Sunday, May 31, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: It's Reigning, It's Pouring...

For months I've been waiting to write on the book of Joel. This book has a special place in my heart. It is scripture that I have clung to many times in the past 5 years. I must give a disclaimer as what I am about to write is not backed by Biblical Scholars or Theologians. It is what I believe the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me over a period of time.

It wasn't until my trip Israel that I could fully understand this book. There are many metaphors used to describe situations and circumstances through this book of only 3 chapters. Yet it is powerful. I don't think Joel knew when writing this how much it would resemble the middle east in the 21st century. Even though some of the prophetic books in the Bible have already taken place, I do believe the reason they are still important to this day is because history does repeat itself. Joel 1:2&3 says "Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?" 3 Tell it to your children and let your children, tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation."

The premise of this book is a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah. They have rebelled against God and now they are paying the consequences. But God in His mercy tells the prophet Joel to warn Judah of their doom if they don't make a change in their current lifestyle. No matter what, God is God and He will reign.

Joel Chapter 1 speaks of an invasion of locusts. Why locusts? Locusts are an insect that devours everything in its path. As well as leaving it in complete devastation and ruin. As we traveled by bus from Galilee to Jerusalem, the book of Joel came to life for me. So much of what I saw now makes sense to me. Our tour guide mentioned there was a "nation" in the land of Israel that is not known for the upkeep of its property. We could definitely tell which areas were possessed by this people group. These areas were not as clean as those occupied by the Jewish people. I remember too walking into the old city of Jerusalem and being greeted by this particular nations children. They were making evil faces at us as we entered. It was very interesting. It was at this point, the "locusts" represented this particular group of people. Joel 1:6-7 says, "A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. 7It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white." This is exactly what the areas occupied by this nation were like.

While on the bus from Galilee to Jerusalem, we drove along the Jordanian border. There was an eeriness about this particular section of the drive. It was desolate and as we passed by cinder block bunkers, we could see the residue of war. We could see where bullets fired at these places had penetrated the cement blocks. Trees were nothing but charred sticks. We can't imagine what war looks like here in the U.S. It was a bit disturbing to this American-bread Southern California girl. War here is spray paint along the freeway walls where gang members write in code to one another. Joel 1:19 says, "To you, O Lord, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field." Doesn't that fit the description of what I saw?

As we continued our travel along the border, the Jordan River was in the distance. We had left it earlier where it was lush and green. But now the river seemed to get smaller and smaller, while the banks of where the river used to flow got higher and wider. This must have been where the Israelites had crossed because if the river had come up to the top, it would have been deep and wide. Our tour guide said that the Jordan had been cut off due to keeping the Lake in Galilee filled with water. This body of water is now used as a reservoir. This is why the Dead Sea is drying up because there is no water from the Jordan flowing into it. The farther we drove, the smaller and more shallow this river became. Now it was like a stream. Joel 1:20 says, "Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures."

Chapter 2 of Joel is a warning to the people of Judah that an army is coming to destroy their land. Verses 2&3 says, "a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. 3Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste-nothing escapes them." Being from Southern California, I am no stranger to fire storms. They are incredibly overwhelming as well as intriguing. Most Southern Californians stay glued to their television when these fires break out as they move across hillsides and deserted terrains leaving only charred ground and ash in their wake. The air is thick with ash and the sky as dark as clouds of a thunderstorm. It looks much like snow flakes as they drift through the air. Even living several miles away from one of these fires can leave its residue covering yards, porches and cars. Unlike snow that is pure and white, the ashes leave its victims feeling filthy and dirty. Joel 2:10 says, "Before the earth shakes and sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine." During these kind of fire storms, the billows of smoke leave the sun and moon a reddish color, while the stars cease to shine. Have you ever been underneath those commercial fireworks that are shot off? I have and the whole area shakes and sounds like thunder. I wonder if when it talks about the sky trembling if it's not a picture of air strikes in battle.

In this 2nd chapter of Joel, God calls the nation of Israel to a Holy fast. If they obey this command, the Lord promises they will be restored. "Then the LORD will be jealous for his land
and take pity on his people.
19 The LORD will reply to them: "I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. (A thought: grain represents the bread of life - Jesus, new wine - the blood of Jesus to cover sin and oil- the Holy Spirit*)20 "I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise." Surely he has done great things. 21 Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice Surely the LORD has done great things. 22 Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.
28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls."
There is a lot said in this passage of scripture about God's mercy and his love for His people. In verse 22 it talks about the autumn rains in righteousness and abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains that will be a harvest. In a spiritual sense, the reign of the Spirit of God will bring a harvest of Salvation and repentance to the land. When the Holy Spirit is reigning down and flooding our souls, we should begin to see new believers sprouting up everywhere. Isn't that what happens after the winter rains? The seed in the ground begins to shoot through the soil and things seem to come to life in the spring. I believe this is what it will look like in the Spirit.
Joel 2:28 and 29 describe what will happen when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all men and women. They will begin to prophesy and see visions, young and old, men and women. No one will be exempt from this glorious season of harvest.
Chapter 3 concludes this book. Verse 9 tells the Holy people to prepare for war. There is no doubt that war must take place inorder for them to see the victory that is to come. Verses 17 &18 says, "Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. 18 In that day the mountains willd drip new wine (A thought: those redeemed by the blood of Jesus*), and the hills will flow with milk (A thought: living a life nourished by God's Word*); all the ravines of Judah will run with water(A thought: Living Water*). A fountain will flow out of the Lord's house and will water the valley of acacias." (Remember Ezekiel 47?)
Are you currently in the midst of a season that the "locust swarm" has devoured everything? Do you feel the spiritual battle going on within your soul? Does it seem as though the residue of life has left you with nothing but ash and filth? Don't loose hope. He is the God who will restore what the locusts have eaten. He is the God who reigns down and yields a harvest of new wine and oil. He is the God who removes shame and disgrace. Trust Him in the desert because when He reigns, He pours!

Monday, May 25, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - M'm! M'm! Bad!

Like a good bowl of soup or stew that hits the spot, this short story in 2 Kings, chapter 4, verses 38 to 41 is that kind of story. It's says so much for such a short story. This reminded me of words we speak. It is subtitled in my Bible as "Death in the Pot." 

"And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, "Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets."One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. He said, "Then bring flour." And he threw it into the pot and said, "Pour some out for the men, that they may eat." And there was no harm in the pot." 

You might ask, "what does this have to do with words?" This was my observation of this story. In verse 38, it says there was a famine in the land. I believe famine can represent us when we are not reading God's Word daily and especially not reading it for ourselves. You can't live off of preaching only. So many Believer's don't read because they don't understand the Bible. It reminds me of when I was introducing my children to table foods. They didn't like it at first, but the more I kept serving it to them, they began to develop a taste for those foods. So it is with reading the Bible. 

Elisha tells one of his servants to prepare some stew for them. The servant uses vines, herbs and gourds to put into the stew without knowing what they were (ignorance and illiteracy). Then he served them to the sons of the prophets. Now this servant had no idea what he was cooking, but after eating it, the men realized it was poisonous. The men cried out saying there was "death in the pot". As I began digesting this, the Holy Spirit began to show me that like food that becomes apart of our bodies after eating, so do the words that others speak to us. What are others serving you, when it comes to words and is it poisonous to your spirit? What music do you listen to? What do you watch on t.v.? What movies do you see? What kinds of books are you reading? All these are snacks and meals that we ingest everyday. Proverbs 18:21 says "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat it's fruit." Whether we recognize it or not, we do live on good and bad words, whether we receive them by what we are listening to or by watching or reading. On second thought, what are you serving others?

Elisha responds, by telling them to bring flour and pour it in the stew. That would seem a little strange to put flour in it. But that is when I recognized the importance of that ingredient. Isn't flour the main ingredient for making bread? In John 6:48 Jesus said "I am the Bread of Life!" I believe that flour is a representation for Jesus and he is life. Only Jesus overcame death! 

I want to encourage you to be cautious of what you allow into your spirit. Even out of ignorance, negativity, gossip, curses, etc., those words become apart of who we are. You are what you eat. But know that if you are in the Word of God daily, (it is our daily bread) it will absorb any words of death that might be served to you. As you read the Word of God pray that you will receive every morsel that God wants to feed you. Be more aware of what you are being served each day. Spend more time nourishing your spirit on the Word of God. This is a life changing meal. As the an old Campbell's soup slogan says, "Good for the Body. Good for the Soul." God's Word is that and more, it's just M'mmmmm good!