have opinions about what we should do in the face of crisis but God gives us a prescription for what we are to do first when we are in crisis: gather and turn to Him.
With this upcoming 40 Days for Life, we are gathering on the streets with this understanding. We want God’s mercy (specifically the ending of abortion) and so we will humble ourselves before the Almighty God and appeal to His mercy. We will make a conscious effort to seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. Please join with us in this prayer movement/solemn assembly. Contact us if you would like to be involved.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
Into the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14
When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
With the solar eclipse coming Monday, August 21, 2017, people are talking a lot about this historic event. Some people are mostly interested in getting their glasses to view the spectacle, but we have also seen some interesting conjecture about the end of the world or other cataclysmic events because of the eclipse. It also seems to stir up a lot of questions about the times we live in and there seems to even be anxiety about what this can mean.
We believe this is not only a historic event, but a prophetic one that we should pay attention to. At our recent TRIHOP meeting, our director Skip Cone shared a very helpful explanation of this event. He described two extremes of responses to the total eclipse that will soon be crossing our nation: we can look at it as simply a natural phenomenon and ignore what God may be saying with it OR we can move into prophetic mania.
Skip’s words regarding the eclipse: “At best, it is an opportunity for us to consider our ways and cry out for our nation to return to the Lord. At worst, this could be a final warning for us to repent before God severely chastens our nation.”
You can read his thoughts in their entirety in a document about the eclipse that I thought was helpful. Check it out.
I think more than anything we need to turn to the Lord. He is always interested in getting our attention and leading people into deeper relationship with Himself. He wants us to ask questions of Him and to seek Him in His word. We need to lift up our eyes, not just to see the sun eclipsed by the moon, but to see the Son of God on the throne and to bring our own hearts into agreement with His word.
We should guard against turning to prophetic meanings without turning to the One who is actually speaking. Sometimes, we get more fascinated by the message and we miss the point which is to behold the One with the message.
The fact that we can see something like this in the heavens at all is reason to lift our eyes and consider the One who created these things and it should cause us to heed what God may be communicating to His church through this sign in the heavens. It is worth it to ask if this is a prophetic indicator of what He is already speaking? If You are speaking, Lord, what is our response to be?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
Recently, I was praying from 2 Peter that God would deliver His church from damaging doctrines and false teachers and one verse jumped out at me.
2 Peter 2:14 “having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.”
This verse is specifically speaking of false teachers but what jumped out at me is that “unstable souls” were the ones being enticed. What exactly makes one’s soul unstable?
I think a great answer is looking at what the Scripture says stability IS. “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is His treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6) If we want stability in our lives, it is directly linked to the wisdom and knowledge of God. This is not a wisdom or knowledge that is human philosophy but rooted in the truth of the Lord and the revelation of Him in Scripture.
We have a famine of biblical knowledge in the Scripture in our culture and even in the church. In an article, “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches” by Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today, he sites some of this lack of biblical knowledge:
“But it's more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”
To read the entire article, click here.
So if there is such a problem in the nation and the church we are sure to be the “unstable souls” that would be enticed by false preachers. It is time to take a serious evaluation of our own lives in the word. Are we growing in knowledge and stability?
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
For the past year I have pondered the issue of slavery in our nation’s history. This is partly from reflecting on two outings our family was able to take. One was a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home near Charlottesville, VA and the other was a trip to Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky. Both trips significantly impacted me.
I cannot get out of my head one of the tour guide’s comments from the slavery tour at Monticello. We were standing on Mulberry Row, which was, in Jefferson’s time, a literal row of slave quarters and shops. Now they have recreated some of those buildings. From that row, you can easily see Jefferson’s home. We were standing on the lot where the original “nailery” would have been. The guide suggested a possible story of a day in the life of a young slave boy who would have had to make so many buckets of nails or face being whipped or being moved to work in the hot fields. As he worked to make the nails, maybe he would look up at Mr. Jefferson’s house, where the author of the Declaration of Independence lived, in which he wrote, “All men are created equal.” What would that young boy think as he faced a life of slavery, never to leave its grasp? Ugh, that thought weighed heavily on me that day as it has many other days in this past year.
It has been recently revived in my thoughts from the news that I heard of archeologists finding the room that they believe was designated for Sally Hemmings. Sally Hemmings was a slave with whom Jefferson probably had 6 children. The fact is, no matter how many stories would like to romanticize the relationship between the two, and whether there was an element of romance with Mr. Jefferson or not, Sally Hemmings was his property, not allowed to leave his estate.
At Mammoth Cave National Park we took the historic tour which was absolutely fascinating yet disturbing, again because of the issue of slavery. Using slave labor rented from a neighboring county, saltpeter was mined in the caves.
“During the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, much of the large quantity of saltpeter needed to fight the war was mined at Mammoth Cave. The cave owners relied on a work force of approximately 70 African American slaves to mine this valuable mineral.” (https://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/35mammoth/35facts2.htm)
I love to learn about American History. But honestly, the slavery we had in this nation sickens me. It’s a blight on our nation that continues to leave its effects. This injustice, with the cruelty that was expressed to human beings, is a major part of the sins of this nation before God. What do you do when you see such an atrocity?
The solution is not found in trying to cover over the atrocity, somehow whitewashing our nation’s history, our forefathers, or even our own actions and attitudes. The solution is not found in having certain people do penance or get punished for what their former relatives may have done. The Scripture gives a clear prescription of what a nation is to do when they have sinned against God and turned their back on Him. I find it encouraging and comforting knowing we lean into the mercies of a God who can forgive and heal.
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
This Scripture is in the context of God giving instruction to the nation of Israel when they would turn from God and then experience resulting crisis.
As we face the atrocity in our nation’s past we must not try to whitewash what has been an offense toward God. We don’t deny it happened. But we do as Daniel did with his nation; he identified with the sin and prayed to God for mercy (Daniel 9). We turn to God, ask for forgiveness, and offer forgiveness to others in that same vein. Without it the atrocities and injustice will continue in ignorance, vengeance, and retaliation.
God, we repent of our past sin. The atrocities that our nation has committed, the darkness we have embraced. We are sorry for slavery which infected our nation’s past and we are sorry for the racial wars, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination that continues today. God, help us to humble ourselves. To bow low and kiss the Son (Psalm 2) and say we were and are wrong. Help us to seek your face and know you, to know how you feel about all this, and to know what our current actions should be. Help us to forsake any wicked thoughts, motives, and actions. We ask that you would hear us and respond with the extension of your forgiveness and healing.
If you have not read my recent post on the Wildfires in Gatlinburg, I urge you to read that first. It will give some needed background for the following thoughts.
Since the wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains, I have had an increased burden to pray for Gatlinburg and the surrounding cities. I have had a deep burden to go into the city and walk the streets and pray. It just so happens on the day that the city was re-opened for tourists, I was visiting a friend in Morristown and decided to go down and drive through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. I had a mixture of emotions as I drove in. Part of me longed to know and feel the Lord’s heart for the people affected by the tragedy. I can’t imagine the loss of my home, business, even my family members or friends. I wanted the increased burden to pray for them. I was also feeling a desire to just see and be in the area I have come to have affection for after this great tragedy.
I drove thought the region with a desire to be watchful of anything the Lord may show me or highlight to me and to listen carefully for His voice.
Three things I would like to share.
1. Probably the most significant thing I have come away with is a burden for the people of Gatlinburg to really recognize what the Lord is saying in this crisis. As I drove into the beginning of Gatlinburg, I passed a big marquee saying “Welcome Back” then “Mountain Tough” As I pulled over and got out my phone to take a picture, I realized it was the Welcome to Gatlinburg Visitors Center sign that was mostly burned up. This sign along with other signs that said things like “Gatlinburg Strong” were standing out to me. Is this the way God wants us to respond when there is a crisis? Are we to respond with human resilience or humble ourselves and pray? All I kept thinking was Isaiah 9:10,
“The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
This is a passage that was actually quoted by several of our governmental leaders after the twin towers had fallen. Yet they were ignorant of the context of the passage. It is actually a message of judgment.
Read the punishment for Samaria in the expanded verses from Isaiah 9:8-12
The Lord sent a word against Jacob,
And it has fallen on Israel.
9 All the people will know--
Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria--
Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
11 Therefore the Lord shall set up
The adversaries of Rezin against him,
And spur his enemies on,
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind;
And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.
For all this His anger is not turned away,
But His hand is stretched out still. (Emphasis Mine)
Even President Obama echoed this passage when he signed a beam of the new One World Trade Center,
“We Remember. We Rebuild. We come back Stronger.”
In any crisis, it is not the Lord’s prescription to respond in pride, arrogance, or our own strength. I believe He is beckoning us to humble ourselves in crisis and seek His face about the next step. (Joel 1 & 2, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, Zephaniah 2:1-3)
My prayer is the church of Gatlinburg would get it and even more so, our whole region. What will we do in a time of crisis?
2. The only sign I saw on my drive about prayer was on the IHOP (the pancake place) sign in Pigeon Forge. “Praying for our County.” I was encouraged by this. I do not think it was a coincidence that it was on the IHOP sign, when IHOP is also the acronym for the International House of Prayer as well as the International House of Pancakes.
3. There is a controversy in the region. That area of the Great Smoky Mountains has deep religious roots but it also has in it many things that are an affront to God. (Compromise, idolatry of pleasure and self-gratification, sexual immorality, witchcraft, etc). God wants the church of the region to turn back to Him.
4. There is a divine destiny for the region of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. It is to bring glory to God.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Emphasis mine)
I believe God wants the church of the region to fully return to Him and the kingdom of God to increase in the Smokies. That the people of the Smokies would love and glorify the Lord with wholehearted devotion. That it would be an area of real refuge. Even as the people return, the worship would come forth from East Tennessee with anointing and power. Can you imagine?? God anointed musicians and singers, prophesying and proclaiming the glory of God in strength and might on banjos, mandolins, basses, and fiddles?! I believe God has unique designs for the Smokies and all of East Tennessee.
As I have pondered the recent crisis in the beloved Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, I am greatly heartbroken and upset. Businesses damaged, homes destroyed, the mountains scorched and the smoke filling the air. Photos of the tragedy are disturbing and sobering. The night of the fires, the wind blew strong over our little house in the hills and now I can only imagine what some people witnessed: the fire being carried from ridge to ridge and engulfing buildings as people were evacuated and displaced. I don’t have family around there. I don’t have friends who live there. I have visited many times and it is an area I am familiar with and very much enjoy. I think of the Alamo, a restaurant that Julie and I spent a joyful evening of our honeymoon, totally gone. Many family trips to Dollywood, where the fire threatened but is safe and unharmed. Trips to the Aquarium, where it is good to hear the animals are safe.
I feel a particular burden about all of this. I think it is because I live in East Tennessee and consider it my home. And since I have lived here I have grown to love the history, the people, and culture. So, thinking about this fire and the devastation, I sit here crying as I type. Because, as in the words of Dolly Parton, “these are my people.”
I certainly think that this is a time to pray for those affected by the wildfires and to help practically in any way that we can. The practical love of Jesus being shared is vitally necessary for the church. It is a critical time when many are open to the gospel who would not otherwise be open, not to mention just the value in loving our fellow man.
With all this in mind, I am gripped to the heart that there is a specific message that God wants to send us with the fires. I came across a Facebook post shared by a friend of a friend who was helping with the House and Grounds Team at Dollywood Theme Park. It included a picture of two pages of the Bible, he had found under a bench soaked from the rain. It was a passage from Joel 1 and 2.
CLICK HERE for the more info about it.
For those who may not know what the book of Joel is about, it is a message to Israel in a great time of crisis. They were facing economic crisis in their day (new wine, oil, and grain were dried up) and they were facing the threat of an invasion by a foreign army.
The passages that were included on that paper found in Dollywood were. In the King James…
14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.
18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
19 O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.
20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
21 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:
In verse 14 it sums up a prescription for what to do in a time of crisis. I believe it is a message that the Lord is speaking and continuing to speak to us. Joel 2:12-17 is very similar.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him--
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’
How could these wildfires happen in our region? How could this be? Is it possible that God has lifted His protection because of our idolatry and sin? Because we have walked in disobedience and turned away from Him? Our region is soaked with innocent blood. Thousands of abortions have taken place in our region. We worship idols of self-pleasure, self-gratification, self-will. Immorality is rampant. And the truth is, it is not just the “heathen” or the unchurched. It is in the church of East Tennessee.
If we want to see a change, His protection again, even a great move of the Holy Spirit in our region, we must return to the Lord, with our whole heart. Will we heed the truth in the Scripture? What do we do in a time of crisis? Will we hear the trumpet of warning being blasted yet again to warn us to turn back to Him? Will we see His prophetic message in the edges of a burned Bible page in the middle of great destruction that contain words of warning and hope?
So thinking about the wildfires of the Great Smoky Mountains, I am burdened to pray and intercede for the victims and those working to help. I am burdened to help in practical ways, too. But I believe there is a greater, overarching message that we must hear and respond to.
There is a crisis. The prescription is clear. To gather. Fast. Pray. Humble ourselves. Cry out to Him.
It’s not just an event but a lifestyle change.
So I wanted to post about the election before the election, but that didn't happen and honestly, what I want to say doesn't change at all based on it being after the fact.
This was a difficult election and the wake of it continues to be turbulent. Here are ten thoughts, listed in random order.
1) No man (or woman) can save us. Jesus alone can save us as individuals, and ultimately as a nation as well.
2) God really does rule in the affairs of men. See Daniel 2:20-22 and 4:32. He raises up kings (and presidents) and He brings them down.
3) We had a choice and the fact that these were our choices says something that ought to make us pause and consider where we are as a nation.
4) We, as Christians, really ought to wrestle with the Lord. I intended this to be before the election and say that we needed to ask God for wisdom about who to vote for. I saw many people doing that and I think God certainly was using the difficulty of the choice to cause many to turn to Him and ask, "What should I do?" I think this still applies. We should continue to wrestle with Him and ask, "What are you doing in the midst of this? What is my response supposed to be?"
5) We really did face a difficult election. I've never been so grieved over the choices before me as well as the state of our nation in general. I've never been so undecided up until the final week or so before the election. This means that there wasn't an easy choice for many people and there isn't an easy way forward.
6) Pray. Pray, pray, pray. If it's not time now to do what Joel 2 and Zephaniah 2 prescribe (gather together, repent, and cry out for mercy), when will it be? Our nation is so divided and our leaders (as well as the Church, and the nation in general) need our prayers!
7) Trump, Hillary, and President Obama are real people. They each face so much hate and opposition from various groups, and they really do need our prayers. Also, those who are selected to lead, whether we like them, agree with them, or think they are the worst thing that can happen to the earth, need prayers for wisdom. God commands us in the Word to pray for kings (presidents, yes?) and all those in authority.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2:1-4
8) It sounds cliché but we saw a sign declaring before the election, “On November 9, God will still be on the throne.” It really isn't cliché and should become a rock for us in these times. Jesus really is King. He's not going to be our President, but He is the forever King. And, that should affect how we think, feel, and act in the midst of a divided and difficult time.
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man." Psalm 11:3
9) A little bit of kindness goes a long way. We heard an excellent message that you can find here about a response to the election. In it, Mike Bickle cuts through who we like or dislike and talks about excelling in kindness in these times. This isn’t a trite, Sunday School lesson for kids. This is how we win! We choose to let the fruit of the Holy Spirit grow in us and we practice kindness. That doesn’t mean we agree with all people around us. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t firm or confident in what we believe. But, it does mean that we can treat people who disagree with kindness and be willing to really hear them.
10) Our nation needs healing. Our nation is deeply divided. The only solution for a division so deep is healing. What do you do for a man who has been slashed down the middle with a sword? You sew him up and pray for healing. It feels our nation is in such a critical place. What can truly sew us back together again?
As I was weeping one night over the racial divisions in our nation, the words “heal our land” were ringing in my ears.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
It’s time. It’s time to pray, repent, and truly live as Christ has called us to. If not now, when?
Matthew or Julie Wine